Archive for the ‘Russia’ Category

Tit for tat: EU politicians among 89 banned by Russia

May 29, 2015

Russia has made and already implemented a list of 89 EU citizens to be banned from entering Russia. From the information appearing today it would seem that there are many politicians on this “blacklist”.

  1. YahooNews (AFP)Moscow has issued a blacklist of European Union politicians barred from Russia in response to EU sanctions over Crimea and Ukraine, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Friday. “Russia yesterday handed over a list of people to diverse EU embassies who may not enter Russia any longer,” Rutte said at a weekly press conference, adding that two Dutch MPs and a Dutch MEP were on the list. The list contains 89 names, according to a letter from Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders tweeted by Belgian MEP Mark Demesmaeker. The letter, which was confirmed as authentic by the foreign ministry to AFP, said that Moscow had asked for the list not to be made public. Guy Verhofstadt, head of the Liberal group in the European Parliament and a former Belgian PM, is also on the list, his spokesman Jeroen Reijnen told AFP.
  2. Swedish Radio: Russia has banned 80-90 EU citizens including 8 Swedish citizens. The Foreign Ministry has asked the Russian Embassy for an explanation but has not revealed any names.
  3. DutchNews: Three Dutch MPs banned from entering Russia: foreign ministry (update) — According to broadcaster Nos, two members of the lower house of parliament and one MEP have been stopped from entering the country. Former PVV parliamentarian Louis Bontes said in Friday’s AD he is one of those affected. Bontes, who described the list as ‘bizarre’, recently called Russian president Vladimir Putin a ‘KGB crook’. The other two are Labour MP Michiel Servaes and Hans van Baalen, who represents the VVD in Europe. Servaes said he has no idea why he has been included and described the list as ‘absurd’, the Post Online reported.
  4. NewsweekSince the start of the Ukraine crisis several European politicians have been refused entry into Russia, under unclear circumstances sparking rumours of a secret blacklist of European politicians. German MP Karl-Georg Wellmann was stopped at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport yesterday and was told he was banned from entering Russia until 2019. In September German Greens politician Rebecca Harms was denied entry to Russia in similar circumstances and both have said they believe they are on a secret Kremlin blacklist of politicians who backed sanctions on Moscow.

Somehow the banning of Russians from Europe and now the reciprocal banning of Europeans from Russia does not arouse – in me – any great indignation or heat. It almost seems like the orchestrated moves of some diplomatic chess game. Europe started with an Elephant-in-a-china-shop Opening Gambit and Russia has responded with the Dutch Defense.

Putin has not been seen in public for 10 days

March 15, 2015

He has not been seen in public since March 5th and speculation is rife. Being missing for a week-end would be rare but not unknown. Going AWOL for a week would be almost unheard of except for a well-planned holiday announced well in advance. But for a world leader to be “missing” for 10 days would suggest something quite unusual – and rather disturbing. An illness would either have to carry some kind of stigma or leave him unsightly not to have been announced.

  1. He is in Switzerland with his girl friend, gymnast Alina Kabayeva, for the birth of his “love-child”.
  2. He is under arrest after a secret coup by hard-liners who think he is being soft on Ukraine.
  3. He has the flu.
  4. He has bird flu or swine flu.
  5. He is undergoing a face-lift.
  6. He is being held for ransom and negotiations or ongoing over a price for the kidnappers to keep him.
  7. He is dead.

I am not quite sure how much more dangerous or destabilising a Russia without Putin might be. A public meeting with the leader of Kyrgystan is expected on Monday. If that does not happen ……….

Oil reserves to rival Saudi Arabia’s found in the Russian Arctic

September 28, 2014
Kara Sea - Arctic  Google maps

Kara Sea – Arctic Google maps

So much for peak oil!

And that’s even without taking shale oil and shale gasand methane hydrates into account.

World BulletinA joint venture between Rosneft and ExxonMobil has discovered a huge amount of oil under the Arctic. The state-run Russian oil company announced on Saturday that the University-1 well struck oil in the Kara Sea.

Igor Sechin, the head of Rosneft, said the “oil trap” has 338 billion cubic meters of gas and more than 100 million tonnes (733 million barrels) of oil. The total resources in the area are estimated at 13 billion tonnes (87 billion barrels) of oil equivalent, according to the Rosneft statement. According to experts, the amount of oil and gas is comparable to the resource base of Saudi Arabia.

