US-Soldaten in Afghanistan

The Moscow Times


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"Russia Launches Gas Exports to China"

Russland und China haben offiziell eine 3.000 Kilometer lange Gaspipeline eröffnet und damit mit der Umsetzung eines 30 Jahre geltenden Liefervertrags für russisches Erdgas im Umfang von 400 Milliarden US-Dollar begonnen. "The opening of the Power of Siberia gas line is the first of three strategically important Russian gas pipelines that are due to come online in the coming months. Turk Stream — which will carry Russian gas to Turkey and southeastern Europe — is scheduled to start exports early January, and the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline linking Russia with Germany is set for a delayed launch in mid-2020, after the project received its final approval permit from Denmark in November."

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"In Push for Africa, Russia's Wagner Mercenaries Are 'Out of Their Depth' in Mozambique"

Pjotr Sauer macht auf die Aktivitäten des russischen Söldnerunternehmens Wagner in Afrika aufmerksam. In Mosambik habe die Gruppe, der enge Verbindungen zum Kreml nachgesagt werden, zwei konkurrierende Sicherheitsunternehmen bei der Ausschreibung eines Auftrags ausgestochen. "'We presented them with a first-class proposal in early August. We have so much experience in operating in Mozambique and know the tough environment very well. Trust me, we would have done an excellent job,” [John Gartner, a former Rhodesian soldier who now heads the military security company OAM,] told The Moscow Times. Dolf Dorfling, an ex-colonel in the South African army and founder of the Black Hawk private military contractor, likewise submitted a 'strong' proposal for a country he knows 'like the palm of his hand.' They both lost out to a new player in town — the Kremlin-linked Wagner Group, believed to be owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a businessman with close links to Russian President Vladimir Putin often referred to as 'Putin’s Chef' because of his catering business. While the veteran mercenaries admitted they couldn’t match Wagner’s low costs and high-level political connections, they cast doubt on the Russian company’s ability to operate in Mozambique because they say it knows neither the terrain nor the politics. 'Look, it's money and politics, it was clear we couldn’t compete with Wagner,' said Gartner, 'But now they are in trouble there, they are out of their depth.'"

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"Macron is 'Ours' — but Does Russia Need Him?"

In Russland hätten Beobachter nach der aufsehenerregenden NATO-Kritik des französischen Präsidenten erstaunt festgestellt, dass Macrons Vorstellung von der europäischen und internationalen Sicherheitsordnung viel mit der Putins gemein habe, schreibt Vladimir Frolov. "Macron shares many of Putin’s views concerning U.S. policy in Europe and the Middle East. He, like Putin, blames Europe’s migration problem on the misguided U.S. policy of 'regime change' during the 'Arab Spring.' (…) Macron shows solidarity with Putin’s feeling of being offended by Western actions after the end of the Cold War. The French president argues that NATO was created to counter the threat posed by the Warsaw Pact – despite the fact that the former was established in 1949 and the latter only took shape in 1955. He stated that NATO continues to view the containment of Russia as its primary strategic objective and has expanded right up to Russia’s borders, leaving that country without a 'security zone' and 'violating the terms of the deal reached in 1990.' And, he said, 'when NATO got as far as Ukraine, Putin decided to stop that expansion.' (…) The French leader essentially recognizes Russia’s right to veto actions of the West in a 'zone of privileged interests' in the post-Soviet space, thereby denying the post-Soviet states the right to their own political identities. This is like a dream come true for Russia’s foreign policy efforts of the past five years."

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"The U.S. Dithered Too Long on Russia's Nord Stream 2 Project"

Nach der Entscheidung Dänemarks, dem Weiterbau der Gaspipeline Nord Stream 2 durch dänische Gewässer zuzustimmen, bezweifelt Leonid Bershidsky, dass das umstrittene Großprojekt noch aufgehalten werden kann. Er macht vor allem die USA verantwortlich, deren Sanktionsdrohungen gegen beteiligte Unternehmen zu spät kämen. "Sanctions against financing the pipeline could have been effective at the stage before European companies — Royal Dutch Shell, Engie, Uniper, OMV and Wintershall — provided what was needed. Sanctions against pipe-laying vehicles could have made a difference before the construction work began. In any case, they could have given Ukraine more time to renegotiate its gas-transit contract with Gazprom, which runs out at the end of this year. (…) Now Ukraine, backed by the EU, wants a 10-year year contract to pump 40-60 billion cubic meters of natural gas. But Russia insists that any long-term agreement should resolve Ukraine’s billion-dollar legal claims on Gazprom, and for now is likely to agree only to a short-term, placeholder deal. Meanwhile it will keep working on bringing both Nord Stream 2 and the Turkish Stream project, meant to supply gas to southern Europe, to full capacity."

