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  • ‘I condemn Putin. But …’ – What the West’s sellout of Ukraine will look like
    EUROMAIDAN PRESS 2015/10/31

    The most serious threat to the future of Ukraine comes from the increasing number of officials, commentators and businessmen who take the position that former French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner does in an interview published in today’s “Novaya gazeta” titled “Bernard Kouchner: ‘I condemn Putin. But…’”
    ----------------------------------
    Most Ukrainians and their supporters in the West have focused their ire on those Western politicians and commentators who have not condemned Vladimir Putin for his invasion of Ukraine and his Anschluss of Crimea, viewing such people and their arguments as the greatest threat to the chance that Ukraine will recover its territorial integrity.

    But in fact, the most serious threat to the future of Ukraine comes not from them but rather from the increasing number of officials, commentators and businessmen who take the position that former French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner does in an interview published in today’s “Novaya gazeta.”

    The Russian journalist who interviewed him chose as the title of the article “Bernard Kouchner: ‘I condemn Putin. But …’” That reflects the weariness of the West to stand up to Russian aggression, the lack of patience among Western elites, and the desire to “turn the page” in relations with Moscow. And it is precisely this that is the greatest threat to Ukraine.

    Kouchner says that people say that Putin must return Crimea to Ukraine, but “he will never return it!” To say that he should is “unrealistic,” and it is time to “stop fantasizing. It is necessary to try to find a compromise,” especially since the European Union does not have the same interests that the Ukrainians do. Ukraine must do this.”

    “We have said that the seizure of Crimea was a bad thing, something scandalous … True, it is scandalous. Putin acted by force. And I condemn this,” Kouchner says. “But there are scandalous things which we tolerate or act as if we don’t notice and agree on compromises. There are many such things, especially in the Middle East.”

    And “in Crimea, we also could do this.”

    This is exactly the same logic that informed those who sought to appease Hitler in the 1930s, and it is the one on which dictators have long counted, that individuals and countries will find a way to excuse the actions of such leaders if they are not directed specifically against themselves.

    But both at the international level as Hitler’s behavior before, during and after Munich showed, and at the domestic level as Pastor Niemoeller warned, such an approach carries within itself a threat to those who adopt it unless and until they are forced to act by a direct attack on their countries or their persons at a much less propitious time.

    Unfortunately, Western leaders have failed to call Putin’s actions what they are – acts of aggression – and they, especially under pressure from easily bored publics and vitally interested business communities and driven by their own desire to show that they can make “peace in our time” are increasingly adopting Kouchner’s position.

    Yes, what Putin has done is bad, but we should look the other way and find new ways to cooperate. The Kremlin dictator is counting on that, and Ukrainians and their supporters should recognize that this position and not that of the open apologists for Moscow are the real threat to Ukraine – and ultimately to far more than Ukraine as well. ‘I condemn Putin. But …’ – What the West’s sellout of Ukraine will look like -- EUROMAIDAN PRESSEuromaidan Press |

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    • 15:02 31.10.2015 INTERFAX-UKRAINE
      Some 214 Russians, three Ukrainians were on board plane that crashed in Egypt

      Some 214 Russians and three Ukrainian passengers were on board the plane that crashed in the Sinai Peninsula on Saturday, European mass media reported, with reference to Egyptian authorities.

      Previously the Associated Press agency reported, with reference to unnamed officials in Egypt, that all 224 passengers and the crew members were killed.

      It is assumed that the cause of the catastrophe were technical problems.

      At the same time, the press service of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry told Interfax-Ukraine this information is being checked.
      ==================

      20 yr old Airbus was flying out of the Sinai to St. Petersburg.

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      • Our Sister Cities: Drohobych, Ukraine
        QUAD CITY TIMES Walter Conlon & Oksana Shutko 10/31/2015

        Editor's note: Muscatine has several sister cities in various countries in the world. Members of the Muscatine Sister Cities Board will be providing articles about each on a regular basis.

