Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 30th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
When Russia sold Alaska to the U.S. 150 years ago today, there was consternation on both sides of the Pacific.
American critics railed at the principal negotiator, Secretary of State William Seward, calling the sale “Seward’s Folly” and “Seward’s Icebox.” Russian newspapers are still denouncing the deal.
The Russians sold because they judged the territory a lost cause. After the Crimean War with Britain during the mid-1850s, Moscow determined that Britain would take Alaska in any future conflict.
The transaction cost the U.S. only $7.2 million — approximately $125 million in today’s dollars — to the delight of at least one American paper.
“We have made a fair trade,” argued The Charleston Daily News.
The editors continued, waxing both righteous and pugnacious, that while Europe quarreled over “Eastern questions and German questions, Brother Jonathan” — a national personification and forebear of Uncle Sam — “can sit with sublime indifference on the top of the Alleghenies and spit his tobacco into either the Atlantic or Pacific, whittling huge California timber with a clasp knife made of iron out of his mountains, and mix his cobbler with lemons grown in his own tropics, and cooled with ice brought from his own Arctic circle.”
• Vladimir V. Putin, Russia’s president, visited an Arctic archipelago to reaffirm Moscow’s foothold in the oil-rich region. [Associated Press]
On a tour on the Franz Josef Land archipelago, a sprawling collection of islands where the Russian military has recently built a new runway and worked to open a permanent base, Putin emphasized the need to protect Russia’s economic and security interests in the Arctic.
The Kremlin has named reaffirming the Russian presence in the Arctic as a top priority amid an intensifying rivalry over the region that is believed to hold up to one-quarter of the planet’s undiscovered oil and gas.
“Natural resources, which are of paramount importance for the Russian economy, are concentrated in this region,” Putin said in remarks carried by Russian news agencies.
Putin said that current estimates put the value of Arctic’s mineral riches at $30 trillion.
In 2015, Russia submitted a revised bid for vast territories in the Arctic to the United Nations, claiming 1.2 million square kilometers (over 463,000 square miles) of Artic sea shelf extending more than 350 nautical miles (about 650 kilometers) from the shore.
Russia, the United States, Canada, Denmark and Norway have all been trying to assert jurisdiction over parts of the Arctic as shrinking polar ice creates new opportunities for exploration.
Putin said Wednesday that Russia has remained open to a “broad partnership with other nations to carry out mutually beneficial projects in tapping natural resources, developing global transport corridors and also in science and environment protection.”
He also underlined the need for the military and security agencies to “implement their plans to protect national interests, our defense capability and protection of our interests in the Arctic.”
Over the past few years, the Russian military has been conducting a costly effort to restore and modernize abandoned Soviet-era outposts in the Arctic by rebuilding old air bases and deploying new air defense assets in the region.
During the visit, Putin inspected a cavity in a glacier that scientists use to study permafrost. He also spoke with environmental experts who have worked to clean the area of Soviet-era debris.
Natural Resources Minister Sergei Donskoi reported to Putin that the cleanup effort has seen the removal of 42,000 metric tons of waste from the archipelago, most of it rusty metal oil canisters left behind by the Soviet military.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 12th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
The Irith Jawetz report on Fareed Zakaria’s Global Public Square at CNN International show
of March 12, 2017.
First, Fareed spoke with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. Was there any collaboration or serious communication between the Russian government and Donald Trump’s campaign last year? What does Russia think of claims that Moscow tried to alter the outcome of the U.S. presidential election? What does Vladimir Putin make of the first several weeks of the Trump administration? Fareed poses these questions and more to the longtime Kremlin aide.
Peskov denied any interfering in the US elections and any collaboration. Russia is being demonized, Russia has become a nightmare for the U.S. and the US is humiliating itself in the world.
It is impossible for a foreign country to interfere in an election process and Russia would not do it to any country, as it would not accept any country interfering in Russian elections.
What did all Trump’s people talk to the Russian Ambassador? It’s very common for an Ambassador to meet with the Administration people of the country they serve in to get a better understanding. They spoke about bilateral relations, trade, but definitely not about the election process.
President Putin always said he will respect whoever the American chose for President. Yes, he did like Trump’s approach better than Hillary Clinton’s since she had a very negative view of Russia and Trump said that although we have differences we have to talk to each other. However Putin would never interfere with the elections.
When will they meet? Not sure yet, if it does not happen before the Summer, then they will definitely meet at the next G20 meeting in Hamburg beginning of July.
What does President Putin think of President Trump: Too early to tell, but what he saw until now he thinks he is very pragmatic. We have to work together since there are so many problems in the world.
Will President Putin raise the question of the sanctions? No, since the US imposed those sanctions, Russia will not be the first to open discussions, it is up to the US to start.
What kind of a person is Putin? Putin is different than most politicians. He means what he says, he will never say more than he will be able to do. That’s why he is trustworthy, and has been in power for 17 years.
Then, Fareed spoke with Stephen Schwarzman, chair of the White House’s business advisory council and co-founder of private equity firm Blackstone. Fareed asks how Schwarzman got chosen for his role, whether he believes President Trump is open to criticism, whether there could be a U.S.-China trade war, and what could happen to GDP growth under a Trump administration.
He knows Trump for many years and when asked him to join his Administration he said no, but agreed to be his economic advisor. Trump asked him to form a group of businessmen whom he trusts and to lead that group and they have been advising Trump.
He said that 60% of Americans have not seen increase in disposable income for many years and are frustrated. The GDP will grow, the stock market has already been up 12-13% which is a good sign..
China: on Trade – US wants equivalence – fair trade – and China is accountable for half of the US Trade deficit. However, China wants a long term relationship with the U.S. but it has to be fair. As for Trump’s relations with China: “Some of Trump’s hyperbole on China will be dialed back” ( in his words). All in all Mr. Schwazmamn seemed very optimistic.
The last segment was a question: Which countries are the only ones that have a favorable view of President Trump?
1) Russia with 83% and
2) China with 54%.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 11th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Russia’s Next Target?
Canada is an obvious target for clandestine Russian meddling, and it needs to be prepared for a combination of disinformation and old school military feints, writes former Canadian diplomat Scott Gilmore in Macleans.
“In a rules-based international system where your influence is measured by the size of your economy, your cultural soft-power, and your stature in multilateralism, Moscow has become an afterthought,” Gilmore says. “And, if Russia didn’t still have a Cold War nuclear arsenal, it would garner even less attention. So, losing the international game of chess, Putin is seeking to knock over the board itself — to discredit the multilateral world order, and destabilize the comparably strong western alliance.”
“Canada is a logical target. We are a G7 member, a strong supporter of NATO (if not a strong contributor), an advocate for a values-based international system, and a vocal critic of Moscow and its interference in other countries.”
— American vs Canadian Dream. Gilmore joined Fareed on last week’s show to discuss why he believes Canada has surpassed the United States as the land of opportunity.
— Fareed’s latest special, “The Most Powerful Man in the World,” takes an in-depth look at the rise and goals of Russian President Vladimir Putin. It premieres this Monday at 9 p.m. ET on CNN.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 11th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Titus Flavius Josephus (37 – c.100), born Joseph ben Matityahu was a first-century Romano-Jewish scholar, historian and hagiographer, who was born in Jerusalem—then part of Roman Judea—to a father of priestly descent and a mother who claimed royal ancestry.
He initially fought against the Romans during the First Jewish–Roman War as head of Jewish forces in Galilee, until surrendering in 67 CE to Roman forces led by Vespasian after the six-week siege of Jotapata. Josephus claimed the Jewish Messianic prophecies that initiated the First Roman-Jewish War made reference to Vespasian becoming Emperor of Rome. In response Vespasian decided to keep Josephus as a slave and interpreter. After Vespasian became Emperor in 69 CE, he granted Josephus his freedom, at which time Josephus assumed the emperor’s family name of Flavius.
Flavius Josephus fully defected to the Roman side and was granted Roman citizenship. He became an advisor and friend of Vespasian’s son Titus, serving as his translator when Titus led the Siege of Jerusalem. Since the siege proved ineffective at stopping the Jewish revolt, the city’s destruction and the looting and destruction of Herod’s Temple (Second Temple) soon followed.
Josephus recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the first century CE and the First Jewish–Roman War, including the Siege of Masada. His most important works were The Jewish War (c. 75) and Antiquities of the Jews (c. 94) The Jewish War recounts the Jewish revolt against Roman occupation (66–70). Antiquities of the Jews recounts the history of the world from a Jewish perspective for an ostensibly Roman audience. These works provide valuable insight into first century Judaism and the background of Early Christianity.
MARCH 10, 2017, THE ALGEMEINER
During Moscow Visit, Netanyahu Receives Special Gift From Putin — a Nearly 500-Year-Old Copy of Josephus’ The Jewish War.
by Barney Breen-Portnoy
Russian President Vladmir Putin presents Israeli Prime Minister with a nearly 500-year-old copy of Josephus’ The Jewish War in Moscow on Thursday. Photo: Screenshot.
Russian President Vladimir Putin presents Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu with a nearly 500-year-old copy of Josephus’ The Jewish War in Moscow on Thursday. Photo: Screenshot.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received a special gift from Russian President Vladimir Putin during his visit to Moscow on Thursday — a nearly 500-year-old copy of Roman-Jewish historian Josephus’ book The Jewish War.
The copy given to Netanyahu at the Kremlin on Thursday was printed in Italy in 1526.
The Israeli prime minister said he was “moved” by Putin’s gesture.
MARCH 10, 2017 5:03 PM0
Report: Member of British Royal Family to Make First State Visit to Israel
JNS.org – A member of the United Kingdom’s royal family is reportedly expected to visit Israel this year, in what would be…
The Jewish War is an account of the Great Revolt — the uprising of the Jews of the Judea Province against the Roman Empire in the first century CE.
“This is without a doubt an important book in the historical heritage of our people,” Netanyahu said. “This book greatly influenced my beloved father, Professor Benzion Netanyahu z”l, and I read it for the first time when I was 16.”
Netanyahu further stated that Putin’s gift would be handed over to the National Library of Israel.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 7th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
The week of Purim – Is Netanyahu now a link to Putin, is Trump just trying to help a friend in trouble or was it a warning call?
Netanyahu is being interrogated at his office in Jerusalem the fourth time on several counts of suspected corruption. These interrogations go on for 5 hours each time.
This Monday the phone rang during the questioning and it was a call from Trump. It was said to the public that Trump informs him that Iran or North Korea launched a new missile and Trump wants Israel’s help. Will be the Israeli Attorney General impressed?
In parallel, it was already known since Sunday that this Friday, Netanyahu will have lunch with Putin in Moscow. The topic of discussion will be the presence of Iranian units
on Syrian soil. Will Netanyahu and his wife stay in Moscow over the Sabbath? Then they could have the chance to read the Esther Megilla at the local Temple, as Ivanka Trump and her husband will probably be doing in Florida. May be even Trump.
