Massenbach-Letter. NEWS 18.8.17

Massenbach-Letter. News

A Report of the CSIS Russia and Eurasia Program and the Russian International Affairs Council

  • For Pakistan, China’s huge energy investments may have serious political costs
  • Shell’s strategic move into electricity
  • Clickbait for Marxists – Just like Trump, the New York Times should condemn a hateful ideology.
  • U.S. Army_West_Point-CTC – Britain on Alert.
  • Zur Diskussion über den sog. Traditionserlass des Bundesministeriums der Verteidigung, Berlin –
  • Menschen zeigen: Die Welt der Supermodels

Massenbach*Nick Butler, FT: Shell’s strategic move into electricity

Shell’s CEO Ben van Beurden

Royal Dutch Shell’s decision to sell electricity direct to industrial customers is an intelligent and creative one. The shift is strategic and demonstrates that oil and gas majors are capable of adapting to a new world as the transition to a lower carbon economy develops. For those already in the business of providing electricity it represents a dangerous competitive threat. For the other oil majors it poses a direct challenge on whether they are really thinking about the future sufficiently strategically.

The move starts small with a business in the UK that will start trading early next year. Shell will supply the business operations as a first step and it will then expand. But Britain is not the limit — Shell recently announced its intention of making similar sales in the US.

Historically, oil and gas companies have considered a move into electricity as a step too far, with the sector seen as oversupplied and highly politicised because of sensitivity to consumer price rises. I went through three reviews during my time in the industry, each of which concluded that the electricity business was best left to someone else.

What has changed? I think there are three strands of logic behind the strategy.

First, the state of the energy market. The price of gas in particular has fallen across the world over the last three years to the point where the International Energy Agency describes the current situation as a “glut”. Meanwhile, Shell has been developing an extensive range of gas assets, with more to come. In what has become a buyer’s market it is logical to get closer to the customer — establishing long-term deals that can soak up the supply.

Given its reach, Shell could sign contracts to supply all the power needed by the UK’s National Health Service or with the public sector as a whole as well as big industrial users. It could agree long-term contracts with big businesses across the US. To the buyers, Shell offers a high level of security from multiple sources with prices presumably set at a discount to the market. The mutual advantage is strong.

Second, there is the transition to a lower carbon world. No one knows how fast this will move, but one thing is certain: electricity will be at the heart of the shift with power demand increasing in transportation, industry and the services sector as oil and coal are displaced.

Shell, with its wide portfolio, can match inputs to the circumstances and policies of each location. It can match its global supplies of gas to growing Asian markets while developing a renewables-based electricity supply chain in Europe. The new company can buy supplies from other parts of the group or from outside. It has already agreed to buy all the power produced from the first Dutch offshore wind farm at Egmond aan Zee. The move gives Shell the opportunity to enter the supply chain at any point — it does not have to own power stations any more than it now owns drilling rigs or helicopters.

The third key factor is that the electricity market is not homogenous. The business of supplying power can be segmented. The retail market — supplying millions of households — may be under constant scrutiny with suppliers vilified by the press and governments forced to threaten price caps but supplying power to industrial users is more stable and predictable, and done largely out of the public eye. The main industrial and commercial users are major companies well able to negotiate long-term deals.

Given its scale and reputation, Shell is likely to be a supplier of choice for industrial and commercial consumers and potentially capable of shaping prices. This is where the prospect of a powerful new competitor becomes another threat to utilities and retailers whose business models are already under pressure.

In the European market in particular, public policies that give preference to renewables have undermined other sources of supply — especially those produced from gas. Once-powerful companies such as RWE and EON have lost much of their value as a result. In the UK, France and elsewhere, public and political hostility to price increases have made retail supply a risky and low-margin business at best. If the industrial market for electricity is now eaten away, the future for the existing utilities is desperate.

Shell’s move should raise a flag of concern for investors in the other oil and gas majors. The company is positioning itself for change. It is sending signals that it is now viable even if oil and gas prices do not increase and that it is not resisting the energy transition. Chief executive Ben van Beurden said last week that he was looking forward to his next car being electric. This ease with the future is rather rare. Shareholders should be asking the other players in the old oil and gas sector to spell out their strategies for the transition.


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

A Report of the CSIS Russia and Eurasia Program and the Russian International Affairs Council

  • At a time when tension between the US and Russia is higher than it has been in decades, we cannot forget that the relationship between these two countries is among the most important for global security. On any number of issues, from arms control to the Middle East, failure of the U.S. and Russia to communicate will make things much, much worse, with repercussions that will last for generations and affect the entire world. For this reason, CSIS and RIAC convened some of Russia’s and America’s top experts to think through the future of the bilateral relationship. The result is a series of papers that identify both the spheres where coordination is crucial and those where it may be possible, responding to mutual interests and potentially helping to stabilize the relationship and buffer against conflict in the future. For both, they offer concrete recommendations and a clear-eyed take on what can, and what cannot be done.
  • The analyses that follow examine prospects for Russia-U.S. cooperation in several crucial regions and fields: economics, energy, the Arctic, Euro-Atlantic security, the Middle East, strategic stability, cybersecurity, and countering terrorism and extremism. They offer actionable recommendations in each area, some of which can, and should be undertaken today, and some of which should be considered by policymakers in Moscow and Washington as they chart a course through dangerous and uncertain times.
  • Contributors: Heather A. Conley, Ambassador William Courtney, R. Kim Cragin, Lynn E. Davis, Ambassador James Dobbins, Suzanne Freeman, Andrei Korneyev, Sarah Ladislaw, James A. Lewis, Sergey Rogov, Pavel Sharikov, Sharon Squassoni, Ekaterina Stepanova, Victor Supyan, Mikhail Troitskiy, Andrei Zagorski, Irina Zvyagelskaya.
  • A Roadmap for U.S.-Russia Relations, 9.9 Mb


Wall Street Journal: Clickbait for Marxists

Just like Trump, the New York Times should condemn a hateful ideology.

Sunday marked the anniversary of the construction of the Berlin Wall, erected in 1961 by East Germany’s Communist government to prevent its captive citizenry from fleeing to the West. In 1989 Germans tore down the wall and then the regime. Germany was reunified in 1990 and in the years since its people have not forgotten the horrors of totalitarianism. On Friday German Chancellor Angela Merkel sought to honor the memory of communism’s victims with a visit to the former Hohenschoenhausen prison operated by East Germany’s Stasi secret police. The New York Times for its part chose to offer a different take on Saturday, publishing a piece arguing that women in the former East Germany had better sex than those in West Germany.

Deutsche Presse-Agentur offers some background on Hohenschoenhausen:

Opened in 1951, the prison provided the setting for the 2006 Academy-award winning drama “The Lives of Others” that documented the Stasi’s power and its callous intrusion into people’s lives.

More than 11,000 prisoners were incarcerated at Hohenschoenhausen during its more than 40 years of operations. Those held at the prison faced physical torture and psychological abuse.

Many were dissidents, while others were sent to the prison for the simple crime of trying to leave the communist country.

Some of those who ended up in Hohenschoenhausen were critics of the communist regime who were kidnapped on the streets of West Berlin by East German secret service operatives.

But how was the sex? Veering again into self-parody with another in its series on the lighter side of an ideology that killed an estimated 100 million people, the Times has found another Ivy League professor willing to defend the indefensible. This time someone named Kristen Ghodsee from the University of Pennsylvania must surely be making Quaker alums proud with her argument that there were orgasms galore behind the Iron Curtain.

Ms. Ghodsee sees the Communists as pioneers of sexual equality and writes, “The Soviets extended full suffrage to women in 1917, three years before the United States did.” Having studied life under communism, can Ms. Ghodsee possibly believe this propaganda? A Penn website affirms that she is a professor in the university’s Department of Russian and East European Studies. Even the most cursory study of the Soviet Union would quickly confirm that neither male nor female citizens in Russia or any of the other captive nations of the empire enjoyed the right to choose their leaders.

Later in her piece, Ms. Ghodsee implies that she doesn’t actually believe that “full suffrage” existed in the Soviet empire when she contrasts the former Communist governments with the “now democratic” ones in Europe. But her admiration for the apparatchiks is clear:

Because they championed sexual equality — at work, at home and in the bedroom — and were willing to enforce it, Communist women who occupied positions in the state apparatus could be called cultural imperialists. But the liberation they imposed radically transformed millions of lives across the globe, including those of many women who still walk among us as the mothers and grandmothers of adults in the now democratic member states of the European Union. Those comrades’ insistence on government intervention may seem heavy-handed to our postmodern sensibilities, but sometimes necessary social change — which soon comes to be seen as the natural order of things — needs an emancipation proclamation from above.

Heavy-handed is one way to describe the managers of the Soviet empire. They were willing to imprison women as well as men without due process. Just a year after the “full suffrage” celebrated by Ms. Ghodsee, the Soviets launched another innovation. According to a 2004 Pulitzer Prize citation:

The Gulag was first put in place in 1918 after the Russian Revolution. In 1929, Stalin personally decided to expand the camp system, both to use forced labor to accelerate Soviet industrialization and to exploit the natural resources of the country’s barely inhabitable far northern regions. By the end of the 1930s, labor camps could be found in all twelve of the Soviet Union’s time zones. The system continued to expand throughout the war years, reaching its height only in the early 1950s. From 1929 until the death of Stalin in 1953, some 18 million people passed through this massive system. Of these 18 million, it is estimated that 4.5 million never returned.

Just as the President did today, the Times should explicitly and unequivocally condemn a hateful ideology.************************************************************************************************************************

Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* Menschen zeigen

Veröffentlicht am 16. August 2017

Er gehört zu den Berühmtheiten im Mode-Business: Peter Lindbergh. Seine Bilder kennt jeder. Oder besser, man kennt vielleicht nicht seinen Namen, aber sein Stil ist unverkennbar. Harte schwarz/weiß Modefotografie (vor allem s/w), starke Frauen, keine auf Perfektion getrimmten Schönheiten sondern gerne auch mit Macken. Seine Bilder haben eine neue Art Model geschaffen, die Supermodels aus den 90ern, die Turlingtons, Moss, Schiffers, Macphersons.

Er wollte eben Menschen zeigen, nicht Abziehbilder, mag man seine Einstellung zusammen fassen. Und die Fotos in der Ausstellung in München in der Kunsthalle sind genau so: direkt, offen, in die Kamera schauend (meistens), stylisch aber nicht ästhetisiert. So wirken sie jedenfalls und so sollen sie auch wirken.

Es sind einfach fantastische Fotos von nicht nur schönen Menschen, er kann mit seiner Kamera Charakter einfangen und zeigen und inszenieren.

Die Welt der Supermodels

Kunsthalle München: Werbung für Lindbergh

Man kann kaum anders als all die schönen Menschen bewundernd anzusehen. Und genau an dieser Stelle befallen mich da meine Zweifel. Was für Menschen zeigt uns da Lindbergh? Denn bei allem künstlerischen Anspruch darf man doch nicht vergessen, dass das alles einen Zweck hat: Werbung!

Es ist eine künstliche Welt, die Lindbergh zeigt und in die er uns hinein nimmt. Es ist eine Konsumwelt, wenn der potentielle Käufer soll ein Gefühl bekommen, das zu Konsum anregt.

Lindbergh zeigt Selbstbewusstsein und Individualität, gar kein Zweifel. Aber der Zweck der Bilder ist eben der, dass man meint, genau dieses Selbstbewusstsein und diese Individualität habe mit Kleidung und Stil zu tun. Und lasse sich kaufen.

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

Barandat*For Pakistan, China’s huge energy investments may have serious political costs

July 14, 2017 7.18am BST

Dr. Amiera Sawas and Dr Nausheen H. Anwar

A massive protest against the Gorrano Dam on January 26 2017 in Islamkot, Tharparkar. Bheem Raj /Thar Voice Forum

In Pakistan, there’s no topic hotter than the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a multi-billion dollar bilateral development project that will, officials promised in 2015, “usher in an era of unprecedented progress and prosperity”.

The CPEC is not only Pakistan’s first big injection of foreign direct investment in a while, its focus on energy development is also desperately needed in a country that has suffered worsening energy shortages for two decades.

With renewables constituting much of the US$33 billion earmarked for energy, the CPEC is also set to make Pakistan a global player in meeting its Paris agreement commitments to fight climate change. And for its bulging, skilled youth population, development promises something truly critical: jobs, jobs, jobs.

To mitigate possible hostility from local residents, the government set up a public consultation in Sindh, July 13 2017. Vikram Ghamwani

The land and the losers

At least, that’s the theory. Not everyone sees the changes wrought by the CPEC so positively.

On July 13, the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency, in the southern province of Sindh, held a consultation with locals concerned about coal expansion in Ranjho Noon, Thar, a desert region shared with India’s Rajasthan state.

The meeting concerned the fourth of 13 planned blocks of CPEC coal projects in Thar, and where serious resistance has already greeted Block 2, now underway.

Based on our fieldwork with those being impacted by CPEC-funded energy projects, growing citizen mobilisation in Sindh and Punjab may be turning into a political problem for Pakistan.

Projects planned for some of the poorest rural areas, including one of the world’s biggest solar parks (Qaid-e-Azam park, in Punjab) and coal and gas exploration in Thar (Sindh) promise prosperity through infrastructural progress, livelihood opportunities and climate resilience.

But while CPEC projects are already benefiting the national economy, the boon is less assured for those living in the project regions. To start with, for such projects, you need land and lots of it. Many of the residents in CPEC target areas are homesteaders, pastoralists and small business owners who hold customary land rights, inherited over decades or centuries.

Often, community members have no official deed to their property or to the common grazing land their livelihoods depend on. Without official papers, their land is seen as government-owned, and ripe for the taking.

The United Nations’ Free, Prior and Informed Consent norm is meant to keep people facing such situations, whether in Pakistan or Bolivia, from being dispossessed and displaced. But in Pakistan, where the CPEC is helping the economy revive from stagnation, development aid has long been politicised, and proper consultation and compensation will be difficult to ensure.

A CPEC road in Tharparkar District, Sindh. Amiera Sawas, Nausheen Anwar

We found that, so far, many of the initiatives have been carried out without free, prior and informed consent, creating unnecessary tensions between environmental projects and local people and raising concerns about maladaptatation as the country progress towards its Nationally Determined Contributions climate plan.

For example, one farmer in Muzaffargarh, Punjab, told us that his community had seen displacement, severe pollution and a surge in waterborne diseases since a geothermal project started there in 1994.

Nor did the community receive promised benefits, such as electricity and employment. In these mega-projects, jobs in construction, driving, engineering and especially management seem rarely to be offered to locals. Instead, Pakistanis from all over the country are brought in to fill them.

The farmer told us about ongoing resistance to a planned CPEC project that the government had thus far failed to heed. At this point, he said, they should expect violent opposition.

“We will stand and fight,” he warned. “We are a hundred thousand people, not just a few thousand.”

Lower Punjab has seen a disproportionate amount of energy development in recent years, housing six major energy plants within a 28-kilometre radius. The region is inhabited by the Seraiki population, a marginalised ethnic group that is all but invisible to the state.

