Massenbach-Letter. NEWS 16.03.18

Massenbach-Letter. News

  • Washington Post: “Rex Tillerson’s firing was necessary to national security”
  • politico: Larry Kudlow will be the next director of the National Economic Council – succeeding Gary Cohn as President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser
  • George Friedman: The Geopolitics of Britain.

From our Russian News Desk. (The views expressed are the author‘s own.)

  • Baku protesters demand free elections
  • Armenian opposition demands to remove President Serzh Sargsyan from power

Nagorno-Karabakh accuses Azerbaijan of 220 cases of shelling per week

  • Death of a military in Syria caused questions from Ingush social network users
  • Putin’s Brave New World

March 12, 2018 – EPA-EFE/ALEXEI DRUZHININ…-Igor Ivanov – President of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (1998–2004).

  • Korea after the Olympics: Temporary Truce or Permanent Peace?

March 7, 2018 – REUTERS/Jeon Heon-kyun…Georgy TolorayaDoctor of Economics, Professor of Oriental Studies, Director of the Asian strategy center at the Institute of Economics of the Russian Academy of Sciences

  • Russia Is Offering an Olive Branch, Not Flaunting Nuclear Weapons

March 6, 2018 – Igor Ivanov – President of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (1998–2004).

Massenbach* Washington Post: “Rex Tillerson’s firing was necessary to national security”

Opinions: .„With quick work staffing up at State, the country will have made a complete break with the disastrous policies of the Obama years. It was a sudden and somewhat rough change, but necessary to national security. Now if the Senate Democrats who have stalled so many appointees charged with protecting the nation’s defenses and interests will cooperate with Senate Republicans, the hard work of opposing an increasingly ascendant China and an increasingly reckless Russia can accelerate.”

By Hugh HewittMarch 13 at 7:52 PM

On my first show for MSNBC last June, I sat down at Langley with CIA Director Mike Pompeo, now President Trump’s nominee for secretary of state. A quick read of the transcript will not only explain the sudden change at Foggy Bottom but also should reassure any fair-minded person that a much-needed infusion of talent and presidential trust is on the way.

It’s been hard to find anyone in the White House to say a bad word about the character or personality of Rex Tillerson or a good word about his leadership at State. The friction between the White House personnel shop and Tillerson’s chief of staff, Margaret Peterlin, is the worst-kept secret inside the Beltway, and the glacial pace of staffing up the political ranks has angered national security conservatives. Those foreign policy wonks tend to admire the director of policy planning, Brian Hook, but look in vain around the department for anyone else with anything resembling a theory of the world on which to operate the world’s link to the United States.

Other key jobs remain unfilled, including the undersecretary for arms control and international security affairs and the U.S. representative to the U.N. mission in Geneva; both jobs have much to do with holding Iran to account to the deal struck under the Obama administration. The undersecretary for management is another empty office, even though veterans of the bureaucracy from past Republican presidents remain available.

Tillerson has also failed to push nominees for crucial ambassador posts, such as Richard Grenell as ambassador to Germany, the most important non-nuclear power in the world. Other important embassies, such as those in South Korea, Turkey and South Africa, lack even a nominee, though numerous and very qualified candidates abound. The paperwork gridlock of an isolated and uninfluential secretary of state brought the conservative pro-Trumpers and career State Department staff together in agreement that the department was a massive shipwreck.

It is no accident that Trump used the word “energy”when he spoke approvingly of his new nominee. Pompeo will work quickly and decisively with key allies such as Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) in the Senate to reinvigorate the department. First in his class at West Point and an editor of the Harvard Law Review, Pompeo got key experience in the ways of the Washington swamp at the law firm Williams & Connolly before he went as far as possible from it to Wichita to launch a successful career in business and then Congress.

Most importantly, Pompeo agrees with Trump’s priorities and understands that his job is to serve Trump’s agenda, not create one of his own. When he says to a counterpart, “The president believes . . . ,” Pompeo will himself be believed. Like George Shultz with President Ronald Reagan and Henry Kissinger with President Richard Nixon, the boss needs a trusted right arm, not a distant figure of uncertain commitment to core presidential goals.


From our Russian News Desk. (The views expressed are the author‘s own.)

  • Baku protesters demand free elections

As reported by the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (PFPA), some 10,000 people took part in the rally against the presidential election in Azerbaijan. The protesters have stated that the authorities had initiated early election in order to make them non-alternative.

  • Armenian opposition demands to remove President Serzh Sargsyan from power

About 300 people gathered at a rally in Yerevan demanding to remove Serzh Sargsyan from power and release political prisoners.

Nagorno-Karabakh accuses Azerbaijan of 220 cases of shelling per week

In the period from March 4 to 10, the Azerbaijani armed forces more than 2500 times shelled the positions of the Defence Army, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for Nagorno-Karabakh reported.

  • Death of a military in Syria caused questions from Ingush social network users

The funeral of Ramzan Geroev, who perished in the crash of a Russian military aircraft in Syria, was held today in Ingushetia. Internet users are negative to the participation of Ingush servicemen in the Middle East conflict.

  • Putin’s Brave New World

March 12, 2018 – EPA-EFE/ALEXEI DRUZHININ…-Igor Ivanov – President of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (1998–2004).

(,,,Given its strategic position, Russia has the capacity to play a key role in providing a global commons. Moscow is a particularly important player in the field of international security. In the global struggle against international terrorism, for instance, Russia can claim not only high moral authority but also the necessary political and military tools. In the Middle East, Russia arguably remains the single global player which enjoys an active dialogue and cooperation with all of the parties involved in the numerous conflicts in the region. There are numerous other examples that demonstrate Russia’s active role in multilateral diplomacy, one that is becoming ever more essential for resolving regional and global security issues such as the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the fight against illicit drug trafficking, confronting cyber threats and many others.

On a more general note, it is becoming increasingly evident that the decline of global and regional governance that the world has been witnessing for at least the last 20 years contains the seeds of growing threats to all responsible actors in world politics with no exceptions. The universal understanding of this basic reality must be transformed into specific proposals, roadmaps and actions. It is in Russia’s interest to utilize its capacities and comparative advantages to play a central role in restoring and further enhancing global governance.)

  • Korea after the Olympics: Temporary Truce or Permanent Peace?

March 7, 2018 – REUTERS/Jeon Heon-kyun…Georgy TolorayaDoctor of Economics, Professor of Oriental Studies, Director of the Asian strategy center at the Institute of Economics of the Russian Academy of Sciences

(…Washington is not looking for compromises. The United States sees negotiations with North Korea purely as a discussion of the terms of Pyongyang’s capitulation and the surrender of its nuclear trump card….)

  • Russia Is Offering an Olive Branch, Not Flaunting Nuclear Weapons

March 6, 2018 – Igor Ivanov – President of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (1998–2004).

(…And this is not mere rhetoric. Has Russia not always stressed its interest in preserving the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty), extending the New START Treaty, and boosting nuclear non-proliferation? Has Moscow ever questioned the compliance of all parties concerned with the multilateral agreement on the Iranian nuclear issue? Is Moscow threatening unilateral military action on the Korean Peninsula?

It is important that the world clearly hears and properly understands the signal coming from Moscow. Today, the world is undergoing a profound crisis of the entire global security system. If anyone hopes to use the instability and unpredictability of global politics in their unilateral interests, it will only exacerbate the crisis with all that it entails, including consequences for those very actors who are ready to fan this instability and unpredictability. The international community has already lost enough time since the end of the Cold War.

Moscow is proposing another path: to immediately launch talks on creating a new security system that corresponds to today’s reality. To do this, it is first necessary to abandon outdated stereotypes and simplistic ideas about one’s own infallibility and unlimited authority.

A new, single and indivisible world order may arise only as a result of joint efforts and consideration of the interests of all states, in the East and in the West, large and small, developed and developing.

Russia hopes that its partners will properly understand this signal.)


Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* politico: Larry Kudlow will be the next director of the National Economic Council

  • succeeding Gary Cohn as President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser

It will be the latest high profile job for Kudlow, who served as an economist at the New York Federal Reserve and at the Office of Management and Budget under Reagan before a career on Wall Street including serving as chief economist at Bear Stearns.

About Larry Kudlow:“ In 1970, while he was still a Democrat, Kudlow joined Joseph Duffey’s "New Politics" senatorial campaign in Connecticut. Duffey was a leading anti-war politician during the Vietnam war era. Kudlow, working with Yale University student Bill Clinton as well as many other rising young Democratic students, was known as a "brilliant" district coordinator.[5] Kudlow worked on the U.S. Senate campaign of Joseph Duffey, along with Bill Clinton, John Podesta, and Michael Medved, another future conservative, and in 1976, he worked on the U.S. Senate campaign of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, along with Tim Russert, against Conservative Party incumbent James L. Buckley, brother of William F. Buckley, Jr.[6]

Kudlow began his career as a staff economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, taking a position "as a junior economist in a job where a master’s degree wasn’t required."[5] He worked in a division of that bank that handled open market operations.

During the first term of the Reagan administration (1981–1985), Kudlow was associate director for economics and planning in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), a part of the Executive Office of the President. While he worked at the OMB, Kudlow was also an advisory committee member of the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, more commonly known as Freddie Mac.[citation needed] In April 2005, New York Governor George Pataki included Kudlow in a six-member state tax commission……

In December 2016, President-elect Donald Trump was rumored to be considering Kudlow for the position as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.[15][16]

In March 2018, President Donald Trump appointed Kudlow to be Director of the National Economic Council, succeeding Gary Cohn.[17]


Politics: From Vision to Action

Featuring David M. Cattler

​Stein Counterterrorism Lecture
March 13, 2018

Earlier today, The Washington Institute hosted a Policy Forum with David Cattler as part of its long-running Stein Counterterrorism Lecture Series. Cattler serves as National Intelligence Manager for the Near East in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The following are his prepared remarks.


As the National Intelligence Manager for the Near East, I share this same goal. I serve as Director of National Intelligence Coats‘ principal advisor on this critical region. Every day, the "NIM-Near East" team works to ensure that our partners and consumers in the White House and across the interagency have access to the best possible intelligence.

We do this by directly supporting the development and implementation of national policies and strategies. We also integrate the intelligence community—managing and guiding all aspects of the intelligence cycle. This means (1) working with policymakers to identify and articulate their needs; (2) managing and directing collection; (3) assessing the quality of the Intelligence Community’s analysis; (4) ensuring that our products—information and assessments—reach consumers, often at "the speed of war"; and (5) helping determine and mitigate risk by providing unvarnished assessments of what intelligence we can and can’t do to illuminate a situation.

This also means setting expectations and balancing demands for increased emphasis in emerging hotspots while ensuring we have adequate coverage in areas of ongoing concern. This is particularly important in the Near East, where there is an abundance of both, representing some of the hardest choices facing U.S. policymakers. Matt and I were just talking about the fact that I could easily fill my allotted time by discussing just one of the fourteen countries my team covers, not to mention the Palestinian territories.

What I would like to do is provide an overview of key political, security, and humanitarian developments in the Near East, and then use the balance of our time to answer questions. But let me emphasize two initial points. First, given the open nature of this forum, some of my responses may be limited due to classification considerations. Second, while I previously served as a policymaker at the White House, my current position is in the IC. As such, I will probably need to defer any policy questions that are not intelligence related.

Let’s begin with the so-called "Islamic State." Due to the tremendous efforts and sacrifices of the U.S.-led coalition, ISIS has lost more than 98 percent of the territory it once controlled in Iraq and Syria. It has lost thousands of its fighters and is a fraction of its former self. The myth of its "caliphate" has been exposed. However, as Secretary of Defense Mattis has emphasized, "the fight is not over." U.S.-assisted forces are continuing to clear the remaining pockets under ISIS control. But at least in Iraq and Syria, the group’s trajectory is headed downward.

Given this, can we expect a "peace dividend?" What are the implications of ISIS’s strategic defeat as a quasi-conventional force? (continued / see attachment)


*Massenbach’s Recommendation*

The Geopolitics of Britain

By George Friedman

The fundamental problem for Britain has always been continental Europe. The danger to Britain was that a single, powerful entity would arise that could do two things. First, it could ally with the Scottish elite to wage war against England on land. Second, it could build a naval force that could defeat the British navy and land an invading force along the English shore of the Channel. The Romans did this, as did the Normans.

Successive powers arose in Europe that saw an opportunity to defeat England and later Britain. The Spaniards attempted an invasion in the 16th century; the French in the 19th century; the Germans in the 20th century. Each was defeated by treacherous waters and the Royal Navy. Many other potential invasions were never launched because the navies didn’t exist. They didn’t exist because of the British grand strategy, the core of which was that the nearest landmass, continental Europe, would always place Britain at a demographic disadvantage in a war. The population of Europe was the base of armies vastly larger than that which Britain could field. Therefore, the central strategy was to prevent such a force from landing in Britain.

(click to enlarge)

Building a naval force able to challenge the British was enormously expensive. Only a very wealthy country could afford it, but very wealthy countries lacked the appetite. Other countries, seeking to increase their wealth, competed with other aspiring countries, diverting resources to land-based forces and making it impossible to build navies. The fact that the continent was fragmented first between kings and emperors, and later between nation-states, was Britain’s primary line of defense. The wealthiest nations were constantly fending off attacks from neighbors, while the poorer countries plotted strategies for enhancing their position through war. As a result, there were a succession of great continental powers: Spain, the Netherlands, France and Germany. None was strong enough for long enough to divert resources to taking Britain.

The Grand Strategy

British grand strategy, therefore, is to maintain a large naval force, but beyond that, to do what it can on the European continent to discourage hegemony on the mainland by preventing coalitions from forming, or by fomenting rivalries. In other words, the British grand strategy was constant involvement on the European continent, with the primary goal of diverting any nation focusing on naval development. These actions could involve trade policy, supporting various dynasties or nations, using the ability to blockade, or inserting limited ground forces to support a coalition of forces. British strategy was an endless kaleidoscope of tactics, constantly shifting relationships and actions designed to secure the homeland by maintaining insecurity on the continent. Britain didn’t create insecurity. That was built into the continental geopolitical system. Britain was successful at taking advantage of and nurturing the insecurity that was already there. Britain was always part of Europe, as for example its participation in the Napoleonic wars and the Congress of Vienna. At the same time, it stood apart from Europe because its geography gave Britain another base on which to stand.

The British Empire came into being as a byproduct of this grand strategy. The various imperial naval powers that came into existence were undermined not by naval force but by land conflicts. Spain, the Netherlands and France all developed navies able to carve out empires. But diversions on the continent limited their ability to expand those empires, and drained their ability to exploit them effectively. The British, united after the early 18th century and impervious to European manipulation, were able to sustain an imperial enterprise that constantly expanded and enriched Britain.

The reality of Europe also facilitated British leadership in the Industrial Revolution. Continental manpower, resources and inventiveness were no less than those of the British. But the British had far greater security for their enterprises, less diversion to military production, and a dynamic and growing empire to support industrialization. As a result, Britain developed another powerful tool for managing the continent: exports of manufactured goods and technologies.

What ultimately undermined the British grand strategy was the unification of Germany and the rise of the United States. German unification created an industrial force that could rival Britain commercially and dominate the continent militarily. In World War I, Britain followed a strategy that flowed from its grand strategy, intervening with ground forces to block Germany from imposing a continental hegemony. The cost to Britain far outweighed expectations. The grand strategy failed Britain by forcing it into a vast land war on the continent, taking away the option of selective involvement and manipulation. Britain had to use main force, which negated its geographic advantage.

Also weakening Britain was the emergence of the United States as a power that could field a million men in Europe and create a naval force that was second only to Britain’s. The truce that ended World War I did not end Britain’s problems; it merely delayed them. Within two decades, a re-emergent Germany once again challenged for European hegemony, and Britain’s survival become dependent on the intervention of the United States. In exchange for U.S. support in World War II, Britain all but gave up its empire when it was forced to abandon almost all of its naval bases in the Western Hemisphere in exchange for lend-lease. Having been trapped twice in the one thing she could not do — a European land war — Britain emerged hostage to the United States, now a junior member of its anti-Soviet coalition.

Crafting a New Strategy

The United States then took on the British role on a global basis. Britain was no longer the chess master, but a piece on the board — an important piece, but one that had lost its room for maneuver. Britain had to craft a new grand strategy out of the wreckage of the old. There was, however, a core that remained in place, which was the doctrine of the balance of power. Now, instead of being the major balancing power among other nations, Britain sought to balance its own power between two more powerful entities: the United States and the Soviet Union.

Because of its new position, Britain did not have the option of isolation. Its economic system required access to markets and products, and its strategic position required leverage on the European continent. So in 1973, Britain joined the European Economic Community, and in 1991 agreed to join the European Union. Britain always resisted full integration into the EU, however.

In the era after the collapse of the Soviet Union, there were two poles for British strategy: Europe and the United States. Total dependence on either one could lead to disaster. Europe was led by its old nemesis Germany. The United States was a nemesis as well. Only by having relations with both could Britain hope to retain room for its own maneuver. The two wanted different things. The EU wanted a defined economic relationship with elements of a political one. The United States was open to economic relationship but particularly wanted British participation in its wars. Britain could satisfy both, cling to both poles and thereby find its own space.

The British Dilemma

The problem that Britain faces now is a European Union that doesn’t resemble what the founders imagined, or what existed 10 years ago. Where it had been seen as becoming a pillar of the international system along with the United States, it has morphed into political discord and uncertainty. The United States also has internal problems that were unexpected, but not of the consequence of Europe’s

Britain’s problem now is being drawn too deeply into dependency on the United States. Such dependency on any country is rarely in a nation’s interest. What Brexit represents is Britain’s distrust of the viability of the European system and a desire to operate independently of it. That is difficult for Britain to do, so the United States is the pole that attracts, if total independence of all coalitions is not an option — which it is not.

This is the British dilemma. The German geopolitical imperative for expansion and the American need to dominate the North Atlantic have taken the old geopolitical reality and radically shifted its grand strategy.

Europe is moving toward its historic disunity and class hostility. But Britain is not in a position to manipulate that for its own security. The North Atlantic is no longer Britain’s path to an empire. Depending on Europe is difficult. Relying on the United States is possible, but the U.S. is likely to once again exact a price. What that price is, however, is unclear. The only other alternative is for Britain to try to lead an alternative economic block out of the train wreck of Europe. As Europe’s second-largest economy, this is not an impossibility.

But in the end, Britain is an island, and Scotland is restless. The Germans are united and not altogether predictable. The U.S. is both friendly and avaricious, and its tastes are fickle. Finding a balance between Europe, however fragmented, and the United States might seem to be best option, but geopolitics tends to force unexpected choices on countries. Who in 1900 would have thought that Britain would be facing the choice it is facing today. Only those who understood what Germany was and what the United States was going to become.



see our letter on:

*Herausgegeben von Udo von Massenbach, Bärbel Freudenberg-Pilster, Joerg Barandat*


03-13-18 Caucasian news-Russia_US_China_Korea.pdf

03-13-18 a-survey-of-the-near-east-implications-for-u.s.-national-security – THE WASHINGTON INSTITUTE FOR NEAR EAST POLICY.pdf


Massenbach-Letter. NEWS 09.03.18

Massenbach-Letter. News – We celebrate the International Women’s Day (IWD) –

& ceterum censeo: Syriam esse construendam.

Massenbach*VATIKAN NEWS: Syrien: Franziskaner beklagen Dschihadistenterror.

Kirchliche Organisationen wiesen demgegenüber auf die gezielt gegen die christliche Infrastruktur gerichteten Attacken der Rebellen hin. –

Erstmals ist ein Hilfskonvoi in die belagerte syrische Rebellenenklave Ost-Ghouta gelangt. Auf die seit Wochen andauernden pausenlosen Granaten- und Raketenangriffe der Rebellen auf die christlichen Viertel von Damaskus weisen laut Stiftung „Pro Oriente“ an diesem Montag syrische Bischöfe und Kirchenverantwortliche hin.

Der Konvoi mit Hilfsgütern der UNO und des Internationalen Komitees vom Roten Kreuz (IKRK) traf am Montag in der belagerten Region bei Damaskus ein, wie die UNO mitteilte. Laut WHO wurden von den syrischen Behörden aber wichtige medizinische Hilfsgüter blockiert. Kirchliche Organisationen wiesen demgegenüber auf die gezielt gegen die christliche Infrastruktur gerichteten Attacken der Rebellen hin.

„Pro Oriente“ zitierte in einer Aussendung den Franziskaner Bahjat Elia Karach mit den Worten: „Die Christen fühlen sich verlassen und frustriert, weil sich niemand um das kümmert, was in den christlichen Vierteln auf Grund des ständigen Beschusses vorgeht. Als christliche Gemeinschaft können wir nichts anderes tun als beten und so vielen Menschen wie möglich konkrete Hilfe leisten, ohne auf Religionsbekenntnis oder Ethnie zu schauen, wie das auch Papst Franziskus verlangt, der als einziger ,Leader‘ in der Welt Frieden für Syrien fordert.“

Am 1. März hätten in der Umgebung des Franziskanerklosters im Bezirk Bab Touma 13 Raketen eingeschlagen, „alle punktgenau zu dem Zeitpunkt, an dem die Kinder und Jugendlichen aus den Schulen kommen“. Die Absicht, Kinder und Jugendliche zu treffen, sei offensichtlich gewesen, so Karach.

Der maronitische Erzbischof von Damaskus, Samir Nassar, hob in einem Hirtenwort hervor, dass die Intensität der Kämpfe „nicht nur die von den Dschihadisten als Geiseln genommene Zivilbevölkerung von Ost-Ghouta“ betreffe. So habe sich landesweit der Exodus besonders unter Jugendlichen und Männern beschleunigt, sodass es bereits spürbaren Arbeitskräftemangel trotz der schlechten Wirtschaftslage gebe. Die Syrer seien heute ein „Volk der Armut, das von Zuwendungen und Bettelei leben“ müsse. 80 Prozent der im Gesundheitswesen Tätigen – „darunter die meisten Ärzte“ – hätten das Land verlassen. Das führe dazu, dass 60 Prozent der Verwundeten und Verletzten sterben.

( see next article: Stability Operations in Syria -The Need for a Revolution in Civil-Military Affairs)

Den großen internationalen Presseagenturen zufolge haben die Regierungstruppen bereits ein Drittel der letzten großen Rebellenenklave unter ihre Kontrolle gebracht. Unterdessen forderte der UNO-Menschenrechtsrat in Genf eine dringende Untersuchung der jüngsten Angriffe und Bombardierungen in Ost-Ghouta.

Syrien: „Der Westen sagt nur einen Teil der Wahrheit“

Kirchenleute im Nahen Osten werfen dem Westen häufig vor, einen verzerrten Blick auf die dortigen Konflikte zu haben. Auch William Shomali sieht das so. Der Patriarchal-Vikar für Jordanien kritisiert die westliche Haltung zum Syrien-Krieg.

Stefan von Kempis – Vatikanstadt


„Anderthalb Millionen syrische Flüchtlinge halten sich in Jordanien auf, und ebenso viele im Libanon“, sagt Shomali im Gespräch mit Vatican News. „Sie fliehen vor Armut, vor allem aber vor dem Tod – sie haben Angst vor dem Tod. Für sie ist das eine Art Dritter Weltkrieg!“

Ein Weltkrieg, bei dem der Westen in der Wahrnehmung der Öffentlichkeit weitgehend abseits steht. Dabei ist er nach Bischof Shomalis Analyse gar nicht unbeteiligt an dem Schlachten.

Für eine Lösung der syrischen Krise müsste man wirklich zusammenarbeiten! Sie ist nicht nur eine Krise unter syrischen Kriegsgegnern, sie ist auch eine Krise unterschiedlicher Perspektiven Europas und Amerikas. Man achte nur auf den großen Unterschied zwischen der Vision Russlands und Amerikas.“

„In Damaskus gibt es genauso viele Tote“

Bischof Shomali spricht es nicht aus, aber mit „Zusammenarbeit“ meint er durchaus, dass der Westen auch mit dem syrischen Präsidenten Bashar al-Assad sprechen müsste. Aber der Westen ist ja verblendet, was Syrien betrifft, das sieht der Weihbischof im Lateinischen Patriarchat von Jerusalem genauso wie andere Kirchenleute in Nahost.

„Der Westen sagt nur einen Teil der Wahrheit. Ein Beispiel: Assad bombardiert Ost-Ghouta in der Nähe von Damaskus, und man spricht von 600 Toten. Aber keiner spricht von den 600 Toten durch den Beschuss der Rebellen, die von Ost-Ghouta aus ins Stadtzentrum von Damaskus zielen! Da gibt es genauso viele Tote.”


From our Russian News Desk. (The views expressed are the author‘s own.)

