On the Moderate Interpretation of Islam – “Why I Founded the Wasatia Movement in 2007” – Guest Blog by Mohammed S. Dajani Daoudi –

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Wasatia is a movement that advocates achieving peace and prosperity through the promotion of a culture of moderation that would walk away from the current climate of religious and political extremism that escalates fear and violence. Wasatia claims the centrist position—that balance, between passion and hate, between amity and enmity, between deep despair and false hope, would lead the Middle East out of its chronic conflict and despair.


Wasatia name derives from the term wasatan which appears in verse 143 of al-Baqarah Surah in the Holy Quran. The term wasatia in Arabic means center and middle. In the Holy Quran it means “justice, moderation, balance and temperance.” The word wasat appears in verse 143 of the second chapter, which is 286 verses long, so it appears exactly in the middle. The verse says: “And We have created you a middle ground (moderate) nation” or “a centrist ummah [community].” The passage demonstrates that the need to be moderate and temperate is a central message within Islam.

Wasatia addresses all aspects of life: the way you eat, the way you dress, the way you spend money. Those of us in the movement interpret this to indicate justice, balance, moderation, middle ground, centrism, and temperance. In studying other faiths, particularly Judaism and Christianity, it becomes clear that they too uphold the same values, thus offering fertile ground for inter-faith understanding and peaceful co-existence.

But it’s not merely moderation as a religious principle that should replace the radicalizing rhetoric of militant extremists. It is at its core a deeply human principle, a willingness to see those on the other side of the conflict not as “the enemy” but as fellow human beings, shaped by different histories but all looking towards the day when they can live in peace and security.

This belief may seem an incongruous attitude, coming as it does from someone who, as a Palestinian university student in the humiliating aftermath of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, espoused guerilla warfare as the only possible way to achieve justice for his people. But then I left to pursue post-graduate studies, first in England and then the United States. It was an enlightening experience. Viewing the situation from a distance and with new knowledge, I came to reject any notion of violence as an answer to the problem.
Later personal experiences strengthened my belief that at a human level, where bigotry and hatred are replaced by moderation, empathy, and understanding, there exists a common desire for peaceful accommodation.

In late 2006, during the month of Ramadan, I observed from the balcony of my house, which overlooked the Dahiet al-Barid/Ram Checkpoint in East Jerusalem, a situation that had the potential to escalate into violent confrontation. Hundreds of Palestinians from the West Bank were trying to pass into Jerusalem to pray in al-Haram al-Sharif and al-Aqsa Mosque. The Israeli soldiers pushed them back and threw tear gas grenades at them, but to no avail. I was waiting for gunfire to erupt when quite quickly the volatile standoff appeared to have been defused. I soon discovered that the leading officer had agreed to a compromise. Buses were arranged to take the Palestinians, who agreed to hand over their ID cards, into Jerusalem to pray. Afterwards the buses brought them back to the checkpoint where their cards were returned.

It struck me as very significant that these Palestinians, religious though they clearly were, favored a negotiated solution. Had they been extremists, they would have escalated the event in the hope of precipitating a violent clash that could then be used to further their narrative of a demonic Israeli enemy. On their part, the Israelis recognized the Muslim faithful for what they were, religious yet moderate people. This in turn prompted me to ask myself who represents such religious moderates in Palestine and, as a response, to found Al Wasatia.

Shimon the Righteous taught: “On three things does the world stand—on Torah, on divine service, and on acts of kindness [charity].” Wasatia teaches: “On three things does the world stand—on the Holy Books, on divine service, and on acts of voluntarism and kindness [charity].” Wasatia rejects the view that extremism is the best way or the most authentic Islamic way, quoting Prophet Mohammed saying, “The best way to run affairs is through moderation.”

Wasatia is a movement that advocates achieving peace and prosperity through the promotion of a culture of moderation that would walk away from the current climate of religious and political extremism that escalates fear and violence. Wasatia claims the centrist position—that balance, between passion and hate, between amity and enmity, between deep despair and false hope, would lead the Middle East out of its chronic conflict and despair.

