Archive for April, 2014

GEOPOLITIKENS ÅTERKOMST

April 30, 2014

Dagens Industri, Stockholm, publicerade den 29 april 2014, en debattartikel av säkerhetsexperten Johan Wictorin om geopolitikens återkomst. Wiktorin menar att Investors vd Börje Ekholm hade rätt när han sa i en intervju i Di att ”geopolitiken har kommit tillbaka” som en viktig faktor för att förstå omvärlden och för att kunna fatta rätt beslut. Utdrag nedan:

Han har en mycket viktig poäng. Geopolitiken är ofta underskattad i svensk kontext, men det är bland annat geopolitiken som är drivande bakom den ryska aggressionen i Ukraina. För att förstå sådana mönster gäller det att tvärvetenskapligt kunna analysera bakomliggande faktorers betydelse och dess inbördes relationer. De ekonomiska konsekvenserna kan vara både överraskande och betydande när stater agerar utifrån geopolitiska motiv.

“Ett av de starkaste motiven till det ryska agerandet när det gäller Ukraina är den infrastruktur som transporterar rysk energi.”

Med geopolitik menas geografins effekter på utrikes- och säkerhetspolitiken. Faktorer som ingår är bland annat demografi, topografi, fysisk belägenhet och storlek liksom naturresurser och utbyggd infrastruktur.

Det finns olika skolor inom geopolitiken, men en grundläggande parameter är relationen mellan sjömakt och landmakt. I den anglosaxiska världen är synen att det är ytterst en stark flotta som garanterar handelsförbindelserna och möjligheten att projicera militär makt varhelst det behövs.

Klassiska kontinentalmakter som Tyskland och Ryssland är med sitt läge hänvisade till landmakten, där bland annat de naturliga terrängvariationerna och inre transportvägar som bergskedjor och floder är viktiga faktorer liksom en stark armé.
I botten ligger en sentens från den brittiske geografen Halford Mackinder:

”Who rules Central and Eastern Europe commands the Heartland. Who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island. Who rules the World-Island commands the World.” (1904)

”Hjärtlandet” innefattar bland annat Ukraina, vars spannmålsproduktion redan Mackinder pekade på.

Kinesiska manövrar i Asien och Afrika bär en tydlig geopolitisk strävan att komma åt jordbruksmark, mineraler och energifyndigheter. Transporterna av dessa råvaror kommer på sikt att ytterst garanteras av en starkt utbyggd flotta. För att stödja denna med underhåll etablerar Kina en mängd relationer med länder längs Indiska Oceanen.

Mycket av skeendena i Centralasien och Gulfstaterna med sina stora energireserver förklaras också av den komplexa väv som vävs i internationella relationer. Så håller exempelvis Saudiarabien på att slutföra en enorm pipeline till Röda havet för att minska risken att få sin export instängd i Hormuzsundet vid en konflikt med Iran.

Många av de större handelsavtalen med regeringar inblandade, ändrade diplomatiska relationer och militära samarbeten runt om i världen har geopolitiska realiteter och ambitioner som utgångspunkt.

Genom att bättre förstå hur dessa hänger samman kan svenska ministrar, riksdagsledamöter och näringslivsföreträdare bättre värdera riskpremier för olika slags investeringar, men också förutse nya handelspolitiska möjligheter uppenbara sig i framtiden.

Johan Wiktorin, vd för Brqthrough och redaktör på Kungliga krigsvetenskapsakademin.

(Kommentar: Den som vill veta mer om geopolitisk teori kan konsultera Bertil Häggmans bok, Geopolitik – en introduktion (2009). Wiktorin och Ekholm har rätt när de hävdar att geopolitiken är på väg tillbaka. Det är viktigt att påpeka att den som skapade termen geopolitik 1899 var en svensk statsvetare och geograf, professor Rudolf Kjellén. Dennes geopolitiska skrifter studeras ännu i det tjugoförsta århundradet noga runt om i världen medan hans gärning ofta förtigs i Sverige. Sedan något år finns det också Fritz Wolders danska bok om geopolitik, Kampen om kloden.)

NEGLECTED MILITARY SPENDING IN TWO NON-ALIGNED COUNTRIES: SWEDEN AND UKRAINE

April 29, 2014

FoxNews on April 28, 2014, reported that the Ukrainian military went through years of neglect under the now-toppled pro-Russian government, which “deliberately dismantled” the military according to the current president, Arseniy Yatsenyuk. And experts agree.

