Daily Archives: June 18, 2007

June 18, 2007 — Contents

MONDAY JUNE 18 CONTENTS


(1) Another Nail in the Russian Coffin

(2) The Dossier on Putin Clone Sergei Ivanov

(3) Kicking the Cold War up a Notch

(4) Annals of Russian Hypocrisy and Self-destruction

(5) Russia and Europe

Another Nail in Russia’s Coffin: Yavlinsky Just Won’t Go Away

Grigory Yavlinsky (pictured) is one of those people who, when all is said and done on the neo-Soviet Union, will be remembered as one whose actions were more harmful than helpful in combating its rise. Just as he refused to make common cause with liberal Boris Nemtsov in the first round of democratic opposition to the Kremlin, he now rejects cooperation with Garry Kasparov. Yet, it’s been clear from the start that Yavlinsky is not capable of winning (much less weilding) power, when means he ends up being a total non-entity. Indeed, his actions help the Kremlin greatly by dividing the opposition vote. The International Herald Tribune reports:

A leading Russian liberal party plans to nominate its longtime leader to run for president in the 2008 election, a party official said Saturday, further complicating efforts to field a single opposition candidate. Yabloko party council delegates said they would recommend Grigory Yavlinsky be nominated at the party’s main convention in the autumn, although other candidates could also be considered, Yabloko spokeswoman Yevgenia Dilendorf told The Associated Press. She said that Yavlinsky said he would agree to run.

It would deal another blow to hopes of the country’s increasingly marginalized and fragmented opposition to agree on a unity candidate.

The party led by Russia’s former prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov also has selected him to run for president at a congress earlier this month. Garry Kasparov, a former world chess champion who has played a key role in organizing anti-government protests said that fielding a single candidate was the only chance to confront the Kremlin and reverse what he called the country’s democratic backsliding. But Dilendorf said that members of Yabloko’s council spoke strongly against any kind of alliance with Kasparov’s United Civil Front and other groups in the Other Russia movement behind the protests. Yavlinsky has moderated his criticism of the Kremlin in recent years, and more radical opposition leaders such as Kasparov accused him of being submissive.

Opposition forces have faced growing harassment in recent months, with hundreds of activists detained and dozens beaten at anti-government rallies. They have accused the Kremlin of strangling democracy before parliamentary and presidential votes. Yavlinsky has twice run for president in the 1996 and 2000 presidential votes, but only got six and seven percent of the ballot, respectively. He did not try to challenge President Vladimir Putin in the last election in 2004. Dilendorf would not comment on Yavlinsky’s chances as a potential candidate in next year’s election, but said that Yabloko is supported by a broad segment of Russia’s civil society. “We have support of many of the nation’s rights groups and environmental activists,” she said. In the 2003 parliamentary elections, Yabloko and other liberal parties failed to make it into the lower house, the State Duma. Dilendorf said that the party was planning to take part in this fall’s parliamentary elections, but the party’s congress has yet to make a formal decision.

Another Nail in Russia’s Coffin: Yavlinsky Just Won’t Go Away

Grigory Yavlinsky (pictured) is one of those people who, when all is said and done on the neo-Soviet Union, will be remembered as one whose actions were more harmful than helpful in combating its rise. Just as he refused to make common cause with liberal Boris Nemtsov in the first round of democratic opposition to the Kremlin, he now rejects cooperation with Garry Kasparov. Yet, it’s been clear from the start that Yavlinsky is not capable of winning (much less weilding) power, when means he ends up being a total non-entity. Indeed, his actions help the Kremlin greatly by dividing the opposition vote. The International Herald Tribune reports:

A leading Russian liberal party plans to nominate its longtime leader to run for president in the 2008 election, a party official said Saturday, further complicating efforts to field a single opposition candidate. Yabloko party council delegates said they would recommend Grigory Yavlinsky be nominated at the party’s main convention in the autumn, although other candidates could also be considered, Yabloko spokeswoman Yevgenia Dilendorf told The Associated Press. She said that Yavlinsky said he would agree to run.

