Tag Archives: Soviet Union

Obama Should Act Like M.L. King, Not Khrushchev

By Sergei Markov

After CIA director John Brennan’s recent visit to Kiev and his talks with Ukrainian intelligence officers, it is clear that the Ukrainian crisis has ushered in a new cold war in which the U.S. and Russia are battling each other on the territory of a third country. In the previous Cold War, that struggle took place in African and Asian countries, but now, with Russia weaker than before, the battle has come to Moscow’s backyard — Ukraine. What began as a disagreement with Europe over Ukraine’s future has now become an open conflict between the U.S. and Russia.

This is the probably the worst conflict between the two countries since the Cuban missile crisis, but in the Ukrainian crisis the two sides have switched roles. This time, U.S. President Barack Obama is not taking President John F. Kennedy‘s role in the standoff, but that of former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. In 1962, Khrushchev thought the U.S. was weak and that he could therefore place Soviet missiles in Cuba. But in placing nuclear missiles so close to U.S. territory, he had crossed a red line that provoked a tough U.S. response.

Now Obama, like Khrushchev, has crossed a red line by helping a Russophobic government to seize power by force in Kiev. Obama’s main mistake was that he failed to understand that Moscow would view U.S. support for the new anti-Russian government in Kiev as both an act of aggression and an existential threat to Russia — and that Moscow would be prepared to resist U.S. blatant meddling in Ukraine at all costs. Just as Khrushchev became emboldened by the Soviet Union’s emergence as a superpower and overestimated Washington’s weakness, Obama, it would seem, is emboldened with the U.S.’ status as the only remaining superpower, while overestimating Moscow’s weakness. Russia might not be a strong global superpower, but it has great strength in its own region.

At its core, the likelihood that Ukraine will become a U.S. satellite is no less of a threat to Russia’s national security as Soviet missiles in Cuba were to the U.S.

Ethnic Russians and Ukrainians in Ukraine are not opposed to each other. In fact, the two even blend together in some places. For example, 75 percent of the population in the rebellious cities of Slavyansk and Kramatorsk speak Russian as their primary language, according to recent polls. Meanwhile, 65 percent of all Ukrainians speak Russian as their primary language, even though they are able to speak Ukrainian.

Russian speakers want to be equal citizens, and they want the Russian language to have equal government status with Ukrainian. It is strange that Obama, as a member of the African-American community that suffered from inequality for centuries, does not see that Russian speakers in Ukraine also suffer discrimination.

There is another way in which the U.S. and Russia have traded places from their original positions in the Cuban missile crisis. Putin is advocating such democratic principles as federalism, the rule of law and compromise, whereas Obama supports an illegal government of ultranationalists and usurpers who violate the law and discriminate against the Russia-speaking minority every day. This is not because Putin is more of a democrat than Obama. But he knows that the country’s Russian-speaking majority will always vote for a pro-Russian candidate in free elections. Obama’s advisers are also well aware of that fact, and that is why Washington is trying to install its own protege through a rigged presidential election, which is slated for May 25. The election will be held under the threats of ultranationalist militants who physically attack their opponents and amid a backdrop of war propaganda fanned by the government.

Washington’s puppet government in Kiev is taking several chapters from the Soviet playbook. Just as the Soviet Union blocked Western radio stations from reaching Soviet citizens, the authorities in Kiev have banned Russian television channels.

Many are accusing Obama of weakness, but I think just the opposite is the case. Under the influence of hawks in his administration, he has chosen the radical option of installing an illegal puppet government in Kiev. What’s more, Obama has imposed sanctions that go beyond any imposed against the Soviet Union. And still the U.S. hawks demand more, as they always do, attempting to escalate the confrontation to dangerous levels.

The Ukrainian crisis has become not just a U.S.-Russian conflict but a personal test of wills between Putin and Obama. Putin is fighting for Russia’s survival, while Kennedy did the same thing in 1962, protecting the U.S. against a potential Soviet missile attack. For his part, Obama has become too personally involved in the crisis, trying to look strong to counter Republicans’ accusations of weakness. At the same time, however, Obama is falling into a trap, allowing his opponents to force him into a no-win situation with Russia.

Obama could de-escalate this crisis if he stops acting recklessly and aggressively like Khrushchev and if he takes a lesson from Martin Luther King Jr. and Kennedy. Like King, Obama should recognize that Russian speakers in Ukraine deserve equal rights. Like Kennedy, Obama should acknowledge that Russia, no less than the U.S., has a right to national security in its backyard. And like U.S. founding father Thomas Jefferson, Obama must recognize that limiting the Ukrainian federal government’s power by strengthening the regions with federalism is not a path toward destroying the country. Rather, federalism is inherently democratic; it strengthens the country, not weakens it. If Obama follows the advice of the Republican hawks and continues down the path of Khrushchev and former U.S. President George W. Bush, he will wind up in a dead end.

In the end, Obama’s meddling in Ukraine and his support of the extremist “junta” in Kiev will damage his historical legacy no less than Bush’s debacle in Iraq damaged his.

The Moscow Times

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Obama wants Saudi Arabia to destroy Russian economy


U.S. President Barack Obama tried to convince the King of Saudi Arabia to coordinate actions in the oil market to reduce world oil prices, the main source of Russia’s export revenues, and “punish its behavior” in Crimea. Experts estimate that if the prices are reduced by as little as 12 dollars per barrel, the Russian Federation will lose $40 billion in revenue. There has been a precedent, because this is precisely how the USSR collapsed.

Before Obama’s visit to Saudi Arabia, the U.S. media was discussing options of “punishment” for Russia with sanctions for its “behavior in Crimea.” The first option was proposed by an American financier George Soros. According to him, every day the U.S. could offer for sale 500-750 million barrels from its strategic resources (SPR) estimated at 700 million barrels, which should lead to the decrease in world oil prices by about $10-12 dollars per barrel. Immediately after the formal reunification of Russia and Crimea, the Obama administration gave orders to sell 5 million barrels of oil from the SPR.

