“...western consensus over what to do about Russia remains elusive.”
October 16, 2016 6:26 AM   Subscribe

Aleppo, Ukraine, Cyber Attacks, Baltic Threats: What Should We Do About Putin? [The Guardian] “The challenge presented by Russia is one of the biggest facing the next US president. Some analysts say Putin is taking advantage of Obama’s lame duck status to create “facts on the ground” in Syria. The Russian president is said to anticipate a further deterioration in bilateral relations if Hillary Clinton wins. The two have a history of personal dislike, dating back to Clinton’s time as secretary of state. “She says she sees in him a cold-blooded, self-enriching KGB agent and a bully; he remembers how she appeared to encourage street protests against him in 2011,” said analyst Leonid Bershidsky. Speaking in August, Clinton described Putin as “the grand godfather of this global brand of extreme nationalism” – lumping him with Trump, German anti-immigrant xenophobes and hard-right populists such as France’s Marine Le Pen.”

Putin, Syria, and Why Moscow Has Gone War-Crazy [The New Yorker]
“Why has Moscow gone, for lack of a better term, war-crazy? Much has been written about Putin’s paranoia and conspiratorial view of the world. But there also is a certain logic in “the demonstration of your ability to carry yourself more or less like a madman,” as Alexander Golts, a columnist on the military for The New Times, a liberal magazine in Moscow, told me this week. “Russia entered into this new Cold War without the resources the Soviet Union once did,” Golts said. “But what does Russia have? It has nuclear weapons. So it must constantly convince the United States, and the West as a whole, that it is a little crazy.” In other words, a measured dose of faux insanity is being used to make up for a gaping disparity in conventional military and economic strength. (“We have no chance,” one Russian defense expert told a radio interviewer last week, when asked about the prospects of an actual clash between Russian and U.S. forces in Syria. “Our detachment would be destroyed in two days in a single air offensive.”) It is a way for a “regional power,” in Obama’s purposefully insulting formulation from 2014, to act like a global one. And it may work, at least in part.”
Behind Putin’s Combativeness, Some See Motives Other Than Syria [The New York Times]
““Boorish behavior toward Russia has a nuclear dimension,” said Dmitry K. Kiselyov, the show’s host. So if Mr. Putin was not actually preparing Russians for war, then what was he doing? On the international front, analysts say, Mr. Putin appeared to be positioning himself to make maximum demands of the next American president and to pursue his perennial goal of getting other world leaders to treat him as an equal. More immediately, they say, he was raising the stakes for the anticipated resumption of negotiations over Syria, talks expected to begin again in some form in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Saturday. But increasingly, commentators in Russia have begun to suspect other motives, beginning with a need to distract attention from gaping holes in the federal budget and the painful, politically unpopular steps needed to close them.”
Russia v America: Going Nuclear [The Economist]
“The list reads like a hostage-taker’s demands. Russia wants America to roll back the expansion of NATO, repeal the Magnitsky Act, end sanctions and pay compensation for Russia’s losses. Until it does, Vladimir Putin declared this week, Russia will stop abiding by an agreement regulating the disposal of plutonium. Russia was forced to act, Mr Putin claimed, because of “the threat to strategic stability posed by America’s hostile actions” (and its failure to deliver on its end of the deal). The move is a reminder that, unlike America, Russia is happy to throw nuclear arguments into the mix when it does not get its way.”
Putin says U.S. Hacking Scandal Not in Russia's Interests [Reuters]
“The scandal that erupted in the United States over allegations Russia hacked Democratic Party emails has not been in Moscow's interests and both sides in the U.S. election campaign are just using Russia to score points, Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday. The U.S. government on Friday formally accused Russia for the first time of a campaign of cyber attacks against Democratic Party organizations ahead of the Nov. 8 presidential election. And the White House said on Tuesday it would consider a variety of responses to the alleged hacks. "They started this hysteria, saying that this (hacking) is in Russia's interests. But this has nothing to do with Russia's interests," President Putin told a business forum in Moscow. Putin said the accusations were a ploy to divert U.S. voters' attention at a time when public opinion was being manipulated.”
posted by Fizz (124 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
 
[I realize that this subject matter does intersect with the current 2016 Presidential Election, but I'm hoping that the primary focus on this discussion rests with Russia/United States relations, Nuclear Weapons, Vladimir Putin, & Syria.]
posted by Fizz at 6:34 AM on October 16, 2016 [8 favorites]


I mean, where are the super secret not-even-an-acronym agencies that can secretly take care of these situations in an unable to trace back manner?

(yes, realistically I assume the "vanishing" of Putin or al-Assad would just make things worse, but still)
posted by sammyo at 6:43 AM on October 16, 2016


This bit from The Guardian article is particularly noteworthy:
Sergei Lavrov, Putin’s veteran foreign minister, was blunt. Russia would not be told what to do. Like it or not, it was once again a global force to be reckoned with. “Washington... cannot use the language of force, sanctions and ultimatums with Russia while continuing to selectively cooperate with our country only when it benefits the US,” he said.
The United States seems to want its cake and eat it too. Though, I guess it's difficult for the United States to just completely isolate Russia. And sanctions will only take you so far. But I do have to agree with the foreign minister here, it seems a bit hypocritical to criticize Russia for a, b, & c issues, while continuing to take advantage of issues d & e. But maybe that's just how global politics operates.
posted by Fizz at 6:59 AM on October 16, 2016 [6 favorites]


I mean, isn't the definition of international negotiations for everyone? You want what benefits you and you work together to find deals where both people feel that way? I don't think wanting to eat your cake and have it too is unique to the U.S. We are just the fattest gorilla. (I don't really care for our bellicose international stance but that criticism seems weird to me.)
posted by dame at 7:07 AM on October 16, 2016 [13 favorites]


I also find it odd the article calls Clinton "untested." While I am not really a fan, having been Sec of State certainly seems tested, no?

Mods, feel free to kill this one if it is skating too close to "election."
posted by dame at 7:08 AM on October 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


Oh, you're right Dame, it is not just the United States. I imagine most major world players are hypocritical in this way. Maybe it is just the kind of cold war rhetoric that is invoked that makes it seem a bit more disingenuous.
posted by Fizz at 7:10 AM on October 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


Putin, Syria, and Why Moscow Has Gone War-Crazy

American propaganda outlets opining on other countries being war crazy is some rich shit.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:12 AM on October 16, 2016 [49 favorites]


Putting the world on pause for the election is not really a possibility.
posted by Artw at 7:12 AM on October 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


Two major world powers playing chess and it is the people of Syria who are caught in the middle, specifically Aleppo, that suffer the most.
“Syria has been the main point of contention for more than a year now, with the Obama administration left writhing on the sidelines while Russia uses its air force to pulverize opponents of President Bashar al-Assad. That was tolerable when Russia was hitting the so-called Islamic State, but in recent months most Russian sorties have struck at Western-supported rebels holding out in besieged eastern Aleppo.

“Last night, the regime attacked yet another hospital and 20 people were killed and 100 people were injured. Russia and the regime owe the world more than an explanation about why they keep hitting hospitals and medical facilities and women and children,” Mr. Kerry said in Washington. “These are actions that beg for an appropriate investigation of war crimes and those responsible would and should be held accountable for these actions.”” [via: The Globe and Mail]
posted by Fizz at 7:21 AM on October 16, 2016 [7 favorites]


Putin is not a nice or even decent man, but he is not crazy. His internal stability is currently resting on his perceived strength, because Russia's economy really is for shit these days and can't bail him out. He needs to rattle sabers to make himself credible at home, so sabers will be rattled. And bluntly the U.S. is playing a very willing dance partner in brinksmanship, which is chilling.

Globally this is the long power play that is inevitable in the 21st century - the U.S. is contesting with Russia for dominance in the Middle East and that's a severe danger. As with all proxy wars, the victims of course are the people on the ground whose countries are being destroyed.
posted by graymouser at 7:31 AM on October 16, 2016 [21 favorites]


It is easy to hate Bashar al-Assad but what is the alternative to him? Haven't we learned that getting rid of an evil dictator doesn't make things better, e.g. Iraq, Libya? I think Putin is actually right on this one. If Assad falls pretty much every non Sunni in Syria is doomed.

Everywhere else, Ukraine, the Baltic states, the intervention in the US election, Putin is a threat and the US and NATO need to taking it seriously.
posted by Bee'sWing at 7:31 AM on October 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


How do you solve a problem like Crimea?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:32 AM on October 16, 2016 [17 favorites]


Imagine a superpower selling weapons to fascists to fight a holy war in the middle east, regardless of the human cost. And actively helping with war crimes. And then lying about their motives.

