The News And Times

This is all actually going very badly for Vladimir Putin. – Selected Articles – 2.3.22


This is all actually going very badly for Vladimir Putin.

1 Share
So far, the Ukrainian crisis is going very badly for Vladimir Putin.
Yes, the Russian president has arrayed roughly 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s border—enough to mount a major invasion, if that’s what he wants to do. But threatening Ukraine is only a means to Putin’s main strategic goals, which are a) to carve out a “sphere of influence” that as much as possible recreates the old Russian (or Soviet) empire,  b) to deepen the politico-economic fissures within the European Union, and c) to drive a wedge between the United States and its NATO allies.
And yet his military gambit has accomplished the opposite. The overt threat to Ukraine has rallied the European nations around a common menace, revitalized NATO’s original mission to deter and contain Russian expansion, and thus bonded the European allies to the United States (the prime guarantor of their security) more tightly than any time since the end of the Cold War.
Putin had reason to believe things would go otherwise. He saw President Biden touting the Quad—the shiny new alliance of the U.S., Japan, India, and Australia, which would unify the Asian and Pacific allies and fend off a rising China—and may have figured that NATO had receded in importance. He also watched Biden bug out of Afghanistan, and while he may have sympathized with the move (his beloved Soviet Union was among those entombed in that graveyard of empires), he no doubt noticed the withdrawal’s rushed incompetence and the concern, if not panic, that it roused among U.S. allies. Meanwhile, the UK was out on its post-Brexit own; Angela Merkel had retired as Germany’s chancellor, leaving NATO’s largest, richest country in momentary flux; and French President Emmanuel Macron was seeking to take her place as the continent’s leader with a vision of Europe’s “strategic autonomy” from Washington.
Who knows whether all this was passing through Putin’s mind, but objectively it must have seemed a good time to make a move—especially since the pesky Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, was drifting ever further to the west, renewing his request for NATO membership, and U.S. officials were indulging him, saying they’d invite him in the club someday. Meanwhile, the U.S. was supplying Ukraine’s soldiers with weapons and sending American soldiers as trainers, along with corps of special forces and CIA agents, who were up to who knows what mischief.
From Putin’s viewpoint, the combination of threat and opportunity could only have seemed alluring. In 2014, he’d annexed Crimea and mounted armed incursions into eastern Ukraine—prompting some consequences (economic sanctions, expulsion from the G8, and other inconveniences) but nothing dreadful. Why should this time be any different?
So, starting in November (perhaps earlier), he moved dozens of tank battalions, rockets, infantry fighting vehicles, and tens of thousands of the troops to go with them, toward the border of Ukraine. We do not know whether he planned to invade or merely use the threat of an invasion to force concessions on his demands for NATO—to stop expanding its membership eastward and for the American military to roll back its presence in areas once held by the Soviet Union.
He may have figured that, even if Biden raised a fuss, the Europeans would be split. Some, including Germany, would be fearful of alienating Moscow, lest oil and gas supplies be cut off just as the winter temperatures were plunging. Certainly they wouldn’t risk hardship for the sake of Ukraine, which few Europeans wanted as a fellow NATO member and which most understood was of special importance to Russia.
In other words, Putin may well have expected resistance to fold before it mounted—compelling Zelensky to succumb to Moscow’s pressure without having to fire a shot.
But it didn’t turn out that way. Putin’s moves were too blunt, and his denials of any unusual activity were too blatant. Then came another surprising twist: Biden and his diplomats, who had made missteps in other realms, suddenly turned super-competent. Biden was comfortable with trans-Atlantic matters; NATO had been the centerpiece of U.S. foreign policy during his decades on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and as vice president. Secretary of State Antony Blinken had been at his side, as top staffer, for many of those years. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman had eked results at the toughest negotiating tables. Their efforts held together the 30-state NATO alliance in opposing Moscow’s moves and threatening firm action in response to any further invasion of Ukraine’s territory.
Whatever Putin winds up doing, his plan of driving the NATO allies apart and reducing the U.S. presence near Russia’s borders failed. In fact, Washington has put 8,500 more troops on high alert for deployment to Poland and Estonia, to shore up the eastern flanks of NATO. Poland and Britain have announced a “trilateral security pact” with Ukraine, and, though no one knows quite what it means, the two countries are in the meantime redoubling their recent arms shipments to Kyiv. Sweden and Finland, Russia’s thoroughly western neighbors, which have stayed militarily neutral for all these decades, are now mulling the prospect of joining NATO.
