Russia’s ‘hybrid’ wars and China’s belligerent expansionism


A game about he Russian tactic of maskirovka, Moscow’s hybrid war

The Wikileaks revelations described the Russian Federation as a ‘Mafia state’, but is this really such startling news? It was obvious soon after a drunken Yeltsin virtually gifted the resource-rich state industries to highly-placed and cunning apparatchiks that Russia resembled the Wild West rather than developing a conventional system of government for the world’s largest state. Bloomberg’s article here details the the effect of hybrid wars on the Russian economy.

Yeltsin’s actions, and the failure of the political classes to stop him, robbed the extremely poor of the true value of the nation’s assets, running into hundreds of billions of pounds. The instability inherent in what amounts to an unsound economic policy brought about massive losses to these new super-rich a couple of years back because of the volatility of the Russian market. The last decade has also seen oligarchs being jailed or fleeing the country altogether, their underlings being murdered and press freedoms curbed – even to the extent of organised murder of journalists – to stifle debate and possible dissent. 

China is attempting to expand its territory and increase its natural resources, against the wish of smaller nearby states.. Artificial islands are under construction in the disputed South China Sea as the Chinese state makes relentless efforts to expand it’s geographical boundaries at the expense of its neighbours. In 2012 the Communist Party reclassified the South China Sea as a “core national interest”, placing it alongside such sensitive issues as Taiwan and Tibet. It means China is prepared to fight to defend it. 

Beijing’s claim includes the Spratly Islands, Scarborough Shoal and the Paracel Islands and the area it encompasses comprises an “expanse stretching right up to the coasts of the Philippines and Vietnam and even Borneo.” The vast majority of the South China Sea is claimed by the Chinese, in an area which is demarcated on maps by the ‘nine dash line’. 

This territorial ultimatum by China is yet another example of the Asian superstates flexing their muscles knowing that their surrounding neighbours are too small and weak to make a stand. To resolve this imbalance these countries are forced to align themselves with the US, or as in the case of Ukraine, the EU, in order to make the playing field more even. Of course, alignment with the US is deeply unpopular to the world at large, paradoxically because they see the US as ‘the bully’ or thinking of itself as ‘the world’s policeman’. Such arguments provide no resolution to the problem of the balance of power between smaller states and superstates, nor the possibility that China and Russia will almost inevitably seek to take advantage of the weaknesses of more democratic states and their unwillingness to stand up to them.

The most alarming aspect of this new world is that, in twenty-five, maybe fifty years, it will be Russia that will have the single largest economy – along with China – and they will probably be calling the shots (no pun intended). Many in Europe fear the spread of Islam, and their fear may be justified if it concerns those involved in terrorism. What the fundamentalists should fear – along with us – is the new world order that is about to emerge. The freedoms that we cherish and that the Islamic fundamentalists despise may be swept away by these countries as they expand, but the paradox will be that none of us will gain from a ‘Mafia’ overlord and fledgling democracy overseen by a proletariat in the coming generation. You only have to look at human rights in China, and the treatment of the Uighur Muslims in Urumqi, and what happened in Georgia and Azerbaijan to realise what the future may bring. These superstates are slowly expanding and will become larger as time goes on. We are feeding crocodiles here and weill will be on their menu in the future.

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Has Rowan Atkinson followed Gerard Depardieu to Russia?


Comrade Strelkov (Стрелков)

Igor Strelkov imagined on Good Night, Little Ones

Russia isn’t well known for its internationally acclaimed television programmes but its longest running children’s TV puppet show ‘Good Night, Kids’ has been on the air for 50 years and is still as popular as ever. Such an icon it is in the jewel of Russian TV that no less a patron than Vladimir Putin conceived the idea of a new cartoon character to enhance the kiddies’ pleasure, and possibly President Putin’s too.

