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As landmark INF treaty closes in on 30 years, will it survive? (Part III)

Ratcheting tensions between the US and Russia leave the future of the Cold War pact in doubt

Alex Christoforou

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(Oriental Review) – Part 3. Russia’s stance on the future of the INF Treaty

Russia feels that the current, inauspicious environment of noncompliance with the INF Treaty is cause for alarm, given Washington’s continued, systematic, and methodical chipping away at this system of global strategic stability.

The onset of that process began in 2002, when Washington unilaterally withdrew from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which ensured strategic stability through the creation of a strategic balance of offensive and defensive weapons.

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has repeatedly criticized the State Department reports, Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments, which, among other things, voiced grievances against Russia owing to the supposed breaches of its commitments under the INF Treaty.

Moscow has primarily taken issue with these documents because they have never offered any specific details to back up these claims, instead merely reiterating the main articles of the 1987 treaty and adding various unproven allegations.

There has never been any clarification of the substance of either the American complaints or the comments of US officials who refer to some sort of “classified intelligence.” For this reason the Russian Foreign Ministry has declared its willingness to help the American diplomats correct this omission, at one time reminding them that objectivity and accuracy should always be prioritized over creative writing.

Russia contends that the “information” that the US previously submitted to Moscow via diplomatic channels, which allegedly should have made it possible for the Russians to identify the missile in question, was in fact incomplete, fragmentary data that in no way clarified the basis for the American complaints. In Russian governmental and political circles, it is a matter of serious concern that representatives of a number of US agencies are using these “facts” as a pretext for trotting out yet another justification for potential “countermeasures” in response to Russian “violations” of the 1987 treaty.

Russia has often stated that the two types of Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles cited by the US as “violations” of the INF Treaty, namely the mobile, ground-based RS-12M or Topol-M (SS-25) missiles, as well as the new RS-26 ICBM also known as the Rubezh, have never been classified as intermediate- or short-range missiles, since their flying range exceeds the maximum ceiling of 5,500 km defined by the Gorbachev-Reagan agreement. For this reason, these two ICBMs are only subject to the terms of a treaty of a different format and content, namely New START, which was signed in 2010.

The mobile launcher for RS-26 Rubezh

The mobile launcher for RS-26 Rubezh

Likewise, the 1987 agreement is in no way applicable to the operational R-500 missile, nor does that missile have anything to do with that agreement, since its maximum firing range falls below the minimum of 500 km, as defined by that treaty.

Moreover, the Russians have long reminded Washington that it is in fact the US that is breaching its treaty commitments under quite a number of arms-control agreements.

As early as Jan. 4, 2001, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued its first statement noting that the US, in violation of the INF Treaty, has a history of manufacturing a new type of ground-based, medium-range ballistic target missiles, known as Hera, based on the second and third stages of the Minuteman II ICBMs. However, the US side has offered no satisfactory response to this charge yet.

A similar statement, but broader in scope, was made by the Russian Foreign Ministry nine years later. In August 2010, it announced that the US were systematically violating the main provisions of the INF Treaty by using target missiles to fine-tune components of their missile-defense systems that simulate not only ballistic missiles such as Hera, but also LRALTs (long-range air-launch target missiles) and MRTs (medium-range targets). The Russian diplomatic office pointed out that under the 1987 agreement, the launch of such missiles qualifies as a test of a “new type” of intermediate-range land-based missile, which is a violation of Article VI of that treaty.

During the presidencies of Barack Obama and Donald Trump, the United States armed forces have often stated that they have routinely used short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic and cruise missiles (the American side defines medium-range as between 1,000 and 3,000 km, while intermediate-range is 3,000–5,500) as target missiles while conducting operational tests to assess the effectiveness of the interceptors that are part of the US global missile-defense system.

This has been confirmed by official statements made by every director of the Missile Defense Agency of the US Department of Defense since 2001 at hearings before various Senate and House committees. On an ongoing basis since 2001, i.e., since active testing began of missile-defense systems in the US, the Pentagon has conducted 92 tests of its “missile shield,” using a full array of short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic and cruise missiles as targets for its intercept tests.

Similar tests will continue in the US in 2018, and, hence, so will their violations of the INF Treaty, since the same types of dummy missiles of this range will again be used as targets for interception.