But the New York Times has a different idea about what Trump had to say to Netanyahu.
Supposedly he wanted just to say cool it with that construction project on those hills.
Israel Cabinet Minister of Defense, who went to Washington sensing a hurt Netanyahu,
told Lebanon not to join the Iranian side and told the Cabinet that it would be a big mistake to take over another 2 million more Arabs as part of Israel’s citizenry, this just because it would cost billions to give them full rights. That neatly lines up with Trump.
We think rather – Trump might have given to Netanyahu some advice from Tillerson on gas pipelines and the gas market – something of interest to all involved
Have a nice flight and a good weekend!
Throughout the centuries, Purim – which celebrates the miraculous salvation of the Jews and the thwarting of Haman’s genocidal plot – has traditionally symbolized the victory of the Jewish people over antisemitic tyranny. As such, Purim is a happy, carnival-like holiday.
The Fast of Esther
The day before Purim is a fast day known as the Fast of Esther, commemorating (inter alia) the fact that Queen Esther – the heroine of the Book of Esther – and the entire Persian Jewish community fasted (4:16) in advance of Queen Esther’s appeal for King Ahasuerus not to implement Haman’s genocidal plot. The fast will extend from before sunrise in the morning until sunset. Special prayers and scriptural readings are inserted into the synagogue service.
The pergament on which all of this was recorded.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 28th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Why We Love Putinology
From The Guardian: Never before have “more people with less knowledge, and greater outrage, opined on the subject of Russia’s president.” Call it Putinology. But the various theories about Vladimir Putin probably say more about us than about him, writes Keith Gessen.
“In the long run, the Russia card is not just bad politics, it is intellectual and moral bankruptcy. It is an attempt to blame the deep and abiding problems of our country on a foreign power. As some commentators have pointed out, it is a page from the playbook of none other than Putin himself.”
The Story of the Week Is Trump, Russia and the FBI. The Rest Is a Distraction
By Malcolm Nance, Guardian UK
27 February 17
The White House reportedly tried to influence an active counter-intelligence investigation. All else, press ban included, is designed to deflect attention
arrative switching. That is what the Trump administration is desperately trying to do around Russia right now. The White House reportedly interfered with the FBI in the middle of an active investigation involving counter-intelligence. This was not only foolhardy but also suspicious, as it directly undermined their apparent objective: distracting us.
On 14 February, the New York Times reported that advisers and associates of Donald Trump may have been in direct and continuous contact with officers of the Russian intelligence agency, the FSB, during a tumultuous election campaign in which the American democracy itself was hacked. A major party – now in opposition – was the victim of an unprecedented cyber-attack.
According to the Times, intercepted telephone calls and phone records indicated to American counter-intelligence officers direct contact with the Russians.
The stakes are high. Most Democrats and more than a few Republicans believe this investigation could unearth details that could plunge the nation into a political and constitutional crisis not seen since the secession of the South in 1860 and 1861.
The Trump administration has repeatedly denied the characterization and defended the campaign’s conduct. However, its denials have always been couched in the most legalistic terms and each falls apart with every new revelation. It doesn’t help that Trump himself calls the allegations “fake news” then validates the reporting by attacking the leaks – suggesting that they are true.
Now, thanks to CNN, we learned on Thursday that Trump’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus, had reportedly contacted the deputy director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, and requested that the bureau publicly characterize the Times story as not being serious – in McCabe’s reported words, “total BS”.
When this was rebuffed by McCabe, Priebus reportedly went to the FBI director, James Comey, who allegedly also refused to comment publicly. Priebus then allegedly asked both if he could quote them anonymously as “top intelligence officials”, saying the story was totally wrong. According to CNN, McCabe and Comey agreed to let him do that, despite the fact that the FBI and the White House are prohibited from communicating about open investigations.
The White House then turned to other intelligence officials and to members of Congress. According to the Washington Post, House and Senate intelligence committee chairs Devin Nunes and Richard Burr were asked to push back against Russian stories that did not favor the administration. They told the Post they did so.
No matter what the contention, the fundamental fact exists that the FBI, based on McCabe’s and Comey’s remarks, has inadvertently verified that there is, in fact, a counter-intelligence investigation going on involving the associates of the president. Until now the investigation had only been reported through anonymous sources.
This bungled attempt to manage the media reveals the fear in the White House: that there may actually be a smoking gun that ties Trump to Moscow’s hacking.
It is always possible that Trump’s then campaign manager, Paul Manafort, former adviser Carter Page and others may have been in contact with Russians as part of foreign policy development. But given the political environment in the summer of 2016, after the hack of the Democratic National Committee, it is very hard to believe that any continuous and repeated contact with the Kremlin was completely innocent.
Priebus’s clumsy attempt to perform perception management judo only added fuel to the fire. Then it was raked over with Trump’s often incomprehensible flamethrower rhetoric when he declared CNN reporting “fake news” and had them banned, with the New York Times and other outlets including the Guardian, from a press gaggle on Friday.
Any investigation involving Trump advisers and Russian intelligence is serious stuff. If borne out, it has the potential to become the greatest political scandal in American history. But this meddling by the White House is one step too far. It is not typical Washington pushback. It smacks of a strategy of cover-up.
It is high time for the House and Senate to form independent select subcommittees to ferret out the truth. The key questions are simple. What did Trump and his staff know about the hacks? When did they know it and were they complicit in any way?
If American citizens worked alongside a foreign power to interfere in American democracy, it must be found out and quickly. It is crucial to retain the trust in our president and the electoral process. The stakes are nothing less than the legitimacy of American liberal democracy.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 14th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
RED HOUSE? Yes. It was the intelligence Putin served Trump – directly and indirectly – that was in big part responsible for his defeating Hillary Clinton. And yes, it was FBI’s help that eventually built that wall. Michael T. Flynn should never have been inside that wall except we really do not know what messages he passed from the Trump campaign as promises to Putin via his Ambassador in Washington. How will the Trump=Putin link impact on Europe? On European States – Trump relations? On the future of Ukraine? On the price of Oil? On the Midle East?
On the Planetary Globe? On Outer Space? On the Future of God? ?????
THE NEWS: Michael T. Flynn, the national security adviser, resigned on Monday night after it was revealed that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence and other top White House officials about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States.
On Monday, a former administration official said the Justice Department warned the White House last month that Mr. Flynn had not been fully forthright about his conversations with the ambassador. As a result, the Justice Department feared that Mr. Flynn could be vulnerable to blackmail by Moscow.
To us at SustainabiliTank this is just the tip of the iceberg – we already wrote that Trump himself is susceptible to Russian blackmail as by hacking into US cyberspace they did not have just the pittance of Hillary Clinton and John Podesta info, but the much juicier Trump business and taxation info. Those are real bombs in hiding! Blackmail in the making!
“I am tendering my resignation, honored to have served our nation and the American people in such a distinguished way,” Mr. Flynn wrote.
The White House said in the statement that it was replacing Mr. Flynn with retired Lt. Gen. Joseph K. Kellogg Jr. of the Army, a Vietnam War veteran, as acting national security adviser.
Mr. Flynn was an early and ardent supporter of Mr. Trump’s candidacy, and in his resignation he sought to praise the president. “In just three weeks,” Mr. Flynn said, the new president “has reoriented American foreign policy in fundamental ways to restore America’s leadership position in the world.”
But in doing so, he inadvertently illustrated the brevity of his tumultuous run at the National Security Council, and the chaos that has gripped the White House in the first weeks of the Trump administration — and created a sense of uncertainty around the world.
Michael Flynn’s Resignation Letter
Michael T. Flynn, under scrutiny for his communication with Russia, resigned as President Trump’s national security adviser late Monday.
Earlier Monday, Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, told reporters that “the president is evaluating the situation” about Mr. Flynn’s future. By Monday evening, Mr. Flynn’s fortunes were rapidly shifting — his resignation came roughly seven hours after Kellyanne Conway, a counselor to the president, said on MSNBC that Mr. Trump had “full confidence” in the retired general.
And when he did step down, it happened so quickly that his resignation does not appear to have been communicated to National Security Council staff members, two of whom said they learned about it from news reports.
Officials said Mr. Pence had told others in the White House that he believed Mr. Flynn lied to him by saying he had not discussed the topic of sanctions on a call with the Russian ambassador in late December. Even the mere discussion of policy — and the apparent attempt to assuage the concerns of an American adversary before Mr. Trump took office — represented a remarkable breach of protocol.
The F.B.I. had been examining Mr. Flynn’s phone calls as he came under growing questions about his interactions with Russian officials and his management of the National Security Council. The blackmail risk envisioned by the Justice Department would have stemmed directly from Mr. Flynn’s attempt to cover his tracks with his bosses. The Russians knew what had been said on the call; thus, if they wanted Mr. Flynn to do something, they could have threatened to expose the lie if he refused.
The Justice Department’s warning to the White House was first reported on Monday night by The Washington Post.
In addition, the Army has been investigating whether Mr. Flynn received money from the Russian government during a trip he took to Moscow in 2015, according to two defense officials. Such a payment might violate the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which prohibits former military officers from receiving money from a foreign government without consent from Congress. The defense officials said there was no record that Mr. Flynn, a retired three-star Army general, filed the required paperwork for the trip.
Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement late Monday that Mr. Flynn’s resignation would not close the question of his contact with Russian officials.
“General Flynn’s decision to step down as national security adviser was all but ordained the day he misled the country about his secret talks with the Russian ambassador,” said Mr. Schiff, noting that the matter is still under investigation by the House committee.
Two other Democratic lawmakers — Representative John Conyers Jr. of Michigan and Representative Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland — called for an immediate briefing by the Justice Department and the F.B.I. over the “alarming new disclosures” that Mr. Flynn was a blackmail risk. “We need to know who else within the White House is a current and ongoing risk to our national security,” they said in a statement.
Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California and the chairman of the House intelligence committee, was supportive of Mr. Flynn until the end. “Washington, D.C., can be a rough town for honorable people, and Flynn — who has always been a soldier, not a politician — deserves America’s gratitude and respect,” Mr. Nunes said in a statement.
The White House had examined a transcript of a wiretapped conversation that Mr. Flynn had with Mr. Kislyak in December, according to administration officials. Mr. Flynn originally told Mr. Pence and others that the call was limited to small talk and holiday pleasantries.
But who was Flynn to talk to the Russian Ambassador? What role did have within the Trump machine? Did Pence send him there or was it his own eagerness to please the incoming Administration before it actually became an Administration? Was he an old time Russian contact? What we used to call a double spy? This clearly can not be washed down by eager-to-please Republicans.
But the conversation, according to officials who saw the transcript of the wiretap, also included a discussion about sanctions imposed on Russia after intelligence agencies determined that President Vladimir V. Putin’s government tried to interfere with the 2016 election on Mr. Trump’s behalf. Still, current and former administration officials familiar with the call said the transcript was ambiguous enough that Mr. Trump could have justified either firing or retaining Mr. Flynn.
