web analytics
October 25, 2014 / 1 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Putin’

Is Turkey Leaving the West?

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

Recent steps taken by the Government of Turkey suggest it may be ready to ditch the NATO club of democracies for a Russian and Chinese gang of authoritarian states.

Here is the evidence:

Starting in 2007, Ankara applied three times unsuccessfully to join as a Guest Member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (or SCO, informally known as the Shanghai Five). Founded in 1996 by the Russian and Chinese governments, along with three (and in 2001 a fourth) former Soviet Central Asian states, the SCO has received minimal attention in the West, although it has grand security and other aspirations, including the possible creation of a gas cartel. More, it offers an alternative to the Western model, from NATO, to democracy, to displacing the U.S. dollar as reserve currency. After those three rejections, Ankara applied for “Dialogue Partner” status in 2011. In June 2012, it won approval.

One month later, Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reported about his saying to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, “Come, accept us into the Shanghai Five [as a full member] and we will reconsider the European Union.” Erdoğan reiterated this idea on Jan. 25, noting stalled Turkish efforts to join the European Union (E.U.): “As the prime minister of 75 million people,” he explained, “you start looking around for alternatives. That is why I told Mr. Putin the other day, ‘Take us into the Shanghai Five; do it, and we will say goodbye to the E.U.’ What’s the point of stalling?” He added that the SCO “is much better, it is much more powerful [than the E.U.], and we share values with its members.”

On Jan. 31, the Foreign Ministry announced plans for an upgrade to “Observer State” at the SCO. On Feb. 3 Erdoğan reiterated his earlier point, saying “We will search for alternatives,” and praised the Shanghai group’s “democratization process” while disparaging European “Islamophobia.” On Feb. 4, President Abdullah Gül pushed back, declaring that “The SCO is not an alternative to the E.U. … Turkey wants to adopt and implement E.U. criteria.”

What does this all amount to?

The SCO feint faces significant obstacles: If Ankara leads the effort to overthrow Bashar al-Assad, the SCO firmly supports the beleaguered Syrian leader. NATO troops have just arrived in Turkey to man Patriot batteries protecting that country from Syria’s Russian-made missiles. More profoundly, all six SCO members strongly oppose the Islamism that Erdoğan espouses. Perhaps, therefore, Erdoğan mentioned SCO membership only to pressure the E.U.; or to offer symbolic rhetoric for his supporters.

Both are possible. But I take the half-year long flirtation seriously for three reasons. First, Erdoğan has established a record of straight talk, leading one key columnist, Sedat Ergin, to call the Jan. 25 statement perhaps his “most important” foreign policy proclamation ever.

Second, as Turkish columnist Kadri Gürsel points out, “The E.U. criteria demand democracyhuman rights, union rights, minority rights, gender equality, equitable distribution of income, participation and pluralism for Turkey. SCO as a union of countries ruled by dictators and autocrats will not demand any of those criteria for joining.” Unlike the European Union, Shanghai members will not press Erdoğan to liberalize but will encourage the dictatorial tendencies in him that so many Turks already fear.

Third, the SCO fits his Islamist impulse to defy the West and to dream of an alternative to it. The SCO, with Russian and Chinese as official languages, has a deeply anti-Western DNA and its meetings bristle with anti-Western sentiments. For example, when Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad addressed the group in 2011, no one refused his conspiracy theory about 9/11 being a U.S. government inside job used “as an excuse for invading Afghanistan and Iraq and for killing and wounding over a million people.” Many backers echo Egyptian analyst Galal Nassar in his hope that ultimately the SCO “will have a chance of settling the international contest in its favor.” Conversely, as a Japanese official has noted, “The SCO is becoming a rival block to the U.S. alliance. It does not share our values.”

Turkish steps toward joining the Shanghai group highlights Ankara’s now-ambivalent membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, starkly symbolized by the unprecedented joint Turkish-Chinese air exercise of 2010. Given this reality, Erdoğan’s Turkey is no longer a trustworthy partner for the West but more like a mole in its inner sanctum. If not expelled, it should at least be suspended from NATO.