Moscow has been reminding Washington that the MK 41 multi-mission launchersused at American missile-defense sites in Romania and Poland that are equipped with the Aegis Ashore command and control system will be used to launch intermediate-range, land-based cruise missiles – a direct violation of the INF Treaty. It is important to remember that similar launchers were positioned in Romania back in May of 2016 and more should be in place in Poland by December of 2018.

US combat drones, which can also be loaded into the MK 41 launchers, are another problem for the INF Treaty, as they meet the 1987 agreement’s definition of land-based cruise missiles. The United States has added drones (also known as “unmanned aerial vehicles,” or UAVs) such as the Predator, Raptor, Global Hawk, and others to its arsenal, which under the treaty are all classified as ground-based cruise missiles, regardless of the fact that they were produced and pressed into service after that agreement had been signed. Heavy UAVs of this type, which carry aircraft ordnance, clearly qualify as aerodynamic missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 km, which are prohibited by the INF Treaty.

As landmark INF nuclear treaty closes in 30 years, will it survive?

In the future it might well be possible to load “dual-capable” launchers of this type with the high-precision, hypersonic weaponry developed by the Pentagon for its Prompt Global Strike program.

The US has repeatedly provided official confirmation of the fact that it is using short-, medium-, and intermediate-range missiles as targets to test the effectiveness of its interceptor missile-defense systems.

The US claims that it takes too much time to reload the designated weapons and to change the computer programs required for their launch do not ring true, given the fact that similar types of US Navy sea-based launchers are loaded simultaneously with four types of missiles for various purposes, namely anti-surface, anti-aircraft, anti-submarine, and land attack missiles. No one has to specifically go in and change the electronic programming in order to fire them under combat conditions. That is already included for each missile.

Two central themes can be seen in the attempts of the US side to accuse Russia of “violating” the 1987 treaty: one is designed for a domestic audience, while the other is intended for external consumption.

The domestic motif consists of distracting attention from both the tests of the newest US ballistic missile defense systems as well as from the production of a new intermediate-range, land-based cruise missile.

Prior to the 2016 US presidential election, the Republican lawmakers’ second motif at home was their desire to pressure the Democratic Party by demanding that Barack Obama identify at any cost the ways in which Russia had violated the INF Treaty.

As landmark INF treaty closes in 30 years, will it survive? (Part II)

But once Donald Trump won the election, new faces stepped forward to play the part of the accusers: now the Democrats were the ones heaping abuse on the Republican administration of Donald Trump, claiming that it was not offering a robust response to Russia’s “violations” of the 1987 treaty.

The recurring themes in the foreign policy of the Republican and Democratic congressmen were evident in their attempts to use any means to prevent the Russian Federation from getting highly effective intercontinental missiles that could reliably prevail over any type of integrated American and transatlantic anti-missile system: both by employing a missile-defense system, in the form of sea- and land-based interceptors, that steady advances on the borders of Russia and other states, as well as by relying on the ground-based system that has long been deployed inside the continental US.

This can be seen in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act,, which has its sights squarely set on Russia’s RS-26 ICBM. And one way to get rid of it – which Washington is already using – is easily evident: first, Moscow is forced to believe that the US is prepared to produce a new ground-launched cruise missile, but then Washington is apparently willing to abandon that venture if the Russians will get rid of an already existing missile of an entirely different class. But the days when an obvious trick like that would have worked are long past.

It can also be presumed that the song and dance about Moscow’s alleged ongoing violations of the 1987 treaty is an attempt by the US to distract the global community from the problem of the Americans’ ongoing stockpiling of tactical nuclear weapons on the European continent, despite the fact that Russia already withdrew all its nuclear weapons of that class from three former Soviet republics (Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine) back in the mid-1990s.

The question then arises: why does President Donald Trump need such a clearly counterproductive brouhaha over these unproven Russian violations of the INF Treaty, not to mention the array of threats that no high-ranking American officials had ever before issued in such an openly provocative way? One gets the impression that they are advancing contrived accusations against Russia only to divert attention from the American violations listed above, creating a kind of “smokescreen.”

Clearly there is another, more dangerous implication, when viewed from a foreign-policy perspective.

Washington is looking for a chance to launch a first nuclear strike – without repercussions – against Russia, China, Iran, and other states with their own views about the future world order. The White House, as the American press has noted, is considering three options for its military response to Russia’s INF “violations”: developing defensive, i.e., anti-ballistic systems; launching a preemptive strike against any weapons that violate the treaty; and using “nuclear weapons to destroy military targets” on enemy territory.

