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Russia ‘simulated a nuclear strike’ against Sweden, Nato admits – Telegraph

Russian bombers targeted military and intelligence installations in 2013 war game that caught Swedish airforce unprepared

The Russian airforce conducted a mock nuclear strike against Sweden during war games less than three years ago, Nato has said.

The 2013 exercise, which saw a contingent of Russian aircraft approach Swedish airspace after crossing the Gulf of Finland, was one of several examples of dummy nuclear attacks against Nato and its allies in recent years, according to a new Nato report.

Russia ‘simulated a nuclear strike’ against Sweden, Nato admits – Telegraph

A whiff of panic in the Kremlin as Russia’s economy sinks further

Signs of panic and dysfunction are everywhere. Finance Minister Anton Siluanov has demanded yet another round of 10 percent budget cuts. (A similar reduction occurred in 2015). Otherwise, Siluanov warns, Russia faces a repeat of the 1998-99 financial crash and possible default — not exactly reassuring words from the man in charge of Russia’s economic policy.

The 2016 budget, meanwhile, already included catastrophic reductions in education, health care and social spending. How will the Russian public react to additional cuts? No one knows. To raise revenues, the Kremlin is considering selling off shares in large state companies, including Rosneft, Sberbank and Aeroflot, while still maintaining majority control. Moscow has long vowed never to sell these shares in a depressed market, but that is exactly what would happen under current economic conditions.

A whiff of panic in the Kremlin as Russia’s economy sinks further

Confrontation With the West Becomes Personal for Putin—and Inescapable | The Jamestown Foundation

Last week’s (January 26) reporting in the Western media that the United States government was linking Russian President Vladimir Putin to corruption has rocked Russian domestic politics. Specifically, a recent BBC documentary carried remarks to this effect by Acting US Treasury Department Under Secretary Adam J. Szubin, who heads the Office of Intelligence and Analysis (Slon.ru, January 26). The real shock came, however, when the White House rather matter-of-factly confirmed Szubin’s stated opinion that the Russian president was personally involved in shady deals (Kommersant, January 29). Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov called these allegations “unacceptable” as well as “outrageous and insulting” (RIA Novosti, January 29). While Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in a telephone conversation with US State Secretary John Kerry, described the accusations as “fanciful and rude” and complained about a “deliberate escalation of tensions” coming from Washington (Newsru.com, January 29). The resonance of this scandal is bolstered by the fact that it exploded only a week after British judge Sir Robert M. Owen announced the conclusion of the United Kingdom’s investigation into the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, which established that Putin himself had “probably” ordered it (Ezhednevny Zhurnal, January 22).

Strictly speaking, there is nothing new in the statement that Putin is presiding over a system of state-organized corruption, or in the assumption that the chain of command in dirty special operations leads directly to him. …

Confrontation With the West Becomes Personal for Putin—and Inescapable | The Jamestown Foundation

China urged to get tough with the United States over USS Curtis Wilbur’s sail-by near Triton Island in disputed South China Sea | South China Morning Post

Yue said tough action by Beijing against Washington would not lead to war as both nations were aware that armed conflict was not in their interests. “There will probably be more provocation if Beijing does not step up. Public sentiment in China will rise and it will become difficult for the Chinese government to handle.”

A passive response from Beijing would give the impression that the nation was weak in defending its territorial integrity, the former colonel added.

Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis said Saturday’s move was aimed at challenging attempts to restrict freedom of navigation in the region and that none of the claimants of the area were informed beforehand.

China urged to get tough with the United States over USS Curtis Wilbur’s sail-by near Triton Island in disputed South China Sea | South China Morning Post

The keeper of America’s [nuclear] arsenal sends an S.O.S. about its deterioration

Mr. Moniz went on to note that “a majority of NNSA’s facilities [Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration] and systems are well beyond end-of-life.” Also, “infrastructure problems such as falling ceilings are increasing in frequency and severity,” as more than 50% of facilities are at least 40 years old and nearly 30% date to World War II. “The entire complex could be placed at risk if there is a failure where a single point would disrupt a critical link in infrastructure.” Yet the White House is set to request only half the funding needed for facilities between 2018 and 2021.

Higher-tech parts of the system are struggling, too. “There has been a steady decline in the performance of the nuclear weapons computer codes needed to ensure the safety, security, and reliability of the nuclear stockpile,” Mr. Moniz wrote, but the current budget seeks less than a third of what’s needed, despite an executive order on “strategic computing” issued six months ago. He added that uranium-enrichment programs and satellite systems are short some $715 million.

