The Kremlin is losing it …

July 26, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

I’m old enough to remember the depths of the Cold War in the 70s and 80s, with Moscow making thundering denunciations about “American plots.” This latest from the Russian Foreign Ministry is like a nostalgic visit with an old, crazy “friend.”

Originally posted on The XX Committee:

As the situation in Ukraine continues to deteriorate in the wake of the shootdown of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 on 17 July by Russian-backed forces near Donetsk, it’s clear that the Kremlin is in a state of panic, unsure what to do next. We are in another Cold War now, whether we like it or not. As an indication of Moscow’s remarkable state of mind at present, I cannot do better than pass on the brand-new message posted by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs this morning, in full, without comment: 

Comment of the Russian Foreign Ministry regarding the continuing anti-Russian attacks by the U.S. Administration:

Judging by the unrelenting campaign of defamation against Russia organized by the American administration, blatant lies are increasingly being relied upon there to conduct foreign policy. Take for one the new statements by the U.S. President’s press secretary, Josh Earnest, who directly…

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The New July Crisis

July 23, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

If I were the superstitious type, a European diplomatic/military crisis 100 years to the month after the July Crisis that lead World War I would have me worried. I’m not superstitious, but Russia’s indecent, aggressive, and barbaric policy toward Ukraine and the West still has me worried. Recommended reading.

Originally posted on The XX Committee:

This summer is the hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War, the “great seminal catastrophe” of the last century, in the memorable phrase of the diplomatist-scholar George Kennan. As a historian who has spent much of his life studying the events of 1914, I had long looked forward to this centenary, and the necessary reexamination of the July Crisis of that fateful summer that the anniversary would bring. I did not expect it to include a second July Crisis.

Exactly one hundred years ago today, Vienna presented its fateful ultimatum to Belgrade, demanding that Serbia clarify its role in the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo some three weeks before. Vienna expected their demands would be rebuffed, getting Austro-Hungarian generals the war against “Dog Serbia” that they had long craved, and so they did. That did not work out quite as planned, but then again…

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Donetsk Rebels and Russian Intelligence

July 19, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

Something to keep in mind: the key leaders of the so-called “Donetsk rebels,” who shot down that Malaysian airliner, are all Russian intelligence operatives. This massacre may well have been an accident, but the fingerprints all over it are Moscow’s.

Originally posted on The XX Committee:

As the world tries to answer the question of who exactly fired the missile that shot down Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, killing 298 innocent people, Moscow is doing its best to lie, obfuscate, shift blame, and evade responsibility. The Kremlin’s best-case scenario now is that local rebels in Ukraine’s Donetsk region who are under the operational control of Russian military intelligence (GRU), took it upon themselves to shoot down a passenger aircraft, using a Russian-supplied Buk (SA-11) anti-aircraft system, having mistaken it for an unarmed Ukrainian An-26 transport plane. The reality may be worse, and it will take time to establish the facts, particularly with Kremlin proxies obstructing the investigation, destroying evidence, hiding bodies, and acting as if the world is not watching this closely. The extent of Russian push-back suggests that Moscow has a great deal to hide.

Nevertheless, even if the shootdown was entirely the work of Donetsk…

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Exploring Al-Qa’ida’s Russian Connection

June 11, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

Honestly, I had never considered this possibility, given Moscow’s well-known problems with its own jihadists. But, on reading this essay, one has to wonder if there isn’t some sort of “understanding” between Zawahiri and and Russian intelligence. Very interesting speculation, here.

Originally posted on The XX Committee:

[Note: This is an unusually controversial piece, even for my blog, for reasons that will quickly become obvious. Linkages between Al-Qa'ida and Russian intelligence have been discussed in hushed tones among spies in many countries, for years, and this matter has been a "hobby file" of mine for some time. Here is a think-piece on it, in the hope of spurring additional discussion and research into this important yet murky matter. This is particularly necessary given rising tensions between Moscow and the West at present. Considering the subject, I have eschewed my usual hyperlinks in favor of proper end-notes.]

There are two histories: The official history, mendacious, which is given to us; and the secret history, where you find the real causes of events, a shameful history.”

– Honoré de Balzac

The history of al-Qa’ida has been extensively documented in many languages. Since the 9/11 attacks on the…

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(Video) Hitler and Chamberlain, Putin and Obama

June 2, 2014

Obama as Chamberlain

(Photo via Israel Matzav)

I’ve been saying for years, almost since the Jihadi War began, that the state of international relations gives me a “1930s vibe,” a feeling that we may be on a path toward another World War. That feeling has come and gone as the years passed, as I’m sure it did for those living in the 30s, but it’s never quite gone away. In fact, Russia’s predatory moves toward Ukraine have brought that feeling roaring back, the parallels being striking.

