Saturday, November 9, 2013

Russia's Foreign Policy Is Nearing Complete Failure - Council on Foreign Relations

Council on Foreign Relations
It seems only yesterday that President Vladimir Putin seized the world's attention with his proposal to put Syria's chemical weapons under international control. To many, the fancy footwork had a clear message: Russia was back in the diplomatic big ...

Discrimination against homosexuals is openly accepted in Russia


Many homosexuals hope to leave Russia

Germany has granted a young doctor asylum due to his sexual orientation, after he faced persecution and social exclusion in Russia. Thanks to a recent EU ruling, other gays and lesbians will likely to follow.
Police detain demonstrators during a gay pride parade in St Petersburg's Marsovo Pole park. 
(Photo: Ruslan Shamukov / ITAR-TASS)
Pavel is gay. He is open about his sexuality, a fact which used to continuously cause outrage in Russia. "It is very unpleasant to be living in a society that thinks you are sick and backward, and where you can be fired from work just for being gay," he said.
"At any moment, someone can chop your head off," that's how he described the fear many homosexuals in Russia have to cope with on a daily basis.
The 26-year-old trained doctor came to Germany as an as asylum seeker in April 2013. He turned to Quarteera when he arrived. Quarteera, an organization for Russian-speaking homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexuals in Germany, didn't give him much hope of staying. They told him that Germany had yet to grant asylum status to a Russian attempting to escape the homophobic atmosphere in Russia. But Pavel decided to try and has been allowed to stay in Germany.
"Homosexuals in Russia have never had it easy"
Discrimination against homosexuals is openly accepted in Russia. In June 2013, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a nationallaw against "homosexual propaganda," which caused outrage in Germany and in other EU states. The law has made it illegal to portray homosexuality in a positive light in the presence of minors or in the media. The crime is punishable by imprisonment or monetary fines.
"Homosexuals in Russia have never had it easy," said Quarteera's Regina Elsner, adding that the biggest problem with the new regulation is "that it encourages the homophobic mood." According to Elsner, Russian society has always been very conservative and Putin's law has simply spurred on existing homophobia.
Ewald Böhlke of the Berthold Beitz Center of the DGAP
(Photo: Dirk Enters / DGAP
Ewald Böhlke: The situation of Russian homosexuals is a burden on Russo-German relations
Ewald Böhlke, head of the Berthold Beitz Centerfor Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Central Asia within the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), warned of an escalation of the already tense situation in Russia.
"When the state leads one-sided debates about minorities, the situation becomes even more difficult, because that constructs an imagined, everyday enemy, an image that is hard to control," he said, adding that the situation in Russia is an additional burden on the difficult relationship between Berlin and Moscow.
More and more turning to Quarteera
Pavel had to wait for four months for his case to be approved by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. He is now one of the first Russians to be granted asylum in Germany due to his sexual orientation.
In his home country, his story spread quickly. The reaction of gays and lesbians has been understandably positive, while the media has turned to old homophobic tropes, which stretch from statements like "Let them all leave, and we'll finally have our peace and quiet" to violent threats.
At Quarteera, Regina Elsner provides support for Russian-speaking homosexuals and transsexuals in Germany
(Photo: Quarteera)
Regina Elsner: Putin's anti-gay laws have encouraged the existing homophobic mood in Russia
Meanwhile, other homosexuals in Russia are considering the idea of following in Pavel's footsteps and going to Germany. In the past weeks, Quarteera has received an increasing number of e-mails and Facebook messages from people asking how they can travel to Germany. Homosexual asylum seekers not only have to prove they are being persecuted due to their sexual orientation in their home country, but also that the government is either not able or not willing to protect them.
European Court of Justice ruling
"Rulings about the status of refugees are made on an individual basis," the Quarteera website explains. The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees is closely observing the situation in Russia, but the Russian law currently does not allow blanket protection for homosexuals, according to the office's website.
The number of people from other countries currently seeking asylum in Germany because of their sexual orientation is unknown. The German human rights organization Pro Asyl estimates that there are around 100 cases from various countries every year.
But that number could soon rise, since the European Court of Justice ruled on Thursday (07.11.29013) that homosexuals must be granted asylum in the EU if homosexual practices are punishable by law in their home country.
Now that he is in Germany, Pavel said he just wants to forget Russia. Germany is his new home now. He still has to learn German before he can find a job as a doctor. And then, he said, all he wants is a quiet life.


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Syria & U.S.-Russian Relations: Three Things to Know - Video - CFR

Syria & U.S.-Russian Relations: Three Things to Know

Speaker: Stephen Sestanovich, George F. Kennan Senior Fellow for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
September 6, 2013
As U.S. Congress prepares to vote on potential limited military strikes against Syrian government targets for their alleged use of chemical weapons, Russian president Vladimir Putin has come out against U.S. strikes, and recently went as far as to call Secretary of State John Kerry "a liar" for his comments about al-Qaeda's involvement in the Syrian opposition. CFR Senior Fellow Stephen Sestanovich tells three things to know about the deteriorating state of U.S.-Russian relations vis-à-vis Syria.
Same Taste, New Injury: Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russian leaders have had a tendency to engage in anti-American rhetoric. "This was true even of a pro-American figure like Boris Yeltsin," Sestanovich says. Russian provocation of the United States regarding Syria also has roots in its decades-long relationship with the Syrian regime, which allows Russia to enjoy "access to naval facilities, arm sales, military and intelligence cooperation," Sestanovich adds.
Injecting Personality Into Policy: Russian foreign policy reflects elements of Putin's personality, according to Sestanovich. Putin places a premium on Russian sovereignty and largely "ignore[s] international criticism," Sestanovich says. "For Putin, Assad is right to oppose outside pressure," he says.
No Confrontation: Putin and his generals have no desire to involve Russian military personnel in the Syria conflict. The Russians may go as far as re-supplying the Syrian military, says Sestanovich, but unless the tide of the civil war turns against Assad, their policy will not change. "Yes, he wants Assad to survive; no, he does not intend to go down in flames with him," he says.

