Monday, September 6, 2010

NATO wants Russian superpower but Russia says no

More than 60 years after the foundation of the Alliance, NATO has reached a turning point. The fears of the Cold War era have been swept away, and a changing, global world holds new challenges and risks. A new Strategic Concept for the "modernized Alliance" will serve to lay the groundwork for the long term.

1. Public Image

Let’s make it clear: NATO has an image problem. The Alliance began its operations in 1949 with the aims of providing safety and protecting freedom. It has had great success, making an excellent contribution to the creation of a world of peace, security, stability and prosperity for its member states. However, since the end of the Cold War, some are asking why it still exists. In a world of steady budget cuts, taxpayers want to know exactly how their money is being spent and what NATO can provide better than others. The Alliance must provide answers to these questions in order to avoid an identity crisis.

The work of the NATO Public Diplomacy Division must be expanded. Right now, the Division concentrates too much on specialist circles and not enough on the general public. The NATO/NewsMarket Channel project, for example, marks a step in the right direction. Here it is also important to let the public know that NATO has a Civilian Structure. The Civil Emergency Planning Committee (CEPC) and Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC) have helped on many occasions of natural disasters.

2. Military Reform / Nato Response Force

The world has moved on in military issues. In the days of the Cold War, creating large bodies of troops was a sensible military tactic: they achieved deterrence and signaled military superiority in a war that was more than likely to take place on the territory of a member state. Today, military operations are usually out-of-area missions and threats require flexible, technically advanced troops. Interoperability is just as important as tactical logistics capacities. For that reason, the NATO Response Force (NRF) was founded. However, two serious problems may be seen in this case.

First, the current NRF troop strength is inadequate: 25,000 soldiers are far from sufficient. In almost all countries that contribute troops to the NATO Response Force, technology and interoperability requirements cannot be met. It is necessary for member states to rethink the practice of funding large standing armies which are no longer contemporary for modern warfare, where quality holds priority over quantity. NATO’s member states, especially the European members, should considerably reduce the number of their troops (as has been recently discussed in Germany), allowing existing troops to be trained and equipped in the best possible way.

Second, there is a problem with financing. Donald Rumsfeld has already demanded the joint-financing of NATO missions and a more equal cost distribution. But NRF military operations are still financed according to the principle of "costs lie where they fall," which means that each member state pays for its own contribution. As it is, there are often firm commitments for financial support that are never realized, as NATO lacks an instrument to create pressure to fulfill financial obligations.

3. Bring in Russia

The NATO-Russian Council kicked things off, but in the long term, NATO needs to seriously consider membership for Russia. This solution will not of course be achievable in the next few years, as the Georgian conflict and some of the comments at this year’s Munich Security Conference have reflected too much of the old rivalries. Why is it nevertheless preferable to think about it?

There is no doubt that NATO member states and Russia hold different opinions on a number of points. Still, there are far more issues where NATO and Russia share strategic priorities and face similar challenges: counter-narcotics, counter-terrorism, the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and the expansion of radical Islamism, just to name a few. In Afghanistan, Russia’s geostrategic situation and its previous experience gives it an advantage in dealing with the challenges there. Obama’s dream of global zero can only come true with the cooperation of Russia: membership could simplify or remove the need for nuclear deterrence. NATO eastern expansion will also require Russian cooperation. Last but not least is the issue of China. The emerging superpower may be on its way to a dominant position in international and economic relations - NATO needs Russia on its side. The Alliance must ask itself now whether it can risk giving the cold-shoulder to Russia any longer.

Klaus Spiessberger studied political science, law, philosophy, organizational psychology and economics in Munich and Hagen. He is a member of the German Council on Foreign Relations and is currently working for PHOENIXgroup.

Russian superpower on route of nuclear delivery to Iran

Such is the case with Russia who is holding out on a 2007 contract to sell Iran S-300, an advanced air defense system, worth $800 million dollars, using this as a playing card with the West for its own gain. And such is the case when a country is dependent on a superpower for help and protection. In the following, I hope to analyze two independent but inner-related narratives, when connected, will demonstrate how and why we have reached this point. The hand that fed us the poison is also holding the antidote.

The key word is industrialization, which is a process of social and economic change through technological innovations and manufacturing for mass consumption. England was the first innovator of such an idea out of need, starting in North-West to Midlands in the eighteenth century. It spread to Europe and North America in the 19th century and to the rest of the world in the twentieth century. In pre-industrialization the availability of food was a major issue. Great Britain experienced a massive increase in agricultural productivity by mechanization. Abundance of food resulted in population growth which in turn provided the labor needed to run newly fashioned industries as development expanded. With division of labor and specialization of skills, plus assembly production lines, they were able to design and produce heavy equipments which included military modernization.

Japan was the first to learn how a superpower may lean on a less developed nation, imposing it’s will, because of lack of respect. In the convention of Kanagawa, US Commodore Matthew C. Perry issued a treaty with Japan to open the ports of Shimoda and Hakodate to American trade. Japan signed this reluctantly with “unequal treaty system”, which was characteristic of the West and Asia’s relations at the time. The Japanese government found it necessary to make dire reforms in the country’s capabilities in order to prevent such an insult from the West again. The feudal system was abolished; military reform was initiated to modernize it, which resulted in industrialization of the country. In the 1870’s Meiji government energetically promoted technical and industrial development that eventually changed Japan to the powerful country that it is today.

Russia suffered the same fate during the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War. In 1918 Allied forces of fourteen nations moved into Russia with the initial goal to rescue the Czechoslovak Legion, to secure military supplies in Russian ports, and to re-establish the Eastern Front. At the end of WWI, allies fearful of Bolshevism openly intervened in the Russian Civil War, supporting the pro-Tsarist, Anti-Bolshevik White Forces. It took a general uprising against the Allies which eventually withdrew out of North Russia and Siberia in 1920. Again that prompted the Soviet Union, which had a centrally controlled economy, to invest a large portion of its resources in industrialization and infrastructure to assure this from never happening again.

Now that we have seen how Europe, America, Russia and Japan moved in a new direction in civilization, what happened to the Middle-East? Why didn’t they follow suit, like everyone else? After all, the initial scientific knowledge such as mathematics and geometry, the unique architecture, literature and poetry, the original civilizations first known to mankind, came from this region. How did they become so oblivious to the changing world around them? The answer lies in the second stage of industrialization. To manufacture, one must have raw material. And to keep the factories going and to secure jobs, one must have market to sell them. That is when Africa and the Middle East came into the picture. European’s industrial jump-start advanced rapidly due to competition among themselves. Then it became a competitive foray to the “Less Developed Countries” (LDC) for raw commodities. The pattern for operation then as it is today; a company offered to invest on a particular natural resource to develop it at a predetermined contract. Often, the contracts were enormously advantageous to them far beyond their capital investment. What is more, once they had their feet in the door, they began to interfere with the internal politics and manipulation, for their own benefit. In the course of Europeans competition with one another, a regional strategy developed, far bigger and complex, beyond the capabilities of the small nations to control their own destinies. At times they loaned money to a kingdom of a one man rule, where the money was wasted, resulting in the ruler becoming dependent on the foreign influence for its continuance, protection and economic existence. Emergence of Colonial Empires, became equivalent to stagnation of under developed countries. The strategy was to keep them poor, ignorant and dependent on the foreign power for its existence. Today it is called: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The struggle still continues between the LDC’s and OECD. The following history of Iran during the period of industrialization well demonstrates this scenario, much to our dismay.

The Qajar dynasty was established by Agha Mohammad Khan, who had defeated all his rivals, including Lotf Ali Khan of Zand Dynasty by 1794. He reasserted Iranian sovereignty over former Iranian territories of Georgia and Caucasus in northern Iran. He established his capital in Tehran near the ancient city of Ray and was crowned in 1796. But he was assassinated in 1797. This was the last time the Persian Empire restored its territorial integrity. He was succeeded by Fath Ali Shah, his nephew. Shortly after, Russia attacked southward defeating Ali Shah in two wars which resulted in two treaties: Golestan in 1813 and Turkamanchai in 1823. The result was Iran giving up Georgia and Northern Caucasus. This in turn led to the losses of what had remained north of the Aras River, which was Armenia and Azerbaijan. He died in 1834 and was succeeded by Mohammad Shah. This Shah fell under Russian influence, and with their encouraging tried twice to take back Herat in Afghanistan and failed. He died in 1848 and was succeeded by his son, Naser-o-din-shah. No sooner Iran had entered the 19th Century; they lost a portion of Northern Iran. Imagine why? They did not have a reliable military trained leader, the 19th Century military equipments, and training to answer the Russian aggression.

