The SCO Just Became the World’s Largest Political Organization

1054469676A tectonic geopolitical shift happened in Astana, Kazakhstan, only a few days ago, and yet barely a ripple registered in Atlanticist circles

At the annual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), founded in 2001, both India and Pakistan were admitted as full members, alongside Russia, China and four Central Asian “stans” (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan).

So now the SCO not only qualifies as the largest political organization – by area and population – in the world; it also unites four nuclear powers. The G-7 is irrelevant, as the latest summit in Taormina made it clear. The real action now, apart from the G-20, also lays in this alternative G-8.

Permanently derided in the West for a decade and a half as a mere talk shop, the SCO, slowly but surely, keeps advancing a set up that Chinese President Xi Jinping qualifies, in a subdued manner, as “a new type of international relations featuring win-win cooperation.”

That’s the least one can say when you have China, India and Pakistan in the same group.

The SCO’s trademark, under the radar game is quite subtle. The initial emphasis, as we were entering the post-9/11 world, was to fight what the Chinese qualify as “the three evilsof terrorism, separatism and extremism. Beijing – and Moscow – from the beginning were thinking about the Taliban in Afghanistan, and their Central Asian connections, especially via the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU).

Now the SCO is actively warning about the security “deterioration” in Afghanistan and calling for all members to support the “peace and reconciliation” process. That’s code for the SCO from now on directly engaged in finding an “all-Asian” Afghan solution – with both India and Pakistan on board – that should transcend the failed Pentagon “remedy”; more troops.

NATO, by the way, miserably lost its war in Afghanistan. The Taliban control at least 60% of the country – and counting. And adding supreme insult to predictable injury, the Islamic State Khorasan (ISK) – Daesh’s branch in Afghanistan – has just captured Tora Bora, where way back in late 2001 the Pentagon’s B-52s were bombing already-escaped Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Make no mistake; there will be SCO action in Afghanistan. And that will include bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table. China has taken over the rotating presidency of the SCO and will be keen to show practical results in the next summit in June 2018.

Read more in original source: Sputnik

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Putin Is Winning The Final Chess Match With Obama

Let us all work together and hope and pray that the Obama Crash of 2016 does not turn into the Obama Global Depression of 2016.

The world press is filled with violence and sexual attack horror stories about the Islamic refugees escaping from Syria and other war torn countries of the Middle East to Greece and consequently flooding into all areas of Europe. It is actually very easy to travel from Syria to Lebanon and then take the ferry to Turkey and from there to Greece and subsequently the mainland overland to Europe. This is now big business organized like a one-way tour package from the Middle East to Europe.

Although there obviously are some ISIS fighters and Islamic militants slipping into Europe under cover of the humanitarian crises most are simply Sunni Moslems escaping the poverty, death and destruction of foreign military intervention in the region. Yes the sex crimes are a real problem because the majority of those escaping the region are men looking for work coming from a conservative society to the open societies of Europe.

Most immigrants enter Europe through the economic basket case of Greece where the economy has already been destroyed by too much government debt, corruption and EU banking excesses so Greece can afford to do little to stem the Islamic refugee tide. While a case can be made that the location of Syria and Lebanon adjacent to Turkey and the ease of transportation to Greek islands just offshore is helping the flow to Europe. Still the organized nature of the operation makes me wonder if this is also an undercover operation designed to create a new mission for NATO at the same time weakening the economy of Europe to further Washington’s economic interests today in the Obama Crash of 2016.

The world is now in recession at best and maybe flirting with a global depression. This means politicians will do what is best for their national political future and the consequences for the national economy, citizens or business future is of little consequence to them. This also suggests that global alliances will mean little when domestic national politicians are fighting for survival.

-Chess Match 1 – Consider the pattern of Washington actions against Russia. First Washington supported the overthrow of the legitimate but pro Russian government of Ukraine. The goal was three fold, first to control and cut off Russian gas exports to Europe through Ukraine, second to force Russia to vacate their warm water naval base in Crimea or else act militarily against Ukraine and create the fear of a Russian threat against all of Europe. This wouldforce Europe to depend more on NATO that is an extension of the American military power in Europe. Putin’s response was checkmate, as he wisely didn’t take the bait and this plan failed to create the desired Russian military threat to strengthen NATO and US leadership in Europe against Russia.

-Chess Match 2 – The second attempt was to overthrow Assad allowing ISIS to do the dirty work thus opening up a Qatar gas pipeline to Europe again competing with and ending European dependence on Russian gas. This would have meant curtailing much of the Russian gas profits, taxes and government revenues. Again surprisingly Putin acted to defend Syria and Assad from ISIS and again Putin checkmated Washington.

