Tag: Vladimir Putin

Victor Davis Hanson looks at the controversies around Donald Trump’s relationship with the Russian government and analyzes the trajectory of Washington’s relationship with Moscow.

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Is Jill Stein, of course. From her website, now repurposed as a conduit for dark money towards lawfare by recount: Stein attended a dinner Thursday night, sitting at the table with Russian President Vladimir Putin. “While the objective of that dinner was not to engage in serious discussions, Putin did appear to respond in his formal remarks […]

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Trump’s GOP and Putin’s Kremlin

 

trump-putinRepublicans have a lot of people to thank this year. For example, there is FBI director James Comey. Last summer, he was the Republicans’ goat, refusing to indict Hillary Clinton. Now he is the Man of the Hour. Then there is Hillary herself: whose corruption is a gift to any opponent, even Donald Trump. But don’t forget Vladimir Putin. Month after month, he has worked tirelessly for the GOP ticket, undermining the Democrats, mainly through his cut-out Julian Assange.

Putin has never stopped being a KGB man, just as Russian intelligence, whatever its current initials, has never stopped being the KGB. (We could go back further, of course, with this alphabet soup.)

The WikiLeaks revelations have been damning – damning of the Democrats. But can you imagine if Putin and the Kremlin were on the other side? If they were uncovering TrumpWorld’s e-mails instead of HillaryWorld’s? The e-mails of Corey, Manafort, Newt, Ivanka, Roger Stone, Ann, Laura, Sean, Kellyanne, Rudy, Ailes, and all the rest? Of Trump himself? I have a feeling those e-mails would be just as damning as the Hillary-related ones – and more entertaining.

Russian “Reset” Going as Well as Predicted

 

1421912307508In 2012, Mitt Romney said of Russia, “This is without question our number one geopolitical foe. They fight for every cause for the world’s worst actors. The idea that [Obama] has more flexibility in mind for Russia is very, very troubling indeed.” Later, at a presidential debate, President Obama famously responded, “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.”

The press giggled at zinger just as they had mocked Romney’s concern about Putin’s growing belligerence. Let’s check the status of the US/Russia relationship today:

Secretary of State John Kerry has suspended diplomatic talks with Russia over Syria, citing President Vladimir Putin’s ongoing military intervention on behalf of incumbent dictator Bashar Assad.

Victor Davis Hanson explains why the waning months of Barack Obama’s presidency may turn out to be one of the most volatile periods for national security that America has seen in decades.

Snapshot of the Utter Economic Mess that Is Putin’s Russia

 

RTSKFPT_putin-e1473433976781Over on Twitter, economist Ernie Tedeschi notes, “Russia’s economy has shrunk 5% in inflation-adjusted terms since 2013. America’s has grown 7.5%.” Yes, Putin’s authoritarian populism is proving to be, among other things, simply terrible economics.

This from the Index of Economic Freedom:

Russia’s prospects for long-term, diversified, sustainable economic growth remain bleak. There is no efficiently functioning legal framework, and government continues to interfere in the private sector through myriad state-owned enterprises. Corruption pervades the economy and continues to erode trust in the government. … Progress with market-oriented reforms has been uneven and often reversed at the urging of those with an interest in maintaining the status quo. Increasing inflationary pressure poses a major risk to overall macroeconomic stability. Large state-owned institutions have increased their domination of the financial sector at the expense of private domestic and foreign banks. …

Where Does a Patriot Turn in 2016?

 

The Democratic Party’s national convention is attempting to lay claim to the patriot mantle. Yet the party is not quite there. Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was heckled with chants of “no more war.” The Code Pink wing lost the nomination this year, but it won the platform, and may yet win it all in the next cycle.

Putin, Bukovsky, and National Sovereignty

 

shutterstock_175007894Vladimir Bukovsky was prominent in the dissident movement within the old Soviet Union, and spent 12 years in prisons, labor camps, and psychiatric hospitals. He has lived in Britain since the late 1970s, and has been a vocal opponent of Vladimir Putin, referring to Putin and his circle as the heirs of Lavrenty Beria — Beria being Stalin’s notorious secret-police chief. Bukovsky also expressed the opinion that the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko (in Britain, by radioactive polonium) was done at the behest of Russian authorities. So you can be pretty sure that Bukovsky isn’t on Vladimir Putin’s list of ten favorite people.

Recently, Bukovsky has been charged with child pornography by British authorities. Claire Berlinski believes that he was likely framed by the Russian regime. (More from Claire here.) It certainly seems quite possible that Putin’s intelligence agencies planted the evidence on Bukovsky’s computer, and I am happy that Claire is going to be further investigating this matter, which has received little attention from the legacy media.

