Massenbach-Letter. NEWS 13.04.18

Massenbach-Letter. News

  • The National Interest: Striking Syria Again Would Be a Grave Mistake for America (and President Trump).
  • Nord-West Zeitung (Oldenburg) – Kommentar – Zum Syrischen Bürgerkrieg : Hilfloser Westen.
  • Geopolitical Intelligence Service – Turkey, Iran and the potential for peace in Syria.
  • David Schenker Nominated to Be Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs.
  • Why the Marshall Plan Worked — and Why It Won’t in Today’s Warzones.
  • Japan activates first marines since WW2 to bolster defenses against China.
  • Still a topic: Blick-durch-die-Wirtschaft, Frankfurt, 18 Jan 1981:„Wie anders sind die Moslems? Araber in einer fremden Gedankenwelt.

Nur der Abbau von Clichévorstellungen öffnet den Zugang zu andersdenkenden Partnern.“

  • Strategic Stabilization: A Window of Opportunities for Russia and the U.S.
  • Four Years of EU–Ukraine Association: Teething Problems or Permanent Crisis?
  • Caucasian Knot. NEWS.

Massenbach*Defense One: “Why the Marshall Plan Worked — and Why It Won’t in Today’s Warzones”.

By Benn Steil Director of International Economics, Council on Foreign Relations

“…A host of similar-sounding yet unworkable aid schemes are among the legacies of the one that launched 70 years ago Tuesday. The common underlying belief in all these cases is that financial aid can bring harmony, political stability, and prosperity. But this is to misunderstand the Marshall Plan and the circumstances that made it work…. On the surface, at least, it worked. Output increased by 60 percent over the period, and the Communists were marginalized. It is important to recognize, however, that financial aid did not achieve this on its own…., it is critical to recognize that physical security is prerequisite for economic revival.”

The Marshall Plan—the mammoth aid scheme to revive western Europe after World War II—celebrates its 70th anniversary on April 3.

And perhaps its most enduring legacy is the endless desire to repeat it.

“On May 10, 1948, the John H. Quick brought 8,800 tons of wheat to the port of Bordeaux, the first shipboard aid to France under the Marshall Plan.”

In recent years, there have been a striking number of impassioned calls from western statesmen and celebrity philanthropists for new “Marshall Plans” around the globe: Hillary Clinton for the Arab Middle East, former German finance minister Peer Steinbrueck in southern Europe; George Soros for Ukraine; and most recently Sen. Chris Murphy for Syria. Al Gore wants one for the environment. The list goes on. As German economist Werner Abelshauser observed, “There is hardly a crisis anywhere in the world which in the view of the West ought not be solved by a sort of Marshall Plan.”

The common underlying belief in all these cases is that financial aid can bring harmony, political stability, and prosperity. But this is to misunderstand the Marshall Plan and the circumstances that made it work.

The Marshall Plan — formally, the European Recovery Program — was the first major policy component of U.S. diplomat George Kennan’s new strategy of “containing” the Soviet Union, which he outlined in an important Foreign Affairs article in 1947. The aid tendered, as a percentage of U.S. output, would be equivalent to about $800 billion today. The idea was to hasten the recovery in West European output, thereby bolstering each nation’s ability to resist Soviet subversion and the temptations of local Communist parties—which were particularly powerful in Italy and France. The Truman administration believed such a recovery would allow the United States to protect its vital political and economic interests in Europe without having to maintain millions of troops there. “The greatest danger to the security of the United States,” warned the new Central Intelligence Agency, “is the possibility of economic collapse in western Europe and the consequent accession to power of communist elements.”

The aid was to be spread over four years. This was meant to convince the recipients that the United States would not, after disbursing the funds, retreat into isolation as it had after World War I. It was also to be premised on a program, to be devised in Europe itself, for economic integration, in order to ensure that resources were used most efficiently. The State Department’s Will Clayton believed passionately that western Europe needed to look more like the United States if it wished to maximize its living standards and maintain popular support for free enterprise.

On the surface, at least, it worked. Output increased by 60 percent over the period, and the Communists were marginalized. It is important to recognize, however, that financial aid did not achieve this on its own.

The United States has spent more than $200 billion on reconstruction in Afghanistan and Iraq—or over 50 percent more than the totality of Marshall aid, in current dollars. Yet it has precious little to show for it, economically or politically. The most important reason is a lack of security. Neither country has ever achieved full control of its territory. Instead, both have been under constant siege from armed domestic and foreign opponents, such as the Taliban and ISIS. Their governments have also not been, unlike Marshall governments, natural allies of the United States, which has in turn been at odds with alternative neighboring benefactors such as Iran.

The Marshall Plan, too, would not have worked without security. In fact, the French and the British were adamant that they could not carry out the State Department’s integration vision without security guarantees from the United States. Integration meant sacrificing self-sufficiency. Being dependent on, say, coal from western Germany meant the possibility that a future Germany—perhaps under Soviet control—could throttle its economies by cutting off supply. This in turn meant an intolerable national security risk. Businesses would not invest and the economy would not recover under such a threat. They therefore persuaded the Truman administration to add, in April 1949, what the latter came to call a “military ERP”—security guarantees under a North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It was this combination of aid, integration, and security which underlay western Europe’s remarkable recovery.

In short, the foundation that enabled American economic statecraft to be so successful in post-war Europe is lacking in the cases of Iraq and Afghanistan, or Ukraine and Syria. Financial aid cannot on its own bring peace, political reform, or even economic stability. Given the insatiable desire to create new Marshall Plans around the globe, it is critical to recognize that physical security is prerequisite for economic revival.

  • Benn Steil is director of International Economics at the Council on Foreign Relations and author, most recently, of "The Marshall Plan: Dawn of the Cold War." Full bio


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

  • Strategic Stabilization: A Window of Opportunities for Russia and the U.S.

April 4, 2018 – Sarmat / Satan-2 launch – Dmitry Stefanovich

Independent expert

“Despite the belligerent nuclear statements by Russia and the U.S. in the first quarter of 2018, the configuration of a possible future for the international arms control regimes can be seen beyond the veil of rhetoric.”

  • Four Years of EU–Ukraine Association: Teething Problems or Permanent Crisis?

April 9, 2018 – REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko –

Aleksandr Gushchin (PhD in History, Associate Professor, Department of Post-Soviet Countries, Russian State University for the Humanities, RIAC expert)

“The Ukraine–European Union Association Agreement came into force in 2017. March 2018 marked four years since the signing of the political provisions of the agreement. This is a long enough period to try and assess, however briefly, Ukraine’s achievements on the difficult path towards association with the European Union. This appears particularly relevant given the fact that the past several years have been the most difficult in Ukraine’s post-Soviet history….” (recommend. UvM)

Caucasian Knot. NEWS.

  • Battalion of military police returns from Syria to Ingushetia
  • NGOs criticize Georgia’s proposals to residents of Abkhazia and South Ossetia

The Georgian authorities have offered residents of Abkhazia and South Ossetia to use the "Step to Better Future" programme, which provides for the expansion of trade ties, support for common business projects, training at Georgian universities and chances to visit EU countries without a visa.

Activists of the NGOs established by refugees from Abkhazia and South Ossetia have stated that their fellow countrymen are not ready to accept these proposals.

Georgian authorities intend to create a special economic zone and introduce incentives for doing businesses by residents of Abkhazia and South Ossetia…

Residents of Abkhazia are not ready for such cooperation, as interpersonal relations are not settled….

For example, Abkhazian products fail to meet the EU standards; and they cannot be exported. Also, when conducting any joint business, problems usually arise; and they will be always backed "by unsettled ethnic relations; and this may end very badly."

Let us remind you that on March 9, Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili announced his readiness for a dialogue with the authorities of Russia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The opposition treated it as a sign of "impotence" and readiness to concede to Russia.

Full text of the article is available on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’.


Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* David Schenker Nominated to Be Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs

Washington Institute congratulates scholar-practitioner on appointment to top Mideast diplomatic post.

(Washington, D.C. – April 10) The Washington Institute for Near East Policy congratulates David Schenker, director of the organization’s Program on Arab Politics, on his nomination to be assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs.

"This is an inspired appointment," said Institute Executive Director Robert Satloff. "As the director of our Arab politics program for more than a decade, David has led Institute research and programming on a broad array of regional topics during an especially turbulent period. He will undoubtedly enrich U.S. Middle East policy with his deep scholarship and his valuable experience as a public official. America’s interests in security and peace in the region will be better for his service."
If confirmed by the Senate, Schenker — the Institute’s Aufzien Fellow — will become the State Department’s senior official responsible for Middle East issues.

"We are proud of the fact that David Schenker will be the latest in a long line of Institute experts to join the government in senior positions — in both Republican and Democratic administrations — to provide expertise on the Middle East," said Institute President Shelly Kassen and Chairman Martin J. Gross.

Schenker has served as director of the Institute’s Program on Arab Politics since 2006. Previously, he served in the George W. Bush administration as Levant country director in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, in which capacity he was responsible for advising the secretary and senior Pentagon leaders on the military and political affairs of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian territories. His service was recognized with the Office of the Secretary of Defense Medal for Exceptional Civilian Service in 2005.

Prior to joining the Pentagon, Schenker was a research fellow at the Institute, focusing on Arab governance. The author of books on Iraq and Jordan and on Palestinian politics, his commentary on Arab affairs appears often in prominent scholarly journals and leading media outlets. Fluent in Arabic, Schenker received his master’s degree from the University of Michigan and his undergraduate degree from the University of Vermont.

About the Washington Institute: The Washington Institute is an independent, nonpartisan research institution funded exclusively by U.S. citizens that seeks to advance a balanced and realistic understanding of American interests in the Middle East and to promote the policies that secure them. Drawing on the research of its fellows and the experience of its policy practitioners, the Institute promotes informed debate and scholarly research on U.S. policy in the region.


Politics: From Vision to Action

Barandat* Reuters: Japan activates first marines since WW2 to bolster defenses against China

at Apr 7, 2018 / 2:49 AM EDT

(Reuters) – Japan on Saturday activated its first marine unit since World War Two trained to counter invaders occupying Japanese islands along the edge of the East China Sea that Tokyo fears are vulnerable to attack by China.

Soldiers of Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF)’s Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade, Japan’s first marine unit since World War Two,

gather at a ceremony activating the brigade at JGSDF’s Camp Ainoura in Sasebo, on the southwest island of Kyushu, Japan April 7, 2018.

In a ceremony held at a military base near Sasebo on the southwest island of Kyushu, about 1,500 members of the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade (ARDB) wearing camouflage lined up outside amid cold, windy weather.

"Given the increasingly difficult defense and security situation surrounding Japan, defense of our islands has become a critical mandate," Tomohiro Yamamoto, vice defense minister, said in a speech.

The troops conducted a 20-minute mock public exercise recapturing a remote island from invaders.

The formation of the Japanese marine brigade is controversial because amphibious units can project military force and could, critics warn, be used to threaten Japan’s neighbors. In its post World War Two constitution Japan renounced the right to wage war.

The brigade is the latest component of a growing marine force that includes helicopter carriers, amphibious ships, Osprey tilt-rotor troop carriers and amphibious assault vehicles, meant to deter China as it pushes for easier access to the Western Pacific.

China, which dominates the South China Sea, is outpacing Japan in defense spending. In 2018, Beijing which claims a group of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea controlled by Tokyo, will spend 1.11 trillion yuan ($176.56 billion) on its armed forces, more than three times as much as Japan.

The activation of the 2,100 strong ARDB takes Japan a step closer to creating a force similar to a U.S. Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) able to plan and execute operations at sea far from its home base.

"They’ve already demonstrated the ability to put together an ad hoc MEU. But to have a solid, standing MEU capability requires concerted effort," Grant Newsham, a research fellow at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies.

"If Japan put its mind to it, within a year or year and a half it could have a reasonable capability."

Newsham, who helped train Japan’s first amphibious troops as a U.S. Marine Corps colonel liaison officer assigned to the Ground Self Defense Force (GSDF), said Japan still needs a joint navy-army amphibious headquarters to coordinate operations as well as more amphibious ships to carry troops and equipment. Japanese military planners are already mulling some of those additions. Its Air Self Defense Force (ASDF) wants to acquire F-35Bs to operate from its Izumo and Ise helicopter carriers, or from islands along the East China Sea, sources have told Reuters.

The United States last month deployed its F-35Bs for their first at-sea operations aboard the USS Wasp amphibious assault ship, which is based in Sasebo. The Kyushu port is also home to Japan’s Ise and close to the ARDB’s base. Separately the GSDF may acquire small amphibious ships up to a 100 meters (328.08 ft) long to transport troops and equipment between islands and from ship to shore, two sources familiar with the discussion said. Japanese ground forces have not operated their own ships since World War Two.

"The idea is to bring forces and gear on large ships to the main Okinawa island and then disperse them to other islands on smaller vessels," said one of the sources, who asked not to be identified because they are not authorized to talk to the media.


Middle East

The National Interest: Striking Syria Again Would Be a Grave Mistake for America (and President Trump)

John Allen Gay

The first day of a new job is always rough. But pity incoming National Security Advisor John Bolton, who will probably not even have time to unpack. His first crisis has arrived before he has. Dozens of civilians are dead east of Damascus, apparently killed in a chlorine gas attack by the Assad regime. Footage circulating on social media shows the dead packed in a basement shelter: men, women, children, all lifeless.

Bolton’s new boss tweeted Sunday that there was a “big price to pay” and suggested that Barack Obama should have snuffed out “Animal Assad” during a similar crisis five years ago. The Joint Chiefs of Staff are reportedly set to present Trump with military options against Syria. We may see a rerun of the cruise missile strike last year on a Syrian air base. If this happens, few will shed tears for Assad’s men. But a strike would be a double error for the United States. First, it would not address a vital U.S. national security interest. Our military strength can deter similar attacks on America. Second, a strike would erode the rule of law here at home. Under the Constitution, the president does not have the power to initiate war. The Syria threat is not so serious that we should break our laws to address it.

War and death in a far corner of the world do not automatically threaten vital U.S. national interests. Our “detached and distant situation,” to borrow a phrase from George Washington, means that we rarely face direct threats to our territory, to our fundamental prosperity, or to the independence and openness of our government. We have no strong neighbors that are about to invade us. Threats to the United States tend to be indirect: for example, Al Qaeda, under the protection of the Taliban, plotted attacks against America from Afghanistan. In the early Cold War, the Soviet Union had the potential to sweep into war-ravaged Western Europe. Had it dominated that region’s vast population and economic potential, it could have challenged America on the global stage and even projected serious power into our hemisphere.

Bashar al-Assad can barely dominate the Damascus suburbs, much less amass the power for a direct attack on America. Russia and Iran have gained influence in Syria by backing Assad. But they, too, are unlikely to turn Syria into a dagger at America’s throat. Divided and in ruins, Syria is a liability to whomever owns it. That won’t change for some time. Any threat to America from Syria, and from gas attacks in Syria, has to be very indirect.

Those who want to strike Assad again argue that there is an international norm against the use of chemical weapons and that this norm makes it less likely that chemical weapons will be used against Americans. If “the international community,” which in this context means “the U.S. military,” looks the other way at chemical attacks, chemical weapons will come to be used more frequently in war. They then may eventually be used against American troops or even American civilians. Sohrab Ahmari made this argument succinctly in Commentary on Sunday morning: “Intervention is necessary to deter use of illegal weapons. If [Assad] gets away with it, as he has (mainly owing to Obama’s pusillanimity), other nasty regimes will conclude that they can, too. That will eventually threaten Western security.” Ahmari brands this “Boltonian realism.”

Yet realism weakens the case that strikes on Syria are necessary to nip in the bud a long chain of events that ends in tangible harm to America. Realists share Bolton and Ahmari’s dim estimation of human nature. States act on self-interest and do not follow the niceties favored by those Bolton scornfully calls the “High-Minded.” Bad, norm-breaking behavior is likely if it yields benefits. As the ur-realist Thucydides put it, "the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must." Assad knows we, too, are strong. His self-interest and our strength intersect to deter him from using his chemical weapons against us, lest he face our vengeance. Fear of retaliation, not norms, kept the Germans, Italians, and Japanese—all enthusiastic gassers of weaker foes—from using the weapons against the Western Allies in World War II. Recent incidents outside Syria—in which advanced chemical weapons were used for assassination—were conducted by states whose nuclear deterrents make retaliation hard and whose targets had little power projection capability. The United States need only speak softly and continue to carry its big stick to deter chemical strikes on itself.

But suppose I’m wrong and Ahmari is right: even our mighty military and nuclear arsenal can’t stop the long chain of events that ends in Americans being gassed. Or suppose, as others argue, that the norm against chemical weapons is vital for protecting foreign civilians, and that America is the world’s policeman, prosecutor, judge, and jury, and must thus enforce the norm. There’s still a second danger: to rule of law here in America.

If Trump repeats the pattern of last year’s strike, he’ll launch the attack on his own authority, citing his power under Article II of the Constitution. It’s still not clear precisely what reasoning the administration’s lawyers were using to define the scope of that power. But it is clear that he was acting far beyond the limits the Founders envisioned when they divided the power to make war between the executive (as commander in chief of the armed forces) and the legislature (which, under Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the Constitution, has the sole power to declare war). Legal scholar Andrew Kent has argued that “under the best reading of the original understanding of constitutional war powers, President Trump’s strike on Syria was patently unconstitutional.” Kent had written that

A vast array of members of the Founding generation opined without dissent that the Constitution had […] empowered Congress alone to decide whether to initiate foreign war. . . . Major figures whose views about this issue are essentially beyond dispute include George Washington, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, John Marshall, James Wilson, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, William Paterson, James Monroe, Pierce Butler, James Iredell, Samuel Chase, Henry Knox, and Charles Pinckney. On the other hand, I am not aware of a single instance in which a prominent member of the Founding generation expressed the view that the Constitution authorized the president to decide whether to initiate a foreign war.

It is noteworthy that even Hamilton, who craved a strong executive, is counted among the presidential war opponents. Yet today’s presidents, left and right alike, have initiated wars without consulting Congress. Even the permissive War Powers Resolution has been ignored—most notably by the Obama administration, which declined to seek Congressional approval to continue the air war in Libya.

Why would the Founders restrict the president’s war power? The same realistic assessment of human nature that shapes the rest of the Constitution. John Jay, in Federalist No. 4, warned that monarchs wage wars that serve no national interest out of “thirst for military glory, revenge for personal affronts, ambition, or private compacts to aggrandize or support their particular families or partisans.” Or, as Kent puts it:

A president might have troubling foreign ties or be corrupted by an adversary; be driven by ego, a desire for glory, madness, short-sightedness, or stupidity; be influenced by pernicious political advisers; or be motivated to attempt solve domestic political troubles by ginning up a foreign war in order to benefit from the ‘rally round the flag’ effect.

A president might also have bad judgment or, surrounded by federal officials that never have to face voters to be held to account for their performance, fail to adequately consider the general interest. All this led the Founders to defy the European monarchic model and separate the power to initiate war from the power to conduct war. And, more deeply, America was founded on the notion of human fallibility: that nobody is perfect, that even virtuous, well-educated, and public-spirited leaders could err gravely or succumb to power’s temptations. The Founders therefore set power against power, and placed war in the hands of legislators who faced the possibility of swift rebuke from the voters. They did not entrust the war power to presidents, who stood to gain popularity and power from wars.

This system does not guarantee a perfect foreign policy. Congress authorized force against Iraq in 2002. But it does make mistakes less likely: it forces the president to convince hundreds of legislators that war is indeed in the national interest. One man’s error is not enough to lead the nation to disaster.

Of course, in the event of an attack on the United States itself, such as a foreign invasion (a real possibility in the founding era), it would be foolish to wait for Congress to take a vote before reacting. There may even be cases in which a preemptive war (meaning war to repel an imminent attack, not an Iraq-style war to prevent a possible future threat) would be necessary.

Syria is not one of those cases. Even if attack proponents are correct that chemical weapons uses anywhere can quickly metastasize into a direct threat to America, a response in days or weeks will be no less effective at signalling U.S. intentions. There is plenty of time for the president to seek Congressional authorization. Congress is even in session this week. If the threat is truly grave, they will surely drop everything to empower the president to take action. And their authorization would make clear that Trump is not alone in his desire to punish chemical weapons users, amplifying the strategic message sent by the strike.

The threat to America from gas attacks in Syria is limited, and therefore a strike is not necessary. But if I’m wrong, it is not a threat that requires the president to act instantly. A few days or weeks are not enough for a total breakdown in any norm against using chemical weapons. There is no excuse for the president to go around the Constitution and Congress to strike Syria.

John Allen Gay is executive director of the John Quincy Adams Society, a national network of student groups centered on a vision of foreign policy restraint. He is a former managing editor of the National Interest.


*Massenbach’s Recommendation*

Nord-West Zeitung (Oldenburg) – Kommentar – Zum Syrischen Bürgerkrieg : Hilfloser Westen –

Von Alexander Will

Wenn es um Chemiewaffenangriffe in Syrien geht, bleiben jede Menge Fragen offen, kommentiert NWZ-Nachrichtenchef Alexander Will. Zudem hat der Westen wegen seines eigenen Versagens in der Vergangenheit nun keine Optionen mehr, das Blutvergießen zu beenden.

OldenburgSyrien erinnert derzeit an ein Déjà-vu-Erlebnis. Es ist der Kreislauf von angeblichem Giftgasangriff, lautstarken gegenseitigen Vorwürfen, UN-Aktivitäten, Luftangriffen und Rückkehr zum Bürgerkriegsalltag. Dabei gibt es immer jede Menge Ungereimtheiten, und der Westen agiert in einer Weise, die Hilflosigkeit und den Fluch der verpassten Gelegenheit erkennen lässt.

Zunächst ist es auffällig, dass Giftgasangriffe immer dann berichtet werden, wenn die syrische Regierungsarmee einen militärischen Erfolg erzielt hat, oder kurz davor steht. Das galt für Aleppo, und das gilt heute für Ost-Ghuta. Nur: Warum sollte eine bereits siegreiche Armee C-Waffen einsetzen? Und: Warum sollte die politische Führung diesen mühsam errungen Sieg durch das Risiko einer westlichen Intervention nach dem Einsatz der geächteten Waffe gefährden? Das will nicht einleuchten.

Selbst wenn es C-Waffen-Angriffe gegeben haben sollte, bleibt immer noch unklar, wer dafür verantwortlich ist. Zu Beginn des Bürgerkrieges ist die syrische Armee auseinandergebrochen. Niemand kann ausschließen, dass den abtrünnigen Militärs C-Waffen in die Hände gefallen sind – am wenigsten westliche Geheimdienste, die in Syrien so oft daneben lagen. Zudem muss man anerkennen, dass die Assad-Regierung in der ersten Phase des Bürgerkrieges große Bestände an C-Waffen unter internationaler Aufsicht vernichten ließ. Fazit: Niemand kann mit Sicherheit sagen, wer genau da wann, welche Waffen eingesetzt hat.

Der Westen wird wohl bei seiner Reaktion wieder nicht über hilfloses Bomben hinauskommen. Das Zeitfenster für eine massive militärische Intervention, die ganz allein den Bürgerkrieg hätte beenden können, ist seit Beginn des russischen Engagements geschlossen. Jetzt können Franzosen und Amerikaner zwar einige Bomben werfen. Alles, was darüber hinaus geht, bedeutet aber Krieg mit Moskau.,1,1329559407.html

  • By the way: Geopolitical Intelligence Service – Turkey, Iran and the potential for peace in Syria.