So what will Putin do now? The troops and tanks poised on the border are reportedly capable of overrunning the Ukrainian army, which, though much improved in recent years, would still be profoundly outmatched. But the Russian army has never been very good at maintaining supply lines. That would be a problem if they have to occupy a stretch of Ukrainian land, especially in cities. And they would be met not only by regular troops but civilian resistance fighters, who—officials have warned—will be aided by U.S. and NATO arms, logistics, and intelligence.
In Putin’s 22 years as either president or prime minister, his military moves have been cautious and limited. His annexation of Crimea was bloodless; not a shot was fired. (Most Crimeans viewed themselves as Russian anyway.) His incursion into eastern Ukraine was mainly to assist ethnic-Russian separatists; Kremlin officials continue to deny that Russian soldiers ever crossed the border, though an estimated 500 of them have died in the eight-year-old war. (More than 14,000 Ukrainians have died.) His invasion of Georgia took less than a week. The one time he sent ground forces to Syria, they were routed in an armed confrontation with U.S. troops; since then, he has assisted Bashir Assad’s regime almost entirely with air power.
If he did invade Ukraine, it would be not only the largest battle in Europe—but also by far the most complex military operation Russia has undertaken anywhere—since World War II. And the Russian boys returning home in body bags would have died not for the homeland, as they did fighting Nazis, but while trying conquer a neighboring country.
Finally, if the U.S. does impose the severe sanctions that Biden has considered—including barring major banks and individual oligarchs from transactions in dollars, as well as banning the import of U.S. parts (which would gut Russia’s high-tech industries)—the masses and elites may start growling at Putin’s “harebrained schemes” (the epithet that the Kremlin’s commissars pronounced when they ousted Nikita Khrushchev for instigating the Cuban missile crisis, which ended in defeat and roused the U.S. to mount a crash buildup in nuclear arms).
Then again, if Russian tanks roll across the border, NATO’s much-touted unity may fall apart. If Putin responds to sanctions by cutting off oil and natural gas to Europe, Germany—which is particularly dependent on Russia for energy supplies—may fold. (It has already blocked Estonia from re-selling German arms to Ukraine and barred British planes carrying arms for Ukraine from flying across German airspace.) Many Russian oligarchs spend a lot of money on real estate in London; if they can no longer pay mortgages or property taxes, British businesses and Boris Johnson—or whoever succeeds him as prime minister—may lose patience as well.
Biden probably knows that broad expressions of unanimity tend to waver when blood starts to flow and money dries up, which is why he and the other Western leaders would prefer a diplomatic settlement as soon as possible. Nobody knows what Putin prefers. If he’s looking for an exit ramp off this highway to catastrophe, the question is how to get him to take it while giving him a way to save face. Simply backing him into a corner would probably push him to double down.
At his press conference on Tuesday with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Korban, Putin—who, until then, hadn’t spoken a word in public about the Ukraine crisis since December—hinted at a possible way out. Mainly, he put on a pessimistic pose, complaining that Washington has ignored his main demand, a permanent ban on Ukraine’s entrance into NATO. (Korban assisted him by taking Putin’s side in the conflict—the first, utterly predictable NATO member to jump off the alliance bandwagon.)
However, Putin also made two remarks that might—might—shine a thin ray of hope on the gloomy landscape. First, he said that he had not yet responded to the letter Biden wrote last week in reply to Putin’s demands. In other words, diplomacy has not hit a dead end.
Second, he referred to (without mentioning their names) a few East-West agreements signed over the years—the 1975 Helsinki Final Act, the 1990 Charter of Paris, and the 1999 Istanbul Declaration—which U.S. officials have also referred to. The Americans have noted that these accords allow all countries to choose their own defense alliances, meaning that Russia has no right to dictate whether Ukraine can be a member of NATO. Putin noted that these same accords also say that no country can increase its security while threatening the security of others. Putin considers the further expansion of NATO, to include Ukraine, as a threat to Russian security.
One can imagine Biden acknowledging Putin’s point and calling for negotiations to begin on shaping 21st-century European security in a way that protects the interests of all parties—including Russia. As a first step, Biden could propose that Russia withdraw at least some of those troops and tanks from the Ukrainian border. In return, the U.S. might suspend military activities in Ukraine and, for the moment, elsewhere in Eastern Europe. Naval exercises in the Black Sea could also be halted while the talks go on. International inspectors could monitor all these movements and suspensions. Russians could inspect missile-defense sites in Eastern Europe, to verify that they cannot be used to support offensive missiles, as Russians say they believe.

