Are you a Georgian seaside region tired of Tbilisi’s demands? Are you a forested stretch of eastern Moldova, grating under Chisinau’s Western approach? Are you a landlocked Caucasian enclave, heaving with an independent streak? Then here you are, Abkhazia, Transdnistria, South Ossetia—here’s the recognition you wanted, courtesy of your patrons in Moscow. Here’s the independence, here’s the special status, you desired. Don’t worry about Western opposition, about the Westphalian order propping the decades-long streak of peace. If you want recognition, Moscow can provide it in droves. Read the rest of this entry »
NOVOSINKOVO, RUSSIA—Staring directly into the drooping eyes of the woozy, flushed henchman sitting across from him in the back room of a dimly lit tavern, Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly downed another vodka shot Sunday night as the last of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s security detail passed out beside him. “Nostrovia!” said Kerry as he slammed down the upturned shot glass next to dozens of others…(read more)
In the former example, Russian soldiers didn’t wear uniforms, a thinly-veiled move meant to create the impression the fighters were merely Ukrainian “separatists.”
“In the vast majority of the world, power (or the perception of power) is what matters. In America, President Obama’s brand of metrosexual coolness works well.”
Likewise, Wednesday’s bombings ostensibly targeted Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil); in fact, the strikes were aimed at moderate rebels and civilians – part of a plan to take out any opposition to their client, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.
This all comes on the heels of President Barack Obama’s drawing of a “red line” regarding the use of chemical weapons, only to back down when the Assad regime – by most accounts – used them.
This past week, White House press secretary Josh Earnest strained credulity when he said Mr Obama doesn’t regret drawing that red line.
“For those paying attention, Mr Obama’s foreign policy world-view has failed.”
Weakness invites provocation, and – never one to miss an opportunity to outmanoeuvre Mr Obama – Mr Putin provided a self-serving opportunity that would also allow the president to save face: Moscow would push Syria to put their chemical weapons under international control.
It’s also important to note that in the wake of the red line being trampled, Russia invaded Crimea. President Obama’s legacy may be mixed, but one thing is for sure: Vladimir Putin is much more powerful and provocative than he was before Mr Obama took office, and Russia has only expanded its sphere of influence.
The Syria bombings also come almost immediately after Mr Putin met with Mr Obama at the UN where they agreed to “deconflict” military operations – a very Obama-esque line that Mr Putin immediately crossed.
And prior to bombing our friends in Syria, the Russians also had the audacity to issue a “démarche” for the US to clear air space over northern Syria. As if that weren’t enough, this came just as reports that the Russians attempted to hack Hillary Clinton’s email server.
For those paying attention, Mr Obama’s foreign policy world-view has failed.
The suggestion that America could leave a vacuum that wouldn’t be filled by our adversaries – the idea that the “international community” (whatever that means) would respect us more if we were to retreat from the world – was always a farce.
Read the rest of this entry »
What did he know and when did he know it? The immortal question about Richard Nixon and Watergate should be posed to Barack Obama about Syria. What and when did he know about Vladimir Putin’s axis-of-evil coalition?
Michael Goodwin writes: The significance is not limited to Syria. The question goes to the heart of the Iran nuclear deal, especially the timing of the congressional votes.
Imagine Obama trying to sell the Iran deal now. With Russia, Iran and Iraq working together to muscle the United States aside and defend Bashar al-Assad, the president couldn’t possibly argue that the nuke deal would help stabilize the Middle East. Nor could he argue that Russia could be trusted to help enforce restrictions on Iran.
The strong likelihood that Obama would have lost the Iran vote if Congress knew then what the world knows now suggests the possibility the president concealed the Russian plan until the Iran deal was done. That view fits with his single-minded determination to get a deal at any price, including making key concessions and downplaying Iranian threats to Israel and the United States.
After all that, what’s another lie?
That view is also supported by the chronology, which reveals strong evidence the president hid the truth.
For much of September, reports of Russia moving soldiers and military equipment into Syria invariably said the Pentagon was “puzzled” or the White House was “unclear” about Putin’s intent. Obama declared on Sept. 11 that whatever the dictator’s plan, it was “doomed to fail.”
The claims of fuzziness about Syria allowed Obama to keep the focus on his push to sell the Iran pact to Congress. He touted Russia’s support, vowed to impose “snapback” sanctions if Iran cheated and said he would work to stop the mullahs’ regional aggressions.
