On September 1, 2014 the US State Department published a report, in which it was stated that for first time since the collapse of the USSR, Russia reached parity with the US in the field of strategic nuclear weapons. Thus, Washington admitted that Moscow regained the status that the Soviet Union had obtained by mid-70’s of the XX century and then lost.
According to the report from the State Department, Russia has 528 carriers of strategic nuclear weapons that carry 1,643 warheads. The United States has 794 vehicles and 1,652 nuclear warheads.
It just so happens that today, Russia’s strategic nuclear forces (SNF) are even more advanced in comparison with those of the US, as they ensure parity on warheads with a significantly smaller number of carriers of strategic nuclear weapons. This gap between Russia and the United States may only grow in the future, given the fact that Russian defense officials promised to rearm Russia’s SNF with new generation missiles. Read the rest of this entry »
Patrick de la Chevardière, CFO of Total SA (which is France’s largest energy company), has publicly announced that Total is looking to finance its share in the $27-billion Yamal LNG project using euros, yuan, Russian rubles, and any other currency but US dollars.
The effect of US sanctions was that Yamal LNG [in Russia’s far North] will be prevented from raising any dollar financings,” Patrick de la Chevardière stated in London at a news briefing.
Patrick de la Chevardière’s boss — the CEO of Total SA and presumably the man who made that decision — was Christophe de Margerie. De Margerie is now dead, along with three crew members aboard his private jet when it collided with a snowplow just after midnight at Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport. The plow’s driver was drunk, according to Russian investigators, and was seemingly unhurt.
[Check out Marin Katusa’s book “The Colder War: How the Global Energy Trade Slipped from America’s Grasp” at Amazon]
You have more of a chance of being struck by lightning than hitting a plow or any other ground support vehicle.
So… is it a coincidence that the one CEO who prominently broke with the petrodollar is now dead?
In my new book The Colder War, there is a whole section on “suspicious deaths” that have occurred during the current conflict between Vladimir Putin and the West. You don’t want to be on the wrong side of this political stare down, and it doesn’t much matter whether you’re against Putin or against the West. Many have fallen on both sides.
De Margerie could now be one of them. We may never know for sure.
What we are sure of is that he was outspoken in his support for Putin’s agenda, and believed Russia was a good partner for Europe. He wasn’t afraid to take on the U.S. and its primary support mechanism, the petrodollar. Read the rest of this entry »
Why the Teenage Girls of Europe Are Joining ISIS
Because They Want the Same Things Teenage Boys Want: A Strong Sense of Meaning and Purpose
For Tablet Magazine, Lee Smith writes: Teenage girls are the West’s center of gravity: Virtually all of Western pop culture, the key to our soft power, is tailored to the tastes of teenage girls. Through the wonders of information technology, the mobile phone mass-produced the mores and habits of phone-mad teenage girls locked in their bedrooms. Indeed, Western civilization is a success largely insofar as it has made the world a safe place for teenage girls—to go to school, get a job, and decide who and when to marry, or if they want to marry. When teenage girls turn away from One Direction and embrace ISIS, it means the West is losing.
[Order Lee Smith’s “The Consequences of Syria (The Great Unraveling: The Remaking of the Middle East)“]
“The idea of a caliphate, ripped from the pages of Muslim history, resonates with a kind of existential authenticity missing from the vast and drab European suburbs warehousing Muslim youth.”
A Washington Institute poll last week showed that the Islamic State has more support in Europe than it does in the Middle East. The poll reported that only 3 percent of Egyptians, 5 percent of Saudis, and under 1 percent of Lebanese “expressed a positive opinion of the IS.” On the other hand, 7 percent of U.K. respondents had a favorable view of the group, as did 16 percent of French polled—with 27 percent of French citizens between 18-24 responding favorably.
“So, why given a choice between a comfortable, if somewhat boring, life as a pharmacist in Hamburg, or fighting and dying in the desert, are thousands of Western Muslims opting for the latter?”
The numbers should hardly come as a surprise. Thousands of young European Muslims have already left the continent for the Middle East to help the organization’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, build an authentic Islamic caliphate. Doubtless thousands more are on their way, to kill and die for an idea they believe in.