It would deal another blow to hopes of the country’s increasingly marginalized and fragmented opposition to agree on a unity candidate.

The party led by Russia’s former prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov also has selected him to run for president at a congress earlier this month. Garry Kasparov, a former world chess champion who has played a key role in organizing anti-government protests said that fielding a single candidate was the only chance to confront the Kremlin and reverse what he called the country’s democratic backsliding. But Dilendorf said that members of Yabloko’s council spoke strongly against any kind of alliance with Kasparov’s United Civil Front and other groups in the Other Russia movement behind the protests. Yavlinsky has moderated his criticism of the Kremlin in recent years, and more radical opposition leaders such as Kasparov accused him of being submissive.

Opposition forces have faced growing harassment in recent months, with hundreds of activists detained and dozens beaten at anti-government rallies. They have accused the Kremlin of strangling democracy before parliamentary and presidential votes. Yavlinsky has twice run for president in the 1996 and 2000 presidential votes, but only got six and seven percent of the ballot, respectively. He did not try to challenge President Vladimir Putin in the last election in 2004. Dilendorf would not comment on Yavlinsky’s chances as a potential candidate in next year’s election, but said that Yabloko is supported by a broad segment of Russia’s civil society. “We have support of many of the nation’s rights groups and environmental activists,” she said. In the 2003 parliamentary elections, Yabloko and other liberal parties failed to make it into the lower house, the State Duma. Dilendorf said that the party was planning to take part in this fall’s parliamentary elections, but the party’s congress has yet to make a formal decision.

Another Nail in Russia’s Coffin: Yavlinsky Just Won’t Go Away

Grigory Yavlinsky (pictured) is one of those people who, when all is said and done on the neo-Soviet Union, will be remembered as one whose actions were more harmful than helpful in combating its rise. Just as he refused to make common cause with liberal Boris Nemtsov in the first round of democratic opposition to the Kremlin, he now rejects cooperation with Garry Kasparov. Yet, it’s been clear from the start that Yavlinsky is not capable of winning (much less weilding) power, when means he ends up being a total non-entity. Indeed, his actions help the Kremlin greatly by dividing the opposition vote. The International Herald Tribune reports:

A leading Russian liberal party plans to nominate its longtime leader to run for president in the 2008 election, a party official said Saturday, further complicating efforts to field a single opposition candidate. Yabloko party council delegates said they would recommend Grigory Yavlinsky be nominated at the party’s main convention in the autumn, although other candidates could also be considered, Yabloko spokeswoman Yevgenia Dilendorf told The Associated Press. She said that Yavlinsky said he would agree to run.

It would deal another blow to hopes of the country’s increasingly marginalized and fragmented opposition to agree on a unity candidate.

The party led by Russia’s former prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov also has selected him to run for president at a congress earlier this month. Garry Kasparov, a former world chess champion who has played a key role in organizing anti-government protests said that fielding a single candidate was the only chance to confront the Kremlin and reverse what he called the country’s democratic backsliding. But Dilendorf said that members of Yabloko’s council spoke strongly against any kind of alliance with Kasparov’s United Civil Front and other groups in the Other Russia movement behind the protests. Yavlinsky has moderated his criticism of the Kremlin in recent years, and more radical opposition leaders such as Kasparov accused him of being submissive.

Opposition forces have faced growing harassment in recent months, with hundreds of activists detained and dozens beaten at anti-government rallies. They have accused the Kremlin of strangling democracy before parliamentary and presidential votes. Yavlinsky has twice run for president in the 1996 and 2000 presidential votes, but only got six and seven percent of the ballot, respectively. He did not try to challenge President Vladimir Putin in the last election in 2004. Dilendorf would not comment on Yavlinsky’s chances as a potential candidate in next year’s election, but said that Yabloko is supported by a broad segment of Russia’s civil society. “We have support of many of the nation’s rights groups and environmental activists,” she said. In the 2003 parliamentary elections, Yabloko and other liberal parties failed to make it into the lower house, the State Duma. Dilendorf said that the party was planning to take part in this fall’s parliamentary elections, but the party’s congress has yet to make a formal decision.

