Archive for the ‘Russia’ Category

India conducts joint military exercises with Russia and with China

November 5, 2013

I suppose there is no better way to follow Sun Tzu’s advice to “know your enemy” than to conduct joint military exercise with potential enemies.

  • “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” 
  • “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” 
  • “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer” 
     Sun Tzu

There are many potential scenarios which could involve armed conflict between India and China but fewer which would involve conflict between India and Russia. Scenarios in which India cooperates with Russia or China in some military adventures are also not impossible. “Terrorists” make for good common enemies. China would love to label the Dalai Lama as a “terrorist” but this would be unthinkable in India. India labels some “rebel” groups in the North east as “terrorists” but the Chinese prefer to stay on the fence. Both India and Russia dislike “terrorists” in Afghanistan but may not see entirely eye-to-eye on who is a “terrorist” and who is a “freedom fighter”.

Of course Russia is a major equipment supplier to the Indian military and exercises with the Russian military using similar equipment could be of great benefit for India. I suspect the military exercises with China have far greater political and intelligence objectives – for both participants – than the development of any protocols for military cooperation.

The Russian exercise was carried out at the end of last month as part of the Indra series (Indra 13). This was the sixth exercise since 2005.

Desert Storm: Tanks, helicopters and troops practice the art of war in Bikaner during ‘live fire’ Indian-Russian military exercise

25 October 2013 | UPDATED: 00:12 GMT, 26 October 2013
Elite detachments of the Russian and Indian armies concluded combat activities of ‘Indra-13′ exercise on Friday.

The exercises were conducted in the midst of references about raids of the type ‘which got Osama’ in a terrain ‘not dissimilar to that in Afghanistan’.  Held in the semi-desert conditions in Rajasthan’s Mahajan Field Firing Range, the combat exercise witnessed the participation of an array of armoured and mechanised forces. 

Storming the sand: The Indra-13 exercise in Rajasthan saw live firing by T-72 tanks

Storming the sand: The Indra-13 exercise in Rajasthan saw live firing by T-72 tanks – Daily Mail

Operating for the last seven days, both the armies jointly plotted taking control of rebel-held territories, neutralising leaders and destruction of camps in a ‘newly born nation torn apart by strife’.

Towards this, live firing was carried out by T-72 tanks, BMP infantry combat vehicles, attack helicopters and other small arms. 

Both sides pitched a complement of 250 officers and men each in which the Russians were represented by their 11 Airborne Battalion and Indians by 6 Independent Armoured Brigade. 

Despite the exercise focussing on armoured and mechanised warfare, the Russians came without any such assets, under a pre-decided arrangement. 

They were then provided Indian equipment to use for the exercise. …….

The military equipment supplied by Russia to India is, I expect, a shade less advanced than their own equipment in performance and in specifications. Which could explain why the Russians did not bring their own – more advanced – equipment to India for the exercise. Or perhaps I am being too cynical?

There was serious border tension between India and China  earlier this year with incursions by both into the other’s claimed territory. And so the 10 day military exercise just starting in China is the first in 5 years and has more significance (real and symbolic) than usual.

With focus on terrorism, India-China begin joint military drills

November 6, 2013

India and China on Tuesday began a 10-day joint military drill on counterterrorism — the first such exercise between the neighbours in five years — in southwestern China, with around 300 soldiers from both countries taking part in exercises aimed at boosting trust between the militaries.

The drills began on Tuesday morning in Miaoergang, a town southwest of Chengdu — the provincial capital of the western Sichuan province — with displays of Kungfu by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) contingent and the Gatka martial art, from Punjab, by Indian soldiers. Soldiers also conducted weapons displays with the objective of allowing the other side to become more familiar with the characteristics of weaponry used across the border.

Over the next 10 days, the two contingents — comprising around 160 soldiers each, according to Indian officials, from the 16 Sikh Light Infantry and the 1st Battalion Infantry division of the PLA — will conduct counter-terrorism drills involving tactical hand signals, arrest and escort, hostage rescue, joint attacks and “a comprehensive anti-terror combat drill”, the Chinese State-run Xinhua news agency said.

