Massenbach-Letter. NEWS 28.5.17

Massenbach-Letter. News

  • „Losungen der politischen Elite unkritisch übernommen“: Otto-Brenner-Studie kritisiert Flüchtlingsberichterstattung von FAZ, Bild & Co.
  • Wittmann, Klaus : Zum Umgang mit Russland und zur Zukunft der NATO-Russland-Beziehungen – Ideen „für bessere Zeiten“

· Minsk Revisited – The appointment of Ambassador Kurt Volker as special envoy for Ukraine signals a renewed interest in Ukraine-related diplomacy in Washington.

· Dmitri Trenin (Carnegie Moscow): Russia’s Evolving Grand Eurasia Strategy: Will It Work?

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  • Asia Times: De-conflict deals show Syrian rebels know victory is out of sight

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  • U.S. Message to China: Hands Off Our Companies
  • Deutsche Bank Research – Ausblick Deutschland: Überhitzungsrisiken drohen

Massenbach*U.S. Message to China: Hands Off Our Companies

Backers of several high-profile transactions have failed to get approval amid tougher scrutiny of Chinese investment

The U.S. is toughening its scrutiny of Chinese deals, throwing a number of high-profile takeover bids into question and helping spur a huge case backlog, according to people familiar with the process.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. has signaled there are significant obstacles facing the proposed $1.2 billion purchase of Dallas-based payments firm MoneyGram International Inc. MGI -1.66% by Ant Financial Services Group, controlled by Chinese billionaire and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. BABA -0.14% co-founder Jack Ma, some of the people said…..

The backers of at least four other Chinese deals have recently refiled or said they would refile applications to the committee after failing to get approval within the roughly two-and-a-half-month review period, according to public disclosures.

At least two of them have taken the unusual step of refiling twice to try to address the committee’s concerns— China Oceanwide Holdings Group Co., which last year announced a $2.7 billion takeover of Richmond, Va.-based insurer Genworth Financial Inc., and Chinese-government backed Canyon Bridge Capital Partners, which last year announced a $1.3 billion plan to take over Portland, Ore.-based Lattice Semiconductor Corp.

Though refiled deals can still be approved, delays can be symptomatic of committee concerns, said people familiar with the process. At least one smaller Chinese deal to buy a U.S. Wi-Fi hotspot business collapsed last month after failing three times to get approval….

The concerns began growing under the previous administration as investment surged, with then-President Barack Obama taking the rare step of blocking a Chinese technology deal on his way out of office, and have only continued to intensify during the current administration.

Lawmakers and the Treasury are considering changes to the review process that could further tighten scrutiny on Chinese investment. Chinese deal makers are battling similar concerns from European regulators as well.

Rising trade tensions between China and the U.S. also could be contributing to increased hesitation by the committee, lawyers and bankers say.

High-level trade talks between the two countries ended Wednesday without any concrete agreements, and President Donald Trump has said he would consider leveraging trade to get China’s help reining in North Korea. (for more see att.)

https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-puts-chinese-deals-on-ice-1500664800?mod=djemlogistics

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

– Minsk Revisited – The appointment of Ambassador Kurt Volker as special envoy for Ukraine signals a renewed interest in Ukraine-related diplomacy in Washington.

– AQIS & ISIS approaches in India

  • Formalization of the Threat – Cyber
  • Regional Dimension – Implications of the Rising Terrorist Attacks in Egypt
  • How did Iran Deal with ISIS’ Defeat in Iraq?
  • Causes and Implications of Russia’s Growing Military Power in Syria

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Wittmann, Klaus : Zum Umgang mit Russland und zur Zukunft der NATO-Russland-Beziehungen – Ideen „für bessere Zeiten“

„Neues Denken“ in der russischen Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik

Wie vor 30 Jahren die marode Sowjetunion benötigt auch Putins Russland, „neues Denken“ in der Aussen- und Sicherheitspolitik als Teil seiner dringlichen

Modernisierung. Der Westen und besonders die NATO sollten das freilich erleichtern durch selbstkritische Anerkennung ihres Teils der Verantwortung für

die Verschlechterung des Verhältnisses in den letzten fast zwanzig Jahren. In diese These mundet der vorliegende Beitrag, und sie wird mit konkreten Vorstellungen

für kooperative statt konfrontativer Sicherheit zwischen dem Westen und Russland veranschaulicht werden.

Solche Aussichten scheinen allerdings in weiter Ferne angesichts des Konflikts um die Ukraine. Krim-Annexion und Krieg in der Ostukraine haben die Voraussetzungen

für jegliche positive Entwicklung stark beeinträchtigt. Doch musslangfristig das ernsthafte Angebot zu kooperativer Sicherheit bestehen bleiben.

Die Lösung des Ukraine-Konflikts zunächst in der Ostukraine ist indes eine zentrale Voraussetzung für neuerliche Kooperation mit Russland.

Deshalb ist den konstruktiven Anregungen, in die dieser Beitrag mündet, eine nüchterne Einschätzung von Charakter und Auswirkungen der Auseinandersetzung sowie

weiterer Aspekte der russischen Politik vorangestellt. ….

( more see att.)

