Wednesday, 22 November 2017
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Russia

By George Friedman

The Moscow summit between U.S. President Barack Obama, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has ended. As is almost always the case, the atmospherics were good, with the proper things said on all sides and statements and gestures of deep sincerity made. And as with all summits, those atmospherics are like the air: insubstantial and ultimately invisible. While there were indications of substantial movement, you would have needed a microscope to see them.

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by Ariel Cohen, Ph.D.

On July 7, Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev will meet for their first full-fledged summit in Moscow.

The two countries may have a window of opportunity to re-launch their relationship, which has been set back by Russia's intransigent positions and its litany of demands. While some in the U.S. believe that rhetoric alone can revitalize the deteriorating relationship between the two nations, only concrete steps by Russia--such as responding positively to the U.S. initiatives--will prove that the two sides are opening a new page.

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By Scott Lowe

"When everyone is dead the Great Game is finished. Not before." Rudyard Kipling

After the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, five entirely new states were suddenly created: Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. Collectively, these states are known as Central Asia, although caution is advised on the use of this term when conversing with the people of these states. Within their borders are extensive natural resources, primarily large reserves of oil and gas. In the chaos of the early 1990s, many

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Elayne Jude, Great North News Services, reports

Russian Prime Minister Putin signed a clutch of energy deals with Japan during a 24 hour stopover Wednesday 13th May. On the same day President Medvedev announced Russia's new security strategy, a keystone of which is Russia's reiteration of her claims to Arctic territory thought to contain vast oil resources, and her right to use military means as necessary in support of those claims.

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by Sally McNamara

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with President Obama at the White House this week, a privilege normally reserved for fellow heads-of-state. Moscow has reciprocated this extraordinary display of friendship by pulling out of the NATO-Russia Council meeting set for May 19, and expelling two NATO officials from their Moscow offices after NATO expelled two Russian diplomats suspected of spying.

After meeting President Obama, Minister Lavrov delivered a public speech outlining multiple Russian concerns, including deployment of U.S. missile defenses in Europe and NATO's eastern expansion. Lavrov also stated that Moscow is open for cooperation with NATO allies and regional powers on Afghanistan.

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It is common knowledge that Russia is highly critical of the USA's plans to build missile defense shields in Poland and the Czech Republic. It is also well known that President Barack Obama is ambivalent about the agreements, signed while George Bush was still in office. Russia Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said his country seeks "international cooperation" between Russia and the U.S. over launching a third missile defense site in Central Europe.

An excerpt of Lavrov's statement, via Itar-Tass:

"In the course of the discussion on the third launch area for the global missile defence, the United States did not assume obligations regarding the terms of access to the third launch area facilities by Russian officials.

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by Ariel Cohen, Ph.D.

The Russian and Eurasian Policy Project was inaugurated to assist policymakers in the legislative and executive branches who will formulate U.S. policies toward Russia and Eurasia. The project's task force is composed of leading experts on Russia and Eurasia who have extensive policy experience in Russian and Eurasian affairs and national security in both Republican and Democratic Administrations. This task force report is intended to be both prescrip tive and descriptive in recommending policies that are realistic, possible to implement, and balanced.

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By Reva Bhalla, Lauren Goodrich and Peter Zeihan

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev reportedly will travel to Turkey in the near future to follow up a recent four-day visit by his Turkish counterpart, Abdullah Gul, to Moscow. The Turks and the Russians certainly have much to discuss.

Russia is moving aggressively to extend its influence throughout the former Soviet empire, while Turkey is rousing itself from 90 years of post-Ottoman isolation. Both are clearly ascendant powers, and it would seem logical that the more the two bump up against one other, the more likely they will gird for yet another round in their centuries-old conflict. But while that may be true down the line, the two Eurasian powers have sufficient strategic incentives to work together for now.

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By Lauren Goodrich and Peter Zeihan

Under the leadership of Vladimir Putin, Russia has been re-establishing much of its lost Soviet-era strength. This has given rise to the possibility - and even the probability - that Russia again will become a potent adversary of the Western world. But now, Russia is yet again on the cusp of a set of massive currency devaluations that could destroy much of the country's financial system. With a crashing currency, the disappearance of foreign capital, greatly decreased energy revenues and currency reserves flying out of the bank, the Western perception is that Russia is on the verge of collapsing once again. Consequently, many Western countries have started to grow complacent about Russia's ability to further project power abroad.

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By Fred Burton and Ben West

As Umar Israilov, a 27-year-old Chechen political refugee living in Vienna, Austria, returned home on foot after grocery shopping Jan. 13, 2009, he spotted two men standing outside his apartment building - one of whom had a gun. Upon spotting the men, Israilov dropped his groceries and fled down Leopoldauer Street in the Floridsdorf neighborhood of Vienna, dodging cars and pedestrians. But the gunman managed to wound Israilov, halting his flight. The two men then approached him in a side alley, where the armed man shot Israilov twice in the head, killing him.

