Archive for the ‘Georgia’ Category

Obama’s First Major Foreign Crisis Brewing?

March 9, 2009

North Korea could launch a long range missile at any time, and according to Jae-Soon Chang of the Associated Press, “Analysts say the regime is trying to grab President Barack Obama‘s attention as his administration formulates its North Korea policy.”

Iran tested a new missile this last weekend.

Iranian clerics watch the launch of a Shahab-3 ballistic missile ... 
Iranian clerics watch the launch of a Shahab-3 ballistic missile outside Qom in 2006. A top Iranian military commander said that the country has missiles that can reach the nuclear sites of its arch-foe Israel.(AFP/File/null)

The Jerusalem Post reported Sunday that Israel’s Military Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin, who told the cabinet on Sunday that Iran had “crossed the technological threshold” and that its attainment of  nuclear military capability was now a matter of “incorporating the goal of producing an atomic bomb to its strategy.”

More U.S. troops are headed to Afghanistan which Evan Thomas of Newsweek has already dubbed “Obama’s War.”

CNN on North Korea:
http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiap
cf/03/08/nkorea.launch/index.html

Jerusalem Post on Iran’s nuclear effort See:
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid
=1236269373103&pagename=JPost%2FJP
Article%2FShowFull

And the Independent Newspaper in Britain warns that “This year both American and British officials have become increasingly open about their fear that Pakistan – which has nuclear weapons under the control of a military at least to some extent open to extremist influence – is a greater danger than Afghanistan.”

And all of this includes Russia.  Despite Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov playing nice last weekend, and an apparent plea from Mr. Obama for Russian help with the Iran problem, it is by no means certain that Russia will be helpful.

Russia cut off heating oil to Europe this winter over a dispute with Ukraine and Vladimir Putin threatened another cut-off just last week.  Just last summer saw Russian tanks and troops in South Ossetia and Georgia — just as Georgia was making noise about joining NATO.

Since President Obama’s inauguration, Russia has been testing Mr. Obama and his administration rigorously and continuously.

“Mark my words,” Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden warned last October. “It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking.”

“Remember I said it standing here if you don’t remember anything else I said. Watch, we’re gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy.”

Time is runing out on Obama’s “Honeymoon,” and the economy is no longer the only entre on the plate.

John E. Carey
Wakefield Chapal, Virginia

Related:
North Korea Warns: Shoot Down Our Satellite Will “Prompt Counterstrikes by the Most Powerful Military Means”

Obama says US is losing war in Afghanistan and hints at Taleban talks

Pakistan: The Greatest Threat
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/worl
d/asia/pakistan-the-greatest-threat-16397
79.html

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Russia, U.S. Missile Defense Dispute

Russian Relations With U.S., Europe Improve: But Putin, Medvedev Understand Strength, Power More than Diplomacy

 Russia Sees Obama, U.S., Others As “Weak,” “Naive”
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Israel Ponders War on Iran; Obama, Russia HaggleRussia Testing Obama: Just as Biden Predicted
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Russia building anti-satellite weapons

 Russia: Medvedev Pushing Putin Out?

Russia Verifies “American, Western Weakness”

Russia Sees Obama, U.S., Others As “Weak,” “Naive”

Mr. Obama and Russia
NYT Editorial: Russia only understands strength….

 Chutzpah: Admire Russia’s Arrogance
Russia, Obama and the Strategic Chess Tournament

homewhiteningcare.org/

Iranians walk past a replica of a Shahab-3 missile on display ... 
Iranians walk past a replica of a Shahab-3 missile on display in Tehran. The Fars news agency says Iran has “successfully” tested a new air-to-sea missile with a range of 110 kilometres (68 miles).(AFP/File/Atta Kenare)
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Russia welcomes “positive signals” from US

March 6, 2009

If Russia is this happy with Obama: WORRY!

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By Steve Gutterman, Associated Press Writer 

 MOSCOW – Russia has received “very positive signals” from the new U.S. administration but wants a missile shield plan scrapped or reworked to eliminate Moscow’s concerns, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s spokesman said Friday.

Dmitry Peskov suggested Russia sees the new American administration’s moves on missile defense as a crucial test of its stated intention to revamp ties. The remarks were broadcast hours before the highest-level meeting between the former Cold War foes since President Barack Obama took office and signal that the Kremlin expects the United States to make the first move on concessions in missile defense.