Even when inhabitants are not directly displaced by infrastructure projects, their livelihoods are often endangered. Livestock routes are truncated by construction; streams and rivers are suddenly polluted.

One woman from Sindh reported that five pipelines had been run through her village, and that construction noise had become unbearable.

“They even blocked our access to hospitals”, she said, also lamenting that when strange men appeared in the fields, “we must cover our faces”.

Such incursions feel like a threat to local culture, particularly regarding gender norms. A man from the same village complained that while local men are not recruited as labourers, developers have sought to train women as drivers.

“We told them we won’t allow our women to do this!” he said with disbelief. “We don’t trust [the developers]”.

The net result for women is that their lives have now become more restricted, both by ongoing construction and by the male response to it.

Fear and anxiety

Many Pakistanis we spoke with in both Punjab and Sindh perceive CPEC development as just another form of oppression: a way to grab land and resources, further marginalising already vulnerable populations.

The CPEC agreement was designed primarily to ensure the security of Chinese investments and citizens. To keep the 8,000-plus Chinese CPEC workers in Pakistan safe, the government is securing concerned areas using invasive monitoring tools such as internet surveillance, stop-and-search policing and phone jammers.

The Qaid-e-Azam plant in Punjab, the biggest solar project in the world. Vikram Ghamwani

No such steps ensure Pakistani citizens’ well-being. The result of all this change, anxiety and resentment is a burgeoning resistance.

In February 2017, representatives from 12 Sindhi villages affected by the Gorano Dam, a reservoir intended to collect the waste water from coal and gas exploration, held a “patriotic” protest calling for the dam to be relocated to prevent poisoning local people and their livestock.

“No one is listening to us,” one of the protest’s coordinators told us. “Our basic rights are being snatched.”

He estimated that 15,000 people, 2,000 animals and 200,000 trees depended on the land now designated for destruction, as well as “fresh-water wells [and] our ancestors’ graveyard”.

If Pakistan’s government and CPEC developers continue to ignore these citizens, anxieties will fester. Already, discontent around the CPEC is being used by local political parties to bolster separatist narratives in Sindh, which has long-standing grievances over resource-sharing with the upper-river province of Punjab.

To secure truly sustainable, safe and equitable development, the governments of both China and Pakistan must improve consultation and communication with impacted local populations. Otherwise, the price of Chinese investment may be too high for Pakistan to pay.


Middle East

Britain on Alert.

U.S. Army_West_Point-CTC Sentinel | Volume 10, Issue 7 (August 2017)

Published by Combating Terrorism Center

Cover Story Overview

After a respite from mass-casualty terrorism for more than a decade, the United Kingdom this past spring suffered three such attacks in the space of just 73 days, making clear it faces an unprecedented security challenge from jihadi terrorism.

In our cover article, Raffaello Pantucci outlines what investigations have revealed so far about the March attack on Westminster Bridge, the bombing at a pop concert in Manchester in May, and the June attack on London Bridge and Borough Market. The early indications are that the Westminster attacker, Khalid Masood, had no contact with the Islamic State and the Manchester and London Bridge attackers were, at most, loosely connected to the group. The current threat environment, Pantucci writes, continues to be mostly made up of individuals and smaller scattered cells planning lower-tech attacks with very short planning and operational cycles—sometimes remotely guided by the Islamic State—rather than cells trained and dispatched by the Islamic State to launch large-scale, Paris-type attacks, but this could change as more British Islamic State recruits return home.

Our interview this month is with Edward You, a Supervisory Special Agent in the Biological Countermeasures Unit in the FBI’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate. While the full liberation of Mosul last month effectively ended the Islamic State’s caliphate pretensions, Michael Knights warns the Islamic State and other jihadis are already bouncing back in several parts of Iraq and more strongly and quickly in areas where the security forces are either not strong enough or not politically flexible enough to activate the population as a source of resistance. As the Islamic State transitions from administering territory to a renewed campaign of terrorism and insurgency, Charlie Winter and Devorah Margolin examine the Islamic State’s apparent lifting of its moratorium on using women as suicide bombers. In a commentary, Aaron Brantly argues that creating back-doors in encryption, or banning it, would create significant societal costs without stopping terrorists from accessing the technology.


*Massenbach’s Recommendation*

Marine fuels and sulphur regulation



Discussions of “peak oil demand” tend to focus of passenger vehicles, often from a US and European perspective, and they ignore other markets, such as marine transport, which collectively would also need to show a reduction in demand if oil consumption as a whole were to reach an inflection point.

This report explores the outlook for marine bunkers, a niche market that accounts, depending on estimates, for up to 7 percent of the demand barrel. It focuses on the impact of new environmental restrictions that aim to drastically reduce sulfur oxide (SOx) emissions from ships as of January 2020, placing them against the background of past innovations that have been reshaping ships’ fuel consumption patterns and assessing their likely impact on future innovation in the sector.

Of the three main compliance options available to ship owners ahead of the new “global sulfur cap,” two—installing “scrubbers” to capture SOx emissions from shippers’ current fuel of choice, high-sulfur fuel oil (HSFO), and switching from oil-based bunker fuels to liquefied natural gas (LNG)—are more capital intensive and require more advanced planning than the third, switching from HSFO to lower-sulfur products, such as low-sulfur fuel oil (LSFO) or marine gas oil (MGO). Analysts reckon that most shippers will opt to run low-sulfur fuels, but they fear that rising demand for these fuels will bump against refining capacity limits and cause price spikes that might spread to other markets, notably diesel and even crude oil. Some analysts have suggested that delays could help the industry better prepare for the new rules. This report challenges these findings.

Key takeaways include the following:

– New restrictions on marine sulfur emissions are occurring against the background of sweeping changes in the shipping industry, the impact of which is poorly captured in statistics and underappreciated in most assessments of the rules’ impact. Whereas forecasters assume steady growth in shipping fuel demand, oil consumption from the sector actually contracted in recent years and looks set to keep doing so—or, at least, grow more slowly than expected. Oil price swings and weak freight margins have served as catalysts of change, reducing the oil intensity of shipping through innovations in vessel design and fleet management and relentless industry consolidation. Digitalization holds the promise of further fuel savings, while LNG is making inroads in the sector.

– Industry participants have taken a cautious approach to capital-intensive measures to comply with the global cap. As the 2020 deadline looms, and given long lead times for scrubbers and LNG engines, low-sulfur bunkers will become the industry’s new de facto fuel of choice. This wait-and-see approach is no accident but, rather, a prudent response to the uncertain long-run costs and benefits of the various options. Potential feedback effects have exacerbated the inherent uncertainty of oil and gas markets, while regulatory uncertainty about future nitrate oxide (NOx) and greenhouse gas (GHG) restrictions further clouds the options’ economics. Delaying the rules’ implementation would not in and of itself change the industry’s incentives.

– Performance standards such as the global sulfur cap are normally seen as supportive of innovation, unlike technical standards that “pick a winner” among available technologies. By making low-sulfur fuel the default compliance option of industry, however, the global cap effectively entrenches oil’s role in shipping for decades to come. A more integrated approach to marine emissions, one that would have regulated SOx, NOx, and GHG, would have accelerated the switch to LNG, and it would have been a good way to curb all emissions at once.

– Shippers’ choice of lower-sulfur fuels as their default compliance option shifts the burden of innovation onto the refining industry, but it will likely prove a lesser challenge for refiners than is commonly understood. Although some analysts have drawn parallels with the 2008 oil rally, when the desulfurization of road diesel helped cause imbalances in distillate markets and propelled oil prices to record highs, that is not an apt analogy. Unlike in the 2000s, diesel demand is far from booming. Furthermore, due in part to viscosity and lubrication requirements, the new bunkers will not be diesel look-alikes but new fuel hybrids, the production of which will entail as much blending as actual refining.

– Noncompliance will further alleviate product market pressures. Given the lack of environmental police on the high seas, enforcement is a daunting challenge for the global cap’s implementation. Efforts to beef up enforcement currently focus on tightening paperwork checks at ports, which is a cheaper but less effective approach than actual emission checks by flyover or satellite.

– While the global sulfur cap will be less disruptive than feared, the loss of one of the last remaining market outlets for HSFO might be the death knell for some of the less competitive refineries with high HSFO yields. Falling HSFO prices will also adversely affect producers of high-sulfur crude oil, whose price is often indexed to that of HSFO, such as Mexico.


Zur Diskussion über den sog. Traditionserlass des Bundesministeriums der Verteidigung, Berlin.


  • Wie Tradition erlassen werden soll
  • Von einem deutschen Notar ( i.e. Parlamentarischer Staatssekretär Markus Grübel, Fachberater bei sächsischen Liegenschaftsämtern)
  • Und einer Begründung von Geschichtsklitterung (weil sich ja immer etwas in der Betrachtung von Geschichte ändert… )

Der Parlamentarische Staatssekretär Markus Grübel (teilte) in dieser Woche dem Verteidigungsausschuss mit:

„Die Bundesministerin der Verteidigung hat eine Überarbeitung und Fortschreibung der „Richtlinien zum Traditionsverständnis und zur Traditionspflege in der Bundeswehr“ angeordnet. Das kurz „Traditionserlass“ genannte Dokument ist seit 35 Jahren unverändert geblieben – nicht zuletzt, weil Tradition und Traditionspflege belastbarer Kontinuität bedürfen, um langfristige Orientierung zu bieten. Die wertorientierte Bindung der Tradition der Bundeswehr hat sich bewährt. Sie wird auch künftig den Wesenskern des Traditionsverständnisses und der Traditionspflege bilden.

Andere Axiome und Rahmenbedingungen haben sich seither jedoch in einem Maße verändert, dass eine Überarbeitung des Traditionserlasses angemessen und notwendig erscheint. So ist dem faktischen Wegfall der Wehrpflicht und dem Übergang zu einer Freiwilligenarmee ebenso Rechnung zu tragen, wie dem Ende des Kalten Kriegs, der deutschen Wiedervereinigung (Armee der Einheit) und der Beteiligung der Bundeswehr an Auslandseinsätzen im Rahmen der Vereinten Nationen, der NATO und der Europäischen Union (Armee im Einsatz).

Die damit einhergehende vertiefte internationale Integration, etwa durch die Aufstellung multinationaler Großverbände, aber auch die Aufstellung neuer Militärischer Organisationsbereiche, wie der Streitkräftebasis, des Zentralen Sanitätsdienstes und des Cyber- und Informationsraums sind bei der Überarbeitung genauso zu berücksichtigen, wie die Öffnung aller Laufbahnen für Frauen und die wachsende Diversität in den Streitkräften.

Vor allem aber ist 60 Jahre nach ihrer Gründung die eigene Tradition der Bundeswehr stärker zu betonen und eindeutiger zu fassen. Dazu zählen zum einen ihre Bewährung im Kalten Krieg und ihr Beitrag für die Bewahrung von Freiheit, Frieden und Demokratie sowie ihr Beitrag für die friedliche Wiederherstellung der staatlichen Einheit Deutschlands. Sie sind in den Mittelpunkt der künftigen Traditionspflege der Bundeswehr zu stellen. Zum anderen zählt dazu die Führungskultur der Inneren Führung, deren Bedeutung so hoch ist, dass sie zum Kernbestand der Traditionspflege in der Bundeswehr gehören muss.

Zu den neueren Entwicklungen gehören auch die Auslandseinsätze der Bundeswehr. Sie stellen eine besonders herausgehobene Form der Bewährung und soldatischen Auftragserfüllung dar, in der beispielhafte Leistungen von Verbänden und einzelner Soldaten Traditionen begründen können.

Mit einer Auftaktveranstaltung im Bundesministerium der Verteidigung am 12. Juni 2017 wurde der Überarbeitungsprozess begonnen. In vier Workshops an wechselnden Orten und zu unterschiedlichen Themenkreisen soll er bis in den späten Herbst in einem offenen und inklusiven Prozess fortgesetzt werden. Die Workshops dienen dem Austausch und der Diskussion mit Fachleuten, der Einbindung und Nutzung interner und externer Expertise, der Transparenz des Prozesses sowie der Vorbereitung der späteren Erstellung neuer Richtlinien. Sie werden durch Informations- und Diskussionsveranstaltungen in der Fläche ergänzt.

Der erste Workshop findet am 17. August 2017 an der Führungsakademie der Bundeswehr in Hamburg statt und widmet sich der Frage, inwieweit aus der Einbindung der Bundeswehr in multinationale Strukturen und durch die internationalen Einsätze internationale Traditionslinien erwachsen und was dies für die Tradition der Bundeswehr bedeutet. Für diesen Workshop sind bereits Einladungen, auch an Mitglieder des Verteidigungsausschusses, versandt worden.

Der zweite Workshop im September 2017 am Zentrum für Innere Führung in Koblenz behandelt den Themenkomplex Tradition und Identität.

Der dritte Workshop am Zentrum für Militärgeschichte und Sozialwissenschaften in Potsdam thematisiert im Oktober 2017 die Funktion der älteren deutschen Militärgeschichte für die Tradition der Bundeswehr. Im vierten und voraussichtlich abschließenden Workshop in Berlin steht die bundeswehreigene Tradition im Mittelpunkt. Vor allem wird es darum gehen, wie die Bundeswehr ihr eigenes Erbe bewahren und tradieren kann und soll.
Die Ergebnisse der Workshops sollen veröffentlicht werden. Auch den Verteidigungsausschuss des Deutschen Bundestages werde ich in regelmäßigen Abständen informieren.

Möglichst vielen Angehörigen der Bundeswehr, dem politisch-parlamentarischen Raum, der Wissenschaft und Gesellschaft sowie den Medien soll die Gelegenheit gegeben werden, sich am Prozess der Überarbeitung des Traditionserlasses aktiv zu beteiligen.“

Anmerkung UvM:

Hoffentlich wird bei dem Versuch, einen „Traditionserlass“ zu erstellen, nicht gleich Tradition erlassen.

Wenn von „Wertorientierung“ die Rede ist, warum nicht gleich „Sprachregelung“?

Bevor ich es vergesse; Die Bundesbesoldungsverordnung sollte als zusätzliches Kriterium nicht vergessen werden.




see our letter on:

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



08-17 Slow_Steaming_to_2020_Innovation_and_Inertia_in_Marine_Transport_and_Fuels_Clumbia Uni.pdf

08-15-17 Britain_on_Alert_CTC-Sentinel_Vol10Iss7.pdf


Massenbach-Letter. NEWS 11.08.17

Massenbach-Letter. News

  • NZZ: Regieren statt repräsentieren
  • Sanctions upon Sanctions
  • The Middle East for Russia and the EU: Bone of Contention or Cause for Peace?
  • What are the Implications of Russia-Turkey S-400 Missile Deal?
  • Carnegie Moscow: How the Gulag Lives On in Russia’s Prison Economy.
  • COLUMN-More than meets the eye as China tops U.S. as biggest crude importer: Russell.
  • Chatham House: It’s Far Too Early to Talk of Return for Syrian Refugees
  • Deutsche Bank Research – Packed European agenda for the next (German) government: Numerous challenges, no (easy) answers
  • U.S. Department of State: Communication Regarding Intent To Withdraw From Paris Agreement

Massenbach*NZZ:Regieren statt repräsentieren

von Tom Slater 7.8.2017, 05:30 Uhr

Die etablierten Parteien führender westlicher Staaten haben in letzter Zeit kalte Duschen kassiert.