Another Nail in Russia’s Coffin: Yavlinsky Just Won’t Go Away

Grigory Yavlinsky (pictured) is one of those people who, when all is said and done on the neo-Soviet Union, will be remembered as one whose actions were more harmful than helpful in combating its rise. Just as he refused to make common cause with liberal Boris Nemtsov in the first round of democratic opposition to the Kremlin, he now rejects cooperation with Garry Kasparov. Yet, it’s been clear from the start that Yavlinsky is not capable of winning (much less weilding) power, when means he ends up being a total non-entity. Indeed, his actions help the Kremlin greatly by dividing the opposition vote. The International Herald Tribune reports:

A leading Russian liberal party plans to nominate its longtime leader to run for president in the 2008 election, a party official said Saturday, further complicating efforts to field a single opposition candidate. Yabloko party council delegates said they would recommend Grigory Yavlinsky be nominated at the party’s main convention in the autumn, although other candidates could also be considered, Yabloko spokeswoman Yevgenia Dilendorf told The Associated Press. She said that Yavlinsky said he would agree to run.

It would deal another blow to hopes of the country’s increasingly marginalized and fragmented opposition to agree on a unity candidate.

The party led by Russia’s former prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov also has selected him to run for president at a congress earlier this month. Garry Kasparov, a former world chess champion who has played a key role in organizing anti-government protests said that fielding a single candidate was the only chance to confront the Kremlin and reverse what he called the country’s democratic backsliding. But Dilendorf said that members of Yabloko’s council spoke strongly against any kind of alliance with Kasparov’s United Civil Front and other groups in the Other Russia movement behind the protests. Yavlinsky has moderated his criticism of the Kremlin in recent years, and more radical opposition leaders such as Kasparov accused him of being submissive.

Opposition forces have faced growing harassment in recent months, with hundreds of activists detained and dozens beaten at anti-government rallies. They have accused the Kremlin of strangling democracy before parliamentary and presidential votes. Yavlinsky has twice run for president in the 1996 and 2000 presidential votes, but only got six and seven percent of the ballot, respectively. He did not try to challenge President Vladimir Putin in the last election in 2004. Dilendorf would not comment on Yavlinsky’s chances as a potential candidate in next year’s election, but said that Yabloko is supported by a broad segment of Russia’s civil society. “We have support of many of the nation’s rights groups and environmental activists,” she said. In the 2003 parliamentary elections, Yabloko and other liberal parties failed to make it into the lower house, the State Duma. Dilendorf said that the party was planning to take part in this fall’s parliamentary elections, but the party’s congress has yet to make a formal decision.

Another Nail in Russia’s Coffin: Yavlinsky Just Won’t Go Away

Grigory Yavlinsky (pictured) is one of those people who, when all is said and done on the neo-Soviet Union, will be remembered as one whose actions were more harmful than helpful in combating its rise. Just as he refused to make common cause with liberal Boris Nemtsov in the first round of democratic opposition to the Kremlin, he now rejects cooperation with Garry Kasparov. Yet, it’s been clear from the start that Yavlinsky is not capable of winning (much less weilding) power, when means he ends up being a total non-entity. Indeed, his actions help the Kremlin greatly by dividing the opposition vote. The International Herald Tribune reports:

A leading Russian liberal party plans to nominate its longtime leader to run for president in the 2008 election, a party official said Saturday, further complicating efforts to field a single opposition candidate. Yabloko party council delegates said they would recommend Grigory Yavlinsky be nominated at the party’s main convention in the autumn, although other candidates could also be considered, Yabloko spokeswoman Yevgenia Dilendorf told The Associated Press. She said that Yavlinsky said he would agree to run.

