Russian actions in Ukraine in 2014 have prompted an urgent reassessment of the defense posture of many European nations. The Nordic states in particular are grappling with a 2-decade legacy of defense drawdowns and repositioning for expeditionary warfare. The challenge for these nations is how to resurrect a credible military deterrent in the face of continuing Russian assertiveness. One attractive option is closer defense cooperation between the Nordic states, but moves in this direction are slow and faltering. Continue reading →
As he has done for years, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov was the first to announce the latest government operation against rebel militants in Chechnya. Kadyrov stated on his personal Instagram webpage that government forces had killed a group of four bandits in the republic’s Sunzha district, on the administrative border with Ingushetia. According to Kadyrov, the authorities had been conducting a manhunt for some time. Government sources said they had received information that the militants had been ordered by their leader, Beslan Makhauri (Emir Muhammad), to carry out bomb attacks (instagram.com, November 17). The Chechen Republic’s head specified that government forces had started the special operation a week earlier, after the body of a hunter was found. Russia’s Interfax news agency reported on the government forces’ losses in the operation. “Last night on the outskirts of Sernovodskaya, four members of the bandit underground were surrounded. They used arms to resist the police. In the clash, the bandits were eliminated; two police officers were injured” (Interfax, November 17). The Interfax report shows that law enforcement did not simply happen to be located in the area, but were searching for people accused of killing the hunter. Continue reading →
What first sounded like something straight out of a Tom Clancy novel is turning out to be Moscow’s first serious test of Western resolve since the invasion of Crimea earlier this year. While details are patchy and the situation is still unfolding, three separate credible eyewitness accounts and a photo showing a dark structure descending into the shallow waters of the Baltic Sea seem to confirm the presence of a foreign submarine or mini-sub some 30 miles from Stockholm. If so, this would be a major escalation of tensions in the Baltic Sea region. Continue reading →
English: THE KREMLIN, MOSCOW. President Vladimir Putin with Federal Security Service Director Nikolai Patrushev. Русский: МОСКВА, КРЕМЛЬ. Встреча с директором Федеральной службы безопасности Николаем Патрушевым. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
September 12, 2014
It’s my pleasure to offer an insightful guest post from Johan Wiktorin, former Swedish Military Intelligence and a Fellow of the Royal Swedish Academy of War Sciences. Follow him on Twitter: @forsvarsakerhet
In Ukraine, the cease-fire is on the ropes with daily reports of artillery-fire and shootings. It is established that the Russian Armed Forces is one of the warring factions. A couple of weeks ago, the Swedish foreign minister, Carl Bildt, acknowledged on television that Sweden had verified, supposedly by its own intelligence services, that Russian artillery was firing into Ukraine.
There are other proofs as well. In a long blogpost at Bellingcat a few days ago, journalist Iggy Ostanin showed convincingly that the individual Buk SAM-system that shot down MH17 in July has returned to Russia and resumed its place in the 53th Brigade of the Russian PVO (Air Defense Forces). Continue reading →
Russian President Vladimir Putin is feeling around for the gaps that have emerged in NATO’s defenses, and it may take more than military spending to patch them up
A few years ago, when NATO strategists would stop to consider a possible threat from Russia, their chief concern was the possibility, however slight, that the Russian state would implode, lose control of its nuclear arsenal and allow a few warheads to fall into the wrong hands. That at least was the worry Ivo Daalder expressed in the fall of 2010, when he paid a visit to Moscow as the U.S. ambassador to NATO. But on the whole, he says he just wasn’t very concerned about Russia at the time. The alliance was too busy with that year’s troop surge in Afghanistan and with newfangled threats like cyber warfare.
“As a security concern Russia wasn’t really on the agenda in 2010,” he tells TIME by phone on Friday from Chicago. “The focus with Russia was really on cooperation.” Continue reading →
This edition considers the current state of the Russian economy. Firstly, Philip Hansen assesses the reasons for the economic slowdown that predated the Ukraine crisis, highlighting that the radical reforms needed to improve business confidence seem unlikely to be undertaken. He also notes that fallout from the Ukraine crisis will have a negative impact on the short-term prospects for growth, and that although in the medium term some restoration of growth is possible, this will only likely reach rates below the global average. Secondly, Irina Nikolaevna Il’ina, Carol S. Leonard, and Evgenii Plisetskij examine the resilience of resource abundant regions in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, by way of a case study of Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug. They argue that long-term efficient and cooperative budget planning and performance account for the resilience of such regions.
The Kremlin, according to Barack Obama, is stuck in the “old ways,” trapped in Cold War or even 19th century mindsets. But look closer at the Kremlin‘s actions during the crisis in Ukraine and you begin to see a very 21st century mentality, manipulating transnational financial interconnections, spinning global media, and reconfiguring geo-political alliances. Could it be that the West is the one caught up in the “old ways,” while the Kremlin is the geopolitical avant-garde, informed by a dark, subversive reading of globalization?
The Kremlin’s approach might be called “non-linear war,” a term used in a short story written by one of Putin’s closest political advisors, Vladislav Surkov, which was published under his pseudonym, Nathan Dubovitsky, just a few days before the annexation of Crimea. Surkov is credited with inventing the system of “managed democracy” that has dominated Russia in the 21st century, and his new portfolio focuses on foreign policy. This time, he sets his new story in a dystopian future, after the “fifth world war.”
Surkov writes: “It was the first non-linear war. In the primitive wars of the 19th and 20th centuries it was common for just two sides to fight. Two countries, two blocks of allies. Now four coalitions collided. Not two against two, or three against one. All against all.” Continue reading →