Category Archives: Other Issues

Posts on many other important geopolitical issues.

Stratfor shows that the Russians Are Coming – to Syria

Summary: The United States has almost 800 bases in 70 nations around the world, so it’s natural that Russia building a base in Syria would spark hysteria among Americans. So rather than pay attention to our special operations units, active in 135 nations this past year, let’s focus on the Russians in Syria. Stratfor provides the satellite photos and analysis that tell you what you need to know. Use the knowledge wisely.


Explaining Russia’s True Presence in Syria

Stratfor, 25 September 2015

Stratfor has been closely tracking the Russian buildup of military power at Bassel al Assad air base in Syria, charting the uptick of forces throughout September. Aside from the air assets and defensive ground capacity identified at the air base, reports indicate potential Russian activity at several other locations across the Syrian coastal region.

Widely circulated satellite photography dated Sept. 13 revealed construction at the Istamo weapons storage facility and the appearance of tents at the al-Sanobar military facility south of Latakia. Though this led to conclusions of a possible Russian military presence at those facilities, more recent and detailed imagery provided by our partners at AllSource Analysis seems to contradict this assertion.

Satellite imagery of the al-Sanobar military complex from Sept. 23 does not show any sign of a notable Russian military presence. The tent camp that was present in the Sept. 13 imagery is nowhere to be seen. Also, no particular Russian military equipment or vehicles can be identified.

Russian forces likely move through the area frequently because of their continued activity at the port of Latakia, the activity at the nearby Bassel al Assad air base, and the transit of Russia advisers and trainers to the Syrian front lines, where they are embedded with military units. Because of this, it is possible that the Sept. 13 imagery caught a temporary encampment of Russian forces operating in the Syrian coastal area, as opposed to a more sustained deployment of combat forces to the al-Sanobar complex.

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A big month for police violence. Will they reform? Lessons either way.

Summary: Seven big incidents during the past 30 days! This post looks not just at what’s happening, but at the likely consequences. Unless they respond effectively, this growing flood of videos will inevitably redefine the image of police in the minds of many America, with ugly results. Unfortunately they, like so many of our institutions, appear dysfunctional in this most vital sense.

“There are two fairly standard approaches to political power used by those who seek it. Some seek power with the assumption that the citizenry are the source of legitimacy and are to be treated with respect. Others concentrate on identifying whatever insecurities there are within the citizenry and on exploiting them.”

— John Ralston Saul’s Reflections of a Siamese twin: Canada at the end of the twentieth century (1997).

Ahmed Mohamed


A busy month for America’s police

Video shows Philadelphia police officer threatening to have car towed unless driver for donates to police fundraiser., AP: incident occurred in August. Also see the NYT story.

Video Suggests Suspect in San Antonio Shooting Had Hands Raised When Shot“, New York Times: on August 28. Also see the second video of the incident.

Retired tennis star James Blake tackled by officer, without warning, while standing outside hotel. He resembled suspect of credit card fraud (a nonviolent crime), ABC News: September 11.

Video shows 4 Stockton police officers tackling a 16-year-old boy to the ground for jaywalking (it’s an infraction in California, not even a misdemeanor), LA Times: on September 15. See the video: “9 cops detain 1 US teen for refusing to use sidewalk (VIDEO)“. This article describes the beating.

Ahmed Mohamed interrogated by 5 police for building a clock and saying it was a clock. Taken away in cuffs, fingerprinted, suspended from school for 3 days: on September 15. His parents were not allowed to be present during police interrogation (and no attorney).

Cop Beats Unarmed Woman with a baton, Pulls Gun On Witnesses, ThinkProgress: on September 18. Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority officer arresting woman on a bus for theft.

Policeman harasses and cuff man for suspiciously eating a hamburger in the parking lot of an apartment building (plus an illegal search), AlterNet: on September 19.

This is probably an incomplete list of incidents during these few weeks, showing the usual mix of brutal of small but telling incidents plus an execution.

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Stratfor Confirms Russia’s Expanded Presence in Syria

Summary: The rumors have proven correct. Russia is building a base in Syria. Fourteen years of aggressive US moves in the Middle East and Eastern Europe have left the former in flames and the latter unstable. Now comes the inevitable next step, as a great power rival escalates by positioning itself to respond strongly. I doubt we’ll enjoy what comes next. We can hardly complain when others follow our example.

