Archive for the ‘Back to the USSR…’ Category
The bear is loose!” President Obama has been saying, whenever he leaves the White House to visit Starbucks, or sandwich shops, or burger joints, or BBQ shacks, or neighborhood diners, in his increasingly rote and pathetic attempts to “connect” with “real people.” Obama, we have been told, is frustrated, “restless,” bored with the responsibilities and chores of office. He thinks of himself as the bear — intimidating, wild, untamed, roving — escaping his den. But he is flattering himself. Obama is not the bear. He is the cub: aimless, naïve, self-interested, self-indulgent, irresponsible, irresolute. The bear is in Moscow.
One can trace a line from any global hotspot to Russia and its authoritarian ruler. Iran? Russia has assisted its nuclear program for decades. Syria? Russia is Bashar Assad’s arms dealer. Iraq? Russia is sending men and materiel to the central government. Afghanistan? Putin muscled nearby Kyrgyzstan into closing our air base there, crucial for transport, resupply, and reconnaissance in the war against the Taliban. The contretemps between the United States and Germany is the result of Edward Snowden’s breach of national security. Where is Snowden? In Russia, where he has just asked to have his visa renewed. I wonder if Vladimir Putin will say yes.
Well, there is no getting around it now. “Obama contends with arc of instability unseen since ’70s,” says the Wall Street Journal. Militias and rogue generals in Libya, Hamas versus Israel, Hezbollah and Assad and Iran against Sunni rebels and the Caliphate, the prospect of an Iranian bomb, war in Ukraine, withdrawal from Afghanistan, China bullying its neighbors — such is the extent of global disorder today.
“It’s 3:00 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep,” Hillary Clinton’s campaign imagined in 2008. “But there’s a phone in the White House and it’s ringing.” Things are “happening” in a “dangerous” world. “Who do you want answering the phone?”
Today we know the answer: The phone isn’t ringing in the White House. It’s ringing in the Kremlin. And the man answering it is Vladimir Putin.
Russian security experts – if not the Kremlin – were coming to grips Friday with the likelihood that the Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down by an advanced air defense missile wielded by pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine‘s eastern Donetsk region.
If the allegations prove true, they warn the global outrage against Russia will be comparable to the white-hot fury that took hold after the USSR shot down Korean airliner KAL 007 in 1983 after mistaking it for a US spy plane.
A similar level of isolation and world-wide condemnation could be facing Russia now, they say, unless President Vladimir Putin takes decisive steps to demonstrate that the Kremlin wants to be a constructive actor amid Ukraine’s spiraling crisis.
The entire Middle East and a good deal of North Africa is in turmoil — Syria, Iraq and Libya are in combat. A ground war has begun in Israel. A commercial air carrier with 23 Americans on board crashes – possibly shot down – over Ukraine, which Russia has invaded and where it is using surrogates to claim more territory. The president says his team will get right on it, and it’s a “terrible tragedy.” He then gives his same old speech on infrastructure. (And they criticized George W. Bush for finishing reading a story to little children on Sept. 11, 2001.)
Even the president’s use of the term “tragedy” is misguided. This is not a natural disaster, a hurricane that blew through a town. This is the result of Russian aggression and the failure of the West to reverse Russian gains and push its stooges out of Ukraine.
Whether it is his secretary of state pleading for more time, our dithering in Iraq, our belated and insufficient action in Syria or our utter lack of credibility in Israel and Egypt, we see what leading from behind has gotten us. It’s a world more violent, unstable and unsafe. Retrench and bring our forces home? Keep cutting defense? It’s not working out.
2014: Obama’s America – where scandals now come so fast that each new mess makes us forget the previous one.
What keeps the country afloat this terrible summer?
Some American companies produce more gas and oil than ever despite, not because of, the Obama administration. Most Americans still get up every day, work hard, and pay more taxes than they receive in subsidies. American soldiers remain the most formidable in the world despite the confusion of their superiors. The law, regardless of the administration, is still followed by most. And most do not duck out on their daily responsibilities to golf, play pool, or go on junkets.
It is still a hard thing to derail America in a summer — but then again, we have a long way to go until fall.
Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer said Obama’s comment that “We live in a complex world” “may the understatement of the year”, and claimed the world may be more dangerous now than at the height of the Cold War.
Schieffer listed off crises around the world, quoting Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.), who recently said “I have never seen the world in more turmoil than it is today.”
“I don’t want to be overly dramatic here tonight, Scott,” Schieffer told CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley, “but I think that we are in a very dangerous time right now. Even more so, perhaps, than at the height of the Cold War with the Soviet Union. In those days we had a clearly identifiable enemy. We knew what they were up to. Now we seem to be immersed in a series of events that are totally out of control.”