I believe that part of the religious animosity problem is related to ignorance—both about our own religion and that of the ‘other’. Religion has played a big role in agitating the conflict to date, and I believe it is time that religion becomes a catalyst in resolving it. Many Muslims don’t know very much about Judaism or Christianity, and what many of them know about Islam is distorted. Interfaith dialogue helps to dispel stereotypical images, myths, and misperceptions. In any conflict, religious peace is a prerequisite for a sustainable political peace.

Achieving our goals will take time, probably a long time, because it involves overcoming the malevolent influence of the religious militants, their distorted interpretation of the Qur’an, and the deeply ingrained attitudes and prejudices thus engendered, particularly among the poor, young, and uneducated. But it’s no good standing by and doing nothing—not when we are confident that our message of moderation is the key to a much brighter future for all sides.


Mohammed S. Dajani Daoudi, the founder of the Wasatia Movement of Moderate Islam, is also the inaugural Weston Fellow at The Washington Institute.  He previously worked as a professor of political science at al-Quds University in Jerusalem and served a visiting fellow at the Institute in 2012.

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Also in Media – Barry Shaw – “The Death of Progressivism and Israel”

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In my book “Fighting Hamas, BDs and Anti-Semitism” I detail the discovery of a new strain of anti-Semitism that I noticed in Europe, namely the urge by haters to drive a wedge between the local Jew and the Jewish State.

I wrote of several examples of the modern form of Jew hatred in the section entitled “The Malmo Symptom.”

I named it that to reflect the experience suffered by the local Jews of Malmo when their mayor, Ilmar Reepalu, insisted that they must “denounce Israeli violations against the civilian population in Gaza. Instead, it decides to hold a (pro-Israel) demonstration in the Grand Square, which could send “the wrong signal.”

This veiled threat that his Jews must toe his anti-Israel line, at a time when Israeli civilians (some related to the Malmo Jews) were being targeted by intense Hamas rocket bombardments from Gaza, is shockingly revealing.

Read the rest of the story –  Barry Shaw – The Death of Progressivism and Israel – 8/27/2016

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FTAC – Fighting Over Time

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Adopting the overarching humanism expressed in Back-Channels may be part of addressing and attenuating the distress — I know: it’s too mild a word but the clinical approach may help in politics — promoted by our acceptance, approval, or fear of political criminals.

I believe my nation-state has engaged appropriately with pirates, raiders, thieves, and despots over centuries and consistently for the better. However, it too has had to compromise with or work with a “realpolitik” in the world, whether as with “detente” in the Cold War days or with dictators conveniently found in the region between American secular humanist pluralist values and the machinery of a large entity that and attempts cultural transformation with gunships and tanks.

Over time, and perhaps because the dictators can be so bad, a more loving and moderate human soul persists and prevails in a little more of the world’s space.

Because we are so bound together today by virtual wires and immense production and shipping systems plus international investment, a form of buy-in, our wars should be smaller despite “advances” in the lethality of the world’s arsenals, and they should become more about how we live with ethnolinguistic cultural survival and co-evolution far beyond ourselves. The fascist nationalist supremacist urge in thought that then develops and drives armies against one another despite the weaving in global communications, economics, and industry seems to me archaic, and it’s on that front, a front in time more than place, that we’re having this conversation.


The enterprise of enterprise and freedom finds its boundaries in the personalities of the despotic and ruthless who command their states through brutality and fear.  Crime and corruption complicate matters, but over time, and perhaps a great expanse of it, early Las Vegas, the wild frontier, gives way to law and its enforcement.  Still, the conditions that may produce a healthy society anywhere may be fragile x population x area x economy (internal and external trade variables) x education x endemic cultural worldview, and so on.  It takes immense courage and fortitude to produce a predominantly civil — lawful — state.

Here I may depart from “Putin bashing” and the constant juxtaposing of Moscow with the horror taking place in Syria and the scare tactics employed by the Ayatollah in Iran.  What does it take to turn a multi-tiered “mafia state” that starts out with a big resources grab by free-ranging business guys with rough ways but must become reliable and trustworthy, more or less, partners in the development of capital enterprise and through it the raising of regional economic development?

In that light, strong re-centralization of power and the creating of law that encourages (to say the least) the reinvestment of reserves in Russia’s internal economy makes sense — and as much has come to pass albeit too slowly for the “capital flight” that has already taken place in earlier years.