 

The point—the most that can be done for the moment—would be to de-escalate the tensions, make all military activities more transparent, and reduce the chance of miscalculations that could lead to war. And, at some juncture, Biden needs to find some way to assure Putin—sometime after thousands of tank turrets are no longer aimed at Ukrainian heads—that Ukraine is not going to join NATO any time soon. It’s not going to happen for the foreseeable future; it shouldn’t be a cause of war.
Meanwhile, Putin is going to Beijing for the Olympics. He won’t draw attention from the grand spectacle put on by Chinese President Xi Jinping—who, as of late, has geopolitically speaking become his new best friend—by invading Ukraine. So for the next two weeks, war is very unlikely. Biden and NATO should use the opportunity to keep up the show of unity but turn down the heat—quietly prod Putin’s intentions by offering a path to a diplomatic solution. This venture may be playing out poorly for Putin so far, but if it escalates, it could become a disaster for everyone.

Putin: The West has ignored Russian security concerns on NATO, Ukraine

1 Share
Key Points
  • Putin was speaking at a press conference following talks with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, with whom Putin shares friendly ties, in Moscow on Tuesday.
  • It’s the first time that Putin has commented publicly about the geopolitical crisis with Ukraine in weeks.
  • There has been a flurry of diplomatic meetings, calls and written exchanges between Russian and Western officials in recent weeks, and this week, between President Putin and European leaders.
President Vladimir Putin believes Western nations are ignoring key Russian security concerns, following the U.S.′ refusal last week to concede to Moscow’s demands over Ukraine and NATO.
“It’s already clear now … that fundamental Russian concerns were ignored,” Putin said at a press conference Wednesday, according to a Reuters translation.
His comments followed talks with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, with whom Putin shares friendly ties, in Moscow.
It’s the first time that Putin has commented publicly about the geopolitical crisis in weeks, despite a flurry of diplomatic meetings and calls between Russian and Western officials.
While over 100,000 Russian troops remain stationed at various points along Russia’s border with Ukraine, there remains heightened concerns that Putin could be poised to give his troops a greenlight to invade Ukraine.
Russia has denied it is planning an invasion of Ukraine but trust in Russia’s word has been low ever since it annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, and supported pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. Political analysts believe that Russia wants to maintain its sphere of influence and power over former Soviet states and to stop Ukraine’s gravitation toward the West.
Russia has insisted that it just wants to protect its security interests, particularly in the face of an expanded NATO that has deployed military hardware to eastern Europe. On the build-up of troops along its border with Ukraine, Putin has previously insisted late last year that Russia has a right to move its troops wherever it likes within its territory. The Kremlin has accused the West of stirring up “hysteria” over Ukraine.
Russia has made a series of security proposals to the U.S., including that NATO does not expand further to the east or admit Ukraine to the military alliance.
Last week, the U.S. responded to those demands, refusing to accept Russia’s key proposals over Ukraine and NATO. Still, it signaled a willingness to continue discussions aimed at calming tensions, and said there could be room for compromise in some areas potentially.
On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was due to speak to Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Russia’s official response to the U.S. remains unknown, at this point, although it has reportedly delivered a written response to the U.S.

Russian Foreign Ministry published Lavrov’s message to colleagues from the US, Canada and other countries on the indivisibility of security

1 Share
 
Save this story
Russian Foreign Ministry published Lavrov’s message to colleagues from the US, Canada and other countries on the indivisibility of security

22:02 01.02.2022
As follows from the message, “the meaning of the agreements on the indivisibility of security lies in the fact that security is either one for all, or it does not exist for anyone.”
Russian Foreign Ministry published Lavrov's message to colleagues from the US, Canada and other countries on the indivisibility of security
© Photo: Alexey Ivanov TRK Zvezda
Read us on:   
The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has published the text of a message from Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to colleagues from the United States, Canada and other countries on the subject of the indivisibility of security. The message was sent to the ministers on 28 January.