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"Putin Faces Syria Money Crunch After U.S. Keeps Control of Oil"

Die Entscheidung des US-Präsidenten, die syrischen Ölanlagen im Nordosten des Landes mit US-Militär zu bewachen, werde Russland auch finanziell treffen, schreibt Henry Meyer. Moskau habe mit den Öl-Einnahmen gerechnet, um die nötigen Finanzmittel für den geplanten Wiederaufbau Syriens aufzutreiben. "The U.S. decision to keep forces in northeastern Syria to guard oil fields denies Assad access to desperately needed funds to rebuild the Middle East state after eight years of civil war. That’s adding to the urgency of United Nations-led talks between the Syrian government and opposition groups in Geneva starting Wednesday, that Putin has said could be 'decisive' in settling the conflict. While agreement is far from certain, the negotiations on constitutional changes could help unlock money from U.S. allies in the Gulf and Europe, which have withheld aid because of Assad’s close ties to Iran and his refusal to loosen his grip on power by making space for opposition groups."

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"Why Serbia Won’t Stop Playing the Russia Card Any Time Soon"

Vuk Vuksanovic, Sicherheitsexperte und früherer Mitarbeiter im serbischen Außenministerium, betrachtet die gemeinsame Militärübung russischer und serbischer Luftverteidigungseinheiten als Teil einer sorgfältig balancierten serbischen Russland-Strategie. "From Belgrade’s perspective, this latest diplomatic and military exchange is a sign that Serbia is as usual being defined by the Western media through the prism of a traditional alliance. Serbia will not, however, enter into a full-fledged alliance with Russia, due to the geographical distance between the two countries and a lack of economic incentives. While Serbia’s relationship with Russia is wrongly described through the lens of Slavic and Orthodox ties, the modern Serbia-Russia relationship is part of a foreign policy strategy based on hedging its bets and pitting Western and non-Western powers against each other. This type of foreign policy behavior is the direct consequence of two systemic realities that have been underlining features of Serbian foreign policy since 2008. The first is the unresolved Kosovo dispute, and the second is the power vacuum in the Balkans generated by the global financial crisis of 2008 and subsequent inability of the EU to finalize its Balkan enlargement."

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"The Putin-Erdogan Deal Poses a Challenge to the West"

Die russische Einigung mit der Türkei in Nordsyrien hat nach Ansicht von Leonid Bershidsky einmal mehr grundsätzliche diplomatische Prinzipien Moskaus demonstriert. Russlands "zynische" Bereitwilligkeit, mit allen Akteuren auf der Grundlage des gegenseitigen Nutzens zu kooperieren und dabei Werte und Loyalitäten in den Hintergrund zu rücken, sei eine Herausforderung für den Westen. "Based on Russia’s behavior in Syria, a situation that defies the very idea of long-term alliances and adversarial relationships, these principles are: - Incumbents should hold on to power. No regime change from the outside. - Every party with a legitimate interest should get something. There are no permanent red lines. - Russia will work with anyone who wants to work with Russia. - Russia will only get involved when it can get something out of the situation. - Russia won’t get involved when threatened with overwhelming force or heavy losses. (…) The U.S. and European nations can do much more for developing nations (and for broken ones like Syria) than Russia can; it’s just that they can’t operate on the same cynical basis as Putin does — or try to do so and fail. (…) In an increasingly unbalanced world, Putin’s set of essentially opportunistic principles can help anchor a difficult situation. But it can’t be the basis for a global order any reasonable leader should seek to establish. The West needs a convincing alternative to Putin’s emerging international offering."

