Archive for March, 2008

Russian threats

March 1, 2008

From the Associated Press:

MOSCOW: President Vladimir Putin on Friday issued a sharp warning to the West about the consequences of recognizing Kosovo’s independence, saying the decision would “come back to knock them on the head.”

The comments, made during an informal meeting of leaders from ex-Soviet republics, were the strongest by the Russian leader since Sunday when Kosovo made its declaration of independence from Serbia.

They followed statements made earlier Friday by Russia’s envoy to NATO, who warned the alliance against overstepping its mandate in Kosovo and said Moscow might be forced to use “brute military force” to maintain respect on the world scene.

Putin used the meeting of presidents from the Commonwealth of Independent States — a loose, Russian dominated organization of former Soviet states — to harshly lambast Western nations that have recognized Kosovo’s independence. Among them are the United States, Britain, Germany and France.

“The Kosovo precedent is a terrifying precedent. It in essence is breaking open the entire system of international relations that have prevailed not just for decades but for centuries. And it without a doubt will bring on itself an entire chain of unforeseen consequences,” he said in televised comments.

Those who have recognized Kosovo “are miscalculating what they are doing. In the end, this is a stick with two ends and that other end will come back to knock them on the head someday,” he said.

From the International Herald Tribune:

PARIS: Why is NATO inviting Vladimir Putin as a guest-intruder to its summit meeting in Bucharest this April?

It’s not as if Putin, up close and personal, could make himself any clearer on Russia’s opposition to a U.S. missile shield in Europe, independence for Kosovo, and expanding NATO’s membership, all the while insisting on what, so far, is his view of the peaceful intentions of Iran’s nuclear drive.
Take this most recent two-week slice out of the reign of Vladimir I while he switches sovereign titles (can you bear the suspense of that presidential election without him Sunday?) from chief of state to prime minister:

On Feb. 12, the same day he accepted NATO’s invitation, Putin warned Ukraine that it could become a target of Russia’s nuclear missiles if it joined the alliance. Last Friday, his official onlooker at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Dmitri Rogozin, struck the same compliant note.

If NATO “breaches its mandate” in Kosovo, Rogozin said, or if the European Union reaches a unified position on the issue – subtext: don’t you dare – then, “We too would have to proceed from the view that in order to be respected we must use brute force, in other words, armed force.”

According to David Kramer, who’s in charge of the State Department’s Russian affairs section, Russia does not want a military confrontation on Kosovo and won’t send troops to bolster its ally in Serbia. But Moscow, he says, does want to demonstrate its power to the world and stoked the mood leading to the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade.

So why the invitation to Putin? Because it’s a yearly practice that’s been going on since the creation in 2002 of a NATO-Russia Council. Over the years, Putin never said yes.

Now, for the first time, Putin has accepted the invitation, and NATO is stuck with a convention that no longer fits Russia’s increasingly aggressive tone and its threats to the alliance’s members, or those who would join it.

Putin is coupling his trip to Bucharest on April 2-4 with a proposal to George W. Bush that he fly on afterwards to Sochi on the Black Sea for one-on-one conversations. The White House has not publicly acknowledged the invitation nor made known its response.

Sure, it’s wise and reasonable to keep talking to your antagonists even if they’ve resumed sending bomber patrols, Cold War-style, to Iceland or over a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Sea of Japan.

By Domitilla Sagramoso, from International Affairs:


The violence in the North Caucasus has undergone a significant evolution over
the past decade, as a separatist and nationalist movement based in the republic of
Chechnya has turned into a network of extremist Islamic jihadists, which has taken
root in many of the other Muslim republics of the region. Although Chechnya
provided an ideological and logistic basis for the development of such networks
in the early 2000s, today local jihadist jamaats are not always part of the Chechen
rebel movement. They respond to local grievances and circumstances, and are
able to operate more autonomously, although they all remain interconnected and
linked to Chechen fi ghters. The drivers behind the violence are hard to elucidate,
and result from a complex mix of factors, all of which play a part in radicalizing
young individuals in the region. The poor prevailing socio-economic and political
conditions create the necessary framework for radical groups to emerge. Although
these conditions do not themselves produce violence, they remain relevant as
they provide the negative background against which people in the region rebel.
The authoritarian and clientelistic nature of the regimes in place in the North
Caucasus region, as well as the limited economic prospects of the vast majority
of the population, have encouraged individuals to turn to violence in an attempt
to modify the existing structures of governance, and in some cases to introduce
an Islamic state. In the absence of any legal, peaceful alternative, violence is seen
by some as the only option left available in order to modify the existing sociopolitical

The illegitimacy of many of the North Caucasian regimes, and their inability to
respond to the demands of society, have created a signifi cant void which has been
filled by Islamic groups and organizations. The disorientation that was experienced
by societies in the region after the collapse of the communist system, and the
search for new identities which accompanied that process, led many in the region
to turn to Islam as an answer to their queries. The spread of radical Islamic ideals
was facilitated not only by various exchanges with the Muslim world, but also
by the limited knowledge that existed about Islam in the region, which provided
fertile ground for the spread of Salafi ideas. These ideas proved attractive not only

because of their egalitarian nature, but also because they went against the existing
traditional structures of society. The radicalization of Islam and the recourse to
violence, however, were not just the product of the indoctrination of young
individuals in the North Caucasus with Salafi radical ideologies. These developments
were facilitated by the Chechen war, and the radicalization of the Chechen
separatist movement. Chechnya provided an initial network of support for the
emergence of radical jamaats, especially in Ingushetia and Kabardino-Balkaria. On
a more individual basis, however, the repressive measures taken against individuals
by law enforcement structures provoked young men and women into joining these
violent groups in order to avenge themselves.

Russia has withdrawn from the Conventional Forces Treaty, which binds the United States, Canada, and 28 European states, though this appears to be a bad time for the Russian military.

Russia’s top general, Yury Baluyevsky, is threatening to use nuclear weapons against NATO members without provocation, and Russian bombers are test-firing missiles in the Atlantic, just off Alaska.

Imminent nuclear war by Russia against all of NATO may seem unlikely, but America needs to defend and extend its space defenses, and to destroy the Yamantau and Kosvinsky bunkers in the event of nuclear war.

It is doubtful Russia would accept the loss of its Adriatic proxy and the accompanying loss of face. Will Russia be drawn into a protracted war (as in Afghanistan) with (Balkan) jihadists, this time while it is struggling to put down the cancerous jihads of the North Caucasus, will it succeed in intimidating NATO and the UN, or will it use the nuclear option?