Putin delivers annual address to Federal Assembly

Putin delivers annual address to Federal Assembly

April 21, 2021

Putin’s speech comes amid a period of diplomatic confrontation with Western nations and a stand-off over the situation in Ukraine and Russian troop movements.

The address to the Federal Assembly is often used to announce major changes in Russian domestic and foreign policy.

This is the current live stream.

The full and complete transcript is now posted.

Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly

The President of Russia delivered the Address to the Federal Assembly. The ceremony took place at the Manezh Central Exhibition Hall.

April 21, 202113:20

Moscow

The ceremony was attended by members of the Federation CouncilState Duma deputies, members of the Government, the heads of the Constitutional and Supreme courts, regional governors, speakers of regional legislatures, the heads of traditional religious denominations and public activists.

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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Members of the Federation Council, State Duma deputies,

Citizens of Russia,

Today’s Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly will be dedicated mostly to internal issues. These include, naturally, healthcare, social policy and the economy. Of course, I will say a few words about external affairs and literally a few words about security issues.

It stands to reason that I will begin with last year’s events, when our country and, actually, the entire world faced a new, previously unknown and extremely dangerous infection.

It that period, including during our meetings with experts and conversations with the leaders of many states, I often heard the following description of the situation: we are faced with total uncertainty. And this is how it really was.

I could see this from the information I received from the regions. The number of people who contracted the disease and needed to be rushed to hospital kept growing. Actually, all of you are very well aware of this. Many hospitals were filled to capacity and reported that they could run out of oxygen soon, including in intensive care units. Ventilators, protective masks and PPE were actually distributed by the piece. Shops were running out of basic products, such as cereals, butter and sugar, due to increased demand.

The epidemic was on the offensive. But although there was great concern, I personally had no doubt that we would pull through.

Citizens, society and the state acted responsibly and in unison. We rallied, managed to take preventive action, to create conditions that would reduce the risk of infection, and to provide medical personnel and citizens with personal protective equipment. We increased the number of hospital beds for coronavirus patients more than five times over, to 280,000 beds.

The brief outline of measures conceals the tremendous and intensive work of millions of people in all regions of the Russian Federation. I would like to cordially thank all of you for this. Everyone worked quickly, efficiently and conscientiously.

At that time and later on, we were analysing the situation practically non-stop. I recall vividly my visit to the hospital in Kommunarka. It was necessary to experience, to see at first hand the danger facing us and to assess the working conditions of medical specialists. They immediately found themselves in the thick of events and fought for every life, while risking their own.

Today, doctors, paramedics, medical nurses and members of ambulance teams are sitting here in this hall. Once again my heartfelt thanks to you and your colleagues from all the Russian regions.

Russian researchers made a real breakthrough, and Russia now has three reliable coronavirus vaccines. These and many other achievements of the past few years highlight the country’s growing science and technological potential.

I would like to thank everyone, every person who contributed to the fight against infection, including the workers at the plants manufacturing medications, medical equipment, personal protective equipment, and enterprises working 24 hours a day, housing and utility agencies, trade companies, the Russian business community that quickly converted entire sectors so that they could manufacture essential goods, civilian and military builders, agriculture workers who gathered a record-breaking harvest, one of the biggest in the country’s history, that is, over 130 million tonnes.

The personnel of law enforcement agencies and the special services continued to carry out their duty, and the Russian Armed Forces reliably ensured our country’s security.

I would like to underscore the selfless behaviour of people working for social services, orphanages, boarding schools, retirement homes and hospices who stayed and who continue to stay with their charges. You will certainly agree with me that, while analysing developments at these institutions, one feels proud of people who are carrying out their duty there in such a responsible manner. It could move you to tears. I would like to thank them once again.

I would also like to convey my sincere gratitude to school teachers and the lecturers at universities and other education institutions. You did everything possible to enable your students and pupils to gain knowledge and successfully pass their exams, with the involvement and support of their parents.

Russia’s cultural life continued unabated. Theatres, museums and concert halls remained open to audiences online thanks to modern technology. Everyone who works in this crucial sphere rose to the occasion.

Our people showed discipline and managed to observe, let’s face it, quite exhausting, but vital precautions. Thus, acting together, we have put up an effective barrier to the pandemic.

The people’s solidarity showed in concrete actions, in caring for the loved ones and in willingness to help people in need. Millions became volunteers and engaged in building person-to-person help routes. The nationwide We Are Together campaign brought together people from different walks of life and ages. As always during challenging times, our traditional religions stepped up to provide spiritual support to the society. I see the leaders of our religions here and I would like to bow deeply to you, thank you very much

Throughout history, our people have come out victorious and overcome trials thanks to unity. Today, family, friendship, mutual assistance, graciousness and unity have come to the fore as well.

Spiritual and moral values, which are already being forgotten in some countries, have, on the contrary, made us stronger. And we will always uphold and defend these values.

Colleagues,

The pandemic broke out at a time when the aftermath of the demographic shocks of the 1940s and 1990s converged. We realise that the current demographic situation is an emergency. Unfortunately, this is how things are. We must accept and admit it and do something about it based on our understanding of this situation.

Saving the people of Russia is our top national priority. This priority underlies the stipulations of the updated Constitution concerning the protection of the family, the important role parents play in bringing up their children, strengthening social guarantees, and further developing the economy, education and culture.

Our strategy is to return to sustainable population growth to make sure that the average life expectancy in Russia increases to 78 years in 2030.

Unfortunately, the statistics show us sad and disappointing numbers. We are even seeing a certain decline. It is clear what is happening because of the pandemic, but we will keep our strategic goals in this critical sphere unchanged.

I fully realise that this is no small feat, the more so as the coronavirus has not yet been completely defeated and remains a direct threat. We see the dramatic developments in many countries where the cases of infection continue to grow. We need to keep in check the defence barriers designed to slow down the spread of the virus along our external borders and within our country.

I would like to address all citizens of Russia once again. Friends, please stay alert. I am asking you to take care of yourselves and your loved ones and to comply with the doctors’ and sanitary services’ recommendations as closely as possible.

Vaccination is of crucial importance. I would like to ask the Government, the Healthcare Ministry and the heads of the regions to monitor this process on a daily basis. The opportunity to take the jab must be available everywhere, so that we achieve the so-called herd immunity by the autumn.

The attainment of this goal depends on everyone, on all our citizens. Please, I am asking all citizens of Russia once again to get vaccinated. This is the only way to stop this deadly epidemic. There is no alternative. The other choice is much worse: to contract the disease with unpredictable consequences.

I would like to say once again that the disease is still with us. But we must start thinking already now about healing the wounds it has inflicted and restoring people’s health.

During the peak periods, our hospitals and outpatient clinics had to reduce or even suspend scheduled visits. This increased the risk of the aggravation of chronic illnesses or the risk of missing the first signs of or correctly diagnosing new illnesses.

I would like to ask the Government, the Healthcare Ministry and the constituent entities of the Russian Federation to expand the system of medical check-ups and periodic screenings, taking into account the current epidemiological situation, and to relaunch them in full measure on July 1, 2021 for people of all ages. They must involve the largest number of people possible. This is why we will increase the supply of mobile medical diagnostic systems to the regions in the near future.

One of the targets of the coronavirus is the cardiovascular system. These diseases have always been the leading cause of death. Therefore, special attention during periodic screenings must be given to people with cardiovascular diseases. I would like to instruct the Government to take additional measures to prevent the diseases that are the main causes of premature death. As I have already mentioned, these are cardiovascular diseases plus malignant tumours and respiratory system diseases.

Hepatitis C claims many young lives. Decisions must be made to reduce this threat to the health of the nation to a minimum within 10 years.

To ensure that as many people as possible can restore their health at sanatoriums and health resorts, I propose that the 20 percent rebate programme for domestic travel is extended at least until the end of the year.

Children’s health is our special priority. Indeed, the foundation for good health for many years to come is laid during childhood. Children’s rest and recreation activities must be made as affordable as possible. In this regard, this year, I propose reimbursing half of what parents spend on their children’s summer camps.

In addition, we need to expand opportunities for student tourism. Already this year, we must launch several pilot projects, including accommodation on university campuses and in dormitories in other regions for students who travel around the country during the summer.

And, of course, we must reward the young people who have done well in academic competitions and in volunteer and creative initiatives as well as the projects operated by the Russia – Land of Opportunity platform. For them, the partial reimbursement programme for tourist vouchers will remain valid during the holidays, aka the high season. This is a ground-breaking decision.

I wish to thank all the parliamentary groups which supported the decision on the taxation of high incomes, or rather, a portion of high incomes. These proceeds will go to the dedicated Circle of Kindness fund and have already been released to help children affected by rare and serious diseases, to purchase expensive medicines and medical equipment, and to cover the costs of surgeries.

On April 28, we will celebrate Ambulance Worker Day which was established as a show of respect to those who arrive first to save lives. These specialists must be provided with all necessary supplies. Within the next three years, we will make another 5,000 new ambulances available to rural communities, urban-type localities and small towns, which will replace the ambulance fleet almost in full.

I want to emphasise that public healthcare authorities in many leading countries – we are well aware of it and, in fact, they themselves are saying so – were unable to deal with the challenges of the pandemic as effectively as we did in Russia. At the same time, global health care is on the cusp of a genuine revolution. This must be recognised and clearly seen. We cannot miss it.

The pandemic has exponentially sped up the introduction of telemedicine, artificial intelligence and new approaches in diagnostics, surgery, rehabilitation and the production of medicines everywhere. We must put these technologies at the service of the people of our country.

We must build our healthcare system around this ground-breaking technology, and keep an eye on pressing everyday problems in the process. As we are all aware, they abound, mostly in primary care. There must be no such thing as waiting lines, no hassle making a diagnostics appointment or a specialist doctor appointment, or obtaining prescriptions and sick leaves, for that matter. This has often come up in our discussions lately. The funds have been set side and allocated. It is time to move quickly and efficiently to make it happen.

We have a backlog to deal with in healthcare and other social sectors, including many technical, financial and managerial challenges. However, what people need is qualified and timely medical help. I propose reviewing public healthcare problems from this perspective at an expanded meeting of the State Council some time soon. We will prepare for it and hold it shortly.

I repeat: we have gained some fundamentally new experience in fulfilling our social commitments. During the pandemic, we made direct payments to families bringing up almost 28 million children, and they received their benefits without any unnecessary paperwork or other kinds of red tape – they got the money they needed and were entitled to automatically. I know Government members have been working on this, focusing deliberately, not without some failures, but they have made every effort to accomplish this task, and coped with it. This is great, this is a good example. This approach should become the norm at all levels of government.

This is the essence of the National Social Initiative, which was discussed at a recent joint meeting of the State Council Presidium and the Agency for Strategic Initiatives.

I am calling on the regional governors: it is your direct responsibility to organise the work of local clinics, daycare nurseries and schools, and employment centres, based on the daily needs of families, of each and every person. In many regions, I have seen with my own eyes that such work has already been launched in certain areas. This needs to be done everywhere and in all social sectors.

As soon as in 2022, we must introduce the ‘social treasury’ principles. This means that all federal benefits, pensions and other social payments and services will be provided and paid in a one-stop mode, without having to visit dozens of different agencies, but simply upon marriage, the birth of a child, retirement or other life milestones. Within three years, the vast majority of public and municipal services should be provided to Russian citizens remotely, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, that is, on an ongoing basis.

Separately, we will have to discuss child-support payments, which are a sensitive topic for many families. Unfortunately, this is a problem in our country. This procedure should not be humiliating for anyone. Most issues here need to be resolved remotely and, most importantly, in the interests of the affected party. A mother with a child should not have to camp on the doorstep of various authorities to collect official documents, carrying her baby in her arms, and this is what usually happens. A system of interagency communication needs to be built, with banks included, in such a way as to ensure the unconditional execution of court decisions on the recovery of child-support payments. The state is obliged to protect the rights of the child; this is what we are talking about. I will return to this topic again later.

Colleagues,

We understand the heavy toll that the pandemic has taken on people’s welfare. Statistics show the aggravating effects of this outbreak on social inequality and poverty. It has been a challenge for all countries around the world – remember, all countries, not only Russia, are experiencing the same consequences. Certainly, we should be primarily concerned about the situation in our own country.

We are now facing price hikes that are undercutting people’s incomes. Some urgent decisions have been made, of course, but we cannot solely rely on targeted and essentially directive measures. We remember potential outcomes. Back in the late 1980s and the 1990s in the Soviet Union, they resulted in empty store shelves. But today, even when the pandemic was at its worst, we did not allow the same thing to happen.

The Government’s goal is to create conditions that will be long-term and which, I want to stress this part, colleagues, can, thanks to market mechanisms (which we have), guarantee the predictability of prices and quality replenishment of the domestic market. Nobody is saying that we will be setting prices from the top. There’s no need to muddy the waters and scare people. There are market regulatory mechanisms and they must be employed – promptly and to the extent required and appropriate to a specific situation in the economy and social sphere. We need to stimulate investment activity by reducing business risks. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Surely, the main goal right now is to ensure that people’s real incomes grow – that is, to restore them and secure their further growth. As I said, we need tangible changes in our fight against poverty.

Before anything else, the Government must provide direct support to families with children who are experiencing hardships. This has been our consistent policy and we will continue to pursue it.

We already have a system of benefits paid to parents of one or two children from the time the children are born and until they reach the age of three. Families with incomes below two subsistence minimums per family member are entitled to such benefits. The average monthly amount paid across the country is 11,300 rubles per child. Seventy-eight Russian regions pay benefits for the third child, also 11,300 rubles on average.

Please note that we are making consistent progress in this area, step by step. Last year, we introduced benefits for children aged three to seven. They range from 5,650 to 11,300 rubles per month depending on the region.

I instruct the Government to develop, by July 1, a comprehensive system of support for families with children. Our goal is to minimise the risk of poverty for such families.

But a number of new decisions need to be taken immediately, already today. It is always difficult for a single parent to raise a child. There are plenty of reasons for that. And this is not about the reasons but about supporting children. It is particularly difficult when a single-parent family is having financial problems, especially when children start going to school and family expenses objectively rise.

In particular, we must support single-parent families, where a mother or a father is bringing up a child alone, and only one of the parents is registered on the birth certificate – sorry to be speaking of such mundane things, but this is a fact of life – or the parents have divorced and one of them has the right to child-support payments. Therefore, as of July 1 this year, all children in such families aged between 8 and 16, inclusively, will receive a benefit. The national average of such benefit will be 5,650 rubles.

Of course, we must also help women who are expecting a baby and who have financial problems. It is extremely important for a mother-to-be to get support from the state and society, so that they can keep their pregnancy and know that they will receive help in raising and bringing up their child.

I propose approving a monthly subsidy for women who register at a maternity centre during early pregnancy and who have financial problems. The average subsidy for them will be 6,350 rubles a month.

Next, the sick pay for taking care of a child who falls ill depends on the employment record, which is correct, on the whole, and fair. However, young women receive much smaller sick leave payments. We have discussed this issue at the State Council, and it has been raised by the United Russia. We need to adopt legal decisions on this matter without delay, so that payments for taking care of a sick child aged up to 7 years inclusively are approved at 100 percent of the parent’s salary as soon as this year.

You understand what this means. The majority of those in this room know that the longer the employment record the larger the sick pay. Women who have a long work record usually receive full sick pay, but they usually do not have children at their age. Those who have children do not receive full pay. We must definitely help those who are expecting a baby.

I would also like to remind you that we have expanded and extended the maternity capital programme up until 2026. This benefit will now be paid already for the first child. We could not afford this before. The maternity capital has been adjusted to inflation and is almost 640,000 rubles

Free hot meals for all primary school children were approved as of January 1, 2020, and this measure has become a great help for families.

I would like to point out that all our decisions were designed to support our people. I know that many and very many people have financial problems now. The labour market and real disposable income of the people will be certainly restored, and we will move on. This has not happened yet. Therefore, I suggest approving one more one-off payment for the families that have school children, namely, 10,000 rubles per schoolchild. Moreover, this payment will also be made for the children who will only start school this year. We will transfer the money in mid-August, so that parents can get their children ready for school.

The updated Constitution of Russia includes clauses on demographic development, and protection of the family and childhood. They should be implemented in practice at all levels of government. I propose including a section aimed at supporting young people in each national project.

Friends,

During the pandemic, many young doctors and nurses, recent graduates as well as residents and students of medical universities worked courageously in the so-called red zones, joining their senior colleagues. In that extraordinary situation, teachers, schoolchildren, college and university students continued to teach and study, to have exams. Young family members supported their parents and older relatives. The youth of Russia proved to be extremely worthy during that period of trials. We can be proud of them.

We will do everything to open up as many life opportunities as possible for the younger generation. Their journey certainly begins at school, and I am sure that school will always be a second home for children; a new home, comfortable and modern.

Under the existing federal programme and with additional resources provided by the VEB Development Bank, we will build at least 1,300 new schools for more than a million children by the end of 2024. We will also purchase at least 16,000 school buses over the next four years. All school buses must be modern and safe.

Classroom teachers have been receiving a monthly addition to their salaries since last year. A very necessary and, I am sure, fair decision. I remember how we held discussions on this matter last year.

However, I have received requests, letters from teachers in secondary vocational institutions who say they have been forgotten. This is actually true. Justice must be restored. We have to fix this and establish the same additional payment of 5,000 rubles for supervisors of educational groups at technical schools and colleges.

I propose allocating an additional 10 billion rubles in the next two years for major repairs and technical equipment of our pedagogical universities. I ask the Government to pay close attention to up-to-date training of future teachers. The future of Russia largely depends on them.

Furthermore, school teaching teams should be expanded with teaching assistants, mentors and counsellors, whose job will be to organise exciting projects for children at schools.

It is very important that our young people should look to and be inspired by the achievements and victories of our outstanding ancestors and contemporaries, by their love for our Motherland and aspiration to make a personal contribution to its development. Children should have the opportunity to explore the national history and the multinational culture, our achievements in science and technology, literature and art in advanced formats. You know, I still open certain school textbooks occasionally and am surprised at what I see there – as if what is written there has nothing to do with us at all. Who writes such textbooks? Who approves them? It is unbelievable. They mention everything, the ‘second front’ and a lot of other facts, but not the Battle of Stalingrad – how is that possible? Amazing! I do not even want to comment.

I propose allocating an additional 24 billion rubles within the next three years to renovate cultural centres, libraries and museums in rural areas and small historical towns. This is another crucial area.

It is important to resume the activities of the Knowledge Society – we all remember well what it is – based on a modern digital platform. It seems to have been operational lately, but no one seems to notice it is there, either. Also, in order to support projects in culture, art and creative activities, we will set up a Presidential fund for cultural initiatives. Already this year, we will use its competitive grants to finance over 1,500 creative teams.

Colleagues,

A month from now, 11th grade students will be taking exams. Based on the results, most of them, about 60 percent, will enrol in universities and have their tuition covered from the budget. It can be safely stated that practically no country in the world apart from Russia has this kind of broad and free access to higher education.

In the next two years, we will make an additional 45,000 state-funded places available at our universities. At least 70 percent of them will go to the regions which need university graduates.

Starting this year, at least 100 universities in the constituent entities of our Federation will receive grants in the amount of 100 million rubles or more for opening student technoparks and business incubators, upgrading academic and laboratory facilities, and running training programmes. All state universities will be eligible for this support, including the ones that train future teachers, medical doctors, transport and culture workers. I am confident that the young generation of Russians, Russian scientists, will make their names known in the meaningful research projects that are yet to come.

This year was declared Science and Technology Year in our country. We realise that science is absolutely key in the modern world. Until 2024, Russia will allocate 1.63 trillion rubles from the federal budget alone for civil, including fundamental, research. But that is not all.

We are about to launch ground-breaking programmes in areas that are critical to our country. They will be given the status of nationwide projects. I would like to discuss some of them separately just to give you a sense.

First, we must have a solid and reliable shield to give us sanitary and biological safety. We now understand what it is about. It is imperative to ensure Russia’s independence in the production of the entire range of vaccines and pharmaceutical substances, including medications against infections that are resistant to the current generation of antibiotics. Importantly, this must be achieved with the maximum engagement of Russian-made equipment and domestic components.

In the event of an infection as dangerous as the coronavirus, or, God forbid, even more dangerous, Russia must be prepared to develop its own test systems within four days, precisely four days, and to create an efficacious domestic vaccine and start its mass production as soon as possible. These are the goals that we are setting for ourselves. The timeframe for achieving these goals is 2030. But the sooner we get there, the better.

Second, we need new comprehensive approaches to the development of our energy sector, including new solutions for nuclear generation in the promising areas of hydrogen energy and energy storage.

Third, we must find answers to the climate change challenges, adjust our agriculture, industry, the housing and utilities sector and the entire infrastructure to them, create a carbon utilisation sector, bring down emissions and introduce strict control and monitoring measures.

Over the next 30 years, the cumulative emissions in Russia must be smaller than in the EU. It is an ambitious goal, considering the size of our country and the specific features of its geography, climate and economic structure. However, I have no doubt whatsoever that it is a perfectly realistic goal in light of our research and technological potential.

Our new energy and pharmaceutical sectors and the solution of climate problems must provide a powerful boost to a comprehensive modernisation of all economic sectors and the social sphere. It is a direct path to the creation of modern and well-paid jobs.

The efforts taken by each level of government, business, development institutions and the Russian Academy of Sciences must have in view the main, central task: to improve the quality of life for our people. I would like to point out that our position on environmental protection is a matter of principle in this respect, and it will definitely remain unchanged.

The dangers of the alternative position have been recently exemplified by the events in Norilsk, Usolye-Sibirskoye and several other places. We will certainly help the people who live there, but we must also preclude a repetition of such environmental disasters.

I would like to ask those responsible to accelerate the adoption of a law on the financial responsibility of enterprise owners for clearing up the accumulated pollution and for the reclamation of industrial sites. This is a very simple approach. Here it is: if you have benefited from polluting the environment, clean up after yourself. We must act harshly. Rosprirodnadoz [the Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resources] and other regulatory authorities must do their jobs.

I would like to add that the “polluter pays” principle must also be employed in full in the waste disposal sector to ensure transition to the so-called closed-loop economy. With this aim in view, we must launch a mechanism of extended producers and importers’ responsibility for the management of products and packaging wastes as soon as this year.

I also propose marking environmental payments to the federal budget. I know that experts and financial specialists do not like such special marks, but I see this as a vital sphere of our activity. We can make an exception in this case, and invest these funds in clearing up accumulated pollution and improving the environment.

Also, as I said, the amount of hazardous emissions in Russia’s 12 largest industrial centres must be reduced by 20 percent by 2024. We have already discussed this. Obviously, this goal must be accomplished through a comprehensive modernisation of the industrial sector, the housing and utilities sector, transport and energy.

Moreover, I propose expanding the emission quota system to all Russian cities with major air quality problems and introduce strict liability for non-compliance with environmental regulations. Of course, this requires transparent monitoring.

We will definitely support the efforts of businesses to upgrade their facilities up to current environmental standards. For example, upgrading will begin this year at aluminium plants in Bratsk, Irkutsk, Krasnoyarsk and Novokuznetsk based on the state guarantee mechanism. I will later name other cities and towns in other contexts but it does not mean that our work is limited to those areas. They only serve as examples.

Colleagues,

Last year, we allocated unprecedented resources for supporting the economy. Among other things, we managed to preserve over 5 million jobs through subsidised loans for wage payments. I want to stress that this programme succeeded but it succeeded precisely because businesses acted responsibly and did everything they could to keep their employees. We could see that.

Unfortunately, it was not possible to prevent layoffs completely. I understand how hard it is for those who lost their jobs. The Government was instructed to ensure that the labour market recovers by the end of the year. Still, this problem must be solved sooner so that people can have a stable income again. The Government will be encouraging entrepreneurial initiatives and stimulate private investments that create new jobs.

As you know, last year, social insurance contributions for small and medium-sized businesses were reduced by half, from 30 to 15 percent. This decision will remain in force permanently and is not subject to review.

I instruct the Government to present, within the next month, additional proposals on supporting small and medium-sized businesses, such as tax incentives, accessible loans and expanding product distribution and sales, including to major state-run companies.

As for other decisions in the economic sphere, I would like to mention the following.

First, we have already scrapped many archaic norms and requirements in construction and other fields and discontinued many unnecessary control inspections, but we also need to increase the momentum to achieve substantive, clear and tangible results in improving the business climate. For example, building a turnkey factory in Russia should be faster, more economically efficient and easier than in other regions of the world, including countries with developed economies.

Furthermore, we need to simplify the working conditions for non-commodity exporters. We have certainly been pursuing this policy line for a few years now, but we still need to remove all excessive restrictions in forex control for these exporters. This is one of the problems. The new procedure should start functioning in July. We have discussed this matter more than once. All amendments to the legislation must be adopted as quickly as possible during the spring session.

Secondly, the talent of an entrepreneur is primarily the talent of a creator, an aspiration to change life for the better, to create new jobs. The state will definitely support this attitude.

In the modern world where the market situation sometimes changes almost every day, businesses have to deal with high risks, especially when investing in long-term projects. To address this, we will be adjusting the entire private investment support system. We will evaluate how effective the projects are by the new products, services, and technologies they provide people with and how they improve the potential of Russia and each individual region.

The Special Investment Contract mechanism has already been improved; we have implemented a new instrument – Investment Protection and Promotion Agreements. We have consolidated development institutions on the basis of VEB. Their job is to reduce the risks for investing private capital, to help in the creation of new markets and investment mechanisms, the same as with the Project Finance Factory mechanism already in place. It is currently supporting more than 40 commercial projects with a total investment of 3 trillion rubles.

I am waiting for proposals from the Government on the implementation of the ideas proposed in March at a meeting with Russian businesses. Colleagues, you are well aware of this.

Third, we are making all major decisions concerning the economy through a dialogue with the business community. This is the practice established over many years. Of course, we have the right to expect that the auxiliary financial instruments and support mechanisms will bring the most desired result, which is converting profit into investment and development.

There is an important thing I want to say although it is nothing new to businesses. They know it already. The corporate sector is expected to make a record profit this year, despite all the problems that we are dealing with. Despite these problems, this is the real picture. We will take note of how this profit will be used and, based on the annual results, we may decide to calibrate the tax legislation. I want to see specific proposals from the Government. Off the record, I should note: some withdraw dividends while others invest in the development of their companies and entire industries. We will be encouraging those who invest.

Last year, we substantially increased budget expenditure while managing to maintain the stability of state finances. The Government and the Central Bank must continue to pursue a responsible financial policy. Ensuring macroeconomic stability and containing inflation within set parameters is an extremely important task. I assume that it will definitely be accomplished.

At the same time, thanks to our budget capacity and our reserves, we can allocate more funds to support investment in infrastructure and provide regions with new development instruments. Launching these instruments will require the law to be amended. I expect that all parliamentary parties – A Just Russia, the Liberal Democratic Party, the Communist Party and United Russia – will uphold these amendments.

In this regard, I want to thank all constructive public forces in the country for their responsible and patriotic attitude during this difficult epidemic. These are not just meaningless words because it was this attitude and its practical significance that helped all of us preserve the balance and stability of Russia’s government and political system. This is always important but it is especially relevant because we are preparing for the elections to the State Duma and other government bodies, considering the extensive work we will have to carry out. I hope that this competitive mindset that unites us in the face of common goals will persist.

Colleagues,

The country is developing and moving forward, but this is only taking place when the regions of the Russian Federation are developing. A striving of the heads of constituent entities to make their regions successful and self-sufficient must be and will be encouraged in every way.

We will support those who assume responsibility and launch constructive projects. I am confident that every Russian region has huge potential. To help make positive and productive use of this potential, what must we reduce first of all? The governors know what I am referring to: we must reduce the debt burden. These topics must be thoroughly discussed once again.

I ask the Government to submit by June 1 the proposals on ensuring long-term stability of regional and municipal finance and on increasing the regions’ self-sufficiency. We will discuss them in summer at a State Council meeting, and we will do so with due regard for the priority decisions about which I will tell you now.

First of all, we must help regions with large commercial debts. Here is what I suggest: the amount of a region’s commercial debt that exceeds 25 percent of the given region’s own revenues will be replaced with budgetary loans that will mature in 2029.

In addition, I propose restructuring the budgetary loans, yes, budgetary loans that were issued to the regions last year for taking measures to combat the pandemic. I believe that this would be fair. I would like to remind everyone that these loans will mature in two months, on July 1. I suggest extending them to 2029 as well.

I would like to emphasise that the restructuring of accumulated debts should be used as a mechanism of increasing the self-sufficiency of regional economies, especially considering that we will be offering a fundamentally new development tool to our constituent entities. I am referring to the so-called budgetary infrastructure loans with an interest rate of not more than 3 percent per annum and with maturity in 15 years. We intend to allocate a total of at least 0.5 trillion rubles, that is, 500 billion rubles of such infrastructure loans by the end of 2023.

Regional debt restructuring must be based on the concept of justice, which has always been the case, actually. Some constituent entities have large accumulated commercial debts, while other entities did not take out many loans. The latter may feel neglected in this case. This will not do, and we will not permit this. We will support those who have always pursued and continue to pursue a balanced financial policy. The principle of the distribution of infrastructure loans will be as follows: the fewer debts a region had, the more it will be able to receive in infrastructure loans.

We are one country. All levels of government and business must work to one end. Debt restructuring and an innovative investment resource in the form of infrastructure loans will allow us to expand the planning horizon and to launch new solutions that are tied in with the implementation of national projects, sector-specific strategies and a comprehensive plan for upgrading the backbone infrastructure.

Federal infrastructure loans are a powerful resource, but whether they will help us get ahead or attract private investment hugely depends on what regional management teams do and on their ability to conduct an open and candid dialogue with businesses, investors, and, of course, primarily, individuals.

The infrastructure projects in the regions must be implemented, primarily, in the interests of the people, and serve as investment in the creation of new jobs and in promoting the well-being of millions of Russian households and securing the future of our children. The priorities will be building motorways and bypasses in urban areas, upgrading the housing and utilities sector infrastructure and the public transport system, as well as conducting integrated development of territories and building tourist facilities.

Please note that the infrastructure and budget loans will be fully under the control of the Federal Treasury and will be provided exclusively for specific projects that have been thoroughly analysed by experts at the federal level. While we are at it, I would like to say something to regional leaders and the Government: listen, let’s work in a rhythmic and business-like manner. I do not want to use harsh or rude language at this rostrum, but things must be done on time and projects must be prepared, not just pictures shown to the Government. In turn, the Government must quickly process the projects and help the regions deal with things they have problems dealing with. You must help your colleagues, you understand that? Not trash what they have brought to you and say they did a bad job. Some of them are unable to do what you ask of them. Help them, and then things will be on the path forwards.

The scale of the projects may vary, but most importantly, as I said, they must benefit our people and open up new opportunities. For example, in conjunction with our major companies and using the proposed mechanism, the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area will begin the construction of the Northern Latitudinal Railway. This is the railway that will spur the development of the richest resources of the Arctic. This project has been in the works for a long time now, and it’s time to launch it, since we can do so now. For example, as a result, Nizhny Novgorod will be able to continue building the metro and to start renovating the city centre. Chelyabinsk, another city with a million-plus residents, will also have the opportunity to upgrade its transport system through a long-standing metro construction project. I am aware of other similar projects in Krasnoyarsk and other regions.

And, of course, the construction of new facilities must be at a qualitatively higher level. I want the Government to draft a clear step-by-step plan for the end-to-end and widespread use of digital design, and the production and introduction of cutting-edge energy-efficient materials. This is also important if we want to tackle the climate and environmental challenges.

Large-scale infrastructure development sets fundamentally new tasks before the construction industry. In the difficult past year, it worked smoothly and built over 80 million square metres of housing. This is a good result. The more we build, the more affordable housing will there be for Russian families.

Therefore, we have an ambitious goal. We have already discussed it as well and this ambitious goal has not disappeared– we plan to build 120 million square metres of housing every year. That said, we must certainly envisage a special mechanism for supporting private housing construction.

As for large-scale construction, the DOM.RF development institute will attract financial resources through the placement of bonds. This is a tried and tested mechanism that generally works well. These resources must go to developers as targeted loans.

I would like to emphasise that federal budget subsidies will allow DOM.RF to issue loans to developers at a minimal annual rate of about 3–4 percent. The construction of residential neighbourhoods in Tula, Tyumen, the Sakhalin Region and Kuzbass will be pilot projects for developing this model.

Improvement of cities and towns and housing construction growth play a major role in the development of the regions. We must take care of the urgent, daily problems of local residents. Quite a few Russian families live in areas connected to gas networks but their homes still have no access to gas for some reason. It seems the pipe is there but there is no gas at home.

I would like to ask the Government to work out, in cooperation with the regions, a clear-cut plan for bringing gas to such households. In this context, I support United Russia’s initiative, notably, that people do not have to pay for laying gas pipes directly to the border of their land plots in a residential area.

As I have already said, the Government must analyse all details in cooperation with Gazprom and other companies and agencies that work in this area to prevent any setbacks. Otherwise, I will say something from this rostrum and people will be waiting for it but because you don’t put some squiggles or commas in the right place everything will get bogged down again. This is unacceptable, and I will check on it myself, so please pay attention. Mosoblgaz and other companies must understand what they must do, in what timeframe and how much money they have at their disposal.

The goal is certainly more extensive. We must offer every region our solutions on public access to reliable and clean energy sources. This may be electricity, including from renewable sources, or environmentally friendly use of coal, which is also an option in the modern world, pipeline or liquefied gas. I instruct the regional heads to prepare, in coordination with the Government, detailed plans of action and start implementing them next year.

For example, in Kamchatka we must envisage the creation of local gas-receiving infrastructure to ensure reliable long-term gas supplies to the residents and companies of the Kamchatka Territory.

Colleagues,

We will not only give fundamentally new development tools to the regions, but will also directly invest federal resources into the settlement of the worst systemic problems, which will have a compound effect on boosting the regions’ growth and improving the quality of people’s lives.

We will begin with allocations from the National Welfare Fund for building mainline motorways. First of all, we should finance the ongoing construction of the Moscow-Kazan high-speed road and, more than that, extend it all the way to Yekaterinburg, completing this project within three years.

This way, together with the existing Moscow-St Petersburg high-speed road and the Central Ring Road, this will ensure safe high-speed motorway transit across the entire European part of Russia, from the Baltic Sea to the Urals, by 2024.

However, it is not enough to simply connect the end-of-line destinations. What good will this do, if it does not change anything about life in villages or small towns but only gives the people there an opportunity to watch high-speed trains and vehicles rush past? The backbone infrastructure must definitely lead to the development of all the territories where it has been built, giving rise to the development of a modern regional network.

The constituent entities will now be able to use infrastructure loans to speed up the implementation of these construction projects. But in their development plans, our colleagues should remember and take into account that the federal and regional mainlines must function as a unified system in the interests of our citizens, businesses and regions. In this way, the infrastructure loans and the resources of the National Welfare Fund will be working for the benefit of all Russian regions.

The same goes for our new national project in the tourist sphere. A programme of easy loans will be launched soon to finance the construction and renovation of hotels and other tourist infrastructure. The interest rate on these loans will be 3–5 percent as well, and the loans will mature in 15 years.

There are many other pilot projects. I will only mention some of them: the development of Sheregesh, the leading mountain ski resort in Kuzbass; the creation of a yachting resort in the Bay of Balaklava in Sevastopol; and the development of the tourist industry on the Altai and in the Kaliningrad Region.

The infrastructure loans project will give a new impetus to entire tourist clusters. In particular, several regions in Central Russia will be able to modernise and expand the Golden Ring route at a fundamentally new level, realising the tourist potential of small towns such as Tarusa, Palekh, Murom, Gorokhovets, Tutayev and Borovsk. Development projects will be launched in the Volga Region cities, the Crimean resorts, the Black Sea and Pacific coast areas, as well as in our resort towns such as Staraya Russa in the Novgorod Region and Kavkazskiye Mineralnye Vody in the Caucasus, including its gem, Kislovodsk.

Russia is a hospitable country that is open to its good friends. You surely remember what happened during the 2018 football championships. As soon as the epidemiological situation allows, we will lift the remaining restrictions and millions of tourists from all over the world will come to Russia again. We have a practical task at hand: to ensure that e-visas for travel to Russia are available remotely and without undue formalities within a matter of four days in the majority of countries.

Colleagues,

The meaning and purpose of Russia’s policy in the international arena – I will just say a few words about this to conclude my address – is to ensure peace and security for the well-being of our citizens, for the stable development of our country. Russia certainly has its own interests we defend and will continue to defend within the framework of international law, as all other states do. And if someone refuses to understand this obvious thing or does not want to conduct a dialogue and chooses a selfish and arrogant tone with us, Russia will always find a way to defend its stance.

At the same time, unfortunately, everyone in the world seems to be used to the practice of politically motivated, illegal economic sanctions and to certain actors’ brutal attempts to impose their will on others by force. But today, this practice is degenerating into something even more dangerous – I am referring to the recently exposed direct interference in Belarus in an attempt to orchestrate a coup d’état and assassinate the President of that country. At the same time, it is typical that even such flagrant actions have not been condemned by the so-called collective West. Nobody seemed to notice. Everyone pretends nothing is happening.

But listen, you can think whatever you like of, say, Ukrainian President [Viktor] Yanukovych or [Nicolas] Maduro in Venezuela. I repeat, you can like or dislike them, including Yanukovych who almost got killed, too, and removed from power via an armed coup. You can have your own opinion of President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko’s policy. But the practice of staging coups d’état and planning political assassinations, including those of high-ranking officials – well, this goes too far. This is beyond any limits.

Suffice it to mention the admission made by the detained participants in the conspiracy about a planned siege of Minsk, including plans to block the city infrastructure and communications, and a complete shutdown of the entire power system in the capital of Belarus! This actually means they were preparing a massive cyberattack. What else could it be? You know, you cannot just do it all with one switch.

Clearly, there is a reason why our Western colleagues have been stubbornly rejecting Russia’s numerous proposals to establish an international dialogue on information and cyber security. We have come up with these proposals many times. They avoid even discussing this matter.

What if there had been a real attempt at a coup d’état in Belarus? After all, this was the ultimate goal. How many people would have been hurt? What would have become of Belarus? Nobody is thinking about this.

Just as no one was thinking about the future of Ukraine during the coup in that country.

All the while, unfriendly moves towards Russia have also continued unabated. Some countries have taken up an unseemly routine where they pick on Russia for any reason, most often, for no reason at all. It is some kind of new sport of who shouts the loudest.

In this regard, we behave in an extremely restrained manner, I would even say, modestly, and I am saying this without irony. Often, we prefer not to respond at all, not just to unfriendly moves, but even to outright rudeness. We want to maintain good relations with everyone who participates in the international dialogue. But we see what is happening in real life. As I said, every now and then they are picking on Russia, for no reason. And of course, all sorts of petty Tabaquis are running around them like Tabaqui ran around Shere Khan – everything is like in Kipling’s book – howling along in order to make their sovereign happy. Kipling was a great writer.

We really want to maintain good relations with all those engaged in international communication, including, by the way, those with whom we have not been getting along lately, to put it mildly. We really do not want to burn bridges. But if someone mistakes our good intentions for indifference or weakness and intends to burn or even blow up these bridges, they must know that Russia’s response will be asymmetrical, swift and tough.

Those behind provocations that threaten the core interests of our security will regret what they have done in a way they have not regretted anything for a long time.

At the same time, I just have to make it clear, we have enough patience, responsibility, professionalism, self-confidence and certainty in our cause, as well as common sense, when making a decision of any kind. But I hope that no one will think about crossing the “red line” with regard to Russia. We ourselves will determine in each specific case where it will be drawn.

I will now say, just as I always do during the annual addresses to the Federal Assembly, that the improvement and qualitative strengthening of Russia’s Armed Forces continues on a regular basis. In particular, special attention will be given to the development of military education both at military school and academies and at military training centres at civilian universities.

By 2024, the share of modern weapons and military equipment in the armed forces will reach nearly 76 percent, which is a very good indicator. This share in the nuclear triad will be over 88 percent before this year is out.

Standing on combat duty are the latest Avangard hypersonic intercontinental missile systems and the Peresvet combat laser systems, and the first regiment armed with Sarmat super-heavy intercontinental ballistic missiles is scheduled to go on combat duty in late 2022.

The number of combat air systems with Kinzhal hypersonic missiles, and warships armed with precision hypersonic weapons such as Kinzhal that I mentioned, and with the Kalibr missiles, is increasing. The Tsirkon hypersonic missiles will be put on combat duty soon. Work is underway on other modern combat systems, including Poseidon and Burevestnik, in accordance with the development plans of the Armed Forces.

As the leader in the creation of new-generation combat systems and in the development of modern nuclear forces, Russia is urging its partners once again to discuss the issues related to strategic armaments and to ensuring global stability. The subject matter and the goal of these talks could be the creation of an environment for a conflict-free coexistence based on the security equation, which would include not only the traditional strategic armaments, such as intercontinental ballistic missiles, heavy bombers and submarines, but – I would like to emphasise this – all offensive and defensive systems capable of attaining strategic goals regardless of the armament.

