Archive for the ‘Russia’ Tag

Quote of the Day   Leave a comment

John Oliver “On Friday there was some terrible news.”

Reporter “We are following the breaking story out of Moscow, the murder of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.  The 55 year old opposition politician was gunned down less than two days before he was to lead a large rally against Russian President Vladimir Putin.”

Oliver “Wow, that would seem like a shocking coincidence if you knew literally nothing about Russia. Nemtsov is just the latest in a long line of Putin’s enemies to find themselves mysteriously imprisoned or dead.  In fact, just a few weeks ago Nemtsov was asked in an interview if he was afraid that Putin might kill him, and his answer was “yes, a little bit”.  In fact, at the end of that interview the journalist said to him “I hope common sense prevails and Putin will not kill you”, which sounds chilling, but to be fair, “I hope Putin will not kill you” is just how Russian people say goodbye to each other.”

Quote of the Day   Leave a comment

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: But first here’s my take. The deal announced Thursday to end the fighting in Ukraine will face the same obstacle the previous such agreement faced — how to ensure that Russia will abide by it.

Frustrated by Moscow’s continued support for Ukrainian separatists, Western statesmen have begun discussing military assistance for the Ukrainian government. But in trying to decide what would actually deter Moscow, it might be worth listening to what seems to scare Russians themselves. And it is not military aid to Kiev.

When asked recently about the possibility of so-called swift sanctions, which would bar Russia from participating in the international payment system centered on the dollar, Prime Minister Medvedev warned that Moscow’s response would be without limits.

It’s understandable why Putin’s closest associates are so rattled by the prospect of additional economic sanctions. The Russian economy is in free fall. In a report released this week, the International Energy Agency said that Russia is facing a perfect storm of collapsing prices, international sanctions and currency depreciation. The IMF projects Russia’s economy will contract by 3 percent in 2015.

And Putin needs strong oil revenues to maintain his power. From 2008 to 2009 when oil revenues did collapse during the global financial crisis, the Russian government increased its spending by a staggering 40 percent, all to preserve social stability. This according to the economists.

On the other hand, Russia could easily handle continuing its military skirmishing in eastern Ukraine. Moscow’s defense budget in 2014 was roughly 20 times that of Kiev’s, according to figures published this week by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

The argument against sanctions is that while they may raise the cost for Russia, Putin has shown that he does not respond to higher costs in a rational calculating manner. But if that’s the case, then military aid for Ukraine won’t work either. No one believes that Kiev can actually prevail in a military contest with Moscow.

A recent think tank report urging military aid itself acknowledges that the aid package will merely raise the cost for the Kremlin in order to force it to then negotiate. In other words, the consensus is that the only possible strategy is to raise costs for Russia. The disagreement is really about what kinds of costs Vladimir Putin finds most onerous.

I think that military aid to Ukraine would stoke the fires of Russian nationalism, let Putin wrap himself in military colors and defend his, quote-unquote, “fellow Russians,” in an arena in which he will be able to ensure that Moscow prevails. For a regime that waged two bitter and costly wars in Chechnya, a region far less central to the Russian imagination than Ukraine, the loss of some men and money in a military operation is not likely to be much of a deterrent.

Why would the West want to move from its area of enormous strength, economic pressure, to an area where it will be outgunned in every sense?

If Russia breaks this fragile peace, then more sanctions should be considered. Senator Lindsey Graham recently offered the most honest reason why some in Washington are advocating military assistance. Even though it doesn’t seem likely to work, it’s a way of doing something in the face of Russian aggression.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I don’t know how this ends if you give them defensive capability but I know this. I will feel better because when my nation was needed to stand up to the garbage and stand by freedom, I stood by the freedom.

ZAKARIA: But the purpose of American foreign policy is not to make Lindsey Graham feel better. It is to actually achieve American objectives on the ground. That means picking your battles and weapons carefully.

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1502/15/fzgps.01.html

Posted February 16, 2015 by tmusicfan in Politics, Quote of the Day

Tagged with , , , ,

Quote of the Day   Leave a comment

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: But first here is my take. As Moscow continues to send its forces into Ukraine, it seems clear that Putin’s Russia presents America and the West with a frontal challenge. But in the longer run, it is not Russia’s overt military assault, but China’s patient and steady nonmilitary moves that might prove the greater challenge. Russia is a great power in decline. Its economy amounts to just 3.4 percent of global GDP. China’s is nearly 16 percent and rising. Now almost four times the size of Japan’s and five times that of Germany’s according to the World Bank.