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"Putin Now Owns the Syrian Syrian Chaos"

Nach Ansicht von Bruno Maçães wird Russland in den kommenden Jahren beweisen müssen, ob es im Nahen Osten tatsächlich als vertrauenswürdige Ordnungsmacht auftreten kann. Dass Präsident Putin dies offenbar verstanden habe, zeige sein Verzicht auf die gewohnte antiwestliche Rhetorik beim jüngsten Treffen des Waldai-Klubs. "(...) the new mood is the second stage in a coherent strategy. If the use of force produced results, the Kremlin now wants to consolidate them. That requires diplomacy, mediation and, above all, patience. Remember that Machiavelli, who certainly never refrained from violence, devoted many of his best pages to the building of institutions and mores needed to make more durable that which has been acquired by force. (...) The problem is acute in Syria. Russia has maneuvered itself into a preeminent position and has even succeeded in forcing the United States to conclude that its position in the country is unsustainable. Trump has just announced a withdrawal. But the problem with being in charge is that no one else can provide order. Russia perhaps feels that it can do it on its own, but it knows it must find new tools and adopt a new mindset in this expanded role."

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"Russia Steps Up Its Game in Africa"

Tim Stanley und Barnaby Fletcher berichten über die zunehmenden Bemühungen Russlands, auch in Afrika an politischem Einfluss zu gewinnen. "Russia has historical ties to a number of African governments and is often regarded favorably there due to the Soviet Union’s support of independence movements in the 1960s and 1970s. However, it largely failed to translate this into economic or political influence in subsequent decades. The connection is still relatively modest: Russian trade with sub-Saharan Africa stood at $20 billion in 2018, compared with U.S.-Africa trade of $61 billion, China-Africa trade of roughly $200 billion, and EU-Africa trade of more than $300 billion. A similar disparity exists in amounts of foreign direct investment or overseas development assistance. But where Russia beats other geopolitical players in Africa is in providing security cooperation and exploiting commercial opportunities arising from it."

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"Turkey and Russia Show That Land Grabs Can Pay Off"

Leonid Bershidsky vergleicht die türkische Invasion in Syrien mit der russischen Übernahme der Krim und hinterfragt die heutige Bedeutung des völkerrechtlichen Prinzips der territorialen Integrität. "The emergence and acceptance of this norm — a general international consensus against military conquest and armed secession — is often credited for the declining number of conquest attempts in recent decades. But the conclusions of political scientist Mark Zacher, whose 2001 paper promoted the idea that this territorial integrity norm had led to a dramatic decrease in the number of border changes, has been challenged in more recent research. A causal link between the norm and the prevalence of land grabs is turning out hard to prove. In a recent paper, Dan Altman of Georgia State University holds that conquest has never really gone obsolete. Instead, he claims, based on several updated datasets of interstate conflicts, that the nature of land grabs has changed (...). When it comes to conquests, it’s not clear whether any kind of operational 'rules-based order' has ever existed. Putin and Erdogan are just taking more risk than is customary. The authoritarians play for big stakes. Erdogan’s Syria move is a gamble — but not because he can be held responsible for violating some important norm."

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"Russia Is the New Referee in the Middle East"

Die russische Regierung werde aus der aktuellen Krise in Syrien diplomatisch gestärkt hervorgehen, erwartet Maxim Trudolyubov. Moskau habe gegenüber Ankara klar gemacht, dass es die aktuelle Offensive, aber keine dauerhafte "illegale" Präsenz ausländischer Truppen in Syrien dulden werde. "Russia’s overarching goal now is to maintain and possibly advance its carefully cultivated role as a preeminent power broker at the world’s most difficult crossroad, the Middle East. So far, Moscow has been successful in attaining recognition of its efforts in the region from players as diverse as Iran, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Turkey. Most leaders of those countries may not want to sit down for a conversation between themselves, but each of them, separately from the others, is talking to Putin."

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"For Trump, Syria Pullout Is a Win. Putin May See It That Way Too"

Bloomberg erwartet, dass Russland vom Rückzug der US-Truppen aus Nordsyrien profitieren wird, da die Kurden in den Gesprächen mit der Assad-Regierung ohne amerikanische Unterstützung zu Kompromissen gezwungen sein könnten. "Pressure now looks set to rise on Kurdish leaders and fighters in northern Syria to work with Assad in a bid to fend off any invasion by the Turkish military, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s second largest force. 'Erdogan’s operation against the Kurds could have a positive effect for Russia,' so long as the U.S. gets its troops out of the way, said Ruslan Mamedov, a Middle East analyst at the Russian International Affairs Council, a Moscow-based research group founded by the Kremlin. It 'will make Kurds realize that they need to make a deal with Damascus.'"