        Situated in the foothills of the Carpathian mountains, Drohobych is a 926-year old regional center in the Lviv Oblast of Ukraine with approximately 68,000 residents. It was originally founded because of salt deposits, the mining of which was its first industry. More recently, it became a refining center for the petroleum wells in the vicinity. Drohobych became a sister city of Muscatine sister in 1998 on the initiative of the late Ihor Zachko, a Drohobych resident and Walter Conlon's second cousin.

        During its 926 years, Drohobych has been ruled by many European states, such as the old Kievan Rus, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Poland, Austria-Hungary, and the Soviet Union. When Ukraine declared its independence in 1991, with the solid support of the local residents, Drohobych finally was free of foreign rule for the first substantial time in its history.

        It is the home of a regional pedagogical university, and it is near Truskavets, a spa resort town famous throughout the former Soviet Union and central Europe.

        As is well known, the undeclared war with Russia has caused much suffering in Ukraine. While Drohobych is far from the active military area, she suffers from the economic strains of the war, and her sons are often casualties in the fighting. The people of the city have formed many voluntary organizations to help the soldiers and other victims of the war.

        Walter Conlon is a retired attorney in Muscatine and a member of the sister city board. Oksana Shutko is a resident of Drohobych who is visiting Muscatine until January. For more information on sister cities, contact Muscatine Sister Cities President John Dabeet at johndabeet@gmail.com.
        http://qctimes.com/news/local/our-si...e8bdfe834.html

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        • October 31, 2015 RADIO FREE EUROPE
          Russia Blasts 'Politicized' Rule Change IMF Mulling For Ukraine

          Russia's finance minister expressed concern about a possible rule change by the International Monetary Fund that would enable it to keep lending to Ukraine even if Kyiv defaults on its debt to Russia.

          "Russia does not want Ukraine to be left without financial support," Anton Siluanov said on October 30, but Russia is suspicious of the "hastiness" of the rule change at the IMF.

          "We are concerned that the changes in the policy of the fund are forced in the context of a very politicized issue of restructuring of the Ukrainian debt," he said.

          The IMF has said it is considering easing a long-standing rule against lending to countries in default in "carefully circumscribed circumstances" to keep Ukraine's $17.5 billion bailout package alive.

          Ukraine, running short of cash, has sought to restructure its $3 billion debt to Russia the same way it has rescheduled its privately held debt, but Russia has refused to go along.

          Moscow -- which is also running short of cash and reserve funds -- insists it should get full repayment on schedule by the end of the year.

          Ukraine must make a critical payment on the debt to Russia next month. The IMF rule change would increase the likelihood of Ukraine defaulting on that payment, a possibility Ukraine has admitted it is considering.

          Under its current rules, the IMF is not allowed to lend money to a country when it is in default on debt to an "official" lender such as another government.

          Under those rules, if Kyiv defaults on the $3 billion Ukrainian Eurobond bought by Russia, the IMF would have to cut off its credit, even though the country is reeling from a deep economic recession and pro-Russian insurgency in the east.

          The rule change would allow the IMF to keep lending to Ukraine as long as Kyiv has made a "good faith" effort to renegotiate its debt with Russia.

          While Russia objects to the rule change, Siluanov said that even if the IMF went through with it, Ukraine would not meet the new criteria.

          "Ukraine has not carried out such negotiations with Russia," he said.

          A meeting between Siluanov and Ukraine's finance minister earlier this month failed to produce any agreement on restructuring the debt because of Russia's objections to changing the terms.

          Siluanov said Kyiv at the meeting refused to consider any alternatives apart from equating Ukraine's debt to Russia with its debt to private investors.

          Under pressure from the IMF, Ukraine and its private creditors reached an agreement this summer that wipes out $3.6 billion in debt and reschedules repayment on $8.5 billion.

          In a statement October 29, the Ukrainian Finance Ministry said that creditors involved in that debt restructuring should expect to receive new Ukrainian sovereign securities on November 12.

          Arguing that its debt to Russia should be considered a commercial loan rather than a formal agreement between the two countries, Ukraine had given Russia until October 29 to either accept the same restructuring terms or face a "legal war" in court.

