Thursday, April 24, 2014

Tony Blair urges British intervention against Islamic extremists around the world

The former PM believes Western 'engagement' needs to go beyond the political

Whitehall Editor
In a significant and controversial intervention, the former Prime Minister will suggest that, as a result of failures in Iraq and Afghanistan, governments in Europe and America have become “curiously reluctant to acknowledge” Islamic extremism.
This unwillingness to confront Islamism risks the 21st century being characterised by “conflict between people of different cultures”, he will warn.
Mr Blair will also call for Europe and America to put aside their differences with Russia and China and “co-operate” to fight what he describes as the “radicalised and politicised view of Islam” that is threatening their collective interests. Mr Blair is due to make his remarks in a speech in London. But despite carrying significance because of his role as Middle East peace envoy they are unlikely to be well received in Downing Street or Washington.
Just last week the Foreign Secretary William Hague said that Britain should “learn the lessons from history” and “cultivate influence” rather than always relying on hard power “that jars”.
But Mr Blair, whose political legacy has been tainted by his role in the US-led invasion of Iraq, is understood to be increasingly concerned by the failure of Britain and other Western countries effectively to tackle what he believes to be the growing threat of radical Islam – that combines politics with religion and opposes pluralistic societies.
While he does not specifically mention military intervention he makes clear that he believes Western “engagement” needs to go beyond the political.
“When we look at the Middle East and beyond it to Pakistan or Iran and elsewhere, it isn’t just a vast unfathomable mess with no end in sight and no one worthy of our support,” he will say.
“It is in fact a struggle in which our own strategic interests are intimately involved; where there are indeed people we should support if only that majority were mobilised, organised and helped.
“Engagement and commitment are words easy to use. But they only count when they come at a cost. There is no engagement that doesn’t involve putting yourself out there. There is no commitment that doesn’t mean taking a risk.”
He goes on to add that the West should also be prepared to back “revolution” in countries, such as Iran, which are run by radical Islamic regimes. “Where there has been revolution, we should be on the side of those who support those principles and opposed to those who would thwart them,” he will say.
“Where there has not been revolution, we should support the steady evolution towards them [those principles].”
In a swipe at those who opposed greater military intervention in Syria Mr Blair will say the West has to “take sides” to protect its own interests. “We have to stop treating each country on the basis of whatever seems to make for the easiest life for us at any one time,” he will say.
“We have to have an approach to the region that is coherent. And above all, we have to commit. We have to engage.”
Mr Blair also implicitly criticises regimes such as those in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan – which are nominally pro-Western but often tolerate the preaching and teachings of radical Islam.
“We spend billions of dollars on security arrangements and on defence to protect ourselves against the consequences of an ideology that is being advocated in the formal and informal school systems of the very countries with whom we have security and defence relationships,” he will say.
Mr Blair will warn that unless these problems are tackled worse will come.
“The threat of this radical Islam is not abating,” he will say. “This struggle between what we may call the open-minded and the closed-minded is at the heart of whether the 21st century turns in the direction of peaceful co-existence or conflict between people of different cultures.”
A Downing Street spokesman declined to comment on Mr Blair’s speech.

US Airborne Lands in Eastern Europe as Ukraine Tensions Rise

First company-sized contingent of about 150 U.S. paratroopers from the U.S. Army's 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team based in Italy march as they arrive to participate in training exercises with the Polish army in Swidwin, Poland, April 23, 2014.
First company-sized contingent of about 150 U.S. paratroopers from the U.S. Army's 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team based in Italy march as they arrive to participate in training exercises with the Polish army in Swidwin, Poland, April 23, 2014.
VOA News
U.S. Army paratroopers landed Wednesday in Poland, at the start of military maneuvers aimed at easing anxieties in allied eastern European countries alarmed at Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula.

The Pentagon said the exercises, slated to last about a month, initially involve about 600 troops, including 150 members of an airborne combat team based in Italy. Additional units are set for deployment in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

The troop landing comes one day after Ukraine scrapped a truce and resumed its push against armed pro-Russian separatists occupying buildings in several Ukrainian cities near the Russian border.  Moscow responded to the move with a warning that it will retaliate, if the interests of Russian-speaking citizens in the region come under attack.

Ukraine's decision to resume what it calls "anti-terrorist" operations came after the discovery of two bodies near the rebel-controlled city of Slovyansk.

One of the victims was identified Tuesday as a local member of acting Ukraine President Oleksandr Turchynov’s political party whose body was said to show signs of torture.

Truce ended

Ukraine has formally called off an Easter truce with pro-Russian separatists in the country's east and announced "anti-terrorist operations" are on again.

First Deputy Prime Minister Vitaliy Yarema told reporters during a Cabinet meeting Wednesday that "appropriate steps" will be taken and that results will be seen shortly.

Yarema said Ukraine has received assurances from the United States that it would not be left alone to face Russian aggression. He expressed hope that the U.S. support will be more substantive.

Ukraine's interim president, Oleksandr Turchynov, has already ordered security forces to resume "anti-terrorist" operations in eastern Ukraine. His order came just hours after U.S. Vice President Joe Biden ended a two-day trip to Kiyv Tuesday.

Russia 'forced' to launch military drills near border in response to Ukraine op - Moscow

Published time: April 24, 2014 12:53
Edited time: April 24, 2014 16:14
Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu (Reuters / Michael Klimentyev)
Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu (Reuters / Michael Klimentyev)
Russia has begun extensive military exercises near the Ukrainian border following the escalation of violence in eastern Ukraine.
“The order to use force against civilians has already been given, and if this military machine is not stopped, the amount of casualties will only grow,” Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said during an official meeting in Moscow.
“War games by NATO in Poland and the Baltic states are also not helping the normalization of the situation. We are forced to react to the situation.”
Shoigu said that the drills involve march and deployment maneuvers by forces in the southern and western military districts, and separate Air Force exercises.
Shoigu said that 11,000 Ukrainian soldiers, 160 tanks, 230 armored carriers and at least 150 artillery pieces are involved in the operation against anti-Kiev activists.
“National guard units and Right Sector extremists are fighting against the peaceful population, as well as a volunteer Donbass ‘anti-terrorist’ unit. Also security and internal forces transferred to Lugansk and Donetsk from other areas of the country are suppressing dissent,” he said.
Shoigu added that Ukrainian sabotage units had been deployed near the Russian border.

