Posted tagged ‘Putin’

An Émigré Explains Why The U.S. Should Want Russia As An Ally

February 22, 2017

An Émigré Explains Why The U.S. Should Want Russia As An Ally, TheFederalist, February 22, 2017

(Please see also, Is a Trump-Putin Detente Dead? — DM

I am a Russian-born U.S. citizen. Since my old country is all in the news now, unsurprisingly, several people have asked me about the latest spat between the two countries. I have rounded up a few frequently asked questions (FAQ) in no particular order, and here they are.

Question: Is Russia our foe or ally?

Answer: Neither. Lord Palmerston famously quipped, “Great Britain has no friends, only interests,” and the same applies to other countries. The United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) were geopolitical adversaries during the Cold War. Prior to that, they were allies in World War II when both faced an existential threat from Nazi Germany and Japan. Now both Russia and the United States are facing a threat of radical Islam, which may bring the two countries together again.

Q: But can we cooperate with the Russians after they captured large chunks of Ukraine and Georgia?

A: Well, the Soviet Union captured Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia in 1939, yet Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill cooperated with Joseph Stalin and actively supported his war efforts. The West never recognized the annexation of the Baltic republics; it just put that matter on the back burner for the sake of a more urgent goal. Henry Kissinger calls this realpolitik.

Q: Donald Trump has picked Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon Mobile, as his secretary of State. Tillerson has warm relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. How do we know which side Tillerson is on?

A: Let me cite a historical precedent. Another famous American oil executive was friendly with Soviet leaders. His name was Armand Hammer. He had numerous personal and business ties with the USSR, starting in the 1920s. In 1957, Hammer became president and CEO of Occidental Petroleum. He used his connections to end the Cold War between the two countries. According to his biographer, Hammer was “a go-between for five Soviet General Secretaries and seven U.S. Presidents.” Paradoxically, Hammer’s efforts on behalf of the USSR made him a darling of the American Left, even though he supported the Republican Party.

Q: Has Putin ordered the murder of Russian journalists and other political opponents?

A: That has not been proven conclusively, but is plausible. Regardless of whether that is the case, it should not determine American foreign policy. That was clear to FDR and Churchill, who were well aware of Stalin’s atrocities.

Q: Did Russia side with Trump in the 2016 U.S. presidential race?

A: Of course, it did. Nations do take sides and interfere in other nations’ internal affairs all the time. For example, the United States actively encouraged the Arab Spring in several countries and even supported Syrian and Libyan “moderate” rebels. It was the job of the sitting U.S. president to prevent any Russian interference in U.S. elections.

Q: Is Russian spying on U.S. institutions a new phenomenon?

A: Absolutely not! However, things change. Between the 1940s and the 1960s, it was the conservative Right that was alarmed by Russian spying and Communist infiltration of the federal government. The Left dismissed that concern, mocking it as looking for “reds under the beds.” Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were convicted of spying for Russia and executed, became martyrs of the Left. Even in the 1970s when I arrived in the United States, the Left’s favorite motto was “it’s better be red than dead.” Things really changed in the 1980s.

Q: What happened in the 1980s?

A: When Ronald Reagan became president, he faced fierce opposition from the Left. The media elite ridiculed him as an unsophisticated cowboy and right-wing warmonger for calling the USSR an evil empire. The opposition became violent when Reagan proposed an anti-missile defense system, which the media dismissed as a “star wars” program. However, when an opportunity came up, Reagan held productive summits with former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev. These summits eventually led to the end of the Cold War.

Q: Is Putin a reincarnation of Stalin?

A: The two leaders represent two different generations separated by a period of 70 years. During those 70 years, the world has changed, and so has Russia. Stalin ruled Russia with an iron fist, while today’s Russians enjoy a degree of freedom. Putin is more pragmatic than Stalin. Yet contemporary Russian society is still quite different from its Western European counterparts, which is perhaps just fine, given that the latter are in a deep crisis now.

Q: Can the United States rely on Russia in the war on radical Islamic terrorism?

A: If it were a matter of life or death, I would always choose to have Russia on my side, rather than a Western ally, such as France. When Russians wage a war, they do it to win, not to satisfy lawyers by following every rule specifying acceptable ways of killing the enemy.

Here is an example. Somalian pirates threatened international shipping in the Indian Ocean between 2005 and 2013 by taking hostages. The American, French, Italian, and other navies rescued many hostages, caught pirates, and sent them to their countries. The arrests, trials, appeals, and imprisonment cost hundreds of millions of dollars. According to a Guardian report, there was a fear that “trials in European courts would encourage, rather than deter, pirates from committing crimes of piracy.”

In contrast, when a Russian destroyer rescued a Russian tanker with its crew from pirates in 2010, they did not arrest the pirates. They disarmed the pirates and set them adrift in an inflatable boat. The released pirates did not reach the coast. Rumor has it that the rescuers made a hole in the boat before releasing it.

