sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Russia in Syria and Latin America

Welcome

A review of Virtual Mirage readership (Google Stats) shows that we get a great deal of traffic from Russia. About 40% of my blog views come from within Russia. I welcome our Russian readers to this blog -- to discussions of US domestic politics, and world politics through an American lens. Please feel free to comment and to disagree. Russians love to talk politics. I've never sat down with a Russian person but what passionate and reasoned political discourse didn't dominate most of what we discussed. It's that intellectual intensity and passionate expression that has led Russia to lead the world in both chess and axe murders.

Though America and Russia have found themselves on different sides of various arguments over my lifetime. Most Americans don't understand Russia at all and therein lies some of the misunderstanding. This extends to many so-called experts in USGOV who are educated not in the world of the real, but in the world of the campus, by professors who are as inexperienced and myopic as government apparatchiki. The Great Patriotic War (World War 2) was an era of unprecedented suffering for the Russian people that Americans can not appreciate without careful study. The lasting memory of that crisis - among many crisis points in Russian history - has molded the national character in ways that must be studied to be appreciated.

Russian values in the modern era have more in common with traditional American values than many Americans appreciate. Russian cultural contributions to the world have been profound, and it would be good to find rapprochement moving forward rather than conflict. I have been encouraged by President Trump's stated intent to work with Russia rather than oppose her in many areas. We will not always degree on some things from a geopolitical point of view, but should remain civil with each other as nations, so that we can reason with each other and work together on those many areas of common interest and concern.

Russia in Syria

The Syrian government and its allied forces seized more neighborhoods yesterday, including al-Shaar, the command center for rebel forces and the civilian coordination center. Syrian Arab Army sources confirmed that the ‘Old Citadel’ is now fully liberated, “with remaining pockets to be cleansed tomorrow, 7 December.”

Two and a half weeks into the current offensive, government forces are reported to have controlled at least 75% of the rebel held area in eastern Aleppo. One news service said that groups of rebel fighters are fleeing to the east, presumably to Raqqa, rather than making a last stand in Aleppo. 

Recovery of Aleppo will be the Asad government’s most significant victory of the civil war. It will not mean the end of the war, but it will mean improved security conditions for Latakia and the northwest. It also partially vindicates the Russian position that there is a military solution to civil war.  "Military solution" to civil war often means that you simply use bombing and artillery to pound the rebels to dust. 
In Chechnya, the Russians moved the Chechens out of their turf and replaced them with Great Russians - end of conflict there. Many were relocated to Islamic territories outside of Russia. Problem solved.
Rossiya 24 Television reported on 6 December that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the US of being an unreliable partner after a document on the situation in Aleppo proposed by US Secretary of State Kerry and supported by Russia was suddenly withdrawn.

Lavrov spoke at a joint news conference with Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjorn Jagland in Moscow. Lavrov was asked whether a date for Russian-US consultations on Syria in Geneva had been set and what these consultations can be about given that militants have refused to leave eastern Aleppo. 

Lavrov replied, "To begin with, the fact that militants have refused does not yet mean anything because there is nothing to refuse yet. No Russian-US agreement that would have direct effect has yet been developed. In any event, if somebody refuses to leave of their own accord, they will be eliminated, as far as I understand. There is no other option there.’

"As regards the start of consultations on Aleppo, it is something of a detective story. On 2 December, in Rome, John Kerry asked me to support a specific document that the Americans had presented to us. We saw that the document was in line with our approaches.’  “On the following day, 3 December, we publicly declared it, inviting the Americans to meet any day. In the end, they agreed on the date 7 December, i.e. tomorrow. We again, more than once, confirmed that it was a very right idea that would make it possible to resolve the issue of Aleppo.”

"Then suddenly, last night we received a message from them that, unfortunately, they would not be able to meet tomorrow because they had changed their mind, were withdrawing their document and now had a new document, which - judging by our first impressions after reading it - returns everything back to square one and once again looks like an attempt to buy time in order to allow militants to catch their breath and replenish their supplies.”

"We shall try and find out what this is all about, all the more so since at the UN Security Council session yesterday, when Russia, China and Venezuela voted against the resolution aimed to give militants a respite, the US envoy took the floor and announced that she was not aware of the relevant agreements between Russia and the USA, that it was impossible to agree with Russia at all. That was before the Americans withdrew their document, which was advocated by John Kerry.”

"I get the feeling that US representatives at the UN have simply repudiated the US secretary of state. One would want to get to the bottom of it. On the other hand, we have a sort of an understanding that a serious discussion with our American partners is not working out. That was the case with our agreements with Kerry reached on 9 September, which had been reached, had come into effect and then the United States began to look for excuses to withdraw from them and in the end found one and announced that it was quitting that deal. Now the situation is very similar: what was proposed by the Americans on paper and what was publicly supported by us is now again turning out to be unsuitable.”

“The Syrian government describes all the rebel groups fighting to bring down President Bashar al-Assad as terrorists. The insurgents include groups backed by the United States, Turkey and Gulf monarchies, as well as jihadist militants.”

Lavrov’s comments are an accurate summary of frantic efforts by the US to save a deteriorating policy position in Syria and Obama's legacy. The US UN delegation seemed to undermine the Secretary of State in public. Even the Chinese were annoyed.