At the same time, it must be remembered that US strategic nuclear forces are retaining their same offensive doctrine that allows for a first preemptive or preventative nuclear strike against a whole group of states, while unconstrainedly expanding the capability of their global missile-defense system.

It’s a safe bet that America’s threatening actions within the context of the implementation of the INF Treaty will prompt countermeasures from many states and will heighten the risk of conflicts. When one side makes flagrantly destabilizing moves without taking into account the other side’s security interests, it is natural to see some pushback. As a result, once the balance of power and the strategic equation are restored, it is at a more weaponized level and the balance that is achieved is more precarious. This means a higher risk of a revival of military confrontations such as were seen in Berlin and Cuba.

Russia is still happy to take a look at any tangible evidence that is giving the Americans reason to believe that Moscow has “violated” something under the 1987 treaty. But Moscow has no intention whatsoever of breaking this treaty, which for the last 30 years has been inhibiting the potentially dangerous proliferation of two classes of nuclear weapons within the arsenals of the world’s leading nuclear powers.

In light of the current situation, Russia has plans for discussions with the US on a whole range of substantive issues related to reducing armaments and limiting military interactions between Russia and the United States.

These “other substantive issues” include:

• the fact that since the summer of 2014 all three types of American strategic heavy bombers – the B-1B, B-52H, and B-2A – have been stationed in Europe and have taken part in various NATO military exercises

• the fact that the US is equipping its strategic delivery vehicles with conventionally-armed cruise missiles (four Ohio-class submarines have already been converted, giving each of them the capacity to carry up to 154 such missiles)

• the cache of American tactical nuclear weapons in Europe and Asia that are being radically updated and furnished with more advanced delivery systems

• the potential deployment in Romania and Poland of not only US ground-based missile-defense systems in multi-mission launchers, but also interceptors, long-range cruise missiles, and long-range high-precision hypersonic weapons

• NATO’s significant advantage over Russia in terms of general-purpose forces, the positioning of new military bases and heavy weapons near Russia’s borders, and also the staging of large-scale military exercises of an offensive nature

• the prevention of any weaponization of space.

There are also other issues Moscow might bring up with Washington that are directly tied to the American attempts to avoid resolving a whole host of other arms-control problems. And that includes more than a dozen genuine grievances over US noncompliance with current treaties and agreements, in addition to those problems for which they make no effort to find solutions based on the principle of equality and equal security for all sides.

At the same time, Moscow is still prepared to hold an honest and substantive dialog with the Americans in order to allay any concerns over arms control, which would include any misgivings related to the INF Treaty.

As has been repeatedly pointed out at the highest levels of the Russian government, (in particular, during the Valdai International Discussion Forum in Sochi on Oct. 19, 2017), Moscow does not intend to initiate the termination of the current INF Treaty, but it will respond commensurately should the US move to do so.

Vladimir Putin Valdai Discussion Club 2017

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Russia makes HUGE strides in drone technology

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The US and Israel are universally recognized leaders in the development and use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones. Thousands of American and Israeli UAVs are operating across the world daily.

The US military has recently successfully tested an air-to-air missile to turn its MQ-9 Reaper drone into an effective long-endurance, high-altitude surveillance unmanned spy aircraft capable of air-to-surface as well as air-to-air missions. This is a major breakthrough. It’s not a secret that Russia has been lagging behind in UAV development. Now its seems to be going to change with tangible progress made to narrow the gap.

Very few nations boast drones capable of high-altitude long endurance (HALE) missions. Russia is to enter the club of the chosen. In late 2017, the Russian Defense Ministry awarded a HALE UAV contract to the Kazan-based Simonov design bureau.

This month, Russian Zvezda military news TV channel showed a video (below) of Altair (Altius) heavy drone prototype aircraft number “03”, going through its first flight test.

Propelled by two RED A03/V12 500hp high fuel efficiency diesel engines, each producing a capacity of 500 hp on takeoff, the 5-ton heavy vehicle with a wingspan of 28.5 meters boasts a maximum altitude of 12km and a range of 10,000km at a cruising speed of 150-250km/h.

Wingspan: about 30 meters. Maximum speed: up to 950 km/h. Flight endurance: 48 hours. Payload: two tons, which allows the creation of a strike version. The vehicle is able to autonomously take off and land or be guided by an operator from the ground.