“Because its leaders have tended to be pro-Russian, Ukraine’s military is as much designed not to fight Russia as it is to fight it,” Ben Friedman, who studies defense policy at the CATO Institute, told FoxNews.com.

In previous years, Ukraine’s military released reports about how it received only a portion of the funding allocated to it through legislation.

“Expenditure… failed to fully meet the resource requirements of the Armed Forces,” a White Book released by the Ukraine military in 2012 noted.

It went on to say that the number of troops had recently been cut by a third, training and equipment was insufficient, and that the troops used outdated non-digital communications equipment.

In an attempt to improve its military, Ukraine has asked for international help for military supplies.

“What we need is support from the international community. We need technology and military support to overhaul the Ukrainian military and modernize — to be ready not just to fight, but to be ready to win,” Yatsenyuk said last month.

…Ukraine used decrepit equipment, and [defense] spending was just 1 percent of its gross domestic product… Some experts said it was because of over-reliance on Western countries.

“More Western-oriented Ukrainians may simply have concluded that balancing Russian military strength was impossible, so why waste much money trying?” Friedman suggested. “[They] probably saw joining NATO as the best bet… Ukraine can be seen as an example of a danger created by alliances; their prospect can inhibit self-help.”

(Comment: Sweden is to a great extent in the same situation as Ukraine. One of Sweden’s most respected security analysts, Bo Pellnäs claims that Sweden should change its policy and retake its role as a stabilizing force in the Nordic region.

Pellnäs has criticized the Swedish government’s tough reduction of the Swedish defense forces. He is most critical to the de facto demilitarization of Gotland, the Swedish island centrally located in the Baltic Sea.

Russia has used the argument that they only wanted to protect their own citizens brings up the problem of large Russian minorities in the Baltic countries. Thus there is a risk of instability to the Baltic region.

The situation in Georgia in 2008 shows the importance of having boots on the ground. If the United States and NATO wanted to support Georgia, they should have brought supportive troops to the country in an early phase before the tensions aroused.

This would have had a preventive impact on Russia’s intervention.

Pellnäs is critical of the Swedish defense policy in more general terms for short-sightedness.

The Swedish government has to a great extent remained passive in the present crisis, except Foreign Minister Carl Bildt’s active diplomatic support for Ukraine. Having a fairly good defense industry helps in Sweden but like in Ukraine NATO cannot involve itself. Sweden and Ukraine are not members of NATO. This endangers both countries.)

TIME TO REFORM U.S. INTERNATIONAL BROADCASTING

April 28, 2014

The Heritage Foundation, Washington DC, on April 24, 2014, published Issue Brief # 4206 on Public Diplomacy by Helle C. Dale and Brett D. Schaefer stating that Congressional efforts are currently under way to reorganize U.S. international broadcasting (USIB). Although the draft legislation is not publicly available, these are several key issues that any bill should address. Excerpts below:

Poor Governance

The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which oversees most major civilian assets of USIB, is dysfunctional and should be reformed or eliminated.

The absence of day-to-day leadership has impeded effective governance of the various entities overseen by the BBG. In 2013, a State Department inspector general’s report concluded, “The Board’s bylaws and self-adopted governance policies are inadequate to govern appropriately the conduct of Board business.”

A Political Process

The BBG is composed of nine members who are supposed to have expertise in communications, media, or international affairs.

The Secretary of State automatically has one seat. Although the remaining eight members are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, they are supposed to be allocated so that there are four Democrat members and four Republican members.

This is intended to reflect the nonpartisan mission of the BBG, but the appointment process can be very political. Members are appointed as it suits the political needs and timing of the White House.

Internal Politicization

Although the BBG was created by Congress to provide a firewall against political influence on its news broadcasting, its structure and lax observance of bylaws and agreed practices invites internal conflict and the creation of fiefdoms by individual governors.

News Versus U.S. Perspective

USIB has been accused of content bias or deliberate efforts to downplay its American message, which is exacerbated by the BBG’s permanent employees, who often see their mission as functioning as a news outlet rather than as a vehicle for promoting U.S. policy.

This predilection is sometimes abetted by the political process, such as President Obama’s proposed deep cuts in the Office of Policy, which writes the editorials on U.S. policy for the broadcasters.