RIA Novosti / Igor Zarembo
RIA Novosti / Igor Zarembo
In contrast, he said that the pro-Russian self-defense units number about 2,000 and have about 100 guns between them, which have mostly been taken from local police stations.
"It's not an evenly matched confrontation," Shoigu said.
The coup-imposed Ukrainian acting president, Aleksandr Turchinov, has demanded that Russia pull back its troops back from the Ukrainian border, calling the ongoing Russian military exercises “blackmail.”
In a brief address, Turchinov claimed that “terrorists have crossed the border… taking hostages and killing the patriots of Ukraine.” He also called for the Russian government “to stop interfering into the internal affairs of our country.”
The heaviest fighting on Thursday took place in Slavyansk, with the Ukrainian Interior Ministry reporting the deaths of at least five "terrorists."
NATO has estimated that Russia has massed at least 40,000 troops near its border with Ukraine. Moscow has not denied that it has moved troops to the region, but said that its internal troop movements are its own prerogative.

Soldiers from the first company-sized contingent of about 150 U.S. paratroopers from the U.S. Army's 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team based in Italy walk after unpacking as they arrive to participate in training exercises with the Polish army in Swidwin, northern west Poland April 23, 2014 (Reuters / Kacper Pempel)
Soldiers from the first company-sized contingent of about 150 U.S. paratroopers from the U.S. Army's 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team based in Italy walk after unpacking as they arrive to participate in training exercises with the Polish army in Swidwin, northern west Poland April 23, 2014 (Reuters / Kacper Pempel)
NATO began military exercises in Poland on Wednesday, with more scheduled to take place in the Baltic states next week. So far, 150 US paratroopers have arrived in the country from their stationary base in Italy, with 450 more set to join them.
Poland’s foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski, has also asked NATO to deploy 10,000 troops in his country.
On Wednesday, the frigate USS Taylor became the latest US ship to enter the Black Sea on a rotating deployment. NATO has dispatched a separate rapid reaction force to the Baltic.

Does Putin Want a War?

Does Vladimir Putin want war with Ukraine? Given Moscow’s failure to help implement the April 17 Geneva statement and its bellicose tone, it is increasingly difficult to escape that conclusion. The United States and Europe need to apply sterner sanctions immediately if they hope to have any chance of dissuading Mr. Putin from more aggressive action.

Russia illegally occupied Crimea by force in March. The Kremlin, however, wants more than that peninsula. It seeks a weak and compliant Ukrainian neighbor, a state that will defer to Moscow and not develop a significant relationship with the European Union.
Since annexing Crimea, Moscow has done nothing to defuse tensions. It has instead sought to destabilize the interim government in Kyiv, piling on economic pressure and keeping tens of thousands of troops on Ukraine’s border. The Kremlin has supported—by all appearances, with Russian special forces personnel—armed seizures of government buildings in eastern Ukraine. In these operations, local politicians and reporters have disappeared, and at least one was murdered.
The April 17 meeting of the U.S., Russian, Ukrainian and European Union foreign ministers offered a chance for a diplomatic solution. Little appears to have come of it. One week later, Russia has done nothing to get illegal armed groups in cities such as Donetsk or Slavyansk to disarm or evacuate the buildings that they occupy. Indeed, the Kremlin’s agreement to the statement seems to have been to delay further sanctions from the West while continuing to run an insurgency in Ukraine’s east.
Mr. Putin last week denied Russian soldiers are present in the buildings. His denial must be dismissed. It came in the same telethon in which he admitted that Russian troops had seized Crimea—in contrast to his March 4 press conference, in which he attributed that seizure to “local militia” and denied the involvement of Russian soldiers.
If Moscow wanted to deescalate the crisis in Ukraine’s east, it clearly could have done so. Instead, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov threatens military action if the Ukrainian government moves to secure its own cities. It almost appears that Russia wants a pretext to use force.
A Russian military invasion of eastern Ukraine would differ greatly from the Crimea operation. The Ukrainian military may be under-resourced and out-gunned, but it would fight. Some civilians would take up arms. Recent polls show that an overwhelming number of people in eastern Ukraine do not want the Russian army. It could be ugly and bloody.
In that case, the West almost certainly would slap harsher sanctions on Russia. But they would come too late to help Ukraine or prevent a total crash in West-Russia relations.
Some U.S. and EU sanctions, focused on individual Russians and mostly applied in the aftermath of the March annexation of Crimea, are in effect. They have had some impact. According to the Russian finance minister, Russia’s economy this year may experience zero growth while capital flight in the first quarter reached $50 billion. The Russian Central Bank has burned through billions of dollars defending the ruble.
But the sanctions thus far have failed in their primary purpose. Mr. Putin’s aggression against Ukraine continues. He apparently calculates that, by creating facts on the ground “covertly,” he can ensure a weaker Western response that he can weather.
If Washington and Brussels wish to change that calculation, they must now apply additional and more meaningful sanctions.
First, the United States and European Union should greatly expand the list of individual Russians—inside and outside of government—targeted for visa and financial sanctions. Sanctions should apply to family members as well.
Second, the West should sanction key parts of the Russian economy, beginning with its financial sector. It should target at least several Russian financial institutions. The European Union, particularly Britain, must join in, with the aim of halting international credit to Russian entities. That would further stress the slowing Russian economy.
Third, the United States and European Union should block their energy companies from new investments to develop oil and gas fields in Russia. With Moscow dependent on oil and gas sales for seventy percent of its export earnings, such a measure would send shudders through the Russian energy sector.
Since coming to power in 2000, Mr. Putin has offered Russian citizens a trade-off: diminished individual political space in return for economic growth and rising living standards. The West should undermine his ability to deliver on the economic side. Mr. Putin may retaliate, but the combined economies of the United States and European Union dwarf Russia’s by a factor of well over ten to one.
This is a menu of serious actions. Mr. Putin’s continuing aggression against Ukraine calls for a serious response. A failure to act now will allow him to believe that he has a free hand regarding Ukraine. That is not in Ukraine’s interest, or the West’s.
Steven Pifer was U.S. ambassador to Ukraine from 1998 to 2000 and is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. John Herbst was U.S. ambassador to Ukraine from 2003 to 2006 and directs the Center for Complex Operations at the National Defense University. William Taylor was U.S. ambassador to Ukraine from 2006 to 2009 and is vice president for the Middle East and Africa at the United States Institute of peace.

