Today Ukraine is threatened by a large Russian force on its border. The Crimea has been annexed by Russia, and Russian forces are consolidating their hold on the province. Despite assurances by the Russians that they have no interest in invading Ukraine, it is easy to be dubious of their claims. Capability doesn’t lie, and intent can change in a heartbeat.
Many have already said that there are no military options in the Ukraine crisis. While Western Europe and the United States do not desire conflict with Russia, the lack of action supporting Ukraine is actually a provocative gesture that invites escalation by the Russians. Fritz Kraemer, a little-known but highly influential strategist in the Pentagon best known for his many years as advisor to numerous secretaries of defense, believed that there were two ways to be provocative. One way was to be threatening, and in so doing provoke an enemy to action. The other way was to appear weak, and thus to provoke an adversary into a similar risky misadventure. Read more…
Russian President Putin is “living in another world,” German Chancellor Merkel reportedly told American President Obama in a recent conversation about the Ukraine crisis, seeking to explain Putin’s seemingly reckless actions. Other commentators have found him irrational, even maniacal. Yet for the past few weeks, Putin has been the master of the game, unleashing surprises, creating facts on the ground, defying Western sanctions, astounding all with the audacity of his ambitions. Contrary to the implication of Merkel’s remark, we must operate in his world. So perhaps we should make an effort to understand it.
It is not, in fact, alien. Western leaders inhabited it until a few short decades ago; Asian leaders still play by its rules. It is the world of geopolitics, of great-power competition, tailored to Russia’s peculiar circumstances. Moreover, to students of Russian history, Putin is a familiar figure, heir to a long tradition of Russian strategic thinking, what Russians would call the “great-power school” of international relations. It is grounded in four key ideas: Read more…
Last Thursday, at the Woodrow Wilson Centre in Washington DC, the former American ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, admitted that the regime of President Bashar AlAssad would likely remain in power for the “medium term”.
This admission, after American officials had spent over two years affirming the opposite, was interesting for what Mr Ford did not say: that Mr Al Assad has remained in power partly because his regime has pursued a careful, if cynical, strategy of survival that Syrian leaders have used time and again.
Aside from Russia and Iran, who have helped keep him in power, the Syrian president can thank his own father. The late Hafez Al Assad perfected a system of control and of regional manipulation that has protected his son’s regime until now. Read more…
War between the great powers was the dominant fear of the Cold War, but that fear recessed with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of bloc versus bloc rivalry. But did The Hague just witness the emergence of a new bloc to bloc rivalry, triggered by events in the Ukraine?
Taking center stage in The Hague was the recreation of the G7 as a unified western bloc. Since 1998, the G7 had been widened to include Russia—part of a broader effort to embed Russia in a stable international order. For a time, this seemed a wise approach: give Russia a seat at the table in exchange for constructive behavior in the international system—and to a degree, it worked.
Dozens of seasoned militant fighters, including some mid-level planners, have traveled to Syria from Pakistan in recent months in what American intelligence and counterterrorism officials fear is an effort to lay the foundation for future strikes against Europe and the United States.
“We are concerned about the use of Syrian territory by the Al Qaeda organization to recruit individuals and develop the capability to be able not just to carry out attacks inside of Syria, but also to use Syria as a launching pad,” John O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director, told a House panel recently.
The extremists who concern Mr. Brennan are part of a group of Qaeda operatives in Pakistan that has been severely depleted in recent years by a decade of American drone strikes. But the fighters still bring a wide range of skills to the battlefield, such as bomb-building, small-arms tactics, logistics, religious indoctrination and planning, though they are not believed to have experience in launching attacks in the West.
The Roosevelt administration once talked loudly of pivoting to Asia to thwart a rising Japan. As a token of its seriousness, in May 1940 it moved the home port of the Seventh Fleet from San Diego to Pearl Harbor — but without beefing up the fleet’s strength.
The then-commander of the Pacific Fleet, Admiral James O. Richardson, an expert on the Japanese Imperial Navy, protested vehemently over such a reckless redeployment. He felt that the move might invite, but could not guard against, surprise attack.
Richardson was eventually relieved of his command and his career was ruined — even as he was later proved right when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
Britain at the same time promoted a loud Singapore Strategy, trumpeting its Malaysian base as the “Gibraltar of the Pacific.” But London did not send out up-to-date planes, carriers, or gunnery to the Pacific.
A meeting this weekend between U.S. President Barack Obama and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is expected to provide the latest signal for how the backers of the Syrian opposition intend to translate their verbal support into actions.
For now, the indications are not encouraging for the many opposition figures, activists and rebels who have sacrificed over the last three years to topple the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
For nearly every condemnation of the behavior of the Assad regime that they hear from Western leaders and officials, they pick up a seemingly equal number of signs that no outside power is interested in offering the kind of help that would end the war.
It all translates into the inescapable conclusion that the Syrian people have been abandoned to their fate, which is to be on the receiving end of the regime’s massive firepower and its oppressive policies of imprisonment and torture, as well as the actions of Islamist extremists focused on imposing their ultraconservative version of Islam on the public.
Despite the Russian annexation of Ukraine, the United States is sending Russia a laser system used in force-on-force training free of charge. And that’s not sitting well with some Members of Congress.
As Russia has consolidated its grip on the Crimean peninsula, President Obama has levied sanctions against certain Russian and Ukrainian officials, and the Pentagon has cut off military-to-military ties with the Russian Federation.
But the Department of Energy’s FY15 budget request for the National Nuclear Security Administration includes funding to provide the Russian Federation with the Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System (MILES) “to support effective protective force performance testing.”
For the First Time in History, Israel Suspiciously Closes All Embassies and Consulates World-Wide! What is about to happen???
When war breaks out between the United States and Russia, which side will China support? Make no mistake about it, China is the 800 pound gorilla in the room that cannot be ignored. Whomever, the Chinese throw their support behind in the upcoming war between the US and what is left of NATO, will be the likely winner.
Asking the correct questions holds the key to making the correct assessment with regard to who China will militarily support. China knows that in today’s world, they cannot militarily defeat either the Russians or the United States, individually. However, the Chinese have positioned themselves to determine the ultimate winner. Read more…
This week, while the eyes of the world were fixed on Crimea, the conflict in Syria reached another gruesome milestone. Tuesday marked three years since the Syrian government of Bashir al Assad opened fire on anti-government protesters, and what was for a while expected to be a relatively short conflict is now a bloody stalemate with no end in sight.
At least 150,000 people have been killed since the war began and over three million people have fled the country. 42 percent of all Syrians – more than the entire population of New York City – have fled their homes. On average 136 people a day are being killed. Read more…
Kiev’s mass anti-government protests are a thing of the past, but the barricades remain, a shrine to the victims. Visitors trickle through the site, paying homage to the Heavenly Hundred, those murdered in the final days of the struggle. The martyrs’ names are taped to the trees, their photographs covered in mounds of flowers. Children holding little Ukrainian flags pose for photographs in front of these monuments. They don’t smile.
They will remember coming here for the rest of their lives, for this is how nations are built: on legends, on emotions, on stories of heroes. Tales of those who stood for months in the square will be told and retold. But that doesn’t mean that the protesters will necessarily have triumphed. On the contrary, Ukrainians are about to learn that the exhilaration of “people power”—mass marches, big demonstrations, songs, and banners—is always an illusion. And sooner or later, the illusion wears off. Read more…