          The $3 billion loan was given by Moscow to Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych in late 2013 in what Kyiv now says was essentially a bribe to get him to ditch a deal for closer ties with the European Union.

          Yanukovych's decision to dump the EU agreement sparked protests that eventually led to his ouster and unleashed a chain reaction of events that has included Moscow's seizure of Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula and a pro-Russian insurgency in the east.Russia Blasts 'Politicized' Rule Change IMF Mulling For Ukraine

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          • 09:22 31.10.2015 INTERFAX-UKRAINE
            Government approves agreement on opening World Food Program office in Ukraine

            The Cabinet of Ministers has approved the signing of an agreement to open an office of the World Food Program in Ukraine.

            Corresponding Cabinet decree No. 1106-r of October 28, 2015 has been posted on the official website of the Ukrainian government.

            The person authorized to sign the agreement on behalf of Ukraine was Ambassador to Italy Yevhen Perelyhin.

            The World Food Program is the world's largest humanitarian organization which provides 4 million tonnes of food anually. It was founded in 1963 as an agency to provide food under the UN and is engaged in providing assistance to the poor in developing countries and fighting against hunger and poverty.
            Government approves agreement on opening World Food Program office in Ukraine

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            • DAILY VERTICAL Brian Whitmore Oct 26, 2015
              The Daily Vertical:Operation Syria Phase 2
              The Daily Vertical: Operation Syria Phase 2


              DAILY VERTICAL Brian Whitmore Oct 27, 2015
              The Daily Vertical:Time To Revive CoCom?
              The Daily Vertical: Time To Revive CoCom?


              DAILY VERTICAL Brian Whitmore Oct 29, 2015
              The Daily Vertical: Putin's Next TV Blockbuster
              The Daily Vertical: Putin's Next TV Blockbuster


              DAILY VERTICAL Brian Whitmore Oct 30, 2015
              The Daily Vertical: Banks, Not Tanks
              The Daily Vertical: Banks, Not Tanks


              DAILY VERTICAL Brian Whitmore Oct 30, 2015
              Podcast: The Gangster Weapon
              From cyberattacks to arms trafficking, crime in Russia isn't always just crime -- sometimes, it's a tool of statecraft.

              The security services have effectively tamed and co-opted the fabled Russian mafia -- a web of criminal networks with global reach -- and turned it into a lethal weapon in Moscow's showdown with the West.

              On the latest Power Vertical Podcast, we take a look at Russia's gangster weapon and its effectiveness.

              Joining me is co-host Mark Galeotti, a professor at New York University, an expert in Russian organized crime, and author of the blog In Moscow's Shadows, and guest Karen Dawisha, director of the Havighurst Center for Russian and Post-Soviet Studies at Miami University in Ohio, and author of the highly acclaimed book Putin's Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia?
              Enjoy...Podcast: The Gangster Weapon

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              • 12:46 31.10.2015 INTERFAX-UKRAINE
                Incumbent mayor, ex-head of regional administration go forward to second round of voting in Sumy

                The results of processing 100% of ballot papers at the elections of city council chairman in Sumy the incumbent mayor, the candidate from the Batkivschyna Party, Oleksandr Lysenko, has won the maximum amount of votes, accounting for 45.7% of the vote, according to the official website of the Central Election Commission.

                His closest rival, the former head of Sumy Regional Administration, the ex-chairman of Sumy Regional Council, the candidate from the People's Will Party, Anatoliy Yepifanov, scored 13.6% of votes. In addition, 12 other candidates participated in the elections, each received less than 8% of the vote.

                Since Lysenko did not get 50% of the vote, while the population of Sumy is 268,000 people, according to the law, the second round of elections will be held in the city on November 15.

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                • Oct 30, 2015 UT UKRAINE TODAY
                  Military munitions depot fire in east Ukraine investigated as ‘terrorist act' (photo, video)

                  Two people died and five injured after the blaze broke out late on October 29

                  The smoldering remains from a military munitions fire the night before. Two people died and five injured in east Ukraine after the blaze broke out – large amounts of ammunition detonated, sending fragments flying hundreds of meters into the night sky.

