Foreign Interference in Elections: Is it Real or Just Political Noise?

Foreign Interference in Elections: Is It Real or Just Political ...

Philip Giraldi

July 30, 2020

A recently concluded British Parliamentary inquiry has determined that Russia may have interfered in the 2016 Brexit referendum, which resulted in the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union. But, ironically, it also concluded that Russia might not have interfered given the fact that the British government never bothered to try to find out if there had been any attempt made by the Kremlin to manipulate the voting.

The Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee is reportedly perplexed by the lack of official interest in what might have been a foreign intelligence operation that had major impact, all too plausible given that it is assumed that Moscow would have welcomed Brexit as a first step that will eventually put an end to European political and economic unity.

So, no one knows if Russia or anyone else interfered in Britain, which is perhaps just as well as inquiries into voting in the U.S. also in 2016 have likewise created nothing but confusion and no smoking pistol. And, of course there is a question of definitions of interference. Millions of pounds were spent on advertising by those pro- and con-Brexit, just as billions were spent in political adverts in the United States. Much of the “information” provided in that fashion was deliberately misleading, often fearmongering, both in the U.K. and the U.S., suggesting that the problem is much bigger than one country’s possible attempt to influence the vote, if that even took place.

There were similar claims about Russian generated fake news and “a massive hacking attack” in the French presidential election in 2017, while Germany’s Federal Election was notable for a lack of any identifiable Kremlin interference in spite of warnings from some observers that Berlin would be targeted.

So, while claims of Russian interference in elections are fairly common, they are difficult to prove in any serious way. And one should recognize that the “victimized” governments and political parties have strong motives to conjure up a foreign enemy to explain to the public why things are going wrong, be it for coronavirus fumbling or for general political ineptitude. To be sure, as the allure of blaming Russia has faded China is increasingly being targeted by American politicians as a scapegoat, indicating that there must always be a foreigner available to blame for one’s problems.

The most recent nugget to come out of the U.S. Congress on foreign interference in elections originates with Adam Schiff, the sly head of the House Intelligence Committee. In an interview with MSNBC, Schiff revealed that U.S. intelligence has obtained information suggesting multiple nations could be trying to meddle in the 2020 U.S. elections, to include feeding or “laundering” possible disinformation through Congress.

Schiff explained how various nations us different tactics to get “fake news” messages through to the American voters. Some governments openly support a particular candidate or policy, while others like the Chinese provide misinformation during their trade negotiations with Washington. He observed that “The Russians may get involved in hacking and dumping operations or social media campaigns. The Iranians may have their own tactics and techniques like the North Koreans may have theirs.”

letter signed by Schiff, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Senate Intelligence Committee ranking member Mark Warner, D-Va has asked for a counterintelligence briefing for Congress regarding foreign efforts to interfere in the upcoming election. It includes “We are gravely concerned, in particular, that Congress appears to be the target of a concerted foreign interference campaign, which seeks to launder and amplify disinformation in order to influence congressional activity, public debate, and the presidential election in November.”

Democratic Party presidential candidate presumptive Joe Biden also has confirmed that he has received briefings about Russian alleged plans to interfere in November saying “The Russians are still engaged in trying to delegitimize our electoral process. China and others are engaged as well in activities that are designed for us to lose confidence in the outcome.”

Of course, there are a number of things to say about the claims that other nations are possibly planning to meddle in the voting. First, the list of possible players being presented by Schiff and others is all too convenient, kind of like a Congressional dream list of bad boys. Russia pops up because of longstanding claims about it, but China is a new entry in the game because it all ties up into a neat package, including the “Wuhan virus” and its challenges both to American economic supremacy and to U.S. naval power in the South China Sea. And of course, there are Iran and also North Korea.

One should ask what exactly China, Iran and North Korea stand to gain by attempting to “interfere” in the election? What message could they possibly be sending and what would be the mechanisms they would use to get their points of view across to a skeptical American public? In a campaign that will undoubtedly cost hundreds of billions of dollars in advertising and other “messaging,” what exactly is the possible place of Iran and North Korea?

There is also a lack of “realism” in the Schiff comments. By far the country that interferes the most in U.S. politics is Israel. Israel and its domestic Lobby initiate legislation relating to the Middle East and Israeli diplomats, lobbyists and soldiers all have free access both to Capitol Hill and to the Pentagon. If a Congressman dares to speak up against the Jewish state’s crimes he or she is smeared in the media and eventually forced out of office by a well-funded pro-Israel opponent. No other country gets away with all that. As it is highly likely that Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be pulling out all the stops to reelect Donald Trump in November, why isn’t the Jewish state included on Schiff’s list?

