Massenbach-Letter: NEWS 05/09/14

Massenbach-Letter. News

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

Guten Morgen.

· The XX Committee *War and the (Islamic) State

· ISIL’s Political-Military Power in Iraq

· Qatar and ISIS Funding: The U.S. Approach

· The Assad government may be evil – but it is a lesser evil, writes Richard Haass (President Council on Foreign Relations)

· To Defeat Terror, We Need the World’s Help*John Kerry: The Threat of ISIS Demands a Global Coalition

· Islamic State Militants in Syria Now Have Drone Capabilities

· IMF approves loan tranche for Ukraine, warns of risks

· Austrians say the party is over for business in Eastern Europe

· Mearsheimer: Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s Fault * The Liberal Delusions That Provoked Putin

· IMF approves loan tranche for Ukraine, warns of risks

· Energy Economist: The Russia-Ukraine standoff looks to the energy needs of winter

· Germany’s Energy Transition Dream at Risk of Becoming Nightmare

· Wood Mackenzie: Third Wave of US Shale to Show Europe the Way Ahead.

· Joint petroleum development in the South China Sea: Kemp

Massenbach* ISIL’s Political-Military Power in Iraq*

By Michael Knights Also available in CTC Sentinel August 2014

Download PDF

The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has the world on edge. Since its nadir in the spring of 2010, ISIL is considered to have evolved from a terrorist group on-the-ropes to "a full-blown army," in the words of U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Brett McGurk. An analysis of ISIL’s recent military accomplishments is difficult due to the lack of confirmed facts about much of what has transpired in Iraq, particularly during the hectic months since the collapse of federal security forces in Mosul on June 10, 2014. Nevertheless, using a range of case studies from the Iraqi side of ISIL’s area of operations, this article explores what is currently known about the movement from a military standpoint. If ISIL is an army, what kind of army is it, and what are its weaknesses?

This article finds that ISIL is a military power mostly because of the weakness and unpreparedness of its enemies. Lengthy shaping of the battlefield, surprise, and mobility made its recent successes possible, but all these factors are diminishing. As a defensive force, ISIL may struggle to hold terrain if it is attacked simultaneously at multiple points or if its allies begin to defect. With the right blend of countermeasures, the group could once again be pushed back to its roots as a rural insurgency operating largely outside the cities.

To read the full article, download the PDF. This report originally appeared on the CTC website.


*Look to Syria to halt the deadly march of Isis*

The Assad government may be evil – but it is a lesser evil, writes Richard Haass (President Council on Foreign Relations)

The US and much of the world have been rudely awakened to the fact that the group formerly known as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant is both a dangerous terrorist organisation, and considerably more than that. The deadly reality of its capabilities and ambitions is captured in the latest title by which Isis styles itself: the Islamic State. It is a de facto government with evolving borders that seeks to impose its vision of society on the millions of people over whom it rules. And, as it has dramatically shown since the capture of the Iraqi city of Mosul in June, it seeks to expand its borders and the numbers subject to its control.

The biggest question now facing western states is what to do about Syria. Iraq’s neighbour is where Isis established itself and from where it directs its operations. The fact is that the world cannot defeat Isis in Iraq, or limit its potential elsewhere, if it continues to enjoy sanctuary in Syria. Yet this is a country whose president, Bashar al-Assad, stands accused by the west of war crimes as part of an onslaught against his own citizens that has fuelled a conflict costing almost 200,000 lives.

The first thing that needs to be done, despite White House reluctance, is to make good on what General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, suggested last week. The US should attack Isis targets across the border from Iraq inside Syria. More could and should be done, too, to slow the flow of recruits, arms and dollars.

Yet even with support from US special forces, Kurdish peshmerga, Sunni tribesmen and Iraqi ground troops operating at home – together with attempts to close borders and banks – there are limits to what air power can achieve. What is needed are ground forces operating inside Syria. This is where things get complicated. Very complicated.

In principle there are four options. The US and European governments could provide ground forces. But, with widespread hostility to renewed military involvement following wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, this is a political non-starter. An expeditionary force would be an undertaking of enormous cost and risk, with no prospect of speedy success and likely to yield at best only limited progress. Given public attitudes, it is not going to happen.

A second option would be to create a pan-Arab expeditionary force, one with units from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and possibly Egypt. Organising and deploying such a force would be extremely difficult. It might also trigger intervention from other outsiders with a stake in Syria’s future, including Iran. If this were to happen, what is already a bad situation could become worse.

The third option is to create an internal Syrian opposition, building on elements that already exist. But this, too, would take a good deal of time, and it would be a tall order for any such force to contend successfully with both the Syrian government and Isis.

The fourth option is to turn to the regime of Mr Assad to take the lead in defeating Isis. This would mean accepting for the foreseeable future a regime that has committed war crimes; that is supported by Iran and Russia, with which the west has considerable strategic differences; and that is opposed by countries, including Saudi Arabia, with which the US has more often than not co-operated.

Such a policy change would be costly but not as costly as a scenario in which Isis could use Syrian territory from which to mount attacks on the region and beyond. The Assad government may be evil – but it is a lesser evil than Isis, and a local one. Such an accommodation would require a great deal of diplomacy if it were to succeed. Understandings would have to be reached with Damascus, with the mostly secular opposition, much depleted by three years of brutal battles against Isis and the regime; and with outside backers (mainly Iran and Saudi Arabia) about how Syria was to be run, both now and in the future, and what would happen in liberated areas.

As is often the case, the more attractive options may not be feasible, while the option that could prove feasible would present distinct difficulties. The calculus argues for determining whether creating a pan-Arab force or developing a viable internal opposition are possible in the near future; if not, the US and Europe may have to live with, and even work with, a regime they have for years sought to remove. What is certain is that it should be a priority to convene a meeting of all the relevant governments – which, if initial discussions with other countries show promise, should include the Assad regime – to determine whether a common policy towards Syria and Isis can be forged.

The writer is president of the Council on Foreign Relations


To Defeat Terror, We Need the World’s Help*

John Kerry: The Threat of ISIS Demands a Global Coalition*

IN a polarized region and a complicated world, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria presents a unifying threat to a broad array of countries, including the United States. What’s needed to confront its nihilistic vision and genocidal agenda is a global coalition using political, humanitarian, economic, law enforcement and intelligence tools to support military force.

In addition to its beheadings, crucifixions and other acts of sheer evil, which have killed thousands of innocents in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, including Sunni Muslims whose faith it purports to represent, ISIS (which the United States government calls ISIL, or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) poses a threat well beyond the region.

Continue reading the main story

Related in Opinion

Op-Ed Contributors: John McCain and Lindsey Graham: Confront ISIS NowAUG. 29, 2014

ISIS has its origins in what was once known as Al Qaeda in Iraq, which has over a decade of experience in extremist violence. The group has amassed a hardened fighting force of committed jihadists with global ambitions, exploiting the conflict in Syria and sectarian tensions in Iraq. Its leaders have repeatedly threatened the United States, and in May an ISIS-associated terrorist shot and killed three people at the Jewish Museum in Brussels. (A fourth victim died 13 days later.) ISIS’ cadre of foreign fighters are a rising threat not just in the region, but anywhere they could manage to travel undetected — including to America.

There is evidence that these extremists, if left unchecked, will not be satisfied at stopping with Syria and Iraq. They are larger and better funded in this new incarnation, using pirated oil, kidnapping and extortion to finance operations in Syria and Iraq. They are equipped with sophisticated heavy weapons looted from the battlefield. They have already demonstrated the ability to seize and hold more territory than any other terrorist organization, in a strategic region that borders Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey and is perilously close to Israel.

ISIS fighters have exhibited repulsive savagery and cruelty. Even as they butcher Shiite Muslims and Christians in their effort to touch off a broader ethnic and sectarian conflict, they pursue a calculated strategy of killing fellow Sunni Muslims to gain and hold territory. The beheading of an American journalist, James Foley, has shocked the conscience of the world.

With a united response led by the United States and the broadest possible coalition of nations, the cancer of ISIS will not be allowed to spread to other countries. The world can confront this scourge, and ultimately defeat it. ISIS is odious, but not omnipotent. We have proof already in northern Iraq, where United States airstrikes have shifted the momentum of the fight, providing space for Iraqi and Kurdish forces to go on the offensive. With our support, Iraqi leaders are coming together to form a new, inclusive government that is essential to isolating ISIS and securing the support of all of Iraq’s communities.

Airstrikes alone won’t defeat this enemy. A much fuller response is demanded from the world. We need to support Iraqi forces and the moderate Syrian opposition, who are facing ISIS on the front lines. We need to disrupt and degrade ISIS’ capabilities and counter its extremist message in the media. And we need to strengthen our own defenses and cooperation in protecting our people.

Next week, on the sidelines of the NATO summit meeting in Wales, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and I will meet with our counterparts from our European allies. The goal is to enlist the broadest possible assistance. Following the meeting, Mr. Hagel and I plan to travel to the Middle East to develop more support for the coalition among the countries that are most directly threatened.

The United States will hold the presidency of the United Nations Security Council in September, and we will use that opportunity to continue to build a broad coalition and highlight the danger posed by foreign terrorist fighters, including those who have joined ISIS. During the General Assembly session, President Obama will lead a summit meeting of the Security Council to put forward a plan to deal with this collective threat.

In this battle, there is a role for almost every country. Some will provide military assistance, direct and indirect. Some will provide desperately needed humanitarian assistance for the millions who have been displaced and victimized across the region. Others will help restore not just shattered economies but broken trust among neighbors. This effort is underway in Iraq, where other countries have joined us in providing humanitarian aid, military assistance and support for an inclusive government.

Already our efforts have brought dozens of nations to this cause. Certainly there are different interests at play. But no decent country can support the horrors perpetrated by ISIS, and no civilized country should shirk its responsibility to help stamp out this disease.

ISIS’ abhorrent tactics are uniting and rallying neighbors with traditionally conflicting interests to support Iraq’s new government. And over time, this coalition can begin to address the underlying factors that fuel ISIS and other terrorist organizations with like-minded agendas.

Coalition building is hard work, but it is the best way to tackle a common enemy. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, the first President George Bush and Secretary of State James A. Baker III did not act alone or in haste. They methodically assembled a coalition of countries whose concerted action brought a quick victory.

Extremists are defeated only when responsible nations and their peoples unite to oppose them.

John Kerry is the secretary of state of the United States.


Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* FDP-Debakel in Sachsen Lindner muss nun Taten folgen lassen*

Ein Kommentar von Issio Ehrich

Sachsen ist verloren. Und in zwei Wochen dürfte die FDP auch in Thüringen und Brandenburg fallen. Für Parteichef Lindner heißt das: Alles oder nichts. Es gibt keinen Weg zurück.

Tiefpunkt? Von wegen. Es geht immer schlimmer. Gestern noch Regierungspartei, heute außerparlamentarische Opposition. Das gilt jetzt auch für die einst so stolzen Liberalen in Sachsen. Und in den nächsten Wochen verfinstert sich der gelbe Horizont mit höchster Wahrscheinlichkeit weiter. Die Landesverbände aus Thüringen und Brandenburg haben vergeblich auf einen Dresdner Umkehrschub gehofft. Jetzt müssen auch sie sich möglicherweise damit abfinden, dass sie bei den Wahlen Mitte September an der Fünf-Prozent-Hürde scheitern.