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Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* Deutsche Bank Research – Ausblick Deutschland: Überhitzungsrisiken drohen

  • 2017 BIP-Prognose +1,6%, Überhitzungsrisiken steigen in 2018. Die deutsche Wirtschaft dürfte auch im zweiten Quartal ihr kräftiges Wachstumstempo beibehalten haben. Insbesondere der Konsum entwickelt sich dank zuletzt wieder sinkender Ölpreise und weiter kräftig steigender Beschäftigung günstiger als erwartet. Wir haben unsere BIP-Prognose für das Gesamtjahr auf 1,6% (1,3%) angehoben, was einer kalenderbereinigten Rate von 2% entspricht. Auch in 2018 dürfte das deutsche BIP mit 1,7% bereits das fünfte Jahr in Folge über der Potenzialrate von 1 ¼% wachsen. Die Outputlücke dürfte dann auf über 2pp steigen. Der enge Arbeitsmarkt könnte bei den Anfang 2018 anstehenden Tarifverhandlungen (Metall, Öffentlicher Sektor und Bau) zu steigenden Lohnabschlüssen von teilweise deutlich über 3% führen. Vor dem Hintergrund zusätzlicher fiskalischer Impulse nach der Bundestagswahl und einer weiterhin extrem lockeren Geldpolitik steigt das Überhitzungsrisiko zumindest in Teilbereichen der deutschen Volkswirtschaft zusehends an. Jedoch dürfte die Inflationsrate bis weit in das Jahr 2018 noch unter 2% liegen, nicht zuletzt weil wir keine Abwertung des EUR gegenüber dem USD mehr erwarten.
  • Kräftige Hauspreisanstiege in 2017 und 2018. Stärkere Vermögenseffekte? Demnächst könnte der Immobilienboom zusammen mit hohen Erbschaften selbst im konservativen Deutschland zu Vermögenseffekten führen, die das Kauf- und Konsumverhalten der Haushalte beeinflussen. Angesichts der aktuell beginnenden Debatte um die Überhitzung der deutschen Konjunktur könnte die Bedeutung der Immobilienpreise für die Konjunkturforscher zunehmen. Wir haben unsere eigenen Immobilienprognosen in den letzten Jahren stetig erweitert und prognostizieren heute Haus- und Wohnungspreise, Mieten sowie Hypothekenzinsen. Zwar haben unsere Preisprognosen regelmäßig die Tendenz getroffen, aber wir haben die Dynamik systematisch unterschätzt. Auch für 2017 und 2018 könnten unsere Prognosen der Wohnungspreise (jeweils rund 7% pro Jahr) zu konservativ sein.
  • EZB: Allmählicher taubenhafter Ausstieg. In den vergangenen Monaten straffte die EZB die Geldpolitik: Zuerst verringerte sie das Volumen der Anleihekäufe auf EUR 60 Mrd. pro Monat und im Juni strich sie in der Forward Guidance die Worte „or lower“. Beide Male begründete sie ihre Entscheidung mit deutlich gesunkenen Deflationsrisiken. Trotzdem betonte die EZB bei ihrer Pressekonferenz Anfang Juni die Fortsetzung der lockeren Geldpolitik. Ende Juni allerdings hat Draghi auf der EZB-Jahreskonferenz in Sintra zum ersten Mal den Ausstieg aus der sehr lockeren Geldpolitik angedeutet. Daher haben wir unser Basisszenario für den Ausstieg aus den Anleihekäufen angepasst. Für September erwarten wir, dass eine weitere Verlängerung der Anleihekäufe um sechs Monate für H1 2018 angekündigt wird und das Volumen auf EUR 40 Mrd. fällt. In H2 2018 dürfte das Tempo der Anleihekäufe erneut zurückgehen. Zudem dürfte eine einmalige Anhebung des Einlagensatzes Mitte 2018 erfolgen. Die Anhebung des Hauptrefinanzierungssatzes erwarten wir aber erst für Mitte 2019.

http://www.dbresearch.de/MAIL/DBR_INTERNET_DE-PROD/PROD0000000000446824.pdf

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

Barandat*Dmitri Trenin (Carnegie Moscow):Russia’s Evolving Grand Eurasia Strategy: Will It Work?

Summary:“To eventually achieve a Greater Eurasia, Russia’s strategy needs to be realistic in the near term. A credible strategy would focus on developing a “model” major power relationship with China and crafting a continental arrangement among China, India, and Russia. It would aim to transform the SCO into a platform for continuous, continent-wide diplomacy and negotiations, as well as a consensus-building body and source of legitimacy for the region. It would seek to normalize relations with Japan and gradually defuse the tensions on the Korean Peninsula, in close cooperation with China. Finally, it would have to include an institution-building effort to prioritize the EEU, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the SCO, and the RIC. As for western Eurasia, essentially Europe, a combination of confidence building and conflict management could prepare the ground for improved relations with EU member states.”

With a shift in strategy, 2014 was a pivotal year for Russia’s foreign policy. It was then that Moscow began moving away from its traditional focus on Europe and the Atlantic, with secondary attention to the former Soviet borderlands. The Ukraine crisis served as the coup de grâce for the two concepts that had guided Russian foreign policy since the break-up of the Soviet Union: integration into the wider West and reintegration of the former republics with Russia. What is now emerging is not so much a Russian pivot to Asia or more precisely to China, as many commentators trumpeted immediately after the outbreak of the Ukraine crisis, but rather a 360-degree vision, where Moscow serves as the central element of a new geopolitical construct: Eurasia writ large. While Russia repositions itself as a stand-alone power in the north-central portion of the world’s largest continent, its leaders are seeking to create a distinct national entity amid a vast and highly diverse neighborhood. The country’s new geopolitical framework is being referred to as Greater Eurasia.

Dmitri Trenin – Director Moscow Center

More from this author…

Commonly, Eurasia consists of the lands that lie between what is undeniably Europe and what is clearly Asia—roughly the territory long occupied by the Russian Empire (except Poland and Finland) and then by the Soviet Union (except for the Baltic republics). Greater Eurasia now embraces the entire landmass of the world’s largest continent, from Korea to Portugal and from the Arctic to the Indian Ocean. Of course, this has always been Russia’s geopolitical setting. President Vladimir Putin was pushing concepts such as a “Greater Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok” as early as 2010. The difference today is that Russia’s long affiliation with its historical empire is gone, along with the country’s more recent European aspirations.