Rosneft and ExxonMobil started drilling the University-1 well, the world’s northernmost well, in August. The field will be named Pobeda, which means “victory” in Russian

Sanctions against Russia could deprive ExxonMobil of some of the benefits due to them. Even if sanctions are relatively short-lived the Russians will surely extract their pound of flesh while they can.

ExxonMobil announced last Friday that the U.S. Treasury Department has granted it a licence to “wind down” operations at the well, in response to U.S. and EU sanctions imposed on Russia over the unrest in Ukraine.

However the Russians are still dependent on technology from the large oil companies for drilling and exploitation in these frigid conditions. They also have vast quantities of oil and gas shale in Siberia the value of which needs to be protected. The timing for the development of Arctic reserves then becomes a geopolitical and economic strategy call. It makes most sense for Russia not to flood the market and to keep gas prices to Europe high and growing. But the potential availability of this Arctic reserve – even if production is at least a decade away – adds another arrow in the Russian quiver.

But the doomsday scenarios of “peak oil” or catastrophic depletion of gas and oil reserves have vanished over the horizon – at least for the foreseeable future,


Novorossiya: Putin calculates that Obama will bark and show his teeth but will not bite

August 31, 2014

Putin did not cause the descent of Ukraine into anarchy. That was the EU and the US respectively trying to expand the boundaries of Europe and NATO. The EU sold the “benefits” of joining Europe very hard and raised expectations in the country which no President could live up to. In the process they supported the opposition to the elected (but disliked) President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych. That included substantial support for Ukraine’s neo-Nazi, nationalist Right Sector. The EU bureaucrats in Brussels were elated at the potential for expanding the EU. Catherine Ashton and John Kerry were so full of themselves and their “success” in spreading democracy that they miscalculated the consequences. Yanukovych was toppled in February 2014 and the EU and the US celebrated. But the Right Sector lost no time in “pushing” and pressurising the Russian speakers especially in Eastern Ukraine. The push-back started and Crimea “voted” to join Russia. Russia ratified the decision and effected the transition on the ground. The EU and the US responded with sanctions. A missile fired by Russian separatists – perhaps aimed at a Ukraine military aircraft flying in the shadow of a commercial jet – brought down Malaysian flight 17. Sanctions were extended. The EU made noises. Obama demonstrated his risk aversion when even the atrocities by ISIS did not lead to any action by the US beyond a few drone attacks.

And so Putin has probably made his calculation that while Obama is by no means toothless, he will bark and show his teeth and foam at the mouth, but he will not bite. NATO will not start a war in Europe except as the tail of a belligerent US. The EU has 28 members and 28 strategies and no real leadership.

The US and EU have now established that regime-change of a government they disapprove of is a legitimate justification for the use of force. Vladimir Putin and Russia and China have taken notice. And the regime-change started by the US and the EU in February 2014 will probably be brought to some kind of conclusion (for the time being) as Putin establishes Novorossiya.

Novorossiya - graphic Washington Post

Novorossiya – graphic Washington Post

Whatever is left of Ukraine will be land-locked and Putin will again have control of the Black Sea.

Muted felicitations to Putin on Russia’s national day

June 13, 2014

I don’t much care for jingoistic “National Days”.

I suspect that the time when humans have evolved sufficiently such that “nation states” based on a geographical territory become merely administrative regions is still at least a thousand years away. And just what would replace the simple, geographical “nation state” is not yet clear to me. “Nations” based on “values” perhaps, except that if such “nations” cutting across geography were based on religion or political leanings, it would be a giant step backwards. Imagine the nightmare of a “Nation of Islam” consisting of al Qaeda, al Shabab, ISIS, Boko Haram,the Taliban and other groups sharing a similar lack of values!! Or a “Nation of the Neo-Nazis”! Or the Nation of Rock!

In any event we will have nation states and will be plagued by National Days for many centuries yet.

Yesterday was Russia’s National Day but the 12th of June does not have a very long history.


The document that laid the basis of Russia’s new statehood was adopted on June 12, 1990, when Russia was a republic within the former Soviet Union. This day was put on the list of memorable dates in 1992. The holiday gained its official status in 1994 when it was declared to be a day-off.

