Archive for the ‘Russia’ Category

Russia claims the North Pole as part of its continental shelf

August 4, 2015

Russia has officially claimed the North Pole as being part of its continental shelf. In 2007, they sent a mini-sub to the North Pole and planted a Russian flag on the sea-bed. It’s only a matter of time before China claims large chunks of the seabed surrounding its artificial islands in the Pacific. Claims for Antarctica will not be far behind. Why Norway and the UK have territorial claims in Antarctica is not much of a mystery but there is no logic to it. Which is also why the Falklands will never be given up in any foreseeable future by the UK to Argentina. It is the promise of Antarctica and not the Falkland Islanders which governs.

Antarctica claims

Barents Observer:

After years of comprehensive research, Russia on 3 August submitted its claims for additional territories in the Arctic. The claim includes both the Mendeleev and Lomonosov Ridges, two major structures beneath the Arctic Ocean.

“… the claim determinating the outer borders of the continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean is based on the scientific understanding that the central Arctic underwater ridges, among them the Lomonosov, Medeleev, Alfa and Chukotskoye Heights, as well as the in between basins of Podvodnikov and Chukotskaya, have a continental character”, an offical statement, refered to by RIA Novosti, reads.

It will now be up to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf to decide if Russia should be entitled to include the huge additional areas under its sovereignty. The Commission confirms that “the consideration of the partial revised submission made by the Russian Federation will be included in the provisional agenda of the next ordinary session”, the Commission website informs.

Russia in 2001 made a first official submission of its Arctic claims to the UN Commission. However, the Commission in 2002 responded that additional research is needed before a decision can be taken.

Neighboring Norway was in 2009 the first country to get its Arctic territorial claims approved, while Denmark/Greenland submitted a claim in December 2014. That latter claim includes ownership of the North Pole and is consequently in conflict with the Russian claim.

If approved, the Russian claim will expand the country’s territory by 1.2 million square kilometers. Estimates indicate that the area include 594 oil fields and 159 gas fields as well as two major nickel fields and more than 350 gold deposits. Initial recoverable fuel resources are estimated to 258 billion tons of fuel equivalent, representing 60 percent of Russia’s total hydrocarbon resources.

Claims to the moon  and Mars can be expected.

 

The Russian blacklist of 89 nonentities was a “gesture of trust”

May 31, 2015

The Russian “blacklist” of 89 inconsequential EU politicians and bureaucrats banned from entry (a German list from the Finnish site YLE) is here.

Russian blacklist of EU politicians

Most of those on the list have been quite noisy in their condemnation of Russia over Ukraine – but interestingly most are also ineffective nonentities. It has, for example Nick Clegg, Swedish MEP Anna Maria Corazza Bildt, French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy, former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt, former Czech foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg and the EU’s former enlargement chief Stefan Fule on the list. Many are already past it. They could all cease their work tomorrow and not many in Europe or in Russia would even notice. All fairly inconsequential people and not even of very high profile.

So why would the Russians bother to ban such a group of unimportant nonentities?

They say it was as “a gesture of trust” that the list was not published openly and only provided through diplomatic channels. Considering that no-one of any significance is on the list it could even be taken as a “gesture of goodwill”! I suspect it was just part of the diplomatic “game”.

Nothing more than tit-for tat – a game of idiots, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Russian Tass reports

Moscow confirms it has sent to the European Union’s countries a list of persons who were denied entry to Russia but says it would prefer to refrain from comments on personalities, a high-ranking official at the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Saturday. …. Russia recommended long ago that envoys of those countries which imposed sanctions on the Russian Federation should apply to Russian consular offices before their trips for specifying whether they are barred from entering the country, he said.

“However, our partners preferred not to do so and asked to notify them through diplomatic channels,” he said. “In line with this, the above-mentioned lists were sent to them.”

“[The lists] were handed to our European partners as a gesture of trust and their publication may weigh on the conscience of corresponding sides,” he said. “Just one thing remains unclear: did our European co-workers want these lists to minimise inconveniences for potential ‘denied persons’ or to stage another political show?” he said.

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.

VoiceofRussia:

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.

WashingtonPost(blog):

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 blatantworld.com)

Transnistria (image blatantworld.com)

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


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