His arguments and arm-twisting kept 42 Senate Democrats in line, enough to save the deal. Yet soon after opponents lost their final vote, on Sept. 17, Russia revealed that it would lead a coalition of Iran and Iraq to intervene militarily to save the Assad regime. Read the rest of this entry »
Only one in 20 Russian air strikes in Syria have targeted ISIS fighters, Britain’s Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said Saturday. British intelligence services observed that five percent of the strikes had attacked the militant jihadist group, with most “killing civilians” and Free Syrian forces fighting against the regime of president Bashar al-Assad, Fallon told the Sun newspaper….(read more)
Source: AFP/Yahoo News
Syria Reveals the Chaos of a World Without American Leadership.
A friend of ours quipped amid the Iraq debate of 2003 that the only thing Europeans dislike more than U.S. leadership is a world without it. Well, we are now living in such a world, and the result is the disorder and rising tide of war in the Middle East that even the Obama Administration can no longer dismiss. How do you like it?
“The world is watching, aghast, yet we are now told by the same people who told us to stay out of Syria that Mr. Putin has fallen into his own quagmire. We doubt that’s how they see it in Moscow, Tehran or Damascus.”
The epicenter of the chaos is the Syrian civil war now into its fifth year. President Obama justified his decision to steer clear of the conflict by pointing to a parade of horribles if the U.S. assisted the opposition to Bashar Assad. Every one of those horribles—and more—has come to pass in the wake of his retreat.
Syria has become a “geopolitical Chernobyl,” as former General David Petraeus recently put it. It was the breeding ground for Islamic State and is a new sanctuary for terrorism. It has nurtured a growing regional conflict between Shiite and Sunni Muslims, while unleashing the worst refugee crisis on Europe since World War II. And now it has become an arena for potential major power conflict as Vladimir Putin forms an alliance with Iran to make Russia the new Middle East power broker.
“The U.S. has been caught unaware and nonplussed. The White House has been left to stammer in protest and send Secretary of State John Kerry to negotiate the terms of U.S. irrelevance.”
Mr. Putin unveiled his strategy this week with a disdain for a U.S. President unseen in a Russian leader since Nikita Khrushchev “beat the hell out of” John Kennedy, as JFK put it, at the Vienna summit in 1961. Mr. Putin coaxed Mr. Obama to grant him a private meeting, then told the world to rally behind his alternative coalition to fight Islamic State and prop up the Assad regime. It’s as if he set up Mr. Obama for humiliation.
Now Russian planes are bombing in Syria—but not Islamic State targets. They are bombing the anti-Assad forces that the U.S. has haltingly supported. The U.S. has been caught unaware and nonplussed. The White House has been left to stammer in protest and send Secretary of State John Kerry to negotiate the terms of U.S. irrelevance.
The world is watching, aghast, yet we are now told by the same people who told us to stay out of Syria that Mr. Putin has fallen into his own quagmire. We doubt that’s how they see it in Moscow, Tehran or Damascus. Read the rest of this entry »
Liza Muhfeld writes: On October 12, MacDougall’s Fine Art Auctions will hold its sale of Soviet and Post-Soviet art, the first combined auction of Soviet and Post-Soviet art to hit the market. It will also be the house’s first auction in a series of mid-season sales dedicated to Russian art.
Roughly 177 lots will be offered—spanning paintings and porcelain by Russian artists from the late 1920s to the early 2000s—and the house expects to bring in a total of more than £3.5 million ($5.3 million). The majority of works come from several major Western collections of Russian and Soviet art, and estimates range from £1,500 ($2,300) to £2 million ($3.1 million), with most lots valued at £15,000 ($23,000).
The auction will offer works bridging nearly every major 20th century art movement in Russia and the Soviet Union. Work by artists from the Academy of Fine Arts of the USSR, including Arkady Plastov and Dmitri Nalbandian will be available, along with Soviet Nonconformist artists Vladimir Nemukhin, founder of the Lianozov group, and Vladimir and Georgii Stenberg. Work by members of the Society of Easel-Painters (OST) will also be represented, including by Aleksandr Deineka and Yuri Pimenov. Read the rest of this entry »
[VIDEO] Netanyahu’s Historic 45 Seconds of Silence, Condemning the U.N.’s ‘Utter Silence’ on Tehran’s Existential Threat to IsraelPosted: October 1, 2015
Despite losing political ground to Obama, Israeli prime minister condemns nuclear deal, says Tehran’s threats have been met by ‘utter silence’ at global body.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu glares silently at the United Nations for 45 seconds after berating the organization for their silence in the wake of Iran’s continued threats against the Jewish state.
UNITED NATIONS— Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday delivered a fiery address here condemning the Iranian nuclear deal, largely unbowed in his opposition despite losing steep political ground to President Barack Obama over the issue this year.
