Putin

Thinking the Unthinkable in Ukraine

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As Russian forces begin exercises on Ukraine’s border and continue their hold on Crimea, I worry about military escalation—unintentional and intentional. What fuels my concern about unintentional escalation is a disconcerting interaction I had last year with a Russian general at a NATO conference in Europe. I was leading a breakout session with a dozen generals and admirals from the region. I was taken aback as many of the Western European NATO officers began lamenting their individual countries’ declining defense budgets and their inability to keep up with American military capability. As complicated as things might be inside NATO, and as difficult as it is to rally collective action at times, NATO is still the premier military alliance in the world. No one is giving up on it, I assured them.

When the Russian general spoke, he leaned into the table and said, “When I was a young soldier in the Soviet Army during the Cold War, I thought of NATO like this…” and he held his hand into a powerful fist. “But now that I am serving with NATO as a liaison, I am thinking, this…” and his hand went limp and wobbly with a whiny sounding sigh. If this small interaction reflects in any way a wider view of NATO by Russian civilian and military leaders, NATO has its work cut out for it in demonstrating to Vladimir Putin that continued military aggression in Ukraine will be challenged. Read the rest of this entry »

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Why U.S. Spies Get Putin Wrong

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By Eli Lake March 2, 2014 4:40 PM The Daily Beast
The last time Russian troops invaded one of its neighbors, the U.S. intelligence community was also caught off guard.

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The year was 2008 and the country was Georgia instead of the Ukraine. And just as in 2014, back then there were early signs that Moscow was serious—it was issuing visas  to ethnic Russian speakers inGeorgia, like it’s doing now in Ukraine.  U.S. analysts just didn’t believe Russia would go as far as it did.

Today, as in 2008, American policy makers have found themselves burned after trying to make Vladimir Putin a partner when Putin himself sees America as a rival. This has often led Republican and Democratic led administrations to find themselves flat footed in the face of Russian aggression and U.S. intelligence analysts racing to explain how they misread Putin’s motivations.

Read the rest of this entry »

Putin And Kudrin: Russia’s Real Tandem

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Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and former Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin, who resigned in late September after a spat with President Dmitry Medvedev.

December 16, 2011

Amid all the showmanship and bravado on display during Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’slive call-in program yesterday, there also came a rare moment of sincerity.This happened when Putin was asked to comment on former Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin, who resigned under pressure following a public spat with President Dmitry Medvedev in late September.

“Aleksei Leonidovich Kudrin has not left my team,” Putin said. “We are old comrades, he’s my friend. He did a lot for the country. I’m proud that this man worked in my government. Such people are needed and will be needed in current and future governments.”

On one hand, Putin’s comments can be viewed as a subtle dig at President Dmitry Medvedev, who demanded Kudrin’s resignation after the finance minister criticized his plans to increase military spending by $65 billion over the next three years. (The rare public dust-up came just days after Putin announced that he intended to return to the Kremlin next year and planed to make Medvedev his prime minister. Kudrin was reportedly not happy about the job swap.) Read the rest of this entry »

The Condomnation of Vladimir Putin

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Russia’s embattled ruler meets his public.

BY JULIA IOFFE | DECEMBER 16, 2011

MOSCOW – Russians had not really seen Vladimir Putin since his ruling United Russia party was walloped, at least by Russian standards, in the Dec. 4 parliamentary elections. Since then, Moscow, and the rest of the country, had been rocked by anti-government — and anti-Putin — protests. Tens of thousands of previously politically inactive people pinned white ribbons to their coats and came out across Russia to contest the elections, expressing their displeasure at being treated like idiots by the Kremlin for the past decade. Up until Thursday, the Kremlin’s reaction to this outpouring implied either panic, denial, or both. Putin remained well out of sight. He spoke through his spokesman in vague, contradictory statements, and, once, in a meeting of his People’s Front, blamed the protests on U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, claiming she had sent Russians a certain “signal.” Read the rest of this entry »

Firebombs thrown in 2nd night of protests in Moscow

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AP Photo
AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev

MOSCOW (AP) — Firebombs have been thrown at a protest rally in downtown Moscow pitting demonstrators denouncing alleged vote fraud in parliamentary elections against hundreds of pro-Kremlin youths.

An Associated Press reporter saw at least two firebombs thrown into a crowd of pro-Kremlin demonstrators gathered outside the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall on Tuesday night. It was not immediately clear who had thrown the incendiary devices or if they caused any injuries.

Police moved in quickly on the gathering.

The concert hall is adjacent to a square where anti-government protesters had earlier tried to gather, but were broken up by police. Moscow police spokesman Maxim Kolosvetov said about 250 people had been detained.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

MOSCOW (AP) – Police clashed Tuesday on a central Moscow square with demonstrators trying to hold a second day of protests against alleged vote fraud in Russia’s parliamentary elections.

Hundreds of police had blocked off Triumphal Square on Tuesday evening, then began chasing about 100 demonstrators, seizing some and throwing them harshly into police vehicles.

Pro-government United Russia supporters also rallied late Tuesday at Revolution Square near the Kremlin. State television footage showed a crowd appearing to number in the thousands.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party saw a significant drop in support in Sunday’s election but it will still have a majority in parliament. Opponents say even that watered-down victory was due to massive vote fraud.

In neighboring Lithuania, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton again criticized the Russian election and urged that widespread reports of voting fraud be investigated.

Some Moscow demonstrators Tuesday shouted “Putin is a crook and a thief!” referring both to the alleged election fraud and to widespread complaints that United Russia is one of the prime reasons for Russia’s endemic corruption.

Among the detained was Boris Nemtsov, a leader of the liberal opposition, along with prominent radical Eduard Limonov and Oleg Orlov, head of the renowned human rights group Memorial, the Interfax news agency reported.

Hundreds of young men with emblems of United Russia’s youth wing, the Young Guards, also gathered on the outskirts of the square and tauntingly chanted “Putin victory!”

Large crowds also gathered on a square in St. Petersburg, visibly outnumbering police, a Danish election observer reported.

United Russia won slightly less than 50 percent of Sunday’s vote, according to nearly complete preliminary results. Although that gives the party an absolute majority in the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, it is a significant drop from the 2007 election when the party got a two-thirds majority, enough to change the constitution unchallenged.

Yet Sunday’s election results reflected public fatigue with Putin’s authoritarian streak and with official corruption in Russia, signaling that his return to the presidency in next March’s election may not be as trouble-free as he expected.

Putin, meanwhile, called his party’s reduced number of seats in Sunday’s parliamentary election an “inevitable” result of voters always being dissatisfied with the party in power. Putin also dismissed allegations of corruption among his United Russia party members, calling it a “cliche” that the party had to fight.

United Russia party won slightly less than 50 percent of Sunday’s vote, according to nearly complete preliminary results. Although that gives the party an absolute majority in the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, it is a significant drop from the 2007 election when the party got a two-thirds majority, enough to change the constitution unchallenged. Read the rest of this entry »