The five nuclear countries bear special responsibility. I hope that the initiative on a personal meeting of the heads of state of the permanent members of the UN Security Council, which we proposed last year, will materialise and will be held as soon as the epidemiological situation allows.

Russia is always open to broad international cooperation. We have consistently advocated the preservation and strengthening of the key role of the United Nations in international affairs, and we try to provide assistance to the settlement of regional conflicts and have already done a great deal to stabilise the situation in Syria and to launch a political dialogue in Libya. As you know, Russia played the main role in stopping the armed conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.

It is on the basis of mutual respect that we are building relations with the absolute majority of the world’s countries: in Asia, Latin America, Africa and many European countries. We are consistently expanding as a priority contacts with our closest partners in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, BRICS, the Commonwealth of Independent States, and our allies in the Collective Security Treaty Organisation.

Our common projects in the Eurasian Economic Union are aimed at ensuring economic growth and the wellbeing of our people. There are new, interesting projects here, such as the development of transport-and-logistics corridors. I am sure they will become a reliable infrastructure backbone for large-scale Eurasian partnership. The Russian ideas of this broad, open association are already being put into practice, in part, via alignment with other integration processes.

All these projects are not just geopolitical ideas but strictly practical instruments for resolving national development tasks.

Colleagues,

I began today’s Address with urgent healthcare issues, and concluding it, I would like to say the following. Nobody in the world knew what misfortune we would have to face. However, we, citizens of Russia, have already done much and will do all we can to counter the threat of the epidemic. Our country has reliable resources for this. We created them in healthcare, science, education and industry in previous years.

However, we must definitely move forward. We have mapped out national development tasks. Naturally, the challenge of the epidemic has made objective adjustments to our work. Today’s Address contains instructions on demography and family support, as well as on efforts to fight poverty, increase incomes, create jobs, improve the business environment and raise state management to a new level.

I would like to ask the Government to focus on these tasks in preparing new initiatives on Russia’s socioeconomic development and instruct it to present them by July 1 of this year.

What do I have in mind? Doing everyday work, we must certainly not forget about our strategic development goals and our national development goals, and we must improve the mechanisms for reaching them.

We will discuss the Government’s proposals with the participation of the relevant State Council commissions, our business associations, experts and the Civic Chamber. Following such a broad discussion, we will make final decisions on further financial and organisational actions at the meeting of the Council for Strategic Development and National Projects.

Now I would like to address all citizens of Russia once again to say that we will do everything in our power to achieve the goals set. I am sure we will move forward together and accomplish all the tasks that we have set for ourselves.

Thank you very much for your attention.

The National Anthem of the Russian Federation is played.

Brazil’s Lula in a wilderness of mirrors

Brazil’s Lula in a wilderness of mirrors

March 17, 2021

Still in the legal woods and not daring to project as a revolutionary leader, Lula should nonetheless never be underestimated

By Pepe Escobar with permission and first posted at Asia Times

A surprising Supreme Court decision that, while not definitive, restores Lula’s political rights has hit Brazil like a semiotic bomb and plunged the nation into a reality show being played in a wilderness of shattered mirrors.

At first, it looked like three key variables would remain immutable.

  • The Brazilian military run the show – and that would not change. They maintain total veto power over whether Lula may run for president for a third term in 2022 – or be neutralized, again, via whatever juridical maneuver might be deemed necessary, at the time of their choosing.
  • President Bolsonaro – whose popularity was hovering around 44% – would now have free rein to mobilize all strands of the right against Lula, fully supported by the Brazilian ruling class.
  • Pinochetist Economics Minister Paulo Guedes would continue to have free rein to completely destroy the Brazilian state, industry and society on behalf of the 0.001%.

But then, 48 hours later, came the Lula tour de force: a speech and press conference combo lasting a Proustian three hours – starting with a long thank you list on which, significantly, the first two names were Argentina President Alberto Fernandez and Pope Francis, implying a future Brazil-Argentina strategic axis.

During those three hours, Lula operated a masterful pre-emptive strike. Fully aware he’s still not out of the legal woods, far from it, he could not possibly project himself as a revolutionary leader. In the complex Brazilian matrix, only the evolution of social movements will in the distant future create the political conditions for some possibility of radical revolution.

So Lula opted for the next-best play: he completely changed the narrative by drawing a sharp contrast to the dreadful wasteland presided over by Bolsonaro He emphasized the welfare of Brazilian society; the necessary role of the state, as social provider and development organizer; and the imperative of creating jobs and raising people’s incomes.

“I want the Armed Forces taking care of the nation’s sovereignty,” he stressed. The political message to the Brazilian military – who hold all the cards in the current political charade – was unmistakable.

On the autonomy of the Brazilian Central Bank, he remarked that the only ones who profited from it comprised “the financial system.” And he made it quite clear the main circumstance in which “they should be afraid of me” will be if choice chunks of productive Brazil – as in national energy giant Petrobras – are sold for nothing. So he firmly positioned himself against the ongoing neoliberal privatization drive.

Obama-Biden

Even knowing that Obama-Biden were the (silent) overseers of the slow motion lawfare coup against President Dilma Rousseff from 2013 to 2016, Lula could not afford to be confrontational with Washington.

Refraining from throwing a fragmentation bomb he didn’t mention that then-Vice President Biden spent three days in Brazil in May 2013 and met Dilma – discussing, among other key issues, the fabulous pre-salt oil reserves. One week later, the first installment of a rolling Brazilian color revolution hit the streets.

Lula skirted another potential fragmentation bomb when he said, “I had the intention to build a strong currency with China and Russia so not to be dependent on the U.S. dollar. Obama knew about it.”

That’s correct: but Lula could have stressed that this was arguably the fundamental motivation for the coup – and for the destruction of an emergent Brazil, then 6th largest economy in the world and accumulating vast political capital across the Global South.

Lula is far from secure enough to take the risk of indicting the whole, elaborate Obama-Biden/FBI/Justice Department operation that created the conditions for the Car Wash investigation racket – now totally unmasked. The US deep sate is watching. Watching everything. In real time. And they won’t let their tropical neo-colony slip away without a fight.

Still, the Lula Show was an incantatory, hypnotic invitation to tens of millions of people glued to their smartphones, a society terminally exhausted, appalled and infuriated by a multi-pronged tragedy presided over by Bolsonaro.

Hence the inevitable, subsequent vortex.

What is to be done?

If confirmed as the ultimate comeback kid, Lula faces a Sisyphean task. The unemployment rate is 21.6% nationally, over 30% in the poorer northeastern regions.

It reaches nearly 50% among 18-24-year-olds. The emergency government help in times of pandemic was initially set at a little over $100 – to loud opposition protests. Now that it’s been scaled down to a paltry $64, the opposition is clinging to the previous $100 it rejected.

For 60% of the Brazilian working class monthly wages are less than what was the minimum wage in 2018, at the time valued around $300.

In contrast to relentless impoverishment, a hefty chunk of Brazilian industrialists would like to see the Guedes hardcore neoliberal orchestra keep playing unencumbered. That implies serial super-exploitation of the work force and indiscriminate sell-off of state assets. A large proportion of the pre-salt deposits – in terms of reserves already discovered – is not Brazilian-owned anymore.

The military de facto handed over the nation’s economy to transnational finance. Brazil virtually depends on mercenary agro-business to pay its bills. As soon as China reaches food security, with Russia as a major supplier, this arrangement will vanish – and foreign reserves will dwindle.

To talk about “de-industrialization” in Brazil – as the liberal left does – makes no sense whatsoever, as rapacious industrialists themselves support neoliberalism and rentism.

Add to it a narco-trafficking boom as a direct consequence of the nation’s industrial collapse, coupled with what could be defined as the incremental US-style evangelicalization of social life expressing the predominant anomie, and we have the most graphic case of disaster capitalism ravaging a major Global South economy in the 21st century.

So what is to be done?

No smoking gun

Of course there’s no smoking gun. But all the shadowplay points toward a deal. Now seemingly rallying around him are, with the exception of the military, the same actors who tried to destroy Lula – what is dubbed the “juristocracy,” powerful media interests, the goddess of the market.

After all, Bolsonaro – the incarnation of a military project rolled out since at least 2014 – is not only bad for business: his psychotic inconsequence is downright dangerous.

For instance, if Brasilia cuts off Huawei from 5G in Brazil, sooner rather than later agro-business mercenaries will be eating their own soya beans, as Chinese retaliation will be devastating. China is Brazil’s top trade partner.

Key plot twists remain unanswered. For instance, whether the Supreme Court decision – which may be reverted – was taken only to protect the Car Wash investigation, actually racket, and its crypto Elliott Ness-style superstar, now discredited provincial judge Sergio Moro.

Or whether a new judicial via crucis for Lula may be unleashed if their handlers so decide. After all, the Supreme Court is a cartel. Virtually every one of the 11 justices is compromised to one degree or another.

The paramount variable is what the imperial masters really want. No one inside the Beltway has a conclusive answer. The Pentagon wants a neo-colony – with minimum Russia-China influence, that is, a fractured BRICS. Wall Street wants maximum plunder. As it stands, both the Pentagon and Wall Street never had it so good.

Obama-Biden 3.0 want some continuity: the sophisticated early-to-mid 2010s project of shattering Brazil via Hybrid War developed under their patronage. But now that must proceed under “acceptable” management; for the Dem leadership Bolsonaro, on every level, is irredeemably linked to Trump.

So this is the crucial deal to watch in the long run: Lula/Obama-Biden 3.0.

Brasilia insiders close to the military are spinning that if the deep state/Wall Street consortium gets its new basket of goodies – China out of 5G, increased weapons sales, the privatization of Eletrobras, new Petrobras price policies – the military may discard Lula again anytime.

Always in negotiation mode, Lula had been in action even before the Supreme Court decision. In late 2020, Kirill Dmitriev, head of the Russian Development Investment Fund which financed the Sputnik V vaccine, took a meeting with Lula, after he identified the former president as one of the signatories of a petition by Nobel Economics prize Muhammad Yunus calling for Covid-19 vaccines to be a common good. The meeting was firmly encouraged by Russian President Putin.

This eventually led to tens of millions of doses of Sputnik V being available for a group of Brazilian northeastern states. Lula played a key part in the negotiation. The federal government, initially bowing to heavy American pressure to demonize Sputnik V, but then confronted with a vaccine disaster, was forced to jump on the bandwagon and now is even trying to take the credit for it.

As it stands, this enthralling telenovela political frenzy may be exhibiting all the hallmarks of a psyops crossover between MMA and WWE – starring a few good guys and an abundance of heels.

The (military) house would like to give the impression it is controlling all the bets. But Lula – as the consummate political practitioner of “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” – should never be underestimated.

As soon as the taming of Covid-19 allows it – to a great extent thanks to Sputnik V – Lula’s best bet will be to hit the road. Unleash the battered working masses in the streets, energize them, talk to them, listen to them. Internationalize the Brazilian drama while trying to bridge the gap between Washington and the BRICS.

And act like the true leader of the Global South he never ceased to be.

Lula’s lessons for Iran before Brazil’s populist showdown begins

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)

Source

Friday, 12 March 2021 7:57 PM  [ Last Update: Friday, 12 March 2021 9:37 PM ]

Lula’s lessons for Iran before Brazil’s populist showdown begins
(Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of ‘Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism’ as well as ‘I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China’, which is also available in simplified and traditional Chinese.)

By Ramin Mazaheri and cross-posted with PressTV

Remember in 2010 when Brazil had “arrived”? That was Lula.

Back then, the United States and Europe were financially imploding, but Brazil — with a strong economy, fresh off the very first BRIC summit in 2009, and with the economic redistribution polices championed by Lula — was looking like a permanent and necessary geopolitical power. Their tourists were trotting the globe while Westerners were mired in bank bailouts and the undemocratic demand of austerity to pay for those bailouts.https://thesaker.is/lulas-lessons-for-iran-before-brazils-populist-showdown-begins/

Many of the reasons for Brazil’s economic demise since then are poorly understood, mainly because journalists prefer political intrigues to the simple math of the “dismal science.”

The imprisonment of  Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and the impeachment of his successor, Dilma Rousseff, was not solely the result of a coup — although the former head of Brazil’s Armed Forces just admitted that it was a political-military coup — because that would ignore the aspect played by Western high finance in destabilizing the Brazilian economy enough to sway popular support against the Workers’ Party.

In effect, Lula and the Workers’ Party were deposed by bankers, who essentially went on strike in order to get them out of power. It worked.

As everyone should be well-aware of after all these years, Quantitative Easing (QE) in the West was never downloaded to the people — it took coronavirus to do that. QE was re-routed into stock buybacks, fancy real estate, Van Goghs, and other asset classes of the rich, but it was also downloaded as debt traps to developing nations. Foreign direct investment into Brazil went from $31 billion in 2009 to $102 billion in 2011, all thanks to Western QE, a difference that is the equivalent of Facebook’s yearly revenue, to put the huge jump into perspective.

Crucially, this meant that the profitability of Brazilian banks at this time did not have to depend on sound domestic investments and Brazil-building, but was artificially and temporarily boosted by foreign investment.

This influx of cash to their bottom lines thus gave Brazilian bankers the ability to demand unpopular austerity measures, labor code rollbacks, and deregulations in return for lending out money to (i.e. trying to make a reasonable profit from) their fellow Brazilian businesses and citizens.

This social rollback demanded by banks in order to resume lending, of course, proved incredibly unpopular, reducing the support for Brazil’s Workers Party. This coincided with other social disasters:

The year 2013 then saw a once-in-a-half-century drought in Brazil, which caused food price inflation. That led to strikes, which further worsened the economic situation and further eroded popular support for the Workers’ Party. The year 2014 saw the global commodities shock — sparked by the “endless austerity” demand of Western bankers for the Eurozone — and foreign loans suddenly became scarcer and more onerous. That year, Rousseff won re-election by the closest margin in decades — the Workers’ Party’s popularity had been gutted from its Lula highs. The 2015 Wikileaks confirmations that the US had indeed been spying on Brazil since Rousseff took over in 2011 were drowned out by the 2014-begun “Car Wash” corruption investigations.

And thus Jair Bolsonaro was easily elected in 2018: Brazilian private media unfairly stoked blame on the Workers’ Party, the West blamed Trump’s influence, and nobody was allowed to publicly blame the moneylenders.

The role of the Brazilian military, their media, and the CIA shouldn’t be discounted, but the desire to please foreign high finance is what got Lula, Rousseff, and the Workers’ Party in trouble. The CIA may be powerful, but they don’t have $70 billion to debt-trap Brazil with — that illustrates the power of economics.

Still so sure Iran needs more foreign investment?

The bottom line is that Brazil did not strictly regulate foreign capital flows, and thus were cut by that very double-edged sword: Western QE downloaded into Brazilian bank computers meant that Brazilian bankers didn’t have to earn a remotely honest buck — foreign money allowed them to let Brazil burn in order to oust and imprison the Workers’ Party. But QE policies just made the process easier and faster — the same debt traps were used by European bankers against North African beys two centuries ago.

Western bankers would love to loan money to Iran, one of the last “untapped” markets for the West, but the Iranian government knows better — foreign capital, especially on Western neoliberal terms, is a debt trap and Brazil is Exhibit A.

The failure to grasp this is to implicitly believe that these same foreign creditors, who so drastically altered Brazil’s domestic social and political balance, would be loaning to actually help Iran? No, their goal is the same: to squeeze Iran dry via usurious credit rates and schemes; to pull out their loans prematurely for any number of reasons, leaving Iranian debtors and their projects in the unfinished lurch, to take control of Iran’s social and political balance.

If this analysis sounds unusual, it’s because a skeptical analysis of foreign investment is never broached in the neoliberal West, where foreign investment is always, absolutely, 100%, totally a positive thing. An analysis like this will never be in The Economist, The New York Times, or a “blue check” Twitter feed. For them, Brazil’s economic problems are entirely due to domestic “mismanagement” or the “corruption” of Brazilians, not that of Western bankers. For myself, however, Brazil’s problems are mostly the result of what I call the “bankocracy” which has become the vanguard party of Western society post-2008.

People who clamor for Iran to “open up” economically and be flooded with foreign loans should closely examine how “unarrived” Brazil is now.

Re-enter Lula to ‘re-arrive’ Brazil?

Brazil’s Supreme Court has annulled the criminal convictions against Lula, and he’s sure to challenge Jair Bolsonaro in the 2022 presidential election.

Lula’s image as a staunch leftist is rather overrated in the West.

He is not as economically leftist, as anti-Western capitalism and as anti-foreign finance as Iran’s politicians — just look at all the foreign investment he let in (and, crucially, allowed to be easily withdrawn), or just look up his vice-president.

We can fairly say that the Workers’ Party success ultimately came down to high commodity prices.

Had the Workers’ Party developed systemic institutional changes — like the Chavistas have done with just-enough success in Venezuela — then their party’s popularity would not have crumbled so easy in the face of such obvious Deep State & high finance meddling, no? The Workers’ Party handouts to the poor are necessary and good, but were only temporary guarantors of support. Indeed, the ability of the Chavistas to remain popular amid an ever-heightening Western sanctions onslaught should be quite telling about the deep ideological and systemic differences between Lula and Hugo Chavez.

Therefore, Brazil’s 2022 election is not a “left-right” matchup at all.

It is a matchup of “left populism” versus “right populism”. It will be the world’s first major example of an established semi-leftist politician taking on a “Trumpian” incumbent. (The 2020 US election does not apply here as Joe Biden is not semi-leftist in the slightest.)

Bolsonaro is no Michel Temer, Lula’s successor who hilariously had a 4% approval rating. Bolsonaro has rallied Brazil’s conservatives similarly to Donald Trump — by tapping into the totally justified domestic anger towards Western-led, failed, Brazil-destroying, neo-globalisation/bankocratic imperialism.

He has a solid 30% base which embraces his fascistic, ardently anti-socialist unifying of corporate and military power, as evidenced by his recent appointment of a military man to head Petrobras, the national oil conglomerate. Whom did he fire? One of Latin America’s detested “Chicago Boys”, a University of Chicago-educated economist. So, perhaps we shouldn’t complain too much, but such “one step forward, three (four?) steps back” is the dilemma posed by these 21st century, done-with-globalization, “Trumpian” conservatives.

Brazil in 2022 will thus provide the world with the most modern bellwether of the state of the mainstream and non-revolutionary political struggle — it will be modern Trumpian conservatism versus a leftism which is very far from revolutionary.

Places like China, Iran, Vietnam, Cuba, Venezuela and a few others should be interested, certainly, but perhaps not overly hopeful.

However, Brazil was the only one of the three major Latin American powers with major ties to China, adding a key geopolitical dynamic. Could Beijing provide the stability a re-elected Lula would need? Protecting mighty Brazil is a major project for anyone, including China.

China tapped Iran as the main node for their Belt and Road Initiative because these are two revolutionary cultures — Lula and the Workers Party, do they qualify? In the West many would answer “yes”, but a clear-eyed analysis says “not yet”. I highly doubt Beijing thinks conditions are favorable to hugely aid Brazil when they haven’t even done that for Venezuela – I think Brazilians are on their own for this one.

The US never did see the media-guaranteed street battles between their “right-populists” and center-right “liberals”, but Brazil isn’t so far to the right and so historically politically apathetic as they are in the United States. The arrival of jail-hardened Lula may lead to Venezuelan-style politics and a shift in Latin American — and thus human — history.

(The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Press TV.)


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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov – annual Q&A press conference in Moscow

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov – annual Q&A press conference in Moscow

January 18, 2021

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s annual press conference in Moscow, summing up the results of Russian diplomacy and foreign policy during 2020.

Please forward the video to time marker 19:40.  Transcript now being loaded up below as it becomes available:

Ladies and gentlemen, colleagues,

This is our traditional news conference on the foreign policy outcomes of 2020. It is traditional, but remote. We opted for a format that was widely used over the past year due to the coronavirus pandemic and restrictions imposed in almost all countries, including Russia.

Despite the pandemic, our Ministry kept in close contact with you and your colleagues at all levels. I myself had the pleasure of speaking to you following talks, which did take place several times in Moscow, and will continue to do so. I also spoke to you in a video format. My deputies regularly talk with agencies. The Ministry’s official spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, conducts regular weekly briefings and, in between them, interacts with most of you. I am sure you are aware of the facts and information about what Russian foreign policy is currently promoting in the international arena.

The pandemic has dealt a severe blow to all forms of communication, particularly contacts between people in culture, research, sports and tourism. This caused major shifts in public consciousness in many countries. We know this from daily reports coming from European and other countries. In Russia, we are also trying to minimise the inconveniences caused by objective sanitary restrictions on everyday life. However, certain and not too positive changes are still being felt. You are probably following the discussion focusing on Russia’s epidemiological policy, including the Sputnik V vaccine, EpiVacCorona and the third vaccine, which is on its way.

We reiterate what President of Russia Vladimir Putin said in August 2020 when announcing the registration of the world’s first coronavirus vaccine: we are wide open to cooperation in these matters. We had a positive response to the proposals that the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) had made to its foreign partners with regard to organising licensed production. This topic is being discussed with our colleagues in Asia, the Arab East, Africa and Latin America. Not long ago, President Putin and Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel also briefly discussed the prospects for Russian-German and Russian-European cooperation in producing and improving vaccines. I think this is the right path to take based on the desire to consolidate our efforts and the solidarity of humankind. Unfortunately, not everywhere and not always has this quest for solidarity and joint work manifested itself during the pandemic. Some of our Western colleagues, primarily the United States and its closest allies, tried to take advantage of the situation and to ratchet up pressure, blackmail, ultimatums and illegitimate actions while introducing unilateral restrictions and other forms of interference in the internal affairs of many countries, including our closest neighbour Belarus.

The West unanimously ignored the calls by the UN Secretary General and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to suspend, at least for the duration of the pandemic, unilateral and illegitimate sanctions regarding the supply of medications, food and equipment needed to fight the virus while Russia was ready to back up this approach. President Putin put forward a parallel initiative during the G20 summit to create green corridors in the economy that are free from sanctions and other artificial barriers. Unfortunately, these sensible appeals – both ours and those of the UN leaders – were left hanging in the air.

Last year we observed the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII, the birth of the United Nations and the entry into force of its Charter. Against the backdrop of these anniversaries, we are very concerned about the continuous arrogant actions of the United States and most of its Western allies, which are aimed at undermining international security, which is based on the UN, its Charter and its agencies and replacing the traditional norms and standards of international law with a “rules-based international order.”

Some exclusive mechanisms – groups of so-called co-thinkers began to be set up in this context outside the UN and its universal agencies. These narrow groups are trying to impose their decisions on all members of the international community. One of the manifestations of these rules on which the West would like to establish a new international order is the concept of multilateralism, which our German and French colleagues have started promoting in the past two years. The descriptions of this concept in the public statements of the German and French foreign ministers make it very clear that the EU wants to present itself and everything it does as a foreign policy ideal. The EU views the establishment of specific rules as its exclusive right in the belief that all others must follow these standards. Examples are many.

The EU has held special events on cybersecurity, freedom of the media and international humanitarian law outside UN agencies. These events have been attended by several dozen countries. Holding them outside the UN framework is very indicative. It is based on the understanding that in the UN the advocates of this concept will have to meet people with somewhat different views on ensuring cybersecurity, freedom of the media, especially in today’s world, and on how to ensure the equal application of the standards of international humanitarian law. In my opinion, unless I am convinced of the opposite, these are apprehensions of competition and the understanding that in today’s world the West can no longer dictate its own orders to others as it has over the last five centuries. History is moving forward, it is developing. This has nothing to do with ideology. This is just a statement of fact. It is necessary to consider the views of the countries that now have a much greater weight in the world arena (completely incomparable with that of the colonial era) and the countries that want to preserve their civilisational  identity and that do not see in the West the ideals for their societies. Tolerance of diversity is another characteristic that the West is losing very quickly.

There are situations where half a dozen people that have created their own technological empires do not even want to know what rights they have in their own states. They determine their rights themselves proceeding from so-called corporate standards and completely ignore the constitutions of their states. We have seen this clearly in the US and this is a source of deep concern. Much has been said about this recently in television reports and special analytical materials. We are not pleased by the attempts of the Western elites to find external enemies to resolve their internal political problems. They find these enemies in Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela. The list of these countries is well known.

We all see the response to the news of Alexey Navalny’s return to the Russian Federation. Carbon-copy comments on this event are coming in one after another. They are full of joy because they allow Western politicians to think that in this way they can divert public attention away from the deepest crisis of the liberal development model.

I am convinced that it is necessary not to seek outside excuses to justify one’s own actions or sidetrack attention from one’s deepest problems and crises. On the contrary, it is essential to play an honest game and look for opportunities to resolve domestic problems via fair and equitable international cooperation. No one can expect to resolve its own problems outside multilateral formats any longer.

Russia strives to act as constructively as possible in the international arena. We are convinced that we must sit down and discuss all existing grievances rather than wrangle with each other. We have always been ready to do so: back when Russia was accused of “interference” in the US elections, in Barcelona, ​​during Brexit, the Skripal case, the Malaysian Boeing, which was shot down over Ukraine in July 2014, and with regard to Alexey Navalny. I can later cite in more detail the arguments that you are well aware of. In every above case and in other cases where we were accused of something specific, we have never been given evidence that would corroborate these unfounded accusations. We’ve only heard “highly likely,” “no one else has these motives” or “only you have such capabilities, so you are guilty, so we don’t need to prove anything.” They just don’t provide the facts, which is what decent people always do in order to justify their discussions.

We are interested in addressing problems through a dialogue. However, “forcing a closed door” that the West keeps “under lock and key” is beneath our dignity. Your governments are well aware of our proposals that we have made repeatedly, starting with the dialogue on strategic offensive arms, arms control and nonproliferation to interaction on cybersecurity and non-deployment of weapons in space. There are many such areas. For each of them, Russia has proposals for establishing honest cooperation on key threats that are common to all countries around the world instead of using these threats to achieve unilateral geopolitical advantages by means of unscrupulous competition. President Putin’s initiative to hold a summit of the five UN Security Council permanent members is a manifestation of such a desire to start a dialogue. All other leaders of the Group of Five responded positively to this proposal. Unfortunately, the pandemic made holding such a meeting impossible. We are convinced that the leaders must meet in person. We hope this summit will take place the epidemic situation permitting.

With regard to promoting a positive agenda, we invite our Western partners to return to common sense and to consider under the UN umbrella their ideas on cyber security, freedom of the media and many other problems that they are trying to resolve among themselves.

We will introduce similar approaches in other organisations of which Russia is a member, including the SCO, BRICS, the CSTO, the CIS and the EAEU.

President Putin’s initiative, which we are promoting, is to form the Greater Eurasian Partnership that is open to all Eurasian countries without exception by way of an equal collective dialogue. This covers the EU countries along with the EAEU, the SCO and ASEAN members. Generally speaking, it covers countries that are not part of any regional organisations, but are located in Eurasia. I would like to note the importance of the G20, an association that unites the Western G7, which is no longer able to overcome global challenges all by itself. The G20 also brings together the BRICS countries and the like-minded nations which share our common philosophy: to say no to confrontation and to address existing problems on a balance of interests.

Today we will discuss ongoing conflicts as well. We are working with other countries to advance a settlement in Syria, to break the deadlock of the intra-Libyan conflict that erupted after NATO countries’ aggression had undermined the Libyan statehood almost 10 years ago.

We will also talk about other hot spots in the Middle East and North Africa, primarily the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which they are undeservedly trying to put on the back burner.

Quite recently, we released a multi-page document on the main foreign policy results of 2020. It contains a lot of hard facts. I hope you have had a chance to read it.

Today, we will focus on challenges facing the world which quickly change our daily lives.

Question: In what direction are relations between Russia and Italy developing, especially in the coronavirus pandemic year?

Sergey Lavrov: Relations between Russia and Italy are good.  Italy is one of those EU countries that follow the discipline and principles of solidarity in the EU, but that still do not consider it appropriate to take an aggressive position against the Russian Federation. Conscientiously, in joining the consensus on certain sanctions, Italy does not consider them to be effective tools for influencing anyone, in this case the Russian Federation. Not without objections from Brussels, Italy insists on its right to develop bilateral relations with Russia and does so sincerely. This policy reflects a correct understanding of the national interests of the Italian Republic, the interests of its business and its citizens seeking to continue humanitarian, sport, cultural and other contacts between people.

We have a good tradition with Italy with our cross cultural years. They are dedicated to topics that interest citizens of both countries, primarily in areas of culture, language, literature and regional contacts. This is a very good tradition. It actually helps respond to the needs of people and businesses, which is important.

Russia and Italy have a 2+2 mechanism where the defence and foreign ministers of the two countries meet and review the key issues in the world, in the Euro-Atlantic area and other regions where both Italy and the Russian Federation have interests.

Information on the specific events we held last year and what are scheduled for the future is available in the Results of Foreign Policy Activities in 2020. All this is described in detail there.

Question: I am one of the seven journalists in Latvia who were detained in December by local security service officers for cooperation with Sputnik Latvia and the Baltnews agency. In December, they carried out a search of our office and took away our office equipment, computers and dictaphones, bringing criminal charges against us over the violation of international sanctions. During the six weeks that have passed since then we have not heard of any reaction from international human right organisations to this out of the ordinary event, to put it mildly, including from the leaders who yesterday vehemently reacted to the detention of Alexey Navalny only five minutes after it happened.

Why do you think international officials say nothing about this outrageous, in my view, incident – the detention of seven journalists in Latvia? Can the Russian Foreign Ministry throw its weight behind the journalists representing Russian media abroad?

Sergey Lavrov: We are doing our best. I do not use these words to give you the runaround. We are really taking important measures. We discuss this issue at the meetings I hold weekly with my deputies and Foreign Ministry Collegium members. Not only must we voice our disapproval of a flagrant violation of the national law and international commitments like this, but we must also resort to international mechanisms. We spoke about this incident at the UN, the OSCE and the Council of Europe. We will continue this work.

Whenever we have incontestable and hard facts that freedom of the media has been flagrantly violated coupled with threats to bring criminal charges, the mechanisms existing in the UN human rights formats – and there are plenty of speakers there reporting on various aspects of human rights violations; they have the Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe and the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media – cannot justify what they are doing to you. Quite a few incidents like this happen now and then in the neighbouring Baltic States. Usually, they write letters to us. But we want to use mechanisms provided for in relevant conventions that require that a country in question rectify this type of violation. These mechanisms must – pardon me for the parlance that is not altogether diplomatic – put a squeeze on the violator until things are put right. Our colleagues at multilateral institutions show much less zeal seeking to establish the truth when it comes to a Russian-language media outlet. Although in the case of Latvia, Russian is a native tongue, as about half of the population in this country – no less than 40 percent – think in Russian and use this language in their daily life. One should have a very specific political orientation to want to show complete disrespect to one’s own compatriots in this way.

We will continue to seek reasonable actions from international agencies, but at the same time we want to involve NGOs in these efforts. They have every reason to appeal to the courts, but a denial in a court allows them to address the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). It has dealt a few times with the subject of the media. Such precedents did not exist before but they have been created in connection with Western reproaches concerning the Russian media. So at this point the ECHR has to consider a situation that does not allow for any dual interpretation. It is so obvious, and I don’t think the court should take a long time to pass a ruling.

At the same time, we are working and will continue working with international lawyers. We will also use the Russian Fund for the Support and Protection of the Rights of Compatriots Living Abroad that is willing to help journalists among others.

I confirm our support for Sputnik and not just because it’s a Russian media outlet. Citizens of any country, including Latvia, have the right to alternative information sources. Access to information is provided for by the numerous decisions of the OSCE. It is guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This principle of access to information was recently trampled underfoot in the United States to the accompaniment of perplexed silence or indistinct comments by US allies. Now attempts are being made to hush it all up by saying that Donald Trump’s Facebook account has been restored (but not his Tweeter account). But this is not about Trump but about the big failure of the state to comply with its commitments to ensure access to information. They said it was not the US Government that has shut out all those that were recognised by these platforms as sources of unreliable information. After all, corporations have not signed any pacts. All this comes “straight from the devil.” The Pacts and top-level decisions of the OSCE, which the West never tires of quoting (at least this was the case until recently), oblige the state to ensure free access to information for every person on its territory. So, Sputnik enjoys our full support. I know it is also popular with my Western colleagues. They consider media like Sputnik and RT important because their views differ from the common opinion that is being imposed by the Western media at every more or less important instance.

Question: Antony Blinken will probably become the next Secretary of State and Victoria Nuland, whom we all know, will be his deputy. What can you say regarding these candidates? What are your expectations with respect to working with them further in the future?

Sergey Lavrov: I try not to have any expectations on any subject. As for what to expect from the new US Administration, so much has already been said about it that I don’t want to take up your time with that.

We know these people. On the one hand, this makes it possible, given their reciprocal wish, to respond to many of our proposals on the Russian-US agenda, which are still on the table, and start talks without a large pause and preparations. On the other hand, we can easily imagine what line will the “new old” members of the incoming US Administration’s foreign policy team take; moreover they do not conceal their intentions and plans. From regular interviews, articles and advice given by US think tanks, including NATO’s North Atlantic Council and other entities, we can see that the line will continue to pursue the goals of US state and way of life, without understanding other countries’ patterns of life. The containment of Russia and China will undoubtedly be present on the foreign policy agenda. They are already discussing how to prevent Russia and the PRC from joining forces to such a degree that they could become more powerful than America. There are proposals of playing on the confrontation between Russia and China. All of this has long been a part of US policy.

Possibly, their manners will be more polite with respect to Russia, but the essence of their policy will hardly be different. When the Americans find it beneficial, when they realise that they cannot achieve anything without Russia and China, then they will have to be ready for agreements. This concerns combatting infections (by all appearances, it is a long-term topic); climate change, which also implies specific and practical interaction between many countries, including Russia and China; fighting terrorism and other forms of organised crime – drug trafficking and human trafficking. Most importantly, they should deal with the situation in arms control which is absolutely abnormal. We have heard about the intention of Joe Biden’s Administration to resume the dialogue with us on this subject, including trying to agree on the extension of the New START  treaty before it expires on February 5. We will wait for their proposals. Our position is known very well and remains in force.

We have heard about the plans to revise the decisions of the outgoing US administration to withdraw from quite a number of other multilateral agreements and organisations, such as the World Health Organisation (WHO), UNESCO, and the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

We harbour no illusions. We are realists. We have our proposals on all agenda items that are important for all humankind, and a number of them are being implemented. I would mention the UN work on international information security and curbing cybercrime, which our Western colleagues do not want to continue in a universal format, but rather to concentrate it within a close circle of likeminded parties and work out the rules, and then demand that everyone observes them.

In brief – we do not expect any radical changes. However, the methods of promoting US “leadership” will be somewhat different.

Question: What move by the Biden Administration do you think could indicate its readiness to reset relations with Russia? What is Russia ready to do to display a desire to improve relations with the United States?

Sergey Lavrov: We do not have to do anything to indicate our desire to have good relations with the United States, relations that would reflect the responsibility of the world’s two largest nuclear powers for security at the global, regional and any other level. We have put forth proposals to this effect, and the Biden Administration is well aware of them.

When Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated Joe Biden on his victory in the presidential election, he reaffirmed our commitment to cooperation with the United States on all issues of mutual interest and importance for the world. This can be interpreted as invitation to dialogue.

The most important thing is that our proposals on cybersecurity and on investigations into our alleged interference in US affairs, as well as on space projects and arms control, are on the table. As recently as in September 2020, President Putin publicly invited the United States – not President Trump or anyone else, but the United States as a power which, we hope, has retained at least a degree of respect for continuity and compliance with foreign policy agreements – to reboot our relations in the sphere of cybersecurity and non-intervention into internal affairs of each other. He proposed exchanging guarantees of such non-intervention and restoring a regular full-scale bilateral dialogue on all aspects of the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) related to the military-political security of states and the possible use of cyberspace by all kinds of criminals, including terrorists, paedophiles and human traffickers. We have not received any response to that proposal, just as to our initiative put forth two years ago for reaffirming the statement made by Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan to the effect that a nuclear war is unacceptable, cannot be won and so must never be fought.

I don’t know how the new US Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control will formulate President Biden’s position, but Marshall Billingslea, who will leave the post in two days, cannot let up but continues to give interviews and write for the media. He said openly in one of his statements that the new administration must not fall into the Russian trap by making a statement on the inadmissibility of a nuclear war. This is not a whim of Mr Billingslea or any other American official, who consider it unacceptable for the United States to agree that a nuclear war must never be fought. This position reflects the US doctrinal provisions on the use of military force and nuclear weapons. Lowering the yield of nuclear charges so that they can be used on the battlefield, and refusal to formalise a provision on the no-first use of nuclear weapons – these nuances of the US doctrines speak volumes. We would like to know who will ultimately determine the US position on strategic offensive armaments (not only nuclear ones) and how this will be done.

New technologies can be used to boost the US Prompt Global Strike project designed to create powerful conventional precision weapons that can deliver an airstrike anywhere in the world within one hour.

We called on the outgoing US administration to consider formulating a new arms control document, to extend the New START treaty so that we have at least one effective arms control document, and in the meantime to coordinate a new document that would cover all types of weapons, including not just those mentioned in New START but also strategic armaments that could be considered a threat to our national territories. I believe that this is an understandable consideration, and a much more important one than the idea of recounting all warheads of any type, which we are being encouraged to accept, while our US partners reject our proposal to focus on the current and very probable threats.

Let’s wait and see. Joseph Biden is an expert on disarmament and arms control. I think he would rather have a team of professionals than propagandists.

Question: Foreign Minister of China Wang Yi has said recently that China and Russia would continue to provide an example of the development of neighbourly and friendly relations between world powers, boost the revitalisation of the global economy and maintain global strategic stability. What possibilities do you envision for the further development of ties between our two countries? What can Russia and China do to hinder foreign interference and attempts to drive a wedge between their cooperation?

Sergey Lavrov: We have very close strategic relations with the People’s Republic of China. Our leaders are good friends who maintain regular trust-based communication. Their personal contacts were complicated last year, yet they managed to have at least five detailed telephone conversations and videoconferences. We have held a regular, 25th meeting of our heads of government, contacts between the five subcommissions set up under the guidance of our prime ministers, and a meeting of the Russian-Chinese Inter-Parliamentary Commission. We held joint celebrations of the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII. A Chinese delegation led by Defence Minister Wei Fenghe and a Chinese Honour Guard company attended the parade held on Red Square on June 24, 2020. We appreciate this.

We are now implementing a major project, the Year of Russian-Chinese Scientific, Technical and Innovative Cooperation. It is currently the most important matter designed to give a second lease of life and a new quality to our trade and economic interaction. Unlike many other countries, we managed to prevent our mutual trade from decreasing during the pandemic. It is developing quite sustainably. We are implementing major infrastructure, industrial, agrarian, energy and investment projects.

We have been collaborating closely to stop the spread of the COVID-19 infection and to overcome its impacts since the start of the pandemic. When our Chinese friends identified the problem at Wuhan, they collaborated closely and effectively with us to help repatriate Russian citizens. We are working together to provide humanitarian assistance to each other. There are such examples on both sides. We are working on the vaccines at present. I have no doubt that we will succeed.

We are cooperating within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and BRICS. The People’s Republic of China and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) have signed a cooperation agreement. We are aligning integration within the EAEU and China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Last December, we signed a protocol on extending the agreement on notification of the launch of ballistic missiles and space carrier rockets for another 10 years. Also in December 2020, the Chinese Air Force and the Russian Aerospace Forces conducted the second joint patrol mission over the Sea of Japan and East China Sea. This is evidence of the trust-based and forward-looking nature of Russian-Chinese relations and our mutual commitment to maintaining stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

Some of our other colleagues, for example, the United States, have been trying to build up tension by conducting military activities that are openly spearheaded against China and are aimed at isolating Russia, as well as within the framework of practical US plans to deploy the components of the US ballistic missile defence system in Asia Pacific. These components have the capacity to reach the territory of both China and Russia.

A lot more can be said about Russian-Chinese cooperation. It is ongoing in a wide range of spheres, in fact, in nearly all spheres of human and state endeavour. I would like to mention our close coordination at the UN on many practical matters. It is based on Russia’s and China’s commitment to protecting international law and preventing the erosion of universal structures and the replacement of the UN with extraneous formats and partnerships, which Western countries are using to formulate rules suiting their own purposes  and subsequently force them on the rest of the world. Russia and China firmly stand for protecting the achievements set out in the UN Charter, which are based on the principles of equality, respect for the sovereignty of states, non-interference in their internal affairs and a peaceful settlement of disputes.

This year we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Russian-Chinese Treaty of Good-Neighbourliness, Friendship and Cooperation. We have huge plans for celebrating this memorable occasion.