06 April 2018. Author: Prince Michael of Liechtenstein.

„ ….If the three powers can find some arrangement that all of them can live with, it could lead to a solution in Syria without the West’s involvement. The U.S. already announced its intention to withdraw from Syria. This decision could improve U.S.-Turkish relations, as it would eliminate the problem of a potential standoff between two NATO partners in the Kurdish-controlled regions of Syria. The Kurdish militias based in these areas have been valuable U.S. allies fighting Daesh (also known as Islamic State or ISIS). What is in everybody’s interest is that the bloodshed ends.

Despite all the differences, realpolitikcan lead the three powers to barter and support a solution.

Unfortunately, a solution in Syria will not bring an end to the tensions that were created by the region’s arbitrary division between the United Kingdom and France during World War I. The result of the 1919 peace talks will continue to haunt this area.

It will remain a flash point for the region’s powers – Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel – allowing global powers to intervene. Whatever peace is coming to Syria, it will not necessarily be sustainable in the long term.”,2515,c.html


Still a topic: Blick-durch-die-Wirtschaft, Frankfurt, 18 Jan 1981:

„Wie anders sind die Moslems? Araber in einer fremden Gedankenwelt.

Nur der Abbau von Clichévorstellungen öffnet den Zugang zu andersdenkenden Partnern.“

For more see attachment.



see our letter on:

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


01-08-1981 Blick_durch_die_Wirtschaft- Wie anders sind die Mosl.pdf

04-10-18 US_Russia_Strategic_Stabilzation, Ukraine_EU_Russia, Caucasian News.pdf


Massenbach-Letter. NEWS 06.04.18

Massenbach-Letter. News

  • United States publishes tariff target list on China (att.)
  • griephan: Großbritannien beabsichtigt Beschaffung des Boxer…sichert Arbeitsplätze in UK
  • The National Interest: It’s Time to Accept That Assad Is Not Going Anywhere
  • Mark Farha: The Arab Revolts: Local, Regional, and Global Catalysts and Consequences.
  • Washington Post: Trump instructs military to begin planning for withdrawal from Syria.
  • Way Forward For NATO Allies: Cope With Trump While Preparing for a Post-Trump Future by Stanley R. Sloan.
  • German Marshall Fund of the United States: Estonian Regulators and European Central Bank Move Forcefully Against Russian Money Laundering –
  • Four Simple Questions About Expulsions of Russian Diplomats

April 2, 2018 – REUTERS/Lindsey..- Andrey Kortunov – Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council, RIAC member.

Massenbach* The National Interest: It’s Time to Accept That Assad Is Not Going Anywhere

By Daniel R. DePetris – April 1, 2018

It was always a matter of when, not if, Syria’s rebel factions in the Eastern Ghouta suburbs laid down their arms and surrendered to Bashar al-Assad’s forces. What is commonly depicted in the West as the mainstream Syrian armed opposition has been squeezed of hope, bloodied, worn out, and beaten after seven years of all-out military assault by the Assad, Russia and Iran.

While rebel factions are still in control of Idlib province in the northwest, some of Daraa province in the south, and a significant stretch of the Syrian countryside, their goal of forcefully overthrowing the regime in Damascus is no longer a plausible scenario.

The five-week Syrian government campaign in Eastern Ghouta is a metaphor for the how the war has been going for the opposition ever since Moscow decided to deploy its air force in September 2015 to save Assad’s skin.

The last week has been an emotionally distressing time for the three main rebel factions (Jaish al-Islam, Faylaq al-Rahman and Ahrar al-Sham) and the 400,000 Syrian civilians in Ghouta who have been surrounded, starved, besieged and bombarded for the last five years. Much like in Homs, Daraya and Eastern Aleppo, Syrian government forces have used time and brutality to their advantage. The regime’s tactical playbook is the same; seal off a rebel district; prevent food, water, medicine and humanitarian relief from entering; block the sick and injured from leaving; pummel all of the civilian infrastructure in the area; and finally, dangle a widespread evacuation offer in return for accepting regime control. The rebels, cut off from supplies and bereft of support from external sponsors who have tired of the conflict, are faced with two alternatives: surrender unconditionally in return for relocating to the north, or die from starvation and bombing. The end result—a regime victory—is the same.

As morally repugnant and ethically incomprehensible as this is to admit, the United States needs to base its Syria policy on the premise of Bashar al-Assad staying in Damascus for years into the future. This is not the scenario Washington wanted, but it’s the scenario the Trump administration will be presented with. Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s outline of a Syria policy earlier this year, which partly consisted of using U.S. military presence as leverage to move a political process in the country forward, has been overtaken by events on the ground. There is no serious, constructive diplomatic process to leverage because it’s not in the Assad regime’s interest to participate in one. For Assad to negotiate political concessions on Syria’s future at a time when his regime is clawing back territory would be the definition of geopolitical insanity.

Where does this leave the United States? Is there any way Washington could work with Bashar al-Assad ever again given the massive war crimes and crimes against humanity he has committed against his people?

Fortunately, Syria’s political dispensation is not a core U.S. national security interest. As hard as this may be for the bipartisan foreign policy consensus to believe, Assad is a minor figure in the Middle East who is now wholly dependent on foreign military support for his survival. While the Assad regime cannot be ignored, neither can it significantly foreclose America’s freedom of movement in the region. U.S. Middle East policy will go on with or without Assad sitting in the presidential palace.

Indeed, as counterintuitive as it may appear, an Assad victory may actually provide the United States with an opportunity to throw Russia down a peg. It is Moscow that is responsible for Assad’s resurgence, and it will be Moscow that will be called upon to backstop its weak client whenever it runs into trouble. Syria’s economy is destroyed, its health sector is in tatters, and its status as an independent sovereign state is compromised—not exactly an optimal ally for the Russians.

Damascus will need at least $200 billion to rebuild the homes, hospitals, plants, factories and farms that were razed to the ground. Vladimir Putin, a president lording over a decrepit and oligarchic economy, will be on the hook for much of that money if the United States and Western Europe refuse to assist in Syria’s reconstruction.

Russia helped break Syria in order to keep its ally in power. Now it’s responsible for fixing it. Through seven years of war on his own people, Bashar al-Assad is now on the same wavelength as some of the world’s most despicable dictators. There is no question that his preservation as Syria’s leader is unjust.

But the world in general can often be an unfair and unjust place. Handling the Syria mess off to the Russians—all the while retaining the flexibility to target Syrian-based terror groups when they threaten to attack American.

About DePetris: Daniel R. DePetris is an analyst at Wikistrat, Inc., a geostrategic consulting firm, and a freelance researcher. He has also written for, Small Wars Journal and The Diplomat.

Comment UvM: compare -> The Arab Revolts: Local, Regional, and Global Catalysts and Consequences

By Mark Farha.

2008-2015 Assistant Professor of Government, Georgetown University, SFS, Qatar.

2015- Ass. Professor for International Politics, Doha Institute for Graduate Studies

The unfolding uprisings across the Arab world have been viewed through a regional prism.

Political scientists particularly were predisposed to view the Arab Uprisings as a long-overdue culmination of pent-up popular frustrations with

corrupt and autocratic regimes. Such an exclusive focus on the democracy deficit long besetting political systems in the Arab world, however, begs the question

of the particular historical moment of the outburst of 2011 and as such may not capture the full scope of the underlying dynamic. While political repression by

praetorian states served as a crucial catalyst for massive street demonstrations, it is increasingly apparent that the parabolic rise of commodity prices may have

kindled a politically and demographically charged situation. In its first segment, this chapter thus attempts to draw the links between monetary and fiscal policies

in the United States and Europe, the ensuing contagion of global inflation,

and its role in destabilizing certain Arab states, while leaving others largely insulated from the wave of revolt. I argue that the likelihood of a revolution in

any given Arab state must be weighed against a multiplicity of local and global factors, chief of which is the exposure of a critical mass of a vulnerable segment

in a given society to price increases in essential commodities.

While Gulf rentier states—with the exception of a particularly bifurcated Bahrain—thus far have been fairly successful in staving off major street protests using direct and indirect

subsidies, even seasoned autocrats such as Mubarak in Egypt or Ben Ali in Tunisia, bereft of rentier revenue, were unable to withstand the popular pressures.

Finally, the chapter examines to what degree the socioeconomic imbalances that fomented the revolutions have aggravated religious sectarianism in pluralistic

Arab states such as Lebanon and Syria, thereby undermining the uprisings’ declared drive for civil rights, political accountability, and social justice.


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

  • Four Simple Questions About Expulsions of Russian Diplomats

April 2, 2018 – REUTERS/Lindsey..- Andrey Kortunov – Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council, RIAC member

The atrocious crime committed in Salisbury led to a massive avalanche of diplomatic expulsions unprecedented in the contemporary history of international relations. The UK leadership can now claim a major foreign policy victory — the display of solidarity with London was more than impressive. Short of becoming truly global, it mobilized most of NATO and EU members with the United States alone, expelling 48 Russians from their embassy in Washington and the consulate in New York. Another 12 working for the Russian Mission at the United Nations were expelled as well. Russia was not slow to reciprocate, expelling more than a hundred diplomats representing the United Kingdom, the United States, Ukraine, Germany, Poland, France, the Netherlands and many other predominantly Western countries.

Many questions remain about whether the British side has produced enough proof that the Russians have been officially or unofficially responsible for this outrageous act. Supporters of the coordinated Western demarche claim that finally, Vladimir Putin got what he really deserved, as he pursued his outrageous and highly destructive course. In their view, this unified action should deter the Kremlin from committing similar crimes in the future. Critics argue that in demonstrating its solidarity with London, the Western world acted on the shaky assumption that Russia has to be the villain by definition, and therefore there was no need to wait until the end of the Salisbury attack investigation. In other words, the Western decision was based on a biased political judgment, not on verifiable facts.

  • The Caucasian Knot.

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of March 26-April 1

Actions in Southern Russia in memory of victims in Kemerovo; arrest of Dagestani businessman Ziyavudin Magomedov; blowing up in Nagorno-Karabakh of combat engineers from The HALO Trust; Geneva Discussions on Transcaucasia; attack in Makhachkala on a staff member of the HRC "Memorial" Dagestani office; guilty verdict for defendants involved in beating of a Rostov journalist, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of March 26-April 1, 2018, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".


Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* German Marshall Fund of the United States:

  • Estonian Regulators and European Central Bank Move Forcefully Against Russian Money Laundering –

Estonia’s financial regulator, Finantsinspektsioon, announced on March 26 that the European Central Bank (ECB), acting at Estonia’s request, had revoked the license of Versobank AS, a small Estonian bank catering to clients based in Russia and Ukraine. According to Finantsinspektsioon, the license was withdrawn for “serious and long-lasting breaches of legal requirements, particularly concerning the prevention of money laundering.” With this action, Estonia continues to demonstrate that it has no desire to serve as a hub for illicit Russian financial activity, which is part of the asymmetric toolkit the Russian government uses to undermine democratic institutions across the transatlantic space. And, for the first time, the ECB has now taken explicit, unequivocal action to shut down a bank for money laundering violations. This precedent gives the ECB and European national regulatory authorities a new and powerful tool to combat Russian illicit financial activity in Europe. The more aggressive stance also augurs well for enhanced U.S.–EU cooperation.

Estonia Tightens the Reins

Following a series of Russian and other money laundering scandals at the Estonian branch of Denmark’s Danske Bank that came to a head in 2014, Estonia moved quickly to reduce the amount of non-resident accounts in the banking system, thereby lowering the risk of money laundering through opaque foreign shell companies. Finantsinspektsioon oversaw a reduction in foreign deposits from a 2014 peak of 20 percent to 14 percent in late 2016, down to 10 percent by late 2017.

Versobank has been involved in a variety of money laundering schemes, including the infamous “Russian Laundromat” in Moldova that has been brilliantly covered by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project. The Laundromat moved approximately $20 billion out of Russia, primarily through the following route: companies banking at Moldinconbank in Moldova held fake “debts,” which were “paid” by Russian companies moving money out of Russia on behalf of a variety of Russian clients, including wealthy, politically connected businesspeople. The money would be wired from Moldinconbank to Trasta Komercbanka in Latvia and, from there, across the globe. Versobank accounts reportedly received $200 million related to the scheme. After a series of four onsite inspections and proposed remediation, Finantsinspektsioon grew disillusioned with Versobank’s prospects for reform. It submitted its recommendation to the ECB in February. With its post-Danske reduction in the non-resident banking sector and its successful proposal to the ECB to revoke Versobank’s license, Estonia has delivered a clear message to those facilitating illicit Russian financial activity — Estonia is closed for business.

The ECB Begins to Focus on Money Laundering

Under the ECB’s Single Supervisory Mechanism, established in 2014 in response to the eurozone crisis, the ECB possesses the sole authority to grant or withdraw a banking license, not the financial regulators of participating European Union member states. The ECB is also responsible for direct “prudential” supervision of banks that have been determined to be “significant entities” on the basis of their size and systemic importance (“prudential” supervision refers to monitoring of things like capital adequacy and lending practices). Prudential supervision of “less significant institutions” is delegated to national competent authorities. At the same time, supervision of compliance with anti-money laundering requirements at banks of all sizes is the responsibility of national regulators. Thus, the ECB has had limited insight into any illicit financial activity occurring at European banks or the risks of such incidences occurring owing to inadequate controls. And, until Versobank, the ECB had never pulled a license on the explicit grounds of money laundering violations.

The new, aggressive tone on money laundering from the ECB is a positive shift from past practice. For example, in March 2016, Latvia’s financial regulator, the Financial and Capital Market Commission, announced that the ECB had withdrawn the license of the aforementioned Trasta Komercbanka. Like Versobank, Trasta had been involved in a number of Russian and other money laundering scandals. But when the ECB pulled Trasta’s license, the stated basis was primarily “prudential” concerns. This time around, in a first for ECB, Versobank was called out for repeated, egregious anti-money laundering violations, which were the centerpiece of the ECB’s action. The ECB also allowed Finansinspekstioon to publish the ECB’s decision, which details Versobank’s money laundering failings and specifically notes the nexus with Russia.

ABLV in the Background

The ECB’s decisive action against Versobank comes just weeks after the targeting in February of Latvia’s ABLV Bank by the U.S. Treasury Department under Section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act. ABLV, which is currently undergoing ECB-ordered liquidation following the Treasury action, was the leading bank in Latvia catering to non-resident customers. The Treasury Department found that ABLV had “institutionalized money laundering as a pillar of the bank’s business practices” and facilitated “large-scale illicit activity connected to Azerbaijan, Russia, and Ukraine.” Latvia has developed a far more extensive non-resident banking sector that Estonia, with about a dozen banks catering to non-resident money, most of it emanating from Russia and other countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Non-resident deposits in Latvia’s banking system reached a peak of over 50 percent and are currently below 40 percent, although the government has recently vowed to bring the number down to a manageable 5 percent.

Transatlantic Cooperation on Illicit Finance

Recent developments in Latvia and Malta – as well as longstanding issues in Cyprus – have started a much-needed discussion about whether money laundering supervision in Europe should be entrusted to a central authority with greater resources and capacity than the national authorities of smaller European states. Such a central authority could also proactively revoke or restrict licenses without needing to wait for national authorities to submit a recommendation. This policy discussion presents an opportunity to evaluate which national regulators need to be further strengthened, how to deepen European information-sharing to combat illicit financial activity, and whether there needs to be a more assertive role for European law enforcement in combating Russian money laundering. This week’s coordinated action by Estonia and the ECB is a welcome step in the right direction and may presage greater intra-European cooperation and, potentially, the emergence of a coordinated transatlantic response to Russian illicit finance.

The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.


Politics: From Vision to Action

Barandat* griephan: Großbritannien beabsichtigt Beschaffung des Boxer

Das britische Verteidigungsministerium hat am 31. März bekanntgegeben, dem Boxer-Programm wieder beitreten zu wollen. Damit hat Großbritannien, das von 1999 bis 2004 an der Konzeption, der Entwicklung und der Erprobung des gepanzerten Radfahrzeugs Boxer entscheidend beteiligt war, den ersten Schritt unternommen, zu einem der größten Boxer-Nutzer werden zu können. Die Verhandlungen werden von der Organisation für gemeinsame Rüstungskooperation (OCCAR) und ARTEC geführt.
Die Rahmenbedingungen für die gemeinsame Beschaffung eines solchen Fahrzeugs mit anderen Nationen haben sich seit der Anfangsphase des Boxer-Programms nicht geändert. Mit nun drei bereits aktiven Nutzernationen – Deutschland, Niederlande und Litauen – ergeben sich viele Vorteile nicht nur in der Beschaffung, sondern auch der Nutzungsphase.

Gemeinsam mit den Partnern BAE Systems, Pearson Engineering und Thales UK schafft oder sichert das ARTEC-Konsortium damit über 1.000 Arbeitsplätze in Großbritannien.


Middle East

Washington Post: Trump instructs military to begin planning for withdrawal from Syria.

By Karen DeYoung, Josh Dawsey and Paul Sonne April 4 at 10:09 AM

President Trump has instructed military leaders to prepare to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, but has not set a date for them to do so, according to a senior administration official.

In a meeting with top national security officials Tuesday, Trump stressed that U.S. troops can be involved in current training tasks for local forces to ensure security in areas liberated from the Islamic State, the official said.

But the president said that the U.S. mission would not extend beyond the destruction of the Islamic State, and that he expects other countries, particularly wealthy Arab states in the region, to pick up the task of paying for reconstruction of stabilized areas, including sending their own troops, if necessary.

Trump on Tuesday had repeated his desire to quickly “get out” of Syria, even as his top commander for the Middle East outlined the need for an ongoing military presence there.

Trump said at a White House news conference that “I want to get out. I want to bring our troops back home.”


The United States, he said, had gotten “nothing out of $7 trillion [spent] in the Middle East over the last 17 years,” a calculation that apparently included the Afghanistan war against the Taliban in South Asia, where he last year approved a U.S. troop increase.

“So, it’s time. It’s time. We were very successful against ISIS,” Trump said, using an acronym for the Islamic State. “But sometimes it’s time to come back home, and we’re thinking about that very seriously, okay?”

Trump has used the $7 trillion figure many times, including during his campaign, although numerous experts put the figure at about half that, beginning in Afghanistan in 2001 and continuing through U.S. military operations in Pakistan, Iraq and Syria. The figure also would include substantial costs tied to veterans’ care and disability benefits, and war-related domestic and diplomatic security measures.

Many military officials were taken aback by Trump’s stated intent, first mentioned last week, to withdraw from Syria. In a speech ostensibly devoted to his domestic infrastructure plans, Trump told a rally in Ohio on Thursday that U.S. forces would “be coming out of Syria, like, very soon.”

On Tuesday, speaking at the U.S. Institute of Peace, Gen. Joseph L. Votel, head of U.S. Central Command, said, “A lot of very good military progress has been made over the last couple of years, but the hard part, I think, is in front of us.” Upcoming efforts, he said, include the military’s role in “stabilizing [Syria], consolidating gains” and “addressing long-term issues of reconstruction” after the defeat of the Islamic State.

Votel, along with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, also has repeatedly said in recent months that U.S. troops would be staying in Syria for the foreseeable future to guarantee stability and a political resolution to the civil war, which initially created space for the Islamic State to advance.

There are about 2,000 U.S. troops there, advising and assisting local proxy forces and directing U.S. airstrikes against Islamic State forces. Trump described that mission as “close to 100 percent” accomplished, while Votel said that “well over 90 percent” of Syria had been “liberated” from the militants, even as “the situation continues to become more and more complex” and “other underlying challenges” become more apparent.

Among those challenges are the need to stabilize areas cleared of militants to prevent their reappearance, to forge a political solution that will end Syria’s civil war without ceding power to Russia and Iran, and resolving U.S. difficulties with neighboring Turkey.

According to State Department coalition envoy Brett McGurk, fighting against the Islamic State in Syria is ongoing in two areas close to the Iraqi border, one east of Shaddadi and the other in the far southeast at Bukamal. The latter has been the site of most recent U.S. airstrikes in Syria.

The effort against the remaining militants has been slowed on the ground, Votel acknowledged, by the departure of members of the principal U.S. proxy, the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces. Many of the Syrian Kurdish fighters have left their U.S.-backed units in the southeast to head to Afrin in northwest Syria, where their compatriots are fighting against Turkey and its proxy, the rebel Free Syrian Army.

“What this means for us,” Votel said, “is that we’re going to have to look at the ways that we keep pressure on ISIS and continue to develop mechanisms on the ground that help us de-escalate the situation” in Afrin, “so that [it] can be addressed by discussion and diplomacy as opposed to fighting.”

As Trump talks of leaving Syria, his top commander in the Middle East emphasizes the need to stay


*Massenbach’s Recommendation*


Dr. Martina Timmerman

( VP International Affairs, TIMA International GmbH Strategy Development * Clausewitz Gesellschaft e.V. )

  • A Way Forward For NATO Allies: Cope With Trump While Preparing for a Post-Trump Future –

by Stanley R. Sloan – March 27, 2018

Donald Trump’s ascent to the presidency on an “America First” platform raised the prospect of the new president qualifying decades of U.S. support for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), America’s most important alliance. While far-right politicians across Europe celebrated, British Prime Minister Theresa May, hoping to convince Trump to take a more positive attitude toward NATO, advised, “With the threats we face, it’s not the time for less cooperation.”

As I wrote in a 2017 essay for the International Security Studies Forum, candidate Trump disparaged the transatlantic alliance throughout his campaign by suggesting that the United States might not remain committed to collective defense under Article 5, by calling NATO “obsolete” (though he later walked that back), and by taking a generally transactional view of the alliance that appeared to undermine the idea of collective defense. Since taking office, Trump has not gone to those extremes, though his campaign assertions, his insistence to Angela Merkel that Germany still owed “vast sums of money” to the United States and the alliance for its defense, and his seeming reluctance to condemn Russia’s Vladimir Putin have contributed to a persistent sense of unease about the future of the transatlantic relationship.

Now, the allies need to develop a coherent strategy for coping with the demands and unpredictability of the Trump administration and preparing for the future revitalization of the transatlantic relationship. Fortunately, both can be accomplished together. Moreover, Europe has already started taking some of these actions.

Europeans should realize that America’s commitment to transatlantic relations is not based solely on the president’s view. Despite Trump’s dramatic criticisms of the transatlantic relationship, both congressional and public attitudes have remained highly supportive of NATO. While there is certainly room for improving the systems underlying the transatlantic relationship, the alliance remains a practical vehicle for shared defense of interests as well as a key symbol of the Western values of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law. Illiberal tendencies on both sides of the Atlantic have made it clear that those values are being challenged. Europe should therefore seek to mitigate the short-term impact of Trump’s disruptive views while responding to legitimate American concerns and build a foundation for the alliance’s future. That future will also depend on whether the European allies are successful in dealing with the challenges posed by domestic illiberal political movements, like those that recently scored a big electoral victory in Italy.

