Tag: Vladimir Putin

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.

Frack the Russians

It is well known that, during the Cold War, the Soviet Union quietly funneled money to Western peace movements. It funded people who opposed nuclear weapons and wanted unilateral disarmament of the West. It funded people who opposed strategic nuclear weapons in central Europe. It funded parts of the anti-war movement.

To be clear, most of the people involved in these movements had no affiliation with the Soviet Union or knew of Soviet involvement. They were “useful idiots”. But many in the leadership knew. And, to be clear, Soviet funding did not make these movements illegitimate, per se. You could oppose Vietnam and nuclear weapons and not be a Communist stooge. But the Soviet Union had and pursued an interest in certain factions within Western politics that overlapped with their own interests.

Nothing changes, does it?

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen recently announced that the Russian intelligence service was covertly funding European environmental NGOs to support their campaign against fracking. The former Danish Prime Minister stated that he had “met allies who can report that Russia, as part of their sophisticated information and disinformation operations, engaged actively with so-called non-governmental organizations – environmental organizations working against shale gas – to maintain European dependence on imported Russian gas.”

The accusations do not seem too far-fetched. Russia is very keen on dissuading Europe from exploiting its shale reserves. Disregardful of their own massive fracking projects in Siberia, Vladimir Putin uses environmental arguments to push an EU-wide fracking ban. In a similar fashion, he tries to discourage the US from exporting of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) to Europe. This is an option some European politicians such as Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague suggested as a way to reduce European energy dependency from Russia. It is currently on the table in the negotiations on the trade agreement between the European Union and the United States (TTIP).

Right now, much of Europe is dependent on Putin’s oiligarchy for their energy. Fracking is not only a threat to that but a threat to all of Putin’s imperial ambitions. Wide-scale fracking would deliver a huge blow to the Russian economy. So naturally he opposes it. Naturally, as former KGB, he’s willing to fund anti-fracking groups. And I suspect that, like the Peace movement, some within the anti-fracking leadership are aware of this and more than willing to take his money.

Fracking opponents will, of course, claim that Putin’s money doesn’t matter; fracking is so awful that they have to oppose it. They will, of course, claim that what they want is a world that runs on renewables, with neither fracking nor Putin having a role. But that’s living in fantasy world. Even under the most optimistic assumptions, Europe will not be able to provide more than a fraction of their power through renewables within the next few decades. And with nuclear now on the wane, that means they will need tons and tons of fossil fuels.

So it really is a matter of picking the lesser of two evils. In fracking, you have some legitimate environmental concerns (most of which have been addressed or are being addressed). But you have a less carbon-intensive source of energy and companies that are accountable to Western nations. Russian oil not only props up a bloodthirsty tyrant, it supports one of the dirtiest polluters on the planet. As bad as fracking may or may not be, Russian oil is far worse for the planet, for Eastern Europe and for global security.

Fracking opponents will tell you that fracking is being pushed by “dirty money” from natural gas interests. But, good Lord, is there any money dirtier than Vladimir Putin’s?

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.

Putin Saves Obama

You have to almost feel sorry for Barack Obama. Almost. He drew a red line at the use of chemical weapons in Syria (although he now insists he totally didn’t) only to see Syria stomp over it. He had — to his credit — done the right thing and gone to Congress. But it looked like Congress would reject his request to authorize the use of force. And just when things can’t get any worse, his Secretary of State becomes a late-night punchline by claiming the attacks will be “unbelievable small”.

There’s only one thing for it: Vladimir Putin to the resc- … wait, what?

Syria said Tuesday it has accepted Russia’s proposal to place its chemical weapons under international control for subsequent dismantling.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said Tuesday after meeting with Russian parliament speaker that his government quickly “agreed to the Russian initiative.”

Al-Moallem added that Syria did so to “uproot U.S. aggression.”

His statement sounded more definitive than his remarks Monday, when he said that Damascus welcomed Russia’s initiative.

Meanwhile, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Tuesday that Russia is now working with Syria to prepare a detailed plan of action, which will be presented shortly.

Lavrov said that Russia will then be ready to finalize the plan together with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

The Obamabots are contending that this was Obama’s secret intention all along (a statement belied by the Administration’s claims of last week). Maybe this was all a smoke screen by the Obama people. But they have never really crossed me as that clever or that subtle.

If I had to guess, I would say this is just Putin outsmarting Obama. This is a pretty good deal for the Russians. They sell chemical weapons to Syria, they store the chemical weapons for Syria and they look good on the diplomatic stage. Putin looks like the accomplished diplomat compared to the stumbling, bumbling Obama and his idiotic Igor of a Secretary of State.

Well played, guys. It’s a good think you weren’t at Yalta.