“At first the idea was rather unexpected,” programme producer Alexander Mitroshenkov tells RIA Novosti news agency. “But when we examined it in detail we realised that it was a winner!” Mr. Mitroshenko is as famous in Russia as Michael Jackson was in the USA. Whereas Michael Jackson, by way of surgical and cosmetic intervention, made himself look like Diana Ross, Mr. Mitroshenko appears to have restyled himself on Imelda Marcos, the widow of the late Philippine President, Ferdinand Marcos:

 

Imelda-and-Mitroshenkov

A prize for who can tell which is Imelda Marcos and Alexander Mitroshenkov

Имельда Маркос и Александр Митрошенков

Russian social media sites were trending with mockery for poor Mitroshenkov’s vomit-worthy fawning over Putin’s mind-boggling nomination of a character for the kiddies’ show. A social media junkie called Dedushka Udava jeered at Mitroshenkov and his crony colleagues on the Vzgliad website for “grovelling to state officials” berating their suitability to be anything of influence in children’s’ TV.

The most imaginative suggestions have, however, come from comments trying to envisage what the new character will look like. Mitroshenkov, determined to cling to the anticipation, has said only that the character will emerge from the “same enchanted forest as the show’s established puppets Khriusha the piglet and Stepasha the hare.” 

The internetsky has been ablaze with suggestions that the new idol could be Igor Strelkov – a leading rebel in the pro-Moscow militia in eastern Ukraine, “straight from the Donbass forest”.

Others have suggested that Mr. Bean may emerge as the winner, especially as this image appeared online in Russia recently:

Surkov-and-Bean

              Putin and Mr. Bean … is this beans on toast?

 

Until it was realised that the ‘will have Bean’ is actually Vladislav Surkov, a Russian businessman and politician widely believed to be the mastermind behind Russia’s land-grab in Crimea, though he appears to have styled himself on Mr. Bean because NEITHER of the above images shows Rowan Atkinson!

 Then there is the suggestion that it is a prominent Putin loyalist by the name of Sergei Kurginian, a man who seems to spend half his life posing with rifles, whilst others have mocked the character Vatnichek – or Little Padded Jacket – an internet meme used to mock Russian ultra-patriots, but if you look at the two of them together it would seem that Kurginian went to Dr. Woffles Wu for his plastic makeover as he’s a dead ringer for the little Russian ‘Spongebob Squarepants’.

               Sergei Kurginian and Vatnichek, satirical suggestions for children's TV

Sergei Kurginian with Vatnichek, Russia’s Spongebob Squarepants

 Сергей Кургинян с Vatnichek

And the new character? All will be revealed, apparently, at the beginning of October.
 

Why Putin courts the youth of Russia with the Nashi youth movement (part one)


Russia without Putin

Putin’s fears of the Orange Revolution

News media this week reported that President Putin has again made his annual visit to a nationalistic-inspired youth summer camp, situated next to Lake Seliger northwest of Moscow, but who are the youths and what are Putin’s motives?

Late in the autumn of 2004 at the time of the Ukrainian presidential election, which was largely considered by the electorate to be riven with wide scale voter intimidation and corruption, the Kremlin watched nervously from next door in Russia, as the momentum of the Orange Revolution built and the position of the pro-Russian incumbent president, Viktor Yanukovych looked increasingly shaky.

The eye of the Orange Revolution storm was in Kyiv, with the movement organising a sustained campaign of resistance, civil unrest and widespread strikes. This was sparked by international election monitors and key organisations in Ukraine deeming that the election had been rigged in favour of Yanukovych. The massive protests sparked a legal challenge to the validity of the vote and Ukraine’s supreme court ordered a re-run in December of that year. With a near forensic scrutiny by international and local election monitors, the second run-off was declared to be fair and free, giving an outright victory for the ethnic Ukrainian Yushchenko, gaining a 53% vote-share, with Yanukovych getting 44%. Yushchenko was declared president-elect and on 23 January 2005  the Orange Revolution faded away as he was sworn in as President.

Putin and his ex-KGB cronies watched all of this in horror. Could it happen in Russia? Was there the potential for an Orange Revolution at the Russian presidential elections in 2008? This would be a catastrophe for Putin as he had to stage manage a handover of power to Dmitry Medvedev to create the space to comply with Russian law concerning the maximum of two consecutive periods of presidency. He had to relinquish power and this meant that alarm bells rang loudly in the Kremlin.

