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Putin Leads the Russian Power Play: Andy Langenkamp, RealClearWorld, Dec. 8, 2014— Russian President Vladimir Putin has annexed Crimea, stirred up revolt in eastern Ukraine, and kept the fires of revolt burning bright – all while signing two mega-deals with China on gas supplies and pipelines.
Vladimir Putin’s Gas Crunch: Leonid Bershidsky, National Post, Dec. 9, 2014— Ever since Russia became something of a rogue state in the eyes of its European energy clients, it has tried to demonstrate that it can mostly do without them — if not immediately, then in a few years’ time.
Russian-Ukrainian Spat Over Anti-Semitism Reaches the UN: Sam Sokol, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 25, 2014 — The war of words between Russia and Ukraine over the issue of anti-Semitism heated …
Right-Wing Ukrainian Leader Is (Surprise) Jewish, and (Real Surprise) Proud of It: Vladislav Davidzon, Tablet, Dec. 1, 2014— My meeting with Right Sector’s Borislav Bereza, newly elected member of the Ukrainian Parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, took place on a sunny Friday morning.
Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible in Putin’s Russia: Ann Marlowe, Tablet, Dec. 9, 2014
Russia's Media Autarky Strengthens Its Grip: Christopher Walker & Robert Orttung, RealClearWorld, Nov. 30, 2014
Kremlin Returns to Soviet Practice of Stripping Citizenship: Vladimir Kara-Murza, World Affairs, Nov. 10, 2014
Back in St. Petersburg, Former Refusenik Encourages Jews to Emigrate: Cnaan Liphshiz, JTA, Dec. 1, 2014
RealClearWorld, Dec. 8, 2014
Russian President Vladimir Putin has annexed Crimea, stirred up revolt in eastern Ukraine, and kept the fires of revolt burning bright – all while signing two mega-deals with China on gas supplies and pipelines. The global attention he has drawn has no contemporary parallel, and it's clear enough that U.S. president Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping are no match on the power politics stage for their colleague from Russia. Forbes named Putin the world's most powerful man this year for good reason: Indeed it is not too much to say that Vladimir Putin has put power politics back onto the European map.
Europe cannot afford to remain passive. It has played a weak hand badly so far, and the problem is that Europe is no longer set up to play power games. Europeans are unsure how to handle a man who has donned boxing gloves and has no qualms about using hard power to expand his country's sphere of influence. In Europe, geopolitics has fallen out of favor in recent decades. Normative policy expansion and trade interests have been given such primacy, in fact, that member states seem unable to understand why any country would opt for confrontation, rather than just carry on doing business together. Europe holds an implicit belief that the whole world will shift toward a capitalist, democratic system in which it would be unthinkable to take up weapons against trade partners – or anyone who might become a trade partner.
Global developments have clearly shown the error of this approach. Armies may no longer feature in relationships among European countries, but Europe was naive to think that the same would apply outside the union's borders: Europe's demilitarization did not set an example for the rest of the world. Typical of the gulf between Europe and large parts of the wider world is the approach to commodities. Until recently, Europe viewed resources almost exclusively as a trade issue. This basically implies that after some negotiation, a price is set, and everyone is happy. By contrast, elsewhere in the world – including in the United States – commodities are seen in the context of power politics, and supplies are considered essential to national security. European politicians are becoming aware of this discrepancy, but it will be some time before a changed mindset translates into policy.
Now that Putin has put power politics back on the European map, it makes sense to analyse what constitutes power in international relations. Roughly speaking, power has three aspects: military, political, and economic. Europe has focused too much on the latter while paying scant attention to the first component. European leaders declared from the start of the Ukraine crisis that military action was out of the question. This was unwise. Meanwhile, Putin deployed a hybrid strategy of military smoke screens, commandos, propaganda, economic pressure, energy policy and diplomacy. The stress tests Europe carries out on its banks provide an apt metaphor to illustrate why Europe will probably waver again. John Gapper wrote: "The authorities can run all kinds of stress tests on … banks, trying to predict how well they would bear losses in a future crisis. The stress test they really need to run is on themselves – whether they will stick to their promise to work nicely with each other or will revert to self-interest." So far, Europe has been unable to take measures decisive enough to counter Russia – and more cracks will likely appear in the ‘united' European front as the stress increases. Undoubtedly, Putin will do his best to increase that pressure and to maintain a degree of control over Ukraine. The pro-European results of the Ukraine elections will have displeased him, and Putin will try to destroy any semblance of unity in Kiev. The rebels lack firm footing in eastern Ukraine, so they continue to rely on Russia. Putin seems to feel that Moscow should have more control – by continuing to send troops and materiel, he can secure the rebels' loyalty. Crimea is a worry for Putin because it is virtually isolated and cannot easily be supplied. Ideally, Putin would like to dominate a continuous area from eastern Ukraine to Crimea via his proxies.
