Vladimir Putin Vows That Russian Bear Won’t Become ‘Stuffed Animal’ – NBC News.com

“Maybe our bear should sit quietly, not chasing any piglets around, but just eating honey and berries. Maybe they should just leave him alone? They will not. They are trying to put it on a chain. And as soon as they do it they will tear his teeth and claws out.

President Vladimir Putin launched a defiant and patriotic defense of Russia’s relations with the West Thursday as he faced the public in his annual live televised news conference.

He said 25 percent of Russia’s economic crisis — including its faltering currency — was caused by sanctions imposed following the annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region.

Putin said Russia was unfairly criticized for looking after its own interests, and compared his country to the United States. “To chop Texas from Mexico is fair, but when we make decision about our territories it is unfair,” he said. “Do they want our bear to become a stuffed animal?”

In a defense of Russia’s defiance of NATO and the West, said: “Maybe our bear should sit quietly, not chasing any piglets around, but just eating honey and berries. Maybe they should just leave him alone? They will not. They are trying to put it on a chain. And as soon as they do it they will tear his teeth and claws out.”

Vladimir Putin Vows That Russian Bear Won’t Become ‘Stuffed Animal’ – NBC News.com

Israeli minister: Palestine has declared war | News24

Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Thursday that the Palestinian-pushed draft resolution submitted overnight to the UN Security Council is a declaration of war.

“This is not a peace process. This is a war process that they are leading,” said Steinitz.

If the Palestinian Authority (PA) continued to “sabotage” peace negotiations and lead unilateral diplomatic steps against Israel, then Israel must consider all options, including even breaking up the PA, he told Israel Radio.

Israeli minister: Palestine has declared war | News24

Saudi Arabia’s Political Play In Oil – Business Insider

There may be better political reasons for this move, with a reduction in American shale supply on the market just being the icing on the cake. 

The more obvious losers in the current oil climate are Iran and Russia — the former of course being Saudi Arabia’s archrival in the region, and the latter being no great friend of the Saudis’ either.

The pinch to shale may just be “a wonderful byproduct to screwing the Iranians and the Russians,” said Michael Moran, Control Risk’s managing director for global risk analysis. Further, he said, doing nothing has actually been a really smart move by the Saudis. With every move further down in price, the actions of the Saudis become more closely watched, reinforcing the country’s position as the world’s oil superpower. 

Saudi Arabia’s Political Play In Oil – Business Insider

China Tests ICBM With Multiple Warheads | Washington Free Beacon

China carried out a long-range missile flight test on Saturday using multiple, independently targetable reentry vehicles, or MIRVs, according to U.S. defense officials.

The flight test Saturday of a new DF-41 missile, China’s longest-range intercontinental ballistic missile, marks the first test of multiple warhead capabilities for China, officials told the Washington Free Beacon.

China has been known to be developing multiple-warhead technology, which it obtained from the United States illegally in the 1990s.

However, the Dec. 13 DF-41 flight test, using an unknown number of inert maneuvering warheads, is being viewed by U.S. intelligence agencies as a significant advance for China’s strategic nuclear forces and part of a build-up that is likely to affect the strategic balance of forces.

China’s nuclear arsenal is estimated to include around 240 very large warheads. That number is expected to increase sharply as the Chinese deploy new multiple-warhead missiles.

China Tests ICBM With Multiple Warheads | Washington Free Beacon

Putin’s Secret Gamble on Reserves Backfires Into Currency Crisis – Bloomberg

As President Putin exulted at the Winter Olympics in Sochi 10 months ago, aides assured him Russia was rich enough to withstand the financial repercussions from a possible incursion into Ukraine, according to two officials involved in the talks.

That conclusion now looks like a grave miscalculation. Russia has driven interest rates to punishing levels and spent at least $87 billion, or 17 percent, of its foreign-exchange reserves trying to prevent a collapse in the ruble from spiraling into a panic. So far, nothing has worked.

Despite the assurances in Sochi, Putin now confronts the nation’s most serious economic crisis since 1998, when Russia’s devaluation and default reverberated around the world. U.S. and European sanctions and, more significantly, plummeting oil prices are eroding the reserves that emboldened Putin to annex Crimea despite an international outcry.

Putin’s Secret Gamble on Reserves Backfires Into Currency Crisis – Bloomberg

Putin’s Year of Defiance and Miscalculation – WSJ

Those calculations turned out to be dead wrong. Broader sanctions choked off Russia’s access to Western capital and technology, tipping the economy toward recession. Then came a second blow that neither Western governments nor Russia could have anticipated: The price of oil—the lifeblood of Russia’s economy—plunged 40% since midsummer, magnifying the effect of sanctions and sending the ruble into a tailspin. The slide turned into a full-on currency crisis on Tuesday as the ruble dropped as much as 20% against the dollar.