The drills — the first held in five years — take place only a week after both countries signed a Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) to expand confidence-building measures.

Chengdu is the headquarters of one of the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) seven Military Area Commands (MACs). The Chengdu MAC holds responsibility for the entire Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), as well as the middle and eastern sections of the border with India.

The drills, analysts say, are more symbolic than substantial: the counterterrorism drills are nowhere near as comprehensive as a full-fledged exercise between two armies. The larger objective is to expand confidence and trust between two militaries, which are often grappling with tensions along the border.

At the same time, the 10-day counterterrorism drill has been seen as being particularly significant in China for two reasons. For one, the exercise follows the recent signing of the BDCA during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit in late October.

Also, the issue of terrorism has come under renewed attention in China in recent days, after last week’s incident in Tiananmen Square where a jeep carrying three Uighurs from the Muslim-majority Xinjiang region drove into a crowd, killing two tourists and injuring 40 others. ….. 

Lt. Gen. Vinod Bhatia, leader of the Indian Army observer group, speaks at the inauguration of the India-China joint military drill on counterterrorism at Miaoergang, near Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province on Tuesday. Photo courtesy: PIB

Lt. Gen. Vinod Bhatia, leader of the Indian Army observer group, speaks at the inauguration of the India-China joint military drill on counterterrorism at Miaoergang, near Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province on Tuesday. Photo courtesy: PIB

Russia downgrades Greenpeace 30 charges from piracy to hooliganism

October 23, 2013

Ria Novosti reports:

Investigators in Russia said Wednesday that they have dropped piracy charges against environmental activists and freelance journalists detained last month aboard a Greenpeace ship.

Investigative Committee chief Vladimir Markin said the group will instead be charged with hooliganism.

……. Hooliganism in Russia carries a maximum penalty of seven years in jail.

Russian authorities seized Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise icebreaker in mid-September after activists tried to scale an oil rig in the Arctic in protest against offshore drilling in the area. All 30 people on board – comprising 28 Greenpeace activists and two freelance journalists – were detained and later charged with piracy, which is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. …

Markin of Russia’s Investigative Committee also said some members of the group could face charges of using force against state officials.

He said the Greenpeace group’s lack of cooperation with investigators had unnecessarily drawn out the process.

“The failure of the accused to give evidence gave cause for investigators to carefully consider all alternative versions of what took place,” Markin said.

He said investigators needed to consider whether the Greenpeace group had attempted to board the oil platform for financial gain, terrorism or to conduct illicit research activities and espionage.

 

The Greenpeace 30 could be free tomorrow but ……

October 19, 2013

It has been one month since the Greenpeace pirates were apprehended by the Russians.

The high profile Greenpeace strategies to get them released have been less than competent. They seem to be particularly incompetent regarding the Law of the Sea. Rather than getting their pirates released, nearly all their actions have been counter productive and have led to a hardening of the Russian position, the denial of bail, the inclusion of drug running charges and now even the threat of terrorism charges. That Greenpeace believes it stands above Governments and can determine what constitutes acceptable or unacceptable behaviour does not endear them to either the Russian Government or Russian Courts.

  1. They have tried bluster and moral indignation.
  2. They have tried arguing that the ends justify the means.
  3. They have managed expressions of support for their cause by rock stars
  4. The Head Pirate has written an idiot  “letter to Putin” in the form of a Press Release
  5. They have persuaded the Dutch Government to institute legal proceedings against Russia
  6. They persuaded the Dutch Government to get their police to apprehend and beat-up a Russian diplomat
  7. They have persuaded some Nobel prize winners to plead for the dropping of piracy charges.
  8. They have tried to complain that the conditions of detention are “inhumane”
  9. They have orchestrated emotional appeals by the families of the pirates.
  10. They have made press releases out of emotional letters from the pirates in captivity.

But humility and any hint that they might be wrong is not within Greenpeace’s genes. My expectation is that Greenpeace will continue to follow arrogant, ineffective and incompetent – but all high profile – strategies. They will only irritate and harden the Russian position even further against the criminals. (See what all the high profile, but equally incompetent, international publicity achieved for Pussy Riot).

