Monday, December 1, 2014

Rumors Of War: Preparing For War Against The U.S. On All Fronts - A Net Assessment Of Russia's Defense And Foreign Policy

Preparing For War Against The U.S. On All Fronts - A Net Assessment Of Russia's Defense And Foreign Policy Since The Start Of 2014

In a series of recently published interviews, President Vladimir Putin (, October 15), Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (Interfax, October 15) and national security council secretary Nikolai Patrushev (Rossiyskaya Gazeta, October 15) have outlined Moscow’s strategic vision of the world after the Ukrainian crisis, Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the Moscow-inspired proxy war in the southeastern Donbas region of Ukraine, and resulting punitive sanctions imposed by the West. The view from Moscow is uninviting—A new cold war with the West is in the making; Russia is under attack and will use all means at its disposal to resist, including the nuclear option. Putin accused Washington of deliberately provoking the Ukraine crisis by supporting extreme nationalists in Kyiv, which in turn ignited a civil war. “Now they [the United States] accuse us of causing this crisis,” exclaimed Putin, “It is madness to blackmail Russia; let them remember, a discord between major nuclear powers may undermine strategic stability” (, October 15).

Under mounting Western pressure this year, Russian leaders have been repeatedly and unambiguously reminding the West of the ultimate weapon at Moscow’s disposal—nuclear mutual assured destruction. 

The Russian military is also rearming and conducting massive exercises, preparing for a possible global war. The consensus view in Moscow within the political, military and intelligence community is that relations with the United States are beyond repair and, quoting Medvedev, there is no possibility of any new US-Russian “reset.” Moscow has come to believe that there is no possibility of any genuine d├ętente with Washington until 2020 at the earliest.

Indeed, National Security Council Secretary Patrushev’s interview in the official government-published Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper has the title: “Second Cold War.” Patrushev openly describes the US as Russia’s eternal foe and accuses Washington of planning for many decades to fully isolate Moscow and deprive it of any influence in its former dominions in the post-Soviet space. Patrushev announced (which seems to be an officially held policy opinion) that the US is today fulfilling a strategic plan to marginalize and destroy Russia—a strategy that he says was initiated in the 1970s by Zbigniew Brzezinski, the then–United States National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter.

The US is now seen in Moscow as irredeemable and determined to destroy Russia, which must resist by reinforcing and rearming its military, investing in technological independence (the so-called import replacement or “importozamescheniye”), and by building a world-wide anti-US alliance. 

To that effect, over the past year, Moscow has been strengthening its ties with Beijing. In particular, Russia has been opening itself up to Chinese investment, seeking much needed hard currency liquidity in the Chinese banking system, as well as looking for Chinese technologies (including civilian, double-use and maybe eventually military) to replace those technologies, materials, components and investments that are not forthcoming from the West because of punitive sanctions. 

Patrushev, in his interview, confirmed that Russian strategic planners see in the future a divided multipolar world with increasingly scarce natural resources (oil, gas, food, clear water) where Russia could dominate resource-poor Europe (see EDM, October 9). Moreover, Washington is believed to have deliberately provoked the Ukrainian crisis to reinforce the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and blackmail its allies into full submission. As Patrushev argues, Russia, in turn, must build alliances with non-European emerging powers like China, while working to undermine the Transatlantic link to liberate Europeans from US domination.

Therefore, the Kremlin is preparing to fight the United States on all possible fronts to push back US attempts to “contain” Russia. In line with the plans reiterated this year, additional Russian forces will be deployed in the Arctic to fend off a possible US assault. Moreover, dozens of Cold War–era military bases and airfields will be reinvigorated across the whole of the Russian Arctic; troops will be deployed together with bombers and MiG-31 interceptors. In addition, new or reinforced military garrisons will be deployed in Crimea, Belarus and Kyrgyzstan (Rossiyskaya Gazeta, October 15).

During all of 2014, Russia’s rulers and most of the population seem to have been living together in a daydream. Consequently, Russian defense and foreign policy plans as well as the country’s decision making apparatus have, for months, been based on little more than strange fantasies and outlandish assumptions. Yet, these fantasies are backed up by a formidable military machine, billions of petrodollars and a nuclear superpower arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. And this is a truly dangerous mix.

OPEC’s decision not to cut production to shore up oil prices drove down the price of oil even further in a strong challenge to American shale oil producers – or, in less delicate language, the start of an all-or-nothing price war.

The immediate result of OPEC’s decision was a further drop in the price of the world’s leading benchmark oil, Brent crude, which lost $6.50 per barrel, falling to $71.25 on Nov. 27, its worst performance in a single day since 2011. Brent soon had a weak rally, raising its value to $72.55.
The price of oil has now dropped by nearly 40 percent since mid-June.
But expect Brent and other crudes to fall again, says Igor Sechin, the CEO of Russia’s government-owned oil company Rosneft. He said the average price of oil could go below $60 per barrel during the first two quarters of 2015.
But US oil companies may be the most vulnerable, according to Leonid Fedun, a board member at Russia’s Lukoil. He told Bloomberg News that even at the current price of slightly over $70 per barrel, smaller companies involved shale extraction are beginning to feel the financial pinch.
As oil prices continue to fall, Fedun predicted, so will the smaller companies. “The [US] shale boom is on a par with the dot-com boom,” he said. “The strong players will remain, the weak ones will vanish.”

Fed up with what he views as American procrastination, Israeli intransigence, and Hamas duplicity, Mahmoud Abbas has decided to go it alone.

The PA president stood before members of the Arab League in Cairo on Saturday to deliver a seminal speech of disillusionment. He outlined his plan for a series of unilateral moves in the coming weeks: joining international treaties; applying the precepts of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the Palestinian territories, purportedly banning settlement activity under international laws of occupation; acquiring a UN Security Council resolution recognizing “Palestine” on the 1967 borders and prescribing a timetable for Israel’s withdrawal; and, finally, asking UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for a “comprehensive vision on the international protection of the Palestinian people.”

In a dramatic shift in policy, Abbas said he would “define relations with Israel, including stopping security coordination,” coordination he dubbed “sacred” in May and said he would uphold regardless of the outcome of negotiations. He then asked the Arab states for both political support and financial backing for his scheme, in the form of $100 million.

Palestinians are headed for the Security Council, with or without America’s blessing, Abbas asserted in his speech. The US, like other Western states, is welcome to participate in drafting the UN Security Council appeal, he stressed. “We do not want to exclude anyone, and don’t want anyone outside the fold, especially not the US,” he said.
“We can wait no longer; the status quo is untenable,” he added.
“We no longer have a partner in Israel, and have no choice but to internationalize the Palestinian issue through the plan we’ve agreed upon,” Abbas said, fully articulating for the first time his exasperation with Israel and with the ineffective American mediation. “I am confident that we will win your support, and I request … a safety net of $100 million, which we’ve discussed before, in order to strengthen the steadfastness of our people on the land of the occupied Palestinian state in the West Bank, Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.”

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