Bill Whittle has noticed the same trends and, in this video for Truth Revolt, compares a lion, a bear, and two lambs:

But it’s not Russia that worries me most, unless it’s in combination with other powers. Russia is a dying state, its demographic trends signalling serious future decline. Its military, outside of special elite units, just isn’t all that good, and, while they’ve made steps to rebuild, they’re still  a long way off. (They had trouble mobilizing the limited forces they used to assault Georgia in 2008.) Their economy is far too dependent on natural resources, especially oil, but Russian oil is notoriously expensive to extract. Fracking technology in the West promises to cut the legs out from under Putin and his successors as it drives the price of oil and gas down, making Russia’s less marketable.

China concerns me more: a rising power with a strong hyper-nationalist faction, an aggressive foreign policy, and a strong sense of (as Bill notes about Russia) historical grievance. Some incident in the South or East China Seas could easily be the spark for a major conflagration.

And then there’s Iran: a fascist theocracy that has promised to destroy Israel and is desperately seeking its own nuclear weapons to do just that.

We face a bear, a dragon, and a lion, while we are lead by lambs.

Yep. I have a bad feeling about this.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


#Ukraine: someone may well be shot for this

May 5, 2014
"I won"

Do not anger the new Czar

Or maybe Vlad will just settle on an expenses-paid trip to a reopened Siberian gulag camp for the guy who revealed just how rigged the Crimean referendum was:

The website of the “President of Russia’s Council on Civil Society and Human Rights” posted a blog that was quickly taken down as if it were toxic radioactive waste. According to the Council’s report about the March referendum to annex Crimea, the turnout was a maximum 30%. And of these, only half voted for annexation – meaning only 15 percent of Crimean citizens voted for annexation.

The fate of Crimea, therefore, was decided by the 15 percent of Crimeans, who voted in favor of unification with Russia (under the watchful eye of Kalashnikov-toting soldiers).

The official Crimean election results, as reported widely in the Western press, showed a 97 percent vote in favor of annexation with a turnout of 83 percent. No international observers were allowed. This pro-Russia election pressure would have raised the already weak vote in favor of annexation.

To make sure no one misses this:

Official Kremlin results: 97% for annexation, turnout 83 percent, and percent of Crimeans voting in favor 82%.

President’s Human Rights Council results: 50% for annexation, turnout 30%, percent of Crimeans voting in favor 15%.

You can imagine how fast that web page came down.

In the larger scheme of things, though, this is, to borrow a phrase, “just a glitch.” Putin will hold the same sham referendums in other regions of Ukraine he wants to carve off, and get away with it, because the West, under the feckless leadership of Obama and Kerry, will do nothing.

Except offer more MREs.

PS: Think I’m joking about “being shot?” Just ask Anna Politikovskaya. Oh, wait…

via Frank Luntz


I weep: our foreign policy has been reduced to hashtags

April 25, 2014
Your Obama foreign policy team

Your Obama foreign policy team

Well, I weep and I mock.

For those not familiar with Twitter, “hashtags” are labels preceded by a number sign, as in “#politics.” They were developed to make it easier for people to search for related messages on the system, though people also use them as asides to provide commentary, humor, or snark.

A few weeks ago, the United States Department of State, faced with the slow-motion dismemberment of Ukraine by Russia, apparently decided that hashtags were also effective tools of superpower diplomacy. Thus we saw this from State’s spokeswoman, Jen Psaki:

My reaction, you’ll be surprised to learn, was one of dismay and disgust. This is hardly the serious diplomacy one would expect from a department once headed by the likes of Thomas Jefferson, John Hay, Dean Acheson, and George Schultz. One would think that, having been roundly mocked here and overseas (You mean you didn’t hear the giggling from Moscow?), the State Department would have given up on managing our foreign affairs like it was a popularity contest, complete with cheerleading. But, no. No, some genius at State decided this was a winning strategy and deployed it again, only this time with an exhortation to Putin:

“Promise of hashtag??” You have got to be kidding me. “Yes, Vlad, be nice to Ukraine. You wouldn’t want to fail the spirit of the hashtag, would you?” Someone last night speculated that an intern forgot to substitute the real hashtag in place of the placeholder word “hashtag,” but that’s immaterial. The whole idea that anyone should think that using catchy social media slogans as a tool of diplomacy would be seen as anything other than self-inflicted humiliation is laughable. That the “strategy” originated at the highest levels of State is infuriating.

And so I couldn’t resist commenting:

And then I offered examples of the promise of hashtag and its power in US foreign affairs:

Others pointed out that the promise of hashtag was global. For example:

Indeed, Lincoln ended the Civil War with it:

But this one, I think, summed up the depth and gravity of State’s strategic thinking in this crisis:

While this baby speaks for me:

But I did offer Ms. Psaki and her co-workers a friendly and much-needed hint:

No, they do not, and it’s in part because people who think they do are in charge of our foreign policy that the world has become a much more dangerous place. It’s a common joke that both sides make to wish for the day “when the adults will be in charge, again,” but, in this case, it’s no longer a joke.  We’re facing foes around the globe who operate via the calculus of power, will, and national interest, while we are represented by community organizers who treat serious matters of state as occasions for virtual rallies.

Argh.

