Posts Tagged ‘Russia’

U.S. ADMINISTRATION RETHINKS SYRIA STRATEGY

September 18, 2015

Wall Street Journal on September 17, 2015, reported that the Obama administration is considering scrapping its effort to create a large-scale Syrian force to fight Islamic State as it searches for alternatives to prevent the American-led effort from collapsing, officials said. Excerpts below:

Under one proposal being crafted at the Pentagon, the $500 million train-and-equip program—a core component of the U.S. Syria strategy—would be supplanted by a more modest effort focused on creating specially trained militants empowered to call in U.S. airstrikes, defense officials said.

The reconsideration comes after new disclosures of failures in the U.S. strategy in Syria, which is under intensified scrutiny at home and abroad.

Defense officials said there is widespread agreement on the need to overhaul the program, but no consensus yet on how far-reaching the changes should be.

The changes are being propelled by in part by the burgeoning refugee crisis which is fueled by an exodus from Syria…

The administration is under pressure over disclosures by top commanders this week that the training program has produced only a handful of fighters on the battlefield. U.S. policy is also coming under growing criticism at home, where foreign policy experts and Republican political candidates have zeroed in on errors.

“I’m someone who has supported the president on many issues, and on this one I think we’ve made a major mistake by being so standoffish and uninvolved,” said R. Nicholas Burns, who advised President George W. Bush on Iran policy as undersecretary of state for political affairs and U.S. representative to NATO.

“I hope that there will be a sea change in the administration, that they will recognize that they need a comprehensive policy. It may take years to succeed, but you’ve got to start,” Mr. Burns said. “If this administration doesn’t, no matter who we elect in 2016—Republican or Democrat—will have to.”

In dealing with Russia, U.S. officials have said any immediate talks would likely be among midlevel emissaries of the countries, not top officials.

Republican presidential candidates almost uniformly have denounced Mr. Obama’s Syria policy, saying his reluctance to more deeply involve the U.S. for fear of dragging the country into another Middle East war has allowed the crisis to spread.

In recent days, Russia has brought into a growing Syrian airfield its first drones, attack helicopters and transport choppers, along with expanding housing that U.S. defense officials estimate could be used by 2,000 people.

The shift would mean that U.S.-backed fighters would join larger groups that haven’t been vetted by American officials.

The U.S. would rule out working with al Qaeda affiliates such as the Nusra Front and would focus on identifying other groups in Syria.

The proposal would build on the successful model of cooperation between the U.S. and the Syrian Kurdish militia YPG. The militia has had the greatest success in Syria in seizing ground from Islamic State. YPG forces are able to request airstrikes from the U.S.-led coalition conducting airstrikes on Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

If the Pentagon shifts course to focus on training small numbers of fighters, it would represent a reversal.

As the administration looks to ramp up its diplomatic efforts, U.S. officials have said Russia and Iran—the Assad regime’s most important international allies—would be major players. The U.S. discussions would also include European allies and Arab states.

The question facing Mr. Obama is whether he wants to make Syria a higher foreign policy priority, said Jon Alterman, a former State Department official, now Middle East analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“I don’t think the administration has set an objective to resolve this,” Mr. Alterman said.

“U.S. allies in the Middle East are increasingly acting independently because they think the United States is too passive,” he added. “The limited nature of the U.S. response leaves people too free to feel they can act with complete impunity and they act without regard to the United States because we’ve become like part of the furniture.”

Comment: It seems clear that the present US administration will only make tactical changes in the Syria policy. That Washington might seek negotiations with Russia and Iran, two main geostrategic enemies, is worrying. No doubt these powers, heartened by the near collapse of US policy, seek to strengthen influence in the Middle East. Russia is providing military hardware and Iran terrorist support. The Middle East and terrorism is only part of Obamas geopolitical problems. Russia and China have also been neglected

THE REAL ARCTIC THREAT

September 2, 2015

Wall Street Journal on September 1, 2015, published a commentary by Senator John McCain on the present US administration’s lack of interest in the Arctic. Excerpts below:

President Obama is on a three-day visit to Alaska that will include a stop north of the Arctic Circle. The focus of his trip is climate change. Some of my Senate colleagues and I recently returned from the Arctic, and while we saw the challenges of melting polar ice, we also saw a greater and more immediate threat. It is a menace that many assumed was relegated to the past: an aggressive, militarily capable Russian state that is ruled by an anti-American autocrat, hostile to our interests, dismissive of our values, and seeking to challenge the international order that U.S. leaders of both parties have maintained for seven decades.

