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Hometown: Xenia, OH
Member since: Tue Sep 19, 2006, 04:46 PM
Number of posts: 19,091

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Nato defence spending falls

Despite the Ukraine crisis and increasing tensions with Russia, most Nato members are doing little to reverse the decline in their defence spending. Nato has already set a target that member states should each spend a minimum of 2% of their national wealth or GDP on defence. In 2015 only one of the 14 nations examined, Estonia, will meet the 2% target.

New research by Ian Kearns and Denitsa Raynova of the European Leadership Network (ELN) found that six countries, including two of the biggest defence spenders in Europe, the UK and Germany, will cut defence expenditure in 2015. Defence spending in France, the other big spender in Europe, will remain static.

Contrast that with Russia's defence spending, which is rising from 3.4% of its GDP this year to 4.2% next year ($81bn or £52.2bn). Russia is also stepping up its military activity.

A separate report by Ian Brzezinski for the Atlantic Council says there is also an "exercise gap" between Russia and Nato. Since 2013 Russia has conducted at least six military exercises involving 65,000-160,000 troops.


"Putin appears to fear that the Maidan’s successes in Ukraine could mobilize Russia’s opposition."

Since the revolution in Kyiv, the Kremlin has sharpened its campaign against domestic dissent.

The turning point in the Kremlin’s view of NATO and the EU—and the turning point in Putin’s foreign policy in general—came in December 2011, as tens of thousands of Russians took to the streets to demand clean elections and an end to Putin’s autocratic rule. This was the first serious threat to Putin’s hold on power, and he took it personally. The protests shifted the balance of power in the Kremlin toward more conservative forces, and led Putin to redefine his definition of the Kremlin’s security interests. Now, Putin realized, his greatest threat was not foreign powers, it was the middle class Russians who took to Moscow streets demanding political change.

Putin does not seriously fear a nuclear strike or a military invasion. Instead, Moscow opposes NATO expansion for the same reason it opposes EU enlargement: it knows that membership in NATO and the EU helps facilitate the establishment of stable, Western-style democracies. Such an outcome in Ukraine would encourage similar efforts in other post-Soviet states, reducing Russian influence. More worrisome to the Kremlin, it would provide a dangerous model for opposition movements within Russia itself.

Yet the most important strategy for staving off a Maidan in Moscow is to prove that political opposition in general—and ‘Western-style’ democracy in particular—leads to chaos. The Kremlin has used Ukraine to prove this point. Russian state-run TV portrays the Maidan protests as a Nazi takeover, and continues to claim that Ukraine is being overrun by fascists. When far-right presidential candidate Dmytro Yarosh won 1% of the vote in recent presidential elections, Russian TV reported polls suggesting he won 37%, underscoring the argument that protests feed radicalism.

But it is important to separate cause from effect. Putin’s media machine repeatedly argues that political opposition causes chaos, yet it is Russia that most aggressively stoked chaos in Ukraine -- from the annexation of Crimea, to the arrival of Chechen fighters in Donetsk, to Russians who have repeatedly destabilized Ukraine. Some see this as evidence that Moscow is willing to risk chaos in order to defend its core interests. The reality is that controlled chaos—which discredits Kyiv’s new government—suits the Kremlin perfectly. Without regular video footage of militants and explosions on the nightly news, it would be far harder for state TV to explain why the Maidan was so dangerous in the first place.


Europe’s far right still loves Putin (particularly the French verson)

Head of the French far-right Front National (FN) party, Marine Le Pen gives a press conference at the FN headquarters in Nanterre on Feb. 6, 2015.

Her popularity is a mark both of increasing French frustration with the political status quo as well as of Le Pen's own efforts to bring her notoriously xenophobic (some would say neo-fascist) party closer to the French mainstream. Yet there are many contexts where Le Pen remains at odds with Europe's liberal consensus. One glaring case in point has to do with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Speaking to a Polish radio station this week, Le Pen took Putin's side in the conflict, hailing Russia as "a natural ally of Europe." She said Moscow's annexation of Crimea last March ought to be recognized by European governments, stressing that the interim government in Kiev at the time "was illegal." She trotted out the Kremlin's talking points on the nature of the revolt that ousted Ukraine's pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych last year, branding the movement as one organized by "Neo-Nazi militants."