US relations with Russia are in crisis because the US policy of supporting so-called moderate rebel groups in Aleppo has failed and collapsed. Every knowledgeable journalist has reported for months that the existence of so-called moderate rebel groups is a fiction. The idea that the Al Nusra Front would ally with the US to fight the Islamic State always has been an illusion. The al Nusra Front is al Qaida. The Islamic State is an extreme offshoot of al Qaida. 

There are serious issues that the US and Russia need to discuss to which the outcome of the Aleppo fight is essentially a sideshow.  It will be left to President Trump and his cabinet to work on this with the Russians after he takes office on January 20th.

Venezuela

On 5 December in a telephone conversation, Russian President Putin promised President Maduro to supply enough wheat for Venezuela to end the food war, according to Maduro. The food war is the confrontation between socialists who demand food at prices people can afford and the producers who want to make a profit. (not unlike war profiteers)

Putin promised to send top Russian food experts to Venezuela and to build agricultural factories next year in five Venezuelan states, He said the goal is to provide technology, equipment and capital to combat the economic sabotage being carried out by “right-wing forces.”

Putin also agreed to renew the military cooperation with Venezuela and to send modern military equipment by 2017. Venezuelan currency is essentially worthless with the black market value of the Bolivar pegged at somewhere around B4,000 to US$1. They could swap high sulphur oil to Russia for weapons, but in the present situation, Venezuela would be better off buying wheat.

Maduro is putting the best face on Venezuela’s “strategic” relationship with Russia. Thus, it is not clear just what will be the practical impact of Russian promises. On the other hand, Putin’s promises are consistent with his initiatives in other crises to gain a local advantage at the expense of the US. --- I guess. There is a tit-for-tat between the Russians and the US. America builds a huge Air Force logistics center in Romania and the Russians build an intelligence training school in Nicaragua. That Russian school was never much of a secret. After a fashion, they have been trying to do what the Israelis did in Central America forty years ago, but don't seem to have been as effective at reinventing the wheel as I thought that they might have been. The US pushes out NATO to the Baltic States (former Soviet Republics) and Russia props up Venezuela. It's sort of a game that nations play.

There is no fixing Venezuela until you can remove the socialist state. Russia knows that. (see "the game", paragraph above)

12 comments:

  1. I agree that Americans have a lot more in common with Russians than not. Russian mothers love their children as much as American mothers. You can't say that about ISIS mothers.

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    1. The Russians have a far more cogent policy toward "tolerating" Muslims, than say, Barack has/had. (I love writing "had" in the Obama context) Additionally, Putin's disgust at Barack's behavior is shared by -- the majority of the nation, as it turns out.

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  2. One thing I've always noticed about the Russians. Their love for their country. It took literally took starvation to shake them loose as to the old USSR setup as that love for country was so overriding (Not to mention the dictator part) in their nature. One should never forget their standing up to and defeating the Nazis when they invaded and that was flat out love of country.

    I notice yesterday the Admiral's remarks at the Pearl Harbor ceremony yesterday, especially when he slammed the idiot from the 49rs. Listening though he preached exactly that, love of country. Their is little one can take from the Russians as far as the going-ons of the last 70 years or so that one could apply to our world here in the US, but that love of country Russian have always shown, if it became contagious here once again is a special thing

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    1. We as a nation (finally) want to make America great again. The pendulum swung hard left and now it's headed back to normalcy.

      The Russians are a patriotic people and want better lives for their children in the same way as we do. They come from a different place with a different history than most Americans, but we have more in common than we have differences.

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  3. Just a note on traffic analysis: USA, Russia and then France (a solid third) account for most of the interest in this blog. The remaining interest is spread through a number of country sources.

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  4. Да, LL, мы внимательно следим за вами. Приготовься. В Сухопутные войска Российской Федерации ждут.

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    1. I'm going to reply the way that I think your son, Harrison would, "Скажите армию, что я жду. Приди и возьми."

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  5. I had a great time in Russia, the people were so friendly, I never felt so safe. It felt as if a team of guys was watching me all the time, just to make sure I did not get hurt. (Six weeks after I left, Russia arrested alleged CIA officer Ryan Fogle.)

    While I was there in 2013, I looked for a Crossfit location to workout at, there were none. There are now 63 in Russia, 22 in the Moscow area. Crossfit affiliates are privately owned, it is not a chain, and not a franchise. That is freedom.

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    1. Russia is a capitalist country. They still have some peculiarities that are specific to Russia, but then again if they hung out in Rural AZ where everyone is packing iron, they might think we're weird.

      Did you get a conviction on Fogle?

      The Federal Security Service there is very professional. I'm glad they were able to keep you safe.

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    2. Using the Russians to deal with ISIS may work because they don't have the same tender sensibilities when it comes to "human rights". Their military is there to put ordinance on target and not be overly concerned with environmental impact of a bomb falling on a terrorist.

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  6. LL, it's weird, but I get appx 40%, sometimes more, blog traffic out of Russia. Then again, I have a Putin infographic on the sidebar...

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    1. I can't figure it either but wanted to be polite so offered a welcome.

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