Vladimir Putin’s neo-imperial ambitions are clear enough in his attempt to dominate Russia’s neighbors, Ukraine most of all. But his ambitions increasingly extend to the Arctic and Europe’s northern flank. That is where I and my colleagues met with leaders and security officials from Norway, Sweden, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

As polar ice melts, Russia is rushing to nationalize and control new waterways across the Arctic Ocean that could open not simply to commercial shipping, but also military and intelligence activities. Vast natural resources, including oil and gas, could become available for exploitation, potentially transforming the Arctic into a new theater of geopolitical competition.

Officials from each of the countries I visited expressed the same concern: Russia is threatening the security and prosperity of the Arctic and Northern Europe by assertively deploying its military power, patrolling its neighbors’ coastlines both above and below water, and building or reopening numerous military outposts across the region.

Russian provocations and territorial claims in the Arctic also threaten U.S. national-security interests. Russia’s military expansion in the Arctic and North Atlantic appears to be an attempt to establish de facto control over these vital areas, much as China is seeking to do in the South China Sea. In both cases the U.S. response has so far been feeble. That is alarming, because freedom of the seas is essential to the modern way of life. Any action by Russia that impedes movement in the Arctic may ultimately threaten the peace of the Atlantic and the intercontinental ties between the U.S. and our closest allies and trading partners in Europe.

Defending America’s national interests in the Arctic will require bringing renewed energy to our alliances and partnerships. This year the U.S. assumed the chairmanship of the Arctic Council for two years. During that time we should make recognition of Mr. Putin’s hegemonic ambitions a top priority and increase cooperation with our Arctic partners to deter Russia from instigating a new “great game” in the Arctic.

We must also provide robust support for the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard.

On September 1 President Obama proposed to start planning for construction of new icebreakers. That’s only modest progress. Without the proper capabilities, the U.S. gives Russia a free pass to establish facts on the ground that will be hard to rebut.

Ultimately, Mr. Putin’s ambitions—from Ukraine and the Baltics to the Arctic and North Atlantic—require the trans-Atlantic community to return to a mission that too many assumed was no longer necessary: deterrence. We must project strength to prevent conflict.

Moscow is waging a Cold War updated for the 21st century, employing modern military tactics and weapons systems, conducting sophisticated information-warfare operations and using advanced cyber and space capabilities.

To be successful, the U.S. must end the arbitrary caps on defense spending imposed by the Budget Control Act and return to a strategy-driven defense budget. America’s European and NATO partners must spend more on defense—at a minimum, meeting the NATO commitment of 2% of gross domestic product.

The good news is that some European countries are responding to the new strategic realities in Europe. Norway continues to be a leading military power in Europe. Sweden, which has suffered brazen Russian incursions into its territorial waters and airspace, is planning a defense-spending increase to improve training and acquire vital military capabilities, including submarines, fighters jets and air defenses.

The Baltic States are stepping up as well. Estonia has developed some of the world’s most advanced cyber capabilities. Latvia plans to spend 2% of GDP on defense by 2018. Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė tells me that her country is boosting its defense spending by a third next year.

With each of these nations, and other European and NATO allies, the U.S. must encourage greater security cooperation, robust military exchanges and exercises, and improved intelligence capabilities to deter Vladimir Putin’s quest for a new form of Russian empire.

Mr. McCain, a Republican, is a U.S. senator from Arizona.

Comment: This article by Senator McCain is a welcome contribution to the increasing focus on the Russian Arctic buildup. The Russian threat has since 2009 been neglected by the present American administration. Not until this year President Obama has at least started thinking about building more US icebreakers for Arctic service. The visit by McCain and colleagues in the Baltic Sea area has greatly contributed to a greater awareness in Sweden, Norway, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania of the growing Russian activities in the Arctic and the Baltic Sea region. As during the Cold War Russia is in the 21st century worried about geostrategic containment. The Arctic is important to Russia and the bases on the Kola Peninsula are important for Russia’s deployment of naval forces in the Atlantic. The occupation of Crimea is part of Russia’s new global strategy. Crimea in Russian hands is important for Russian naval deployment in the Mediterranean. For Russian naval access to the Pacific Ocean the Kurile chain is of great strategic and economic importance. Here are the chokepoints that control the movements of the Russian Pacific Fleet in Vladivostok and one of the most productive fishing grounds in the world. To contain Russia it is from a global geopolitical perspective of great importance to the West to control the rimland of the Eurasian continent.