What might such a European “coping-plus” strategy look like? First, European governments ought to use “Trollope ploy” tactics, named for a plot device by novelist Anthony Trollope “in which a woman willfully misinterprets a romantic squeeze of her hand as a marriage proposal.” The Trollope ploy was said to have influenced the Kennedy administration’s handling of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. President John F. Kennedy chose to ignore negative signals from Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev while acting on ones that might lead to resolution of the crisis. In the current circumstances, this would mean ignoring troublesome Trump tweets — which, to some extent, European officials are already learning to do — while picking up on encouraging words from Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and other U.S. officials. In spite of Trump’s disruptive statements and distorted understanding of the transatlantic alliance, the United States has continued to re-build its military presence in Europe — actions that may speak louder than words in the long run.

European leaders have discovered that warm praise for the American president and restraint in responding to his more outrageous statements can help keep relationships on track. They should keep up their compliment campaign.

Along more traditional lines, the NATO allies should demonstrate that they are actively supporting the pledge to spend at least 2 percent of their GDP on defense by 2024, with 20 percent of defense spending going to new equipment, research and development. but the goal remains challenging for many allies, and only three allies currently hit the 2 percent target. Progress in this area is important both for coping with Trump and for sustaining American support for the alliance in the long term.

European NATO and E.U. nations should also look for opportunities to make no- and low-cost defense improvements, and to improve intra-European and transatlantic cooperative efforts, for example by enhancing terror-related intelligence sharing operations through Europol, internally and with partner nations. Dealing with terrorist and cyber threats is a growth industry, and the technological competence of some European allies can play a major role in NATO’s response.

When improvements can be demonstrated, they should be publicized. Back in the waning years of the Cold War, the so-called “Euro-group” served as a publicist in the United States for European defense efforts. Perhaps the European allies should revitalize the concept. The Europeans speaking in this way directly to American politicians, opinion leaders and, importantly, taxpayers, could provide a helping hand to American centrists who believe in reaffirming a strong U.S. role in NATO.

European countries should also take advantage of opportunities to express appreciation for U.S. contributions to their security. The United States has not always made the best decisions when it has come to the use of force, but Europeans should recognize that their freedom and democracy have benefited greatly from the American role in European security. European expressions of this sentiment to American members of Congress and the American public reinforces U.S. support for continued transatlantic cooperation. Over many decades of working on the burden-sharing issue for Congress, it has become clear to me that European appreciation of American sacrifices helps to create a better political environment for dealing with alliance issues.

One key European hedging strategy has been to breathe new life into European defense cooperation. The 2017 agreement on Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) seeks to provide the foundation for more European defense cohesion down the road, though it remains to be seen whether it will succeed. The U.S. response to this initiative has been familiar: It fits the “yes, but” model that I originally described in 2000. “Yes,” the United States wants the Europeans to take more responsibility for defense, “but” it should not in any way undermine transatlantic cooperation. It is not unreasonable for U.S. officials to warn that PESCO should not undermine NATO. But that line should not be carried too far, at the risk of alienating the Europeans and dissuading them from being proactive in improving their defense capabilities.

At the same time, European politicians should be careful not to promise more than can be delivered. In the past, European exuberance over their defense cooperation plans has misled some in the United States to believe that a united Europe is on the near-horizon. It is all too clear that national instincts and motivations remain strong drivers inside the European Union.

Next, as a means both of maintaining Western unity and keeping the door open for cooperation with Russia when it is in the West’s interest, the European allies should continue to endorse a policy of “defense, deterrence and dialogue.” This approach, built on NATO’s Cold War diplomatic strategy outlined in the 1967 Harmel Report, remains a sensible and balanced way to deal with Russia. While the door is kept open to cooperation, it needs to be slammed shut on Russian attempts to undermine Western political systems using cyber weapons as well as old-fashioned covert operations — including attacks on Russian expatriates in Western countries. There are opportunities for Europeans to lead in this area, particularly in taking a firm line towards Moscow as they have done in response to the attacks in the UK. However, a fully effective response to Russian aggression can only be realized with U.S. leadership, going beyond expelling Russian intelligence operatives.

Many of these issues will be on the agenda of the NATO summit scheduled for July 2018. It is, in many respects, time to replace NATO’s 2010 strategic concept, as threats to the alliance have grown and evolved since it was agreed. But the Europeans should avoid doing so just yet. Just as they delayed agreement on the last concept until George W. Bush left office, the allies should be wary of what would come out of the process under a Trump administration. The allies should therefore avoid preparing a new concept until after Trump, while making necessary adaptations in alliance policies and programs.

Finally, as I have recently recommended in my forthcoming book, Transatlantic traumas: Has illiberalism brought the West to the brink of collapse?, Europeans who believe in the value of a healthy transatlantic relationship need also to work on mitigating the circumstances that have created the radical right-wing surge on their side of the Atlantic. Voters have started to see center and center-left parties as ineffective in responding to the problems of the average citizen. This political failure, paralleling a similar one in the United States, grew out of a combination of factors. The Great Recession and the refugee crisis over the past decade created particularly fertile ground in Western Europe for radical populists to turn popular dissatisfaction into fear and political action. In the new democracies of Central and Eastern Europe, the failure of democratic forces to resolve all the issues that remained in the wake of the Cold War allowed illiberal parties to increase their popularity.

Many of these radical right populist parties and politicians are enemies of both NATO and the E.U., do not accept the system of values represented by “the West,” and express sympathy for Vladimir Putin’s “strong” approach to governance. These characteristics are discussed in detail in my forthcoming book on the threats that illiberalism poses to the West. ?

European centrists need to reestablish themselves as defenders of the average citizen. They need to demonstrate that the key institutions of the West — the E.U. and NATO — remain critically important to the well-being and security of European individuals, communities and nations. Only by reaffirming the importance of liberal democracy and its institutions while containing the rise of radical right-wing populism will Europe be prepared to reestablish a strong transatlantic relationship in the post-Trump era.

Stanley R. Sloan is a visiting scholar in political science at Middlebury College and Non-resident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council of the United States. He is author most recently of Transatlantic traumas: Has illiberalism brought the West to the brink of collapse?


  • United States publishes tariff target list on China (att.)
  • China announces retaliatory tariffs on US imports

“U.S. President Donald Trump, who has long charged that his predecessors served the United States badly in trade matters, rejected the notion that the tit-for-tat moves amounted to a trade war between the world’s two economic superpowers.

“We are not in a trade war with China, that war was lost many years ago by the foolish, or incompetent, people who represented the U.S.,” Trump wrote in a post on Twitter early on Wednesday.

Because the actions will not be carried out immediately, there may be room for maneuver. Publication of Washington’s list starts a period of public comment and consultation expected to last around two months. The effective date of China’s moves depends on when the U.S. action takes effect…U.S.-made goods that appear to face added tariffs in China based, on an analysis of Beijing’s list, include Tesla Inc electric cars, Ford Motor Co’s Lincoln auto models, Gulfstream jets made by General Dynamics Corp and Brown-Forman Corp’s Jack Daniel’s whiskey.

Unlike Washington’s list, which was filled with many obscure industrial items, China’s list strikes at signature U.S. exports, including soybeans, frozen beef, cotton and other key agricultural commodities produced in states from Iowa to Texas that voted for Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

“China is also trying to weaken our will by targeting certain segments of our economy,” White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said in an interview with National Public Radio.

“But let’s remember: we buy five times more goods than they buy from us. They have a lot more to lose in any escalation in this matter.” ”



see our letter on:

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


04-03-18 Kortunov_Four Simple Questions About Expulsions of Russian Diplomats – Caucasian NEWS.pdf

04-2018 United States publishes tariff target list on China_301FRN.pdf

Mark Farha_The Arab Revolts_Local, Regional, and Global Catalysts and Consequences.pdf

Massenbach-Letter. NEWS 29.03.18

Massenbach-Letter. News

  • Turkey, Russia, Iran to hold talks on Syria amid Turkish military campaign.
  • Iran’s Defense Minister Due in Russia Next Week – 7th Moscow Conference on International Security (MCIS).
  • Wall Street Journal: U.S., China Quietly Seek Trade Solutions After Days of Loud Threats.
  • Crisis Group: ISIS Returnees Bring Both Hope and Fear to Chechnya
  • Zentrale Themen der dt. Sicherheits- und Verteidigungsindustrie („SVI“) -Das Gemeinschaftspapier des BDI, BDLI, BDSV sowie der IG Metall –

A Lone Wolf in Afrin. (Olive Branch revealed an ongoing trend in Turkey’s isolation from its Western partners.)

  • The Caucasian Knot. News.

Massenbach*Zentrale Themen der dt. Sicherheits- und Verteidigungsindustrie („SVI“)

26. März 2018 – Das Gemeinschaftspapier des BDI, BDLI, BDSV sowie der IG Metall –

Die SVI ist kein Wirtschaftssektor wie andere: Sie besteht aus Systemhäusern sowie hoch leistungsfähigen Mittelständlern. Mit der Ausrüstung von Bundeswehr und Organen der inneren Sicherheit („BOS“) ist sie Teil der nationalen Sicherheitsvorsorge. Zugleich nimmt die Regierung eine entscheidende Rolle ein (u.a. bei F&E, Beschaffung, Exporten, länderübergreifenden Projekten).

Das unterstreicht die Notwendigkeit gemeinsamen und abgestimmten Handelns zwischen Regierung, Unternehmen und Gewerkschaft im Wege einer kontinuierlichen und offenen Kommunikation auf Augenhöhe. Dazu sollten – wie im Koalitionsvertrag angekündigt – die Branchendialoge fortgesetzt werden; neben dem BMWi sind hier das Kanzleramt, das BMVg, das BMI und das AA gefragt…….

Verfügbarkeit verbessern: Gemeinsam sollten Wege gefunden werden, um die Verfügbarkeit vorhandenen Gerätes zu verbessern.

Die SVI stellt dazu folgende Punkte zur Diskussion:

(a) den Abschluss von Rahmenvereinbarungen zur Instandhaltung mit Ersatzteilbevorratung;

(b) die Prüfung neuer anreizbasierter Modelle zur Begleitung des Lebenszyklus von Gerät;

(c) die Erleichterung und Standardisierung von instandhaltungsbezogenen Beschaffungen;

(d) die Beseitigung von Transaktionshürden durch Standardisierung von Vergabegrundlagen


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

  • A Lone Wolf in Afrin.

Timur AkhmetovMA in Middle Eastern Studies, RIAC Expert

(…Olive Branch revealed an ongoing trend in Turkey’s isolation from its Western partners.)

  • The Caucasian Knot. News.


Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* Crisis Group: ISIS Returnees Bring Both Hope and Fear to Chechnya

The return of ISIS fighters to Chechnya could pose a security challenge for the war-torn Russian republic. The authorities may respond true to form, with repression, but efforts to repatriate women and children stranded in Syria and, in some cases, to reintegrate foreign fighters should not be discounted.

The victories over ISIS in Mosul and Raqqa pose a dilemma for states whose citizens travelled to join the Islamic State’s (ISIS) ranks and who may now seek to return home. These states include Russia, and in particular its republic of Chechnya.

On the one hand, Chechen authorities fear the return of insurgents who fought for ISIS. They worry those militants, most of whom are mortal enemies of Ramzan Kadyrov’s heavy-handed regime, will renew the attacks they mounted some years ago in Chechnya. As has been the case in the past, authorities might not stop at jailing returnees, and might also go after their families, friends or associates, potentially hardening hatred of the regime among a wider circle of people.

On the other hand, some officials and activists in Chechnya are spearheading efforts to bring back women and children stranded in the Middle East after the death or imprisonment of their insurgent husbands and fathers. Those efforts, alongside limited attempts to rehabilitate some former fighters, offer a ray of hope that at least some returnees who renounce ISIS can be reintegrated into Chechen society.

Chechens in Syria

Chechens are fighting on both sides of the war in Syria, due in part to the assertive role of Ramzan Kadyrov, head of the Chechen republic, in the Russian Federation’s foreign policy. In 2015, as Russia launched an air campaign to bolster Bashar al-Assad’s embattled regime, Kadyrov professed his enthusiasm for sending ground forces from Chechnya to fight ISIS.

Chechen authorities now have connections in Syria, which appear in some cases to have enabled them to use novel approaches in dealing with the threat of returning ISIS fighters.

His motives for doing so partly related to the particular threat ISIS posed in Chechnya. The republic had been ravaged by two separatist wars in the 1990s and 2000s, the second of which pitted the government against an insurrection increasingly dominated by jihadists.

By the mid-2000s, Kadyrov’s ruthless counter-insurgency campaign had shifted much of the violence to other North Caucasus republics. But when, in June 2015, ISIS declared its Vilayat Kavkaz (Caucasus province), it proclaimed Chechnya part of that province. The declaration, while largely symbolic, suggested a growing affinity for ISIS among North Caucasus insurgents, some of whom, by 2016, were nominally fighting under ISIS’s banner.

Russian officials estimate that as of 2016 some 3,500 Russian citizens had gone to Syria or Iraq to fight for ISIS, though the numbers cited vary, with some sources suggesting the actual figure exceeds 5,000. Reports vary as to how many of those citizens are ethnic Chechens, though figures sourced to Chechen law enforcement agencies run as high as 4,000. These may include non-Russian citizens, as some appear to be members of the Chechen diaspora who embarked from other countries, not Chechnya itself. Some Chechens served in ISIS’s top ranks.

Kadyrov saw a chance to eliminate potentially dangerous opponents in Syria, while at the same time demonstrating his loyalty to the Kremlin, which has lavished subsidies upon the republic he leads. He told President Vladimir Putin he would lead men into battle himself to “wipe out ISIS”. For most intents it was a boast – and in fact Kadyrov’s forces mostly ended up not fighting ISIS but policing areas recaptured from rebels by the Syrian regime. But the idea of deploying Chechens was an opportunity for Moscow, which was cautious about sending large numbers of Russian soldiers to Syria due to public relations concerns, and the Kremlin saw “outsourcing” the work to Kadyrovites as an attractive option.

The Kremlin and Kadyrov still needed to manage the optics of a regional leader getting embroiled in a conflict abroad. Hence the official line has varied as to who from Chechnya is serving in Syria and in what capacity.

Kadyrov first denied media reports that some 500 Chechens were fighting for Assad, but in January 2017 he acknowledged that “young men from Chechnya are serving” in the Russian Defense Ministry’s military police battalion in Syria. As is often the case with Kadyrov, he made the admission over Instagram, just after two Chechen parliamentarians met with Bashar’s brother, Maher al-Assad, the powerful commander of the Republican Guard, and visited the battalion in question. The “young men” were likely members of the Chechen National Guard “on loan” to Moscow and under federal command. Putin may have urged Kadyrov to use his loyalists to back Russia’s military campaign.

The degree of Kadyrov’s involvement is significant. Chechen authorities now have connections in Syria, which appear in some cases to have enabled them to use novel approaches in dealing with the threat of returning ISIS fighters and in facilitating the return of women and children that joined ISIS.

The first quandary authorities face is what to do with insurgents who do return: apply the indiscriminate long-term incarceration that in the past has shown short-term results but risks feeding anger at the authorities over time; or take a more nuanced approach, filtering out militants who could potentially be pulled away from ISIS and jihadism, monitoring them closely, giving them shorter sentences and attempting to reintegrate them into society.

Some [returnees] may be impervious to efforts to persuade them to abandon ISIS and violence. But others, given the opportunity, might reintegrate into society and pose no further danger.

It is difficult to assess how many Chechen militants survived in Syria and, of those who did survive, how many will return to the North Caucasus, rather than remain in the Iraqi or Syrian desert with other ISIS remnants or move on to other war zones.

According to Russian sources, at least several hundred Russian citizens have returned from Syria. The Dagestan government places the exact number of Dagestani returnees from jihad in Syria or Iraq at 108 since 2014, with 86 under criminal investigation. Chechen officials said in December 2017 that 93 women and children had been returned to Russia, but it is unclear how many of these were ethnically Chechen or resident in Chechnya.

Kadyrov’s government, meanwhile, in contrast to neighbouring Dagestan, has proclaimed a “safe corridor” for women returning from Syria. That, of course, is not the case for male insurgents, and there are no official figures for male returnees.

Jean-Francois Ratelle, a Canadian scholar who has studied the North Caucasus insurgency on the ground, estimates that several dozen Chechens have returned, while Akhmet Yarlykapov, a Caucasus specialist at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) cited by the Kommersant newspaper, gave an estimate of 40-50. But Ratelle believes that more are likely to return to Russian republics via Turkey and countries of the South Caucasus.

Russian federal and North Caucasian authorities worry that as fighters return, they could resume their jihad in Chechnya and other republics. In 2015, Russian Security Council chief Nikolai Patrushev outlined the threat and urged preventive measures.

In Chechnya’s case, the Kadyrov regime’s heavy-handed response is a particularly complicating factor. An illustration is the sequence of alleged events reported in August 2017 by the independent Moscow-based daily Novaya Gazeta: in December 2016, Chechen authorities claimed they liquidated a suspected ISIS cell in Grozny. Ramzan Kadyrov said that a group of militants who had joined an ISIS cell attacked police in Grozny on 17 December 2016, and as a result of a special operation that he headed seven were killed and four arrested. Three policemen had been killed in the attack, according to state media. Novaya Gazeta disputed the official version and alleged that over the next month, authorities swept up some 200 other people, including friends and relatives of the alleged ISIS members. At least 27 of these people, according to Novaya Gazeta’s sources, were executed on the night of 25 January 2017. Survivors reportedly said they were tortured to extract false confessions. Chechnya’s Minister for National Policy, External Relations and the Press Dzhambulat Umarov called Novaya Gazeta’s earlier report of 27 executions “lies” and claimed the paper’s journalists had no basis or proof for the allegations.

According to Novaya Gazeta’s report, following the raids dozens residing in Krasnaya Turbina, a Chechen town outside the capital Grozny, reportedly sent a letter to Russia’s federal Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika alleging mass raids and the torture of two men suspected of planning to go to Syria. Novaya Gazeta alleged in August 2017 that residents who appealed to Chaika were being pressured and beaten by police, but Chechen authorities denied this claiming the signatories said they had signed the letter by mistake and were remorseful. The remorse, however, may be indicative of a climate of fear: public apologies from Kadyrov’s critics after going public with allegations of abuse are common.

Indiscriminate counter-insurgency tactics may have quelled jihadist violence in the 2000s, but over time, they risk inspiring further animosity

Such indiscriminate counter-insurgency tactics may have quelled jihadist violence in the 2000s, but over time, they risk inspiring further animosity toward the regime that local activists believe could be exploited by ISIS or local insurgents.

The question of what to do with returning militants is clearly a complex one. Some may be impervious to efforts to persuade them to abandon ISIS and violence. But others, given the opportunity, might reintegrate into society and pose no further danger. This would require a more individual approach with regular assessment to establish whether former militants genuinely renounce violence. In some cases, their families might encourage them to do so and play positive supporting roles, according to local activists. Of course, such steps are far easier said than done, especially in Chechnya, which is notorious for indiscriminate repression and whose law enforcement authorities are not well equipped for a more selective approach. But efforts by Kadyrov’s human rights body suggest his government may be open to trying out newer, less repressive measures – at least in some cases.

Repatriating Women and Children

Alongside the worries above, Chechnya has tried to bring back relatives of fighters from Syria. Heda Saratova, a member of Kadyrov’s official Human Rights Council, has been involved both in repatriating women and children and, to a limited extent, in efforts to rehabilitate some returning militants. Saratova, with tentative support from local authorities, is working to build a rehabilitation centre in Grozny to apply a more individual approach to returning women from Syria that she hopes could later be applied to men as well.

According to Chechens who have worked to bring these families home, some women were brought to Syria by their husbands, while others followed of their own free will and still others were themselves ISIS recruits. Grozny relatives of stranded women told Crisis Group they were “deceived” into travelling to Syria, though, given the aura of fear and taboo surrounding possible links with ISIS, the relatives declined to elaborate as to how. Some women took children with them, but in many cases, the children were born in Syria.

Rights activists estimate that over 700 women and children of Chechen background are stuck in Syria and Iraq. There are likely many more from other Russian republics – some reports suggest camps full of stranded wives, sons and daughters of dead, incarcerated or escaped ISIS fighters.

It is a paradox that leniency and more nuanced measures may be tentatively tested in one of Russia’s most brutal regions

As of December 2017, Saratova’s group, Objective, reports having helped, together with Chechen authorities, bring back 93 women and children.

This limited success illustrates the ties that Kadyrov and his coterie have in Syria. Ziyad Sabsabi, a senator from Chechnya in Russia’s Federation Council and Kadyrov’s official representative in the Middle East, appears to be the main broker of repatriations of women and children from Chechnya and other parts of Russia. Women and children are also being evacuated with the help of the Chechen Republic’s Friends Association in Jordan, headed by Samih Beno, an ethnic Chechen and a Jordanian politician.

“These women were taken there by force, by their husbands. The men went there to fight. [There was an online campaign] to recruit them. They became cannon fodder”, Saratova told Crisis Group in September in Grozny. “There were women whose husbands had died, and they had become hostages. They were in prison, and they had nothing to eat. And now these poor mothers [pointing to women in her office] are visiting various officials to at least try to bring back their grandchildren. Ramzan Akhmatovich [Kadyrov] said in his interview that he got an order from Vladimir Putin to use all his connections, all his resources, to get these children back”.

The reality is more complex than simply men forcing women to travel, Saratova concedes. In some cases, women themselves chose to go. Some may return disillusioned by their experience with ISIS, but others may still share some of its beliefs and will need their own rehabilitation programs, even if not always quite the same as those of former fighters. According to Saratova, women would need to be monitored for several months after their return.

There are also other complications: several women repatriated through Chechen efforts were incarcerated in Dagestan, even though Chechen authorities said in October that women could avoid criminal persecution if they turned themselves in. The incident, which Saratova described as “shocking”, highlighted the clash in policies between Chechnya, which had pledged a safe corridor for returning women, and Dagestan. In the past, Dagestan has made efforts to reintegrate insurgents, but this time showed little leniency to returning women. If such measures are to work, it will require coordination and compromise between the authorities of the various North Caucasus republics.

A More Disaggregated Approach for Insurgents

Saratova’s work in repatriating women and children from Syria, and closely working with their families, has equipped her with connections and skills that could be applied in reintegrating militants as well.

In 2014, her organisation helped bring back Said Mazhaev, a Chechen insurgent, who was seeking to return home from Syria. After Mazhaev served a short prison term, he renounced ISIS, and Saratova, together with Chechen Deputy Interior Minister Apti Alaudinov, began involving him in meetings with Chechen youth to disabuse them of any allure the movement might hold.

In a 2017 conversation with Crisis Group, Saratova described the effect of these meetings:

The reaction of young people to his words was very interesting. When officials come out and say, ‘don’t go to Syria, it’s bad’, they are bored. They slept at those events. Said Mazhaev came out and said: ‘Guys, I’ve been there, and I understood it was all a lie – and I came back. Don’t let them lie to you’. The reaction was amazing. These young people followed him. They asked him questions. The whole auditorium came alive. I always say, ‘these guys that come back, why give them 10-15 years in prison? Who are they going to be when they come back?’ I always say, ‘let’s use these people. They have information. They can show that the ideology of ISIS is a lie’. You need rehabilitation. Of course, not all of them have reconsidered. It’s a lot of work. But there are tons of people coming back and we need to be ready to [rehabilitate]. We need to be ready to work with these people.