-Chess Match 3 – We are now in the middle of the third chess game between Putin & Obama. This game is the reason for Washington’s destruction and desolation of much of the Middle East. Again remember Washington’s foreign policy objectives are to control Middle East energy resources and force Russia to stand down against American global hegemony.
A strong and united NATO is necessary to put pressure on Russia and since the collapse of communism and the perceived Soviet threat to Europe, NATO has had little reason to exist. Well now I would suggest that part of the Islamic threat and massive movement of refugees to Europe is being manipulated and manufactured as a means to recreate a mission for NATO forces in Europe. A strong Washington led NATO will allow the United States to bring more pressure against Russia.

If I am right here, then what is the checkmate course of action for Russia in Syria and Lebanon? The ultimate solution is for Russia to stop the movement of refugees and Islamic radicals to Europe by forcing ISIS out of Syria and back into Iraq and effectively blocking off the escape routes to Turkey both overland and by ferry.

This would probably take more than just Syrian troops as it may mean Russian troops on the ground in both countries after military security requests from Syria and Lebanon to halt the exodus and end ISIS occupation of Syria. Security in Syria and Lebanon would help to halt the refugee flow to Europe and Putin and Russia would then get the credit they deserve for this action to protect Europe. This successful outcome would guarantee good relations between the people of Europe and Russia ultimately forcing more European politicians and governments to restore friendly and close relations with Putin’s Russia.

This would be the final checkmate needed to force the Obama Administration to reevaluate Neocon policies in the Middle East. American military actions and occupation have already destroyed much of the prosperity of the region. When this is combined with our earlier attempt to weaken Russia and Iran with lower oil prices not taking into account the growing threat of global recession and depression the problem today only gets worse. Today the Middle East is looking at increased instability and a lower standard of living at a time when Europe is suffering economically and can not absorb the inflow of refugees.

Finally, take a look at a map of Europe and you will see the 28 members of the European Union and most are in NATO. Then look at the lone country not in the EU or NATO that can still control it’s borders and policies and it is the neutral but still independent Switzerland. Neutral Switzerland can be a safe haven for your personal and retirement wealth in the coming global crash and depression.

Yes Russia and Europe would do well to work together to counter and halt the flood of Middle East refugees to Europe before the current global recession/depression destroys the prosperity of the region. While the refugee threat might have been a reasonable tool or Washington geopolitical tactic to restore NATO and therefore American leadership over Europe under normal economic conditions, the situation is now getting out of control. With today’s global economic slowdown and the risk of depression threatening the economy of Europe this tactic borders on economic genocide for Europe and must be countered and restrained for the peace and prosperity of the region. Let us all work together and hope and pray that the Obama Crash of 2016 does not turn into the Obama Global Depression of 2016 because of some poorly timed geopolitical brinkmanship and maneuvering suggested by Washington neocon advisors.

Author: Ron Holland | Zero Hedge
Source: Infowars

 

Time has passed the Turkish alliance

About Muslim celebrations in Berlin, however, there appears to be no doubt. In my chapter “Eurabia,” in State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America, [2006] is this quote from The New York Times Magazine, exactly 10 years ago.

Parallel to the declarations of ‘unconditional solidarity’ with Americans by the German majority, rallies of another sort were taking place in Neukolln and Kreuzberg. Bottle rockets were set off from building courtyards, a poor man’s fireworks, sporadic, sparse and joyful; two rockets here, three rockets there. Still, altogether, hundreds of rockets were shooting skyward in celebration of the attack, as most Berliners were searching for words to express their horror.

Neukolln and Kreuzberg are neighborhoods of “gastarbeiters,” Muslim Turkish workers who came to Germany in the millions to work in menial jobs beginning around 1960.

While the flap over what Trump saw persists, a more serious question has arisen: Is Turkish strongman President Recep Erdogan trying to draw the United States in on his side in the war in Syria, and into a confrontation with Vladimir Putin’s Russia?

A little history is in order. Not until 1952 did Turkey join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, all but two of whose original 12 members were on the Atlantic or North Sea. Yet bringing in Turkey was a ten-strike, putting NATO on the Dardanelles and Bosporus and on the southern coast of the Black Sea, right up to the border of Stalin’s Soviet Union.

But the world that made Turkey such a strategic asset has vanished. Armenia and Georgia are no longer Soviet republics but free nations. The Soviet Empire, Warsaw Pact, and Soviet Union no longer exist, and Balkan nations as well as the Baltic States are members of the EU and NATO.