Mr. Trump, however, had become increasingly concerned about the continued fallout over Mr. Flynn’s behavior, according to people familiar with his thinking, and told aides that the media storm around Mr. Flynn would damage the president’s image on national security issues.
Stephen K. Bannon, the president’s chief strategist, asked for Mr. Flynn’s resignation — a move that he has been pushing for since Friday, when it became clear that the national security adviser had misled Mr. Pence.
Around 8:20 p.m. Monday, a sullen Mr. Flynn was seen in the Oval Office, just as preparations were being made for the swearing-in of newly confirmed Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. Soon after, Mr. Flynn’s resignation letter started making the rounds.
Administration officials said it was unlikely that Mr. Kellogg would be asked to stay on as Mr. Flynn’s permanent replacement. Mr. Flynn brought Mr. Kellogg into the Trump campaign, according to a former campaign adviser, and the two have remained close. K. T. McFarland, the deputy national security adviser who also was brought on by Mr. Flynn, is expected to leave that role, a senior official said.
One person close to the administration, who was not authorized to discuss the personnel moves and spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that retired Vice Admiral Robert S. Harward is the leading candidate to replace Mr. Flynn, although Mr. Kellogg and David H. Petraeus are being discussed. It was not clear whether Mr. Petraeus is still expected to appear at the White House this week, as initially discussed by advisers to the president.
Mr. Flynn’s concealment of the call’s content, combined with questions about his management of his agency and reports of a demoralized staff, put him in a precarious position less than a month into Mr. Trump’s presidency.
We at SustainabiliTank believe that under the circumstances – the choice of General Petraeus would be an excellent idea in the manner of Trump – this because it would take away the media attention from Trump and transfer it to Petraeus’ own problems with that woman. Flynn will then be forgotten and left to his past-driven future behaviour.
Vice President Pence can continue his clean right wing persona to allow him a smooth take-over when the Trump balloon eventually implodes.
Few members of Mr. Trump’s team were more skeptical of Mr. Flynn than the vice president, numerous administration officials said. Mr. Pence, who used the false information provided by Mr. Flynn to defend him in a series of television appearances, was incensed at Mr. Flynn’s lack of contrition for repeatedly embarrassing him by withholding the information, according to three administration officials familiar with the situation.
Mr. Flynn and Mr. Pence spoke twice in the past few days about the matter, but administration officials said that rather than fully apologize and accept responsibility, the national security adviser blamed his faulty memory — which irked the typically slow-to-anger Mr. Pence.
The slight was compounded by an episode late last year when Mr. Pence went on television to deny that Mr. Flynn’s son, who had posted conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton on social media, had been given a security clearance by the transition team. The younger Mr. Flynn had, indeed, been given such a clearance, even though his father had told Mr. Pence’s team that he had not.
Officials said classified information did not appear to have been discussed during the conversation between Mr. Flynn and the ambassador, which would have been a crime. The call was captured on a routine wiretap of diplomats’ calls, the officials said.
But current Trump administration officials and former Obama administration officials said that Mr. Flynn did appear to be reassuring the ambassador that Mr. Trump would adopt a more accommodating tone on Russia once in office.
Former and current administration officials said that Mr. Flynn urged Russia not to retaliate against any sanctions because an overreaction would make any future cooperation more complicated. He never explicitly promised sanctions relief, one former official said, but he appeared to leave the impression that it would be possible.
During his 2015 trip to Moscow, Mr. Flynn was paid to attend the anniversary celebration of Russia Today, a television network controlled by the Kremlin. At the banquet, he sat next to Mr. Putin.
Mr. Flynn had notified the Defense Intelligence Agency, which he once led, that he was taking the trip. He received a security briefing from agency officials before he left, which is customary for former top agency officials when they travel overseas.
Still, some senior agency officials were surprised when footage of the banquet appeared on RT, and believed that Mr. Flynn should have been more forthcoming with the agency about the nature of his trip to Russia.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 6th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
SHOCKING OF THE UN-INITIATED? NOW IT IS OFFICIAL – PUTIN PERSONALLY WAS INVOLVED IN CREATING US ELECTION RESULTS. WAS THERE FURTHER COLLUSION WITH THE US RIGHT – IN THE PERSON OF THE HEAD OF THE FBI WHO CHOSE THE TIME WHEN THE PUTIN INTERFERENCE WOULD BEAR MOST FRUIT?
The US intelligence community concluded in a declassified report released Friday that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an “influence campaign” aimed at hurting Hillary Clinton and helping Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.
The report was the first official, full and public accounting by the US intelligence community of its assessment of Russian hacking activities during the 2016 campaign.
“We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump,” the report said.
The campaign — which consisted of hacking Democratic groups and individuals, including Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, and releasing that information via third-party websites, including WikiLeaks — amounted to what the intelligence report called “a significant escalation” in longtime Russian efforts to undermine “the US-led liberal democratic order.”
Trump earlier Friday downplayed Russia’s role in the election after what he called a “constructive meeting” with top US intelligence officials.
Trump tried to defuse controversy over his criticism of the intelligence community and said he will appoint a team within 90 days to figure out ways to stop foreign hacking.
National Security: Declassified report says Putin ‘ordered’ effort to undermine faith in U.S. election and help Trump.
By Greg Miller, The Washington Post, January 6 at 4:49 PM
Russia carried out a comprehensive cybercampaign to upend the U.S. presidential election, an operation that was ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin and “aspired to help” elect Donald Trump by discrediting his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, U.S. intelligence agencies concluded in a report released Friday.
The report depicts Russian interference as unprecedented in scale, saying that Moscow’s assault represented “a significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort” beyond previous election-related espionage.
The campaign was ordered by Putin himself and initially sought primarily to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, “denigrate Secretary Clinton” and harm her electoral prospects. But as the campaign proceeded, Russia “developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump” and repeatedly sought to elevate him by “discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.”
The document represents an extraordinarily direct and detailed account of a long-standing U.S. adversary’s multi-pronged intervention in a fundamental pillar of American democracy.
Trump emerged from a briefing on the report by the nation’s top intelligence officials Friday seeming to acknowledge for the first time at least the possibility that Russia was behind election-related hacks. But he offered no indication that he was prepared to accept U.S. spy agencies’ conclusion that Moscow sought to help him win.
Report on Russian hacking released after Trump briefing Play Video3:04
U.S. intelligence agencies released a declassified version of their report on Russian intervention in the 2016 U.S. election on Jan. 6, just hours after President-elect Donald Trump was briefed by American officials. (Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)
Instead, Trump said in a statement issued just minutes after the high-level meeting ended that whatever hacking had occurred, “there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election.”
Trump’s statement seemed designed to create the impression that this was the view of the intelligence officials, including Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. and CIA Director John Brennan, who had met with him.
But weighing whether Russia’s intervention altered the outcome of the 2016 race was beyond the scope of the review that the nation’s spy agencies completed this week. And Clapper testified in a Senate hearing Thursday that U.S. intelligence services “have no way of gauging the impact .?.?. it had on the choices the electorate made. There’s no way for us to gauge that.”
Trump’s statement came after his first face-to-face encounter with the leaders of intelligence agencies whose work he has repeatedly disparaged. Others who took part in the meeting included FBI Director James B. Comey and National Security Agency chief Adm. Mike Rogers.
All four of the spy chiefs have endorsed a classified report that was briefed to Trump and circulated in Washington this week that concludes that Russia used a combination of aggressive hacking, propaganda and “fake news” to disrupt the 2016 U.S. presidential race.
Trump appeared to acknowledge that hacking of Democratic and Republican computer networks had occurred, but was apparently not prepared to accept the consensus view of U.S. spy services that Russia sought to help him win.
“I had a constructive meeting and conversation with the leaders of the intelligence community,” Trump said. He acknowledged that “Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber-infrastructure of our government institutions, businesses and organizations including the Democrat National Committee.”
U.S. intelligence captured Russian officials’ communications celebrating Trump’s victory.
(a Video 2:42 minutes presented}
The Post’s Adam Entous reports that U.S. intelligence agencies intercepted electronic communications, known as “signals intelligence,” in which top Russian officials celebrated the outcome of the U.S. election. (Bastien Inzaurralde/The Washington Post)
The session was seen as an early indicator of whether Trump could reach some sort of accord with U.S. intelligence agencies or is determined to extend his increasingly bitter feud with America’s spies and analysts into his first term.
In an interview with the New York Times before Friday’s briefing, Trump said the focus on Russian hacking “is a political witch hunt.”
In Thursday’s testimony, Clapper appeared to take aim at Trump and the stream of social-media insults he has targeted at the intelligence community over the Russia issue.
“There is an important distinction here between healthy skepticism, which policymakers, to include policymaker number one, should always have for intelligence,” Clapper said. “But I think there is a difference between skepticism and disparagement.”
The meeting, which was requested by Trump, comes on the heels of a series of revelations about Russia’s role and motivations in last year’s campaign.
The Post reported in December that the CIA and other agencies had concluded that Russia sought not only to disrupt the election and sow doubt about the legitimacy of American democratic institutions but also to help Trump win.
U.S. intelligence agencies based that determination on an array of interlocking intelligence pieces, including the identification of known “actors” with ties to Russian intelligence services who helped deliver troves of stolen Democratic email files to the WikiLeaks website.
U.S. spy agencies also monitored communications in Moscow after the election that showed that senior officials in the Russian government, including those believed to have had knowledge of the hacking campaign, celebrated Trump’s win and congratulated one another on the outcome.
Trump has rejected intelligence agencies’ unanimous conclusions about Russia, saying it could just as easily have been China or “some guy” in New Jersey.
Trump has seemed to court conflict with U.S. intelligence agencies on several fronts. During his campaign, he vowed to order the CIA to return to the use of waterboarding and other brutal interrogation measures widely condemned as torture. Since his surprise victory, Trump has skipped the majority of the daily intelligence briefings made available to him, saying that he has no need for sessions that he finds repetitive.
But the president-elect softened his message on Thursday, saying on Twitter that he is a “big fan” of intelligence, although, as has been his practice, he set off the word “intelligence” in quotes.
The United States’ most senior intelligence officials briefed Trump on Russian hacking during the election campaign just hours after the President-elect doubled down on his dismissal of the threat as an artificial and politically driven controversy, calling it a “witch hunt.”
Trump also tried to defuse controversy over his criticism of the intelligence community and continued refusal to accept Moscow’s actions, calling the Friday meeting “constructive” and offering praise for the senior intel officials. He said he will appoint a team within 90 days to figure out ways to stop foreign hacking.
Trump’s meeting with the intel officials took around 90 minutes at Trump Tower. A Trump spokeswoman said the officials who gave the briefing were Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan and FBI Director James Comey.
Officials: Hackers aggressively targeting US 02:26
A senior TRUMP transition official described the meeting between Trump and intelligence community officials as “cordial,” not contentious. Trump asked questions and made clear his admiration for intelligence community employees, the official added.
