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Posts tagged ‘German Marshall Fund’

Russian Forces Push Beyond Crimea Before Referendum.


Ukraine said Russian forces tried to push deeper into its territory and the Kremlin strengthened its rhetoric, threatening to escalate the worst diplomatic standoff between Moscow and the West since the Cold War.

By Saturday afternoon, The New York Times reports, Russian troops moved beyond the Crimean border and overtook a gas plant just beyond the regional border of Crimea.

Meanwhile, Russian troops entered the Kherson region on the Azov Sea from the Crimea peninsula they already occupy, Ukraine’s ambassador to the United Nations, Yuriy Sergeyev, told reporters Saturday at the United Nations in New York. The Foreign Ministry in Kiev issued a statement protesting the seizure by Russian soldiers of the village of Strilkove.

The incursion raises tensions before the Black Sea Crimean region holds a referendum Sunday on joining Russia. While the European Union and the U.S. are threatening to tighten sanctions against Russia if it doesn’t pull back, President Vladimir Putin has said ethnic Russians in the region need protection from “extremists.”

“Russia now takes it as a fact that they’ve picked off Crimea and is sending more soldiers and provocateurs into Ukraine to test the waters and see how much further they can go,” Joerg Forbrig, a senior program officer at the Berlin bureau of the German Marshall Fund of the U.S., said in a phone interview.

As many as 130 Russian soldiers are in Strilkove, digging trenches and doing “other engineering work,” said Oleh Slobodyan, a spokesman for Border Guard Service. They have three armored personnel carriers and are in control of a Ukrainian natural gas pumping station, he said. There have been no military confrontations between Ukraine and Russia so far, he said.

The UN Security Council met Saturday in New York where Russia vetoed a resolution proposed by the U.S. that stressed the need for political dialogue. Thirteen members of the Security Council backed the resolution and China abstained.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said the vote shows Russia is “isolated, alone, wrong.” Chinese Ambassador to UN Liu Jieyi said the resolution would have resulted “in confrontation and further complicate the situation.” He said respecting “sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states” is a “fundamental” in China’s foreign policy.

U.S. officials who monitor social media say the number of posts on Twitter, Facebook and other public Internet sites about possible Russian incursions into eastern Ukraine and a growing number of unidentified men who appear to be Russians with military or police training is rising sharply Saturday.

The officials were quick to add that the trend doesn’t mean any Russian action is imminent and that the accuracy and origin of such posts are difficult to verify quickly. Nevertheless, one of the officials called the trend worrisome.

Clashes erupted Friday in Ukraine’s second-biggest city, Kharkiv, near Russia’s border, where a shootout left two dead and a policeman injured. Russian troops massed just inside Russia’s border nearby for exercises, stirring concerns of a Kremlin move to annex eastern Ukraine. Russia said it’s examining numerous requests for protection received from people living in Ukraine.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who met Friday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov without a breakthrough, warned Russia would face consequences if it failed to change course.

Russia moved more forces into Crimea, bringing the total to about 22,000 soldiers as of Friday evening, Ukrainian Defense Minister Ihor Tenyukh said in a website statement. The troops “may be used for an offensive,” he said.

Lavrov expressed outrage over March 13 clashes in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk in which one person was killed and 17 injured, according to the regional government.

“Militants came to Donetsk from other regions and started fighting with demonstrators,” Lavrov said.

Putin is driven by deep geopolitical goals and isn’t likely to fear the consequences of sanctions by Western nations, Eugene Rumer, director of the Russia and Eurasia program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington policy group, said in a telephone interview.

After watching the North Atlantic Treaty Organization expand and the U.S. build ties with former Soviet Union countries, Russians feel they “have every reason to push back and expand their ‘sphere of privileged interests,’” Rumer said.

“The confrontation has reached a new level,” acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov said in a website statement late Friday. “Either the new young democracy wins, or a totalitarian curtain falls on Ukraine.”

Putin’s government contends ethnic Russians in Crimea are at risk after the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych, an assertion that Ukraine’s new leaders deny. The Kremlin supports Crimea’s recently appointed administration, which organized Sunday’s referendum.