US-Russian steps vs Iran await new NSC chief

February 14, 2017

US-Russian steps vs Iran await new NSC chief, DEBKAfile, February 14, 2016

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Michael Flynn’s abrupt resignation as National Security Adviser Monday night, Feb. 13, was a crippling blow to Donald Trump’s foreign policy strategy, less than a month after he entered the White House. Flynn was the architect and prime mover of the president’s plans for close cooperation with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He was brought down by misinforming Vice President Mike Pence – and very likely the president too – on the content of the conversation he held with the Russian ambassador before Trump’s inauguration.

Although retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg takes over as acting NSA, the White House is urgently considering a permanent replacement to fill Flynn’s large shoes. Former CIA Director David Petraeus’ name has come up, but his indiscretions over state secrets still count against him. Vice Admiral Robert Harward, a former Navy SEAL, is a strong contender, although more may emerge.

Even before picking his next national security adviser, Trump will need to determine how to proceed with his détente with Putin, the highly sensitive details of which were managed personally and confidentially by Mike Flynn as the centerpiece of the new administration’s foreign policy.

His contacts with Moscow were under heavy fire from the president’s friends and foes alike, both before and after the November election. It was defended stalwartly by Trump himself, Pence and Flynn. However, neither the president nor the vice president can tell exactly what Flynn promised the Russians and to what deals he committed them. Therefore, his successor will be required to start building Washington’s ties with Moscow from scratch.

While Flynn’s departure has caused havoc in the Trump administration, it is a catastrophe for the Middle East, because a core objective of the US-Russian partnership, which he shaped as a model for other regions, was to have been to clip Iran’s wings and cut down its standing down as premier Middle East power conferred by Barack Obama.

(How the Flynn mechanism was to work plus detailed analysis of the fallout from his departure will be covered exclusively in the coming issue of DEBKA Weekly out next Friday).

Flynn alone was privy to arrangements concluded with Saudi King Salman in Riyadh, Jordan’s King Abdullah in Amman, President Putin in Moscow, Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisis in Cairo and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

Some of his output began taking shape on the day he stepped down, when Syrian rebel groups led by Jordanian special operations officers attacked Syrian army positions in the southern town of Daraa. This was the start of an operation to drive Syrian government forces and their Iranian and Hizballah allies from the lands bordering on Jordan and Israel.

In Cairo, too, President Michel Aoun of Lebanon and his host, El-Sisi were hashing out a plan for the Egyptian army and Gulf forces to go into action against Hizballah in Syria and Lebanon.

Wednesday, Feb. 15, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is to visit the White House for his first meeting with Trump as president. They too were scheduled to discuss US operations against Hizballah and the role Israel would play.

In the coming hours, Trump will have to decide whether to go ahead with these initiatives in the absence of Flynn and his detailed knowledge of how they should go forward, or simply put them on hold until his successor is in place and has time for a full study of their complicated ins and outs. At the same time, a different national security adviser in the White house might have different plans to those laid out by his predecessor.

Renowned Scholar Valery Solovei: ‘Our Elite Was Lucky With Obama. He Was A Rather Weak President… Trump Could Apply Very Strong Pressure… And Within A Very Short Time’

February 10, 2017

Renowned Scholar Valery Solovei: ‘Our Elite Was Lucky With Obama. He Was A Rather Weak President… Trump Could Apply Very Strong Pressure… And Within A Very Short Time’, MEMRI, February 10, 2017

The Russian media outlet Fotanka.ru published a long interview by Irina Tumakova on events Russian lawmakers should anticipate in 2017 with one of the most influential and highly quoted intellectuals, Professor Valery Solovei.[1]In the interview, Solovei stated that Russia will witness “the start” of a “very serious political crisis in 2017,” which will last for about three years. He further explained that the political crisis will be characterized by the “growing incapacity of the state power to make decisions”, and implement them. “And at the same time it’s the increase of mass discontent; the society refuses to trust this power. And the refusal gathers strength. I think this process will take two or three years. But it will start in 2017. And the presidential election of 2018 will be an important, maybe even critical, stage of this crisis,” Solovei stated.

According to the Russian intellectual, Russian President Vladimir Putin may for run for the presidency in 2018. However, a constitutional reform would allow Putin to retire from the presidency but retain control. In a previous interview with Russia’s daily newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets, Solovei reported about a large-scale constitutional reform in the works that will reduce the Russian presidency to implementing primarily ritualistic and representative functions, but will confide real power to the hands of the head of the State Council. “A post that Putin, naturally, will assume,” Solovei added. At the moment, the State Council is a consultative and extra-constitutional organ, this is the reason why a constitutional reform would be needed.[2]

Commenting on U.S.-Russia relations, Solovei said that Moscow can offer Washington to “to untie the Syrian knot”, and to put pressure on North Korea. However, he added that “Americans don’t care about Russia,” since “they are busy with their own problems.” Solovei stressed: “And if they decide that we are their problem, they will exercise pressure. In the meantime, we are trying to pretend that we are not a problem for them.” Solovei also warned that contrary to U.S. former president Barack Obama, who “was a rather weak president in the sphere of foreign policy,” U.S. President Donald Trump could apply “very strong pressure” on the Russian elite, within “a very short time.”