RELATED: More at Twitchy here and here. Jonah Goldberg on Obama’s foreign policy.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


“Special War” Goes Mainstream

April 21, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

TV talking heads wonder when and if Russia will invade Ukraine. As John Schindler notes, they already have, and they’re very good at disguising it.

Originally posted on The XX Committee:

One of the main missions of this blog is spreading the idea that intelligence matters in the real world, and that a lot of important activities involve covert action that is anything but transparent; many media types, unacquainted with such dark arts, are skeptical of these notions, however, and sometimes this is a hard sell. One upside to the Ukraine crisis is that it’s brought some of these usually secret shenanigans into a bit of sunlight before the world.

For months I’ve been explaining that this all amounts to what I term Special War, and it’s something important that the Russians excel at across the board; regrettably, the United States does not. Ukraine is a realtime laboratory for the whole range of Moscow’s Special War activities, especially provocation. Slowly, the Mainstream Media is starting to notice.

Today’s New York Timeshas a good article explaining how Russian intelligence…

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Solipsism as foreign policy: Russia, America, and Cold War II

April 7, 2014
"Tell me you love me!"

Self-absorption

There’s a very interesting long essay by John Schindler at XX Committee that examines the ideological components of “Putinism”inter alia a rejection of Western, and especially American, post-modernism; the assertion of national sovereignty; ethnic Great Russian nationalism; and an alliance with the Russian Orthodox Church to protect “spiritual values”– and I think it’s well worth your time to read it. One section I want to quote, however, analyzes the difficulty progressive, postmodern Western elites have when it comes to “getting” Putin and Russia:

This is simply because we are WEIRD. That’s social science shorthand for Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic – and nobody is WEIRDer than Americans. In the last several decades many Americans, and essentially all our elites, have internalized a worldview based on affluence, individualism, and secularism that makes us unique, globally speaking. So much so that we seem unable to comprehend that there actually are opposing viewpoints out there.

Barack Obama, by virtue of his diverse ethnic and religious background and elite education, is almost an ideal stand-in for the WEIRD demographic, as he embodies so many things WEIRDos admire: education, affluence, diversity, progressive social views, etc. He comes close to being almost the perfect post-modern American, which perhaps is why so many Americans of that bent adore him deeply. Thus when President Obama says he detects no ideological rivalry with Putin’s Russia, he undoubtedly speaks the truth as he sees it.

Americans of all stripes have a well-honed ability to ignore inconvenient facts, and our better educated citizens seem particularly prone to this (as I noted with our “expert” inability to see what North Korea believes, even though they aren’t shy about it). At root, I suspect Obama and many Americans refuse to accept the in-our-face reality of Putin and his regime because they represent a past version of ourselves, caught up in retrograde views that are entirely unacceptable to our elites, therefore they pretend they do not exist, because they don’t actually exist in their world.

Simply put, Vladimir Putin is the stuff of Western progressive nightmares because he’s what they thought they’d gotten past. He’s a traditional male with “outmoded” views on, well, everything: gender relations, race, sexual identity, faith, the use of violence, the whole retrograde package. Putin at some level is the Old White Guy that post-moderns fear and loathe, except this one happens to control the largest country on earth plus several thousand nuclear weapons – and he hates us.

It’s solipsism as foreign policy. Our governing elites, closeted in their various ivory towers, simply can’t conceive of worldviews that operate in a wholly different paradigm. So convinced they are that their views are self-evidently right, that they cannot imagine that another elite might strongly believe in something wholly at odds with their own assumptions. John Kerry’s admonition to Putin that countries “simply don’t act that way in the 21st century” is a stellar example; he seemed equally angry, dumbfounded, and aghast, as if he had trouble processing unexpected data. It’s similar to the problems we as a largely secular society have with dealing with Iran’s mullahs, a faction of which wishes to bring about a Shi’ite “end times”“They couldn’t really believe that, could they??”

This inability to see others as they see themselves and not as “just like us” and to understand what they value is going to make it very hard to conduct a successful foreign policy against a newly-aggressive Russia, especially if, as Schindler believes, we’re headed for Cold War II.


Russia on the march: 10 reasons Putin is likely to invade eastern Ukraine

March 30, 2014
"I won"

“Can’t touch this.”

There’s a good article by Michael Weiss giving a list of reasons why Russia’s Vladimir Putin is probably going to make a move soon to take over Ukraine’s largely ethnic-Russian eastern regions. It’s well-worth reading; Weiss covers the realities of power, political considerations, and Russian military movements (1). He also brings up a motive that’s psychological, but I think it fits. Let’s see what you think:

2. Putin enjoys embarrassing the United States, and especially its current commander-in-chief.

On Feb. 28, Obama warned that “there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine” — before high-tailing it to a Democratic National Committee cocktail party at the Washington Hilton. The next day, the world awoke to a Russian invasion of Crimea. “Rarely has a threat from a U.S. president been dismissed as quickly — and comprehensively — as Obama’s warning on Friday night,” the Washington Post’s Scott Wilson reported. And let’s look at the laundry list of American desires and warnings the Kremlin has brushed aside: Russia has dramatically increased its arms transfers to Syria since the chemical disarmament deal was struck last fall. It continues to host fugitive NSA spy Edward Snowden. And during the midst of the Maidan protests, Russia’s own spies intercepted a phone call between a top U.S. State Department official and the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, then leaked the contents of it to Kremlin-controlled media. Moreover, neither Putin nor his inner circle seem terribly aggravated by the current suite of U.S. or EU sanctions or the blockbuster admission by the Treasury Department that Putin — now a staunch patriotic proponent of the “de-offshoreization” of the Russian economy — personally controls assets in Swiss oil commodities giant Gunvor.

