Posted tagged ‘Russia’

FULL MEASURE: January 08, 2017 – Russia Watching

January 11, 2017

FULL MEASURE: January 08, 2017 – Russia Watching via YouTube, January 11, 2017

 

Trump’s team is on point

December 14, 2016

Trump’s team is on point, Israel Hayom, Boaz Bismuth, December 14, 2016

(Please see also, Trump picked Tillerson for tough new Iran policy. — DM)

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, comes from outside the State Department, just like Colin Powell did under former U.S. President George W. Bush. There is one thing that should be noted, however: starting Jan. 20, both the U.S. president and the secretary of state will be outsiders, without political or diplomatic backgrounds. Get ready for changes and Washington-style inventions, like moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.

Tillerson comes to the State Department with 40 years’ experience in a multinational company, ExxonMobil. For the past decade, Tillerson, who knows the world, has served as head of the company. It’s hard to say that an inexperienced person has been appointed secretary of state. Even Henry Kissinger had less international experience than Tillerson when he was appointed to the role, unless you count the number of foreign students he taught at Harvard.

Some will say that the appointment of Tillerson is problematic, especially for Israel: first of all, because of his close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin; secondly, because of his close ties with the Gulf states; and third, because the former candidates for Trump’s secretary of state (former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, John Bolton, and even former Governor Mitt Romney) are considered more pro-Israel.

Let’s start with Russia: Tillerson might be a Putin favorite, but we can also assume this means he will always find a sympathetic ear at the Kremlin. What’s bad about that? The Obama administration sought to improve ties with Russia and was even responsible for a reboot in relations between Washington and Moscow. That reboot was so “successful” that at times we thought that Russia had resurrected the Soviet Union. We can assume that when Tillerson is in charge at the State Department, things will change. We can also assume that the president-elect and Tillerson will support the removal of sanctions currently in place against the Russians. Offered honey that sweet, the Russian bear will become much less irritable, and might continue strengthening ties with Israel.

Moving on to the Gulf states: Tillerson has worked for oil giants, so it’s obvious that he was in close contact with the Sunni Arab producers. The Gulf states, which like Iran about as much as Israel does, will explain to him that Tehran is a danger, not an opportunity. He’ll hear exactly the same thing in Jerusalem.

What tipped the scales in his favor, for Trump, was the fact that Tillerson knows how to close deals. Unlike former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, he won’t fly around the world just to try to move things along; he will get on a plane to solve problems. And possibly even help the movers get the embassy equipment from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. A new president, a new team, a new age.

Trump picked Tillerson for tough new Iran policy

December 14, 2016

Trump picked Tillerson for tough new Iran policy, DEBKAfile, December 14, 2016

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Rex Tillerson, Chairman an CEO of Exxon Mobil, was named this week as the next administration’s Secretary of State to execute the tough foreign policies charted by president-elect Donald Trump, including his decision to stiffen the nuclear accord signed with Iran as soon as he moves into the White House on Jan. 20.

DEBKAfile reports this exclusively from New York and its intelligence sources.

While campaigning for the presidency, Trump called the accord “the worst deal” ever.

According to our sources, a special team is already working on revisions of the accord which the US and five other global powers concluded with Iran in 2015 in the hope of retarding Iran’s nuclear weapons program by a decade.

As new president, Trump will issue Tehran with a unilateral demand to accept those revisions as pre-condition for the continuation of relations between the US and Iran. He does not intend consulting America’s co-signers, Russia, China, Germany, Britain and France, or asking them for their endorsement of the revamped accord.

The teams preparing the Trump administration’s Iran policy were put in place last week by Tillerson and designated national security adviser Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn.

No members of the incumbent NSC, State Department, Pentagon or Treasury, who managed the Obama administration’s Iran policy, was invited to take part. The teams were instead chosen from among scientists, military leaders and intelligence officials who opposed the nuclear accord with Iran.

Also attached were former administration officials hired by Exxon for their extensive knowledge of Iran’s oil trade and their close ties with oil circles in the Gulf Emirates, which like Israel, fought hard to pre-empt the nuclear deal with Iran.

Our sources have also learned that if Iran rejects the revised accord, the president elect has a list of new economic sanctions drawn up which are a lot tougher than the sanctions regime imposed by the Bush and Obama administrations.

The incoming president will have a fight on his hands to get the Tillerson appointment through the Senate in the face of objections raised by Republican lawmakers over his ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin. However, Trump hopes to turn those ties to his advantage. He trusts that Tillerson is just the man to sell the new administration’s Iran policies to the Russian president.

Read more about Trump’s plans for his secretary of state in the coming issue of DEBKA Weekly (for subscribers) out on Friday. Dec. 16, 2016.

Trying to overturn a free and fair election

December 13, 2016

Trying to overturn a free and fair election, Washington Times,

vlad

The world has turned itself upside down. Only yesterday the liberals and the left (the “progressives,” as they want to be called) regarded the CIA as the locus of evil, the gang that couldn’t shoot straight, forever poisoning gentle minds with a diet of conspiracy and tall tale.

In those gloomy days of the Cold War, where every day was seasoned with a sharp wind and a cold rain, it was the Democratic intellectuals who were forever chiding the rest of us that the Soviet Union was not so bad, the Russians just wanted to be understood and maybe deserved an occasional cuddle. It was the Republicans and other conservatives who were mindless rubes who imagined there was a mad Russian under everybody’s bed.

Now the CIA, in the liberal/left’s fevered dreams, is the last bulwark of the republic, the last remaining hope to turn the 2016 election result on its head and deprive Donald Trump of the victory he won. The Russians, it now turns out, are just as bad as the conservatives said they were.

President Obama, who mocked Mitt Romney four years ago for suggesting that Russia and Vladimir Putin was America’s No. 1 enemy, now says it was Mr. Romney who was smart and got it right four years ago. The president himself, in his telling, is the man dumber than a cypress stump.

The president, at last awake and paying attention to Russian cyber warfare, wants answers, and by noon on Jan. 20. He can then only dine out on the answers, because he won’t have any more authority to do anything about them than the cat.

Desperation pursues despair, and the Democrats are stumbling from inanity to insanity in search of a way to block Donald Trump’s path to the White House. Hilary Clinton’s remnant of a campaign has endorsed an attempt by a handful of members of the Electoral College — 9 Democrats and a rogue Republican — to get the “intelligence briefing” they think might derail next Monday’s scheduled day for the members of the Electoral College to vote for president, 306 of whom are honor bound to vote for the Donald. That’s 36 votes more than he needs.

“The bipartisan electors’ letter raises very grave issues involving our national security,” John Podesta said Monday. “Electors have a solemn responsibility under the Constitution and we support their efforts to have their questions addressed.

“Each day our campaign decried the interference of Russia in our campaign and its evident goal of hurting our campaign to aid Donald Trump. Despite our protestations this matter did not receive the attention it deserved by the media in our campaign. We now know that the CIA has determined Russia’s interference in our elections was for the purpose of electing Donald Trump. This should distress every American.”

What should distress every American is the way the left, the liberals, the progressives and their handmaidens in the press have discarded reasonable conversation to try out every absurd alarm, one after the other, to see whether one could stick, to undermine and undercut the results of what everyone agrees was a free and fair election on Nov. 8. None has worked. More than a month later, the republic stands.

Hysteria now threatens to become insanity. Rep. Jim Hines of Connecticut, a Democrat, says it came to him in the night, as if Marley’s ghost was rattling his chains at the bedside, “that this man is not only unqualified to be president, he’s a danger to the republic. I do think the Electoral College should choose someone other than Donald Trump to be president. That will lead to a fascinating legal issue, but I would rather have a legal issue, a complicated legal problem, than to find out the White House was now the Kremlin’s chief ally.”

