June 07, 2005

Putin and the rollback of democracy in Russia

June 7 - Long but interesting read in the Washington Post on The Rollback of Democracy In Vladimir Putin's Russia (may require free registration).

Posted by Debbye at 01:31 PM | Comments (2)

May 16, 2005

Saddam's Russian friends

May 16 - Taha Yasin Ramadan, Saddam's vice-president, told a U.S. Senate committee that oil vouchers were "compensation for support" in efforts to lift sanctions against the former regime.

A report issued by the investigation sub-committee for Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs has named highly placed Russian political figures as recipients of the oil vouchers: Alexander Voloshin, former chief of staff to President Vladimir Putin, and Russian lawmaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky.

Russia's foreign ministry said it would be unethical to comment before the final release of the U.N.'s own internal commission report, an investigation with which Russia says it is cooperating.

The Senate committee will hold hearings on this matter tomorrow.

Posted by Debbye at 07:41 AM | Comments (1)

February 17, 2005


Feb. 17 - U.S. Sec. of State Rice has said that the U.S. Ambassador to Syria, Margaret Scobey, has been recalled for an "interminate" period of time (Tension mounts between U.S., Syria) and said that the U.S. has an "increasing list of problems" with Syria.

The ball is in Syria's court, but the response from Syrian Ambassador Imad Moustapha that Syria has cooperated with the U.S. and done everything asked of it is extremely non-substantive.

As always, it's the face down cards that are the most interesting.

14:03: Russia has just finalized a deal to sell short-range anti-aircraft missiles to Syria. They have been identified as Igla shoulder-held missiles called Strelets. A defence ministry spokesman says fears that the missiles could be used against US, British or Israeli aicraft were unwarranted because "the launching device is fixed either on tracked or wheeled gear and is not portable." (We're into tech stuff about which I know little, but if it's not portable, why the wheels? And why are wheels on a shoulder-held launcher?) [To clarify, I realize that wheels or tracks would be for the recoil but on a shoulder-launcher? Must.Google.]

The article ends on an ironic note:

Mr Putin is to meet President George W Bush in the Slovak capital Bratislava next week. They are expected to sign a deal aimed at curbing the spread of shoulder-held missile-launchers.

Posted by Debbye at 07:13 AM | Comments (4)

June 23, 2004

Assault in Chechnya

June 23 - There had been warnings that the Chechnyan rebels would launch a new military offensive, but the large number of attackers was a surprise (Dozens die as Chechen rebels sweep into city.)

CNN is putting the death toll at 92, and says at least three towns in southern Ingushetia were attacked.

Col. Ilya Shabalkin, head of the press service for Anti-Terrorist Operations in the Caucasus, told CNN the attacks were carried out by 50 to 100 fighters that included Chechen, Ingush and "possibly" foreign fighters. An Interior Ministry source told Interfax that about 200 rebels took part.

Shabalkin said the acting head of the Ingush Interior Ministry was among the dead. He said the fighters wanted to call attention to themselves to attract money from international terrorist organizations.

Both articles quote Russian President Putin as saying that
those responsible for the deadly attacks should be "found and destroyed. Those whom it is possible to take alive must be handed over to the courts."
But there are conflicting reports not only about the size of the attacking forces but also who the attackers were: according to this at the Command Post, an eyewitness says that some of the attackers were Ingush:
Initial reports put the number of attackers at 200-300, but the Gzt.ru website on June 23 quoted "an informed source in the Russian power structures" as saying that up to 1,500 fighters participated in the raids, with at least 80 of them involved in the attack on the Interior Ministry building in Nazran alone. According to the website, some 20 other installations around the republic were attacked. An unnamed source close to the investigation now under way into the attacks told Interfax that the goal of the attackers, who were outfitted in spetsnaz special forces uniforms and ski-masks, was to kill law-enforcement personnel. (Interfax, June 23)

Reports on the attackers' origins have been contradictory. A spokesman for the Ingushetian branch of the FSB, Aleksei Baigushkin, said that foreigners, including Turks and Algerians, were involved, but that Chechens formed the attacking group's "backbone." Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin's envoy to the Southern Federal District, Vladimir Yakovlev, said that prior to the attacks, the fighters had trickled into Ingushetia from neighboring Chechnya and North Ossetia. An unnamed official in North Ossetia's Interior Ministry, however, categorically denied Yakovlev's assertion, saying, "We don't have such fighters". (Newsru.com, June 22)