“We are receiving very positive signals and we welcome them,” Peskov told Voice of Russia radio, apparently referring to the Obama administration’s repeated calls for a “reset” in badly frayed relations with Moscow.

But he repeated Russia’s vehement opposition to plans pushed by the previous U.S. administration to deploy elements of a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, former Soviet satellites now in NATO.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/2009030
6/ap_on_re_eu/eu_russia_us

Related:
Hillary: One-Time Health Care Failure Now American’s Chief Diplomat, Fouls Up First Time Out

Israel Ponders War on Iran; Obama, Russia Haggle

Russia Testing Obama: Just as Biden Predicted
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Russia building anti-satellite weapons

 Russia: Medvedev Pushing Putin Out?

Russia Verifies “American, Western Weakness”

Russia Sees Obama, U.S., Others As “Weak,” “Naive”

Mr. Obama and Russia
NYT Editorial: Russia only understands strength….

 Chutzpah: Admire Russia’s Arrogance

Russia, Obama and the Strategic Chess Tournament

Putin Medvedev
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Above: Vladimir Putin speaks with his presidential successor, Dmitry Medvedev

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin heads up a meeting in ... 
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin heads up a meeting in Moscow. NATO agreed Thursday to resume high-level talks with Russia, ending a seven-month freeze sparked by Moscow’s decision to send troops into Georgia in August 2008.(AFP/RIA/Alexey Nikolsky)

Russia Verifies “American, Western Weakness”

March 5, 2009

Russia got another clear signal today to verify its belief that American and the west are weak: NATO decided to renew ties with Russia despite that nation’s summer attack on Georgia and today’s announcement that Russia may again cut off gas supplies to Europe.  Russian power, it seems, is alive and well.

Related:
 Russia Sees Obama, U.S., Others As “Weak,” “Naive”

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By Sue Pleming and Ingrid Melander, Reuters

NATO foreign ministers agreed Thursday to resume high-level formal ties with Russia, suspended last year after Moscow‘s military thrust into Georgia.

Russia immediately welcomed the move. “This decision is a step in the right direction,” Russia’s RIA news agency quoted a foreign ministry spokesman as saying.

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer announced the decision after Lithuania dropped its objections to work resuming within the NATO-Russia Council, the body that directs cooperation between the two sides on security issues.

“The ministers reached agreement to formally resume the NATO-Russia Council including at ministerial level … as soon as possible after the NATO April summit,” said de Hoop Scheffer.”

“Russia is a global player. Not talking to them is not an option,” he added.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20090305/
pl_nm/us_nato_russia_5

Russia Sees Obama, U.S., Others As “Weak,” “Naive”

March 5, 2009

Prseident Obama and the United States are seen by Russia as “weak” and “naive” according to former U.S. Ambassador John Bolton.

That Russia view of “weakness” extends even beyond the U.S. and includes a view that Europe and Isreal are weak and easily pushed toward achieving Russian goals — without a fight.

Related:
Most World Leaders Encouraged By Obama Time; Putin Ready for Disappointment

Bolton said on the Fox News Channel on Thursday (March 4), “The Russia perception of total weakness in the West seems comical to us but is a real thought in Russia with hidden dangers.”

Bolton was responding to news stories that a Russian foreign ministry “expert” predicts that the U.S. will beak up and fragnment into several independent states.

Related:
America: You Are Disintegrating, Russian Claims (California Joins China….)

On missile defense Bolton says “Russia is probing to see how the U.S. reacts” to ideas to end American missile defense efforts in Europe and elsewhere.  He called President Obama’s recent letter to Russian president Medvedev an “incredibly foolish thing to do” and a “strange was to conduct game changing diplomacy.

News reports say the Obama letter to Medvedev linked the end of the U.S. mssile defense effort in Poland and the Czech Republic to Russian efforts to end Iran’s nuclear program.

“The Obama Administration has a dangerouse naivete when it speaks about resetting the relationship with Russia,” Bolton said.

Israel says that Iran’s nuclear program poses an “existential threat to Israel.”  I wonder how Israelis feel about having their lives in the hands of Mr. Putin and Medvedev along with President Ahmadinejad of Iran and President Obama…..

Meanwhile Russia continues to bully Europe.

CNN reported that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has threatened to cut off natural gas supplies to Europe and Ukraine on Saturday if Ukraine fails to pay for its gas deliveries by then.