[Authorities in Chechnya] would be better off trying to reintegrate at least some returning insurgents and using those who have abandoned jihadism to deter others.

To be sure, Kadyrov may hope that people like Saratova will help build his own domestic and international reputation. Some of her work is public relations, an effort to put a kinder, gentler face on a regime known for systematic abuses. Nevertheless, a more differentiated approach for dealing with militants, with opportunities to reintegrate into society, has proven effective in other North Caucasus republics, such as Ingushetia and Dagestan, and should not be discounted in Chechnya.

A Crack of Light in a Very Dark Tunnel

Kadyrov has been harsher than any of his North Caucasus counterparts in dealing with the jihadist threat, and a major course correction seems unlikely any time soon. Indeed, in many ways it is a paradox that leniency and more nuanced measures may be tentatively tested in one of Russia’s most brutal regions. ….

But as difficult as it may be, and without excusing the abusive actions of Kadyrov’s regime, efforts such as Saratova’s should be noted, closely watched and encouraged, in the hope that over time they could offer alternatives to the republic’s traditional repressive methods.

Realistically, authorities in Chechnya will likely continue with indiscriminate crackdowns. But either way, they would be better off trying to reintegrate at least some returning insurgents and using those who have abandoned jihadism to deter others, as Saratova has described, from violence.

Moscow could even consider assisting such efforts and sharing experiences in dealing with a problem that, in one way or another, will affect other regions of Russia and other countries. Recognising even small positive signs from official Chechen organs could eventually help move them in a more positive direction and shine a light on what is otherwise one of the most obscure and repressive corners of Russia.


Politics: From Vision to Action

Barandat* Wall Street Journal: U.S., China Quietly Seek Trade Solutions After Days of Loud Threats

Wide-ranging discussions aimed at widening market access follow Washington’s vow to use tariffs, which sent U.S. stocks sharply lower

By Lingling Wei in Beijing and Bob Davis in Washington

Updated March 26, 2018 7:01 a.m. ET

China and the U.S. have quietly started negotiating to improve U.S. access to Chinese markets, after a week filled with harsh words from both sides over Washington’s threat to use tariffs to address trade imbalances, people with knowledge of the matter said.

The talks, which cover wide areas including financial services and manufacturing, are being led by Liu He, China’s economic czar in Beijing, and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer in Washington.

In a letter Messrs. Mnuchin and Lighthizer sent to Mr. Liu late last week, the Trump administration set out specific requests that include a reduction of Chinese tariffs on U.S. automobiles, more Chinese purchases of U.S. semiconductors and greater access to China’s financial sector by American companies, the people said. Mr. Mnuchin is weighing a trip to Beijing to pursue the negotiations, one of these people said.

Mr. Mnuchin on Saturday called Mr. Liu, President Xi Jinping’s top economic adviser, whose promotion as vice premier during the just-concluded annual legislative session essentially makes him the country’s economic captain.

“Secretary Mnuchin called Liu He to congratulate him on the official announcement of his new role,” a Treasury spokesman said. “They also discussed the trade deficit between our two countries and committed to continuing the dialogue to find a mutually agreeable way to reduce it.”

The behind-the-scenes discussions might come as relief to those rattled by announcements last week of U.S. plans to hit China with tariffs, investment restrictions and other measures aimed at addressing the U.S.’s $375 billion merchandise trade deficit with the world’s second-leading economic power. The announcement—and the immediate threat of Chinese retaliation—sent U.S. stock prices into a sharp decline.

Farm-belt constituents of President Donald Trump, whose exports face possible retaliatory tariffs by China, decried the tariff plans, and in foreign capitals from Canberra to Brussels, U.S. allies nervously weighed diplomatic options as tensions mounted between Washington and Beijing.

Mr. Trump last week hinted the U.S. was employing both carrot and stick. “We’ve spoken to China and we’re in the midst of a very large negotiation,” he said on Thursday as he announced he was threatening China with tariffs on as much as $60 billion in imports and other restrictions. “We’ll see where that takes us.”

Although Beijing reacted angrily to the U.S. tariff threat, Chinese officials have been careful not to escalate the fight by much. China’s Commerce Ministry accused the U.S. of “setting a vile precedent,” and rolled out penalties against $3 billion in U.S. goods including fruit, pork, recycled aluminum and steel pipes. The ministry said those measures were aimed directly at new U.S. tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum.

Yet so far, China hasn’t included on its retaliatory list any mention of the biggest U.S. exports to China such as soybeans, sorghum and Boeing Co. aircraft, which to some observers underscores Beijing’s willingness to negotiate a solution with the Trump administration.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer sent Chinese Vice Premier Liu He,

above, a letter in which the Trump administration set out specific requests, people familiar with the situation said.

Mr. Liu told Mr. Mnuchin in their phone conversation that Washington’s recent trade offensive against China would hurt both countries and the world, the official Xinhua News Agency reported, and he expressed hope that the two sides can work together to “maintain the overall stability of their economic and trade relations.”

Mr. Trump has said he wants China to reduce the bilateral trade deficit by $100 billion. As part of that, he is looking to boost sales of U.S. cars and semiconductors in China.

“The word that I want to use is reciprocal,” he said last week. “When they charge 25% for a car to go in, and we charge 2% for their car to come into the U.S., that’s not good,” he said. The U.S. actually assesses tariffs of 2.5% on imported cars; China’s is 25%. In other areas, the U.S. has higher tariffs than those charged by trading partners, including a 25% tariff on imported pickup trucks and stiff levies on some agricultural products like peanuts.

Washington is also considering the possibility of pressing Beijing to shift some of its semiconductor purchases to U.S. companies from Japanese and South Korean ones, people familiar with the talks said.

Will Trump’s Import Tariffs Cause Trade Wars?

President Trump signed an executive order on Tuesday that imposed tariffs on washing machines and solar panels. WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib examined whether these moves could ignite a trade war with South Korea and China. Photo: AP (Originally Published January 24, 2018)

The U.S. side believes the threat of import tariffs gives Washington leverage in pushing for big changes. But critics of the effort warn that forcing China to negotiate under such circumstances might backfire, because any concessions would be seen as bowing to foreign pressure and embarrass the Chinese leadership.​

“We’re working on a pathway to see if we can reach an agreement as to what fair trade is for them,” Mr. Mnuchin said on Fox News Sunday. Such a deal would include Beijing opening its markets further to U.S. exports, reducing its tariffs and stopping pressure on U.S. companies in China to transfer their technology to Chinese joint-venture partners, he said.

The U.S. is also pressing China to ease restrictions on U.S. financial businesses, particularly requirements that they operate as joint ventures under which U.S. firms are in many cases limited to 51% ownership.

For the past few months, amid a suspension of the formal bilateral trade dialogue, Chinese officials had been looking for specific demands from the U.S. and had been frustrated over a lack of clarity from the Trump administration.

Mr. Liu went to Washington as Mr. Xi’s top economic envoy in late February and met with Messrs. Mnuchin, Lighthizer and National Economic Council director Gary Cohn. Mr. Liu proposed some easing of financial-sector restrictions. The U.S. side asked him to make a formal proposal, people tracking the talks said.

Mr. Liu also met U.S. corporate leaders and other business representatives as he sought to restart the dialogue. At those meetings, the U.S. participants gave Mr. Liu advice on what China would need to do to put relations with the U.S. back on an even keel, individuals with knowledge of the exchanges said.

Among the things suggested to Mr. Liu: accelerate financial liberalization and expand its scope; reduce subsidies to state-owned enterprises; reduce tariffs on autos; provide more regulatory transparency; and end requirements that American firms must enter into joint ventures with Chinese companies to access the Chinese market. Mr. Liu didn’t make commitments at the time, the individuals said, but said he was grateful to hear specifics.

Now, as the two sides have resumed high-level talks, the U.S. is also watching what Mr. Xi will say at the Boao Forum, an annual gathering of world political and business leaders on the southern Chinese island of Hainan in April. Some observers said they expect Mr. Xi to announce plans to allow greater foreign access to markets such as insurance.

“If they open up their markets, it is an enormous opportunity for U.S. companies,” Mr. Mnuchin told Fox News Sunday. “I am cautiously hopeful we reach an agreement, but if not we are proceeding with these tariffs.”


*Massenbach’s Recommendation*

Iran’s Defense Minister Due in Russia Next Week

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami plans to travel to Moscow next week to take part in an international security conference.

During the visit, which will be made at the invitation of Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu, General Hatami will take part in the 7th Moscow Conference on International Security (MCIS). On the sidelines of the event, he is planned to hold talks with his Russian counterpart on bilateral, regional and international issues.

On General Hatami’s agenda while in Moscow is also meetings with the defense ministers and security and military officials of a number of other countries attending the conference.

The Russian Federation’s Ministry of Defense is organizing the 7th Moscow Conference on International Security on April 4-5. Defense ministers and military officials from over 80 countries are expected to partake in the two-day event.

According to the website of the conference, this year it will be focused on the defeat of terrorists in Syria.

Security issues facing Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America will also be in the spotlight of the forum. A special session will address “Soft power” phenomenon as a tool to pursue military-political objectives.

About Moscow Conference on International Security:

  • Program: ( Results of defeat of the ISIS in Syria and prospects of peace establishment in the region will become the main agenda of the conference.)


Spotlight: Turkey, Russia, Iran to hold talks on Syria amid Turkish military campaign

ANKARA, March 25 (Xinhua) — The presidents of Turkey, Russia and Iran will meet in a trilateral summit on Syria in Istanbul on April 4.

It comes after the capture by Turkish-led forces of a Kurdish stronghold in northern Syria and amid Turkish threats to extend the massive operation further east.

The meeting will be hosted by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and will be the second such tripartite summit following the previous one last November in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi.

The summit will be attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani as the three leaders will seek to salvage their efforts to end the seven-year Syrian conflict.

As part of peace talks in the Kazakh capital Astana sponsored by Ankara, Moscow and Tehran, the three countries‘ foreign ministers met on Friday and discussed preparations for next month’s summit, the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement.

The three countries have worked together despite their different positions. While Iran and Russia have provided military support to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Turkey has repeatedly called for his ousting and supported Syrian rebels.


Experts believed that the mere fact that regional actors are gathering would be considered as a message of international dialogue in search of a negotiated peace in war-torn Syria.

"The most concrete result that would emerge from this summit will be one of the determination to pursue the cooperation between Turkey, Russia and Iran," said Kerim Has, a lecturer at Moscow State University.

The specialist on foreign relations and Russia commented that "such a message despite the Afrin operation would be important for the three (regional) players."……..

Some analysts thought that by giving a green light to Turkish airplanes to use the space it controls over Syria, Russia has meddled in the Turkish-U.S. dispute to weaken the NATO alliance.

"The green light given to Operation Olive Branch shows that even though they are reluctant, Russia and Iran prefer Turkey who would transfer in the end the control of Afrin to regime forces rather to an independently manoeuvring YPG, who would be unpredictable," argued Has.

The fact that Turkey has promised to rebuild the infrastructure of Afrin and ensure the safe return of thousands of refugees is also a factor that justifies Ankara’s motive.

While the U.S. State department spokesperson Heather Nauert has voiced concern over a mass evacuation of Afrin city, quoting the United Nations reporting up to 250,000 Kurds having fled the region, massive preparations are underway by Turkish aid organizations such as the Red Crescent to provide immediate assistance to the population of Afrin, said Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag on Tuesday.

"We want to make sure that our operation brings hope to all ethnic populations of Afrin," said the Turkish diplomatic source, implying that until the trilateral summit of April serious assistance will be conveyed to this part of Syria.



see our letter on:

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


03-27-18 Syria_Turkey_Afrin – Caucasian News.pdf

03-26-18 Zentrale_Themen_der_dt_SVI_260318.pdf

Massenbach-Letter. NEWS 23.03.18

Massenbach-Letter. News

  • US-Saudi Relations and a Meeting in Washington by George Friedman. GPF.
  • U.S. Presence and the Incidence of Conflict by RAND.
  • End the Weaponisation of Water in Central Asia.
  • Handelsblatt: Lieferketten in Europa werden schon ein Jahr vor dem Brexit zerstört.
  • What Сan Britain Do in Response to Russian Nerve Attack.

By Andrey Kortunov, Director General at the Russian International Affairs Council, and Jack Maidment, Political Correspondent for The Telegraph.

Massenbach*US-Saudi Relations and a Meeting in Washington

By George Friedman

The British statesman Ernest Bevin once said the kingdom of heaven runs on righteousness, but the kingdoms of the Earth run on oil. That might have been the motto that drove British foreign policy in the Middle East after World War I, and then U.S. policy after World War II. But over the next two weeks, as the Saudi crown prince tours the United States, meeting with the president, other government officials and business leaders, the message will be decidedly different. Oil hasn’t lost its indispensability, but Saudi oil has.

No Effort too Great

Attention to the presence of oil in the Middle East grew as the industrial revolution shifted from coal to oil. When the Ottoman Empire was defeated in World War I, the British, French and Russians seized the opportunity to reshape the political structure of the region around its oil. Borders were imposed on the basis of oil, without regard for the nations themselves. Those areas that had oil were frequently those whose boundaries were the most difficult to draw. Some of the most valuable oil fields were to be found on the eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. The British crafted a nation – ruled by a family, the Sauds – to maintain peace on the peninsula so that oil could be extracted peacefully. American policy in the region ultimately derived from British policy. The British sought to secure the production of oil, and so did the Americans. Both therefore maintained close relations with oil producers, and with the Saudis in particular.

Saudi Arabia had no qualms about weaponizing its oil supplies. In 1973, after a war between Israel and neighboring Arab states, the Saudis crafted an oil embargo targeting supporters of Israel, including the U.S. and its allies. The result was massive economic dislocation throughout the industrial world. The Saudis and other Arabs controlled enough of the world’s oil that they could not only control the price but also the tempo of life in the industrialized world. Whether the embargo was a result of concern for their Palestinian brethren or the desire to surge oil prices (or both) is debatable. What can’t be denied was that the Saudis controlled economic life in much of the world.

Washington got the message. It became fixed U.S. policy to maintain good relations with the Saudis and to protect them from political and military threats. The Americans’ commitment was put to the test in 1990, when Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded Kuwait, another significant oil producer. From Iraq’s new position, it was able to threaten the vital oil fields in eastern Saudi Arabia. By this point, the Soviets were far less of a threat than they had been, but U.S. policy was still shaped by the Cold War. Iraq was vaguely aligned with the Soviets, and the American nightmare was that if the Soviets seized the Saudi oil fields, they would have the United States and its alliance structure by the throat. The U.S. massed an enormous military force in Saudi Arabia, first to protect the Saudi oil fields, and then to drive Saddam out of Kuwait. About half a million U.S. troops were used. No effort was too great for the protection of Saudi Arabia’s oil.

Reduced Importance

The U.S. commitment to the Saudis remains intact, but the meaning of the commitment has shifted for two reasons. First, the geopolitics of global oil has changed. A combination of events, particularly the surge in U.S. oil and shale gas production and the use of natural gas in place of oil in general, has reduced the importance of Saudi oil. Saudi supplies are still extremely important to the world, but the Saudis could not pull off an oil embargo today, and they no longer control the price of oil.

Second, in 1990 the U.S. was already the sole superpower, with a vast military force that for nearly two generations had been preparing for a war in Europe. That force and its allies overwhelmed the Iraqis. It was the greatest American military success since World War II. But hidden within it were dangerous flaws. It took about six months to build a force capable of retaking Kuwait. During that time, a more ambitious Saddam might have taken the Saudi oil fields. Moreover, the “desecration” of Saudi Arabia by the stationing of U.S. troops was one of the impulses behind the creation of al-Qaida. The flaws and consequences of the war exist still today.

And today, the U.S. is not coming off a peaceful triumph. American troops have been fighting in the Islamic world since 2001, with a consistently unsatisfactory outcome. Gone is the eagerness of the U.S. military to show its prowess. The force has been drained by a generation of warfare.

What this means is that, for a multitude of reasons, the political basis for the defense of Saudi Arabia has diminished. The American public is not excited about the prospect of another war.

Militarily, the same problem remains – the time to theater creates sizable openings for an aggressive power, Iran in this case. Instead of defending the oil fields, in the next war the U.S. might have to retake them.

Another large U.S. troop presence in parts of Saudi Arabia, however well-intentioned it would appear to the United States, could lead to unpleasant consequences in the Islamic world. Saudi oil no longer defines the global market. Even if Iran could seize Saudi Arabia’s oil – and Iran’s own military might is dubious – the only reason to seize oil now is to sell it. As far as the Americans and other consumers are concerned, whether it is Iran or the Saudis in control, the oil will flow.

The Reality of the Moment

The United States does not want Iran to dominate the Arabian Peninsula’s oil, and it will act within its means and interest to prevent it. But the U.S. means and interest aren’t what they were in 1990.

The kingdoms of Earth are still driven by oil (wind power notwithstanding), but the world is not short of oil right now. Britain imposed its power to control Middle Eastern oil, the United States inherited that power, and now that power is out of balance with the need. The global industrial base simply does not rely on Arabian oil fields anymore.

It is in this context that the Americans and the Saudis meet. They are still friends, whatever that means in the context of global politics. They have common enemies. But for the Americans, the commitment to the Saudis is shaped by the reality of this moment, not the last. Containing Iran is important, but it cannot be something the U.S. does alone. It is in the interest of Sunni powers like Turkey to deal with matters like Iran, backed to some extent by the United States. But whatever the final communique of the meeting says, this is not 1990. Shifts in reality emerge at times of greatest stress and are the greatest surprise. They shouldn’t be.


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

  • Review of Benita Ferrero-Waldner’s book Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way. The Experience of a Female European and Cosmopolitan

Ferrero-Waldner’s assessments of the positions of the West, and the United States in particular, are more or less categorical. She reproaches both U.S. and European diplomats for their hasty actionsFerrero-Waldner believes that the United Kingdom will derive no economic or political benefit from Brexit, and even brings the future of the country as a whole into question, pointing to the possible secession of Scotland and Northern Ireland in the coming years. This centrifugal force could make its way onto the continent, as we have already seen in the case of Catalonia. According to Ferrero-Waldner, EU leaders are searching for a way out of the crisis. It is clear that this will be impossible if structural reforms are not made within the European Union – reforms which involve expanding the decision-making process from the centre outwards. Member states should assume greater responsibility…..

  • "Caucasian Knot" sums up 2017 armed conflict in NCFD

In 2017, an overall decrease in the number of victims to the armed conflict in the regions of Northern Caucasian occurred against the backdrop of an increase in the number of civilian casualties. This is evidenced by the calculations run by the "Caucasian Knot".

Chechnya loses its leading position in votes for Vladimir Putin, Sochi state servants fear to complain about compulsion to voting, Volgograd Communists call elections falsified.

  • Assad’s Army and Intelligence Services: Feudalization or Structurization? By Anton MardasovMilitary Observer Head of the Department of Middle Eastern Conflicts at the Institute of Innovative Development
  • What Сan Britain Do in Response to Russian Nerve Attack

By Andrey Kortunov, Director General at the Russian International Affairs Council, and Jack Maidment, Political Correspondent for The Telegraph.


Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* End the Weaponisation of Water in Central Asia.

Four Central Asian states – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – have argued over their water resources since the collapse of the Soviet Union. At times these disputes have seemed to threaten war. The forthcoming presidential summit in Astana can help banish that spectre.

On 15-16 March there is a landmark opportunity to promote peace and prosperity in Central Asia when the presidents of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan meet in the Kazakh capital of Astana. It will be the four leaders’ first summit in nearly a decade. A top agenda item will likely be the precious water resources the countries must share in this vast region.

Water has been at the heart of recurrent disputes among the four states since the demise of the Soviet Union. At root, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are short on water, and Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan short on electricity. The tension has been sharpest in the densely populated Ferghana Valley, where Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan converge. The latter two states accused their larger Uzbek neighbour of guzzling river water to irrigate vast cotton fields; Uzbekistan, for its part, bitterly fought Kyrgyz and Tajik plans to build dams upstream. Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan also argued over the hydropower projects, which Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan needed to keep the lights on. At various times, shared resources have been used as a political tool – Uzbekistan by switching off power grids, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan by threatening to block the downstream flow of water.

A breakthrough occurred in 2017, when Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan agreed to develop hydroelectric power plants on the Naryn river, which feeds the Syr Darya traversing Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan toward the Aral Sea. Another positive sign was Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s 9 March announcement in Dushanbe, the Tajik capital, that he now backs the Rogun dam and hydroelectric project in Tajikistan. In Astana, Mirziyoyev and his peers, Emomali Rahmon of Tajikistan and Sooronbai Jeenbekov of Kyrgyzstan, can reiterate and expand upon these commitments. Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan should help Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan develop their hydropower capacity, and all four countries should reach an agreement as to when water will be stored and released. These accords may be hard to negotiate but now is the time to start.

In 2018, all four states should also coordinate efforts to improve irrigation infrastructure in border areas, where there is some risk of renewed local conflict over water, particularly in the Ferghana Valley. Kyrgyzstan especially stands to benefit, as cross-border conflict with Uzbekistan has in the past undermined the credibility of the central government.

  • ­Deep-seated mistrust between Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan has hindered cooperation, but progress such as the agreements on hydropower […] shows that the disputes are not intractable. –

All states should affirm in Astana that national agencies and local governments along borders will develop complementary work plans to ensure equitable access to irrigation. Presidential leadership on this issue is vital given the top-down nature of governance in the region. For more than two decades, the ability of locals to work together at the borders has dwindled. Technicians and engineers who worked together during the Soviet era have left the work force. Meanwhile, quarrels between the capitals stifled local initiative.

With political will at the top, however, it is possible to forestall future disputes. Kyrgyz, Tajik and Uzbek water management officials in border areas should convene bilaterally and trilaterally to identify potential sites of conflict over water. Their work should be framed as technical, not political, and the presidents should encourage it publicly. Where possible, officials in the Ferghana Valley should pool resources and machinery. Irrigation infrastructure is in poor repair and needs modernisation – but even what exists can be made more efficient with timely maintenance. Inspectors should be free to cross borders as needed.

The upstream countries should plan maintenance work on reservoirs carefully and transparently to avoid any perception that they are ignoring downstream needs or making an oblique political point.

The Astana meeting could be a defining moment for President Mirziyoyev, if he distances himself from his predecessor, Islam Karimov, who warned that water disputes could lead to war when he visited Astana in 2012. Mirziyoyev’s trip to Dushanbe suggests he has an entirely different vision. As a downstream country, Uzbekistan can secure the release of water for irrigation by buying more electricity from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Doing so would also reduce Uzbekistan’s reliance on thermal power plants and move it toward renewable sources as domestic demand for electricity increases.

To date, deep-seated mistrust between Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan has hindered cooperation, but progress such as the agreements on hydropower and the reopening of border crossings shows that the disputes are not intractable. What Central Asia needs now is a joint commitment, announced at the highest level, to end the weaponisation of water in both word and deed. Should the presidents take this stance, the comity would trickle down into society.


Politics: From Vision to Action

Barandat*U.S. Presence and the Incidence of Conflict

There is an ongoing debate about the effects of U.S. military presence on conflict around the globe. In one view, U.S. military presence helps to deter adversaries, restrain U.S. partners from adopting provocative policies, and make it easier for the United States to achieve its aims without the use of force. In another view, U.S. military presence tends to provoke adversaries and encourage allies to adopt more reckless policies, and it increases the likelihood that the United States will be involved in combat.