Presidents Obama and Xi deserve the accolades they are receiving for their historic agreement on climate change and it seems to suggest that America and China are moving toward a new, productive relationship. Except that even while signing these accords, Xi Jinping’s government has been taking steps that suggests it is developing a very different approach to its foreign policy, one that seeks to replace the American-built post-1945 international system with its own.

If it continues down this path, it would constitute the most significant and dangerous shift in international politics since the end of the Cold War. It’s been widely reported that Xi has presided over a rise in nationalist rhetoric in recent years, much of it anti- American. While nationalism has been circulating in China for a while, the quantity seems to have risen sharply.

One count done by the “Christian Science Monitor, found that the number of anti-western polemics in the official “People’s Daily” in 2014 so far has tripled compared with the same period last year.

Perhaps more important, however, is that China has begun a low-key but persistent campaign to propose alternatives to the existing structure of international arrangements in Asia and beyond. It’s moved from being anti-American to post-American.

This summer Beijing spearheaded an agreement with the other BRICS countries to create a financial fund that would challenge the IMF. In October Beijing launched a $50 billion Asian infrastructure bank explicitly as an alternative to the World Bank. And last year President Xi declared that China would spend $40 billion to revive the old silk road to promote trade and development in that region.

For China to fit into an international system rubs against its deepest historical traditions. In his recent book Henry Kissinger notes that China has never been comfortable with the idea of a global system of equal states. Historically China considered itself in a sense the sole sovereign government of the whole world.

Diplomacy was a series of carefully contrived ceremonies in which foreign societies were given the opportunity to affirm their assigned place in the global hierarchy. One in which China sat on top. These are worrying signs not because Beijing’s efforts will surely succeed. They may not. Many of its efforts have run into opposition, but if China continues down this path using its growing clout to ask countries to choose between the existing set of arrangements or new ones, it might create conditions for a new kind of cold war in Asia.

It will certainly help to undermine and perhaps eventually destroy the current international order, one that was created by the United States after 1945 and which has been a platform on which peace and prosperity have flourished in Asia for seven decades.

Quote of the Day   Leave a comment

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN: But first here’s my take. The actions of the pro-Russian forces, who it appears shot down a civilian airliner, might seem at first glance to be crude and unsophisticated. But in one sense they’re on the cutting edge. They represent something we see all around us these days — the democratization of violence.

Let me explain. For most of history, the side with the bigger army usually won a conflict. Over the past few decades a different pattern has been emerging, the power of asymmetrical warfare. Look at the pro-Russian separatists or Hamas or Hezbollah or the insurgents in Afghanistan or Iraq, and you will see attacks that are cheap compared with the massive response then launched by traditional armies.

In Moises Naim’s excellent book, “The End of Power,” he calculates that for every dollar that al Qaeda spent planning and executing the 9/11 attacks the United States spent $7 million countering it or coping with the losses. That’s a ratio of $1 million to $7 million. Staggering, indeed. That is why Naim says never in the field of human conflict has so few had the potential to do so much to so many at so little cost.

Naim cites scholar Ivan Arreguin-Toft who looked at asymmetrical conflicts in history and found that while 150 years ago the weaker party would win only about 12 percent of such wars. In the last 50 years it has prevailed 55 percent of the time.

But let’s be clear about the current crisis in Ukraine. This is not really a story about a band of rebels who are up against the Ukrainian government. It is about little Ukraine up against Russia, a country that spends 35 times what Ukraine does on its armed forces. The Russian effort to turn this into an asymmetrical conflict by using special forces, rebels, and perhaps even mercenaries is a conscious strategy to take advantage of the power of asymmetry.

Moscow is seeking to destabilize Ukraine at low cost and perhaps most important with the ability to deny its involvement. The best way to counter Russia’s strategy is to deny that advantage that it seeks. The world must make clear that it recognizes that Russia has had a conscious deliberate centrally directed policy to destabilize Ukraine and to do so has sent into the battlefield heavy weapons including anti-aircraft weapons.

This is not a case where terrorists are operating without an address or a home base. It’s called the Kremlin. If they were in the West to hold Russia responsible for its actions in eastern Ukraine, insist that the government of Ukraine, which Russia claims to recognize, be allowed to take control of all regions of its country and help the democratically elected leaders in Kiev, Mr. Putin’s strategy of causing chaos on the cheap will not work.

After all, despite Russia’s huge defense budget, despite its massive size, despite a U.N. veto, it is now watching its neighbor, historically part of Russia, move irretrievably from its grasp and why? Because Russia has provoked the most important force in the modern world. Nationalism.

