Putin’s Next Presidential Term Will Be Different

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Russia will hold its next presidential elections in March 2018, and current president Vladimir Putin has yet to announce his intention to run. Russians are accustomed to Putin’s late announcements of his candidacy (as occurred in 2004 and 2012), and he is widely expected to run. He will almost certainly win, but will have to find ways to handle fundamentally different domestic circumstances both during the election and after it.

For the past several years, Vladimir Putin’s government has been facing major challenges both at home and abroad. In terms of foreign policy, Russia experienced several serious failures. In 2014, when the Euromaidan took place and Russia grabbed Crimea and supported separatists in Donbass, Kiev became unequivocally pro-western in its foreign policy course. In the same year, Moldova, Ukraine, and Georgia all signed EU association agreements and stepped up military cooperation with NATO members and other western states.

Moscow has also experienced problems with breakaway territories across the former Soviet space. Russia once used the conflicts in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Transnistria to curtail the ability of those countries to enter the EU and/or NATO, but Moscow is having more and more difficulty maneuvering in so many diverse conflicts. Various actors are trying to play their own games independently of Moscow, and anti-Russian sentiment is growing among local populations (for instance, in Abkhazia).

Geography also complicates Moscow’s ability to act decisively. For instance, the Transnistria region, where it has approximately 1,500 troops as peacekeepers, was essentially cut off from Russia once Ukraine closed transit routes through its territory.

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Russia Woos the World with New Plan on Syria

Caught between the hope of securing a lasting foothold in the Middle East and the fear of inheriting an impossible situation, Russia is trying to re-gauge its Syrian policy with possible support from the Trump administration in Washington.

The key feature of Russia’s evolving new strategy is an attempt at changing the narrative on Syria from one depicting a civil war to one presented as a humanitarian emergency that deserves massive international aid.

Western analysts say the new narrative has the merit of pushing aside thorny issues such as the future of President Bashar al-Assad and power-sharing in a future government.

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Putin says he might be Russia’s president for life

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that he might decide to stay in office for life.

“I have not yet decided yet whether I will leave the post of the president or not,” Putin said on Friday during a question-and-answer session with students in Sochi.

“Only after I answer this question for myself will I think about my next step,” he added.

It’s unclear what Putin’s comments would mean for Russia. Presidents in Russia are prohibited from serving a third consecutive term. In 2011, though, presidential terms were lengthened from four years to six years.

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Syria Strike Won’t End Donald Trump-Vladimir Putin Relations

When Russian President Vladimir Putin got word that U.S. cruise missiles were going to strike his Syrian ally early on Friday morning, he had several options – both military and diplomatic – for firing back.

He could have used Russia’s air defense systems in Syria to shoot the American rockets out of the sky. As a rebuke to the Americans, he could also have cancelled his meeting next week with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. But he did neither.

Reading between the lines of Russia’s initial response, at least in the hours following the first targeted U.S. strike against the Syrian military, it seems that Putin is choosing to step back, bide his time and leave plenty of room to smooth things over. In Moscow’s diplomatic circles, there is even hope that Tillerson’s visit on Tuesday could still mark the start of some grand bargain – if not exactly a love affair – between Putin and President Donald Trump.

“This is not going to be pillow talk between two newlyweds,” says the Russian lawmaker Leonid Kalashnikov, who chairs a parliamentary committee on integration with Russian allies. “It’s a conversation between two people who want something from one another, and we are both ready to back away on this issue for the sake of achieving other goals later on.” Speaking by phone from Moscow, he added: “Russia understands that nobody needs escalation.”

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What Obama Owes Putin—And Why Donald Trump is Left Holding the Bag

Is Donald Trump a Russian secret agent? Did he pay FSB hookers to pee on the bed the Obamas slept in at the Ritz in Moscow, overlooking the Kremlin? It’s silly season, so any drunk on a fat oppo-research expense account can write down any crazy foolishness they want and Buzzfeed will let you decide if it’s true because that, as Buzzfeed’s editor, Ben Smith, solemnly explained to The New York Times, is where American journalism is at in 2017. Duly noted, Buzzfeed. Enjoy the golden showers.