McLaughlin Sorry for Cuomo-Hitler Analogy (Video)

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

Republican Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin compared Gov. Andrew Cuomo with Hitler and Mussolini at a press conference Wednesday, drawing harsh condemnation from Jewish leaders and others.

Referring to the gun control bill that was approved by the Senate two hours after being unveiled, McLaughlin charged, “If that’s not dictatorial, I don’t know what is. Hitler would be proud. Mussolini would be proud of what we did here. Moscow would be proud. That’s not democracy.”

Although he was big enough to apologize, his regrets were not immediate. When a reporter asked him if his comments were appropriate, McLaughlin insisted, “How does Putin act over in Russia? Same thing. Dictate to the legislature what they’re going to do. They’re rubber-stamping it. I’m not calling the governor a dictator; I’m saying that this was the dictatorial thing to do.”

The Albany Times-Union noted that more than 20 Republican colleagues were silent and seen “nodding along” at the news conference.

McLaughlin profusely apologized several hours later, saying he is only human and it was an “honest mistake” made in the heat of representing his constituents, who live in parts of Albany, Columbia, Greene and Rensselaer counties.

“I made an analogy that I should not have made,” said McLaughlin. “I am very, very sorry about that. I apologize to the governor and to all of you. It was the wrong analogy to make.”

Jewish leaders called the remarks “inappropriate,” a view shared by both Democrat and Republican leaders in the legislature.

The gun-control bill was pushed through quickly by including the “message of necessity” waiver, which gets around the usual three-day period between the introduction of a bill and a vote on it. Republicans argued the waiver robbed them of an opportunity to veto the bill, which Republican Senator Greg Ball said has so many holes it looks like “Swiss cheese.”

Gov. Cuomo has used  the “message of necessity” waiver as a “message of political expediency,” charged Glenville Assemblyman Jim Tedisco.

A spokesman for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said that messages are only used when “appropriate,” and Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos admitted the gun control bill was passed in some “haste” although it messages of necessity can be “necessary.”

McLaughlin, a native of Massachusetts and a former airline pilot and banker, was elected two years ago to represent the 107th district.

It’s Stalingrad Again!

Friday, February 1st, 2013

The Russian city where the Red Army defeated the Germans in World War 2—suffering 2 million casualties—will once again be known as Stalingrad, on the days commemorating the victory.

The city was renamed Volgograd in 1961 as part of the Soviet Union’s efforts to erase the remnants of bloody dictator Joseph Stalin’s personality cult. But the name Stalingrad is inseparable from the historic victory.

Local MPs have decided to use the historic name in all city statements on February 2, the day of the Nazi defeat, as well as several other war-related dates each year. This has angered many in Russia, where Stalin’s name and legacy continue to scare little children at bedtime.

Russia’s human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin sharply criticized the move, saying it should be declared void by court. “This is an insult to the memory of those who died,” he said, according to the Interfax news agency.

Stalin took over the Soviet Union in 1924 and stayed in power until his death in 1953. In thise decades he conducted purges that killed many millions of Russians, and filled up concentration camps in Siberia.

President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer, has avoided open public praise or criticism of Stalin, but he is known to be favoring some softening of the bloody tyrant’s bloody image.

Kremlin critics see Putin’s attempts to cleanse Stalin’s image as part of Mr Putin’s rollback on democracy.

For a fascinating essay comparing the numbers killed by Hitler and Stalin, check out Timothy Snyder’s article Hitler vs. Stalin: Who Killed More? in The New York Review of Books.

Does Russia Have its Eye on Strategic Cyprus?

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

Cyprus’s banks are on the brink of collapse. As a result of a crisis that began in Greece, and as one of the 17 European countries that use the euro as their currency, Cyprus, is a victim of the euro’s domino effect, and is being dragged down by the eurocrisis, along with the entire southern rim of the eurozone.

