Friday, March 21, 2014

Putin's Rise To Power. Abbas Says No To 3 Core Peace Issues

On his trip to Washington this week, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas rejected US Secretary of State John Kerry’s framework document for continued peace talks with Israel, and issued “three no’s” on core issues, leaving the negotiations heading for an explosive collapse, an Israeli TV report said Friday.

Abbas “went to the White House and said ‘no’ to Obama,” Channel 2 news reported, quoting unnamed American and Israeli sources.

 Specifically, the report said, Abbas rejected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s demand that he recognize Israel as a Jewish state. He also refused to abandon the Palestinian demand for a “right of return” for millions of Palestinians and their descendants — a demand that, if implemented, would drastically alter Israel’s demographic balance and which no conceivable Israeli government would accept. And finally, he refused to commit to an “end of conflict,” under which a peace deal would represent the termination of any further Palestinian demands of Israel.

Israel has indicated that it may not release a fourth and final group of Palestinian prisoners at the end of this month, as agreed to when the current talks began last July, if Abbas does not first agree to extend the talks beyond their scheduled cessation next month. Since Abbas rejected the Kerry framework for extending the talks, the TV report said, the negotiations were now heading for an “explosion.”

Abbas returned on Thursday from the US, having held talks with Obama on Monday, and was met at his Ramallah compound by hundreds of cheering supporters.
“We carried the deposit, and we are guarding the deposit,” Abbas told those supporters somewhat cryptically. “You know all the conditions and circumstances, and I say to you that capitulating is not a possibility.” Abbas did not specify what he meant by the “deposit.”

Think of this as a successful plan … redeployed. After the Euromaidan protests overthrew the Viktor Yanukovich government, Crimea suddenly filled up with military forces without insignias that began seizing buildings, roads, and eventually the entire peninsula. The Daily Beast’s Eli Lake reports that US intel has seen Russian special forces and mercenaries infiltrating eastern Ukraine as well as Crimea, and expect more trouble for Kyiv soon:

Russia’s activities in Crimea have been widely described in the west as an invasion. But while some Russian military forces did cross into Ukrainian territory,  the Moscow government still claims that all of its military forces in Crimea are abiding by the terms of its agreement with Ukraine.
This, U.S. officials believe, is because Russia is invading Ukraine with its Spetsnaz — the special operations units and battalions attached to both the military and the country’s intelligence agencies.
U.S. intelligence officials now say Russia’s Spetsnaz  are expanding into eastern and southern Ukraine, as well. The intelligence report from February assessed that Russian provocateurs would look to instigate low-level street brawls or “skirmishes” in eastern and southern Ukraine. The report also  predicted that Russia’s shadow warriors would seek to pay off Ukrainians to attend pro-Russian rallies and in general fan the flames of separatism. And since then, eyewitnesses say, that’s exactly what’s happened.
One U.S. official said the U.S. military intelligence analysts suspect elements of the 45th Spetsnaz regiment of Russia’s military intelligence service known as the GRU were conducting the provocations in Ukraine.
“This is the use of deniable special operators under GRU control to create provocations and really these are quasi-deniable operations,” added John Schindler, a retired NSA counter-intelligence officer and specialist in Russian affairs who now teaches at the U.S. Naval War College.

The intel community warned in late February of an infiltration strategy being deployed, even if they did send mixed signals on their analysis of Russian intent. That doesn’t mean, though, that Russia will rely only on those forces. Their force build-up on the border is “large, and getting larger,” CBS News reported last night after troop movements within Russia looked as though it would double those forces. Russia claims these are only “exercises,” but gave “no firm timetable” on the exercise’s conclusion (via Freedom’s Lighthouse):

These two developments go hand in hand with each other. The purpose of infiltration and sabotage is to provoke a reaction from the Kyiv government in the heavily ethnic-Russian regions, or failing that, to create as much anarchy and chaos as possible. Russian then would claim the need to restore order and protect the Russian-speaking communities in the east, the same pretext for their intervention and seizure of Crimea. It would not be long before the Donetsk and Kharkiv regions would then declare enough autonomy to hold their own plebescites for independence and absorption into the Russian federation.

Who is Vladimir Putin, and what does he really want? Why exactly has he suddenly sent tens of thousands of heavily armed Russian troops into Crimea? Why did he invade Georgia in 2008? Why is he selling arms to bloodthirsty regimes like that of Bashar Assad in Syria? And why is selling both advanced arms and nuclear technology to a rogue terrorist state like Iran?
In the face of such questions, President Obama looks disoriented and confused. He and his national-security team have been painfully slow to understand the Putin threat. They’re now scrambling to develop a coherent and convincing policy to contain Putin, much less have a chance at rolling him back.
The American people now see Putin as a real and growing threat, and not just to the former Soviet republics but to the national security of the United States and our allies, including Israel.

In 2000, three Russian journalists — Nataliya Gevorkyan, Natalya Timakova, and Andrei Kolesnikov — published First Person, which may prove to be one of the most important books ever written about Putin. It is useful not because the journalists offered their own ­insights or analysis into Putin, but because they simply let Putin speak for himself. They interviewed the Russian leader six separate times, each time for about four hours. The book is merely a transcript, and when it comes to understanding Putin’s ambitions and approach, it is a gold mine of intelligence.
 Putin on his mission in life: “My historical mission,” he insisted, is to stop “the collapse of the USSR” (p. 139).  To do this, he vowed to “consolidate the armed forces, the Interior Ministry, and the FSB [the successor to the KGB, the secret police of the Soviet Union]” (p. 140). “If I can help save Russia from collapse, then I’ll have something to be proud of” (p. 204).
 On his style: “Everyone says I’m harsh, even brutal,” Putin acknowledged, without ever disputing such observations. “A dog senses when somebody is afraid of it, and bites,” he observed. “The same applies [to dealing with one’s enemies]. If you become jittery, they will think they are stronger. Only one thing works in such circumstances—to go on the offensive. You must hit first, and hit so hard that your opponent will not rise to his feet” (p. 168).
 On the czars: “From the very beginning, Russia was created as a super-centralized state. That’s practically laid down in its genetic code, its traditions, and the mentality of its people,” said Putin, adding, “In certain periods of time . . . in a certain place . . . under certain conditions . . . monarchy has played and continues to this day to play a positive role. . . . The monarch doesn’t have to worry about whether or not he will be elected, or about petty political interests, or about how to influence the electorate. He can think about the destiny of the people and not become distracted with trivialities” (p. 186).
 On his choice of history’s most interesting political leader: “Napoleon Bonaparte” (p. 194).
 On his rise from spy to president: “In the Kremlin, I have a different position. Nobody controls me here. I control everybody else” (p. 131).
 On his critics: “to hell with them” (p. 140).
Who is Vladmir Putin? The evidence suggests he sees himself not so much as Russia’s president but as a new czar for a new age. He is determined to expand Russian territory by taking back what was lost when the Soviet Union imploded and restoring the glory of Mother Russia. Sensing weakness in Mr. Obama, he is ready to “go on the offensive” and “hit first, and hit so hard” that his opponent “will not rise to his feet.”  
This is precisely why Putin is so dangerous. Hillary Clinton recently compared the Russian leader’s tactics to those of Adolf Hitler. In some ways, she is correct. Putin is not building concentration camps, but he is hungry for power and territory and he doesn’t see a single leader in Europe or in Washington who has the courage to stop him. He is testing, probing, and finding no serious opposition.
If he is not stopped, the question is not whether Vladimir Putin will hit another opponent and seize more territory. The question simply is: When?

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