Russian President Vladimir Putin has invited North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to Moscow next year to mark the 70th anniversary of the Soviet defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, the Kremlin’s spokesman said Friday.
It would be Kim’s first foreign visit since taking the helm of the reclusive east Asian state in 2011. His personal envoy came to Moscow last month in the framework of efforts by the two Cold War-era allies to improve relations.
“Yes, such an invitation was sent,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the state news agency TASS. Russia marks the former Soviet Union’s World War II victory every year on May 9.
Moscow needs North Korean cooperation in boosting natural gas exports to South Korea as Gazprom wants to build a gas pipeline through North Korea to reach its southern neighbor.
Pyongyang is also seeking support from Russia, a permanent veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council, against international criticism over accusations of human rights abuses and its nuclear program.>> Read More
While the market, and America’s media, was focusing over the passage of the Cromnibus, and whether Wall Street would dump a few hundred trillion in derivatives on the laps of US taxpayers once again (it did), quietly and unanimously both houses passed The Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014, which authorizes “providing lethal assistance to Ukraine’s military” as well as sweeping sanctions on Russia’s energy sector.
The measure mandates sanctions against Rosoboronexport, the state agency that promotes Russia’s defense exports and arms trade. It also would require sanctions on OAO Gazprom (GAZP), the world’s largest extractor of natural gas, if the state-controlled company withholds supplies to other European nations (yes, the US is now in the pre-emptive punishment business, and is enforcing sanctions on a “what if” basis).
But while one may debate if additional sanctions will do much to impact a Russian economy which is already impaired due to the plunging ruble, the clear escalation is that unlike previously, when the US limited itself – at least on paper – to non-lethal assistance to the Ukraine, now the US is finally preparing to send in weapons, and potentially “military advisors” as well. We say “on paper”, because in late November hacked US documents revealed the extent of secret US “Lethal Aid” for the Ukraine army. And since America’s under-the-table support for Ukraine’s insolvent armed forces has been revealed, there is little point in pretending to keep a moral upper hand (especially in light of recent “other” revelations involving the US, most notably its intelligence services).>> Read More
The US today reemphasised that it was not the right time for “business as usual” with Russia, a day after India and Russia signed 20 bilateral agreements in key areas like oil, gas and defence during President Vladimir Putin’s visit to New Delhi.
“We’ve seen press reporting on India concluding business, nuclear and defence deals with Russia, but not confirmation of those agreements or specifics of what those agreements would entail. Our view remains that it’s not time for business as usual with Russia,” US State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said.
She also said it is not the time for the US to do business with Russia given its action in Ukraine.
Russia has been heavily sanctioned by the US and EU for their support of pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine as well as for Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea earlier this year.>> Read More
The weekend meeting between the French and Russian presidents has given France a chance to become “the new Germany” for Russia, which lost its last Western ally after a falling-out with official Berlin, analysts say.
French mediation “is aimed at preventing Russia-EU relations from going to the dogs,” said Tatiana Kastueva-Jean of the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI) in Paris.
For France, reaching out to Russia has the benefit of boosting President Francois Hollande’s flagging rating and upholding Paris’ longtime strategy of relative independence in foreign affairs.
But the success of Hollande’s bid depends on both the Kremlin and the other Western powers, said Arnaud Dubien, head of the French-Russian think tank Observo.
“Everybody loses if no one acts now,” Dubien, whose think tank is affiliated with the French-Russian Chamber of Commerce, said Monday.
The U.S. will have the capability to unleash a barrage of up to 7,000 cruise missiles at nuclear defense objects in Russia by 2016, a Russian air defense constructor said Monday.
About 5,000 of those will be launched from submarines, Pavel Sozinov, chief designer at the Almaz-Antey arms maker, was cited by Interfax as saying.
“A mass cruise missile strike in the first phase [of a conflict] is the dominant threat in the modern world,” Sozinov said.
He cited recent conflicts in Libya and Iraq as examples of this approach.
Russia must take the U.S. strategy into account in planning its air defense agenda, said Sozinov, whose state-run holding is the country’s leading producer of air and missile defense systems.>> Read More
Japan’s ruling coalition may cement its dominance in the Dec. 14 lower house election, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party seen grabbing as many as 300 seats in the 475-member chamber, according to the latest Nikkei survey.
The LDP, which held 295 seats before Abe dissolved the lower house last month, appears headed for an easy victory amid a lack of formidable opponents. The party has a solid grip on at least 200 of the 295 single-seat constituencies and more than 70 of the 180 seats that will be chosen through proportional representation, the poll shows.
The LDP is still riding the momentum it gained when it returned to power in the 2012 lower house election. It is on track to sweep election districts in 14 prefectures, including those in the central north, west and south. And it is faring well in the greater Tokyo area.>> Read More
U.S. and EU leaders on Wednesday will pledge to work together on sanctions and on strengthening Europe and Ukraine’s energy security as they seek to present a united front to Russia, according to a draft document.
Throughout the year, the United States has led the push for tougher sanctions, while many governments in Europe, afraid economic measures on Russia will hurt them as much as they hurt Moscow, have been more cautious.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz are in Brussels for talks with EU leaders.
“The Council [EU-U.S. talks] concurred on the need to coordinate the application of our respective sanctions regimes, while reinforcing measures against separatists as well as in relation to the non-recognition policy related to the illegal annexation of Crimea,” a draft statement said.
The statement said the crisis between Russia and Ukraine that flared up with Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in March can be deescalated as was shown by a tentative October agreement brokered by the EU on gas pricing to try to prevent a supply crisis over the peak winter months.>> Read More
Russia has accused NATO of destabilizing northern Europe and the Baltics by carrying out drills there and announced new military exercises of its own, increasing tension over the Ukraine crisis.
NATO responded by blaming Moscow for instability in the region, while British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said he was concerned by “extremely aggressive” probing of Britain’s air space by Russian planes.
“It is entirely appropriate for NATO countries in particular to work together to respond to what is a change of Russia’s dealings with NATO and indeed the non-NATO European countries,” he told a parliamentary committee in London.
Russia announced Monday it would hold more military exercises in 2015 than this year — including one in the Central military district that includes Moscow, and another involving Belarus.>> Read More
A squadron of Russian warships entered the English Channel on Friday to hold exercises, RIA news agency reported, the latest apparent show of military might since ties with the West plunged to Cold War lows over Ukraine.
RIA quoted the Northern Fleet as saying its vessels, led by antisubmarine ship Severomorsk, had passed through the Strait of Dover and were now in international waters in the Seine Bay to wait for a storm to pass.
“While it is anchored the crew are undertaking a series of exercises on how to tackle … infiltrating submarine forces and are training on survival techniques in the case of flooding or fire,” RIA quoted the Northern Fleet as saying in a statement.
The Russian Navy could not reached for comment and the Defense Ministry declined to comment on the report.>> Read More