Crimean Premier Sergei Aksenov told reporters in the region’s capital, Simferopol, that the peninsula may become part of Russia next week, though full integration may take a year. Turnout is expected to be more than 80 percent, he said.

“Preparations are already under way to incorporate Crimea into Russia,” Sergei Markov, a Kremlin adviser and vice rector of the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics in Moscow, said in a telephone interview from Sevastopol on Saturday.

Russian lawmakers are scheduled to consider legislation March 21 that would allow Russia to incorporate parts of countries where the central authority isn’t functioning and local residents want to secede, he said.

The bill isn’t needed to make Crimea part of Russia because the region already declared independence from Kiev, according to Markov. It would allow for the annexation of parts of eastern Ukraine, though Russia would only want to do that if it’s sure “we are welcomed with flowers,” he said.

Russian stocks posted the biggest weekly drop since May 2012, with the Micex Index sliding 7.6 percent to 1,237.43 Friday, the lowest level since May 2012. Russia’s 10-year bond fell for a sixth day, driving up the yield by 38 basis points to 9.79 percent, the highest level since 2009. The ruble weakened 0.2 percent to 43.0570 against Bank Rossii’s target basket of dollars and euros Friday in Moscow. Gold climbed to the highest in sixth months.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index of U.S. stocks fell 2 percent this week to 1,841.13, erasing its gains for the year. The UX index of Ukrainian stocks was down 7.1 percent for the week. Even so, Ukrainian Eurobonds and the hryvnia rebounded after Lavrov said Russia had no invasion plans.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will travel to NATO members Poland and Lithuania on March 17, the day after the Crimea vote, for talks on Ukraine, according to a White House statement. The Pentagon said this week that it would send 12 F-16 aircraft to Poland as a sign of U.S. commitment to defend allies in the region, and the U.S. sent six fighter jets to Lithuania last week.

EU foreign ministers, who meet March 17, the day after the Crimea vote, are poised to impose asset freezes and visa bans on people and “entities” involved in Russia’s seizure of the peninsula, an EU official said. The next stage of sanctions would be weighed at a summit at the end of next week.

Forbrig said that visa bans and other political moves aimed at Russia won’t deter Putin.

“If Putin sees the EU sanctions as not strong enough, he may view them as a green light to go further,” Forbrig said.

“We have to get to the material base of Putin’s regime through economic and trade measures that both target his revenue directly and have a snowball effect of scaring off investors and fueling capital flight out of Russia,” he said.

Bloomberg contributed to this report. 

© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Newsmax Wires

Poll: Americans, Europeans Still Oppose Syria Intervention.


A majority of Europeans and Americans strongly oppose their countries intervening militarily in Syria‘s 30-month-old civil war, according to a transatlantic poll published on Wednesday.

“Transatlantic Trends”, an annual survey of public opinion in the United States and Europe, also found that China’s image in both continents was deteriorating and most Europeans did not want to see Beijing take strong leadership in world affairs.

The survey, by the German Marshall Fund of the United States, a U.S. think tank that promotes cooperation between North America and Europe, and the Compagnia di San Paolo, an Italy-based private foundation, measured public opinion in 11 European Union countries, Turkey and the United States.

The poll found 62 percent of Americans and 72 percent of Europeans believed their countries should avoid military intervention in Syria’s civil war, which has killed more than 100,000 people.

Only 30 percent of Americans and 22 percent of Europeans felt their countries should intervene in Syria.

In Turkey, which borders Syria, 72 percent said their country should stay out, while 21 percent favoured intervention.

In all regions, the survey found a hardening of attitudes against outside intervention, compared with last year.

Opposition to Western intervention in Syria was reflected in the parliamentary defeat British Prime Minister David Cameron suffered last month, when he sought approval for a motion that would have authorised military action in principle.

The United States and Russia agreed last Saturday on a proposal to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal, averting the possibility of any immediate U.S. military action.

IRAN

On Iran, Europeans and Americans said economic sanctions were the best way to prevent the acquisition of nuclear weapons.

