Former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev raised eyebrows this week while promoting his new book “After the Kremlin.” The 83-year-old told The Daily Mail that Russian President Vladimir Putin “thinks he [Putin] is second only to God.”
“He has started picking up the same illness which I suffered from earlier – self-confidence,” states Gorbachev in the Daily Mail’s report, further warning Putin: “Don’t get a big head. That is what ruined me.”
Gorbachev lamented that former KGB spy Putin avoids substantial one-to-one meetings with the elder statesman.
“I need to participate, and I will. Nobody will shut my mouth, even though people wanted me to emigrate,” stated Gorbachev, who warned earlier this month of a possible new Cold War. Read the rest of this entry »
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.
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.
25 July 2012 6:11 PM
There is a degree of panic, and rightly so, over whether the Syrian tyrant Basher al Assad will use chemical weapons against either his own people or foreign attackers. His regime has this week threatened to do the latter, thus finally confirming what was long suspected but never openly admitted, that Syria possesses chemical weapons. It is believed to have mustard gas as well as nerve agents such as tabun, sarin and VX. The fear is either that the Assad regime uses them or that they fall into the hands of Hezbollah, al Qaeda or other Islamic terrorist groups. Either prospect is utterly nightmarish. Even Russia says it has told Syria it is unacceptable to threaten to use them.
In the last few days, this has been much discussed. What has not been raised, however, is the question of how Syria managed to develop such a chemical weapons stockpile in the first place. No-one in the western media seems remotely curious about how Syria has managed to arm itself to the teeth with them beneath the radar of international scrutiny.
Dr Danny Shoham, at the Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, is an expert in chemical and biological warfare. In a Middle East Quarterly article in 2002, Guile, Gas and Germs: Syria’s Ultimate Weapons, he set out the extraordinary history of Syria’s chemical weapons programme.
Russians are known for their warm welcomes, rolling out the red carpet for honored guests and ensconcing them in bear hugs, complete with three hearty kisses on the cheeks. Perhaps the new U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul didn’t quite expect the same gracious reception given the frosty relationship between Washington and Moscow these days, but his first few months on the job have been unusual, if not downright hostile, a lot more Cold War than Russian Reset. Upon arriving in Moscow, the ambassador greeted his guests with an effervescent — even hokey — YouTube video introducing himself, a longtime student of and friend to Russia. In response, he was met with an Arctic propaganda blast reminiscent of the early 1980s, and harassment likely without precedent for U.S. ambassadors — either in the Soviet Union or in post-Soviet Russia.
The Obama administration has since complained to the Russian government about the harassment of McFaul. “Everywhere I go,” McFaul tweeted, “[the Gazprom-owned national television network] NTV is there. Wonder who gives them my calendar. They wouldn’t tell me. Wonder what laws are here for such things.” By crowding the U.S. ambassador and filming his comings and goings, NTV reporters act not unlike former KGB myrmidons, clearly seeking to intimidate not only McFaul but even more so his Russia interlocutors, whom they try to intercept and “interview.” It wouldn’t be the first time that the Kremlin has successfully snooped into the affairs of the U.S. Embassy — in fact, there’s a long tradition of mutual suspicion and spycraft between these old adversaries, but the host government sharing his open schedule with flunkies just to intimidate the ambassador seems a new low in what was hoped to have been a new period of mutual respect and good relations.
It is always sad and maddening to hear about insults to human dignity by paid propagandists and thugs of authoritarian regimes. Yet the hounding of McFaul is particularly bizarre. Not only is he a brilliant scholar, the author of hundreds of articles and several books on Russia, and one of the most popular professors at Stanford University, but McFaul is widely regarded as a man of profound intellectual and personal integrity. In at least 20 years that I’ve known and deeply admired Mike, I’ve met no one who did not hold him in highest esteem, even those who disagreed with him professionally.
A native of Montana and a Californian by professional choice, Mike epitomizes America’s democratic spirit, free inquiry, unfettered debate, and respect for the right to question authority. He is also a sparkling, often ebullient conversationalist. Anyone who spends even a few minutes in his company finds his discourse utterly infectious.
That he is a Russian speaker and, with his shock of blond hair, Hollywood-handsome, does not hurt him a bit among Russian television viewers — not to mention his legion of longtime admirers among pro-democracy experts and intelligentsia. It is all of this — but particularly the last bit — that makes McFaul such a stark and embossing contrast to the intellectual grayness of Putinism, the vulgarity of its propaganda, and the pettiness of its cat-and-mouse games with intellectuals and pro-democracy opposition.
