Massenbach-Letter. NEWS 17.11.17

Massenbach-Letter. News

  • Syria:Joint Statement by the President of the United States and the President of the Russian Federation

· Geopolitical Future: The North Caucasus: Russia’s Soft Underbelly. The region is a key buffer zone for Moscow

· Bundesakademie für Sicherheitspolitik: Die Kurden als Verbündete des Westens in Syrien und Irak

  • Arabia Foundation: Why the Saudi “Purge” Is Not What It Seems to Be

· An agreement has been reached between Morocco and Russia over the potential sale of the S-400 Triumf air defense missile system

  • VIETNAM at 50 – 1967
  • Defense One: The Future of the Army

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

  • The Catalan Labyrinth – November 9, 2017-REUTERS/Rafael Marchante
  • Pyongyang is Starts and Wins. What Can the Losers Do? November 13, 2017 – KCNA – Andrey Kortunov
  • "The Emperor of Twitter" in the White House – Ilya Kravchenko
  • Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of November 6-12:
  • In Austria, a native of Chechnya opens fire from a wedding party cortege
  • Court upholds fine imposed on "Open Russia" Krasnodar coordinator
  • Isa Gambotov’s relatives link his persecution with Ossetian-Ingush conflict

Massenbach*Syria:Joint Statement by the President of the United States and the President of the Russian Federation,

Office of the Spokesperson

Washington, DC

November 11, 2017

President Trump and President Putin today, meeting on the margins of the APEC conference in Da Nang, Vietnam, confirmed their determination to defeat ISIS in Syria. They expressed their satisfaction with successful U.S.-Russia enhanced de-confliction efforts between U.S. and Russian military professionals that have dramatically accelerated ISIS’s losses on the battlefield in recent months.

The Presidents agreed to maintain open military channels of communication between military professionals to help ensure the safety of both U.S. and Russian forces and de-confliction of partnered forces engaged in the fight against ISIS. They confirmed these efforts will be continued until the final defeat of ISIS is achieved.

The Presidents agreed that there is no military solution to the conflict in Syria. They confirmed that the ultimate political solution to the conflict must be forged through the Geneva process pursuant to UNSCR 2254. They also took note of President Asad’s recent commitment to the Geneva process and constitutional reform and elections as called for under UNSCR 2254.

The two Presidents affirmed that these steps must include full implementation of UNSCR 2254, including constitutional reform and free and fair elections under UN supervision, held to the highest international standards of transparency, with all Syrians, including members of the diaspora, eligible to participate. The Presidents affirmed their commitment to Syria’s sovereignty, unity, independence, territorial integrity, and non-sectarian character, as defined in UNSCR 2254, and urged all Syrian parties to participate actively in the Geneva political process and to support efforts to ensure its success.

Finally President Trump and President Putin confirmed the importance of de-escalation areas as an interim step to reduce violence in Syria, enforce ceasefire agreements, facilitate unhindered humanitarian access, and set the conditions for the ultimate political solution to the conflict. They reviewed progress on the ceasefire in southwest Syria that was finalized the last time the two Presidents met in Hamburg, Germany on July 7, 2017.

The two presidents, today, welcomed the Memorandum of Principles concluded in Amman, Jordan, on November 8, 2017, between the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Russian Federation, and the United States of America. This Memorandum reinforces the success of the ceasefire initiative, to include the reduction, and ultimate elimination, of foreign forces and foreign fighters from the area to ensure a more sustainable peace. Monitoring this ceasefire arrangement will continue to take place through the Amman Monitoring Center, with participation by expert teams from the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Russian Federation, and the United States.

The two Presidents discussed the ongoing need to reduce human suffering in Syria and called on all UN member states to increase their contributions to address these humanitarian needs over the coming months.

In addition, President Trump noted that he had a good meeting with President Putin. He further noted that the successful implementation of the agreements announced today will save thousands of lives‎.


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

  • The Catalan Labyrinth – November 9, 2017-REUTERS/Rafael Marchante
  • Pyongyang is Starts and Wins. What Can the Losers Do? November 13, 2017 – KCNA – Andrey Kortunov
  • "The Emperor of Twitter" in the White House – Ilya Kravchenko
  • Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of November 6-12:
  • In Austria, a native of Chechnya opens fire from a wedding party cortege
  • Court upholds fine imposed on "Open Russia" Krasnodar coordinator
  • Isa Gambotov’s relatives link his persecution with Ossetian-Ingush conflict


The North Caucasus: Russia’s Soft Underbelly

The region is a key buffer zone for Moscow.

The Region

In sharp contrast with the South Caucasus, the North Caucasus is not composed of separate sovereign states. Instead the North Caucasus is an integral part of Russia, divided between two of the Russian Federation’s eight districts – the North Caucasian Federal District and the Southern Federal District. Most of the region belongs to the North Caucasian district, which split from the Southern district in 2010, a year after the end of the Second Chechen War. With the Southern district lying largely to the north, the North Caucasian district is the only Muslim-majority district in the federation.

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The North Caucasus stretches from the Caspian Sea in the southeast to the Sea of Azov in the northwest. The westernmost part of the area, composed of Krasnodar region and the enclave of Adygea, lies within the Southern district. Krasnodar consists mainly of flat lands, which allowed Russia to more easily slavicize the territory after the forced exodus of its Circassian inhabitants in the late 19th century. The rest of the North Caucasus region – the North Caucasian district – has maintained its distinct Muslim identity and hence was configured into a single federal district. This district runs from Krasnodar to the Caspian Sea and consists of the republics of Karachay-Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria, North Ossetia, Ingushetia, Chechnya and Dagestan. The region of Stavropol – sandwiched between Krasnodar in the west and Dagestan in the east, and sharing borders with each of the other republics in the south – and North Ossetia are the only majority ethnic Russian and Orthodox Christian units within the North Caucasian district.

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This current administrative arrangement of the North Caucasus is the outcome of the Russians’ centuries-long struggle to subdue this region. Until the North Caucasus was brought to heel during the time of the czarist regime in the late 19th century, the region was what noted Caucasus and Central Asia scholar Marie Bennigsen Broxup referred to as a “barrier” that separated Russia from the heart of the Muslim world. At the same time, the mountainous terrain kept major Muslim powers to the south, such as the Ottoman Turks and the Safavid (and later Qajar) Persians, from truly accessing this region. Though both the Turks and the Persians had sought to expand into the Caucasus region, neither side was able to move past the South Caucasus.

By the 18th century, both the Ottomans and the Persians lacked the modern political, economic and military capabilities Russia and the other Europeans had acquired. Furthermore, they were embroiled in a bitter rivalry in the Middle East, and the Turks were heavily committed in Europe where they were starting to lose territory. Ultimately, the Ottomans and Persians were unable to seize the massive Greater Caucasus mountain range. The Russians, however, had no such trouble. Though a lengthy undertaking, Orthodox Christian Russia was much better positioned to eventually occupy the North Caucasus.

Russian Conquest

From a strategic point of view, Russia must control at least the North Caucasus, and ideally the South Caucasus, because these areas are buffer regions; should they fall into hostile hands, the entire Russian core would become vulnerable. These areas, however, have historically proven difficult to control because of both the terrain and the locals.

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Ivan the Terrible’s 1556 conquest of Astrakhan (an area of the North Caucasus that lies along the northwestern tip of the Caspian Sea) sparked Russian interest in the region. During this initial thrust into the North Caucasus, which lasted until 1604, the Russians reached as far as Dagestan, thanks to the flat terrain in the region’s northern half. This invasion did not last, however. The Ottomans, who were still a powerful force at the time, supported the Dagestanis against the Russian incursion. The Russians were forced to pull back to Astrakhan.

From 1604 to 1783, the region was more or less left to its own devices. Russia had turned its focus to Europe, and the Turks were tied down in their wars with the Persians. This relative isolation allowed Islam, which had been present in the area since the 8th century, to spread rapidly through the central and western parts of the North Caucasus – in large part because of the halt of the Russian efforts to penetrate the area and the support of the Ottoman Turks and the Crimean Tatars.

Under Catherine II, Russia was able to project power into the North Caucasus. From 1783 to 1824, Russia engaged in a systematic campaign to conquer the region. Between 1785 and 1791, the Russians faced massive resistance from the forces of the Ottoman-backed Chechen Sufi leader Sheikh Mansour, who managed to unite much of the North Caucasus. After a major defeat at the hands of these Muslim warriors, on the banks of the Sunzha River in 1785, the Russian army, buoyed by its victory in the Napoleonic Wars, was able to come back and subdue the resistance. Though ultimately defeated, the uprising established among the locals that Islam could serve as both a unifying force and the basis of armed resistance.

This experience led to a series of jihad-inspired campaigns that continued until the establishment of the Soviet Union in 1922. During this time, the North Caucasus saw the decline of the traditional feudal elite and the rise of Sufi orders, further entrenching Islam within the political fabric of the North Caucasus. The U.S. Army’s Command and General Staff College scholar Robert F. Baumann explains how Russian efforts to complete their conquest of the region were complicated, as religious fervor proved to be an effective mobilizer of anti-Russian resistance. But though Islamic resistance made the conquest of the region more costly to the Russians, it failed to block the conquest completely.

The ramifications of the Russian conquest of the North Caucasus is not dissimilar to that of British and French colonialism in India and Africa, respectively. As former CIA and national security official Paul Henze notes in a 1996 article, Russian colonialism brought order and development to the North Caucasus – an otherwise chaotic region of tribal highlanders cut off from the rest of the world. Indeed, Moscow provided the region with modern infrastructure in the form of roads, railroads, ports and urban centers, but only after a long campaign to suppress local dissent.

Unlike most other European powers that sought colonies in distant lands, the Russians sought to control a land much closer to home. Indeed, the Caucasus was on Russia’s doorstep, and thus, it was imperative that the Russians fully assimilate the area. They spent a great deal of time trying to convert the people of the region to Orthodox Christianity, operating on the assumption that conversion would aid in assimilation. Ultimately, that policy backfired. Despite the fact that there were many ethno-linguistic groups that inhabited this region, a majority of them had been Muslim for centuries.

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Affinity to religion varies considerably across the region. Islam plays an important role in the identity and ideology of the Chechens and the Dagestanis in the east. Yet, as one moves west, religious fervor tends to taper off. Beyond Islam, there is little commonality among the various peoples of the North Caucasus. They are divided along clan, ethnic, linguistic and territorial lines, and the Russians sought to exploit these differences.

At the social level, traditional feudal Muslim elites and religious scholars sought to preserve their power through two sets of laws. The former emphasized customary laws, while the religious leaders sought to increase their influence by promoting Shariah, or Islamic law. Until the arrival of the Russians, these two competing forces were largely able to coexist.

According to Loyola University historian Michael Khodarkovsky, Russia pursued a complex strategy in its effort to take over the North Caucasus region. In some instances, the Russians found allies. But in others, they resorted to force, especially in terms of the takeover of lands and expulsion of the locals. In need of local partners, Russia would often co-opt the feudal Muslim elite, transforming them into loyalists of Moscow through assimilation. Elites from the North Caucasus were sent to study in Moscow, where many embraced Orthodox Christianity and Russian culture. Yet these individuals did not help promote assimilation in the North Caucasus, as few returned home. By the latter half of the 19th century, the Russians realized they needed people to represent Russian interests in the North Caucasus, and Moscow began to support locals who held grievances toward the landed gentry.

The attempts to convert people of the region to Orthodox Christianity undercut the more crucial interests of securing loyalty to the empire. Attempts at conversion were obviously anathema to the Muslim clergy, but they also triggered opposition from within the traditional elite quarters. For the Russians, who saw conversion as part and parcel of their efforts to advance their imperial interests within the region, it was difficult to alter course. In addition to the need to secularize the process of assimilation, there was ambiguity on how the North Caucasus would be controlled by Moscow. Should it be fully absorbed into the empire as a full-fledged province or should it be treated as a colony?

As the Russians searched for the best way to administer the North Caucasus, the region experienced another outbreak of major resistance. The leader of this campaign was Imam Shamil, who in the mid-19th century established the Caucasian Imamate, an Islamic polity that sought to liberate the area from the Russians. The Russians were forced to recognize that the region’s legal traditions had to be incorporated into their new system of governance. But here the Russians found themselves caught in the existing duality between customary and Islamic laws. Siding with the clergy would have helped undermine the tendency toward armed religious resistance, but the Russians needed local interlocutors who would be willing to adopt Russian customs and thus preferred the local economic and political elites.

As a result, throughout the czarist era, Russia struggled with how best to manage the North Caucasus. The empire eventually succeeded in creating a pro-Russian elite class in the region because, for many local elites, the only path toward European modernization was through Russification. Yet the masses remained loyal to Islamic teachings, and the gulf between the elites and the masses widened. By the late 19th and early 20th centuries, however, the elites and the masses would find common cause through the fusion of religious identity with ethnic nationalism.

The Soviet and Post-Soviet Eras

Already isolated from the rest of the world by geography and Russian subjugation, the North Caucasus became more or less completely cloaked behind the iron curtain of communism and the Soviet Union. Well aware of the struggles their czarist predecessors had to face in the North Caucasus, the Soviets divided the region, lumping its various pieces into different Soviet Socialist Republics. The main Soviet Socialist Republic in the North Caucasus combined Chechnya and Ingushetia to form the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. Furthermore, the Soviets maintained a sophisticated and efficient coercive security establishment led by the KGB, allowing them to subdue this historically restive region.

Yet the Chechens openly expressed their discontent and, under the leadership of the nationalist guerilla leader Hasan Israilov, mounted an insurgency against the Soviet regime between 1940 and 1944. To suppress opposition, Soviet leader Josef Stalin ordered the mass displacement of people from the region after accusing the Chechens of having collaborated with the Nazis during World War II. In 1944, some 650,000 people from the region – most of whom were ethnic Chechens – were forced to relocate to Central Asia. The Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was dissolved and its areas gerrymandered. It was not until the era of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev that efforts to make amends with the Chechens began. In 1956, the Chechens were returned to their homes. Two years later, the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was restored.

The region generally remained calm for the next three decades, only to erupt yet again in the early 1990s when 15 republics declared independence and the Soviet Union dissolved. The South Caucasus divided into three independent republics — Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia — along with a few disputed territories. But the Russians were not willing to allow the North Caucasus, especially Chechnya, which declared independence in 1991, to become sovereign entities. Two back-to-back wars ensued, the first lasting from 1993 to 1996 and the second from 1999 to 2009.

Initially, the Chechen wars were dominated by nationalists, who subscribed to the Sufi religious creed, seeking an independent Chechnya. Gradually, however, Salafists assumed greater control of the fighting against Russian forces. These jihadists eventually moved beyond the goal of establishing an independent Islamic Chechnya to pursue broader, transnational agendas including creating a regional Islamic state that would encompass the broader North Caucasus region. Inspired by al-Qaida and aided by the influx of many Arab foreign fighters, Chechen jihadists modeled themselves after the historic religious warriors who resisted Russians in the North Caucasus since the Russian incursions began in the 16th century. In 2007, a regional movement called the Caucasus Emirate was founded.

With the rise of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, the Caucasus Emirate group has essentially become irrelevant. Many Chechen militants and those from other parts of the North Caucasus moved to Syria and Iraq to join the jihadist regime. This weakening of the Chechen insurgency in the late 2000s allowed the republic to establish a stable regime led by the Kadyrov clan, which has kept peace for at least a decade. The key to this stability is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s dedicated support of the Kadyrov regime.

If history is any guide, the peace in Chechnya and the wider North Caucasus right now is likely the calm before the next storm. The Islamic religion and the Islamist ideology remain social and political drivers and have forced Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov to increase the role of religion in public life in the republic. This trend, coupled with the declining Russian political economy, suggests that the region will likely see the revival of a Muslim insurgency seeking to exploit Russia’s weakening. If Russia can’t control this area then the other historic players — Turkey and Iran — are in even less of a position to do so.


Policy= res publica


Plädoyer für mehr Lernbereitschaft in der Demokratie

… In jüngerer Zeit sind Populisten in vielen entwickelten Demokratien auf dem Vormarsch … Rationale Argumente, die sich auf wissenschaftliche Erkenntnisse stützen, scheinen die Anhänger dieser Bewegungen kaum noch zu interessieren. Solche Äußerungen prallen an hochgradig emotionalisierten Wählerinnen und Wählern ab, die sich im Konflikt mit dem „Establishment“ sehen und dessen Vertretern keinen Glauben mehr schenken …

Die liberale Demokratie, so glauben viele, ist zunehmend gefährdet, weil der vernünftige Teil der Gesellschaft die frustrierten und emotionalisierten „Massen“ nicht länger erreichen kann. Problemorientierte Deliberation scheint dadurch gefährdet, dass die Gesellschaft mehr und mehr auseinanderdriftet: Die aufgeklärten Bürgerinnen und Bürger, die im sachlichen Austausch gemeinsam nach der Wahrheit und der besten Politik suchen, sind scheinbar konfrontiert mit einem wachsenden Kreis von Mitbürgern, die zur offenen Deliberation nicht mehr fähig sind, weil sie nur noch Bestätigung für ihre vorgefassten Ansichten und identitätsbasierten Gefühle suchen …

  • Diese herablassende Sicht auf die „manipulierbaren Normalbürger“ ist jedoch ebenso falsch wie gefährlich. Aus ihr spricht eine Arroganz und Selbstzufriedenheit, die verkennt, wie stark auch die angeblich vernünftigeren und gebildeteren Bürgerinnen und Meinungsmacher von irrationalen Gesichtspunkten geleitet werden

Dass intelligente und gebildete Menschen keineswegs gegen gefühlsgeleitete Realitätsverweigerung gefeit sind, haben wir wahrscheinlich alle schon in politischen Debatten erlebt und viele von uns gewiss auch an uns selbst …

Zahlreiche Studien bestätigen, dass persönliche Überzeugungen, insbesondere zu ethischen und politischen Fragen, nur selten auf rationaler Abwägung beruhen …

Wer glaubt, dass dies bei intelligenteren Personen anders abläuft, täuscht sich. Zwar können Menschen mit einem höheren Intelligenzquotienten ihre Überzeugungen meist besser begründen. Dies liegt jedoch nicht daran, dass sie ihre Meinungen aufgrund gründlicherer Abwägung gewählt haben, sondern hängt damit zusammen, dass es ihnen leichter fällt, stützende Argumente zu finden … belegen einmal mehr, dass alle Menschen einem sogenannten confirmation bias unterliegen: Sie scheuen kognitive Dissonanz und suchen deshalb einseitig nach Informationen und Argumenten, die ihre gegenwärtigen Meinungen stützen.

Und aus Sicht des Einzelnen hat das auch durchaus Vorteile: Wenn ich meine falsche Meinung zu einer politischen Streitfrage korrigiere, ist der gesellschaftliche Nutzen äußerst gering …

  • Sie zwingt mich also zu einem Eingeständnis, das besonders unangenehm ist für Menschen, die sich für reflektiert und aufgeklärt halten und schon viel in ihre politische Meinung „investiert“ haben … Intelligente und gebildete Menschen sind in dieser Hinsicht besonders geschickt. Deshalb fällt es ihnen leichter, Bestätigung für ihre Überzeugungen zu finden. Wenn es jedoch darum geht, eigene Positionen kritisch zu überprüfen oder gar zu revidieren, sind sie keineswegs offener und lernbereiter als der Rest der Bevölkerung Zukunftsfähigkeit hängt von uns Demokratinnen und Demokraten und unserer Diskussionskultur ab: „Ohne Übereinstimmung bei den grundlegenden Sachverhalten, ohne die Bereitschaft, neue Informationen zuzulassen und einzuräumen, dass ein Gegner womöglich ein gutes Argument anführt und Wissenschaft und Vernunft wichtig sind, werden wir weiter aneinander vorbeireden und es somit unmöglich machen, Gemeinsamkeiten und Kompromisse zu finden“ …

Oder wie es der scheidende Bundespräsident Joachim Gauck wenige Tage später ausgedrückt hat: „Wenn wir nur noch das als Tatsache akzeptieren, was wir ohnehin glauben, wenn Halbwahrheiten, Interpretationen, Verschwörungstheorien, Gerüchte genauso viel zählen wie Wahrheit, dann ist der Raum freigegeben für Demagogen und Autokraten.“

Demokraten müssen künftig noch mehr darauf achten, dass sie sachlich und rational debattieren. Nur so können sie in der Auseinandersetzung echte Alternativen entwickeln und gleichzeitig die Geschlossenheit gegenüber den Gegnern der Demokratie wahren …

Eine besondere Verantwortung für die Bewahrung demokratischer Diskussionskultur kommt denjenigen Bürgerinnen und Bürgern zu, die aufgrund ihrer Fähigkeiten, ihrer beruflichen Positionen oder gesellschaftlichen Funktionen stärkeren Einfluss auf gesellschaftliche Willensbildungsprozesse nehmen können. Dies gilt also für die sogenannte Intelligenz, die aufgrund ihrer überdurchschnittlichen Bildung und ihrer alltäglichen Beschäftigung mit komplexeren Zusammenhängen eine Vorbildfunktion hat … müssen Sachargumente ernst genommen und geprüft werden, auch wenn sie von der „falschen“ Seite kommen … sollten Demokraten sich abweichenden Meinungen und Argumenten bewusst und regelmäßig „aussetzen“.

Wenn wir unsere Überzeugungen nicht immer wieder kritisch überprüfen, sind sie bald schon keine „lebendigen Wahrheiten“ mehr, sondern bloß „tote Dogmen“ … sollten Freunde, Kolleginnen und Bekannte, die abweichende Meinungen vertreten, dazu aufgefordert werden, diese auch ausführlich zu äußern und zu begründen, statt sie zu entmutigen oder gar auszugrenzen … ist eine kritische Haltung gerade auch gegenüber der eigenen politischen Position einzunehmen … sollte echte Lernbereitschaft ein wesentliches Element der Identität eines aufgeklärten Demokraten sein. Er sollte nicht stolz darauf sein, dass er immer loyal zu seinem politischen Lager stand und dessen Linie nie verlassen hat, sondern vielmehr sich darauf etwas einbilden, dass er seine Meinung immer wieder geändert hat, wenn er dafür gute Gründe sah.

Der dem Ökonomen John Maynard Keynes zugeschriebene Satz „When the facts change, I change my mind“ sollte einer seiner Wahlsprüche sein … müssen anerkannte wissenschaftliche Befunde auch dann akzeptiert werden, wenn sie der eigenen politischen Einstellung widersprechen … sollten Teilnehmer an einer Debatte einander respektvoll begegnen und bewusst die Identität des Gegenübers achten. Dies ist nicht nur ein Gebot der Höflichkeit und die Voraussetzung für ein gutes Gesprächsklima. Gegenseitiger Respekt fördert nachweislich auch die Lernbereitschaft …

Von allen Staatsformen eignet sich die liberale Demokratie immer noch am besten dazu, Irrtümer zu erkennen und Fehlentwicklungen zu korrigieren. Sie ist ein lernendes System – aber nur dann, wenn wir es individuell auch sind und unsere Diskussionskultur zunehmend darauf ausrichten. In einer Welt, die immer komplexer und dynamischer wird, sollte umfassende Lernbereitschaft ein Kernelement unserer politischen Identität werden. Wer sich nicht als lernendes System versteht, weil er lieber im weltanschaulichen Schützengraben seine politische Identität verteidigt, trägt dazu bei, dass Emotionalisierung und Polarisierung immer leichteres Spiel haben und die sachliche Debatte politischer Alternativen an den Rand gedrängt wird. Er ist weder ein aufgeklärter Demokrat noch ein echter Intellektueller


Politics: From Vision to Action

Barandat*Middle East & Africa:

An agreement has been reached between Morocco and Russia over the potential sale of the S-400 Triumf air defense missile system.


§ Reports suggest that a deal was reached during the official visit of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to the North African kingdom on October 11, and was signed alongside a number of other accords covering agriculture, tourism, education, as well as defense and security cooperation. The platform will go towards improving Morocco’s air defense capabilities and they will join Turkey, Saudi Arabia as recent purchasers of the system. Morocco’s neighbor Algeria, whose adjoining border has been closed since 1994, also uses the S-400 . Between 2010-2014, Algeria and Morocco were number one and two respectively on the list of Africa’s biggest military spenders.


Middle East

Bundesakademie für Sicherheitspolitik: Die Kurden als Verbündete des Westens in Syrien und Irak:

Effektive Partnerschaft oder politisches Pulverfass?

Seit 2014 unterstützt der Westen kurdische Kämpfer in Syrien und im Irak. Der Nutzen der kurdischen Milizen im Kampf gegen den sogenannten Islamischen Staat (IS) liegt auf der Hand. In unserem aktuellen Arbeitspapier gibt Philipp Biermann jedoch zu bedenken, dass es sich bei den Kurden in Irak und Syrien nicht um einen homogenen Akteur, sondern um einzelne Gruppierungen mit sehr unterschiedlichen Ideologien und konträren Zielsetzungen handele. So sind die nordirakischen Kurden untereinander zerstritten und stehen im Konflikt mit der Zentralregierung in Bagdad. Die syrischen Kurdenmilizen wiederum liefern sich Gefechte mit der Türkei. Der Autor sieht daher langfristig eine Destabilisierung der Region sowie einen Streit innerhalb der NATO als mögliche Konsequenzen für den Westen und fragt: Wie stehen Effektivität und Risiko der westlich-kurdischen Kooperation im Verhältnis zueinander?

Sie finden das Arbeitspapier unter:


*Massenbach’s Recommendation*

Arabia Foundation (*): Why the Saudi “Purge” Is Not What It Seems to Be

BY Ali Shihabi on 11.09.2017 –


* The Arabia Foundation is based in Washington DC but generally explains the Saudi government’s position. This lengthy statement of the reasons for the purge is worth reading not because it is necessarily correct or complete (both of which are arguable) but because it closely reflects how the authorities in Riyadh would like the changes to be perceived internally and externally (which makes it essential reading). It is also very revealing (perhaps unintentionally).

This past weekend, Saudi Arabia detained numerous members of the royal family, as well as current and former ministers and prominent businessmen, on charges of corruption. Many argued that the detentions constitute a thinly veiled attempt by the Kingdom’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) to consolidate political power. However, this narrative misses the mark; the “purge” is not about removing political rivals who threatened MBS’s position as heir apparent but rather about sending a message to political and economic elites that their entitlement to extreme wealth and privilege, and their impunity, is coming to an end.

In insular nondemocratic systems, trumped-up corruption charges are often used as a pretext to eliminate political opponents. In this context, the sweeping nature of the arrests, the high profiles of the detainees (e.g., celebrity investor Prince Waleed bin Talal), and the general opaqueness of Saudi politics fueled speculation that this past weekend’s events constituted exactly that.

However, a careful examination of the list of detainees belies this assertion. With the exception of Minister of the National Guard Prince Mutaib bin Abdallah, the detainee list is made up entirely of individuals who had no capacity to challenge the succession. Indeed, many of those arrested, such as Prince Waleed, had gone out of their way to publicly express their support for the Crown Prince and curry favor with the new leadership.

As for Prince Mutaib, despite leading the national guard, he posed no political threat to the Crown Prince. Saudi watchers have consistently misread a royal family member’s command of key military apparatuses, specifically, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Defense, and the national guard, as something that gives that family member independent control over his respective organization. This is a flawed interpretation. These ministries have always behaved as part of the extended government bureaucracy that looks to the King, rather than to the individual minister, as the ultimate source of authority. This is why no elements in the Ministry of Interior or in the national guard resisted or reacted to the removal of Prince Mohammed bin Nayef (MBN) or Prince Mutaib. For these two men, their individual authority over the entities they were responsible for ended with the loss of their command. Whatever authority they enjoyed had been delegated to them by the king, and once this was withdrawn, that authority ended.

In actuality, Saudi Arabia completed its political transition last June when King Salman replaced MBN with MBS as heir to the throne. The transition (mislabeled a coup by some) saw the elder MBN being relieved of all government responsibilities, swearing an oath of allegiance to his younger cousin, and exiting politics. MBN’s removal was swiftly followed by the appointment of a new generation of young princes and technocrats to key ministerial posts and governorates.

This step inevitably created winners and losers within the royal family. Given the relatively young age of the new Crown Prince, the action naturally alienated many of MBS’s older cousins, and even some uncles, who suddenly found themselves politically marginalized as a result of their younger relative’s rapid rise to power. But alienation does not mean that these princes possess the power to threaten the throne or to determine the succession. This has been particularly true since the passing of the founding generation of princes who originally united the country with the founder, King Abdul Aziz. Just as MBN and Prince Mutaib derived their stature and influence solely by virtue of the delegated authority granted to them by the ruling monarch, other members of the royal family do too. No royal maintains an independent constituency among the population at large. And, unlike politicians in, say, modern Lebanon, or the dukes of medieval Europe, individual Saudi royals lack any direct constituencies among the people that they can galvanize against the monarchy by, for example, ordering them to take to the streets, let alone have the capacity to mobilize sections of the military on their own behalf. This is why it is wrong to interpret last weekend’s arrests as an action that materially increases the political risk to the monarchy.