Ukraine crisis: Obama warns Russia that more sanctions are 'teed up'

Men wearing military fatigues in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk 
Warning comes as US accuses Moscow of failing to abide by Geneva pact to defuse tensions
Link to video: Russia says US is 'running the show' in Ukraine
Barack Obama has said Russia is failing to respect the Geneva agreement to defuse tensions in Ukraine and the US has fresh sanctions "teed up" to impose on Moscow.
Under last week's accord struck by Ukraine, Russia, the US and the EU, militias in Ukraine were to disarm and give up control of seized state property. But law and order has deteriorated rapidly in parts of eastern Ukraine as Kiev and Moscow have accused each other of failing to follow through on the Geneva accord.
"So far at least we have seen them not abide by the spirit or the letter of the agreement in Geneva," Obama said in Tokyo at the start of a tour of Asia. "Instead we continue to see malicious, armed men taking over buildings, harassing folks who are disagreeing with them, destabilising the region and we haven't seen Russia step out and discouraging it."
If Russia did not play its part, he said, there would be "consequences and we will ramp up further sanctions".
His comments came as the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, sounded a more conciliatory note and said Moscow expected the Geneva accords to "be implemented in practical actions in the near future".
On Wednesday, Lavrov accused the US of "running the show" in Ukraine after a visit to Kiev by Joe Biden, the US vice-president, and said Russia would respond if attacked. Obama said new sanctions would come into force in a matter of days, not weeks, if the agreement was not implemented but acknowledged that the US needed to secure the support of allies to ensure additional economic pressure was evenly applied.
He conceded that new sanctions may not change the calculations of his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. "There are some things the United States can do alone but ultimately it's going to have to be a joint effort, a collective effort," Obama said during a press conference with the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe.
The pending penalties on Russia are expected to target wealthy individuals in Putin's inner circle, as well as the entities they oversee. Although the US has also threatened to levy potentially crippling sanctions on key Russian industries including its energy sector, officials say they plan to employ those tougher penalties only if Russia moves military forces into Ukraine.
The US and Europe have already issued asset freezes and visa bans targeting Russian and Ukrainian officials in response to the Kremlin's annexation of Crimea. Obama's comments underline the difficulties he faces in devising a united western response to Russia, with Europe dependent on Russian gas supplies.

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Exclusive: Meet the Pro-Russian Separatists of Eastern Ukraine

Alexander Mozhaev, a pro-Russian separatist whose photograph has appeared in numerous publications in recent days and who says he is not employed by the Russian state, stands with fellow separatists in the town of Slavyansk on April 20.
Alexander Mozhaev, a pro-Russian separatist whose photograph has appeared in numerous publications in recent days and who says he is not employed by the Russian state, stands with fellow separatists in the town of Slavyansk on April 20 Maxim Dondyuk

Ukraine has alleged that Russian forces are operating in the east. But one man tells TIME that they do not work for the Russian government

Spend a few days riding around the separatist badlands of eastern Ukraine, and you’d have a good chance of running into Alexander Mozhaev, the fighter suspected of being a Russian government operative. He’s hard to miss, and not just because photographs of him — or claiming to be of him — have been made available by the Ukrainian government in recent days. His beard, which juts out of his face like a spade, has made him something of a mascot for the local separatists.
Perhaps aptly, Mozhaev’s nickname among them is Babay, the Russian word for bogeyman, which is exactly what the Ukrainian government has tried to make him. Over the past week, authorities in Kiev have released photographs that purport to prove that Mozhaev is an agent of the Russian military intelligence service known as GRU, and they have shared that information with senior Western diplomats and some reporters. This claim has been at the center of their narrative that Russian special forces, controlled by the Kremlin, have taken over towns in the Donbass, the industrial heartland of eastern Ukraine.
But Mozhaev, a mild-mannered fighter with a chest like a barrel, says he only wishes that were true, and so do many of the people in the separatist-controlled towns that dot this region. If Russian forces had indeed taken over eastern Ukraine, as they did in Crimea last month, the streets of the separatist stronghold of Slavyansk would probably not be nearly as lawless as they have become in recent days. On the ground, the conflict in this town of 120,000 feels far more erratic and dangerous than the Russian occupation of Crimea, where a sense of order largely prevailed, in part because of the presence of disciplined and professional Russian troops. The ranks of the so-called “green men” who are running Slavyansk, in contrast to those troops, appear to be made up mostly of war veterans, itinerant pro-Russian nationalists and ethnic Cossacks from across the former Soviet Union. Fitting neatly into all these categories is Mozhaev, a Russian citizen, whose fellow fighters are now armed not only with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, but also tanks and armored vehicles that they have seized from the Ukrainian army.
Mozhaev and his comrades took control of Slavyansk about a week ago. But over the past few days there has been no evident sign that they are receiving material support from Russia. Their foot soldiers have been so short on fuel that they have asked journalists to bring them gasoline in exchange for granting interviews, saying they don’t have enough fuel to go on patrols.
Their leader, Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, a soap manufacturer who took the title of “people’s mayor” after seizing power, has pleaded for assistance from Russian President Vladimir Putin, but has apparently been ignored. “We need guns, you understand? We’re running out of everything but spirit,” he tells TIME. His militia force, he admits, is made up partly of volunteers who have come from Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and other parts of the former Soviet Union. But Kiev’s cries of a separatist insurgency fueled with money, weapons and troops from the Russian government look out of sync with the reality in Slavyansk.
No one embodies that disconnect quite like Mozhaev. In trying to link him to Russia’s GRU special forces, the government in Kiev has offered two blurry photos as evidence. One of them, allegedly taken during the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008, shows a bearded man wearing the GRU insignia — a black bat with its wings spanning the globe — on the shoulder of his uniform. The second photo, taken this year in eastern Ukraine, shows Mozhaev dressed in camouflage among his fellow separatists. Kiev says the two photos are of the same man. Mozhaev finds that slightly flattering but altogether false.