I'm asking the people of Yemen.
posted by adept256 at 7:35 AM on October 16, 2016 [16 favorites]


Astute as he is Mr Putin and his foreign minister will take as much advantage as possible of the American Election. That is what foreign powers do. Putin will push to the utmost to cause as much disruption as possible.
Meanwhile Yemen is fast becoming another front in the proxy war with Russia being offered use of Ports and Airbases back in April and a US warship shells Yemen, aiding their Saudi allies who appear to be using U.S.-supplied white phosphorus.
posted by adamvasco at 7:36 AM on October 16, 2016 [7 favorites]


If Assad falls pretty much every non Sunni in Syria is doomed.

This thread, from back in August does not make me hopeful for Syria's near future even if the US and Russia back off.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:41 AM on October 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


[One deleted. General (non-Putin/Russia/Syria, etc.) US Election stuff in the election thread, please; let's stick pretty closely to the topic here.]
posted by taz (staff) at 7:42 AM on October 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


Russia and the regime owe the world more than an explanation about why they keep hitting hospitals and medical facilities and women and children

There is no credible evidence that the American attack on the Doctors without Borders in Afghanistan was not deliberate. John Kerry is an obvious hypocrite without shame.

Screw him.
posted by bukvich at 7:43 AM on October 16, 2016 [15 favorites]


the hardest thing for a US audience to comprehend is that what is happening in Syria has less to do with US policy, right or wrong, but rather is being driven by the KSA (Saudi Arabia), Turkey, Iran, and now Russia. In particular, Syria would not be in the place it is now if the KSA and the gulf petro-states hadn't poured money and weapons into various radical Islamic armies in Syria. Much the same way Yemen wouldn't be destroyed and on the edge of mass famine, if the KSA hadn't decided to bomb the hell out of the country.

The US is being led by it's proxies in the MIddle East, rather than the other way around and the US is truly limited in what it can do on it's own. Even the "left" imagines the US has more power in the region than it actually does, now, thanks in part to George W. Bush and all of the members of the US power elite that signed on to the invasion of Iraq and who still control the policy levers in DC.
posted by ennui.bz at 7:58 AM on October 16, 2016 [30 favorites]


A little sensationalist, but interesting - Sensing American Disinterest, Egypt and Turkey Reach Out to Russia
posted by rosswald at 8:02 AM on October 16, 2016


In particular, Syria would not be in the place it is now if the KSA and the gulf petro-states hadn't poured money and weapons into various radical Islamic armies in Syria.

Ding ding ding ding ding! We have a winner folks!

But the thing is that the KSA as the state isn't the one doing it. It's not official policy of the KSA to fund Wahhabist extremists. But the extended royal families receive millions in companies they own, royalties, royal allowances, and general pillaging of the KSA economy and that money is what flows through to the extremists. The KSA can only turn a blind eye to this because any attempt to crack down on "their" religion's interests will only see an insurgency develop in the KSA and there's already a Shia uprising they're trying to quietly put down.

It's fucked up from top to bottom. The way to fix it? At least from a US perspective? There isn't one. Just slow and painful steps to reduce their influence over us and then assess where we're at. So we need to wean ourselves from the Saudi oil teat as a start. The KSA gets to lead us around by the nose and fund extremists, who kill our people, on the sly because they have us over a literal barrel. Take away that barrel and we will be able to see at least more clearly.
posted by Talez at 8:10 AM on October 16, 2016 [25 favorites]


American propaganda outlets opining on other countries being war crazy is some rich shit.

The New Yorker article is about the how Russian state is preparing its citizens for doomsday: fallout shelters, air-raid sirens, war rations, recalling citizens home. I don't think any Western governments are doing that. Well, maybe Poland.
posted by Bee'sWing at 8:16 AM on October 16, 2016 [8 favorites]


It's not official policy of the KSA to fund Wahhabist extremists. But the extended royal families receive millions in companies they own

Where exactly is the dividing line between the government of Saudi Arabia and the royal family?
posted by Slothrup at 8:17 AM on October 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


how Russian state is preparing its citizens for doomsday

That might just be preparing for the uncertainty of who will be in the driver's seat 3 weeks from now.
posted by infini at 8:22 AM on October 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


Where exactly is the dividing line between the government of Saudi Arabia and the royal family?

Probably the 200 direct male descendants of King Abdulaziz. There's 7,000 members of the royal family in total and all of them are given spending money.

The executive parts of the KSA government have repeatedly condemned violent extremism as unislamic. Abdullah before he died also denounced both the Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS. But they still don't take active roles in rooting out the members of the 7,000 strong brood which send their royal allowance to quasi-religious organizations that send them straight on to ISIS.
posted by Talez at 8:27 AM on October 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


I'm reluctant to comment to discussion searching for a "key" because what pains everyone is the suffering of millions despite any analysis or position. The US isn't dependent on KSA's oil supply, but their history (termed a client state by many) has consistently leveraged price points for nearly a century. The US' complicity in terms of Yemen is more directly related to the military hardware we sell, which equals jobs. And I want to add impugning the source of a leak is a simple way to avoid any discussion of the content of the leak. And round 'n' round.

What should be "done" with Russia? It's a strange, arrogant framing. Markets, and more importantly, currencies are being traded across new borders and Russia's dependence on oil exports (about the last ten years? please correct) has proven untenable.

Trade ends conflicts as far as I've ever read.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 8:36 AM on October 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


Talez, Do you by any chance have any specific links to news articles that discuss the relationship between Saudi Arabia, KSA, & Russia? I'm generally interested in the subject. Or maybe a book recommendation. I'd appreciate it.
posted by Fizz at 8:37 AM on October 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


One of the things hampering this discussion is the notion that it's really all about Russia's relationship with the U.S., simply because Russia says it is. I don't think so. I think that ultimately it's all about Russia being a failing petrostate whose main client, Europe, is weaning itself away from dependence on Russian gas. Putin's relentless baiting of America not only helps keep him popular at home, but I think is also intended to try to peel European states away from NATO. That's not likely to work, but what's the alternative? Take what remains of their oil and gas revenues and, instead of putting them in the pockets of Putin and his cronies, use them to modernize and improve Russia's manufacturing and service industries to make them competitive on a global market? Hah.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:38 AM on October 16, 2016 [30 favorites]




I think that ultimately it's all about Russia being a failing petrostate whose main client, Europe, is weaning itself away from dependence on Russian gas.

Hasn't Russia used their large gas reserves as a kind of weapon, their threats to withhold that resource from other countries? Isn't this what they did with the Ukraine a few years ago? And they leveraged that threat into achieving more power and influence in that region.
posted by Fizz at 8:45 AM on October 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


The New Yorker article is about the how Russian state is preparing its citizens for doomsday: fallout shelters, air-raid sirens, war rations, recalling citizens home. I don't think any Western governments are doing that. Well, maybe Poland.

Switzerland is the most extreme example of this - transport infrastructure designed to be easily and quickly destroyed in the event of invasion, mandatory national service with most able-bodied men ending up with a rifle in their home, ready to be called up in an emergency, etc, etc. Israel has a similar, but much less extreme, setup in some ways. I know public bomb shelters are still common in parts of Scandinavia as well, for example. I'm not an expert on this sort of thing, but this is just what I can name off the top of my head - I don't think this sort of thing (even if it doesn't take the exact form of the Russian approach) is as uncommon in "the west" as all that, to varying degrees.
posted by Dysk at 8:46 AM on October 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


The United States seems to want its cake and eat it too

You can do that when you have enough cake.
posted by jpe at 8:47 AM on October 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


Russia's ham-handed cutting off gas supplies directly led to dramatic increases in alternative supplies. Gas pipelines across the Mediterranean from Algeria to Italy, gas liquefaction plants in Qatar and regasification plants all over the place have really cut Russia's power.
posted by Bee'sWing at 9:01 AM on October 16, 2016 [8 favorites]


American policy in Syria/Iraq is completely messed up in part because different factions in the US government are often in disagreement about who to back, what results would be meaningful and what we'd like our allies to do.
The US military likes the Kurdish militias because they can embed special forces guys, drop bombs and take territory from IS. Downside is that these Kurds are aligned with the Kurds in a Turkey, not the Kurds in Iraq. Turkey likes the Iraqi Kurd but not the others. Also the Iraqi government sort of likes the Kurds in Syria more than the Kurds in Iraq because the Iraqi government doesn't like Turkey.

Meanwhile the CIA wants to train and equip the FSA. The people we train and the equipment we give them keeps ending up in the hands of factions we don't like. These factions are also the ones that Turkey and Saudi Arabia like better. It has become bit like dealing with Pakistan where they used to have this notion of Good Taliban and Bad Taliban.

