russia

Russian Grand Prix 2014

After Bianchi’s incident, there was a sombre mood around the paddock. But the track seemed to be a good challenge for the drivers, likened to a combination of Valencia and Mokpo, and with long curved straights (a bit of an oxymoron) that are off-camber and really test car and driver. However, all it really tested for us viewers was our patience, as the race turned out to be a lot less exciting than we hoped it would be.

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Blame Game Unfolds After Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 Crash

Well, at least we know what happened to this one.

This is a real tragedy, but in the end, it’s going to end up being the excuse for further conflict in Ukraine.

TIME

Updated 7:55 p.m. EST

Ukrainian officials blamed a “terrorist action” for the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 on Thursday, while pro-Russian separatists, who said they do not have weaponry advanced enough to shoot down an airliner, accused Ukrainian forces of causing the crash.

The Boeing 777 was flying at around 33,000 feet over eastern Ukraine en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it crashed, killing all 298 people on board. That updated number, revised from 295, came from a Malaysia Airlines statement posted late Thursday, and reflects that there were three infants aboard the flight. The nationalities of those aboard, per the airline, break down as follows:

Screen Shot 2014-07-17 at 8.25.54 PM

An adviser in Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said on his Facebook page that the plane was shot down by a Russian-made radar-guided missile system known as the BUK. Ukrainian officials have denied that Ukrainian military forces were involved.

“MH-17 is not an…

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NATO’s Back in Business, Thanks to Russia’s Threat to Ukraine

This brings to mind the old joke back in high school. NATO = No Action, Talk Only. I didn’t really know the things that NATO did, only that it didn’t do much. It was a jocular thing; finding an acronym for a phrase, then realising it was the acronym for a real organisation.

Well, now I know. NATO really can’t do anything but stand by and watch as Russia readies to march into Ukraine.

TIME

Back in 1993, during the earliest days of the Clinton Administration, Senator Richard Lugar of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee warned that with the Soviet Union history, NATO needed to “go out of area, or out of business.”

Like any self-respecting, self-perpetuating armed bureaucracy, the alliance got the hint, deploying forces—and, in some cases, fighting—in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Gulf of Aden and Libya.

President Clinton may have moved from the world stage, and Senator Lugar may have lost the 2012 Indiana Republican primary to an ultimately-defeated Tea Party candidate, but NATO—thanks to Russia’s threat to Ukraine—is now firmly back in business, finally in its own area.

The North Atlantic alliance made clear Wednesday that “a political solution is the only way forward” in dealing with Russia’s threats to its former fellow Soviet republic. That may be the only way forward for NATO and the West. But Russia may…

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A Russian Invasion of East Ukraine Would Make Crimea Seem Like a Cinch

Escalation. Not surprised, just resigned and hoping that the volatile situation doesn’t devolve into a war that will only lead to death and destruction. Living in peaceful Singapore, it’s often hard to get a perspective of just how violent the rest of the world is, and how bloodied some countries are.

Pray for MH370? Pray for Ukraine. For Central African Republic. For Syria. For South Sudan.

TIME

The newest wave of separatism in eastern Ukraine feels very familiar. In the last few days, protesters waving Russian flags have seized government buildings by force, barricaded themselves inside, declared their intention to break away from Ukraine and appealed to Russia to send in troops to protect them. At every step, they followed the script that ended last month with the Russian annexation of Crimea. But the stage this time didn’t seem to fit the performance.

Eastern Ukraine is not like Crimea. It is far bigger, more diverse, better integrated into Ukraine’s economy and more vital to its survival than Crimea, and if the action proceeds again toward a Russian invasion of these territories, the Kremlin’s choreographers will have a much harder time pulling it off. The stakes this time are incomparably higher.

For one thing, Ukraine will defend itself. In February, when pro-Russian gunmen seized the Crimean parliament and…

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Ukrainian Base in Crimea Resists Russian Raid

Good job. Putin’s clearly gone bonkers. Is Crimea and eastern Ukraine worth all this insanity? Is this supposed to be the Russian military dipping its toe into the troubled waters, seeing if the water’s good for a swim? This just reminds me of Hitler swallowing Austria and Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia back before WWII, on some flimsy excuses of a similar nature.

This is a mad, mad world we live in. And it’s governed by mad, mad people like Putin.

TIME

Updated: 5:04 p.m.

Russian troops attempted to take a Ukrainian military base by storm on the Crimean peninsula soon after dark on Friday, ramming the gates with a truck and rushing inside. Within two hours, the Russian forces managed to seize part of the Ukrainian air force base at the edge of Sevastopol, the city that also houses Russia’s Black Sea naval fleet. But after failed negotiations for the surrender of the entire base, the Russian troops pulled back before midnight.