                  A military serviceman and a local resident in the town of Svatove, lost their lives.

                  This was the devastation residents in apartment blocks woke up to – smashed panes of glass and balconies destroyed – the impact of one weapon clearly visible high up on the corner of this address.

                  At least 60 pieces of explosives had been found by residents by Friday lunchtime.

                  Stepan Poltorak, Ukraine's Defence Minister said preliminary findings suggested enemy forces had been behind the fire.

                  Stepan Poltorak, Ukraine's Defence Minister: "According to the preliminary information, the incident occurred following the enemy's action, whose objective was to destabilize the situation in the region."

                  One local official told us the town had been divided into five sectors. Some 15 specially-formed emergency teams are patrolling the area including sappers and medics.

                  He said they're searching for unexploded shells, defusing then and taking them safely outside the town.

                  Over 3,000 tons of ammunition had been stored at the complex. The fire itself is now contained with no new outbreaks observed, according to officials.
                  Military munitions depot fire in east Ukraine investigated as ‘terrorist act' (photo, video) - watch on - uatoday.tv

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                  • Why you should watch Ukraine's ‘The Great Gatsby' ballet
                    Oct. 31, 2015 UT UKRAINE TODAY

                    International team of dancers and star choreographer present 90-year-old classic like never before

                    We are behind the scenes at The Great Gatsby stage rehearsal here in Kyiv. Dancers from US, Ukraine and Russia are incorporating elements of classical and contemporary dance to bring to life the 1920s classic.

                    Gaudy riches, violence, and a fatal love affair, F. Scott Fitzgerald's ‘The Great Gatsby' has it all. But it's the literary work's balance of irony and secrecy which has fascinated critics and fan around the world ever since it was first published in 1925. We spoke to US dancer Clifford Williams to find out if great fiction is worth transforming into ballet.

                    The Great Gatsby ballet made its world premiere last year sending shockwaves through the Ukrainian art world with its international cast and its star choreographer Dwight Rhoden.

                    This year Artur Gaspar has joined the team. He's a member of an all-male Ukrainian gender-bending group called ‘Kazaky', who are best known for their masterful dancing in stilettos.

                    We spoke with him about whether there are any difficulties between the Ukrainian and Russian dancers considering the tense political situation between the two countries.

                    But this project is not about politics, the dancers tell me, it's about the opportunity to put a modern twist on a decades-old novel and leave viewers with a powerful message.

                    Almost 90 years after it was published the Great Gatsby is not going anywhere. The cautionary tale of the American dream is sure to haunt and enchant us in equal measure for many more decades to come.
                    Why you should watch Ukraine's ‘The Great Gatsby' ballet - watch on - uatoday.tv

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                    • Council of Europe praises Ukraine’s judiciary reforms
                      31.10.2015 UNIAN

                      The Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjorn Jagland welcomed amendments to the Ukrainian Constitution concerning the judiciary adopted by the country’s Constitutional Commission on Friday.

                      “This is an important step in Ukraine’s reform process. I hope it can be adopted by Parliament soon. It is the result of the good co-operation between Ukraine and the Council of Europe and its three representatives in the Constitutional Commission of Ukraine”, he said, according to the Council of Europe’s press service.

                      Read alsoPres. of Venice Commission: Decentralization amendments bear no risks of federalizationThe amendments take into account last week’s opinion of the Venice Commission, the Council of Europe’s group of constitutional experts.
                      Council of Europe praises Ukraine’s judiciary reforms : UNIAN news

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                      • Islamic State claims it downed Russian plane - AFP
                        31.10.2015 UNIAN

                        The Islamic State group in Egypt claimed today that it had shot down the Russian passenger airliner over Egypt's central Sinai, according to Agence France-Presse.

                        Besides Agence France-Presse, Reuters also tweeted this breaking news.

                        It should be noted that the experts surveyed by Lenta.ru emphasize that the version of the aircraft having been downed from the ground by air defense systems is insolvent.

