Archive for May, 2014


May 23, 2014

FoxNews reported Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Shanghai on May 20, 2014, to strengthen economic and military ties with China as the Pentagon sought to limit the fallout from the indictments of five Chinese army officers as cyber spies. Excerpts below:

Putin met with President Xi Jinping on broadening trade between the two countries, including a major gas deal. Putin’s visit also coincided with the start of joint Chinese and Russian naval exercises in the East China Sea.

In an interview with Chinese media, Putin called China “Russia’s reliable friend.”

“It would be no exaggeration if I said that the cooperation between our two countries is at its highest level in history,” Putin said.

Putin said the two sides made “significant progress” on the sale of natural gas to China to ease Moscow’s current dependence on sales to Europe that could be the target of Western sanctions over Russia’s actions in Crimea and Ukraine.

Ships from Russia’s Pacific fleet, including the guided missile cruiser Varyag, were taking part in the “Joint Sea-2014” exercise from May 20-26, the official Chinese news agency Xinhua said.

A total of 14 surface ships and two submarines were taking part in the exercises in the northern part of the East China Sea, Xinhua said.

The China-Russia naval exercises were taking place amid rising tensions between the U.S. and China over China’s increasingly assertive claims to disputed islands in the South and East China Seas.

The strengthening of ties between Russia and China also came as the U.S. military sought to preserve its own military-to-military relationship with China following the Justice Department’s announcement of the indictments of five People’s Liberation Army officers on charges of cyber espionage against U.S. firms.

China’s official media rejected the charges. Under the headline “Big Brother USA’s Spy Charges Are Absurd,” Xinhua wrote that “everyone knows that the U.S. itself is the biggest cyber bully.”

“We still believe it’s important” to maintain and expand ties to the Chinese military, said Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary.

“This is a relationship that’s important to us. It matters,” Kirby said at a Pentagon briefing.

However, the indictments “represent activities that have to stop,” Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary said of the alleged hacking by the Chinese officers.


May 19, 2014

FoxNews on May 18, 2014, reported that the commercial cargo ship Dragon returned to Earth from the International Space Station, bringing back nearly 2 tons of science experiments and old equipment for NASA. Excerpts below:

SpaceX’s Dragon splashed into the Pacific, just five hours after leaving the orbiting lab.

“Welcome home, Dragon!” the California-based company said via Twitter.

Astronaut Steven Swanson, the station commander, released it using the big robot arm as the craft zoomed more than 260 miles above the South Pacific.

“Very nice to have a vehicle that can take your science, equipment and maybe someday even humans back to Earth,” Swanson told Mission Control.

The SpaceX Dragon is the only supply ship capable of returning items to Earth. The others burn up on re-entry. This was the fourth Dragon to bring back space station goods, with 3,500 pounds aboard; it came down off Mexico’s Baja California coast.

NASA is paying SpaceX and Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corp. to make station deliveries. Orbital is next up, next month.

SpaceX also is competing for the right to ferry station astronauts, perhaps as early as 2017.

The Dragon rocketed to the space station on April 18 with a full load and arrived at the orbiting lab two days later.


May 17, 2014

It was in 1909 that Dr. R. Shamashastri published a manuscript from fourth and third century BC India. He had discovered in 1904. It was a book about statecraft, power and governance by Kautilya, an adviser to the Indian king Chandragupta.

The Indian researcher worked in the city of Mysore at the Oriental Research Institute (ORI). It was founded in 1891 by the then Maharaja of Mysore State. Its aim was to collect, edit and publish rare manuscripts in Sanskrit and other ancient languages. The most famous publication was that of Kautilya.

The manuscript was written on palm leaves. Brittle palm leaves were cut to a standard size of 15 centimeter by 3,5 centimeter. Sometimes they were scrubbed with a paste made of ragi and then used for writing. It was similar to the use of papyrus in ancient Egypt. The ORI uses lemon grass oil to preserve the old manuscripts.

What is so special about Arthashastra. Its author has been compared to Machiavelli of renaissance Italy and Sun Tzu, the ancient Chinese strategist that has been compared to Karl von Clausewitz, the dominating strategist of the West.

