Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Two excellent articles about Putin´s Russia

Two must read articles focusing on the reality in Putin´s Russia. Here are two excerpts:

In general, an autocratic regime’s foremost concern is its own survival, and, when economic circumstances threaten its existence or even its legitimacy, the regime must pursue policies that either cure the problem or distract from it.
Rather than embrace the cure of structural economic reform and market liberalization, Putin has consistently opposed such measures, a decision rooted in his preference to keep himself and other Russian kleptocrats wealthy and in power at the expense of the Russian people. Opting for the second option taught in Autocratic Regimes 101, Putin has chosen to disguise widespread economic malaise at home by engaging in adventurism abroad, all in the name of demagogic nationalism and the “rescue” of “repressed” Russian minorities in neighboring ex-satellite states. Irrespective of the actual outcomes of such a foreign policy—which, as I would argue, is really a domestic policy—Putin’s state media will continue to craft an image of Russian triumph and adversarial acquiescence.

Read the entire article here

The leaders of the United States and the European Union are making a grievous error in thinking that President Vladimir Putin’s Russia is a potential ally in the fight against the Islamic State. The evidence contradicts them. Putin’s current aim is to foster the EU’s disintegration, and the best way to do so is to flood the EU with Syrian refugees.
Russian planes have been bombing the civilian population in southern Syria forcing them to flee to Jordan and Lebanon. There are now 20,000 Syrian refugees camped out in the desert awaiting admission to Jordan. A smaller number are waiting to enter Lebanon. Both groups are growing.

Russia has also launched a large-scale air attack against civilians in northern Syria. This was followed by a ground assault by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s army against Aleppo, a city that used to have 2 million inhabitants. The barrel bombs caused 70,000 civilians to flee to Turkey; the ground offensive could uproot many more.

Read the entire article here

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Angela Merkel: "the worst chancellor post-war Germany has ever had"

The New Zealand based political and economic analyst Oliver Marc Hartwich has some tough (but very true) words to say about German Chancellor Angela Merkel:

But it is not just Merkel’s political party that is suffering from her decision no longer to police German borders. It is a costly exercise to allow vast numbers of poorly qualified migrants into the country. In December last year, the Kiel Institute for the World Economy estimated the annual costs of integrating Germany’s migrants to be up to €55bn.
Meanwhile, economist Bernd Raffelhüschen, Germany’s leading expert on generational accounting, calculated that integrating one million refugees would result in a total cost of €450bn.
However, that may be too optimistic on two counts. First, Germany has already received more than 1.1 million newcomers last year alone and more are coming. And second, Raffelhüschen assumed it would only take six years until new arrivals reached a qualification level comparable to previous migrants already in the country. If only.
The most extreme estimate for the costs of integrating is Thilo Sarrazin’s. The former finance minister in the state of Berlin, former Bundesbank director and outspoken book author believes the lifetime costs, including family reunions, could reach EUR 1.5 trillion.
No matter what the real figure will be in the end, one thing is certain: The long-term costs of Merkel’s policy are only comparable with historic events such as Germany’s unification or the devastations caused by wars. And these are just the pecuniary costs of absorbing poorly qualified migrants. That there are social, cultural and political as well as economic and fiscal costs is plain to see.
With her policies, Merkel has also isolated Germany in Europe, as I already explained last week. Never before has post-War Germany had fewer friends and allies than in these days.
Finally, by ignoring international treaties, conventions and domestic constitutional law, Merkel has damaged trust in political institutions and the rule of law. Two former justices of Germany’s Constitutional Court, Udo di Fabio and Hans-Jürgen Papier, have now publicly condemned her policies as illegal. Papier, a former president of the court, went so far to say that “never before has there been such a discrepancy between the law and reality”.
During her tenure as Chancellor, Merkel has been responsible for a number of costly policy mistakes, chief among them the decision to switch off nuclear power stations after Fukushima and the establishment of costly bailout and guarantee schemes during the euro crisis. Each of them has burdened taxpayers with hundreds of billions of costs and implicit liabilities.
With her actions during the refugee crisis, Merkel is dwarfing even these previous policy blunders. If one were to add up all her mistakes, they can now be counted in the trillions. Again, these are just the monetary costs. In committing her mistakes, Merkel has also damaged her country’s reputation, its integration into the European Union, the European Union as an institution, the rule of law, as well as political stability in Germany and its neighbours.
With such a record, any Chancellor should have resigned a long time ago — or be kicked out by voters or at least her own party. That Merkel still clings on to power only shows how successfully she had previously purged her party of any potential rivals.
No matter how long Merkel still manages to stay in office, she will go down in history as the worst chancellor post-war Germany has ever had. The sooner she goes the better.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Central and Eastern European NATO countries to receive heavy weaponry from the US

The Obama administration has been weak when it comes to security and defense policy. However, this move is to be lauded:

The US will devote a substantial portion of its defense spending to building up its military presence in Eastern Europe in an effort to deter Russian aggression in the region, Obama administration officials told The New York Times.
Countries belonging to the NATO alliance in Central and Eastern Europe will apparently receive heavy weaponry, tanks, and other equipment from the US, which quadrupled its budget from $789 million to more than $3.4 billion for military spending in Europe through 2017.
"This is a really big deal, and the Russians are going to have a cow," Evelyn N. Farkas, the Pentagon's top policy official on Russia and Ukraine until October, told The Times on Tuesday. "It's a huge sign of commitment to deterring Russia, and to strengthening our alliance and our partnership with countries like Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia."
The move comes four months after Russia launched an air campaign in Syria to prop up embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a move widely seen as an attempt by Russian President Vladimir Putin to secure and expand Russia's influence in the Middle East.
Russia's presence in Syria, however, has "undermined" virtually everything the West is trying to accomplish there and beyond, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said in an interview with Reuters from a refugee camp in Jordan on Monday.
That includes the US's attempts to bolster "moderate" Syrian rebel groups, which have been targeted by Russian airstrikes, and the US-led anti-ISIS coalition's attempts to wipe out the Islamic State in Syria, which has largely been spared the brunt of Russia's punishing air campaign.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Dr Oliver Hartwich: "Merkel may not politically survive the disaster she has created"