Competing Resources

The lack of clearly defined missions leads to overlap, duplication, and unnecessary competition for resources, airtime, and responsibilities. VOA, the flagship of USIB, has been experiencing cuts in its services to many countries in favor of more cost-effective surrogate broadcasters, which broadcast domestic news into countries deprived of free media. Thus, VOA has almost no presence left in Russia, Ukraine, or Crimea, sending the signal that the United States is not engaged.

Budget constraints have also led the BBG to narrow the number of languages that USIB uses. In recent years, Mandarin and Cantonese have been slated for elimination. Time and again, Congress has had to step in to prevent crippling cuts in services. In addition, USIB has been increasingly focused on Internet and television at the expense of radio. While radio may sound quaint, it remains a popular broadcast vehicle in some poorer areas of the globe and is harder to block than more modern technologies.

What to Do

What is needed is a clearer division of roles among U.S. broadcasting assets, sufficient funding to have a prominent U.S. media presence in global hotspots, and an organizational structure that separates VOA from the surrogates while protecting the core functions of each. Equally important will be regular inspector general reports to ensure controls of broadcast quality. In order to strengthen USIB, Congress should:

• Eliminate the BBG or downgrade it to an advisory role. If there is to be a broadcasting board, it should have a strictly advisory role and should be populated by media and public diplomacy professionals.

• Disaggregate the broadcasting services according to their functions. VOA should become an explicit arm of U.S. public diplomacy focused on promoting America’s story and U.S. policy. The VOA leadership role performed by the BBG should be replaced with a new powerful CEO, appointed by the President and confirmed by Congress, who is instructed to coordinate with the State Department on U.S. public diplomacy messaging and targeting. Surrogate media such as RFE/RL and Radio Free Asia should more closely coordinate and share resources to increase efficiency and economies of scale and should be overseen by a governance body separate from VOA to avoid the conflicts of interest present in the current structure. The surrogates should focus on bolstering America’s democracy promotion efforts by providing unbiased news coverage, policy and political discussion, and, where governments constrain political speech, alternative outlets for political dissidents and minority parties. They could benefit from an affiliation with the National Endowment for Democracy, whose mission they share.

• Provide adequate funding. To be effective, USIB must be capable of answering global ideological threats through a multimedia approach at VOA and at the surrogates, including radio, satellite television, and the Internet.

• Regularly review and target USIB to maximize its impact. USIB should not replicate the efforts of pre-existing free and independent media. USIB should focus on countries where representative government and/or a free and independent media are absent or inadequate, where there is conflict and political instability, or where U.S. interests justify a robust public diplomacy presence.

• Substantiate decisions about language services. Short-sighted decisions have currently left the United States short of assets to counter the new Russian revanchism as well as the aggressive Chinese global media advances and the ideological threats from militant Islam, to name a few of the critical challenges currently faced by this country.

Still Needed

Instability, conflict, and political repression in disparate areas of the world underscore the need for America to promote its policies and provide objective news and clear calls for freedom, representative governance, and tolerance. Sadly, America’s vehicles for communication are muffled by poor management and unclear missions and objectives. Congress should take steps to improve the focus, effectiveness, and responsiveness of U.S. international broadcasting to evolving situations and crises.

—Helle C. Dale is Senior Fellow for Public Diplomacy in the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies and Brett D. Schaefer is Jay Kingham Fellow in International Regulatory Affairs in the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, a division of the Davis Institute, at The Heritage Foundation.

IT IS TIME FOR THE WEST TO MOVE AHEAD WITHOUT RUSSIA

April 27, 2014

By John McCain, John Barrasso, John Hoeven and Ron Johnson

John McCain, John Barrasso, John Hoeven and Ron Johnson, all Republicans, represent Arizona, Wyoming, North Dakota and Wisconsin, respectively, in the Senate.

Washington Post on April 26, 2014, published a commentary by Republican US Senators, back from a European visit. We recently visited Norway, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Moldova, they wrote. In each country, our allies want a stronger immediate response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its ongoing subversion of Ukraine. They also believe, as we do, that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s latest acts of aggression require an enduring strategic response from the United States, Europe and NATO. It should be clear to all that Putin’s Russia has taken a dark turn. There is no resetting this relationship. We cannot return to business as usual. Excerpts below:

Western countries had high hopes for our relationships with Russia after the Cold War and acted on that basis. We provided billions of dollars to help Russia’s transition from communism. We created new mechanisms for consultation. We expanded trade. NATO committed not to deploy significant military capabilities onto the territory of new alliance allies, even as it expanded. In short, the West sought to include Russia in the promise of a Europe whole, free and at peace — a vision we still believe would benefit all participants.