The CIA also has a TOW missile program which gives various anti-Assad groups a TOW missile with some crazy embedded chip stuff which makes it work only less than a week and a camera phone. When they kill a tank they take a video and post it to YouTube. This makes them eligible for another missile. The hope is that this avoids the problems we had in the 80s with the mujahideen in Afghanistan. However the Most effective users of this weapons tend to be aligned in all but name with the Islamist factions we hate.

Then there is the State Department. It is trying to negotiate with Russia. The goal is some kind of ceasefire and then national unity government which will combat IS. The problem is we can't even agree among ourselves which factions would be part of the ceasefire and which factions are Al Qaeda/IS related and should be fought. Even worse because of Turkey we can't have the Syrian kurds (the only faction we are actually fighting along side, and the third largest group) sit at the table. So we're left trying to figure out what to do with this quasi state (Rojova) we've created in Northern Syria. A state which would very much like to use their army to link up across all of Northern Syria to have one contiguous bit of territory. Turkey has of course just setup a safe zone there to prevent this. Also some of the training camps in Rojova end up recruiting and training Kurds from Turkey. Turkey see these as terrorist training camps and bombs them on occasion.

Finally the US Congress and Obama also can't agree on what to do. Obama has asked congress to pass a resolution setting some limits and explicitly authorizing what is happening today. McCain and Lindsey Graham don't like the request because it limits the next President's ability to escalate further with ground troops. Other GOP leaders don't want to pass it because politics. Democrats aren't in a position to pass it being in the minority and even if they had he majority many of them don't want to have to explain to their constituents why they are voting for another military action in the Middle East.

Within this environment the Russians see that the Syrian conflict weakens and divides NATO. They see the conflict as dividing the US government. They see the US arguing with their gulf allies. They know that they can basically solve it on their terms so their are going to try. Over last year their efforts have been less than stellar. They are not making very good progress on the ground. They have had to substantially expand their footprint on the ground and it is costing them a ton to keep it going. Meanwhile oil is at $50 a barrel and the US oil shale drillers are proving they can compete on cost.

The Russians also have continued costs in Ukraine and Crimea. In Crimea they face growing backlash from the population because they are having trouble fulfilling the promises made when they annexed it. The fighting in eastern Ukraine continues.

At my most pesssimistic I fear the whole world is repeating the mistakes of Afghanistan. The Russians will end up bankrupt and the US will have to deal with another failed state home to anti-Western extremists of our own making. Turkey will end up like Pakistan.
posted by humanfont at 9:02 AM on October 16, 2016 [30 favorites]


(yes, realistically I assume the "vanishing" of Putin or al-Assad would just make things worse, but still)

I've seen it claimed in several places that, within Russia, Putin is actually a moderate, and serves to rein in the more extreme ambitions of some others in his court. Were he to disappear, the next guy could, say, annex Estonia or nuke some third-tier NATO city just to show the Amers that you don't fuck with Russia.
posted by acb at 9:10 AM on October 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


The United States had a chance to influence perceptions at the time of the Olympics, hosted by Russia. This is a while back. While Putin took political chances to fund his Olympics to showcase his beautiful Russia, I can't believe what the press did to denigrate the efforts. Sure, we have a free press, all for it, but we could have all realized that this was important for the future of relations between Russia and the US.

Syria is a mess, because of a lot of reasons, but we are responsible for our part, and backing one side or another in a civil war, based on dominance in the Oil industry or to shut out Russia's influence, was short sighted. We cannot war in favor of Sunnis over Shiite, there are a lot of things we should have stepped away from.

As much as we would like to condemn Putin as the, "Butcher of Grozny" he did put down a jihadist rebellion. Maybe he could have done this in Syria, if we had not thrown so much wood on that fire. We are creating seriously bad blood in the Middle East by our chauvinism, pandering to business interests, and sales of weapons. Ukraine managed to step away from Russia, which is a sad loss to Russia, but Ukraine wanted a separation.

Russia is huge, and inhospitable, they are tough, and a nation as varied, or more so than our melting pot nation. We had a chance to make nice, we still can. Diplomacy is difficult, but at some point we are going to look into the interests of the American people, the Russian people, instead of just some American people or Russian people. We also have to realize our interests are ours alone, in some things, all other alliances aside. Peace is the most difficult choice, but then how could that be? Why should it be difficult to enjoy a perfect autumn day, forever?

War is the most environmentally destructive thing. The long range effects of the chemicals, and metals are better known, but still deliberately hidden to facilitate the business.

We had a chance, we still have a chance to put peace as our goal, instead of pieces of the pie for elite interests.

What are we gonna do about Putin? We had better go high, higher in all our dealings. We have to shift priorities to save the base of the global pyramid scam that is currently running things.
posted by Oyéah at 9:22 AM on October 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


Remember too that not only does Syria turn out to be a nice fulcrum with which to split consensus among US policymakers, but that Syria is a long, long term client state of both the USSR and Russia, and provides Russia with one of the things it doesn't currently have - a warm-water naval port that's not bottled up in the Black Sea by the whims of the Turks under the legal auspices of the Treaty of Montreux. Russia will remain in Syria not only to protect its interests but because this move proves it's a global player (again). The domestic PR value of this is not to be overstated. As for the question, until the West can decide how to counter the many fronts on which Putin is already fighting a war, it's all sort of pissing in the wind, I suspect.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 9:29 AM on October 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


The New Yorker article is about the how Russian state is preparing its citizens for doomsday: fallout shelters, air-raid sirens, war rations, recalling citizens home. I don't think any Western governments are doing that. Well, maybe Poland.

As someone who has recently spent a solid chunk of time in Russia and has major family ties there, The New Yorker's claims are... I won't say false, but definitely furiously cherry-picked and spun hard.
posted by Itaxpica at 9:56 AM on October 16, 2016 [14 favorites]


For example, this claim that Putin is recalling diplomats has been bandied about a ton, but it's basically just one uncorroborated, unverified story from a third-string Russian newspaper that claimed that the Russian government was encouraging diplomats to return their children to Russia for schooling because its embarrassing for the Russian government to have the children of its powerful members educated abroad, because they're coming home with accents.
posted by Itaxpica at 9:59 AM on October 16, 2016 [7 favorites]


(This is not to say that nothing is amiss with Russia and Putin is noble, strong leader with buttery-soft skin, but western media's breathless, paranoid coverage of Russia is very much not helping things)
posted by Itaxpica at 10:05 AM on October 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


As always, it's just "Ukraine" and not "The Ukraine" when referring to the country.

Ukraine is a modern and sovereign nation.

The Ukraine is an old Soviet way of referring to the region that implies that Ukraine is simply a part of a larger nation.

It's just three letters, but they mean a lot to me and to many other Ukrainians. Please try and get it right.
posted by neonrev at 10:06 AM on October 16, 2016 [42 favorites]


neonrev, Thank you for sharing that information. I'll be more of aware of how I refer to Ukraine from here on out. Apologies for any offense I may have unintentionally given to you or anyone else.
posted by Fizz at 10:20 AM on October 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


I apologize, I studied the history of the USSR in the sixties, so I still have the picture of that. I apologize again. Ukraine is OK by me. It is a brave and free nation. Looking back, I called Ukraine right!
posted by Oyéah at 10:29 AM on October 16, 2016




public bomb shelters are still common in parts of Scandinavia as well, for example.

Ours is in the basement storage room. Double doors act as an airlock. There's ventilation adn sprinklers.
posted by infini at 10:51 AM on October 16, 2016


Canada and New Zealand are leading the latest hopeless push to break Russian veto deadlock at the U.N.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 11:34 AM on October 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


The Plutonium deal is kind of interesting in and of itself, because it seems like a microcosm of US/Russia relations. Here's the text of the 2010 agreement.

Key point: "Disposition shall be by irradiation of disposition plutonium as fuel in nuclear reactors or any other methods that may be agreed by the Parties in writing."

From what I've read, the Russian goal here was 1) to make sure that the Pu-239 was unrecoverable by burning it in a reactor to produce other isotopes and 2) to get the US to subsidize their development of their next generation of a fast breeder nuclear reactors so that they could use their plutonium as nuclear fuel. The Russians would much rather sell their gas to Europe and China than burn it to keep the lights on in Krasnoyarsk, and nuclear power is a part of that strategy.

The US reactor being built at Savannah Hills to implement the agreement was a mess. So recently Obama proposed to cancel the project, and instead pursue a different method of disposing of waste. Referred to as immobilization, it involves mixing the plutonium with a classified material called 'stardust' to prevent it from being easily recovered and burying it at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (that's been closed to new waste since an accident in 2014). Now, this is all pretty normal for a government project. Administrations in power change, priorities change, things take a different track. Nothing I've read indicates that the Russians were consulted about it though.