And then there is the tantalizing bit about concerns over disinformation being “laundered” through Congress. It is difficult to imagine what exactly Schiff is referring to as the corrupt gasbags in Congress already constitute one of the world’s biggest sources of false information, second only to the fully coopted U.S. mainstream media.

In any event, if some countries that are accustomed to being regularly targeted by the United States are taking advantage of an opportunity to somehow diminish America’s ability to meddle globally, no one should be surprised, but it is a politically driven fantasy to make the hysterical claim that the United States has now become the victim of some kind of vast multi-national conspiracy to interfere in its upcoming election.

ASSISTING ‘INVISIBLE HAND OF MARKET’: U.S. THREATENS GERMAN COMPANIES OVER NORD STREAM 2

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Assisting 'Invisible Hand Of Market': U.S. Threatens German Companies Over Nord Stream 2

In a last-ditch attempt to impede the Nord Stream 2, the Trump administration began to threaten German (and not only) companies who are involved in it with sanctions.

According to German media, this is a showing of a new, and incredible, “low point” in Transatlantic relations.

According to a report by German outlet Die Welt, the United States is increasing pressure on German and European companies involved in the construction of the Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea pipeline.

In the past few days, US representatives had held video conference calls with contractors of the project to “point out the far-reaching consequences of continuing to work on the project,” the outlet reported.

The company representatives sometimes faced up to twelve representatives of the US government.

They “made it very clear in a friendly tone that they want to prevent the pipeline from being completed,” the newspaper quoted an unnamed observer of the talks:

“I think the threat is very, very serious.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the controversial Baltic Sea pipeline to transport gas from Russia to Germany would now fall under a law that would allow punitive measures, among other things, against companies doing business with Russia or countries like Iran and North Korea.

In response, the German Federal Government declared that it rejected extraterritorial sanctions, since these were “contrary to international law”.

The German economy condemned the threats as an “incredibly low point in transatlantic relations”.

Nord Stream 2 is said to transport gas from Russia to Germany and is particularly controversial in Eastern Europe.

The main fear is a weakening of alternative pipelines and traditional transit countries, such as Ukraine. The US government argues that Europe is becoming energy-dependent on Russia.

The United States had previously tried to impose sanctions on Nord Stream 2. Sanctions put into effect by President Donald Trump at the end of 2019 are aimed at the operators of laying ships involved in the construction. The construction of the pipeline therefore had to be interrupted.

Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed optimism that the project would be completed by early 2021, with a delay of only a few months.

On July 16th, the US updated its sanctions regime against the Nord Stream 2.

Until July 15th, the scope of US sanctions legislation excluded direct investors, enhancing Russia’s ability to build export pipelines before August 2nd 2017. That cut-off date was removed, meaning contracts signed for Nord Stream 2 and the second line of TurkStream will be included.

“The US signals that sanctions could potentially be applied retroactively, including in respect of European companies that are Gazprom’s partners in Nord Stream 2. However, it is hard to see how this could be enforceable; this would be against the law and should it happen it would certainly be contested in international courts,” according to Katja Yafimava, researcher at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies.

“The question is whether the state department has the right to independently enforce the provisions of this law. The state department is formally subordinate to the president, but no separate documents have been issued stating that the president gave the state department the right to impose sanctions from the [sanctions act] package,” according to Igor Yushkov, an expert of the National Energy Security Fund and the Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation.

The proposed additional sanctions in the draft national defence act “are unacceptable and contrary to international law, and the EU firmly opposes them,” EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy Josep Borrell said on June 25th.

The biggest issue is that the US is concerned that there are no buyers for its liquefied natural gas (LNG) that it wants to sell to Europe at prices, higher than those Russia offers Europe.

Sometimes, the invisible hand of the market requires a tangible attempt at a push for it to properly and “independently” settle the market on a desirable scenario.

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SYSTEMATIC CENSORSHIP: GOOGLE BANS TSARGRADTV’S YT CHANNEL AND ENTIRE ACCOUNT

South Front

In the very early hours of July 28th, the YouTube channel of TsargradTV was entirely banned, without an explanation.

“Now, until the situation is fully cleared up, instead of an official channel with high-quality video content, YouTube shows our viewers a black plug. The million-strong audience of Tsargrad, in fact, was cut off from the truth, which we were not afraid to speak directly on the air.”

TsargradTV is suing YouTube over its channel being closed.

“We have not received any alerts, notifications or strikes from YouTube. Moreover, the administration of the service still does not explain the reasons for the blocking. They simply refuse to get in touch with us, so we plan to resolve the conflict in court,” said the editor of the TV channel Daria Tokareva.