Nashi youth on the move

Nashi youth on the move

The birth of ‘Nashi’ (The Anti-fascist, Democratic Youth Movement)

After its success in Kyiv, the Orange Revolution was repackaged as a fascist movement by the Kremlin. The same message was echoed by government forces in Belarus, as it suited their convenience too. The Nashi organisation was officially announced on 1 March 2005 by pro-Putin apparatchiks who sought to harness the youth of Russia and their focus to pro-government advantage. It is almost certain that this development was a bulwark against ‘fascism’,  a reaction against Ukraine’s Orange Revolution and the youth-led street protests that handed the presidency to pro-Western candidate Viktor Yushchenko.

The name Nashi means ‘our team’, or just ‘ours’. The organisation is supposed to be funded from pro-government private enterprise, who are unlikely to refuse in the circumstances. It is also widely believed that Kremlin bankrolls the project:

“Companies and business managers who care about Russia help us”, is Alissa’s answer. Nashi’s critics and opponents would prefer to speak about phone-calls from Kremlin instructing Russian corporations and businessmen to pay money to the friendly youth organisation, an offer they would find it difficult to refuse.

Those who set up Nashi looked at the components of anti-government protest movements in other former Eastern-bloc states and by

“using some of the ‘social technologies’ applied successfully by protest movements in Serbia (2000), Georgia (2003-04), and Ukraine (2004-05). They understood – to take just one element – the importance of music for the youth movement. That is how “Nashi rap” was invented.” 

An image of Putin’s Nashi summer camp

The organisation provided hats and jackets to show both solidarity and loyalty to the Putin regime, banners, flags and organised parades and marches as well as summer camps. Remember, this is not a free organisation, not in any free-world understanding of the term, because although the youths in this organisation are not controlled, nor is their freedom of speech restricted, but no one is going to join an organisation that is roundly described as ‘Putinophile’ and then mock or denigrate Putin, are they?

A Nashi street rally

Nashi worked well for Putin from 2005 to 2011,  focussing youth in a distinctly pro-government genre and the Kremlin ensured that the organisation was well funded and interlocked with the state in a way that went right to Putin himself – hence the summer camps. Nashi even set up a civilian police support to assist the police, clad in black and enforcing Russian ‘morals’, which generally means restricting the freedom of minorities. The youths were gradually inculcated with the belief that Putin was a national hero and comments about him in the Nashi movement romanticised his strengths. This was part of the speech of a prominent, pro-Putin activist, Vasily Yakemenko:

“I remember the 1990s, when (Boris) Berezovsky controlled the Duma. When together with (Mikhail) Khodorkovsky, in order to make their billions, they provoked the war in Chechnya. Young people like you were sent there and did not return. Our Russian national budget had to be approved by the International Monetary Fund in the United States. All of this has changed with Vladimir Putin.”  (Vasily Yakemenko, the Nashi movement’s founder and leader)

He draws an image of the Putin that is wholly reminiscent of

“a hero, even a superman. Without Putin, Russia is doomed. The December 2007 election, Yakemenko explains, is not about the parliament: it is a vote for the supreme national leader. The whole world has to see that Russia is unanimous in its support for Vladimir Vladimirovich.”

Nashi have been used to discredit or protest against the opposition parties and human rights activists. Ugly scenes have taken place and fights have broken out between Nashi commissars and Nemtsov supporters – Boris Nemtsov is a Russian liberal politician and one of the leaders of the Solidarnost movement. He is a vociferous critic of Vladimir Putin.

Nashi supporters trample on posters showing opposition images

Nashi supporters trample on posters showing opposition images

The organisation is also used tactically to counter what Russian nationalists feel is disrespect to Russia by other countries: Shortly after the city authorities in the Estonian capital of  Tallinn had taken down a statue of a WW2 Soviet soldier in April 2007, government offices and agencies, banks and media companies were hit by a colossal surge of spam, billions of emails, that disrupted the dealings of those organisations and businesses affected, placing a massive strain on Estonia’s financial markets. Most of the attack originated in the Russian Federation.