Still — the future’s the thing.

BackChannels works with everyday news, not a crystal ball.  It gets to the intersections in conflict, politics, and psychology and rightly questions the mentality of medieval leadership in an increasingly cross-communicating and trading world.  It has also promoted a Maslowian possibility in the region of ethnolinguistic cultural co-evolution as each of the world’s approximately 7,000 living languages represents the invention of a way of life and of seeing others and dealing with environmental challenges in some once more insulated space, i.e., separate enough to keep people together and involved in the creating and using of language as a functioning cultural tool.  In essence, but especially with the contents of the sidebar to the left, it has suggested a different vision of a modern future, one that would gently move others in the world away from extremist and supremacist ambitions and into ambitious but distinctive greater cooperation in mutual survival.

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FTAC -Extremism, ‘Known Wolves’, and Mental Illness

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Too often irrefutable: the cry of “Allahu Akbar” in the act of murder, which then may give us “Allahu Akbar Terrorism”.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/fbi-probing-possible-virginia-terror-attack/ – 8/23/2016.

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2016/08/23/fbi-probing-stabbing-where-suspect-shouted-allahu-akbar.html – 8/23/2016.

The question was why mental illness seemed to be taking the murderous mad jihad direction — and answer had to do with the susceptibility of some to messages similar in medieval thought to that represented in this now well-known video featuring imam Farrokh Sekaleshfar and the ability to integrate that with their own problems.

Posted to YouTube by United West on April 6, 2016 in relation to the Orlando “mass casualty” attack by Omar Mateen, who was also known to the FBI.

As “lone wolves” keep turning out to be “known wolves”, it would seem sensible to review three dimensions of law: incitement and sedition — to both dampen the ardor with which some ideas are presented and to get them into discussion before a critical public; and detention of perhaps greater period to provide law enforcement with the time needed to caution or channel a “person of interest” and to investigate what is going on within a person who by way of speech and activity has thrown out a number of caution flags.

BackChannels has a related piece in https://conflict-backchannels.com/2016/06/12/omar-mir-seddique-mateen-known-to-the-fbi/ – 6/12/2016.

From The Awesome Conversation:

Focusing on aberrant medieval thought and extremism without attachment to affiliation allows moderate souls to formulate and choose moderate paths without the burden of defending against an aggressive and unnecessary demonization.

I would not want to make an enemy of someone who really isn’t my enemy _unless made out to be that way_.

Each seduced “Allahu Akbar terrorist” has the effect, of course, of tarring Muslims as a class and driving resident nationalist sentiment toward an extremism of its own.

McVeigh — a very different story — got a mention, but one might and perhaps should focus on the way he handled his grievances associated with the FBI ambush on the Koresh facility at Waco and the other long-argued-about shooting at Ruby Ridge.

Re. McVeigh — I might suggest that dictators and terrorists share this characteristics in their political psychological makeup or expression: “Paranoid Delusional Narcissistic Reflection of Motivation” (https://conflict-backchannels.com/coins-and-other-terms/anthropolitical-psychology/paranoid-delusional-narcissistic-reflection-of-motivation/) — where each takes upon himself a messianic mission to restore something damaged (I would call that “projected externalization of damage” — i.e., in McVeigh’s head, it’s not Timothy who has been damaged but the American Constitution — and he’s the hero who’s going to make the statement that addresses that by summarily engaging in mass murder.

Tsarnaev Brothers — same thing. In fact, we could probably go down a pretty good roster (let’s not leave out Brevik) and find out the key is less what we imagined as a class or division issue and much more a personal issue shared by very different individuals.

If I type as an apologist, it may be to keep the spotlight on the extremism and shared psychology but not necessarily to give each culture or subculture coughing up terrorists a free pass as strident ideas (‘this is what the book says . . . killing them now would be a mercy’) incite and apparently obligate that “narcissistic paranoid delusional” class of messianic murderers.