While I would never argue that psychological motives are paramount –Putin’s too much of a power realist to fool himself with petty self-gratifications– I’m sure they’re there. Vladimir Putin is an ex-KGB officer, trained to be brutal when necessary. His goals are those of every Russian ruler since the Mongols were driven out: seeking the security of Russia by dominating the states around her and keeping powerful foes at a distance. In America, he sees a nation in short-term decline, creating an opportunity for him to advance those goals. In Obama, he sees a weak, out of his depth, would-be academic beta-male whom he, Vladimir Putin, almost a caricature of the alpha-male, can intimidate to seize that opportunity.

In short, Putin sees Obama as his [you fill in the word] and loves showing that to the world.

You can bet he plans to enjoy that feeling again, soon.

Footnote:
(1) They’re deploying field hospitals. That’s a significant sign it itself.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Crimean “election” and our feckless foreign policy

March 16, 2014
"I won"

“I won”

News has been coming in indicating that the Crimeans have voted with about 93% in favor (1) to secede from Ukraine and join Russia. Funny how that works, isn’t it, when there are tens of thousands of Russian troops all over Crimea, not to mention these… “campaign workers:”

Crimea Russia Ukraine mobile artillery

Anyway, I had planned to write about our feckless foreign policy and our pathetic response to Putin’s “19th-century behavior,” but The Diplomad and the XX Committee have both beaten me to it. First the Diplomad:

Silly talk and posturing, the making of grand-sounding statements, and drawing erasable “red lines” all have consequences. One, of course, is that Russia is not likely to undo its actions in Crimea. The Russians, furthermore, have sanction-like weapons of their own such as the messing about with US banks and debt noted above, but not limited only to that. They are major suppliers of gas to Europe and in the past have shown a willingness to interrupt supplies for political purposes.

So while we gut our military, refuse to buy Canadian oil, or become energy independent and a major supplier of energy to Europe, we prattle on and on about sanctions and international law and solidarity with the Syrian opposition Ukraine. As noted before, we could neutralize Russia’s leverage in the world very swiftly, without ever mentioning the word “sanctions.” That, however, requires something we do not have, to wit, patriotic, committed, focused, and decisive leadership.

Metternich and Kissinger, our guys ain’t.

Lewis Amselem, “The Diplomad,” links to a post he wrote describing what we could do to make Putin’s life miserable. I highly recommend it, but, if you haven’t the time to read it, I’ll give you the executive summary: fracking. Putin must be pinching himself at his unbelievable luck, that we have leadership too blinkered by ideology and environmentalist PAC money to do what needs to be done.

Gee, I guess Sarah Palin was right, again, when she said “drill, baby, drill.”

Meanwhile, Naval War College professor John Schindler, writing at The XX Committee, has this to say about our current crop of diplomats and national security personnel:

However, the rot goes far deeper than this White House, and is not confined to any party; indeed, the remarkable decline in American foreign policy over the last generation is one of our few truly bi-partisan national efforts, so there’s no point in fantasizing that an election or two will change this. This sad truth I explained in a recent post which got quite a bit of attention, particularly this part:

“A related factor here surely is that the United States has groomed a whole generation of foreign policy wonks-in-training who lack any real understanding of how the world actually works. These impressive-on-paper people – let it be noted they are legion in both parties – the under-45′s who are always graduates of the right schools and first-rate players of The Game in Washington, DC (which really comes down to cultivating the right mentors who will guide you to the proper think-tank until your party returns to power), are no match for the stone-cold killers of the Kremlin, led by the Chekist-in-Chief Putin. They have grown up in a world where unipolar American power has never been challenged, and while they can utter pleasant, Davos-ready platitudes about the whole range of bien pensant issues – global warming, emerging trends in micro-finance, gender matters on the Subcontinent, et al – they have quite literally nothing to say when old-school conventional threats emerge and enemies – yes, enemies: not rivals or merely misunderstood would-be partners – emerge from the darkness with conquest and killing on their minds.”

We’re in the best of hands, no? Our leadership prattles on about how dismembering other countries “just isn’t done,” while Vladimir Putin goes right ahead and does it.

Anyway, I suggest you put both sites in your feed reader, if you haven’t already. The insights they provide are invaluable.

RELATED: Did you know Putin has recently reported as saying that the breakup of the USSR was illegal? That should make the Evil Empire’s former satrapies happy, especially as more Russian troops mass at Ukraine’s borders for “exercises.” Oh, and Russia’s toadies in Belarus have mobilized, too. And if you wonder what Russia has in mind, besides keeping access to a Black Sea port (Sevastopol) and thus the Mediterranean, have a look at these maps.

