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Monday, March 27, 2017

Hackers In Epaulets: A Challenge To The Consensus on Russian Interference in the 2016 Election?

To connect the dots on Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential election (RussiaGate), we must begin with the understanding that Russia is a criminal enterprise disguised as a state. Duty-bound KGB officers have been replaced by shadowy figures who deal in compromising material, often for personal financial gain, and shuttle between private and state activities. Russia’s vaunted cyber warfare is carried out by independent-contractor operator/criminals who often wear the uniform of the Federal Security Service (FSB), foreign intelligence (SVR), or defense ministry (GRU). A new term has entered the vocabulary: hackers in epaulets.


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Nationwide Protests Against Corruption Catch Russia's Authorities Off Guard

Chances are that Putin will regain the initiative, but he must pile repressive measures on top of already repressive measures. There are limits. Many pundits believe that the Putin regime is unstable. It cannot go on, but we have difficulty picturing the scenario under which the Putin regime falls. If nationwide demonstrations accelerate and people are indeed “no longer afraid,” could this be it?

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Monday, March 20, 2017

Putin Plans For Reelection Without Crimea Euphoria And The Trump Bubble

Putin has exhausted the popularity gains from Crimea and has gotten no boost from Syria. He has the admiration of vast segments of the Russian population, who can see no one other than he as their president. Donald Trump must be on Putin’s mind. Trump supposedly had no chance to win. Putin should be a shoo-in. Life and politics occasionally play tricks.



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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Is Putin Preparing To Admit Guilt For MH17?

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) began its hearings on Ukraine's suit against Russia on March 6 in the Hague. Ukraine’s 45-page indictment alleges that Russia violated two UN conventions: First, the Terrorist Financing Treaty through its support of "illegally armed groups" in the self-proclaimed People's Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, and, second, the mistreatment of Tartars under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. The shooting down of MH17 is included as a violation of the Terrorist Financing Treaty. Under ICJ procedures, intent to harm civilians must be proved. Putin's lawyers appear to be making the case that the shooting down of MH17 was a terrible mistake -- implicitly on Russia's part.


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Monday, March 13, 2017

Saudi Oil Minister Sounds Trouble For Russia At Houston Conference

Energy producers and OPEC ministers, meeting at CERAWeek in Houston, grappled with a global glut of oil that was not supposed to be. Back in November, OPEC and non-OPEC oil producers agreed to their first production cut in eight years. Thus ended a Saudi-led experiment with free markets that had driven down crude prices to historic lows. The Saudi gamble was that low prices would dry up U.S. shale investment, rig counts, and hence crude production, that competes with OPEC and Russian output.
The experiment apparently failed.



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Thursday, March 9, 2017

Putin Changes Course As He Gives Up On Trump

With Trump and Putin, we are returning to the Reagan-Gorbachev era, but under less favorable conditions for the Russian side. The USSR had a larger population than the US and its GDP was around one half. Can Putin really hope to compete with a country two and a half times Russia’s population and a GDP a 14 times Russia's? Can he sacrifice his peoples’ living standards, health, and education even more? I doubt it.


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