Bearing this in mind, King Salman and MBS have chosen to go the populist route by appealing to the Saudi public, and specifically to the youth, rather than seeking to placate the many “losers” in this succession by lavishing them with money (a tactic widely used in the past that was highly unpopular with the Saudi public and that has become increasingly unaffordable). Now there will be no paying-off of discontented princes in exchange for their loyalty and acquiescence.

The very public arrest of these high-profile individuals serves an important objective. To begin with, the choice of the particular individuals who were arrested is highly symbolic. The system in the Kingdom over the years has certainly produced many more examples of corruption and ill-gotten wealth than just these specific people. Rather than arrest every offender, the government made a deliberate choice, selecting a number of very high-profile individuals with wide name recognition, most of whom are instantly recognizable to the public and seen as beneficiaries of ill-gotten wealth. By doing this, the government sent the message to all elites that action will be taken and that nobody is immune, encouraging them all to cooperate with the state in returning assets and to face the new reality that the old order has been replaced with a new one and they had better reconcile themselves to it.

In the short term, these detentions will lead, directly and indirectly (i.e., by example of what can happen to those who do not cooperate), to the recovery of substantial ill-gotten assets from many members of the elite, including, in all probability, vast tracts of urban land that were “acquired” by senior royals in decades past. The monopolization of this resource limited the amount of urban land available to the masses, pushing up land and home prices, which contributed to massive land and home shortages. Remedying this situation will reduce the cost of home ownership, thereby alleviating a major source of grievance among middle- and lower-class Saudis.

Although commentators have widely criticized what they see as arbitrary and selective steps taken quickly and without “due process,” they must understand that this spate of arrests is as much a political and symbolic act as it is a legal one. In all likelihood the government made sure prior to taking this step that it had enough hard evidence to stand up in a Saudi court (and even to outside observers if required). Certainly a drip-by-drip process drawn out over months and years would have been much more disruptive.

More importantly, in a country beset by an extremely wide political spectrum ranging from the extreme religious right to the liberal left, achieving consensus on key issues is virtually impossible. Hence, if any reform is to take place within a reasonable time frame, it will have to be autocratically managed. Reforms such as removing the prohibition on women’s driving, combating extremism, and curbing elite entitlements would have been impossible to accomplish through deliberation and consensus. Coercive action and an authoritarian hand, rather than endless debate, discussion, and negotiation with thousands of royals and political, economic, and religious elites, was needed to drive home to these individuals that the monarchy is serious about fundamental reform and that the “old guard” needs to get with the program or face dire consequences.

Previous attempts to negotiate elite entitlements achieved negligible results. To cite just one example, relentless pushback and delay tactics scuttled a recent initiative that would have forced elites to pay full utility costs and newly introduced property taxes on undeveloped land. Arresting high-profile household names, people long considered to be untouchable, was the best way for the King and the Crown Prince to deliver the shock needed to recalibrate the behavior and expectations of the elite class.

What the King and MBS are attempting is not new for developing states pursuing comprehensive socioeconomic transformation. In 2008, the ruler of Dubai responded to Dubai’s financial collapse by mounting a wide-scale purge of senior government officials who had perpetuated the corrupt practices that were rife during the emirate’s rapid development. Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s 2012 campaign against his fellow “princelings,” descendants of party scions whose station gave them unparalleled economic privilege and virtual control over key sectors of the national economy, also comes to mind.

Both campaigns were initially shocking and considered to be highly controversial among observers who questioned the wisdom and speed of such actions, but they proved to be politically popular because they demonstrated a firm break with a venal past. Powerful elites who for decades had avoided accountability were publicly investigated, detained, prosecuted, and sentenced. Today, both Dubai and China are better off for it.

The detention of the Kingdom’s own princelings, while clearly authoritarian and also populist in nature, is necessary to bring about the type of social and economic transformation the Kingdom needs to restructure the social contract between the throne and the people. Are these actions risky? Absolutely. But when comprehensive reform is required to safeguard the Kingdom’s post-petroleum future, and when the status quo (with, at best, a glacial approach to reform) threatens the country’s present, decisive action is not only preferable to inaction but also actually far less risky.

Paradoxically, the Saudi “purge” may very well secure the future of Saudi elites as a class, and even the future of the very elites who were arrested. In Dubai, the crackdown ended when convicted elites were quietly released after they had returned looted state assets. It is probable that the Kingdom will follow a similar path. For Saudi elites, succumbing to a “revolution” from above that requires them to forfeit some of their extreme wealth and privilege is still preferable to a real populist revolution from below, which would wipe them out completely and destroy the country.

About Arabia Foundation / Advisory Board: Advisory Board

Ambassador (Ret.) Adam Ereli

Adam Ereli is founder and principal of the Ibero-American Group, a strategic advisory firm based in Washington, DC. Ambassador Ereli previously served as US ambassador to the Kingdom of Bahrain, deputy State Department spokesman, and principal deputy assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs.

He has a bachelor’s degree from Yale University and a master’s degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University

Ambassador (Ret.) Chas W. Freeman Jr.

Chas W. Freeman Jr. is a senior fellow at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs. He is the former assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, ambassador to Saudi Arabia, and principal deputy assistant secretary of state for African affairs. He served as vice chair of the Atlantic Council; cochair of the United States–China Policy Foundation; and president of the Middle East Policy Council.

Professor F. Gregory Gause III

Gregory Gause III is the John H. Lindsey ’44 chair, professor of international affairs, and head of the International Affairs Department at the Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University. Dr. Gause received his PhD in political science from Harvard University.

Professor Bernard Haykel

Bernard Haykel is a historian of the Arabian Peninsula and a scholar of Islamic law and Islamic political movements. He is professor of Near Eastern studies at Princeton University, where he is also director of the Institute for the Transregional Study of the Contemporary Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia. He earned his DPhil in oriental studies from the University of Oxford.

Dr. Edward L. Morse

Ed Morse is the global head of commodities research at Citigroup. He has worked as a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations; served as the deputy assistant secretary of state for Energy Policy; and been in management at Phillips Petroleum Company. In addition, he is a cofounder of PFC Energy, a former publisher of Petroleum Intelligence Weekly, and president of Energy Intelligence Group. He is chair of the New York Energy Forum and a member of the advisory board for the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University.


VIETNAM at 50 – 1967!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_804/image.jpg


Defense One: The Future of the Army

Ever since 1845, when the Royal Army dispatched its brand-new Telegraph Detachment to the fight in Crimea, electric and

later electronic battlefield communications have been a part of war. Today’s battles — and the pseudo-conflicts dubbed hybrid war —

are shaped by online maneuvering unimaginable to the 19th century’s light brigadiers.

Tactics and technology are changing far faster than doctrine, laws, and rules. “The next great conflict will play out not just on physical

terrain but also in the electrical pulses of cyberspace and the electronic spectrum,” writes Patrick Tucker in this ebook’s first

piece, “For the US Army, ‘Cyber War’ Is Quickly Becoming Just ‘War’.” He continues, “But while anonymous enemies like ISIS or

Russia’s “little green men” are free to use the digital space as they like, U.S. Army leaders say legal requirements and a pre-digital rules

structure complicate their response.

That’s why, for the last 18 months, the service has been experimenting with different concepts of operations for the cyber units that will be

on the front lines of tomorrow’s fights.”

From these nascent tactics to research into drones and even weapons that will alter their behaviors to match the mental and physical

states of the troops who wield them, the future of the Army will reflect an ever-increasing reliance on and exploitation of data and


No doubt that some of the twists and turns of the next few years will have us feeling like the bewildered British horsemen taking orders

from mysterious clicking devices.

Bradley Peniston

Deputy Editor, Defense One



see our letter on:

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



11-14-17 Trump – Catalania – Pyongyang – Caucasian News.pdf

11-14-17 BAKS_arbeitspapier_sicherheitspolitik_2017_25-Kurden als Verbuendete des Westens.pdf

10-26-17 The North Caucasus_ Russia’s Soft Underbelly – Geopolit ical Futures.pdf

11-09-17 Defense One_The Future_of_the_Army.pdf


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Massenbach-Letter. NEWS 10.11.17

Massenbach-Letter. News – The Battle to Come Over Reconstruction in Syria –

  • Report: Full cost of U.S. wars overseas approaching $6 trillion
  • The Arab View of Russia’s Role in the MENA: Changing Arab Perceptions of Russia, and the Implications for US Policy
  • John Kemp (Reuters): Modern Saudi politics and government
  • Geopolitical Futures/Friedman: Saudi Arabia, at War With Itself
  • Foreign Policy: The American Alliance With Turkey Was Built On a Myth
  • Nick Butler (FT): Lessons from Britain’s broken energy market

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

  • Igor Ivanov – One Year after the U.S. Presidential Elections
  • EPA-EFE/ANATOLY MALTSEV – 1917 Russian Revolution: Changing the Geopolitical Map of the World Revolution Had a Huge Impact on the Events of the Twentieth Century, November 7, 2017
  • On November 6–11, the city of Da Nang in central Vietnam will host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ Meeting
  • European Union Is Back in the Game
  • “The Caucasian Knot”:
  • – Human Rights Watch calls Russian Authorities
  • – Details of attack in Ingushetia
  • – Armed conflict in Northern Caucasus
  • – In Volgograd, 27 people hold march in defence of Constitution


Residents walk through the rubble of the resort town of Zabadani in the Damascus countryside, Syria, May 18, 2017

The Battle to Come Over Reconstruction in Syria

Frederick Deknatel Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017

Last month, for the first time in six years, the Syrian government hosted an international trade fair in Damascus. Staged at a fairground in the southern outskirts of the capital, near the airport, the exhibition was promoted as a sign of victory for President Bashar al-Assad. Russian, Iranian and Chinese companies headlined the list of attendees, which also included representatives of European firms.

The fair—last held in the summer of 2011, as Syria’s uprising was just turning into a civil war—“sends a message that the war has ended … and we are at the start of the path towards reconstruction,” said Bouthaina Shaaban, an Assad adviser who is often the face of the regime to Western media.

But the war is still rumbling on. When they arrived at the fair, attendees might have seen smoke rising in the distance in Damascus’ battered suburbs or heard the sound of shelling up the highway. Two days after the event opened, mortar fire hit the fairground’s entrance, reportedly killing six people, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the war. The violence went unmentioned by Syrian state media.

Instead, the Assad regime is talking reconstruction and striking deals. In early September, Iran signed a potentially lucrative agreement with Assad’s government to rebuild Syria’s destroyed power grid. This week, Syria’s ambassador to China spoke buoyantly about the war winding down in much of the country and government forces retaking key oil fields in eastern Syria, where the self-proclaimed Islamic State is being forced out. Firms from China would be given priority in reconstruction contracts, the ambassador said. “Chinese companies are more welcome than, say, Western companies and will find a very friendly environment in Syria.”

The contours of the conflict are still following a familiar script, at least at the level of foreign ministers and spokespeople: Western powers, including the United States, say one thing, while the regime and its backers—mainly Russia and Iran, which both have forces in Syria—say something else entirely. Yet the reality on the ground is becoming clearer, as Assad’s regime steadily consolidates its control of territories it won back from rebels, from Aleppo to Homs to the outskirts of Damascus. The end game is also getting more apparent: Rebels will be driven out, or they will surrender under siege and bombardment. The suburbs of Damascus are set to share the fate of Aleppo, which was bombed and besieged into submission by a regime offensive last year that included Russian air power and some of the worst urban warfare of this century.

Meanwhile, the U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State, which is steadily losing territory, seems more removed than ever from Syria’s civil war and questions about Assad’s position. President Donald Trump’s madhouse address to the United Nations General Assembly was just the latest proof. He offered token criticism of the “criminal regime of Bashar al-Assad” but little outline of U.S. policy in Syria beyond “big gains toward lasting defeat of ISIS.” Trump slowly delivered a teleprompter line about seeking “the de-escalation of the Syrian conflict,” as if he was reading it for the first time.

Government plans for “redeveloped” neighborhoods are a vision of a country emptied of Assad’s opponents.

Earlier this month, the U.N.’s special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, who has tried to mediate round after round of failed peace talks, urged the Syrian opposition to accept that it had lost the war. “For the opposition, the message is very clear: if they were planning to win the war, facts are proving that is not the case,” he told reporters. “So now it’s time to win the peace.”

Whether the opposition can adapt to this new reality is an open question. Last week in New York, the “Friends of Syria”—a group of Western and Arab nations opposed to Assad who have never agreed on a unified strategy in Syria—declared that they would not support reconstruction efforts without a political transition in place. Like many of the group’s previous statements, this one described things in Syria as it wishes they were, rather than as they are.

But there is little doubt these days that an eventual peace—if that word can be used to describe a shattered and divided Syria—will be mostly on Assad’s terms. He has fewer reasons than ever to give in to Western demands about political reform or offer concessions in the hope of national reconciliation. “Assad lost half of the country, half of Aleppo and parts of Damascus, and he wouldn’t budge,” Aron Lund, a fellow at the Century Foundation, told The Washington Post. “Now that he’s taken most of that back, it’s ridiculous to think he’ll budge now.”

Reconstruction, then, is shaping up to be the next battleground, and it could pit the regime against a different array of antagonists. Pro-Assad militias—which have increasingly fought outside the purview of the state, creating competing power centers in regime-controlled territory—could fight over patronage and influence in order to try and preserve their place as racketeers and local strongmen in the new, splintered Syria.

Heavy-handed and corruption-tainted reconstruction efforts could also alienate other Syrians, from Assad supporters to those who have surrendered or been displaced under the terms of “evacuation” deals that have ended long sieges. “The regime’s rush to reconstruction may be little more than a prelude to the renewal of violence,” Steven Heydemann, a professor of Middle East studies at Smith College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Middle East Policy, warned last month. “What we know about the conditions that promote the recurrence of violence after civil war gives rise to ominous warning signals about what is happening in the Syrian case.”

In Syria’s cities, which have been the central battlegrounds in the war, “reconstruction is also an opportunity to reconfigure the urban landscape … and, in doing so, to reshape or consolidate political and power dynamics,” according to Benedetta Berti, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. That process already appears to be underway outside Damascus and in Homs, where neighborhoods that were hotbeds for the uprising—poor, informal, mostly Sunni districts that the government likened before the war to slums—are being cleared and “redeveloped.”

Plans with generic renderings of high-rises and modernist housing blocks evoke a drab corner of Dubai, or Moscow, with little connection to Syria’s urban fabric or the people in it. They are a vision of a country largely emptied of Assad’s opponents. As Tom Rollins reported for IRIN last spring, in Basateen al-Razi, the Damascus neighborhood that is the model for this urban plan, activists, outside analysts and former residents say the policy “is not only being used to forcibly dispossess Basateen al-Razi civilians but also to engineer demographic change.”

Whenever the fighting ends, some of the worst aspects of the war—forced displacement, the division of ethnic groups, the reconfiguration of Syrian society—could still continue, just through other means.


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

  • Igor Ivanov – One Year after the U.S. Presidential Elections
  • EPA-EFE/ANATOLY MALTSEV – 1917 Russian Revolution: Changing the Geopolitical Map of the World Revolution Had a Huge Impact on the Events of the Twentieth Century, November 7, 2017
  • On November 6–11, the city of Da Nang in central Vietnam will host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ Meeting
  • European Union Is Back in the Game
  • “The Caucasian Knot”:
  • – Human Rights Watch calls Russian Authorities
  • – Details of attack in Ingushetia
  • – Armed conflict in Northern Caucasus
  • In Volgograd, 27 people hold march in defence of Constitution


Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* Report: Full cost of U.S. wars overseas approaching $6 trillion

WASHINGTON — Overseas combat operations since 2001 have cost the United States an estimated $4.3 trillion so far, and trillions more in veterans benefits spending in years to come, according to the latest analysis from the Costs of War project.

The annual analysis from Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs shows a steadily growing tally for the 16 years of wars overseas. Study author Neta Crawford said the goal of the ongoing project is to better illustrate the true costs of overseas military operations.

“Every war costs money before, during and after it occurs — as governments prepare for, wage, and recover from armed conflict by replacing equipment, caring for the wounded and repairing infrastructure destroyed in the fighting,” she wrote in the 2017 report.

Of the total, only about $1.9 trillion has been reported by defense officials as official overseas contingency operations funding.

But the research includes another $880 billion in new base defense spending related to combat efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Pakistan since 2001, as well as about $780 billion in boosted Department of Homeland Security costs in that time frame.

Veterans spending has increased by almost $300 billion so far as a result of those conflicts, and future spending on those benefits over the next four decades is estimated to top $1 trillion more.

Crawford noted that all of the costs could rise with President Donald Trump’s recent decision to boost U.S. end strength in Afghanistan.

“There is no end in sight to the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and the associated operations in Pakistan,” she wrote.

Administration officials have already requested about $70 billion more in overseas contingency spending as part of their fiscal 2018 budget proposal. The entire federal budget plan, including mandatory benefits spending, totals about $4 billion.

The full Costs of War report is available on the university’s web site. ( or att.)


Politics: From Vision to Action

Barandat*Jamestown – The Arab View of Russia’s Role in the MENA: Changing Arab Perceptions of Russia, and the Implications for US Policy

October 5, 2017 … According to international law, the Russian intervention in Syria is legitimate, since it was launched at the request of the Syrian government. Yet, the Western powers have accused Russia of aggression and expansionism.

This rebuke likely stems from the fact that the United States and other Western powers feel that they are losing influence in the Middle East, while Russia is gaining strategic advantage in this crucial region, which Moscow considers its “near abroad.”

For Russia, the Middle East is instrumental to its national security, especially along Russia’s mostly Muslim-populated southern border areas, whose citizens have in their scores joined various terrorist factions in both Syria and Iraq … Decades of US interventions in the Middle East, in particular the invasion and subsequent destruction of Iraq, and later Libya, have put the United States in a position of being blamed by both the terrorist factions and the ordinary Muslim public for the crisis embroiling the region …

Moscow’s alternative vision appeals to many in the Arab world, much more than the Western approach that seeks to upend the status quo and impose, by the application of both soft and hard power, neoconservative, liberal democracy to the region.

Due to the failures that US interventions of the past two decades have brought upon a range of Middle Eastern countries, from Afghanistan and Iraq, to Libya and Syria, to name but a few, the region seems to be more susceptible to fresh approaches; and Russia, with silent backing from China, seems to be offering that alternative.

Unlike Soviet foreign policy, which was strongly ideological in nature and sought to spread Communist ideas across countries of interest, post-Soviet Russian policy is markedly non-ideological and pragmatic in nature …

As a member of the BRICS—a political-economic bloc of major developing economies Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa—Russia is not alone in its pursuit of influence in the region. China is silently backing most Russian moves. And despite assessments to the contrary by some Western policy analysts and think tanks, there is little room for speculation about a Sino-Russian rivalry in this region or elsewhere. What China lacks, Russia has and vice versa.

Thus, each member of this duo perfectly complements the other, together building a strong foundation for long-term partnership across the board. Chinese financial might and the size of its economy, in addition to its energy dependence on both Russia and Iran, among others, make the duo perfect partners for creating a new world order in this crucial region. This point has been made clear by Chinese announcements of investments in Syrian post-war reconstruction.

Washington’s moves to impose fresh sanctions on Russia, as well US efforts to put pressure on Iran and Turkey, are achieving results that may run contrary to established American policy.

Specifically, those actions may draw Russia, China, Iran and Turkey closer together into an unbreakable Eurasian alliance that has the potential to change the political discourse for decades to come.

The case in point is the admission of India and Pakistan as full members of the Russian- and Chinese-led Shanghai Security Cooperation Organization (SCO); while Iran is poised to join soon, likely followed by Iraq, and Turkey in the near future. Devoid of ideological undertones, including “exporting democracy” and military interventionism, which underpin Western attitudes toward the region, the Russia-China duo’s regional approach is markedly pragmatic and focuses on four key pillars of cooperation:
-Economic, and
-Political/diplomatic cooperation on regional and global issues.

While Russia is rising politically and militarily as a key global player, China is expanding economically, ascending at the expense of other economic giants such as Japan and Germany.

Both countries are seeking strategic partnerships in crucial regions and developing markets, including the Middle East¯for its energy resources¯as well as developmental and infrastructural investments, the latter being particularly attractive to China in pursuit of its larger global agenda

In addition to the military, economic and social security as well as investment that the BRICS offer as a group, Middle Eastern states also value certain contributions that China and Russia may proffer individually. In particular, the Chinese multi-billion, mega-development project “One Belt One Road” (OBOR)—which encompasses a number of regional countries, including Syria, Jordan and Turkey—is extremely attractive to key regional states.

China and Russia have principally devised their economic and political ties based on a sprouting cluster of strategic partnerships that involve economic and military cooperation at all levels. The strong ties between China and Russia are temporary, but they share their expansionist tactics together on various continents including Asia, Africa and South America, where China is cultivating a strong presence that can serve as a springboard for its future economic leap at the expense of the US. China, of course, cannot proceed or vie for the international market without fully being supported by Russian, which itself seeks to control many continents regardless of American interests …

As the trilateral Russia-Turkey-Iran alliance gains traction, Russia, due to its advantage as a major world power, is securing access to the whole of Africa, the Levant, the Arabian Peninsula, and major parts of Europe. By locking Iran within the alliance, together with China, Russia is gaining access to strategic sea-lanes and maritime choke points, therefore developing an upper hand in countering possible Western-led disruptions in energy supplies. Adding to the Russian Arab alliance is Qatar, which of late has been courting both Russia and Iran in light of the GCC diplomatic crisis. By coming together, Russia, Iran and Qatar—the three top world producers of liquefied natural gas (LNG)—can effectively control global gas supplies, and by extension gain a significant say over much of the global geopolitical discourse …


Middle East

There is no definitive book on modern Saudi politics and government but the outlines of the system as it operated between the 1960s and the accession of King Salman in 2015 are clearly visible in Vassiliev’s King Faisal: Personality, Faith and Times and Hertog’s Princes, Brokers and Bureaucrats: Oil and the State in Saudi Arabia. Vassiliev’s book is a bit of a hagiography and ends in the 1970s but is very readable and essential to understand how the collective government system developed after the death of the founding king. Hertog brings the story up to date and tackles the complex question of corruption and patronage.

US shale firms promise higher output and returns

White House is conducting its own foreign policy

Saudi purge to prove popular and useful ($WSJ)

Saudi purge is widening with more arrests

Saudi purge removes last independent power centre

Saudi purge takes the kingdom into uncharted waters

Saudi Aramco’s reserves audit is progressing

John Kemp

Senior Market Analyst



Saudi Arabia, at War With Itself

Nov 6, 2017
By Kamran Bokhari

Forget Yemen, Syria and Lebanon, just a few of the countries in which Saudi Arabia is fighting a proxy war with Iran, its long-time enemy. The Saudi royal family now appears to be at war with itself. Regardless of who wins, the conflict could destabilize Saudi Arabia, which was already weakening anyway.

Palace Intrigue

What’s happening in the country is the definition of palace intrigue. The king, Salman bin Abdul-Aziz, took the throne in January 2015 following the death of his half brother, Abdullah, a son of the nation’s founder who had ruled the country for two decades. It was a relatively straightforward succession. It’s now common knowledge that it took a behind-the-scenes power struggle for King Salman to crown his son, Mohammed bin Salman, a prince and name him his chosen successor. But on Nov. 4, the power struggle became brazenly public. That day, Salman and his son had more than a dozen princes and former high-level officials arrested, including a world-famous billionaire. The reason for their detention is simple: Salman is trying to remove obstacles that could prevent Mohammed bin Salman from succeeding him.

King Salman is the first monarch in the history of the modern kingdom to buck this particular tradition. Usually, a successor is chosen by consensus among the sons of the founder of the kingdom. But now that the second generation is nearly all dead, and now that there are too many third-generation princes to convene, it has become more difficult to choose who will become the next king.

He has bucked other traditions too. Salman has strengthened his son’s claim by bestowing on him sweeping powers over security and economic affairs. Mohammed bin Salman is the defense minister, the head of a strategic economic council, controller of Saudi Aramco and, after Nov. 4, the chief of an anti-corruption agency. And Salman did all this by removing from power his half brother and his nephew, both of whom were crown princes. He has also sidelined powerful members of the clerical and tribal establishments.

Some rumors suggest that the purges were made in response to a plot against Mohammed bin Salman. It’s unclear if that is actually the case. But whether the rumors are true or whether the arrests were pre-emptive, the outcome is the same: There are fewer threats to a Mohammed bin Salman reign. One of the princes arrested, Mitab bin Abdullah, for example, was the minister of the National Guard – the parallel military force to the regular armed forces under the Ministry of Defense. He and Mohammed bin Salman shared responsibility for Saudi Arabia’s armed forces. Until Nov. 4, that is.

Mitab’s brother, Turki bin Abdullah, was also arrested. (He was removed from his post as governor of Riyadh in 2015, the year King Salman took the throne.) Perhaps the most famous target was Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. He is an entrepreneur who is mostly disinterested in politics, but his father is a known liberal who opposed Salman as king and now opposes Mohammed bin Salman as his successor.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh, on Oct. 24, 2017.

Facing the Facts

Arresting these individuals accomplishes two things. First, it guarantees their capitulation to Mohammed bin Salman. Second, it gives the Salman faction more mileage out of the anti-corruption drive. Between that and their calls for a more moderate version of Islam, the king and his son are moving away from the traditional sources of support (clerics and tribal establishments) and toward new ones: popular appeal among the country’s youth, which makes up about two-thirds of the population. The old guard is an obstacle for the reforms needed to move the kingdom beyond its current impasse – put simply: depending almost solely on oil revenue – and thus a threat for the leadership. They are using populism to inoculate themselves from the potential consequences of their power grab.

In the process, though, they are inadvertently laying the foundations for the next crisis. Relying on popular support means they will be forced to enact more reforms than they actually want to – or are even capable of. Despots who try to be populists usually end up being neither and, in their failure, lose power.

It is too early to tell what will be the outcome of the power struggle. Whoever comes out on top will be unable to ignore the fact: that Saudi Arabia is a country in decline, largely because of low oil prices but also because of the general disarray in the Middle East. In this context, then, the events of Nov. 4 are more than petty power grabs – they are attempts to make the country pliable enough to accept necessary reform at a time of increasing regional chaos.

The kingdom cannot both change its nature and hope to meet the external challenges at the same time. It has to consolidate at home before it can act effectively beyond its borders. But this sequence of priorities is not a luxury that the Saudis enjoy. Their historical enemies the Iranians are gaining ground, and they cannot simply focus on domestic politics.

Take, for example, another thing that happened Nov. 4. The leader of Riyadh’s main proxy in Lebanon, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, resigned after criticizing Iranian interference in his country. By having Hariri pull out of the coalition government in Lebanon, the Saudis hope to weaken Iran’s premier proxy, Hezbollah, which benefits from the coalition government in Beirut. But it’s a weak and probably ineffective move. Now that the Islamic State is weakened, Iran has the advantage in Iraq and Syria.

Riyadh’s inability to deal with external threats, if anything, will only intensify its domestic ones. Even though the king and his son have the upper hand, an inability to effectively counter the Iranian threat could weaken their position at home and thus aggravate the infighting.


*Massenbach’s Recommendation*

Foreign Policy: Argument

The American Alliance With Turkey Was Built On a Myth

It’s time to realize that Washington and Ankara share neither values nor interests,

and that their partnership cannot return to its Cold War heyday.

By Steven A. Cook

| October 12, 2017, 9:00 AM

This week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pushed the U.S.-Turkey relationship from bad to worse. On Tuesday, he claimed that “spies” had infiltrated U.S. missions in Turkey and said that Turkey didn’t consider the U.S. ambassador to Ankara, John Bass, to be a legitimate representative of the United States.

Turkey’s president thus escalated a tit-for-tat diplomatic crisis that started on Sunday, when the U.S. Embassy announced that the United States had been forced “to reassess the commitment of the Government of Turkey to the security of U.S. mission facilities and personnel,” and as a result would no longer process non-immigrant visas. The decision was undoubtedly a response to the arrest of Metin Topuz, a “foreign service national” who has worked with the Drug Enforcement Agency’s office in the Turkish capital for many years, but was accused of supporting the Fethullahist Terror Organization by the Turkish government, which holds the group responsible for the failed coup in July 2016. The Turkish government responded in kind to the U.S. refusal to process visas — before Erdogan followed up with his rhetorical broadside.

The Topuz case can be logged into an increasingly long list of conflicts that have challenged the U.S. relationship with Erdogan’s Turkey over the last few years. It is now clear that Turkey and the United States are less allies and partners than antagonists and strategic competitors, especially in the Middle East.

But it would be a mistake to lay Washington and Ankara’s troubled relations at the feet of Turkey’s charismatic and pugnacious president. In truth, the United States and Turkey have been headed for a collision since Christmas Day in 1991, when the Soviet Union disintegrated.

