Tag Archive for Ukraine

Flashpoint Armenia: Why you should care

Beyond the very real genocide of Armenians by Turks, which has been highly politicized recently, few of us have any real knowledge of Armenia.  In fact, many people couldn’t even find Armenia on a map and certainly do not view it as becoming a strategic geopolitical issue.  That may be about to change.  In another covert escalation of force designed to undermine Russia, the CIA has been supporting another “colour” revolution, like it did in the Ukraine, to break away a long time Russian ally and former Soviet satellite.  Although, media reports generally will only speak of protests over things like corruption and electricity prices, make no mistake, the hidden US agenda of regime change is once again afoot.  The Russians know this and so does the US.  http://www.azatutyun.am/content/article/27106463.html Like Crimea, Russia views Armenia as geographically strategic and will retaliate proportionally if the US continues with its covert revolution. Read more

Putin vs Obama Part III: Why Russia will win

Putin speaks during his visit to the Crimean port of Sevastopol.

Putin speaks during his visit to the Crimean port of Sevastopol.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger wrote: “For the West, the demonization of Vladimir Putin is not a policy; it is an alibi for the absence of one.”  Kissinger, like him or not, is spot on in his succinct assessment of Obama’s policy for Russia.  As the West descends into another reckless and disastrous war in the Middle East, Putin must be quietly laughing knowing that very soon the US will soon have its Soviet moment of collapse.  In fact, to strategically defeat the US, all Russia must do is wait for the utter mismanagement of our nation to bring about its implosion.  In this third and final installment of our exclusive analysis of the conflicting Russo-American policies, it is clear that in the first major post-Cold War struggle between Russia and the US, it will be Russia that scores a victory in the Ukraine crisis. Read more

Putin versus Obama Part II: Who is the better leader?

US President Barack Obama (L) holds a bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the G8 summit at the Lough Erne resort near Enniskillen in Northern Ireland, on June 17, 2013. The conflict in Syria was set to dominate the G8 summit starting in Northern Ireland on Monday, with Western leaders upping pressure on Russia to back away from its support for President Bashar al-Assad.  AFP PHOTO / JEWEL SAMAD        (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

US President Barack Obama (L) holds a bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the G8 summit at the Lough Erne resort near Enniskillen in Northern Ireland, on June 17, 2013. The conflict in Syria was set to dominate the G8 summit starting in Northern Ireland on Monday, with Western leaders upping pressure on Russia to back away from its support for President Bashar al-Assad. AFP PHOTO / JEWEL SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

In my on-going series analyzing the growing rift between the US and Russia, it is important to evaluate a nation’s leadership.  Specifically, let’s look at the qualifications and performance to date of Presidents Putin and Obama.  Before we go any further, it is necessary to lay down a few ground rules of the debate.  First of all, I want to dispel the myth that a person can be of mediocre intellect, but a good president as long as they have a good staff.  This oft stated notion is a ridiculous excuse used by political parties to mitigate criticism that their brainless candidate is not up to the task.  Further, it is true that no one man has total control of a government, but to say that the leaders of Russia and the US have their hands tied and do not have real power would be a poorly informed lie.  In fact, both presidents have substantial power and influence over both foreign and domestic affairs and craft geopolitical strategy that affects the world.  If there wasn’t truth to this, then why would we ascribe so much prestige upon leaders like Thatcher, Reagan, Lincoln, and Washington?  Due to the real power and influence presidents wield, it is important to assess who has demonstrated the ability to more effectively lead and use that power.  Based on that evaluation, you are better able to analyze and predict the actions and ultimate outcomes of any potential or on-going political conflicts between the US and Russia. Read more

Putin versus Obama Part I: Are they really so different?

obama-putinMuch of the rhetoric behind the push to create a new Cold War centers on Russian President Vladimir Putin.  The complicit media and the Obama Administration have pulled no punches in smearing President Putin and casting him as the most evil of tyrants and a political thug imprisoning opposition, seizing assets, enriching himself on the government’s dime, and intimidating reporters and political dissidents.  In fact, much of this is probably true; however, before we cast the first stone and judge Putin as evil incarnate and start World War III, perhaps some national retrospection of our own actions and character would be in order.  Let’s step back and evaluate America’s actions and consider whether or not we may have lost the moral high ground and then,…just perhaps, should rethink our policy, attitudes, and actions toward Russia. Read more

An Open Letter to President Obama and Congress on US Policy toward Ukraine and Russia

