Tag Archives: Russia

The Eagle, the Bear and the Dragon

Once upon a time, deep into the night in selected campfires across the deserts of Southwest Asia, I used to tell a fable about the eagle, the bear and the dragon — much to the amusement of my Arab and Persian interlocutors.

It was about how, in the young 21st century, the eagle, the bear and the dragon had taken their (furry) gloves off and engaged in what turned out to be Cold War 2.0.

As we approach the end of the second decade of this already incandescent century, perhaps it’s fruitful to upgrade the fable. With all due respect to Jean de la Fontaine, excuse me while I kiss the (desert) sky again. – Advertisement –

Long gone are the days when a frustrated bear repeatedly offered to cooperate with the eagle and its minions on a burning question: nuclear missiles.

The bear repeatedly argued that the deployment of interceptor missiles and radars in that land of the blind leading the blind — Europe — was a threat. The eagle repeatedly argued that this is to protect us from those rogue Persians.

Now the eagle — claiming the dragon is getting an easy ride — has torn down every treaty in sight and is bent on deploying nuclear missiles in selected eastern parts of the land of the blind leading the blind, essentially targeting the bear.

All That Glitters is Silk

Roughly two decades after what top bear Putin defined as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century,” he proposed a form of USSR light; a political/economic body called the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).

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Posted by on May 10, 2019 in Asia, Europe, North America


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The New Silk Roads reach the next level

The Belt and Road Forum in Beijing was a graphic demonstration of how tactical adjustments are essential to enhance the appeal of a complex overall strategy. Talk about a turbo-charged 4.0 version of the legendary Deng Xiaoping maxim “crossing the river while feeling the stones.” – Advertisement –

For all the somewhat straitjacket approach of Chinese official pronouncements, President Xi Jinping stressed a sort of “three musts” for the advance of the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) debt sustainability, protection of the environment (or “green growth”), and no tolerance for corruption.

Add to that a growing battle against trade protectionism, more bilateral free-trade deals, more financing or investments, cooperation on third-party markets, and even a plan to sell Silk Road bonds.

In his keynote speech, Xi stressed how multilateral cooperation on “six corridors and six channels serving multiple countries and ports” is all go. He was referring to BRI’s six major connectivity corridors spanning Eurasia and the fact that BRI is still in its planning stage; implementation actually starts in 2021.

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Posted by on May 10, 2019 in Asia


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The media and the Mueller report

US Attorney General William Barr published his four-page summary of the conclusions of the Mueller report on 24 March 2019. Will this be a day that lives in infamy for mainstream media? Special Counsel Robert Mueller had spent more than two years investigating, with considerable resources, alleged collusion between President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to influence the 2016 US presidential election in Trump’s favour. Barr’s summary of the 400-page report said that ‘the Special Counsel’s investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election’ (see The end of Russiagate, in this issue).

Mueller was so far beyond suspicion of Trumpian bias that he had become a subject of devotion for Democrats (there were even ‘St Robert Mueller’ prayer candles for sale online). But his report did not sustain the popular fake news that Trump was being blackmailed, or had become ‘Putin’s puppet’, based on Steele report-derived stories that the Kremlin had compromising video footage of his sexual escapades in a hotel in Moscow in 2013; dignified newspapers used the Russian spy term kompromat with relish. ‘Russiagate’ had become a recurring tag and story in prestigious publications from early 2017 (1).

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Posted by on May 9, 2019 in North America


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You Don’t Have to Like Julian Assange to Defend Him

You do not have to spend a long time in a room with Julian Assange to realize that he will be difficult. It takes a little longer, though, to realize just how difficult dealing with him can be. This was the lesson I learned in 2010, working first with Assange, and then for him at WikiLeaks, as we published tranche after tranche of bombshell material, leaked by Chelsea Manning.

That was the year Assange—and the whistle-blowing website he runs—came to the world’s attention. First it published the dynamite “Collateral Murder” video, showing an attack on a group of people, including two Reuters journalists, by American military helicopters in Iraq.

Though few knew it at the time, this was the first in a series of ever larger and more dramatic leaks of classified documents, shedding unprecedented light on how the United States conducted its wars, its diplomacy, and its detentions: the Afghan and Iraq War logs, the American diplomatic cables, and the Guantánamo Bay files. These were published in partnership with some of the world’s biggest news outlets, including The New York Times, The Guardian, and Le Monde. These organizations quickly learned Assange was not the kind of person they were used to dealing with.

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Posted by on April 20, 2019 in Europe, North America


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Sixty Years Later, Russia Is Still Trying to Figure Out What Killed These Hikers

In the deep cold of a northern Soviet Union February in 1959, nine hikers made camp for the night under the peak in the Ural Mountains known as Kholat Syakhl, the Dead Mountain.

The group were residing in a pass they recently discovered named after their leader, Igor Dyatlov. But they weren’t supposed to be there. The eight men and two women ended up in this particular pass due to losing their direction in bad conditions—they were about a week into their 16-day expedition, and about 10 kilometers [6 miles] outside of their turnaround point.