Nicht zuletzt Christian Lindner könnte der Niedergang der FDP im Freistaat zum Verhängnis werden. Den Wahlkampf des sächsischen Landeschefs Holger Zastrow hat vor allem ein Credo bestimmt: Berlin nervt. Zastrow hat seine Kampagne allein darauf aufgebaut, sich von der Bundespartei abzusetzen. Wochenlang prangte auf Plakaten im Freistaat: "Sachsen ist nicht Berlin." Nun zu behaupten, damit sei Lindner raus, wäre aber naiv.

Eine geschickte Sprachregelung

Der Bundesvorsitzende trägt keine Verantwortung für die Schlappe. Er hat sich in Sachsen nicht eingemischt. Doch natürlich hinterlässt die Berlin-Hetze, die sich dort tagtäglich Bahn brach, Spuren. Selbstdemontage stand noch keinem gut. Und wenn schon niemand die Sachsen-FDP wählen will, wer soll dann schon noch für die angeblich noch schlimmere Bundes-FDP stimmen?

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Hätte Zastrow reüssiert, hätte Berlin den Erfolg im Land gegen den Imageschaden im Bund aufwiegen können. Getreu dem Motto: Na gut, er hat auf unsere Kosten gesiegt, aber am Ende profitiert doch auch die Bundes-FDP von starken Landesverbänden. Doch die sächsischen Liberalen haben eben keinen Erfolg gehabt.

Vielleicht hat Lindner diesen Ausgang kommen sehen. Auf jeden Fall hat die Parteispitze in Berlin angesichts des Abkopplungswahlkampfes in Sachsen schon eine geschickte Sprachregelung ausgepackt: Die Kritik, die Zastrow und andere Landespolitiker an der Bundespartei äußern, sei eine Kritik an der alten FDP – der Mövenpick- und Rösler-FDP. Linder sei aber doch gerade dabei, die neue FDP aufzubauen.

Das mag im Kern stimmen. Lindner sagt derzeit gern Sätze wie: "Die FDP ist in der Phase einer geistigen Neugründung." Der Druck, auf solche Worte Taten folgen zu lassen, wächst mit dem Sachsen-Debakel jetzt allerdings ins Unermessliche. Denn eines ist spätestens jetzt sicher: Der Weg Zurück zur Klientelpartei ist auf absehbare Zeit versperrt.


Politics: From Vision to Action

Barandat* Islamic State Militants in Syria Now Have Drone Capabilities*

By Yasmin Tadjdeh <img width="19" height="13" src="cid:image033.jpg

Recently, video emerged that showed Islamic militants in Syria had acquired a surveillance drone. It marked the first time such technology has been used by the burgeoning terrorist organization, a RAND Corp. analyst said.

The consequences of the Islamic State — the terrorist organization known as ISIS that has been characterized by its increasingly violent tactics in the Middle East — acquiring such technology could be dangerous, Colin Clarke, an associate political scientist at RAND Corp. who researches ISIS, told National Defense.

“This is the first time I’ve seen ISIS showing this kind of capability,” Clarke said. “[But] it’s not a total surprise simply because we’ve seen other similar … groups like Hezbollah or Hamas using these drones.”

A DJI Phantom FC40 unmanned aerial vehicle took the footage seen in the video, which was published on YouTube on Aug. 23, he said.

“[It’s] a spotter mini-drone, so it’s … got a smart camera. It’s really used for surveillance purposes to spy on enemy positions,” Clarke said.

Militants used the footage to survey the Tabqa military airfield, a key Syrian air base, that the group later captured. The base was the last government stronghold in the area.

“They … [used] this as a recon method to scout out what the base looked like before going in with a more kinetic attack,” Clarke said. “They used multiple suicide bombers to gain entry.”

Not only did the capturing of the base give ISIS a foothold in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, but it may have acquired surface-to-air missiles known as man portable air defense systems, or MANPADS, Clarke said.

The shoulder-launched missiles are capable of striking airplanes or helicopters at altitudes of up to 16,000 feet, he said. That kind of capability in ISIS’ hands is “scary,” he said.

While the drone may not have been critical in taking the base, it gave militants situational awareness they wouldn’t have had otherwise, Clarke said.

“Any small advantage helps. I’d say it’s kind of a force multiplier,” he said. “Any time you can get advanced information by scouting out a position before attacking it is helpful because it helps you plan exactly what kind of resources you are going to need.”

For now, it appears that ISIS does not have access to a more advanced armed UAV, though that is not entirely out of the question, Clarke said.

Hamas and Hezbollah, Islamic militant groups in Palestine and Lebanon, respectively, have shown previously that they have drone capabilities, he said.

Hezbollah allegedly flew a UAV over the Israeli city of Haifa in April 2013. Israel destroyed the aircraft.

In July, Israel allegedly shot down a Hamas-owned drone during Operation Protective Edge. Shortly after, the group released an image of what it says was one of its armed drones, though specific capability details were not released.

Hamas’ military wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, has claimed it has engineered three drones — one that could be armed, one that could be used as a self-guided missile and one for surveillance, Clarke said.

Media outlets reported that these drones were variants of the Ababil-1, an Iranian-made UAV.

“If a group like Hamas has this kind of technology, then it’s inevitable … [and] only a matter of time before a group like ISIS gets this,” he said.

It is possible that groups such as Hamas or Hezbollah could one day acquire a more advanced drone if given to them by a state sponsor, such as Iran, Clarke said.

ISIS, on the other hand, does not have a state sponsor, which could make it more difficult to obtain an armed drone, he said. The group, which identifies as Sunni, lacks support from Sunni-backed states such as Qatar or Saudi Arabia, he said.

“Some of the traditional Sunni powers are very scared, … the Saudis, the Qataris and Kuwaitis, of what could happen if ISIS sets their sights on Riyadh [in Saudi Arabia] or one of these other places,” Clarke said.

The unmanned aerial vehicle used by ISIS in the YouTube video is not sophisticated, Clarke said.

“It’s a pretty basic drone. It’s pretty simple. I wouldn’t say it’s sophisticated any more than the drones that people use in the United States now to take pictures of their wedding,” Clarke said.

However, having this kind of technology increases the group’s credibility, he said.

“[This] plays into the … narrative that ISIS is building, which is that we’re a different type of insurgent group [and] you’ve never seen anything like us. You’ve never seen this kind of propaganda, with their media front. You’ve never seen a group with this much money, which is arguably true. Or this type of arsenal,” Clarke said. “The recruits that are pouring into Syria and Iraq are by and large flocking to this group mostly because it has been successful.”

James Carafano, vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the Heritage Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, said it was unavoidable that ISIS would get its hands on a UAV.

“The notion that the United States was going to be the only country using operational drones was going to be something that was going to come to an end fairly quickly,” he said.

However, that doesn’t mean ISIS has a real advantage.

“Just because you have … [a drone] doesn’t mean you have much of an operational capability,” Carafano said. “A drone is a low-end capability for us, a drone is a high-end capability for these guys. And the capacity of us to overmatch that is pretty significant.”

If ISIS deploys a UAV, the United States could easily deploy a fighter jet in response, he said.

Should ISIS continue to invest in UAVs, it can expect to have enemies attempt to jam them or strike them, which adds another layer of operational complexity, he said.

“As soon as you get in the drone business, you have to get into the countermeasures to protect the drone from being shot down or electronically interfered with. That’s a whole other level of sophistication you have to get through,” Carafano said.

Credit: Aerial footage from an ISIS drone (YouTube photo)

Posted at 12:49 PM by Yasmin Tadjdeh


Middle East

The XX Committee

intelligence, strategy, and security in a dangerous world

War and the (Islamic) State*

August 24, 2014

The barbaric murder this week of the American journalist James Foley by a British jihadist has served as a tragic reminder of the gravity of the global threat posed by the Salafi jihad movement. For the first time in years, the Western public, seeing the horrific images of Foley’s butchering, has been confronted with the reality of our enemy. Those who thought the death of Osama bin Laden three years ago signaled the beginning of the end of his vile cause, a view championed by the Obama administration, were naively mistaken. Bin Laden’s demise was, as Churchill said of British victory at El Alamein, “the end of the beginning” of the struggle against the Salafi jihad movement.

And a movement it is, rather than an organization; those who apply Western, military-style organizational charts to it, in the manner beloved by intelligence analysts everywhere, are and have always been wrong. It shares an ideology but operates differently depending where it goes: there is tactical flexibility nested in severe ideological rigidity. Al-Qa’ida (AQ) never had a monopoly on the global jihad movement, and its slow, predictable decline under the uninspired leadership of Ayman al-Zawahiri has opened the door to the even more extreme jihadists of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS). While AQ is far from dead — its Yemen-based franchise in particular, AQ in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), remains very dangerous — it’s evident that the center of gravity in the global jihad movement has shifted to the fanatics of the Islamic State and their self-proclaimed Caliphate.

The struggle between AQ and the group now calling itself IS goes back a decade in Iraq, beginning with Sunni resistance to the U.S. invasion in 2003, and, given the gradual decline of bin Laden’s faction, it was perhaps inevitable that the even more murderous IS would win out. Its message of uncompromising holy war against all enemies, from “infidels” outside the Muslim world to the many “apostates” within it, appeals to the basest human instincts and is intoxicating to angry young men who pine for murder, martyrdom, and glory. IS embraces the extreme Salafi vision — they are takfiris to use the proper term — of jihad for jihad’s sake, a fanatical fantasy of “pure” Islam that invariably kills more Muslims than “infidels.” The takfiri tendency lies in the DNA of the Salafi jihad movement, and has burst forth murderously on many occasions, most horrifically in Algeria in the 1990s, where the local AQ affiliate, the Armed islamic Group (GIA), was expelled from the “official” movement for its indiscriminate killing, just as IS was recently. The only difference now is that the world has noticed, with horror, the mass killings of innocents perpetrated by IS murderers in Iraq. True “shock and awe” in Iraq has been delivered by masked fanatics rallied around a black flag, not the U.S. military.

I’ve watched the global jihad movement closely for years, both as a security practitioner and a scholar, and I’ve analyzed its metastasis as it’s moved from region to region. I’ve written books about its strategy and operations as well as its growth in the 1990s into a worldwide phenomenon. Since 9/11, I’ve witnessed two American presidents wage war against the global jihad movement in a rather similar manner, contrary to much public fuss about the differences between Bush and Obama-style counterterrorism, and from the outset I’ve maintained that the U.S. approach is deeply flawed and doomed to fail. My sharper critiques of American counterterrorism strategy have been largely confined to secret and off-record discussions inside the government, within the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Intelligence Community (IC), as well as with key Allies. As I am now leaving government employ, I am free to speak my mind. This is a start.

Let me state unambiguously that this is a war that the West must win. Our Salafi jihadist enemy is a threat to virtually every country on earth, including Western ones. Their vision is fanatical and uncompromising. They are a foe who must be killed off through attrition. There is no room for negotiation or dialogue. We must face the reality that our struggle against these fanatics will last decades, not years; everybody currently waging this war will retire before the job is done.

