· News Ex-Trump Adviser Carter Page in Moscow
· Armenia – Iran – Syria – Israel – Azerbaijan – Der stille Kampf der Frauen
· WSJ: Pentagon Prepares Tougher Options on Fighting Militants
· Radio Vatican Blog: Post-post-faktisch
· Energiestudie 2016
Massenbach*Ex-Trump Adviser Carter Page Holds Press Conference at Sputnik HQ, Moscow
Carter Page, a former adviser to Trump, has held a press conference at Sputnik HQ following the presentation of ‚Departing from hypocrisy: potential strategies in the era of global economic stagnation, security threats and fake news‘.
About Carter Page:
Carter Page is the founder and a managing partner of Global Energy Capital LLC and has served as a fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations and the Center for National Policy. Page’s research and private sector experience has focused on energy development in Russia and the Caspian Sea region. He was a foreign policy advisor for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, but Page resigned in September 2016 amid allegations that he had private communications with top Russian officials.
Carter Page was a Trident Scholar and distinguished graduate of the United States Naval Academy. He earned an M.B.A. from New York University, received a Ph.D. from the University of London, and is a certified chartered financial analyst (CFA).
Page accepted a position with Merrill Lynch in 2000 and worked as an investment banker with the company for seven years, rising to the position of chief operating officer of the energy and power group. While at Merrill Lynch, Page spent time in the firm’s London and New York offices and opened the firm’s Moscow branch in 2004, where he worked for three years. In 2008, Page founded Global Energy Capital LLC, an energy investment firm based in New York City. He is currently managing partner at Global Energy Capital and a fellow with the Center for National Policy in Washington, D.C.
Page worked in the Pentagon with a focus on arms control and later served as an international fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, specializing in energy research and economic development in the Caspian Sea region. Over the course of his career, Page has cultivated relationships with business and political leaders in Russia and nations of the former Soviet Union. According to Bloomberg Politics, "Page is a reliable defender of Russian intentions, and portrays U.S. policymakers as stuck in an outdated Cold War mindset."
Moscow and Washington should work closer together on Syria, terrorism and economic growth, Carter Page, a former foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, said Monday.
"We have 99 problems in US-Russia relations," Carter Page said. "Change is absolutely necessary today and we absolutely must work together. Each of our countries have major challenges that need to be urgently addressed. Syria, terrorism, economic growth," Page told reporters in Moscow.
"What’s preventing us from this task [improving dialogue]? It’s definitely misinformation," Carter Page said. According to Carter Page, the level of misinformation in relations between Russia and the United States reached a new level this year, undermining dialogue between the two countries.
"Unfortunately, there’s a deep level of misinformation that gives many people false understanding and that really reached a new level in the last, this year actually," Page told reporters. He stressed that Russia and the United States should work together, though there were many obstacles for the cooperation at the moment. "If you look at where the current state of US-Russia relations is, it’s much more toxic and much more dangerous and there’s a lot more work that needs to be done to overcome this," Page told reporters in Moscow.
The new Washington administration will face a lot of challenges, a lot of things need to be done. Fake news are among the latest challenge the new administration will need to deal with. "We have amazing potential right now and I’m proud to be part of it," Carter Page said. "A lot of attempts that Putin tries to do, like fighting terrorism, are ignored by international community," Page said.
However, Russia and US can cooperate in many spheres and need to overcome negative trends. "Change is absolutely necessary today and we absolutely must work together. Each of our countries have major challenges that need to be urgently addressed. Syria, terrorism, economic growth," Page told reporters in Moscow.
Carter Page outlined major strategic challenges: Anti-Russian sanctions. Russia and US should return to the business field. But it’s too early to speak about US easing its sanctions against Russia. "First, for [lifting of US] sanctions, it’s too early to say," Page told reporters. Lack of a bridges between Russian and US research institutions. "We’re stuck in that ‚cold war‘ mind set. We have a strong desire to have a new direction in Russia-US relations." Research, business, education — Russia and US should work together in these three major directions.
Page also praised Tillerson’s achievements on the post of the oil company head, highlighting his interaction with Russian business. "Who will be the next Secretary of State?…
I’m very personally excited with this one small example, the major example, is Rex Tillerson being the order of friendship, the major ventures he worked to create in Black Sea, the list goes on. Actions speak louder than words, there’s certainly a lot of ways we can certainly work together on," Page told reporters.
Speaking about Russia’s alleged meddling in the presidential election Carter Page said that the US administration should present hard evidence of it. "They really need to show core evidence … It’s very easy to make it look like exactly it was country’s acts – in this case Russia that did this. So I think this is very much overestimated until there’s serious evidence," Page told reporters.
US media cited intelligence agencies as saying last week they were confident that the Russian government had interfered with the US election process, including hacking the Democratic Party’s servers and leaking sensitive emails to discredit Hillary Clinton and boost Donald Trump’s chances. Trump’s presidential transition team denied the allegations.
Speaking about fake news phenomenon, Carter Page said that there were written several fakes about him personally. "In my personal case it was perfect example of the fake news. The fact that I was blamed that I’m a navy officer on the Wikipedia page. It was a total misinformation" the data about his personal life published there, Page said.
Page also denied media reports that claimed he had never met the then Republican nominee during his time on the campaign’s staff. "I’ve certainly been in a number of meetings with him," Page told reporters in Moscow. In September, the Politico magazine cited an unnamed policy staffer on the Trump presidential campaign who allegedly said Carter had never met or briefed Trump. "There a lot of lessons we can learn from that," Page said. He thinks it’s a sort of good news, that some warmonger information was totally false unlike it seemed at the beginning. Carter Page also said that Russian people are amazing and he is gratefull to be in Moscow again.
From our Russian News Desk.
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– Interview with RIAC Director General Dr. Andrey Kortunov, Dr. Jiri Valenta, CFR member, reflects on what made the victory of Donald Trumppossible and shares his perspective on US – Russian rapprochement under President Trump, cooperation on security matters as well as relations between the leaders of Russia and the US.
Armenia gets more power from Iran
“A new power line for a transferring electricity to Armenia will be constructed by Iranian investment. The total capacity of electricity sold to Armenia is going to reach 1200 megawatts”, said Mr Hamid Chitchian, Energy Minister of Iran.
That means 400% increase from the current 300 megawatts of electricity sent to Armenia. Energy Minister of Iran explains the priorities regarding Energy collaborations: developing new energy transfer channels from south to north through Armenia and Russia and environmental protection programs are among them. Iran is also going to sell wind-turbines to Armenia.
Carnegie: Armenia at Twenty-Five – A Rough Ride
Armenia is at a turning point. The economy remains troubled, the population is growing tired of its politicians and their decisionmaking, and the security situation in and around the Caucasus has deteriorated, as was most visibly seen in the April 2016 Four-Day War with Azerbaijan. In fact, a series of events beyond Yerevan’s control, combined with missteps of its own making, has exposed a widening chasm between the population at large and the ruling elite. The old social contract, in which the population accepted limited democratic choice and a struggling economy in exchange for security, is eroding.
A political outlier in Eurasia, Armenia has resisted the two dominant paradigms of development followed by most former Soviet states. Countries in the first group—including Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine—are democratic, are generally pro-Western, and have generally sought to put as much distance as possible between themselves and Russia. These countries have achieved significant progress in building democratic societies, even if their governance practices often suffer from dysfunction. Azerbaijan, Belarus, and most of Central Asia have embraced the contrasting, authoritarian paradigm. While these states’ human rights records complicate the development of close partnerships with the West, few are outwardly pro-Russian, and those that are appear to be so out of necessity rather than free will. Comparatively speaking, the authoritarian states’ trajectories generally have been more stable thus far, although stability has come at enormous costs to their civil societies.
Armenia does not fit neatly into either of these camps. Security concerns historically have pushed Armenia into Moscow’s orbit, but that alliance has not yet translated into a full turn toward authoritarianism of the kind seen elsewhere in Eurasia. Armenian civil society remains remarkably robust and active, as do the country’s multiple political parties. Civil society activists and opposition figures use social media effectively and take to the streets when they want their voices heard. Corruption is still one of the biggest barriers to the country’s political, social, and economic modernization. It is a long-standing source of public grievance, but it ironically facilitates a measure of competitive politics as a vehicle for the nontransparent interests of the oligarchs and business leaders who dominate the economy.
