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 »
The Cold War test of nerves is back. Risky close encounters between Russian and NATO forces have increased dramatically in the Baltic region over the past three years. The WSJ’s Tanya Rivero explains what’s at stake.
Old joke: Where do the Swiss keep their armies?
Answer at the bottom.
STOCKHOLM (AFP-Jiji) — Sweden is to reintroduce compulsory military service, seven years after abandoning it, to respond to global security challenges including Russia’s assertive behavior in the Baltic Sea region, Stockholm said Thursday.
“We are in a context where Russia has annexed Crimea,” Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist told AFP, adding, “They are doing more exercises in our immediate vicinity.”
Sweden has had a professional army, staffed by volunteers, since 2010.
“We saw that our units could not be filled on a voluntary basis. A decision had to be taken to complement the [volunteer] system, which is why we are reactivating conscription,” Hultqvist said.
A non-NATO member, Sweden has not seen armed conflict on its territory in two centuries. It put conscription on hold in 2010 after it was deemed an unsatisfactory way of meeting the needs of a modern army.
In the past two decades the military’s budget has been slashed as its mission was revamped to focus more on peacekeeping operations abroad and less on the country’s defense.
But in recent years, concerns have risen about Russia’s intentions in the region — with alarms bells ringing after Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula in 2014, experts noted. Read the rest of this entry »
MEXICO CITY (AP) — The world faces a starkly different America led by a President Donald Trump.
While the billionaire businessman’s election was welcomed in some countries, others saw it as a big shock as governments will now have to deal with a man who has cozied up to Vladimir Putin, told North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies they would have to pay for their own protection and vowed to make the Mexican government pay for a multibillion-dollar border wall.
Trump’s win was particularly startling in Mexico, where his remarks calling Mexican immigrants criminals and “rapists” were a deep insult to national pride. Financial analysts have predicted a Trump win would threaten billions of dollars in cross-border trade, and government officials say they have drawn up a contingency plan for such a scenario, though without releasing details.
Charles Krauthammer discusses Donald Trump’s call for Russia to find Hillary Clinton’s missing emails, and how the Clinton campaign’s response belies a total contradiction.
James Pethokoukis writes: To back two centuries and the average world income per human was about $3 a day, notes economist Deirdre McCloskey in the Wall Street Journal. Now it’s $33 a day, and four times higher than that in advanced economies like the United States, Germany, and Japan. And those numbers — even with the usual inflation adjustment — may well understate things.
So why are we so much, much richer today? After dismissing some alternative explanations, McCloskey arrives at this one:
The answer, in a word, is “liberty.” Liberated people, it turns out, are ingenious. Slaves, serfs, subordinated women, people frozen in a hierarchy of lords or bureaucrats are not. By certain accidents of European politics, having nothing to do with deep European virtue, more and more Europeans were liberated.
From Luther’s reformation through the Dutch revolt against Spain after 1568 and England’s turmoil in the Civil War of the 1640s, down to the American and French revolutions, Europeans came to believe that common people should be liberated to have a go…(read more)
The socialist utopias of Sanders’ dreams bear little resemblance to reality across the Atlantic.
In conventional political thought, Democrats are always trying to make America more European — Higher taxes! Free college! A smaller military! — while Republicans are a passel of cowboys who view Europe as a bunch of socialist libertines.
But, as with much of conventional political thought, this isn’t quite right. And if the Republicans really want to mess with Democrats’ minds, perhaps they should launch a new campaign to make America more like Europe.
A good place to start would be with the Scandinavian countries that Bernie Sandersoften uses as a model. Sanders’ problem is that the Scandinavia he has in mind is the Scandinavia of the 1970s. Scandinavians today have learned a few things since then, which Bernie seems to have missed.
As Swedish pundit Johan Norberg writes: “Sanders is right: America would benefit hugely from modeling her economic and social policies after her Scandinavian sisters. But Sanders should be careful what he wishes for. When he asks for ‘trade policies that work for the working families of our nation and not just the CEOs of large, multi-national corporations,’ Social Democrats in Sweden would take this to mean trade liberalization — which would have the benefit of exposing monopolist fat cats to competition — not the protectionism that Sanders favors. … Being more like modern Sweden actually means deregulation, free trade, a national school voucher system, partially privatized pensions, no property tax, no inheritance tax, and much lower corporate taxes. Sorry to burst your bubble, Bernie.”
