Archive for the ‘Russia’ Category


US energy sanctions on Russia must thread the needle

May 15, 2014

Russia’s resurgent geopolitical power is dependent on it’s vast energy wealth.  That makes the Russian energy sector a juicy target for policies aimed at punishing Russian machinations in Ukraine.

However, America’s European allies are dependent on Russia as their primary energy source.  That creates a dilemma – how to get European support for meaningful sanctions that won’t end up hurting themselves as much or more as the intended targets?

The US is trying to thread the needle by targeting Russia’s energy future while keeping its current productivity intact.   Although it remains a major exporter, Russia’s reserves of conventional oil are in steady decline.  However, as reported here in the past, Russia has immense shale reserves.  Shale oil has resuscitated the US oil industry (oil production in the US hit a 26 year high last year and the Energy Information Agency projects continued growth to a 40 year high next year).  No other nation has been able to leverage their shale resource as effectively as the US, and Russia needs access to US experience and technology if they want to similarly extend their own energy industry.

Therefore, the Atlantic allies are crafting sanctions that will prohibit participation in Russian shale (and Arctic) energy development by Western companies.  Of course, there is nothing preventing the Kremlin from retaliating by squeezing current exports to the allies, anyway.  It would end up just being a test of wills.  And, so far, Putin has demonstrated ownership of much more of that particular resource as well.

Russia's vast but untapped shale resources

Russia’s vast but untapped shale resources


Is Germany the real target of Russia’s Ukraine adventure?

April 10, 2014

Interesting thoughts from Jan Techau:

Eighty-one percent of (Germans) asked believed that Russia is not a trustworthy partner … (b)ut 58 percent thought the same about the United States … 49 percent of Germans stated that their desired political position is equidistance between the West and Russia … (o)nly 45 percent believed that Germany should be firmly embedded in the West.

Equidistance is precisely the position into which Soviet and then Russian leaders have tried to lure Germany since the 1950s. Attempts have ranged from Stalin’s repeated offer to grant Germany neutrality in return for unification in 1952, to Leonid Brezhnev’s long-term strategy to use energy dependence to bind Germany to Russian interests, to President Vladimir Putin’s masterful psychological exploitation of German fears on issues such as missile defense or Ukraine. In all these instances, Moscow’s aim was to de facto neutralize Germany despite its integration into the West.

These efforts have never been fully successful. But they have been successful enough to make Germany an often wobbly ally and to spread uncertainty and fear, especially among Central European countries, most notably Poland. The Kremlin knows full well that uncertainty and fear are the very ingredients that, if nurtured for long enough, will poison every relationship and even the strongest alliance.

Driving a wedge into Westbindung remains a preeminent goal of the Russian leadership. Moscow’s spokespeople and pundits in the West are in high rotation to increase the spread of propaganda aimed at loosening Germany’s ties with the West. Russia’s representatives are smart, they are in it for the long haul, and they often do their job with considerable skill.


Read the whole thing.


As tensions rise in the Black Sea, the Turkish Navy sails

March 19, 2014

Ukraine lies along the northern edge of the Black Sea, and the Crimean peninsula, with its naval bases, dominates that portion of the sea.  Turkey, however, controls the entire southern rim of the Black Sea along with the Bosphorous and Dardenelles straits that control the egress from the Black Sea to the wider world.  Russia’s Black Sea fleet, today as in centuries past, must contend with Turkey if it seeks to project power beyond that inland sea.   So, as tensions rise with Russian annexation of Crimea and massing of troops on Ukrainian borders, the Turkish Navy has set sail . . . for Africa.

In the days of the Cold War, Turkey was seen as the formidable anchor of NATO’s southern flank; in recent years, Prime Minister Erdogan has embarked on a mission of “neo-Ottomanism,” which seeks to reclaim Turkey’s role as the predominant regional and sometime world power. Erdogan may see these ambitions more closely aligned with current Russian practices than with the West.  Meeting directly with Putin early in the crisis, Erdogan reportedly received serious concessions about the treatment of Turkic Tartars in the region, possibly in exchange for Turkish closure of the straits to Western warships.   Perhaps, then, the continuation of the African mission is yet another signal that Turkey has no inclination to aide the West in any campaign against Russia.