Based on the presentation Friday, which included new information, the TRUMP official insisted that it’s the transition’s view that the hacking was intended to harm Hillary Clinton more than to help Trump. This official pointed to what they were told at the meeting, that the cyberactivity began in late 2015 and early 2016, before it was clear Trump would be the nominee. So, the official asked, how could the hacking be a pro-Trump operation if it began so early on. “This was more an effort to discredit her than anything else,” the Trump official said.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 4th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Rex Tillerson to put Exxon nest egg in a trust over conflict of interest concerns
by Jethro Mullen @CNNMoneyInvest January 4, 2017
ExxonMobil and Rex Tillerson have announced their plan to address concerns about the huge nest egg the oil giant has promised to its former CEO.
Tillerson, who Donald Trump has picked as his secretary of state, is due to receive more than 2 million Exxon shares — worth more than $181 million at current prices — over the next decade.
To tackle the ethical and legal problems raised by the massive payout, Exxon said late Tuesday that if Tillerson is confirmed for the job, it plans to put the value of the shares he would have received in an independently managed trust, which won’t be allowed to invest in the oil company.
Tillerson, 64, has also agreed with the State Department to sell the more than 600,000 Exxon shares he owns at the moment, the company said. They’re worth more than $54 million at today’s prices.
Related: Exxon’s Tillerson retiring to prep for Senate confirmation
Richard Painter, a former ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, said the measures appeared to satisfy concerns he had expressed previously about Tillerson’s financial ties to Exxon.
“He should convince President-elect Trump to come up with a similar arrangement to divest his conflicts of interest,” Painter said, comparing Tillerson’s deal to what was done for former Goldman Sachs CEO Hank Paulson when he became treasury secretary in 2006.
Tillerson’s arrangement, which Exxon says was drawn up in consultation with federal ethics regulators, involves giving up various payouts and perks, according to the company’s statement.
He’ll no longer be entitled to more than $4.1 million in cash bonuses that he was set to receive over the next three years — or medical, dental and other benefits from Exxon. He retired as the oil company’s CEO on Saturday after working there for more than four decades.
As America’s chief diplomat, Tillerson could have a tremendous impact on Exxon’s business, from negotiations over a climate change treaty and sanctions on Russia to the nuclear deal with Iran and general geopolitical unrest in the Middle East.
Exxon said that if Tillerson returns to work in the oil and gas industry during the 10-year payout period from the trust, he would forfeit the funds.
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“The money would be distributed to one or more charities involved in fighting poverty or disease in the developing world,” the company said. “Neither Tillerson nor ExxonMobil would have any control over the selection of the charities.”
Painter described that part of the plan as “an added benefit” that will make it “highly unlikely” that Tillerson will go back into the oil industry.
“Most public servants have no restrictions on where they can work after government … and we have to worry about them trying to help future employers,” he said, pointing to Treasury Department officials who go back to Wall Street.
Related: The problem with Rex Tillerson’s nine-figure nest egg
Over all, the arrangement would cost Tillerson about $7 million in compensation he would have received, Exxon said.
As with all political appointees who sell assets that may pose conflicts of interest, Tillerson would be allowed to defer any capital gains tax he owes on the more than 600,000 Exxon shares he’s agreed to sell so long as he reinvests the proceeds within 60 days into so-called “permitted property.” That basically means U.S. Treasury securities and diversified mutual funds.
It’s not immediately clear, however, what the tax implications are for Tillerson from Exxon agreeing to set up the trust for the value of the more than 2 million shares he’d otherwise have coming to him over the next 10 years.
— Jeanne Sahadi and Chris Isidore contributed to this report.
Rex Tillerson during the years 2006 to 2016 changed his views on Climate Change from total denial by EXXON to a controlled acceptance of the Paris outcome.
Exxon had a history of funding false scientists – ten moved on to join what seemed to be the winning crowd, but took positions that slow change.
ExxonMobil k nows the global oil industry and understandably will promote it above everything else. This leads to alliances with Saudi Arabia and Putin’s Russia that will turn away the US from the Obama path of disengagement from te dependence on oil as the true path to slow down climate change and the harm the use of fossil fuels causes to the environment.
And besides, Foreign relations of the USA contain many other topics besides the negotiation of oil contracts. What are the visions of Rex Tillerson when he gets of the Oil Barrel?
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 27th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
WE POST THIS AS WE WONDER IN WHICH SCHOOL OF DIPLOMACY STUDIED ISRAEL PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU – WHO SITS ALSO IN THE CHAIR OF HIS FOREIGN MINISTER. HE SEEMINGLY DOES SUCH A BAD JOB UNDER BOTH HATS SO THAT HE IS EVEN BEING CRITICIZED IN PUBLIC BY HIS OWN DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER. THIS WOULD BE FUNNY IF NOT INVOLVING NUCLEAR POWERS. TO BRING THIS HOME, A STATEMENT BY A FORMER ISRAELI MINISTER LAST WEEK CAUSED THE RATTLE OF NUKES BY PAKISTAN.
FROM OUR POINT OF VIEW -IT BECOMES IRRELEVANT TO TALK OF CLIMATE CHANGE WHEN THE FRY AND THE BIG ONES – i.e. Messrs. Putin and Trump SEEM BENT TO TELL THE WORLD THAT NUKES ARE THE FUNDAMENT OF SECURITY IN A POST-OBAMA ERA.
Defying U.N., Israel Prepares to Build More Settlements
By PETER BAKER – The New York Times DEC. 26, 2016.
Introducing Photo – Housing construction last week on the outskirts of Ramat Shlomo, a Jewish housing development in East Jerusalem. CreditJim Hollander/European Press photo Agency
JERUSALEM — Undeterred by a resounding defeat at the United Nations, Israel’s government said Monday that it would move ahead with thousands of new homes in East Jerusalem and warned nations against further action, declaring that Israel does not “turn the other cheek.”
Just a few days after the United Nations Security Council voted to condemn Israeli settlements, Jerusalem’s municipal government signaled that it would not back down: The city intends to approve 600 housing units in the predominantly Palestinian eastern section of town on Wednesday in what a top official called a first installment on 5,600 new homes.
The defiant posture reflected a bristling anger among Israel’s pro-settlement political leaders, who not only blamed the United States for failing to block the Council resolution, but also claimed to have secret intelligence showing that President Obama’s team had orchestrated it. American officials strongly denied the claim, but the sides seem poised for more weeks of conflict until Mr. Obama hands over the presidency to Donald J. Trump.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has lashed out at Security Council countries by curbing diplomatic contacts, recalling envoys, cutting off aid and summoning the American ambassador for a scolding. He canceled a planned visit this week by Ukraine’s prime minister even as he expressed concern on Monday that Mr. Obama was planning more action at the United Nations before his term ends next month.
The Times of Israel:
Deputy FM questions PM’s diplomatic embargoes after UN vote. In apparent jab at Netanyahu for canceling meetings with world leaders, Hotovely says ‘part of diplomacy is explaining our position’
BY RAOUL WOOTLIFF December 27, 2016,
Introducing photo – Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely speaking at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem (Elram Mendel)
Raoul Wootliff is The Times of Israel Knesset correspondent.
TZIPI HOTOVELY – Deputy Foreign Minister
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU – Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, and Minister of many other things.
The prime minister defended his retaliation. “Israel is a country with national pride, and we do not turn the other cheek,” he said. “This is a responsible, measured and vigorous response, the natural response of a healthy people that is making it clear to the nations of the world that what was done at the U.N. is unacceptable to us.”
The Security Council resolution that passed Friday condemned Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as a “flagrant violation under international law” and an obstacle to peace. The Council approved it 14 to 0, with the United States abstaining instead of using its veto, as it has in the past.
Mr. Trump publicly pressed for a veto of the resolution and has chosen a settlement advocate as his administration’s ambassador to Israel. He turned to Twitter on Monday night to air complaints that the United Nations “is just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time.”
Palestinian leaders made clear that they would use the resolution in international bodies to press their case against Israel. With the imprimatur of a United Nations finding of illegality, they said they would campaign to require that other countries not just label products made in the settlements, but ban them.
“Now we can talk about the boycott of all settlements, the companies that work with them, et cetera, and actually take legal action against them if they continue to work with them,” Riad Malki, the Palestinian foreign minister, was quoted as saying by the Palestinian news media.
He outlined other steps the Palestinians could now take, using the resolution to press the International Criminal Court to prosecute Israeli leaders, file lawsuits on behalf of specific Palestinians displaced by settlements and urge the international authorities to determine whether Israel is violating the Geneva Conventions.
“We are looking to devise a comprehensive vision, and hopefully 2017 will be the year when the Israeli occupation ends,” Mr. Malki said.
Israeli officials said such pronouncements showed that the resolution actually undermined chances for a negotiated settlement because the Palestinians now have less incentive to come to the table. By declaring Israeli settlements illegal, they said, the United Nations essentially took away the one chip that Israel had to trade, meaning land.
“The Palestinians are waging a diplomatic and legal war against Israel. That’s the strategy,” Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, said in a phone interview. “Their strategy is not to negotiate an agreement with Israel because a deal is give and take. They want take and take.”
Israel’s settlement project, once a scattering of houses across the so-called Green Line marking the borders before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, has grown substantially over the years. In 2009, the year Mr. Obama took office, 297,000 people lived in West Bank settlements and 193,737 in East Jerusalem. That increased to 386,000 in the West Bank by the end of last year and 208,000 in East Jerusalem by the end of 2014, according to Peace Now, a group that opposes settlements.
Israeli officials note that when Mr. Netanyahu acquiesced to a 10-month settlement freeze sought by Mr. Obama in 2009, the Palestinians still did not agree to negotiate until just before time ran out. But the addition of more than 100,000 settlers during Mr. Obama’s tenure convinced him that it was time to change approach at the United Nations, aides said.
The 618 housing units to be granted building permits in East Jerusalem on Wednesday have been in the works for a while, and the planning committee meeting agenda was set before the United Nations acted. But the committee chairman said he was determined to go forward with units totaling 5,600.
“I won’t get worked up over the U.N. or any other organization that might try to dictate to us what to do in Jerusalem,” Deputy Mayor Meir Turgeman, the planning committee chairman, told the newspaper Israel Hayom. “I hope that the government and the new administration in the United States will give us momentum to continue.”
Although he did not specify which projects he had in mind, Ir Amim, a private group tracking settlements in East Jerusalem, said he was probably referring to projects in Gilo and Givat Hamatos. Betty Herschman, the group’s director of international relations and advocacy, said it was “defiance demonstrated after Trump’s election, now reinforced by the U.N. resolution.”
Anat Ben Nun, the director of development and external relations for Peace Now, said such construction was problematic. “Netanyahu’s attempt to avenge the U.N.S.C. resolution through approval of plans beyond the Green Line will only harm Israelis and Palestinians by making it more difficult to arrive at a two-state solution,” she said.
