Tag: Russia

Meanwhile, Back in Reality

With the Trump campaign in full meltdown, it’s easy to miss some of the other big news going around. At any other time, these would be our headlines.

  • We are practically in a shooting war with Yemen.
  • Obama is claiming he fired a bunch of people over the VA scandal. This is a lie. Only three were actually fired. One was suspended, one firing was reversed, three retired, five resigned and two were demoted. If a political campaign fired that many people, it wouldn’t even make the news.
  • And in probably the scariest news, tensions are escalating with Russia, with the Russians moving nuclear missile submarines and recalling overseas personnel. Just as a reminder: one of our major Presidential candidates has proposed getting into a shooting war with the Russians over Syria. Over Syria. And it was not Donald Trump who said that.

This is yet another reason why I was opposed to the radioactive hamster. If the GOP had nominated Rubio, the October Surprise would be his overdue water bill and he’d be hitting Clinton hard on Russia. If the GOP had even nominated Bush, we’d be talking about some minor dumb thing he did as governor and he’d be hitting Clinton hard on the VA. Instead, we’re talking about Trump’s serial groping and total ignorance of policy. Look at all three of those stories — major challenges that will face the next President — and tell me that you trust either of these two jackanapes to handle them.

Trump the Traitor? Nah

Ugh, again? Here I was, preparing to dump all over the Democrat’s convention, the convention of Upworthy as Jesse Walker has dubbed it. And then the Trump-meister says this:

The New York business magnate and GOP presidential nominee held a news conference at which he criticized his Democratic rival and promised better of US-Russian relations under a Trump administration.

“I have nothing to do with Russia,” said the candidate, who frequently asserts he will get Putin’s respect. Trump said he had never met or spoken to the Russian leader, but he cast doubt over accusations that Moscow was behind a hack of Democratic Party e-mails that embarrassed the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

“If it is Russia, which it probably isn’t, but if it is Russia, it’s bad for a different reason, it shows how little respect they have for our country,” said Trump in reference to the e-mail hack.

He then referenced Clinton’s scandal involving her use of a personal e-mail server during her time as secretary of state, and the more than 30,000 messages that she deleted on grounds they were personal and not related to her government job function.

“I will tell you this, Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press,” Trump said.

The Democrats and much of the media are jumping all over this, criticizing Trump for inviting a foreign power to hack a political rival. And I have to agree. Even if you argue that this was more of an off-the-cuff remark and Trump was merely saying the Russians should release e-mails — an assessment I think is probably accurate — he was still making light of a foreign power influencing our politics. It’s not “treason” but it’s the sort of thing you shouldn’t be doing when dealing with someone as dangerous as Putin.

However … I wish we could get some consistency on this kind of thing. Because whatever you think of Trump’s remark, it’s kind of small potatoes compared to this:

Picking his way through the Soviet archives that Boris Yeltsin had just thrown open, in 1991 Tim Sebastian, a reporter for the London Times, came across an arresting memorandum. Composed in 1983 by Victor Chebrikov, the top man at the KGB, the memorandum was addressed to Yuri Andropov, the top man in the entire USSR. The subject: Sen. Edward Kennedy.

“On 9-10 May of this year,” the May 14 memorandum explained, “Sen. Edward Kennedy’s close friend and trusted confidant [John] Tunney was in Moscow.” (Tunney was Kennedy’s law school roommate and a former Democratic senator from California.) “The senator charged Tunney to convey the following message, through confidential contacts, to the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Y. Andropov.”

Kennedy’s message was simple. He proposed an unabashed quid pro quo. Kennedy would lend Andropov a hand in dealing with President Reagan. In return, the Soviet leader would lend the Democratic Party a hand in challenging Reagan in the 1984 presidential election. “The only real potential threats to Reagan are problems of war and peace and Soviet-American relations,” the memorandum stated. “These issues, according to the senator, will without a doubt become the most important of the election campaign.”

Kennedy did not just challenge the Soviets to embarrass his political rival. He offered a list of specific things he would do to advance their agenda. He would visit Moscow and give them information about our politics. He would arrange for Andropov to have interviews with American media. And Kennedy would lever this “thawing” to lead opposition to Reagan and, hopefully, put himself in the White House in 1988. He essentially wanted to conduct his own foreign policy of detente.

This was far more serious than Trump’s gaffe today but the media ignored it and have continued to ignore it for years. Just as they pretended Hillary Clinton’s deleted e-mails were a big bowl of nothing and are now OUTRAGED that Trump would suggest the Russians release them. It’s political opportunism at its rankest.