“You are well aware that Russia is seriously concerned about the growth of military-political tension in the immediate vicinity of its western borders. In order to prevent further escalation, on December 15, 2021, the Russian side submitted drafts of two interrelated international legal documents – the Treaty between Russia and the United States on security guarantees and the Agreement on measures to ensure the security of Russia and the member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization,” the letter says. published on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.

In particular, Lavrov stressed that Western representatives carefully avoid mentioning the Charter for European Security and the Astana Declaration when commenting on their readiness to develop a dialogue on a security architecture in Europe. The Minister called this manifestation indicative.

“It won’t work like that. The meaning of the agreements on the indivisibility of security lies in the fact that security is either one for all, or there is none for anyone. And, as stipulated in the Istanbul Charter, every OSCE participating State has an equal right to security, not just NATO members, who interpret this right as referring exclusively to members of the North Atlantic “exclusive” club,” Lavrov added.

Recall that the Russian Foreign Ministry revealed the details of the conversation between the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Sergei Lavrov, and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. In particular, Lavrov and Blinken exchanged views on the provision of legal guarantees to ensure the security of the Russian Federation in the light of the written response submitted by the US and NATO to the relevant draft international legal agreements submitted to them earlier. 

Mavka Slavka 🧜‍♀️ @MavkaSlavka

Michael Novakhov retweeted:
How Russian troops have surrounded Ukraine.
And Putin’s Russia is the one feeling threatened?

FKgPFRGVUAASc0u.jpg:large As U.S. and Russia argue, war is already a reality for many Ukrainians

ukraine-trenches-front-line.jpg
Moscow and Washington disagree on everything from which side is the aggressor, to who has responded to who, but in eastern Ukraine, the question isn’t when war will start, but if it will ever end.
U.S. Orders Families of Embassy Staff to Leave Belarus

01ukraine-briefing-belarus-facebookJumbo
Washington cited “an increase in unusual and concerning Russian military activity near the border with Ukraine.”

Why should Americans care about Ukraine? The answer is simple – ideastream

Why should Americans care about Ukraine? The answer is simple  ideastream
5 things to know for February 1: Capitol riot, Ukraine, Covid, Boris Johnson, Brazil – CNN

5 things to know for February 1: Capitol riot, Ukraine, Covid, Boris Johnson, Brazil  CNN

Ukraine Russia crisis: Kremlin says there was a ‘mix-up’ in its response to US

1 Share

State Department officials

confirmed Monday

 they had “received a written followup from Russia” to a document of proposals the US sent to the Kremlin last week on how to defuse tensions and pave the way for further security talks in response to Russia’s demands on security .

On Tuesday, however, the Kremlin said that Russia had not yet sent its “main reply” to the US. “There was a mix-up,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said in a conference call. “It [the Russian correspondence] regarded a different matter. The main reply on this issue hasn’t been handed over, it’s still being prepared.”
The world might yet get a rare glimpse of Vladimir Putin’s thinking on the tensions later on Tuesday. The Russian President is expected to make an appearance in front of the press in Moscow after meeting the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
Diplomats from the US, Russia, Ukraine, NATO and the European Union have been engaged in a flurry of diplomatic activity in recent weeks. On Tuesday, there is also a planned phone call between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, while UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will meet Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Putin himself has so far remained tight-lipped,

making scant public remarks

 about the crisis, but the news conference following the meeting with Orban may offer some insight.

Hungary is a member of both NATO and the European Union, but Orban has cultivated a close relationship with the Russian President. In the past, the Hungarian government has sometimes sided with Russia over Ukraine. In 2019, Budapest vetoed a joint declaration of NATO ambassadors on Ukraine, effectively blocking Ukraine’s attempts at a closer cooperation with the alliance.

However, as tension have risen in recent weeks, Hungary, which shares a border with Ukraine, said it was in discussions with the US about the possibility of accepting around

1,000 US and allied troops into Hungary

.