The UAV can carry the usual range of optical and thermal sensors as well as synthetic-aperture ground-surveillance radar with the resolution of .1 meter at the range of 35km and 1 meter at the range of 125km. The communications equipment allows real-time data exchange.

Russia’s UAV program currently underway includes the development of a range of large, small, and mid-sized drones. The Orion-E medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAV was unveiled at the MAKS 2017 air show. Its developer, Kronstadt Technologies, claims it could be modified for strike missions. The one-ton drone is going through testing now. The Orion-E is capable of automatic takeoff and landing.

It can fly continuously for 24 hours, carrying a surveillance payload of up to 200 kg to include a forward looking infra-red (FLIR) turret, synthetic aperture radar and high resolution cameras. The drone can reach a maximum altitude of 7,500 m. Its range is 250 km.

The Sukhoi design bureau is currently developing the Okhotnik (Hunter) strike drone with a range of about 3,500km. The drone made its maiden flight this year. In its current capacity, it has an anti-radar coating, and will store missiles and precision-guided bombs internally to avoid radar detection.

The Kazan-based Eniks Design Bureau is working on the small T-16 weaponized aerial vehicle able to carry 6 kg of payload.

The new Russian Korsar (Corsair) tactical surveillance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) will be upgraded to receive an electronic warfare system. Its operational range will be increased from 150km to 250km. The drone was revealed at Victory Day military parade along with the Korsar unmanned combat helicopter version.

The rotary wing drone lacks the speed and altitude of the fixed wing variant, but has a great advantage of being able to operate without landing strips and can be sea-based. Both drones can carry guided and unguided munitions. The fixed-wing version can be armed with Ataka 9M120 missiles.

The first Russian helicopter-type unmanned aerial vehicle powered by hydrogen fuel cells was presented at the Army-2018 international forum. With the horizontal cruising speed of the drone up to 60 kph, the unmanned chopper can stay in the air at least 2.5 hours to conduct reconnaissance operations. Its payload is up to 5 kg.

Last November, the Kalashnikov Concern reported that it would start production of heavy unmanned aerial vehicles capable of carrying up to several tons of cargo and operating for several days at a time without needing to recharge.

All in all, the Russian military operate 1,900 drones on a daily basis. The multi-purpose Orlan-10 with a range of 600km has become a working horse that no military operation, including combat actions in Syria, can be conducted without. Maj. Gen. Alexander Novikov,
the head of the Russian General Staff’s Office for UAV Development, Russian drones performed over 23,000 flights, lasting 140,000 hours in total.

Russia’s State Armament Program for 2018-2027 puts the creation of armed UAVs at the top of priorities’ list. Looks like the effort begins to pay off. Russia is well on the way to become second to none in UAV capability.

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Struggling US farmers worry about one thing: a resurgent Russia

Russian wheat exports are booming despite a crushing price slump, as the country’s farmers finally emerge from decades of neglect

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Via The Wall Street Journal

Otradnaya, Russia – Vladimir Mishurov transformed the remnants of the “Lenin’s Path” collective farm in this village into a profitable business. He also helped make Russia the world’s largest wheat exporter for the first time since the last years of the czars.

Over the past decade or so, Mishurov has changed the aging Russian machinery to dozens of modern machines from John Deere and other manufacturers and has begun to make extensive use of new efficient fertilizers and seeds. He bought and rented additional land from neighbors and relatives, bringing the area to 1,500 hectares – the benefit that in Russia the prices for it are relatively low.

Like many American farmers, he often worked days and nights and slept very little, especially during harvesting.

The main difference between Mishurov and the average farmer from the Great American Plains is that in Russia they are lower costs, and they are mostly in rubles , and from the sale of their products abroad, he gets a lot of money, because he sells it for dollars.

Against the backdrop of a long and serious decline in grain prices, Russian agriculture is flourishing. For the year ending in June, the country exported more than 40 million tons of wheat, which is 50% more than last year, and the highest among all countries in the world in the last quarter of a century. In 2016, Russia overtook the United States in terms of wheat exports and became the first in the world, and in 2018 it repeated this achievement.

The growth of Russian competitiveness is a serious problem that creates a threat to American farmers. The United States has closed the largest number of farms since the 1980s. Overproduction of grain in the world pushed prices down, and today they are half compared to the level of 2012 when the price peak was reached. For the same reason, it is difficult for US farmers to earn a dollar profit.