Since last spring, Cyprus, a small country with barely one million inhabitants, has been negotiating with the other members of the eurozone about a financial bailout. When Greece was given 85 percent relief on its debts, the Cypriot banks suffered heavy losses on top of the huge losses already incurred as a result of a domestic real estate bubble. To stay afloat, Cyprus’s banks currently need some €17 bn ($23 bn) — an immense sum for a country with a 2011 GDP of only €19 bn ($25 bn) and a contracting economy.

Cyprus’s fortune, however, is its location. It is the easternmost island in the Mediterranean and of considerable strategic importance. Cyprus is like a huge aircraft carrier situated in front of Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Egypt. In addition, huge offshore fields of gas and perhaps oil have recently been discovered in Cypriot territorial waters.

Cyprus is also the place where the Arab Spring meets the Eurocrisis. The Syrian port of Tartus hosts Russia’s only naval base in the Mediterranean. The impending fall of the Assad regime in Syria is forcing Russian President Vladimir Putin to look for an alternative to Tartus — leaving him with only one option: Cyprus.

Politically and economically, Russia and Cyprus are already closely tied. Cyprus’s President, Demetris Christofias, is the leader of the Cypriot Communist Party. He met his wife during his studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow in the 1960s. When Russia became “capitalist,” the ties between the two countries became even closer. Thousands of wealthy Russians have put their “black money” in Cypriot banks. Although Cyprus joined the eurozone in 2008, its banks have almost no clients from other EU countries. With the exception of Greece, with which the Greek-speaking Cypriots share close cultural and historic ties, Cypriot banks cater almost exclusively to Russian oligarchs; as a consequence, tiny Cyprus is Russia’s largest foreign investor.

In November 2011, Cyprus was bailed out by a €2.5 bn loan from Russia. The eurocrisis has since deepened and more money is now urgently needed. Last June, Cyprus turned to the European Union, the eurozone’s European Central Bank (ECB) and the IMF, asking for emergency aid of at least €10 bn. In return, however, the E.U., ECB and IMF – the so-called Troika – have asked Cyprus to reform its economy. Negotiations over these “structural reforms,” such as privatization of state-owned enterprises and reduction of wages, have dragged on for almost eight months.

No agreement could be reached between the ruling Cypriot Communists, who refused to implement the reforms demanded by the Troika, and Germany, the euro’s major paymaster. Next fall, general elections will be held in Germany. With an electorate that is tired of bailing out banks and governments in Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain in order to save the euro – a currency which many Germans feel was forced upon them – making Chancellor Angela Merkel reluctant to come to Cyprus’s aid.

Last November, a leaked intelligence report of the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), the German equivalent of the CIA, made matters even more difficult for Merkel. The report asserted that a bailout of Cyprus would boil down to using German taxpayers’ money to save the funds of rich Russians, who deposited up to €26 bn in “black money” in Cypriot banks, which are now on the brink of bankruptcy. The BND accuses Cyprus of creating a fertile ground for Russian money laundering, a charge further exacerbated by the ease with which Russian oligarchs can obtain Cypriot nationality and thus gain automatic access to all the E.U. member states. The BND said 80 oligarchs have managed to gain access this way to the entire E.U.

As the financial blog Testosterone Pit explained: “Taxpayers in other countries, including those in the U.S. – via the U.S. contribution to the IMF – will be asked to [bail out] tiny Cyprus.” However, given that Chancellor Merkel has already decided that the euro must be saved at all costs, she has no other option but to bail out Cyprus, including the investments of Russian oligarchs.

Russia Evicts USAID

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

The Russian government has evicted the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), according to the US State Department, accusing the organization of using its money to influence elections.

The US denied the claim.

Nearly 60 percent of the $50 million annual budget of USAID has been allocated to promoting democracy in Russia, with some of the money funding Russia’s only independent election monitoring organization, Golos, which has accused Putin’s party of voting fraud.

In a victory speech given by Vladimir Putin in March, the Russian president said his country “showed that our people can distinguish between the desire for renewal and political provocation that has but one goal: to destroy Russia’s statehood and usurp power”.

