Tag Archives: US Congress

Syria and «assadization» of G20

After he canceled bilateral talks with Russian counterpart (and remained with two days off on the presidential agenda), Barack Obama seems to be very interested in relations with the Northern countries. So en route to G20 Summit (Sankt Petersburg, Russia), he is doing a stopover in Stockholm (Sweden), where the leader of the White House will meet with PM Fredrik Reinfeldt and King Carl XVI Gustav and will get dinner with leaders of the Northern countries from Western EuropeNorway, Iceland, Finland and Denmark.

This visit comes as a follow of last week, when Obama met in Washington with the heads of the Northern countries from Eastern Europe – Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia. Of course, from discussions in Washington did not miss the conflict in Syria, as it probably will not miss to the meetings in Stockholm, although on the official agenda we can to find: the challenges arising by climate change (it is known that the northern European states are on the top list of the ‘greenest countries’ in the world!), regional security and development of bilateral trade. I don’t know which are the final results (in the medium and long term) connected with this new diplomatic approach and the strategic vision of Washington regarding  the Northern states. However, (in the short term) Obama seems trying to prepare for his diplomatic offensive at the G20 Summit.

782290660Assad’s fate will warm up the atmosphere of the meeting in the northern and cold capital of Russia, St. Petersburg, where Obama – willing or not – will meet with the “repudiated” leader of Russia, Vladimir Putin; also with the leader of China, Xi Jinping; the both countries actively oppose to the foreign intervention in Syria, but also Obama will meet with David Cameron, British Prime Minister, who washed his hands like Pontius Pilate, and passed the decision to support military intervention in Syria to the British Parliament, parliament which, despite arguments delivered for several hours by the chief of executive in London, gave negative vote.

If on these three cases things seem somewhat clear (though American leader has provided a bilateral meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping) and extraordinary changes are difficult to predict (except if Obama will “pleasantly” surprise the Kremlin leader and will put on the table of world heavyweight undeniable evidence that incriminates the Assad regime), however, the U.S. leader has the chance even to keep solidarity of France and Germany ( in last case only one rather declarative and quite elusive). And to obtain declarative consent of other leaders – argument can be put forward to the United Nations. Well, I say keep because president Hollande has just spoke yesterday that he could ask the French parliament, a declaration that, associated with the deprivation of principal ally, Great Britain and the step back made by Obama himself who will request advisory agreement of US Congress, seems rather a step in retreat. Germany, which is in full Bundestag election campaign, most likely will still choose a moderate way and will try to be as low voice on this issue.

When hosting an international event of such importance, Russia knows every time to catch a large part of the benefits in terms of image and external perceptions, and it is easy to predict that this time will not be different. Regard the signals from the Kremlin, Barack Obama is right to expect an offensive campaign of the Russian leader, who recently, slightly ironical, said that “was surprised” that the Western community no longer runs “without comment” everything that Washington decides. Last public appearances of Vladimir Putin (including Channel One Russia tv & AP interview in the preamble G20 Summit that was published today) shows that (even if regarding domestic policy, things not look pretty good) when is about foreign policy, Russian president feels excellent in his skin and knows that he is not an opponent easy to overcome. Most likely Putin will try to convince the leaders attending to the Summit that by sending in ridiculous a conference where the both sides of the Syrian conflict to sit at the same table was a mistake and that a diplomatic solution is better than a military intervention against Assad (however limited it may be), with small chances of removing the Syrian leader from power but with big chances of turning into a regional conflict.

Even if on the official agenda of the 8-th meeting of the G20 is not found Syrian issue, it certainly will dominate the formal&informal discussions to the detriment fo economic priorities. Which also are not few, and are not unimportant (but we’re talking about in the coming days). Leaders of emerging economies have already a list with the important topics that they would like/need to be addressed, and political saturation of event can be rather counterproductive for both leaders, of the Kremlin and the White House. We will see whether the two leaders will be able to avoid as a major economic summit –  with (uncommon but necessary) a major political stake – to become a battle of vanities with null result or not.

Published by PPW partner – Eurasia Review

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Saxo Bank’s outrageous predictions for 2011

Although a few of last year’s predictions actually came true, Saxo Bank has released their outrageous predictions for 2011. They are meant to be true outliers and not actual predictions, so don’t expect them to hit 10 for 10 or even 7 for 10.  They say these are the “rare scenarios that could have a significant impact on the markets in 2011”. The point of the list is to help people think about outlier scenarios and what it might take to see these come to pass.
Let’s take a look at what can bring the new year:
  • U.S Congress blocks Bernanke’s QE3
  • Apple buys Facebook
  • U.S. Dollar Index tops 100
  • U.S. 30-year Treasury yield slides to 3%
  • Aussie-sterling dives 25%
  • Crude oil gushes before correcting by one third
  • Natural gas surges 50%
  • Gold powers to $1,800 as currency wars escalate
  • S&P 500 reaches all-time high
  • Russia RTS Index reaches 2,500
  • FT Alphaville has a fuller discussion about each prediction here. Which of the above will make in 2011 ? The readers interested in statistics can to read here what Saxo predicted for 2010 (they were right on 3 out of its 10).