Stratfor on Syria

Confirming Russia’s Expanded Presence in Syria
Stratfor, 10 September 2015


The projection of Russian forces into Syria could be an attempt to bolster the government of President Bashar al Assad or a means to exert pressure during a time of sensitive negotiations. Either way, it will be increasingly difficult for the Russians to avoid mission creep as they magnify support for their favored faction in the Syrian conflict.


Satellite imagery of the Bassel al Assad International Airport in Latakia, Syria, confirms reports of sustained Russian military transport flights to the Syrian airfield, where the Russians appear to be establishing a base of operations. The satellite imagery, captured Sept. 4, shows a recently constructed air traffic control station in the vicinity of newly laid asphalt surfaces, alongside shipping container-sized structures believed to be mobile housing units. Construction is underway throughout the airport; surfaces are being leveled and new structures are being erected. Earthworks are visible along the entire length of the easternmost runway, likely part of improvements to the airfield to allow the ingress of heavier transport aircraft.

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Collapsitarians and their doomster porn

Summary: Here K.L. Cooke provides a perspective on one of the fascinating aspects of our time, the lucrative market for doomer porn (lucrative for the sellers, not the buyers). It’s been a frequent subject of posts, debunking their predictions of end times. Hyperinflation, dollar collapse, social collapse, resource exhaustion, the word burning, Y2K, bioterrorism, atomic war, and Satan winning — there are so many things that can go wrong. Cooke describes the view from inside the community. Every new doomster is a win for the 1%, passively working while they gain the wealth and power to reshape America. {1st of 2 posts today.}

End Times


Doomer Porn

By K.L. Cooke, 3 September 2015

At Martin van Creveld’s website

Posted with his kind permission


Sometimes I think about the “good old days,” and by that I do not mean my youth. Rather, I refer to the time following my retirement, but prior to becoming aware of the imminent collapse of civilization. The time when I still believed in the future. The change occurred with the financial crisis of 2008, though it was not caused by it directly. There was a series of events that began some years before with the so-called dot com meltdown. In 1999 I was involved in the launch of a telecommunications business that turned out to be like a small boat leaving harbor and sailing into the teeth of a hurricane.

Technology recovered, of course, and E-commerce is alive and well, having shaken out the early, ill-starred ventures in on-line dog food and the like. But my business remained on life-support, kept alive by heroic measures until futility forced my retirement. I was in my early sixties, with a portfolio of mutual funds, so contentment was brief. There was the oil shock of 2007, when filling the gas tank became a major budget item. More worrisome were the implications for the economy, as I was insulated from direct impact by no longer having to commute.

But then came the financial crises of 2008, when value went into free fall and there seemed to be no bottom. There has always been a business cycle. One trimmed the sails for a year and fair weather returned. But this time it was different. I had the sense that something was very wrong.

I searched the Web, where for good or ill there is more information (not to be confused with knowledge) than one could ever hope to process, and came across the term “collapsitarian.” This refers to the theory that industrial civilization is about to tumble into a new Dark Age, precipitated by overpopulation, fossil fuel depletion and climate change, which will bring about global conflict, famine and epidemic disease. The more optimistic proponents foresee a near term population reduction to ten percent of the current load. The less sanguine envision mass species extinction to include Homo sapiens.

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Stratfor describes the growing Russia-China alliance, allies against us

Summary: Hegemons push rival great nations into alliances against them, just as Russia and China are moving together. They’re developing deeper commercial ties, and perhaps even strategic relationships. It’s inevitable given our aggressive foreign policy, putting pressure on China and Russia. Here Stratfor explains their early steps to what might become one of the core alliances of the 21st century.

Putin In Beijing

New B.F.F. — Putin shakes hands with Xi Jinping. Photo by Greg Baker – AFP/Getty Image.

Russia’s Relationship With China Grows Slowly

Stratfor, 3 September 2015


  • Russia and China will sign 20-30 large deals worth tens of billions of dollars this week, but the two countries will continue to disagree on many issues, such as the natural gas supply deal. Therefore, substantial deals of the magnitude seen last May are not likely.
  • With Russia and China both experiencing economic slowdowns, China will continue to stall on financing many of these large projects until it can get more favorable terms.
  • In the long term, China will become one of Russia’s major partners, but not as quickly or on as large a scale as Moscow would like.