Unfortunately, hope of a constructive relationship with Russia under Putin has vanished. A friendly rival has become, at best, an unfriendly adversary. Putin will not compromise his quest to dominate Russia’s sovereign neighbors (not least as a cynical way to build support at home for his corrupt and autocratic rule).

We must make policy on this basis. In the short term, the United States must expand sanctions to major Russian banks, energy companies and other sectors of Russia’s economy — such as the arms industry — that serve as instruments of Putin’s foreign policy. We should also expose the most egregious corruption of Russian officials and cut off those people, their business associates and relatives from Western economies and travel. Some of our European allies may hope to avoid tough sanctions, but weak measures will not stop Putin, and the costs of doing so will only grow with time.

Ultimately, Putin’s actions in Ukraine require a strategic response. This does not mean a new Cold War. But it does require recognizing Putin’s geopolitical challenge to the post-Cold War order in Europe and preparing for a more competitive relationship with Russia.

NATO must recommit to its core missions of deterrence and collective defense. This requires a rebalancing of the alliance’s force posture and presence. NATO military capabilities must be increased and more evenly distributed across the alliance, including a more robust and persistent presence in Central Europe and the Baltic countries.

For NATO to do more for its members, its members have to do more for themselves and the alliance. The United States must reverse harmful cuts to its defense budget. And NATO allies must meet their commitment to spend at least 2 percent of GDP on defense as soon as possible.

We also need a transatlantic energy strategy. Europe remains dependent on Russian oil and gas, while U.S. supplies are growing faster than our ability to bring them to market (indeed, about $1.5 million worth of gas has to be “flared” — that is, burned uselessly because there is not enough capacity to transport or refine it — each day in North Dakota alone). It will take years to align European demand and U.S. supply, but we must start now. European countries must invest in the infrastructure to receive liquefied natural gas from the United States, as Lithuania is doing, and transmit it across Europe.

For our part, the Obama administration should lift holds on terminal applications for liquefied natural gas and ensure their expeditious processing so the private sector can build new capacity for transport and storage. These actions could weaken Putin, support our allies, strengthen the U.S. economy, increase federal revenue and create thousands of good jobs.

Another fact repeatedly highlighted during our trip is that Putin is winning the war of ideas among Russian-speaking peoples in the former Soviet Union. Putin’s propaganda rests on lies, but it is effective and hardly refuted. We have all but given up on communicating the truth, in Russian, to Europe’s Russian-speaking populations. This needs to change, and the old state-run public diplomacy is not necessarily the answer. The private sector can play an important role.

Finally, the West must provide far greater diplomatic, economic and military support to Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and other European countries that aspire to be part of our transatlantic community. We must show all of these countries that, as long as they meet the rightfully high standards for membership, the doors to NATO and the European Union remain open and the fundamental choices about their future foreign policy are for them to make — no one else.

The United States and Europe did not seek, or deserve, this challenge from Putin’s Russia. But we must rise to it all the same. Our shared interests and values depend on our resolve.

AMERICA MUST NOT RETREAT FROM RUSSIA’S INFORMATION WAR

April 26, 2014

FoxNews on February 25, 2014, published an opinion article by Senator Roger Wicker and Aaron Schock on Russia’s information war. Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to keep the media under his control. One can only assume that the announcement of the impending closure of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Balkans Service is music to Putin’s ears. Excerpts below:

For the past 65 years, Radio Free Europe has broadcast independent news programming behind the Iron Curtain and beyond, with reports now spanning 28 languages and 21 countries. The service was an especially valuable asset during the years of Soviet power, and it remains increasingly critical in the wake of Putin’s expansionism today.

It is alarming, therefore, that the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) has decided to prioritize initiatives in Africa and Asia in its FY2015 budget at the expense of news services to Eastern Europe and Iraq.

It stands to reason that Putin relishes the opportunity to expand Russia’s influence in Southeast Europe as independent news coverage from Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty recedes.

The BBG’s $721 million budget request – a decrease of $12 million from last year – cuts the programming of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty carried by more than 150 affiliate stations across Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, and Kosovo.

The Kremlin was swift to control the press during its illegal invasion of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.

Armed men presumed to be Russian troops quickly seized communications hubs.

Journalists have been targeted at border checkpoints and had their equipment confiscated.