President Vladimir Putin will present State Prizes for 2013 to outstanding citizens of the country on Thursday. At the close of the presentation ceremony, a ceremonial reception will be given in the Kremlin. A concert is to be given in the Red Square in the evening. Such concerts have become a tradition on this day. This year, it will feature sports motives with elements of Russian folklore. The audience is draw visual parallels between the victory of Russia’s national team at the Winter Games in Sochi, reunification with Crimea and the forthcoming FIFA World Cup. The topic of the Year of Russian Culture will be also highlighted.

Along with the events in the Red Square, about 250 festival events will be organized in Moscow, including the Moscow press festival on Poklonnaya Hill and the Kremlin Mile running event.

Many countries followed diplomatic niceties and sent their congratulation to Vladimir Putin and the Russian nation. But I detect that in the shadow of Syria and Ukraine these diplomatic messages have been somewhat muted and were not oozing with great enthusiasm!

NewIndiaExpress“My greetings to the people of Russia on Russia’s National Day. India values the long-standing & strong bond with Russia,” Modi tweeted. “I have written to President Putin & Prime Minister Medvedev, conveying greetings on the occasion of Russia’s National Day,” another tweet of his said.

There were the usual messages from most countries but those from the US and Western Europe were relatively muted.


Back in the old days of the Russia “reset,” then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued statements on Russia’s National Day on June 12, emphasizing warming relations.

In 2010 and 2012 the announcements noted the country’s “rich history” and culture. Clinton then quickly pivoted to talk about “building a new partnership” and all the “progress in areas of common concern” between the United States and Russia, such as reducing nuke stockpiles and working to stop proliferation and terrorism. …….. 

But this year, there was a decided chill in the air and no talk of policy matters in Secretary of State John Kerry’s perfunctory five-sentence note on Wednesday. Kerry instead wanted “to pause today and appreciate the great works of Russian literature, music and art that have touched so many people around the world.” He celebrated “the 200th anniversary of the birth of Mikhail Lermontov,” the great Russian poet, then poet and playwright Aleksandr Pushkin and poet Anna Akhmatova. (Hey! No Tolstoy? Dostoevsky?)

What about mutual cooperation? And “warmest wishes?” Fuggedaboudit.

“May the Russian and the American people share in a peaceful, stable and prosperous future,” Kerry concluded.
Oh Well. Better a cool message than a drone carrying a bomb.

Russian maps already include Crimea

May 1, 2014

The Russian language site of the Ministry of Defense has not wasted much time in including Crimea as part of the Southern Defence Region. The English language website does not – yet – include the change.

Gen. Sergei Shoigu - Minister of Defense

Gen. Sergei Shoigu – Minister of Defense

It seems to be just a matter of time before parts of Eastern Ukraine also are included. I see that many US and European sources are seeing this “annexation”  of Crimea and Eastern Ukraine as Russian aggression. The Russians have certainly been opportunistic but I believe it has been aggressive EU expansionism and fairly incompetent EU Foreign Policy formulation and implementation which has initiated the violent reaction from the local Russian-speaking population. As the WSJ put it:

The seeds of EU policy disarray were sown in the divisions among the EU’s 28 member states—as well as the disinclination of most European countries to view Ukraine as a test of geopolitical importance. There was a yawning difference between the efforts of Vladimir Putin’s Russia to keep Ukraine in its sphere of influence and what Europe was prepared to do to tempt what many regard as a country of major strategic significance into the Western fold. …….. Much criticism of Europe’s policy disarray has been directed to the EU institutions in Brussels, the bloc’s foreign-policy head Catherine Ashton and its enlargement chief, Stefan Füle. But it is difficult for Brussels to get out ahead of its biggest member states on foreign-policy issues—and many governments were cautious.

The fact that the EU turned a blind eye to the the growth of the neo-Nazi, right-wing fanatics only fuelled the fears of the ethnic Russians. The de facto EU support – with US acquiesence – for openly corrupt “opposition” politicians in Ukraine did not much help either. It should not have required much deep analysis to conclude that Russia would not stand idly by when the ethnic Russians felt threatened. But the multiple and fractured views of the 28 EU states does not allow much rational analysis.

Russian Ministry of Defence Maps - Russian version already includes Crimea

Russian Ministry of Defence Maps – Russian version already includes Crimea (image SvD)

Image comparison: Svenska Dagbladet.