Increasingly, power politics and economic policy overlap. Agreements such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Trans-Pacific Partnership are not just tools to generate growth – they are geopolitical instruments. Such developments can undermine consumer and producer confidence. Russia is hampered by its aggressive foreign policy. Russian growth will slow further. Russian companies struggle to attain financing, and reserves that were supposed to be allocated to infrastructure are now used to purchase corporate bonds as a way to provide businesses with cash. One implication is that the (already poor) Russian infrastructure is thrown back even further. But if Putin doesn't back down, Europe's unity will continue to be tested, and the result could well be disappointing. Politicians may be tempted to look inward rather than outward as they attempt to deal with what could turn out to be the biggest threat to the Eurozone and the European Union: disgruntled voters whose fears for their financial futures will be exacerbated by geopolitical instability. A dissatisfied electorate that is suspicious of the powers that be is one reason economic growth in Europe is bound to continue to be sluggish for a prolonged period. This in turn will undermine Europe's soft and hard power capacities even further. Contents
National Post, Dec. 9, 2014
Ever since Russia became something of a rogue state in the eyes of its European energy clients, it has tried to demonstrate that it can mostly do without them — if not immediately, then in a few years’ time. Two major deals have been announced since the annexation of Crimea, one with China and the other with Turkey. It looks increasingly likely, however, that neither of these is a deal in any conventional sense and that Russia is merely putting on a desperate show. In May, Putin went to Beijing to press for a $400 billion contract to send gas to China through a new pipeline, dubbed Power of Siberia. Alexei Miller, head of Russia’s natural gas monopoly, Gazprom, announced that, after some tense negotiations, a final 30-year deal to supply 38 billion of cubic meters of natural gas annually was signed. This appeared to be a major victory for Putin and a warning both to Europeans, who bought 160 billion cubic meters of natural gas from Gazprom last year (30% of their imports), and to Americans, who would like to supply liquefied natural gas to Asian markets.
More than six months on, however, the deal doesn’t appear to be moving forward as Russia had hoped. In May, Miller counted on a Chinese advance to start building the $55 billion infrastructure for the project. In November, he declared the loan would not be forthcoming. His explanation was somewhat baffling: “We were negotiating concerning an advance and the advance was an element of the price negotiations. But as we have reached a final agreement on the price, we are not considering the possibility of receiving an advance as a financial instrument to further lower the price.” That would appear to mean that Russia had negotiated a higher gas price with China than it would have received if it had initially asked for an advance. In May, however, Miller had declared that the final terms, including price, had been agreed. Have they been renegotiated in the past six months, or did Miller get a little ahead of himself that May day in Beijing?
It’s impossible to know, because no price has been made public. In any case, since Power of Siberia isn’t expected to be operative until 2019, China would hardly be so careless as to fix the gas price, especially given the current downward trend in oil prices. That makes the project’s future uncertain. There have also been suggestions that the $55 billion price tag for the Power of Siberia infrastructure may have been too low. In July, Sergei Ivanov, Putin’s chief of staff, said it might cost up to $70 billion. And Mikhail Krutikhin, founder of the consultancy East European Gas Analysis, has cited estimates that Gazprom will need $100 billion. Since, under Ukraine-related sanctions, Gazprom is unable to raise the money in Western financial markets, the only possible source of funding is Russia’s state National Welfare Fund. But other state companies, such as Rosneft, are also making major demands on this fund. If the sanctions and low oil prices persist, the $80 billion fund — meant to plug Russia’s pension-system deficit — won’t have enough money to go around.