From the start of his ambassadorship a few months ago, McFaul seemed determined to treat Russia as a normal country: he proclaimed himself willing to speak to anyone – even his detractors. “I respect press right to go anywhere & ask any questions,” he tweeted of NTV, even as he wondered whether “they have a right to read my email and listen to my phone?”
But there is more to it than that. McFaul was among the key architects of the reset in the U.S.-Russian relations. Whatever this effort has or has not achieved and whatever built-in flaws handicapped the reset from the beginning, there is little doubt about McFaul’s sincerity, good faith, and passionate commitment that the effort would make both countries more secure and prosperous. Among other things, he worked tirelessly on the New START nuclear arms treaty and helped to secure Russia’s entry in the World Trade Organization.
By Nick Lockwood Dec 23 2011, 8:30 AM ET
The USSR developed two tools that changed the world: airplane hijackings and state-sponsorship of terror
Pilot Juergen Schumann sits in the open door of Lufthansa airplane Landshut at the airport in Dubai, United Arab Emirates on Oct. 15, 1977, prior to being killed by members of the Red Army Faction who had hijacked the flight / AP
This post is part of a 12-part series exploring how the U.S.-Russia relationship has shaped the world since the December 1991 end of the Soviet Union. Read the full series here.
In the 1960s and 70s, the Soviet Union sponsored waves of political violence against the West. The Red Brigades in Italy and the German Red Army Faction both terrorized Europe through bank robberies, kidnapping, and acts of sabotage. The Soviets wanted to use these left-wing terror groups to destabilize Italy and Germany to break up NATO. State-sponsored terrorism was a deeply Soviet phenomenon, but its practice did not stop when the Soviet Union ended. While state sponsorship continues, terrorism has mutated into something even harder for us to understand and respond to. But some of the roots of today’s terrorism go back to the Soviet Union.
Russia is the birthplace of modern terrorism. The Russian nihilists of the 19th century combined political powerlessness with a propensity for gruesome violence, but their attacks were aimed at the Tsarist state and ruling classes. Later, the Soviet Union and its allies actively supported terrorism as a means to politically inconvenience and undermine its opponents. The East German Stasi and the KGB provided funds, equipment, and “networking” opportunities to the myriad of leftist German terrorist cells in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. The Red Army Faction and the 2nd June Movement in Germany, as well as the Red Brigades in Italy, shared Marxist philosophies, a hatred of America, solidarity with the Palestinians, and opposition to the generation, some of its members still in power, that had supported the Nazis and fascists. They were good foundations for a Cold War fifth column. It was not just Europe, either: Soviet equipment, funding, training and guidance flowed across the globe, either directly from the KGB or through the agencies of key allies, like the Rumanian Securitate, the Cuban General Intelligence Directorate. Read the rest of this entry »
Josh Rogin Monday, December 5, 2011 – 5:51 PM
A team of conservative policymakers and thinkers believes that there’s a real chance that Western efforts to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon will fail, in which case the United States would have to lead an international effort to contain Iran and deter the Islamic Republic from using its nuclear weapons capability.
Experts at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a conservative Washington think tank, have spent the last six months thinking about how the United States should respond to a nuclear-armed Iran. They are getting ready to release an extensive report tomorrow detailing a comprehensive strategy for dealing with that scenario, entitled, “Containing and Deterring a Nuclear Iran.”
“The report is very much an acknowledgement of the very real possibility of failure of the strategy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and any responsible party should recognize that failure is an option. There’s been a huge disservice done by all who have spent their lives in denial of that possibility,” AEI Vice President Danielle Pletka told The Cable in a Monday interview. “Whenever you devise a strategy for what happens before a country gets a nuclear weapon, you should have a strategy for what happens after they get one as well.”
Pletka will unveil the report on Tuesday morning at an event with Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), and fellow AEI experts Tom Donnelly, Maseh Zarif, and Fred Kagan. The project brought together Iran experts of all stripes to brainstorm what would be needed to create the maximum level of confidence that, if Iran does develop a nuclear weapon, it would not decide to use it.
“While there can never be certain deterrence, Cold War presidents often had confidence that the United States had sufficient military power to support a policy of containment through a strategy of deterrence; for most of the period they felt that deterrence was assured,” the report states. “It is worth repeating Dean Acheson‘s basic formulation: ‘American power would be employed in stopping [Soviet aggression and expansion], and if necessary, would inflict on the Soviet Union injury which the Moscow regime would not wish to suffer.’ Assured deterrence began with assured destruction of the Soviet regime.”