Naser-o-din Shah was able and willing to serve the country. He set out to bring western science, technology and education methods. He began modernization. He tried to play off Great Britain verses Russia for Iran’s independence. But these two had other ideas to weaken Iran. In 1856 when the Shah tried to reassert his position to regain Herat, which has always been part of Persian Empire, Britain prevented him and Herat was given to Afghanistan to create a new country to serve as a buffer between Russia and the British Indian Colonies. Then the Russians in 1881 once again mobilized to take the remaining territories in the north, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Also once again Britain forced a trade concession on Iran which practically gave them the control of Iran’s economy. Naser-o-din Shah was assassinated on May 1, 1896. Again, these guerillas stayed on Iran’s back, taking control, taking territories and preventing Iran from helping itself. There is a bright and noteworthy historic event that took place during this Shah’s reign that set the foundation for future Iran. His name was, Mirza Taghi Amir Kabir, advisor and constable to Naser-ol-Din Shah who later awarded him the position of Prime Minister. At this time Iran was bankrupt with a weak central government, and almost all the provinces operating autonomously. In his next two and half years he set out a major reform in all sectors of society. He slashed government expenditures and made a distinction between what was public purse or private. He overhauled the Central Administration and personally took charge of all bureaucracies. He curtailed foreign interference to the extent possible and encouraged trade. His most significant accomplishment was building the first modern University Dar-ol-fonoon on the edge of the city for future expansion. His intent was to train a new cadre of administrators with Western skills. He brought in French, Russian and Iranian teachers, instructing Languages, Medicine, Law, Geography, History, Economics and Engineering. Unfortunately court politics led to conspiracy which was to the detriment of the nation. You cannot do this much reform without antagonizing those who benefited during the chaos. They formed a coalition against him, with mother Queen on board. She convinced the Shah that Amir wanted to usurp the throne. In October 1851, he was dismissed and sent to exile in Kashan, where he was murdered. This time in the absence of foreign interference, they shot themselves 0n the foot.

Things got worse when Mozaffar-o-din Shah took the helm. He was a typical prince born with a silver spoon in his mouth who didn’t have the least idea on his responsibilities for the nation, being ravaged by foreign elements. He was weak and extravagant. The government treasury was empty with no source of income. Twice he borrowed a large sum of money from Russia, travelled to Europe and spent it. To obtain the funds, he made economic and mineral concessions to the Europeans which brought outrage to the Iranians to a boiling point. Protest broke out all over, led by the clergy, merchants, scholars and common people. He had reneged on a promise of a National Assembly. Instead he engaged on a crack down to quash protesters unlike anything experienced before. Many protesters had to take refuge in mosques and about 10,000 others, mostly merchants, in June found refuge in compound of British legation in Tehran. In August he accepted a decree to a Constitution. In October an elected assembly wrote the Constitution whereupon placed a strict limitation on Royal Power, establishment of an elected Majles with power to represent the people, and a government with a cabinet subject to confirmation by Majles. This was signed on December 30, 1906, recognized as Constitutional Revolution of Iran. He died five days later. In 1907 additional laws were written granting the people freedom of press, speech and association, and Security of life and property. One might say this ended the medieval period in Iran, but the constitution still becomes a dead piece of paper as evidenced by following events.

Mohammad Ali Shah, son of Mozaffar-o-din Shah, took the helm in 1907. As an 11 year old he was under the influence of Russians. In June 1908 he used the Russian-officered Persian Cossacks Brigade to attack and bomb Majles, arrested many deputies and shut down the assembly. Iranian supporters of the constitution responded in July 1909. Many marched from Rasht and Isfahan to Tehran. This resulted in re-establishment of the constitution and Shah’s exile to Russia. Now the freedom loving Iranians thought the constitution would provide the foundation for Independence. Russians move their forces into Iran in 1910 with the intention of re-installing the Shah. But the British would not allow them to have it all. They executed the Anglo-Russian Agreement of 1907, whereby Russia took control of the north; the British took the south and east, with a buffer zone at the center, for both to compete for economic advantage. However it must be said the division was more based on areas of influence and not annexation of territory. The government still functioned as such. At this time the government had hired the services of an American, Morgan Shuster to reform the Treasury General and finances. He sent Gendarmerie, a tax department police force, to the Russian zone to collect taxes from Iranian officials who were under Russian protection. Russia demanded the removal of Shuster and moved forces already in the country to occupy the capital, this was 1911. An opportunistic group, Bakhtiari chief and their troops surrounded Majles, and forced acceptance of Russian ultimatum, and shut down the Majles, Once again the constitution was shelved. Morgan Schuster was loved by Iranians for his courage and services, in comparison to what Russian and British had dished out to Iranians. In later years he wrote a book “The Strangling of Persia” in which…”he expressed his admiration for the moral courage and determination of the people he worked with in the period of Constitutional Revolution”. During World War I, British, Russians and Ottoman forces occupied Iran from 1914-1918, sealing this shah’s fate.

Reza khan, an officer in the Iranian army staged a successful coup-d’état in February of 1921. He marched his Cossack Brigade from Gazvin to Tehran and seized the city with little resistance. Later, he encountered numerous opposition groups which he defeated, and by October 26, 1923, he seized control of Iran and forced the Shah to flee to Europe. He became the Shah of Iran in 1925 as Reza Shah Pahlavi. He was a strong man with vision. For the first time after over 100 years, we found a leader who loved his country, who diligently tried to stop exploitation of Iran by inexorable super powers. He engaged in a wide array of modernizations, building large scale industries, road constructions, Trans-Iranian Railroad, National Public Education System, establishment of University of Tehran, and improving health care. He had the vision of a centralized government run by educated personnel. He sent many to Europe for education including his son. In such a short time, Iran became an industrial, urbanized country. His boldest move was the Women’s Awakening program and removal of Hijab. He changed the country’s name from Persia to Iran in 1935. Reza Shah was a patriotic man but perhaps not a good politician. During his reign he ran an autocratic government with little use for Majles or the Constitution. He arrested, imprisoned and murdered many upper echelon politicians due to paranoia. He massacred demonstrators in Mashhad, committed repression against intellectuals and censorship on newspapers. He even caused dissent in his military. That is why when his time came, he was standing alone.

Iran’s industrialization required foreign technicians. He avoided the British and Soviets and awarded many of the contracts to Germany, France, Italy and other Europeans. In 1939 with WWII looming, he announced Iran’s neutrality. The allies demanded that Germans be expelled as spies. The Allies real motive was to use Iran as a corridor to ship arms and supplies to Russia. When he refused on the grounds that it would interfere with the country’s progress, in 1941 once again Britain and USSR invaded Iran, arrested Reza Shah and sent him to exile in South Africa. They took control of communication and railroads. American military forces came to Iran in 1942 to maintain and operate sections of the railroad system. Winston Churchill called Iran “The Bridge of Victory”. I have seen a picture of him in exile, wearing a drably suite, gazing down sideways, with face of a bewildered man, hopeless and lonely, nothing to do, but waiting to die. Reza Shah died from a heart ailment on July 26, 1944. (A number of years later when his body was returned to Tehran from Egypt, I was in Elementary school. They took all of us children out of school for that day. We were taken to a large wide avenue, lined up along the edge of sidewalks. We stood on our feet for several hours when finally his body passed before us, it was a short glimpse. Now after so many years, this memory seems more like a dream!).

