Recent Russian actions suggest a new stage of the Russian threat to Ukraine—and potentially to the Caucasus, Belarus or the Baltic states as well—that could presage a new large-scale military operation.
First, in 2016, Russia created 25 division formations and 15 brigades, while raising manpower by only 10,000 men. This suggests the possibility that Russia may aim to wage protracted large-scale war using the Soviet model, with a Soviet-type army composed of “skeleton units” that existed solely on paper until they were called up as part of the process of mass mobilization.
That such mobilization may be under consideration is apparent from the Kavkaz-2016 and other military exercises in 2016 where Moscow mobilized forces from the Ministry of Interior, banks to pay soldiers’ wages in the fields and hospitals to provide field hospitals, as well as entire provincial civilian administrations. Russia is apparently thinking about possible protracted contingencies and is returning to fantasies of a Soviet-type military and mobilization effort.
Second, as part of that military process in 2016-2017, Moscow created the 1st Guards Tank Army, the 40th Army and the 8th Army, and deployed them all around Ukraine’s borders. The 8th Army headquarters is at Rostov-On-Don, from where it could strike toward the Caucasus if necessary, or be air- or sea-lifted to the Middle East.
Moreover, any of these armies could quickly be moved toward Belarus to put down unrest there, if Belarus’s government cannot or will not do so.
Two small Italian banks, Popolare di Vicenza and Veneto Banca, recently reported their 2016 fiscal positions that showed losses of 1.9 billion euros ($2 billion) and 1.5 billion euros ($1.65 billion), respectively. Both banks have slipped below the EU mandated requirements for managing bad debt leading to erosion of their capital reserves. Though these two banks are small they are the ‘canaries in the fiscal coal mine’ when it comes to assessing the current overall financial problems besetting Italy. There is currently a total 360 billion euros of non-performing loans in the Italian banking system, making the sector extremely fragile.
Monte dei Paschi
Precedence setting mini-banks like Popolare di Vicenza and Veneto Banca, have a outsized influence on setting the rules underpinning the setting of controls and limits on the largest banks in Italy. Precedence setting on how the European Central Bank treats Italy’s large banks are administered, based on such weak guidelines is causing investors across the sector to re-evaluate their investments.
Russia has floated its new state-of-the-art nuclear-powered multipurpose submarine called Kazan as its fleet returned to Soviet-era operational levels in terms of sea patrols, according to the Russian Navy chief.
“The Yasen-M class nuclear-powered submarine cruisers are some of the most advanced battleships that amassed all cutting-edge submarine shipbuilding technologies,” Admiral Vladimir Korolev, the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy, said as the most advanced Russian nuclear attack submarine, Kazan – the second submarine of the Yasen-M class – was launched in the northern Russian port of Severodvinsk.
Kazan was laid down in 2009 and is expected to be accepted by the Russian Navy in 2018 following sea trials. The admiral said four more submarines of the same class – Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, Arkhangelsk and Perm – are now being built at the Sevmash shipyards in Severodvinsk and one will be launched as early as in 2019 while the seventh and last vessel of this project, Ulyanovsk, would be laid down in the summer of 2017.
All the vessels are expected to be built by 2023, according to Korolev.
The chance of US military Mission Creep in Yemen as well as Iraq and Syria appears to be ratcheting up with the departure of the Obama Administration. The further deployment of US Forces in both Iraq and Syria, aiming to destroy ISIS in the Levant and support Syrian rebel forces, has seen a constant incrementalism over the past 2 years as numbers grow. Now the US forces deployed in Yemen also appear to be ratcheting up, as the US is drawn deeper into the stalemated Yemeni civil war. Comparing Yemen’s belligerent forces over the past two years shows almost no movement in core territorial gains for any side.
YEMEN :March 30, 2017
The US Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed between the US and Iran by the outgoing Obama administration, to reduce the chances of direct US-Iranian armed altercations in the Middle East, was part of the de-escalation process that also saw the roll back in US sanctions against Iran. The obverse of this policy was a rise in Saudi and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) concerns about US future commitment to their defence. Especially so after the recent meeting between the Iranian Quads Force Commander Qassem Soleimani with rebel Houthi forces in Yemen. The Yemen Civil War has reached stalemate with both the Yemeni forces under President Hadi, the al-Houthi rebels in the NW and the al Qaeda/ AQAP / ISIS aligned bedouins holding almost the same regions today, as at the outbreak of the civil war. Meanwhile the ‘peace talks’ in Switzerland drag on with no side in any hurry to compromise.
Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydło wrote a curiously desperate letter of last resort to the European Union to prevent the re-election of her Eurocrat predecessor, Donald Tusk. She appealed to democracy and national sovereignty. This must have sounded like a joke to the Eurocratic team that decided whom to choose. But all was in vain. Poland alone cast the dissenting vote. Representatives of twenty-seven other EU countries voted for the reelection of Tusk.
Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydło
Poland’s former liberal prime minister Donald Tusk of the Civic Platform (PO) party has just been reelected as the president of the European Council (EC). The election has occurred against the explicit wishes of Poland’s current populist government of the Law and Justice Party (PiS). On the one hand, Tusk’s victory has triggered much gloating in the Europhoric, globalist, and German circles. On the other hand, it has prompted confused fury and embarrassment in the Polish ruling circles.