It would deal another blow to hopes of the country’s increasingly marginalized and fragmented opposition to agree on a unity candidate.

The party led by Russia’s former prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov also has selected him to run for president at a congress earlier this month. Garry Kasparov, a former world chess champion who has played a key role in organizing anti-government protests said that fielding a single candidate was the only chance to confront the Kremlin and reverse what he called the country’s democratic backsliding. But Dilendorf said that members of Yabloko’s council spoke strongly against any kind of alliance with Kasparov’s United Civil Front and other groups in the Other Russia movement behind the protests. Yavlinsky has moderated his criticism of the Kremlin in recent years, and more radical opposition leaders such as Kasparov accused him of being submissive.

Opposition forces have faced growing harassment in recent months, with hundreds of activists detained and dozens beaten at anti-government rallies. They have accused the Kremlin of strangling democracy before parliamentary and presidential votes. Yavlinsky has twice run for president in the 1996 and 2000 presidential votes, but only got six and seven percent of the ballot, respectively. He did not try to challenge President Vladimir Putin in the last election in 2004. Dilendorf would not comment on Yavlinsky’s chances as a potential candidate in next year’s election, but said that Yabloko is supported by a broad segment of Russia’s civil society. “We have support of many of the nation’s rights groups and environmental activists,” she said. In the 2003 parliamentary elections, Yabloko and other liberal parties failed to make it into the lower house, the State Duma. Dilendorf said that the party was planning to take part in this fall’s parliamentary elections, but the party’s congress has yet to make a formal decision.

The Dossier on Putin Clone Sergei Ivanov

The Times of London provides us with a dossier on likely Putin successor Sergei Ivanov:

A FORMER KGB spy who studied in London, became a lifelong fan of the Beatles and speaks fluent English is being tipped to succeed Vladimir Putin as president of Russia. Sergei Ivanov, a deputy prime minister, is an avid reader of British espionage thrillers and has praised British spies as some of the best in the world. A close ally of Putin since the early 1970s, when the two served together in St Petersburg’s KGB headquarters, Ivanov was defence minister for six years. Since Putin promoted him to deputy prime minister four months ago, his popularity has soared. According to the latest polls, his approval rating is higher than that of his closest rival, Dmitry Medvedev, also a deputy prime minister, in the race to succeed Putin, who is due to step down in March at the end of his second term.

Ivanov, 54, was allowed to outshine Medvedev during the St Petersburg Economic Forum, a meeting of top western and Russian business leaders last week. Kremlin watchers seeking clues as to which of the two men Putin would back concluded that in terms of public profile, broadcast airtime and access to global business leaders at the conference, Ivanov outflanked Medvedev. In another signal, Valentina Matviyenko, the governor of St Petersburg and a Putin protégé, lavished praise on Ivanov, comparing him to Peter the Great. “The race to succeed Putin is an unpredictable affair,” a Kremlin aide said. “Putin could still take everyone by surprise by choosing a third candidate. As things now stand there are only two contenders: Medvedev and Ivanov. The former used to be the frontrunner. No longer.”

In one report circulating in Moscow, a small group of former KGB hawks in the Kremlin is plotting to have Putin returned to power a year after stepping down by installing a loyal ally who would serve only long enough to allow Putin to side-step the constitution’s ban on serving a third consecutive term. Ivanov and Putin have known one another for most of their lives. Both were born in St Petersburg – Ivanov is four months the senior – and grew up in kommu-nalkas, the Soviet-era flats shared by several families. Ivanov was raised by his mother, an engineer. His father died when he was a toddler. Putin and his future defence minister enrolled at the same university, the former to study law, the latter English and Swedish. “My idols were the Beatles,” recalled Ivanov, who is also a Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin fan. “And my interest in studying English was due to my fascination with their songs.”