Crimea is a fait accompli – as White House is so relieved that Putin deigned to call

March 29, 2014

The news this morning is that Vladimir Putin called Barack Obama to discuss Ukraine. But the tone from the White House is that this was a great diplomatic victory for Obama since it was Putin who initiated the call. So far it has always been Obama calling Putin to draw red lines in the air.

(Reuters)Russian President Vladimir Putin called U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday to discuss a U.S. diplomatic proposal for Ukraine, the White House said, adding that Obama told him that Russia must pull back its troops and not move deeper into Ukraine. It was believed to have been the first direct conversation between Obama and Putin since the United States and its European allies began imposing sanctions on Putin’s inner circle and threatened to penalize key sectors of Russia’s economy. …… The White House noted specifically that it was Putin who called Obama, who is ending a four-country trip in Saudi Arabia and had just returned to his Riyadh hotel after talks with King Abdullah.

And so another crisis is solved – until the next one. But the Kremlin account is somewhat different to the White House account

NYT: “President Obama underscored to President Putin that the United States continues to support a diplomatic path in close consultation with the government of Ukraine and in support of the Ukrainian people with the aim of de-escalation of the crisis,” the White House said in a statement. “President Obama made clear that this remains possible only if Russia pulls back its troops and does not take any steps to further violate Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.”

In its statement posted on its official website, the Kremlin said Mr. Putin “drew Barack Obama’s attention to continued rampage of extremists who are committing acts of intimidation towards peaceful residents, government authorities and law enforcement agencies in various regions and in Kiev with impunity. …. In light of this,” it added, “the president of Russia suggested examining possible steps the global community can take to help stabilize the situation.”

The Crimea is a done deal. The US and the EU have to maintain some face while accepting that reality. What is also apparent is that the Russian view of  right wing extremists and neo-nazis is shared by the current “government” of the Ukraine. The EU and its “expansive but naive imperialism” bears a heavy responsibility for the rise of the Right Sector and its violent ways. And now the Ukraine is running a pogrom to disable if not wipe out the Right Sector. (Not so dissimilar to the current campaigns against Golden Dawn in Greece and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt).

BBC: A Ukrainian ultra-nationalist leader has been shot dead in what officials describe as a special forces operation. Oleksandr Muzychko, better known as Sashko Bily, died in a shoot-out with police in a cafe in Rivne in western Ukraine, the interior ministry said. He was a leader of Right Sector, a far-right group which was prominent in the recent anti-government protests.

BBC: Ukraine’s interim President Olexander Turchynov has condemned the ultra-nationalist Right Sector, saying the group is bent on “destabilisation”. Right Sector activists blocked the parliament (Rada) building in Kiev on Thursday night and smashed windows. They blamed the interior minister for the killing of a Right Sector leader. …..

….. At a parliament session on Friday, Mr Turchynov, called the Right Sector rally outside parliament “an attempt to destabilise the situation in Ukraine, in the very heart of Ukraine – Kiev. That is precisely the task that the Russian Federation’s political leadership is giving to its special services”. Right Sector activists are furious over the death of Oleksandr Muzychko, better known as Sashko Bily, one of their leaders. The interior ministry said he died on Monday night in a shoot-out with police in a cafe in Rivne in western Ukraine.

Transnistria (image

Transnistria (image

Putin does not seem to have discussed – or needed to discuss – the Crimea. That is now a fait accompli. Instead he has taken up the case of Moldova and Transnistria. In Moldova too, it is the EU’s expansionism which has led to some of the internal rifts. I note also that the Ukraine and Moldova have been wooed enthusiastically by the EU and had made more progress than Turkey has in its long running saga of seeking EU membership. (Turkey will never be allowed to become a member – in my opinion  – because it is a Muslim country).

NYT: While not mentioning Crimea, the Kremlin drew attention to Ukraine’s blockade of Transnistria, a breakaway, pro-Russian region of Moldova, another former Soviet republic to the south. Frozen for years in an international limbo, neither accepting Moldova’s rule nor formally part of Russia, Transnistria has relied on land access through Ukraine for crucial imports.

The Kremlin said a new blockade would “significantly complicate the living conditions for the region’s residents, impeding their movement and normal trade and economic activities,” and it urged negotiations to address the situation.

Russia has more than 1,000 troops in Transnistria, the remnants of a peacekeeping force deployed since 1992, and it has relied on overland access through Ukraine to supply them. The next talks on the conflict are scheduled for Vienna on April 10 and 11.

