Saturday, December 27, 2014

Russia To Counteract NATO In Black Sea, Iran Launches Major Naval Drill

Wars and rumors of war:

Moscow is being forced to come up with countermeasures in response to NATO's increased presence in the Black Sea, Russia’s envoy to the alliance said following an announcement on the arrival of another US warship in the area.
“Unfortunately, the Black Sea is becoming a place where non-regional powers have a permanent presence. What they are doing there is unclear,” Aleksandr Grushko said.
“Of course, we will take the necessary countermeasures,” he continued.
Grushko also criticized the North Atlantic Alliance for stationing high alert forces near Russia's borders by holding frequent military drills with counties including Poland and the Baltic states.
Russia’s new military doctrine, adopted on December 26, stresses that the country’s army remains a defensive tool, but lists NATO's military buildup and the United States' Prompt Global Strike concept as main security threats.

The USS Donald Cook is scheduled to boost NATO's fleet in the Black Sea on Friday.
“Donald Cook's presence in the Black Sea is meant to reassure and at the same time demonstrate our commitment to work closely with NATO allies in order to enhance maritime security," Cmdr. Charles Hampton, the ship's commanding officer, said in a statement.
This is the second time the USS Donald Cook has entered the Black Sea since the start of the Ukraine crisis which began in spring 2014.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer was previously stationed in the area in April.

NATO sent additional ships to the Black Sea after Russia’s reunification with the Republic of Crimea in March.
The USS Vella Gulf, USS Ross, USS Truxton, and the USS Taylor – as well as warships from other NATO member states – were spotted in the area.
In July, NATO deployed a total of nine vessels to the Back Sea, setting a record in the post-Soviet period.
Despite the Montreux Convention of 1936 allowing warships of non-Black Sea states to stay in the area for no more than 21 days, the alliance has managed to secure its presence by constantly rotating vessels.

The Iranian army on Thursday began a massive military drill sprawling from the farthest eastern expanses of the Islamic regime all the way to its southern maritime borders opposite the principality of Oman, in the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Aden.

A full 13,000 Iranian soldiers are taking part in the six-day drill, and it reportedly marks the first time the Iranian navy is conducting a drill so far offshore. In the drill, domestically produced missile systems and drones will also be tested.

Iranian General Abed Al-Rahim Musawi, who is responsible for managing the military drill, said in an interview on Iranian television that one of the goals of the maneuver is to improve the capabilities of defending the state.

Meanwhile an Iranian naval commander called on foreign forces to leave the naval territories used in the drill during the time it takes place, noting that there will be no danger to foreign forces stationed in the Persian Gulf.

Iran has shown a major push in recent years to develop its military capabilities, and in particular its navy, missile systems, drones and cyber warfare abilities. It has likewise threatened Israel with annihilation, while developing a nuclear program capable of producing nuclear weapons

When Slava Rabinovich left the Soviet Union in 1987, 70 years of “planned economy” financial gridlock had made basic goods scarce and opportunities for an ambitious 21-year-old even scarcer. Although Gorbachev’s perestroika had started in January 1987 and sought to introduce gradual reform, daily life was an obstacle course with hours spent waiting in lines to purchase basic necessities.

As the country lifted restraints on free speech, nationalist forces — including vocally anti-Semitic ones — were unleashed. As Rabinovich packed his bags, he, like many Russian Jews, knew that whatever the future held in the United States, he was going to be more secure there than in Leningrad.

He came back to Russia in 1996. A freshly minted NYU Stern MBA, he was recruited by Hermitage Capital Management, a Russia-focused investment fund. Today he runs his own fund out of Moscow and in the last six months has acquired a near-celebrity status. But not as an investment banker.

The banker-turned-media personality spoke to the Times of Israel from Moscow via Skype in a conversation that clarifies his political persuasions, his forecast for the failing federation and his worst-case scenario for Russia.

After Russia occupied Crimea in February 2014 and started encroaching into eastern Ukraine by proxy, the United States and the European Union introduced economic sanctions against the regime of President Vladimir Putin.
They hit hard.
In late July Rabinovich started writing about the potential impact of sanctions on the Russian economy and as Russia’s investment rating plunged, his Facebook popularity skyrocketed, going from 500 friends to over 40,000 followers by mid-December 2014.
On Facebook, Rabinovich explains what is happening in the financial markets in witty, often profane language. While most of his status updates are economic analysis presented in layman’s terms, many are political.

