During his traditional year-end press conference in Moscow, Vladimir Putin delighted in toying with America’s political process by touting Donald Trump as the leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. Less clear was whether Putin was delivering kudos or lumps of coal to the Trump campaign: Was this a burst of candor from an envious fellow politician (and friend of oligarchs), or an exercise in Soviet-style maskirovka, intended to achieve a more devious result? Or both?
Had anyone asked Garry Kasparov's assessment of Putin's pre-Christmas gambit, it would have been decidedly negative.Read more
Russia's aggressive moves in the Middle East have raised speculation about a new Cold War. A more accurate description would reference the geopolitical, historical, and cultural factors underpinning Russia's imperial ambitions in the south—ambitions that preceded the Cold War and took root in the czarist era.
In terms formulated by the renowned British geopolitician Halford Mackinder in his 1904 article "The Geographical Pivot of History," Russia occupies the "heartland" of Eurasia, that is, the central position on the Eurasian landmass. According to Mackinder, "who rules East Europe commands the Heartland. Who rules the Heartland commands the World Island [encompassing all of Eurasia, including Asia, Europe, the MiddleRead more
It's said that hopeless causes are the only ones worth fighting for. At first blush, that's Ukraine. On a recent visit to Kiev, we heard account after account of the problems facing Ukraine, the two most serious being corruption and the ongoing conflict with Russia. Two doozies, to be sure.
Corruption is ubiquitous. Famously, Ukrainian oligarchs have stolen massive amounts of the country's wealth and used that wealth to control Ukraine's political order. But corruption is pervasive in daily life as well. It's not uncommon for university students to pay to take their exams, defend a thesis, or obtain their diploma.Read more
"London property has become the bitcoin of the global kleptocracy," says British journalist Ben Judah. Indeed, 37,000 properties in the British capital are owned by offshore companies. That's about 10 percent of all property in central London. And much of this property was purchased using money gained through crime or skimmed from government accounts, frequently in Eastern Europe.
That is the market being exposed in a new documentary, From Russia with Cash, first shown in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. Judah wrote the film.
The film itself is about an hour long and follows two undercover reporters passing themselves off as a government minister and his girlfriend looking to buy a house or apartment in London.Read more
Bloomberg reports that
President Vladimir Putin ordered defense chiefs to strengthen Russia's strategic nuclear forces amid rising tensions with the U.S. over the global balance of power.
One tends to forget about nukes as part of various states's arsenals. France has nukes and we don't give them a thought. Nor those belonging to Great Britain. With so many other things to worry about in the age of asymmetrical warfare, we tend to think that nukes have been taken off the board. Then, yesterday, we learn that North Korea claims it has developed a thermonuclear device.Read more
Russian truck drivers angry about a new road tax moved their protest into Moscow on Friday. Traffic around the city was snarled by both truckers and police, who had set up temporary roadblocks to interrogate drivers they suspected might be on their way to join the revolt.
The New York Times reports that police were using a variety of excuses to try to force drivers off of the roads, including declaring drivers "drunk," temporarily suspending licenses, and finding supposed mechanical problems on trucks that made them unfit to drive.
The drivers are hoping that this highly visible protest will be enough to force the parliament to repeal the tax.Read more
In an article for Mosaic, Michael Doran writes:
The jihadists struck Paris on November 13. On that Friday the 13th, the band on stage in the Bataclan theater, where 89 people were murdered, was Eagles of Death Metal. The song it was playing was "Kiss of the Devil." The details sound like something out of Hollywood, but the horror was deadly real. In total, the terrorists would murder 130 people, the vast majority in the prime of their lives.
The multiple massacre left France reeling, vulnerable, and also deeply confused—but not about the nature of the operation. Islamic State (IS) took responsibility for the attacks, which were clearly another spillover from the Syrian civil war.
All roads lead to Moscow. That's the message being given by hundreds of truck drivers across Russia who are staging massive protests against a new transport tax, called the platon. The platon took effect on November 15 and charges drivers a fee of 1.53 rubles (about $0.02) for each kilometer they drive.
