Friday, April 25, 2014
A Russian intelligence-gathering ship has been operating off the U.S. East Coast and near the Gulf of Mexico for the past month, the Pentagon said Thursday.
“We are aware that the Russian ships Viktor Leonov and Nikolay Chiker are currently operating in waters that are beyond U.S. territorial seas but near Cuba,” said Lt. Col. Tom Crosson, a Pentagon spokesman. “We respect the freedom of all nations, as reflected in international law, to operate military vessels beyond the territorial seas of other nations.”
The Leonov is an intelligence gathering ship outfitted with high-tech electronic spying gear. The Chiker is an ocean-going naval tug that has been accompanying the spy ship on its mission.
Pentagon officials suspect the ships were part of a spying operation since March against the U.S. nuclear missile submarine base at Kings Bay, Ga. and other U.S. military facilities
Both ships were detected operating off the coast of Florida near the U.S. Naval Station Mayport, Fla., which is south of the Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay.
The Russian intelligence gathering coincides with heightened tensions between the United States and Russia over Moscow’s recent military annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea.
An official said it is possible that the electronic spying is related to watching U.S. nuclear missile submarines as part of a Russian nuclear exercise.
According to Russian military press reports, some 10,000 Russian troops and 1,000 pieces of military equipment of the Strategic Missile Forces took part in an exercise April 17 to 19—coinciding with the transit of one of the ships, the Chiker, to Cuba from the coast off northern Florida on April 19.
“The exercises will test the cohesiveness and skills of units and commands in the process of alerting and the achievement of training objectives under various circumstances and in any time of the day,” Russian defense spokesman told Interfax.
The Chiker also is known to support submarines and is equipped with lift capability for servicing Russian submarines.
U.S. officials said in 2012 a Russian Akula attack submarine was detected operating near the East Coast. The Navy denied the sub sailed undetected in the Gulf of Mexico.
Crosson declined to comment further on the Russian naval activities. “It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to talk about the operations of non-U.S. vessels operating beyond U.S. territorial seas,” he said.
According to military enthusiast websites, the Leonov is a Vishnya-class medium intelligence ship home ported in Severomorsk and is part of the Kola Peninsula naval forces.
The ship was commissioned in 1988.
The ships are designed for signals and communications intelligence gathering through an array of ship-borne sensors. It also is equipped with two 30-millimeter guns and anti-aircraft missiles.
Wire services reports indicated the Leonov docked in Havana in February and March, and again this month.
Credit to Washington Free Beacon
MOSCOW, April 25 (RIA Novosti) – Russian President Vladimir Putin has condemned the Kiev authorities’ attempts to use their army against civilians in a phone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Kremlin said Friday.
“Putin and Merkel have exchanged opinions on the critical situation in Ukraine, including Kiev’s authorities not wishing to implement Geneva agreement of April 17, and Putin firmly condemned Kiev’s regime attempts to use the army against civilians in Southeastern Ukraine,” the Kremlin press office said.
Putin and Merkel emphasized the importance of holding multiparty talks on Russian gas deliveries and transit, presidential aide Yuri Ushakov said.
“Both leaders [Putin and Merkel] emphasize the importance of holding soon talks on the security of Russian gas delivery and transit issues, with the participation of Russia, the European Union, and Ukraine,” Ushakov said.
On Thursday, a spokeswoman for EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said that the venue and date of upcoming trilateral talks between Russia, Ukraine and the European Commission on the security of natural gas supplies had yet to be agreed upon.
Oettinger invited the Russian and Ukrainian energy ministries to participate in the talks, originally proposed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in a letter to European leaders. The Russian Energy Ministry has suggested holding the discussions on April 28 in Moscow.
Last week, top diplomats from Russia, Ukraine, the US and the EU met in Geneva and approved a statement calling on the sides in Ukraine to refrain from violence, extremism and provocations, disarm militants and launch a national dialogue on constitutional reform. Despite Kiev’s promises to lay down arms, attacks on pro-federalization protesters continue.
Federalization supporters in Kharkiv, Donetsk, Gorlovka, Slaviansk and Kramatorsk have refused to recognize the legitimacy of the current Ukrainian government and are urging interim authorities to hold referendums similar to the one held in Crimea last month, which led to the republic's reunification with Russia.
Credit to RIA Novosti
Cyprus and Russia - what's the difference (aside from the fact that the former was a money laundering offshore center of the latter until last year of course)?
If you said one is a lackey to statist, selfish banker interests, and after having its economy thoroughly destroyed by the great doomed European sociopolitical (and pathological) experiment, came crawling back to its Eurozone masters, while the other couldn't care one bit about Pax Petrodollariana and the global central bank cabal, you are right.
In which case it will also be clear why a few hours ago that joke of a rating agency, Standard & Poor's, which also earlier announced it was "affirming" France at an AA rating making it very clear it will no longer accept being sued for telling the truth and downgrading sovereigns or otherwise have its offices abroad raided, not only upgraded Cyprus from B- to B (please deposits your funds in Cyprus banks now: they are safe, S&P promises), but - far more importantly - delivered a political message to the Kremlin, and downgraded Russia from BBB to BBB-, one short notch away from junk status. This was the first downgrade of Russia by S&P since December 2008.