This will re-start a Russian gas cut off from earlier this winter.

The Putin/Medvedev team also orchestrated last summer’s military raid into South Ossetia and Georgia — an icursion widely believed in Moscow met only bu Western weakness.

Related from CNN:

http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/eur
ope/03/05/russia.ukraine.gas/index.html

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Obama’s letter, delivered to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in mid-February, “covered a number of topics” of mutual interest to the two countries, “including the issue of missile defense and how it relates to the Iranian threat,” a senior administration official said. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the matter.

Report on the Obama letter to Medvedev:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/ar
ticle/2009/03/03/AR2009030300028.html?wprss
=rss_nation/nationalsecurity

Related:
Russia: Medvedev Pushing Putin Out?

Russia Verifies “American, Western Weakness”

Mr. Obama and Russia

February 12, 2009

Vice President Joseph Biden told a European security conference on Saturday that it was “time to press the reset button” and revisit the many areas where the United States and Russia can work together. On Sunday, Russia’s almost never conciliatory deputy prime minister, Sergei Ivanov, embraced the overture.

New York Times Editorial

We are relieved that Washington and Moscow are talking about cooperation. There is certainly a lot in the relationship that needs resetting, starting with reviving negotiations to do away with thousands of nuclear weapons. But pressing the reset button cannot mean absolving Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin of its authoritarian ways.

President George W. Bush spent years looking the other way while Mr. Putin harassed opponents, stifled a free press and bullied Russia’s neighbors. While he was busy looking into Mr. Putin’s eyes, Mr. Bush also ignored Russia’s list of grievances — many illegitimate, but not all.

President Obama must not repeat either mistake. The Russians gave him fair warning last week of how difficult this relationship could be. Just days before Mr. Biden spoke, the Kremlin “encouraged” the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan — with a $2.15 billion pledge of loans and aid — to give notice that it is closing an American base that supplies United States forces in Afghanistan.

Arms control may be the most promising area for early progress. The 2002 Moscow treaty, Mr. Bush’s one and only agreement, allows each country to deploy between 1,700 and 2,200 long-range nuclear weapons. They could easily go to 1,000 weapons each. A swift agreement also would send an important signal to North Korea, Iran and other potential nuclear scofflaws.

The administration also has begun hinting that it may be open to some compromise on Mr. Bush’s missile defense system planned for Poland and the Czech Republic. We are skeptical that the technology is anywhere near ready for prime time. We are also skeptical about the Russians’ insistence that the system poses any threat to their security. A healthy dialogue on the subject is clearly in order.

The Kremlin has offered to assist NATO with Afghanistan, President Obama’s top security challenge. Moscow has no love for the Taliban. And that is certainly worth testing. But if Washington has learned any lesson, it is that it must have multiple options for wartime supply routes — and Russia cannot have a chokehold.

The administration also will have to test whether Moscow will do more to help end Iran’s nuclear program. That, too, is in Russia’s clear strategic interest, even though the Kremlin has yet to see it.

So far Mr. Obama has been quiet about Russia’s latest efforts to bully its neighbors. He will have to find his voice. After its war with Georgia last year, Russia defied international law by recognizing the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. It recently went further and announced plans to establish bases there — instead of withdrawing forces to prewar numbers as promised. While the Georgia dispute may not lend itself to quick solution, Moscow must not be allowed to think the world has acquiesced to its indefinite presence in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

We’re not sure how Mr. Obama is going to find the right balance between cooperating with the Kremlin and avoiding enabling its bullying ways. But that can be the only basis for a sound relationship.

Russia says it is ready for more arms cuts

February 7, 2009

Russia is ready for more nuclear weapons cuts and welcomes President Barack Obama‘s push for talks on an arms reduction treaty, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in remarks broadcast Saturday.

Russia is believed to have fewer warheads than the U.S. and has indicated it wants a binding deal on further reductions, but Lavrov’s remarks were the clearest statement in the issue since Obama took office last month.

The Kremlin, meanwhile, has called on the Obama administration to abandon policies set by his predecessor George W. Bush, including plans for a missile shield based in former Soviet satellite states and the expansion of NATO into Georgia and Ukraine. Lavrov said Russia had long pressed the Bush administration in vain for a clear response to proposals for replacing the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START, when it expires in December.

By STEVE GUTTERMAN, Associated Press Writer

On Thursday, a spokesman for U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said a replacement treaty for START would be put on a fast track, and that the Obama administration was committed to cuts but had not decided how deep.

“We are ready to go further on the path of reductions and limitations,” Lavrov said, adding only the caveat that Russia’s overarching goal is to ensure its security.

START limited the United States and Russia to 6,000 nuclear warheads each. In 2002, Bush and Vladimir Putin, then president of Russia, agreed on a treaty that set a target of 1,700 to 2,000 deployed strategic warheads on each side by 2012.

Lavrov made no mention of specific numbers in the brief remarks. Asked about media reports claiming a reduction of up to 80 percent could be in the works, he said he had not heard them and that nothing had been confirmed officially.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090207/ap_o
n_re_eu/eu_russia_us_nuclear_arms_2

Peanut Scandal: Food Factories Know If They Are Clean

February 6, 2009

Let’s not sugar coat this: food factories know if they are clean or not.

Rats, cockroaches and other bad things get seen and detected: they leave calling cards.

The owners and operators of the the Peanut Corp. of America, which are suspected of shipping salmonella laced peanut products, shoul be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

We also have zero sympathy for federal and state food safety agencies responsible for public health safguards. They have clearly violated the public trust.

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The Agriculture Department shipped possibly contaminated peanut butter and other foods to schools in at least three states under a contract with the Georgia company blamed for a nationwide salmonella outbreak.

The government abruptly suspended all business with the company Thursday, as officials defended their efforts to halt the outbreak that has sickened at least 575 people in 43 states. At least eight have died. It’s become one of the largest food recalls ever, including more than 1,300 products.

The potentially contaminated products went to school free lunch programs in California, Minnesota and Idaho in 2007, the Department of Agriculture said Friday. Peanut butter and roasted peanuts processed by the Peanut Corp. of America were sent to the schools.

None of the states reported illnesses as a result of students eating the recalled peanut products.

Jim Brownlee, a spokesman for the Agriculture Department, said there have been no potentially contaminated shipments from the company in the last year. It was unclear how much of the suspect food might still remain uneaten at the schools.

Despite ongoing reports of illnesses linked to the company, the Agriculture department only Thursday suspended Peanut Corp. from participating in government contract programs, for at least a year. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack also removed Stewart Parnell, president of the company, from USDA’s Peanut Standards Board.

The company’s actions indicate that it “lacks business integrity and business honesty, which seriously and directly hinders its ability to do business with the federal government,” said David Shipman, acting administrator of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, said in a statement.

The recalled foods used ingredients from the Peanut Corp. processing plant in Blakely, Ga. While the outbreak appears to be slowing down, new illnesses are still being reported.

School officials across the country have been checking cafeterias and vending machines for the recalled products, and some have stopped serving any peanut-related products at all, out of an abundance of caution.

The Food and Drug Administration learned only weeks ago that the Peanut Corp. of America had received a series of private tests dating back to 2007 showing salmonella in their products from the Georgia plant, but later shipped the items after obtaining negative test results.

The Agriculture Department initially said that school meal programs were not affected by the large-scale recall. But that changed when Peanut Corp. expanded its recall to all peanut products made at the plant since Jan. 1, 2007.

At a Senate hearing Thursday on the salmonella outbreak, lawmakers reacted angrily when told that food companies and state safety inspectors don’t have to report to the FDA when test results find pathogens in a processing plant, leaving the federal government in the dark.

Russia Boosts Aid To Neighbors; Wants U.S. Base, Influence Ended

February 4, 2009

Russia is now opposing President Obama on the military front.  Russia is increasing aid to Former Soviet Union members in a sort of bribe to increase Russian influence and force out ideas of democracy and help to the U.S.  The Georgia incursion last summer was a tank spearheaded attack — this is more like a bribe…

Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev said Tuesday at a news conference in Moscow that “all due procedures” were being initiated to close Manas Air Base, the Russian news agency RIA-Novosti reported.
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Today the Associated Press said Kyrgyzstan‘s government has submitted a draft bill to parliament calling for the closing of the U.S. base at Manas that is key to the military campaign in Afghanistan.
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Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell on Tuesday called Manas “a hugely important air base.”

“It provides us with launching point to provide supplies in Afghanistan. We very much appreciate [Kyrgyz] support in using that base and we hope to continue,” he said.