“Because, for all the awesome social services and consumer goods it can offer, Europe has become incapable of endowing the lives of its citizens, Muslim or not, with meaning. “
It is a striking fact that ISIS appeals not only to young men, but also young European women, many hundreds of whom have gone to Syria and Iraq to marryIslamic State fighters. Sure, some of them, like the 15-year-old French Jewish girlNora el-Bathy, may have come to regret their decision. But that hardly alters the essential point: The girls sought out IS fighters because the West seems weak and unmanly and they pine for real men who are willing to kill and die for what they believe in. Read the rest of this entry »
Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. writes: Tesla, an electric-car company on which the political class has showered subsidies, rolled out its newest model last week, complete with high-tech safety features like lane-departure warning, blindspot monitoring, collision avoidance and self-parking. Tesla’s stock promptly dropped 8%, though probably not because these mundane features long have been available in other luxury models.
— Ben Casselman (@bencasselman) October 15, 2014
At $2.99, the price to which gasoline had fallen at some California stations last week, electric cars becoming a mass-market taste and not just an item for wealthy hobbyists recedes from probability. If Democrats especially start to find it politically no longer saleable to subsidize a toy for the rich, the company may be in real trouble.
Since World War I, the retail price of gasoline has fluctuated in a band between $2 and $4 (using 2006 dollars as a benchmark). Since the 1970s, though, politicians have repeatedly wedded themselves to policies premised on the idea that oil prices can only go up, up, up, in prelude to oil running out altogether. Read the rest of this entry »
“Two of the world’s powerful autocracies, both rooted in the idea and practice of communist dictatorship, are bent on encroaching upon freedom and democracy on two different fronts: Ukraine and Hong Kong.”
Thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators turned out in Hong Kong on Monday, defying a government crackdown over the weekend that saw riot police using tear gas, pepper spray and batons against protesters. As demonstrations grow against Beijing’s violation of its promise to allow universal suffrage, there is a danger that the infamous 1989 massacre in Tiananmen Square could be repeated in Hong Kong.
“Requiring voters to select leaders from two to three candidates selected by a committee controlled by Beijing is not meaningful “universal suffrage.'”
The crisis began in June, when Beijing released a white paper that reneged on the “One Country Two Systems” principle laid out in the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984 and the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s constitution.
China had pledged that Hong Kong could rule itself on all matters apart from defense and foreign affairs, and voters could freely choose their own leader.
Instead, the white paper claimed that Beijing has complete jurisdiction over Hong Kong, with the only autonomy being what the central government decides to grant. All aspects of local government are subject to oversight by Beijing, and even judges must meet its standard of patriotism. Read the rest of this entry »
The chef-turned-television host on the world’s cuisine, the ‘absurd’ foodie culture and why he has left restaurants behind
If you’ve read “Kitchen Confidential“, you’ll know you can’t think of restaurant food quite the same way. Bourdain’s hipster wise-ass writing style is actually funnier and more memorable than his tv travel show narration style, I think, but the sensibility is the same. Best night to eat out, according to Anthony? Tuesday, his book says. I dined once at Le Halles in New York, where he was (and perhaps still is) executive chef, and even though it wasn’t a Tuesday, the food was great. The book that made Anthony Bourdain a household name remains a favorite of mine, I’ve probably given away more than one copy. Here’s at taste of this weekend’s Wall Street Journal profile of Bourdain, go here to read the whole thing.
“Are you here to see the chef?” whispers a waiter at Sant Ambroeus restaurant in Southampton, N.Y. He’s not referring to the restaurant’s actual chef but to chef-turned-television host Anthony Bourdain, who is sitting outside on the patio.
[Check out Anthony’s book “Kitchen Confidential Updated Edition: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly“ at Amazon]
Although Mr. Bourdain now focuses his career on showcasing world cuisine rather than creating his own dishes, to the waiters and busboys eagerly refilling his coffee cup, at least, he’s still “Chef.”
“Bourdain once described Vladimir Putin’s face as being as taut as a Real Housewife’s.”
He earned his title: He spent nearly 30 years as a cook and a chef before writing his best-selling book “Kitchen Confidential” in 2000. That led to a series of television shows. His current show, “Parts Unknown” on CNN, which has won three Emmy Awards, provides a look at the culture and cuisine of different cities world-wide; its fourth season begins on Sept. 28. (Watch a promo for “Parts Unknown: Russia.”)
He still remembers his days in the kitchen well. “Most of my life I’ve been a pretty pessimistic guy, and I’ve had a pretty dark view of human nature,” he says, referring to how he used to see the world from the kitchen. It’s taken touring around the globe to turn him into a reluctant optimist.
“I assumed humans were basically bad people and if you stumbled…you would be devoured. I don’t believe that anymore.”
