Posts Tagged Vladimir Putin

Putin Vows To Continue Cooperating Western Allies in ISIS Fight

PutinRussia will keep cooperating with the United States and its partners to fight Islamic State in Syria, but that cooperation will be in jeopardy if there are any repeats of Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian jet, Russia’s Vladimir Putin said.

Speaking after talks in the Kremlin with French President Francois Hollande, Putin voiced lingering anger at Turkey’s actions, saying he viewed the downing of the jet as an act of betrayal by a country Moscow had thought was its friend.

But he said he would order Russia’s military to intensify cooperation with the French armed forces, including exchanges of information about targets and viewed that as part of creating a broader international coalition bringing together Russia and Western states.

“We are ready to cooperate with the coalition which is led by the United States. But of course incidents like the destruction of our aircraft and the deaths of our servicemen… are absolutely unacceptable,” Putin said at a news conference, standing alongside Hollande.

“And we proceed from the position that there will be no repeat of this, otherwise we’ll have no need of cooperation with anybody, any coalition, any country.”

He said he and the French leader had “agreed how we will cooperate in the near future, on a bilateral basis and with, as a whole, the coalition led by the United States.

“We are talking about a designation of the territories against which we can conduct strikes, and where it is better to refrain from strikes, about the exchange of information on various issues, and the coordination of our actions on, so to speak, the battlefield,” Putin said.

On bilateral cooperation with France, he said the aim was to “establish constructive work by our military specialists to avoid duplication and avoid strikes on those territories and groups which are themselves ready to fight terrorism.”

“We view this as the formation of a wide anti-terrorist coalition under the aegis of the United Nations,” Putin said.

The Russian leader said, under the cooperation already established with the U.S.-led coalition, Russia’s military had passed on details of the flight plan of the jet that was shot down this week.

“Why did we pass this information to the Americans? Either they were not controlling what their allies were doing, or they are leaking this information all over the place,” Putin said.



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Republicans Spar in Fox Business News/WSJ Debate

Fox Business News and The Wall Street Journal.The stage was smaller. The rhetoric was milder. But the broad contours of the presidential race were somehow brought into sharper relief by an evening that avoided the controversies of previous debates.

Talk of immigration, foreign policy and bank bailouts was a throwback for a Republican Party that’s been rocked by sideshows, surprises, and campaign drama. As comfort zones go, though, this was more familiar territory for a GOP that’s seeking its own identity while reaching out to a changing electorate.

Donald Trump was the center of some of the most important action of the night, his argument for building a border wall and forcing undocumented immigrants out of the country sparked a debate where the moderators weren’t even looking for one.

“We either have a country or we don’t have a country,” Trump said of the need to “send people out” who came to the US illegally.

His vision for the country, of course, is not unanimous inside his party. It earned Trump a Jeb Bush-John Kasich tag team in a series of exchanges that will resonate throughout the primary season.

“Think about the families. Think about the children,” Kasich said. “For the 11 million people, come on folks, we all know you can’t pick them up and ship them back across the border.” Trump asked that Bush be allowed to answer.

Bush had perhaps the most on the line. The brother and son of presidents, he was widely viewed as the early front-runner in the race and has raised enormous sums of money for his super PAC. But he’s proved to be an awkward campaigner and has sometimes appeared out of step with a Republican electorate eager to voice its frustration with the political class.  While Bush still showed signs of nerves, he was more confident and at ease than in previous debates.

Bush tried to use the Trump exchange to get some of his campaign groove back, delivering a reminder of why he’s often said he’s running. “It’s just not possible. And it’s just not embracing American values,” Bush said of Trump’s plans. “We have to win the presidency, and the way you win the presidency is to have practical plans.”

Marco Rubio, playing a different game that doesn’t involve talking much about immigration where he can, chose not to engage.

But Ted Cruz who, like Rubio, wasn’t even asked about immigration jumped in.

“If Republicans join Democrats as the party of amnesty, we will lose,” Cruz said.