Putin’s Eurasianism

March 3, 2014

I have posted several times on Eurasianism and Russian geopolitical thinker Aleksander Dugin.  Students of either are unsurprised by Russia’s actions in the Ukraine.  Dugin has always seen the world as a contest between land and maritime powers, and the contemporary world as a contest between Russian-led Eurasianism and Anglo-American Atlanticism.  Ukraine is and always has been a core geopolitical interest for Russia, and she was never going to meekly allow that nation to simply walk away from Russia and become a member of The Atlantic Alliance.  The current crisis, or something like it, would be fully anticipated by Long Cycle Theory as a part of the Coalitioning phase.

Writing at National Review, Bob Zubrin has a brief but acceptable review of Dugin’s theories.  Read it, and the various posts I have made on Dugin and Eurasianism, to get a handle on the deeper geopolitical meanings of the current situation.


Russia nearing completion of its own missile defense system

November 5, 2013

While doing everything it can to slow the pace of a US deployed ballistic missile defense system, Russia is apparently on the verge of launching its own S-500 system which will have the capability of knocking down every known ballistic missile.  The S-500 would be the heir to the world-class S-300 air defense system and is rumored to be deployed as soon as 2017.


Russia expands its naval force in support of Syria

September 13, 2013

Russia’s top admiral has stated that he will expand his Eastern Mediterranean fleet to 10 warships, continuing a buildup that began last December.  Chief among the new additions is the missile cruiser Moskva, dubbed a “carrier killer” due to its advanced weaponry.    The Moskva entered the Western Med on Tuesday and is expected to be on station by the beginning of next week.

Russia’s goal under Putin’s new “Foreign Policy Concept” is to displace American leadership whenever and wherever it can.  He is succeeding in the case of Syria, and seeks to expand that success to the rest of the Southwest Asia/Eastern Mediterranean region.  The Moskva and her sister ships are the vanguard of that effort.



Russia claims new ICBM will defeat all missile defense systems

June 17, 2013

Russia has successfully tested a new ICBM that it claims will be able to defeat any existing or planned missile defense system, thus rendering the US planned European missile shield obsolete before it is even fully deployed.  The “secret” of the Topol is its high speed lift off, reaching apogee and deploying its warheads before missile defense sensors can find it.  It can also launch from both fixed and mobile locations.

Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces have reported a successful launch of a next-generation ICBM that can supposedly pierce any anti-ballistic missile (ABM) system. The test came after the US announced it would resume its ABM program in Europe.

The test missile launched from a mobile pad at 9:45pm (17:45 GMT) on Thursday, the Defense Ministry said Friday. The test was carried out in the Astrakhan region, deep inside Russian territory, and the prototype’s payload successfully hit the Balkhash range in Kazakhstan.

“The test launch was a success as the [simulated] warhead hit a designated target within the set timeframe,” the Russian Defense Ministry statement said. “This test launch was intended to confirm technical characteristics of the missile, as well as to check the safety of the launch procedures and equipment.”

The launch was the fourth successful test of the prototype ICBM. The development of a new solid-fuel ICBM was officially announced in 2012, and is set to gradually replace the existing Topol-M and later the recently developed Yars missile complex.

Russia will put the new strategic missile complex on combat alert by the end of the year, and deployment of the first regiment will start in 2014, announced the Head of the Main Operations Directorate of the Joint Staff Colonel-General, Vladimir Zarudnitsky.

What I find interesting is that missile defense has two opponents, domestic and foreign.  Domestic opponents claim that missile defense is a pipe dream that cannot possibly work and is therefore a waste of money.  Foreign opponents, on the other hand, fear US missile defense systems and dedicate time and money to finding ways to beat it.

Topol missile