Mozhaev talks with TIME's Berlin Correspondent, Simon Shuster, in the town of Kramatorsk on April 21.
Mozhaev talks with TIME correspondent Simon Shuster in the town of Kramatorsk on April 21 Maxim Dondyuk
When TIME tracked him down on Monday night, Mozhaev and his men had just finished taking over the local headquarters of the Security Service of Ukraine, or SBU, in the town of Kramatorsk, a short drive from their base of operations in Slavyansk. Having met no resistance at the SBU that evening, he and his men were riding around Kramatorsk in a dark green van, which looked like a windowless, Soviet version of an old VW Camper. The vehicle, whose fender had been stenciled with the words People’s Militia of the Donbass, disgorged at least 10 heavily armed passengers in mismatching camouflage uniforms.

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Photo of the Day

Hello everyone, 

44 years ago today, 20 million Americans came together to celebrate the first Earth Day. Over the past few decades, people across the globe have continued to use the day to demonstrate their commitment to a healthier environment.
As we celebrate Earth Day this year, I'm reminded how beautiful our planet is -- and how much work we have to do to keep it that way.
Climate change is a growing threat to our world, and some of the effects are already evident. Heat waves are lasting longer, and more extreme weather events -- such as floods, severe storms, and droughts -- are happening each year.
That's why the President released a Climate Action Plan to reduce carbon pollution, prepare America's communities for the consequences of climate change, and lead international efforts to address global climate change. 

Thank you,

John Podesta
Counselor to the President

The White House

Kiev military op: Ukrainian army tanks, APCs, troops attack Slavyansk

Published time: April 24, 2014 09:05
Edited time: April 24, 2014 12:50
Ukrainian special forces take position in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk on April 24, 2014 (AFP Photo / Kirill Kudryavtsev)
Ukrainian special forces take position in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk on April 24, 2014 (AFP Photo / Kirill Kudryavtsev)
Five anti-government protesters have reportedly been killed and one injured in the eastern Ukrainian town of Slavyansk after Kiev authorities sent tanks and armored vehicles against the local population.
Follow RT’s LIVE UPDATES on military operation in eastern Ukraine
“During the antiterrorist operation, three checkpoints erected by illegal military groups have been destroyed in the northeastern part of Slavyansk,” the Ukrainian Interior Ministry said, adding: "At least five terrorists have been killed. One policeman was injured.”
Witnesses report on Twitter Slavyansk self-defense forces are now burning tires to hamper the entrance of infantry vehicles from Kiev into the city.
According to Rossiya 24 TV channel, self-defense forces have repelled the attack of the Kiev gunmen at the key checkpoint 3 km north of Slavyansk. At least three infantry vehicles had to retreat.

Police has announced the beginning of the crackdown via loudspeakers and a special vehicle is currently patrolling the streets warning local people about the crackdown.
The local citizens in the city are preparing for the Kiev crackdown. The majority of shops, kindergartens and schools have been closed in the city. Only the shops selling bread and water remain open.

  Crimea's Case, "Domino Effect"

Hungarians and Rusyns want regional autonomy in Transcarpathia

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Photo: RIA Novosti

Tranacarpathian Hungarians want regional autonomy in Ukraine. One of their goals is to choose their own representatives that represent their interests in the Verkhovna Rada.

Hungarians and Rusyns have already picked a name for their autonomous region, which can be called Hungarian - Rusyn peoples Transcarpathian Regional Confederacy.

Ethnic Hungarians are recognized as a national minority in Ukraine, but Rusyns have no such rights remarked Genyis Kirjuhin Ukrainian political scientist.

There is an ongoing tension between the Ukrainian government and Rusyns, which can be traced back to Rusyn autonomy demands. Rusyn is the only national minority in Ukraine, which hasn't been recognized by Kiev officially. The relationship between Rusyns and Ukrainians has never been easy said the political scientist.

Besides the Hungarian - Rusyn autonomy demands, Transcarpathian Hungarians also would like to secure a designated Hungarian electoral district where Hungarian candidates can run in the Ukrainian parliamentary elections.

Budapest supports these legitimate autonomy demands. Mihály Bayer, Hungary's ambassador to Kiev confirmed that indeed, ethnic Hungarians would like to control their own destinies.

The ambassador has recalled that ethnic Hungarians in Transcarpathia also want Hungarian citizenship, despite the fact that Ukraine is not recognizing dual citizenship.

(Oroszország Hangja –

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Izetbegović wants Bosnia to join "NATO elite"

SARAJEVO -- Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina Bakir Izetbegović has spoken in favor of that country joining NATO.
(Tanjug, file)
(Tanjug, file)
Izetbegović, who represents Bosniaks - one of the three constituent peoples in Bosnia - said "elite countries" were members of the western military alliance.
"They are well organized and prosperous countries, it is actually an elite group of countries, and this is where Bosnia should go," he said, stressing that "decisions about this were made by the presidency 11 years ago, and then confirmed in 2009."

He pointed out that the requirement for joining NATO was to register 63 military sites, and that this has not been done during the past four years. Referring to politicians from Bosnia's Serb entity, the RS, Izetbegović said that "irresponsible people, those who want to halt the road to NATO" wanted to "tie this one permille of state assets to other state resources and divide it between the two entities."

"That will certainly not happen, we will never agree to a division of state property in such a way... Certainly we will put into function all state property and even this, military kind," he told a conference organized in Sarajevo by the Bosnian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the NATO headquarters in Brussels.

He believes that Bosnia's delay on the road to NATO membership is "one of the reasons for the halting of the economy."

"The message that Bosnia-Herzegovina is a member of NATO, a safe country where investments can be made could lead to intense investment and inflow of foreign capital. Thanks to irresponsible people, we had a delay in Bosnia and the matter should be concluded in the coming months," said Izetbegović.

Deputy Assistant Secretary General of NATO Ted Whiteside stressed that NATO chose Bosnia-Herzegovina to organize the gathering "because they noticed that there was a genuine interest in the subject among its politicians and diplomats."