                        Media also reported that the “black boxes” were found at the site of the crash.

                        According to experts, the militants in the region, including the group of radical Islamists, do not have systems capable of hitting air targets at altitudes of more than 3,000-4,000 meters. According to Flightradar, the plane began to lose altitude rapidly, while at the echelon of more than 10,000 meters.

                        Islamic State claims it downed Russian plane - AFP : UNIAN news
                        =================
                        Some (Russians) claim they did not down a plane and others (Islamic State) boast that they did...nonetheless all those people on board those two planes are dead...

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                        • Ukraine Prosecutors Detain Ally of Billionaire Kolomoyskyy
                          BLOOMBERG Daryna Krasnolutska October 31, 2015

                          Gennady Korban, who ran for the opposition Ukrop party in Kiev mayoral elections this month, has been arrested as part of a criminal investigation, according to Vladyslav Kutsenko, a prosecutor.

                          Korban was detained by law enforcement in a probe into embezzlement by a gang, Kutsenko said Saturday. Korban served as deputy to billionaire Ihor Kolomoyskyy, when he was governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region.

                          “The operation is being held now, after the elections, and we reject any political reasons for it,” Kutsenko told reporters in Kiev.

                          Ukrop denies the accusations made against Korban, it said in a statement, adding that President Petro Poroshenko is putting political pressure on his opponents.
                          Ukraine Prosecutors Detain Ally of Billionaire Kolomoyskyy - Bloomberg Business

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                          • Meet Ukraine's cybercrime police tracking down internet hackers
                            Oct. 31, 2015 UT UKRAINE TODAY

                            The specialist unit mainly focuses on attempting to prevent financial fraud through phishing

                            These Ukrainian police officers don't wear uniforms, carry guns or drive fast cars. But they have a powerful, main weapon - their computers. This team operates solely on the realms of the Internet.

                            Identifying hackers and scammers and learning how to counteract them are their main tasks. It's been running for three years now. Most cases deal with financial fraud. One of the most popular scams – phishing – an attempt to acquire sensitive information whilst disguised as a trustworthy source.

                            Yevhen Chumachenko, head of technical department: "An accountant department employee recieves a letter which looks like an official order from the finance ministry. It reads 'open the letter' and you must fulfill the task. This accountant opens the file and the virus is uploaded on their computer".

                            After that, the hackers have access to data and passwords on this computer. It's possible to extract any kind of information - data on cash flows, financial statements or even take direct control of funds of any company. But the most dangerous criminals are those working with bank accounts and cards.

                            Serhiy Demedyuk, head of department on fight against cybercrime: "They directly withdraw money from bank accounts, from company accounts and also process money in Ukraine that was stolen from foreigners".

                            Ukraine has become a kind of Mecca for card criminals around the world. Everyday, they launder a huge amount of money.

                            "Close to a million hryvnia a day"

                            That's almost USD 450,000. Some 250 people work in the cybercrime department. Clearly, this is not enough. To strengthen the unit, Ukraine's Internal Affairs Ministry recently announced the creation of a new cyber police agency.

                            The current staffing level will be doubled, with top special agents being paid the equivalent of 30,000 hryvnia, equivalent to USD 1,300 monthly. It's hoped the recruitment process for the new unit will begin soon.
                            Meet Ukraine's cybercrime police tracking down internet hackers - watch on - uatoday.tv



















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                            • 14:41 31.10.2015 INTERFAX-UKRAINE
                              Special operation, aimed at liquidating organized crime group, not matter of politics – PGO

                              A large-scale special operation carried out in Ukraine on Saturday is aimed at liquidating an organized criminal group, prosecutor of the Prosecutor General's Office (PGO) Vladyslav Kutsenko has reported.

                              "The Prosecutor General's Office jointly with the Security Service of Ukraine continues to fight against organized crime and corruption. Today we are conducting a joint large-scale special operation aimed at eliminating the criminal group, detaining individuals who participated and were directly involved in the group's activities," he said at a briefing in Kyiv on Saturday.

