Vladimir Putin

Gorbachev Regarding Putin: ‘He Thinks He Is Second Only To God’

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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.”

English: THE GRAND KREMLIN PALACE, MOSCOW. Vla...
English: THE GRAND KREMLIN PALACE, MOSCOW. Vladimir Putin and Mikhail Gorbachev, the first and last President of the Soviet Union, at a party after the inauguration ceremony. Русский: МОСКВА, ГОСУДАРСТВЕННЫЙ КРЕМЛЕВСКИЙ ДВОРЕЦ. Торжественный прием по случаю вступления в должность Президента России. С экс-президентом СССР Михаилом Горбачевым. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“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 »

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 »

20 March SWJ Roundup

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Small Wars Journal Daily Roundup

Ukraine

Ukraine to Pull All Its Military From Crimea, Conceding Loss – NYT

Ukraine Makes Plans for Troops to Leave Crimea – WP

Ukraine ‘Planning Crimea Withdrawal’ – BBC

Pro-Russian Forces Seize Ukraine Navy HQ – VOA

Ukraine Forces Attacked by Pro-Russia Gunmen; Navy Facilities Seized – LAT

Russian Troops Take Over Another Ukrainian Naval Base in Crimea – Reuters

Ukraine Orders Troops to Leave Crimea, Russia Offers Better Pay – McClatchy

Cyber Peace Reigns Despite Russia, Ukraine Tensions – VOA

Russia’s Moves in Ukraine Seen as ‘Wake-Up Call’ for NATO – WP

US, NATO Warn Russia Faces ‘High Costs’ Over Crimea – VOA

NATO Secretary General: Russia Must Suffer Consequences – AFPS

US, European Allies to Step Up Sanctions on Russia – LAT

US Ponders Next Moves in Crimea Crisis – WP

Obama: No US ‘Military Excursion’ in Ukraine – WP

US Defense Chief Praises Ukraine’s Restraint in Crimea Crisis – Reuters

UN Chief Heads to Moscow, Kyiv – VOA

In Crimea, a Swell of Patriotism, But What is to Follow? – WP

For Moscow, Crimea May Prove an Expensive Prize – CSM

Ukraine Minister Says West Sure to Provide More Support – Reuters

Opinions on Ukraine from American and Foreign Media – VOA Roundup

A New Russian Order – WP Editorial

Russia and the Group of 8 – NYT Editorial

Saving Ukraine from Another Russian Heist – CSM Editorial

Crimea Shows US Can’t Step Back and Let Others Lead – CSM Opinion

A Fear of Russia – WP Opinion

A Way Forward for Ukraine – NYT Opinion

Crimea’s Silver Lining – WP Opinion

NATO’s Strategic Ace: Vladimir Putin – UPI Opinion

Putin’s Warped Reality – WP Opinion

How to Punish Putin – NYT Opinion

Making Putin Pay – WP Opinion

Why Sanctions Don’t Really Work – LAT Opinion

Russia / NATO

Russia’s Moves in Ukraine Seen as ‘Wake-Up Call’ for NATO – WP

Biden: US Will Respond to Aggression Against NATO Allies – VOA

Biden Signals Plans for More US Military Drills in the Baltics – USAT

Another Set of Wary Allies Seeks U.S. Reassurance – NYT

In Eastern Europe, Biden Finds Uncertain Allies – WP

European Leaders Seek Ways to Curb Dependence on Russian Gas – Reuters

NATO’s Strategic Ace: Vladimir Putin – UPI Opinion

Afghanistan

Watchdog: US May be Paying Salaries of ‘Ghost’ Afghan Policemen – S&S

Women Vital for Democratic Success in Afghanistan, UN Says – UPI

Razia Jan Fights to Educate Girls in Rural Afghanistan – CSM Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Will the black widows stalk the Sochi Games?

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An estimated 100K Russian security personnel involved in protecting Olympics

Author: By Tim Lister CNN

Published On: Feb 05 2014 09:35:29 AM EST Updated On: Feb 05 2014 11:17:12 AM EST

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Russian Security Services

(CNN) –

The Russian security operation surrounding the Sochi Winter Olympics is massive and multilayered. But it only takes one flaw for terrorists to strike, and the Islamic Emirate of the Caucasus sees an attack at or around the games as a glittering prize in its struggle against the Russian state.

The Emirate, born out of the bloody Chechen insurgency of the past 20 years, has made no secret of its aims. Last year, its leader Doku Umarov said the Olympics were to be held “over the bones of thousands of Muslims who were killed and buried on the territory along the Black Sea,” and fighters must not allow that “by any means.”