Winning the war will require the full effort of Western governments, working with each other and partners across the Muslim world. This is a two-front war, against Salafi jihadists who struggle against the Muslim world, and also against the fanatics in our midst who reside inside the West itself. For years, we’ve heard facile statements that America embraces a (bad) military-focused approach to counterterrorism while Europeans stick to a (good) law enforcement model. This view was arguably true a decade ago but is wholly false today, with all Western governments now employing police, militaries, and above all intelligence to combat the Salafi jihad wherever it finds sanctuary.

First, the external front. Here there is some good news. In the first place, the very fanaticism of IS and its make-believe Caliphate will ultimately undo it. Without exception, Salafi jihadists who embrace takfiri methods sooner or later wind up alienating the great majority of Muslims around them. While Iraqi Sunnis have allowed IS to play a vanguard role in their broad-based uprising against the Shia-run regime in Baghdad which they hate, eventually mainstream Sunnis will sour on IS butchery visited on co-religionists. Yet this should not overly comfort us, as it will be years, not months, before most Iraqi Sunnis realize they fear IS fanatics more than Shia.

Yet the war against IS in Iraq will be aided by the fact that we have many allies and partners in the struggle who are eager to put the “boots on the ground” that we do not wish to. Kurdish militias are fighting for their lives and Shia militias may be able to show the stamina in battle that the U.S-raised and trained Iraqi military so humiliatingly failed to against IS. We are already assisting Kurds, and more help is needed, with the proviso that DoD should supply weapons, logistics, and some intelligence — and no more: let locals fight in the manner they know how to. The collapse of the Iraqi military in the face of lightly armed fanatics, with whole divisions fleeing before an IS battalion, illustrates that the U.S. military, having wasted years and billions of dollars on Baghdad’s security forces, is thoroughly incompetent at building Middle Eastern militaries. We need to stop pretending otherwise and let the Iraqis, who are quite competent at killing, get on with fighting the fanatics.

Here U.S. and Allied airpower will be decisive, as long as it is applied properly. For years, I dined out on my oft-stated belief that if the Salafi jihadists wanted to destroy their cause, all they had to do was 1. embrace takfirism as a strategy, and 2. set up physical sanctuary somewhere, the Caliphate they pine for. Which is exactly what the Islamic State has done. I believed this because takfiri views are rejected by the vast majority of Muslims, who find them repugnant and barbaric, moreover setting up shop in any place for very long would be an open invitation to be crushed mercilessly by American airpower. I had assumed, naively, that no U.S. president would hesitate to dispatch AC-130 gunships to annihilate any jihadists foolish enough to control large swaths of territory.

Let me be clear: Attriting IS out of existence in Iraq — and Syria too — where they have erased the Allied-drawn state boundaries of the post-World War One settlement, will not be quick but it can be done through proper application of Western airpower tied to proxy forces on the ground. Indeed, this is the sort of fight the U.S. military today is ideally suited for. Since 9/11, the DoD and IC have honed their terrorist-killing acumen, with secret warriors of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), guided by time-sensitive intelligence, becoming the bane of jihadists in many countries. They have no equal at what they do in secret. The JSOC-IC combination will be critical to destroying IS, one deadly raid at a time.

Just as important will be airpower, delivered through both manned and unmanned platforms. As yet, IS has only rudimentary air defenses, and U.S. and Allied air forces can deliver hammer blows to their battalions without serious losses on our side. Contrary to what activists tell you, the U.S. military goes to great lengths to avoid civilian deaths, what we euphemistically term “collateral damage,” in its use of airpower. We must understand that IS will use civilians as shields, as HAMAS has done in Gaza. This must not deter us. IS leaders (high-value targets or “HVTs” in the trade) must be killed wherever they are, regardless of whose house they are hiding in. After enough airstrikes, Sunnis will seek to expel IS from their midst for fear of our lethal reach.

The virulent extremism of the Islamic State — they represent to the Salafi cause roughly what the Khmer Rouge did to Marxism-Leninism — means that nearly everybody will want to partner with the West to some degree in fighting it. Once they see the seriousness of our intent, certain Gulf states whose support for IS has been important to their growth will quickly reconsider their position. Even Russia could be a valuable partner in the fight against IS, while Putin’s friends in Damascus are very eager to eliminate this existential threat to the Assad regime. Iran must be handled carefully, as Tehran will be an enemy of the West as long as it is ruled by the mullahs, but they are deadly serious about destroying the Islamic State in both Iraq and Syria. To wax Churchillian again, the British prime minister famously said that if Hitler invaded Hell he would make at least a favorable reference to the devil in the House of Commons, and that nicely sums up Iran’s place in the loose anti-IS coalition too.

I have been a frequent critic of post-9/11 American beliefs that there is a military solution to every problem, a viewpoint that has caused much heartache for the United States and many foreigners in recent years. In the long run, the wave of Salafi radicalism that has shaken the Muslim world in recent decades will burn itself out. Islam has seen similar waves before. But we would be naive to expect it to recede anytime soon, and the wave may not have crested yet. Moreover, political problems across the Middle East that have assisted the rise of extremism, for instance the sectarian stupidity of the Baghdad government that emerged under U.S. tutelage, leading to a Sunni rebellion with IS at its head, are largely beyond the West’s control to repair or even ameliorate. A Bosnian-style partition of Iraq into Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish entities, devolving power on ethno-sectarian lines while maintaining a notional Iraqi state, looks like an even better idea now than when Vice President (then Senator) Joe Biden proposed it in 2006 (whatever my criticisms of Bosnian dysfunction, that country looks like Switzerland compared to Iraq now), but we ought not believe that politico-economic reform in the Muslim world, however welcome and necessary it may be, offers any short term solutions to the problem of Salafi jihadism. Right now the sole remedy to the challenge presented by the Islamic State is crushing it with brutal force.

The issue, then, is intent. We have it in our power to destroy IS in Iraq and Syria, and although that attrition-based strategy will not achieve success quickly, ultimate victory over at least this part of the Salafi jihad movement is assured as long as we pursue the struggle with patience and vigor. Will, not way, is our problem. President Obama’s take on the jihadist enemy has never inspired confidence in the counterterrorism community, and his reaction to the rise of the Islamic State does not reflect the seriousness of the threat we now face. While none can fault Obama for a lack of ardor for certain aspects of the war that he refuses to call a war, as the death of Osama bin Laden and hundreds of lethal drone strikes during his presidency attest, his unwillingness to confront the ideological aspects of the struggle has been troubling to many who wage that war. Obvious White House squeamishness about the “I-word,” coupled with idiocies like terming the massacre of thirteen U.S. soldiers by Nidal Hasan, Army psychiatrist turned self-styled jihadist, an incident of “workplace violence,” bespeak a fundamental lack of seriousness about the struggle we are in. While we must always be careful about delineating Islam from Islamism, and I have been sharply critical of those who do not, pretending that Salafi jihadism is not what it actually is only helps the enemy.

President Obama’s penchant for golf, particularly at inopportune moments, has received much criticism of late, with even what might be termed the court press reporting frankly on its negative impact on public perception, including scathing op-eds. It is difficult to escape the suspicion that the president is tired of the hard job of being Commander-in-Chief. Certainly his public comments on the Islamic State lack the dire tone emanating from some senior administration officials. This week, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke of IS in alarming terms as a threat “beyond anything that we’ve seen…They’re beyond just a terrorist group.” General Martin Dempsey, DoD’s military head, stated that IS possesses an “apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision” and the group “will eventually have to be defeated.” It’s an open secret in the Pentagon that such blunt statements reflect widespread concerns in DoD and the IC that President Obama is not taking the current threat seriously enough. At a minimum, the president must inject his national security staff, which I’ve never found talented or inspired, with purpose and seriousness, while antics such as disclosing failed top secret counterterrorism operations to score political points are unworthy of the presidency and must cease at once.

It is hoped that, confronted by the rising madness and violence of IS in Iraq and Syria, Obama will find the ability to pursue the war against Salafi jihadism with the required vigor, as well as to communicate to the public the nature of the threat we face, including the reality that the struggle will be long and difficult. The Islamic State can be crushed in what remains of Obama’s second term, while defeating Salafi jihadism itself is a generational enterprise, but refusing to use the time between now and January 2017 to fight IS with all the means at our disposal will not only give the enemy time to grow and metastasize further, it would amount to presidential dereliction of duty. If President Obama does not possess the will to wage this war that has been forced upon us, he should consider devoting himself to golf full time and stepping aside in favor of Joe Biden, who has demonstrated some quite sensible views on terrorism over the years.

That said, the war against IS inside the Muslim world is only part of the struggle we now face, and in many ways it’s the easy part. That James Foley’s killer is British (his identity has been established by British intelligence but not yet released to the public) has focused attention on the painful fact that a considerable number of IS fighters in Iraq and Syria are from the West. British citizens are estimated to represent a quarter of the roughly 2,000 Europeans fighting with IS at present. Numbers of Westerners in IS ranks are difficult to estimate and the true figure is likely 3,000 or more. Additionally, since many jihadists go to Syria or Iraq for a few months and return home, leading to a high turnover rate, the number of Westerners who have fought with IS in the Middle East exceeds 5,000 and is rising fast.

Going to Syria or Iraq to join IS is very much in vogue among radical Salafis across the West. Getting there is easy, especially for Europeans: Turkey’s looking the other way about the movement of thousands of foreign fighters through the country en route to the jihad is a key factor here. The fanatical IS message resonates among an alarming number of European youths: in a recent poll, sixteen percent of French had a “favorable” view of IS while three percent admitted to having a “very favorable” view of the Islamic State. Warnings from dissenting experts that extremism among European Muslims is considerably more commonplace than it’s politic to admit fell on deaf ears on grounds of political correctness, but have been proved wholly correct. It’s fashionable among hardline European Salafis to go to Syria or Iraq to fight, though in reality most of them spend far more time hanging out than actually engaging in combat. Many of their rest centers, safely away from the front, are surprisingly lavish, leading to the Syrian war being memorably termed a “five-star jihad” in extremist circles.

Historically, only five to ten percent of foreign fighters engage directly in terrorism when they return home, but that figure is cold comfort given the unprecedently vast numbers of Westerners who are going to Iraq and Syria. Some returnees have already engaged in terrorism in Europe, while it is obvious that even effective European security services are overwhelmed by the numbers of jihadists coming back. French intelligence is monitoring some 300 persons, one-third of them women, with links to the Syrian jihad; as they require 24/7 surveillance, this is a daunting task for even the best resourced and most technically capable security services. Some European intelligence agencies, seeing “huge growth” in jihadist numbers, admit to being deluged by potential terrorists. Britain’s security services are likewise overwhelmed by the numbers of jihadist targets they must monitor, a situation that was hardly helped by the massive leaks by Edward Snowden, which the head of MI5, Britain’s domestic intelligence agency, scathingly called a “gift” to terrorists.

Moreover, for every returning jihadist who plots terrorism, ten or twenty more veterans engage in furthering the cause through proselytizing, preaching, fund-raising, and generally radicalizing and preparing the next generation of angry youths for jihad. Those who have actually gone to Syria or Iraq, where they have learned to butcher innocents, have enormous cachet among the wannabes back in Europe, who find their message of vitriolic hate toxically enticing. I have been warning for a decade that the West, particularly Europe, functions as a de facto safe haven for many Salafi jihadists who make up what I call the Sixth Column. We have seemingly forgotten that the 9/11 plot was hashed out more in Hamburg, Germany than in any Muslim country. It is long past time for the West to deal with this threat seriously.

