Sunday, February 14, 2016

Putin Rising -- February 14, 2016 -- He Can Speak French In Russian

Regular readers know my fascination with Putin. The contrasts between Putin and Obama have become legendary. One draws lines in the sand; the other builds air bases in the sand.

Coincidentally, there are two articles in the past week from two very different sources that paint an interesting picture.

First, Nietzsche's original line:
From life's school of war: what which does not kill me, makes me stronger.
A reader sent me an interesting Platts article while I was traveling this past week which suggests just that. In a nutshell:
  • Obama placed economic sanctions on Russia in 2014
  • those sanctions forced Russia to "drill smart"
  • Russia continues to produce crude oil at record levels.
That which does not kill us, makes us stronger. 

From the linked article:
When sanctions were implemented targeting the Russian oil sector’s access to Western financing and key Arctic, shale and deepwater technology, analysts saw them as major blow.
Forecasters speculated that Russian oil companies would run into problems trying to maintain drill rates, service loans in foreign currencies, and could struggle to maintain output. At the time the International Energy Agency estimated Russia’s crude production would fall by 80,000 b/d in 2015. And these forecasts came when oil was still trading at over $100/b.
Things haven’t quite panned out as predicted — Russia increased crude output in 2015 by 147,222 b/d year on year, to 10.73 million b/d, and energy ministry data for January indicates this trend is continuing into 2016.
That's enough for now. I may "cut and paste" more from the linked article later. I will archive it, regardless. It's an article anyone interested in the Bakken should read closely.

Now, the second article, the headline, in today's The [London] Guardian:
Russia’s grip on Syria tightens as brittle ceasefire deal leaves US out in the cold. At the peace talks in Munich and on the ground in Aleppo, two things became clear last week: Moscow was running the show and Assad’s opponents felt abandoned by Washington.
This is an incredibly interesting turn of events. Chess. Putin. Obama. Kerry. Iran.

From The Guardian:
Russia’s economy may be stumbling as oil prices fall, but in a week of extraordinary military and diplomatic turmoil over the war in Syria, President Vladimir Putin has proved that his global influence and ambitions have only been sharpened by financial troubles.
For now he seems to be calling all the shots in Syria’s civil war. Russian jets allowed Syrian government troops to break out of a stalemate in Aleppo, cutting supply routes into a city that has been a rebel stronghold for years.
With hundreds of thousands of people facing siege in the ruins of Aleppo, and Europe fearful that thousands more fleeing to the border could trigger a new influx of refugees, top diplomats gathered to agree a flimsy ceasefire deal.
Russia wrung so many concessions out of others around the table that the deal seemed more an endorsement of its role in Syria than a challenge to it. Hostilities would not stop for about two weeks and, even when they did, bombing campaigns against “terrorists” could continue.
That effectively allows Russia to continue bombing as before, since it has always claimed only to target extremists, while focusing more of its bombs on President Bashar al-Assad’s opposition than on Isis or al-Qaida’s Syrian operation, Jabhat al-Nusra.
And more:
Critics warned from the day the ceasefire was announced that Moscow had outmanoeuvred Washington and was simply using the negotiations and the deal to consolidate gains, a tactic honed by Russian forces in Ukraine.
The US may have lost more than political capital. The ceasefire risks costing them the trust of the few moderate opposition groups left on the ground, who feel abandoned by a country that promised support.
“The people that the Americans had been trying to sponsor are now targets of an enemy that bombs without mercy or discretion, and the Americans don’t have a problem with that?” said one Free Syrian Army member in Aleppo, who declined to be named. “They never deserved our trust.”
Russia, by contrast, has doubled down on Assad. Around the time Lavrov was handing down his grim prognosis for the ceasefire, a missile cruiser left the naval base in Sevastopol in Crimea. It was heading towards the Mediterranean to join the Russian fleet there, a public shoring up of an already strong military presence.
Refugees who had recently fled Isis rule said that the failure to challenge Assad and Russia could even put the west’s main goal in Syria – the routing of Isis – at risk. If other opposition groups are driven out, it will shore up the claim of Isis to be champions of the country’s Sunnis
ISIS. Sunnis. Saudi Arabia.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to read these tea leaves.

There is so much more in that Guardian article but that's enough for now.

Except one more thing.

The article does not mention what Putin's bombing is doing to Turkey, Greece, Italy, or Germany. Ask Angela Merkel. She knows. [Update: just days after writing that last line, The Washington Post reports another swarm of refugees to hit Europe this spring and Europe is not ready:
After an unparalleled tide of asylum seekers washed onto European shores last summer and fall, the continent’s leaders vowed to use the relative calm of winter to bring order to a process marked by chaos.

But with only weeks to go before more favorable spring currents are expected to trigger a fresh surge of arrivals, the continent is no better prepared. And in critical respects, the situation is even worse.
Ideas that were touted as answers to the crisis last year have failed or remain stuck in limbo. Continental unity lies in tatters, with countries striking out to forge their own solutions — often involving a razor-wire fence. And even the nations that have been the most welcoming toward refugees say they are desperately close to their breaking point or already well past it.
The result, analysts say, is a continent fundamentally unequipped to handle the predictable resurgence of a crisis that is greater than any Europe has faced in its post-Cold War history.]

At the end of the day, Platts argues that ObamaSanctions on Russia only helped them prepare for the Saudi Surge/Slump. The Guardian argues that ObamaPolicies in the Mideast have only strengthened Russia's position.

He can speak French in Russian:

The Most Interesting Man In The World

From the WHS locker room when I was a wrestler in high school:
When the going gets tough, the tough get going.  
Almost as good as Nietzsche.


Later, 4:22 p.m. Central Time: literally, less than two minutes after first posting the above post, I came across this Bloomberg view: Europe's Convinced U.S. Won't Solve Its Problems.
Europe is facing a convergence of the worst crises since World War II, and the overwhelming consensus among officials and experts here is that the U.S. no longer has the will or the ability to play an influential role in solving them.
At the Munich Security Conference, the prime topics are the refugee crisis, the Syrian conflict, Russian aggression and the potential dissolution of the European Union's very structure. Top European leaders repeatedly lamented that 2015 saw all of Europe’s problems deepen, and unanimously predicted that in 2016 they would get even worse.
“The question of war and peace has returned to the continent,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told the audience, indirectly referring to Russian military interventions. “We had thought that peace had returned to Europe for good."
What was missing from the conference speeches and even the many private discussions in the hallways, compared to previous years, was the discussion of what Europe wanted or even expected the U.S. to do.
Several European officials told me that there was little expectation that President Barack Obama, in his last year in office, would make any significant policy changes to address what European governments see an existential set of crises that can’t wait for a new administration in Washington.

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