The authors of this report analyze historical data to assess how U.S. military presence — in particular, U.S. troop presence and military assistance — is associated with the interstate and intrastate conflict behavior of states and nonstate actors. Troop presence and military assistance have different effects. Stationing U.S. troops abroad may help deter interstate war. A large U.S. regional troop presence may reduce the likelihood of interstate conflict in two ways: by deterring potential U.S. adversaries from initiating interstate wars or by restraining U.S. allies from initiating militarized behavior. However, U.S. military presence may increase interstate militarized activities short of war. U.S. adversaries may be more likely to initiate militarized disputes against states with a larger U.S. in-country troop presence. U.S. troop presence does not appear to reduce the risk of intrastate conflict or affect the level of state repression. U.S. military assistance is not associated with changes in interstate conflict behavior. However, provision of U.S. military assistance may be associated with increased state repression and incidence of civil war. These findings have implications for near-term decision making on U.S. forward troop presence in Europe and Asia.

Key Findings

The Effects of U.S. Troop Presence on Interstate Conflict

· On average, nearby U.S. troop presence is associated with a lower likelihood of interstate war.

· Nearby U.S. troop presence is associated with allies initiating fewer militarized disputes.

· These benefits appear to come with tradeoffs. Nearby U.S. troop presence is associated with a higher likelihood of low-intensity militarized disputes (e.g., displays of military force and threats to use military force).

· In addition, a large in-country U.S. troop presence is associated with potential U.S. adversaries initiating even higher-intensity militarized disputes, though still short of war.

· U.S. troop presence is associated with a higher likelihood of the United States initiating militarized disputes. This may reflect the strategic deployment of U.S. forces near states with which the United States expects to engage in military conflict.

The Effects of U.S. Military Presence on Intrastate Conflict

· The authors found no consistent or robust association between U.S. forward troop presence and intrastate conflict.

· However, overall U.S. military assistance is positively associated with an increased risk of anti-regime activities and greater levels of state repression by incumbent governments.

The Effects of U.S. Military Assistance on Conflict

· The authors found no consistent or robust association between U.S. military assistance and interstate conflict.

· However, provision of U.S. military assistance may be associated with increased state repression and incidence of civil war.

Implications for Forward Presence Decisions

· A large U.S. regional troop presence can be an effective tool in deterring interstate war, but it may also provoke more militarized activities short of war.

· With regard to U.S. efforts to deter Russia and China, the authors note that substantial nearby U.S. troop presence may in general be associated with a lower likelihood of interstate war, though it may increase the risk of provocations short of war, and these general patterns might differ in specific cases.

· U.S. military assistance, much of which has historically been in the Middle East, may overall be associated with a greater likelihood of repression or domestic instability, though the effects may differ in particular countries.

Table of Contents

· Chapter One – Introduction

· Chapter Two – Trends in U.S. Presence

· Chapter Three – How U.S. Troop Presence May Influence Interstate Conflict Behavior

· Chapter Four – Empirical Assessment of U.S. Troop Presence and Interstate Conflict Behavior

· Chapter Five – How U.S. Presence May Influence Intrastate Conflict Behavior

· Chapter Six – Empirical Assessment of U.S. Presence and Intrastate Conflict Behavior

· Chapter Seven – Findings and Implications for Future U.S. Presence and Operating Environment

· Appendix A – Interstate Model Results

· Appendix B – Intrastate Model Results


*Massenbach’s Recommendation*

Handelsblatt: Lieferketten in Europa werden schon ein Jahr vor dem Brexit zerstört.

Der Brexit zeigt seine Wirkung: Unternehmen bauen ihre Lieferketten um, britische Manager klagen über steigende Kosten und Auftragsverluste.

London. Noch ist es ein Jahr hin bis zum Brexit, doch die Unternehmen auf beiden Seiten des Ärmelkanals bauen bereits ihre Lieferketten um. 14 Prozent der EU-Firmen mit britischen Zulieferern haben Teile ihres Geschäfts aus dem Königreich verlegt. Elf Prozent haben Mitarbeiter abgezogen.

Das ergab eine vom Branchenverband CIPS durchgeführte Umfrage unter mehr als 2000 Managern von Unternehmen mit einer Präsenz in Großbritannien.

Die Umfrage zeigt, dass Unternehmen sich auf einen harten Brexit vorbereiten. Sie rechnen damit, dass Großbritannien langfristig aus dem Binnenmarkt und der Zollunion ausscheidet. Zwar will der EU-Gipfel diese Woche eine Übergangsperiode beschließen, die den Status quo bis Ende 2020 zementiert. Doch das dürfte die Einschätzung der Manager kaum verändern. Nur der Handlungsdruck sinkt ein wenig, es gibt mehr Zeit für einen geordneten Umbau der Beziehungen.

Britische Firmen bekommen einen Vorgeschmack, was das Leben außerhalb von Binnenmarkt und Zollunion bedeutet. Neun Prozent geben an, dass sie Aufträge als direkte Folge des Brexit-Votums verloren haben. 22 Prozent klagen, dass EU-Zulieferer keine Bestellungen annehmen, die über das Austrittsdatum im März 2019 hinauslaufen. 23 Prozent der Unternehmen geben sogar an, Arbeitsplätze streichen zu wollen.

Die Umfrage ist eine Momentaufnahme, welchen zerstörerischen Effekt der Brexit auf die seit Jahrzehnten gewachsenen Lieferketten haben kann. 36 Prozent der britischen Unternehmen, die bisher mit Zulieferern aus der EU arbeiten, schauen sich bereits nach lokalem Ersatz um. Das ist in vielen Fällen nicht so einfach. „Sie werden Schwierigkeiten haben, passende Alternativen im Königreich zu finden“, sagt der Ökonom John Glen vom CIPS.

Auch klagen die britischen Unternehmen über steigende Kosten. 32 Prozent sagen, dass sie ihre Preise angehoben haben. 41 Prozent geben an, sie würden ihre Preise in Zukunft erhöhen. Die Firmen hätten keine andere Wahl, als einen Teil der zusätzlichen Kosten an die Kunden weiterzugeben, sagte Glen. Der Großteil der Brexit-Kosten bleibe jedoch bei den Unternehmen selbst hängen.

Besonders betroffen ist die Lebensmittelindustrie. 70 Prozent ihrer Exporte gehen in die EU. Weil viele Zutaten nicht aus Großbritannien stammen, könnte es nach dem Austritt aus der Zollunion Probleme mit den Herkunftsregeln geben.

Wirtschaftsverbände plädieren daher seit Langem dafür, in der Zollunion und im Binnenmarkt zu bleiben. Die Labour-Opposition hat bereits ihren Kurs geändert und tritt für eine neue Zollunion mit der EU ein. Die konservative Regierung von Premierministerin Theresa May jedoch beharrt auf dem Ausstieg aus beiden. Sie strebt ein weitreichendes Freihandelsabkommen an, das unterschiedlichen Branchen unterschiedlich tiefen Zugang zum Binnenmarkt ermöglicht.

Auch redet sie über ein neues „Zoll-Arrangement“. Wie weit die EU der britischen Regierung entgegenkommen will, ist unklar. Bisher lehnt sie solche Gedankenspiele über einen maßgeschneiderten Deal ab.

Bis die Brexit-Unterhändler sich auf eine neue Handelsbeziehung einigen, die ab 2021 gelten soll, können noch Jahre vergehen. Wie die CIPS-Umfrage zeigt, wollen viele Unternehmen nicht so lange warten. Sie agieren jetzt und setzen ihre Notfallpläne um – auf der Basis der vorhandenen Informationen. Alles andere ist aus Managersicht fahrlässig.

Damit ist der Schaden schon angerichtet, bevor der Brexit formal vollzogen ist. Selbst wenn sich die Unterhändler am Ende auf den weichest möglichen Brexit einigen, sind die Lieferketten an vielen Stellen schon zerrissen.



see our letter on:

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


03-15-18 U.S. Presence and the Incidence of Conflict_RAND_RR1906.pdf

03-20-18 Ferreo-Waldner- Norther Caucasus- Syria – UK_Russia.pdf

Massenbach-Letter. NEWS 16.03.18

Massenbach-Letter. News

  • Washington Post: “Rex Tillerson’s firing was necessary to national security”
  • politico: Larry Kudlow will be the next director of the National Economic Council – succeeding Gary Cohn as President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser
  • George Friedman: The Geopolitics of Britain.

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

  • Baku protesters demand free elections
  • Armenian opposition demands to remove President Serzh Sargsyan from power

Nagorno-Karabakh accuses Azerbaijan of 220 cases of shelling per week

  • Death of a military in Syria caused questions from Ingush social network users
  • Putin’s Brave New World

March 12, 2018 – EPA-EFE/ALEXEI DRUZHININ…-Igor Ivanov – President of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (1998–2004).

  • Korea after the Olympics: Temporary Truce or Permanent Peace?

March 7, 2018 – REUTERS/Jeon Heon-kyun…Georgy TolorayaDoctor of Economics, Professor of Oriental Studies, Director of the Asian strategy center at the Institute of Economics of the Russian Academy of Sciences

  • Russia Is Offering an Olive Branch, Not Flaunting Nuclear Weapons

March 6, 2018 – Igor Ivanov – President of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (1998–2004).

Massenbach* Washington Post: “Rex Tillerson’s firing was necessary to national security”

Opinions: .„With quick work staffing up at State, the country will have made a complete break with the disastrous policies of the Obama years. It was a sudden and somewhat rough change, but necessary to national security. Now if the Senate Democrats who have stalled so many appointees charged with protecting the nation’s defenses and interests will cooperate with Senate Republicans, the hard work of opposing an increasingly ascendant China and an increasingly reckless Russia can accelerate.”

By Hugh HewittMarch 13 at 7:52 PM

On my first show for MSNBC last June, I sat down at Langley with CIA Director Mike Pompeo, now President Trump’s nominee for secretary of state. A quick read of the transcript will not only explain the sudden change at Foggy Bottom but also should reassure any fair-minded person that a much-needed infusion of talent and presidential trust is on the way.

It’s been hard to find anyone in the White House to say a bad word about the character or personality of Rex Tillerson or a good word about his leadership at State. The friction between the White House personnel shop and Tillerson’s chief of staff, Margaret Peterlin, is the worst-kept secret inside the Beltway, and the glacial pace of staffing up the political ranks has angered national security conservatives. Those foreign policy wonks tend to admire the director of policy planning, Brian Hook, but look in vain around the department for anyone else with anything resembling a theory of the world on which to operate the world’s link to the United States.

Other key jobs remain unfilled, including the undersecretary for arms control and international security affairs and the U.S. representative to the U.N. mission in Geneva; both jobs have much to do with holding Iran to account to the deal struck under the Obama administration. The undersecretary for management is another empty office, even though veterans of the bureaucracy from past Republican presidents remain available.

Tillerson has also failed to push nominees for crucial ambassador posts, such as Richard Grenell as ambassador to Germany, the most important non-nuclear power in the world. Other important embassies, such as those in South Korea, Turkey and South Africa, lack even a nominee, though numerous and very qualified candidates abound. The paperwork gridlock of an isolated and uninfluential secretary of state brought the conservative pro-Trumpers and career State Department staff together in agreement that the department was a massive shipwreck.

It is no accident that Trump used the word “energy”when he spoke approvingly of his new nominee. Pompeo will work quickly and decisively with key allies such as Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) in the Senate to reinvigorate the department. First in his class at West Point and an editor of the Harvard Law Review, Pompeo got key experience in the ways of the Washington swamp at the law firm Williams & Connolly before he went as far as possible from it to Wichita to launch a successful career in business and then Congress.

Most importantly, Pompeo agrees with Trump’s priorities and understands that his job is to serve Trump’s agenda, not create one of his own. When he says to a counterpart, “The president believes . . . ,” Pompeo will himself be believed. Like George Shultz with President Ronald Reagan and Henry Kissinger with President Richard Nixon, the boss needs a trusted right arm, not a distant figure of uncertain commitment to core presidential goals.


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

  • Baku protesters demand free elections

As reported by the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (PFPA), some 10,000 people took part in the rally against the presidential election in Azerbaijan. The protesters have stated that the authorities had initiated early election in order to make them non-alternative.

  • Armenian opposition demands to remove President Serzh Sargsyan from power

About 300 people gathered at a rally in Yerevan demanding to remove Serzh Sargsyan from power and release political prisoners.

Nagorno-Karabakh accuses Azerbaijan of 220 cases of shelling per week

In the period from March 4 to 10, the Azerbaijani armed forces more than 2500 times shelled the positions of the Defence Army, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for Nagorno-Karabakh reported.

  • Death of a military in Syria caused questions from Ingush social network users

The funeral of Ramzan Geroev, who perished in the crash of a Russian military aircraft in Syria, was held today in Ingushetia. Internet users are negative to the participation of Ingush servicemen in the Middle East conflict.

  • Putin’s Brave New World

March 12, 2018 – EPA-EFE/ALEXEI DRUZHININ…-Igor Ivanov – President of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (1998–2004).

(,,,Given its strategic position, Russia has the capacity to play a key role in providing a global commons. Moscow is a particularly important player in the field of international security. In the global struggle against international terrorism, for instance, Russia can claim not only high moral authority but also the necessary political and military tools. In the Middle East, Russia arguably remains the single global player which enjoys an active dialogue and cooperation with all of the parties involved in the numerous conflicts in the region. There are numerous other examples that demonstrate Russia’s active role in multilateral diplomacy, one that is becoming ever more essential for resolving regional and global security issues such as the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the fight against illicit drug trafficking, confronting cyber threats and many others.

On a more general note, it is becoming increasingly evident that the decline of global and regional governance that the world has been witnessing for at least the last 20 years contains the seeds of growing threats to all responsible actors in world politics with no exceptions. The universal understanding of this basic reality must be transformed into specific proposals, roadmaps and actions. It is in Russia’s interest to utilize its capacities and comparative advantages to play a central role in restoring and further enhancing global governance.)

  • Korea after the Olympics: Temporary Truce or Permanent Peace?

March 7, 2018 – REUTERS/Jeon Heon-kyun…Georgy TolorayaDoctor of Economics, Professor of Oriental Studies, Director of the Asian strategy center at the Institute of Economics of the Russian Academy of Sciences

(…Washington is not looking for compromises. The United States sees negotiations with North Korea purely as a discussion of the terms of Pyongyang’s capitulation and the surrender of its nuclear trump card….)

  • Russia Is Offering an Olive Branch, Not Flaunting Nuclear Weapons

March 6, 2018 – Igor Ivanov – President of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (1998–2004).

(…And this is not mere rhetoric. Has Russia not always stressed its interest in preserving the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty), extending the New START Treaty, and boosting nuclear non-proliferation? Has Moscow ever questioned the compliance of all parties concerned with the multilateral agreement on the Iranian nuclear issue? Is Moscow threatening unilateral military action on the Korean Peninsula?

It is important that the world clearly hears and properly understands the signal coming from Moscow. Today, the world is undergoing a profound crisis of the entire global security system. If anyone hopes to use the instability and unpredictability of global politics in their unilateral interests, it will only exacerbate the crisis with all that it entails, including consequences for those very actors who are ready to fan this instability and unpredictability. The international community has already lost enough time since the end of the Cold War.

Moscow is proposing another path: to immediately launch talks on creating a new security system that corresponds to today’s reality. To do this, it is first necessary to abandon outdated stereotypes and simplistic ideas about one’s own infallibility and unlimited authority.

A new, single and indivisible world order may arise only as a result of joint efforts and consideration of the interests of all states, in the East and in the West, large and small, developed and developing.

Russia hopes that its partners will properly understand this signal.)


Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* politico: Larry Kudlow will be the next director of the National Economic Council

  • succeeding Gary Cohn as President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser

It will be the latest high profile job for Kudlow, who served as an economist at the New York Federal Reserve and at the Office of Management and Budget under Reagan before a career on Wall Street including serving as chief economist at Bear Stearns.

About Larry Kudlow:“ In 1970, while he was still a Democrat, Kudlow joined Joseph Duffey’s "New Politics" senatorial campaign in Connecticut. Duffey was a leading anti-war politician during the Vietnam war era. Kudlow, working with Yale University student Bill Clinton as well as many other rising young Democratic students, was known as a "brilliant" district coordinator.[5] Kudlow worked on the U.S. Senate campaign of Joseph Duffey, along with Bill Clinton, John Podesta, and Michael Medved, another future conservative, and in 1976, he worked on the U.S. Senate campaign of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, along with Tim Russert, against Conservative Party incumbent James L. Buckley, brother of William F. Buckley, Jr.[6]

Kudlow began his career as a staff economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, taking a position "as a junior economist in a job where a master’s degree wasn’t required."[5] He worked in a division of that bank that handled open market operations.

During the first term of the Reagan administration (1981–1985), Kudlow was associate director for economics and planning in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), a part of the Executive Office of the President. While he worked at the OMB, Kudlow was also an advisory committee member of the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, more commonly known as Freddie Mac.[citation needed] In April 2005, New York Governor George Pataki included Kudlow in a six-member state tax commission……

In December 2016, President-elect Donald Trump was rumored to be considering Kudlow for the position as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.[15][16]

In March 2018, President Donald Trump appointed Kudlow to be Director of the National Economic Council, succeeding Gary Cohn.[17]


Politics: From Vision to Action

Featuring David M. Cattler

​Stein Counterterrorism Lecture
March 13, 2018

Earlier today, The Washington Institute hosted a Policy Forum with David Cattler as part of its long-running Stein Counterterrorism Lecture Series. Cattler serves as National Intelligence Manager for the Near East in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The following are his prepared remarks.


As the National Intelligence Manager for the Near East, I share this same goal. I serve as Director of National Intelligence Coats‘ principal advisor on this critical region. Every day, the "NIM-Near East" team works to ensure that our partners and consumers in the White House and across the interagency have access to the best possible intelligence.

We do this by directly supporting the development and implementation of national policies and strategies. We also integrate the intelligence community—managing and guiding all aspects of the intelligence cycle. This means (1) working with policymakers to identify and articulate their needs; (2) managing and directing collection; (3) assessing the quality of the Intelligence Community’s analysis; (4) ensuring that our products—information and assessments—reach consumers, often at "the speed of war"; and (5) helping determine and mitigate risk by providing unvarnished assessments of what intelligence we can and can’t do to illuminate a situation.

This also means setting expectations and balancing demands for increased emphasis in emerging hotspots while ensuring we have adequate coverage in areas of ongoing concern. This is particularly important in the Near East, where there is an abundance of both, representing some of the hardest choices facing U.S. policymakers. Matt and I were just talking about the fact that I could easily fill my allotted time by discussing just one of the fourteen countries my team covers, not to mention the Palestinian territories.

What I would like to do is provide an overview of key political, security, and humanitarian developments in the Near East, and then use the balance of our time to answer questions. But let me emphasize two initial points. First, given the open nature of this forum, some of my responses may be limited due to classification considerations. Second, while I previously served as a policymaker at the White House, my current position is in the IC. As such, I will probably need to defer any policy questions that are not intelligence related.

Let’s begin with the so-called "Islamic State." Due to the tremendous efforts and sacrifices of the U.S.-led coalition, ISIS has lost more than 98 percent of the territory it once controlled in Iraq and Syria. It has lost thousands of its fighters and is a fraction of its former self. The myth of its "caliphate" has been exposed. However, as Secretary of Defense Mattis has emphasized, "the fight is not over." U.S.-assisted forces are continuing to clear the remaining pockets under ISIS control. But at least in Iraq and Syria, the group’s trajectory is headed downward.

Given this, can we expect a "peace dividend?" What are the implications of ISIS’s strategic defeat as a quasi-conventional force? (continued / see attachment)


*Massenbach’s Recommendation*

The Geopolitics of Britain

By George Friedman

The fundamental problem for Britain has always been continental Europe. The danger to Britain was that a single, powerful entity would arise that could do two things. First, it could ally with the Scottish elite to wage war against England on land. Second, it could build a naval force that could defeat the British navy and land an invading force along the English shore of the Channel. The Romans did this, as did the Normans.

Successive powers arose in Europe that saw an opportunity to defeat England and later Britain. The Spaniards attempted an invasion in the 16th century; the French in the 19th century; the Germans in the 20th century. Each was defeated by treacherous waters and the Royal Navy. Many other potential invasions were never launched because the navies didn’t exist. They didn’t exist because of the British grand strategy, the core of which was that the nearest landmass, continental Europe, would always place Britain at a demographic disadvantage in a war. The population of Europe was the base of armies vastly larger than that which Britain could field. Therefore, the central strategy was to prevent such a force from landing in Britain.

(click to enlarge)

Building a naval force able to challenge the British was enormously expensive. Only a very wealthy country could afford it, but very wealthy countries lacked the appetite. Other countries, seeking to increase their wealth, competed with other aspiring countries, diverting resources to land-based forces and making it impossible to build navies. The fact that the continent was fragmented first between kings and emperors, and later between nation-states, was Britain’s primary line of defense. The wealthiest nations were constantly fending off attacks from neighbors, while the poorer countries plotted strategies for enhancing their position through war. As a result, there were a succession of great continental powers: Spain, the Netherlands, France and Germany. None was strong enough for long enough to divert resources to taking Britain.

The Grand Strategy

British grand strategy, therefore, is to maintain a large naval force, but beyond that, to do what it can on the European continent to discourage hegemony on the mainland by preventing coalitions from forming, or by fomenting rivalries. In other words, the British grand strategy was constant involvement on the European continent, with the primary goal of diverting any nation focusing on naval development. These actions could involve trade policy, supporting various dynasties or nations, using the ability to blockade, or inserting limited ground forces to support a coalition of forces. British strategy was an endless kaleidoscope of tactics, constantly shifting relationships and actions designed to secure the homeland by maintaining insecurity on the continent. Britain didn’t create insecurity. That was built into the continental geopolitical system. Britain was successful at taking advantage of and nurturing the insecurity that was already there. Britain was always part of Europe, as for example its participation in the Napoleonic wars and the Congress of Vienna. At the same time, it stood apart from Europe because its geography gave Britain another base on which to stand.

The British Empire came into being as a byproduct of this grand strategy. The various imperial naval powers that came into existence were undermined not by naval force but by land conflicts. Spain, the Netherlands and France all developed navies able to carve out empires. But diversions on the continent limited their ability to expand those empires, and drained their ability to exploit them effectively. The British, united after the early 18th century and impervious to European manipulation, were able to sustain an imperial enterprise that constantly expanded and enriched Britain.

The reality of Europe also facilitated British leadership in the Industrial Revolution. Continental manpower, resources and inventiveness were no less than those of the British. But the British had far greater security for their enterprises, less diversion to military production, and a dynamic and growing empire to support industrialization. As a result, Britain developed another powerful tool for managing the continent: exports of manufactured goods and technologies.

What ultimately undermined the British grand strategy was the unification of Germany and the rise of the United States. German unification created an industrial force that could rival Britain commercially and dominate the continent militarily. In World War I, Britain followed a strategy that flowed from its grand strategy, intervening with ground forces to block Germany from imposing a continental hegemony. The cost to Britain far outweighed expectations. The grand strategy failed Britain by forcing it into a vast land war on the continent, taking away the option of selective involvement and manipulation. Britain had to use main force, which negated its geographic advantage.