The end result is a chaotic political system, where shifts in economic power play out, but one that provides government critics with just enough public space to discuss the country’s problems and contest government decisions. Civil society’s ability to influence policy through electoral and constitutional means remains constrained, but it occasionally wins concessions—although more often in the streets than through formal mechanisms of governance. Freedom House in fact rated the country as “partly free” in its 2016 Freedom in the World report—the same rating given to Western-leaning Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.
However, Armenia’s status as a regional outlier is being challenged. Growing popular dissatisfaction with the lack of transparency in Armenian politics, rising frustration with the status quo, and a looming generational turnover in the political system all call into question how sustainable the Armenian governing model of partial democracy is. Geopolitical tensions in Europe after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 have made it more difficult for Yerevan to balance its security ties to Moscow with its pursuit of greater economic ties to China, Europe, and the Middle East.
Promising Political Start, Uncertain Future
Armenia was at the forefront of efforts to tear down the Soviet Union. Yerevan had one of the strongest civil society movements in the late Soviet period, with mass protests assuming a nationalist character and focusing on Armenian claims to the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. Protests in the country ultimately led to the Armenian branch of the Communist Party of the USSR ceding power in 1990. However, by the time the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, newly independent Armenia and Azerbaijan were already at war over Nagorno-Karabakh. The politicians who rose to prominence during the independence movement and the subsequent war have dominated Armenian politics ever since.
Levon Ter-Petrosian, a scholar and leader of a nationalist civil society movement, became the first president of independent Armenia in October 1991 amid challenging circumstances. Factory production in Armenia—once the high-tech center of the Soviet Union—ground to a halt, as supply chains and transportation networks were interrupted by the USSR’s collapse. Wars throughout the Caucasus (in Chechnya, Georgia, and Nagorno-Karabakh) cut off Armenia’s gas and electricity supplies. Although the Armenians won the war for Nagorno-Karabakh, the early years of independence were cold and dark; many Armenians were forced to burn furniture and level forests for fuel to stay warm. GDP growth fell by 41 percent in 1992, recovering to 5 percent growth by the end of the war in 1994. Inflation reached an all-time high of 5,273 percent in 1994 and more than 50 percent of the population had fallen into poverty. The war and the Soviet collapse were the main reasons for the failing economy, but Ter-Petrosian received most of the blame.
Ter-Petrosian’s legacy is mixed. The political system was more open in the 1990s than it is today, while his outreach to Turkey and willingness to compromise with Azerbaijan on the Nagorno-Karabakh stalemate reflected a pragmatic approach to Armenia’s two key national security threats. However, those policies won him no favors with nationalists at home or those in the Armenian diaspora. Meanwhile, his 1994 decision to ban theopposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnak) party tarnished his image as a democrat, as did his 1996 reelection, which was marred by allegations of voting irregularities. Thus, with his stature diminished and his administration on the verge of accepting a compromise peace plan with Azerbaijan (as called for in the 1994 Nagorno-Karabakh ceasefire agreement), he was forced from office in 1998 by a group headed by Robert Kocharian, the country’s then sitting prime minister and former head of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Kocharian’s presidency coincided with the slow recovery of the Armenian economy. Unemployment gradually declined from roughly 12 percent in 2001 to about 6 percent in the first quarter of 2008, when Kocharian left office. These official figures likely fail to account for the underemployed or those living off subsistence agriculture. GDP growth was impressive, hovering around 14 percent from 2005 to 2007, and Armenian gas, electricity, and transportation infrastructure started to work again; that said, the rebound probably had more to do with luck than Kocharian’s policies, as post-Soviet states across Eurasia experienced a recovery at this time.
Under Kocharian, a small group of oligarchs in or close to the government established tight control over the economy. Because of the unsettled conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan and Turkey continued to keep their borders with Armenia closed. This caused Yerevan to be excluded from the lucrative regional energy and transportation infrastructure developed in the South Caucasus since independence and pushed Armenia further into Russia’s economic and security orbit. Armenia’s only open borders remain with Georgia and Iran, which constrains its ability to pursue integration into the global economy.
Kocharian consolidated his hold over the country and facilitated the political rise of many Nagorno-Karabakh officials to positions of power in Armenia proper. One of those officials was Serzh Sargsyan, a Nagorno-Karabakh military commander who had served in numerous defense and security positions in Karabakh and Armenia. He succeeded Kocharian as Armenia’s president in 2008.
Kocharian’s presidency and the start of Sargsyan’s, however, were mired in political violence. A 1999 attack on the Armenian parliament left the country’s prime minister, parliamentary speaker, and six parliamentarians dead after a seventeen-hour hostage standoff. The 2008 presidential election campaign, in which Ter-Petrosian attempted a political comeback by leading the opposition, ended tragically. The election focused largely on personal rivalries, with Sargsyan presenting himself as a stronger defender of Armenian security. Ter-Petrosian and other opposition leaders alleged mass vote rigging, and the country stopped for ten days as Ter-Petrosian led the opposition into the streets. The protests ended in a violent crackdown that left ten dead and many more detained or arrested. The violence caused friction between Armenia and the international community, and it cast a shadow over the start of Sargsyan’s presidency.
Sargsyan faced further early challenges. The global financial crisis caused a steep economic downturn. In 2009, the economy shrank by 14 percent. The 2008 Russian-Georgian war briefly cut off Armenia’s main access to the outside world, which highlighted the country’s difficult geographic position. The impact of the war also probably pushed Sargsyan to speed up Armenian-Turkish normalization, a bold diplomatic process that nationalists criticized. It, however, won plaudits from the international community, although it broke down in 2010.
Kocharian and his allies criticized his successor’s economic and foreign policies, fueling early rumors of a rift between the two and raising speculation about Kocharian’s alleged desire for a comeback along the lines of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s 2012 return to the Kremlin. Kocharian has become a vocal critic of current government policies and backed several of Sargsyan’s opponents. He was linked to oligarch Gagik Tsarukian’s attempts to challenge the president—a move that ended in 2015 with Sargsyan ordering tax audits of Tsarukian’s businesses and warning of criminal prosecution. Tsarukian left politics shortly thereafter, although he appears to be pondering a return. Reportedly, Kocharian also has ties to former foreign minister Vartan Oskanian’s recent effort to reenter politics as a government critic.
The high-stakes maneuvering between the Sargsyan and Kocharian camps paints a picture of a political system dominated by intrigue and behind-the-scenes power plays, none of which involves the population at large. Attempts by Kocharian’s faction to exert influence at home and reportedly in Moscow have been met with moves by the government to sideline him, just as Kocharian effectively sidelined Ter-Petrosian in the early 2000s. Ties between the first and third presidents briefly warmed this year, with Kocharian serving as a common foe. Sargsyan met with Ter-Petrosian privately in mid-April 2016, following the Four-Day War with Azerbaijan, and Ter-Petrosian subsequently called on the public to support the president, once his bitter rival, in the face of external threats. Their truce is evidence that personality disagreements and shifting alliances dominate Armenian politics, often concealing competing oligarchic interests underneath.
Such personality-based politics and rivalries are fueled by competition within a small circle of political insiders, and this makes it difficult for critics of the government to unify on a common platform that goes beyond vague notions of regime change or broad condemnations of corruption. When political alliances do occur, they tend to be tactical and short-lived, as was the case with the 2016 truce between Sargsyan and Ter-Petrosian. By mid-October, the latter had resumed his harsh criticism of the government’s economic and democratic record. Several opposition parties are now in talks about creating a unified bloc for the upcoming 2017 parliamentary elections, but it remains unclear whether party leaders can overcome personal and political rivalries—a long-standing problem. The lack of transparency into these shifting alliances has increased the public’s frustration with both the government and most of the opposition; the fact that the country’s politicians stay on the scene for so long has added to this dissatisfaction. The next generation of Armenian leaders is rising both within and around the government, the opposition, and civil society, but it remains mostly on the sidelines of a system that has not yet figured out how to integrate these newcomers.