Turkey is no longer the secular nation-state of Kemal Ataturk, but increasingly hearkens to the Islamic Awakening. In Syria’s civil war, her behavior has not been what one might expect of an ally.

The Turks left the door open for jihadists to join ISIS. They are accused by two Turkish journalists, now facing life in prison, of shipping arms to ISIS. The Turks are charged with permitting ISIS to move oil from the Islamic State into and across Turkey. Russia, which joined the U.S. in bombing the tanker trucks that move the oil, charges Erdogan’s son with being involved in the black market trade with the caliphate.

Instead of battling ISIS, Erdogan is fighting Kurds in Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan and is threatening to attack Syria’s Kurds if they cross to the west bank of the Euphrates. Ankara is also becoming dictatorial and repressive.

Erdogan has dismal relations with Egypt and Israel and appears hell-bent on bringing down Bashar Assad in Syria. Yet, Assad’s army remains the sole force standing between ISIS and Damascus.

Erdogan’s Turkey has its own separate national agenda. While understandable, what is of concern is that Erdogan could escalate his clash with Assad’s regime into a clash with Putin’s Russia, which is backing the Syrian regime—and drag us into his war.

And the longer this war goes on, the greater the likelihood of something like this happening. For the operative premise of NATO is that an attack against one is an attack against all. What do we do should Erdogan provoke a Russian attack on his aircraft, and then invoke Article V and call on all NATO nations to come to Turkey’s defense against Putin’s Russia in Assad’s Syria?

Turkey’s shoot-down of the Russian Sukhoi Su-24 makes this more than a hypothetical question. While the Russians have indicated they are not going to make this a casus belli, Putin charges that the U.S. was given advance notice of the flight plan of the Russian plane.

Were we? Did we authorize, know about, or suspect Erdogan was planning to shoot that Russian plane down? This is no small matter. And Americans have a right to know.

Then there is the geostrategic question. The world of 2015 is nothing like Truman’s world of 1952 or Reagan’s world of 1982. The adversary we confronted then, the Soviet Empire and Soviet Union, has not existed for a quarter century. Why then does NATO, created to defend Western Europe against that adversary, still exist?

Why are we still committed to fight Russia not only to defend Germany, but Estonia and Erdogan’s Turkey, and if the neocons get their way, to be committed in perpetuity to fight Russia for Georgia, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Moldova, Ukraine, Crimea, Donetsk, and Luhansk?

If the history of the 20th century teaches anything, it is that war guarantees all too often lead to war. But in this war against “radical Islamic terrorism,” who is the real ally: Erdogan, who has been aiding and abetting Islamic jihadists in Syria, or Putin, who has been bombing them?

Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority. Copyright 2015 Creators.com.

Source:   The American Conservative

Russia expects NATO to provide explanations over Turkey’s downing Russian jet

Nikolay Levichev notes that for the first time after the end of the Cold War a NATO member state had “deliberately downed” a Russian warplane

Russian expects NATO to provide explanations over the today’s incident when Turkey downed a Russian fighter jet in Syria, a Russian lawmaker said on Tuesday.

Turkey is a NATO member and we expect explanations not only from the Turkish authorities but also from the North Atlantic Alliance,” Nikolay Levichev, a deputy speaker of the Russian State Duma lower parliament house with the A Just Russia Party, was quoted by the party’s press service as saying.
He noted that for the first time after the end of the Cold War a NATO member state had “deliberately downed” a Russian warplane. “We cannot consider it as anything but an act of aggression. We must response to this attack with adequate but tough measures,” he stressed.

Turkey, in his words, has completely associated itself with the Islamic State [a terrorist organization outlawed in Russia] by shooting down a Russian warplane. “Judging by the information coverage of the incident by the Turkish side, it was a deliberate provocation,” he said.
Earlier on Tuesday, Levichev asked the head of the Federal Aviation Agency to consider banning flights to Turkey following Tuesday’s crash of a Russian Su-24 military jet.

I am asking you to consider total and immediate termination of air communications between Russia and Turkey until exhausting measures are taken to get rid of any possible sources of terrorist threat at Turkish airports,” Levichev said.
A Russian Su-24 warplane was downed by an air-to-air missile launched from a Turkish F-16 fighter jet when it was at an altitude of 6,000 meters at a distance on one kilometer from the Turkish border. The Defense Ministry said earlier that pilots had managed to eject from the aircraft. Their whereabouts were being established. Later, the Defense Ministry said the jet had been downed when it was returning to the Hmeymim airbase.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said the downed Su-24 was no threat to Turkey as it was on a mission to bomb Islamic State targets. The Russian president warned that attack on the Russian warplane would have “serious consequences” for the Russian-Turkish relations.

Source: TASS. Russian News Agency

Russia unfairly demonized

In Cold War days Moscow probably deserved all the demonization it got. Domestic repression was severe. The military were out of control; the number they killed in Afghanistan could well have rivaled the U.S. in Vietnam.

Their security people were also on a rampage. The two years I once spent in Moscow trying to learn the language and know the people ended up as little more than an invitation for the hard-eyed men in the KGB to constantly harass me and persecute anyone who tried to help me. And that was during the so-called Khrushchev liberalization period of the early 1960s.

But there were also times when Moscow deserved some understanding. Even in Afghanistan it did at least try to create something more progressive than the mess we see today. At home there was a genuine willingness to allow non-Russian peoples to keep their culture and languages. The “evil empire” of U.S. President Ronald Reagan’s imagination was not quite as evil as it was made out; it was at least able to throw up a leader of Mikhail Gorbachev’s quality. Meanwhile the best our allegedly superior democratic West could do was, well, Reagan.

Today it is clear the demonization goes much too far. The post-1991 efforts to reach out to the West were remarkable to anyone who knew what went before. Vladimir Putin with his KGB background is no Gorbachev. But the invitation to join the Group of Seven industrialized nations meant much for the Russians. Finally Russia had the acceptance as a Western-oriented nation it had always wanted.

Today all that has been thrown away by the meaningless effort to demonize Moscow over the Ukraine civil war and Crimea. From the beginning Putin had made it clear Russia was not seeking territory, that it was only supporting the moves for autonomy by the Russian-speaking peoples in the eastern Ukrainian provinces — moves sparked by the inefficiency and then breakdown of the central government in Kiev, and by the foolish attempt to ban the use of Russian. Putin rejected his critics who said Moscow should annex those historically Russian territories. His move would also be justified by the recent Western concept of R2P — the responsibility to protect peoples being suppressed by superior central government force.

Yet for some strange reason this move was made out to be Russian aggression and a denial of Ukrainian sovereignty. The aggression claim continues despite acceptance by all sides of the Minsk agreement of February this year, where Ukraine and Russia agreed on a cease-fire and “local self-governance in particular in the districts of Donetsk and Luhansk.” Ukrainian sovereignty and some administration rights were specifically endorsed. What’s more, the area to be “self-governed” by the separatists is much less than they had originally demanded. Legislation to authorize these arrangements has already been introduced in the Ukrainian Parliament over violent protests by the ugly, pro-Nazi, anti-Semitic groups that to date have done so much to prolong the fighting in eastern Ukraine, and which through their policy of random destruction have forced some 1 million Russian speakers to flee into Russia — ethnic cleansing with a vengeance.

Yet all Moscow gets from its very considerable concessions at Minsk and its acceptance of those refugees is a continuation of sanctions and an escalation of NATO military pressures. This, even though two senior NATO members, Germany and France, were present to endorse the Minsk agreements that are now being implemented. NATO once saw fit to bomb Belgrade to force a transfer of sovereignty to Kosovo. Moscow is condemned for much less.

Even as the Ukraine situation winds down, the anti-Moscow sanctions continue and NATO still blows hot. Maybe this is justified by the Crimea takeover. If so, I suggest the people involved should visit the Crimea.

Historically, it has always been Russian (remember the Crimean War?). It remains Russian. In two visits, one very recent, I have never heard a word of Ukrainian spoken. Crimea was gifted to Ukraine by Moscow in 1954 as an act of Soviet convenience, despite the problem of having to retain the Soviet fleet in Sevastopol. When the Soviet Union broke up in 1991 it should automatically have been returned to Russia. Its seizure during the 2014 troubles in Kiev was inevitable and for most, welcome.

As for that other excuse for NATO pressure — alleged aggressive Russian pressure against the three Baltic States — does anyone in NATO know about the severe language and other discrimination against the Russian-origin minorities stranded in this area by the 1991 Soviet breakup? Details provided by Moscow have been thoroughly ignored. If Moscow’s unhappiness on this account amounts to aggression then we need a new definition of aggression.

Ingrained Cold War fears and NATO expansionism explain some of the illogicality of Western anti-Russia moves. Ignorance is another factor. The people who accuse Moscow of trying to suppress the native Tartar language in Crimea need only to turn on the TV in Crimea to discover daily programs teaching Tartar. How many in NATO really understand what is going on in the Baltic States?

But Moscow also shares some of the blame. Its vigorous denials of any responsibility by the pro-Russian separatists for the March 2014 destruction of the Malaysian airliner MH17 helped early on to push Western opinion in an anti-Moscow direction. I spent some time in August in the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs with a highly intelligent and very senior official who tried with genuine sincerity to convince me that the theories blaming Ukraine were correct. True, seeming bullet holes in the fuselage gave some credence to what she and quite a few others were saying. But Moscow now accepts a missile was responsible. It should not have wasted our time with elaborate theories and radar scans that said Ukrainian fighter planes were responsible.

By

Gregory Clark is a former Australian diplomat and president of Tama University. He recently made a fact-finding visit to Russia at the invitation of the Russian authorities. The initial report of that visit can be found at www.gregoryclark.net/jt/page126/page126.html .

Source: Japan Times

Russia Just Exposed Obama’s MASSIVE Secret About ISIS… He NEVER Thought This Would Get Out

Alexei Pushkov, the head of the Russian parliament’s international affairs committee, created a firestorm today when he took to Twitter and said Barack Obama is not bombing ISIS.

McCain accused us of striking out at US-trained insurgents… However, since they have either run away or joined al-Qaeda, hitting them is a mission impossible,” Pushkov wrote on his Twitter account.

The US-led coalition spent a whole year pretending they were striking ISIL targets but where are the results of these strikes?” Pushkov asked during and interview with France’s Europe 1 Radio.

Max Boot, of the Council on Foreign Relations, admits the U.S. bombing campaign against ISIS is primarily smoke and mirrors. “Obama’s strategy in Syria and Iraq is not working… (because) the U.S. bombing campaign against ISIS has been remarkably restrained,” Boot wrote for Newsweek in February.

Figures compiled by the CFR reveal the U.S. has dropped 43 bombs on ISIS per day since the campaign began. In 1991 the Pentagon dropped 6,163 bomb per day on Iraq and 1,039 in 2003. Even Serbia, which posed no threat to the United States, saw a total of 60 bombs per day in 1995.

Earlier this week the Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam said there “is clearly no seriousness” to the war against ISIS. He added the objective is not eliminating the Islamic State but rather an effort by the West to “force their presence” in the region and worsen the situation there.

From the very outset, this air campaign has NOT been directed against ISIS,” writes Michel Chossudovsky. “The evidence confirms that the Islamic State is not the target. Quite the opposite.”

“The air raids are intended to destroy the economic infrastructure of Iraq and Syria.”

During the first invasion of Iraq in 1991 the same principle applied.

Souad N. Al-Azzawi of the Brussels Tribunal writes that “the major goals of the bombing was not liberating Kuwait or Iraq, rather, it was the total destruction of the civilian infrastructure.”

NATO and the United States targeted civilian infrastructure of Libya as well.

The coalition “debilitated Libya’s water supply by targeting critical state-owned water installations, including a water-pipe factory in Brega,” writes Nafeez Ahmed.

The infrustructure breakdown in Libya, coupled with Obama’s allies murdering Gadaffi, led directly to the ISIS takeover of Libya, and subsequent mass migration of 800,000 Muslims into Europe through Libya.

NATO and the US also destroyed Yugoslavia’s civilian infrastructure, targeting schools, hospitals, farms, bridges, roads, railways, water lines, communications facilities, factories, industries and other objects necessary for the basic functioning of a modern day society, according to the Independent Commission of Inquiry Hearing to Investigate U.S./NATO War Crimes Against the People of Yugoslavia.

Bombing the Islamic State runs counter to the agenda revealed in Defense Intelligence Agency documents from 2012.

The documents show the United States and its partners in the Gulf states and Turkey supported the Islamic State and planned to establish a Salafist principality in Syria.

The Pentagon has admitted it “helped build ISIS” and armed the group with weapons transferred from Benghazi, Libya.

The globalist Brookings Institute also described the ultimate objective.

In June, Tony Cartalucci, citing the Brookings document, wrote that the goal is “to divide, destroy, then incrementally occupy a sovereign nation thousands of miles from America’s shores.”

Source: Tea Party

PETER HITCHENS: Which side are we really on in this war of the awful against the evil? 

I don’t think the British or American governments really want to fight the Islamic State. They just want to look as if they are doing so.

I judge these people by what they do, not by what they say. And in recent months I have noticed them doing – and not doing – some very interesting things.

The White House and Downing Street both seethe with genuine outrage about Russia’s bombing raids on Syria.

Yet the people Vladimir Putin bombed have views and aims that would get them rounded up as dangerous Islamist extremists if they turned up in Manchester. So why do British politicians call them ‘moderates’ when Russia bombs them?

It’s not as if London or Washington can claim to be squeamish about bombing as a method of war. We have done our fair share of it in Belgrade, Baghdad and Tripoli, where our bombs certainly (if unintentionally) killed innocent civilians, including small children.

Then there’s the curious case of Turkey. Rather like Russia, Turkey suddenly announced last summer that it was sending its bombers in to fight against the Islamic State.

But in fact Turkey barely bothered to attack IS at all. It has spent most of the past few months blasting the daylights out of the Kurdish militias, a policy that Turkey’s President Erdogan has selfish reasons for following.

Yet the Kurds, alongside the Syrian army, have been by far the most effective resistance to IS on the ground. Why then does a key member of the alleged anti-IS coalition go to war against them?

Turkey, a Nato member, is not criticised for this behaviour by Western politicians or by the feeble, slavish Western media. These geniuses never attack our foreign policy mistakes while we are making them. They wait until they have actually ended in disaster. Then they pretend to have been against them all along.

I’ve grown tired of people impersonating world-weary cynics by intoning the old saying ‘My enemy’s enemy is my friend’ as if it were a new-minted witticism.

But in this case, this sensible old rule seems to have been dropped. Instead, our enemy’s enemies – in the case of the Kurds, Syria’s government and the Russians – are mysteriously our enemies too.

Meanwhile the Turkish enemies of our Kurdish friends are somehow or other still our noble allies.

Compare our weird attitude towards Syria’s horrible but anti-IS president, Bashar Assad, to Winston Churchill’s wiser view of Stalin.

Stalin became our ally when the Nazis invaded Russia. Churchill, a lifelong foe of Soviet communism, immediately grasped that times had changed. ‘If Hitler invaded Hell,’ he said ‘I would at least make a favourable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons.’

That is because, in body, heart and soul, sleeping and waking, with all the force and spirit he possessed, he was committed to the fight against Hitler above all things. So he would have accepted any ally against him.

Is this true of our leaders, who constantly portray Assad (and Putin) as Hitler, who imagine themselves as modern Churchills and condemn their critics as ‘appeasers’?

No. They play both ends against the middle. Their anti-extremist rhetoric, turned up full when confronting Birmingham schoolteachers or bearded preachers, drops to a whisper when they want to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia, the home of Islamist fanaticism.

Things are not what they seem to be here. Russia’s action may be rash and dangerous. It may fail, especially as we are obviously trying so hard to undermine it. But at least it is honest and straightforward.

Read more in source Daily Mail

Why Russia’s Syria war is bad news for the U.S. (and why it isn’t)

Russian warplanes are conducting airstrikes now in Syria, according to a slew of news reports. The move follows authorization by a vote in Russian parliament as well as weeks of Kremlin messaging about the importance of bolstering the Syrian regime to combat the Islamic State.

But it’s not clear whether the targets of the current wave of airstrikes were positions manned by the jihadists. The Russian action raises a number of strategic conundrums for the U.S., which has waged a concerted air campaign of its own in Syria and Iraq against the extremist organization.

There has been little coordination between the two sides over the airstrikes. On the sidelines of meetings at the United Nations, Secretary of State John Kerry apparently told Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov that the intervention was “not helpful.”

Here are reasons both why that — as far as Washington’s interests go — is probably true, and why it’s not.

Why it’s bad news

It helps Assad
Russian President Vladimir Putin and other top officials have made no secret of their government’s support for the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose regime has presided over the systematic destruction and unraveling of the Syrian state.

For the U.S. and its allies, Assad’s departure has been a prerequisite to any lasting solution to the Syrian conflict, which has entered its fifth year and claimed more than 300,000 lives. But as Western drones and military jets streaked the skies over Iraq and Syria in the past year, little has been done to actually dislodge Assad, whose forces have also been battling the Islamic State.

Moscow has wrung its hands over the dangers posed by the Islamic State, an organization that Lavrov in April deemed “the main threat” to Russia’s domestic security. Some 2,500 Russian citizens are believed to be among the jihadists’ ranks.

But Russia has framed its war effort in Syria as an action taken specifically on behalf of the government in Damascus. As WorldViews noted earlier, the Russians have a long, close relationship with the Assad family that endured and, in some regards, grew closer after the end of the Cold War.

“Russia will factually be the only country to carry out this operation on the legitimate basis of the request of the legitimate government of Syria,” said Putin spokesman Dmitri Peskov on Wednesday, gesturing to the supposed “illegality” of the U.S. air war in Syria.

A spokesman for the opposition Syrian National Council denounced the Russian airstrikes, telling The Washington Post’s Hugh Naylor that Russia, like Assad, “targeted civilians, not ISIS.”

It inflames sectarian tensions
The bigger worry is that, even if Russia does hit the Islamic State, its renewed support for the Assad regime makes an already grim, entrenched conflict even more intractable.

As the graphic above shows, Russia’s recent deployments are centered roughly around Assad’s remaining bastions in northwestern Syria, a coastal area that’s the heartland of the Alawites, the minority sect to which the Assad family belongs. The contours of the Syrian conflict have shifted since the anti-Assad uprising in 2011, and now have a tragically sectarian character.

Sunni fundamentalist and Salafist groups have warred against Russians before, and experts believe they will benefit from Moscow’s intervention. Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir has labeled the new campaign a “dangerous escalation” and doubled down on his country’s insistence on the removal of Assad, even with a “military option.”

The kingdom, which sees itself at the vanguard of the Arab world’s Sunni states, is believed to have directly or indirectly supported a number of Islamist and rebel factions fighting in Syria.

Those interests collide with those of Russia and Iran, a Shiite theocratic state and Saudi rival that has long propped up the Assad regime, recently with the direct backing of Hezbollah, Iran’s Lebanese proxy. Russia’s entrance into the conflict only deepens the region’s larger geopolitical faultlines.

It makes the U.S. look bad
To some Republicans and neo-conservatives in Washington, the current scenario highlights a worrying contrast in style and policy between President Obama and Putin. To critics of the White House, Putin’s apparent resolve and decisiveness in Syria is a consequence of supposed American fecklessness and dithering.

The Russian campaign “is a dramatic example of the diminution of . . . American influence in the region,” warned Sen. John McCain, a perennial booster of the primacy of American military might abroad and the role it ought to play.

According to The Washington Post’s editorial page, Obama has been unable to counter Putin’s recent “flurry of alliance-building in Syria, Iraq and Iran” ahead of the airstrikes and could be compelled to compromise with a strengthened Assad regime. “Shortsighted and cynical as it may be, at least Mr. Putin has a plan for Syria,” the editorial read.

Why it’s not bad news

It will make Russia look bad
The consensus among experts is that the Russian escalation is less the outcome of a concerted strategy than it is, more simply, an opportunistic gamble. The Post’s Anne Appelbaum explains what may be shaping the Kremlin’s calculus.

For Putin’s entry into Syria, like almost everything else that he does, is part of his own bid to stay in power. During the first 10 years he was president, Putin’s claim to legitimacy went, in effect, like this: I may not be a democrat, but I give you stability, a rise in economic growth and pensions paid on time. In an era of falling oil prices and economic sanctions, not to mention vast public-sector corruption, that argument no longer works… And so his new argument goes, in effect, like this: “I may not be a democrat and the economy may be sinking, but Russia is regaining its place in the world — and besides, the alternative to authoritarianism is not democracy but chaos.”

Putin’s boldness, in other words, is a fig leaf for a regime that’s already in dangerous risk of over-reach. According to a recent poll, a minority of Russians back the intervention, while a considerable majority were “opposed or strongly opposed.”

Given Moscow’s limited military capabilities, at least compared to the U.S., there’s little indication that Russia will be able to do much more to harm the Islamic State than the U.S. and its allies already have over the past year. The longer the campaign drags on, the larger the shadow of mission creep will loom.

“Great powers always look the most powerful when they announce expanded activity in a region. It’s what happens next that matters,” writes Post Everything’s Dan Drezner.

And what happens next could be rather problematic for Putin, suggests analyst Michael Cohen:

If anything, Russian involvement in Syria will almost certainly divert its attention from Eastern Europe, which is good news for NATO and potentially Ukraine. It also risks alienating the Gulf states, Turkey and other regional actors, thus, if anything, blunting Russia’s effort to extend its influence in the Middle East. In the end, Russia’s Syria misadventure stands a good chance of doing Moscow much more harm than good.

It could damage the Islamic State
And what if Russia sticks by its word, and helps deliver some significant defeats of the Islamic State? Few organizations have commanded such universal global antipathy as the jihadist group, whose terror attacks, enslavement of women and beheading of hostages have filled international front pages.