Ukraine's acting president calls for action against pro-Russian separatists

Oleksandr Turchynov makes call after 'brutally tortured' bodies of two men – one a politician from his party – found near Slavyansk
Foreign Ministers Of Denmark And Sweden Visit Kiev
Ukraine's acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov. His call to relaunch operations could complicate European mediation with Russia. Photograph: Itar-Tas/Barcroft Media
Ukraine's acting president has called for the resumption of military operations against pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country, claiming two of his party's supporters had been "tortured to death", in a further blow to an unravelling international peace plan.
Oleksandr Turchynov said "counter-terrorist" operations in the region, suspended as part of the peace agreement in Geneva last Thursday, should restart after the bodies of two men, one a pro-Kiev politician, had been found near the rebel-held town of Slavyansk.
The politician has been named as Vladimir Rybak, a town councillor and member of the Batkivshchyna party, who went missing on 17 April.
"The terrorists who effectively took the whole Donetsk region hostage have now gone too far, by starting to torture and murder Ukrainian patriots. These crimes are being committed with the full support and connivance of the Russian Federation," Turchynov said, hours after a joint appearance with the US vice-president, Joe Biden.
The country's defence ministry also reported that one of its observation planes had been struck by gunfire from Slavyansk, one of the areas of greatest tension in the eastern region. The plane landed without injuries, the ministry added.
Turchynov's call to relaunch army operations came on a day when international monitors reported a worsening in the security situation in separatist-held eastern districts, while the US and Russia blamed each other for the continuing unrest.
Biden flew to Kiev to offer the Ukrainian government economic support and tell Moscow it was "time to stop talking and start acting". In response, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said the onus was on Washington to rein in the authorities in Kiev, which he said had been brought to power by the US and was responsible for "outrages".
Western officials acknowledged that the Geneva plan – agreed on Thursday by the US, Russia, Ukraine and the EU – was clearly in trouble, but the US and the EU put off a decision on imposing new sanctions on Russian leaders, hoping diplomacy could somehow be salvaged in the new few days.
"The negative rhetoric we have seen coming from Moscow is not what we expected from Russia, but we are going to give some time to this, while we make it clear to Russia there needs to be movement," a western diplomat said, adding that a further Geneva meeting to narrow differences could not be ruled out.

"Russia will respond if Russian interests are attacked"

MOSCOW -- Russia will retaliate if the unterests of its citizens or the citizens themselves are threatened, said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
(Beta/AP, file)
(Beta/AP, file)
RT reported on Wednesday that the high ranking official said that if Russian territory comes under attack he saw no other option than to respond in accordance with international law.
“If we are attacked, we would certainly respond. If our interests, our legitimate interests, the interests of Russians have been attacked directly, like they were in South Ossetia for example, I do not see any other way but to respond in accordance with international law,” he said.

The Russian minister sharpened his rhetoric as Kiev's "an anti-terrorist operation" continues in eastern Ukraine, but did not specify whether this refers to the Crimea.

Speaking of amassing troops on the border with Ukraine, Lavrov said that Russian troops did not cross the border and remain on Russian territory.

Lavrov once again accused Washington of wanting to manipulate the situation: “There is no reason not to believe that the Americans are running the show. It’s quite telling they chose the moment of the U.S. vice president's visit to announce the resumption of this operation because the launching of this operation happened immediately after (head of the CIA) John Brennan’s visit to Kiev,” said the Russian official.

“Ukraine is just one manifestation of the American unwillingness to yield in the geopolitical fight. Americans are not ready to admit that they cannot run the show in each and every part of the globe from Washington alone,” said Lavrov, adding Washington’s “ready-made solutions” cannot remedy a crisis that it does not understand.

Before making these statements, Lavrov spoke on the phone with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who asked that Russia "calm its rhetoric". Kerry also told Lavrov that Washington would have to impose additional sanctions against Russia unless tensions in eastern Ukraine calmed down.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Himara Region: AIS Director, Visho Ajazi Lika, reports in the Parliamentary Security Commission of Albania

Ajazi: A new Separatist Movement of "Ukraine case", may constitute the Independence of The Himara Region, by the new territorial division

AIS Director: "In Himara, there are groups that not extremist, that may require separation from Albania"

Albanian secret service, looks like the Albanian separatist movement from the territory, the Himara Region, particularly their discontent for oligarchs looting of property, which may become due to revolts

Tirana. On Tuesday, the Albanian Secret Service chief AIS, Visho Ajazi Lika, spoken a reference for the members of the Parliamentary Security Commission of Albania, which was held behind closed doors.

In a delicate topics of security chief, has been an information about the Himara Region, in which AIS reports that Himara, could threat the national security of the country, because of recent developments in Ukraine, it can stimulate a separatist movement of the Himara Region, especially with the new territorial division of Albania, reports the daily newspaper "Mapo".

According to "Mapo" newspaper, MP Mesila Doda of Democratic Party, has insisted if Himara Region would stand alone in the new administrative division, will it risk of separatism, seeing "domino effect" in Ukraine, the AIS Director, replied that "In Himara, there are groups that  not extremist, that may require separation from Albania, for independence of Himara Region".

 Visho Ajazi Lika, said during the meeting that at the same time, problems of non return of property in Himara Region and its predation by Albanian oligarchy, may constitute an explosion of revolts, which seems to himariotas, which have a historical unity.

But in fact, the Albanian secret service analysts, and rank the Himara Region, a region full of surprises, not only as "a center of nationalism of Northern Epirus", but being stimulated looting property, they have overriding the reason for separatism, after 95 % of the population, have, European and US
citizenship, reports the head of AIS.

Another risk factor breakaway from Himara is the domino effect of events from Ukraine, for whom , himariotas separatists, through the lobby from outside, can create problems for the political stability of Albania.

 The other problems has reported major production and distribution of drugs in Albania, for the which, the head of AIS, said that 337 cases have reported secret information for drugs, for the Albanian police