Another Transition in the Works?
President Serzh Sargsyan’s term in office ends in 2018. He spearheaded a constitutional amendment, adopted as a result of a widely questioned December 2015 referendum, that will transition Armenia from a presidential to a parliamentary system. Sargsyan’s critics have charged that this transition was engineered to extend his own or his allies’ hold on power beyond the end of his term. There was little input from the public on the amendment before it was put up to a vote, but its opponents made their voices heard through public protest and on social media. The amendment’s critics hailed not only from a broad spectrum of civil society and the political opposition but also from among the political and economic elite, including Kocharian himself. Opponents are concerned that the ruling party will manipulate future elections in its favor, as it has been accused of doing in the past.
To address these fears, opposition parties in parliament have since worked with the government to introduce changes to the electoral code that may help curb voting irregularities. The government justifies the new political structure as a way to increase public influence on policymaking by moving it from the presidency to a multi-stakeholder parliament. The reform could lead to a more accountable government, but a large cross-section of the population remains skeptical.
Questions also remain over how the new political structure will take shape, who will lead the country, and what role the current president or his two predecessors—all of whom are striving to stay influential—will play after 2018.
As a point of comparison, neighboring Georgia moved to a similar parliamentary system toward the end of former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili’s term in office, but that transition has been far from smooth. Both Saakashvili and his biggest rival, former prime minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, loom large over the political system despite the fact that neither is a sitting government official. The new system backfired on Saakashvili and his party, which lost two successive parliamentary elections in 2012 and 2016.
Armenia’s April 2017 parliamentary elections will launch a gradual two-year transition to the new political system. Yet, the upcoming electoral cycle is coming at a difficult time for the political establishment. The economy remains sluggish, remittances from Russia are down, and socioeconomic grievances are rising. The Armenian Central Bank has cut interest rates seven times between January and November 2016, and the government is considering more spending cuts. Yerevan has yet to see benefits from its membership in the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). The ruling party’s hold on power is strong, but it performed worse than expected in the autumn 2016 regional elections. These losses occurred despite a government reshuffle in early September and allegations of voting irregularities. Opposition candidates from multiple parties even bested the ruling party in city council elections in Vanadzor, Armenia’s third-largest city. However, several opposition city council members allegedly broke away from the opposition coalition to back the ruling party’s candidate in a secret ballot, thus preventing the opposition candidate from becoming mayor and raising public doubts about the fairness of these proceedings.
These regional elections and the government shake-up took place after a tumultuous year of war, protests, and political violence. The April 2016 Four-Day War with Azerbaijan saw heavy casualties and the loss of some Armenian-held territory for the first time since the 1994 Nagorno-Karabakh ceasefire. The war shocked many Armenians out of complacency and raised doubts among them that control of the disputed region and surrounding territories can last indefinitely. Armenian losses raised questions about the country’s military readiness—one of the pillars of the government’s legitimacy. The losses also opened up a public debate on the corrosive impact of corruption on the country’s security, prompting the Ministry of Defense to fire and arrest several officials in the spring of 2016. The country’s long-standing minister of defense and the chief of the general staff of the armed forces both lost their positions a few months later. Ceasefire violations continue on a regular basis, with sniper fire going beyond the Nagorno-Karabakh line of contact into uncontested border regions. The brutality and violence seen in April was a powerful reminder of the fragile and changing security environment in the region.
The political establishment was stunned again in July when a fringe group of armed radical nationalists seized a police station in Yerevan, took police officials and emergency medical workers hostage, and held them for two weeks. The group, called Sasna Tsrer, had long been under government surveillance, is highly nationalistic, and adamantly opposes any compromise settlement with Azerbaijan. The militants—many of whom were decorated Nagorno-Karabakh war veterans, demanded the resignation of the president and the release of political prisoners. Sasna Tsrer had little public support before July, but its actions resonated with part of the population, leading to street demonstrations in support of the hostage takers. Not all the protesters backed the group’s violent tactics, but the demonstrations suggested many Armenians were disenchanted with the status quo and at least sympathized with those willing to take extreme measures.
Armenian security forces allowed the hostage standoff and protests to continue for almost two weeks, but the confrontation ultimately ended violently. More than sixty people were injured in a police crackdown in which scores of others were detained. Many observers at home and abroad have criticized these tactics, which likely led to the sacking of the capital city’s police chief and several other officers. Yet, the fact that many Armenians accepted the hostage takers’ and protesters’ radical action as a legitimate means of seeking change is disturbing in its own right. This suggests that the gap between the government and the governed continues to widen and that the institutions of government are not addressing the public’s concerns.
The Outlook for Civil Society
The complexity of Armenian domestic politics is further illustrated by the fact that the Armenian parliament is not merely a rubber stamp serving the needs of the executive branch. Debate does occur in part because the Armenian parliament is home to so many businesspeople. This parliamentary debate, however, does not always result in positive change, which forces the public to go outside the formal mechanisms of governance, as activists did in the summers of 2013, 2014, and 2015.
Political protests during these years focused on socioeconomic grievances (public transportation rate hikes, pension reform, and electricity tariffs) as opposed to vague notions of democracy and human rights. Many protesters are young millennials who have not yet found a place for themselves in the political system, are concerned about the lack of transparency in politics and economics, and are frustrated with limited job prospects. Smaller-scale protests are regular occurrences, again mostly focusing on bread-and-butter issues: school and healthcare conditions, housing problems, and wage arrears.
Independent journalists, nongovernmental analysts, and watchdog groups are able to monitor and criticize developments from inside the country, although the parameters for such independent analysis are often restricted. Broadcast media, for example, remains controlled by the government or government-friendly entities, and independent journalists and opposition figures traditionally have difficulty getting their messages out on television. Furthermore, freedom of speech and the press becomes curtailed when violence is used as a tool to intimidate journalists, opposition figures, or civil society leaders, although it typically has been tough to determine who exactly was behind any individual attack. Nevertheless, the public generally has unfettered access to the Internet; network reliability and penetration has improved in recent years, growing from only 15 percent of the population having Internet access in 2009 to almost 50 percent in 2014. Journalists and bloggers take advantage of Internet freedom to disseminate alternative views. They already have documented the new prime minister’s extensive business interests. However, most independent media outlets and web news portals are dependent on international funding, as are most nonprofits.
Despite the challenges it faces, Armenian civil society remains energetic and defiant. Armenia has its share of human rights problems, but so far has resisted making the sharp authoritarian turn seen elsewhere in Eurasia in recent years. This is due to the dynamic nature of Armenian civil society, the importance of a semi-open political system to competing oligarchic groups, and political elites’ understanding that such a turn would aggravate the West and some influential diaspora figures, which Yerevan sees as hedges against Russian geopolitical and economic domination.
Given that the Armenian economy is controlled by an oligarchic few who have used the country’s geopolitical isolation to gain tight control over the economy, Armenia bears slight resemblance to Ukraine, where competitive politics coexist with an oligarch-monopolized economy. Oligarchic influence in politics remains a key barrier to reform in both Armenia and Ukraine, while popular frustration with the status quo is high in both countries. Armenia and Ukraine are close on the United Nations Human Development Index, with the former ranked 85 and Ukraine ranked 81. Both countries are much lower than Russia (50) and slightly lower than Armenia’s immediate neighbors: Iran (69), Turkey (72), Georgia (76), and Azerbaijan (78). The World Bank’s growth forecast for Armenia in 2016 is 1.9 percent, down from 3.0 percent in 2015 and 7.2 percent in 2012. Armenia is a lower-middle-income country with a per capita GDP of $3,489. Successive governments have failed in their efforts to create a productive economy that promotes investment in small and medium-sized enterprises, broadens the base of foreign investors, and sustains the country’s population.