  • Disillusionment and Missed Opportunities: Russia-U.S. Relations in 2017
  • February 27, 2018 – REUTERS/Carlos Barria – Andrey Kortunov – Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council, RIAC member

(…While the Republican victory in the race for the White House appeared to come as a surprise to most Russian political analysts and the political leadership, it was greeted with reactions ranging from cautious optimism to outright elation…Looking back, Russia made at least three tactical (not strategic) mistakes after the new Republican administration came to power. Perhaps a change in the trajectory of U.S.-Russia relations was still possible in January 2017, but the mistakes had a significant cumulative effect that obliterated the modest chance of such change.

…..For many in the Russian political class, confronting the United States is an even more significant part of foreign policy. It is the framework that sustains other aspects of foreign policy. Unfortunately, no other framework has been found in the years since the Cold War. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the new generation of Russian political experts, journalists, and diplomats who started their careers after the Soviet collapse have adopted the old Soviet logic of geopolitical confrontation with Washington….. )

  • Putin’s State of the Union: Russia Can No Longer Take the US Goodwill and Commitment for Granted
  • Andrey Kortunov – Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council, RIAC member – March 5, 2018

(…(the) demonstration of specific artefacts of Kremlin’s military might and ambitions should not conceal a more fundamental change in the Russian strategic thinking articulated by Vladimir Putin: the country is drifting in the direction of strategic isolationism. This is a clear and important deviation from both the traditional Russian (and the Soviet) strategic thinking with very serious implications for the global strategic stability…

If President Putin no longer considers strategic arms control as Russia’s top security priority; if from now on Moscow relies primarily on strengthening its strategic arsenal with new futuristic weapons, it means a fundamental change in the global strategic equation. The concept of strategic stability as we have known it since early 1960s becomes antiquated and immaterial. It is not yet clear, what kind of a new arrangement may replace the old one. Another thing is clear: next years and even decades will be a bumpy road for all of us.).

  • MAD’s Midlife Crisis: The Impact of US-Russia Rivalry on International Arms Control
  • Ekaterina Konovalova – MSc in International and European Studies, Associate Political Affairs Officer at the UN Office of the Special Envoy for Syria
  • Russia’s Foreign Policy: Looking Towards 2018. Summary
  • Andrey Kortunov – Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council, RIAC member
  • Column: Longreads – Ivan Timofeev – PhD in Political Science, RIAC Director of Programs, RIAC Member, Head of „Contemporary State“ program at Valdai Discussion Club, RIAC member

(…The 2018 presidential elections will mark the beginning of a new foreign policy cycle for the Russian Federation. In the context of the elections, the main areas of foreign policy expected to be revised (with a certain amount of continuity), and these changes will be reflected in the respective conceptual foreign policy documents. The Russian presidential elections just so happen to coincide with the political cycles in a number of countries, including China, the United States, and several EU and Middle Eastern states. The „naked wire“ or „dead wood“ effect will only increase in international relations. Crisis scenarios may appear as a result of the intentional or unintentional actions of individual countries, or because of poor coordination in resolving issues that affect the entire world. Russia’s key interest lies in creating favourable conditions for the country’s internal development. Economic backwardness is a growing threat to Russia’s sovereignty, narrowing the window of opportunity in foreign policy.)

  • The Caucasian Knot. News:

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of February 26-March 4

Armenian Parliament elects president – Several cities of Southern Russia host rallies in Boris Nemtsov’s memory – In Baku, 25 people perish in fire – Special operation against militants, and detention of head for Derbent District of Dagestan –

(See earlier reports: Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of February 19-25, Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of February 12-18, Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of February 5-11. / Source: /


Carnegie Endowment for International Peace:

Vladimir Putin’s Russia Goes Global
Vladimir Putin has repeatedly demonstrated that Russia is not, in former U.S. President Obama’s formulation, a regional power acting out of weakness. Indeed the Kremlin has shown that it has increased global ambitions, a sophisticated toolkit, and a heightened risk appetite.
Return of Global Russia
Last week’s launch of “The Return of Global Russia” project illustrated how the Kremlin is returning Russia to positions of influence in regions where its impact was all but written off two decades ago.

As Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) explained in his keynote address, Russia’s strategy “seeks to take advantage where it can to amplify internal divisions. It is focused on boosting cynicism and tearing down Western institutions from the inside.”

The Global Russia digital feature explains the evolution and impact of this new phase in Russian foreign policy.

The Kremlin’s presence is increasingly visible throughout the Middle East and parts of the Western Balkans, Latin America, and Africa. Since 2012, Vladimir Putin has engaged in a sustained campaign to expand Russia’s global reach. The Kremlin is relying on a highly adaptable toolkit to chip away at the liberal international order and to capitalize on the West’s inability to come up with a unified strategy to respond.

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace hosted a keynote speech by Senator Mark Warner and panel discussion on an important new phase in Russia’s more assertive foreign policy and its implications for Western policymakers.

Mark Warner

Mark Warner is the senior senator from Virginia and vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

John McLaughlin

John McLaughlin served as the deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2000 to 2004 and as acting director of the CIA in 2004.

Elizaveta Osetinskaya

Elizaveta Osetinskaya is a UC Brekeley Graduate School of Journalism fellow and former editor in chief of RBC, Vedomosti, and Forbes Russia.

Andrew Weiss

Andrew Weiss is vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Bianna Golodryga

Bianna Golodryga is a correspondent at CBS News and contributor on CNN.

William J. Burns

William J. Burns is president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.


Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* Deutsche Bank Research: Koalitionsvertrag – Zukunft geht anders

Von Anfang an standen die Verhandlungen unter einem ungünstigen Stern. Dazu hat zunächst die Verweigerung einer Neuauflage der Groko seitens der SPD-Führung beigetragen. Dann führten die teilweise diametral entgegengesetzten Interessenlagen der Beteiligten, vermeintlich üppige finanzielle Spielräume und das Desinteresse der Bevölkerung an grundlegenden Reformen zu einem in vielen Teilen widersprüchlichen Maßnahmenkatalog, der insgesamt den Einfluss des Staates in Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft zu Lasten individueller Freiräume weiter erhöht. Doch derzeit überwiegt die Erleichterung darüber, dass Deutschland wieder eine „ordentliche“ Regierung hat. Allerdings könnten sich wohl nicht nur die Koalitionäre bald fragen, ob der Preis nicht doch zu hoch war.

In der Sozialpolitik wird erneut die „Vollkaskomentalität“ der Bürger bedient. Dabei wird der von der bisherigen Groko eingeleitete Trend vermehrter Regulierung am Arbeitsmarkt fortgesetzt, obgleich der demografische Wandel und die Digitalisierung mehr Flexibilität erfordern.

Wesentliche sozialpolitische Vorhaben laufen darauf hinaus, auf mehr Nachhaltigkeit ausgerichtete Reformen des vergangenen Jahrzehnts – zumindest ein Stück weit – zurückzudrehen.

Dementsprechend zählt die junge Generation in diesem Bereich einmal mehr zu den Verlierern einer Groko.

Mit der zweifellos notwendigen Investitionsoffensive in den Bereichen Bildung, Forschung & Entwicklung sowie Digitalisierung plant die neue Regierung, Deutschland zukunftsfest zu machen. Dazu bedürfte es aber mehr als staatlicher Gelder, nämlich hinreichenden Vertrauens in private Initiative sowie unternehmerischer Freiräume.

Fiskalische Spielräume sind derzeit vorhanden. Anstatt für konsequente steuerliche Entlastungen werden diese überwiegend für Ausgabenprogramme verwandt – was dem paternalistischen Staatsverständnis der Großkoalitionäre entspricht. Zudem dürften bei einer Normalisierung von Zinsniveau und Konjunktur bald wieder staatliche Finanzierungsdefizite entstehen.


Politics: From Vision to Action

Barandat*Military Review 05-06-2017:Stability Operations in Syria –

The Need for a Revolution in Civil-Military Affairs.

Like far too many cases in the past, it also ignores the fact that grand strategy can only succeed if the United States not only terminates a conflict successfully but also creates conditions that provide lasting security and stability. All wars have an end, and the grand strategic goal of warfighting is never just to produce a favorable military outcome or to defeat the enemy. It is to win as lasting a victory as possible in political, economic, and security terms. The kind of thinking that led the Office of the secretary of defense to take a far more serious look at stability operations in its Biennial Assessment of Stability Operations Capabilities in 2012 is even more critical today, and cases like Syria illustrate the point…

Syria is a grim study in just how important the civil dimension of war can be, and in just how difficult the challenge of stability operations (and nation building) can be in tactical, strategic, and grand strategic terms. Many argue that the United States could have intervened decisively early in the Syrian crisis and civil war, done so at acceptable risk, done so at much lower cost, and done so before Syria became a humanitarian disaster and before some three hundred thousand to five hundred thousand Syrian civilians were killed in the fighting. There are no reliable estimates of the seriously injured, but the numbers may well be higher.

USAID estimates provide all too clear a picture of Syrian suffering at a civil level and highlight one aspect of the challenge of conducting stability operations. USAID estimates that there are 13.5 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in Syria in a country with a total remaining population of around 22 million. There are 6.1 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Syria, and U.S. aid is now critical to some 4 million people each month.11

No one has a full count of the number Syrian refugees outside Syria because many have stopped registering. Syrian refugees are, however, putting a far greater burden on neighboring states than on Europe or the token numbers that the United States may or may not admit. There are at least 4.8 million Syrian refugees in neighboring states: 2.7 million Syrian refugees in Turkey, 1 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, 656,400 Syrian refugees in Jordan, and 225,500 Syrian refugees in Iraq.12

The situation inside Syria is already critical and is growing steadily worse. The United Nations (UN) Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) warned at the end of 2016,

Over half of the population has been forced from their homes, and many people have been displaced multiple times. Children and youth comprise more than half of the displaced, as well as half of those in need of humanitarian assistance. Parties to the conflict act with impunity, committing violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.

Among conflict-affected communities, life-threatening needs continue to grow. Neighboring countries have restricted the admission of people fleeing Syria, leaving hundreds of thousands of people stranded in deplorable conditions on their borders. In some cases, these populations are beyond the reach of humanitarian actors.

Civilians living in thirteen besieged locations, 643,780 people in need of humanitarian assistance are denied their basic rights, including freedom of movement and access to adequate food, water, and health care. Frequent denial of entry of humanitarian assistance into these areas and blockage of urgent medical evacuations result in civilian deaths and suffering. 3.9 million people in need live in hard-to-reach areas that humanitarian actors are unable to reach in a sustained manner through available modalities.13

In the absence of a political solution to the conflict, intense and widespread hostilities are likely to persist in 2017. After nearly six years of senseless and brutal conflict, the outrage at what is occurring in Syria and what is being perpetrated against the Syrian people must be maintained. Now is the time for advocacy and now is the time for the various parties to come together and bring an end to the conflict in Syria…..

The United States now seems to lack options for either security or stability, and the U.S. ability to link some kind of meaningful military operation to effective civil-military operations, conflict termination, and reconstruction and recovery is dubious at best.

Syria’s problems go far beyond its humanitarian crises and simply trying to defeat one key enemy. Even if IS is largely defeated, large numbers of IS fighters are certain to escape and disperse, and Syria will still present extraordinarily difficult security and stability problems. Any broader cease-fire is likely to either collapse under the pressure of warring factions or see new power struggles in a divided Syria between elements of the Assad regime, the main Arab rebel factions that include large numbers of Islamist extremists, and the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurds…..

The Ultimate Stability Challenge: Recovery and Reconstruction

It is far from clear how long the United States can avoid looking at the far more serious problem of recovery and reconstruction in Syria, both in terms of any broad form of conflict termination and creating any kind of lasting “victory.” As bad as the civil, governance, economic, and justice sectors are in Afghanistan and Iraq, Syria is truly a failed state in terms of governance, economics, and every aspect of recovery and reconstruction…

Rebuilding the country will be a complex and monumental task. Reconstructing damaged physical infrastructure will require substantial international support and prioritization. Rebuilding Syria’s human capital and social cohesion will be an even greater and lasting challenge. Considerable resources will need to go to rebuilding the lives of internally displaced people, and to encouraging the return and reintegration of refugees along with reducing the divisions and tensions between various sectarian communities. Far-reaching economic reforms will be needed to create stability, growth, and job prospects. The immediate focus would need to be on urgent humanitarian assistance, restoring macroeconomic stability and rebuilding institutional capacity to implement cohesive and meaningful reforms. In the medium term, the reform agenda could include diversifying the economy, creating jobs for the young and displaced, tackling environmental issues, and addressing long-standing issues such as the regional disparities in income and greater political and social inclusion.20

The following are key points in the IMF study:

Many factors will determine the extent and speed of rebuilding the country. Most importantly, the timeframe and success of any reconstruction will hinge on when and how the conflict is resolved.This, in turn, will shape the scope and pace of political and economic reforms. And it will determine how much external assistance is forthcoming, including whether Syria will be able to attract private investment. It will be critical to establish quick wins, including in the energy sector and agriculture, as well as in labor intensive industries such as textile or food processing, which could become drivers of growth.

The recovery will likely take a long time. The literature on post-conflict recovery shows that a longer-lasting conflict will have a more negative impact on the economy and institutions, and prolong the recovery.ix For instance, it took Lebanon, which experienced 16 years of conflict, 20 years to catch up to the real GDP level it enjoyed before the war, while it took Kuwait, which endured two years of conflict, seven years to regain its pre-war GDP level. Given the unprecedented scale of devastation, it may be difficult to compare Syria with other post conflict cases. That said, if we hypothetically assume that for Syria the post-conflict rebuilding period will begin in 2018 and the economy grows at its trend rate of about 4 1/2 percent, it would take the country about 20 years to reach its pre-war real GDP level.xAchieving a higher growth rate would allow the country to achieve a faster recovery.xi This assumes that the country can quickly restore its production capacity and human capital levels and remains intact as a sovereign territory. Any break-up of the country would affect potential growth and might require creating new institutions and governance structures.

Rebuilding damaged physical infrastructure will be a monumental task, with reconstruction cost estimates in the range of $100 to $200 billion. SCPR estimates that the destruction of physical infrastructure between 2011 and 2014 amounted to US$72–75 billion, equivalent to about 120 percent of 2010 GDP. The Syrian Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources estimated in early 2015 that the conflict has cost the oil industry alone US$27 billion from the destruction of wells, pipelines, and refineries.xii Similarly, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) suggests that it will take years for Syrian’s domestic energy system to return to its pre-conflict operating status, even after the conflict subsides. xiii With the escalation of the conflict since the second half of 2015, the rebuilding estimates are likely to be much higher. More recently, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) estimated that Syria would require about $180 to $200 billion—three times the 2010 GDP.xiv

Syria will also have to grapple with deep-rooted socioeconomic challenges. The extreme rise in mass poverty, destruction of health and education services, and large-scale displacement of Syrians will pose huge challenges. Syria’s population has shrunk by 20–30 percent, with 50 percent of the population internally displaced, destroyed homes, and many highly skilled workers and entrepreneurs having left the country. Moreover, the currently low school enrollment rate of children will negatively impact the country’s potential output for years to come. SCPR estimated in 2014 that the loss of years of schooling by children represents a human capital deficit of $5 billion in education investment. A recent United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) report placed the loss in human capital at $10.5 billion from the loss of education of Syrian children and youth.xv Many children have been born into conflict and exposed to violence, and studies show that exposure to violent conflicts has long-term effects on generations to come. Therefore, considerable resources will need to go to rebuilding the lives of internally displaced people, and to encouraging the return and reintegration of refugees. Further, the conflict has exacerbated existing, and created new, divisions and tensions between various sectarian communities across the country that will need to be addressed in a meaningful way to promote social and political cohesion.21

The IMF study focuses on the IMF’s mission, and fiscal reform and stability as the path to recovery and reconstruction. It notes that there are serious problems in getting the data needed for even an assessment, and its reform suggestions give priority to fiscal issues over political needs and conflict resolution. At the same time, the study makes it make it clear that there is a very real political and human dimension:

The post-conflict reconstruction efforts should seek to address regional disparities in income and social inclusion. Poverty and extreme poverty, according to SCPR, have worsened further with the conflict, and are highest in governorates that have been most affected by the conflict and that were historically the poorest in the country. Addressing the underpinnings of these disparities should be central to any policy package intended to bring about peace and prosperity. Innovative approaches will be required to improve the provision of public services, including reconstruction of damaged water pipelines, farm irrigation and drainage, roads, schools and hospitals, employment prospects, and access to finance at the regional levels. Institutional and governance arrangements should be considered to give local authorities greater controls over service delivery, including greater forms of fiscal decentralization.xvi However, for fiscal decentralization to work, certain critical governance conditions will need to be in place, including ensuring local authorities are held accountable and resources are spent in a transparent manner. Therefore, any decentralization efforts have to take into account Syria’s new governance model, as well as the state of its institutions.

Rebuilding public institutions and improving governance will be key. This includes making fiscal policy and fiscal management effective, fair, and transparent; developing the rule of law and judiciary independence; and re-establishing and strengthening the capacity for monetary operations and banking supervision, and reforming the bank regulatory framework, including the anti-money laundry and combating terrorist financing (AML/CFT) regime.xvii These efforts would help address governance issues that plagued the country prior to the start of the conflict and contributed to regional and income disparities, and that likely have further deteriorated. They would also help facilitate the re-integration of the domestic financial system into the global economy, lower transaction costs, and reduce the size of the informal sector. Lessons from other post conflict countries show that framing an overall consistent technical assistance strategy at the outset of the post-conflict phase and securing donor coordination are critical for successful implementation of economic and institutional reforms…..


Middle East

March 5, 2018

Middle East countries plan to add nuclear to their generation mix

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, International Energy Statistics, International Atomic Energy Agency, Reuters, and Bloomberg

Nuclear electricity generation capacity in the Middle East is expected to increase from 3.6 gigawatts (GW) in 2018 to 14.1 GW by 2028 because of new construction starts and recent agreements between Middle East countries and nuclear vendors. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) will lead near-term growth by installing 5.4 GW of nuclear capacity by 2020.

The growth in nuclear capacity in the Middle East is largely attributable to countries in the region seeking to enhance energy security by reducing reliance on fossil fuel resources. Fossil fuels accounted for 97% of electricity production in the Middle East in 2017, with natural gas accounting for about 66% of electricity generation and oil for 31%. The remaining 3% of electricity generation in Middle East countries comes from nuclear, hydroelectricity, and other renewables.

Middle East countries are also adopting nuclear generation to meet increasing electricity demand resulting from population and economic growth. Regional electricity production was more than 1,000 billion kilowatthours (kWh) in 2017, and EIA expects electricity demand to increase 30% by 2028, based on projections in the latest International Energy Outlook. This growth rate is higher than the average global growth rate of 18% over that same period, and higher than the 24% expected growth in non-OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries.

Developments in building nuclear capacity in the region include

Iran is building a two-unit nuclear plant, Bushehr-II, which is designed to add 1.8 GW of nuclear capacity when completed in about 2026. Iran’s original Bushehr-I facility, which came online in 2011, was the first nuclear power plant in the Middle East. Bushehr-I has one 1.0 GW reactor unit producing about 5.9 million kWh of electricity per year.

The UAE is currently constructing the four-unit Barakah nuclear power plant, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2020. The 1.3 GW Barakah unit 1, which was started in 2012 and completed in 2017, is expected to begin electricity production by mid-2018.

Turkey began construction of the Akkuyu nuclear power plant in late 2017. Akkuyu is a four-unit facility designed to add 4.8 GW of nuclear capacity to Turkey’s generation mix. The first reactor unit is scheduled to be completed by 2025.

Saudi Arabia is planning to build its first nuclear power plant and is expected to award a construction contract for a 2.8 GW facility by the end of 2018. It has solicited bids from five vendors from the United States, South Korea, France, Russia, and China to carry out the engineering, procurement, and construction work on two nuclear reactors. Construction is expected to begin in about 2021 at one of the two proposed sites—either Umm Huwayd or Khor Duweihin.

Jordan plans to install a two-unit 2.0 GW nuclear plant and has been conducting nuclear feasibility studies with Russia’s Rosatom since 2016. In early 2017, Jordan solicited bids for supplying turbines and electrical systems, and construction is expected to begin in 2019 and to be completed by 2024.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, International Energy Outlook 2017, International Atomic Energy Agency, World Nuclear Association

More information about Middle East nuclear capacity projections is available in EIA’s International Energy Outlook 2017.


    *Massenbach’simage026 Recommendation*

   We celebrate the International Women’s Day (IWD)

image012 Rural Women’s Empowerment — the Road to Gender Equality & Sustainable Development
Lakshmi PuriWhen we celebrate the International Women’s Day (IWD) this year we shine the brightest light on the vast majority of women – especially in developing countries that live and work in rural areas and whose empowerment is about bringing the farthest left behind to the forefront of being the prime … MORE >>
image013 A Fair Reflection? Women and the Media
Audrey AzoulayInformation and communication technologies have the potential to open up new worlds of ideas and the media – television, newspapers, advertising, blogs, social networks, film – is increasingly omnipresent in the lives of many of us. In line with one of the major themes of this year’s Commission on … MORE >>
image014 Ensuring Equality & Inclusion Essential to Weed Out Roots of Extremism
Ambassador Anwarul K. ChowdhuryIn the next seven days two of the biggest events that drive the women’s equality agenda will energize all well-meaning people of the world. The first on 8 March the International Women’s Day will assert renewed energy for women’s activism for peace, rights and development. Ambassador Anwarul … MORE >>
image015 Press for Progress: Women’s Equality & Political Participation
Peter Kagwanja and Siddharth ChatterjeeMarch 8, 2018 International Women’s Day offers another opportunity to reflect on the progress made towards gender equality and women’s political rights. True, the annual event, which has been observed for over 100 years, is about women’s rights. Every woman and girl dreams of a world in which … MORE >>
image016 Promoting Green Growth to Meet Global Aspirations for Gender Equality
Frank RijsbermanThe world has seen tremendous economic growth over the last decades, which has led to poverty reduction and increased welfare for millions of people. Environmental sustainability and social inclusiveness are key to the resilience of these gains and continued growth. “Leaving no one behind” as we … MORE >>
image017 Everyone Stands to Gain When More Women take Top Positions in Businesses
Richard BaratheWomen’s role in the workplace is at the heart the International Women’s Day commemoration. Even though it first celebrated a demonstration by women workers in New York in 1857, it was the killing of nearly 150 young women workers in a sweatshop, engulfed by a massive fire in just 20 minutes, which … MORE >>
image018 #MeToo in the Global Workplace: Time to Connect the Dots
Laila Malik and Inna MichaeliSince its explosion onto the social media landscape at the end of 2017, the #metoo movement has continued to gain global traction. Initially centred on powerful Hollywood women breaking decades of silence about sexual abuse and harassment in the industry, the conversation soon spread across global … MORE >>
image019 Fear and Uncertainty Grip Rohingya Women in India
Stella PaulIn the semi-lit makeshift tent covered with strips of cardboard, five women sit in a huddle. As their young children, covered in specks of mud and soot, move around noisily, the women try to hush them down. Hollow-eyed and visibly malnourished, all the women also appear afraid. Aged 19-30, they … MORE >>
image020 In Latin America “Me Too” Doesn’t Always Mean the Same Thing
Fabiana FrayssinetFrom the Argentine slogan „Ni una menos“ (Not one less)“ to Colombia’s “Now is not the time to remain silent”, activism against gender violence has grown in Latin America since 2015, with campaigns that have social and cultural differences from the „MeToo“ movement that emerged later, in 2017, in … MORE >>
image021 Rural Women Are Essential to the Struggle Against Hunger
Orlando MilesiAdelaida Marca, an Aymaran indigenous woman who produces premium oregano in Socoroma, in the foothills of the Andes in the far north of Chile, embodies the recovery of heirloom seeds, and is a representative of a workforce that supports thousands of people and of a future marked by greater gender … MORE >>
image022 The Silent Victims of Domestic Violence in Georgia
Sopho KharaziAs a student in Rome, the closest event that left a mark in my life was the Women’s March in the Italian capital. The march allowed me to contribute to the empowerment of women and to demonstrate that no woman is free– even if one’s rights are being violated. #MeToo. Domestic violence … MORE >>
image023 Rise of Feminism & the Renewed Battle for Women’s Rights
Sanam Naraghi-AnderliniIn 1909, the Socialist Party of America, in support of female garment workers protesting working conditions, designated March 8 as a day to honor women. By 1917, women in Russia were protesting for ‘bread and peace’ against a backdrop of war. In recognition of that protest and women’s suffrage in … MORE >>
image024 A Long Way Still to Achieving Gender Equality: International Women’s Day
Akinwumi A. AdesinaInternational Women’s Day is a call to celebrate the extraordinary achievements of women and a reminder that globally, we are a long way from achieving gender equality. Akinwumi A. Adesina Today, women in Africa lag behind men politically, socially and economically, even though they make … MORE >>





see our letter on:


*Herausgegeben von Udo von Massenbach, Bärbel Freudenberg-Pilster, Joerg Barandat*


05-06-17 Military Review stability-operations-in-syria-by-anthony-cordesman-v2.pdf
03-05-18 Deutsche Bank Research_Koalitionsvertrag_Zukunft_geht_anders- PROD0064120.pdf
03-06-18 Russia_US_Relations, Caucasian News.pdf

Massenbach-Letter. NEWS 02.03.18

Massenbach-Letter. News * “Vom Maschinengewehr zum Besenstiel: Die deutsche Bundeswehr“

– Carnegie Europe: Germany: From Machine Guns to Broomsticks –

– Carnegie Europe: Judy Asks: Is Russia Europe’s Biggest Threat?