This is how the end came: They made him an offer that he could not refuse. “Would His Highness kindly abdicate in favor of his son, the heir to the throne? We have a high opinion of him and will ensure his position. But his highness should not think there is any other solution.” – His son, Mohammad Reza Shah took the throne on September 16, 1941. Iran’s political system was moving along nicely and in January 1942 Britain and Russia signed an agreement respecting Iran’s independence, and to withdraw six months to the end of the war. Then in the 1943 Tehran Conference, U.S. reaffirmed the agreement. When time came to leave in 1945, again the Soviets reneged and would not leave eastern and western sides of Azerbaijan. It took considerable negotiations and pressure from the other two powers to get them to withdraw in 1946. Now for first time Iran had some breathing room to exercise constitutional politics. In 1944 a true election for Majles took place with competition among candidates. As time went on people began to think of Anglo-Iranian Oil Company that was pumping Iranian oil with little return to Iran. The nationalization of the Oil Industry became the centerpiece of Iranian Nationalism. The Shah under Constitutional Monarchy was to defer the governmental decisions to a parliamentary government. He interjected himself in decision making process and marginalized the parliament. As the result he was always in challenge with his Prime Ministers. He revived the army and kept it under Royal control as a power base. The Nationalization of Iranian Oil industry took place in 1951 with the leadership of Mohammad Mosaddeg, who was voted to become prime minister by Majles. British resorted to threats and sanctions and tried to get the backing of the US, under President Truman, unsuccessfully. Mosaddeg was a nationalist and extremely popular with the public. During the challenge of oil nationalization, he was backed by all factions including Hezbe Tudeh (Communist Party). So when it came time for US and Britain to take him down, he became an easy target of accusation as a communist. Meanwhile his confrontation with the Shah heated up more. He took up an inflexible position in negotiations for market, which led to a global boycott of Iranian oil. His position on International injustice made him an Anti-imperialist hero to the developing world. He demanded the Shah give up control of the military which the Shah refused. In anger he resigned, but he was re-instated after a popular riot broke out. He also initiated a referendum to dissolve the parliament for being under the Shah’s influence. All of this was too much for those who wanted to control Iran, so Mosaddeg had to go. By this time General Eisenhower became president of United Sates. In 1953 the British SIS acquired the help of the CIA and proceeded with a plan for a coup. In reality it was a poorly planned and executed operation which almost failed. The Shah fled to Iraq. Not so resolute, they had to convince him to hang in there to the end. Mosaddeg made some strategic mistakes with his supporters and opened the door for General Zahedi to crush the sparse resistance and arrested Mosaddeg. This ended the last stand of an Iranian patriot for Iran’s Independence. (At this time I was 15 years old, and a typical teenager. School and play was my priorities. Aside from going school, I played soccer for a club north of Tehran, and flew pigeons from my rooftop).

In conclusion, this was a fascinating, but painful history of Iran in the past two centuries, which found it difficult to make the transition to a modern era of industrialization and modern warfare. The Soviet Union and Great Britain became a paradigm of oppression with proclivity to oppress, conquer, manipulate, ravage and plunder resources with indignity and without shame. We were unlucky with the succession of incompetent leaders, who trampled and discarded the Constitution lasting to this century. There remains an unfulfilled dream of a Constitutional Democracy. And whenever we had a leader with a strong resolve to win our independence, they cranked up the propaganda machines, accused one for being a Nazi sympathizer and the other a communist, and put them into pasture. To pour salt on our wounds, the 1979 Revolution became a source of disillusionment and disappointment politically and economically, which does not ensure Iran’s Independence in the future with bellicose politics of the Islamic Republic.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Islamic Leader requesting cooperation of Superpowers

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has said cooperation between independent governments can be a countermeasure against global totalitarianism.

"The only way to change the oppressive relations in the world today is through the formation of closer ties between independent states," the Leader declared on Sunday.

"Superpowers have defined vertical relations in the world which places a superpower at the top. These relations must be changed and their change is possible," Ayatollah Khamenei said.

The remarks were made in a meeting with visiting Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on the eve of the G15 summit in Tehran. The meeting was also attended by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The US and Russia have billed Lula's visit as Iran's "last chance" at avoiding a fourth round of tougher UN sanctions over its nuclear program.

In an allusion to the US ultimatum, Ayatollah Khamenei said Washington is unhappy to see the expansion of cooperation between independent states and their influential role in world affairs.

"One blatant example of this is the commotion created by US over your visit to Iran. It is because they are opposed to such relations," the Leader told Lula, who is in Tehran to work with Iranian official on a possible nuclear fuel swap deal that would render the US-pursued sanctions unnecessary.

Lula reiterated his support for the Islamic Republic's right to pursue technological progress and said bilateral ties could help turn Tehran and Brasilia into political and economic poles.

"Brazil believes Iran has every right to defend its independence and seek progress and development," highlighted Lula, whose country is a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council (UNSC).

Another non-permanent UNSC member, Turkey, has also signaled readiness to enter trilateral talks on finding a diplomatic solution to the nuclear standoff.

Washington and its European allies have accused Iran of harboring a covert military nuclear program and are pushing to pass a US-drafted sanctions resolution.

Iran has repeatedly rejected the accusations, arguing that as a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) it has the right to a civilian nuclear program aimed at electricity generation and medical research.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Russian Federation has made big deals with Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus & Kazakhstan

Moscow and Kyiv have put together a plan to incorporate the Transdnistrian region of Moldova into Ukraine, according to U.S. analyst Paul Goble. The move, which would offer a solution to one of the more protracted issues in Europe, needs more verification, but it would be in keeping with Russia's current tendency to engage in great-power politics.

Russia has become an activist player on the European stage. A foreign policy statement, issued on the Internet before President Dmitry Medvedev took office in 2008, indicates Russia's desire to reverse some of the setbacks of the past two decades and reassert its influence in its "neighbourhood."

An opportunity has been provided by several unrelated factors. Most notable has been the change of presidency in the United States. George W. Bush's program of enforcing democracy by threats or military action was perceived widely as a failure. It alienated former allies and caused acute anxiety in Russia.

Yet Barack Obama has neglected to offer any firm initiatives in foreign affairs, which is tantamount to a policy of isolationism. Obama is surely justified in rejecting his predecessor's branding of regimes according to an "axis of evil," but his lack of policy has created a vacuum. In Europe it is one that Russia intends to fill.

Linked to the inertia of the United States in Europe has been the preoccupation of western powers with the struggle against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The Russian authorities are well aware of the problems of warfare in that country and the likelihood that western occupation will end in failure. It is in Russia's interests that NATO forces remain there as long as possible.

A second factor has been this year's change of presidency in Ukraine. Practically from the moment Viktor Yanukovych took office, he has been under pressure from Moscow to take on the role of junior partner, and Russia has exploited Ukraine's economic predicament to acquire some key concessions.

In addition to the extension on the lease of the Black Sea Fleet at Sevastopol until 2042, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has suggested a merger of Gazprom and Ukraine's main energy company, Naftohaz. Ukraine is still mulling the proposal, which would have the effect of allowing Gazprom to control Ukraine's energy supplies, as well as transit of gas to Central Europe.

Russia has also acquired permission to re-establish the presence of its security forces -- the FSB -- in Crimea. Last week, the Crimean parliament resolved to elevate Russian to the status of an official language, to be used alongside Ukrainian in business and education. The peninsula is a potential tinderbox, though its residents firmly backed Yanukovych in the presidential election.

Earlier this year, Russia formed a customs union with Kazakhstan and Belarus, two states that have been ruled by authoritarian leaders since the early 1990s: Nursultan Nazarbayev and Alyaksandr Lukashenka, respectively. Neither, currently, is an acolyte of Moscow and their strategies can be described as "evasive action" to avoid being dragged into the Russian sphere.

Belarus, however, as a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, is taking part in prolonged military exercises with Russia. Last year, Operation Zapad (West) simulated a response to a NATO attack on Kaliningrad by the supposed advancement of forces into Latvia before repelling the aggressor. The Latvian government, unsurprisingly, was less than amused by the exercise.

Currently, the oddest setback for Russia's strategy has been the fate of deposed Kyrgyz president Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who lost his presidency after an uprising in Bishkek in early April. Moscow has been manoeuvring for some time for a friendly government in Kyrgyzstan. Bakiyev came to office in 2005 after the "Tulip Revolution" had removed his predecessor Askar Askayev, who fled to Kazakhstan but has resided of late in Moscow.