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As the United States races forward to develop policy to deal with the escalating crisis in the Ukraine, many citizens have been left totally uniformed respective of our regional interests and policies toward it. As a concerned citizen, I am respectfully requesting a pause to allow professional debate on the subject before the Administration effectively locks America into another Cold War with Russia. I, like many Americans, remember the days of the Cold War and do not wish to return to the fear of nuclear annihilation, incredible levels of defense spending, and never ending guerrilla wars across the globe.
Sadly, logic rarely plays any part in policy development and seems to have had almost no impact on the current administration’s policy decisions.  Further, as a mere voiceless citizen amongst the masses, I have little reason to suspect my voice matters or will ever be heard in front of our policy makers. As such, I risk being labeled a radical for daring to demand answers to critical questions all Americans should be concerned over as President Obama and the US Congress steer our nation toward a head on collision with Russia.  America, as every nation, has made many mistakes in its past.  Can we not, at least once, learn from these mistakes and try to get a policy right?  Rather than simply complain and point out the failures, I will offer solutions.  To that end, I recommend an initial, vigorous, public debate to inform upon and explore all policy options before our political knee jerk reactions land our nation in very dire waters. 
I am of the mindset that sanctions are the extreme extent of economic warfare, which is inextricably linked to waging warfare in the classical sense. Therefore, a declaration to destroy a nation’s economy is, in effect, the same as war. To assume otherwise is a dangerous oversight in respect to high stakes political brinkmanship. Perhaps the Russian oligarchs will still have steak and caviar, but sanctions will mean joblessness, hardship, and starvation for millions of Russians.  These deprivations upon the public amount to little difference from a shooting war.  Russia intimately understands this, but unlike Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, Russia has the ability to effectively fight back against global bullying. Before walking further down this treacherous road with Russia, a formidable adversary I must add, I would like the President, Congress, and ultimately the American public to definitively answer and defend in open debate the following elementary questions:
What and specifically, whose interests are being served by our involvement in the Ukraine?  What vital national interests are at stake?  What will we receive in exchange for our involvement in Ukraine?  What are our policy goals in respect to Russia and Ukraine?  What end state do we seek by sanctioning Russia? What is the timeline by which we determine success in our policy?  How far are we willing to go to achieve those goals?  Will we commit to military action should sanctions fail to achieve our policy goals?  Are we willing to risk nuclear war?
What is the projected global economic impact of sanctions on Russia for the US economy?  Are sanctions our only tools?  What price is the US willing to pay for enacting painful sanctions on Russia?  If Europe won’t support sanctions, why should the US?  Do we truly have a global economy?  If so, wouldn’t hurting the Russian economy also hurt the world economy?  If Europe is correct that sanctions would hurt the EU’s economy, wouldn’t it by default also hurt the US economy?  Can the US economy afford more negative economic pressure?  Is sanctioning Russia over Ukraine worth billions of dollars in losses for the US economy?  How many dollars in losses are we willing to endure to achieve our policy goals in Ukraine?  Will one billion dollars in loans be enough money to stabilize Ukraine?  If not, how much are we willing to spend and what will we expect as a return on investment?  What is the actual probability the US taxpayer will be repaid for the loan to Ukraine?
Why can’t Ukraine fight for itself?  Isn’t Ukraine a European issue?  Why must the US fight Europe’s battles?  What are the historic consequences of intervening in Europe’s civil wars?  What is the historical precedent for American success in this type of intervention?
Who are the leaders in the Ukraine that we are now supporting?  Did they not take power through a violent overthrow of the elected Ukrainian government?  Who supported that revolution? Could the Russians have viewed this as a threat? If the tables were turned, would we approve of similar action on our borders? How do we decide who is and isn’t the legitimate government in the Ukraine?  Who are we to decide which coups, in a string of overthrows and power grabs, are legitimate after unilaterally deciding the formerly recognized Ukrainian government was illegitimate?  How do we know the current regime in power in Kiev will work toward America’s best interests?  If the leadership we back in Ukraine becomes unpopular and fails to deliver positive change, will we continue to back the regime?  If the leadership we back in Ukraine is itself overthrown, what is the potential damage to US interests in the region?
Will sanctions actually achieve our goals by altering Russia’s decisions or just further alienate a rather large and powerful nation?  How long are we willing to continue sanctions before we assess policy failure or success?  If sanctions fail to have the desired effect, what are plans B and C?  What is the cost of inaction?  What would be the benefits to supporting Moscow over Kiev?  Have we even considered supporting Moscow?  What are the Russian grievances?  What does Russia have to gain or lose in Ukraine?  How far is Moscow willing to go to defend what it considers its vital national interests in Ukraine?  How much pain is Russia willing to endure to achieve its policy goals respective of Ukraine? Are we willing to inflict that amount of pain to force our will on Russia? How much pain will doing so entail for the US?
Are we as a nation prepared to step firmly back into a new Cold War landscape for the indefinite future?  Is the US willing to play the game of chicken to its full conclusion?  If not, why should we engage in the dangerous game of brinkmanship in the first place?  What retaliatory measures will Moscow take in response to sanctions?  Where and how could Moscow feasibly hurt America the worst?  What are the implications of Moscow shutting down the Northern Supply Route to Afghanistan during our planned retreat in 2014?  What are the implications of Moscow authorizing advanced weapons sales to countries like Syria, Iran, and China?  What if Moscow attacked the US militarily?  What would be the most likely course of action for Moscow?  What would Moscow’s most dangerous course of action be?  Do Americans realize further escalation could lead to the deaths of many Americans across the world as Russia begins to retaliate?  Is this something that America considers an acceptable loss?
I would argue that if these very basic, yet critically important questions were honestly answered and publicly debated, the policy decisions respective of the situation in the Ukraine would be patently clear.  What Americans would realize is that intervention in Ukraine is not in our vital national interests.  The US could only derive a net loss to our global geopolitical stability, security, and strength.  The public would see that US actions will be ineffective, counterproductive, and ultimately futile.  Americans would not be willing to pay the true price of a reckless intervention.  
Perhaps, I am an unbending ideologue for asking that basic logic to be applied to our policy decisions.  Maybe, I am just a blind and backwards isolationist for wanting to avoid more foreign conflict.  Certainly, I must be a cold pragmatist for the mere insinuation that one should place American interests before foreign interests.  We might as well assume I am also greedy for suggesting I am not willing to have more of my tax dollars looted to pay the debts owed to foreign banks by foreign elites.  No doubt I am also unpatriotic for not rushing to arms to support military intervention in the Ukraine.  If so, then I stand guilty as charged. 