Very few Europeans but 18 percent of Americans backed military action against Iran when presented with a range of options ranging from offering economic incentives to accepting that Iran could acquire nuclear arms.

Respondents who chose a non-military option for dealing with Iran were asked if they would favour military action if peaceful options failed. In that scenario, 48 percent of the Europeans and 64 percent of the Americans favoured the use of force.

Western powers suspect Iran’s nuclear programme is aimed at developing a nuclear weapons capability, although Tehran insists the programme is peaceful.

The survey found China had a poor image in the West. Sixty percent of Europeans and 58 percent of Americans had an unfavourable view of China, both higher than last year.

The United States and the European Union have both engaged in high-profile trade disputes with China over the past year.

Sixty-five percent of Europeans, 72 percent of Turks and 47 percent of Americans said it would be undesirable for China to take strong leadership in world affairs.

Europeans, Americans, and Turks saw China as more of an economic threat than an economic opportunity. Forty-nine percent of Americans also viewed China as a military threat, although most Europeans and Turks disagreed.

Russia also had an image problem. Forty-six percent of Americans viewed Russian global leadership as undesirable, as did 65 percent of Europeans and 67 percent of Turks. Fifty-nine percent of Americans, 62 percent of Europeans and 68 percent of Turks had a negative view of Russia.

Countries surveyed were France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Britain, the United States and Turkey. About 1,000 people were polled in each country between June 3 and July 2.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: NEWSmax.com

US: Haqqani tie to Afghan insider attacks possible.


  • In this June 19, 2012 file photo, Afghan soldiers and a policeman prepare for a mock ambush as part of a training exercise at the U.S. Marine-run Joint Sustainment Academy, Camp Leatherneck in Helmand, south of Kabul. The U.S. suspects the Haqqani insurgent network, which has ties to al-Qaida and is based in Pakistan, is a driving force behind many of the “insider” attacks by Afghan forces that have killed more than 50 U.S. and allied troops this year, officials say. Until now, officials have said the attacks seemed to stem either from personal grievances against the allies or from Taliban infiltration. (AP Photo/Heidi Vogt)

    Enlarge PhotoAssociated Press/Heidi Vogt – In this June 19, 2012 file photo, Afghan soldiers and a policeman prepare for a mock ambush as part of a training exercise at the U.S. Marine-run Joint Sustainment Academy, Camp …more 

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Haqqani insurgent network, based in Pakistan and with ties to al-Qaida, is suspected of being a driving force behind a significant number of the “insider” attacks byAfghan forces that have killed or wounded more than 130 U.S. and allied troops this year, American officials say.

Until now, officials had said the attacks seemed to stem either from personal grievances against the allies or from Taliban infiltration. The Taliban has publicly claimed to be orchestrating the campaign to subvert the U.S.-Afghan alliance.

New data provided to The Associated Press this week also reveal that in addition to 35 U.S. and allied troops killed in insider attacks last year, 61 were wounded. Those included 19 in a single attack in the eastern province of Laghman on April 16, 2011, in which six American servicemen were killed. Thus far in 2012 there have been 53 killed and at least 80 wounded, the figures showed.

Haqqani involvement in the plotting would add a new dimension to that group’s insurgent activity, which has been marked largely by spectacular attacks against targets inside Kabul. It also could complicate U.S.-Pakistan relations, since the Haqqanis are based mainly in Pakistan.

“Whereas 90 percent of the Taliban problem was a problem internal to Afghanistan, it may be the other way around where 90 percent of the Haqqani problem are challenges on the other side of the border,” said Mark Jacobson, a defense analyst at the German Marshall Fund of the U.S., in Washington.

Haqqani leaders have pledged allegiance to Taliban leader Mullah Omar, but the group largely operates independently. The two groups have a shared interest in evicting foreign forces.

In an illustration of Haqqani links to the Taliban, the U.S.-led military coalition announced Saturday that a senior Taliban leader had been arrested in the eastern province of Paktia. It said he is “suspected of maintaining working relationships with multiple Haqqani senior leaders” and of planning and directing attacks on Afghan and coalition forces, smuggling weapons, and placing roadside bombs in the neighboring province of Logar.