Kautiliya was the main adviser to Chandragupta Maurya (around 317 – 293 BC), the king who firs united India into an empire. Kautilya wrote about willingness to make treaties he knew he would brake. Also he approved of secret agents who sowed discord among the enemies. Further he recommended the use of women as weapons of war. Spreading disinformation was another method that could be applied in both statecraft and warfare.

Arthashastra can be translated as “science of politics”. Kautilya believed, like Thomas Hobbes that the goal of science was power. In the world of geopolitics and international relations it was only “natural” that nations used dissension and force. A political realist then and now believed and believes that there will always be conflict in world politics. Kautilya wrote around 100 years after ancient Greek historian worked on his History of the Peloponnesian War.

A leading Western commentator on Kautiliya is Professor Roger Boesche of California (The First Political Realist: Kautiliya and His Arthashastra, Landham. Md: Lexington Division of Rowman & Littlefield, 2002).


May 15, 2014

Mail On Line on May 15, 2014, reported that it seems the Kremlin has the Moon in its sights. Excerpts below:

Moscow has set out plans to conquer and colonise space, including a permanent manned moon base.

Deputy premier Dmitry Rogozin said: ‘We are coming to the moon forever.’

His comments came as President Vladimir Putin toured the Cosmonautics Memorial Museum in Moscow. On May 17, 2014, Russia celebrates Cosmonaut Day marking Yuri Gagarin’s pioneering flight into space on April 12, 1961.

In an article in the government’s own newspaper headlined ‘Russian Space’, he spoke of targeting Mars and other ‘space objects’ as future priorities.

‘Flights to Mars and asteroids in our view do not contradict exploration of the moon, but in many senses imply this process.’

 He wrote of ‘colonisation of the moon and near-moon space’.

In the next 50 years, manned flights are unlikely beyond ‘the space between Venus and Mars’.

But ‘it is quite possible to speak about exploration of Mars, flights to asteroids and flights to Mars’.

The essential first step as a base for research and experiments was the moon, said Rogozin, who is in overall charge of Russia’s space and defence industries, and was recently targeted for EU and US sanctions over the Ukrainian crisis.

‘The moon is not an intermediate point in the race,’ he wrote in official daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta, conjuring an impression of a new space race with America.

‘It is a separate, even a self-contained goal.

‘It would hardly be rational to make some ten or 20 flights to the moon, and then wind it all up and fly to the Mars or some asteroids.

‘This process has the beginning, but has no end. We are coming to the moon forever.’

Currently, Russia has plans to launch three lunar spacecraft – two to the surface and one to orbit – by the end of the decade.

The first mission, the long-delayed Luna-25, is slated for launch in 2016, to research the moon’s  south pole.

The next two missions will include an orbiter to monitor the moon in 2018, and a year later a polar lander with a drill will search for water ice.

The Kremlin’s space-age boasts come less than three years after the U.S. was forced to start hitching flights on Russian rockets.

Nasa ended its space shuttle programme in 2011 and has faced years of funding cuts.

But there could be hope of a new space race – as Nasa announced this week it hopes to land humans on Mars within 20 years.

By 2040, Russia plans to create a lunar base for long-term missions to the Earth’s natural satellite.

Rogozin said that the moon is the only realistic source to obtain water, minerals and other resources for future space missions.

He promised the development of  ‘a super-heavy rocket for lunar missions and to the Mars in the future’.

Rogozin claimed sanctions including the termination of space cooperation announced by the US ‘can contribute’ to a stronger Russian space industry.

It will force Russia ‘to create a strategy of development of Russian manned space flights, independent from unreliable international partners’.

He stressed: ‘We should not be afraid to dream, to raise the bar as high as possible for our future development.

‘Russia has everything needed for a new breakthrough in space research.

‘All we need is to learn how to combine idealism and pragmatism and how to properly organise our business.’



May 12, 2014

Washington Times on May 8, 2014, published a commentary by Jeffrey Star on the rapid onset of the crisis in Ukraine masking a long-term strategy of a resurgent Russia to dominate Eurasia once again. Excerpts below:

Securing Ukraine’s independence must involve American responses to pre-empt Russia’s goal of strengthening its military and economic leverage over Europe, and that means a demonstration of American resolve in Poland. Failure to act on this dimension of the Ukrainian crisis will undermine Ukrainian independence and will reinforce the Russian goal of distancing Europe from the United States.