Sincerely,
Guiles Hendrik
April 20, 2014
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Contact: Please send questions or comments to guileshendrik@gmail.com

Russia Laughs at Obama’s Red Line in Russia: What’s Next for Relations?

President Obama and his Secretary of State John Kerry have to be the laughing stock of the foreign policy world.  In less than a year they have managed to draw two “Red Lines” only to have them almost immediately ignored, crossed, and forgotten.  With this track record the word impotent comes to mind in reference to US Foreign Policy and particularly President (Carter) Obama.  Not to be trifled with, President Obama and his partners within the EU managed to order the assets of a handful of Russians frozen, obviously leaving Putin quaking in his finely crafted leather shoes.  The act is almost comical in that it seems to show even less resolve than if Obama and the EU had done nothing.  After all, freezing the non-existent US assets of a couple dozen Russians long after they hid and/or offshored anything of value can only be viewed in one of two ways.  Either the US is as weak as it appears or the US never intended to truly oppose Russia’s aims to annex Crimea and this is all political show so that they can say they “stood up to Putin.”  Further, at least one of victims of Washington’s sanctions appears to have nothing to do with events in the Ukraine and everything to do with Russia’s Christian grounded stance against homosexuality, which at least someone high up in the Obama Administration took exception.  This random list of targets unrelated to the events in the Ukraine undermines any shred of legitimacy the sanctions purportedly were imbued with.  Either way, Putin has to be concluding that at this point the US and the EU have zero resolve when it comes to actually opposing Russia’s annexation of Crimea.  Nonetheless, Putin, the same man that would order a former Russian defector assassinated with a rare radioactive isotope placed in his cocktail in a fine London bar, is not likely to take Obama’s cheap shot lightly.

Now that Washington has proved it couldn’t resist taking a cheap shot, what can we expect Russia’s response to be?  First of all, Putin has shown that unlike Obama, his actions speak for themselves and he doesn’t need to talk.  Since Washington and the EU attacked Russia financially, it is likely Russia will respond financially.  Last week, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov declared that any sanctions introduced by Washington against Moscow will have a “boomerang” effect.  Senior Russian Presidential Advisor, Sergey Glazyev, one of the individual’s sanctioned by Obama’s executive order, suggested Russia would dump US treasuries and walk away from the US Dollar as a reserve currency.  It is questionable how much of an impact this would have, but it certainly wouldn’t help the US economically and add to the growing list of countries dumping the US Dollar as the world’s reserve currency.  American businesses operating in Russia may also suffer retaliation in the form of their assets being frozen, confiscated, or shutdown.  Further, Russia has the ability to call in billions in debt from the Ukraine and cut supplies of gas to the Ukraine and EU.  Cutting gas supplies to the EU would certainly hurt Russia too, but this logic is fundamentally flawed if one believes that it will deter Russia.  Russia is renowned for its ability to suffer austerity.  In fact, one of the critical failures in US-Russia policy has been the inability of our senior policy makers to recognize Russia’s ability to endure extreme hardships and willingly cut off its nose, leg and hand to spite its face if it means victory can be assured.  The US and EU are not willing to go to those extremes so, by that fact alone, Russia will prevail in any developing economic stand-off.