Because of US trade disputes with China and other countries, Russian wheat can become even more attractive if large buyers enter reciprocal duties on American grain. China increased them by 25%, but Chinese restrictions on imports from Russia prevented Moscow from taking advantage of the emerging advantage. This was told by Swithun Still, who is the director of the Solaris Commodities SA, a Swiss company that sells Russian grain.

While there is no “trade war, but laws of economics”, they help Russian wheat compete, and even in countries that are neighbors with the United States, say, in Mexico, noted Still. According to him, Russian grain has become more quality, and it is cheaper.

Russian farmers are moving ahead when export earnings are converted into rubles. The Russian currency has fallen in price, and the dollar exchange rate is now twice as high as in 2014. Russia has the same advantage in relation to the euro and other currencies. Its farmers cover the costs of the house, continuing to sow grain, and also defeating their western competitors by price indicators.

The growth in exports of Russian agricultural products, including grain, fish and meat, is an integral part of efforts to diversify the economy and eliminate its dependence on oil. Once, oil and gas gave half of the revenues to the federal budget. Now, when oil prices are 25% below the record level in 2014 (they rose significantly after more than 60% fall), oil and gas exports account for about 40% of budget revenues.

“As oil prices fell, grain came on ahead. Grain is our oil , “said the then Minister of Agriculture, Alexander Tkachev, in 2016.

Cheaper wheat from Russia squeezes American and European grain from the markets of import-dependent countries in the Middle East and North Africa, where the Kremlin has in recent years been fighting to strengthen its military and diplomatic influence.

In 2017, exports of agricultural products amounted to $ 20.7 billion in monetary terms, outstripping arms exports and ranking second in revenue. Wheat is about a quarter in total.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, the crop area of ​​wheat in Russia as of June was almost twice as high as in the US. American farmers, not seeing the opportunity to earn, sowed the smallest area in wheat in the history of statistical observations. This year, the production of wheat in the US declined by 25%.

The farm Mishurova is located in the fertile steppe in the south of Russia. This region is the largest grain producer in the country. For the rich in minerals black earth and mild climate it has long been called the granary of Russia.

Mishurov today is 46 years old. In his youth he worked as a tractor driver, driving around on a roaring tractor, whose engine had to be repaired every year, which made his hands forever rough. Money was not enough, and the workers received wages in kind: sacks of flour, wheat and sugar. Drunkenness in the countryside was ubiquitous.

In the early twentieth century, Russia was the world’s largest exporter of wheat. The Soviets killed and threw in jail millions of people, including the most hard-working and successful farmers. They did this in an attempt to create a system of collective farms, which turned out to be ineffective. By the 1970s, the Soviet Union was forced to import grain.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the collective farms struggled, but continued to exist, and they were run by the same bosses who had neither business acumen nor money to invest .

“There was no master,” says Mishurov. “They could not adapt to a market economy.” They are accustomed to follow the instructions without thinking. ”

Farm workers came to work “to kill time, and waited for the end of the working day to go home,” says farmer Andrei Burdin, who lives in a neighboring village and cultivates land that once belonged to the collective farm “Dawn of Communism”. “Agriculture has reached a dead end,” he adds.

In the late 1990s, Russia allowed the sale of land, but new investors and their managers were far from agriculture and did not want to take risks.

Mishurov, who worked as the chief agronomist in a large multidisciplinary agricultural company, recalls how in the early 2000s he told one manager that if pesticides were used, the yield of barley could be increased by a quarter.

“No, Vova, that’s enough for us, too,” the manager replied. “Why should I try to persuade someone to earn more money?” – says Mishurov.

In the mid-2000s, he decided to start his own business. First he collected the land of his relatives and all the equipment he could find. Today, Mishurov grows wheat, barley, beets, corn, sunflower, peas and other crops.

43-year-old Burdin in 2005 began to cultivate about 100 hectares of land on his visionary tractor and seeder. The profit he invested in more efficient machinery and fertilizers, and then expanded the area of ​​his arable land, renting them from neighbors.

“When we earned the first money, I did not buy a Mercedes and an apartment ,” Burdin said. “I invested them in the next season.”

First he bought Russian equipment, but then switched to tractors and harvesters “John Deere”, which the Russians call “green technology.” According to Burdin, he tested the John Deere harvester in comparison with the Russian combine and found that from the same area it can grind a third more grain.