They would never make it through the night. At the end of that cold night on Kholat Syakhl, all nine hikers would be dead—what caused their deaths remains one of the most popular mysteries of the modern era.

And now, Russian police have finally reopened the case—known colloquially as the “Dyatlov Pass incident.” The announcement came last week from the Russian prosecutor general’s office who have vowed to finally put all the theories about the hikers’ deaths to rest.

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Posted by on March 5, 2019 in Europe



The War In Chechnya: Diary of a Killer

Every so often a lengthy newspaper or magazine article arrives that all but demands a fuller and even longer treatment. Such was the case in the Oct. 31 issue of The Sunday Times magazine in London, which published translated excerpts from the diary of a Russian Spetsnaz officer who served for more than a decade as one of the Kremlin’s fighters in the Chechen wars.

Below is the full Sunday Times article…


An account written over 10 years, this is a chilling record of executions, torture, revenge and despair during 20 tours of duty in Chechnya.

The war in Chechnya was one of the world’s most brutal conflicts. The Russians abducted, tortured and executed suspected militants in extra-judicial killings — brazenly violating Russian and international law. Up to 200,000 Chechen people, mostly civilians, are thought to have died in the Russia’s two bloody occupation, the first of which began in 1994. At least 5,000 Chechens simply disappeared.

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Posted by on February 25, 2019 in Europe, Reportages


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Putin’s Next Playground or the E.U.’s Last Moral Stand?

“In the Balkans the transition is over,” Remzi Lani, an Albanian political analyst, told me some time ago. But unlike in many post-Communist countries, Mr. Lani didn’t mean a transformation from dictatorship to democracy. “We transitioned from repressive to depressive regimes.” He is right. The old Communists and radical ethnic nationalists are largely gone; in their places is stagnation — economic, social and political.

The question now is how these depressive regimes fit into a growing geopolitical rivalry.

A day before his recent visit to Belgrade, Serbia, President Vladimir Putin of Russia expressed his great displeasure with Macedonia’s name change and accused “the United States and certain Western countries” of “destabilizing” the region; the Russian foreign minister, meanwhile, denounced “the willingness of the United States to lead all Balkan states into NATO as soon as possible and to remove any Russian influence in this region.” Russia wants to make clear that this is not what the people in the region want.

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Posted by on February 19, 2019 in Europe, European Union


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In Venezuela, Vladimir Putin fights for his own future

ONE MORNING in September 2009, a gaggle of powerful Kremlin figures lined up at the residence of Dmitry Medvedev, then Russia’s president, to greet a dear guest: Hugo Chávez, president of Venezuela. “I’ve missed you,” Mr Medvedev told the Comandante, using the familiar Russian form, ty. “You are a friend and comrade to me, Dmitry,” Chávez responded, passing on greetings from “mutual friends” including Muammar Gaddafi and Bashar al-Assad. “Russia is a superpower again,” he continued, “and Venezuela is a nucleus of the pole of power in Latin America.”

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Posted by on February 16, 2019 in Europe, South America


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Russia, The New Power in Central Africa

Young women walked onto the podium in bright pink and blue evening dresses made from African “wax fabric”. The “Miss Bangui” competition was getting underway at the Hotel Ledger, a rundown place with a fancy-looking facade that plays a central role as a meeting place in the Central African Republic’s capital as it is the city’s only five-star hotel.

Their hair pulled up in buns, earrings and necklaces glinting, they came to the front of the stage one after the other to pose, perching on high heels. The frozen smiles, the music, the “quiz” to test the candidates’ knowledge: all the familiar stereotypes of beauty contests were on display. At the same time, there was another show underway — one that symbolizes the country’s new direction.

Near the front several CAR ministers and officials watched the models perform from a VIP table covered with a white tablecloth. But judging by their body language, the most important VIPs here were several Russian officials sitting beside them. One, the first secretary at the Russian Embassy, Viktor Tokmakov. The other, Valery Zakharov, a former member of the Russian intelligence services, now working as security advisor to the country’s President Faustin-Archange Touadéra. And the on-stage battle to become “Miss Bangui” was sponsored by a Russian company with close ties to the Kremlin.

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Posted by on February 16, 2019 in Africa, Europe


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New Studies Show Pundits Are Wrong About Russian Social-Media Involvement in US Politics

The release of two Senate-commissioned reports has sparked a new round of panic about Russia manipulating a vulnerable American public on social media. Headlines warn that Russian trolls have tried to suppress the African-American vote, promote Green Party candidate Jill Stein, recruit “assets,” and “sow discord” or “hack the 2016 election” via sex-toy ads and Pokémon Go. “The studies,” writes David Ignatius of The Washington Post, “describe a sophisticated, multilevel Russian effort to use every available tool of our open society to create resentment, mistrust and social disorder,” demonstrating that the Russians, “thanks to the Internet…seem to be perfecting these dark arts.” According to Michelle Goldberg of The New York Times, “it looks increasingly as though” Russian disinformation “changed the direction of American history” in the narrowly decided 2016 election, when “Russian trolling easily could have made the difference.”

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Posted by on January 26, 2019 in North America


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