The Other Side of the Story: Russia’s view on Geopolitics, War and Energy Racketeering

January 21, 2022

by Nash Landesman

The following is an exclusive interview with Russian Duma deputy, Yevgeny Fyodorov, a high-ranking conservative, nationalistic lawmaker in President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia Party. He has been Chairman of the Committee on Economic Policy of the State Duma and a member of the Advisory Council of the President of the Russian Federation. Below we discuss war with Ukraine, principles of sovereignty and geopolitics, the ongoing energy battle, the nuclear option, and the reestablishment of the Soviet sphere, all within the context of US ambition and Russian counter-strategy.

INTRO:

Atop the unipolar priority list lies the looming Russian “threat” of providing European consumers with affordable, dependable heating and cooking gas at stable long-term contract terms amidst the dead of winter. Only America and its’ “allies”/ [subordinates/collaborators] can halt this menace by supplanting cheap Russian gas piped from relatively short distances with much more expensive, technically-complex US liquid natural gas shipped from across the Atlantic, capitalizing on America’s shale revolution while stamping out Russian influence in Europe—killing two birds with one stone. (Although at least twenty-nine multibillion dollar regasification intake terminals have been built across Europe under US pressure to import its supplies, a new Russian pipeline threatens to render them sunk costs).

The Russian pipeline would “pose an existential threat to European energy security,” states one US sanctions bill, implying that the very notion of energy security outside of US/EU auspices is the threat itself. Washington is trying to block this development, using various means that now include the threat of war under any pretext.

Since Soviet times as much as 80% of Europe’s Russian gas imports traversed Ukraine— but lately those flows have since slowed to a trickle, due to Washington’s eight-year proxy war in Donbas, NATO expansion, Kiev’s tendency to syphon Russian gas and not pay its bills, and other factors. It is little wonder Moscow is scrambling to establish alternate routes avoiding third-party generated instability.

This year European gas prices rocketed to record highs, adding fuel to Russian ambitions to circumvent its’ now-hostile neighbor with its’ latest project, the recently- completed $11 billion natural gas pipeline, Nordstream 2, running under the Baltic sea direct to Germany, crucially evading land transit states subject to external control.

Nordstream 2 could be a major geopolitical boon to both Russia and Germany, helping the latter achieve the energy independence it would need to take steps to chart an independent course and/or remove US occupation troops from its territory, still present under the NATO umbrella since WWII.

Despite the pipeline’s recent completion, the European Commission has delayed (indefinitely) the certification required in order for Russia to start pumping gas. Whether Moscow will go ahead and do it anyway remains up in the air.

What is clear is that US counter-strategy is a patchwork of threats, hysterics and racketeering. As Richard Morningstar, former US diplomat and founding director of the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Centre, bluntly put it, “I think Nord Stream 2 is really a bad idea…If you want to kill the [US-based] LNG strategy go ahead with Nord Stream [2]”.

The pipeline also undermines an interrelated, long-developing, radical globalization scheme—an internal EU gas market established under the European Energy Charter that’s designed to dismantle Gazprom by preventing Russia from owning or controlling its downstream energy assets.

Large land transit states like Ukraine help to ensure that Russia obey the rules. But after withdrawing from the aforementioned treaty in 2009, Russia has struck bilateral gas deals with states like Hungary and Belarus, enraging Washington and Brussels. Now Nordstream 2 would symbolize the ultimate affront to the internal energy market architecture as it involves Europe’s most powerful nation, Germany, with no transit states in-between.

(Berlin has been left in the cold ever since caving to pressure to phase-out its nuclear capacity and cease domestic coal production). The pertinent question is: on whose outside supplies will Berlin come to depend? Europe’s future may hang on the answer.

Ex-German chancellor Angela Merkel supported the pipeline, her foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, along with the Austrian Federal Chancellor, Christian Kern, complaining, “The draft bill of the US [sanctions regime] is surprisingly candid about what is actually at stake, namely selling American liquefied natural gas and ending the supply of Russian natural gas to the European market. We cannot accept the threat of illegal extraterritorial sanctions…involving Russia, such as Nord Stream 2, [which] impacts European-American relations in a new and very negative way.”

Detractors, meanwhile, insist that a pipeline avoiding Ukraine would give Russia more leverage over its weaker neighbor, despite the implied detachment, a piece of double-think requiring little to no explanation.

Nevertheless, one hard-headed member of Russia’s Duma explains what’s really going on, from Moscow’s view, and what’s truly at stake in this developing saga.

INTERVIEW:

Q: How does EU policy affect European states’ energy consumption?

Yevgeny Fyodorov

A: The alternative to our natural gas is, of course, importing US LNG, which is much more expensive. The crucial interested parties in our piped gas are Europe and especially Germany. The key question arises from the fact that the EU wants absolute control over the Nordstream 2 gas pipeline. They want to control everything. The principle of competition of nations is involved. Russia is also interested in full control over those gas supplies; it helps Russia to fulfill its obligations. We welcome no third party to play this game as an outside controller over the pipeline.

Hence the Germans’ position: they support Nordstream 2 because it provides for their gas balance and they understand that otherwise they will lack gas. Nord Stream 2 is a kind of “magic wand” for Russia because it helps Germany to get a stable gas supply and sign long-term contracts. Otherwise they will need to keep temperatures in their dwellings very low. If the EU refuses to certify Nordstream 2, Europe will freeze. It would be like shooting its’ own leg.

The position of Europe is this: give us all transport routes and gas fields—but it contradicts the Russian principle of state sovereignty. So Russia won’t agree to it. Our position is simple: we supply gas, you can either take it or not. We aren’t going to sort out your domestic problems.

Q: What are the impediments to gas flowing through the recently-completed Nordstream 2 pipeline?

A: Blocking Nordstream 2 is a result of pressure from the Americans. There we need to understand common sense. What is the Americans’ interest? It is a very basic interest. There is no economic profit in LNG supplied from the US. The interest of the US is that they are generally against German economic independence and independent resouces. Yes, we have American military troops in Germany, Germany is being controlled by the US. In case Germany becomes too independent it will simply throw away American control. This is how history works. Of course, this is why the Americans are against NS2. Not just because of the competition with their LNG, but also because of US Anti-German policy. They dislike that Germany would gain a new level of economic independence; such level which would allow Germany to get rid of American control.

It’s clear that the U.S. wouldn’t like European countries, particularly Germany, to become more powerful. So, the U.S.’s geopolitical interest consists in Germany not being able to solve its problems with gas supply beyond U.S.’s influence, without the influence from Ukraine, Poland etc… As a result Americans opposed Nord Stream 2 from the very beginning. It’s obvious. Because it’s one thing when you control a few countries and manipulate them and it’s absolutely different thing when Germany will get a regular gas supply and will be independent of the US. It’s the position of the US and it’s clear and understandable.

The position of Germany: it needs a reliable gas supply and independence. The position of Russia: to earn money for its gas supply. With every coming year, Germany will become more and more sovereign\independent and one day American troops will be withdrawn from its territory. I’m sure one day Germany will raise the question of withdrawal of American occupation troops from their land. You know, these troops were simply renamed from occupation troops into NATO’s troops. It’s in the interests of German people and at some point Germans will do it. Russia will definitely help them, not in a military way but by creating geopolitical foundation of free nations.

And now another question: the situation in the European Union. European regulations/treaties/charters/energy packages were adopted not by Germany but by the EU and which are greatly influenced by the U.S. They created the so-called energy packages … If EU countries had signed long-term contracts, there wouldn’t have been any price increase. They could have agreed on $300 per cubic meter for many years ahead. But without these contracts the price rocketed to $1000, harming Germany and other European countries.

A: How does the issue of sovereignty come into effect?

What’s the main motivation of any nation? Sovereignty and freedom. And if there are any occupation troop on their land, it’s anything but freedom. That’s why any nation will demand occupation armies to leave their country even if at present they don’t talk about it openly because of the propaganda. Germany is moving in this direction. It’s a normal process. A Unipolar world is neither normal nor legal in the historic context. Either there is one Empire, like the Roman Empire of Alexander the Great, or the world is multi-polar. There is no other option.

Today’s unipolar world is volatile. And Americans understand this. They have two options: either to create a colonial empire (but aren’t powerful enough to do it) or accept\embrace the multi-polar world model. They are guided by the rules of competition among nations according to which everyone is everyone’s enemy. That’s the way people live in the world. All the wars were caused by this. The logic is: you’re the most powerful and the rest are suppressed by you. Everyone is suppressed by you, not only major enemies like Russia, but allies as well. They are allies because American troops are on their territory but not because they love America.

Q: Why does the U.S. still insist on gas transit through Ukraine?

A: Another play is the game with Ukraine, where we still talk about keeping gas supply transiting through it. Nobody (in Russia) refuses to transit via Ukraine. But the talks and wishes are about the substantial profit Ukraine will obtain from transiting our gas over its’ territories. The Americans will continue to insist that Russia must finance its’ own war with Ukraine, until NS2 will start to function; until Russia manages to exclude Ukraine from financing its’ military actions with Russian money [via transit fees amounting to billions of dollars per year].

Frankly speaking there is a particular part of Ukraine that refused to follow the orders of the newly- emerged power in Kiev, who occupied power in 2014. The new undersea pipeline (NS2) shouldn’t involve a third party like what we have to deal with in the case of Ukraine. Our undersea pipeline is more convenient for Europe. It is clear that when the Ukraine pipeline was constructed in the middle of last century there were no underwater pipeline technologies. Now this new technology has emerged thanks to scientific progress.

Q: What are the economic implications of this energy battle?

A: Let’s look at this question from the viewpoint of science, history and geopolitics. What is the American dollar? The American dollar is a world currency. Let’s look at some figures: the American dollar turnover in the world is 40%, the euro turnover is 40% whereas the ruble turnover is only 0.18%. So, the ruble turnover is 400 times lower than that of the dollar or euro. The ruble doesn’t exist on the global scale.

Americans have built their consumption at the expense of the world dollar. Estimates show that Americans consume 4 times more than they produce on their territory. The situation in Russia is quite the opposite. Russia produces 4 times more of the global GDP than it consumes. As a result Russia is a contributor to the world economy while the US is a vermin\parasite. These are merely figures\data, nothing personal. So, the dollar is of great importance to the Americans.

The dollar requires worldwide jurisdiction – Anglo-Saxon law – because currency is worthless if it’s not supported by juridical system. Hence comes the mechanism of the world jurisdiction, the unipolar world as a vertical authority. According to Putin, “one power center means one decision-making center”. What’s Russia’s interest? To restore the ruble, which will allow Russia to immediately control 6% of the world currency turnover. And I’d like to remind you that at present we control only 0.18%. In the long run, taking into account that Russia has 1\3 of the world’s resources, we expect this figure to reach 1\3 of the world turnover. We want to have the right to print out currency.

Q: Do the aforementioned issues implicate a pivot to Asia?

A: There is a policy of reducing dependance of EU countries on Russian gas. We are ready to sell our gas to EU countries. But we see EU legislation creates harm to Europe, eg. Now the natural gas price jumped to $900 per 1000 cubic meters. But those are internal problems; they should be able to set up their legislation so that it will not harm their economy. Concerning Chinese – Russian relations and natural gas supply to China, the supply will continue to grow.

This is about geopolitical and economic profitability. There are certain issues that lead to this. Russia and China have a common goal: to establish sovereignty. I reiterate one figure for economists: in the world economy the USD and the Euro comprise 80% of the world economy. The Russian ruble comprises one twentieth of 1% of global reserves. Hundreds of times less. Naturally that is unfair and illegal. And we will carry on politics which will result in the situation where the Russian ruble will equal Russia’s economy and resource export capability. And China will be our ally.

Q: What is the general position of European states, notwithstanding EU internal market legislation?

A: Who is the enemy of American unipolar world? The enemy of any unipolar world, including the American one, is national thousand-year-old states\countries, like Germany, France, etc… because such countries don’t want to be given orders. France has been independent for more than 1000 years.

They don’t need any bosses in Brussels, let alone in Washington. So the policy of the US is to subdue them. The US has been trying to achieve this goal, firstly, by assisting in EU creation and by Mediterranean wars which led to millions of refugees who break French, German etc… national regimes. That’s the goal. Why did America bomb Libya, Syria? Why were they involved in the coup d’état in Egypt? It’s clear that they wanted to destroy national thousand-year-old states, which leads to economic destruction.

Q: What do you make of the de-Russification laws in Ukraine?

A: It is occupational tool intended to limit and prohibit the Russian language in Ukraine. The character and basic feature of Russian nation is that it is cultural people with big history. And the Russian language is a very important factor in consolidating and uniting multiple smaller nations.

In the territory of Ukraine, as Ukraine itself is not a legal state from the position of International Law. So in Ukraine outside extranational parties. First of all, the US and their allies carry out the politics to stop the process of reestablishment of the joint united Motherland within it’s 1945 borders. In turn the reestablishment process in many parts of the Soviet Union is being carried out by all interested parties.

From this fact emerges the conflict within Ukraine. This conflict could only be resolved by establishment of one single united state of Ukraine and Russia. Otherwise, it will never be resolved and will last forever. Actually, the reunion (of Ukraine and Russia) will definitely happen one day, is my strong belief. All serious leading experts understand that. The situation (between Russia and Ukraine) is still not regulated in accordance with the procedures guiding the liquidation of the Soviet Union. That is most important to understand. To say it in rough words, the situation with Ukraine and Crimea is prolonged and delayed until today. These are the roots of conflicts and arguments with Ukraine about Crimea and Donbass and Lugansk, and with Moldova, Transdniestria, Georgia, Abkhazia, etc…

Q: How does Russia view subversive actions in nearby states like Belarus, for example?

A: As an attempt to intrude by a third party into territory of an internationally recognized state entity, a joint Motherland within 1945 borders. Actually, we will react to intrusion into any other country, not only Belarus. Russia will use shield and defense tools. Defense tools we have include nuclear weapons, to protect and secure our borders and keep them safe and contain safely our nuclear weapons, and using those nuclear weapons. In other words, should America enter the territory of Belarus, our nuclear missiles are targeted at London, Washington, New York and other cities. The US will continue to manipulate Ukraine and Belorussia to oppose Russia. They will utilize the issue of unregulated state borders [see today: Kazakhstan] between these countries as a lever against its’ competitor and opponent, Russia.

Q: Do you feel that America’s missile bases in Eurasia are directed towards Russia?

A: We don’t ignore the reality that the US has installed missile bases throughout Eurasia. And the [US] State Department was saying that they will form new military nuclear bases there, including in Asian countries. Please understand this is very simple story. Russia plans to engage its nuclear weapons not against those countries where it was launched against Russia, but against the mastermind cities where the decisions were made. To be exact, it is Washington, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and other American cities. Please fully understand, in case American nuclear weapons are launched from, eg. Taiwan, or Poland, the response will hit New York or Washington.

Q: Please elaborate on the EU’s long-unfolding internal gas market/energy treaty packages.

A: Sure. European policy was to reject long-term contracts. This policy was to start a competitive war in which, as they said, the price would be reduced as a result of competition. And here lies their error of judgment. Competition works only if there is excess supply.

But taking into consideration the post-Covid economy boost of China and Asia [among other factors], there hasn’t been any excess supply. As a result the EU failed. [higher prices, however, have increased demand for US LNG imports, perhaps implying that Russia’s plan backfired, playing into America’s hands]. Those who signed long-term contracts didn’t suffer at all. Some French companies, for instance, didn’t lose anything. They even benefited from this. So this price increase is the EU’s fault. What Russia wants is just to earn money for its produce. Russia thinks like this: if we don’t sell gas in Europe, we could sell it in China.

Q: What is the situation surrounding US negotiations with Germany regarding Russian energy?

A: Look: Who is more important: the supplier or the consumer who pays money? Surely, it’s the consumer. So, who is the main player in this situation: Germany or Russia? Germany. That’s why the U.S. opposes Nord Stream 2 by negotiating with Germany, not Russia. Germany is the main player here. So, the U.S. exerted pressure on Germany. And Germany, in its turn, tried to compensate by offering to invest in Ukrainian system, hydrogen etc… The negotiations regarding Nord Stream 2 were conducted between Germany and the U.S. but not between America and Russia.

Q: How do offhand events, like the “Russiagate” fraud, the alleged Navalny poisoning, hysteria surrounding Russian troop buildup along the Russian-Ukrainian border, etc… influence public opinion?

A: Russia is constantly blamed and there are two reasons why. Firstly, Russia doesn’t have influence on its own information sphere; it doesn’t have the necessary technology. Even Russia’s social networks, television are American. Mass media in Russia are beyond Russia’s jurisdiction. Russia doesn’t have “weapons” in the information sphere. Besides it’s very convenient to put all the blame on Russia in order to solve one’s own domestic problems. It’s common practice.

Q: Is the EU’s energy Treaty Packages/Charter unfeasible?

A: The EU’s energy packages are based on market excess supply. What I mean is they get gas supply from everywhere, from the U.S., Asia, Norway, and Russia. Europe wants to get the lowest price due to the competition between these suppliers. It only works providing there is excess supply due to different reasons, including transport logistics [plus Russia’s allegedly withholding supply from the market for leverage in Nordstrream 2 negotiations]. So it was a wrong strategy. I have only one question here: was this strategy was wrong because they are fools in Brussels or because they just played along with Americans? I think the latter. The situation got out of control: it led to price increase. Now they don’t know how to handle it.

Q: Will Russia accept the terms and conditions of these energy packages?

A: While drawing up this energy package (and it took years), they didn’t anticipate post-Covid syndrome which changed the situation globally. But Russia’s position is very simple. We support sovereignty. Historically, the concept of sovereignty in the Russian word is a priority. We respect the sovereignty of others. Russian position is simple: here is gas, you can either take it or not. We aren’t going to change your own internal regulations.

Q: How does US and Russian geopolitical strategy differ?

A: We have a different geopolitical strategy. The U.S. strategy is to support dollar turnover in the world. The U.S. domestic economy is dependent on external dollar. Hence 800 (military) bases abroad.

The strategic historical policy of Britain and later America – the so called “gunboat policy, is creating conflict zones and supporting both conflicting parties with the aim of controlling the situation. That’s the U.S. policy. It originates from the American principle of nation building. Russia’s policy is exclusively managing our own business. We are a country of defensive\protective policy. The only exception was the USSR with its Marxist ideology of world revolutions. But it was a temporary exception and it was rejected by Russia.

Q: Do you regard ecological complaints from Poland as a part of the American scheme?

A: Sure. Poland is under U.S. control. If Americans remove this control, it will be gained by Germany. But it’s not in the U.S. interests, so they use Poland and Ukraine. They tried to control Belarus but failed. It’s a clash of strategies. The American strategy is “divide and rule.” Americans want to divide Russia in order to get supplies separately from the Siberia, Ural. But since Russia has nuclear weapons, this plan won’t work out for them.

Q: Would Russia like to restore something like the USSR?

A: The priority here consists in re-establishing legal outcomes, in restoring something that was violated illegally. If a country is divided legally, they have the right to do so. For example, the Czech Republic and Slovakia decided to split. If they did it legally, that’s not a problem. But if it’s illegal, it should be revoked. Do you feel the difference?

As for Yugoslavia one should scrutinize the legitimacy of its division. What are the relations between international and internal\domestic laws? International law doesn’t interfere with domestic laws. A country can be destroyed\divided only by its own laws. If internal Yugoslavian laws were broken while dividing Yugoslavia, then this country should be restored. For the same reason Americans insist on Serbia recognizing Kosovo. Because Americans are well aware that until Serbia recognizes Kosovo’s independence, Serbia and Kosovo can’t be considered legally divided, no matter how many American (military) bases are located in Kosovo.

Without any doubt, the Soviet Union’s dissolution was illegal. By the way, from the viewpoint of law, it wasn’t dissolved because no republic, except for the Baltic States, took the decision to leave the Soviet Union. The republics decided on the state sovereignty but any union consists of sovereign states. So, it doesn’t mean the dissolution of the union.

Q: Who controls Russia’s Central Bank?

A: You must understand how our Central Bank works. The Central Bank is the Depositary of IMF and secures and answers for worldwide USD circulation and includes part of Russian territory. So the Central Bank is part of USD circulation. The Russian Ruble is a derivative of USD and Euro circulations. The Ruble emission is carried out proportionally to part of export deals, as part of USD and Euro income as a result of such operations. So, the Central Bank policy and ruble policy does not reflect the Russian economy at all. It just shows our export potential. So we understand we need reforms to nationalize our currency exchange system and Central Bank. And reforms would create a ruble currency bulk inside Russia in correlation with exports. Similar to what the ECB and Forex are doing. We plan this reform.


Nash Landesnan has written for a number of publications. He can be contacted at NashLandesman1@gmail.com.

Is there a deal being prepared behind the scenes?

January 21, 2022

I have to admit that when I heard that the US has no intention of giving the Russians anything in writing I began wondering whether it even made sense for Lavrov to fly to Geneva.  Yet, Lavrov thought otherwise and flew to the Swiss city.  The outcome?  Meh…

The US wants another week to prepare a written reply.  Okay, that is some kind of result and I suppose that, considering what is at stake, waiting yet another week is okay.  Frankly, the Russians are acutely aware of two things:

  • US diplomats and experts are, at best, clueless amateurs
  • The War Party is in full-blow hysterics mode

So they decided to give “Biden” another week.  Like a teacher who agrees to give a particularly dumb student a few extra days to turn in his assignment.

What else?

Well, there is this: remember the rather weird words by Biden about a “minor incursion“? (since then, both Biden himself and Blinken has declared that Biden was misunderstood).

Today former ambassador McFaul, a true russophobic nutcase and certified imbecile, said that if the Russian soldiers go as far as Kiev this would trigger a full-scale response from the US and its allies.

Wait! What?

Since when do the Russian have to get their soldiers as far as Kiev to get sanctioned???

Before continuing, a few absolutely CRUCIAL reminders:

  • Russia neither wants nor has any reason at all to invade country 404, with all its intellectuals already long gone (most of them in Russia, low qualified refugees when to clean EU toilets), its deindustrialized wastelands, its many neo-Nazis and zero natural resources (they already sold it all).  In fact, most Russians are categorically opposed to any such intervention.
  • The only thing which could force Russia to use her ground forces would be a successful (and rather unlikely) Ukrainian invasion of the LDNR.  Russia currently does have the forces needed for such a counter-attack in her western regions.  She does not have the size of force needed to occupy the Ukraine.
  • Russia has the means to defang the Ukie military using only standoff weapons, Russian military experts believe that such an operation would take a week or even less.