ESTONIA ‘PLANS BORDER FENCE’ AMID UKRAINE TENSION

August 31, 2015

BBC News on August 28, 2015, reported that Estonia wants to build a fence along its eastern border with Russia to boost security and protect the EU’s passport-free Schengen zone. Excerpts below:
Construction on the fence, planned to be about 110km (70 miles) long and 2.5m (8ft) high, is set to start in 2018.

It is expected to cost about €71m (£52m; $80m), according to reports.

The plans come amid heightened tensions between Russia and the West over the Ukraine conflict. Europe is also struggling with an influx of migrants.

“The aim of the construction is to cover the land border with 100%, around-the-clock technical surveillance to create ideal conditions for border guarding and to ensure the security of Estonia and the Schengen area,” interior ministry spokesman Toomas Viks told AFP news agency.

He said information gathered could be used to investigate illegal border crossing, smuggling and human trafficking.

The fence would only cover just over a third of Estonia’s 294km (183 miles) border with Russia as much of it is covered by water, Estonia’s Postimees newspaper reports.

The former Soviet nation is among the EU member states to have borders on the external boundaries of the Schengen zone, which was enables passport-free travel.

Another such country, Hungary, has already started building a 175km-long fence along its border with Serbia to try to keep migrants out. Officials say thousands of people cross into the country every day as they head north into Europe and Germany in particular.

However the focus of the migrants crisis in recent months has been in the Western Balkans, rather than Estonia. Migrants have also continued to make the perilous crossing to Europe via the Mediterranean from Libya.

Earlier in August 2015 Russia jailed Estonian security official Eston Kohver to 15 years in prison for spying in a case that provoked a diplomatic row.

Kohver was detained at the Russian border last September, with Estonia and the EU insisting he was on Estonian soil…
Estonia joined Nato and the EU in 2004.

Comment: The planned Estonian fence is on the land border with Russia is a wise decision. Eston Kohver was obviously kidnapped on Estonian territory. A fence can help Estonia to protect its border. Should Russia decide on a military incursion similar to the one in eastern Ukraine technical surveillance by Tallinn means a quicker sounding of alarm. As in the Ukraine case the Kremlin could claim that it is acting to protect a Russian minority in Estonia.

UKRAINE FINANCE MINISTRY: KYIV SECURES DEBT-RELIEF DEAL

August 29, 2015

Wall Street Journal on August 27, 2015, reported that Ukraine’s private creditors have accepted a 20% write-down on the face value of their Ukrainian bonds. Excerpts below:

Ukraine said August 27, 2015, that it had secured a debt-relief deal with its creditors, a vital step toward unlocking billions of dollars in emergency financing, after months of stalemate threatened to derail its international bailout.

The agreement, which requires approval by Ukraine’s parliament, is a major success for the pro-Western government as it seeks to push through a series of politically tough economic overhauls and nurse its fragile economy to health.

But the simmering conflict with Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country continues to exact a toll on government finances, and the debt relief by no means assures economic viability for a country that has long been struggling to stay afloat.

Averting a financial tailspin in the country of 45 million people has been a priority in Washington and European capitals, which have sought to buttress the government in Kiev against an increasingly confrontational Russia.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew urged creditors to move swiftly to complete the restructuring, calling it critical to Ukraine’s future prosperity. “A strong, stable Ukraine is in the interests of Ukraine’s citizens, Ukraine’s neighbors, its international partners, and investors,” Mr. Lew said.

According to the Ukrainian Finance Ministry, private creditors including U.S. mutual fund Franklin Templeton Investments agreed to a 20% write-down in the face value of their Ukrainian bonds, and to push back maturities on government debt by four years.