Meanwhile, Blinken is expected to speak with Lavrov on Tuesday, according to a State Department spokesperson.
This call comes on the heels of a heated exchange between the US and Russian ambassadors to the United Nations during a Security Council meeting Monday, with the US saying Russia didn’t give the answers they hoped for and Russia accusing Western UN colleagues of “whipping up tensions and rhetoric.”

Build-up of troops continues

While the US and its allies continue to pressure Russia to de-escalate the situation, floating the idea of new sanctions and boosting their presence in Eastern Europe, the Pentagon said Russia has continued the buildup of forces around its border with Ukraine.
Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said Monday that additional Russian troops moved “in again around Belarus and around the border with Ukraine” over the weekend, adding that Russia was also increasing its “naval activity in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.”
“They have put to sea more ships, they are exercising at sea, they are clearly increasing the capabilities they have at sea, should they need it,” Kirby said. Both the added ground troops in Belarus and near the Ukrainian border as well as the Russian fleet vessels at sea are creating “options available to Mr. Putin,” Kirby said.
Wider diplomatic efforts will also continue on Tuesday with a series of meetings involving Ukraine officials.
UK Prime Minister Johnson was traveling to Kyiv Tuesday for talks with President Zelensky. In the runup to the meeting, Johnson announced £88 million ($118 million) in new funding for Ukraine aimed at helping the country achieve “stable governance and energy independence,” according to a statement from Downing Street.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte was also scheduled to visit Ukraine on Tuesday. In a statement posted on his official Twitter account on Monday, Rutte said he spoke with the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and would speak to the French President Emmanuel Macron before his trip on Tuesday.
Macron himself spoke to Zelensky and to Putin on Friday, and then again to the Russian President on Monday. A readout of the call from the Elysee Palace said Putin and Macron wished “to continue the dialogue” in the Normandy Format, a four-way conversation between representatives from Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France that has been trying to broker peace in eastern Ukraine since 2014.

CNN’s Luke McGee, Nic Robertson, Joseph Ataman and Ellie Kaufman contributed reporting.

Ukraine crisis latest: Vladimir Putin to give first public comments ‘in weeks’  Telegraph.co.uk
2643960 “putin’s face” – Google News

Ukraine Live Updates: Putin to Hold News Conference  The New York Times
6423121 “russia ukraine” – Google News