Ukrainian TV stations and local broadcasts have been replaced with Orwellian Newspeak as Russia pumps tens of millions of dollars into the media market there.

It stands to reason that Putin relishes the opportunity to expand Russia’s influence in Southeast Europe as independent news coverage from Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty recedes.

Russia’s intentions in Ukraine have rightly reinvigorated the debate about what fights America is willing to have beyond its shores.

Putin’s actions defy international law and have violated the sovereignty of an independent nation, inflicting social and economic instability in the region and raising concern around the globe.

Tough sanctions are warranted, as well as Russia’s isolation on the international stage.

However, the strength of U.S. power should not be limited to force projection or economic pressure. The encouragement of values like freedom of speech and expression can have a resounding and far-reaching impact, challenging the propaganda of totalitarian regimes with democratic ideas spurred by genuine civic participation.

History underscores the importance of Radio Free Europe in delivering a message of liberty and democracy. During the Cold War, radio waves carried the words of President Reagan and Pope John Paul II to people in countries overshadowed by Communist rule.

It is our hope that the BBG will reverse the decision to end news programming to the Balkans and Iraq. Cutting important communication to areas of the world where America’s interests are threatened weakens our position and that of our democratic allies. Any action to close these broadcast services should not take effect until the proper congressional oversight can adequately assess the consequences.

The information war reaches far beyond the borders of Crimea. At the very least, the United States must aggressively engage in the battle of international ideas.

Putin has been emboldened by the success of his latest aggressions, using rhetoric that suggests the restoration of the Russian empire. America should not forfeit the opportunity to reinforce free speech in a media landscape at risk of even more repression.

Republican Roger Wicker represents Mississippi in the United States Senate. He is a member of the Senate Armed Services and Budget committees.

Republican Aaron Schock, represents the 18th District of Illinois in the U.S. House of Representatives.

REPORTS: UKRAINE, LITHUANIA, POLAND PLAN JOINT BRIGADE

April 25, 2014

The Washington Times on April 23, 2014, reported that Ukraine, Lithuania and Poland are planning to band together and form a joint military brigade, according to local media reports.

Lithuania Defense Minister Juozas Olekas told the Baltic News Service on April 22 he met with the acting defense minister of Ukraine, Mykhailo Koval, who assured him that the country will soon sign the founding agreement for the brigade.

Movement toward establishing the international brigade comes as the U.S. military is expanding its land-based exercises in Eastern Europe. Those exercises will take place in two of the countries that are slated to merge their military forces: Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

About 600 U.S. troops will rotate in and out of the countries for about a month. Under the plan, additional exercises will occur on a recurring basis, according to the Associated Press.

Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said that training involving U.S. troops is “purely bilateral” and not part of a overarching plan to establish a training framework for the joint military brigade.

US TROOPS ARRIVE IN POLAND

April 24, 2014

FoxNews on April 23, 2014, reported that U.S. Army paratroopers are arriving in Poland on Wednesday as part of a wave of U.S. troops heading to shore up America’s Eastern European allies in the face of Russian meddling in Ukraine. Excerpts below:

Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said an initial contingent of about 600 troops will head to four countries across Eastern Europe for military exercises over the next month.

First, about 150 soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team based in Vicenza, Italy, are arriving in Poland.

Additional Army companies will head to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and are expected to arrive by April 28 for similar land-based exercises in those countries.

The show of strength comes as the United States, European allies and Ukraine try to ease tensions with Russia and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Under the current plan, U.S. troops would rotate in and out of the four Eastern European countries for additional exercises on a recurring basis.
“We’re looking at trying to keep this rotational presence persistent throughout the rest of this year,” Kirby told reporters, adding that over time the exercises could expand to other countries.

The exercises are part of an effort announced last week by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel aimed at reassuring NATO allies of America’s commitment to the region’s defense.

Kirby said the U.S. will likely plan other exercises and will continue to work through NATO on joint measures that could be scheduled in the future.

…we encourage our NATO partners to likewise look for opportunities of their own to do this same kind of thing for one another,” said Kirby. “And I think if there’s a message to Moscow, it is the same exact message – that we take our obligations very, very seriously on the continent of Europe.”