There is no single profile for who abandons life in the postmodern West to join the Salafi jihad, particularly its most virulent brand. Some are rabidly pious Muslims, but many lack a firm foundation in matters Islamic, and a surprisingly large number of Western jihadists seem to have scant interest in anything theological: many join for the hate and the camaraderie, a need to belong, not the belief. They are consumed by rage and frustration and seek out a belief system that justifies acting out their evil urges — not the other way around. Many are ne’er-do-wells who have spent time in prison and possess unstable family backgrounds, but the son of privilege who abandons a life of comfort to wage jihad abroad is a Salafi cliche for a reason. Many are born Muslims who revert to a faith they never seriously practiced in their youth, while others are converts. Most are young, with many still in their teens, but the nearly middle-aged are not unknown in jihadist ranks either. Their psychology in many cases resembles that of a spree killer more than any popular conception of an arch-terrorist, while their ideology — a cut-and-paste version of Qutbism, dumbed-down for the online generation, that thrives on hate — is astonishingly consistent worldwide. Women often play an important role behind the scenes in radicalizing their men and keeping them that way.

One trend that is clearly visible among Western jihadists is the prominence of online recruiting and propaganda. Most young Salafis today enter the movement virtually, becoming markedly radical before ever meeting another extremist in the flesh. The time required to become dangerously extreme has shortened noticeably, no doubt due to the prevalence of online jihadism, the digihad, if you like. Back in the 1990s, most Westerners who “joined the caravan” (to use the movement term) were radicalized gradually, over months and even years, slowly turning their backs on their old life, while it is now commonplace to see young men who decide to abandon normalcy in favor of the jihad after only a few months of radicalization, and sometimes only a few weeks. All this makes it increasingly difficult for Western security services to track would-be terrorists, or to differentiate the merely extreme from the positively dangerous.

While the United States has been fortunate in many ways compared to Europe, possessing a Muslim community that is proportionately smaller and far less radicalized than in much of the European Union (EU), there is no reason to think that this will last forever. Americans are fighting with IS abroad too and some will return home with jihad still on their minds. The FBI, with the Intelligence Community, has done a commendable job since 9/11 keeping the domestic terrorism threat largely under wraps, aided by the fact that most of America’s homegrown jihadists to date have been frankly inept, some of them almost comically so. That, too, is a trend that is unlikely to continue indefinitely.

America has no room for comfort as it confronts the Salafi jihadist threat. The enemy’s desire to strike the United States directly remains as great as it ever was, while the fact that we functionally do not have border security means that any terrorists who seek to enter the country illegally will have no more difficulty than the millions of Latin Americans who have infiltrated without detection. Moreover, the large numbers of extremists possessing EU passports (and Canadian too: about 130 Canadians are currently fighting in Syria and Iraq), who are able to enter the USA without a visa, mean that attacks on the country can be handled by foreigners easily.

What, then, is to be done? Legal changes are in order if we are serious about defeating this enemy. Some European countries have recently criminalized going abroad as a foreign fighter, or facilitating that, and this is something that all Western countries should adopt promptly. While this will not cease jihad tourism, it will certainly complicate matters for would-be holy warriors. Westerners who do engage in jihad abroad should be deprived of citizenship and told to not come home, ever. While free speech is to be defended, it should at least be asked if engaging in jihadist propaganda ought to be criminalized (as, say, Holocaust denial has been in much of the EU). At a minimum, those who engage in material support of any Salafi jihad-related activity should face severe legal penalty.

In the United States, this also means we must end our security-theater act and get serious about stopping terrorism. The terrorist threat to our airlines is as great as it has ever been, as Attorney General Eric Holder recently admitted, citing his “extreme, extreme concern” about the threat emanating from Syria. The TSA is equal parts laughingstock and nuisance and needs to be wholly revamped into a serious security agency, relying on profiling rather than making life difficult for countless innocent people every day. “America doesn’t have an airline security system, America has a system for bothering people,” said the former head of security for El Al, Israel’s national airline, and seldom have truer words been spoken.

Yet the long-term way to defeat, rather than merely deter, Salafi jihadism, is through intelligence and covert action, not war in any conventional sense. While pummeling IS kinetically in Iraq and Syria is a necessary first step, it is only the beginning. The military defeat of the Islamic State by Western airpower and commandos, aided by local proxies, will set the stage for the strategic defeat of their movement. What must follow is a version of what I term Special War, tailored for counterterrorism, combining offensive counterintelligence, denial and deception, and long-term manipulation of the jihadists leading to their collapse and self-immolation.

That strategy is the topic of a forthcoming blog post ….


*Austrians say the party is over for business in Eastern Europe*

* Austrian companies have big presence in CEE

* Large write-offs across sectors hit firms

* Issue compounded by weak Western European economies

By Shadia Nasralla, Georgina Prodhan and Angelika Gruber

ALPBACH, Austria, Aug 31 (Reuters) – For Austrian companies the party in central and eastern Europe (CEE) is over – or at least postponed for years – after decades of investing and raking in huge profits in a region now spawning write-offs and witnessing rising political turmoil.

Bankers and business leaders are questioning Austria’s traditional strategy: aggressive expansion in what many see as their back yard, the countries once part of the Austro-Hungarian empire which collapsed nearly a century ago.

Ukraine’s political crisis and a Russian economic downturn pose major risks for Austrian companies with big exposure there. Goods and services worth 3.5 billion euros ($4.60 billion) went to Russia in 2013, but exports fell 11 percent in the first third of this year, Austria’s business lobby WKO has said.

"The rapid growth we might have seen in the past is over,"Telekom Austria Chief Executive Hannes Ametsreiter said on the sidelines of the European Forum Alpbach in Austria, adding that the culture and history of Austria meant it was well-adapted to expand into the region.

Telekom Austria wrote down its Bulgarian unit by 400 million euros in June, setting it on course for a 2014 loss.

Austrian banks, such as Raiffeisen and UniCredit Bank Austria, are the biggest EU lenders in CEE and the former Soviet republics, with loans worth around 202 billion euros in 2013, Austria’s central bank says. Its financial sector established itself in the region even before the Berlin Wall came down, but it faces a rethink as some investments go bad.

Erste Group, emerging Europe’s third-biggest lender, is on course for a record loss this year after writing down businesses in Romania and Croatia and setting aside 130 million euros for a Hungarian law forcing banks to compensate customers for mispriced loans.

Volksbanken AG has written off its Romanian business entirely, while Hypo Alpe Adria, which was nationalised in 2009 after a decade of breakneck expansion in the Balkans, has taken 5.5 billion euros in state aid since 2008.

Austria’s central bank Governor Ewald Nowotny said that even though companies‘ day-to-day business was holding up in Russia, there was little reason to expect expansion in the long run.

"The really big point is that investment projects are stopped," he told reporters in Alpbach.

Fears of a spiralling conflict on the Russia-Ukraine border have curbed trade, rocked currencies and damaged consumer confidence in the region.

Poland has already seen exports to Ukraine and Russia fall considerably, said central bank Governor Marek Belka at Alpbach.

"(Investors) are asking us simple and rather bland questions … will there be war? If the question is asked there is always a doubt whether an ambitious and more risky investment project will be launched. We already see private consumption slowing down."


In the energy sector, Austria has benefited from its links to Russia’s Gazprom, which pumps large parts of its gas for the European market through the country.South Stream, a $40-billion pipeline project, would bring enough gas to meet almost 15 percent of European demand and increase Austria’s standing as a gas centre. But it has raised eyebrows in Brussels, which might withhold its green light for the project, at a time when the European Union is trying to reduce its dependence on Russian gas and has imposed sanctions.

Parts of South Stream are being built with Austrian products. Voestalpine, which is delivering steel plates for the pipeline, sees its presence in the region as limited, but has to stay alert.

"The more important side actually is Ukraine, where we get about 30 percent of our ore," Voestalpine Chief Executive Wolfgang Eder said. "Eastern Europe is difficult for us at the moment because we simply don’t yet have the big draw of our clients in that direction."

The lack of a firm legal framework in some eastern European countries poses a considerable risk.

"The framework gets changed all the time," said Wolfgang Anzengruber, CEO of utility Verbund. "In this environment now you cannot go into these countries with a clear conscience."

With European investors growing more hesitant about CEE, the region is under pressure not only from the Russian-Ukraine conflict, but also from problems in western Europe.

"We don’t have a booming economy in the euro area … that’s why the disappointment in Ukraine and Russia weighs double on expectations (in CEE)," said Stefan Bruckbauer, chief economist at Bank Austria.

There is still growth potential, he said. Telekom Austria sees pay TV and cloud computing as growth markets in Eastern Europe. But the region will not replicate its growth from 10 years ago. "This is a realisation that one was a bit too optimistic," Bruckbauer said.


Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s Fault * The Liberal Delusions That Provoked Putin

By John J. Mearsheimer *JOHN J. MEARSHEIMER is R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago.

From our September/October 2014 Issue

According to the prevailing wisdom in the West, the Ukraine crisis can be blamed almost entirely on Russian aggression. Russian President Vladimir Putin, the argument goes, annexed Crimea out of a long-standing desire to resuscitate the Soviet empire, and he may eventually go after the rest of Ukraine, as well as other countries in eastern Europe. In this view, the ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014 merely provided a pretext for Putin’s decision to order Russian forces to seize part of Ukraine.

But this account is wrong: the United States and its European allies share most of the responsibility for the crisis. The taproot of the trouble is NATO enlargement, the central element of a larger strategy to move Ukraine out of Russia’s orbit and integrate it into the West. At the same time, the EU’s expansion eastward and the West’s backing of the pro-democracy movement in Ukraine — beginning with the Orange Revolution in 2004 — were critical elements, too. Since the mid-1990s, Russian leaders have adamantly opposed NATO enlargement, and in recent years, they have made it clear that they would not stand by while their strategically important neighbor turned into a Western bastion. For Putin, the illegal overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically elected and pro-Russian president — which he rightly labeled a “coup” — was the final straw. He responded by taking Crimea, a peninsula he feared would host a NATO naval base, and working to destabilize Ukraine until it abandoned its efforts to join the West. (contd. see att.)

Putin reagiert

Warum der Westen an der Ukraine-Krise schuld ist.

© Picture Alliance

Pro-Russische Rebellen im August in Krasnodon, Ost-Ukraine.

Im Westen gilt es als gesicherte Erkenntnis, dass an der Ukraine-Krise maßgeblich die aggressive Haltung der Russen schuld ist. Der russische Präsident Wladimir Putin, so die gängige Argumentation, hat die Krim annektiert, weil er schon lange eine Wiederbelebung des Sowjetreichs im Sinn hatte, und wird womöglich auch den Rest der Ukraine und andere Länder Osteuropas ins Visier nehmen. Die Absetzung des ukrainischen Präsidenten Viktor Janukowitsch im Februar 2014 habe Putin lediglich den Vorwand dafür geliefert, russische Streitkräfte auf die Krim zu entsenden.