Below are excerpts from the interview with Solovei:[3]

znakcom-709673-890x591-1Valery Solovei (Source: znak.com)

Solovei: ‘The [Russian] Authorities Cannot Offer… The Society Any Positive Prospect, In Any Sphere Of Life’

Q: “What political events of 2016 do you consider important enough to impact 2017?”

Solovei: “Last year was not very rich in political events. One cannot claim that the State Duma election, especially in the way it was conducted and its results, was important or in any way fateful. More memorable are the events of the end of the year. Such as minister [Alexey] Ulyukaev’s arrest[4] or Alexei Navalny’s declaration that he was planning to run for the office of president of the Russian Federation.[5] That’s why I think that when historians evaluate 2016, they will not measure its abundance in events but rather the trends that were formed during this year. First and foremost, it is the start of gradual politicization of the Russian society. It is not clearly seen to the naked eye, but I think that it in 2017 it will already be quite clear.”

Q: “How does this politicization manifest itself?”

Solovei: “Our state interferes in all spheres of life, including private life. It is even interested in who sleeps with whom and in what way. When it starts intruding everywhere, it produces growing resentment. The resentment will sooner or later spread into the area of politics. Because any matter where the authorities interfere becomes a matter of politics by definition.  It is not unique to Russia, but is a worldwide phenomenon: any issue where the powers interfere immediately becomes a political issue. If the authorities interfere everywhere, they are the ones turning any issue into politics.”

Q: “Why do they do that?”

Solovei: “Out of fear. They want to control everything. They think that if they are in total control, there will be fewer unexpected developments. But in this way, they provoke mounting resentment and aggression in people.”

Q: “That is, the opposite effect is achieved?”

Solovei: “Precisely. And some people are even beginning to realize that. Characteristically there are already attempts to call [Culture] Minister [Vladimir] Medinsky to order, to try and avoid politicization of culture. Because we used to have culture. For example, you didn’t want to know anything about politics, it was all esthetically disagreeable to you. Suddenly, you realize you cannot visit an exhibition or go to a concert anymore, because there are some church banner waving, anti-Maidan militia units there. Because minister Medinsky starts telling you how to evaluate certain historical events. And the minister is a state official. And this causes strong resentment.”

Q: “The second half of 2016 was relatively quiet. Putin, in his address to the Federal Assembly was peacefulness itself.[6] Is this a manifestation of the fact that certain things have gotten through to the authorities?”

Solovei: “No, it’s a manifestation of the fact that [first deputy chief of chief of the Presidential Administration, Sergey] Kiriyenko has received an instruction to patch up relations with masters of culture.[7] But the machine has been put in motion. It has strong momentum, you cannot just stop it. What is the easiest job for the law (or lawlessness) enforcement bodies? Catching those who like or repost social network posts. They will register a crime solved, and they don’t even have to sweat for it, it’s enough to join [the Russian social network] VKontakte.”

Q: “Politicization of society is one trend. What are others?”

Solovei: “The authorities cannot offer the people, the society any positive prospect, in any sphere of life. This ‘peacefulness’ you’ve noticed in the presidential address is easily explained: he has nothing to say. Simply nothing about what is actually troubling people.”

Q: “Previously, when those in power had nothing to say, they explained to us that it was all the fault of ‘our Western partners’.”

Solovei: “No, earlier, from 2003 to 2014, Putin had something to say because the economic situation was not bad, despite the crisis of 2008-2009. People had hopes for the future. And they would invent and construct what was missing in their heads. They knew that we were in the upward trend. And as long as we are in the uptrend, those in power may be forgiven many things.”

Q: “But I meant the explanations after 2013.”

Solovei:Then, for two years, from 2014 to 2015, the authorities kept explaining to us that greatness comes with a price. But the problem is that you can’t feed people with greatness. And this propaganda of greatness stopped being effective long before now – a year ago, at the turn of 2015-2016. And now the president has nothing to say. When will we see the light at the end of the tunnel? He cannot even tell people when the tunnel will end. This creates apprehensions in people – even those who don’t think about it (and those are the majority). People get the feeling that this crisis is here for a long time that the authorities cannot offer any solution. Accordingly, they cannot feed us the stability spiel any longer. What kind of stability is it when life gets worse and worse? Incomes decrease. Two years ago the president said: you need to be patient for two years – and then everything will be OK.”

Solovei: ‘The Official Forecasts Predict 15-20 Years Of Poverty’

Q: “Two years have passed, and the situation is not as dire as it seemed.”