So much analysis and commentary about Turkey over the last decade has emphasized Erdogan’s consolidation of his personal political power. Although this work has been generally accurate, it tends to obscure three important factors in Turkish politics and foreign policy. First, for all that Erdogan is the central decision-maker, his ideas about Turkish power and mistrust of the West have broad support among Turks — and with good historical reasons. Second, the United States and Turkey share neither values nor interests.

Second, the United States and Turkey share neither values nor interests.

Finally, the world has changed a lot since the heyday of the U.S.-Turkey alliance, over a quarter century ago.

Given the changing international dynamics, the U.S. relationship with any plausible Turkish ruling party would likely be frayed at this point. If Turkey’s main opposition party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), were in power, for instance, there would still be considerable tension in the U.S.-Turkey relationship. It would of course look different, but the “strategic relationship” or “model partnership” would have no more content and meaning than it does now. For example, the CHP leadership has taken a pro-Bashar al-Assad stance in Syria and is as strongly opposed to Kurdish nationalism, if not more so, than Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party. And to varying degrees, all political parties in Turkey have tended to flirt with Iran over the years.

This is a reality that often dumbfounds American officials, who tend to work with a set of outdated ideas about Turkey. Policy continues to be made based on the mythology of the Cold War, which has produced a romantic retrospective of Americans and Turks “standing shoulder-to-shoulder during the great ideological battle with the Soviet Union” or some such formulation. The myths of the Cold War era obscure the reality that, without the common Soviet threat, there was not much to bind Washington and Ankara together. The bilateral relationship was not based on friendship, trust, or values, but rather the exigencies of the countries’ shared conflict.

Even after Russian guards lowered the hammer and sickle from atop the Kremlin all those years ago, American officials erroneously assumed that Turkey would remain shoulder-to-shoulder with its American partners. In the early 1990s, some in the foreign policy community thought Turkey was uniquely positioned to guide the newly independent Turkic states of Central Asia — whose citizens share cultural and linguistic affinities with Turks — in stable, democratic governance. In the middle and latter part of that decade, the foreign-policy community regarded Ankara as a driver of security and peace in the Middle East. More recently, Turkey was held out as a “model” for Arab countries seeking to build more prosperous and democratic societies.

None of these projects proved successful, because they overestimated Turkey’s capacities, underestimated the historical legacies of the Ottoman domination of the Middle East, and misread Turkish domestic politics and the worldview of the country’s current leadership. With each failure, the United States and Turkey drifted further apart.

Although the details of each of these episodes are important, there was something else at work that contributed to the unsuccessful outcomes. The American foreign-policy community is slowly learning that much of what it believed about Turkey turned out not to be the case. The country’s leaders — including the military command — are neither democrats nor pro-Western. In fact, they are deeply suspicious of the West, especially the United States.

It is a common misconception that relations between the United States and Turkey were always warm, similar to traditional allies like the British or Germans. There were good working relationships between American and Turkish officers at NATO, of course, but those ties always had an element of mistrust, stemming from the often prickly nationalism of the Turkish side suspicious of American intent regarding Kurds and Washington’s commitment to Turkish security. The officers were not as “staunchly pro-Western” as so many press reports over the years indicated, but rather first and only pro-Turkey. The same could be said for the Turkish political leadership.

Most importantly, Turkey’s leaders do not share the interests of the United States.

Most importantly, Turkey’s leaders do not share the interests of the United States.

At a level of abstraction, of course, both Ankara and Washington oppose the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, support peace between Israelis and Palestinians, fight terrorism, and want Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to fall. Yet Turkish and American prescriptions for achieving their ambitions are so far apart that it stretches credulity to suggest that these goals are actually shared. In each case, officials from both governments can articulate how the other has undercut their efforts in these areas. From an American perspective, Turkey’s periodic warming of its ties with Iran has weakened efforts to contain Tehran’s nuclear development, while Ankara is also guilty of enabling extremists in Syria and supporting the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

These tensions pre-date Erdogan and the rise of the Justice and Development Party. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, for example, the Turks chafed mightily over international sanctions on Iraq. And of course, there were differences over many years concerning Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus in 1974, the subsequent American arms embargo, and security in the Aegean.

The world has changed so much that Turkey, a NATO ally, works with Russia — whose leaders are intent on weakening the Western alliance — in Syria while the United States fights the self-declared Islamic State with Syrian Kurdish forces who the Turks believe (rightly) to be part and parcel of a terrorist organization that has waged war against Ankara since 1984. The strategic relationship has now been reduced to American access to Incirlik Air Base, from which the United States and its allies conduct operations against the Islamic State. From time to time, the Turks have threatened to rescind permission to use the facility for this purpose.

The very fact that it has become relatively easy for each country to work with the other’s adversary suggests that the strain in U.S.-Turkey ties is less about Erdogan’s worldview or former President Barack Obama’s retrenchment but about the way international politics is ordered a quarter century after the Cold War.

Since the “war of the visas” began, journalists have been asking whether the spat between the United States and Turkey will escalate. There is no way of knowing, of course, though much depends on Erdogan’s domestic political calculations. Given the reservoir of anti-Americanism in Turkey, any Turkish leader derives political benefits from conflict with the United States.

But the larger question is: How does the United States manage Turkey’s shift from strategic partner to a relationship that recognizes Turkey’s importance as both a onetime partner and an adversary? If American policymakers continue to view Turkey through the Cold War lens, they will continue to get nowhere. Already, American diplomats are fruitlessly invoking U.S. and Turkish shared values, while American citizens and U.S. government employees are jailed and abused. It’s time to recognize that the world has changed — and so has the U.S.-Turkey relationship.

Steven A. Cook is the Eni Enrico Mattei senior fellow for Middle East and Africa studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. His new book, False Dawn: Protest, Democracy, and Violence in the New Middle East, was published in June.


Lessons from Britain’s broken energy market

Nick Butler’s blog

The report published last month by Professor Dieter Helm on what the British prime minister calls “the UK’s broken energy market” is an intelligent response to the question posed by the ministers who commissioned it.

The proposals it makes are radical and it will be intriguing to see if the government has the nerve to implement them.

But there is a wider point of interest. Many countries are embarking on strategies of decarbonisation with the aim of reducing emissions, and there are serious reviews of energy policy underway across the world. Patterns of use vary with economic circumstances and so do existing policies. But there are some very important common aspects and those wanting to find a rational way of decarbonising at the lowest practical cost can learn a lot by understanding Britain’s mistakes.

Four clear lessons can be learnt from Professor Helm’s analysis and proposals.

First, set the objectives and then allow market mechanisms to identify the solutions. The energy market is a hybrid system involving both public power and private capital. The optimal outcome is one in which the public policy objectives — security of supply, a progressive reduction in emissions and competitiveness — can be met in the most cost-effective way. That should not involve specifying the technologies to be used.

Some will argue that the UK’s subsidies for technologies such as wind and solar over the last decade have produced the cost reductions and efficiency gains which have now made both highly competitive. That is not clearly proven — and in any case the situation has changed. Neither wind nor solar now need special treatment. They can compete effectively in any system that puts a cost on carbon.

Policy objectives can therefore be delivered through open competition. As the Helm report demonstrates, many of the UK’s problems — such as unnecessarily high prices — are the result of competition being excluded from the process. The easiest way to achieve the desired outcomes, and to encourage both research and investment, is to establish a carbon price.

The failure to set this at a level where it would begin to alter behaviour has constrained the approach to decarbonisation across Europe over the last decade. Ideally, a carbon price would be universal but even in the context of national policy-making it is the best tool for the job.

Second, look for the lowest cost solutions across the whole energy system. In too many countries the dominant focus of policy is on power generation. The electricity sector is important but not all important. What matters is that the policy of reducing emissions should be delivered at the lowest possible net cost.

Electricity provides around 40 per cent of final energy supplies across the EU and that number should grow as more activity, starting with transportation, is electrified.

But the remaining 60 per cent contains many activities, including industry and agriculture, where decarbonisation gains are possible and probably cheaper than relying on super-expensive electricity generation projects such as Hinkley Point.

Efficiency, too, is very effective in reducing demand and costs, although again the UK, with its ludicrously complicated and ineffective “green deal”, is an example to avoid.

Third, keep ministers and inexperienced officials out of the process that allocates contracts. Ministers should set the policy objectives but delivery should be managed by people who know what they are doing. This seems obvious when considering the provision of healthcare but tends to be ignored when it comes to energy.

Any country embarking on the development of a new policy should study the abysmal track record of the UK’s energy department in 2013 when ministers and officials made gross mistakes first in forecasting future prices and then in negotiating with highly experienced and well-funded companies backed by lavish lobbying efforts. Needless to say the companies won. The consumer lost and will be paying the bill for decades to come.

Prof Helm proposes a single authority, a National System Operator, to manage the acquisition of supplies through a simplified system of auctions. I would go further and encourage countries to ban ministers and officials from going through the revolving door to work for any company involved in a public policy decision with which they have been involved. Removing the tax deductibility of lobbying activity would also help.

Fourth, remember that climate change policy needs public support. Among those who understand what is at stake, support for action is substantial but across the wider population interest is limited.

Climate change was barely debated at the last elections in the US, UK or France. If policies to deliver emissions reduction are associated with high costs — which amount to corporate welfare payments — enthusiasm for action will fall.

As Prof Helm says, the “ excessive costs are not only an unnecessary burden on households and businesses, they also risk undermining the broader democratic support for decarbonisation”. Consumers rightly expect new technologies and productivity increases to mean lower not higher costs. When world prices for both renewables and conventional supplies such as natural gas are falling they are understandably disillusioned to find bills still rising.

The positive and encouraging message from Prof Helm’s report is that there are realistic alternatives. The costs of decarbonisation are coming down. Well-designed policies can help reduce them further. The process of getting to a lower carbon economy does not have to involve an intolerable economic cost.



see our letter on:

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



11-08-17 One Year after the U.S. Presidential Elections – Caucasian Affairs.pdf

11-08-17 Costs of U.S. Post-9_11 NC Crawford FINAL .pdf

Massenbach-Letter. NEWS 03.11.17

Massenbach-Letter. News

  • WSJ: The Manafort Indictment – Charges relate to money-laundering cash from Ukraine
  • U.S. Forces in Niger
  • CFA-Franc-Zone
  • Exclusive: Chad wants to cut off Glencore’s oil supplies in debt row
  • Tesla slapped with labor complaint by UAW
  • Türkei rechnet mit Verlängerung von „Turkish Stream“ bis Serbien
  • The Real Story of the Reformation

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

  • Protestant Project: Five Hundred Years Later
  • Ousting the JCPOA
  • Association Lite: Armenian Take on “Integration of Integrations”
  • Russia, the USA & Europe: Is Instability Immutable?
  • News from Caucasia

“Times They Are A-Changin’.”

Massenbach*WSJ: The Manafort Indictment –

Charges relate to money-laundering cash from Ukraine

Mueller’s charges relate to money-laundering cash from Ukraine.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort for tax fraud on Monday, and the main charge against Donald Trump is poor judgment for hiring the notorious Beltway operator.

The indictment accuses Mr. Manafort (and business partner Richard Gates ) of funneling money from a pro-Russia party in Ukraine into offshore shell companies and bank accounts. They then allegedly used these accounts to fund their spending habits, neglecting to declare the money to the IRS.

The indictment also accuses Mr. Manafort of failing to register as an agent for a foreign government as required under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). This is news mainly because violations of that law haven’t been successfully prosecuted since 1966. The Russia probe has exposed the degree to which lobbyists ignore this statute that the Justice Department has failed to enforce. (Democrat Anthony Podesta announced Monday that he is leaving his lobbying firm amid the Mueller probe. He is the brother of John Podesta, who ran Hillary Clinton’s campaign.)

The most striking news is that none of this involves the 2016 election campaign. The indictment makes clear that Mr. Manafort’s work for Ukraine and his money transfers ended in 2014. The 2016 charges are related to false statements Mr. Manafort made to the Justice Department.

In other words, Mr. Manafort stands accused of a financial and lobbying scam, which is exactly what Mr. Trump risked in hiring a swamp denizen. Mr. Manafort has lobbied for a rogues gallery of dictators, with the occasional domestic scandal (HUD contracts).

Separately, Mr. Mueller released a guilty plea by Trump campaign policy adviser George Papadopoulos for lying to the FBI in early 2017 about his interaction with “foreign nationals whom he understood to have close connections with senior Russian government officials.” The plea suggests Russians might have been attempting to supply the Trump campaign with opposition research on Hillary Clinton. But Mr. Mueller provides no evidence this happened.

One popular theory is that Mr. Mueller is throwing the book at Mr. Manafort so he will cop a plea and tell what he knows about Russian-Trump campaign chicanery. But that assumes he knows something that to date no Congressional investigation has found. Prosecutors typically try to turn witnesses before they indict, and Messrs. Manafort and Gates pleaded not guilty on Monday.

Meanwhile, we’ve learned in recent days that Fusion GPS, the oppo research firm hired by Democrats to dig up dirt on Mr. Trump, was hired initially by the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative website largely funded by GOP donor Paul Singer. This is embarrassing for the Free Beacon, which has been caught jumping in bed with sleazy operators like Fusion.

But none of this absolves Democrats from their role in financing Fusion to hire Christopher Steele, the former British spook, to collect information about Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia. The Free Beacon says it had nothing to do with Mr. Steele or his dossier.

The Democrat-Fusion-Russia story requires as full an investigation as the question of Trump-Russia collusion. All the more so given that the FBI may have used the Steele dossier, much of which has been discredited, to begin investigating the Trump campaign and to seek a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Some readers were offended that we suggested last week that Mr. Mueller is too close to the FBI after running it for a dozen years to investigate the agency’s role with the dossier. But no one has explained why such a relationship isn’t a conflict of interest. The probe can continue with someone else in charge, but most of the press corps is so invested in the Russia-Trump collusion narrative that they refuse even to acknowledge uncomfortable facts they’d usually be shouting about.

Americans deserve to know how Russia interfered in the 2016 campaign, but one problem with special prosecutors is that they exist to prosecute—someone, somewhere for something—more than they shed light. The latter should be Congress’s job, and the Members should keep pressing to tell the complete story.


Türkei rechnet mit Verlängerung von „Turkish Stream“ bis Serbien

Der türkische Präsident Recep Tayyip Erdogan hat die Hoffnung geäußert, dass die Gaspipeline „Turkish Stream“ bis Serbien verlängert wird und dieses Land somit keine Probleme mit der Gasversorgung haben wird. Dies erklärte Erdogan auf einer gemeinsamen Pressekonferenz mit seinem serbischen Amtskollegen, Aleksandar Vučić.

„‚Turkish Stream‘ ist ein sehr wichtiges Projekt, heute verläuft die Pipeline über das Schwarze Meer, ferner wird sie über unser Territorium nach Europa verlaufen. Wir sind dabei, alle damit verbundenen Fragen mit dem russischen Präsidenten zu besprechen“, wird Erdogan von Medien zitiert.

© Sputnik/ Sergej Gunejew

Belgrad will Verlegung von Turkish Stream durch Serbien

Zuvor hatte der russische Präsident Wladimir Putin Verhandlungen mit seinem türkischen Amtskollegen geführt und dabei den Bau der Gaspipeline „Turkish Stream“ und des Atomkraftwerkes „Akkuyu“ besprochen. „Wir messen den Projekten ‚Akkuyu‘ und ‚Turkish Stream‘ eine große Bedeutung bei. Sie werden fortgesetzt, und wir sind bereit, ihnen einen Ruck zu geben“, betonte Erdogan.

Indes versucht Bulgarien, das bei der Inbetriebnahme von „Turkish Stream“ nach 2020 riskiert, Einnahmen aus dem Transit des russischen Gases zu verlieren, weiterhin, sein Territorium in die potentielle Strecke der neuen Gaspipeline einzuschließen.

Turkish Stream

Geplanter Verlauf der Pipeline „Turkish Stream“

Turkish Stream (auch Turkstream; russisch Турецкий поток; türkisch Türk Akımı) ist ein internationales Projekt einer Gaspipeline mit 4 Röhren, die auf dem Grund des Schwarzen Meeres von der südrussischen Küstenstadt Anapa in die Türkei verlegt werden soll. Zum Bau der ca. 1100 km langen Gaspipeline soll auf russischem Staatsgebiet die für das aufgegebene Projekt South Stream gebaute Infrastruktur genutzt werden. Der Offshore-Teil der Pipeline wird 910 km betragen, der Onshore-Teil auf türkischem Boden 180 km. Die Pipeline wird von Anapa aus auf dem Boden des Schwarzen Meeres bis zum türkischen Ort Kiyiköy im europäischen Teil der Türkei verlaufen und weiter zur Ortschaft Lüleburgaz, wo die Übergabe von Gas an türkische Abnehmer stattfinden soll.[1] Die Investitionen für Turkstream werden vollständig von Gazprom finanziert

Zweck der Pipeline

Pipeline-Netz von Russland nach Westeuropa

Russisches Erdgas wird derzeit über die Pipeline Blue Stream direkt in die Türkei geliefert, ohne dass es durch ein anderes Transitland transportiert werden muss. Turkish Stream wird die Transportkapazität von Bluestream, die maximal 16 Millionen Tonnen Erdgas pro Jahr ermöglicht, erheblich vergrößern, und so einen möglicherweise wachsenden Bedarf der Türkei decken. Die Türkei hat derzeit realistisch gesehen wenig Alternativen zu russischem Erdgas.

Eine weitere Möglichkeit von Turkish Stream besteht in der Lieferung von Erdgas über die Türkei als Transitland in Länder der Europäischen Union. Gazprom begann, für die Versorgung Südosteuropas die Pipeline South Stream zu bauen, die Gas nach Bulgarien liefern sollte. Inzwischen änderte Gazprom seine Pläne und treibt nun das Turkish-Stream-Projekt voran. Die Kapazität der vier Röhren von Turkish Stream wird bis zu 63 Milliarden m³ Gas pro Jahr betragen, wovon 47 Milliarden m³ Gas nach İpsala an der türkisch-griechischen Grenze transportiert werden sollen. Dort soll ein Verteilerzentrum gebaut werden, das das Gas in die europäischen Länder transportiert. Gazprom beabsichtigt, mit der neuen Gaspipeline die Transportwege zu diversifizieren, um damit die Abhängigkeit der Lieferanten und Käufer von den Transitländern Weißrussland, Polen, Ukraine, Slowakei und Österreich zu verringern, durch die derzeit Pipelines für russisches Erdgas nach Südeuropa verlaufen. Derzeit liefert Russland durch mehrere Pipelines, unter anderen auch durch die Pipeline Nord Stream, die durch die Ostsee verläuft, Erdgas nach Deutschland und Westeuropa. Davon verlaufen einige durch die Ukraine. Nach Ablauf des russisch-ukrainischen Gastransitvertrags 2019 soll kein neuer Vertrag mehr geschlossen und kein Gas mehr durch die Ukraine in die Europäische Union transportiert werden.

Stand des Projektes

Gazprom und die türkische Botas Petroleum Pipeline Corporation unterzeichneten am 1. Dezember 2014 eine Absichtserklärung (Memorandum of Understanding) für den Bau der Pipeline von Russland in die Türkei. Ein Vertrag darüber soll im Juni 2015 abgeschlossen werden. Der Bau einer Pipeline in Griechenland, die das Gas an der türkischen Grenze übernehmen und weitertransportieren soll, ist noch Gegenstand politischer Abstimmungen.

Wettbewerb um Gaslieferung und -transport

Die Transanatolische Pipeline (TANAP), deren Bau 2015 begonnen wurde und die ebenso wie Turkish-Stream durch den Südlichen Korridor verlaufen soll, soll ebenfalls Erdgas nach Griechenland liefern. TANAP wird nicht mit russischem Gas, sondern von Aserbaidschan aus mit Gas versorgt. Von Griechenland aus soll das aserbaidschanische Gas in andere europäische Länder, vor allem nach Südosteuropa, weitergepumpt werden. Die Anteile an TANAP werden von der türkischen Botas und TPAO (20 %) sowie der staatlichen SOCAR aus Aserbaidschan gehalten (80 %).[9] Einziger Pipeline-Betreiber Griechenlands ist DESFA (National Natural Gas System Operator S.A.) Das Dritte Energiepaket der EU verlangt die Trennung von Netzbetrieb und Erzeugung. Die EU-Kommission prüft deswegen die Übernahme des griechischen Gasfernleitungsnetzbetreibers DESFA durch die staatliche Mineralölgesellschaft der Republik Aserbaidschan SOCAR.[10], die einen Anteil von 66 % an DESFA kaufen möchte. Wettbewerber wie Turkish Stream könnten von SOCAR am Zugang zum griechischen Pipeline-Netz gehindert werden.


Die Tesla-Pipeline ist ein von der EU als “Project of Common Interests” eingestuftes Vorhaben, den Transport von Erdgas zwischen Griechenland und Österreich zu ermöglichen. Russisches Erdgas, das durch die geplante Turkish-Stream-Pipeline nach Griechenland transportiert wurde, soll nach Mitteleuropa, die Balkanländer und nach Italien weitergeleitet werden, über Mazedonien, Serbien, Ungarn und Österreich. Auf griechischem Boden soll dafür eine Pipeline von der Grenze zur Türkei an die Grenze zu Mazedonien und zwei oder drei Verdichterstationen gebaut werden.



Am 1. Dezember erklärte der russische Staatspräsident Wladimir Putin auf einer Pressekonferenz in Ankara, dass Russland wegen der Position der Europäischen Union auf den Bau der Pipeline South Stream verzichten werde. Frei werdende Ressourcen würden in andere Regionen und Flüssiggas-Projekte umgeleitet. „Wir denken, dass die Position der Europäischen Kommission nicht konstruktiv war. Tatsächlich war es nicht so, dass die Europäische Kommission bei der Verwirklichung dieses Projekts geholfen hätte, vielmehr sehen wir, dass der Verwirklichung Hindernisse in den Weg gelegt werden. Wenn Europa das Projekt nicht verwirklichen will, so heißt das, dass es nicht verwirklicht wird.“ erklärte Putin. Ursache für den Verzicht auf den Bau von South Stream sei, so Putin, dass Bulgarien keine Baugenehmigung erteilt habe. Das Handeln der bulgarischen Regierung war dabei Teil der westlichen Sanktionspolitik gegenüber Russland als Reaktion auf die Ukrainekrise bzw. auf den Krieg in der Ukraine seit 2014. Gazprom-Chef Alexei Miller erklärte am 1. Dezember, dass das Gaspipeline-Projekt South Stream geschlossen sei und es keine Rückkehr zu diesem Projekt geben werde.


Miller kündigte am 14. Januar 2015 an, die Gaslieferungen über das Territorium der Ukraine mit der Inbetriebnahme von Turkish Stream gänzlich einstellen zu wollen. Er forderte die Europäer auf, die nötige Infrastruktur im Südosten des Kontinents zu schaffen, um eine Belieferung über die neue Pipeline zu ermöglichen. Die EU-Kommission ist auch beim neuen Projekt skeptisch ob der Durchführbarkeit und fürchtet, Russland wolle Uneinigkeit zwischen EU-Staaten schüren.

Die Weiterarbeit am Projekt wurde nach dem Abschuss einer Suchoi Su-24 im November 2015 von Russland angehalten


Im Juli 2016 wurden die Gespräche wiederaufgenommen. Im September erhielt Gazprom von den türkischen Behörden die erste Genehmigung für den Bau des Seeabschnitts und die Genehmigung für Untersuchungsarbeiten zu beiden Strängen der Offshore-Pipeline in der ausschließlichen Wirtschaftszone und in den Küstengewässern der Türkei.

Am 10. Oktober 2016 unterzeichneten die Energieminister beider Länder (Berat Albayrak (Kabinett Yıldırım) und Alexander Nowak (Kabinett Medwedew)) im Beisein der Präsidenten Erdogan und Putin in Istanbul ein Regierungsabkommen über den Bau der Pipeline. Das Abkommen betrifft zwei Offshore-Röhren von Russland in die Türkei, die durch das Schwarze Meer verlegt werden, und außerdem eine Onshore-Röhre, die Gas an die türkische Grenze zu Nachbarstaaten transportieren soll.

Die Türkei ist nach Deutschland der zweitgrößte Exportmarkt für den staatlich kontrollierten russischen Energiekonzern Gazprom. Konzernchef Alexej Miller sagte, der Bau könne 2017 beginnen und 2019 beendet sein.

Am 4. Juli 2017 gab Präsident Putin persönlich den Baubeginn des Tiefwasserabschnitts bekannt.


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

  • Protestant Project: Five Hundred Years Later
  • Ousting the JCPOA
  • Association Lite: Armenian Take on “Integration of Integrations”
  • Russia, the USA & Europe: Is Instability Immutable?

– News from Caucasia


Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* The Real Story of the Reformation

Martin Luther wanted to coax theologians into a debate on indulgences—not reset Christianity.

This week the world celebrates the 500th anniversary of an event that never happened. Well, something did happen, and it altered the course of history. But what actually took place is astoundingly different from how it is portrayed today.

As the story is told, on Oct. 31, 1517, an Augustinian monk named Martin Luther socked the European church establishment in the kisser by defiantly nailing his “95 Theses” on indulgences to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. The thunder of his hammer resounded throughout the world. It was as though he had stuck his finger in the pope’s eye.

The document brazenly charged the Catholic Church with corruption. The corrupt powers-that-be were put on notice that the vile practice of indulgences—whereby the faithful could throw a coin in the coffer to buy their way out of purgatory or worse—must end forever.

Except it never happened, at least not that way. Luther probably didn’t post his theses on the famous date celebrated each year, though he likely did within a month of the designated day. And they might never have been posted by Luther, despite five centuries of paintings depicting him doing just that. As it happens, he may have handed the document to a church custodian to post. And if Luther did post it himself, he may even have unheroically affixed it with paste.

More important, posting the document on the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church was not an act of calculated defiance. That door had long served as the community bulletin board for anything and everything. For context, imagine the fabled document posted next to a flyer for a missing cat.

The most important difference between how most people remember the event and what actually happened is that the 30-something monk never dreamt that history would notice what he was doing. He did not intend to be defiant or to cause trouble. And he certainly did not plan to shake the foundations of the church he loved and obediently served. The idea that this all might lead to a sundering of the church was unthinkable. If he had thought of it, it would have utterly horrified him.

And the theses were written in Latin, which no one but cultural elites could understand. If there was anything provocative in what he wrote, it was only because such documents typically contained an edgy thesis or two in the hopes of instigating a robust debate.

The brainy Saxon monk merely wanted to coax his fellow theologians into an academic debate on indulgences, thinking that something might be done about the troubling practice through the proper and customary channels. What happened shocked Luther more than anyone.

A copy of the document was promptly delivered to Rome, where it furrowed Vatican brows and upset the papal stomach. Far worse, Luther’s well-meaning Saxon colleagues quickly translated the document into German. Then they duplicated it endlessly without his permission, courtesy of a relatively new technology invented by a fellow German, Johannes Gutenberg. Suddenly everyone was reading it across Europe and debating its points. Before Luther could say “sola scriptura,” the horse had slipped out of the barn and was wildly trampling the status quo that had existed for centuries.

Within four years, Luther’s written and oral responses to the growing conflagration had taken the world by storm and he arguably had become the first genuine celebrity in world history. The frothy torrent of writings that poured from his pen would make printers and publishers rich, with no royalties ever paid to him for his troubles. And his woodcut portraits reproduced like rabbits across the German landscape.

The powerful ideas Luther’s writings conveyed would in time lead to virtually everything we now take for granted in the modern world. By prompting the end of Vatican hegemony, Luther opened the door for the creation of thousands of new churches under dozens of denominations, Lutheran among them. In the coming centuries, this attitude would help elevate the concepts of religious pluralism, tolerance, democracy and freedom.

Who knew? Certainly not Martin Luther, whose grotesque pronouncements against the Jews near the end of his life proved that he simply did not comprehend the ramifications of what he had loosed upon the world.

But by humbly raising the questions he had in 1517, and then by responding to the attacks that followed as truthfully and carefully as he could, Luther ended up cracking the great edifice of medieval Christendom in twain. And for good and for ill both, out of that opening the future itself seemed to fly.

Mr. Metaxas is the author of “Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World,” just out from Viking Press.


Politics: From Vision to Action

Barandat*U.S. Forces in Niger Were Denied Armed Drone

New information shows ambushed Green Beret team was part of a larger, potentially more dangerous mission

Members of the 3rd Special Forces Group Airborne 2nd Battalion leave pins and salute the casket after the burial of Army Sgt. La David Johnson on Oct. 23 in Ft. Lauderdale, Fl.

U.S. military officials sought permission to send an armed drone near a patrol of Green Berets before a deadly ambush Oct. 4 in Niger, but the request was blocked, raising questions about whether those forces had adequate protection against the dangers of their mission.

New information shows the Green Beret team was part of a larger mission, one potentially more dangerous than initially described, and one believed to merit an armed drone. But the request was blocked in a chain of approval that snakes through the Pentagon, State Department and the Nigerien government, according to officials briefed on the events.