In the 1970s, aged 20, Ivanov spent several weeks in London studying English as an exchange student. He later became a fan of John le Carré, Agatha Christie, Frederick Forsyth and malt whisky.

Like Putin, who took up judo and became a black belt, Ivanov was a keen sportsman, playing basketball for St Petersburg’s top team. Unlike the president, who still works out daily and is practically teetotal, Ivanov likes red wine and vodka and is a chain smoker, although photographers are told not to take his picture when he has a cigarette in his mouth.

Both Putin and Ivanov joined the KGB straight from university and studied at School 101, an elite spy school in the forests of Moscow. In the late 1970s they worked together in St Petersburg, then called Leningrad. “We met shortly after university when for two years we both ended up in a very small group in a very large organisation,” Ivanov said. “We shared the same professional interests and similar views, at times with the same ironical outlook on some of the activities of the party and the security services. “I then left Leningrad and he stayed but we didn’t forget each other. Once in a while we’d call and then we wouldn’t be in touch for long periods during service abroad.” While Putin worked for five years in East Germany, Ivanov held postings as an intelligence officer in Scandinavia and Africa. Ivanov once said: “I won’t talk about what I was taught at KGB school except for this: I was taught not to stand out in a crowd and second to speak professionally and at great length about nothing.”

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Putin left the KGB as a colonel while Ivanov rose to the rank of lieutenant-general. Under President Boris Yeltsin, he was appointed deputy head of Russia’s foreign intelligence service. In 1998 Putin was appointed head of the FSB, successor to the KGB. He made Ivanov his deputy. Although he comes from a more open-minded generation of KGB officers, described as the “Pink Floyders”, Ivanov is no liberal. He shares Putin’s mistrust of the West and anger at Nato expansion, and is a strong opponent of US plans to install a missile defence shield in Europe. As defence minister, Ivanov drastically increased military spending but opposed army reforms. Critics accuse of him doing little to tackle widespread bullying of conscripts. Two years ago he caused outrage when he tried to play down an incident in which Andrei Sychov, an 18-year-old army conscript, was so badly beaten that both his legs had to be amputated.

He was instrumental in Putin’s decision to bring back Soviet– era military symbols and caused alarm in the West when he threatened airstrikes against Georgia, the tiny former Soviet state, which he accused of harbouring Chechen militants. Ivanov, who is married with two grown-up sons, is believed to have ordered the assassination of Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, a former Chechen president considered a terrorist by the Russians, who was blown up in Qatar in 2004. “Russia’s next president may turn out to be someone who is not even on our radar, but if Ivanov comes to power, those who are criticising Putin now may come to miss him,” said a western diplomat. “Behind the worldly facade is a steely hawk – a replica of Putin without the charisma.”

Kicking the Cold War up a Notch: Britain Honors Gordievsky

The BBC reports that Britain has tiven a high state honor to a major Soviet dissident, once again heroically getting right up in Russia’s face as the Cold War unfolds. Britain led the world in standing up against the first Soviet dictatorship, thankfully apppears ready to assume that role again:

Former KGB colonel Oleg Gordievsky [pictured, right, shaking hands with then U.S. president Ronald Reagan], who became the highest-ranking Soviet spy to defect to the west, has been honoured by the Queen. He has been appointed a Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George. The recognition in the Birthday Honours Diplomatic List means he now holds the same title as book spook James Bond. And like 007, Mr Gordievsky operated in the murky world of secret assignments, assassinations and allegations. Disillusioned with the political situation in his homeland, he operated as a double agent during the Cold War. He passed on an unprecedented amount of information to British security while serving as KGB bureau chief in London. His help led to the expulsion of 25 Soviet agents working undercover in the UK.At the time, his defection was hailed by then Foreign Secretary Sir Geoffrey Howe as “a very substantial coup for our security forces”. Mr Gordievsky was MI5’s greatest asset between 1982 and 1985, when his cover was blown and he was ordered back to Moscow. He was eventually smuggled back to the West and has since written a number of books about the operations of the KGB. Fictional superspy James Bond was made a CMG in Ian Fleming’s novel From Russia With Love. Mr Gordievsky’s honour is for services to the security of the UK.