Question: Several days ago now, the entire world was amazed by how easily, virtually with a snap of a finger, corporations banned Donald Trump from social networks. In your opinion, how does this “digital GULAG,” that is holding captive politicians and their supporters, journalists and ordinary people all over the world, align with the concept of American democracy? Is it possible that in the future, such selective blocking of accounts becomes a fundamental of international policy and common practice?

Sergey Lavrov: Everybody is talking about it on all the television channels and social networks. I heard that Telegram was threatened with blocking their services. It will be rather interesting.

I have already mentioned the topic of states’ obligations and now want to remind you about them. The US is a member of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Interestingly (however, this issue is often omitted) there have been two international treaties, one for civil and political rights, and the other the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Having signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (it was in the 1960s), the US flatly refused to sign the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

This is a refusal to take any responsibilities related to providing adequate quality of life to its population and solving social and economic problems. But the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is an obligatory document for the US. The Helsinki Final Act and an entire series of OSCE documents (the Charter of Paris for a New Europe, the Charter for European Security adopted in Istanbul in 1999) say that every person has the right to freely express their opinion. This right includes the freedom to search, receive and distribute various kinds of information and ideas regardless of state borders, by mouth, in writing, using the press, creative forms of expression or other means. “Other means” meant the visionary prediction that social networks would appear. There is no exception to this. It is said that each person has the right to access information. The state signed under it. So, claiming that Google, Facebook, YouTube and other corporations have no responsibilities is childish nonsense. The state has to assume responsibly for them, and if they misbehave, the state must bring them to order and to its legal obligations.

I do not know what will happen next. There have been many different forecasts. There is a state, private capitalism. Who will be changing the rules of the game now? Many recalled Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Vladimir Lenin and other analysts of capitalism and imperialism as its last stage. I do not know. The only thing I am sure about is that if the US fails to make the violators comply with the freedom of speech and its own Constitution (let alone international covenants), the US will present itself to the world as something other than a champion for democracy.

Speaking of the freedom of speech. Every year, the UN General Assembly at our initiative adopts a resolution on inadmissibility of glorification of Nazism and other forms of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia, and the US votes against it saying that the voting for prohibiting neo-Nazi movements is a violation of the First Amendment. They state this openly. By the way, only one country, Ukraine, votes against this resolution alongside the US. And for obvious reasons: neo-Nazis freely march there and hold torchlight processions and in addition to all that really influence the practical policy of this, so to speak, state. In the US, the situation is slightly different, but they also do not want to violate the First Amendment.

Let us hope that American society will not allow the elites in their fight against each other to use blatant censorship in violation of the Constitution and international obligations. But this is their problem. If the American society fails to cope with it, we cannot do anything about it. But then everybody should be ready for the ramifications of this failure of the American state. And these ramifications will be grave on the global stage. I think everybody understands this. It is no coincidence that Europe is preparing EU documents about how to start a dialogue that takes into account all possible scenarios immediately following Joe Biden’s inauguration.

I would suggest paying attention to how the US has found itself in a position that bears risks to undermine the American state if it fails to bring private corporations that are fewer than 12 to order so that they would comply with the state mechanisms, legislation, and first of all, its own Constitution.

Question: A politician and Russian citizen has alleged that Russian security services attempted to poison him. Alexey Navalny has provided facts which nobody has reliably invalidated so far. He has decided to return to his home country, where no criminal case of his poisoning had been opened. The plane he boarded was diverted to another airport. The people who came to welcome him home, including journalists, and Navalny himself have been detained. How does this make Russia look? Don’t we care about our image any longer?

Sergey Lavrov: Of course, one should care for one’s image, but we are not a young girl preparing for a ball. We must first of all do our job, which is to implement Russia’s foreign policy. A foreign policy aspect has been added to the Navalny case artificially and without any justification. Everything associated with his return and detainment is the competence of the law enforcement authorities. There is a detailed statement by the Federal Penitentiary Service, which provides facts and violations and explains why the complaints have been put forth. This is not something that can be placed on the Foreign Ministry’s doorstep. The matter concerns compliance with Russian laws. As we pointed out, if some countries regard respect for their own laws to be of secondary importance compared to their geopolitical goals, that is their problem. In our case, the law enforcement agencies have clearly formulated their position. And they spent a long time doing this, since August, several days after the blogger left the Omsk hospital.

Alexey Navalny has said that he is returning home with a clear conscience, because he had not left Russia of his own free will. He inferred that he was well-nigh forced to leave. In fact, he was unconscious; it was a dramatic life-or-death situation. It was his wife who insisted that he must be allowed to leave Russia and who was responsible for putting him on a German plane, as well as the German authorities, who demanded quite aggressively that we hand him over without delay. We did so.

Euronews broadcast a story today. Correspondent Galina Polonskaya, who was on the plane with Alexey Navalny, said that according to Charité doctors Navalny had been poisoned with a chemical warfare agent, which the OPCW later confirmed. She added that the Russian authorities repeatedly denied the allegation. According to the initial information provided by Germany, doctors at the civilian Charité hospital, just like their colleagues in Omsk, had not found any traces of warfare agents in Navalny’s samples. They were later found at the Bundeswehr hospital. First Germany refused to provide test results to us, claiming that this would enable us to learn about Bundeswehr technologies for identifying chemical weapons. How do you like that? Actually, they should not supposedly have such technology at all, because after the alleged poisoning of the Skripals with Novichok the West claimed that it did not have the relevant knowledge or technology.

However, in the case of Navalny it took the Bundeswehr barely a few days to determine that he had allegedly been poisoned with Novichok or a similar agent (we don’t know for sure to this day, because they have not provided any materials to us). The French and even Swedes have reaffirmed that it was a Novichok-class agent even though it was not on the list of substances prohibited by the OPCW. In accordance with their numerous commitments under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), both bilateral and European ones, we requested to see the results of these tests. First they told us that it was a multilateral matter and that all materials had been sent to the OPCW. OPCW Director-General Fernando Arias refused to answer our questions, but later he admitted that they had taken samples from Navalny but could not provide them to us because they “belong” to Berlin.  It was Berlin that requested the analysis, so we should ask Berlin for its results. Berlin told us that it was not a bilateral matter and redirected us back to the multilateral organisation. I believe this is sheer mockery. There is no question about the OPCW, which has long been privatised by the West. It has been trying to do the same with other organisations, but it has been especially successful in the case of the OPCW. Only after a long time, during which we were directed from Berlin to The Hague and back, were we told that there was another reason for their refusal to give us the test results: Alexey Navalny does not want Russia to have this information.

Several days ago, Germany happily announced that it had answered the four requests it received from the Prosecutor General’s Office of Russia. The reply consisted only of answers they had received from Navalny and his wife. That is all we got. No factual evidence, nothing about water bottles with traces of poison, copies of toxicology results, biological samples or test results. Navalny claims that he has been poisoned by the Russian state and by President Putin personally. The West accepts this without asking any questions. The Western countries only provide facts as they had been presented by Navalny himself during his interviews with the law enforcement authorities. I regard this as total contempt for the procedure.

The German parliamentary party Alternative for Germany (AfD), which is widely seen as being cultivated by Russia, has officially requested relevant information from the German government. They have not received any reply. They asked concrete questions: Who had the water bottle during the flight from Omsk to Berlin? Was it known before the flight that its organisers allowed the bottle to be taken? The answer was that the German government had no information regarding this. How can this be? There were not only doctors but also representatives of German special services on board the plane that delivered Navalny from Omsk. Everyone knows this. If they don’t know who took the bottles on board the plane, this is on their conscience.

First it was said that Navalny had tea at Tomsk airport; this version had been planted in the public space at the very beginning. Later it was removed. It turned out that a close associate poured tea for Navalny. Then they presented the version with the water bottle. It fizzled out as well. The next version concerned clothes, and then they revived the bottle version again. It has been said recently, several months after it all happened, that attempts to poison Navalny had been made before that, but as a result it was Yulia Navalny who was poisoned. When increasingly more surprising news is made public, we as a foreign policy agency have a question for our German, French and Swedish colleagues: Ladies and gentlemen, please act on your international obligations and present the results of the tests which, as you claim, contain an unidentified toxic substance that is not on the OPCW lists. We have not received any replies in the case of Alexander Litvinenko, which was kept secret, or in the alleged poisoning of the Skripals. Those who expelled Russian diplomats at Britain’s request said they would provide the facts later. They have not provided a single fact, any information one can get is in the public sphere. “Highly likely” and that is it. Those who trusted the British may be sorry now, but they will never admit this out of a misguided sense of solidarity.

Neither do they say anything about interference in the US elections now. Former US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has refused to provide the “irrefutable proof” he had said publicly they have. They will not provide any proof, full stop. The same is true about the Navalny case. If you want to know the truth, just be polite and respect the law, honour your obligations and do not resort to diplomatic insolence by saying that you would not give anything to Russia, which is a poisoner by default. That is no way to talk to us. This is the foreign policy dimension for which the Foreign Ministry has been responsible throughout its history. This is not how our partners should behave.

Question: Will Russia send another request to Germany regarding the case of Alexey Navalny, since Moscow wasn’t happy with the previous answer they got? Did I understand correctly from your previous answer that without Navalny’s permission Russia will not get access to his test results from Germany and no criminal case will be opened?

Sergey Lavrov: Regarding the Prosecutor General’s Office’s inquiry, this is its prerogative. I think that an additional request must be sent so that our German colleagues do not feel like they have already performed their functions. It was a perfunctory reply, which is unworthy of a department in charge of the law enforcement cases’ legal aspects.

Doctors in Omsk, who saved Mr Navalny’s life before he was literally ripped away from their hands unconscious, asked his spouse to sign a paper to the effect that she insists on taking him away. They made their findings and test results available to German doctors, who also gave a receipt thereof. In August, the Charite Clinic reported that nothing had been found. This is a civil clinic, just like the one in Omsk. The samples were made available to a Bundeswehr clinic, which detected traces of a chemical agent. Since nothing was found in Mr Navalny’s tests in Russia which would indicate poisoning with warfare agents, there’s no reason, under our legislation, to initiate a criminal case, no matter what someone may tell us.

If there’s something that makes someone suspicious, the matter could have been settled long ago as follows. The Germans say that this is no longer a bilateral, but a multilateral issue, and sent it to the OPCW. We suggested that the OPCW Director-General use the CWC article, which provides for according assistance by its Technical Secretariat to the participating country. They were offered to come to Russia. They have samples of Navalny’s biomaterials. We also have them. They are being kept in the Omsk hospital (maybe they have already been transported to the corresponding laboratory). There’s an OPCW-certified lab in Russia. Their and our doctors first examine one set of samples, then another, or vice versa. They will perform these tests together so as to be able to establish mutual trust. The lab is adequately equipped to conduct such tests. If they believe they need innovative sophisticated equipment, they can bring it in, we have no objections. The only condition is to do it together. After a number of episodes involving the alleged use of chemical agents in Syria, and after the Secretariat’s reports, we said outright that we have no trust in that. So, we want to use Ronald Reagan’s paraphrased principle “trust but verify.”

For a very long time they tried to avoid providing a direct answer. They said they were internationally recognised and asked for our samples, saying that “they will let us know afterwards.” This will not happen again. There will no longer be a one-way street approach. There will be no trust in the Bundeswehr clinic, the French or Swedish clinics, or the one that the OPCW may choose for its internal purposes without our participation until we are convinced that these people are honest researchers and specialists. I don’t see how anything can be done until we see the requested materials, or until they carry out the experiment that we asked for. They chickened out, probably, meaning that their conscience is not clear. It is not for nothing that the organisation, which the Germans mentioned saying that they now own it, is saying that it is Berlin’s property. The circle is complete. As Vladimir Putin said, don’t try to make retards out of us.

Question: The future of prisoners in Baku is what concerns Armenia’s public opinion most. As we understand it, this matter remains unresolved. Azerbaijan is manipulating the prisoner issue. Armenia is hoping that Russia will help. What is being done to get the prisoners of war back home? Is there an understanding of the time frame within which a positive decision on this matter can be made? Armenia has released all the prisoners of war, but its move was not reciprocated. Processes are underway that do not quite fit into the framework of the declarations signed on November 9, 2020 and January 11, 2021. Are there any classified attachments to these declarations that we are unaware of? Is there any progress in determining the status of Nagorno-Karabakh? How delayed is it? There are rumours in Karabakh that since Russia has helped it out so much in this situation, perhaps it may become part of Russia? Is this option on the table?

Sergey Lavrov: The issue of prisoners of war was indeed discussed. It is part of the agreements signed in the early hours of November 10, 2020. It was further discussed during telephone conversations between President Vladimir Putin and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, and in my conversations with Foreign Minister Ara Ayvazyan and Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov. It was also part of rather lengthy discussions during the visit of the leaders of the two countries to Moscow on January 11.

Summing up the developments, indeed, the Armenians had more problems initially. First of all, both countries needed to get together lists of the missing people who they want to rescue from captivity. Azerbaijan provided such lists, which were fairly short. Not right away, but everyone mentioned on the Azerbaijani lists were released. There were no more questions to Azerbaijan about missing, captive or involuntarily held persons. The lists provided by Armenia were incomplete and overdue.

Subsequently, there were exchanges of the participants in the events that ended on November 9, 2020. Now, the focus is on the issue that arose already in early December 2020. In late November 2020, a group of 62 Armenian servicemen was sent to the Hadrut region and captured within a week. Azerbaijan then stated that since they came to the area after the ceasefire had been announced and the hostilities had ended, they should be considered separately, rather than falling under the Declaration of November 9, 2020. Nevertheless, during our contacts with our colleagues, President Putin and I promoted the need to continue to consider this matter in order to bring it to a closure based on the “all for all” principle. I spoke with Mr Ayvazyan in an effort to clarify the final lists of those missing. It turned out that there are many more than 62 of them.

In a collaborative effort with their colleagues from Armenia and Azerbaijan, our military are checking the lists person by person in order to locate these people’s whereabouts. Of course, the issue is there. If it were not for the Russian peacekeepers, the matter would probably be even more complicated. Commander of the peacekeeping contingent Lieutenant General Rustam Muradov maintains direct contact with his Armenian and Azerbaijani colleagues.

I did not quite understand the assertion that the processes “on the ground” do not quite follow the agreements of November 9, 2020 and January 11, and whether there are any secret protocols or annexes in this regard. Where specifically do events “on the ground” “not follow” the agreement? I believe that the Declaration of November 9, 2020 is being implemented quite effectively. This is what both Ilham Aliyev and Nikol Pashinyan are telling us. That is, with the exception of the POW issue, which remains unresolved for reasons I already mentioned and which, in its current form, arose in early December 2020, a month after the signing of the agreements. The issue concerning the peacekeepers’ mandate is in the process of being settled. It should be the subject of a trilateral agreement as discussed in Moscow on January 11. There are no secret annexes. I don’t understand what topics might be classified.

Regarding the status of Nagorno-Karabakh, it is not mentioned in the agreements of November 9, 2020. This was done deliberately. The territory where the Russian peacekeepers are deployed is the area of responsibility of the Russian peacekeeping contingent. We operate on this premise in our contacts with Yerevan and Baku. The nuances and details related to organising transport routes, delivering supplies to the peacekeepers’ area of responsibility and providing humanitarian aid to returnees (50,000 already) are being worked through. The International Committee of the Red Cross has been working there for a long time now in coordination with the Russian peacekeepers. International organisations, including UNESCO, the United Nations Office for Refugees and Humanitarian Affairs, are now coordinating the format of their assessment mission with Baku and Yerevan. There are issues primarily related to differences concerning the status. Exactly because the problem of the status of Nagorno-Karabakh is controversial, if we take the positions of Yerevan and Baku, the three leaders decided to leave it be for future consideration.

The OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs should also be involved in this. They have renewed their contacts with the parties and are going to visit the region again. The faster Baku and Yerevan comply “on the ground” with their assurances that the most important thing is to improve the daily life of the ethnic and religious communities that coexisted in Karabakh and to restore peaceful and neighbourly life, the sooner the status issues will be resolved.

As for the exotic proposal to make Nagorno-Karabakh part of Russia, as far as I understand it, the independence of Karabakh is not recognised by anyone, including the Republic of Armenia. We are not even close to having thoughts like that. We believe that all matters in this region must be resolved between the countries of the region, primarily, Armenia and Azerbaijan. We are ready to help look for and find solutions which will ensure peace and stability in this region. The safety of the people who have always lived here and should live in the future is of paramount importance.

Question: Azerbaijan protested against the visit of Armenian officials to Nagorno-Karabakh. Why are Armenian officials unable to obtain Azerbaijan’s permission while visiting Nagorno-Karabakh? How will the Russian peacekeepers resolve this issue? Have you taken note of Azerbaijan’s protest on this matter?

Sergey Lavrov: All agreements, especially those made on November 9, 2020, stipulate the parties’ agreement that Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh will communicate via the Lachin corridor, which will be controlled by Russian peacekeepers. No one has ever denied ties between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. During the decades of talks, there has never been any discussion of cutting off Nagorno-Karabakh from Armenia. This is why no one has rejected the Lachin corridor as a concept. The parties still agree on this matter, and this includes the consent of our Azerbaijani neighbours. In addition to the Lachin corridor, which will be run along a new route, reliable and permanent lines of communications will be established between western districts of Azerbaijan’s main territory and the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. The leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia have formalised this agreement. Everyone agrees that Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh and those in Armenia should maintain communications, and I see no reason for hampering contacts at this level.

Armenian officials are involved in providing humanitarian assistance to Nagorno-Karabakh, and this has not caused any negative reaction in Baku. It would be strange if things were different. Certain Armenian officials make sufficiently politicised statements in Nagorno-Karabakh, and this causes tensions. I believe that it would be better to avoid this. Prior to the 44-day war, we saw how emotional statements from Nagorno-Karabakh or about the region and dealing with a new war and new territories became a reality. Words become a material force. In this event, words from different sides became a highly negative material force. Consequently, we pay so much attention to establishing contacts between the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia and creating an atmosphere of trust. This became yet another important essence of the Moscow meeting between President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia. I hope that these emotions will now be relegated to the background.

Now is not the best time to prioritise Nagorno-Karabakh’s status. This subject will be discussed in the future. I guarantee that the zone of Russian peacekeepers’ responsibility (and this is how this status is defined in practical terms) will guarantee the interests of both Azerbaijan and Armenia. We will review this matter later on. There are co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group; but, most importantly, future discussions between Armenia and Azerbaijan on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh should be specific and calm, and they must be based on law and on neighbourly relations that all of us together should restore in the region.

Question: Your Greek counterpart, Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias has recently singled out Russia as the only power recognising Greece’s right to extend its territorial waters to 12 miles. Despite such positive aspects, I would say that Russian-Hellenic relations are developing painfully. For the first time in many years, opinions are being expressed in Greece and Cyprus that Russia is pursuing destabilising activities in the Mediterranean region. This is what American diplomats openly say. Others say that Moscow is abandoning its historical partners and changing its policy for an alliance with Turkey alone. Is this true? Is cooperation possible between Greece, Cyprus and Russia in today’s conditions? Or do we have diverging interests?

Sergey Lavrov: You have said that in Greece and Cyprus they say more often that Russia is playing a destabilising role in the region and then you added that it was American diplomats who were saying this. If American diplomats are saying this in Greece and Cyprus, they also say it in every other country. So don’t be surprised about this. In any country an American diplomat would openly, against all rules and traditions, take a microphone and say that the state where they serve as ambassadors should stop communicating with Russia. Sometimes China is also added, for example when US State Secretary Mike Pompeo was touring Africa, he demanded Africans stop trading with Russia and China, because the Russians and the Chinese had some “hidden agenda” while the US would trade with Africa selflessly. Fairly primitive, but this is the diplomatic way today.

I have recently visited Greece and Cyprus. Moreover, I have recently talked with Foreign Minister of Cyprus Nikos Christodoulides by telephone. I can see no reason why these countries should be persuaded that Russia is an enemy of theirs or has carried out an unfriendly policy towards them. Someone is trying to convince them, but politicians with common sense can see the whole truth: that they are only trying to make an enemy out of the Russian Federation and saying that our presence in the Balkans prevents these countries from moving into NATO, hinders their Euro-Atlantic integration.

There is no diplomacy here, only crude public leverage. Not everyone in such countries as Cyprus and Greece can publicly respond to such battle cries because they are scared to offend “Big Brother.” There is no underlying enmity between anyone in Russia, Greece and Cyprus.

We have very warm and close relations, a spiritual connection. Our American colleagues are actively trying to undermine this spiritual connection: they made Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew follow the path of schism, undermining centuries-old traditions of Orthodox Christianity, the path called Popery. It has always been rejected by the Eastern Orthodox Church. It is a reason that there is no analogue of the Pope in the Orthodox world. There is the Ecumenical Patriarch, who until recently was revered as the first among equals. Under the gross and open pressure from Washington, he chose schism in Ukraine creating a puppet Orthodox Church of Ukraine and deceived the Church by cutting off the rights promised to it. Now, together with the Americans, he is trying to work on other Orthodox churches, including the Greek Orthodox Church and the Primate of the Cypriot Orthodox Church, in order to continue deepening these subversive anti-canonical actions against Eastern Orthodoxy. The Pandora’s Box Bartholomew opened has already led to a split in the Cypriot Orthodox Church and unrest in other Orthodox churches. The mission the Americans have assigned to him (they do not even hide that they are actively working with him under the slogan of “freedom of religion and confession”) is to bury Orthodoxy’s influence in today’s world. I can see no other explanation for his actions.

As for the disputes that you indirectly mentioned asking if Russia recognises the 12 nautical mile zone of Greece’s territorial waters. It is not Russia who recognises it, it follows from the universal 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The convention, which everyone (except the United States) signed, states that a country has the right to establish territorial waters of 12 nautical miles.

When Greece announced that, we said the same thing I have said now: this is an absolutely legitimate solution. It is a different thing when territorial waters chosen by a state challenge the interests of a neighbouring state. If these interests are identified as legitimate, considering the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, it is necessary to search for a solution through dialogue and a balance of interests. We call for all the problems related to the exclusive economic zones of both Greece and Cyprus to be addressed via a dialogue.

I hear that my colleague, Foreign Minister of Greece Nikos Dendias has agreed to have a meeting with Foreign Minister of Turkey Mevlut Cavusoglu in late January. I believe this is the right format for discussing and finding solutions to such issues. Of course, no one wants the use of any kind of force in the Eastern Mediterranean. As for Russia, it is ready to use its good relations with counties involved in these disputes if it might be helpful. We will be ready if we receive any such request.

Question: You spoke about the strategic partnership and great relationship between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin. How do you see the evolution of India-Russia ties in the changing geopolitics, particularly in the context of the threat of sanctions from some countries on India-Russia defence trade, including the S-400 missile system?

Sergey Lavrov: The partnership between Russia and India is called slightly differently. You called it a strategic partnership. This was the original title. Some years later, the Indian side proposed to call it a privileged strategic partnership. And a few years ago, when Prime Minister Modi became the head of the Indian government, we changed it to a specially privileged strategic partnership.

I believe there is room for further improvement, but the current terminology indicates a special kind of relationship. India is our very close, very strategic and very privileged partner. Take the economy, take innovations, high technology or military and technical cooperation, India is one of our closest partners in all these areas. We have close political coordination in the United Nations and within BRICS. We did a lot to make sure that India and Pakistan join the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation where, I think, we now have a configuration which is very representative, to promote constructive, positive and stabilising ideas both for the Eurasian region and, in broader terms, for the Asia-Pacific.

We discussed with our Indian friends, at the level of the president and the prime minister, at the level of ministers, experts and consultants, we discussed, in a very open way, both practical things and conceptual issues, including issues emanating from the new concept which is called the Indo-Pacific Strategy. We do not believe that this is just a terminological change. Because if you take it literally from the geographical point of view, then “Indo” means the entire Indian Ocean, all littoral states of the Indian Ocean. But East Africa, we were told, is not included in the Indo-Pacific Strategy. The Persian Gulf, which is part of the Indian Ocean, is not included. What is included? As the American sponsors of this concept say, the US, Australia, Japan and India, which is the backbone of, as US State Secretary Mike Pompeo recently said, the free and open Indo-Pacific Region. We have reasons to believe that when the Australians, the Japanese and the Americans promote this format and, well, they almost openly say that this is important to ensure stability in the South China Sea and this is important to contain China. We discussed this with my good friend, Foreign Minister of India Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, and our Indian colleagues fully understand that some countries would like to use the Indo-Pacific Strategy in a manner that is not inclusive and that is confrontational. ASEAN, by the way, feels the same way. They are concerned that this aggressive promotion of the Indo-Pacific concept will undermine the central role of ASEAN in the Indo-Pacific Region, the East Asian Summits (EAS) and other formats, the center of which has been ASEAN for many years.

I know that in India this issue is very actively discussed. And I know that India is not going to move this Indo-Pacific cooperation in a way that would be not positive and not constructive. I say so in much detail because some of my previous statements on this issue have been widely discussed in the Indian media which I belieive is not very friendly towards the Indian government, but we don’t want any misunderstanding with our friends, the Indian people: we are friends with India. We are doing our utmost to make sure that India and China, our two great friends and brothers, live in peace with one another.

This is our policy which we promote not only in the context of the SCO or BRICS. We have a special trilateral format, a “troika” or RIC – Russia, India and China. It was established in the late 1990s, and it is still functioning. The last meeting at the level of ministers took place in Moscow in September 2020. We adopted a joint communiqué recognising the role of the three countries in promoting peace, stability and security in Asia and the world and confirming the cooperation between our countries.

I am glad that, besides the political dialogue between the three countries, we have plenty of formats that involve people-to-people contacts, including academic formats, youth formats and many others. We all are wise enough to see that if a  strategy is indeed intended to be not inclusive but rather divisive, then the wisdom of our countries will certainly prevail. And in no way will our closest cooperation and partnership with India be affected. The most sincere and honest dialogue, even on the issues where we do not one hundred percent see eye to eye, is the key to the further development of our partnership.

Question: The next question has to do with the situation in Northeast Asia. Japan is seriously concerned about the nuclear build-up in North Korea, which has forced it to strengthen its security, or more precisely, buy a missile defence system. Russia does not seem to share our concern, but regards our efforts to protect our security as a threat. The problem has been complicated with the US intention to deploy its medium-range missiles in Asia Pacific. Several media outlets have reported that Russia and China are considering joint countermeasures if the United States does deploy its missiles. Is this true? It appears that two military blocs are being created in the region, one comprising the United States, Japan and South Korea, and the other made up of Russia and China. I believe that current relations between Japan and Russia are relatively good and neighbourly. What should be done to prevent their deterioration or even a confrontation, in light of the current situation in the region? Do you think we can maintain our positive ties amid the deteriorating Russia-US relationship?

Sergey Lavrov: Tension between the United States and North Korea and between the two Korean states has persisted during the past 18 months. We hope that the parties will refrain from taking any dramatic moves in the military sphere that could aggravate tension around the Korean Peninsula. The parties have not abandoned their previous commitments. At the beginning of last year, North Korea, followed by South Korea, reaffirmed their readiness to honour the agreements reached between the leaders of the two Korean states in 2018. A military parade held in North Korea to mark its anniversary attracted considerable attention. In general, no actions that could lead to the development of a material basis for escalation have been taken so far.

Let’s wait and see what policy the Biden administration adopts in this sphere. We would like to see stable peace on the peninsula. Together with our Chinese colleagues we prepared a roadmap of our common vision of movement towards peace back in 2017. We discussed it with the other members of the six-party talks, that is, with Japan and the United States, as well as with North Korea and South Korea. Based on our common views and that roadmap, we and our Chinese partners prepared an action plan, which we are ready to submit for discussion as soon as contacts are resumed. I would like to once again express our sincere desire to promote the achievement of a lasting peace and agreement in the region.

As for our relations with Japan, we regard them as positive. The Russian President and his Japanese colleagues, the prime ministers, have always maintained friendly ties based on personal sympathy. I am sure that such personal contacts will be established with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga as well.

Touching upon the military situation in the region, it is true that Russia and China are working together, including in the form of military exercises. Russian-Chinese military exercises are nothing new at all. We have held several army exercises within the framework of the SCO and at the bilateral level. We have held joint exercises of our aerospace forces. They are not spearheaded at Japan but are held to check the combat readiness of our air forces, which are guarding the safety of Russian and Chinese borders. What is threatening them? There are quite a few threats, including the one you have mentioned, the US plans to deploy ballistic missile defence systems and ground-launched medium and shorter-range missiles, which were prohibited by a treaty from which Washington has withdrawn, in Japan and South Korea.

We have forwarded to Tokyo a list of our practical security concerns, which are directly related to the possibility of continuing constructive talks on a peace treaty. We are still waiting for a reply. The deployment of a US BMD system and the potential deployment of US ground-launched medium- and shorter-range missiles in Japan are among our concerns. When it comes to BMD systems, our Japanese colleagues assure us that they would control the Aegis Ashore systems they would buy, and that the Americans would have no connection to their management. With all our respect for our Japanese friends, this is impossible. They will be unable to prevent the Americans from controlling these systems. As for medium- and shorter-range missiles, the Japanese government is not happy with this US idea, as far as I am aware, and it has attempted to turn the talks around from ground-launched to sea-launched missiles. But this will hardly change the essence of the matter, because medium- and shorter-range missiles, even if deployed on warships in the Sea of Japan, will be able to target a substantial part of the Russian territory.

We are ready to continue dialogue, but first of all we would like to receive answers to our security concerns about which the Japanese partners are well aware. In addition to the material aspect of the planned weapons deployment in Japan in one format or another, there is also a military-political dimension, that is, Japan’s union with the United States, in accordance with which the United States may deploy its weapons in any part of Japan. As far as we know, Tokyo has reaffirmed its full commitment to this military union on numerous occasions, including last year, describing the Americans as its main allies. This is taking place at a time when the United States describes Russia as its main adversary and even enemy, as Mike Pompeo noted recently. When our Japanese friends reaffirm and promote their union with a country that considers Russia an enemy, we see this as a specific situation that should be clarified.

Question (retranslated from Spanish): I am a journalist from a public television channel in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This is an important subject for our Latin American region and particularly for the Argentine Republic. I am referring to the sovereignty over the Islas Malvinas. I would like to ask you about the Russian Federation’s position on this score and on changes following the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union?

Sergey Lavrov: We support all resolutions of the UN General Assembly on the Islas Malvinas. We have been voting for them ever since the UN started reviewing this subject, and we will continue to demand that these resolutions be fulfilled. There is such a notion as double standards. The problem of the Islas Malvinas came into being a long time ago. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland insisted very sternly that the residents of the Islas Malvinas (that London calls the Falkland Islands) have a right to self-determination. We reminded the UK’s representatives about this when they became overexcited about the March 2014 referendum in Crimea. We asked them whether the Islas Malvinas, located 10,000 miles away from the UK, had the right to self-determination, and whether the people of Crimea who have been part of this country all their life were denied this right. The answer was very simple; they replied that these were two different matters. Let this rest with their conscience. We are convinced that it is necessary to settle the dispute through dialogue, as stipulated by the UN General Assembly’s resolution.

Question: On January 12, 2021, Berlin hosted this year’s first meeting of the advisers of the Normandy Four leaders. As Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office, Dmitry Kozak, said they failed to come to terms on a single issue. What do you see as a way out of the deadlock in the Ukraine crisis?

Sergey Lavrov: In our opinion, the only way out is to implement the Minsk agreements. What were the advisers of the Normandy Four leaders doing at this meeting? They were trying, once again, to put together a roadmap for moving towards this goal. Our participation in compiling or trying to compile this roadmap is a serious concession on our part. A concession was also made by Donetsk and Lugansk with whom we closely coordinate our position before every meeting in the Normandy Four format.

The Normandy format merely accompanies the main work that is being conducted by what the Ukrainians call the trilateral group. We call it a contact group. But it can be called a trilateral group since there are three sides— Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk, while Russia and the OSCE are the mediators. The roadmap that the Germans and French suggested drafting three or four years ago has now reappeared. At that time, the idea was to synchronise movement along the security track: the disengagement of forces, withdrawal of heavy weaponry, and usable checkpoints for civilians. It was also necessary to move towards a political settlement by making progress on the status of the regions in question, preparing for an election, announcing amnesty, etc. However, at that time these goals were not achieved because Ukraine adamantly rejected this parallel progress and insisted that security issues must be resolved first and political problems settled later. At one point, the election issue faced a similar stumbling block.

According to the Minsk agreements (if they are not politicised or viewed through the prism of ideology), it is first necessary to ensure the special status of Donbass and then hold an election on this basis. But Ukraine had a different position: “Let’s first hold the election and if we like those who are elected, we will give it special status. If not, we won’t give them this status.” At that time, the sides reached a compromise with the participation of President Vladimir Putin and the leaders of France, Germany and Ukraine – the so-called Steinmeier formula that synchronised the election and the granting of the special status to the region. All this was confirmed at the summit in Paris in December 2019. President Vladimir Zelensky committed himself to introducing this formula into legislation.

Few decisions from the Paris summit were carried out. The disengagement of forces and weapons took place in some sections, and a small exchange of prisoners and other detainees was carried out. Attempts to come to terms on another exchange of prisoners, which were going on all these months, ended in failure due to Ukraine’s position of introducing more and more contrived demands.

The DPR and the LPR announced, with our support, that they planned to unilaterally transfer to Ukraine some of its citizens that were detained on their territory as a goodwill gesture. Let the Ukrainian authorities at least feel ashamed that an “all for all” exchange, as agreed on earlier, was delayed for reasons that had nothing to do with humanitarian considerations. Now, at the recent meeting, the leaders’ advisers made another attempt to compile a roadmap. If the Minsk agreements are presented as the accords of indirect action, let’s specify each and every step they envisage. As for Ukraine, its position is completely obstructionist.

Here’s one example. The Minsk agreements read: forces and weapons must be withdrawn to a certain distance from the contact line. Thus must be done all along this line. On the eve of the December 2019 summit, the negotiators harmonised a final statement from the leaders that contained an item on the disengagement of forces and arms all along the contact line by a certain deadline. The statement was signed by the negotiators, ministers and advisers. President Zelensky said he could not do this but was only willing to agree to the proposed disengagement at three new check points. The German and French leaders were taken aback. Ukraine was saying at every instance that its priority is to achieve security on the ground. All of a sudden, the president that inspired so many hopes for progress to peace, and made the goal of peace in Donbass the main slogan of his election campaign, said “no” to the disengagement of forces and weapons except in three villages. This makes you think twice. It is possible to lament this approach but the bottom line is the inability or reluctance of Berlin and Paris to compel their protégés in Kiev to stop undermining the Minsk agreements.

According to President Zelensky, Ukraine needs the Minsk agreements to maintain the sanctions against Russia. Otherwise, he would have withdrawn from them. Paris and Berlin remain completely silent. The Kiev representative in the contact group, former President Leonid Kravchuk, declared that the Minsk agreements were the main obstacle to settling the Donbass problem. This means only one thing: these agreements stand in the way of Kiev’s attempts to impose its own rules. Another member of the Kiev delegation in the trilateral group, Alexey Reznikov claims that the Minsk agreements are not so bad, but they are not legally binding and simply amount to a political wish… This is total lack of competence. The Minsk agreements have been approved by the UN Security Council’s unanimous resolution and have therefore become part of international law. He also said “it is possible to change the priority of some measures; the main goal is to first introduce Ukrainian border guards to occupy the entire border with the Russian Federation, thereby surrounding the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics; then the Ukrainian defence and law enforcement agencies will encircle them and in this case the election will become unnecessary.” They will appoint their own governors-general and imprison the leaders of these republics because they will be labelled terrorists.

Now, the main task for me is to understand what the French and Germans think about themselves. In response to our numerous appeals, including my own letters, to bring Kiev’s representatives to reason at the talks with Donbass, they are simply retreating into the shadows and refraining from public statements. If there is an instruction not to offend the country (or Ukraine’s leaders, to be more precise) in order to realise a desire to deter Russia, let them be straight about this. In this case, we will have a different policy in this area.

Question: Here is a question from SANA news agency and the people of Syria who have been suffering from Israel’s aggressive actions all this time. Israel continues to bomb our cities, our villages, and it has now considerably expanded the territory of its operations in Syria. At the same time, the people of Syria are suffering from aggressive sanctions, imposed on them by the United States and its allies. The people of Syria are experiencing hard times. Tell me, please, what can you say about this situation?

Sergey Lavrov:  We have repeatedly expressed our assessments of the developments in Syria. Everyone signed the unanimously approved UN Security Council Resolution 2254 that calls for respecting the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of the Syrian Arab Republic. US actions in Syria blatantly violate this resolution. Washington’s line to block humanitarian relief aid distribution to Syria in any way they can, including blackmail and ultimatums, also crudely violate this resolution. UNSC Resolution 2254 calls for providing humanitarian relief assistance to the people of Syria. The United States is doing everything it can to prevent this from happening. It has declared extremely tough sanctions, the so-called Caesar Act. It has also forbidden international organisations and other parties to take part in the November 2020 Damascus conference for repatriating Syrian refugees and temporarily displaced persons. Nevertheless, the conference gathered about 20 countries, including five Arab states that did not fear the domineering United States.

At the same time, while forbidding everyone to even send humanitarian goods to Syria, the United States occupied substantial territories on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River. It ruthlessly exploits Syrian hydrocarbon deposits, Syrian national wealth, plundering and selling it and using the money to support its proxies, including Kurdish separatists, and to persuade the Kurds not to hold a dialogue with Damascus while encouraging a separatist atmosphere. This is also causing problems in Turkey. But the main thing is that all this is happening in the Syrian Arab Republic, and no one invited the United States or its Western allies there.

We, including the President of the Russian Federation, have repeatedly expressed our position on this. Yes, we maintain contacts between the military with the United States but we are not doing this because we recognise the legitimacy of their presence there but simply because the United States must act within certain boundaries. We cannot expel it, and we will not clash with US forces. Now that US forces are deployed there, we are conducting a dialogue with US representatives on so-called deconfliction. During this dialogue, we demand compliance with certain rules, and also sternly note the unacceptability of using force against Syrian state facilities.

Regarding Israel, we maintain close contact with Tel Aviv. President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly discussed this subject with Benjamin Netanyahu. We strongly noted the need to honour UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and the resolution on Lebanon. Israel also violates this while using Syrian air space to hit facilities in Lebanon. This is a serious aspect of our relations. Israel insists that it is forced to respond to national security threats emanating from Syrian territory. We have repeatedly told our Israeli colleagues: “Please give us the relevant information if you see these threats.” We absolutely don’t want Syrian territory to be used against Israel or as an arena for an Iranian-Israeli confrontation, as many people would like. To our Israeli colleagues: please notify us immediately of any facts that a threat to your state emanates from some part of Syrian territory. We will act to neutralise this threat. So far, we have received no specific reply to this appeal, but we continue to press the point.

Question: If possible, I would like to go back to the developments in the United States. They were quite dramatic, especially in Washington. All of us remember the footage of the Capitol and the violence we saw happening there. But the subsequent events, the reaction to these events are notable as well. Many people in the United States are now using the old rhetoric we remember from our own history. They are talking about purging the Republican Party of extreme Trumpists, which actually amounts to a cleansing campaign. You have mentioned that some people, including the US President, have been deprived of access to social media platforms. Mr Lavrov, isn’t this reminiscent of anything to you personally? Also, do you expect new political and information attacks against Russia considering that many people in America continue to believe that Donald Trump came to power four years ago with the help of Russia? Thank you.

Sergey Lavrov: We have already spoken, in part, about this subject. As for whether this is reminiscent of anything to me, I will not answer this question, because this may be reminiscent of different things to different people. There have been different periods and forms of persecution in different periods of human history. I don’t think people can easily forget this. Although people tend to have a short memory, we have history textbooks and we must teach historical truth to our young people. Otherwise, future generations may decide that there has never been anything apart from Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other platforms, which have a monopoly on the truth. Like all other normal people, I take no pleasure in watching problems come to a head in the United States.

Some people could be tempted to say, “The Americans have been lecturing the world, and have tried to lecture us, driving us into all kinds of corners, and now they are on the receiving end.” The United States is a huge country, and we cannot steer clear of it, because whatever happens there is bound to have global consequences, if only because the so-called digital giants are global corporations. Unlike the global corporations of the past, when Ford and other industrialists moved production to developing countries, these new corporations are producing ideas. As the classic saying goes, “A thought expressed becomes a lie.” This explains the risks we are facing.

If we look back on history, customs and manners of US foreign policy activities, it is always “America is Number One,” “America must prevail, “American democracy is an example to be emulated by others” and “democracy must be spread everywhere.” They have tried and continue trying to spread American democracy in the Middle East contrary to the region’s civilisation, traditions and culture. They have tried doing this in Afghanistan and Iraq and are trying to do this in Libya with complete disregard for the traditions, history, and ethnic and religious aspects of the countries concerned. They have changed the government in a European country, Ukraine. In which of the countries I have mentioned, or any other country where the Americans have tried to spread democracy has life become better for people?  There are no such countries.

