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 →
English: Map showing the maximum territorial extent of countries under the direct influence of the Soviet Union — between the Cuban Revolution/21st Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the 22nd Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union/Sino-Soviet split. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine reflects neither strategic wisdom nor military strength. In fact, it reflects just the opposite. Putin invested over $50 billion and significant personal capital in the Sochi Olympics and the upcoming G8 Summit. That has now been squandered. It was clearly humiliating for Putin to watch as the Ukrainian president he had strongly supported, if not hand-picked, was forced to flee Kiev. This was particularly true, given that President Yanukovych fled in response to a popular uprising driven by opposition to his efforts to establish closer Ukrainian relations with Russia at the expense of closer ties to Europe.
Putin assuaged this humiliation with a military invasion of Crimea on March 1. On March 20, the Russian Parliament overwhelmingly approved a treaty presented by Putin to formally annex the Black Sea peninsula. At this juncture, it seems impossible to envision Moscow backing down, withdrawing its forces, and returning Crimea to Ukrainian control. President Obama, as well as Western European leaders, have acknowledged this reality. The so-called “post-Cold War era” has now come to a close, and the West must now confront a new European security environment. What is the nature of the new threat? What is the general outline of a new strategy for the United States and its NATO allies?
It is important to realize that the longer-term threat posed by this new era does not herald a return to the Cold War. That “twilight struggle” had an ideological underpinning. It pitted Marxist-Leninist ideology against democracy and market economies. When Nikita Khrushchev made his famous threat, “We will bury you!” in 1956, he was not necessarily predicting imminent war so much as a belief that history was on the side of Communism. He believed that it was Communism, with its focus on a command oriented economy rather than the Soviet military, that would ultimately triumph. Continue reading →
Tim Ripley, London – IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly
25 March 2014
Officers of the Ukrainian navy Grisha V-class frigate Lutsk raise the Russian naval ensign on 20 March. Source: PA Photos
Ukraine’s maritime forces have been dealt a heavy blow by the Russian intervention in Crimea, with 12 of its 17 major warships and much of its naval aviation assets falling under Moscow’s control.
In the eight days since the controversial referendum on 16 March that opened the door for Crimea to be absorbed in the Russian Federation, almost every Ukrainian naval base and ship on the peninsula has been seized by Russian forces or local pro-Moscow self defence units.
The scale of the crisis facing the Ukrainian navy is apparent from the fact that around 12,000 of its 15,450 personnel were based in Crimea when Russia intervened on 27 February. Over the past three weeks, the majority of the Ukrainian military personnel on Crimea have defected to the Russian military or resigned from military service, according to announcements by the new pro-Kremlin administration in Crimea. Some independent media reports appear to broadly support Russian claims in this regard. Continue reading →
The topic has many times been discussed by South Ossetian politicians, and each time it causes an ambiguous reaction of Tskhinvali and Moscow. For example, the head of North Ossetia Taimuraz Mamsurov stated: “North Ossetia is a part of Russia. The issue is more about joining Russia, than a merger. However, we, Russian citizens, know that Russia needs no new territories. There is no interest for Russia to get new lands.” The extraordinary plenipotentiary ambassador of South Ossetia in Russia, Dmitry Medoyev, made a strict statement that the authorities of the country had no intention to hold a referendum on joining Russia, as South Ossetia is an independent state, with its own Constitution and laws.
Editor’s note:Periodically, Stratfor publishes guidance produced for its analysis team and shares it with readers. This guidance sets the parameters used in our own ongoing examination and assessment of events surrounding Syria‘s use of chemical weapons as the crisis evolves into a confrontation between the United States and Russia. Given the importance we ascribe to this fast-evolving standoff, we believe it important that readers have access to this additional insight.
In the wake of President Barack Obama’s change of tack from a strike on Syria, the threat of war has not dissolved. It has, however, been pushed off beyond this round of negotiations.
The president’s minimalist claims are in place, but they are under serious debate. There is no chance of an attack on chemical weapons stockpiles. Therefore, the attack, if any, will be on command and control and political targets. Obama has options on the table and there will be force in place for any contingency he selects. Nothing is locked in despite public statements and rhetoric in Washington, London, Paris or Moscow.
Russia’s energy supplies ensure that Moscow maintains a geopolitical foothold in the European part of the former Soviet space.
By Sonia Rothwell
Yesterday we began charting how Russia seeks to maintain economic and geopolitical leverage across the former Soviet space. Our analysis inevitably reflects that it is now over two decades since the former USSR splintered into its constituent parts. Yet the return of Vladimir Putin to the Russian Presidency nevertheless provides us with insights into how Moscow might attempt to increase leverage in its former sphere of influence over the next 5-10 years. It is currently estimated, for example, that almost 70% of Russia’s export receipts are made up of transfers of natural resources, with the former Soviet space being a major recipient of end-products. A very healthy trade-surplus of more than $500bn provides Putin with opportunities to use Russia’s finances to its flex geopolitical muscle. During his election campaign, Putin pledged to invest approximately $750 million in Russia’s defense sector.
But to what extent do the former Soviet republics look to their old imperial master for security and economic cooperation? To answer this question, today we focus upon three sub-regions of the former Soviet Union – the Baltic States, Ukraine and Moldova. While each of these regions are forging economic and political relations that look beyond Russia, Moscow has the potential to use its energy supplies – and to a lesser extent its ethnic ties – to maintain a strategic foothold in Central and Eastern Europe.
A Changed Eastern Europe
From an economic and geopolitical perspective, the Baltic States have done the most out of all the former republics to distance themselves from their Soviet past. Each state is now a fully-fledged member of the European Union (EU) with Estonia (whose trade and cultural links have traditionally favored Finland) taking a step further away from Moscow after it joined the Eurozone in 2011. Like the Baltic States, Moldova also aspires to closer economic ties with the West in general and Europe in particular. Recently, Moldova’s Prime Minister and President re-affirmed their commitment to membership of the EU. Moldova’s efforts to also join NATO are largely encouraged by Romania and underpinned by linguistic and cultural affiliations between the two countries.
Russia nevertheless maintains a significant strategic foothold within Moldova. Its 14th army is stationed in the self-proclaimed majority Russian state of Trans Dniestra with Moscow also providing financial assistance to the government in Tiraspol. Strategically, it is in Russia’s interests to safeguard Trans-Dniestra’s independence to maintain Moscow’s influence within the region and divert Moldova’s attention away from full EU membership. Nevertheless, Russia maintains strong bilateral trade links with Moldova and there are calls for the country to join Russia’s nascent Customs Union. So in sharp contrast to the Baltic States, Moldova is seemingly pulled in two directions by its near- neighbor Romania and an economically significant Russia.