This prospect likely explains the somewhat cagey response of top Western diplomats to Wednesday’s news of the Russian airstrikes. Even if Russia focuses more on fighting other rebel factions, the potential gains for the Assad regime may be rather limited.

“The idea that Russian fighters will enable the [Assad] regime to reclaim territory is a fantasy,” writes Hassan Hassan, co-author of a recent book on the rise of the Islamic State. “Moscow will bolster the regime’s capabilities to defend itself in key towns and cities, but nothing more.”

A Russian government bogged down in Syria’s complicated mire may better appreciate the need to phase the Assad regime out through some sort of political transition. At least that’s the view of Obama administration officials who spoke to reporters of the New York Times. When asked about the Russian intervention, one official quipped: “Knock yourselves out.”

Source: Washington Post

 

 

Russia is not the enemy – The Boston Globe

Real enemies are a threat to any country, but imagined enemies can be even more dangerous. They sap resources, provoke needless conflicts, and divert attention from true challenges. The United States has constructed such a fantasy by turning Russia into an enemy.

Our current campaign against Russia was set off by what some in Washington call its “aggression” against neighboring Ukraine. Russia’s decision to aid the Assad regime in Syria has also angered us. The true reasons for anti-Russia sentiment, though, lie deeper.

Most leading figures in the American political and security establishments grew up during the Cold War. They spent much of their lives believing that the Antichrist lived in Moscow. Today they speak as if the Cold War never ended.

For a brief period in the 1990s, it appeared that Russia had lost control over its own security. Stunned into paralysis by the collapse of the Soviet Union, and without any power to resist, Russians had to watch helplessly as NATO, their longtime enemy, established bases directly on their borders. Many in Washington believed that the United States had permanently broken Russian power. In their jubilation, they imagined that we would be able to keep our foot on Russia’s neck forever.

That was highly unrealistic. By pressing our advantage too strongly in the years after the Cold War, we guaranteed a nationalist reaction. President Vladimir Putin embodies it. He is popular in Russia because his people believe he is trying to claw back some of Russia’s lost power. For the same reason, he is demonized in Washington.

Having Russia as an enemy is strangely comforting to Americans. It reassures us that the world has not really changed. That means we do not have to change our policies. Our back-to-the-future hostility toward Russia allows us to pull out our dusty Cold War playbook. We have resurrected not just that era’s anti-Moscow policies but also the hostile rhetoric that accompanied them.

This summer’s most extreme exaggeration of Russia’s power came not from an inveterate Cold Warrior like John McCain or Hillary Clinton, but from the new chairman of our Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford. At his Senate confirmation hearing in July, Dunford said Russia “could pose an existential threat to the United States.” He suggested that, to defend ourselves, we should send aid to Ukrainians who want to fight Russia.

Statements like these are bizarre on several levels. First, Russia is a fundamentally weak country with a tottering economy. It is far from being able to compete with the United States, much less threaten it. Second, Russia is surrounded by American military bases, hears threats from the West every day, faces NATO guns on its borders, and therefore has reason to fear for its security. Third, by pushing Russia away, we are driving it toward China, thereby encouraging a partnership that could develop into a true threat to American power.

The most important reason it is folly to turn Russia into an enemy is more far-reaching than any of these. Europe remains stable only when all of its major countries are included in the process of governing, and each one’s security concerns are taken seriously.

The visionary Prince Metternich grasped this truth 200 years ago. Metternich was foreign minister of the Austrian Empire and mastermind of the Congress of Vienna, which was charged with reconstructing Europe after nearly a quarter-century of war. France was the villain. French armies under Napoleon had ravaged much of Europe. Anti-French sentiment was widespread and virulent. Delegates to the Congress of Vienna demanded harsh punishment for the troublemaker. Metternich resisted their pressure. He persuaded other leaders that in the interest of future stability, they must invite the miscreant back into the family. That kept Europe at peace for generations.

Emotion argues that Russia is a troublemaker because it refuses to play by our rules, and must be confronted and punished. Reason should reply that Russia is a legitimate power, cannot be expected to take orders from the West, and will not stand quietly while the United States promotes anti-Russia movements on its borders.

In our current standoff, Russia has at least one advantage: Its leaders are not foolish enough to consider the United States an existential threat. We would benefit from a bit of their realism.

Stephen Kinzer is a visiting fellow at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University. Follow him on Twitter @stephenkinzer.

Source: Boston Globe