During the past few years President Donald Trump has been saying that there would be no wars during his term. No new wars have been launched indeed. But US interference in the internal affairs of others went on very energetically. The physical methods of interference are giving way to interference through social media. Reliance on NGOs and the nursing of opposition forces loyal to the West are complemented with a dramatic increase in the power of social media and their capabilities. The American state is now facing the issue of whether they should be taken under control or left with regulation “standards” based on the liberal ideology and world outlook.  No restrictions are being placed on the US’s freedom of expression, freedom that has been set out in corporate standards that gives the Americans the right to restrict the others’ freedom of expression. This is a serious problem, and I sincerely hope that the Americans will settle it. After all, it is their country where they will have to live.

This shows once again how important it is to take multilateral decisions. I hope that those who have tried for years and even decades to hinder discussions on making internet governance more democratic, and those who have been putting spokes in the wheels of the Russian initiative set out in the UN General Assembly resolution on advancing responsible state behaviour in cyberspace and in the draft Convention on Cooperation in Combating Cybercrime will see the problem in a different light, especially when it comes to more democratic internet governance. This subject has been under discussion for years at a specialised UN body, the International Telecommunication Union. Nearly all countries are willing to coordinate universally acceptable forms, but the Americans are categorically against this.

Touching upon the events that have led to this situation, it would be worth recalling – a lot has been said about this – how the social media reported on voting during the US presidential election and how they worked to form a lop-sided public opinion of the developments in the United States and across the world.

Many people are talking now about the things that were obvious from the very beginning but have been glossed over. Two months before the actual election day, ballot papers were mailed to voters in several states for casting postal votes. They mailed 95 million ballots. Two-thirds of them turned out to be filled in prior to the election day. One-third of the ballots were not completed despite aggressive encouragement. This campaign of forcing people to cast their ballots by postal vote did not fit in with the US election standards. When both candidates got more than 40 percent of the vote, postal voting became a serious problem. As I have already said, those who received ballots by mail could send them back, take their ballots to the polling stations or cast them in some other way. This went on for weeks and was reported on social media as a normal practice and accepted by those who had criticised our voting on constitutional amendments. Curbside voting is child’s play compared to what has been done to the voting mechanism in the United States. Social media played the decisive role in covering the process. They openly supported one of the two parties and did not make any secret of their desire to have a system of government based on one ruling party. American society’s problem is their own election system and the way they hold political debates. This is a war on dissent, something which our Western colleagues have always claimed to be against. But they have taken up this banner now and are unlikely to cede it to anyone in the near future.

Question: Thank you, Maria and thank you, Mr Minister, for taking my question. I need some clarification on Alexey Navalny, on what you are saying about the findings because the Germans have said that they have given you the blood and tissue and clothing samples, that you would need to carry out a proper criminal investigation. I am not entirely clear on what would hold you back?

We are also at the police station where he currently is and he said there is a hastily convened court hearing which is not part of the standard legal procedure. Why is he not receiving normal recourse through Russian law like a normal citizen would?

Sergey Lavrov: I don’t know where you received the information that the Germans have given us tissue samples and other bio materials. This is not true.  The reply that the German authorities sent us three days ago, obviously preparing for Navalny’s return on January 17, only quotes the information provided by Navalny himself and his wife Yulia. To say nothing about bio materials or the bottles involved in this case, we don’t even have the results of his tests or a toxicological conclusion! We don’t have any of these. If you were told we were given his clothes, bottles and biomaterials, you were misled.

As for the legal procedure, let me repeat that biomaterials were taken and tests made at the Omsk clinic (a civilian clinic). Nothing like a chemical warfare agent was discovered in them. The Charite Clinic (also a civilian clinic, as the Germans reported) has not identified anything like a toxic chemical agent. The Omsk and Charite clinics are civilian clinics. The Germans, as they said themselves, transferred Navalny’s samples, taken at the Charite Clinic, to a Bundeswehr clinic. Its military staff who evidently possess the required knowledge discovered a prohibited chemical warfare agent, but of some new modification. Where did the Bundeswehr and the Germans in general receive this information? This is an interesting question. We asked this in the queries sent by the Russian Prosecutor-General’s Office to the German Ministry of Justice. It is necessary to find this out.

Recently they told us almost in unison in Germany, and in Britain after the Skripal case, that they did not conduct any research on the so-called Novichok. Hence, researchers in Germany, France and Sweden couldn’t have the relevant markers and technology for identifying Novichok, albeit of a new version, in a matter of three to five days.

To initiate a criminal case in our judicial practice, we must have justification in the form of evidence that a crime was committed or an attempt to commit it was made. Since no chemical warfare agent was detected in Navalny’s samples taken by our doctors, we have asked for the OPCW tests made in Germany, France and Sweden. I hope you heard that I described in detail our proposal to this organisation to conduct a joint investigation. I find it hard to believe that our Western colleagues are so high-handed and arrogant that they deem it possible to demand explanations from Russia without presenting us any evidence. You (I mean the West) say you have evidence that he was poisoned and this is beyond doubt. But when we are told that we won’t be given this evidence, allow us to at least remain skeptical as regards to what happens with Navalny.

If you have nothing to hide, if you are not afraid to put the truth on the table and submit these facts to us, why aren’t you doing so? As soon as we see this, and if the attempt to poison him with chemical warfare agents is confirmed, we will start criminal proceedings. The pre-trial investigation conducted here in conformity with Criminal Procedure Rules has not revealed any grounds for opening a criminal case. I understand that you do many things on the sly. I have mentioned that the investigators in the Alexander Litvinenko poisoning in Britain have suddenly decided to classify this case and many details remain classified. We have received no information on the Skripals. Nothing has been disclosed to Britain’s allies in NATO or the EU. The case with the Malaysia Airlines crash (flight MH-17) is the same.

In accusing us, the Dutch have organised a trial with 13 witnesses, of which 12 are anonymous. They are refusing to reveal the names of 12 out of 13 witnesses. First, bother British and other European law-enforcement bodies and ask them why they are playing in the dark, what they are concealing and what they are afraid of. Then I will be ready to answer your questions if you receive sensible answers from them.

To be continued…

Flying Dragon, Crashing Eagle

Flying Dragon, Crashing Eagle

November 23, 2020

by Pepe Escobar and first posted at Asia Times

Four geoeconomic summits compressed in one week tell the story of where we stand in these supremely dystopian times.

The (virtual) signing of RCEP in Vietnam was followed by the equally virtual BRICS meeting hosted by Moscow, the APEC meeting hosted by Malaysia, and the G20 this past weekend hosted by Saudi Arabia.

Cynics have not failed to note the spectacular theater of the absurd of having the Top 20 – at least in theory – economies discussing what is arguably the turning point in the world-system linked to a beheading-friendly desert oil hacienda with a 7th century mentality.

The Riyadh declaration did its best to lift the somber planetary mood, vowing to deploy “all available policy tools” (no precise details) to contain Covid-19 and heroically “save” the global economy by “advancing” global pandemic preparedness, vaccine development and distribution – in tandem with debt relief – for the Global South.

Not a peep about The Great Reset – the Brave New World scheme concocted by Herr Schwab of Davos and fully supported by the IMF, Big Tech, transnational Big Capital interests and the oh so benign Prince Charles. Meanwhile, off the record, G20 sherpas moaned about the lack of real global governance and multiple attacks on multilateralism.

And not a peep as well about the real life vaccine war between the expensive Western candidates – Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca – and the much cheaper Russia-China versions – Sputnik V and Sinovac.

What seems to be the case is that any agenda – sinister or otherwise – fits the one-size-fits-all vow by the G20 to provide “opportunities of the 21st century for all by empowering people, safeguarding the planet, and shaping new frontiers.”

The House of Xi

At the G20, President Xi Jinping did not waste the chance – after RCEP, BRICS and APEC – to once again emphasize China’s priorities: multilateralism, support for WTO reform, ample international cooperation on vaccine research and production.

But then, in tandem with reducing tariffs and facilitating the trade of crucial medical supplies, Xi proposed a global health QR code – a sound way to restore global travel and trade: “While containing the virus, we need to restore the secure and smooth operation of global industrial and supply chains.”

Predictably, there were howls about neo-Orwellian intrusion, comparing the QR code with the exceptionally misunderstood Chinese credit system. Herr Schwab’s Great Reset in fact proposes something similar, with even more neo-Orwellian overtones, disguised under an innocent “Covid Pass” app, or highly secure “health passport”.

What Xi has proposed amounts to just a mutual recognition of health certificates, issued by different nations, based on nucleic acid tests. No gene altering vaccines coupled with nanochips. These QR codes, incorporated to health apps, are already used for domestic travel in China.

Chinese officials have made it very clear that Beijing has been working as the representative of the Global South inside the G20. That’s multilateralism in action. And the multilateralist drive extends from RCEP – signed between 15 nations – to the brilliant Sun Tzu maneuver of China now accepting even the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), the successor of the Obama-promoted and Trump-detonated TPP.

This revival – a case of Make TPP Chinese Again – can be envisaged because Beijing not only has mastered how to contain Covid-19 but is also recovering in lightning speed. China will be the only major economy growing in 2020 – de facto leading the world to a tentative post-Covid paradigm.

What the APEC meeting made crystal clear is that with East Asia graphically hitting the economic limelight, as seen with RCEP, much vaunted US “leadership” inevitably diminishes.

APEC promoted a so-called Putrajaya Vision 2040, condensing an “open, dynamic, resilient and peaceful” Asia-Pacific all the way to 2040. That neatly ties in with the three accumulated five-year Chinese plans all the way to 2035, approved last month at the CCP plenum in Beijing.

The emphasis, once again, is on multilateralism and an open global economy.

Few are more capable to capture the moment than Professor Wang Yiwei at the Institute of International Affairs at Renmin University, who wrote the best Chinese book on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Wang stresses how China is in a period of “strategic opportunity” and is now “the most powerful leader of globalization”. China’s emphasis on multilateralism will “activate the connectivity and vitality of a trade platform like RCEP”.

Stranger than fiction

Now compare all of the above with Trump at the G20 tweeting about the election dystopia and privileging golfing instead of discussing Covid-19 containment.

And then there’s

The Elements of the China Challenge, the new 74-page delusional epic concocted by the office of secretary Mike “We Lie, We Cheat, We Steal” Pompeo.

Diplomatic howls comparing it with the notorious George Kennan “long telegram” that codified the containment of the USSR in the Cold War are nonsense. Chinese Foreign Ministry reaction was more to the point: this was concocted by some “living fossils of the Cold War” and is doomed to end up “being consigned to the dustbin of history”.

President Xi Jinping, at RCEP, BRICS, APEC and the G20, concisely laid out the Chinese case: multilateralism, international cooperation on multiple fields, an open global economy, due representation of Global South’s interests.

As we wait for a set of imponderables all the way to January 20, 2021, perhaps an angular approach to what may lie ahead for the world economy is best offered by fiction.

Enter Billions, season 5, episode 2, dialogue written by Andrew Ross Sorkin.

Axe: “You know they call us traders ‘gamblers’. The world’s economy is one big casino, fueled by a giant debt bubble and computer driven derivatives. And there’s only one thing better than being a gambler at a casino.”

Wags: “That’s being the house.”

Axe: “That’s right. There’s a systemized machine out there, sucking capital from localities and injecting it into the global markets, where it can be used to speculate and manipulate. And if something goes wrong there are bailouts and bail-ins, federal aid and easing. Where the government doesn’t hunt you down, but instead gives you a nice soft net to land in.”

Wags: “That’s your answer to the fireside chat: You want to become a bank.”

Axe: “I want to become a bank.”

Wags: “In order to rob it?”

Axe: “In order that I don’t have to.”

China Newsbrief and Sitrep

China Newsbrief and Sitrep

November 10, 2020

Source

By Godfree Roberts – selected from his extensive weekly newsletter : Here Comes China

Infrastructure

The Three Gorges passed all its tests. Flood control, power generation, navigation and water resources utilization are running smoothly. The river dam, flood discharge, energy dissipation, water diversion and power generation, navigation facilities, protective buildings, mechanical and electrical systems are operating normally and stably. The reservoir accumulated 180 billion cubic meters of floodwater, reduced the flood peak by 40 percent, and the lowered flood control pressures in the the Yangtze River. Read full article →

Agriculture

A new record means a one mu (0.067 hectare) rice field can feed five people for a year. Scientists achieved record-breaking yields of 1,500 kg per mu, or 22.5 tonnes per hectare. The strain, named “Sanyou #1”, is known for its high yield and resilience to unfavorable weather conditions. The late-season hybrid rice yield measured on Monday reached 911.7 kg per mu – each mu measures about 0.07 hectares.  Read full article →

Aerospace

China has launched more satellites than any other country this year as of Sept. 30, putting it on track to win the space launch-rate race three years in a row. Through the third quarter of 2020, China has launched a total of 29 satellites. The US by contrast has launched 27 total, launching 10 this quarter. Only SpaceX keeps the US close to China. Read full article →

Useless Idiots?

What really happened at the US Consulate General in Hong Kong when those four young anti-China activists turned up seeking asylum? They were rejected because, as much as they would like to believe they fought the good fight against “tyranny” and merit “protection” for all the sacrifices they made, they are in fact nobodies in the eyes of the unscrupulous and manipulative officials and politicians in Washington who cheered them on and lulled them into a false sense of security that America had their backs. Read full article →

The four Hong Kong activists who sought protection at the US consulate last week had discussed their intentions with consular staff, who gave them the green light to enter the compound before firmly asking them to leave. Three were seeking asylum, while the fourth, who claims to be a US citizen, is accusing the consulate of neglecting its duty to help him.  Read full article →

Long Read: Investing in the Belt and Road

(This article selection is specifically for the explanation on Islamic Finance)

Pakistan BRI Projects

China’s Belt & Road Initiative officially kicked off in 2013, some seven years ago, under the initial title of ‘One Belt One Road’. That was later dropped as it became apparent that the scale of demand for projects would be rather more than single Eurasian and Maritime routes. While there has been some controversy over China’s financing and the exporting of its construction SOEs to build these projects, closer examination of the so-called ‘debt trap’ issue by US Universities such as John Hopkins and William & Mary have revealed this not to be the case; their studies failing to produce any evidence of debt trap problems created by Chinese loans. It is however encouraging that such finance is being monitored and it will help keep Beijing straight. This is good news for Pakistan, as it has been a significant recipient of Chinese infrastructure funding, with US$62 billion being spent on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) alone.

The China–Pakistan Economic Corridor 

The CPEC is a collection of infrastructure projects that are under construction throughout the country. CPEC is intended to rapidly upgrade Pakistan’s required infrastructure and strengthen its economy by the construction of modern transportation networks, numerous energy projects, and special economic zones. CPEC became partly operational in late 2016 when Chinese cargo was transported overland to Gwadar Port for onward maritime shipment to Africa and West Asia, while certain nationally important power projects came onstream in late 2017.

A vast network of highways and railways are currently being constructed as part of CPEC that will span the length and breadth of Pakistan. Inefficiencies stemming from Pakistan’s current, mostly dilapidated transportation network are estimated by the government to cause a loss of 3.55% of the country’s annual GDP with little investment having been made since the days of the British Raj.

Modern transportation networks built under CPEC will link seaports in Gwadar and Karachi on Pakistan’s southern coast with northern Pakistan, as well as to routes and cities further north in Western China’s Xinjiang Province and onto Central Asia. This includes a 1,100 km motorway being built between Karachi and Lahore, while the Karachi-Peshawar main rail route is being upgraded to allow for high speed train travel.

To the north the Karakoram Highway from Gilgit to Taxkorgan and Kashgar is being completely overhauled while Pakistan’s railway network will also be extended to eventually connect to China’s Southern Xinjiang railway in Kashgar and from there onto China’s national rail system and its majority Muslim Provinces of Xinjiang, Gansu, Qinghai and Ningxia – all of which lie in a West-East axis, following the ancient overland trade routes of the ancient silk road. China’s Muslim population is about 80 million with significant hubs in cities such as Xián and Beijing.

To the West from Xinjiang, China is connected to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan, all Muslim countries. Urumqi, the capital city of Xinjang, is a major Central Asian hub and reaches out via road, rail and air to many Central Asian destinations.

Pakistan’s Export Manufacturing Potential  

What this means for Pakistan – world renowned traders extraordinaire – is that the Belt and Road build in their own country can be used to service the business and human footfall needs now being created in hubs across the country, as well as vastly improved trade interconnectivity with similar cultures and values throughout China and Central Asia.

Pakistan’s south coast Ports also offer shipping access and trade to Southeast Asia including the Muslim countries of Malaysia and Indonesia – offering a combined market of 300 million people. Then there are India’s Muslims – another 172 million. The opportunities for Pakistan’s business export sector to grow and develop are immense.

This is important as Pakistan currently has a growing current account deficit. This is driven by a widening trade gap as import growth outstrips export expansion and could draw down reserves and dampen GDP growth in the medium term. That said, Pakistan is currently undergoing a process of economic liberalization including privatization of all government corporations, being aimed to attract FDI and decrease the budget deficit. Pakistan is generally regarded as one of the ten emerging global economies with a particular focus on its manufacturing hub.

The economy of Pakistan is the 23rd largest in the world in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP), while the country has a significant population of 220 million, and is expected, along with the BRICS nations to be among the world’s largest economies in the 21st century. Clearly, China has been investing in a friendly, emerging and significant economy. So too notably have expatriate Pakistani’s based in the UK and United States, as well as investments coming in from the UAE and Turkey. Investments from the West and mature Asian economies have tended to be big-ticket and restricted to MNC’s – while the CPEC builds, when completed, offer more opportunities for SME’s and medium sized investors as well as the big players.

Islamic Financing

Asian regional hubs have seen what is happening and have begun offering Islamic finance services as part of their portfolio. Hong Kong has been placing Sukuk (Islamic bonds) to raise capital for several years now, some into the billions of dollars. HSBS and Standard Chartered are often utilized as global advisers, with banks such as Malaysia’s CIMB and Abu Dhabi’s National Bank involved in Islamic countries. Singapore has had less success, with DBS closing its Islamic Bank of Asia in 2015 and folding Islamic finance facilities into core operations. Nonetheless, facilities are available in Hong Kong and the regional Muslim economies in Asia.

The major projects China has helped finance and build in Pakistan that would be of interest to Islamic and global financiers and businessmen are as follows:

Pakistan’s Gwadar Port (گوادر بندرگاه) is the deepest sea port in the world, and is under the administrative control of the Maritime Secretary of Pakistan and the operational control of the China Overseas Port Holding Company.  The port is a link between the Belt & Road Initiative and the Maritime Silk Road.

It includes the Gwadar Special Economic Zone currently being built on a 2,292 acre site adjacent to the Port.

The Gwadar SEZ will include manufacturing zones, logistics hubs, warehouses, and display centres and is modelled on the successful Chinese SEZ model which launched cities such as Shenzhen into global recognizance and shipping importance. Business established in the special economic zone will be exempt from Pakistani income, sales, and federal excise taxes for 23 years, while a 40-year tax holiday will be granted for imports of equipment, materials, plants, machinery, appliances and accessories that are to be for construction of Gwadar Port and SEZ.

The SEZ is being completed in three phases. Manufacturing and processing industries should start to be operational by 2025, while further expansion of the zone is intended to be complete by 2030. While the Chinese are building the Gwadar infrastructure, it should be noted that opportunities exist both for foreign investors within the SEZ and especially those who wish to target either the Pakistani domestic market or for reexport manufacturing to take advantage of the lower operational costs.

The good news for manufacturing in Gwadar to sell onto the domestic market are the tax incentives and low worker costs, coupled by the growth of the Pakistani consumer market, which although volatile, and has been impacted by Covid-19, has also been on an upwards trend. Estimates now suggest that Pakistan’s middle class has reached about 16 million. That may be small beer to many, but it is expected to grow, and now would be a good time to develop brands in a total market size of 220 million.

Gwadar SEZ is useful and extremely valuable to investors as component parts will be able to enter the zone duty free, with import duty not payable unless goods enter the domestic market. VAT breaks and refunds are also available to businesses setting up shop there. The fact that English, that global language of commerce, is widely spoken is another ”ease of doing business” advantage. That has been noted, the World Bank stating earlier this year that ‘‘due to a concerted improvement in business regulation, Pakistan climbed 28 places and rose to a rank of 108 in the global ease of doing business rankings in 2020″.

The same economic drivers suggest Gwadar will become an important Asian SEZ and ideal for export manufacturers. Under Chinese and Pakistani management, security will be tight, and the incentives make it attractive.

The other aspect to Gwadar that local Pakistani and their overseas counterparts overseas can make an investment case for are the facilities outside the SEZ and Port. These include business and human services to support these facilities, as well as property investments – they can be expected to significantly increase in the immediate Gwadar area. That is exactly what has happened in Sri Lanka’s Colombo Port City – another BRI project whose time has come. Investors both local and international are putting money into the surrounding area. Profits are being made, and the same will happen at Gwadar.

Gilgit SEZ – Access To China & Central Asia  

The Moqpondass Gilgit SEZ is a priority development under CPEC in Gilgit in Pakistan’s northern Baltistan Province. It borders Afghanistan to the north, China to the northeast, and the Pakistani administrated state of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) to the south. It covers an area of about 750 acres. Construction work has begun.

The area is naturally rich in precious stones, ore and fruits. The proposed SEZ would be connected with Gilgit Airport, about 30km distant and also scheduled for upgrades as well as being on the route to Sost, the last Pakistani border town to China. It is also connected to the important trade and supply route through to Skardu to the east, itself a Gateway to the Karakorum Mountain range. The town is located on the Indus river, which separates the Karakoram Range from the Himalayas.

The SEZ is being designed for processing marble and granite, iron ore, steel, (to be used in later regional construction projects) other minerals as well as fruit processing and added value such as packaging and so on.

The SEZ is significant as Gilgit has suffered from Taliban attacks in the past and was heavily infested with weapons as a result. There has been a mass cleanup, while the SEZ is intended to give inhabitants the ability to turn their time back towards trade and production and towards relative wealth in what is a naturally productive region. With the China border so close, it is an excellent opportunity. China also wishes to secure the region as train routes and major highways can then pass through to Xinjiang Province.

Securing regional trade and developing wealth creation opportunities in Central Asia and Northern Pakistan is important for Beijing as it, like Pakistan, seeks to deal with the worst aspects of Islamic fundamentalism.

Additional incentives may also come to the region as the Pakistan Government is considering declaring Gilgit-Baltistan as a Province, giving it more funding and a greater status within the country. That would upset India, pre-occupied with a military standoff with China in nearby Ladakh. That said, despite complaints, India is unlikely to interfere. However it would be good news for Gilgit and help advance regional trade, commerce and security. The opening of the Gilgit SEZ would probably coincide with news confirming Provincial status, expected to be ‘soon’. State funds can then be expected to be freed up to further develop the area. Investors can take advantage, as always occurs when following State encouraged funding.

The Karachi to Peshawar Railway

The Karachi–Peshawar Railway Line (کراچی–پشاور مرکزی ریل راستہ) is one of four main railway lines in Pakistan, being operated and maintained by Pakistan Railways. The line begins from Karachi City Station and ends at Peshawar Cantonment Station, with a total length of 1,687 km. It passes 184 railway stations and serves as the main passenger and freight line of the country. 75% of the country’s cargo and passenger traffic uses this route. It is currently undergoing a US$5.4 billion upgrade and renovation as part of CPEC with average rail speeds expected be doubled to 160 kilometers per hour upon completion.

Greater Peshawar Mass Transit System 

The Peshawar Circular Railway (پشاور مداری ریلوے ) Project is an inter-regional commuter rail system for the Greater Peshawar metropolitan area which will connect several industrial and commercial districts within Peshawar to the outlying suburbs and cities of Jamrud, Charsadda, Mardan, Nowshera and later, to Swabi. In August 2016, the regional Government agreed to a US$1.6 billion MoU with the China Communications and Construction Company (CCCC). This railway is expected to resolve transportation problems in the Peshawar region and generate jobs leading to the overall economic revival of the province. It will impact 11 million people in the Peshawar Valley. To the West lies the Khyber Pass to Afghanistan, it is hoped that the proximity will further settle tribal areas and better influence regional trade on a broader scale.

The Karachi-Peshawar Motorway 

The Karachi – Peshawar Motorway is a construction and development of a six lane, access controlled highway of 1,100 km. It is a tolled facility, and originates in Karachi through Motorway M-9 (136 km) to Hyderabad. From Hyderabad onwards, it comprises new build for 345 km to Sukkur, then from Sukkur to Multan follows the left bank of the River Indus for 392 km.

It opened at the end of last year, and is intended to allow speeds of up to 120 kmh. It is Pakistan’s first bi-directional six-lane motorway with an intelligent (smart) transportation function. It cost US$2.9 billion to build and took 36 months. There are 100 bridges, 468 underpasses, 991 culverts, 11 interchanges, six pairs of service areas, five pairs of rest areas, and 24 toll stations. The motorway was divided into seven sections for simultaneous construction. The project was undertaken by the China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC).

Multan and Sukkur are important cities in Pakistan, and they are now connected by the motorway. Multan is a major area for producing mangoes, dates and other crops, while Sukkur is an important transport hub. The motorway reduces the commuter time between the two cities from 11 hours to less than four hours, thus expediting travel between China and Pakistan.

These are just a handful of the Belt & Road projects that China has invested in Pakistan that are about to come to fruition; there are many more in terms of Special Economic Zones, road, rail and other infrastructure facilities that are being built and that will project Pakistan into an Asian manufacturing hub during this decade. This is further enhanced with China in particular as Pakistan has a Free Trade Agreement with China. Pakistan is also a member of SAFTA, a free trade bloc that also includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka.   All countries completed the respective Trade Liberalization Program (TLP) under the Phase I and II of SAFTA, meaning that tariffs fell to 0-5 percent on all traded products other than those in the respective ”sensitive” lists. Although there has been some horseplay over what are and are not legitimate ‘sensitive’ products, a further 100 items are due to be exempted from tariffs in 2020. Read full article →

(We regularly include Chris Devonshire-Ellis’ articles partly because he lives in the port of Hambantota–and because he regularly visits Eurasia’s flyover countries.)

Analysis: Political Consciousness – Frans Vandenbosch 方腾波 18.10.2020

Consciousness is defined as the quality or state of being aware, especially of something within oneself. Political consciousness is then the personal awareness or concern for some social or political cause. For certain philosophers, all consciousness is political because in their view, it always is the outcome of politic-economic circumstances, a product of ideological influences. That looks close to the reality, but it is far from complete. Today in 2020 the picture is much more complex.

Four steps to full political consciousness

Without any doubt, most people either straightforward deny or are unaware of the entire economic, political, media and internet influence. With a lot of effort and a strong analytic mind it is nevertheless possible to escape that external influence. Not right away; that process takes time and effort. These are the four steps in the process. Everyone, whether they like it or not, has to go through these four stages:

The honeymoon

This is even for well educated people raised in a political active family, the first step. It is an inevitable stepping stone to a more correct political consciousness. Because of the heavy social pressure and the daily brainwashing by the mainstream media, many, if not most people never escape this first stage.

Ambiguity and doubt; the second step.

After being confronted with the contradictions between the mainstream media story and reality, a form of uncertainty slowly arises. Last week, a friend wrote me in an email: “I can’t believe they’re all lying”. Indeed, they’re all lying. I have not taken the effort to explain him the details; he wouldn’t accept my explanation anyway. Much, if not all what people read in the western mainstream media is pure propaganda. It is meeting all of the 10 features of propaganda as defined by Edward Bernays and his followers.

Awareness, apprehension; the third stage. 

Cracks appear in the image. People are getting aware that most mainstream media do not present real news but only a pre-made fairy-tale. They despise some or all of the western mainstream media and look for alternative media. They scold the media and politicians but are not yet ready to look for the root causes of the decline of democracy, the economy and freedom of speech.

Full political consciousness; the final stage. 

The nirvana of political consciousness. People no longer consume western mainstream media. They have strong indications of the root causes of the decline of their freedom. But they’re also fully aware of Confucius’ “Real wisdom is to know that one can’t know everything”.

Global political consciousness 

It is, as Mark Twain so vividly put it, not just useful but of the utmost importance to travel to other countries. To speak with the local people in their own native language:

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.

One of the reasons for the bias within the Anglo-Saxon population is the lingua franca status of their language. They do not feel the same incentive as others to try to speak the native language of their interlocutor. It is only with a deep understanding of the social and economic situation in other countries that political consciousness has a fertile soil to grow.

In this regard, it is remarkable that most Chinese people have a higher political consciousness than Westerners.  There are four main causes for the stronger Chinese awareness. In brief: the Chinese 10 points higher IQ, the Chinese education system based on STEM directions and analytical thinking, the harsh meritocratic selection process and the Western degrading but Chinese increasing Flynn effect.

And even more remarkable is that in general, sociologists are less politically aware than STEM graduates. At first sight this may seem contradictory, but on closer inspection it is very logical. Sociologists are believers, they absorb a way of thinking and pass it on to their audience in a convincing way. STEM graduates, on the other hand, look at things in an analytical way, measure and test, and don’t make a decision until they’ve reviewed enough parameters.

Aldous Huxley, fully aware of Bernays’ work two decennia before him, wrote on 21.10.1949 in a letter to his former student George Orwell, author of ‘1984’: “Within the next generation I believe that the world’s leaders will discover that infant conditioning and narcohypnotic are more efficient, as instruments of government, than clubs and prisons, and that the lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging them and kicking them into obedience”

Frans Vandenbosch, Chinese name 方腾波, is a Fleming who lived in China for years where he supported companies in the automotive, medical, electronics and plastics processing sectors. He is cofounder and senior consultant at the International Institute on Governance and Strategy (IIGS) in Beijing and the author of Statecraft and Society in China about grassroots politics in China.


This represents but a fraction of what is included in the Here Comes China newsletter.  If you want to learn about the Chinese world, get Godfree’s newsletter here

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a news conference following an online meeting of the BRICS Foreign Ministers Council, Moscow, September 4, 2020

Source

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a news conference following an online meeting of the BRICS Foreign Ministers Council, Moscow, September 4, 2020

September 05, 2020

A full-format online meeting of the BRICS foreign ministers has ended. This is the second such meeting this year under Russia’s chairmanship.

The first was dedicated exclusively to mobilising efforts to effectively prevent the spread of the coronavirus infection.

Today, we discussed a wide range of international issues and key items on the agenda of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly as well as our practical cooperation among the five member states.

We have adopted a detailed and appropriate final communiqué. You can read it, so I will not dwell on the key international matters that the communiqué covers in detail.

I would like to note that the communiqué reaffirms the BRICS’ commitment to the principles of multilateralism, reliance on international law and resolving conflicts exclusively through political and diplomatic means and according to the principles enshrined in the UN Charter. Once again, we resolutely supported the central role of the UN in the search for collective answers to the challenges and threats facing humanity.

In this year of the 75th anniversary of Victory in World War II, we noted the importance of preserving the historical memory of this tragedy’s lessons in order to avoid repeating it in the future. We unanimously condemned any and all manifestations of Nazism, racism and xenophobia. The corresponding resolution that is adopted annually by the UN General Assembly is traditionally supported by all BRICS countries.

We agreed to strengthen and promote our strategic partnership in all key areas of BRICS activities, such as politics and security, the economy and finance, and cultural ties.

We are grateful to our friends for supporting Russia’s chairmanship of the Five under rather difficult circumstances, when direct international communication, face-to-face communication, has, in fact, been put on hold. Nevertheless, using modern technology, we have managed to carry out most of the planned activities. We have had over 50 activities and as many will take place before the end of the year. We have every reason to believe (our partners also mentioned this today) that all of the Russian chairmanship’s plans with regard to the BRICS activities will be fulfilled.

We have reached a number of practical agreements, including the one to promote investment and to support the effective participation of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises in international trade. Our respective ministries have adopted a joint statement in support of the multilateral trade system and WTO reform. Another important document, the Memorandum of Cooperation in the Competition Policy, was renewed for another term. Our development banks have agreed on an action plan for innovation and blockchain working groups. Other ministries and departments continue to work energetically.

Most of these initiatives are being drafted with an eye to approving them during the next summit, which is scheduled to be held in Russia in the autumn. We will determine the dates later based on the epidemiological situation.

These are the main results. Once again, the communiqué that we have circulated will provide a great deal of interesting information.

Question: The year in which Russia was the BRICS chair has been fairly difficult. The pandemic has taken its toll on every area. What did you manage to accomplish this year in BRICS? What kind of meetings and statements can we expect before 2020 runs out?

Sergey Lavrov: I partially talked about these issues when I presented the main results of our meeting today. To reiterate, we consider it critically important to have reached an agreement on a number of issues.

This includes a package of documents devoted to trade and investment, encouraging small-, medium- and micro-businesses to participate in international trade, strengthening cooperation between banks (central banks and development banks in our respective countries), and the active work of the New Development Bank, which was created by the leaders of the BRICS countries and is operating successfully.) By the way, the Eurasian Regional Centre of the New Development Bank will open in Russia in October.

The agreements concerning the prevention of new challenges and threats are notable as well. A very powerful document on counter-terrorism has been agreed upon and will be submitted for approval by the heads of state. The activities to combat drug trafficking and drug crime have been resumed. Our joint cybersecurity efforts are on the rise. This is a critical area to which we pay special attention.

Notably, special attention was paid to Russia’s initiatives, which were presented a year ago, and that supplemen BRICS’ activities with two new formats. I’m referring to the Women’s Business Alliance (it has been effectively created and is about to go live) and the Energy Research Platform, which is designed to encourage the research community’s involvement in the practical activities on drawing up energy resource plans. Two major events have taken place as part of the Energy Research Platform. Their results will also be submitted for consideration by the heads of state.

Question: You have repeatedly mentioned the importance of international cooperation in combating the coronavirus. China and Russia are now working to develop their own COVID-19 vaccine. China has officially announced its plans to strengthen cooperation in vaccine research and development.

What is your take on the prospects for possible cooperation between China and Russia in vaccine development and production? To what extent will cooperation between the two countries help ensure access to vaccines for other countries in need of support, including the BRICS members?

Sergey Lavrov: Today, we confirmed that this area remains a BRICS priority. Russia and China’s partners (India, Brazil and South Africa) actively supported Moscow and Beijing’s efforts in this regard. All of them appreciated the statements made by our Chinese colleague and myself to the effect that we are interested in the broadest possible cooperation, including with the participation of our BRICS friends. Notably, the coronavirus has by no means initiated the motivation for BRICS cooperation in this area. Interaction began much earlier. The first document on this subject was adopted at the BRICS Summit in Ufa, Russia, in 2015, when the heads of the BRICS states put forward an initiative to establish cooperation in combating infectious diseases. Then, at the 2018 South Africa Summit, our South African partners advanced an initiative to establish a vaccine development and research centre. So, this work has been ongoing for the past five years, even before the coronavirus infection posed very difficult problems for us.

Thanks to the visionary decisions adopted at the earlier summits, the BRICS countries were well prepared and are now able to mobilise their full potential in the face of the coronavirus infection.

Russia’s additional initiatives introduced this year have been reviewed and approved. One of them concerns the creation of an early warning system for epidemiological threats. The other proposes developing specific steps for the legal regulation of medical products which will certainly improve our ability to cope with the coronavirus now and prepare for the fact that we will most likely have to deal with similar challenges more than once in the future. So, BRICS is among the leaders in developing measures to prevent such epidemics and to deal with the aftereffects.

Question:  How will statements that we’ve heard in the past two days from Berlin on the issue of Alexei Navalny influence the strategic dialogue between Russia and Europe? Today, NATO urged Russia to fully open its file on Novichok to the   OPCW. Who is now interested in a crime scenario on Navalny’s poisoning?

Sergey Lavrov: Representatives of the Presidential Executive Office and the Foreign Ministry have already made statements on this issue. We have nothing to hide. Let me recall again that as soon as Navalny felt unwell on the plane it landed immediately. An ambulance was waiting for him in the airport and he was instantly taken to hospital, switched to an artificial lung ventilator and given other necessary measures. As I understand it, Navalny spent a bit more than a day and a half there. During this time, we were urged every hour to explain what happened and report any information immediately.

For over a week after he was taken to Germany, no one who raised a concern during his stay in Omsk has expressed interest in his case or loudly demanded information from the German doctors. We don’t have new information on this up to this day. It’s the same old story: we are publicly accused of something and our official requests for answers to specific questions from the Russian Prosecutor-General’s Office, under legal assistance treaties, remain unanswered. German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel has been accusing us for two days of this action (ostensibly, the poisoning) but cannot present anything specific. Today, we once again asked our colleagues in the EU and Germany whether Ms Merkel plans to instruct her staff to send the German Justice Ministry’s response to the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office inquiry.

I already have to say out loud that we have information that this reply is being delayed due to the position of the German Foreign Ministry. We have instructed the Russian Ambassador to Germany to ask for a reason for the delay. Today we were at least promised that the reply would come soon. We will react when we receive it with specific facts. As I see it, the Germans believe their reply will contain these facts. Let me repeat that, regrettably, all this brings to mind what happened with the Skripals and other incidents where Russia was groundlessly accused and the results of the investigation (that took place in Britain in the latter case) remain classified. Nobody sees the Skripals themselves.

I would like to remind you that when, on the wave of this Russophobic hysteria over the Skripals, our British colleagues compelled most EU countries to expel our diplomats (to which Moscow certainly responded), we confidentially asked the EU members whether the Brits presented any facts in addition to what they publicly reported in the media. We received a negative answer. Facts were not presented but they asked to expel our diplomats and promised that specific information would be provided later. I am not being lazy and whenever I meet with my colleagues, I ask them about the Skripals case when they expelled Russian diplomats based on London’s parole of honour and followed its appeal. I ask them whether they were given the promised specific information in addition to what was publicly mentioned and they again said “no.” Nobody has given any information to anyone.

This is why we now approach such high-flown, dramatic statements by our Western colleagues with a large dose of scepticism. We’ll see what facts they present. I think this public conduct and such haughty, arrogant demands made in a tone that our Western partners allow themselves shows that there is little to present except artificially fueled pathetics.

Question: The Ukrainian foreign minister said that the foreign ministers of Germany and France seek to hold a Normandy format foreign minister meeting in September. According to him, you have no objections to this. Is that right?

Sergey Lavrov: The Foreign Ministry has already responded to this question. If someone wants to meet, let them meet. We have not discussed any such matter. We are now talking about preparing a meeting of foreign policy advisers to the Normandy format leaders. Nobody said anything specific about a meeting of foreign ministers, because, I think, they are well aware of our position. First, we need to act upon what the leaders of our countries agreed on in Paris in December 2019. There has been little progress so far. We only see more problems in connection with the constant worsening of the Ukrainian authorities’ position with regard to their commitment to implementing the Minsk agreements.

Question: Yesterday, it became known that the Democrats in the United States demanded immediate imposition of sanctions on Russia in connection with the upcoming US presidential election in November. They are referring to intelligence that says that Russia can allegedly intervene. What can you tell us about this?

Sergey Lavrov: We have been hearing accusations that Russia is interfering in US presidential elections for many years now. It has now become a kind of a game of who is interfering more: Russia, China or Iran? A US national intelligence official recently said that China is interfering more than Russia or Iran. So, grown-up people have been playing these games for a long time now, and this does not surprise us. Sometimes, though, we can’t help but be surprised. I’m referring to recent accusations against Russia to the effect that we are trying to abuse or use in the interest of a particular candidate the planned voting by mail in the United States. I was surprised by this accusation, because until then I thought that voting by mail was part of the differences between President Trump, who outright refuses to allow this type of vote to be held, and the Democrats, who want to use voting by mail as much as possible.

Truth be told, we are used to these attacks. In this case, as in the case of poisonings and other situations in different countries, we will respond to specific facts, if they are presented to us. We keep telling our partners – Americans and Europeans alike – if you have any concern about anything, especially cybersecurity, which has become a particularly common subject for accusations and reproaches against us, let’s sit down and review your facts. We are ready to do so. Unfortunately, our partners in the United States and the EU shun direct conversations based on professional analysis of available facts. We are ready for this, and we encourage our colleagues to do so. They should stop living in the past reminiscing about the colonial era and considering themselves smarter and mightier than others and start working on the basis of what they signed in 1945, namely, the UN Charter principles, including equality, balance of interests and joint and honest work. We are ready for this.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to questions during the online session “Russia and the post-COVID World”

Source

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to questions during the online session “Russia and the post-COVID World”

10 July 2020 15:55

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to questions during the online session “Russia and the post-COVID World,” held as part of the Primakov Readings international forum, Moscow, July 10, 2020

First of all, I would like to express my gratitude for inviting me to once again speak at the Primakov Readings. This is a young, but also one of the most respected platforms for discussing international matters. Unfortunately, we cannot meet in person due to the coronavirus pandemic. Nevertheless, thanks to modern technology we could keep it on schedule. I am glad that my colleagues were able to take part in the preceding sessions of these readings. Judging by their feedback, this was a useful experience.