– Carnegie Europe: A Middle East Game Much Bigger Than Turkey.

– Ost-Ghouta: Wer verhindert das Ende der Schlacht. Nahrungsmittel knapp. Waffen nicht.

– Die Presse, Wien: Die Beruhigungspillen von Dr. Merkel wirken.

– Ein neuer Aufbruch für Europa.

Eine neue Dynamik für Deutschland.

Ein neuer Zusammenhalt für unser Land.

Koalitionsvertrag zwischen CDU, CSU und SPD.

  • Disillusionment and Missed Opportunities: Russian-U.S. Relations in 2017.
  • Turkey and the Containment of Iran in the Middle East.
  • The Anniversary of Kosovo’s Independence: Results and Prospects.
  • Looking for options. The Israeli Establishment and the Syrian Conflict.

Massenbach*Das Kanzlertreffen:Kurz und Merkel in Brüssel


From our Russian News Desk. (The views expressed are the author‘s own.)

  • Disillusionment and Missed Opportunities: Russian-U.S. Relations in 2017

February 27, 2018 – REUTERS/Carlos Barria – Andrey Kortunov, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council, RIAC member.

“…Moscow apparently underestimated once again the degree to which American public opinion and Congress can influence foreign policy decisions made by the executive branch. The Kremlin’s projection of its foreign policy model onto other countries and societies evidently also played a role here: the Kremlin can always guarantee legislative and public support for its decisions, so it expects the same of Russia’s international partners. Thus, Russia saw the White House’s inability to promote its agenda in Congress as an impermissible show of weakness and executive inefficiency, rather than an effective demonstration of how the U.S. system of checks and balances works….the Russian proposals transmitted to the Trump administration in March called for the restoration of communication channels between the countries’ political leaders, as well as military and intelligence agencies. Leaked to the public in September 2017, these proposals contained no changes in Russian positions on questions of U.S. interest (Ukraine, Syria, Iran, “Russian interference” in the 2016 election, and other issues). In other words, Russia simply wanted to turn the page in bilateral relations and start with a clean slate.

This approach promised no quick diplomatic victories for the Trump administration; they would have had nothing to present to their domestic political opponents. Moreover, restoring full-scale dialogue without any concessions from Moscow, however symbolic, would essentially have meant returning to business as usual. It would have effectively amounted to Washington’s departure from the positions the West had consistently held from the start of the Ukrainian crisis. Accepting the Russian proposals, therefore, would not just bring Trump new problems at home, but would also generate additional issues for the already complicated relations that Washington has with its European partners….For many in the Russian political class, confronting the United States is an even more significant part of foreign policy. It is the framework that sustains other aspects of foreign policy. Unfortunately, no other framework has been found in the years since the Cold War. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the new generation of Russian political experts, journalists, and diplomats who started their careers after the Soviet collapse have adopted the old Soviet logic of geopolitical confrontation with Washington.

The past year has also confirmed the old truth that pompous declarations about incompatible values and material differences on fundamental questions often conceal specific subjective errors related to a lack of understanding of the political culture and decisionmaking mechanisms of the other side. Both the way Russia treated the hacking scandal and the way the new U.S. sanctions law was framed illustrate the fatal mistakes made in 2017. …There was also a certain stability in some more politically sensitive spheres. The trilateral agreement among Russia, the United States, and Jordan on a ceasefire in southeastern Syria, which was signed in early July, was a good case in point. In November, it was also supplemented by a trilateral memorandum. There is far less talk of the Amman Syrian peace talks format than about what’s been happening in Geneva and Astana. However, both Russian and American experts testify to its effectiveness in one of the most complex and explosive Syrian regions. Neither party has had cause to accuse the other of the conscious sabotage or a unilateral violation of the agreement. Both sides could therefore try to use the positive experience gained through the Amman format to stabilize the situation in other Syrian regions. …”

  • Turkey and the Containment of Iran in the Middle East

February 27, 2018EPA-EFE/ABEDIN…Timur Akhmetov MA in Middle Eastern Studies, RIAC Expert.

  • The Anniversary of Kosovo’s Independence: Results and Prospects

February 26, 2018, REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski, Pavel Kandel, Ph.D. (History),

Head of the Department of Ethno-Political Conflict at the Institute of Europe under the Russian Academy of Sciences, RIAC expert.

  • Looking for options. The Israeli Establishment and the Syrian Conflict

February 22, 2018, REUTERS/Ammar Awad, Zach Battat ,Junior Editor for Global Brief Magazine and a PhD Candidate in Middle Eastern & African History at the Zvi Yavetz School of Historical Studies at Tel Aviv University

“..Russia and Israel share a common concern towards international terrorism spreading throughout the region. When Russia entered the Syrian Civil War, the Israeli government immediately contacted their Russian counterparts. It appreciated the concern Russia had towards the jihadist terrorist threat in Syria, but the intervention led to an equally alarm-ing concern for Israel. That is, Israel worried that this would increase Iran’s influence in Syria. This should not be interpreted as a cooling in Russo-Israeli relations. There has al-ways been dialogue between the two governments on all-levels. Given Russia’s intervention in Syria, both countries’ military and intelligence apparatuses are in contact in the Syrian arena to avoid unfortunate outcomes…”


Carnegie Europe (article att.): Judy Asks: Is Russia Europe’s Biggest Threat?


Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* “Vom Maschinengewehr zum Besenstiel: Die deutsche Bundeswehr“

– Carnegie Europe: Germany: From Machine Guns to Broomsticks –

By Judy Dempsey

  • Germany’s armed forces are in such bad shape that they cannot even meet their NATO commitments. –

Early next year, Germany is scheduled to take over the leadership of NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF).

The VJTF is a 5,000 strong force set up by NATO in 2014 to bolster the defenses of the Baltic States in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Eastern Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea.

Not only is the force based on deterrence. Speed is supposed to be one of its big advantages. The aim is to mobilize some of the forces within 48 hours.

Under German command, which takes over the force in 2019, that’s certainly not going to happen. This is because Germany’s armed forces are in such bad shape that its soldiers lack basic equipment such as protective vests and winter clothing. They don’t even have enough mobile accommodation units for the VJTF. The Bundeswehr promised to make over 10,000 available. Currently it only has 2,500.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg, according to a report recently published by Hans-Peter Bartels, the parliamentary commissioner for the armed forces. “The army’s readiness to deploy has not improved in recent years but instead has got even worse,” Bartels said. “At the end of the year, six out of six submarines were not in use. At times, not one of the fourteen Airbus A-400M could fly,” he added, referring to aircraft specifically designed to transport troops and military equipment.
Just to add to this catalogue of woes, the
Bundeswehr has only nine operational Leopard 2 tanks, well short of the 44 needed for the VJTF. Forget about having fourteen Marder armored infantry vehicles. There’s only three to hand.

As for the Eurofighter and Tornado fighter jets and the CH-53 transport helicopters, they can only be used on average four months a year. They are in constant need of repair. And by the way, there’s a shortage of spare parts for maintenance. Just to add to the miserable state of the armed forces, the troops lack night-vision equipment and automatic grenade launchers.

This sorry state of affairs is actually a recurrent one that raises serious problems about the ability of the Bundeswehr to modernize the armed forces. It also raises many questions about Germany’s commitment to pull its weight in NATO and EU missions, as if the defense ministry wasn’t aware of these shortcomings.

Back in 2014, a year after Ursula von der Leyen became defense minister, the armed forces were lacking such essential equipment that the aircraft that was supposed to take 150 German soldiers home from Afghanistan broke down. There wasn’t a back-up one available. That same year, at one stage during a NATO exercise, because they lacked machine guns, tank commanders instead used broomsticks. They had them painted black. This was not a joke.

There are any number of reasons behind the poor state of Germany’s armed forces.

One easy explanation is that the Bundeswehr has been subject to stringent cuts over the past two decades. But that’s hardly the real reason. After all, Germany spent €37 billion on defense in 2017. That’s about 1.2 percent of gross domestic product. Even though it’s well short of NATO’s 2 percent goal, the fact that the country spends so much money must say something about how that budget is allocated. Bartels’s report refers to very high maintenance costs but also the lack of focus on priorities and inadequate leadership.

Then there is the issue of political culture. Ever since the end of World War II, Germany has adopted a non-militarist foreign policy. While it has joined NATO missions in Afghanistan and EU missions, the armed forces were subject to many caveats that placed restrictions on their movements. These are about avoiding casualties. The caveats were also about Germany’s reluctance to embrace any kind of hard power.

Yet even the country’s soft power is open to question, judging from the fact that the armed forces lack basic soft power equipment such as the heavy transport aircraft to transport humanitarian relief supplies and accommodation units.

In short, for all the talk about Germany taking more responsibility and pledging to pursue a more active foreign policy, it lacks the basic tools and credibility to deliver on any of these proclamations.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who rarely talks about defense, or NATO, or security issues, intends to keep von der Leyen as defense minister.

In her second stint as minister, von der Leyen has one last chance to modernize Germany’s armed forces. So far, she has tried to shake up the procurement procedures in order to create more competition and transparency. She has tried also to change the command structures and professionalize an army that abolished military conscription in 2011. But the Bundeswehr is still plagued by poor planning, argued Bartels.

The defense ministry has tried to play down these serious shortfalls, especially Germany’s contribution to the VJTF: “the Bundeswehr is ready and able to fulfill its commitments,” Jens Flosdorff, defense spokesman said. The missing items, he added, “are being procured.” Then it will be bye-bye to the broomsticks.


Politics: From Vision to Action

Barandat* Carnegie Europe: A Middle East Game Much Bigger Than Turkey

By Marc Pierini: The course that Turkish leaders choose to follow in the Syrian war will have long-term consequences for their country and for the world.

Turkey’s foreign policy is dominated by a heated nationalist narrative, which in turn has triggered military operations in Syria. At the roots of these developments are several threats to Turkey—some very real, some perceived, others imagined—and the ways in which the political leadership uses them.

But beyond the immediate horizon, littered with hard-to-digest news and a couple of unthinkable risks, lies a different set of issues on which Turkey has little leverage. The real world around Turkey is so complex—Iran, Israel, Russia, and the United States are waging battles out there—that it may warrant a sober look from Ankara.

For now, Turkey faces many short-term hurdles.

Turkey’s EU accession has in practice been blocked by Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, and the Netherlands. The European Parliament has just adopted a new resolution criticizing Turkey’s human rights record. A forthcoming review of EU financial support to Turkey will likely end up with a substantial downsizing of assistance. On March 26, the Bulgarian prime minister will host Turkey’s president and the presidents of the European Council and the European Commission in Varna, where the words of EU leaders are expected to be firm. In April, the commission’s latest progress report on Turkey is also expected to be very critical of the country’s rule of law situation.

Then there are developments in New York.

A U.S. court will issue its verdict in the Zarrab-Halkbank financial crimes case around mid-April. U.S. Treasury fines, thought to be in the billions of dollars, against Turkish state-run Halkbank for violating sanctions against Iran could follow. In addition, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control could exclude the bank from operating in U.S. dollars if it were designated as a foreign sanctions evader.

Closer to home, a fierce narrative is in train: the possibility of a direct conflict between Turkish and American forces in northern Syria. American think-tanks and media are abuzz with scenarios of a potential clash. A military confrontation between NATO’s two largest armies would cross into the realm of the previously unthinkable and, if an understanding is not negotiated, could prove irrecoverable. Diplomatic efforts are currently underway.

Also unthinkable is the possibility of the Turkish navy disrupting again the Cypriot government’s offshore gas exploration.

Whatever happens in Afrin, Manbij, Kobane, or off the coast of Cyprus, there is a much bigger game playing out around Turkey.

The stakes in the Syria, especially its eventual post-war settlement, are immensely higher than the fate of ISIS, the creation (or not) of an autonomous Syrian Kurdish region in a post-war Syria, or the links between the PKK and the YPG. They revolve around two fundamental issues: the balance of power between Russia and the United States in the entire Middle East region; and the potential for war between Iran and Israel.

In the seventy-three years since the end of World War II, the Middle East’s security landscape remained relatively unchanged: the United States was the dominant regional actor and Russia a relatively minor one. Israel was created in 1948 and consistently labelled an “enemy of Islam” by Iran since 1979—but the two never fought a war against each other.

Since 2015, however, momentous changes have been engineered by Russia and Iran in the region, with Turkey’s help.

By rescuing the Assad regime with Iranian support, Russia has drastically changed some of the key parameters of the post-World War II equation in the Middle East: for the first time ever, Moscow has set up a sizeable air force base in the region (in Khmeimin, an extension of Lattakia’s civilian airport in the Syrian coast); it opens and closes the skies of western Syria as it chooses; it is enlarging its naval resupply base within the commercial port of Tartus; and it has driven a diplomatic effort—supported by Iran and Turkey within the so-called “Astana peace process” and Sochi talks—to impose its brand of political settlement for Syria.

Meanwhile, in the process of shoring up the Assad regime, Iran and Hezbollah have also set foot in western Syria. They have established bases and substantially upgraded their arsenals in the country to harass Israel, in particular by building small-scale factories to locally produce drones and missiles, thereby avoiding the hassle of air and sea transport from Iran. Recent incidents between Israel, Iran, and Syria are a testimony to this evolution.

In the face of these developments, the United States is now holding about one third of Syrian territory north and east of the Euphrates River through a combination of proxy fighters—the Syrian Democratic Forces, led by the Syrian Kurdish YPG—and its own special forces. This, in essence, locks its position into future—and “real,” as opposed to the meetings in Astana and Sochi—negotiations about Syria’s future. At stake are the destruction of ISIS, the nature of the Syrian regime, local government composition, the right for foreign powers to maintain forces in the country, and ultimately—albeit indirectly—the security of Israel.

For its own reasons, Turkey has chosen to lend a hand to this geopolitical reshuffle: diplomatically, by participating in the Astana and Sochi talks; financially, by sending money to Iran—to the tune of several billion dollars—through the fully-documented “Zarrab-Halkbank scheme;” and militarily, by issuing threats to U.S. troops in Syria in the hope of pushing them back.

This bigger game playing out around Turkey is not made of somber conspiracies, as Ankara would like to convince its population. Rather, it is the theater of a massive transformation of the Middle East—to the benefit of Russia and Iran. It is as momentous as 1979 was for Tehran. The course that Turkish leaders will choose to follow in the Syrian war will have ominous, long-term consequences not only for their country but for the rest of the world, too.

About Marc Pierini: Marc Pierini is a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe, where his research focuses on developments in the Middle East and Turkey from a European perspective.

Pierini was a career EU diplomat from December 1976 to April 2012. He was EU ambassador and head of delegation to Turkey (2006–2011) and ambassador to Tunisia and Libya (2002–2006), Syria (1998–2002), and Morocco (1991–1995). He also served as the first coordinator for the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, or the Barcelona Process, from 1995 to 1998 and was the main negotiator for the release of the Bulgarian hostages from Libya from 2004 to 2007.

Pierini served as counselor in the cabinet of two European commissioners: Claude Cheysson, from 1979 to 1981, and Abel Matutes, from 1989 to 1991.


Middle East

Ost-Ghouta: Wer verhindert das Ende der Schlacht. Nahrungsmittel knapp. Waffen nicht.

Von Karin Leukefeld.

Der UN-Sicherheitsrat hat sich am Samstag auf die Resolution 2401 geeinigt, die einen 30-tägigen Waffenstillstand für ganz Syrien fordert. Auf dem Schlachtfeld in den Ost-Vororten von Damaskus sind Zivilisten zwischen den Fronten in höchster Gefahr. Doch wer sind die Kämpfer, die angeben, die Zivilisten und die „syrische Revolution“ zu verteidigen?

Die Belagerung der östlichen Vororte von Damaskus soll aufgehoben werden, so die Resolution. Wöchentliche Hilfskonvois sollen nicht nur die östlichen Vororte, sondern auch die von der Nusra Front belagerten Ortschaften Kefraya und Fouah in Idlib sowie den vom „Islamischen Staat“ (IS) und der Nusra Front besetzten Ortsteil Yarmuk, das ehemalige Palästinenserlager in Damaskus, versorgen. Kranke und Verletzte sollen evakuiert werden. Der Waffenstillstand gilt nicht für militärische Operationen gegen den selbst ernannten IS, Al Khaida und die Nusra Front und deren Verbündete.

Wiederholte Interventionsdrohung aus dem Westen/ Philippe Wojazer

Diese Ausnahme war nur auf Drängen Russlands aufgenommen worden, während westliche Staaten sich Tage lang geweigert hatten. Da „ganz Syrien“ erwähnt wird, gilt die Resolution auch für die Region um die Kleinstadt Afrin in der Provinz Aleppo. Die kurdischen Kampfverbände haben bereits erklärt, die Resolution zu respektieren. Von türkischer Seite und den mit der Türkei verbündeten islamistischen Kampfverbänden gibt es offiziell keine Stellungnahmen. Der russische UN-Botschafter Wassili Nebensja erklärte nach der Abstimmung, ein Waffenstillstand könne nur vor Ort durch direkte, anstrengende und komplizierte Verhandlungen erreicht werden. Russland wäre zudem wichtig gewesen, dass die Resolution keinen militärischen Einsatz gegen Syrien beinhaltet.

Die Absicht einer Militärintervention, so Nebensja vor Journalisten, sei aus verschiedenen Stellungnahmen einiger Mitglieder im UN-Sicherheitsrat „herauszuhören“ gewesen. Er äußerte „tiefe Besorgnis über die öffentlichen Ankündigungen bestimmter US-Beamten (…), die mit Aggression gegen das souveräne Syrien drohen. Wir warnen gleich, dass wir eine willkürliche Deutung der angenommenen Resolution nicht zulassen werden.“

Druck nur auf Damaskus?© AFP 2018/ John Macdougall

Russland wird von den westlichen Vetomächten im UN-Sicherheitsrat USA, Großbritannien und Frankreich und deren Verbündeten dafür verantwortlich gemacht, dass die syrische Regierung die Resolution umsetzt und einhält. Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel sagte, das „Massaker“ zeige den „Kampf eines Regimes nicht gegen Terroristen, sondern gegen seine eigene Bevölkerung.“ Ihr Parteikollege Johann David Wadephul forderte, Russland müsse aufhören, den syrischen Präsidenten Bashar al-Assad zu unterstützen. Er ist CDU-Berichterstatter für die Länder des Nahen und Mittleren Ostens im Auswärtigen Ausschuss des Bundestages. Russland müsse „international seiner Rolle gerecht werden und seine militärischen Streitkräfte aus Syrien abziehen.“

Bundeskanzlerin Merkel und der französische Präsident Emmanuel Macron drängten schriftlich und telefonisch unter großer medialer Anteilnahme den russischen Präsidenten Wladimir Putin. Er solle Druck auf die syrische Regierung ausüben und diese dazu bringen, die Sicherheitsrats-Resolution umzusetzen. Nicht bekannt ist, ob es ähnliche Appelle an die Anführer der Kampfgruppen in der östlichen Ghouta, in Idlib und deren Unterstützer in der Türkei und in den Golfstaaten gab.

Nahrungsmittel knapp, Waffen nicht?

Auf einem Schlachtfeld zwischen den Fronten sind Zivilisten immer in höchster Gefahr. Doch das ist nur die halbe Geschichte. Wer sind die Kämpfer an der Front in den östlichen Vororten von Damaskus? Wer sind ihre Hintermänner, welche Ziele haben sie? Und wie ist es möglich, dass seit Jahren Nahrungsmittel und Medikamente in dem Gebiet knapp sind, die Waffen der Kämpfer aber nicht nur reichlich vorhanden sind, sondern auch hochmodern?

Die östliche Ghouta war einst ein Naherholungsgebiet für die Einwohner von Damaskus. Seit den 1980er Jahren ließen sich dort Handwerks- und Industriebetriebe nieder. Landflucht und Bevölkerungszuwachs ließen um die kleinen Dörfer der einstigen Idylle neue Satellitenstädte entstehen. Rund drei Millionen Menschen haben hier offiziell vor Beginn des Krieges 2011 gelebt. Die wirkliche Zahl könnte höher gewesen sein. Die meisten der Menschen flohen in der Zeit von Ende 2011 und Anfang 2012, als bewaffnete Gruppen in der östlichen Ghouta die Kontrolle übernahmen. Es blieben zumeist Angehörige der Kämpfer, Personen, die keine Angehörigen in Damaskus Stadt hatten oder zu krank und zu alt, um zu fliehen. Es waren Leute, die ihr Eigentum nicht verlassen wollten. Oder sie gehörten einer der nichtbewaffneten Oppositionsgruppen an, die mit Unterstützung aus dem Ausland auf einen Sturz der syrischen Regierung hofften.

Ausgeweiteter islamistischer Einfluss

Die größte dieser Satellitenstädte ist Douma, etwa zehn Kilometer nordöstlich von Damaskus Stadt entfernt. Vor dem Krieg lebten dort offiziell 120 000 Einwohner. Viele männliche Bewohner von Douma verdienten ihr Geld in der Bau- und Ölindustrie in den Golfstaaten. Manche wurden Vermittler für Firmen aus dem Golf oder Subunternehmer. Neben dem Geld brachten sie auch ultrakonservatives Gedankengut aus den Golfstaaten mit nach Syrien, das in Moscheen und Koranschulen vermittelt wurde. Hier bauten die Golfstaaten nicht nur ideell und religiös, sondern auch wirtschaftlich eine Basis auf, die erst im Frühjahr 2011 mit den Protesten richtig sichtbar wurde.

© REUTERS/ Bassam Khabieh

"Hunderte Geiseln" in Ost-Ghuta – Syrische Armee stellt Feuer ein

2011 entstand in Douma die „Armee des Islam“ (Jaish al Islam), die von Zahran Allousch gegründet wurde. Allousch war 2011 im Rahmen einer Generalamnestie aus dem Gefängnis freigelassen worden, wo er seit 2009 wegen salafistischer Propaganda und illegalem Waffenbesitz inhaftiert war. Ziel der bis heute bestehenden Gruppierung ist es, die säkulare syrische Regierung zu stürzen und durch eine ultrakonservative Regierung zu ersetzen, die der Scharia nach salafistischer Auslegung folgen soll. Finanziell wird die „Armee des Islam“ von der Türkei, Saudi Arabien und den Vereinigten Arabischen Emiraten (VAE) unterstützt, die bis heute für die Bewaffnung und weitere Logistik sorgen. Allousch wurde 2015 getötet. Kurz darauf wurde sein Bruder Mohamed Allousch zum Leiter der Verhandlungsdelegation der syrischen oppositionellen Nationalen Koalition nach Genf entsandt. Nachdem die militärischen Erfolge der syrischen Armee und ihrer Verbündeten die islamistischen Kampfverbände landesweit immer mehr zurückdrängen konnten, wurde Allousch bei einem von Saudi Arabien ausgerichteten Treffen gegen oppositionelle Zivilisten ausgetauscht.