Ukraine crisis strains family ties in divided Donetsk

Two cousins represent two sides of bitter debate over future of mainly Russian-speaking province
People stand outside the occupied regional administration building in Donetsk. Photograph: Scott Olson/Getty Images
When cousins Alexander and Igor Shilov get together each week to drink beer and play Mortal Kombat, they try to avoid discussing politics.
Alexander, 20, has spent almost every day for the past two weeks volunteering at the occupied Donetsk regional administration, where pro-Russia protesters have declared a "Donetsk People's Republic" and refused to leave the building until they hold a referendum on independence from Kiev.
Igor, 28, calls himself a Ukrainian nationalist and supports Svoboda, the parliamentary party that many here see as a fascist organisation aiming to crack down on Russian speakers in the country's east.
Over pizza and beer one night recently, the cousins began arguing bitterly as soon as talk turned to politics.
"We can't deny that the Donetsk People's Republic is an illegal formation," Igor said.
"We just want independence," Alexander retorted.
"What will independence give us?"
"It's a good decision for us Donetsk residents, economically and otherwise. The Kiev regime also came to power illegally."
In the ensuing hour-long debate, the only kind words the Shilovs shared came when Igor passed Alexander a knife after the younger cousin burned himself on some cheese dripping off a pizza slice.
Three-quarters of the inhabitants of Donetsk province, which is part of the Donbass coal-mining region that stretches into Russia, speak Russian as a native language, and many have a positive view of their larger neighbour thanks to longstanding economic and cultural ties.
But surveys by centres in both Donetsk and Kiev show divided opinions on the region's future, and rival pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian rallies last month ended in clashes, killing one. Political differences have grown sharper in the past two weeks as pro-Russian protesters and militia have taken over government buildings in at least 10 cities in eastern Ukraine, splitting friends and relatives.
A poll by the Kiev International Institute of Sociology found that 46% of those surveyed in eight southern and eastern provinces thought the Euromaidan protests in Kiev that ousted Viktor Yanukovich as president were an "armed coup d'état organised by the opposition with the help of the west".
But 54% thought Russia was "illegally interfering in Ukraine's internal affairs". When asked whether they supported the "actions of those who seize administrative buildings in your region with weapons in hand", 72% of Donetsk residents said no.
In another survey, by the Donetsk Institute for Social Research and Political Analysis, 18.6% of those polled opposed changes to the government structure, 47% wanted federalisation or at least more economic independence from Kiev, 27% wanted to join Russia in some form, and 5% wanted to become an independent country.
Many of Alexander and Igor's disagreements echoed the contrasting narratives peddled by Russian and Ukrainian media, a difference so stark that many here describe it as an information war.

Russia to create united naval base system for ships, subs in Arctic - Putin

Published time: April 22, 2014 13:18
Edited time: April 22, 2014 16:39
The icebreaker, on which the Russian polar explorers traveled to the Arctic to set up a new drifting station SP-40. (RIA Novosti / Anna Yudina)
The icebreaker, on which the Russian polar explorers traveled to the Arctic to set up a new drifting station SP-40. (RIA Novosti / Anna Yudina)
A united system of naval bases for ships and next-generation submarines will be created in the Arctic to defend Russia’s interests in the region, President Vladimir Putin said.
He urged the government to provide full state funding for the socio-economic development of the Russian Arctic through 2017-20.
Putin said that a separate state agency should be created to implement Russian policy in the Arctic and to improve the quality of governance and decision-making in this area.
“We do not need a bulky bureaucratic body, but a flexible operational structure, which will help better coordinate the activities of ministries and departments, regions and businesses,” he said.
At a Russian Security Council meeting Tuesday, the president said that suggested “strengthening of the naval component of the Federal Security Service (FSB) border guard group.”
“At the same time, we should strengthen the military infrastructure. Specifically, I’m referring to the creation of a united system of naval bases for ships and next-generation submarines in our part of the Arctic,” he added.
Putin emphasized that even the smallest aspects of the integrated security system in the Russian Arctic needed attention.

President Vladimir Putin (С) chairs a meeting of the Russian Security Council, at the Kremlin on April 22, 2014. (RIA Novosti / Michael Klimentyev)
President Vladimir Putin (С) chairs a meeting of the Russian Security Council, at the Kremlin on April 22, 2014. (RIA Novosti / Michael Klimentyev)
“All security issues should be thoroughly worked out during multiagency exercises and training sessions, in which the units of the Defense Ministry, Emergencies Ministry and other structures should take part on a regular basis,” Putin said.
“Russian oil and gas production facilities, loading terminals and pipelines in the Arctic must be protected from terrorists and other potential threats,” he added.
"It makes sense to create a body similar in status to the state commission with broad authority, as it was previously done for the Russian Far East," the president said, adding that he would await specific proposals from the government.

Ukraine orders offensive as Biden presses Russia

KIEV, Ukraine — Ukraine's president on Tuesday ordered the country's forces to renew a military operation against pro-Russian militants in East Ukraine after the killing of two men and a shooting at a plane.
President Oleksandr Turchynov said one of the victims was Vladimir Rybak, a delegate in local parliament in East Ukraine who was a member of the president's political party.
"The terrorists who basically have taken the entire Donetsk region hostage have crossed the line with torturing and killing Ukrainian patriots," Turchynov said.
Turchynov blamed the deaths on Russian forces he says have infiltrated East Ukraine to promote unrest as a pretext for an invasion by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The bodies were found near the city of Slovyansk, where pro-Russian militants have been taking over government buildings and demanding a referendum on joining Russia, as happened in the province of Crimea last month.
Mayors hand police officers have reported they they too have been kidnapped and forced to resign office. A Ukrainian military reconnaissance plane took small arms fire and was damaged while flying over the city of Slovyansk.
Ukraine had agreed to suspend a military operation against the militants after Western and Russian diplomats last week including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement that all sides should disarm. Turchynov said only Ukraine government has abided by the truce.
"Both Russia and its terrorist units that are defiantly present in Ukraine haven't implemented the agreements made in Geneva," Turchynov said, referring to the well-armed and masked soldiers at the occupied buildings who are believed to be Russian troops.
Russia's Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov refused to comment on the fact that those it supports have refused to surrender their arms. He instead claimed that Ukraine's refusal to break up peaceful protests in the capital of Kiev means it has not complied with the Geneva agreement.
The violence comes on a day that as Vice President Biden arrived in Kiev to show support for the government and to tell Moscow, "It's time to stop talking and start acting."
Standing next to Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Biden said Russia must urge pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine to end its takeover of government buildings and "address their grievances politically" rather than with force.
Biden said Russia needs to act "without delay," adding, "we will not allow this to become an open-ended process."
Pro-Russian Ukrainians in at least eight cities have taken over government offices in an attempt to force a referendum on whether to secede and join Russia. Militants did the same in the Ukraine province of Crimea, which Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed despite warnings from the White House not to do so.
Turchynov told Biden that Russia is using the same playbook in eastern Ukraine as it did in Crimea, infiltrating cities with its special forces to direct militants on how to challenge the Ukraine government.
PUTIN: Getting his way with subterfuge
In East Ukraine, militants repeated that they were not a party to the diplomatic talks in Geneva and not bound by it.
"No one will make us vacate this building," said Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, leader of the pro-Russian protesters in the eastern city of Slovyansk, where three pro-Russian protesters were shot and killed over the weekend.
Ukrainians say the Geneva agreement appears to be a farce that means nothing.
"I don't see any chance that the protesters will vacate the buildings and surrender," said Oksana Makarenko, who lives in Donetsk, the center of the troubled eastern region.
"They obviously don't recognize the government in Kiev and there is no way they will obey the agreement that the government participated in signing. The government and international community will have to come up with something else."
The mood in East Ukraine was tense Tuesday as several hundred supporters of the pro-Russian protests attended the funeral of the three civilians who died in the attack on a checkpoint.
Russian state television is saying the killers were Ukraine extremists who hate Russians, but provided little evidence of it. Putin had invaded Crimea after saying he had to protect ethnic Russians there, though it was ethnic Russians who had taken over buildings and attacked Ukrainian military posts. Ukraine believes Putin may use the same pretext to invade eastern Ukraine.
Meantime, pro-Russian militants kidnapped the police chief in the eastern city of Kramatorsk, just outside Slovyansk.
Biden said that the U.S. will never recognize Russia's occupation of Crimea, which has been called illegal by the international community. He said the White House will offer Ukraine a $50 million aid package to weather a tough financial situation.
Washington wants the funds to be used for political and economic reforms in a country that has long suffered from perceptions about the abuse of power.
Biden said that a separate financial aid package due from the International Monetary Fund worth up to $18 billion will soon also be finalized.
"The opportunity to generate a united Ukraine and getting it right is within your grasp. And we want to be your partner and friend in the project. We're ready to assist," Biden told the Ukraine parliament.
Critics of the Obama administration's handling of the Ukraine crisis say Ukraine needs military backing, not financial aid, to survive Russia's threat. John Bolton, former ambassador to the U.N. under President George W. Bush, said President Obama should offer a "clear path" for Ukraine to join NATO, the European-U.S. military alliance.
"It makes eminent good sense and I think that would be an enormous deterrent to Russian adventurism," Bolton told Fox News.
Enel applies to explore for oil and gas in Greece