Protests took place on the E77 main highway between Russia and Estonia, with Nashi youth protesters putting up barriers and a huge hoarding advising motorists:

You are now driving towards fascist Estonia

The reprisals in Moscow were not virtual, but direct and menacing as a Nashi crowd turned up at a press conference by Estonia’s ambassador and were only beaten into a retreat by the ambassador’s security cadre sprayed the mob with pepper spray.

Evidence of the ‘fascist’ accusation against Estonia

In contrast, Vladimir Putin commemorated the former Soviet victory over Nazi Germany, officiating at a military parade and using his speech to condemn the expansion of NATO, the war in Iraq and the defence missile programmes of western states he said

“Moreover, in our time, these threats are not diminishing,” he said. “They are only transforming, changing their appearance. In these new threats – as during the time of the Third Reich – are the same contempt for human life and the same claims of exceptionality and diktat in the world.”

You may recall that the Kremlin have persistently and roundly accused the Ukrainian government and its supporters of being ‘fascist’ or behaving like Nazi Germany. This is an oft-used allusion by the Russian regime: it is Putin’s way of blackening those of whom he does not approve.

To be continued next week.

 

‘You Have to Understand, George. Ukraine Is Not Even a Country’


Banksy-Putin

What is the evolutionary prospect for the pro-Russian revolution in Ukraine?

The video clip shown here is evidence that Russia is actively involved in an ‘invasion by stealth’ in Ukraine. The Russians call this ‘Maskirovka’.

A new military front has been opened in south-eastern Ukraine and – as it is obvious to expert observers that this is not just pro-Russian rebels – the town of Novoazovsk has fallen into Russian hands.  It is a border town on the south eastern tip of Ukraine, it is the administrative center of the Novoazovskyi Raion, in Donetsk Oblast.Situated close to the Russian border on the Sea of Azov. The next likely target will be the port city of Mariupol. This is a Russian strategy to keep NATO from their border. It is not a strategy that the pro-Russian rebels in Donetsk would adopt as it would stretch their already limited capabilities

Ukraine has again claimed that Russian military columns have entered Ukrainian territory to ensure success for the rebel attack, but the Russian government continues to deny arming or covertly supporting the rebels, with their strategy of maskirovka, attack by stealth. Putin’s mafia have repeatedly claimed that  any military hardware, such as rocket launchers or tanks used by separatist forces, must have originated from Ukrainian army bases that have been overrun by the rebels..

In a blog for the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), an expert analyst, Joseph Dempsey, has identified what can only be a tank that has originated from the Russian military in a column of tanks and rocket launchers that were seen in eastern Ukraine two days ago. He writes


Recently published online footage, reportedly taken on 26 August in Sverdlovsk, Luhansk Oblast, in eastern Ukraine, shows a convoy of military vehicles. Whilst date and location are unconfirmed, the operator of the convoy is apparent: flags associated with the separatist movement are clearly displayed and some vehicles feature bright green areas, a common feature of separatist armour.

 The mixed convoy includes at least three T-72B1 MBTs but it is the appearance (01:40–01:53) of a lone, more modern T-72 variant that is of particular significance. This variant, distinguished by the prominent Kontakt-5 Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA) arrangement on the turret front, is commonly referred to by Western sources as the T-72BM. It is operated by the Russian Army in large numbers, but crucially it is not known to have been exported or operated outside of Russia. The presence of this variant in Ukraine therefore strongly supports the contention that Russia is supplying arms to separatist forces.


Expert identification of this Russian tank in a separatist column in eastern means that it could only have come from across the border in Russia. There is no confirmation of the date or the exact location, but it is clear from the footage that the tank that must have come from Russia is with other armoured vehicles flying the Donetsk separatist flag. This took place whilst Putin was in Minsk trying to establish a road map for peace in Ukraine. So what is Putin’s aim?

A study of a map that was produced for the Presidential Election in Ukraine in December 2004 gives a clue to voting patterns in south and south-eastern Ukraine. You may already know that Yushchenko was elected in the poll, that he was a staunch supporter of Ukraine and its freedoms – namely “democracy, Ukrainian identity and European integration”. His ethnicity is Ukrainian as the “Sumy Oblast region where he was born is predominantly Ukrainian-speaking” whereas Yanukovych, who lost this election but subsequently won the presidency in 2010, was a native Russian ethnic who lived in the Donetsk Oblast.