Das ist der Preis für eine Politik, die sich zunehmend auf sich selbst zurückzieht

Ein prägender Charakterzug moderner politischer Eliten, ob sie nun in Brüssel, in Whitehall oder in Washington sitzen, ist ihre Fähigkeit zur Selbsttäuschung. Das zeigte sich in ihrer Reaktion auf einige Volksentscheide der jüngsten Zeit, die mit der Autorität etablierter politischer Kräfte kurzen Prozess machten.

2016 eroberte ein demagogischer Aussenseiter das Weisse Haus, der seiner eigenen Partei nicht minder verhasst war als der Opposition – dank Wählern, die es satthatten, ständig übergangen zu werden. Frankreichs classe politique wurde heuer beim Wahlgang dezimiert, Sozialisten wie Konservative sahen sich auf den Rücksitz verwiesen. Und beim Brexit-Entscheid votierten die Briten gegen Brüssel wie auch gegen ihre eigenen Führungskräfte, die allesamt den Verbleib in der EU befürwortet hatten.

Diese Ereignisse waren unterschiedlich in ihrer Art und Auswirkung. Das Brexit-Referendum war ein historisches Novum – es war das erste Mal, dass die Briten ihr Stimmrecht dafür einsetzten, dem politischen Establishment und der gesamteuropäischen Ordnung einen Korb zu geben. Die Wahl Trumps war eine Revolte mit dem Vorschlaghammer, getrieben vom Verlangen der Wähler, es einer als abgehoben und arrogant empfundenen Elite einmal so richtig einzutränken. Die Wahl Emmanuel Macrons wiederum war gleichzeitig eine Absage an die etablierte Politik und eine taktische Kapitulation vor ihr. Macron, durch und durch ein Spross des Establishments, wusste zwar, dass er sich von diesem lossagen musste, um zu gewinnen; aber letztlich war er angesichts der Kandidatur Marine Le Pens nur das ungeliebte kleinere Übel.

Nur ein «Wutgeheul»?

Die Reaktionen von Politikern und Meinungsführern fielen insbesondere nach dem Brexit und Trumps Wahlsieg ähnlich aus. Sie weigerten sich, den Tatsachen ins Gesicht zu sehen, und entschieden sich stattdessen dafür, die Wahlentscheide herabzusetzen und zu entpolitisieren. Das Brexit-Votum war ein «Wutgeheul». Trumps Sieg war laut einem Kommentator «das grösste Unglück, das den Westen seit dem Zweiten Weltkrieg heimgesucht hat». Es hagelte Nazi-Vergleiche. Indem man die Abstimmungsresultate als abartig, rassistisch, apokalyptisch, als das Werk unwissender, aufgehetzter Massen darstellte, sagte man sich von der eigenen Verantwortung los; ja man konnte vor solchem Hintergrund sogar als Verteidiger der Zivilisation posieren.

Während ein beträchtlicher Teil der Wähler vom politischen Establishment die Nase voll hat, bleibt dieses intakt – und fühlt sich sogar gestärkt.

In Frankreich präsentierte sich die Lage anders. Die Reaktion der etablierten Politiker war sicherlich auch dort realitätsblind, aber ungleich positiver: In Macrons Sieg sahen sie – wie ihre Amtskollegen jenseits von Frankreichs Grenzen – ihre Rettung. Der «Economist» verstieg sich zu einem Cover, das einen auf Wasser wandelnden Macron zeigte; «Willkommen bei der Revolution», hiess es im Leitartikel. «Die Hoffnungen Frankreichs, Europas und der Zentristen in aller Welt ruhen auf [Macron].»

Dabei übersah man allerdings geflissentlich die Tatsache, dass Macrons Siege bei den Präsidentschafts- und den Parlamentswahlen mit rekordhoher Wählerabstinenz einhergegangen waren. «Die Wahlbeteiligung war niedrig, aber sie ist seit Jahren im Abnehmen begriffen», meinte achselzuckend der «Economist». Obwohl Macron nur von einem geringen Anteil der Bevölkerung gestützt wird, obwohl sein opportunistischer Aufstieg sich viel eher der Erschöpfung des politischen Establishments verdankte als seiner diffusen «Blair light»-Politik, wird er als Repräsentant der Erneuerung und Verjüngung wahrgenommen.

Darin liegt die Essenz der derzeitigen politischen Situation. Während ein beträchtlicher Teil der Wähler vom politischen Establishment die Nase voll hat, bleibt dieses intakt – und fühlt sich sogar gestärkt. Nach wie vor sind es seine Vertreter, die im öffentlichen Diskurs den Ton angeben: Sie können den Brexit kleinreden, Trumps Wähler abschreiben und das Leichtgewicht Macron zum grossen Sieger ausrufen. Sie entscheiden, was eine «demokratische Revolution» ist und was blosses «Wutgeheul».

Das sagt einiges über den Status quo der Politik aus. Aber es zeigt auch, auf welch unsicherem Boden das neue Verlangen nach Demokratie steht. Die Revolten der jüngsten Zeit finden keinerlei kulturelle oder politische Affirmation, keine klar definierte Bewegung steht hinter ihnen. Und in diesem Vakuum sieht die alte technokratische Ordnung eine Chance, sich erneut zu etablieren.

Rückzug auf sich selbst

Dass Macrons Hofstaat völlig perplex war angesichts seines dürftigen Erfolgs bei den Wählern, darf nicht überraschen. In den letzten Dekaden haben Politiker zunehmend nicht beim Wahlvolk Bestätigung gesucht, sondern bei ihresgleichen und bei supranationalen Institutionen. Wie Chris Bickerton in «The European Union: A Citizen’s Guide» schreibt, gilt dies ganz besonders für die EU: «Im Lauf der Zeit begannen nationale Regierungen ihre Existenz und ihre Macht als direkt abhängig von der EU-Mitgliedschaft zu sehen.»

Er führt das Beispiel des portugiesischen Präsidenten Anibal Cavaco Silva an, der 2015 deklarierte, dass ein Widerstand gegen die von der EU verhängten Austeritätsmassnahmen «nicht verfassungskonform» und ergo indiskutabel sei. Da braucht man nicht lange zu fragen, warum sich so viele Bürger gegen ihre Regierungen wenden.

Den herbeigerufenen Experten ist mehr an der Erhaltung des Status quo gelegen als daran, im Interesse der Bürger zu handeln.

Peter Mair beschreibt in «Ruling the Void» diesen Rückzug politischer Parteien aus dem öffentlichen, zivilgesellschaftlichen Leben in den Staat. In allen stabilen und fortgeschrittenen Demokratien macht er gegen Ende des 20. Jahrhunderts schrumpfende Parteibasen und sinkende Beteiligung an Wahlen und Abstimmungen aus. Infolgedessen, schreibt Muir, wurden Parteien «zu Kräften, die regieren – im weitesten Sinne des Wortes –, statt zu repräsentieren». Programme und Ideologien welkten dahin, die Parteien lösten sich in einer amorphen politischen Klasse auf.

Die technokratische Wende

Infolge dieser Legitimationskrise begannen die Politiker, die Verantwortung für zentrale politische Bereiche an nicht belangbare Institutionen zu übertragen. Dies geschah im nationalen und supranationalen Bereich und ganz besonders im Rahmen der EU.

So entstanden restriktive, regulatorische Staatswesen, die ängstlich besorgt waren, sich wirtschaftlichen Vorgaben wie etwa dem Euro-Stabilitätspakt zu unterziehen, der den Zielsetzungen einer unabhängigen Institution – der Europäischen Zentralbank – diente. Und wenn gewählte Politiker diese Vorgaben nicht erfüllen oder das Vertrauen der betreffenden Institutionen verlieren, dann steht möglicherweise ihr Amt zur Disposition. So hatte die EU 2011 die Hand im Spiel, als die gewählten Premierminister Italiens und Griechenlands zurücktreten mussten und Technokraten an ihre Stelle traten.

Dies könnte man als eine technokratische Wende bezeichnen, die mit einem tiefen Misstrauen gegenüber der Öffentlichkeit einhergeht. Den herbeigerufenen Experten ist mehr an der Erhaltung des Status quo und der Einhaltung ihrer eigenen unumstösslichen Regeln gelegen als daran, im Interesse der Bürger zu handeln. Der Umgang der EU mit Griechenland im Gefolge der Schuldenkrise ist ein erstklassiges Beispiel hiefür. Das rabiate Sparprogramm liess die griechische Wirtschaft massiv schrumpfen, und das heisst auch, dass die deutschen Wähler – die alles andere als glücklich waren, für Griechenlands Schuldenlast aufkommen zu müssen – weniger Chancen haben, ihr Geld zurückzuerhalten.

Ohne Visionen

Im vergangenen Jahr allerdings haben sich die Vorzeichen gewandelt; die Öffentlichkeit, jahrzehntelang aus der Politik ausgeschlossen, meldet sich zurück. Aber die Technokratie hält einstweilen an ihrer Machtbastion im Zentrum des politischen Lebens fest – und mit ihr eine politische Klasse, die sich an ihrer Position festklammert, obwohl es ihr an Mut und Visionen fehlt. Die bestehenden politischen Parteien haben versucht, dem Hunger nach Veränderung zu begegnen, und sind dabei gescheitert.

Rechtsaussenparteien wie der Front national und die britische Ukip waren lediglich Vehikel für den Unmut der Wähler.

Theresa May etwa zollte dem Geist des Brexit zwar Lippendienst, aber ihre Politik ist uninspiriert, stückwerkhaft, technokratisch. Und obwohl die Begeisterung für Jeremy Corbyn noch nicht allenthalben abgeflaut ist, bleibt seine Anhängerschaft beschränkt – und praktiziert ihrerseits mehrheitlich einen Aktivismus per Mausklick. Auch der Aussenseiter Trump hat sich als politische Null erwiesen. Er ist weder interessiert an innenpolitischen Fragen noch fähig, mit ihnen umzugehen; stattdessen verlegt er sich auf verheerende aussenpolitische Abenteuer, um sich als Präsident in Szene zu setzen.

Die schiere Tatsache, dass Politiker mit derart zweifelhafter demokratischer Legitimation im Amt bleiben können, macht auch das entscheidende Defizit der Gegenbewegungen an der Basis offensichtlich. Es fehlt an realen Alternativen, an einem ausformulierten und konkreten Programm für einen politischen Wandel. Dass Rechtsaussenparteien wie der Front national und die britische Ukip ausgebrannt sind und Stimmen verlieren, deutet darauf hin, dass sie lediglich Vehikel für den Unmut der Wähler waren.

Die politischen Eruptionen der letzten Zeit sollten denn auch nicht in erster Linie als Symptom eines neuen nationalen Chauvinismus verstanden werden – sondern als Signale eines weitverbreiteten Unbehagens, das einstweilen noch keinen kohärenten und zukunftsgerichteten Ausdruck gefunden hat.

Tom Slater ist stellvertretender Chefredaktor des Online-Magazins «spiked», in dem dieser Aufsatz im Original erschien; wir publizieren ihn in leicht gekürzter Form. Aus dem Englischen von as.


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

  • Sanctions upon Sanctions
  • The Middle East for Russia and the EU: Bone of Contention or Cause for Peace?
  • What are the Implications of Russia-Turkey S-400 Missile Deal?


Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* Carnegie Moscow:How the Gulag Lives On in Russia’s Prison Economy.

(Rechtsanwältin in Strafrecht)

By Olga Romanova

When the state has mineral resources, it hires a company like Royal Dutch Shell to extract the oil and share the profits. But when it has an abundant supply of labor, it turns a blind eye to its resources being used in tolling schemes right out of the 1990s. The existing penitentiary system is not in the interests of the state or the prisoners.

The gulag, as the Soviet Union’s Main Administration of Corrective Labor Camps and Labor Settlements was better known, may have been transformed into Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN), but its essence arguably remains unchanged.

Russia has by far the biggest proportion of people behind bars in Europe, with an incarceration rate of 434 prisoners per 100,000 people, compared to 143 in the UK, 130 in Spain, 101 in France, 92 in Italy, and 76 in Germany.

The state of Russia’s judicial and criminal justice systems is such that no neutral observer would describe them as just or socially equitable. The obsolete infrastructure, the abysmal level of staff training, the lack of transparency and information, the outdated understanding of the rationale for punishment, and the complete absence of resocialization programs are just some of the flaws inherited from the gulag. However, there is one aspect of the system that has received very little attention: the practice of nationalizing losses and privatizing profits.

The objective of the pervasive violation of prisoners’ rights today is not to force them to build major infrastructure projects for the sake of national interests or industrialization. Nor is it even “reeducation through labor.” The sole raison d’être of the system is to serve the private commercial interests of individuals who draw their salaries from budget funds.

The basic scenario is a tolling scheme. Every correctional facility has its own production unit, such as a sewing factory or a woodworking or metalworking shop. Operating expenses, such as electricity and the salaries and living expenses of the prisoners, are covered by the state. Some funding also comes from the prisoners’ salaries, though the amounts are miniscule. (Under Russian law, prisoners must compensate the state for their food and clothing, and up to 75 percent of their salaries may be deducted for that purpose.)

The lion’s share of profits are either accumulated on the accounts of intermediary companies that buy goods produced by the prisoners, or returned to the heads of the correctional facilities through kickbacks by companies that purchase the goods directly. The facility itself receives only a fraction of the profits after factoring in all of its expenses—or, more precisely, all of the federal budget’s expenses.

This is exactly how many industrial enterprises were bought up in the 1990s in Russia. Back then, trade houses were set up next to Soviet-era plants: the plants would sell goods to the trade houses at incredibly low prices, and the trade houses would then sell the goods at a huge markup. The plants would gradually slide into bankruptcy, while the trade houses would amass the funds to buy up their shares.

In the penitentiary system, this scheme is used to siphon off and privatize profits rather than assets. Profits are collected by specific individuals who run the facility, rather than by the correctional facility itself. The following examples of this corruption occurred at specific correctional facilities, have been covered by the media, and are supported by evidence from individuals who are prepared to vouch for the information.

Alexey Kozlov, a financial expert who served a sentence at a correctional facility in the Tambov region (and who, in the interests of full disclosure, is the author’s husband), described a scheme revolving around the production of woolen socks in the region’s Rasskazovsky district.

“All deputy heads of correctional facilities have their own shops, though they do not control them directly. The relatives of these officials lease shops in the facilities’ industrial zones, where the prisoners sew the socks. There is no ‘going market rate’ for production space in correctional facilities, so any price can be set. It’s the relatives who sell the socks and collect the profits.

“Naturally, it would be more profitable for the correctional facility to produce and sell goods directly. However, then it would be obvious if it was selling the socks at half the market price, and the embezzlement would be exposed. With tolling operations, just as with the leasing of shops, it is difficult to prove the details of the corruption.”

The FSIN has all sorts of excuses to explain why tolling schemes are used. The main argument is that the correctional facility does not have the funds to purchase equipment and materials. However, it will never have the funds if it keeps privatizing profits and nationalizing losses. When the state has mineral resources, it hires a company like Royal Dutch Shell to produce oil and share the profits. But when it has an abundant supply of labor, it turns a blind eye to its resources being used in tolling schemes right out of the 1990s.