Ukrainian public sentiment and sentiment in Eastern Europe and perhaps beyond has become deeply anti-Russian. That’s an intangible force but one that has proved to be very powerful in modern history. In that sense it is the Kremlin that is on the wrong side of asymmetrical warfare.

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1407/20/fzgps.01.html

Posted July 21, 2014 by tmusicfan in Politics, Quote of the Day

Tagged with , , ,

Quote of the Day   Leave a comment

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: But first here’s my take. Vladimir Putin might be a 19th century statesman using old fashioned muscle to get his way but this week it has become that China’s president, Xi Jinping, goes one step further, comfortably embracing both the 19th and the 21st century. This also means that the challenge from China is going to be more complex than one the United States has ever faced before.

Let’s start with the 19th century aspect, the huge Sino-Russian natural gas deal signed this week is perfectly understandable in terms of old-fashioned real politics. Beijing has long sought secure energy supplies and it places that vital interest above any desire to punish Russia for its annexation of Crimea or strengthen global norms against aggression. In fact, the Chinese recognize that the Russians facing sanctions were anxious to diversify away from their dependence on European customers and so Beijing probably got a good deal.

While the gas agreement has received all the attention, it’s also worth studying Xi’s future Shanghai, given the same day that the deal was struck. The venue was the gathering of an obscure Asian regional group, the one that includes Turkey, Iran and Russia, and not the United States. His message was that Asians should take care of their own security. Xi presented the Chinese view of the region, which he calls Asia and never the preferred U.S. term Asia Pacific. That term excludes the United States and implies that Washington as an outside power should not play a major role in Asian affairs. But this week, we also saw a new world of great power intrigue. The Justice Department filed former charges against five officials in the Chinese military and detailed the economic espionage that they allegedly have conducted against American companies over the last eight years.

The action is unprecedented, especially since these officials are never going to be arrested and will probably never leave China, and no one believes it will make a difference because the Chinese officials aren’t likely to face any kind of sanction at home. In fact if anything, they might regard being on this list as a badge of honor.

Now some experts believe that the scale of China’s cyber espionage is staggering. Quote, “It is the largest theft in human history,” unquote, says Peter Singer of the Brookings Institution. And he points to one specific example. The United States will spend about a trillion dollars developing, operating and maintaining the F-35 fighter which will be its most advanced weapon system.

Singer says, “We can now see clearly that elements of the F-35 have made their way into a similar Chinese plane. American investments that were meant to give it a 15-year battlefield advantage have been totally undermined.”

And Singer points out, China targets everyone from defense contractors down to small furniture makers whose chair designs get stolen and copied within a year.

Cyber attacks are part of a new messy chaotic world fueled by globalization and the information revolution in a wired networked world, it is much harder to shut down this kind of activity and it certainly will not be possible to do it using traditional mechanisms of national security. Notice that Washington is using a legal mechanism, which will be ineffective and largely symbolic for what is really a national security issue.

The Sino-Russian gas deal reminds us that traditional geopolitics is alive and well and Washington knows how to work its way in that world, but cyber espionage represents a new frontier and no one really has ideas, tools or strategies to properly address this challenge.

CNN.com – Transcripts

Quote of the Day   Leave a comment

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: Over the past two months, we have watched what has looked like a minor version of the Cold War between the West and Russia. Many people are wondering, how did we get here? Was this confrontation inevitable or did the West mishandle Russia from the start?

And the mishandling camp is Jack Matlock, former U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union in the late 1980s who watched from Spaso House in Moscow as Mikhail Gorbachev presided over the end of the Cold War and then the end of communism. He argues, as the title of his recent “Washington Post” essay puts it, “The United States has treated Russia as a loser since the end of the Cold War.”

In the years right after the Cold War ended, several American statesmen and writers urged a more generous policy toward Moscow. I was one of them. My logic was fairly simple. We have had two historic experiments with peace settlements after world wars. After World War I, the victors punished Germany and left it outside the new international system. It proved to be a disaster, leaving a wounded and angry Germany pining for revenge.

After World War II, on the other hand, the United States and its allies were magnanimous towards Germany and Japan, integrating those countries into the new global order. That peace, the Peace of 1945, succeeded brilliantly. And so I thought we should do our best to try to integrate Russia into the structures of the new post-Cold War world, give it significant aid and help it rebuild its economy and society.

Now Western countries did provide some help, but not really on the scale that a vast country like Russia needed after the complete collapse it had gone through in the early 1990s. But if the West did not do enough, Russia also pursued policies that made integration very hard. By the early 1990s, Moscow had launched a ferocious war against Chechnya, a part of Russia that had been seeking independence from Moscow for more than a century.