Bakiyev, however, found his way to Minsk where he and his family have been recipients of Lukashenka's hospitality. Moreover, the Belarusian president has ignored requests for his extradition and incensed Moscow by declaring that Bakiyev should return and take part in a referendum on his presidency. Lukashenka appears to be genuinely afraid that a dictator could be removed by a popular revolution. But in protecting Bakiyev he has, temporarily at least, upset the plans of the Russian leaders.

The Eurasian map is thus a virtual chessboard of moves and countermoves with the involvement of Russia as the constant factor. What it cannot gain through threats or force it can perhaps acquire by economic pressure through the giant, state-owned company Gazprom, of which President Medvedev is former chair of the board of directors.

However, Russia is punching above its weight. Though a major power in the region, it is overstretched militarily. Its armed forces could pacify the Georgians in 2008, but are in no position to assert themselves in larger countries. Moreover, the machinations of the Russian leadership are so blatantly transparent that all Russia's neighbours -- even Yanukovych's Ukraine -- cannot help but be wary.

Two other factors also have an impact on Russia's foreign policy goals. First, although the economy has recovered well from the recession, it remains focused on oil and gas and is helplessly subject to price fluctuations.

Second, the population of Russia has declined at an alarming rate since 1991, with low life expectancy, poor health care and a weak social infrastructure. In 2009, a small population increase was recorded, but Russia has fallen well behind countries such as China and India in human growth.

Russia's deep fixing on its economy has returned it to superpower status but it remains deeply enbedded improving its country with the status quo.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Russia stays clear to reform its democracy its way

A superpower in the past and a superpower of the present, Russia is undergoing a transition towards democracy but not American style democracy but a Russian style democracy as Russia wants to be its own government to the world and remain a global superpower.

This was the general understanding about Russia at a seminar titled ‘Russia’s Transition towards Democracy and Market Economy: The EU’s Responses’, organised by Area Study Centre for Europe (ASCE), University of Karachi (KU), in collaboration with the Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF), Islamabad, at the LEJ Digital Library of KU on Wednesday.

Director Dr Axmann compared Russia with a casino where people with money and power could come and play games to their hearts content. “Corruption and mismanagement is on the rise and it seems that Putin’s Russia is unknown to me. Over 22 government security agencies are controlling the country and all of the officials are, in one way or other, connected to Putin. Cronyism is rife there. The biggest country in the world that occupies nine per cent of the earth surface, Russia is super and mega. It will come to the fold of real democracy in the course of time,” he added.

Associate Professor and Head of Department Strategic & Nuclear Studies department of the National Defence University, Islamabad, Dr Noman Omar Sattar spoke on ‘Russia’s transition from a reluctant power in 1990s to an aspiring world power of the new millennium: with focus on its foreign policy”. He pointed out that Russia had many hurdles in achieving this objective, stating: “The identity crisis and struggle between the democratic and anti-democratic forces in the country were the major factors that were de accelerating the progress of the country. Relation with USA, the sole superpower, was a challenge and Russia was facing it with various pacts and acting wisely during Balkan and Kosovo crises. Russia fears that the USA is making inroads in its backyard in the garb of war on terrorism.”

An Associate Professor, at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA Karachi), Dr Mahnaz Fatima spoke about “Economic and Trade Relations between Russia and the European Union: Problems and Prospects” and informed the audience that there was an imbalance in trade between Russia and EU from 1999 to 2009. It was 19037 million Euros in 1999 and 49706 million Euros in 2009. This entire deficit for EU coming from the import of petrol and gas from Russia. And EU is concerned about this dependency.

Dr Shabbir Ahmed Khan from the Area Study Centre, University of Peshawar, discussed the “Challenges to Democracy and Political Reform in contemporary Russia: The EU’s response to successes and failures” and pointed out that President Yelstin was interested in changing the centralised economy to market-based economy for Russia and for that he took many steps that were considered inappropriate at the time but later they proved to be right. A widely prevalent perception in the west is that there has been no genuine political and democratic transformation in Russia.

This issue has become a major obstacle in the establishment of closer relations between the EU and Russia.

Earlier, Dr Naveed Ahmed Tahir, Director ASCE, talked about the Russian concept of USA and the west and reminded the audience that Russia sees USA as an innovator but not a model for democracy.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Russia moving superpower airforce into right direction

Earlier this year, the Obama Administration, under the suggestion of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, canceled the further production of the Lockheed-Martin F-22 Raptor. The world’s first 5th Generation air superiority fighter was seen as unnecessary since it had no rivals. Well, think again! Russia test flew their new Sukhoi T-50 jet fighter. The plane has many similar features as that of the F-22, including stealth, sustained supersonic flight and a high degree of maneuverability due to movable, ‘gimballed’ exhaust nozzles.

Side by side, one can see many similar features in the airframes of these two jet fighters. This reinforces the potential that the new Sukhoi T-50 Russian jet may be a formidable opponent to the F-22. The T-50 is a joint project between Russia, India and Israel. Like the F-22, the T-50 will carry a wide range of current and advanced, future weapon systems inside internal bays, adding to the plane’s stealthiness. The cockpit features advanced avionics, much like the F-22 and F-35 Lighting II, consisting mostly of computer touch-screens as opposed to analog dials and instruments.

Like the F-22, the T-50 will be able to travel at sustained speeds of Mach 2+, but will have double the range of the American version. The new jet fighter is expected to enter service with the Russian Air Force first within the next two to three years. Russia plans on building 150 to 200 for their own national defense. India is committed to buying 200 and will begin to take delivery by 2015. How many Israel will buy remains unknown. However, Russia is already preparing to market the T-50 for worldwide sales by 2017. At a cost of $100 Million dollars each, the plane will be significantly less expensive than the American F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, also intended for international sales. Russia believes the Sukhoi T-50 will capture at least one-third of the world’s jet fighter market. China’s version of a 5th Generation stealth fighter is still several years away.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

T-50 fighter jet makes another test flight

Russia’s fifth generation fighter jet T-50, also known as the Russian stealth fighter, has made another test flight at the aircraft industry centre in the city of Zhukovsky outside Moscow. It is also known as the Russian stealth.

Sukhoi T-50 is a monoplane with far apart engines and two fins which are strongly deviated from the axial axis. The Russian fighter jet is up to par with and even surpasses the American jets of the same class, such as F-22 Raptor and F-35, especially in manoeuverability, says the former head of the air force, General Anatoly Kornukov.

“The T-50 is capable of making manoeuvers at any engine regime,” says Anatoly Kornukov. “In fact, not all jets can do so. There is a concept known as the acceptable minimum speed, which is the lowest for this jet. For one, Sukhoi-27 can fly at the speed of a car, which is something that Americans have yet to achieve. They cannot keep the plane flying at large attack angles without draft. The Russian plane can do this. This is good for dodging and manoeuvering. The jet is unlike to wage a close fight, and this will do so at medium or long ranges. Firstly, a long-range missile will be launched and then a short-range one will be fired. When all missiles have been launched, the cannon will be used. In this case, the most manoeuverable plane can attack from the back,” Anatoly Kornukov said.

In fact, super- maneouverability is one of the key tasks set by the American Defence Department before the designers.

The T-50 fighter jet can hardly be detected by radars, and it is also impossible to locate by its heat emissions. This has been achieved by using composite materials and special coating, and a special design of the plane and measures aimed at lowering the jet’s visibility at various frequencies. When T-50 made its maiden flight in January, foreign military experts said that the U.S. monopoly on stealth was over. According to experts, American F-35 has problems competing with Russia’s Su-35 whose radius of radar reflection is the size of a tennis ball. Most likely, T-50 has a much smaller area than this.

T-50 fighter jet will complete its test programme by 2015, says the head of the Sukhoi Company, Mikhail Pogosyan. “I believe that experience gained by the company in developing the Su-30 and Su-35 fighter jets will be a good basis for promoting the programme successfully,” Mikhail Pogosyan said.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin arrived in Zhukovsky to watch the T-50 test flight. Talking with the test-pilot Sergei Bogdan, he said that the fifth generation fighter jet will be 2.5 to 3 times cheaper than its foreign analogues. The new Russian jets will determine the potential of the country’s air force in the next decades.

Putin boasts new stealth jet fighter better than any U.S. plane

Putin watched a test flight of a "fifth-generation" stealth fighter, dubbed the T-50 and billed as Russia's first all-new warplane since the the Soviet Union in 1991 as Russia's stance for superpower status in the 21st century.