Schieffer pointed out the futility of many of the Obama administration’s diplomatic efforts, remarking, “The Secretary of State is flying around almost nonstop from one crisis to another. So far he’s gotten them to audit, to re-audit the vote in Afghanistan, but otherwise not much is happening there. This is a very dangerous time.”
The light…it burns us…
In a report released this week, the ACLU analyzed more than 800 incident reports from 20 police agencies in 2011-12 and found that eight of 10 SWAT deployments were not to confront barricaded suspects or to negotiate the release of hostages but rather to serve search warrants, primarily in drug cases. Two-thirds of the deployments involved breaking down doors, and many included tossing flash-bang grenades and rousting occupants at gunpoint.
The ACLU study looked at a tiny fraction of police agencies, so its conclusions should be treated with caution. Still, the routine use of SWAT units to serve warrants has been documented elsewhere and constitutes a worrisome example of mission creep: If police departments have the units, they tend to use them, even in scenarios for which they were not initially envisioned. Militarized teams were deployed about 3,000 times a year in the 1980s; by the mid-2000s, annual deployments reached 45,000.
This militarization of civilian police forces has come with little public debate or oversight. And it is fueled by the federal government, which distributes excess military equipment — including hundreds of “mine resistant ambush protected” vehicles, or MRAPs — in some cases with the proviso that the equipment must be deployed within one year. Law enforcement agencies might consider the LAPD’s history before heading further down this path. Having pioneered SWAT, the LAPD then inflamed community opposition by arming the unit with a battering ram. Angry residents demanded an end, and the battering rams eventually were mothballed.
As the debate over how to regulate fracking — and whether to permit the process at all — rages in the U.S. and Europe, there are powerful interests that can benefit from blocking its expansion, namely, existing oil and gas producers, such as the Gulf States and Russia.
The FT reports:
Russian intelligence agencies are covertly funding and working with European environmental groups to campaign against fracking and maintain EU dependence on Russian gas, the head of Nato has claimed.
“The potential for Russia using energy supplies as a means of putting pressure on European nations is a matter of concern. No country should use supply and pricing terms as tools of coercion,” they said. “We share a concern by some allies that Russia could try to obstruct possible projects on shale gas exploration in Europe in order to maintain Europe’s reliance on Russian gas.”
“Ex-KGB Major Boris Karpichko says that spies from Russia’s SVR intelligence service, posing as diplomats in Hong Kong, convinced Snowden to fly to Moscow last June. ‘It was a trick and he fell for it,’ Karpichko, who reached the rank of Major as a member of the KGB’s prestigious Second Directorate while specializing in counter-intelligence, told Nelson. ‘Now the Russians are extracting all the intelligence he possesses.'”
Like Hitler entering the demilitarized Rhineland, Putin took a major risk entering Ukraine. And again like Hitler taking the Rhineland, Putin was met with no real opposition from the international community, just diplomatic notes and words of chastisement of little value to the Russian Prime Minister. But many took note when the day after Putin announced the annexation of Crimea, the Russian leader voiced concerns over the treatment of the Russian population in Estonia, foreshadowing the next potential next target in his grab for power.
And while the world is distracted by what Russia is doing on its Western Borders, we ought to look with concern at the growing friendship it is forming to the East. A friendship that has blossomed on the foundation of economic and military cooperation, including a recent multi-billion dollar natural gas deal, cemented with a mutual desire for expansion and an unabashed distaste for America as the world leader.
China’s path over the last two decades is remarkably similar to Russia’s. It has grown from a third world nation, isolated from the wealth of free markets, to a capitalist-totalitarian hybrid, with a booming economy, quickly advancing military capability, strong media censorship and a poor human rights record. The Tiger looks east for its conquests; full control of Taiwan, the East China Sea, and the South China Sea are that nation’s near term goals. And like Russia, when Chinese leadership believes that there will be little or no consequences for its actions it will act. China will continue its slow progression of forcing Filipino, Vietnamese and Japanese vessels out of the maritime areas under dispute, and will continue the buildup of forces in the Taiwan Strait until they believe an international intervention would be untenable; then they will annex Taiwan, sooner than we may think, and it won’t stop there.
Russian President Vladimir Putin trained his pugnacious rhetoric on President Barack Obama on Friday, answering an allegation that he has lied about Ukraine with the jab: “Who is he to judge?”
In an extensive interview with CNBC at an economic conference in St. Petersburg, the Russian leader insisted that he hopes for a peaceful outcome to the crisis in Ukraine and will support the presidential election there on Sunday.
He flashed anger when he was asked about the American president’s claim that he has lied about Russia’s role in stoking conflict in Ukraine.
“Who is he to judge?” Putin said, according to an interpreter. “Who is he to judge, seriously? If he wants to judge people, why doesn’t he get a job in court somewhere?”