In addition, Tsargrad is preparing an official appeal to the YouTube administration demanding the restoration of the channel.

The largest media outlets wrote about the blocking of the Tsargrad TV channel on YouTube. Comments on the decision of the administration of the service appeared in a number of telegram channels, dozens of accounts on social networks.

Google, however, has chosen not to enter in any sort of discussion with TsargradTV.

Only in an interview with the Moscow city news agency did the press service of Google say the following:

“Google complies with all applicable sanctions and trade compliance laws. If we find that an account is in violation of these laws, we will take appropriate action.”

As such, Google simply said that it adheres to US sanctions on the territory of Russia.

As such, Tsargrad’s entire Google account was also blocked.

Systematic Censorship: Google Bans TsargradTV's YT Channel and Entire Account

“Your Google account has been locked and cannot be restored, due to a violation of export laws. If you’ve any queries, refer to a lawyer.”

The reason for blocking of the accounts allegedly was “violation of export laws.”

According to SocialBlade, the channel had 1.06 million subscribers the day before the block.

At the same time, the YouTube channel of the Two-Headed Eagle Society, headed by Konstantin Malofeev, the founder of Tsargrad, was also blocked.

YouTube’s notice reads: “Blocked for violating community guidelines.”

The Tsargrad channel, which appeared in 2015, positions itself as “the first Russian conservative information and analytical TV channel,” since the end of 2017 they stopped broadcasting and completely switched to online.

At the same time, in the fall of 2017, Malofeev created the “Two-Headed Eagle”, which he defined as “a society for the development of Russian historical enlightenment”; its goal is to promote monarchism and the history of pre-revolutionary Russia.

Malofeev himself has been under the sanctions of the European Union, the United States and Canada since 2014 due to accusations of financing the military conflict in eastern Ukraine.

SouthFront itself was recently banned on YouTube without a due explanation, and the support team continues the struggle against censorship.

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NATO 2020: A COALITION OF THE UNWILLING

 25.07.2020 

Written and produced by SF Team: J.Hawk, Daniel Deiss, Edwin Watsont

The problem with alliances is that they ultimately either become victims of their own success, or cannot figure out what to do with themselves once the original rationale disappears. The original Cold War-era NATO was a relatively cohesive entity led by one of the two superpowers, with most of its members being the industrialized democracies of Western Europe, with West Germany being its eastern-most European member, and alliance planning revolving around USSR. But even then there were cracks in the alliance. Italy, for example, had nearly no role to play as it did not border any Warsaw Pact country and did not practice deploying its forces to West Germany to practice its defense against the anticipated Warsaw Pact invasion. And while Greece and Turkey were ostensibly part of that alliance as well, in practice they spent more time clashing with one another than planning for joint action against USSR.

The end of the Cold War made the problem of alliance cohesion far worse, for two reasons. One, it quickly added as many members as possible thus greatly expanding its geographical extent, and two, it lost that single unifying factor in the form of USSR. Today’s NATO is a patchwork of mini-alliances revolving around the United States which is determined to replace the alliance aspect of NATO which assumes that all members have interests that are to be taken into consideration, by patron-client relationships.

Not to put too fine a point on it, the goal of the United States is global domination. This goal is shared by the entire political elite and major portions of the population, though it is nearly never discussed openly or directly. Instead, it is framed in terms of “American Leadership”, “New American Century”, and of course “American Exceptionalism” which is used to justify any policy that violates international law, treaties, or agreements. Given that every country which has not recognized “American Leadership” is described as a “regime”, there is no indication the US elite is interested in anything resembling peaceful coexistence with other sovereign states.

NATO plays a double role in achieving that goal. First, it is a military alliance that projects military power against anyone refusing to accept “American Leadership”. Military contributions by European member states are certainly important, not least by giving America the veneer of international legitimacy, but the presence of US bases on the European continent is far more so. US forces stationed in or staged out of European naval, air, and land bases are indispensable to its efforts to control the MENA region and to promote the US policy of driving a wedge between Europe on the one hand and Russia and China on the other. Secondly, a European country’s membership in NATO means a sacrifice of considerable portion of its sovereignty and independence to the United States. This is a wholly asymmetrical relationship, since US bases its forces in European countries and sells its weapons to them, not the other way around. The penetration of a European country thus achieved allows US intelligence service to develop agent networks and to employ the full range of lobbying techniques which have been particularly visible in the US efforts to press F-35 aircraft into the hands of NATO member states.