Estimates vary, but many believe that the Russian army killed over 200,000 people in the first and second Chechen wars. Meanwhile in Europe, Moscow was ardently defending Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic as he massacred Bosnians and later Kosovars. This is not how Germany and Japan behaved after World War II as they sought integration.

And at home, Russians were quickly developing a prickly resistance to outside interference, and Russian politicians who urged integration with the West became marginal figures with tiny followings. Looking at this record, the historian Anne Applebaum has argued, also in the “Washington Post,” that the West fundamentally misunderstood Russia. It saw the place as a quasi-Western land. Think of Tolstoy and Tchaikovsky. A Western country in the making if only we had put forward the right policies.

In fact, she argues, Russia derives its identity from being a non- Western country, perhaps even from being an anti-Western country in the sense that it is distinct and different from the West.

Perhaps the West could have done more to help Russia, but it does appear to me looking back that the Russia of the late 1980s and early 1990s of Gorbachev and Yeltsin may have been a special conciliatory moment in its history, a time when Russia was weak, its leadership enlightened and its populous worn out by decades of communist failure.

The mood of that country changed quickly as oil prices rose in the 1990s. The Russian economy grew and the Russian state reasserted itself. In Russia there has always been a great debate, at least since the 1840s, between Westernizes and Slavophiles. The Westernizes wanted Russia to become Western, while the Slavophiles felt that its destiny lay in its distinctive Slavic civilization that was different from the West. Today, at least, it looks like the Slavophiles were right.

CNN.com – Transcripts

Posted April 21, 2014 by tmusicfan in Politics, Quote of the Day

Tagged with , , ,

Quote of the Day   Leave a comment

FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST: But first, here’s my take. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has brought to the fore an important debate about what kind of world we live in. Many critics charge that the Obama administration has been blind to the harsh realities of the world because it believes, as a Wall Street Journal editorial opined, “in a fantasy world of international rules.”

John McCain declared this is the most naive president in history. The Washington Post editorial board worries that Obama misunderstands the nature of the century we’re living in. Almost all of these critics ridicule John Kerry’s assertion that changing borders by force, as Russia did, is 19th Century behavior in the 21st Century.

Well, here are the facts. The scholar Mark Zacher has tallied up changes of borders by force. Something that was once quite common. Since World War I, he notes, it has been on a sharp decline, and in recent decades that decline has accelerated.

Before 1950, wars between nations would result in border changes, that is, annexations, 81 percent of the time. After 1950 that number dropped to 27 percent. In fact, since 1946 there are only 12 examples of major changes in borders using force, and all of them begun before 1976. So Putin’s behavior does in fact belong to the 19th Century.

The transformation of international relations goes well beyond border changes. Harvard’s Steven Pinker, who will be on the show later, points out in a recent essay that after a 600-year stretch in which Western European countries started two new wars a year, they have not started one since 1945, nor have the 40 or so richest nations anywhere in the world engaged each other in armed conflict.

Colonial wars, a routine feature of international life for thousands of years, are extinct. Wars between countries, not just major powers, not just in Europe, have also dropped dramatically by more than 50 percent over the last three decades.

Scholars at the University of Maryland have been tabulating the number of new conflicts that have arisen across the world. They find that the past decade has seen the lowest number since World War II.

This is not an academic debate. The best way to deal with Russia’s aggression in Crimea is not to present it as routine national interest-based foreign policy that would be countered by Washington in a contest between two great powers. It is to point out, as Obama did eloquently this week in Brussels, that Russia is grossly endangering a global order that has benefited the entire world. Compare what the Obama administration has managed to organize in the wake of this latest Russian aggression, to the Bush administration’s response to Putin’s actions in Georgia in 2008.

That was a blatant invasion. Moscow sent in tanks and heavy artillery. Hundreds were killed. Nearly 200,000 people were displaced. Yet the response from the West was essentially nothing.

This time the response has been much more serious. Some of this difference is the nature of the stakes. But it also might have to do with the fact that the Obama administration has taken pains to present Russia’s actions in a broader context and get other countries to see them as such.

This is what leadership looks like in the 21st Century. There is in fact an evolving international order with new global norms making war and conquest increasingly rare. We should strengthen, not ridicule it.

Yes, there are some places that stand in opposition to this trend: North Korea, Syria, Russia. The people running these countries believe that they’re charting a path to greatness and glory. But they are the ones living in a fantasy world.

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1403/30/fzgps.01.html

Posted March 31, 2014 by tmusicfan in Politics, Quote of the Day

Tagged with , , , , ,