The U.S. officials said Friday that although there is no hard evidence tying the Haqqanis to specific insider attacks, the pattern of shootings and the movements and backgrounds of some of the shooters — including travel into Pakistan shortly before the shootings — point to a likely connection to the group Washington last month officially labeled a terrorist organization.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss inferences drawn from internal U.S. military analyses of a string of murderous attacks over the past two years that have angered the allies, embarrassed the Afghan government and threatened to undermine the war effort. The officials were not authorized to make the comments publicly.

The U.S.-led military coalition recently slowed, temporarily, its partnering with some Afghan forces, partly in response to a recent spike in insider killings.

The data on the attacks provided to the AP reveal that shootings in 2012 have been concentrated more in the Pashtun south and the swath of Pashtun territory that forms the southern approaches to Kabul. In 2011 the attack pattern was more dispersed, although the largest number occurred in the south and the east.

The internal military analyses, based in part on that data, indicate that a number of shooters were recruited into the Afghan army or police forces from Pashtun areas in eastern Afghanistan — including the provinces of Paktika, Paktia and Khost — where the Haqqanis wield great influence, the officials said.

In some cases these Afghans — most of whom had served in uniform for six months of less — returned to those areas on leave from their army or police duties, or briefly crossed into Pakistan, shortly before turning their guns on American or allied soldiers, the officials said.

Officials say the Afghan government is now watching such movements more closely and taking other steps to prevent additional insider attacks, although the U.S. believes they will not end.

Of the 38 reported attacks so far this year, 10 happened in Kandahar province, the spiritual and traditional home of the Taliban, and 10 happened in neighboring Helmand province, also a heavily Pashtun area.

Ten others were in or near a Haqqani-influenced swath of territory along the southern approaches to Kabul, including the latest attack on Sept. 29 in which Army Sgt. 1st Class Daniel T. Metcalfe, 29, of Liverpool, N.Y., and a U.S. civilian were killed by Afghan soldiers. They were killed in the same district of Wardak province, southwest of Kabul, where a July 3 attack by a rogue Afghan soldier wounded five American soldiers.

“The truth of it is, the removal of this threat completely would be extremely difficult because of the varying nature of the motivations” of the attackers, said Australian Brig. Gen. Roger Noble, a senior operations officer on the staff of the Kabul-based international coalition.

Noble said that while he knew of no Haqqani ties to the attacks, the killings are a means of dividing the Afghans from their allies that is “right up their alley.”

Jeffrey Dressler, an analyst at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War, who has extensively studied the Haqqani network, said Friday that U.S. suspicions may be well-founded.

“If we accept the notion that a proportion of the ‘insider attacks’ are due to infiltration, then it is absolutely plausible to assume that the Haqqanis are responsible for a portion of those,” Dressler said in an email exchange. “The tactic of ‘insider attacks’ is certainly a potent one, so I would also suspect that the insurgency is doing all it can to increase the frequency and lethality of the incidents.”

The Haqqani network has the backing of elements within the Pakistani security establishment and is regarded as one of Afghanistan’s most experienced and sophisticated insurgent organizations.

The network maintains a safe haven in North Waziristan, Pakistan, across Afghanistan’s southeastern border. The Pakistani Army has consistently refused to launch a military operation in North Waziristan despite the presence there of al-Qaida senior leaders.

Australian Maj. Gen. Stephen Day, the plans chief for the international coalition’s joint command, said in an interview that the Haqqanis are a more troublesome military challenge than the Taliban.

“They represent the most dangerous threat because they are the best trained, best resourced opponent we have.” Day said Thursday. He was not speaking about the question of a Haqqani link to insider attacks.

When the number and lethality of insider attacks began to accelerate early this year, U.S. and coalition officials were reluctant to release details, including those cases in which the shooter missed or wounded but did not kill his target. The attacks were dismissed as isolated incidents. That changed over the summer as top U.S., Afghan and NATO officials began speaking about them more and publicly pressing for solutions.

___

Associated Press writer Deb Riechmann contributed to this report.

Robert Burns can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/robertburnsAP

Source: YAHOO NEWS.

By ROBERT BURNS | Associated Press

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