    Russian spies are everywhere…or FBI wants more money from federal’s budget ?

    Amid the recent arrests of Russian spies in the United States is in the public eye and another topic. Although we may think we have a huge invasion of SVR agents. They seems to be everywhere… ;)) The 300-page report by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution – Germany’s domestic intelligence agency – was presented on Monday, 22 June 2010, by its head Heinz Fromm along with Maiziere, Deutsche Welle (DW) writes. The authors of the report underline that Germany is a country with an economy oriented for the development of technologies and export. The Interior Minister said that the threat of industrial espionage – which increased in 2009 – was of particular concern to the government. Largely the Internet is to blame, Maiziere said, as the exchange of information via the worldwide web increases the risk of falling victim to spies. Maiziere noted that currently companies underestimate this risk and urged them to work together with the government to protect technologies from competitors.

    “The situation with dangers [to German economy] is concrete. Such states as Russia and China – via their secret services – actively conduct undercover work in such fields as economy, science and research,” the document reads. According to the data released, Russia and China also “track technical information as well as business strategies.” The most dangerous inquiries, the document states, “are those aimed at mobile communications and computer systems (conducted via internet) of various businesses and state organizations. International financial and economic crisis also has its negative effect upon security structures of private enterprises.”

    Earlier in May, the problem was voiced by the head of Germany’s counterintelligence, Burkhard Even. Speaking at a security forum in Bonn, reported Germany’s The Local, he claimed that it was estimated that out of the 500 staff of the Russian embassy in Berlin, 150 were working as intelligence agents, disguised as journalists and diplomats – and there might be a lot more of those among about five million Russians living in Germany.

    “Russia’s Foreign Ministry has said it expects an explanation from Berlin over the “groundless” accusations of industrial espionage on the territory of Germany”, report Russia Today on Monday, 28 June 2010. “First of all, we are talking about a standard set of claims against Russian diplomatic missions in Germany, which in the understanding of German counterintelligence services are ‘spy nests’ posing a threat to Germany’s security” said Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Andrey Nesterenko. “We would hope to get explanations from our partners through diplomatic channels” he said, the ministry’s webpage quotes.

    If about German report Moscow said that “again abounds in groundless accusations against our country borrowed from the past – as it seemed – Cold Era times”, about new allegations of espionage in the United States, Russian officials were quick to not comment. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is in Israel, but has found time to a short comment on the matter. “They haven’t explained what they mean. I hope they will do so. The only thing I can say is that it’s perfect timing” Lavrov said, noted that U.S. authorities announced the arrest days after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited the United States..

    But there were voices on both sides of the political commentators have labeled the scandal as “a bad film series”. Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst said that: “case is PR for FBI, to show they’re still in business, they’re active in anti-terrorist war”.  Such success could, to say, affording them the opportunity to request more money from the federal budget, U.S. analyst concluded.

    Worth mentioning is another aspect: Russian spy scandal will divert public attention from the recent and controversial U.S. removal of General McChrystal from Command of Military Forces in Afghanistan  just when a major offensive involving about 700 U.S. and Afghan troops along eastern Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan. Gen. David Petraeus will try to convince a war-weary Congress on Tuesday, 29 June 2010, that he is the man to turn the war in Afghanistan around and mend the military’s tattered relations with civilian leaders. Lawmakers say he is a shoo-in to replace Gen. Stanley McChrystal, whom President Barack Obama fired last week after the general and his aides were quoted in a Rolling Stone magazine article disparaging specific people in the administration, including Obama, who in the U.S. system is overall commander of the U.S. military. Petraeus probably will be confirmed this week.

    Prime Minister and Former KGB spy Vladimir Putin – who by an odd coincidence was meeting former US president Bill Clinton in Moscow — said he hoped the arrests would not impact the recent improvement in Russia-US ties. Using his trademark irony, Russian Prime Minister did not hesitate to note his guest that: “You came at the right time ! Your police have let themselves go, and put people in prison”. However, as anticipated in previous posting,  Putin told his American visitor in comments broadcast on state television that: “I expect that the positive tendency in relations over the last years is not harmed. We very much hope that people who value good relations understand this”.