One focus of military investigations into what happened in Niger will be what a military official now says were two changes in the mission of the Green Beret team—from initially training Nigerien forces, to advising on a mission to capture or kill a wanted terrorist, to investigating the terrorist’s abandoned camp.

U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers observe Nigerien armed forces service members during an exercise in Niger this year.

On Oct. 4, after the U.S.-Nigerien team had destroyed the camp, four Americans and five Nigerien soldiers were killed in a firefight with suspected Islamic State fighters, and two other Americans and as many as eight Nigeriens were wounded.

The ambush and the circumstances surrounding it have taken on political weight in Washington as the deadliest military clash for Americans since President Donald Trump took office. Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has pressed for more information, and a public spat broke out about condolence calls by Mr. Trump.

The drone request suggests that military officials were aware of a change in the security landscape in western Niger, where more than two dozen previous patrols had been conducted without incident. Intelligence indicated a low risk of enemy contact, and there had been no enemy attacks on U.S. forces there for the past year, according to officials investigating the incident.

The initial decision against the use of an armed drone reflects an effort by the U.S. mission in Niger to maintain a light footprint in the country amid local resistance to the deployment of armed aircraft—a challenge for officials also seeking to adequately support U.S. troops there.

An Department of Defense handout shows U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black (top left), Sgt. La David Johnson (top right), Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, (bottom left), and Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, (bottom right), the four U.S. soldiers killed in the attack on U.S. and Nigerien forces on Oct. 4

After the firefight broke out on Oct. 4, some military officials also wanted an armed drone, but it is unclear if one was in the area and whether any request was made, according to a military official. An unarmed drone was dispatched, and French Mirage jet fighters arrived about an hour later, followed by French helicopters.

U.S. officials have repeatedly modified the timeline as facts trickle in.

The Green Beret patrol was one of two operating in the area at about the same time, Pentagon officials said. The second consisted of an elite commando team specializing in missions to track down wanted jihadists; both were involved at the time in a hunt for an associate of Adnan abu Walid al-Sahawi, the leader of Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, according to current and former officials briefed on the events.


· Death of U.S. Soldiers in Niger Sparks FBI Probe, Criticism

· U.S. Revises Timeline on Niger Battle

· Four Americans Killed in Niger Battle Had Limited Combat Experience

The targeted militant was operating in the border region, moving between Niger and Mali, and the elite team was also operating on both sides of the border, officials said. The jihadist is an important figure in Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, an organization operating in the two countries, according to a person briefed on the investigation.

The Green Beret team’s role in Niger was initially to help train the country’s security forces. But then, before the October mission began, the group was asked to advise the Nigerien quick-reaction force that was to assist the elite commando unit on its mission to capture or kill the terrorist target, according to a military official.

That mission was scrubbed because weather conditions increased the risk for helicopter flight to the site where the jihadist was thought to be, the official said.

The commando unit then sought another U.S. team to check out what appeared to be an abandoned terror camp that the jihadist had used, according to current and former officials briefed on the events.

The Green Beret patrol, now available to be retasked, was sent to the camp, the officials said.

The patrol was made up mostly of Green Berets, with other soldiers attached. All were considered well trained, having gone through the comprehensive work-ups of the elite Special Forces, according to Pentagon records. But their experience levels varied, according to the records; at least one had never deployed and at least four hadn’t seen combat.

The team, along with 30 Nigerien troops, left the country’s capital, Niamey, the morning of Oct. 3.

The new mission, to find the abandoned camp and shelter, was considered relatively low-risk. An assessment showed there was little likelihood of an enemy attack, officials have said, after the wanted terrorist was known to have abandoned the camp.

Military investigators have been examining the official orders that led to the assignment. A key unanswered question is who formally changed the Green Beret-led team’s mission—the U.S. Africa Command, known as Africom, the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command, or another agency.

Investigators also are working to find out if there was adequate intelligence to evaluate the likelihood of enemy contact and whether the team was prepared for helping an elite commando team track and kill Mr. Sahawi’s associate.

Investigations into the ambush by military officials, aided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, are likely to take weeks, according to officials briefed on the inquiry.

Mr. Sahawi is considered a top target in the “tri-border” region of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, according to European officials. The area is made up in large part of wildlife preserves, allowing militants, often in groups of just a few dozen, to move across borders, hide out and strike as needed.

The joint U.S.-Nigerien team relatively quickly located and arrived at the camp that had been abandoned by Mr. Sahawi’s lieutenant. The team, according to military reports, collected some information and destroyed the shelter they found, though military officials don’t know if it was a regular camp or had only been used once.

From there, late on Oct. 3, the team began the trek back to their base camp, according to a military official.

Based on the reports submitted by the Green Berets after they left the abandoned terrorist camp, the team hiked throughout the night of Oct. 3 to Oct. 4, never staying in one place for more than a couple of hours.

While on the route back to their camp, in the morning of Oct. 4, the Nigerien forces asked to stop at a village to get breakfast and refill their canteens.

When U.S. forces visit a village, it is standard procedure to meet with the elder, explain their broader mission and enlist a measure of support from the local population.

That meeting went longer than expected. At 10:40 a.m. local time, minutes after leaving the village, the troops were ambushed.

Investigators are probing the question of how the jihadists found the Green Berets, since intelligence hadn’t documented any militants operating in the area of the village.

The length of the village meeting has caused some military officials to question whether villagers tried to delay the Green Berets. But military officials said they now believe the village elder wasn’t involved.

Military officials don’t know if the fighters who ambushed the Green Beret-led team were affiliated with the terrorist being hunted by the elite team.

One official noted that the areas were far apart, and the Green Beret team had taken steps to avoid being tracked. Other officials believe he was likely responsible for the attack.

An hour into the fight, minutes after a request from the team for air support, the unarmed drone arrived, allowing more senior military commanders to watch the firefight.

The French Mirage jet fighters from an airfield in Niamey were underway within a half-hour and in the area 30 minutes later, the Pentagon said. French helicopters left from Mali, officials said.

During the fight, four soldiers became separated from the rest of the team. Those soldiers would be the Americans killed.

Late on the afternoon of Oct. 4, French helicopters evacuated two wounded U.S. soldiers. It wasn’t until that evening that the bodies of three of the four U.S. soldiers killed were evacuated.

The body of the fourth soldier, Sgt. La David Johnson, was still missing. He was found two days later by Nigerien forces.

Military officials declined to say why the initial request for an armed drone was made. The U.S. Africa Command, which is responsible for military operations for most of the continent, typically must request permission from the U.S. ambassador or the chief of mission at a U.S. embassy in a given country for any military operation, according to current and former officials briefed on the events.

If the ambassador blocks the mission, the decision can be appealed by military officials to the Pentagon.

That step typically requires a discussion between the secretaries of Defense and State. Military officials said top officers are reluctant to take disputes with an ambassador to the secretary of Defense, out of concern of sending a signal that the command isn’t able to work effectively with its diplomatic partners. No high-level discussion in advance of the Green Beret patrol that began Oct. 3 appears to have taken place.

State Department officials denied that their teams in Africa can block military requests for drone flights or strikes and said diplomats didn’t stop a request for an armed drone in Niger.

“The U.S. ambassador in Niger did not deny support or protection for military personnel involved in the October 4 ambush,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said. “The ambassador supported all efforts to ensure the safety of our military colleagues in the field.”

One of the officials briefed on the events said sensitivities in Niger concerning the use of armed drones have delayed their use. The two countries signed an agreement in 2013 allowing Washington to establish a drone base there. The $100 million base is set to be completed next year.


What Is America Doing in Niger?

The unfortunately politicized debate prompted by the death two weeks ago of four U.S. soldiers in Niger has revealed a great deal of ignorance about what, precisely, the U.S. is doing in Niger and why. The truth is that while its policy is debatable, the U.S. is right to be involved in Niger and support it in its fight against violent Islamist extremists.

Niger is a fragile democracy that, aside from uranium deposits, is rich in little other than culture. It is the poorest of the poor: Niger ranks 187 (PDF) on the United Nations‘ 2016 Human Development Index out of a total of 188 countries — only the Central African Republic gets a worse rating.

Yet, it has found itself at the epicenter of the local and regional war on terror, with overlapping local and regional violent groups based within Niger and coming into the country from nearly every side. Some of these groups are affiliated with al-Qaida, some with the Islamic State.

Regardless of which flag the terror groups fly, they threaten to tear Niger apart, or at the very least stymie the country’s efforts to develop economically and politically and otherwise improve the life of its citizens. More to the point, it cannot hope to defend itself let alone make progress without outside help.

The wolves at Niger’s heels, it is true, pose only a negligible direct threat to the U.S. It would be naïve, however, to believe that the region’s slide into anarchy and the unchecked progress of violent Islamist groups do not matter to the larger world or to the U.S.

Some of the terrorists in the region set their sights well beyond local borders and are keen on the larger, global jihad. In addition, the violence and instability they generate locally threaten the entire region and beyond.

They spur migration out of the region to the detriment of other parts of Africa as well as to Europe, which many of the migrants attempt to reach. However welcoming one might be toward African migrants, the progress of the far-right in recent German elections underscores how destabilizing the issue can be.

Anything that weakens the region is against U.S. interests; anything that weakens its Western allies likewise is against its interests. And speaking of allies, France currently is at war in Niger and in several of its neighbor nations. The French effort helps but is insufficient. They could use help themselves.

Unlike French forces, U.S. forces in the region are there to train and not to fight.

Helping Niger (and also France) is precisely why U.S. troops are there. To be clear, unlike French forces, U.S. forces in the region are there to train and not to fight. They work with Niger’s security services, which are remarkably capable given their lack of just about everything, which means that whatever help the U.S. gives them goes a long way.

The U.S. government, moreover, provides security assistance as part of a larger aid package intended to help the country’s economic development and improve its governance.

Helping Niger (and France) should not be controversial. It is the right thing to do. Putting soldiers there, where they might come under fire, also should not be controversial. Rather, the debate should be about the efficacy of U.S. assistance and its sufficiency. Is the U.S. doing enough? Is it doing the right things? Does it have the right strategy?

U.S. policy in the region since President Trump took office has been more or less a continuation of policies that date to the George W. Bush’s administration, which is when U.S. troops began the present training effort, with some tweaks by Obama.

Obama wanted more focus on things like governance alongside pure security assistance; Trump puts greater emphasis on the security assistance, with the U.S. military playing a larger and more unfettered role.

The results of Bush’s and Obama’s policies are disputable, and there is good reason to think that Trump’s policies are no more likely to succeed. Meanwhile, the security situation in Niger since the beginning of the Bush-era programs to the present day has continued to decline.

Maybe the right thing to do is carry on, but if America owes the fallen soldiers anything, it is an open debate about the next best steps, about how best to help Niger in line with what the U.S. can do there and U.S. national interests.


*Massenbach’s Recommendation*

CFA-Franc-Zone. Die CFA-Franc-Zone bilden die Länder, in denen die zentralafrikanische Währung CFA-Franc BEAC bzw. die westafrikanische Währung CFA-Franc BCEAO gilt. Die meisten dieser Länder verbindet die ehemalige Zugehörigkeit zur Union française bzw. Communauté française und der durch die Bindung des CFA-Franc an den Franc bzw. Euro starke wirtschaftliche als auch politische Einfluss Frankreichs.[1]

Die CFA-Franc-Zonen:

· CFA-Franc BCEAO (Wirtschaftsunion UEMOA)

· CFA-Franc BEAC (Wirtschaftsunion CEMAC)

Satellitenfoto Afrikas: Nur kleine Teile der CFA-Zone sind Wüstengebiete, der überwiegenden Teil der CFA-Zone liegt im subtropischen Regenwaldgebiet Afrikas.

….. Beziehung zum Euro-Währungsraum

Frankreich ist in seinen Entscheidungen bezüglich des CFA-Franc autonom, sofern sich Natur und Geltungsbereich der zugrundeliegenden Vereinbarungen nicht ändern. Andernfalls ist die Zustimmung des EU-Rates auf der Grundlage einer Kommissionsempfehlung nach Anhörung der Europäischen Zentralbank erforderlich

Frankreich ist allein für die Abwicklung mit den CFA-Staaten verantwortlich. Es ist nicht vorgesehen, dass sich EZB oder EU direkt mit einem CFA-Land abstimmen.

Verbindungen zur Europäischen Union

Der CFA-Franc wurde 1945 geschaffen und war seit dieser Zeit mit festem Wechselkurs an den Französischen Franc gebunden. Mit Einführung des Euro musste dieses monetäre Netzwerk auf den Euro umgestellt werden. Im Rahmen der EU wurde bestimmt, dass Frankreich die monetären Klärungen bezüglich der CFA-Zone mit der EZB durchzuführen habe. Die EZB sollte eine Stellungnahme ausarbeiten, und diese mit dem zuständigen EU-Kommissar für Wirtschaft und Finanzen abstimmen. Der EU-Kommissar hatte dann diese Stellungnahme dem EU-Finanzministerrat vorzulegen.

Die Verhandlungen führten Dominique Strauss-Kahn als Finanzminister Frankreichs, Christian Noyer als Vizepräsident der EZB, Yves-Thibault de Silguy als EU-Kommissar für Wirtschaft und Finanzen und Währung für die Europäische Union.

Österreich war seit Jahresanfang 1998 mit diesem Fall befasst, da – gemäß Zeitplan – die Beschlussfassung über die Anbindung des CFA-Franc an den Euro in der zweiten Jahreshälfte 1998 fallen sollte. In dieser Zeit hatte Österreich die Präsidentschaft in der EU.


Zur Absicherung der CFA-Franc-Konvertibilität sind folgende Regelungen vereinbart:

Die CFA-Länder haben auf 85 % ihrer Währungsreserven keinen Zugriff, da diese beim Agence France Trésor zu hinterlegen sind. 65 % ihrer Währungsreserven haben die CFA-Länder beim Agence France Trésor zu hinterlegen, als Ausgleich für die Garantie der CFA-Franc-Konvertibilität durch die Republik Frankreich.[17] Weitere 20 % ihrer Währungsreserven haben die Länder zu hinterlegen, um finanzielle Unwägbarkeiten abzusichern.

Kritik am CFA-Finanzsystem

Das CFA-System der Währungsreserven wird in Afrika massiv kritisiert. So forderte der Präsident von Senegal, Abdoulaye Wade, eine Rückgabe der bei der Banque de France liegenden Währungsreserven an die CFA-Staaten.

Kritiker werfen Frankreich und den regierenden Eliten in seinen ehemaligen Kolonien vor, der einzige rationale Grund für die Existenz des CFA-Franc sei ein stillschweigendes Übereinkommen, um die Staaten der Franc-Zone auszuplündern. Die Bilanz der Partnerschaft zwischen Frankreich und seinen früheren afrikanischen Kolonien sei höchst einseitig. So sichere sich Frankreich einen riesigen Markt für seine Produkte, eine ununterbrochene Versorgung mit billigen Rohstoffen, die Repatriierung des Löwenanteils der lokalen Ersparnisse, konkurrenzlosen politischen Einfluss, kostenlose strategische Präsenz auf Militärbasen und die Gewissheit, dass es sich auf die diplomatische Unterstützung seiner afrikanischen Verbündeten verlassen konnte. Für die Afrikaner hingegen bedeute diese Partnerschaft eine Schwächung des Handels, Geldknappheit, hohe Zinssätze, massive Kapitalflucht und Schuldenberge, deren Rückzahlung die nötigen Investitionen in Bildung und Ausbildung, in Gesundheitswesen, Nahrungsproduktion, in Wohnbau und in die Industrie verhindere.

Der CFA-Franc wird von Kritikern als eine den Ländern nach der Unabhängigkeit aufgezwungene Einheitswährung angesehen, obwohl sie gar nicht mehr in das von Frankreich begründete gemeinsame Marktbündnis eingebunden seien. Der CFA-Franc sei eine Währung, die geschaffen worden sei, um die afrikanischen Länder arm zu halten.

Eine Entkolonialisierung der CFA-Staaten habe nach Meinung von Kritikern nie stattgefunden, der (Neo-)Kolonialismus sei weiter in Kraft.

Kritiker werfen dem CFA-System vor, es habe 50 Jahre lang Generationen französischer Unternehmer und Politiker, den Messieurs Afrique und deren afrikanischen Juniorpartnern, zum eigenen Nutzen gedient, auf Kosten des französischen Steuerzahlers sowie der Armen in den afrikanischen Ländern. Es sei ein Selbstbedienungsladen der Elite. Französische Unternehmer hätten in Afrika doppelt so hohe Gewinnmargen wie in ihrem Mutterland. Die Preise für französische Importe im subsaharischen Afrika – durchgesetzt mittels Lieferbindungen und politischer Patronage – hätten lange Zeit 30 % über den Weltmarktpreisen für vergleichbare Güter und Dienstleistungen gelegen.

Insgesamt verhindere der CFA-Franc jede eigenständige Wirtschafts- und Sozialpolitik der betreffenden Staaten. Er bremse die Entwicklung und behindere die regionale Integration.

Militärpräsenz Frankreichs


Die Zusammenarbeit mit Afrika und hier vor allem der CFA-Zone hat für Frankreich oberste Priorität. 80 % des gesamten französischen Militärkooperationsbudgets werden in dieser Region investiert.

Das französische Parlament lässt sich regelmäßig über den aktuellen Stand von den Verantwortlichen Bericht erstatten.

12 der 14 CFA-Staaten sind mit Militärabkommen an Frankreich gebunden

· Accords de défense (Verteidigungsabkommen) bestehen mit Kamerun, Zentralafrikanische Republik, Elfenbeinküste, Gabun, Senegal und Togo.

· Accords de coopération militaire (Militärkooperationsabkommen) bestehen mit Benin, Zentralafrikanische Republik, Kongo/Brazzaville, Äquatorialguinea, Mali, Niger, Tschad, Togo und den Komoren.

· Zudem unterhält Frankreich in acht der 14 CFA-Staaten eigene Ecoles nationales vocation regionale (Militärschulen).

Abgewickelt und verwaltet wird dies von der DCMD (Direction de la coopération militaire et de défense). Die französische Politik hat der DCMD einen umfassenden und genauen Auftrag erteilt.[40] Dieser Auftrag umfasst unter anderem, dass der Absatz von französischem Militärgerät zu unterstützen ist. In den Jahren 2002 bis 2005 umfassten französische Waffenlieferungsverträge eine Vertragshöhe von 900 Millionen Dollar.


Die Verhandlungen über die Unabhängigkeit der Kolonien beinhalteten bereits die Sicherung des Weiterbestandes des französischen militärischen Stützpunktnetzes. Aus der französischen Kolonialarmee wurde eine französische stationierte Interventionsarmee

Die Stationierungs- und Stützpunktstruktur veränderte sich im Laufe der Jahre, und hat 2008 diese Struktur:

· Elfenbeinküste, Abidjan: Troupes Françaises de Côte d’Ivoire / OPEX Licorne (2000 Mann)

· Gabun, Libreville: Troupes Françaises du Gabon (980 Mann)

· Senegal, Dakar: Forces Françaises interarmées du Cap Vert (1200 Mann)

· Dschibuti (nicht CFA): Forces Françaises de Djibouti (2900 Mann)

· Stationierung im Rahmen von OPEX (Opérations extérieures) in CFA-Staaten:

· Tschad, Hauptbasis N’Djamena: OPEX Epervier (1250 Mann)

· Togo support OPEX Licorne[ (150 Mann)

<![if !supportLists]>· : OPEX Aramis (50 Mann)

· Golf von Guinea: OPEX Corymbe (100 Mann)

· Zentralafrikanische Republik, Hauptbasis Bangui: OPEX Boali (400 Mann)

2008 hatte Frankreich in sieben von 14 CFA-Staaten Truppen stationiert, bzw. es sind Truppen eingesetzt, die aktiv kämpfen.

Militärinterventionen seit 1960

Seit der Unabhängigkeit der afrikanischen Kolonien (1960) hat Frankreich eine Vielzahl von Militärinterventionen in Afrika, vor allem der CFA-Zone, durchgeführt. Seit 1976 werden diese Militärinterventionen als OPEX (opérations exceptionnelles) bezeichnet. OPEX gelten als zwingende Notwendigkeit zur Sicherstellung der Nationalen Sicherheit Frankreichs.

Nach der Unabhängigkeit der Kolonien führte Frankreich 1964 in Gabun seine erste Militärintervention in einem CFA-Staat durch. Seither hat Frankreich durchschnittlich alle 14 Monate eine große Militärintervention in Afrika durchgeführt (1964–2007 37 Militärinterventionen).

Ziel dieser Interventionen war es jeweils, Frankreich-freundliche Regierungen der CFA-Zone an der Macht zu halten, oder an die Macht zu bringen.

Bei Kriegen in Afrika ist die französische Armee einer der Hauptakteure Die französische Politik in Afrika (und damit die Militärpolitik) ist eine traditionelle Domäne des französischen Staatspräsidenten, der die Einsatzbefehle in der Regel direkt erteilt. Dem Parlament wird Bericht erstattet. In Anhörungen werden auch die zuständigen Militärs von den Parlamentariern befragt. Ausmaß und Auswirkungen der jeweiligen OPEX sind den französischen Politikern damit in vollem Umfang und sehr detailliert bekannt.

OPEX können kurz dauern, aber auch eine sehr lange Laufzeit haben. OPEX Epervier im Tschad wurde 1986 von Präsident François Mitterrand, Premierminister Fabius und Verteidigungsminister Quilès angeordnet. Die OPEX Epervier läuft aktuell (2008) noch immer.

Kritik an der CFA-Politik Frankreichs

Kritiker werfen der französischen Politik vor, mit Militärinterventionen in der CFA-Zone die politischen Fakten zu zementieren. Die Diktatoren dieser Länder regierten mit Frankreichs Zustimmung und Unterstützung
Ebenso wird Frankreich vorgeworfen, für Regierende afrikanischer Länder bzw. deren Vermögen ein gutes Versteck darzustellen

In Frankreich ist dieses Vorgehen der französischen Politik nicht unumstritten, auch international wird es kritisiert, wird aber von der Mehrheit der französischen Politiker unterstützt


Einkommen, Verschuldung, Korruption

Weltweiter Anteil an der Bevölkerung, die mit weniger als einem Dollar pro Tag lebt. UN-Schätzungen 1990–2005

Ärmste Staaten der Welt: Low-Income-Countries (LIC) (Einkommen/Einwohner unter 745 US$), Quelle: Weltbank 2001

Korruption im internationalen Vergleich (2007)

Verschuldung Karte der HIPC-Länder

Die CFA-Staaten gehören zu den Ländern mit den niedrigsten Einkommen der Welt. Gleichzeitig gehören sie zur Gruppe der hochverschuldeten Entwicklungsländer.

Der Korruptionswahrnehmungsindex liegt bei eins bis drei, d. h. am unteren Ende der Skala.

Transparency International Frankreich klagte 2008 vor einem französischen Gericht fünf afrikanische Staatschefs wegen Korruption an, darunter die vier CFA-Staatschefs Omar Bongo (Gabun), Denis Sassou Nguesso (Republik Kongo), Blaise Campaoré (Burkina Faso) und Teodoro Obiang Nguema (Äquatorialguinea).

Lebenserwartung, Gesundheitsversorgung, AIDS

Prozentsatz der Bevölkerung mit Gesundheitsversorgung

UN 2006: 2005–2010 Lebenserwartung bei der Geburt (Jahre)

Die Lebenserwartung in der CFA-Zone gehört zur niedrigsten der Welt. Die Gesundheitssysteme in den CFA-Ländern sind sehr schlecht ausgebaut. Eine Folge davon ist die höchste Kindersterblichkeitsrate weltweit.

Verschmutztes Trinkwasser ist ein wesentlicher Grund für viele Krankheits- und Todesfälle in den Entwicklungsländern. Die CFA-Zone ist – weltweit verglichen – besonders schlecht mit sauberem Trinkwasser versorgt. Dabei liegt es meist nicht an der Verfügbarkeit von Wasser, sondern an der Qualität dieses Wassers. Eine flächendeckende Trinkwasserreinigung ist nicht gegeben.

Anteil der HIV-Infizierten und Aidskranken an der Bevölkerung (2005)

Die AIDS-Infizierungsrate ist im weltweiten Vergleich erhöht. Bezogen auf Afrika haben andere Nicht-CFA-Länder höhere Infizierungsraten, bei gleichzeitig höherer Lebenserwartung der dortigen Bevölkerung. Die hohen Todesraten sind auch der niedrigen Gesundheitsversorgungsrate zuzuschreiben (siehe Übersicht).

Inwieweit die AIDS-Raten tatsächlich so hoch sind wie angegeben ist strittig, da oftmals andere Krankheiten als AIDS diagnostiziert werden. So werden z. B. vom französischen Atomkonzern AREVA Mitarbeiter mit Strahlenkrankheit in firmeneigenen Krankenhäusern als AIDS-infiziert dargestellt.

rate %
AFRIKA / Sub-Sahara 24,7 Mio. 2,8 Mio. 2,1 Mio. 8,5 %
AMERIKA / Süd (= Lateinam.) 1,7 Mio. 140.000 65.000 3,85 %
AMERIKA / Karibik 250.000 27.000 19.000 7,6 %
EUROPA / West u. Zentral 740.000 22.000 12.000 1,65 %

Hunger und Vitaminmangel

Prozentsatz der Bevölkerung mit Mangel an Vitamin A

Prozentsatz der Bevölkerung die Hunger leidet, World Food Programme, 2006

Hunger ist in den CFA-Staaten tägliche Normalität für Millionen von Menschen. Vitaminmangel ist auf Grund der grundsätzlich schlechten Nahrungsversorgung in der CFA-Zone an der Tagesordnung.

Überfischung und gefährdete Nahrungsversorgung

Seit den 1950er Jahren sind die westafrikanischen Grundfischbestände auf ein Viertel geschrumpft.[72] Zum Beispiel wurden im Senegal die Gesamtbestände von fünf Arten untersucht. Sie gingen in den vergangenen 15 Jahren um 75 % zurück. Dieser Trend ist entlang der gesamten westafrikanischen Küste bis nach Namibia zu beobachten.

Das Umweltprogramm der Vereinten Nationen (UNEP) schätzt, dass nicht-einheimische Schiffe rund 80 bis 90 % des Fischfangs vor Westafrika betreiben. Hauptverantwortlich für die Überfischung sind die Flotten der EU, Russlands und einiger Länder Asiens. Herausragend ist hier die EU, die mit rund 80 % Hauptabnehmer der Fisch- und Holzexporte aus der Gemeinschaft Westafrikanischer Staaten (ECOWAS, beinhaltet die CFA-Zone) ist. Es zeichnet sich jedoch bereits ein Wettbewerb mit asiatischen Nationen wie beispielsweise China um die Ressourcen ab.

Als soziologische Folge der für die nur einfach ausgestatteten einheimischen Fischer zurückgehenden Fischerträge gehen, laut WWF, diese teilweise dazu über, sich als Schlepper zu betätigen oder selbst die Flucht in die EU zu versuchen. Gleichzeitig gefährde die nicht nachhaltige Fischerei die Nahrungsversorgung der einheimischen Bevölkerung.

Rechte und Stellung von Frauen und Kindern



UN-HDI 2007/08: Prozentanteil der Kinder, die zu klein sind für ihr Alter

Weltweit ist die Kindersterblichkeit in der CFA-Zone eine der höchsten. Der Anteil der Kinder, die zu klein sind für ihr Alter, liegt in den CFA-Staaten bei 30 % und höher.

In den CFA-Staaten Benin, Burkina Faso, Kamerun, Elfenbeinküste, Gabun, Mali, Togo, und im nicht zur CFA-Zone gehörenden Nigeria existiert laut einer UNICEF-Studie Kinderhandel.[77]

Kindersklaven werden in Westafrika in der Landwirtschaft eingesetzt. In Kamerun, Elfenbeinküste, Mali, Niger, Togo, und anderen Ländern werden sie bei Anbau und Ernte von Baumwolle, Kakao, Kaffee, Bananen etc. eingesetzt. Als Steinmetze werden sie in Niger und Togo eingesetzt. In größeren Städten werden die Kinder als Sex-Sklaven verwendet. Aufsehen erregte im April 2008 eine von einer ehemaligen Kindersklavin angestrengte Staatsklage gegen Niger, da es durch Gewohnheitsrecht die Praxis der Sklaverei trotz entgegenstehender Strafgesetze legitimiere.

Alphabetisierung und Bildungschancen

Bildungsindex (basierend auf dem 2007/08 Human Development Report)

Alphabetisierungsrate weltweit nach Ländern

Von den vierzehn CFA-Staaten haben neun eine Alphabetisierungsrate von unter 50 %. Unter den zehn am wenigsten alphabetisierten Staaten der Welt sind sieben CFA-Staaten. Die vier am wenigsten alphabetisierten Länder weltweit sind die CFA-Staaten

  • Niger mit einer Alphabetisierungsrate von 28,7 %,
  • Tschad mit 25,7 %,
  • Mali mit 24,0 % und
  • Burkina Faso mit 23,6 %.