Because this new geopolitical set of references calls for an entirely different strategy, Russian policy planners have found themselves back at the drawing board. Even after Putin’s announcement of the Greater Eurasia project in June 2016, the actual policy concept is still in gestation. However, its building blocks are already visible: the self-image of a lone, great power in a global world; outreach to Asian partners to create a continental order free from the dominance of the United States; and calculated patience toward Western Europe. Will this grand Eurasia strategy bear fruit or fail in the same way as previous strategies?

Russia’s Strategic Failures – Integration With the West

Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Moscow’s principal foreign policy objective was to join the West, as an integral player in Greater Europe and a major ally of the United States. Russian leaders achieved accession to the Council of Europe (1996), the G7 (1997), and the World Trade Organization (2012). They sought membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and even considered joining the EU. Essentially, Moscow was seeking a higher status within the West, which would allow its full participation in all decisionmaking alongside Washington. This was not to be. Russia was offered partnership but no special privileges and no role in Western decisionmaking. Moscow’s refusal to accept U.S. leadership was the primary cause of the estrangement between Russia and the United States that has been growing since 1999 (the Kosovo crisis) and particularly since 2003 and 2004 (the Iraq War and Ukraine’s Orange Revolution). A decade later, it took a much more severe crisis in Ukraine for Russia and the United States to move beyond what had become a partnership in name only toward overt confrontation.

Renewal of the U.S.-Russia rivalry, as well as Europe’s concerns and fears over Russia’s use of force and the border changes, led to the current deep estrangement between Russia and countries of the EU. Despite rather strong economic links, cultural affinities, and human exchanges, Russia and the rest of Europe clearly parted ways after their unprecedented period of rapprochement following the end of the Cold War. Russia’s key relationship with Germany, which Moscow helped to reunify in 1990, became badly broken, and traditional links with France grew cold. Russia’s immediate neighbors, the Baltic republics and Poland, saw themselves as vulnerable frontline states; Sweden and Finland turned deeply suspicious; while Ukraine, for centuries part of the core of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, became more hostile toward Moscow than probably any other country in the world.

Reintegration of the Former Republics

The Ukraine crisis in 2014 not only inflamed tensions between Russia and the United States and mutual alienation between Russia and Europe, it simultaneously put an end to Russia’s alternative strategy to reintegrate former Soviet republics and restore a Moscow-led power center in the former USSR (“Little Eurasia”). Without Ukraine’s population of 45 million, Putin’s idea of a comprehensive Eurasian Union lacked critical mass. Moreover, the way Moscow dealt with the crisis in Ukraine raised concerns in Belarus and Kazakhstan, strengthening their leaders’ resolve to protect national sovereignty. As a result, the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) that was inaugurated in 2015 was essentially economic in nature, with the competences of its supranational structures limited and closely circumscribed. Belarus even thwarted Russia’s desire to build an air base in the country. In 2015, the EEU expanded to include Armenia and Kyrgyzstan, but it continues to be little more than a customs union, accounting for only 6 to 7 percent of Russia’s foreign trade. Thus, the strategy of building a power center in Little Eurasia by integrating the lands of the former Soviet Union has failed.

A Pivot Toward China

The sudden confrontation with the West in 2014 raised the hopes of Russian political elite that a much closer relationship with China could be sought. By that time, China had already emerged as the principal challenger to the global primacy of the United States, raising expectations that Beijing could replace the West as a source of easy credit, large-scale investment, and advanced technology, as well as a principal market for Russian exports. The calculus was that China would immediately seize the opportunity to help Russia the way the Soviet Union had assisted China after the Communists’ civil war victory in 1949.

However, others in Russia feared precisely that outcome and, in particular, that China would come to dominate Russia economically and politically. Rejecting a junior partnership with the United States in order to become a tributary state to China did not look like a great deal. As it turns out, though, their fears were needless. For myriad reasons, China was not interested in a close alliance with Russia, even one it would clearly dominate. Beijing already had much of what it desired from Moscow: energy supplies, military technology, and a stable bulwark in the north. It was also reluctant to expand its involvement in the Russian economy. Chinese leaders likely recoiled at the prospect of managing a Russia that still considered itself a great power. Most significant was China’s resolve to avoid exacerbating its increasingly complex relations with the United States by aligning with a country that Washington had just put beyond the pale by means of economic sanctions and attempts at political isolation.

It is worth noting that as a result of Russia’s efforts, Sino-Russian relations did become somewhat closer: China gained access to some of Russia’s oil and gas fields; the People’s Liberation Army received advanced military systems such as the Su-35 fighter and the S-400 air defense system; and Moscow agreed to harmonize the EEU with the Belt and Road (B&R) Initiative. Ultimately, the countries achieved something like an entente, but this fell far short of the strategic relationship Russia had envisioned.

A Marked Departure

In the face of these developments, from the mid-2010s, Russia made a marked shift in its strategic orientation. The risks and pitfalls of turning away from its traditional policies are obvious. Confrontation with the United States and alienation from Western Europe will take an increasingly heavy toll as the years pass. Further, antagonizing a belt of suspicious, unfriendly countries in Central and Eastern Europe has serious security and economic implications for Moscow. The military standoff along Russia’s western borders will feed an arms race with NATO. An overtly hostile and irredentist Ukraine is a long-term problem of the first order. As long as the conflict remains unresolved—which may be the case for decades—Russia’s and Europe’s security will be at risk.