In other words, the notion of a Russian ground operation to take Kiev is total, hallucinatory, nonsense. Ditto for the idiotic idea that Russia must invade in February before the frozen ground turns into dirt (Russian ground forces have no problems operating or fighting with dirt, snowmelts or any other natural phenomenon between -50C to +50C).  That is exactly the kind of crap McFaul always spews (with this uniquely paranoid eyes and freaked-out facial expression).  But the fact that McFaul is a drooling idiot does not mean that he does not have access to what is going on behind the scenes (Blinken is just as dumb, and he is in charge of the entire US diplomacy).

So what gave him this truly weird idea?

First Biden with his “minor incursion”.

Now McFaul with his “no Russian soldiers in Kiev”.

I can offer three possible explanations for that:

  1. The Biden Admin is doing a “April Glaspie” operation on Russia: tell the Russians that the US will do little or nothing as long as Russia only liberates some areas (presumably in the eastern and/or southern Ukraine) only to then take that as a pretext and declare some kind of war (probably not military, but political and economic for sure).
  2. The Biden Admin is really trying to get rid of the Ukie suitcase and wants to break up this monstrosity into smaller, much more manageable, successor states.  If so, I like the idea.
  3. The Biden Admin is ready to let the LDNR break-away and move under the protection of Russia.  Officially, of course, the USA will never agree to that, but they can present that as a problem they did not create and they could not solve alone either (or something else along similar PR lines).

Now, like I always repeat, there is a HUGE difference between “possible” and “likely”.  The explanations above are only *possible* explanations for the weird language coming out of Biden and McFaul.

I also hasten to add that I don’t think that Russia will accept any such terms because they only refer to the Ukraine and not to a new international world order with a new international security framework, which is really what the Russians are after.  And we are talking about verifiable, binding, security guarantees – not written, or even less so, oral, assurances.

However, if these proposals are made as one part of a much broader package of ideas, then they would be worth at least considering.

I have to tell you that my feeling is that the US has already at least partially lost control of the Ukraine and possibly even the EU.

Remember how I always write that when the US President is weak (which all of them since Bush Sr. have been) then the various branches of government and administrations begin doing their own thing, having a semi-official foreign policy of their own: one by the CIA, another one by the Pentagon, another one by Foggy Bottom, etc.?

Well, the same applies to US colonies: when the colonial master is weak and in deep crisis, the colonies begin feeling that they can act more independently.  For example, the 3B+PU gang are now clearly setting the agenda in the EU, and the old Europeans à la Germany of France have become quasi irrelevant.  Likewise, I am not confident at all that the real, hardcore, Ukronazis give a damn about what the US has to say, especially since the said Ukronazis seem to have the solid backing of the EU and parts of the Ukie government: just look at how Ze was unable to deal with Poroshenko – that will tell you a lot about the real correlation of forces in Banderastan.

This is the “tail wags the dog” thing on an international level.

All that is to say that I don’t find it likely that some big deal is being worked on behind the scenes.

But I do find it possible.

We shall find out soon, in one week or less according to the US side.

In the meantime the Ukies are massing a very large force right across the line of contact.  I think of these Ukie forces like I think of folks driving motorcycles without a helmet: organ donors.  Should the Ukies use that force to actually attack, the Russians will destroy that force in 24 hours or less.  The problem is that Ukronazis are 1) rather stupid 2) totally fanaticized and 3) utterly unaware of the realities of modern warfare.

By the way, from a purely US point of view having the Ukronazis wiped out by Russian strikes is not a bad outcome as it would get rid of loads of truly crazy and unsavory characters.

I think of it as a “de-nazification by Russia” (along the lines of the expression “suicide by cop”).

One more thing: remember the rumors about the Russian evacuating their diplomatic personnel from Kiev?  Turns out that it ain’t Russia, but the US and EU representations which are being evacuated (at least partially).

In the meantime, Stoltenberg wants Sweden and Finland to join NATO while many EU countries are now sending (small) forces into various locations in Eastern Europe.  The worst of them all, the Baltic statelets, are now shipping Stinger MANPADs to the Ukies.  Knowing how many Takfiris and neo-Nazis nutcases there are in Banderastan, this is absolutely, totally and terminally irresponsible!  Yet those demented idiots are doing it.  Typical.

I wish everybody a peaceful and great week-end!

Andrei

Opening Statements: Lavrov : Blinken : Meet in Geneva (Update)

January 21, 2022

Ed. Note:  Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken commence talks in Geneva. This video contains only the opening statements where the press was allowed.  At approx. time marker 6.35, the opening statements are over and there is nothing of value in the rest of the video.   The Saker Blog will continue updating here for the rest of the day and there will be transcripts.

Update:  1.5 hours and Lavrov is doing his presser.  It’s done for today.  The presser is still live at this time.

Raeisi: Iran, Russia Reached ‘Fundamental Agreements’ on Expanding Ties

Jan 21 2022

President Ebrahim Raisi has said that Iran and Russia reached “fundamental agreements” on expanding all-out bilateral relations to secure mutual interests.

“Undoubtedly, the development of relations with Russia will contribute to the security and prosperity of the two nations. Certainly, such security-building cooperation will be for the sake of the region,” Raisi said after arriving in Tehran from Moscow around midnight.

He said that during his Russia trip, which began on Wednesday, the two sides discussed steps to challenge the dominance of the US dollar and continue trade in their national currencies.

“Our oil minister had good agreements with Russian energy officials, the effects of which will emerge later,” he said, adding that good agreements were also reached on removing obstacles to boosting trade relations.

However, the level of trade relations is “not acceptable”, the president stated.

Officials have said the two sides seek to increase the current record $3 billion bilateral trade.

“We decided to increase the level of trade between the two countries to $10 billion in the first stage,” President Raisi said.

“In the field of agriculture, there were also good discussions that would lead to real exchanges of agricultural products,” he said.

In the field of transportation, the two sides decided to advance the North-South corridor which will facilitate transportation and greatly reduce transportation time, the president added.

In 2002, Russia, Iran, and India signed an agreement for the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), a 7,200 km multi-mode network of ship, rail, and road route for moving freight between India, Iran, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia and Europe.

The INSTC is seen a game-changer that will shorten the distance and lower the cost of transportation from South Asia to Europe through Iran and Russia and potentially serve as an alternative to the Suez Canal for East-West trade.

Tehran and Moscow also reached agreements to expand their cooperation in the industry, defense, and aerospace sectors, President Raisi said.

On the first day of his two-day trip, which he described as a “turning point” in Iran-Russia relations, Raisi had a three-hour meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, during which the Iranian president said the Islamic Republic seeks to forge strategic relations with Moscow.

Later on Wednesday, he met with Iranians residing in Russia. On Thursday, Raisi addressed the State Duma and attended the prayers at the Moscow Grand Mosque at the invitation of Rawil Gaynutdin, chairman of the Russian Mufti Council.

‘US must be held accountable for General Suleimani assassination’

Speaking with Russia’s RT television in an exclusive interview, Raisi said the US must be held accountable for the assassination of Iran’s top anti-terror commander, Lt. Gen. Qassem Suleimani, in Iraq two years ago.

“Qassem Suleimani belonged not only to the people of Iran, but also to the Muslim community. He came to save people’s lives. He made efforts in this direction, and all people, both Muslims and non-Muslims of course, have great respect for his work,” he said.

He said people respected Gen. Suleimani because they knew he managed to save people’s lives from Daesh and other terrorist groups.

“He was able to protect and save people’s lives. Therefore, his presence in Syria and Iraq in the region was aimed at fighting terrorism,” he said.

“Therefore, Qassem Suleimani is a hero and the Americans must give answers,” Raisi said. “They say they are flag-bearers in the fight against terrorism, but why was the hero of the fight against terrorism killed?”

He pointed out that the Americans committed such a great crime and openly confessed to their crime.

“The one who commits such a great crime and confesses to it naturally should be punished in a qualified court,” the president asserted.

“The promise to protect the oppressed and punish the oppressors is, of course, a sincere promise and it will certainly be kept.”

US refusal to abide by JCPOA

Elsewhere in the interview, President Raisi said Iran takes the Vienna negotiations on restoring the 2015 agreement “very seriously”. He made clear that the hurdle to restoring the pact remains Washington’s refusal to abide by its terms.

“What we have seen so far is a violation of obligations on the part of the Americans,” he said, referring to the US withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2018 and its subsequent sanctions on Tehran in violation of the deal.

The Iranian president noted that the European parties to the treaty – France, Germany and the UK – have “also failed to fulfill their obligations” under the JCPOA through “the lack of new appropriate measures” to deal with the US violation.

“The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) stated 15 times that Iran had fulfilled its obligations, that Iran was committed to its obligations,” Raisi stated. “So, we have fulfilled our obligations, but they have violated theirs. They must fulfill their obligations. We didn’t break anything.”

“If the parties are ready to remove sanctions, the ground for reaching an agreement on nuclear issues is absolutely ready,” he added.

Source: Al-Manar English Website and Iranian media

The (apparent) disagreement between Ze and “Biden”

January 20, 2022

As I mentioned it yesterday, Biden said something rather weird yesterday.  He said:

Quote: “Russia will be held accountable if it invades and it depends on what it does – it’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and then we end up having to fight about what to do and what not to do, but if they actually do what they’re capable of doing with the force amassed on the border it is going to be a disaster for Russia if they further invade Ukraine,” Biden said, adding that Russia has overwhelming superiority over Ukraine

What in the world is a “minor incursion” anyway???

This was Ze’s reply:

Of course, hearing Ze refer to country 404 as a “great power” is cute and hilarious as it gets.

But the real question is this: did Biden just not understand the possible implication of what he said, is this just a case of dementia, or did he inadvertently reveal something which is being worked on behind the scenes?

By the way, in the fraternal model, which is horizontal, all countries ARE equal in rights and obligations, being equal in their nature and essence, while the Kindergarten model is highly hierarchical and absolutely implies that “some are more equal than others”.  For the true believers in this Kindergarten model any discussion of equality is a dangerous road to chaos and anarchy.  So yes, while they speak a lot about freedom, in reality they both hate and fear it like a very dangerous thing (God forbid the slaves would revolt and decide to kill the plantation owner!).

Another interesting aspect of the current crisis is this: both the US and the UK have publicly admitted that they have sent “advisors” to the Ukraine and both the US and UK have admitted sending weapons to the Ukraine.  Problem: the Minsk Agreements‘ point #10 specifically states mandates “to withdraw illegal armed groups and military equipment as well as fighters and mercenaries from the territory of Ukraine” while the additional memorandum states that “all foreign mercenaries” must be withdrawn from the conflict zone.  Now, OF COURSE, the noble defenders of democracy, freedom and peace worldwide (aka US/NATO “Axis of Kindness” forces) are not “mercenaries” (even though they are paid killers who do not defend their own country), only Russian volunteers in the LDNR are, at least that is the West’s position on this issue.  But for any mentally sane person it is pretty clear that the West is in clear violation of both the letter and spirit of the Minsk Agreements.  So what does that mean for Russia?

It means that both the Nazi-run Ukraine and the collective West don’t have (and never had) any real desire to abide by the Minsk Agreements, in spite of the fact that the latter are backed by a UNSC Resolution (making them legally binding and mandatory).  Again, under the Kindergarten worldview, even the UN is just one more “small, rowdy kid” which can be totally ignored or told to shut up and behave.

Anyway,

Tomorrow Bliken and Lavrov are supposed to meet.

Bliken would have made a terrific tailor or small shop owner.  But as a diplomat he truly sub-zero.  And that is true for ALL US diplomats and officials.  Yesterday a former Russian negotiator was describing his impression of Viki Nuland as a “dumb broad” who was completely ignorant of the world affairs she was in charge of dealing with on behalf of the USA.  Here is what Andrei Martyanov wrote about “US experts” from the USA: “bar some few exceptions, US academe, including those who specialize in Russia are not experts. They are narrative-mongers, majority of who have no serious skills, background nor experience in anything they try to “analyze” about Russia–this problem is systemic and is due to a complete corruption of the America’s education, especially history and military history and over-saturation of the American body-politic by people without any serious education or lawyers. It is literally the situation of auto-mechanic with vocational school performing an open heart surgery and thinking that he knows what he is doing. You can easily predict the result, for a patient“.  I can only fully agree with this opinion.

I think that the intense stupidity, arrogance and crass ignorance (not to mention a major delusional narcissistic and messianic sense of invulnerability) will play a key role in what happens next.  The AngloZionist propaganda machine has been spewing such a hate-filled and totally paranoid propaganda against Russia and Putin that this propaganda has become a foundational principle of the West’s foreign policy.  Even if Biden gives Putin a tiny little mini-concession (say using transponders of NATO aircraft) the Neocons and Neolibs of the War Party in Congress will absolutely crucify Biden for being “weak” and “caving in to Putin”.  Considering that Biden has been an absolutely awful president which has only failures to show for (not even a single semi-success) and that there will be a Congressional election the USA later this year, any mentally sane agreement, however unlikely, between Russia and the USA will be declared a “capitulation” which will bring all the flag-waving idiots to vote for the GOP which, right now, looks even more insane then the Dems.

Yes, a miracle can happen.  But what I am observing in the past two weeks or so, and today, are not at all signs of something reasonable being worked on but, rather, a hysterical attempt by the rulers of the Empire (and their minions in the EU) to defeat reality by pretending not to notice it.

That never works and it won’t work this time.

I hope tomorrow will prove me wrong, I REALLY do.

But in my strictly personal opinion, I don’t even see the point of Lavrov flying to Geneva.  I think Russia needs to stop talking to the West the same way she stopped talking to Ze and his bloody clowns, and only act unilaterally (towards the West, of course, not towards Zone B!).  There is nothing military or economic or political which the US/NATO/EU can do to Russia, so why not simply ignore them.

I would nicely and politely close the Russian diplomatic representations in the West, ditch idiotic or toxic organizations (like the COE or the WTO), and focus on collaborating with the sovereign nations in Zone B.

As for the West, Russia can let it self-destruct, which it is already doing at a maniacal pace anyway.

Sooner or later (probably the latter), the collapse of the West will generate new leaders who will have to rebuild the West on a new basis.  Then will be the time to talk to the West again.  But until non-entities like Blinken, Borrell, Stoltenberg or Baerbock remain in power, I see no point in talking to them.

Finally, the Communist Party in Russia has filed a law to be voted on by the Duma which asks the President to recognize the LDNR.  I think that the chances of this proposal are very high.  Interesting stuff.

Andrei

After sounding about as negative as possible yesterday, today Bliken has just suggested that his scheduled meeting with Lavrov tomorrow in Geneva will show how things really stand.

Wait!  I thought that there was nothing to discuss, but it turns out there might be??

Could Lavrov and Biden try to find a common definition of “minor” (as in “minor intrusion”)?

I don’t think so.  Here is why:

  • Russia has no need or desire for ANY type of incursion
  • Russia can totally defang the Ukronazis without moving a single solider across the border (according to specialists, this would take less than a week)
  • The Empire has waged a total but “short of kinetic” war against Russia since at least 2013 and that all happened while Russia did not move into the Ukraine.  If no incursion results in such a sustained campaign by the West against Russia, how would a “minor incursion” make things better and placate the crazies?
  • And if Russia decides that the united West is already maxed out on its anti-Russian policies, why limit yourself to a minor incursion?  If, say, Russia liberated the LDNR, the rest of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, and all the Ukrainian coastline on the Black Sea, something the West would surely describe as a “major invasion”, would the consequences for Russia by the same as those following a “minor invasion”?  The point is that the US has expanded all of its sanction options, any further escalation would threaten the entire international economic system and strongly increase the risks of a fullscale war.

What most observers are missing is this: the current tensions are not at all about the Ukraine, or even about NATO.  They are about a new, different, new world order.  The US wants to hear nothing about it.  Neither does the EU.  The West is absolutely and categorically opposed to any new international order.  What they want is a “rules based order” in which, of course, they alone get to make all the rules.

But for countries like Russia (or China) the current world (dis)order is categorically unacceptable.

So what is really at stake are two world views:

  • Western world view: the West is the the crown of creation, the shining city on the hill, created by the Master Race before which all the “inferior” human societies need to bow and accept their dominion.  Furthermore, what is allowed for that Master Civilization is not allowed to anybody else and if/when any country begins to act in way which shows that it thinks that what is allowed to the West is also allowed to everybody else – then this country/nation needs to be taught a lesson and crushed.  You could call this model a “Kindergarten model” in which one adult teacher (the West) is tasked with supervising and educating a classroom of ignorant, immature and rowdy kids (the rest of the planet).
  • Zone B worldview: the same rules apply to everybody, there is not “exceptional country” with special rights out there.  Furthermore, all security must be collective, that is to say that if you point a gun at me and I am disarmed, not only am I threatened by you, but you also expose yourself to my desperate actions to survive, which just might include killing you before you can pull the trigger.  Finally, a legal/moral rule only deserves respect if it is equally applied to all parties (if it is not, it is, by definition, hypocritical).  You could call this model a “fraternal model” in which children from the same Father (God) act in a brotherly way towards each other because they recognize their common humanity (fraternity).

Those two models are, of course, totally and categorically mutually exclusive, hence the Zone A and Zone B we see today.

Kremlin reveals how it will respond to NATO deployments to Ukraine

16 Jan, 2022 

It’s “disturbing” that Moscow and the US-led bloc are on “different tracks” after negotiations, but there’s no talk of military action, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said

FILE PHOTO: Tanks are seen during Russian-Belarusian drills in central Russia in April 2021. ©  Sputnik / Konstantin Morozov

Russia believes it would be “madness” to start a war over Ukraine, but doesn’t rule out taking “counter-actions” to NATO deployments if security negotiations fail and its concerns are left unaddressed, the Kremlin has told CNN.

Dmitry Peskov, President Vladimir Putin’s long-time spokesman, added that Russia is deeply concerned by a recent spiraling-up of tensions in Europe, in an interview broadcast on Sunday.

“We have too much tension on the border [with Ukraine]. We have too much tension in this part of Europe. It drags [in] more problems automatically. It is extremely dangerous for our continent,” he told the host of the ‘Fareed Zakaria GPS’ show.

According to Peskov, the only way forward for the US and NATO is to finally address Russia’s concerns in earnest, instead of brushing them off. “This is the reason we are insisting on receiving a direct response,” he explained, adding that Moscow expected an “extremely specific” response to its “extremely specific proposals.”

Moscow is not issuing any ultimatums, he maintained, adding that the Kremlin was not “speaking about military action,” and considers a military scenario “madness to do that.” However, he suggested Moscow would respond to the continued NATO expansions in other ways.

We will be ready to take counter-actions. If you continue to say, ‘listen, Russians, we’re not going to take into account your concerns. NATO will continue to expand. Now we’re not going to have Ukraine [joining] NATO, but with time, legally, it will be possible. We’re not going to say that we will not deploy any offensive weapons on Ukraine’s territory, and NATO’s military infrastructure will stay next to your border and will, with time, get even closer.’ If you tell us that, we will have to do something.

Since late 2021, Ukraine and the US have insisted that Russia has been amassing military personnel near the Ukrainian border, and have claimed that this is evidence it is preparing for an invasion. Moscow has repeatedly denied such plans.

In December, Russia issued a set of proposals for improving collective security, which included guarantees that NATO would not expand further east and a particular agreement that no post-Soviet state, including Ukraine, should be permitted to join it.

These demands were rejected by the US and its allies during a week of high-level talks between officials from Russia, the US, NATO, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Former NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen even threatened that the bloc could absorb Finland and Sweden “overnight,” should they be “provoked” into considering such a possibility by Moscow.

Following the talks, which Peskov described as “unsuccessful,” the US continued to allege that Russia was preparing false flag operations in Ukraine to spark a full-blown conflict. The spokesman denied that anything of the sort was taking place. “You can see that this is not happening,” he said. He brushed off all such accusations, dismissing US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan’s allegations as “fake news.”

“He [Sullivan] promised to publish the proof of these accusations within 24 hours [yesterday] … we are still waiting for that proof,” Peskov said, adding that “until it is proven somehow … we will continue to presume that it’s fake news.”

Russia is still seeking de-escalation, and is concerned by the fact that Moscow and Washington are on what Peskov called “totally different tracks” – a situation he described as “disturbing.”

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The Longest War Of The 21st Century

15 JANUARY 2022

By Konrad Rekas

Source

The United States and Russia negotiate about limitation of the arms race, which is now even more obvious.   Central-European media threat the public with the “New Yalta” slogan, at the same time promising the inevitable victory of the only right Euro-Atlantic system.  Meanwhile, the geopolitical and geostrategic situation is more complex and much more dangerous, not only for the whole of Europe, being something different than simple new demarcation of spheres of influence between the powers.

No-Missiles Zone

The Cold War has always been closest to the transition to a hot one when it comes to strategic balance of power measured by the deployment and range of missile systems.  This was the case when in 1962 the Soviet Union reverted an attempt to locate American missiles in Turkey, what is known at misleading name of the Cuban Crisis.  That follows in 1980s, when the symbols of Reagan’s and Thatcher’s aggressive imperialism were Pershings, Tomahawks and the Trident System (still continued by UK).  Whenever war hawks prevail in the Euro-Atlantic zone – it can be seen in the translocation of offensive combat systems, moving closer and closer to the borders of the Russian Federation.

In practice, since Donald Trump’s anti-Chinese policy killed the INF (ДРСМД) – there is no effective international regulation of the ongoing, though not officially announced, arms race between the US and the rest of the world.  Of course, a very one-sided race, because although no one denies the modernity and training of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and the power of the People’s Liberation Army – these are the Americans, however, who spend more ($778 billion) on armaments than the next eleven countries on this list combined, eight of which are American allies and dependent countries.  This massive dependence of US policy on the interests of the military-industrial complex, unchanged since the Cold War, always leaves a margin of concern whether such a huge arsenal will tempt someone to finally be used.  Even just to make some space for new purchases…

Disarmament or at least non-proliferation negotiations are therefore a necessity, as urgent as during the most dangerous crises of the two-Blocks era.  In the 1950s example of such an initiative was the Rapacki Plan.  The Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Adam Rapacki, proposed establishing of a nuclear-free zone in Central Europe, encompassing the territories of both Blocks, i.e. both German states, Poland and Czechoslovakia.  Despite support from Moscow, Prague and East Berlin, as well as a very sympathetic reception by anti-war Western circles – this proposal failed facing the resistance of Atlantic militarists.  However, it would certainly be worth referring to it today by creating such a zone excluded from the relocation of missile systems, including at least Poland, Ukraine, Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Scandinavia and the Baltic states.  Depending on a willingness of interested states, similar treaties could also be signed in Asia and other regions of the World.  Otherwise, we are threatened with a permanent state of universal hybrid war – with the possibility of turning into a full-blown global conflict at any time.

Will Russians invade Ukraine?  I invite them to dinner!