Armed pro-Russia groups have occupied areas in eastern Ukraine…There was a burst of violence on April 20, with three people killed during a shootout at a checkpoint manned by pro-Russian troops. The U.S. has asserted that some of the troops are Russian special operations forces, and officials are pressing Russian to abide by an international accord aimed at stemming the crisis in Ukraine.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

UKRAINE SHOOTING HIGHLIGHTS RUSSIAN MEDIA TACTICS

April 22, 2014

BBC News on April 21, 2014, published a report by Stephen Ennis (BBC Monitoring) on the Russian TV channel LifeNews’s sensational and emotive reports about the shooting outside the east Ukrainian town of Sloviansk have caused controversy and accusations of fakery, with their shots of crisp dollar bills and a business card said to belong to ultranationalist Right Sector leader Dmytro Yarosh. But they also provide a classic case study in the methods used by pro-Kremlin media to shape public opinion about the conflict in Ukraine. Excerpts below:

LifeNews is a news channel known for its close relationship with the Russian security forces and is unswervingly loyal to the Kremlin. It has broken a number of stories connected with Sloviansk, a pro-Russian stronghold in eastern Ukraine.

1. Right Sector
LifeNews’s claim that Mr Yarosh’s business card was among the articles recovered from cars used in the alleged attack near Sloviansk on 20 April is in keeping with the pro-Kremlin media’s recurrent message that Right Sector is responsible for virtually all the violence that has occurred in Ukraine in recent months. In some cases, at least, these claims are questionable. On 7 April, Russian TV reported how pro-Russian activists in the eastern city of Kharkiv had rounded on Right Sector activists who were said to have attacked them. But young mathematician Serhiy Melnyk gave a different version of what appear to be the same events. Writing on Facebook, he described how he was among a group of people set upon and badly beaten by “aggressive” pro-Russian activists after attending a concert in Kharkiv in support of the revolution that unseated President Viktor Yanukovych – the so-called Maydan.

2. Foreign interference
Among the objects LifeNews cameras singled out from among the haul said to have been abandoned by the Sloviansk attackers was an array of crisp-looking 100-dollar bills. LifeNews also quoted the self-styled “mayor” of Sloviansk, Vyacheslav Ponomarev, as saying that the gunmen had used “Nato weapons”. These are just two examples of how Russian TV has been suggesting that America and the West are somehow behind or even involved in the violence in Ukraine. Last week, state TV used reports about a visit to Kiev by CIA director John Brennan to suggest the USA was partly to blame for “unleashing civil war in Ukraine”. It also alleged that personnel from US private security firms were involved in the conflict, though it produced no evidence for this beyond vague reports about troops said to be wearing unmarked or unfamiliar uniforms.

3. Nazi connection
When Mr Ponomarev was showing off the haul from the “gunmen”, he drew particular attention to a World War II German machine-gun. “Our opponents continue to promote their fascist ideology, and not only that, since they are using the weapons of their teachers,” he told LifeNews. Russian TV has relentlessly promoted the idea that the Maydan protests have unleashed fascism in Ukraine. At the beginning of March, it alleged that in west Ukraine insulting posters were being used to single out the homes of Russians just as Nazis once used Stars of David to brand Jews. But no evidence was produced for this beyond a shot of the poster itself. Pro-Maydan activists in Ukraine are routinely referred to as followers of Stepan Bandera, the controversial nationalist leader accused of collaborating with the Nazis.

4. SacrilegeLifeNews presented the alleged attack near Sloviansk as a kind of sacrilege. Not only had it contravened the 17 April Geneva agreement and Kiev’s promised Easter ceasefire, said the correspondent, but it occurred “right at the very moment when the Easter services were being held in churches”. Even more emotive religious language was used during a talk show on official Russian channel Rossiya 1 on 15 April, which suggested that the conflict in Ukraine was in part a religious one.

5. Justification
LifeNews followed its reports from the scene of the shooting with footage of Mr Ponomarev calling on President Putin to send in Russian “peacekeepers” to “protect us from Right Sector and the Ukrainian National Guard, who bring only death with them and want to make slaves of us”.

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world.

PUTIN’S WESTWARD MARCH

April 21, 2014

Wall Street Journal on April 18, 2014, wrote that diplomacy is useful when it prevents bad outcomes. The problem with diplomacy as practiced by President Obama is that it too often is a mask to disguise bad outcomes. The latest example is this week’s agreement among Ukraine, Russia, the EU and the U.S. that claims to prevent war but largely advances Vladimir Putin’s strategic objectives. Excerpts below:

The government in Kiev is supposed to make political concessions to allow more autonomy in its eastern provinces in return for a military “de-escalation.” But on the very day of the accord, Mr. Putin publicly reserved the right to invade Ukraine and refused to withdraw his troops massed at the border. On April 18 the militants holding police stations and public offices in eastern Ukraine refused to stand down.