Doch diese Darstellung ist falsch: Die Hauptschuld an der Krise tragen die USA und ihre europäischen Verbündeten. An der Wurzel des Konflikts liegt die NATO-Osterweiterung, Kernpunkt einer umfassenden Strategie, die Ukraine aus der russischen Einflusssphäre zu holen und in den Westen einzubinden. Dazu kamen die EU-Osterweiterung und die Unterstützung der Demokratiebewegung in der Ukraine durch den Westen, beginnend mit der Orangenen Revolution 2004. Seit Mitte der 1990er Jahre lehnen russische Staatschefs eine NATO-Osterweiterung entschieden ab, und in den vergangenen Jahren haben sie unmissverständlich klargemacht, dass sie einer Umwandlung ihres strategisch wichtigen Nachbarn in eine Bastion des Westens nicht untätig zusehen würden. Das Fass zum Überlaufen brachte der unrechtmäßige Sturz des demokratisch gewählten pro-russischen Präsidenten der Ukraine; Putin sprach zu Recht von einem »Staatsstreich«. Als Reaktion darauf annektierte er die Halbinsel Krim, auf der, wie er befürchtete, die Einrichtung einer NATO-Marinebasis geplant war, und betrieb die Destabilisierung der Ukraine, um sie von einer Annäherung an den Westen abzubringen.

Putins Gegenwehr kam eigentlich alles andere als überraschend. Immerhin war der Westen, wie Putin nicht müde wurde zu betonen, in den Hinterhof Russlands vorgedrungen und hatte dessen strategische Kerninteressen bedroht. Die politischen Eliten der USA und Europas trafen die Ereignisse nur deshalb unvorbereitet, weil sie der Logik des Realismus im 21. Jahrhundert kaum noch Bedeutung zumessen und davon ausgehen, dass sich die Einheit und Freiheit Europas mittels liberaler Prinzipien wie Rechtsstaatlichkeit, ökonomischer Interdependenz und Demokratie gewährleisten lassen.

Doch dieses Konzept ging in der Ukraine nicht auf. Die dortige Krise belegt, dass die Realpolitik durchaus noch relevant ist – und Staaten, die dies übersehen, es auf eigene Gefahr tun. Der Versuch US-amerikanischer und europäischer Politiker, die Ukraine in einen Stützpunkt des Westens direkt an der russischen Grenze zu verwandeln, ist gründlich misslungen. Nun, da die Konsequenzen unübersehbar sind, wäre es ein noch größerer Fehler, diese verhunzte Politik fortzusetzen.

Der Affront durch den Westen

Nach dem Ende des Kalten Krieges waren der sowjetischen Staatsführung ein Verbleiben der US-Streitkräfte in Europa und ein Fortbestand der NATO nur recht, weil sie in ihren Augen den Frieden mit einem wiedervereinigten Deutschland sicherten. Doch ein Wachsen der NATO wollten weder die Sowjets noch ihre russischen Nachfolger, und man ging davon aus, dass westliche Diplomaten das nachvollziehen konnten. Die Regierung Clinton sah das offenkundig anders und forcierte ab Mitte der 1990er Jahre die NATO-Osterweiterung.

In der ersten Erweiterungsrunde wurden 1999 die Tschechische Republik, Ungarn und Polen integriert. In der zweiten folgten 2004 Bulgarien, Estland, Lettland, Litauen, Rumänien, die Slowakei und Slowenien. Die Russen protestierten von Anfang an aufs Schärfste, waren damals jedoch zu schwach, um die NATO-Osterweiterung zu verhindern ‒ die ohnehin nicht sonderlich bedrohlich wirkte, da abgesehen von den winzigen baltischen Staaten keins der neuen Mitgliedsländer an Russland grenzte.

Dann wanderte der Blick der NATO weiter nach Osten. Auf dem Gipfel 2008 in Bukarest beriet sie über eine Aufnahme Georgiens und der Ukraine. Die Regierung George W. Bush unterstützte das Vorhaben, Frankreich und Deutschland aber waren dagegen, weil sie fürchteten, Russland gegen sich aufzubringen. Am Ende einigten sich die NATO-Mitgliedsstaaten auf einen Kompromiss: Das Bündnis leitete keine formale Aufnahmeprozedur ein, sondern gab lediglich eine Erklärung ab, in der es die Bestrebungen Georgiens und der Ukraine begrüßte und rundheraus erklärte: „Diese Länder werden der NATO beitreten.“

Einer russischen Zeitung zufolge ließ Putin in einem Gespräch mit Bush durchblicken, „dass die Ukraine, sollte sie in die NATO aufgenommen werden, aufhören werde zu bestehen“.

Für Moskau war dieses Ergebnis alles andere als ein Kompromiss. Putin ließ wissen, die Aufnahme dieser beiden Länder in die NATO stelle für Russland eine „unmittelbare Bedrohung“ dar. Einer russischen Zeitung zufolge ließ Putin in einem Gespräch mit Bush durchblicken, „dass die Ukraine, sollte sie in die NATO aufgenommen werden, aufhören werde zu bestehen“.

Die russische Invasion Georgiens im August 2008 hätte jeden Zweifel an Putins Entschlossenheit, Georgien und die Ukraine am NATO-Beitritt zu hindern, ausräumen müssen. Doch ungeachtet dieser unmissverständlichen Warnung ließ die NATO nie offiziell von ihrem Ziel ab, Georgien und die Ukraine in das Bündnis aufzunehmen. Und im Jahr 2009 schritt die NATO-Osterweiterung mit der Aufnahme Albaniens und Kroatiens fort.

Auch die EU marschiert gen Osten. Im Mai 2008 beschloss sie ihre Initiative „Östliche Partnerschaft“, die in Ländern wie der Ukraine den Wohlstand fördern und sie in den EU-Wirtschaftsraum integrieren sollte. Wenig überraschend sieht die russische Staatsführung in dem Plan eine Bedrohung ihrer nationalen Interessen. Im vergangenen Februar, ehe Janukowitsch aus dem Amt gedrängt wurde, warf der russische Außenminister Sergej Lawrow der EU vor, sie versuche, eine „Einflusssphäre“ in Osteuropa zu schaffen.

Ein weiteres Instrument des Westens zur Ablösung Kiews von Moskau ist schließlich das Lancieren westlicher Werte und die Förderung der Demokratie in der Ukraine und anderen postsowjetischen Staaten, häufig über die Finanzierung pro-westlicher Personen und Organisationen. Angesichts der Anstrengungen des Westens, gesellschaftliche Strukturen in der Ukraine zu beeinflussen, befürchtet die russische Staatsführung, ihr Land könnte als Nächstes dran sein. Und solche Befürchtungen sind durchaus nicht unbegründet. So schrieb der Präsident der US-Stiftung National Endowment for Democracy Carl Gershman im September 2013 in der Washington Post: „Die Annäherung der Ukraine an Europa wird den Niedergang der von Putin repräsentierten Ideologie des russischen Imperialismus beschleunigen.“ Und er fügte hinzu: „Auch die Russen stehen vor einer Entscheidung, und Putin findet sich womöglich auf der Verliererstraße wieder, nicht nur im nahen Ausland, sondern auch in Russland selbst.“

Die Herbeiführung einer Krise

Der Dreierpack politischer Maßnahmen des Westens – NATO-Osterweiterung, EU-Osterweiterung und Förderung der Demokratie – war die Nahrung für ein Feuer, das nur noch entzündet werden musste. Der Funke kam im November 2013, als Janukowitsch einem wichtigen Wirtschaftsabkommen, das er mit der EU verhandelt hatte, eine Absage erteilte und stattdessen ein Gegenangebot der Russen über 15 Milliarden Dollar annahm. Dieser Entscheidung folgten regierungsfeindliche Demonstrationen, in deren Verlauf bis Mitte Februar etwa hundert Demonstranten zu Tode kamen. Westliche Emissäre eilten nach Kiew, um die Krise zu lösen. Am 21. Februar unterzeichneten Regierung und Opposition eine Vereinbarung, nach der Janukowitsch bis zur Abhaltung von Neuwahlen im Amt bleiben sollte. Doch dieses Abkommen hatte keinen Bestand, und Janukowitsch floh schon tags darauf nach Russland. Die neue Regierung in Kiew war pro-westlich und anti-russisch bis ins Mark; vier ranghohe Mitglieder können durchaus legitim als Neofaschisten bezeichnet werden.

Die neue Regierung in Kiew war pro-westlich und anti-russisch bis ins Mark; vier ranghohe Mitglieder können durchaus legitim als Neofaschisten bezeichnet werden.

Die Rolle der USA ist zwar noch nicht in ihrer ganzen Tragweite bekannt, doch Washington hat den Staatsstreich offenkundig unterstützt. Victoria Nuland aus dem US-Außenministerium und der republikanische Senator John McCain nahmen an den regierungsfeindlichen Demonstrationen teil, und der US-Botschafter in der Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt erklärte nach Janukowitschs Sturz, der Tag werde „in die Geschichtsbücher eingehen“. Wie einem öffentlich gemachten Telefonmitschnitt zu entnehmen ist, hatte Nuland einen Regimewechsel befürwortet und sich für den ukrainischen Politiker Arsenij Jazenjuk als Premierminister der neuen Regierung ausgesprochen, der es dann auch wurde. Kein Wunder, dass Russen aller politischen Couleurs glauben, der Westen habe bei Janukowitschs Amtsenthebung seine Finger im Spiel gehabt.

Für Putin war die Zeit gekommen, der Ukraine und dem Westen entgegenzutreten. Kurz nach dem 22. Februar befahl er den russischen Streitkräften, der Ukraine die Krim abzunehmen, die er bald darauf Russland einverleibte.

Als Nächstes setzte Putin die neue Regierung in Kiew massiv unter Druck, sich nicht im Schulterschluss mit dem Westen gegen Moskau zu stellen, und machte deutlich, dass er eher die Staatsstruktur der Ukraine zerstören würde, als tatenlos dabei zuzusehen, wie sie zu einem Bollwerk des Westens vor Russlands Haustür wurde. Zu diesem Zweck stellt er seither den russischen Separatisten in der Ostukraine Berater, Waffen und diplomatische Unterstützung zur Verfügung, damit sie das Land in einen Bürgerkrieg treiben. Er zog an der ukrainischen Grenze eine große Arme zusammen und drohte mit einer Invasion, sollte die Regierung in Kiew gegen die Rebellen vorgehen. Zusätzlich hob er den Preis für die russischen Erdgaslieferungen an die Ukraine stark an und forderte die Zahlung bereits erfolgter Exporte. Putin kämpft mit harten Bandagen.

Diagnose russischer Politik

Putins Verhalten ist nicht schwer zu verstehen. Die Ukraine ist für Russland ein Pufferstaat mit enormer strategischer Bedeutung. Kein russischer Staatschef würde es hinnehmen, dass eine Militärallianz, die noch bis vor kurzem Moskaus Erzfeind war, in die Ukraine vorstößt. Auch würde kein russischer Staatschef untätig dabei zusehen, wie sich der Westen für die Einsetzung einer Regierung stark macht, die die Einbindung der Ukraine in den Westen betreibt.

Washington mag von der Position Moskaus nicht angetan sein, müsste aber die Logik dahinter begreifen. Das ist Geopolitik für Anfänger: Auf eine mögliche Bedrohung vor ihrer Haustür reagiert jede Großmacht empfindlich. Die Vereinigten Staaten würden es ja auch nicht hinnehmen, wenn ferne Großmächte ihre Streitkräfte in der westlichen Hemisphäre stationierten, geschweige denn an ihrer Grenze. Man stelle sich die Empörung in Washington vor, wenn China ein mächtiges Militärbündnis schmiedete und versuchte, Kanada und Mexiko dafür zu gewinnen.