Dr Oliver Hartwich is again spot on in his analysis of the state of the European Union and in putting the blame on the failed German chancellor Angela Merkel:

On multiple fronts the EU as an institution, as a project and as a promise is under simultaneous attack. But unlike in previous times, the result will not be an EU rising like phoenix from the ashes. It will either be the end of the EU or at least the end of the EU as we know it.
Despite its costs in the hundreds of billions, the euro crisis has not derailed the EU just yet. The continent’s monetary, fiscal and banking problems have not been solved, of course. However, they were sufficiently abstract not to cause widespread popular unrest. Plus, by administering some ECB alchemy, they can at least be put on hold for a while.
With the refugee crisis engulfing Europe it is different. More than a million migrants entering the EU mainly via Greece and Italy cannot be ignored, put on hold or inflated away. They have to be dealt with. They are visible. And they are posing serious questions to the way the EU and each individual member state regard themselves. --

The only hope for Merkel to politically survive this situation is also the least likely. She needs to find a European agreement to jointly deal with the crisis. This is not going to happen if EU members cannot even relocate more than 331 refugees.
Merkel also needs help from Turkey in stopping the flow — and last week’s Turkish-German consultations did not suggest that this was going to happen anytime soon. Finally, Merkel needs Greece to protect its sea border with Turkey. Again, you would not want to hold your breath.

Even professional EU optimists like Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, and Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the EU Commission, are sounding increasingly desperate. They are both on the record warning of an existential crisis to the EU — and they are right.
The problem is no-one knows what would follow the failure of the EU. All we know is that there is little time left to avert the collapse of this institution.
And while all of this is happening, the United Kingdom is flirting with an exit from the EU, the new Polish government is experimenting with a new form of authoritarianism, and in Portugal the conservatives have failed to form a government despite their better-than-expected showing in last year’s elections.
Politically and economically, Europe is burning. And the one person who deserves more blame than anyone else for the sorry state of the continent is the same who is regularly seen as the ‘most powerful woman in the world’ or Time’s ‘person of the year’: Angela Merkel.
Merkel’s unwillingness to confront the failings of the monetary union despite an insistence on internal devaluation has destabilised Greece and is also responsible for the rise of extremist and populist parties across Europe. Her unilateralism on refugees is dividing the EU and has given rise to Eastern European nationalists. In her own country, her failed euro policies and her naive migration recipes are burdening taxpayers for generations to come.
Merkel may not politically survive the disaster she has created — and that would be well deserved. The collateral damage of her failing would be a Europe that sees the resurrection of nationalism, borders and political extremism. And it would be the end of the EU as we knew it.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

US official: The US government has known for "many, many years" that Putin is corrupt.

At last somebody in the US government speaks out about the corrupt Russian president:

Adam Szubin, who oversees US Treasury sanctions, told BBC Panorama that the US government had known Mr Putin was corrupt for "many, many years".
It is thought to be the first time the US has made such a direct accusation.
Washington has already imposed sanctions on Mr Putin's aides, but has stopped short of levelling corruption allegations at the president himself. --

In the programme, Mr Szubin spoke of how "we've seen [Mr Putin] enriching his friends, his close allies, and marginalising those who he doesn't view as friends using state assets", whether it concerned Russia's energy wealth or state contracts. "To me, that is a picture of corruption," he said. --

US government officials have been reluctant to be interviewed about President Putin's wealth, and Mr Szubin would not comment on a secret CIA report from 2007 that estimated it at around $40bn (£28bn).
But he said the Russian president had been amassing secret wealth. "He supposedly draws a state salary of something like $110,000 a year. That is not an accurate statement of the man's wealth, and he has long time training and practices in terms of how to mask his actual wealth."

A Tribute to Ronald Reagan

From President Ronald Reagan´s farewell address to the nation, January 11, 1989:

"I've spoken of the shining city all my political life…. And how stands the city on this winter night? … After 200 years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true to the granite ridge, and her glow has held no matter what storm. And she's still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home."

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Former UK Defence Secretary Liam Fox wants the UK to become "an independent sovereign nation" again

Former UK Secretary of State for Defence, Dr Liam Fox has made a powerful appearance at the launch of a grass-root campaign to persuade voters to leave the European Union:

In a barnstorming speech to a rally of more than 2,000 people, the former Defence Secretary said he wanted to live in a country that was “an independent sovereign nation” again.
Britain used to be “proud” and “free” and in this role saved Europe from its own “folly” in two world wars, the Tory MP said.
Now it is time for voters to seize the only chance they will get to take control back over British laws from Brussels and vote to leave the EU in the forthcoming referendum. ---

Dr Fox said he wanted for Britain the same power that Americans, Canadians and Australians have to make their own laws, “control their own borders” and “to set their own destiny”.
“If you cannot make your own laws, if you cannot control your own borders, you are not an independent, sovereign nation and I want to live in an independent sovereign nation.”
He condemned the “pro-EU establishment peddling fear to the people of our country” and saying Britain’s security would at risk outside the EU.
“Let me tell you, as a former defence secretary, our security does not lie in the European Union,” he said. “The cornerstone of our security is Nato. It is Nato that has kept the peace in Europe since World War 2.”

Read the entire Telegraph article here