Putin now has only a limited tool set to use, beyond military actions, to disrupt growing Ukrainian ties to Europe. Make no mistake, though, Russia has been working for a long time through energy dependence and covert means to blunt closer European, much less American, connections to all the former Soviet states. From Mr. Putin’s perspective, Russia can leave nothing to chance.

As soon as he gained power, Mr. Putin began to restore Russia, particularly through exports of energy to key target areas, including Ukraine and Europe. The suspension of natural-gas deliveries has been used by Russia many times to gain Ukrainian concessions. An invasion of Georgia in 2008 further conveyed Russia’s willingness to project power over the “near abroad,” and its success was reinforced by weak international reactions, including those of a distracted United States.

Ukraine is different than Georgia, however. The Ukraine crisis persists in the world’s headlines, ensuring that bloodshed between Russian and Ukrainian military forces would profoundly undermine Russia’s drive for influence in Eurasia and its claim to legitimacy. This gives the United States leverage to act.

Mr. Putin may calculate that a low-intensity conflict may be sufficient to achieve his goals without losing public support at home. In addition, Mr. Putin continues his own form of economic sanctions to keep Europe off-balance, such as tacitly threatening energy arteries feeding European, especially German, industry. These tactics may be working, evidenced by Hungary’s prime minister eschewing sanctioning Russia because 80 percent of Hungarian energy comes from Russia, and by the visit of the CEO of Germany’s Siemens to Moscow to ensure their deals would survive.

It is clear Eastern Europe is increasingly nervous about its geopolitical position, with Moldova already being talked about as the next Ukraine. Poland, therefore, looms as the critical pivot point for American power projection. Strategically located and historically vulnerable Poland’s importance to the United States and Europe cannot be overstated.

U.S. responses to the Ukraine crisis are designed to extract economic costs from Russia, to strengthen Ukraine, and to restore confidence of Ukraine’s European neighbors. The United States is deploying some 600 troops to Poland and the Baltics, Danish F-16s will soon arrive in Estonia, and NATO is debating stationing forces in Eastern European NATO states. These steps are largely symbolic…

A critical element of U.S. power projection would be the deployment of advanced air defenses to Poland. Poland has committed $45 billion to acquire air defenses to counter fighters, bombers, drones, cruise missiles and short-range ballistic missiles. Poland recently narrowed its selection to Patriot, MEADS (Medium Extended Air Defense System) and Israeli and French systems. All could provide important defensive capabilities to Poland, but in varying time periods.

The U.S. air-defense system of choice is Patriot, which is actively deployed and can be rapidly fielded in Poland during this crisis period. As with all military systems, it is upgraded constantly, narrowing any claims for technical advantages of MEADS over Patriot. Patriot was deployed in Turkey in 2012 within weeks of Ankara’s request for air-defense enhancements along its border with Syria. Putting aside the money and politics surrounding a major procurement opportunity, Patriot can immediately provide the defensive military capability Poland needs, as well as the credible geopolitical signal the United States needs to send Russia in time to be relevant during this crisis.

The United States should propose deployment of Patriot in Poland as a credible, effective and inherently defensive military asset, one that can uniquely reinforce the broader U.S. geopolitical strategy today and in the future.

Jeffrey Starr served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia from 1998 to 2001.


May 5, 2014

FoxNews on May 4, 2014 reported that with escalating violence in Ukraine stirring fears of an all-out “civil war,” U.S. senators of both parties urged the Obama administration to stop holding back and do all it can — short of troops on the ground — to counter Russia’s influence. Excerpts below:

Lawmakers specifically are pushing for military aid to the Ukrainian government and broad sanctions on sectors of the Russian economy that go far beyond what has been implemented to date.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Sunday the U.S. should aim to “drive the Russian economy into the ground.”

The administration imposed a new round of sanctions last week targeting Russian individuals and businesses. President Obama warned so-called “sectoral sanctions” could be next if the situation escalates, while voicing hope that a May 25 election will be a turning point.

But Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” said the elections will be too late. She said stronger measures need to be imposed “now.”

“We already see the playbook of what happened in Crimea happening in eastern Ukraine. And it’s time to impose tougher sectoral sanctions, provide support for the Ukrainian military,” she said. “And at this point, Russia is not getting the message.”

Ayotte is among the senators backing a bill that would impose such broad-based sanctions on Russia, as well as send weapons to Ukraine.