The US makes decisions, Russian interests are barely considered, and usually from the US perspective there's no possible reason for Russia to be upset. From Russia's perspective, the US has directly threatened their interests, so Russia pushes back, and from the US perspective its unprovoked aggression.

For another example of this dynamic see the US withdrawal from the ABM treaty in 2002 and subsequent deployment of missile bases in eastern Europe. There's a quote that sums everything up perfectly from this DoD press release:

"Russia was never a consideration in the years of discussions and planning for the ballistic missile defense system, Work said. The reason for the defense system is primarily because of the threat from Iran, he said."

I don't think Bob Work is lying. I also don't think there's any reason Russia would believe him, or have reason to be perfectly calm about US missile bases near its borders.

So why have I gone on and on about this? Because people in the US are now talking seriously about the need for shooting down Russian planes, or just flat out killing Russians. With absolutely zero thought as to the response beyond maybe saying something like “Strength and resolve were the only language Putin would understand.” I tend to think that risking a nuclear war on the idea that if you are aggressive enough the Russians will simply back down is a rather dubious gamble. Further maybe more effort needs to be put in to seeing that there are countries besides the US that have national interests, and opposition to the US actions can be born of things other than an innate evil will to power for nefarious ends.
posted by Grimgrin at 12:06 PM on October 16, 2016 [8 favorites]


Nobody gets that Putin has to deal with his own box of wingnuts in Russia. We have seen Putin's enemies drop, and maybe he did it, but maybe forces even more brutal have done it. I look at Putin's work in Syria as a way of showing Russia, he won't be easily removed from office. I look at it as a way to show his would be successors his willingness to go the distance to hold on. Maybe this is for Russia, maybe he is the best they have for now.

We tend to take some of his better aspects, and show them as comedic. He has a lot to live for, a young wife and family, good friends, with their young families. He has an obvious love of nature, and a physical engagement with life. He stays fit, speaks several languages. I suspect he is actually the most reasonable voice of the power structure in Russia. He supports the arts and culture of his people. He has to stay in the arms race, because he has to answer for it if he does not.

We have to fully invest in a culture of peace. We have to have good dialogue, not hateful posing, and we have to make that our way of doing things.

I am not an apologist for Putin, by any means. I don't know the guy. He has a huge country that needs good leadership. We should understand that applying pressure of any kind to a people who live as frugally as Russians by and large do, is not appropriate. The article asks, "what do we do about Putin?" I maintain that is chauvinistic, and high handed, and unwarranted.

We have to make sure we are doing the right thing, in everything we do. That is what we do about anything.
posted by Oyéah at 12:27 PM on October 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


The way to fix it? At least from a US perspective? There isn't one.

Well, I have one suggestion: stop bombing Russian proxies in Syria when a cease fire is in place?

Putin says U.S. Hacking Scandal Not in Russia's Interests

By the way, this is a reminder that there is not one shred of evidence that Russia is responsible for that hacking. All we have is a US government allegation and a lot of bluster.

American propaganda outlets opining on other countries being war crazy is some rich shit

Exactly. I'm not sure why all of the Russophobia is being whipped up in the US at this point in time, but it is really creepy.

(Not saying that Putin/Russia aren't guilty of doing bad things, obviously.)
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 12:41 PM on October 16, 2016 [7 favorites]


Where exactly is the dividing line between the government of Saudi Arabia and the royal family?
Probably the 200 direct male descendants of King Abdulaziz. There's 7,000 members of the royal family in total and all of them are given spending money.

Which is to say that the KSA doesn't have a "government" it has a ruling family. These discussions are always so bizarre. In terms of "American values", Putin is fucking Thomas Jefferson compared to the Saudis. If you want to imagine what it would be like if ISIS or Al-Qaeda took over, just look at Saudi Arabia, only Al-Qaeda would probably be less corrupt. Except that the KSA is one of our biggest customers for guns and bombs and we have a very close military relationship with them.

The US' complicity in terms of Yemen is more directly related to the military hardware we sell, which equals jobs.

Nope. We have been providing the KSA with targeting support, in-air refueling, and maintenance of the naval blockade of Yemen... as well as resupply. Honestly, the KSA military can't really do anything without direct US support. But, the point is that we are completely culpable for what is happening in Yemen. Portions of Yemen are on the brink of mass starvation: but what to do about the US remains elusive!
posted by ennui.bz at 12:47 PM on October 16, 2016 [11 favorites]


Even the "left" imagines the US has more power in the region than it actually does, now, thanks in part to George W. Bush and all of the members of the US power elite that signed on to the invasion of Iraq and who still control the policy levers in DC.

I think statements such as these are inaccurate of leftist analysis and says a lot more about conservative perceptions of what leftists may or may not think. The premises that characterize the US as "having X amount of power in a local region" is not an accepted leftist context, so saying that of leftists' views doesn't make any sense. And this mistake easily leads to the prejudiced, stereotyped portrayal that leftists are "imagining" incorrect or absurd things.
posted by polymodus at 1:04 PM on October 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


Do many voters in America know that the US has been in an alliance with Al-Qaeda in Syria since 2013? Genuine question.
posted by Coda Tronca at 1:12 PM on October 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


The facts on the ground in Syria are that the Assads have been clients of the Russians since the Brezhnev era. The Soviets installed, and the Russians maintain, a warm-water naval port in the Syrian port of Tartus. Syria, like the Ukraine, is a Russian thing. I guess the US could muscle in if it feels like pushing Russia around. But let's not be under any illusions about who is doing what to whom or who is getting up in whose business.
posted by Tuco Benedicto Pacifico Juan Maria Ramirez at 1:23 PM on October 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


Do many voters in America know that the US has been in an alliance with Al-Qaeda in Syria since 2013? Genuine question.

Oh come on. It's not like John Kerry went out and said "well those Al'Qaeda guys are alright since their rebranding to Al Nusra". ANF has made an agreement with other rebel groups, some FSA brigades signed on. ANF have a significant wing not dedicated to global jihad and working merely in order to see Assad out. At best they're the sketchy friend of a friend.

But I wouldn't be entirely shocked if I saw it portrayed as an alliance on Infowars or Democracy Now.
posted by Talez at 1:38 PM on October 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


Let's not forget that Putin is violently homophobic and regularly has people who oppose him, journalists and business rivals, murdered.
posted by Bee'sWing at 1:44 PM on October 16, 2016 [8 favorites]


Noisy Pink Bubbles: "By the way, this is a reminder that there is not one shred of evidence that Russia is responsible for that hacking. All we have is a US government allegation and a lot of bluster."

Er. "Not one shred of evidence" is more than a little strong here. The first people to suggest it might be a hacker in the employ of the Russian government were cyber security experts - totally unconnected with the US government, and with no motive whatsoever to warmonger or bluster. They made this suggestion because that was the indication: that the hacks were (a) undertaken with the kind of resources probably only available to government-funded computer experts; (b) probably done inside Russia by people who were native Russian speakers; and most importantly (c) followed precisely the same processes and procedures as known Russian government hacks. Note that the security experts who made this suggestion didn't presume that Putin ordered the hacks, but in fact guessed that they were only an unauthorized and hasty attempt to cover up other hacks. I tend to agree with them - I don't think Putin has at all attempted to insert himself into this election.

I'm just saying - there's a lot of space between "no evidence it was Russians" and "this certainly is a plot by Putin to elect his dear friend Trump." The truth is probably somewhere in the middle There's no evidence that Putin has a high regard for Trump, who isn't trustworthy anyway. But it also doesn't make a lot of sense to wholly ignore the likelihood that hackers in the employ of the Russian government were involved, even though it seems unlikely that this was some sinister master plan (if it was, it was a shoddy one).
posted by koeselitz at 1:54 PM on October 16, 2016 [12 favorites]


Putin is a bad guy, it's true, but the US is going to have a hard time when it comes to taking the moral high ground with regard to domestic oppression of minorities when they have a white supremacist running for president, a tragic incarceration rate for minorities and racist police gunning down black men on a regular basis.
posted by dazed_one at 1:55 PM on October 16, 2016 [7 favorites]


The Ukraine is an old Soviet way of referring to the region that implies that Ukraine is simply a part of a larger nation.

Though in fact and by the way, the definite article usage in English predates the Soviets by about two centuries. Interestingly, texts sometimes dropped the article. One I found goes both ways.

As well to leave the decision to the locals. Simple for them- Ukrainian, like Russian, has no definite article.
posted by BWA at 2:01 PM on October 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


ANF have a significant wing not dedicated to global jihad and working merely in order to see Assad out.

And after that...? At the least, another CIA funded jihadist blowback nightmare, if the past is a useful guide to the future.
posted by Coda Tronca at 2:08 PM on October 16, 2016


And after that...? At the least, another CIA funded jihadist blowback nightmare, if the past is a useful guide to the future.