Israeli leaders said they had no reason to stop building. The Security Council resolution “was absurd and totally removed from reality,” said Oded Revivi, chief foreign envoy for the Yesha Council, which represents West Bank settlers. “Israeli building policies are set in Jerusalem, not New York.”
For the fourth day, Israeli officials accused Mr. Obama’s team of ambushing them at the United Nations. While the White House denied it, Israeli officials pointed to a meeting between Secretary of State John Kerry and his New Zealand counterpart a month before the Council vote discussing a resolution on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. New Zealand was a sponsor of Friday’s measure.
Mr. Dermer, the ambassador, said Israel had other, nonpublic information proving the Obama administration’s involvement but provided no evidence and would not elaborate beyond saying it would be provided to Mr. Trump’s team when he takes office.
“They not only did not get up and stop it, they were behind it from the beginning,” Mr. Dermer said. “This is why the prime minister is so angry. We’re going to stand up against it.”
Israeli officials worried that Mr. Kerry would use a coming speech or a conference in France to outline an American peace plan that would be hostile to Israel’s interests. Mr. Kerry’s office had no comment.
The fury of Mr. Netanyahu’s response has generated debate at home. Mitchell Barak, a political consultant, said the political left considered the resolution “an epic foreign policy and diplomatic debacle” by Mr. Netanyahu.
But to his base, the Security Council action confirmed what they believed all along, that Mr. Obama is inherently anti-Israel, and so the prime minister comes across as a champion beset by enemies. “For them,” Mr. Barak said, “Netanyahu emerges from this unscathed, as the lone wolf in a lion’s den of hatred.”
Since the measure was passed, Israel has taken a number of retaliatory steps against the countries that supported its passage, including an official dressing-down of the Security Council members’ ambassadors to Israel on Sunday, Christmas Day.
Netanyahu on Saturday disinvited Ukraine Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman after Kiev voted in favor of the resolution.
Groysman, who became his country’s first-ever Jewish prime minister earlier this year, was scheduled to arrive in Israel on Tuesday for a two-day visit that would have included meetings with Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin and other senior officials.
Netanyahu’s office has denied reports that he nixed a meeting with Theresa May next month at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, saying that no meeting had been set. But the deputy head of mission at the British Embassy in Tel Aviv, Tony Kay, told The Times of Israel on Monday there had been plans for a sit-down, though Jerusalem had not told London it planned to cancel the meeting.
Netanyahu has also reportedly ordered the Foreign Ministry to minmize all working ties with the 12 of countries that voted in favor of the decision with which Israel has diplomatic relations. Foreign ministers from the countries will reportedly no longer be able to meet with Netanyahu or Foreign Ministry officials.
In addition, travel by Israeli ministers to the countries will be kept to a minimum, an official said.
Of the 15 countries on the UN Security Council, 14 voted in favor of Resolution 2334, which demands a halt to all Israeli settlement activity — including in East Jerusalem — with one abstention, that of the US, whose veto would have nixed the measure.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 27th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Make Russia great again? Aleppo and a plea from another world
JUAN FRANCISCO LOBO – OpenDemocracy – 24 December 2016
During the last days of December, Russia will host a round of diplomatic talks with Iran and Turkey.
A hundred years ago, Ernst Jünger described a peculiar encounter with a frightened British officer in his account of trench warfare, Storm of Steel: “he reached into his pocket, not to pull out a weapon, but a photograph (…). I saw him on it, surrounded by numerous family (…). It was a plea from another world.”
According to conventional wisdom, “war is hell,” as famously sentenced by General Sherman. Hence Jünger’s depiction of the scene as something from another planet. And that is how the world today, more concerned with the holidays and the latest Hollywood blockbuster, is receiving the dire plea for help by multiple civilians caught in the crossfire of the battle for Aleppo. We simply content ourselves with the thought that civilians will always suffer in times of war, for war is hell.
Or is it?
A few days ago, the soon to be replaced Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, gave his last press conference. Referring to the humanitarian crisis in Syria, he remarked ominously: “Aleppo is now a synonym for hell”. But surely the Secretary General did not intend merely to describe a regrettable fait accompli, as someone might depict a natural disaster. His closing official words carry a message for the world to actively engage in Aleppo, and particularly to make belligerents stop targeting civilians, for not everything is allowed in war after all. As Michael Walzer has pointed out in his decades-long effort to revive the Just War tradition, we strive to fight wars justly and to uphold rules even in the midst of hell.
But, who is there to listen this plea from another world? Even if the message gets through, what is the attitude of superpowers vis-à-vis any demands that the rules of war be upheld?
I have previously argued that there is a value to American hypocrisy coming from its blatant breach of international humanitarian law during the last decade when torturing its way through to fight the “war on terror.” If as La Rochefoucauld said once, hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue, then the difference between a hypocrite and a cynic lies in the former’s capacity to recognize the existence of rules, only deliberately flouting them, whereas the latter does not even admit the existence of rules. Whereas the day of reckoning eventually comes for the hypocrite, the cynic is forever immune to criticism.
What about Russia?
Has Vladimir Putin’s regime been a hypocrite or a cynic in international relations? We know it has not been an Aliosha Karamazov, a saint, but then, which country has? Has Russia been more of a cynic like Ivan, or a hypocrite like Dimitri Karamazov? The answer is that is has been a bit of both over recent years, behaving as ambiguously as the double-headed eagle in its national coat of arms.
Sometimes Russia has recognized the existence of jus ad bellum and jus in bello conventions and has pledged to uphold them. Indeed, Russia relied on the responsibility to protect doctrine when trying to justify its military advance over Georgia in 2008. In 2013, Russia demonstrated what it could broker in the international arena when stepping in to secure a last-minute deal between Syria and the United States for Al-Assad to surrender his chemical weapons arsenal, absolutely banned under international humanitarian law. Just last Monday morning, on December 19 2016, Russia consented to a Security Council resolution to deploy observers to monitor civilian evacuation procedures in Aleppo.
To be sure, Russia’s use of R2P doctrine in 2008 has been widely condemned as a case of pure hypocrisy; yet, the important thing about the hypocrite is that he acknowledges the existence of rules. Whether he truly respects them or not is something that cannot be ascertained in the present – any more than it can be in the case of the true believer, for that matter.
On the other hand, Russia has of late deployed some alarmingly cynical attitudes in the international arena. During November 2016, Russia announced its withdrawal from the International Criminal Court, pragmatically arguing that “during the 14 years of the court’s work it passed only four sentences having spent over a billion dollars”. ( This announcement followed an ominous spree of similar withdrawals from the ICC by African states. It also followed the publication of a Report by the ICC containing its preliminary examination of the situation in Ukraine, where allegedly war crimes are being committed by Russian and pro-Russian forces.
Although technically Russia never became a party to the Rome Statute – having signed yet never ratified it, and now just exerting its right to make “its intention clear not to become a party to the treaty” pursuant to article 18 of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties – still this announcement comes as a strong sign of Russian contempt towards international legal institutions.
Some other worrisome examples of Russian cynicism towards the rule of international law are its annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the law passed in 2015 authorizing its constitutional court to overrule decisions by the European Court of Human Rights.
Regarding the armed conflict in Syria, during recent years Russia has systematically vetoed Security Council draft resolutions aimed at solving the crisis in order to protect the interests of Al-Assad, its strongest client in such a strategic region.
Nevertheless, Russia still has the potential to change the course of the Syrian deadlock, as it demonstrated when it brokered the chemical weapons deal in 2013. Moreover, history arguably presents Russia today with a unique opportunity to become the legitimate heir of a genuine humanitarian tradition that the ancient Russian Empire has practiced since the late nineteenth century. Among the main landmarks of this tradition we find the Saint Petersburg Declaration (1868), the humanitarian intervention which prompted the Russian-Turkish War (1877) and Russia’s key role in the discussion of The Hague peace conferences (1899 to 1907), where the Russian diplomat Fiodor Martens promoted a famous clause to protect people in times of war.
During the last days of December, Russia will host a round of diplomatic talks with Iran and Turkey to try and find a definitive solution to the Syrian civil war. If Putin wants to “make Russia great again,” he should endeavor to honor that tradition. By doing so at least Russia will more probably err on the side of hypocrisy rather than on that of cynicism, and people who suffer the consequences of war would still have a chance to find solace behind the aegis of international law.
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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 26th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
We visited the village of MARSAXLOKK, of La Valetta, Malta, as part of a MSC Splendida cruise of the Western Mediterranean. This was on a beautiful December 21, 2016 – First Winter Day. Our guide insisted in pointing out the difference from the stormy 1998 day – when right after the fall of the Berlin Wall – this bay was host to the first post Cold War meeting between the the presidents of the USA and the Soviet Union – Messrs. Gorbachev and H. W. Bush.
I decided right there to post about that old event, that closed the era codified at Yalta by the 1945 interim settlement between Stalin and Roosevelt with only Churchill sitting in. Today we seem to enter an era that replaces the global peace that came after the cold war with a Putin-Trump concordance that has the potential to destroy everything that achieved since the 1990s.
We visited today the village of MARSAXLOKK, of La Valetta, Malta, as part of a MSC Splendida cruise of the Western Mediterranean. This was a beautiful December 21, 2016 First Winter Day, and our guide insisted in pointing out the difference from the stormy 1998 day when right after the fall of the Berlin Wall this bay was host to the first post Cold War meeting between the the presidents of the USA and the Soviet Union Messrs. Gorbachev and H. W. Bush.
I decided to post about that old event, that closed the era that was codified at Yalta by the 1945 interim settlement between Stalin and Roosevelt with only Churchill sitting in. Today we seem to enter an era that replaces the global peace that came after the cold war with a Putin-Trump concordance that has the potential to destroy everything that was achieved since the 1990s.
I thought that a new meeting at MARSAXLOKK – BETWEEN PUTIN AND TRUMP – could help both of them open eyes to where they want to lead the global community that by now got glued together in a manner that it is impossible to see any of the old super-powers not cooperating, or not making place for China and India as well, or ignoring the future rise of Africa and Brazil. Could it be that we are the first to call for such a meeting? Is it really far-fetched to attribute to the present two gladiators, that will be active on the global stage into the 2017-2020 years, a sense of the need of covering each other’s back when in the midst of the aspiring powers of China, India, other Asians, and some form of a reformulated Europe. All this while basic concepts of Democracy and Human Rights are being shelved, and replaced with power of oligarchies bent on increased personal gains that leave behind hordes of malcontents – the brew of a new undertow of Despicables a la Les Miserables?
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
(To be seen a Monument in Bir?ebbu?a commemorating the Malta Summit)
The Malta Summit comprised a meeting between US President George H. W. Bush and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, took place on December 2–3, 1989, just a few weeks after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
It was actually their second meeting following a meeting that included Ronald Reagan, in New York in December 1988.