Die Kinder der CFA-Zone haben – im weltweiten Vergleich – die geringsten Schulbesuchsquoten. So besuchen in Niger nur 36 % der Jungen und 25 % der Mädchen eine Grundschule, in Burkina Faso sind es 35 bzw. 29 %.

Weltweit ist die Möglichkeit für Mädchen Schulen zu besuchen in der CFA-Zone am geringsten.

Index der menschlichen Entwicklung

Zehn der 14 CFA-Staaten werden von der UN in der Liste der Least Developed Countries geführt bzw. gehören gemäß dem Index der menschlichen Entwicklung des Entwicklungsprogramms der Vereinten Nationen zu den am wenigsten entwickelten Ländern der Welt.

1997 befanden sich unter 175 gelisteten Staaten drei CFA-Staaten unter den ärmsten zehn, im Jahr 2007/08 unter 177 Staaten sechs CFA-Staaten:

UN-HDI 2013

UN-Least Developed Countries 2007

166. Mosambik 168. Demokratische Republik Kongo
167. Guinea 169. Äthiopien
168. Eritrea 170. Tschad (CFA)
169. Burundi 171. Zentralafrikanische Republik (CFA)
170. Äthiopien 172. Mosambik
171. Mali (CFA) 173. Mali (CFA)
172. Burkina Faso (CFA) 174. Niger (CFA)
173. Niger (CFA) 175. Guinea-Bissau (CFA)
174. Ruanda 176. Burkina Faso (CFA)
175. Sierra Leone 177. Sierra Leone


Bruttonationalprodukt und Wirtschaftswachstum

Bruttonationalprodukt /
Wachstumsrate 2007

Bruttonationalprodukt/per Kopf (nominal) 2007 (IMF, April 2008)

Das Bruttonationalprodukt pro Kopf reicht in den CFA-Staaten von unter 500 Dollar (Togo) bis zu über 6000 Dollar (Gabun). Die Wachstumsraten liegen dabei im weltweiten Mittelfeld mit 2 bis 6 %.



Baumwollproduktion im Jahr 2005

Für die CFA-Länder Benin, Burkina Faso, Zentralafrikanische Republik, Elfenbeinküste, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Tschad und Togo ist Baumwolle ein wichtiges Export- und Wirtschaftsgut mit beachtlichen Produktionsmengen. Etwa 6 Millionen Menschen in der CFA-Zone leben direkt von der Baumwolle. Ungefähr 10 bis 15 % der weltweiten Roh-Baumwollexporte kommen aus den CFA-Ländern.

Nur etwa 6 % der in der CFA-Zone angebauten Baumwolle können auch in der CFA-Zone verarbeitet werden, da es kaum Textilindustrie in der CFA-Zone gibt. Etwa 90 % der angebauten Baumwolle wird exportiert und ist damit abhängig vom Weltmarktpreis.




In vier CFA-Staaten wird nennenswert Erdöl gefördert. Die Fördermengen der CFA-Staaten 2007:

Für die CFA-Staaten Republik Kongo, Elfenbeinküste und Senegal ist die Erdölverarbeitung ein wichtiger Wirtschaftszweig. Die Republik Kongo verarbeitet dabei eigenes Erdöl, während die Elfenbeinküste und Senegal das Erdöl importieren müssen.


Für Niger, Mali und Burkina Faso ist Gold ein wichtiges Exportgut. Teile des Staatsgebietes dieser Länder sind für die landwirtschaftliche Nutzung nicht geeignet, da sie Gebiete der Sahara-Wüste und der Sahelzone sind. Diese kargen Landschaften bergen jedoch reiche Bodenschätze.

In den CFA-Staaten Zentralafrikanische Republik, Elfenbeinküste, Burkina Faso und Republik Kongo werden Diamanten gefördert. Die Zentralafrikanische Republik ist der zehntgrößte Diamantenförderer weltweit. Das Diamantengeschäft ist unter starker internationaler Kritik, da es sich bei den gehandelten Diamanten um Blutdiamanten handeln soll. Besonders die Republik Kongo soll mit diesen Blutdiamanten regen Handel treiben. Kritisiert wird auch, das in den Diamantenminen (wie in den Goldminen) von Niger und Burkina Faso Kinder als Arbeiter eingesetzt werden.[88][89][90]

In Togo und Senegal sind Phosphate ein wichtiges Exportgut. Aluminium ist ein wichtiges Exportgut für Kamerun. In Gabun wird Mangan gefördert.


Uran wird in Burkina Faso, Kamerun, Zentralafrikanische Republik, Tschad, Gabun, Mali, Niger, Senegal und Togo gesucht bzw. abgebaut.[91] Niger ist dabei der viertgrößte Uranexporteur der Welt nach Kanada, Australien und Kasachstan.

An einer Reihe von Fördergebieten bzw. Explorationsvorhaben ist der französische Areva-Konzern beteiligt. Allein im CFA-Staat Niger fördert Areva soviel Uran, dass damit 40 % des gesamten Jahresuranbedarfs Frankreichs für die Stromerzeugung gedeckt werden. Der dabei gezahlte Uranpreis liegt bei weniger als einem Drittel des Weltmarktpreises.

CFA franc

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Usage of:
West African CFA franc (XOF)
Central African CFA franc (XAF)

The CFA franc (in French: franc CFA [fʁɑ̃ seɛfɑ], or colloquially franc) is the name of two currencies used in parts of West and Central African countries which are guaranteed by the French treasury. The two CFA franc currencies are the West African CFA franc and the Central African CFA franc. Although theoretically separate, the two CFA franc currencies are effectively interchangeable.

Both CFA francs have a fixed exchange rate to the euro: 100 CFA francs = 1 former French (nouveau) franc = 0.152449 euro; or 1 euro = 655.957 CFA francs exactly.

Although Central African CFA francs and West African CFA francs have always been at parity and have therefore always had the same monetary value against other currencies, they are in principle separate currencies. They could theoretically have different values from any moment if one of the two CFA monetary authorities, or France, decided it. Therefore, West African CFA coins and banknotes are theoretically not accepted in countries using Central African CFA francs, and vice versa. However, in practice, the permanent parity of the two CFA franc currencies is widely assumed.


Exclusive: Chad wants to cut off Glencore’s oil supplies in debt row

N‘DJAMENA/LONDON (Reuters) – Chad is on a collision course with top creditor Glencore as it wants to divert oil from the Swiss trading house to U.S. energy company ExxonMobil from the new year amid a dispute over debt restructuring.

A government document showed that Chad wants to hand over crude oil marketing rights currently held by Glencore under a $1.4 billion loan agreement to Exxon, the biggest oil producer in the Central African country.

Three government and industry sources confirmed the details. Sources close to Glencore say they believe the contract does not allow such a change.

Under pressure from the International Monetary Fund, Chad is renegotiating its hefty external commercial debt, namely to Glencore, which eats up nearly all of its oil profits – the country’s main source of revenue.

The near $1.4 billion debt to Glencore is being restructured for a second time since the 2014 oil price crash, in a move expected to be completed by the year-end or early next year.

Weighed down by drought, a refugee crisis and militant group Boko Haram, the government has become frustrated with Glencore and its handling of the debt restructuring, sources in the administration say.

Since 2014, Exxon has been paying royalties to the government in physical crude cargoes that were subsequently allocated by state firm SHT to Glencore.

But this process will end in early January as the government has asked Exxon to pay royalties in cash instead, according to a letter from the company dating from mid-October.

“In this context, we wish to levy in cash, and not in kind, the royalties due by the Consortium on January 2, 2018,” the letter stated.

The change will see Exxon replace Glencore as the marketer of the royalty oil.

Spokesmen for ExxonMobil and Glencore declined to comment. Chad’s finance ministry did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

Exxon operates the Doba consortium, the biggest producing group in the country at around 63,000 barrels per day (bpd) out of Chad’s 131,000 bpd in 2017, government data showed.

Cash-strapped Chad has received loans from the IMF, World Bank and African Development Bank among other entities, with another $12.9 billion of pledged funding as of September from public and private donors for its 2017-2021 national development plan.

A sticking point, a banking source said, was a request from Chad for another grace period on principal repayment that Glencore had so far refused.

Chad previously had a grace period in 2016, after Brent oil futures hit their lowest level since the end of 2003.

“Glencore does not want to hear about a restructuring,” a government source said. “This is why we have decided to take the marketing of our oil away from them.”

A source close to Glencore said the development would represent a “clear and serious breach of the agreement”.

“Glencore is in the middle of negotiations and is optimistic about a restructuring,” the source said.

About: Glencore


Tesla slapped with labor complaint by UAW

The United Auto Workers on Wednesday hit Tesla with a federal labor complaint, claiming the electric vehicle maker consistently harassed and recently fired union supporters despite their strong performance records.

The UAW claims the company has intimidated and harassed employees, and targeted union supporters in their recent round of dismissals. The labor group charges the company swept up many pro-union workers when it fired several hundred workers in the last two weeks.

A Tesla spokesman said the company respects workers’ rights to discuss organizing and protesting.

“Performance reviews result in promotions and occasionally in employee departures,” the spokesman said. “No one at Tesla has ever or will ever have any action taken against them based on their feelings on unionization.”

He added that complaints filed with the National Labor Relations Board are a common practice for union organizers.

Tesla workers are not represented by a union, although the UAW has supported workers seeking to organize at the plant.

Tesla fired hundreds of workers this month, including engineers, factory workers, and sales and administrative staff. The company said the dismissals, which employees have estimated to be between 400 and 700 workers, were based on annual performance reviews. Tesla refused to say how many employees have been fired.

Tesla is trying to expand production of its new Model 3 sedan, but only produce 260 cars last quarter. It has a backlog of about 450,000 orders for the lower cost electric vehicle.



see our letter on:

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



11-03-17 CFA-Franc-Zone – Wikipedia.pdf

11-03-17 CFA franc – Wikipedia.pdf

10-31-17 Protestant Project_Five Hundred Years Later.pdf

Massenbach-Letter. NEWS 27.10.17

Massenbach-Letter. News – Fats Domino, One of Rock ’n’ Roll’s First Stars, Is Dead at 89 –

  • Japan’s Election Warning to China
  • Friends of Europe study: Jumping over its shadow – Germany and the future of European defence
  • With Workers Split Over Trump, Unions Look to Bridge the Divide
  • Basler Zeitung: “Sie hat doch gar nichts getan.”
  • CICERO: ANgela Merkel – Die Nichtregierungsorganisation
  • WSJ- The Client – Hillary Clinton and the Democrats paid for a former spy to work with Russians to smear Trump.

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

  • Germany’s Southern Сorridor to Greater Eurasia: Away from Warsaw towards Damascus
  • Navalny’s volunteers: paid up PR-campaigns or a new political power?
  • Muqtada al-Sadr: A Way into the Arab World?
  • Carnegie-Moscow: Dagestan’s Main Problem Isn’t Clans. It’s the Russian System

Massenbach*With Workers Split Over Trump, Unions Look to Bridge the Divide

Organized labor faces crisis as White House draws blue-collar workers’ support, service workers’ opposition

President Donald Trump at the North America’s Building Trades Unions Legislative Conference in Washington in April, 2017..

At the largest meeting of organized labor next week, U.S. unions are shutting out politicians so they can determine who their friends are.

The question for labor unions is how to deal with a Republican White House that many of its members oppose but whose policies also appeal to significant elements of the labor movement.

President Donald Trump has peeled support from workers who say they’ve felt the sting of globalization. He has pushed policies—including on energy and trade—that appeal to blue-collar workers in fields such as construction, manufacturing and mining.

But what’s become the majority of organized labor—service unions such as those for teachers, government employees and health-care workers—opposes administration policies such as immigration restrictions and an overhaul of the tax system.

Worker advocates must decide how to proceed next week in St. Louis during the AFL-CIO’s once-every-four-year convention. There the nation’s largest labor federation will bring together 56 unions, including the American Federation of Teachers and the United Mine Workers, to set the policy tone and pick leadership through the next presidential election.

In a show of a political independence, the AFL-CIO didn’t invite lawmakers of either party or members of the administration to speak at the convention, a break from past protocol. In recent conventions, President Barack Obama and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) were featured speakers.

“The labor movement is at crisis point,” said Greg Junemann, president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers union and a member of the AFL-CIO’s executive council. “We need to strategize a plan for the next four years, and how we intend to come together.”

During last year’s presidential election, many unions formally supported Hillary Clinton, but union members voted for the Democratic candidate at the lowest rates since 1980. Unions are grappling with diminished political influence. In 1976, nearly 30% of voters came from union households. Last year, it was just 18%, according to Cornell University’s Roper Center.

Mr. Trump’s administration has welcomed certain unions with open arms. The president hosted leaders of construction unions during his first week in the Oval Office and was the featured speaker at North America’s Building Trades Unions conference in April. That AFL-CIO division represents about a quarter of 12.5 million total members.

“Did you ever think you’d see a president who knows how much concrete and rebar you can lay down in a single day? Believe me, I know,” Mr. Trump said in his speech. He went on to salute trade workers group by group—ironworkers, plumbers, electricians—each to a round of applause.

Mr. Trump’s outreach echoes that of Ronald Reagan’s . Mr. Reagan performed relatively well with union voters, and sought to court them, including speaking at an AFL-CIO convention. He was a former union president, leading the Screen Actors Guild, but he sparred with unions during his presidency, most notably when he fired more than 10,000 unionized air-traffic controllers who were on strike in 1981.

The current White House has been slower to engage with unions outside of manufacturing and construction. It has made no high-profile outreach to unions representing federal government workers, which protested the federal hiring freeze and intent to shrink the size of government, or to the Service Employees International Union, one of the largest unions outside of the AFL-CIO. The SEIU, for example, has called Mr. Trump’s ending of the program that protected undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. as children “cruel” and “racist.”

A White House spokesman said it is open to working with anyone interested in helping the president fulfill his agenda.

Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta said: “This administration cares deeply about job creation and opportunity for all Americans, and hearing from all stakeholders—including business, labor and community groups—is part of delivering for the American workforce.”

Meanwhile, United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams was given a place of honor near Mr. Trump during a visit to a historic auto plant this year in Ypsilanti, Mich. “They had me sitting right next to him, which was surprising,” Mr. Williams told reporters in July.

Mr. Williams says he has spoken with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer about changing the North American Free Trade Agreement, and found them to be supportive. Mr. Trump has promised to withdraw from the pact unless a better deal can be negotiated for U.S. businesses and workers.

Mr. Acosta impressed apprentice carpenters last month when he quizzed them on the proper fasteners for framing roofs during a tour of a training center, said William Waterkotte, leader of the carpenters union in the Pittsburgh region. “We’re going to support those who support working class, blue-collar Americans,” Mr. Waterkotte said.

The Mine Workers praised the administration this month after it announced the withdrawal from Mr. Obama’s Clean Power Plan and worked with a Republican-controlled Congress to secure health care for its retirees in the spring. “Labor unions assume we can’t convince Republicans to help, and I think we’ve demonstrated that they will,” said Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts.

Other unions aren’t as encouraged by the results.

Mr. Trump has “been a disappointment, even to those who voted for him,” said Teachers Federation President Randi Weingarten. “Infrastructure spending never got off the ground … and his first economic move was to strip people of their health insurance.”

The leadership of the AFL-CIO is longtime Democrats, said Gary Chaison, a Clark University professor emeritus of labor and industrial relations. But Mr. Trump’s message resonated with rank-and-file members, which weakens union’s leverage with either party.

“The AFL-CIO might prefer an old-fashioned enemy,” he said. “Someone they could hate.”

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, himself a former coal miner, is now in the position of attempting to unify disparate unions as he seeks re-election to the post he has held since 2009.

Mr. Trumka has had an uneven relationship with Mr. Trump so far. He said in April he was ready to work with the president and accepted a spot on the president’s manufacturing council. But he resigned from that council in August over Mr. Trump’s response to protests and violence in Charlottesville, Va., and is a vocal opponent of tax-overhaul plans. Mr. Trumka couldn’t be reached for comment.

“My members, like most Americans, are angry that the system isn’t working for them,” Mr. Trumka said in late August. “As a result, they were willing to take a risk on Donald Trump.”

Mr. Trumka said those voters aren’t getting what they hoped for because the “Wall Street wing” of the administration has won out.

“Instead of a bold, new direction, workers have gotten broken promises,” he said. “You’re beginning to see a lot of people come back across the bridge.”


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

  • Germany’s Southern Сorridor to Greater Eurasia: Away from Warsaw towards Damascus
  • Navalny’s volunteers: paid up PR-campaigns or a new political power?
  • Muqtada al-Sadr: A Way into the Arab World?


CTC Westpoint – Combating Terrorism

Beyond the Caliphate: Morocco

“Beyond the Caliphate: Morocco” is the third case study released as part of the Combating Terrorism Center’s Beyond the Caliphate project, an effort that seeks to evaluate how the Islamic State’s influence, operational reach, and capabilities are changing in areas that fall outside of its physical caliphate.

Even though there have been no attacks by the Islamic State in Morocco to date, this study finds that 33 terrorist plots linked to or inspired by the group have been uncovered in Morocco since June 2014. It also finds that slightly more than 60% of those plots had direct links to Islamic State operatives either based in Syria or Iraq, or within Morocco itself. In the majority of those cases, the Islamic State attempted to "remote control" and provide operational guidance to local cells from afar.

Given the Maghreb’s strategic location and the links between operatives of Moroccan descent and recent attacks in Europe, these attempted plots serve as a warning to the international community that Morocco is not to be overlooked. Indeed, as increasing numbers of communities within close proximity to Morocco see violence from actors linked to or inspired by the Islamic State, the data reviewed in this study demonstrates how Morocco could very well become a stage for similar forms of violence.

To access the project page, with link to the Morocco report, click here.


Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* Basler Zeitung: “Sie hat doch gar nichts getan.”

Katalonien und Spanien nähern sich dem Abgrund. Die EU-Politiker schweigen depressiv. Merkel versagt.

Das alles wird Angela Merkel bedauern. Aber Verantwortung wird sie nie dafür übernehmen.

Markus Somm

Der spanische Ministerpräsident Mariano Rajoy hat am Donnerstag bekannt gegeben, dass er Kataloniens Regierung entmachten und die Region von Madrid aus verwalten möchte. Das erlaubt ihm zwar ein Artikel in der Verfassung, der aber in den vergangenen 40 Jahren noch nie angewandt wurde, was deutlich macht, wie ungewöhnlich der Schritt ist.

Am Freitag verlangte er Neuwahlen. Währenddessen tagten in Brüssel die Staats- und Regierungschefs der EU – und die meisten hatten dazu nichts zu sagen, was sie als höhere Einsicht ausgaben, was tatsächlich aber wohl eher Ausdruck einer Eigenschaft ist, wie so typisch scheint für diese Generation von Berufspolitikern: Sie sind überfordert. Sie wissen weder ein noch aus.

Wie schon so oft hat sich die mächtigste Frau des Kontinents, Angela Merkel, dabei auch als die am offensichtlichsten überforderte erwiesen. Die Verfassung sei einzuhalten, beschied die deutsche Bundeskanzlerin den Katalanen, und stellte sich bedingungslos auf die Seite der spanischen Regierung, die im Begriff ist, ihr Land zu zerstören.

Was machtvoll und entschieden wirkte, war nichts anderes als eine Kapitulation vor den Umständen. Merkel glaubt wohl, sie könnte das aussitzen, was ohnehin ihre oberste Handlungsmaxime zu sein scheint, die sie zwar bisher an der Macht gehalten, aber in Europa und in Deutschland vor allem Ruinen hinterlassen hat. Manchmal müssen Politiker auch etwas tun, das Mut erfordert, Merkel tut nur etwas, wenn alle ihr sagen, was zu tun wäre – und auch dann wartet sie, bis es zu spät ist und ihr alle dies bestätigen.

Der Brutalo-Kurs

Insgeheim ahnen doch die meisten Politiker, dass Rajoy so nicht ans Ziel gelangt. Glaubt er denn wirklich, die Wünsche der Katalanen nach mehr Autonomie würden sich einfach in Luft auflösen, weil man sich fürchtet vor dem Verfassungsbruch? Niemand zittert in Barcelona. Wer hat Angst vor Mariano Rajoy, dem bärtigen Aussitzer selber, der eher wie ein frustrierter Primarlehrer vor der Pensionierung aussieht als wie ein Mann der Tat? So führen sich Verlierer auf, bevor sie verloren haben.

Wenn Rajoy diesen Weg weiterverfolgt, wird er am Ende Truppen einsetzen müssen, denn nur mit Gewalt wird er seinen Brutalo–Kurs durchsetzen können. Der Tages–Anzeiger hat ihn vor kurzem mit Recep Erdogan, dem türkischen Diktator, verglichen, ein grotesker Vergleich, denn im Gegensatz zu Erdogan fehlt es Rajoy wohl an der nötigen Brutalität. Die Türkei führt seit Jahrzehnten einen ungerechten Krieg gegen die eigenen Kurden, man tötet und löscht aus, man prügelt und misshandelt; die Spanier haben in ihrer langen, blutrünstigen Geschichte zwar bewiesen, dass sie das ebenso gut meistern, doch inzwischen ist das lange her.

Es mangelt an türkischer Routine. Rajoy, dem bärtigen Technokraten, traue ich das nicht mehr zu. Irgendwann wird es trotzdem eine gültige Volksabstimmung über die Unabhängigkeit von Katalonien geben – und Rajoy dürfte diese verlieren, weil er in der Zwischenzeit alles dafür getan hat, um auch noch den letzten Katalanen davon zu überzeugen, dass Spanien ein fremdes, feindseliges Regime darstellt.

Merkel wird das im Nachhinein alles bedauern. So wie sie wohl bedauert, dass sie eine Million Flüchtlinge einfach so aufgenommen hat und Deutschland mutwillig unsicher, ärmer und zerstrittener gemacht hat, genauso wie sie bedauert, dass ihre CDU zum ersten Mal seit dem Zweiten Weltkrieg ernsthaft von Konservativen bedrängt wird und auf lange Sicht ihre Mehrheitsfähigkeit eingebüsst hat, genauso wie sie auch bedauert, dass Grossbritannien die EU verlassen wird, was an erster Stelle die deutsche Bundeskanzlerin bewirkt hat, weil sie wie Rajoy auf Paragrafen herumgeritten ist, statt wie eine kluge Politikerin zu handeln.

Die Engländer, genauer: deren Premier David Cameron, hätten von der EU, also von Merkel, bloss einiger Konzessionen bedurft in Sachen Immigration, ein paar Paragrafen hätte man übersehen oder biegen müssen, damit England den Zustrom von Einwandern hätte besser steuern können – und es wäre nie zum Brexit gekommen.

Auch wird Merkel hinterher bedauern, dass die Verhandlungen, die jetzt über den Brexit stattfinden, von Seiten der EU so irrational aggressiv und stur geführt werden, als ob Rajoy damit betraut wäre – mit dem wahrscheinlichen Ergebnis, dass die Beziehungen zwischen Grossbritannien und der EU auf Dauer so gestört bleiben, dass wir alle hier in Europa Schaden nehmen.

Der Geist von Rajoy und Merkel

Die Briten haben Europa drei Mal mit dem Blut ihrer jungen Männer und Frauen vor dem Untergang gerettet: Sicher hätten sie eine viel, viel bessere Behandlung verdient. Doch das alles erinnert an den Umgang der EU mit der Schweiz: wer, wie auch wir, alle Regeln ernst nimmt und höflich bleibt, wird von der EU kujoniert und misshandelt – wer dagegen auf die Regeln pfeift und macht, was er will und dabei sich noch von den Deutschen alles bezahlen lässt, weil diese aus schlechtem Gewissen ohnehin alles bezahlen, was man von ihnen verlangt, dem gibt man nach.

Seit Jahren signalisieren wir Schweizer der EU, dass die Personenfreizügigkeit unser spezielles, da vielsprachiges und kleines Land überfordert, dass wir andere Regeln bräuchten oder etwas Nachsicht, ohne Erfolg, ohne Ergebnis, stattdessen werden Volksabstimmungen ignoriert, unsere Diplomaten ausgelacht (was diese sich gerne gefallen lassen), Ressentiments gegen uns angebliche Rosinenpicker gehegt und gepflegt (wobei wir im Gegensatz zu den meisten EU-Ländern für diese sauren Rosinen teuer und pünktlich bezahlen); kurz, es herrscht der Geist von Rajoy und Merkel in Brüssel, die indessen nicht aus Stärke oder Raffinesse so selbstgerecht auf Paragrafen thronen, sondern aus Schwäche und Ratlosigkeit.

Wenn es Merkel nämlich passt, weil sie ans Ende des Aussitzens gelangt ist, dann gelten für sie keine Regeln. Als sie eine Million Einwanderer über Nacht nach Deutschland einreisen liess, ohne ihr Kabinett, die EU oder sonst jemanden zu fragen, sprengte sie kurzerhand das Schengen- und Dublin-Abkommen in die Luft – mit Folgen, von denen sich Europa vielleicht nie mehr erholt.

Das alles wird Merkel bedauern. Aber Verantwortung wird sie nie dafür übernehmen.

Als Griechenland faktisch bankrott war, setzte Merkel zahllose Regeln ausser Kraft, auf die man sich einst geeinigt hatte, um den Euro zu einer tauglichen Währung zu machen. Mit anderen Worten: Merkel oder die EU beugen die Regeln, wann immer es ihnen kommod erscheint, und die gleichen Politiker und Funktionäre machen uns, oder den Briten oder den Katalanen dann Vorhaltungen, wenn wir schon nur darüber verhandeln möchten, die Regel zu ändern.

Das alles wird Merkel bedauern. Aber Verantwortung wird sie nie dafür übernehmen. Denn sie hat ja gar nichts getan – dürfte sie sagen, während sie traurig auf die Ruinenlandschaften blickt, die sie den Europäern hinterlassen hat. Sie hat ja gar nichts getan. Da hat sie allerdings recht. (Basler Zeitung)

Erstellt: 21.10.2017, 08:23 Uhr

CICERO: ANgela Merkel – Die Nichtregierungsorganisation

VON JENS PETER PAUL am 24. Oktober 2017

Die alte Regierung ist nur noch geschäftsführend im Amt und wird auf unbestimmte Zeit nicht mehr als eine lahme Ente sein. Dabei hätte es Alternativen gegeben. Aber Angela Merkel setzt auch hier auf: weiter wie bisher

Bis zum Dienstag, den 24. Oktober 2017 um 11 Uhr, war Angela Merkel noch im Vollbesitz ihrer exekutiven Kräfte als Kanzlerin der Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Mit der ersten Zusammenkunft des 19. Deutschen Bundestages endet dieser Zustand. In diesem Moment „erledigt“ sich ihr Amt, wie es im Grundgesetz schnörkellos heißt, was gegen 17 Uhr desselben Tages dadurch amtlich werden wird, dass der Bundespräsident der Kanzlerin und ihrem Rest-Kabinett in Schloss Bellevue die Entlassungsurkunden aushändigt.

Wie stets in solchen Fällen, in denen nicht unmittelbar darauf ein neuer Kanzler gewählt wird, ersucht der Bundespräsident im nächsten Moment die bis eben amtierende Kanzlerin, gemäß Artikel 69 Absatz III Grundgesetz „die Geschäfte bis zur Ernennung seines Nachfolgers weiterzuführen“ (eine weibliche Form ist im Verfassungstext unverändert nicht vorgesehen).

Diese Hilfskonstruktion vermeidet eine führungslose Zeit, auch wenn die Kanzlerin seit dem Wahlabend, erst recht seit dem unverzüglichen Abgang der SPD in die Opposition, ohne Mehrheit im Bundestag dasteht, auf die sie sich in Abstimmungen stützen könnte.

Lahme Ente auf unbestimmte Zeit

Angela Merkel schöpft noch eine gewisse Legitimation aus dem Wahlergebnis von 2013 sowie – wenn auch in deutlich schwächerer Form – aus dem jüngsten von 2017, in dem ihre CDU noch 26,8 Prozent der Stimmen auf sich vereinigen konnte. Die Kanzlerin und ihre geschrumpfte Ministerriege sind also ab Dienstagabend „verpflichtet“, den Regierungsladen geschäftsführend am Laufen zu halten. Mehr als die politische Gestaltungskraft einer lahmen Ente kann eine solche Konstellation jedoch nicht mehr für sich beanspruchen.

Innen- und außenpolitische Entscheidungen, die eine künftige Regierung über ein Mindestmaß hinaus einschränken und festlegen würden, sind ihr zwar nach dem Wortlaut der Verfassung nicht untersagt, würden aber jeden möglichen zukünftigen Koalitionspartner verprellen. Sie verbieten sich also aus politischem Kalkül. Das Ausland kann und wird Angela Merkel in der Zeit des bevorstehenden Interregnums nicht mehr für voll nehmen, weil jede Äußerung von ihr unter dem Vorbehalt steht, dass eine künftige Koalition ihr darin zu folgen bereit ist.

