Inside the mind of Vladimir Putin – Telegraph

Such incidents give us a first, important clue about his personality: Putin does not feel bound by the ordinary rules of civility. This, in turn, suggests that he may not be inclined to respect bigger rules – for instance those of the Minsk agreement.

A second key aspect of his personality is contempt. At a joint German-Russian cabinet meeting in Siberia in 2006, German Chancellor Angela Merkel chided Putin that he should treat his cabinet ministers with respect rather than contempt. Contempt is the emotion reserved for those we regard as inferiors, and it is likely that Putin regards the West – particularly Western Europe – as inferior in many ways, not least militarily.

Yet contempt is a very problematic emotion because it abolishes empathy. Empathy is the crucial ingredient of negotiation: compromises and trust arise when people begin to see things from the other point of view. But contempt negates the other perspective and the object of contempt is just that – an object. Objects do not have a point of view.

There is a third factor underlying Putin’s psychology: fear. A small, thin-skinned man who grew up in poverty in a Leningrad haunted by memories of starvation and death, he was personally witness to what was for him another catastrophe – the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Inside the mind of Vladimir Putin – Telegraph

Related articles on Putin’s psychology: http://goo.gl/IXDNPd

U.S. Military No Longer Able to Fight Two Wars at Same Time | Washington Free Beacon

The United States military does not currently have the ability to fight two major wars simultaneously, according to a new report, a significant reduction from the capacity enjoyed by defense officials for decades.

The Heritage Foundation’s “2015 Index of U.S. Military Strength” concludes that the armed forces “would be ill-equipped to handle two, near-simultaneous major regional contingencies (MRC).” The two-MRC goal was largely attained during the Cold War, when U.S. forces engaged in a conflict every 15 to 20 years while maintaining ground forces in other regions to ensure stability and deter aggressors.

U.S. Military No Longer Able to Fight Two Wars at Same Time | Washington Free Beacon

Group: Iran Operating Top Secret ‘Parallel Nuclear Program’ | Washington Free Beacon

An Iranian dissident group known for exposing key aspects of Iran’s secret nuclear work claims it now has evidence of “an active and secret parallel nuclear program” operated by Tehran.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), also known as the MEK, said in a report released Tuesday it has found concrete evidence of an “underground top-secret site currently used by the Iranian regime for research and development with advanced centrifuges for uranium enrichment,” according to a copy of the findings.

The NCRI, an Iranian opposition group, is known for making big reveals about clandestine nuclear work in Tehran, though its findings have been disputed in the past.

Group: Iran Operating Top Secret ‘Parallel Nuclear Program’ | Washington Free Beacon

Time Bomb: China’s Debt Is Out of Control | The National Interest Blog

China’s national balance sheet is starting to look ragged. Goldman Sachs thinks China’s industrial debt is, at 240 percent of GDP, approaching American levels, but at a much lower development stage. McKinsey reckons China has piled on 83 percent debt/GDP in 2007-14. In this period, total debt has quadrupled, certainly the world’s largest ever credit buildup but also one of the fastest. This latter point is significant. By Goldman’s count, China is coming off a “97th-percentile” episode of credit accumulation. Historically about half of such events have culminated in a banking bust. Since China “doesn’t do crises,” it must eventually correct through rebalancing.

… The days of 7-point-something growth may be over soon.

Time Bomb: China’s Debt Is Out of Control | The National Interest Blog

This Is What Putin Really Wants | The National Interest

“He is pushing for a new division of spheres of influence. For Putin, the contours of Russia’s sphere correspond with the historic boundaries of the Russian Empire and the USSR.”

In Ukraine, and in his whistle-stop trip to Hungary, Putin is out to score points for Russia. He is not out to win friends in Ukraine or Europe. Nor is he out to restore a Russian empire, or build a new Moscow-centric geopolitical order. Putin wants respect for Russia, not external obligations. He wants respect in the old-fashioned, hard-power sense of the word. Other countries should proceed with caution if they consider trampling on Russia’s interests. In the neighborhood, now that he essentially has the Crimean city of Yalta back in the fold, Putin wants to turn the clock back seventy years to the old “Yalta agreement” of 1945. He is pushing for a new division of spheres of influence. For Putin, the contours of Russia’s sphere correspond with the historic boundaries of the Russian Empire and the USSR. Here, Moscow’s priorities override all others. Russia—as Putin has stressed in numerous speeches––is the only country in this neighborhood with a unique civilization (rooted in Russian Orthodoxy and language), a long imperial history, a robust economy (based on energy and abundant natural resources) and the capacity to defend its territory and project power abroad. In the international arena, the United States and China are in the same category (although Putin is often scathing about the United States), but few other states have independent standing.