However, after two weeks of discussions, U.S. analysts agreed that the effect of such actions will be short-lived, and squandering suitable strategic reserves of the country was not a good idea because you never know what might happen. Another idea immediately followed – to convince Saudi Arabia to increase oil production. Steve LeVine spoke about it in detail.

He suggested adding a few million barrels from Saudi Arabia to the oil from the U.S. reserve, and because oil prices are determined by profitability, the cheap oil in the range of 2-3 million barrels per day could significantly derail the price. Allegedly, Obama traveled to Riyadh to discuss this option on March 28, said the analyst.

Russia receives approximately 70 percent of its export revenue from oil and gas, so even this kind of fall would mean a significant impact, LeVine wrote. He referenced the expert evidence that if there is a fall in price by only $12 dollars per barrel, Russia would lose $40 billion revenue in the budget. According to LeVine, such talks between the United States and Saudi Arabia are already underway, as Prince Turki bin al-Faisal recently noted that the modern oil market was global in nature, and one country cannot affect its stability.

There is a precedent of such joint action that caused the collapse of the USSR. In 1985, the Kingdom has dramatically increased oil production from 2 million to 10 million barrels per day, dropping the price from 32 to 10 dollars per barrel. USSR began selling some batches at an even lower price, about $6 per barrel. Saudi Arabia has not lost anything, because when prices fell by 3.5 times the production has increased five-fold. The planned economy of the Soviet Union was not able to cope with falling export revenues, and this was one of the reasons for the collapse of the USSR.

Has Obama made a deal with King Abdullah? “No, I’m pretty sure he has not,” Sergei Demidenko, an expert of the Institute of Strategic Studies and Analysis told Pravda.Ru. “First of all, the situation in the 1980s and the current situation in the oil market and general political situation in the world are very different. The Saudis are no longer dependent on the United States, they are relatively independent, they have their own groups of influence both in Congress and the State Department, and they can already influence the U.S. policy,” said the expert.

“The global economic crisis has not been canceled, it continues to have a negative impact on the Persian Gulf, so Saudi Arabia is unlikely to do this,” agreed Yelena Suponina, head of the Center of Asia and the Middle East at RISS.

Indeed, as the largest producer of oil, the country would lose a great deal in the event of price reduction. Now, the OPEC countries that include Venezuela and Angola will not allow tripling production. In addition, the alliance relations have been severely marred lately. The King called them “unreliable” because of the U.S. position in Syria. Moreover, he is angered by Obama’s “flirting” with the Iranian leadership and unlocking sanctions against it. Interestingly, the President of the United States has severed diplomatic relations with Bashar al-Assad before the visit, perhaps it was a gesture of reconciliation that indirectly confirms Obama’s intentions.

But it is not so much about politics as it is about the economy.  Merrill Lynch  estimated that the Saudis should keep global oil prices near $85 per barrel to avoid a budget deficit. Now the prices are kept at the level of $105-110 dollars per barrel. It would seem that a price reduction of $12 dollars is possible, but the situation in Saudi Arabia is not easy, said Sergey Demidenko. “First, there are not that many readily available deposits, and there is a need to develop more complex fields. This automatically increases the cost of a barrel. Moreover, the country is now facing an unstable social situation and needs a serious financial cushion to solve social problems. The Kingdom remains an island of calm, but only because they push their opposition out of the country to the outside edges of global jihad, and this is a boomerang that sooner or later will come back to them. To ensure that the people do not follow the extremists, they must be bribed. This is why Saudi Arabia will not agree to this plan, it’s quite obvious,” said the expert.

Nevertheless, analyst Nicholas Cunningham of Oilprice.com wrote that Obama was likely to hold on to the strategic reserve card and play it if Russia deploys wider activities in Eastern Europe.

“We cannot rule out this scenario, and OPEC is not the guarantor of high oil prices. A reasonable government should be prepared for this,” told Pravda.Ru Yelena Suponina. “The best solution is to diversify the economy rather than rely on oil and gas exports alone. Rumors of an impending decline in oil prices have been floating around for five years. It is a method of psychological pressure, such methods are often used in politics. These rumors are designed to annoy major oil and gas miners, and this factor is used in the psychological war against Russia. Since Russia is acting very confident in the international arena, the West will try to apply if not the oil weapon, then at least rumors about the possibility of its application. It fits into the logic of contradictions existing in the relations between Russia and the West, and we have to be ready,” said Yelena Suponina.

Lyuba Lyulko – Pravda.Ru

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Treaty to accept Crimea, Sevastopol to Russian Federation signed

Russia and Crimea have signed treaty of accession of the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol in the Russian Federation following President Putin’s address to the Parliament.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin requests parliament to ratify the agreement that would see both Crimea and the city of Sevastopol joining Russia.

“I ask you to consider the adoption of two new subjects of the Federation: Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol,” Putin told Parliamentarians.

Crimea, Sevastopol signing draft agreement on recognition as part of Russian Federation

Crimea, Sevastopol signing draft agreement on recognition as part of Russian Federation

Crimea was represented by Prime Minister Sergey Aksenov and Sevastopol mayor Aleksey Chaly, who signed the treaty. The two were accompanied by Crimean top official Vladimir Konstantinov.

“Since the adoption of the Russian Federation Republic of Crimea in structure of the Russian Federation two new entities – of the Republic of Crimea and the city of Federal importance Sevastopol – have been created,” the text of the treaty reads.

The Treaty enumerates 10 articles which will come into effect after ratification.

Russia will guarantee that the people who live in Crimea and Sevastopol will be given the right to keep their native language as well as the means and conditions for learning it.

Thus, article 3 of the treaty stands that there will be three official languages in Crimea and Sevastopol: Ukrainian, Russian and the language of Crimean Tatars.

Starting from the day of accession, the people of Crimea and Sevastopol are considered as Russian citizens, according to Article 5.

As it was agreed, the transition period will be acting till January 1, 2015. During this time, both sides will resolve the issues of integration of the new subjects “in the economic, financial, credit and legal system of the Russian Federation.”Crimea has already officially introduced the ruble as a second currency along with the Ukrainian hryvna, which will remain an official currency until January 1, 2016.