Obama and Kerry blather about the “international community” and “sanctions,” but it’s really all about the realities of power. Putin gets it, they don’t.

Footnote:
(1) Sloppy, Vlad. Kim Jong Un will be disappointed in you.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Okay, now Putin is just trolling us. Update: Ukraine sailors to Putin – “You lie!”

March 4, 2014

In an interview with reporters, Tsar President Vladimir Putin said those aren’t Russian troops taking control of Crimea from the Ukraine.

No, really.

Russian soldiers have not occupied government buildings and surrounded Ukrainian military bases on the Crimean Peninsula, Russian President Vladimir Putin insisted Tuesday during a news conference near Moscow at which he gave an account of recent events that contradicts reports from the ground.

Instead, he told reporters that the heavily armed men are “local self-defense forces.”

What’s more, anything Russia has done, Putin said without offering specifics, has been part of a “humanitarian mission” to protect ethnic Russians in Crimea.

Right. Because local self-defense forces always have self-propelled artillery  (1) available:

Crimea Russia Ukraine mobile artillery

Yeah, that looks like any humanitarian mission I’ve ever seen. How about you?

Meanwhile, I’m sure those are only local self-defense forces demanding the surrender of Ukrainian ships in Crimea — or else. And the treacherous former commanding officer of the Ukrainian Navy defected only to local self-defense forces. But it’s not really a defection because, hey, all those guys in Russian uniforms are Ukrainians, too! (More trolling: they only bought those uniforms at their local surplus store.)

I swear Putin must laugh his head off every time he shuts the door.

via Bryan Preston

Footnote:
(1) Come on, CNN. If you want to retain even a shred of credibility, have someone on hand who can actually identify military equipment.

UPDATE: via The XX Committee, a statement by sailors of the Ukrainian Navy in response to Putin’s assertion that there are no Russian troops in their country. Here’s an excerpt:

The Ukrainian Navy warships Ternopil and Slavutych, which are moored in Sevastopol Bay, are currently blocked by warships and vessels of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, and they are all carrying detachments of marines numbering up to a platoon. They are armed with automatic weapons and equipped accordingly.

Bearing in mind the remarks of Mr. Putin that such gear and equipment can be bought in any shop, we would like to seize the moment and ask which shop – as well as where one can purchase automatic weapons, pistols and grenade launchers in violation of Ukrainian legislation? We also would like to recall that no unit of the Ukrainian Armed Forces deployed in Crimea gave up even a single inch of the territory of their military bases or the weapons entrusted to them, let alone in such quantity, as all units remained faithful to the call of duty and their oath to the Ukrainian nation.

In response to all these insinuations, and the flows of mendacious information disseminated by dirty politicos and corrupt journalists, we – officers, warrant officers and sailors of the Ukrainian Navy – openly declare that we will honestly carry out our soldier’s duty till the end, we will defend our country and the Ukrainian people as we have been doing through all the years of independence, not for the sake of posts or salaries, but because this is our land and we cherish the lives of every person who lives on this land regardless of nationality.

Godspeed to them.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Humorous headline of the day, @BarackObama edition

March 3, 2014

Politico gathered several writers to talk about how Obama would handle the Ukraine crisis. And, knowing that journal and it’s love for The One, I’m sure the headline writer was deadly serious:

Obama steel spine

“Aluminum foil” more readily comes to mind, if you ask me.

 


Really? They couldn’t pay to have a good model made?

March 3, 2014

Apparently Hillary Clinton’s infamous reset button was swiped from a hotel swimming pool. Couldn’t they at least have ordered from Amazon?

And the woman who headed this team wants to be the next President of the United States.

The monkey speaks for me:

"Even the monkey is embarrassed"

“Even the monkey is embarrassed”


Have we ever had a more fatuous Secretary of State than John Kerry? Updated.

March 3, 2014
We're doomed.

We’re doomed.

Really, all that seems able to come out of that mouth of his is an endless stream of meaningless blather that would make Sir Humphrey Appleby proud.

Courtesy of Hot Air, this is what Kerry had to say about the Ukraine crisis yesterday:

Secretary of State John Kerry said that “all options are on the table” when it comes to steps the U.S. can take to hold Russia accountable for its military movements in Ukraine, including economic sanctions and potentially military action.

In an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos today on “This Week,” Kerry said Russian troops moving into the Ukrainian region of Crimea was “a military act of aggression” and that the U.S. will move swiftly to impose penalties if Russian President Vladimir Putin does not withdraw his troops.

While military force is among the options President Barack Obama is considering, Kerry said the U.S. and its allies hope they can avoid such action.

“The hope of the U.S. and everybody in the world is not to see this escalate into a military confrontation,” he said.

The indirect language of diplomacy uses phrases that convey very specific messages without putting the other side publicly on the spot, in a situation where he cannot back down without being humiliated. And when you say “all options are on the table,” John, that includes military action. You’re essentially telling the other side that, should we not get satisfaction, we’re willing to go to war. This is the kind of talk you do not engage in lightly, especially when dealing with another nuclear power. The very idea of a “military option” in Ukraine is insane for any number of reasons.