This Is What Putin Really Wants | The National Interest

Is America’s Nuclear Arsenal Dying? | RealClearDefense

As Russia and other nations around the world flex their “nuclear muscles,” when it comes to the United States, maintaining a credible nuclear force is certainly a tough task. Challenges include: declining research, development and acquisition budgets; uncertain prospects for modernization, and an American public that lacks a clear understanding how nuclear weapons contribute to national security.

The U.S. nuclear force has prevented a great power war for seven decades. Yet the commitment to maintain a credible nuclear force appears shaky.

That is certainly not the case in competitor nations such as Russia, China and North Korea. While sanctions and low oil prices have crippled Russia’s economy, the Kremlin is still doggedly spending billions of dollars on modernizing its strategic rocket forces. Washington’s lack of commitment takes a toll on more than investment. It does not go unnoticed by the men and women who man the nation’s nuclear submarines, bombers, and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). That only makes executing a nuclear mission more difficult, both practically and morally.

Is America’s Nuclear Arsenal Dying? | RealClearDefense

Ash Carter warns Russia on nukes – Philip Ewing – POLITICO

Ash Carter has quietly thrown down the gauntlet in a lingering dispute with Russia: If President Vladimir Putin continues to violate the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the U.S. could respond in kind.

“The range of options we should look at from the Defense Department could include active defenses to counter intermediate-range ground-launched cruise missiles; counter-force capabilities to prevent intermediate-range ground-launched cruise missile attacks; and countervailing strike capabilities to enhance U.S. or allied forces,” Carter told senators in little-noticed written answers to follow-up questions from his confirmation hearing.

The defense secretary’s bottom line: “U.S. responses must make clear to Russia that if it does not return to compliance, our responses will make them less secure than they are today.”

Ash Carter warns Russia on nukes – Philip Ewing – POLITICO

Putin’s middle class is fleeing to Latvia – Re:Baltica

In Latvia, anyone who buys property can get a five-year residency permit that lets them travel and live freely in most of the European Union. How much you need to invest varies, depending on where the property is located, and the two most popular areas for foreign investment are the two most expensive.

For example when Mansky bought his roomy flat in Riga, he had to spend at least € 142,000 (US$ 162,000). He would need to pay the same in the Jurmala seaside resort, popular spot for Russians since the Soviet Union times,. Outside of Riga, an investment of only € 70,000 (US$ 80,000) was required. Over the past five years, 13,518 foreigners – enough to populate a small town – have obtained residence permits under the program, which until recently was the cheapest in Europe. Unlike similar programs in other European countries, 90 percent of Latvia’s applications come from the former USSR states, mainly Russia whose citizens have obtained 10,000 of the permits.

Putin’s middle class is fleeing to Latvia – Re:Baltica

Ex-MI6 Boss: The conflict in Ukraine is much more than just Ukraine – “much bigger and more dangerous”

The conflict in Ukraine is now part of a much bigger crisis between Russia and the West, MI6’s former head has said.

Sir John Sawers warned the crisis was no longer about just Ukraine, saying it was “much bigger and more dangerous”.

Any attempt by Western countries to arm Ukraine could lead to an escalation on the ground and even cyber attacks by Russia against the West, he warned.

Fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels has continued, more than a day after a ceasefire was due.

Sanctions have already been imposed on Russia, and EU leaders have threatened Moscow with further measures if the planned ceasefire is not respected.

US President Barack Obama has said the US is studying the option of supplying lethal defensive arms to Ukraine – if diplomacy fails to end the crisis in the east of the country.

[Published on Feb. 16, 2015]

BBC News – Ukraine now a ‘crisis for Russia and West’, says ex-MI6 boss

I have talked about this kind of problem in the past. When something small can cause something big then you have reached a tipping point. Now we are hearing warnings about escalation and getting out of control. Clearly, we have reached a tipping point.

Recently my son (6-yrs) asked why the bad guys in the movies seem to often tell the good guys about their evil plans. Well, that’s to help out the audience (us), I said. But it often works out the same way in real life. The bad guys just plain tell us about their plans but of course we won’t listen.