Vertreter der USA und ihrer europäischen Verbündeten behaupten, sie hätten alles versucht, den Russen ihre Ängste zu nehmen; Moskau müsse doch begreifen, dass die NATO es nicht auf Russland abgesehen habe. Die Allianz hat in ihren neuen Mitgliedsstaaten nie dauerhaft Streitkräfte stationiert. Im Jahr 2002 gründete sie sogar den sogenannten NATO-Russland-Rat, um die Kooperation zu verbessern. In dem Bemühen, Russland weiter zu besänftigen, verkündeten die USA 2009, dass sie zumindest vorerst das neue Raketenabwehrsystem nicht auf tschechischem oder polnischem Gebiet, sondern auf Kriegsschiffen in europäischen Gewässern installieren würden. Doch keine dieser Maßnahmen fruchtete: Die Russen lehnten die NATO-Osterweiterung, insbesondere nach Georgien und in die Ukraine, weiter kategorisch ab. Aber schließlich entscheiden die Russen, nicht die westlichen Staaten, was Russland als Bedrohung wertet.

Um zu verstehen, warum der Westen und insbesondere die USA nicht merkten, dass ihre Ukraine-Politik den Boden für eine größere Kollision mit Russland bereitete, muss man in die Mitte der 1990er Jahre zurückgehen, als sich die Regierung Clinton erstmals für eine NATO-Osterweiterung aussprach. Experten trugen alle möglichen Argumente für und wider eine Erweiterung vor, doch gelangte man zu keinem Konsens. So sprachen sich in den USA beispielsweise die meisten europäischen Emigranten und ihre Familien nachdrücklich für eine Osterweiterung aus, damit die NATO Länder wie Ungarn und Polen beschützen konnte. Auch einige Vertreter des Realismus befürworteten sie, weil sie eine Eindämmungspolitik gegenüber Russland noch für nötig hielten.

Die meisten Realismus-Vertreter lehnten jedoch eine Osterweiterung ab, weil eine im Niedergang begriffene Großmacht mit einer alternden Bevölkerung und einer eindimensionalen Wirtschaft ihrer Ansicht nach nicht mehr eingedämmt werden muss. Eine Osterweiterung, so fürchteten sie, könnte Moskau nur dazu verleiten, in Osteuropa Unruhe zu stiften.

Vertreter des Liberalismus, darunter viele hochrangige Mitglieder der Regierung Clinton, waren dagegen überwiegend für eine Erweiterung. Das Ende des Kalten Krieges hatte in ihren Augen die internationale Politik grundlegend verändert, und eine neue postnationale Ordnung hatte die in Europa bis dahin vorherrschende Logik des Realismus abgelöst. Die USA waren nicht nur eine „unentbehrliche Nation“, wie Außenministerin Madeleine Albright es formulierte; sie waren, so hieß es, auch ein gütiger Hegemon, den man in Moskau eher nicht als Bedrohung wahrnahm. Das Ziel war im Wesentlichen eine Angleichung des gesamten Kontinents an Westeuropa.

Im Grunde agieren die beiden Seiten nach unterschiedlichen Skripten: Putin und seine Landsleute orientieren sich in ihrem Denken und Handeln an den Geboten des politischen Realismus, während ihre westlichen Gegenspieler den Ideen des Liberalismus zur internationalen Politik anhängen.

Daher förderten die USA und ihre Verbündeten nach Kräften die Demokratie in den osteuropäischen Ländern, eine stärkere wirtschaftliche Verflechtung und eine Verankerung dieser Länder in internationalen Institutionen. Nachdem der Liberalismus in der US-Debatte den Sieg davongetragen hatte, konnten die Amerikaner ihre europäischen Verbündeten ohne größere Schwierigkeiten von einer Unterstützung der NATO-Osterweiterung überzeugen. Angesichts der Errungenschaften der EU hingen die Europäer ja noch stärker als die Amerikaner der Vorstellung an, Geopolitik spiele keine Rolle mehr und eine allumfassende liberale Ordnung könne den Frieden in Europa sichern.

Die liberale Weltsicht ist in der US-Politik heute ein anerkanntes Dogma. So sprach Präsident Barack Obama im März in einer Rede über die Ukraine wiederholt von den „Idealen“, die hinter der Politik des Westens stünden und die „schon oft von einem älteren, eher traditionellen Machtverständnis bedroht wurden“.

Im Grunde agieren die beiden Seiten nach unterschiedlichen Skripten: Putin und seine Landsleute orientieren sich in ihrem Denken und Handeln an den Geboten des politischen Realismus, während ihre westlichen Gegenspieler den Ideen des Liberalismus zur internationalen Politik anhängen. Die Folge ist, dass die USA und ihre Verbündeten unwissentlich eine schwerwiegende Krise um die Ukraine provoziert haben.

Schuldzuweisungen an Putin

Die meisten westlichen Politiker weisen Putin die Schuld für die missliche Lage in der Ukraine zu. Der New York Times zufolge sprach Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel Putin im März die Vernunft ab, als sie Obama gegenüber erklärte, Putin lebe „in einer anderen Welt“. Putin hat zwar ohne Zweifel autokratische Tendenzen, doch nichts deutet auf eine Geistesstörung hin: Er ist ein erstklassiger Stratege, den jeder, der ihn außenpolitisch herausfordert, fürchten und ernst nehmen sollte.

Plausibler klingt die Erklärung anderer Beobachter, nach der Putin der alten Sowjetunion nachtrauert und ihren Untergang durch eine Ausdehnung der russischen Grenzen rückgängig machen will. Dieser Interpretation zufolge lotet Putin nach der Annexion der Krim derzeit aus, ob die Zeit für eine Okkupierung der Ukraine oder zumindest der Ostukraine reif ist, und wird er schließlich auch andere Nachbarländer Russlands ins Visier nehmen. In diesem Lager sieht manch einer Putin als modernen Adolf Hitler, und wer Abkommen mit ihm schließt, wiederholt den Fehler von München. Die NATO muss nach dieser Logik Georgien und die Ukraine aufnehmen und Russland eindämmen, ehe es seine Nachbarn beherrscht und Westeuropa bedroht.

Doch auch dieses Argument hält genauerer Betrachtung nicht stand. Wenn Putin auf die Schaffung eines Großrussland aus wäre, hätte es mit Sicherheit vor dem 22. Februar bereits Anzeichen dafür gegeben. Doch so gut wie nichts weist darauf hin, dass er damals schon eine Annektierung der Krim, geschweige denn anderer Gebiete der Ukraine im Auge hatte. Putins Vorgehen auf der Krim scheint eine spontane Reaktion auf den Sturz Janukowitschs gewesen zu sein.

Ohnehin könnte Russland, selbst wenn es wollte, die Ostukraine nicht so ohne weiteres einnehmen und annektieren, und schon gar nicht das gesamte Land. Auch wenn Russland über eine mächtige Militärmaschinerie und eine leistungsstarke Wirtschaft verfügte, könnte es die Ukraine vermutlich nicht endgültig besetzen. Man denke nur an die Erfahrungen der Sowjetunion und der USA in Afghanistan, die der USA in Vietnam und im Irak und die der Russen in Tschetschenien, die deutlich machen, dass eine militärische Besetzung meist übel ausgeht. Putin muss bewusst sein, dass der Versuch, die Ukraine zu unterwerfen, in etwa so ist, als versuchte er ein Stachelschwein zu verschlucken. Seine Reaktion auf die dortigen Ereignisse ist bislang defensiv, nicht offensiv.

Ausweg aus dem Dilemma

Da die meisten westlichen Staatschefs nach wie vor leugnen, dass Putins Verhalten von legitimen Sicherheitsbedenken geleitet sein könnte, ist es nur folgerichtig, dass sie Russland durch eine Intensivierung ihrer bestehenden Politik zu beeinflussen und mit Strafen von weiteren Aggressionen abzuschrecken versuchen. John Kerry zufolge liegen zwar „alle Optionen auf dem Tisch“, doch weder die USA noch ihre NATO-Verbündeten sind bereit, die Ukraine unter Militäreinsatz zu verteidigen. Der Westen baut stattdessen auf Wirtschaftssanktionen, die Russland zwingen sollen, die Unterstützung des Aufstands in der Ostukraine einzustellen.

Solche Maßnahmen sind wenig effektiv. Harte Sanktionen sind vermutlich ohnehin vom Tisch. Westeuropäische Länder, insbesondere Deutschland, sehen davon ab, weil sie befürchten, dass sich Russland rächen und in der EU schweren wirtschaftlichen Schaden anrichten könnte. Doch auch wenn die USA ihre Verbündeten dazu brächten, drastische Maßnahmen zu ergreifen, würde Putin wohl nicht umlenken. Die Geschichte zeigt, dass Länder, die ihre strategischen Kerninteressen wahren wollen, auch schwerste Strafmaßnahmen hinnehmen. Warum sollte Russland eine Ausnahme von dieser Regel sein?

Zudem halten die westlichen Staatschefs ja an der provokativen Politik fest, die der Krise vorausging. Im April erklärte US-Vizepräsident Joseph Biden bei einem Treffen mit ukrainischen Abgeordneten: „Dies ist die zweite Gelegenheit, das von der Orangenen Revolution gegebene Versprechen einzulösen.“ CIA-Direktor John Brennan machte die Sache nicht eben besser, als er im selben Monat Kiew einen Besuch abstattete, der nach Auskunft des Weißen Hauses eine Verbesserung der sicherheitspolitischen Zusammenarbeit mit der ukrainischen Regierung zum Ziel hatte.

Die EU treibt derweil ihr Projekt der „Östlichen Partnerschaft“ voran. Im März beschrieb der Präsident der Europäischen Kommission José Manuel Barroso die Haltung der EU gegenüber der Ukraine mit den Worten: „Wir stehen in der Schuld, haben eine Pflicht zur Solidarität mit diesem Land, und wir werden uns bemühen, es möglichst nah bei uns zu haben.“ Und tatsächlich unterzeichneten die EU und die Ukraine am 27. Juni das Wirtschaftsabkommen, das Janukowitsch sieben Monate zuvor so folgenreich abgelehnt hatte. Ebenfalls im Juni wurde auf einem Treffen der NATO-Außenminister vereinbart, dass die Allianz Neumitgliedern offen stehen werde; allerdings sahen die Außenminister davon ab, die Ukraine namentlich zu erwähnen. „Bei der NATO-Erweiterung hat kein Drittland ein Vetorecht“, erklärte NATO-Generalsekretär Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Die Außenminister einigten sich außerdem auf diverse Maßnahmen zur Stärkung des ukrainischen Militärs, etwa in den Bereichen Führung, Logistik und Cyberabwehr. Diese Entscheidungen haben die russische Führung natürlich abgeschreckt. Die Reaktion des Westens auf die Krise macht die Lage nur noch schlimmer.