His main claim – and a recurrent topic of his Facebook updates – is that international sanctions and its primary result, lost investor confidence, are progressively isolating the country from global financial markets, making Russian capital and assets toxic for investors.

Rabinovich says Putin and his advisers are driving the country toward a catastrophe. If the Kremlin keeps it up, says Rabinovich, Russia will experience a total economic collapse within months.

Russian economy is almost entirely dependent on imports — and on high prices for oil, its main export. Falling oil prices, international sanctions and Russia’s counter-sanctions, including import bans, have made the Russian ruble tumble.
A year ago, 32 Russian rubles could buy one US dollar. On December 17, 2014, the rate was as high as 68 rubles to the dollar.
Russians have lost more than half of their disposable income since the beginning of the year. While many didn’t believe the sanctions and the resulting economic downturn would impact them, signs of crisis are now hard to ignore.

As their anti-Western rhetoric and policies erode investor trust, Russia slides into Soviet-style isolation. Yet Russia’s economy today is so closely linked with the global markets that isolation will mean total economic meltdown.

Two weeks ago, as the S&P was preparing to surge on the latest round of all time high market-goosing algo trickery by the FOMC, 60 prominent German personalities from the realms of politics, economics, culture and the media were less concerned with blinking red and green stock quotes and were focused on something far more serious to the future of the world: the threat of war with Russia.
In a letter published by Germany's Die Zeit, numerous famous and respected Germans including a former president and former prime minister write "Wieder Krieg in Europa? Nicht in unserem Namen!", or, roughly translated, "War in Europe Again? Not in Our Names!"

The open letter to the German government, parliament, and media, excerpted here, was signed by more than 60 prominent German personalities and published in the weekly Die Zeit on Dec. 5. The initiators were Horst Teltschik (CDU), advisor to then-Chancellor Helmut Kohl at the time German of reunification; Walther Stützle (SPD), former Secretary of State for the Ministry of Defense; and Antje Vollmer (Greens), former Bundestag Vice President. Teltschik said, in motivating the appeal, “We are giving a political signal that the justified criticism of Russia’s Ukraine policy should not wipe out all the progress that we have made in the past 25 years in relations with Russia.”
Below is an excerpted translation (source) of the original letter found here.
Nobody wants war. But North America, the European Union, and Russia are inevitably driving towards war if they do not finally halt the disastrous spiral of threats and counter-threats. All Europeans, including Russia, are jointly responsible for peace and security. Only those who do not lose sight of this goal can avoid fatal actions.
The Ukraine conflict shows that the quest for power and domination has not been overcome. In 1990, at the end of the Cold War, we all hoped that it would be. But the success of the détente policy and the peaceful revolutions allowed people to become lethargic and careless. In both East and West. The Americans, Europeans, and Russians all lost, as their guiding principle, the idea of permanently banishing war from their relationship. Otherwise it is impossible to explain either the West’s eastward expansion without simultaneously deepening cooperation with Moscow—a policy which Russia sees as a threat—or Putin’s annexation of Crimea in violation of international law.

We must also not push Russia out of Europe....  Since the Congress of Vienna in 1814, Russia has been a recognized global player in Europe. All who have tried to change that have failed violently, the last being the megalomaniacal Germany of Hitler, which set out in 1941 to murderously subjugate Russia.
We call upon the members of the German Bundestag, delegated by the people as their political representatives, to deal appropriately with the seriousness of the situation. . . . Whoever is constructing a bogeyman, putting the blame on only one side, is exacerbating tensions, when the signals should be for de-escalation.
We appeal to the media, to more scrupulously adhere to their obligation to provide unbiased reporting than they have hitherto done. Editorialists and leading commentators are demonizing entire nations, without fully taking their histories into account. Any journalist experienced in foreign affairs would understand the Russians’ fear, since members of NATO in 2008 invited Georgia and Ukraine to join the Alliance. It is not about Putin. Heads of state come and go. What is at stake is Europe.

On October 3, 1990, the Day of German Reunification, Federal President Richard von Weizäcker said: “The Cold War has been overcome, and freedom and democracy will soon be in place in all countries. . . . This is a challenge. We can achieve it, but we can also fail. We are facing the clear alternative to unite Europe or fall back again into painful historical examples of nationalist conflicts in Europe.”
Until the Ukraine conflict, we here in Europe thought we were on the right track. Today, a quarter of a century later, Richard von Weizäcker’s warning is more apropos than ever.

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