Never mind the irony of a far-right European politician warning against neo-Nazism. Le Pen repeated claims she has made for almost a year now that Europe, when it comes to Ukraine, is behaving "like American lackeys." Le Pen sounded the gong again earlier this month: "The aim of the Americans is to start a war in Europe to push NATO to the Russian border," she said.

As WorldViews noted last year, Le Pen is hardly alone in her admiration for Russia under Putin. A whole range of right-wing and ultra-nationalist European politicians share her affection for the Russian leader, whose religious nationalism, conservative values and stated discomfort with the U.S.-authored geopolitical order all appeal to their own brand of politics. ... "It’s beyond irony," a senior figure in the European commission in Brussels tells the Guardian. "You can hear Putin say he had to act in Ukraine to stop fascism, while he’s financing fascists right, left, and centre all over Europe."


Obama's take on trade and immigration is reflected in his old "clinging to guns and religion"

speech in 2008.

You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.


He got a lot of flack for this at the time but it seems to be an accurate reflection of his long term attitudes.

"Access to TPP texts is limited to members of Congress ..."

I did not realize that all members of congress had access to it now. I thought they wouldn't be able to see what was in it until after negotiations were completed and it was submitted to congress.

Russian Military Units Linked to Ukraine Hide Casualty Data

More than a dozen Russian military units linked by media reports to the fighting in eastern Ukraine have refused to disclose their casualty figures for 2013-14, while one that provided the data showed a rise in soldier deaths from zero to six, a news report said Thursday.

The St. Petersburg branch of the Soldiers' Mothers Committee — an organization that defends conscripts' rights — sent requests to military units that soldiers' families and media reports had identified as suffering losses last year, including in eastern Ukraine, the Vedomosti business daily reported Thursday, citing the group's spokesman Alexander Peredruk.

A total of 17 units have responded so far — with all but one with refusing to disclose their casualty data, the report said. The one unit that provided information said it had lost six soldiers since July 2014 compared to no casualties a year earlier, according to Vedomosti. The report did not identify the unit nor specify how many soldiers it comprised.

The military units cited various reasons for their refusal to provide casualty data to the Soldiers' Mothers Committee, from saying the information constituted a state secret, to directing inquiries to higher military command, Vedomosti reported.


Everyone who disagrees with you is not an 'uncritical Obama fan' or thinks that he is 'wonderful'.

And please, uncritical Obama fans, stop saying this will improve labor conditions. That is not going to happen.
A simple (and simplistic) "Obama is wonderful and would never ever champion anything bad and eleventy dimensional chess" would be more appropriate, really.

I suspect that each and every poster who disagrees with you is not an "uncritical Obama fan" or does not believe that he "is wonderful and would never ever champion anything bad and eleventy dimensional chess".

Some may want labor and environmental standards in our trading rules and hope Obama is the best chance to achieve this. Some may believe that to the way to improve international trading rules (and improve the flaws in previous deals) is through international negotiations and agreements. Otherwise how do improved rules get into trade?

Some may be believe that there are good trade agreements, and bad ones (that they are not all bad by definition), and will be disappointed if Obama delivers a bad one, but refuse to be paralyzed into inaction by fear of another mistake.

It is common sense to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.


In Moscow "Titushky" attack the antiwar rally

In the Moscow metro, "Tretyakov" activists pro-Putin movement (the so-called "Titushky") attacked the antiwar rally "Solidarity" movement. The attackers threw feces at picketers.

Activist "Solidarity" Michael Krieger detained one of the attackers. The police then took away two "titushek" in ATS "Zamoskvorechye". Krieger went there to file a complaint, but he was arrested and charged with "hooliganism". Michael Krieger was fined in the amount of 500 rubles and released, according to the ATS-info .