Also weakening Britain was the emergence of the United States as a power that could field a million men in Europe and create a naval force that was second only to Britain’s. The truce that ended World War I did not end Britain’s problems; it merely delayed them. Within two decades, a re-emergent Germany once again challenged for European hegemony, and Britain’s survival become dependent on the intervention of the United States. In exchange for U.S. support in World War II, Britain all but gave up its empire when it was forced to abandon almost all of its naval bases in the Western Hemisphere in exchange for lend-lease. Having been trapped twice in the one thing she could not do — a European land war — Britain emerged hostage to the United States, now a junior member of its anti-Soviet coalition.

Crafting a New Strategy

The United States then took on the British role on a global basis. Britain was no longer the chess master, but a piece on the board — an important piece, but one that had lost its room for maneuver. Britain had to craft a new grand strategy out of the wreckage of the old. There was, however, a core that remained in place, which was the doctrine of the balance of power. Now, instead of being the major balancing power among other nations, Britain sought to balance its own power between two more powerful entities: the United States and the Soviet Union.

Because of its new position, Britain did not have the option of isolation. Its economic system required access to markets and products, and its strategic position required leverage on the European continent. So in 1973, Britain joined the European Economic Community, and in 1991 agreed to join the European Union. Britain always resisted full integration into the EU, however.

In the era after the collapse of the Soviet Union, there were two poles for British strategy: Europe and the United States. Total dependence on either one could lead to disaster. Europe was led by its old nemesis Germany. The United States was a nemesis as well. Only by having relations with both could Britain hope to retain room for its own maneuver. The two wanted different things. The EU wanted a defined economic relationship with elements of a political one. The United States was open to economic relationship but particularly wanted British participation in its wars. Britain could satisfy both, cling to both poles and thereby find its own space.

The British Dilemma

The problem that Britain faces now is a European Union that doesn’t resemble what the founders imagined, or what existed 10 years ago. Where it had been seen as becoming a pillar of the international system along with the United States, it has morphed into political discord and uncertainty. The United States also has internal problems that were unexpected, but not of the consequence of Europe’s

Britain’s problem now is being drawn too deeply into dependency on the United States. Such dependency on any country is rarely in a nation’s interest. What Brexit represents is Britain’s distrust of the viability of the European system and a desire to operate independently of it. That is difficult for Britain to do, so the United States is the pole that attracts, if total independence of all coalitions is not an option — which it is not.

This is the British dilemma. The German geopolitical imperative for expansion and the American need to dominate the North Atlantic have taken the old geopolitical reality and radically shifted its grand strategy.

Europe is moving toward its historic disunity and class hostility. But Britain is not in a position to manipulate that for its own security. The North Atlantic is no longer Britain’s path to an empire. Depending on Europe is difficult. Relying on the United States is possible, but the U.S. is likely to once again exact a price. What that price is, however, is unclear. The only other alternative is for Britain to try to lead an alternative economic block out of the train wreck of Europe. As Europe’s second-largest economy, this is not an impossibility.

But in the end, Britain is an island, and Scotland is restless. The Germans are united and not altogether predictable. The U.S. is both friendly and avaricious, and its tastes are fickle. Finding a balance between Europe, however fragmented, and the United States might seem to be best option, but geopolitics tends to force unexpected choices on countries. Who in 1900 would have thought that Britain would be facing the choice it is facing today. Only those who understood what Germany was and what the United States was going to become.



see our letter on:

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


03-13-18 Caucasian news-Russia_US_China_Korea.pdf

03-13-18 a-survey-of-the-near-east-implications-for-u.s.-national-security – THE WASHINGTON INSTITUTE FOR NEAR EAST POLICY.pdf

Massenbach-Letter. NEWS 09.03.18

Massenbach-Letter. News – We celebrate the International Women’s Day (IWD) –

& ceterum censeo: Syriam esse construendam.

Massenbach*VATIKAN NEWS: Syrien: Franziskaner beklagen Dschihadistenterror.

Kirchliche Organisationen wiesen demgegenüber auf die gezielt gegen die christliche Infrastruktur gerichteten Attacken der Rebellen hin. –

Erstmals ist ein Hilfskonvoi in die belagerte syrische Rebellenenklave Ost-Ghouta gelangt. Auf die seit Wochen andauernden pausenlosen Granaten- und Raketenangriffe der Rebellen auf die christlichen Viertel von Damaskus weisen laut Stiftung „Pro Oriente“ an diesem Montag syrische Bischöfe und Kirchenverantwortliche hin.

Der Konvoi mit Hilfsgütern der UNO und des Internationalen Komitees vom Roten Kreuz (IKRK) traf am Montag in der belagerten Region bei Damaskus ein, wie die UNO mitteilte. Laut WHO wurden von den syrischen Behörden aber wichtige medizinische Hilfsgüter blockiert. Kirchliche Organisationen wiesen demgegenüber auf die gezielt gegen die christliche Infrastruktur gerichteten Attacken der Rebellen hin.

„Pro Oriente“ zitierte in einer Aussendung den Franziskaner Bahjat Elia Karach mit den Worten: „Die Christen fühlen sich verlassen und frustriert, weil sich niemand um das kümmert, was in den christlichen Vierteln auf Grund des ständigen Beschusses vorgeht. Als christliche Gemeinschaft können wir nichts anderes tun als beten und so vielen Menschen wie möglich konkrete Hilfe leisten, ohne auf Religionsbekenntnis oder Ethnie zu schauen, wie das auch Papst Franziskus verlangt, der als einziger ,Leader‘ in der Welt Frieden für Syrien fordert.“

Am 1. März hätten in der Umgebung des Franziskanerklosters im Bezirk Bab Touma 13 Raketen eingeschlagen, „alle punktgenau zu dem Zeitpunkt, an dem die Kinder und Jugendlichen aus den Schulen kommen“. Die Absicht, Kinder und Jugendliche zu treffen, sei offensichtlich gewesen, so Karach.

Der maronitische Erzbischof von Damaskus, Samir Nassar, hob in einem Hirtenwort hervor, dass die Intensität der Kämpfe „nicht nur die von den Dschihadisten als Geiseln genommene Zivilbevölkerung von Ost-Ghouta“ betreffe. So habe sich landesweit der Exodus besonders unter Jugendlichen und Männern beschleunigt, sodass es bereits spürbaren Arbeitskräftemangel trotz der schlechten Wirtschaftslage gebe. Die Syrer seien heute ein „Volk der Armut, das von Zuwendungen und Bettelei leben“ müsse. 80 Prozent der im Gesundheitswesen Tätigen – „darunter die meisten Ärzte“ – hätten das Land verlassen. Das führe dazu, dass 60 Prozent der Verwundeten und Verletzten sterben.

( see next article: Stability Operations in Syria -The Need for a Revolution in Civil-Military Affairs)

Den großen internationalen Presseagenturen zufolge haben die Regierungstruppen bereits ein Drittel der letzten großen Rebellenenklave unter ihre Kontrolle gebracht. Unterdessen forderte der UNO-Menschenrechtsrat in Genf eine dringende Untersuchung der jüngsten Angriffe und Bombardierungen in Ost-Ghouta.

Syrien: „Der Westen sagt nur einen Teil der Wahrheit“

Kirchenleute im Nahen Osten werfen dem Westen häufig vor, einen verzerrten Blick auf die dortigen Konflikte zu haben. Auch William Shomali sieht das so. Der Patriarchal-Vikar für Jordanien kritisiert die westliche Haltung zum Syrien-Krieg.

Stefan von Kempis – Vatikanstadt


„Anderthalb Millionen syrische Flüchtlinge halten sich in Jordanien auf, und ebenso viele im Libanon“, sagt Shomali im Gespräch mit Vatican News. „Sie fliehen vor Armut, vor allem aber vor dem Tod – sie haben Angst vor dem Tod. Für sie ist das eine Art Dritter Weltkrieg!“

Ein Weltkrieg, bei dem der Westen in der Wahrnehmung der Öffentlichkeit weitgehend abseits steht. Dabei ist er nach Bischof Shomalis Analyse gar nicht unbeteiligt an dem Schlachten.

Für eine Lösung der syrischen Krise müsste man wirklich zusammenarbeiten! Sie ist nicht nur eine Krise unter syrischen Kriegsgegnern, sie ist auch eine Krise unterschiedlicher Perspektiven Europas und Amerikas. Man achte nur auf den großen Unterschied zwischen der Vision Russlands und Amerikas.“

„In Damaskus gibt es genauso viele Tote“

Bischof Shomali spricht es nicht aus, aber mit „Zusammenarbeit“ meint er durchaus, dass der Westen auch mit dem syrischen Präsidenten Bashar al-Assad sprechen müsste. Aber der Westen ist ja verblendet, was Syrien betrifft, das sieht der Weihbischof im Lateinischen Patriarchat von Jerusalem genauso wie andere Kirchenleute in Nahost.

„Der Westen sagt nur einen Teil der Wahrheit. Ein Beispiel: Assad bombardiert Ost-Ghouta in der Nähe von Damaskus, und man spricht von 600 Toten. Aber keiner spricht von den 600 Toten durch den Beschuss der Rebellen, die von Ost-Ghouta aus ins Stadtzentrum von Damaskus zielen! Da gibt es genauso viele Tote.”


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

  • Disillusionment and Missed Opportunities: Russia-U.S. Relations in 2017
  • February 27, 2018 – REUTERS/Carlos Barria – Andrey Kortunov – Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council, RIAC member

(…While the Republican victory in the race for the White House appeared to come as a surprise to most Russian political analysts and the political leadership, it was greeted with reactions ranging from cautious optimism to outright elation…Looking back, Russia made at least three tactical (not strategic) mistakes after the new Republican administration came to power. Perhaps a change in the trajectory of U.S.-Russia relations was still possible in January 2017, but the mistakes had a significant cumulative effect that obliterated the modest chance of such change.

…..For many in the Russian political class, confronting the United States is an even more significant part of foreign policy. It is the framework that sustains other aspects of foreign policy. Unfortunately, no other framework has been found in the years since the Cold War. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the new generation of Russian political experts, journalists, and diplomats who started their careers after the Soviet collapse have adopted the old Soviet logic of geopolitical confrontation with Washington….. )

  • Putin’s State of the Union: Russia Can No Longer Take the US Goodwill and Commitment for Granted
  • Andrey Kortunov – Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council, RIAC member – March 5, 2018

(…(the) demonstration of specific artefacts of Kremlin’s military might and ambitions should not conceal a more fundamental change in the Russian strategic thinking articulated by Vladimir Putin: the country is drifting in the direction of strategic isolationism. This is a clear and important deviation from both the traditional Russian (and the Soviet) strategic thinking with very serious implications for the global strategic stability…

If President Putin no longer considers strategic arms control as Russia’s top security priority; if from now on Moscow relies primarily on strengthening its strategic arsenal with new futuristic weapons, it means a fundamental change in the global strategic equation. The concept of strategic stability as we have known it since early 1960s becomes antiquated and immaterial. It is not yet clear, what kind of a new arrangement may replace the old one. Another thing is clear: next years and even decades will be a bumpy road for all of us.).

  • MAD’s Midlife Crisis: The Impact of US-Russia Rivalry on International Arms Control
  • Ekaterina Konovalova – MSc in International and European Studies, Associate Political Affairs Officer at the UN Office of the Special Envoy for Syria
  • Russia’s Foreign Policy: Looking Towards 2018. Summary
  • Andrey Kortunov – Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council, RIAC member
  • Column: Longreads – Ivan Timofeev – PhD in Political Science, RIAC Director of Programs, RIAC Member, Head of „Contemporary State“ program at Valdai Discussion Club, RIAC member

(…The 2018 presidential elections will mark the beginning of a new foreign policy cycle for the Russian Federation. In the context of the elections, the main areas of foreign policy expected to be revised (with a certain amount of continuity), and these changes will be reflected in the respective conceptual foreign policy documents. The Russian presidential elections just so happen to coincide with the political cycles in a number of countries, including China, the United States, and several EU and Middle Eastern states. The „naked wire“ or „dead wood“ effect will only increase in international relations. Crisis scenarios may appear as a result of the intentional or unintentional actions of individual countries, or because of poor coordination in resolving issues that affect the entire world. Russia’s key interest lies in creating favourable conditions for the country’s internal development. Economic backwardness is a growing threat to Russia’s sovereignty, narrowing the window of opportunity in foreign policy.)

  • The Caucasian Knot. News:

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of February 26-March 4

Armenian Parliament elects president – Several cities of Southern Russia host rallies in Boris Nemtsov’s memory – In Baku, 25 people perish in fire – Special operation against militants, and detention of head for Derbent District of Dagestan –

(See earlier reports: Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of February 19-25, Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of February 12-18, Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of February 5-11. / Source: /


Carnegie Endowment for International Peace:

Vladimir Putin’s Russia Goes Global
Vladimir Putin has repeatedly demonstrated that Russia is not, in former U.S. President Obama’s formulation, a regional power acting out of weakness. Indeed the Kremlin has shown that it has increased global ambitions, a sophisticated toolkit, and a heightened risk appetite.
Return of Global Russia
Last week’s launch of “The Return of Global Russia” project illustrated how the Kremlin is returning Russia to positions of influence in regions where its impact was all but written off two decades ago.

As Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) explained in his keynote address, Russia’s strategy “seeks to take advantage where it can to amplify internal divisions. It is focused on boosting cynicism and tearing down Western institutions from the inside.”

The Global Russia digital feature explains the evolution and impact of this new phase in Russian foreign policy.

The Kremlin’s presence is increasingly visible throughout the Middle East and parts of the Western Balkans, Latin America, and Africa. Since 2012, Vladimir Putin has engaged in a sustained campaign to expand Russia’s global reach. The Kremlin is relying on a highly adaptable toolkit to chip away at the liberal international order and to capitalize on the West’s inability to come up with a unified strategy to respond.

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace hosted a keynote speech by Senator Mark Warner and panel discussion on an important new phase in Russia’s more assertive foreign policy and its implications for Western policymakers.

Mark Warner

Mark Warner is the senior senator from Virginia and vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

John McLaughlin

John McLaughlin served as the deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2000 to 2004 and as acting director of the CIA in 2004.

Elizaveta Osetinskaya

Elizaveta Osetinskaya is a UC Brekeley Graduate School of Journalism fellow and former editor in chief of RBC, Vedomosti, and Forbes Russia.

Andrew Weiss

Andrew Weiss is vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Bianna Golodryga

Bianna Golodryga is a correspondent at CBS News and contributor on CNN.

William J. Burns

William J. Burns is president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.


Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* Deutsche Bank Research: Koalitionsvertrag – Zukunft geht anders

Von Anfang an standen die Verhandlungen unter einem ungünstigen Stern. Dazu hat zunächst die Verweigerung einer Neuauflage der Groko seitens der SPD-Führung beigetragen. Dann führten die teilweise diametral entgegengesetzten Interessenlagen der Beteiligten, vermeintlich üppige finanzielle Spielräume und das Desinteresse der Bevölkerung an grundlegenden Reformen zu einem in vielen Teilen widersprüchlichen Maßnahmenkatalog, der insgesamt den Einfluss des Staates in Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft zu Lasten individueller Freiräume weiter erhöht. Doch derzeit überwiegt die Erleichterung darüber, dass Deutschland wieder eine „ordentliche“ Regierung hat. Allerdings könnten sich wohl nicht nur die Koalitionäre bald fragen, ob der Preis nicht doch zu hoch war.

In der Sozialpolitik wird erneut die „Vollkaskomentalität“ der Bürger bedient. Dabei wird der von der bisherigen Groko eingeleitete Trend vermehrter Regulierung am Arbeitsmarkt fortgesetzt, obgleich der demografische Wandel und die Digitalisierung mehr Flexibilität erfordern.

Wesentliche sozialpolitische Vorhaben laufen darauf hinaus, auf mehr Nachhaltigkeit ausgerichtete Reformen des vergangenen Jahrzehnts – zumindest ein Stück weit – zurückzudrehen.

Dementsprechend zählt die junge Generation in diesem Bereich einmal mehr zu den Verlierern einer Groko.

Mit der zweifellos notwendigen Investitionsoffensive in den Bereichen Bildung, Forschung & Entwicklung sowie Digitalisierung plant die neue Regierung, Deutschland zukunftsfest zu machen. Dazu bedürfte es aber mehr als staatlicher Gelder, nämlich hinreichenden Vertrauens in private Initiative sowie unternehmerischer Freiräume.

Fiskalische Spielräume sind derzeit vorhanden. Anstatt für konsequente steuerliche Entlastungen werden diese überwiegend für Ausgabenprogramme verwandt – was dem paternalistischen Staatsverständnis der Großkoalitionäre entspricht. Zudem dürften bei einer Normalisierung von Zinsniveau und Konjunktur bald wieder staatliche Finanzierungsdefizite entstehen.


Politics: From Vision to Action

Barandat*Military Review 05-06-2017:Stability Operations in Syria –

The Need for a Revolution in Civil-Military Affairs.

Like far too many cases in the past, it also ignores the fact that grand strategy can only succeed if the United States not only terminates a conflict successfully but also creates conditions that provide lasting security and stability. All wars have an end, and the grand strategic goal of warfighting is never just to produce a favorable military outcome or to defeat the enemy. It is to win as lasting a victory as possible in political, economic, and security terms. The kind of thinking that led the Office of the secretary of defense to take a far more serious look at stability operations in its Biennial Assessment of Stability Operations Capabilities in 2012 is even more critical today, and cases like Syria illustrate the point…

Syria is a grim study in just how important the civil dimension of war can be, and in just how difficult the challenge of stability operations (and nation building) can be in tactical, strategic, and grand strategic terms. Many argue that the United States could have intervened decisively early in the Syrian crisis and civil war, done so at acceptable risk, done so at much lower cost, and done so before Syria became a humanitarian disaster and before some three hundred thousand to five hundred thousand Syrian civilians were killed in the fighting. There are no reliable estimates of the seriously injured, but the numbers may well be higher.

USAID estimates provide all too clear a picture of Syrian suffering at a civil level and highlight one aspect of the challenge of conducting stability operations. USAID estimates that there are 13.5 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in Syria in a country with a total remaining population of around 22 million. There are 6.1 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Syria, and U.S. aid is now critical to some 4 million people each month.11

No one has a full count of the number Syrian refugees outside Syria because many have stopped registering. Syrian refugees are, however, putting a far greater burden on neighboring states than on Europe or the token numbers that the United States may or may not admit. There are at least 4.8 million Syrian refugees in neighboring states: 2.7 million Syrian refugees in Turkey, 1 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, 656,400 Syrian refugees in Jordan, and 225,500 Syrian refugees in Iraq.12

The situation inside Syria is already critical and is growing steadily worse. The United Nations (UN) Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) warned at the end of 2016,

Over half of the population has been forced from their homes, and many people have been displaced multiple times. Children and youth comprise more than half of the displaced, as well as half of those in need of humanitarian assistance. Parties to the conflict act with impunity, committing violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.

Among conflict-affected communities, life-threatening needs continue to grow. Neighboring countries have restricted the admission of people fleeing Syria, leaving hundreds of thousands of people stranded in deplorable conditions on their borders. In some cases, these populations are beyond the reach of humanitarian actors.

Civilians living in thirteen besieged locations, 643,780 people in need of humanitarian assistance are denied their basic rights, including freedom of movement and access to adequate food, water, and health care. Frequent denial of entry of humanitarian assistance into these areas and blockage of urgent medical evacuations result in civilian deaths and suffering. 3.9 million people in need live in hard-to-reach areas that humanitarian actors are unable to reach in a sustained manner through available modalities.13

In the absence of a political solution to the conflict, intense and widespread hostilities are likely to persist in 2017. After nearly six years of senseless and brutal conflict, the outrage at what is occurring in Syria and what is being perpetrated against the Syrian people must be maintained. Now is the time for advocacy and now is the time for the various parties to come together and bring an end to the conflict in Syria…..

The United States now seems to lack options for either security or stability, and the U.S. ability to link some kind of meaningful military operation to effective civil-military operations, conflict termination, and reconstruction and recovery is dubious at best.

Syria’s problems go far beyond its humanitarian crises and simply trying to defeat one key enemy. Even if IS is largely defeated, large numbers of IS fighters are certain to escape and disperse, and Syria will still present extraordinarily difficult security and stability problems. Any broader cease-fire is likely to either collapse under the pressure of warring factions or see new power struggles in a divided Syria between elements of the Assad regime, the main Arab rebel factions that include large numbers of Islamist extremists, and the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurds…..

The Ultimate Stability Challenge: Recovery and Reconstruction

It is far from clear how long the United States can avoid looking at the far more serious problem of recovery and reconstruction in Syria, both in terms of any broad form of conflict termination and creating any kind of lasting “victory.” As bad as the civil, governance, economic, and justice sectors are in Afghanistan and Iraq, Syria is truly a failed state in terms of governance, economics, and every aspect of recovery and reconstruction…

Rebuilding the country will be a complex and monumental task. Reconstructing damaged physical infrastructure will require substantial international support and prioritization. Rebuilding Syria’s human capital and social cohesion will be an even greater and lasting challenge. Considerable resources will need to go to rebuilding the lives of internally displaced people, and to encouraging the return and reintegration of refugees along with reducing the divisions and tensions between various sectarian communities. Far-reaching economic reforms will be needed to create stability, growth, and job prospects. The immediate focus would need to be on urgent humanitarian assistance, restoring macroeconomic stability and rebuilding institutional capacity to implement cohesive and meaningful reforms. In the medium term, the reform agenda could include diversifying the economy, creating jobs for the young and displaced, tackling environmental issues, and addressing long-standing issues such as the regional disparities in income and greater political and social inclusion.20

The following are key points in the IMF study:

Many factors will determine the extent and speed of rebuilding the country. Most importantly, the timeframe and success of any reconstruction will hinge on when and how the conflict is resolved.This, in turn, will shape the scope and pace of political and economic reforms. And it will determine how much external assistance is forthcoming, including whether Syria will be able to attract private investment. It will be critical to establish quick wins, including in the energy sector and agriculture, as well as in labor intensive industries such as textile or food processing, which could become drivers of growth.

The recovery will likely take a long time. The literature on post-conflict recovery shows that a longer-lasting conflict will have a more negative impact on the economy and institutions, and prolong the recovery.ix For instance, it took Lebanon, which experienced 16 years of conflict, 20 years to catch up to the real GDP level it enjoyed before the war, while it took Kuwait, which endured two years of conflict, seven years to regain its pre-war GDP level. Given the unprecedented scale of devastation, it may be difficult to compare Syria with other post conflict cases. That said, if we hypothetically assume that for Syria the post-conflict rebuilding period will begin in 2018 and the economy grows at its trend rate of about 4 1/2 percent, it would take the country about 20 years to reach its pre-war real GDP level.xAchieving a higher growth rate would allow the country to achieve a faster recovery.xi This assumes that the country can quickly restore its production capacity and human capital levels and remains intact as a sovereign territory. Any break-up of the country would affect potential growth and might require creating new institutions and governance structures.