What’s being obscured by this grotesquerie is the origin and the actual substance of U.S. foreign policy toward Russia, which in turn affects the lives of hundreds of millions of people living in Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, and elsewhere. Or, to put it another way: Is Donald Trump likely to continue the policies of his predecessor, which set the Middle East on fire and led to 500,000 deaths in Syria, and to Putin biting off large chunks of the sovereign nation of Ukraine? Or is he likely to reverse those policies? Or can he, even if he wanted to?

The single-mindedness with which the White House and the remnants of the Clinton campaign have pursued the idea that Donald Trump is a pawn of Vladimir Putin is not based on silly stories about peeing prostitutes or secret computer servers that connect the Trump organization to the Kremlin. Rather, it’s an attempt to manufacture more smoke to obscure the reality of Obama’s own determination to collaborate with a hostile Russian leader in Syria, and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Sure, Obama recently sent 35 Russian diplomats packing and shuttered Russian diplomatic facilities in Maryland and New York, but this was after seven years of looking the other way while Russia seized Crimea, then Donbass; waged cyberattacks on the Baltic countries; brought down a passenger jet over Ukraine; sheltered Edward Snowden; and bombed schools and hospitals in Syria. All of these actions threatened global stability and American interests, yet Obama only puffed his chest after the cyberattacks on the Democratic National Committee and Clinton Campaign Chairman John Podesta’s emails—long after it mattered, and after the moving vans have already started to haul his stuff out of the White House.

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Legacies . . .His and Ours

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Yes, Aleppo is Part of Obama’s Legacy

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So now, maybe, it’s time to think about OUR legacy. Yours and mine.

As you know, my Dry Bones cartoons fight against antisemitism and BDS. I distribute these Dry Bones cartoons through many channels, at no charge to you and to my other readers, but the operation costs me an annual $100,000. So how, I wondered, can I find this annual $100,000? I then thought of “the 36”. The Lamed Vavnikim.

Let me explain. Medieval Jewish mystics wrestled with a baffling question; “Given the wickedness of humanity and the cruelty of the world, why doesn’t an angry Creator simply destroy his creation?” Pouring over both Biblical and “hidden” texts they deduced that in every generation there are 36 people, hidden from view, whose righteousness prevents the divine destruction of our world. In the Hebrew numerological system, the two Hebrew letters Lamed and Vav, written as a word, represents the number 36. And so the hidden righteous “thirty-sixers” who save the world are called the Lamed Vavnikim.

So how will I raise our annual budget of $100,000?

The answer is simple. But the search is difficult. I need to find my Thirty Sixers. . . . my “Lamed Vavnikim”. Thirty Six righteous people who would each give $3,000 a year to help turn this often wicked world into “a better place” (Tikun Olam).

It’ll be YOUR legacy.

If you can and will become one of my Dry Bones 36 (Lamed Vavnikim) by joining this special group, just click on this Link.
http://drybonesproject.com/36/

If you are unable to join the 36, please give what you can.

http://drybonesproject.com/give/

Dry Bones- Israel’s Political Comic Strip Since 1973

We are watching Aleppo burn in real time. And just like in Bosnia and Rwanda, we do nothing

Every time a massacre happens, we say “never again”. Now, “never again” is happening in Aleppo, as I write.

The government’s operation to recapture the rebel-held eastern part of the city is in its final stages and reports of atrocities are coming in.

The Syrian army is reportedly going from house to house and executing residents on the spot. At least 82 civilians, including women and children, were shot on Monday, according to a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Residents fear summary executions, forced disappearances, torture, and rape – a grim litany of war crimes. Meanwhile, the Syrian regime and the Russian government are ignoring calls for the safe passage of civilians from war-torn Aleppo, as more than 100,000 terrified people are still trapped inside the city.

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