"In our view, the tense geopolitical situation between Russia and Ukraine could see additional significant outflows of both foreign and domestic capital from the Russian economy and hence further undermine already weakening growth prospects," S&P wrote in its report.Moscow's MICEX stock index fell by 1.5% after the move. The ruble weakened 0.6% against the dollar to 35.977.A further cut to junk status would be a big move, given Russia's relatively modest level of debt, according to Tim Ash, an economist at Standard Bank."But if the crisis in Ukraine deteriorates further, and we see sustained capital flight and pressure on the ruble and Russian markets further, then it is possible," he said.
Russia's response was prompt.
First, in retaliation to the downgrade, Russian economy minister Alexei Ulyukaev said S&P’s downgrade of Russia’s rating was expected by investors, won’t significantly change their behavior, adding the obvious that the decision to cut Russia’s rating was partly political, partly based on economic situation. In other words, entirely symbolic - it is not as if Russia has access to bond markets anyway, plus as we wrote earlier this week in "Why Putin Is Smiling At The Bond Market's Blockade Of Russia", it is not as if it needs them.
But far more importantly, and ahead of yet another round of western sanctions which appears imminent unless Obama is to look even more powerless than he currently is (granted, a difficult achievement), Russian presidential adviser Sergei Glazyev proposed plan of 15 measures to protect country’s economy if sanctions applied, Vedomosti newspaper reports, citing Glazyev’s letter to Finance Ministry. According to Vedomosti as Bloomberg reported, Glazyev proposed:
- Russia should withdraw all assets, accounts in dollars, euros from NATO countries to neutral ones
- Russia should start selling NATO member sovereign bonds before Russia’s foreign-currency accounts are frozen
- Central bank should reduce dollar assets, sell sovereign bonds of countries that support sanctions
- Russia should limit commercial banks’ FX assets to prevent speculation on ruble, capital outflows
- Central bank should increase money supply so that state cos., banks may refinance foreign loans
- Russia should use national currencies in trade with customs Union members, other non-dollar, non-euro partners
In other words, a full-blown scorched earth campaign by Russia.
Granted, Russian holdings of US Treasurys are not that substantial (and could be monetized entirely in three months of POMO by the Fed), and western financial linkages to Russia, aside from trade routes, are not life-threatening, but if Russia were to take the baton, and other BRIC countries, already furious by the recent US decision to not boost their IMF status, follow suit, then Obama's life is about to become a living nightmare. Especially, if that most important BRIC member - China - does any of the many things it can do to indicate if, in this brand new Cold War, it is with or against the US...
Finally, those curious what are the linkages between the west and Russia are, review our recent post on the matter: All You Need To Know About Russia, In Charts.
Credit to Zero Hedge
The last time the Russian "Doomsday Plane" was seen in the air doing its trademark loops at 27,000 feet telegraphing Vladimir Putin was somewhere nearby, was on March 31, just days after the formerly Ukrainian region was annexed by the Kremlin. Until today, when over the past 4 hours, the Tu-214 has been quietly circling in position just shy of Finland and the Baltics, where as it is known, NATO has been depositing hundreds of western soldiers in a "defensive" build up.
What is the "Doomsday Plane"? Here is a reminder:
The Tupolev Tu-214SR is a Russian Special Mission Aircraft believed to act as a communication relay aircraft. This kind of aircraft is often dispatched by the Russian Air Force to accompany Putin’s presidential aircraft on its travels and for this reason it is considered the Russian version of the U.S. E-4B, a so-called “doomsday” plane, with an airborne command and control role.* * *America isn't the only superpower with a "Doomsday Plane" for its head of state. When Russian President Vladimir Putin needs to escape danger, he hops aboard this top-secret flying communications center.A special missions variant of the Tupolev Tu-214 commercial transport aircraft, the Tu-214SR is Russia's answer to the US E-4B, an airborne command and control plane built specifically for the Russian president's use and considered successor to the Ilyushin Il-20 Coot, which has been in service for the better part of four decades. Produced by Aviastar SP and Kazan Aircraft Production Association, the twin-engine, long-endurance jet can carry 62 passengers with comparable range and speed to a Boeing 757. But unlike the Boeing, the Tu-214SR is packed to the gills with cutting-edge sensor and communications equipment.While significantly less is known about capabilities of the 214SR than the E-4B , we do know that it carries an MRC-411 multi-intelligence payload, which includes electronic intelligence (ELINT) sensors, side-looking Synthetic Aperture Radar (to spot incoming air threats from long range), and a variety of Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) and Communications Intelligence (COMINT) equipment. Four onboard generators provide ample amperage while a set of external fuel tanks allow the plane to remain aloft for trips up to 10,000 km.The two such 214SRs entered service in 2008 with the Presidential Special Applications Squad and are operated by a crew of four. However, the plane was only declassified last year when it made its public debut at the Moscow Air Show. Since then, it's been spotted in the skies above both the Sochi Olympics, and more recently—and ominously—in Crimea.
Why was the Doomsday Plane circling so close to the Baltics today of all days, and is this nothing but a welcome sign from Russia to the NATO build out in Eastern and Central Europe? And does it indicate that Putin was - as he usually does - either traveling in the vicinity, or is it an omen of something more ominous?
As can be seen on the image below (courtesy of Flightradar24), after circling for hours just east of the Finland border, it is now en route to land back in St. Petersburg, from where it took off several hours ago.
Credit to Zero Hedge