Russia challenges west with nuclear overhaul | World news | The Guardian [Published Sept., 2008]

“This is very significant. Right now the present Russian leadership believes that a war with Nato is very much possible,” Pavel Felgenhauer, a Moscow-based defence analyst, told the Guardian. “This is the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union that the Russian military is actually preparing for an all-out nuclear war with America.”

He added: “I believe we [the Russians] are sending the west a serious message. The message is treat us with respect, and if you don’t go into our backyard we won’t go into yours. Russia wants to divide the world into spheres of influence. If not, we will prepare for nuclear war.”

Felgenhauer said Russia’s military was old but still effective. “Our military is backward in its development. But we still have a sizeable nuclear potential. It can kill a hell of a lot of people,” he said.

Russia challenges west with nuclear overhaul | World news | The Guardian

For some unexplained reason, the Russians are doing what they told us they were going to do. And it is an utter shock to the West. You mean you weren’t kidding, the West seems to be thinking. Well no, the Russians weren’t kidding.

What does this all mean? Let’s go back to the model(s).

The Model

There are three models that we can look to: Sandpiles, snow packed mountains or forests. All three of these models collapse like societies. A key point in all of these models is that the process never stops: Sand keeps falling, snow keeps falling and the forest never stops growing. That means once you have reached a tipping point after a long period of time then it is already too late. Since the process never stops, the future lands on an unstable past. Therefore, time makes things worse. That doesn’t mean a massive collapse will happen tomorrow but it could. It’s a little like a forest that is ready for a massive fire. Just because it is ready doesn’t mean there is going to be massive fire. It may takes several years before something actually happens. The most important point is to know that it is ready for something big.

If not enough time has passed since the last big crash (1945), then it is possible to suppress collapses. And we’ve seen that a lot in the economy. However, eventually you reach the end of the road where suppressing collapses doesn’t seem to work right (Japan). For the US, the historical time to crisis or collapse is 80 to 100 years since the beginning of the last crash period – 1925 to 1945. The new one runs from 2005 to 2025. Other indicators that we have reached the end of the road are 9/11 and the 2008 financial crash. When enough time has passed then big problems will start showing up. A big problem in one place means many more are present but just hidden from view.

The problem is not confined to Russia:

The problem is also not confined to conflict or war:

Roubini and Bremmer on Charlie Rose: Unveiling New Abnormal

“Our point is that this situation is one that is not a stable equilibrium, is not even a stable disequilibrium. It’s an unstable disequilibrium. Take for example the eurozone. You cannot have just a monetary union without banking, political, economic, fiscal union. Either you move towards more integration or you’re going to have more fragmentation and disintegration. So the situation we face right now in the global economy, same in the eurozone, is of a unstable disequilibrium, therefore a new abnormal, that cannot be sustained.”

EconoMonitor : Nouriel Roubini’s Global EconoMonitor » Roubini and Bremmer on Charlie Rose: Unveiling New Abnormal

So economically the world has reached an unstable disequilibrium. And what is that exactly? It is a place where something small can cause something big – a tipping point.

And how is that war on terror working out?

Lots of problems are present in the world today. Big changes are ready to take place. Those changes will probably not go smoothly. War and economic collapse are a real possibility within a few years.

Radio Station Ekho Moskvy Speaks About Nuclear War “… as if They were Discussing Increases in Parking Fines”

“Nuclear war is the ultimate, unthinkable catastrophe. But in some sections of the Russian media it is being viewed as a realistic possibility and even something to be embraced.”

Surprise! It turns out that nuclear war is no big deal. Well, at least to some in the Russian media.

You just knew that nuclear war was impossible because the Russians would be just as horrified as you. Apparently, that is a wrong assumption.

In fact, as liberal journalist Yuriy Saprykin recently noted, it has almost become “commonplace”.

Saprykin was struck by how presenters and listeners on independent radio station Ekho Moskvy now speak about nuclear war “more or less in the same way as if they were discussing increases in parking fines”.

On other radio stations, the tone of the nuclear debate can be much more alarming.

“Why are you all so afraid of nuclear war? Why are you afraid of nuclear war?” presenter Aleksey Gudoshnikov asked listeners to the pro-Kremlin station Govorit Moskva last month.

He went on to say that people had survived the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, and that these were actually not as destructive as the bombing of Dresden some six months earlier.

“This fear of nuclear war is exaggerated, in my view,” the 26-year-old Gudoshnikov concluded.

BBC News – Russian media learn to love the bomb

Monitoring emerging risks.