Rebuilding damaged physical infrastructure will be a monumental task, with reconstruction cost estimates in the range of $100 to $200 billion. SCPR estimates that the destruction of physical infrastructure between 2011 and 2014 amounted to US$72–75 billion, equivalent to about 120 percent of 2010 GDP. The Syrian Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources estimated in early 2015 that the conflict has cost the oil industry alone US$27 billion from the destruction of wells, pipelines, and refineries.xii Similarly, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) suggests that it will take years for Syrian’s domestic energy system to return to its pre-conflict operating status, even after the conflict subsides. xiii With the escalation of the conflict since the second half of 2015, the rebuilding estimates are likely to be much higher. More recently, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) estimated that Syria would require about $180 to $200 billion—three times the 2010 GDP.xiv

Syria will also have to grapple with deep-rooted socioeconomic challenges. The extreme rise in mass poverty, destruction of health and education services, and large-scale displacement of Syrians will pose huge challenges. Syria’s population has shrunk by 20–30 percent, with 50 percent of the population internally displaced, destroyed homes, and many highly skilled workers and entrepreneurs having left the country. Moreover, the currently low school enrollment rate of children will negatively impact the country’s potential output for years to come. SCPR estimated in 2014 that the loss of years of schooling by children represents a human capital deficit of $5 billion in education investment. A recent United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) report placed the loss in human capital at $10.5 billion from the loss of education of Syrian children and youth.xv Many children have been born into conflict and exposed to violence, and studies show that exposure to violent conflicts has long-term effects on generations to come. Therefore, considerable resources will need to go to rebuilding the lives of internally displaced people, and to encouraging the return and reintegration of refugees. Further, the conflict has exacerbated existing, and created new, divisions and tensions between various sectarian communities across the country that will need to be addressed in a meaningful way to promote social and political cohesion.21

The IMF study focuses on the IMF’s mission, and fiscal reform and stability as the path to recovery and reconstruction. It notes that there are serious problems in getting the data needed for even an assessment, and its reform suggestions give priority to fiscal issues over political needs and conflict resolution. At the same time, the study makes it make it clear that there is a very real political and human dimension:

The post-conflict reconstruction efforts should seek to address regional disparities in income and social inclusion. Poverty and extreme poverty, according to SCPR, have worsened further with the conflict, and are highest in governorates that have been most affected by the conflict and that were historically the poorest in the country. Addressing the underpinnings of these disparities should be central to any policy package intended to bring about peace and prosperity. Innovative approaches will be required to improve the provision of public services, including reconstruction of damaged water pipelines, farm irrigation and drainage, roads, schools and hospitals, employment prospects, and access to finance at the regional levels. Institutional and governance arrangements should be considered to give local authorities greater controls over service delivery, including greater forms of fiscal decentralization.xvi However, for fiscal decentralization to work, certain critical governance conditions will need to be in place, including ensuring local authorities are held accountable and resources are spent in a transparent manner. Therefore, any decentralization efforts have to take into account Syria’s new governance model, as well as the state of its institutions.

Rebuilding public institutions and improving governance will be key. This includes making fiscal policy and fiscal management effective, fair, and transparent; developing the rule of law and judiciary independence; and re-establishing and strengthening the capacity for monetary operations and banking supervision, and reforming the bank regulatory framework, including the anti-money laundry and combating terrorist financing (AML/CFT) regime.xvii These efforts would help address governance issues that plagued the country prior to the start of the conflict and contributed to regional and income disparities, and that likely have further deteriorated. They would also help facilitate the re-integration of the domestic financial system into the global economy, lower transaction costs, and reduce the size of the informal sector. Lessons from other post conflict countries show that framing an overall consistent technical assistance strategy at the outset of the post-conflict phase and securing donor coordination are critical for successful implementation of economic and institutional reforms…..


Middle East

March 5, 2018

Middle East countries plan to add nuclear to their generation mix

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, International Energy Statistics, International Atomic Energy Agency, Reuters, and Bloomberg

Nuclear electricity generation capacity in the Middle East is expected to increase from 3.6 gigawatts (GW) in 2018 to 14.1 GW by 2028 because of new construction starts and recent agreements between Middle East countries and nuclear vendors. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) will lead near-term growth by installing 5.4 GW of nuclear capacity by 2020.

The growth in nuclear capacity in the Middle East is largely attributable to countries in the region seeking to enhance energy security by reducing reliance on fossil fuel resources. Fossil fuels accounted for 97% of electricity production in the Middle East in 2017, with natural gas accounting for about 66% of electricity generation and oil for 31%. The remaining 3% of electricity generation in Middle East countries comes from nuclear, hydroelectricity, and other renewables.

Middle East countries are also adopting nuclear generation to meet increasing electricity demand resulting from population and economic growth. Regional electricity production was more than 1,000 billion kilowatthours (kWh) in 2017, and EIA expects electricity demand to increase 30% by 2028, based on projections in the latest International Energy Outlook. This growth rate is higher than the average global growth rate of 18% over that same period, and higher than the 24% expected growth in non-OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries.

Developments in building nuclear capacity in the region include

Iran is building a two-unit nuclear plant, Bushehr-II, which is designed to add 1.8 GW of nuclear capacity when completed in about 2026. Iran’s original Bushehr-I facility, which came online in 2011, was the first nuclear power plant in the Middle East. Bushehr-I has one 1.0 GW reactor unit producing about 5.9 million kWh of electricity per year.

The UAE is currently constructing the four-unit Barakah nuclear power plant, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2020. The 1.3 GW Barakah unit 1, which was started in 2012 and completed in 2017, is expected to begin electricity production by mid-2018.

Turkey began construction of the Akkuyu nuclear power plant in late 2017. Akkuyu is a four-unit facility designed to add 4.8 GW of nuclear capacity to Turkey’s generation mix. The first reactor unit is scheduled to be completed by 2025.

Saudi Arabia is planning to build its first nuclear power plant and is expected to award a construction contract for a 2.8 GW facility by the end of 2018. It has solicited bids from five vendors from the United States, South Korea, France, Russia, and China to carry out the engineering, procurement, and construction work on two nuclear reactors. Construction is expected to begin in about 2021 at one of the two proposed sites—either Umm Huwayd or Khor Duweihin.

Jordan plans to install a two-unit 2.0 GW nuclear plant and has been conducting nuclear feasibility studies with Russia’s Rosatom since 2016. In early 2017, Jordan solicited bids for supplying turbines and electrical systems, and construction is expected to begin in 2019 and to be completed by 2024.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, International Energy Outlook 2017, International Atomic Energy Agency, World Nuclear Association

More information about Middle East nuclear capacity projections is available in EIA’s International Energy Outlook 2017.


    *Massenbach’simage026 Recommendation*

   We celebrate the International Women’s Day (IWD)

image012 Rural Women’s Empowerment — the Road to Gender Equality & Sustainable Development
Lakshmi PuriWhen we celebrate the International Women’s Day (IWD) this year we shine the brightest light on the vast majority of women – especially in developing countries that live and work in rural areas and whose empowerment is about bringing the farthest left behind to the forefront of being the prime … MORE >>
image013 A Fair Reflection? Women and the Media
Audrey AzoulayInformation and communication technologies have the potential to open up new worlds of ideas and the media – television, newspapers, advertising, blogs, social networks, film – is increasingly omnipresent in the lives of many of us. In line with one of the major themes of this year’s Commission on … MORE >>
image014 Ensuring Equality & Inclusion Essential to Weed Out Roots of Extremism
Ambassador Anwarul K. ChowdhuryIn the next seven days two of the biggest events that drive the women’s equality agenda will energize all well-meaning people of the world. The first on 8 March the International Women’s Day will assert renewed energy for women’s activism for peace, rights and development. Ambassador Anwarul … MORE >>
image015 Press for Progress: Women’s Equality & Political Participation
Peter Kagwanja and Siddharth ChatterjeeMarch 8, 2018 International Women’s Day offers another opportunity to reflect on the progress made towards gender equality and women’s political rights. True, the annual event, which has been observed for over 100 years, is about women’s rights. Every woman and girl dreams of a world in which … MORE >>
image016 Promoting Green Growth to Meet Global Aspirations for Gender Equality
Frank RijsbermanThe world has seen tremendous economic growth over the last decades, which has led to poverty reduction and increased welfare for millions of people. Environmental sustainability and social inclusiveness are key to the resilience of these gains and continued growth. “Leaving no one behind” as we … MORE >>
image017 Everyone Stands to Gain When More Women take Top Positions in Businesses
Richard BaratheWomen’s role in the workplace is at the heart the International Women’s Day commemoration. Even though it first celebrated a demonstration by women workers in New York in 1857, it was the killing of nearly 150 young women workers in a sweatshop, engulfed by a massive fire in just 20 minutes, which … MORE >>
image018 #MeToo in the Global Workplace: Time to Connect the Dots
Laila Malik and Inna MichaeliSince its explosion onto the social media landscape at the end of 2017, the #metoo movement has continued to gain global traction. Initially centred on powerful Hollywood women breaking decades of silence about sexual abuse and harassment in the industry, the conversation soon spread across global … MORE >>
image019 Fear and Uncertainty Grip Rohingya Women in India
Stella PaulIn the semi-lit makeshift tent covered with strips of cardboard, five women sit in a huddle. As their young children, covered in specks of mud and soot, move around noisily, the women try to hush them down. Hollow-eyed and visibly malnourished, all the women also appear afraid. Aged 19-30, they … MORE >>
image020 In Latin America “Me Too” Doesn’t Always Mean the Same Thing
Fabiana FrayssinetFrom the Argentine slogan „Ni una menos“ (Not one less)“ to Colombia’s “Now is not the time to remain silent”, activism against gender violence has grown in Latin America since 2015, with campaigns that have social and cultural differences from the „MeToo“ movement that emerged later, in 2017, in … MORE >>
image021 Rural Women Are Essential to the Struggle Against Hunger
Orlando MilesiAdelaida Marca, an Aymaran indigenous woman who produces premium oregano in Socoroma, in the foothills of the Andes in the far north of Chile, embodies the recovery of heirloom seeds, and is a representative of a workforce that supports thousands of people and of a future marked by greater gender … MORE >>
image022 The Silent Victims of Domestic Violence in Georgia
Sopho KharaziAs a student in Rome, the closest event that left a mark in my life was the Women’s March in the Italian capital. The march allowed me to contribute to the empowerment of women and to demonstrate that no woman is free– even if one’s rights are being violated. #MeToo. Domestic violence … MORE >>
image023 Rise of Feminism & the Renewed Battle for Women’s Rights
Sanam Naraghi-AnderliniIn 1909, the Socialist Party of America, in support of female garment workers protesting working conditions, designated March 8 as a day to honor women. By 1917, women in Russia were protesting for ‘bread and peace’ against a backdrop of war. In recognition of that protest and women’s suffrage in … MORE >>
image024 A Long Way Still to Achieving Gender Equality: International Women’s Day
Akinwumi A. AdesinaInternational Women’s Day is a call to celebrate the extraordinary achievements of women and a reminder that globally, we are a long way from achieving gender equality. Akinwumi A. Adesina Today, women in Africa lag behind men politically, socially and economically, even though they make … MORE >>





see our letter on:


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


05-06-17 Military Review stability-operations-in-syria-by-anthony-cordesman-v2.pdf
03-05-18 Deutsche Bank Research_Koalitionsvertrag_Zukunft_geht_anders- PROD0064120.pdf
03-06-18 Russia_US_Relations, Caucasian News.pdf

Massenbach-Letter. NEWS 02.03.18

Massenbach-Letter. News * “Vom Maschinengewehr zum Besenstiel: Die deutsche Bundeswehr“

– Carnegie Europe: Germany: From Machine Guns to Broomsticks –

– Carnegie Europe: Judy Asks: Is Russia Europe’s Biggest Threat?

– Carnegie Europe: A Middle East Game Much Bigger Than Turkey.

– Ost-Ghouta: Wer verhindert das Ende der Schlacht. Nahrungsmittel knapp. Waffen nicht.

– Die Presse, Wien: Die Beruhigungspillen von Dr. Merkel wirken.

– Ein neuer Aufbruch für Europa.

Eine neue Dynamik für Deutschland.

Ein neuer Zusammenhalt für unser Land.

Koalitionsvertrag zwischen CDU, CSU und SPD.

  • Disillusionment and Missed Opportunities: Russian-U.S. Relations in 2017.
  • Turkey and the Containment of Iran in the Middle East.
  • The Anniversary of Kosovo’s Independence: Results and Prospects.
  • Looking for options. The Israeli Establishment and the Syrian Conflict.

Massenbach*Das Kanzlertreffen:Kurz und Merkel in Brüssel


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

  • Disillusionment and Missed Opportunities: Russian-U.S. Relations in 2017

February 27, 2018 – REUTERS/Carlos Barria – Andrey Kortunov, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council, RIAC member.

“…Moscow apparently underestimated once again the degree to which American public opinion and Congress can influence foreign policy decisions made by the executive branch. The Kremlin’s projection of its foreign policy model onto other countries and societies evidently also played a role here: the Kremlin can always guarantee legislative and public support for its decisions, so it expects the same of Russia’s international partners. Thus, Russia saw the White House’s inability to promote its agenda in Congress as an impermissible show of weakness and executive inefficiency, rather than an effective demonstration of how the U.S. system of checks and balances works….the Russian proposals transmitted to the Trump administration in March called for the restoration of communication channels between the countries’ political leaders, as well as military and intelligence agencies. Leaked to the public in September 2017, these proposals contained no changes in Russian positions on questions of U.S. interest (Ukraine, Syria, Iran, “Russian interference” in the 2016 election, and other issues). In other words, Russia simply wanted to turn the page in bilateral relations and start with a clean slate.

This approach promised no quick diplomatic victories for the Trump administration; they would have had nothing to present to their domestic political opponents. Moreover, restoring full-scale dialogue without any concessions from Moscow, however symbolic, would essentially have meant returning to business as usual. It would have effectively amounted to Washington’s departure from the positions the West had consistently held from the start of the Ukrainian crisis. Accepting the Russian proposals, therefore, would not just bring Trump new problems at home, but would also generate additional issues for the already complicated relations that Washington has with its European partners….For many in the Russian political class, confronting the United States is an even more significant part of foreign policy. It is the framework that sustains other aspects of foreign policy. Unfortunately, no other framework has been found in the years since the Cold War. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the new generation of Russian political experts, journalists, and diplomats who started their careers after the Soviet collapse have adopted the old Soviet logic of geopolitical confrontation with Washington.

The past year has also confirmed the old truth that pompous declarations about incompatible values and material differences on fundamental questions often conceal specific subjective errors related to a lack of understanding of the political culture and decisionmaking mechanisms of the other side. Both the way Russia treated the hacking scandal and the way the new U.S. sanctions law was framed illustrate the fatal mistakes made in 2017. …There was also a certain stability in some more politically sensitive spheres. The trilateral agreement among Russia, the United States, and Jordan on a ceasefire in southeastern Syria, which was signed in early July, was a good case in point. In November, it was also supplemented by a trilateral memorandum. There is far less talk of the Amman Syrian peace talks format than about what’s been happening in Geneva and Astana. However, both Russian and American experts testify to its effectiveness in one of the most complex and explosive Syrian regions. Neither party has had cause to accuse the other of the conscious sabotage or a unilateral violation of the agreement. Both sides could therefore try to use the positive experience gained through the Amman format to stabilize the situation in other Syrian regions. …”

  • Turkey and the Containment of Iran in the Middle East

February 27, 2018EPA-EFE/ABEDIN…Timur Akhmetov MA in Middle Eastern Studies, RIAC Expert.

  • The Anniversary of Kosovo’s Independence: Results and Prospects

February 26, 2018, REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski, Pavel Kandel, Ph.D. (History),

Head of the Department of Ethno-Political Conflict at the Institute of Europe under the Russian Academy of Sciences, RIAC expert.

  • Looking for options. The Israeli Establishment and the Syrian Conflict

February 22, 2018, REUTERS/Ammar Awad, Zach Battat ,Junior Editor for Global Brief Magazine and a PhD Candidate in Middle Eastern & African History at the Zvi Yavetz School of Historical Studies at Tel Aviv University

“..Russia and Israel share a common concern towards international terrorism spreading throughout the region. When Russia entered the Syrian Civil War, the Israeli government immediately contacted their Russian counterparts. It appreciated the concern Russia had towards the jihadist terrorist threat in Syria, but the intervention led to an equally alarm-ing concern for Israel. That is, Israel worried that this would increase Iran’s influence in Syria. This should not be interpreted as a cooling in Russo-Israeli relations. There has al-ways been dialogue between the two governments on all-levels. Given Russia’s intervention in Syria, both countries’ military and intelligence apparatuses are in contact in the Syrian arena to avoid unfortunate outcomes…”


Carnegie Europe (article att.): Judy Asks: Is Russia Europe’s Biggest Threat?


Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* “Vom Maschinengewehr zum Besenstiel: Die deutsche Bundeswehr“

– Carnegie Europe: Germany: From Machine Guns to Broomsticks –

By Judy Dempsey

  • Germany’s armed forces are in such bad shape that they cannot even meet their NATO commitments. –

Early next year, Germany is scheduled to take over the leadership of NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF).

The VJTF is a 5,000 strong force set up by NATO in 2014 to bolster the defenses of the Baltic States in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Eastern Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea.

Not only is the force based on deterrence. Speed is supposed to be one of its big advantages. The aim is to mobilize some of the forces within 48 hours.

Under German command, which takes over the force in 2019, that’s certainly not going to happen. This is because Germany’s armed forces are in such bad shape that its soldiers lack basic equipment such as protective vests and winter clothing. They don’t even have enough mobile accommodation units for the VJTF. The Bundeswehr promised to make over 10,000 available. Currently it only has 2,500.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg, according to a report recently published by Hans-Peter Bartels, the parliamentary commissioner for the armed forces. “The army’s readiness to deploy has not improved in recent years but instead has got even worse,” Bartels said. “At the end of the year, six out of six submarines were not in use. At times, not one of the fourteen Airbus A-400M could fly,” he added, referring to aircraft specifically designed to transport troops and military equipment.
Just to add to this catalogue of woes, the
Bundeswehr has only nine operational Leopard 2 tanks, well short of the 44 needed for the VJTF. Forget about having fourteen Marder armored infantry vehicles. There’s only three to hand.

As for the Eurofighter and Tornado fighter jets and the CH-53 transport helicopters, they can only be used on average four months a year. They are in constant need of repair. And by the way, there’s a shortage of spare parts for maintenance. Just to add to the miserable state of the armed forces, the troops lack night-vision equipment and automatic grenade launchers.

This sorry state of affairs is actually a recurrent one that raises serious problems about the ability of the Bundeswehr to modernize the armed forces. It also raises many questions about Germany’s commitment to pull its weight in NATO and EU missions, as if the defense ministry wasn’t aware of these shortcomings.

Back in 2014, a year after Ursula von der Leyen became defense minister, the armed forces were lacking such essential equipment that the aircraft that was supposed to take 150 German soldiers home from Afghanistan broke down. There wasn’t a back-up one available. That same year, at one stage during a NATO exercise, because they lacked machine guns, tank commanders instead used broomsticks. They had them painted black. This was not a joke.

There are any number of reasons behind the poor state of Germany’s armed forces.

One easy explanation is that the Bundeswehr has been subject to stringent cuts over the past two decades. But that’s hardly the real reason. After all, Germany spent €37 billion on defense in 2017. That’s about 1.2 percent of gross domestic product. Even though it’s well short of NATO’s 2 percent goal, the fact that the country spends so much money must say something about how that budget is allocated. Bartels’s report refers to very high maintenance costs but also the lack of focus on priorities and inadequate leadership.

Then there is the issue of political culture. Ever since the end of World War II, Germany has adopted a non-militarist foreign policy. While it has joined NATO missions in Afghanistan and EU missions, the armed forces were subject to many caveats that placed restrictions on their movements. These are about avoiding casualties. The caveats were also about Germany’s reluctance to embrace any kind of hard power.

Yet even the country’s soft power is open to question, judging from the fact that the armed forces lack basic soft power equipment such as the heavy transport aircraft to transport humanitarian relief supplies and accommodation units.

In short, for all the talk about Germany taking more responsibility and pledging to pursue a more active foreign policy, it lacks the basic tools and credibility to deliver on any of these proclamations.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who rarely talks about defense, or NATO, or security issues, intends to keep von der Leyen as defense minister.

In her second stint as minister, von der Leyen has one last chance to modernize Germany’s armed forces. So far, she has tried to shake up the procurement procedures in order to create more competition and transparency. She has tried also to change the command structures and professionalize an army that abolished military conscription in 2011. But the Bundeswehr is still plagued by poor planning, argued Bartels.

The defense ministry has tried to play down these serious shortfalls, especially Germany’s contribution to the VJTF: “the Bundeswehr is ready and able to fulfill its commitments,” Jens Flosdorff, defense spokesman said. The missing items, he added, “are being procured.” Then it will be bye-bye to the broomsticks.


Politics: From Vision to Action

Barandat* Carnegie Europe: A Middle East Game Much Bigger Than Turkey

By Marc Pierini: The course that Turkish leaders choose to follow in the Syrian war will have long-term consequences for their country and for the world.

Turkey’s foreign policy is dominated by a heated nationalist narrative, which in turn has triggered military operations in Syria. At the roots of these developments are several threats to Turkey—some very real, some perceived, others imagined—and the ways in which the political leadership uses them.

But beyond the immediate horizon, littered with hard-to-digest news and a couple of unthinkable risks, lies a different set of issues on which Turkey has little leverage. The real world around Turkey is so complex—Iran, Israel, Russia, and the United States are waging battles out there—that it may warrant a sober look from Ankara.

For now, Turkey faces many short-term hurdles.

Turkey’s EU accession has in practice been blocked by Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, and the Netherlands. The European Parliament has just adopted a new resolution criticizing Turkey’s human rights record. A forthcoming review of EU financial support to Turkey will likely end up with a substantial downsizing of assistance. On March 26, the Bulgarian prime minister will host Turkey’s president and the presidents of the European Council and the European Commission in Varna, where the words of EU leaders are expected to be firm. In April, the commission’s latest progress report on Turkey is also expected to be very critical of the country’s rule of law situation.

Then there are developments in New York.

A U.S. court will issue its verdict in the Zarrab-Halkbank financial crimes case around mid-April. U.S. Treasury fines, thought to be in the billions of dollars, against Turkish state-run Halkbank for violating sanctions against Iran could follow. In addition, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control could exclude the bank from operating in U.S. dollars if it were designated as a foreign sanctions evader.

Closer to home, a fierce narrative is in train: the possibility of a direct conflict between Turkish and American forces in northern Syria. American think-tanks and media are abuzz with scenarios of a potential clash. A military confrontation between NATO’s two largest armies would cross into the realm of the previously unthinkable and, if an understanding is not negotiated, could prove irrecoverable. Diplomatic efforts are currently underway.

Also unthinkable is the possibility of the Turkish navy disrupting again the Cypriot government’s offshore gas exploration.

Whatever happens in Afrin, Manbij, Kobane, or off the coast of Cyprus, there is a much bigger game playing out around Turkey.

The stakes in the Syria, especially its eventual post-war settlement, are immensely higher than the fate of ISIS, the creation (or not) of an autonomous Syrian Kurdish region in a post-war Syria, or the links between the PKK and the YPG. They revolve around two fundamental issues: the balance of power between Russia and the United States in the entire Middle East region; and the potential for war between Iran and Israel.