Unterstützung von Golf-Staaten und aus den USA

Eine weitere einflussreiche Kampfgruppe nennt sich „Die Rahman-Legion“ (Faylaq al-Rahman). Auch sie wurde 2011 gegründet und war zunächst mit der „Freien Syrischen Armee“ verbündet. Inzwischen ist die Legion Partner der „Front zur Befreiung der Levante“ (Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, HTS) einem Bündnis um die Nusra Front, einer Al Khaida-Gruppe. Die Ideologie basiert ebenfalls auf dem Salafismus. Die Rahman-Legion spricht von den östlichen Vororten von Damaskus als dem „Östlichen Khalifat“. Die Gruppe wird von Katar und von der Türkei unterstützt und bewaffnet. Seit 2015 liefert sich die „Rahman-Legion“ immer wieder blutige Machtkämpfe mit der „Armee des Islam“.CC BY 3.0 / Qasioun News Agency

Militärbeobachter in der Region führen das auf den Konflikt zurück, der unter den jeweiligen Sponsoren Saudi Arabien und VAE einerseits gegen Katar andererseits besteht. Da Katar aktuell von Saudi Arabien und den VAE als Gegner eingestuft wird, weil das Emirat mit Iran kooperiert, vermuten Beobachter, dass die Rahman-Legion zu einem Waffenstillstand bereits sein könnte. Doch ein am 18. Februar von EMN-News veröffentlichter Werbefilm der Gruppe spricht eine andere Sprache. Zu sehen sind Scharfschützen, die ihre modernen Gewehre präsentieren. Durch ihr Zielfernrohr nehmen sie Soldaten und einfache Leute ins Visier, die sich jenseits der Frontlinie in Damaskus befinden. Nach jedem Schuss ist durch das Zielfernrohr zu sehen, wie das Opfer fällt, während die Schützen Allah preisen. Die Organisation verfügt auch über Anti-Panzer Raketen TOW aus den USA. In einem Werbeclip vom 25. Februar, einen Tag nach der UN-Sicherheitsratsresolution für einen Waffenstillstand, ist zu sehen, wie die Kämpfer eine TOW-Rakete abfeuern und ihr Ziel, angeblich einen Bulldozer jenseits der Frontline bei Harasta, zerstören.

Islamisten arbeiten zusammen

Die „Islamische Bewegung der Freien Männer der Levante“ (Ahrar al-Sham) wurde ebenfalls 2011 gegründet und hat sich kürzlich mit einer anderen islamistischen Gruppe, „Nour al Din al Zenki“ zusammengeschlossen. Der Name geht auf einen Herrscher der türkischen Zengiden im 12. Jahrhundert zurück. Die durch den Zusammenschluss entstandene „Syrische Befreiungsfront“ will die „syrische Revolution“ verteidigen, um ebenfalls einen „Islamischen Staat“ zu errichten. Beide Gruppen wurden und werden von den USA, den Golfstaaten und der Türkei unterstützt und haben Hinrichtungen nach Scharia-Urteilen vorgenommen. „Nour al Din al Zenki“ schnitt einem 15jährigen palästinensischen Jungen vor laufender Kamera die Kehle durch. In der östlichen Ghouta kooperieren beide Organisationen mit dem Bündnis der Nusra Front „Hay’at al Tahrir al Sham“ (HTS). In Idlib, wo alle genannten Gruppen ebenfalls kämpfen, liefern sie sich mit HTS einen blutigen Machtkampf.

© AFP 2018/ Guillaume Briquet

Lawrow erkennt Versuche, Nusra-Terroristen in Syrien „aus der Schusslinie zu nehmen“

Während Nahrungsmittel und Medikamente knapp sind in den östlichen Vororten von Damaskus, gelangen modernste Waffen und Munition, Kommunikationsgeräte, Kameras und Drohnen weiter zu den Kämpfern. Ein Nachschubweg führt durch Tunnelsysteme, die die Vororte miteinander verbinden und inzwischen fast alle von der syrischen Armee und ihren Verbündeten gekappt wurden. Die Tunnel gehören zu einem weit verzweigten unterirdischen Wasserversorgungssystem des Barada Flusses, der die östliche Ghouta bewässert. Bewohner, deren Ehemänner und Söhne verschwanden oder von den Kampfverbänden entführt wurden, berichteten, mussten die Gefangenen die unterirdischen Tunnelanlagen ausbauen und befestigten. Heute wird von einer unterirdischen Stadt in Teilen der östlichen Ghouta gesprochen.

Hilfsgüter werden weiterverkauft

Die „moderate Opposition“ gibt weiterhin an, in der östlichen Ghouta unabhängig von den Gotteskriegern zu arbeiten. Sie bezeichnet die Tunnelsysteme als „Schutzräume vor den Angriffen des Regimes“ und erwähnt die militärische Nutzung dieser Anlagen nicht. Im Interview mit einem Anführer der Nusra Front in Barzeh 2014 erfuhr der britische Journalist Patrick Cockburn, dass Hilfsgüter, die von der UNO und dem Internationalen Komitee vom Roten Kreuz für die Zivilisten in Barzeh geliefert wurden, unter Kontrolle der jeweiligen Kampfgruppen durch die Tunnelsysteme in die anderen östlichen Vororte weiter transportiert wurden. Geld wechselte die Besitzer, der Handel mit Hilfsgütern ist ein einträgliches Geschäft. Sputnik/ Maksim Blinow

Die Kämpfer der beschriebenen Gruppen bilden gemeinsam ein Heer von mehreren Tausend Gotteskriegern. Diese werden aktuell in der östlichen Ghouta von der syrischen Armee und ihren Verbündeten Russland, Iran und Hisbollah bekämpft. Wiederholte Verhandlungen über den Abzug der Kämpfer blieben erfolglos. Ein im Sommer 2017 vereinbarter Waffenstillstand und die Einstufung der östlichen Ghouta als „Deeskalationsgebiet“ scheiterten, nachdem von den oben genannten Gruppen im September und im Dezember 2017 zwei schwere Anschläge auf die syrischen Streitkräfte mit weit über 100 Toten verübt worden waren.

Angriffe auf Wohnviertel in Damaskus

Hunderte syrische Soldaten, Regierungsbeamte und deren Angehörige werden von diesen Gruppen als Geiseln gehalten. In den vergangenen sieben Wochen wurden aus den Gebieten der östlichen Ghouta mehr als 1500 Granaten und Raketen auf Wohnviertel in Damaskus gefeuert. Dutzende Menschen starben, Hunderte wurden verletzt.

Die Türkei, westliche und Golfstaaten haben seit 2011 den bewaffneten Aufstand in den östlichen Vororten von Damaskus unterstützt. Bei einem Putschversuch im Sommer 2012 drangen Kampfverbände weit ins Zentrum von Damaskus ein, wurden aber wieder zurückgedrängt. Das Ziel war ursprünglich, die Aufständischen aus der östlichen Ghouta nach Damaskus einmarschieren zu lassen, um die Regierung zu stürzen. Heute kontrollieren die Kampfgruppen noch ein Gebiet von ca. 100 Quadratkilometern. Das gesamte Gebiet von Damaskus und Umland (Rif) umfasst 18 000 Quadratkilometern.

About Karin Leukefeld:


*Massenbach’s Recommendation*

Die Presse, Wien: Die Beruhigungspillen von Dr. Merkel wirken

Mit klugen Rochaden hat die deutsche Kanzlerin ihre Kritiker in der CDU sediert. Jetzt müssen nur noch die SPD-Mitglieder den Intelligenztest bestehen.

Eines muss man Angela Merkel lassen: Sie ist eine begnadete Technikerin der Macht. Der Februar hätte für die deutsche Bundeskanzlerin gefährlich werden können. Mehrere Parteien hatten sich personell erneuert. Erst die Grünen und die CSU, dann warf auch noch Martin Schulz hin – als SPD-Vorsitzender und ein paar Tage später als Außenminister in spe.

Die CDU-Chefin wartete nicht, bis die Dynamik auch sie erfasste und aus den sich häufenden Zeitungsartikeln über die einsetzende Kanzlerinnendämmerung Realität wurde. Merkel ging in die Offensive, lud sich selbst ins öffentlich-rechtliche Fernsehen ein (da reicht in Deutschland offenbar ein Anruf am Merkelofon) und verkündete dem Volk, dass sie bis zum Ende der Legislaturperiode als Regierungschefin zur Verfügung stehen werde. Die aufkeimende Nachfolgedebatte war damit fürs Erste ausgetreten.

Zugleich machte sie sich daran, ihr Haus in der CDU zu bestellen. In den vergangenen Tagen brachte sie mehrere potenzielle Erben in Stellung. In einem überraschenden Eröffnungszug lotste Merkel die bisherige Ministerpräsidentin des Saarlands, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, ins Amt der CDU-Generalsekretärin nach Berlin. Diese Funktion hatte auch Merkel inne, bevor sie 2002 zur Parteivorsitzenden aufstieg. Zwei weitere Nachfolgekandidatinnen hat sie ins Kabinett für eine Neuauflage der Großen Koalition nominiert: die bisherige Verteidigungsministerin Ursula von der Leyen und Julia Klöckner, die als Landwirtschaftsministerin vorgesehen ist.

Ins Boot holte sie auch ein viertes Parteimitglied, dem Ambitionen aufs Kanzleramt nachgesagt werden: Jens Spahn darf sich, sofern die Koalition mit der SPD tatsächlich zustande kommen sollte, mit dem Gesundheitsministerium herumschlagen. Ein smarter Kniff: Merkels vorlautester Kritiker und der konservative Flügel der CDU sind damit vorerst ruhiggestellt.

Nun kann niemand mehr sagen, dass Merkel nicht für das Ende ihrer Ära vorgesorgt habe. Sie hat ihr Kabinett verjüngt und gleich vier Personen um sich geschart, die ernsthaft für die Thronfolge in der CDU infrage kommen: Kramp-Karrenbauer, Julia Klöckner, Ursula von der Leyen sowie Jens Spahn, und zwar in dieser Reihenfolge. Das Quartett wird in den kommenden Monaten ausgiebig Gelegenheit haben, sich zu profilieren, zu belauern – und zu neutralisieren. Und in der Zwischenzeit regiert, wenn alles nach Plan läuft, Merkel unbehelligt weiter.

Mit ihren Personalrochaden hat die Bundeskanzlerin den Parteitag rechtzeitig sediert. Kritik kam nur aus der zweiten und dritten Reihe. Die Partei winkte den neuen Koalitionsvertrag mit der SPD durch. Dabei hat Merkel ihrer CDU einiges zugemutet. Besonders hart verhandelt hat sie nicht. Eigentliche Verhandlungsführerin war die Angst vor Neuwahlen. Sonst lässt sich nicht erklären, warum die CDU-Chefin den bei der Wahl geschwächten Sozialdemokraten das Finanzministerium geschenkt hat. Merkel war eine Koalition mit schmerzhaften Abstrichen lieber als gar keine. Man kann das als Wahrnehmung staatspolitischer Verantwortung deuten – oder als Einknicken. Wahrscheinlich trifft beides zu.

Jedenfalls ist die Erpressungstaktik der SPD, deren rund 463.000Mitglieder der Großen Koalition ja noch zustimmen müssen, aufgegangen. Bisher zumindest. Denn noch liegt das Ergebnis der Mitgliederbefragung nicht vor. Erst am Sonntag wird Deutschland wissen, ob es eine neue Regierung hat oder wieder wählen muss. Die SPD wagt eine interessante Versuchsanordnung, indem sie die kollektive Intelligenz ihrer Mitglieder testet. Angesichts verheerender Umfragewerte unter 20 Prozent kämen Neuwahlen einem Massenharakiri gleich. Aber die Aussicht auf vier weitere Jahre neben Merkel ist auch nicht unbedingt belebend. Lehnen die SPD-Mitglieder eine Große Koalition ab, könnte es für Merkel abermals knapp werden. Denn es wäre dann offensichtlich, dass sie nicht mehr imstande ist, eine Regierung zu bilden.

Doch auch dann könnte Merkel immer noch ein Argument für sich aus der Tasche ziehen – und sich als letzter verantwortungsbewusster Stabilitätsanker in unruhigen Zeiten inszenieren. Die Technikerin der Macht ist sicherlich auch auf diese Eventualität vorbereitet.


Ein neuer Aufbruch für Europa

Eine neue Dynamik für Deutschland

Ein neuer Zusammenhalt für unser Land






see our letter on:

*Herausgegeben von Udo von Massenbach, Bärbel Freudenberg-Pilster, Joerg Barandat*


Koalitionsvertrag 2018.pdf

02-27-18 Germany_ From Machine Guns to Broomsticks – Carnegie Europe – Carnegie Endow.pdf

02-21-18 Judy Asks_ Is Russia Europe’s Biggest Threat_ – Carnegi e Europe – Carnegie E.pdf

02-27-18 Kortunov_Russia-US-Relations, Turkey-Iran, Kosovo, Israel-Russia.pdf

Massenbach-Letter. NEWS 23.02.18

Massenbach-Letter. News

  • Deutsche Bank Research – Ausblick Deutschland: Partyzeit
  • Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ): Deutschlands Militär ist ein Sanierungsfall
  • Asia Times: Afrin marks the point of collapse for American influence in Syria
  • In Syria, Alliances Shift Again
  • Turkey Tests the Waters Off the Coast of Cyprus
  • Türkisch-deutsche Beziehungen: Einäugig
  • Wall Street Journal: The Russian Indictments
  • From our Russian News Desk. (The views expressed are the author‘s own.)
  • Major Challenges for the Military and Security Services in Syria
  • US Nuclear Policy Upgraded – The Russian Factor
  • Georgia, the European Union and Associated Membershipand NATO
  • Statement by the Euro-Atlantic Security Leadership Group: Support for Dialogue Among Governments to Address Cyber Threats to Nuclear Facilities, Strategic Warning and Nuclear Command and Control
  • The Caucasian Knot: NEWS

– Wagner’s Private Military Company" (Wagner’s PMC)

– Questions of trust in authorities‘ guarantees

– Political analysts doubt close organizational and financial links with the IS in Dagestan

Massenbach* Deutsche Bank Research – Ausblick Deutschland: Partyzeit

Die Konjunktur hat im Winterhalbjahr kaum an Schwung verloren. Der enge Arbeitsmarkt und prall gefüllte Auftragsbücher der Unternehmen bescheren den Gewerkschaften eine hervorragende Verhandlungsposition, wenngleich die diesjährigen Abschlüsse wohl letztlich nicht ganz so hoch ausfallen dürften, wie sich mancher Arbeitnehmer und die EZB erhoffen.

Gleichzeitig werden bei den Verhandlungen über eine Neuauflage der Groko die fiskalischen Überschüsse komplett ausgegeben. Gerade so, als gäbe es keine demografischen Herausforderungen und gerade so, als seien „Nullzinsen“ und eine boomende Wirtschaftsentwicklung ein Normalzustand. Wie intonieren die Narren, wenn das Ende der Karnevalszeit naht? „Am Aschermittwoch ist alles vorbei.“


From our Russian News Desk. (The views expressed are the author‘s own.)

  • Major Challenges for the Military and Security Services in Syria

The role of the military and security services has been crucial to the stability of regimes in the Middle East for the last seven decades. Militarization of the ruling elites in the region was inherent in these societies as the wave of anti-colonial revolutions initiated by army officers in the late 1940s and 1950s brought them to power. Back then, they were the only force capable of taking power and ultimately protecting their countries’ independence and integrity….

One of the most important factors that determines whether security and military structures are key to a regime’s rigidity is their involvement in the political and economic life of their country…

…In Syria, where the security apparatus and armed forces play a crucial role in the existing system and the military phase of the civil war is coming to the end, the question of structural reforms and changes will be among the key ones. Considering that the Syrian intelligence services were deeply involved in the country’s system of management, oppression, and interrogation, and later in the civil war, their status and the question of systemic, functional change are going to be on the agenda of the parties in the conflict….

Because of this, reformation of the Syrian security and military apparatus is even more complicated than it seems. On one hand, security is absolutely necessary and important in the context of any transition process. It is a precondition for the launch of political processes (and security services and the military, among other actors, must provide it). On the other hand, in the Syrian reality, a large part of the opposition seeks to dismantle all regime-related forces, which will lead to insecurity. As a result, a very cautious approach should be implemented, one which will simultaneously initiate restructuring of the security apparatus under public and/or international scrutiny and allow existing structures to provide security. Otherwise, there is a high risk of another escalation.

In addition to that, the task of rebuilding trust between Syrian intelligence structures and society is enormous. This is why a political process should be launched to initiate reform of the intelligence services in Syria. This process should help bring positive results on less sensitive issues that are required to precede with more complicated ones. Such a process is only possible when both sides of the conflict are ready to compromise. For now, prospects of this look dim.

It seems now that the only possible scenario involves major actors in the crisis exerting their influence on the opposition and government to start talks on political transition and ultimately initiate it. Without external observation and pressure, such a process seems almost impossible.-

  • US Nuclear Policy Upgraded – The Russian Factor

The modernization of nuclear weapons is inevitable and even advisable for all nuclear powers. Russia, for one, continues to deploy and develop advanced nuclear systems. Universal nuclear disarmament remains a thing of the distant future; shiny new missiles appear to be safer to handle than rusty old ones, and they are better at deterring potential adversaries……

  • Georgia, the European Union and Associated Membershipand NATO

In recent years, Georgia has been just about the only country in the region that continues to display lofty ambitions in its relations with the European Union while at the same time making a number of practical changes in public administration and the economy in keeping with Georgia’s commitment to “political association and economic integration” with the European Union. In this context, one wonders if Georgia is in a position to become the new “success story” of the Eastern Partnership against the background of the unfulfilled hopes for the Europeanization of Moldova.

…However, all the talk about the success of Georgia’s modernization has been accompanied in the global media with reports to the effect that, in reality, Georgia is not run by the parliament or the president, but rather by tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili. And his Georgian Dream party, while enjoying a strong majority in parliament, seeks to expand its control of the country’s political and media space even further. Therefore, domestic political conditions cast a shadow over the overall image of the country, which has declared itself a part of Europe…..

  • Statement by the Euro-Atlantic Security Leadership Group: Support for Dialogue Among Governments to Address Cyber Threats to Nuclear Facilities, Strategic Warning and Nuclear Command and Control

For the past three years, Des Browne, Wolfgang Ischinger, Igor Ivanov, Sam Nunn, and their respective organizations—the European Leadership Network (ELN), the Munich Security Conference (MSC), the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), and the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI)—have been working with former and current officials and experts from a group of Euro-Atlantic states and the European Union to test ideas and develop proposals for improving security in areas of existential common interest. The Euro-Atlantic Security Leadership Group (EASLG) operates as an independent and informal initiative, with participants who reflect the diversity of the Euro-Atlantic region from the United States, Canada, Russia, and fifteen European countries…..

  • The Caucasian Knot: NEWS

– Wagner’s Private Military Company" (Wagner’s PMC)

– Questions of trust in authorities‘ guarantees

– Political analysts doubt close organizational and financial links with the IS in Dagestan


Wall Street Journal: The Russian Indictments

Where were James Clapper and John Brennan when the Kremlin was meddling?

By The Editorial Board – Feb. 16, 2018 6:59 p.m. ET

The Justice Department on Friday indicted three Russian companies and 13 individuals for interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and the man who should be most upset is Donald J. Trump. The 37-page indictment contains no evidence of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, but it does show a systematic effort to discredit the result of the 2016 election. On the evidence so far, President Trump has been the biggest victim of that effort, and he ought to be furious at Vladimir Putin.

The indictment documents a broad social-media and propaganda campaign operating out of Russia and involving hundreds of people starting in 2014 that “had a strategic goal to sow discord in the U.S. political system.” It certainly succeeded on that score, as Democrats and the media have claimed that Mr. Trump’s election is illegitimate because he conspired with Russia to defeat Hillary Clinton. The charge has roiled American politics and made governing more difficult.

The good news for Mr. Trump is that the indictment reveals no evidence of collusion. The Russians “posted derogatory information about a number of candidates,” the indictment says, and by 2016 “included supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump” and “disparaging Hillary Clinton.” But it adds that the Russians “communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump Campaign,” and it offers no claims of a conspiracy.

Readers of the indictment will be amused at the comic opera details. In or around June 2016, for example, Russians posing online as Americans “communicated with a real U.S. person affiliated with a Texas-based grassroots organization.” This “real U.S. person” vouchsafed the deep political secret that the Russians “should focus their activities on ‘purple states like Colorado, Virginia & Florida.’” Sure enough, the Russians thereafter referred to targeting “purple states.” Someone actually paid Russians to collect this insight.

The indictment also contains no evidence that Russia’s meddling changed the electoral results. A U.S. presidential campaign is a maelstrom of information, charges and counter-charges, media reports and social-media chatter. The Russian Twitter bursts became part of this din and sought to reinforce existing biases more than they sought to change minds. Their Twitter hashtags included “#Hillary4Prison,” for example, which you could find at the souvenir desk at the GOP convention.

Yet none of this should let Twitter, Facebook or Google off the hook for being facilitators of this disinformation. The social-media sites and search engines clearly did far too little to police their content for malicious trolls and in the process misled millions of Americans. They need to do more to take responsibility for the content they midwife.

The indictment also makes us wonder what the Obama Administration was doing amid all of this. Where were top Obama spooks James Clapper and John Brennan ? Their outrage became public only after their candidate lost the election. If they didn’t know what was going on, why not? And if they did, why didn’t they let Americans in on the secret? President Obama sanctioned Russia for its meddling only after the election.

The indictment’s details underscore Russia’s malicious anti-American purposes. An authoritarian regime spent tens of millions of dollars to erode public trust in American democracy. As Senator Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) put it Friday, “Putin’s shadow war is aimed at undermining Americans’ trust in our institutions. We know Russia is coming back in 2018 and 2020—we have to take the threat seriously.”

All of which makes the White House reaction on Friday strangely muted. Its statement understandably focused on the lack of collusion evidence and made one reference to “the agendas of bad actors, like Russia.” But given how much Russia’s meddling has damaged his first year in office, Mr. Trump should publicly declare his outrage at Russia on behalf of the American people. The Kremlin has weakened his Presidency. He should make Russia pay a price that Mr. Obama never did.


Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ): Deutschlands Militär ist ein Sanierungsfall

Die Bundeswehr ist in schlechtem Zustand. Alle U-Boote und viele Panzer sind lahmgelegt.

Deutschlands Verteidigungsfähigkeit ist infrage gestellt.

Deutsche U-Boote sind berüchtigt. Sie gelten als die leisesten der Welt und können sich unbemerkt feindlichen Schiffen nähern. Seit Oktober sind sie jedoch nicht mehr nur leise, sondern verstummt. Ein Unfall vor Norwegen beschädigte das letzte einsatzfähige Exemplar. Nun liegen alle sechs defekt in der Werft. Der Ausfall steht beispielhaft für die Situation der Bundeswehr. Die Truppe ist ein Sanierungsfall. Sie hat zu wenige einsatzbereite Schiffe, Transportflugzeuge und Helikopter. Mindestens die Hälfte der Kampfpanzer ist stillgelegt, und auch im Kleinen mangelt es: Kürzlich wurden die Essensrationen für Einsätze knapp. Der Wehrbeauftragte des Bundestages, der Sozialdemokrat Hans-Peter Bartels, hält die Truppe «als Ganzes für nicht einsetzbar». Die Materiallage sei dramatisch schlecht, sagte Bartels am Dienstag bei der Vorstellung seines Jahresberichts. Das von der CDU-Politikerin Ursula von der Leyen geführte Verteidigungsministerium räumt Schwierigkeiten ein und bezeichnet die Einsatzbereitschaft als generell nicht zufriedenstellend.

Auf 13 Auslandsmissionen

Die deutsche Marine sollte nach Ansicht von Bartels an keinen weiteren Auslandseinsätzen mehr teilnehmen. Es gibt kaum fahrbereite Schiffe dafür. Die Deutschen stehen im Ruf, vorausschauend zu handeln und auf Vorsorge zu setzen. Bei der Bundeswehr hat die Politik diese Prinzipien über Bord geworfen. Für die U-Boote fehlen Ersatzteile, die bei der Anschaffung aus Spargründen nicht mitgekauft wurden. Bei den übrigen Schiffen sieht es kaum besser aus. Selbst auf simple Teile wie Einspritzpumpen für Motoren muss die Marine monatelang warten.

Der Zustand der Bundeswehr sei der kritischste seit ihrer Gründung im Jahr 1955, sagt Hans-Heinrich Dieter, ehemaliger Stellvertreter des Generalinspekteurs. Die Truppe sei kaputtgespart worden, obwohl sie vor grösseren Aufgaben denn je stehe. 3600 deutsche Soldaten sind derzeit auf 13 Auslandsmissionen eingesetzt, etwa in Afghanistan und Mali. Seit 2014 hat sich auch die Sicherheitslage in Europa verändert. Russland hält die Krim besetzt und führt im Osten der Ukraine Krieg. Daher hat die Nato Soldaten nach Polen und ins Baltikum verlegt. Auch die Bundeswehr ist beteiligt und soll 2019 die Führung der sogenannten schnellen Eingreiftruppe übernehmen. Nur wie?

Derzeit wäre das deutsche Militär der Aufgabe kaum gewachsen. Von 44 vorgesehenen Kampfpanzern stünden nur 9 zur Verfügung, zitiert «Die Welt» aus einem Papier des Verteidigungsministeriums. Auch Nachtsichtgeräte, Winterkleidung und Schutzwesten fehlten. Die Defizite sollen nun aus Beständen anderer Verbände gedeckt werden. «Für den Einsatz kannibalisiert man den Bestand zu Hause», sagt Christian Mölling, Forschungsdirektor der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik.