So, yeah, I’ll be happy to blast Trump for suggesting, even jokingly, that a foreign power hack his political rival and influence American politics. But I will also blast Ted Kennedy and the fifth column within the Democratic Party that he represented. Because I don’t see this as yet another tool to bash the other party with.

From ISIS to Russia


Days after authorities dismissed claims that ISIS brought down a Russian passenger jet, a U.S. intelligence analysis now suggests that the terror group or its affiliates planted a bomb on the plane.

British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond said his government believes there is a “significant possibility” the plane was brought down by an explosive device. And a Middle East source briefed on intelligence matters also said it appears likely a bomb was placed aboard the aircraft.

Metrojet Flight 9268 crashed Saturday in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula after breaking apart in midair, killing all 224 people on board. It was en route to St. Petersburg from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

The latest U.S. intelligence suggests that the plane crash was most likely caused by a bomb on the plane planted by ISIS or an affiliate, according to a U.S. official familiar with the matter.

I was a little suspicious of the way the Russians immediately dismissed the possibility of terrorism. It seemed awfully suspicious that this happened immediately after Russia decided to put its foot into the hornet’s nest that is Syria. This is not the first time Islamic terrorists have struck at Russia. Now we’ll see how the Russians respond.

Obama Dithers, Putin Moves


Claiming to target ISIS, Russia conducted its first airstrikes in Syria, while U.S. officials expressed serious doubts Wednesday about what the true intentions behind the move may be.

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, warplanes targeted eight ISIS positions, including arms, transportation, communications and control positions.

But U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter countered that claim.

“I want to be careful about confirming information, but it does appear that they (Russian airstrikes) were in areas where there probably were not ISIL forces,” he told reporters. ISIL is another acronym for ISIS.

This isn’t the only place in the Middle East where the Russians are moving. They are also disputing our authority to act and trying to forge ties with Iraq. When the nuclear deal with Iran was struck, I noted that, while it wasn’t great, it did advance an important objective: trying to keep Iran from falling into the Russian orbit. But whatever Obama has gained there, he’s rapidly pissing away elsewhere. The Russians are now fighting or forging alliances with Iran, Iraq and Syria — basically that Shia half of the growing Sunni-Shia regional conflict. This potentially gives them access to even more oil as well as warm-water ports. It also makes the situation much more dangerous.

For a long time, Obama’s been dithering on Syria, Iraq and ISIS. There’s a reason for that, of course: it’s not clear what we can or should do. But it’s possible to avoid protracted entanglements while not looking weak and indecisive. Putin is moving into the vacuum Obama has created. And we may be paying for it for a long time.

The Bear Roars

Vox has a long think-piece about the potential for a war with Russia, which could include a nuclear conflict. I think the article is a bit alarmist but it’s worth a read. The essential point is that Russia trying to re-establish itself as a premier power and is consumed with the idea that the United States wants to weaken and topple its leadership. To that end, they are engaging in more and more provocative action and have lowered the bar for the use of nuclear weapons. There is a real fear that they might attack the Baltics to try to break NATO, with the threat of nuclear attack backing it up. And the lowering of nuclear thresholds has made an accidental nuclear war more likely.

A few scattered thoughts:

First, I’m old enough to remember when Mitt Romney was openly mocked and derided for declaring that Russia was one of the chief dangers we faced. There’s a part of me that wonders if Romney didn’t actually win the 2012 election and is keeping Obama in as a figurehead. We certainly seem to be, in the inept Obama way, pursuing every foreign policy initiative Romney advocated.

Second, the idea that the US would invade Russia and topple the regime is insane. But, as Robert Heinlein noted during the Cold War, the defining element of Russian foreign policy has always been paranoia. It still is. And we need to be careful in how we deal with them.

Third, I think this means that missile has moved from critical to even more critical, especially given the danger of an accidental war.

Fourth, we need to seriously think about what we’re going to do if Putin attacks the Baltic states. Do we let him take them and risk having NATO fall apart? Do we defend them and risk a large-scale war? This is the kind of issue that needs to be front and center in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Surviving the New Cold War

As you have probably heard, Yemen has collapsed into chaos. The President we were backing had fled the country and Iran-backed Shia rebels appear to be establishing control. Saudi Arabia is intervening and it looks like Egypt may get involved as well.

All this is a sign of Obama’s failed foreign policy according to … holy crap … Vox?:


New School Russia is Old School Russia

We got another startling reminder of exactly who we’re dealing with this weekend when a Russian opposition leader was brutally gunned down just meters from the Kremlin. Russia is seeing some protests. What they really need is a rebellion.