The hryvnia currency rose more than 3% against the dollar, and Ukraine’s central bank lowered its key interest rate to 27% from 30%, citing reduced inflation risks just minutes after the deal was announced.

Ukraine’s bonds jumped by about 18%. The price of two-year notes increased to more than 66 cents, from 56 cents, according to data from Tradeweb, the highest level since January.

Under the bailout terms, Ukraine needed to secure $15 billion-worth of debt relief, including interest payments, from its international creditors, as well as pass the economic measures, to release the rest of the promised $25 billion in rescue money from the International Monetary Fund, Europe and the U.S.

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde welcomed the deal and said Ukraine should meet the debt targets outlined in the bailout program—but only if all the Eurobond holders participated.

The conflict [with Russia] has destroyed critical infrastructure, fueled a deep recession, pushed the currency into a nose-dive, depleted emergency cash reserves and forced acute budget belt-tightening.

Besides the IMF, Kiev has the backing of Washington, the European Union and other Western allies who see Ukraine as a decisive geopolitical battleground to fend off the advances of an increasingly aggressive Russia.

After months of impasse, negotiations appeared to accelerate in late July, with both sides offering to make concessions. Prospects of a resolution were given a boost last month when Ukraine met the deadline for a $120 million coupon payment on its two-year bonds.

The turning point, said Ms. Jaresko, came…at San Francisco’s Hyatt Regency hotel two weeks ago,…

After leaving San Francisco, the parties spent two more tense weeks thrashing out details.

The agreement is a welcome relief also for other holders of Ukraine debt, who have been following the negotiations from the sidelines. The measures will apply to all the country’s outstanding debt.

Also on August 27, 2015, Wall Street Journal reported that Ukraine’s US-born Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko is praised for her persistence. She was personally involved in securing the debt-relief deal. Excerpts below:

After announcing a deal to help stave off bankruptcy at a government meeting Thursday, Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko received an unusual gift from her fellow ministers: a painted artillery shell casing.

Ms. Jaresko, a 50-year-old American who but only recently became a Ukrainian citizen, was being hailed as the hero of the battle to save the economy, one being waged at the same time as the country fights pro-Russian separatists in its east.

The finance minister led months of tense negotiations with private creditors, clocking thousands of miles flying from Eastern Europe to the U.S. to persuade them to accept a 20% write-down on the face value of their bonds and later repayment. The deal should help Ukraine secure further bailout funds from the International Monetary Fund.

Ms. Jaresko, born into a Ukrainian diaspora family in Illinois, arrived in Kiev two decades ago as one of a handful of diplomats charged with opening the U.S. Embassy. She later moved into the private sector, eventually co-founding the Horizon Capital private-equity fund in 2006, which focused on the region.

It was only after a revolution last year swept Ukraine’s pro-Russian president out of power that Ms. Jaresko contemplated another stint in government.

In December, President Petro Poroshenko tapped her to run the Finance Ministry, a post with notorious bureaucracy, corruption and near-empty coffers—all for a salary equal to $300 a month.

Ms. Jaresko, who speaks Ukrainian, is no stranger to the difficulties of making the case for the country: Colleagues at Horizon Capital say she spent the first year at the fund in hundreds of meetings, traveling thousands of miles to follow up on the slightest flicker of investor interest in Ukrainian assets.

Comments: This is welcome news. This blog has long argued that securing Ukraine as a state is more important than supporting Greece, although financial stability is important in both cases. Ms. Jaresko has proven to be an effective Minister of Finance and the present deal could be a turning point for Ukraine. A financially strong Ukraine is a must when taking on Russia.

U.S. TO DEPLOY F-22 FIGHTER JETS TO REASSURE EAST EUROPEAN ALLIES

August 25, 2015

Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty on August 25, 2015, reported, based on AP and Reuters news, that the United States will deploy F-22 fighter jets to Europe soon to support Eastern European members of the NATO alliance unnerved by Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, Air Force Secretary Deborah James said on August 24.

“Russia’s military activity in the Ukraine continues to be of great concern to us and to our European allies,” James told a news conference at the Pentagon. “For the Air Force, an F-22 deployment is certainly on the strong side of the coin.”

Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh James said the F-22’s inaugural deployment in Europe would allow U.S. forces to train with NATO partners across Europe, testing the ability of the jets to communicate and fight together with the Eurofighter and other advanced warplanes.

Comment: This is good news but more of the same is needed. Starting with Poland there is a great need for new NATO bases in Eastern Europe from Estonia in the north to Bulgaria in the south all along the Russian border. Several divisions are kept ready by the Kremlin in western Russia. To the new bases in eastern Europe more defensive weapons need to be delivered to Ukraine.

RUSSIA TOP THREAT TO THE WEST

August 24, 2015

In a US Senate hearing in July 2015 US Army General Mark Milley joined other top military leaders in naming Russia as the main threat the U.S. faces today.

General Milley said:

Russia is the only country on earth that contains a nuclear capability that could destroy the United States. It’s an existential threat to the United States, so it has capability. Intent, I don’t know; but the activity of Russia since 2008 has been very, very aggressive.

Asked about the military’s ability to operate in Europe amid the growing Russian threat, Gen. Milley said he thought the U.S. military needed to increase ground forces on a temporary rotational basis to provide better deterrence.

Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford during the hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee said:

My assessment today is that Russia poses the greatest threat to our national security. If you look at their behavior, it’s nothing short of alarming.

Congress authorized the administration to provide lethal aid to Ukraine in 2014, but President Obama — who ridiculed Republican rival Mitt Romney during a 2012 presidential debate for calling Russia the greatest threat to American security — has declined so far to use that authorization to arm Ukrainians.

General Milley said he would support providing defensive lethal aid to Ukraine.

Air Force General Paul Selva, also placed Russia at the top of his list of threats. He put the Islamic State and other al Qaeda-inspired groups at the bottom of the list.

General Milley named top threats as China, North Korea, the Islamic State and Iran, but did not place them in a specific order.

Russia’s aggressiveness has naturally worried European NATO members. On CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS Radek Sikorski, former foreign minister of Poland, said on August 23, 2015 (excerpts below):

President Putin spoke of Ukraine as an artificial country already at the NATO summit in Bucharest in 2008. And as we know, some of those plans in Georgia, for Crimea, for Ukraine, had been laid down before. President Putin has – had largely misspent the oil boom’s money, but he has invested heavily in his armed forces. And we are now seeing the results of that.

…what I think we should do is, first of all, is to convince President Putin that the NATO area is out of bounds for Russian military adventurism.

Secondly, I would try to convince President Putin that if he moves further into Ukraine, he will face a prolonged conflict that he cannot win.

… thirdly, I think we should persuade him that time is not working in his favor – that Ukraine is reforming itself, whereas the conflict is costing Russia too much, and then I believe he might be – might be willing to make a deal and withdraw from the occupation of Ukraine.

Ideally, we need a process in which the European Union and the United States should participate that would fix all of the frozen conflicts on the former Soviet periphery – so Transnistria, Caucuses and a couple of others.

Asked if there should be a forward NATO base in Poland Sikorski answered:

Well, there are NATO bases in Britain, in Germany, in Spain, in Portugal, in Italy, in Turkey and your generals are saying, one after another, that the actual threat is from the East. So where do you think our major bases should be? I guess where they are needed, huh?

Comments: In February 2014 Russia invaded Crimea and annexed it as Russian territory. Moscow is supporting Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine and has strong forces (maybe 50,000 men) standing by for possible invasion of Ukraine.

NATO military presence in all the way from Estonia in the north to Bulgaria in the south is needed. Poland, a strong supporter of a continued free and independent Ukraine, is in great need of a major NATO base on its territory. The Western alliance need to strengthen more extensive NATO presence also in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Bulgaria. President Obama should soonest provide defensive lethal aid to Ukraine, which in 2015 is geopolitically of greater importance than Greece. Also financial aid to Ukraine is necessary. This European country’s pro-Western spirit needs to be kept alive. In 2013 the Ukrainian people expressed a strong will to be part of a united Europe from the Atlantic to the Russian border. Strong support is also called for countries like Moldavia, Georgia and Armenia, which all want closer ties to the European Union.