I wonder if Kerry even knows what the words he’s saying actually mean. If he doesn’t, he’s a bigger dunce than I thought, which would be impressive. If he does and somehow thinks that will intimidate Vladimir Putin, then he’s dangerously incompetent. Putin has taken the measure of the Obama administration after years of watching it in action, and he knows darn well their threats are meaningless. After abandoning Poland and the Czech Republic over missile defense, after the laughable reset button, after cutting and running in Iraq and Afghanistan, and after the disaster of Obama’s Syria policy, Putin knows any threats from this American administration are empty. He probably rolled his eyes and laughed when Kerry said all options were on the table.

Then there was this:

Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday blasted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “stunning, willful” choice to invade Ukrainian territory and warned of possible sanctions.

“You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country,” Kerry said on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” one of several appearances on network interview shows.

“It’s serious in terms of the modern manner in which countries resolve problems,” Kerry said.

“That’s not the act of somebody who’s strong,” Kerry added, saying Putin is acting out of “weakness” and “desperation.”

I can think of many ways to describe President Putin, but “weak” and “desperate” wouldn’t even occur to me.

On the contrary, Vladimir Putin is a revanchist thug who, seeing that Washington won’t do anything meaningful (1) to oppose him, is going to push as hard as he can until someone dares to make him stop. His goal is not just to rebuild the Russian/Soviet empire, but forge a Eurasian Union (2) as an alternative bloc against the US and the EU. The bleatings of a Boston Brahmin about Putin being out of step with the times are meaningless to him

Secretary of State John Kerry (3) embodies the ideals of liberal internationalism, and brutal realist Vladimir Putin is showing just how empty they and he are.

Footnotes:
(1) For a sketch of the meaningful things we could do to stand up to Putin’s thuggery, check out Tom Rogan’s recommendations, especially that to, borrowing a phrase, “drill, baby, drill.”
(2) This is some scary stuff.
(3) To think he almost became president in 2004. I may have nightmares.

UPDATE: Speaking of Putin’s “weakness and desperation”…

Crimea Russia Ukraine mobile artillery

Those, my friends, are Russian mobile artillery pieces. On Ukrainian territory. Don’t they look weak and desperate? (h/t Jim Geraghty)

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Good News: parts of healthcare.gov designed by Putin allies

February 4, 2014
Alexander Lukashenko

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko

Security holes? What are those? And did you hear about Chris Christie closing a bridge in New Jersey??

U.S. intelligence agencies last week urged the Obama administration to check its new healthcare network for malicious software after learning that developers linked to the Belarus government helped produce the website, raising fresh concerns that private data posted by millions of Americans will be compromised.

The intelligence agencies notified the Department of Health and Human Services, the agency in charge of the Healthcare.gov network, about their concerns last week. Specifically, officials warned that programmers in Belarus, a former Soviet republic closely allied with Russia, were suspected of inserting malicious code that could be used for cyber attacks, according to U.S. officials familiar with the concerns.

The software links the millions of Americans who signed up for Obamacare to the federal government and more than 300 medical institutions and healthcare providers.

“The U.S. Affordable Care Act software was written in part in Belarus by software developers under state control, and that makes the software a potential target for cyber attacks,” one official said.

Belarus has been described as Europe’s last Stalinist country, and apparently they work very hard to prove themselves worthy allies of Moscow. According to Gertz’s article, in addition portions of healthcare.gov’s software being designed by an entity controlled by the Belarussian government, last year that same government successfully hijacked massive amounts of US Internet traffic for nearly a month:

According to the New Hampshire-based security firm Renesys, which discovered the data diversion, throughout February 2013, Internet traffic from the United States was sent to Belarus. The purpose likely was to allow hackers or government agencies to sift for data for financial, economic, or government intelligence.

The data also may have been modified for other purposes before being returned to the original U.S. and other foreign destinations.

The bulk diversion technique is called border gateway protocol hijacking. It involves using a series of network addresses to mask the data diversion through numerous Internet hubs around the world.

Renesys traced the data diversion from Washington to New York and Moscow and finally to Minsk, the Belarusian capital. It was returned to the United States via connections in Moscow, Frankfurt, and New York.

Combine the two and you have a very, very big potential problem. Administration officials of course claimed the site was secure and pooh-pooed the idea that nation-states would want to steal personal information, but that’s disingenuous at best.

First, foreign intelligence agencies would very much like to get their hands on conveniently collected personal information, since it would make the creation of solid cover identities for agents much easier. Second, as the article mentions, both the use of a foreign contractor and the internet hijacking make it very easy to implant altered data and even  malicious code to do… lots of stuff. Remember Stuxnet?