Rubio reserved his fire for Rand Paul, whose questioning of GOP foreign policy dogma of the last generation left him lonely, yet speaking to a not insignificant portion of voters.

“I know that Rand is a committed isolationist. I’m not,” Rubio said.

“How is it conservative to add a trillion dollars in military expenditures?” Paul shot back.

Added Cruz: “You think defending this nation is expensive, try not defending it.”

And Bush took on Trump after he said he was glad the Russians were taking a leading role in fighting ISIS in Syria.

“We’re not going to be the world’s policeman. But we sure as heck better be the world’s leader,” Bush said.

Kasich and businesswoman Carly Fiorina, two lower polling candidates in search of a breakout moment, repeatedly sought to interject themselves into the discussion. Trump sought to shut Fiorina down at one point, drawing jeers from the crowd when he said, “Why does she keep interrupting everybody?”

Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon who is now in a virtual tie for the lead with businessman Donald Trump, was expected to face his toughest nationally-televised moment on Tuesday night on the Fox Business channel. Instead, he skated.

The lone moderator question on Carson’s penchant for inaccurate personal tales was the softest of softballs: Are you worried all this has hurt your campaign? Carson answered with aplomb.

“Well, first of all, thank you not asking me what I said in the 10th grade. I appreciate that,” he said to laughter from the Milwaukee crowd. He added: “I have no problem with being vetted. What I do have a problem with is being lied about and then putting that out there as truth.”

He then pivoted to Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, calling her a liar, and that was that. The seven others on stage, wary of alienating Republican voters with a soft spot for the soft-spoken man with the inspirational up-by-the-bootstraps story, barely challenged him at all

Cruz and Rubio did find moments to break through, in a debate that didn’t shake things up so much as it seemed to confirm the status quo of a volatile race. Republicans found agreement, of course, in saying Hillary Clinton represents the past.

“The Democratic Party and the political left have no ideas about the future,” Rubio said. “This nation is going to turn the page.”

Rubio and his rivals, though, made clear that the next chapter is still being written and is likely to be a messy one.



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Greece’s Tsipras Resorts To Russian Roulette On His Nation’s Economic Future

Alexis TsiprasGreece’s Prime Minister has attacked the “delusions” of Europe and hinted his country could find a “safe port” in Russia if it crashes out of the eurozone at the end of the month.

Alexis Tsipras was sharing a platform with Vladimir Putin at the St Petersburg Economic Forum the day after “cash for reforms” negotiations between Greece and its eurozone creditors collapsed, bringing ever closer a catastrophic default on 30 June.

There were reports of a further step-up in the pace of savings withdrawals from Greek banks, and the European Central Bank (ECB)  was forced to increase its emergency lending to the country’s tottering financial sector.

Mr Tsipras described Russia as one of “Greece’s most important partners” while lamenting the EU sanctions imposed on his host last year. And in words likely to be interpreted as a stark warning to the country’s creditors that Greece may make an alliance with Russia if the country exits the eurozone, Mr Tsipras suggested his country had other financial options outside Europe.

“We are at the centre of a storm, of a whirlpool. But you know we live near the sea – we are not afraid of storms, we are not scared of open seas, of going into new seas. We are ready to go into new seas to reach new safe ports,” he said. Russia has been seeking to cultivate Greece and other smaller European states in order to divide the EU, which has so far shown a united response to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. There have been fears in some European capitals that Greece could veto future rounds of sanctions on Moscow if it falls out of the single currency yet remains in the EU.

In a response to Mr Tsipras’ coded overtures Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Arkady Dvorkovich, said his country would “consider” financial support for Greece. “The most important things for us are investment projects and trade with Greece. If financial support is needed, we will consider this question,” he said.

However, some analysts have cast doubt on the idea that Russia has the financial resources to help Greece. As expected, the two countries signed an agreement to construct a new pipeline that will bring Russian gas to Europe across Greek territory, bypassing the Ukraine.

Mr Tsipras made no apology for accepting the invitation to speak in St Petersburg. “I know many are asking themselves why am I here and not in Brussels? Why am I not participating in negotiations there?” he told the audience. “I am here because I believe it is the role of country that is seeking to explore all its potential to reach success in every area.”

Greece is due to pay back €1.6bn to the International Monetary Fund on 30 June, and Athens officials have admitted they will not be able to make it unless the eurozone releases a €7.2bn bailout payment in the coming days. A default would see Greek banks cut off from emergency support from the ECB, which would plunge the country into a financial crisis.

The ECB has approved a €2bn increase in emergency loans to the country’s banks amid reports of yet more savings withdrawals by Greek households. The Bank of Greece was forced to deny rumours that its banks will be unable to open next week.

An emergency summit of eurozone leaders will convene in Brussels on 22 June. European Council President Donald Tusk said that the summit would not provide a “magic solution” for Greece. “The game of chicken needs to end, and so does the blame game. Because this is not a game and there is no time for any games,” he said.

Mr Tsipras criticised Europe’s “delusions” about its place in the world. “We in Europe were delusional for some time. We believed we were the centre of the world,” he said. “However, the economic centre of the planet has shifted. There are new emerging forces that are playing a more important role geopolitically and economically.”




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Pentagon considers moving weapons to Eastern Europe

US WeaponsThe United States plans to store heavy military equipment in the Baltics and Eastern European nations to reassure allies made uneasy by Russian intervention in Ukraine, and to deter further aggression, a senior U.S. official said on Saturday.

Capt. Greg Hicks, a military spokesman, said that Gen. Philip Breedlove, the commander of U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander of NATO Europe, had made a recommendation related to prepositioning of equipment to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter. “The decision rests with [Carter],” Hicks said.

Hicks declined to characterize Breedlove’s recommendation. But officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said that the proposal, if approved, would put equipment such as Humvees or Bradley fighting vehicles at sites in countries that might include Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria or Hungary.

Officials said no decision has been made, but suggested that Carter could approve the proposal ahead of a NATO ministerial meeting later this month.

The conflict in Ukraine will be an important subject at that NATO meeting, as European nations warn of the dangerous transformation that the West’s standoff with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, which began with Russia’s annexation of Crimea last year, has had on regional security.

Provocative military manoeuvres by Russian aircraft and ships have created alarm in European capitals. In response, NATO nations have launched exercises and other activities near Russia’s borders.

While President Barack Obama has issued stark warnings about the dangers of Russian aggression in Ukraine,  he has so far not chosen to provide lethal weapons to Ukrainian forces facing off against Russian-backed separatists. At the same time, as it warns of further retaliation over Ukraine, the Obama administration must also engage with Moscow over Iranian nuclear talks and other issues.

Consideration of the new weaponry was first reported by The New York Times.

Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said the United States had increased the “prepositioning” of equipment for training and exercises with various partner countries.

“The U.S. military continues to review the best location to store these materials in consultation with our allies,” Warren said in a statement. “At this time, we have made no decision about if or when to move this equipment.”

Officials disputed reports the equipment was intended as a show of force toward Russia. One official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said the equipment would comprise “strictly training materials.”

Even so, the decision could have the effect of raising the ante in the West’s increasing hostile engagement with Putin.

Andrejs Pildegovics, Latvia’s state secretary for foreign affairs, stopped short of confirming concrete U.S. plans for a deployment but said, “We are not talking about anything which will match the capabilities of what the other side has.”

“There is discussion about the need for additional assets. To save money, to save time, and to use for military drills,” he said.

“We are not talking about brigades, we are not talking about ballistic missiles, we are talking about credible defence, credible deterrence,” he said.

As it now stood, the Times said, the proposal envisaged that “a company’s worth of equipment, enough for about 150 soldiers, would be stored in each of the three Baltic nations: Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Enough for a company or possibly a battalion, or about 750 soldiers, would be located in Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and possibly Hungary.”


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Jeb Bush Promises to Reassert American Leadership to Deter Aggressors

Jeb Bush Speaks At CDU Economics ConferenceJeb Bush told a group of German politicians and businessmen Tuesday that he had the formula to deter a “ruthless” Russian President Vladimir Putin from moving further into Ukraine: A clearer articulation of the consequences for doing so.

“I don’t think we should be reacting to bad behavior,” Bush said. “By being clear what the consequences of bad behavior is in advance, I think we will deter the kind of aggression that we fear from Russia. But always reacting and giving the sense that we’re reacting in a tepid fashion only enables the bad behavior of Putin. I think there’s a lot to do and we’re beginning to realize that the reset button didn’t turn out so hot.”

In his speech, to the Economic Council of the Christian Democratic Party’s Annual Conference, called the Wirtschaftsrat, Bush called Putin a “ruthless pragmatist” who will “push until someone pushes back.” The former Florida governor said it was the responsibility of NATO to take the lead on protecting its countries from leaders like Putin. But he also warned that it should not be done at the expense of isolating the entire nation.

“We should never do it in a way that pushes Russia away for a generation of time,” he said. “Ultimately, Russia needs to be a European nation and everything that we do should be to isolate its corrupt leadership from its people.”

The visit will also take Bush to Poland and Estonia, where he’ll continue meeting with business and governmental leaders. He’ll also extend his focus on NATO, participating in a discussion on trans-Atlantic security with representatives from other Baltic states and touring the alliance’s Cyber Defence Center of Excellence.

When he returns to the U.S. next week, Bush will make his presidential candidacy official.

The speech in Germany, the first of the foreign trip, was a broad statement about the importance of the relationship between the U.S. and Western Europe and how those ties are underpinned by economic security.

“Seventy years after America and Western Europe began to build the post-war architecture of security, that alliance is as relevant as today as the day it was founded,” he said. “Our alliance, our solidarity and our actions are essential if we want to preserve our fundamental principles of our international order. An order that free nations have sacrificed so much to build.”

The U.S.-Western Europe alliance, he said, would have to resolve security challenges like Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the growing foothold for terrorists in the Middle East.

He warned about the “temptation…to increase public spending beyond our ability to pay for it while constantly putting off structural reforms,” and praised Germany for having the “wisdom and political courage” to apply fiscal discipline.

“I can think of a few governments, my own comes to mind, that can learn from the German example of fiscal responsibility,” Bush said.

In a nod to some of his domestic priorities, Bush also called for big reforms to the U.S. tax and regulatory systems, workforce training and immigration laws.

“We should never be afraid reexamine subtle comfortable assumptions, even if they’re considered progressive. In every Western country, for example, you will always find advocates of ever higher taxes. It becomes ideology. Blind to consequences. My answer is they can call punitive taxes progressive all they want but if those policies are hurting free enterprise and costing people their jobs that’s not progress,” he said.

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U.S. Imposes More Sanctions on Russia Controlled Crimea

CrimeaThe United States imposed sanctions Friday on Russian-controlled Crimea as Ukraine announced the loss of five soldiers ahead of peace talks meant to end a war against Russian-backed insurgents.

President Barack Obama prohibited American exports of goods or services to Crimea, a strategic peninsula and vacation destination that Russian seized from Ukraine last March.

“The United States will not accept Russia’s occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea,” Obama said in a statement.

Similar measures were imposed Thursday by the European Union as the West attempted to ratchet up pressure on Moscow over its seizure of Crimea and support for a rebellion by pro-Russian militants in eastern Ukraine.

Canada also added new sanctions Friday, targeting separatist leaders and the oil and gas sector in Russia, where the government is battling a currency crash and economic crisis.

Earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that threatened US sanctions “could undermine the possibility of normal cooperation between our countries for a long time.”

The united Western pressure came as Ukraine and the rebels prepared for talks meant to put a stalled peace process back in motion.

However, Ukraine’s military reported losing five soldiers on Friday, the highest toll since Kiev and the Russian-backed militias struck a December 9 truce designed to reinforce a tenuous September agreement.

The next stage is meant to be comprehensive negotiations.

