Russia’s top military officer on Thursday voiced skepticism about deeper nuclear arms cuts, saying they should require parallel reductions in non-nuclear precision weapons.
The statement by chief of Russia’s military General Staff, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, appeared to signal the Kremlin’s reluctance to negotiate a new nuclear arms deal with Washington.
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The numbers tell the story: U.S. oil production has reversed its 30-plus year decline; U.S. imports from OPEC producers have fallen more than 20 percent in the past three years; U.S. natural gas reserves and production are up significantly and prices have dropped 75 percent in the past five years. The International Energy Agency forecasts that the United States could become the world’s largest oil producer by 2020 and may be energy self-sufficient by 2035. That’s a game changer.
While this is not a free lunch, it should not be feared. The production process is complicated and expensive, and if the industry is not careful there can be risks to the environment. But the potential is staggering. Significant domestic job growth and economic expansion has begun.
The only problem here is that it could destabilize existing oil and gas exporting countries like Russia and Venezuela. Since both are already unstable, decreasing energy prices could start revolutions. In the case of Russia, that might be very bad news for the rest of us.
China’s military doctrine puts a high premium on concealment, deception and surprise. Gen. Viktor Esin, a former commander of Russia’s Strategic Rocket Forces, told officials and journalists in the U.S. on a visit in December that he had concluded China might have 850 nuclear warheads ready to launch, while others were kept in underground tunnel storage for use in an emergency. He estimated the total size of the Chinese nuclear arsenal at between 1,600 and 1,800 warheads.
Esin, now a professor at the Russian Academy of Military Science, said that Moscow was so concerned that it would consider abandoning the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty signed with the U.S. in 1987 if the Chinese build-up did not stop. The INF Treaty bans the U.S. and Russia from having missiles with ranges of up to 5,500 km, as well as their launchers and related support facilities. The ban covers short-, medium- and intermediate-range missiles.
As Russia’s warships, weapon systems and arms continue to flow into Syria, Israel is not about to let Russia, Hezbollah and Iran tip the balance of power in the favor of its border enemy. Israel is one of the key players in the region that has attempted to remain quiet and let NATO handle much of the Syrian Civil War from Turkey without getting the publicity itself. Because of this, it has primarily been concerned with a defensive posture so far and the prevention in terms of restricting arms shipments to Hezbollah. But this is changing as Russia steams its way over with greater force and the US fails to play a counter-Syrian role.
Has Russia beaten the US with a decisive direct military engagement? Not yet. But all parties, whether foreign or of Syrian national origin, appear to be increasing their involvement and intensity with Syria’s dirty war.
Informed sources say that Russia intends to ship four batteries of the S-300s which have from 100 to 150 simultaneously deployable, guided anti-aircraft missiles.
Sources say that once deployed, they will be manned by Russian military “advisers,” since the Syrians are not technically prepared to operate such advanced and complicated systems. They say Israel therefore could hurt Russians should there be more strikes.
This shipment of S-300s is yet a further indication of Russia’s commitment to al-Assad, despite rumors that the Russians are seeking an alternative to his leadership of Syria in an effort to bring stability to the country for Moscow’s own geostrategic purposes.
Syria has put its most advanced missiles on standby with orders to hit Tel Aviv if Israel launches another strike on its territory, The Sunday Times reported overnight Sunday.
According to the British newspaper, reconnaissance satellites have been monitoring preparations by the Syrian army to deploy surface-to-surface Tishreen missiles.
An Israeli official told The New York Times that Israel, which has launched three recent attacks on Syria, was considering further strikes and warned President Bashar Assad that his government would face “crippling consequences” if he hit back at Israel.
The Sunday Times said the deployment of the Syrian-made Tishreen missiles, each of which can carry a half-ton payload, marks a significant escalation of tension “in a region in which the United States and Russia appear to be preparing for a Cold War-style stand-off.”
Those are the facts. Now for the questions. Immediately after Netanyahu’s visit, the Russians announced publicly that they finally intend to supply Assad with those S-300 missiles. Will Israel attack and destroy the missiles while they are being transferred, or will it wait until they have arrived but before they become operational? If so, what will be Assad’s response? How will Hezbollah respond? What will Iran do? And then there is the most interesting question of all. Such an attack would not only be considered a declaration of war against Syria and its allies, but also an assault on Russia.
In other words, is the Middle East teetering on the verge of a massive conflagration, which will draw Iran into the fighting, and will this situation be exploited by Israel, the US or both of them together to deal the long-awaited military blow against Iran’s nuclear program? One thing is certain. Anyone who wants to stay alive in this region and its immediate environs should hope that it does not.
The situation is more dangerous than ever, mainly because everyone involved — and there are plenty of people involved — is caught up in a kind of “Catch-22” situation. …
And so, everyone is applying pressure on everyone else in their most sensitive areas. Everything is about to blow up, diagonal red lines slash across the contested land from one end to the other, and the stench of gunpowder makes it difficult to breathe. This is a portrait of the Middle East today, in mid-2013. …
Remember the Cold War?And the crises focused on Berlin and missiles in Cuba?Could we be on the cusp of a comparable crisis focused on Syria?Among the unanswered questions is the relative weight of Israel in the thinking and threatening being done by the US and Russia.This, too, is not new. Israel figured in American and Russian thinking about the other great power in 1956 and 1973.Both Israel and the US have urged Russia not to supply advanced weapons to Syria.
U.S. officials tell The Wall Street Journal: Another round of Israeli airstrikes could target a new Russian transfer of Yakhont advanced anti-ship missiles in the near future • Russia moving more quickly than previously thought to deliver S-300 surface-to-air defense systems to Syria • CIA Director John Brennan in Israel to coordinate policy.
Russia is engaged in a major buildup of both nuclear and conventional missile defense systems at the same time Moscow is seeking legal limits on U.S. missile defenses, according to U.S. officials.
The Russian military is developing and deploying an array of new and modernized anti-missile interceptors that are part of a strategic doctrine that calls for defending against what Moscow believes to be an increasing threat posed by offensive ballistic missiles, said U.S. officials with access to intelligence reports.