Seit dem Kollaps der Sowjetunion war Abrüstung in Deutschland die sicherheitspolitische Maxime. In den neunziger Jahren wurde der Verteidigungshaushalt entsprechend eingedampft. Zuvor hatte die Lage im Westen des geteilten Landes völlig anders ausgesehen. Man wappnete sich jahrzehntelang gegen einen Überfall aus dem Osten. Die Bundeswehr hatte eine halbe Million Soldaten, heute sind es 180 000. Die Zahl der Kampfpanzer sank von 2000 auf etwa 250.

«Panzer zählen ist einfach, spiegelt das Problem aber nicht wider», sagt Mölling. Logistik, Vernetzung und Taktik seien wichtiger als reine Feuerkraft. Für Mölling ist die entscheidende Frage: Können die Streitkräfte eine grosse Operation durchführen, mit eng verzahnt agierenden Verbänden und Unterstützung von Cyber-Kräften? Dafür müssten sie als Ganzes einsetzbar sein, und genau das ist die Bundeswehr laut dem Wehrbeauftragten nicht. Mölling sieht das auch so. Gemäss dem Bundeswehr-Weissbuch wolle Deutschland das Rückgrat der europäischen Streitkräfte sein, aber dazu sei es bis jetzt nicht gut genug aufgestellt. Im Jahr 2015 führte das zu einer grotesken Situation: Deutsche Panzer mussten mit aufgesteckten Besenstielen an einer Nato-Übung teilnehmen. Sie sollten Geschützrohre simulieren, die nicht verfügbar waren.

Die Bundeswehr könnte Deutschland heute nicht alleine verteidigen, darüber sind sich die Experten einig. Das sei aber auch nie geplant gewesen, sagt Hilmar Linnenkamp vom Deutschen Institut für Internationale Politik und Sicherheit. Die Verteidigung solle im Bündnis erfolgen, und die nuklear bewaffneten Streitkräfte der USA hätten sich stets als Sicherheitsgarant für Europa verstanden. Allerdings argumentieren ehemalige Generäle, Deutschland dürfe kein sicherheitspolitischer Trittbrettfahrer Amerikas sein. Dies nicht zuletzt deshalb, weil Präsident Donald Trump ein unberechenbarer Partner ist und mehrmals betont hat, dass sich Europa stärker um die eigene Sicherheit kümmern müsse.

Deutliche Worte für die deutsche Schieflage findet der CDU-Politiker Norbert Röttgen, der den Auswärtigen Ausschuss des Bundestags leitet. Wenn der Staat erkläre, dass er die äussere Sicherheit Deutschlands und der Bündnispartner nicht gewährleisten könne, dann sei das nicht hinnehmbar: «Das ist ein Skandal, der die Bürger in ihrem Vertrauen in die Bundesrepublik erschüttert.»

Es mangelt aber nicht nur an Geld. Seit die Wehrpflicht ausgesetzt ist, hat die Truppe auch ein Personalproblem, besonders Fachkräfte fehlen. Die freie Wirtschaft zahlt besser als die Bundeswehr, deren Image als Arbeitgeber in der deutschen Gesellschaft angekratzt ist. Mögliche Bewerber werden von immer neuen Berichten über die marode Ausrüstung verunsichert.

Die Bundesregierung hat inzwischen reagiert. Sie investiert seit vergangenem Jahr wieder etwas mehr ins Militär. Dieses Jahr soll der Verteidigungshaushalt bei 38,5 Milliarden Euro liegen, bis 2021 soll er auf 42 Milliarden steigen.

Polemik um «Aufrüstung»

Kritiker aus den linken Parteien warnen schon jetzt vor einer Aufrüstung. «Das Geld, das Frau Merkel für Aufrüstung will, muss in die Bildung», hatte der SPD-Kanzlerkandidat Martin Schulz im Wahlkampf gefordert. Die Aufrüstungsbehauptung sei polemisch, sagt der Militärexperte Linnenkamp. Es gehe um Aufholen, nicht um Aufrüsten, denn höhere Verteidigungsausgaben würden vor allem die heutigen Mängel beseitigen.

Die Nato-Mitgliedstaaten haben vereinbart, langfristig jeweils 2 Prozent ihres Bruttoinlandprodukts in die Verteidigung zu investieren. Derzeit liegen die Deutschen bei 1,2 Prozent. Die Bundesrepublik hat bis zum Jahr 2024 Zeit, um den Zielwert zu erreichen. Experten zweifeln, ob das realistisch ist, und der Verteidigungsexperte Mölling gibt zu bedenken, dass die Rüstungsindustrie die Preise erhöhen würde, sobald in den Nato-Ländern deutlich mehr Geld für Rüstung vorhanden wäre.

Die Branche profitiert ohnehin von der angespannten Sicherheitslage. Im vergangenen Jahr haben die Waffenverkäufe weltweit zugenommen. Auch die deutschen U-Boot-Hersteller haben volle Auftragsbücher, weshalb es Herbst werden dürfte, bis die Flotte der Bundeswehr wieder seetüchtig ist. Sie geniesst als Kunde bei Reparaturen oder Ersatzteillieferungen keinen Vorrang vor Auftraggebern aus anderen Ländern. Die deutschen U-Boote, die heute durch die Weltmeere tauchen, stehen nicht unter deutscher Flagge.


Politics: From Vision to Action

Barandat*Turkey Tests the Waters Off the Coast of Cyprus

By Xander Snyder

While a great deal of attention has been paid to Turkey’s invasion of Afrin, Syria, foreign intervention by Turkey has not been limited to its actions in the Middle East.

On Feb. 9, Turkish warships blocked an Italian ship contracted by the Italian energy conglomerate Eni that was heading toward Cyprus to begin exploring for natural gas, marking the first time in recent history that Turkey has actively blocked passage of a European ship. In response, Italy sent one of its frigates (which was already scheduled for deployment for pre-planned NATO exercises) to patrol Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone, although its captain was reportedly ordered to avoid direct confrontation with the Turkish vessels blocking Eni’s drilling rig.

Eni, France’s Total and Exxon Mobil are all licensed by the Greek Cypriot government to engage in natural gas exploration off the southern coast of Cyprus. According to both Eni and Total, which are partners in a Cyprus exploration venture, there could be up to 30 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the area, which would make it the largest reserve in the Mediterranean. Eni is a private company, but obstruction of the economic interests of a major energy conglomerate by a foreign country will certainly draw the attention of other governments. Turkey claims that Cyprus had no right to dole out drilling contracts to the European companies since the new reserves, which are in block 3 of Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone, fall under the jurisdiction of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. However, while Turkey claims that Northern Cyprus’ EEZ overlaps with that of the Republic of Cyprus, no other country besides Turkey recognizes Northern Cyprus’ sovereignty.

(click to enlarge)

Turkey’s naval presence in the Eastern Mediterranean is not new – it maintains warships off its western coast, and in 2014 it contracted a seismographic vessel to explore potential gas reserves off the coast of Cyprus. This raises a question: Why would it engage in a confrontation now? The proximate cause is the new gas reserve, discovered by Eni just last week. Turkey wants to become a larger energy exporter, which has driven it in the past to cooperate with Iraqi Kurdistan in exporting oil to Turkey despite its general antagonism toward Kurdish groups. But Turkey’s interests in the Eastern Mediterranean brought it into conflict with the West long before oil and gas came to be the world’s primary sources of energy. What makes Cyprus a flashpoint for Euro-Turkish conflict?

Gateway to the Eastern Mediterranean

Cyprus, which sits about 50 miles (80 kilometers) off Turkey’s southern Mediterranean coast at its closest point, was part of the Ottoman Empire from 1571 until the empire’s collapse after World War I. Before 1571, Cyprus was held by the Italian city-state of Venice, which exposed the Ottomans to the presence of a foreign power. At the time, Venice was a wealthy, merchant city-state that, while not particularly powerful on land, had one of the most formidable navies in Europe. The Ottomans did not have to worry about the risk of a land invasion from Venice, but the Venetian stronghold on Cyprus did pose a major threat to Ottoman shipping and trade. The Ottomans needed to maintain open supply lines to northern Africa, which they depended on for much of their trade and therefore wealth, and Venice frequently used its position on Cyprus to disrupt these trade routes. When the Ottomans invaded the island in 1571, the war that resulted between a European coalition (the Holy League) and the Ottomans saw one of the largest naval battles in history and the largest confrontation of galleys (boats powered by oar) in modern history. While naval battles are no longer fought by boats powered by oars, Cyprus’ location still poses strategic risks to Turkey’s position in the Eastern Mediterranean.

(click to enlarge)

Turkey’s recent confrontation with Italy, while a far more minor affair than in the past, has significant historical precedent, and the geopolitics underlying this precedent remain today. To establish a greater buffer space to its west, Turkey must have control of the Eastern Mediterranean, and this control hinges upon Cyprus. To date, Cyprus has been a weak state, and Turkey’s primary concern in the Mediterranean has been its longtime rival Greece. (Antagonism surfaced this week when Greece claimed that a Turkish coast guard ship purposefully rammed a Greek coast guard ship in the Aegean Sea.) If Cyprus were to open its doors to Western Europe to take advantage of its newfound resources, Turkey would then be faced with a situation in which countries far more powerful than Greece have vested economic interests in the island that depend on Turkey’s exclusion.

That said, the current confrontation is unlikely to lead to imminent conflict between Turkey and Western Europe. Instead, Turkey will use the standoff to pry political and economic concessions from Cyprus, where unification talks overseen by the United Nations broke down last year due to Turkey’s refusal to withdraw its 30,000-40,000 troops stationed on the island. While negotiations have stalled, Turkey hopes that by making life more difficult for Cyprus, Italy and France, the three countries will be more likely to concede to Turkey’s desire to remain on the island. Failing this, and if Italy were to confront Turkey with a substantial naval presence, Turkey would most likely back down and try to negotiate concessions from the natural gas operations off Cyprus’ coast, while maintaining its claim that Northern Cyprus is a sovereign state with rights to its EEZ.

Whether this standoff develops into something more than grandstanding depends in part on Turkey and in part on how deeply Italy and Western Europe need to establish and maintain a presence in the Eastern Mediterranean. Turkey needs to establish a buffer on its Mediterranean shores, but there is also a strategic rationale for Italian and Western European presence in the Eastern Mediterranean, beyond their business interests – a topic for another article.


Middle East

Asia Times: Afrin marks the point of collapse for American influence in Syria

Washington’s abandonment of the Kurds left them with no other choice but to turn to the Assad government and its Russian backers.

It’s Moscow’s chessboard now.

Abandoned by Washington and under bombardment by the Turkish army, the beleaguered Kurdish forces in the northern Syrian town of Afrin asked for, and received, help from Russia. A spokesman for the Kurdish YPG militia announced on February 20 that the Russian-backed government of Bashar al-Assad would send reinforcements to Afrin to assist the Kurds. France24 reported that a convoy of pro-Assad forces entering Afrin came under Turkish artillery fire, and Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan claimed the government forces had to turn back.

The situation on the ground is unclear, but what is painfully clear is that Kurds have been abandoned by the United States less than a month after the Pentagon announced the formation of a 30,000-man ‘Border Security Force’ in northern Syria composed mainly of Kurdish fighters who had pushed ISIS out of the area. Turkey responded to the American initiative by invading northern Syria and bombing the Kurds, reportedly killing several hundred civilians. In deference to Turkey, the United States did nothing, so the Kurds asked for help from Russia.

As Alfred Hackenberger wrote in the German daily Die Welt, on February 19: “Russia would belong to the winners in the case of a Syrian-Kurdish military alliance. It would expand Russia’s military control of the country markedly. And Turkey would have to stop its invasion of Afrin, because a confrontation with Syrian soldiers would bring it directly into conflict with Russia.”

The siege of Afrin, to be sure, seems a minor episode in the long and miserable course of Syria’s civil war, but it may turn out to demarcate the point that American influence in the region collapsed beyond repair. Trained by the US and German armed forces, the Kurds represented the only effective force on the ground independent of the Russian-backed Assad regime following the defeat of Sunni militias backed by the US, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. The Kurdish resurgence in Syria, though, drew a ferocious response from Turkey, which fears that Kurdish self-government spanning Iraq and Syria on its southeastern border would link up with its own rapidly-growing Kurdish population. More than half of Turkey’s population under 30 will be ethnic Kurds by the mid-2040s.

“For the US administration, American assets in the region are like hotels on the Monopoly board, to be protected individually and piecemeal. No unified strategy ranks their relative importance or gauges whether they might be sacrificed for a larger goal.”

After its painful experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US won’t put boots on the ground beyond the few thousand special forces now deployed in Syria. The Kurds fought as a NATO auxiliary against ISIS and wanted nothing more than an American alliance. The Turks, meanwhile, are NATO members in name only and are hostile to key American interests. Among other things, Turkey is helping Russia to bypass Ukraine in delivering gas to southern Europe via the Turkstream pipeline. The Turks are bargaining hard with Russia, but ultimately will play ball.

Nonetheless, Washington is paralyzed by fear that Turkey might leave NATO if it stands behind the Kurds. “Nobody wants to be the guy who lost Turkey,” an administration official said.

The default view at the Pentagon is that Kurdish autonomy would create chaos in Iraq, threatening the country’s territorial autonomy. Iraq’s sectarian Shia government is now an ally of Iran, with Iranian-led Iraqi militias deployed in Syria. A little chaos in Iraq would strengthen America’s hand at the expense of Iran.

For Washington, the path of least resistance was to use the Kurds to fend off ISIS and then hang them out to dry. That left the Kurds with no other choice but to turn to the Assad government and its Russian backers. As a result, Russia is now the key ally both of the Assad government and the Kurdish militias that the US envisioned as its boots on the ground in the region.

Israel, America’s only real ally in the region, realized the consequences immediately. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s deputy minister for public diplomacy, Michael Oren, told Bloomberg News on February 12: “The American part of the equation is to back us up,” but the US “has almost no leverage on the ground. America did not ante up in Syria. It’s not in the game.” Two days earlier, an Israeli F-16 was shot down by an anti-aircraft missile over Syria. Most reports claim that a Syrian anti-aircraft battery firing a Cold War era A-7 Russian missile downed the plane, but there are also unconfirmed reports that a Russian crew fired at it with a Russian S-200 missile. If that is true, Russia presumably wanted to let the Israelis know who was in charge of the Syrian skies.

A Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army fighter looks through a pair of binoculars outside of Afrin, Syria, on February 17, 2018.

Israel’s diplomacy with Russia appears to have borne results. On February 20, Russia Today reported the TASS news agency quoting Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov as saying (on February 19): “Russia condemns Tehran’s remarks that Israel should be wiped off the map and also believes that solving any regional problems should not be viewed through the prism of a conflict with Iran.” According to the RT report: “He made the statement at the opening of the Valdai International Discussion Club’s conference ‘Russia in the Middle East: Playing on All Fields,’ adding that tensions between Israel and Iran are escalating and there are historical reasons for that.”

Russia does not want an Israeli-Iranian war, but it does want to be the regional power that keeps the two parties from fighting. Israel evidently is beholden to Moscow after the Afrin debacle, which left the United States with no ante in Syria, as Ambassador Oren put it. The projected Kurdish Border Protection Force was the last American piece on the Syrian chessboard, and Washington abandoned it. It is hard to see what sort of leverage the United States can acquire now.

Americans play Monopoly, Russians chess,” was the title of an essay I published ten years ago in this space. For the US administration, American assets in the region are like hotels on the Monopoly board, to be protected individually and piecemeal. No unified strategy ranks their relative importance or gauges whether they might be sacrificed for a larger goal. Russia views its assets as pieces on a chessboard whose only function is to contribute to the single goal of winning the game. They can be sacrificed ruthlessly when circumstances require it. Washington has no strategy – that is, no envisioned end state – for Turkey, Syria, or Iran. And if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.


*Massenbach’s Recommendation*

In Syria, Alliances Shift Again

February 21, 2018 . Turkey’s incursion in northern Syria has some parties reconsidering their allies and enemies.

By Xander Snyder

The nature of the conflict in Syria is changing shape again, with two important developments taking place over the past week. First, Turkey proposed cooperation with the United States in Afrin and Manbij, both of which are held by Syrian Kurds, whom the Turks consider hostile forces. Though no formal agreement has been reached, U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis said the U.S. would work with Turkey to coordinate their actions in Syria. Second, the Syrian Kurds appear to be willing to work with the Syrian regime against the Turkish assault on Afrin. Pro-regime forces reportedly entered Afrin on Feb. 20, a move that would require coordination with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, which controls the region.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has downplayed Turkey’s involvement in Afrin, pitching the invasion as both a necessary and low-cost military operation. But the involvement of pro-regime forces changes what will be required of Turkey to take control of the region. So far, Turkey has used a minimal number of its own forces in Afrin and mostly relied on the Free Syrian Army and other anti-Assad groups. But with pro-Assad forces now taking part in the conflict, Turkey will need to do more if it wants a successful outcome.

(click to enlarge)

Turkey’s Breaking Point

Turkey will have to consider how much blood the Turkish people are willing to shed to take Afrin and the northern corridor in Syria that extends from the border to the Euphrates. It’s hard to know what the breaking point is for the Turks, but we can look to Turkey’s last major military intervention for clues. In its invasion of Cyprus in 1974, Turkey incurred roughly 570 combat deaths. With a total force of 60,000, that is a 1 percent fatality rate for a monthlong operation that secured Turkey’s control of a substantial portion of the island.

Turkey recently said approximately 30 Turkish soldiers have been killed in the monthlong operation in Syria, though this number may be understated. In late January, Haberturk, a Turkish news agency, said 6,400 Turkish soldiers would take part in Operation Olive Branch. Other sources, however, report that Turkey has upward of 15,000-20,000 troops deployed at the Afrin border. (There are also 25,000-30,000 Free Syrian Army militants acting as Turkey’s proxies in Syria.) If the official fatality numbers are to be believed, the Turkish army has incurred a death rate of 0.15 percent to 0.47 percent, well under the death rate in the Cyprus operation, which did not face widespread public backlash. The difference between Cyprus and Afrin, however, is that after a month in Afrin, Turkey doesn’t seem close to securing its military objective.

Syria, the Kurds and a Possible Settlement

Bashar Assad’s goal in Syria now is to regain control of as much territory as possible. With Turkey joining the fray in Afrin and inching closer to Aleppo, a critical city over which Syrian forces have already fought a bloody battle, Assad has a choice: either escalate his military conflict with Turkey and its proxies, or come to a settlement. To win a military victory in the region, Assad would need to move his forces along the southern edge of Afrin until they reach the Turkish border in the west and then turn farther south until pro-Turkish forces in Afrin and Idlib – a region largely controlled by another Turkish proxy, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham – are surrounded. Assad will try to encircle Turkish proxies in Idlib and cut off their supply routes to Turkey.

From the regime’s perspective, therefore, working with the Kurds makes sense. It can use the 8,000-10,000 YPG fighters in Afrin to repel the Turkish invasion and avoid expending its own resources. It also makes sense for the Kurds, who are facing a Turkish assault with few allies, since the U.S. has said it will not support the YPG in Afrin.

But Turkey also has plans to surround the YPG and cut off access to its allies. On Feb. 20, Erdogan announced that the Turkish military will in the next several days attempt to envelop Afrin, blocking the YPG from receiving support from pro-Assad forces. Turkey and Assad are therefore applying the same strategy to different regions, while trying to avoid a confrontation that could draw in more outside powers and escalate the conflict.

This situation could give rise to a tactical settlement in Afrin. Faced with the risk of a far bloodier battle than it anticipated, Turkey may be willing to halt its advance if the Syrian regime – and by extension, Iran and Russia – agrees to move the Kurds out of Afrin and Manbij to an area east of the Euphrates, and if it could also guarantee to control the Kurds’ actions thereafter. The Syrian government could then take control of areas that have been held by semi-autonomous Kurdish entities for several years. The Syrian Kurds might also agree to this arrangement – it would allow them to avoid even more bloodshed, and they could negotiate a role for themselves in the Syrian government. Iran, an Assad ally, might also accept an agreement because it would reverse Turkey’s advance east. Such a settlement wouldn’t end the Syrian war, but it would help temper the conflict in Afrin.

The success of this type of settlement depends on whether Turkey would be satisfied with an agreement to relocate the Kurds. If Turkey’s ultimate goal in Operation Olive Branch is to secure greater strategic depth – and we believe it is – rather than to simply clear the YPG presence in Afrin as Ankara claims, then such a settlement will be a harder pill to swallow. But the Turkish public may not tolerate a sustained, costly military operation in Syria. If Turkey does agree to a settlement, it is safe to conclude that Turkey’s rise as a regional power will be accompanied by some setbacks.

Russia and Iran Compete for Control

For its part, Russia wants a settlement that would leave Assad strong and willing to follow Russia’s – not Iran’s – lead. This might involve Assad regaining control of Afrin. Russian President Vladimir Putin would get to declare victory and get Russian forces out before too many more get killed. Russia has already made one proposal that involved the handover of Afrin to Damascus, although it was rejected by the Kurds.

But Russia has also signaled that it is willing to allow a Turkish presence in Afrin. Putin was willing to work with Turkey during Operation Olive Branch, allowing it access to Afrin’s airspace. Erdogan also said he spoke to Putin on Feb. 19 and convinced him to prevent the Syrian army from deploying to the region. (So far, only pro-regime militants have reportedly been deployed.) It appears for now that Putin will let the regime fight back against Turkey – but within limits. After all, if a large portion of the Syrian army were to be redeployed, Russia would have to contribute more resources to the offensive in Idlib.

Russia can accept the Turkish presence in Afrin because Russia stands to benefit from the heightening competition between two regional powers that are on opposite sides of the Syrian war: Turkey and Iran. Russia has been tactically cooperating with both, but ultimately it wants neither to emerge from the war in an overwhelmingly powerful position. Right now, Iran has the strongest position in the Middle East, able to wield power in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Russia and Iran both support Assad, but Moscow doesn’t want Tehran to be able to challenge Russian interests either in the Middle East or in the Caucasus.

Luckily for Russia, it can wait longer than Iran can. Every move Turkey makes eastward brings it closer to a confrontation with Iran in Iraq. So long as Turkey and Iran are fighting each other (or each other’s proxies) and stay south of the Greater Caucasus mountain range, Russia can afford to be minimally involved.

Russia and Iran are effectively playing a game of chicken. Russia knows that Iran cannot afford to have Turkey seriously challenge Assad by taking Afrin and thereby surrounding Aleppo. This will force Iran to spend more blood and treasure on halting the advance in Syria, placing further pressure on Iran’s already strained resources. Russia, meanwhile, can continue to provide minimal air support in Syria. Short of a settlement on Afrin between Syria, the YPG and Turkey, Iran will be forced to commit an ever-increasing number of troops and resources to Syria as Turkey conquers new territory.

Testing U.S.-Turkish Relations

The deployment of pro-regime forces to Afrin complicates Turkey’s proposal to work with the U.S. in Afrin and Manbij. Iran’s rising power has brought U.S. and Turkish interests closer together, despite the United States’ longstanding support for the Kurds. The U.S. now has to decide what’s more important: containing Iran, or supporting the Kurds. While this dynamic plays out, the Islamic State remains a threat, leaving the U.S. looking for allies on the ground willing to fight IS.

Underlying all this is a bigger question: What would Russia do if the U.S. were to engage Assad in a large, more protracted fight? With the Syrian government intervening in Afrin, U.S. cooperation with Turkey could bring Washington into direct conflict with Assad. The U.S. is loath to become bogged down in another war in the Middle East and will encourage Turkey to come to an agreement with Assad that lets the U.S. maintain a minimal force there to fight IS. If Turkey wants to press its advantage, rather than suffer what it may perceive as a setback, it will be yet another test of U.S.-Turkish relations.


Nordwest Zeitung, Oldenburg16.02.2018

Türkisch-deutsche Beziehungen


Alexander Will

Die Kanzlerin hat also den Wasserträger des türkischen Präsidenten empfangen. Die öffentliche Wahrnehmung solcher Kontakte bleibt jedoch merkwürdig verengt. Solch selbst gewählte Halbblindheit dürfte eine lange schon notwendige Wende in der deutschen Türkeipolitik hin zu mehr Distanz deutlich erschweren.

Der Fall Deniz Yücel wurde nämlich in dieser Wahrnehmung in den vergangenen Wochen zum entscheidenden Streitpunkt zwischen Berlin und Ankara. In der Tat: Da wird einem deutschen Staatsbürger von türkischer Seite schwerstes Unrecht angetan, und die Bundesregierung tut gut daran, hier massiv einzuschreiten. Nur: Der Fall Yücel ist eben keineswegs die Hauptursache objektiv bestehender, tiefer Interessengegensätze zwischen Deutschland und der Türkei. Es ist eben nicht „alles wieder gut“, wenn dieser eine Journalist irgendwann frei kommt.