He also bought a precision seeder from the Swedish company Vaderstad AB, which plants seeds at optimum depth and at optimal intervals, which increases yields. Today, Burdin cultivates about 1,500 hectares.

Downloading seeds in April in the seed drill, he joked with his workers on the topic of old technology. Burdin recalled how he worked with a sprayer of pesticides, which permeated him with poisonous chemicals. According to the farmer, he worked on it no more than four hours a day, fearing for his own health. Now its installation itself measures how much to spray pesticides and where, which leads to cost reduction.

Voronezh, Russia. Tempo F8 plant corn and sunflower, Tempo R12 prepares the land for planting sugar beet.

The prices for land in the area where Mishurov and Burdin live are much lower than in many of the competing countries. On average, agricultural land in Romania, which is located on the Black Sea and is a member of the European Union, costs almost three times more than in Russia. And the land in Iowa and Kansas is more expensive than Russia’s more than five times, as evidenced by the research data of the Moscow firm SovEcon, which specializes in the analysis of agricultural markets, forecasts for Russian agriculture and consulting services.

According to Burdin, Russian seeds and fertilizers are cheaper than Western seeds, although their quality has improved significantly in recent years. He buys semen from the State Institute of Agriculture, and can use the crop for seeding next season. Many US farmers use expensive and high-yielding patented seeds from companies such as Bayer AG and DowDuPont Inc.; but the crop obtained from them can not be used for planting, because of which farmers are forced to annually purchase fresh seeds.

Transportation costs in the region are also low. It is located near the Black Sea ports, and diesel fuel and gas there are much less than in Western Europe. Burdin and Mishurov own a fleet of trucks, on which they export grain to the port of Novorossiysk, located at a distance of 320 kilometers.

Private and state-owned companies in recent years have modernized grain terminals and increased their throughput. Farmers using the application in their smartphones can order a time interval for the delivery of grain by their trucks, so that cars are no longer waiting for days in the queue.

Record harvests create a serious strain on the infrastructure . Windows for grain discharge are dismantled very quickly, and farmers are often given time with a delay of several days, says Burdin.

Export could be further increased, they find the opportunity to ship more, he notes.

Russia views this as a priority task. President Vladimir Putin ordered officials to eliminate bottlenecks in the infrastructure, which hinder the increase in exports. In the interior of the country, long distances, as well as a shortage of wagons and elevators, is the main obstacle to supplying grain to the foreign market.

In one of Russia’s largest Novorossiysk terminal this year, modernization is being completed, and it will almost double its capacity. Other companies also plan to build and expand terminals on the Black and Baltic Seas, as well as in the Far East. According to officials, the expansion of ports is capable of increasing the export of grain by 50%, and by 2020 it can be brought up to 7.5 million tons per month.

The government in every possible way praises state subsidies, including inexpensive loans, which help farmers to change old equipment. Analysts and farmers note that the state’s efforts to support farmers are unsystematic and give variable success. Subsidies often fall into companies with the right connections, investments go to agriculture slowly, and bureaucrats and officials often wait for bribes.

“Farmers have found freedom and can do their work as they see fit and effective ,” said Andrei Sizov, director of the SovEcon Analytical Center. “The role of the state in the past ten years is very small, and this is good for the industry.”

Giant agricultural holdings, which are multidisciplinary companies created by wealthy tycoons and close to federal and regional authorities, operate on such a scale that Western farmers are looking like dwarfs against their backdrop. The share of private farms of more than 100 thousand hectares or thousands of square kilometers in Russia accounts for about 13% of all cultivated land, says Sizov.

Now Mishurov can afford such luxury as collecting and restoring old Soviet cars and rest in the Maldives or in Thailand. But he says he prefers to stay at home.

Here, poor villages depend on the generosity of wealthy farmers. Mishurov allocated money to repair the statue of Lenin and the monument to local residents who died during the Second World War, and Burdin paid for the repair of the local kindergarten.

Mishurov has 10 agricultural workers, three security guards and a cook preparing food for the workers. “It’s a lot for our squares, but we try to keep jobs in the countryside,” he says. One morning a man came to the house to ask Mishurov to ask for a bucket of corn for his hens. He was a former collective farm chairman.

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Russia Gives Up on Trump and the West

In looking at America’s global commitments, greatly expanded since our Cold War victory, one word comes to mind: unsustainable.