Even President Obama curbed his enthusiasm for the deal negotiated by Secretary of State

The Russian President denies that the militants have anything to do with Russia and says he’s helpless to stop them. The accord says nothing about Ukraine’s May 25 election, which Russia opposes and wants to subvert. His troops are still ready to invade if he pleases, and Mr. Putin made promises to the republic of Georgia before he invaded that country in 2008. For the first time on April 17, Mr. Putin referred to Ukraine as part of “New Russia,” a revanchist echo of the czarist era.

NATO Supreme Commander Philip Breedlove cut through the diplomatic haze with a public memo stating that, “What is happening in eastern Ukraine is a military operation that is well planned and organized” and “is being carried out at the direction of Russia.”

The pro-Russian activists show all the earmarks of having had military training, the general wrote. Their weapons and equipment are mainly Russian army issue, which they carry with military discipline. Their use of tear gas and stun grenades in taking buildings showed training inconsistent with a spontaneously generated local militia.

Too bad Mr. Obama showed none of the same candor about these military facts. In his press conference the President never blamed Russia for the unrest in Ukraine or said Russian troops were on the ground. He never mentioned Crimea, which seems to have been banished from U.S. talking points now that Mr. Putin has annexed the peninsula.

All of this continues the pattern of Mr. Obama and Europe underestimating the Russian strongman. They pretend he is amenable to diplomacy or afraid of threats, but neither has deterred Mr. Putin from marching west. Even when Mr. Putin openly declares his goal by declaring eastern Ukraine to be part of historic Russia, Mr. Obama prefers to ignore it.

The larger problem is that Mr. Obama can’t seem to admit that his assumptions about the world are being repudiated by the week. He came to office believing his own campaign rhetoric that the U.S. was unpopular mainly because of President George W. Bush. He would end these misunderstandings through diplomatic engagement, especially with our adversaries, who would respond in kind to our good will and moral example. Nowhere in the world has that happened.

To the contrary, Mr. Obama’s second term has been marked by the advance of revisionist powers seeking to rewrite the post-Cold War global order. Iran is attempting to do this on nuclear weapons, retaining a capability just short of exploding a weapon with a goal of dominating the Middle East. China is pressing its territorial claims in the East and South China seas.

And now Russia is marching west with a goal of reclaiming the influence and perhaps the territory it lost with the collapse of the Soviet Union.


Unless he faces forceful opposition, Mr. Putin will not stop at neutralizing or digesting Ukraine. He will set his sights at discrediting NATO, perhaps with a play on the Baltic states.

Nothing that Mr. Obama and Western Europe have done so far comes close to meeting the magnitude of this new threat. Their military gestures have been token deployments of NATO jets, their economic sanctions have been weak, and their diplomacy more pleading than forceful.

Mr. Putin sees Western leaders preoccupied with domestic concerns with no appetite for a great power showdown. He sees European leaders unwilling to pay any economic price to sanction Russia. And he sees that Mr. Obama cares more about securing Russia’s help to strike a nuclear detente with Iran than about keeping Ukraine out of Russia’s clutches. Until that changes, Mr. Putin will march on.

DRONES FROM THE DEEP: PENTAGON DEVELOPS OCEAN-FLOOR ATTACK ROBOTS

April 19, 2014

The Washington Times on April 18, 2014, reported that the Pentagon is developing attack drones that can patiently wait on the ocean floor for years. Excerpts below:

DARPA, the Pentagon’s research arm charged with creating breakthrough technologies for national security, believes robotic pods that can quickly surface from the ocean floor are the perfect tool for a Navy that cannot always be in a region when hostilities first arise.

DARPA has requested bids for the final two phases of its Upward Falling Payloads (UFP) program this week, the technology website Ars Technica reported on April 18. Those payloads would include “low-power laser attack systems, surveillance sensors, and even airborne and aquatic drones that act as decoys or provide intelligence and targeting information,” the site reported.

Last year the Pentagon began testing conceptual designs for the new weapons, and soon it will move into move into Phase 2: prototype development. If initial testing of the technology goes according to plan in 2015 and 2016, the Pentagon hopes to have “full depth” testing by 2017, Ars Technica reported.