An Ingushetian traffic policeman who was briefly detained by some of the fighters told the independent Ingushetiya.ru website that all of them spoke Ingush and that while their faces were covered by masks, he could tell by their voices that they were young. The traffic policeman said that after he was released, fighters who were also Ingush stopped him several times on the way into Nazran. "They said that they were getting revenge for murders and kidnappings of their friends," the traffic policeman told the website. "And that they were killing employees of [the Ingushetian police's] criminal investigation [department], spetsnaz and OMON [special police units] for helping the Russian special services". (Ingushetiya.ru, June 22)

Likewise, Rossiiskaya Gazeta cited local residents as saying that the attackers were Ingush, "which partially refutes the version about the invasion from Chechnya," and quoted a Russian special services source as denying that they had also crossed over from North Ossetia. "According to our source, most likely no one came from anywhere," the government newspaper reported. "In the evening, people simply put on camouflage clothing, took weapons out of hiding places and went out to the streets to fight". (Rossiiskaya Gazeta, June 23)


A Nazran resident told Ingushetiya.ru that he had spoken to some of the fighters involved in the attack on the Interior Ministry building, who identified themselves as Ingush. They claimed they had "persuaded" Basayev to carry out the attacks in order to "teach a lesson" to the Interior Ministry, FSB and other special services units that have reportedly been involved in "extra-judicial punishment" and kidnappings in Ingushetia.

Best read the whole thing.

Posted by Debbye at 09:45 AM | Comments (0)

June 19, 2004

Russian advised USA of terror attack plans by Saddam

June 18 - Russia 'warned U.S. about Saddam' - admittedly slightly old news to most people but it suggests so many things without much in the way of clues. Roger L. Simon's analytical skills make his post on the subject far more interesting than my idle speculation, though.

There's also a persistent refrain running in my head ... Chechnya, Chechnya which must factor in somehow.

Posted by Debbye at 01:25 AM | Comments (0)

June 11, 2004

The Russian and American presidents

June 11 - It seems like a lifetime ago when President Bush said that he had looked into Russian President Putin's eyes and "seen his soul." The press mocked that assessment (of course) but one of the things we've learnt about President Bush that when he tosses out comments like that one it is wise to shut up, pay attention, and see what transpires over the long run.

Russia was opposed to the Iraq War, but at least they were consistent: they also opposed the NATO bombing of Kosovo. (Consistency may be the mark of small minds, but inconsistency is often an indication of opportunism.)

There are still some open questions about Russian involvement in Saddamite Iraq including the final days before the fall of Baghdad, but if the Bush administration chose to see how much rope the Russians might require, it seemed that the length was short the amount they needed to hang themselves and we have been able to maintain cordial relations with Russia.

Actually, relations between the USA and Russia seem the best possible between two sovereign nations: we disagree, but do so agreeably; Russia pursues courses in her best interests, we pursue ours; we didn't ratify Kyoto, and neither did they.

In short, both countries are behaving like adults without the burden of control freakery that seems to consume some of our other allies.

Whereas the foreign leaders who are said to prefer a Kerry presidency choose to remain hidden, the Russian leader has come as close as is proper to publicly taking a stand and does so consistent with his opposition to the war in Iraq: Putin Takes Bush's Side Against Democrats on Iraq saying

"I am deeply convinced that President Bush's political adversaries have no moral right to attack him over Iraq because they did exactly the same.

"It suffices to recall Yugoslavia. Now look at them. They don't like what President Bush is doing in Iraq."

He could have openly criticized the French, Germans and Belgians for the same cause, but I'll do that for him by pointing out that they (and Canada under Chretien) also supported military intervention in Kosovo despite the lack of a U.N. mandate.

(Link via Let It Bleed. I found while my post fermented that Kate at the Western Standard blog, the Shotgun, has also picked up the story from the Reuters link from which the Yahoo article was taken.)

Posted by Debbye at 09:53 AM | Comments (2)

May 11, 2004

Putin visits Chechnya

May 11 - I guess the headline says it all: Putin in Grozny, 1,000 troops sent.

Posted by Debbye at 04:16 PM | Comments (0)

March 05, 2004

Russian aid to Saddam

Mar. 5 - Article in the NY Times today Russian Engineers Reportedly Gave Missile Aid to Iraq:

Because some of the Russian experts were said to have formerly worked for one of Russia's aerospace design centers, which remains closely associated with the state, their work for Iraq has raised questions in Washington about whether Russian government officials knew of their involvement in forbidden missile programs. "Did the Russians really not know what they were doing?" asked one person familiar with the United States intelligence reports.

A spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Washington denied any knowledge of the allegations of recent Russian technical support for Iraq's missile effort.

"The U.S. has not presented any evidence of Russian involvement," said Yevgeny Khorishko, a spokesman for the Russian Embassy.

That in part echoes some of my frustrations with getting at the truth about the UN Oil for Food program as well as an event during the Iraq War - the attack on a Russian covoy heading for the Syrian border, Condi Rice's weekend trip to Moscow, and the Russians not saying a peep in protest of the attack after her visit (it's my standard fretting over what was in her briefcase and will it be revealed in my lifetime? issue!)

The article doesn't say much we didn't suspect, but does draw some inferences between Saddam's attempt to purchase missiles from North Korea and some of the findings of the October Kay report and looks at why the President isn't forcing exposure of Russian complicity in violating UN sanctions which are highly speculative and fail to take the multilateral talks over North Korea's nuclear program into account.

I've been chewing over this, which looks at some criticisms of the restricted nature of Dr. Kay's hunt, and the accompanying links for a couple of days. IIRC, Dr. Kay said one of the reasons he was ending the search was because the Administration wasn't allowing enough funds or personnel to do the job adequately although I suspect that the actual hunt may be taking place under another agency and possibly in another country, but that too is highly speculative.

UPDATE: Wretchard also examines the Douglas Hanson article in The American Thinker and points to another possibility:

Saddam would have looked at a nuke or bioweapon not simply as a lethal device but as an investment. Dr. David Kay's findings may not mean that Saddam destroyed or hid his weapons before the war. It may merely mean that he sold them.

Posted by Debbye at 11:29 AM | Comments (0)

December 05, 2003

Train blast in Russia kills 37

Dec. 5 - I was stunned twice this morning, first when I turned on CNN while the computer groaned to life then checked their web page for more information and found Russian 'suicide blast' kills 37 (why enclose suicide blast in quotation marks?) and second when I check my referrals and found that USS Clueless had mentioned my blog. What can I say except Thank You? I'm still stunned.

Posted by Debbye at 09:25 AM | Comments (0)

December 03, 2003

Trust me: Russia won't ratify Kyoto

Dec. 3 - I don't know which is funnier: Chretien's faith that Russia will endorse Kyoto even if it means putting a death-lock on it's future economic growth, or that Putin's economic adviser couldn't resist the old stand-by of blaming competition from the USA for his decision, or that Canada is still willing to handicap its economy to please Old Europe even though they can't even meet their targets, or that even though the Fed. government still doesn't have a plan, PM-elect Martin says he is for total implementation of it.

On the not-ready-yet-plan, do the math from the first link: I figure there's a whopping 25% decrease to work out.

It's estimated that Canada must cut 240 megatonnes from its projected emissions by 2010 to meet Kyoto obligations. A federal plan released last fall provided cuts of 180 megatonnes, leaving a 60-megatonne gap.

John Bennett of the Sierra Club said environmentalists have many ideas on how to close the gap.

I'll hazard a guess that wearing warm, fur coats and using wood-burning stoves isn't one of them but bicycling in mid-winter is.

More importantly, pray for no more forest fires while you desist from clearing the dead brush away from your home because those emissions will also screw up Canada's quota figures.

Actually, fully meeting Kyoto targets isn't necessary. All Canada has to do is purchase "credits" from specified nations and pretend that the money goes to actually develop conditions for the people in that country rather than end up in the pockets of the corrupt elites that run those countries. And who will pay to purchase these credits? The Canadian tax payer, of course.

Rumour has it that when Herb Dhaliwal announced his departure from politics, he cried out "you can take my SUV keys from my cold dead hand."

Easy for him to talk; he hails from Vancouver. Here, where we have that white stuff called snow, cold dead hands are a by-product of waiting for a bus in December (we try really, really hard to avoid the dead feeling even though we admit to numbness and stiffness.)

What do I know about global warming? Less, probably, than paleontologists, geologists, and people who study tree rings, yet the data they put out indicates that global warming and colding trends took place long before the industrial revolution.

My guy has his own theory and blames global warming on those damned dinosaurs and their farting. That's his story and he's sticking with it. He says it just goes to prove that anyone can do junk science.

Mark Steyn, as always, has some on-target comments about Kyoto.

UPDATE: Guardian and Styen links via The Canukistanian.

Posted by Debbye at 01:18 PM | Comments (0)