In other cases, production is not even the objective of the tolling scheme, but merely a screen for expenses. One good illustration is agricultural production at correctional facilities, such as the findings of Alexey Fedyarov, a retired prosecutor and a coordinator at Rus Sidyashchaya (Russia Behind Bars), a prisoners’ rights organization. The results of his research were published by local media in Novosibirsk and by RFE/RL.

Under this scheme, correctional facilities receive money to farm land. But the agricultural scheme is fictitious: a visit to the fields cited in the state contracts and the addresses of the contract counterparties is enough to show that. Despite this, on paper, the facility puts out a surplus of agricultural produce that it begins to sell off through state procurement contracts. Its sets prices that are too high for anyone else to be interested, so only other correctional facilities “buy” this “produce.”

This is why the goods are sold by the correctional facility itself, and not by the regional FSIN directorate. Other facilities, which are also independent legal entities, cannot purchase products from the FSIN, but they can buy surplus goods from different facilities.

Another scheme exposed by Alexey Kozlov is the sale of prisoners’ labor, the primary asset of most correctional facilities.

“Close to Penal Settlement 13 in the Kokhma settlement of the Ivanovo region, there is a state-owned farm, Sovkhoz Teplichny. The farm has agreements with the minimum-security penitentiary facility under which prisoners work at the farm. The prisoners work ten hours a day, seven days a week, in violation of Russian labor law, which sets a maximum workweek of forty hours, and requires Saturday and Sunday hours to be compensated as overtime at double the hourly rate. Prisoners don’t report these violations, as speaking up can jeopardize their chances of early release, and no one wants to risk that.”

“The money-making scheme is simple. Sovkhoz Teplichny officially pays only for forty hours of labor a week. Payment for the difference between those hours and the actual hours worked is made to the management of the facility ‘under the table.’ If prisoners officially work overtime, the facility would get more money for the prisoners’ salaries—and should deduct up to 75 percent of the amount to compensate for living expenses paid from the federal budget. However, if there is no salary, then there are no deductions. In other words, all expenses are transferred to the state. The state covers room and board for every prisoner, even though the prisoners should be able to compensate a significant share of these expenses from their wages.”

Such schemes are extremely common in the penitentiary system. There are some relatively honest heads of penitentiary facilities (relatively, because their facilities may report and earn large profits, but the directors may still be skimming off small amounts to boost their incomes), but care must be taken not to reveal their identities, because the head of a penitentiary facility who is openly mentioned in a favorable light can get into serious trouble.

An honest and more transparent economy for penitentiary facilities—one that serves the interests of the state and of the prisoners—is possible. However, the existing limited oversight of the system encourages precisely the opposite.

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

Barandat*COLUMN-More than meets the eye as China tops U.S. as biggest crude importer: Russell.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author, a columnist for Reuters.)

* Graphic of China and U.S. oil imports:

By Clyde Russell

LAUNCESTON, Australia, Aug 7 (Reuters) – How impressed should you be by China overtaking the United States as the world’s largest importer of crude? The answer is quite a bit, but maybe not as much as you thought.

China imported an average 8.55 million barrels per day (bpd) in the first half of 2017, above the 8.12 million bpd by the United States, according to government figures from both countries.

The obvious takeaway from this is that the data highlights the shifting dynamics of the crude oil market, with Asia replacing the United States and Western Europe as the main demand centre, as well as the source of most of the growth in oil consumption.

However, this trend has been in play for several years. All that has changed is we now have a set of numbers that confirm what was already known.

What is more important is trying to understand the underlying drivers of Chinese crude demand and how these may develop in coming years.

There are a few factors that, when taken together, give a slightly different perspective on China’s rise to the top of global crude importers.

These are China’s ongoing, and significant, purchases of crude to fill its strategic reserves, the rise of its refineries as major players in the regional export markets for products, and the decline in China’s domestic oil output.

China doesn’t provide regular numbers for its strategic storage programme, so the best way to estimate how much crude is flowing into tanks is to look at the total amount available from imports and domestic production, and subtract the total processed by refineries.

In the first half China’s imports were 8.55 million bpd and domestic output was 3.89 million bpd, giving a total amount of available crude of 12.44 million bpd.

Refinery throughput in the January-June period was 11.1 million bpd, an increase of 3 percent on the same period in 2016.

This means that the gap between available crude and the amount processed was 1.34 million bpd.

Not all of this will have flowed into strategic storage, some will have been used to fill commercial inventories held by refineries.

But even so, the figure is well above the 830,000 bpd surplus crude recorded in the first half of 2016.

The numbers imply that about 510,000 bpd more was flowing into storage in the first half of 2017 compared to the same period last year.

Given that the increase in imports in the first six months in volume terms is 1.07 million bpd, this implies that half of the gain has been added to either commercial or strategic storage.


China’s exports of oil products have also risen sharply in the first half, jumping 10.2 percent to 23.66 million tonnes, according to customs figures.

This equates to about 1.05 million bpd of exports, using the BP Plc conversion factor of 8 barrels to a tonne of refined products.

This is about 106,000 bpd more than the 944,000 bpd of product exported in the first half of 2016, confirming that some of the increase in crude imports this year has made its way out of China as refined fuels.

The third factor is China’s gradually declining domestic crude output, which fell 5.1 percent in the first half of 2017 to 3.89 million bpd.

This is down about 180,000 bpd from the same period last year, meaning some of the additional crude imports have merely replaced declining local production.

This is an important point of difference to the United States, where domestic production has risen strongly in recent years as shale oil became economical to extract.

Adding together the additional crude flowing to storage in the first half of this year, the increase in product exports and the decline in domestic output gives a total of just under 800,000 bpd.

This means that the actual increase in crude oil imports to meet growth in consumption is around 270,000 bpd in the first half of 2017 compared to the same period last year.

However, does it really matter for global oil markets how the Chinese use the oil they import?

It does insofar as to how sustainable is the growth rate of imports.

It’s likely that China will continue to fill strategic reserves for several years to come, but at some point purchases for this purpose will taper and then stop altogether.

How much more can Chinese refiners export as products? Probably several hundred thousand bpd more than they do currently as they have spare capacity.

But whether they actually will depends on the ability of regional product markets to absorb additional Chinese supply, and whether the authorities in Beijing continue to increase crude import quotas for smaller, independent refiners.

And the final question is whether China’s domestic output will continue to decline, or whether it will stabilise, or perhaps even recover somewhat as the state-owned majors put more cash into exploration and enhanced recovery.

For the foreseeable future China is likely to maintain its lead over the United States as the top crude importer, but the story is more than just one of strong economic growth in China.

Editing by Richard Pullin


Middle East

Chatham House: It’s Far Too Early to Talk of Return for Syrian Refugees

Although the Syrian conflict shows no sign of coming to end, governments and aid agencies are already beginning to consider the repatriation of the country’s five million refugees.

Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan.

Since 2011, some five million Syrians have fled from the armed conflict in their homeland and sought refuge abroad, the largest numbers of them going to Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. But that massive exodus has now slowed to a trickle, and there are growing signs that some of the refugees may be ready to return to Syria.

In July, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that up to 450,000 uprooted Syrians had returned to their places of origin in the first six months of the year. While the vast majority of this number had been displaced within Syria, the organization said that it had also monitored the return of more than 30,000 refugees from neighbouring countries during the same period. There was, UNHCR concluded, ‘a notable trend of spontaneous returns to and within Syria.’

Other agencies concur with this assessment. According to NGOs working in the region, in June, around 200 refugees were repatriating each day from Turkey to Jarabulus in northern Syria, an area liberated from ISIS by Turkish-backed rebels. In the same month, an additional 30,000 refugees crossed the border into Syria to celebrate the end of Ramadan, most of them then returning to Turkey.

These developments have served the interests of several key stakeholders in the Syrian refugee situation. Jordan and Lebanon have long tired of the refugees’ presence on their territory, citing the unbearable pressure that it places on their economy, environment and infrastructure, as well as the threat that the Syrians allegedly pose to local and national security. Both countries have effectively closed their borders to new arrivals from Syria, and are increasingly anxious to see the day when those who have already been admitted make their way home in large numbers.

Donor states (most notably the EU and US) also have an interest in talking up the potential for repatriation to take place. They have expended enormous amounts of money on providing humanitarian assistance to the refugees, and yet are under constant pressure from the three host states to increase the level of aid they provide and to extend it to local communities affected by the refugees’ presence.

The Trump administration has made it clear that the plight of Syrian refugees will not be resolved by means of their resettlement to the US, thereby placing greater emphasis on repatriation as a solution. And Western powers as a whole are much more ready to contemplate refugees’ return to Syria now that they have effectively dropped the objective of regime change in Damascus.

UNHCR’s response to this situation has been both finely balanced and potentially contradictory. On one hand, and in accordance with its mandate to protect the world’s displaced people, it has continued to assert that ‘conditions for refugees to return in safety and dignity are not yet in place’. Given the ‘significant risks’ that remain in Syria, it says, ‘refugee returns can neither be promoted [n]or facilitated by UNHCR.’

One the other hand, UNHCR’S approach has been influenced by three additional considerations: its high level of dependence on Western funding; its recognition of the need to retain the confidence of those states hosting large numbers of Syrians; and an awareness that it will be expected to play a central role in organizing the return of the refugees, if and when it takes place.

UNHCR has consequently been engaged in a discreet repatriation planning process, while raising the funds and recruiting the staff required to scale up its operations inside Syria. In the careful words of one announcement, ‘UNHCR is pursuing a number of preparatory steps in anticipation of the time when conditions for the voluntary repatriation of refugees are in place.’

It seems highly unlikely that those conditions will be attained in the foreseeable future.

First, Syria remains a country at war. Peace talks have stalled and some of the fiercest battles (in the rebel-held area of Idlib, for example) remain to be fought. Recent surveys indicate that while most of the refugees would eventually like to return to their own country, they will do so only when the armed conflict has come to an end.

And while some refugees may have already chosen to return, they have often done so in the absence of accurate information on the situation inside Syria, because they feel exhausted and humiliated by their lives in exile, and because the option of moving on to Europe has become increasingly difficult.

Second, large-scale refugee returns to Syria would not be sustainable because of the destruction and disruption that the country has experienced during six years of war. Around 14 million of the country’s 18 million residents are in need of humanitarian assistance. Eight million are displaced within the country and more than four million are trapped in besieged and inaccessible areas.

Jobs, food, water, shelter, healthcare and education are all in acutely short supply, but none of the key players in the Syria situation – the EU, US, Russia and Iran – seem willing or able to fund the country’s reconstruction, especially if President Assad remains in power. In the words of the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, ‘some people speak about a Marshall Plan for Syria, but this will not happen if there is no political consensus.’

Finally, the Assad regime has little interest in the return of the refugees. Indeed, Damascus has manipulated the exodus in order to diminish the Sunni presence in economically and strategically important parts of the country, thereby strengthening the position of the government-supporting Alawites and Christians As one commentator puts it, ‘reducing the size of the Sunni majority looks as if it is the regime’s best shot at creating the conditions to make minority rule more sustainable.’

While host and donor states might wish for a quick solution to the Syrian refugee situation, that is not a realistic option. Until peace returns to the country, it will be necessary to provide refugees with the cash and other forms of assistance that they need to survive, while ensuring that development organizations, financial institutions, the private sector and Syrian diaspora support the economy and infrastructure of those areas where the largest number of refugees have settled.

When refugee returns finally become possible, it must take place in a safe and voluntary manner, as required by international refugee law. In too many other recent repatriation operations, those conditions have not been respected.


*Massenbach’s Recommendation*

Deutsche Bank Research – Packed European agenda for the next government: Numerous challenges, no (easy) answers

The benign economic and public environment allows to fundamentally address shortcomings of the E(M)U. The next German government’s term is faced with numerous challenges ranging from Brexit and its impact on the next EU Budget to migration and the upgrade of the euro area. A revitalised relation with France provides the opportunity for substantive steps to further stabilise the euro area albeit Germany and France need to find common ground on many issues and seek the support of EU partners. European politics is still less of a topic for the German electorate not least as mainstream parties are all various shades of pro-European. However, the next government’s party composition is likely to matter for both speed and scope of changes on European level.


U.S. Department of State: Communication Regarding Intent To Withdraw From Paris Agreement

Office of the Spokesperson

Washington, DC

August 4, 2017

08-03-17 DB Research _Packed_European_Agenda_for_the_next_German_Government_ PROD0448426.pdf

Massenbach-Letter. NEWS 04.08.17

Massenbach-Letter. News

  • DOD’s classified mobility program pilots use of tablets
  • State Magazine for U.S. Department of State
  • South America: Divided, not Conquered.
  • GPF: The Axis of the Sanctioned – Sanctions can achieve little on their own and might actually make a situation worse.
  • Businessman, Jon Meade Huntsman, Jr. was to be the new Ambassador of the U.S. to Russia.
  • What Does the Future Hold? Reflections Regarding the Hamburg Meeting

· The U.S. in Central Asia: between «С5+1» and «Make America Great Again»


· Erstmals Gen-Editierungen an menschlichen Embryos in den USA.

Massenbach* South America: Divided, not Conquered.

Geography prevents any one nation from dominating the continent.

Nations are products of their environments, and not the other way around. They simply have to behave in certain ways if they want to remain nations, and more often than not their behavior is expressed not by what they can do but what they can’t do. Nations can’t move mountains or rivers. They can’t create farmland from scratch. They can’t produce more resources than what the ground allows.

Particularly bound by these kinds of constraints is South America. The geography of this often overlooked continent is oddly egalitarian: Some nations are stronger and richer than others, of course, but the preponderance is less pronounced than it is in other regions of the world. For this reason, South America may seem inconsequential, so uninvolved is it in the wars of the Middle East, U.S.-Russia sanctions, Islamic terrorism and the South China Sea. But its apparent complacency elides more pressing geopolitical imperatives. The following report explains why.


The defining characteristic of South America is that its geography will not allow any nation to project power across the continent. Those that have come to power have been confined to either the Pacific Coast or the Atlantic Coast. Some were even able to hold power on both coasts, but none were able to form a seamless political entity.

(click to enlarge)

Their separation is largely due to the Andes Mountains, which span the entire length of South America near the continent’s western edge. Other geographic features, however, accentuate the east-west divide. In the north, the vast Amazon rainforest prevents the movement of people from one population center to another and stunts urban development. The Amazon River and its tributaries, which flow from the west to the east, enable ventures farther inland, but upstream waters quickly become unnavigable to large ships.

Reinforcing the division of South America are the Gran Chaco, a semi-arid, sparsely populated lowland region roughly at the center of the continent; the wetlands of the Pantanal; and the Atacama Desert. They are as difficult to traverse as they are inhospitable to human settlement.

South America’s largest and most important cities are therefore found primarily on the coasts. Their situation is particularly pronounced on the Pacific Coast, where there is little room between the ocean and the Andes. Cities along the Atlantic Coast have a little more breathing room – people were able to settle in the Rio de la Plata Basin, which boasts fertile soil, useful river systems and hospitable climate and terrain – but they are nonetheless densest near the ocean.

