Posts Tagged ‘Russia’

BERMAN: Russia pivots toward Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua

| March 27th, 2014 | No Comments »
Article Appeared in The Washington Times


With all eyes on Ukraine, where Russia’s neo-imperial efforts have raised the specter of a new Cold War between Moscow and the West, another alarming facet of the Kremlin’s contemporary foreign policy has gone largely unnoticed; namely, its growing military presence in, and strategic designs on, the Western Hemisphere.

On Feb. 26, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu formally announced his government’s plan to expand its overseas military presence. Russia, Mr. Shoigu outlined, intends to establish new military bases in eight foreign countries. The candidates include five Asian nations and three Latin American ones: Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. Negotiations are underway to allow port visits to each, and to open refueling sites there for Russian long-range aircraft.

Just one day later, in a throwback to Cold War military cooperation between the Soviet Union and client state Cuba, a Russian warship docked in Havana. As of yet, neither Moscow nor Havana has issued a formal explanation as to why the Viktor Leonov, a Meridian-class intelligence vessel, ... Read More

Argentina Oil’s Bonanza Helping Too Few Led by Political Friends

| March 7th, 2014 | No Comments »


Explosions tear through the Vaca Muerta shale oil deposit, 3,100 meters beneath the desert in western Argentina, cracking open underground rock formations.

Oil workers, braving 40-degree-Celsius heat and vicious swarms of horseflies, operate a battery of massive pumps that roar into action. They force a gelatinous sluice of water, chemicals and sand into the openings created by the explosion, so they can tease out the oil.

“Success!” yells Osvaldo Alarcon, who’s supervising the hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — for the site’s owner, YPF SA, Argentina’s state oil producer. His workers cheer. “The center of the earth is ours,” he says, Bloomberg Markets magazine will report in its April issue.

The crew of Shale Oil 28, or SOIL 28, as this tract is known, is on the frontline of a push by some of the world’s largest energy companies to unearth Vaca Muerta’s hidden riches.

The Belgium-sized layer of ... Read More

Just how do Americans see Cuba?

| March 6th, 2014 | No Comments »
From the Los Angeles Times


The Washington-based think tank Atlantic Council released a poll last month that has been touted by many as marking an unprecedented shift in support for a change in U.S. policy toward Cuba. Media outlets, including the L.A. Times, jumped on the bandwagon, citing the poll as evidence that Americans are now eager for engagement. But a closer look shows that many of the most consequential results of the poll are based on push-polling tactics.

Push polling is the craft of designing survey questions to shape and influence the results. In this case, several questions in the Atlantic Council Cuba poll appear to “push” respondents toward assuming a position against current U.S. policy.

Nothing about U.S. relations with Cuba is simple. The many facets of our estrangement span such a spectrum of interests and time that few have a clear understanding of the intricate web of current policy.

For example, despite the ... Read More

The Roots of Venezuela’s Disorder

| March 3rd, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal


On Wednesday, as Venezuelan strongman Nicólas Maduro was promising more repression to crush relentless student protests, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told reporters that Moscow plans to put military bases in Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba. A few days later a Russian spy ship arrived in Havana harbor unannounced.

The usual Cold War suspects are back. More accurately, they never left. Former KGB officer Vladimir Putin is warning President Obama that Russia can make trouble in the Americas if the U.S. insists on solidarity with the Ukrainian people. Meanwhile, Latin America’s aging Marxists are lining up behind Mr. Maduro, successor to the late Hugo Chávez.

Russia and Cuba are finally reaping the benefits of the revolution they have long sown in Latin America. Any chance of defeating them requires setting the record straight about how Venezuela got so poor.

Venezuelan politicians sold left-wing populism like snake oil for decades before Chávez came to power in ... Read More

Lining a Dictator’s Pockets: No good would come of lifting the embargo on Cuba

| February 28th, 2014 | No Comments »
US News & World Report


Based on a new poll it commissioned on U.S. relations with Cuba, the Atlantic Council issued a report recently calling for a “policy shift” that would end the U.S. embargo on the Castro regime. But when asked to respond to the statement that “after more than 50 years of no U.S. relations with Cuba the Castro regime remains in power,” 51 percent of those polled want to keep the current policy in place.

Nevertheless, the key issue is not whether the embargo is popular. Rather, the main question is, would dropping the embargo better serve the interests of the United States? The answer to this question remains a strong “no,” because ending the embargo would be bad business, strengthen an oppressive government and abandon American values.