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"Ukraine Peace Talks Get Breakthrough as Kiev Accepts Compromise"

In den Verhandlungen über die Zukunft des ukrainischen Donbass ist es in Minsk zu einem möglicherweise wegweisenden Durchbruch gekommen. Vertreter der ukrainischen Regierung haben der sogenannten "Steinmeier-Formel" zugestimmt, die einen vorläufigen Sonderstatus für die Region vorsieht. "The next step could be negotiations involving the leaders of Germany and France alongside Zelenskiy and Russian President Vladimir Putin — the so-called Normandy format for talks. Tuesday’s development opens the way to such a meeting and steps toward a peaceful resolution of the conflict, according to Alexei Chesnakov, a former Kremlin official who continues to consult for the Russian authorities on Ukraine. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said 'the door is open' to further progress in the implementation of the 2015 Minsk peace accord. 'Today, the final obstacles have been removed to holding a summit of the Normandy four,' Zelenskiy said. 'We’ll know the date in the very near future.'"

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"Is the Kremlin Tired of Venezuela?"

Der jüngste Besuch des venezolanischen Präsidenten in Moskau zeigt nach Ansicht von Max Hess, dass die Bereitschaft Russlands zur direkten Unterstützung der Maduro-Regierung begrenzt sei. Dies gelte jedoch nicht für das russische Mineralölunternehmen Rosneft, das sich zum wichtigen Verbündeten Maduros entwickelt habe. "(...) the immediate takeaway from this week’s talks is that while Moscow still backs Maduro, its willingness to invest further to help him achieve his goals is limited. (...) Dmitry Peskov, said the pair did not discuss new loans, and no new investments were announced. The absence of such pledges is significant. (...) Venezuela is by no means without Russian backers, even if the economic benefits of the relationship have evaporated. Foremost among them is Rosneft’s head Igor Sechin, who also attended Maduro and Putin’s meeting. Sechin has not only led Russia’s investments into Venezuela, but has also publicly backed the politics of the Bolivarian regime. Venezuela has become increasingly dependent on Rosneft, which now serves as the key conduit for exporting Venezuelan crude from the country and getting diluents to PDVSA. Rosneft has also become Venezuela’s its key supplier of refined petrol. (...) While the highlights of Putin and Maduro’s meeting signify that Moscow will not help Maduro get everything he wants, Sechin’s presence indicates that Maduro might just find he gets what he needs."

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"For Ukraine's Leader, Trump Memo On Their Call Is a Diplomatic Car Crash"

Für die Ukraine ist der Skandal um das Telefongespräch zwischen Präsident Trump und Präsident Selenskyj Reuters zufolge ein möglicherweise folgenreiches "diplomatisches Desaster". "'Unfortunately the main consequence of this is that Ukraine could become toxic,' said Alyona Getmanchuk, director of the New Europe Center in Ukraine. 'Maybe not as toxic as Russia became during the Mueller investigation, but toxic,' she said, referring to a two-year U.S. investigation into contacts between Trump's successful 2016 election campaign and Russia. The timing of the latest scandal is awkward for Zelenskiy, who is keen to reinvigorate parts of a stalled peace deal over eastern Ukraine, something for which he needs European and U.S. diplomatic muscle. (...) 'Zelenskiy does not come out looking good from this - giving the ex-U.S. ambassador a kicking, Merkel and the Europeans a kicking, and then agreeing to do Trump's dirty work on Biden,' said Timothy Ash, a senior emerging markets strategist at Bluebay Asset Management."