"This machine will be superior to our main competitor, the F-22, in terms of maneuverability, weaponry and range," Putin told the pilot after the flight, according to an account on the government website.

Putin said the plane would cost up to three times less than similar aircraft in the West and could remain in service for 30 to 35 years with upgrades, according to the report.

Successful development of the fighter, built by Sukhoi, is crucial to showing Russia can challenge U.S. technology and modernize its military after a period of post-Soviet decay.

Russia also plans to manufacture T-50s jointly with India.

The F-22 raptor stealth fighter first flew in 1997 and is the only fifth-generation fighter in service. Fifth-generation aircraft have advanced flight and weapons control systems and can cruise at supersonic speeds.

According to the government website, the test pilot told Putin the controls of the T-50 allowed the pilot to operate most of the plane's systems without taking his hands off the joystick, which he said would be very useful under high forces of gravity.

"I know, I've flown," Putin replied. Sukhoi has said the plane should be ready for use in 2015.

by Steve Gutterman

Friday, June 4, 2010

An Insecure Foothold for the United States as Russia becomes a stronger superpower

The United States is currently involved in two very expensive wars in the Middle East. Can it afford to engage with Russia over the territory around Georgia, if the matter came down to it? Martin Sieff argues that President Obama should take a lesson from history and re-evaluate his Georgia policy.

It is always bad news for a major continental nation or global superpower to tie its fate too closely to a small, unstable and potentially dangerously irresponsible client state. That is a mistake that U.S. President Barack Obama, like his predecessor George W. Bush, is still making toward the republic of Georgia in the Caucasus.

History repeatedly shows us that major wars and the consequent destruction all too often start because confident global superpowers rush to the defense of tiny client states.

Georgia, while chaotic, is certainly a strategic prize because of its location. It offers U.S. policymakers at least the illusion of a secure foothold in the heart of the Caucasus on the eastern side of the Black Sea. It also offers the territory for oil and gas pipelines from the Caspian Basin and from neighboring Azerbaijan that do not have to pass through Russian territory.

Now that the new government of Ukraine under President Viktor Yanukovych is energetically repairing its traditionally close ties to Moscow — and to oil- and gas-rich Kazakhstan — Georgia has become more attractive to U.S. policymakers. For it offers the prospect of keeping the southern route to the Caspian Basin open even when the northern route is coming back into the Russian sphere of influence.

However, these geopolitical considerations and rhetoric about supporting Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili as a democratically elected and pro-American leader come up against two harsh realities.

The first is that Georgia has been not just within the Russian sphere of influence but was an integral part of the Russian state for nearly 190 years. U.S. support for Georgia is therefore guaranteed to enrage ordinary Russians as well as policymakers, as much as Russian support for a nation traditionally in the American sphere of influence, like Venezuela, can enrage Americans.

If President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela were to try to bring his nation into the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization or the Russian- and Chinese-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization, any president in Washington, whether Democrat or Republican, would be outraged.

But the risks of superpower conflict — and in strategic nuclear and military terms, Russia is certainly still a superpower comparable to the United States and will continue to remain on the world stage and over Georgia are much graver. For President Saakashvili has repeatedly shown during his years in power that he is a loose cannon. And U.S. policymakers cannot be confident that they can keep him on a sufficiently tight leash.

Georgia offers U.S. policymakers at least the illusion of a secure foothold in the heart of the Caucasus on the eastern side of the Black Sea.

History repeatedly shows us that major wars and the consequent destruction all too often start because confident global superpowers rush to the defense of tiny client states that they did not have to defend. Great Britain did not have to go to war with Imperial Germany in 1914. It did so because the German Army’s plan of attack against France committed it to sweep through Belgium.

Even then, the British Liberal government of the time could have sat back and left Belgium to German occupation. The Germans of 1914-18, however formidable they were militarily, were certainly no Nazis. But traditional British concepts of geopolitics and outmoded rhetoric about “honor” and “glory” led the half dozen or so top decision-makers, including Winston Churchill, to commit themselves to war.

It was among the worst policy decisions in British history. It led directly to the death of more than one million British and British Empire young men in World War I. One in three of all British males between the ages of 18 and 45 died in that war or suffered premature deaths decades before their time because of the injuries they received in it.

And the British Empire rapidly dissolved over the next generation precisely because the will to keep it had been drowned in the bloodbath.

Tsarist Russia made the same catastrophic mistake as the British did. Russia did not have to commit itself to defend Serbia in 1914, just as Imperial Germany did not have to give its far weaker ally, Austria-Hungary, the infamous “blank check” to destroy the Serbian state.

Georgia, while chaotic, is certainly a strategic prize because of its location.

If President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton want to avoid an equally dangerous confrontation with Russia in the future — in order to defend a small, marginal ally over whose government they have little, if any, influence — they should study the terrible lessons of 1914 and learn from them.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Russia strengthening its superpower status by extending its relations with Ukraine

This week Russian President Dmitry Medvedev made his first state visit to Ukraine. After five years of cold relations between the two countries, this trip was meant to cement much warmer ties with Ukraine’s new, Moscow-friendly leader.

“Finally,” Mr. Medvedev told journalists, “there is a worthy Ukrainian partner.”

Russia in the 21st Century: The Prodigal Superpower.(Book Review): An article from: Comparative Economic StudiesIn case you haven’t noticed, Russia is making progress in bringing former Soviet satellites closer to its orbit. Ever since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Russia has worried about Western encroachment on its geographic “sphere of influence.”

Part of this concern has to do with feelings about lost empire. That’s understandable. Britain, too, struggled with diminution when the sun set on its empire, and there’s much hand-wringing in the US about the limits of its superpower clout.

Another Russian worry is deeply-rooted anxiety about strategic vulnerability. That’s understandable, too. It’s hard to forget the gruesome battle of Stalingrad, or even a cold war.

Still, there’s nothing for Russia to fear in former client states choosing membership in the democratic European Union or NATO alliance, which includes Russia in a special joint council. Moscow, however, still thinks otherwise, and that perspective drives its foreign policy.

To what extent is becoming clearer by the day. By taking advantage of situations or through strong-arm tactics – using its political, petroleum, or even military clout – Russia is getting its sphere back.

The latest example is Ukraine, which in 2004 joined the democratic “color revolutions” that included Georgia in the Caucasus region and later, Kyrgyzstan in central Asia.

Since 2004, though, Ukraine’s democratic leadership succumbed to fierce political infighting, and its economy has been slammed by corruption and world recession. This year, elections gave rise to a new president, Viktor Yanukovich, who is much more friendly to Russia. He dropped Kiev’s interest in joining NATO, and last month extended the lease for Russia’s naval base in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol until 2042.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Syria asks Russian Superpower to lean on Israel

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has been in the headlines, first for describing his predecessor Joseph Stalin as a "totalitarian dictator" and then for making the first state visit to Syria by a Kremlin chief since the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.

Medvedev met with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal during his Syria visit and in an unprecedented move wrote a front-page editorial for Syria's daily al-Watan on how important bilateral relations are between Damascus and Moscow.

During the two-day visit, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian counterpart agreed a 14-point declaration which included periodic presidential visits as well as cooperation on tourism, education, military affairs, investment and trade and prevention of the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

A strongly worded statement was also issued calling for peace in the Middle East based on United Nations resolutions and the restoration of the June 4, 1967 borders of Israel, which would return all occupied land to the Arabs. It also called for a solution to the Palestinian refugee question and the creation of a viable Palestinian state.

At the summit there were calls for Russia to use its influence to convince the Israelis - who the Syrians insist are not interested in peace - back to the negotiating table. This has long been an objective of the Kremlin.

Damascus also called on Medvedev to get the US, "which is not doing enough", to jump-start serious peace talks on restoring the Golan Heights to Syria. Assad called on Medvedev to use Russia's influence - given that it was one of the co-chairs of the Madrid Peace Conference of 1991 - to "convince Israel of the necessity of peace".

For his part, although promising to do his best, Medvedev did not sound optimistic that any breakthroughs were on the horizon. He mention an "increase in tension" that might, he prophesized, "lead to a catastrophe". If that happens, he said, "Moscow will not stand with arms folded".