The tax is to be collected by Arkady Rotenberg, a childhood friend of President Vladimir Putin, and his son Igor—for a 20 percent commission. While the official press services claim that the money is deposited directly into the Federal Highway Fund, many Russians are suspicious of the involvement of another Putin crony.
Opponents of the tax claim it could raise transportation costs 15 to 20 percent.Read more
Since the terrorist attacks in Paris Friday that killed more than 120 people and injured hundreds more, world leaders from President Barack Obama to newly elected Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, and from U.K. prime minister David Cameron to German chancellor Angela Merkel, have expressed their solidarity with France. An exception is Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, who sees mass murder as an opportunity to say I told you so.Read more
The continuing controversy over Planned Parenthood’s sale of tissue and organs from aborted fetuses for research is eerily reminiscent of a Soviet disinformation campaign during the 1980s that accused the United States of kidnapping and killing babies and children in the Third World in order to sell their organs.Read more
On October 22, Ekho Moskvy radio station in Moscow reported that in an act of desperation a local political activist in the Ural Mountains region, Vladimir Chukavin, managed to have a thoroughfare renamed “Putin Straße.” The new name is now written on street signs in Germanic Latin script above its former name, still shown in the original Cyrillic.
Vladimir Putin is tough. That's the message conveyed by the pictures showing him shirtless on horseback, cuddling leopard cubs, and throwing his judo opponents to the floor that flood media sites in both Russia and the west.
These photos don't deter Benjamin Wittes, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and editor-in-chief of its Lawfare blog, who threw down the gauntlet and challenged Putin to a fight. While he didn't go so far as to call Putin a pansy, Wittes emphasized that he wasn't about to back down from the challenge.Read more
Last week an Obama administration official bragged that the White House’s Syria policy is working out just as planned. Special envoy for Syria Michael Ratney said that the “Russians wouldn’t have to help [Bashar al-]Assad if we didn’t weaken him.”Read more
The United States, President Obama said at the U.N. General Assembly last week, “worked with many nations in this assembly to prevent a third world war—by forging alliances with old adversaries.” Presumably, the president was not referring to his deeply flawed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the recent agreement that the White House has marketed as the only alternative to war with a soon-to-be-nuclear Iran.Read more
On Sunday, October 4, the Central Asian former-Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan held national elections to its 120-member parliament. The main incumbent party, the reforming Social Democrats (SDPK) were returned to power, and the ruling president, Almazbek Atambayev, who is their leader, gained a second term. But the previous administration was replaced, and the polling was certified and praised enthusiastically by international observers.Read more
Today, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg confirmed that Russia has violated Turkish airspace for a second time. On Saturday, a Russian plane crossed into Turkish airspace near the Syrian border, and in response the Turks scrambled two F-16s. In a subsequent incident, Ankara said that a MiG-29—flown either by Russia or its client Syria—locked its radar on to two more Turkish F-16s Sunday as they patrolled the border.Read more
In fall 1991, a member of the Slovenian parliament visited me at my office at the American Enterprise Institute to discuss her country’s campaign to join NATO. I recall the intensity of the conversation and how odd her zeal seemed to me at that moment. The Cold War was over. Slovenia’s fate as a peaceful little Switzerland hugging Austria, Italy, and the Adriatic Sea struck me as fairly assured.Read more
THE WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with senior writer Stephen F. Hayes on the Obama administration's Syria policy, and what Russia is doing there.Read more
THE WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton on the situation in Syria, and what Russia is up to.Read more
Even now with the Russians on the verge of combat operations in Syria, the White House still says it believes that they’re there to fight ISIS. John Kerry says that his Russian counterpart told him that the Russians are “only interested in fighting” the Islamic State. Other administration officials hold out hope for a grand U.S.-Russia coalition against ISIS. But that’s nonsense: Vladimir Putin landed troops in order to protect his investment in Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad.Read more
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