Russian Government Officials Told To Immediately Bring Back Children Studying Abroad
11 October, 2016
In Europe, when it gets serious, you have to lie... at least if you are an unelected bureaucrat like Jean-Claude Juncker. In Russia, however, when it gets serious, attention immediately turns to the children.
Which is why we read a report in Russian website Znak published Tuesday, according to which Russian state officials and government workers were told to bring back their children studying abroad immediately, even if means cutting their education short and not waiting until the end of the school year, and re-enroll them in Russian schools, with some concern. The article adds that if the parents of these same officials also live abroad "for some reason", and have not lost their Russian citizenship, should also be returned to the motherland. Znak cited five administration officials as the source of the report.
The "recommendation" applies to all: from the administration staff, to regional administratiors, to lawmakers of all levels. Employees of public corporations are also subject to the ordinance. One of the sources said that anyone who fails to act, will find such non-compliance to be a "complicating factor in the furtherance of their public sector career." He added that he was aware of several such cases in recent months.
It appears that the underlying reason behind the command is that the Russian government is concerned about the optics of having children of the Russian political elite being educated abroad, while their parents appear on television talking about patriotism and being "surrounded by enemies."
While we doubt the impacted children will be happy by this development, some of the more patriotic locals, if unimpacted, are delighted. Such as Vitaly Ivanov, a political scientist who believes that the measure to return children of officials from studying abroad, is "long overdue." According Ivanoc, the education of children of the Russian elite abroad is subject to constant ridicule and derision against the ruling regime. "People note the hypocrisy of having a centralized state and cultivating patriotism and anti-Western sentiment, while children of government workers study abroad. You can not serve two gods, one must choose."
On the other hand, political analyst Stanislav Belkovsky quoted by Znak, believes that such decisions should be approached with more pragmatism. Such a recommendation is more likely to lead to an outflow of officials from the state, rather than allow the return of the children studying at elite foreign universities. He also warned of attempts to recreate an echo chamber such as that experienced after the failed July coup attempt on Turkey's President Erdogan.
But what he said next was more disturbing: "On the one hand, this is all part of a package of measures to prepare the elites for some 'big war' even if it is rather conditional, on the other hand - this is another blow to the unity of President Putin with his own elite" Belkovsky said. He adds that the Western sanctions launcedh in March 2014, had sought to drive a wedge between Putin and elites. In response, the Kremlin began to act precisely according to the logic of these sanctions. "But while a ban for having assets in the West is one thing, and understanable, when it comes to a ban for offshore health and education services, the blowback will be far greater, as it represents a far more important element of the establishment's life strategy."
Ultimately the motivation behind Putin's decision is unclear: whether it is to show Russia's high-ranking oligarchs who is boss, to boost a sense of patriotism among the nation by sending a symbolic message that the west is no longer a welcome destination for Russia's rich kids, or just a preemptive move of repatriating of any individuals affiliated with Russian politics for other unknown reasons; however it underscores the severity of the ongoing diplomatic crisis and just how significant the upcoming isolation between Russia and the West is likely to become in the coming months - unless of course tensions deescalate dramatically in the very near future - resulting in even greater collapse in global commerce and a further slowdown to world economic growth, which may ultimately lead to an armed conflict, whether regional or global, as the only possible outcome.
Russia Recommends Family Members to Return Home?
In a rather odd report coming from Znak.com a Russian language news source they have published an unofficial report that states: "Russian officials, up to the highest level, that children studying abroad are to return to the country, and to do so without finishing the courses of study."
If the article is indeed authentic this may suggest Russia's concern over the growing Syria tensions.
Putin cancels visit to France amid Syria tensions
11 October, 2016
Russian President Vladimir Putin has canceled a planned visit to France after Paris shortened the program for the trip. The development comes amid increased tensions between Russia and France over Moscow’s veto of a French UN Security Council draft resolution on Syria.
Putin was expected to arrive in Paris next week, but the visit has now been postponed, the Kremlin confirmed.
“There were some events scheduled, including the opening of a Russian cultural and religious center, [and] exhibitions. Unfortunately, those events were struck off the program, so the president decided to cancel his visit to France for now,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
The Kremlin official would not comment on why France chose to change the program of Putin’s visit, saying that “this question should be addressed to the French side.”
Commenting on the cancelation of the visit, French President Francois Hollande said on Tuesday he was prepared to meet Putin “at any moment” to discuss Syria.
"I consider it is necessary to have dialogue with Russia, but it must be firm and frank otherwise it has no place and it is a charade. I'm ready to meet President Putin if we can make progress on peace," the French leader said during a session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).
