What do you do if you are a nation facing one of the most powerful militaries in the world and your former ally, thanks to the leadership or lack thereof of the head of the free world, is no longer reliable?

Why you make some reliable allies instead:

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin wrapped up a low-profile two-day visit in Israel on Thursday, saying one of the purposes of his visit was to discuss ways to increase cooperation between the two countries, including “military and technical cooperation.”

 
What kind of military and technical cooperation?

“We spoke about the importing of drones from Israel,” said Klimkin after meeting Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and other officials. “That’s really important in the supervision framework of the ceasefire (with pro-Russian separatists), but we are speaking with many countries about that and countries in the European Union in particular.”

It makes sense for Ukraine, if you’ve been hitched to a weak horse for a long while, it’s time to find a strong one, but the other question is why should Israel be so interested in helping out Ukraine?

Lyudmila Saprikina, the head of the Donetsk branch of Hesed, which cares for Jewish senior citizens throughout the former Soviet Union, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that while approximately 70 percent of Donetsk’s Jews have fled, 1,650 of her clients have remained behind in the shattered center of the Moscow-backed insurgency and the surrounding areas.

That fact that so many Jews have chosen to flee the now Moscow allied areas says a lot.

When nobody thinks you’re strong enough to be worth seeking as an ally then it’s likely you’re not strong enough for people to be worried about having you as an enemy.

Latvian Freedom Monument
Latvian Freedom Monument, Riga

By John Ruberry

After seizing the Crimea and invading Ukraine, Russia-watchers wonder which former Soviet republic is next on Vladimir Putin’s expansion list?

Latvians fear it could be their nation.

Yesterday parliamentary elections were held in the small Baltic state. Ethnic Russians with Latvian citizenship–not all of them enjoy this benefit–mostly lined up as predicted behind the Harmony Party, which is led by Nil Ushakov, the mayor of Riga, Latvia’s capital and largest city, the population of which is about half Russian.

In an attempt to water-down ethnic minorities that began during the tyranny of Josef Stalin, Russians were moved into Soviet republics such as Latvia to replace people deported to Siberia.

Latvian speakers, proving in a way that they belong in Europe, traditionally split their vote among a dozen or so parties, and yesterday was no exception.

Harmony won about one-quarter of the seats in the 100 member Saeima, the Latvian parliament. more than any other party. Another pro-Russian party, For Latvia from the Heart, may end up with a couple of seats, but the Russian-bloc, with no other feasible coalition parties, will fall far short of a majority. In fact, Harmony will probably have fewer seats in the new parliament.

Saturday was a good day for the ruling center-right coalition led by Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma. Her Unity Party, along with the Union of Greens and Farmers and the National Alliance, received about 60 percent of the tally. Straujuma favors the current NATO build-up in Latvia and is getting credit for her nation’s economic turnaround after the 2008 recession.

Harmony’s Ushakov, while favoring Latvia’s membership in NATO and the European Union, raised eyebrows when he said on Russian television that Putin was the best leader for Russia from the Latvian perspective.

Riga's Old City
Riga’s Old City

For now, it looks like Russia has been checked in Latvia. But Putin can look at a half-million Russian speakers as potential partners to destabilize the small nation. Or he can look  to the north of Latvia at Estonia. Over ninety percent of the population of its third-largest city, Narva, which sits across a river from Russia, is Russian-speaking.

Or perhaps Putin can cast his gaze to the south and Kazakhstan, the northern part of which is heavily Russian. Kazakhstan is not a NATO member.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.  His wife was born in Latvia and he has traveled to the Baltic nation twice. 

Remember when I said a few days ago that the Western media’s obsession with Ferguson opened a window of opportunity to several players on the international stage

Well it looks like last night Putin just crawled on through:

An apparent incursion of tanks and personnel carriers into southeastern Ukraine Monday, one day before a high-stakes summit, demonstrated just how difficult it will be for Ukraine to reestablish control over its own territory.

The details varied from various sites:

Col. Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for Ukraine’s National Security Council, told reporters that the column of 10 tanks, two armored vehicles and two trucks crossed the border near Shcherbak and that the nearby city of Novoazovsk was shelled during the night from Russia. He said they were Russian military vehicles bearing the flags of the separatist Donetsk rebels.

In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Monday he had no information about the column.

Almost certainly this is a test to see how the west responds.  How and if they do will likely determine the history of the world in general and Europe in particular for decades to come.

 

One of the odd side effects of an event such as Ferguson and the gigantic media black hole that attracts all the possible coverage in US media is the opportunity that it creates for people to act on issues totally unrelated.

This was evidenced last month when the shoot down of the Malaysian airliner taking place at the same time as Israel’s offensive against Hamas kept the media coverage divided to the point where Israel was able to act almost for a week before Hamas’ ability to play the international media effectively. The temporary nullification of Hamas’ media allies was, in my opinion a vital part in Israel’s success in Operation Protective Edge.

With the US media totally distracted by the unrest in Ferguson, a story that is directly in the cable networks wheelhouse those who wish to act on other issues have their best chance to do so, consider:

1. Gaza:

In Gaza the latest ceasefire is about to expire. With Ferguson in full swing Hamas will once again be unable to pay their media card effectively.