Of course, the USA, UK and NATO explain all their expansive actions in the East with „Russia’s aggressive plans towards Ukraine”.  We should add that these plans are so secret and diabolical that thanks to the Western media and politicians, people talk about them over a beer in a pub and at family lunches.  They are so obvious and known to everyone…  It is probably not difficult to guess that if something is the subject of such a clear and intrusive propaganda campaign – we can be absolutely sure that there is no relation to reality.  I have repeated many times, for the past seven years, when almost every day after the Euromaidan the Russian invasion into Ukraine was foretold: if only Russia wants that, after the morning roll call in Rostov, its soldiers will have lunch in Kharkiv, dinner in Kiev, and still have enough time for afternoon tea in Lviv cafes.  And for supper I invite them to the present Polish-Ukrainian border, near which I live…

Unfortunately, however, Russia has not attacked – because the Russians are not responsible for solving other nations’ problems.  Since we know more about the first years of People’s Republics in Donbas, the more we read and hear about the moderating role of Russia, which has tried to stop the escalation of the conflict.  This is not the place to judge whether it was right to grab the hands of Donbas field commanders, not letting them to go too far to the west.  The fact is, however, that it was so.  Russia could have liberated all of Ukraine (or conquered it if someone prefer that) a long time ago, and no one, least the West, could do anything about it.  Why then should it suddenly change politics and interfere with all this Ukrainian mess, especially announcing own entrance with so long run-up?  Just to help Western war hawks, gunmakers and the funny Kiev cacique who dreams of war to save his own stool?

Anyway, even in the Western media we can hear trumpets to retreat now.  After several months of continuous counting, how many thousands of Russian tanks are about to break into a peaceful Ukraine – suddenly we can hear and read that it was probably… “Putin’s bluff” and possibly Russia does not want to invade anyone.  For readers experienced in reading between the lines – the change of the message is therefore clear:  “We will never admit we lied, but now we can say that there will be no war”.  Well, looking at Ukraine’s impressive war budget (323 billion hryvnias, over 11 billion dollars!) it should be noted that the “Russo-Ukrainian war” has already fulfilled some of its tasks. The cash that the West “lends” to Kiev returns to the West in the form of military purchases, the business is booming, and the military-industrial complex with the media on its services counts profits.

For the New International Order

Therefore, there is no doubt that the period of World unipolarity has come to an end, but the new international order has not yet been clearly shaped.  All these collisions and conflicts are absolutely natural way of establishing new rules and defining new spheres of influence.  The descending empires often struggle with such problems, especially previously hiding and denying own weakness and decay.  The United States simply must put on mean face, flex muscles and show the longest missiles.  This is how they understand their prestige, these are their internal needs, and this is how they want to guarantee the subordination of the remaining vassals.  Escaping the crisis with a recent expansion attempt, distracting rivals, delaying the inevitable – these are normal tactical tricks.  Unfortunately, trying to displace reality by throwing everything on one card and creating a global war threat – that is also an option on the table.  And that is no secret that there are American circles that would not hesitate to set the World on fire believing that “all-or-nothing” and “if not us – no one!”.

Of course, however, there are also pragmatists, as well as that part of financial capital sceptical about the policies implemented by states, pointing out that these are large corporations, not the great powers, which became the real subjects of the international order.  These great interests will decide WAR or PEACE and so far (as we can see) the arguments are weighed.  Not only between Washington and Moscow, but even more between Wall Street, City and Beijing/Shanghai.

And as far poor Ukraine concerned… Well, it will be the subject of a conflict between the West and Russia as long as there is still something to be stolen left.  Although organized plunder has been going on practically from the first moments after the Euromaidan – Ukraine is still potentially a very rich country.  Do we not remember how during the previous World War the Germans even uprooted black soils and took them away by trains?  If the Ukrainians themselves do nothing about it, their country will only be left to itself when the last train with their resources leaves for the West.  And even then, Ukraine will be assigned the role of a battlefield, including atomic one.

As we know, Zelensky’s team has already legalised privatisation of land, privileging large foreign property, previously hidden in the form of leases and joint ventures.  In 2022 there is going to be a bargain with 700 of the 3,500 remaining state-owned enterprises, especially the power industry, mining and metallurgical one.  This a reason why Zelensky announced his cabaret “war with the oligarchs” (that means with himself?) – so no one would prevent Western capital from grazing on Ukrainian wealth.  To consume it in peace – capital must threat with war.  That is the whole secret of “Russian aggression plans against Ukraine”…

There will be no other end of the World

So, is the threat of global conflict just a kind of marketing trick?  Not exactly or probably not only.   A few years ago, there was quite popular theory that World War 3 had already begun, but we do not see all its symptoms yet.  The shortage of more dramatic moments made sceptics question this hypothesis – after all better, worse, but we live somehow.  The international situation is quite normal, although from crisis to crisis and overall we can focus on other issues, from celebrities trough climate to pandemic.  The problem is that the prophets of World War 3 were right.  Only, as in the poem by the Polish-Lithuanian poet Czesław Miłosz about the end of the World that no one noticed – perhaps there will be no more global war other than a permanently hybrid war.  And the inhabitants of not infected parts of the World will doubt if it is real at all.  But an endless war for the New World Order will spread everywhere on more and more fronts.

The war we already know from Donbas, Syria, Yemen, Transcaucasia, now also Kazakhstan, soon maybe Taiwan, Ukraine or Baltic States.  But also many, many other conflicts in which enemies from one theatre of operations will often and suddenly become tactical allies elsewhere.  This can be a war not only between states, because we already know that it is possible to fight almost entirely with private capital, only hiring states to carry out heavier air strikes.  Finally, it is a war in which whole cities can disappear under bombs and missiles, as it has been till now.  But also the one in which some silent killer will fly through a window and this child’s-toy-like thing will win the decisive battle.

And most of us, if we only have a bit of luck – might never even notice…

The War Party wins – Russia is now free to act unilaterally

January 13, 2022

First, a quick update on Kazakhstan: the CSTO will begin its withdrawal tomorrow and that operation will be completed by the 19th of January (dunno if anybody will inform Blinken about how quickly the Russians leave).

This operation was truly a triumph for Russia and her allies.

It is said that hope dies last, and today it appears that whatever hope we might have had has died.  A week long series of negotiations has apparently yielded absolutely nothing.  To the extent that there were some sane voices advocating for a negotiated solution, these voices have now been drowned by the huge choir of hysterically russophobic politicians who, feeling safety in numbers, have told the Russian bear to get lost.

This is a triumph for the US Neocons and for their proteges in the EU.

So where do we go from here?

It is quite obvious: Russia will begin a policy of unilateral actions aimed at advancing vital Russian national interests.  Many of those actions will turn up the pain dial for the US/EU/NATO.  Rather than trying to guess what will happen next, I rather wait for those unilateral actions to become public.

One good news is that the Zircon missile is now officially accepted for service.  Good timing for sure.

I will conclude this short post by saying that in my strictly personal opinion, now would be a good time for Russia to sever all her diplomatic relations with at least the worst offenders in the West, beginning with the USA itself, of course.  Why?

Because having diplomatic relations with friends, partners or generally civilized and trustworthy counterparts makes sense.  Most western countries don’t qualify, so what is the point?

77 years after the end of WWII, the West has come a full circle and is back to its usual messianic homeostasis: racist megalomania, delusions about its own invulnerability and invincibility.

This sends a powerful and important message to all of Zone B, especially China.

Was Russia right to engage in these negotiations?

Yes, absolutely.  A country that lost 27 million of its citizens to western megalomania had the moral duty to try to do everything to avoid another war.  Yes, the chances of success were infinitesimal.  But morally, Russia had to try and she did.

Now that her hands have been untied, she can now do whatever she deems needful.

Good.

The main question now is this: how high will be the price this time around to bring the messianic West back to reality?

We will soon find out.

Andrei

America builds military bases around the world. China builds economic ones

7 Jan, 2022 

By Tom Fowdy

Source

Morocco is a strategically important North African country that sits at a crossroads between multiple regions of the world. To its immediate north is the Iberian Peninsula and the Mediterranean Sea. To the south and east is the rest of the African continent, and to the west is the vast Atlantic Ocean and the Americas.

This advantageous position has been noted in Beijing, and so it’s no surprise that in one of China’s first diplomatic engagements of 2022, Ning Jizhe, vice chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), signed a deepened Belt and Road Initiative cooperation plan with Morocco’s Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita.

While Morocco has been a formal member of the BRI since 2017, the cooperation plan is a more specific roadmap which, according to the Global Times, “will further deepen practical cooperation in a variety of fields, including infrastructure construction, logistics, trade, investment, agriculture, fishing and other fields, while further promoting the BRI construction with already signed economic and strategic plans.” Some news outlets have described this agreement as a “strategic partnership,” with the clear implication that Morocco’s importance to China is growing in significance.

Morocco offers an opportunity for China to increase its economic footprint and clout in Europe and the Mediterranean – without the political liability of actually being in Europe. Since the BRI was created, China has eyed the wider Mediterranean region as a particular area of interest where it can extend its influence on the continent.

This has included the acquisition of Piraeus port in Greece, the construction of the Serbia-Hungary railway (linking the Balkans with Central Europe), the building of Haifa port in Israel – a deal the US failed to block – and the incorporation of Italy into the BRI in 2019.

However, China’s attempts to expand the BRI further into Europe have run into difficulties. Even though Beijing acquired a deeper stake in Piraeus port late last year, political tensions have seen Chinese state-led investment in Europe stall.

n Rome, Mario Draghi, who became Italian prime minister in February last year, has taken a dimmer view of Chinese investment and vetoed a number of takeovers of local companies. While he has not pulled Italy out of the BRI, his Eurocentric foreign policy philosophy means any attempt by Beijing to invest deeper in the country on strategic infrastructure is likely to be rebuffed. This means China needs a new strategic gateway to expand its reach into Europe.

In late 2021, as the geopolitical situation continued to evolve, we saw a new pattern in China’s foreign policy strategy, whereby it began to focus on the BRI in countries it had not previously been affording much attention to, notably Cuba and Eritrea.

Whilst Morocco is not a state currently opposed by the United States – it’s actually in America’s good books, given its normalization of relations with Israel – deeper incorporation into the BRI follows the pattern of China cementing its ties with non-Western nations with greater strategic ambition and less hesitation.

Rabat is an important partner for China. Morocco embraced Huawei 5G, was one of the first countries in the world to get ahead on Covid vaccinations due to Sinopharm, and supported China’s position on alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang at the United Nations.

This shows the relationship is a multi-faceted one – not just commercial, but politically minded too. As a post-colonial African state, Morocco shares China’s outlook on national sovereignty and non-interference, which is a useful hedge against the West. And so Morocco has no qualms about inviting China to expand its footprint there without political pushback, on the premise its own affairs are respected.

As Morocco is such a politically reliable partner, China envisages the country to be the Western link of its Mediterranean strategy – a platform from which to export goods and services into Europe (in particular Spain, Portugal, France, Italy) and even perhaps, more ambitiously, onwards to the Americas.

As an example of what this might entail, using examples from other BRI projects, it could see the building of logistics infrastructure such as warehouses to host and distribute air freight, as was seen when Alibaba partnered with Ethiopian Air to create a cold chain vaccine supply line to Africa.

It may also involve constructing new sea and air ports to make it easier to move goods in and out of the country. One can imagine Morocco becoming a regional hub for in-bound Chinese trade and a launchpad for the wider region – something that would bring money to the country and not constitute a so-called “debt trap,” which is an accusation often levelled at the BRI by detractors.

The strategic consequence of this could potentially be the deepening of Europe’s commercial links to China, which Beijing is determined to achieve despite American pressure and competition. In the process of pursuing this, it has been effectively building around the continent to entrench its commercial interests.

Having established its presence firmly in the Southern Balkans and Greece, China has deepened its partnerships with non-EU and non-NATO countries in Eastern Europe – such as Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Serbia – and has now opened up a new frontier in North Africa. Unlike America’s focus on its military presence across the world, with its 750 bases in more than 80 countries, these strategic hedges and BRI projects are not designed to pursue hegemony, but to maintain its growth trajectory in a changing world.

Steppe on Fire: Kazakhstan’s Color Revolution

January 6, 2022

A view shows a burning police car during a protest against LPG cost rise following the Kazakh authorities’ decision to lift price caps on liquefied petroleum gas in Almaty, Kazakhstan January 5, 2022. REUTERS/Pavel Mikheyev – RC2KSR9GWQCN
Independent geopolitical analyst, writer and journalist

Pepe Escobar

Maidan in Almaty? Oh yeah. But it’s complicated.

So is that much fear and loathing all about gas? Not really.

Kazakhstan was rocked into chaos virtually overnight, in principle, because of the doubling of prices for liquefied gas, which reached the (Russian) equivalent of 20 rubles per liter (compare it to an average of 30 rubles in Russia itself).

That was the spark for nationwide protests spanning every latitude from top business hub Almaty to the Caspian Sea ports of Aktau and Atyrau and even the capital Nur-Sultan, formerly Astana.

The central government was forced to roll back the gas price to the equivalent of 8 rubles a liter. Yet that only prompted the next stage of the protests, demanding lower food prices, an end of the vaccination campaign, a lower retirement age for mothers with many children and – last but not least – regime change, complete with its own slogan: Shal, ket! (“Down with the old man.”)

The “old man” is none other than national leader Nursultan Nazarbayev, 81, who even as he stepped down from the presidency after 29 years in power, in 2019, for all practical purposes remains the Kazakh gray eminence as head of the Security Council and the arbiter of domestic and foreign policy.

The prospect of yet another color revolution inevitably comes to mind: perhaps Turquoise-Yellow – reflecting the colors of the Kazakh national flag. Especially because right on cue, sharp observers found out that the usual suspects – the American embassy – was already “warning” about mass protests as early as in December 16, 2021.

Maidan in Almaty? Oh yeah. But it’s complicated.

Almaty in chaos

For the outside world, it’s hard to understand why a major energy exporting power such as Kazakhstan needs to increase gas prices for its own population.

The reason is – what else – unbridled neoliberalism and the proverbial free market shenanigans. Since 2019 liquefied gas is electronically traded in Kazakhstan. So keeping price caps – a decades-long custom – soon became impossible, as producers were constantly faced with selling their product below cost as consumption skyrocketed.

Everybody in Kazakhstan was expecting a price hike, as much as everybody in Kazakhstan uses liquefied gas, especially in their converted cars. And everybody in Kazakhstan has a car, as I was told, ruefully, during my last visit to Almaty, in late 2019, when I was trying in vain to find a taxi to head downtown.

It’s quite telling that the protests started in the city of Zhanaozen, smack into the oil/gas hub of Mangystau. And it’s also telling that Unrest Central immediately turned to car-addicted Almaty, the nation’s real business hub, and not the isolated, government infrastructure-heavy capital in the middle of the steppes.

At first President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev seemed to have been caught in a deer facing the headlights situation. He promised the return of price caps, installed a state of emergency/curfew both in Almaty and Mangystau (then nationwide) while accepting the current government’s resignation en masse and appointing a faceless Deputy Prime Minister, Alikhan Smailov, as interim PM until the formation of a new cabinet.

Yet that could not possibly contain the unrest. In lightning fast succession, we had the storming of the Almaty Akimat (mayor’s office); protesters shooting at the Army; a Nazarbayev monument demolished in Taldykorgan; his former residence in Almaty taken over; Kazakhtelecom disconnecting the whole country from the internet; several members of the National Guard – armored vehicles included – joining the protesters in Aktau; ATMs gone dead.

And then Almaty, plunged into complete chaos, was virtually seized by the protesters, including its international airport, which on Wednesday morning was under extra security, and in the evening had become occupied territory.

Kazakh airspace, meanwhile, had to contend with an extended traffic jam of private jets leaving to Moscow and Western Europe. Even though the Kremlin noted that Nur-Sultan had not asked for any Russian help, a “special delegation” was soon flying out of Moscow. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov cautiously stressed, “we are convinced that our Kazakh friends can independently solve their internal problems”, adding, “it is important that no one interferes from the outside.”

Geostrategy talks

How could it all derail so fast?

Up to now, the succession game in Kazakhstan had been seen mostly as a hit across Northern Eurasia. Local honchos, oligarchs and the comprador elites all kept their fiefdoms and sources of income. And yet, off the record, I was told in Nur-Sultan in late 2019 there would be serious problems ahead when some regional clans would come to collect – as in confronting “the old man” Nazarbayev and the system he put in place.

Tokayev did issue the proverbial call “not to succumb to internal and external provocations” – which makes sense – yet also assured that the government “will not fall”. Well, it was already falling, even after an emergency meeting trying to address the tangled web of socioeconomic problems with a promise that all “legitimate demands” by the protesters will be met.

This did not play out as a classic regime change scenario – at least initially. The configuration was of a fluid, amorphous state of chaos, as the – fragile – Kazakh institutions of power were simply incapable of comprehending the wider social malaise. A competent political opposition is non-existent: there’s no political exchange. Civil society has no channels to express itself.

So yes: there’s a riot goin’ on – to quote American rhythm’n blues. And everyone is a loser. What is still not exactly clear is which conflicting clans are flaming the protests – and what is their agenda in case they’d have a shot at power. After all, no “spontaneous” protests can pop up simultaneously all over this vast nation virtually overnight.

Kazakhstan was the last republic to leave the collapsing USSR over three decades ago, in December 1991. Under Nazarbayev, it immediately engaged in a self-described “multi-vector” foreign policy. Up to now, Nur-Sultan was skillfully positioning itself as a prime diplomatic mediator – from discussions on the Iranian nuclear program as early as 2013 to the war in/on Syria from 2016. The target: to solidify itself as the quintessential bridge between Europe and Asia.

The Chinese-driven New Silk Roads, or BRI, were officially launched by Xi Jinping at Nazarbayev University in September 2013. That happened to swiftly dovetail with the Kazakh concept of Eurasian economic integration, crafted after Nazarbayev’s own government spending project, Nurly Zhol (“Bright Path”), designed to turbo-charge the economy after the 2008-9 financial crisis.

In September 2015, in Beijing, Nazarbayev aligned Nurly Zhol with BRI, de facto propelling Kazakhstan to the heart of the new Eurasian integration order. Geostrategically, the largest landlocked nation on the planet became the prime interplay territory of the Chinese and Russian visions, BRI and the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU).

A diversionary tactic

For Russia, Kazakhstan is even more strategic than for China. Nur-Sultan signed the CSTO treaty in 2003. It’s a key member of the EAEU. Both nations have massive military-technical ties and conduct strategic space cooperation in Baikonur. Russian has the status of an official language, spoken by 51% of the republic’s citizens.

At least 3.5 million Russians live in Kazakhstan. It’s still early to speculate about a possible “revolution” tinged with national liberation colors were the old system to eventually collapse. And even if that happened, Moscow will never lose all of its considerable political influence.

So the immediate problem is to assure Kazakhstan’s stability. The protests must be dispersed. There will be plenty of economic concessions. Permanent destabilizing chaos simply cannot be tolerated – and Moscow knows it by heart. Another – rolling – Maidan is out of the question.

The Belarus equation has shown how a strong hand can operate miracles. Still, the CSTO agreements do not cover assistance in case of internal political crises – and Tokayev did not seem to be inclined to make such a request.

Until he did. He called for the CSTO to intervene to restore order. There will be a military enforced curfew. And Nur-Sultan may even confiscate the assets of US and UK companies which are allegedly sponsoring the protests.

This is how Nikol Pashinyan, chairman of the CSTO Collective Security Council and Prime Minister of Armenia, framed it: Tokayev invoked a “threat to national security” and the “sovereignty” of Kazakhstan, “caused, inter alia, by outside interference.” So the CSTO “decided to send peacekeeping forces” to normalize the situation, “for a limited period of time”.

The usual destabilizing suspects are well known. They may not have the reach, the political influence, and the necessary amount of Trojan horses to keep Kazakhstan on fire indefinitely.

At least the Trojan horses themselves are being very explicit. They want an immediate release of all political prisoners; regime change; a provisional government of “reputable” citizens; and – what else – “withdrawal of all alliances with Russia.”

And then it all gets down to the level of ridiculous farce, as the EU starts calling on Kazakh authorities to “respect the right to peaceful protests.” As in allowing total anarchy, robbery, looting, hundreds of vehicles destroyed, attacks with assault rifles, ATMs and even the Duty Free at Almaty airport completely plundered.

This analysis (in Russian) covers some key points, mentioning, “the internet is full of pre-arranged propaganda posters and memos to the rebels” and the fact that “the authorities are not cleaning up the mess, as Lukashenko did in Belarus.”

Slogans so far seem to originate from plenty of sources – extolling everything from a “western path” to Kazakhstan to polygamy and Sharia law: “There is no single goal yet, it has not been identified. The result will come later. It is usually the same. The elimination of sovereignty, external management and, finally, as a rule, the formation of an anti-Russian political party.”

Putin, Lukashenko and Tokayev spent a long time over the phone, at the initiative of Lukashenko. The leaders of all CSTO members are in close contact. A master game plan – as in a massive “anti-terrorist operation” – has already been hatched. Gen. Gerasimov will personally supervise it.

Now compare it to what I learned from two different, high-ranking intel sources.

The first source was explicit: the whole Kazakh adventure is being sponsored by MI6 to create a new Maidan right before the Russia/US-NATO talks in Geneva and Brussels next week, to prevent any kind of agreement. Significantly, the “rebels” maintained their national coordination even after the internet was disconnected.

The second source is more nuanced: the usual suspects are trying to force Russia to back down against the collective West by creating a major distraction in their Eastern front, as part of a rolling strategy of chaos all along Russia’s borders. That may be a clever diversionary tactic, but Russian military intel is watching. Closely. And for the sake of the usual suspects, this better may not be interpreted – ominously – was a war provocation.

Kazakhstan appeals to CSTO for help, the world reacts كازاخستان: إطلاق النار في ألما آتا وحراسة مشددة قرب المقرات الرسمية

Jan 6 2022

Source: Agencies

By Al Mayadeen Net

While Moscow called for a peaceful solution through dialogue, the European Union and the United Nations called for “restraint” from all sides, and the US questionably declared its innocence.

Protests in Kazakhstan after a sharp rise in gas prices (Getty Images)

Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said he had appealed to the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) for help in quelling protests across the country that he said were led by “terrorist gangs”.

“Today I appealed to the heads of CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization) states to assist Kazakhstan in overcoming this terrorist threat,” Tokayev said on state television early Thursday. 

“In fact, this is no longer a threat,” he added. “It is undermining the integrity of the state.”

Tokayev stressed that “terrorist groups which received extensive training abroad” are “currently rampaging” across the country.

“They are seizing buildings and infrastructure and, most importantly, are seizing the premises where small arms are located,” he said.