In the seventy-three years since the end of World War II, the Middle East’s security landscape remained relatively unchanged: the United States was the dominant regional actor and Russia a relatively minor one. Israel was created in 1948 and consistently labelled an “enemy of Islam” by Iran since 1979—but the two never fought a war against each other.

Since 2015, however, momentous changes have been engineered by Russia and Iran in the region, with Turkey’s help.

By rescuing the Assad regime with Iranian support, Russia has drastically changed some of the key parameters of the post-World War II equation in the Middle East: for the first time ever, Moscow has set up a sizeable air force base in the region (in Khmeimin, an extension of Lattakia’s civilian airport in the Syrian coast); it opens and closes the skies of western Syria as it chooses; it is enlarging its naval resupply base within the commercial port of Tartus; and it has driven a diplomatic effort—supported by Iran and Turkey within the so-called “Astana peace process” and Sochi talks—to impose its brand of political settlement for Syria.

Meanwhile, in the process of shoring up the Assad regime, Iran and Hezbollah have also set foot in western Syria. They have established bases and substantially upgraded their arsenals in the country to harass Israel, in particular by building small-scale factories to locally produce drones and missiles, thereby avoiding the hassle of air and sea transport from Iran. Recent incidents between Israel, Iran, and Syria are a testimony to this evolution.

In the face of these developments, the United States is now holding about one third of Syrian territory north and east of the Euphrates River through a combination of proxy fighters—the Syrian Democratic Forces, led by the Syrian Kurdish YPG—and its own special forces. This, in essence, locks its position into future—and “real,” as opposed to the meetings in Astana and Sochi—negotiations about Syria’s future. At stake are the destruction of ISIS, the nature of the Syrian regime, local government composition, the right for foreign powers to maintain forces in the country, and ultimately—albeit indirectly—the security of Israel.

For its own reasons, Turkey has chosen to lend a hand to this geopolitical reshuffle: diplomatically, by participating in the Astana and Sochi talks; financially, by sending money to Iran—to the tune of several billion dollars—through the fully-documented “Zarrab-Halkbank scheme;” and militarily, by issuing threats to U.S. troops in Syria in the hope of pushing them back.

This bigger game playing out around Turkey is not made of somber conspiracies, as Ankara would like to convince its population. Rather, it is the theater of a massive transformation of the Middle East—to the benefit of Russia and Iran. It is as momentous as 1979 was for Tehran. The course that Turkish leaders will choose to follow in the Syrian war will have ominous, long-term consequences not only for their country but for the rest of the world, too.

About Marc Pierini: Marc Pierini is a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe, where his research focuses on developments in the Middle East and Turkey from a European perspective.

Pierini was a career EU diplomat from December 1976 to April 2012. He was EU ambassador and head of delegation to Turkey (2006–2011) and ambassador to Tunisia and Libya (2002–2006), Syria (1998–2002), and Morocco (1991–1995). He also served as the first coordinator for the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, or the Barcelona Process, from 1995 to 1998 and was the main negotiator for the release of the Bulgarian hostages from Libya from 2004 to 2007.

Pierini served as counselor in the cabinet of two European commissioners: Claude Cheysson, from 1979 to 1981, and Abel Matutes, from 1989 to 1991.


Middle East

Ost-Ghouta: Wer verhindert das Ende der Schlacht. Nahrungsmittel knapp. Waffen nicht.

Von Karin Leukefeld.

Der UN-Sicherheitsrat hat sich am Samstag auf die Resolution 2401 geeinigt, die einen 30-tägigen Waffenstillstand für ganz Syrien fordert. Auf dem Schlachtfeld in den Ost-Vororten von Damaskus sind Zivilisten zwischen den Fronten in höchster Gefahr. Doch wer sind die Kämpfer, die angeben, die Zivilisten und die „syrische Revolution“ zu verteidigen?

Die Belagerung der östlichen Vororte von Damaskus soll aufgehoben werden, so die Resolution. Wöchentliche Hilfskonvois sollen nicht nur die östlichen Vororte, sondern auch die von der Nusra Front belagerten Ortschaften Kefraya und Fouah in Idlib sowie den vom „Islamischen Staat“ (IS) und der Nusra Front besetzten Ortsteil Yarmuk, das ehemalige Palästinenserlager in Damaskus, versorgen. Kranke und Verletzte sollen evakuiert werden. Der Waffenstillstand gilt nicht für militärische Operationen gegen den selbst ernannten IS, Al Khaida und die Nusra Front und deren Verbündete.

Wiederholte Interventionsdrohung aus dem Westen/ Philippe Wojazer

Diese Ausnahme war nur auf Drängen Russlands aufgenommen worden, während westliche Staaten sich Tage lang geweigert hatten. Da „ganz Syrien“ erwähnt wird, gilt die Resolution auch für die Region um die Kleinstadt Afrin in der Provinz Aleppo. Die kurdischen Kampfverbände haben bereits erklärt, die Resolution zu respektieren. Von türkischer Seite und den mit der Türkei verbündeten islamistischen Kampfverbänden gibt es offiziell keine Stellungnahmen. Der russische UN-Botschafter Wassili Nebensja erklärte nach der Abstimmung, ein Waffenstillstand könne nur vor Ort durch direkte, anstrengende und komplizierte Verhandlungen erreicht werden. Russland wäre zudem wichtig gewesen, dass die Resolution keinen militärischen Einsatz gegen Syrien beinhaltet.

Die Absicht einer Militärintervention, so Nebensja vor Journalisten, sei aus verschiedenen Stellungnahmen einiger Mitglieder im UN-Sicherheitsrat „herauszuhören“ gewesen. Er äußerte „tiefe Besorgnis über die öffentlichen Ankündigungen bestimmter US-Beamten (…), die mit Aggression gegen das souveräne Syrien drohen. Wir warnen gleich, dass wir eine willkürliche Deutung der angenommenen Resolution nicht zulassen werden.“

Druck nur auf Damaskus?© AFP 2018/ John Macdougall

Russland wird von den westlichen Vetomächten im UN-Sicherheitsrat USA, Großbritannien und Frankreich und deren Verbündeten dafür verantwortlich gemacht, dass die syrische Regierung die Resolution umsetzt und einhält. Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel sagte, das „Massaker“ zeige den „Kampf eines Regimes nicht gegen Terroristen, sondern gegen seine eigene Bevölkerung.“ Ihr Parteikollege Johann David Wadephul forderte, Russland müsse aufhören, den syrischen Präsidenten Bashar al-Assad zu unterstützen. Er ist CDU-Berichterstatter für die Länder des Nahen und Mittleren Ostens im Auswärtigen Ausschuss des Bundestages. Russland müsse „international seiner Rolle gerecht werden und seine militärischen Streitkräfte aus Syrien abziehen.“

Bundeskanzlerin Merkel und der französische Präsident Emmanuel Macron drängten schriftlich und telefonisch unter großer medialer Anteilnahme den russischen Präsidenten Wladimir Putin. Er solle Druck auf die syrische Regierung ausüben und diese dazu bringen, die Sicherheitsrats-Resolution umzusetzen. Nicht bekannt ist, ob es ähnliche Appelle an die Anführer der Kampfgruppen in der östlichen Ghouta, in Idlib und deren Unterstützer in der Türkei und in den Golfstaaten gab.

Nahrungsmittel knapp, Waffen nicht?

Auf einem Schlachtfeld zwischen den Fronten sind Zivilisten immer in höchster Gefahr. Doch das ist nur die halbe Geschichte. Wer sind die Kämpfer an der Front in den östlichen Vororten von Damaskus? Wer sind ihre Hintermänner, welche Ziele haben sie? Und wie ist es möglich, dass seit Jahren Nahrungsmittel und Medikamente in dem Gebiet knapp sind, die Waffen der Kämpfer aber nicht nur reichlich vorhanden sind, sondern auch hochmodern?

Die östliche Ghouta war einst ein Naherholungsgebiet für die Einwohner von Damaskus. Seit den 1980er Jahren ließen sich dort Handwerks- und Industriebetriebe nieder. Landflucht und Bevölkerungszuwachs ließen um die kleinen Dörfer der einstigen Idylle neue Satellitenstädte entstehen. Rund drei Millionen Menschen haben hier offiziell vor Beginn des Krieges 2011 gelebt. Die wirkliche Zahl könnte höher gewesen sein. Die meisten der Menschen flohen in der Zeit von Ende 2011 und Anfang 2012, als bewaffnete Gruppen in der östlichen Ghouta die Kontrolle übernahmen. Es blieben zumeist Angehörige der Kämpfer, Personen, die keine Angehörigen in Damaskus Stadt hatten oder zu krank und zu alt, um zu fliehen. Es waren Leute, die ihr Eigentum nicht verlassen wollten. Oder sie gehörten einer der nichtbewaffneten Oppositionsgruppen an, die mit Unterstützung aus dem Ausland auf einen Sturz der syrischen Regierung hofften.

Ausgeweiteter islamistischer Einfluss

Die größte dieser Satellitenstädte ist Douma, etwa zehn Kilometer nordöstlich von Damaskus Stadt entfernt. Vor dem Krieg lebten dort offiziell 120 000 Einwohner. Viele männliche Bewohner von Douma verdienten ihr Geld in der Bau- und Ölindustrie in den Golfstaaten. Manche wurden Vermittler für Firmen aus dem Golf oder Subunternehmer. Neben dem Geld brachten sie auch ultrakonservatives Gedankengut aus den Golfstaaten mit nach Syrien, das in Moscheen und Koranschulen vermittelt wurde. Hier bauten die Golfstaaten nicht nur ideell und religiös, sondern auch wirtschaftlich eine Basis auf, die erst im Frühjahr 2011 mit den Protesten richtig sichtbar wurde.

© REUTERS/ Bassam Khabieh

"Hunderte Geiseln" in Ost-Ghuta – Syrische Armee stellt Feuer ein

2011 entstand in Douma die „Armee des Islam“ (Jaish al Islam), die von Zahran Allousch gegründet wurde. Allousch war 2011 im Rahmen einer Generalamnestie aus dem Gefängnis freigelassen worden, wo er seit 2009 wegen salafistischer Propaganda und illegalem Waffenbesitz inhaftiert war. Ziel der bis heute bestehenden Gruppierung ist es, die säkulare syrische Regierung zu stürzen und durch eine ultrakonservative Regierung zu ersetzen, die der Scharia nach salafistischer Auslegung folgen soll. Finanziell wird die „Armee des Islam“ von der Türkei, Saudi Arabien und den Vereinigten Arabischen Emiraten (VAE) unterstützt, die bis heute für die Bewaffnung und weitere Logistik sorgen. Allousch wurde 2015 getötet. Kurz darauf wurde sein Bruder Mohamed Allousch zum Leiter der Verhandlungsdelegation der syrischen oppositionellen Nationalen Koalition nach Genf entsandt. Nachdem die militärischen Erfolge der syrischen Armee und ihrer Verbündeten die islamistischen Kampfverbände landesweit immer mehr zurückdrängen konnten, wurde Allousch bei einem von Saudi Arabien ausgerichteten Treffen gegen oppositionelle Zivilisten ausgetauscht.

Unterstützung von Golf-Staaten und aus den USA

Eine weitere einflussreiche Kampfgruppe nennt sich „Die Rahman-Legion“ (Faylaq al-Rahman). Auch sie wurde 2011 gegründet und war zunächst mit der „Freien Syrischen Armee“ verbündet. Inzwischen ist die Legion Partner der „Front zur Befreiung der Levante“ (Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, HTS) einem Bündnis um die Nusra Front, einer Al Khaida-Gruppe. Die Ideologie basiert ebenfalls auf dem Salafismus. Die Rahman-Legion spricht von den östlichen Vororten von Damaskus als dem „Östlichen Khalifat“. Die Gruppe wird von Katar und von der Türkei unterstützt und bewaffnet. Seit 2015 liefert sich die „Rahman-Legion“ immer wieder blutige Machtkämpfe mit der „Armee des Islam“.CC BY 3.0 / Qasioun News Agency

Militärbeobachter in der Region führen das auf den Konflikt zurück, der unter den jeweiligen Sponsoren Saudi Arabien und VAE einerseits gegen Katar andererseits besteht. Da Katar aktuell von Saudi Arabien und den VAE als Gegner eingestuft wird, weil das Emirat mit Iran kooperiert, vermuten Beobachter, dass die Rahman-Legion zu einem Waffenstillstand bereits sein könnte. Doch ein am 18. Februar von EMN-News veröffentlichter Werbefilm der Gruppe spricht eine andere Sprache. Zu sehen sind Scharfschützen, die ihre modernen Gewehre präsentieren. Durch ihr Zielfernrohr nehmen sie Soldaten und einfache Leute ins Visier, die sich jenseits der Frontlinie in Damaskus befinden. Nach jedem Schuss ist durch das Zielfernrohr zu sehen, wie das Opfer fällt, während die Schützen Allah preisen. Die Organisation verfügt auch über Anti-Panzer Raketen TOW aus den USA. In einem Werbeclip vom 25. Februar, einen Tag nach der UN-Sicherheitsratsresolution für einen Waffenstillstand, ist zu sehen, wie die Kämpfer eine TOW-Rakete abfeuern und ihr Ziel, angeblich einen Bulldozer jenseits der Frontline bei Harasta, zerstören.

Islamisten arbeiten zusammen

Die „Islamische Bewegung der Freien Männer der Levante“ (Ahrar al-Sham) wurde ebenfalls 2011 gegründet und hat sich kürzlich mit einer anderen islamistischen Gruppe, „Nour al Din al Zenki“ zusammengeschlossen. Der Name geht auf einen Herrscher der türkischen Zengiden im 12. Jahrhundert zurück. Die durch den Zusammenschluss entstandene „Syrische Befreiungsfront“ will die „syrische Revolution“ verteidigen, um ebenfalls einen „Islamischen Staat“ zu errichten. Beide Gruppen wurden und werden von den USA, den Golfstaaten und der Türkei unterstützt und haben Hinrichtungen nach Scharia-Urteilen vorgenommen. „Nour al Din al Zenki“ schnitt einem 15jährigen palästinensischen Jungen vor laufender Kamera die Kehle durch. In der östlichen Ghouta kooperieren beide Organisationen mit dem Bündnis der Nusra Front „Hay’at al Tahrir al Sham“ (HTS). In Idlib, wo alle genannten Gruppen ebenfalls kämpfen, liefern sie sich mit HTS einen blutigen Machtkampf.

© AFP 2018/ Guillaume Briquet

Lawrow erkennt Versuche, Nusra-Terroristen in Syrien „aus der Schusslinie zu nehmen“

Während Nahrungsmittel und Medikamente knapp sind in den östlichen Vororten von Damaskus, gelangen modernste Waffen und Munition, Kommunikationsgeräte, Kameras und Drohnen weiter zu den Kämpfern. Ein Nachschubweg führt durch Tunnelsysteme, die die Vororte miteinander verbinden und inzwischen fast alle von der syrischen Armee und ihren Verbündeten gekappt wurden. Die Tunnel gehören zu einem weit verzweigten unterirdischen Wasserversorgungssystem des Barada Flusses, der die östliche Ghouta bewässert. Bewohner, deren Ehemänner und Söhne verschwanden oder von den Kampfverbänden entführt wurden, berichteten, mussten die Gefangenen die unterirdischen Tunnelanlagen ausbauen und befestigten. Heute wird von einer unterirdischen Stadt in Teilen der östlichen Ghouta gesprochen.

Hilfsgüter werden weiterverkauft

Die „moderate Opposition“ gibt weiterhin an, in der östlichen Ghouta unabhängig von den Gotteskriegern zu arbeiten. Sie bezeichnet die Tunnelsysteme als „Schutzräume vor den Angriffen des Regimes“ und erwähnt die militärische Nutzung dieser Anlagen nicht. Im Interview mit einem Anführer der Nusra Front in Barzeh 2014 erfuhr der britische Journalist Patrick Cockburn, dass Hilfsgüter, die von der UNO und dem Internationalen Komitee vom Roten Kreuz für die Zivilisten in Barzeh geliefert wurden, unter Kontrolle der jeweiligen Kampfgruppen durch die Tunnelsysteme in die anderen östlichen Vororte weiter transportiert wurden. Geld wechselte die Besitzer, der Handel mit Hilfsgütern ist ein einträgliches Geschäft. Sputnik/ Maksim Blinow

Die Kämpfer der beschriebenen Gruppen bilden gemeinsam ein Heer von mehreren Tausend Gotteskriegern. Diese werden aktuell in der östlichen Ghouta von der syrischen Armee und ihren Verbündeten Russland, Iran und Hisbollah bekämpft. Wiederholte Verhandlungen über den Abzug der Kämpfer blieben erfolglos. Ein im Sommer 2017 vereinbarter Waffenstillstand und die Einstufung der östlichen Ghouta als „Deeskalationsgebiet“ scheiterten, nachdem von den oben genannten Gruppen im September und im Dezember 2017 zwei schwere Anschläge auf die syrischen Streitkräfte mit weit über 100 Toten verübt worden waren.

Angriffe auf Wohnviertel in Damaskus

Hunderte syrische Soldaten, Regierungsbeamte und deren Angehörige werden von diesen Gruppen als Geiseln gehalten. In den vergangenen sieben Wochen wurden aus den Gebieten der östlichen Ghouta mehr als 1500 Granaten und Raketen auf Wohnviertel in Damaskus gefeuert. Dutzende Menschen starben, Hunderte wurden verletzt.

Die Türkei, westliche und Golfstaaten haben seit 2011 den bewaffneten Aufstand in den östlichen Vororten von Damaskus unterstützt. Bei einem Putschversuch im Sommer 2012 drangen Kampfverbände weit ins Zentrum von Damaskus ein, wurden aber wieder zurückgedrängt. Das Ziel war ursprünglich, die Aufständischen aus der östlichen Ghouta nach Damaskus einmarschieren zu lassen, um die Regierung zu stürzen. Heute kontrollieren die Kampfgruppen noch ein Gebiet von ca. 100 Quadratkilometern. Das gesamte Gebiet von Damaskus und Umland (Rif) umfasst 18 000 Quadratkilometern.

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*Massenbach’s Recommendation*

Die Presse, Wien: Die Beruhigungspillen von Dr. Merkel wirken

Mit klugen Rochaden hat die deutsche Kanzlerin ihre Kritiker in der CDU sediert. Jetzt müssen nur noch die SPD-Mitglieder den Intelligenztest bestehen.

Eines muss man Angela Merkel lassen: Sie ist eine begnadete Technikerin der Macht. Der Februar hätte für die deutsche Bundeskanzlerin gefährlich werden können. Mehrere Parteien hatten sich personell erneuert. Erst die Grünen und die CSU, dann warf auch noch Martin Schulz hin – als SPD-Vorsitzender und ein paar Tage später als Außenminister in spe.

Die CDU-Chefin wartete nicht, bis die Dynamik auch sie erfasste und aus den sich häufenden Zeitungsartikeln über die einsetzende Kanzlerinnendämmerung Realität wurde. Merkel ging in die Offensive, lud sich selbst ins öffentlich-rechtliche Fernsehen ein (da reicht in Deutschland offenbar ein Anruf am Merkelofon) und verkündete dem Volk, dass sie bis zum Ende der Legislaturperiode als Regierungschefin zur Verfügung stehen werde. Die aufkeimende Nachfolgedebatte war damit fürs Erste ausgetreten.

Zugleich machte sie sich daran, ihr Haus in der CDU zu bestellen. In den vergangenen Tagen brachte sie mehrere potenzielle Erben in Stellung. In einem überraschenden Eröffnungszug lotste Merkel die bisherige Ministerpräsidentin des Saarlands, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, ins Amt der CDU-Generalsekretärin nach Berlin. Diese Funktion hatte auch Merkel inne, bevor sie 2002 zur Parteivorsitzenden aufstieg. Zwei weitere Nachfolgekandidatinnen hat sie ins Kabinett für eine Neuauflage der Großen Koalition nominiert: die bisherige Verteidigungsministerin Ursula von der Leyen und Julia Klöckner, die als Landwirtschaftsministerin vorgesehen ist.

Ins Boot holte sie auch ein viertes Parteimitglied, dem Ambitionen aufs Kanzleramt nachgesagt werden: Jens Spahn darf sich, sofern die Koalition mit der SPD tatsächlich zustande kommen sollte, mit dem Gesundheitsministerium herumschlagen. Ein smarter Kniff: Merkels vorlautester Kritiker und der konservative Flügel der CDU sind damit vorerst ruhiggestellt.

Nun kann niemand mehr sagen, dass Merkel nicht für das Ende ihrer Ära vorgesorgt habe. Sie hat ihr Kabinett verjüngt und gleich vier Personen um sich geschart, die ernsthaft für die Thronfolge in der CDU infrage kommen: Kramp-Karrenbauer, Julia Klöckner, Ursula von der Leyen sowie Jens Spahn, und zwar in dieser Reihenfolge. Das Quartett wird in den kommenden Monaten ausgiebig Gelegenheit haben, sich zu profilieren, zu belauern – und zu neutralisieren. Und in der Zwischenzeit regiert, wenn alles nach Plan läuft, Merkel unbehelligt weiter.

Mit ihren Personalrochaden hat die Bundeskanzlerin den Parteitag rechtzeitig sediert. Kritik kam nur aus der zweiten und dritten Reihe. Die Partei winkte den neuen Koalitionsvertrag mit der SPD durch. Dabei hat Merkel ihrer CDU einiges zugemutet. Besonders hart verhandelt hat sie nicht. Eigentliche Verhandlungsführerin war die Angst vor Neuwahlen. Sonst lässt sich nicht erklären, warum die CDU-Chefin den bei der Wahl geschwächten Sozialdemokraten das Finanzministerium geschenkt hat. Merkel war eine Koalition mit schmerzhaften Abstrichen lieber als gar keine. Man kann das als Wahrnehmung staatspolitischer Verantwortung deuten – oder als Einknicken. Wahrscheinlich trifft beides zu.

Jedenfalls ist die Erpressungstaktik der SPD, deren rund 463.000Mitglieder der Großen Koalition ja noch zustimmen müssen, aufgegangen. Bisher zumindest. Denn noch liegt das Ergebnis der Mitgliederbefragung nicht vor. Erst am Sonntag wird Deutschland wissen, ob es eine neue Regierung hat oder wieder wählen muss. Die SPD wagt eine interessante Versuchsanordnung, indem sie die kollektive Intelligenz ihrer Mitglieder testet. Angesichts verheerender Umfragewerte unter 20 Prozent kämen Neuwahlen einem Massenharakiri gleich. Aber die Aussicht auf vier weitere Jahre neben Merkel ist auch nicht unbedingt belebend. Lehnen die SPD-Mitglieder eine Große Koalition ab, könnte es für Merkel abermals knapp werden. Denn es wäre dann offensichtlich, dass sie nicht mehr imstande ist, eine Regierung zu bilden.

Doch auch dann könnte Merkel immer noch ein Argument für sich aus der Tasche ziehen – und sich als letzter verantwortungsbewusster Stabilitätsanker in unruhigen Zeiten inszenieren. Die Technikerin der Macht ist sicherlich auch auf diese Eventualität vorbereitet.


Ein neuer Aufbruch für Europa

Eine neue Dynamik für Deutschland

Ein neuer Zusammenhalt für unser Land






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


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