Dabei gibt es für die Ukraine-Krise eine Lösung – für die der Westen allerdings seine Denkweise grundlegend revidieren müsste. Die USA und ihre Verbündeten müssten ihren Plan einer Verwestlichung der Ukraine aufgeben und stattdessen darauf hinarbeiten, dass das Land zu einem neutralen Pufferstaat zwischen der NATO und Russland wird, ähnlich wie Österreich im Kalten Krieg. Westliche Staatschefs müssten sich eingestehen, dass die Ukraine für Putin zu wichtig ist, als dass sie dort ein anti-russisches System unterstützen dürften. Das heißt nicht, dass die künftige ukrainische Regierung für Russland oder gegen die NATO sein müsste. Im Gegenteil sollte eine souveräne Ukraine weder im russischen noch im westlichen Lager angesiedelt sein.

Die Geschichte zeigt, dass Länder, die ihre strategischen Kerninteressen wahren wollen, auch schwerste Strafmaßnahmen hinnehmen. Warum sollte Russland eine Ausnahme von dieser Regel sein?

Um das zu erreichen, müssten die USA und ihre Verbündeten eine NATO-Erweiterung sowohl nach Georgien als auch in die Ukraine offiziell ausschließen. Der Westen sollte zudem an der Ausarbeitung eines gemeinsam von der EU, dem Internationalen Währungsfonds, Russland und den Vereinigten Staaten finanzierten wirtschaftlichen Rettungsplans für die Ukraine mitwirken – ein Vorschlag, den Moskau sicherlich begrüßen würde, da ihm an einer prosperierenden und stabilen Ukraine in der Westflanke gelegen sein muss. Zudem sollte der Westen seine Bemühungen zur Beeinflussung gesellschaftlicher Strukturen in der Ukraine deutlich zurückfahren. Eine weitere Orangene Revolution dürfte nicht aus dem Westen unterstützt werden. Dennoch sollten die politisch Verantwortlichen in den USA und Europa die Ukraine darin bestärken, die Rechte von Minderheiten zu wahren, insbesondere die Sprachenrechte russischer Muttersprachler.

Man mag einwenden, dass ein Umschwenken in der Politik gegenüber der Ukraine zu diesem späten Zeitpunkt die Glaubwürdigkeit der USA in aller Welt schwer beschädigen würde. Es ist auch zu hören, dass die Ukraine das Recht hat, selbst zu entscheiden, mit wem sie sich assoziieren möchte, und dass die Russen kein Recht haben, Kiew an einer Annäherung an den Westen zu hindern. Eine solche Sicht ihrer außenpolitischen Optionen ist für die Ukraine gefährlich. Die traurige Wahrheit ist, dass im Kontext der Großmachtpolitik Macht häufig vor Recht geht. Abstrakte Rechte wie das auf Selbstbestimmung sind weitgehend bedeutungslos, wenn mächtige Staaten mit schwächeren aneinander geraten. Hatte Kuba das Recht, im Kalten Krieg eine Militärallianz mit der Sowjetunion einzugehen? Die USA waren mit Sicherheit anderer Meinung, und ähnlich bewerten die Russen die Hinwendung der Ukraine zum Westen. Es liegt im Interesse der Ukraine, diesen Tatsachen ins Auge zu sehen und im Umgang mit dem mächtigeren Nachbarn Vorsicht walten zu lassen.

Selbst wenn man diese Beurteilung nicht teilt und die Meinung vertritt, die Ukraine habe ein Recht darauf, eine Aufnahme in die EU und die NATO anzustreben, haben die USA und ihre europäischen Verbündeten doch auch das Recht, dieses Ansinnen auszuschlagen. Der Westen muss der Ukraine durchaus nicht entgegenkommen, wenn sie sich auf eine fehlgeleitete Außenpolitik versteift, zumal, wenn ihre Verteidigung nicht von grundlegendem Interesse ist. Den Träumen einiger Ukrainer nachzugeben, ist es nicht wert, die Feindseligkeiten und Streitigkeiten, die daraus besonders für das ukrainische Volk erwachsen, in Kauf zu nehmen.

Russland ist eine absteigende Macht und wird mit der Zeit nur noch schwächer werden. Doch auch wenn es eine aufsteigende Macht wäre, hätte es keinen Sinn, die Ukraine in die NATO einzugliedern. Der Grund dafür ist einfach: Die Ukraine zählt für die USA und ihre europäischen Verbündeten nicht zu den strategischen Kerninteressen; das belegt die mangelnde Bereitschaft, ihr militärisch zu Hilfe zu eilen. Die Aufnahme eines neuen NATO-Mitglieds, das die anderen Mitglieder nicht zu verteidigen bereit sind, wäre jedoch der Gipfel der Torheit. Bisher wurde die NATO erweitert, weil die Allianz nach liberaler Weltsicht ihre neuen Sicherheitsgarantien nie wird einlösen müssen. Doch das jüngste russische Machtspiel belegt, dass Russland und der Westen auf Kollisionskurs geraten würden, sollte die Ukraine NATO-Mitglied werden.

Eine Fortführung der derzeitigen Politik würde auch in anderen Bereichen die Beziehungen des Westens zu Moskau belasten. Die Vereinigten Staaten brauchen die Hilfe Russlands, um ihre militärische Ausrüstung durch russisches Gebiet aus Afghanistan abzutransportieren, ein Atomabkommen mit dem Iran abzuschließen und die Lage in Syrien zu stabilisieren. Moskau hat Washington in allen drei Bereichen schon geholfen. Auch für die Eindämmung eines aufsteigenden Chinas werden die USA noch russische Unterstützung benötigen. Die derzeitige US-Politik treibt Moskau und Peking jedoch nur näher zusammen.

Die USA und ihre europäischen Verbündeten stehen in der Ukraine-Frage vor einer Entscheidung. Sie können ihre aktuelle Politik fortführen und so die Feindseligkeiten mit Russland verschärfen und die Ukraine zu Grunde richten – ein Szenario, aus dem alle Beteiligten als Verlierer hervorgehen würden. Oder sie können umsteuern und eine wohlhabende, aber neutrale Ukraine anstreben, die keine Bedrohung für Russland darstellt und es dem Westen erlaubt, seine Beziehungen zu Moskau zu kitten. Mit einem solchen Ansatz würden alle Seiten gewinnen.

Dieser Beitrag erscheint zeitgleich im US-Magazin Foreign Affairs.

Autor: John J. Mearsheimer
Veröffentlicht am 01.09.2014


*IMF approves loan tranche for Ukraine, warns of risks*

Aug 29 (Reuters) – The International Monetary Fund signed off on its first review of Ukraine’s $17 billion loan program on Friday, but warned risks loomed ahead as long as Kiev continued to fight a pro-Russian separatist rebellion in the east.

The IMF board’s approval confirms Ukraine is on track so far with most of the bailout’s conditions, and allows the disbursement of $1.7 billion the former Soviet bloc country needs to shore up its depleted foreign currency reserves and support the state budget.

"Downside risks to the program remain very high," IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said in a statement. "The program success hinges on a timely resolution of the conflict in the east, as well as on the authorities‘ strong policy performance and adherence to the planned reforms."

The IMF praised the government’s commitment to economic reforms despite the ongoing conflict. But it said Kiev was still not able to meet some of the program targets, including for the state budget, the level of net international reserves at the central bank, and the deficit of Naftogaz, the state-run oil and gas company.

Ukraine’s previous two IMF programs were suspended after the government did not do as promised, such as raising natural gas prices.

The IMF also agreed to Ukraine’s request to combine the next two reviews of the program, which would likely total around $2.2 billion, since the recent disbursement was somewhat delayed."(Ukraine’s) strong policy record despite the much worse-than-expected environment is encouraging in light of the implementation problems that derailed previous programs and thus augurs well for the authorities‘ ability to keep the program on track," Lagarde said.

"However, the escalating conflict in the east and ongoing geopolitical tensions have weighed heavily on the economy and society, causing a deeper recession and deviations from program targets in the short term," she said.

Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian rebels have been fighting since April in the heavily industrialised regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, which together contributed nearly 17 percent of Ukrainian gross domestic product in 2013.

"The (revenue) that we haven’t been receiving from Donetsk and Luhansk is miniscule compared with the billions we are spending on war," Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said at a government meeting earlier on Friday."For us it is critically important to get a positive decision from the IMF and we’ve done everything (to achieve) this," he said.

Ukraine received its first tranche of slightly more than $3 billion in May under the loan program.Analysts have said the Ukrainian economy will slide deeper into recession this year, despite the IMF aid deal, as the rebellion cripples activity in the industrial east and scares off foreign investors.During its last visit to Kiev in July, the IMF downgraded its growth forecast for this year to a 6.5 percent contraction, from 5 percent previously.




*Energy Economist: The Russia-Ukraine standoff looks to the energy needs of winter*

In this month’s excerpt from Platts Energy Economist, Ross McCracken looks at the winter energy implications of the Ukraine-Russia divide.

Regardless of Russian denials, Moscow is clearly providing direct support for the separatists in eastern Ukraine. Reports Thursday were numerous of tanks, armored vehicles and rocket launchers being deployed in the region, not to mention the earlier capture by Ukrainian forces of ten Russian soldiers 12 miles inside Ukrainian territory. There is no other source for the rebels’ weaponry–and according to some reports, personnel–than the Russian army.

The rise of increasingly overt Russian support comes after a period in which Ukrainian forces have registered significant success in reducing the territory held by the separatists. The conclusion has to be that Russian President Vladimir Putin cannot accept defeat in eastern Ukraine. To do so would be seen as an abandonment of Ukrainian Russians, puncturing the projection of Russian power in the region, so clearly demonstrated by the annexation of Crimea in March.

The result will be an escalation of the conflict, with the fiction that this is not a war between states but a civil conflict, increasingly hard to maintain.

In any escalating conflict, there is the temptation to use larger and larger weapons. One of those weapons is energy. A recent Platts analysis of Ukrainian gas imports from Europe and Ukrainian domestic production indicates that Kiev will not be able to reach the minimum level of 20 Bcm of gas in storage by October 15 required to ensure European gas supply over winter. In addition, disruption to Ukrainian coal production as a result of the fighting means that coal stocks are also currently insufficient for the high-demand winter period. (Poland’s coal miners are incidentally sitting on a large stockpile of unsold coal that they cannot shift in their own market).

There are a number of possibilities. Ukraine, despite an agreement with the EU not to do so, could siphon off natural gas supplies destined for Europe in the face of domestic shortage. This was the justification used by Russia’s Gazprom for cutting European gas supplies during the pricing dispute of 2009.

Kiev could itself block the gas transits as a means of putting pressure on Moscow and forcing greater EU engagement, regardless of the self-inflicted costs this would incur. A bill allowing Kiev to impose just such sanctions on Russian was passed by the Ukrainian parliament in August.

A Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine remains a possibility. It appears that Moscow will not come to the table until it has the military position it wants on the ground. The gas weapon could be deployed by either side in an attempt to force a settlement, either to secure military gains or to in an effort to prevent the other side achieving them.

Some kind of disruption to European gas supplies this winter looks increasingly likely. On its current trajectory, the Ukraine crisis looks set to wreak further damage all round: to the Russian, Ukrainian and EU economies, to EU-Russian energy relations; to Russian oil production in the long term as a result of sanctions; and to territorial security in central and eastern Europe.


Germany’s Energy Transition Dream at Risk of Becoming Nightmare.*

Wintershall’s head of exploration and production warned Thursday that Germany’s ‚Energiewende‘ (or Energy Transition) dream of pursuing an economy powered by the wind and the sun is in danger of turning into a nightmare.