Solovei: “Yes, but the official forecasts predict 15-20 years of poverty.”

Q: “How many of the 86% of the population see these forecasts?”

Solovei: “They don’t have to see them. People feel. Many things that people are unaware of, that they don’t reflect upon, they sense instinctively. And they react by their behavior. Why do people spend less money? Not only because their income has decreased. They have some savings. But they feel instinctively – this crisis is serious. And the state sees this. And it says: so, you don’t want to give your money to us – then we’ll take it from you. We will introduce entry fee into the city, entry fee into courtyards, we will pull the money out of your pockets.”

Q: “This is definitely something people don’t like at all.”

Solovei: “That’s what I’m talking about: the state offers nothing, gives no hope, and wants to take from you. This produces resentment. And it all started to become apparent in 2016.”

Q: “In what way will this discontent and this politicization manifest themselves?”

Solovei: “They are already apparent. For example, the so-called urban activism is on the rise. There are more and more organizations in Moscow that defend the rights of hoodwinked stakeholders and car owners and protest against infill construction. I know that the same is happening in other large cities. This movement is not political in and of itself. It pursues no political goals. It just says: let us live normally, let us have a say in the decisions on issues that are relevant to us. People are just protecting their interests.”

Q: “Has this reached the level where people don’t care what to protest against as long as they can give vent to their frustration?”

Solovei: “No, people are not making a stand against anything. They say: we don’t want this or that because it decreases our income, makes our lives worse, negatively affects the urban environment. They do not make any political demands; they do not say it’s all because of Putin or United Russia. But sooner or later, it will come to that.

Q: “How can this happen? There are those who understand this, but most people, as I understand from my talks with them, have to have this connection explained to them.”

Solovei: “There’s no need to explain anything! Or to raise political consciousness. People will get to it themselves. They cannot change anything because such is the nature of power. And if such is the nature of power, sooner or later you find yourself faced with a dilemma: either I go on suffering or I make a stand against this power. And there are always 3-4 percent of people who say: we will no longer tolerate this. This is quite enough. You don’t need 86 percent. These figures – 86%, 14% – mean nothing for politics. They matter in voting only, not in mass public politics. Because 86% always sit at home, whereas 14% may actually take to the streets.”

Q: “But the people in power are no fools, they must be aware of this.”

Solovei: “Firstly, let’s not overestimate their intellectual capabilities. The power in Russia, like everyone else, acts on the principle of ‘as long as everything’s quiet – thank God’, the people have swallowed this until now, so they’ll continue to do so, and somehow it will go away. And if it does not – we have law enforcement agencies. But the problem is that there are no law enforcement agencies. It’s all a giant sham.”

Q: “What about the National Guard?”

Solovei: “What about it? There is no National Guard. It was meant to be some sort of elite unit. But as it turned out, it was not elite at all. Moreover, the efficiency of police has decreased abruptly. The National Guard consists of the same former policemen whose lives have become much worse. When they joined the National Guard, they lost some of their income. They are taxpayers, just like everybody else, but the authorities demand more from them, and the people are not very fond of them. Their lives are no picnic. So it all hangs by a thread.”

Q: “What happens if this thread snaps?”

Solovei: “It can still hold on. You know, it’s always like that in Russia: there is nothing temporary that could not be turned into a permanent fixture. A building is about to fall down – let’s reinforce it with piles. There is a crack in the wall – let’s put some wallpaper on it, it’ll hold the wall together.”

Q: “The appointment of Kiriyenko to the post of deputy head of the presidential administration, in charge of domestic policy, is it one of those ‘patches’?”

Solovei: “No, there are other reasons behind it. And not only political ones. Simply put, a certain group wanted to remove Kiriyenko from Rosatom [State Atomic Energy Corporation], take Rosatom under its own control. And Kiriyenko did not want to leave. Nevertheless, Putin trusts him personally and values him highly. Kiriyenko was picked, firstly, for the election campaign, and, secondly, for the constitutional reform. And there are several versions of this constitutional reform that are being prepared under his supervision.”

Q: “What do they want to change in the Constitution?”

Solovei: “To redistribute authority in state government bodies and create new government bodies. The most well-known part of what they discussed is the establishment of the State Council, a competent state authority. It is not the only variant, there are several of them, but it does not mean all of them will be implemented. Or any of them. Because the National Guard experiment has turned out to be most unsuccessful, and this curtails the implementation of the reform. There are preparations for it, to be sure; maybe the preparations are over already. In the same way, the economic reform is being prepared. Putin gave the assignment– and it’s under preparation. First, it was [former Minister of Finance Alexey] Kudrin who was responsible. Now they are speaking about some integrated governmental program, into which Kudrin’s ideas will be incorporated. There are already several versions of reform lying in the basements of the [Russian Prime Minister’s] White House, but it does not mean anything.”