Around 30 percent of Armenia’s population lives below the poverty level. With the bulk of the country’s wealth around Yerevan, a stark urban-rural divide remains a persistent problem for a country in which almost 40 percent of the population lives in rural areas. A lack of employment opportunities forces many Armenians abroad. Remittances are a key part of the Armenian economy, constituting 14.1 percent of GDP in 2015, down from 18.7 percent in 2013. Traditionally, about 80 percent of total remittances come from Russia, and they are key to poverty alleviation. The economic downturn in Russia, however, led to a sharp 56 percent reduction in remittances between 2014 and 2015, and it continued to fall in the first nine months of 2016.
In terms of business climate, Armenia ranks 35 in the World Bank’s 2016 Ease of Doing Business index, up three spots from the previous year, although corruption remains a barrier to foreign investment, as does the state of the country’s transportation networks. The World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation have provided assistance for modernizing the country’s road networks, with China now following suit. Armenia is heavily dependent on Russian energy, and key infrastructure is Russian owned, although Chinese electricity and energy companies have expressed interest in this sector as well. It is clearly a growth sector as Armenia faces energy shortages, with “access to electricity” pulling down the country’s Ease of Doing Business score.
The country is diversifying its energy sources through greater cooperation with Georgia and Iran. Armenia and Iran already swap electricity, and the two countries are jointly building a hydroelectric power station. Yerevan also has announced plans to increase Iranian gas imports. Russian gas flows to Armenia through Georgia, and Tbilisi and Yerevan are also constructing a cross-border, high-voltage transmission line that should become operational by 2018. Global Contour, a New York–based investment fund and energy operator, made the single-largest private U.S. investment ever in Armenia with its 2015 acquisition of the country’s second-largest hydroelectric complex, spending $180 million for the plant and investing another $70 million in upgrades.
Armenia’s trade patterns are also noteworthy. Trade with the European Union amounted to $762.4 million in the first eight months of 2016. The EU as a whole remains one of Armenia’s largest trading partners, accounting for almost 30 percent of Armenia’s total trade, according to EU figures. This trade orientation to Europe helps explain why Yerevan resumed negotiations with the EU on establishing a cooperative framework for deepening trade and political ties. Individually, however, Russia constituted Armenia’s top trading partner in 2015 with 15.2 percent of total trade; it was followed by China with 11.1 percent, Germany with 9.8 percent, Iraq with 8.8 percent, and Georgia with 7.8 percent. Trade with China has skyrocketed in recent years, increasing from $16 million in 2011 to $171 million in 2014. Along with increased trade has come increased Chinese humanitarian assistance. Trade with the broader Middle East also has grown, apparently facilitated by Syrian-Armenian businesspeople who have relocated to Armenia. Increased trade and people-to-people ties with the Middle East are evident in the proliferation of air connections from Yerevan to the region; the average number of daily flights to the Middle East now exceeds those headed to Europe.
Agriculture is an important lifeline for many Armenians, employing about 40 percent of the working population and representing about 20 percent of GDP. However, much of it is subsistence farming. The agriculture sector grew by 11 percent in 2015, which helped offset both declining exports to Russia and reduced remittances. Armenia produces about 60 percent of the food it consumes, relying on imports for grain, sugar, and oil. Eighty-five percent of Armenian households are considered food secure by the UN World Food Program, but 19 percent of children under the age of five have stunted growth due to poor nutrition—a clear gap in the country’s social welfare system. Agriculture and food processing—almost 50 percent of which is done in or near Yerevan—are promising exports, but the country’s geographic isolation limits its ability to export perishable food.
The service and information technology sectors are the bright spots in the economy. Several international IT companies, including Microsoft, Synopsis, and National Instruments, have branches in the country; these companies are taking advantage of the country’s historical strength in high technology and government tax breaks for IT companies that employ more than thirty people. The IT sector reportedly grew 22 percent per year between 2008 and 2013, making it the fastest-growing part of the economy. As of 2016, it already employs about 15,000 people, although the education system is struggling to keep up with the constant demand for qualified IT specialists. Approximately 500 technology companies now operate in the country, including many local start-ups. The rapid growth of the Armenian IT sector is due at least in part to the relatively low levels of corruption in this sector, which is relatively borderless and has limited contact with customs officials.
Armenia’s Foreign Policy Balancing Act
From the earliest days of its independence, Armenia has tried to pursue a multivector foreign policy. Although Yerevan is an ally of Russia and a member of the Moscow-dominated Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the EEU, Armenia continues to seek trade and security ties with the West and recently added China to this balancing act. Armenia’s connections to Armenian diaspora communities overseas help it secure ties to Europe, North America, and Russia, as well as the Middle East and even Latin America. With Armenia lacking the oil revenue of Azerbaijan or the political clout of Turkey, the diaspora is vital to Armenia’s efforts to influence international public opinion and international policymakers’ decisions concerning the Caucasus.
The diaspora, however, can play a dual role. Diaspora Armenians tend to attach greater importance to the genocide recognition agenda than the government of Armenia does. While understandable, the diaspora’s attitude toward Turkey as the successor to the Ottoman Empire, which perpetrated the genocide and has refused to recognize it as such, does little to alleviate Armenia’s isolation or its economic problems—the main concern of the country’s citizens. Many in the diaspora, for example, ardently opposed proposals for Armenian-Turkish normalization of relations, while the population in Armenia generally welcomed it. Armenians within the country also show greater willingness to engage with Turks on a people-to-people level than do diaspora Armenians, and these engagements laid the groundwork for the normalization process.
Yerevan also has found that the diaspora’s investment in the Armenian economy is lacking, while diaspora Armenians—many of whom hail from countries with much stronger legal systems and more transparent regulatory frameworks—often find the investment climate in Armenia unwelcoming. High expectations on both sides have led to mutual disappointment. Despite its considerable influence in a number of Western capitals, the diaspora also has been unable to transform Armenia into a top priority for the West. Armenia is simply too small and far away to garner priority attention in most Western countries.
Given this reality and its challenging neighborhood, Yerevan has had little choice but to align itself closely with Russia—home to the world’s largest Armenian population. In its defense posture, Armenia remains tightly connected to Russia, hosting 5,000 Russian troops at a military base near Gyumri, 25 miles from the Turkish border. A 2015 poll by an Armenian think tank indicated that 55 percent of respondents found a foreign (implying Russian) military presence in Armenia to be acceptable; a different question in this same poll revealed that 38 percent viewed that foreign military presence as key to protecting Armenia from Azerbaijani or Turkish aggression, while another 25 percent claimed it provided a general security guarantee for the country at large.
However, Armenia’s security ties to Russia come with risks. Russia has proven itself to be an unpredictable and at times unreliable actor. The 2008 Russian-Georgian war pitted Armenia’s most important neighbor against its security partner. Georgia is Armenia’s link to the outside world and a vital corridor for trade into and out of Armenia. The war cut off that trade route, stopping deliveries of wheat, fuel, and other products into Armenia and leading to shortages. The late 2015 collapse in relations between Russia and Turkey also complicated the region’s already delicate security framework and increased tensions on the Armenian-Turkish border. Furthermore, Moscow’s willingness to provide discounted weapons to Armenia reinforces its dependence on Russia. The two countries have a joint air defense agreement, and Yerevan in June 2016 ratified a treaty on the operation of a joint Russian-Armenian air defense system. In 2015, Moscow provided Armenia with a $200 million loan to purchase Russian weapons, including new Iskander missiles, which were on display during Armenia’s celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of its independence. The Armenian and Russian governments reinforced these close security ties by announcing an agreement to bolster a decade-old joint military force, although neither side provided any details about what changes this November 2016 decision will bring. Close security ties, however, have facilitated large-scale Russian investment—not always conducted in a transparent manner—into the Armenian economy, allowing Russian firms to dominate key sectors of the economy, particularly the energy sector.