Well considering the CIA aren't explicitly arming them and it's more of "we won't blow you up if you don't blow us up" kind of agreement I assume that some might try to go for violent jihad and most will probably just want to get back to some semblance of normal life.

I can't predict what anyone can do. But I don't see how telling FSA brigades, "hey you can't make deals with ANF to not blow each other up" really accomplishes anything productive other than not being able to use "Obama got in bed with Al'Qaeda in 2013!" as rhetoric.
posted by Talez at 2:17 PM on October 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


The New Yorker article is about the how Russian state is preparing its citizens for doomsday: fallout shelters, air-raid sirens, war rations, recalling citizens home. I don't think any Western governments are doing that. Well, maybe Poland.

Our current government by Law and Justice party doesn't give a bag of flaccid dicks about Putin, Russia, Europe, NATO or anything whatsoever that isn't directly conductive to the purpose of entertaining their conservative electorate, which I can't describe in detail because when I did it looked like a bunch of expletives.
posted by hat_eater at 2:20 PM on October 16, 2016 [2 favorites]




He sure did.

Mate, I don't think "World Socialist Web Site" is exactly a reliable and unbiased source of US imperialism news.
posted by Talez at 2:33 PM on October 16, 2016 [8 favorites]


Its track record on understanding and calling out US imperialism is far, far more accurate than the Guardian, New York Times and The Economist, which form the basis of this thread.
posted by Coda Tronca at 2:37 PM on October 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


The US may not be arming Al Nursa directly, however:

US-trained Division 30 rebels 'betray US and hand weapons over to al-Qaeda's affiliate in Syria' - The Telegraph September 22, 2015

Syrian rebels defect to Al-Qaeda after receiving weapons from U.S. to fight ISIS, Assad
- National Post November 3, 2014.

Free Syrian Army rebels defect to Islamist group Jabhat al-Nusra - The Guardian May 8, 2013

There is a pattern where US delivers weapons to moderates who either immediately defect to or are captured by Al-Nursa. But I assume that this is more that the people who are running this war in the US are doing so from a position of total willful ignorance, as has been the practice for the last decade and a half, rather than a desire to arm Al-Nursa. The US strategy is to arm moderate rebels, therefore the moderate rebels must exist, therefore the people who present themselves as such are taken at face value.
posted by Grimgrin at 2:39 PM on October 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


NB: The World Socialist Web Site is not even trustworthy in a far-left context.
posted by graymouser at 2:52 PM on October 16, 2016 [4 favorites]




Spotting Chalabi as a bad egg is TBH not that amazing a feat of journalism, sorry.
posted by Artw at 3:14 PM on October 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


If I'd said 13 years ago that the Cavaliers were just about to win an NBA championship, that doesn't mean you should trust me when I said today that the 76ers would make a deep playoff run next year.
posted by Etrigan at 3:17 PM on October 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


If you're trying to sell the WSWS as a Cassandra of the far-left, I'd be more sympathetic if it weren't for things like their defense of Stanford rapist Brock Turner or the fact that the leader of the SEP (the party behind WSWS) was the hatchet man in the odious "Security and the Fourth International" slander campaign which he still defends to this day. They sometimes say true things but they are unreliable as a source and long-time liars. But I don't want this to be a total derail, just to give MeFites who don't read this stuff daily a heads up.
posted by graymouser at 3:22 PM on October 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


Spotting Chalabi as a bad egg is TBH not that amazing a feat of journalism, sorry.

Yes, it was so obvious that the NYT not only didn't spot him as a bad egg, they also published his bullshit about WMD as a series of 'exclusives' on their front page which were then endlessly repeated in the rest of the media and were the single biggest factor leading to a war which claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and many US soldiers. Now that was a feat of journalism, in a certain sense.

I'm not defending WSWS as a perfect source of information, but it is a fact that on the issues being discussed in this thread, that site has a demonstrably better track record in the last 15 years than the NYT. Yet nobody dismisses an article from the NYT because 'LOL he linked to the NYT'.
posted by Coda Tronca at 3:27 PM on October 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


I'd be more sympathetic if it weren't for things like their defense of Stanford rapist Brock Turner or the fact that the leader of the SEP (the party behind WSWS) was the hatchet man in the odious "Security and the Fourth International" slander campaign which he still defends to this day.

The rape article seems like a total mess. The other thing is some infighting from like, 40 years ago? I'm still not ready to write off a source of thoughtful Trotskyist analysis in favour of The Economist yet.
posted by Coda Tronca at 3:38 PM on October 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


The New Yorker article is about the how Russian state is preparing its citizens for doomsday: fallout shelters, air-raid sirens, war rations, recalling citizens home.

The whole Russia is recalling people for [nefarious agenda X] story is quite overblown (snopes).
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 3:49 PM on October 16, 2016 [6 favorites]


that site has a demonstrably better track record in the last 15 years than the NYT.

I haven't been following both publications closely for 15 years so it's hard to say about that, but correct me if I'm wrong here, you're the only one who brought up the NYT. I trust there are many of us willing to dismiss utter rubbish as such when it's found in either publication, and at least some able to recognize most of the recent strains of propaganda that tell blatant lies even when they're mixed with a little truth. Granted, it is getting harder than it used to be.
posted by sfenders at 4:21 PM on October 16, 2016


It baffles me that some leftists are willing to get on board with the ugliest "spheres of influence" forms of realpolitik as long as the perpetrator isn't the US. If you have to push ethnocentric politics to maintain power in your region, the way Russia has in Ukraine, you don't deserve to keep it.

It did make me flinch to see Westerners lulzily charting the fall of Russia's currency earlier this year, because the easiest way for Russia to get out of Putin's ethnonationalist tough guy death spiral would be a bit of economic recovery. (And the same thing goes for the US and Trump, though we're apparently likely to be spared for the moment, knock on wood.)
posted by ostro at 4:25 PM on October 16, 2016 [11 favorites]


The New Yorker article is about the how Russian state is preparing its citizens for doomsday: fallout shelters, air-raid sirens, war rations, recalling citizens home.

Well, look who they are dealing with: a regime which has claimed for itself the right to conduct military operations anywhere in the world it sees fit openly if possible, but clandestinely if necessary. In fact over the course of the last administration the covert side of our low intensity global war has become a lot more prominent and influential in policy circles.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 5:22 PM on October 16, 2016


Um...

By the way, this is a reminder that there is not one shred of evidence that Russia is responsible for that hacking. All we have is a US government allegation and a lot of bluster.

This is not true.

There are many independent analysts looking at this who draw the conclusion that Russia is distinctly behind the hacking effort, based on evidence.

Thomas Rid of Kings College London is just one, he has written about some of the evidence (technical signatures, etc) that support the argument that it is state sponsored Russian effort.

Motherboard Vice all signs point to russia

Guccifer 2 is bullshiting us
posted by C.A.S. at 5:27 PM on October 16, 2016 [11 favorites]


What is interesting is that this conflict has secular interventalionlists in a sectarian conflict.
Now that has intensified in Yemen. The firing upon US naval vessels is about 90 ways stupid, opening a wider conflict for the US to intervene into. As to Russia, I recall operations that scared the bajebus out of Andropov/ Brezvnev Which led to RYaN and Able Archer.
posted by clavdivs at 7:16 PM on October 16, 2016


the easiest way for Russia to get out of Putin's ethnonationalist tough guy death spiral would be a bit of economic recovery.

Yes, well, this is the problem with a system built on a pyramid of corruption with quasi-state nationalised resource extraction as its main focus. The Russian economy and government is overdependent on oil revenue. The Russian government revenue is about half oil/gas derived. We talk about income inequality in the west, but while Moscow has more billionaires than any other city average income in Russia is under £300 per year. Not good enough for a diverse modern consumer economy.

"Where is the bulk of money made? In oil, gas, metals, other commodities," Putin said in his address to the Russian parliament in April 2001, calling for greater diversification of the Russian economy. At the time, oil and gas generated some 30 percent of federal budget revenues. In 2015, the figure reached 44 percent, according to the Finance ministry — so much for good intentions.
posted by C.A.S. at 1:49 AM on October 17, 2016 [6 favorites]


And with the oil price decline and currency collapse, the Russian state (largely national oil and gas) has become 70% of the economy from 35% in 2005. That is not a good sign.