See also reports in the Guardian and the Independent. This comes directly on the heels of Russia, in crazed neo-Soviet fashion, responding by the announcement that Britain would prefer murder charges against Andrei Lugovoi by launching an investigation of whether Alexander Litvinenko was killed as part of a British spy conspiracy against Russia.

Annals of Russian Hypocrisy and Self-Destruction

Do you dare to imagine, dear reader, how Russia would react if it were announced that President Bush were about to hold the fifth meeting of his presidency with Chechen rebel leader Shamil Basayev? The Russians would, of course, be screaming to high heaven about America’s outrageous and provocative action. Yet, they have no problem repeatedly entertaining rabid anti-American maniac Hugo Chavez, or in supplying him with huge quantities of weapons. Itar-Tass reports:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez will visit Russia on June 28-30, Venezuelan Ambassador to Russia Alexis Rafael Navarro Rojas told Itar-Tass on Friday. According to the embassy, the Venezuelan president will stay in Moscow on June 28 and 29, and make a trip to Russia’s south on June 30. That will be the fifth visit of Chavez to Russia. He paid two official visits in May 2001 and November 2004, and two working visits – in October 2001, and July 2006. “Russia is our strategic ally,” Chavez reiterates specifically. In his words, an agenda of the upcoming talks in Moscow has not been fully coordinated, however, it must include energy cooperation. “Russian companies should have a possibility to take part in the design and construction of the so-called southern gas pipeline that will link Venezuela and Argentina,” he said. “The military technical cooperation should be considered undoubtedly as it is necessary for Venezuela to protect itself on the ground, on and under water and in the air,” Chavez said. “Venezuela is studying the possibility to purchase Russia’s submarines,” presidential military adviser, General Alberto Mueller Rojas said on Thursday. “The possibility to conclude such a deal is under discussion, but funds for this purpose have not been assigned yet,” the general said, commenting on information spread by the Russian mass media earlier. Most probably, this agreement may be signed during the Venezuelan leader’s forthcoming visit to Moscow.

Russia is intentionally baiting the United States, by far the world’s most powerful country and with a host of powerful allies, into a second cold war. History will record this is as the beginning of the end for Russia.

Standing Up to Putin in Europe

Writing in The Trumpet, Brad McDonald explains the need for Europe to stand up to the Putin dictatorship in an essay that could not be more timely as we see Putin the weak, cowardly bully cave in to European pressure over his insane missile threats:

Just 15 years ago, Russia was a sick bear hibernating in a dark cave. Today, the nation is emerging fitter and stronger, and is once again boldly prowling the prairie of global politics. Since the election of President Vladimir Putin in 2000, Moscow has increasingly grown more powerful and belligerent. Many nations and leaders are becoming concerned—and none more so than those in Europe.

After the last Russian parliamentary elections at the end of 2003, think tank Stratfor discussed Europe’s cause for nervousness: “[T]he osce [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] is getting nervous—not so much because of Putin’s election practices as the magnitude of his victory and the way he likely will put that victory to use. Putin is, first and last, a Russian nationalist, utterly pragmatic (or ruthless) in the tools he will use to strengthen the Russian state. He has greater power now than anyone in Russia since the collapse of communism. He can reshape the regime. Consequently, the osce and Europe are nervous about where Putin is taking Russia. They have every reason to be: Putin is slowly and systematically changing Russia’s direction. When Russia changes direction, the rest of Europe should indeed be nervous” (Dec. 9, 2003; emphasis mine throughout).