In his speech to the General Assembly, Mr. Netanyahu thundered that Iranian threats to destroy Israel have been met in the world body by “utter silence, deafening silence.”
He then stopped speaking for 45 seconds, panning the hall with a furrowed glare.
“Perhaps you can now understand why Israel is not joining you in celebrating this deal,” he said.
The nuclear deal, reached in July between Iran and six world powers including the U.S., passed a crucial milestone when the U.S. Congress failed to adopt a resolution of disapproval that essentially could have blocked the deal from moving forward.
Mr. Netanyahu had thrown his support behind congressional opponents of the deal, delivering a controversial speech to Congress in March and meeting repeatedly with U.S. lawmakers.
After Mr. Netanyahu’s political loss, the White House sees him as wielding less influence over the president’s agenda.
Inside the White House, officials have come to expect forceful rhetoric from Mr. Netanyahu, especially at a high-profile platform such as the U.N. Read the rest of this entry »
President Obama and President Vladimir V. Putin attended the General Assembly…
Source: The New York Times
New York (AFP) – Russia’s dramatic entry Wednesday into the Syrian war put the United States on the back foot once again and left Washington struggling to regain the military and diplomatic initiative.
His message was simple: Russian jets are about to launch air strikes in Syria, please stay out of their way.
Kerry quickly protested to Lavrov that this was not in the spirit of Moscow’s promise to agree a “de-confliction” mechanism to ensure Russian flights do not interfere with US-led operations.
But the strikes were already underway, potentially altering the balance of power in Syria back in favor of Bashar al-Assad‘s regime, and Washington was looking at a fait accompli.
Lavrov’s next move was to promise to bring a motion before the UN Security Council to coordinate “all forces standing up against Islamic State and other terrorist structures.”
This would be a plain victory for Assad, who invited the Russians to join his battle to cling on to power, and a defeat for the United States, which has demanded he step down. Read the rest of this entry »
Obama’s speech was routine because he knows he will not act. Putin’s speech was routine because he knows he will act anyway.
Garry Kasparov writes: With the Middle East in chaos and a belligerent Russian regime stoking the turmoil, the dueling speeches at the United Nations on Monday by presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin might have offered new insight. What the world saw instead was entirely predictable.
“The images of the two leaders together are being splashed across the Russian media as a huge triumph for Mr. Putin. The narrative, which began circulating as soon as the meeting was announced, is that not only did the valiant Mr. Putin confront and condemn the weak Mr. Obama and the evil United States, he did so in New York City, the belly of the beast itself.”
Mr. Obama has already decided to continue his policy of disengagement from the Middle East, and his platitudes about cooperation and the rule of law rang hollow in the U.N.’s General Assembly hall. Of the conflict in Syria, he said, “we must
recognize that there cannot be, after so much bloodshed, so much carnage, a return to the prewar status quo.” But every
listener was aware that Mr. Obama had no intention of backing his words with action.
Mr. Putin, speaking about an hour later in the same room, included his usual NATO-bashing and obvious lies. “We think it is an enormous mistake,” Mr. Putin said, “to refuse to cooperate with the Syrian government and its armed forces, who are valiantly fighting terrorism face to face.” He spoke of national sovereignty—which is very important to Mr. Putin, unless it’s the sovereignty of Georgia, Ukraine or another place where he wishes to meddle.
“Mr. Obama has already decided to continue his policy of disengagement from the Middle East, and his platitudes about cooperation and the rule of law rang hollow in the U.N.’s General Assembly hall.”
The content of the speeches was irrelevant to Mr. Putin before he even opened his mouth. He made his first U.N. address in 10 years because looking like a big man on the international stage is the only ploy he has left to justify his rule in Russia. His devil’s bargain with the Russian people a decade ago was to provide prosperity in exchange for their giving up their rights and democracy. Now we have none of the above.
Mr. Putin’s only remaining gambit is to claim that he is defending Russian greatness while surrounded by enemies (whom that he is an expert at creating). With his offensive in Ukraine sputtering along, new fronts were needed. He has found them in Syria and at the U.N.
“The content of the speeches was irrelevant to Mr. Putin before he even opened his mouth. He made his first U.N. address in 10 years because looking like a big man on the international stage is the only ploy he has left to justify his rule in Russia.”
In this light, the much-hyped private meeting between Messrs. Obama and Putin was the biggest possible prize. The only statement to come out of the meeting was that the U.S. and Russia would consider working together against Islamic State, also known as ISIS. Not that Mr. Putin cares about cooperation, as long as his goal of preserving Bashar Assad’s murderous dictatorship in Syria isn’t interfered with.