Russia has been touting its “pivot to the east” since the West’s efforts to isolate Moscow in the wake of the government change in Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin said Sept. 1 that Russia and China were making consistent progress toward the creation of a strategic alliance that will play a significant role in international economic relations. Putin is in China from Sept. 2 to Sept. 3 for the country’s commemorations of the end of World War II — a reciprocal visit after Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Russia for its celebrations in May. During Putin’s visit, China and Russia are expected to sign some 20-30 so-called mega-deals, agreements with either high price tags or great strategic importance to either country.

Russia’s turn toward China has been evident in recent years; Chinese foreign direct investment {FDI} into Russia nearly tripled in 2014 from the previous year, to $1.27 billion, making China the second-largest foreign investor in Russia (behind France). This may seem like a small amount, but with FDI into Russia falling to $21 billion in 2014 from nearly $70 billion the previous year, Russia is looking for investment from anywhere.

Moreover, according to the Russian central bank, China was the second-largest source of foreign financing for the non-financial sectors in Russia’s economy in 2014. Chinese lenders let Russians and Russian businesses borrow $13.6 billion. The only country that provided more financing was Cyprus, where Russian-affiliated parties likely provided the loans.

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Martin van Creveld vacations & discovers what we’ve lost: freedom

Summary: Martin van Creveld vacations in Potsdam. Amidst its natural beauty he finds something we’ve lost as we’ve built the regulatory state. Something valuable, almost beyond price.

Free Butterfly


In Praise of Potsdam

By Martin van Creveld
From his website, 20 August 2014

Posted with his generous permission


I am writing this from Potsdam, a smallish (160,000 inhabitants) German city southwest of Berlin where my wife and I go to stay for a month or so every year since 1999. Originally what brought us to Potsdam was the fact that it is home to the Bundeswehr’s historical service. They have the best military-historical library in Europe; enough said.

Potsdam, however, also has other attractions and it on them that I want to focus here. When we first visited back in 1992 it was a sad town. Many buildings were dilapidated; testifying to the fact that the very last battles of World War II took place in this area, many windows had not yet been repaired. The predominant color was grey.

It took me awhile to realize the reason for this. It was due to the fact that, in a country that had only recently emerged from communism, there were no commercial signs and no advertisements in the streets. In the entire city the only halfway decent hotel was the Merkur, located not far from the railway station which, like the rest of the town, had been heavily bombed in 1945 and never properly repaired.

The hotel itself consisted of a high-rise building not far from the city center where it formed, and still forms, a real eyesore. Originally its rooms did not have private bathrooms. By the time we stayed there they had been installed, but only at the price of making the rooms themselves rather cramped. In the entire central district of the city there was just one restaurant. Located on the central square, the Brandenburger Platz, in good East German tradition it only served a small fraction of the items theoretically on the menu.

Over the years, watching the city shed its communist dress and put on a modern, liberal and commercial one has been a feast for the eyes. Potsdam is not nearly as wealthy as some of its West German counterparts. But like all small German towns it is clean and orderly. One can cycle wherever one wants. In the suburbs, especially Rehbruecke where we stay, many houses have flourishing gardens.

The buses run, the trams arrive on time. Everything functions — to someone coming from the Middle East, that is anything but self-evident. Still I would not have written about Potsdam if, in addition to these qualities, there had not been some things which set it apart.

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Stratfor sees good news in Syria: a possible win for Russia’s diplomats

Summary: This analysis by Stratfor shows the complexity of the situation in Syria. While we seek to influence events with bombs and proxy armies (two of America’s trinity of COIN), Russia uses diplomacy. So far our efforts have failed. There are signs Russia’s diplomats might be succeeding.  {1st of 2 posts today.}


Opportunities for Change in Syria

Stratfor, 19 August 2015

Stratfor receives insight from many sources around the world, along with reports not available for public consumption. It is important to caveat that many reports are unconfirmed or speculative in nature, though they provide valuable context. Interpreting information and compiling multiple data points to build a picture is part of intelligence analysis. Any and all reporting is carefully filtered before being disseminated by Stratfor, yet some insight is worth sharing on its own merits, such as this account from Syria, below.

Russia is heavily invested in the Syrian conflict and has a significant stake in shaping any enduring peace. Stratfor sources indicate that Moscow may have finally been able to get Damascus and the mainstream rebel opposition to broadly agree on elements of a political transition of power in Syria. Russia has long insisted that present Syrian President Bashar al Assad must remain in power during any transition. This is a sticking point for many of the rebel groups, but Moscow appears to have been able to negotiate a middle ground. As Stratfor previously noted Aug. 7…

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