National elections to the state bodies of the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol have been slated for September 2015.

Until then the now acting Parliament of Crimea and the Council of Ministers of Crimea as well as the Legislative Assembly of the city of Sevastopol will continue their work.

The document will be sent for approval to the constitutional court, and then to ratification in the parliaments of the two countries.

Russian lawmakers will meet with a parliamentary delegation from Crimea and Sevastopol on March 19 to review strategic aspects of cooperation, including “the prospects for the political and financial establishment of the Republic of Crimea.”

“A number of lawmakers will meet with our colleagues from Crimea and Sevastopol at 10:30 local time (0630 GMT),” said the speaker of the lower house of Russia’s parliament, Sergey Naryshkin. “I suggest lawmakers wear the Ribbon of St George at the meeting with their colleagues, as we did today,” he added.

Treaty signing came after President Putin’s address to the Federal Assembly.

Putin stressed that the results of the referendum, in which more than 83 percent of Crimean residents came to polling stations and more than 96 percent of those voted for rejoining Russia, leave no room for equivocation.

The referendum on independence in Crimea was conducted in strict accordance with democratic principles and international law, he pointed out. He dismissed criticism of the Crimean referendum, citing Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence as an example of self-determination praised by the West.

The president recalled the history of Crimea, saying its cultural, religious and spiritual ties bind it with the peoples of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, which explains the attitude Russians have towards the peninsula.

“There are graves of Russian soldiers on the peninsula whose courage enabled Russia to make Crimea part of the Russian Empire in 1783,” Putin said. “Russians, Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars and other peoples lived side by side in Crimea preserving their originality, traditions, language and religion.”

He said Crimea had dark pages in its past, particularly the persecution of Crimean Tatars and other minorities in the USSR. The authorities of Crimea seek to recompense for those ills.

“There was the period, where the Crimean Tatars experienced injustice· It is necessary to adopt political, legal measures to finalise the process of rehabilitation of the Crimean Tatars. The measures should restore their rights, their good name fully,” Putin said.

One such move would be accepting the language of Crimean Tatars as an official language in Crimea on a par with Russian and Ukrainian.

Putin lashed out at former Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, under whose rule Crimea was attached to Soviet Ukraine without any regard for Crimeans’ wishes and in violation of the laws of the time.

Crimean separation from Russia was reinforced again after the split of the Soviet Union, Putin said. This could be partially blamed on Moscow too, as it hailed the so-called “parade of sovereignty” of the Soviet Republics.

Russia has since respected the results of the USSR’s dissolution, including Crimea being part of Ukraine.

Russia’s position was based on the assumption that Ukraine would remain a friendly partner respecting the historic ties between the two countries. Russia continues and will continue to view these relations as very important, the president said.

Putin criticized several governments in Kiev for neglecting average Ukrainians, seeing the country as a source of profit.

He said he sympathized with Ukrainians who took to the streets of Kiev in protest against President Yanukovich, whom they saw as profoundly corrupt.

But the current authorities who replaced Yanukovich after an armed coup are to a large degree controlled by radical nationalists, Putin stated.

Those same radicals have voiced threats against Ukrainians who resist their rule, particularly those living in Crimea.

Turning a blind eye to those threats and the moves of the current authorities, which violated the rights of ethnic Russians in Ukraine, would be betrayal on the part of Russia, Putin said.

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Russia slams Ukraine’s UN envoy for publicly justifying Nazi collaborators

Ukraine’s Ambassador to the United Nations Yuriy Sergeyev speaks during a Security Council meeting on the crisis in Ukraine, at the U.N. headquarters in New York March 3, 2014

Russia has slammed Ukraine’s UN envoy for justifying Ukrainian Nazi collaborators on the sidelines of the Security Council session. The diplomat said the USSR fabricated accusations against Ukrainian nationalists during the Nuremberg Trials in the 1940s.

“With these words, [the] Ukrainian representative at the UN offended the memory of killed Russians, Ukrainians, Jews, Poles, and citizens of other nationalities who fell victims to the atrocities committed by Ukrainian Nazi supporters,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement responding to Ukrainian diplomat Yuriy Sergeyev. “There is a lot of proof of their violent crimes. We are ready to acquaint Sergeyev with them.”

Speaking after the UN Security Council meeting on Tuesday, the Ukrainian envoy accused “the Russian-Soviet side at the time” of attempts to press on “the Western allies to declare [the] Bandera movement members and others murderers.”

“The Nuremberg Trials (a series of 13 trials carried out in Nuremberg, Germany between 1945 and 1949) did not declare it. Why? Because the facts were falsified and the Soviet Union’s position at the time was unjust,” the diplomat told reporters.

In his statement, Sergeyev particularly referred to the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), which was led by Stepan Bandera, and its militant branch, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, headed by Roman Shukhevich.

In the summer of 1941, Bandera called on “the people of Ukraine to help the German army to defeat Moscow and Bolshevism.” However, Bandera and Hitler failed to reach an agreement as Nazi Germany refused to support the idea of an independent Ukrainian state. Bandera was arrested in 1942 and sent to a concentration camp. He was released two years later.

Sergeyev asked not to “generalize” or assume that all residents in the western regions of Ukraine are nationalists or followers of Bandera, a controversial leader of the nationalist movement which collaborated with Nazi Germany during World War II and was involved in the ethnic cleansing of Poles, Jews, and Russians.

“Millions of Ukrainians in the west are normal European citizens,” he stressed, saying the same applies to the nationalist Svoboda (Freedom) party members.

The comment by the Ukrainian envoy comes amid a wide presence of far-right groups in the recent coup. Aligned within the nationalist-radical umbrella group Right Sector, the armed groups violently fought in Kiev to overthrow President Yanukovich.

Ukraine remains divided on the nationalist issue and the events of WWII. Nationalism has traditionally been strong in the west of the country, where in some areas, Victory Day (May 9) was declared a day of mourning in 2013. In the city of Lvov, the day ended in scuffles.

