When I blogged on the “poisoning” of Karinna Moskalenko last week, I asked, “Was this a murder attempt, a warning, or just paranoia?” Well now we definitively know: It was paranoia. The French newspaper La Figaro reports that an investigation into the mercury that made Moskalenko ill was not planted there by a nefarious Putinite agent to sully another potential “fierce critic.” Strasbourg authorities now say that the mercury came from a broken barometer left by the previous owner. Moskalenko bought the car in August 2008 and just didn’t clean it.
One hopes that Moskalenko will now retract her statement “People do not put mercury in your car to improve your health.” No people don’t, but it doesn’t help that when they do, they don’t clean it up.
I’m afraid that no matter what corrective Moskalenko provides, the damage as been done. The articles echoing another Alexander Litivinenko scandal have already circulated through the culture industry circuitry. Just a few days ago, Time called Moskalenko “a very high profile target.” Yeah, apparently a high profile target of her own negligence. Yesterday, the Washington Post used the poison paranoia to lambaste Russia (again). Here is what WaPo had to say,
“Perhaps this was an unfortunate accident; the police in Strasbourg say they are still investigating. But history suggests otherwise.”
So what is the lesson to be learned? Well, there is obvious lesson that Westerners should be more cautious in making Russia’s “fierce critics'” every word sacrosanct. We might recognize that some of these people are victims of their own paranoia and self-deluded sense of importance. They are not martyrs, saints, or saviors. No matter how much they want us to think they are.
Shout out to frequent SRB commentator Chrisius [Insert Title Here] for bringing attention to it and Eugene Ivanov, who discovered the story.
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By Sean — 4 years ago
US Vice President Joe Biden is due to land in Kiev and one topic that the Ukrainians will surely bring up is whether the US will provide weapons to fend off a Russian incursion. After all, Poroshenko asked for weapons when he spoke in front of the US Congress in September when he famously declared, “blankets [and] night-vision goggles are also important. But one cannot win a war with blankets.” He went home with more blankets. Surely he’ll again bring the issue of up with Biden, especially as Russia arms the separatists and rumors swirl of a rebel offensive.
Already anticipating such a discussion, Moscow has stated that giving Kiev weapons would further destabilize the situation. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich warned against “a major change in policy of the [U.S.] administration in regard to the conflict” in Ukraine, adding that sending arms would be “a direct violation of agreements reached, including [agreements reached] with the participation of the U.S.”
Now putting aside the sheer cynicism of such statements, considering Russia has itself destabilized Ukraine by supplying the separatists with weapons, Lukashevich is sending a clear warning: arming Ukraine would certainly cause the Russians to double down and treat the conflict as the proxy war with the West it already thinks it is. This war is not one Ukraine can ultimately win. Weapons will only exacerbate the bloodletting, further crystallize the new “iron curtain” in eastern Ukraine, and perhaps even drawn the United States into another conflict it neither wants nor needs. Arming Ukraine would be a disaster.
Yet there’s a chorus of politicians and pundits who think arming Ukraine is a grand idea.
Over the last few days, the White House has been getting Congressional pressure to supply Ukraine with weapons. In a joint statement on Tuesday, Sen. John McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham said in the joint statement that “The Obama Administration’s policy in Ukraine effectively amounts to an arms embargo on victims of aggression,” and that “the United States and the European Union must provide Ukraine with the arms and related military and intelligence support that its leaders have consistently sought and desperately need.” McCain and Graham essentially want to turn the conflict into an open proxy war between the United States and Russia. “Providing Ukrainians with the ability to defend themselves,” they wrote, “would impose a far greater cost on Putin than he has paid thus far.”
Pundits have also been weighing on the issue. Writing in the LA Times, Bennett Ramber, who served in the State Department’s Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs under George H.W. Bush, argues that the United States has an obligation to defend Ukraine based on the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances. He writes:
History provides two other options: Sit back, pout and watch, the strategy Washington applied to Soviet interventions in Hungary and Czechoslovakia. The approach concedes Ukraine as part of Moscow’s sphere in influence or more. Or the U.S. can bleed the separatists and Russian intervenors by providing Ukraine with lethal weapons, and not just nonlethal aid, repeating the successful strategy the U.S. applied to Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation.
“Taking the second option, arming Ukraine, he continues, “would not cross World War I’s mobilization threshold but still overcome the appeasement policy of pre-World War II, and thus presents a prudent path giving Ukraine a better chance to defend itself. It also would restore Washington’s credibility that it will go to bat for countries that, under its imprimatur, give up the bomb and find a tiger — or in this case, a bear — at the gates threatening its survival.”