“His devil’s bargain with the Russian people a decade ago was to provide prosperity in exchange for their giving up their rights and democracy. Now we have none of the above.”
Yet the images of the two leaders together are being splashed across the Russian media as a huge triumph for Mr. Putin. The narrative, which began circulating as soon as the meeting was announced, is that not only did the valiant Mr. Putin confront and condemn the weak Mr. Obama and the evil United States, he did so in New York City, the belly of the beast itself. As soon as the first pictures were taken, the meeting became a great success for Mr. Putin, and another self-inflicted defeat for American foreign policy—and for stability and democracy in the Middle East. Read the rest of this entry »
Daniel Hannan is the author of ‘How we Invented Freedom‘ (published in the US and Canada as ‘Inventing Freedom: how the English-Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World‘). He speaks French and Spanish and loves Europe, but believes the EU is making its peoples poorer, less democratic and less free.
Daniel Hannan writes: Seventy-five years ago today, Red Army troops smashed into Poland. Masters of deception and propaganda, they encouraged locals to believe that they were coming to join the battle against Hitler, who had invaded two weeks’ earlier. But, within a day, the true nature of the Nazi-Soviet collaboration was exposed.
The two armies met at the town of Brest, where the 1918 peace treaty between the Kaiser’s government and Lenin’s revolutionary state had been signed. Soldiers fraternised, exchanging food and tobacco – pre-rolled German cigarettes contrasting favourably against rough Russian papirosi. A joint military parade was staged, the Wehrmacht’s field grey uniforms alongside the olive green of the shoddier
Soviets. The two generals, Guderian and Krivoshein, had a slap-up lunch and, as they bade each other farewell, the Soviet commander invited German reporters to visit him in Moscow “after the victory over capitalist Albion”.
These events are keenly remembered in the nations that were victims of the Molotov-Ribbentrop treaty: Romania, Finland and, most of all, Poland and the Baltic States. But they don’t occupy anything like the place in our collective memory of the war that they deserve.
Almost everyone in Britain knows that the Second World War started when Hitler sent his panzers into Poland. Stalin’s mirror invasion 16 days later, while not exactly forgotten, is not nearly so central in our narrative.
Which is, if you think about it, very odd. The Nazi-Soviet Pact lasted for 22 months – a third of the duration of the entire conflict. We remember, with pride, that we stood alone against Hitler. But in reality, our fathers’ isolation – and commensurate heroism – was even greater than this suggests. I can think of no braver moment in the war than when, having already declared war on Hitler, we prepared to open a new front against Stalin, too. British commandos were on the verge of being deployed to defend Finland, while the Cabinet toyed with various schemes to seize the USSR’s oil supplies in the Caucasus.
In the event, such plans were overtaken by developments. Still, for sheer, bloody-minded gallantry, it was an unbeatable moment, beautifully captured in the reaction of Evelyn Waugh’s fictional hero, Guy Crouchback: “The enemy at last was plain in view, huge and hateful, all disguise cast off. It was the Modern Age in arms.”
Why do we downplay that memory? Largely because it doesn’t fit with what happened later. When Hitler attacked the USSR – to the utter astonishment of Stalin, who initially ordered his soldiers not to shoot back – it was in everyone’s interest to forget the earlier phase of the war. Western Communists, who had performed extraordinary acrobatics to justify their entente with fascism, now carried out another somersault and claimed that the Nazi-Soviet Pact had only ever been a tactical pause, a moment when Stalin brilliantly stalled while building up his military capacity. Even today, the historiographical imprint of that propaganda lingers.
To the modern reader, George Orwell’s depiction of how enmity alternates between Eurasia and Eastasia seems far-fetched; but when he published his great novel in 1948, such things were a recent memory. It suited Western Leftists, during and after the War, to argue that Hitler had been uniquely evil, certainly wickeder than Stalin. It was thus necessary to forget the enthusiasm with which the two tyrants had collaborated.
The full extent of their conspiracy is exposed in The Devils’ Alliance, a brilliant new history by Roger Moorhouse. Moorhouse is a sober and serious historian, writing with no obvious political agenda. Calmly, he tells the story of the Pact: its genesis, its operation and the reasons for its violent end. When recounting such a monstrous tale, it is proper to be calm: great events need no embroidery. What he reveals is a diabolical compact which, if it stopped just short of being an alliance, can in no way be thought of as a hiccup or anomaly. Read the rest of this entry »
Edward Snowden, the world’s most famous whistleblower, has joined Twitter, announcing his presence on the social media platform with a reference to a once ubiquitous Verizon Wireless advertising campaign. In the aftermath of his disclosures, it’s a not so subtle dig at American intelligence collection.