What Greenpeace has not done but which they could do and which would probably get their pirates released in about a day is

  1. Get off their moral high horse,
  2. Acknowledge that they broke the law
  3. Get Kumi Naidoo to swallow his pride and grovel
  4. Apologise
  5. Arrange for each one of the detained to apologise to the court, and
  6. offer to give up their passports and accept some form of “house arrest” in exchange for bail, and
  7. provide individual and unconditional assurances that they will not flee.
  8. Assure the Russian courts – individually and collectively – that they will refrain from illegal actions and will abide by the decision(s) of the courts
  9. Assure their own Governments – individually and collectively – that they will refrain from illegal actions and will abide by the decision(s) of the courts
  10. Get their Government Heads to pass on such assurances to Putin (and effectively stand guarantor for the assurances given)

But I do not expect that Greenpeace and its pirates will ever acknowledge their arrogance or moral turpitude.

I expect the Russians will keep them locked up for some time longer. They may well add charges of terrorism – especially if any foreign Government tries to pressure Russian diplomats. If Greenpeace only sits on its high horse and continues to bluster, the 30 may well be there till just before Christmas.

And winter has come early to Murmansk.

Related: The Pirates of Greenpeace

400m asteroid (2013 TV135) could collide with Earth on 26th August 2032

October 18, 2013

Not quite another doomsday prediction but the Russian Vice Premier Dmitry Rogozin was moved to tweet about the threat to blow up the Earth.

Ria Novosti: 

Ukrainian astronomers have discovered a large asteroid that could hit Earth in 2032, though the impact risk is minimal, according to current estimates.

The 410-meter-wide (1,350-foot) minor planet, which has been named 2013 TV135, was first discovered last weekend by the Crimean Astrophysical Observatory in southern Ukraine, according to the International Astronomer Union’s Minor Planet Center.

As of Thursday, the discovery had been confirmed by five more astronomy groups, including in Italy, Spain, the UK and Russia’s Siberian republic of Buryatia, the center said on its website.

The asteroid has been classified as potentially hazardous, a formal tag given to celestial bodies whose orbits bring them closer than 7.5 million km from Earth’s orbit. The minimal distance between the orbits of 2013 TV135 and Earth is currently put at 1.7 million km.

However, it also has a 1 in 63,000 chance of colliding with Earth on August 26, 2032, according to available estimates.

“Here’s a super-task for our space industry,” Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who has lobbied for Russia to develop asteroid defense systems, said of the asteroid on Twitter on Thursday.

The 2013 TV135 has been given a 1 out of 10 rating on the Torino Scale, which estimates asteroid impact hazards. Only one other asteroid currently has the same rating, with collision risks for all others being “effectively zero,” according to NASA’s Near Earth Object Program.

The 2013 TV135 colliding with Earth would create an explosion estimated to be equivalent to 2,500 megatons of TNT – 50 times greater than the biggest nuclear bomb ever detonated.

Asteroids due to pass close to Earth in the next 200 years are shown in this graphic:

Asteroids That Buzz Planet Earth

Asteroids which will come closest to the Earth in the next 200 years

 

Colour photographs from the Russia of 1909

October 16, 2013

This is from Kuriositas. A magnificent collection of colour photographs from a Russia of a century ago.

The Century Old Color Photographs of Prokudin-Gorsky

In 1909 a remarkable project was initiated by Russian photographer Sergey Mikhaylovich Prokudin-Gorsky. His mission was to record – in full and vibrant color – the vast and diverse Russian Empire. Here, with his story, is a selection of his amazing century old full color pictures. …

The colors are quite remarkable – a technique which Prokudin-Gorsky developed himself. However, his travels through the Russian Empire were never a fait accompli. They were the culmination of a long and arduous struggle. Thanks to the tenacity of the photographer we now have a record of times a century ago, so clear and vivid that one feels it is almost possible to jump in to the picture …….. Prokudin-Gorsky came from a long line of Russian nobles who mostly enjoyed careers in the Russian army. Prokudin-Gorsky had a more cerebral bent and he studied chemistry in Saint Petersburg at the Institute of Technology in the city. He also studied painting and music at the Imperial Academy of Arts. Chemistry and the Arts may not immediately spring to mind as a happy marriage of subjects to many, but Prokudin-Gorsky’s interest in both would come together eventually. In 1889, at the age of twenty six he travelled to Berlin to study Photochemistry at the Technical University of the German capitol. There he met and studied under Adolf Miethe who was experimenting with three color photography. ……. 