A bipartisan effort in the U.S. Senate has come together to produce what the chairman of the body’s Foreign Relations Committee has dubbed “the mother of all sanctions” to be levied against Russia in the event of a new invasion of Ukraine.  According to committee chairman Robert Menendez, senators are on the cusp of agreeing to a package of measures meant to make the financial cost of aggression in Ukraine extremely high for high-ranking government officials and ordinary Russians.  The bill being considered, Menendez said in an interview Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” show, involves “massive sanctions against the most significant Russian banks, crippling to their economy, meaningful in terms of consequences to the average Russian in their accounts and pensions.”  In addition, Menendez said he expects the Senate to approve additional “lethal assistance to Ukraine” in the form of weapons, as well as economic sanctions on key sectors of the Russian economy, and a bar on Russia’s ability to sell its sovereign debt in international markets.  The Senate is considering taking action against Russia, because Moscow currently has well over 100,000 troops positioned along Ukraine’s northern, eastern and southern borders. In 2014, Russia invaded Crimea, a region of Ukraine, and took control of it. At the same time, it began providing support to a pro-Russian insurgency in Ukraine’s Donbass region, which has perpetuated a long, low-intensity conflict in that region for the past several years. Bipartisan resolve  Menendez was joined by Senator James Risch, the top-ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in a show of bipartisan resolve. Risch said he is not convinced that Russia has decided it actually will invade Ukraine, and said that is why telegraphing the economic price Moscow will pay in advance is important.  “Well, I don’t think that decision has been made yet,” Risch said. “There’s a lot of us that believe that if (Russian President Vladimir) Putin sees weakness, if he sees bumbling, ineptitude, if he sees indecision, he will take advantage of that. I don’t think he’s made a decision to do that yet. “What (Senator Menendez) and I and our coalition of bipartisan senators are attempting to do is to project the resolve that we have as Americans to see that he doesn’t do that. To provide the strength, project the strength and convince him that this would be a very, very bad idea and it’s going to be extremely painful.”  Russia well-positioned to resist  Not all experts agree that the sanctions the U.S. is contemplating will be as punishing to Russia and to the Putin regime as lawmakers think.  Kristine Berzina, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, told VOA that Russia has been living with some degree of sanctions, as well as the threat of more sanctions, for most of the past decade and has taken steps to create an economic buffer.  “Russia has tremendous currency reserves set up so that it can make good on its sovereign debt, and it can suffer through some economic hardships,” she said.  To the extent that new sanctions cause short-term pain while Moscow figures out how best to work around them, she said that it’s during that early period under sanctions when Putin would benefit most from calls for patriotic sacrifice from the Russian people.  “The short term really is also the moment in which Putin will have the most support from his people, because then the likelihood is that an attack would be portrayed as some kind of defensive measure against the ‘encirclement’ by NATO and the refusal to meet what they would consider reasonable demands to turn back history,” Berzina told VOA.  Battle at U.N. The preparation of sanctions took place as representatives from the U.S. and Russia clashed harshly in a meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Monday morning. The meeting was convened at the request of the U.S. in order to discuss what the U.S. and its NATO allies have described as threatening behavior by Russia toward Ukraine.  Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya, in remarks to the Security Council, accused the United States of “whipping up hysteria” about Russia’s intentions toward Ukraine. In the same remarks, he suggested that the U.S., with its increasingly strident warnings about Russia’s intentions, is actually “provoking escalation.”  Russia was not alone in suggesting that the U.S. has overstated the danger of a Russian invasion. Even senior officials in Ukraine have asked representatives of the U.S. to tone down their warnings. Over the weekend, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged Western governments to avoid causing panic within Ukraine, saying that the potential “destabilization of the situation” inside Ukraine is currently the greatest threat facing his country.  In a statement released after the Security Council meeting ended, U.S. President Joe Biden said, “If Russia is sincere about addressing our respective security concerns through dialogue, the United States and our Allies and partners will continue to engage in good faith. If instead Russia chooses to walk away from diplomacy and attack Ukraine, Russia will bear the responsibility, and it will face swift and severe consequences.”
C198072C-9CCF-4E7E-B239-96247C279A44_w80
4015160 Voice of America

Putin’s effort to split NATO may depend on Germany | TheHill  The Hill
6442906 “Nato Russia” – Google News

Ukraine Live Updates: Putin to Hold News Conference  The New York Times
6423128 “US – Russia relations” – Google News

From eastern Europe we watch Ukraine in fear. Its fate could affect the continent’s future  The Guardian
6454850 “Russia influence in Eastern Europe” – Google News

Signup to receive the Early Edition in your inbox here.
A curated weekday guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE — BELARUS
The U.S. has warned that Russia could mount a major invasion of Ukraine, including through neighboring Belarus. At the U.N. Security Council meeting yesterday, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the U.S. had seen evidence that Moscow intends to mass more than 30,000 troops at the Belarus-Ukraine border by early February and that 5,000 troops were already there. Jennifer Hansler reports for CNN.
The State Department has ordered family members of employees at the U.S. Embassy in Belarus to leave the country and warned U.S. citizens against travel to Belarus due to an “increase in unusual and concerning Russian military activity near the border with Ukraine.” “U.S. citizens located in or considering travel to Belarus should be aware that the situation is unpredictable and there is heightened tension in the region,” the travel advisory added. Zachary Basu reports for Axios.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE — U.N. SECURITY COUNCIL
Russia and the U.S. traded barbs at the U.N. Security Council meeting yesterday, with Russia’s permanent representative to the U.N., Vasily Nebenzya, saying that Ukraine will be responsible for its own destruction if it undermines existing peace agreements. Nebenzya also cast doubt on U.S. intelligence assessments that Putin has amassed 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s border and said there was “no proof” that a Russian invasion of Ukraine was imminent. Aime Williams and James Politi report for the Financial Times.
There can be “no alternative to diplomacy and dialogue,” the U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs told the U.N. Security Council yesterday. Rosemary A. DiCarlo reiterated that any incursion by one State on another’s territory would be against international law and the U.N. Charter. UN News Centre reports.
Further reporting on the U.N. Security Council meeting is provided by BBC News and Rick Gladstone and Maria Varenikova reporting for the New York Times.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE — OTHER DIPLOMACY
The U.S. has said it received a response from Moscow to its written proposals delivered last week. U.S. officials would not disclose the contents of the Russian letter, saying they would not “negotiate in public.” However, Russia’s state news agency RIA has reported today that Russia sent the U.S. follow-up questions rather than a response, and that Moscow is still working on an actual response. Julian Borger and Lorenzo Tondo report for the Guardian.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken will speak with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov today in a bid to defuse tensions. Isabelle Khurshudyan and Rachel Pannett report for the Washington Post.