Kazakhstan’s President added that they had also seized five planes at the airport in the country’s biggest city Almaty.

“There’s currently a battle ongoing near Almaty with the air forces of the defense ministry, a stubborn battle,” Tokayev stated.

Furthermore, Kazakh media outlets reported that at least eight police officers and military servicemen were killed in the unrest.

How did the world react?

Moscow called for a “peaceful solution… through dialogue, not through street riots and violation of laws.”

“We are closely following the events in the brotherly neighboring country,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. 

“We support a peaceful solution to all problems within the legal and constitutional framework and through dialogue, not through street riots and violation of laws,” it added.

The European Union and the United Nations called for “restraint” from all sides.

Furthermore, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki claimed that the United States has nothing to do with the unrest, calling accusations to the contrary “crazy claims”. 

“We’re monitoring reports of protests in Kazakhstan. We support calls for calm, for protesters to express themselves peacefully and for authorities to exercise restraint,” Psaki told reporters during her regular briefing. 

“There are some crazy claims about the US being behind this. Let me just use this opportunity to convey that as absolutely false, and clearly a part of the standard disinformation playbook.”

What is happening?

Clashes between law enforcement and demonstrators resumed in the city center of Almaty in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, according to Al Mayadeen’s Bureau Chief in Moscow.

He added that confrontations have spread to other regions in western Kazakhstan, noting that Moscow has expressed concern regarding the events in Kazakhstan and is closely monitoring the developments. 

Some 190 have been reported injured in the clashes.

Declaring a state of emergency

On Tuesday, Tokayev signed into law a decree declaring a state of emergency in the west of the country and Almaty, the country’s largest city, in light of demonstrations over surging liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) prices.

Police fired tear gas and stun grenades in a bid to break up the thousands-strong protest in Almaty on Tuesday night. The police later opened fire after the protesters, estimated to be 5,000, refused to disperse.

In an effort to thwart protests following a hike in oil prices, the Kazakhstani President dismissed the country’s cabinet on Wednesday.

https://www.rt.com/russia/545234-kazakhstan-crisis-violent-unrest/

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كازاخستان: إطلاق النار في ألما آتا وحراسة مشددة قرب المقرات الرسمية

وكالة “سبوتنيك” تشير إلى وقوع تبادل لإطلاق النار في ساحة الجمهورية في مدينة ألما اتا كبرى مدن كازاخستان التي تشهد اضطرابات أمنية منذ يومين.

وسائل إعلام: تبادل لإطلاق النار في مدينة ألما آتا الكازاخية

أشارت وكالة “سبوتنيك” إلى وقوع تبادل لإطلاق النار صباح اليوم الخميس في ساحة الجمهورية في مدينة ألما اتا كبرى مدن كازاخستان التي تشهد اضطرابات أمنية منذ يومين.

ويأتي ذلك فيما نشرت السلطات نحو 50 مركبة من بينها ناقلات جند مدرعة  وشاحنات عسكرية مع قوات الأمن المسلحة في مناطق متفرقة من المدينة الواقعة جنوب شرق البلاد.

من ناحية أخرى، أوضحت وكالة “سبوتنيك” أن جميع المباني الإدارية في العاصمة نور سلطان تخضع لحراسة مشددة.

هذا وأعلنت شرطة ألما أتا عن “تصفية العشرات من المشاركين في أعمال الشغب الذين أبدوا مقاومة مسلحة ويجري التعرف على هوياتهم”.

كما أوضحت الشرطة أن عملية مكافحة الارهاب تجري في منطقة مجمع المباني الادارية.

في الوقت نفسه، أعلن رئيس الوزراء الأرميني نيكول باشينيان، أنه “تجاوباً مع نداء رئيس كازاخستان، قرر إرسال قوات حفظ السلام جماعية  تابعة لمنظمة معاهدة الأمن الجماعي إلى جمهورية كازاخستان من أجل استقرار الوضع وتطبيعه”.

وكتب باشينيان على صفحته في فيسبوك: “فيما يتعلق بنداء رئيس جمهورية كازاخستان قاسم جومارت توكاييف ونظراً للتهديد الذي يهدد الأمن القومي وسيادة جمهورية كازاخستان بسبب التدخل الخارجي”.

يشار إلى أن منظمة معاهدة الأمن الجماعي، حلف سياسي عسكري انبثق في الـ7 من تشرين الأول/أكتوبر 2002 عن معاهدة الأمن الجماعي المبرمة في الـ17 من مايو 1992، ويضم روسيا الاتحادية، وبيلاروس وكازاخستان وطاجكستان وقرغيزستان وأرمينيا.

وأعلن رئيس كازاخستان، قاسم جومارت توكاييف، أمس الأربعاء، حالة الطوارئ في عاصمة كازاخستان، نور سلطان، خلال الفترة من 5 إلى 19 كانون الثاني/ يناير الحالي.

في وقت سابق من اليوم، كان رئيس كازاخستان قاسم جومارت توكاييف “ناشد دول منظمة معاهدة الأمن الجماعي تقديم المساعدة لبلاده”.

وقال الرئيس الكازاخستاني، قاسم جومارت توكاييف، إنّ “عصابات إرهابية دولية تلقّت تدريباً في الخارج، وينبغي اعتبار هجومها عملاً عدوانياً”، مضيفاً أنّ “وحدة من قوات المظليين تخوض معركة مع عصابة إرهابية على مشارف مدينة ألما أتا”.

وعلى خلفية الاحتجاجات التي تشهدها البلاد، حثّت الولايات المتحدة، مساء أمس الأربعاء، الأطراف كافة في كازاخستان  على “التهدئة وضبط النفس”. 

وأعلنت المتحدثة باسم البيت الأبيض، جين ساكي، دعوة “الإدارة الأميركية السلطات في كازاخستان إلى ضبط النفس”.

بدورها، قالت وزارة الخارجية الروسية إن “روسيا تؤيد استقرار الوضع في كازاخستان من خلال الحوار وليس من خلال أعمال الشغب”.

أما الاتحاد الأوروبي فدعا “جميع الأطراف في كازاخستان إلى ضبط النفس والامتناع عن الأعمال التي قد تؤدي إلى التصعيد”.

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Another Nail in the U.S. Empire’s Coffin… Biden Signs $770 Billion War Budget

December 31, 2021

Source

 Photo: REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Three decades after the Cold War officially ended, the U.S. is setting a new record high for annual expenditure on its armed forces.

As this year ends, U.S. President Joe Biden signed into law military spending of $770 billion. That’s just for the next year alone. The scale of wastefulness and bloated corruption is eye-watering. It eclipses what the United States is willing to invest for overhauling its badly neglected civilian infrastructure and for combating the coronavirus pandemic that has killed far more people in the U.S. than in any other nation.

If there is one thing that portends a historic collapse of U.S. global power it is its pathological addiction to militarism that is hemorrhaging vital resources.

What is also amazing is how this gargantuan deformity in economic planning is presented as somehow rational and normal by the Western media.

Three decades after the Cold War officially ended, the U.S. is setting a new record high for annual expenditure on its armed forces.

Biden’s budget – his first as president – exceeds the record set by the previous Trump administration for military largesse of $740 billion.

So much for wishing humanity peace and prosperity – as is the international tradition at this time of year – when the U.S. allocates such a grotesque amount of resources to the means of war and annihilation.

This obscene expenditure is not in any way conceivably a “defense budget” as it is termed in Orwellian newspeak. It is a dreadful and despicable war budget.

The United States spends more on its military than the next 11 top nations combined. Compared with China ($250bn) the U.S. budget is nearly three times bigger. The U.S. spends over 12 times more than Russia ($60bn) on its armed forces.

Those figures alone tell beyond any doubt which nation is the ultimate aggressor. Yet, farcically, the Western corporate media in Orwellian fashion portray China and Russia as the aggressors against whom the United States is “defending’ the rest of the world.

Biden’s 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), as it is formally titled, devotes billions more to devising new nuclear weapons and to provoke China and Russia. Camouflaged with Orwellian rhetoric, there is some $7 billion for the “Pacific Deterrence Initiative” and $4 billion for the “European Defense Initiative”.

The Biden administration has committed a further $300 million in military support for Ukraine over the next year. This is on top of the $2.5 billion in arms that Washington has plowed into Ukraine since the CIA-backed coup d’état in Kiev in 2014 which brought to power a Russophobic regime.

Next week, U.S. and Russian officials are to hold negotiations in Geneva to deescalate tensions over Ukraine and Europe generally. It is blindingly obvious that the crisis over security has been created by the United States pushing a policy of militarizing Europe against Russia in the form of expanding the NATO alliance all the way to Russia’s borders.

With twisted logic, Moscow is accused of “threatening” Ukraine and European security even though its troops are on Russian soil and it is American weapons that are encroaching on Russia’s territory.

The inordinate military spending by the United States year after year is proof of the source of international tensions.

When the Cold War supposedly ended in 1991 following the demise of the Soviet Union, there was a reasonable expectation around the world for a “peace dividend” to ensue. That is, whereby Cold War militarism would at last give way to peaceful economic development and cooperation. How lamentable the disappointment!

The inescapable fact is that the U.S. economy is a war-driven system. The military-industrial complex at the heart of American capitalism is dependent on massive taxpayer-funded financial subvention. If an economy is driven for war, then it follows that conflicts and wars are inevitable. This is why, 30 years after the supposed end of the Cold War, the United States is closer to starting a war with Russia and China than ever before.

In an insightful interview this week, former United Nations diplomat Alfred Maurice de Zayas condemned what he called the “universal provocation” of the US “war budget”. De Zayas points out that the United States is preeminently guilty of undermining global peace and security. Its relentless militarism compels other nations to spend excessively on defense in order to counter the threat posed by the United States. Both China and Russia have long-proposed multilateralism and “win-win” cooperation. Neither of these nations has threatened the United States. It is always the U.S. with its mixture of paranoia and hubris that constantly portrays others as enemies and existential dangers. Again, that is due to the need for justifying the abomination of American military orgy year after year.

The truth is the United States has been at war against the rest of the world since at least the end of the Second World War. For most of that period, the Cold War, Washington cited the threat of Soviet and Chinese communism. It waged wars in dozens of countries on every continent killing tens of millions of people purportedly in the “defense of democracy and the free world”. How godawful ridiculous is that?

The Cold War was supposed to have ended, yet the U.S. continues its remorseless warmongering. It retreated from Afghanistan this year after two decades of futile war, only to now wind up tensions with Russia and China. The pretexts and excuses change over the decades, but the fundamental story remains the same: the United States is at war with the rest of the world in the vain ambition of exerting hegemonic domination. Arguably, that’s an essential definition of fascism.

But it’s not just against the rest of the world that the U.S. rulers are waging war. They are waging war against their own American citizens. The Washington elite of both parties (comprising the de facto War Party) whistle through a military budget funded by taxpayers that dwarves anything the federal government is prepared to spend on societal infrastructure and decent human development.

Far above any other nation, the U.S. has a pandemic killing nearly 850,000 people so far and there is no end in sight. U.S. rulers refuse to allocate more financial help to the population to defeat the pandemic yet they are planning to spend billions on offensive weapons systems to threaten Russia and China.

The hideously perverse priorities of the United States as demonstrated by its wanton militarism are a portent and ultimate cause of its historic failure. It is a vile disgrace that the apparent solution to its inherent contradictions is to start a catastrophic war. Fortunately, Russia and China are strong enough militarily to not let that happen. And so the outcome we will witness more of over the coming year will be the United States cratering from its own internal corruption.

The EU, Globalization and the Road to Serfdom

December 28, 2021

By Francis Lee for the Saker Blog

PART 1

It might be a good idea to start with some theoretical clarifications. Firstly, nationalism should not be confused with national sovereignty. Nations which are effectively ruled by outside agents – from Greece to Honduras – are not sovereign; they are colonies or vassals of some larger agency. And since they are not sovereign, the cannot be democratic, since decision making, and policies have been abrogated to an external ruling power. Secondly, nationalism: the term which in general is generally regarded as the all-weather bête noire by the orthodox left, can be and often is aggressive, racist, imperialistic, and so forth. But this is only half the story and there are ample reasons to believe that this view is both simplistic and narrowly focussed; ‘nationalism’ can be either a reactionary or a radical/progressive force, depending on the local and political circumstances. This is simply an historical fact. The latter phenomenon is particularly true of those nations which struggled under the yoke of imperialism – from Vietnam to Algeria both ex-French colonies – and who actively engaged in national repeat, national, liberation struggles involving a broad coalition of political forces

However, according to the conventional wisdom of the hyper-globalists both nation states and the whole concept of national sovereignty are now defunct. Their reasoning is based upon the following premises. 1.Most products have developed a very complex geography – with parts made in different countries and then assembled somewhere else – in which case labels of origin begin to lose their meaning. 2. Markets when left unfettered will arrive at optimal price, allocative, and productive efficiency. 3.This means that capital, commodities and labour should be free to move around the globe without let or hindrance to achieve these goals. 4. Any barriers to this process – capital controls, trade unions, exchange rate controls, welfare expenditures, minimum wage legislation, wages and even public goods – will result in price and allocative distortions. Q.E.D.

Such globalization has come to be seen and defined by its proponents as the ‘natural order’, almost a force of nature; an inevitable and inexorable process of increasing geographical spread and increasing functional integration between economic activities. This current orthodoxy goes by various other names, Washington consensus, market liberalisation, neo-liberalism and so on and so forth. In fact, there is nothing ‘natural’ about this stage of historical development, since the whole phenomenon has been politically driven from the outset. (Of which more later).

It is important to note, however, the difference between contemporary imperialism in its present stage – i.e., globalization – and the classical imperialism of pre-1914 vintage that Hobson, Lenin, Bukharin and Rosa Luxemburg were writing about. Classical imperialism was characterised by a shallow integration manifested in arms-length trade in goods and services through independent firms and international movement of portfolio capital and relatively simple direct investment. Note also that the British state granted Charters to investment entities such as the East India Company and the British South Africa Chartered Company to ‘develop’ (exploit) these colonial possessions. Thus, even at this early stage the British state actively intervened to facilitate and open up markets for British capital in India and Africa. This was the liberal epoch trade of the 19th century. Full-on globalization did not develop, however, due to inter-imperialist rivalries and mercantilist policies being carried out by the competing imperial powers (which eventuated in WW1). The opening up and liberalization of markets – which did not at that time occur – was and still is the conditio sine qua non for the development of full-blown globalization, which even today is nowhere near total.

This generalised retreat from a classical liberal colonialism began with the First World War and lasted until the early 1970s. This statist phase of the global economy was universalized in the west after the aftermath of WW2 in the form of social-democracy and the welfare state. Suffice it to say that this period is long gone having been systematically deconstructed by the present neo-liberal counter-revolution which began circa 1979. The neoliberal phase really got going in the 1980s. This was the time of the Washington Consensus a set of ideological prescriptions based upon archaic Ricardian trade theory (comparative advantage) to be followed to the letter and by all and sundry. It was argued that this would result in an economic nirvana attendant on the removal of distortions to the market mechanism brought about by welfare capitalism. To repeat: the tripod on which neoliberalism is based consists of 1. The free-movement of labour and ‘flexible’ labour markets, 2. the free movement of capital and commodities which in essence means the loss of control of monetary policy, exchange rate policy and capital controls. The neo-liberal regimen also involves 3. downward harmonisation of wages and working conditions, involving fixed term contracts, zero-hour contracts, the weakening or in the case of the United States, the virtual elimination of trade unions, stagnant wages, structural unemployment, which in turn leads to increased indebtedness which benefits the rentier class, and ongoing and deepening structural inequality. This is sometimes called austerity, but this is putting the horse before the cart. Austerity is the effect not the cause of liberalised financial, labour and commodity markets.

The present stage of neo-liberal imperialism differs from the classical stage insofar as we currently live in a world of deep integration organized primarily within and between geographical and complex global production networks as well as other mechanisms. Moreover, a new factor became apparent in this Brave New World – financialization. There has been a massive increase in both the size and scope of financial markets, with money moving electronically around the world at unprecedented speeds, generating enormous repercussions and instability. The system of unlimited fiat currencies mainly used for purely speculative purposes is resulting in ongoing asset price bubbles particularly in stocks, bonds and property, as well as other financial instruments, e.g. derivatives.

To wit:

  1. The surge of bank loans to Mexico in the 1970s – Th tequila crisis.
  2. The bubble in stocks and Real Estate in Japan – 1985-89
  3. The 1985-89 bubble in stocks and property in Norway, Finland and Sweden
  4. The bubble in real estate, stocks and currencies in East Asia in 1992-97
  5. The bubble in over the counter (OTC) stocks in the US, including hi-tech start-ups
  6. The 2002-2008. The property bubble in the US, UK, Spain, Ireland, Iceland and Greek sovereign debt. (Manias, Panics and Crashes – Kindleberger and Aliber – 2011)

Additionally, the global institutions, which emerged from the Bretton Woods Conference of 1944, the IMF, GATT/WTO, World Bank, and increasingly central banks around the world, play a crucial role of the construction of trade policies, co-ordination, guidance, as well as providing and enforcing legal statutes designed to keep the globalist ship afloat. But it should be understood that these institutions are highly politicised and ideologically driven and not disinterested arbiters of the common weal. This is amply illustrated by the recurring breakdowns in the various rounds of trade liberalization talks conducted by the WTO when what are perceived by the developing world (with some justification) as being unfair trade agreements foisted on the them by the more affluent and controlling developed states nations who control voting procedures. In passing, it should also be noted that the EU represents a regionalised version of these global institutional structures, the ECB, EC, Council of Ministers, Eurozone Finance Ministers, European Round Table of Industrialists and so forth. Moreover, there exists a revolving door – in career terms – between state institutions and private corporations. N.B. the ease of which big-time globalist financial honchos such as Henry (Hank) Paulson, Steve Mnuchin and Mario Draghi glide effortlessly between the leading US investment bank, Goldman Sachs, and the US Treasury Department and ECB.

Power to shape/control this system is concentrated in the hands of states and/or the newly emergent Transnational Corporations (TNCs). Of course, there is not going to be a simple answer to this as the relationship between these two pillars of modern imperialism is both fractious and permanently mutating. The received wisdom, as put forward by the various spokespersons for globalization, ranging from the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) OECD, and IMF, to the globalist house journals – Financial Times, The Economist and Wall Street Journal – of the global Transnational Uberklasse is predictable enough. Namely that the state is always in a subservient position vis-à-vis the dominant TNCs.

This perhaps would qualify as a procrustean effort to make the facts fit the theory. Contrary to the image of the all-powerful TNC demanding fealty and obedience from prostrate states, the relationship is somewhat more symmetrical; corporations and states are always to a certain degree joined at the hip.

‘’ … they are both competitive and competing, both supportive and conflictual. They operate in a fully dialectical relationship, locked into unified but contradictory roles and positions, neither one nor the other partner completely able to dominate.’’ (Picciotto, S. 1991 The Internationalisation of the State – Capital and Class 43.43-63)

The widespread notion that a TNC can simply up sticks and move lock, stock and barrel to a more compatible venue if its home base no longer suits it purposes is fanciful in the extreme. All TNCs have home bases, national HQs. Here is where global strategy is determined; here is where top-end R&D is carried out; here is where design and marketing strategies take place; here is where the domestic market is situated and where long-term domestic suppliers are located; here is where overseas operations are conceived planned and carried through; here is where AGMs of the Corporations takes place with published accounts circulated to all shareholders; here is where the local workforce, at all levels, is recruited; here is where the political bureaucracy and the above mentioned institutions are situated and amenable to lobbying. Picking an obvious example, the US defence industries, Raytheon, Lockheed-Martin, Northrop-Grumman are all based domestically and are not going to move out anytime soon.

It is unquestionably true that TNCs and states often have divergent goals: TNCs’ primary function is to maximise profits and enhance shareholder value, whereas the economic role of the state should be to maximise the economic welfare of its society. But although this conflictual relationship exists, states and TNCs need and lean on each other in a variety of ways. States might wish that TNCs are bound by allegiance to national borders – and in many ways they are (see above) – but total allegiance is not an option in a liberal capitalist economy. Indeed, it would be true to say that some states regard TNC (activities) as being complementary to their foreign policy. Here economic issues merge with geopolitical imperatives. For example:

‘’American political leaders have believed that the national interest has also been served by the foreign expansion of US corporations in manufacturing and services. FDI has been considered a major instrument through which the US could maintain its relative position in world markets, and the overseas expansion of TNCs has been regarded as a means to maintain America’s dominant world position.’’ (Gilpin, R. 1987 – The Political Economy of International Relations.)

On the other hand. Businesses, Corporations, TNCs, have always needed the state to provide the necessary infrastructure without which their operations would not be possible. This infrastructure includes what are sometimes called ‘public goods’ the built environment of roads, railways, airports, ports, canals, health services, education at all levels, a legal system, a centralised government with the power to tax and spend, as well as control monetary policy by a central bank, various procurement policies – in the US particularly involving the Military Industrial Complex – publicly funded research, which played an absolutely vital role in the development of the internet and Silicon Valley. In addition, there have been a range of cultural and political goods – the media for example – some of which were provided by the state, the BBC and public service broadcasting, and some by the market, newspapers and commercial television, albeit privately subsidised.

In short, the relationship between TNCs and states is complex and symmetrical and does not conform to the simplistic ‘Me Tarzan, you Jane’ globalist trope. In fact, the relationship has betimes been the other way around. During the post-war period both Japan and South Korea were at pains to block Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from overseas TNCs entering their economies, principally by operationalising import controls. This notwithstanding the fact that both countries were export orientated. The reasoning behind this policy was that the type nation-building mercantilism being which has been and is still the only way out of under-development could not work in an open liberalised economy. Similarly, Chinese development included inward FDI by overseas Corporations, BUT this time around the state-TNC roles were reversed. Automobile firms wished to invest in China for the simple reason of access to the world’s largest growing market which served as a powerful incentive for these firms to enter. But the Chinese government, consistent with its state-capitalist, mercantilist policies had complete control over such entry and adopted a policy of limited access to foreign firms. It is customary to imagine that TNCs always have the upper hand in the bargaining process, but this time it was different. Auto TNCs whose experience had conditioned them to play off states against each other, were subjected to the humbling experience of China who – given its control of FDI entry – was able to play off one TNC against another.

In fact, the East Asian development model – which for want of a better label I will call, state-capitalist mercantilism – has been successful in enabling states such as China, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and possibly Thailand, and Malaysia to claw their way out of the trap of underdevelopment. This nation-building developmental strategy was first outlined by the German economist Freidrich List. The policy advocated imposing tariffs on imported goods while supporting free trade of domestic goods and stated the cost of a tariff should be seen as an investment in a nation’s future productivity – worked and was operationalised in the 19th century by both Germany and the United States, with a view to breaking British industrial and trade hegemony, which it did. As for free-trade, that was a policy strictly for the losers who to this day stay under-developed. It is also worth adding that the East Asian development bloc did not seek permission from the imperialist behemoth to carve out their own place in the sun.