The process used involved a camera that would take a set of three photographs. These pictures would be monochrome but each picture would be taken using a filter of a different color. When all three monochrome pictures were projected (using light which had to be specifically colored) then the original color scene could be reconstructed. However, this took some time to take ….. 

Here are just a couple of a quite remarkable collection which spans the mighty and the miserable:

Prokudin-Gorsky 40 Emir of Bukhara

Prokudin-Gorsky 40 Emir of Bukhara

Prokudin-Gorsky 25 Hard labour at the Bakalskiy Mine

Prokudin-Gorsky 25 Hard labour at the Bakalskiy Mine

Prokudin-Gorsky is credited with the first ever colour photograph in Russia – a portrait of Leo Tolstoy – in 1908.

Prokudin-Gorsky L.N.Tolstoy 1908 Wikimedia

Prokudin-Gorsky L.N.Tolstoy 1908 Wikimedia

The Pirates of Greenpeace are also accused of drug running

October 10, 2013

Pirates of Greenpeace

Greenpeace – They are the very model of modern Environ-Mentalists.

Not just pirates but drug runners too! The Greenpeace protestations of innocence are a little overdone since poppy straw is the raw opium used for the illegal extraction of heroin (and the production of morphine). It would seem that our pirates were also engaged in the production of drugs – presumably for their “recreation” on slow nights when they weren’t pirating.

Ria Novosti: 

Russian investigators said Wednesday that drugs have been found on board a Greenpeace ship seized last month, raising the threat of new charges against a group of activists and journalists awaiting trial on suspicion of piracy.

Investigative Committee chief Vladimir Markin said in a statement that the substances found on the Arctic Sunrise icebreaker were presumed to be poppy straw and morphine.

He said “the charge already pressed against all [the detainees] will presumably be modified.”

Russian authorities detained the group of 30 environmentalists and journalists last month after activists from the Greenpeace ship staged a protest against oil drilling in the Arctic, with some of them attempting to scale a Russian oil platform.

Greenpeace issued a statement later in the day, saying that the drugs were likely “medical supplies that our ships are obliged to carry under maritime law” and that some medical supplies are kept in a safe accessible only to the ship’s captain and doctor.

The group said it has a strict policy against recreational drugs on board its ships and that the Arctic Sunrise had been searched by a sniffer dog before leaving Norway for the Russian Arctic.

All the detainees from the ship, comprising nationals of 18 countries, have been charged with piracy.

The Investigative Committee spokesman also said that a number of defendants in the case will be charged with “committing other grave crimes.”

Are Obama / Kerry preparing a face-saving exit?

September 9, 2013

UPDATE!

Looks like my speculations  this morning may not be so far off the mark:

Washington Post: 

Syria ‘welcomes’ Russia proposal on chemical arms

========================================================================

It might just be wishful thinking on my part or it could be that Obama and Kerry are preparing a face-saving path to abandoning their strike on Syria rather than suffer a humiliating rejection in the the US House of Representatives.

For the first time that I have noticed, Kerry is now “offering” Assad a way to avoid a strike – by giving up all his chemical weapons. I could be mistaken but I perceive the beginnings of a change in Kerry’s strident tone. The rhetoric for a strike from Kerry and Obama is not letting up – but it’s the first time that a possibility of a strike not happening has been mentioned. Of course if Congress and the Senate back Obama then there will be no need to back down and the exit path will become unnecessary. I also noted some US voices suggesting that Obama could postpone any vote in Congress until after some – so far – undefined moves in the UN as being advocated by the EU and other countries (including Russia). Putin for his part has also indicated that if the UN were shown the evidence and concurred then he would also support some – as yet unspecified – UN action against Syria.

