Tag Archives: russia

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

Summary

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.

Analysis

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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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

Forecast

  • 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.

Analysis

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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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.}

Stratfor

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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Stratfor describes the effects of sanctions on Russia (hegemon at work)

Summary: Our outrage about Russia’s meddling in Eastern Ukraine is the smoke. Sanctions on Russia are our tool. Weakening Russia is our goal. Exactly as with Iran (as we see in the die-hard opposition to the arms control treaty). Here Strafor examines the results of the sanctions on Russia.

Stratfor

Russia Readies Itself for Unrest

Stratfor, 7 August 2015

Forecast

  • The Kremlin will allow the economies of many of the country’s Soviet-era mono-cities to deteriorate.
  • Protests against the Kremlin will increase as more Russians fall under the poverty line and regional and municipal debt grows.
  • The Kremlin will crack down on protest movements and opposition parties to block the formation of any serious challenge to its hold on power.

Analysis

Russia’s economy is in steep decline, and the financial strain on the Kremlin is beginning to spread to the country’s regions, cities and people. Many of Russia’s regions are already on the verge of default. As the pressure continues to build at the regional level, the country’s municipal governments and citizens will find themselves increasingly strapped for cash.

With little hope of economic recovery in the near future, the Kremlin is taking steps to quash any threat of regional defiance or mass protests against its leadership. As its attention shifts inward over the next few years, the Kremlin’s capacity to assert itself abroad will diminish.

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For 50 years Republicans have fought against treaties that brought peace

Summary:  To understand the dynamics and stakes of the Iran deal we should look at our past, rather than conservatives’ confident warnings about the future. The peace we’ve enjoyed for decades results in part from 50+ years of arms control treaties — all strenuously fought by the Right. We can learn much from their false predictions, as they’re repeated today about Iran.

Atomic bomb explosion

Contents

  1. Unceasing war.
  2. Clinton takes a turn.
  3. Obama negotiates a New START.
  4. Reagan the peacemaker.
  5. Conclusions.
  6. For More Information.

(1)  Unceasing war

The far-right’s grand strategy since WWII has been one of unceasing war and rigid opposition to all arms control treaties (we are always in 1938 Munich; are foes are always NAZI Germany). We see that in their opposition to a deal with Iran (where the likely alternative is war), just as we saw in their support for the continued above ground nuclear testing that was blanketing the world with radioactive fallout. Even after a full-court press by Kennedy, 19 Senators voted in 1963 against the first Nuclear Test Ban Treaty JFK negotiated in 1963. Fortunately saner people prevailed.

To get an idea of the results if the conservatives had won, read the National Institute of Health’s pages about exposure to radioactive Iodine-131 from fallout. These debates would play out repeatedly during the next 6 decades, but not always with a happy ending.

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Finding truth amidst the lies about Russia & the Ukrainian civil war

Summary: Today we look at off-road sources of information about the world (especially wars), used by those who seek more than the polished narrow narratives of the western news media. What do we seek? Are we gathering information, or finding only new sources of propaganda? Answers and advice follow, using examples from the Ukraine Civil War. Post your thoughts in the comments.  {2nd of 2 posts today}

The Truth is Out There

The western news media deliver a richly detailed and polished narrative about our world. The information highway takes those seeking more detail or different perspectives to a vast array of websites offering what seem to be reliable pictures of conflicts in the far corners of the world. Usually described in the first or second person, often with graphics, pictures, or videos as evidence, they give dissidents from the mainstream worldview confidence that theirs is a more accurate worldview. Are they correct?

A frustrating aspect of cyberspace results from our inability to know what’s real. This makes effective propaganda easy to manufacture, and much of the fringe internet overflows with exaggerated, distorted, or fake news created by partisans about distant wars — some by amateurs, some by professionals. Debkafile developed many of the tactics now commonly used: details from the front lines (sometimes real, sometimes bogus) plus confident analysis dramatically presented.

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The first rule of American war is not to believe what we’re told

Summary: Another war starts with its barrage of propaganda on America, raising the usual questions. Can we learn from experience? Will we demand accurate information and better analysis, laughing at those who have been so often wrong?  Today’s post provides some context that might help you decide what’s happening, or at least create useful doubts.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

“‘Truth,’ it has been said, ‘is the first casualty of war’.”
— Philip Snowden in his Introduction to Truth and the War, by E. D. Morel (1916).

Ministry of Truth

Contents

  1. Update from Ukraine.
  2. About previous clashes with Russia.
  3. Compare Ukraine with Vietnam.
  4. Conclusions.
  5. Other posts in this series.
  6. For More Information.

(1)  Update from Ukraine

The US Army announced that “about 300” soldiers from the 173rd Airborne arrived in Ukraine on April 14 “to begin a six-month training rotation with Ukrainian national guard forces”. The NY Times describes the training in the upbeat prose typical of its stenographers repeating what they’re told, with a few specifics (“The courses will train 705 Ukrainian soldiers at a cost of $19 million…”). Canada has sent 200 trainers, Britain has sent 35, and perhaps Israel has sent some as well.

There’s no mention of involvement by US Special Forces, the premier trainers of foreign armies in the methods to fight civil wars, beyond a bland announcement by Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR) of deployments to train local troops in “Poland, Slovakia and the Baltic states of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia involving several hundred personnel from U.S. special forces”.  No mention of direct involvement of US special operations troops, the covert tip of DoD’s spear — but then we shouldn’t expect to be told.

Relive the cold war

(2)  Compare it to previous direct confrontations with Russia

As usual with American geopolitical analysis, many “experts” quickly lose their perspective at the first hint of conflict, venting breathless warnings that we’re in a new Cold War — perhaps even sliding to nuclear war. It led them to predicted scores of great power wars since WWII; every month brings a new crop of war rumors (last year the hot “news” concerned war between some combo of Japan, the Philippines, and China).

Back on Earth, nuclear powers tend to walk lightly around each other after their first close call. For the US and Russia that was a close brush with death in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis (see the tapes of the NSC meetings described in Virtual JFK; you’ll have a far higher opinion of him after reading it). For India and Pakistan that was a not-close but still scary moment during Kargil War in summer 1999.

One glimpse of atomic death convinces national leaders to avoid direct confrontations of armed forces, relying instead on proxies willing to die for the interests of their great power sponsors. After centuries of experience, western governments have become expert in managing these.

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