Russian pressure on Israel - depending on who one talks to in the Middle East - might or might not lead to any breakthrough. The Israelis have never trusted the Russians - not during the Cold War nor since - claiming the Russians always take the side of the Palestinians in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Since his landmark visit to Paris in the summer of 2008 the Syrian president has been urging world capitals to play a serious role in bolstering regional peace talks. The US administration of George W Bush was not interested and today the Barack Obama administration is seemingly unable to apply any real pressure on the Israelis, thanks to a troublesome congress at home and a hardline government in Israel.

The Israelis apparently never forgave Obama for his speech in Cairo in June 2009, in which he promised to bring the Palestinians justice and end Israeli settlements in their lands. Earlier this year, they threw dust in the eyes of Vice President Joseph Biden by announcing that they were about to construct 1,600 new settlements in Jerusalem during his high-profile visit to Israel to begin "proximity talks".

United States Middle East envoy George Mitchell has met with both nation's leaders in an attempt to rekindle peace talks but few are optimistic they will lead anywhere. Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas at best only represents 50% of the Palestinian street in the West Bank as the other half, controlled by Hamas in Gaza, is categorically opposed to any talks as long as the Israeli siege of the strip continues.

The fact that Abbas cannot abandon certain rights related to Jerusalem and refugees - and the likelihood of new war erupting between Israel and Hezbollah this summer - makes it highly doubtful that any breakthrough can be made in the Middle East, no matter how hard the Russians try.

Real progress, however, can be made in economic matters between Syria and Russia. The Syrians are focused on becoming a regional hub in terms of gas, oil and transportation, building on their excellent relations with countries like Russia and Turkey.

When addressing one of the numerous Syrian-Turkish business forums, Assad once spoke of an "economic space" that "one day will be complete, [where] we will then be linking the Mediterranean to the Caspian Sea, the Black Sea and the Arab Gulf". He added, "When we link these four seas, we will become the obligatory connector for this entire world, in terms of investment and transport."

Syria could serve as a hub for joint investments in energy, industry, agriculture, telecommunications, banking and technology as well as a route for Arab and Asian oil and gas to European markets via the Mediterranean. Turkey could then become a connecting point for electricity networks between Europe and the Arab and Asian regions.

Transportation of goods by rail is already underway from the Iraqi port city of Um Qasr in the Arabian Gulf to the Syrian port city of Latakia, which lies on the Mediterranean. There is also a project to bring the Kirkuk-Banias pipeline into operation with a capacity of 200,000 barrels per day (bpd). Another pipeline is in the works, with a capacity of 1.4 million bpd that will link the Iraqi gas plant in Akkas to a Syrian plant linked to the Jordanian and Egyptian plants which would branching out to Lebanon and Europe.

During a 2009 visit by Greek President Karolos Papoulias to Damascus, he raised the same topic with Syrian officials. His country, he said, could serve as a connecting point between the Black Sea, the Adriatic Ocean and the Balkan Peninsula, where 4,000 Greek and Russian companies are already in operation. A Russian company is currently working on two gas factories in the Syrian midland, with a production capacity of 10 billion cubic meters of gas per day, while a Russian oil company is undergoing excavation works in the Abu Kamal region, near the Syrian border with Iraq.

The Syrians believe they are capable of becoming the arrival and distribution point for goods coming from the Mediterranean, the Gulf and neighboring countries, something raised before the Turks at a summit in Istanbul on May 8, and with Medvedev during his recent visit to Damascus on May 11. To do that, the Syrians need peace in the Middle East, something that is becoming increasingly far-fetched given the inability of the Obama administration to apply any pressure on Israel. This is where Russian diplomacy can come into play.

The two sides have a long history of sound relations dating to the 1940s. Veteran Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov famously visited Damascus in the summer of 1944, refusing to recognize the French Mandate over Syria or meet any French official during his stay, insisting that his only interlocutors were elected Syrian officials.

Two years later, the Soviets used their veto power at the UN Security Council to drown a European initiative to extend the French Mandate over Syria and in 1956, during the height of the Suez Crisis, then-Syrian president Shukri al-Quwatli landed in Moscow to start a formal relationship that has been uninterrupted for the past 54 years, followed by his defense minister Khaled al-Azm in the summer of 1957, where he signed economic and military treaties with the Soviets.

Back then, Quwatli pleaded for support of the "great Russian army that defeated Hitler" in saving Egypt from a British-French-Israeli war over the Suez Canal. The relationship was further cemented with strong Russian backing for Syria during the war of 1967, taking a new turn when president Hafez al-Assad came to power in 1970.

Although Assad refused to sign a friendship agreement with the Soviet Union throughout the first 10 years of his presidency, he nevertheless relied on Soviet experts to train and arm the Syrian army, build roads, bridges and the famous Euphrates Dam. Since he came to power in 2000, Bashar al-Assad visited Russia in 2005, 2006 and in 2008, less than two weeks after the US-backed Georgian army rumbled into South Ossetia, which infuriated the Kremlin.

Sending a strong message to the Russians ahead of his 2008 trip, Assad spoke to the Russian Kommerstant newspaper: "The Caucasus and Europe are impossible without Russia ... I think that after the crisis with Georgia, Russia has become only stronger ... It is important that Russia takes the position of a superpower, and then all the attempts to isolate it will fail."

His words were music to the ears of officials at the Kremlin, who saw a good ally in Assad, a man who realizes that the Russians are back and intends on using this strong reality to advance his own country's interests, vis-a-vis stability of the Middle East and restoration of the occupied Golan Heights to its rightful owners.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

America’s Rapidly Shrinking Nuclear Arsenal does not effect Russian global Superpower

Most Americans believe that the massive nuclear arsenal that the U.S. military accumulated during the Cold War is still sitting there today - silently protecting them as they pursue the American Dream. But that is NOT the case. In fact, the United States currently only has a small fraction of the nuclear warheads that it did during the 1960s and the 1970s, and Barack Obama wants to make further substantial cuts. If you are an American, what you are about to read should seriously upset you. The weapons that have protected our freedom since the end of World War II are rapidly being dismantled at a time when the geopolitical situation around the world is becoming increasingly unstable. Iran is feverishly working on developing nuclear weapons, North Korea already has them and it is only a matter of time until terrorists get their hands on some, and yet Barack Obama keeps insisting that radical nuclear disarmament is a great idea and nobody out there (including the Republicans) is putting up much of an objection.

Once upon a time, even the number of nuclear warheads that the U.S. possessed was top secret information. But not anymore. Barack Obama has decided to "set an example of transparency" by releasing that information.

So how many nukes does the U.S. currently have?

The United States now has only 5,113 nuclear warheads in its stockpile, which represents an 84 percent decline since a peak of approximately 31,255 in 1967.

And now Barack Obama wants to cut that number even further.

Soon after he was elected, Barack Obama delivered a major foreign policy speech in Prague during which he called for a world that was free from nuclear weapons.

Most analysts dismissed such talk as "pie in the sky" rhetoric that would never amount to much.

But Barack Obama was apparently serious. He has been aggressively seeking agreements with other nations that would reduce the number of nuclear weapons around the globe.

In fact, on April 8th of this year, Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a new START treaty in Prague. According to this new treaty, both the United States and Russia will only be allowed a maximum of 1,550 deployed warheads. Both sides will also be restricted to 700 intercontinental ballistic missiles that carry warheads.

Only 1,550 deployed U.S. warheads?

Down from over 31,000 warheads in the 1960s?

What kind of national security policy is that?

To get an idea of how rapidly our nuclear arsenal is shrinking, just check out the following chart

But isn't the "Cold War" over?

Now that we have peace with Russia and China, is it not a good thing to be getting rid of these horrible weapons?

No, the Cold War is NOT over and the truth is that we need these weapons more than ever.

The Russian Bear is back in a big way. Russia is now the number one oil producer in the world and their economy is booming. Not only that, they are rapidly modernizing their military and developing new weapons systems. The truth is that Russia is more of a threat today than it ever has been.

In addition, China is now a burgeoning superpower. Thanks to extremely favorable trade agreements, China has become the second biggest economy in the world. This new economic muscle has also allowed Beijing to dramatically reform and modernize the Chinese military. In recent months China's tone towards the United States has become increasingly aggressive and U.S. relations with both Russia and China are becoming alarmingly strained.