We can say, therefore, that ultimately the negotiating relationship and outcomes between states and TNCs will depend on the relative bargaining strength in any specific instance. It is argued that if nation states are capable of so much why does the record show that they have achieved so little.

Well, South Korea was about equal to Tanzania in terms of all the economic, social and cultural indictors in the 1950s when it was just recovering from the Korean war.

South Korea is now one of the developing world’s long-term success stories. The country is now classified by the World Bank as a high-income economy, with PPP income exceeding $29,000.00 in 2010. Korean consumer electronics and other goods – auto-vehicles, Kia and Hyundai – have become synonymous with high quality and low price. Even more impressive is Korea’s achievements in social development, in education, and health. Life expectancy is now over 75 and the country’s HDI was placed 26th in 2004. As was the case in Japan inward investment was discouraged in favour of an infant protection industry and export led growth. Exports in such sectors as consumer electronics and auto-vehicles, and more recently in high technology have grown at an extraordinary rate. One very important reason for this has been a national strategy that has favoured the promotion of increasingly sophisticated exports and technology. Strong financial incentives for industrial firms to move up the value chain of skills and technology were built into most of the government’s policies. These policies included:

1. Currency Undervaluation: The effective exchange rate favoured cheaper exports and more expensive imports – an overt mercantilist approach

2. Preferential access to imported intermediate inputs needed to produce export goods

3. Targeted infant industry protection as a first stage before launching an export drive.

4. Tariff exemption on imports of capital goods needed in exporting activities

5. Tax breaks for domestic suppliers of inputs to exporting firms, which constitutes a domestic content incentive

6. Domestic indirect tax exemptions for successful exporters.

7. Lower direct taxation on incomes gained from exports.

8. The creation of public enterprises to lead the way in establishing a new industry.

9. The setting of export targets for firms.

(Todaro and Smith – Economic Development – 2009)

These policies were, of course, and still are, the exact opposite of the Ricardian free-trade comparative advantage model and are an anathema to any orthodox economists.

Herewith a development comparison Tanzania/South Korea.

Tanzania:

GDP, US$47,652 – GDP per capitaUS$857 – Education Expenditure US$1678.9, Govt Health Expenditure per capita US$24

South Korea:

GDP = US$1,411,042 – GDP per capitaUS$27,535 – Education Expenditure US$ 289,283.4 -Govt. Health Expenditure per capita US$159. (countryeconomy.com)

I think this is enough and don’t wish to labour the point, the gap is self-evidently enormous. But now the subsidiary question arises: what explains the divergent paths of development for two countries starting at the same point?

Well, according to the conventional wisdom ‘‘the incidence of wealth is only weakly related to the way in which the sovereign power of the state is exercised and is much more closely aligned to the ways in which states are aligned with the circuits of global capitalism.’’ Wrong! Political agency has everything to do with economic and social development, ‘‘and the way in which the sovereign power of the state is exercised.’’ If this were not the case East Asian development strategies would never have worked. Modernisation and development requires/required the indispensable political prerequisite of a modernising, nation-building ruling stratum which mobilises the whole nation in this revolution from above. This pattern has always been almost without exception the historical experience of capitalist development.

Such political and state institutions together with modernising class forces have/been and are, notably weak or even absent in what we generally refer to as the under-developed or developing world. ‘States’ (and I use this term advisably) such as Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of the Congo lack the political and social modern(ising), structures and institutions as we understand them which might bring about economic and social development. Crucially, the class structure of these societies is dominated by a comprador bourgeoisie, a self-aggrandising, self-serving elite whose interests are intertwined with the imperial overlord in the ongoing exploitation and looting of their own country. We also know that such nations are stuck in the production of raw materials and agricultural products – low value-added, low research-intensive, low-productivity, primary commodities – all of which are both price and income inelastic and have had a tendency toward price stagnation and decline in the long run – a structural deterioration in their terms of trade. (Oil may be an exception to this, but oil prices are notoriously volatile.) Thus, the unequal and increasing gap between the higher income and lower income countries. But is this the end of the matter? Well from a rigidly structuralist point of view it would seem to be. History, however, is an open ended and semi-voluntaristic process – as the famous quote goes, ‘Men make history, but do not do it as they please’ – and a number of possibilities for fundamental structural changes exist. But for real change to take place both economic and political/ideological conditions must be present.

‘’History has shown that the vicious circles of poverty and underdevelopment can be effectively attacked only by qualitatively changing the production structures of poor and failing states. A successful strategy implies an increasing diversification away from sectors with diminishing returns (traditional raw materials and agriculture) to sectors with constant and increasing returns (technology, intensive manufacturing and services) creating a new and more complex division of labour and new social-economic structures in the process. In addition to breaking away from subsistence agriculture, this will create an urban market for goods, which will further induce specialization and innovation, bring in new technologies, create both alternative employment and the economic synergies that unite a nation state. The key to economic development is the interplay between the sectors with increasing and diminishing returns in the same labour market.’’ (How Rich Countries got Rich, Why Poor Countries Stay Poor – Erik Reinert).

Thus, if you wish to bake a cake these are the ingredients. But comprador bourgeoisies and their imperial sponsors have other priorities and preoccupations, nation-building and economic development are not among them.

PART 2

Turning to the EU the regional prototype for the globalization project, it was Patrick Buchanan, an American conservative who once correctly stated in ‘The American Conservative’ that the US Congress ‘is an Israeli occupied zone’’ by which he meant of course that Israel and the Israeli Lobby, both external and internal, has had a huge input into the framing and operation of US foreign policy. In a similar vein the EU is also occupied territory under the tutelage of US imperialism. (This process of blatant meddling in European affairs by the US-CIA started with ‘Operation Gladio’ in the late 1940s) but the perceived enemy was not merely Soviet communism, but also sotto voce European social and political theory and practise, notably, Gaullism and social-democracy, both of which have long since been politically cleansed with the EU being reconfigured as neo-liberal, and (since the alignment of the EU security structures have been aligned with NATO) neo-conservative vassal states overseen and represented by odious little Petainist/Quisling occupation regimes. This is only too apparent when the fawning behaviours of May, Macron and Merkel vis-à-vis the US are observed. Whenever the US master says jump, the Europeans will reply ‘how high’ And this is even more pronounced by the newly arrived Eastern European states. A group which Dick Cheney once described as the ‘new Europe.’ By which meant the political force which was operationalised to fundamentally change the political direction of the EU in the late 20th century. Euro-widening was meant to prevent euro-deepening, and it worked a treat.

The ongoing Americanisation of Europe carries with it the toxic values of liberal individualism, market liberalisation, structural inequality, a philosophy of winner takes all, and a rapacious/murderous imperialism. A nightmare Hobbesian world of a ‘war of everyman against everyman’; John Stuart Mill also weighed in with considerable disdain writing ‘I confess I am not charmed with the ideal of life held out by those who think that the normal state of human beings is that of struggling to get on; that of trampling, crushing, elbowing, and treading on each other’s heels, which forms the existing type of social life are the most desirable lot of humankind … (J.S.Mill – Principles of Political Economy).

The Americanisation process has been going on for the last half century. It degrades Europe, causes it to regress, forces it to abandon everything in its progressive past contribution to the capitalist stage of production the antidotes which it allowed it to resist the liberal poison and promote democracy and equality despite it.

‘’Old Europe’’ has nothing to learn from ‘’Young America.’’ There will be no progress possible on any European project as long as the US grand strategy is not foiled.’’ (The Liberal Virus – Samir Amin)

One particular crisis in the EU – the unfolding to the denouement of the Greek debacle – has presented an archetypal learning curve for an understanding of the structural problems involved in the EU and occasioned a virtual industry of copious tracts which purport to explain the crisis, and I have no wish to repeat the whole sorry tale here. I would say, however, that if Syriza was in earnest in taking on the Troika it would have required not just an imaginary backing of a long-defunct and toothless euro social-democracy, but also a withdrawal from the euro – certainly a leap into the unknown. Assuredly this would have been a high-risk policy – and no-one should be under the illusion that there is any easy way out. The trouble is that social-democracy has vanished into history; the soft-options specialists. The SPD (Germany) PS (France) PASOK (Greece) PSOE (Spain) are political organizations which might (occasionally) refer to themselves as social-democrats, or even on occasion ‘socialists’ but of course they are nothing of the sort. ‘By their works shall thee know them.’

And,

‘’ … Syriza’s strategy was not only long-run but also attempted to incorporate the social virtues of Europe’s once dominant social-democratic heritage. What Syriza did not adequately understand, however, was that heritage was now history, buried deep under the refuse pile of new neo-liberal values.’’ (Looting Greece – Jack Rasmus)

Now we have Varoufakis going on to declare that the ‘nation is dead’. Well, that is certainly true of Greece, which is now to all intents and purposes a colony with the grotesque spectacle of Syriza now playing a governing role in a regime that at one time it stridently opposed. The assertion that nations as such are no longer sovereign – a statement which is wrong both theoretically and empirically – but has a limited application. Truth be told some states are more sovereign than others, and the sovereign nations call the shots vis-à-vis the vassal/colonies which are not sovereign. (One wonders if the United States, or Israel or indeed Syria which has been engaged in physically defending its sovereignty for some time, are not sovereign. I think they are, but Mr Varoufakis may wish to differ) Greek sovereignty and democracy disappeared when the Troika and EU finance ministers and French and German banks forced the surrender and took over the running(-down) of the Greek economy. But this was inevitable in a liberal internationalist globalist economy; open borders will simply mean that TNCs will be free to exploit the productive resources of any country in the world – particularly labour – in order to maximise their economic power at the expense of society’s. In other words, societies with open markets, will be unable to impose any effective controls to protect themselves from the rapacious incursions of TNCs as Polanyi pointed out long ago.

So, what does the ‘supra-national’ solution offer other than comforting words.

Try the following.

‘’DiEM2025 stands today as an attempt to learn the lessons of defeat, and to prepare for future struggles for building a stronger network, not of globalists, but left-wing internationalists whose strategies for advance include the dislocation of imperialist economic chains, as well as real progress in building the capacities of national societies to strengthen democracy and provide for the well-being of their nations.’’

All of which strikes this writer as a series of clichés and meaningless abstractions. Please note, the dog-eared phraseology, ‘learn the lessons of defeat’ ‘prepare for future struggles’ ‘strengthen democracy’ and ‘provide for the well-being of their populations.’ You might as well throw in motherhood and apple pie whilst you’re at it.

Then comes the dawn of realization that ‘a future Labour government which -assuming of course that the next government will be Labour – attempting to carry out its declared programme of bringing some elements of the economy under national control ‘’will come under the assault not only from the EU, but also Washington.’’ Really! Never occurred to me that! What does a Labour government do in this hypothetical situation? Surrender, Syriza style. No, we apparently need a Europe-wide supra-national strategy based upon what policies exactly? We must assume, according to the orthodoxy, that the nation state is either dead or dying, an article of faith of the globalist left and the Washington Consensus. Ergo, the policy the ‘left internationalists’ is one of inter alia ‘strengthening democracy’ – all very noble. But provided that the neo-liberal tripod of the three freedoms of movement – capital, labour, commodities – remains in place, political change will not take place. And provided the institutional infrastructure of globalized capitalism – the IMF, WTO, World Bank, the EU are overseeing and enabling the neoliberal project economic and political change will not take place. It is not the shackles of nationalism that give rise to the bureaucratic monstrosity which is the EU but precisely the opposite. The neo-liberal imperatives of open borders, liberalized markets, flexible labour markets and freedom of movement of labour, capital and commodities, might have had something to do with it. Unless these political/ideological roadblocks are addressed the status quo will continue and continue to deteriorate.

In terms of alliance building, political convergence between states cannot be constructed at regional (for example the EU) or even less so at global levels even if it is not achieved firstly at the level of nations. Because whether we like it or not, nations define and manage concrete realities and challenges, and it is only at these levels that changes in the social and political balance of forces to the advantage of the popular classes will or will not occur. Changes at the regional and global level may reflect national advances and certainly facilitate them – but nothing more.

In order to stop the onward march of globalist neoliberalism governments and state must regain control of their economies. There is no single way to achieve this critical goal, but without it hemispheric co-operation will remain little more than an empty rhetorical flourish. Moreover, everywhere electorates are looking to governments to be a counterweight to footloose corporations. It is this intuitive perception to rein-in markets that will increasingly occupy centre-stage between pro and anti the coming decade. For social-political movements the nation-state continues to be the chosen instrument for the organization of society. However much social institutions will have to adapt to new global pressures, what is not in doubt is that the nation-state remains the crucible for equality seeking movements the world over. Efficiency, profitability and competitiveness have not won the hearts and minds of the peoples worldwide.’’ (States Against Markets – Boyer and Drache)

Reform of the EU, which I understand to be the goal of the campaign of pro-EU aligned leftist factions, fails to take into consideration the fact that the EU cannot be reformed since its whole ideological structure and constitution is built upon neo-liberal technocratic assumptions which can clearly be identified in the interior belief-systems of the bureaucracy and consequently the daily practise and deliberations of its internal institutions. Being explicitly designed on a neoliberal model which was cemented by legal statutes have made such changes impossible.

‘’Any belief that the EU can be ‘democratised’ and reformed in a progressive direction is a pious illusion. Not only would this require an impossible alignment of left movements/governments to emerge simultaneously at the international level. On a more fundamental level, a system that was created with the specific aim of constraining democracy cannot be democratised. It can only be rejected.’’ (Thomas Fawzi – Lexit Digest)

Reinforcing the conservative structure of the EU’s political institutions, and here I have in mind the European Parliament, are dominated by two powerful blocs.

1. An alliance of political parties, centre-left and centre-right which form the usual centrist mish-mash, the extreme centre, as it has been called. This centrist bloc is composed predominantly of euro-enthusiasts and who command a working majority in the European parliament and other EU institutions. 2. The geo-political alliance – i.e., the infusion of members of the ‘New Europe’ into the EU, who were generally very pro-American and fanatically Russophobic, this along with the parallel expansion and incorporation of these new states into NATO has served to undermine some of the earlier Gaullist and social democratic traditions in Europe.

It seems clear, therefore, that the pro-EU bloc which dominates the political, economic and strategic agenda of the EU, in addition to the permanent institutional structures which are mandated to carry out existing policies, will continue to do so for any foreseeable future despite the pipe-dreams of the ‘left-wing internationalists’. Even Varoufakis has admitted that this approach is frankly ‘utopian’ – and if this is the case, the Remainer left can only play games and give a leftish veneer in an attempt to reform what they apparently believe is an unstoppable historical development (globalization). (Lexit Digest)

Having said all this the final outcome of this imbroglio may include elements of piecemeal reform and/and or outright rejection, which is what usually happens. We shall see. But it would be useful perhaps to have an open dialogue between all parties involved rather than highly partisan and misleading attempts to smear and shout down opponents – and we are all guilty to a degree in this respect – who may have something positive to offer.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with Solovyov Live YouTube channel, Moscow, December 27, 2021

December 28, 2021

Interview:   27 December 2021 22:40

(Note:  This transcript is currently partially complete and will be posted as it becomes available)

Vladimir Solovyov: We are like three-winged birds. The Russian Foreign Ministry operates on three fronts: on the first one, it communicates with our American partners, the second one is NATO, and the third are the Europeans, no matter what they call themselves (the OSCE is a bit more than just the Europeans). What matters the most to us in the extremely challenging dialogue at this stage? We launched it using methods that are totally at odds with the customary ways of Russian diplomacy. This approach proved to be very effective. Which of these fronts has the most importance?

Sergey Lavrov: What matters the most, as President of Russia Vladimir Putin has said, is that there is less empty talk, so that they don’t water down our proposals in endless discussions, which is something the West knows how to do and is notorious for. These diplomatic efforts must yield results. Even more importantly, these results must be achieved within a determined timeframe. We did not put forward any ultimatums. However, engaging in never-ending talks during which the West once again will make ambiguous promises, and will then definitely double-cross us down the road – we do no need that. In this context, the United States is our main negotiating party. It is with the United States that we will hold the main round of talks right after the New Year holidays.

Speaking on NATO’s behalf, its Secretary General and Chair of the Russia-NATO Council Jens Stoltenberg proposed holding a Russia-NATO Council meeting right after that, the very next day. Of course, they did so at the initiative of the United States. This organisational structure reflects the projects we have submitted and presented to the United States and NATO for review. I am referring to the Russia-US treaty on security guarantees and a Russia-NATO agreement on limiting risks and threats on the European stage (hopefully, not a stage of military operations). These documents set forth specific proposals. You have seen them. They present our vision of NATO and the Russian Federation, with its allies, making their respective armed forces less of a threat.

Vladimir Solovyov: Who will lead the talks?

Sergey Lavrov: An interagency delegation with the participation of the Foreign Ministry and the military. There is no lack of understanding on behalf of the United States. As for NATO, we have warned them that since they have put all the military-to-military initiatives on hold since 2014 and reduced our contacts to sporadic telephone calls to the Chief of the General Staff, the conversation will make sense only if the military are directly involved. Our delegation will include high-ranking army representatives. We asked the other side to confirm whether they will do the same. We are waiting for their reply.

Vladimir Solovyov: Overall, NATO has been acting in quite a strange manner. By and large, we don’t talk to them. There are virtually no contacts. They expelled our representatives. The ties have been severed almost entirely. Jens Stoltenberg’s statements caused an international crisis. He said that if need may be, NATO would be ready to deploy its military infrastructure to the east of Germany. President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko answered him, which caused an outpouring of criticism against him.

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, Jens Stoltenberg has a Nordic mentality. He makes quite simple statements. Yes, this is true.

Vladimir Solovyov: How will you deal with him?

Sergey Lavrov: We will not be dealing with him. I would like to repeat that we have proposed a Russia-NATO agreement. It will not be necessarily drafted at the Russia-NATO Council, although this is not impossible either. We will not be dealing with Jens Stoltenberg, who is, technically, executive manager of the NATO Secretariat. We will be negotiating with the top members of the bloc, primarily the United States. It is logical that US President Biden reacted to our initiative days after we advanced it. He mentioned the negotiators: the United States plus the four leading Western countries. This provoked an outcry from the other NATO members, including Ukraine, which said that it must take part in the talks. What matters to us is not the form of our contacts with NATO, but the essence of the talks. First of all, they must be held professionally and responsibly in the military-to-military format.

Vladimir Solovyov: NATO is an amorphous organisation. They say they cannot do anything without a consensus decision.

Sergey Lavrov: That is none of our business. It is their internal matter. We do not care about the Washington Treaty, including Article 5, which stipulates collective defence. If NATO were a defence alliance, as Stoltenberg has been shouting from the rooftops, it would not have expanded eastward. NATO has become a purely geopolitical project aimed at taking over the territories orphaned by the collapse of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation and the Soviet Union. This is what it is doing now. And we cannot sit on our hands when they are approaching “the doorstep of our house,” as President Putin has said.

Vladimir Solovyov: What about the declared right of each country to choose their allies independently? They are using this argument all the time.

Sergey Lavrov: They are just trying to prop themselves up. It is an unscrupulous attempt made through foul means to use a document that is based on compromise. Not a single “brick” can be removed from that compromise without bringing it down. This is what they are doing. Even the 1990 Charter of Paris for a New Europe says that all states are free to choose their own security arrangements, including the alliances they join. But it also says that while doing this they must respect the principle of indivisible security.

Vladimir Solovyov: That is, as Vladimir Putin has said on the gas issue, “they lie all the time”?

Sergey Lavrov: They are telling half-truths, which is probably worse that outright lies, because they are trying to present their position as legally faultless. But legal is not a term that can be used in this case. All these documents, including the Paris Charter and the documents of the 1999 OSCE summit in Istanbul are political pledges. And the 1997 Russia-NATO Founding Act is a political document as well. All these political commitments made publicly at the highest level not to strengthen their security to the detriment of others’ security and not to deploy substantial armed forces have been destroyed systematically many times over, including during the five waves of NATO eastward expansion carried out contrary to their pledges, as President Putin has pointed out. Therefore, this time we demand – this is the only option – legally binding security guarantees. Trust but verify.

You have mentioned the OSCE: that organisation’s striving to posture itself on the international stage is a separate subject. Back in 1975, when the Helsinki Final Act of the then Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe was signed, US President Gerald Ford said solemnly and even pompously: “History will judge this Conference not by what we say here today, but by what we do tomorrow – not by the promises we make, but by the promises we keep.”

Vladimir Solovyov: That’s wise.

Sergey Lavrov: The very truth itself, I would say. All our actions are guided by this legacy of one of the great American presidents.

Vladimir Solovyov: At the same time, Jens Stoltenberg keeps claiming that NATO never promised Russia that there would be no eastward expansion, alleging that he heard this from Mikhail Gorbachev. I showed this video to Mikhail Gorbachev, who tells me: “What do you mean there were no promises? What about James Baker? On February 9, 1990, he gave me this promise. We had this conversation, there are written records, and the transcripts are available.” For these people, nothing matters unless there is a paper trail. Did they promise us that there would be no eastward expansion of NATO? The Americans keep repeating this narrative all the time.

Sergey Lavrov: Of course, they did. Only recently, I read the memoirs of a British diplomat who was involved in the talks, including on the reunification of Germany from a NATO perspective, on having no nuclear weapons to the east of the line where they were deployed at the time. He says that yes, they honestly promised that there would be no expansion of NATO, but this was not what they meant. They were driven by the historical opportunity to build a new Europe free from confrontation and so forth. This is what Zbigniew Brzezinski told one of his colleagues in all honesty: “We tricked them.”

Vladimir Solovyov: Under Boris Yeltsin, Russia did not demand any written commitments either. On the contrary, during a visit to Poland we agreed…

Sergey Lavrov: This is all that there was to our relations with the West when the Soviet Union was coming apart and we were building new relations between us. President Vladimir Putin has mentioned this many times. There was an unprecedented level of trust and an enormous desire to be friends, if not allies, as Vladimir Putin likes to say. However, we now see that all this was a mistake. You cannot take anything these people say on trust.

Vladimir Solovyov: The person who used to head the Russian Foreign Ministry, and is now a retiree living in Florida – his surname is Kozyrev – made a bombastic statement that at this stage Russia must join NATO. How come Russia does not want to be part of the family of civilised nations?