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"Future Without Putin No Longer Taboo Issue"

Mark Galeotti berichtet, dass innerhalb der politischen Elite in Moskau mehr oder weniger offen über eine mögliche Zukunft Russlands ohne Präsident Putin debattiert werde. "Any thought that Russia is simply a top-down authoritarianism, shaped by a brooding president’s masterplan, should be dispelled by the upsurge in open and indirect debates currently taking place in the higher echelons of the country’s elite. They demonstrate three things: that there are real differences in opinion, that this is a system where policy emerges from competitive lobbying, and that Vladimir Putin seems unwilling or unable to resolve the main issues of the day. Put together, they demonstrate the increasing dysfunctionality of 'late Putinism.' Much of the debate is, after all, openly or implicitly about 2024, when Putin’s — constitutionally — last term of office is meant to end, and the whole debate as to his future and his system’s. Will he step down in favor of a successor, carve out a new position for himself, rewrite the rules to stay in power? Until that issue is resolved, no long-term political strategy can be elaborated, leaving the stakeholders and political technologists relying on tactical gambits and pitching their own favored solutions in the hope one gets the boss’s approval."

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"Putin Wants to Be the Middle East's Go-To Problem Solver"

Russlands Präsident Putin hat Saudi-Arabien nach den Angriffen auf zwei Ölanlagen in einer nicht ganz ernst gemeinten Anmerkung den Kauf russischer Luftabwehrsysteme angeboten. Leonid Bershidsky zufolge steckt hinter dem Scherz der Hintergedanke, Russland als effektiven Vermittler im Nahen Osten zu präsentieren. "Russia’s bid to replace the U.S. as the go-to problem solver in the Middle East is based on the success of its relatively low-cost but highly effective intervention in Syria, where the Russian air force and deniable mercenaries have helped propel Assad’s forces to victory in a bloody civil war. Putin’s foray in Syria was meant, in part, as a sales demonstration to Middle Eastern regimes: Russia will, if asked, intervene on the side of the incumbent ruler in the interest of stability, and it will do so quickly and without political strings attached. The U.S. offers neither of these advantages. (...) It’s hard to see Saudi Arabia siding openly with Russia and undermining its long-standing alliance with the U.S., no matter how tempting Putin might make it sound. (...) In the medium to long term, however, which power is seen as the chief problem-solver in the Middle East depends on U.S. willingness to bring its might to bear. (...) Putin is waiting in the wings and signaling that he speaks the same language as the clients he’s courting."

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"Russia Could Gain From Saudi Oil Attack – Analysts"

Russland könnte sich als energiepolitischer Gewinner der aktuellen Ölkrise im Golf herausstellen, schreibt Jake Cordell. Kurzfristig profitiere Moskau von den erhöhten Ölpreisen, für verunsicherte Kunden könnte die im Vergleich zum Nahen Osten besser geschützte russische Ölförderung aber auch längerfristig interessanter werden. "In addition to any short-term windfall and pickup in energy stocks from higher oil prices, the attack could trigger a gradual pivot toward Russia among oil buyers. 'Longer-term, this strengthens the reputation of countries like Russia, which are not seen as carrying the same risks in terms of supply,' said Charles Robertson, global chief economist at Renaissance Capital. 'Russia has never had a problem supplying gas to Western Europe in 45 years of the Cold War, let alone having terrorists attack installations. Russia comes out well in terms of the perceived security of its supply.' Macro Advisory’s Weafer said: 'Europe and Asia will be much more sensitive to energy security now. Russia has been — and has always been — a reliable energy partner. Even despite the contamination of the Druzhba pipeline earlier this year, Russia remains a very secure partner. Whereas the Middle East, while it has more energy, is a lot more vulnerable. Now that the world’s most secure facility has been attacked, question marks over supply in the Middle East become even larger. By default, that helps Russia.'"

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"Russia Ready for Ukraine Peace Talks but Sets Preconditions"

Die russische Regierung hat vor einer Teilnahme an neuen Verhandlungen des Normandie-Quartetts zur Lösung der Krise im Osten der Ukraine Vorbedingungen gestellt. "Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France last met in October 2016 for talks to implement a peace deal agreed in the Belarussian capital Minsk the year before but which failed to achieve a lasting ceasefire. 'We believe that such a meeting should take place and we agree that it can be held in Paris, as proposed by French President (Emmanuel) Macron,' said Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov. He said no date had yet been fixed but added that Moscow had three preconditions before it would agree to attend. The rival armed forces in eastern Ukraine should be separated on either side of the line of contact, he said. Also, the wording on a special status for the Donbass region should be agreed and there must also be a preliminary agreement on what the summit's conclusions should be."

