Russia: A major political turning point is coming – Business Insider

But it is the regime itself that has been undermining Russia’s constitutional order through repression, corruption and international aggression; and the pressures are now building toward what many in Russia believe is a major political turning point.

Putin rose to power in 1999 on a wave of anti-Chechen hysteria, but it was steady economic growth over the next decade fueled by rising oil prices that accounted for his popularity. Now that growth has come to a screeching halt, and the gross domestic product could decline by as much as 8 percent this year, according to economist Anders Aslund.

The economic crisis is beginning to be felt at the local level. Real wages fell by 9 percent in the first quarter of 2015, and social spending on health and pensions has been cut sharply, even as military spending has continued to increase. With Russia’s foreign debt of $570 billion exceeding its $157 billion in liquid reserves by more than three times, Russia faces the danger of bankruptcy, especially with Western financial sanctions cutting off Russia’s access to international funding.

The crisis’s political repercussions could grow because of rampant elite corruption, which is essential to the functioning of Russia’s system of power. An example was the corruption surrounding the Sochi Olympics that was the subject of an extensive report by Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was murdered in February just steps from the Kremlin.

Russia: A major political turning point is coming – Business Insider

Senior Western official: Links between Turkey and ISIS are now ‘undeniable’ – Yahoo Finance

Documents and flash drives seized during the Sayyaf raid reportedly revealed links “so clear” and “undeniable” between Turkey and ISIS “that they could end up having profound policy implications for the relationship between us and Ankara,” senior Western official familiar with the captured intelligence told the Guardian.

NATO member Turkey has long been accused by experts, Kurds, and even Joe Biden of enabling ISIS by turning a blind eye to the vast smuggling networks of weapons and fighters during the ongoing Syrian war.

The move by the ruling AKP party was apparently part of ongoing attempts to trigger the downfall of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.

Senior Western official: Links between Turkey and ISIS are now ‘undeniable’ – Yahoo Finance

N. Korea completes upgrade of rocket site, shows no signs of launch preparations yet

North Korea has completed construction to upgrade its main rocket launch facility, but is still showing no signs of preparations to launch a long-range rocket or missile from the facility, a U.S. research institute said Wednesday.

The website 38 North made the assessment citing recent satellite imagery of the North’s Sohae Satellite Launching Station. South Korean officials said last week the North completed upgrading the facility to enable it to handle bigger rockets, and a launch could come around the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party in October.

“There are still no indications at Sohae that test preparations are underway to support a long-range SLV (satellite launch vehicle) launch. There is also no public evidence to suggest that a decision has been made by the leadership in Pyongyang to move forward with a launch,” 38 North said in a report.

“In the coming weeks, if preparations are indeed underway, we would expect to see other on-the ground indications at Sohae, including increased rail activity and the possible arrival of missile related railcars, activity at facilities associated with rocket assembly,” it said.

38 North said the North has completed all construction work at the facility

(LEAD) N. Korea completes upgrade of rocket site, shows no signs of launch preparations yet

NATO eastward expansion would be ‘catastrophic': Russian official – Yahoo News

NATO enlargement into Ukraine and Georgia would have “catastrophic consequences” for Europe, Russia’s envoy to NATO warned Tuesday in a television interview, as relations between Moscow and the West sink to Cold War-era lows.

“Any political game concerning NATO expansion into Georgia and Ukraine is filled with the most serious, most profound geopolitical consequences for all of Europe,” Russia’s permanent representative to NATO, Alexander Grushko, told LifeNews television channel.

“I hope that people in Brussels and other capitals fully understand the danger of this game, the danger of the cards some forces are still trying to play. This would have catastrophic consequences,” he told the Russian channel.

NATO eastward expansion would be ‘catastrophic': Russian official – Yahoo News

Russia is implicitly telling us that Eastern Europe is the Russian sphere of influence. Russia will decide what happens in this sphere, not the individual countries. Western interference will bring nuclear war with Russia. Of course, there is the nasty problem of the Baltics. The Baltics is in Russia’s sphere of influence. How is Russia going to reconcile that?

Clearly Georgia should not be in NATO because defending it is too difficult. But what about Ukraine? Shouldn’t Ukraine be allowed to decide its own fate?

In my mind, this is just Russia telling us to prepare for the nuclear war that is coming anyway – because of the Baltics. The only issue is timing. Knowing Putin, the issue of timing will be determined by events. So stay tuned.

Experts Concerned China May Soon Establish Southern ADIZ

U.S. and international security experts have expressed concerns that it may just be a matter of time before China establishes an air defense identification zone over disputed waters in the South China Sea.

China has been rapidly reclaiming land and making artificial islands in the South China Sea during the past year, causing strong reaction in the U.S. and many other countries.

Senator John McCain, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, said island building is just the beginning.

McCain said the next step for China will be to militarize those islands and declare an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the South China Sea to further its sovereignty claims.