In an op-ed in USA Today, Ilan Berman, the Vice President of the American Foreign Policy Council, argues that time is running out to take action and arm Ukraine.
“The window to do so is narrow indeed. Congress has mere weeks to conduct real work ahead of the coming winter recess. And with other pressing issues, such as a reauthorization of the federal budget, now on the legislative agenda, there is a real danger that foreign affairs matters (Ukraine among them) will get crowded out of the deliberations completely. Should that happen, it would be nothing short of a geopolitical victory for Russia, and a moral and operational defeat for Ukraine’s beleaguered pro-Western government.”
Indeed, Congress is ready to arm Ukraine. It just has to vote. There are two bills before it that have broad bi-partisan support: the Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014 and the Ukraine Security Assistance Act of 2014. The first, which has already passed the Foreign Relations Committee, allows for the provision of “defense articles, defense services, and training to the Government of Ukraine for the purpose of countering offensive weapons and reestablishing the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, including anti-tank and anti-armor weapons; crew weapons and ammunition; counter-artillery radars to identify and target artillery batteries; fire control, range finder, and optical and guidance and control equipment; tactical troop-operated surveillance drones, and secure command and communications equipment.”
The latter provides “Ukraine with appropriate intelligence and other information to determine the location, strength, and capabilities of the military and intelligence forces of the Russian Federation located on Ukraine’s eastern border and within its territorial borders, including Crimea; and take steps to ensure that such intelligence information is protected from further disclosure.”
It’s unclear which way Obama would go if presented with these bills. It will be really hard for him to veto legislation that has such bi-partisan support. It just doesn’t happen to him very often.
But this doesn’t make arming Ukraine a good idea. First, it just demonstrates again that Congress only sees throwing guns at a problem is the only viable solution. After all, what do the politicians have to lose? They can all stand up, puff out their chests and say they were tough on Russia. Forget the Ukrainian citizens who will experience the full fury of an escalated conflict.
Second, Ukraine being as corrupt as it is, there are real concerns how many of these weapons will actually end up in soldiers’ hands and not pilfered and sold on the black market. There is already evidence that some of the United States supplied “meals ready to eat” ended up being sold on black market websites. Could American weapons see a similar fate?
Third, as I said above, this is a war Ukraine can’t win. Weapons won’t turn the tide of the war in Ukraine’s favor. Sure it will, as John McCain put it, “impose a far greater cost on Putin than he has paid thus far,” but presented with such a challenge Putin will surely double down and commit more to the rebels. This would give Putin reason to push not only to Mariupol, Kharkiv, and Odessa, but perhaps to Kiev and beyond. He would not only dismember Ukraine, he would swallow it. Then what would the US do? It would either have to back down or commit more, sending the situation into a spiral downward to hell.
Fourth, given this year is the centennial of WWI, many have characterized the tensions between the US, the EU, and Russia as a recipe for another world war. Arming Ukraine has the potential to get that ball rolling. And from there who knows where things will end up.
I can understand the frustration many feel as they watch Russia flood the east with weapons. Sanctions work slow and don’t really exert the immediate necessary pressure. Also, it’s apparent that the Obama Administration doesn’t have a clear policy concerning Russia. Is it an adversary or enemy? How much does the US need Russia when it comes to Syria and Iran? These questions don’t have clear answers. But throwing more weapons into the mix will only make things worse. The only answer is diplomacy, something both sides have yet to seriously consider. If the United States wants to do something and show it’s leadership, perhaps it’s time to set aside egos and bring everyone to the table for a serious hammering out of issues. A first step would be to silence the hawks in Washington and the “war party” in Kiev.Post Views: 1,019
By Sean — 11 years ago
Putin signed a decree today officially suspending Russia’s participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty and threatens to fully withdraw in five months time unless a compromise was found on some of its provisions. The CFE, which was signed in 1990 and amended in 1999, limits troop deployments on the European continent. The 1999 revisions require the Russians to fully withdraw its troops from Moldova and Georgia. Russia is in the process of withdrawing troops from the latter but has refused to consider the former because of the dispute over Transnistria. NATO has used Russian troops stationed in the two former Soviet Republics as reason to not sign the amended treaty.