POLL SHOWS NEGATIVE VIEWS OF RUSSIA, PUTIN AROUND THE WORLD

August 8, 2015

Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty on August 6, 2015, reported on a new opinion poll showing that both Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, are viewed unfavorably around the world. Excerpts below:

A U.S.-based Pew Research Center poll released on August 5 shows that a median of just 30 percent have a positive opinion of Russia among respondents from 39 countries around the world, excluding Russia.

Only 24 percent in the countries surveyed expressed confidence in Putin “to do the right thing regarding world affairs.”

Of the 39 countries polled, only Vietnam (75 percent), Ghana (56 percent), and China (51 percent) yielded a majority of respondents who viewed Russia in a favorable light.

Relations between Russia and the West have plunged to lows not seen since the Cold War, driven by the Kremlin’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region last year and a simmering war between Kyiv and Russian-backed insurgents in eastern Ukraine.

The damaged relations between Moscow and the West are reflected in the new Pew Research Center poll.

Among U.S. respondents, 75 percent said they had “no confidence” in Putin’s handling of world affairs compared to 21 percent who said they trust the Russian leader.

The poll, conducted March 25-27, surveyed a total of 45,435 respondents from 40 countries.

A MESSAGE FROM UKRAINE’S PRESIDENT PETRO POROSHENKO

July 29, 2015

Wall Street Journal on July 28, 2015, published an interview with President Poroshenko in Kiev. Excerpts below:

As befits a head of state managing a war, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is blunt in an interview at the presidential-administration building here. Asked about the kind of weapons his armed forces would need to deter further aggression by Russia and its separatist proxies in eastern Ukraine, Mr. Poroshenko gets specific: “We’re looking for just 1,240 Javelin missiles, and this is absolutely fair.”

The number 1,240 has special significance for Mr. Poroshenko. He says that was the number of nuclear warheads Ukraine gave up under the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, jointly signed by the U.S., Britain and Russia. “Ukraine voluntarily gave up its nuclear arsenal,” Mr. Poroshenko says, “and in exchange for that the United States of America and Great Britain . . . promised to guarantee our sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Compared with strategic weapons, 1,240 Javelin missiles are small beer. Yet the Obama administration has thus far refused to transfer to Kiev the antitank system—or any other form of lethal aid. Mr. Poroshenko is thankful for American political support, loan guarantees and nonlethal assistance, including Humvees, night-vision goggles, military-to-military training and artillery computers that allow Ukrainian troops to better protect themselves against shelling. Yet such assistance has so far failed to change Russian supreme leader Vladimir Putin’s calculus in the war.

Rather than helping Kiev impose real costs on the aggressor, Washington and the European powers are pushing both sides to work through the Minsk process, a series of accords negotiated in the Belarussian capital and aimed at de-escalating the conflict.

Russian forces and proxies in the east violate the letter and spirit of Minsk II on a daily basis. The latest evidence: Ukrainian forces over the weekend apprehended a Russian officer transferring a truck loaded with ammunition to a separatist position near Donetsk. “Today he gave up his full name,” Mr. Poroshenko says, for the first time confirming the officer’s rank and home base. “He is a major of regular forces who comes here to kill my people.” The officer’s home base is in Russia’s Rostov region.

Then there is the constant shelling. On Sunday there were 70 instances of shelling from separatist positions. The daily average during the past two months was 100.

Nor does Minsk II address Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea. The concern in Kiev is that the West would be willing to trade away the peninsula in exchange for calm in eastern Ukraine. “If anybody proposed to the U.S. to give up the Florida Peninsula,” the Ukrainian president says, “something like that would not work. This is our land. . . . Whether it’s Donetsk, Luhansk or Crimea, at the end of the day, they will be freed.”

“We aren’t demanding that British, American or French soldiers come here and fight for us,” Mr. Poroshenko says. “We’re doing this ourselves, paying the most difficult price”—here his voice breaks momentarily—“the lives of my soldiers. We need just solidarity.”

The West would ultimately pay the price for appeasement and myopia. “If we do not stop the aggressor,” Mr. Poroshenko says, “that means global security doesn’t exist. Anytime, any plane or submarine can make a missile attack, including against the U.S.”

As Mr. Poroshenko puts it, the question the Ukrainian people are posing to the world is: “Are you together with the barbarian or together with the free world?” How is the leader of the free world doing on that front? Mr. Poroshenko’s response is marked by subtle elisions: “I think the most important, we feel the support of the people of the United States—very, very strong support—no matter if they’re Republicans or Democrats.”