Q: “Political protests, constitutional and economic reforms – how come everything grows, ripens, but does not actually come to fruition?”

Solovei: “It can all go on for quite a long time at a slow pace. And then, one day at an ugly moment and for someone else perhaps a gorgeous moment it can all explode.  A weak spot will reveal itself, and – after all, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.”

Solovei: ‘I Do Not Rule Out The Possibility That [Putin] Will Not Run [For The Presidency In 2018]’

Q: “Should we fear it in 2017?”

Solovei: “Nobody can tell you that. I believe that we will see the start of a very serious political crisis in 2017. I’d like to emphasize – only its start. The crisis itself will last for about three years.”

Q: “What do you mean by the words ‘political crisis’? What will it look like?”

Solovei: “It is a growing incapacity of the state power to make decisions, and what’s more – to implement them. And at the same time it’s the increase of mass discontent; the society refuses to trust this power. And the refusal gathers strength. I think this process will take two or three years. But it will start in 2017. And the presidential election of 2018 will be an important, maybe even critical, stage of this crisis.”

Q: “Can you already tell who will run for presidency in 2018?”

Solovei: “I can’t even tell whether Putin is going to be a candidate. He is getting ready for the elections, but it has not been finally decided yet.”

Q: “He said recently that he was very tired and that he would like to travel but the president’s job does not let him.”

Solovei: “He said it twice over the past two months, which is not typical of him. So, I do not exclude the possibility that he will not run.”

Q: “I will ask the pet question: if not Putin – who then?”

Solovei: “Dmitry Medvedev. He is the most suitable candidate.”

Q: “And how do you evaluate Navalny’s chances?”

Solovei: “If he can work out the right message to give to the country, he could have a good chance. He has the social networks, the population of large cities that he can win over… I think his chances are underappreciated. If he approaches it in a competent and sensible way, he can challenge Putin. And even defeat him.”

Q: “Medvedev or even Navalny – will Putin simply retire and travel?”

Solovei: “I don’t think so. This is what the constitutional reform is about: to let him retire but retain control. But nothing is decided yet. Any decision in Russia, especially now, is put off till the last moment.”

Q: “What do you mean by the ‘last’ moment?”

Solovei: “When you can no longer delay the decision, you have to make it. That is, you had to make it yesterday, so you’ll make it today. Because you always count on the chance that the circumstances will change for the better. By the way, it was Putin who started it. This hope that fate may throw you a surprise: oil prices will go up, Brexit, Trump will be elected president, etc.”

Q: “How can Trump’s election affect Russia? Watching the news, one gets the impression that his victory in the U.S. is Russia’s new national holiday, as if a new ‘good supervisor’ was appointed instead of evil Obama.”

Solovei:Such is the Russocentric character of our propaganda; it shows that the entire world revolves around Russia. Everybody thinks only about how to do it harm, all that’s going on should be seen from our point of view. Of course, it is not so. But there is a chance to come to an agreement and weaken the sanctions. There’s a chance – it does not mean everything is settled, but it is possible. With Hillary Clinton it would hardly be possible. But with Trump you can talk, which is good for Russia. Or, more precisely, for its authorities.”

Q: “Why for the authorities?”

Solovei: “Because, firstly, it would relax the grip of the economic vise. Secondly, it would remove the American pressure on the elite – which is what it is really afraid of. By the way, our elite was lucky with Obama. He was a rather weak president in the sphere of foreign policy. Any strong American president, like Ronald Reagan, or even Trump, could apply very strong pressure on our elite – much more powerful than the pressure it is experiencing now. And within a very short time.

Q: “Maybe, this is what Trump will do? Contrary to all the rejoicing in the Russian press, the team he has formed could not be described as great lovers of Russia.”

Solovei: “That is true. But that depends on whether we can come to an agreement. Americans don’t care about Russia; they are busy with their own problems. And if they decide that we are their problem, they will apply pressure. In the meantime, we are trying to pretend that we are not a problem for them.”

Q: “It is clear what we want from America. But Trump is a businessman. What can we offer in return, in what can we interest him?”

Solovei: “We can’t offer much, but we do have something. We can offer to untie the Syrian knot, we can participate in it together. We can offer to put pressure on North Korea, although here we are not as strong as, say, China.”

Q: “And that’s it?”

Solovei: “I think so, yes.”

Q: “Isn’t it too little to exchange for Crimea and sanctions?”

Solovei: “Nobody in Russia can possibly hope that the Crimea issue will be resolved! And after all, the most serious sanctions were applied against us not because of Crimea, but because of Donbass. Especially since the sanctions can be, in fact, watered down without announcing their removal. Which is what we hope for: that if we reach an agreement on Syria, we will then be able to come to an agreement on sanctions.”

Q: “In the beginning of our conversation you mentioned Ulyukaev’s arrest as an important event of 2016. In what way can it draw attention to itself in 2017?”