In other ways too, Armenia’s military and economic dependence on Russia often complicates the country’s diplomacy. Yerevan has resisted Russian pressure to recognize Georgia’s breakaway territories as independent since 2008, realizing that such a move would damage its ties to Georgia and raise questions in Armenia and among the diaspora about Nagorno-Karabakh’s unrecognized status. However, Yerevan’s dependence on Russia probably was a major factor in its decision to side with Moscow when it vetoed the United Nations General Assembly Resolution no. 68/262 reaffirming Ukraine’s territorial integrity after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. Armenia and Belarus were the only former Soviet countries to follow Russia’s lead, and they were joined by a list of unsavory regimes: Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua, North Korea, Sudan, Syria, and Zimbabwe.
Moscow forced Yerevan’s hand to join the EEU. After completing separate negotiations with the EU, Armenia backed away in 2013 from signing an association agreement (AA) and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) with the EU. Given that Russia is Armenia’s only ally, the latter’s decision to join the EEU instead was made for political and national security reasons, not economic ones. Yerevan’s about-face on the AA and DCFTA, however, did not provoke widespread protests at the time, likely because most Armenians understand and accept that Armenian security has been dependent (since the imperial era) and will remain dependent on a strong relationship with Russia. This shows an inseparable connection between Armenia’s security imperative and domestic issues. Not unlike Israel, security in Armenia generally trumps all other economic, social, or political issues.
This security, however, comes at a stiff price. Yerevan reportedly expected $250–$300 million annually in trade benefits, cheap imports of Russian energy, and discounted prices for weapons after joining the EEU. However, exports to Russia dropped 26 percent in 2015, the first year of Armenia’s membership. Trade with Russia rebounded by 12 percent in the first half of 2016, according to President Sargsyan, but the increase does not appear to have returned trade to pre-EEU volumes. Savings from cheaper imports of Russian gas were not passed on to Armenian consumers. Instead, the 2015 decision to raise electricity rates at the request of Electric Networks of Armenia, the country’s electricity provider and a subsidiary of Russia’s Inter RAO UES, sparked that year’s Electric Yerevan protests. Anger over the rate hikes quickly became a symbol of popular dissatisfaction with Russia.
Popular discontent in Armenia toward Moscow is growing. Armenia’s January 2015 accession to the EEU coincided with the brutal murder of an Armenian family by a mentally disturbed Russian soldier outside Russia’s military base in Gyumri. The atrocity prompted protests in Yerevan and in Gyumri. At first, the Russian government failed to comprehend the scope of the anger and growing sense of injustice that was brewing in Armenian society. Putin waited six days before calling Sargsyan to offer his condolences, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov denigrated the protesters, claiming they were using the tragedy to gain “geopolitical advantages.” His implication that the protesters were inspired by a Western plot to undermine Russian influence was a display of his tin ear toward and poor understanding of Armenian civil society.
Anti-Russian sentiment further increased after the Four-Day War. About 100 Armenians were killed during the fighting. Russian weapon deliveries to Azerbaijan contributed to the bloodshed, angering many Armenians and raising doubts about the value of Moscow’s security guarantees to Armenia. Social media since the April war has added fuel to the fire, leading to protests outside the Russian embassy in Yerevan during Lavrov’s visit that month. A small group of demonstrators also protested against Putin during his October 2016 visit to Yerevan for the CSTO summit. Given the country’s security is built around its ties to Moscow, growing anti-Russian sentiment in Yerevan is unlikely to lead to a reorientation of the country away from Moscow. But Armenian society is increasingly nervous about the one-sided nature of the bilateral relationship. The Armenian government is caught between its deep dependence on Moscow and growing public doubts about Russian intentions.
Diplomacy Beyond Russia
Aside from Russia, the United States also factors prominently in Armenian diplomacy. Armenia’s relations with the United States generally are positive. As a co-chair country, along with France and Russia, in the Minsk Group tasked with resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute, the United States is generally seen as a more impartial arbiter in conflict mediation efforts with Azerbaijan than Russia. Over the last year, this perceived impartiality has led many regional experts to call on the United States to take a more active role in the negotiations, as it did at the start of the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations. However, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent statement that neither Armenia nor Azerbaijan is ready for or interested in a compromise solution suggests that Washington sees little purpose in re-engaging at a senior level in the conflict any time soon—an approach that most likely will remain unchanged under the next presidential administration.
Trade is not a major factor in Armenia’s relationship with the United States, accounting for only about 4 percent of Armenia’s foreign trade in 2014. Trade turnover with the United States was $221 million for that year, according to Armenian government figures. While trade is relatively low, the United States ranks as the second-largest source of remittances (after Russia) due to the large Armenian-American diaspora.
Trade with the United States is miniscule, but the security relationship between Washington and Yerevan is stronger than one would expect. Despite its close security relations with Russia, Armenia’s military reforms generally have been modeled after the United States and supported by both the United States and NATO. Armenian service personnel have undergone training in the United States and other NATO countries, with a large focus on peacekeeping. Armenia also has participated in NATO-led operations at least in part to enhance its forces’ capabilities. Yerevan deployed contingents of 130 troops to Afghanistan and forty-five to Iraq at the height of those wars. In Kosovo, thirty-five Armenian peacekeepers have been deployed on rotation since 2012 alongside U.S. forces. Armenia also has deployed peacekeepers to Lebanon under UN auspices, a logical deployment given the large Armenian community there and across the Middle East.
Beyond Russia and the United States, the geopolitical environment around Armenia is shifting, particularly with regard to Azerbaijan and Turkey. Turkish-Azerbaijani relations remain strong, but both countries have been rocked by political instability. The economic downturn in Azerbaijan has led to protests, purges of the political elite, and a clampdown on criticism. Yerevan fears that Azerbaijan could resort to military force to deflect public attention away the country’s growing domestic problems. Meanwhile, Turkey has been deeply affected by the war in Syria, repeated terrorist attacks at home, and the aftermath of the July 2016 coup. Both Baku and Ankara are becoming increasingly authoritarian, less predictable, and more nationalistic—a problem for Armenia, where both Azerbaijan and Turkey are seen as the biggest threats to its survival.
Nonetheless, societal ties and trade across the closed Armenian-Turkish border are much stronger than they are between Azerbaijan and Armenia. The border between Armenia and Turkey remains closed, but charter flights between Yerevan and Istanbul now operate. Cultural and business ties between the two countries are growing, with Georgia playing an essential intermediary role in Armenian-Turkish trade. Armenia imports over $225 million in Turkish goods annually, making it Armenia’s fourth-largest import-origin country.
Slightly better relations with Turkey have had little effect on Armenia’s most urgent security problem of Nagorno-Karabakh. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan quickly backed Baku during the Four-Day War, aware that doing so would win favors with a nationalist public at home. Azerbaijan is one of the top foreign investors in Turkey and conducts active lobbying campaigns in the country to try to shape Turkish public opinion and policymaking. This gives Baku added leverage within Turkey.
In the Middle East, the war in Syria has decimated the Armenian diaspora communities there, forcing many ethnic Armenians to flee the country. Despite the carnage in Aleppo, the Armenian consulate in the city remains open to facilitate the departure of ethnic Armenians from the country. Armenia has taken in at least 20,000 refugees from Syria, making it the third-largest European recipient country of Syrian refugees based on population size. More refugees are likely to follow.
Most of these refugees are ethnic Armenians, who can receive citizenship and Armenian passports relatively easily, often even before leaving Syria or the Middle East. Armenian consular officers in Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria can grant citizenship, adjudicate asylum applications, and provide passports to ethnic Armenian refugees on the spot. Granting immediate citizenship, however, has drawbacks. It facilitates the departure of displaced Armenians from a war zone, but it also takes them off global refugee tolls, depriving Yerevan of some international assistance. It also makes it difficult to determine the exact number of people fleeing to Armenia.
Furthermore, with Armenia’s slow economic growth, high cost of housing, and limited employment opportunities, not all Syrian Armenians stay. Their plight is similar to that of ethnic Armenians from Iraq, who sought refuge in Armenia a decade ago. Europe, North America, and the Persian Gulf have been attractive onward destinations for both waves of refugees. Some displaced people from Syria allegedly have moved to Nagorno-Karabakh or the occupied territories around it, although the exact number is not clear, and Armenian officials generally downplay these allegations.