Ukrainian-general-election-2004

It is apparent from this snapshot of voting patterns that the blue areas, supported a strongly pro-Russian president, whereas the Orange areas voted for an ethnic Ukrainian. The division along ethnic lines is confirmed in this graphic, underscoring the pattern that Putin is seeking to exploit by sending advisors, troops and equipment into Ukraine. Although this strategy is weakening his international reputation it is strengthening his popularity in Russia,

Ukraine west v east

Putin is seeking to recreate Novorossia or New Russia, a historical term comprising an area north of the Black Sea, part of which was Russia and part of which was Ukraine.

how-putin-sees-Ukraine-with-no-NATO-fleet

“The guys from the east shot the positions of the Ukrainian army and the army left Novoazovsk,” according to freelance journalist Petr Shelomovsky, who told the BBC. “Since the morning, they’ve been leaving the town and we’ve probably seen the last armoured personnel carrier leaving the place.”

The German Chancellor and the EU are currently making representations to Moscow protesting the interference by Russia in the conflict in Ukraine. If some decisive action is not taken, Putin will grab more land from Ukraine and any such success will only feed the appetite of the Russian nation to see a rebirth of the USSR.

Graph showing a poll concerning Russia and the longing for the USSR

You can access details of these surveys of Ukrainian and Russian opinion at: http://www.pewglobal.org/2014/05/08/despite-concerns-about-governance-ukrainians-want-to-remain-one-country/

In an article headlined Putin Forever? Russian President’s Ratings Skyrocket Over Ukraine, the writer explains that “Russian President, Vladimir Putin, is enjoying almost unprecedented job-approval ratings in his country. And the only reason for this popularity surge, sociologists say, is Russia’s tough stance on Ukraine. A separate study conducted in April by Russia’s state-funded polling agency VTSiOM showed that 82 percent of respondents thought their country played an important role in global affairs, compared to 58 percent six years ago.”

Putin’s comment to George W. Bush stands as a chilling warning about the fate of Ukraine. It is reported that he said ‘You Have to Understand, George. Ukraine Is Not Even a Country’

That view is becoming ever closer to reality in the passage of 2014.

Putin’s excuses about troops in Ukraine are becoming increasingly feeble


Crack-cocaine smoking  Toronto mayor Rob Ford considers Putin's rejection of 'boot-on-the-ground' in eastern Ukraine

Crack-cocaine smoking Toronto mayor Rob Ford considers Putin’s rejection of ‘boot-on-the-ground’ in eastern Ukraine

Russian paratroopers have been captured in the Donetsk region of Ukraine having “crossed the border by accident” according to Russian military sources. A Ukraine government spokesman said ten Russian soldiers were captured.

Ukrainian television carried a lengthy report that included video excerpts of the interviews with the captured soldiers and claimed that they were from the 331st regiment of the 98th Svirsk airborne division. One of soldiers said “this is not our war”, whilst another, claiming to be Sergeant Andrei Generalov, said: “Stop sending in our boys. Why? This is not our war. And if we weren’t here, none of this would have happened. They would have sorted things out with the government themselves.” Russia emphatically refutes any suggestion that it is involved in the conflict in eastern Ukraine or that it is giving military assistance to the rebels. The facts on the ground do not support Russia’s innocent stance. The excuses that come from the Russian government are all one dimensional and weak, such as “The soldiers really did participate in a patrol of a section of the Russian-Ukrainian border [and] crossed it by accident on an unmarked section” leaving you wondering if they have ever heard of briefing their troops or equipping them with GPS.

A spokesperson for Ukraine’s security service said that the paratroopers had been captured over 20km into Ukrainian territory near the village of Dzerkalne, some 50km from the city of Donetsk. Andriy Lysenko a Ukrainian military spokesman  said: “This wasn’t a mistake, but a special mission they were carrying out.”