However, if Russia can be creative, a new approach could have tangible benefits. Instead of integrating into a Western-led system or reintegrating recalcitrant ex-provinces, Russia could develop a “global Russia,” geared to its own values, interests, and goals. This aversion to formal integration should not spell autarky or isolationism. Russia vitally needs to integrate, but into the global system as a whole, not into tight regional or transregional alignments. Also, rather than simply criticizing U.S. global dominance, Russia would do better to engage with like-minded partners to create an international system that no single power would dominate. The Eurasian continent is about the right size for a successful endeavor—if only Moscow could become smarter in its foreign policy planning and execution.

Toward a Greater Eurasia

Geographically, Russia is well-situated. It stretches all the way from Norway to North Korea. It has a long border with China and relatively easy access to Germany. It connects to Turkey across the Black Sea and to Iran across the Caspian, and India and the Gulf are relatively close. Berlin is only two and a half hours by air from Moscow; and Beijing, Seoul, and Tokyo can be reached even faster from Vladivostok. A continent-size country endowed with rich natural resources and enormous strategic depth, but with a modestly sized population, Russia faces the principal challenge of domestic development. This, rather than foreign mergers or acquisitions, represents an opportunity for Russia to strengthen itself and should be its main focus. Further, Moscow’s foreign policy should protect and enhance this development.

The economic dimension of a succesful grand Eurasia strategy would primarily involve harnessing relations with the continent’s two principal powerhouses, the EU and China, to help buttress Russia’s domestic development. In structural terms, this could involve harmonizing relations between the relatively small Russia-led EEU and the two much bigger economies to the east and the west. Of course, economic relations with the EU will be hampered by the unresolved conflict in Ukraine and entrenched tensions with the United States. Thus, the main geoeconomic focus for the foreseeable future should shift toward the east and south. Eventually, as China’s westward economic expansion leads to a more economically connected continent, Europe, China, India, and Russia could become the main pillars of Eurasia’s twenty-first century economy.

In this scheme, Russia would aim to be a major producer of high-end energy and metal products, grain, and other food; a source of fresh water and a generator of clean air; and a transit country for land, air, and sea communications. It would remain a significant source of military, nuclear, and space technology and a niche producer in a number of other areas. However, Russia is unlikely to become a leader in advanced technology anytime soon. It would have to spend significant time and energy rebuilding its capacity in science and technological innovation. International economic and technological cooperation, primarily with China and India, but also with Israel and Japan, would be crucial for Russia’s future success.

Culturally and ethnically, Russia is both the east of the West and the west of the East. Its official emblem, the double-headed Byzantine eagle, graphically illustrates this. Hence, Russia could be the essential geopolitical swing state, but it should strive to be something else: a moderator and stabilizer in the emerging continental system. Claiming this position would come naturally to the Russians, who have never accepted others’ domination or leadership and who have become disillusioned as a result of their own ill-fated attempt at global primacy. Yet, to effectively take this position, they need to learn the art of moderation and prudent deliberation, including among bigger players.

Intellectually, Russia’s strategy could take a pragmatic view of international relations, seeking an equilibrium between inevitable competition among the states in Eurasia and their cooperation on the basis of common interest. Particularly important for Moscow would be helping to achieve mutual accommodation between China and India, India and Pakistan, and Afghanistan and Pakistan. In value terms, a successful strategy in Eurasia would prioritize ideological noninterference and reject cross-border promotion of supposedly progressive sociopolitical norms and practices. Achieving even a modicum of harmony among the continent’s distinct cultures, religions, and civilizations would be a tall order.

A strategy built on this foundation would help Russia become a major independent player vis-à-vis even bigger actors: China to the east, the EU to the west, and in the future, India to the south.

Expanding Relationships

For the foreseeable future, Russia’s relationship with China is of greatest importance and also considerable concern, given China’s huge and growing economic, demographic, and military weight and its steadily expanding geopolitical horizon. Wary of simply joining China’s endeavors such as the B&R, Russia has been trying to harmonize its interests and objectives with China’s. However, aligning language is much easier than crafting an effective strategy.

Moscow needs to persuade Beijing that China’s interests would be best served if its strengths become embedded within collective continent-wide institutions, where others, including Russia, could wield some influence. One such institution is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and another more amorphous one is the Russia-India-China (RIC) trilateral initiative. In June 2017, India and Pakistan formally joined the SCO. Russia would also like to further enlarge the SCO to include Iran. While this expansion makes reaching consensus within the SCO more difficult, it serves a more important purpose in Moscow’s mind: namely, organizing a continent-wide diplomatic platform and diluting China’s superiority.

In a similar vein, having opted for harmonizing the EEU with the B&R, Moscow has suggested extending economic cooperation to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Although still at an early stage, this initiative clearly aims to offset China’s $21.4 trillion economy with the combined $7.4 trillion economy of ASEAN. Within ASEAN, Moscow looks to Vietnam, its Soviet-era partner with a $600 billion economy, as a gateway to the region.

Russia’s argument for embedding China’s efforts in various continental arrangements could be that Beijing’s solo effort would result in the rest of Asia hedging or balancing against China. It is not clear, however, whether the Chinese would be persuaded by such a path offered to them. Even if Beijing sees some value in continent-wide geopolitical constructs—such as the SCO and the RIC promoted by Russia and where China is the most powerful member—Moscow will find it increasingly harder to make those constructs work, given the conflicts of interest among the members. Including India and Pakistan in the SCO is a case in point: unless its members set realistic goals for the organization and start using it to manage some sort of international order in continental Asia, beginning with their own sometimes fraught relations, the SCO will become dysfunctional and its role will diminish even as it expands. The same applies to the RIC. This is a primary challenge for Moscow’s grand Eurasia strategy.