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"Russia Plays a Game of Nuclear Strip Poker"

Leonid Bershidsky erkennt in der russischen Informationspolitik nach dem Atomunfall auf einem Militärstützpunkt in der russischen Arktis bekannte Muster wieder. "The Russian Defense Ministry’s desire for maximum secrecy is untenable given the pressure to provide specific information to the rest of the world. So a multi-stage process resembling strip poker has ensued. The Russian government has cast off one garment after another, finally to uncover enough for observers to reconstruct a more or less coherent picture of what the garments hid. This is a game Russia also played after annexing Crimea: First, flat denials, then hints, then a straight admission. Perhaps a future Russian government will realize that coming out with the truth isn’t just a more honorable policy — it’s also a less embarrassing one. For now, we should expect more information on what actually happened to the reactor during the Aug. 8 test — but not because Russia wants us to know the full story."

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"Russia's Opposition Has a Long Way to Go"

Mark Galeotti meint dagegen, dass die Position der russischen Regierung trotz der Proteste in Moskau nach wie vor stark sei. Politische Veränderungen ließen sich in der aktuellen Situation nur mit, nicht gegen den Kreml umsetzen. "This is not 1991. At present, although there is discomfort within the elite about current policy, their greatest fear is precisely systemic collapse. The security forces are disciplined and show no signs yet of being unwilling to play their role in the drama of repression. As for the economy, it is sluggish but not in crisis (...). The Kremlin's position is strong. However much neither man would like to acknowledge the parallel, though, Putin is in some ways like Gorbachev. He does not want to head a bloody-handed junta. He wants legitimacy both at home and abroad, and to fund his adventures, his cronies' embezzlement and his vanity projects, he needs a working economy, which in turn depends on many of those on the other side of the riot barriers. (...) So the challenge facing the protesters is not just to retain their enthusiasm, courage and momentum in the face of arrests and threats, on the one hand, shashlik and music festivals on the other. Arguably more difficult will be identifying a set of goals which slowly but genuinely advance their cause, but not leave the authorities feeling they cannot comply. The opposition has enthusiasm and right on their side. The authorities have ruthlessness and cosmonauts. Against this, the opposition has to play the long, clever game."

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"The Specter of the Soviet Union Still Haunts the EU"

Donald Tusk und andere EU-Vertreter werden in ihren Äußerungen gegenüber Russland offenbar immer noch vom "Gespenst" der Sowjetunion getrieben, schreibt Sean Guillory. Diese "Anti-Nostalgie" diene auch dem Zweck, von den internen Widersprüchen der liberalen Demokratie abzulenken. "In the EU debate, the Soviet Union serves as a form of anti-nostalgia. It’s a total rejection of a past without overcoming it. Like the nostalgic, the anti-nostalgic also has, in Boym’s words, 'a romance with the fantasy of the past.' Reducing the Soviet Union to 'prisons and gulags' relies such a fantasy (albeit a nightmarish one) that flattens the complexities of Soviet life not unlike the nostalgic does. (...) The communist phantom is a reminder of the good old days when liberal democracy was in an existential, global struggle with its antithesis. But the demise of Soviet communism as a victory of liberal democracy is wearing thin thirty years on. Liberal democracy lacks a worthy antipode to reflect its grandeur. Liberal democracy’s ideological providence needs a righteous foe to sublimate its own internal contradictions. (...) When Tusk called the collapse of the Soviet Union a blessing he was engaging in his own form of nostalgia. A romance with a fantasy of a past where the EU and liberal democracy broadly-offered a bright future for Central and Eastern Europeans, and Russians too. Thirty-years dead the Soviet bogeyman has lost much of its horror, and conjuring it will do little to strengthen liberal democracy’s appeal or rekindle its progressive promise in the face of the EU’s actually existing conditions."