Merkel hat es verpasst zu gestalten

Angesichts des Experimentalcharakters eines Jamaika-Bündnisses wiegt diese Einschränkung deutlich stärker, als wenn heute bereits etwa eine Neuauflage einer Großen Koalition absehbar wäre oder auch eine schwarz-gelbe oder schwarz-grüne.

Bis Dienstag 11 Uhr hatte Merkel gemäß Wortlaut und Kommentierung der Verfassung noch die Möglichkeit, ihr Kabinett so umzubauen, dass ein Mindestmaß an Arbeitsfähigkeit und Stringenz bleibt. Nach Darstellung ihres Sprechers nutzte sie diese bewusst nicht, weil sie keinen Anlass dazu sah. Vielmehr befinde sich die Kanzlerin, sagte Steffen Seibert am Montag, ob regulär amtierend oder lediglich geschäftsführend, „in der absoluten demokratischen Normalität“. Eine geschäftsführende Regierung habe „quasi dieselben Rechte wie eine regulär im Amt befindliche“. Sie habe dieselben Befugnisse, „aber natürlich werden auch dabei die politischen Gepflogenheiten beachtet werden“.

Das zentrale Argument des Regierungssprechers lautet: Das wurde schon immer so gemacht – deshalb kann es nicht verkehrt sein. Dieses Argument ist formal zutreffend, missachtet allerdings eine Reihe von Besonderheiten, die die kommenden Wochen und Monate aus machtstrategischer und ganz praktischer P erspektive auszeichnen werden – und die es in dieser Form seit 1949 noch nicht gegeben hat.

Eine Regierung voller Widersprüche

Auf ungewisse Zeit – nach täglich wiederholter Darstellung der Sondierer sogar bis ins nächste Jahr hinein – leben wir nun mit einer Regierungsfrau- und -mannschaft voller interner Widersprüche:

1. Wolfgang Schäuble, tragende Säule der bisherigen Merkel-Kabinette, wurde verabschiedet ins Amt des Bundestagspräsidenten. Anstatt das Amt des Bundesfinanzministers neu zu besetzen, wird Merkels Vertrauter Peter Altmaier auf ihr Geheiß das nach dem Kanzleramt wichtigste Haus nebenbei mitverwalten. Sofern ihm dafür als „Jamaika“-Chefverhandler noch Zeit bleibt.

Die Korrektur- und Wächterfunktion des Finanzministers könnte ausgehebelt und ad absurdum geführt werden. CDU, CSU, FDP und Grüne schicken sich an, allfällige Meinungsverschiedenheiten mit Milliardensummen aus dem Staatshaushalt zuzuschütten. Jede Hoffnung, ein Kanzleramtsundnebenbeifinanzminister Altmaier werde hier wirkungsvoll im Interesse der Steuerzahler und späterer Generationen intervenieren, könnte sich als naiv herausstellen. Die CDU selbst nennt in einem internen Papier einen Aufwand von 100 Milliarden Euro, sollten die Wünsche der möglicherweise künftigen Koalitionäre realisiert werden.

2. Andrea Nahles, bisher Bundesarbeitsministerin und verantwortlich für die bestimmungsgemäße Verwendung von 137.582.419.000,00 Euro, den mit Abstand größten Einzelposten des Bundeshaushalts, hat ihr Haus fluchtartig verlassen, um sich den Posten der Oppositionsführerin zu sichern. Merkels Antwort: Anstatt umgehend für vollwertigen Ersatz zu sorgen, betraut sie Katharina Barley, die mit Abstand unerfahrenste Ministerin, mit dem Nebenjob der Leitung des vergleichsweise gigantischen Bundesministeriums für Arbeit und Soziales.

3. Alexander Dobrindt hinterlässt als Bundesminister für Verkehr und Infrastruktur bei seinem Wechsel auf die Position des CSU-Landesgruppenvorsitzenden eine derartige Fülle ungelöster Probleme und offener Baustellen, dass es eines echten Könners bedürfte, wenigstens das Schlimmste zu verhindern. Durchweg handelt es sich um Themen, die keinerlei Aufschub vertragen, schon gar nicht bis ins nächste Jahr hinein. Statt dessen wird Christian Schmidt, Bundesminister für Landwirtschaft und Ernährung, das bisher schon komplett überforderte Verkehrsministerium im Nebenjob mitverwalten. Sofern auch er dazu angesichts seiner Mitarbeit in den „Jamaika“-Gremien noch Zeit findet.

Die Grenze zur Wurschtigkeit überschritten

Ein gewisses Maß an Fahren auf Sicht mag angesichts der täglich neuen Wendungen der Weltlage unvermeidlich, sogar vernünftig sein. Mit der hier beschriebenen Handhabung der ihr anvertrauten Regierungsgewalt überschreitet Angela Merkel jedoch die Grenze zur Wurschtigkeit. Das mag folgenlos bleiben, wenn alles einigermaßen nach Plan läuft und nichts Unvorhergesehens passiert.

Die vergangenen zwei Jahre lehren uns aber: Sicher ist national und international gar nichts mehr. Es war vor diesem Hintergrund nicht nur Merkels Recht, sondern ihre Pflicht, die Möglichkeiten zu nutzen, die ihr das Grundgesetz bis zur Konstituierung des neuen Bundestages bietet. Zwei Wochen nach der Wahl, als die Abgänge und neuen Prioritäten ihrer Ministerriege ersichtlich waren, hätte sie das Kabinett so umbilden und personell neu ausstatten müssen, dass es für die bevorstehenden Monate ein Maximum an Kompetenz und Stabilität zu gewährleisten im Stande ist und daneben auch eine Personalreserve vorhält, sogar auch in der Form der Benennung eines Ministers ohne Geschäftsbereich, der notfalls weitere Vakanzen verhindern könnte.

Rumpfkabinett für Deutschland

Dazu gehört eine klare und logische Reaktion auf die Tatsache, dass sich die SPD noch am Wahlabend explizit in die Opposition verabschiedet hat. Das ist das gute Recht der SPD, zumal den Sozialdemokraten im Hinblick auf ihre Zukunft auch gar nichts anderes übrig blieb. Aber Merkel hätte diese – seither vielfach bekräftigte und durch Taten untermauerte – Entscheidung ebenso konsequent beantworten müssen mit der Entlassung aller SPD-Minister aus ihrer Regierung, solange sie das noch konnte und durfte. Sie unterließ es um des lieben Friedens willen, um nicht Staub aufzuwirbeln, weil sie die SPD im Notfall doch noch in eine Regierung locken zu können glaubt.

Als Folge hat Merkel, hat es das Land nun mit einem Rumpfkabinett zu tun, dessen eine Hälfte sich nicht nur gedanklich längst in der Opposition befindet, sondern auch ganz praktisch. Den Begriff der Kabinettsdisziplin können die verbliebenen Sozialdemokraten ab jetzt großzügig auslegen, wissend, dass eine geschäftsführende Kanzlerin ohne jede Disziplinierungs- oder Sanktionschance dasteht. Geschäftsführende Minister sind praktisch unkündbar. Allenfalls können sie sich selbst unter Hinweis auf Gesundheitsgründe entfernen. Der Chefin aber sind die Hände gebunden.

Deutsche Bahn und Glyphosat offenbaren das Problem

Wer eine unbesorgte Entfaltung endlich eigener Vorstellungen für eine lediglich abstrakte Gefahr hält, muss sich nur einmal die Rolle anschauen, die die Bundeswirtschaftsministerin in diesen Wochen bei allen Versuchen spielte und weiter spielt, den Bahn-Vorstand wieder arbeitsfähig zu machen. Die sozialdemokratischen Vertreter im DB-Aufsichtsrat blockieren auf ausdrückliche Anweisung von Brigitte Zypries alle Bemühungen, vakante Positionen zu besetzen. Stattdessen ergriffen weitere Manager die Flucht aus einem Konzern, dessen Funktionieren unmittelbar Einfluss hat auf den Alltag unzähliger Menschen und Unternehmen – übrigens auch im Ausland, das mehr und mehr fassunglos auf die deutsche Unfähigkeit reagiert, einen verlässlichen Schienenverkehr sicherzustellen.

Ein ähnlicher Konflikt kocht nun um die Zulassung von Glyphosat hoch: Der CSU-Landwirtschaftsminister ist unverändert strikt dafür, die SPD-Umweltministerin ist unverändert strikt dagegen. Bei der bevorstehenden finalen Abstimmung in Brüssel ist die Bundesrepublik aktionsunfähig. Ein innenpolitisch hochbrisantes Thema wird womöglich ohne Votum der Bundesregierung entschieden – mit Bindungswirkung für Deutschland, aber ohne demokratische Abstimmung hierzulande. Eine böse Sache, egal, wie man zu dem Thema stehen mag.

Unwahrscheinlich aber nicht ausgeschlossen

Das Nichthandeln der Bundeskanzlerin wiegt umso schwerer, als niemand, auch nicht die Kanzlerin selbst, mit Sicherheit von einem Zustandekommen einer CDU-CSU-FDP-Grünen-Koalition ausgehen darf. Horst Seehofer und Christian Lindner („Die Chance steht 50:50“) sind weniger berechenbar denn je. Mehrere Parteitage stehen aus, die zunächst erst einmal den Beginn konkreter Verhandlungen absegnen sollen – jeder einzelne ein Risiko. Woraus wiederum folgt: Es ist zwar nicht wahrscheinlich, aber auch alles andere als ausgeschlossen, dass es nach einem Scheitern der Verhandlungen zunächst eine Minderheitsregierung Merkel geben wird mit anschließenden neuen Versuchen, eine Regierungsmehrheit zusammenzubringen – mit noch einmal geringeren Erfolgschancen. Das hätte dann irgendwann 2018, vielleicht sogar erst 2019 Neuwahlen zur Folge. Womit alles wieder von vorne begänne.

Dieses Szenario nicht wenigstens im Hinterkopf zu behalten, sondern ohne jeden Plan B mit einem dezimierten, zerstrittenen, illoyalen und schon aus praktischen Gründen strukturell überforderten Behelfskabinett in die kommenden Monate hineinzuschlittern, ist das Gegenteil verantwortlicher und umsichtiger Führungsarbeit, die auch überraschende Ereignisse und Entwicklungen antizipiert.

Merkel hat eine große Chance vergeben

Zumal die Bundeskanzlerin durch Unterlassung auch eine großartige Chance ohne Not vergibt. Nach dem miserablen Wahlergebnis hätte sich Frau Merkel ein Kabinett nach ihren Vorstellungen zusammenstellen können. Die SPD-Minister hätte sie durch angesehene, gerne auch parteilose Fachleute ersetzen können.

Oder sie hätte „Jamaika“ schon einmal ganz praktisch vorweggenommen – durch eine Komposition einer Ministerriege, die schwarze, grüne und liberale Elemente und damit die Chance enthält, das Potential einer solchen ungewohnten Konstellation praktisch zu beweisen.

Eine dritte, vielleicht sogar klügste Option hat Merkel ohne Not missachtet: Die Bildung eines überparteilichen Übergangs-Kabinetts, das bis zu ihrer Wiederwahl nach erfolgreichen Koalitionsverhandlungen ziemlich genau das neue Kräfteverhältnis im Bundestag widerspiegelt, also ein getreues Abbild des Wählerwillens darstellt. Wer dieses Angebot ablehnt, müsste damit leben, dass sie offene Ministerposten mit eigenem Personal bestückt – bis hin zu einem reinen CDU-CSU-Kabinett.

Was macht Angela Merkel eigentlich, wenn die SPD ihre Minister übermorgen komplett aus der Regierung abzieht – etwa, weil sie sich über irgendetwas tierisch geärgert hat? Sicher: Die Minister sind „verpflichtet“, der Bitte der Kanzlerin zu entsprechen und geschäftsführend weiterzuarbeiten. Aber: Sie könnten sich arbeitsunfähig melden (so die führenden Verfassungskommentare), oder es könnte eine andere Situation eintreten, die es ihnen unzumutbar erscheinen lässt, das Amt weiterzuführen. Und für einen waidwunden Sozialdemokraten gilt manches schnell als unzumutbar.

Ein überfordertes Reste-Kabinett

Fazit: Unsere Kanzlerin geht mit ihrer Das-wurde-immer-schon-so-gemacht-Haltung ein nicht unerhebliches Risiko ein, plötzlich für Monate mit einer schon aus praktischen, weil zeitlichen Gründen überforderten Reste-Rampe an Kabinett dazustehen – ohne Personal, ohne Mehrheit, ohne Plan. Sie liefert der politischen Konkurrenz frei Haus ein Erpressungspotential, das ihr ein Scheitern von „Jamaika“ regelrecht verbietet. Was für die inhaltliche Rest-Substanz mindestens der CDU nichts Gutes verheißt. Ihre zahlreicher werdenden Kritiker innerhalb der Union werden auch das nicht lustig finden.

Regierungssprecher Steffen Seibert dagegen gibt zu erkennen, dass er bereits alle Fragen im Hinblick auf Arbeitsfähigkeit, Solidität und politischen Zusammenhalt der geschäftsführenden Regierung unter einer geschäftsführenden Kanzlerin für absurd hält: „Ich glaube, sie fühlt sich gut gerüstet. Mehr habe ich dazu aber nicht zu sagen.“äftsführende-regierung-nichtregierungsorganisation


The Client

Hillary Clinton and the Democrats paid for a former spy to work with Russians to smear Trump.

How did the United States government come to turn its vast surveillance powers upon the 2016 presidential campaign of the party out of power? It appears that part of the answer arrived Tuesday night, when the Washington Post reported:

The Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee helped fund research that resulted in a now-famous dossier containing allegations about President Trump’s connections to Russia and possible coordination between his campaign and the Kremlin, people familiar with the matter said.

Marc E. Elias, a lawyer representing the Clinton campaign and the DNC, retained Fusion GPS, a Washington firm, to conduct the research.

After that, Fusion GPS hired dossier author Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer with ties to the FBI and the U.S. intelligence community, according to those people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The facts as reported by the Post last night bear a remarkable resemblance to the scenario sketched out in July by the Journal’s Kimberley A. Strassel:

Here’s a thought: What if it was the Democratic National Committee or Hillary Clinton’s campaign? What if that money flowed from a political entity on the left, to a private law firm, to Fusion, to a British spook, and then to Russian sources?

Thanks to the dogged House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes’ subpoena of Fusion GPS bank records, those involved in this effort must have known that the truth about this scheme would soon be revealed. Perhaps they sought to manage its release. But the New York Times is a little less kind than the Washington Post in describing the Perkins Coie lawyer at the center of this secret effort to smear Donald Trump:

Earlier this year, Mr. Elias had denied that he had possessed the dossier before the election.

Anita Dunn, a veteran Democratic operative working with Perkins Coie, said on Tuesday that Mr. Elias “was certainly familiar with some of, but not all, of the information” in the dossier. But, she said “he didn’t have and hadn’t seen the full document, nor was he involved in pitching it to reporters.” And Mr. Elias “was not at liberty to confirm Perkins Coie as the client at that point,” Ms. Dunn said.

Brian Fallon, who served as a spokesman for the Clinton campaign, on Tuesday wrote on Twitter that he did not know that Mr. Steele had been working on behalf of the Clinton campaign before the election.

“If I had, I would have volunteered to go to Europe and try to help him,” Mr. Fallon wrote.

Mr. Fallon tells a similar story to the Washington Post:

“The first I learned of Christopher Steele or saw any dossier was after the election,” Fallon said. “But if I had gotten handed it last fall, I would have had no problem passing it along and urging reporters to look into it.”

The Post notes that the rumors generated by this Clinton dirt-digging effort against Mr. Trump were circulating in Washington as early as the summer of 2016. The Times reports that the DNC and the Clinton campaign paid Perkins Coie more than $12 million during the 2016 election campaign. Even for such well-funded political operations as the Clintons and the DNC, that’s a lot of money. Certainly they expected a return on their investment.

Read today’s full column » ( see att.)

************************************************************************************************** Politics: From Vision to Action

Barandat*Japan’s Election Warning to China

How Kim and Xi helped Shinzo Abe keep his supermajority.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands before their bilateral meeting, on the sideline of the G-20 Summit in Hangzhou, China, Sept. 5, 2016.

Japan’s ruling coalition performed better than expected in Sunday’s election, retaining its two-thirds majority in the lower house of the Diet. That gives Prime Minister Shinzo Abe a fighting chance to amend Japan’s pacifist constitution by his target date of 2020. For that he can thank some unlikely allies: China’s supreme leader Xi Jinping and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.

Mr. Abe has long wanted to change the constitution’s Article Nine, which forever renounces war. But it was only after North Korea began to test nuclear weapons and long-range missiles that his dream became feasible.

Twice in the past two months, Japanese across the country were awakened by civil defense announcements that North Korean missiles were flying over Japan. Many were shocked to learn their government can do little to counter Kim Jong Un’s threat to sink Japan with nuclear weapons. That’s when approval ratings for Mr. Abe, who has boosted defense spending since 2013, began to rise, encouraging him to call a snap election.

Japan was content to live under the U.S. nuclear umbrella through Cold War tensions with the Soviet Union. But Beijing’s support for North Korea as it achieved a nuclear breakout radically changed the equation.

Instead of facing a superpower constrained by mutually assured destruction, Japan is threatened by an erratic young dictator worshipped by his people as a demigod. Nobody knows how he would behave in a crisis. And Japanese may wonder whether the U.S. would retaliate for an attack on Tokyo when that could put Los Angeles at risk.

Moreover, Xi Jinping has stirred enmity against Japan for domestic political purposes. Since he came to power in 2012, China imposed an air-defense identification zone over the disputed Senkaku Islands controlled by Japan. The number of Chinese ships and planes challenging Japanese control of the islands dramatically increased.

Beijing is quick to accuse Mr. Abe of returning Japan to militarism. But his measures to shore up the country’s defenses are moderate and long overdue. In 2014 his administration reinterpreted the constitution to allow collective self-defense, the cornerstone of most alliances among democracies. That makes it possible for Japan to take action to shoot down a North Korean missile crossing its airspace on the way to the U.S.

Japan currently lacks offensive weapons such as bombers or cruise missiles that could strike North Korean missile sites. Earlier this year, the Abe administration raised the possibility of buying cruise missiles from the U.S.

As North Korea expands its nuclear arsenal and develops new missiles, Japanese may demand their own nuclear deterrent. This possibility is already being discussed in defense circles. With plenty of plutonium on hand from its civilian nuclear program, Japan could conduct its first nuclear test within a matter of months.

Sunday’s election shows that Beijing’s failure to rein in Kim Jong Un is having real political consequences. Without the threat from North Korea, Mr. Abe would have lost his supermajority, and possibly the election. If Xi Jinping doesn’t want Japan to rearm, he can cut off Kim Jong Un’s food and oil lifelines. Otherwise the balance of power in Northeast Asia will shift in ways China won’t like.


Middle East

Carnegie-Moscow: Dagestan’s Main Problem Isn’t Clans. It’s the Russian System

  • Dagestan’s conflicts are the most complex and tangled in the North Caucasus. –

Dagestan’s outgoing leader was also once presented as a figure who would instill order in the republic and combat clan rule. Indeed, Ramazan Abdulatipov tried to reform the regional elite. But clan rule, nepotism, corruption, and the threat of terrorism are still there four years later. It has proved impossible to modernize Dagestan without changing the Russian system as a whole.

Eleven of Russia’s regional leaders have been replaced in the last few weeks, but the most interesting reshuffle is undoubtedly that in Dagestan, where Vladimir Vasilyev, head of the United Russia faction in the State Duma, has replaced Ramazan Abdulatipov, meaning that a politician who wasn’t born in Dagestan and has never lived there has been put in charge of an extremely complex region.

Dagestan is the largest republic in the North Caucasus, and Russia’s most multiethnic region: its 3 million people represent several dozen ethnic groups, ranging from relatively large ones to very small ones living in just a few villages, or even in just one. The republic has numerous socioeconomic and ethnopolitical problems, and serves as a base for terrorist groups, primarily Vilayat Kavkaz, a local affiliate of the Islamic State.

Vasilyev has already made a number of notable statements, including promising Dagestan generous financial support and a staffing policy that won’t involve ethnic quotas. And yet the similarities are striking to when Abdulatipov was appointed head of the republic in January 2013.

Although Abdulatipov was born in Dagestan, he also reached his career heights outside of the region, having served as a State Duma deputy, deputy prime minister and minister in the federal government, and the Russian ambassador to Tajikistan, among other positions.

The Kremlin billed Abdulatipov’s appointment as part of a new path directed at instilling order and combating clan rule and the privatization of state functions in the republic. The new leader was seen as a unifying figure for those tired of informal rule and shadow politics.

Abdulatipov did indeed try to reform the republic’s elite, and removed several previously untouchable heavyweights from power, including Makhachkala Mayor Said Amirov, Derbent Mayor Imam Yaraliyev, and the head of the Russian Pension Fund in Dagestan, Sagid Murtazaliyev. They were all removed from their posts amid high-profile criminal cases.

But clan rule, nepotism, corruption, and the threat of terrorism are still there four years on, and it’s Abdulatipov’s associates who are now accused of being nepotistic and corrupt. Hopes for a quick fix with the help of a carpetbagger, therefore, look naïve at the very least.

It is actually largely incorrect to assume that Dagestan’s central problem is clans. This belief stems from an unjustified view of the republic as a backward ethnic periphery, where all issues are resolved by omnipotent clans. It’s also believed that only a strong outside figure with no ties to local elites can put the clans in their place.

Such perceptions are clearly flawed. Members of these “clans” have participated in both regional and national politics for years, and in the executive and legislative branches at a federal level. The impenetrable barrier between the “backward” North Caucasus region and “progressive” Moscow simply doesn’t exist.

Moreover, before invoking the popular term“clan rule,” one should understand what precipitated this type of behavior. Extralegal and informal governing principles in the region resulted from the complex transformations of our times rather than from the region’s ethnographic specifics.

Complex sociopolitical processes took place in Dagestan without the oversight required from the state, and the republic’s secular courts and law enforcement officials were unable to guarantee people protection and security. This hands-off approach elevated various power groups that have constructed social relations and political order the way they saw fit. They also managed to establish independent dialogue with federal structures, and on numerous occasions helped the Russian state, for instance, in repelling Chechen Islamist Shamil Basayev’s attempted invasion of Dagestan in 1999, as well as in many other less high-profile cases. For some reason, no one talked about the archaic social structure of the North Caucasus and the need to combat clan rule on those occasions.

It’s true that Dagestan has far more terrorist attacks and criminal incidents than other regions. It replaced Chechnya as Russia’s most violent region back in 2005. The Caucasian Knot news website, which has studied armed violence in the North Caucasus for many years, reports a 12 percent increase in the number of incidents in Dagestan in 2016. The number of casualties went up 28 percent in the same period.

Dagestan’s conflicts are the most complex and tangled in the North Caucasus. Ethnic strife persists, but those conflicts are less pronounced than they were in the 1990s, when political liberalization and the rehabilitation of repressed ethnic groups reignited a lot of mutual grievances. The shortage of available land and the ongoing process of migration from the mountains to the plains and from the villages to the cities has eroded Dagestan’s traditional ethnic communities.

While the first post-Soviet conflicts stemmed from past problems, the current ones are new and revolve around land. The main issue discussed at the All-Russian Congress of the Nogai People held in the village of Terekli-Mekteb on July 14, 2017, concerned the right to municipal lands for distant-pasture cattle rearing.

On the other hand, ethnic problems are now supplemented by conflicts between Islamic religious groups. The number of mosques in Dagestan has grown sixty times in the twenty years since the Soviet collapse, and Islam has become an important factor, both in public and in the republic’s everyday life. Dagestan’s re-Islamization has divided its relatively religiously homogenous society into Sufi Islam supporters, moderate Salafis (those who don’t recognize the jurisdiction of the spiritual administration of Dagestani Muslims), and radical jihadists.

Instead of acting as an arbiter in such cases, the authorities often fall back on administrative pressure and the use of force. Abdulatipov gave up on attempts to establish a dialogue between the republic’s spiritual administration and moderate Salafis that started in 2012.

The current situation would be tough for any leader. Entering into a dialogue with unofficial Islam is seen as making a concession to radicals and even terrorists.

But it’s impossible to resolve the issue with special operations alone when dealing with a republic whose population is 90 percent Muslim and increasingly religious. While marginalizing the extremists, the republic’s leadership should try to engage moderate forces, even those that are critical of the government and religious establishment.

Finally, there are conflicts between the local elites and the so-called “Moscow Dagestanis,” some of whom, having achieved success in the Russian capital, would now like to have an impact on events back home.

The notorious clans are not going anywhere: they have been part of government all over Russia for quite a while. While there could be an attempt to minimize their informal influence on important state issues, it would be naïve to think that “correcting” and modernizing Dagestan can happen without fundamental changes in the Russian system of government as a whole.


*Massenbach’s Recommendation*

Friends of Europe study

Jumping over its shadow – Germany and the future of European defence /


11 Oct 2017 … highlights the crucial position of Germany, the most powerful economy in Europe with the biggest potential to build a European defence union, along with France. Its publication is especially timely as Chancellor Angela Merkel begins coalition negotiations with the liberal-right Free Democrats and the anti-nuclear Greens, in which defence is likely to be a bone of contention … Available in both English and German …

… The study’s five chapters include:

-The bear and the shadow

-‘Partially ready to defend’

-Shouldering arms? Germany’s armaments dilemmas

-Fourth time lucky for EU defence?

-Keep going, Germany!

… Heutzutage ist es eine Priorität von Verteidigungsstrategen auf beiden Seiten des Atlantiks, Deutschland zu überzeugen, einen weitaus größeren Teil der Last der NATO zu tragen. Und nicht nur die der NATO. Eine Stärkung der noch ziemlich unentwickelten „Sicherheits- und Verteidigungsunion“ ist von oberster Priorität … und das erhöht den Druck auf Deutschland, seine militärische Leistungsfähigkeit zu steigern. Wie bereitwillig, schnell und effektiv die Bundesrepublik dazu in der Lage sein wird, ist das Thema dieses Berichts …

Der dunkle Schatten des 20. Jahrhunderts und die vielfältigen Mechanismen gegenseitiger Kontrolle, die nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg in die föderalen Institutionen der Bundesrepublik eingebaut wurden, legen Deutschlands Bereitschaft und Fähigkeit, jenseits seiner Grenzen zu agieren, enge psychologische und politische Schranken auf. Europas wirtschaftlich stärkste und bevölkerungsreichste Nation ist schon lange das schwächste Glied in der Kette, wenn es um militärische Entschlossenheit geht

Die deutsche Umkehr fällt zufällig mit der Wahl eines neuen, proeuropäischen Präsidenten in Frankreich zusammen, Emmanuel Macron, der bemüht ist, die Verteidigungszusammenarbeit in Europa und bilateral mit Berlin zu einer Zeit voranzutreiben …

Aufgrund der Größe seiner Wirtschaft, bei weitem Europas größter, ist es von entscheidender Bedeutung für die europäische Sicherheit, wie Berlin seine zusätzlichen Verteidigungseuros ausgibt.

Kein anderes Land kann so viele Mittel investieren wie diese Nation mit 82 Millionen Einwohnern und ein Bruttosozialprodukt von 3,13 Billionen Euro pro Jahr

Frankreich würde es vorziehen, wenn Berlin rasch einsetzbare Projektionskräfte priorisiert, um an Krisenmanagementoperationen außerhalb von Europa teilzunehmen. EU Beamte wollen, dass die Deutschen ihre Priorität auf Cybersicherheit und einsetzbare Polizei- und Sicherheitsausbilder legen, um bei der Stärkung von Nachkriegsgesellschaften zu helfen.

Das Risiko besteht darin, dass Deutschland im nächsten Jahrzehnt Milliarden ausgeben könnte, um eine schwere, weitgehend statische Armee aufzubauen, die auf das wartet, was die meisten Experten für den unwahrscheinlichsten Eventualfall halten – die russische Invasion eines NATO Verbündeten.

Das wäre vielen Deutschen lieber, da sie besser damit zurechtkämen, verbündetes Territorium zu verteidigen als im Ausland einzugreifen. Doch es könnte eine kostspielige Art sein, sich auf vergangene Krisen vorzubereiten, statt wahrscheinlichere künftige Sicherheitsherausforderungen in Europas erweiterter Nachbarschaft zu lösen

Für Deutschland besteht die Herausforderung darin, über den Schatten seiner Vergangenheit zu springen, eine echte strategische Kultur zu entwickeln, eine aussagekräftigere Außenpolitik zu betreiben und brauchbarere Streitkräfte aufzubauen, die mit entsprechender Ausbildung und Ausrüstung bei Bedarf schnell einsetzbar sind

Um seine psychologischen und rechtlichen Handschellen zu lösen, muss Berlin Wege finden, die parlamentarische Kontrolle der Streitkräfte flexibler zu gestalten, Waffenausfuhrbeschränkungen zu erleichtern und die überalterten Verteidigungsbudget- und Beschaffungsprozesse zu modernisieren, um so ein brauchbarer Partner seiner europäischen Verbündeten zu werden …

Deutschland hat keine umfassende nationale Sicherheitsstrategie und keinen nationalen Sicherheitsrat nach amerikanischem Vorbild, um seine Außen-, Sicherheits- und Finanzpolitik zu koordinieren …

Das seit Jahrzehnten von Juniorpartnern der Koalition – Sozialdemokraten, Freien Demokraten oder Grünen – geleitete Auswärtige Amt befasst sich mit dem Dialog mit Russland, der wohlmeinenden, aber wirkungslosen Organisation für Sicherheit und Zusammenarbeit in Europa, der multilateralen Waffenkontrolle und der Entwicklungshilfe. Das Verteidigungsministerium ist kämpferischer, hat jedoch im Regierungsgefüge weniger Antriebskraft und ist politisch skandalträchtig.