Patrick J. Buchanan

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By the end of his second term, President Ronald Reagan, who had called the Soviet Union an “evil empire,” was strolling through Red Square with Russians slapping him on the back.

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive.

And how have we husbanded the fruits of our Cold War triumph?

This month, China’s leader-for-life Xi Jinping stood beside Vladimir Putin as 3,000 Chinese troops maneuvered with 300,000 Russians, 1,000 planes, and 900 tanks in Moscow’s largest military exercise in 40 years.

It was an uncoded message to the West from the East.

Richard Nixon’s great achievement of bringing in Peking from the cold, and Reagan’s great achievement of ending the Cold War, are history.

Bolshevism may be dead, but Russian nationalism, awakened by NATO’s quick march to Russia’s ancient frontiers, is alive and well.

Moscow appears to have given up on the West and accepted that its hopes for better times with President Donald Trump are not to be.

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley is berating Russia for secretly trading with North Korea in violation of U.N. sanctions, saying, “Lying, cheating, and rogue behavior have become the new norm of the Russian culture.”

Cold wars don’t get much colder than defaming another country’s culture as morally debased.

The U.S. has also signaled that it may start supplying naval and anti-aircraft weaponry to Ukraine, as Russia is being warned to cease its inspections of ships passing from the Black Sea through the Kerch Strait into the Sea of Azov.

The three-mile-wide strait lies between Crimea and Kerch Peninsula. In Russia’s eyes, both banks of the strait are Russian national territory.

With U.S. backing, Ukraine has decided to build a naval base on the Sea of Azov to “create conditions for rebuffing the aggressive actions of the Russian Federation in this region.”

Kiev has several patrol boats in the Sea of Azov, with a few more to be transferred there in coming months. Russia’s navy could sink those boats and wipe out that base in minutes.

Are we going to send our Navy across the Black Sea to protect Ukraine’s naval rights inside a sea that has been as historically Russian as the Chesapeake Bay is historically American?

Poland this week invited the U.S. to establish a major base on its soil, for which the Poles will pay $2 billion, to be called “Fort Trump.”

Trump seemed to like the idea, and the name.

Yet the Bush II decision to install a missile defense system in Poland brought a Kremlin counter-move: the installation of nuclear-capable Iskander cruise missiles in Kaliningrad, the former German territory on Poland’s northern border annexed by Stalin at the end of World War II.

In the Balkans, over Russian protests, the U.S. is moving to bring Macedonia into NATO. But before Macedonia can join, half of its voters have to come out on September 30 to approve a change in the nation’s name to North Macedonia. This is to mollify Greece, which claims the birthplace of Alexander the Great as it own.

Where are we going with all this?

With U.S. warships making regular visits into the Eastern Baltic and Black Sea, the possibility of a new base in Poland, and growing lethal aid to Ukraine to fight pro-Russian rebels in the Donbass and the Russian navy on the Sea of Azov, are we not crowding the Russians a bit?

And are we confident the Russians will always back down?

When Georgia, believing it could kick Russian peacekeepers out and re-annex its seceded province of South Ossetia, attacked in August 2008, the Russian army came crashing in and ran the Georgians out in 48 hours.

George W. Bush wisely decided not to issue an ultimatum or send troops. He ignored the hawks in his own party who had helped goad him into the great debacle of his presidency: Iraq.

So what exactly is the U.S. grand strategy with regard to Russia?

What might be called the McCain wing of the Republican Party has sought to bring Ukraine and Georgia into NATO, which would make the containment of Russia America’s policy in perpetuity.

Are the American people aware of the costs and risks inherent in such a policy? What are the prospects of Russia yielding always to U.S. demands? And are we not today stretched awfully thin?

Our share of the global economy is much shrunk from Reagan’s time. Our deficit is approaching $1 trillion. Our debt is surging toward 100 percent of GDP. Entitlements are consuming our national wealth.

We are committed to containing the two other greatest powers, Russia and China. We are tied down militarily in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, with the War Party beating the drums for another larger war with Iran. And we are sanctioning adversaries and allies for not following our leadership of the West and the world.

In looking at America’s global commitments, greatly expanded since our Cold War victory, one word comes to mind: unsustainable.

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Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of a new book, Nixon’s White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever. To find out more about Patrick Buchanan and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators website at www.creators.com.

Via The American Conservative

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