Likewise, as Charles Lane writes in The Washington Post, Donald Trump’s programs would actually make America more like Denmark. “Actually, the package Trump offers — ‘save Social Security without cuts,’ a vaguely pro-single-payer position on health care, plus temporarily banning Muslims and walling off Mexico — bears an eerie resemblance to the Danish government’s current policy mix.” Read the rest of this entry »
“Refugees should stay where the hell they are. Hey, no one has worked harder for the human condition than I have, but they’re not part of the human condition. If 11 guys in the group of 10,000 are ISIS—how can I take that chance?”
Lewis then said that President Obama was “never prepared” for ISIS and suggested that he was not a real leader…
…The clip concludes with Lewis praising Trump for his “showmanship.”
“I think he’s great,” said Lewis of Trump. “He’s a showman and we’ve never had a showman in the president’s chair.”
“You can’t make do a comparison on Ronald Reagan because I can do three hours on him with just praise, he was so good.”
“Well, we had Ronald Reagan,” Arroyo interjected….(read more)
A sham conference held in Moscow this week was all about getting Western regions to break away.
Poland’s Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak: ‘After tens of years of peace, that peaceful period after the Cold War is now over’Posted: June 19, 2015
Zagan (Poland) (AFP) – NATO member Poland said Thursday that the post-Cold War period of peace is “now over”, as the European Union grapples with various crises including the Ukraine conflict and terrorism.
“Because there are more and more crises erupting around Europe… It’s not only the Ukrainian and Russian crisis but also ISIS and a number of different crises in northern Africa.”
Poland’s defence minister spoke alongside NATO head Jens Stoltenberg in western Poland while attending the first full exercise of the Western defence alliance’s new rapid reaction force — part of NATO’s biggest defence reinforcement since the Cold War.
“I think it’s a task for all of us to persuade the public that they should be ready to do more before it’s too late.”
— Defense Minister Tomasz Siemonia
“After tens of years of peace, that peaceful period after the Cold War is now over,” Defence Minister Tomasz Siemoniak told reporters in Zagan.
“Because there are more and more crises erupting around Europe… It’s not only the Ukrainian and Russian crisis but also ISIS and a number of different crises in northern Africa,” he said, using an acronym to refer to the jihadist Islamic State group.
He added that Europe had to do more to defend itself, saying “I think it’s a task for all of us to persuade the public that they should be ready to do more before it’s too late.” Read the rest of this entry »
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A suicide bomber attacked a volleyball tournament in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday, killing at least 45 people, officials said.
Dozens more were wounded when the bomber, who was on foot and mingling with the crowd, detonated his explosives, said Mokhis Afgha, the spokesman for the governor of Paktika province.
“There were too many people gathered in the one place to watch the game. Dozens of others are wounded and we have reports that many of them are in critical condition.”
He said the attack happened during an inter-district volleyball tournament attended by large crowed in Yahyakhail district late Sunday afternoon.
“We need urgent help from the central government because we might need to transfer wounded people to Kabul for treatment.”
“There were too many people gathered in the one place to watch the game. Dozens of others are wounded and we have reports that many of them are in critical condition,” Afghan said. Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
Russian hackers use ‘zero-day’ in cyber-spy campaign
For The Washington Post, Ellen Nakashima reports: A Russian hacking group probably working for the government has been exploiting a previously unknown flaw in Microsoft’s Windows operating system to spy on NATO, the Ukrainian government, a U.S. university researcher and other national security targets, according to a new report.
“This is consistent with espionage activity. All indicators from a targeting and lures perspective would indicate espionage with Russian national interests.”
— iSight Senior Director Stephen Ward
The group has been active since at least 2009, according to research by iSight Partners, a cybersecurity firm.
Its targets in the recent campaign also included a Polish energy firm, a Western European government agency and a French telecommunications firm.
“This is consistent with espionage activity,” said iSight Senior Director Stephen Ward. “All indicators from a targeting and lures perspective would indicate espionage with Russian national interests.”
“The firm began monitoring the hackers’ activity in late 2013 and discovered the vulnerability in August…The flaw is present in every Windows operating system from Vista to 8.1, he said, except Windows XP.”
