Russia, Belarus Conduct Massive Joint Military Exercise Involving More Than 22,000 Troops

U.S., Russia agree on Syria U.N. chemical arms measure

A Russia analyst and journalist who doesn’t limit himself to Moscow and St Petersburg, Judah says that Russians have fallen out of love with Vladimir Putin and he documents his case with interviews throughout the country. Although the author doesn’t see a collapse of the Russian state anytime soon, he can foresee a time when Putin is forced from power. This is an important scenario to consider on several levels. And it might enlighten us as to the motivation for his recent diplomatic overtures. Is Putin motivated by fear, or is it ego? Ian Bremmer, the head of Eurasia Group, writes that “it has been a summer of shallow wins for Putin as he puts his ego and personal quest of international legitimacy over his country’s best interests.” I doubt that Putin would see it that way, but to understand him we need to see what he fears. He believes that his country’s best interests lie in not falling apart, which is the central doctrine of Putinism, backed by his core belief — “Above all, we should acknowledge that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a major geopolitical disaster of the century.” Judah explains: >Putinism is apocalyptic. The project is presented as nothing less than Russian’s last chance to survive as a state: ‘Russia will be a great power or she will not be at all.’ The fear that should he fail the country would fall into anarchy, pulled the establishment together. There was still widespread fear that Russia could collapse again. In private, many expressed their fears that Russia could within a few decades cease to exist. Demographics, China, Muslims, oil price crashes… there were many demons. To outsiders, Putin’s new role in the Middle East represents Russia’s resurgence as a super power, and this is indeed just what Putin wants and needs in order to shore up his credibility at home.

Pierluigi Lugano, an Abissi wine maker, checks a Primat, a bottle that contains 27 litres of sparkling wine that was brought to the surface by scuba divers on September 25, 2013 in Chiavari. Pierluigi Lugano is experimenting by storing his wine three to four years in the sea at a depth of 60 metres and some 3 kilometres offshore, where the water temperature remains constant under 6 bars of pressure with a slight deepwater current. 
AFP PHOTO / OLIVIER MORINOLIVIER MORIN/AFP/Getty Images

Russias populationcurrently estimated at 142.9 millioncould dwindle to 107 million by 2050, according to official Kremlin projections. Russias demographic composition will change dramatically as a result, Berman said. Muslims, currently a minority in Russia with an estimated 21 million residents, could account for a fifth of the countrys population by the end of the decade and a majority by mid-century. While the cultural shift in Russia does not necessarily pose problems on its face, Berman said the Kremlins alienation of Sunni Muslim residentsand its support for Shiite regimes in Iran and Syrialeaves them vulnerable to radicalization. The jihadist threat has crept inside Russias borders despite a bloody campaign in the 1990s to root out ethnic separatism in the Caucasus region to its southwest, he said. Americans witnessed this failure to contain the Caucasus terror threat first hand when the suspected perpetrators of the Boston Marathon bombings were revealed to be ethnic Chechens Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, he added. The former deputy mufti or Islamic scholar in the southwestern Russian region of Tatarstan was fatally shot outside his home last summer as clashes between Muslims and local authorities escalate, he said. Russias anti-radicalism campaign in the Caucasus has been very brutal and remote, Berman said. Yet its increasingly not over there; its in the Russian heartland, he added. If you like Chechnya, youre going to love whats happening in Tatarstan. As Russia attempts to address the radical Islamist threat to its south, it also faces encroachment from the east, Berman said. China has already begun importing tons of crude oil through pipelines in the sparsely populated Siberian region, a process that could quickly turn Russia into the docile supplier of its energy-hungry Asian neighbor, he said. That will cause Russia to go West, young man, Berman said, seeking more influence in former Soviet countries like Ukraine and Belarus and inflaming tensions with NATO countries in Eastern Europe.