Mr. Moniz’s Nuclear Warning – WSJ

Russia’s Economy Faces Long-Term Decline – Bloomberg Business

“As grim as the numbers are, they may understate the increasingly dismal prospects for a country that only a few years ago was enjoying its greatest prosperity.”

Russia has weathered crises before, including a 2008 oil price plunge and a 1998 sovereign debt default. In those cases, robust growth returned within a year or two. This recession’s different, says Vladislav Inozemtsev, a professor at the National Research University Higher School of Economics in Moscow. “It’s not about oil or sanctions; it’s about structural weakness,” he says. There already were signs of malaise in 2012, when oil topped $100 and Western sanctions over Russia’s annexation of Crimea were two years off.

The trigger for the downturn, Inozemtsev says, was Putin’s return to the presidency in May 2012. He raised taxes on business and real estate to finance military spending and expanded the reach of inefficient state-controlled companies such as oil giant Rosneft. “Businesspeople became disillusioned,” curbing investment in factories and equipment, Inozemtsev says. Productivity slackened, corruption thrived, and foreign investment slowed as investors fretted about the state taking over their assets, says Timothy Ash, an emerging-markets strategist at Nomura International in London.

Russia’s Economy Faces Long-Term Decline – Bloomberg Business

China Can’t Postpone the Pain [Financial Crisis] Forever – Bloomberg View

All of the pieces are in place for a financial crisis in China. The currency is weakening and, if left to the market, would likely plunge further. Capital outflows have hit record levels. Reserves are in retreat. A dramatic selloff on Shanghai’s stock market has wiped out all the gains from 2015’s bull run. The leadership, usually lauded for its sagacity, has at times seemed befuddled about what to do.

Such a nasty combination of woes could easily topple many emerging economies. They can cause banks to collapse and growth to evaporate, even national insolvency. Yet so far China has avoided the kind of edge-of-your-seat financial meltdown Wall Street experienced in 2008, and Thailand, Indonesia and South Korea did in 1997. Indeed, there’s a good case to be made China never will. The state commands such tremendous power over everything from capital movements to the banking system that policymakers might be able to prevent the world’s second-largest economy from flying completely off the rails.

Perhaps Beijing’s mandarins believe that by keeping growth aloft some of these problems will solve themselves. More likely, delaying hard choices will make the hit to future growth more damaging and the costs larger. Call China’s problems whatever you wish, but in the end, a crisis by any other name still smells pretty bad.

China Can’t Postpone the Pain Forever – Bloomberg View

The Collapse of the Putin Regime in Russia | Foreign Affairs

“The result could be the collapse of the regime or the break-up of the state. Whatever the scenario, Putin is unlikely to survive.

Russian President Vladimir Putin used to seem invincible. Today, he and his regime look enervated, confused, and desperate. Increasingly, both Russian and Western commentators suggest that Russia may be on the verge of deep instability, possibly even collapse.

This perceptual shift is unsurprising. Last year, Russia was basking in the glow of its annexation of Crimea and aggression in the Donbas. The economy, although stagnant, seemed stable. Putin was running circles around Western policymakers and domestic critics. His popularity was sky-high. Now it is only his popularity that remains; everything else has turned for the worse. Crimea and the Donbas are economic hellholes and huge drains on Russian resources. The war with Ukraine has stalemated. Energy prices are collapsing, and the Russian economy is in recession. Putin’s punitive economic measures against Ukraine, Turkey, and the West have only harmed the Russian economy further. Meanwhile, the country’s intervention in Syria is poised to become a quagmire.

First, the Russian economy is in free fall. That oil and gas prices are unlikely to rise much anytime soon is bad enough. Far worse, Russia’s energy-dependent economy is unreformed, uncompetitive, and un-modernized and will remain so as long as it serves as a wealth-producing machine for Russia’s political elite. Second, Putin’s political system is disintegrating. His brand of authoritarian centralization was supposed to create a strong “power vertical” that would bring order to the administrative apparatus, rid it of corruption, and subordinate regional Russian and non-Russian elites to Moscow’s will. Instead, over-centralization has produced the opposite effect, fragmenting the bureaucracy, encouraging bureaucrats to pursue their own interests, and enabling regional elites to become increasingly insubordinate—with Ramzan Kadyrov, Putin’s strongman in Chechnya, being the prime example. Third, Putin himself, as the linchpin of the Russian system, has clearly passed his prime. Since his catastrophic decision to prevent Ukraine from signing an Association Agreement with the European Union in 2013, he has committed strategic blunder after strategic blunder. His formerly attractive macho image is wearing thin, and his recent attempts to promote his cult of personality by publishing a book of his quotes and a Putin calendar look laughable and desperate.