I will not delve into the question of how the coronavirus has affected every aspect of our lives, and what it will bring in the future. We already feel its effect on the economy and in personal contacts, from official visits and talks, to humanitarian, cultural and education exchanges. There seems to be a consensus that it will take quite some time for things to get back to normal. How long it will take and what the new norm will be is anybody’s guess. That said, all tend to agree that things will change.

By the way, I cannot fail to mention that our foreign service has had to face serious challenges. There were confirmed cases both at the Foreign Ministry head offices and our representative offices in the regions, as well as in our affiliated institutions. Thank goodness, we did not face a massive outbreak or severe cases. There were also people in our missions abroad affected by the pandemic. When borders closed, all our foreign missions without exception were mobilised to assist Russian nationals stranded abroad. Along with other agencies represented in the Emergency Response Centre, primarily the Transport Ministry, the Federal Air Agency, the Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Protection and Welfare and the Communications Ministry, we complied repatriation lists. This was a lot of work, fraught with many mistakes, mostly unintentional rather than deliberate, that had to be rectified. At the same time we had to make arrangements to pay support allowances to those stranded abroad without funds. We have already done a great deal on this front, although there are still people asking to be repatriated, and some have come forward only recently. It seems that looking at the developments in the countries where they are staying and considering the uncertainty as to when all this will come to an end, they finally opted to return home.

Speaking of other ways in which the pandemic influenced our work and the way we perform our professional duties, the virus has aggravated other pre-existing challenges and threats. They have not gone away, including international terrorism. As you know, some speculate that terrorists are thinking about somehow using the strain of this virus, or maybe even creating new strains to achieve their malicious ends. Drug trafficking, cybercrime, environmental issues, climate and, of course, the many conflicts around the world – all these problems are still with us. And all this overlaps with the specific nature of the Trump administration and its deliberate policy of undermining all legal and contractual frameworks without exception on arms control and international cooperation, for example, regarding UNESCO, the WHO, the UN Human Rights Council, etc.

Of course, we keep a close eye on all these developments and analyse them. We still believe that sustainable solutions to various crises, conflicts and problems in the interests of all countries, and taking into consideration each and everyone’s concerns can only result from collective efforts based on the principles enshrined in the UN Charter, by respecting UN Security Council prerogatives, mobilising consensus-based associations, including the G20, as well as BRICS, the SCO and associations on the post-Soviet space. Unfortunately, not everyone has been ready to work together during the pandemic, to engage in collective efforts and approaches. We are witnessing attempts to push through narrow-minded agendas, and use this crisis to continue strangling unwanted regimes. The call from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to suspend unilateral sanctions, at least during the pandemic, that impede the distribution of medial and other humanitarian goods, and other essential items to the corresponding countries, was completely ignored. The same goes for attempts to assign blame for the infection in the midst of the pandemic, when what we need is to think about how we can help medical workers, doctors and virologists. You know very well what I am referring to.

Like 75 years ago, when Victory over a common enemy was won only by working together and rising above the ideological differences of the time, we now also need to realise that we will resolve these issues only if we cooperate. I’m sure we’ll talk about the future of the WHO later. We are in favour of resolving any issues based on the UN Charter, which is a collective security platform.

Our Western colleagues – I’ve already mentioned this many times – are trying to actively introduce the concept of a “rules-based order” into diplomatic, political and practical usage. This is not international law. This is something else (we can also talk about this in more detail during the discussion). Clearly, this is an attempt to regain the dominance that the historical West has enjoyed for almost 500 years now. This attempt takes the form of convening a “group of interests” and various partnerships, where convenient countries are invited that either share the attempts to adopt unilateral approaches to international affairs, or will yield to pressure and join these initiatives. Not everyone is invited. Those who have their own outlook on things and are ready to defend it are left out. Later, when a concept, say, on chemical weapons, is fabricated, or an attempt is made to create a club of the select few who will decide on who is to blame for violating cybersecurity, they will start selling it as universally applicable norms. We are witnessing this now as it’s happening. These are very serious problems.

I would like to conclude my opening remarks. Our main goal, as before, is to protect our national interests and create the most favourable external conditions for the country’s development. You may have noticed that we come up with ideas that unite. Convening a summit of the UN Security Council permanent members is our top priority. This effort is ongoing. We are now focusing on the substantive part of the event, because, of course, it will play the decisive part.

The current hardships in international relations increase the importance of these discussions and, in general, the contribution of the expert community, and academic and political circles, into the efforts to analyse the situation and make reasonable realistic forecasts. I’d be remiss not to mention the case study concept that Yevgeny Primakov introduced into our foreign policy and political science. We appreciate the fact that the participants and organisers of the Primakov Readings always help us draw from a rich well of ideas, from which we then pick the ones that we submit to the President to determine our policies in specific circumstances.

Question: Five years ago, an IMEMO strategic forecast assumed that a new bipolarity might emerge as one of the four scenarios for the future world order.   At that time, this hypothesis was based on the relative dynamics of the synergetic power of China and the United States.  The COVID-19 pandemic has provided plenty of evidence of this theory. Of course, a different – asymmetrical – bipolarity is emerging, where the strategic parity is between Russia and the US, and the economic parity is between China and the United States, which is distinct from what was the case in the 20th century.

Do you think that the US-PRC conflict has passed the point of no return? It is obvious that any exacerbation of this confrontation is not in Russia’s interests. Will Russia be able to act as a swing power in order to maintain stability of the world system, including based on your unique experience of multilateral diplomacy?

Sergey Lavrov: I remember the forecast you have mentioned. I would like to say that, certainly, a lot has changed over these past five years, primarily in terms of confirming that the confrontation, rivalry, antagonism, and the struggle for leadership between the United States and China have, of course, been mounting. Before I pass directly to an analysis of this bipolar process, I would like to note that the real situation in the world as a whole is much more complicated. After all, the world is growing more polycentric than it was previously. There are numerous players apart from the US and China, without whom it is very difficult to promote one’s interests, if some or other capital suddenly decides to do this single-handedly.  I think we will yet discuss some other possible options in this sense. Let me mention the fact that Dean of the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs at the National Research University – Higher School of Economics   Sergey Karaganov has commented on this subject in an article for Russia in Global Affairs, a journal published by Fyodor Lukyanov.

It is quite clear that we should take into consideration, in our practical work, the entire diversity and totality of political, economic, military, historical, and ideological factors that are manifesting themselves in the multipolar world, a world that Yevgeny Primakov predicted. We are assessing the US-Chinese controversy against this backdrop and through this prism.  That it is not existing in a vacuum is, as a minimum, confirmed by the fact that each of the sides is seeking to recruit as many supporters of their approaches as possible to the WHO or any other subject that in some way or other is associated with Washington and Beijing as defining contradictions in their approaches.

The Americans are certainly perceiving the growth of the PRC’s total state power as a threat to their claims to retaining the world leadership against all odds. Back in 2017, the US National Security Strategy listed China, along with Russia, among the main threats. It was for the first time that China was put before Russia as a threat to the United States.

Russia and China were directly accused of seeking to challenge the American influence, values and prosperity.  It is quite clear that the US is waging a struggle by absolutely unsavoury methods, as is obvious and clear to everyone. They are putting forward unilateral demands that take into account solely the US interests. If demands are turned down, they say the refusal is unacceptable and introduce sanctions.

If a discussion is suggested, the discussion rapidly degenerates into delivering an ultimatum and ends up in selfsame sanctions – trade wars, tariffs, and lots more.

A highly indicative fact is how the Americans and the Chinese managed to come to terms on phase one of the trade talks in January and what the fate of this agreement is now. The US authorities are accusing Beijing of drawing off jobs and glutting the market, while showing reluctance to buy US products. According to the Americans, China is implementing the Belt and Road project intended to steamroll all world economy mechanisms, production chains, and so on.  China allegedly was concealing information on COVID-19 and is engaging in cyber espionage. Notice how zealously the Americans are forcing their allies and others to give up any collaboration with Huawei and other Chinese digital giants and companies. China’s hi-tech companies are being squeezed out of the world markets.  China is being charged with expansionism in the South China Sea, problems on the actual control line with India, human rights violations, and [misbehaviour with regard to] Tibet, the Xinjiang-Uyghur Autonomous Region, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. All of this is taking place simultaneously. A powerful wave of fault-finding, a perfect storm is being raised. I hope, of course, that common sense will prevail and the situation will not pass the point of no return mentioned by Mr Dynkin.

We hope that there are people in the United States, who are figuring out how to reassure the world of the dollar system’s reliability in the post-election period. The US Secretary of the Treasury is speaking about this all but openly. He is warning that they should be wary of overstepping the red line, after which people will just start fleeing from America, saying that the dollar is no good anymore because it is being brazenly abused.

There is, of course, hope that the Chinese possess a political, diplomatic and foreign policy culture that always seeks to avoid various imbroglios.  But there are also some very alarming signs that, despite these rays of hope, which must be nurtured and cherished, US and Chinese officials start getting personal, occasionally in a very harsh form. This bespeaks a high degree of tension on both sides. And, of course, this is really alarming.

I do hope that our Chinese and US partners have some diplomatic methods, ways of classical diplomacy tucked up their sleeve. People should not insult each other in public or accuse each other of all sins, as the Americans are doing on every street corner. A better option is to sit down [to the negotiating table] and recognise that your opposite number is a great power and that every state, be it a great power or otherwise, has interests that must be respected.  The world certainly should seek to function based on a search for a balance of these interests.

Now let me pass to the second question – that this aggravation is not in Russia’s interests. I think that it is totally at variance with our interests, the interests of the European Union, and those of other countries as well. If you take the EU, China-EU trade is absolutely comparable with trade between China and the US. I think it is also necessary to pay attention to the EU’s increasingly publicised aspirations as regards a strategic autonomy not only in the military-political and security sphere but also in trade and the economy. Incidentally, the EU also wants to start repatriating its industries and localise as many trade and distributive chains as possible on its territory. In this regard, it is entering direct competition with the Americans.

The EU is unlikely to support the United States on every count in its desire to bleed the Chinese economy white by “pumping over” all development-friendly processes to its territory. There will be a lot of wrinkles, tension and clashes of interests.

Today, unlike in 2014, when the EU, under atrocious US pressure, introduced sanctions against Russia, it is showing signs of sound pragmatism towards our country. Specifically, they have publicly announced that they will revise the notorious “five principles” that Federica Mogherini formulated several years ago to guide relations with Russia.  They also say that it is necessary to overhaul their entire approach so that it should be more consistent with EU interests.

Incidentally, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell gave a talk recently on EU and China and on EU and Russia. Asked, why not impose sanctions on China for Hong Kong and human rights, he said that sanctions were not a method to be used in relations with China. We inquired whether sanctions were, in his opinion, a method that could be used in relations with Russia?  Our European friends will be thinking about this. It is a tough question.

I think that the European Union and Russia have a stake in cooperating, but not to the detriment of anyone else.  Basically, we do not ally with others to organise some actions against a third party.  We prefer pragmatism and shared benefit. I think Brussels will be doing something to overcome the myopia of the recent period.  The survey of EU policy vis-à-vis Russia will give more heed to an analysis of the real benefits inherent in promoting relations with Russia and the EAEU.

I do not see any benefits that Russia could derive from a trade war between Washington and Beijing. We will not benefit from relations with the EU and India either. Relations with India are traditionally friendly and other than time-serving. I do not envisage any changes in this area. We have proclaimed a “specially privileged strategic partnership” with India. I do not see any reasons why our Indian friends should sacrifice the gains that exist in the context of our partnership and prospects that it opens.

Question: You have mentioned Russian-US relations. Of course, international security and strategic stability depend on them. The situation is rather alarming now because of a deep crisis in the arms control regime. It is possible that the last key treaty in this sphere will expire in six months. There are many reasons for this, both geopolitical and technological. I believe we have to admit that public opinion is not pressuring the political elites to maintain arms control as much as during the Cold War, when large-scale demonstrations were held, as we well remember. The highest priority threats for the public now are the pandemic, climate change and terrorism. The fear of a nuclear war has receded into the background. What can be done to change this, or will it take a new Cuban crisis for the public to become aware of the nuclear conflict threat and to start expressing its opinion?

Jointly with our academic community we are now holding many videoconferences with American experts. You have said that there are rational people in the United States. It can be said that these conferences offer an opportunity to coordinate a number of new proposals, which could be used to formulate our initiatives. Of course, we update the Foreign Ministry and Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov about our activities. But it seems that today we need to think about some radical action, possibly in connection with the proposed summit of the five nuclear states, in order to create conditions that will help prevent the dismantling of the arms control regime and launch the creation of a new system of international security and strategic stability suited to the conditions of the 21st century.

Sergey Lavrov: I fully agree with you. Nuclear risks have increased dramatically, and the situation in the sphere of international security and strategic stability is visibly deteriorating. The reasons for this are obvious to everyone.  The United States wants to regain global domination and attain victory in what it describes as great-power rivalry. It has replaced the term “strategic stability” with “strategic rivalry.” It wants to win, whatever the price, as the saying goes. It is dismantling the arms control architecture so as to have the freedom to choose any instrument, including military force, to put pressure on its geopolitical opponents, and it wants to be able to use these instruments anywhere around the world. This is especially alarming in light of the changes in the doctrines of the US military-political authorities. These changes have allowed the limited use of nuclear weapons. It is notable that, like in the case of other strategic stability topics, the Americans have once again alleged that it is the Russian doctrine that permits the limited use of nuclear weapons and escalation for the sake of de-escalation and victory. They have recently issued comments on our doctrines, claiming that there are some secret parts where all of this is stipulated. This is not true. Meanwhile, we can see that the United States has adopted a number of practical programmes to support their doctrines with military and technical capabilities. This concerns the creation of low-yield nuclear warheads. American experts and officials are openly discussing this.

In this context, we are especially alarmed by the Americans’ failure to reaffirm – for two years now – the fundamental principle that there can be no winners in a nuclear war and that therefore it must never be unleashed. Early in the autumn of 2018, we submitted to the American side our written proposal that has been formulated as the confirmation of what People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs Maxim Litvinov and US President Franklin Roosevelt had coordinated and the notes they exchanged. We have reminded them about this proposal several times. They have replied that they are analysing it. Of course, we will raise the issue of the inadmissibility of fighting a nuclear war and winning it at the upcoming summit meeting of the five nuclear powers. It is important for our arguments to be no weaker than the arguments in the relevant Soviet-US documents. The slackening of these formulations has shown that the Americans would like to dilute the fact that there is no alternative to this principle and it cannot be repealed.

You have said that civil society is not paying sufficient attention to these threats, and I fully agree with you on this count. It is vital to attract public attention to this problem, to tell the people about the risks in understandable terms, because technicalities are often difficult to understand, and the form in which the analysis of this situation is presented to people is very important. Of course, we should count not only on official establishments but also on civil society and its politically active part – the NGOs and the academic and expert community.

I have said that I agree with you on this count, but I would also like to caution against going too far with raising public awareness of nuclear risks, so as not to play into the hands of those who want to prohibit all nuclear weapons and not to raise other concerns. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons openly contradicts the Non-Proliferation Treaty, creating confusion and problems. The necessary balance can be found with the help of top quality professionals, and I believe that we have more of them than any other country.

As for public sentiments, they do not always determine the reality. During the election campaign of US President Donald Trump, public sentiments were largely in tune with his declared plans and his calls for normalising Russian-US relations. Since then, the public has calmed down, and nobody is staging any riots over this matter.

Of course, it is vital to continue to interact directly with the nuclear powers and their authorities. We would like reasonable approaches to take priority.

You have mentioned that political consultations are underway between you, your colleagues and American experts. We appreciate this. Your contribution and assessments, as well as the information we receive following such consultations are taken into account and have a significant influence on the essence of our approaches, including in situations when we submit several alternatives to the leadership; this helps us analyse the possible scenarios and all their pros and cons.

The United States, as well as Britain and France, which are playing along with it, would like to limit the summit’s agenda to arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation. China sees this as an attempt to press through the idea of expanding the number of negotiating parties at the talks on nuclear weapons by one means or another. China has put forth its position on the idea of multilateral talks clearly and more than once. We respect this position. By the way, the Americans are clever at twisting things. They use only the parts of our statements and those of the Chinese that suit their position. The Chinese have said recently that they will join the arms control talks as soon as the Americans reduce their capability to the level of China’s arsenal. A day later, Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea announced that the United States welcomed China’s readiness to join the multilateral talks and invited Beijing to Vienna. The next round of Russian-US consultations at the level of experts will be held in late July, following on from the late June meeting between Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov and US Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea, when the Americans made a show with Chinese flags. The Americans have once again stated publicly that they would like to invite the Chinese to Vienna but it would be better if Russia met with China before that so as to tell Beijing what Washington expects from it. I think everyone can see that this is impolite and undiplomatic. When we say that we proceed from the assumption that China is free to take whatever stand it deems necessary, it shows our respect for China’s position. I would like to add that the Americans have not put on paper anything of what they said about the need for transitioning to a multilateral format. Let them at least document what they have in mind. But they seem to be categorically averse to this.

We are ready to take part in multilateral talks, but it should be a voluntary and independent decision of everyone. Only voluntary participation can be effective.

None of the reservations are being taken into account. They say that Russia supports their call for multilateral talks. What do we hear when we add that multilateral talks must also include Britain and France? Special Envoy Billingslea didn’t blink when he said the other day in reply to a question about the possible involvement of Britain and France that they are sovereign states who are free to decide whether to join the talks or not, and that the United States will not make the decision for them. Why has it actually made the decision for China then?

Knowing the US negotiating party, I am not optimistic about the New START, for example, but it’s good that we have started talking. Sergey Ryabkov and Marshall Billingslea have agreed to set up three working groups within the framework of the process they are supervising. They will hold a meeting of the working group on space, nuclear and weapons transparency plus nuclear doctrines in Vienna between July 27 and 30. We’ll see what comes of it. We never refuse to talk, and we will try to make negotiations result-oriented.

Question: Extending the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty is one of the critical items on the agenda of Russia-US relations, primarily in the sphere of arms control. If Russia fails to reach an agreement with Washington to renew this treaty before February 2021, what will it do next? If there’s a pause in the dialogue with Washington in the sphere of arms control, and if the treaty is not renewed, what will the arms control system become and will the multilateral formats that we are talking about now be possible in the future?

Sergey Lavrov: It appears that the United States has already decided not to renew this treaty. The fact that it insists that there’s no alternative to taking the deal to the trilateral format suggests that everything has been already decided. In addition to this, they want the latest Russian weapons to be part of the deal which, by and large, is nothing short of trying to force an open door. We told the Americans earlier on that when Avangard and Sarmat become fully deployed, they will be subject to the restrictions established by the treaty for as long as it remains valid. The other systems are new. They do not fit into the three categories covered by START-3, but we are ready to start talking about including the weapons that are not classical from the START-3 perspective in the discussion, of course, within the context of a principled discussion of all, without exceptions, variables that affect strategic stability that way or another. This includes missile defence, where we are now able to see that the once existing allegations that it was designed solely to stop the missile threat coming from Iran and North Korea, were lies. No one is even trying to bring this up anymore. Everything is being done solely in terms of containing Russia and China. Other factors include high-precision non-nuclear weapons known as a programme of instant global strike, openly promoted plans by the Americans and the French to launch weapons into space, the developments related to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and a number of other factors too. We are ready to discuss new weapons, but to do so not in order to humour someone or to respond to someone’s initiatives, but to really reduce the threat to global stability and security.

To this end, we need to look at all the things that create these threats, pushing us to create antidotes, as was the case with our hypersonic weapons, which were developed in response to the global deployment of the US missile defence system.

Speaking specifically about the START-3 Treaty, we need an extension as much as the Americans do. They see some kind of a game in our calls to extend it for five more years without any preconditions. Russia, they say, has modernised its entire nuclear arsenal, but we are just beginning the modernisation, so they want to “tie our hands.” This is absolutely not so. We need to extend the START-3 Treaty as much as the Americans. If they refuse to do so, we will not insist. We know and we firmly believe that we will be able to ensure our security in the long run, even in the absence of this treaty. I think it is premature to discuss our actions if this treaty expires without any further action, but we are indeed ready for any turn of events. If the renewal is turned down, our options may be different, but I can assure you that overall we will continue the dialogue with the United States on strategic issues and new weapons control tools based on the facts that underlie strategic stability, as I just mentioned.

With regard to the multilateral talks, we already said back in 2010, when we were signing START-3, that the signing of this treaty puts an end to the possibility for further bilateral reductions and that, talking about future reductions, I emphasise this term, we will need to take into account the arsenals of other nuclear powers and start looking for other forms of discussions, if we’re talking about reductions. If we are talking about control, I think the bilateral Russian-American track has far more to offer. Losing all forms of control and transparency would probably be an unreasonable and irresponsible thing to do in the face of our nations and other nations as well. I believe the fact that there’s a transparency group (this is a broad term that includes measures of trust and verification) among the Russian-American working groups which will be meeting in Vienna soon, is a good sign.

Question: The Eurasian countries regard Russia as a mainstay that can connect the EU and Asian countries. How do you see Russia’s role in this space?

Sergey Lavrov: The situation on the Eurasian continent is fully affected by almost all global factors. This is where a number of the most important world centres are located, including China, Russia, India and the European Union if we are talking about the continent as a whole. For various reasons, each of these actors is motivated to pursue a foreign policy independent from the United States. This includes the EU.

Calls for strategic autonomy extend to the development area as such. We in Eurasia feel the influence of forces that would like to put together interest-based blocs and try to introduce elements of confrontation into various processes. We increasingly see centripetal tendencies. I am referring to ASEAN in the east and the EU in the west of our continent.

Located in the centre is the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the Eurasian Economic Union. We would like to promote unifying, not divisive approaches in this space  and intensify trans-regional collaboration based on equality, mutual benefit, and most importantly, we would like to realise the obvious comparative advantages of cooperation on the continent via integration entities created in the West, East, and Centre, with respect for each of these unions and the search for natural forms of collaboration. This is the goal of what we call the Greater Eurasian Partnership that President Vladimir Putin suggested establishing at the Russia-ASEAN summit in Sochi a few years ago. We think this is an absolutely realistic action plan.

Let me note parenthetically that there are opposing approaches. They are mostly promoted by the United States through so-called Indo-Pacific concepts aimed at undermining the central systematic role of ASEAN in the Asia-Pacific region. I am referring to an attempt to put together a group of countries that would openly – this is not even hidden – contain China’s development.

I would favour identifying points of contact among all integration processes. Of course, there is China’s Belt and Road concept. The EAEU has an agreement with China that includes identifying points of contact and the harmonisation of any project that will be implemented as part of Eurasian integration and China’s project. Of course, there is a clash of economic interests in a number of cases, but the sides’ willingness to be guided by international legal principles, respect for each other, and mutual benefit makes it possible to agree on these economic interests based on the search for balance. It is in this way that our relations with our EAEU partners, China within the SCO, and ASEAN, are built. We invite the European Union, as has been repeatedly stated, to consider how it can become part of the development of our common geopolitical and primarily geo-economic space with benefits for itself and for others.

Question: The Middle East and North Africa remain a troubled region. New divides continue to crop up there; the potential for conflict remains and the old conflicts that everyone knows about persist. The humanitarian situation is aggravated due to the West’s unfair sanctions against a certain part of the region. Various asymmetries are growing deeper. What are Russia’s strategic interests in the region today? What do we want to achieve there, given the post-COVID nature of the era we are now entering?

Sergey Lavrov: We have very good relations in this region, possibly the best in the history of relations between this country, in its various capacities, and the region. I mean relations with all sides: the Arab countries, regardless of the conflict potential within the Arab world, and Israel. We will proceed from the need to promote positive contact with all these countries and seek to understand their problems and needs, and take this into account in our relations not only with a specific country but also with the countries that this particular partner has problems with.

In the beginning, I was asked whether Russia was ready to perform as a balancing influence in relations between the United States and China. If they ask us to, if they are interested, we would not decline this. We have established contacts with both sides and our historical development record enables us to see that we have potential.

If there is interest in mediation services that we can offer in this region or elsewhere, we are always ready to try to help, but of course, we will not push ourselves on anyone. Our own interest is primarily in precluding new military crises and in settling old crises so that the Middle East and North Africa become a zone of peace and stability. Unlike certain major countries outside the region, we have no strategic interest in maintaining controlled chaos. We have no such interest whatsoever.

We are not interested in engineering head-on clashes between countries in the region so as to create a pretext and a motive for continuing, and sometimes expanding, our military presence there. We are interested in promoting mutually beneficial trade, economic, investment and other ties with these states. In this respect, we would not like any other country in the region to have the same fate as Libya, which was robbed of its statehood and now no one knows how to “sew it together.” This is why we will be actively involved in efforts to reestablish an international legal approach to avoid any further toothpowder-filled test tubes passed off as VX and lies about weapons of mass destruction in other countries in the region as is now happening in Syria. Some have already started talking about “undiscovered” chemical weapons in Libya. All of these are inventions. How they are concocted is no secret.

We would like to derive economic benefits from our relations with the countries in the region. For this, we primarily have much in common in our approaches to problems in the contemporary world: international law, the UN Charter, and inter-civilisational dialogue, something that is also important, considering the Muslim population in the Russian Federation. Russia’s Muslim republics maintain good ties with the Gulf countries and other countries in the Arab world. We would like to support and develop all this. We will not gain anything from the chaos that continues in the region. As soon as the situation stabilises, the Russian Federation’s reliability as a partner in economic cooperation, military-technical cooperation, and the political area will always ensure us important advantages.

Question: My question is related to the recent changes in Russia. The new wording of the Constitution, which has come into effect, includes a provision according to which any actions (with the exception of delimitation, demarcation and re-demarcation of the state border of the Russian Federation with adjacent states) aimed at alienating part of the Russian territory, as well as calls for such actions, shall be prohibited. This provision is understandable. This brings me to my question: Does this mean that our years-long talks with Japan on the so-called territorial dispute have become anti-constitutional because they contradict our Fundamental Law? As far as I recall, the terms “delimitation” and “demarcation” have never been applied to the Kuril Islands, or have they?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, you are spot on. Our relations with Japan are based on a number of agreements. The Russian Federation as the successor state of the Soviet Union has reaffirmed its commitment to all of the agreements signed by the Soviet Union. President Vladimir Putin has confirmed this more than once. This includes the 1956 Declaration under which we are ready to discuss and are discussing with our Japanese colleagues the necessity of signing a peace treaty, but not a treaty that would have been signed the next day after the last shot, that is, immediately after the termination of the war, as some of our Japanese colleagues would like. The state of war between the Soviet Union and Japan was terminated by the 1956 Declaration, which provides for the end of the state of war and for the restoration of diplomatic relations. What else do we need? In other words, a peace treaty we are negotiating should be modern and comprehensive, and it should not reflect the situation of 60-70 years ago but the current state of affairs, when we believe that we should develop full-scale ties with Japan. This document must be essential and inclusive, that is, it should include issues of peace, friendship, neighbourliness, partnership and cooperation, and it should cover all spheres of our relations, including economic ties, which are improving but not in all economic sectors. It should be remembered that our Japanese neighbours have imposed sanctions on Russia, although they are not as all-embracing as the US restrictions, but anyway.

A peace treaty should also cover security topics, because Japan has a close military alliance with the United States, which has essentially declared Russia to be an enemy. Of course, a comprehensive peace treaty should also include our views on foreign policy interaction, where, to put it simply, we disagree on all disputable matters, as well as humanitarian and cultural ties and many other factors. We have offered a concept of such a treaty. Our Japanese colleagues have not responded to this concept so far.

It is clear that the outcome of WWII is the fundamental issue that should determine our relations. Japanese officials have stated more than once that they recognise the results of WWII excluding the decision concerning the South Kuril Islands, or the “Northern Territories,” as they say. This position contradicts the law. Japan’s position must be based on the fact that the country ratified the UN Charter, which essentially means that the actions taken by the winner countries with regard to the enemy countries are beyond discussion.

Of course, our Japanese neighbours keep saying that they would sign a peace treaty as soon as the territorial dispute is settled. This is not what we have agreed to do. We have agreed to focus on signing a peace treaty as stipulated in the 1956 Declaration.

Question: Russia often criticises the US for promoting non-inclusive associations in the Pacific and Indian Oceans to isolate “uncomfortable” states. I am primarily referring to the so-called Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad. Obviously, the very existence of such formats turns the region from a zone of cooperation into a zone of confrontation. We are certainly not interested in that. However, for all its minuses, the Quad concept is obviously finding understanding from Russia’s strategic partners, for instance, India. The Quad Plus project, where the US plans to invite Vietnam, our strategic partner as well, is also under discussion. Apparently, there is a need to enhance security in the region. Can Russia offer an alternative to such formats to prevent our two strategic partners from being in a position where they have to deter a third one?

Sergey Lavrov: I talked about the appearance of concepts and strategies on forming what US diplomats call “a free and open Indo-Pacific” several years ago. When some initiative calls itself free and open, I always have the impression that this includes a tinge of PR because how can it be called open if every state the region without exception is not invited to join?

When the term “Indo-Pacific strategies” appeared we inquired if they did not deal with the Asia-Pacific Region the contours of which are clear: the APEC, and the mechanisms that were established around ASEAN (the ASEAN regional security forum, the meeting of the ASEAN defence ministers and the partner countries, which is very important and, of course, the East Asia Summit (EAS), a forum that will be a decade old this year). We asked why the established term, Asia-Pacific Region, was replaced with this “Indo-Pacific strategies.” Does this mean that these strategies will embrace more countries, including all Indian Ocean coastal states? We received a negative answer. But what does “Indo” mean then? Will the Persian Gulf, which is part of the Indian Ocean, take part in the new format? We got a negative answer again. The Gulf has too many problems to be involved in these initiatives.

As for the ideas pursued by this Quad, as I have said, they are not really hiding them. These ideas come down to attempts to deter China. Our specially privileged partner India is fully aware of this. Pursuing its multi-vector policy, India is certainly interested in developing relations with the US (and who isn’t?), Japan and Australia. We are also interested in this. But India does not want to benefit from this cooperation at the price of further aggravating its relations with China. They had sad incidents on the Line of Actual Control but we welcome their immediate contacts between militaries, which are ongoing. They reached agreements on de-escalating tensions. Their politicians and diplomats also met. We can see that neither India nor China want their relations to get worse. Therefore, before talking seriously about Indo-Pacific strategies as a future for our large region, it is necessary to explain the choice of wording. If this was done to please India because of the Indian Ocean, just say so.

There are things that have already been established. I mentioned a diverse network of institutions and mechanisms around ASEAN. ASEAN brings together a group of countries that promote unifying approaches in the context of their civilisations and cultures. Everything is aimed at searching for consensus based on a balance of interests. For decades, the members have been absolutely content with developing relations in this venue with its regional security forum, defence minister meetings and East Asia Summits. There is even an expression: “ASEAN-way.” They always emphasise that they want to handle matters in “the ASEAN-way.” This means never to seek confrontation or launch projects that will create problems for other members. Regrettably, Indo-Pacific strategies may pursue different goals, at least under their initial concept.

In the beginning of our conversation, I mentioned the tough claims made by the US against China. They sound like an ultimatum. This is a mechanism for exerting and intensifying pressure. We do not see anything positive in this. Any problems must be resolved peacefully, through talks. Let me repeat that ASEAN is an ideal venue where every participant can discuss its problems with another member without polemics or tension. We are actively forming bridges with ASEAN (I mentioned the EAEU and the SCO). Their secretariats have already signed related memorandums. We will continue promoting ASEAN’s core role in the South Pacific Region.

We will only welcome Indo-Pacific strategies if they become more understandable, if we are convinced that they lean towards joining the ASEAN-led processes rather than try to undermine its role and redirect the dialogue against China or someone else. However, we are not seeing this so far.

Question: A week ago, experts were polled on US allegations that Russian military intelligence, the GRU, had offered rewards to the Taliban for killing US troops in Afghanistan. All of the analysts agree that the allegation could be rooted in domestic, primarily political reasons. Your subordinate, Special Presidential Representative for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov, has pointed out that one of the factions in the United States is against the planned troop withdrawal from Afghanistan because US security services have become deeply involved in the drug trade over the past few years. We have not asked you about this situation yet. What do you think about this uproar?

Sergey Lavrov: We have already responded to the hype in the United States over Russia’s alleged connection with the Taliban, who were allegedly financed to fight US troops and even offer bounties for the murder of American military personnel. I can only tell you once again that all this is a dirty speculation. No facts have been provided to prove anything. Moreover, responsible officials in the US administration, including the Secretary of Defence, have said that they know nothing about this.

These allegations fit in very well with the political fighting during an election year in the United States, as if they were invented – and it appears that this is so – for this purpose. The objective is to disgrace the US administration and to discredit everything it has been doing, especially with regard to Russia. I would like to repeat that there are no facts to prove these allegations. But there were facts in the late 1970s and 80s, when the US administration did not make a secret of helping the Mujahedeen, of supplying them with Stingers and other weapons, which they used against Soviet soldiers.

As I have said, we would like both Russia and the United States to draw lessons from the experience they have accumulated in that long-suffering country and to help launch an intra-Afghan dialogue together with the other countries that could help allay tensions there, primarily China, Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan’s other neighbours. We have been working actively towards this end.

As for the United States, we have been acting within the framework of this political process under the agreements being advocated by the United States in its dialogue with the Taliban and the Afghan Government. We are using our channels to make these agreements possible. There is a mechanism for consultations between Russia, the United States and China, which Pakistan sometimes joins and to which Iran has been invited. However, Iran has not acted on the invitation because of its problems with the United States and the actions Washington has been taking against Iran around the world. These consultations are a mechanism for cooperation that is being used to define the spheres where signals could be sent to the sides. This is being done within the framework of the logic of the so-called Moscow format, which brings together all of Afghanistan’s neighbours without exception, as well as the United States, Russia and China. This is more than adequate.

Now, regarding Afghanistan’s drugs and the possible involvement of the US military in the drug business. We have received numerous reports, including through the media, according to which NATO aircraft are being used to smuggle Afghan opiates to other countries, including to Europe. The governors of the concerned Afghan provinces have stated more than once that unmarked helicopters are flying in the area. It should be noted that the sky over Afghanistan is controlled by the NATO coalition. Other reports have mentioned other forms of smuggling opiates.

Of course, we cannot verify such information to the dot, but it has been reported so regularly that we cannot ignore it. If combat aircraft were used in Afghanistan (as I mentioned, it could only be NATO aircraft), the flights could only be made by military or intelligence personnel. These circumstances should be investigated, first of all in the United States. The Americans have agencies that are in charge of monitoring compliance with American laws. Second, investigations should also be held in the country where military personnel are deployed, that is, Afghanistan. This is exactly what Zamir Kabulov said. By the way, established facts show that over the 20 years of the deployment of the US and other coalition members in Afghanistan the volume of drugs smuggled into other countries, including in Europe and our neighbours, as well as into Russia, has increased several times over. Neither the United States nor the other members of the NATO coalition are seriously fighting this drug business. By the way, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko noted in a recent report that there are opium poppy plantations right next to NATO bases. This is an established fact. And this is possibly not right from the viewpoint of the US stand on the drug business.

We have regularly tried to attract the UN Security Council’s attention to this issue when we listened to reports on NATO coalition operations in Afghanistan, and we also did this via bilateral channels when we urged our partners to combat the drug industry. They replied that the mandate of the NATO mission in Afghanistan did not include drugs, that it only stipulated counterterrorist activities. But it is a well-known fact that the drug business is used to finance terrorism and is the largest source of funds for terrorist organisations. You can reach your own conclusions. As I have pointed out, we take this problem very seriously.

QuestionA few hours after this meeting of the Primakov Readings is over, an extraordinary UN General Assembly session on combating the pandemic will begin at 10 am New York time. This session was convened by the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). How important is this session? Who will represent Russia? Do you think the UN is late in responding to the pandemic? What do you think about the Non-Aligned Movement’s principles in these conditions?

Sergey Lavrov: Of course, we are aware that a special session of the UN General Assembly on the subject of COVID-19 will be convened upon the initiative of the Non-Aligned Movement chaired by Azerbaijan this year. It will take place a little later. Today, on July 10, the procedural registration of the rules to be used for convening the session begins, since amid the coronavirus infection, all remotely held events are subject to coordination in terms of their organisational and procedural aspects. Only this matter will be discussed today. The date for convening the special session itself has not yet been determined.

I don’t think we have any reason to believe that the UN is slow or late in responding to the coronavirus infection challenges. The UN General Assembly met twice some time ago at an early stage of this situation. Two resolutions were adopted which were dedicated to the international community’s goals in fighting the coronavirus infection. Most recently, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution on COVID-19. We were unable to do this for a long time because the Americans strongly opposed mentioning the role of the World Health Organisation in the document. Eventually, we found words that allowed us to mention this role and to ensure consensus approval.

Let us remember that the World Health Assembly, by the way, with the participation of the Americans, held a special session in May. The WHA adopted a resolution supported by the US in which the WHO’s role was objectively reflected. It was agreed at that session that as soon as the pandemic and all major programmes are completed, an international assessment of the lessons we learned from the WHO’s work in this area would be made, but without pointing a finger at anyone. It is an objective scientific evaluation of independent professionals.

Of course, the Non-Aligned Movement is our close partner. We are a guest country that is regularly invited to NAM summits and ministerial meetings in this capacity. This body was created in a wholly different historical context at the height of the Cold War, when the developing countries that formed this movement wanted to emphasise the principle of neutrality with respect for the two military blocs. Nevertheless, the Non-Aligned Movement remains a significant factor in international politics even after the Cold War. I think this is good, since the attempts to cobble up certain blocks again (we have already discussed this today) continue. It is important that this neutrality, non-commitment and focus on advancing the principles of international law be preserved at the core of NAM activities.

By the way, another NAM summit was held in Baku in October 2019. We attended it as a guest. Important joint statements were agreed upon. We confirmed our support for strengthening multipolarity in the international arena and respect for the UN Charter principles. NAM statements in support of Palestine and Bolivia were adopted as well. Back then, these were important topics. We are interested in seeing our status in NAM help us actively work on issues of common interest.

Question: Did Dmitry Kozak give an ultimatum at the talks on the Minsk agreements, telling Kiev to draft amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine on the special status of Donbass as soon as possible? If so, why has this demand become so tough only now that these agreements are already five years old?

Sergey Lavrov: There were no demands or ultimatums. Working as Normandy format advisors, the assistants of the four leaders that are part of our Contact Group, we are trying to ensure, in cooperation with the OSCE, the direct dialogue that Kiev is required to conduct with Donetsk and Lugansk. Conceptually, we are striving for only one goal – we are asking our Ukrainian partners to reaffirm their full commitment to the Minsk agreements as they were drafted, signed and approved by the UN Security Council. When we are told that Kiev is committed to the Minsk agreements but that it is necessary to first establish control of the Ukrainian Army and border guards over the entire border, this has nothing to do with the Minsk agreements. This is a deliberate attempt to mislead the public. When we are told, at the top level, that the Minsk agreements must be preserved to continue the sanctions against Russia, we would like to know if Ukraine is primarily interested in these agreements because of the sanctions, why it signed them and whether it is still committed to what is written in them rather than this absolutely artificial and inadequate link with sanctions. The majority of EU members consider this link incoherent. This is an approach of principle. I talked with the foreign ministers of France and Germany. Mr Kozak spoke with his counterparts as well. We would like our French and German partners to continue to express their views about this as participants in the Normandy format. Every day, we hear Kiev’s official statements that simply discard the agreements that were reaffirmed by the UN Security Council after the talks in Minsk.

For all this, we continue to hold pragmatic conversation with a view to coordinating specific steps on promoting all aspects of the Minsk agreements: security, socio-economic, humanitarian and political issues. At the recent, fairly productive meeting of the leaders’ assistants of the Normandy format states, the participants reached a number of agreements on yet another detainee exchange, and the Contact Group’s security arrangements, including reconciliation of the texts of the orders that must be adopted by the parties to the conflict (Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk) and describe in detail the actions to be banned by these orders. These issues were agreed upon. The third negotiated item on the political agenda is the presentation by Ukraine of its vision of the document that will contain amendments to the Constitution to reflect the special status of Donbass fully in line with the Minsk agreements.

Understandings were reached in these three areas and were supposed to be formalised in the decisions of the Contact Group that ended its session the other day. In Minsk, the Ukrainian delegation disavowed everything that was agreed upon in Berlin. We noted this, and Deputy Chief of the Presidential Executive Office Dmitry Kozak sent a related message to his colleagues. So, this is no surprise at all. We have always insisted that the Minsk agreements must be carried out in full and with the due succession of actions. It’s not that we are losing patience, but patience helps when there is a clear understanding of what comes next. President Vladimir Zelensky came to power under a slogan of quick peace in Donbass. However, at this point, we have no idea what the attitude of his administration is to the actions that must be taken under the Minsk agreements.