“The base is now back in full control of the Ukrainian armed forces,” said a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, asking to remain anonymous. Armed pro-Russian paramilitaries in civilian clothing were still in the area, the spokesman said, but the two Russian military trucks that had rammed the gate of the A-2355 base outside Sevastopol were gone, as were the several dozen Russian troops involved. “Now only the…

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The Standoff at Belbek: Inside the First Clash of the Second Crimean War

World

The Ukrainian troops kept the bonfires burning all night on Monday, kicking stones into the embers and waiting for the sun to rise over the Belbek air-force base in southern Ukraine. Five days had passed since the start of the siege against them and the strain on the troops was starting to show. The previous day, the Russian forces surrounding their base had issued another ultimatum — surrender your weapons that night and sign an oath of allegiance to Russia or face an assault by 5 a.m. The commanders had refused. Some of the troops had defected. The rest stood around the garrison, smoking cigarettes and twitching when the logs popped in the fires. They only understood that the Russians had been bluffing when the roosters started to crow.

The next bluff came soon after, and it marked a turning point in the week-old conflict that has brought Russia and…

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Can the E.U. Punish Russia for Crimea Invasion?

World

Russia ’s power play in Crimea has left the European Union in a quandary. Officials in Brussels are scrambling to respond to the acts of aggression from its largest neighbor and third biggest trading partner. European leaders across the region have voiced concern over Russia’s Ukraine strategy, but when it comes to what the repercussions will be for its maneuvers, the message has been far from consistent. Much-mooted sanctions, which E.U. rules require unanimous agreement before imposing them, look unlikely with the bloc’s leading economy, Germany , wary of such measures.

Speaking ahead of an emergency meeting of E.U. foreign ministers on March 3, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier cautioned Europe against responding to Moscow’s provocations with provocations of its own. “Diplomacy is not a sign of weakness but is more needed than ever to prevent us from being drawn into the abyss of a military escalation,” said Steinmeier. But…

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4 Reasons Putin Is Already Losing in Ukraine

As much as Russia should not invade, I don’t think anyone can assume Putin is that pragmatic about this. He’s ex-KGB; I don’t think economic threats scare him (even if they prove to be effective in the future).

Can this be the moment when Putin overreaches himself and loses power? Will this actually turn out to be good for Russia and the world? We can only hope for the best.

World

Even a week ago, the idea of a Russian military intervention in Ukraine seemed far-fetched if not totally alarmist. The risks involved were just too enormous for President Vladimir Putin and for the country he has ruled for 14 years. But the arrival of Russian troops in Crimea over the weekend has shown that he is not averse to reckless adventures, even ones that offer little gain. In the coming days and weeks, Putin will have to decide how far he is prepared to take this intervention and how much he is prepared to suffer for it. It is already clear, however, that he cannot emerge as the winner of this conflict, at least not when the damage is weighed against the gains. It will at best be a Pyrrhic victory, and at worst an utter catastrophe. Here’s why:

At home, this intervention looks to be one of the most…

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How a Russian Invasion of Eastern Ukraine Might Unfold

World

Judging by reports of Russian troops pouring into the Crimean Peninsula, stories of tense standoffs, sweeping proclamations and alleged deadlines for surrender, the crisis in Crimea is flirting dangerously close to a full scale war. As of Monday evening, there wasn’t a single report of shots fired, but in the history of warfare, past restraint has been a terrible predictor of future action. “War never breaks out wholly unexpectedly, nor can it be spread instantaneously,” famed military theorist Cal von Clausewitz wrote in the early 19th century. “Yet…as soon as preparations for a war begin,” he continued, “the world of reality takes over from the world of abstract thought.”

The reality is grim. It is clear that Russia sees the crisis differently than much of the rest of the world. “The narrative about this in Russia is about protection of the ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking population,”…

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Ukraine Mobilizes Troops For War

World

Updated 3:20 p.m. EST

Ukraine mobilized for war Saturday, escalating the most dangerous standoff between the Kremlin and the West since the Cold War, after Russian President Vladimir Putin declared he had a right to invade the country to protect Russian interests.

Kiev directed its armed forces to be put on “full combat readiness” as it mobilized and trained reserve forces, closed its airspace and boosted security at key sites, the BBC reports.  The Russian army was said to be digging trenches between Crimea and mainland Ukraine as troops occupied key sites, including airports and communication hubs.

Russian forces had reportedly already swarmed into Crimea when Putin obtained permission from his parliament to officially move troops into Ukraine, taking government buildings and occupying Crimea’s capital, Simferopol. They surrounded several Ukrainian military bases, Reuters reports, demanding troops lay down their arms. Some refused, but no shots have yet been fired.

“This is not…

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