Russian President Vladimir Putin held his year-end press conference, where he praised President Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. He also warned of the growing threat of nuclear war between Russia and the United States. Markos Kounalakis, a foreign affairs columnist for McClatchy News and visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution, joins CBSN with analysis. VIEW HERE
Vladimir Putin won’t find many great presents under the Christmas tree this year.
Orthodox Christian religious leaders worldwide are weakening an important institution that gave him outsize power and legitimacy.
The Russian Orthodox Church is being broken up, and an independent Ukraine Orthodox Church will be established. The Ukrainian flock soon will be led not by the Moscow-based church and Patriarchate, but rather by its own independent church and youthful leadership. Ukraine and its political class are suddenly freed from an influential Russian institution that has been fiercely loyal to Putin.
This was not on Putin’s Christmas list. Instead, the news is like a lump of coal in his stocking.
Russia’s wider designs on — and power over — Ukraine have included a wide hybrid war from the Donbass to the recent naval blockade in the Black Sea. Moscow has its fingerprints on the shoot-down of the Malaysian MH-17 passenger plane over Ukrainian territory and its paw prints on an annexed Crimea. Every step of the way, Putin has found legitimacy in his actions and the nation’s military activity through reignited Russian nationalism and the silent acquiescence of Moscow’s spiritual leadership and clergy. READ MORE
Kounalakis on if US should defend NATO countries: "We answered that question a long time ago"
On the banks of the Moscow River, standing tall, a gleaming white edifice, the site of the 1991 Russian resistance, where Boris Yeltsin climbed atop a tank and stood up against a Soviet military coup, is the Russian White House - the “Bely Dom” on the Krasnopresnenskaya Embankment.
Unbeknownst to most is that they, too, have an annual correspondents dinner. It is lesser known because it is held in an undisclosed location, in a bunker near Gorky Park. The few surviving Russian White House correspondents gather to celebrate their dwindling numbers, giving scholarships to the families of “missing” and defenestrated journalists.
This year’s guest speaker was comedian Wolf Sheepovich Michellovskaya. As always, it was held on May Day, International Workers Day, and portions were surreptitiously recorded. President Vladimir Putin was not in attendance, off instead to Sevastopol to celebrate the holiday in a springtime pageant and parade in his honor. READ MORE
Vladimir Putin has spent years trying to divide the West by undermining elections, invading neighbors and aggressively using Russian oil and gas as a ham-handed bargaining tool. These concerted and clever efforts have suddenly, however, revealed the New Putin: Despite his best efforts and plans, he’s become a uniter, not a divider of the West.
Early 2018 had Putin heading towards a staggering, but not surprising, electoral victory against dead and disqualified opposition candidates. This dominance allowed Russia’s president to ride his eventual 76.6 percent final poll tally to a new level of cavalier confidence on the global stage. Political dominance at home and fawning support from President Trump gave him a delusional sense of invincibility. It led him to overreach and miscalculate.
Now, well over 20 Western countries have joined together to give Putin the one-finger salute for a U.K. chemical agent attack he is suspected of either directing or condoning. The targets in the assassination attempt in Salisbury were a former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter Yulia. READ MORE
Phone calls are not President Trump’s best tool for international charm offensives. He hung up on Australia’s prime minister a year ago, nearly changed U.S. policy toward Taiwan and China in another conversation when he was president-elect, and, this week, further offended Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto.
The end result of the Feb. 20 call is that Peña Nieto canceled, for a second time, a planned White House visit. It may also have locked in a win for a far-left presidential candidate in the July 1 Mexican national election — an election in which the Russians are working overtime to actively disrupt and influence.
The president’s poor phone etiquette further jeopardizes the already slow progress in the NAFTA renegotiation, adds a new strain to diplomatic relations with a border neighbor, hinders cooperation in combating drug trafficking and makes immigration issues even touchier. And with every notching up of tension with Mexico, the Trump border wall becomes an even harder sell in the nation he insists must underwrite it. READ MORE
Christmas came a little early for Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin this year. Russia usually celebrates the holiday on January 7th, but President Putin’s present arrived a month early when he announced his intention to remain in office via a national voting process. He has unofficially already won.
“Election” formalities are scheduled for March 18, 2018 and the legitimizing process will cost $300 million. The leading opposition candidates are already dead or disqualified. The handful of colorful and credible also-ran candidates will do their best, but be left in the dust. Putin losing the Russian presidential election is as likely as Siberian palm trees and banana plantations. Merry Christmas, Vlad.
If there is one global leader who has been winning so much he should be sick and tired of winning, it is Putin. He will enter his next term as the longest serving Russian head of state, winning his fourth non-consecutive six-year presidential term. Putin has already surpassed previous record holder Leonid Brezhnev’s 6,602 days in office, but unlike Brezhnev seems fit and in fighting form. READ MORE
Consumers have power. Companies know it. Just look at how quickly Keurig pulled its ads from Sean Hannity’s Fox News show over his coverage of Roy Moore’s alleged child molestation. Indeed, strategically spent big media money can take down talk show hosts, cut into the bank accounts of pro athletes and even elect an American president.
Imagine if consumers demanded the same kind of accountability from the American corporations that are bankrolling Moscow’s information-warfare campaign against U.S. voters.
Western advertising has been filling the coffers of Russian propaganda outlets, underwriting a racist, misogynist, anti-American media that keeps Vladimir Putin in place and actively threatens America’s political system. Writing in The Daily Beast, Mitchell Polman states clearly that “without those ad dollars it would be difficult for Russian media to function.” READ MORE
Nuke deals are all the rage these days. The United Nations sees nuclear accords as a path to world peace. President Barack Obama worked toward a “global zero” nuclear-free future.
President Trump, on the other hand, is highly skeptical of deals with Iran and North Korea because he understands what Tehran and Pyongyang leaders already know: Nuclear disarmament deals are for suckers.
Countries generally balk at giving up their hard-won and expensive nuclear capabilities because nuclear weapons are a time-tested and reliable deterrent. Giving up these weapons requires faith that any agreement inked is rock solid and that the countries agreeing to unilateral nuclear disarmament are assured they will not wind up like Ukraine or Libya – invaded or overthrown.
Trump does not inspire this faith. Neither does he have faith that the other side will do as it’s told. READ MORE