Accusing a president-elect of treason, of plotting with the enemy against his country, and with no evidence at all, is something that even a congressman from Connecticut should understand is beyond the limits of rational and decent political debate. Alas, it’s par for the course on the left this season.

The sudden deep concern by President Obama and the Democrats about Russia and cyber warfare, is a bit rich. The Washington Post, which continues so deep in denial that its side lost the election that it may never find the way to the next stage of grief, hangs its survival on the conclusion of the intelligence agencies — which, to put it charitably, have a dismal record of finding out what’s going on anywhere.

A competent president and a responsible “intelligence community” would have done something about the Russians and their hackers a long time ago. Whining doesn’t work.

‘If Russia & Saudi Arabia lead, rest will follow’: Saudi energy minister on historic oil deal

December 11, 2016

‘If Russia & Saudi Arabia lead, rest will follow’: Saudi energy minister on historic oil deal

Published time: 11 Dec, 2016 03:01

Source: ‘If Russia & Saudi Arabia lead, rest will follow’: Saudi energy minister on historic oil deal — RT News

The deal between OPEC members and oil exporting countries from outside the group could bring more stability to the oil market for the common benefit, Saudi energy minister, Khalid Al-Falih, told RT, praising the role of Russia in the agreement.

The Saturday meeting of the members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) with 12 oil exporting countries outside the group “is significant because [it] has brought so many countries together for the first time,” Al-Falih said.

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© Stringer

Al-Falih stressed that the total volume of oil produced by the countries that attended the meeting is close to 53 million barrels per day out of a total of roughly 90, so their share in the world’s oil production approaches 60 percent. He went on to say that the share of the countries that took part in the negotiations in Vienna on Saturday is even greater in the total volume of oil that is traded because “oil produced by the countries that were not represented at today’s meeting is mostly consumed within the countries that produce it.”

The minister welcomed the agreement on the oil production reduction and hailed Russia’s commitment to the deal.

“This meeting gave us understanding that we are all in the same boat, we all benefit [from being] together while [our attempts] to take advantage of each other” eventually hurt the market, he said, adding that this agreement showed that the OPEC and non-OPEC countries “were able to build trust.”

He then stressed that the parties to the agreement have to reinforce this mutual trust by ensuring the maximum compliance with the agreement and expressed his hope that Russia will take one of the leading roles in this process.

Al-Falih particularly said that he trusts the word of the Russian Economy Minister Aleksandr Novak and expressed confidence that Russia will comply with the terms of the deal.

“If Russia and Saudi Arabia lead, the rest will follow,” he stressed.

He then said that he “does not expect the US government to react to this in any way” to the Saturday deal as it has “not reacted in the past and let the market respond.”

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© Nick Oxford

At the same time, Al-Falih expects oil producers in the US to “respond to the higher prices and more stability” which will result in “healthy” development. Saudi Arabia welcomes the development of the oil industry in the US, as it “has been a center of innovation” and provided “new cost-efficient technologies”, so the Saudis want it to be “competitive and healthy.”

On Saturday, twelve non-OPEC countries, including Azerbaijan, Oman, Mexico, Sudan, South Sudan, Bahrain, Malaysia, Equatorial Guinea, Bolivia, Kazakhstan and Russia, agreed to cut oil production by 558,000 barrels per day (b/d) under the deal with the OPEC members.

OPEC members also confirmed their commitment to the plan to reduce the oil supply by 1.2 million b/d. This, together with the commitments made by non-OPEC states, would lead to the total reduction of oil production by about 1.7-1.8 million b/d, Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak said at the press conference.

The commitments taken by both OPEC and non-OPEC countries put an end to the ’pump-at-will’ policy the group has conducted since 2014, which sent oil prices down from $100 to less than $50 a barrel. Now, both OPEC and non-OPEC oil exporters are trying to push prices up.