Currently, Russia seems to have an acceptable formula for Sino-Russian relations: never against each other, but not always with each other. This formula successfully marries reassurance with flexibility and can be a model of sorts for new major power relations. Even if it does become a model, though, adopting that same formula for Sino-Indian relations would be difficult. Moscow would probably need to moderate rather than mediate relations between its two principal partners in Greater Eurasia.

Russia’s own relations with India, long considered so problem-free as to be taken for granted in both Moscow and Delhi, are becoming more complex. Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India has become focused on growth and development, which has led to a broadening of its relations with the United States. Meanwhile Russia, increasingly preoccupied with security in Afghanistan and its impact on Central Asia, has reached out to Pakistan. These new elements require strengthening the foundation of Russo-Indian relations, which have rested too long on government-to-government agreements, with a heavy emphasis on arms trade.

Managing the situation in Afghanistan, where the United States and its allies have proven unable to provide stability despite their military presence and economic assistance over a decade and a half, will be a core security challenge for Russia. Moscow could address it by using its own national assets for direct engagement with Kabul, Islamabad, Tehran, and elsewhere; upgrading the Russia-led regional security arrangement, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, which includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan; and engaging SCO members in strategy discussions, which could help legitimize the institution.

Beyond the SCO, Russia will need to work hard to harmonize relations with its many partners in Asia and the Middle East—from Japan and South Korea to Vietnam and Indonesia to Iran, Pakistan, and Turkey. Russia’s partnership with Japan is exceedingly important in view of attracting Japanese technology and investment, particularly for Russia’s eastern provinces; as well as for contributing, in coordination with China, to defusing the situation on the Korean Peninsula, which would reduce the risk of war on the borders of Russia’s Far East and bolster Moscow’s role as a guardian of nonproliferation.

Russia’s strategy toward the Middle East, including Turkey and Iran, should focus on countering any extremism that threatens Russia; enhancing commercial opportunities for Moscow; and maintaining contacts with all relevant players, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Israel, to protect and promote Russian interests in the volatile region.

Rehabilitating Relationships

Within this broad continental vision, Russia’s relations with Europe remain hugely important, despite the still widening gap between Russia and the EU. To Moscow, Western European countries remain a primary source of technology and investment, a major market, and a cultural magnet. Though not part of Europe—if that definition today means the EU—Russia remains European. Like the United States and post-Brexit UK, in some sense, Russia is a Europe outside of Europe—only an outgrowth of its eastern rather than western wing. However, unlike the United States and the UK, Russia is widely perceived in Europe as an adversary rather than an ally. Moscow’s key post–Cold War relationship with Berlin is fundamentally broken over what the Germans regard as Russia’s disruption of the European peace order. This relationship cannot be restored on the previous foundation of Russia’s progressive rapprochement with the EU. For the near term, no solid basis for the Russo-German relationship exists or is even conceivable. This is a major issue that Moscow needs to address for its grand Eurasia strategy to ultimately be successful.

Russia’s long-standing wish that Europe moves away from U.S. tutelage and becomes a global actor in its own right will not be realized in the foreseeable future. Even with the EU going through a series of internal crises, NATO is, if anything, becoming more coherent and has refocused on the threat that its members see coming from Russia. Unless circumstances change, a more united Europe would not become Russia’s advocate in Washington. Since early 2017, European governments, including Germany’s under Chancellor Angela Merkel, have taken a harsher tone toward Moscow than has President Donald Trump’s administration.

Still, Russia’s grand Eurasia strategy would not be complete without the eventual rehabilitation of relations with Europe. Moscow should look for points of conversion, particularly with Berlin and Paris, as well as Rome, Madrid, and Vienna. Russia’s hope so far has been that eventually the economic interests of its Western neighbors will chip away at the common Western policy of isolating and punishing Russia for its actions in Ukraine. The threat of terrorism would be another factor favoring cooperation. So far, this hope has not been realized. Under the current trajectory, Russia will have to live with a Europe that looks at it with deep mistrust and pervasive suspicion. A modicum of trade and some sporadic contact is what is realistically achievable between Russia and the EU, especially if there is no improvement in Russo-German relations.

That Germany’s attitude toward Russian actions in Ukraine was a surprise to Moscow reveals Russia’s profound misunderstanding of present-day European polities. The Kremlin’s search for a “true Europe,” in the image of Charles de Gaulle or Willi Brandt, is doomed to end in failure. In the absence of the grand old men who cannot be revived and of a conservative, Russia-friendly Europe that never was, Moscow will have to deal mostly with European Atlanticists. Reaching out to narrow-minded nationalists or other opponents of the liberal order will not yield tangible results. Those Europeans who might turn to Moscow usually do so to gain something with Russia’s help, rather than to help Russia.

Russians probably understand that no rapprochement with Europe can happen without some sort of a settlement of the Ukraine crisis. The solution, however, is a long way off. The 2015 Minsk agreement, negotiated with Merkel and France’s then president François Hollande, was dead on arrival. It worked for the Kremlin, however, which was looking for a way to permanently block Ukraine’s bid to join NATO. Putin had every reason to be satisfied with the outcome of the Minsk talks, which were held at the time when the Ukrainian forces in Donbass were being pressed hard by Russia-supported rebels.