The U.S. should not normalize trade with the Castro regime for the plain and simple reasons that his ventures lose money and his government is ... Read More

Russian spy ship docked in Havana

| February 27th, 2014 | No Comments »
From AFP

Havana – A Russian warship was docked in Havana Wednesday, without explanation from Communist Cuba or its state media.

The Viktor Leonov CCB-175 boat, measuring 91.5 meters (300 feet) long and 14.5 meters wide, was docked at the port of Havana’s cruise ship area, near the Russian Orthodox Cathedral.

The Vishnya, or Meridian-class intelligence ship, which has a crew of around 200, went into service in the Black Sea in 1988 before it was transferred seven years later to the northern fleet, Russian media sources said.

Neither Cuban authorities nor state media have mentioned the ship’s visit, unlike on previous tours by Russian warships.

The former Soviet Union was Cuba’s sponsor state through three decades of Cold War. After a period of some distancing under former Russian president Boris Yeltsin, the countries renewed their political, economic and military cooperation.

The ship is reportedly armed with 30mm guns and anti-aircraft missiles.

Its visit ... Read More

Olympic Crackdown: Rio Scrambles to Squash Gangs Before Games

| February 26th, 2014 | No Comments »


Brazil is busy getting Rio de Janeiro in shape for the World Cup this June and the 2016 Summer Olympics, two banner events that officials hope will cement the sprawling metropolis as a technicolor cultural capital.

But ahead of the fanfare, Brazilian officials are scrambling to squash the brutal gangsters who roam the hillside shanty towns bordering the future home of the games.

Authorities have ordered the state police to target criminals who kill with impunity — a tall order for a country with a sky-high murder rate.

The tough security crackdown is part of a wider national effort to stem the tide of violence that has turned swaths of the South American nation into lawless jungles and claimed the lives of more than 1.15 million people between 1980 and 2011 — a population roughly equivalent to that of Dallas, Texas.

“I worry about security before and after ... Read More

The Darkest Hour Of Venezuelan Democracy

| February 18th, 2014 | No Comments »
World Crunch-01

If you must lie, you lie — any dictator will tell you that. The socialist regime forged by the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez has now held power for 16 years, apparently using the procedures and rules of the democratic system.

It was defeated just once, in 2007 when voters rejected its proposed constitutional reforms, though it had no qualms then in threatening the victors. The late president called the results of the referendum a “shitty victory” for his opponents. Indeed months later, backed by the exceptional powers that parliament had given him — an Enabling Act — he instituted everything Venezuelans had rejected in their vote.

Is the popular uprising now spreading in Caracas the end of this reign? It is still too early to say. Chávez, his followers and the whole Chavista movement, have played with democracy in the most cavalier, shameless manner. They have falsified elections to the point of turning them into harmless, useless formalities. They have ... Read More

The Most Important Alliance You’ve Never Heard Of

| February 18th, 2014 | 1 Comment »
The Atlantic


In Venezuela, students have been killed while protesting against the government of Nicolás Maduro, who is jailing opposition leaders and just closed a television station that dared broadcast the demonstrations. Argentina is irresponsibly racing toward a dangerous economic cliff. The Brazilian economy is in recession and 2014 will mark its fourth consecutive year of subpar growth, as the country reels from its largest capital flight in more than 10 years.

Is a decade of progress in Latin America coming to an end? For some countries, surely. But not necessarily for the entire region. Four nations are developing an initiative that could add new dynamism to Latin America, redraw the economic map of the region, and boost its connections with the rest of the world—especially Asia. It could also offer neighboring countries a pragmatic alternative to the more political groupings dominated by Brazil, Cuba, and Venezuela.

Amid all the bad news in the region, the presidents of ... Read More

Government: The parable of Argentina

| February 14th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Economist

A CENTURY ago, when Harrods decided to set up its first overseas emporium, it chose Buenos Aires. In 1914 Argentina stood out as the country of the future. Its economy had grown faster than America’s over the previous four decades. Its GDP per head was higher than Germany’s, France’s or Italy’s. It boasted wonderfully fertile agricultural land, a sunny climate, a new democracy (universal male suffrage was introduced in 1912), an educated population and the world’s most erotic dance. Immigrants tangoed in from everywhere. For the young and ambitious, the choice between Argentina and California was a hard one.