There is no indication that the group was behind a recent spate of intrusions into U.S. banks, including JPMorgan Chase, Ward said.
“ISight dubbed the recently detected hacking group SandWorm because of references embedded in its code to the science-fiction novel ‘Dune.’ There were various mentions in Russian to the fictional desert planet of Arrakis, for instance.”
Current and former U.S. intelligence officials say the capabilities of Russian hackers are on par with those of the United States and Israel. 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 »
An interview with historian Victor Davis Hanson
Directed and Edited by: Joshua Hamilton
Interview and Writing by: Evan Carter
Camera Two: Anders Kiledal
Published on Sep 10, 2014
The Buk missile system (Russian: “Бук”; English: beech) is a family of self-propelled, medium-range surface-to-air missile systems developed by the former Soviet Union and Russian Federation and designed to engage cruise missiles, smart bombs, fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft, and unmanned aerial vehicles.
The Buk missile system is the successor to the NIIP/Vympel 2K12 Kub (NATO reporting name SA-6 “Gainful”). The first version of Buk adopted into service carried the GRAU designation 9K37 and was identified in the west with the NATO reporting name “Gadfly” as well as the US Department of Defense designation SA-11.
Since its initial introduction into service the Buk missile system has been continually upgraded and refined with the latest incarnation carrying the designation 9K317 “Buk-M2”
via Buk-M2 SAM
For The Washington Post, FRED HIATT writes: Poland and the United States will announce next week the deployment of U.S. ground forces to Poland as part of an expansion of NATO presence in Central and Eastern Europe in response to events in Ukraine. That was the word from Poland’s defense minister, Tomasz Siemoniak, who visited The Post Friday after meeting with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel at the Pentagon on Thursday.
Siemoniak said the decision has been made on a political level and that military planners are working out details. There will also be intensified cooperation in air defense, special forces, cyberdefense and other areas. Poland will play a leading regional role, “under U.S. patronage,” he said.
But the defense minister also said that any immediate NATO response to Russian aggression in Ukraine, while important, matter less than a long-term shift in the defense postures of Europe and America. The United States, having announced a “pivot” to Asia, needs to “re-pivot” to Europe, he said, and European countries that have cut back on defense spending need to reverse the trends. Read the rest of this entry »
In late March, President Obama took a week-long trip through Europe which included a stop of less than 24 hours in Brussels, Belgium for meetings with the European Union and NATO. The president stayed at The Hotel, a twenty-seven story hotel in the center of the city. The estimated cost for the president’s stay, including about two weeks for an advance team, was $1,522,646.36.
The U.S. needs a serious foreign policy
Charles Krauthammer writes: The president of the Los Angeles World Affairs Council challenges critics of President Obama’s Ukraine policy by saying “What are you going to do, send the 101st Airborne into Crimea?” Not exactly subtle. And rather silly, considering that no one has proposed such a thing.
[Charles Krauthammer is the author of “Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics” Check it out at Amazon]
The alternative to passivity is not war but a serious foreign policy. For the last five years, Obama’s fruitless accommodationism has invited the kind of aggressiveness demonstrated by Iran in Syria, China in the East China Sea, and Russia in Ukraine. But what’s done is done. Put that aside. What is to be done now?
We have three objectives. In ascending order of difficulty: Reassure NATO. Deter further Russian incursion into Ukraine. Reverse the annexation of Crimea.
We’re already sending U.S. aircraft to patrol the airspace of the Baltic states. That’s not enough.
1. Send the chairman of the Joint Chiefs to the Baltics to arrange joint maneuvers.
2. Same for the four NATO countries bordering Ukraine — Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania.
3. Urgently revive the original missile-defense agreements concluded with Poland and the Czech Republic before Obama canceled them unilaterally to appease Russia.
Zbigniew Brzezinski was national security adviser from 1977 to 1981. (Who next? Henry Kissinger? McGeorge Bundy?)
Mr Z writes: Regarding the Russian aggression against Ukraine, much depends on what Vladimir Putin does next. But what Putin does depends on not only his calculation of the likely NATO (and especially the U.S.) response but also his estimate of how fiercely the Ukrainian people would respond to any further escalation by Russia. And, to complete the circle, the Ukrainian response would be influenced by citizens’ reaction to any further repetition of Putin’s Crimean aggression and by whether the nation believes that the United States and NATO are truly supportive.