The Turkish deal, meant to replace the South Stream pipeline, which the European Union has blocked, has had less impressive optics from the start. It would keep Gazprom from losing the $5 billion already invested in building the Russian end of South Stream and allow it to honour contracts for laying pipe across the bottom of the Black Sea. But delivering gas to Turkey would make its route to Europe more circuitous, and it would allow Turkey to dictate terms if Russia wants to “reduce Ukraine’s role as a gas transit country to zero,” as Miller promised to do last week. Turkish energy minister Taner Yildiz denies the existence of a firm deal with Russia, according to the commodity-markets information service Platts. Yes, Putin and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to keep talking about diverting the Black Sea pipeline to Turkey, but that would involve resolving a few contentious issues. Putin’s offer to Turkey of a 6% discount on gas already being supplied is not enough, according to Yildiz, who says his country has made a counter offer. Besides, Turkey wants Gazprom to stop giving its own subsidiary, Bosphorus Gaz, priority over Turkish partners. When these negotiations are done, Russia may end up supplying Turkish intermediaries with gas at a much lower price than it would have received from European consumers at the other end of South Stream.
Russia’s purpose in presenting unfinished talks with China and Turkey as done deals is obvious: It needs to convince the West that it need not stop meddling in Ukraine under any circumstances because it can form alternative partnerships. Authoritarian leaders such as China’s Xi Jinping and Turkey’s Erdogan are willing to help Putin put on a brave face — but not if means sacrificing their own countries’ economic benefit. Knowing how limited Putin’s options are as the oil price falls, the harder they will press him on the energy deals.
Jerusalem Post, Nov. 25, 2014
The war of words between Russia and Ukraine over the issue of anti-Semitism heated … with Moscow condemning the former Soviet republic, as well as the US and Canada, for voting against an annual UN resolution condemning Nazism. The draft, which was approved by a vote of 115 to 3 in the UN’s Third (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) Committee … condemned the “glorification” of Nazism, neo-Nazism and “other practices that contribute to fueling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.” It was backed by Russia, with support from Pakistan, Cuba and Rwanda, among others. Fifty-five countries abstained from the vote. It is “highly regrettable” that the US, Canada and Ukraine opposed the measure and that members of the European Union withdrew from the vote, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Saturday. Russia was particularly “depressed and alarmed” over Kiev’s opposition, the ministry said, as Ukrainians “experienced the full brunt of the horrors of Nazism and contributed importantly to our common victory over it.” Russia has consistently asserted that Ukraine’s post-revolutionary government, which took power after popular demonstrations pushed out pro-Moscow President Victor Yanukovich, is composed of fascists and anti-Semites. “It could never occur to anybody that radicals and neo-Nazis could come to dominate Ukrainian politics,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told deputies in Russia’s parliament last week.
Ukrainian Jews have come out strongly against accusations of state anti-Semitism, with several prominent leaders actively accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin of orchestrating anti-Jewish provocations for propaganda purposes. While several members of extreme right- wing parties became part of the interim government immediately following the revolution, the far Right has since lost significant ground politically and the government has come out publicly against anti-Semitism. In explaining her opposition to the resolution, Terri Robl, US deputy representative to the UN Economic and Social Council, said the Russian government had thrown around terms such as Nazi and fascist for its own political ends. “We believe Russia’s efforts at the General Assembly, via this resolution, are aimed at its opponents, rather than at promoting or protecting human rights,” she said. By seeking to “limit freedom of expression, assembly and opinion,” a representative of the Canadian delegation told The Jerusalem Post, Russia has taken steps that are “counterproductive” to the goal of eradicating Nazism.
The Ukrainian delegation attacked Russia over the resolution, accusing Moscow of actively supporting neo-Nazism at home and of supporting “nationalistic, xenophobia and chauvinistic policies” in the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine earlier this year. The delegation evoked the memory of the Holodomor, a massive famine brought about by forced collectivization of farms that killed millions of Ukrainians from 1923-33 and which is generally viewed in the country as a genocide planned by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. While Ukraine is committed to fighting the glorification of Nazism, “Ukrainians equally condemn Hitler and Stalin as international criminals for what they have done to us. We have always demanded that Russia should stop glorifying Stalinism and neo-Stalinism, because of their misanthropic and xenophobic nature. Until and unless the notions of Stalinism and neo-Stalinism are equally condemned along with Nazism and neo-Nazism and other forms of intolerance, Ukraine will not be able to support the draft presented by Russia,” the delegation explained. Marking Holodomor Remembrance Day last week, the White House deemed the “man-made famine” to be “one of the gravest atrocities of the last century.”