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Iran News Round Up June 4, 2012

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Satellite Image Of Tehran, Iran On 31st Annive...
Satellite Image Of Tehran, Iran On 31st Anniversary Of Iranian Revolution (Photo credit: Talk Radio News Service)

A selection of the latest news stories and editorials published in Iranian news outlets, compiled by Ali Alfoneh, Ahmad Majidyar and Michael Rubin

(E) = Article in English

Politics

  • Ceremonies held to commemorate the 23rd anniversary of  Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s death end in disorder:
    • Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei indirectly attacks Ahmadinejad:
      • “If we stop, we will be pushed back. And if we are arrogant, we will be thrown into the ground. If the authorities of the country become preys to egocentrism, arrogance… we will be dealt blows into the mouth. The path of progress is one of ‘no stop.’ We are still on the mountain slopes and there is a distance to the peak. The day when the Iranian nation reaches the peak, the enmities and evils will end…”
    • Ahmadinejad’s speech on the occasion of Khomeini’s death anniversary ends in tumult as the protesters chant slogans against Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei. According to Entekhab, the protesters chanted: “Death to Mashaei,” “Shame on you Mashaei, leave Ahmadi[nejad] alone,” “This entire army has come for the sake of the Leader [who addressed the crowds before the president.”
    • As Hojjat al-Eslam Hassan Khomeini, grandson of the founder of the Islamic Republic, tried to deliver his speech, the crowds chanted slogans against him: “Death to the opponent of the Guardianship of the Jurist,” “The blood in our veins is a gift to our Leader,” “We are not citizens of Kufa so that the Imam would be alone,” “This entire army has come for the sake of the Leader.”
  • Rafsanjani, addressing a group of students from Azad University, attacks Ayatollah Mohammad-Taqi Mesbah Yazdi:
    • “Relying on the people and irreplaceable role of the people in historical events is extremely important. Extremism, on the other hand, is one of the pests dealing blows to the goals of the Islamic revolution. The path of moderation and renunciation of extremism have led to the progress of the revolution. But unfortunately we on some occasions witness some people who did not believe in the struggle against the Shah, or considered that futile or unnecessary, today directly or indirectly lead extremist and radical groups and present solutions [for the problems] of the country.”
      • Mesbah Yazdi responds to Rafsanjani’s attack while addressing a group of Revolutionary Guards members from the Imam Ali Center of the Guards based in Isfahan: “At the time of the revolution, there were people who did not consider the Imam [Khomeini] as the ideologue of the revolution and solely considered him an instrument to overthrow the Shah… After the revolution, some of these people gained access to important positions in the regime and are now bidding their time as well… There are today some who are trying to monopolize the revolution to the benefit of their own interests…”

Diplomacy

Military and Security

  • Khamenei: “The noise and threats that authorities of the usurping Zionist regime make against Iran are because of their fear, terror and powerlessness… The heads of the Zionist regime know that today they are more vulnerable than ever. Any incorrect move of theirs will strike their own heads like lightening…”

Read the rest of this entry »

The Undiplomat

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Obama’s ambassador to Moscow has gotten a rude welcome in Putin’s Russia. But he’s not going to take it anymore.

BY JULIA IOFFE | MAY 30, 2012

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MOSCOW — This winter, Michael McFaul discovered a number of surprising things about himself. He was imposing odious American holidays, like Valentine’s Day and Halloween, on the Russian people. He personally whisked Russian opposition politician Alexey Navalny out of the country to Yale on a fellowship. He was inviting opposition figures to the U.S. Embassy “to get instructions.” And he was a pedophile. Or so his online tormentors claimed.

 

This was McFaul’s welcome to his new job: United States ambassador to Russia. Along with being attacked on state television and having picket lines across from the embassy, he was being followed — and harassed — by a red-haired reporter from NTV, the state-friendly channel. One day, a horde of activists from Nashi, a pro-Kremlin youth group, showed up at the embassy gates in white jumpsuits, and played dead: They did not want to be the victims of a revolution, like the unfortunates of Egypt, their posters said. As a result, the ambassador’s security had to be tightened.

“What I did not anticipate, honestly, was the degree, the volume, the relentless anti-Americanism that we’re seeing right now,” McFaul told me in February, a note of real hurt ringing in his normally chipper, measured voice. “That is odd for us. Because we have spent three years trying to build a different relationship with this country.” He added, almost stuttering, “I mean, I’m genuinely confused by it.”

A month later, he lost it.

The explosion came when McFaul arrived at the office of For Human Rights, an NGO in Moscow’s historic center. He was going to see his old friend, veteran human rights activist Lev Ponomarev, whom he’d known since he was an international studies graduate student running around perestroika-era Moscow. It may have been late March, but it was cold and the stuff that fell from the sky was neither snow nor rain: a long cry from McFaul’s California home. As ambassador, though, he didn’t have to bother with a jacket: he had his black Cadillac.

Had he known that the redhead from NTV would again be waiting for him with a camera crew, however, he may have dressed a little warmer.

What was McFaul going to discuss with Ponomarev?, the redhead asked as the camera bounced to follow the moving ambassador.

“Your ambassador moves about without this, without you getting in the way of his work,” McFaul said in slightly crooked Russian. He was clearly angry but maintained a wide, all-American smile. “And you guys are always with me. In my house! Are you not ashamed of this? You’re insulting your own country when you do this, don’t you understand?”

Read the rest of this entry »

A Tormenting in Moscow

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Why is Russia harassing President Obama’s new ambassador? BY LEON ARON | APRIL 12, 2012

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.

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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 »