(click to enlarge)

Complexions Change

The inability to project power over the entire region has plagued South American empires and countries throughout history. Before Europe colonized the region, the Incan Empire was the predominant power in the Pacific region. At its height, it comprised Peru, Ecuador, large parts of Bolivia and Chile and smaller sections of Argentina and Colombia. The Incas were resourceful and formidable, but they could never really expand past the Andes. There was no single pre-colonial empire in the Atlantic region. Broadly speaking, the Tupi dominated Brazil, the Guarani controlled Paraguay and parts of the Plata Basin that extended into southern Brazil, and groups related to the Mapuche inhabited much of the southernmost portion of the continent.

European colonization, especially Spanish and Portuguese colonization, changed the complexion of South American power but could not escape its geographic constraints. Spain, for example, could govern the Viceroyalty of Peru easily enough but found it more difficult to govern the territory as a single unit as it added territory to the east. So it divided the area into three viceroyalties – Peru, New Granada and Rio de la Plata – that correspond with the continent’s natural geographic barriers.

The emergence of capitanias – autonomous territories controlled by high-ranking generals but still technically under the viceroyalty banner – likewise illustrate the limits of power projection. Chile had been lumped into the Peru Viceroyalty because it was on the same side of the Andes Mountains. But distance and desert obviated the need for a middle man in Lima, so Chile instead interacted directly with the crown.

(click to enlarge)

In the Atlantic region, geography pitted Spain and Portugal against each other. Portugal arrived in 1500 and began to colonize Brazil, focusing largely on coastal areas with good ports. It could not expand west because of the Amazon, Chaco and Pantanal, so it went south, to the Rio de la Plata Basin, a desirable tract of real estate in central South America east of the Andes. It is large, hospitable and arable, with natural irrigation systems. Spain, meanwhile, had arrived in southern South America and, having taken control of territory west and just east of the Andes, likewise turned its attention to the Rio de la Plata Basin.

Spanish and Portuguese interests thus collided in central South America. As it happens, the basin in which they fought was flat, unobstructed terrain, ideally suited for combat. Years after they fought there, subsequent wars waged in the same vicinity would eventually produce the modern states of Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay, which served as buffer states between Argentina and Brazil.

A final example of obstacles to power projection comes from the Spanish colonies’ wars for independence in the early 19th century. Simon Bolivar led an independence movement in the north that included Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador and eventually Peru, while Jose de San Martin led the independence movements in the south that included Argentina, Chile and initially Peru. Bolivar ambitiously tried to create a united Pan-American entity from the wars of independence but, when faced with the difficulty of unity in South American terrain, ceased to do so. Instead he ruled Venezuela, Colombia and Peru as separate entities, giving each of these countries the individual identities that exist today.

Contemporary Candidates

Modern South America is thus shaped not by what leaders of the past could do but by what they could not do. The geography is just as divisive today as it has ever been. Currently, neither the Pacific nor Atlantic region has a natural leader – but not for a lack of candidates.

The Atlantic Coast

In the Atlantic region, Brazil could be such a leader. It borders all South American countries, save Chile and Ecuador. It is the fifth-largest and fifth-most populous country in the world. It boasts the ninth-largest gross domestic product in the world at $1.8 trillion, according to the World Bank. With its low population density and ample mineral, hydrocarbon and agricultural resources, it has all the makings of an even stronger economy.

But Brazil faces two initial obstacles to realizing its potential. First, the government has yet to consolidate the country. The country’s core consists of the triangle formed by Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Belo Horizonte. The remaining periphery can be divided into three regions – the South, Center-West and North-North East. To build national strength, Brazil’s core must have strong social, economic and infrastructural ties to these three regions. Presently, the South, which sits largely on uncomplicated, flat terrain, is the only one of the three firmly connected to the core. Inadequate infrastructure and economic development between the Center-West and North-North East and the core fuel economic and social disparities, making it all the more difficult to bring them into the fold.

(click to enlarge)

Argentina is nearly as potent as Brazil but would struggle to subordinate its neighbor to the north. Though it is South America’s second-largest economy, it is just a third the size of Brazil’s (21st globally). It has the size and resources to help keep Brazil in check but not enough to overpower it.

The remaining Atlantic region nations are even less equipped to challenge Brazil. Paraguay and Uruguay are buffer states, fated to play their larger neighbors off one another as the situation warrants. Paraguay is particularly resigned since it is a landlocked nation wholly dependent on others for maritime trade. Venezuela’s position on the southern rim of the Caribbean means that the United States will make sure Caracas is never powerful enough to challenge U.S. influence in the region, in turn limiting its influence in South America. (Venezuela admittedly isn’t doing itself any favors right now.)

The Pacific Coast

In the Pacific region, Peru is best positioned to assume a leadership role. Peru was the seat of power in the pre-Columbian era. It still boasts mineral, metallurgical, hydrocarbon and agricultural resources that allow it to support a large portion of its domestic needs. It also has a burgeoning manufacturing sector. Eight of its 10 largest cities are along the coast, which facilitates trade and communication.

On the surface, Colombia appears to also be a potential candidate for Pacific power. The country’s economy is on the rise (it was especially so before oil prices dropped), and now that the country’s longest insurgency has come to an end, security has improved. But what helped shelter the insurgents for so long is precisely what hinders the construction of a viable regional power: mountains and jungles. Even before it was colonized, Colombia never had a great empire based there like Inca in Peru. This is because the terrain lends itself to poorly connected and uncoordinated population centers. And, like Venezuela, Colombia borders the Caribbean Sea, and though it is a strong U.S. ally, Washington would never allow it to challenge its power.

Other countries don’t qualify. Chile is one of the most developed countries in South America, but it is so narrow, so dependent on energy imports and so far removed from the rest of the continent that it could never overtake it neighbors. Bolivia, another landlocked nation, is at the mercy of others for trade. Ecuador is even smaller in area than Bolivia, and only slightly less alienated.

(click to enlarge)

The countries of South America have been too preoccupied with their own issues for the past half century to worry about projecting power abroad. In that time they have experienced dictatorships, rebuilt their governments after toppling the dictatorships, clashed with domestic militant groups and suffered economic crises. Competing for regional power or expansion was secondary to survival. But even if they dedicated themselves to regional hegemony, and even if they de facto led their respective region, they could never subsume the other.


As important to South America is its location. The continent sits in the Southern and Western hemispheres between two oceans, making it remote from major trade routes and seats of power. In short, it is a peripheral region and, as such, was a latecomer to the global economy. Consequently, economic development has come slow to South America, and its domestic issues are magnified.

Geographic barriers, an abundance of natural resources and a legacy of colonialism created an economic dependency on raw materials. From the European perspective, the purpose of the colonies was to provide wealth for the monarchies and ready-made markets for the consumption of manufactured goods. To this day, the production and export of commodities links South American countries to the rest of the world. They all but define trade ties to virtually every region, most notably China, India and other Asian nations. Growing demand for their resources only aggravates the problem.

In some areas of production – sugar cane, soy, corn, copper, iron ore – South American production can drastically affect commodity prices and supply. With other commodities – wheat, coal, beef, oil – these countries significantly factor into global supply but do not single-handedly affect the global market. In these cases, the commodities have a much larger importance and impact on the individual economies than on the global supply or price.

Production and control of these commodities has been a major source of social conflict in South America as government desires for economic performance ran counter to some local demands. In the area of agriculture, the government must balance the domestic consumption with the desire for export revenue – something that pits producers against government regulators, as is sometimes the case in Argentina. In mineral extraction, the profits of mining companies come into conflict with the health and livelihoods of underpaid workers and regional governments. It is little wonder, then, that Chile and Colombia, two major mineral-producing countries, have seen major mining protests throughout the years. Extractive industries and supporting infrastructure projects, moreover, create environmental concerns among indigenous communities and activists, as can be observed in Peru, Bolivia and Brazil.

Other sources of friction are inevitable so long as South American countries adopt economic policies meant to reduce their vulnerability to commodity prices, develop domestic industry and shift away from an emphasis on raw materials. So far, they have experimented with various schemes of import substitution (a policy that replaces foreign imports with domestic production, which is often costlier), industrial subsidies, import tariffs and general protectionist measures. But most have not worked. Brazil and Argentina are now moving ahead with economic reforms while Ecuador and Venezuela still cling to failing policies. Peru, Colombia and Chile are trying to compensate by turning to free trade and finding areas of competitive advantage.

South America shows that while the laws of geopolitics may be immutable, the way nations obey them are circumstantial. The things that divide the region are the same things that have prevented the kind of conflict that exists in other places – it’s hard for groups to clash if they are not forced to confront one another. But South America has a role to play on the global stage, even if it’s only recently trying to figure out how to play it.


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

– The U.S. in Central Asia: between «С5+1» and «Make America Great Again»

  • Why are Doctors targeted in Arab Conflict Zones?

– Out of 54 most interesting comments of this autumn, readers of the "Caucasian Knot" have chosen 12 best ones

  • For four years in a row, the "Caucasian Knot" has been marking the most meaningful, informative and topical comments made by its users. A year ago, we paid special attention to readers‘ comments about the freedom of religion and the problem of corruption in the Caucasus. This autumn we decided to award prizes to best commentators every week. Traditionally, the final choice and definition of the winner are with our readers.

Starting September 1, during three months, the "Caucasian Knot" marked the most interesting comments, while our readers were free to choose the best comment of the elapsed week. We considered all the comments posted on interactive platforms of the "Caucasian Knot", namely, on the news tape, on the pages of our bloggers, in the forumand online discussions, in twitt broadcasts, and in the messages, received by the SMS-service of the "Caucasian Knot".

In the course of the contest, from September 1 to November 30, in total, 529 users sent over 13,000 messages, having commented 635 articles, news items, and posts in blogs. The "Caucasian Knot" has identified 54 comments to the most actual topics of the autumn, which gathered a total of 31,073 votes, and defined 12 winners.

Earlier, the "Caucasian Knot" held the following contests of readers‘ comments:

1. The best comment on the "Caucasian Knot" – in 2010;

2. Best comments of the readers of the "Caucasian Knot" – in January 2011;

3. The most active and critical commentator in blogs of the "Caucasian Knot" – in 2011;

4. The most active and informative news commentator of the "Caucasian Knot" – in 2011;

5. The best message on the Twitter of the Internet-medium "Caucasian Knot" – in 2011;

6. The best comment of the readers of the "Caucasian Knot" on the Facebook – in 2011;

7. Best comments on the materials of the "Caucasian Knot" from LiveJournal users – in 2012;

8. "Choice of the Caucasus": contest for the best post about the election of the President of the Russian Federation on the page of the "Caucasian Knot" on the Facebook – in 2012;

9. "Choice of the Caucasus": contest of comments about the election of Russian President to the materials of the "Caucasian Knot" – in 2012;

10. The most active and critical commentator of news items of the "Caucasian Knot" – in 2012;

11. Best comments to materials of the "Caucasian Knot" about corruption in Northern Caucasus – in 2013; and

12. Best comments to materials of the "Caucasian Knot" about the freedom of religion in Northern Caucasus – in 2013.

"Islamic State" threatens the Caucasus

Our readers used to demonstrate great interest in and activeness to the topics and events, caused by the current international political situation: the Ukrainian crisis, Russia’s reaction to the Western sanctions; and appearance of the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) in the Middle East. The threats of the IS to transfer military actions to the Caucasus and Russia were differently perceived by our readers.

(for more see att.)


Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* Gen-Editierungen an menschlichen Embryos in den USA.

Laut Insidern wurden jetzt erstmals auch in den USA mit der Technik CRISPR die Gene von menschlichen Embryos verändert. Bei ihren Experimenten sollen die Forscher zwei wichtige Probleme in den Griff bekommen haben.

Ein Forscherteam an der Oregon Health and Science University hat in einer Studie die DNA von "zig" per künstlicher Befruchtung entstandenen menschlichen Embryos verändert und soll dabei gezeigt haben, dass es sicher und effizient möglich ist, defekte Gene zu korrigieren. Der Studienleiter Shoukhrat Mitalipov wollte dazu nicht Stellung nehmen, weil die Ergebnisse noch nicht offiziell publiziert seien, doch Insider bestätigten die Informationen, berichtet Technology Review online in "Gene editieren ohne Fehler".

Zum Thema

Bei den Experimenten wurden Embryos im Einzeller-Stadium verwendet, die für das menschliche Auge noch nicht zu erkennen sind. Keinem von ihnen wurde die Möglichkeit gegeben, sich mehr als ein paar Tage lang zu entwickeln, und es war nie vorgesehen, sie in eine Gebärmutter zu implantieren. Doch die Experimente sind ein Meilenstein auf dem Weg zur Geburt der ersten genetisch veränderten Menschen. Der Fachbegriff dafür lautet "Keimbahn-Engineering", weil jedes genetisch veränderte Kind die Änderungen mit seinen eigenen Keimzellen auf nachfolgende Generationen weitergeben würde.

Bislang hatten nur chinesische Forschergruppen über Tests mit dem Gen-Editierverfahren CRISPR an menschlichen Embryos berichtet. Dabei hatte sich gezeigt, dass bei CRISPR Fehler entstehen können und dass die gewünschte DNA-Veränderungen nicht bei allen Zellen eines Embryos eintreten. Mitalipov und seine Kollegen sollen jetzt überzeugend belegt haben, dass sich diese beiden Probleme vermeiden lassen. Dies dürfte ein großer Schritt auf dem Weg zur Bekämpfung von Erbkrankheiten sein, wobei Kritiker fürchten, dass er auch zu "Designer-Babys" führen könnte.

Mehr dazu bei Technology Review online:

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

Barandat*DOD’s classified mobility program pilots use of tablets

The Defense Information Systems Agency is expanding its offerings under the Department of Defense Mobility Classified Capability-Secret (DMCC-S) Program through a new pilot program, which puts 8-inch tablet computers into the hands of designated senior leaders across the department.

The pilot expands upon the DMCC-S’s support for smartphones and acknowledges the need to enable leaders to work with classified data in a mobile environment just as they would in an office.

“We’re bringing the mobile device from something you use mostly to consume information from to being able to actually do work on the device,” said Jake Marcellus, DOD Mobility Portfolio manager.

The first tablet was issued to Dr. John Zangardi, acting DOD Chief Information Officer, May 19; and 23 others have been issued since.

Though it seems small, the change from a 5-inch phone screen to an 8-inch tablet screen offers greater flexibility and an improved user experience.

"DISA understands global senior leaders require highly secure mobile solutions/devices to be always on and always connected,” said Leticia Parra, DMCC-S tablet pilot program manager. “The program is focused on listening to customer needs and providing them with larger viewing screens for real-time missions.”

Parra said the program has incorporated capability enhancements, such as support for the Unified Video Dissemination System (UVDS), which enables viewing of live full-motion video feeds collected for the purpose of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.

The pilot management team has already received positive feedback from combatant commanders, praising the enhanced capability to view UVDS.

“While the yearlong pilot is in its initial stages, it will be a game changer across the department,” said Parra. “As we continue to enhance capabilities, modern information technology will continue to join forces with cybersecurity to provide situational awareness and create a manageable battlefield communications infrastructure.”