He likes going to controversial locales, and he doesn’t hesitate to criticize world leaders, if only in jest. (Mr. Bourdain once described Vladimir Putin‘s face as being as taut as a Real Housewife’s.) He hopes that his shows offer a new perspective on foreign locations. Read the rest of this entry »
The Islamic State and Vladimir Putin’s Russia are enemies of liberty, democracy and the rule of law
Anders Fogh Rasmussen writes: The abhorrent beheading of two American journalists and a British aid worker shocked the world. So did the tragic downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine. The deaths of these innocents show the global consequences of two major crises on Europe’s doorstep: the advance of the so-called Islamic State terrorist group across Iraq and Syria, and Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. The peace and security we enjoy in Europe and North America are under threat like never before.
These challenges will last for years, and we need to face that reality.
With Russia, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has tried long and hard to build a partnership that respects Russia’s security concerns and is based on international rules and norms. Regrettably, Russia has rejected our efforts to engage. Russia has trampled on all the rules and commitments that have kept peace in Europe and beyond since the end of the Cold War. It is now clear that Russia regards the West as an adversary, not a partner.
The terrorist threat is now growing in Syria and Iraq. The Islamic State terrorists are fueling the fire of sectarianism already burning across the Middle East and North Africa, with the risk rising that terror will be exported back to our shores. Read the rest of this entry »
George Dvorsky writes: As Russian troops advance into Ukraine, and as ISIS forces ravage parts of the Middle East, the world is being forced to confront an uncomfortable fact: these belligerents aren’t just winning battles on the ground, they’re also winning over minds. Here’s what propaganda looks like in the 21st century — and how the West has failed to adapt.
Propaganda may seem like an archaic concept, but it’s very much alive and well. The world has changed significantly in the past few decades, as has our means of consuming information. Many state and non-state actors have taken notice, developing new strategies to sway public opinion both at home and abroad, and as a means to further their foreign policy agendas.
The Revival Of State Controlled Media
One area in which Western leaders have most certainly lagged behind is the effective use of media to promote its perspective. Much of this has to do with the independent nature of media in democratic countries; freedom of the press is a much-vaunted institution of free thinking and critical societies who look to the media for unbiased accounts of world events and as a way to hold their governments to account.
But these values aren’t shared at the global scale, particularly in authoritarian states such as China and Russia. Inspired by the state-controlled media of the Soviet regime, President Vladimir Putin is making a concerted effort to “break the monopoly of the Anglo-Saxon mass media” and to “illuminate abroad the state policies” of the Kremlin. To that end, he’s pouring incredible amounts of money into Russian media. The country now invests around $136 million each year just to influence public opinion abroad.
Russia is currently expanding its foreign broadcaster RT (formerly known as Russia Today) and the Ruptly News Agency. Launched back in 2005, RT is currently available in English, Spanish, and Arabic, and is being positioned as an alternative to Western international media, such as CNN and the BBC. Ruptly is currently working to establish itself as an alternative to Reuters and the Associated Press in providing video coverage.
As noted by Anton Troianovski, “While viewership is relatively small, observers say that by airing increasingly shrill criticism of the West and comments from anti-American conspiracy theorists as well as far-right and far-left Western politicians, RT has sought to undermine the authority of Western media.”
According to Andrew Weiss, the Vice President of studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, “We’re in the middle of a relentless propaganda war.” He describes RT as a crucial tool used by Russia to conduct its foreign policy. By using the Internet, newspapers and television — along with the deployment of allegedly neutral journalists and pundits dispatched around the world — the Kremlin is effectively propagating its position.
Currently, RT reaches out to more than 644 million people worldwide, and as a state-influenced organization, it can slip messages about Russian policy into its programming (a good example can be found here). Looking ahead, Russia plans on expanding its Berlin office from two staff members to 30. It has also adopted a $39 million budget for expansion into French.
By using the media and other information channels, the Russian Federation has relentlessly and effectively conveyed it’s own narrative on unfolding events. Its startling ability to control information has become a critical tactic in its current efforts to annex portions of Ukraine and to influence events in the Middle East. Read the rest of this entry »
Calm when it comes to Putin, ISIS and Hamas, but furious with Israel
Barack Obama “has become ‘enraged’ at the Israeli government, both for its actions and for its treatment of his chief diplomat, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. ” So reports the Jerusalem Post, based on the testimony of Martin Indyk, until recently a special Middle East envoy for the president. The war in Gaza, Mr. Indyk adds, has had “a very negative impact” on Jerusalem’s relations with Washington.
Think about this. Enraged. Not “alarmed” or “concerned” or “irritated” or even “angered.” Anger is a feeling. Rage is a frenzy. Anger passes. Rage feeds on itself. Anger is specific. Rage is obsessional, neurotic.