According to the decree, Russia considers linking of the signing of the treaty with Russian bilateral talks with Georgia and Moldova as “wrong” and the need to suspend participation in the treaty stems from several “exceptional circumstances.” These include:
- The failure of Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and the Czech Republic to make the necessary changes in the composition of group of states party to the Treaty on the accession of these countries to NATO;
- The excessive parties to the CFE Treaty that belong to NATO, and the exclusive group that formed among CFE Treaty members as a result of the widening of the alliance;
- The negative impact of the planned deployment of America’s conventional forces in Bulgaria and Romania because of this exclusive group mentality;
- The failure of a number of parties of the CFE Treaty to comply with the political obligations contained in the Istanbul Agreements relating to the early ratification of the Adapted Treaty;
- The failure of Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic to comply with commitments accepted in Istanbul to adjust their territorial ceilings;
- Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania’s failure to participate in the CFE Treaty has adverse effects on Russia’s ability to implement its political commitments to military containment in the northwestern part of the Russian Federation. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania’s actions result in a territory in which there are no restrictions on the deployment of conventional forces, including other countries’ forces.
The decree goes on to state that Russia’s suspension is in accordance with international and federal law. Pavel Felgenhauer told CNN that Russia’s move was illegal since “This is basically non-compliance, and this is an illegal move.” This is despite the fact that a few days ago he wrote: “Any state may, exercising its national sovereignty, withdraw from CFE, but only after giving a notice 150 days prior to the intended withdrawal. The notice must “include a statement of the extraordinary events” that have caused the withdrawal.” Russia has stated both in its announcement.
Russia’s move places a moratorium on European efforts to inspect Russian military sites and removes limits on conventional forces.
Russia’s announcement has, of course, elicited disappointment. NATO spokesman James Appathurai said, “NATO considers this treaty to be an important cornerstone of European security,” adding that Russia suspension was “a disappointing step in the wrong direction.” Witold Waszczykowski, Poland’s Deputy Foreign Minister, told RIA Novosti that “Poland is astonished by the Kremlin decision” but stated that his country was open to negotiations on the issue.
There is also no doubt that talk about a “New Cold War” will get another gasp of life even though there seems to be an early consensus that Russia’s move is mostly symbolic. “Stability” between European countries is hardly at risk. The bigger risks to stability are increasing tensions over immigration, Islam, and European integration show within European countries, not between them. Plus Russia’s influence over Europe does not reside in its hard power, but in its economic soft power. The real area of global insecurity stretches across the Central Asia and the Middle East.
So while some will be quick to lambaste Russia over this, there is nothing to suggest that the move is anything more than diplomatic posturing. Whether this move actually pays off remains to be seen.Post Views: 448
By Sean — 11 years ago
Presidents Bush and Putin are set to meet this Sunday at the former’s family estate in Kennebunkport, Maine. Bush’s camp has already announced that it has low expectations for the meeting especially on such issues as cooperation on missile defense and Kosovo independence. “I would caution against expecting grand new announcements,” cautioned White House press secretary Tony Snow. “This is, in fact, an opportunity for two leaders to talk honestly and candidly with one another.”
It appears that the global public feels the same. In anticipation for the summit, Pew Research Center did an extensive poll on global attitudes toward each president and other global powers. As the report states:
A 47-nation survey finds global public opinion increasingly wary of the world’s dominant nations and disapproving of their leaders. Anti-Americanism is extensive, as it has been for the past five years. At the same time, the image of China has slipped significantly among the publics of other major nations. Opinion about Russia is mixed, but confidence in its president, Vladimir Putin, has declined sharply. In fact, the Russian leader’s negatives have soared to the point that they mirror the nearly worldwide lack of confidence in George W. Bush.
Disapproval for Bush results from the America’s Iraq War, the War on Terror and its violation of human rights and use of torture. “Favorable ratings of America are lower in 26 of 33 countries for which trends are available,” the survey reports. Approval of the US is highest in West Africa and lowest in the Islamic countries. Displeasure with Putin is significantly strong in Western Europe where dependence on Russian energy has increased. Many Europeans feel that they are held hostage to Russia’s willingness to use energy as a weapon of foreign policy.
When looking at each president’s respective countries, the results are telling. In the States, 45% of Americans have a confidence in Bush’s leadership and 30% have similar views of Putin. In Russia, 18% have confidence in Bush, while Putin garners an overwhelming 84% of his compatriots’ confidence. Putin maybe disliked the world over, but he is loved in Russia.
While Bush and Putin are unpopular, the study states that this hasn’t translated in support for nations that may serve as countervailing forces. Leaders in China, Iran and Venezuela all remain similarly unpopular.Post Views: 284