The issue of the rehabilitation of historical figures that collaborated with the Nazi regime is a serious one in the former Soviet Union, explained Dr. Efraim Zuroff, a Nazi-hunter who heads the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Jerusalem office. “There is a very strong tendency in post-Communist Europe to try to rewrite the narrative of World War II and the Holocaust and to try and minimize crimes by local Nazi collaborators, to equate Communist crimes and suffering of Communist victims with Nazi crimes during the Shoah and to glorify local heroes who fought against the Communists even though some of them were actively involved in collaboration with the Nazis and mass murder of Jews during the Holocaust,” he said. As a consequence of this, former Soviet countries, especially in the Baltics, have engaged in a systematic campaign to revise history, with Ukraine being “the worst of them,” Zuroff told the Post.
Victor Yanukovich’s predecessor, Viktor Yushchenko, engaged in an effort to rehabilitate figures such as Stepan Bandera, a leader of the Ukrainian national movement during the period of the Holocaust who actively collaborated with the Nazis and was involved in pogroms against Jews. Yushchenko’s posthumous award to Bandera of the title of “Hero of Ukraine” in 2010 riled the Jewish community and brought widespread condemnation abroad. “We condemn the revisionism and the myths of the new heroes of all these countries and we are worried about the use of this issue in the political fights of our days,” Rabbi Boruch Gorin, a senior figure in the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, told the Post. Politicizing history and anti-Semitism can be “very dangerous,” he added, calling drawing equivalences between Soviet and Nazi crimes a “vulgarization of the Holocaust.”
Yaakov Dov Bleich, Ukraine’s chief rabbi, asserted that his government does not consider the Holodomor and Holocaust to be equal. “They are very much trying to promote the Holodomor as a genocide. There were millions killed there by Stalin who orchestrated the crime,” he explained, adding that Ukrainians were pushing back against Russia’s “propaganda machine” and denial of responsibility for the famine. “One can sympathize with the exasperation expressed by the representative of Ukraine on the Russian draft resolution,” said Hebrew University Prof. Robert Wistrich, one of the world’s foremost experts on anti-Semitism. “The Russian resolution reminds me of the notorious propaganda techniques of the Soviet Union in blackening Zionism and Israel with the Nazi label… Jews should try as much as possible to avoid being used as a football in this manipulation of anti-Semitism for political ends whether in Moscow, Kiev or in the Western world,” Wistrich said…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Tablet, Dec. 1, 2014
My meeting with Right Sector’s Borislav Bereza, newly elected member of the Ukrainian Parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, took place on a sunny Friday morning. We met at a table with a magnificent view of the Dnieper River on the third-floor food court of the Sky Mall in Kiev. Despite the prognostications of Russian television, the right wing and ultra-nationalist party that is widely considered to be emblematic of the new iteration of “Ukrainian Fascism” failed to breach the 5 percent threshold required for parliamentary representation. Only two of its deputies were elected from the party to represent specific constituencies, party leader Dmitry Yarosh and party speaker Bereza, who ran a slightly frenzied campaign that focused on his busting up illegal unlicensed bars and underground casinos. That Bereza is a proudly outspoken and synagogue-going Jew is often pointed out by those who do not agree with the mounting equivalence of Right Sector with neo-fascism.
We were put in touch by a mutual friend whom we both highly respect, a Kiev-based Orthodox Jewish film producer. Bereza is very tall and has a muscular build. He has the broad shoulders and wide gait of a boxer along with a receding hairline and piercing gray eyes. He wears a diamond earring in his left ear and sports smart blue blazers over polka dot blue shirts with the Ukrainian emblem pinned to his lapel. Loquacious, and bluntly plain spoken, he speaks in a quick flow of short and declarative sentences and often cannot wait for you to finish your sentence before launching into the breathless reply. The day before we met he had told a Ukrainian newspaper that “Putin understands very well that his modern Russia could very well follow in the footsteps of the USSR with a complete collapse.”