Italy’s Enel has sought permission to explore for oil and gas in Greece, the Greek government said on Tuesday.
Enel has expressed interest in three onshore areas in the western part of the country, Greece’s Energy Ministry said, adding it would duly decide on the Italian company’s application.

If permission is granted, Athens will give other oil firms at least 90 days time to submit rival offers for the same areas.

Back in 2001, oil companies including Hungary’s MOL and Greece’s Hellenic Petroleum searched in vain for oil in two of the blocs Enel is currently considering.

“Enel Group’s decision... is a vote of confidence in our great national effort to exploit our mineral wealth,” Energy Minister Yiannis Maniatis said in a statement.

Encouraged by big gas finds in offshore areas of Cyprus and Israel that are relatively nearby, cash-strapped Greece has been wooing oil companies to explore and develop its own hydrocarbon potential.

Athens imports almost all its oil and natural gas and spent 15.6 billion euros on fuel imports last year, about 8.6 percent of its gross domestic product.

Greece is separately about to sign exploration concessions for two other western areas with Energean Oil & Gas, the country’s only oil producer in which US hedge fund Third Point LLC holds a 44.5 percent stake.

Athens also plans to invite international investors later this year to conduct offshore test drills in its western and southern waters following the completion of seismic tests there.
Albania: "Parliamentary Investigation for Secret Service"

Parliamentary Investigation for Secret Service
Visho Ajazi Lika, Head of the Secret Service, and now with an updated security certification, arrived at the Parliamentary Security Commission on time, but didn’t find any of the Commission’s members.

He returned after 30 minutes to answer to a number of questions for more than four hours and a half. The questions were about the annual report of the Secret Service for 2013.

The debates between the majority Parliament Members and the Secret Service Director focused on the information regarding the explosive attacks. The Director declared that the explosions in January 2014, found the Secret Service unprepared.

The majority Parliament Members were not satisfied with his answers, and for this reason they will organize a Parliamentary inspection of the Secret Service.

“The Commission will review and decide tomorrow about a Parliamentary inspection of the Secret Service by a group of Parliament Members appointed by the Commission”, declared the Chairman of the Parliamentary Commission of Security, Spartak Braho.

The tense climate inside the Commission was reflected in the declaration of its secretary, Pirro Luto:

“During his report and the discussion with the commission we noted some problems, and we still stand to the facts that things are not going well at the Secret Service”, declared Pirro Luto, Secretary of the Security Commission.

The vice chairman of the Commission, the Democratic Party Parliament Member, Flamur Noka, gave details about what Visho Ajazi Lika declared in front of the Commission.

“This report brought detailed information with figures about the lies of the Interior Minister. The most important thing is that the Minister was found to be a liar regarding the accusations he made to the Service. He said that the Secret Service didn’t inform him about the explosives. There are 317 pieces of information given only for four months, all regarding criminal groups who deal with the mine traffic”, Noka declared.

The Chairman of this Commission, Spartak Braho, declared in a phone conversation with Top Channel that the report of the Secret Service was very necessary and planned by the National Security Commission. It affected the entire activity and problematic of this institution and that is related to the National Security. For the importance and secret nature of this report, they decided to keep it behind closed doors.

Top Channel asked Mr.Braho about the declarations of Flamur Noka, who confirmed some details that could be considered secret.

“The speculative declarations in the media is something not ethical and not serious, and a serious violation of the state secrecy. Noka will be held accountable for this violation”, Braho declared.

Priština official declares he'll "demolish church"

PRIŠTINA -- A recent statement by a member of the government in Priština concerning plans to demolish a Serbian Orthodox church in that town has caused reactions.
The Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) Eparchy of Raška and Prizren called on Tuesday Dardan Gashi's pronouncement "an open provocation."
The Kosovo Albanian official, in charge of spatial planning, was on Monday quoted as saying by the Priština website Telegrafi that the Church of Christ the Savior that is still under construction was being built illegally. The website ran the article under the headline, "I will demolish the Church of St. Nicholas."

The eparchy said in a statement that it had secured all the necessary paperwork for the construction, and that claims about the structure being built illegally were false. Noting that Gashi "did not even know the name of the church" in question, the eparchy accused him of wanting to damage inter-ethnic and inter-religious relations in Kosovo and Metohija, "and precisely during the greatest Christian holiday, Easter."