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News for michael mcfaul: US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul may resign before New Year

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    1. The Voice of Russia ‎- 1 day ago
      US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul is going to leave his post in Russia, reports referring to sources close to the Russian ...

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Britain’s and Russia’s special services are thawing their relationship after six years of frosty tensions – in the interests of Sochi security.

MI6 in from the cold? UK and Russia confirm they will share Sochi intel

Published time: November 08, 2013 17:33

MI6 building in London (Reuters / Toby Melville)
MI6 building in London (Reuters / Toby Melville)

As Russian Olympic officials work to ensure the ski slopes are cold enough for the 2014 Winter Games, Britain’s and Russia’s special services are thawing their relationship after six years of frosty tensions – in the interests of Sochi security.
In a parliamentary hearing Thursday, John Sawers, the head of MI6, said that British intelligence services are passing the experience they gained from the 2012 Summer Olympics in London to Russia for the Sochi Games.
"We passed the Olympic flame on from London to Sochi, and we have a certain responsibility there, and we will take it forward step-by-step," Sawers said.
The confirmation that MI6 will cooperate fully with their Russian counterparts on counter-terrorism measures for Sochi comes as Moscow and London have started sharing secret intelligence for the first time in more than six years. Relations between the two countries’ special services nosedived after the infamous scandal involving the death in London of former Russian agent Aleksandr Litvinenko in late 2006 rocked the international community.
Intelligence cooperation between Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) and Britain’s MI6 was halted after Litvinenko’s death. He was fatally poisoned with the radioactive agent Polonium-210, and mutual recriminations about who was responsible for his death soured relations between the two agencies.
After six years of strained relations, London and Moscow will be exchanging security information to ensure that the Winter Olympics, which run February 7-23 in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, go off without a hitch, a member of the State Duma Committee on Security and Anti-corruption, the former head of the FSB Nikolai Kovalev, said Friday.
Kovalev said that as the terrorists, despite language barriers and differences in banking systems, "act in coordination," so should the world’s security services.
The intelligence community “is torn apart by internal contradictions, we suspect each other, we cannot take any joint action,” Kovalev said. “It should be cooperative work of all the intelligence agencies of the world, which should take care of the athletes, and in general ensure the safety of [the Olympics]."
Amid the mistrust which arose following the spying scandal concerning the US National Security Agency’s surveillance of EU leaders and its cooperation with Britain’s GCHQ, London’s decision to offer full cooperation over Sochi was expected, and is the right one, Kovalev said.
“This is the right and the long-awaited decision made by the British, especially amid the mistrust which has risen in the European community after the scandal surrounding the activities of the NSA."

from: us russia relations - Google News

British and Russian Intelligence Services Resume Collaboration

MI6 Chief John Sawers at the parliamentary hearing on Thursday.
YouTube / Truthloader
MI6 Chief John Sawers at the parliamentary hearing on Thursday.
Britain has started sharing intelligence information with Russia for the first time since the fallout over the death of former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko in an effort to assist security preparations for the Sochi Winter Olympics, a top MI6 official said.
With Russia hosting the Winter Olympics in February, British intelligence services are exchanging some of the experience they gained from the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, MI6 chief Sir John Sawers told a committee of British lawmakers Thursday.
"We passed the Olympic flame on from London to Sochi, and we have a certain responsibility there, and we will take it forward step by step," Sawers said.
Sawers said there had been a "gap" in which the Russian and British intelligence services didn't talk to each other about intelligence matters due to the acrimony caused by Litvinenko's death and the investigations that followed it.
The British government "took a series of measures" after former Federal Security Services (FSB) agent Litvinenko died in London in 2006 from polonium poisoning, but the Russian authorities have not sufficiently cooperated with Britain on the case, Sawers said.
Litvinenko said that the Russian authorities had plotted to kill late tycoon Boris Berezovsky, and accused the FSB of organizing a series of Russian apartment building bombings that prompted the start of the second Chechen War in 1999. Litvinenko fled to Britain and sought asylum in 2000, after a series of criminal charges were leveled against him in Russia.
The circumstances of his poisoning remain unknown, though two Russian former secret service agents who met with him in a London restaurant hours before he fell ill have been suspected.

Security documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden have helped al-Qaida and other terrorist groups by impelling them to change the way they communicate, said Sir Iain Lobban, director of the Government Communications Headquarters, who also gave evidence at Thursday's meeting.
Foiling terrorist plans will become "far, far harder" in the following years, Lobban said.
Terrorists are "rubbing their hands with glee" and "lapping it up," Sawers said, also referring to Snowden's decision to divulge information to the media.
The security chiefs were unwilling to explain how the leaks could damage their organizations' effectiveness in greater detail, only saying that much of their success rests upon terrorists not knowing what security services are doing.

Read more:
The Moscow Times 

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