Of course Assad would not/could not just give up his chemical weapons and certainly not to the US. But it is not unthinkable that he may be willing to put them under the control of his Russian allies. So if a suitable “formula” is evolved where the Russians perhaps “take charge” of Assad’s chemical weapons or in some other way secure their “safe-keeping” then Kerry and Obama could claim that their objective of preventing any further such attacks has been achieved. And if in addition the Russians are acting – or seen to be acting – on behalf of the UN in arranging such a scenario it would not only give Assad a way of saving face but also give the US the possibility to claim that Assad has conceded the supremacy of the UN. More importantly if such a scenario were being arranged it would give Obama and Kerry a “reason” for waiting with the vote in the House and for waiting with the strike.

If , in spite of the “red line having been crossed”, a US strike can be avoided by Assad ceding control of his chemical weapons then it seems to me to be something within the realm of negotiation. Especially when the benefits to the US of a very limited strike are not very evident. The benefits of such a strike  may mainly accrue to Al Qaida.

The key remains the US Congress. All “face saving” only becomes necessary and only comes into play if Obama expects to lose a vote in the House even after (and if) he has won a vote in the Senate. The next few days will tell if Obama’s rhetoric is holding sway in the House or whether he will need to use his exit strategy.

US and Russia engage in the “disappointment” wars

August 8, 2013

“Disappointed” is the new in-word in diplomatic relations particularly between the US and Russia.

Everybody seems to be disappointed with everybody else.

With this amount of “disappointment” clearly going around there is a real risk of a “depression” setting in.

But at least its better than a “cold” war and a long, long way from a fire-fight”

” Very disappointed”. “Seriously disappointed”. “Deeply disappointed”

The diplomatic winner is the one who can express greater disappointment than the other.

  1. It’s Time to Admit Obama is a Disappointment 
  2. Despite ‘disappointment,’ Obama will travel to Russia
  3. Barack Obama ‘disappointed’ with Russia over Edward Snowden and ‘Cold War mentality’ 
  4.  Russia “disappointed” bilateral talks with US cancelled 
  5.  U.S. ‘deeply disappointed’ at Russian opposition leader conviction 
  6.  US disappointed by Russian court verdict in Magnitsky case 
  7. U.S. Government ‘Disappointed’ Hong Kong Let Snowden Leave 
  8. U.S. ‘very disappointed’ by Russian ban on U.S. meat
  9. Putin ‘Disappointed’ by Crushing Hockey Defeat to U.S. 
  10. Moscow Disappointed by EU Ending Syria Arms Embargo – Putin 
  11. U.N. chief “disappointed” by Assad’s speech on Syria crisis
  12. Parents disappointed in Russian adoption ban 
  13. Russia disappointed with US refusal to extradite Viktor Bout 
  14. Russia “disappointed” with UN Syria draft  
  15. US ‘disappointed’ that Britain not to extradite hacker
  16. EU, U.S. Disappointed by Ukrainian Ex-Minister’s Trial 
  17. Pussy Riot members jailed; Obama disappointed 
  18. US expresses “deep disappointment” over Hungary’s transfer of Azeri murderer
  19. Palestinians disappointed with Obama
  20. Netanyahu expresses ‘disappointment’ with Abbas’ UN speech

Herrings galore in l’affaire Snowden

June 27, 2013

Some level of state surveillance is no doubt necessary though it has probably gone too far in the US. To have blanket eavesdropping and entrapment and agents provocateur is not so unlike the Stasi or the KGB. I am not too concerned if the NSA has been reading my emails – much good it may do them! I have no strong opinions as to whether Snowden is a hero or a villain but I would be more than a little surprised if he has been sitting quietly in the transit lounge of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport for the last 3 days.

I am pretty sure that all the reports coming out about his possible movements or non-movements are largely disinformation. I am very suspicious when Foreign Ministers and Heads of State make statements about his whereabouts or where he is not. I suspect that technically none of them have lied outright – but I am fairly certain that  they know much more than they are letting on. The lone individual bravely evading the far-flung resources of the most powerful nation in the world is the stuff of Baroness Orczy and of urban legends to come.