The elephant in the room that the administration isn’t talking about is the real danger in this: the PPACA created a wealth of interconnected networks with the Federal Data Services Hub at the center of the spider’s web. This hub is connected to agencies such as the IRS and Homeland Security. Even if Lukashenko isn’t interested in chatting with Putin about Joe Six-Pack’s cholesterol, you can darn well bet they’re both very interested in any security holes that allow their spies access to these other networks and to others connected to them.

And with the ability to divert traffic and implant clandestine code… Critics are right: the whole site needs to be shut down and vetted from top to bottom. Even if Obamacare is eventually repealed and the system dismantled, it’s a huge risk while it’s still operational.

As Instapundit likes to say, we’re in the best of hands.

Moscow’s.

PS: By the way, the now-fired healthcare.gov site builder, CGI Federal, assured the US government that only US contractors were used. Where was the HHS oversight of this?

PPS: Read the whole thing.

RELATED: Between this and Edward Snowden’s invaluable service to Russian intelligence, do we have any secrets from our enemies at all? Also, on a lighter note, Belarus’ Lukashenko is totally not a paranoid nut. Earlier articles about healthcare.gov security vulnerabilities.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Ukraine’s Hidden Hand

January 27, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

What was Sidney Greenstreet’s line from “Casablanca?” “It’s the Russian’s hand, no doubt!”

Originally posted on The XX Committee:

As I write this, Ukraine’s crisis continues to worsen, with the threat of serious violence rising, and today the justice minister hinted that martial law may be imminent. If the Yanukovych regime attempts such a decree, it will divide the police and the army and may quickly cause a bona fide civil war. My hope for a peaceful resolution of this crisis is dwindling. Europe is facing its most serious crisis since the fall of the Soviet Union.

One of the big issues among Ukraine’s opposition has been the nefarious role played by Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin in this sad affair. It’s universally assumed by oppositionists that Moscow’s encouragement, at the least, led to the latest round of repression in Kyiv, which has stoked the fires of resistance to their current burning point.

Evidence is generally lacking, since such matters are conducted in secret, but enough has already appeared in the…

View original 412 more words


Public Service Reminder: Vladimir Putin is not a nice man

January 16, 2014
"I won"

“Meet the new Tsar”

“Not nice,” as in “probably blew up 300 of his own people to pave his way to the presidency.”

Via Michael Barone, David Satter is an American journalist for The Wall Street Journal who specializes in modern Russia. He also has the honor of being the first US reporter expelled from Russia since it was called the USSR. In the course of writing about his expulsion and why he plans to continue reporting on Russia, he relates this tale, which should send a shiver down anyone’s spine:

Other questions that hang over the Putin regime are the fates of his murdered political opponents, Alexander Litvinenko, Anna Politkovskaya and Natalya Estemirova. But most important of all is the question of who was responsible for the 1999 apartment bombings in Russia that served as the pretext for Moscow’s second war against the former Soviet republic of Chechnya. The bombings terrorized all of Russia, created a wave of patriotic fervor and swept the previously unknown Mr. Putin into the presidency. The Russian authorities blamed the bombings on Chechens, but when an unexploded bomb was discovered in the basement of one building, the terrorists were caught and proved to be agents of the Federal Security Service or FSB, a successor to the old KGB.

Vladimir Putin was a long-time KGB officer and head of the FSB under President Yeltsin.

I remember speculation about a false-flag operation at the time the bombings occurred: Russia needed an excuse to crush the Chechens, who had essentially beaten her in the first war, and showing himself to be a tough leader (he had been appointed prime minister and anointed Yeltsin’s heir before the apartment bombings) would boost his chances in the coming election. But at the time, I thought that was just Russian paranoia talking. But now, putting that in context with everything else that’s happened under “Vlad the Terrible,” I have to wonder.

Read the whole thing, but don’t worry; we have Barack Obama, John Kerry, and the whole Smart Power team looking out for us.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Because nothing says “reset” like a statue to a KGB chief

December 9, 2013
"Hero of the new Russia"

“Hero of the new Russia”

Boy, that Smart Power diplomacy of Obama and then-Secretary of State Clinton worked wonders, didn’t it bring light and peace to the world? So effective was it, in fact, that the Russians are about to re-erect a statue to Felix Dzerzhinsky, the murderous revolutionary who founded the Soviet secret police:

The statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the Bolshevik secret police, may be restored to its “rightful” place in Lubyanskaya Square in downtown Moscow, a senior Moscow lawmaker said.

The Moscow government has announced plans to restore seven famous monuments, including the statue of Dzerzhinsky, better known under his nickname as the Iron Felix. The restoration cost is estimated at over 50 million rubles (some $1.6 mln).

“I think it could be restored and returned to its place,” deputy speaker of the Moscow City Duma, Andrei Metelsky, said in an interview with the Russian News Service radio on Friday.

“If they say they are ready to allocate the money, then the process must be completed,” Metelsky said.

In 1958, a bronze statue of Dzerzhinsky by Soviet sculptor Yevgeny Vuchetich was erected in Moscow’s Lubyanskaya Square (renamed in his honor into Dzerzhinsky Square) directly in front of the KGB headquarters.