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"A Russian-American Deal Can Bring Stability to Syria, Weaken Iran"

Ram Yavne hält einen amerikanisch-russischen "Deal" zur Beilegung des Syrienkonflikts trotz der Spannungen zwischen den beiden Großmächten immer noch für möglich. "The compromises required are within the realm of acceptability for both states. What would a Russo-American deal look like? First, it would recognize Assad’s regime for now and delay the United Nations-mandated political transition process in Syria. The signatories would agree to fund Syria’s economic rehabilitation process, providing Assad a major incentive to accept. (...) Why would Russian President Vladimir Putin agree to such a deal? Russia would achieve its objective of keeping Assad in power and reap some economic benefits during the rehabilitation process in Syria. It would also receive global and regional recognition for its major role in Syria, something Vladimir Putin is likely to value. (...) Second, the agreement would be a component in the campaign against the Iranian regional insurgency. Third, it will outline in clearer terms future American involvement in Syria and Iraq, with less direct deployment and involvement in Syria (while continuing American support for the SDF forces and communities) and give the needed focus for Iraq and other regional issues. (...) An agreement along these lines would benefit U.S. and Israeli interests, meet important Russian objectives and deescalate tensions in the region. Most of all, it would offer the prospect of stability and peace for the people of Syria. The alternative is grim indeed."

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"Russia's Roadmap Out of the MH17 Crisis"

Fünf Jahre nach dem Abschuss des Flugs MH17 in der Ukraine befinde sich Russland in einer strategischen Falle, schreibt Mark Galeotti. Eine offizielle Übernahme der Verantwortung für die Tragödie sei nahezu ausgeschlossen, da der Schritt aus Sicht Moskaus kaum zu einer Aufhebung westlicher Sanktionen führen würde. "The fifth anniversary of the tragic shooting down of the MH17 passenger flight, hit over the Donbass by a Russian-supplied missile, prompted the inevitable calls for Moscow to take responsibility. What are the chances the Kremlin could manage a resolution, or at least de-escalation of this issue? Not much, unless it is part of some wide deal over the Donbass. (...) Given the continuing annexation of Crimea and war in the Donbass, it is unlikely there would be any substantive shift on sanctions. If anything, the perverse outcome is that this would empower those hawks who believe that this is some kind of existential struggle between the Western liberal order and an evil Russia. You see, they would argue: the more pressure on the Kremlin, the more it is forced to concede."

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"Russia’s S-400 Is 'the Best Missile System All-Around,' U.S. Firm Says"

Das russische S-400-Raketenabwehrsystem, dessen Installation in der Türkei zu einer NATO-Krise geführt hat, ist nach Ansicht von Experten des Beratungsinstituts Stratfor das derzeit beste Raketensystem der Welt. "Russia’s S-400 is the 'best all-around' missile defense system out there, the U.S. intelligence firm Stratfor has said in a new report, but it is severely limited if operating alone. Russia began delivering the S-400 surface-to-air system to Turkey last week, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan calling it 'the strongest defence system against those who want to attack our country.' The United States has opposed its NATO ally’s purchase of the Russian systems and is reportedly preparing sanctions against Turkey this week. (...) Konstantin Sokolov, geopolitical expert at the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, told The Moscow Times the missile system’s delivery marks 'a critical juncture in Russian-Turkish and Turkish-NATO relations.' 'The purchase of weapons — this is long-term cooperation and long-term policy — is a key moment because it shows that Turkey has pivoted toward Russia,' Sokolov told The Moscow Times."

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"Is Putin Winning Against Liberal Democracy?"

Russlands Präsident Putin habe sich zu einem Anführer der politischen Rechten entwickelt, schreibt Leonid Ragozin. Dies sei die Konsequenz einer "ideologischen Flexibilität", die Putins gesamte politische Karriere begleitet habe. "He was totally at peace with the liberal paradigm back in the 1990s; later he happily toyed with Soviet nostalgia, blood & soil ethnonationalism and Christian fundamentalism. He would turn liberal again if it helped keep his ratings afloat. (...) Putin wouldn’t have evolved into a far-right leader if not for the corruption, double standards and intellectual impotence of Russia’s liberals. The young Russian 'liberal' reformers of the 1990s are directly responsible for the emergence of oligarchic capitalism, which quite naturally led the country toward authoritarianism. (...) It’s much the same story when it comes to Putin confronting liberal democracy in the West. You can’t demand for Russia to ditch its nationalism and irredentism while you encourage far-right language and historical memory policies in Eastern Europe, or supply weapons to the Nazi-leaning Azov regiment in Ukraine. You can’t stop Russia from meddling in its neighborhood when you meddle all around the world, with grave results for local populations. You can’t tell Russia to stop farming trolls and spreading fake news, when your own partisan troll farms and infowar operations do that on a larger scale, using your own online platforms that you fail to regulate."