Ukranian President Petro Poroshenko hoped to start these on Sunday, with the help of European and Russian envoys in the Belarussian capital Minsk. But a top rebel said the insurgents would only be ready by Monday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande were due this weekend to impress the importance of an immediate meeting during their third joint call to Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Poroshenko in the past few days.

The scale of the fighting has subsided with the onset of winter and heavy snows that make progress across the war-scarred fields and muddied roads all but impossible.

All sides are now busy looking for ways to ensure that millions of civilians who have been unable to flee the artillery shelling and rocket fire make it safely through the winter in apartments with little to no water or heat.

The United Nations believes the daily battles have killed more than 4,700 people and driven nearly a million from their homes.

Its children’s fund UNICEF said on Friday that “tens of thousands” of youth still lived in areas engulfed by violence.

“The situation for more than 1.7 million children affected by the conflict remains extremely serious,” the UN Children’s Rights and Emergency Relief Organisation said.

Any peace agreement is likely to include a requirement for fighters on both sides to let through humanitarian convoys they fear may be used to smuggle in weapons to their adversaries.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said it was essential for the Minsk negotiators to establish a buffer zone that sets the initial boundaries of areas overseen by the rebels within a unified Ukraine.

Steinmeier added after talks in Kiev with Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk that the sides must also agree to swap their remaining prisoners and “resolve humanitarian relief issues”.

Although Russia is under growing financial pressure because of the sanctions and low oil prices, Ukraine’s situation is even more dire.

Standard & Poors lowered its credit rating for Ukraine on Friday to CCC- with a negative outlook, warning that dangerously low foreign currency reserves could prompt a default within months.

“The negative outlook reflects our view of the increasing risk that, without additional financial support, Ukraine may default on its obligations,” the credit rating agency said.


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E.U. Slap Russia With New Sanctions But Wait to Monitor Success of Agreed Ceasefire First

EUThe European Union on Monday shied away from slapping new economic sanctions on Russia right away over its actions in eastern Ukraine. Instead, the 28-nation bloc said the punitive measures will come into force “in the next few days” depending on how well the cease-fire agreement in eastern Ukraine will be upheld.

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said in a statement delaying the sanctions would leave time for “an assessment of the implementation of the cease-fire agreement and the peace plan.”

“Depending on the situation on the ground, the EU stands ready to review the agreed sanctions in whole or in part,” Van Rompuy said.

Ukraine, Russia and the Kremlin-backed separatists agreed Friday to an immediate cease-fire and an exchange of prisoners. While the truce appeared to hold on Monday, the agreement seemed fragile over the weekend when occasional fighting occurred.

The EU sanctions are expected to be coordinated with a new round of U.S. sanctions, a Western diplomat said. The U.S. sanctions are ready for release, the diplomat said, but the Obama administration wants to wait to act in concert with Europe in order to maximize the impact of the sanctions and present a united front against Russia.

President Barack Obama and some European leaders have said that given their skepticism about the cease-fire, it was imperative to press forward with sanctions now. But they have said the penalties could be lifted if tensions between Ukraine and Russia ease.

The new round of Western sanctions are expected to deepen earlier penalties targeting Russia’s energy and arms sectors. The penalties are also expected to tighten access to international loans, with the current ban on credits and loans of more than 90 days reduced to 30 days.

More individuals, including Russian government officials and people close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, are also expected to be sanctioned, according to the diplomat, who insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the details of the sanctions before they were formally announced.

A summit of EU leaders about 10 days ago called for the new sanctions to be finalized, but action was first delayed late last week as the cease-fire took shape. Earlier Monday, EU officials still insisted the sanctions would be decided by day’s end and take effect Tuesday. But another emergency meeting of the 28 nation’s ambassadors in Brussels then opted for another delay. Decisions on sanctions in the EU require unanimity.

Brussels has been more reluctant than Washington to sanction Russia because of its broad economic ties. Moscow is an important gas supplier for many EU nations and it is the bloc’s third-largest trading partner overall. The EU’s sanctions, however, have more impact than those imposed by the U.S. since the EU is Russia’s largest trading partner by far.

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