After providing a group of journalists with a trove of classified NSA documents in 2013, Snowden initially tried to stay out of the public eye, maintaining a fairly low profile in Moscow. He granted hardly any interviews and kept himself out of the news in an apparent effort to keep public attention focused on the substance of his disclosures.
Can this man look anymore self-righteous? pic.twitter.com/aSRrKDOxpY
— Christine Sisto (@ChristineSisto) September 29, 2015
But in the last year or so, Snowden has taken on a more public profile, appearing frequently at conferences and granting occasional interviews….(read more)
Source: Foreign Policy
A sham conference held in Moscow this week was all about getting Western regions to break away.
Человек и Вселенная (Man and the Universe) by Alexei Leonov and Andrei Sokolov, 1976.
Watch 12,000 troops, 500 pieces of military hardware and 200 aircraft roar through Beijing in a 60-second time-lapse version of Thursday’s military parade.
Athletes in a wheel, Moscow, 1936. Photo by Ivan Shagin.
Members of Air Force and Oregon National Guard subdued a gunman loaded with weapons
“All three made a show of courage—full of bravery—that everyone recognizes.”
— French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve
The three Americans were seated on the train when they heard a gunshot and breaking glass, according to accounts from one of the men and a U.S. official briefed on the attack.
Crouching behind their seats, the Americans, who are childhood friends, decided they had to act. Airman First Class Spencer Stone, 23 years old, ran toward the gunman and tackled him.
“I told him to go, and he went,” Alek Skarlatos, 22, a member of the Oregon National Guard who had been deployed in Afghanistan, said Saturday.
“Spencer ran a good 10 meters to get to the guy. And we didn’t know that his gun wasn’t working or anything like that,” he added. Mr. Skarlatos then said he ran up behind and grabbed the assailant’s AK-47 rifle, and then their friend, student Anthony Sadler, 23, came to help.
Investigators on Saturday used fingerprint analysis to identify the gunman as Ayoub El-Khazzani, a French official said. Mr. El-Khazzani, a 26-year-old Moroccan national, had been flagged last year by intelligence services as belonging to the “radical Islamist movement,” officials said.
“While the investigation into the attack is in its early stages, it is clear that their heroic actions may have prevented a far worse tragedy.”
— statement from the White House
Officials said Spanish officials flagged him to French authorities in February 2014, when he was living in Spain. In 2015, he lived in Belgium, French officials added.
Mr. El-Khazzani attempted to reach Syria in May, taking a flight from Berlin to Istanbul, according to French and German security officials. But the officials said that it wasn’t immediately clear if the suspect made it to Syria.
Belgium, which the French official said had been notified of the suspect’s departure for Turkey, has opened its own criminal investigation into the attack.
French officials praised the Americans’ bravery, as well as that of an unnamed Frenchman who initially confronted the man. The office of French President François Hollande said he had spoken by phone with those who had subdued the attacker, and would invite them shortly to the Élysée Palace to thank them personally. The French president also said he had thanked U.S. President Barack Obama by phone.
Better Informed Than Congress: China’s Cyber Spies Reading Emails of Senior Obama Administration Officials Since 2010Posted: August 10, 2015
The email grab — first codenamed ‘Dancing Panda’ by U.S. officials, and then ‘Legion Amethyst’ — was detected in April 2010, according to a top secret NSA briefing from 2014. The intrusion into personal emails was still active at the time of the briefing and, according to the senior official, is still going on.
Robert Windrem reports: China’s cyber spies have accessed the private emails of “many” top Obama administration officials, according to a senior U.S. intelligence official and a top secret document obtained by NBC News, and have been doing so since at least April 2010.
The email grab — first codenamed “Dancing Panda” by U.S. officials, and then “Legion Amethyst” — was detected in April 2010, according to a top secret NSA briefing from 2014. The intrusion into personal emails was still active at the time of the briefing and, according to the senior official, is still going on.
In 2011, Google disclosed that the private gmail accounts of some U.S. officials had been compromised, but the briefing shows that private email accounts from other providers were compromised as well.
The government email accounts assigned to the officials, however, were not hacked because they are more secure, says the senior U.S. intelligence official.
The senior official says the private emails of “all top national security and trade officials” were targeted.
The Chinese also harvested the email address books of targeted officials, according to the document, reconstructing and then “exploiting the(ir) social networks” by sending malware to their friends and colleagues.
The time period overlaps with Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email account while Secretary of State from Jan. 21, 2009 to Feb. 1, 2013. The names and ranks of the officials whose emails were actually grabbed, however, were not disclosed in the NSA briefing nor by the intelligence official. Read the rest of this entry »