Since that article was written, Putin has yanked Russia from traveling its obscure gravel path and placed the nation on the center lane of the bustling highway of geopolitics. In just a few years, Putin has secured absolute governmental control over Russia’s key industries, including oil, gas and the press; opposed Western interests at nearly every turn; strengthened relations with the East; patronized into submission former Soviet states; and, through all this, not only anchored Moscow at the center of global energy politics, but also placed himself and his country at the vanguard of the growing army of nations and groups that despise the West.

There’s an important element to this story, however, that many are missing today. The more bellicose and dangerous Russia grows, the more we must watch Europe. Europe’s reaction to Russian ambition is more important than the growing power of Russia itself.

And be assured: Europe is responding.

Rising Tensions

Tension between Europe and Russia has been mounting in recent months over multiple issues. The issue sparking the most common contention is Europe’s support of u.s. plans to construct an elaborate missile defense system in Eastern Europe.

In May, as discussions about establishing the state-of-the-art defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic intensified, Russia pointedly voiced its opposition to the plans. During a visit with Portugal’s prime minister on May 29, President Putin rebuked America and Europe, saying the missile shield would “turn Europe into a tinderbox” and “create new unnecessary risks for the entire system of international and European relations.”

The same day, in what was clearly a timed response, Russian scientists successfully tested missiles that, according to one official, could overcome any defense system. Russia’s new missiles represent a significant upgrade of the nation’s aging Soviet-era systems, and include a new intercontinental ballistic missile that, in the test, successfully nailed its target 3,400 miles away.

Less than a week later, President Putin ramped up his warning to America and Europe in an interview published in Italy’s Corriere della Sera. “If the American nuclear potential grows in European territory, we have to give ourselves new targets in Europe,” he threatened. Be assured that Russia’s aiming its weapons at European cities is certain to bring immediate reaction from Europe’s leaders.

Fissures within Russian-European relations have appeared at other times in recent months also. One incident involved a row over a Soviet-era statue in the nation of Estonia. On April 27, Estonian leaders relocated a statue known as the “Bronze Soldier” from the center of the capital city of Tallinn to a remote military cemetery. Within days, President Putin attacked Estonians for “desecrat[ing] memorials to war heroes” and caused all Russian road and rail traffic to Estonia to be blocked.

In addition, strong evidence points to Russian involvement behind a massive massive and organized Internet attack against Estonia. For three weeks, the nation’s computer systems were under constant assault. In what some called the first state-to-state cyber attack in history, Estonia had to shut down its government and much of its commerce for a period

Indignant at Putin’s interference in European affairs, Europe, specifically Germany, marched to Estonia’s defense. Speaking before the European Parliament in Brussels on May 9, Germany’s European minister, Günter Gloser, warned Russia that its attack on Estonia was “an attack on the sovereignty of an eu member state” and pledged Berlin’s “full support” for Tallinn. The whole episode revealed how quickly the friction between Russia and Europe can escalate.

In his May 9 speech at the European Parliament, Gloser additionally rebuked Russia for holding fast to its 2005 ban on importing meat from Poland, demanding Moscow give a date for when the boycott would end.

Russia is also proving a pain in the side of Europe in the Balkan province of Kosovo. Speaking from Azerbaijan on May 21, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, made clear how firmly opposed his nation is to a Western-backed plan to support Kosovo’s independence from Serbia under international supervision.

As minor as any of these specific incidents may seem, each was an outburst resulting from the mounting tension between Russia and the entire continent of Europe. In administering a verbal lashing to the Estonians, for example, President Putin must have known the European Union would consider it an assault on its other 26 members also, including such heavyweights as France and Germany. That is certainly how Germany took it, accusing Putin of attacking the sovereignty of an eu member and pledge its “full support” for little Estonia.

These skirmishes must be considered against the backdrop of already heated eu-Russian relations. The issue of energy supplies remains extremely contentious between Russia and Europe. During the past two winters, Russia displayed its dominance over European energy supplies by momentarily halting the flow of natural gas and oil into different parts of Europe. Europe’s leaders fear few things more than an audacious Kremlin squeezing the Continent’s energy flow; thus, securing energy independence from Russia has now become one of their most urgent goals—a venture that is also being opposed by Russia.