Auch dann ändert das Schurken-Regime unter Erdogan nämlich nicht seinen Charakter: Es bleibt protofaschistisch und totalitär. Auch dann sitzen noch über 150 Journalisten in türkischen Gefängnissen. Auch wenn Yücel frei kommt, wird das Regime weiterhin versuchen, die in Deutschland lebenden Türken als fünfte Kolonne zu missbrauchen. Es wird weiter über den aus Ankara gesteuerten Moscheenverband Ditib sein islamistisches Gift verspritzen, weiter Menschen in Deutschland bespitzeln und einschüchtern. Zudem sind der Angriffskrieg der türkischen Regierung gegen die Kurden in Syrien und seine neo-osmanischen Fantasien gewichtige Argumente, die Regierung in Ankara endlich zu isolieren, sie wirtschaftlich unter massiven Druck zu setzen, die militärische Zusammenarbeit einzustellen und darauf hinzuwirken, die Nato-Mitgliedschaft des Landes zu suspendieren.

Sowohl aus innen- wie aus außenpolitischen Erwägungen darf die deutsche Regierung also nicht der Versuchung erliegen, eine Freilassung Yücels als Tauwetter in Ankara fehl zu interpretieren. Insgesamt ist es falsch und schädlich, dem Despoten Erdogan um den Bart zu gehen. Wenn Deutschland der Türkei aber wirklich helfen will, gilt es, die demokratische Opposition im Land zu stärken.,0,3826354370.html



see our letter on:

*Herausgegeben von Udo von Massenbach, Bärbel Freudenberg-Pilster, Joerg Barandat*


02-20-18 Deutsche Bank Research – Germany_Party Time PROD0000000000460882.pdf

02-20-18 Major Challenges for the Military and Security Services in Syria + US Nuclear Policy Upgraded – The Russian Factor + Georgia + Cyber Threats.pdf

Massenbach-Letter. NEWS 16.02.18

Massenbach-Letter. News

  • Friends of EuropeIt’s time for a united Europe to stand up to China
  • China’s Arctic Policy
  • The European Union doesn’t really have a foreign policy, and it needs somebody who will create one
  • The Marshall Plan, Central to Europe’s Recovery and the Emergence of the Cold War, Holds Lessons for Present Tensions Wi

· Die Welt: Es reicht nicht, nur den Status quo zu verteidigen – Eliten erscheinen nur wie Besitzstandswahrer

  • Who Controls Syria? The Al-Assad family, the Inner Circle, and the Tycoons
  • Non-Governmental and Irregular Armed Groups in the Syria/Iraq Conflict Zone
  • The US Deep State And The Democrats Are The Problem, Not The Solution – Mr. Kortunov’s Case For Russia’s “Deep State”-Democrat Partnership
  • The Caucasian Knot- NEWS:
  • Military police battalion back in Chechnya from Syria
  • Dagestani leader declares new priorities of republic ( Fight against corruption)
  • US Department of State warns tourists about danger of visiting Northern Caucasus

Massenbach*Friends of EuropeIt’s time for a united Europe to stand up to China

26 Jan 2018 … We have been naive in failing to counter the Chinese expansion strategy with our own long-term plan. And we have been reactive, putting out the fires of individual crises rather than pro-actively pursuing one linked-up agenda

Over the past year there has been a 76% rise in Chinese investment into the EU … In Greece, China has capitalised on a deep mistrust of the EU’s austerity policies by turning Piraeus into a hub of the ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative, with state-owned Cosco investing more than €500m to gain a controlling stake of the port.

Early signs of a tougher, united response to China’s strategic takeover of key EU industries are welcome, but we need to move beyond the traditional ideal of simply reducing tariffs if we are to adequately stand up to China. The cocktail of Chinese anti-competitive policies includes state-owned businesses, protectionist domestic policies and currency manipulation. In the future, reciprocity – a key tenet of the multilateral trading system – must replace imbalance. While the EU is generally open to all Chinese investments, except in the sensitive defence industry, China assesses each foreign investment on a case-by-case basis … it is no surprise that Chinese businesses invested four times more on acquiring EU companies than European investors in China in 2016 …

The Asian hegemon uses a divide-and-rule strategy to split the EU, dealing bilaterally with nation states and avoiding the leadership of the Commission. The result is growing Chinese influence in the EU’s less wealthy countries, particularly in Greece … In our neighbouring countries – some of which are in the process of accession – China provides a no-strings-attached alternative to slow and conditional EU investment …

Macron may be the loudest voice in favour of a more equal relationship with China but he does not stand alone … The most populous country in the world wants to gain soft power on every continent. And with Brexit leaving the UK in desperate need of new partners, China has another way to gain influence in Europe … To win these countries’ support, and therefore ensure a united strategic voice for the EU, we must stress the added value that accompanies European rather than Chinese investment.

  • One key advantage is that EU investment is more sustainable: it encourages the training of local workers to build infrastructure, leaving in place a skilled workforce, long after the money has been spent.

For too long, we have been allowing China to avoid reciprocity. If EU High Representative Federica Mogherini does not stand up to China soon with a united voiced and a modern strategy, we will mourn the loss of jobs, businesses and strategic influence for many years to come.

Neena Gill … British Member of the European Parliament … Foreign Affairs Committee


From our Russian News Desk. (The views expressed are the author‘s own.)

  • Who Controls Syria? The Al-Assad family, the Inner Circle, and the Tycoons
  • Non-Governmental and Irregular Armed Groups in the Syria/Iraq Conflict Zone

( …Russia is more inclined to view the Middle East as a field for cooperation with the United States in the delineation of areas of responsibility….Tactically, Moscow maintains contacts with non-governmental and irregular armed groups. Strategically, however, it advocates for the restoration and strengthening of governmental security institutions (the armed forces and special services). This approach could increase the effectiveness of the fight against so-called Islamic State and other groups. Iran’s experience of operations in Iraq and particularly in Syria demonstrates that exploiting non-governmental and irregular armed groups does not work as planned. The existing groups may be expected to be disbanded as part of the post-conflict settlement process, and their soldiers may subsequently be incorporated into the armed forces in Syria, or into security agencies in Iraq.)

  • The US Deep State And The Democrats Are The Problem, Not The Solution – Mr. Kortunov’s Case For Russia’s “Deep State”-Democrat Partnership

(…Mr. Kortunov is evidently unaware that the same “deep state” that he finds attractive in contrast to Trump had a controlling influence in determining the Obama Administration’s anti-Russian policies that the 44th President’s Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ended up implementing with ruinous consequences for Moscow’s grand strategic interests, and that she would have given the “deep state” free rein to do whatever it wanted had she won unlike Trump’s willingness to challenge its most extreme tendencies (though with mixed results).

Having said that, pragmatic working relations between Russia and the US’ “deep states” are inevitable because there isn’t any alternative to interacting with any national counterpart’s collection of military, intelligence, and diplomatic figures no matter how much one may disagree with their policies unless ties between the two sides are formally suspended, which isn’t foreseeable but would in any case still allow for the existence of communication backchannels.

What Mr. Kortunov is lobbying for is something altogether different because he wants Russian decision makers to reconceptualize the American “deep state” as a ‘positive’, ‘moderating’, and ‘responsible’ force against what he characterizes as Trump’s ”romantic”, “amateurish”, “most exotic and potentially most dangerous foreign policy oddities”, which is ironically a very “romantic” and “exotic” view to have of the US’ most dangerous anti-Russian institutional forces.

In all actuality, however, the “deep state” and its Democrat allies are the real reason why Trump hasn’t been able to succeed in his pledge to improve Russian-American relations, and these two problems shouldn’t ever be confused as part of the solution that’s needed to reverse this downward spiral, nor should a tactical partnership with these two actors ever be considered if Moscow hopes to maintain the upper hand in the New Cold War.

First published in Oriental Review.)

  • The Caucasian Knot- NEWS:

Military police battalion back in Chechnya from Syria

Dagestani leader declares new priorities of republic ( Fight against corruption)

US Department of State warns tourists about danger of visiting Northern Caucasus


Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* Die Welt: Es reicht nicht, nur den Status quo zu verteidigen

Von Clemens Wergin

Ähnlich wie die USA hat Deutschland gerade die größte Protestwahl der Nachkriegsgeschichte erlebt.

Doch die Eliten erscheinen nur wie Besitzstandswahrer, die gelähmt sind vom Ansturm des Populismus.

ie Demokratie ist keine statische Veranstaltung. Sie ist ein ständiger Aushandelprozess zwischen Regierenden und Regierten über den Kurs und die Verfasstheit einer Gesellschaft. Ihre Fähigkeit zu Veränderung und Anpassung ist denn auch das eigentliche Erfolgsrezept der Demokratie. Deshalb ist es umso beunruhigender, dass den Eliten sowohl in den USA als auch in Deutschland derzeit nicht viel mehr einfällt, als den Status quo gegen den Ansturm der Trump-Bewegung und der AfD-Wutbürger zu verteidigen.

Die andauernden Regelverletzungen Trumps und die nicht abbrechenden Provokationen der AfD halten die Öffentlichkeit in einem Zustand permanenter Aufgeregtheit, und selbst kritische Geister werden da schnell zum Verteidiger der bestehenden Verhältnisse, und sei es nur, um Schlimmeres zu verhindern. Die Eliten erscheinen wie Besitzstandswahrer, die gelähmt sind vom Ansturm des Populismus.

Nun wäre der Populismus nicht so populär, wenn er nicht Themen aufwerfen würde, die die Bürger umtreiben. Und dass die Hassprediger des Westens kaum Lösungen anzubieten haben, heißt nicht, dass sie nicht berechtigte Fragen stellen. Nur um einige Beispiele zu nennen: Ja, es ist ein rechtsstaatlicher Skandal, dass Amerika jahrzehntelang illegale Einwanderung geduldet hat und eine überparteiliche Koalition das wissentlich hingenommen und befördert hat, weil es für alle irgendwie bequem schien und der US-Kongress sich so drücken konnte, ein modernes Einwanderungsrecht zu schaffen.

Analog dazu ist es weiter ein Skandal auch in Deutschland, dass der Rechtsstaat bei der Grenzsicherung seit zwei Jahren versagt und sich weiter wissentlich an der Nase herumführen lässt von Flüchtlingen, die planmäßig ihre Papiere vernichten und falsche Altersangaben machen, um in den Genuss von Privilegien für Minderjährige zu kommen. Man muss kein Sympathisant von Trump oder der AfD sein, um das für partielles Staatsversagen zu halten.

Das Beispiel Trump zeigt, dass wir es uns zu bequem eingerichtet haben in den bestehenden Verhältnissen. Beim Freihandel haben wir etwa gerne den Wirtschaftswissenschaftlern geglaubt, dass Gesellschaften davon als Ganzes profitieren. Dabei haben wir ausgeblendet, dass die Eliten mit ihrem kulturellen Kapital mit den Verwerfungen der Globalisierung sehr viel besser umgehen können als Industriearbeiter in strukturschwachen Regionen, die nun zu Trump übergelaufen sind.

Wir verschließen auch gerne die Augen davor, dass die Überregulierung der Umwelt- und Klimapolitik ebenfalls Verlierer schafft und Wachstum behindert. Und es ist auch nicht per se falsch, den Einfluss von finanzstarken Lobbygruppen auf den politischen Prozess Amerikas zu kritisieren, der oft dazu führt, dass die Politik Gesetze zum Nutzen wichtiger Wirtschaftsinteressen macht und weniger zum Nutzen der Bürger – auch wenn Trump nur einen Sumpf gegen den anderen getauscht hat.

Internationale Politik wartet mit Merkwürdigkeiten auf

Ähnliches gilt für die Außenpolitik. Es ist schwer zu rechtfertigen, warum Amerika weiterhin den größten Teil des Schutzes für Europa stemmen soll und die meisten europäischen Länder offenbar so zukunftsmüde geworden sind, dass sie nicht einmal ausreichend Geld für ihre eigene Verteidigung aufbringen. Die internationale Politik wartet mit noch sehr viel mehr Merkwürdigkeiten auf, an die wir uns allzu bereitwillig gewöhnt haben.

Warum etwa sollten sich die wichtigsten Geldgeber der UN weiter damit abfinden, dort von antiwestlichen Mehrheiten ständig überstimmt und vorgeführt zu werden? Warum sollte man akzeptieren, dass viele Untergliederungen der UN, namentlich der Menschenrechtsrat, von Diktaturen und Autokratien beherrscht werden? Warum sollte der Westen die UNWRA weiter ohne Auflagen finanzieren, obwohl das die einzige UN-Organisation ist, die Flüchtlinge nicht integrieren will, sondern die aus politischen Gründen den palästinensischen Flüchtlingsstatus von Generation zu Generation perpetuiert?

Es gibt kaum einen Bereich der internationalen Politik, der so kräftig durchgepustet gehört wie der Nahost-Konflikt, bei dem etwa die EU seit mehr als drei Jahrzehnten keinen einzigen neuen Gedanken mehr gefasst hat. Schon allein deswegen muss man Trump für seine Jerusalementscheidung dankbar sein. Das Problem ist nicht, dass er den Status quo infrage stellt, sondern dass er keine Vorstellung davon hat, was er an dessen Stelle setzen will.

Trump und die AfD sind nur die Symptome für die Krise westlicher Demokratien. Wir diskutieren Führung gerne in Churchill’schen Kategorien und verlangen, dass in höchste Ämter gewählte Politiker vorangehen und die Menschen von Dingen überzeugen, die im Moment noch nicht mehrheitsfähig sind. Das ist ein heroisches Verständnis demokratischer Führung, das im schlimmsten Fall zur Überforderung der Bürger führt. Es gibt aber auch eine andere Tugend, die Demokratien funktionieren lässt, nämlich wenn Politiker sensibel auf die Bedürfnisse der Bürger eingehen – ohne sich deshalb gleich dem Populismus Trump’scher oder AfDscher Prägung zu ergeben.

Die Politikwissenschaftlerin Sheri Berman argumentiert in einem Essay in „Foreign Policy“, dass der gegenwärtige Populismus in der westlichen Welt auch mit einem Rückgang dieser „Empfänglichkeit“ der Politik erklärbar ist. „Die echte Ursache für die gegenwärtige Krise westlicher Demokratien ist, dass viele zentrale politische Institutionen in den vergangenen Jahren dramatisch heruntergekommen sind – oder ihre Verantwortung an ungewählte internationale Institutionen abgegeben haben“, schreibt sie. „Das behindert ihre Fähigkeit, die Forderungen eines breiten Teils ihrer Bürger in konkrete Aktionen im eigenen Land umzusetzen. Westliche Demokratien sind so auf dramatische Art undemokratischer geworden.“

Die Wahl Donald Trumps – Symptom einer Krise

Beispiele für den von Berman konstatierten Niedergang finden sich auch in Europa und Deutschland zuhauf. So will die große Koalition nun weitere Schritte in Richtung Transferunion gehen, obwohl die demokratischen Überwachungsinstanzen auf supranationaler (Europaparlament) und nationaler Ebene (Bundestag) es versäumt haben, die Ursachen der Eurokrise erst einmal aufzuarbeiten. Und der neue Koalitionsvertrag macht deutlich, dass SPD und Union nicht willens sind, auf das wachsende Unbehagen in der Bevölkerung in Sachen Flüchtlingspolitik angemessen zu reagieren.

Deutschland hat, ähnlich wie die USA, gerade die größte Protestwahl der Nachkriegsgeschichte erlebt. Der großen Koalition fällt aber nicht mehr ein als nur die bräsige Verwaltung des Status quo. Das wird aber nicht reichen. Wer die Errungenschaften der liberalen Demokratie gegen die populistischen Vereinfacherer verteidigen möchte, muss die Unzufriedenheit der Bürger mit den bestehenden Verhältnissen ernster nehmen.


Politics: From Vision to Action

Barandat*Fact Sheets Building a Stronger America: Addressing America’s Infrastructure Needs

Our infrastructure is broken
Years of inaction have allowed American infrastructure to degrade into a state of disrepair. With yesterday’s release of President Donald J. Trump’s Legislative Outline for Rebuilding Infrastructure in America, the Administration is committed to reversing this sad course.

Here are the facts:

· One out of every five miles of highway pavement in the United States is in poor condition.

· More than 50,000 American bridges are rated as “structurally deficient.”

· Commute times have increased every year since 2009—and more than 40 percent of urban interstate miles are congested.

· Nearly 40 percent of Americans living in rural areas lack sufficient broadband access.

· Lengthy reviews hold up infrastructure projects for years.

· The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that failing to meet our infrastructure needs will cost us $4 trillion in GDP and 2.5 million jobs by 2025.

Read why now is the moment we must fix America’s failing infrastructure.


Middle East

Let’s end our pygmy politics so we can have a proper EU foreign policy

30 Jan 2018 … The European Union doesn’t really have a foreign policy, and it needs somebody who will create one. Correction; it has many foreign policies, but they are un-connected and ill-defined. Europe’s inability to "speak with one voice" is ancient history. It’s why the EU created its own diplomatic arm – the European External Action Service – almost a decade ago …

The EEAS has now firmly established itself on the international scene, yet still the EU lacks a recognisable foreign policy. Federica Mogherini, the present High Representative for foreign and security policy, could more accurately be described as the ‚Co-ordinator‘ of EU member states‘ competing foreign policies. Europe’s pygmy politics are a high barrier to progress

  • Foreign policy should be taken to mean defining clear-cut positions on the conflicts within the Arab world and the Middle East; on Africa and rising migration from Africa; and on Russia and its unsettling assertiveness. Then there’s the geopolitical future of China and more immediately how to respond to Trump’s "America First". All of these are vitally important questions that European countries often disagree on, but on which they refuse to allow the EU to broker a common position. This is why the identity of the next EU "foreign minister" is so vital

Federica Mogherini’s successor must be … willing and able to knock heads together in EU capitals … Premiers and presidents across the EU are wary of heavyweights going to Brussels. The larger member states have never wanted to see a high-profile figure from a country of similar size take the helm at the commission, or latterly the EEAS …

  • But now the moment has come for a political heavyweight. The next High Representative must have the authority and the courage to challenge EU governments‘ jealous independence on the main international policy issues of our time, especially those touching on security and defence

EU governments must agree on a much more intelligent and transparent method of finding and selecting candidates. Does a candidate necessarily need the endorsement of his or her government? …


*Massenbach’s Recommendation*

China’s Arctic Policy

2018-01-26 … The State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China published a white paper titled "China’s Arctic Policy" …

“ … The Arctic situation now goes beyond its original inter-Arctic States or regional nature, having a vital bearing on the interests of States outside the region and the interests of the international community as a whole, as well as on the survival, the development, and the shared future for mankind. It is an issue with global implications and international impacts. A champion for the development of a community with a shared future for mankind, China is an active participant, builder and contributor in Arctic affairs who has spared no efforts to contribute its wisdom to the development of the Arctic region. The Chinese government hereby issues this white paper, to expound its basic positions on Arctic affairs, to elaborate on its policy goals, basic principles and major policies and positions regarding its engagement in Arctic affairs, to guide relevant Chinese government departments and institutions in Arctic-related activities and cooperation, to encourage relevant parties to get better involved in Arctic governance, and to work with the international community to safeguard and promote peace and stability in, and the sustainable development of, the Arctic … China is an important stakeholder in Arctic affairs. Geographically, China is a "Near-Arctic State", one of the continental States that are closest to the Arctic Circle. The natural conditions of the Arctic and their changes have a direct impact on China’s climate system and ecological environment, and, in turn, on its economic interests in agriculture, forestry, fishery, marine industry and other sectors … The Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road (Belt and Road Initiative), an important cooperation initiative of China, will bring opportunities for parties concerned to jointly build a "Polar Silk Road", and facilitate connectivity and sustainable economic and social development of the Arctic … China’s policy goals on the Arctic are: to understand, protect, develop and participate in the governance of the Arctic, so as to safeguard the common interests of all countries and the international community in the Arctic, and promote sustainable development of the Arctic … The Arctic shipping routes comprise the Northeast Passage, Northwest Passage, and the Central Passage. As a result of global warming, the Arctic shipping routes are likely to become important transport routes for international trade. China respects the legislative, enforcement and adjudicatory powers of the Arctic States in the waters subject to their jurisdiction. China maintains that the management of the Arctic shipping routes should be conducted in accordance with treaties including the UNCLOS and general international law and that the freedom of navigation enjoyed by all countries in accordance with the law and their rights to use the Arctic shipping routes should be ensured. China maintains that disputes over the Arctic shipping routes should be properly settled in accordance with international law … China hopes to work with all parties to build a "Polar Silk Road" through developing the Arctic shipping routes. It encourages its enterprises to participate in the infrastructure construction for these routes and conduct commercial trial voyages in accordance with the law to pave the way for their commercial and regularized operation … China, as a responsible major country, is ready to cooperate with all relevant parties to seize the historic opportunity in the development of the Arctic, to address the challenges brought by the changes in the region, jointly understand, protect, develop and participate in the governance of the Arctic, and advance Arctic-related cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative, so as to build a community with a shared future for mankind and contribute to peace, stability and sustainable development in the Arctic.


The Marshall Plan, Central to Europe’s Recovery and the Emergence of the Cold War, Holds Lessons for Present Tensions Wi

February 13, 2018—The Marshall Plan—the costly and ambitious initiative to revive western Europe after World War II—marked the true beginning of the Cold War, argues Benn Steil. Bringing to bear new Russian and American archival material, Steil shows that it was only after the launch of the plan in 1947 “that both sides, the United States and the Soviet Union, became irrevocably committed to securing their respective spheres of influence.”

In his new book, The Marshall Plan: Dawn of the Cold War, Steil describes how President Harry S. Truman’s State Department, under George C. Marshall’s leadership, formulated the recovery program to provide Europe with a new economic and political architecture appropriate for a continent divided into two worlds: a capitalist and a communist one.

The Marshall Plan “promised a continuing energetic U.S. presence, underwritten by a reindustrialized capitalist western Germany at the heart of an integrated, capitalist western Europe,” Steil explains. His narrative, which Paul Kennedy’s Wall Street Journal review calls “brilliant,” brings to life the most dramatic episodes of the early Cold War—such as the Prague coup, the Berlin blockade, and the division of Germany—and shows how they unfurled from Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin’s determination to undermine the U.S. intervention.

Steil, senior fellow and director of international economics at the Council on Foreign Relations, and author of the award-winning book The Battle of Bretton Woods, asserts that whereas “the Marshall Plan is remembered as one of the great achievements of American foreign policy,” it fell short in one of its principal goals. The Plan “aimed at aiding American military disengagement from Europe, yet ended up, through NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization], making it both deeper and enduring.”

Given current echoes of the Cold War, the tenuous balance of power and uncertain order of the late 1940s is as relevant as ever. The Marshall Plan provides critical context into understanding today’s international landscape. “Many of the institutions we now take for granted as natural elements of the liberal postwar order—in particular, the European Union, NATO, and the World Trade Organization—were forged under U.S. leadership during the early Marshall years,” writes Steil. This order is now under threat, Steil argues, partly from failures in American diplomacy.

“In the wake of the devastation of WWII, the Marshall Plan and NATO provided western Europe with [economic and physical] security and kept it firmly on the democratic, capitalist path,” Steil writes. “Yet in the quarter century since the passing of the Soviet Union,” he contends, “Grand Strategy has been set aside in favor of improvisation to pacify competing interests.” As a result, Steil asserts, the NATO expansion policy is failing to extend reliable security guarantees.

The Marshall Plan worked, Steil reasons, “because the United States aligned its actions with its interests and capacities in Europe, accepting the reality of a Russian sphere of influence into which it could not penetrate without sacrificing credibility and public support.” Washington is today, he believes, losing both.

“Great acts of statesmanship are grounded in realism no less than idealism,” Steil concludes. “It is a lesson we need to relearn.”



see our letter on:

*Herausgegeben von Udo von Massenbach, Bärbel Freudenberg-Pilster, Joerg Barandat*



02-13-18 Who controls Syria -.pdf

Massenbach-Letter. NEWS 09.02.18

Massenbach-Letter. News

  • Papst und Erdogan sprachen über Christen, Flüchtlinge und Jerusalem / Pope Francis meets Turkish president in private audience
  • The Syrian Congress in Sochi: Too Much Too Soon
  • Russian Approaches to the United States: Algorithm Change Is Overdue
  • DEBKAfile about Syria (week 01/24/18 – 02/01/18)

Massenbach* NZZ: Die deutsche Lust am Niedergang

Wer die Politik in Deutschland verfolgt, den überkommt Unbehagen.