Not only that, but as mentioned earlier, Iran is racing towards becoming a nuclear power and North Korea already has nukes. So what will Barack Obama do when each of them has several hundred nuclear weapons?

Also, as you read this leftist revolutions are sweeping across South America. The reality is that the entire continent is turning hard to the radical left. Most Americans simply do not realize the danger that represents.

And then there is the ever present danger that terrorists could get their hands on nuclear weapons. For many terrorist organizations around the world, the thought of acquiring nuclear weapons is the ultimate dream. One terrorist with a small nuke could take out an entire city in the blink of an eye.

The threats are multiplying and America needs a strong nuclear weapons program more than ever.

But not only does Barack Obama want to slash America's nuclear arsenal down to next to nothing, he also wants to tell the Russians exactly where all our nuclear weapons are so that the Russians can "verify" that the U.S. is keeping its end of the treaty.

Do you understand what that would mean?

It means that someday if the Russians wanted to hit the United States with a surprise first strike, they would know exactly how many nuclear weapons the United States has and exactly where they are.

That would make a first strike SO much easier.

Most Americans think that Russia launching a first strike against us is absolutely impossible, but such a scenario could play out something like this....

Russia (probably allied with China) decides that war with the United States is inevitable. They know that their best chance for success is to launch a devastating surprise first strike. So, they sneak their cutting edge "super silent" subs close to our coasts and they launch a massive wave of nukes. These nukes would get to our bases and cities in about 5 minutes. Thanks to Barack Obama, the Russians know where all of our nukes are located and so they know where to strike. The United States responds by launching the very limited number of nukes that survive the first strike. Afterwards, Russia and China combine forces to launch a ground invasion with their much larger conventional military forces.

Think it can't happen?

Wait and see.

You just might be surprised what is possible once you disarm the most powerful nation on earth.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Russia's Soviet shuttle may fly again to bail out NASA

The Soviet-era Buran space programme, mothballed 20 years ago, may be revived. With NASA about to retire its ageing fleet of space shuttles, there is a pressing need for viable space transport

Two decades ago the Soviet space shuttle Buran blasted off on its first and only orbital flight. Just a few years later, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the programme was shelved.

The Buran was the Soviet Union's answer to NASA’s space shuttle programme. On November 15, 1988, the shuttle was propelled out of the Earth’s atmosphere by the specially designed Energia booster rocket from the Baikonur launch pad in Kazakhstan.

Pavel Sharov from Cosmonauts News Magazine explains the advantages the Soviets had over their rivals in the U.S.

“The USSR surpassed the Americans in technology – U.S. shuttles can only be landed by humans, while the Buran lands automatically,” Sharov said.

Magomet Talboev was one of the pilots who test-flew the shuttle without going into orbit. He said the Soviet authorities had high hopes for the multi-billion dollar spacecraft.

The Energia-Buran programme was started to get the capability to attack the United States, just like the shuttle was able to attack the USSR. We also wanted to take the Skylab space station from orbit. Buran was supposed to put it in its cargo bay and deliver it back to Earth for studies,” Tolboev said.

But the project was scrapped before these plans could be fulfilled. They sank aalong with the Soviet regime. The Energia-Buran became one of the Soviet Union's last super-projects. Billions of dollars were invested and more than a 1.5 million people worked to design and build it. Nevertheless, the Buran went into orbit only once before the collapse of the Soviet Union.

After nearly a decade in a hangar, the only Buran that went into space was destroyed when a roof collapsed at Baikonur launch facility in 2002.

Although the Buran project ended prematurely, not all the ideas from it were left buried. Some of the technologies developed at the time are now used in everyday life. Fore example, several heat-resistant materials used to make deep-fryers are a direct result of the research done during Buran's development.

Buran technologies may make an unexpected return to the space industry as well.

Because NASA will soon retire its ageing space shuttle fleet, some American and Russian scientists are beginning to think of ways to revive the Buran programme.

It may be more economical than developing an entirely new spacecraft from scratch.

Thawing out 'Cold War II' Russia remains a Superpower

Trust, but verify, was Ronald Reagan's approach to the Soviets as they worked on arms control during the cold war. The phrase showed his hopes for the relationship, but also acknowledged the limitations. Four presidents later, his mantra still applies – even as Washington seeks a fresh start with Moscow this week.

When Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov meets with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Geneva on Friday, they will begin talks while at the lowest point in US-Russian relations since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. No question, it's time to "press the reset button," as Vice President Biden said at a security conference in Munich last month.

Russia, under Vladimir Putin, shares most of the blame for this low point. The Kremlin has cracked down on political and civil freedoms at home and waged war – both economic and military – in its "near abroad." It has demagogued, turning Russians against the West.

But the US and its allies are not without fault. Their mistake was not in their principles, but in their PR – expanding NATO and the European Union in a way and at a speed that alarmed Russia, putting Moscow on the defensive and, more recently, offensive. Russians also didn't take well to lecturing on democracy and capitalism.

"Cold War II" has produced serious fallout. Threats of common concern – a nuclear Iran, a Taliban comeback, energy insecurity, loose nukes and other weapons issues – have suffered from lack of attention, even obstruction.

Several factors can help improve ties, which Moscow says it wants.

One is willingness on both sides for a new round of nuclear arms negotiations, which will be the main subject of Friday's talks. This is a manageable topic that also reaffirms Russia as a superpower. In the past, the step-by-step process of such talks helped build trust that also led to progress in human rights.

Another factor is a change in US tone. In Mr. Biden's Munich rollout of a new foreign policy, his commitment to "listen [and] consult" met a warm response from European allies and Moscow alike. Willingness to rethink an anti-Iranian missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic – an acute irritant to Russia – should also help.

And an economic crisis just might change Moscow's tone, introducing a new humility.

In Washington, some go so far as to suggest deepening US commercial ties with Russia as a way to slowly build a partnership. This may work, yet Germany has gone this route, and Moscow repays Berlin by holding it hostage to natural gas disputes with Ukraine.

Indeed, that response points to the limitations of the reset button. Is it possible to be partners when one side conducts internal and foreign policy through diktat and arm twisting, while the other values democratic persuasion? The Obama team rightly says that issues such as sovereignty and freedom to choose alliances (read: Georgia and Ukraine) are not up for debate.

In the end, it has to be remembered that while Russia is not the Soviet Union, its "managed democracy" is not democracy. The Obama team deserves encouragement for its new openness with Moscow. But it must also be open-eyed about the possibilities.

By the Monitor's Editorial Board March 3, 2009

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Russia finally outstrips the USA in arms exports

Experts of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute have prepared another report about the export of arms in the world. The specialists calculated that Russia has become world's largest exporter of weapons during 2000-2004. The Swedish experts based their report on the military value of the delivered weaponry. Judging upon the income, which Russian exporters have received during the mentioned period, the country ranks only third or fourth on the list.

According to SIPRI, the first five positions of the list of world’s largest exporters of arms (with up to 81 percent of deliveries) are distributed between: Russia ($26.9 billion), the USA ($25.9 billion), France ($6.3 billion), Germany ($4.8 billion) and Great Britain ($4.4 billion).

The research shows that Russia has considerably increased the sales of its weaponry abroad and even managed to leave the USA behind (the USA was taking the leading position in the field before 2000). The gross arms sales profit of the USA reached $53.4 billion dollars at the end of the 90s, whereas Russia could boast of only $16.4 billion.

SIPRI’s statistics is based on a special method of calculation. The rating was made on the ‘military value’ of the delivered arms, but not on their actual cost. An expert with SIPRI said that the estimates of the institute based on the number of delivered planes, tanks, missile systems, etc, did not reflect exporters’ financial results. The Swedish experts have not used the cost of the delivered arms because it is very hard to receive the comparable data on account of different national calculation systems.

Russian weapons are usually cheaper than their Western analogues. Therefore, the financial outcome of a deal is a lot lower than the ‘military value’ of the sold military items. For example, in 2002 Russia sold about 60 Su aircraft and 25 MiG planes. SIPRI proceeded from the cost of each Su-30 plane equating it with the price of the US-made F-15 ($50 million), although the real price of a Russian pursuit plane can be under $35 million.