Making Sense of the Mess in Syria

December 6, 2016

Making Sense of the Mess in Syria, Front Page MagazineAri Lieberman, December 6, 2016

syriamess

The vacillating and pusillanimous policies pursued by the Obama administration have enabled the Russians and Iranians to fill the void. Meanwhile, as Syria’s death toll nears 500,000 and its migrants – some with radical Islamic connections – continue to stream into Europe, it is clear that the nation state of Syria, Balkanized after five years of brutal conflict, is no more.

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On July 30, 1970 a squadron of Israeli air force F-4E Phantoms and Mirages laden with bombs and missiles took off from their airbase in Sinai and flew westward toward Egypt. Their target was an Egyptian radar station.

The action occurred during the height of the War of Attrition between Israel and Egypt. The Egyptians were faring badly and their armed forces had suffered a series of public humiliations at the hands of the Israel Defense Forces. As a consequence, the Soviets stepped into the fray to save their client state and deployed 10,000 military personal and technical experts to the theater. The Soviets also assumed full control of Egypt’s air defenses. Surface-to-air missile batteries were manned by Soviet personnel and Soviet piloted MiG 21Js – the Soviet Union’s latest MiG-21 variant – patrolled Egyptian airspace. A direct clash between the Soviet Union and Israel was inevitable.

As the Israeli fighters zeroed in on their target, 16 Soviet MiGs moved in to intercept. In the melee that followed, five MiGs were shot down for no Israeli losses. The remaining 11 MiGs beat a hasty retreat. The Soviets were simply no match for the seasoned Israeli pilots.

The clash brought regional tensions – already heightened after one year of near constant border clashes – to a boiling point but neither side wanted an escalation. A ceasefire was eventually brokered by the superpowers and tensions deescalated.

Russia’s present military deployment in Syria is not dissimilar to its deployment in Egypt 46 years ago but the chances of an Israeli-Russian aerial clash today is virtually nil. There are some salient differences between the two circumstances. Israel and Russia are no longer bitter enemies and currently maintain cordial relations. Lines of communications between the two nations are good. Potential misunderstandings – to the extent that any exist – are channeled through liaisons to prevent accidental confrontations.

But war can best be summed up as organized chaos and given the clutter over the skies of Syria, with Russian, Israeli, Turkish and Coalition aircraft all operating within the confines of a limited space, mishaps are certainly possible. The Russians maintain formidable air defenses in Syria and Israel views them warily.

Underscoring this, last week IAF fighter jets launched two strikes in Syria, one targeting ISIS, in which four ISIS terrorists were killed and the second, targeting a Hezbollah weapons convoy and a Syrian military compound just outside Damascus. Though the Israelis have understandably remained moot on the specifics of the latter attack, according to published sources, Israeli fighters launched a number of Israeli made Popeye air-to-surface missiles from Lebanese airspace at a facility housing elements of Syria’s 4th Armored Division as well as a Hezbollah-bound weapons convoy traveling along the Beirut-Damascus highway.

Israel cognizant of Russia’s S-400 and S-300 air defense platforms in Syria opted to circumvent the possibility of an accidental confrontation by launching its attack from Lebanese airspace. It should be noted that the S-400s were deployed by the Russians last year following the downing of a Russian Su-24 by a Turkish F-16. The move was meant to serve as a deterrent to Turkey and no hostile intent was directed at Israel. Additionally, the term “Lebanese airspace” is a rather generous term that implies that Lebanon is a fully sovereign nation. In reality, Lebanon is sovereign in name only, having been swallowed whole by Hezbollah, Iran’s genocidal Shia proxy.

Israel’s interest in Syria is limited to ensuring that game-changing weapons of strategic import don’t fall into the hands of Hezbollah. Thus, on several occasions, Israeli fighter jets have launched successful interdicting operations aimed at destroying sophisticated weaponry – including SA-22 anti-aircraft missiles, Scud D ballistic missiles and Yakhont cruise missiles – clandestinely shipped from Iran via Syria.