I tend to believe that Claire is right and Bukovsky is innocent, though I have no way of putting probabilities on this at the moment. I am also impressed by the logic of Diana West’s question: “Is there a sentient person, naturally revolted by the thought of child pornography, even five or six images’ worth, going to believe for one minute that the British state, for decades having turned the blindest and hardest and most craven of eyes against the sexual despoilment and prostitution of generations of little British girls at risk at the hands of criminal Islamic “grooming” gangs, has suddenly developed some compelling interest in protecting the welfare of children, and thus turned its avenging sword on … Vladimir Bukovsky?”

Russian Interventionism and the Art of Confusion

 

RT_Putin“When Putin came to power, the first thing he did was take control of state television. Not the secret service, not national intelligence, but the media.” Peter Pomerantsev, senior fellow at the Legatum Institute in London and expert on modern Russia, said this in an interview with Swedish national radio as they recently reported on a Swedish military official expressing concern over systematic Russian attempts to infiltrate and influence Swedish and European media.

The Russian interventionism was never more evident than during the aftermath of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 catastrophe, when a jet was shot down over Ukraine in 2014. As soon as the official Dutch crash report was published a year later, it was countered by an “alternative” report out of Russia, as well as an alternative press conference aired hours before the Dutch report came out, chronicling a reconstruction of the crash performed by Russian experts. These Russian experts, paid by the Kremlin, came to the conclusion that while it may have been Russian-made robots that shot down the aircraft and killed 300 people, these robots were no longer used by Russia but rather by the Ukrainian army, and that the Russian reconstruction had shown that the missiles probably were fired from Kiev. The findings lauded by the Russians had been investigated and debunked by the Dutch air crash investigators, but none of that information was deemed pertinent to what ended up making it on Russian TV.

What Russia and the Kremlin are doing is putting forth an image of controversy, as if the “alternative” theory regarding the crash is equally valid and probable as compared to the international consensus, and through these measures they appear to be making headway. We have seen the effects of Putin’s media strategy in the aftermath of flight MH17, with the swift dying down of outrage toward Russian annexation of Crimea and of course, the dilution and denigration of opposition forces in Syria.

Why Wars Break Out: Bucharest Declaration Edition

 

Claire has started two excellent discussions here and here about the causes of war. I look forward to reading her argument in subsequent posts. But I also wanted to throw out my anticipatory two cents on the subject without being constrained by commenters’ 250-word limit. In the case of The Big One – China – the causes of war, if there is to be one, will be the same structural ones identified by Thucydides 2,500 years ago. Like Athens and Sparta, this is a paradigmatic case of rising and declining powers clashing. But in the case of lesser conflicts, one can never overestimate the role of ordinary human stupidity and inability to grasp the perfectly predictable consequences of foolish actions.

Dying for Narva? Our Foolish NATO Commitment.

 

imageI confess I have a soft spot for Estonia. I visited for my first and only time when I was six years old. Unlike the other Soviet workers and peasants, who every August flocked en masse to the rocky shores of the Black Sea, my family preferred the wide, uncrowded, sandy beaches, cool northern waters, and fragrant pine forests of the Baltic. The three Baltic capitals – Tallinn, Riga, and Vilnius – were ancient Hanseatic merchant towns that, despite 30-some years of Communism, mass-deportations, and Russian colonization, had managed to preserve their distinct Baltic character and culture. To my parents, the whole region – but especially Estonia – looked and felt like Scandinavia or, at least, what they imagined Scandinavia to look and feel like.

Tallinn itself I remember as a medieval jewel straight out of a storybook, with winding cobblestone streets, Gothic windows, and a skyline marked by crow-stepped gables, church spires, fortress towers, and red tile roofs crowned by bronze weathervanes and finials. There were pubs, coffee houses, and jazz clubs. The food tasted different. This place felt … Western. Someone told my mother that, if one stood at the water’s edge on dark nights when atmospheric conditions were just right, one could faintly see the lights of Helsinki across the Gulf of Finland. I clearly remember her standing on the beach at night squinting at the horizon, trying to catch a glimpse of the world beyond the Iron Curtain.

For years afterward, I made childish drawings of Nordic Baroque towers and spires, trying to capture the magic of that place. I often wanted to return, but Tallinn was the one place where my childhood steps remained un-retraced. It was not one of the world’s great capitals, it was off the beaten track and, until the summer after my second year in law school, the right opportunity never seemed to present itself. That summer I tried to visit, but was arrested crossing the Russo-Estonian border, which is kind of a funny story.