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Books – Excerpts – Shultz lectures Gorbachev – Gaddis’s The Cold War & New Era Begun – Dawisha’s Putin’s Kleptocracy

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Shultz began by lecturing Gorbachev, as early as 1985, on the impossibility of a closed society being a prosperous society: “People must be free to express themselves, move around emigrate and travel if they want to . . . Otherwise they can’t take advantage of the opportunities available.  The Soviet economy will have to be radically changed to adapt to the new era.” “You should take over the planning office here in Moscow,” Gorbachev joked, “Because you have more ideas than they have.”  In a way, this is what Shultz did.  Over the next several years, he used his trips to that city to run tutorials for Gorbachev and his advisers, even bringing pie charts to the Kremlin to Illustrate his argument that as long as it regained a command economy, the Soviet Union would fall further and further behind the rest of the developed world.

Gorbachev was surprisingly receptive.  He echoed some of Shultz’s thinking in his 1987 book, Perestroika:  “How can the economy advance,” he asked, “if it creates preferential conditions for backward enterprises and penalizes the foremost ones?”

Gaddis, John Lewis. The Cold War: A New History. P. 233.  New York: The Penguin Press, 2005.

Ah, were those not the days?

Times changed and perhaps in ways the West would not have anticipated nor intended.

Call this a bonus quote from another book listed in the “Russian Section” of this blog:

Khodorkovskiy moved to establish links with the West, but those financial circles recall that when they first met him and his team, the Russians didn’t how to use a credit card, they didn’t know how to write a check, and they didn’t have money enough to stay even in a hostel.  They were quick learners, but as Anton Surkov, an independent security expert who had previously served in Soviet military intelligence and who knew Khodorkovskiy and those like him in the late 1980s, stated, “It was impossible to work in the black market without KGB connections and without protection from the KGB.  Without them, no shadow business was possible. . . .  The creation of the oligarchs was a revolution engineered by the KGB, but then they lost control.”  As to whether Khodorkovskiy’s Bank Menatep was indeed one of the many vehicles used to launder CPSU money, as the legend goes, one of the five major initial shareholders, Mikhayl Brudno, who fled to Israel when Khodorkovskiy was arrested under Putin in 2003, simply said, “It can’t be ruled out that some companies that belonged somehow to the Communist Party were clients, but we were not able to identify them as such.”

Posted to YouTube by the Woodrow Wilson Center, October 23, 2014.

Referenced: Dawisha, Karen.  Putin’s Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia?  New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014.

While Karen Dawisha’s book covers the development of Vladimir Putin’s inner circle from seemingly earliest acquaintance, BackChannels would have to re-read old and read “unreads” from the “Russian Section” of this blog’s library to note and gather together the hints of transition planning in the five to ten year span preceding the official dissolving of the Soviet Union on December 26, 1991.

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Also in Media – “Russia-Iran-Turkey Alliance Could Change Energy Dynamics For Good” | OilPrice.com

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Turkey’s resentment towards the European Union is nothing new. Erdogan has been vocal about his negative reactions to some requirements in Turkey’s EU accession process. He is also in a position to pull the strings on much of Europe’s migrant policy, and is making good use of this position. What Turkey’s President has made even better use of is the anti-Western rhetoric and the visions of a “great-again” Turkey. The former has been instrumental in diverting public attention away from a lawsuit in Italy against his son for money laundering.

Apparently, the Greater Turkey vision cannot be realized with the EU constantly demanding things from Ankara that Ankara does not want to do, such as synchronizing its anti-terrorism policies with the EU, for example. It can, however, be realized if Turkey gets on the anti-West bandwagon driven by Russia and Iran, both survivors from Western sanctions, and both having their own regional ambitions.

Source: Russia-Iran-Turkey Alliance Could Change Energy Dynamics For Good | OilPrice.com – 8/22/2016

Summer Reading – What’s Old Should Be New!

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Note: BackChannels’ editor will take reviewer’s copies in advance of publication.

However, this post is simply to pass along a few titles that promise to “entertain, educate, and delight” the reader who has found his way to the intersection of post-Cold War politics and contemporary “hybrid warfare” and terrorism.

As 2016’s production of a summer out of the 1960s enters its final month, BackChannels enjoyed these oldies but still very, very goodies.

Gaddis, John Lewis. The Cold War: A New History. New York: The Penguin Press, 2005.

Everything you wanted to know condensed.

Motyl, Alexander J.  Vovochka: The True Confessions of Vladimir Putin’s Best Friend and Confident.  Augusta, Georgia: Amphora Literary Press, 2015.