There are still many things to love about Argentina, from the glorious wilds of Patagonia to the world’s best footballer, Lionel Messi. The Argentines remain perhaps the best-looking people on the planet. But their country is a wreck. Harrods closed in 1998. Argentina is once again at the centre of an emerging-market ... Read More

As Keystone Stalls Azerbaijan Steams Ahead With Pipeline

| December 19th, 2013 | No Comments »
Investor's Business Daily


As the Keystone XL pipeline languishes, the details of another, far more complex, pipeline project in Eurasia’s Southern Gas Corridor are beginning to take shape.

Much like the Keystone XL project, the Southern Gas Corridor and its Trans-Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP) will provide secure and reliable energy resources to global markets.

With the announcement of TANAP’s final investment decision expected in the coming weeks, I urge leaders in the U.S. to voice their support and reaffirm their commitment to developing complex energy projects that enhance global energy security and serve to promote greater regional stability through meaningful economic cooperation.

The Southern Gas Corridor is a proposed project that will deliver natural gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz field to European energy markets through a network of pipelines.

Spearheaded by the State Oil Co. of Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR), the TANAP pipeline will serve as the cornerstone of the Southern Gas Corridor. Once constructed, TANAP would ... Read More

Brazil refuses to grant Snowden asylum

| December 18th, 2013 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters

In a letter published Tuesday by the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper, Edward Snowden said that he would be willing to help Brazil’s government investigate US spying.

BRASILIA — Brazil has no plans to grant asylum to Edward Snowden even after the former U.S. National Security Agency contractor offered on Tuesday to help investigate revelations of spying on Brazilians and their president, a local newspaper reported.

The Folha de S.Paulo newspaper, citing unnamed government officials, said the Brazilian government has no interest in investigating the mass Internet surveillance programs Snowden revealed in June and does not intend to give him asylum.

In an “Open Letter to the Brazilian People” published by Folha and social media, Snowden offered to help a congressional probe into NSA spying on the country, including the personal communications of President Dilma Rousseff.

“I have expressed my willingness to assist wherever appropriate and lawful, but unfortunately the United States government has ... Read More

It’s Time for Nafta 2.0

| December 16th, 2013 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal


Twenty years ago this month President Bill Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement into law. If there is one thing supporters and critics of this pact have always agreed on, it is the size of the stakes. In November 1993, Mr. Clinton, facing fierce opposition within his party, implored Congress to pass Nafta as a vote for the country’s future, a sign that “we still have confidence in ourselves and our potential.”

The agreement to eliminate tariffs and other trade barriers among the United States, Canada and Mexico has delivered undeniable benefits. U.S. trade with Mexico and Canada has tripled to more than $1 trillion a year, supporting millions of American jobs. The U.S. exported more last year to Mexico than to Brazil, Russia, India and China combined; and more to Canada, with 35 million people, than to the European Union, with 500 million.

Yet today the U.S. ... Read More

China, Russia, India, and the Venezuelan Petroleum Industry

| December 12th, 2013 | No Comments »
Latin Business Chronicle


Venezuela is in economic crisis: inflation exceeds 50 percent, basic goods run short, reserves are dwindling, and the bolívar trades on the black market at almost 11 times the official rate. In this context, the oil sector -which generates over 96 percent of the country’s revenues – finds itself stuck between investors cutting their losses, and a group of Chinese, Indian, Russian, and Western firms who are expanding their presence and commitment to the country.

While the decision to stay may reflect a lack of better alternatives, it also implies a hope or faith that PDVSA will grant them greater autonomy, due to its need for continued investment.This autonomy could include allowing them to rationally manage the operations that are, in name, controlled by PDVSA, as well asensuring that they can take delivery on additional oil, as promised, to repay themselves. In the process, those staying hope to ... Read More

Exclusive – Russia signs deal to forgive $29 billion of Cuba’s Soviet-era debt – diplomats

| December 11th, 2013 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters


Russia and Cuba have quietly signed an agreement to write off 90 percent of Cuba’s $32 billion debt to the defunct Soviet Union, a deal that ends a 20-year squabble and opens the way for more investment and trade, Russian and European diplomats said.

The two sides announced an agreement to settle the debt dispute earlier this year and finalised the deal in Moscow in October. It would have Cuba pay $3.2 billion over 10 years in exchange for Russia forgiving the rest of a $32 billion debt – $20 billion plus service and interest, the diplomats said.

It must still be approved by the Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament.

Negotiations on the form in which Cuba will pay the remaining debt are ongoing, the diplomats said, as even $320 million per year represents a large sum for the cash-strapped country, which has laboured under a U.S. economic embargo for decades.