This means if Israel wants to take punitive action against Hamas this is the week to do it. If there are any loose ends that have to be taken care of or dramatic moves to make, Israel can do it and be assured that the US media will not be in a position to counter them.

2. Ukraine:

Vlad Putin Ukrainian plans are in real trouble. First of all the Ukrainians elected to fight his proxy army rather than fold and if that wasn’t bad enough after months of tough fighting the Ukrainians are on the verge of victory against the Russian backed “rebels”.

Putin has no good options. He can either continue to try and reinforce and resupply those forces, he can leave them to fend for themselves or he can deploy the army at the border in an open invasion.

The first has been effectively counted by the Ukrainians, the second risks a backlash in Russia proper as Putin’s own propaganda has portrayed his actions as an attempt to safeguard innocent ethnic Russians and the third not only crosses a vital line but escalates the situation to a level possibility beyond his control.

However thanks to the distraction of the US there is one other option open. Putin could choose to make a limited incursion led by massive airpower. If he deployed his air assets he might be in a position to crush Ukraine’s air force and pummel their supply lines long enough to reverse the course of the war. Putin could even choose after a week to back off and get credit for “restraint” after his tactical objectives are achieved.

By the time the US media starts noticing the entire course of the war could change.

3. Iraq

Of the three locations this is the one where the destruction of the US media offers options for both ISIS and America.

ISIS’ faces two problems their victory threatened to undermine Barack Obama’s narrative on Iraq and even worse the plight of the Yazidis captured on video created the image of an American president indifferent to mass slaughter on innocents. This forced America to act.

With America now distracted the Good news for ISIS is they have several options to take advantage of this situation: They can take the opportunity to redeploy to positions that are defensible and consolidate their gains, they can choose to finish crushing and slaughtering the Christians and Yazidis acting proactively while America’s gaze is elsewhere, or they can make moves on the Mosul Dam under the assumption that even destroying the dam will not knock Ferguson off the front pages in America.

The Bad news for ISIS is the distraction of the US media also frees America and the west’s hands to some degree. With the country focused elsewhere the President could choose to escalate the bombing of ISIS positions to degrees far beyond the current small attacks. US special forces can coordinating with the Kurds go on the offensive on the ground to retake areas. In fact if Ferguson goes on long enough the President might be able to quietly reinforce forces deployed in Iraq to a point where they might be able to make a difference without this base giving the issue enough notice.

Of course these are the big things, plenty of small things from onerous regulations, to investigation dumps to, Obamacare changes might also take place at this time, but the window for game changing action in all of those areas above is open now, the only question is will anybody choose to climb through it?

With a big hat tip to Hotair.com

 

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Olimometer 2.52

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The world continues to express its outrage at the shooting down of a commercial airliner, likely by Ukrainian separatists.  While it is highly likely that the those firing mistook said aircraft for an enemy plane the idea that civilian aircraft carrying civilian passengers might be targeted, even accidentally, is an unacceptable outrage.

Strangely enough I don’t seem to recall that same outrage a week ago when this story came out.

Sirens sounded in the Tel Aviv area on Friday morning at approximately 10:45 a.m., in what Hamas claims to be its first attack targeting the Ben Gurion International Airport.

The Iron Dome anti-missile defense system shot down three rockets over the Tel Aviv area, according to the IDF Spokesperson’s Office.

Well I understand why there is no outrage, it’s just a random rocket.  It’s not like Hamas was targeting the airport itself or issuing demands and warning to international flyers.  That would be a different story.

Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack, boasting that this is the first time they have specifically targeted Ben Gurion Airport, according to Yedioth Aharonoth. The terror group claimed to have shot four domestically produced M-75 rockets at the airport.

“We are sending a message to all foreign airlines operating flights into the Zionist entity, asking them to stop flying into the entity because of the dangers surrounding all the airports due to the ongoing war,” it said in a statement, according to AFP. 

or not.

The reality is Hamas understands that even if they managed to hit a commercial airplane the international media would have backed Hamas’ claim that the responsibility belongs to Israel and European governments terrified of their increasingly Islamic populations and the increasingly Jew hating left in America would aided by the media unite as a result of such an attack to call on Israel to make concessions to prevent this from happening in the future.

Keep that in mind when you see pols, particular on the left beating their breasts over the next week concerning the downing of the Malaysian flight.

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By John Ruberry

The effects of Russia’s annexation of the Crimea are being felt in the Baltic States–Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. The three states were part of Czarist Russia, but they won their independence from the Bolsheviks after World War I. It was not to last–the tiny nations were seized by the Soviet Union in 1940. My wife, who was born in Latvia, was told that the three nations “requested” to join the USSR by her teachers.

Riga, Latvia
Riga, Latvia

Shortly before the collapse of the Evil Empire, the Baltic States regained their independence.

Despite being hit hard by the economic crisis of 2008, the Baltic States are the wealthiest of the former Soviet Republics. The democratic nations are members of NATO and the European Union.