As the problems intensify, Mr. Putin’s miscalculations have restricted his options. After largely ignoring the economic costs of the conflict for most of the year, freezing out liberal aides who tried to warn of the impact, he has begun trying recently to win back the confidence of business and revive the economy, people close to the process say. Mr. Putin is expected to be questioned about the ruble crisis during his annual news conference on Thursday.

Putin’s Year of Defiance and Miscalculation – WSJ

The worse Russia’s economy gets, the more dangerous Putin becomes – Vox

Actually, it’s the opposite. The odds are that Russia’s freefalling economy will make Putin even more aggressive, more unpredictable, and less willing to compromise. The weaker that Russia becomes, the more dangerous it will get, and that’s terrible news for everyone, including the US.

It is precisely because the cratering economy is weakening Putin that it will force him to bolster his rule, which he will almost certainly do by drumming up nationalism, foreign confrontations, and state propaganda. Russia, already hostile and isolated, is likely to become even more so, worsening both its behavior abroad and the already-significant economic suffering of regular Russians. The country’s propaganda bubble will further seal off Russians from the outside world, telling them that Russia’s decline is the fault of Western aggression that they must rally against.

In all, this effect is starting to look something like the North Koreaification of Russia. That does not mean that Russia is about to become or will ever be as isolated, hostile, or aggressive as North Korea, but it only has to edge a little bit in that direction to bring terrible consequences for the world and for Russians themselves.

The worse Russia’s economy gets, the more dangerous Putin becomes – Vox

Russia’s game in the Baltic Sea region: A Polish perspective | European Council on Foreign Relations

In the Baltic states, Russia’s goal is to undermine local trust in NATO’s collective defence, to destabilise internal politics, and ultimately to cause the countries to give in to Russian interests. In Sweden and Finland, Russia’s aim is to politically and militarily “neutralise” the two countries – that is, to stop them from joining or cooperating with NATO. Russia’s overarching goal is to intimidate the people and convince both elites and societies that it is better to compromise with Russia than to risk a state of permanent instability or even an open military conflict. Moscow wants to make the West feel threatened, as was very well illustrated by the title of the Valdai Club meeting in October 2014: “The World Order: New Rules or No Rules?”.

One rationale behind Russia’s behaviour is the relative weakness of the West and the chance that Russia perceives to exploit this weakness. In the US, Russia sees decreasing military capabilities and a declining political will towards engagements abroad. In Europe, Moscow notes the political and economic crisis, the divisions between the EU member states, the decline in defence budgets, and the unwillingness of postmodern societies to face up to conflict.

Russia’s game in the Baltic Sea region: A Polish perspective | European Council on Foreign Relations

Details About the Dec. 7 Israeli Strike on Syrian Sites

In Dimas, the Israeli strike hit some containers inside one of the warehouses at the airport, which is a small training facility not for commercial or military use. The source revealed that the targeted containers were part of a large number of similar containers kept in a number of warehouses, and that the strike hit a specific warehouse to destroy specific ones.

The target containers had reached the training airport no more than two or three days prior to the operation. The diplomatic source saidd that the intelligence upon which the Israelis based their strike was “very accurate,” including the target’s time of arrival and precise location. According to the information available to him, the containers had been filled with two types of weapons made not in Iran, but probably Russia, and were to be transferred to Lebanon.

Israeli strike targets Lebanon-bound weapons in Syria – Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East

Thriving on chaos, Putin will continue to lash out, destabilizing the old world order

It’s much easier to predict what Russian President Vladimir Putin won’t do in 2015 than what he will. Putin will not end Russia’s occupation of Crimea. For that matter, he’s unlikely to end Russia’s brazen yet brazenly denied military intervention in eastern Ukraine. And he probably won’t try to repair Moscow’s relationship with Europe and the rest of the West. Beyond that, it’s a mug’s game. Putin’s aggression in 2014 completely overturned widely held assumptions regarding Europe’s post-Cold War order. Treaties can’t be trusted. Borders don’t seem secure. It’s no longer obvious that the Cold War itself is a thing of the past.

Balazs Jarabik, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, worries that unless Russia and Ukraine can agree on a way to supply Crimea, Putin may escalate his military intervention to create a land bridge linking Crimea to territory held by pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine. Such a move would also take Russian troops to within approximately 300 km of Transnistria, a pro-Russian breakaway region of Moldova. Pressing across southern Ukraine to reach Transnistria and link it by land to Russia would be tempting.

There are those in NATO capitals who hope he might still be persuaded otherwise. They will probably be frustrated. “I think Putin will at least keep everyone jittery,” says Maria Lipman, a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. “He’s the manager of uncertainty.”

Putin: Master of destruction

Monitoring emerging risks.