During the summit, Bush and Gorbachev would declare an end to the Cold War although whether it was truly such – is a matter of debate. News reports of the time referred to the Malta Summit as the most important since 1945, when British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin and US President Franklin D. Roosevelt agreed on a post-war plan for Europe at Yalta.
No agreements were signed at the Malta Summit. Its main purpose was to provide the two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, with an opportunity to discuss the rapid changes taking place in Europe with the lifting of the Iron Curtain, which had separated the Eastern Bloc from Western Europe for four decades. The summit is viewed by some observers as the official end of the Cold War. At a minimum, it marked the lessening of tensions that were the hallmark of that era and signaled a major turning point in East-West relations. During the summit, President Bush expressed his support for Gorbachev’s perestroika initiative and other reforms in the Communist bloc.
The U.S. delegation:
James Baker, U.S. Secretary of State
Robert Blackwill, then Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and Senior Director for European and Soviet Affairs at the National Security Council
Jack F. Matlock, Jr., U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union
Condoleezza Rice, then Director for Soviet and East European Affairs at the National Security Council
Brent Scowcroft, U.S. National Security Adviser
Raymond Seitz, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs
John H. Sununu, White House chief of staff
Margaret Tutwiler, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs and Spokeswoman of the Department
Paul Wolfowitz, U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy
Robert Zoellick, Counselor of the Department of State
Venue: “From Yalta to Malta”, and back.
The meetings took place in the Mediterranean, off the island of Malta. The Soviet delegation used the missile cruiser Slava, while the US delegation had their sleeping quarters aboard USS Belknap. 
The ships were anchored in a roadstead off the coast of Marsaxlokk. Stormy weather and choppy seas resulted in some meetings being cancelled or rescheduled, and gave rise to the moniker the “Seasick Summit” among international media.
In the end, the meetings took place aboard Maxsim Gorkiy, a Soviet cruise ship anchored in the harbor at Marsaxlokk.
The idea of a summit in the open sea is said to have been inspired largely by President Bush’s fascination with World War II President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s habit of meeting foreign leaders on board naval vessels. The choice of Malta as a venue was the subject of considerable pre-summit haggling between the two superpowers. According to Condoleezza Rice:
“… it took a long time to get it arranged, finding a place, a place that would not be ceremonial,
a place where you didn’t have to do a lot of other bilaterals. And fortunately – or unfortunately – they chose Malta, which turned out to be a really horrible place to be in December.
Although the Maltese were wonderful, the weather was really bad.”
The choice of venue was also highly symbolic. The Maltese Islands are strategically located at the geographic centre of the Mediterranean Sea, where east meets west and north meets south. Consequently, Malta has a long history of domination by foreign powers. It served as a British naval base during the 19th and early 20th centuries, and suffered massive destruction during World War II.
Malta declared its neutrality between the two superpowers in 1980, following the closure of British military bases and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Regional Headquarters (CINCAFMED), previously located on Malta.
Neutrality is entrenched in the Constitution of Malta, which provides as follows, at section 1(3):
“Malta is a neutral state actively pursuing peace, security and social progress among all nations by adhering to a policy of non-alignment and refusing to participate in any military alliance.”
On February 2, 1945, as the War in Europe drew to a close, Malta was the venue for the Malta Conference, an equally significant meeting between US President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill prior to their Yalta meeting with Joseph Stalin. The Malta Summit of 1989 signalled a reversal of many of the decisions taken at the 1945 Yalta Conference.
Revolutions of 1989
Cold War (1985-1991)
List of Soviet Union–United States summits
New world order (politics)
Jump up^ “An Interview with Dr. Condoleezza Rice (17/12/97)”
Jump up^ www.nytimes.com/1989/12/03/world/…
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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 5th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
To stop crippling air pollution, Iranians do car-free Tuesdays
By Karin Kloosterman (KarinKloosterman@greenprophet)
Karin Kloosterman interests intersect in the worlds of the environment, technology, activism and Middle East politics. Blogging for some of the most influential media outlets in the “green” world, such as TreeHugger, and The Huffington Post, Karin founded Green Prophet to share the enormous potential of new clean technologies, and environmental awareness emanating from the Middle East region. For tips, advertising and editorial inquiries Karin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
July 4, 2016
Cities in Iran are some of the most polluted in the world. It’s estimated that 27 people a day die in Tehran from the low quality of air.
Mohammad Bakhtiari, 25, from Arak decided he couldn’t take it anymore, and started car-free Tuesdays –- a day when he’s encouraging Iranians to find alternative ways to get around. He told local media, “With air pollution getting worse, I did not like to sit back doing nothing. I thought everybody is responsible for this problem. And I was thinking of a way to involve more people to help with it.”
So he proposed that people go car free on Tuesdays. Residents in Tripoli, Lebanon tried it once a long time ago, but it didn’t stick.
Mohammad wanted the idea to stick. He went with posters and flyers and explained to locals in Arak until the Department of Environment gave its stamp of approval. It’s catching on in all Iranian cities but there are no reports on how many people are actually doing it.
Tuesday was the day picked because it is in the middle of Iranian week when traffic congestion is high and air pollution is at its worst.
The World Bank estimates losses inflicted on Iran’s economy as a result of deaths caused by air pollution at $640 million, which is equal to 5.1 trillion rials or 0.57 percent of GDP. Diseases resulting from air pollution are inflicting losses estimated at $260 million per year or 2.1 trillion rials or 0.23 percent of the GDP on Iran’s economy.
Leaving cars at home can reduce air pollution: The campaign that started this spring is expected to run for 600 weeks. The idea is to get people to use bikes and more public transport.
Mohammad said: “Sixty percent of the people who know there is such a campaign have supported it. Our first step is to tell people that there is such a movement. The second step is to tell them why they should support it.
“The third step is to have incentives for those who join the campaign.
“And the fourth step is to push the government to carry out its responsibilities at a more rapid pace.”
He is now pushing the government for safe bike routes, and more people to start using electric motorbikes. As well as an overhaul of public transport.
Cities in Russia and India, have made a similar pledge to be car free on Tuesdays.
Read more on sustainable Iran:
Iran Looks to Create Biofuel
Iran Inaugurates Its First Solar CSP Plant
Celebrate Spring and Iranian New Year
View other posts by Karin Kloosterman ?
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 12th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
12th May 2016
Nord Stream 2: A killer project
NS2, which will pass through Danish waters, is to be operational by 2019
BRUSSELS, EUobserver, 11 MAY, 10:49
By PETRAS AUSTREVICIUS – a Lithuanian MEP in the liberal Alde group.
Scholars of European affairs will one day judge how well EU institutions coped with crises.
However, speaking as an MEP, I must say it is unwise for the European Commission to try to play deaf, dumb and blind to certain serious developments in the real world.
Follow the gas: Russian pipelines are instruments of political pressure.
Drawing attention to one area, it is unwise to pretend that things are normal in the EU-Russia energy business.
The fact is that Russia’s gas pipelines, the little green men that it sent to Ukraine, the money it gives to populist parties in our member states and its anti-EU propaganda are all part of the same programme. The fact is that Russia is exerting great influence to bend, or even break, EU energy law.
One project that lacks principled scrutiny by the EU’s top institutions is the Nord Stream 2 (NS2) gas pipeline.
If it is built, by 2019, it would duplicate existing pipes under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany and its implications would be far wider than many people think.
I would like to hear commission president Jean-Claude Juncker take a clear stand on NS2.
But I myself call it a killer project because I believe it is part of a programme to destroy European unity.
If it is built, the EU would become extremely dependent on a single gas supplier – Gazprom, an entity under the full control of Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
Europe already imports 39 percent of its gas from Russia. After NS2, 80 percent of Russian gas imports would be concentrated in one route. In Germany itself, the share of Russian gas would increase from 40 percent to 60 percent.
Beyond Germany, 12 EU member states depend on Russia for 75 percent or more of their gas. After NS2, the level of their dependence would also go up.
I call it a killer project because it has no commercial purpose, whatever its lobbyists say.
Independent energy experts agree that there is no market logic for investing €20 billion in new Baltic pipelines. Nord Stream I, which is already in operation, uses less than half of its capacity.
NS2 was never about the energy business, it was always energy politics.
It aims to split and destabilise the EU, to harm individual member states and to degrade Ukraine, which would be eliminated as the main Russia-EU gas transit route.
This is why Ukraine and all other central and eastern European countries are against the Russian-German project.
It is obvious who would stand to gain from splitting the EU into gas partners and gas slaves – Russia. It is less obvious why Germany is getting involved.
It is also interesting what Denmark’s official position will be, knowing that NS2 will pass through Danish waters.
NS2 contradicts the European Energy Union – a policy of diversification of energy sources and suppliers.
We need the energy union to guarantee a fair gas price for all and to enable imports from the wider world, for instance via liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals.
Some have been built in Spain and in my home country, Lithuania. We have an LNG terminal in the port of Klaipeda and an LNG vessel named Independence. “Independence” is the key word here.
The Juncker commission made big promises on creating a free and secure energy market. It has yet to deliver.
NS2 is a killer project because it shows that Schroederism is back in Europe.
I am talking about the former German chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder’s policy of putting Russian money first. It risks making Germany, one of the most powerful EU states, prone to Russian manipulation.
You hear Schroederism from people in chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet.
You sometimes hear it from the chancellor herself. Merkel recently spoke out in defence of EU energy security, but she also defended the commercial merit of NS2.
There is no such merit. Behind Gazprom, a giant shell firm, there is only Putinism.
There is no easy way to stop NS2. Two big states are building it and the ones who will pay the price are smaller.
Brussels is being squeezed by Moscow and Berlin.
But for all of Russia and Germany’s influence, if NS2 contradicts EU single market law – specifically, the so called third energy package – then Juncker’s commission must call a spade a spade.
Because of the sensitivity of the issue, a group of independent jurists should also provide its own legal analysis of the project. I will be demanding this as a member of the European Parliament.
When strategic decisions are being made, but political courage and EU values are lacking, the law is our last line of defence.
Petras Austrevicius is a Lithuanian MEP in the liberal Alde group
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 30th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Above the entrance to 21 Zerubabel Street in the Yemenite Quarter in Tel Aviv – next door to the Rabbi Shabzi Synagogue and the warning – a dog in the courtyard – it says – in Hebrew:Sun light is very bleak to someone who does not find sense in his life. Next tomit in English is written: “There is no Fear in Love.”
The Israeli papers that are still not owned by an Israeli government related American individual – The HAARETZ and the Yedioth Aharonot – are now full with hints at internal culture wars started by an uneducated Culture Minister – Ms. Miri Regev who contended that even uneducated people can be educated. That is not my topic here – for those interested please read The New York Times article of today – “Israel, Mired in Ideological Battles, Fights on Cultural Fronts” – By STEVEN ERLANGER January 29, 2016. We are here rather interested in what the rather officialpro-government papers say – The MAARIV and The ISRAEL HAYOM say.