Putin’s thuggish tactics in seizing Crimea offer some hints regarding his planning. He knew in advance that his thinly camouflaged invasion would meet with popular support from the Russian majority in Crimea. He was not sure how the thin and light Ukrainian military units stationed there would react, so he went in masked like a Mafia gangster. In the event of serious Ukrainian resistance, he could disown the initiative and pull back…Read the rest
Anne Applebaum writes: Every time I say anything to anyone anywhere about Russia nowadays, that’s what I’m asked. And there is a clear answer: No. This is not a new Cold War. Neither the United States nor Europe is locked in a deadly, apocalyptic competition with Russia, China or anyone else. We are not fighting proxy wars. The world has not been divided into two Orwellian halves, democrats vs. communists.
But although we are not fighting a new Cold War, the tactics of the old Cold War are now, at the dawn of 2014, suddenly being deployed in a manner not seen since the early 1980s. We in the United States may not believe that we are engaged in an ideological struggle with anybody, but other people are engaged in an ideological struggle with us. We in the United States may not believe that there is any real threat to our longtime alliance structures in Europe and Asia, but other people think those alliances are vulnerable and have set out to undermine them.
Sometimes these gestures are quite open. China’s recent, unilateral declaration of anew air defense zone in the East China Sea was a clear attempt to warn its neighbors that its navy is preparing to compete with the U.S. fleet. The Chinese naval ship that recently cut in front of a U.S. destroyer, forcing it to change course, sent a similar message. Neither of these incidents signals the start of a cold, hot or any other kind of war. But they do mean that China intends to chip away at the status quo, to undermine the faith of U.S. allies — Japan, South Korea, the Philippines — in American power and force them to think twice, at the very least, about their old economic, military and trade agreements.
Over the past year, Russia has been playing the same kind of games with NATO: no open threats, just hints. Last spring, the Russian air force staged a mock attack on Sweden, came perilously close to Swedish air space and buzzed Gotland Island. The Swedish air force failed to react — it was after midnight on Good Friday — though eventually two Danish planes scrambled to follow the Russian planes back across the Baltic. Russian officials have also made veiled (and not so veiled) threats to Finland, selectively boycotted industries in the Baltic states and dropped hints that Russia intends to put, or might already have put, longer-range missiles on its Western border — missiles designed to hit Germany.
I repeat: Russia does not intend to start a war. Russia, rather, intends in the short term to undermine regional confidence in NATO, in U.S. military guarantees, in West European solidarity. In the longer term, Russia wants Scandinavia, the Baltic states and eventually all of Europe to accept Russian policies in other spheres.
“If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is temperamental, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them. If sovereign and subject are in accord, put division between them. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.”
– Sun Tzu, the Art of War
Despite the past eleven years in Afghanistan, U.S. ground troops are less prepared than ever for “small wars.” We have become so dependent on gadgets and contractors that we would not know what to do without them. Contractors provide much of the security at major bases in Afghanistan, and even on many smaller bases.
We like to use contractors because they are cheaper and politically expedient. When they are killed by car bombs at the gates, they are not added to the only body count that Americans care about. Leaders do not have to deal with photographs of grieving families.
When TCN (Third Country National) contractors are maimed, we can send them home to Africa or Nepal, and wash our hands while avoiding burdensome veterans’ issues. Contractors have no political or moral clout. They are our mercenaries. Using mercenaries makes business and political sense.
Many of our security contractors are Afghans. Does this make military sense?
A source mentioned that guard towers (known as “sangers”) were frequently empty at BLS. BLS refers to the Bastion, Leatherneck, Shorbak complex.
I witnessed a similar incident last year in Zhari. Zhari was, and remains, one of the most dangerous areas of Afghanistan.
One night in Zhari, the contracted Afghan guards left their post, which was just ten seconds away from the tents where 4-4 Cav Soldiers lived, and a few tents down from my own. The sanger appeared to be empty. I looked inside. They were gone. For obvious security reasons, I did not publish this…
- US military deaths in Afghanistan hit 2,000 (miamiherald.com)