Clearly, implementing Minsk would have led Ukrainian leaders to commit political suicide. It would be impossible for Ukrainian leadership—simultaneously egged-on and challenged by nationalists—to abandon the idea of acceding to the U.S.-led Atlantic alliance; transform a unitary Ukraine into a federation, some of whose members might look to Russia; exonerate those whom Kiev called terrorists and welcome them all the way to the Verkhovna Rada (parliament); allow Donbass to become a focal point of opposition to the post-Maidan authorities; and finally, be responsible for pensions and other social transfers to Donbass with its population largely disloyal to Kiev.

Absent a political settlement, Donbass is likely to experience a protracted conflict, which remains frozen until the situation in Ukraine, Russia, or Europe materially changes. There is also no way for Russia to “return” Crimea to Ukraine: Moscow considers its status as part of the Russian Federation as final and justified by the will of the overwhelming majority of the local population. For the foreseeable future, Russo-Ukrainian relations will remain as hostile as any in Europe and a source of tension for the continent as a whole. Pragmatic management of the adversarial relationship between the two countries is the only sensible option.

Such management would need to include a stable ceasefire in Donbass, policed by the United Nations, and a reestablishment of economic and humanitarian ties between Donbass and Ukraine across the ceasefire lines. Normalizing economic, social, and political conditions in Donbass would need to be achieved with Russia’s strong support. Moscow’s own direct involvement in the security situation in the region, however, would have to be scaled down. Visible progress toward reducing violence in the area would help deescalate tensions on Russia’s borders. It would also strengthen the arguments in Europe in favor of restoring links with Russia, although most EU-imposed sanctions would continue for some time.

In the post-2014 environment, the Baltic states have not been targeted by Russia, despite all the their historically rooted fears. However, these fears have led NATO to deploy token forces to the region for reassurance. These moves have created small Western military bases as close to Russia’s borders and the former imperial capital St. Petersburg as never before since 1944, after the Soviet Union had defeated Finland and driven the Germans from the Baltic republics. In their present configuration, NATO forces in the Baltics do not pose a real threat to Russia, but they help create an image of an “enemy on the doorstep.” The West will have to carefully walk the line between reassuring allies and provoking the adversary. And Russia will have to build a credible defense posture while not pushing NATO toward a regional arms race.

Europe should be particularly concerned about the fate of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which bans all ballistic and ground-based air cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. The ongoing U.S.-Russia dispute about alleged treaty violations could lead to the treaty’s demise, followed by the cancelation of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and the formal end of half a century of arms control between Moscow and Washington. This would not serve Russia’s or the West’s security interests. A U.S.-Russia accord on resolving the INF dispute should be a top priority.

Given the environment, realistic scenarios for the future of European security include a continued standoff between Russia and the United States in Europe, linked to an estrangement between Russia and Europe. Breakthroughs toward a rapprochement are not likely at this time. There is precious little that Moscow’s grand Eurasia strategy can hope to achieve in Europe or in the United States beyond (1) dialogue at the top levels, including among the military commanders and chiefs; (2) a certain amount of trade, particularly between Russia and EU countries; and (3) largely unimpeded travel and information flows. This puts a premium on both sides to focus on measures that build confidence and prevent incidents that could lead to war.

Prospects

To eventually achieve a Greater Eurasia, Russia’s strategy needs to be realistic in the near term. A credible strategy would focus on developing a “model” major power relationship with China and crafting a continental arrangement among China, India, and Russia. It would aim to transform the SCO into a platform for continuous, continent-wide diplomacy and negotiations, as well as a consensus-building body and source of legitimacy for the region. It would seek to normalize relations with Japan and gradually defuse the tensions on the Korean Peninsula, in close cooperation with China. Finally, it would have to include an institution-building effort to prioritize the EEU, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the SCO, and the RIC. As for western Eurasia, essentially Europe, a combination of confidence building and conflict management could prepare the ground for improved relations with EU member states.

http://carnegie.ru/2017/07/20/russia-s-evolving-grand-eurasia-strategy-will-it-work-pub-71588?mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiT0RJMU1UVTBOalZsTVRGbSIsInQiOiJYQzdGK2hUcVwvZDJ3RHFkbnh4QmpFc3B6R3hrQ0FMVzdVdUowazF0amV6V1wvWTN5aTUyRkhEd0h5TmhGa3lhdG9zaFhUYXpoaWdldHNGcVJVY0pjend4bm95VEs0d295YWhwdHRqWjdmZjlZYnMxMGZLRGZ1ajZZMXVwVTZSV2ZtIn0%3D

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Middle East

Asia Times: De-conflict deals show Syrian rebels know victory is out of sight

Opposition leader Mohammad Alloush has realized that making a deal with the Russians is better than continuing in an uphill battle against them without broad support from elsewhere

By Sami Moubayed July 24, 2017 3:00 PM (UTC+8)

Syrian girls sit in front of shops in the rebel-held Douma neighbourhood of Damascus, Syria, on July 23, 2017.

“Al-Ghouta is the heart and apex of the revolution” wrote Syrian opposition leader Mohammad Alloush at the weekend, minutes after Russian officers and members of the Syrian armed opposition finalized a “de-conflict” zone agreement in al-Ghouta, the agricultural belt surrounding Damascus.

The agreement basically ends the fighting in the war-torn countryside of the Syrian capital, lifts a four-year siege and pardons the rebels, but it also keeps the entire territory firmly in the hands of Damascus. All rebel hopes of marching on the city and toppling the regime have now been dashed. Al-Ghouta was the last standing stronghold of the Syrian opposition in the country’s south.

Signed off in Cairo over the weekend, the de-conflict zone contains the strategic town of Douma, 10 kilometers northeast of Damascus, which has been held by Alloush’s men and besieged by Syrian troops since 2012. “After four years and four months, it is time for this siege to be lifted,” tweeted Alloush on July 22.