Question: Former US National Security Advisor John Bolton writes in his memoirs that US President Donald Trump was unhappy about the sanctions over Salisbury and Syria. Did you hear about this? Is the agreement with the US on the exchange of top level visits still valid? Is Russia’s participation in the extended G7 format being considered?

Sergey Lavrov: I haven’t read John Bolton’s memoirs but I’m familiar with some parts of his book. Clearly, Mr Bolton has his own view of Russia-US relations, the US mission in the world, and America’s vision of the world order and what it should be. Apparently, every author wants his or her book to sell well (and in America practically every person writes a book after serving in the government for one or two years). To achieve this, it is necessary to make it interesting, and “hot issues” are helpful in this respect. I’ll leave all this on the conscience of Mr Bolton: both his presentation of this material and the spicy and sensitive details. I’ll also leave on his conscience his obvious embellishment of US actions in different situations.

Nobody has signed any agreements on exchanging top level visits because such an agreement implies a certain date for a visit, and the name of the city and geographical location. But nobody is discounting the possibility of such meetings, either. We are willing to work with the Americans at all levels and President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin has good relations with US President Donald Trump. From time to time, I talk with US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo. Our deputies also maintain a dialogue. So, if the Americans are interested, we do not see any obstacles. We don’t want our relations to be seen as some appendage to the election campaign and the tough actions taken by the sides as regards each other on the eve of the US election.

As for the G7, I think we have already said everything we wanted to say on this issue. Russia was a full member of the G8. The G8 did not meet in 2014 and not due to any action on our part. Our partners — Europe, North America and Japan — decided not to hold this event in full. This is their choice. President Vladimir Putin said in one of his comments that as before we will be happy to host the entire G8 in the Russian Federation. If our colleagues do not want this, love cannot be forced.

As for the G7, the list of countries invited to attend, as mentioned by US President Donald Trump, shows that the G7 can no longer accomplish much on its own. But even the countries that were mentioned will not make any radical change because the list is incomplete. We are convinced that the serious issues of the world and global finances can hardly be resolved effectively. Apparently, these reasons — the need to involve the main players in world financial, economic and commodity markets — have prompted the resumption and upgrade of activities in the G20. This is an inclusive mechanism that relies on consensus and the principles of equality. We believe the G20 format must obviously be preserved, encouraged and actively used if we want to talk about the underlying causes of current economic problems rather than their use in foreign policy disputes or any other sort of rhetoric.

Question: In Russia, they always say that they are ready to work with any president that is elected by the American people. Can you predict potential development of bilateral relations if former US Vice President Joe Biden wins? Do you think some analysts are correct in believing that he could revise some of President Donald Trump’s decisions, which do not benefit Russia, such as withdrawal from the INF Treaty and the Open Skies Treaty?

Sergey Lavrov: We do not comment on election campaigns. This is done by the media in all countries. The election campaign in the US is creating much interest in the entire world. This is understandable, but officially we proceed from the correct assumption that the choice of the head of state is up to the American people. This is a domestic US affair.

As for how this or that outcome might affect Russia-US relations, if we reason in a perfectly abstract way, we can quote some analysts that have commented on how this will influence disarmament talks. There is an opinion that is probably buttressed by some facts, that the Democrats are less prone than the Republicans to destroy the agreements on strategic stability and disarmament that had been reached over the past few decades. But we have not forgotten that a major anti-Russia campaign was launched during the Democratic administration of Barrack Obama. Many elements of this campaign, including sanctions, are now an element of bipartisan consensus. I don’t want to guess. This situation is unpredictable. Let me repeat, let the American people make their decision.

The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights that is in charge, among other things, of monitoring elections, has conducted such monitoring remotely and distributed a report that was recently presented at the OSCE Permanent Council. The report contains many critical remarks about the correlation of election processes to American laws. I will not go into details. You can read this report yourself. But the report mentions, in particular, that for a variety of reasons at least 2 million US citizens are deprived of the right of the vote to which they are entitled by law. Interestingly, the report notes such a congenital defect in US election legislation, notably, a two-stage election process.

At first, people elect the Electoral College that later on chooses the president. The report also noted that the creation of the electoral districts is unfair to different ethnic groups. This is an indicative observation on behalf of the OSCE. We have spoken about this for a long time. I also recall that when Condoleezza Rice was US Secretary of State, she complained about our elections. I replied that if she had specific grievances, we had international and domestic observers and many other mechanisms and the entire process would be analysed. I reminded her that in the US a nominee can win a popular vote but a different candidate can be elected president because of different shares of votes in the electoral districts and the Electoral College. This is what happened in 2000 when the Florida votes were recounted for such a long time. Eventually, this process was stopped by the Supreme Court. George Bush Jr became US President and Alexander Gore accepted his defeat. Ms Rice told me then that they know this is a problem but this is their problem and they will settle it themselves. They probably will respond to the OSCE report in the same way.

As for the prospects and the projection of this or other decision on treaties, including the Open Skies Treaty, in line with the current schedule and its own announced decision on withdrawal, the US is supposed to end its participation in the treaty on November 22 or two and a half weeks after the election. No matter who becomes president, the new administration will assume its duties on January 20. Therefore, this decision will not likely be revised if the treaty expires. If the new administration, Democratic or Republican, decides to return to the treaty, the talks will have to be started from scratch. Therefore, at the extraordinary conference of the signatories of the Open Skies Treaty that was held online on July 6 of this year, we urged all remaining parties to the treaty to try and preserve it. We are prepared to continue with it but will take our final decision on whether we should remain part of it after analysing all consequences of the US decision on withdrawing from it, that is unlikely to be revised. It is final and irreversible as we are seeing, in my opinion. This is also confirmed by what happened with the INF Treaty. The decision was announced. This was followed by attempts at persuading them to keep it but to no avail.

But let me return to what I said in replying to one of the questions. We are ready for a situation where nothing will be left of arms control due to the US’s persistent line to throw all of these agreements out. But we are also prepared not to start from scratch but continue our contacts with the Americans on all strategic stability issues. I am confident that all members of the international community will support this approach. That said, we will keep the door open for multilateral talks as well. Let me repeat that these talks must rely on common understanding, voluntary participation and a balanced lineup of participants.

Korybko to Indian Media: India Is Doing America’s Bidding Against China

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By Andrew Korybko and Parth Satam

Asia-Pacific Research, June 17, 2020

Andrew Korybko gave an interview to Indian journalist Parth Satam last weekend about India’s relations with China, the US, and Russia, just days before Monday night’s deadly clash between Indian and Chinese troops. Two excerpts were ultimately included in the article that Mr. Satam was writing about this topic. Given its importance in light of the latest clash, OneWorld is publishing the interview in its entirety with Mr. Satam’s permission.

***

Parth Satam: Can the present India-China border standoff be viewed as a larger part of the changing geopolitical scenario driven by the US pullout in Afghanistan, the abrogation of Article 370 (special status for Kashmir) by the Modi government, and the growing Indian proximity to the US where India is toeing the American line on Chinese issues (e.g. joining the anti-China chorus on the COVID pandemic)?

Andrew Korybko: Absolutely, that’s the most accurate way to assess the current situation. The preexisting differences between China and India on a host of issues were exacerbated by India’s abrogation of Article 370. Beijing condemned New Delhi for violating UNSC Resolutions on the disputed region, then some Indian officials reaffirmed their claims to Aksai Chin, which provoked a defensive reaction from China. This escalating issue was then exploited by the US, which has a shared interest with India in “containing” China, as they both perceive it. That’s why American officials have started comparing the latest incident to the situation in the South China Sea in an attempt to draw a parallel of so-called “Chinese aggression” and therefore justify their ever-intensifying “comprehensive global strategic partnership” with India (per what they both agreed to call it during Trump’s visit in February). It was therefore predictable that there would eventually be a flare-up since the situation is so tense, and India is being encouraged by the US to assert its claims. It naturally follows that India is also toeing the American line on other anti-Chinese issues as well, especially those related to the COVID-19 pandemic and “poaching” foreign companies from the People’s Republic so as to re-engineer global supply chains in a way that supports the US’ grand strategic goals.

PS: Strategists from both side of the political divide in India (albeit suspicious towards China) broadly agree that China does not intend to go to war with India despite its technological, military, and industrial superiority due to larger geopolitical priorities and is undertaking this current intrusion into Indian territories to signal to not threaten its interests in PoK and other anti-Chinese Indian moves (joining the QUAD, support to the Dalai Lama) etc. What’s your response to this assessment?

AK: I personally disagree with the characterization of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan as “PoK”, as well as describing the latest border incident as a Chinese “intrusion”, but I do agree with the spirit of the view that China does not intend to go to war with India. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that India doesn’t intend to go to war with China, even if only a brief border one similar in essence to what transpired between India and Pakistan in February 2019. Should that be the case, then I also predict that there would be a similar outcome, namely that India will not achieve its military objectives, though it might very well succeed with certain strategic ones.

For instance, India — whether rightly or wrongly, and irrespective of whether one supports its view or not — feels uncomfortable about China’s de-facto leadership of both BRICS and the SCO. New Delhi’s efforts to court Moscow as part of a grand “balancing” act have only been mildly successful but not enough to the point of making Russia as openly suspicious of China as India is. If there’s a Chinese-Indian border war, however, then India would send several powerful signals to the whole world even if it militarily loses the likely brief conflict.

First, India would position itself as the country most directly “countering/containing” China, which would appeal to its new American ally and the latter’s network of like-minded allies as well. Secondly, India would compel Russia to either choose a side (unlikely) or more vigorously “balance” between it and China. By default, any further tilt towards India along the lines of Russia’s present trend (e.g. selling more advanced offensive weapons systems) would be interpreted very negatively by China, potentially weakening their strategic partnership to New Delhi and Washington’s indirect advantage. And thirdly, BRICS and the SCO would never be the same again, which also serves American interests.

I don’t endorse that scenario because I personally hope that it doesn’t transpire, but I’d certainly understand what goals India is aiming for in the event that it happens. India also desperately needs another external enemy other than Pakistan to rally its domestic audience and distract them from the current economic difficulties and sharp partisan divides that have recently developed in the country. By presenting itself as the “American bulldog” against China, India hopes that it would receive preferential investment and other forms of support from the US and its allies, also enabling it to reach a more equitable trade deal with America later on.

PS: What is the Russian position on the Indian proximity to the US? Is the Russian Federation frustrated with India merely maintaining a transactional relationship in terms of weapons purchases or does it wish to take the partnership in newer dimensions (i.e. wanting it to be a part of the Eurasian Economic Union project)?

AK: I’m not an official representative of the Russian government so I can’t speak about their formal position, but from what I’ve observed, they’ve expressed both sentiments in recent years. Lavrov described the so-called “Indo-Pacific” as “an artificially imposed concept” created by the US during a press conference in February 2019, and he repeated his skepticism about it during the Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi back in January. At that second-mentioned time, however, he expressed hope that Russia’s “Indian friends are smart enough to understand” that the US is simply trying to use this scheme to “contain” China.

Nevertheless, Russia has regularly reiterated its commitment to diversifying relations with India beyond their present mostly transactional nature largely dependent on military-technical cooperation. This is evidenced by the joint statement that was released during Prime Minister Modi’s attendance at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok as President Putin’s guest of honor, where both leaders reaffirmed their strategic relations and promised to take them further than ever before. Two projects that are presently in the works are the Vladivostok-Chennai Maritime Corridor (VCMC) and selling BrahMos missiles to ASEAN states.

Russia’s position on India’s growing proximity to the US appears to be a mirror image of India’s position towards Russia’s growing proximity to China. Both Great Powers respect the other’s sovereign right to reach whichever partnerships they’d like, though they’d prefer that neither of them occur at the other’s expense (whether real, perceived, or speculatively latent). One solution for stabilizing their relations into the future would be to jointly lead a new Non-Alignment Movement (Neo-NAM), which I elaborated on in an article that I co-authored earlier this month for the official journal of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), which is run by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Titled “The Prospects of Russia and India Jointly Leading a New Non-Aligned Movement”, it can be read in full for free here. The proposal is already being actively discussed in one of Russia’s top think tanks, the Valdai Club, and certainly deserves further study given the important “balancing” role that it can play in the future international system. In a gist, the idea calls for both of them to pool their collective resources (especially diplomatic and economic) towards creating a third pole of influence in the increasingly bipolar world led by the American and Chinese superpowers.

Not only could that help maintain trust between Russia and India, but it could also prevent one or the other from becoming their counterpart’s “junior partner”, something that they each fear for understandable reasons. That said, I’ve since expanded on my academic proposal to incorporate my prior work on the importance of Russian-Pakistani relations, which I explain at length in my analytical piece about how “Improved Russian-Pakistani Relations Will Help Moscow Balance The New Bipolarity“. I assert that this could perfect Russia’s “balancing” act by upholding its trust with China despite any progress that might be made on the Neo-NAM simultaneously with making India think twice about the consequences of more fully pivoting towards the US.

In sum, the solution to the dilemma posed by Russia’s increasingly close relations with China as perceived by India and India’s increasingly close relations with the US as perceived by Russia is for them both to come together to jointly lead a Neo-NAM, though Moscow’s chances of successfully maintaining this complex “balancing” act between China and India would be greatly strengthened by the continued improvement of its relations with Pakistan for the aforementioned reasons. This scenario presents what I sincerely believe to be the best outcome for all five players — Russia, India, China, the US, and Pakistan — and would therefore greatly contribute to establishing a relative sense of order in today’s extremely anarchic international arena.

*

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This article was crossposted from OneWorld.

Mr. Satam’s article that included the two earlier mentioned excerpts from this interview was published at the Mission Victory India autonomous defence think tank under the title “What is China’s Intent? The Answer is in the Regional Diplomatic Scenario & the New Cold War with the US“. Mr. Satam can be followed on Facebook and Twitter.

Andrew Korybko is an American Moscow-based political analyst specializing in the relationship between the US strategy in Afro-Eurasia, China’s One Belt One Road global vision of New Silk Road connectivity, and Hybrid Warfare. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image is from OneWorldThe original source of this article is Asia-Pacific ResearchCopyright © Andrew Korybko and Parth Satam, Asia-Pacific Research, 2020

India, China teeter toward a border clash

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India, China teeter toward a border clash

May 28, 2020

Both sides have sent reinforcements to disputed Ladakh line, as Beijing flexes its muscles around Asia

by Pepe Escobar – posted with permission

A Chinese soldier (L) next to an Indian soldier
at a border crossing in a file photo.
Photo: AFP/Diptendu Dutta

It would be counter-productive for BRICS and Shanghai Cooperation Organization members India and China to come to blows on account of some extremely remote – albeit strategically important – snowy mountain passes.

But when one looks at the 3,488-kilometer-long Line of Actual Control, which India defines as “unresolved,” that can never be totally ruled out.

As the Hindustan Times reported: “India has pushed in high altitude warfare troops with support elements to the eastern Ladakh theater to counter [the] Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s aggressive posture designed to browbeat the government to stop building border infrastructure in the Daulat Beg Oldie sector as it may threaten the Lhasa-Kashgar highway in Aksai Chin.”

The highway runs from Tibet to southwestern Xinjiang Province, where the Karakoram Highway – the northern part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor – goes from Kashgar to Islamabad. Thence a road heads through Balochistan to Pakistan’s strategic Gwadar port, as part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

“The specialized Indian troops are familiar with the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China and are tuned for operating at rarefied altitudes,” Hindustan Times reports. “The scale of PLA deployment – two brigades’ strength and more – indicates that the move has the sanction of Beijing and [is] not limited to local military commanders.”
ATF

None other than Donald Trump has offered to mediate.

The current flare-up started building in late April, and led to a series of scuffles in early May, described as “aggressive behavior on both sides,” complete with fistfights and stone throwing. The Indian version is that Chinese troops crossed the Line of Actual Control (LAC), with vehicles and equipment, to block road construction by India.

The key area is around a spectacular 135 kilometer-long, 5-7 kilometer-wide lake, Pangong Tso. It’s in Ladakh, which is a de facto extension of the Tibetan plateau. One third is held by India and two thirds by China.

Pangong Lake, on the border between India and China. Photo: AFP / Antoine Boureau / Biosphoto

Mountain folds around the lake are called “fingers.” The Indians say Chinese troops are close to Finger Two – and blocking their movements. India claims territorial rights up to Finger 8, but its de facto holding extends only to Finger 4.

New Delhi has been steadily expanding infrastructure development – and also troop deployments – in Ladakh for nearly a decade. Units now spend longer periods deployed along the LAC than the six months that used to be the standard rotation.

These are called loop battalions: They do a back and forth with the Siachen glacier – which was the theatre of a localized India-Pakistan mini-war in 1999 that I followed closely.

The Indians maintain there are no fewer than 23 “disputed and sensitive” areas along the LAC, with at least 300 “transgressions” by People’s Liberation Army troops every year.

Crossing the line

The Indians are now particularly focused on the situation in the Galwan valley in Ladakh, which they maintain was breached to a distance of 3 to 4 km by PLA troops now in the process of digging defenses.

Diplomatically, it’s all pretty hazy. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused Indian troops of “crossing the line” in both Ladakh and Sikkim, as well as “attempting to unilaterally change the status of border control.”

The Indian Foreign Ministry has preferred to maintain that “established mechanisms” should prevail in the end, justifying its relative silence with the explanation that quiet diplomacy between military commanders and officials must take precedence.

That’s in stark contrast with what Indian sources on the ground are stressing: face-off between troops in at least three points in Ladakh and Sikkim; too many Chinese troops at LAC areas patrolled by India; and blocking of Indian patrols in finger areas on the Pangong Tso.

Interestingly, Indian defense sources deny there’s a Chinese troop buildup across the middle sector of the LAC, in Uttarakhand; they see what would qualify as routine “local movements.”

India-China border issues are usually settled on the border in meetings between local commanders and officials. Photo: AFP / Indian Defense Ministry / HO

It’s significant that a former Northern Army commander told The Hindu, “Normally stand-offs happen in a local area, but are resolved at the local level.” That pretty much sums up the whole state of affairs along the India-China border and also the India-Pakistan border.

Yet now, added the commander, there seems to be a “higher level in China” in terms of planning, so the skirmishes should be handled diplomatically. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is reviewing the current LAC situation.

Beijing has been mostly quiet about it. Yet the Global Times seems to be distilling the predominant Chinese narrative: India’s poor “are facing an increasingly severe threat of famine.

“Against such a backdrop, it is conceivable that hyping border tensions at this juncture will flare up nationalist sentiment and increase domestic hostility toward Chinese capital, putting unnecessary pressure on bilateral trade and dealing a further blow to the Indian economy already plagued by downturn woes.”

Global Times insists China “clearly has no intention of escalating the border disputes with India,” and prefers to stress the “overall improvement” of their “bilateral economic and trade ties.”

The usual divide-and-rule suspects, for their part, prefer to speculate on the possibility of an India-China LAC mini-war. That’s not likely to happen.

Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, billed as special representatives of India and China, met face to face for the last time in December 2019, discussing an “early settlement of the boundary question.” It looks like they will soon have to meet again.

Get Ready for the Next Game-Changer: the Digital Yuan

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May 06, 2020

Get Ready for the Next Game-Changer: the Digital Yuan

by Pepe Escobar – cross.posted with Strategic Culture Foundation

A new, radical paradigm shift is in progress. The U.S. economy may shrink as much as 40% in the first semester of 2020. China, already the world’s largest economy by PPP for a few years now, may soon become the world’s largest economy even in exchange rate terms.

The post-Planet Lockdown world – still a hazy mirage – may well need a post-Planet Lockdown currency. And that’s where a serious candidate steps into the fray: the fiat digital yuan.

Last month, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) confirmed that a group of top banks started trials in electronic payment in four different Chinese regions using the new digital yuan. Yet there’s no timetable yet for the official launch of what is called the Digital Currency Electronic Payment (DCEP).

The man with the plan is PBOC governor Yi Gang. He has confirmed that apart from the trials in Suzhou, Xiong’an, Chengdu and Shenzhen, the PBOC is also testing hypothetical scenarios for the 2022 Winter Olympics.

While DCEP, according to Yi, “has made very good progress,” he insists the PBOC will be “cautious in terms of risk control, especially to study anti money-laundering and ‘know your customer’ requirements to incorporate in the design and system of DCEP.”

DCEP should be interpreted as the road map for China leading to an eventual, even more groundbreaking replacement of the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve currency. China is already ahead in the digital currency sweepstakes: the sooner DCEP is launched the better to convince the world, especially the Global South, to tag along.

The PBOC is developing the system with four top state-owned banks as well as payment behemoths Tencent and Ant Financial.

mobile app developed by the Agricultural Bank of China (ABC) is already circulating on WeChat. This is in effect an interface linked to DCEP. Moreover, 19 restaurants and retail establishments including Starbucks, McDonald’s and Subway are part of the pilot testing.

China is advancing fast on the whole digital spectrum. A Blockchain Service Network (BSN) was launched not only for domestic but also for global trade purposes. A large committee is supervising BSN, including executives from the PBOC, Baidu and Tencent, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT).

Backed by gold

So what does this all mean?

Well connected banking sources in Hong Kong have told me Beijing is not interested for the yuan to replace the U.S. dollar – for all the interest across the Global South in bypassing it, especially now that the petrodollar is in a coma.

The official Beijing position is that the U.S. dollar should be replaced by an IMF-approved Special Drawing Rights (SDR) basket of currencies (dollar, euro, yuan, yen). That would eliminate the heavy burden of the yuan as the sole reserve currency.

But that may be just a diversionist tactic in an environment of all-out information war. A basket of currencies under the IMF still implies U.S. control – not exactly what China wants.

The meat of the matter is that a digital, sovereign yuan may be backed by gold. That’s not confirmed – yet. Gold could serve as a direct back up; to back bonds; or just lay there as collateral. What’s certain is that once Beijing announces a digital currency backed by gold, it will be like the U.S. dollar being struck by lightning.

Under this new framework, nations won’t need to export more to China than they import so they have enough yuan to trade. And Beijing won’t have to keep printing yuan electronically – and artificially, as in the case of the U.S. dollar – to meet trade demands.

The digital yuan will be effectively backed up by the massive amount of Made in China goods and services – and not by a transoceanic Empire of 800 Bases. And the value of the digital yuan will be decided by the market – as it happens with bitcoin.

This whole process has been years in the making, part of serious discussions started already in the late 2000s inside BRICS summit meetings, especially by Russia and China – the core strategic partnership inside the BRICS.

Considering multiple strategies to progressively bypass the U.S. dollar, starting with bilateral trade in their own currencies, Russia and China, for instance, set up a Russia-Chian RMB Cooperation Fund three years ago.

Beijing’s strategy is carefully calibrated, like playing go long-term. Apart from methodically stockpiling gold in massive quantities (just like Russia) for seven years now, Beijing has been campaigning for a wider use of SDR while making sure to not position the yuan as a strategic competitor.

But now the post-Planet Lockdown environment is shaping up as ideal for Beijing to make a move. Even before the onset of the Covid-19 crisis the predominant feeling among the leadership was that China is under a full spectrum attack by the United States government. Hybrid War already reaching fever pitch implies bilateral relations will only get worse, not better.

So when we have China as the world’s largest economy by both PPP and exchange rate; still the strongest growing major economy, barring the first semester of 2020; productive, innovative, efficient and on track to reach a higher technological level with the Made in China 2025 program; and capable of winning the “people’s war” against Covid-19 in record time, all the necessary elements seem to be in place.

But then, there’s soft power. Beijing needs to have the Global South on its side. The United States government knows it very well; no wonder the current hysteria is all about demonizing China as “guilty” on all – unproved – counts of fostering and lying about Covid-19.

An “impeding arrival”

A key advantage of a sovereign digital yuan is that Beijing does not need to float a paper yuan – which by the way is being sidelined all across China itself, as virtually everyone is switching to electronic payment.

The digital yuan, using blockchain technology, will automatically float – thus bypassing the U.S.-controlled global financialized casino.

The amount of sovereign digital currency is fixed. That in itself eliminates a plague: quantitative easing (QE), as in helicopter money. And that leaves the sovereign digital currency as the preferred medium for trade, with currency transfers unimpeded by geography and, the icing on the cake, without banks charging outrageous fees as intermediaries.

Of course there will be pushback. As in non-stop demonization of neo-Orwellian China for straying away from the whole purpose of bitcoin and cryptocurrencies – which is to have freedom from a centralized structure via decentralized ownership. There will be howls of horror at the PBOC potentially capable of seizing anyone’s digital funds or turning off a wallet if the owner displeases the CCP.

China is on it, but the U.S., UK, Russia and India are also on their way to launch their own crypto-currencies. For obvious reasons, the Bank of International Settlements (BIS), the Central Bank of Central Banks, is very much aware that the future is now. Their research with over 50 Central Banks is unmistakable: we are facing an “impeding arrival”. But who will take the Biggest Prize?

المُعطيات المُحيطة بالعدوان التركي على سوريا

المصدر : الميادين نت

ترتبط بالإيديولوجيا الطورانية اعتبارات تركية أخرى، من بينها استحقاقات الانتخابات المقبلة بعد خسارة البلديات الكُبرى، ومصالح برجوازية الأناضول التي تسيطر على الاقتصاد التركي، وتُعدُّ المطبخ الحقيقي لإردوغان وحزبه.

آليات تركية تدخل إلى الأراضي السورية (أرشيف)

أياً كانت خلفيّة رجب طيب إردوغان في عدوانه على سوريا، وحملة التضليل التي ساقها لتبرير ذلك، ودعمه المُرتَزقة والخَوَنة والتكفيريين، وحديثه عن مواجهة الإرهاب، وهو أكبر حاضِنة لهم، وذَرْف الدموع على فلسطين، وهو يحتضن أكبر سفارة للعدو الصهيوني، وأكبر قاعدة أميركية في الشرق الأوسط، فللعدوان التركي خلفيّة أخرى.

تنتمي تركيا إلى البلدان التي لا تتحدَّد سياستها الخارجية انطلاقاً من سياسة هذا الحزب أو الزعيم أو ذاك، بل من منظومة حسابات ومُعطيات أبعد من اللحظات السياسية والاستجابات التكتيكية، ويستوي في ذلك اليمين الإسلاموي واليمين العِلماني.

وقد أظهرت عقود القرن الـ20 والعقدان الأولان من القرن الحالي، أنَّ السياسات التركية المذكورة كانت شديدة الصِلة بالإمبرياليات السائِدة والاستراتيجية الصهيونية، فهي تكثيف لمُثلَّث استراتيجي أضلاعه الطورانية وحلف الأطلسي والصهيونية.

أولاً، الطورانية، والمقصود هو الإيديولوجيا العنصرية التوسّعية التي تُذكِّرنا بالإيديولوجيا الصهيونية، وتعود إلى العقود الأخيرة من القرن الـ19، وتداعيات الحرب العالمية الأولى، ومحاولات أتاتورك، وقبله حزب الاتحاد والترقّي، فقد ظلَّت الأوهام العُثمانية القديمة حاضِرة لديهم، على الرغم من هزيمة تركيا في الحرب التي أدَّت إلى اتفاقية “سيفر” قبل تعديلها في لوزان، بعد الدعم الروسي لأتاتورك في أيام لينين.

ظلَّت سوريا مُستَهْدَفة طِوال الوقت بدعمٍ فرنسي، ثم أميركي، للأتراك، من اقتطاع مرعش وديار بكر بعد معركة ميسلون، إلى اقتطاع الإسكندرون بعد الحرب العالمية الثانية، إلى محاولة عدنان مندريس في الخمسينات حتى يومنا هذا، بل إنَّ إردوغان، وتحضيراً لإلغاء اتفاقية لوزان 1923 وقيودها، بحسب المنطق التركيّ، يسعى إلى إعادة احتلال شمال سوريا وشمال العراق، والعودة إلى حدود الاحتلال العُثماني القديم.

 كما ترتبط بالإيديولوجيا الطورانية اعتبارات تركية أخرى، من بينها استحقاقات الانتخابات المقبلة بعد خسارة البلديات الكُبرى، ومصالح برجوازية الأناضول التي تسيطر على الاقتصاد التركي، وتُعدُّ المطبخ الحقيقي لإردوغان وحزبه.

فبعد أن فشلت هذه البرجوازية في الانضمام إلى الاتحاد الأوروبي، اخترعت الإسلام السياسيّ كغطاءِ للضَحك على شعوب الشرق الإسلامي، بدءاً من حكومات عدنان مندريس، إلى أوزال، إلى إردوغان وحزبه (في الحقيقة، الطورانية عنصريّة مُغلَّفة بالدين للمُغفّلين العرب). وتزداد أهميّة العامِل السابق مع ازدياد المُنافَسة من الاقتصاد الصيني والفييتنامي على أسواق مُتشابِهة.

يُشار هنا إلى أنَّ الطورانية نفسها مزعومة إلى حدٍ كبير، سواء في عناوينها أو جذورها، فأبطالها السياسيون منذ نهاية القرن التاسع عشر، مروراً بالثُلاثي “طلعت” و”أنور” و”جمال باشا”، وانتهاء بـ”أتاتورك”، ليسوا أتراكاً، بل تعود أصولهم جميعاً إلى منابِت شتَّى، تؤكِّد أنَّ الطورانية من جذورها إلى إردوغان هي صناعة قوَّة إقليمية، فهم من أصولٍ يهوديةٍ أو كرديةٍ أو غجريةٍ أو مجريةٍ أو ألبانية.

أما الجذور التاريخية لمُجْمَلِ العنصر التركي (السلجوقي ثم العُثماني)، فهي لا تقلّ تزويراً عن تزوير التاريخ اليهودي، فالأتراك في أصولهم قبائل بدوية رَعوية لم تعرف تركيا أبداً قبل القرن الثاني عشر، ويشبهون اليهود في ظروف استيطانهم الكولونيالي بتوظيفٍ من قوَّةٍ خارجيةٍ استدعتهم لأغراضٍ عسكريةٍ، فإذا كانت الدولة العباسية قد استدعت الموجة التركية البدوية المُقاتِلة الأولى، وهي الموجة السلجوقية، لمواجهة البويهيين الشيعة، فإن ملك بيزنطة الأرثوذكسي استدعى الموجة العُثمانية (عُثمان بن أرطغرل من قبيلة القايي) لمواجهة فُرسان الصليب المُقدَّس الكاثوليك بعد السقوط الأول لبيزنطة (القسطنطينية) على يد هؤلاء الفُرسان، وتحريرها على يد المسلمين وإعادة الأرثوذكس.

ومن مُفارَقات التاريخ أنَّ السقوط الثاني للقسطنطينية الأرثوذكسية جاء على يد الأتراك أنفسهم وتحويلها إلى إسطنبول بدعم الكاثوليك من تجَّار جنوى والبندقية.

ثانياً، البُعد الأطلسي للدور التركي في مواجهة روسيا الأوراسية واقترابها من المياه الدافِئة عبر سوريا، فالانبعاث العُثماني الأول عبر مندريس المُتأَسْلِم، ثم عبر إردوغان، هو انبعاث أميركي، كما صاغه اليهودي برنار لويس وبريجنسكي لتطويق الاتحاد السوفياتي، ثم الصّحوة الأوراسية.

ثالثاً، البُعد الصهيوني كشريكٍ أساسيّ في الأطلسي الجنوبي، وفي سيناريو الشرق الأوسط الكبير (تمزيق البُلدان العربية، وخصوصاً سوريا والعراق)، وتقاسمها بين كونفدرالية ولايات عُثمانية وكونفدرالية كانتونات إسرائيلية.

يُشار هنا إلى أن الطورانية التركية تشمل غالبيّة يهود “إسرائيل” الذين يتحدَّرون من قبيلة الخزر التركية.

الآفاق

إنَّ التمعّن في مجْمَل المُعطيات المُحيطة بالعدوان التركي يدلّ على أنه عدوان خاسِر بأهدافه القريبة والبعيدة، وسيدفع إردوغان ثمنه،عاجلاً أو آجلاً، في ضوء الاعتبارات التالية:

أولاً، سوريا الدولة المقاوِمة، وكذلك حلب، فإذا كانت تجارب الجيش العربي السوري والمقاومة الرديفة طيلة سنوات العدوان الإمبريالي، الرجعي، التكفيري، الصهيوني، والعُثماني عليها، قد أنتجت قوَّة مُجرَّبة وقيادة صُلبة، فثمّة عنصر مهم آخر قد يغيب عن الذِهن، هو مركز المقاومة الشمالية حلب.

وإضافةً إلى تقاليدها الوطنية، ثمّة “ثأر” خاصّ مع الأتراك الذين حرموها من الميناء التاريخي في الإسكندرون، كما أغرقوا الأسواق السورية بالبضائع المُنافِسة لصناعة حلب. ولا ننسى أيضاً أنَّ الأتراك قصفوها سابقاً بالمدافع في نهاية القرن التاسع عشر لتدمير مصانعها.

ثانياً، الموقف الروسي، وسيكون أصلب ممّا يتوقَّع كثيرون لأسبابٍ عديدة، على رأسها أنَّ إدلب معركة روسيّة بقَدْرِ ما هي معركة تحرير سوريا، فالجسم الأكبر من الإرهاب التكفيري هو جسم خلقته المخابرات الأميركية ودرَّبته لاستخدامه في ما بعد كجزءٍ من الطَوْق الأطلسي حول روسيا نفسها.

ومن الاعتبارات الأخرى لروسيا:

– تداعيات تجربة يوغسلافيا وتفكيكها وتداعيات التجربة الليبية، بعد أن برهنت الأحداث أنها سقطت جميعاً من خلال الإرهاب الأصولي في يد المخابرات الأميركية.

– تداعيات التجربة العراقية.

– سوريا حليف مهمّ لروسيا في ما يخصّ المياه الدافِئة والأمن البحري للأسطول الروسي.

– تداعيات حرب الغاز وخطوطه، وموقع ذلك بالنسبة إلى الغاز الروسي.

إلى ذلك، فإن للموقف الروسي تأثيرات حاسِمة في تركيا، إذا ما طغت عليها العنصرية الطورانية، وتجاهَلت حقائق التاريخ والجغرافيا، ومن ذلك:

– ارتهان الاقتصاد التركيّ لعناصر روسية ضاغِطة، بدءاً من السَيْلِ التركي أو الجنوبي لخطوط الغاز الروسية، وانتهاء بالقطاع السياحيّ، سواء من حيث النسبة (أكبر كتلة سيّاح من الروس) أو من حيث الاستثمار في هذا القطاع، وخصوصاً المناطق التي توصَف بـ”مدن الجنّة”، حيث تحتل الاستثمارات الروسية والإيرانية نسبة عالية جداً.

– القوَّة العسكرية الروسية والموقف المُجرَّب في نزاعٍ كهذا، فالإنذار الروسي في العام 1956 ساهم في وقف العدوان التركي على سوريا آنذاك.

– تذكر تركيا أنه بُعيد الحرب العالمية الأولى، ولولا الدعم الروسي الذي قدَّمته ثورة أكتوبر بقيادة لينين، وتضمَّن مُشارَكة عسكرية برية وبحرية، لانهارت تركيا وتكرَّست اتفاقية “سيفر” التي أعادتها إلى خارِطة صغيرة مُمزَّقة.

ثالثاً، إيران التي تشكِّل جزءاً أساسياً من معسكر المقاومة والمُمانَعة، وتتذكَّر أنّ تمدّد الغزو العُثماني في القرن السادس عشر للمنطقة، ارتبط بمعركتين بينهما وقت قصير، هما معركة مرج دابق التي احتل فيها العُثمانيون الشرق العربي كله، ومعركة كالديران التي أوقفت الصعود الإمبراطوري الإيراني.

رابعاً، تركيا الداخل، فالفُسيفساء التركية تنطوي على عناصر مُعوّقة بالنسبة إلى إردوغان، وقادِرة على مُفاقَمة أزمته، مثل الكرد (20 مليوناً) والكتلة العلوية (20 مليوناً أيضاً)، إضافةً إلى نفوذ منظمة الخدمة، بقيادة فتح الله غولن، ونسبة كبيرة من قوميات غير تركية فاعِلة في الوسط البرجوازي وغير معنية بالانبعاث الطوراني.

كما أنَّ حزب الشعب العِلماني، بقَدْرِ ما يشترك مع إردوغان في الأوهام الطورانية، فإنه ينتظر سقوطه. أيضاً، وفي ما يخصّ تركيا الداخل، فإن كلّ محاولات تجديد العَثْمَنة في القرن التاسع عشر، وكذلك محاولات الانبعاث العُثماني في القرن العشرين، هي محاولات فاشِلة، فبعد مدّ وجَزْر في حروب القرم والبلقان مع روسيا، خسر الأتراك هذه الحروب، كما خسروا الحرب العالمية الأولى، وانحسرت دولتهم عن مساحاتٍ شاسِعة، وفشلوا في إنتاج دور خارجيّ كجزءٍ من حروب الإمبريالية في الحرب الكورية، كما ضد سوريا أيام مندريس الذي أُعْدِمَ شنقاً.

وعلى الأغلب، إنَّ برجوازية الأناضول التي ابتدعت مع المخابرات الأميركية الانبعاث العُثماني للضّحك على مسلمي الشرق، وصنعت أحزاب هذا الانبعاث، من مندريس، إلى أوزال، إلى فتح الله غولن، وتخلَّصت منهم كلَّما أخفق أحدهم، ستبحث في ضوء نيران إدلب عن بديلٍ لإردوغان، إزاحةً أو قتْلاً، فتجمَّع البريكس الذي يضمّ روسيا والصين والهند وأسواقهم ومواردهم الضخمة، أهم بكثير من الحنين إلى القبيلة البدوية القادمة من آسيا بقيادة أرطغرل.

إن الآراء المذكورة في هذه المقالة لا تعبّر بالضرورة عن رأي الميادين وإنما تعبّر عن رأي صاحبها حصراً

فيديوات متعلقة

أخبار ومقالات متعلقة

Interstate competition swallows Bolsonaro´s Government

February 18, 2020

Fabio Reis Vianna for The Saker Blog

When U.S. President Donald Trump announced on December 2 the taxation of Brazilian and Argentine steel, restoring the immediate effect of the “tariffs on all steel and aluminum sent to the United States by these countries,” the amateur members of Bolsonaro´s government were unable to hide their disbelief in their faces of disappointment.

Even with reality falling on their heads, the blindness of the upper echelons of the government regarding the current geopolitical moment is so great that the only character who has perhaps given any hint of understanding was Vice President General Hamilton Mourão, by drawing a parallel between what happened and what, according to his words, he would say about a “characteristic of this geopolitical tension that we are experiencing, which generates protectionism (and) is an anti-cyclical movement in relation to globalization.

Even if his words make sense, what seems to escape the understanding of the vice-president of the Republic and the members of the current government as a whole is the deepest reality of the multipolar world that has been gradually unveiling itself since the beginning of the new century and that, according to the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro(UFRJ) professor José Luís Fiori, intensified between the years 2012 and 2013 with the election of Vladimir Putin and the arrival to power of Xi Jinping.

It should be noted, however, that this multipolar world misunderstood by the strategists of the current Brazilian government (if they exist…), is in no way accepted by the current hegemonic power.

The comfortable hegemony in a unipolar world, conquered by the United States since the collapse of the Soviet Union, is now challenged by new actors that, as a consequence, tension and intensify interstate competition.

Demonstrating the total mismatch of the current Brazilian government with the reality of the international system at the beginning of the 21st century, the reaction of members of the team of the Minister of Economy, Paulo Guedes, to Trump’s words is symptomatic.

In the words of one of Guedes’ assistants, “Trump has always been clear in saying that Brazil is very closed. You need something like: ‘Brazil has come up with a better plan for American companies, so I’m going to go back on the decision to raise the rates’”.

In the logic, at the very least, naive of Mr. Guedes’ team, it would therefore suffice to present the US authorities with a well-developed plan for trade opening, and then Trump would retreat.

The concrete fact is that the Brazilian government seems lost and without understanding the new configuration of the multipolar world order, not being aware of the depth of the fierce interstate competition between what, in the words of Professor Fiori, would be “the three great powers fighting for global power at the beginning of the 21st century.

The last meeting of Brics, held in Brasilia in November, was symptomatic of the unpreparedness of the Brazilian authorities in dealing with the current scenario of global dispute.

Symptomatic and worrying, because the events that permeated that summit and the reaction (or non-reaction) of guest presidents Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin to those events demonstrated the subtlety and care with which Russia and China sought to place themselves in this “minefield” that is South America today. A territory so complex and essential to their expansionist interests.