Solovei: “Actually, Ulyukaev’s arrest is the third trend what was formed in 2016. Not an event, but a trend. And a very important one: transformation of punitive measures into a mechanism for controlling the economy and politics. This is the meaning of repressive crackdowns: they must be illogical. So that people would be afraid. Imagine: you are under threat, but you don’t understand the logic behind it. Will you be eager to work? You will hardly try very hard if you know that any initiative on your part serve as the basis for launching a criminal investigation.”

Q: “Are they trying very hard now?”

Solovei: “At least they work. But the risk of persecution decreases their efficiency. It gets harder and harder to make decisions and ensure their implementation. That’s why it is yet another trend that will bring about the political crisis.”

Q: “I believe there were conversations similar to ours in early 1916; at that time, Lenin said that there would be no revolution in his generation.”

Solovei: “To be precise, he said it in January 1917. Three weeks before the revolution in Russia started. But no revolution in the world history has ever been predicted. I wrote an entire book about revolution [titled ‘Revolution! The Fundamentals of Revolutionary Struggle in Modern Times’], which is very popular, especially in the State Duma. You can spend an evening telling people that ‘everything is peaceful in Baghdad’ [reference to a popular movie and song], and the next day you’ll find yourself in a revolutionary country.”

_______________________

[1] The conversation was conducted by journalist Irina Tumakova.

[2] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6698, Russian Daily Mk.ru Removed Interview With Renowned Scholar Valery Solovei Predicting That ‘It Is Not Unlikely That [Putin] Will Have To Be Absent From The Public Spotlight For A Few Months’, December 2, 2016.

[3] Fotanka.ru, January 4, 2017.

[4] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6685, Russia This Week – November 13-20, 2016, November 20, 2016.

[5] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6756, Echo Of Moscow Interviews Russia’s Anti-Corruption Crusader Navalny Following His Announcement That He Will Run For President In 2018, January 26, 2017. This week a Russian court in a retrial found Navalny guilty of corruption charges, and the guilty verdict, even it does not involve jail time, will disqualify him from running. Themoscowtimes.com, February 8, 2017.

[6] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6704, Russia This Week – November 27-December 8, 2016, December 8, 2016.

[7] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6698, Russian Daily Mk.ru Removed Interview With Renowned Scholar Valery Solovei Predicting That ‘It Is Not Unlikely That [Putin] Will Have To Be Absent From The Public Spotlight For A Few Months’, December 2, 2016.

Israel’s inaction in Syria may open Golan to Iran

February 7, 2017

Israel’s inaction in Syria may open Golan to Iran, DEBKAfile, February 6, 2017

jordanisraelsyria480en

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has given “diplomatic priority” to stressing the perils posed by Iranian-sponsored terrorism and its nuclear-capable ballistic weapons, and placed them at the top of his talks with British premier Theresa May in London Monday, Feb. 6, and with President Donald Trump in Washington on Feb. 15.

But it stands to reason that their national security and intelligence experts have advised the US president and the British premier that Netanyahu has been firmly advised up to the present day to stay clear of military involvement in the Syrian conflict by the IDF high command and his past and present defense ministers, Avigdor Lieberman and Moshe Ya’alon.

Israel therefore stands to be excluded from the practical deliberations ongoing for Syria’s future. Jordan in contrast has stepped forward as the key Middle East player in the pacts and military understandings shaping up between the US, Russia and Turkey for throwing Iran out of Syria.

Jordan’s King Abdullah swallowed his pride and took the initiative of flying to Washington last Thursday, Feb. 2, to buttonhole President Trump. From their brief conversation, he became the first Middle East ruler to win a green light from the US for an air strike against the ISIS ally, the Khalid Ibn al-Walid Army, which occupies the triangle formed by the Syrian, Jordanian and Israeli borders. Israel has never attacked this force in the five years since it moved into that part of southern Syria.

DEBKAfile”s military and intelligence sources disclose that Abdullah informed Trump that the air strike would take place under the supervision of the US, Russian and Syrian commands, making it the first instance of US-Russian support for a Middle East army’s action against ISIS in Syria.

And so, on Saturday, Feb. 4, six Royal Jordanian Air Force F-15 fighters and five drones bombed seven Khalid Ibn al-Walid positions. This air strike most probably heralded more bombardments to come. Jordanian commando units are also likely to mount raids, in concert with the Syrian rebel militias they have trained, to seize the ground occupied by ISIS’ offshoot.

And on the diplomatic front, the US President authorized Jordan’s attendance at the Syrian peace talks that are ongoing under Russian sponsorship at the Kazakh capital of Astana. The Jordanian delegation was deputized to act on America’s behalf to monitor the process for determining the future of Syria.

This move came a week after the British prime minister was urged by Trump to fly straight to Ankara after their talks in Washington in search of a military collaboration deal for Syria between the UK and Turkey.