A “me and Vlad” story — and no President-for-Life ever had a better buddy or mirror!

Pomerantsev, Peter.  Nothing is True and Everything is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia.  New York: Public Affairs, 2014.  Nothing is true but Pomerantsev’s book, and at the end even Pomerantsev’s reality becomes a surreal impression left to fade in memory.  In between: criminals, state-managed happy media, a mind-control cult involved in an ill-fated model’s leaping boldly into suicide, and assorted men on the take and women on the make bagging “Forbes’s”.

How crazy surreal?

A man dials the serial number on his firearm, comes up with a woman’s voice, pursues, woos, and marries the dame — and it works out.

How crazy making?

If hesitating on the book, enjoy this sample of Pomerantzev’s perspective first: “Why We’re Post-Fact,” Granta, July 20, 2016.

Smith, Martin Cruz.  Stalin’s Ghost.  New York: Simon and Schuster, 2007.  When it comes to heroism and virtue — also combat, corruption, crime, and history — fate is funny — and Cruz, in the telling of a great tale, peerless.

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Russia Flexes And Goes Hungry

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Posted to YouTube by Caspian Report Aug. 17, 2016.

For Moscow, perhaps more than ever, image drives perception and perception is reality.

Or not.

As Putin flexes Russia’s renewed international political and military presence, a brief look at the character of the same seems in order.

ISIL and Syria

As BackChannels has noted for some time, “ISIL” was going to be Moscow’s “gift” to itself and the world — and now it is.

Baghdadi’s organization has provided Assad with the excuse wanted for depopulating and leveling his state; it has given Putin something ugly to throw westward; and it serves now as a hornet’s nest somewhat defined in space and useful for demonstrating Moscow’s latest in military prowess and technology.

Russia’s stand in Syria — now that Iraq’s no longer a Russian client state and Libya has similarly disappeared in that regard — has become remarkable for the hardware, technology, and troops allocated to “The Terrorists” (while apparently hitting also hospitals —

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/oct/22/three-syrian-hospitals-bombed-since-russian-airstrikes-began-doctors-say – 10/22/2015 | http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/05/31/wave-of-russian-air-strikes-on-syrian-hospitals-leaves-60-dead/ – 5/31/2016 | http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/syria-civil-war-assad-russia-air-strikes-deaths-bombing-hospitals-idlib-maternity-clinic-babies-a7163691.html – 7/30/2016 | https://www.amnesty.org/en/press-releases/2016/03/syrian-and-russian-forces-targeting-hospitals-as-a-strategy-of-war/ – 3/3/2016

Crimea

 

Russophiles “rescued” by Russia’s incursions in Crimea appear to be learning about their true status as “protected” subjects: prices are soaring while their rubles lose value and their earnings remain flat.

 

Turkey

Russia, having also and apparently won over Erdogan into fulfilling his destiny as Turkey’s next presumptive sultan and guardian of the Moscow-enabled “Turkish Stream” Gas-to-Europe energy delivery system, has also demonstrated the chutzpah of asking permission to use the airbase at Incirlik — as NATO forces now do — for running sorties against ISIL targets in Syria.  President Erdogan assented, not that Putin needs those runways at this moment.

 

European Union and BREXIT

It should be clear by now that every “Allahu Akbar Attack” prods a reflexive nationalism.

Add the refugees pouring out of Syria and flowing into Europe and other potential hosting space, and the backlash forms around a new xenophobia.

The gates and fences go up, first in the form of “defense leagues” and later in potential policy.  BackChannels credits the Soviet / post-Soviet style incubation and later “deployment” of ISIL with goading a brief majority of Brits into separating the island state from the main traffic in commerce and politics associated with the continent.

Russia’s New Nuclear Front

This excerpt comes from the Free Beacon article published last week and cited in the “Links” section of this post:

Russia is engaged in a major buildup of strategic nuclear forces, building new missiles, submarines, and bombers. A State Department report on Russian activities under the New START arms treaty stated in the spring that Moscow added 153 strategic nuclear warheads to its arsenal under the treaty.

The increase in warheads is said to be the result of the deployment of new SS-27 Mod 2 intercontinental ballistic missiles with multiple warheads and SS-N-32 submarine-launched missiles.