Putin has decried Russian NGOs accepting US aid as “jackals”.

Will Congress Rise to the Occasion?

Sunday, September 2nd, 2012

While Israel’s economy is facing the consequences of the global economic meltdown (e.g., unemployment is rising at 7%, gasoline price is surging):

1. According to the August 24, 2012 “Commentator” article by Peter Glover and Michael Economides,

as the tension between Israel and Iran ratchets up, an interesting sub-text has developed over the role of Iran’s traditional backer, Russia…. 20 million metric tons of liquid natural gas (LNG) exported each year from the eastern Mediterranean into Europe [a reference to the supposed potential of Israel’s and Cyprus’ offshore natural gas reserves] would amount to about one third of current Russian exports…. Putin’s Kremlin is clearly rattled by the threat of decline for that which underpins Russia’s entire economy: its energy hegemony…. Russia supplies a quarter of all Europe’s (rising) natural gas demand…. But there is now a new kid on the block that could pose a very clear and present threat to Russia’s vital European market: Israel, along with Cyprus, and their upcoming potential status as gas exporting energy superpowers…. During Putin’s recent visit to Israel, he and Netanyahu agreed to form a junior company to [Russia’s] Gazprom that would help develop Israel’s Leviathan gas field in the eastern Mediterranean…. Iran is suing Russia in the Court of Arbitration in Geneva for cancelling a contract to sell five divisions of the S-300 long-range anti-aircraft missile system…. the Kremlin appears to have higher economic and political priorities. Chief among them: ensuring its vast energy resources help it to remain a global superpower…

2. The Menlo Park-based Sequoia Capital, which is a leading global high tech venture capital fund, is dedicating $200MN for its 5th Israeli-dedicated fund. The 1st fund was established in 1998 ($30MN), followed by $150MN, $200MN and $200MN funds (Globes Business Daily, August 24, 2012). The Palo Alto-based Accel Partners, another leading global high tech venture capital fund and a frequent investor in Israeli high tech companies, invested $3MN in Israel’s Mobile Spaces (Globes, Aug. 27).

*3. Will Congress rise to the occasion, legislating the US-Israel Water Cooperation Act in the areas of water technologies, water industries, water conservation, water supply and consumption, water quality, irrigation, sewage recycling, desalination, water security, etc.?

The current drought afflicting the United States, which has spread to more than half of the continental United States, is the most widespread drought in more than half a century…. The US government has declared nearly 1,300 counties across 29 states a federal disaster area…. Head of the Desalination Department in Israel’s Water Authority claims Israel can help: “Educating people to use less water… The average consumption of water in the US per person is 3 or 4 times of Israel’s…. [More] efficient irrigation systems: 90-95% of agriculture in Israel uses drip irrigation as opposed to only 5% in America…. Proper maintenance of water pipes – there is a 20% average leakage rate on water pipes in the US, not quite as bad as London’s 40% average leakage, nonetheless twice the amount of Israel’s leakage…. Regarding sewage water – about 80% is reused in Israel for irrigation, as opposed to America’s 1%…” (Arutz 7, Gideon Israel, July 25).

From Yoram Ettinger’s newsletter, Straight from the Jerusalem Boardroom, which can be found at the Ettinger Report

Netanya to Putin to Florida

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

(((CLICK BELOW TO HEAR AUDIO)))

Yishai and Malkah kick off this segment by discussing Yishai’s recent solar birthday and a trip to the coast in Netanya. They move on to talk about a new prize that was recently announced, presented to those that are influential to Jewish history. The segment continues with a discussion about a recent trip to Israel by Russian President Vladimir Putin and its affect on Israeli/Russian cooperation and wraps up talking about a missing Jewish millionaire.

Yishai Fleisher on Twitter: @YishaiFleisher
Yishai on Facebook

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/jewish-press-radio-with-yishai-fleisher-netanya-to-putin-to-florida/2012/07/03/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: