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How do you feel about Russia? Putin? Etc.
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The Final Dakar
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Jan 16, 2017, 01:56 PM
 
A not so timely thread I meant to start like a month ago at least.

Russia has been a hot topic for a boatload of reasons. I wonder what our small political community thinks. Are they a potential ally? Is Putin to be trusted? Should they be punished for interfering with the election? Should sanctions be changed?

A lot of questions for 2017.
     
subego
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Jan 16, 2017, 02:06 PM
 
Putin is essentially a mobster.

The Russian "election hack" is small potatoes.

Russia is a'ight.
     
The Final Dakar  (op)
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Jan 16, 2017, 03:04 PM
 
Regarding the last comment, in what context? As a country to visit or as a world power? Because I'm referring to the latter here.
     
subego
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Jan 16, 2017, 04:34 PM
 
Originally Posted by The Final Dakar View Post
Regarding the last comment, in what context? As a country to visit or as a world power? Because I'm referring to the latter here.
I tend to like Russians was the context I was thinking of, but as a world power is probably a more mature way to look at it.

Until Putin croaks, it'll continue to be a shitstain. From that point on it's anyone's guess. Thankfully, Putin doesn't seem ideological, so his "cult" will probably fall apart pretty quickly once he's gone.
     
andi*pandi
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Jan 17, 2017, 03:51 PM
 
The Russians I know are concerned about Putin, government abuse of power, limits on the press, etc. They post articles about how Putin is basically a dictator.
     
Chongo
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Jan 17, 2017, 05:26 PM
 


US tanks and troops in Poland a threat, Russia says - BBC News
Russia says it views the arrival of more than 3,000 US soldiers in Poland as a threat to its own security.
The troops are part of President Barack Obama's response to reassure Nato allies concerned about a more aggressive Russia.
It is the largest US military reinforcement of Europe in decades.
President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the BBC that the move "threatens our interests and our security".
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The Final Dakar  (op)
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Jan 18, 2017, 11:53 AM
 
Care to answer chongo?
     
Chongo
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Jan 18, 2017, 11:55 AM
 
Originally Posted by The Final Dakar View Post
Care to answer chongo?
Obama assured us that Global Climate change is the biggest threat, and that eighties called and wanted their foreign policy back.
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The Final Dakar  (op)
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Jan 18, 2017, 12:12 PM
 
Originally Posted by Chongo View Post
Obama assured us that Global Climate change is the biggest threat, and that eighties called and wanted their foreign policy back.
That's not an answer, just a critique of Obama.
     
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Jan 18, 2017, 12:31 PM
 
I think that Putin lives in a Cold War world - or even a 19th century world - when it comes to foreign policy. He has certain nations that he believes are in his sphere. He will back those nations up, within reason, and will respond to what he sees as attempts to remove nations from his sphere. This is why he reacted the way he did about Ukraine - he felt that the west was taking one state from his sphere (that the people in the country actually wanted to leave is something that probably didn't even enter his mind - he is certain that it was the CIA or someone like that who incited it). This is also why he will back Assad all the way - Syria is in his camp - and he cherishes the chance to "steal" NATO member Turkey.

As for the Russian people: I know a number of Russians from my work experience, though not well, and I have read some Russian fantasy and SF. One strong trend in the literature is that they frequently take what is in the west a "good and evil" story (say a story of vampires, or an evil necromancer) and turn it into an "us and them", with both sides equally terrible, and the least bad option is to balance them to avoid one side taking over. That, I think, influences Russian politics as well: The idea that they have to play the counterweight to the US. Doing objectively bad things can be justified if it means that US influence is reduced- and anyway there are no absolute morals.
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subego
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Jan 18, 2017, 12:55 PM
 
Perhaps not intended, but that implies Russia taking an active role to counterbalance the US.

I think from their perspective they're just existing, and said existence will by necessity upset the other big dog.

I think we feel the same way. We don't set out to counterbalance Russia, our natural inclination does that.


Edit: I think the general thrust is correct though. They have their sphere, we have ours. Stay on your side of the apartment we drew a line though like a '70s sitcom.
     
The Final Dakar  (op)
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Jan 18, 2017, 01:05 PM
 
There's also the argument that Putin does this to distract from the state of the country. Given he's former KGB, I suspect it's more the former. The latter is just bonus.
     
The Final Dakar  (op)
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Feb 2, 2017, 08:19 PM
 
Maybe you guys were waiting for this memo to give your opinion: UN Ambassador Haley hits Russia hard on Ukraine - CNNPolitics.com
The US Ambassador to the United Nations offered a strong condemnation of Russia in her first appearance at the UN Security Council on Thursday, calling on Moscow to de-escalate violence in eastern Ukraine and saying that US sanctions against Moscow will remain in place until it withdraws from Crimea.

"The United States continues to condemn and call for an immediate end to the Russian occupation of Crimea," said Nikki Haley, President Donald Trump's envoy to the world body. "Crimea is a part of Ukraine. Our Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns control over the peninsula to Ukraine."
     
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Feb 3, 2017, 03:53 AM
 
Well, Trump rolled right over for Putin, didn't he?
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The Final Dakar  (op)
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Feb 14, 2017, 08:30 PM
 
I suppose if there's a silver lining to this Flynn/Sanctions thing is it makes it impossible for Trump to tone down/remove sanctions without it looking even worse than before.
     
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Feb 14, 2017, 08:54 PM
 
Originally Posted by The Final Dakar View Post
That's not an answer, just a critique of Obama.
The Russian people, for the most part, have never been the issue. If you think the Soviet Union really went away, go ahead and belive that. Putin is just waiting to feed the zombie brains and try to bring it back to life.
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subego
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Feb 14, 2017, 09:55 PM
 
The Soviet Union never went away, but it did dump the ideology, and has no interest in bringing it back.
     
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Feb 14, 2017, 10:48 PM
 
Russia has been invaded by Western European nations four times in the last 150 years or so. Is it any wonder why they fear NATO's continued eastward expansion onto their western border? When A) Putin's actions are viewed through the lens of this historical context and B) one recognizes that Russia is not a Western style democracy and that Putin is the leader and final decision maker in an authoritarian system with competing power centers (i.e. not a "dictator" per se) over a nation of VAST geographical and cultural scope ... then IMO Putin's actions seem very logical and reflective of Russian geo-political interests. The problem is that some people can't seem to accept the concept that other nations may view their own geo-political interests as being anything other than our own. And THAT will more likely lead to military conflict than anything else IMO.

OAW
     
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Feb 15, 2017, 03:54 AM
 
The current discussion only seems to allow for friends and foes, and forgets that most countries are somewhere in between. We should treat those in the middle more like business partners, i. e. base the relation on mutual respect but also have no illusions that we are friends or competing interests. Our relations with Russia are still based on constructs such as NATO that were born out of WW2 some 70 years ago, and its power structure no longer reflects what the world is like. That is how I understood Obama's desire to reboot relations with Russia. Having better relations means you can resolve mutual and international conflicts more easily, just imagine what could be accomplished in the Middle East if the US could work with Russia and Iran in addition to the Saudis.

The list of countries the US chooses to be on friendly terms with is at times quite confusing: Iran is certainly more democratic than Saudi Arabia and women have more rights there. Yet US politicians have remained mum about Saudi Arabia's role in the rise of Islamic extremism (if you really want to “keep America safe”, why isn't Saudi Arabia on the list?!?) while spending tons of attention on Iran. The Trump administration wants to put Russia on it for no apparent reason (but perhaps the self-interest of some in the administration).

The minimum amount of respect is to take countries such as Russia and China seriously: NATO has been encroaching into what Russia (rightly or wrongly) considers its buffer zone of former Warsaw Pact states, and Russia feels steamrolled and powerless. Don't mistake this as meaning that countries such as Poland, Moldavia and Ukraine cannot decide for themselves whether to orient themselves towards the East or the West, they are sovereign states, but that we should not pretend to be surprised if Russia reacts in the way it does. Putin craves for the world to treat Russia with the same deference the Soviet Union was treated, even if a lot of the respect is based on fear.

In the context of the Trump administration, though, it is clear that they neither have an idea how existing structures such as NATO should evolve or what new structures should take their place, nor that they necessarily act in the best interests of the United States.
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Feb 15, 2017, 08:23 AM
 
Originally Posted by OAW View Post
Russia has been invaded by Western European nations four times in the last 150 years or so.
I'm going to have to ask for those 4 occasions. There is the obvious one in 1941, but other than that I'm scratching my head. Napoleon was 200 years ago, and Charles XII was even further back. Other than that, I can't find any such instances for as long as there has been a Russia. WWI doesn't count, as a) Russia was the initial aggressor and b) the front stopped somewhere in what is today Poland, even if it was part of Russia back then.

Originally Posted by OAW View Post
Is it any wonder why they fear NATO's continued eastward expansion onto their western border? When A) Putin's actions are viewed through the lens of this historical context and B) one recognizes that Russia is not a Western style democracy and that Putin is the leader and final decision maker in an authoritarian system with competing power centers (i.e. not a "dictator" per se) over a nation of VAST geographical and cultural scope ... then IMO Putin's actions seem very logical and reflective of Russian geo-political interests. The problem is that some people can't seem to accept the concept that other nations may view their own geo-political interests as being anything other than our own. And THAT will more likely lead to military conflict than anything else IMO.

OAW
I understand why Putin is reacting the way he does, but that isn't a reason to refuse nations entry into NATO. Democratic nations are joining because of THEIR history - that Russia has invaded them over and over since the 17th century at the very least, and because Russia controlled them for a long time still fresh in people's memory.
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Feb 15, 2017, 08:51 AM
 
Originally Posted by P View Post
I understand why Putin is reacting the way he does, but that isn't a reason to refuse nations entry into NATO. Democratic nations are joining because of THEIR history - that Russia has invaded them over and over since the 17th century at the very least, and because Russia controlled them for a long time still fresh in people's memory.
I think what gets lost in this discussion is the distinction between what is morally right and wrong, and understanding this multidimensional political chess: you should learn to anticipate the moves of your opponent and act accordingly.

The discussion about Ukraine serves as a good example here: if you only focus on the morality of Russia invading and annexing parts of another country, you only see the last moves of the game. To me more relevant question is whether instead of expanding NATO, whose raison d'être is no longer clears as its Eastern counterpart has long passed away, to explore alternatives to NATO. The only time Article 5 was invoked was for something that happened nowhere near the North Atlantic, but rather in the Middle East. Expanding NATO also further dilutes it, I am quite sure France would mobilize its army and pull in the reserves if Germany was invaded (mere self-preservation suffices), but would it do the same if Russia sent troops to Estonia is less clear.
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Feb 15, 2017, 09:00 AM
 
Originally Posted by P View Post
I think that Putin lives in a Cold War world - or even a 19th century world - when it comes to foreign policy. He has certain nations that he believes are in his sphere. He will back those nations up, within reason, and will respond to what he sees as attempts to remove nations from his sphere. This is why he reacted the way he did about Ukraine - he felt that the west was taking one state from his sphere (that the people in the country actually wanted to leave is something that probably didn't even enter his mind - he is certain that it was the CIA or someone like that who incited it).
I agree, that Putin's goal is the restoration of Russia to what he perceives to be its former glory.

But it isn't just Russia that is trying to protect its sphere of influence, the US has done and is doing much of the same. Compared to Cold War times, though, the US's sphere has grown while Russia's has receded closer and closer to its own borders. The US supports many regimes with bad to terrible human rights records (Saudi Arabia immediately comes to mind, Sisi in Egypt, Pinochet in Chile), and haven't shied away from resorting to questionable means such as assassinations.
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OAW
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Feb 15, 2017, 07:55 PM
 
Originally Posted by P View Post
I'm going to have to ask for those 4 occasions. There is the obvious one in 1941, but other than that I'm scratching my head. Napoleon was 200 years ago, and Charles XII was even further back. Other than that, I can't find any such instances for as long as there has been a Russia. WWI doesn't count, as a) Russia was the initial aggressor and b) the front stopped somewhere in what is today Poland, even if it was part of Russia back then.
1812 - Napoleon invades of Russia during the Franco-Russian War

1854 - British and French invasion of Crimea during the Crimean War .... which was officially a part of Russia at the time.

1914 - Austrian invasion of Russian partition of Poland in World War 1. (Technically not Russia itself but the Poles seemed to favor the Russian presence.)

1941 - German invasion of the Soviet Union in World War II. The Operation Barbarossa offensive actually stalled at the Battle of Moscow.

OAW
( Last edited by OAW; Feb 15, 2017 at 08:16 PM. )
     
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Feb 16, 2017, 03:38 AM
 
Originally Posted by OAW View Post
1812 - Napoleon invades of Russia during the Franco-Russian War
200 years ago - which is too long for anyone now living to remember - and he lost without occupying anything. You might as well include the last time we came knocking.

Originally Posted by OAW View Post
1854 - British and French invasion of Crimea during the Crimean War .... which was officially a part of Russia at the time.
Also more than 150 years ago. This one might possibly be used in propaganda, but it is a stretch. The war was mainly against the Ottomans, with the UK and France supporting, and it was over areas that the Russians had recently taken from the Ottomans and which are currently not part of Russia - Crimea itself being the possible exception.

Originally Posted by OAW View Post
1914 - Austrian invasion of Russian partition of Poland in World War 1. (Technically not Russia itself but the Poles seemed to favor the Russian presence.)
Mentioned this, but I don't think it applies. No invader was anywhere near current Russia, and the country that was invaded is now a NATO member.

Originally Posted by OAW View Post
[
1941 - German invasion of the Soviet Union in World War II. The Operation Barbarossa offensive actually stalled at the Battle of Moscow.

OAW
Yup, that one is not debatable.
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OAW
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Feb 16, 2017, 05:28 PM
 
These are two articles that delve into what I mean when I say that "Putin's actions seem very logical and reflective of Russian geo-political interests."

Vladimir Putin says he is a religious man, a great supporter of the Russian Orthodox Church. If so, he may well go to bed each night, say his prayers, and ask God: “Why didn’t you put mountains in eastern Ukraine?”

If God had built mountains in eastern Ukraine, then the great expanse of flatland that is the European Plain would not have been such inviting territory for the invaders who have attacked Russia from there repeatedly through history. As things stand, Putin, like Russian leaders before him, likely feels he has no choice but to at least try to control the flatlands to Russia’s west. So it is with landscapes around the world—their physical features imprison political leaders, constraining their choices and room for maneuver. These rules of geography are especially clear in Russia, where power is hard to defend, and where for centuries leaders have compensated by pushing outward.

Western leaders seem to have difficulty deciphering Putin’s motives, especially when it comes to his actions in Ukraine and Syria; Russia’s current leader has been described in terms that evoke Winston Churchill’s famous 1939 observation that Russia “is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside of an enigma.” But it’s helpful to look at Putin’s military interventions abroad in the context of Russian leaders’ longstanding attempts to deal with geography. What if Putin’s motives aren’t so mysterious after all? What if you can read them clearly on a map?

For Russia, the world’s largest country by landmass, which bestrides Europe and Asia and encompasses forests, lakes, rivers, frozen steppes, and mountains, the problems come by land as well as by sea. In the past 500 years, Russia has been invaded several times from the west. The Poles came across the European Plain in 1605, followed by the Swedes under Charles XII in 1707, the French under Napoleon in 1812, and the Germans—twice, in both world wars, in 1914 and 1941. In Poland, the plain is only 300 miles wide—from the Baltic Sea in the north to the Carpathian Mountains in the south—but after that point it stretches to a width of about 2,000 miles near the Russian border, and from there, it offers a flat route straight to Moscow. Thus Russia’s repeated attempts to occupy Poland throughout history; the country represents a relatively narrow corridor into which Russia could drive its armed forces to block an enemy advance toward its own border, which, being wider, is much harder to defend.

On the other hand, Russia’s vastness has also protected it; by the time an army approaches Moscow, it already has unsustainably long supply lines, which become increasingly difficult to protect as they extend across Russian territory. Napoleon made this mistake in 1812, and Hitler repeated it in 1941.

Just as strategically important—and just as significant to the calculations of Russia’s leaders throughout history—has been the country’s historical lack of its own warm-water port with direct access to the oceans. Many of the country’s ports on the Arctic freeze for several months each year. Vladivostok, the largest Russian port on the Pacific Ocean, is enclosed by the Sea of Japan, which is dominated by the Japanese. This does not just halt the flow of trade into and out of Russia; it prevents the Russian fleet from operating as a global power, as it does not have year-round access to the world’s most important sea-lanes.
Russia and the Curse of Geography | TheAtlantic.com

In the past year and a half, Russia has intervened militarily in two countries, Ukraine and Syria, where revolution and extreme political polarization threatened the governments of pro-Russian leaders. And that’s pretty much where the similarities between the campaigns end, except for one other commonality: Both Syria and Ukraine are home to Russian naval bases—in Tartus and Sevastopol, respectively.

Ports, and especially warm-water ports, have long played an important role in Russian foreign policy. Russia isn’t landlocked, of course, but Europe-facing ports such as Arkhangelsk and St. Petersburg were historically ice-locked for part of the year before the advent of the icebreaker in the 20th century (Russia’s port at Murmansk is ice-free, but it was built in 1915, and the Russian port at Vladivostok is on the Pacific). Moreover, none of these ports, even when open for business, allow for easy access to the bustling Mediterranean Sea. This has left Russia with an economic and military incentive to expand toward warmer waters.
Tartus lies on Syria’s western coast and has had a Russian naval presence since 1971. At the time, the Soviet Union was Syria’s primary arms supplier and used the deep-water port as a destination for shipments of Soviet weapons. Russia managed to maintain access to Tartus after the fall of the U.S.S.R. due in part to a deal that wrote off Syrian debts to the Soviet Union. The Russian naval base itself is reportedly less than impressive—it lacks large-scale repair facilities and a command-and-control capability, which would allow Russia to oversee operations from Tartus—but it is able to accommodate all Russian naval vessels except for the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier, and offers a means of offloading arms and personnel.

The city and naval base of Sevastopol, on the Crimean peninsula, were founded in 1783 by the Russian Empire, and the city remained part of Russia until its transfer to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1978. Six years after the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russia renounced territorial claims to the city in exchange for a 20-year lease of the warm-water naval base. It’s a military asset with substantial strategic and symbolic value. The base houses Russia’s Black Sea Fleet and Mediterranean Task Force, the latter of which was only reestablished in 2013, and helps Russia project power in the Black Sea region and into the Mediterranean. The port was also the site of two major wartime sieges. As of last year, 15,000 Russian naval personnel were stationed at the base; in 2008, it served as a staging ground for blockades and amphibious landings during Russia’s war with Georgia.
The Link Between Putin’s Military Campaigns in Syria and Ukraine | TheAtlantic.com

IMO it's just too simplistic and naive to try to categorize foreign countries as either "Allies" or "Enemies". Russia is neither to the United States. More like something in between. Mr. Putin is simply pursuing what he considers to be in the best geo-political interests of Russia. Sometimes that will conflict with US interests. Sometimes it will align. And other times it will be neither here nor there. So why didn't the Obama Administration intervene militarily when Russia seized Crimea? The bottom line is because as NATO expanded eastward controlling the warm-water port in Sevastopol was a Russian strategic interest that was a helluva lot more important to them than Ukraine's territorial integrity was a strategic interest to the US. Same deal in Syria. The Tartus naval base in Syria is the only Russian warm water port in the Mediterranean. So keeping Assad in power was a much greater strategic interest to Russia than it was for the US to see him fall. In fact, US foreign policy isn't even to topple Assad because they fear ISIS will fill the power vacuum. So the Obama Administration pursued a policy of "strategic stalemate" militarily with an eventual negotiated exit for Mr. Assad politically.

OAW
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Feb 16, 2017, 06:49 PM
 
I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the writer of the first piece is not a student of European history.

For Russia, the world’s largest country by landmass, which bestrides Europe and Asia and encompasses forests, lakes, rivers, frozen steppes, and mountains, the problems come by land as well as by sea. In the past 500 years, Russia has been invaded several times from the west. The Poles came across the European Plain in 1605, followed by the Swedes under Charles XII in 1707, the French under Napoleon in 1812, and the Germans—twice, in both world wars, in 1914 and 1941. In Poland, the plain is only 300 miles wide—from the Baltic Sea in the north to the Carpathian Mountains in the south—but after that point it stretches to a width of about 2,000 miles near the Russian border, and from there, it offers a flat route straight to Moscow. Thus Russia’s repeated attempts to occupy Poland throughout history; the country represents a relatively narrow corridor into which Russia could drive its armed forces to block an enemy advance toward its own border, which, being wider, is much harder to defend.
500 years? In the same period, Sweden-Finland was invaded by Russia several times, and by Denmark about every 20 years or so. We gave as good as we got and a bit more, striking back against them as well as against Poland and the northern German states. Except for England/Great Britain, protected by the channel, I think every European nation that has existed for 500 years has been invaded several times. Even France, truly one of the big players, has been invaded three times in the last 150 years, which twice lead to humiliating occupations.

What counts isn't invasion, but occupation, and there the Russia's have been exceptionally lucky. They were never occupied for any long stretch of times since the mongols were around - an event the author carefully avoided by his 500 year limit, because didn't fit the story he was selling.

(He's even wrong about the particulars of the WWI event - as you noted above, it was Austrians who invaded Russian-occupied Poland, not Germans)

Having a poor strategic position is no reason to invade a neutral neighbor, but even if it had been, you can't talk about the distance from the Baltic to Carpathians as some sort of narrow front. The trick to defending Russia from the West - or more frequently the rest of Europe from the East, but let's go with the author's setup here - is to block the river gate, the narrow stretch of land between the rivers of Dvina and Dniepr, which is exactly how Russia used to defend itself. They didn't invade and occupy Poland to get a better defensive position - they did so because Poland was rich, and because the river gate defense kept being used against them. Trying to defend in Poland is much harder.

And yes, Russia used to be landlocked. Boo ****ing hoo. They haven't been since 1721, and it is time to get over that. And saying that occupying Crimea gave them a port with access to the Mediterranean? Is he joking? Russia already had a naval base in Sevastopol in Crimea, it had a Black Sea coastline even without Crimea, and they still can't get out in the Mediterranean if Turkey closes the straits, which they would in case of war with NATO. No, Russia took Crimea because they consider it ethnically Russian. It is - if only because a succession of Soviet leaders exterminated the tartars that lived there before - but that presents a worrying precedent. There are large Russian minorities in the Baltic states, created in more or less the same way - what is stopping Putin from claiming Narva in NATO member Estonia under the same pretense?

Saying that we should let an autocracy invade other nations just because they will sulk if we don't let them is the very definition of rolling over. I understand very well why Russia acts as they do, and the correct response is to stand up to them.
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Feb 16, 2017, 08:24 PM
 
This thread took a crazily academic turn.
     
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Feb 16, 2017, 09:10 PM
 
Originally Posted by P View Post
Saying that we should let an autocracy invade other nations just because they will sulk if we don't let them is the very definition of rolling over. I understand very well why Russia acts as they do, and the correct response is to stand up to them.
These are all good points, especially your comments on European history and Russia has not been a victim of its European neighbors for the last 200+ years. But I think what OAW is trying to say is that if the West had acted differently, it might not have come to that. Both approaches have merit in my view. Right now, Putin turned back the hands of time and we are playing by the rules of the Cold War: lots of big talk on all sides, military conflicts are only done through surrogate states that are more or less directly supported by one side or another, and so forth. We shouldn't focus on the game, but on strategies how to change the rules instead.

In this particular case, a direct military confrontation of the West with Russia was never in the cards, that wasn't an option since Russia became a nuclear power some 70 odd years ago. Therefore once Russia decided to annex Crimea, that was a fait accompli, there was no more card to play for the West.
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Feb 16, 2017, 11:14 PM
 
P ...

Please don't misconstrue my position here. I'm not making any sort of moral judgment about what is RIGHT or WRONG with respect to Russia's actions. I'm only stating what in a geo-political sense IS from the Russian perspective. In my view given the historical record and Russia's strategic interests it was entirely foreseeable what the Kremlin's reaction would be to a NATO expansion onto their border. But NATO decided to go there anyway. So here we are.

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Feb 17, 2017, 04:07 AM
 
The Atlantic piece bugged me, because it was incorrect in so many points about history. I also dislike the appeasement argument because it quite frankly hasn't worked well historically. I don't think we should let Putin have veto power over how his neighbors choose to run their countries, and if that pisses him off, tough s*it.

I fully agree that NATO leaders could have acted in a much more inclusive way. The war in Yugoslavia is a perfect example - Clinton and Blair completely ignored Russia and went ahead with bombing, which made the Russian leadership lose face at home. (I think that much of the world problems in the last 15 years can be laid at the feet of that campaign. It showed that powerful nation states can act unilaterally and bomb another country to rubble without repercussions as long they can convince their own citizens that it is morally right. It led directly to the second Iraq war, to the annexation of Crimea, to the Russian intervention in Georgia, and probably to a few other points I have forgotten already).

The root difference in public perception is this (I travel quite a lot in Eastern Europe and talk enough with people that I think that I have a pretty good idea of how they feel about this): Russians see themselves as the saviors that defeated the Nazis and liberated Eastern Europe. The people in these countries see the Russians as occupiers for what they did after 1945. It's not like the Nazis were nice to Eastern Europe - although in the Baltic states, they were much nicer than the Soviets - but they are seen as more less as bad and more recent. This leads to Russians thinking that the people in Europe as far west as Poland and Czech Republic should see them as natural friends and allies, while they are actually seen as enemies and occupiers. This means that the people there vote for governments that put up a strong defense against Russia and want to hide under the NATO (nuclear) shield, while Russians in general think that those governments are just as corrupt as they know their own to be and think that the anti-Russian stance is due to manipulation by Western governments.

But knowing this doesn't make me want to appease Russia, or throw some countries under the bus so Russia can have its sphere. Russia should be treated with respect - they have the nukes to earn it - but if they want friends, they have to earn them just like anyone else. It is not like the US doesn't piss off other countries every now and then.
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Feb 17, 2017, 05:42 AM
 
Originally Posted by P View Post
The Atlantic piece bugged me, because it was incorrect in so many points about history. I also dislike the appeasement argument because it quite frankly hasn't worked well historically.
In your arguments you still conflate appeasement with moves that could have avoided the West being check mated by Russia — they don't have to be the same thing. Can you explain that to me?

Was the Eastwards expansion of NATO that close to Russian territory the only sensible or morally correct move? After all the Western Allies promised the Soviet Union that NATO wouldn't be expanded “as much as a thumb's width further to the East” further. (I know that what was and wasn't promised is a matter of debate.) Perhaps association treaties with the EU and a slower military integration might have been a more sensible step for the countries that are close to Russian territory. That might have also opened the door to let Russia participate as well.
Originally Posted by P View Post
The people in these countries see the Russians as occupiers for what they did after 1945. It's not like the Nazis were nice to Eastern Europe - although in the Baltic states, they were much nicer than the Soviets - but they are seen as more less as bad and more recent.
Many of my colleagues from Eastern Europe would go further and say that they felt the Soviets were worse, because the occupation lasted much, much longer, although I will admit this is mostly a philosophical debate with no winners. However, the situation in countries like Ukraine and Moldova is different from that in, say, Poland, because these countries have significant minorities that are culturally Russian, speak Russian and naturally orient themselves towards Russia.
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Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
In your arguments you still conflate appeasement with moves that could have avoided the West being check mated by Russia — they don't have to be the same thing. Can you explain that to me?
Not sure, but I'll try. My point is that if we are supposed to be democratic states, we should also respect the wishes of other democratic states to join us and not the autocracy. More principles, less opportunism. If Western leaders would simply articulate why NATO should expand to this and that country, I think it would help. And yes, this does mean standing by your allies even when it is inconvenient.

I also think that Europe should have made bigger efforts to integrate Russia economically and diplomatically during the nineties. Walking all over them during the Yugoslavian wars really caused a lot of this.

Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
Was the Eastwards expansion of NATO that close to Russian territory the only sensible or morally correct move? After all the Western Allies promised the Soviet Union that NATO wouldn't be expanded “as much as a thumb's width further to the East” further. (I know that what was and wasn't promised is a matter of debate.) Perhaps association treaties with the EU and a slower military integration might have been a more sensible step for the countries that are close to Russian territory. That might have also opened the door to let Russia participate as well.
If they did indeed promise to never expand NATO, that was a stupid promise to make. The eastward expansion was nations who were understandably afraid of Russia seeking protection. But I agree that making the promise and then thinking nothing of it is exactly they type of mistake that the West made towards Russia in the nineties. It would have been better to stand on a principle such that we will defend any democratic nation that seeks to join, but will lend no support in an offensive war.

Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
Many of my colleagues from Eastern Europe would go further and say that they felt the Soviets were worse, because the occupation lasted much, much longer, although I will admit this is mostly a philosophical debate with no winners. However, the situation in countries like Ukraine and Moldova is different from that in, say, Poland, because these countries have significant minorities that are culturally Russian, speak Russian and naturally orient themselves towards Russia.
There are significant variation between different parts of the region. The Baltic states were under Russia for 200 years before WWI, then liberated and occupied again by the Soviets in 1939. They saw the Nazis as liberators when they came. Romania was never occupied by the Nazis, but joined WWII as their ally after being pressured by the Soviets. The people there of course see the Russians as worse, especially as the Soviet rule was particularly harsh in those areas. If, OTOH, you go west towards the states that would rather be called "central Europe" (Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia), they probably see it more as equally bad.

Ukraine and Moldova are... special. Moldova was created from a chunk of Romania and then integrated into the Soviet Union. Ukraine got a big part of Poland after WWII. Both of them are nationally split between Russian-speaking groups in the east and more Western-oriented groups in the West.
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Feb 17, 2017, 08:23 AM
 
Originally Posted by P View Post
Not sure, but I'll try. My point is that if we are supposed to be democratic states, we should also respect the wishes of other democratic states to join us and not the autocracy. More principles, less opportunism. If Western leaders would simply articulate why NATO should expand to this and that country, I think it would help. And yes, this does mean standing by your allies even when it is inconvenient.
That makes a lot of sense. I certainly strongly support “more principles, less opportunism”, also because that makes us more predictable — in both directions, the only word I took issue with was to characterize alternative approaches as “appeasement”. And as you write below, the West often wasn't very principled or did not act in good faith. Case in point, the US meddled with Russian elections, something that is very timely now. My main criticism is that we have only been reacting in the last few years, playing chess while planning only one move ahead, against a very experienced and determined opponent. Here, being principled and having a clear vision would help to plot the next moves, all the while taking Russia's most likely reactions into account.

What do you think is the best way forward?
Originally Posted by P View Post
I also think that Europe should have made bigger efforts to integrate Russia economically and diplomatically during the nineties. Walking all over them during the Yugoslavian wars really caused a lot of this.
Completely agreed, it was economic cooperation that brought Europe together after WW2, it struck a balance between erasing borders and keeping the countries' national identities. I think that strategy would have also worked nicely with Russia. Perhaps then the relationship between Russia and the EU would not be as antagonistic as it is now. Shoulda, woulda, coulda.

Now we are back playing the games Putin learnt during the Cold War: the military exercise–counter exercise spiel, passive aggressive war through surrogates such as in Syria, and so forth. You can really tell that the current generation of Western generals Cold War chess skills have gotten quite rusty.
Originally Posted by P View Post
If they did indeed promise to never expand NATO, that was a stupid promise to make. The eastward expansion was nations who were understandably afraid of Russia seeking protection. But I agree that making the promise and then thinking nothing of it is exactly they type of mistake that the West made towards Russia in the nineties.
You get no argument from me, I was 9 at the time and wasn't consulted But as states we should aim to keep promises that previous governments have made, and it is human nature to disregard longer-term consequences in favor of short-term gains.

As you correctly point out, the West walked all over Russia and Russian pride in the 1990s, and didn't intensify trade relations sufficiently. Russia's attitude now is in part a result of that, someone who used to be powerful and respected, and now feels as if he has something to prove. In hindsight, I think much of the expansion should have been done more slowly. Romania and Bulgaria became EU member states too quickly, having a longer period of association would not have significantly changed the economic development, but given those countries more time to find their footing.

In the same breath I should add that Russia also broke an important promise from the early 1990s it gave to Ukraine: in exchange of handing over all nuclear weapons stationed there by the Soviets and letting Russia keep their military base in the Black Sea, they were promised territorial integrity.
Originally Posted by P View Post
It would have been better to stand on a principle such that we will defend any democratic nation that seeks to join, but will lend no support in an offensive war.
Not just that, I think at that time it would have made sense to disband NATO and replace it with something new, because it had fulfilled its mission: the Warsaw Pact had disbanded and there was a democratic revolution in Russia so no international military pact in opposition to Russia was necessary. Instead some new, post-Cold War security architecture could have taken its place …

(Sorry, I don't want to go too deep into the rabbit hole of alternative history.)
Originally Posted by P View Post
There are significant variation between different parts of the region. The Baltic states were under Russia for 200 years before WWI, then liberated and occupied again by the Soviets in 1939.
You are right, there is definitely more nuance there, we shouldn't pretend that whole countries are homogeneous, be it politically or ethnically. Many of the people I know who are from Ukraine (or even Russia proper) are indeed Russian speakers but also Jewish, and they were discriminated against by the Soviets. So their attitude towards Russia is also more complicated.
Originally Posted by P View Post
Ukraine and Moldova are... special. Moldova was created from a chunk of Romania and then integrated into the Soviet Union. Ukraine got a big part of Poland after WWII. Both of them are nationally split between Russian-speaking groups in the east and more Western-oriented groups in the West.
Exactly, and because Russia has real support amongst the local population in Eastern Ukraine, it is not as simple as calling it a hostile invasion. Oh, and knowing what we know now I reckon Crustchew would have had second thoughts gifting Crimea to Ukraine (it's all the Soviet Union anyway, so it will stay in the family anyway) … 
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Feb 19, 2017, 04:17 PM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
That makes a lot of sense. I certainly strongly support “more principles, less opportunism”, also because that makes us more predictable — in both directions, the only word I took issue with was to characterize alternative approaches as “appeasement”. And as you write below, the West often wasn't very principled or did not act in good faith. Case in point, the US meddled with Russian elections, something that is very timely now. My main criticism is that we have only been reacting in the last few years, playing chess while planning only one move ahead, against a very experienced and determined opponent. Here, being principled and having a clear vision would help to plot the next moves, all the while taking Russia's most likely reactions into account.

What do you think is the best way forward?
At this point, a discussion about ground rules. For instance, make it clear that interfering with elections of another state is an absolute no-no. Russia would, I think, take that deal - they're convinced that the west was interfering in Ukraine elections, for instance, and they have to realize that the West could interfere in the next Russian elections now that the first shots have been fired, so to speak. But I'm not sure what to do about the idea of "spheres". The Russians clearly want to have a sphere of their own allies on their border, and I don't think we should let them dictate that.

Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
In the same breath I should add that Russia also broke an important promise from the early 1990s it gave to Ukraine: in exchange of handing over all nuclear weapons stationed there by the Soviets and letting Russia keep their military base in the Black Sea, they were promised territorial integrity.
This bears repeating. Ukraine made a massive concession in handing over the nukes, and Russia broke the only promise they had to make to get them to do that. If anyone trusted Russia before, they sure don't now.

Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
Not just that, I think at that time it would have made sense to disband NATO and replace it with something new, because it had fulfilled its mission: the Warsaw Pact had disbanded and there was a democratic revolution in Russia so no international military pact in opposition to Russia was necessary. Instead some new, post-Cold War security architecture could have taken its place …
I have a vague memory that Yeltsin at one point said that Russia should join the NATO. That is truly the other leg of the trousers of time...

Thing is, the world did need something like that, even when Russia was gone. The 19th century ideal of the nation state that does as it pleases and doesn't care about anyone else died in a mushroom cloud on August 6th, 1945. Humans now possess the ability to end life on planet Earth, and that means that we need some sort of check on nation state power. NATO could have been that, or we could have made some other organization for that purpose, but shutting Russia out and then attacking other slavs with that organization was a very bad move.

Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
(Sorry, I don't want to go too deep into the rabbit hole of alternative history.)
Hey, I play Paradox games, alternate history is as close to a hobby as I have these days. My last run through EU4 I played Japan from 1444. I colonized the Western half of North America as well as a good chunk of Siberia, turned my state into a constitutional republic and caught up to European tech levels before the end date. Now that would have been an interesting world to follow a while longer.

(Sorry, tangent over.)

Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
Exactly, and because Russia has real support amongst the local population in Eastern Ukraine, it is not as simple as calling it a hostile invasion. Oh, and knowing what we know now I reckon Crustchew would have had second thoughts gifting Crimea to Ukraine (it's all the Soviet Union anyway, so it will stay in the family anyway) … 
Supposedly he was drunk at the time...

I think that it is a hostile invasion alright. Crimea we could argue, with the referendum result and its history as Russian territory, but Donetsk/Luhansk... no. That is an invasion.
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Feb 19, 2017, 07:59 PM
 
Originally Posted by P View Post
At this point, a discussion about ground rules. For instance, make it clear that interfering with elections of another state is an absolute no-no. Russia would, I think, take that deal - they're convinced that the west was interfering in Ukraine elections, for instance, and they have to realize that the West could interfere in the next Russian elections now that the first shots have been fired, so to speak.
Surreptitiously meddling with elections is a no-no for me, on moral grounds alone. Even from a purely utilitarian point of view, I think it has backfired in most cases (think Iran and Chile) and we lose the moral high ground. Russia could legitimately point to American hypocrisy here if it took responsibility (forgetting that two wrongs don't make a right).
Originally Posted by P View Post
But I'm not sure what to do about the idea of "spheres". The Russians clearly want to have a sphere of their own allies on their border, and I don't think we should let them dictate that.
Spheres of influence are a left-over from the Cold War, based on the premise that the two spheres are in opposition to each other. NATO is one of the spheres of influence (by definition in opposition to Russia), and if we insist on viewing the world this way by keeping NATO around, it is clear that the game of international politics is based on this premise.

I agree that we shouldn't have to think about spheres of influence, but we have to do our share here. We need to change the rules of the game. Like you wrote below, there was a window where we could have either dissolved NATO or gotten Russia on board. This is the goal I think we should be working towards. And like you mentioned in your post below, we shouldn't just do that to attain some high-minded ideal, but because the Russian nuclear arsenal is plenty to extinguish civilization as we know it. And autocratic regimes are notoriously unstable when the baton is passed from one leader to another, so it is in our interest to have influence using positive bonds such as treaties, trade and one day perhaps, friendship.
Originally Posted by P View Post
This bears repeating. Ukraine made a massive concession in handing over the nukes, and Russia broke the only promise they had to make to get them to do that. If anyone trusted Russia before, they sure don't now.
I completely agree, none of the sides have clean hands, it is not as simple as declaring one side the victim of the other.
Originally Posted by P View Post
Thing is, the world did need something like that, even when Russia was gone. The 19th century ideal of the nation state that does as it pleases and doesn't care about anyone else died in a mushroom cloud on August 6th, 1945. Humans now possess the ability to end life on planet Earth, and that means that we need some sort of check on nation state power. NATO could have been that, or we could have made some other organization for that purpose, but shutting Russia out and then attacking other slavs with that organization was a very bad move.
Absolutely. Now this opportunity has passed, and we have to work towards creating a new one.
Originally Posted by P View Post
I think that it is a hostile invasion alright. Crimea we could argue, with the referendum result and its history as Russian territory, but Donetsk/Luhansk... no. That is an invasion.
I don't want to argue semantics, and at the end of the day it is an invasion by a hostile power. My point is just that there is (locally) a significant part of the population in support of this operation. I'm not even claiming that it is necessarily a majority, but at least a very significant minority. So Russia doesn't have to fight insurgents, but Ukraine's regular armed forces — a fight it can win.


BTW, keep those alternative histories coming!
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Feb 23, 2017, 08:49 AM
 
First of all, you need to separate Russia the Government and Russia the People. While the first one is an absolute no-no to get into diplomatic bed with, the second are just manipulated masses. Russia has it's own controlling government establishments that filter every piece of information the population get via TV, newspapers and even Internet.
The government has a long and rich history of terror and violence against everyone who's not ready to obey to corrupted authorities. It happened with Czech Republic in 1968, in 2008 with Georgia (the country) it happened in 2014 with Ukraine, it happened in 2016 with Syria.
Seeing POTUS playing footsy with government that decriminalized domestic violence and runs anti-gay propaganda on a state level is just disgusting. Values of that country have nothing in common with ours, no matter what Bannon might write on his website.
     
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Mar 3, 2017, 08:17 PM
 
Trump Takes on The Blob - POLITICO Magazine

Now I wonder if its just because she was prepped by the old policy team...
     
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Mar 3, 2017, 11:20 PM
 
To me, the most distressing part of the article is (tea for the) Tillerson's entrance speech at State amounting to "you suck".

I thought CEOs were supposed to understand morale.
     
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Mar 3, 2017, 11:22 PM
 
The most entertaining part of course is,

Old-guard FP wonks: We're the resistance.
Ivanka: Good luck with that.
     
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Jun 5, 2017, 08:47 PM
 
How do you feel about this: http://thehill.com/policy/national-s...to-lift-russia

Trump administration officials pressed State Department staffers to develop plans for removing sanctions against Russia almost immediately after President Trump took office in January, Yahoo News reported Thursday.

In turn, according to Yahoo News, State Department employees sought to convince lawmakers to codify the sanctions, which were put in place by former President Barack Obama in response to Russia's military intervention in Ukraine and the Kremlin's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

Former coordinator of sanctions policy Dan Fried, who retired from the State Department in February, said that he received phone calls from concerned officials tasked with developing plans to lift the sanctions asking him to intervene and "stop this."

“There was serious consideration by the White House to unilaterally rescind the sanctions,” Fried told Yahoo News, saying he eventually contacted lawmakers, including Senate Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Ben Cardin (D-Md.), in an effort to codify the sanctions, which would complicate efforts by Trump to lift them.

Former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski, who, at the time, had just left the State Department, also brought the issue up with members of Congress.
This cropped up a few days ago: https://twitter.com/RusEmbUSA/status/870039858458353665
"Nobody has canceled the principle of reciprocity in diplomacy. The president said this from the very beginning when he substantiated his reaction to the expulsion of diplomats before the New Year and to such an expropriation of diplomatic property near New York and near Washington," Ushakov told reporters.

"We are now simply taking into account the difficult internal political situation for the current [US] administration. Naturally, these steps will not remain without an appropriate reaction if these steps are not somehow adjusted by the US side itself. This would be the best option. We actually gave them such a chance," he said.
i.e., give us our shit back already. We're tired of waiting.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world...=.40717c8c3778
In early May, the Trump administration told the Russians that it would consider turning the properties back over to them if Moscow would lift its freeze, imposed in 2014 in retaliation for U.S. sanctions related to Ukraine, on construction of a new U.S. consulate on a certain parcel of land in St. Petersburg.

Two days later, the U.S. position changed. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at a meeting in Washington that the United States had dropped any linkage between the compounds and the consulate, according to several people with knowledge of the exchanges.
You drive a hard bargain, Mr. Tillerson.
     
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Jul 13, 2017, 09:11 PM
 
http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/se...rticle/2628616
Sebastian Gorka, deputy assistant to President Trump, said Thursday the Trump administration is weighing the return of two Russian diplomatic compounds because it wants to give "collaboration and cooperation a chance."

"We want to give collaboration and cooperation a chance," Gorka told CNN. "The fact is we may not share the same philosophy, we may not share the same type of statesman view of the world but the fact is there are some issues of common concern."
Is this ok? I don't think this is ok.
     
The Final Dakar  (op)
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Jul 31, 2017, 11:22 PM
 
I guess time finally ran out.

http://www.npr.org/2017/07/30/540432...sanctions-bill
Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced that Russia is expelling 755 U.S. diplomats and technical personnel in retaliation against new U.S. sanctions proposed against Moscow.

On Friday, Russia's Foreign Ministry had signaled that the U.S. would need to downsize its staff to 455, to exactly match the number of Russian diplomatic and technical staff in the U.S. Now, Putin has announced the exact number of staff he's ordered the U.S. Embassy in Moscow to cut.

Cryptically, Trump has yet to comment on this.
     
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Aug 1, 2017, 01:04 AM
 
Ever since this was announced, I've been wondering. How do we have 1,210 diplomatic staff in Russia? A Marines division perhaps, and where do they all sleep? Alternatively, that's a heck of a lot of CIA agents looking for Snowden. Is that why we have a small army over there?
     
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Aug 1, 2017, 02:12 AM
 
We probably have embassies/consulates/whatevers in a dozen Russian cities. With multiples in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
     
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Aug 1, 2017, 10:33 AM
 
The staff is Russian. Putin punishing his own people to retaliate against us again.
     
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Aug 1, 2017, 12:19 PM
 
WH says Trump hasn't signed the sanctions bill because it hasn't received it. Congress says it was sent over mid Friday.

Who do I believe?!
     
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Both? I'm picturing Trump avoiding the oval office, so he hasn't received it personally yet.
     
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WH claims they haven't received. Big difference.
     
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Aug 1, 2017, 03:11 PM
 
This is like a choose your own shitty adventure.

If Trump uses this to dismantle the post office, go to page 104.
If Congress sends the Sergeant at Arms to hand deliver it, go to page 12.
     
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Aug 2, 2017, 07:38 PM
 
Somebody is stirring the pot



That signing statement was something else, too.
     
 
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