[Also see Bret Stephens’ - ‘Pay Attention to Other People’s Nightmares, Because They Might Be Contagious’]
And Mr. Obama—No Drama Obama, the president who prides himself on his cool, a man whose emotional detachment is said to explain his intellectual strength—is enraged. With Israel. Which has just been hit by several thousand unguided rockets and 30-odd terror tunnels, a 50-day war, the forced closure of its one major airport, accusations of “genocide” by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, anti-Semitic protests throughout Europe, general condemnation across the world. This is the country that is the object of the president’s rage.
Think about this some more. In the summer in which Mr. Obama became “enraged” with Israel, Islamic State terrorists seized Mosul and massacred Shiite soldiers in open pits, Russian separatists shot down a civilian jetliner, Hamas executed 18 “collaborators” in broad daylight, Bashar Assad‘s forces in Syria came close to encircling Aleppo with the aim of starving the city into submission, a brave American journalist had his throat slit on YouTube by a British jihadist, Russian troops openly invaded Ukraine, and Chinese jets harassed U.S. surveillance planes over international waters.
Mr. Obama or his administration responded to these events with varying degrees of concern, censure and indignation. But rage? Read the rest of this entry »
“Thank God, I think no one is thinking of unleashing a large-scale conflict with Russia. I want to remind you that Russia is one of the leading nuclear powers.”
Aug 29 (Reuters) – Alexei Anishchuk reports: President Vladimir Putin said on Friday Russia’s armed forces, backed by its nuclear arsenal, were ready to meet any aggression, declaring at a pro-Kremlin youth camp that foreign states should understand: “It’s best not to mess with us.”
“Russia is far from being involved in any large-scale conflicts. We don’t want that and don’t plan on it. But naturally, we should always be ready to repel any aggression towards Russia.”
Putin told the assembly, on the banks of a lake near Moscow, the Russian takeover of Crimea in March was essential to save a largely Russian-speaking population from Ukrainian government violence. He said continued fighting in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists launched an uprising in April, was the result of a refusal by Kiev to negotiate.
“Russia’s partners…should understand it’s best not to mess with us.”
Ukraine, and Western governments, accuse Russia of sending troops and armour to back the separatists in a conflict that has already killed over 2,000 people. Russia denies the charge. Read the rest of this entry »
— Agence France-Presse (@AFP) August 28, 2014
Andy Tully writes: Oil and gas are at the heart of the Russian economy and are largely responsible for keeping Moscow’s government budget in balance. But the recent decline in the price of oil from the North Sea and Texas has now spread to Urals crude, giving President Vladimir Putin one more economic headache.
The price of Urals crude fell just below $100 per barrel on Aug. 18, an 18-month low. On Aug. 19, it dropped to less than $97 per barrel. These declines coincided with similar drops in the price of Brent crude from the North Sea and U.S. oil.
The reasons are fairly easy to recognize. First, the United States has been on a drilling tear, extracting oil at record levels to increase its supply at a time when demand is waning. Second, though more tentative, is that conflicts in North Africa and the Middle East are so far not interfering with oil production in these regions.
This oil production boom raises problems for Moscow. Two-thirds of Russia’s exports are oil and gas, accounting for fully half of the central government’s revenues. That means that so far this year, every dollar drop in the price of Russian oil means a cut of about $1.4 billion in revenues. Read the rest of this entry »
British lawmaker calls to strip Russia of World Cup http://t.co/YPgmFrST1K
— The Times of Israel (@TimesofIsrael) July 26, 2014
— Andrei Nikitchyuk (@AndreiNikit) July 24, 2014
Now that the U.S.-Russia relationship has broken down, Moscow could throw a wrench into the teetering nuclear negotiations with Iran.
“If Putin decides that retaliating against the U.S. and ruining Obama’s foreign policy legacy is more important than sealing a pact with Iran, the whole thing could unravel.”
“An extension is the only thing the Iranians need to complete their bomb work. The whole point of the sanctions was to make sure that time is not on the side of the Iranians.”
U.S. officials, lawmakers, and experts, have been watching and waiting for Putin to use the Iran negotiations as a way to mess with Obama ever since the tit-for-tat sanctions began in March.
Moscow and Tehran have been negotiating a $1.5 billion oil-for-goods exchange, which could undermine international pressure on Iran to make a deal with the West. But overall, Moscow has continued to be a reasonably constructive part of the international coalition pressing Iran to roll back its nuclear program. Read the rest of this entry »