On the eve of the protests pro-government activists wrote to the prosecutor denouncing protesters from the "Solidarity". They demanded the prosecutor institute criminal proceedings "of insulting a public official." The statement said that if the police did not "take measures to prevent the anti-Russian rally," they "will have to do to take adequate measures."

"Solidarity" pickets against the war in Ukraine are held in Moscow on a weekly basis. Their members are exposed to attacks by pro-Kremlin activists organized.


"Not left vs right" anymore but "established, integrationist politics vs isolationist, nationalists"

Forget left and right: Europe’s divisions lie elsewhere

For those who want a happy ending or an easy moral to the story, the election of a new Greek government last month poses some interesting quandaries. Progressives of various kinds at first hailed what appeared to be a victory for the radical left-wing party Syriza, but they were caught off guard when Syriza instantly struck a coalition deal with the Independent Greeks, a radical right-wing party that Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a legendary European leftist, bluntly described as “ultranationalist” with a “homophobic, anti-Semitic, racist” leader.

Many of those who rooted for Syriza because of its campaign against the budget-cutting “austerity” program imposed on Greece by its creditors were also taken aback when other, more urgent priorities appeared on the new leaders’ agenda. Both parties turn out to have close connections to the authoritarian Russian government, and both have curious links to a notorious Russian fascist ideologue, Alexander Dugin, who among other things has called for a “genocide” of the “race of Ukrainian bastards.” Accordingly, the new Greek government’s first foreign policy act was not a protest against European economic policy but a protest against sanctions on Russia. Only then did it launch negotiations with its European creditors by announcing that it would refuse to negotiate with its European creditors.

The most important division in Europe is not right vs. left. Nor is the main issue even “austerity” vs. “anti-austerity.” Some of the countries hit hardest by the 2009 financial crisis have pursued “austerity” with great success. Ireland has restructured and is once again growing. Latvia found ways to cut government spending without cutting pensions and is growing at one of the fastest rates in Europe.

The real division in Europe is between what I would call established, integrationist politics and isolationist, nationalist politics. It was visible last year in Britain, during the Scottish independence referendum. The Scottish Nationalists were unlike Syriza in many, many ways, but they were using similar language of “national renewal,” and they were calling for a similar reassertion of national control: Control over the economy, over political decisions, over borders. Syriza gets along well with the Greek far right because, in essence, both want to reassert national control. Perhaps the right would prefer a higher emphasis on immigration, but it shares Syriza’s furious hatred of the “troika” that control the bailout fund which has been extended to Greece — the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund.


Between the Charlie Hebdo attack and the ""established, integrationist politics vs isolationist, nationalists", I think things look very good for the National Front in the coming election.

Moscow Times: 5 Heavy Weapons in Ukraine's Rebel War That May Have Come From Russia

This equipment includes modern Russian military hardware that was not held in Ukrainian arsenals, and which the rebels could therefore not have stolen or bought from the Ukrainian military. Some of this Russian hardware is also currently unavailable on the export market.

1) T-72 Main Battle Tank

Russia's most famous battle tank, the T-72, (see picture above) has been constantly upgraded since going into production in the 1970s. Though many military allies of the Soviet Union manufactured the tanks, a video made by eastern Ukrainian separatists appears to show a version with more modern upgrades in use with the Russian army, likely the T-72B3 model.

The T-73B3 only recently started rolling off production lines and into service with the Russian army. This latest model is not known to have been exported outside of Russia yet.

2) BMP-2 Infantry Fighting Vehicle

Australia's ARES has identified the BMP-2AM, a post-Soviet variant produced in Russia, as being in use among the separatists. While Ukraine does possess a variety of BMPs, Russia never sold the updated BMP-2AM model to Kiev.

3) SA-11 Buk Air Defense System

4) BM-21 Grad Missile Launcher

5) 259 Nona Self-Propelled Artillery

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