Some officials in the region have asked to follow Crimea and become part of Russia. Moldova has been working toward the same sweeping political and free trade agreements with the European Union that prompted Russian opposition in Ukraine.

The Crimean crisis is over. The Moldovan (Transnistria) crisis is next.

And President Obama can bask in the glory of “having forced” Vladimir Putin to call him.

A story in 3 maps: EU and NATO push and Russia pushes back

March 19, 2014

It is the play of simple geopolitical forces which itself is based on the drawing of lines on maps. The creeping expansion eastwards of the EU and NATO has given little thought to the response it must inevitably invite. I put much of the Ukrainian crisis down to the thoughtless behaviour of the EU. That behaviour itself is inevitable given that foreign policy in the EU is driven by a confused mix of 28 countries and by the insatiable bureaucratic hunger in Brussels for an ever-increasing bureaucracy by including ever-more countries into the pot (providing that they are non-muslim). The rush to expansion is – in part – the reason why the EU is mired for so long in the financial crisis. With 28 countries involved policy is often clumsy and heavy-handed with little place for nuance and diplomatic skill.

The current breaking point was reached when the EU (aiding and abeting the US in the expansion of NATO) clumsily encouraged internal dissent in the Ukraine and activated the far-right, neo-Nazi forces. Did they really expect no response? And does the EU really want to be associated with the neo- Nazis of Ukraine who are carrying on their traditions from the 1940’s? I think it was the rise of the neo-Nazis as the final straw which Russia found unacceptable. I find the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the EU a travesty and only confirms that the Peace Prize tarnishes the Nobel brand.

Today the response is in the Crimea. Logically, the EU and NATO expansion pressure will invite Russia to exercise even more control over the Eastern Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tadjikistan and Turkmenistan.

1. Expansion of the EU.

2. Expansion of Nato

nato expansion (image mike faille)

nato expansion (image mike faille)

3. Where will Russia push-back?

where next for Russia

where next for Russia

Crimea: Hypocrisy when the US and the West attack a democratic referendum

March 17, 2014

Personally I do not believe in referenda as a sustainable democratic method. If all decisions were taken to referenda we would essentially have an anarchy. But the use of referenda – occasionally but often not with great circumspection – has become a common practice in so-called democratic countries whenever an administration finds itself at odds with the great unwashed electorate and at risk of losing an election.

The Crimea has no great tradition or history as a part of Ukraine. It was merely attached to Ukraine in 1954 for administrative and prestige purposes during Khrushchev’s time. I find the developments in the Crimea are now showing up the double standards that always apply in international “diplomacy” in a very clear and sharp light. It is always a case of “do as I say” and never of “do as I do”.

There is little doubt that the Crimean referendum yesterday reflects the wishes of the majority of the inhabitants of that autonomous territory. The Tartars and the Ukrainians living in the Crimea largely boycotted the vote. But it was a direct vote on a simple question. It is being criticised for being illegal and unconstitutional by Obama and the EU and the “West”. But it cannot be criticised for being undemocratic. The claim that it was unconstitutional is a little weird since the current administration in Kiev can hardly be called constitutional. At best one could say that neither the acting government in Kiev (which is not an elected government any more) nor the referendum are in line with the currently suspended Ukrainian constitution.

EU Ministers are rushing to condemn the referendum – but they are careful to quote issues of legality and constitutional impropriety. They are careful not to call the referendum undemocratic. Hague and Cameron particularly show up as being triple-tongued and double-faced. The Crimea – under the Ukrainian constitution – had more autonomy than Scotland has in the UK. How then is a referendum in Scotland on independence acceptable but a referendum in the Crimea is not?  Hague claims that the referendum makes a “mockery of democracy” but that is an intellectually bankrupt statement. He might as well call for all of the UK to vote in Scotland’s referendum for that referendum not also to be a mockery of Democracy. David Cameron is struggling to balance between offering a referendum on EU membership and yet making it a vote which has no possibility of the UK leaving the EU. Democracy will not apply if the vote is “No” to membership. The electorate wants a referendum, so he offers them one. But the UK Parliament – which has surrendered many of its powers to Europe – is loth to allow the unwashed electorate any such power.