This is some of what the Wikipedia entry has to say about “Iron Felix:”

Lenin regarded Felix Dzerzhinsky as a revolutionary hero and appointed him to organize a force to combat internal threats. On 20 December 1917, the Council of People’s Commissars officially established the All-Russia Extraordinary Commission to Combat Counter-revolution and Sabotage—usually known as the Cheka (based on the Russian acronym ВЧК). Dzerzhinsky became its director. The Cheka received a large number of resources, and became known for ruthlessly pursuing any perceived counterrevolutionary elements. As the Russian Civil War expanded, Dzerzhinsky also began organizing internal security troops to enforce the Cheka’s authority.

The Cheka undertook drastic measures during the Russian Civil War. Tens of thousands of political opponents were shot without trial in the basements of prisons and in public places. Dzerzhinsky said: “We represent in ourselves organized terror—this must be said very clearly.” and “[The Red Terror involves] the terrorization, arrests and extermination of enemies of the revolution on the basis of their class affiliation or of their pre-revolutionary roles.”

“Cheka” was the original name of the organization that eventually became the KGB we all knew and loved in the Cold War. Honoring a guy with this resume ought to send a clear message to political opponents of the regime, eh? (Come on. Sure, it’s the Moscow city council, but you just know this wouldn’t happen without President Putin’s approval, himself an ex-officer of the organization Dzerzhinsky founded.)

What’s next, the re-institution of Siberian gulags and psychiatric imprisonment?

via John Schindler


US, Russia, reach sham deal over Syrian chemical weapons

September 15, 2013
"I won"

“I won”

With John Kerry as our lead negotiator, so you know it’s good:

The United States and Russia agreed Saturday on an outline for the identification and seizure of Syrian chemical weapons and said Syria must turn over an accounting of its arsenal within a week.

The agreement will be backed by a U.N. Security Council resolution that could allow for sanctions or other consequences if Syria fails to comply, Secretary of State John F. Kerry said.

Kerry said that the first international inspection of Syrian chemical weapons will take place by November, with destruction to begin next year.

Senior administration officials had said Friday the Obama administration would not press for U.N. authorization to use force against Syria if it reneges on any agreement to give up its chemical weapons.

The Russians had made clear in talks here between Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Kerry that the negotiations could not proceed under the threat of a U.N. resolution authorizing a military strike. Russia also wanted assurances that a resolution would not refer Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to the International Criminal Court for possible war-crimes prosecution.

President Obama has said that the unilateral U.S. use of force against Syria for a chemical attack last month remains on the table. But consideration of that action, already under challenge by a skeptical Congress, has been put on hold pending the outcome of the Geneva talks.

The rest of the article contains the usual blather about how inspections must be thorough, that there will be consequences for non-compliance, the international community has spoken, etc., etc. Note that the French are already circulating a resolution for “further measures” if Syria doesn’t live up to the deal. Naturally, those “further measures” are left undefined. It’s the 90’s inspection shell-game in Iraq all over again, just updated with new faces.

A Syrian government minister is much more honest:

“This agreement, an achievement of Russian diplomats and the Russian leadership, is a victory for Syria won thanks to our Russian friends,” Ali Haidar told Russian news agency RIA.

“We welcome this agreement. From one point of view, it will help Syrians exit the crisis, from another, it has prevented a war against Syria, having taken away the pretext for one from those who wanted to unleash (it),” he said.

(h/t Power Line)

Assad himself wasn’t available for comment; he was too busy laughing his head off.

This wasn’t only a victory for Syria, where the regime survives, they get to keep their chemical weapons (1), and an American attack is off the table for the rest of Obama’s term; this is a big win for Moscow, too. First, and regardless of how Team Smart Power spins it, the whole world a Nobel Peace Prize winner nearly bumble into war and then practically fall all over himself to grasp the life-preserver thrown to him by the ex-KGB tyrant. So much for American leadership and credibility.

Putin also showed he can deliver, where Obama can’t: his client is protected from the wrath of the Americans, he keeps his nice naval base at Tartus, and any future negotiations over Syria and its fate go through the Kremlin, not the White House. Oh, and while he’s at it, he’s letting the Iranians know that he has their back, too.

Mark Steyn called it: “American exceptionalism” has, under Obama, become American Ineffectualism:

Putin has pulled off something incredible: He’s gotten Washington to anoint him as the international community’s official peacemaker, even as he assists Iran in going nuclear and keeping their blood-soaked Syrian client in his presidential palace. Already, under the “peace process,” Putin and Assad are running rings around the dull-witted Kerry, whose Botoxicated visage embodies all too well the expensively embalmed state of the superpower.

There’s no way around it: this is an utter humiliation and we look absolutely foolish. A declining regional power has totally outplayed the world’s sole remaining superpower to reestablish itself in a region from which it was shut out 40 years ago. As Iowahawk put it, Putin is just doing donuts in Obama’s front yard. No wonder American allies in the area are looking to cut a deal with the new boss.

It’s going to be a long three years until the next election, isn’t it?

Footnote:
(1) Come on. You don’t seriously think Assad will really have to give those up, do you?

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


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