A main report comes from the meeting in Nicosia, Cyprus between Israel’s Prime Minister Mr. Netanyahu and His counterparts from Greece and Cyprus titled as the “Mediterranean Alliance.” As I just arrived here from Vienna I am quite familiar with the Merkel & Faymann problems with Greece and Turkey and the simple facts that the EU in ordr to survive tends now to shed Greece and trade it for higher reliance on Turkey. What I sense thus is the contemplation of the Israeli government to look as well for new allies in its troubled corner of thev World.
Then, no misunderstanding here – President Obama just declared for all to hear that Putin is corrupt and Mr. Putin reacted by asking for evidence. No problem on this front – the UK obliged and declared Putin involved in the execution of a financial competitor – mafia style. This sort of language was not heard even in the days of President Regan’s attacks on the Soviet “Evil Empire.”
Obama looks at the mess in Western Asia he inherited from G.W. Bush who really turned all local devils there lose by taking off the lids that kept a modicum of order as left by the British and French colonial powers. G.W. continued the reliance on the Saudis that came down from Democrat President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and thus became partial to an evolving Sunni Shia rift with an ever increasing Iranian threat to the US oil supplies from the Middle East. Obviously, US interests did not match in all of this the European effort to build their own power bloc and the difficulties the EU put before Turkey’s attemp to join in the Union. Russia had its own problems with the EU and when life for the US and the EU became difficultbin the Arab region – they jumped in and used the occasion to move on the Ukraine as well.
So what now?
My suggestion based on an acknowledged very superficial reading of the real news – is: By necessity there are now two new potential NEUTRAL Centers in a renewed COLD WAR scenario.
Oman is the Neutral space between the Saudis and Iran – to be cherished by the US.
The small group of Greece, Cyprus, and Israel – a new buffer zone between the EU & Turkey alliance and the Sunni Arab Golf and the US – with Syria and Iraq the actual battle-field that will churn the Arab World until it reorganizes the remaining waste-lands. Russia has gained a footing via the Shiia Muslims and the US will see to limit this by making it more profitable to Iran to play the US in exchange for diminished role to the Saudis. It is all in the new world cards.
And what about the Arab North African States? Will they fall into the hands of extreme Sunnis as preached by Saudi Wahhabism – the source of what has moved to the creation of the new Islamic powder keg? I do not think this is possible in North Africa – simply because there are no Shiia elements there that justify to the Sunnis such an effort. Will there be another neutral zone in the North African region in the Cold War arena? This makes sense eventually.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 23rd, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Why Putin Loves Trump
Ivan Krastev — January 12, 2016
Sofia, Bulgaria — “VLADIMIR VLADIMIROVICH, is war coming?”
The question is asked in the first frame of “Myroporyadok” (“World Order”), a manifesto-style documentary aired in the last days of December on Russian state television. And in the following two-plus hours, President Vladimir V. Putin, aided by diplomats, policy analysts, conspiracy theorists and retired foreign statesmen, attempts to provide an answer.
Though the Russian leader resists sounding the alarm, the audience is nonetheless convinced that if nothing changes in the coming months, the Big War could be imminent. And the Kremlin isn’t doing much to dissuade them: Days after the film’s airing, its new national security strategy, which declares NATO and the United States as fundamental threats to Russia’s future, was unveiled.
“Myroporyadok” is a powerful expression of the Kremlin’s present state of mind. It views the world as a place on the edge of collapse, chaotic and dangerous, where international institutions are ineffective, held hostage to the West’s ambitions and delusions. Nuclear weapons represent the sole guarantee of a country’s sovereignty, and sovereignty is demonstrated by a willingness and capacity to resist Washington’s hegemonic agenda.
The film’s story line focuses repeatedly on NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia, George W. Bush’s war in Iraq, the West’s misuse of a United Nations no-fly zone in Libya and the West’s insistent meddling in the domestic politics of post-Soviet states. This is all done to prove the film’s central point: that the West may carry on about values and principles, but all of that masks a realpolitik aimed at world domination.
Some of the accusations have merit: The United States certainly bears considerable responsibility for the catastrophe in the Middle East. Some are patently false: Not every popular revolt in the world is a covert C.I.A. operation. But all of them carry more than a whiff of exaggeration. America, after all, is neither as powerful nor as malevolent as the Kremlin supposes.
The central contradiction in Moscow’s view of American foreign policy is its failure to reconcile its insistence that America is a declining power with the tendency to explain everything that happens in the world as resulting from American foreign policy actions. Is Washington failing in its effort to bring stability to the Middle East? Or is keeping the region unstable the real objective of White House strategy? Improbably, Moscow believes in both.
More important, the film is a challenge to the widely accepted view of Mr. Putin as a coldblooded realist, a cynic who believes in nothing but power and spends his days poring over maps and checking his bank statements. In “Myroporyadok,” we find Mr. Putin the angry moralist who, similar to European populists and third-world radicals, experiences the world through the lens of humiliation and exclusion. As Mr. Putin’s close adviser, Vladislav Surkov, once wrote: “We still look like those guys from the working part of town suddenly finding ourselves in the business district. And they’ll swindle us for sure if we keep stumbling backward and dropping our jaws.”
Such exclusion fuels distrust and the tendency to view the world as a family drama structured around love, hate and betrayal. It is this sensitivity, rather than 19th-century realpolitik, that explains most of Moscow’s policies in recent years.
Russian-Turkish relations are a case in point. Rather than adhering to any foreign-policy realism, the Kremlin seems to have adopted a policy of Great Power sentimentality. Until two months ago, Ankara was Russia’s strategic ally in its struggle for a multipolar world. Turkey had been a brother-in-resentment, the only NATO member that refused to join in sanctions against Moscow after Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Ankara occupied a central place in Moscow’s energy diplomacy.
But it was enough for a Turkish missile to hit a Russian plane on the Syrian border, and suddenly the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was not a friend anymore, but a traitor who was “aiding terrorists,” Mr. Putin said, sounding personally offended.
At the heart of Russian foreign policy sentimentalism is a tendency to view relationships between states as relations between leaders. It is this highly personalized view of the world that helps explain why Mr. Putin, the man who seeks to defeat America, is such an enthusiastic supporter of Donald J. Trump, the “brilliant and talented leader” who promises to make America great again.
Mr. Putin’s predilection for Mr. Trump has nothing to do with the Kremlin’s traditional preference for Republicans. It also can’t be explained by the fact that had Mr. Putin — a physically sound, aging, gun-loving and anti-gay conservative — been an American citizen, he would have fit the profile of a Trump supporter. Nor is it a function of tactical considerations: that the nutty billionaire would divide America and make it look ridiculous.
Rather, Mr. Putin’s puzzling enthusiasm for Mr. Trump is rooted in the fact that they both live in a soap-opera world run by emotions rather than interests. Perhaps Mr. Putin trusts Mr. Trump because the American businessman reminds him of the only true friend the Russian president has had among world leaders, the former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.
In “Myroporyadok,” there is a lot of discussion about new rules and institutions, about Yalta and about the United Nations. But its message is clear: In a world where hypocrisy holds sway, only angry outsiders can be trusted.
Ivan Krastev is the chairman of the Center for Liberal Strategies in Sofia, Bulgaria, and a permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna. He writes also for The New York Times.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 20th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Today I had the good fortune to be present at a debate between Professor Franz Cede – former Austrian Ambassador to the Russian Federation and now with the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy (AIES), and Russia’s Ambassador to Austria H.E. Dmitrij Liubinskij (Dmitry Lubensky) – in diplomatic service since 1989.
The discussants had agreed beforehand to touch on most topics of contention between the European Union and the Russian Federation – the Ukraine, Syria, Iran, the EU-Russia relations. Being a good diplomat Ambassador Lubensky proposed the official answers as per the the Russian Federation government: Autonomy for the Donbas region as part of an Ukrainian Federation; There was no recent annexation of the Krim this was rather the redress of the annexation that Under Mr. Chruschtschow he gave the Crimean peninsula to Ukraine; about his rule; Russia does not bsck Assad to keep him in Power, only the Syrian people can decide what to do; the Iran deal showed the strength of diplmcy and discussions. Econoic relatios with Iran go on already a long time – he was told – also Germany and Austria. He knows this from his many contacts.
On EU and Russia relations he said that since te 90s there exists the concept of integration of the European Union and the Eurasian Union.
This last item is my reason for writing this up.
My belief is in – rather then using valuable time to discuss ongoing problems for which hardened positions already exist – I would rather start a debate that is intended to create rapprochement by bringing up first – reasonable potential future problems. In today’s case Russia and the West – I would rather start with depicting a situation where China becomes the real danger for Russia – the danger from the East.
The reality is that the Russian Federation is rather a large State but small in the number of its people.
Looking at a future world partitioned between blocks of one billion people plus (each) – neither Russia, nor the EU could make it without supporting each other. The Eurasian Union is only a half backed idea – a much better idea would be a Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok – incorporating the EU and the Russian Federation. In such a Union Russia could find its security much easier then tackling the West in those proposed four areas.
At the end of the meeting I discussed this idea of using potential future problems to help cure present on-going problems,
and it seemed to me that even the Russian Ambassador did not shy away from this idea.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 25th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
We react here to the New York Times Editorial of August 24, 2015 that seemingly wants us to believe that Putin and the Ayatollahs found religion when they heard that 250,000 Arabs were killed in Syria. Really – why should they care?
Let us suggest that “THE DEAL” has turned the interest of Iran to revive its International Banking if the Sanctions are removed – and that is the real driving force that eventually can bring Putin and the Ayatollahs to the table IN EXCHANGE FOR A SAUDI AND THE OTHER GULF STATES OIL EXPORTERS PROMISE TO REDUCE THEIR EXPORTS OF OIL.
YES – the US and the Europeans are driven by humanitarian concepts – the Russians and the Iranians think of the PRICE OF OIL that hit them hard in their economies. The US and the Europeans enjoyed the lowering of the price of oil – based on the high supply figures and a decreasing demand that resulted from GREEN ACTIVITIES – higher efficiency and alternate sources of energy.
But also these two developing energy topics can only benefit from a higher price for oil. So what the heck – let us help the Syrians and save whatever cultural monuments the Islamic State has not destroyed yet. We know that one way or another – the Christian population of Syria and Iraq is doomed and the Lebanese Maronites strive already decades in Brazil like the Iraqi Jews who spread all over the globe – from the Far East to the Far West. But let the enlightened world deal with the problem – and explain to the Saudis that time has come for them to listen to the global woes and do their part by selling less oil !!!
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 13th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Reported by Irith Jawetz from Vienna
July 12. 2015
On Friday, July 10, 2015 – a very timely – at the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna.
Since the Iran talks are being held in Vienna, the panel discussion was very appropriate and although many people have left the City for the Summer, or at least for the weekend, this round table – and the room were full.
I will try to give a somewhat concise reporting of that event.
The event was called: Iran und der Westen nach den Verhandlungen (Iran and the West after the talks).