Al-Ghouta was among the earliest territories to rise against Damascus back in March 2011 and has been held by Alloush’s Islamic Army ever since. Often his troops rained the Syrian capital with mortars, promising to lead a ground invasion of it — but they were never able to break out of their enclave, certainly not after the Russian Army intervened three years ago, exercising its grip on al-Ghouta and killing Alloush’s cousin Zahran, the founder of the Islamic Army, in December 2015.

Ultimately the US and Russia hope that the two camps in the Syrian conflict will join efforts to fight radical jihadi groups such as Jabnhat al-Nusra and ISIS in al-Ghouta and elsewhere

When the UN-mandated Geneva peace talks started in early 2016, the then-US Secretary of State, John Kerry, insisted on bringing Mohammad Alloush on board, describing him as a member of the “moderate opposition.” The Russians at first refused to deal with him, writing him off as a “terrorist” but they were soon convinced that no deal would pass if not co-signed by the armed opposition, especially the Islamic Army – which is among the largest and best organized in the Syrian theater.

Now not only has Alloush facilitated the de-conflict zone, he has also suggested inviting Egyptian peacekeepers to patrol the area, similar to the 600 Russian military police deployed in Aleppo and more recently the 400 stationed in the countryside of Daraa in southern Syria. The Cairo agreement allows Alloush’s fighters to keep their light arms but surrender all heavy weaponry to the Russian Army, after dismantling all mines and checkpoints. The parameters of the de-conflict zone are similar to those set out in agreements reached in May for a northern enclave of Homs and for Idlib, in the Syrian northwest.

Another zone was agreed upon in Hamburg, on July 7, between presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, encompassing the strategic southern cities of Daraa and al-Quneitra. All-in-all, approximately 2.5 million people live in these four de-conflict zones. Damascus will be prevented from sending soldiers, tanks, or military warplanes to al-Ghouta, but it is entitled to re-open schools and police stations, and to raise the Syrian Flag. It will also guarantee that humanitarian aid is allowed to pass freely into al-Ghouta and facilitate the safe exodus of the sick, wounded, and elderly. Ultimately the US and Russia hope that the two camps in the Syrian conflict will join efforts to fight radical jihadi groups such as Jabnhat al-Nusra and ISIS in al-Ghouta and elsewhere.

Times have changed

Mohammad Alloush realized that making a deal with the Russians was better and less costly than continuing in an uphill battle against them. The US administration is no longer interested in regime change in Damascus but seems more focused on combating ISIS, expelling Hezbollah, and empowering Syrian Kurds. Earlier this summer it issued an ultimatum to the Syrian rebels, saying that they would lose access to US arms if they did not unite into one group — an impossible request given the huge polarization and colossal differences in the anti-regime camp. Last week, the White House terminated the CIA’s covert program to equip and arm the Syrian rebels, in a warm-up gesture to the Kremlin.

Last week, the White House terminated the CIA’s covert program to equip and arm the Syrian rebels, in a warm-up gesture to the Kremlin

This all means that only one rebel group in Syria is now on the payroll of the United States – the powerful all-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). They are presently engaged in the fight for al-Raqqa and are receiving regular supplies of guns, ammunition and surface-to-air missiles from the Pentagon, in addition to the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), with its 300-km range missile, which it used back in 2016 in the battle for al-Bab, west of the Euphrates River.

Fundamentally, the armed opposition has finally realized that times have changed since they first emerged in 2012, scoring victory after victory in al-Ghouta. Back then, Qatar and Saudi Arabia were both on its side, providing a steady stream of funds and resources. Those two countries are at daggers drawn today and Saudi Arabia is busy with its war on Yemen. Additionally, there is very little the Saudis can do in terms of providing Alloush’s troops with arms, after the Russians enforced the siege of al-Ghouta in 2015.

The Trump Administration is not interested in their plight and nor is the new French President Emmanuel Macron, who has even hinted at collaborating with Damascus. But in exchange for the al-Ghouta deal —which has the fingerprints of Turkey all over it — the Russians will have to reciprocate, first by assuring the compliance of their allies in Damascus but also by giving concessions elsewhere in Syria. Concessions not with the Syrians on democracy and change, perhaps, but with the US, on spheres or pockets of influence and the distribution of power in the Syrian patchwork.

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*Massenbach’s Recommendation*

Dekoder – Russland entschlüsseln

http://www.dekoder.org/

… bietet Medien und Kompetenz zum Thema Russland … sind ein Team von Spezialisten verschiedener Fachrichtungen und bringen unsere Erfahrungen, Fähigkeiten und Ideen zusammen, um eine Lücke in der Medienwelt zu füllen … Das Kernteam arbeitet mit einem Netzwerk von Übersetzern, Wissenschaftlern und Medienspezialisten zusammen. Wir alle sind in der russischen Zivilgesellschaft bestens vernetzt, sind entweder Muttersprachler oder beherrschen die Sprache perfekt. Wir haben stets das Ohr am Puls des russischen Geschehens … http://www.dekoder.org/de/worum-es-geht

… Die Cyberwehrmänner … Eine Bürgerwehr für den virtuellen Raum … http://www.dekoder.org/de/article/cyberkriminalitaet-buergerwehr-extremismus-internetzensur

… „Du leckst mir gleich mit der Zunge das Klo aus" … http://www.dekoder.org/de/article/dedowschtschina-wehrdienst-militaer-misshandlungen

… „Patrioten gibt’s bei euch also keine?“ … http://www.dekoder.org/de/article/nawalny-schueler-lehrer-diskussion

CORRECTIV

… Wir recherchieren für die Gesellschaft … sind das erste gemeinnützige Recherchezentrum im deutschsprachigen Raum. Wir recherchieren langfristig zu Themen, die andere Medien zu wenig beachten. Wir wollen jeder Bürgerin und jedem Bürger Informationen geben, damit man die Welt besser versteht … finanziert sich vor allem durch Mitgliedsbeiträge von Bürgerinnen und Bürgern sowie durch Zuwendungen von Stiftungen. Seine Recherchen und Geschichten reicht correctiv.org in Kooperationen an Zeitungen und Zeitschriften, an Radio- und Fernsehsender weiter … https://correctiv.org/

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„Losungen der politischen Elite unkritisch übernommen“:

Otto-Brenner-Studie kritisiert Flüchtlingsberichterstattung von FAZ, Bild & Co.