Middle East

State Magazine for U.S. Department of State

State Magazine July/August 2017 Issue Is Now Available!

State Magazine’s July/August cover story highlights this issue’s featured office. The article explores the work undertaken by the Office of Ocean and Polar Affairs (OPA) within the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES), particularly it’s focus on the formulation and implementation U.S, policy on international issues concerning the ocean, Arctic and Antarctic. This issue of State Magazine also focuses on innovation and improving lives at events during this year’s World IP day. Be sure to check out additional features about a department IT employee who’s also an accomplished jazz musician, and how a merit compensation program is helping LE safe earn more in EUR Bureaus.

Read this issue online .


*Massenbach’s Recommendation*

The Axis of the Sanctioned

Sanctions can achieve little on their own and might actually make a situation worse.

By Jacob L. Shapiro

Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity was doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result. In January 2002, U.S. President George W. Bush famously declared Iraq, Iran and North Korea the axis of evil in his State of the Union speech. This week, with the passage of a bill to impose expanded sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea, the U.S. has effectively replaced the axis of evil with the axis of the sanctioned – the only difference being that Russia has replaced Iraq on the list of sinners. But if Washington is expecting to see different results this time around, it’ll soon learn how misguided this expectation is.

The U.S. House of Representatives approved the sanctions bill on July 25 with an overwhelming majority (419-3). It was passed by the Senate on July 27 by an equally decisive margin (98-2). Because of the strong majority with which it passed both the House and the Senate, it’s unlikely President Donald Trump can veto the bill.

All three countries targeted by the legislation have been the subject of sanctions before. Many have debated whether this tool is an effective way to influence a country’s actions. A study updated in 2009 and published by the Peterson Institute for International Economics examined 174 case studies and determined that sanctions were partially successful 34 percent of the time. According to the study, the success rate varied based on the goal. If the goal was modest and specific, such as the release of a political prisoner, the success rate approached 50 percent. But if the goal was regime change or significant policy reforms, the success rate was only 30 percent.

The bottom line is that sanctions are an ineffective way of achieving foreign policy objectives in two-thirds of cases, according to this study. They can be a powerful tool, alongside other measures, to encourage a country to halt a certain action, but on their own they can achieve little and might actually make a situation worse.

Sanctions Won’t Change Reality

It is with that in mind that the geopolitical implications of the sanctions bill should be evaluated. Of the three countries included in the bill, Russia has drawn the most attention because of the Russian cloud that has cast a shadow over Trump’s administration since he came to office. But the bill was originally designed to levy new sanctions against Iran; North Korea was also subsequently added. These three countries arguably represent the United States’ most significant geopolitical challenges today. They also happen to be intractable issues that the U.S. does not currently have the will or power to change in any meaningful way – and sanctions won’t alter that reality.

Consider North Korea. The U.S. has been hoping that partnering with China and expanding international sanctions against North Korea, which has already been subject to sanctions for decades, could convince the regime to stop its pursuit of nuclear weapons. The existing sanctions were ineffective, in part because the regime is willing to endure some discomfort to ensure its survival, and giving up its weapons program could put that in jeopardy. China, meanwhile, is either unwilling or unable to bring Kim Jong Un to heel. In the first half of this year, it even increased its exports to Pyongyang by 20 percent year on year, according to a report by the Korean International Trade Association on July 26. (The same report also indicated that Chinese imports from North Korea have decrease by 24.3 percent in the same period.)

The Chinese government itself has also reported increased exports to North Korea in the first and second quarters of 2017. Trump even accused China on Twitter last month of not living up to its sanction pledges against North Korea.

The U.S. is beginning to get the impression that Beijing isn’t willing to apply financial pressure on Pyongyang, and some say the next step should be to impose sanctions against China. But sanctions won’t force China to handle the problem the way the U.S. wants. The dirty little secret is that China’s prestige as the chief negotiator with Pyongyang far outweighs its actual power. That becomes abundantly apparent in situations such as these.

Shared Enemy

Or consider Iran, which has been a foreign policy disaster for the United States since the 1953 military coup that the U.S. helped organize. Many believe the “unprecedented” sanctions (as they were described by U.S. officials at the time) imposed in 2010 have been effective. After all, just five years after they were implemented, Iran signed the much-maligned nuclear deal. Proximity, however, is not causality. Iran did not capitulate because of sanctions.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (C) arrives at parliament ahead of presenting the proposed annual

budget in the capital, Tehran, on Jan. 17, 2016, after sanctions were lifted under Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.

This is not to say sanctions were irrelevant. They were no doubt painful for the Iranian economy, and they became a major political issue in Tehran. But what compelled Iran to sign the deal was that Iran’s strategic plans were disrupted after the Syrian war broke out. In 2010, a Shiite arc of influence, led by Iranian-backed proxies, seemed poised to spread from Tehran all the way to the Mediterranean. But then Bashar Assad’s government came under attack in Syria, and it continues to fight a bloody civil war that has permanently fractured the country. More important, out of the ashes of the U.S. intervention in Iraq, a force arose that would eventually become the Islamic State.

It’s this reality – not the economic impact of sanctions, significant as it may have been – that convinced Iran to enter into the nuclear deal. Iran was wary of a potential Sunni Arab power rising on its border, one with an ideology that saw Iran as an enemy equal to if not greater than the West. The rise of IS meant that suddenly the United States and Iran had a common enemy; IS threatened the national security interests of both countries.

Now that the Islamic State is on the defensive, the subtle ties between these strange bedfellows are beginning to show signs of fraying – on both sides. The issue is that Iran wants to be the dominant power in the Middle East, while the United States doesn’t want any single country to control the region. Defeating Iran by military force is not a realistic option for the Middle East, and by toppling Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003, the U.S. eliminated the natural balance to Iranian power in the region. The U.S. is trying to reconstruct a regional balance of power to deal with Iran, but the Saudis are weak, the Turks have little desire or need to enter the fray at this point, and no one else is up to the task. Sanctions are not going to induce Iran to stop testing ballistic missiles or to stop funding its proxy groups throughout the region; in fact, they may have the opposite effect.

Easier Said Than Done

And then there’s Russia, which has become something of a U.S. media obsession. Like George W. Bush and Barack Obama before him, Trump came to office hoping to build a better relationship with Russia, only to realize it’s much easier said than done. Trump may have thought that a positive personal relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin was going to be enough to accomplish what his predecessors couldn’t. But niceties don’t change the fact that Ukraine is a national security interest to Russia, and that the United States – even under Trump – has shown no signs of bending on the Ukraine issue. In fact, Trump has met with Ukraine’s president and has declared his support for Ukraine multiple times. The State Department’s new special representative to Ukraine even said July 25 that the U.S. might consider providing Kiev with defensive arms.

The sanctions bill won’t convince Russia that it can abandon Kiev to the West’s orbit, and it may even embolden Ukraine. It may be coincidence, but Ukraine’s recent decision to cut off electricity to Donetsk, amid other markers of tension, suggests that these sanctions could encourage Kiev to push back against Russia with an expectation of U.S. support. Russia will have to retaliate in some way. In light of this possible escalation, we at GPF may even have to re-examine our forecast for 2017, which saw Ukraine as a frozen conflict.

This is not to say that sanctions are ineffective or that they don’t have any geopolitical import. They do, and we’ll be publishing more on their impact in the near term. But by relying on sanctions that have had only a marginal effect in the past, the U.S. is insisting on forcing square pegs into round holes. That will have ramifications, but the underlying problems – North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, Iran’s pursuit of regional hegemony and Russia’s need to maintain Ukraine as a buffer – will remain long after these sanctions are lifted.


At last:

Wegen Ausschluss von Frauen

Freimaurerloge nicht gemeinnützig

Wer nur Männer aufnimmt, ist nicht gemeinnützig, entscheiden die Bundesfinanzrichter. Deshalb haben traditionelle Freimaurerlogen keinen Anspruch auf Steuervorteile. Das Urteil könnte weitreichende Folgen haben.

Anerkennung der Gemeinnützigkeit steht für viele Vereine infrage

Ohne Erfolg verwiesen die Freimaurer auf als gemeinnützig anerkannte katholische Ordensgemeinschaften, die ebenfalls Männer oder Frauen von der Mitgliedschaft ausschließen. Dies sei nach dem Gesetz zulässig, da diese wegen mildtätiger oder kirchlicher Zwecke Gemeinnützigkeit beanspruchten und nicht wegen der Förderung der Allgemeinheit, so der Bundesfinanzhof.

Das Urteil kann auch Auswirkungen auf zahlreiche Vereine wie Schützenbruderschaften, Männergesangsvereine oder Frauenchöre haben, die ein Geschlecht ohne sachlichen Grund von der Mitgliedschaft ausschließen. Auch hier steht die Anerkennung der Gemeinnützigkeit infrage.[Finanzen-Analysen]-20170802&utm_source=FAZnewsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Newsletter_FAZ_Finanzen-Analysen



see our letter on:

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



08-01-17 Huntsman_after Hamburg G20.docx

news from friends

Hello friend,

I’ve got very good news from our friends, that’s so amazing, please read more here view message

Sincerely, President-AGBC-Berlin

From: udo von massenbach-wordpress [mailto:]
Sent: Wednesday, August 02, 2017 9:08 AM
Subject: Nichijou

Oh yay!!

Did you know that the first live bear mascot was apparently won by the President of the University from a troop of soldiers on their way to fight in WWI?

Also, fun fact and not related, I dated a Bear and since I have no uni football team to cheer for, I unofficially adopted them as my team and they better kill it today.


Sent from Mail for Windows 10

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?


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


  • 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.)


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


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.)


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.

****************************************************************************************************************** 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.


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.


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.


*Massenbach’s Recommendation*

Dekoder – Russland entschlüsseln

… 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 …

… Die Cyberwehrmänner … Eine Bürgerwehr für den virtuellen Raum …

… „Du leckst mir gleich mit der Zunge das Klo aus" …

… „Patrioten gibt’s bei euch also keine?“ …


… 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 in Kooperationen an Zeitungen und Zeitschriften, an Radio- und Fernsehsender weiter …


„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.



see our letter on:

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



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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Massenbach-Letter. NEWS 21.07.17

Massenbach-Letter. News

  • The New Silk Road will go through Syria
  • One Belt, One Road: When a Trade Route Isn’t a Trade Route
  • Iran: Independence referendum will isolate, weaken Kurdistan
  • The “Southern Deal” Between Moscow and Washington: A Duel of Diplomacies
  • A. Gromyko: Brexit -the view from Russia

*DIW Berlin Führungskräfte-Monitor 2017: Anteil von Frauen in Führungspositionen nimmt nur noch langsam zu, Gleichstellung liegt in weiter Ferne

  • Deutsche Bank Research: Parteien schreiben Zukunftsvorsorge zu klein
  • Qatar, Saudi Arabia to Islamize One of Europe’s Greatest Cathedrals

Massenbach*The New Silk Road will go through Syria

China and Syria have already begun discussing post-war infrastructure investment;

with a ‚Matchmaking Fair for Syria Reconstruction‘ held in Beijing

By Pepe Escobar July 13, 2017 7:12 PM (UTC+8)

Amid the proverbial doom and gloom pervading all things Syria, the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune sometimes yield, well, good fortune.

Take what happened this past Sunday in Beijing. The China-Arab Exchange Association and the Syrian Embassy organized a Syria Day Expo crammed with hundreds of Chinese specialists in infrastructure investment. It was a sort of mini-gathering of the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), billed as “The First Project Matchmaking Fair for Syria Reconstruction”.

And there will be serious follow-ups: a Syria Reconstruction Expo; the 59th Damascus International Fair next month, where around 30 Arab and foreign nations will be represented; and the China-Arab States Expo in Yinchuan, Ningxia Hui province, in September.

Qin Yong, deputy chairman of the China-Arab Exchange Association, announced that Beijing plans to invest $2 billion in an industrial park in Syria for 150 Chinese companies.

Nothing would make more sense. Before the tragic Syrian proxy war, Syrian merchants were already incredibly active in the small-goods Silk Road between Yiwu and the Levant. The Chinese don’t forget that Syria controlled overland access to both Europe and Africa in ancient Silk Road times when, after the desert crossing via Palmyra, goods reached the Mediterranean on their way to Rome. After the demise of Palmyra, a secondary road followed the Euphrates upstream and then through Aleppo and Antioch.

Beijing always plans years ahead. And the government in Damascus is implicated at the highest levels. So, it’s not an accident that Syrian Ambassador to China Imad Moustapha had to come up with the clincher: China, Russia and Iran will have priority over anyone else for all infrastructure investment and reconstruction projects when the war is over.

The New Silk Roads, or One Belt, One Road Initiative (Obor), will inevitably feature a Syrian hub – complete with the requisite legal support for Chinese companies involved in investment, construction and banking via a special commission created by the Syrian embassy, the China-Arab Exchange Association and the Beijing-based Shijing law firm.

Get me on that Shanghai-Latakia cargo

Few remember that before the war China had already invested tens of billions of US dollars in Syria’s oil and gas industry. Naturally the priority for Damascus, once the war is over, will be massive reconstruction of widely destroyed infrastructure. China could be part of that via the AIIB. Then comes investment in agriculture, industry and connectivity – transportation corridors in the Levant and connecting Syria to Iraq and Iran (other two Obor hubs).

What matters most of all is that Beijing has already taken the crucial step of being directly involved in the final settlement of the Syrian war – geopolitically and geo-economically. Beijing has had a special representative for Syria since last year – and has already been providing humanitarian aid.

Needless to add, all those elaborate plans depend on no more war. And there’s the rub.

With the demise of Daesh (ISIS), or at least its imminent loss of any significant urban center, no one knows in what manner a fragmented, phony Caliphate “Sunnistan” might be manipulated into cutting Syria from its New Silk Road future.

Qatar has already provided a game-changer; Doha has gotten closer to Tehran (common interests in South Pars/North Dome gas-field oblige), as well as Damascus – much to the despair of the House of Saud. So, unlike the recent past, Qatar is not engaged in regime change anymore. But still there are the diverging interests of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Israel and, of course, Washington, to accommodate.

A possible scenario out of what Putin and Trump negotiated in Hamburg – that was not relayed by either Lavrov or Tillerson – is that the ceasefire in southwestern Syria, assuming it holds, could mean US peacekeeping forces in effect sanctioning the creation of a demilitarized zone (DMZ) between the Syrian Golan and the rest of the country.

Translation: the Golan de facto annexed by Israel. And the “carrot” for Moscow would be Washington accepting Crimea de facto re-incorporated into the Russian Federation.

That may sound less far-fetched than it seems. The next few months will tell if this is indeed a plausible scenario.

The other big sticking point is Ankara against the YPG Kurds. Contrary to the ominous and quite possible Balkanization scenario, Washington and Moscow might well decide, in tandem, to let them sort things out by themselves. Then we will inevitably have the Turkish army occupying al-Bab for the foreseeable future.

The bottom line: that Saudi Arabia gets nothing. And Israel and Turkey get political/military “wins”. It’s hard to imagine how Moscow could possibly sell this arrangement to Iran as a victory. Still, Tehran may not have a free flow Iran-Iraq-Syria-Hezbollah route totally back in action, but it will maintain close relations with Damascus and be engaged in the expansion of the New Silk Roads.