I suppose we can’t say for sure that Putin is behind this. But it is odd, isn’t it, how his enemies keep dying under mysterious circumstances.

There’s not much we can do about Putin at the moment. But based on his success in the Ukraine, he is clearly starting to look North. And the countries he is looking at our NATO members.

This could get very ugly very fast.

Toward a European War

Over the last week, Russia has been slowly dropping the pretense and invading the Ukraine with active troops, tanks and artillery pieces. Many of these soldiers, as with the earlier incursion into the crimea, are pretending to be rebels, which is technically a war crime.

As has been pointed out, the Ukraine is not the limit of Putin’s ambitions. He has claimed that he will rescue all ethnic Russians who are “threatened” which means the baltic states and Poland could be on their target list.

The West is finally responding. The plan is to deploy troops to the new NATO bases in Eastern Europe as well as to provide military aide to the Ukraine. I would suggest that reviving missile defense would be another good step.

This sets up the potential for a wider war. But it’s something we are obligated to do under the NATO treaty. We’ll just have to hope that the prospect of tangling with an actual military force is enough to give Putin some pause.

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Russia?

Let’s not beat around the bush. Russia has invaded the Ukraine, violating their sovereignty, breaking the treaty they signed and violating international rules of warfare. The Ukraine gave up their massive arsenal of nuclear weapons on the promise that the Russians would respect their sovereignty. That agreement is now dead.

The Russian excuse — that Crimea is ethnically Russian — is flimsy at best. Crimea is self-governing and is only 60% Russian. And Putin hasn’t really cared for the sovereignty of ethnic conclaves when they aren’t Russian (see Chechnya). His motivations are pretty plain: expand Russia and/or build a buffer zone of vassal states between Russia and Europe.

Frankly, I’m getting sick of this constant look into Russia’s motive and the unceasing slew of articles claiming that we need to see this from Russia’s perspective. Every aggressor in history has had his reasons. People don’t invade other countries for fun. What matters is what Putin has done, not what his motives were.

So what do we do about it? We don’t have a lot of options, barring a war. And I don’t think the Crimea is what we want to start World War 3 over. Zakaria proposes a few things, including kicking Russia out of the G-8. But I think the primary response has to be diplomatic. Whatever the result here, Russia’s neighbors have got be nervous. Now is the time to tighten those alliances and restart missile defense. I’m not sure if we should expand NATO to the Ukraine. A NATO alliance could prevent further aggression; it could also draw us into a war (or worse, not draw us into a war and collapse the entire concept of NATO).

Whatever our response is, we have to realize that we have a large aggressive nation in Eastern Europe that is devoted to slicing off chunks of their neighbors to consolidate their power. This may not quite be a cold war, but it requires us to create a bulwark against further expansion before this really does explode into World War 3. The good news is that we have a team at the State Department that can …


… oh, crap.

Getting Real in the Ukraine

So the Ukraine’s murderous Russophile prime minster was driven out of Kyiv last week. Earlier today, the Ukraine parliament elected the opposition leader as PM. Everyone has been wondering what Russia is going to do now that they don’t have to pretend to be (sorta) nice for the Olympics.

I think we’re finding out:

Dozens of armed men seized the regional government administration building and parliament in Ukraine’s southern Crimea region Thursday and raised the Russian flag in a challenge to the Eastern European country’s new leaders.

Crimea, with its ethnic Russian majority, is the last big bastion of opposition to the new political leadership in Kiev after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s ouster Saturday.

The incident, coming a day after Russia ordered surprise military exercises on Ukraine’s doorstep, has raised fears about the push and pull of opposing allegiances in a country sandwiched between Russia and the European Union.

Ed Morrisey has more, including a now clear alliance between Ukraine’s ousted PM and Putin.

I don’t think Putin is going to do a full-on invasion of the Ukraine. A nation of 44 million people is a lot to handle, even for him. But I do think we’re going to get something like the 2008 South Ossetia War, with Russian military forces “assisting” the ethnically Russian Crimea to “independence” from the rest of the Ukraine, following by an ethnic cleansing of Ukrainians. The end result will be to give Russia effective control of the Black Sea but with the Ukraine less divided and firmly in the European sphere of influence.

There’s not a lot we can do about that, short of a massive and extremely dangerous war. I suspect we’ll protest and maybe send a carrier out there. But any real pushback would have to come from Europe and … that ain’t happening.