In eastern Ukraine, the glorification of such figures as Bandera and Shukevich, as well as the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, has always prompted protests.

The division between west and east sharpened one more time in 2010, when then-President Victor Yushchenko posthumously honored Bandera and Shukhevich with the title of ‘Hero of Ukraine.’

The move was condemned by the European Union as well as a number of Jewish organizations around the world. The award sparked anger in Russia – where Bandera is regarded as a fascist – and Poland, where he is blamed for organizing the mass killings of Poles.

In 2011, the Ukrainian constitutional court recognized the presidential order as invalid.


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Thousands in Moscow, St Petersburg rally in support of Russian speakers in Ukraine

A Moscow rally in support of Russian-speakers in Ukraine. “Russia + Crimea,” “Bandera followers are criminals and murderers,” and “Fascism won’t pass.”

Rallies and other actions in support of the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine have attracted thousands in Moscow, St Petersburg and other cities across Russia.

Around 27,000 people, including members of the patriotic youth groups and veterans’ organizations, took part in the Moscow march, which started on Pushkin Square in central Moscow on Sunday, the police said.

The demonstrators carried Russian national flags and chanted: “Russia and Ukraine are brothers forever,” and “Crimea, Russia is with you.”

“We are worried about the developments in Ukraine where millions of our compatriots live,” the organizers of the rally, which went on under the slogan, “We don’t abandon our people,” told Itar-Tass news agency. “The Ukrainians are our fraternal nation, which is historically connected to us and has unified cultural and spiritual roots with Russia.”

Russia’s biggest bikers’ club, the Night Wolves, has staged a major motorbike rally in the capital in support of Russian speakers in Ukraine. Despite the fact that the motorcycle season hasn’t yet kicked off, over 100 bikes participated in the rally.

“With this event, we want to express our attitude to the events in Ukraine,” one of the bikers told Ridus website. “During the last five years, we have conducted various activities in the Crimea, which were bound by a sense of unity between Crimea and Russia.”

The motorcycle enthusiasts were backed by car owners, who organized an motorized rally of their own in Moscow. Over 50 cars decorated with Russian flags joined the rally, city police told RIA-Novosti news agency.

Around 15,000 people gathered in the center of St Petersburg, local police in the city said.

“The main idea of the demonstration is to express outrage about the treatment of the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine,”
Orlana Zapolskaya, from the United Russia party, told Itar-Tass news agency.

The rally was also aimed at showing full support for the decision of the Federation Council, which voted to use stabilizing Russian military forces on Ukrainian territory, Zapolskaya added.

On Saturday, Russia’s Federation Council unanimously approved President Vladimir Putin’s request to send Russian military forces in Ukraine to ensure peace and order in the region “until the socio-political situation in the country is stabilized.”

However, the final say about sending in the troops lies with Putin, who hasn’t yet made such a decision.

The authorities in Crimea requested Moscow’s assistance after the new self-proclaimed government in Kiev introduced a law abolishing the use of languages other than Ukrainian in official circumstances in the country.

Crimea has longstanding close ethnic, cultural and military links with Russia, as part of Imperial Russia since the 18th century and then the Soviet Union in the 20th century.

Under Ukrainian-born Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, in 1954 Crimea was transferred from the Russian to the Ukrainian Soviet republic, but retained strong links with Russia after the end of the Soviet Union through Russia’s Black Sea fleet, which has a base there.

With more than half of Crimea’s population being Russian, the referendum to determine the fate of the Ukrainian autonomous region is scheduled for March 30.


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A History Lesson That Needs Relearning


SUDDENLY the specter of the Cold War is back. Prompted by the political crisis in Ukraine, some conservatives have called for President Obama to stand up to Vladimir V. Putin in the grand tradition of previous American presidents who stared eyeball to eyeball with Soviet leaders from Joseph Stalin to Mikhail S. Gorbachev.

Mr. Obama came close on Friday. Responding to reports of Russian mobilization, he said, “There will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.”

His critics acknowledge that times have changed. “No one wants a new Cold War,” a Wall Street Journal editorial put it, before going on to imply the opposite, that Mr. Obama could prevent a civil war in Eastern Europe “if he finally admits Vladimir Putin’s hostility to a free and democratic Europe and clearly tells protesting Ukrainians that we’re on their side.”

Such a sentiment inevitably conjures John F. Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech before a crowd in West Berlin in 1963, or Ronald Reagan, on a visit there in 1987, urging the Soviets to “tear down this wall.”

The Soviet leader Leonid I. Brezhnev on a plane with President Richard M. Nixon in 1973. Credit Dirck Halstead Liason via Getty Image

More echoes of the Cold War surfaced in recent reports that Russia has been violating nuclear arms accords dating back to the Reagan years and alarmed reactions to the news of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s proposal to reduce the United States Army to a level not seen since before World War II.

Even Mr. Obama seemed to be drawing on the collective memory of old-time superpower struggles when he insisted recently that his administration’s approach to Ukraine was “not to see this as some Cold War chessboard in which we are in competition with Russia.”

That image of a chessboard — an epic contest between two giant players, carefully nudging their pieces around the globe as part of a grand strategy — has indeed become a familiar metaphor for the Cold War. But it is misleading. Many decisions remembered today for their farsighted, tactical brilliance were denounced in their day as weak-willed. And
big, public gestures often made less difference than the small, hidden ones.

Born in tandem with the nuclear age, the Cold War was defined from the outset less by outright confrontation than by caution. And with caution came adjustment, compromise, improvisation and at times retreat. As often as not, both sides blinked.

The term surfaced in 1947, in Walter Lippmann’s book “The Cold War,” whose title was derived from a phrase “used in Europe during the late 1930s to characterize Hitler’s war of nerves against the French, sometimes described as la guerre blanche or la guerre froide,” as Ronald Steel wrote in his book “Walter Lippmann and the American Century.”