Konstantin Makiyenko, a spokesman for the Center for Strategies and Technologies, said that Russia followed the USA, France and probably Great Britain from the point of view of the income received from arms sales. The Russian defense industry has been developing very fast lately, which means that the volume of arms exports will continue to grow.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute is one of the world’s leading centers analyzing the global defense market.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta
May 29, 2006

Putin's France visit renews fears over possible warship purchase

Russian premier Vladimir Putin met French leaders Friday on a visit aimed at boosting economic ties. But his trip sparked concern amid reports that Russia plans to buy a French warship that would significantly boost its military capabilities.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin concluded a raft of deals with French business leaders on Friday during a visit aimed at luring investment into Russia’s auto and energy industries. But his two-day trip has set off alarm bells in some parts of Europe amid reports that Moscow also has plans to purchase a French-made aircraft carrier that would significantly boost Russia’s military capabilities.
Russian and French officials have confirmed that the two nations are in continuing negotiations for the purchase of a Mistral warship and a licence to produce at least four others in an unprecedented transfer of military technology from a NATO power.
Moscow’s interest in the Mistral also marks a sea change in Kremlin policy, as Russia has long remained the sole producer of its military hardware.
The second-largest ship in the French fleet at more than 21,000 tonnes and almost 200 metres in length, the Mistral can carry 16 helicopters, up to 900 troops as well as landing craft and tanks. It is designed to transport an amphibious assault force to an area of conflict quickly.
The 'Swiss-army knife' of warships
“It’s nicknamed the Swiss-army knife because it has so many different functions,” FRANCE 24’s international editor, Armen Georgian, says of the ship, which also boasts a 69-bed on-board hospital.

The commander of the Russian navy, Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky, has noted publicly that if the Mistral had been used during Russia's August 2008 conflict with Georgia, the Black Sea fleet could have deployed its troops in 40 minutes instead of the 26 hours it took to do so.

Such a blunt assessment has sparked unease in several nations formerly under Kremlin control, with Baltic governments expressing concern this week over a revamp of Russian military capability. Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet told journalists on Tuesday that his country wanted to know if a Mistral sale would include “top military technology". Lithuanian foreign ministry spokesman Rolandas Kacinskas told AFP on Wednesday that Vilnius was also seeking clarification from France, on "exactly what kind of equipment it plans to sell and what it can be used for".
French daily Le Figaro quotes Alex Rondell, president of the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies, as saying that a Mistral purchase would merely be Moscow’s latest attempt to regain its status as a superpower and reassert control over its former Soviet satellites. He, for one, has no doubts as to Russia’s long-term plans for the ship.
“The Mistral is a formidable assault ship for attacking Georgia or the Baltic countries,” Rondell said, adding that the potential deal was like France “giving a gun to a bandit”.

“This is why we are afraid,” he said.
The Monday arrival of the Mistral in St Petersburg, just days before Putin's visit to France, fuelled fears that a deal was imminent. But the Russian premier said Friday that no decision had yet been made on the purchase.
Arms for arbitration?
France has tried to soothe these fears by emphasising that it would not be selling a fully weaponised, battle-ready warship.
Although clearly motivated by the financial benefits of the Mistral deal, France also does not view the sale as compromising Georgian or Baltic security, says George Frederick Jewsbury of the Centre for Russian, Caucasian and Central European Studies in Paris. He notes that as NATO members, the Baltic states are ostensibly protected by Article Five, which calls for the alliance to respond to an attack on one member as an attack on all.
As for non-member Georgia, Jewsbury says the French view a Mistral sale as doing little to heighten the risk of another Russian incursion. He says Paris is likely estimating that Georgia would be “as exposed before as it would be after the sale of the ship”.
“They’re exposed anyway,” he says.
Le Figaro quotes one French official close to the talks as pragmatically noting that certain concessions must be made if France, and the rest of the world, want the Kremlin’s cooperation on some thorny global issues.

The unnamed official said that Europe cannot hope to build a stable continent in partnership with Moscow and expect its help on the big questions, like dealing with Iran's nuclear ambitions, and yet refuse to sell Russia arms.

By Khatya CHHOR

Where Does Russia Want To Take The CIS?

The main intrigue surrounding the summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in Chisinau last week was whether Russian President Dmitry Medvedev would attend.
The Kremlin only confirmed his participation in the October 9 event on October 5. The delay only intensified speculation that even the Kremlin has come to the conclusion that the CIS is a still-born organization.
The very existence of the CIS is a major part of Russia's pretence that it is a superpower locked in competition with the United States. But is Russia really leading the bloc? And, if so, where?
Observers were also speculating intensely about the summit's agenda. Initial press statements indicated the leaders would discuss measures for coping with the economic crisis. But the Russian Foreign Ministry's October 5 statement ignored this topic and listed only routine issues including "border-security cooperation, migration policy, and the humanitarian sphere."
'Great Patriotic War'
As it turned out, the main objective of the summit was pronounced the signing of a document obliging all CIS heads of state to participate in an informal summit in May 2010 to mark the 65th anniversary of the Soviet Union's victory in World War II and proclaiming 2010 to be "the year of CIS veterans of the Great Patriotic War" with the slogan "We Won Together."
It is worth noting that the CIS had previously planned to declare 2010 "the year of science and innovation in the CIS," but Russia pushed hard for looking backward rather than ahead by focusing on the war.
In combination with Moscow's active revival of the cult of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, it would appear that Russia is pushing Soviet nostalgia/patriotism as a quasi-official ideology for the CIS, perhaps in a bid to save the floundering organization. CIS Executive Secretary Aleksandr Lebedev announced the war-anniversary commemorations would take place throughout the bloc in April and May 2010 and that all CIS countries would have to contribute to financing them.
Of course, this approach is highly controversial, since some parts of the CIS perceive the postwar period as an occupation of their lands by the Soviet Union and a national tragedy. Moscow's efforts to impose a Russian-centered view of recent history on Russia's neighbors is widely viewed as a brutal affront.
Moldova, which holds the organization's rotating presidency this year, fought hard to at least change the wording "Great Patriotic War" to "World War II," but failed -- under intense Russian diplomatic pressure. The final resolution raised eyebrows in Chisinau, but the new Moldovan government evidently opted to focus on fulfilling the obligations made by the previous government and on serving as a good host for the summit.
But the Russian side surely noticed that acting Moldovan President Mihai Ghimpu, who participated in the general talks and the "narrow-format" meeting, did not sign the final documents. He delegated this "honorable obligation" to a deputy prime minister.
Russia Throws Its Weight Around
For his part, Medvedev seemed pleased with his victory, noting wryly, "Not everybody was satisfied with some of the wording, but that's life...."
Also on October 5, Russia paved the way for the summit -- which originally was supposed to be an anticrisis summit -- with some tough announcements for Belarus and Ukraine. Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin told RIA Novosti that Belarus will not get the last, $500 million tranche of a $2 billion loan and that Ukraine would not be given the $5 billion credit that Kyiv had been seeking.
During the narrow-format talks, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka were adamant in their efforts to redirect the discussion to the anticrisis measures. They complained that trade barriers with Russia were increasing rather than easing.
Russia deflected this talk and instead offered CIS members access to a new $7.5 billion Eurasian Economic Community fund (of which, Russia contributed $5 billion). Kudrin also said that Moscow supports conducting business with CIS countries in "national currencies," which was seen as a bid to install the Russian ruble as a regional currency and to push out the dollar. Doing so would increase the dependence of CIS countries on Moscow considerably.
The unanswered questions from the Chisinau summit are: Why does Moscow hold onto the past and its dubious old symbols with an apparent death grip? Is it because the Kremlin lacks a palatable vision for the future or even that it lacks confidence in its ability to really lead the CIS forward?
And is this lack of vision a result of Russia's undemocratic, closed political system? Unable to serve as an attractive example, is Moscow forced to adopt a pushy, even bullying, posture? Does it lack the confidence to take the views of other CIS members into account?
These questions are hanging in the air as Moldova has handed over the CIS presidency to Moscow for 2010 -- "the year of CIS veterans of the Great Patriotic War." The next official CIS summit will be held in Moscow in December 2010.
By Irina Severin; October 13, 2009