Earlier, French diplomatic sources told Reuters that France wanted to downgrade the planned visit and cancel all events except a working meeting with President Hollande on Syria and that Russia chose to postpone the visit instead.
This comes a day after Hollande said he was reluctant to meet Putin after Russia blocked a French-sponsored resolution at the UN Security Council, which sought to impose a no-fly zone over Aleppo, Syria.
Moscow said that the resolution would protect terrorist group Al-Nusra Front, which controls a greater portion of eastern Aleppo, under a pretext of humanitarian relief. An alternative proposal by Russia, which would seek a deal with the group to grant them safe passage out of the city and spare its civilian population, was rejected by other members of the UNSC.
French officials accused Russia and the Assad regime of committing war crimes in Syria and threatened to ask the International Criminal Court to probe the allegations. It was not immediately clear how Paris wanted to deliver on the threat, considering that the ICC has no jurisdiction over Syria.
The rising tension over Syria, as evidenced by increasingly loud rhetoric against Russia coming from the West, indicates the unresolved dispute over the war-ravaged country’s future between Moscow and Western powers, according to John Laughland, director of studies at the Institute of Democracy and Cooperation in Paris.
“Now that Russia has become a party to the war in Syria since last year… this has aggravated the situation with the West, because not only has Russia successfully prevented Assad from falling – a year ago there was a chance that he would be overthrown – but Russia has also increased her own position on the international stage. And that, of course, is something that the Western powers do not like,” he told RT.
“In some ways we should see the Syrian conflict as a conflict between the West and Russia. Four years ago I’ve said that the real target in Syria was not Assad but Putin. And I think we can see this angle coming back again,” he added.
The cancelation of Putin’s visit may have been the reason why France rather than another nation submitted the draft resolution, which Russia was expected to veto even before it was discussed at the Security Council, independent journalist Robert Harneis told RT.
“Why should it be France? It could have been Britain. After all, Britain and France compete with each other to run after the Americans all the time. So one wonders whether it was deliberate to make it impossible for this meeting to take place,” he said.
He believes that France acted on a cue from Washington in this situation, but Putin’s not coming to Paris may actually benefit President Hollande during the upcoming election in France. After all, Putin might have touched upon France’s own misdeeds, like the overstepping of a UN mandate to enforce a no-fly zone in Libya, which was used to destroy Muammar Gaddafi’s army, which was done by primarily France and Britain, Harneis said.
“It would have been very embarrassing for Hollande if Putin had come, because Putin is known for defending himself. If people attack him, he gives a straight answer. I don’t think that in the run-up to the election Holland would want an acrimonious meeting in Paris,” he explained
'Proportional Response': Did the White House Just Threaten to Hack Russia?
11 October, 2016
Four days after publicly accusing the Russian government of hacking into the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the Obama Administration has announced plans for what it terms a “proportional” response.
On Friday, the US Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a statement formally accusing Moscow of attempting to influence the US election by hacking into servers belonging to the DNC.
It followed a series of informal accusations against Russia for the hacks, also made without evidence.
On Tuesday, the White House offered some idea of how it plans to respond.
"There are a range of responses that are available to the president and he will consider a response that is proportional," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters.
"The president has talked before about the significant capabilities that the US government has to both defend our systems in the United States but also carry out offensive operations in other countries."
He added that whatever action the US decides to take will not be announced to the public in advance. Speaking to Radio Sputnik, Ohio State University Professor Emeritus of International Law John Quigley pointed out that the basis for the decision is largely ungrounded.
"Well, it seems a bit ambiguous. The statement said that it is consistent with methods used which is a formulation that falls short of saying that they definitely know what is going on," Quigley said.
"Speculation a week or so ago was that the United States would not come out with these accusations because it raises the question of what it could do next," he dded.
"The likelihood is that it will not do much. I think that probably the president wanted to make this information public but that he doesn’t really have in mind any specific countermeasure."
The Russian government has dismissed the allegations against it as part of a "hysterical campaign."
Speaking to Russia’s Channel One broadcaster, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated, 'When I discussed the issue with US Secretary of State [John] Kerry last time, I told him that we have had some consultations. After all, we also do not want our nationals to engage in cybercrime. This can be turned against Russia."
"We do not want to cause any damage to other countries as well," Lavrov detailed, adding, "It is funny, that there is quite a hysterical campaign underway in the context of the elections debates [suggesting] that we have hacked the sites of the Democratic Party and Pentagon."
Lavrov said that Kerry expressed interest in bilateral consultations over the issue, but apparently the White House derailed the overture.