Since none of this mess will be resolved anytime soon, Russia appears poised to enter a prolonged “time of troubles” that could range from social unrest to regime change to state collapse. It might be foolhardy to predict Russia’s future, but it is clear that the longer Putin stays in power, the worse things will be for the country. Putin, who claimed to be saving Russia, has become its worst enemy. For now, the United States, Europe, and Russia’s neighbors must prepare for the worst.

AFTER THE STORM

Russia is on the edge of a perfect storm, as destabilizing forces converge. Under conditions such as these, mass disturbances are highly probable. Revolutions, palace coups, and violence will be increasingly likely. The result could be the collapse of the regime or the break-up of the state. Whatever the scenario, Putin is unlikely to survive.

The Collapse of the Putin Regime in Russia | Foreign Affairs

Prepare for serious turbulence in Russia – The Washington Post

Last year, thanks to its aggression in Ukraine, Russia changed in many important ways. But one crucial transformation has gone largely unnoticed: Long-term thinking has completely disappeared, and the Russian regime no longer talks about the future. Russian leaders’ discourse centers on the standoff with Ukraine and the West (and their “puppets” within Russia) and references to the heroic past (mostly to World War II). The regime is now fully focused on its own survival.

By now it is clear — and even publicly acknowledged by Putin himself — that these decrees will not be carried out. What alternative future does Russia’s president propose to his citizens? There is no answer. No long-term policy planning for Russia’s future is occurring. Previously, Russia took pride in moving from one-year to three-year budgets. This is no more: The Kremlin has no credible financial plan beyond 2016 except for hoping for oil prices to recover. Its foreign policy’s doctrine centers also on regime survival. Around the world, Russia fiercely defends the sovereign right of non-democratic governments to stay in power indefinitely.

Prepare for serious turbulence in Russia – The Washington Post

Putin is Steering Russia to Collapse | World Affairs Journal

As the new year begins, both Ukraine and Russia are making steady progress. The difference is that, while Ukraine is slowly, and more or less surely, adopting a raft of systemic reforms that will make it a normal Western market democracy, Russia is becoming a failed state. If current trends continue, as they probably will, Russia may even disappear.

That’s not just my conclusion. It’s Dmitri Trenin’s, and Trenin is the director of the prestigious Carnegie Moscow Center and a distinguished Russian analyst who, unlike his former colleague, the anti-Putin firebrand Lilia Shevtsova, has often expressed a soft-line interpretation of the Putin regime and its intentions.

In a recently published commentary, however, Trenin takes off his gloves and compares Vladimir Putin’s Russia to the czarist regime on the eve of World War I. If, writes Trenin, Russia doesn’t develop a new foreign policy and embark on serious internal reform, “the Russian state could share the fate of the Romanov regime in World War I.”

Putin is Steering Russia to Collapse | World Affairs Journal

[Russians tell us] How to Avoid War With Russia | The National Interest

The year ahead could bring conflict or cooperation in these key areas.

Much has been said recently about the unpredictability of Russian foreign policy, and the resulting uncertainty. In reality, Moscow’s interests are quite limited and focused on its near abroad. Understanding how Russia prioritizes its security challenges and how it assesses the security situation on its borders is a start to clearing up much of the uncertainty in Eurasia today. This analysis focuses on critical situations that may develop this year into vital challenges to Russian interests, triggering a response from Moscow.

… The basics of Russia’s security strategy are simple: keep the neighboring belt stable, NATO weak, China close and the United States focused elsewhere. Russia supports and abides by international rules, but only until a third party ruins the status quo and harms Moscow’s security interests. …

As a result, Moscow assesses U.S. policy towards Russia as a preventive attack carried out before Russia restores its historic place after the period of crisis. Washington, Moscow assesses, sees the possibility of Russia, clamped deep in the continent, being prevented from being a serious economic rival and therefore unable to form an alternative center of power in Eurasia. A weakened Russia will be kept in fear of Chinese expansion, and will be forced to become an American partner in Washington’s major project for the twenty-first century: the containment of China. And as long as American elites aim for global leadership, there is no alternative to their strategy of weakening Russia. And there is no use looking for a conspiracy in this strategy—Russia simply happens to be in the way of America’s plans. It makes no difference to Washington whether Russian elites are pro- or anti-American; their position only affects the way the United States achieves its goals. With Putin as Russia’s president, Washington avoids the trouble of paying compliments to its opponent, and can easily trip Moscow up.

It is obvious that in 2016 Russia will have to choose between bad and very bad alternatives. Positive change may be expected no sooner than seven or eight years from now, when a new generation of elites will come to power in the United States and Europe, and may again consider Russia a strategic ally and a business partner.