The participants were:
Dr. Christian Prosl, Austrian Ambassador to Washingtion 2009-2011
Dr. Walter Posch, Institut für Friedenssicherung und Konfliktforschung an der Landesverteidigungsakademie Wien
( Institute for Peace Support and Conflict Management, Vienna).
Dr. Arian Faal, Journalist, APA (the Austrian Press Agency) and Wiener Zeitung
The excellent moderator was Dr. Werner Fasslabend, President of the Politische Akademie und des AIES, former Austrian Minister for Defense.
Dr. Fasselabend opened the discussion stating that only 99.9% of the talks are completed.
He continued by by displaying historic and current maps of the Region, giving us a broad historic overview of Iran and its influence on the region. He stressed that because of Iran’s geographical location it was and still is a very large regional power and stability in the Middle East without Iran’s cooperation is impossible.
Dr. Arian Faal, Journalist for APA (Austrian Press Agentur) and Wiener Zeitung gave us an inside look from the perspective of the journalists covering the talks.
He recalled that after 17 days, 12-16 hours of work, 600 journalists and at a cost of about $1 million for the stay in Vienna by US Secretary of State John Kerry and his delegation at the famous Imperial Hotel, there is still no deal. There have been many improvements since the beginning of the talks, but still no deal. Mr. Kerry has prolonged his stay yet again and said a deadline will not be a factor as long as an agreement can be achieved. The new deadline to be breached is Monday July 13th.
The three major problems that stand in the way of an agreement are:
1) The sanctions on Iran – the Iranian delegation insists those have to be lifted right away;
2) The UN Arms Embargo that includes conventional weapons;
3) Political readiness by President Obama and Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of Iran. Both have to agree to a deal which will be accepted at home.
Dr. Faal said he is an optimist by nature and is still hopeful that an agreement will be reached.
Ambassador Dr. Christian Prosl addressed the matter from the US point of view. He said that for the US the stability of the region and the security of the State of Israel are the main factors and the two problems which the US faces are with Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Both countries, though for different reasons, are against any deal with Iran since they do not trust the Iranian regime.
As for the supply of oil, this is not anymore a factor for the US because of the fracking industry. However, the strained relationship between President Obama and the Republican party may be a factor. The Republicans have tried for a long time now to see that President Obama fails, and they may try to fail him also in this endeavor. Mr. Netanyahu’s speech in Congress against the Iran deal, which was prompted by the invitation of Speaker of the House John Boemer, did not help. However Ambassador Prosl said that he cannot imagine that the Republicans will fail the agreement if it is iron clad and the treaty will be safe for the US.
Dr. Posch addressed the matter from the Iranian point of view and concluded that although the problems are being viewed from different perspective, i.e. US, the EU and Iran, the will is there. Regional security, oil supply and human rights in Iran all play a part in the talks. He also was hopeful that a deal will be signed
At the end of the panel presentations, Dr. Fasselabend invited to the podium Dr. Massud Mossaheb, General Secretary of the Austro-Iranian Society in Vienna.
Mr. Mossaheb said that there is mutual mistrust between the West and the Iranian Government.
In spite of the fact that the Iranian nuclear position has not changed in the last 40 years, there is still mistrust. The people of Iran hope for the lifting of the sanctions so they can have a better quality of life. They suffer from high inflation and lack of supplies, especially in medications. Dr. Mossaheb also hopes for a deal to be reached.
As the end, the consensus was that the talks will go on, of course not for ever, but without the threat of an immediate deadline, and an agreement, which will be safe and beneficial for all participants will be reached.
From the US MEDIA – I will add to the above that the personal insistence of President Obama and Secretary Kerry, the opinion is that the White House investment in these talks is so high that a failure to obtain an agreement is unthinkable.
The fact that the Iranians see this deep involvement of the Americans has in itself weakened the position of the United States in these negotiations. But then, the Iran Supreme leader Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei – whose position is still strong as he is still blindly followed by the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) who are in charge of the Nuclear Program – may be using tough talk now just to make sure that his agreeing to an agreement is not viewed as weakness. The Iranian people want an end to the sanctions provided it is not seen as a cave in (the CNN/GPS program of Fareed Zakaria).
The current round, now in its 16-th day, was supposed to conclude on June 30, but was extended until July 7, then July 10 and now July 13. The sides had hoped to seal a deal before the end of Thursday in Washington to avoid delays in implementing their promises.
By missing that target, the U.S. and Iran now have to wait for a 60-day congressional review period during which President Barack Obama can’t waive sanctions on Iran. Had they reached a deal by Thursday, the review would have been only 30 days.
En route to Mass at Vienna’s St. Stephens Cathedral, Kerry said twice he was “hopeful” after a “very good meeting” Saturday with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who had Muslim services Friday.
Kerry noted that “a few tough things” remain in the way of agreement but added: “We’re getting to some real decisions.”
A senior State Department official also said Sunday that the department will not speculate about the timing of anything during the talks and that key issues remain unresolved.
Iran’s state-run Press TV cited Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Saturday as calling the U.S. an “excellent example of arrogance.” It reported that Khamenei told university students in Tehran to be “prepared to continue the struggle against arrogant powers.”
His comments suggest Tehran’s distrust of Washington will persist whether a deal gets done or not. Khamenei’s comments also have appeared thus to be a blow to U.S. hopes than agreement will lead to improved relations with the country and possible cooperation against Islamic rebels.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, like Kerry, indicated talks could go either way. “We behaved so skillfully that if talks won’t succeed, the world would accept that Iran is for logic and dialogue and never left the negotiating table … and if we succeed by the grace of God, the world will know that the Iranian nation can resolve its problems through logic,” his website quoted him as saying.
The supreme leader’s comments also come after it was learned Saturday that the Islamic Republic’s spies have been seeking atomic and missile technology in neighboring Germany as recently as last month.
Iran’s illegal activities have continued since talks between Iran and the P5+1 – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council as well as rotating member Germany – began with a Joint Plan of Action in 2013, according to German intelligence sources. The JPOA was intended to stop Iran’s work on a nuclear weapon until a comprehensive agreement is reached.
“You would think that with the negotiations, [Iranian] activities would drop,” a German intelligence source said. “Despite the talks to end Iran’s program, Iran did not make an about-turn.”
With a final agreement to restrict Iran’s nuclear program set for Monday, the intelligence data from Germany raises disturbing questions about the success of the deal.
Tehran has sought industry computers, high-speed cameras, cable fiber, and pumps for its nuclear and missile program over the last two years, according to German intelligence sources. Germany is required to report Iran’s illegal procurement activities to the UN.
Iran is unlikely to begin a substantial rollback of its nuclear program until it gets sanctions relief in return.
But then the Russian and Chinese Foreign Ministers said they will come to Vienna for the signing of the agreement – and the news are that Mr. Sergei Lavrov has said he will be there on Monday.
An Iranian diplomat said that they have a 100 pages document to study and that logistically it cannot be done by Sunday night with parallel meetings going on.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 20th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Russian civil society deemed ‘undesirable’
Tanya Lokshina 20 May 2015, the openDemocracy website, London
Tanya Lokshina is Russia program director at Human Rights Watch, based in Moscow.
A new Russian bill on ‘undesirable organisations’ has been endorsed today which will allow the government to ban foreign NGOs. But are they the real targets?
Today, Russia’s upper house of parliament endorsed a bill on ‘undesirable organisations,’ passed by the lower house just a day earlier, on May 19. The bill will let the government ban the activities of foreign or international nongovernmental groups deemed to undermine ‘state security,’ ‘national defense,’ or the ‘constitutional order.’ There is little doubt that this new piece of repressive legislation will be now swiftly signed into law by President Vladimir Putin.
The real targets
Meanwhile, my phone is ringing off the hook: ‘So, this new law the State Duma has just adopted, is it about you? Do you think they want to use this to close down the Human Rights Watch bureau in Moscow?’ Well, to be sure, the bill has the potential to severely damage our work in Russia. The ‘undesirables’ bill is a cause of grave concern for all international rights groups operating in the country.
‘Do you think they want to use this to close down the Human Rights Watch bureau in Moscow?’
Nevertheless, I am genuinely convinced that it’s not about us. The intended targets of this new legislation on foreign and international organisations are actually Russian activists and Russian groups. The bill is aimed at cutting them off from their international partners, further isolating them, and squeezing the very life out of Russian civil society.
Just think about it. Why would the government need new legislation to close down Russia-based offices of foreign groups when the Justice Ministry can do this in one swift move simply by de-registering any organisation, no strings attached? And if Russia wants to stop representatives of foreign groups from entering the country, the authorities can simply blacklist them with no explanation whatsoever.
The bill on ‘undesirables’ not only allows the authorities to ban specific organisations’ activities on Russian territory – it also provides for sanctions against Russian citizens and Russian groups for ‘involvement’ in the activities of ‘undesirable’ organisations.
The bill does not specify what ‘involvement’ might include. So anything goes. Distributing — including by posting online — the statements, reports, or other materials of an ‘undesirable,’ participating in international events jointly with ‘undesirable’ organisations, or even simply communicating with staffers of ‘undesirable’ organisations could be all interpreted by the authorities as ‘involvement’ in their activities and result in punishment of the Russian groups and individuals. Sanctions include hefty administrative fines for the first two offenses, and more than two offenses in one year can result in criminal prosecution and up to six years in prison.
The bill appears to be designed for selective implementation. The definition of ‘state security’ under Russian law is vague. The prosecutor general’s office can designate an organisation as ‘undesirable’ without judicial review based solely on materials from law enforcement and security services. The Justice Ministry is designated as the keeper of the ‘undesirables.’
There is no requirement for the authorities to give a potential ‘undesirable’ any notice – an organisation may only discover its ‘undesirability’ after it has been already included on the list. Once the law enters into force, any foreign non-governmental group that criticises the Russian authorities, conducts independent activity, and supports civil society in Russia will be under threat of being pegged ‘undesirable.’
The bill appears to be designed for selective implementation.
An ‘undesirable’ organisation must terminate its presence in Russia and stop participating in any projects on Russian territory. Moreover, it won’t be able to reach out to the public through Russian media or websites – all its information will effectively be banned. And any Russian friends, partners or sympathizers of these organisations should know better than to go near them.
Spreading the trend
These new harsh restrictions follow in the footsteps of the ‘foreign agents’ law passed in July 2012, which has been used to demonise in the eyes of the public close to 60 local non-governmental organisations, including the country’s leading human rights groups, as anti-Russian saboteurs. Several of these organisations chose to shut down rather than bear the ‘foreign agent’ stigma.
The new bill on ‘undesirables’ is indubitably part of the Kremlin’s trend of repression against independent voices but takes it even further. While supposedly focused on preventing foreign and international groups from undermining national security, it is evidently meant to deliver another hard blow to Russian groups and activists. Once the authorities have free rein to bar Russians from ‘involvement’ with their ‘undesirable’ foreign counterparts, the authorities can leave critics of the government in an airless limbo and eventually suffocate them.