The key question from now on seems to be whether Washington will follow the deep state “Syraq” policy – as in “Assad must go” mixed with support or weaponizing of non-existent “moderate rebels”; or whether Trump’s priority – to eliminate Daesh/ISIS for good – will prevail.

Beijing, anyway, has made up its mind. It will work non-stop for the Iran-Iraq-Syria triumvirate to become a key hub in Obor. Any bets against a future, booming Shanghai-Latakia container route?


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

  • The “Southern Deal” Between Moscow and Washington: A Duel of Diplomacies

The main result of the meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his American counterpart, Donald Trump, on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg on 7 July 2017 was a ceasefire agreement for a de-escalation zone in the governorates of Daraa, Quneitra and As-Suwayda in southwest Syria and on setting up a ceasefire monitoring center in Amman.

The United State’s involvement in the multilateral Syrian settlement format marks an important new milestone in this process. American, Jordanian and, unofficially, Israeli participation in the settlement process allows for inclusion in the negotiations of the American-aligned Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and groups of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in As-Suweyda and the Syrian Desert, as well as pro-Jordanian factions on the Southern Front, which refused to send their delegations to the fifth round of the Astana process. This achievement could potentially help preserve Syria’s territorial integrity and include in the peace process all Syrian forces that are inclined to engage with other states diplomatically, and the territories they control, without any exceptions.

It should be noted that reports about a certain planned de-escalation zone with US participation in the south of Syria surfaced long before the meeting between the Russian and American presidents…..

Scenario one

The United State’s involvement in the multilateral Syrian settlement format marks an important new milestone in this process…….

Scenario two

Hall Gardner:
Breaking the U.S.-Russia Impasse: Keeping the Door Open to Dialogue

The United States and Russia officially expanded the southern de-escalation zone identified in Astana by involving external players that are instumental in Syria’s southern regions, namely Jordan and, informally, Israel. If were to happen, then Washington and possibly Amman would effectively become full participants in the Astana talks. Such a development could be regarded as an undoubted success of both Russian and American diplomacy: Moscow made Washington shoulder the responsibility for the actions of the Syrian opposition, while Washington, for its part, forced Moscow to influence Damascus and Iran, which is an extremely difficult task. The Russian media prefer not to mention it, but it is in the best interests of the Al-Assad government and the Iranians, whose clout in Syria depends directly on survival of the current Syrian regime, to discredit the entire opposition without exception.

Scenario three

What the United States and Russia did was “reset” the format of the southern de-escalation zone as defined in Astana. In particular, this is the scenario at which Associated Press sources hinted when saying that the current agreement between the United States and Russia has nothing to do with the Astana memorandum.

It is possible that, following the creation of the southern de-escalation zones and the security zone, with the USA among the guarantor nations, creation of similar de-escalation zones elsewhere in Syria will be discussed or is, indeed, already being discussed…..

(for more see att.)

  • MOSCOW JUNE 2017 THESES ON RUSSIA’S FOREIGN POLICY AND GLOBAL POSITIONING (2017–2024) TEXT: IVAN TIMOFEEV EDITED BY ANDREY KORTUNOV AND SERGEY UTKIN FOREIGN AND SECURITY POLICY 4 Abstract and key points 5 The Situation in the Modern World 8 Russia Today: The Goals and Objectives of Global Positioning 13 Russia’s Positioning in the CIS 18 Russia and Non-Western Countries 22 Russia and the West 27 Functional areas and foreign policy instruments 31 Index 5 Abstract and key points The theses on foreign policy presented below are the result of a project co-run by the Center for Strategic Research (CSR) and the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC).
  • As part of the project, 30 interviews were conducted with RIAC members: prominent diplomats, major international relations experts, media executives and entrepreneurs. As a separate part of the project, a series of case studies were conducted with the participation of experts and RIAC members.
  • Work on the project was closely related to other aspects of the CSR’s activity with regard to the most topical issues of Russia’s domestic and foreign policy.
  • The theses were based upon the results of a parallel study conducted by a team of researchers at the Primakov Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
  • The key findings of this study are as follows: The modern world is at a crossroads. There is a high possibility that rivalry between the key players will intensify. A number of global problems are worsening. At the same time, the level of globalization that has been reached to date allows for negative trends to be mitigated by making the cost of conflicts unacceptably high. It is in Russia’s best interests to help ensure that this is the scenario that unfolds. Efforts to facilitate the resolution of conflicts and help create a comfortable, democratic, controllable and safe international environment without boundaries and divisions should form the core of Russia’s global positioning. It should not be a fundamental premise of Russia’s foreign policy to count on the inevitable “chaotization” of international relations. Russia is one of the most prominent powers in the world today. It has managed to overcome the threat of disintegration and the most difficult political consequences that resulted from the collapse of the USSR. The country conducts an active foreign policy, and is consistent in protecting its interests abroad. At the same time, Russia is lagging behind in a number of critical areas….( for more see att.)



Brexit: the view from Russia

By Alexey Gromyko (RAS Corresponding member, Director of IE RAS )

Working paper №3, 2017 (№29)

…..Brexit as a nominal term, signifying the force of centrifugal processes inside Western structures, has both indirect and direct consequences for the interests of Russia. Here we speak not only about economic and other mercantile interests of Moscow. Of course, they play a significant part in considerations about Brexit of any state and society on the Old Continent. Major potential or existing economic problems in the UK are not in the interests of a certain part of the Russian business community. More so if these problems spill over to the Single European market. We should keep in mind that the Russian trade turnover with the EU, even after two years of sanctions war, is about 44%.

Still Brexit is about something much bigger – about a potential to prolong the uncertainty in the international relations. In world affairs there are not so many countries, which are endowed with global responsibility, and Russia and the UK are among such players. From this point of view, for Russia, if to base the analysis on strategic not tactical thinking, further destabilization of the West is not beneficial. And obviously Brexit is a source of exasperation for the EU and potentially for NATO as well. Both organizations are pillars of what is called the collective West…..

Returning to Brexit, it is difficult not to make a conclusion that it is a strategic miscalculation of the British political establishment. The UK now faces a long period of uncertainty in geopolitics, geo-economics and even in its internal political cohesion. For the EU, Brexit is also an obvious loss, but it shouldn’t become the beginning of its end. If lessons are learned, the EU might be able to modernize itself and to cease looking upon the surrounding world as a territory for cultivation. There is some hope in a Global strategy for the EU foreign and security policy, which Mogherini made public several days after Brexit referendum.1 For example, this applies to the ideas of principled pragmatism, strategic autonomy, reciprocal inspiration between different regional integration projects.


Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster*DIW Berlin Führungskräfte-Monitor 2017:

Anteil von Frauen in Führungspositionen nimmt nur noch langsam zu, Gleichstellung liegt in weiter Ferne

Die Studie informiert auf Basis von neun Kerngrößen mit 52 Einzelindikatoren auf 168 Seiten nicht nur über die Entwicklung des Anteils von Frauen in Führungspositionen und den Verdienstunterschieden, sondern gibt auch einen Einblick in die beruflichen und privaten Lebenswirklichkeiten von angestellten Führungskräften in der Privatwirtschaft. Der Frauenanteil ist in dieser Gruppe in 20 Jahren (1995 bis 2015) um rund zehn Prozentpunkte auf etwa 30 Prozent gestiegen. Vor dem Hintergrund des rasanten Qualifikationszuwachses von Frauen in Vergangenheit bleibt die Entwicklung hinter den Erwartungen zurück.
Offenbar spielen auch kulturelle Rahmenbedingungen eine wichtige Rolle: In Ostdeutschland lag der Frauenanteil 2015 bei 44 Prozent und war innerhalb von 20 Jahren um 19 Prozentpunkte gestiegen; in Westdeutschland lag er hingen zuletzt bei 27 Prozent und nahm in 20 Jahren mit 8 Prozentpunkten deutlich schwächer zu. Damit sind in Ostdeutschland sowohl das Niveau des Frauenanteils sowie die Entwicklungsdynamik höher als in Westdeutschland.

Der Gender Pay Gap bei Führungskräften hat sich in den vergangenen Jahren im Mittel leicht verringert, die Verdienstlücke blieb mit durchschnittlich 23 Prozent aber erheblich. Vergleicht man statt des Durchschnittswertes den häufig als robustere Größe geltenden Medianwert, der von extrem hohen und niedrigen Werten kaum beeinflusst wird, hat sich der Verdienstunterschied zwischen Männern und Frauen mit 26 Prozent nicht verändert. Er lag 2015 auf dem Niveau von vor 20 Jahren (1995). Die Verdienste und der Gender Pay Gap waren in Ostdeutschland deutlich geringer als in Westdeutschland…

…lesen Sie weiter hier:

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

Barandat*Deutsche Bank Research: Parteien schreiben Zukunftsvorsorge zu klein

Die sozialpolitische Debatte in Deutschland ist erscheint paradox. Trotz steigender Sozialausgaben konstatieren manche Kritiker eine soziale Schieflage. Aber der Sozialschutz wirkt weithin, während die Sozialsystem profitieren von der guten Konjunktur. Auch für die Zukunft scheint eine weitere Expansion des Sozialstaates angelegt, wenn man an die demografische Entwicklung denkt und zugleich die Vorschläge der Parteien im Wahlkampf betrachtet. Zukunftsvorsorge der Sozialsysteme spielt nur die zweite Geige, obwohl den Steuer- und Beitragszahlern schon jetzt vermeidbare Belastungen aufgebürdet werden.


Middle East

Iran: Independence referendum will isolate, weaken Kurdistan

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Iran has warned a visiting Kurdish delegation that an independence referendum will isolate and weaken Kurdistan.

“Although this issue might be attractive in appearance, but actually, it will isolate and pressure the Iraqi Kurds and weaken Kurdistan and finally all of Iraq,” Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, said in Tehran on Monday.

“A peaceful, stable and united Iraq is what gives the country security and development. Friendly and neighboring countries should support Iraq,” Shamkhani said, according to Mihr agency.

He accused regional and international countries of trying to weaken Iraq.

He made his comments in a meeting with members of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), including Kosrat Rasul and Mala Bakhtiar.

The PUK delegation reportedly thanked Iran for their support, noting historical ties between Tehran and Iraqi Kurds, according to IRNA.

The meeting was a friendly one, “in which strengthening relations between Iran and the Kurdistan Region was stressed,” Nazim Dabagh, the Kurdistan government’s representative to Iran, told Rudaw.

He said Iran expressed support for the achievement of Kurdish rights within the framework of Iraq’s constitution.

Iran, which backs the Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi armed force and holds influence over Baghdad, has expressed strong opposition to the Kurdish referendum, instead calling for a united Iraq.

“Iraq’s national sovereignty and integrity benefits all residents of the country and any change can make the country face chaos and crisis,” a spokesperson for Iran’s foreign ministry, Bahram Qassemi, said in a weekly press conference, according to Fars News.

He said that Iraq’s integrity is “not negotiable,” noting that Tehran has ties with the central government and Iraqi ethnic groups.

The PUK visit to Iran is at the request of Tehran, Dabagh told Rudaw on the weekend.

In a meeting in Erbil on Sunday with Iran’s ambassador to Iraq, Kurdistan Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani told Ambassador Iraj Masjedi that Tehran could play a positive role in resolving outstanding issues between Erbil and Baghdad.


*Massenbach’s Recommendation*

One Belt, One Road: When a Trade Route Isn’t a Trade Route.

This economic initiative is a political solution, not a commercial enterprise.


In the fall of 2013, just months after assuming office, Chinese President Xi Jinping unveiled the One Belt, One Road initiative during visits to Kazakhstan and Indonesia. Before Xi, Chinese strategy had been inspired by Deng Xiaoping’s warning in the 1990s. Chinese leaders, he insisted, should “hide our capacities and bide our time; be good at maintaining a low profile, and never claim leadership.”

It is tempting to think of OBOR as a consequence of Chinese maturation, an ambitious program of economic development that will vault the country into the 21st century. To some, it’s a direct challenge to the United States, something that requires a new strategy from Washington if it is to remain on top of the global order. The problem with this line of thinking, and in analyzing the U.S. perspective on OBOR in general, is that there’s very little in this economic initiative to be for or against. It is little more than a pipe dream. And what has materialized from the dream, at least so far, doesn’t hurt the United States’ position. If anything, OBOR helps its position.

One Belt: Eurasia

OBOR is really two plans combined to form a larger framework of new trade routes. The first of these is One Belt, which refers to the development of new infrastructure, particularly railroads and highways, to connect China’s interior provinces with Europe by way of Russia, Central Asia and the Middle East.

One of the most important provinces for One Belt is Xinjiang, the restive province in which China’s Uighur Muslims reside, and its experience is a useful example of the limitations inherent within One Belt. Xinjiang has seen impressive growth in recent years – its regional gross domestic product increased 62 percent between 2010 and 2014, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. The problem is that even for Xinjiang, the gravity of the global economy still pulls its economic activity east to the sea, not west to the center of Eurasia. There are no open-source numbers available that break down Chinese exports by mode of transport, but the vast majority of China’s export destinations in 2016 were all countries to which Chinese goods arrived by sea, not by land.

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Of course, insufficient regional infrastructure has tempered expectations of increasing overland exports. But the bigger problem with One Belt is geopolitical: Eurasia is in a state of crisis, and several of the countries China borders will feel the crisis particularly acutely in the coming years. Central Asia, a patchwork of states whose borders were drawn to make the countries more easily controlled from Moscow during the Soviet era, is hardly a promising market for Chinese goods. Furthermore, it is one of the most politically unstable regions in the world. One Belt is not a long march into prosperity – it’s a long march into disaster.

For the United States, there is a single overarching strategic imperative in Eurasia: to prevent the rise of a power that could potentially challenge U.S. hegemony in the world. No such power is likely to appear anytime soon, and even if One Belt were able to achieve its extremely ambitious goals, such a power would still be constrained by geography and regional rivalry. If anything, the U.S. would welcome the possibility of improved infrastructure and increased trade, providing new economic opportunities to some of these impoverished and increasingly destabilized regions. The Middle East, for example, has descended into chaos largely because of the limited economic opportunities available to young people. If the construction of a vast network of trade infrastructure brings economic opportunity to Eurasia’s most unstable regions, even if it enhances China’s international prestige, the U.S. could easily live with it.

One Road: Maritime

More important to the United States is the One Road component of the initiative – China’s vision of a new Maritime Silk Road. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, roughly 80 percent of global trade by volume and over 70 percent of global trade by value is conducted by sea. The One Road portion of OBOR is meant to increase Chinese construction of ports in countries along maritime routes that are already used in seaborne trade. China has already seen this strategy pay some dividends, having been awarded contracts to build ports in Myanmar and Sri Lanka. China also, however, has had some setbacks; a deal Beijing had with Bangladesh fell through in 2016 when Dhaka decided that an offer from Japan to build a port better suited its needs.

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Washington’s strategic imperative in the seas is similar to its imperative in Eurasia: to prevent the rise of a potential challenger, an imperative that entails dominating the seas and ensuring the flow of international trade. This is why One Road is a little more concerning than One Belt; the U.S. can accept and even benefit from Chinese influence in Eurasia, but it cannot tolerate a Chinese navy commensurate with the ambition of One Road. It signals Beijing’s intent to expand the size and capability of its navy.