America’s self-appointed task is made not easier or harder by the fact that today’s NATO is therefore fragmented along both geographic and national power lines. The geographical divide is plainly easy to see: Norway and Denmark mainly care about the Arctic, Poland and Romania obsess about Russia, Mediterranean countries freak out about what’s happening in North Africa. The wrangling over sending more troops to Mali or to Estonia is the reflection of the differing security concerns of individual members of the far-flung pact. The power divide is less easy to see but more problematic for Washington. V_3 (A2) Of the European powers, only four—Germany, France, Italy, and Great Britain—may be considered to be powerful and independent political actors with which the US has to contend on anything like an equal basis. The first three form the core of the European Union, whereas Great Britain opted for Brexit, likely in part because of the looming big power struggle between the US and the EU that has the potential of degenerating into a destructive trade war. It is doubtful that the skirmishes over Huawei and North Stream 2 are anything but the opening salvoes in the confrontation over whether the EU will emerge as a political actor independent of the US, or be reduced to a collection of client states. Unfortunately, America’s task is made easier by the fact of the intra-European divisions mentioned above.

United States is pursuing development of several hypersonic missile systems with the aim of ultimately fielding very large numbers of them in order to be able to launch disarming first strikes against Russian and Chinese nuclear arsenals. Since the weapons themselves are relatively short-ranged (though that may change once the US allows New START to lapse), they require basing close to their intended targets. That means having to find countries willing to base them in Europe, where it is liable to provoke a  political debate of the magnitude comparable to that of the original Euromissile controversy of the 1980s. Since Germany is not interested in being reduced to the status of a US client, it has resisted the US on a variety of fronts, including the North Stream 2, the refusal to buy F-35s, and now also the lack of desire to host the new US missiles. Even the German defense spending increases are intended at least as much to counter US influence in Eastern Europe as the supposed Russian threat to NATO. The United States has responded using the usual array of tools: economic sanctions on any and all European entities participating in the project and even using the gas, apparently launching a cyber-attack that US-friendly German intelligence promptly blamed on Russia, and also threatening to move US troops out of Germany and possibly to Poland. There is even discussion and rumors that US nuclear weapons stationed in Germany might be moved to Poland.

The outcome of this so far is a power struggle between two NATO allies, US and Germany, over the political alignment of a third—Poland. While Germany has the power of EU institutions on its side and massive economic gravitational pull, US has cultivated a cadre of friends, possibly intelligence assets, as a result of post-9/11 collaboration in Afghanistan, Iraq, and in the realm of intelligence-sharing. This has produced a government more than willing to deploy US troops, missiles, and even nukes on Poland’s territory. The power of US influence is visible in Poland’s weapons procurement: Patriot, Javelin, HIMARS, F-35, and not a single comparable European system in recent years. The US weakness in this confrontation consists of the unwillingness to subsidize Poland economically which, combined with the ruling party’s fiscal irresponsibility, will make it difficult for the country to maintain its anti-German course in the longer term.

While in Eastern Europe US national security state is using Poland as a proxy against Germany, in the Mediterranean it has adopted Turkey as a proxy against France and Italy. After some hemming and hawing, the US hawks dropped the Kurds yet again, with Trump happily taking the blame, in order to piggy-back on Erdogan’s Libya ambitions to curtail French and Italian interests there. To be sure, Turkey retains far more autonomy in the relationship than Poland, which was unable or unwilling to play US and Russia and EU against one another in order to secure a measure of freedom of action. But the US Congress measures to allow the purchase of S-400 weapons from Turkey is an indicator that Turkey’s behavior is once again useful to the US. And even though Turkey was excluded from the F-35 program, its firms continue to make components for various assembly plants. The result has been a number of stand-offs between Turkish warships on one hand and French and Italian on the other off the coasts of Libya. And whereas France and Italy are backing the Marshal Haftar’s LNA, Turkey’s preferred proxy is the GNA, leading to a veritable “anti-Turkey” alliance being formed that includes Turkey’s old time NATO adversary Greece. While the US is officially aloof of the entire situation, in practice controlling Libya’s oil is part of the Washington strategy of “energy dominance” every bit as the North Stream 2 sanctions are.

The remarkable part of these two sets of conflicts among NATO powers is that in both cases Russia has sided with Germany and France against the US in both cases. It is Russia’s policies that are more beneficial to French and German interests than America’s, since Russia is not actually seeking to monopolize energy supplies to Europe in the way that the US clearly and openly is.

So far the US strategy consisted of steadily ratcheting up pressure through sanctions and proxies and occasional intelligence-generated anti-Russia provocations (sometimes helpfully delivered by British agencies), trying to find that happy middle of policies that actually force Germany, France, and Italy to change their policies and which do not force a permanent breach in the trans-Atlantic relationship. But the cracks in the relationship are clearly visible and they are not attributable to Trump’s erratic and brusque manner. It is the US Congress which passed the successive rounds of anti-North Stream 2 sanctions, with strong partisan majorities. It means the assertion of US control over European major powers is part of the US agenda. Since that agenda is motivated by a US political and economic crisis of a magnitude not seen since the 1930s, there is little likelihood Biden’s presidency would represent a radical departure from the current trend.