Russia’s Anti-Gay Law Doesn’t Defy Charter, 2014 Olympic Games Proceeds at Sochi – IOC

The West 2013 exercise conducted Thursday near the city of Grodno in western Belarus and in Russias westernmost Kaliningrad region also involved more than 500 armored vehicles and about 90 aircraft along with ships of Russias Black Sea Fleet. Karla Adam Interpol issues arrest notice for British national in connection to Nairobi attack, setting off a media frenzy. With many missing after mall siege, Kenyans want answers Sudarsan Raghavan Many are in an emotional limbo amid a search for relatives and friends who havent been seen since the attack. Behind Nairobi attack, a Somali mastermind Sudarsan Raghavan Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr is bookish and recites poetry. He has also killed most rivals to gain control of al-Shabab. Kathy Lally Olympic Committee members express satisfaction on their final inspection of Sochi, the host site. Russia and Belarus are allies and have close economic, political and military ties. Russia has several military facilities in Belarus, and the two nations operate a joint air defense system. The two armies have regularly conducted joint maneuvers, Thursdays exercise being the biggest so far. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko attended the exercise along with his nine-year old son, who donned full combat fatigues. Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Jean-Claude Killy, chairman of the IOC Coordination Commission, who was in Russia conducting a final visit to Sochi before the Olympics, said the commission had in the past months considered and discussed the severity of the host nation’s laws and what it could potentially inflict not only on the local athletes but also on those coming from overseas as well. The Olympic flag (Wikimedia) “The Olympic Charter states that all segregation is completely prohibited, whether it be on the grounds of race, religion, colour or other, on the Olympic territory,” Mr Killy said in French during a news conference. “That will be the case, we are convinced. Another thing I must add: the IOC doesn’t really have the right to discuss the laws in the country where the Olympic Games are organized. As long as the Olympic Charter is respected, we are satisfied, and that is the case.” He added Russia had sent the IOC written assurances that gay discrimination will not happen during the winter Olympic Games, scheduled on Feb 7 – 23, 2014. Russias Anti-Gay Law Doesnt Defy Charter, 2014 Olympic Games Proceeds at Sochi IOC As expected, gay rights activist immediately slammed the verdict. “If this law doesn’t violate the IOC’s charter, then the charter is completely meaningless,” Chad Griffin, president of Human Rights Campaign, was quoted by Reuters. Ironically, while the conference was being held, outside a group of activists were being whisked away by uniformed and plain-clothes Russian law enforcers. Video Source: Youtube/ nocommenttv Video Source: Youtube/ Funworld “The safety of millions of LGBT Russians and international travelers is at risk, and by all accounts the IOC has completely neglected its responsibility to Olympic athletes, sponsors and fans from around the world,” Mr Griffin said. In June, Russia enacted into law a legislation that bans the propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors. Domestic as well as foreign gay athletes, even people who want to come to Russia to see the games, have expressed fears the laws may be used against them. Mr Killy and his delegation was in Russia to personally inspect the rate of preparations the country had so far achieved for the event.

Demographic Shifts Could Radicalize Russia

U.N. diplomats said a vote could come within 24 hours. “Just two weeks ago, tonight’s outcome seemed utterly unimaginable,” Power said. “Two weeks ago, the Syrian regime had not even acknowledged the existence of its chemical weapons stockpiles.” “But tonight we have a shared draft resolution that was the outcome of intense diplomacy and negotiations over the past two weeks,” she said. U.S., Russian, French and British diplomats told reporters the vote could come as early as Friday evening, provided the Executive Council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague approves a plan for the destruction of Syria’s poison gas arsenal beforehand. “I know that some (foreign) ministers are extending their stay in New York in order to participate in that vote,” Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters. The agreement emerged from intense negotiations at the United Nations with Russia, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s chief ally. The aim was to craft a measure to require destruction of Syria’s chemical arsenal in line with a U.S.-Russian deal reached earlier this month that averted American strikes on Assad’s forces in the midst of a bloody civil war. Western powers on the Security Council backed away from many of their initial demands, diplomats say, in order to secure Russia’s approval. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said an “understanding” had been hammered out, but gave no details. A major sticking point had been Russia’s opposition to writing the resolution under Chapter 7 of the U.N. charter, which covers the council’s authority to enforce its decisions with measures such as sanctions or military force. The compromise draft resolution, obtained by Reuters, makes the measure legally binding, but provides for no means of automatic enforcement as the United States, Britain and France originally wanted. Power said the resolution was groundbreaking because the council, which has been deadlocked for years on the Syrian civil war, formally endorsed for the first time a plan for a political transition in Syria that was agreed on at an international conference in Geneva in June 2012.