Experts Concerned China May Soon Establish Southern ADIZ

Israel’s Choice: Conventional War Now, or Nuclear War Later – WSJ

Yet when even a famous Iranian “moderate” like the former President Hashemi Rafsanjani has said—as he did in 2001, contemplating a nuclear exchange—that “the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything. However, it will only harm the Islamic world. It is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality,” how can deterrence work?

The brutal truth is that the actual alternatives before us are not Mr. Obama’s deal or war. They are conventional war now or nuclear war later. John Kerry recently declared that Israel would be making a “huge mistake” to take military action against Iran. But Mr. Kerry, as usual, is spectacularly wrong. Israel would not be making a mistake at all, let alone a huge one. On the contrary, it would actually be sparing itself—and the rest of the world—a nuclear conflagration in the not too distant future.

Israel’s Choice: Conventional War Now, or Nuclear War Later – WSJ

China losing control as stocks crash despite emergency measures

Margin debt on the Chinese stock market has reached $1.2 trillion. ‘We suspect that it’s a matter of time before banks may have to face the music,’ Bank of America says

Chinese equities have suffered the sharpest one-day crash in eight years, sending powerful tremors through global commodity markets and smashing currencies across East Asia, Latin America and Africa.

The violence of the moves unnerved investors worldwide, stirring fears that the Communist Party may be losing control after stoking a series of epic bubbles in property, corporate investment and equities to keep up the blistering pace of economic growth.

China losing control as stocks crash despite emergency measures

All is not well in Russia, and Putin continues to postpone decisions

“This summer, however, he is arguably wasting time and maneuvering himself into a corner, from which the only escape will be jumping into another spasm of hostilities in eastern Ukraine with the hope that a victory can cancel all other problems.”

Russia had all but disappeared from the international arena in the last couple of weeks, particularly following the July 14 signing of the international de-nuclearization deal reached with Iran. Indeed, as long as the pause in the Ukraine war holds, Moscow’s opinions on international relations attract little attention because its ability to influence key global matters has shrunk to irrelevance. …

Putin cannot fail to see that Russia’s stagnant economy undercuts his ambitions for a place of prominence among the “emerging powers”—which may be prone to entertaining ideas about dismantling US “hegemony,” but always prioritize the goal of achieving investment-driven economic dynamism. …

The Kremlin cannot really know when this squeeze on the middle class and the impoverishment of pensioners may reach a critical mass of discontent. …

The army, an institution that is supposed to be a rock-solid pillar of Putin’s power, is showing dangerous cracks. …

Putin has always preferred to postpone decisions until the last possible moment and to keep his lieutenants and international counterparts in the dark about his intentions. This summer, however, he is arguably wasting time and maneuvering himself into a corner, from which the only escape will be jumping into another spasm of hostilities in eastern Ukraine with the hope that a victory can cancel all other problems. The risks are frighteningly high, and Putin has avoided them for yet another week. But now August is approaching—a month that has traditionally brought Russia multiple disasters (see EDM, August 2, 2010; September 4, 2013).

How Long Can Putin Continue Doing Nothing? | The Jamestown Foundation

Mideast expert: Israel forced to consider attack on Iran

“Assuming the (agreement) goes through the U.S. government and the U.N. Security Council, it’s hard to see what the Israelis can do to protect themselves other than attack the Iranian facilities,” said Middle East Forum president Daniel Pipes in an interview with G2.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been outspoken in his opposition to the agreement.

Pipes, a historian, writer and political commentator, said that he sees such an attack as “the next stage” and suggests Israel could receive the assistance of Saudi Arabia.

“The now-open relationship between Riyadh and Jerusalem makes the prospect of Saudi assistance less far-fetched than it once was,” Pipes said.

He added that “leaks of Saudi documents shows how preoccupied the leadership is with the Iranian threat.”

“So, yes, (Saudi assistance to Israel) could happen,” he said.

Mideast expert: Israel forced to consider attack on Iran

Fate of Iran Deal to be Decided on Jewish Days of Judgement – Israel News

Rabbi Nachman Kahana, an orthodox rabbinic scholar, offers comfort to believers who sense a connection between the Iranian nuclear deal and the End of Days. He cites the Yalkut Shimoni, a 16th century rabbinic commentary on the Bible, which describes the current situation prophetically.

“The Yalkut states that Paras (Persia-Iran) will be the dread of humanity. The world’s leaders will be frustrated in their futile efforts to save what they can. The people of Yisrael will also be petrified by the impending danger,” he wrote. “And HaShem [God] will say to us, ‘Why are you afraid? All of this I have done in order to bring you the awaited redemption. And this redemption will not be like the redemption from Egypt, which was followed by suffering. This redemption will be absolute, followed with peace.’”

Fate of Iran Deal to be Decided on Jewish Days of Judgement – Israel News

OK, it turns out well for Israel, but what about the rest of us? I think the rest of us have a big problem in Iran.

Monitoring emerging risks.