Clashes over the last several days have brought the conflict in Ukraine, some officials say, to the brink of civil war.

Ukraine’s interim prime minister accused Russia and anti-government protesters of orchestrating a “real war.”

The former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, gave a similarly ominous assessment in an interview with Time. After Ukraine’s military began a major offensive to retake control of eastern cities, McFaul reportedly said Vladimir Putin may be preparing for an invasion.

“This is real,” McFaul told Time. “This is war.”

Graham, speaking on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” agreed.

“I fear now that there will be a civil war,” he said,…

Graham, echoing Ayotte, called for sanctions on whole sectors of the Russian economy, including the energy and banking sectors. The senator complained that the last round failed to dent the Russian markets, adding “it should have been called the Russian economic recovery act.”

Further, he backed efforts to help arm the Ukrainian people “so they can defend themselves.”

“President Obama is delusional about what’s going on in Ukraine,” he said.

As violence escalates, many in Congress are pushing the administration to move faster, and threatening to take action on their own.

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, told Fox News on Sunday that he would “absolutely” support the Republican-authored sanctions bill that was announced last week.

“Everything and anything that we possibly can do should be done,” he said.

Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., also said: “We really should provide some defensive weaponry, anti-tank weapons, to Ukraine.”


May 4, 2014

Kyiv Post on May 2, 2014, reported that Ukrainians have “enormous experience” with partisan war and will draw on it if Kyiv surrenders any more Ukrainian territory to Russia or if Moscow seizes any on its own, according to Yury Shukhevich, the leader of the Ukrainian National Assembly-Ukrainian National Self Defense (UNO-UNSO) organization. Excerpts below:

…the prospect of facing such resistance is probably among most important factors keeping Moscow from moving to annex larger parts of Ukraine.

As many countries have learned, it is one thing to seize territory; it is quite another thing to pacify it, especially if a significant portion of the population is antagonistic and prepared to engage in partisan war. The number of troops, the amount of money, and the time required for the second are all far greater than for the first.

Shukhevich, the son of the commander of the Ukrainian Partisan Army and a man who spent 31 years in Soviet camps, said yesterday that he “would not be surprised if the current Ukrainian authorities will surrender [even] Lviv and Uzhgorod,” two cities in the far western portion of Ukraine.

“The Ukrainian government and parliament don’t work as is clear with regard to the situation in the southeastern part of the country. Now they have ‘surrendered’ the Donbas just as they did earlier Crimea,” he said, adding that he had “no answer” as to why they had felt that they had to act that way. And tomorrow, they may hand over even more.

Ukrainian President Aleksandr Turchinov, Shukhevich continued, had not acted soon enough in the east and should have changed the leaders of the Ukrainian force structures there “much earlier and not in the very midst of the conflict.” Indeed, he should have replaced the militia in the east with men from Vinnitsa, Cherkassk, and Zhiromyr oblasts.

But if the Ukrainian government doesn’t want to fight or feels it can’t, that not the case with the Ukrainian people. The 45 million of them have “a historical memory about conducting partisan wars,” and consequently, “if Russian forces advance into continental Ukraine, they will get a new Chechen war, one more terrible than the original.”

And that will have an impact on Russia itself: “an underground and partisan struggle” in Ukraine “will become a detonator” that will “blow up the Russian Federation from the inside.”

At a time when many in Kyiv are talking openly about Ukraine’s defeat in the east and even the impossibility of opposing Russian forces, Shukhevich’s argument is worth keeping in mind as is the one presented by Andrey Arkhangelsky about a fundamental shift in Ukrainian thinking at the popular level.

On the basis of his travels in Lviv and elsewhere in western Ukraine, the journalist draws three conclusions: First, the Russian threat is “playing into the hands of the old nationalism” because “militarism and nationalism always working as a pair.” In short, “Russian pressure is strengthening the position of local nationalists.”

Second, this nationalism is not being driven because people have memories direct or otherwise to the pre-Soviet past but rather because they very much have memories of the fact that “nothing in history lasts forever” and that one of the reasons the Russians won before was because their ancestors “sat quietly by their radio sets” rather than acting.

And third, Arkhangelsky says, “when ‘history’ begins, the residents of small countries, who are non-political always feel themselves passive participants, objects not subjects.” But now “for the first time,” Ukrainians “themselves have become the subject and even the catalyst of history.”