                              "The main articles on which the measures are taken are Article 215 of the Criminal Code (the creation and activities of a criminal group), Article 191 (embezzlement) and Article 349 (kidnapping)," the official said.

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                              • Putin’s speech at the Valdai Club’s meeting shows that economic, financial, and military situation is not developing as planned
                                Den - THE DAY Yurii Raikhel 28 October, 2015

                                As usual, Russian President Vladimir Putin took part in the meeting of the Valdai International Debating Club. It was created in 2004 by the news agency RIA Novosti, when it was entrusted with promoting the interests and image of Russia in the global information space. In early 2014, the duty to organize the Valdai Club was transferred to a specially created Valdai Foundation, the Higher School of Economics, and Moscow State Institute of Foreign Relations. The hotel where Putin spoke had been built to host G-8 meetings. Since Russia was expelled from G-8 after the annexation of Crimea and the Donbas aggression, the hotel has been hosting meetings of the Valdai Club for a second year.

                                This forum once gathered quite prominent politicians, often including serving ministers and people who influenced political decision-making in their countries.

                                The participants’ composition has substantially changed or even diminished in stature. Serving politicians and high-ranking officials from Western nations now avoid coming to Russia and participating in such discussions.

                                One of the participants spoke rather sharply about the participants’ composition. “Most forum participants were, frankly, not very happy with the choice of panellists for the session with Putin. For example, Jack Matlock [US Ambassador to the Soviet Union in 1987-1991. – Ed.] is a good diplomat, but he has retired from active politics and does not affect the decision-making in Washington.” The same is said about former Czech president Vaclav Klaus.

                                In other words, some participants believe that even in such a difficult period for Russia’s relations with the Western world, it had to make more effort to attract not only scholars and retired politicians, but also those who can really influence the decisions of the governments of the West. Thus, the meeting with Putin would have been not only an exchange of speeches, but also a way to provide a framework for future practical steps.

                                In fact, serving Western politicians’ unwillingness to come to Russia is not surprising. They have no special desire to listen to the rhetoric of the Russian president and his stories of Russia’s good intentions and willingness to save the world from the terrorist threat. All this can be easily found in the Russian press or the federal TV channels.

                                Putin continues with his hooligan-style diplomacy. A strong desire to show off his street cred is painfully obvious. “Back 50 years ago, Leningrad streets taught me one rule: if a fight is inevitable, one must strike first.” He demonstrates that style in international relations. Just as in Soviet propaganda, it is opponents who are blamed for that.

                                Characteristically, the forum participants were not expecting anything sensational from Putin’s appearance. Professor of the European University in St. Petersburg Alexei Miller predicted: “I do not think we will hear something sensational today from President Putin. I think he would rather quickly identify the points where he is ready to ‘meet’ Western partners if they want to switch to the cooperation mode, especially on Syria.” The professor was right. We heard nothing new except the usual rhetoric, which was mostly targeting domestic audience rather than external one.

                                Although Putin’s somewhat bellicose speech was intended to be a show of Russia’s strength and steadfastness and firm policies, there was a persistent impression that the Kremlin was beginning to realize the impasse in which it had brought itself.

                                After a showy launch of missiles from the Caspian Sea on targets in Syria and the Russian propaganda machine’s slavish praise of it, Putin’s inner circle was sobered by NATO seaborne missile defense exercises in the northern Atlantic. It turned out that Russian cruise missiles were not that dangerous after all. Western militaries have quite adequate intercept and destruction weapons. That is why the Russian leader discussed in minute detail alleged threats to his country, caused by the existing deployment of US missile defense in Romania, which should come to Poland as well in the near future.

                                Seemingly, it should not be an issue at all. Missile defense system is by definition defensive, why then the Kremlin is so concerned about its deployment? Putin answered at once: “Nuclear deterrent is losing its value. Some might even entertain the illusion that a real victory of one party to a global conflict is again attainable, without irreversible unacceptable consequences, as the experts say, for the winner, if there would be one at all.”