„Diese beiden Ministerien müssen eine bessere strategische Ausrichtung erreichen. Es besteht das Risiko, dass diese beiden Kulturen in einer Zeit kollidieren, in der Deutschland eine Führungsrolle übernehmen muss und sogar versuchen, sich gegenseitig zu untergraben“, äußerte der Diplomat …

Ein hochrangiger General der Bundeswehr, der anonym bleiben will, äußerte, aus seiner Sicht befinde sich Deutschland im Sinne der sogenannten „Gerassimow-Doktrin“ bereits in einem Konflikt mit Russland.

In einem 2013 erschienenen Essay wies des russische Stabschef General Valery Gerassimow auf die Verwischung der Grenzen zwischen Frieden und Krieg im 21. Jahrhundert hin und argumentierte, dass „nicht-militärische Mittel“ zur Durchsetzung strategischer und politischer Ziele jetzt oft effektiver seien als der Einsatz von Waffen …

Als Antwort sagte der General, Deutschland müsse seine militärischen Kapazitäten aufstocken, zwar nicht auf das Niveau des Kalten Krieges, aber genug, um Moskau davon zu überzeugen, dass ein Eingreifen in das Hoheitsgebiet der NATO, wie z. B. der Versuch, die baltischen Staaten zu destabilisieren, zu einem größeren Krieg eskalieren würde und nicht auf einen regionalen Konflikt beschränkt werden könne.

Auch zum Schutze des Zusammenhalts von NATO und EU seien Maßnahmen notwendig, um Versuchen entgegenzuwirken, „Fake News“, Propaganda, Cyberattacken und andere verdeckte Mittel zu nutzen, um Spaltungen in der deutschen Gesellschaft zu schaffen und zu instrumentalisieren. Die Bundeswehr richtete als Reaktion auf … wachsende Bedrohung der militärisch und zivil kritischen Infrastrukturen im April 2017 ihr eigenes Cyberkommando ein.

Aber aus juristischen und historischen Gründen scheint Deutschland weniger gewillt als Frankreich oder die USA, sich als Antwort auf eine Attacke auf eine offensive Cyber-Kriegsführung vorzubereiten … Was im Wesentlichen fehlt, ist ein gemeinsamer europäischer Ansatz bei der Cyberabwehr. In einem virtuellen Raum, der keine nationalen Grenzen kennt, waren die Reaktionen der europäischen Länder bisher deprimierend national, zum Teil aufgrund der Tendenz bestimmter deutscher Kreise, die USA als eine größere Cybergefahr für ihre Verbündeten zu betrachten als Russland oder China

Frankreich und Deutschland sind beide enthusiastische Befürworter einer europäischen Verteidigungs- und Sicherheitsunion, liegen jedoch noch in Detailfragen auseinander.

Keines der beiden Länder ist von der Vorstellung begeistert, dass die Kommission oder die Europäische Verteidigungsagentur wesentlichen Einfluss auf ihren Verteidigungshaushalt nehmen

Die europäische Verteidigungsintegration braucht messbare Zielvorgaben, die von der politischen Führung der EU regelmäßig überprüft werden können. Nur so lassen sich erzielte Fortschritte messen um zu gewährleisten, dass die Rhetorik zur „europäischen Verteidigung“ tatsächlich konkrete Mittel und Kapazitäten hervorbringt …

Trotzdem stehen die Sterne für entscheidende Fortschritte derzeit besonders günstig. Deutschland und Frankreich genießen für die kommenden vier Jahre eine relative politische Stabilität und sind beide entschlossen, künftig enger zusammenzuarbeiten.

Die ideologische Blockade durch Großbritannien besteht nicht mehr …

Aufgrund der zunehmenden globalen Bedrohung ist Europa gezwungen, mehr für seine eigene Sicherheit zu tun. Bei den Verteidigungsausgaben gab es endlich eine Trendwende und die öffentliche Unterstützung einer „europäischen Verteidigung“ war noch nie so stark wie heute

Doch während sowohl Franzosen als auch Deutsche durchweg mehr europäische Verteidigung fordern, meinen sie damit nicht unbedingt dasselbe.

Vereinfacht ausgedrückt haben die Franzosen Zweifel am „europäischen“ Teil und den Deutschen ist „Verteidigung“ weiterhin suspekt. Wie es der französische Stratege Fabrice Pothier ausdrückt: „Das selten anerkannte Paradox besteht darin, dass europäische Verteidigung für Berlin vor allem die Verteidigung Europas im Rahmen der NATO gemäß Artikel 5 bedeutet, für Paris jedoch mehr Autonomie für Europa. Während Frankreich nicht bereit ist, seine Souveränität in Verteidigungsfragen aufzugeben und sich voll in die NATO zu integrieren, verlässt sich Deutschland weiterhin auf Garantien der USA“ …

Viel hängt davon ab, welche Regierungskoalition in Deutschland gebildet wird. Jede Koalition wird sicher über genug haushaltspolitischen Spielraum verfügen, um die Verteidigungsausgaben zu erhöhen. Eine Koalition der CDU/CSU von Kanzlerin Angela Merkel mit der liberalen FDP würde vermutlich die Ausgaben am schnellsten steigern und könnte bereit sein, der Bundeswehr die Teilnahme an Auslandseinsätzen zu erleichtern. Aber selbst unter einer solchen Regierung dürfte Berlin kaum in die Nähe des Ausgabeziels der NATO kommen …

Einiges spricht dafür, dem Vorschlag des Leiters der Münchner Sicherheitskonferenz Wolfgang Ischinger zu folgen und eine breiter gefasste Kennzahl von drei Prozent des BIP anzustreben, in der dann neben den Rüstungsausgaben auch die Entwicklungshilfe und andere zivile Instrumente im Bereich Krisenmanagement und Staatsaufbau enthalten sind




… Deutschland und Frankreich könnten die Ständige Strukturierte Zusammenarbeit (PESCO) nicht nur für einfache Aufgaben wie ein gemeinsames europäisches Sanitätskorps, Logistik und Cyberverteidigung nutzen, sondern auch für die Aufstellung einer echten europäischen schnellen Eingreiftruppe, mit der die EU Krisenbewältigungseinsätze durchführen kann. Oder sie könnten die Schaffung eines europäischen Polizei- und Strafverfolgungskorps für Staatsbildungsmissionen unterstützen …


… Merkel, die einflussreichste Politikerin in Europa und die erfahrenste Regierungschefin im Westen, kämpft jetzt um ihren Platz in der Geschichte. Will sie als die Kanzlerin in Erinnerung bleiben, die sich mit ruhiger Hand und halbherzigen Maßnahmen in letzter Minute durch die Eurokrise gewurstelt hat? Wenn sie ein bleibendes Vermächtnis hinterlassen will, verfügt sie über genug politisches Kapital und haushaltspolitische Reserven, um die europäische Verteidigung mit einem kühnen Wurf vor anzubringen. Wenn sie dieses Thema zur Chefsache macht, kann sie – gemeinsam mit dem französischen Präsidenten Emmanuel Macron – ein europäisches Erbe hinterlassen, das sich an der Rolle von Helmut Kohl bei der Schaffung einer gemeinsamen Währung messen kann.

Dafür sind eine ehrgeizige Umsetzung der Ständigen Strukturierten Zusammenarbeit und umfassende industrielle Tauschgeschäfte nötig, die neue Rüstungskooperationsprojekte anregen. Dieses Vorgehen würde auch die NATO stärken …

Das Land braucht nur eine entschiedenere politische Führung und den Willen, zugunsten der europäischen Kooperation Kompromisse bei der Anwendung seiner hohen moralischen Grundsätze einzugehen. Es ist an der Zeit, über die Schatten der eigenen Vergangenheit zu springen


European External Action Service

A Security and Defence Union in the making: recent developments and what’s coming up

20/10/2017 – The last 12 months have seen momentous developments in the area of security and defence. EEAS Deputy Secretary General for Security and Defence Pedro Serrano looks at how the EU is implementing the Global Strategy which set the security of our Union as a priority … Member States have to accept that only through reinforced cooperation will they be able to meet the security expectations of their citizens. The EU has to prove that it is the single most capable cooperation platform that will help its Member States achieve their security objectives in cooperation with others …

EU 28 leaders look to launch "permanent structured cooperation" on defence before end 2017

20/10/2017 – The European council comprised of heads of state and government of all 28 EU member states on 19 October confirmed in its Conclusions the timeline set out by EU High Representative Federica Mogherini to launch Permanent Structured Cooperation in the field of defence before the end of the year, with a view to implementing the first joint projects in 2018. Leaders also welcomed work on the coordination of defence plans and on strenghening defence research and development through the European Defence Fund …

19/10/2017 Factsheet: Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO)

19/10/2017 Factsheet: Implementation Plan on Security and Defence

19/10/2017 Factsheet: EU-NATO cooperation


Fats Domino, One of Rock ’n’ Roll’s First Stars, Is Dead at 89

Mr. Domino performing in 2007 on NBC’s “Today” show.

Fats Domino, the New Orleans rhythm-and-blues singer whose two-fisted boogie-woogie piano and nonchalant vocals, heard on dozens of hits, made him one of the biggest stars of the early rock ’n’ roll era, has died in Louisiana. He was 89.

His death was confirmed by his brother-in-law and former road manager Reggie Hall, who said he had no other details. Mr. Domino lived in Harvey, La., across the Mississippi River from New Orleans.

Mr. Domino had more than three dozen Top 40 pop hits through the 1950s and early ’60s, among them “Blueberry Hill,” “Ain’t It a Shame” (also known as “Ain’t That a Shame”), “I’m Walkin’,” “Blue Monday” and “Walkin’ to New Orleans.” Throughout he displayed both the buoyant spirit of New Orleans, his hometown, and a droll resilience that reached listeners He sold 65 million singles in those years, with 23 gold records, making him second only to Elvis Presley as a commercial force. Presley acknowledged Mr. Domino as a predecessor.

“A lot of people seem to think I started this business,” Presley told Jet magazine in 1957. “But rock ’n’ roll was here a long time before I came along. Nobody can sing that music like colored people. Let’s face it: I can’t sing it like Fats Domino can. I know that.”

Rotund and standing 5 feet 5 inches — he would joke that he was as wide as he was tall — Mr. Domino had a big, infectious grin, a fondness for ornate, jewel-encrusted rings and an easygoing manner in performance; even in plaintive songs his voice had a smile in it. And he was a master of the wordless vocal, making hits out of songs full of “woo-woo”s and “la-la”s.

Working with the songwriter, producer and arranger David Bartholomew, Mr. Domino and his band carried New Orleans parade rhythms into rock ’n’ roll and put a local stamp on nearly everything they touched, even country tunes like “Jambalaya” or big-band songs like “My Blue Heaven” and “When My Dreamboat Comes Home.”

Antoine Dominique Domino Jr. was born on Feb. 26, 1928, the youngest of eight children in a family with Creole roots. He grew up in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans, where he spent most of his life.

Music filled his life from the age of 10, when his family inherited an old piano. After his brother-in-law Harrison Verrett, a traditional-jazz musician, wrote down the notes on the keys and taught him a few chords, Antoine threw himself at the instrument — so enthusiastically that his parents moved it to the garage.

He was almost entirely self-taught, picking up ideas from boogie-woogie masters like Meade Lux Lewis, Pinetop Smith and Amos Milburn. “Back then I used to play everybody’s records; everybody’s records who made records,” he told Offbeat magazine in 2004. “I used to hear ’em, listen at ’em five, six, seven, eight times and I could play it just like the record because I had a good ear for catchin’ notes and different things.”

He attended the Louis B. Macarty School but dropped out in the fourth grade to work as an iceman’s helper. “In the houses where people had a piano in their rooms, I’d stop and play,” he told USA Today in 2007. “That’s how I practiced.”

In his teens, he started working at a club called the Hideaway with a band led by the bassist Billy Diamond, who nicknamed him Fats. Mr. Domino soon became the band’s frontman and a local draw.

“Fats was breaking up the place, man,” Mr. Bartholomew told The Cleveland Plain Dealer in 2010. “He was singing and playing the piano and carrying on. Everyone was having a good time. When you saw Fats Domino, it was: ‘Let’s have a party!’ ”

He added: “My first impression was a lasting impression. He was a great singer. He was a great artist. And whatever he was doing, nobody could beat him.”

In 1947 Mr. Domino married Rosemary Hall, and they had eight children, Antoine III, Anatole, Andre, Anonio, Antoinette, Andrea, Anola and Adonica. His wife died in 2008. A complete list of survivors was not immediately available.

In 1949 Mr. Bartholomew brought Lew Chudd, the owner of Imperial Records in Los Angeles, to the Hideaway. Chudd signed Mr. Domino on the spot, with a contract, unusual for the time, that paid royalties rather than a one-time purchase of songs.

Immediately, Mr. Domino and Mr. Bartholomew wrote “The Fat Man,” a cleaned-up version of a song about drug addiction called “Junkers Blues,” and recorded it with Mr. Bartholomew’s studio band. By 1951 it had sold a million copies.

Mr. Domino’s trademark triplets, picked up from “It’s Midnight,” a 1949 record by the boogie-woogie pianist and singer Little Willie Littlefield, appeared on his next rhythm-and-blues hit, “Every Night About This Time.” The technique spread like wildfire, becoming a virtual requirement for rock ’n’ roll ballads.

“Fats made it popular,” Mr. Bartholomew told Rick Coleman, the author of “Blue Monday: Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn of Rock ’n’ Roll” (2006). “Then it was on every record.”

In 1952, on a chance visit to Cosimo Matassa’s recording studio in New Orleans, Mr. Domino was asked to help out on a recording by a nervous teenager named Lloyd Price. Sitting in with Mr. Bartholomew’s band, he came up with the memorable piano part for “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” an early rhythm-and-blues record to cross over into the pop charts.

Through the early 1950s Mr. Domino turned out a stream of hits, taking up what seemed like permanent residence in the upper reaches of the R&B charts. His records began crossing over into the pop charts as well.


Fats Domino in 1956.

In that racially segregated era, white performers used his hits to build their careers. In 1955, “Ain’t It a Shame” became a No. 1 hit for Pat Boone as “Ain’t That a Shame,” while Domino’s arrangement of a traditional song, “Bo Weevil,” was imitated by Teresa Brewer.

Mr. Domino’s appeal to white teenagers broadened as he embarked on national tours and appeared with mixed-race rock ’n’ roll revues like the Moondog Jubilee of Stars Under the Stars, presented by the disc jockey Alan Freed at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. Appearances on national television, on Steve Allen and Ed Sullivan’s shows, put him in millions of living rooms.

He did not flaunt his status as an innovator, or as an architect of a powerful cultural movement.

“Fats, how did this rock ’n’ roll all get started anyway?” an interviewer for a Hearst newsreel asked him in 1957. Mr. Domino answered: “Well, what they call rock ’n’ roll now is rhythm and blues. I’ve been playing it for 15 years in New Orleans.”

At a news conference in Las Vegas in 1969, after resuming his performing career, Elvis Presley interrupted a reporter who had called him “the king.” He pointed to Mr. Domino, who was in the room, and said, “There’s the real king of rock ’n’ roll.”

Mr. Domino had his biggest hit in 1956 with his version of “Blueberry Hill,” a song that had been recorded by Glenn Miller’s big band in 1940. It peaked at No. 2 on the pop charts and sold a reported three million copies.

“I liked that record ’cause I heard it by Louis Armstrong and I said, ‘That number gonna fit me,’ ” he told Offbeat. “We had to beg Lew Chudd for a while. I told him I wasn’t gonna make no more records till they put that record out. I could feel it, that it was a hit, a good record.”

He followed with two more Top Five pop hits: “Blue Monday” and “I’m Walkin’,” which outsold the version recorded by Ricky Nelson.

“I was lucky enough to write songs that carry a good beat and tell a real story that people could feel was their story, too — something that old people or the kids could both enjoy,” Mr. Domino told The Los Angeles Times in 1985.

Mr. Domino performed in 1950s movies like “Shake, Rattle and Rock,” “The Big Beat” (for which he and Mr. Bartholomew wrote the title song) and “The Girl Can’t Help It.” In 1957, he toured for three months with Chuck Berry, Clyde McPhatter, the Moonglows and others.

Well into the early 1960s, Mr. Domino continued to reach both the pop and rhythm-and-blues charts with songs like “Whole Lotta Lovin’,” “I’m Ready,” “I’m Gonna Be a Wheel Someday,” “Be My Guest,” “Walkin’ to New Orleans” and “My Girl Josephine.”

He toured Europe for the first time in 1962 and met the Beatles in Liverpool, before they were famous. His contract with Imperial ended in 1963, and he went on to record for ABC-Paramount, Mercury, Broadmoor, Reprise and other labels.

His last appearance in the pop Top 100 was in 1968, with a version of “Lady Madonna,” the Beatles song that had been inspired by Mr. Domino’s piano-pounding style. In 1982, he had a country hit with “Whiskey Heaven.”

Although he was no longer a pop sensation, Mr. Domino continued to perform worldwide and appeared for 10 months a year in Las Vegas in the mid-1960s. On tour, he would bring his own pots and pans so he could cook.

His life on the road ended in the early 1980s, when he decided that he did not want to leave New Orleans, saying it was the only place where he liked the food.

He went on to perform regularly at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and in 1987 Jerry Lee Lewis and Ray Charles joined him for a Cinemax special, “Fats Domino and Friends.” He released a holiday album, “Christmas Is a Special Day,” in 1993.

Reclusive and notoriously resistant to interview requests, Mr. Domino stayed home even when he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986 as one of its first members. He did the same when he received a lifetime achievement Grammy Award in 1987. In 1999, when he was awarded the National Medal of Arts,he sent his daughter Antoinette to the White House to pick up the prize.

He even refused to leave New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina devastated the city on Aug. 29, 2005, remaining at his flooded home — he was living in the Lower Ninth Ward then — until he was rescued by helicopter on Sept. 1.

“I wasn’t too nervous” about waiting to be saved, he told The New York Times in 2006. “I had my little wine and a couple of beers with me; I’m all right.”

His rescue was loosely the basis for “Saving Fats,” a tall tale in Sam Shepard’s 2010 short story collection “Day Out of Days.”

President George W. Bush visited Mr. Domino’s home in 2006 in recognition of New Orleans’s cultural resilience; that same year, Mr. Domino released “Alive and Kickin,’ ” his first album in more than a decade. The title song began, “All over the country, people want to know / whatever happened to Fats Domino,” then continued, “I’m alive and kicking and I’m where I wanna be.”

He was often seen around New Orleans, emerging from his pink-roofed mansion driving a pink Cadillac. “I just drink my little beers, do some cookin’, anything I feel like ” he told The Daily Telegraph of London in 2007, describing his retirement.

In 1953, in Down Beat magazine, the Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler made a bold-sounding prediction that turned out to be, in retrospect, quite timid. “Can’t you envision a collector in 1993 discovering a Fats Domino record in a Salvation Army Depot and rushing home to put it on the turntable?” he wrote. “We can. It’s good blues, it’s good jazz, and it’s the kind of good that never wears out.”



see our letter on:

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



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From: udo von massenbach-wordpress [mailto:]
Sent: Thursday, October 19, 2017 8:41 AM
Subject: 2nd half shootout, boys.

That probably came out wrong – I enjoy the experience immensely but don’t see them as recreational. I do think they’re extremely important and valuable to the human experience, but I’m also at a time in my life where I’m not purposely seeking ‚bad trips‘ in order to overcome them and avoid that as much as possible.

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Massenbach-Letter. NEWS 20.10.17

Massenbach-Letter. News

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Massenbach*Trump and Iran nuclear deal: Smart chess play could motivate the mullahs

By James S. Robbins, Opinion columnist Published 1:14 p.m. ET Oct. 13, 2017

It costs the president nothing, does not wreck the agreement, does not reimpose sanctions, and can be reversed if Tehran proves it is complying.

President Trump’s decision not to certify that Iran is complying with the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal simply acknowledges reality. And if this causes the agreement to collapse, it will be a testament to the political weakness of its principal author.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal was erected on a foundation of sand. Former president Barack Obama had a weak hand with Congress and could not muster the domestic political capital to conclude a durable formal treaty with Iran. So, he cut corners.

His team cobbled together an arcane system whereby the White House must issue Iran sanctions waivers every 120 days for U.S. to live up to its end of the bargain.

The president has an additional requirement under the 2015 Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, to certify every 90 days that Iran is in compliance with the agreement. Obama had objected to this measure but signed it into law rather than face a certain bipartisan veto override.

More: ‘Decertify, pressure and fix‘ the Iran deal

More: The art of unmaking the Iran deal: James Robbins

Presumably if Trump wanted to bring the suspended sanctions back into force he could simply refuse to sign a waiver when that issue arises again in early 2018. Iran would view this, correctly, as the United States breaking the deal. However, by not certifying that Iran is in compliance, the Trump administration is suggesting that it is Iran that has abrogated the agreement, or at least cannot demonstrate that it is complying with it.

The international community is in the dark. The JCPOA has insufficient verification protocols, a shortcoming which was noted before the deal was signed. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) now admits that it cannot ensure that Tehran is not engaged in "activities which could contribute to the development of a nuclear explosive device." It is barred from inspecting Iran’s military sites, where presumably this type of activity would be taking place, and Russia is resisting broadening the agency’s inspection authority. So, it would be reckless for the White House to routinely certify Iran’s compliance every four months when there is really no way to know for certain.

This is a prudent decision. Failing to certify Iran’s compliance with the agreement does not abrogate the JCPOA, nor does it automatically engage the “snapback” sanctions mechanisms that are part of the agreement itself. But it does give Congress the opportunity to initiate legislation that would reimpose sanctions on an expedited schedule, if it so chooses. And it may motivate Iran to give greater access to international inspectors before Congress takes action, or before the next deadline for Trump to issue sanctions waivers — or not.

Trump also drew attention to Iran’s destabilizing actions taken outside the purview of the JCPOA, such as Tehran’s ballistic missile program. The Islamic Republic has maintained publicly that its missiles are non-negotiable, but its diplomats have reportedly made behind-the-scenes overtures to discuss limits on the program. The White House is also concerned about Iran’s increasing support for terrorism and its activities in Syria, particularly as the civil war in that country draws U.S.-backed forces closer to open conflict with Iranian militias. Any of these issues could be the basis for new sanctions imposed wholly outside the nuclear deal’s framework.

More: Trump’s move to end Iran nuclear deal makes America less safe

More: House Democrat: I opposed Iran nuclear deal but now I think we should keep it

Choosing not to certify Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA was a smart chess move. It costs the president nothing, does not wreck the nuclear deal, does not reimpose sanctions, and can even be reversed in the unlikely event Tehran chooses to give the IAEA the access it needs to know what Iran is up to. Trump is simply using the leverage at his disposal to make the mullahs focus more clearly on the parts of the “incompetently drawn” agreement that need improvement.

Iran’s leaders can now take the steps necessary to satisfy the United States and international inspectors that they are meeting their obligations under the deal, or they can double-down on their belligerent rhetoric and face the rapid reimposition of some U.S. sanctions. Iran has previously threatened that if the U.S. made such a move it could restart its nuclear program “in a new manner that would shock Washington,” but that would activate the JCPOA’s Article 37 “snap back” mechanism and bring back all international sanctions automatically. Not to mention raise the risk of counter-proliferation military strikes.

Or Iran could prove to the world it has abandoned its nuclear program — that is, if it really has.

James S. Robbins, a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors and author of This Time We Win: Revisiting the Tet Offensive, has taught at the National Defense University and the Marine Corps University and served as a special assistant to the secretary of Defense in the George W. Bush administration..


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

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  • 25 Years of Coping: Key Economic Trends in Tajikistan
  • German Elections Are over but the Suspense Is Still on
  • Changing Priorities: What are the Goals of Turkey’s Military Intervention in Syria?
  • Why Border Crossings in the Middle East have become Increasingly Pivotal
  • Why Are the Houthis Recruiting Female Militants?
  • False Conflict: Universalism and Identity

The Murderous Wave of Reprisals against Diplomats – History of Soviet Russia


Carnegie Moscow Center
This year marks the centennial anniversary of the 1917 Russian revolution.

It is impossible for Russian authorities to ignore this milestone, but how will it be commemorated? From the state’s perspective, it is better to ignore it.

In my new article, “A Past That Divides: Russia’s New Official History,” I analyze the unique role of history in Russian society. In recent years, the Russian government has formulated a policy that aims to consolidate the nation around a single official version of the past. However while in most countries a shared history creates unity, in Russia it often serves as a dividing force. Was Boris Yeltsin a creator or destroyer? Was the Stalin era a time of greatness or extreme cruelty? Moscow’s official collective memory also can collide with the national memories—and historical records—of other countries, sometimes complicating Russia’s relations with them.

The Russian nation is no closer to developing its own modern identity. Moreover, Russia seems to be much further away from properly understanding its place in history than it was as a newly independent country in the 1990s.

I hope you find this piece interesting and helpful.


Andrei Kolesnikov
Head of the Russian Domestic Politics and Political Institutions Program
Carnegie Moscow Center


Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* Hilfsorganisation CARE: Lage in den Flüchtlingslagern von Bangladesch weiter chaotisch

Die Hilfsorganisation CARE hat auf katastrophale Zustände in den Rohingya-Flüchtlingslagern in Bangladesch hingewiesen.

CARE-Mitarbeiterin Jennifer Bose sagte am Dienstag im rbb-Inforadio, es würden derzeit wieder mehr Flüchtlinge in die Lager kommen. Seit Sonntag seien über 15.000 Menschen nach Bangladesch gekommen, mehr als sonst im Durchschnitt, erklärte Bose.

Sie beschrieb die Lage als "sehr chaotisch". Die Menschen würden noch immer alles benötigen, was man sich vorstellen kann, so etwa sauberes Wasser und Lebensmittel. Auch gebe es kaum Hilfe für die teils traumatisierten Flüchtlinge. Viele würden über Folter und Vergewaltigungen in ihrem Heimatland Myanmar berichten, so Bose.

Das komplette Interview können Sie hier noch einmal nachhören:

****************************************************************************************************************** Politics: From Vision to Action

Barandat*Remarks by President Trump on Iran Strategy


Middle East

Mrs. Clinton and the Trump Nuclear Decision

“The JCPOA had zero Republican support in Congress and the 2016 Republican Platform stated that “We consider the Administration’s deal with Iran, to lift international sanctions and make hundreds of billions of dollars available to the Mullahs, a personal agreement between the President and his negotiat­ing partners and non-binding on the next president….A Republican president will not be bound by it.”

Blog Post by Elliott Abrams

October 15, 2017

Hillary Clinton is now complaining that President Trump has broken America’s word with his policy on the Iran nuclear agreement, the JCPOA. For reasons I will explain below, this is a subject on which she should really be silent.

Trump has refused to certify to Congress that Iran is fully and verifiably complying with the deal or that the deal is in America’s national security interest. In doing so he follows U.S. law, the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA). And Trump has said that if improvements in the JCPOA are impossible to achieve, he may renounce the agreement entirely.

Speaking on the Fareed Zakaria GPS show on CNN this past weekend about Trump’s decision, Clinton said that “First of all, it basically says America’s word is not good.” She said Trump "is upending the kind of trust and credibility of the United States‘ position and negotiation that is imperative to maintain."

But that is exactly and precisely what Clinton, and Obama, did in 2009 in the face of another agreement by the preceding president.

In 2003, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced that Israel would remove some or all settlements in Gaza. President George W. Bush fully supported that decision, and continued the support during 2004 and 2005, when Sharon faced tough opposition to it in Israel.

On April 14, 2004, Mr. Bush gave Mr. Sharon a letter saying that "In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949." Previous administrations had declared that Israeli settlements beyond the 1949 lines, often called the "1967 borders," were illegal. Mr. Bush now said that in any realistic peace agreement Israel would be able to negotiate the retention of some of those settlements.

Moreover, Bush had negotiated with Israel on the question of settlement expansion. Four days after the president’s letter to Sharon, Sharon’s Chief of Staff Dov Weissglas wrote to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that "I wish to reconfirm the following understanding, which had been reached between us: 1. Restrictions on settlement growth: within the agreed principles of settlement activities, an effort will be made in the next few days to have a better definition of the construction line of settlements in Judea & Samaria."