Cuba’s total export earnings are around $18 billion, including ... Read More

Venezuela’s PDVSA To Go $4.5B Deeper In Debt

| November 14th, 2013 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters


CARACAS – Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA announced on Wednesday a $4.5 billion bond sale, accelerating a steep rise in borrowing in the last year with its second-largest issue that will finance operating expenses rather than investments.

The company has taken on more than $10 billion in private loans this year alone through agreements with allied nations including China and Russia, and is struggling to pay billions of dollars in debts to service providers.

The announcement follows a rout in PDVSA bonds this week that helped push yields as high as 17 percent, driven in part by investor concerns over a military occupation over the weekend of shops accused of price gouging.

“PDVSA is continuing with its strategy of issuing debt that is not part of a plan to expand its oil production, which is counterproductive,” said Asdrubal Oliveros of Caracas-based Ecoanalitica. “What they’re trying to do is ... Read More

China, Cuba, Russia, Saudi Arabia elected to U.N. Human Rights Council

| November 13th, 2013 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters


UNITED NATIONS – China, Cuba, Russia and Saudi Arabia on Tuesday won three-year seats on the Geneva-based Human Rights Council, the United Nations’ top rights body, despite concerns about abuses and restrictions on freedoms in all four nations.

Also winning seats on the 47-nation council were Algeria, Britain, France, Mexico, the Maldives, Morocco, Namibia, South Africa, Vietnam, and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

The annual election for one-third of the council’s membership was held in the 193-nation U.N. General Assembly.

South Sudan and Uruguay failed to win election to the council in competitive slates for their respective regional groups. The other regions had uncontested ballots.

The newly elected countries will be on the council from 2014 through 2016.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said the newly elected members of the council include “some that commit significant violations of the rights the council is designed to advance and protect” and ... Read More

Colombia Says Russian Bombers Violated Its Airspace

| November 6th, 2013 | No Comments »
The New York Times

BOGOTA — Colombia is preparing a letter of protest to Russia after two Russian bomber planes twice entered the Andean nation’s airspace without authorization when flying between Venezuela and Nicaragua last week, President Juan Manuel Santos said on Tuesday.

Santos said the two planes crossed Colombian airspace on Friday flying from Venezuela to Nicaragua. They re-entered Colombian territory on their return journey but flew out of the zone when intercepted by two of Colombia’s Kfir military planes.

“As they are military and government planes, they needed to request permission but didn’t. We have simply requested that the Foreign Ministry make the respective notification to the Russian government,” Santos told reporters after a government meeting on security issues.

Military sources told Reuters the planes were Russian-made Tupolev Tu-160 bombers flying from the Venezuelan coastal city of Maiquetia to Nicaragua’s capital, Managua. The sources said the bombers flew into Colombian airspace over ... Read More

Brazil Says It Spied on U.S. and Others Inside Its Borders

| November 5th, 2013 | No Comments »
The New York Times


RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil’s government acknowledged on Monday that its top intelligence agency had spied on diplomatic targets from countries including the United States, Iran and Russia, putting the Brazilian authorities in the uncomfortable position of defending their own surveillance practices after repeatedly criticizing American spying operations.

Brazil’s Institutional Security Cabinet, which oversees the nation’s intelligence activities, contended in a statement on Monday that the spying operations, involving relatively basic surveillance about a decade ago of diplomats and diplomatic properties in Brazil, were “in absolute compliance” with legislation governing such practices.

The statement followed a report in the newspaper Folha de São Paulo describing how the Brazilian Intelligence Agency, commonly known as Abin, had followed some diplomats from Russia and Iran on foot and by car, photographing their movements, while also monitoring a commercial property leased by the United States Embassy in Brasília, the capital.

By almost any measure, such modest operations ... Read More

President Correa of Ecuador arrives in Russia on official visit

| October 29th, 2013 | No Comments »
The Voice of Russia

The President of the Republic of Ecuador Rafael Correa has arrived on an official visit to the Russian Federation and has stated he is very pleased to be in the country according to Itar-Tass: “We are very glad to visit your country,” he said upon arrival in Moscow from St. Petersburg.

The President of Ecuador stated: “St. Petersburg is a heroic city and one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Moscow is the unconquerable capital of the country that defeated Napoleon and fascism.”

He also praised Russia’s contribution to the world of culture: “I am proud that I am on a visit in the country, which gave to the world so many people of arts – Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and Tchaikovsky.”

President Rafael Correa also made a special note of “major Russian achievements in science” and stated: “We are here again to discuss cooperation and to build our friendship ... Read More

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