It further said that Gashi's statement can only be interpreted as an attempt to commit ethnic and religious discrimination, "in the service of the upcoming elections in Kosovo."

The eparchy stressed that the SPC was recently informed "directly from the very top of the Kosovo government" that they supported the building of the church, and that international representatives in Kosovo had been informed of this.

According to the eparchy, Gashi previously, "due to his inappropriate statements to the media and attempts to politicize issues related to cultural heritage" blocked the work of a mixed commision set up to implement protected zones, and noted that the commission was co-chaired by "EU's special representative for the Serb Orthodox heritage."

Russia Displays a New Military Prowess in Ukraine’s East

Armed men outside an administrative building in Slovyansk, Ukraine. American officials say Russian troops or pro-Russian separatists under Moscow’s influence control such buildings. Credit Genya Savilov/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
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WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John Kerry has accused Russia of behaving in a “19th-century fashion” because of its annexation of Crimea.
But Western experts who have followed the success of Russian forces in carrying out President Vladimir V. Putin’s policy in Crimea and eastern Ukraine have come to a different conclusion about Russian military strategy. They see a military disparaged for its decline since the fall of the Soviet Union skillfully employing 21st-century tactics that combine cyberwarfare, an energetic information campaign and the use of highly trained special operation troops to seize the initiative from the West.
“It is a significant shift in how Russian ground forces approach a problem,” said James G. Stavridis, the retired admiral and former NATO commander. “They have played their hand of cards with finesse.”
The abilities the Russian military has displayed are not only important to the high-stakes drama in Ukraine, they also have implications for the security of Moldova, Georgia, Central Asian nations and even the Central Europe nations that are members of NATO.
The dexterity with which the Russians have operated in Ukraine is a far cry from the bludgeoning artillery, airstrikes and surface-to-surface missiles used to retake Grozny, the Chechen capital, from Chechen separatists in 2000. In that conflict, the notion of avoiding collateral damage to civilians and civilian infrastructure appeared to be alien.
Since then Russia has sought to develop more effective ways of projecting power in the “near abroad,” the non-Russian nations that emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union. It has tried to upgrade its military, giving priority to its special forces, airborne and naval infantry — “rapid reaction” abilities that were “road tested” in Crimea, according to Roger McDermott, a senior fellow at the Jamestown Foundation.
The speedy success that Russia had in Crimea does not mean that the overall quality of the Russian Army, made up mainly of conscripts and no match for the high-tech American military, has been transformed.
“The operation reveals very little about the current condition of the Russian armed forces,” said Mr. McDermott. “Its real strength lay in covert action combined with sound intelligence concerning the weakness of the Kiev government and their will to respond militarily.”
Still, Russia’s operations in Ukraine have been a swift meshing of hard and soft power. The Obama administration, which once held out hope that Mr. Putin would seek an “off ramp” from the pursuit of Crimea, has repeatedly been forced to play catch-up after the Kremlin changed what was happening on the ground.
“It is much more sophisticated, and it reflects the evolution of the Russian military and of Russian training and thinking about operations and strategy over the years,” said Stephen J. Blank, a former expert on the Russian military at the United States Army War College who is a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council.
For its intervention in Crimea, the Russians used a so-called snap military exercise to distract attention and hide their preparations. Then specially trained troops, without identifying patches, moved quickly to secure key installations. Once the operation was underway, the Russian force cut telephone cables, jammed communications and used cyberwarfare to cut off the Ukrainian military forces on the peninsula.

“They disconnected the Ukrainian forces in Crimea from their command and control,” the NATO commander, Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, said in a recent interview.
As it cemented control, the Kremlin has employed an unrelenting media campaign to reinforce its narrative that a Russian-abetted intervention had been needed to rescue the Russian-speaking population from right-wing extremists and chaos.
No sooner had the Obama administration demanded that Russia pull back from Crimea than the Kremlin raised the stakes by massing about 40,000 troops near Ukraine’s eastern frontier.
Soon, the Russians were sending small, well-equipped teams across the Ukrainian border to seize government buildings that could be turned over to sympathizers and local militias, American officials said. Police stations and Interior Ministry buildings, which stored arms that could be turned over to local supporters, were targeted.
“Because they have some local support they can keep leveraging a very small cadre of very good fighters and move forward,” said Daniel Goure, an expert on the Russian military at the Lexington Institute, a policy research group.
While the Kremlin retains the option of mounting a large-scale intervention in eastern Ukraine, the immediate purposes of the air and ground forces massed near Ukraine appears to be to deter the Ukrainian military from cracking down in the east and to dissuade the United States from providing substantial military support.
The Kremlin has used its military deployment to buttress its diplomatic strategy of insisting on an extensive degree of federalism in Ukraine, one in which the eastern provinces would be largely autonomous and under Moscow’s influence.
And as Russians have flexed their muscles, the White House appears to have refocused its demands. Crimea barely figured in the talks in Geneva that involved Mr. Kerry and his counterparts from Russia, Ukraine and the European Union.
The Obama administration’s urgent goal is to persuade the Kremlin to relinquish control over the government buildings in eastern Ukraine that the American officials insist have been held by small teams of Russian troops or pro-Russian separatists under Moscow’s influence. Despite the focus on the combustible situation in eastern Ukraine, the joint statement the diplomats issued in Geneva did not even mention the presence of Russia’s 40,000 troops near the border, which President Obama has urged be withdrawn.
Military experts say that the sort of strategy the Kremlin has employed in Ukraine is likely to work best in areas in which there are pockets of ethnic Russians to provide local support. The strategy is also easier to carry out if it is done close to Russian territory, where a large and intimidating force can be assembled and the Russian military can easily supply special forces.
“It can be used in the whole former Soviet space,” said Chris Donnelly, a former top adviser at NATO, who added that Georgia, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan and the Central Asia states were “very vulnerable.”
“The Baltic States are much less vulnerable, but there will still be pressure on them and there will on Poland and Central Europe,” Mr. Donnelly added.
Admiral Stavridis agreed that Russia’s strategy would be most effective when employed against a nation with a large number of sympathizers. But he said that Russia’s deft use of cyberwarfare, special forces and conventional troops was a development that NATO needed to study and factor into its planning.
“In all of those areas they have raised their game, and they have integrated them quite capably,” he said. “And I think that has utility no matter where you are operating in the world.”