Nigel Gould-Davies on Twitter
posted by C.A.S. at 2:11 AM on October 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


A new, very good comprehensive history of Fancy Bear and Russian hacking efforts (including European elections)

Meet Fancy Bear, the Russian Group Hacking The US Election (Buzzfeed)
posted by C.A.S. at 4:04 AM on October 17, 2016 [3 favorites]






The first people to suggest it might be a hacker in the employ of the Russian government were cyber security experts - totally unconnected with the US government, and with no motive whatsoever to warmonger or bluster

Crowdstrike is funded by a whole lot of Google dollars.
posted by Strange_Robinson at 1:03 PM on October 17, 2016


Which would be relevant if Google were the US government or the Democratic party. But it's not. That's what "unconnected" means.
posted by tobascodagama at 1:08 PM on October 17, 2016


I think the intended implication was that Google and the US Government are buddy buddy (see, for instance, Snowden leaks). But if anything compromises Crowdstrike's independence, it was that they were being paid by the DNC to produce their analysis.

C.A.S.'s link mentions other independent security firms, however, that have reached similar conclusions. Although many of those firms seem to have links to the US Government as well...
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 2:30 PM on October 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


Way back when Google started getting involved in robotics via Boston Dynamics, I realized advertising wouldn't be enough for them, that they wanted defense dollars too.

Boston Dynamics is gone, but I am sure the usual gluttony is leading our Googlers into the same respected territory as DuPont and General Electrics.

So when this Vice story broke, I'd wondered what the proof was since it's around my field of business. I'm certainly not an expert, but I could follow the reporting in the Vice article with no difficulties.

There's no there there. It's a long-winded article proclaiming, 'Trust us.' Every other reported article either mixes up and conflates hacking incidents, or depends entirely on the original claim. There are no worthwhile second sources anywhere.

The DNC hacks could be the Russian state, but there has been no good evidence for it presented to the public.
posted by Strange_Robinson at 3:25 PM on October 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


There's no there there. It's a long-winded article proclaiming, 'Trust us.' Every other reported article either mixes up and conflates hacking incidents, or depends entirely on the original claim. There are no worthwhile second sources anywhere.

The DNC hacks could be the Russian state, but there has been no good evidence for it presented to the public.


What would count as "good evidence" in a case like this, and what sources would have to provide it?
posted by kewb at 3:22 AM on October 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


This is probably as much detail as the public is ever going to get.

The best documented portion of the article is the evidence for the intrusions. Plenty of good evidence there. As strong as that part is, the link to Russia amounts to blind assertion.
posted by Strange_Robinson at 12:36 PM on October 18, 2016


the link to Russia amounts to blind assertion.

One problem is the intentional ambiguity around state sponsored hacking. Putin crucially and intentionally did not deny it, but said essentially "who cares who hacked it , what matters is the emails."

Also, state actors use cut-outs, criminal groups, etc. But the circumstantial evidence described in the links above all supports a view of Russia as the organiser, and no evidence has emerged to bring another potential perpetrator into view. Espionage/state sponsored actions are difficult to prove to legal courtroom standards, and always have been. However, intelligence agencies use their best judgements.

NY Times russia hacker vladimir fomenko

Also, this has been a big part of pushing their agenda in several areas recently, both in terms of other European elections and domestic enemies.

Foreign Policy Russian Hackers
posted by C.A.S. at 2:06 PM on October 18, 2016 [1 favorite]




Looking more deeply at the Russian economy I have concluded that we are unlikely to see the sanction and containment strategy prevail in the next 3-5 years.
Russia has a sustainable debt to GDP ratio and at least 12-18 months of cash left in their rainy day fund before the will have to increase their debt. The deficit spending required beyond that is probably sustainable for a few years before it becomes a problem. Under the Soviets there was a problem with food security; but that isn't a problem today.

This would seem to favor conditions of continued stalemate.
posted by humanfont at 8:02 AM on October 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


The opening line of Joe in Australia's link:
At the second presidential debate on Sunday, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton said: “I, when I was Secretary of State, advocated, and I advocate today, a no-fly zone and safe zone.” And if it wasn’t clear she actually meant it, she added: “We need some leverage with the Russians, because they are not going to come to the negotiating table for a diplomatic resolution unless there is some leverage over them.”
Holy shit! I did not watch the second debate and I can't believe that she actually said this! This would literally mean declaring war on Russia and Syria, attacking their air defense systems and shooting down their aircraft. That's without even going into the fact that we'd essentially be acting as the air force for ISIS, Nusra and the other Salafist/Al Qaeda militias that are currently getting crushed under the Russian air assault.

This is easily as insane as any number of things that Donald Trump has proposed; she's literally asking to start World War III. Is anyone else taking this seriously?
posted by indubitable at 12:04 PM on October 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Is anyone else taking this seriously?

A quick search on the recently concluded BRICS summit in Goa, India would be fascinating counterpoint
posted by infini at 12:15 PM on October 19, 2016


Clinton is all over Syria and WW3. Capital needs that action, and she's 100% Wall Street.
posted by Coda Tronca at 12:33 PM on October 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Done. Thank you for the recommendation as my routine newsfeed had nothing.

On Syria, we call upon all parties involved to work for a comprehensive and peaceful resolution of the conflict taking into account the legitimate aspirations of the people of Syria,through inclusive national dialogue and a Syrian-led political process based on Geneva Communiqué of 30 June 2012 and in pursuance of the UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and 2268 for their full implementation.While continuing the relentless pursuit against terrorist groups so designated by the UN Security Council including ISIL, Jabhat al-Nusra and other terrorist organisations designated by the UN Security Council.

We reiterate also the necessity to implement the two-state solution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on the basis of the relevant UNSC resolutions, the Madrid Principles and Arab Peace Initiative, and previous agreements between the two sides,through negotiations aimed at creating an independent, viable, territorially contiguous Palestinian State living side-by-side in peace with Israel, within secure, mutually agreed and internationally recognised borders on the basis of 1967 lines, with East Jerusalem as its capital, as envisaged in the relevant UN Resolutions.


The photo of the five leaders holding hands and smiling with the six-foot-tall Xi Jinping front center and above was impressive. (Google says he is 5'11" but he is by far the tallest of the group.)
posted by bukvich at 12:35 PM on October 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


I rather liked this one where they all wear the same outfit
posted by infini at 12:55 PM on October 19, 2016


Reuters Finland Sees Russian Information Attacks

More context on the Russian hacking/trolling/propaganda machine, in Finland.
posted by C.A.S. at 2:33 PM on October 19, 2016


Clinton is all over Syria and WW3. Capital needs that action, and she's 100% Wall Street.

Luckily we have something better in anti-capitalists like Putin supporting anti-capitalists like Assad to oppose this cynical Wall Street move, with their good hearted meat grinder against civilians with no end in sight and nothing to get in their way until everyone just accepts it.

The best part is, their money flows are private and nothing to do with Wall Street, so even more pure!
posted by C.A.S. at 2:42 PM on October 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Is anyone else taking this seriously?

Yes, but we haven't had a woman initiate a World War yet. Don't you think it's about time?

But seriously, this has been a long-time position of hers that is, as you point out, absolutely insane and would put us on the path to nuclear war. But yes, this has been discussed on the Blue before. See my comments in this thread, to which others object that this couldn't possibly be what their favorite candidate wants/means. Sigh.
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 4:39 PM on October 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


That "leverage over Russia" clarification basically blows away the deniability that people were clinging to earlier. This is grim.
posted by indubitable at 6:37 PM on October 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


It was made brutally clear in the Debate tonight. Once Mosul falls, American forces will be invading Syria from the east. No-Fly zones will be established, and the all-but-assured President is confident we have the tech to establish them. Even in the face of Russian opposition in the air.

Meanwhile, Finland is shrugging its shoulders and preparing for another invasion while Sweden is going "OshitOshitOshit."

It will be interesting to see if Sweden's marvelous toys work as advertised.

Interesting Fucking Times All Around.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:41 PM on October 19, 2016


US special forces are already fighting in Northern Syria with a Kurdish/Arab group called the Syrian Defense Force (SDF). We've been working with them on taking territory from IS for months now. They are already getting close to Raqqa.

With regard to Russia and the no fly zone Hillary acknowledged the concerns about ending up in a war with Russia and said that we would have to strike a deal. Claiming she threatened ww3 is an absurd stretch.
posted by humanfont at 11:47 PM on October 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


With regard to Russia and the no fly zone Hillary acknowledged the concerns about ending up in a war with Russia and said that we would have to strike a deal.