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By Nick Watts

UK Conservative MPs met the NATO Secretary General (Jaap de hoop Scheffer) on 26th January 2009. He outlined what he saw as the priorities for NATO at the forthcoming 60th anniversary summit, being held on April 3rd 4th at Strasbourg. These are:

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By George Friedman

Candidate Obama said much about what he would do as president; now we will see what President Obama actually does. The most important issue Obama will face will be the economy, something he did not anticipate through most of his campaign. The first hundred days of his presidency thus will revolve around getting a stimulus package passed. But Obama also is now in the great game of global competition - and in that game, presidents rarely get to set the agenda.

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By Lauren Goodrich

Three interlocking crises are striking Russia simultaneously: the highest recorded temperatures Russia has seen in 130 years of recordkeeping; the most widespread drought in more than three decades; and massive wildfires that have stretched across seven regions, including Moscow.

The crises threaten the wheat harvest in Russia, which is one of the world's largest wheat exporters. Russia is no stranger to having drought affect its wheat crop, a commodity of critical importance to Moscow's domestic tranquility and foreign policy. Despite the severity of the heat, drought and wildfires, Moscow's wheat output will cover Russia's domestic needs. Russia will also use the situation to merge its neighbors into a grain cartel.

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By Ben West and Lauren Goodrich

On Aug. 12, four members of the militant group the Caucasus Emirate (CE) appeared in a video posted on a Russian militant website withdrawing their support from CE founder and leader Doku Umarov. The reason for the mutiny was Umarov's Aug. 4 retraction of his Aug. 1 announcement that he was stepping down from the top leadership position. STRATFOR and many others noted at the time that the Aug. 1 resignation was unexpected and suggested that Umarov may have been killed. However, the Aug. 4 retraction revealed that Umarov was still alive and that there was considerable confusion over who was in control of the militant group.

The mutineers were all high-level members of the militant group: Hussein Gakayev, commander of the CE's Chechen forces; Aslambek Vadalov, commander of Dagestani forces and to whom Umarov had briefly turned over control in his Aug. 1 resignation; an Arab commander named Muhannad; and a veteran field commander known as Tarkhan. The four CE commanders said Umarov's renunciation showed disrespect for his subordinates and that, while the four leaders continued to pledge support to the CE, they no longer supported Umarov. Gakayev, Tarkhan and Muhannad had all appeared in a video that aired Aug. 1 in which they supported Umarov's decision to appoint Vadalov CE emir.

To further confuse the issue, a video released Aug. 11 by Emir Adam, the CE leader in Ingushetia, pledged his and his followers' loyalty to Umarov. The next day, another video appeared featuring the group's new leader in Dagestan, Emir Seyfullakh Gubdensky (who succeeded Vadalov after he became deputy leader of the CE), similarly endorsing Umarov's reclamation of the top CE post.

These disparate messages from top leaders paint a picture of confusion and dissension in the CE that appears to mark a serious crisis for a group, which, until recently, had been consolidating militant groups across the Caucasus under a single, more strategic leadership structure. STRATFOR has collected insight from sources familiar with the group and its leadership turmoil that explains what happened and the nature of the threat that the CE poses to Russian security in the Caucasus.

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By Dr Robert Crowcroft

Today the spectre of conflict in Europe has receded to the point that a general war is virtually unthinkable. Since the termination of the Balkan wars, smaller conflicts are also unlikely. A view has arisen that the structures of stability and co-operation are now so deep that Europe is perhaps in a state of 'perpetual peace'. This is usually attributed to post-war Franco-German reconciliation, the rise of the European Union, economic interconnectedness, and the Euro. And it is true that no region has such a range of well-developed institutions as Europe from the EU to NATO, the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Western European Union, and more. Indeed analysts now often find Europe the arena that inspired International Relations theory so dull that they look elsewhere for the required fix of tension, competition, and violence. But the current state of affairs is not as resilient as some maintain. It might be that the whole rationale for co-operation between the states of Europe is, actually, remarkably thin.

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By Chris Newton

It has been a long, strenuous, and difficult summer in the Ministry of Defence. As part of the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), it and the entire defence community has been grappling with two fundamental questions about the future. What will the future strategic environment look like? And what does this mean for our Armed Forces? There are those commentators who can, with a remarkable degree of confidence, say that they can predict what the future character of conflict will look like. Future conflict will be similar to the wars we have fought in Afghanistan and Iraq, and 9/11 was a significant date that heralded a new kind of warfare.