He never mentions President Barack Obama by name during our interview.

PUTIN EYES RUSSIAN STRENGTH IN ATLANTIC AND ARCTIC IN NEW NAVAL DOCTRINE

July 28, 2015

The Telegraph, London, on July 27, 2015, reported that Russia will guarantee a permanent naval presence in the Mediterranean and boost its strength in the Atlantic and Arctic under a new strategy to counter “unacceptable” Nato expansion. Excerpts below:

The plans, which also include ambitious ship-building targets and expansion of infrastructure for the country’s fleet in the Black Sea, were laid out in a new naval doctrine approved by Vladimir Putin.

Dmitry Rogozin, the deputy prime minister with a portfolio for defense, emphasized the “accent put on the Atlantic and the Arctic” in a meeting with Mr Putin. Mr Rogozin, a strong critic of Nato, said that the new doctrine reflects “changes in the international political situation and the objective strengthening of Russia as a great naval power.”

“Our attention towards the Atlantic is justified by the expansion of Nato in the east,” he told Russian news agencies.

The 46-page document, published on the Kremlin website, lays out a comprehensive vision for civilian and military maritime strategy in coming years, including maintenance of sea-trade routes and management of fisheries.

But its military section openly identifies Western militaries as the primary potential adversary facing the Russian navy.

“The determining factor in relations with Nato remains the alliance’s unacceptable plans to move military infrastructure towards the Russian Federation’s borders and attempts to assume global functions,” the document says.

It goes on to call for reinforcement of Russia’s naval presence in the North Atlantic and maintenance of a naval presence “on a permanent basis” in the Mediterranean.

The doctrine also makes special mention of the Arctic and Antarctic, calling for expansion of Russia’s Northern Fleet to protect claims to natural resources on the Arctic shelf and secure the northern sea route between the Atlantic and the Pacific.

Russia is planning to build a new fleet of nuclear-powered ice breakers to support Arctic development.

It comes six months after Mr Putin approved a revised military doctrine in response to the rapid deterioration of relations with the West following Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

The annexation of Crimea sparked the worst crisis in relations between Russia and the West since the end of the Cold War and preceded the eruption of a war between Russian-backed separatists and government troops in eastern Ukraine.

In January, Nato announced the creation of six command centres in eastern member states as part of a response to what it called “Russian aggression” in Ukraine.

“These changes show that Russia pays particular attention to the reinforcement of its naval potential in the Arctic and the Atlantic to counter NATO,” military expert Alexander Golts said.

But “without a decisive reinforcement of the fleet’s capacities, all of these make no sense,” he added.

PENTAGON GIRDS FOR SPACE WAR WITH RUSSIA, CHINA

June 29, 2015

Washington Times on June 25, 2015, reported that Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work said that Russia and China pose threats to vital U.S. space capabilities and other U.S. technological weapons superiority. Excerpts below:

U.S. space systems built up over decades include imaging and other spy satellites, navigation and targeting sensors and communications networks that give the United States unequaled power-projection capabilities, Mr. Work said during a speech Tuesday to a symposium called GEOINT 2015.

“These capabilities that were built up and refined over the Cold War allowed us to project more power, more precisely, more swiftly, at less cost and with less force structure and with far fewer casualties than would otherwise be possible,” he said.

U.S. military superiority is being steadily eroded in significant ways, as states such as Russia and China field advanced weapons, he said.

Russia and China have studied U.S. war fighting and are preparing to attack space systems as a “vulnerable center of gravity for U.S. military power,” Mr. Work said.

To deal with the threat, the Pentagon is working to make space systems better able to withstand attacks ranging from ground-fired missiles and lasers to small robot satellites.

Failing to secure these systems would have a “profound” impact, as command-and-control systems would be disrupted, the ability to detect missile launches weakened, and the accuracy of precision-guided weapons reduced. Links used for unmanned aircraft and much of the data from intelligence gathering also would be lost, Mr. Work said.

A new command center to deal with space attacks, increasing space intelligence, and a new space architecture are needed, he said.

Mr. Work described Russia as a “clear and present danger” after its aggression against Ukraine and threatening nuclear activities.