Here is the relevant transcript from the 2nd presidential debate, courtesy of Politico [emphasis mine]:
CLINTON: The situation in Syria is catastrophic and everyday that goes by, we see the results of the regime, by Assad in partnership with the Iranians on the ground and the Russians in the air, bombarding places in particular Aleppo, where there are hundreds of thousands of people, probably about 250,000 people still left. And there is a determined effort by the Russian Air Force to destroy Aleppo in order to eliminate the last of the Syrian rebels who are really holding out against the Assad regime. Russia hasn't paid any attention to ISIS. They are interested in keeping Assad in power. So I, when I was secretary of state advocated, and I advocate today a no-fly and safe zones. We need some leverage with the Russians because they are not going to come to the negotiating table for a diplomatic resolution unless there is leverage over them. And we have to work more closely with our partners and allies on the ground. But I want to emphasize that what is at stake here is the ambitions and aggressiveness of Russia. Russia has decided it is all in in Syria, and they’ve also decided who they want to see become President of the United States too and it's not me. I stood up to Russia; I’ve taken on Putin and others and I would do that as president. I think wherever we can cooperate with Russia, that's fine and I did, as Secretary of State, that's how we got a treaty reducing nuclear weapons, it’s how we got the sanctions on Iran that put a lid on the nuclear weapons program without firing a single shot. So I would go with more leverage than we have now. But I support the efforts to investigate for crimes, war crimes, committed by the Syrians and the Russians and try to hold them accountable.
Nowhere in there is any acknowledgement that this means going to war. Any notion that the US government can "strike a deal" with Russia to attack Russia's ally is about as realistic as believing that Russia can "strike a deal" with the US to bomb Germany. It's pure fantasy. Claiming that she's going to start World War III is not an absurd stretch, it is the logical conclusion of declaring a no-fly zone and attacking Syrian and Russian air defenses.
posted by indubitable at 1:44 PM on October 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


Here is the relevant transcript from the 2nd presidential debate

The recent Wikileaks releases of her speeches to Goldman Sachs et al show that she says one thing to the voters and another to the people who really make the decisions - and doesn't even consider it a problem.

I'm sure nobody 'wants' to start WW3 but we have to examine these arseholes a bit harder than that.
posted by Coda Tronca at 1:53 PM on October 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


Why bother with Wikileaks when we have her comments in the 3rd debate where Chris Wallace asked her about these concerns. She was clear that she wants an agreement with Russia and has a strategy to get it. She doesn't favor imposing a no fly zone without more discussions with Russia.
posted by humanfont at 8:51 PM on October 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


She doesn't favor imposing a no fly zone without more discussions with Russia.

Discussions, yeah. Sure. That's completely what she meant by "leverage" rather than two or three super-carrier groups in the Med, and some nice AA radar and missile batteries on the ground. Nope. Discussions. After US-lead forces have invaded Raqqa from the east, but I'm sure the Discussions will be in earnest at that point.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:18 PM on October 20, 2016


Military aggression is not the only foreign policy lever - diplomacy and economics are factors that could be brought to bear. Interpreting "we need leverage" as "we're going to war" seems... extreme.
posted by Dysk at 5:55 AM on October 21, 2016


Military aggression is not the only foreign policy lever - diplomacy and economics are factors that could be brought to bear.

Yes, they are! Unfortunately, Clinton is advocating military aggression (that's the "no-fly zone" part, btw).
posted by indubitable at 7:01 AM on October 21, 2016


That's only military aggression if it's unilaterally imposed and militarily enforced. It's quite possible the remarks were intended to suggest that political pressure could be brought to bear in the Russians such that this sort of measure could be agreed. Now, that might be optimistic, and potentially not the best way to engage with the current situation in Syria (or Russia more generally) but it hardly reads to me - by no means a fan of Clinton - as a threat or promise to declare war.
posted by Dysk at 8:12 AM on October 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


Discussions. After US-lead forces have invaded Raqqa from the east, but I'm sure the Discussions will be in earnest at that point.
We already have several outposts / bases in Northern Syria. We're embedded with the SDF (a mostly Kurdish group) and the latest iteration of the FSA (a mostly Sunni Arab group). The current plan is that the SDF will continue to advance from the north into Raqqa. Currently they are about 30 miles north of Raqqa and have been advancing slowly this summer.

The Russians are also unofficially working with the SDF. So in this area we are kind of working together. The Russians are bombing and fighting the FSA who we are also helping. Meanwhile Turkey is bombing the SDF because Kurds and helping the FSA. Turkey and the Gulf states have also been helping a group of Islamists who are sort of Al Qaeda linked, but officially not. Russia and the US agree that these groups have to be destroyed and the trick has been to agree with the Russians which militia factions are in this group vs which ones are FSA.

So this isn't a case of just Russia and the US are on completely opposite sides and any kind of no fly zone plan is a non-starter. In fact the US and Russia have a more complicated relationship in Syria and what Hillary is proposing isn't necessarily an escalation.
posted by humanfont at 8:00 PM on October 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty confused by the alphabet-soup nature of this conflict, but looks to me as if Russia is aiming at an endgame that leaves a Syrian rump state as a buffer for Russia's port, but allowing Kurds and whatever militia to carve off their own portions if they can. Does that sound plausible to anyone else?
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:53 AM on October 22, 2016


The Russian aircraft carrier just passed through the English channel on its way to Syria.
posted by dazed_one at 7:38 AM on October 22, 2016


allowing Kurds and whatever militia to carve off their own portions if they can

Let's see. The cynical pact between post-purge Turkey and Russia is an open door for Turkey to start bombing Kurds in their own endless repression of them, which has already happened. I have even read speculation that Turkey could be considering annexing those areas. The entire thing is such a mess
posted by C.A.S. at 9:47 AM on October 22, 2016


Today the Russians bombed the Turkish backed Euphrates Sheild /FSA that recently setup a buffer zone between the Kurdish enclaves in Northern Syria. This was to support the Kurds advancing out of Afrin (the western Kurdish enclave) south and east towards the north eastern Kurdish enclave in Syria where the US based are located. This also stops the Euphrates Sheild attempts to relieve Allepo. Meanwhile Russia/Assad are getting ready for another phase of heavy fighting in Aleppo after a pause the last few days.
posted by humanfont at 7:19 PM on October 25, 2016


The fact that the American MSM is lambasting Russia for its actions in Syria is pretty hypocritical given our atrocities in Yemen. Speaking of which:

Hillary Clinton, The Podesta Group And The Saudi Regime: A Fatal Menage A Trois

Hillary Clinton Campaign Bundler Is Directly Lobbying For Saudi Arabia

We have no moral authority to dictate to Russia or anyone else what is moral behavior. Let me say it again: we have no moral authority. We have lost that slowly since the fall of the Berlin Wall. The recent "red scare" tactics being used by the MSM and the Democratic candidate for president are nothing more than fear mongering being used to manipulate us.

America has lost it's soul, and trying to make Russia the new justification for continued military and "defense" spending in lieu of investing in infrastructure and social programs by a "progressive" candidate is sickening. I think I will probably sit this election out.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:47 AM on October 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


The Russians are playing a Great Game, but they seem to be vaguely supportive of the Kurds enough to try to get Assad to allow regional Kurdish rights (which the dictator has rejected). Seeing as how the U.S. has historically failed in upholding the security of the Kurds, the best we can hope for is that Russia does not backstab them either, and leave them at the mercy of Erdogan's Turkey.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:47 AM on October 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


The fact that the American MSM is lambasting Russia for its actions in Syria is pretty hypocritical given our atrocities in Yemen.

The fact that the media should also be critical of American military policy does not make Assad's and Putin's actions in Syria any less horrific, either. Assad gassed civilians, using chemical weapons. That is immoral irrespective of the US's moral authority or lack thereof.

Your links made me want to understand more about what we and Saudi Arabia are doing in Yemen.

Here's a Vox explainer titled Why the hell is the US helping Saudi Arabia bomb Yemen? A brief guide.
The United States has backed the Saudi-led effort, in part because it shares some of Saudi Arabia’s concerns about Iranian influence in the region, but also because it has a strong interest in keeping the Saudis happy so they’ll support the US-led fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

[I think this means "So they'll send Saudi soldiers to fight ISIS and we can stop them from taking over territory without putting American boots on the ground"?]
...
Human Rights Watch has documented 58 separate instances of Saudi airstrikes on civilians that violate the laws of war, including attacks on hospitals and water bottling factories. Just this weekend, Saudi forces bombed a funeral home, killing 140 people and wounding another 525
...
Since the Saudis cut off this flow of goods, the situation for civilians has become nightmarish. Half of Yemen’s population — 14 million people — doesn’t have enough food to eat, per the UN. A shortage of medical supplies is devastating the country’s health infrastructure.
Here's a Washington Post article talking about how the Obama administration has reacted to these atrocities: U.S. support to Saudi Arabia to hinge on Yemen cease-fire
The Oct. 8 strike, which killed more than 100 people at a funeral, appeared to be a final straw for administration critics of Saudi Arabia’s handling of the campaign, which they believe has ranged far beyond its original mission to defend the kingdom’s border from Houthi attack.