Just three days before the Brics meeting began on Nov. 10, a coup d’état took place in Bolivia, one of the few countries in the region that still had a strategic relationship with the Eurasian axis, and especially Russia, which had planned with former ousted president Evo Morales the construction of a sophisticated nuclear plant in the Bolivian altiplano, as well as plans for lithium exploration and the development of local agriculture. The documents relating to the ambitious projects had been signed in July when Morales made a diplomatic visit to Moscow.

This could be mere coincidence, if the release of former President Lula had not occurred just two days earlier, on November 8.

In addition to being the biggest opponent of Jair Bolsonaro’s far-right government, Lula is directly responsible for the creation and success of Brics and the strengthening of relations among South American nations.

In short, former President Lula, besides remaining very popular among the less favored classes in Brazil, which automatically turns him into a threat, was directly responsible for raising the country to the status of a global player beyond its region and at the same time for articulating, from Brics, a more consistent entry of the Eurasian powers in the South American scenario.

On 13 November, the official opening of the Brics summit took place in the presence of Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, Narendra Modi and Cyril Ramaphosa, who were received at the Itamaraty Palace by President Bolsonaro.

On the morning of that same day, November 13, the Venezuelan embassy in Brasilia would be invaded by a group linked to self-proclaimed President Juan Guaidó. This would somehow overshadow the beginning of the Brics summit.

In Brazil, some more hasty analysts even suggested that that invasion would have the tentacles of fundamentalist sectors of Bolsonaro´s government installed in the Brazilian chancellery, headed by the unbelievable Minister Ernesto Araújo.

However, when connecting the dots, we could suppose that there would be some connection between the events that occurred during that hectic month of November, even if this connection does not necessarily follow a linear logic or if the absence of one of the events annulled the occurrence of another.

From the perspective of the dispute for global power between competing states – which often takes off from economic logic itself – the events of November would make sense if looked at in a systemic way.

The new national security strategy of the United States – announced on December 18, 2017 – would make official what had been happening in practice since the emerging Russia, China, India and even Lula’s Brazil began the expansionist onslaughts in Africa and Latin America, and intensified when Russia, in an unprecedented show of force, decided in 2015 to intervene in Syria, defining the course of the war. For the United States it was necessary to put a brake on that. Whatever the cost.

Therefore, both the “classic” and undisguised military coup in Bolivia, the invasion of the Venezuelan embassy and even Trump’s announcement of steel taxation would be a message and would have the same subliminal message: either you move away from our opponents and align yourselves with our strategy or you will suffer the consequences.

Brazil is now at a serious historical crossroads. One of the most delicate issues in the current scenario is the technological warfare (disguised as a trade war) involving the Chinese giant Huawei.

The most visible representation of the advancement of competition in what could be called the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the dispute over 5G technology has become one of the spearheads of the expansive forces that clash as power and influence disputes in the world system intensify.

After having already missed the opportunity to participate in important markets such as Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Taiwan, which closed their doors due to restrictions imposed by the Americans, the auction for the introduction of 5G technology in Brazil, originally scheduled for the year 2020, would be a golden opportunity for the Chinese to put into practice, and in a large and important market, all their know-how for the construction of a vast network of fifth generation mobile Internet.

As the Chinese Ambassador to Brazil, Yang Wanming, rightly said last November: “I am confident in the sense of cooperation between China and Brazil in 5G technology. Brazil will take into account the interest in the country’s development”.

The Chinese rationality expressed in Ambassador Wanming’s words would fit perfectly if we were living in a period of normality in international relations; but we are not, and the technological war that has the 5G prominence race as its backdrop hides the challenging moment of transition between long cycles of international politics. This is a moment in which the world power, no longer fully capable of exercising leadership in the world political system, finds itself challenged by one or more emerging powers.

This has been the case since when, around 1560, the hegemonic power of the time, Portugal, was challenged by Spain, who then took the lead in the newborn world system, to be challenged by the Netherlands and so on until the present day.

In the midst of the tug-of-war between the Chinese and Americans, Brazil will have no choice but to invent a good technical excuse and postpone the 5G auction until, probably, 2021. The National Agency of Telecommunications (Anatel) has already been rehearsing the postponement by claiming that the 5G network would interfere with the signal of open TV in rural areas, because the transmission is made by satellite dish.

In the end, the pressure that the brazilian government is probably suffering behind the scenes from the Trump administration makes us feel that the announcement of the taxing of brazilian steel via Twitter would have a retaliatory bias with regard specifically to the 5G issue. This possibility is even admitted by the unsuspected brazilian economist linked to the financial market André Perfeito.

The fact is that the Brics meeting revealed a much more docile and receptive Bolsonaro to the presence of Eurasian powers than one could have imagined. Facing a serious recession, the brazilian government had no choice but to take advantage of that moment to seek investments from Brics’ partners.

As old and experienced players on the global board, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping were able to position their pawns strategically from their arrival in Brasilia until the last minute on Brazilian soil.

Even with the not friendly invasion of the Venezuelan embassy (a strategic ally of Russia and China) on the day they would be received by Bolsonaro at the Itamaraty Palace, the not at all naive Eurasian heads of state skillfully did not comment on what had happened and tried to reconcile, throughout the summit, the convergent positions among all the partners.

The clear attempt to sabotage the meeting, in the end, only served to highlight the extreme care with which Xi and Putin sewed the treaties, trying to avoid displeasing Bolsonaro on delicate issues such as the Venezuelan issue – which he did until they accepted that the traditional parallel meeting with countries in the region would not occur.

This posture is in line with what Professor Alexander Zhebit of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) said about a fundamental characteristic of Brics since its creation. According to Zhebit, the elements of agreement would be essential for the maintenance of the internal harmony of the group. In this way, the differences would be smoothed out by the constant negotiation of common points.

Not by chance, in the final declaration of the meeting, besides the fact that the Venezuelan question was not touched, any mention of support for Iran (also a strategic Sino-Russian ally in the Eurasian context) was even avoided.

China and Russia are fully aware of the role of subservience to the United States that the Bolsonaro´s Government plays and, as good old players, have the wisdom to understand the relationship with Brazil as a long-term one.

Old countries know that diplomacy and patience live together, and in a way – as researcher Oliver Stuenkel rightly said – Xi and Putin, strategically, know that the more isolated Brazil is on the international scene, the more important they will be.

Fabio Reis Vianna, lives in Rio de Janeiro, is a bachelor of laws ( LL.B), writer and geopolitical analyst. He is currently a columnist in international politics for the printed version of the centennial brazilian newspaper Monitor Mercantil

Putin Marks 75th Anniversary of WWII With Speech Warning About Looming Global Conflict!

February 07, 2020

Full Transcript : http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/62732

Presentation of foreign ambassadors’ letters of credence

February 5, 202013:45The Kremlin, Moscow

Vladimir Putin received letters of credence from 23 newly-appointed foreign ambassadors. The ceremony was held in the Grand Kremlin Palace’s Alexander Hall.

Letters of credence were presented to the President of Russia by Graeme Leslie Meehan (Australia), Lotfi Bouchaara (Kingdom of Morocco), Zhang Hanhui (People’s Republic of China), Malena Mard (Kingdom of Sweden), Geza Andreas von Geyr (Germany), Brian McElduff (Ireland), Miroslav Lazanski (Republic of Serbia), Sadasivan Premjith (Republic of Singapore), Eat Seyla (Kingdom of Cambodia), Ekaterini Nassika (Hellenic Republic),Abdulrahman Hamid Mohammed Al-Hussaini (Republic of Iraq), Mohamed Sherif Kourta (People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria), Dulamsuren Davaa (Mongolia), Tarak ben Salem (Republic of Tunisia), Kazem Jalali (Islamic Republic of Iran), Kamrul Ahsan (People’s Republic of Bangladesh), Deborah Jane Bronnert (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland), Si’alei van Toor (New Zealand), Alison LeClaire (Canada), Pierre Levy (French Republic), John J. Sullivan (United States), Efrain Villarreal Arenales (Republic of Panama) and Yermek Kosherbayev (Republic of Kazakhstan).

* * *

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to welcome you in the Kremlin at this ceremony to present your credentials and to congratulate you on officially commencing your diplomatic activities here in Russia.

You have an important and serious mission: to promote the development of comprehensive relations between the countries you represent and Russia. We proceed from the fact that you will be responsible for expanding our political dialogue and trade and economic ties as well as deepening cultural exchanges and promoting people-to-people contacts. And we are sincerely interested in making your embassies’ work in these key spheres successful. You can always count on the help of the Russian official agencies as well as businesses and civil circles. All your useful endeavours will definitely be supported.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII. In May we invite foreign leaders and delegations to attend celebrations marking the great Victory in Moscow to commemorate the memory of millions of victims, pay tribute to the veterans and show our committal to the ideals of peace, freedom and justice. The victor countries, members of the anti-Hitler coalition, made these ideals the foundation of the post-war world order embodied in the United Nations Charter 75 years ago.

Unfortunately, nowadays humankind is coming ever closer to a dangerous line. Regional conflicts are multiplying, the threats of terrorism and extremism are growing and the arms control system is being uprooted. The global economy is also unstable.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today’s ceremony is attended by the heads of diplomatic missions of 23 countries of Europe, Asia, Africa, America and Australia. By tradition, I would like to say a few words about our bilateral relations.

Russia favours pragmatic and business-like cooperation with Australia. We are giving support to the business circles of both countries in their effort to implement mutually beneficial joint projects and are facilitating the expansion of humanitarian contacts.

We are satisfied with the present state of collaboration with Morocco. Our states have achieved decent results in mutual trade, agriculture, and deep-sea fisheries. There are opportunities for advanced Russian technologies and R&D results to reach the Moroccan market.

Our relations with the People’s Republic of China are at an unprecedentedly high level. In fact, this is a comprehensive strategic partnership. Bilateral trade is consistently being built up. The Power of Siberia gas pipeline has been put into operation. Ties in the field of defence and military-technical cooperation are developing successfully. In April, we are planning to launch the Russian-Chinese cross Year of Scientific, Technological and Innovation Cooperation. Our two countries coordinate their positions on key global and regional problems and work in unison at international organisations and associations, including the UN, BRICS, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. China and all of us have come face to face with the threat of the coronavirus. Leaders of the PRC have been taking resolute and energetic measures to halt the epidemic. We are ready to render help and every kind of assistance to the friendly Chinese people.

We are keen to promote cooperation with Sweden in the spirit of good-neighbourliness and mutual respect. Held in St Petersburg last year, our talks with Prime Minister Stefan Löfven have confirmed that our two countries have the capacity for invigorating our economic, cultural and humanitarian contacts and for joint work on matters related to the Baltic Sea and other regional affairs.

Russia attaches much importance to promoting constructive collaboration with the Federal Republic of Germany. We regularly discuss with Ms Chancellor Angela Merkel current international and bilateral issues. We have supported the idea to hold a conference on a Libyan settlement in Berlin and participated in it in the most pro-active manner. Russia and the FRG are intensifying their mutually beneficial cooperation in trade, investment, and energy, and we intend to continue this joint positive work.

Russia and Ireland are striving for closer trade and economic cooperation, including in high technology, innovation and agriculture. There are opportunities for bilateral cooperation in education, culture and similar areas.

Russia and Serbia are linked by a strategic partnership that relies on traditions of friendship and the cultural, spiritual and historical affinity of our fraternal peoples. Last December, meaningful talks were held with President Aleksandar Vucic in Sochi. Important agreements were reached on bilateral cooperation in an entire range of areas: the economy, trade, the power industry, culture and coordination on regional matters. Russia is doing much to help maintain the situation in the Balkans stable and safe. We want Belgrade and Pristina to reach a mutually acceptable solution to the Kosovo problem on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 1244.

Singapore is Russia’s highly promising partner in the Asia-Pacific Region. We appreciate our political dialogue that is actively promoting practical cooperation. The implementation of the free trade agreement signed by the Eurasian Economic Union and Singapore at the end of last year is designed to give an impetus to mutual trade and investment growth. We hope to conclude a Russia-Singapore bilateral agreement on services and investment.

We are friends and partners with the Kingdom of Cambodia. We are interested in further developing our relations in diverse areas, including politics and security, trade and investment, as well as educational and other people-to-people exchanges.

I am convinced that the further development of relations between Russia and the Hellenic Republic meets the interests of our states and certainly aligns with the centuries-old traditions of friendship and mutual affinity between our nations. In addition to our cooperation in politics, the economy and the power industry, there are good opportunities for expanding our contacts in tourism and culture. In this context, I would like to mention the current Cross Year of Language and Literature.

Russia and Iraq have accumulated a wealth of experience of mutually beneficial cooperation in many spheres, including the fuel and energy sector. Russia firmly stands for the preservation of Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and has helped to ensure Iraqi security. We believe that efforts towards internal political stability in Iraq should be taken within the framework of a broad national dialogue based on respect for the interests of all citizens, regardless of their ideological beliefs and ethnic and religious backgrounds.

Russia has strong and friendly ties with Algeria. The presidential election held there late last year was a big step towards political and social reform in your country. We support Algeria’s balanced policy in international and regional affairs. We see good possibilities for building up our economic and military technical cooperation and for coordinating our efforts in the interests of stronger stability and security in North Africa and the Sahel-Saharan zone. I recently had a short conversation with your President in Berlin. I hope to see him in Russia soon.

Mongolia is a good neighbour and a tried and tested friend. Last year Russia and Mongolia celebrated the 80th anniversary of victory in the Battle of Khalkhin Gol and signed a termless Treaty on Friendly Relations and Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. We consider it reasonable to complement our close political interaction with practical projects in trade, investment and humanitarian spheres. We are satisfied with the development of the trilateral Russia-Mongolia-China dialogue. We would like to see Mongolia more actively involved in operations of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation as well.

We are resolved to further strengthen bilateral cooperation with Tunis, which is among Russia’s traditional partners in the Middle East and North Africa. We are ready to work together on current regional matters, including a settlement in Libya.

Russia enjoys friendly and mutually respectful relations with Iran. Major bilateral projects in the energy sector, including nuclear energy, in railway transport and other sectors of the economy are steadily expanding. An interim agreement to create a free trade area between Iran and the EAEU came into force in 2019 and gave an additional boost to Russian-Iranian trade and investment relations. We plan to promote cooperation with Iran in fighting international terrorism, coordinate our actions as part of the Astana process and facilitate a settlement in Syria. Russia will continue to make efforts to preserve the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action for the Iranian nuclear programme. We believe this international agreement is critically important for global and regional stability.

Russian-Bangladeshi ties are quite dynamic. Trade is up, and a major project to build Bangladesh’s first nuclear power station, Rooppur, is in progress. Given the proximity of our respective states’ approaches to most pressing regional problems, we look forward to continuing close cooperation at the UN and other multilateral organisations.

The current state of relations between Russia and Great Britain can hardly be considered satisfactory by either side. We are convinced that restoring a mutually respectful political dialogue, strengthening trade and economic exchanges, and building up cultural and people-to-people contacts is in our common interest. We are ready for this.

We stand for promoting Russia-New Zealand ties in trade, investment and culture. We find it useful to interact on international issues, including counterterrorism, climate change and research in the Antarctic.

We are open to cooperation with Canada based on mutual respect for and consideration of each other’s interests. Canada and Russia are neighbours in the Arctic and share common responsibility for ensuring the sustainable development of this vast region, preserving the traditional way of life of the indigenous peoples and taking good care of its fragile ecosystem.

France is one of Russia’s key international partners. We maintain contacts with President Macron, hold regular meetings, discuss issues such as a settlement in Libya, Syria and the Middle East in general, and interact on the Ukraine crisis within the Normandy format. At a bilateral summit held in Fort de Bregancon last August, we agreed to work jointly on ensuring stability and security in Europe. Economic ties between Russia and France, including in industry and energy, continue to expand. On January 16, the Russian Seasons festival opened in France. It is designed to promote friendship and mutual understanding between the peoples of our countries.

Global peace and security largely depend on the state of relations between Russia and the United States, as well as on their stability and predictability. We are convinced that these relations should hinge on the principles of equality, respect for sovereignty and non-interference in each other’s domestic affairs. We are ready for detailed dialogue with the American side, including on arms control and strategic stability, the fight against terrorism and the peaceful resolution of regional crises. For us, it is absolutely obvious that resuming constructive bilateral collaboration meets the interests of Russia, the United States and the entire world.

We advocate the further development of ties with the Republic of Panama, efforts to streamline the legal framework, cooperation and expanded contacts on the economic agenda. We will continue to encourage educational exchanges and help train specialists for Panama.

Relations between Russia and Kazakhstan are an example of reliable strategic partnership and allied cooperation. Bilateral collaboration is based on solid historical, cultural and spiritual bonds between our nations. We appreciate the current level of trust and collaboration with the leaders of Kazakhstan. Last year, we held nine meetings with President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. And, of course, we maintain close contacts with our good friend Nursultan Nazarbayev. Sustainable integration within the Eurasian Economic Union continues to develop largely through joint efforts of Russia and Kazakhstan. Trade and economic relations between our countries are expanding in all areas, including in industry, energy and investment. Russia and Kazakhstan closely coordinate their approaches to matters on the international agenda. It is common knowledge that our Kazakhstani partners provided a venue for launching the Astana negotiating process to achieve a Syrian peace settlement.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Intensive but highly interesting work awaits all of you. I hope that you will be able to get to know Russia better, feel its pulse and watch our country accomplish important and ambitious tasks of political, economic and social development. I also hope that you will provide real assistance in expanding bilateral ties between Russia and the states you represent and will facilitate stronger friendship and mutual understanding between our nations. I wish you every success and all the best.

Thank you.

You Say You Want a (Russian) Revolution?

Image result for You Say You Want a (Russian) Revolution?
December 27, 2019

Andrei Martyanov’s latest book provides unceasing evidence about the kind of lethality waiting for U.S. forces in a possible, future war against real armies (not the Taliban or Saddam Hussein’s).

Pepe ESCOBAR

Once in a blue moon an indispensable book comes out making a clear case for sanity in what is now a post-MAD world. That’s the responsibility carried by “The (Real) Revolution in Military Affairs,” by Andrei Martyanov (Clarity Press), arguably the most important book of 2019.

Martyanov is the total package — and he comes with extra special attributes as a top-flight Russian military analyst, born in Baku in those Back in the U.S.S.R. days, living and working in the U.S., and writing and blogging in English.

Right from the start, Martyanov wastes no time destroying not only Fukuyama’s and Huntington’s ravings but especially Graham Allison’s childish and meaningless Thucydides Trap argument — as if the power equation between the U.S. and China in the 21stcentury could be easily interpreted in parallel to Athens and Sparta slouching towards the Peloponnesian War over 2,400 years ago. What next? Xi Jinping as the new Genghis Khan?

(By the way, the best current essay on Thucydides is in Italian, by Luciano Canfora (“Tucidide: La Menzogna, La Colpa, L’Esilio”). No Trap. Martyanov visibly relishes defining the Trap as a “figment of the imagination” of people who “have a very vague understanding of real warfare in the 21st century.” No wonder Xi explicitly said the Trap does not exist.)

Martyanov had already detailed in his splendid, previous book, “Losing Military Supremacy: The Myopia of American Strategic Planning,” how “American lack of historic experience with continental warfare” ended up “planting the seeds of the ultimate destruction of the American military mythology of the 20thand 21stcenturies which is foundational to the American decline, due to hubris and detachment of reality.” Throughout the book, he unceasingly provides solid evidence about the kind of lethality waiting for U.S. forces in a possible, future war against real armies (not the Taliban or Saddam Hussein’s), air forces, air defenses and naval power.

Do the Math

One of the key takeaways is the failure of U.S. mathematical models: and readers of the book do need to digest quite a few mathematical equations. The key point is that this failure led the U.S. “on a continuous downward spiral of diminishing military capabilities against the nation [Russia] she thought she defeated in the Cold War.”

In the U.S., Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) was introduced by the late Andrew Marshall, a.k.a. Yoda, the former head of Net Assessment at the Pentagon and the de facto inventor of the “pivot to Asia” concept. Yet Martyanov tells us that RMA actually started as MTR (Military-Technological Revolution), introduced by Soviet military theoreticians back in the 1970s.

One of the staples of RMA concerns nations capable of producing land-attack cruise missiles, a.k.a. TLAMs. As it stands, only the U.S., Russia, China and France can do it. And there are only two global systems providing satellite guidance to cruise missiles: the American GPS and the Russian GLONASS. Neither China’s BeiDou nor the European Galileo qualify – yet – as global GPS systems.

Then there’s Net-Centric Warfare (NCW). The term itself was coined by the late Admiral Arthur Cebrowski in 1998 in an article he co-wrote with John Garstka’s titled, “Network-Centric Warfare – Its Origin and Future.”

Deploying his mathematical equations, Martyanov soon tells us that “the era of subsonic anti-shipping missiles is over.” NATO, that brain-dead organism (copyright Emmanuel Macron) now has to face the supersonic Russian P-800 Onyx and the Kalibr-class M54 in a “highly hostile Electronic Warfare environment.” Every developed modern military today applies Net-Centric Warfare (NCW), developed by the Pentagon in the 1990s.

No Escape From the Kinzhal

Martyanov mentions in his new book something that I learned on my visit to Donbass in March 2015: how NCW principles, “based on Russia’s C4ISR capabilities made available by the Russian military to numerically inferior armed forces of the Donbass Republics (LDNR), were used to devastating effect both at the battles of Ilovaisk and Debaltsevo, when attacking the cumbersome Soviet-era Ukrainian Armed Forces military.”

Martyanov provides ample information on Russia’s latest missile – the hypersonic Mach-10 aero-ballistic Kinzhal, recently tested in the Arctic.

Crucially, as he explains, “no existing anti-missile defense in the U.S. Navy is capable of shooting [it] down even in the case of the detection of this missile.” Kinzhal has a range of 2,000 km, which leaves its carriers, MiG-31K and TU-22M3M, “invulnerable to the only defense a U.S. Carrier Battle Group, a main pillar of U.S. naval power, can mount – carrier fighter aircraft.” These fighters simply don’t have the range.

The Kinzhal was one of the weapons announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s game-changing March 1, 2018 speech at the Federal Assembly. That’s the day, Martyanov stresses, when the real RMA arrived, and “changed completely the face of peer-peer warfare, competition and global power balance dramatically.”

Top Pentagon officials such as General John Hyten,  vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, have admitted on the record there are “no existing countermeasures” against, for instance, the hypersonic, Mach 27 glide vehicle Avangard (which renders anti-ballistic missile systems useless), telling the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee the only way out would be “a nuclear deterrent.” There are also no existing counter-measures against anti-shipping missiles such as the Zircon and Kinzhal.

Any military analyst knows very well how the Kinzhal destroyed a land target the size of a Toyota Corolla in Syria after being launched 1,000 km away in adverse weather conditions. The corollary is the stuff of NATO nightmares: NATO’s command and control installations in Europe are de facto indefensible.

Martyanov gets straight to the point: “The introduction of hypersonic weapons surely pours some serious cold water on the American obsession with securing the North American continent from retaliatory strikes.”

Kh-47M2 Kinzhal; 2018 Moscow Victory Day Parade. (Kremilin via Wikimedia Commons)

Martyanov is thus unforgiving on U.S. policymakers who “lack the necessary tool-kit for grasping the unfolding geostrategic reality in which the real revolution in military affairs … had dramatically downgraded the always inflated American military capabilities and continues to redefine U.S. geopolitical status away from its self-declared hegemony.”

And it gets worse: “Such weapons ensure a guaranteed retaliation [Martyanov’s italics] on the U.S. proper.” Even the existing Russian nuclear deterrents – and to a lesser degree Chinese, as paraded recently — “are capable of overcoming the existing U.S. anti-ballistic systems and destroying the United States,” no matter what crude propaganda the Pentagon is peddling.

In February 2019, Moscow announced the completion of tests of a nuclear-powered engine for the Petrel cruise missile. This is a subsonic cruise missile with nuclear propulsion that can remain in air for quite a long time, covering intercontinental distances, and able to attack from the most unexpected directions. Martyanov mischievously characterizes the Petrel as “a vengeance weapon in case some among American decision-makers who may help precipitate a new world war might try to hide from the effects of what they have unleashed in the relative safety of the Southern Hemisphere.”

Hybrid War Gone Berserk

Beijing parade celebrating the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic, October 2019. (YouTube screenshot)

A section of the book expands on China’s military progress, and the fruits of the Russia-China strategic partnership, such as Beijing buying $3 billion-worth of S-400 Triumph anti-aircraft missiles — “ideally suited to deal with the exact type of strike assets the United States would use in case of a conventional conflict with China.”

Because of the timing, the analysis does not even take into consideration the arsenal presented in early October at the Beijing parade celebrating the 70thanniversary of the People’s Republic.

That includes, among other things, the “carrier-killer” DF-21D, designed to hit warships at sea at a range of up to 1,500 km; the intermediate range “Guam Killer” DF-26; the DF-17 hypersonic missile; and the long-range submarine-launched and ship-launched YJ-18A anti-ship cruise missiles. Not to mention the DF-41 ICBM – the backbone of China’s nuclear deterrent, capable of reaching the U.S. mainland carrying multiple warheads.

Martyanov could not escape addressing the RAND Corporation, whose reason to exist is to relentlessly push for more money for the Pentagon – blaming Russia for “hybrid war” (an American invention)  even as it moans about the U.S.’s incapacity of defeating Russia in each and every war game. RAND’s war games pitting the U.S. and allies against Russia and China invariably ended in a “catastrophe” for the “finest fighting force in the world.”

Martyanov also addresses the S-500s, capable of reaching AWACS planes and possibly even capable of intercepting hypersonic non-ballistic targets. The S-500 and its latest middle-range state of the art air-defense system S-350 Vityaz will be operational in 2020.

His key takeway: “There is no parity between Russia and the United States in such fields as air-defense, hypersonic weapons and, in general, missile development, to name just a few fields – the United States lags behind in these fields, not just in years but in generations [italics mine].”

All across the Global South, scores of nations are very much aware that the U.S. economic “order” – rather disorder – is on the brink of collapse. In contrast, a cooperative, connected, rule-based, foreign relations between sovereign nations model is being advanced in Eurasia – symbolized by the merging of the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the NDB (the BRICS bank).

The key guarantors of the new model are Russia and China. And Beijing and Moscow harbor no illusion whatsoever about the toxic dynamics in Washington. My recent conversations with top analysts in Kazakhstan last month and in Moscow last week once again stressed the futility of negotiating with people described – with  overlapping shades of sarcasm – as exceptionalist fanatics. Russia, China and many corners of Eurasia have figured out there are no possible, meaningful deals with a nation bent on breaking every deal.

Indispensable? No: Vulnerable

Martyanov cannot but evoke Putin’s speech to the Federal Assembly in February 2019, after the unilateral Washington abandonment of the INF treaty, clearing the way for U.S. deployment of intermediate and close range missiles stationed in Europe and pointed at Russia:

“Russia will be forced to create and deploy those types of weapons… against those regions from where we will face a direct threat, but also against those regions hosting the centers where decisions are taken on using those missile systems threatening us.”

Translation: American Invulnerability is over – for good.

In the short term, things can always get worse. At his traditional, year-end presser in Moscow, lasting almost four and a half hours, Putin stated that Russia is more than ready to “simply renew the existing New START agreement”, which is bound to expire in early 2021: “They [the U.S.] can send us the agreement tomorrow, or we can sign and send it to Washington.” And yet, “so far our proposals have been left unanswered. If the New START ceases to exist, nothing in the world will hold back an arms race. I believe this is bad.”

“Bad” is quite the euphemism. Martyanov prefers to stress how “most of the American elites, at least for now, still reside in a state of Orwellian cognitive dissonance” even as the real RMA “blew the myth of American conventional invincibility out of the water.”

Martyanov is one of the very few analysts – always from different parts of Eurasia — who have warned about the danger of the U.S. “accidentally stumbling” into a war against Russia, China, or both which is impossible to be won conventionally, “let alone through the nightmare of a global nuclear catastrophe.”

Is that enough to instill at least a modicum of sense into those who lord over that massive cash cow, the industrial-military-security complex? Don’t count on it.

consortiumnews.com

The views of individual contributors do not necessarily represent those of the Strategic Culture Foundation.

Militarization of South America, Coup in Bolivia and Argentina’s rapprochement with the Eurasian powers

Militarization of South America, Coup in Bolivia and Argentina’s rapprochement with the Eurasian powers

By Fabio Reis Vianna for The Saker Blog

On October 29th, the Cycle of Seminars on World Economy Analysis, organized by professors Monica Bruckmann and Franklin Trein, received in the Noble Hall of the IFCS-UFRJ, in Rio de Janeiro, the illustrious presence of the former vice-president of the BRICS Development Bank, Professor Paulo Nogueira Batista.

In the midst of the peculiar moment of social upheavals that are spreading throughout the world, the New Silk Road was discussed, a major Chinese project of geo-economic integration of Eurasia through vast road networks, high-speed trains, gas pipelines, fiber optic cables and ports, and that will benefit millions of people (including Western Europe, and incidentally, the African continent and Latin America itself).

To this end, three institutions created in the orbit of this project would play a key role: the Silk Road Fund, the AIIB (Asian Investment and Infrastructure Bank), and the NBD (BRICS Development Bank).

As the Brazilian State is a shareholder and founder of the NDB, many financing projects from this global institution could already have been approved and would be very welcome to the staggering Brazilian economy. However, despite the fact that in recent years, specifically from 2003 to June 2018, Chinese companies have invested almost 54 billion dollars in more than 100 projects, according to data from the Brazilian government itself, as of 2017, investments have fallen sharply.

According to a study by the Brazil-China Business Council (CBBC), Chinese investments in Brazil totaled 8.8 billion dollars in 2017 and no more than 3 billion dollars in 2018. A drop of 66%.

The deepening of the Brazilian framing of the US imperial orbit says a lot about this.

With the institutionalization of the New Defense Strategy of the United States, enacted on December 18, 2017, what had been happening in practice since mid-2012 was made official, with the acceleration of the interstate dispute and the escalation of global competition: the American repositioning in global geopolitical chess in an increasingly aggressive and unilateral manner.

Leaving aside the multilateralist rhetoric promoted over the last century, the Americans, faced with the strengthening of the “revisionist” powers Russia and China – questioners of the American centrality in the use of the rules and institutions created and managed unilaterally throughout the 20th century -, now seek to impose their will, without concessions, on the countries of the so-called Western Hemisphere. This is a region to which the United States rightfully attributes itself to the full exercise of sovereignty, for considering its zone of direct influence, thus inadmitting any contestation to its supremacy, not even any strategic alliance of countries that can create an alternative pole of power; much less in the Southern Cone of the continent.

Thus, the position of total alignment of the current Brazilian government with the interests of the Trump administration is very much related to this framing of the Western Hemisphere to the strategy of containing the expansionism of Eurasian actors.

If the deepening of the Eurasian project and the Sino-Russian strategic partnership – within Mackinder’s theory of heartland control – would already be inadmissible on its own, then the participation of a large Western Hemisphere country as a protagonist of an institution contesting old rules established and regulated by the hegemon would be too much: Brazil had to be separated from Russia and China at all costs, even if for this the country had to bear the price of seeing its institutions destroyed and involved in the labyrinth of a near military closure of the regime.

The last few months have been very hectic in many different parts of the world, particularly in South America.

Even if for not exactly similar reasons, especially in the specific cases of Peru and Bolivia, the popular protests that took place in Ecuador and Chile would have in common the characteristics of an almost natural reaction of self-protection of these societies to neoliberal restrictive policies.

As if it were an old irony of history, at the very moment when we are experiencing the shredding of interstate competition, there emerges a transmission belt spreading over several countries, as distant as they are disparate among themselves, the spark of social protests.

Curiously, this powerful and dangerous combination of social dissatisfaction and the escalation of conflicts between countries, in other periods of history, would end up being configured in that period of transition between the final cycles and of reconfiguration of the great board of the world system.

In view of this, it is important to highlight the risk of a characteristic in common that is gradually emerging in some South American countries: militarization.

With the escalation of global conflicts, the framing of South America to the North American strategy of containment of Eurasian adversaries and in the face of popular agitations to the deterioration of living standards, the lamentable option for the imposition of naked and crude order arises, bringing back to the political scenario of these countries the presence of the military as guarantors of institutional stability.

The region is moving towards a scenario in which elected governments, facing growing internal unrest, would depend on the military to survive.

The recent events in Peru, Ecuador and Chile do not allow us to lie. Apart from the fact that Brazil already lives under the shadow of a veiled military tutelage of its institutions.

The off-curve point of this story is Argentina and the impressive electoral victory of the Peronist opposition (at a time when the use of destabilizing tools has been frequent to interfere in electoral results, as in the case of the mass spread of fake news via Whatsapp in favor of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil).

Against all odds, in a region harassed by increasingly aggressive interference from the United States, Argentina is heading towards the resumption of a project of an autonomous and sovereign nation.

Faced with the successful destruction of the Brazil-Argentina strategic alliance, which had been strengthening since the re-democratization of the two nations in the mid-1980s, Argentina will face the complex challenge of seeking to expand its international insertion without its former Mercosur partner.

Something interesting said by Professor Paulo Nogueira Batista, in the Cycle of Seminars on Analysis of the World Economy, concerns the current Chinese position in the face of the aggressiveness and truculence of the Trump administration: paradoxically, such aggressiveness would be containing the Chinese expansionist impetus of recent years in South America, which, according to the professor, could open great opportunities for the countries of the region to bargain more favorable agreements for the Chinese. With the paralysis of Brazil and its blind alignment with the New Defense Strategy of the United States, Argentina has the opportunity not only to bargain for favorable trade agreements, but also to occupy the space left vacant by Brazil in the Eurasian integration project.

As Professor Paulo Nogueira Batista rightly said, the BRICS, and especially their development bank (NBD), would be heading toward a process of expansion of their participants.

In the new global geopolitical configuration, in which the intensification of the dispute increases the need of competing powers to guarantee their energy security, South America is already seen by many analysts as the new center of gravity of world oil production, replacing the Middle East. The Coup d’état in Bolivia is a very clear sign that the game will tend to be heavier from now on.

As Professor José Luís Fiori, Brazil’s leading expert on geopolitical issues, warned, “Oil is not the cause of all the conflicts in the international system. There is no doubt, however, that the great centralization of power that is underway in the interstate system is also transforming the permanent struggle for energy security of national states into a war between the great powers for the control of the new energy reserves that are being discovered in recent years. A war that is developing hand in hand, and in any corner of the world, be it in the tropical territory of Black Africa or in the icy lands of the Arctic Circle; be it in the turbulent waters of the mouth of the Amazon or in the inhospitable Kamchatka Peninsula”. https://jornalggn.com.br/geopolitica/geopolitica-e-fe-por-jose-luis-fiori/?fbclid=IwAR1IEPB6xbYL9BOpClmpyeUbonPPsIRPP-BQS7L_dqxZI0sr05jTHQ1Av64

Curiously, shortly before the violent classic coup d’état against President Evo Morales, the government of that country had announced plans to nationalize its production of Lithium.

Global demand for Lithium, essential in the production of cell phone batteries, laptops and electric cars, is expected to triple in the next 15 years.

Not coincidentally, Lithium’s world’s largest reserves are in Bolivia.

If this trend is confirmed, there is no other alternative for whale countries like Brazil and Argentina than to take over the South American strategic project at the risk of ending their days fragmented and swallowed up by the interests and disputes of powers outside the region.

For now, it is up to Argentina to walk alone and out of necessity, to expand economic and geopolitical ties with China and Russia because the tendency is for the country to become the target of the next destabilizing campaigns, “fourth generation” wars and economic suffocation caused by the hegemon.

Fabio Reis Vianna, lives in Rio de Janeiro, is a bachelor in law, writer and geopolitical analyst. He is currently a columnist in international politics for the printed version of the centennial Brazilian newspaper Monitor Mercantil.

 

Released Lula in for greatest fight of his life

Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva greets his followers after his release from prison. Photo: Roberto Stuckert

Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva greets his followers after his release from prison. Photo: Roberto Stuckert

November 11, 2019

By Pepe Escobar – Posted with permission

Better not mess with the former Brazilian president; Putin and Xi are his real top allies in the Global Left

He’s back. With a bang.

Only two days after his release from a federal prison in Curitiba, southern Brazil, following a narrow 6×5 decision by the Supreme Court, former President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva delivered a fiery, 45-minute long speech in front of the Metal Workers Union in Sao Bernardo, outside of Sao Paulo, and drawing on his unparalleled political capital, called all Brazilians to stage nothing short of a social revolution.

When my colleagues Mauro Lopes, Paulo Leite and myself interviewed Lula at the federal prison, it was his Day 502 in a cell. By August, it was impossible to predict that release would happen on Day 580, in early November.

His first speech to the nation after the prison saga – which is far from over – could never be solemn; in fact he promised a detailed address for the near future. What he did, in his trademark conversationalist style, was to immediately go on the offensive taking down a long list of every possible enemy in the book: those who have mired Brazil into an “anti-people agenda.” In terms of a fully improvised, passionate political address, this is already anthology material.

Lula detailed the current “terrible conditions” for Brazilian workers. He ripped to pieces the economic program – basically a monster sell-out – of Finance Minister Paulo Guedes, a Chicago boy and Pinochetist who’s applying the same failed hardcore neoliberal prescriptions now being denounced and scorned every day in the streets of Chile.

He detailed how the Brazilian right wing openly bet on neo-fascism, which is the form that neoliberalism recently took in Brazil. He blasted mainstream media, in the form of the so far all-powerful, ultra-reactionary Globo empire. In a stance of semiotic genius, Lula pointed to Globo’s helicopter hovering over the masses gathered for the speech, implying the organization is too cowardly to get close to him on ground level.

And, significantly, he got right into the heart of the Bolsonaro question: the militias. It’s no secret to informed Brazilians that the Bolsonaro clan, with its origins in the Veneto, is behaving as a sort of cheap, crude, eschatological carbon copy of the Sopranos, running a system heavy on militias and supported by the Brazilian military. Lula described the president of one of the top nations in the Global South as no less than a militia leader. That will stick – all around the world.

So much for “Lula peace and love,” which used to be one of his cherished mottos. No more conciliation. Bolsonaro now has to face real, fierce, solid opposition, and cannot run away from public debate any more.

Lula’s prison journey has been an extraordinary liberating experience – turning a previously wounded statesman into a fearless warrior mixing the Tao with Steppenwolf (as sketched in Herman Hesse’s book). He’s free like he’s never been before – and he said so, explicitly. The question is how he will be able to muster the organizational work, the method – and have enough time to change the dire conditions for democratic opposition in Brazil. The whole Global South is watching.

At least now the die is cast – and crystal clear: It’s social democracy against neo-fascism. Socially inclusive programs, civil society involved in setting public policy, the fight for  equality versus autocracy, state institutions linked to militias, racism and hate against all minorities. Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn, to their credit, have offered Lula their unconditional support. In contrast, Steve Bannon is losing sleep, qualifying Lula as “the poster boy of the globalist Left” across the world.

This all goes way beyond Left Populism – as Slavoj Zizek and Chantal Mouffe, among others, have been trying to conceptualize it. Lula, assuming he remains free, is now ready to be the supreme catalyst of an integrated, progressive, “pro-people” New Global Left.

‘Cocaine Evangelistan’

Now for the really nasty bits.

I saw Lula’s speech deep into the night in snow stormed Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan’s capital, in the heart of the steppes, a land trespassed against by the greatest nomad empires in history. The temptation was to picture Lula as a fearless snow leopard roaming the devastated steppes of urban wastelands.

Yet snow leopards, crucially, are a species threatened with extinction.

After the speech I had serious conversations with two top interlocutors, Bern-based analyst Romulus Maya and anthropologist Piero Leirner, a crack authority on the Brazilian military. The picture they painted was realistically gloomy. Here it is, in a nutshell.

When I visited Brasilia last August, several informed sources confirmed that the majority of the Brazilian Supreme Court is bought and paid for. After all, they de facto legitimized all the absurdities that have been taking place in Brazil since 2014. The absurdities were part of a hyper-complex, slow-motion, rolling hybrid war coup that, under the cloak of a corruption investigation, led to the dismantling of industrial national champions such as Petrobras; the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff on spurious charges; and the jailing of Lula, the work of judge, jury and executioner Sergio Moro, now Bolsonaro’s justice minister, who was completely unmasked by The Intercept’s revelations.

The Brazilian military are all over the Supreme Court. Remember, Lula’s liberation happened after a narrow 6 to 5 score. Legally, it was impossible to keep him in prison: the Supreme Court actually bothered to read the Brazilian Constitution.

But there are no structural changes whatsoever on the horizon. The project remains a Brazil sell-out – coupled with a thinly veiled military dictatorship. Brazil remains a lowly US colony. So Lula is out of jail essentially because this system allowed it.

The military abide by Bolsonaro’s abysmal incompetence because he cannot even go to the toilet without permission from General Heleno, the head of the GSI, the Brazilian version of the National Security Council. On Saturday, a scared Bolsonaro asked the top military brass for help after Lula’s release. And crucially, in a tweet, he defined Lula as a “scoundrel” who was “momentarily” free.