News Von den Ergebnissen dieser Studie dürfte sich Zeit-Chefredakteur Giovanni di Lorenzo bestätigt fühlen. Schon lange vertritt der Blattmacher die Meinung, dass die Medien am Anfang der Flüchtlingskrise zu freundlich über die Bundesregierung und die so genannte Willkommenskultur berichtet hätten. Eine neue Studie der Otto-Brenner-Stiftung kommt nun zu genau diesem Schluss und attestiert unter anderem FAZ, SZ, Bild und Welt, bei der kritischen Berichterstattung versagt zu haben.

Die Analyse ist eine Zusammenarbeit der Hamburg Media School und der Uni Leipzig unter der Leitung von Professor Michael Haller. Der Wissenschaftler war von 1987 bis 1990 Leiter des Zeit Dossier. Passenderweise durfte die Hamburger Wochenzeitung auch als erstes einen Blick in die gut 200 Seiten starke Studie werfen, die von der gewerkschaftsnahen Otto-Brenner-Stiftung am kommenden Montag veröffentlicht wird. Teil der Untersuchung war die Zeit nicht. Haller und sein Team schauten sich Tausende von Artikeln aus den Tageszeitungen Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Bild, Süddeutsche Zeitung und Welt an. Dazu kamen noch einige Texte aus Regionalzeitungen.

Die Studie kritisiert, dass sich die „sogenannten Mainstreammedien“ geschlossen hinter Angela Merkels Flüchtlingspolitik versammelt hätten und dabei auch „Losungen der politischen Elite“ unkritisch übernommen hätten. Zudem sollen sie eine „euphemistisch-persuasive Diktion“ des Begriffs der Willkommenskultur verbreitet haben. Auf diese Weise sei „Willkommenskultur zu einer Art Zauberwort verklärt“ worden, „mit dem freiwillig von den Bürgern zu erbringende Samariterdienste moralisch eingefordert werden konnten“.

Die Zeit zitiert den Studienleiter mit seiner Einschätzung, dass eine „Sinn- und Strukturkrise“ die Medienbranche erfasst habe. „Große Teile der Journalisten haben ihre Berufsrolle verkannt und die aufklärerische Funktion ihrer Medien vernachlässigt.“ Meinungsstärke habe wohl Faktenschwäche ausgleichen sollen. Nachrichtliche Texte seien häufig mit kommentierenden Passagen eingefärbt gewesen, Fachleute, Bürger und Migranten kaum zu Wort gekommen, heißt es weiter in der Zeit dazu.

Es ist jetzt schon abzusehen, mit welchen Argumenten die kritisierten Journalisten und Medien die Studienergebnisse kontern werden, denn die Analyse enthält einige Angriffspunkte. So klammert sie sowohl Kommentare wie auch Gastbeiträge aus, die in den jeweiligen Zeitungen im Untersuchungszeitraum erschienen. Bei einem Titel wie der FAZ gehören die Meinungsbeiträge und die Stücke von Gastautoren aber ganz entscheidend mit zum pluralistischen Informationsbild, das die Zeitung präsentieren und transportieren will.
Mit seiner Analyse dürfte Haller vom Chefredakteur der Zeit eine gewisse Zustimmung erfahren. So sagte Giovanni di Lorenzo bereits im vergangenen Jahr am Rande des Jahrestreffens des Netzwerks Recherche, dass die einhellige Pro-Flüchtlinge-Stimmung den Medien nachhaltig geschadet hätte: „Das haben uns die Leute übel genommen.“ Auch die Zeit habe mit einem Titel im August 2015 einen Fehler gemacht. Rückblickend hätte di Lorenzo sich mehr Pluralität der Medien gewünscht. „Ich glaube, dass wir eine ganze Weile zu sehr dazu tendiert haben, uns zu Mitgestaltern der Flüchtlingskrise zu machen und uns nicht auf die Rolle der Beobachtung konzentriert haben“. Die Hamburg Media School, die Uni Leipzig und die Otto Brenner Stiftung stützen mit der neuen Studie offenbar genau diese Einschätzung des Blattmachers.

https://meedia-de.cdn.ampproject.org/c/meedia.de/2017/07/20/losungen-der-politischen-elite-unkritisch-uebernommen-otto-brenner-studie-kritisiert-fluechtlingsberichterstattung-von-faz-bild-co/amp/

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see our letter on: http://www.massenbach-world.de/41259.html

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

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UdovonMassenbachMailJoergBarandat

07-24-17 U.S. Message to China_ Hands Off Our Companies – WSJ.pdf

07-25-17 The Terrorist Threat.pdf

CG-Jahrbuch 2016 – Wittmann Russland (April 2017).pdf

07-20-17 D_Trenin_Russia’s Evolving Grand Eurasia Strategy_ Will It Work_ – Carnegie Moscow Ce.pdf

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