1 Share
Разговоры о возможной встрече Владимира Путина и Владимира Зеленского продолжаются длительное время.

В субботу, 29 января, пресс-секретарь президента России Дмитрий Песков рассказал о поезде Владимира Путина в Пекин, которая состоится на следующей неделе. По словам представителя Кремля, в столице Китая российский лидер проведет переговоры с Си Цзиньпином, а также посетит церемонию открытия Зимних Олимпийских игр.
Отвечая на вопрос журналиста о возможной беседе Путина с президентом Украины Владимиром Зеленским, Песков отметил, что больше никаких встреч в Пекине не запланировано. Однако пресс-секретарь главы государства не стал исключать такую возможность.
Напомним, открытие Зимних Олимпийских игр в столице Китая запланировано на 4 февраля. Ожидается, что в Пекин приедут многие главы государств, в том числе лидер Незалежной Владимир Зеленский.
Ранее глава МИД РФ Сергей Лавров пригласил президента Украины приехать в Россию для обсуждения нормализации отношений Москвы и Киева, которые серьезно пострадали. Владимир Зеленский отреагировал на предложение, заявив, что такие переговоры не станут результативными, поскольку российская сторона не хочет обсуждать Донбасс. Об этом писали “Дни.ру”.

Last spymaster of East German foreign intelligence dies at 92 | THE DAILY TRIBUNE

1 Share
Last spymaster of East German foreign intelligence dies at 92
Agencies | Berlin
The Daily Tribune – <a href=”http://www.newsofbahrain.com” rel=”nofollow”>www.newsofbahrain.com</a>  
The last head of East Germany’s foreign spying agency is dead, his daughter confirmed to dpa on Friday. Werner Großmann was 92.
Großmann had insisted on the righteousness of the work of the communist East German dictatorship right up until the collapse of that country’s government in 1989 when multiple communist regimes fell apart in Eastern Europe. He called his agents operating in the West “scouts of freedom.”
Großmann was arrested on October 3, 1990, the day of German unification, but only spent one day in jail. Courts ruled that efforts to prosecute East German spies would be unconstitutional. An effort to have him tried for treason was ruled out of order in 1995, dpa reports.
After the collapse of East Germany and the creation of a whole Germany, his public appearances usually drew protests in the country, mostly because he was so unapologetic.
“We didn’t carry out coups, murders or abductions like other secret services,” he said during a meeting with former East German agents in 2007. On another occasion, he said his organization always followed the law and that human rights violations were not the norm, though he did allow that there might have been individual exceptions. 

Profiling Putin: Russian President or Global Mafia Boss? – KyivPost

1 Share
“Consider Putin not from the perspective of policy analysis, but from the perspective of forensic psychology”
In the context of Vladimir Putin’s current moves against Ukraine, one of the biggest errors the West can make is to see him through the prism of legitimate statecraft. Namely, Western decision-makers would be wrong in the view that Putin is like other national leaders – a rational actor who similarly seeks strategic and geopolitical advantage for his state.
To normalise Putin in this way risks adopting the wrong responses to his aggression toward Ukraine, NATO and the liberal democratic West. It plays into his hands.
An alternative and more effective approach is to consider Putin not from the perspective of policy analysis, but from the perspective of forensic psychology. In profiling Putin, we better understand his ‘why’ and thereby can counter actions he may next take.

Mob boss archetype

One plausible profile for Putin is that of a Mafia boss.