But is this certainty in predicting the future justified when history always teaches us to expect the unexpected? History does not follow a linear, pre-determined path; it is about men and women making choices between alternative futures and scenarios. A gunshot in 1914, for example, completely destroyed an entire European and world order. So we should at the very least be open to alternative scenarios and future pathways. Moreover, there is another significant date has passed us by that could signal the change the world is about to face, and we could risk harming our future security and prosperity if we choose to ignore its significance.

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By Roshani Palamakumb?ura

The Russian military is undertaking one of the most significant programmes of modernisation since the end of the Cold War. Russia's political and military elite appear united in the goal of an improved and updated military. However, the project for internal reform has become increasingly sidelined in the rush to buy expensive new technology. The glaring issues of hazing, corruption and lack of civilian oversight continue to plague and weaken the armed forces. Without a serious attempt to resolve these issues, the ambition of a functioning 21st century army will remain a distant dream.

Roshani's full report can be read here.

 

By Scott Stewart and Nate Hughes

Over the past decade there has been an ongoing debate over the threat posed by electromagnetic pulse (EMP) to modern civilization. This debate has been the most heated perhaps in the United States, where the commission appointed by Congress to assess the threat to the United States warned of the dangers posed by EMP in reports released in 2004 and 2008. The commission also called for a national commitment to address the EMP threat by hardening the national infrastructure.

There is little doubt that efforts by the United States to harden infrastructure against EMP and its ability to manage critical infrastructure manually in the event of an EMP attack have been eroded in recent decades as the Cold War ended and the threat of nuclear conflict with Russia lessened. This is also true of the U.S. military, which has spent little time contemplating such scenarios in the years since the fall of the Soviet Union. The cost of remedying the situation, especially retrofitting older systems rather than simply regulating that new systems be better hardened, is immense. And as with any issue involving massive amounts of money, the debate over guarding against EMP has become quite politicized in recent years.

We have long avoided writing on this topic for precisely that reason. However, as the debate over the EMP threat has continued, a great deal of discussion about the threat has appeared in the media. Many STRATFOR readers have asked for our take on the threat, and we thought it might be helpful to dispassionately discuss the tactical elements involved in such an attack and the various actors that could conduct one. The following is our assessment of the likelihood of an EMP attack against the United States.

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By Ben West

Militants in Tajikistan's Rasht Valley ambushed a military convoy of 75 Tajik troops Sept. 19, killing 25 military personnel according to official reports and 40 according to the militants, who attacked from higher ground with small arms, automatic weapons and grenades. The Tajik troops were part of a nationwide deployment of security forces seeking to recapture 25 individuals linked to the United Tajik Opposition militant groups that had escaped from prison in Dushanbe on Aug. 24. The daring prison break was conducted by members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), and saw five security guards killed and the country put on red alert. According to the Tajik government, after the escape, most of the militants fled to the Rasht Valley, an area under the influence of Islamist militants that is hard to reach for Tajikistan's security forces and thus rarely patrolled by troops.

Sunday's attack was one of the deadliest clashes between militants and the Tajik government since the Central Asian country's civil war ended in 1997. The last comparable attack was in 1998, when militants ambushed a battalion of Interior Ministry troops just outside Dushanbe, killing 20 and kidnapping 110. Sunday's incident was preceded by a Sept. 3 attack on a police station that involved a suicide operative and a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) in the northwest Tajik city of Khujand that killed four police officers. Suicide attacks are rare in Tajikistan, and VBIEDs even more so. The Khujand attack also stands out as it occurred outside militant territory. Khujand, Tajikistan's second-largest city after the capital, is located at the mouth of the Fergana Valley, the largest population center in Central Asia.

This represents a noticeable increase in the number and professionalism of militant operations in Tajikistan. Regardless of whether the September attacks can be directly linked to the Aug. 24 jailbreak in Dushanbe, the sudden re-emergence of attacks in Tajikistan after a decade of quiet in Central Asia deserves our attention. In short, something is percolating in the valleys of Central Asia that has reawakened militant groups more or less dormant for a decade. This unrest will likely continue and possibly grow if Tajik security forces can't get control of the situation.

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By Marko Papic

Twenty-eight heads of state of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) will meet in Lisbon on Nov. 20 to approve a new "Strategic Concept," the alliance's mission statement for the next decade. This will be NATO's third Strategic Concept since the Cold War ended. The last two came in 1991 as the Soviet Union was collapsing and 1999 as NATO intervened in Yugoslavia, undertaking its first serious military engagement.

During the Cold War, the presence of 50 Soviet and Warsaw Pact armored divisions and nearly 2 million troops west of the Urals spoke far louder than mission statements. While Strategic Concepts were put out in 1949, 1952, 1957 and 1968, they merely served to reinforce NATO's mission, namely, to keep the Soviets at bay. Today, the debate surrounding NATO's Strategic Concept itself highlights the alliance's existential crisis.

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