It’s this “momentarily” that gives away the game. Lula’s murky juridical situation is far from decided. In a harrowing but perfectly plausible short-term scenario, Lula could in fact be sent back to jail – but this time in isolation, in a maximum security federal prison, or even inside a military barracks; after all, he’s a former chief of the armed forces.

The full focus of Lula’s defense is now to have Moro disqualified. Anyone with a brain who’s been through The Intercept’s revelations can clearly identify Moro’s corruption. If that happens, and that’s a major “if,” Lula’s already existing convictions will be declared null and void. But there are others lawsuits, eight in total. This is total lawfare territory.

The military’s trump card is all about “terrorism” – associated with Lula and the Workers Party. If Lula, according to the harrowing scenario, is sent back to a federal prison, that could be in Brasilia, which not by accident holds the entire leadership of the PCC, or “First Command of the Capital”– the largest Brazilian criminal organization.

Maya and Leirner have shown how the PCC is allied with the military and the US Deep State, via their asset Moro, to establish not a Pax Brasilica but what they have described as a “Cocaine Evangelistan” – complete with terrorist false flags blamed on Lula’s command.

Leirner has exhaustively studied how the generals, for over a decade on their website, have been trying to associate the PCC with the Workers’ Party. And the association extends to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Hezbollah and the Bolivians. Yes, this all comes straight from His Masters’ Voice’s playbook.

Lula, Putin and Xi

With the military betting on a strategy of chaos, augmented by Lula’s immense social base all over Brazil fuming about his return to prison and the financial bubble finally burst, rendering the middle classes even poorer, the stage would be set for the ultimate toxic cocktail: social “commotion” allied with “terrorism” associated with “organized crime.”

That’s all the military needs to launch an extensive operation to restore “order” and finally force Congress to approve the Brazilian version of the Patriot Act (five separate bills are already making their way in Congress).

This is no conspiracy theory. This is a measure of how incendiary Brazil is at the moment, and Western mainstream media will make no effort whatsoever to explain the nasty, convoluted plot for a global audience.

Leirner goes to the heart of the matter when he says the current system has no reason to retreat because its side is winning. They are not afraid of Brazil turning into Chile. And even if that ends up happening, they already have a culprit: Lula. Brazilian mainstream media are already releasing trial balloons – blaming Lula for the spike of the US dollar and the rise of inflation.

Lula and the Brazilian Left should invest in a full spectrum offensive.

The 9th BRICS summit takes place in Brazil this week. A master counter-coup would be to organize an off-the-record, extremely discreet, heavily securitized meeting among Lula, Putin and Xi Jinping, for instance in an embassy in Brasilia. Putin and Xi are Lula’s real top allies on the global stage. They have been literally waiting for Lula, as diplomats have confirmed to me over and over again.

If Lula follows a restricted script of merely reorganizing the Left, in Brazil, Latin America and even the Global South, the military system currently in place will swallow him whole all over again. The Left is infiltrated – everywhere. Now it’s total war. Assuming Lula remains free, he most certainly won’t be allowed to run again for the presidency in 2022. But that’s no problem. He’s got to be extra-bold – and he will be. Better not mess with the Steppenwolf.

The RCEP train left the station, and India, behind

The RCEP train left the station, and India, behind

Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi during the 16th ASEAN-India Summit in Nonthaburi, Thailand, on November 3, 2019. Photo: AFP / Anton Raharjo / Anadolu Agency

Biggest story at ASEAN was convergence of moves toward Asia integration, leaving Delhi out for now

ByPEPE ESCOBAR

A pan-Asia high-speed train has left the station – and India – behind. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which would have been the largest free trade deal in the world, was not signed in Bangkok. It will probably be signed next year in Vietnam, assuming New Delhi goes beyond what ASEAN, with diplomatic finesse barely concealing frustration, described as “outstanding issues, which remain unresolved.”

The partnership uniting 16 nations – the ASEAN 10 plus China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and, in theory, India – would have congregated 3.56 billion people and 29% of world trade.

Predictably, it was billed as the big story among the slew of high-profile meetings linked to the 35th ASEAN summit in Thailand, as RCEP de facto further integrates Asian economies with China just as the Trump administration is engaged in a full spectrum battle against everything from the Belt and Road Initiative to Made in China 2025.

It’s not hard to figure out where the “problem” lies.

Mahathir ‘disappointed’

Diplomats confirmed that New Delhi came up with a string of last-minute demands in Thailand, forcing many to work deep into the night with no success. Thailand’s Commerce Minister, Jurin Laksanawisit, tried to put on a brave face: “The negotiation last night was conclusive.”

It was not. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad – whose facial expression in the family photo was priceless, as he shook hands with Aung San Suu Kyi on his left and nobody on his right – had already given away the game. “We’re very disappointed,” he said, adding: “One country is making demands we cannot accept.”

ASEAN, that elaborate monument to punctilious protocol and face-saving, insists the few outstanding issues “will be resolved by February 2020,” with the text of all 20 RCEP chapters complete “pending the resolution of one” member.

RCEP dwells across a large territory, covering trade in goods and services, investment, intellectual property and dispute resolution. The Indian “problem” is extremely complex. India in fact already has a free trade agreement with ASEAN.

New Delhi insists it is defending farmers, dairy owners, the services industry, sectors of the automobile industry – especially hybrid and electric cars, and very popular three-wheelers – and mostly small businesses all across the nation, which would be devastated by an augmented tsunami of Chinese merchandise.

Agriculture, textile, steel and mining interests in India are totally against RCEP.

Yet New Delhi never mentions quality Japanese or South Korean products. It’s all about China. New Delhi argues that signing what is widely interpreted as a free trade agreement with China would explode its already significant US$57 billion a year trade deficit.

The barely disguised secret is that India’s economy, as the historical record shows, is inherently protectionist. There’s no way a possible removal of agricultural tariffs protecting farmers would not provoke a social cataclysm.

Modi, who is not exactly a bold statesman with a global vision, is between a heavy rock and a very hard place. President Xi Jinping offered him a “100-year plan” for China-India partnership at their last informal, bilateral summit.

India is a fellow BRICS member, it’s part of the Russia-India-China troika that is actually at the center of BRICS and is also a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

Questions remain whether both players would be able to work that out before the Vietnam summit in 2020.

Putting it all together

India was only part of the story of the summit fest in Thailand. At the important East Asia Summit, everyone was actively discussing multiple paths towards multilateralism.

The Trump administration is touting what it calls the Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy – which is yet another de facto China containment strategy, congregating the US, India, Japan and Australia. Indo-Pacific is very much on Modi’s mind. The problem is “Indo-Pacific,” as the US conceives of it, and RCEP are incompatible.

ASEAN, instead, came up with its own strategy: ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP) – which incorporates all the usual transparency, good governance, sustainable development and rules-based tenets plus details on connectivity and maritime disputes.

All the ASEAN 10 are behind AOIP, which is, in fact, an original Indonesian idea. It’s fascinating to know that Bangkok and Jakarta worked together behind closed doors for no fewer than 18 months to reach a full consensus among the ASEAN 10.

South Korea’s Moon Jae-in jumped in extolling the merits of his Southern Policy, which is essentially northeast-southeast Asia integration. And don’t forget Russia.

At the ASEAN business and investment summit, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev put it all together; the blossoming of the Greater Eurasian Partnership, uniting the Eurasia Economic Union, ASEAN and Shanghai Cooperation Organization, not to mention, in his words, “other possible structures,” which is code for Belt and Road.

Belt and Road is powerfully advancing its links to RCEP, Eurasia Economic Union and even South America’s Mercosur – when Brazil finally kicks Jair Bolsonaro out of power.

Medvedev noted that this merging of interests was unanimously supported at the Russia-ASEAN summit in Sochi in 2016. Vietnam and Singapore have already clinched free trade deals with Eurasia Economic Union, and Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia are on their way.

Medvedev also noted that a trade and economic cooperation deal between China and Eurasia Economic Union was signed in late October. Next is India, and a preferential trade agreement between the union and Iran has also been signed.

In Thailand, the Chinese delegation did not directly address the United States’ Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy. But Medvedev did, forcefully: “We are in favor of maintaining the effective system of state-to-state relations which was formed on the basis of ASEAN and has shown a good track record over the years.

“In this regard, we believe the US initiative is a serious challenge for ASEAN countries, since it can weaken the association’s position and strip it of its status as a key player in addressing regional security problems.”

Summits come and go. But what just happened in Thailand will remain as another graphic illustration of myriad, concerted moves leading towards progressive, irreversible Asia – and Eurasia – integration. It’s up to Modi to decide when and if to hop on the train.

Pepe Escobar on Al-Mayadeen

World at a Crossroads and a System of International Relations for the Future

Source

September 21, 2019

World at a Crossroads and a System of International Relations for the Future

World at a Crossroads and a System of International Relations for the Future” by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov for “Russia in Global Affairs” magazine, September 20, 2019

These days, the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly opens up. So does a new international “political season”.

The session begins at a highly symbolic historical moment. Next year we will celebrate two great and interconnected anniversaries – the 75th Anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic and Second World Wars, and the establishment of the UN.

Reflecting on the spiritual and moral significance of these landmark events, one needs to bear in mind the enormous political meaning of the Victory that ended one of the most brutal wars in the history of mankind.

The defeat of fascism in 1945 had fundamentally affected the further course of world history and created conditions for establishing a post-war world order. The UN Charter became its bearing frame and a key source of international law to this day. The UN-centric system still preserves its sustainability and has a great degree of resilience. It actually is kind of a safety net that ensures peaceful development of mankind amid largely natural divergence of interests and rivalries among leading powers. The War-time experience of ideology-free cooperation of states with different socioeconomic and political systems is still highly relevant.

It is regrettable that these obvious truths are being deliberately silenced or ignored by certain influential forces in the West. Moreover, some have intensified attempts at privatizing the Victory, expunging from memory the Soviet Union’s role in the defeat of Nazism, condemning to oblivion the Red Army’s feat of sacrifice and liberation, forgetting the many millions of Soviet citizens who perished during the War, wiping out from history the consequences of the ruinous policy of appeasement. From this perspective, it is easy to grasp the essence of the concept of expounding the equality of the totalitarian regimes. Its purpose is not just to belittle the Soviet contribution to the Victory, but also to retrospectively strip our country of its historic role as an architect and guarantor of the post-war world order, and label it a “revisionist power” that is posing a threat to the well-being of the so-called free world.

Interpreting the past in such a manner also means that some of our partners see the establishment of a transatlantic link and the permanent implanting of the US military presence in Europe as a major achievement of the post-war system of international relations. This is definitely not the scenario the Allies had in mind while creating the United Nations.

The Soviet Union disintegrated; the Berlin Wall, which had symbolically separated the two “camps,” fell; the irreconcilable ideological stand-off that defined the framework of world politics in virtually all spheres and regions became a thing of the past – yet, these tectonic shifts unfortunately failed to bring the triumph of a unifying agenda. Instead, all we could hear were triumphant pronouncements that the “end of history” had come and that from now on there would be only one global decision-making center.

It is obvious today that efforts to establish a unipolar model have failed. The transformation of the world order has become irreversible. New major players wielding a sustainable economic base seek to increase their influence on regional and global developments; they are fully entitled to claim a greater role in the decision-making process. There is a growing demand for more just and inclusive system. The overwhelming majority of members of the international community reject arrogant neocolonial policies that are employed all over again to empower certain countries to impose their will on others.

All that is greatly disturbing to those who for centuries have been accustomed to setting the patterns of global development by employing exclusive advantages. While the majority of states aspire to a more just system of international relations and genuine rather than declarative respect for the UN Charter principles, these demands come up against the policies desighned to preserve an order allowing a narrow group of countries and transnational corporations to reap from the fruits of globalization. The West’s response to the ongoing developments reveals true worldview of its proponents. Their rhetoric on liberalism, democracy and human rights goes hand in hand with the policies of inequality, injustice, selfishness and a belief in their own exceptionalism.

“Liberalism”, that the West claims to defend, focuses on individuals and their rights and freedoms. This begs the question: how does this correlate with the policy of sanctions, economic strangulation and overt military threats against a number of independent countries such as Cuba, Iran, Venezuela, North Korea or Syria? Sanctions directly strike at ordinary people and their well-being and violate their social and economic rights. How does the bombing of sovereign nations, the deliberate policy of destroying their statehood leading to the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives and condemning millions of Iraqis, Libyans, Syrians and representatives of other peoples to innumerable suffering add up to the imperative of protecting human rights? The reckless Arab Spring gamble destroyed the unique ethnic and religious mosaic in the Middle East and North Africa.

In Europe, the proponents of liberal concepts get along quite well with massive violations of the Russian-speaking population rights in a number of EU and EU-neighboring countries. Those countries violate multilateral international conventions by adopting laws that infringe language and education rights of ethnic minorities.

What is “liberal” about visa denials and other sanctions imposed by the West on residents of Russia’s Crimea? They are punished for their democratic vote in favour of reunification with their historical homeland. Does this not contradict the basic right of the people to free self-determination, let alone the right of the citizens to freedom of movement enshrined in international conventions?

Liberalism, or rather its real undistorted essence, has always been an important component of political philosophy both in Russia and worldwide. However, the multiplicity of development models does not allow us to say that the Western “basket” of liberal values has no alternative. And, of course, these values cannot be carried “on bayonets” – ignoring the history of states, their cultural and political identities. Grief and destruction caused by “liberal” aerial bombings are a clear indication of what this can lead to.

The West’s unwillingness to accept today’s realities, when after centuries of economic, political and military domination it is losing the prerogative of being the only one to shape the global agenda, gave rise to the concept of a “rules-based order.” These “rules” are being invented and selectively combined depending on the fleeting needs of the people behind it, and the West persistently introduces this language into everyday usage. The concept is by no means abstract and is actively being implemented. Its purpose is to replace the universally agreed international legal instruments and mechanisms with narrow formats, where alternative, non-consensual methods for resolving various international problems are developed in circumvention of a legitimate multilateral framework. In other words, the expectation is to usurp the decision-making process on key issues.

The intentions of those who initiated this “rules-based order” concept affect the exceptional powers of the UN Security Council. A recent example: when the United States and its allies failed to convince the Security Council to approve politicized decisions that accused, without any proof, the Syrian government of using prohibited toxic substances, they started to promote the “rules” they needed through the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). By manipulating the existing procedures in flagrant violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, they managed (with the votes of a minority of the countries participating in this Convention) to license the OPCW Technical Secretariat to identify those responsible for the use of chemical weapons, which was a direct intrusion in the prerogatives of the UN Security Council. One can also observe similar attempts to “privatize” the secretariats of international organizations in order to advance interests outside of the framework of universal intergovernmental mechanisms in such areas as biological non-proliferation, peacekeeping, prevention of doping in sports and others.

The initiatives to regulate journalism seeking to suppress media freedom in an arbitrary way, the interventionist ideology of “responsibility to protect”, which justifies violent “humanitarian interventions” without UN Security Council approval under the pretext of an imminent threat to the safety of civilians are part of the same policy.

Separately, attention should be paid to the controversial concept of “countering violent extremism”, which lays the blame for the dissemination of radical ideologies and expansion of the social base of terrorism on political regimes that the West has proclaimed undemocratic, illiberal or authoritarian. This concept provides for direct outreach to civil society over the head of legitimate governments. Obviously, the true goal is to withdraw counterterrorism efforts from beneath the UN umbrella and to obtain a tool of interference in the internal affairs of states.

The introduction of such new concepts is a dangerous phenomenon of revisionism, which rejects the principles of international law embodied in the UN Charter and paves the way back to the times of confrontation and antagonism. It is for a reason that the West is openly discussing a new divide between “the rules-based liberal order” and “authoritarian powers.”

Revisionism clearly manifests itself in the area of strategic stability. The US torpedoing first the ABM Treaty and now the INF Treaty (a decision that enjoys unanimous NATO members’ support) have generated risks of dismantling the entire architecture of nuclear arms control agreements. The prospects of the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (The New START) are vague – because the US has not given a clear answer to the Russian proposal to agree to extend the New START beyond its expiry date in February 2021.

Now we are witnessing alarming signs that a media campaign in the United States is being launched to lay the groundwork for abandoning the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (which has not been ratified by the United States). This calls into question the future of this treaty, which is vital for international peace and security. Washington has embarked upon the implementation of its plans to deploy weapons in outer space, rejecting proposals to agree on a universal moratorium on such activities.

There is one more example of introducing revisionist “rules”: the US withdrawal from the  Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear program, a multilateral agreement approved by the UN Security Council that is of key importance for the nuclear non-proliferation.

Yet another example is Washington’s open refusal to implement unanimous UN Security Council resolutions on the settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In the economic field, the “rules” consist of protectionist barriers, sanctions, abuse of the status of the US dollar as the principle means of payment, ensuring competitive advantages by non-market methods, and extraterritorial use of US laws, even towards the United States’ closest allies.

At the same time, our American colleagues are persistently trying to mobilise all of their foreign partners to contain Russia and China. Simultaneously they do not conceal their wish to sow discord between Moscow and Beijing and undermine multilateral alliances and regional integration projects in Eurasia and Asia-Pacific that are operating outside of the US oversight. Pressure is exerted on those countries that do not play by the rules imposed on them and dare make the “wrong choice” of cooperating with US “adversaries”.

So, what do we have as a result? In politics, erosion of the international legal basis, growth of instability and unsustainability, chaotic fragmentation of the global landscape and deepening mistrust between those involved in the international life. In the area of security, blurring of the dividing line between military and non-military means of achieving foreign policy goals, militarization of international relations, increased reliance on nuclear weapons in US security doctrines, lowering the threshold for the use of such armaments, the emergence of new hotbeds of armed conflicts, the persistence of the global terrorist threat, and militarization of the cyberspace. In the world economy, increased volatility, tougher competition for markets, energy resources and their supply routes, trade wars and undermining the multilateral trade system. We can add a surge of migration and deepening of ethnic and religious strife. Do we need such a “rules-based” world order?

Against this background, attempts by Western liberal ideologues to portray Russia as a “revisionist force” are simply absurd. We were among the first to draw attention to the transformation of the global political and economic systems that cannot remain static due to the objective march of history. It would be appropriate to mention here that the concept of multipolarity in international relations that accurately reflects emerging economic and geopolitical realities was formulated two decades ago by the outstanding Russian statesman Yevgeny Primakov. His intellectual legacy remains relevant now as we mark the 90th anniversary of his birth.

As is evident from the experience of recent years, using unilateral tools to address global problems is doomed to failure. The West-promoted “order” does not meet the needs of humankind’s harmonious development. This “order” is non-inclusive, aims to revise the key international legal mechanisms, rejects the principle of collective action in the relations between states, and by definition cannot generate solutions to global problems that would be viable and stable in the long term rather than seek a propaganda effect within an electoral cycle in this or that country.

What is being proposed by Russia? First of all, it is necessary to keep abreast of the times and recognise the obvious: the emergence of a polycentric world architecture is an irreversible process, no matter how hard anyone tries to artificially hold it back (let alone send it in reverse). Most countries don’t want to be held hostage to someone else’s geopolitical calculations and are determined to conduct nationally oriented domestic and foreign policies. It is our common interest to ensure that multipolarity is not based on a stark balance of power like it was at the earlier stages of human history (for example, in the 19th and the first half of the 20th century), but rather bears a just, democratic and unifying nature, takes into account the approaches and concerns of all those taking part in the international relations without an exception, and ensures a stable and secure future.

There are some people in the West who often speculate that polycentric world order inevitably leads to more chaos and confrontation because the “centers of power” will fail to come to terms among themselves and take responsible decisions. But, firstly, why not try? What if it works? For this, all that is necessary is to start talks on the understanding that the parties should seek a balance of interests. Attempts to invent ones’ own “rules” and impose them on all others as the absolute truth should be stopped. From now on, all parties should strictly comply with the principles enshrined in the UN Charter, starting with the respect for the sovereign equality of states regardless of their size, system of government or development model. Paradoxically, countries that portray themselves as paragons of democracy actually care about it only as they demand from other countries to “put their house in order” on a West-inspired pattern. But as soon as the need arises for democracy in intergovernmental relations, they immediately evade honest talk or attempt to interpret international legal norms at their own discretion.

No doubt, life does not stand still. While taking good care of the post-WWII system of international relations that relies on the United Nations, it is also necessary to cautiously though gradually adjust it to the realities of the current geopolitical landscape. This is completely relevant for the UN Security Council, where, judging by today’s standards, the West is unfairly overrepresented. We are confident that reforming the Security Council shall take into account interests of the Asian, the African and the Latin American nations whilst any such design must rest upon the principle of the broadest consensus among the UN member states. The same approach should apply to refining the world trade system, with special attention paid to harmonizing the integration projects in various regions.

We should use to the fullest the potential of the G20, an ambitious, all-encompassing global governance body that represents the interests of all key players and takes unanimous decisions. Other associations are playing a growing role as well, alliances projecting the spirit of a true and democratic multipolarity, based on voluntary participation, consensus, values of equality and sound pragmatism, and refraining from confrontation and bloc approaches. These include BRICS and the SCO, which our country is an active member of and which Russia will chair in 2020.

It is evident that without collective effort and without unbiased partnership under the central coordinating role of the UN it is impossible to curb confrontational tendencies, build up trust and cope with common threats and challenges. It is high time to come to terms on uniform interpretation of the principles and norms of international law rather than try to follow the old saying “might goes before right”. It is more difficult to broker deals than to put forward demands. But patiently negotiated trade-offs will be a much more reliable vehicle for predictable handling of international affairs. Such an approach is badly needed to launch substantive talks on the terms and conditions of a reliable and just system of equal and indivisible security in the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasia. This objective has been declared multiple times at the top level in the OSCE documents. It is necessary to move from words to deeds. The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) have repeatedly expressed their readiness to contribute to such efforts.

It is important to increase our assistance to the peaceful resolution of numerous conflicts, be it in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Latin America or the post-Soviet space. The main point is to live up to the earlier arrangements rather than to invent pretexts for refusing to adhere to the obligations.

As of today, it is especially relevant to counter religious and ethnic intolerance. We urge all the nations to work together to prepare for the World Conference on Interfaith and Inter-Ethnic Dialogue that will be held in Russia in May 2022 under the auspices of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the UN. The OSCE that has formulated a principled position condemning anti-Semitism should act with equal resolve toward Christianophobia and Islamophobia.

Our unconditional priority is to continue providing assistance to the unhindered formation of the Greater Eurasian Partnership, a broad integration framework stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific that involves the member states of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and all other countries of the Eurasian continent, including the EU countries. It would be unwise to contain the unifying processes or, worse still, to put up fences. It would be a mistake to reject the obvious strategic advantages of the common Eurasian region in an increasingly competitive world.

Consistent movement towards this constructive goal will allow us not only to keep up the dynamic development of the national economies and to remove obstacles to the movement of goods, capital, labor and services, but it will also create a solid foundation of security and stability throughout the vast region from Lisbon to Jakarta.

Will the multipolar world continue to take shape through cooperation and harmonization of interests or through confrontation and rivalry? This depends on all of us. Russia will continue to promote a positive and unifying agenda aimed at removing the old dividing lines and preventing the appearance of new ones. Russia has advanced initiatives to prevent an arms race in outer space, establish efficient mechanisms for combating terrorism, including chemical and biological terrorism, and to agree upon practical measures to prevent the use of cyberspace for undermining national security or for other criminal purposes.

Our proposals to launch a serious discussion on all aspects of strategic stability in the modern era are still on the table.

There have been ideas floated recently to modify the agenda and update the terms. The proposed subjects for discussion vary between “strategic rivalry” and “multilateral deterrence.” Terminology is negotiable, but it is not terms but the essence that really matters. It is now much more important to start a strategic dialogue on the existing threats and risks and to seek consensus on a commonly acceptable agenda. Yet another outstanding statesman from our country, Andrey Gromyko (his 110th birth anniversary we mark this year) said wisely: “Better to have ten years of negotiations than one day of war.”

—-

العالم في مفترق طرق ونظام العلاقات الدولية من أجل المستقبل

President Macron’s amazing admission

President Macron’s amazing admission

The Saker

September 11, 2019

[this column was written for the Unz Review]

I don’t know whether the supposedly Chinese curse really comes from China, but whether it does or not, we most certainly are cursed with living in some truly interesting times: Iran won the first phase of the “tanker battle” against the AngloZionistsPutin offered to sell Russian hypersonic missiles to Trump (Putin has been trolling western leaders a lot lately) while Alexander Lukashenko took the extreme measure of completely shutting down the border between the Ukraine and Belarus due to the huge influx of weapons and nationalist extremists from the Ukraine. As he put it himself “if weapons fall into the hands of ordinary people and especially nationalist-minded people, wait for terrorism“. He is quite right, of course. Still, there is a sweet irony here, or call it karma if you prefer, but for the Ukronazis who promised their people a visa-free entrance into the EU (for tourism only, and if you have money to spend, but still…), and yet 5 years into that obscene experiment of creating a rabidly russophobic Ukraine and 100 days (or so) into Zelenskii’s presidency, we have the Ukraine’s closest and most supportive neighbor forced to totally shut down its border due to the truly phenomenal toxicity of the Ukrainian society! But, then again, the Ukraine is such a basket-case that we can count on “most interesting” things (in the sense of the Chinese curse, of course) happening there too.

[Sidebar: interestingly, one of the people the Ukrainians gave up in this exchange was Vladimir Tsemakh, a native of the Donbass who was kidnapped by the Ukie SBU in Novorussia (our noble “Europeans” did not object to such methods!) and declared the “star witness” against Russia in the MH-17 (pseudo-)investigation. Even more pathetic is that the Dutch apparently fully endorsed this load of crapola. Finally, and just for a good laugh, check out how the infamous’ Bellincat presented Tsemakh. And then, suddenly, everybody seem to “forget” that “star witness” and now the Ukies have sent him to Russia. Amazing how fast stuff gets lost in the collective western memory hole…]

Right now there seems to be a tug of war taking place between the more mentally sane elements of the Zelenskii administration and the various nationalist extremists in the SBU, deathsquads and even regular armed forces. Thus we see these apparently contradictory developments taking place: on on hand, the Ukraine finally agreed to a prisoner swap with Russia (a painful one for Russia as Russia mostly traded real criminals, including a least two bona fide Ukie terrorist, against what are mostly civilian hostages, but Putin decided – correctly I think – that freeing Russian nationalists from Ukie jails was more important in this case) while on the other hand, the Ukronazi armed forces increased their shelling, even with 152mm howitzers which fire 50kg high explosive fragmentation shells, against the Donbass. Whatever may be the case, this prisoner swap, no matter how one-sided and unfair, is a positive development which might mark the beginning of a pragmatic and less ideological attitude in Kiev.

Urkoterrorists Sentsov and Kol’chenko

Some very cautious beginnings of a little hint of optimism might be in order following that exchange, but the big stuff seems to be scheduled for the meeting of the Normandy Group (NG), probably in France. So far, the Russians have made it very clear that they will not meet just for the hell of meeting, and that the only circumstance in which the Russians will agree to a NG meeting would be if it has good chances of yielding meaningful results which, translated from Russian diplomatic language simply means “if/when Kiev stops stonewalling and sabotaging everything”. Specifically, the Russians are demanding that Zelenskii commit in writing to the so-called “Steinmeier formula” and that the Ukrainian forces withdraw from the line of contact. Will that happen? Maybe. We shall soon find out.

But the single most amazing event of the past couple of weeks was the absolutely astonishing speech French President Emmanuel Macron made in front of an assembly of ambassadors. I could not find the full speech translated into English (I may have missed it somewhere), so I will post the crucial excerpts in French and translate them myself. If I find a full, official, translation I will post it under this column ASAP. For the time being, this is the link to the full speech transcript in French:

https://www.elysee.fr/emmanuel-macron/2019/08/27/discours-du-president-de-la-republique-a-la-conference-des-ambassadeurs-1

Let’s immediately begin with some of the most incredible excerpts, emphasis added by me: (sorry for the long quote but, truly, each word counts!)

L’ordre international est bousculé de manière inédite mais surtout avec, si je puis dire, un grand bouleversement qui se fait sans doute pour la première fois dans notre histoire à peu près dans tous les domaines, avec une magnitude profondément historique. C’est d’abord une transformation, une recomposition géopolitique et stratégique. Nous sommes sans doute en train de vivre la fin de l’hégémonie occidentale sur le monde. Nous nous étions habitués à un ordre international qui depuis le 18ème siècle reposait sur une hégémonie occidentale, vraisemblablement française au 18ème siècle, par l’inspiration des Lumières ; sans doute britannique au 19ème grâce à la révolution industrielle et raisonnablement américaine au 20ème grâce aux 2 grands conflits et à la domination économique et politique de cette puissance. Les choses changent. Et elles sont profondément bousculées par les erreurs des Occidentaux dans certaines crises, par les choix aussi américains depuis plusieurs années et qui n’ont pas commencé avec cette administration mais qui conduisent à revisiter certaines implications dans des conflits au Proche et Moyen-Orient et ailleurs, et à repenser une stratégie profonde, diplomatique et militaire, et parfois des éléments de solidarité dont nous pensions qu’ils étaient des intangibles pour l’éternité même si nous avions constitué ensemble dans des moments géopolitiques qui pourtant aujourd’hui ont changé. Et puis c’est aussi l’émergence de nouvelles puissances dont nous avons sans doute longtemps sous-estimé l’impact. La Chine au premier rang mais également la stratégie russe menée, il faut bien le dire, depuis quelques années avec plus de succès. J’y reviendrai. L’Inde qui émerge, ces nouvelles économies qui deviennent aussi des puissances pas seulement économiques mais politiques et qui se pensent comme certains ont pu l’écrire, comme de véritables États civilisations et qui viennent non seulement bousculer notre ordre international, qui viennent peser dans l’ordre économique mais qui viennent aussi repenser l’ordre politique et l’imaginaire politique qui va avec, avec beaucoup de force et beaucoup plus d’inspiration que nous n’en avons. Regardons l’Inde, la Russie et la Chine. Elles ont une inspiration politique beaucoup plus forte que les Européens aujourd’hui. Elles pensent le monde avec une vraie logique, une vraie philosophie, un imaginaire que nous avons un peu perdu

Here is my informal translation of these words:

The international order is being shaken in an unprecedented manner, above all with, if I may say so, by the great upheaval that is undoubtedly taking place for the first time in our history, in almost every field and with a profoundly historic magnitude. The first thing we observe is a major transformation, a geopolitical and strategic re-composition. We are undoubtedly experiencing the end of Western hegemony over the world. We were accustomed to an international order which, since the 18th century, rested on a Western hegemony, mostly French in the 18th century, by the inspiration of the Enlightenment; then mostly British in the 19th century thanks to the Industrial Revolution and, finally, mostly American in the 20th century thanks to the 2 great conflicts and the economic and political domination of this power. Things change. And they are now deeply shaken by the mistakes of Westerners in certain crises, by the choices that have been made by Americans for several years which did not start with this administration, but which lead to revisiting certain implications in conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere, and to rethinking a deep, diplomatic and military strategy, and sometimes elements of solidarity that we thought were intangible for eternity, even if we had constituted together in geopolitical moments that have changed. And then there is the emergence of new powers whose impact we have probably underestimated for a long time. China is at the forefront, but also the Russian strategy, which has, it must be said, been pursued more successfully in recent years. I will come back to that. India that is emerging, these new economies that are also becoming powers not only economic but political and that think themselves, as some have written, as real “civilizational states” which now come not only to shake up our international order but who also come to weigh in on the economic order and to rethink the political order and the political imagination that goes with it, with much dynamism and much more inspiration than we have. Look at India, Russia and China. They have a much stronger political inspiration than Europeans today. They think about our planet with a true logic, a true philosophy, an imagination that we’ve lost a little bit.

Now let’s unpack these key statements one by one:

1) “ great upheaval that is undoubtedly taking place for the first time in our history in almost every field and with a profoundly historic magnitude”

Here Macron sets the stage for some truly momentous observations: what will be discussed next is not only a major event, but one without precedent in history (whether French or European). Furthermore, what will be discussed next, affects “almost every field” and with huge historical implications.

2) “We are undoubtedly experiencing the end of Western hegemony over the world”

When I read that, my first and rather infantile reaction was to exclaim “really?! No kiddin’?! Who would have thought!?” After all, some of us have been saying that for a long, long while, but never-mind that. What is important is that even a Rothschild-puppet like Macron had to finally speak these words. Oh sure, he probably felt as happy as the Captain of the Titanic when he had to (finally!) order a general evacuation of this putatively unsinkable ship, but nonetheless – he did do it. From now on, the notion of the end of the western hegemony on the planet is no more relegated to what the leaders of the Empire and their propaganda machine like to call “fringe extremists” and has now fully entered the (supposedly) “respectable” and “mainstream” public discourse. This is a huge victory for all of us who have been saying the same things for years already.

3) “by the mistakes of Westerners in certain crises, by the choices that have been made by Americans for several years”

Here, again, I feel like engaging in some petty self-congratulation and want to say “I told you that too!”, but that would really be infantile, would it not? But yeah, while the internal contradictions of western materialism in general, and of AngloZionist Capitalism specifically, have been catching up with the Western World and while an eventual catastrophic crisis was inevitable, it also sure is true that western leaders mostly did it to themselves; at the very least, they dramatically accelerated these processes. In this context, I would single out the following politicians for a nomination to a medal for exceptional service in the destruction of the western hegemony over our long-suffering planet: Donald Trump and Barak Obama, of course, but also François Hollande and Emmanuel Macron (yes, he too even if he now changes his tune!), Angela Merkel, of course, and then last but not least, every single British Prime Minister since Margaret Thatcher (maybe with special commendation for Teresa May). Who knows, maybe they were all KGB/GRU/SVR agents after all? (just kiddin’!)

4) “ the emergence of new powers whose impact we have probably underestimated for a long time. China is at the forefront, but also the Russian strategy, which has, it must be said, been pursued more successfully in recent years”

Next, it’s not only China. Russia too is a major competitor, and a very successful one at that, hence the admission that in spite of all the efforts of the AngloZionist elites not only did the Empire not succeed in breaking Russia, but Russia has been very successful in defeating the western efforts. To those interested, I highly recommend this article by Jon Hellevig on the true state of the Russian economy. Finally, in military terms, Russia has achieved more than parity. In fact, I would argue that at least in terms of quality the Russian armed forces are ahead in several crucial technologies (hypersonic missiles, air defenses, electronic warfare etc.) even while she still lags behind in other technologies (mostly truly obsolete things like aircraft carriers). But most crucial is the political victory of Russia: five years after the Euromaidan and the liberation of Crimea from the Nazi yoke, the USA is far more isolated than Russia. It’s comical, really!

5) “real “civilizational states” which now come not only to shake up our international order

I have been speaking about a unique, and very distinct, “Russian civilizational realm” in many of my writings and I am quite happy to see Macron using almost the same words. Of course, Macron did not only mean Russia here, but also India and China. Still, and although the Russian nation is much younger than the one of China or, even more so India, 1000 years of Russian civilization does deserve to be listed next to these two other giants of world history. And what is absolutely certain is that China and India could never build the new international order they want without Russia, at least for the foreseeable future. In spite of all the very real progress made recently by the Chinese armed forces (and, to a lesser degree, also the Indian ones), Russia still remains a much stronger military power than China. What Russia, China and India are, is that they are all former empires which have given up on imperialism and who know only aspire to be powerful, but nevertheless “normal” nations. Just by their size and geography, these are “un-invadable” countries who all present a distinct model of development and who want a multi-polar international order which would allow them to safely achieve their goals. In other words, Macron understands that the future international order will be dictated by China, Russia and India and not by any combination of western powers. Quite an admission indeed!

6) “ Look at India, Russia and China. They have a much stronger political inspiration than Europeans today. They think about our planet with a true logic, a true philosophy, an imagination that we’ve lost a little bit.”

This is the “core BRICS” challenge to the Empire: China and Russia have already established what the Chinese call a “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership of Coordination for the New Era”. If they can now extend this kind of informal but extremely profound partnership (I think of it as “symbiotic”) to India next, then the BRICS will have a formidable future (especially after the Brazilian people give the boot to Bolsonaro and his US patrons). Should that fail and should India chose to remain outside this unique relationship, then the SCO will become the main game in town. And yes, Macron is spot on: China and, especially, Russia have a fundamentally different worldview and, unlike the western one, theirs does have “much stronger political” goals (Macron used the word “aspirations”), “a real philosophy and imagination” which the West has lost, and not just a “little bit” but, I would argue, completely. But one way or the other, and for the first time in 1000 years, the future of our planet will not be decided anywhere in the West, not in Europe (old or “new”), but in Asia, primarily by the Russian-Chinese alliance. As I explained here, the AngloZionist Empire is probably the last one in history, definitely the last western one.

Now we should not be naïve here, Macron did not suddenly find religion, grow a conscience or suddenly become an expert on international relations. There is, of course, a cynical reason why he is changing his tune. In fact, there are several such reasons. First, it appears that the on and off bromance between Macron and Trump is over. Second, all of Europe is in free fall socially, economically and, of course, politically. And with a total nutcase in power in London dealing with Brexit and with Angela Merkel’s apparently never-ending political agony, it is only logical for a French head of state to try to step in. Furthermore, while I have always said that Russia is not part of Europe culturally and spiritually, Russia is very much part of Europe geographically, economically and politically and there is simply no way for any imaginable alliance of European states to save Europe from its current predicament without Russian help. Like it or not, that is a fact, irrespective of whether politician or commentator X, Y or Z realizes this or not. Macron probably figured out that the so-called “East Europeans” are nothing but cheap prostitutes doing whatever Uncle Shmuel wants them to do, Germany is collapsing under the weight of Merkel’s “brilliant” immigration policy while the UK under BoJo is busy trying to self-destruct at least as fast as the USA under Trump. Macron is right. If united, Russia and France could build a much safer Europe than the one we see slowly and painfully dying before our eyes today. But he is also wrong if he thinks that Russia can be “re-invited” back into the AngloZionist sphere of influence. In that context, Putin’s reply to the question of whether Russia was willing to return to the G8 is very telling: first he said that if the G7 wants to come back to Russia, Putin would welcome that, but then he also added that the G7/8 is useless without, yes, you guessed it, China and India.

It will be interesting to see if the current G7 will ever agree to mutate into a new G10 which would make Russia, China and India the most powerful block (or voting group) of this new forum. I personally doubt it very much, but then they are becoming desperate and Macron’s words seem to be indicating that this option is at least being discussed behind closed doors. Frankly, considering how quickly the G7 is becoming utterly irrelevant, I expect it to be gradually phased out and replaced by the (objectively much more relevant) G20.

Finally, there are Trump’s efforts into getting Russia back into the G8 which are very transparently linked to the current trade war and geostrategic competition between the US and China. The offer is useless to Russia, just like the return to PACE, but Russia does not want to needlessly offend anybody and that is why Putin did not publicly rebuff Trump or directly refuse to come to Miami: instead, he approved of the general concept, but offered a better way to go about it. Typical Putin.

Conclusion: Macron reads the writing on the wall

Whatever his political motives to say what he said, Macron is no idiot and neither are his advisors. Neither is this a “one off” thing. The French meant every word Macron spoke and they are putting everybody on notice (including the Ukrainians, the US, the EU and the Russians, of course). In fact, Macron has already invited Putin to participate in a Normandy Format meeting in Paris in the very near future. If that meeting eventually does take place, this will mean that the organizers gave Putin guarantees that this will not just be the usual kaffeeklatsch and that some serious results will finally be obtained. That, in turn, means that somebody – probably the French – will have the unpleasant task of telling the Ukrainians that the party is over and that they now need to get their act together and start implementing the Minsk Agreements, something which Zelenskii might or might not try to do, but which the real gun-toting Ukronazis will never accept. Thus, if the West is really serious about forcing Kiev to abide by the Mink Agreements, then the West has to finally give-up its self-defeating russophobic hysteria and substantially change their tone about the Ukraine. To invite Putin to Paris just to tell him again that Russia (which is not even a party to the Minsk Agreements) “must do more” makes zero sense. Therefore, all the other parties will have to come to terms with reality before inviting Putin. Apparently, this might be happening in Paris. As for Trump, he just offered to mediate (if asked to do so) between Russia and the Ukraine.

It shall be extremely interesting to see if this Normandy Format meeting does actually take place and what role, if any, Trump and the USA will play behind the scenes. We shall then know if Macron’s epiphany was just a one-time fluke or not.

The Saker

PS: the latest rumor from the Ukraine: Zelenskii supporters are saying that Poroshenko is preparing a coup against Zelenskii and that he is preparing a special force of Ukronazi deathsquads to execute that coup. Dunno about a real coup, but they have already blocked the Rada. Never a dull moment indeed… 🙂

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