                                This is where the root of the Kremlin’s fears lies. Despite the showy launch of missiles at Syrian targets, specialists know well that the Russian military is technically and technologically seriously lagging behind the West, particularly the US, and the gap is increasing. The Kremlin’s real trump card is its nuclear weapons. Putin and his inner circle are afraid of losing that last trump in their game with the West, especially Washington.

                                Of course, he used the opportunity to make a few quite primitive reminders to European countries of their alleged dependence on the US instead of an alliance of equals. When doing so, Putin pulled facts and figures out of context, just like in Soviet propaganda. “Look, just last year a French bank was fined almost nine billion dollars – 8.9, if I am not mistaken. Toyota paid 1.2 billion dollars, the German Commerzbank settled out of court to pay 1.7 billion dollars to the US and so on.” In fact, these payments were made not only because of violations of the sanctions, but also for other reasons.

                                Time is working against Russia in Syria. Military analyst Ruslan Pukhov raised the question of the possible transfer of American MANPADS to Syrian opposition. “…There are our pilots there, and they can die...” As they say, the people are concerned, so the answer was appropriate. “As far as we know, the US military are already transferring anti-tank systems and training teams to operate them. I think this is a big mistake, since these weapons will definitely fall into the hands of the opposition. Now the Americans have started airdropping weapons and ammunition. Who will get all this? Obviously, the end users will be the ISIS and An-Nusra. Regarding the transfer of MANPADS, I hope this has not happened, that the US leaders are sane people, and they understand that the weapons could end up in the hands of terrorists. It can be turned, in particular, against American pilots. This understanding has to prevent such transfers, I hope so.”

                                So, what does the Russian leadership know? Are Americans transferring MANPADS to the Syrian opposition or not? The same answer has two contradictory intentions. So far, we know that such a request from the Kurds was denied. The Kurds certainly would not transfer such weapons to anyone. However, the Kremlin’s concern is obvious. After all, if body bags start coming from Syria, it is likely that some Russians at least will care about it.

                                Realizing that the Syrian adventure will not bring a victory, the Kremlin began to show a constructive approach. For some time already, the higher Russian officials are trying to convince all that Russia fights not for Bashar al-Assad, but for the future peace settlement in Syria. Thus, the Russian client in Damascus will obediently go when Russia and Iran will agree on that. In other words, the Syrian president’s recent hasty visit to Moscow was to demonstrate that this person, unacceptable for the opposition and so the main obstacle for starting a political settlement, can be removed.

                                All this happened on the eve of the meeting of foreign ministers of Russia, the US, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia on Syria. The Kremlin’s stated position is to prevent the collapse of Syria, including by armed force, and ensure the formation of a transitional government involving supporters of Assad. Further developments are open for negotiations, but the ISIS terrorists and their supporters must be removed from Syria. One has to wonder, where?

                                It is obvious that the stated aim, the destruction of the terrorists in Syria, is unattainable. Thus, the beginning of the political process can be viewed as Putin’s retreat. It may be accompanied by a loud propaganda campaign, but retreat all the same, both military and political.

                                Although Syria has occupied a prominent place on the forum, it could not help but touch upon the issue of Ukraine as well. The Russian position has not changed here. They keep declaring that there is no alternative to the Minsk process, but it is combined with a reluctance to make real steps for its implementation. As always, they put all the blame on the government of Ukraine and repeat the previous demands that it negotiate with “representatives of the Donbas.”

                                The Kremlin’s attempt to exchange Syria for Ukraine has failed, so it is time for the next step. They have failed to obtain everything they wanted in the Middle East, and the situation in Ukraine is similar, so we see an attempt at a limited exchange, not all for all, but part to part.

                                Signs of a possible success of the new Russian tactics are there. On the eve of talks on Syria, President Barack Obama vetoed the budget bill over appropriations to supply Ukraine with lethal weapons. It was clearly an attempt of the so-called Washington doves to avoid irritating the Kremlin hawk once again.

                                continue read
                                Street-style diplomacy | The Day newspaper

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