Sergey Lavrov: For many Russian politicians, primarily those in the opposition, the West is an undisputable ideal, an unchallenged leader to be followed in everything. For them, there is nothing bad about the West, and they fail to notice the damage the West causes around the world when it destroys countries and shatters their statehood. Some just want to fall into line with what is going on. Why look overseas to Florida? I read about this every day. The Presidential Executive Office provides us a digest of publications from the Russian media, including Meduza, Republic, and Novaya Gazeta. What they write…

Vladimir Solovyov: Didn’t Mikhail Bulgakov say: “Don’t read…”

Sergey Lavrov: But this is not about the communist…

Vladimir Solovyov: It’s basically the same thing, just the other way around.

Sergey Lavrov: Quite a while ago it struck me that just as in the Soviet times, I learned to understand what an article is about by simply reading its headline. You can now treat many media publications this way. For example, the Republic or Novaya Gazeta tend to extol the West in their articles. A prominent Russian opposition figure wrote on what the West tried to portray as a crisis this past spring on the border with Ukraine, when we were holding regular exercises (there was much talk about it at the time around the world). But the exercise came to an end, and the troops returned to the places of their permanent deployment. This is how this was presented: “See, Putin got scared. He got a phone call from Joe Biden, and immediately withdrew the troops.” The writer is a serious person who used to be part of our political establishment and was viewed as an interesting character. By the way, he took part in several shows of yours. Novaya Gazeta then published a long article titled “The fate of an outcast. Where will the Russian foreign policy take us.” Of course, this was about the stubborn Russian Federation unwilling to come to terms with its diminished international role. It lost the Cold War, and that’s all there is to it. You must show more modesty after that. You lost, so stay where you are. The historical comparisons in this article included post-WWII Germany and Japan. They lost, accepted this fact, and received a “wonderful democracy” in return. These are the words of a former deputy foreign minister from the time you have mentioned. By the way, he worked a lot on the Kuril Islands during the talks with Tokyo.

Vladimir Solovyov: No surprise there.

Sergey Lavrov: There is no shortage of revelations of this kind. Treating the West as the holder of the ultimate truth is quite a serious matter.

Vladimir Solovyov: Many people had the same mistaken beliefs. At the very beginning of his presidential term, Vladimir Putin said that Russia did not object to different NATO accession terms, ones that would be equitable and partner-like. Are they offering such terms to us? Is there any possible situation when Russia could join NATO?

Sergey Lavrov: Of course, not. I cannot imagine such a situation because the entire process does not revolve around NATO and the European Union. It revolves around the fact that the West does not want any rivals with a more or less comparable level of influence on the international stage. This explains the hysteria regarding the rise of China. Well, China has risen because it accepted global economic and financial rules of the game, introduced by the West. Acting in line with this globalisation and Western rules, it has outplayed the West on its own field. Today, Washington and Brussels are demanding that all regulations of the World Trade Organisation be changed, and the WTO overhauled. They are saying openly that the United States and Europe should work on this and that all others should not even think about this. We will tell you in due time what you need to do. I don’t even see any ideology here. President Putin has repeatedly said that this is not so much an ideology as it is a struggle for influence.

Vladimir Solovyov: Napoleon said that war is all about geography, first and foremost. And politics is all about geography, first and foremost.

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, that’s right.

Vladimir Solovyov: Does this mean that we are enemies? Does it mean that NATO sees us as enemies, and that it simply wants to destroy us?

Sergey Lavrov: This life and geography can take on the form of adversity. But it can also be rivalry or competition. I believe that if the West was ready for fair competition, it would be an optimal way out of the current confrontation.

Vladimir Solovyov: Then it wouldn’t be the West anymore.

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, it wouldn’t be the West anymore. They now want to change the rules of globalisation and the World Trade Organisation because China is leading the way under these regulations. China will become the largest power by 2030, in terms of all parameters, if it retains the current pace.

Vladimir Solovyov: Since we are talking about the WTO, now we are hearing how shameful it is that they imposed sanctions but, instead of dropping on our knees in tears, we dared to retaliate with our own measures. They have actually calculated how much money we owe them.

Sergey Lavrov: The WTO is not involved in this.

Vladimir Solovyov: But they complained to the WTO.

Sergey Lavrov: The World Trade Organisation must follow its own procedures. Right now, it is pretty much paralysed. The dispute resolution body was essentially inactive and did not work until recently. When China inundated this body with completely substantiated and fair complaints against the United States and its unfair competition practices, the United States took advantage of procedural ploys and started blocking any new appointees to this body. As a result, it could never meet the quorum requirement.

Vladimir Solovyov: Now Europeans have addressed them. They are saying: “What are you doing, Russians? You caused us enormous damage.” Even though we had warned them. Joe Biden twisted their arm, admitting that Europe did not want to impose sanctions. And now it turns out that we were telling the truth.

Sergey Lavrov: We don’t even have to discuss this matter. It was a shameful act on behalf of the European Union. I feel sorry for the politicians who decided to publicly make this kind of statements complaining against Russia. It is simply beyond the pale.

Vladimir Solovyov: Everybody was saying: “Who do the Russians think they are? The economy is practically invisible. How dare they write to the Americans with their demands?” Everybody who looks up to the West as if it were the sun without spots claimed they would not even speak to us or deign to read our proposal. “Who do you think you are? You are about to be eaten for breakfast.” At the same time, as you said, Americans did not say no. They are studying it carefully. Certain topics have been outlined for the dialogue to happen right after the holidays, very soon. Who will represent Russia in this dialogue? And who will represent the United States? It seems that the Americans are not unanimous on this matter and there are discrepancies in Jake Sullivan’s stance and in Anthony Blinken’s comments and views (they may be stylistic discrepancies, but they seem to exist).

Sergey Lavrov: We will announce that. I can say that the representatives will be from the Foreign Ministry and the Defence Ministry. We are aware of the Americans’ plans. They are aware of ours. I think these plans will become public shortly.

Vladimir Solovyov: Are we preparing for these talks every day?

Sergey Lavrov: We have been ready since the Soviet Union.

Vladimir Solovyov: Although not all of us happened to be pioneers.

To be continued…

Clouds on the horizon (OPEN THREAD)

December 27, 2021

The US did not provide Russia with any answer on Friday.  By itself, this is not very surprising, the levels of infighting in the US ruling elites have made it impossible to agree on a reply on such short notice, especially during the various end of year celebrations in the West.

As for the Russians, they are fine with that, since their own deadline was mid-January.  So as of right now, nothing significant has changed, what we observe is only a lot of statements by anybody and everybody, most of these statements make little or no sense and they typically all contradict each other.  We should not get too caught up in the “he said this, she said that” thingie, as this is, quite literally, just hot air.

In terms of actions, again we see contradictory developments: some sources report that NATO is preparing for a major war while other report that the US Americans and UK personnel are preparing an emergency evacuation.

There appears to be a meeting between Putin and Biden in the making, according to same sources after the Orthodox Nativity, so sometime around or soon after January 8th.  If so, I welcome that.

Also, Stoltenberg has said that there will be a meeting between NATO and Russia on the 12th.  But then, Stoltenberg is a powerless clown whose verbal emissions mean nothing.  He was the one who totally rejected any negotiations with Russia just a week ago, and now he is offering to negotiate…

I spent the last 3 days reading opinions on the Runet, listening to talk shows and watching various officials and personalities expressing their opinion and I want to share my conclusion with you: there is absolutely overwhelming evidence that the Russians are NOT bluffing, that they really mean every word they said.  There is even a growing chorus of voices saying that it would be better for Russia if the West would simply reject all the Russian demands out of hand.  Many clearly hope that the West will try that as this would completely untie Russia’s hands (or, if you prefer, her bear claws).

Most military officials seem to believe that a full-scale war against NATO will not happen, but that some kind of conflict with the Ukraine is now inevitable.  I tend agree with them.

Many observers also seem to be really fed up.  Fed up with the constant bloodletting in the LDNR, fed up with the constant presence of western military “advisors” in the Ukraine, fed up with the grandstanding and pompous declarations by EU/NATO officials whom the Russians don’t even take seriously.  This entire topic has become a huge abscess in the mind of many Russians and an increasing number of them now want this abscess to be cut open, disinfected and healed.  “More of the same” is just not something anybody is willing to accept.

But while I am sure that the Russians are not bluffing, I am not so sure at all whether decision-makers in the West realize that.  Judging by the nonsense spewed by western officials and the AngloZionist media, I would say that no, they mostly don’t (there are a few notable exceptions like this one).

So I would say that there are definitely clouds on the horizon.

But the fact that the US and Russia seem to be preparing for some kind of summit is definitely a good sign as it shows that there is still a chance for the two sides to make some kind of deal avoiding the worst (if the US Americans only wanted to meet to issue more threats or to dismiss the Russian demands, neither side would bother with organizing a meeting).

The biggest risk now is that the US Americans will try to talk their way out and just let the clock run down without ever giving a clear answer to the Russians.  Deputy Foreign Minister Riabkov said this about that “we don’t need negotiations, we need security guarantees, and very soon”.  The Russians won’t take unilateral action unless and until they become convinced that the West is not willing to restrain itself and offer any legally biding and verifiable security guarantees.  The other side of this coin is that should the West not be willing to restrain itself and refuse to offer any legally biding a verifiable security guarantees, then the Russians will be free take unilateral action.  In other words, the Russians are saying this: look, we will get what we want, one way or another, whether we do that by means of a bilateral/multilateral negotiation or unilaterally now depends on you.  For us, either way is fine, and we will achieve our objective in any scenario.  The key message here is this: there is nothing you, the collective West or the USA, can do to prevent that outcome.

I conclude that the Russian ultimatum was really the very last effort by Russia to settle the problem diplomatically.  If this effort fails, then the West better prepare itself for a lot of unilateral Russian actions.

As they say in Russia “those who will not listen to Lavrov will have to deal with Shoigu“.  Even Lavrov himself seems to agree.

We will soon find out I suppose.

I invite you all to share your views in the open thread below.

Andrei

PS: in the meantime, the LDNR authorities have identified the chemical substances US PMCs have brought to the cities of Mariupol, Krasnyi Liman and Avdeevka: botulinum toxin and dibenzoxazepine.  These chemical weapon were brought over from the USA by USAF contracted aircraft and are now deployed by 120 US mercenaries.

So far – no reply, but lots of denials (OPEN THREAD)

December 24, 2021

At the time of writing, 8PM in Moscow, the Russians have received no reply from the US.  So it appears that the US side, which had declared that an answer would be forthcoming for Friday, has changed their mind.

Yesterday Putin had a 4 hour long presser, which further incensed the War Party and its propaganda machine (aka “the West’s free and democratic media”).

Judging by the many statements coming out from “mainstream” western politicians, the USA’s reply, when it comes, will be what Putin called “chatting forever”, i.e. they want to draw Russia into endless and mostly meaningless negotiations while continuing their public grandstanding.  If so, that was to be expected.

I might be wrong here, but I get the feeling that one of the reasons the Russian made their ultimatum both very unambiguous and public is that they were fully expecting the West not to offer any meaningful reply.  In fact, I am increasingly suspecting that they deliberately created the conditions to make sure that the West would ignore Russian demands.  Why?

Because that would untie the hands of the Kremlin to take unilateral actions.  What kind?  That nobody knows, but I can think of three off the top of my head:

  • Deploy the Belgorod with its Poseidons
  • Let the EU freeze and pay $2’000 per 1000m3 of gas
  • Make a political move either towards the LDNR, or Belarus or China

This would be some possible first steps to “turn up the pain dial” I mentioned yesterday.

Putin has just announced that for the first time the Russians have fired a volley of Zircon hypersonic missiles.  The test was successful.

Let’s see what happens next.

The Russians (in both Moscow and the LDNR) are reporting that there are currently 4’000 US “military advisors” in the Ukraine and that US PMCs have brought chemical weapons to the LOC to have the option to organize a false flag attack.  According to LDNR officials, these chemical munitions are droppable by drones.  The personnel servicing them has been provided with an antidote.

I wish a peaceful and joyful celebration to those who celebrate the western Christmas today.

I leave you with on open thread over the week-end.

Andrei

Exit Nord Stream 2, Enter Power of Siberia 2

THURSDAY 23 DEC 21

Military superpower Russia, having had enough of U.S./NATO bullying, is now dictating the terms of a new arrangement.

PEPE ESCOBAR 

Coming straight from President Putin, it did sound like a bolt from the sky:

“We need long-term legally binding guarantees even if we know they cannot be trusted, as the U.S. frequently withdraws from treaties that become uninteresting to them. But it’s something, not just verbal assurances.”

And that’s how Russia-U.S. relations come to the definitive crunch – after an interminable series of polite red alerts coming from Moscow.

Putin once again had to specify that Russia is looking for “indivisible, equitable security” – a principle established since Helsinki in 1975 – even though he no longer sees the U.S. as a dependable “partner”, that diplomatically nicety so debased by the Empire since the end of the USSR.

The “frequently withdrawing from treaties” passage can easily be referred to as Washington in 2002 under Bush Jr. pulling out of the ABM treaty signed between the U.S. and the USSR in 1972. Or it could be referred to as the U.S. under Trump destroying the JCPOA signed with Iran and guaranteed by the UN. Precedents abound.

Putin was once again exercising the Taoist patience so characteristic of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov: explaining the obvious not only to a Russian but also a global audience. The Global South may easily understand this reference; “When international law and the UN Charter interfere, they [the U.S.] declare it all obsolete and unnecessary.”

Earlier, Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko had been uncommonly assertive – leaving nothing for the imagination:

“We just make it clear that we are ready to talk about switching over from a military or a military-technical scenario to a political process that will strengthen the security of all countries in the area of the OCSE, Euro-Atlantic and Eurasia. If that doesn’t work out, we signaled to them [NATO] that we will also move over to creating counter threats, but it will then be too late to ask us why we made these decisions and why we deployed these systems.”

So in the end it comes down to Europeans facing “the prospect of turning the continent into a field of military confrontation.” That will be the inevitable consequence of a NATO “decision” actually decided in Washington.

Incidentally: any possible, future “counter threats” will be coordinated between Russia and China.

Mr. Zircon is on the line, Sir

Every sentient being from Atlanticist shores to Eurasian steppes by now knows the content of the Russian draft agreements on security guarantees presented to the Americans, as detailed by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov.

Key provisions include no further NATO expansion; no Ukraine admission; no NATO shenanigans in Ukraine, Eastern Europe, Transcaucasia and Central Asia; Russia and NATO agreeing not to deploy intermediate and short-range missiles in areas from where they can hit each other’s territory; establishment of hotlines; and the NATO-Russia Council actively involved in resolving disputes.

Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs extensively reiterated that the Americans received “detailed explanations of the logic of the Russian approach”, so the ball is in Washington’s court.

Well, National Security advisor Jake Sullivan at first seemed to kick it, when he admitted, on the record, that Putin may not want to “invade” Ukraine.

Then there were rumblings that the Americans would get back to Moscow this week with their own “concrete security proposals”, after de facto writing the script for their NATO minions, invariably conveyed in spectacularly mediocre fashion by secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg.

The Ukraine narrative didn’t change an inch: “severe measures” – of an economic and financial nature – remain in the pipeline if Russia engages in “further aggression” in Ukraine.

Moscow was not fooled. Ryabkow had to specify, once again, that the Russian proposals were on a bilateral basis. Translation: we talk only to those with deciding power, not to minions. The involvement of other countries, Ryabkov said, “will deprive them of their meaning.”

From the start, NATO’s response had been predictably obvious: Russia is conducting a “substantial, unprovoked, and unjustified” military buildup along its border with Ukraine and is making “false … claims of Ukrainian and NATO provocations”.

That once again proved the point it’s a monumental waste of time to discuss with yapping chihuahuas of the Stoltenberg variety, for whom “NATO expansion will continue, whether Russia likes it or not.”

In fact, whether U.S. and NATO functionaries like it or not, what’s really happening in the realpolitk realm is Russia dictating new terms from a position of power. In a nutshell: you may learn the new game in town in a peaceful manner, civilized dialogue included, or you will learn the hard way via a dialogue with Mr. Iskandr, Mr. Kalibr, Mr. Khinzal and Mr. Zircon.

The inestimable Andrei Martyanov has extensively analysed for years now all the details of Russia’s overwhelming military dominance, hypersonic and otherwise, across the European space – as well as the dire consequences if the U.S. and NATO minions “decide that they want to continue to play dumb.”

Martyanov has also noted that Russia “understands the split with the West and is ready to take any consequences, including, already declining, shrinkage of trade and reduction of the supply of hydrocarbons to the EU.”

That’s where the whole ballet around the security guarantees intersects with the crucial Pipelineistan angle. To sum it all up: exit Nord Stream 2, enter Power of Siberia 2.

So let’s revisit why the looming energy catastrophe in the EU is not forcing anyone in Russia to lose his/her sleep.

Dancing in the Siberian night

One of the top takeaways of the strategic Putin-Xi video conference last week was the immediate future of Power of Siberia 2 – which will snake in across Mongolia to deliver up to 50 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually to China.

So it was hardly an accident that Putin received Mongolian President Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh in the Kremlin, the day after he talked to Xi, to discuss Power of Siberia 2. The key parameters of the pipeline have already been set, a feasibility study will be completed in early 2022, and the deal – minus last-minute pricing tune-ups – is practically clinched.

Power of Siberia 2 follows the 2,200 km long Power of Siberia 1, launched in 2019 from Eastern Siberia to northern China and the focus of a $400 billion deal struck between Gazprom and China’s CNPC. Power of Siberia 1’s full capacity will be reached in 2025, when it will be supplying 38 billion cubic meters of gas annually.

Power of Siberia 2, a much bigger operation, was planned years ago, but it was hard to find consensus on the final route. Gazprom wanted Western Siberia to Xinjiang across the Altai mountains. The Chinese wanted transit via Mongolia straight into central China. The Chinese eventually prevailed. The final route across Mongolia was decided only two months ago. Construction should begin in 2024.

This is a massive geoeconomic game-changer, totally in line with the increasingly sophisticated Russia-China strategic partnership. But it’s also supremely important geopolitically (Remember Xi: China supports Russia’s “core interests”).

The gas for Power of Siberia 2 will come from the same fields currently supplying the EU market. Whatever demented concoctions the European Commission – and the new German government – may apply on stalling the operation of Nord Stream 2, Gazprom’s main focus will be China.

It doesn’t matter for Gazprom that China as a customer in the near future will not fully replace the whole EU market. What matters is the steady business flow and the absence of infantile politicking. For China what matters is an extra, guaranteed overland supply rote boosting its strategy of “escaping from Malacca”: the possibility, in case Cold War 2.0 turns hot, that the U.S. Navy would eventually block maritime shipping of energy sources via Southeast Asia to China.

Beijing of course is all over the place when it comes to buying Russian natural gas. The Chinese have a 30% stake in Novatek’s $27 billion Yamal project and a 20% stake in the $21 billion Arctic project.

So welcome to 2022 and the new, high stakes realpolitik Great Game.

U.S. elites had been terrified of playing Russia against China because they fear this would lead Germany to ally with Russia and China – leaving the Empire of Chaos out in the cold.

And that leads to the “mystery” inside the enigma of the whole Ukrainian face: use it to force the EU away from Russian natural resources.

Russia is turning the whole show upside down. As an energy superpower, instead of an internally corroded EU dictated by NATO, Russia will be mostly focused on its Asian customers.

In parallel, military superpower Russia, having had enough of U.S./NATO bullying, is now dictating the terms of a new arrangement. Lavrov confirmed the first round of Russia-U.S. talks on security guarantees will be held in early 2022.

Are these ultimatums? Not really. Seems like Ryabkov, with notable didacticism, will have to keep explaining it over and over again: “We do not speak in the language of ultimatums with anyone. We have a responsible attitude towards our own security and the security of others. The point is not that we have issued an ultimatum, not at all, but that the seriousness of our warning must not be underestimated.”

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Riad Salameh: Washington’s man in Lebanon; a suspect in Europe

December 22 2021

Washington’s man in Lebanon, Banque du Liban Governor Riad Salameh, is responsible for Lebanon’s financial collapse.Photo Credit: The Cradle

Europe has launched a flurry of criminal investigations into the United States’ most valuable Lebanese financial asset, the country’s Central Bank Governor

By The Cradle’s Lebanon Correspondent

On 27 November 2020, Lebanon’s Banque du Liban (Central Bank) Governor Riad Salameh was charged on suspicion of embezzlement, money laundering and abuse of influence in Switzerland, Britain, Luxembourg, Germany, the Netherlands, and Lebanon.

European judicial scrutiny over Salameh’s financial dealings first began in Bern, Switzerland, where legal authorities began investigating Lebanese bank transfers totaling about $400 million, the source of which is suspected to be Salameh, his brother Raja Salameh, and the governor’s assistant Marianne Howayek.

The Swiss Public Prosecutor’s Office subsequently wrote to Lebanon’s discriminatory Public Prosecution, requesting legal assistance from state authorities to investigate information that the Central Bank of Lebanon had laundered money and conducted embezzlement operations between 2002 and 2015.

These ‘suspicious’ transfers had been carried out through a company by the name of Forry Associates, owned by the two Salameh brothers.

On 26 December 2001, the Central Council of the Banque du Liban approved the governor’s request to sign a financial services contract between Forry and the Central Bank related to foreign currency debt bonds.

According to the Swiss Federal Prosecutor, the money was laundered in European and Lebanese banks, and was used to purchase real estate in several countries. Forry is, according to the Bern investigators, a shell company and a fraudulent front for the Salameh family.

This discovery represented the first fall of the domino for Riad Salameh, known to be ‘America’s man’ in the Lebanese financial sector.

Washington’s ‘criminal’ in Lebanon

The relationship between Riad Salameh and the US began to be revealed publicly in April 2019 when Lebanese daily newspaper Al-Akhbar published minutes of a meeting between the US Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism Financing and Financial Crimes, Marshall Billingsley, and the (former) Lebanese Economy Minister, Mansour Bteish.

The minutes reveal a US official saying:

“We need a governor of the Banquet du Liban and a deputy governor who we can trust, and who is sensitive and with whom confidential information about terrorist financing and money laundering can be exchanged. The situation today is that we trust Governor Riad Salameh and (former) Deputy Governor Muhammad Baasiri.”

Switzerland began its investigation in November 2020, and in February 2021, Lebanon’s discriminatory Public Prosecution launched a special investigation into Forry Associates and its relationship to the Salameh brothers.

The result of the investigation led by Lebanese Public Prosecutor Judge Jean Tannous (under the supervision of Public Prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat) led to a raid on Raja Salameh’s Beirut office in April 2021.

Then, on 26 May 2021, German and Swiss authorities ordered a freeze on the funds of Riad and Raja Salameh, and the same request was sent to France on 1 June.