So my guesses as to where he might be are:

  1. He is being debriefed by Russia. It would be child’s play for the Russians to have whisked him into a private and  “safe part” of the transit area and to return him to the public area after a suitable period. I see no reason for the official Russian line to have been jeopardised since he would not technically have gone through immigration control. When Ecuador says they need time to consider his asylum request, I wonder if it is the Russians who need time to debrief him – willingly or unwillingly.
  2. He is in the transit area of another Russian airport and to get to St. Petersburg’s Pulkovo airport – for example – would have been easy for the Russians to arrange.
  3. The trip to Havana was just for disinformation and he actually flew to Hanoi and is now hidden within the entourage surrounding Ecuador’s Foreign Minister, Ricardo Patino.
  4. He has already reached and is holed up in Havana (and the Cubans therefore are not saying anything), or
  5. He is in the transit area of a country friendly to Russia (Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan….)

With the heavy US presence in Reykjavik, it is unlikely that Iceland was ever a serious destination.

Given the resources that the US and the world’s media must be bringing to bear to find him, it can only be a matter of time …

We seek him here, we seek him there,
Those Yankies seek him everywhere.

But the US establishment has some egg on its face. John Kerry’s blustering against China and Russia and now threats of a trade war against Ecuador come across as heavy-handed and hypocritical. It is only Snowden who gains and Obama and Kerry who lose in the PR stakes for every day that he continues to remain undiscovered.

Carbon dioxide warming effect is just a “marketing trick”

April 11, 2013

P Gosselin of NoTricksZone reports on this Article in the Voice of Russia a month ago – but which got little attention from the global warming orthodoxy and the politically correct media. Not that everything from Russia makes sense but in this case I think they are far closer to reality than most others. I think they pay sufficient attention to solar effects and the oceans and are not easily diverted by the fanciful demonisation of carbon dioxide:

The world facing an ice age (in German)

Gosselin writes: The article writes that Russian scientists are predicting that “a little ice age will begin in 2014“. The article adds:

“They reject the claim of global warming and call it a marketing trick.”

When it comes to warming and the man-made CO2 greenhouse gas effect, the Voice of Russia writes that “Russian scientist Vladimir Bashkin is categorically in disagreement. He claims that the climatic changes are characterized by cycles and have nothing to do in any way with the activities of man.”

Together with his colleague Rauf Galiullin from the Institute for Fundamental Problems of Biology of the Russian Academy Of Science, he demonstrates that the current warming is a reverberation of the planet coming out of the ‘Little Ice Age’ and that in the near future, of course measured on geological timescales, we are at the threshold of an ice age.”

The Voice of Russia quotes Bashkin:

“The periods of a cooling and a warming follow each other at 30-40 year intervals. In Russia for example there was a warming in the 1930s, a time when seafaring at the Northern Sea Route was possible, then a cooling followed during the wartime years, and then warming followed in the 1970s, etc.. The current warming period ended at the end of the millennium.“

Note here that the Russian scientists confirm that the Arctic sea ice extent was also low in the 1930s. This tells us that nothing is really so unusual in the Arctic today.

The Voice of Russia then explains that the cooling is related to ”a change in solar activity” and that this “also has an impact on our climate“. Bashkin adds:

“The scientific research of the climate of the past geological epoch causes us to doubt the motives behind the demands of the IPCC. [...] The greenhouse effect that is connected with the anthropogenic factor is about 4 or 5 percent of that from natural emissions. The eruption of a volcano produces more. A real contribution to the greenhouse effect is made by normal water vapor. Thank God nobody has gotten the idea that this too needs to be regulated.“

The Voice of Russia continues: “The world’s oceans contain 60 times more carbon dioxide than the atmosphere. When the temperature of the planet rises, it begins to be quickly released. This leads to an increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration, and not vice versa. A global warming that so many are talking about is not so much a scientific problem, rather it is much more a marketing trick. [...] We do not have global warming ahead of us, rather we have global cooling, the Russian scientist claims. However, we do not need to fear the cooling because it will take place gradually and won’t be noticeable until the middle of the 21st century.”

The scientists add that part of the motive behind the “marketing trick” is to manipulate the market for fossil fuels.


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