Lippmann, a dean of foreign policy realism, argued that policy should be made in the spirit of pragmatism, rather than as a global crusade against Communism that would require the headache, or worse, of “recruiting, subsidizing and supporting a heterogeneous array of satellites, clients, dependents and puppets.”

In fact the costliest maneuvers — chess-piece gambits in Korea and Vietnam — backfired, increasing tensions abroad even as they shook public confidence at home.

Overheated rhetoric often contributed to trouble. In 1952, Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected on a Republican platform that promised to replace the Communist containment strategy of President Harry S. Truman with a more aggressive “liberation” policy that would seize the initiative from the Soviet Union.

Yet throughout his two terms, Eisenhower consistently opted for stability over conflict. Arriving in Geneva for a summit with Nikita S. Khrushchev in July 1955, Eisenhower said he came bearing “the goodwill of America” and “the aspirations of America for peace.”

A year later, when Moscow sent two Red Army tank divisions to quell anti-Communist protesters in Budapest, killing as many as 30,000 people, the cry went up for action. “What are the West and the United Nations going to do?” one despairing protester asked an American reporter.

The answer: nothing. Counteraction would only provoke Moscow to tighten its noose and perhaps “go back on de-Stalinization,” Eisenhower explained.

To some this sounded like retreat. John W. McCormack, a Massachusetts Democrat, accused the Eisenhower administration of appeasement and said it was living in “a dream world” that was emboldening the Soviets.

A similar tone was struck recently when Senator John McCain said Mr. Obama was “the most naïve president in American history,” blind to the reality that Mr. Putin “wants to restore the Russian empire.” That second charge was also made (by Lippmann, among others) of Stalin and his successors.

Still, it did not stop Eisenhower from inviting Khrushchev to the United States in 1959, again angering conservatives, who mounted protests during the visit.

Later presidents followed Eisenhower’s example. Even the most celebrated war of nerves, the Cuban missile crisis, was resolved by a secret bargain: The Soviets agreed not to place missiles in Cuba, and the Kennedy administration agreed to remove missiles it had placed in Turkey.

Another cold warrior, Richard M. Nixon, got the country out of the Vietnam War and also cut deals with the Soviets, including an accord that reduced both nations’ stockpile of nuclear missiles.

Or consider the most hallowed of Republican Cold War presidents, Ronald Reagan. Early in his first term, he too faced a Ukraine-like emergency when the Solidarity movement was crushed in Poland. Many expected a powerful response. Instead he showed restraint. He voiced sympathy for the movement, but the assistance he provided came quietly — and covertly, in part — through money and communications equipment funneled to anti-Communists. Eventually, Poland and other Soviet satellites were freed, but the change was partly made possible after Reagan realized he could negotiate with Mr. Gorbachev.

Calculations like these are the true prologue to the approach that Mr. Obama seems to have adopted in trouble spots from Syria to Ukraine. Like Nixon, he wound down a war he inherited, this time in Iraq, just as his reliance on drones and cyberwarfare parallels Eisenhower’s avoidance of military operations. And his ambition to eliminate nuclear arsenals builds on the efforts of both Nixon and Reagan.

Perhaps it’s time the chessboard metaphor was retired. The truth is that the Cold War was less a carefully structured game between masters than a frightening high-wire act, with leaders on both sides aware that a single misstep could plunge them into the abyss.
Correction: March 1, 2014

An earlier version of this news analysis misstated John W. McCormack’s role at the time that he accused the Eisenhower administration of appeasement. He was a member of the House of Representatives; he was not yet the speaker of the House.


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Crossroads of Crimea : Facts you need to know about Ukraine region

Ukrainian police separate ethnic Russians (L) and Crimean Tatars during rallies near the Crimean parliament building in Simferopol February 26, 2014.

With its multinational society and a long history of conquests, the Crimean peninsula has always been a crossroads of cultures – and a hotbed of conflicts. Amid Ukrainian turmoil, every ethnic group of Crimeans has its own vision of the region’s future.

What is Crimea?

Now known as Autonomous Republic of Crimea, the picturesque peninsula shooting out into Black Sea from mainland Ukraine was for centuries colonized and conquered by historic empires and nomadic tribes. Greeks, Scythians, Byzantians and the Genoese have all left traces of their presence in Crimean archeological sites and placenames. Nomadic invasions, such as that of the Goths and the Huns, oftentimes redrew the ethnic picture of the region.

The most long-lived, however, proved to be the conquest of the peninsula by Turko-Mongols, who settled in the region, mixing with indigenous and other Turkic people already living there and in 1441 formed the Crimean Khanate. The local Turkic-speaking population became known as the Crimean Tatars. While the Khanate proclaimed its independence from the Golden Horde, it soon became a Turkish protectorate.

How does Russia come into picture?

The Crimean Khanate became notorious for its brutal and perpetual slave raids into East Slavic lands, in which tens of thousands of people were captured annually on Russian, Polish-Lithuanian and later Ukrainian territories. The Crimean-Nogai raids made up the Khanate’s economy through a massive slave trade with the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East. They also caused vast steppe territories, known as the Wild Fields, to be unpopulated for centuries.

As the Tsardom of Russia grew stronger, one of the most vital issues for its rulers was to protect the southern borders against the raids. For this purpose, Moscow accepted the loyalty of Cossack-ruled Zaporizhian Sich, which also proved to be a defining moment in the formation of present-day Ukraine.

The Russian Empire eventually did away with its historical rival in the 18th century as a result of several victorious Russo-Turkish wars. As part of the 1774 Kuchuk-Kainarji peace treaty the Crimean Khanate aligned itself with Russia, but Catherine the Great soon annexed its lands, giving them a historic Greek name of Taurida.

The City of Sevastopol on the Black Sea shore, the Crimea.

During the Crimean War of 1853–1856, the peninsula again became a major theater of war. The Russian Empire lost the war to Ottoman Empire’s British and French allies following the bloody Siege of Sevastopol, but retained Crimea due to success on Turkish front. Despite the defeat and total devastation of the city, the heroic 11-month long defense of Sevastopol became known as an iconic event in Russian history, which has ever since been associated with the courage of the Russian military.