French authorities immediately responded and began implementing procedures, while in Switzerland, citing the slow pace of judicial procedures, officials have yet to respond to Lebanese judiciary requests for assistance and information.

Surprisingly, given that Switzerland initiated this whole process, the Swiss have refused to send a copy of the contract signed between the Banque du Liban and the Forry company to the discriminatory Public Prosecution in Lebanon.

Bags of cash and financial sleaze

Thus far, three European states are leading criminal investigations against Riad Salameh: Switzerland, France and Luxembourg. The Netherlands, Germany, Britain, and Belgium are still examining complaints and follow-ups to files, and have not yet launched their own criminal investigations.

In July 2021, French airport customs authorities arrested Riad Salameh after discovering an undeclared amount of 84,430 euros and 7,710 dollars in his private bag, far more cash than is legally allowed to physically enter France without a permit.

Salameh’s initial response was to deny knowledge of the money, but shortly after being taken to an interrogation room, he confessed to have ‘forgotten’ that he had placed the money in his bag.

The scandal in France and the penalty slapped on Salameh have been added to the two complaints filed against him in Paris.

The first complaint was submitted on 16 April 2020 by Accountability Now, an NGO organization focused on Lebanon’s financial and political crimes against the Lebanese people, established by both Lebanese and Swiss human rights activists.

The second complaint was submitted on 30 April by the French ‘Sherpa’ organization, which specializes in combating economic and financial crimes around the world.

Investigations have progressed in France, leading to the interrogation of Raja Salameh, and the dispatch of a French police force on 21 October to raid apartments and real estate suspected of belonging to Riad and Raja Salameh and a certain Anna Kozakova, who the French press described as “the mother of Riad Salameh’s illegitimate daughter.”

The main objective of these raids was to gain access to an apartment located on the French Champs-Elysées, rented by Riad Salameh from Kozakova.

This apartment is officially leased by the Banque du Liban as a “reserve center” in case a force majeure event prevents it from working from its headquarters in Beirut’s Hamra district, or its secondary headquarters in Bikfaya, the Matn district of Mount Lebanon.

The raid revealed that the Banque du Liban rented the apartment for a whopping $500,000 per year – basically, it seems, to house only an electronic server no more than two square meters in size.

A deluxe suite of lawsuits 

The prosecution of the central bank governor is not limited to France, as Accountability Now has also filed a complaint in Britain.

On 14 October, a meeting was held in The Hague, which included representatives of the Public Prosecution Office in Lebanon, France, Switzerland, Germany, Luxembourg and Britain, with the intention “to coordinate the investigation steps into the wealth of Riad Salameh, Raja Salameh and Kozakova.”

The wealth of these three individuals is also being pursued in Belgium; while Luxembourg has frozen Salameh’s accounts after launching a criminal investigation against him on 12 November.

Media investigations have revealed three companies registered in Luxembourg in the name of Riad Salameh with combined assets of about $100 million, while a further entity is registered in the name of Raja Salameh.

Discoveries from previous investigations also show that Riad Salameh owns real estate amounting to 150 million dollars, about half of which is in Britain, and no less than 35 million euros invested in French real estate purchases, mostly between 2007 and 2014.

Lebanese lawsuits against its criminal ‘strongmen’ are gaining importance in the country. While the European legal clampdown on Riad Salameh is unprecedented, the most important implications are the lawsuit filed against him in Lebanon, handled by the discriminatory Public Prosecution.

Salameh collaborates closely with most Lebanese political forces and parties, enjoys the cover of the Maronite Patriarchate, and is carefully promoted by the majority of local media outlets.

Nevertheless, Judge Jean Tannous has questioned Salameh twice, as well as employees of two financial auditing firms, Ernst & Young and Deloitte, both of which audit the accounts of the Banque du Liban, a number of its managers, and former members of the bank’s Central Council.

Meanwhile, Salameh’s assistant, Marianne Howayek, was arrested for a few hours at Beirut airport last May, during which documents and electronic devices were confiscated before her release.

Riad Salameh is not just one of ‘Washington’s men’ in Lebanon; he is also the most powerful employee of the Lebanese state.

The Monetary and Credit Law, which regulates the work of the Lebanese banking sector, bestowed broad powers upon the central bank governor in terms of preserving money and the nation’s economy, but Salameh expanded his sphere of influence by taking advantage of the successive failures of political authorities to carry out their duties and to define the financial and social policy of the state.

Salameh’s crimes against Lebanon … with US blessing

Since 1997 to date, Salameh has personally taken all the measures and made all the decisions that led to Lebanon’s economic collapse.

These include fixing the exchange rate, borrowing US dollars from the Banque du Liban, and luring Lebanese banks to bring in deposits from correspondent banks abroad and placing them in the Banque du Liban with high interest rates.

Salameh’s actions also includes executing financial engineering that doubled the profits of bank owners and increased the state’s indebtedness; concealing the losses of the banking sector; applying subsidies to the importation of fuel, medicine and wheat, and then raising prices before finding an alternative for the Lebanese citizenry; disrupting the financial plan of the government of former Prime Minister Hassan Diab; and finally, participating in currency market speculation which contributed to the collapse of the Lebanese Lira currency, wiping out depositors’ life savings.

In its report issued in the spring of 2021, the World Bank described Salameh as “the exclusive policy maker” in Lebanon’s economy. Today, he is a suspect, having refused since February 2021 to provide the discriminatory Public Prosecution with his personal account statements in order to investigate the Forry case.

But instead of suspending Salameh from his position as the Central Bank’s governor until investigations were completed, the Council of Ministers expanded his authority, making him a ‘partner’ in the development of a financial rescue plan and IMF negotiations for Lebanon.

Today, Riad Salameh continues to be protected by the political, religious and media establishments of Lebanon, and by a US administration that refuses to allow him to be dismissed.

Specifically, it was the US embassy in Beirut which directly intervened against former Lebanese PM Hassan Diab’s decision to sack Riad Salameh and reset Lebanon’s collapsing financial system on a different path.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov’s interview with Interfax News Agency, December 18, 2021

December 21, 2021

20 December 2021 16:56

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov’s interview with Interfax News Agency, December 18, 2021

Question: Are our proposals to the United States and NATO regarding security guarantees an ultimatum to the West, the last attempt to reach out to them or a final warning to make them stop?

Sergey Ryabkov: We do not speak in the language of ultimatums with anyone. We have a responsible attitude towards our own security and the security of others. The point is not that we have issued an ultimatum, not at all, but that the seriousness of our warning must not be underestimated.

The security situation in Europe, the Euro-Atlantic region and Eurasia has indeed greatly deteriorated recently. This has happened because of a series of concerted actions by the United States and its NATO allies, which, generally speaking, can be described as an attempt to undermine Russia’s security and to create a hostile environment around us. We cannot accept this.

Ukraine is in the focus of this policy. Ukraine’s decisions are not independent but are subject to change in the situation. When the West provides unconditional and unqualified support to Ukraine, certain quarters in Kiev play up to the worst Western objectives and formulas. And the possibility of Ukraine eventually joining NATO, which some Ukrainian officials keep talking about, is categorically unacceptable to us. We will do our best to prevent this.

We reject the very presentation of the issue. We can discuss all the pros and cons, but we unequivocally demand that NATO withdraw the decision adopted at its Bucharest summit in 2008 that Ukraine and Georgia become NATO members. That decision should be called off and revised, which will be seen as a small, not comprehensive, but small step in the right direction. The West does not appear ready to do this. This is why our comprehensive, all-encompassing proposals raise a number of outstanding issues, primarily for the United States but also for its allies, which should be settled urgently. We are monitoring their reaction, which is not encouraging so far. We are ready for talks on this basis, but so far we can only see that our proposals have been rejected under far-fetched pretexts.

The statement adopted by the North Atlantic Council on December 16 is vivid proof of this. Ninety percent of the text consists of time-worn ultimatums to Russia. We are not issuing any ultimatums to anyone, and we will not allow others to do this towards us. The statement goes on to say that what Russia demands, what it is demanding, is not an outstretched hand but a harsh demand, which allegedly has nothing to do with NATO. The alliance is free to decide which countries can join it, and NATO’s relationship with Ukraine is a matter only for Ukraine and the 30 NATO Allies.

No, this is much more a matter concerning Russia, as I am stating clearly now. The time of diplomatic parlance is over. We have to explain things at the elementary level, to spell them out. The potential NATO membership of Ukraine is above all a matter of concern for the Russian Federation.

Question: Have we set any deadlines for an answer? Do we have a Plan B, shall we say, in case the answer is no?

Sergey Ryabkov: We have not set any deadlines. We proposed meeting and talking right now without dragging things out, without delay. Instead of talking to you here, I was actually ready to be in Geneva today for talks with Ms Karen Donfried, US Assistant Secretary of State, or with any negotiators Washington would assign for this purpose. The Americans were told that our interdepartmental delegation at these negotiations would be headed by a supervising deputy minister; they are aware of this. We are waiting for their response. We can be any place they name, at any time, starting tomorrow. Just a few hours to pack and we have it all ready. We have a clear approach, which we have worked on for quite some time, so there are no technical, political or organisational obstacles for starting such negotiations as soon as possible.

As for Plan B, we continue to expect the other side to show a serious approach. We understand they need time to read all this, discuss it and wrap their minds around it. As I understand it, certain discussions on this took place on December 16, at NATO and in the European Union. This is all clear. But by and large, if they confirmed their readiness to meet urgently and negotiate on the basis of our documents – our documents provide a framework for a certain negotiation process – this would be a good answer. True, we cannot be sure – we know this from the experience of many negotiations – that we will immediately reach an agreement in just a few days. Not at all; these are serious matters, but the process needs to start now. It cannot be delayed, given the situation in all its complexity and the totality of problematic aspects.

Question: You said that understandably it would be impossible to come to an agreement right away. Does this mean that we are ready to compromise to reach an agreement?

Sergey Ryabkov: This matter has been repeatedly discussed, including over the last few days, in contacts with US representatives and via other channels. We cannot understand the basics of the US position, when they say that we should, for example, with regard to the Minsk Package of Measures, do this or that. We have been urging them to put down on paper what they mean, for several months now. But they are not doing this. I don’t know whether they are unable or unwilling. They publish the same statements, sufficiently straightforward and tough statements, over and over again. If we go by what is written in these statements, it would certainly be impossible to come to terms. But any talks imply a search for compromise. The problem is not that there is no will to reach an agreement on our part but that we do not see this kind of will on the other side.

We are saying that there are no far-fetched things in the draft agreement with the United States or in the draft agreement on security guarantees with NATO, and, of course, we are saying this absolutely sincerely, firmly and confidently. This is the Russian Federation’s position on issues affecting our fundamental security interests, a position that is free of rhetoric and expressed in the language of a treaty. No more, no less, and it should be treated as such.

Therefore, when we say we need security guarantees, we naturally are proceeding from the assumption that the reply will be such as will make it possible to say: we have made headway in dealing with this package of key issues in such a manner as to see a substantial improvement in the security situation for us, to see a dramatic change for the better; we are no longer concerned about what may take place in the future in connection with the uninterrupted activities involving the buildup of military exercises, creation of infrastructure, redeployment of forces, reconnaissance flights, development of territories, and so on, practically in the entire Western sector, particularly in the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea in recent time.

The situation here could be stabilised through documents of this kind and their conclusion. It could be made better. Without them, however, the situation will remain extremely difficult and tense. No one should underestimate Moscow’s resolve to defend its national security interests. No one should treat lightly our statements regarding the dangerous nature of current developments.

Question: Is this about mutual guarantees? Are we also ready to give them these guarantees?

Sergey Ryabkov: Are you suggesting we draft them for NATO? I am not sure at all that they need them. In terms of its approach to security, NATO has long settled on declaring the indivisibility of security for its own members. NATO officials have been saying for quite a while now that they are doing what is necessary to protect themselves against external challenges and threats – real or imagined. That said, they claim they are dealing with their security themselves.

We also plan our security ourselves. But the problem and the difference is that we are suggesting coming to terms on this issue. We would certainly not draft NATO’s position, trying to guess what its members would like to receive in return for meeting us halfway. That’s funny. We will not do this, it would be methodologically wrong. So far, the other side is not even indicating a willingness to start talks. We will have to wait and see. If they come up with a real position, it would lead to a real negotiating process that, I hope will start soon and take place behind closed doors.

Question: What about guarantees of non-aggression against Ukraine or other actions regarding this country?

Sergey Ryabkov: They want us to take actions in our own territory. Naturally, we are rejecting this demand in both its essence and form. This demand is unacceptable and inappropriate. They are not asking for additional security guarantees in this context. We provided guarantees when the Budapest memorandum was signed in 1994.

I would like to emphasise that, with complicity from their Western patrons, our Ukrainian colleagues are turning this memorandum upside down. The Budapest Memorandum guarantees the security of Ukraine as a non-nuclear state in the context of the NPT. Guarantees have been ensured and provided from this viewpoint. However, the Budapest Memorandum document does not mention a word about government coups in Ukraine or subsequent actions. To be clear, we must note that this memorandum does not say anything about the possibility that part of the Ukrainian population living in Ukraine at that time decides whether they should continue living there or return to the Russian Federation.

The Budapest Memorandum is not about that. It sets out security guarantees for Ukraine as a non-nuclear state, and nothing more. The Foreign Ministry has said this many times, and this situation provides us yet another opportunity to emphasise this point.

Question: But if we consider a worst case scenario, which apparently is still on the table, if the Americans refuse to provide security guarantees, that would give us a free hand, among other things, regarding President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko’s proposal on deploying our nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus. Is this so?

Sergey Ryabkov: We take all our obligations very seriously, under all the treaties to which Russia is a party. We have obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. However, please note that for many years we have been raising the issue with NATO members that the practice of deploying US nuclear weapons on the territory of NATO member states that the NPT deems as non-nuclear – not just deploying, but also holding training sessions involving those countries’ crews and equipment on how to use nuclear weapons – that that practice, in our opinion, grossly contravenes the treaty. They tell us no, it does not run counter to the treaty. They tell us, years ago, back when the NPT was under discussion, the Soviet delegation agreed with the Western interpretation. Well, they did not. We have searched the archives, and our approach was there. Back then, we – Moscow, the Soviet Union – expressed our approach, and it was reflected in the records of the talks. Still, for the sake of signing the Treaty, the matter was just left as it was, each with their own opinion. Well, here we are now – just like 50 years ago, each sticking to their position. I am not drawing any parallels with Belarus, just reminding you of the various attitudes to the other side’s claims in such matters.

Question: You mentioned the Cuban Missile Crisis. That involved nuclear weapons as well, didn’t it?

Sergey Ryabkov: The Cuban Missile Crisis was the most difficult moment in the entire history of the Cold War, when the world was really teetering on the brink of a nuclear conflict. With so much done since that time with regard to arms control and not only that, with the progress made in comprehending the concepts and doctrines of the use of nuclear weapons, it is simply impossible to discard this experience and rewind back to 1962.

But we are concerned about the ease with which our NATO opponents treat matters like deploying nuclear weapons, using nuclear weapons in different situations, where things become increasingly uncertain and blurred, where the threshold is lower, including due to capacity – that is, thinking logically, what they are doing makes it easier to go about using nuclear weapons, including on the battlefield. This is noticeable, and it raises our concerns, not just objections. We urge them to choose a different path. For example, one that we tried with the Biden administration, issuing a joint statement on the unacceptability of a nuclear war.

But there are escalation risks; there is the risk of an incident, which cannot be ignored. These risks cannot be taken lightly, they need to be addressed, and we call for this, too. Instead, we have to read a lot of moralising statements by our opponents. These lectures cannot change our position, I would say; if anything, they are strengthening it. On the other hand, they reveal the other side’s unwillingness, primarily that of the United States, to address real security threats in a serious manner.

Question: Reportedly, the United States is trying to persuade the EU to synchronise tough financial and economic measures against Russia. Do we have the tools to respond to these measures, and will the sanctions affect our position during the talks on security guarantees?

Sergey Ryabkov: We run into this all the time. Clearly, we are used to it and have adapted to it. I don’t want to make fun of what’s happening, because these are all not very good developments. The Western community’s programmed and differently formatted policy actions on Russia simply strike the eye. One gets the impression that the people who participate in these discussions are overwhelmed by the idea of ​​collective responsibility for what is going on. That is, no one can or is willing to offer an alternative, and things are unfolding arbitrarily. We have to reckon with this and, in all appearance, this will continue into the future, because those who hope for a possibility for Russia to review the demands that the West puts forward as a condition for taking steps on the sanctions track are naive. I am not even saying there is almost no such thing as lifting the sanctions that were imposed earlier. But that’s okay; this is a separate major topic, which is also revealing. But I am on to something else here. Routine statements coming from the West about its willingness to develop constructive relations with Russia and maintain a constructive dialogue with us if Russia does what the West insists on are worthless. This is expressed in different ways; in the most terse and concise form it is expressed like it’s up to Russia, while we, the West, stand ready; it’s Russia’s choice.

Yes, all right, we re-read it, which made our eyes even sorer, and that’s all there is to it. That is all we got from it.

Question: Still, will the sanctions affect the talks on security guarantees?

Sergey Ryabkov: We suggest reaching an agreement on the aspects of the situation in the sphere of tough security that are currently causing the greatest concern. But this is all a product of NATO’s constant and steady eastward expansion, which has recently been accompanied and supplemented by the military and the military-technical development of the neighbouring countries that are not formal NATO members. In addition, this goes hand-in-hand with intensified and openly provocative actions designed to see our reaction, whether it will be tough, or whether we will be willing to adjust our approach to a certain extent. That is, if I did not engage in diplomacy, I would refer to it as teetering on the brink of war. I would not want to touch on this in my assessments and reasoning. We do not want this, and we do not need a conflict. We want to reach an agreement on a sound basis. We want to move these multi-pronged activities which are, to a large extent if not entirely, anti-Russia, harmful and pre-planned, where all the roles have been assigned, to move them away from ourselves in order to get certain guarantees for normal coexistence in this space and in this area.

So, sanctions or other tracks in our activities do not fit into this logic in any way. This is an independent, separate group of questions that we have created in a form that is fairly direct and clear for our opponents, thus showing, among other things, that this is no joking matter, but, instead, needs to be dealt with right now, starting tomorrow.

Question: What about the “sanctions from hell” which the Western countries are threatening to impose against us? Aren’t they a threat to our security?

Sergey Ryabkov: I would like to share one observation with you in this connection. Not long ago – a year or two ago, it seemed to us that some issues like the one you mentioned now were discussed in the West if not with some trepidation but at least with the understanding that they concern fundamental, serious things. Now the Bucharest Nine comes into play. This is the most anti-Russia wing in NATO and the EU, with which the White House conducted special consultations, apparently explaining its own interpretations of our proposals – I don’t know, this is just my supposition. Now the situation has changed. They are imposing on others its internal NATO and internal EU narrative that Dostoyevsky, whose 200th birthday we just observed, would have described as “anything goes,” absolutely anything. These people are simply removing the limits of what is possible and acceptable in discussing various issues. But they ignore the fact that following the same logic as NATO, we will take care of our security ourselves and will sooner or later start pushing the limits of what is acceptable for us. We have already expressed our opinion in a slightly different way and will continue speaking out. So, this is a serious issue.

Question: But if, say, they reject our proposal, will that untie our hands?

Sergey Ryabkov: We will use the appropriate methods and approaches we need to ensure our security. We do not want a conflict and we would like to come to terms on a reasonable foundation. Any diplomatic action, any initiative or any proposal is a test of negotiability for those who are being addressed. Before we come to any conclusion on what to do next we must make certain the answer is negative. It could be a flat “no,” or emotional to some extent, or neutral. It could be anything. I do not want to anticipate it but I hope the answer will be at least relatively constructive so we can start our dialogue and talks. It is unclear what will happen, but let’s wait and see. Later there will be many options in different areas. However, talking about them now is counterproductive because we are trying to focus on our own proposals.

Question: So, there will be separate talks on security guarantees, not as part of the dialogue on strategic stability?

Sergey Ryabkov: We suggest a separate negotiating track on security guarantees – bilaterally with the US – that would include interdepartmental delegations.

As for a strategic stability dialogue, two rounds are over and we are preparing for a third one. We are working on our position, hoping the other side will specify potential decisions. That said, it is clear we will have to talk and discuss security guarantees, all the more so since one of the two working groups is called “potential and actions that could have a strategic effect.” NATO’s actions are having a strategic effect and it’s negative for us. Something needs to be done in this respect. They should stop or we need to stop them. I hope we will discuss this through a separate channel but we will also work on this in the format of strategic stability dialogue. I mean with the United States, I don’t mean NATO.

Question: Do the Americans continue to insist on China’s involvement in our dialogue on strategic stability or do they want to discuss these issues via a separate US-China channel?

Sergey Ryabkov: I have read reports that influential experts, including retirees and analysts, have published several articles on the Chinese factor, and this certainly creates a certain background and context. However, this question did not come up during our meetings, discussions or in conversations with the Americans this year after the June meeting between the presidents. As I see it, the United States has certain channels for discussing arms control with Beijing, and there is a five-sided format as well – the nuclear Five that holds useful meetings. This work is intensive now, on the eve of the NPT review conference. I hope there will be results that we can announce at the conference or in that context. China is very active there. In other words, there is no lack of venues. As for our dialogue on strategic stability with the US, the China factor only appears at US initiative. However, our position remains the same: we respect China’s position and consider it its sovereign choice, as is the case with Britain and France. We are very interested in their participation in this process. A sovereign choice is based on the national interests of these states and these interests may coincide with different arms control formats. We will not coerce anyone to do anything. We urge Britain and France to show a responsible attitude towards the situation. Just as with NATO, we cannot ignore the opportunities that the US allies have in different areas, and we will deal with this, too.

Question: Should we expect consultations on visa issues be held before the year is out?

Sergey Ryabkov: We do not have any consultations scheduled for what remains of this year. These matters continue to be discussed by the embassies. I want to confirm what has been said on several occasions, our Ambassador Anatoly Antonov mentioned this, and we mentioned this here as well: there is some progress on matters of secondary importance. Some categories of travelers, such as guests of embassy employees, can obtain visas more easily. Making travel arrangements for the specialists who are temporarily posted for various assignments, including building maintenance, has somewhat improved. Even though the room for improvement is vast and a good deal of work remains to be done, we managed to fix certain things of secondary importance, but there are no signs of us getting any closer on issues that matter most.

If the Americans don’t stop and continue to demand that our employees leave the country before January 30, we will respond in kind, and later the same number of their diplomatic mission employees will have to leave our country as well. The most severe personnel shortages, both here and there, will ensue. I’m not sure why the United States would want this. From time immemorial, embassies and consulates have worked to maintain normal bilateral relations and to facilitate dialogue. Unfortunately, visas have become a problem in our relations.