Cold War?  Cold Struggle?

We might haggle about missile defenses in Poland and Romania, but Russian efforts in the field may be focused on defeating NATO’s nuclear defenses, and that according to Putin’s own statements about related nuclear balance of power.


For all such statements made — fighting the terrorists in Syria; co-opting Turkey against its European and NATO interests; spooking the Brits out of the EU; and redeveloping the nuclear-obsessed Cold War mentality, Putin may nonetheless be working with a low stack of financial chips.  Even though he may offset that with appeals to blood-and-soil nationalism and related sacrifice, one wonders how much room for play he has with the oligarchs who may be expected to pay either for ambitions now or their aftermath later.

A glance at posts like this one and its sources also suggests that while Putin has indeed brought Russia to its feet with the immense theatrical prowess that produces both the Winter Olympics at Sochi and the spectacle of a ruined Syria, it’s the latter on which Russians, poor or wealthy, connected or well outside the system of patronage, and “Russophones” in the “Russian near abroad” may wish to dwell.

Related:  https://themoscowtimes.com/articles/experts-proclaim-lost-decade-for-russias-stagnating-economy-55039http://www.cnbc.com/2016/08/21/russian-stocks-boosted-by-stabilizing-economy-may-surprise-analysts.html

Links

MOSCOW — Russia flexed its muscles again over Syria on Friday, for the first time launching cruise missiles at targets from warships in the Mediterranean Sea days after beginning bombing runs from a base in Iran.

Taken together, the new military moves appeared to be a demonstration that Russia has the ability to strike from virtually all directions in a region where it has been reasserting its power — from Iran, from warships in the Caspian Sea, from its base in the Syrian coastal province of Latakia and now from the Mediterranean.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/20/world/middleeast/russia-syria-mediterranean-missiles.html – 8/19/2016


http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/21/world/europe/russia-bolsters-submarine-fleet-and-tensions-with-us-rise.html – 4/20/2016


http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/21/politics/us-warns-syria-russia-on-attacks/ – 8/21/2016


“Russian doctrine states that tactical nuclear weapons may be used in a conventional response scenario,” Scaparrotti said on July 27. “This is alarming and it underscores why our country’s nuclear forces and NATO’s continues to be a vital component of our deterrence.”

Mark Schneider, a former Pentagon nuclear policy official, said Russia’s new national security strategy, which was made public in December, discusses increasing civil defenses against nuclear attack, an indication Moscow is preparing for nuclear war.

http://freebeacon.com/national-security/russia-building-new-underground-nuclear-command-posts/ – 8/15/2016


Ankara has given Russia the go-ahead to use its Incirlik air base for operations in Syria, though no official request from Moscow to use the strategic military facility has been made, Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Saturday.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/turkey-pm-russia-can-share-incirlik-airbase-with-us-if-necessary/ – 8/21/2016


More than two years after Russia annexed Crimea and promised its 2 million people a better life, residents say prices have soared, wages and pensions have stagnated and tourists have fled.

The sunny and mountainous Black Sea peninsula is back in the news, with Russian President Vladimir Putin accusing Kiev of sending infiltrators across the border to wreck its industry. But locals say the damage has already been done by Moscow’s neglect.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-ukraine-crisis-crimea-idUSKCN10W0EM – 8/21/2016.


Over the last week, the number of heavy weapons deployed near the front lines in eastern Ukraine has doubled, part of a pattern of Russia ramping up its military presence in the region throughout the summer. An estimated 40,000 soldiers have been stationed there, on top of aircraft and the anti-missile defense system.

All of this has been stoking fears Russia could be planning another invasion, two years after it formally annexed Crimea, as peace talks crumble. It’s Putin’s first visit to the territory since March.

https://news.vice.com/article/putin-touches-down-in-crimea – 8/19/2016


The Russian military has test fired the short-range nuclear-capable 9K720 Iskander-M (NATO reporting name SS-26 Stone) ballistic missile during a large-scale military exercise in Russia’s Far East this week, according to local media reports.

http://thediplomat.com/2016/08/russia-test-fires-nuclear-capable-ballistic-missile-in-far-east/ – 8/19/2016.

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