A secondary goal is to ensure that border areas remain free of Hezbollah, Iranian and ISIS influence. In January 2015, an Israeli airstrike liquidated 12 senior Hezbollah and Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps operatives, including an IRGC general, who were reconnoitering the border near Israel’s Golan Heights for future operations against the Jewish State.

Russia, which has a much broader interest in Syria, understands Israel’s concerns and has no interest in needlessly antagonizing the Israelis. Syria has been under Soviet and now Russia’s sphere of influence since the early 1950s and Russia is intent on maintaining its air and naval bases in Syria. To that end, it is keen on maintaining Assad’s hold on power, or for that matter, any Assad replacement that commits to friendly relations with Moscow and continued Russian military presence.

Russia is also looking to project military power and reassert its role as a superpower. The high profile deployment of a sizable Russian fleet in the Eastern Mediterranean, which includes the Russian aircraft carrier and Cold War relic, Admiral Kuznetsov, represents part of this strategy. However, it appears that the Kuznetsov has been a bit of an embarrassment for Putin.

On November 14, a carrier-based MiG-29K crashed while attempting a failed landing on the Kuznetsov. The carrier was encountering problems with its arrestor cables and the MiG crashed while circling and waiting for repairs. Just three weeks later, a Russian Navy Su-33 encountered a similar fate while attempting a landing on the Kuznetsov. Recent Satellite imagery taken of the Russian air base at Khmeimim, near Latakia, shows rows of Su-33 and MiG-29K carrier-based aircraft parked alongside Russian land-based fighter jets indicating that the Russians have given up on the notion of launching strikes from the Kuznetsov.

While the Israelis and Russians maintain clear strategies and objectives for Syria, under Obama, the U.S. strategy in Syria can best be described as befuddled and lacking any clear direction. The U.S. had initially called for Assad’s unconditional departure but seems to have backed away from that position and now calls for an orderly transition of power, seemingly giving Assad some wiggle room.

Obama had threatened to use military force if Assad employed poison gas against his own people but back peddled on that position as well. In late 2015 it was revealed that the Obama administration spent an astonishing $500 million to train four or five Free Syrian Army rebels, clearly demonstrating that Obama’s policy on Syria represents nothing short of a farcical tragic comedy.

The Obama administration had initially ignored the ISIS menace and its current pinprick military campaign against the terror group is utilizing but a fraction of America’s military strength. Finally, while the Obama administration has publicly sought to end Syria’s civil war peacefully, its transfer of billions in cash to the Islamic Republic has only served to fuel the fire. There is no doubt that this cash has been utilized to pay the salaries of Iran’s mercenary forces in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq.

The vacillating and pusillanimous policies pursued by the Obama administration have enabled the Russians and Iranians to fill the void. Meanwhile, as Syria’s death toll nears 500,000 and its migrants – some with radical Islamic connections – continue to stream into Europe, it is clear that the nation state of Syria, Balkanized after five years of brutal conflict, is no more.

Russian navy on combat alert as Ukraine begins missile launch drills near Crimea

December 2, 2016

Russian navy on combat alert as Ukraine begins missile launch drills near Crimea – reports

Published time: 1 Dec, 2016 06:37 Edited time: 1 Dec, 2016 15:00

Source: Russian navy on combat alert as Ukraine begins missile launch drills near Crimea – reports — RT News

FILE PHOTO. © AFP

Russian warships from the Black Sea Fleet reportedly took up positions off the Crimean Peninsula to provide air defense as Kiev conducted its missile launch drills near the Russian border.

Ukrainian forces conducted 16 successful launches of S-300 medium-range surface-to-air missiles during the drills, presidential spokesman Svyatoslav Tsegolko said in a Facebook post.