The onset of Jordan’s military action in Syria has pumped up to seven the number of foreign armies involved in that country’s conflict: Russia, Iranian Revolutionary Guards, pro-Iranian Shiite militias from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Lebanese Hizballah, US forces, the Turkish Army and now Jordan.

Synchronously with the Jordanian air strike in southern Syria, President Bashar Assad announced that its launch makes it possible for Syrian civilians who fled from the Islamists to start returning to their homes, starting with the Quneitra region of the Syrian Golan. He was talking about 30,000 refugees.

It is obvious to anyone familiar with the Syrian scene that this population shift is an open invitation for thousands of Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps members and Hizballah terrorists to take the opportunity of stealing into the Golan, in the guise of returning refugees.

Israel, aside from providing an intelligence service on Syria to coalition forces, finds itself left out of any say in the currently evolving peace process. While ISIS may be rooted out of this border area at some point, the Netanyahu government’s military inaction risks exposing the Golan to another attempted incursion by Iranian and Hizballah forces by covert means.

The diplomatic prioritization of the Iranian threat, coupled with talks with US president Trump and deals with Russian President Putin, amount to a policy that has gone bankrupt for Netanyahu and his security chiefs. The powers who will determine what happens next in Syria are bound by military cooperation and action. Because Netanyahu’s rhetoric about the perils posed by Iran is not backed by military action, Israel has no influence on coming events, and faces the very real risk of being faced with an Iranian presence on its northern doorstep.

Russia freezes Syrian, Iranian military movements

January 31, 2017

Russia freezes Syrian, Iranian military movements, DEBKAfile, January 31, 2017

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The ban came from Moscow to prevent military reprisals against the Putin-Trump deal for Syria.

Iran can no longer doubt that the two powers, America and Russia, have ganged up to push the Islamic Republic out of their way. Trepidation in Tehran was articulated on Monday, Jan. 30, at a convention staged in the Iranian capital to celebrate 515 years of Iranian-Russian relations, an anniversary that would not normally be marked by a special event.

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An order to remain stationary was issued Thursday night, Jan. 26, by the Russian Commander in Syria Lt. Gen. Alexander Zhuravlev to the high commands of the Syrian army and of the Iranian and Shiite forces positioned in Aleppo, as well as Hizballah units in all parts of Syria. Gen. Zhuravlev, acting on instructions from Moscow, prohibited any movement by those forces out of their current positions as of noon local time.

DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources report that the order banned the opening of new battlefronts anywhere in Syria and the movement of Syrian air force units between bases.

This order has been obeyed to date.

The ban came from Moscow to prevent military reprisals against the Putin-Trump deal for Syria. There was no mention of penalties for disobedience, but the tone was peremptory. The three army commanders did not need reminding that the Russians are capable of using their electronic warfare systems to disrupt unauthorized military movements, jam their communications, and withhold fuel, ammo and spare parts to create havoc in their armies.

lieutenant_general_alexander_zhuravlev_120Russian Lt. Gen. General Alexander Zhuravlev

Moscow has never resorted to extreme action of this kind in previous Russian military interventions in Middle East lands.

The decision was taken shortly after the Kremlin was notified that US President Donald Trump had agreed to join forces with President Vladimir Putin in Syria.

Since then, the Trump administration has kept all dealings with Moscow over Syria under a cloak of secrecy, including the outcome of President Trump’s first phone conversation with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. All other concerned parties, such as Israel, have been left groping in the dark about what happens next.

The Russian standstill order in Syria came shortly before the US presidential decree that barred Iranians from entering the United States (along with the nationals of six other terror-prone Muslim countries)

Iran can no longer doubt that the two powers, America and Russia, have ganged up to push the Islamic Republic out of their way. Trepidation in Tehran was articulated on Monday, Jan. 30, at a convention staged in the Iranian capital to celebrate 515 years of Iranian-Russian relations, an anniversary that would not normally be marked by a special event.

In his opening remarks, Foreign Minster Mohammed Zarif Javad said: that Iran and Russia “need to have far more extensive relations,” and “few countries in the world have relations as deep and historical as Iran and Russia.” This sounded like an appeal to Moscow for protection against the new US president. It most likely fell on deaf ears. Putin is fully engaged in promoting his new relations with Donald Trump.

Trump-Putin safe zones deal ousts Iran from Syria

January 26, 2017

Trump-Putin safe zones deal ousts Iran from Syria, DEBKAfile, January 26, 2017

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Russia had originally planned to deploy Syrian military, pro-Iranian Shiite militia and Hizballah forces in battles for the capture of land around the cities of Derra and Quneitra on the Syrian side of the Golan. That plan has been dropped and will be superseded by the deployment in southern Syria of US troops accompanied by Jordanian special forces and Syrian rebels, trained by American instructors in Jordanian military camps.

Israelis will breathe a sigh of relief over the removal of the threat of Iranian and Hizballah forces being deployed along their northern border with Syria.