Speaking to energy journalists at the ONS exhibition in Stavanger, Norway, Wintershall Executive Director Martin Bachmann said he was concerned about figures recently published by Statistics Norway that showed overall investment in Norway’s petroleum sector will drop by EUR 6 billion ($7.9 billion) next year.

"That is actually bad news for Europe’s security of supply and I think Germany – as the biggest market in Europe – has played a large part in creating this uncertainty," Bachmann said.

"With the so-called ‚Energiewende‘ – Energy Transition – Germany is pursuing a great dream: that one day it can live from the air and the sun alone. But when you look at the facts today, this dream is in danger of turning into a nightmare."

For it to realize its Energy Transition dream, "Germany must remind itself of why the Energy Transition was launched in the first place", Bachmann said, pointing out that the country needs to develop an energy provision that is at the same time ecological, secure and affordable.

"Let me be clear on that. The ecological goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and not actually the share of renewables in the energy supply," Bachmann said.

"Now, unfortunately we are a very long way from that. What is clear is that renewables have to play an important role in the Energy Transition. However, renewables need reliable partner technologies that balance out the fluctuations in the wind and the sun’s power, and which ensure that the energy supply remains secure and affordable.

"Across the political spectrum, natural gas was seen as the ideal partner for renewables, but what has actually happened in Germany is that coal has in fact gained ground again, while natural gas is increasingly coming under pressure. In Germany, it is the fuel that is most harmful to the climate – coal – that is partnering solar and wind power … That is climate policy madness!"

Bachmann’s view echoes similar comments made by Frances Egan, CEO of UK shale gas firm Cuadrilla Resources, in February this year that the environmental lobby is "making the ‚perfect‘ the enemy of the ‚good’".

At Wintershall’s press conference Wednesday, Bachmann and his colleague – Wintershall Norge Managing Director Bernd Schrimpf – highlighted that Norway is the second-most important energy supplier to Germany after Russia. They pointed to recent research, commissioned by Wintershall, that 78 percent of Germans would favor Norway as a reliable partner to make up for declining natural gas production in the rest of the EU. Sixty-two percent named Canada and 45 percent named the United States, while only 38 percent named Russia.

Schrimpf added that Wintershall has set its sights on producing 50,000 barrels of oil equivalent on the Norwegian Continental Shelf by 2015, with the Knarr and Edvard Grieg fields playing a part in achieving this figure. Meanwhile, the Maria discovery, with its estimated production volume of around 130 million barrels of crude oil in addition to 2 billion cubic feet of gas, is set to begin production in 2018.


Wood Mackenzie: Third Wave of US Shale to Show Europe the Way Ahead.

Wood Mackenzie believes the third phase of unconventional oil and gas development in the US could show the way ahead for shale gas and oil projects in Europe.

Energy research firm Wood Mackenzie believes the emerging third phase of onshore unconventional oil and gas development in the United States could show the way ahead for shale gas and oil projects in Europe. Wood Mackenzie said that after conducting an in-depth analysis of U.S.

unconventional activity over the last decade, it considers that the emerging third phase of the unconventional sector in the Lower 48 States of the United States – focusing on brownfield exploration – signals a shift in the industry’s thinking about what constitutes a successful unconventional play.

The firm now believes that the characteristics of "Unconventional 3.0" projects could be readily applied to brownfield sites further afield, including in Europe. In the United States, Wood Mackenzie estimates that 3.0-style projects have the combined potential to produce more than one million barrels of oil equivalent per day by the end of 2020.

Robert Clarke, Wood Mackenzie’s head of unconventional upstream research in Houston, said: "In the last decade the unconventional onshore sector in the United States has already gone through two distinct cycles and is now transitioning into its third phase. The first chapter was built around a large group of highly-productive shale gas assets and was defined largely by production growth. The second wave was defined by a smaller grouping of high margin tight oil plays. "In this current [third] phase the most modern aspects of the two techniques that define unconventional projects – long lateral horizontal drilling and isolated multi-stage hydraulic fracturing – are being used to exploit all types of rock volumes in mature basins."

Wood Mackenzie’s latest report, titled "Unconventional 3.0 – A new discernible outlook" highlights that a wider array of formations than ever before are being targeted. This represents a greater unconventional opportunity than early shale explorers ever anticipated, said the firm, which pointed out that this shift in attitude of what characterizes an unconventional play that has implications outside of the United States where unconventional developments have not yet progressed.

"The emergence of the unconventional 3.0 phase of development in the United States could provide the bridge for international unconventional projects to be successful. To date, operators have struggled to build unconventional 1.0 and 2.0 projects outside of North America. However, the development of international plays does not need to follow the same sequence of phases as has been successful in the United States," Clarke said. Wood Mackenzie’s view could help drive the shale gas debate in Europe in favor of the oil and gas industry, which wants to see wide-scale unconventional development in the region.

The UK is pressing ahead with shale gas development, while several other European countries have made more positive noises about unconventional oil and gas in recent months.


COLUMN-Joint petroleum development in the South China Sea: Kemp

Wed, Aug 27 2014

(John Kemp is a Reuters market analyst. The views expressed are his own)

By John Kemp

LONDON, Aug 27 (Reuters) – Shared development of oil, gas and possibly other natural resources is the most promising option for reducing tensions in the South China Sea and should be the focus of efforts to improve diplomatic relations between China and its coastal neighbours.

Joint development agreements (JDAs) are already common across Asia. Most of the countries with a disputed claim in the South China Sea have signed at least one joint agreement to explore for oil and gas, either in the South China Sea or in neighbouring areas like the Gulf of Thailand and the East China Sea, so there are plenty of precedents to draw on.

The basic principle is that countries agree on a legal framework for exploration and production, including sharing fiscal revenues, while shelving their disputes over who actually owns the islands, rocks, shoals and reefs in the area and the seabed mineral rights that come with sovereign ownership.

Joint development agreements would be "without prejudice" to sovereign claims and could allow for the peaceful exploration and development of the area while allowing all the countries involved to maintain their political claims and save face.

The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which all the coastal states have ratified, actively encourages countries to manage disputes by entering into "provisional arrangements of a practical nature" in a "spirit of cooperation and understanding" which are "without prejudice to the final delimitation" of maritime boundaries (Articles 74 and 83).

The aim is to allow economic development to proceed and avoid disputed areas falling into indefinite limbo while improving relations among states.


There are already joint agreements covering some disputed areas in Asia-Pacific between Malaysia and Thailand (1979); Cambodia and Vietnam (1982); Malaysia and Vietnam (1992); Cambodia and Thailand (2001); Malaysia and Brunei (2009); China and Vietnam (2000); Japan and South Korea (1974); Japan and China (2008); Australia and Indonesia (1989); and Australia and East Timor (2002).

Joint development could bring much-needed revenues as well as hydrocarbons to the rapidly developing economies bordering the South China Sea. Without an agreement, it is unlikely most oil companies other than national champions will risk committing substantial capital to seismic surveys and drilling in disputed areas.

Joint development agreements also have the potential to promote better relations and reduce the potential for conflict by giving all the countries concerned a stake in peaceful development. But most JDAs have been concluded when relations between the disputants were already improving.

The question of how to improve relations within the South China Sea enough to make one or more JDAs a realistic possibility was explored in detail at a conference hosted by the National University of Singapore’s Centre for International Law in 2011 ("Conference on Joint Development and the South China Sea" June 2011).

Delegates from a range of governments, international organisations, non-governmental organisations and oil and gas companies acknowledged: "Sovereignty disputes are unlikely to be resolved in the immediate or near-term future (either by negotiation or reference to an international court or tribunal) given the national sensitivities associated with the dispute and the potential access to resources which might come with sovereignty."

Setting aside sovereignty disputes and focusing on joint development of natural resources was "the most realistic interim solution".

Joint development could reduce the risk of a worsening diplomatic or even military confrontation among the coastal states.

"While all the (claimant countries) have publicly expressed their desire to resolve the dispute peacefully and it is unlikely (though not impossible) that military conflict will occur because of these disputes, there is no doubt that (they) are a major irritant in relations which spills over into other aspects of bilateral and multilateral relations."

China, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei have already been able "to put aside contentious and seemingly intractable maritime disputes in other areas in Asia" and it should be possible to apply "the same reasoning and spirit of cooperation to resolve their claims in the South China Sea."


Joint development has the potential to be both the most important benefit and the most important contributor to better international relations. The issue is how to get to a deal.

The conference outlined nine practical steps that need to be taken to move the idea of joint development closer to reality.

Among the most important was to encourage the various parties to the disputes (China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Philippines and Taiwan) to clarify the exact extent of their claims. At the moment, it is not clear exactly what some countries, especially China, are claiming in the area, which makes the dispute harder to manage.

Crystallising the claims is an essential step so that areas in dispute can be identified and become the subject of negotiations and allowing development in undisputed areas to proceed unhindered.

The conference also urged more surveying of the actual physical features of the disputed islands, rocks and shoals, perhaps by independent parties, with the consent of all the states concerned, and without prejudice to eventual claims.

At the moment, the number of outcrops, and how many are above the waterline at high and low tide, which affects their legal status, has still not been defined properly.

The conferees also advocated joint seismic surveying for potential hydrocarbons. Knowledge about oil and gas wealth below the seabed is obviously a "double-edged sword." But past experience suggests that the potential to exploit oil and gas deposits has been an important factor in spurring previous joint development agreements rather than making them harder.

Several previous agreements, including those between Malaysia and Vietnam, as well as Australia and Indonesia, were spurred by knowledge that hydrocarbons had been found in affected areas.

Even if the oil and gas resources near the Spratly, Paracel and other island groups in the South China Sea prove to be modest, joint seismic work could help define potential areas for joint development agreements.

There is a precedent for agreeing to joint work, including the 2005 Joint Seismic Marine Undertaking between China, Vietnam and the Philippines, even if that agreement was subsequently derailed by Philippine politics and cannot be revived in precisely its current form.


Crucially, the coastal states must become much better at managing their domestic politics and controlling nationalist rhetoric by avoiding stoking tensions and staking out public positions from which it is difficult to back down.

Governments have a vital role in helping to educate public opinion about the benefits of joint development while explaining that it does not involve surrendering on the issue of sovereignty.

Oil and gas companies can play a vital role. Since they will ultimately be carrying out any exploration and production work, they can influence and educate governments on the legal, political and fiscal requirements for a successful joint development agreement, and how it could benefit all the countries to the dispute. Oil companies can also open crucial channels for communication.

But the biggest challenge is how to improve political and diplomatic relations enough for negotiations or even pre-negotiations on a JDA to begin.

Confidence-building measures are essential. Implementing the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea would be a good start. The aim is to use the Declaration as a stepping stone towards a JDA, not an end in itself.

Other confidence building measures might include cooperation on search and rescue, marine navigation as well as combating piracy and controlling marine pollution.

Countries outside the region, including the United States, also have a vital role to play in encouraging states around the South China Sea to focus on seeking cooperative solutions rather than relying on legal arbitration or the threat of military force.

Establishing one or more joint development agreements in the South China Sea will not be easy, given decades of mistrust and occasional military conflict in the area, but it is the best way to manage one of the most volatile flashpoints in the world.



see our letter on:

Wir wünschen Ihnen ein angenehmes Wochenende. Ihr Team.

Udo von Massenbach – Bärbel Freudenberg-Pilster – Jörg Barandat




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