Wo bloss sind Tatkraft und Willensstärke hin? Die Deutschen scheinen sich selbst ein Bein nach dem anderen stellen zu wollen.

Sie gefährden damit nicht nur ihren Wohlstand.

Gastkommentar. Wolfgang Bok 7.2.2018, 05:30 Uhr

Die Deutsche Bank ist das letzte deutsche Geldhaus, das noch in der internationalen Finanz-Liga mitspielen darf – wenn auch abgeschlagen auf den Abstiegsplätzen. Man sollte also erwarten, dass die Politiker einer bedeutenden Exportnation am Erhalt dieser für ihre Unternehmen wichtigen Institution interessiert sind. Aber nein: Lieber empört man sich über Bonuszahlungen für Banker. Das kommt in der deutschen Neidgesellschaft immer gut an. Hilfe kann die Deutsche Bank von der Politik nicht erwarten.

Dasselbe Spiel bei der Automobilindustrie, die noch immer jeden achten Arbeitsplatz in Deutschland stellt – und sogar gut bezahlt. Jede Ungeschicklichkeit wird zum Gross-Skandal aufgeblasen. Kein Politiker wagt es, diese für den eigenen Wohlstand so wichtige Branche gegen überzogene Anfeindungen und Auflagen, sei es aus Washington oder aus Brüssel, in Schutz zu nehmen. Man rollt sogar den roten Teppich aus für asiatische Batterie- und amerikanische Elektroautobauer. Und die Metallgewerkschaft nutzt die Gunst der Stunde, um den Einstieg in die 28-Stunden-Woche zu erstreiken. Was deutsche Produkte noch teurer macht.

Fernsolidarität statt Eigeninteresse

Sehenden Auges lässt sich Deutschland in eine europäische Haftungs-, Schulden- und Sozialunion hineinziehen. Die Grosskoalitionäre Merkel (CDU) und Schulz (SPD) feiern den drohenden Bruch mit den stets beschworenen Stabilitätsregeln auch noch als «europäisches Zukunftsprojekt».

Als gäbe es kein Morgen mehr, konzentriert sich die deutsche Politik auf das Jetzt und das Gestern.

Dass auch Emmanuel Macron in der französischen Tradition steht, wonach seinem Land keine Last zu gross ist, solange Berlin dafür bezahlt, wird dort nicht einmal zur Kenntnis genommen. Lieber empört man sich über die Amerika-first-Politik des amerikanischen Präsidenten Trump – und übersieht, dass jeder Regierungschef zunächst einmal die Interessen seines Landes vertritt. Man mag in Davos und bei sonstigen Weltkongressen den freien Welthandel beschwören; in Wahrheit ist vielen jedoch jeder protektionistische Kniff recht, um die eigene Wirtschaft zu schützen. Vor allem China kennt keine Skrupel, Märkte zu besetzen und seine Macht auszuweiten.

Woher kommt diese Ignoranz? Zunächst einmal ist Deutschland ein gutes Beispiel dafür, dass Umerziehung funktioniert. Man hat den Menschen so lange eingetrichtert, dass nationales Denken in die (braune) Katastrophe führt, dass es heute kaum mehr jemand wagt, für «nationale Interessen» einzutreten. Wer in seinem Garten eine deutsche Flagge pflanzt oder sich an Anglizismen stört, gilt bereits als Nationalist. Selbst das Wort «deutsch» ist in Deutschland zunehmend verpönt. Nicht mehr auf «deutsche Interessen» sollen Politiker schwören, sondern nur noch allgemein auf die der «Bürgerinnen und Bürger».

Das erklärt die fatale Flüchtlingspolitik der offenen Grenzen. Der Selbsthass in weiten Teilen der Gesellschaft ist so gross, dass bereits als «Rassist» gilt, wer mit Blick auf die massenhafte Zuwanderung aus arabischen und afrikanischen Ländern um die eigene nationale Identität fürchtet. Dass dieses Thema auf der Sorgenliste der Deutschen nach wie vor ganz oben steht, wird vom Establishment in Politik und Medien hartnäckig ignoriert. In den Koalitionsverhandlungen von Union und SPD wurde ersatzweise um den Familiennachzug einer kleinen Gruppen von Flüchtlingen gestritten. Dass Hunderttausende bereits anerkannte Asylbewerber und geduldete Migranten ihre Angehörigen auch dann ins Land holen dürfen, wenn sie diese nicht selbst versorgen können, spielte in der ganzen Debatte so wenig eine Rolle wie die Frage nach den Kosten.

Pirouetten auf dem Eis, bis es bricht

Als gäbe es kein Morgen mehr, konzentriert sich die deutsche Politik auf das Jetzt und das Gestern. Jedes Problem wird mit Milliarden-Zusagen regelrecht zugeschüttet. Kein Wunsch der SPD ist Kanzlerin Merkel zu teuer oder zu dirigistisch, um ihn abzulehnen, und keine konservative Position heilig, für die CDU und CSU Jahrzehnte gefochten haben. Die Politikerin, die vor zwölf Jahren als mutige Reformerin antrat und sich gerne als sparsame schwäbische Hausfrau gibt, hat einzig die eigene Machtabsicherung im Blick. Derweil bei der einstigen Volkspartei SPD Angst vor der Macht herrscht.

Allein die gute wirtschaftliche Lage, die nicht der Politik, sondern vor allem einem starken Mittelstand und einem schwachen Euro zu verdanken ist, verdeckt, dass in Deutschland nicht mehr solider regiert wird als in Ländern, auf die man gerne etwas herabschaut. Es sagt viel aus, dass ausgerechnet im italienischen Wahlkampf vor «deutschen Verhältnissen» gewarnt wird.

Dabei ist die zähe Regierungsbildung noch das kleinste Problem. Vielmehr fühlt man sich an die Volksweisheit von den Eseln erinnert, die auf dem Eis Pirouetten drehen, wenn es ihnen zu wohl ergeht. Dass das deutsche Wohlstands-Eis bereits bedenklich knirscht, nimmt zwischen Ost- und Bodensee kaum jemand zur Kenntnis. Bricht es, hat dies auch für Europa Folgen. Oder um es mit Abraham Lincoln zu sagen: Es nützt den Schwachen nicht, wenn sich der Starke selber schwächt.

Wolfgang Bok war Chefredaktor der «Heilbronner Stimme» und arbeitet heute als freier Publizist. Er lehrt an der Hochschule Heilbronn Kommunikation. ****************************************************************************************

From our Russian News Desk. (The views expressed are the author‘s own.)

  • The Syrian Congress in Sochi: Too Much Too Soon

February 2, 2018 – REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

“There is a certain disconnect between Russia’s hard power instruments and its ability to spearhead political dialogue.

These are the faultiness that Russia tried to overcome in Sochi by institutionalizing the process of constitution drafting…”

  • Russian Approaches to the United States: Algorithm Change Is Overdue

February 1, 2018 – REUTERS/Win McNamee

“ is necessary to change drastically the algorithm — to start building relationships not on the “top-down” principle, but on the “bottom-up” principle.

It would be wrong to count on a well-disposed “non-systemic” president. We should work properly with the “system” as a whole.

Even if such work is invisible for a long time, is not always pleasant and not too effective…”

  • The Caucasian Knot / News:

Threat of economic crisis advances presidential election in Azerbaijan.




Russians have traditionally had strong yet contrary feelings about change, both longing for and fearing the transformation of the country. In the late 1980s, the last major era of radical change when the Soviet Communist system began to fall apart, the rock singer Viktor Tsoi sang words that all of Russia knew by heart: “Change! Our hearts demand it. Change! Our eyes demand it!” Attitudes are different now. After a long period of political stability dominated by one leader, President Vladimir Putin, the March 2018 election promises only a formal imitation of change, as Putin is universally expected to win another term. But against the backdrop of renewed protests, the Russian election raises the question of what will come next for the country as its long-serving leader begins his final term.


Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* Papst und Erdogan sprachen über Christen, Flüchtlinge und Jerusalem / Pope Francis meets Turkish president in private audience

In a private audience on Monday, Pope Francis meets with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, discussing the country’s Catholic community, its hosting of refugees, and the situation in the Middle East.

Pope Francis met with the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and his entourage on Monday at a private audience in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace.

It was the first time in 59 years that a Turkish president has visited the Vatican.

A statement from the Holy See Press Office said their discussions were “cordial” and that the two men spoke about the two states’ bilateral relations.

The Holy Father and President Erdogan spoke about “the situation of the country, the condition of the Catholic community, efforts in the reception of the many refugees, and the challenges linked to this.”

They also discussed the situation in the Middle East, giving special attention “to the status of Jerusalem”.

Pope Francis and Turkey’s president, it said, highlighted “the need to promote peace and stability in the region through dialogue and negotiation, with respect for human rights and international law.”


Politics: From Vision to Action

Barandat*National Interest: Pakistan’s Water Crisis Is a Ticking Time Bomb

When it comes to Pakistan, President Trump’s Twitter feud with one of America’s most important partners in the fight against terrorism has dominated the news. But beneath the headlines, a massive water crisis is unfolding that has profound implications for the country’s stability and security. Rapid urbanization and conflict combined with corruption, crime and years of mismanagement have left a massive proportion of the population without access to clean water. And now, this long-festering crisis threatens to upend Pakistan’s politics.

Perhaps the strangest thing about Pakistan’s water crisis is that until recently, the country had been doing well in connecting more of its citizens to water supply and sanitation networks. From 1990 to 2015, the percentage of the country’s population with access to clean water increased from 86 percent to 91 percent. But in a reversal of what happens in most countries, almost all of this improvement occurred in rural areas—the percentage of urban residents with access to clean water actually declined from 97 to 94 percent over the same period.

Only a few other countries, most of them war-torn places like Syria and Gaza, have experienced similar reversals in providing clean water to cities. And while the causes of Pakistan’s water crisis are complex, the country’s political instability has played a key part. Pakistan is urbanizing at a rapid rate of over 3 percent annually—the highest rate in South Asia. The causes of this fast-moving urbanization are deeply troubling, with climate change and the fight against Muslim extremists acting as key drivers. Given this ever-quickening tide, Pakistan’s cities have had trouble providing basic services, including housing and water, to new urban residents.

But the problem is worse in the water sector because rampant corruption and mismanagement keeps prices high and coverage rates low. Because Pakistan’s cities can’t keep up with growing water demand from new residents, many urban-dwellers are forced to buy water from private tanker trucks. And because tankers often bring water from far away, prices are high, and tanker “mafias” raise them still further by illegally siphoning off water from municipal sources and reselling it at extortionate prices. These criminal gangs represent a serious challenge to Pakistan’s local authorities. As a Karachi official admitted, “These illegal hydrants are established by armed people, so it is very difficult for . . . staff to just dismantle them.” But authorities have also been accused of turning a blind eye to tanker mafias: no less an authority than the Chief Justice of Pakistan’s Supreme Court was quoted as saying, “there is someone behind the scenes at work who is minting money from [the tanker mafias].”

The result of this corruption and mismanagement is a serious and growing lack of clean water for many of Pakistan’s cities. According to figures presented to the Pakistani Supreme Court, 83 percent of water supplies in Sindh, Pakistan’s second-most-populous region, are contaminated with sewage and industrial waste, with the percentage rising to over 90 percent in Karachi, the country’s largest city and financial center. Even worse, up to 60 million people across the country may have been exposed to deadly arsenic leaking into Pakistan’s groundwater supplies. Late last year, the issue exploded into popular view when the Supreme Court ordered Sindh officials to present a plan for resolving the province’s water crisis. The Court’s Chief Justice minced no words, warning officials that “The water crisis issue in Pakistan is turning into a bomb.”

Unfortunately, Pakistan’s water bomb has multiple triggers, and if it explodes it may well send the country into an even greater political crisis. In addition to its water quality woes, Pakistan is at risk of growing water scarcity as a result of climate change, which some observers have warned could exacerbate existing insurgencies and make a military coup more likely. Nor are the consequences of a water crisis confined to Pakistan’s domestic security. During a December conference, a Chinese diplomat reportedly complained that the country’s chronic water shortages were hindering Chinese investment as part of the China—Pakistan Economic Corridor, the country’s highest-profile development project.

Pakistan’s local authorities appear to be taking the risk of water crisis seriously. Following the Supreme Court’s order, Sindh’s Chief Minister pledged to act quickly, promising residents that “It is our prime duty to take necessary measures so that people right from Kashmore to Karachi drink safe water.” But some national leaders have appeared hesitant to acknowledge the implications of water crisis for the country’s security. During a November 2017 international water conference, Sindh’s governor, who serves a representative of the central government, bafflingly stated that “Water is a very low priority” for the government. “Terrorism,” he went on to say, “is a way bigger issue than the water crisis.”

If Pakistan is to tackle its water woes, attitudes like this will have to change. For the United States, such reluctance is concerning, and adds other set of risk factors to an already difficult relationship with a volatile nuclear power. Unfortunately, Washington’s current spat with Islamabad leaves it with few good options to make the case that providing basic services, especially water, are essential to maintaining Pakistan’s security and stability. But it should try. The U.S. government’s recently-released Global Water Strategy prioritizes investment in water and sanitation as a tool to advance U.S. national interests, and can be used as a framework to help Pakistan address its water crisis. As President Trump himself acknowledged, “Water may be the most important issue we face for the next generation.”

Scott Moore is a political scientist and senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Kleinman Center for Energy Policy, where he studies climate change and water issues.


Middle East

U.S. shale surge sends warning to OPEC: Kemp – Reuters News

07-Feb-2018 12:34:38 – John Kemp is a Reuters market analyst. The views expressed are his own


LONDON, Feb 7 (Reuters) – U.S. crude oil production is set to increase by more than 1.2 million barrels per day in 2018 compared with 2017, according to the latest short-term forecasts from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

U.S. crude production will average almost 10.6 million barrels per day (bpd) this year compared with 9.3 million bpd in 2017 ("Short-Term Energy Outlook", EIA, Feb. 6).

The forecast has been revised sharply higher from less than 10.3 million bpd at the time of the last prediction in January 2018 and 9.9 million bpd in July 2017 (

Unexpectedly rapid growth in U.S. onshore production from the Lower 48 states in recent months has caused the agency to re-benchmark its output numbers going forward.

Crude production from the Lower 48 excluding federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico, mostly from shale, is expected to rise by nearly 1.25 million bpd this year.

Total U.S. liquids production, which includes natural gas liquids, is predicted to rise by 1.7 million bpd in 2018, which is exactly the same as the forecast increase in global liquids consumption.

If the forecasts prove correct, U.S. shale producers will capture all or most of the predicted growth in global oil consumption this year.


Surging output from shale underscores the growing competitive threat to members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies led by Russia.

Efforts to restrain production under the cooperation framework between OPEC and non-OPEC allies risk back-firing.

The cooperating countries are already conceding market share to the shale producers, in a re-run of the situation before oil prices slumped in 2014.

If production restraint succeeds in drawing down global inventories even further, and pushes Brent significantly above $70 per barrel, the resulting shale surge and slowdown in consumption growth will intensify the danger.

The dilemma between defending prices or protecting market share has been a familiar one for OPEC for the last 40 years, and the organisation has regularly alternated between pursuing these competing priorities.

Saudi-led OPEC focused on defending prices before 2014, then switched to protecting market share between June 2014 and June 2016, before reverting to price defence from December 2016 onwards.

The price defence strategy has worked but is now starting to threaten the organisation’s market share and could become counterproductive if carried too far.


OPEC and its allies need to start planning an exit from their production agreement with the goal of capturing at least some incremental market demand in 2018 and 2019 while preventing another slump in prices.

OPEC is focused on maintaining current production through the end of 2018, although it has promised an interim review at the next ministerial meeting in June.

But maintaining production restraint until the end of the year risks tightening the market too much and inviting another shale surge, which would repeat the events of 2011-2014.

Between 2011 and 2014, OPEC members consistently under-estimated the competitive threat from shale, until it overwhelmed them.

Maintaining output restraint for too long this time around would repeat the same mistakes that led to the subsequent slump.

OPEC and its allies must choose between an early, smooth and controlled adjustment to the cooperation agreement or risk a later and more disorderly one.

Related columns:

"U.S. oil production nears 47-year record as shale booms", Reuters, Feb. 1

"U.S. shale producers renew challenge to OPEC," Reuters, Nov. 27

"OPEC must think about exit strategy", Reuters, Oct. 25


*Massenbach’s Recommendation*

The Perils of Change: Russians’ Mixed Attitudes Toward Reform.”

Carnegie Moscow: Russians traditionally have had strong yet conflicting feelings about change, ranging from longing for and fearing upheavals accompanying any transformation of the country. So in 2018, during a time many compare to the stagnant Brezhnev era, how do Russians understand the idea of change and how do they think it should come about?

The Carnegie Moscow Center and the Levada Center, an independent Russian polling organization, posed these and many more questions in a national survey, complemented by four focus groups conducted in Moscow. The results are illuminating and provide the basis for the latest article by Carnegie’s Andrei Kolesnikov and Levada’s Denis Volkov: “The Perils of Change: Russians’ Mixed Attitudes Toward Reform.”

The survey revealed a glaring paradox. Most Russians do not express a strong desire for sweeping change. They do not have in mind a specific roadmap for reforms, and they lack a clear idea of who could best carry them out. However, most Russians understand that the country cannot move forward, or even stay in place, without some change.

We hope you will enjoy the publication. You can stay up-to-date on our work by signing up for Carnegie Moscow Center newsletters and by following @DmitriTrenin and @CarnegieRussia on Twitter.

Dmitri Trenin


Sign Up Now

01/24/18 – 02/01/18

Briefs plans to end Alawite hegemony in Damascus and evict pro-Iranian Shiite militias including Hizballah

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report

DEBKAfile reports that the Russian president Vladimir Putin has prepared a plan for Syria’s post-war future for presentation to the Syrian peace conference opening on Jan. 29 at the Black Sea resort of Sochi. Moscow has invited 1,600 Syrian government and opposition participants. Some rebel groups have announced a boycott. DEBKAfile reports that, unless he backs down at the last moment, Putin’s plan substantially includes democratic elections took reflect the Sunni majority and grant minorities their rights, as well as the creation of the New National Syrian Army. Free elections would automatically unseat Bashar Assad. To broaden its support base, Putin conferred intensively with Riyadh and Cairo, which also gained him an indirect line to Washington. The Saudis demanded an additional clause explicitly mandating the expulsion of all foreign forces, including Iran and its proxies. Putin agreed. He proposed to put his plan before Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu when they meet in Moscow on Jan. 29.

Briefs plans to end Alawite hegemony in Damascus and evict pro-Iranian Shiite militias including Hizballah

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report

DEBKAfile reports that the Russian president Vladimir Putin has prepared a plan for Syria’s post-war future for presentation to the Syrian peace conference opening on Jan. 29 at the Black Sea resort of Sochi. Moscow has invited 1,600 Syrian government and opposition participants. Some rebel groups have announced a boycott. DEBKAfile reports that, unless he backs down at the last moment, Putin’s plan substantially includes democratic elections took reflect the Sunni majority and grant minorities their rights, as well as the creation of the New National Syrian Army. Free elections would automatically unseat Bashar Assad. To broaden its support base, Putin conferred intensively with Riyadh and Cairo, which also gained him an indirect line to Washington. The Saudis demanded an additional clause explicitly mandating the expulsion of all foreign forces, including Iran and its proxies. Putin agreed. He proposed to put his plan before Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu when they meet in Moscow on Jan. 29.

Briefs plans to end Alawite hegemony in Damascus and evict pro-Iranian Shiite militias including Hizballah

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report

The Trump administration’s abrupt flight from understandings with Moscow on Syria left Netanyahu with a tricky agenda for his Moscow talks with Putin on Monday, Jan 29.
This about-face will be examined, with new revelations, in the coming issue of DEBKA Weekly out on Friday, Feb. 2
DEBKAfile reports exclusively that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had come away from last week’s Davos Economic Forum and his talks with President Donald Trump and European leaders with a strong impression of amity between Trump and Putin, endorsed by key European leaders, on two critical issues: that Syria’s political transition from war to peace would lead to Bashar Assad’s ouster along with the eviction of all foreign armies, including those of Iran and Hizballah. This was the essence of the "non-paper‘ drawn up by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in conjunction with Russia’s plans for Syria. Moscow planned to put this formula before the Sochi Syrian peace conference on Monday, Jan. 29. But between the end of the Davos forum on Friday, Jan. 26 and Sunday night, Jan. 28, this deal was blown sky high in Washington, just hours before Netanyahu set out for Moscow. "We are already acting to stop Iran gaining a military foothold in Syria

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told reporters Monday evening, after his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow: "Israel will not tolerate Iranian high-precision missiles [in Lebanon and Syria], and if need be, we will strike them in Lebanon." As for an Iranian foothold in Syria, Netanyahu said that Israel is at a crossroads: "Is Iran establishing a military presence there or is this process being cut short? I said to Putin that if it is not, it will up to us to do this. In actual fact, we are already taking action in this regard." removal of Dep FBI Director McCabe caps long Trump disapproval

Andrew McCabe was forced to step down as deputy director of the FBI ahead of his retirement date in March, after being targeted most recently by Republicans for the FBI’s handling of the investigation into possible Trump campaign ties to Russia. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders firmly denied Monday night that the president was part of the decision-making process for McCabe’s removal. However, Trump had previously asked McCabe whom he voted for, when his wife, Dr., Jill McCabe, running as a Democrat for a Senate seat in Virginia received nearly half a million dollars in donations from a Hillary-Clinton-backed fund. He also asked how McCabe could have handled the FBI investigation against Clinton’s use of a private email service in the light of that donation. This is the subject of a Republican-led congressional committee probe. meets Putin in Moscow

On arrival in Moscow for his meeting with President Vadimir Putin, Prime Minister said in his opening remarks: "We have to stand up to murderous ideologies in a timely and forceful way.": Turning to the Russian president, he said: "That is our mission and that is what I would like to discuss with you." Speaking to reporters shortly before his departure, Netanyahu said he and Putin would discuss what he called "Iran’s relentless efforts to establish a military presence in Syria, which we strongly oppose and are also taking action against." The two leaders met outside Moscow’s Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center and then went in for the opening of an exhibit on the 1943 uprising at the Nazi death camp in Sobibor. Netanyahu and Putin meet and talk by phone periodically. Their last meeting was in August. We won’t let Iran build a missile factory in Lebanon

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Monday: "We won’t allow Iran to establish a missile plant in Lebanon and we know exactly who there has a hand in the project. Speaking at a meeting of his Israel Beitenu party, Lieberman added: "The Iranian plan is transparent: It is to turn Lebanon into a giant missile base for targeting Israel, to strengthen the Hamas front in the Gaza Strip and to deepen Iran’s military involvement in Syria. We won’t tolerate the transformation of Lebanon into a missile site and I believe we still have the time and the means to achieve this." DEBKAfile: While the minister presents the threat in the future tense, the fact is that Iranian surface missiles targeting Israel are already based in Lebanon. saw Jason Greenblatt before flying to Moscow to meet Putin

Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu held a last-minute conversation with US peace envoy Jason Greenblatt before flying to Moscow on Monday to meet President Vladimir Putin. Greenblatt spent the day with IDF units positioned on the Gaza border. He was also shown one of the recently discovered Palestinian terror tunnels. can’t deliver on his threats to drive out Syrian Kurdish militia

DEBKAfile exclusive: The Turkish army has so far made no progress in capturing Afrin’s regional capital or Manbij, despite Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s almost daily vow to drive the Kurdish YPG militia out northern Syria. There is plenty of shelling and few small Kurdish villages have been seized, but the Turkish invasion is held up by three factors: 1) Moscow has warned Ankara that if the Turkish army proceeds to the town of Afrin, its entry will be barred by a Russian assault; 2) Washington has warned Ankara against attacking Manbij; 3) From day one of the Turkish offensive ten days ago, the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army, which was trained and prepared to spearhead the operation, was no match for the Kurdish YPG – even with artillery and air support.
Briefs Russian delegation in Israel shortly after Putin-Netanyahu Moscow talks

DEBKAfile Special Report

Russia’s National Security Adviser Nikolai Patrushev, as well as deputy foreign, justice and public security ministers were due in Jerusalem Tuesday, Jan. 30. Senior military and intelligence generals were also included. They came less than 24 hours after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu sat down in the Kremlin with President Vladimir Putin. The Russian visitors are the guests of Israel’s National Security Council chief Meir Ben Shabat. They are to hold talk with their Israeli counterparts on questions relating to Iranian’s military presence in Syria and Lebanon and the amendments Israel seeks for the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, of which Russia along with the US and four other world powers were signatories.
No announcement was made on the duration of the high-ranking Russian visit.
DEBKAfile’s diplomatic sources note that it is unprecedented for a delegation of such eminence to get organized for a foreign mission in so short a space of time. Putin must have expedited it for three reasons:
He told Netanyahu that the Iranian and Syrian issues could not be settled in a single conversation and called for a thorough appraisal. To this end, he was sending a high-profile delegation to Israel for a thorough threshing-out of all their aspects.
Putin sees his chance to create daylight between Israel and Washington’s current posture in Syria which is confrontational.
Participants in the Jan 29-30 Sochi conference on Syria, which failed, were to be shown that Moscow has multiple options to pursue in Syria. Eisenkott: I am confident the IDF will prevail in a war

The IDF’s Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gady Eisenkott, sounded for the first time Tuesday as though he was addressing a potential war with Hizballah. He said: "There are many challenges facing us amidst the apparent calm on the northern border. Hizballah, in breach of UN resolutions, maintains a military presence and weapons systems and is constantly enhancing its capabilities. The IDF works day and night to stay ready and retain its deterrent strength." He went on to say: "We shall continue to advance our knowledge of the enemy and [take action] to restrain its capabilities. I am absolutely sure of our military superiority, {trust in the] the high quality of our commanders and troops and [confident in] our ability to achieve victory in the event of war."’s Syrian peace conference in Sochi bedeviled before it started

The Sochi peace conference on Syria was billed by Moscow as the definitive effort to bring the Syrian government and opposition together under Russian-Iranian-Turkish auspices to forge a constitution to transition the country from war to peace. Several leading opposition parties announced a boycott, and some of those who did attend some delegates refused to leave Sochi airport when they saw the Assad government’s flag and emblem. There was no delegation from Iran. Then, when Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov got up to speak, he was heckled by delegates who accused Moscow of killing civilians with air strikes. Other delegates stood up and shouted their support for Russia. Lavrov them told them all to sit down and let him finish speaking. They would have their chance later. lists 114 Russians for sanctions

The Trump administration late Monday released a long-awaited list of 114 Russian politicians and 96 "oligarchs" with ties to President Vladimir Putin, fulfilling a demand by Congress to penalize Moscow for allegedly interfering in the 2016 US election. Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, who is himself on the list, told reporters on Tuesday that Moscow would like to take time to analyze the list which he described as "unprecedented" in its scope. "De-facto everyone has been called an adversary of the United States," he said.