We never relent in urging the Americans to try to get this off the ground, but so far to no avail. It is not very clear how to interpret their approach, and why it is so uncompromising and does not take into account obvious needs, including those of the United States. Do they really think that we will be willing to unilaterally meet them halfway when our people are not able to rotate or simply travel to the United States, and have to apply for visas in third countries, while Washington gets what it needs? This runs counter to the logic behind diplomatic relations, not to mention the state of relations between Moscow and Washington. They cannot count on anything like this. This is one aspect of the matter.

The other aspect is that sometimes it appears that our colleagues have at some point underestimated our resolve to respond asymmetrically to their endless anti-Russia moves. When, in April, Russia was on the receiving end, again, of a whole series of completely groundless illegal sanctions, it was, in my opinion, a balanced and reasonable decision to respond by introducing a ban on hiring local personnel. Since then, they have been tying their destructive moves, such as failure to make available the required number of consular officers, which lead to non-issuance of visas or other enormous difficulties, and much more, to this decision. And they have also ratcheted up the pressure on our embassy.

But we do not even propose figuring out who started it and who is responsible for what, even though the situation here is absolutely indisputable, when back under the Obama administration we waited for many months, without responding even to the initial expulsion of a large number of our employees. But now, right now, let’s not waste the time figuring out who did what, why and when. We just need to put the most problematic demands on hold and say: while this is not happening, let’s try to use the time to find solutions. Had this happened, I don’t think any Foreign Ministry employees who engage in relations with the United States would be here, because I would have been sitting in Geneva for the security guarantee talks, while my colleagues would have left, the next day, for Helsinki or Vienna in order to work on removing these visa irritants. Our wives would have forgiven us even if we hadn’t been able to make it back in time for the New Year.

Question: That is, there will be no consultations on visas before the year is out?

Sergey Ryabkov: No.

Question: We are saying that we are demanding or will demand that the United States compensate us for seizing our diplomatic property and denying us access there. Is a legal claim for compensation already being drafted? Has it been presented to the Americans? And if so, what is the approximate amount of damages?

Sergey Ryabkov: The issue of diplomatic property is not being addressed. No progress has been made due to the US stance. We put a very fine point on this with the Americans at all levels, to reiterate, literally at all levels, including the highest level with no effect, at least, not the effect that we need. At this point, we would like to especially emphasise the need for our maintenance teams to at least tour the grounds in order to inspect the premises, to take stock and assess damage and see what is still there and what is gone. We are in the dark about this, we are not allowed there. And then we will see what we can do with regard to the steps that you mentioned.

Question: Towards the end of Donald Trump’s presidency, we were saying that our relations had hit the bottom. Now, almost a year after Joe Biden has been in office, have we pushed off the bottom? Second, you told us in your interview last year that you were not expecting anything good in our relations with America, and that we should move to a two-track approach in our relations with the United States consisting of total deterrence, including military deterrence, and selective dialogue. Are we carrying out this policy now?

Sergey Ryabkov: With regard to whether we have reached the bottom, I think that thankfully we didn’t break through the bottom and, in some respects, we are still moving forward and everything is not hopeless. However, in some areas the potential for deterioration is clear. We must deal with it before things collapse even more.  Our proposals regarding security guarantees are a signal that there are many reasons for alarm in the western direction in general, from the point of view of military-political aspects of security. This needs to be addressed. Another area where we do not see much reason for being particularly optimistic are things related to bilateral irritants, such as visas, etc. The path forward here is obvious, though. There’s not even need for any talks. All you need to do is just make a political decision and have people get together and write down on paper a sequence of steps on either side which shouldn’t take more than several days. It is a very simple thing to do. The reluctance on the American side to do this clearly shows their lack of political will to improve relations. So, we have made some progress on some tracks and we will keep moving down that positive path, as best we can, being mindful of the risks.

I believe that the two-track approach is the only possible way to deal with the Americans at this point. But this is my subjective opinion. Our policy does not reproduce in the least what, for many decades, has been practiced and, moreover, officially declared by the West with regard to Moscow as the capital of the Soviet Union and then the capital of the Russian Federation.

The two-track approach was first stated in the report by Pierre Harmel, former Prime Minister and former Foreign Minister of Belgium, in the 1967 NATO report. And they have been sticking to it since then. You can call something by different names, but that doesn’t change what it is. Is the Higgs boson a particle or a field? Both.

I am not getting caught up in my own words about the two-track approach. I know one thing. We need to achieve, what the Biden administration’s top officials famously refer to as “stable and predictable relationship” with Moscow. What we need is a stable and predictable relationship with Washington. We can get there by demonstrating our serious approaches and intentions in a variety of areas, while remaining open to dialogue.  The other side often has a problem, and it appears that it will arise again following our proposals, which is that they are good at showing firmness bordering on rudeness, but they are rather unprepared for dialogue. So, just like the communicating vessels, we will also be balancing. You can call it a two-track approach or whatever you like. Our foreign policy is presidential policy, and we carry out the decisions that are made by the leader of our state.

Russia’s ultimatum to the West (IMPORTANT UPDATE)

December 19, 2021

To understand what just happened, we need to look at two things: how Russia chose to communicate her demands and then the contents of the demands themselves.  However, before I do that, I want to recommend two other points of view, both of which are, in my opinion, very helpful:

I recommend you read them before we continue.  This being said, let’s look in more detail at just what happened.

First, this was clearly an ultimatum.  Second, it was a public ultimatum.

This is absolutely crucial, as it marks, at the very least, a total break with normal Russian (and Soviet) diplomatic practice.

It is also pretty obvious that both the form and the substance of that ultimatum would be unacceptable to the USA and the US colonies in Europe.

Which begs the question: what are the Russians trying to achieve here?

Some will say that the Russians (or Putin personally) are simply stupid and that they are too arrogant to realize that their ultimatum would never be accepted.  Well, if the USA (the only part of the “West” which matters because it has actual agency) ignores that ultimatum and then merrily continues on the path it has been on since at least Bill Clinton, and if the Russians (or Putin personally) do nothing, then those who believe that the Russians are stupid will be proven right.

Now let’s look at what else might happen.

The first thing we need to understand is that Russia holds all the military cards (read Martyanov for details I won’t bother repeating it all here).  So let’s quickly worst case: “Biden” ignores Russia and Russia replies by deploying weapon systems, including hypersonic weapons, which will threaten the US not only in Russia, but in Belarus, the Arctic, and the mid-Atlantic.  Then the US will feel the same way Moscow does: 5 minutes away from annihilation.  Will that be good for “Biden”?

Let’s imagine that “Biden” decides to play tough and creates some kind of incident that will force the Russians to either sink a USN ship or shoot down a USAF aircraft.  That would mean war.  Here “Biden” would have two options: keep the war below the nuclear threshold and lose that war (the NATO military infrastructure would be gone) or go nuclear and risk a nuclear holocaust.  Will either one of these be good for “Biden”?

Now let’s say that “Biden” agrees to negotiate with Russia (while, of course, keeping up with all the pretenses about “consulting with partners and allies”) and the two sides come to some kind of deal.  How would that deal manifest itself?  Well, that is quite obvious – NATO would have to give up its expansion while Russia would have to provide verifiable guarantees that she will not attack any NATO country.  I know, I am skipping over a gazillion of details in which, as the expression goes, the devil lies, but for our purposes this is sufficient.  Then, again, I would ask the same question as above: would that be a good outcome for “Biden”?

We need to look at this possibility even further:

First, some of the US EU vassals would be incensed and they would do two things: verbally protest as loudly as possible and engage in whatever action they could come up with to force the situation and create a crisis.  And no, that would not be good for “Biden” at all.  But, consider this: first, “Biden” can tell the EU vassals to shut up and behave.  But even more importantly, that “bad option” will look “less bad” to “Biden” than either one of the two options mentioned above (place the entire USA 5min away from destruction or face a full-scale war).

Remember how I said that Russia holds all the military cards?

Russia also holds much stronger political and economic cards than the USA which has close to nothing.  Politically, Russia is now “more than an ally” to China, she is a close partner to India (to the fury of the White House) and politically, she is much less isolated than the USA!  Even the map on the right does not give the full measure of the situation.  Why?

Because most of the “international community” which “supports” (well, obeys) the USA is the EU, which itself is in a terminal crisis on too many levels to count here!

Compare the red and the grey zones on the map, and ask yourself these questions: which zone has the most powerful military? which zone has the most natural and human resources? which zone has the most promising trading routes? which zone has a real GDP, as opposed to a purely FIRE one?  Which one is literally dying spiritually under the trans-national “Woke” ideology and which one has retained the willingness and ability to fight for its spiritual, cultural, and civilizational values?  Finally, which zone has a viable vision of the future?

I could go on and on with many more such questions, but I think that you see my point: the USA is not only losing militarily, but it is also losing on all fronts!

Next question: what does the USA need most?

Well, there are plenty of things the USA need, but I would single out one: time.  Why? Because the truth is that the USA has only two options left: a “Kabul style” retreat from Europe or an orderly, negotiated “rearrangement” of the European collective security system (which, let’s not forget, the USA screwed up all by itself, a true disaster for which the USA is now totally responsible for).

[Sidebar: there is not such thing as unilateral security.  All real security is always collective.  That truism is now a dangerous political heresy in the West for which folks get (figuratively) burned at the stake for.  Unilateralism is just a trigger for insecurity and, eventually, war.]

If there is no war, then NATO will survive, at least politically. If there is no war, “Biden” will be able to say that the West’s “firm and united” stance forced Russia to make concessions: remember how the Cuban missile crisis was presented by the USA as a US victory when, in fact, it forced the USA to withdraw missiles from Turkey?  It has been many decades since the Cuban missile crisis, yet something like 99% of the people in the US and EU sincerely believes that the US “won”!  The AngloZionist propaganda machine can easily repeat that once more.  Except for a “small” problem: this time around, Russia presented her ultimatum first and made so very publicly.

Why did the Russians choose this method?

Well, I don’t know, I cannot read the Kremlin’s mind, but my guess is that Russia wants way more than just a “draw” (which is what the Cuban missile crisis was).  Russia wants a full victory which she would define as “defanging NATO“, at least in Europe.  Why?

Now let’s look at Russia’s options:

Do nothing aka “more of the same”: that means full surrender to the West, followed by a partition of Russia and a US attack on China.  To say that this is unacceptable to Russia would be an understatement.

Gradually step down from the demands of the ultimatum: that is a more interesting one and it is again a case of “the devil is in the details”.  For example, the existence of NATO by itself means nothing to Russia.  Ditto for the EU, by the way.  All these are in reality are irrelevant Kaffeeklatsch pretexts for politicians with no future, and countries with no agency.  The biggest mistake made by both the EU and NATO was its “glorious” expansion to the East only to find out that all this achieved was irreparably weaken both the EU NATO as the newcomers were, how shall I put it politely, quite terminally stupid, corrupt and infantile.  When I listen to EU and NATO politicians, I think of a Kindergarten on crack cocaine or something equally insane (see here for a perfect example).

So one option for Russia would be to “creatively revisit” the terms of her ultimatum and then keep the substance while jettisoning the hostile tone and giving the West some symbolic “concessions”.  Would that be a good option for Putin?  Well, it all will depend on the mentioned “devil in details”.  If at the end of the process NATO is defanged, then yes.  If NATO remains as aggressively hostile as it is today, then no.

Which begs the question: what will Russia do in such a case?

Here we need to at least consider one option: a Russian recognition of the LDNR justified by Kiev’s total rejection (de facto and de jure) of the Minsk Agreements and the constant Ukronazi provocations and attacks on the LDNR: remember two things Putin said recently.  He spoke of “not yet recognized republics” and he spoke of “genocide“.

Responsibility to protect” anyone?

Of course, the Ukronazis would have to attack (even at least symbolically), which would allow Russia to make a military move against the Ukraine, free the LDNR and deploy Russian forces inside these republics, fully backed by Belarus, of course, and, possibly, even China (politically).  Notice I did not say “invasion”.  Let’s imagine that Russia will use her standoff weapon systems to defang the Ukies, liberate the LDNR, and then will turn to the rest of Europe with a “smile” strongly suggesting the following “which of you guys wants to be next?”  This would result in a total panic in Europe, especially in Mons, Brussels, and Warsaw.

And here is the beauty of that option: Russia can easily strike Mons and Brussels (or Warsaw) with conventional weapons and leave most of these cities in mint shape.  And if the EU/NATO decides to strike back, then Russia will wage a full-scale war against the EU/NATO and she will win it.

What about the “Biden” administration in such a scenario?  The Pentagon knows what Russian missiles can do to it and any other military objective in the continental USA.  I very much doubt that the US deep state will be willing to commit mass suicide just to try (and fail!) to protect the EU.  Besides, the Russians have no intentions or capabilities, to invade the EU anyway, so why destroy the USA for a threat which does not even exist?!

Does “Biden” want to go down in history as “the President who lost Europe”?

Would “the President who triggered a nuclear holocaust” sound any better?

So by making her demands public, Russia has (for the first time and finally!!) also sent a message to the people of the West.  This message can be summarized like this: we don’t want war, but if you insist, we will oblige.

And, for the first time since 1991, Russia does have the objective means to achieve these goals.

So there, we have it, I think.

Now we also need to address the elephant in the room: the US War Party and, even more so, the EU infantiles on crack cocaine.  For them, defanging NATO would be utterly unacceptable…

… or would it?

The US War Party is just that, US-based.  And while some of the talking heads on the idiot tube do sound like real “hawks”, the military professionals in the US armed forces know the real score.  Not only that, but the “smart wing” of the War Party understands that the USA desperately needs time and an orderly draw-down, even if just a temporary one!  Their game is, as I said many times, a game of what I call “nuclear chicken” but, crucially, a game short of actual nuclear war which they don’t need at all (if only because they would likely die themselves).

Which leaves the EU infantiles on crack cocaine.  Here I am going to say something terrible, and I feel really bad for writing this, but I only see one method to get the Europeans back from la-la-land to the real world: Russia has to defeat them militarily, yet again, as she did over and over in her history.  Somehow, the narcissistic megalomaniacs who currently administer the European continent on behalf of the USA won’t read history and won’t rein in their deep sense of racial superiority over the subhuman Russian Asiatic hordes.  These modern wannabe Kulturtraegers and assorted Herrenvolk still hate Russia for defeating Hitler, Napoleon, and the rest of them, and for them, their phobia (in the sense of both hate and fear) of everything Russian is now part of their identity, something quite sacred to them and to hell with those who think otherwise!

This is what it took the last time around

The only effective way to bring the European Master Races back to reality is well-known (see picture).

I would argue that such an outcome goes directly against the interests of BOTH the USA and Russia.  And, most obviously, it goes totally against the interests of the people of Europe.

But if the latter does nothing to prevent such an outcome, then it is for the USA and Russia to prevent it.

And if the USA won’t prevent it, then Russia will deliver.

As for the notion that boycotts, sanctions (even from hell!), or the cancellation of NS2 will stop the Russians -it is truly beyond ridiculous.  Last time around, Russia lost 27 million people and then rebuilt her economy in a decade.

Conclusion:

This is no Russian bluff but a real ultimatum.  In fact, it is so real that it was made public for two reasons I believe: first, of course, to try to appeal to the people of the West and, second, to morally “untie the hands” of Russia should it come to full-scale war.

Analysts in the West always assume that public gestures are somehow exclusively aimed at them.  They are wrong.  This ultimatum is also addressed to the Russian people and Russian armed forces and says this to them: “people of Russia, we tried all we could to avoid this, we pleaded and begged for decades, and we retreated on many fronts, yet in spite of that, the West keeps pressing on.  We will never allow a June 22nd to happen again.  Prepare for war“.

I will end with three quotes by Putin himself:

“As a citizen of Russia and the head of the Russian state I must ask myself: Why would we want a world without Russia?”

Fifty years ago, the streets of Leningrad taught me one thing: If a fight’s inevitable, you must strike first

“Any aggressor should know that retribution will be inevitable and he will be destroyed. And since we will be the victims of his aggression, we will be going to heaven as martyrs. They will simply drop dead, won’t even have time to repent,”

UPDATE: according to the Russian media citing “diplomatic sources”, China has given her full support to the Russian demands.  What that actually means or implies is unclear, but this is the first indication that the Russian ultimatum was coordinated with the Chinese and that China will have some kind of role to play in the next move of the Russians if the US rejects the Russian demands.

Washington’s Crime and Punishment

December 18, 2021

By Dmitry Orlov and posted with permission

Just yesterday Russia Foreign Ministry published a couple of documents that people have been struggling to interpret ever since, to little useful effect. I would like to offer my own explanation of what these documents mean, which will probably differ a great deal from most other explanations you are likely to hear. Time will tell how close they are to the truth; for now, I am happy to simply add to the spectrum of ideas that are available to it.

The two documents describe in detail what Washington must do to avoid the consequences of breaking its verbal agreement entered into with Mikhail Gorbachev to not expand NATO eastward toward Russia’s borders—essentially, to freeze NATO forces where they were in 1997, before NATO expanded farther east. The documents also address other aspects of de-escalation, such as removing all US nuclear weapons from foreign territory and confining US forces to waters and airspace from which they cannot threaten the territory of Russia.

One line of explanation, most recently expressed in Washington and elsewhere, is that these documents are a negotiating gambit (not an ultimatum), to be discussed privately (to avoid complete loss of face by the US) and in consultation with NATO members and partners, plus, maybe, the European Union, the Council of Europe, the OSCE, Amnesty International and Greenpeace (to avoid making their combined irrelevance apparent to all). I agree that there is little to be gained from public discussions; after all, Moscow has already achieved the required bombshell effect through the public release of these documents and in forcing Washington to acknowledge their receipt and to consent to “negotiations”.

I disagree that there is anything to be negotiated: these documents are not intended to be used as a starting point for negotiations; they are an invitation for Washington to acknowledge and remedy its transgressions. Washington broke the deal it made with Moscow not to expand east. It could do so because in the years following the breakup of the USSR Moscow was too weak to resist and run by people who thought it possible for Russia to integrate into the West, perhaps even to join NATO. But that era has ended some time ago and the collective West now has to put its collective toes back behind the red line—whether voluntarily or not—and that is the only thing yet to be determined. That is the only choice to be made: stand down voluntarily and make amends or refuse and be punished.

I also disagree that this choice—between making amends and accepting punishment—has anything to do with the EU, or NATO, or various “members” or “partners”. Moscow has no relationship with NATO, seeing it as a mere piece of paper that grants Washington rather questionable legal authority to deploy its military forces in countries around the world. Moscow has some vestigial diplomatic representation with the EU, but doesn’t see it as important and concentrates on bilateral relations with EU members. As for its Eastern European neighbors, the Ukraine is, viewed from Moscow, a US colony and thus entirely a US concern, Poland can go and partition itself again (or not), and, as far as those tiny yet politically annoying statelets of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, so sorry, but the Russian army is equipped with binoculars, not microscopes.

The choice, really, is between facing an increasing risk of a nuclear exchange between two nuclear superpowers—one that is rapidly fading in strength and one that is growing stronger all the time—and reducing that risk as much as possible. Only the two nuclear superpowers need to come to an understanding; everyone else can simply do as they say so that nobody gets hurt. In the case of the Europeans, they should be quite interested in doing so (if they still know what’s good for them) because NATO’s eastward expansion has left them with huge nuclear target signs painted all over them which they would do well to try to remove. Not only that, but NATO’s encroachment on Russia’s borders has increased the risk of a nuclear confrontation breaking out accidentally: all those nuclear-armed bombers, ships and submarines could make a wrong turn somewhere and then—kaboom!—no more Europe.

You might think that those bombers and ships and submarines must loiter around Russia’s borders in order to “contain” Russia, but this is false. Russia does an acceptably good job of containing itself, and the little territorial disputes that are likely to crop up here and there periodically are certainly not going to be solved by increasing the risk of nuclear war. The Russian Federation has land borders with over a dozen countries, most of which have Russian citizens living on both sides of them, and that makes land disputes inevitable, but none of them will ever be worth blowing up the planet over.

You might think that NATO forces need to show activity and act dangerous in order to justify their existence and their ridiculously bloated defense budgets. Also, if they didn’t get a chance to be threatening toward Russia, they might become despondent and just sit around drinking, doing drugs and having gay sex, and that would be bad for morale. (But then what’s wrong with a little gay sex between consenting off-duty gender-ambiguous servicepersons?) I’d think that these are all rather minor, if not trifling, concerns, considering that what’s on the other side of the scale is the risk of a planetary conflagration.

You might also think that Washington’s eastward expansion is not a crime because, you see, Gorbachev failed to get its promise not to expand east committed to in writing. Well, let me offer you a tiny insight into the inner workings of Russian civilization. If you enter into a verbal agreement with the Russians, break it, and then taunt them by saying “But you didn’t get it in writing!” you have just made the problem much worse for yourself. We all make mistakes and must sometimes break our promises, in which the proper course of action is to be contrite, apologize sincerely and offer to make amends. If, instead, you claim that the promise is null and void because a certain piece of paper cannot be located, then you have compounded your dishonorable conduct with willful disregard and have singled yourself out for exemplary punishment. This punishment may be slow to arrive, taking decades, perhaps even centuries, but you can be sure that you will be punished eventually.

Once upon a time Moscow was weak and Washington strong, but now the balance has shifted in Moscow’s favor and the time for Washington’s punishment has finally come. The only remaining question is, What form will this punishment take? The one proposed by Moscow is in the form of submission to public humiliation: Washington signs the security guarantees drafted in Moscow, drags itself back to its kennel and lies quietly like a good doggo licking its balls to console itself. And that’s the more pleasant alternative, a win-win sort of thing, offered in good faith.

The less pleasant alternative would be, I can’t help but imagine, much less pleasant, very confusing and quite dangerous. Think about Poseidons—undetectable nuclear-powered torpedos—endlessly cruising in thousands of feet of water off the continental shelf along the US coasts, ready to wash them off with entirely accidental and perfectly deniable tsunamis, their sporadic pings causing the Joint Chiefs of Staff to soil their diapers every time. Think about NATO planes, ships and submarines quietly going missing for no adequately explored reason, their crews later turning up on some faraway beach very drunk and wearing Speedos in the colors of the Russian flag. Think of hypersonic something-or-others periodically doing zigzags in low Earth orbit over the US mainland, causing every cable TV channel to broadcast Russia Today and causing CNN’s talking heads to explode in impotent fury.

I would think that, in their own enlightened best interest, right-thinking Americans, regardless of party affiliation or lack thereof, would want to clamor for their elected representatives to quit making any more trouble and to just sign the damned security guarantees! But that’s just my own, private opinion.

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