Respective of Russian natural gas and oil, I produced a paper a half a decade ago that looked into the future political ramifications of Russian geopolitical power as Western economies waned and Asian economies waxed.  What became apparent was that once Russia completed pipelines in its east that could link their large gas and oil fields to China and coastal ports in the Pacific, Russia would gain significant leverage in what had previously been a status quo relationship with Europe between supply and demand.  Until recently, Europe has always felt safe in that at worst, Russia would only cut gas supplies during a political crisis for a short period of time because Russia needed the money as much as Europe needed the gas.  However, with pipelines now directly extending supply to China, Russia is more than able to divert supplies from Europe, southeast to China.  This is a game changer, which increases Russia’s geopolitical maneuver space.  China welcomes this and is happy to buy all of the petrol resources it can obtain from Russia so that its supplies are more reliable.  Further, China will be likely to back any move that drives Russia to sell to China at more favorable rates, which to date, have been below what Russia was willing to agree to sell at.  China would also see the advantage of a marginalized Russia that dumps the US Dollar and is willing to trade directly in their respective currencies.  Remember, China seeks to replace the US Dollar as the world’s reserve currency and sees that transition as critical to achieving super power status and eclipsing the US.  Considering the above, it is highly likely that China will not just quietly support Russia, but actively back Russia against the US and EU.

Russia also has the ability to increase the sale of military weapons to countries such as Iran and Syria.  In particular, the S-300 air defense system would be a highly sought after leap ahead in technology for both the Iranian and Syrian militaries.  This system alone would be penetrable by American airpower; however, it would significantly increase the complexities and cost of carrying out any type of air attack against either nation.  Russia could also dangle the idea of selling an even more advanced S-400 air defense system, which if fielded, would mean that US would be at a high risk of losing significant numbers of aircraft in the event they attacked any nation using the system.  Respective of countries such as Israel, the S-400 would make it all but impossible for them to successfully carrying out an air attack making any suggestion of the sale of the weapon system a serious threat.  Respective of the civil war in Syria, Russia could begin sending ship loads of various weapons and even advisors and troops to support President Assad.  This would tip the balance in favor of Assad just as his army is gaining ground on the rebels making it possible to achieve a decisive victory.  Ensuring Assad’s victory would have the added benefit of snubbing Washington while stopping Qatari efforts to build a gas pipeline to Europe that would reduce the European reliance on Russian gas.

Finally, among numerous options for retaliation, Russia has the ability to make NATO’s withdrawal from Afghanistan extremely painful.  First of all, Russia has the ability to shut down all supply routes to and from Afghanistan from the north.  This would disrupt NATO’s ability to sustain the current forces in Afghanistan and retard efforts under way to retreat with all of its equipment in tow.  Further, it would force NATO to pay premium prices to Pakistan to move all of its equipment out of the country via Karachi.  The Karachi route is extremely dangerous and once it is clear that the US must use this route, the Taliban could concentrate its attacks along the entire stretch of this road network.  Even darker is Russia’s proven, albeit very covert ability to provide the Taliban with substantial support and weapons.  Should the Russians decide to really make life a living hell for the US, expect to see the Taliban suddenly supplied with more sophisticated weaponry capable of destroying armored vehicles from long range or even engaging NATO aircraft and drones.  Imagine what NATO’s retreat from Afghanistan would look like as troop numbers dwindle and the remaining isolated outposts begin to be overrun, supply convoys are wiped out by sophisticated  laser beam riding anti-tank weapons, and aircraft are suddenly being shot down by the modern Russian equivalent of the Stinger missile.

In truth, the US is far more exposed than many realize.  Should Washington decide to ratchet up pressure on Russia by continuing to try and subvert Russia’s historic sphere of interest, expect Putin to begin playing cards he has so far politely held in reserve.  Putin’s trump cards are for, let’s say, more uncivilized forms of diplomacy, which Washington now seems to want to engage.  Obama’s thug style Chicago politics may have worked within the confines of the decrepit US political system, but Barry will be sorely mistaken if he thinks he even remotely approaches a match for Putin in the global arena.  As Putin has repeatedly demonstrated with very little talk and decisive action, Washington is a paper tiger that not just lacks teeth, but a functioning brain.

 

By Guiles Hendrik

March 23, 2014

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