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Syria stands on the threshold of dramatic changes that will directly impact on the strategic and military situation along the Syrian borders with Israel and Jordan, DEBKAfile reports exclusively. They derive from a deal struck this week by US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin to establish US, Russian and Turkish security zones in Syria. This scheme will transfer military control of the country to those three powers. Each of them will be responsible for a zone whose borders will be defined and agreed upon by Washington, Moscow  and Ankara.

As part of this arrangement, all forces from the Iranian military, the pro-Iranian Shiite militias and Hizballah will be required to leave Syria.

The US military is to have two security zones – one covering the entire area east of the Euphrates River up to the Iraqi border including Kurdish areas (see attached map). This arrangement will partly resurrect the accord reached in late 2015 by US President Barack Obama and Putin, for the division of Syria into areas of influence. All territory east of the Euphrates was allocated to the US, with Russia taking responsibility for all areas west of the river until the Mediterranean coast.

Under the new deal, the Turkish area is to stretch about 650 kilometers along the entire Syria-Turkey border and extend between 35 and 50 kilometers into Syrian territory up to Al-Bab, the town where the Turkish military is engaged in its third straight month of fighting for its capture from ISIS.

DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources report that the overriding change on the ground will be the establishment of a second US security zone adjacent to Syria’s borders with Israel and Jordan. It means that the approximately 7,500 US special operations forces troops currently in Jordan will be shifted northward into southern Syria.

Russia had originally planned to deploy Syrian military, pro-Iranian Shiite militia and Hizballah forces in battles for the capture of land around the cities of Derra and Quneitra on the Syrian side of the Golan. That plan has been dropped and will be superseded by the deployment in southern Syria of US troops accompanied by Jordanian special forces and Syrian rebels, trained by American instructors in Jordanian military camps.

Israelis will breathe a sigh of relief over the removal of the threat of Iranian and Hizballah forces being deployed along their northern border with Syria.

The Trump-Putin deal for Syria and its ramifications are explored in the coming issue of DEBKA Weekly (for subscribers) out Friday, with especially attention to the way it leaves Iran and Hizballah high and dry.

If you are not yet a subscriber, click here to sign on.

Moscow acts to oust Iran from Syria, bombs ISIS

January 21, 2017

Moscow acts to oust Iran from Syria, bombs ISIS, DEBKAfile, January 21, 2017

4-3ISIS suicide bombers at Deir ez-Zour

Although Vladimir Putin’s spokesman spoke reservedly Saturday, Jan. 21, about Donald Trump’s inauguration as US president the day before – It would be “an illusion” to expect Russian-US ties to be “free of disagreement” – Moscow’s actions in Syria were clearly designed to meet the new US president more than half way.

Trump in his inauguration speech pledged to wipe radical Islamist terrorism “off the face of the earth.”

His words were still reverberating when Russian long-range Tu-22M3 bombers flying in from bases in Russia smashed Islamic State targets in the eastern Syrian province of Deir ez-Zour the next day. The bombers hit ISIS base camps, weapons stockpiles and armored vehicles, covered overhead by Russian fighter jets from their Syrian air base at Hmeimim. After the sortie, the Tupolev bombers flew home.

DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources interpret the heavy Russian bombardment of ISIS as one of several signals Putin is sending out of his willingness to go the extra mile for a common effort with Trump to root ISIS and all its works out of the Middle East.

The Russians stepped in massively when, after holding out for many months of siege and assault at the important provincial town of Deir ez-Zor,, Syrian government forces were about to fold and the town and air base fall to ISIS.

Last Wednesday, Russian transport helicopters flew hundreds of Syrian troops to relieve them: Two brigades from the 15th Infantry Division, belonging to the elite Republic Guard, were lifted out of the northern Qamishli region.  When the Syrian lines were still in danger, the Russian helicopters turned around and flew back with members of the Lebanese Hizballah’s elite Radwan Force, to bolster the Syrian stand and save Deir ez-Zour.

For Putin, the injection of Hizballah into a major Syrian battle came at an awkward moment in terms of his diplomatic strategy on the eve of the Syrian peace conference that opens in Astana, Kazakhstan, Sunday, Jan. 23, under his joint sponsorship with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.

The Russian leader had already give his co-sponsor a commitment to initiate a resolution at Astana demanding the withdrawal of all pro-Iranian militias from Syria, including Hizballah. This aimed at pacifying Syrian opposition groups, but was also meant to demonstrate to President Trump that Moscow would be a strong partner in the war on ISIS while also ready to clip Iran’s wings and influence in the affairs of Syria and Lebanon.

At the same time, Russian war strategists appreciate the urgency of averting the fall of Deir ez-our and its air base to the Islamists. This catastrophe would negatively impact the entire campaign against the terrorist organization on its three main fronts, Mosul, Raqqa and Palmyra, and count as ISIS’ biggest victory in the past year.