The Ukrainian and Russian presidents are meeting in Minsk, Belarus to try and come to an agreed settlement over the war, though having the last dictator in Europe, President Lukashenko, hosting it is something of an irony. With rigged elections and the opposition ‘marginalised’ in a judicial way, it is the last bastion of anti-democracy that is wholly in Europe. Putin will wistfully ask himself why he can’t have in Russia the autocracy that Lukashenko has in Minsk. Or maybe that is what Putin is really aiming for.

 

Pro-Russian rebels in Donetsk embarrass themselves by humiliating Ukrainian POWs


mob-rule-in-Donetsk

Ukrainians celebrated the national independence day today, which marks the day of their freedom from the former USSR. In Kyiv the with parade was respectful and dignified, but pro-Russian rebels in Donetsk held a parade that surely shows the sort of people that control Donetsk these days as they paraded and mocked captured servicemen through the streets in front of thousands of people jeering them whilst throwing anything at them that came to hand.

The parade was led by around fifty soldiers: prisoners of war who simply looked down as they walked, clearly in a very dirty state, their heads shaved and many of whom were clearly injured. and unkempt. 

They were jeered and shouted at and all manner of items were thrown at them, including shoes, eggs, bags of flour, dog excrement, empty water bottles and soiled nappies. As they were paraded through central Donetsk with their hands behind their backs, Tchaikovsky’s “Slavonic March,” was played throughout the streets. This music is a familiar and very patriotic piece to Russians..

prisoners-paraded-through-streets-Donetsk

To add to the humiliation, two tank trucks followed the prisoners-of-war, spraying soapy water onto the street as if to say that the street needed cleaning as the captives passed through the city. 

Those watching, men, women and children, screamed “Fascists!”,“Perverts!” and “Hang them from a tree!”  One woman told a TV crew “They are attacking our city. They are fascists. I am in favor of this parade.” A rebel soldier close to the parade, said that the parade proved how well the captives were treated “We keep them on cots and feed them three times a day,” he said.

This spectacle was organised to contrast with the traditional military Independence Day parade in Kiev, the national capital, where soldiers from the national army marched through the streets of the city, feted by cheering crowds.

cloud-of-flour-thrown-at-pows

The Geneva Conventions’ rules concerning POWs prohibit humiliation or parading prisoners publicly. 

The commander of the rebel militia made a public announcement after the parade had passed through the streets.  “Kiev said that on the 24th, on the Independence Day of Ukraine, they would have a parade. Indeed, they did march in Donetsk, although it wasn’t a parade,” top rebel commanderAlexander Zakharchenko said. “Soldiers of the armed forces of Kiev walked along the main streets of Donetsk. What Poroshenko planned has taken place.”

BBC map

Ukraine’s defence ministry voiced a strong protest about humiliation of these soldiers, saying. “The organisers of this disgusting event cannot be considered human,” a spokesman told Interfax-Ukraine news agency. “Nothing is holy” for them, he added.

prisoner-of-war-violation

You might imagine that shooting down the Malaysian Airlines plane would have embarrassed the pro-Russians into a more civilised way of conducting themselves, but it hasn’t. They seem to be completely shameless.

 

 

 

The US and EU are lining up more sanctions against Russia for its incursion into Ukraine


Putin-sanctions

The US government issued the following warning to Russia on Friday concerning the aid convoy that was heading into Ukrainian territory without legal authority.

“Given that Ukraine has allowed international humanitarian groups to deliver aid within its territory, there is no logical reason why Russia should seek to deliver it,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, told a Security Council meeting on Ukraine on Friday.

“Therefore, any further unilateral intervention by Russia into Ukrainian territory, including one under the guise of providing humanitarian aid, would be completely unacceptable and deeply alarming. And it would be viewed as an invasion of Ukraine,”

The EU and US, along with the Ukrainian government, accused Moscow of increasing the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Russia flatly denied the accusation saying that the unrest was the result of Ukraine’s use of force in the region and that its bid to end the rebellion has made the situation worse.

Over the last week NATO has repeatedly warned about invasion of the territory by Russia. It supported its claim by saying that Russia had amassed 20,000 troops on the Ukraine border. Once again, the Kremlin denied any plan to send or use troops in the rebellion in the Donetsk region.