Separately, Armenian ties with Iran are mostly positive, dating back to when Tehran sided with Yerevan in the Nagorno-Karabakh war in the early 1990s. Iran has long sought a greater role in mediation efforts, but has been continually rebuffed by the international community. Sanctions on Iran have kept Armenian-Iranian economic ties relatively constrained, but the Iran nuclear deal is changing calculations in both capitals. Yerevan clearly welcomes the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) as it has long feared that Iran’s nuclear ambitions would lead to a military conflict between Iran and the West or Israel. Either scenario could have destabilizing repercussions for the region. Yerevan specifically hopes the JCPOA will facilitate greater economic ties and boost the more moderate sectors of the Iranian elite that have been Armenia’s main interlocutors. Iran and Armenia already swap energy and are looking to expand this relationship.
Armenia has become a popular tourist destination for the Iranian middle class; 144,000 Iranians visited the country in 2015, with daily bus and plane service facilitating this travel. Armenia also sees itself as a potential staging ground for international firms seeking entry into the Iranian market, although it will likely face fierce competition from Georgia, which markets itself as a business hub for the entire region. Yerevan hopes Iran can become a more reliable transportation outlet to the south through the construction of road and rail links that could facilitate trade flows from the Persian Gulf all the way north to the Black Sea. Chinese investors have shown interest in these projects, possibly as part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative of infrastructure investment. Yerevan, however, has limited control over that project and the overall future of Armenian-Iranian relations.
Where to Next?
Armenia is at a juncture. Its economy is not meeting the needs of its population, forcing many to leave the country. The International Organization for Migration estimated that 23.7 percent of all Armenian citizens lived outside the country in 2015—likely one of the main reasons why the Armenian government created a Ministry of Diaspora in 2008. The bulk of these people live in Russia, solidifying the economic and people-to-people ties between the two countries. About 500,000 fewer people live in Armenia today than did during the late Soviet era. Most Armenian migrants generally leave the country during their prime working years. Some never return. This outbound migration deprives Armenia of talent and initiative, impeding its ability to develop a productive economy. The country’s geographic isolation and its closed borders with Azerbaijan and Turkey add to its economic woes, as do high levels of corruption, a weak judiciary, an opaque political system, and the persistent threat of war.
Armenia is actively seeking partnerships with China, Europe, the Middle East, and the United States to help boost trade and investment, but is doing so in a way that does not alienate Russia. Yerevan’s problem, however, is that these countries generally do not see Armenia as the main prize in a region with the untapped potential of Iran, the huge market of Turkey, or the more welcoming investor climate and geographic location of Georgia. Moscow also has warned Armenia not to stray too far from its orbit—a clear message from Armenia’s security guarantor at a time of geopolitical uncertainty spanning from the Middle East to Central Asia.
While this geopolitical environment is complex, ultimately it is the social upheaval seen in Armenia over the last few years that should unnerve the political establishment. The events of July 2016 suggest Armenian society is frustrated and has little trust in the political establishment’s ability to solve the country’s growing problems. President Sargsyan responded in the fall of 2016 by reshuffling the government in an attempt to put forward fresh and capable faces before the 2017 parliamentary elections. Some of those senior officials are European or U.S.-educated, while others, such as the prime minister, are seen as closer to Moscow—a clear indication Sargsyan hopes to continue Armenia’s delicate foreign policy balance.
However, what happens to Armenia after the current president’s term ends in 2018 remains to be seen. Amid growing discontent with the status quo and competition among rival political factions, Sargsyan’s purported plan to move to the prime minister’s office in order to remain at the helm—as some believe he intends to do—could prove risky. If he does not, all eyes will be on one of those new, fresh faces, adding to the mounting expectations of change.
Policy= res publica
Freudenberg-Pilster* Krieg in Syrien – Der stille Kampf der Frauen
Der Bürgerkrieg reißt eine junge Syrerin aus ihrem traditionellen Leben als Hausfrau. Heute muss sie sich und ihre Kinder selbständig ernähren. Ihre Sichtweise zur Ehe hat sich durch den Krieg deutlich geändert.
Beirut. Haela Kalaui recycelt Müll. In den ersten Wochen ihres Jobs kam sie oft weinend nach Hause. Das lag nicht nur am dreckigen Umfeld – einem trübe beleuchteten und schlecht belüfteten Keller, in dem die 31-Jährige sechs Tage in der Woche Abfallbehälter durchwühlt. Vor ihrer Flucht aus Syrien war Kalaui eine traditionelle Hausfrau, wuchs in dem Glauben auf, dass es für Frauen eine Schande sei, außerhalb des eigenen Hauses zu arbeiten. Damals, in ihrer Heimat, war es ihr noch nicht einmal erlaubt, selber ihre Kleidung zu kaufen oder auszusuchen, was sie sich im Fernsehen anschaut.
Jetzt, in einem Armenviertel in Beirut, ist Kalaui die alleinige Ernährerin ihrer Familie mit vier Kindern. Es geht nicht anders: Ihr Mann ist seit drei Jahren verschollen, verschwunden in den Wirren des Bürgerkrieges.
Sie vermisst zwar weiter ihr altes bequemeres Leben. Aber auf der anderen Seite hat sich von traditionellen Frauenbildern gelöst und sie eine innere Kraft entdeckt, von der sie nicht wusste, dass sie sie besitzt. „Ich sage meine Kindern, dass ich der Mann in der Familie bin“, sagt Kalaui in dem kleinen Zimmer, das sie für ihre Familie gemietet hat. „Ich bin der Vater und die Mutter. Ich bin diejenige, die arbeitet (…). Ich bin diejenige, die besorgt, was sie benötigen.“
In den Kriegen der Welt tragen oft Frauen die Hauptlast, so auch im Syrien-Konflikt. Rund ein Drittel der 240.000 Flüchtlingshaushalte im Libanon beispielsweise haben ein weibliches Oberhaupt, die Ehemänner – traditionell die Ernährer und Beschützer – sind tot, vermisst oder haben es vorgezogen, in Syrien zu bleiben. Manche der Frauen im Exil fühlen sich verwundbar, fürchten Belästigung und Gewalt. Andere wie Kalaui dagegen sind unbeabsichtigt zu Triebkräften des Wandels geworden.
Kalaui wuchs in einer konservativen Gemeinde auf, in der Mädchen meistens früh heirateten. Als sie 15 war und der 28-jährige Mohammed Dahlha um ihre Hand anhielt, sagte sie ja. „Ich mochte ihn sofort, als ich ihn sah“, erzählt sie. Sie brach die Schule in der zehnten Klasse ab, obwohl ihr Mann wollte, dass sie weitermacht, und wurde bald schwanger.
Kalaui liebte es, Mutter zu sein, aber die Ehe litt. Ihr Mann fühlte sich vernachlässigt, wurde distanziert, verbrachte die Abende meistens vor dem Fernseher. In der Familie hatte er das Sagen, sie kochte, hielt das Haus sauber und betreute die Kinder.
Dann kam der Krieg. 2013 starben fünf Verwandte bei Raketen- und Mörserangriffen. Kalaui und ihr Mann entschlossen sich zur Flucht. Sie ging mit den Kindern zuerst zu ihren Großeltern nach Damaskus, er sollte das Hab und Gut der Familie verkaufen und ihr dann folgen. Aber er kam nicht.
Die ersten Monate ohne ihn waren hart. „Ich habe jeden Tag geweint“, erinnert sich Kalaui. „Er war mein Anker. Als er verschwand, habe ich gedacht, ich habe niemanden, kann nirgendwo hin gehen, kann nichts tun.“
Als die Kämpfe eskalierten, floh die Familie im Mai 2015 in den Libanon. Hier schloss sie sich mit ihrer verwitweten Mutter, einer geschiedenen Tante und einer jungen Cousine zusammen, deren Mann ebenfalls in Syrien vermisst ist. Mit zusammen zehn Kindern leben sie in einem Komplex mit mehreren kleinen Räumen am Ende einer Gasse in einem heruntergekommenen Viertel von Beirut.