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"Why We Should Welcome Russia Rejoining PACE"

Nach der Übernahme der Krim ist Russland vor fünf Jahren das Stimmrecht im Europarat entzogen worden. Die Entscheidung ist nun trotz vieler Proteste und kritischer Medienkommentare rückgängig gemacht worden. Der russische Oppositionspolitiker Vladimir Ryzhkov begrüßt die Entscheidung, da ein Rückzug Russlands aus dem Europarat das Land weiter isoliert und die russische Zivilgesellschaft geschädigt hätte. "The vote and accompanying discussion showed that there is a deep rift in the Council of Europe — and in Europe as a whole — on the desirability of Russian participation in European institutions. An equally deep schism on the issue exists among the Russian elites. However, the decision has been made, and it will benefit both parties. (...) In general, part of the Russian elite sees membership in the Сouncil of Еurope as an unwelcome legacy of the 'wild 1990s,' something that prevents the Kremlin from having complete freedom of movement in both domestic and foreign policy. However, there is another influential part of the Russian elite that realizes leaving the Сouncil of Еurope would be a substantial blow to the national interest. (...) Under the Сouncil of Еurope, Russia has ratified and pledged to implement dozens of conventions that have a positive influence on processes taking place inside Russia. Russia’s permanent representative to the Council of Europe, Ivan Saltonovsky, stresses that the body 'is an extremely serious platform for dialogue with the participation of the Europeans, and an important part of our work on creating a single European legal and humanitarian space.'"

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"Russian Church Seeks to Ban Blessings of Weapons of Mass Destruction"

Eine von der russisch-orthodoxen Kirche eingesetzte Kommission hat sich für die Abschaffung der bisher üblichen Segnung von Massenvernichtungswaffen ausgesprochen. "The Russian Orthodox Church seeks to stop the practice of blessing weapons of mass destruction under rules that could be approved later this summer, a senior church official has said. Over the years, Russian priests have been called to bless everything from tanks and missiles to cats and metro cars. (...) 'Weapons of mass destruction and non-personal weapons in general should not be 'sanctified,'' said Bishop Savva of Zelenograd, a senior official at the Moscow Patriarchy, citing the practice of blessing missiles, tanks and other large-scale weapons. 'This is where the commission’s position is at odds with practices of recent years.' The bishop added that personal weapons could still be blessed because they are used by soldiers on military service 'for the protection of the Fatherland.'"

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"Russia Thwarts U.S. Cyber Attacks on Its Infrastructure — News Agencies"

Russische Behörden haben Berichten zufolge in den vergangenen Jahren immer wieder amerikanische Cyber-Angriffe auf kritische Infrastrukturen entdeckt und abgewehrt. "The disclosure was made on Russia's state-run RIA and TASS news agencies days after the New York Times cited unnamed government sources as saying that the United States had inserted potentially disruptive computer code into Russia's power grid as part of a more aggressive deployment of its cyber tools. (...) 'We see and note such attempts,' the Russian security source was quoted as saying in response to the report. 'However, we manage to neutralize these actions.' Foreign intelligence services have stepped up cyber attacks against Russia in recent years and are targeting mainly transport, banking and energy infrastructure, the source told TASS and RIA."

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"Moldova is the One Thing Russia and the West Agree On"

Die verworrene politische Situation in Moldawien erinnere an die Krise in Venezuela, schreibt Leonid Bershidsky. In einem der ärmsten Länder Europas konkurrierten derzeit zwei Regierungen um die Macht. Die Situation sei auch bemerkenswert, weil der Westen und Russland ähnliche Positionen vertreten. "The confluence of Russian and European interests, backed by the U.S., is almost incredible in the current geopolitical climate. It shows Russia doesn’t have to be the West’s adversary and a corruption exporter banking on chaos and decay in neighboring countries. Even though its ulterior motives are expressly not the same as those of Western countries, it’s equally interested in stability in its immediate neighborhood – and in making sure political forces sympathetic to it have some say in governing the region. (...) For now, though, it’s  important to prevent violence. Russia and the West must combine their efforts to force Plahotniuc to stand down. Europe doesn’t really need a Venezuela of its own."

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Innerstaatliche Konflikte

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