But not all well in what was known in imperial Russia as “our West.” Thousands of Balts were deported to Siberia in the 1940s, Russian speakers took their place. It was an essential part of Josef Stalin’s policy of Russification–one people, one language. Over two decades after the collapse of the USSR, ethnic Russians comprise roughly one-quarter the population of Latvia and Estonia. Lithuania has a tiny Russian population but it borders the Kaliningrad exclave of Russia.

Needless to say, some people are nervous in the Baltics about the Ukraine crisis and Russia. Vaira Vike-Freiberga, the former president of Latvia, told NPR earlier this month, “We have to worry every minute of every day.” Latvia and Lithuania suspended the broadcasts of the international service of a Russian government-owned television network for three months because of what they deemed inflammatory broadcasts.

An ethnic Russian member of the European Parliament from Latvia is under investigation by Latvian authorities for being a Russian Federation agent.

I’ve been to Latvia twice. When walking the streets of its capital, Riga, one is just a likely to hear Russian spoken as Latvian.

The most tense situation is in Estonia. Its third largest city, Narva, sits on the border of the Russian Federation. Just four percent of the residents are Narva are Estonian. The two nations have an unresolved border dispute. Estonia was the victim of a 2007 Russian cyber attack.

Pro independence rally in Latvia, 1990.
Pro independence rally
in Latvia, 1990.

To become a citizen of Estonia or Latvia, Russians and their descendants who emigrated there after 1940 have to pass a difficult language test, which is significant challenge for the elderly. Russians born there after 1991 can choose citizenship. In Lithuania Russians were offered citizenship upon independence.

In response to the Crimea crisis, NATO dispatched some F-16 jets to Lithuania and President Obama sent Vice President Joe Biden there. I’m sure the Balts appreciated the former more than the latter.

But if Vladimir Putin uses the same reasoning–the protection of Russians–to seize Narva as he did with Crimea, will President Obama and NATO have the stomach to view such a move as a violation of Article V of the charter of the alliance, “An attack on one is an attack on all?”

Or will Obama simply draw another of his meaningless red lines, as he did in Syria?

Putin has called the collapse of the USSR a “geopolitical tragedy.” 

But now he has Crimea. Is there a next move?

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

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barking dogby baldilocks

woof tickets

a slang phrase meaning a verbal threat, criticism, or insult used to intimidate an opponent. The phrase originates from woofing, meaning aimless talk, an onomatopoeic reference to the sound of dogs barking.

(It’s a sad day when Wikipedia has a better definition for a black slang phrase than does the Urban Dictionary.)

Victor Davis Hanson says aloud what many observers of everyday-life already knew:  in the run-up to a fist-fight, the one who talks the loudest and who talks the most feces is the one to fear the least. This is an over-arching aphorism in that it’s applicable to brewing bar fights as well as to brewing global conflicts—and to nearly every other type of tussle in between.

President Obama’s pivot has now joined his stable of deadlines, red lines, step-over lines, and “I don’t bluff” and “I’m not kidding” assertions. The problem with such rhetoric is not just that it is empty, but that it is predictably empty. If Obama cannot lead, can he at least keep quiet about it?

A Russia, China, North Korea, or Iran is not just unimpressed but encouraged, seeing such sermonizing as an assurance of nothing to follow. Obama’s threats are like a gambler’s involuntary tic, which astute poker players read always as a forewarning of a bluffed empty hand to follow.

He does this because that is what he thinks is expected of him: to talk. He thinks the presidency is about saying the proper set of words under a given set of circumstances. (Anything else is too much like work.)

Examples:

Racial issue involving black person? Make speeches implicitly blaming the other party, especially if the other party is white.

Crappy program promoted by the Obama administration or by the Democrat Party? Make speeches promoting the program and/or bribing an interest group into accepting said program.

And for the topic at hand, war not involving USA? Make “don’t make me come over there” speeches while shaking your finger at the “children” in this manner

…the president or his secretary of state lecture an aggressor about its unacceptable 19th-century behavior, the Third World about its homophobia, or the world about the dangers of climate change.

Vladimir Putin knows that the Obama Administration will do nothing and will continue to treat him like a little yappy dog as long as that latter keep running his mouth. (I would imagine that this gives Putin no joy. Guys like that prefer to match wits with an able foe, rather than a specially-abled[i]  one.)

Professor Hanson spells out the price we will pay for electing this simpleton of a leader: another war. But this time I fear it will be right in front of us, and I don’t mean on the device.

There will come a point in time for all Americans during which each of us will be unable to ignore the folly of sending Barack Hussein Obama to the White House—an illuminating moment.

 


[i]I’m sure that the specially-abled are indignant at the comparison.

baldilocksJuliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2009; the second edition in 2012. Her new novel, Arlen’s Harem, is due in early 2014. Help her fund it and help keep her blog alive!

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I spoke to Rep Peter King at the NRLC 2014 event in Nashua NH

There are more than a few members of the GOP and Tea Party who have some serious critiques of Congressman King for various reasons and I agree with some of them, nevertheless his advice on how America carries itself in the world in general and the Ukraine in particular is spot on and we ignore it at not only our peril but the peril of our children.