After all, decision-making structures and processes in the Russian Federation, such as an economy based on protection rackets, look very much like the operations of the Mafia. Putin’s state and the Mafia share modus operandi: authoritarian rule, secretiveness and lack of due processes, the use of force over the rule of law, corruption, brutal reprisals against foes, the quest for new operational territories, and patronage.
To act in such a way, and to be the leader of such a society, requires a specific mentality. Francesca Calandra and Antonio Giorgi, academics who study the Mafia, have suggested it requires “the development of a psychological identity that allows the exclusive pursuit of power and widespread control of societies.”
Adriano Schimmenti, another academic on the Mafia, has conducted detailed evaluations of 30 Mafia members convicted of murder and other violent crimes using the Hare Psychopathy Checklist.
Among his findings are that Mafiosi typically have: a very strong capability for compartmentalisation; a lower tendency to psychopathy than among other highly violent criminals; a greater tendency toward high IQs, social adequacy and high engagement with the media and current affairs. Schimmenti suggests that Mafiosi are not somehow blindly sadistic, but rather see victims “as vehicles for psychological release.”
This characterisation resonates in terms of Putin and his regime. There is no inherent conflict – in a Mafioso’s mind – between killing an opponent and being a loving father. Similarly, in Putin’s mind, there seems to be no inherent conflict between, on the one hand, using deadly force against a neighbouring state, or assassinating political or economic competitors, and, on the other hand, seeking credibility on the world stage and maintaining at least the appearance of civic structures.

Perhaps, this incongruence is why Putin’s annual mass press briefing is so unnerving to watch for many ‘normal’ observers.

KGB or ASPD?

A key reference is the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) which is the globally-accepted principle authority for psychological diagnoses, and its diagnosis for Anti-Social Personality Disorder (ASPD), which The Mayo Clinic defines as pervasive and persistent disregard for morals, social norms, and the rights and feelings of others. Many of those with APSD can have a weak or non-existent conscience and a superficial or compensatory charm.
Psychiatrists, psychologists and researchers generally agree that APSD is very difficult to treat and is generally life-long.
According to DSM, among ASPD’s diagnostic criteria are:

  • failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviours as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest;
  • deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure;
  • aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults, and;
  • lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.

Putin ticks these boxes through: a) a pattern of unilateral and illegal military interventions resulting in thousands of deaths of both innocent Ukrainians, Russians and others; b) huge scale and sophistication in the use of deception and deceit through his propaganda machine and the countless false narratives of the hybrid war, and; c) total lack of recognition of any wrong-doing.
The possible diagnosis ASPD also lets us see why the KGB may have initially seen a young Vladimir Putin as a suitable recruit and why he had a successful career in the espionage agency. As outlined by operational manuals made public, a cornerstone of KGB doctrine was the exploitation of individuals’ vulnerabilities. It also provided a vehicle and basis for legitimising Putin’s potential ASPD.

The weakness of Putin

There lies an important insight for responding to Putin in the current context. As a trumped-up Mafia boss with an underlying psychological condition, Putin’s default setting and his training is to exploit the weakness he sees in others.
Hence, the prerequisite for those who oppose him, or who need to counter his aims, is to show complete resolve and no weakness through forms of recognition or appeasement. The further challenge and opportunity are, in turn, to recognise that Putin is hardly all-powerful and to exploit Putin’s own weakness – the fact that he is highly flawed and acting from those flaws.

Russia News Review – russianewsreview.org: US rejects Russia demand on Ukraine but talks see new life • FRANCE 24 | Kremlin offers frosty response to Blinken letter as world waits for Putin’s next move – cnbc.com

Tweets 

 Michael Novakhov Retweeted

SPIES&VESPERS@SpiesVespers

OTD Jan 27, 1923 Lenin’s funeral. Widow wants something simple for grave, Stalin insists on fancy-fancy and refrigerated.

View image on Twitter

US rejects Russia demand on Ukraine but talks see new life • FRANCE 24 E… https://youtu.be/bkxgr0HGVZo  via @YouTube

Kremlin offers frosty response to Blinken letter as world waits for Putin’s next move https://cnb.cx/3rUuiHB 

Kremlin offers frosty response to Blinken letter as world waits for Putin’s next move

The Kremlin has given its response to U.S. security proposals that were hand-delivered to Moscow on Wednesday, saying it believes Russian views had not been taken into account. cnbc.com