What were the “agreed principles?” Sharon had stated those limits clearly and publicly in December 2003: "Israel will meet all its obligations with regard to construction in the settlements. There will be no construction beyond the existing construction line, no expropriation of land for construction, no special economic incentives and no construction of new settlements."

Where did those four principles come from? They were the product of discussions and negotiations between Israeli and American officials and had been discussed by Messrs. Sharon and Bush as early as their meeting in Aqaba, Jordan in June 2003.

So: there were negotiations, there were face to face discussions between President Bush and Prime Minister Sharon, Sharon mentioned the exact agreed principles in speeches, and Bush wrote a letter mentioning the new American view. What’s more, Congress voted by overwhelming majorities to support Bush in all this, by lopsided margins: 95 to 3 in the Senate on June 23, 2004 and 407 to 9 in the House of Representatives on June 24.

And then the Obama administration arrived in office, and simply denied that any agreement on settlements existed. As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton said on June 17, 2009 that "in looking at the history of the Bush administration, there were no informal or oral enforceable agreements." Marvin Kalb, the long-time CBS newsman, wrote in his book The Road to War: Presidential Commitments Honored and Betrayed that “Obama’s new secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, put a nail [in the coffin of] the Bush-Sharon exchange of letters by immediately making it clear that the Obama administration wanted no part of them.”

Clinton, and Obama, simply decided to ignore commitments made, orally and in writing, to another government and then endorsed by both Houses of Congress. Now along comes Clinton to claim that President Trump, by following the INARA legislation, “basically says America’s word is not good” and that he "is upending the kind of trust and credibility of the United States‘ position.”

The double standard here is perhaps not shocking, but nevertheless deserves note. It seems that to Mrs. Clinton, some agreements are sacrosanct while others may be cavalierly ignored and dismissed—and the distinction between the two types is that she likes some and doesn’t like others. It is her standard that will surely “upend the trust and credibility” of the United States ( to use her language).

As to Mr. Trump’s recent decision, how it can be said that he is harming American credibility by following U.S. law, the INARA legislation, escapes me. In fact, there was every expectation that the Obama administration would follow the Bush agreement with Israel, given its almost unanimous support in Congress.

By contrast, the JCPOA had zero Republican support in Congress and the 2016 Republican Platform stated that “We consider the Administration’s deal with Iran, to lift international sanctions and make hundreds of billions of dollars available to the Mullahs, a personal agreement between the President and his negotiat­ing partners and non-binding on the next president….A Republican president will not be bound by it.”

No surprises here when that is exactly what happens. Mrs. Clinton’s criticism is unfair, especially given her own track record.


*Massenbach’s Recommendation*

Rohstoffe Subsahara 31 Länder, Stand 2016/2017

Deutschland ist wie kaum ein anderes Land in die Weltwirtschaft eingebunden, also in hohem Maße auf den Export an Waren, aber auch auf den Import von Energierohstoffen und von mineralischen Rohstoffen angewiesen.

Die Nachfrage nach mineralischen Rohstoffen und Energierohstoffen wird sich weltweit bis zum Jahr 2050 voraussichtlich verdoppeln, sollte sich der Trend der letzten 3 Jahrzehnte fortsetzen.

Der afrikanische Kontinent bietet ein enormes Potenzial an Energierohstoffen, an Metallen und an Industriemineralen. Vor diesem Hintergrund wird der Bergbau in Afrika eine Schlüsselrolle in der notwendigen Entwicklung und dem Aufstieg der afrikanischen Wirtschaft spielen.

Heute wird Afrika eher als schwieriges Terrain angesehen und eine Reihe afrikanischer Staaten gelten als Länder mit erheblichen wirtschaftlichen und politischen Risiken. Trotzdem ist es an der Zeit, den Kontinent trotz all seiner derzeitigen Herausforderungen als perspektivisch vielversprechenden Wirtschaftspartner und Zukunftsmarkt verstärkt zu verinnerlichen.

Folgerichtig nahm das Interesse der deutschen Rohstoff- und Bergbauzulieferindustrie an einem Engagement in Subsahara-Afrika in letzter Zeit leicht zu, ist jedoch längst nicht ausreichend, um an anderer Stelle wegbrechende Umsätze zu kompensieren.

Die vor einigen Jahren noch als hoffnungslose Märkte gehandelten Rohstoffländer sind inzwischen im Ansehen zumindest teilweise gestiegen. In speziellen Ländern ändert sich die negative Wahrnehmung sogar rapide. Hohe Wachstumsraten, Branchen mit großem Potenzial über den Rohstoffsektor hinaus sowie stabilere Rahmenbedingungen wecken vermehrtes Interesse.

Seit der Jahrtausendwende erzielte Subsahara-Afrika fast immer reale Wachstumsraten des Bruttoinlands- produkts von über 5 %. Gründe liegen nicht nur in hohen Erlösen des Rohstoffsektors. In vielen Ländern steigt die Wertschöpfung auch im Agrarsektor, und es werden neue Straßen, Schienenwege und Häfen gebaut.;jsessionid=21F88E9B34B4DE4FFB62319CD65876A1.1_cid292?__blob=publicationFile&v=2


Carnegie_Moscow: A Past That Divides: Russia’s New Official History

By Andrei Kolesnikov * October 05, 2017

In recent years, the Russian government has formulated a policy on the country’s history (a historical policy) that aims to consolidate the nation around a single official version of the past. This state-led approach tends to glorify Russia’s imperial legacy and encourage citizens to conform to an oversimplified historical account. However, because this single version of official collective memory is not acceptable to all citizens, this policy is causing divisions in Russian society.

An Instrument of Control

When a government seeks to control history, it aims to control the people. Sometimes a state’s official view of the past can serve as the basis for an unwritten social contract between a government and its citizens. This is what is happening in Russia today. President Vladimir Putin has introduced the idea of what he terms a “thousand-year history” that Russians must take pride in, a history that incorporates many victorious pages from the country’s past, including Russia’s takeover of Crimea in 2014. This glorious history is offered to citizens in exchange for their political loyalty, and it is presented as being more important than economic progress.

Andrei Kolesnikov

Senior Fellow and Chair
Russian Domestic Politics and Political Institutions Program
Moscow Center

More from this author…

Putin’s personal role has been critical to the formation of the state’s perceptions of history.1 He has determined, for example, how Russians should view past events like former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s transfer of Crimea to Ukraine in 1954, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, and the Winter War with Finland. Putin decides why certain historical figures, such as the Russian monarchist philosopher Ivan Ilyin (1883–1954) and the early-twentieth-century prime minister of the Russian Empire, Pyotr Stolypin, are deemed to be important. For instance, Putin ensured that Ilyin’s remains were reinterred in Russia in 2005, and a statue of Stolypin was erected outside the Russian White House in 2012.

Russian state leaders and the country’s military and bureaucratic classes have become the main drivers of the country’s national discourse and policy about its past. Central to Putin’s vision of history is the Soviet Union’s 1945 victory over Germany in the Great Patriotic War. The current regime, which calls itself the sole heir of this victory, uses this achievement to make itself immune to criticism on other issues while justifying its current militarization efforts and excessive state interference in all aspects of life. Russian official history is limited to the biographies of state and military leaders and to a series of victories and demonstrations of the state’s enduring military might, with no room left for doubts or defeats. This means that free men and women, as citizens (not subjects), cannot be seen as participants in history; rather, they can only serve as what might be termed electoral fodder for the grandeur of the state. This historical narrative is a means of fueling the legitimacy of Russia’s current governing regime.

Against this backdrop, opinion polls reveal that history is a major criterion of self-identification for ordinary Russian citizens. Surveys conducted by the independent Levada Center show that, in recent years, the number of respondents who list history among the key factors that instill a sense of pride in Russia has been consistently high. In 2015, “history” surpassed “Russia’s natural resources” at the top of the list of reasons for Russian national pride and has remained consistently high (around 40 percent) since.2

The Russian leadership’s dominant historical discourse is imperialistic, based on the concepts of conquest, militarism, and conservatism (after all, conquered territories must be kept within the empire). As table 1 shows, in March 2016, 76 percent of survey respondents said that Russians should be proud of their country’s imperial territorial acquisitions since the fifteenth century, even the country’s nineteenth-century conquest of Poland and Finland. Just 3 percent believe that this imperial past is a cause for shame, and the same number are embarrassed by their country’s Soviet history and the 2014 capture of Crimea. Some of the few aspects of Russian history that substantial numbers of respondents (roughly 33 percent) feel some level of shame about are the wars in Afghanistan and Chechnya. Fewer (about 15 percent) display signs of embarrassment about the ongoing war in Syria.

This and other similar data seem to indicate that many Russians prefer what might be termed strong (that is, harsh or cruel) leaders and favor historical periods governed by such leaders. For example, according to the results of a December 2016 Levada Center survey, a plurality of Russian respondents (49 percent) believe that the medieval monarch Ivan the Terrible, who epitomized harsh rule, brought Russia more “good” than “bad,” while only 13 percent felt the opposite was true. Predictably, then, a majority of respondents (53 percent) supported a proposal to construct a monument memorializing the czar, which was unveiled in the city of Orel in October 2016.

This shows that Putin’s vision of Russian history as a series of achievements to celebrate seems to resonate with a majority of citizens. And yet, there is a significant minority of citizens who are not prepared to accept this state-led account of the past and the social contract it represents.

Stalin’s Shadow

In modern Russian history, the epitome of the strong man is Joseph Stalin. Today, the state tolerates admiration of Stalin, which is no longer an informal taboo as it was in the late-Soviet and immediate post-Soviet periods. But the subject of Stalin divides the Russian nation like few others.

Perceptions of whether the Stalinist period did more good or more bad for Russia have changed significantly over the past two decades. During the twenty-two years that the Levada Center has been asking respondents about their opinions on this era, the number of people who express favorable views has risen from 18 percent in 1994 to 40 percent in 2016.3 The leap from 27 percent in 2012 to 40 percent in 2016 was especially striking. It is telling that this shift occurred during a period in which the screws of Russian domestic and foreign policy were being tightened, including through the takeover of Crimea, the resurgence of a sense of great-power status in Russia, and the Kremlin’s legitimation of power by referencing glorious pages from the country’s imperial history.

For many citizens, Stalin became an exemplary hero of Russian history, as only 38 percent of respondents had a negative view of his era in 2016.4 A greater number of Russians—54 percent in March 2016—regard Stalin as a figure who played at least a somewhat positive role in history. Roughly a quarter of respondents say Stalin’s cruelty was “historically justified” and his persecutions were a “political necessity”—a number that has soared, rising by a striking 17 percentage points between 2007 and 2016; meanwhile, the number of those who condemn Stalin’s actions has fallen from 72 percent to 45 percent (see table 2).5 The segment of the Russian public that accepts Stalin’s actions remained stable during an April 2017 follow-up survey.

Given this divide in public opinion, Russia’s current governing regime sends out ambiguous signals about Stalin. A few years ago, it gave permission for a monument to be constructed in central Moscow to commemorate the victims of Stalin’s repression. This gesture was a concession to civil society, and this demonstrates that there is a certain permitted level of semi-official grief about this period. On the other hand, the current regime also signals a greater tolerance of the Stalin era in subtle ways that encourage grassroots Stalinist initiatives. For example, no one actually issues official orders to erect statues and busts of Stalin, but somehow volunteers in various cities choose to raise memorials to the despot. Meanwhile, for the current iteration of the Communist Party, Stalinization of the party discourse has become perhaps the sole means of self-identifying and of distinguishing their brand of patriotism from that of Putin and his official United Russia party.

Meanwhile, those who advocate more vigorous forms of de-Stalinization are being put under pressure. Memorial, a Moscow-based international human rights organization that has spent three decades perpetuating the memory of victims of political repression, has been branded as a “foreign agent” by the Russian government. This is a clear signal from the authorities that those who try to preserve memories of state oppression are conducting anti-governmental activities. In some respects, this arguably makes today’s leaders heirs of the Stalin regime. In April 2017, Russian Ministry of Education officials tried to prevent high school students who had won an annual historical essay contest that Memorial has conducted for many years from traveling to Moscow for the award ceremony on the grounds that Memorial is “banned” in Russia.6 This was not only false; it also showed that a government ministry was willing to fight fiercely against anything that did not correspond to the state’s official interpretation of history, and thus to the regime’s unwritten ideology.

Another Dividing Line

At the opposite end of the ideological spectrum, the period of liberalization in the 1990s, like the Stalinist period, has provoked divisions in Russia. Just as opinion polls show a measure of public approval for authoritarian rule, Levada Center polls indicate that many Russians also have a categorically negative view of the leaders who brought democratization and liberalization to Russia: Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin.7

The societal divisions inspired by the immediate post-Soviet period of the 1990s reemerged in a recent conflict between Nikita Mikhalkov, a self-described patriotic film director, and the Yekaterinburg-based Yeltsin Center, a museum and educational center that commemorates the first president of independent Russia. Mikhalkov, who is known for his conservative views, has repeatedly criticized this institute for “distorting history” and “glorifying the period of the destruction of the Fatherland.” Yet the Yeltsin Center is Russia’s only museum that fully demonstrates the complex, contradictory nature of the historical role played by Russia’s first president and covers the history of the 1990s in detail and in depth. The Yeltsin Center depicts the 1990s not as years of the collapse of an empire and its values, but as an era of the construction of a new state whose institutions and values are rooted in democracy and a liberalized economy.

This is where the main dividing line lies. To some Russians, the 1990s was an era of disintegration (the phrase “the tumultuous 1990s” has become a common term). To others, this period was an early stage in the establishment of a new state after an empire had exhausted its apparent potential. The public attitude toward this period divides the nation no less than feelings about the Stalin era.

The issue of the 1990s is especially sensitive for the current regime. On the one hand, the government bases its image on a contrast between the supposedly dangerous, impoverished, and crime-ridden 1990s and the stable, prosperous Putin era. On the other hand, all the country’s political and financial elites, including Putin himself, came out of the 1990s. After all, Putin’s career took off under the wing of one of the iconic figures associated with perestroika in the early 1990s, then mayor of Saint Petersburg Anatoly Sobchak. Moreover, Putin was summoned to Moscow by the so-called Saint Petersburg liberals, who had long worked in government structures and had built the economic and administrative institutions of the new country through painful reforms. Ultimately, Putin was selected to serve as prime minister and later as president by the Yeltsin political family, and it was Yeltsin himself who personally handed over the scepter and the kingdom to Putin with the request that he take care of Russia.

These awkward facts explain the current regime’s conflicted feelings about the 1990s. However, the Kremlin does not oppose the tendency to depict that period as an era of complete collapse, because without this historical window dressing the image of Putin as the savior of a nation pales. There can be no phoenix if there are no ashes.

Two Competing Types of Memory

Such divisions often stem from and feed into conflicts between official historical accounts and the unofficial recollections, or counter-memories, of private individuals. A report prepared by the Free Historical Society at the request of a civil society organization called the Committee of Civil Initiatives classifies these two approaches to conceptualizing history as “first memory” and “second memory.”8 Official forms of collective memory keep history within the framework of the state’s understanding. These forms are used to control society and define national historical rituals and other ways the state memorializes the past. School textbooks, for example, play a decisive role in official views of history. By contrast, personal and unofficial (including academic) conceptions of history may present versions of the past that could be described as democratic or liberal, as opposed to a conservative portrayal.

When it comes to major events like Russia’s Great Patriotic War of 1941–1945, the state cannot ignore—even if it might wish to—the multitude of families’ and individuals’ personal histories, so these accounts must be incorporated into official commemorative rituals. An example of such a state-led appropriation of private memories occurred with a 2011 grassroots initiative started by three journalists from the Russian city of Tomsk, which became known as the Immortal Regiment. This initially consisted of a march by relatives holding up portraits of family members who participated in World War II, an event that was not officially organized or sponsored by the state. The initiative has essentially remained of the people to a degree, but the regime has heavily exploited it. Putin started to participate in the marches, and pseudo-civic and Kremlin-controlled organizations like the Civic Chamber and the All-Russia People’s Front have basically tried to appropriate the Immortal Regiment for their own purposes.9

In its official conception, Russia’s commemoration of Victory Day in 1945 is only formally an occasion for collectively mourning for Russia’s war dead. It has turned instead into an instrument for providing support to the most militarized, bellicose kind of Russian leader. According to this vision of history, war is not a calamity but a cause for celebration. These excessive propaganda efforts in which the government effectively nationalizes the Great Patriotic War often have the opposite effect to what is intended. Russian citizens tend to view May 9 as a major annual event, but many of them increasingly are skeptical of how it is celebrated as a state holiday rather than a people’s holiday.10 Under the influence of the state, official conceptions of history are seeping into personal memories. The nuances of a particular family’s history are no longer held to be so important. Many ordinary Russians seem to be coming to accept the conventional, official version of the war’s history at face value and mold their personal memories around it. This sense of memory conformity has the same drivers as political conformity in an authoritarian regime: it is much easier and more expedient to stay in the mainstream.

The standoff between these two types of memories does not mean that personal memory precludes pride for one’s country—quite the contrary. However, adherents of the state’s official collective memory and adherents of individual citizens’ unofficial counter-memory often have very different understandings about their country and about what constitutes patriotism.

Moscow’s official collective memory also can collide with the national memories—and historical records—of other countries, sometimes complicating Russia’s relations with them. One example of this relates to Russia’s relations with Poland and the case of the Katyn Massacre of 1940, when Stalin’s secret police murdered approximately 22,000 Polish officers and soldiers in a forest in western Russia.11 Moscow officially acknowledged the crime when Yeltsin was president, and in 2010 former president Dmitry Medvedev had archival documents confirming the guilt of the Soviet Union published on a government website.

Yet a large segment of the Russian public still doubts the historical facts of the Katyn Massacre, which was blamed on the Nazis during the Soviet era. A 2011 Levada Center survey showed that 24 percent of respondents still believed that Hitler’s forces executed Polish officers in Katyn Forest, and 42 percent said they did not know or did not have an opinion on this matter.12 Hardliners have installed so-called information stands on the territory of the Katyn Memorial giving purported facts about the deaths of Red Army officers in Polish captivity in 1920, with inflated casualty numbers. The Katyn Massacre and the 1920 captivity have nothing to do with each other, but there is a political logic to linking them on the principle of an eye for an eye. The intended implication is that although Moscow (though this was Stalin, not the modern Russian regime) did execute the Polish officers, the Polish also allegedly killed many Red Army officers.

This historical obfuscation comes against a background of unprecedentedly poor attitudes of Russians toward Poland. In 2016, Poland rose to fourth place among the countries perceived to be Russia’s adversaries, behind only the United States, Ukraine, and Turkey. As a result, many aspects of the history of Russian-Polish relations have become controversial, necessitating the setting up of a Polish-Russian Group for Difficult Matters.

Simplifying the Past

Amid these divisions, the current Russian regime does not welcome complex interpretations of history. Difficult questions and reflections are left to those who are not willing to think in the vocabulary of official propaganda.

This tendency harkens back to the simplifications of Soviet days. On December 5, 1966, the Soviet poet, writer, and editor of the liberal Novy Mir literary magazine, Alexander Tvardovsky, recorded in his diary his thoughts about the Soviet method of memorializing past events, which involved simplifying and condensing them as much as possible. Tvardovsky recalled Stalin’s brutal repression on the eve of the war with Germany. He wrote:

“No other army in the world had ever, in any war, suffered such losses in its commanding ranks as our army did on the eve of the war and in part after the war. What does one do with this memory? . . . There is no doubt that those who perished on the eve of the war and during the war—but not at the frontlines, rather in the mad regime’s prisons, camps, and torture chambers—also deserve to be remembered in the same way.”13

Half a century has passed since this diary entry, and the Russian understanding of historical collective memory has come full circle back to the Brezhnev era, which began in 1964. The memoirs of Alexander Bovin, Brezhnev’s favorite speechwriter in his early years as Soviet leader, contain a telling episode. Liberally minded advisers of the Communist Party general secretary wanted to help Konstantin Simonov, a poet and most celebrated Soviet writer of the war era, get his 1941 diaries published. However, the Main Political Directorate of the Soviet Army and Navy, which defended the era’s official version of history with full resolve, was adamantly opposed.

The writer was invited to meet Brezhnev. Yet despite a warm personal encounter between the two men, Brezhnev did not support the publication of the diaries. He explained that while he had seen even worse things during the war, the feelings of the victors must be protected. Brezhnev said something that conveys, in part, the attitude of today’s elites toward interpreting the history of war: “We may have seen what we have seen, but the main truth is that we won. All other truths fade before it . . . The time will eventually come for your diaries.”14

The time for truth did come with the end of the Soviet Union, and it came faster than almost anyone anticipated. Yet, as Brezhnev said, other truths continue to fade, and today’s history of the war boils down to propagandist clichés that are insulting to those who fought in the war. The ruling elite have again nationalized historical memory, and the government’s ideologists view any criticism of the regime as morally deplorable. The key idea—a fairly primitive device but an effective one—is that those who doubt the Russian political system undermine the country’s shared victory.

An Irrelevant Revolution

Nearly one hundred years ago, the Soviet regime was born in the fires of the October 1917 Revolution. As a result, throughout the Soviet era, all revolutionary, freedom-loving phenomena related to the country’s national liberation—including the period’s romantic fervor in the arts—had positive connotations. This is one feature of the Soviet period that the Putin era cannot share, because the latter is, in essence, counterrevolutionary. In fact, many characteristics of the current Russian model of authoritarianism, such as its repressive nature and its crusade against anything that can be broadly interpreted as extremism, stem from the government’s fear of color revolutions, the Arab Spring, and the Ukrainian Maidan movement of 2013–2014.

The paradox is that, historically, Russia’s current political regime was born out of a peaceful bourgeois revolution, the liberal political and economic reforms of the early 1990s. This dissonance shapes the regime’s ambiguous relationship to the past. Although the current leadership ultimately hails from a revolution in the population’s mindset, in the country’s economic system, and in its political structures, the Kremlin is obsessed with its own self-preservation, and it cannot stand anything revolutionary.

This mentality determines, for example, the negative attitudes of Russian elites, including Putin himself, both toward Vladimir Lenin as a symbol of the 1917 revolution that in some ways points toward a very different period, the democratic revolutionary unrest and so-called chaos of the 1990s. In early 2016, Putin said of Lenin, “Letting your rule be guided by thoughts is right, but only when that idea leads to the right results, not like it did with Vladimir Ilyich . . . In the end that idea led to the fall of the Soviet Union.” He went on to say, “There were many such ideas as providing regions with autonomy and others . . . They planted an atomic bomb under the building that is called Russia which later exploded. We did not need a global revolution.”15 Public attitudes toward Lenin are relatively positive. In a March 2017 survey, 56 percent of respondents agreed that Lenin played a positive role in history.

What is a major challenge for the Russian authorities in 2017 is that it is impossible for them to ignore the centenary of the October Revolution, but it is unclear how they should commemorate it. The only idea that the government and the Russian Orthodox Church have come up with is to frame ongoing societal divisions as a chance for reconciliation between revolutionary Reds and the opposing Whites—even though these categories from Russian history have no relevance in the present. The limitations of this approach are underscored by the state’s controversial announcement in January 2017 that it would seek to transfer the ownership of Saint Isaac’s Cathedral in Saint Petersburg to the Russian Orthodox Church, which some residents opposed. (The cathedral had been put under state control during to the Soviet era and was transformed into a museum.) Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia tried to portray this development as an opportunity to achieve a measure of civic unity, saying, “the symbol of the reconciliation of our people . . . Consensus about returned churches should serve as the embodiment of consensus and mutual forgiveness between the Reds and the Whites, between the believers and the non-believers.”16 Contrary to this sentiment, however, the situation involving Saint Isaac’s Cathedral actually caused a serious conflict that did not unite but polarized not only residents of Saint Petersburg but nearly the entire nation into camps of supporters and opponents of the decision. As a result, if the cathedral became a symbol of anything, it embodied a societal split rather than an instance of reconciliation.

As the cathedral controversy indicates, the Russian public’s views on the long-ago events of the October Revolution remain rather confused. On the one hand, the government that won World War II is a direct successor of 1917. On the other hand, the mindset of the average Russian today certainly is not Red. Generations of citizens that still have romanticized notions about the revolution are departing, and the number of respondents who believe that the first years after 1917 brought “more bad than good” consistently rises, growing by 10 percentage points between 1994 (38 percent) and 2016 (48 percent).17

This ongoing and growing division explains the regime’s reluctance to take a strong position on the centenary of the October Revolution. From the state’s perspective, it is better to ignore than to commemorate it. Even the budget that pro-Kremlin organizations have garnered for celebrating the anniversary is fairly small, at only 50 million rubles (about $860,000).18

A Polished Past and an Uncertain Future

State historical narratives usually tend to select the official memories and memorials a given regime needs to affirm itself. The government polishes them up and exhibits them as objects for mass pride, exultation, vengeance, anger, and mourning. The official version of memory can be glamorized with marketing know-how and modern technologies, like the Bosco-themed ice rink in Red Square, and used to promote the supposedly correct vision of history. This process is like an old black-and-white film that is colorized and aired again on national television.

Some citizens of modern Russia can nourish in their hearts the myth of Stalin’s effective iron grip and get nostalgic about the period of lethargic calm under Brezhnev, but the period they value most is the present. Perhaps that is why Russians rate the era of Putin, who is seen to be the inheritor of all that is best in Russian history, as the most favorable era of all.

Yet the way collective memory is constructed in today’s Russia leaves no possibility for the country’s future development. Mass consciousness is reduced to a primitive state, whereby Russians are united only around archaic values. The official simplification of the past refuses to recognize the role of individuals as independent players in history, reserving this role for the state and its bureaucratic system, financial elites, and the military machine.

National identity is based, above all, on the experience of a common history but, in today’s Russia, the current model of national historical experience splits people up instead of bringing them together. As a result, in some sense, the Russian nation is no closer to developing its own modern identity. Moreover, Russia seems to be much further away from properly understanding its place in history than it was as a newly independent country in the 1990s.


1 Putin has his own view of his place in history. He sees himself as on par with some of the most outstanding, in his opinion, historical figures.

2 “Natsional’naya gordost’” [National pride], press release, Levada Center, June 30, 2016,

3 “Obshchestvennoe mnenie—2016” [Public opinion—2016], Levada Center Annual Report, Moscow, 2016, 262.

4 Ibid.

5 “Figura Stalina v obshchestvennom mnenii Rossii” [The figure of Stalin in Russian public opinion], press release, Levada Center, March 25, 2016,

6 “Memorial: pobeditelyam shkol’nogo istoricheskogo konkursa pytayutsya zapretit’ ekhat’ na tseremoniyu nagrazhdeniya v Moskvu” [Memorial: there is an attempt to prevent the winners of a high school historical contest from attending an award ceremony in Moscow], Meduza, April 22, 2017,

7 “Praviteli” [Rulers], press release, Levada Center, February 15, 2017,

8 Andrei Kolesnikov, Alexander Roubtsov, Vasiliy Zharkov, Grigoriy Yudin, and Daria Khlevniuk, “Kakoye proshloye nuzhno budushchemu Rossii” [ Which past does Russia need?] the Committee of Civil Initiatives, January 23, 2017,

9 “Putin vozglavil shestvie Bessmertnogo polka po Krasnoy Ploshchadi” [Putin heads Immortal Regiment procession on Red Square ], Republic, May 9, 2015,

10 “Prazdnovaniye Dnya Pobedy” [Celebration of Victory Day], Public Opinion Foundation, May 8, 2015,

11 “Ubity v Katyni. Kniga pamyati pol’skikh voennoplennykh—uznikov Kozel’skogo lagerya NKVD, rasstrelyannykh po resheniyu Politbyuro TsK VKP(b) ot 5 marta 1940 goda” [Killed in Katyn: memorial book of Polish prisoners of war from the Kozelsky Camp of the NKVD, who were shot on Politburo orders on March 5, 1940], Memorial, 2015,

12 “O tragedii v Katyni i otnosheniyakh s Pol’shei” [The tragedy in Katyn and relations with Poland], Levada Center, April 21, 2011,

13 Alexander Tvardovsky, Novomirsky dnevnik [New world diary], vol. 1, 1961−1966, Moscow, 2009, 511−512.

14 Alexander Bovin, XX vek kak zhizn’. Vospominaniya [The twentieth century as life: Memories] (Moscow: Zakharov, 2003), 139.

15 The vestiges of Soviet mythology and the increasing distance between citizens and these historical events may account for why Russians are viewing these matters more and more calmly. See “Vladimir Lenin,” press release, Levada Center, April 19, 2017,

16 “Slova” [Words], Vedomosti, February 20, 2017,

17 “Obshchestvennoe mnenie—2016, [Public opinion—2016], 261.

18 Liza Miller and Sofia Samokhina, “Est’ na revolyutsiyu zatraty” [There are costs to the revolution], Kommersant, February 13, 2017,



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