“Badly Wrong”

Fed up with Moscow’s belligerent and patently anti-Western gestures, many of Europe’s leaders allowed their frustration to surface at an eu-Russian summit just outside the Russian city of Samara in May. Their disgruntlement, vividly captured in European newspapers, illustrates the debilitating state of eu-Russian relations.

Prior to the meeting, the European Voice warned that eu-Russian relations had reached the brink of a deep-freeze, stating that eu and Russian diplomats themselves “have acknowledged that there is little chance of beginning talks on boosting political and economic ties at the summit …” (May 16).

The International Herald Tribune explained how the latest tensions (with Estonia, Poland and Kosovo) come amid “increasing alarm in Europe that Moscow is using its vast energy resources for political ends, flouting human rights and stamping out democracy ahead of parliamentary elections in December and a presidential vote next March” (May 14). Relations between Europe and Russia are so bad that Peter Mandelson, the eu’s trade commissioner, “warned recently that the level of misunderstanding between the two was the worst since the end of the Cold War and was in danger of going ‘badly wrong’” (ibid.).

The Moscow Times, in an article aptly titled “Europe Scolds a Bristling Putin,” reported on the fruitlessness of the one-day conference in Samara. “No major deals were reached,” the article stated. “While the two sides spoke of a willingness to cooperate, they disagreed over almost everything…” (May 21).

During the long and acrimonious post-summit press conference, Putin became visibly annoyed and combative as he faced questions from German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Even European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso emerged from the summit swinging, warning Putin that “the eu is based on principles of solidarity” and that the Russian president’s attack on Poland was an attack on the entire European Union.

The tone of the summit was unmistakably cold. Europe’s leaders are fed up with Russia’s bold antics and are showing themselves willing to confront Putin and his comrades.

Of all of Europe’s leaders, the Times of London identified Germany’s Merkel as one of Russia’s toughest critics. According to the Times, prior to the Samara summit Merkel took her hardest line yet in a dinner with Putin, warning him that “Russia could not pick on individual European states and expect a business-as-usual approach from the European Union” (May 18).

The quiet but distinct message emanating from Germany is clear: Russian arrogance and boldness will no longer be met with mere diplomacy.

Uniting Against a Threat

Russia’s newfound global power and influence is triggering European leaders to demand a strong leader capable of striking back. Few things unite a nation or group of nations more than a mutual external threat. Logic informs us that Russia’s spiral toward dictatorship will trigger a fear among Europeans that will accelerate the unification of the Continent.

Bible prophecy reveals that this is precisely what we can expect to occur. Russia will be a catalyst for the formation and empowerment of a united European power!

In the coming months, relations between Russia and Europe may seem to smooth over. But don’t be fooled: Russia is Europe’s greatest, most time-tested enemy—and a German-led Europe is Russia’s most persistent threat. Historians know that Russian-European relations are an enigma. Stalin and Hitler were smiling and shaking hands in 1939; by 1941 their soldiers were killing each other. Pleasant relations and peace agreements between Russia and Europe mean nothing. In fact, the friendlier they seem to grow, the likelier that war is imminent. Witness the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of the 1930s.

Behind the facade of cooperation, this historical reality will remain: The more geopolitical power and influence Russia gains, the more Europe’s leaders and citizens alike will feel the need to unify to counter the threat mounting to their east. More specifically, Russian ambition will help Europeans realize the desperate need for a strong, robust leader to lead them against such external forces posed to their east by a leader like Vladimir Putin.

Thanks to its position at the heart of energy politics, as well as the support it receives from nations embracing it as a counterweight to Western dominance, Russia is destined to grow in power in the coming months and years. As this trend unfolds, watch the reaction from Europe.