Kalaui war am stärksten abgeneigt, sich eine Arbeit zu suchen. Hatte sie doch daheim in Syrien ihre Mutter kritisiert, wenn diese ab und zu Näharbeiten annahm. Aber am Ende konnte Kalawi nicht anders: „Ich brauchte Geld.“
Jetzt arbeitet sie beim Unternehmen Recycle Beirut, das Müll aus Glas, Plastik und anderen Materialien sammelt. Als sie ihren ersten Lohn bekam, ging sie mit ihren Kindern in einem Restaurant essen und dann in einen Vergnügungspark.
Sie teilt sich mit drei Söhnen und einer Tochter im Alter von vier bis 14 Jahren ein einzelnes Zimmer. Die Kleidung ist hinter der Tür aufgestapelt, Risse im Holz sind mit Papier verstopft. Ein kleines Fenster lässt nur wenig Licht in den Raum, eine Glühbirne an der Decke ist den ganzen Tag über eingeschaltet.
Stets muss sich Kalaui ums Geld sorgen. Ihre Gold-Aussteuer hat sie längst verkauft, und kürzlich musste sich auch vom Ehering ihres Mannes trennen. An einem typischen Tag geht Kalaui kurz vor neun Uhr morgens aus dem Haus, wenn die Kinder in der Schule sind, und beginnt ihre Arbeit im Recycling Center. Danach versammelt sich die Familie zu einem warmen Essen. Abends, wenn die Kinder schlafen, schaut sich Kalaui in einem kleinen Fernseher Filme an – die, die sie will.
Sie träumt davon, eines Tages zurück nach Syrien zu gehen, aber sie schätzt ihre Unabhängigkeit und würde kein zweites Mal eine Ehe eingehen. „Damals war ich 15 und wurde unterdrückt“, sagt sie. „Ich hatte keine Persönlichkeit, keine Meinungen (…). Jetzt verlasse ich mich auf mich selbst. Wer mich in alten Tagen gekannt hat, wäre überrascht, wenn er mich heute sähe.“
****************************************************************************************************************** Politics: From Vision to Action
Barandat* WSJ:Pentagon Prepares Tougher Options on Fighting Militants to Show Trump Team
Proposals include limiting White House operational oversight and giving military more tactical authority
Dec. 9, 2016 7:37 p.m. ET
WASHINGTON—The Pentagon is drawing up proposals to offer to the Trump administration designed to intensify the U.S. campaign against Islamic State, including reducing White House oversight of operational decisions and moving some tactical authority back to the Pentagon, U.S. military and congressional officials say.
The options are being assembled in anticipation of demands by Donald Trump and his team, who have called for a tougher military campaign against the extremist group.
Military officials said they are considering presenting options on a number of fronts. They are likely to include easing restrictions on the precise number of American troops needed to carry out a particular mission, and relaxing rules that set the level of Washington review needed before an operation or airstrike may be conducted, officials said.
The potential recommendations aren’t likely to fundamentally change the U.S. strategy for fighting Islamic State, which relies on indigenous forces and relatively few American advisers. But they open prospects for the new administration to return more battlefield decision-making to the military, officials said.
Military officials familiar with the internal discussions at the Pentagon said officers aren’t taking advocacy positions on issues, but are prepared to answer the questions the new administration will have and make proposals as requested.
“Once the new administration is in place, we will offer recommendations going forward, should the new administration wish to amend those assumptions or the current approach,” a military official said.
Military officials stressed they only have one commander in chief, President Barack Obama. But they also say they must be prepared for an incoming administration that has already publicly signaled an interest in intensifying the fight against Islamic State.
The Pentagon’s preparations for the Trump transition are like those for any new administration. When Mr. Obama took office in 2009 with plans to wind down the U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon prepared options acceptable to the military that also would address the new president’s goals, officials said.
Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, tapped to serve as Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, has said the new administration will do a full reassessment of the authorities at the military’s disposal to execute the fight against Islamic State. The military’s proposals will feed into Mr. Flynn’s review, an official close to the Trump transition team said.
One result of the increased latitude, officials acknowledged, is the potential for deploying more U.S. forces. The Obama White House’s approach has been to use local forces and carefully limit the exposure of American personnel to combat.
But that stance has also drawn criticism from Republicans and some in the military that the White House is overly cautious and deliberative when requests to conduct operations are put before them.
“Part of the problem is, is that inside of the military right now…their hands are tied,” Gen. Flynn said in a recent FOX News interview.
White House officials said they approve all requests for operations and authorities they receive. For example, about 18 months ago, the White House loosened a restriction requiring that an airstrike cause no collateral civilian casualties. In that instance, the change expanded to 10 the number of civilians who could be potentially killed by accident if the value of the target was deemed high enough, military officials said.
“As Secretary [Ash] Carter has said repeatedly, every time he and General Dunford have asked the president for more capability in the fight against ISIL, he has agreed to that request,” said deputy Pentagon press secretary Gordon Trowbridge.
Currently, so-called business rules tightly govern how many forces the Pentagon can have in play. There are about 5,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and up to 300 special-operations forces personnel in Syria. In Afghanistan, U.S. troop strength is due to drop this month from about 9,800 to 8,400 under Obama administration directions.
In the past, the White House has retained strict oversight over the number of forces used in various missions. Some requests for more troops have required weeks or even months to win approval, officials say.
In one instance in the past year, military officials proposed a high-risk operation in Syria relying on about two dozen commandos. By the time the operation was ready to go and was about to be approved, the number of troops needed for the mission had grown to about 30 individuals. That change prompted White House officials to demand to know why it had expanded, senior military officials said.
U.S. officials defended the White House oversight in that instance, because of the extreme perils to U.S. forces associated with the operation.
Other options under consideration for the new administration would give the military more leeway to go after militants, military officials said. For example, the U.S. military has been conducting an effective campaign against Islamic State within the coastal city of Sirte, in northern Libya, under current authorities allowing it to take necessary measures in the city.
But if U.S. forces need to target a militant or group of fighters as little as 3 miles outside of the city—beyond what is known as the “area of active hostilities”—doing so currently requires White House approval, a senior military official said.
Such approval can potentially blunt the military’s effectiveness by slowing down the approval process, officials said. For example, it took eight months before the White House approved the airstrike that targeted an al Qaeda leader with links to Islamic State in Libya named Abu Nabil, or Wissam NajmAbd Zayd al Zubayadi, in November 2015.
But the Obama White House has granted expanded military authorities over the past year to fight Islamic State in Afghanistan and to allow the U.S. to target the Taliban under certain circumstances.
(Anmerkung: Der Artikel liegt außerhalb der Meinung von J.B. – Udo von Massenbach, Herausgeber)
Azerbaijan: Israeli Prime Minister Visits For Top-Level Meeting
December 13, 2016 | 13:59 GMT
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Azerbaijan’s capital of Baku on Dec. 13 for a meeting with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, APA reported. Talks reportedly centered on strengthening energy, trade and technology ties. The two countries‘ relationship is emblematic of the complex web of relations in the wider Caucasus region.
Azerbaijan and Israel Adjust to Regional Shifts
November 14, 2013 | 21:21 GMT
Azerbaijan’s chairman of international and inter-parliamentary relations met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu onNov 14. This visit comes amid reports that Israel had stopped deliveries of weapons to Azerbaijan due to pressure by Russia. While these reports were subsequently denied by the Israelis, they do bring focus on two countries that are particularly concerned by a potential realignment in the region as a result of the shifting U.S.-Iranian relationship.
Azerbaijan’s ties with Israel are emblematic of the complex web of relationships in the wider Caucasus region. The two countries have strengthened their relationship over the past few years to meet the common strategic interests of both sides. Azerbaijan, surrounded by the larger powers of Russia and Iran, has sought to diversify its security relationships outside the region to balance against these countries. In the past few years, Azerbaijan has increased weapons purchases and security cooperation with Israel as Baku faces a weapons embargo from the U.S. and Western countries due to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with Armenia.