Undiplomatic and completely intense, Bereza, who spoke with me in Russian, turned out to be one of the most likable politicians I had ever met, a cross between a drinking buddy, an Israeli paratrooper, and the aggressively militant Jewish partisan played by Liev Schreiber in Defiance. I congratulated him with a “Mazel tov” on his being elected a deputy and he responded with an enthusiastic “Baruch Hashem!”
You are a Jew…Yes. I am a Jew.
So, you are Jewish believer, I am told you go to synagogue, and also that you strongly consider yourself to be a member of the Jewish people…Of course. I am not an Orthodox Jew, I do not wear peyes, or a kippah in public, but I try to go to synagogue as often as I can. I study the Torah, and that is absolutely a harmonically integrated part of my life. I go to Israel every year, since 1993, and I have lived there.
But you are also a member of Right Sector?…I am a Jew and also a Cohen. There have never been any questions about this. Right Sector is composed of people of varied nationalities, not just Ukrainians and Jews, but also Poles and Belorussians, Georgians, Chechens, we have people of every [Soviet] ethnicity represented. The question is not one of ethnicity; it is “are you a Ukrainian? Do you support Ukraine? Are you a Ukrainian patriot?” In which case, you are my brother. If you are Ukraine’s enemy, whatever nationality you might be, you and I have nothing to talk about.
The reason such questions arise is that, as you know, this country has historically witnessed many problems between its constituent nationalities. There have always been problems between Poles and Ukrainians, Ukrainians and Russians and, yes, Ukrainians and Jews…Yes, that is so. I do not deny that. I have myself experienced casual everyday anti-Semitism. This is something I have experienced continuously since living in the Soviet Union, when my father could not go to the university he wanted to attend because he was a Jew. There were quotas for Jews, he was told. Yes, of course you are right. I know that anti-Semitism still exists on the everyday level in Ukraine, I have felt it myself. But it is a minor problem. There is also Russophobia and Ukrainaphobia here in certain quarters, it certainly exists. But the question of anti-Semitism is not a serious ideological problem or question in this society.
All right, I understand and respect your position. However that answer is not entirely satisfying. Many of the emblems and symbols of your movement strike many people as problematic. These are World War II symbols that—…Which symbols? —Well, let’s start with the Red and Black flag of the UPA [or Ukrainian Insurgent Army], under which you march. Under which you fight…Great! Wonderful! You have to understand: It was not merely the representatives of the Red Army that were annihilated under the auspices of the Red and Black flag, but also fascists, as well as all those who were invading Ukrainian lands. The Red and Black flag of the UPA represented the fight for an independent Ukraine…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible in Putin’s Russia: Ann Marlowe, Tablet, Dec. 9, 2014—Peter Pomerantsev arrived in Moscow in 2001 with the idea that everything was possible in “a city living in fast-forward, changing so fast it breaks all sense of reality, where boys become billionaires in the blink of an eye”—a sense of speedy exuberance he conveys in colorful, punchy prose in his new book, Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible.
Russia's Media Autarky Strengthens Its Grip: Christopher Walker & Robert Orttung, RealClearWorld, Nov. 30, 2014—Vladimir Putin is trying to fundamentally reshape Russia's media system as he forges an illiberal, isolationist "Russian World" doctrine. In so doing, Russia's president is taking his country into uncharted territory.
Kremlin Returns to Soviet Practice of Stripping Citizenship: Vladimir Kara-Murza, World Affairs, Nov. 10, 2014 —One of the ways of punishing political dissenters under the Soviet regime—alongside prisons, labor camps, and “special psychiatric hospitals”—was forced exile accompanied by a loss of citizenship, to ensure that “offenders” would never return to their country (in practice, “never” was curtailed by the collapse of communism in 1991).
Back in St. Petersburg, Former Refusenik Encourages Jews to Emigrate: Cnaan Liphshiz, JTA, Dec. 1, 2014—Through the backseat window of a black KGB car, Yosef Mendelevitch could see university students his age hurrying to take their finals.
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