Pletka said that while the geopolitical environment is now different, the basic goal of U.S. policy is the same — to create a situation whereby Iranian leaders would credibly believe that any nuclear attack would mean the end of their regime. But Pletka doubts whether this administration has the stomach for such a stance.
“Take out Soviet and Moscow from Acheson’s quote, and sub in Iran and Tehran. Are we willing to inflict on Iran injury which the Tehran regime would not wish to suffer? I doubt it,” Pletka warned. “There’s no question that a country can be deterred from using a nuclear weapon, the only question is if there is the will to put those tools in place.” Read the rest of this entry »
What’s the value of a nuclear warhead today? Not the monetary value, but as a deterrent?
Nuclear explosions are frightfully destructive, and that’s the point: to inspire fear, to deter an adversary. Atomic bombs still appeal to some nations and terrorists, making proliferation a constant risk. Fortunately, there are fewer nuclear warheads in the world than during the Cold War; down from about 60,000 to about 22,000 today, most of which remain in the United States and Russia. But the deterrent value of the arsenals isn’t what it used to be. Both the U.S. and Russia face new threats — terrorism, proliferation, economic competition, pandemics — for which these long-range or strategic nuclear weapons are of little value.
Another group of bombs which have lost their purpose are the battlefield or tactical nuclear weapons, originally created during the Cold War to deter a massive land invasion in Europe. NATO has between 150 and 200 B-61 gravity bombs in Belgium, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and Turkey, fewer than the thousands of weapons based in Europe during the superpower confrontation. Today, Russia has an estimated 2,000 useable tactical nuclear weapons, although it is not clear precisely how many nor where they are located.
Why are they still deployed? Russia has its own calculus; more about that below. But for NATO, the argument made by some is that these weapons have symbolic value, showing that non-nuclear members are sharing in the alliance defense burden.
Yet by many accounts, these nuclear bombs have no military utility. Where would they be dropped? The war plans of the Cold War are defunct. Our modern nuclear-tipped missiles are plenty accurate and sufficient for any future contingency or target. Read the rest of this entry »
Sun Aug 07, 07:37 PM The Canadian Press
Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau gets a rousing cheer from his cabinet members after a vote in favour of passage of the constitution 246-24 in the House of Commons in Ottawa, Dec. 2, 1981. (Andy Clark / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
OTTAWA — The CIA secretly painted Pierre Trudeau as a politician torn between being a leader of the Third World and a genuine player with global industrialized nations, declassified records show.
The January 1982 assessment of the Liberal prime minister’s ambitions is among several detailed — and until now virtually unknown — analyses of the Canadian economy by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.
The Pentagon‘s secret plan to slash its own budget.
BY JOHN NORRIS | APRIL 13, 2011
On Friday, April 8, as members of the U.S. Congress engaged in a last-minute game of chicken over the federal budget, the Pentagon quietly issued a report that received little initial attention: “A National Strategic Narrative.” The report was issued under the pseudonym of “Mr. Y,” a takeoff on George Kennan’s 1946 “Long Telegram” from Moscow (published under the name “X” the following year in Foreign Affairs) that helped set containment as the cornerstone of U.S. strategy for dealing with the Soviet Union.
The piece was written by two senior members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in a “personal” capacity, but it is clear that it would not have seen the light of day without a measure of official approval. Its findings are revelatory, and they deserve to be read and appreciated not only by every lawmaker in Congress, but by every American citizen. Read the rest of this entry »
JANUARY 1, 2010, 6:30 P.M. ET
If ever one year in recent times was a catalyst for change in the broader Middle East and Muslim world, it was 1979. One ray of bright light in that year of darkness was the signing of the historic Camp David peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. Conversely, three events had dire consequences with which we live today.
First, there was the overthrow of the shah of Iran by the Ayatollah Khomeini. Second, there was the takeover of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, by a group of Islamic extremists. And third, there was the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Each event fostered the forces of radicalization with implications far beyond the region’s borders.
• Iran becomes a theocracy. Khomeini’s revolution in the early months of 1979 established the wilayat al-faqih, or rule by a Muslim cleric who became the Supreme Leader. He, in effect, formed a theocratic system in Iran, a predominantly Shiite country, and declared the new regime to be “God’s government,” warning that subsequent disobedience was a “revolt against God.” Read the rest of this entry »