The reality today is that almost all “democratic” countries use voting systems which are nowhere near as direct or as represntative of an electorate’s wishes as a refrendum. The US Presidential elections with its electoral college is a case in point. Party democracies in Europe are extremely indirect reflections of the wishes of the electorate. It is political parties which control the names on the party lists. The broad electorate only chooses a Party, and the Party hierarchy and membership usually choose the representatives. The manner in which names enter the Party lists is hardly democratic. European countries which practice proportional representation have a quite “undemocratic” representation in their Parliaments. Extreme minorities have a disproportionately large presence in Parliaments.

There is a lot of noise and bluster from Obama and Kerry and all the EU politicians. But it is the imprudent wooing of Ukraine by the EU and US meddling which has created the current crisis in Ukraine. It is their indiscriminate support of any opposition (just as in Syria) which has allowed the advance of the violent far-right neo Nazis.

I also note that while Obama’s popularity is at an all-time low of 41%, Vladimir Putin’s popularity is at an all-time high of over 70%. And democracy, after all, is just a popularity contest. But the simple fact is that most of the Crimea would prefer to be with Russia than with Ukraine. Obama and his friends may call it illegal and unconstitutional but the Crimean vote yesterday was totally democratic.

Muddled EU and an indecisive US help Russia emerge from the Cold War doldrums

March 9, 2014

The Soviet Union was dissolved 23 years ago. The experiment of exporting and imposing the Russian vision of socialism on 14 other countries had collapsed in spectacular fashion. It was a resounding victory for Ronald Reagan, Rambo, Capitalism, Democracy and “Western” values – in that order. The 15 post Soviet countries were then Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. Countries within their influence but not part of the Soviet Union broke free and looked to find a new place in the growing and expansionist European Union. Czechoslavakia split. Yugoslavia fractured into many pieces. And Europe picked up the pieces. On the back of their economic problems and the dissolution of their Empire, Russia had no diplomatic clout left to speak of. They did inherit the Soviet seat on the Security Council along with its veto and that kept them at the big table if rather ineffective.

But all that is beginning to change. There is a long way to go but with its wealth of resources the Russian economy is beginning to recover. There is a resurgence of Russian diplomacy. Russian diplomats are beginning to have opinions on all matters of substance. They are aided and abeted by a muddled and meddlesome EU together with an indecisive and risk-averse President in the US.

In foreign as with economic policy the EU is a place of very many voices. Some members are looking to create a successor to the Holy Roman Empire with a Holy European Empire. Others are looking to create the United States of Europe. Some want in for the benefits but want out of the costs. But rather than being a place for the dissemination of best practices it has become a hodge-podge where the lowest common denominator applies. They claim to share the same “values” of equality and freedom but none of them like dirty gypsies from Romania. The European Parliament and the European commission add layers of fairly useless politicians and bureaucrats. If only there had been a rule that every sinecure created at the European level would have been accompanied by a reduction at a country level! Radicalised youth in the EU now provide cannon fodder for many conflicts around the world. On all possible sides. The UK and France provide psychopathic young muslims to conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa. French and German and Swedish skinheads travel to the Ukraine to support the neo-nazi Right Sector.

With so many countries in the EU it is not too surprising that they get confused. A referendum in the Crimea is illegal but a referendum in Scotland is OK. They have been fooled into supporting miltant islamists in Syria and have handed the opposition into the control of Al Qaida. They have tried to meddle in the Ukraine and only succeeded in building up the neo-nazi Right Sector and in provoking Russia to enter the Crimea ostensibly to support the Russian origin population. One Swedish politician today suggested implementing a fast track entry for the Ukraine into the EU “as a signal to the Russians”. Little people trying to be politicians on the world stage. With 28 member states and 8 more in the wings, with a full range of political opinions in each country, it is hardly surprising that what emerges as policy, from the attempt to be balanced, borders on idiocy. Meanwhile the US is tired of its expensive adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan which have achieved very little. President Obama is looking to disengage wherever he can. To take on new risk is anathema. In Syria, Obama kept re-drawing red lines, and kept retreating behind them. That proxy war is being won by the Assad regime supported by Russia. The US and the EU no longer know who they support – or should support –  in Syria.

Syria and the Ukraine are just examples. A confused EU together with an indecisive US are providing the Russians with opportunities to test their diplomatic skills and to test the resolve of the EU and the US.

And judging by the results so far, neither the US nor the EU has a sticking point. There is not a leader in sight.

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