Still, from a U.S. perspective, the importance of China’s projects along the Maritime Silk Road is significantly overinflated. Constructing ports will not provide China with permanent bases for Chinese destroyers or armies – the countries in question have yet to agree to host them. More important, the Chinese navy, despite its impressive advances over the past 25 years, is not capable of extended, long-term deployments in countries far away from the mainland.

As Dr. Bernard Cole, a professor at the National War College, notes in his latest book on the Chinese navy, the navy “lacks seaborne air power, and it has no fixed-wing capable ships, only nascent in-flight refueling capacity, no airborne air control, and limited joint operational capability with the [air force].” Though equipped with an aircraft carrier to parade its advances, the Chinese navy does not currently have a single carrier battle group trained and ready for action.

The priority of China’s navy is to protect Chinese territorial claims in its littoral waters. The drama that surrounded U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s phone conversation with the president of Taiwan in 2016 emphasized just how weak China is relative to the United States: China can’t really stop the United States from “meddling” in Taiwan, let alone match its navy pound for pound. So long as this is the case, China’s interests are actually in sync with those of the U.S., at least when it comes to global maritime trade. This is because the Chinese economy depends on exports and the vast majority of those exports are shipped via sea.

There are other reasons One Road will be ineffectual. The U.S. favors the status quo in Asia and so has no desire to change the balance of power. Smaller countries are suspicious of Chinese intentions; though they would happily accept Chinese money, there’s no guarantee they will always do Beijing’s bidding. U.S. allies, such as Japan, India, Australia, South Korea and Taiwan, moreover, have formidable navies that can curb Chinese assertion.

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All this elides a bigger flaw in China’s strategy. Even if Beijing were able to scrounge up the trillions of dollars needed to build infrastructure in the world’s most inhospitable places, the fact remains that it is appreciably cheaper to transport by sea than to transport by land. It’s partly the reason why so much trade is conducted by sea, and there’s no reason to think this will change any time soon. One Road may be the more geopolitically significant aspect of OBOR, but maritime trade already forms the basis of the global economy without any help from China.

An Empty Vessel

OBOR is frequently and incorrectly compared to the Marshall Plan, the initiative by which the United States solidified its political influence in Europe by providing economic and technical assistance to war-ravaged countries.

The differences between the two are stark. The Marshall Plan was codified into law as the Foreign Assistance Act of 1948. The Foreign Assistance Act of 1948 is a dry, 23-page document that lays out clear guidelines for the organizations that were set up to administer the funds, the advisory boards that oversaw those organizations, and the salaries and residences of the officials in charge of these organizations. The Marshall Plan was a highly focused and specifically targeted set of measures formulated and executed with a clear goal in mind: rebuild Europe so that the Iron Curtain would not creep farther west than it did.

The OBOR action plan, published by various organs of the Chinese government in 2015, bears no resemblance to this document. It begins by touting the virtues of what it calls the “Silk Road Spirit” – “peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit.” (That the Silk Road was first and foremost about trade, i.e. making money, seems to have been forgotten or ignored, as has the fact that some Central Asian territories were conquered and that many dynasties paid tribute to the various tribes and enemies along the route.) There are no concrete action items set out in the Chinese government’s action plan for what has become one of Xi’s most visible policy initiatives. The document contains a number of generic proposals interspersed with platitudes about cooperation and understanding.

Those who are bullish on OBOR note that China has actually enacted some of this flowery language. For example, the Chinese government has established a Silk Road Fund worth $40 billion. In October 2014, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank was founded with $100 billion of funding, more than a third of which came from China. The New Development Bank, which is a funding source for BRICS countries, has another $100 billion of investment it can draw on. These appear to be positive steps for OBOR.

But appearances can be deceiving. In truth, $240 billion is nothing compared to the trillions of dollars OBOR calls for. (HSBC has projected that OBOR will require at least $4 trillion-$6 trillion over the next 15 years. Likely, that estimate is too low.) OBOR is supposed to create multiple economic corridors covering almost two-thirds of the world’s population and a third of global GDP. The infrastructure necessary to bind Eurasia together will require the construction of roads, railways, ports and other elements across vast distances in some of the harshest geographies and least populated areas in the world. The fact that more than 4.4 billion people account for only a third of the world’s GDP is often glossed over when the goals of OBOR are touted, and that’s because it shows just how poor many of these areas are.

And yet, besides the capital necessary to get its ambitious programs off the ground, there are two bigger problems with OBOR. The first is that even if China and the various countries it has identified as its Silk Road partners come up with the money, OBOR does not have a centralized organizing body or a strategic goal it is meant to accomplish beyond enriching all of Eurasia. Looking at the projects the AIIB has approved in recent months is telling: rehabilitating a hydropower plant in Tajikistan, investing in Indian infrastructure service companies with high growth, a highway project in Georgia, a dam improvement project in Indonesia. Though they benefit local populations, they are all far-flung, one-off infrastructure projects that do not connect to form a new Silk Road and, thus, do nothing to increase Chinese power.

The second problem is that China’s main goal for OBOR is to accomplish what each successive Chinese leader has failed to do: distribute the wealth of the coast to the impoverished parts of China’s interior without destabilizing the country. China has chosen to dress its OBOR strategy in the raiment of the Silk Road, which to most of the world conjures up images of history and nostalgia for a simpler time. But that should not obscure the differences between the Silk Road and OBOR. The Silk Road was built on the exchange of goods between equally willing trading partners. China possessed silk. India possessed spices. The Romans and later the Europeans possessed silver and other precious metals. British historian Peter Frankopan estimates that in the 1st century nearly half the money produced by the mint of the Roman Empire was used to buy Chinese silk. The Silk Road was a constantly evolving marketplace that moved goods across a vast continent where they could be exchanged for other goods. And unlike today, Eurasia was the center of world civilization, home to the most important economies.

That world is gone, and Eurasia is no longer what it was. China may be the world’s second-largest economy, but the U.S. economy is still much larger. The U.S. is the largest consumer of Chinese exports and, just as important, it does not rely on exports for growth. The most concrete part of the OBOR action plan is how Chinese provinces are to profit from developments in infrastructure and increased trade. As the U.S.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies pointed out in a study published in March 2016, OBOR is not about China’s geopolitical ambitions but rather about achieving two domestic economic objectives.

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The first objective is to enrich the interior provinces, which remain woefully impoverished compared to the richer coastal regions despite China’s preternatural growth rates in the last three decades. The second objective is to find new overland markets that can absorb China’s massive excess capacity of steel, coal and other key commodities. China is struggling to cut the production of these commodities but has found that it cannot do so without sacrificing economic growth rates, and for the Chinese Communist Party, whose legitimacy has been built on the enrichment of the masses, this is not a realistic option. Beijing is hoping OBOR will help China find a place to dump the surplus commodities it has produced and to justify increased infrastructure spending in these less-developed parts of the country.

OBOR ultimately matters relatively little. The initiative itself is ill-defined and has produced little of tangible importance in the three years since it was announced. Any successes achieved through OBOR do not threaten to upend the global balance of power. And as for U.S.-China relations, Washington has far more pressing issues with China, the most important among them being trade policy, developments in the Chinese navy, and the maintenance of U.S. power in the Asia-Pacific region. For China, OBOR is about weaknesses in its domestic economy and about increasing its national prestige so as to appear more powerful than it is. China has already succeeded at the latter, but if OBOR is to be truly transformative, it must help China deal with the former, and whether it can remains an open question.


Qatar, Saudi Arabia to Islamize One of Europe’s Greatest Cathedrals

  • In Islamic symbolism, Córdoba is the lost Caliphate. Political authorities in Córdoba dealt a blow to the Catholic Church’s claim of ownership of cathedral by declaring that "religious consecration is not the way to acquire property". But this is how history works, especially in the lands where Christianity and Islam fought hard for dominion. Why are secularists not pressing Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to give Christians back the Hagia Sophia? No one has raised an eyebrow that "Christendom’s greatest cathedral has become a mosque".
  • The Spanish left, governing the region, would like to convert the church into "a place for the meeting of faiths". Nice ecumenical words, but a death trap for the Islamic domination over other faiths. If these Islamists, supported by the militant secularists, will be able to bring Allah back inside the Cathedral of Córdoba, a tsunami of Islamic supremacism will submerge Europe’s decaying Christianity. There are thousands of empty churches just waiting to be filled by the voices of muezzins.
  • The Western attempt to free Jerusalem in the Middle Ages has been condemned as Christian imperialism, while the Muslim campaigns to colonize and Islamize the Byzantine Empire, North Africa, the Balkans, Egypt, the Middle East and most of Spain, to name but a few, are celebrated as a season of enlightenment.

Muslim supremacists seem to have fantasies — as well as a long history — of converting Christian sites to Islamic ones. Take, for example, Saint-Denis, the Gothic cathedral named for the first Christian bishop of Paris who was buried there in 250, and the burial place of Charles Martel, whose victory stopped the Muslim invasion of France in 732. Now, according to the scholar Gilles Kepel, this burial place of most of France’s kings and queens is "the Mecca in Islam of France". The French Islamists are dreaming of taking it over and replacing the church bells with the call of the muezzin.

In Turkey’s greatest cathedral, Hagia Sophia, a muezzin’s call recently reverberated inside the sixth-century church for the first time in 85 years.

In France, Muslim leaders called for converting abandoned churches into mosques. thereby echoing The late writer Emile Cioran once predicted of Europe: "The French will not wake up until Notre Dame becomes a mosque".

Now it is the turn of Spain’s greatest Catholic site, the Cathedral of Córdoba. Spanish "leftists" and secularists would now, it seems, like to convert to Islam the cathedral of Córdoba, the symbol of a time when "Islam was on the verge of turning the Mediterranean into a Muslim lake". Now that Islam is again conquering large swaths of the Middle East and Africa, is it not a coincidence that this campaign is gaining ground?

In 550 the Cathedral of Córdoba was a Christian basilica, dedicated to a saint; then, in 714, it was occupied by the Muslims, who destroyed it and converted it into the Great Mosque of Córdoba during the reign of Caliph Abd al Rahman I. The site was returned to Catholic worship by King Ferdinand III in 1523 and became the current great Cathedral of Córdoba, one of the most important sites of Western Christianity. Now an alliance of secularists and Islamists are trying to turn the church back to Islamic worship.

The Wall Street Journal called it deconquista, playing with the word reconquista, the time when Spain was returned from Islam to Catholicism. "The Great Mosque of Córdoba" is what UNESCO — also torturing, upending and turning history on its head to rewrite the past of Jerusalem and Hebron — calls it. In the last six centuries, however, only Catholic mass and confessions have been officiated there. The WSJ charges "left-wing Spanish intellectuals" with trying to "de-Christianize" the site.

The main altar of the Cathedral of Córdoba. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons/© José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro / CC BY-SA 3.0)

A recent Islamic State map of domination includes not only the Middle East, but also Spain. ISIS calls it "Al-Andalus". Gatestone’s Soeren Kern, among others, has detailed ISIS’s call to retake Spain. Osama bin Laden, who targeted Spain in a terror attack in 2004, frequently referred to Al-Andalus in his videos and speeches. Daniel Pipes has further explained, "even centuries after the reconquista of 1492, Muslims continued to long to recreate Muslim Andalusia". Bin Laden’s heir, Ayman al-Zawahiri, also weighed in: "The return of Andalus to Muslim hands is a duty for the umma [Muslim community]". Syrian Jihadists call Spain "the land of our ancestors". In Islamic symbolism, Córdoba is the lost Caliphate.

It is self-destructive and surreal that Spanish secularists — those who claim to care about separation of church and state — are now supporting Muslim supremacists in their "reconquista of the Mosque of Córdoba".

The recent wave of immigration has brought many Muslims to Spain; the Islamic Spanish population has almost doubled from about a million in 2007 to 1.9 million today. 350,000 people signed a petition promoted by the Spanish "left", calling for the expropriation of the Christian building. Political authorities in Córdoba dealt a blow to the Catholic Church’s claim of ownership of cathedral by declaring that "religious consecration is not the way to acquire property". But this is how history works, especially in the lands where Christianity and Islam fought hard for dominion. Why are secularists not pressing Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to give Christians back the Hagia Sophia? No one has raised an eyebrow that "Christendom’s greatest cathedral has become a mosque".

The Spanish "left", governing the region, would like to convert the church into "a place for the meeting of faiths". Nice ecumenical words, but a death trap for the Islamic domination over other faiths. In 2010, a group of Muslim activists tried to pray inside the building. To raise support from American Catholics, the Bishop of Córdoba, Demetrio Fernández González, recently explained that the law of Andalusia would allow the expropriation of the cathedral if a court ruled that the Catholic Church failed to preserve the building. "It has become fashionable on the left to romanticize the Islamic past of Spain", noted the Wall Street Journal.

"The Catholics of the Reconquista are thought of as crude fanatics, whereas the caliphate is presented as a haven of tolerance and learning where Jews and Christians—never mind their second-class status—lived side-by-side with Muslims in happy convivencia. Barack Obama even cited Andalusia as an example of Islam’s "proud tradition of tolerance" during his 2009 speech in Cairo".

Our secular establishment in the newspapers, universities and popular culture damns the Crusades as a proof of Western guilt towards the Islamic world. The Western attempt to free Jerusalem in the Middle Ages has been condemned as Christian imperialism, while the Muslim campaigns to colonize and Islamize the Byzantine Empire, North Africa, the Balkans, Egypt, the Middle East and most of Spain, to name but a few, are celebrated as a season of enlightenment. Nobody, however, seems to have any concern about Islamic muezzins rising from the roofs of many cities in the West. While the West whips itself for slavery, it never raises any questions about slavery in the Islamic world, currently in full force (although officially "abolished") in Saudi Arabia, Mauritania, and West Africa, among other places.

The question about Córdoba’s cathedral now on everyone’s lips is: Who will fund the campaign to bring Islam back to the great Christian site? The answer is Qatar. The emirate is supporting the campaign of Islamic organizations to convert the church to Islam. The Middle East is full of churches transformed into mosques, such as the Omayyad of Damascus, Ibn Tulun of Cairo, and the Hagia Sophia Cathedral in Istanbul. Islamists are now eager to do the same in Córdoba. The Catholic Church has taken a position. As the Bishop of Córdoba, Demetrio Fernandez, said, "sharing the space with Muslims would be like a man sharing his wife with another man".

An analyst at the Spanish Institute of Strategic Studies of the Ministry of Defense, Colonel Emilio Sánchez de Rojas, recently gave a lecture in which he explained that Córdoba is "a reference for Islam". He charged Qatar and Saudi Arabia with "campaigns of influence in the West", and as "a source of funding for the campaign for the re-Islamization of the Cathedral in Córdoba".

If these Islamists, supported by the militant secularists, will be able to bring Allah back inside the Cathedral of Córdoba, a tsunami of Islamic supremacism will submerge Europe’s decaying Christianity. There are thousands of empty churches just waiting to be filled by the voices of muezzins.



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



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