Later on during World War II, Sevastopol’s heroic struggle against Nazi Germany earned it the title of Hero City, reinforcing its special historic status for the Russians. As the war ended, the city had to be completely rebuilt for the second time in its history.

Ethnic controversy

By the beginning of the 20th century, Russians and the Crimean Tatars were equally predominant ethnic groups in Crimea, followed by Ukrainian, Jewish and other minorities. Crimea was both a royal resort and an inspiration for some of the great Russian poets, writers and artists, some of whom lived or were born there.

The turmoil of the Russian Civil War gravely affected the region, bringing both the notorious “Red Terror” and a severely weakened economy, which caused the Crimean population to be unable to cope with the great famine of 1921–1923. Of the famine’s 100,000 victims some 75,000 were Crimean Tatars, mainly because they relied on livestock breeding in mountainous areas with very limited lands and did not grow many crops.

Still, even more disastrous for Crimean Tatars was the aftermath of the WWII, in which some 20,000 of them allied with the Nazi German occupants, but many others also fought the Germans within the Soviet Army. Citing the collaboration of Crimean Tatars with the Nazis, Joseph Stalin ordered the whole ethnic group to be deported from Crimea to several Central Asian Soviet republics. Officially, 183,155 people were deported from Crimea, followed by about 9,000 Crimean Tatar WWII veterans. That made up about 19 percent of the Crimean population on the eve of war, almost half of which was by then Russian.

While the move was officially criticized by the communist leadership as early as in 1967, the Tatars were de-facto unable to return to Crimea until the late 1980s. The tragic events surrounding Stalin’s deportation obviously shaped the ethnic group’s detestation of the Soviet regime.

Other Soviet citizens got to know Crimea as an “all-Union health resort,” with many of those born in the Soviet Union sharing nostalgic memories of children’s holiday camps and seaside.

How was Crimea separated from Russia?

Another controversial decision involving Crimea followed in 1954, when Nikita Khrushchev, himself an ethnic Ukrainian, transferred the peninsula to the Ukrainian SSR, extracting it from Russian territory.

The health resort Krym (formerly Frunzenskoye), 1980.

Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, Khrushchev’s “present” has been widely criticized by many Russians, including the majority of those living in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.

Adding to the confusion was also the status of Soviet-times Sevastopol, which not only remained the largest Crimean city, but also retained its special strategic and military profile. In 1948, Sevastopol was separated from the surrounding region and made directly subordinate to Moscow. Serving as an important Soviet naval base, it used to be a “closed city” for years.

In the 1990s, the status of Sevastopol became the subject of endless debates between Russia and Ukraine. Following negotiations, the city with the surrounding territories was granted a special “state significance” status within the Ukrainian state, and some of the naval facilities were leased to Russia for its Black Sea Fleet until at least 2047. However, the city’s Russian majority and some outspoken Russian politicians still consider it to be a part of Russia.

Referendums and hopes

In 1991, the people of Crimea took part in several referendums. One proclaimed the region an Autonomous Republic within the Soviet Union, with 93.26 percent of the voters supporting the move. As the events unfolded fast, another one was already asking if the Crimeans supported the independence of Ukraine from the Soviet Union – a question that gathered 54 percent support. However, a referendum on Crimea’s independence from Ukraine was indefinitely banned from being held, leading critics to assert that their lawful rights were oppressed by Kiev authorities.

A rally in support of the Crimea independence referendum, 1992.

Complicating the issue was the return of the Crimean Tatars, who not only started to resettle in tens of thousands, but also rivaled local authorities. The Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People was formed to represent the rights and interests of the ethnic minority. Although it was never officially recognized as an official organization, the body has enjoyed undisputed authority over most of Crimean Tatars and has successfully pushed for some concessions for the ethnic group in local laws.

While the Crimean Tatar re-settlers and the peninsula’s current Russian majority have learned to understand one another as neighbors, hardcore politicians from both ethnic groups also created grounds for a heated standoff. Calls for wider autonomy and aggressive lobbying for Crimean Tatar rights have prompted several pro-Russian Crimean political leaders to call the Mejlis an “organized criminal group” leading “unconstitutional” activities. The remarks sparked furious claims of “discrimination” from the Crimean Tatar community.

Who lives there now?

The majority of those living in Crimea today are ethnic Russians – almost 1,200,000 or around 58.3 percent of the populations, according to the latest national census conducted back in 2001. Some 24 percent are Ukrainians (around 500,000) and 12 percent are Crimean Tatars. However, in the Crimea’s largest city of Sevastopol, which is considered a separate region of Crimea, there are almost no Crimean Tatars and around 22 percent of Ukrainians, with over 70 percent of the population being Russians.

An absolute majority of the Crimean population (97 percent) use Russian as their main language, according to Kyiv International Institute of Sociology poll. One of the first decisions of the interim Kiev government directly hit Crimea, as it revoked a law that allowed Russian and other minority languages to be recognized as official in multi-cultural regions.

What’s happening now?

After the Ukrainian President was ousted and an interim government was established in Kiev, the Russian majority started protesting outside the regional parliament, urging local MPs not to support it. They want the Autonomous Region to return to the constitution of 1992, under which Crimea briefly had its own president and independent foreign policy.

The parliament of the Crimea autonomous region was due to declare on Wednesday the region’s official position toward the new authorities in Kiev. The Tatar community has spoken out sharply against holding a parliamentary session on the issue, expressing their support for the new central authorities.

Ukrainian men help pull one another out of a stampede as a flag of Crimea is seen during clashes at rallies held by ethnic Russians and Crimean Tatars near the Crimean parliament building in Simferopol February 26, 2014

Two separate rallies, consisting of several thousand protesters, faced each other in front of the parliament building in the Crimea capital Simferopol. Two people have died as a result of scuffles and stampede and about 30 were injured, before the head of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatars, Refat Chubarov, called for the participants of the rally to go home peacefully.