“We are telling the Saudis that supporting their territorial integrity, their sovereignty, that’s one thing. But their campaign inside Yemen is something else, particularly if they’re not prepared to accept the unconditional, immediate cessation of hostilities that we’ve called for,” the official said. “That will obviously be a factor in our assessment.”
...
U.S. support has dropped off since a now-abandoned cease-fire earlier this year, officials say. According to U.S. military statistics, the frequency of U.S. refueling missions, which has fluctuated throughout the campaign, fell in late summer from a peak earlier in 2016. Today, only four U.S. personnel remain at the Saudi command center in Riyadh.

“[We are] distancing ourselves both in terms of what we say but also in terms of what we’ve done,” the official said.

U.S. personnel do not approve Saudi targets beyond providing a “no-strike” list of civilian and off-limits targets, officials say.
I'm presenting these quotes as context for the Huffington Post and Daily Caller links, not as a refutation. But I do want to object to a couple of points raised in your post and in those links, AElfwine Evenstar.

From the HuffPost link
: "The Podesta-Clinton-Saudi connection should be seen in light of the recent media exposes revealing the taudry pay-to-play nature of the Clinton Foundation. "

This doesn't do much for my opinion of the credibility of this source. I have seen no media exposes revealing any taudry [sic] pay-to-play nature of the Clinton Foundation. I've seen stories about various parties donating to the Clinton Foundation and apparently getting nothing in return, politically. That's just pay to PAY.

It also says 'On Christmas Eve in 2011, Hillary Clinton and her closest aides celebrated a massive $29.4 billion sale to the Saudis of over 80 F-15 fighter jets, [...] I’m sure the Yemenis at the receiving end of the Saudi bombings would not be so enthusiastic.' This is pretty disingenuous, since the current war with Yemen had not yet begun on Christmas Eve of 2011.

From the Daily Caller link: "The Saudi Royal Court’s contact with the Podesta Group is part of a sprawling effort to prevent passage of a law that would allow victims of terrorism to sue foreign governments which have aided and abetted terrorists."

This is presumably the same bill that congress passed over President Obama's veto, and then immediately regretted passing? I don't see lobbying in opposition to that as terrible thing.

The recent "red scare" tactics being used by the MSM and the Democratic candidate for president are nothing more than fear mongering being used to manipulate us.

I haven't seen any red scare tactics. I have seen independent experts, intelligence agencies, and the media acknowledging that Russians have hacked into the DNC, various campaign staffers' e-mails, and 20 state's voter records databases (unsuccessfully in most cases as far as we know, successfully in AZ and IL.) Those are facts, reports of events that actually happened, not "scare tactics."

Are you saying you have evidence that none of that happened? If so... cite please?

I think I will probably sit this election out.


So you're mad that the US supports, in the words of the HuffPo link, "the Saudi government, a government that beheads nonviolent dissidents, uses torture to extract forced confessions, doesn’t allow women to drive, and bombs schools, hospitals and residential neighborhoods in neighboring Yemen..." But you won't vote to oppose a candidate for US president whose campaign has included the phrases "torture works" "you have to take out their families" "Bomb the shit out of them" and "take the oil"? Seriously? Someone who is openly nostalgic for the good old days when political protesters were "carried out on a stretcher"? Someone who thinks Saudi Arabia should have nuclear weapons?

There's a difference between someone whose hands are not clean because they've made terrible compromises, worked with one terrible dictator to reign in the power of another terrible dictator, etc... And someone who has no understanding of the concept of "clean hands," because he believes might makes right, period. If you can't see the difference, you unfortunately are going to bear some of the responsibility if Donald Trump actually ends up in a position to do those things.
posted by OnceUponATime at 6:44 PM on October 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


The Houthi's flag contains their official slogan:
God is Great
Death to America,
Death to Israel,
Curse upon the Jews
Victory to Islam
Yemen is a depressing failure on all sides.
posted by humanfont at 7:11 PM on October 26, 2016 [3 favorites]


[I think this means "So they'll send Saudi soldiers to fight ISIS and we can stop them from taking over territory without putting American boots on the ground"?]

To answer my own question, apparently they offered to send troops, but the US passed.
posted by OnceUponATime at 4:53 AM on October 27, 2016


The fact that the media should also be critical of American military policy does not make Assad's and Putin's actions in Syria any less horrific, either.

That's probably why I didn't try and whitewash those horrific actions and instead was commenting on the hypocrisy of our media and elite institutions.

Assad gassed civilians, using chemical weapons. That is immoral irrespective of the US's moral authority or lack thereof.

Yes, the difference being that Russia didn't destabilize the Middle East; we did. Either way, it seems we agree that the actions of the governments of both the U.S.A. and Russia (including their proxies) are horrific and immoral.

how the Obama administration has reacted to these atrocities

With a bunch of worthless hand wringing and weasel words? Not much solace to the people of Yemen.

Saudi-led airstrikes kill 27 civilians across Yemen provinces

Coalition strikes on Yemen detention centre kill 60

More than one million children starve as Yemen war rages: U.N. agencies

I wonder if the Obama regime will even respond to these latest atrocities? They haven't really made the latest news cycle so probably not. Meanwhile all I hear from NPR on my morning commute is basically nonstop election news or nonstop Syria news with nary a mention of Yemen.

So yes, you are correct Russia and Assad are horrible. I don't remember ever claiming otherwise. We are also horrible, and should probably get our own house in order before we start another cold war because Russia is engaging in the exact same kind of shit we do.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 3:00 PM on October 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


The Houthi's flag contains their official slogan:

Well that totally justifies the starvation and bombardment.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 3:09 PM on October 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


That's probably why I didn't try and whitewash those horrific actions and instead was commenting on the hypocrisy of our media and elite institutions.

What you said was:

We have no moral authority to dictate to Russia or anyone else what is moral behavior.

This is a BS argument. First of all, who does have that "moral authority"? Britain? France? Germany? China? India?

Maybe you can find some tiny island nation somewhere that's always been the victim rather than the perpetrator of atrocities (though none come to mind at the moment), but for certain anyone who has the power to "dictate" anything to Russia at all, to interfere in any way with their atrociticies, is just as morally compromised as the US. So what? So we should let Russia do whatever they want, without sanctions or condemnation?

This is a thread about US/Russian relations. I would also follow with great interest a thread about US/Saudi relations, or about the war in Yemen. There's a lot I still don't know about it that I would like to learn. But in this thread, it is a derail, just meant to discredit the US in a way that doesn't actually relate to the subject at hand.

Yes, the US should stop supporting the starvation and bombardment of Yemen. Also, the US should probably do something (but what?) to stop Russia from supporting the starvation and bombardment of Syria. Those are in no way incompatible.
posted by OnceUponATime at 4:18 PM on October 30, 2016


Aelfwine the Houthi's have been given plenty of chances for a more peaceful resolution of the conflict but have decided to continue their county wide sectarian murder spree backed by Iran. What's your plan for ending this nightmare? Tell the Saudi's and Gulf States to sit tight while Houthi's and Iran kill thousands of Sunni tribesmen, many of those tribes have big constituencies in Saudi Arabia proper. I suppose we could not sell them smart bombs and precision munitions; but then they will use their unguided munitions and murder more civilians. We could cut off our geospatial analysis, satellites and drone monitoring; but again that just means more civilian deaths.
Even if we got the Saudis and Gulf States to stop, civilians die form Houthi violence. Then we end up with a Houthi dominated government that actively promotes Jihad against America. I don't think that's an acceptable outcome.
posted by humanfont at 5:42 PM on October 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


AElfwine Evenstar: “We have no moral authority to dictate to Russia or anyone else what is moral behavior.”

There is no such thing as "moral authority." "Moral authority" is a lie made up by people who don't believe morality is a rational thing, and who think that we should make moral decisions based on the pronouncements of some authoritarian figure.

When people say that Russia is a repressive state, that its people regularly have their human rights violated, and that the Russian state is responsible for many international atrocities, they are correct. Similarly, when people say that the United States is guilty of consciously inflicting all sorts of death upon people in the international community because of a belief that America should be protected through proxy wars carried out silently in the borderlands, they are correct.

It doesn't matter if the President of the United States, or the President of the Russian Federation, or the King of Saudi Arabia, or the Grand Ayatollah in Iran says these things. No matter who says them, they are true, and "moral authority" doesn't enter into it in any way whatsoever. Hypocrites, liars, thieves, CEOs of multinational corporations, human rights activists, repressive tyrants, and American politicians can all be right about things, because being right about a thing has absolutely nothing to do with what kind of person you are. It only has to do with whether the thing you say is true.
posted by koeselitz at 8:39 PM on October 30, 2016 [3 favorites]


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