In the meantime, Israel has sought to develop ties with countries in the region that can give it leverage against its adversarial relationship with Iran, which Azerbaijan is in a prime position to fill. Azerbaijan not only serves as a listening post for Israel into Iran but is also an important supplier of energy to Israel.
Therefore it is abnormal that reports surfaced that Israel was tempering its weapons supplies to Azerbaijan just as the two countries have been increasing such ties in recent years. However, the reports were quickly denied by Israeli officials and only appeared in Armenian media, making their veracity highly questionable.
Still, the timing of the reports is notable, as they come in the middle of talks between the U.S. and Iran to strike an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program and U.S. sanctions on the country. While negotiations are ongoing and may not produce a groundbreaking agreement, it is clear that the decades long hostility between Iran and the U.S. could be seeing an important shift that could lead to an understanding and eventually growing cooperation between the two countries. Numerous states are worried about such an understanding threatening the status quo of the region and their entrenched interests, such as Russia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
Azerbaijan and Israel are also deeply concerned about the implications of a U.S.-Iranian understanding. Though Iran has a troubled relationship with Azerbaijan, the threat Iran has posed to the country has been relatively limited in a concrete sense. But an Iran that has an understanding — or perhaps even cooperation — with the U.S. could pose a problem for Azerbaijan. Baku would also be threatened from the north, as Russia may take on a more aggressive posture out of greater U.S. involvement in the region. Alternatively, Russia could seek to build stronger ties with Azerbaijan as a counter, but Baku is inherently skeptical of Moscow’s intentions.
Israel would also be greatly troubled, not only about a potential shift of alignment in the Caucasus but also to its own interests in its immediate region. The U.S. standoff with Iran has been an important factor in the strong U.S.-Israeli relationship and the broader Middle Eastern power alignment. If Iran is no longer on the short list of the top threats to the U.S., Israel may become less important to U.S. security and strategic considerations. While it is still early and many things serve to complicate a true U.S.-Iranian understanding, Israel and Azerbaijan certainly are concerned over any prospective shifts in this key relationship.
Iran, Russia: Preliminary Energy Deal Signed Between Gazprom And Tehran
December 13, 2016 | 11:34 GMT
An agreement to development two major oil fields in Iran was signed by Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak in Tehran Dec. 13, AFP reported, citing the Shana news agency. The latest deal, which paves the way for Gazprom-sponsored studies at the Cheshmekosh and Changouleh fields near the Iraqi border, takes place amid the visit of a major Russian business delegation to Iran. Overcoming previous diplomatic friction, Tehran and Moscow have become allied in their support of Syrian President Bashar al Assad in the country’s ongoing civil war. While hardliners oppose outside involvement, Iran’s dilapidated energy infrastructure desperately requires foreign investment, technology and expertise to ensure its future viability. Despite foreign interest, however, existing U.S. sanctions against Iran could make financing difficult for future energy projects.
Radio Vatican Blog: Post-post-faktisch
Veröffentlicht am 9. Dezember 2016
Die Redaktion von Radio Vatikan gratuliert dem Wort „postfaktisch“ zur Wahl zum Wort des Jahres. Auch wenn wir damit eigentlich selber lieber nichts am Hut haben wollen. Mit der Erkenntnis, dass „gefühlte Wirklichkeit“, die sich von Tatsachen nicht verwirren lassen, unsere Welt zunehmend bestimmen, sind wir dann auch in der Wirklichkeit von heute angekommen. So ist das, Meinung und Gefühl regieren die Welt.
Ganz so neu ist das aber nicht, wenn ich das an dieser Stelle einwerfen darf. Schon lange halten wir das Mittelalter für ‚dunkel’ und lassen da alle möglichen Dinge stattfinden, die sich – in Wirklichkeit – zu anderen Zeiten abgespielt haben, Hexenverfolgung zum Beispiel. Da fühlt man sich selber gleich viel aufgeklärter.
Postfaktisch? Gibt es schon lange.
Noch nie hatten wir so viele Daten über die Welt um uns herum wie jetzt, das Problem ist aber dasselbe geblieben: wie ordnen? Und was sagt das dann über uns? Wenn das Gefühl das Steuerruder in die Hand nimmt und Fakten, die ihm widersprechen, nicht mehr heran lässt, dann helfen uns auch all die Daten nicht mehr.
Durch unsere Gefühle interagieren wir mit der Welt, aber mit dem Gefühl ist es wie mit dem Gewissen: es muss gebildet sein, informiert, trainiert, erfahren, sich selber auch mal in Frage stellend. Nur dann funktioniert es auch gut.
Also, ran an die Wirklichkeit. Und das Wort „post-faktisch“? Das lassen wir dann hoffentlich mit dem Jahr 2016 zurück.
Bundesanstalt für Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe (BGR) – Dienstbereich Berlin
Die neue Energiestudie der BGR ist veröffentlicht worden und kann unter folgendem Link heruntergeladen werden:
Entwicklung des globalen Primärenergieverbrauchs nach Energieträgern und ein mögliches Szenario der künftigen EntwicklungQuelle: New Policies Scenario, IEA 2016
Das völkerrechtlich verbindliche Klimaabkommen von Paris ist im November 2016 in Kraft getreten und wird erhebliche Auswirkungen auf die globale Energieerzeugung entfalten. Mit der laufenden Energiewende betreibt Deutschland bereits seit Jahren den Umbau der heimischen Energieversorgung. Zur Erreichung der formulierten Ziele des Pariser Abkommens ist die Energiewende mit einem Ausbau der erneuerbaren Energien als zentrale Energiequelle und weiteren flankierenden Maßnahmen unabdingbar.
Sowohl der Umbau von Energiesystemen als auch die Suche nach stofflichen Substituten für fossile Energierohstoffe sind komplex und brauchen Zeit. Die Entwicklung von Speichersystemen, die Steigerung der Energieeffizienz und die Anpassung von Stromnetzen sind nur einige Maßnahmen, die stellvertretend für die zu bewältigenden Herausforderungen stehen. Im globalen Maßstab ändert sich daher der Energiemix nur sehr langsam mit signifikanten Anteilsverschiebungen im Rahmen von Dekaden. Auch die Erfahrungen in Deutschland, beispielsweise bezüglich des Umbaus der Energieinfrastruktur, bestätigen die Langfristigkeit des Transformationsprozesses, trotz des erreichten gesellschaftlichen Konsenses in der Frage der zukünftigen energiepolitischen Ausrichtung. Die über Jahrzehnte gewachsene Abhängigkeit von den fossilen Energieträgern ist zu groß, als dass diese innerhalb weniger Jahre überwunden werden könnte.
Die verlässliche und wirtschaftliche Bereitstellung von Primärenergie ist Grundlage unseres Wohlstandes und Voraussetzung für die Entwicklung funktionierender Volkswirtschaften. Die globale Bevölkerung wird in den nächsten Jahrzehnten weiter wachsen und daher mehr Primärenergie benötigen als gegenwärtig. Angesichts dieser Herausforderungen wird die Versorgung mit Energie auch durch die Bereitstellung fossiler Energieträger notwendig sein. Daher bleiben fossile Energien auf absehbare Zeit – bei zurückgehenden Anteilen und effizienterer Nutzung – noch unverzichtbar in der globalen Energieerzeugung, um den Ausbau der erneuerbaren Energien zu ermöglichen und den Wechsel im Energiemix ohne Brüche zu vollziehen.
Die Energiestudie 2016 informiert mit Daten und Fakten über die Verfügbarkeit und Entwicklungen aller Energieträger: Erdöl, Erdgas, Kohle, Uran und erneuerbare Energie einschließlich der Tiefen Geothermie. Im Abschnitt „Energierohstoffe im Fokus“ werden die Themen "Das Erdöl- und Erdgas-Potenzial der Länder am Horn von Afrika", "Schieferöl- und Schiefergas in Deutschland – Ressourcen und Umweltaspekte" sowie "Energiespeicher im Untergrund für die Energiewende" gesondert betrachtet.
see our letter on: http://www.massenbach-world.de/41259.html
*Herausgegeben von Udo von Massenbach, Bärbel Freudenberg-Pilster, Joerg Barandat*