May 2, 2014

Law Professor John Yoo in an article on on April 25, 2014, commented on Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula and its continuing military pressure on Ukraine demonstrates that the United Nations-centered system of international law has failed. Excerpts below:

It should be clear that Russia has violated the U.N. Charter’s restrictions on the use of force. It has resorted to “the use of force against the territorial integrity” and “political independence” of Ukraine in violation of Article 2(4) of the Charter’s founding principles. Russia has trampled on the fundamental norm that the United States and its allies have built since the end of World War II: that nations cannot use force to change borders unilaterally.

Like the League of Nations in the interwar period, the current system of collective security has failed to maintain international peace and security in the face of great power politics. According to widely-shared understandings of the U.N. Charter, nations can use force only in their self-defense or when authorized by the Security Council. Great powers with permanent vetoes on the Security Council (the U.S., U.K., France, Russia, and China) can always block formal efforts to respond to their own uses of force. Hence, the United Nations remains as powerless now as when Vladimir Putin ordered the 2008 invasion of Georgia.

Earlier this week, I released a new book, Point of Attack: Preventive War, International Law, and Global Welfare. In it, I argue that the U.N. and its rules have not reduced the level of conflict between the great powers. That doesn’t mean, though, that there has not been a steep drop in conflict, despite Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

From 1945 to the present, deaths due to great power wars have fallen to a level never seen under the modern nation-state system. Collective security, however, is not the agent of this “Long Peace,” as diplomatic historian John Lewis Gaddis has called it. Rather, the deterrent of nuclear weapons and stable superpower competition reduced conflict during the Cold War.

Democratic nations’ commitment to maintaining that liberal international order — not the collective security of the U.N. Charter — has kept peace among the great powers.

U.N. rules only constrain democracies that value the rule of law, while autocracies don’t seem troubled by legal niceties. Paralysis continues to afflict the democratic response to the invasion of Ukraine. The United States responded to the invasion of Ukraine and the annexation of the Crimea with the symbolic measures of sanctioning a few members of Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, kicking Moscow out of the G-8, and halting NATO-US military cooperation. Russian officials mocked the United States and raised the price of natural gas sold to Ukraine, an implicit warning to other European nations that depend on Russian natural gas. The Russian and U.S. stock markets sighed with relief that no serious economic disruptions would follow.

Now Russian intelligence agencies are apparently fomenting unrest in eastern Ukraine and Russian troops have massed on the border. It should be clear that Putin sees Russia’s relationship with the Western democracies as one of competition, not cooperation.

The United States could take the first step by terminating treaties with Russia that treat the former superpower as if it still has great power status. We can send a clear signal by withdrawing from the New START treaty, which placed both the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals under the same limits. There is no reason to impose the same ceiling of 1,550 nuclear warheads on Russia, which can no longer afford to project power beyond its region, and the U.S., which has a worldwide network of alliances and broader responsibilities to ensure international stability.

Next, the United States could restore the anti-ballistic missile defense systems in Eastern Europe.

Another area where the White House should downgrade Russia’s status is in Syria. After threatening to bomb the Assad regime for using chemical weapons on the rebels, the United States leapt at the chance to have Russia jointly oversee the destruction of Syria’s chemical arsenal. Bashar Assad has taken advantage of the withdrawal of American threats to seize the momentum in the civil war, backed up by Russian and Iranian support. The United States should not consider Russia an equal and joint partner on any matter, but certainly not on whether to allow the Assad regime and Iran to continue to destabilize the Middle East.

President Obama might even undertake a longer-lasting and more effective blow against Russia’s claims to great power status: ejecting Russia from the United Nations Security Council. Along with China, Russia has used its veto to act as the defense attorney for oppressive regimes throughout the world. Of course, the United States cannot amend the U.N. Charter to remove Russia from the Security Council. But it can develop an alternative to the Security Council, which has become an obstacle to the prevention of harms to international security and global human welfare. The United States could establish a new Concert of Democracies to take up the responsibility for international peace, which would pointedly exclude autocracies like Russia and China. Approval by such a Concert, made up of the world’s democracies, would convey greater legitimacy for military force and would signal that nation’s that resort to aggression to seize territory and keep their populations oppressed will not have a voice in the world’s councils.