Related:
CNN:
http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asia
pcf/02/03/kyrgyz.base/index.html

Personnel of the U.S. airbase at Manas air base near Bishkek ... 
Personnel of the U.S. airbase at Manas air base near Bishkek stand at attention at their base, June 4, 2007.(Vladimir Pirogov/Reuters)

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By Conor Sweeney and Oleg Shchedrov, Reuters

Russia offered financial support to two ex-Soviet states on Tuesday and secured military favors in return, a day after former Cold War ally Cuba secured renewed assistance from Moscow.

Despite devaluing the rouble, falling oil prices and a collapse in its domestic stock market, Moscow still offered support to three countries that will pit it against the interests of the United States.

The announcements will dampen optimistic hopes that last week’s conciliatory Davos comments on both economics and defense by powerful Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin marked a change in Moscow’s combative stance toward the West.

Kyrgyzstan’s President announced his country would shut the United States Manas military airbase near the capital Bishkek that provides what the Pentagon says is a “hugely important” logistical support for its operations in Afghanistan.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20090203/wl_nm/us_russia_usa_3

Obama, Medvedev agree on need to improve ties

January 27, 2009

President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, agreed on the need to stop the “drift” in U.S.-Russia relations in a telephone call on Monday, the White House said on Tuesday.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier on Tuesday he expected the two leaders to hold bilateral talks on the sidelines of a Group of 20 summit in London in April.

“President Obama and President Medvedev spoke about the importance of stopping the drift in U.S.-Russia relations and building a serious agenda for their bilateral relationship,” the White House statement said.

Reuters

The statement underscored the White House’s recognition that relations between the two countries had deteriorated in recent years under Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, and former Russian President Vladimir Putin.

A statement from the Kremlin press service on the same phone call said the two sides had agreed to do “everything in their power to restore Russia-American relations to their full potential.”

Russian-U.S. relations have been strained over U.S. plans to build a missile shield in Eastern Europe, a move Russia strongly opposes, and over Russia’s brief war with the North Caucus republic of Georgia, a close U.S. ally.

“The presidents agreed that, as they were both new leaders from a post-Cold War generation they have a unique opportunity to establish a fundamentally different kind of relationship between the two countries,” the White House said.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/200901
27/pl_nm/us_obama_russia_2

Another dispute on Obama’s plate: Georgia-Russia

January 25, 2009

When Russia’s tanks and fighter jets invaded Georgia last August, the Kremlin said its aim was to stop genocide in the breakaway Georgian republic of South Ossetia. In a few days, Georgia’s military had slaughtered some 2,000 people there, Russian officials and their allies in the South Ossetian government claimed.

Last month, however, the head of the Russian federal prosecutor’s task force examining the war said the toll was just 162 civilians and 48 Russian soldiers killed.

By Tom Lasseter
McClatchy Newspapers

The disinformation and brutality are among the lingering questions about last summer’s five-day war that President Barack Obama’s new foreign-policy team faces, and the answers will help shape U.S. relations with Georgia and, more important, with a resurgent Russia.

Eleven days before leaving office, the Bush administration signed a “strategic partnership” charter with Georgia that pledged cooperation with the former Soviet republic on defense, energy security and democratic development but made no specific U.S. commitments. To what extent Obama follows through may hinge on how the new president interprets the events of the Russia-Georgia war.

Russia’s false allegations of genocide paved the way for what now appear to be war crimes: Protected by Russian tanks, South Ossetian militias looted and torched Georgian villages in an attempt to “cleanse” ethnic Georgians from the small mountainous region of South Ossetia.

“Clearly, torture, execution, rape, these are war crimes,” said Giorgi Gogia, a researcher with Human Rights Watch in Georgia who said that his organization had documented that behavior by South Ossetians.

In addition, Gogia said, Russian forces in many cases participated in the looting and burning of ethnic Georgian homes or stood by as their South Ossetian counterparts did so. At least 17 ethnic Georgian villages in South Ossetia were “pretty much razed to the ground,” according to Gogia, a conclusion bolstered by satellite imagery from the United Nations. More than 20,000 ethnic Georgians are said to have fled to other parts of the country.

The South Ossetian fighters, who were or should have been under Russian control, tortured at least four Georgian military prisoners of war and executed three others, Gogia said.

“As an occupying power in Georgia, Russia failed overwhelmingly … to ensure law and order,” Gogia said.

Read the rest:
http://www.charlotteobserver.com/w
orld/story/495289.html