ISIS vs. Russia?

 

Yesterday, CNN reported that US intelligence believes ISIS brought down Kogalymavia Flight 9268 — the Russian airline out of Egypt — with a bomb. This morning, the WSJ reports that the United Kingdom has come to the same conclusion and has grounded all flights out of Sharm El Sheikh, where the flight originated (there are thousands of Brits there currently on holiday). Several people on Ricochet have previously speculated that the plane was taken out by a bomb near its tail and the Islamic State has already claimed credit for this deed.

My question is this: what does it all mean? Is this the beginning of a broader campaign by ISIS against Russia? Will Chechnya once again explode in violence and terrorism? Will Russia become more involved against battling ISIS, at least to save face?

Pull No Foreign Policy Punches in 2016

 

As_Between_Friends_(Punch_magazine,_13_December_1911,_detail)Conservatives have reason to be optimistic about 2016. The ample supply of viable Republican candidates seems to grow every week, and should they (or at least the more comb-over adorned among them) keep the internecine squabbling short of apoplectic levels, the Republican nominee will enter the general election with the chance to put a fresh face on American leadership.

Opposing them is a Clinton campaign of the mind that generating no news is better than being held to account for anything uttered in the buildup to the primaries. Despite her perfunctory tour of the nation, the USS Hilldog rests in stagnant waters. The most prominent media it can expect for the near future will be the State Department’s monthly email dumps. These should fasten even more barnacles to She-Who-is-Inevitable.

Let us assume that Clinton is in fact just that, at least for the Democratic nomination. She will sell voters the following: inequality rhetoric, a hard-line on immigration, and defense of the Affordable Care Act. In short, she will present herself as their heir to Barack Obama’s coalition, using all the best practices in consultant-based identity politics, and like her predecessor, hers will be a domestic agenda.

The Strategika Podcast: Josef Joffe on Whether the West Will Still Fight

 

josef_joffeIn this next installment of our new series of Strategika shows on NATO, I’m talking with Josef Joffe, research fellow at the Hoover Institution and publisher/editor of the German weekly Die Zeit. Our topic: is NATO endangered partially by an erosion of will on behalf of both Europe and the United States? And is European reticence different in kind than the American version or just in degree? You can hear the conversation below or by subscribing to Strategika through iTunes or your favorite podcast player.

Rosatom: Russia’s One Bright Spot (Thanks to Hillary?)

 

MedvedevIn a depressing address to glum members of the Duma last week, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev enumerated a long list of crises and problems confronting the Russian economy. Medvedev blamed the country’s dire economic conditions on the double whammy of sanctions and falling energy prices, and laid out the anti-crisis measures that his government is taking to prop up banks, municipalities, small and medium-sized business, and the automotive industry, among others.

Two-thirds through his speech, Medvedev turned to two pieces of good news: a record harvest and the successes of the nuclear energy industry, under the umbrella of Rosatom (“Russian atomic energy”), which builds nuclear power plants and weapons. Medvedev proudly characterized Rosatom as “stable” and praised that stability as “of critical importance” to Russia. Per Medvedev, Rosatom’s portfolio of nuclear power plant contracts rose from 12 in the previous year to its current 29. Medvedev praised Rosatom’s technology as cutting edge (contrary to its backward reputation from the Chernobyl era).

Medvedev, of course, did not mention any possible contributions Bill or Hillary Clinton may have made to Rosatom’s success, but the Kremlin propaganda machine claims Hillary Clinton either (A) had nothing to do with Rosatom’s acquisition of uranium reserves in North America or (B) that the transaction was America’s reset gift to Russia to promote warm relations.

Would You Support Sending Americans to Fight for the Survival of Estonia or Latvia?

 

Graham Allison, an entirely reputable scholar of International Affairs at Harvard University, and Dimitri K. Simes, president of the Center for the National Interest, recently published a piece reminding us that Russia is a nuclear power “capable of literally erasing the United States from the map.”

And while most Americans dismiss the possibility of a US-Russian war, they do not:

The Strategika Podcast: Williamson Murray on the Strategic Implications of America’s Energy Boom

 

WickIn the new series of Strategika podcasts from the Hoover Institution, we’re looking at what the revolution in American energy production means for the US’s economic and strategic future. In this first installment, I talk with Williamson Murray, the Ambassador Anthony D. Marshall Chair of Strategic Studies at The Marine Corps University, about what the implications are for our relationships with Russia, Iran, and other countries in the Middle East. Listen in below or subscribe to Strategika through iTunes or your favorite podcast service.