Following the example of Kiev, vigilante groups are being formed, with about 3,500 people already patrolling the streets of Crimea along with police to prevent any provocations.

After the central government in Kiev disbanded the Berkut special police task force, new authorities in Sevastopol have refused to comply and welcomed all Berkut officers who feel intimidated to come to live in Crimea with their families. Sevastopol earlier elected a new mayor after the popular gathering ousted the Yanukovich local government, which tried to cling to power by pledging allegiance to Kiev’s new rulers.

What happens next?

The ultimate goal of the ethnic Russian population protesting in Crimea is to hold a referendum on whether the region should retain its current status as an autonomous region in Ukraine, to become independent, or become part of Russia again. In the meantime they claim to have a right to disobey orders of the “illegal” central government.

The Tatar minority meanwhile feels that ethnic Russians are trying to “tear Crimea away from Ukraine” excluding them from deciding the land’s fate.

Right-wing radicals from Western Ukraine earlier threatened to send the so-called “trains of friendship” full of armed fighters in order to crush any signs of resistance to the revolution they were fighting so hard for.

The Kiev authorities busy with appointing roles in the revolutionary government in the meantime embraced a soft approach towards Crimea. The interim interior minister even did not undertake any “drastic measures” to arrest fugitive ousted president Yanukovich, fearing that may spark unrest.

Russia repeatedly confirmed it does not doubt Crimea is a part of Ukraine, even though it understands the emotions of the residents of the region. This week Russian MPs initiated a bill that will allow Russian citizenship within six month if the applicant successfully proves his or her Russian ethnicity. It is prepared especially to save Russian speaking Ukrainians from possible infringement of their rights.

Ukrainian police try and separate ethnic Russians and Crimean Tatars (R) during rallies near the Crimean parliament building in Simferopol February 26, 2014.

Ukrainian police try and separate ethnic Russians and Crimean Tatars (R) during rallies near the Crimean parliament building in Simferopol February 26, 2014.

via Crossroads of Crimea: Facts you need to know about Ukraine region — RT News.

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9 dead as Russian transport plane crashes in Siberia

A Russian An-12 cargo plane has crashed near the Siberian city of Irkutsk. None of the nine people onboard survived the crash, the Emergencies Ministry said.

Rescue workers were working at the scene of the crash, recovering bodies from the wreck of the plane, an Emergencies Ministry spokesman in the region has said. The ministry has also raised the number of people who were on board the An-12 to nine, according to Itar-Tass, saying that three people had accompanied the crew of six.

Six of the nine bodies of the crash victims have been reportedly recovered. None of the flight data recorders have yet been found, a law enforcement source has said.

The plane was being relocated from an aircraft factory in Novosibirsk to another such plant near Irkutsk, an aviation source said, following initial reports of the crash.

The An-12 was not transporting any passengers or cargo, the source added, saying that the plane was used for “experimental aviation”.

“The An-12 came in for landing at low altitude and grazed military depot buildings 10 kilometers away from the landing strip, after which it crashed,” a law enforcement source told the agency.

The spilled fuel from the plane caused a fire, but the blaze was promptly brought under control by the firemen, according to an RIA Novosti source in law enforcement.

No casualties were reported at the military depot, where the plane crashed.

The crashed An-12 had been routinely used for transporting aircraft replacement parts between the Irkutsk aircraft repair plant and the Novosibirsk Aircraft Production Association (NAPO), according to a NAPO source quoted by Itar-Tass. The cargo plane crashed during landing at the Irkutsk plant airfield, an air traffic control source told the agency.

Russia’s Industry and Trade Ministry has already launched an investigation into the accident, a ministry source told Interfax.

The Antonov An-12 type aircraft first entered service in the Soviet Union in 1966. The plane is capable of carrying up to 20 tons of cargo and can accommodate up to 14 passengers between the flight deck and the cargo bay.

The plane’s production stopped in 1973 after the Soviet Union produced over 850 civilian and military models, and exported hundreds.

The An-12 is now regarded as outdated and the Russian Air Force is seeking a replacement.

9 dead as Russian transport plane crashes in Siberia — RT News.

Inventor of AK-47 rifle Mikhail Kalashnikov dies at 94

File picture of Kalashnikov posing with a model of his rifle in Moscow

The inventor of the iconic AK-47 assault rifle, Mikhail Kalashnikov, has died at the age of 94. His ingenuity earned him widespread admiration, but his legacy became more controversial when his weapons were used in some of the world’s bloodiest conflicts.

“Mikhail Kalashnikov’s entire life is a shining example of dedication to serving your country,” said a statement from Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu.

“For many generations of Russians his name became a symbol of the glory and reliability of our weapons, and a source of national pride.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed “deep condolences” over the death of the engineer.

Kalashnikov who continued working well into his nineties, had been suffering from heart and intestinal problems, and on November 17 was admitted into intensive care in Izhevsk in central Russia – where the plant that produces the eponymous rifles is located. The official cause of death will be revealed following a mandatory autopsy.

A public funeral will be organized by the regional administration, in consultation with surviving relatives, though no date has been named so far.

Patriot, genius, villain?

For most of his life, Kalashnikov, who was famous for his frugal lifestyle, was feted as a straightforward hero.

The self-taught peasant turned tank mechanic who never finished high school, but achieved a remarkable and lasting feat of engineering while still in his twenties.

But as the rifles, inextricably linked forever to their creator by name, were more and more commonly seen in the hands of terrorists, radicals and child soldiers, the inventor was often forced to defend himself to journalists.

He was forever asked if he regretted engineering the weapon that probably killed more than any other in the last fifty years.

“I invented it for the protection of the Motherland. I have no regrets and bear no responsibility for how politicians have used it,” he told them.

On a few occasions, when in a more reflective mood, the usually forceful Kalashnikov wondered what might have been.

“I’m proud of my invention, but I’m sad that it is used by terrorists,” he said once.

“I would prefer to have invented a machine that people could use and that would help farmers with their work – for example a lawnmower.”