“The Defense Ministry and the General Staff chief have just reported to the president on today’s drills, which were successfully completed. Sixteen Ukrainian missiles were launched. All of them have reached their targets,” Tsegolko said.

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FILE PHOTO: A

“We’ve received the first reports about the success of the launches carried out this morning,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said in Kiev. “These latest exercises involved combat and transport aircraft, as well as divisions of anti-aircraft and radar troops.” 

“I want to emphasize that the launches are taking place in open sea over Ukrainian airspace, in full accordance with international law. The launches will go on regardless of any statement released by Moscow.”
“The only reason that makes us conduct these exercises is the need to be consistently ready for any full-scale invasion from the side of our aggressive neighbor.”

“The purpose of the exercise is to gain experience in using these anti-aircraft missile systems and to check the quality of the rockets, which were repaired, as well as to improve the skills of the anti-aircraft missile troop units,” he said, as cited by TASS.

Kryzhanovsky said that there had been no response to the launches from the Russian side. He noted that the missiles will come as close as 30 kilometers to Crimean airspace. The missiles are being launched from a spot some 90 kilometers from Crimea’s shores. The Ukrainian military stressed that its current exercises pose no danger to the residents of the Crimean Peninsula.

Still, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that Ukrainian missile tests near Crimea were a “dangerous precedent,” as cited by Interfax.

Russian ships from the Black Sea Fleet have taken up positions to the west of the Crimean Peninsula to provide air defense over Russian territory, RIA Novosti news agency reports, citing sources in the military.

The Black Sea Fleet warships integrated in the air defense system of the Southern Military District have taken position off the west coast of Crimea for Ukraine’s missile launch drills, which are scheduled for December 1st and 2nd. The ships’ air defenses are in on high alert,” the source told the agency.

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FILE PHOTO: The Italian frigate ITS Zeffiro (front C) leads a flotilla of NATO warships © CPO Luigi Cotrufo-Italian Navy

Ukraine announced that it would be conducting missile-firing exercises close to Crimea in areas used by civil and state aviation flights earlier this week, warning that they would not be safe for flights. Later, it declared that adjacent areas, partly over neutral waters and partly over Russia’s territorial waters in the Black Sea to the southwest and southeast to Crimea, would also be dangerous.

The Russian aviation agency said that Kiev’s drills breach a number of international laws and agreements, noting that they had not been coordinated with Moscow.

Russia asked the authorities in Kiev to abstain from the exercises, but received no response, Russian transport minister Maksim Sokolov said today, while noting that Moscow had also requested that the International Civil Aviation Organization declare Crimean airspace a danger zone, but that also went unanswered.

There were no emergency incidents detected in the airspace over Crimea, Sokolov later said.

Earlier, the Russian Defense Ministry submitted a military-diplomatic note to the Defense Attaché at the Embassy of Ukraine, in which they protested the illegal restrictions on the use of Russian airspace imposed by Ukraine during the exercises, noting that “the southeastern boundary of the danger area declared by the Ukraine violates the territorial sea borders of the Russian Federation, which is a violation of international law and Russian legislation.”


However, according to the Russian Federal Air Transport Agency, the Ukrainian government changed the boundaries of the danger zone for civil aviation in the Crimea region just ahead of the drills so that they no longer breach Russian airspace.

The boundaries of the danger zone for civil aviation has been shifted to the west of the Russian Federation,” the agency’s representative told Interfax.

The Ukrainian military has a record of suffering from accidents while conducting air defense missile drills. In October of 2001, a Siberia Airlines Tu-154 en route from Tel-Aviv to Novosibirsk was accidentally brought down by a missile launched by the Ukrainian military during an exercise over the Black Sea. Seventy-eight people died in that tragedy. Kiev has also been condemned by the relatives of the victims of the , in which a civilian plane was downed in the eastern part of Ukraine, for not closing the airspace over the war-torn area.

The full-scale drills are to continue on Friday, according to the Ukrainian Defense Ministry.