What can Moscow do to make this possibility come true and to increase its own chances?

Potential Conflicts in Asia

And yet the possibility of an armed collision with Japanese or Australian military ship is high. Beijing is convinced that Washington is not ready to be pulled into all-out conflict with China, even for their key allies’ sake, while Japan’s image as a historical enemy of China may stimulate escalation.

How to Avoid War With Russia | The National Interest

Meet the authors of this article:

Andrey Bezrukov is a strategy advisor at Rosneft and Associate Professor at MGIMO University (Moscow).

Mikhail Mamonov is a senior analyst with Foreign Policy Analysis Group and advisor with the Russia-China Investment Fund.

Sergey Markedonov is a senior analyst with Foreign Policy Analysis Group and Associate Professor at the Russian State University for the Humanities.

Andrey Sushentsov is an Associate Professor at MGIMO University (Moscow), program director at the Valdai Club and director at the Foreign Policy Analysis Group.

Russia: “Desperate men calculate differently”

“Nikolai Patrushev, head of the Russian Security Council, said in an interview with Moskovsky Komsomolets that the United States was trying to weaken Russia in order to gain access to its mineral resources.”

Well, so what!

The problem here is that this kind of comment coming from such an important person indicates deep problems within Russia. Russia is on a path to collapse and the leaders are seeking ways to hold things together. Stratfor is estimating a collapse by 2025. Geopolitics Futures is saying it will happen by 2040. It would appear that Russia is entering a dangerous period.

The Russians will increase weapons procurement, as they already have and as they did during the 1980s. Increasing defense spending while the economy is sputtering because of erratic energy prices is also what the Soviets did in the 1980s. The result was the collapse of the Soviet Union. Our model expects the Russian Federation to collapse from these pressures. It is not because the U.S. is planning this, but because the Soviet Union’s fundamental contradictions inevitably recurred in the Russian Federation. A mineral-based economy, rapid development of the military and the failure to create a sustainable economy have combined to destroy it before.

We believe that this will happen again to the Russians over the course of this decade. Right now, there are indicators that Moscow is reaching out to the West to formulate short-term accommodations, but over the coming years the Russians will have domestic and geopolitical reasons to challenge the status quo, at the very least in Ukraine. The Russians defeated Napoleon. They held in World War I for three years and defeated Germany in World War II, despite economic failures. If Patrushev is to be taken seriously, and he is a very serious man, Russia is trying to hold the regime together by painting the Americans as if they were the French or Germans. The U.S. is neither, but its interests in the buffer states will be interpreted that way. And that is the danger. Not miscalculation, but the fact that desperate men calculate differently.

Senior Russian Official Warns of American Plot | RealClearWorld

The Road to 2040: A Summary of Our Forecast | Geopolitical Futures

Russia will continue to suffer from the effects of declining oil prices. The revenue from this commodity had been used to sustain internal cohesion. With this revenue now severely drained, Russia will devolve into a confederation or even fragment into secessionist parts by 2040. The future of Russian nuclear weapons will become a crucial strategic issue as this devolution takes place.

The Road to 2040: A Summary of Our Forecast | Geopolitical Futures

Stratfor Decade Forecast 2015 – 2025: “It is unlikely that the Russian Federation will survive in its current form” | 1913 Intel

“It is unlikely that the Russian Federation will survive in its current form.”

“This will create the greatest crisis of the next decade.”

The Decade Ahead

The world has been restructuring itself since 2008, when Russia invaded Georgia and the subprime financial crisis struck. Three patterns have emerged. First, the European Union entered a crisis it could not solve and which has increased in intensity. We predict that the European Union will never return to its previous unity, and if it survives it will operate in a more limited and fragmented way in the next decade. We do not expect the free trade zone to continue to operate without increasing protectionism. We expect Germany to suffer severe economic reversals in the next decade and Poland to increase its regional power as a result.

The current confrontation with Russia over Ukraine will remain a centerpiece of the international system over the next few years, but we do not think the Russian Federation can exist in its current form for the entire decade. Its overwhelming dependence on energy exports and the unreliability of expectations on pricing make it impossible for Moscow to sustain its institutional relations across the wide swathe of the Russian federation. We expect Moscow’s authority to weaken substantially, leading to the formal and informal fragmentation of Russia. The security of Russia’s nuclear arsenal will become a prime concern as this process accelerates later in the decade.

Stratfor Decade Forecast 2015 – 2025: “It is unlikely that the Russian Federation will survive in its current form” | 1913 Intel