Briefs is building four new air bases in Syria, deploying another 6,000 troops

Contrary to promises, the Russian military is not pulling out of Syria, but adding four more air bases (one shared with Iran) and 6,000 more troops.
On Dec. 11, 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin, followed by Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, announced that the Russian military was to withdraw from Syria to its home bases. DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources report that the reverse happened. A small number of units were indeed withdrawn, but they were sooner replaced, and instead of two bases – the air facility at Hmeimim and the naval installation at Tartus – four Syria air bases are being reconstructed and adapted for the use of the Russian air force.
The Tiyas Military Airbase (also known as T-4) in the Homs Governorate; Palmyra (or Tadmor) Airport provides air support for operations in eastern Syria including the Deir ez-Zour province (which Moscow has agreed to share with Iran); Hama Military Airport and Shayrat at Homs. Most of the 6,000 additional Russian military personnel are air force and special operations personnel.



see our letter on:

*Herausgegeben von Udo von Massenbach, Bärbel Freudenberg-Pilster, Joerg Barandat*




02-06-18 Syria_Sochi-US-Russia-Trump.pdf


02-07-18 US OIL PRODUCTION.pdf

Massenbach-Letter. NEWS 02.02.18

Massenbach-Letter. News

  • Carnegie Moscow Center: 2018 Russian Presidential Election
  • Germany and the U.S., Springing to Inaction
  • On the Origins of the Conflict in Yemen
  • Lowy Institute: Canberra looks for new bridges over troubled waters
  • Australian Strategic Policy Institute: China everywhere
  • Russia’s Changing Relations with the West: Prospects for a New Hybrid System
  • ( January 19, 2018 – Andrey Kortunov (Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council, RIAC member )
  • International Security and «Turbid Waters» of Cyberspace
  • (January 29, 2018 – Igor Ivanov (President of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (1998–2004) )
  • Russia and Europe: From Romanticism to Pragmatism
  • January 29, 2018 – Igor Ivanov (President of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (1998–2004)
  • The Caucasian Knot”: Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of January 22-28
  • Alexei Navalny’s supporters hold actions in Southern Russia

Massenbach* Carnegie Moscow Center: 2018 Russian Presidential Election


Rotating the Elite: The Kremlin’s New Personnel Policy

Tatyana Stanovaya, January 30, 2018

Whatever changes 2018 and 2024 bring to Russia’s leadership, the broader political system will become increasingly depersonalized, making it—rather than the president—the source of stability. Commentary

The Grudinin Effect: A Populist Shakes up Russian Politics

Andrey Pertsev, January 29, 2018,

The Communist Party’s new presidential candidate is far from a dull apparatchik. He’s a populist whose criticism of the authorities can appeal to different electoral groups. There has always been a demand for populism in Russia. If Pavel Grudinin can run an effective campaign—and his previous political experience suggests he can—it could lead to serious changes in the Russian political landscape. Commentary

Project Inertia: The Outlook for Putin’s Fourth Term

Andrei Kolesnikov, January 25, 2018

Do not expect modernization after Putin’s 2018 reelection. Instead, the system he built will function on autopilot as the Russian leader continues to lose direct control over events, ideas, and actions. But that doesn’t imply democratization. In essence, the head of state finds himself chained to the galley that he built himself. Commentary

Navalny’s Blinkered Economic Program

Andrey Movchan, January 23, 2018, Vedomosti

Most of Navalny’s economic proposals are seriously concerning and evocative of left-wing populist slogans. The policy platform contains outright errors, but its greatest problem is that it attacks all vocal parts of society in favor of a mythical “people.” Attracting voters with such a platform will prove to be difficult. Commentary

Putin 4.0: The President’s New Modus Operandi

Tatyana Stanovaya, January 18, 2018

Vladimir Putin is sending out signals about how he sees his fourth presidential term. Domestic initiatives are not a presidential priority and will be dealt with at the technocratic level. In the political sphere, the real threat to Putin’s power comes from the moderate opposition. Above all, there is to be no more democratic window dressing. Preparations are well under way for a new act. Commentary

Between Night and Day: Who Will Control Putin’s Fourth Term?

Konstantin Gaaze, December 21, 2017

As President Putin approaches his fourth term, his personal power is diminishing. In the recent corruption case against Minister Ulyukayev, the licensing of European University, and lawsuits against Sistema Financial Corporation, Putin has been either unwilling or unable to interfere. With the president off to the sidelines, there are signs that Russia’s “night rulers” are expanding their power. Commentary

Why the Kremlin Needs Sobchak

Konstantin Gaaze, November 13, 2017

Ksenia Sobchak’s run for the Russian presidency is not meant to siphon votes away from Alexei Navalny. The Kremlin’s aim is to create a pseudo-opposition, which will channel the discontents of the liberal urban electorate.


Alexei Navalny’s Permanent Revolution

Andrei Kolesnikov, October 09, 2017,Moscow Times

Time is on Navalny’s side. If he doesn’t commit a blunder that disenchants potential voters, and if the authorities don’t take the brute force approach of locking him away for a number of years, he could emerge as a key opposition figure between 2018 and 2024. Commentary

Sobchak for President: What the Rumors Reveal About Russian Politics

Andrey Pertsev,October 09, 2017

The possibility of TV anchor Ksenia Sobchak as a presidential candidate has morphed from the dream of one of Vedomosti’s Kremlin sources into a political fact and a model for all of Russian politics. It demonstrates the strategy and working style of the president’s administration and of Alexei Navalny, as well as the demand for any candidate other than Vladimir Putin. Commentary

Looking Beyond 2018: Putin and the Technocrats

Tatyana Stanovaya, October 06, 2017

The 2018 Russian presidential election will be the beginning of Vladimir Putin’s presumed final act as he seeks to ascend to the pantheon of Russia’s great historical figures. But as Putin loses interest in some of the more down-to-earth details of government, the Kremlin is testing new models of technocratic rule in order to sustain the regime.


· Article

The Burden of Predictability: Russia’s 2018 Presidential Election

· Andrei Kolesnikov,May 18, 2017

In the absence of a real political contest, Russia’s 2018 presidential election will be more or less a referendum on public confidence in Putin.


From our Russian News Desk. (The views expressed are the author‘s own.)

  • Russia’s Changing Relations with the West: Prospects for a New Hybrid System
  • ( January 19, 2018 – Andrey Kortunov (Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council, RIAC member )
  • It appears that in the foreseeable future, Russia cannot hope for much more than tactical interaction with the United States on a limited set of issues, such as Syria, North Korea, the Arctic and nuclear non-proliferation. If Moscow is particularly lucky, it might expand this list to add strategic stability, the fight against global terrorism and certain other problems.”
  • International Security and «Turbid Waters» of Cyberspace
  • (January 29, 2018 – Igor Ivanov (President of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (1998–2004) )
  • “Let us hope that today the awareness of the scale of the threat and the possible global consequences of a large-scale Russia–US confrontation in cyberspace will allow us to move to practical cooperation between Moscow and Washington in this extremely important for all mankind area.

Of course, bilateral Russia–US negotiations, important as they are, do not solve global issues of cyberspace governance. This is the task for the entire international community — big and small countries, private business and civil society institutions. And the special responsibility falls on the permanent members of the UN Security Council, especially on the threesome of the United States, Russia, and China, as the leading States in cyberspace. There is no doubt that joint leadership in such a pressing issue would help to build confidence between Washington, Moscow, and Beijing, and the growth of predictability in international affairs at large, that would be in the interest of all other members of the international community…”

  • Russia and Europe: From Romanticism to Pragmatism
  • January 29, 2018 – Igor Ivanov (President of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (1998–2004)

“… the fundamental issues of European security cannot be discussed without the United States and outside the NATO context. To be sure, any attempt to exclude the United States from the conversation would be both naive and counterproductive. However, neither Russia nor Europe can afford to wait for the United States to sort out its domestic political crisis and be ready for serious discussion. Neither the United States nor NATO has a monopoly on the dialogue surrounding European security – the issues are too diverse, and too important, to be passed on to the discretion of a third country or organization.

These and other proposals only demonstrate that this new stage of Russia–Europe relations requires new and fresh approaches if the sides are truly interested in imbuing them with real content. Emotions need to give way to logic. Romantic illusions need to be replaced by pragmatic considerations. And ideological constructions need to be ousted in favour of a clear understanding of the long-term interests of both sides…

  • The Caucasian Knot”: Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of January 22-28
  • Alexei Navalny’s supporters hold actions in Southern Russia


Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* On the Origins of the Conflict in Yemen

Dec. 28, 2017 As is often the case, the current civil war has historical and geographical beginnings.

Yemen has always been different from the rest of the countries of the Arabian Peninsula. Even the Ancient Greeks thought of it as such, referring to the land that would eventually constitute Yemen as Eudaimon Arabia – “Fortunate Arabia” or “Happy Arabia” – because its rainfall and fertile land made for a stable population.

But the country it has become has rarely been fortunate or happy for long. Located at the intersection of major trade routes, it is an outpost for distant powers seeking access to Arabia. It is a prize peninsular powers have long tried – and always struggled – to control. It is a diverse country, a little more than 200,000 square miles in size, boasting a fertile coastline, mountains as tall as 12,000 feet (3,700 meters), and desert terrain. Its inhabitants are at least as diverse, disconnected as they by dozens of tribal and religious affiliations. Here, diversity all too often leads to volatility, for no one group can control the country for long.

Yet it is an overlooked country, usually afterthought among the machinations of more powerful actors, even as a civil war rages within its borders. It still makes headlines from time to time, of course. It initially re-entered global conversations during the Arab Spring, when its citizens rose up against President Ali Abdullah Saleh, sparking the current civil war. It gets some publicity when a bomb dropped by a member of the Saudi-led coalition fighting there lands on a wedding procession. Heads turn when Houthi rebels launch a missile at a passing ship or at a Saudi embassy. It was even the target of the Trump administration’s first counterterrorism operation, which left at least six women and 10 children dead.

Instability – if not always bloodshed – has been part and parcel of Yemen’s history for thousands of years. In this analysis, we will study the geography that divides this country, the turbulent transitions in power it has experienced over the centuries, and the roots of the civil war that continues today. (for more see att.)


Politics: From Vision to Action

Barandat*Lowy Institute: Canberra looks for new bridges over troubled waters

19 January 2018 … Australia’s foreign policy and security environment is coming under combined challenge from an emboldened, more powerful China, as well as new uncertainties about the commitment and leadership of the United States in Asia … And 2018 promises to be a testing year for Australia’s foreign policy, as it tries to navigate a course between the US and China. The likelihood of a more adversarial Sino-US relationship on the horizon brings heightened risk, as well as an imperative for Australia to be more active on the region’s diplomatic stage … China’s economic in-roads into the South Pacific have unnerved Canberra, as growing Chinese aid threatens to undercut Australia’s "traditional" predominance in its immediate region … Despite his lionisation of President Xi Jinping, the broader US-China relationship is becoming increasingly adversarial. This was apparent in the US‘ new national security strategy and is likely to cast a longer shadow over US-China policy than Mr Trump … Without the US present in the region, there is little prospect for Australia and like-minded countries to counter-balance China … Australia is stepping up its engagement. In South-east Asia, a new bilateral strategic partnership with Vietnam is expected to be concluded shortly, and defence engagement is likely to develop further this year with the Philippines and via the Five Power Defence Arrangements. Singapore remains Australia’s most advanced defence partner in South-east Asia … Canberra’s military capacity, though modernising, is still relatively small. As Australia winds down its combat involvement in Iraq and Syria, defence resources will need to be carefully husbanded for security closer to home … Bilateral defence cooperation with India and Japan is also likely to progress, though at a cautious pace, probably including a visiting forces agreement with the latter. One thing is certain, going it alone is not an option. Australia needs friends and partners in the region more than ever.


Middle East

Australian Strategic Policy Institute: China everywhere

12 Jan 2018 China is expanding its reach not just in the Asia-Pacific, but globally. What underpins China’s global push is President Xi Jinping’s commitment to transform China into a fully-developed, industrial country and to advance Chinese power in the world … For Xi, it is time for China to have a place under the sun. Xi’s tool of choice is strategic investments. This is a wise tactic, as it allows for a soft approach to influencing international politics that is less likely to cause anger. This can be contrasted with the tactics of Putin, who has annexed Crimea and embedded Russia in Syria, Iran, Libya and other conflict zones. While encouraging Chinese investment abroad, Xi is also making sure that such investment is strategic and of benefit to China. This is why on 18 August 2017, the Chinese Government introduced new rules to control Chinese overseas mergers and acquisitions. The rules outline three types of investment: banned, restricted, and encouraged. Military, gambling and sex industries all fall under banned investments. Restricted investments include such industries as real estate and hotels, film and entertainment, sports, and those that do not comply with environmental standards. Meanwhile the government encourages investment in industries that advance China’s technology, research and development, oil, mining, agriculture and fishing sectors. At the centre of Xi’s vision is the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a $US 1 trillion-plus program of infrastructure investment in more than 60 countries in Europe, Asia and Africa, including those that historically were not much interested in China … For decades, Sino-Israeli relations were trapped by Beijing’s reliance on Arab oil and its leadership position in the non-aligned world … Chinese investment in Israel had increased substantially: in 1992, when full diplomatic relations were established … Chinese investors have bought into the Israeli high-tech sector, formed joint ventures, hosted a trade conference and managed construction projects in Israel, including port and tunnel building. This trade relationship is likely to improve further … Israeli politicians are very much in favour of improving relations with the East Asian power … As part of the Israel-China corridor, there are discussions about the potential of a ‘Red-Med’ railway. The plan would connect Eilat, a port on the north of the Red Sea, to the port of Ashdod in the Mediterranean, while also developing Eilat to accommodate more cargo ships. In 2014, a subsidiary of China Harbour Engineering Company … won a US $950 million tender to build a port in southern Ashdod. The Chinese will build docks, warehouses and jetties. A year later, the Shanghai International Port Group (SIPG) won a US $2 billion tender to operate the new Haifa Port for 25 years. The Chinese will begin to run the port in 2021. Since August 2016, the China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO) has owned Greece’s largest seaport, Piraeus. The ‘Red-Med’ rail line would make it easier for China to ship cargo to Piraeus and then into the European Union, bypassing the Suez Canal, which is dealing with increased traffic … In March 2016, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and China’s Vice Premier Liu Yandong announced the start of negotiations for a China-Israel Free Trade Agreement. The Agreement is linked to Xi Jinping’s BRI project, as once signed, it would cover such issues as standardisation, the removal of trade barriers, and areas of bilateral cooperation in the technological and economic sectors … Beijing can build influence across the international system because the US is retreating from key strategic areas. This notably includes the Middle East, where the Russians have also made substantial inroads … the Trump Administration is clearly out of its element … Although the Chinese are unlikely to undermine Israeli-American relations … they are penetrating an area that they had no access to, establishing a presence not only in Israel but also in the Eastern Mediterranean. China is challenging American hegemony everywhere, and not just in the Asia-Pacific.


*Massenbach’s Recommendation*

Germany and the U.S., Springing to Inaction

January 30, 2018 – For better or worse, their problems are the world’s problems.

Germany – the beating heart of Europe, one of the four largest economies in the world, a country helmed by an entrenched, established and respected politician – can’t seem to muster a government. It’s been 129 days since it had one. Now, to be fair, this isn’t uncommon among Europe’s parliamentary systems. The Netherlands went 225 days without a government last year, and Belgium holds the record at a whopping 589 days from 2010 to 2011. But Germany is not the Netherlands or Belgium. What happens there can shake the world.

The same could be said of the world’s only superpower, the United States, which has political problems of its own. The government in Washington recently reopened after a three-day shutdown, though it is funded only until Feb. 8. Unless Republicans and Democrats can come to some kind of agreement on immigration reform – something that has eluded both parties for decades – the government may well shut down again. Even if it doesn’t, political gridlock will so preoccupy Washington that it will actually impair U.S. foreign policy.

Inequality Is the Real Issue

Domestic problems are affecting German and U.S. behavior in eerily similar ways. In both countries, a widening gap in wealth inequality is creating the conditions for potentially radical political change. Of the 28 countries that report wealth distribution data to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Germany and the United States stand out. In Germany, the bottom 60 percent of the population possess just 6.5 percent of wealth in the country, the lowest figure in Europe. In the U.S., the bottom 60 percent possess just 2.4 percent – the lowest figure of any reporting country. The top 10 percent of both countries, on the other hand, account for a disproportionate amount of wealth – nearly 60 percent in Germany and nearly 80 percent in the U.S., the two highest figures of reporting OECD countries.

(click to enlarge)

In the case of Germany, this seems particularly mystifying. The country is, after all, enjoying record-low unemployment rates, and by all accounts, its economic growth has exceeded even the more optimistic projections (full disclosure: ours was not so optimistic). But these figures tell only part of the story. The real issue is inequality, in terms of household wealth and real income. Germany may be a rich country – the average net wealth per household is about 214,000 euros, or $265,000 – but the median net wealth per household in Germany is about 61,000 euros. For reference, that’s about 4,000 euros less than it is in Greece, which Germany almost kicked out of the EU for its profligacy. On a per household basis, the bottom half of households in Germany possess less wealth than the bottom half of households in Greece.

And things are getting worse. Sure, unemployment has steadily decreased since 2009, but jobs are not translating into increased wealth for the lower and middle classes. From 2009 to 2016, unemployment declined in Germany by roughly 2 percent. At the same time, the relative poverty rate – defined by Germany’s Federal Statistical Office as the “percentage living in households with an income below 60 percent of national average” – rose about 2 percent. That is not so much a measure of increased poverty as it is increasing wealth for Germany’s top wage earners, as more and more Germans find that the same salary they made a few years ago now puts them below the poverty level.

Income inequality has been increasing too. Kreditanstalt fur Wiederaufbau, a government-owned development bank, published a report in March 2016 that showed that household income grew by 6 percent and 21 percent for the bottom two quintiles, as opposed to roughly 39 percent for the top quintile. Consumer prices over the same time horizon rose by about 24 percent, which means in real terms, 40 percent of German households have seen their purchasing power decline. In 2000, Germany had one of the lowest rates of income inequality in the EU. Now it is simply average – and trending in the wrong direction.

This trend is creating serious political problems. The most notable is the difficulty with which Chancellor Angela Merkel is cobbling together a coalition after German voters turned outside the mainstream to voice their frustration with the status quo. There are other troubling indicators, though. The Social Democrats, or SPD, fared no better than Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union in elections and may face insurrection from their members even if CDU and SPD negotiators come to an agreement. IG Metall – the largest industrial labor union in Germany and in Europe – walked out of talks with industry representatives on Jan. 27 and is now threatening 24-hour “warning strikes” if its demands on salaries and a 28-hour work week are not met.

Germany’s domestic political issues, punctuated by the absence of a German government, are beginning to reverberate throughout Europe. Political uncertainty in Germany has cast a shadow over EU negotiations with the United Kingdom on the conditions of Brexit, since Brussels cannot move forward with a deal without the German government’s approval. France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, continues to wait for a German government to be installed so Berlin can respond to French proposals for EU reform. Internal debates over the status of refugees cannot be resolved if Germany cannot even decide for itself what its immigration policy should be – one of the major current sticking points in the coalition negotiations. In effect, Europe is in a holding pattern, waiting for a German government that will be in a very weak domestic position even if the CDU and SPD conclude an agreement in the next week.

The Advantage in Washington’s Absence

Germany’s inequality problems began roughly when the country reunified in 1990. West Germany absorbed East Germany more easily than many predicted, and that created some of the socio-economic conditions today. But inequality is a much older issue in the United States. Modern income and wealth inequality in the U.S. has been creeping upward since the 1970s.

Donald Trump’s surprising electoral victory in 2016 was at least partly a political expression of that underlying dynamic. It is no coincidence that in the years before Trump’s election, the share in total income of the top 10 percent of all U.S. earners rose to just under 49 percent – a share surpassing that of any time during the Great Depression. This type of wealth inequality is a refrain in U.S. economic history that produces massive political change, of which Trump is likely just a precursor.

(click to enlarge)

The 2008 financial crisis aggravated the problem. The median income in the United States is at a record high – but when you look at median wealth figures divided by lower, middle and upper income, you see that only the upper income levels have recouped the wealth lost during the financial crisis. Lower- and middle-income U.S. households are still doing worse today than they were in 2007. Like Germany, the United States is also enjoying low unemployment rates – 4.1 percent in December 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Again, though, employment doesn’t tell the whole story. The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis noted in a report this past month that the net increase in jobs created since 2000 – roughly 17 million jobs – has been among workers 55 and older. Jobs don’t help if they don’t pay enough and don’t create opportunities for young workers.

These problems demand Washington’s full attention, and the government is too preoccupied by its own political affairs to do much abroad. Unlike Europe, where countries are waiting on Germany, the world is not waiting on the U.S. – it’s taking advantage of its absence. It’ll be tough for Trump to sell a major war on the Korean Peninsula to a divided electorate. North Korea and China understand as much and are now attempting to split South Korea off from the U.S.-led alliance structure in the Pacific. Turkey’s foray into Afrin is in part a test to see how much it can shape Syria unilaterally – and the test results show an indifference. Russia, meanwhile, is doing its best to parlay a weak hand in the Middle East and Eastern Europe into Russian influence and concomitant U.S. concessions, whether by masterminding a fanciful diplomatic solution to the Syrian civil war or continuing to seek a settlement with the U.S. over Ukraine. Russia has not found much success so far, but the current U.S. posture does nothing to deter Russia from continuing to try.

Domestic politics are less predictable than international politics. Generally, they are less important too. But when two of the world’s four largest economies and the world’s pre-eminent military power are so hamstrung by problems that their behavior on the world stage is affected, the issues cease to be domestic. The U.S. and Germany have officially crossed that line. Germany has no government, and whatever government it eventually forms will be weak and hypersensitive to domestic concerns about inequality and immigration. The U.S. government is squabbling with itself rather than efficiently solving problems, whether at home or abroad. In that sense, it is working the way the Constitution designed it in 1789: without the rest of the world in mind. In 2018, that has global ramifications.



see our letter on:

*Herausgegeben von Udo von Massenbach, Bärbel Freudenberg-Pilster, Joerg Barandat*



01-30-18 Kortunov_Ivanov- Russia and the West.pdf

12-28-17 On the Origins of the Conflict in Yemen – Geopolitical Futures.pdf