Indeed, at his museum in Izhevsk, where he spent most of his life working at the factory that was eventually named after him, there is an ingenious mechanical lawnmower Kalashnikov invented to more easily take care of the lawn at his country house.

It’s not what he will be remembered for.

Considering his age and circumstances, it was hardly surprising that Kalashnikov felt he could best serve his country by creating weapons.

Born in 1919, Mikhail was the seventeenth child of well-off peasants. When he was eleven, during Joseph Stalin’s collectivization campaign his parents had their land confiscated, and the whole family was exiled to Siberia (a fact rarely mentioned in fawning Soviet-era biographies).

As the country began to mobilize ahead of a war that seemed inevitable, but was as yet undeclared, Kalashnikov chose to go into a tank brigade.

His aptitude for engineering was immediately apparent.

He was allowed to create several modifications – a tank shot counter, a running time meter – that were to be adopted for the whole Red Army, and made him famous. He was destined to go on an engineering course, when Operation Barbarossa intervened.

Kalashnikov’s own career as a tank commander was cut short in the first few months of the conflict on the Eastern Front, when an explosive shell ripped open his shoulder.

Kalashnikov says the germ of the idea came to him as he recuperated in hospital.

But the invention of the AK-47 was not a Eureka moment, but a trial-and-error process of modifications and improvements undertaken by a team over six years.

While for propaganda purposes Kalashnikov’s invention was presented as a radically new development, it was based on several principles that had already been seen in British, Russian and Italian weapons to which the inventor had easy access as he drew up his blueprints.

Its main precursor was the German StG 44, the first truly effective automatic weapon of World War II.

But at the same time, Kalashnikov’s masterstroke was to combine the mechanisms of previous weapons to create something with a completely new function.

AK-47 is not a weapon designed for accuracy tests at the firing range. It is a weapon for firefights at close quarters, in harsh Russian conditions.

It can be assembled by a person with no military training, is fired by simply pointing at a target, and it can be easily looked after without a cleaning kit. It does not jam by itself (due to the generous allowances between moving parts, which also explain its mediocre accuracy at range) and it does not stop functioning in any weather conditions.

The AK-47 fulfilled its design brief to perfection, even though there is no way Kalashnikov could have known who it would be used by in the end. More than 60 years after its invention, it remains the world’s most ubiquitous weapon.

Kalashnikov to be buried in Izhevsk, central Russia, were AK-47 plant is located

Inventor of AK-47 rifle Mikhail Kalashnikov dies at 94 — RT News.

Egypt Receives 1st US-Built Missile Craft | Defense News

WASHINGTON — While most military sales to Egypt remain on hold, the US is going ahead with the transfer of four new fast missile craft (FMCs) built in Mississippi.The S. Ezzat, first of the Ambassador III class, was transferred Tuesday to the Egyptian Navy at a ceremony in Pensacola, Fla., where the US maintains an international student program.

“The ship’s Egyptian officers have been training since July under US Navy instruction at the Pensacola Naval Air Station, where the transfer took place,” said Cmdr. Bill Speaks, a spokesman at the Pentagon. The rest of the ship’s 38-man crew will begin training in July at the same facility, he added.

“The US Navy has a lot of expertise to offer in making sure they’re able to use these platforms effectively,” Speaks said.

The second ship, F. Zekry, is nearly complete, with delivery planned for December.

Two more FMCs, the M. Fahmy and A. Gad, remain under construction at VT Halter Marine’s Pascagoula shipyard, and are expected to be delivered in 2014.

The 62-meter FMCs have been built under a US Navy-managed program funded largely under the Foreign Military Sales program. Begun in 2001, the program moved forward in fits and starts until the first construction contracts were awarded in Sept. 2008.

The stealthy, 700-ton ships are powered by three MTU diesels and designed for a top speed of 41 knots. The FMCs are armed with eight Harpoon surface-to-surface missiles and an OTO Melara 76 mm gun, with self-defense provided by a Rolling Airframe Missile launcher and a Close-In Weapon System Block 1B. They are designed to operate at sea for up to eight days.

The Egyptian missile corvette S. Ezzat running builder's trials earlier this year in Pascagoula,

The Egyptian missile corvette S. Ezzat running builder’s trials earlier this year in Pascagoula,

The ships are specifically designed to defend the Suez Canal region.

The Egyptian Navy operates several classes of fast missile ships, built in the Soviet Union, Germany and Britain, but the last was delivered in 1982.

Delivery of the ships was questionable after the Egyptian military overthrew the country’s elected government of President Mohamed Morsy in July. A State Department review of all US military aid programs to Egypt was held, and some major US programs have been suspended, including the transfer of F-16 jet fighters, AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, and M1 Abrams main battle tanks.

Some programs, however, have been allowed to go ahead, particularly those helping Egypt to uphold peace treaty obligations with Israel, and assets to fight counterterrorism and security in Sinai.

“From the review we decided we will continue to work constructively with the Egyptian government and continue to provide assistance that advances our vital security objectives, like countering terrorism, countering proliferation and ensuring security in the Sinai,” Speaks said Nov. 19.

“We will also continue to provide spare or replacement parts and related services for some of our programs and continue military training and education.”

The US provides Egypt with about $1.3 billion in military aid each year, second most of any recipient behind Israel.

The Obama administration began holding up some of the weapon transfers in early October. The exact value of what is being withheld isn’t clear, but administration officials said in October it included US $260 million in cash, as well as hundreds of millions of dollars in military equipment.

“Our foreign partners rely on the US Navy’s expertise in ship design and acquisition,” said a Pentagon source. “The Navy will continue to assist with acquisition and oversight efforts throughout the construction process and will also provide follow-on technical and training support.

“Ultimately, we want to see Egypt succeed,” the Pentagon source added. “We want to see the political roadmap succeed and result in a constitution that protects universal human rights and civil liberties, and a democratically-elected government through free and fair elections.”

Efforts to speak with Egyptian officials in Washington were unsuccessful at press time.

Egypt Receives 1st US-Built Missile Craft | Defense News | defensenews.com