Of course, for Germany, France, and Italy to successfully resist US encroachment they would first need to transform the EU into something closer than a federation. The COVID-19 pandemic and the associated economic crisis already providing considerable impetus for such a transformation, America’s insatiable appetites might provide the rest.

Is Trump Using Nordstream 2 to Exit NATO?

By Tom Luongo
Source: Gold Goats n Guns

July 21, 2020

The one thing I never thought I’d say is that Donald Trump is consistent, and yet on the subject of the Nordstream 2 pipeline he has been.

No single project has caused more wailing and gnashing of teeth than Nordstream 2. And since Nordstream 2 is simply the substitute for South Stream, which was supposed to come across the Black Sea into Bulgaria and then feed eastern Europe, this U.S. opposition to another Russian pipeline spans multiple administrations.

So, this is policy that goes far beyond simple 2020 electoral politics, Trump trying to look tough on the Russians, or his misguided Energy Dominance policy.

With Trump rescinding the sanctions exemption for Nordstream 2 he now has declared open war against Europe, specifically Germany over this project.

But here’s the thing, I think Trump is doing this for updated reasons that fit a different agenda than why the U.S. opposed Nordstream 2 previously, because he knows he can’t stop the pipeline now. All he can do is further alienate Germany, who he has targeted as the main problem in Europe.

Before I go any further, though, I think a little history lesson is in order.

U.S. opposition to Nordstream 2 is deeply ingrained on all sides of the political aisle in D.C. From Republicans still fighting the cold war to Democrats having deep ties to Ukrainian gas transit there are a multitude of reasons why Nordstream 2 is verboten in D.C.

On the other hand, Europe’s relationship with Nordstream 2 is, in a word, complicated.

Russian President Vladimir Putin scuttled South Stream back in late 2014 because the EU changed its pipeline rules during its development after the contracts were in place.

Most of that was U.S. pressure, but some of that was Germany’s Angela Merkel working with then-President Barack Obama to create the worst possible scenario for Gazprom – a pipeline that wasn’t profitable.

Merkel backed Obama’s play in Ukraine in 2014 as a power move to control prices for Russian gas into Europe, putting Soviet-era pipelines under EU gas directive jurisdiction.

The EU was always going to use Ukrainian gas transit as leverage over Putin to drive gas prices below Gazprom’s cost thinking they had no other options.

Putin famously pivoted to China, singing the mega-deal for Power of Siberia in retaliation to that. Since Putin had already brought Crimea in from the cold war and tacitly backed the breakaway of the Donbass Merkel was now the one on her back foot.

At the same time, to salvage the work done on South Stream to that point, Putin cut a deal with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to replace South Stream’s volumes to eastern Europe with Turkstream’s to Turkey.

The plans for Turkstream include multiple trains into eastern Europe with countries like Serbia, Hungary and the Czech Republic itching for that gas.

Russia’s options were manifest and Putin deftly outmaneuvered Merkel and Obama. These events forced Merkel’s hand after she stupidly caved to the Greens over ending Germany’s use of nuclear power and now she needed Nordstream 2.

And so Nordstream 2 became a big geopolitical football because Merkel saw, as well, the opportunity to bring the recalcitrant Poles and Baltics under her control as well, solidifying long-term EU plans to engulf all of Euope to Russia’s borders.

Nordstream 2 would nominally replace Ukrainian gas supplies and she could set Germany up to be the gas transit hub, supporting political power emanating from Brussels.

This would give her leverage over Poland, who are trapped between their hatred of the Russians and their unwillingness, rightfully, to submit to Germany.

But Merkel, ever the deft three-faced keeper of the status quo, worked with Putin to secure gas flows through Ukraine for another five years, allaying the worst of Poland’s fears while they have courted Trump to bring in over-priced U.S. LNG.

But from the beginning, Nordstream 2 becomes a different animal geopolitically the moment Trump comes to power. Because Trump is opposed to the EU’s consolidating power over Europe while also sucking the U.S. dry on trade and defense.

He’s made this abundantly clear.

Since the beginning of the year Trump has ratcheted up the pressure on both China and the EU. And the only way that makes any sense is if you are willing to see them as allies in undermining the U.S.’s global position.

This isn’t to say that the U.S.’s global position should remain as it is. Far be it for me, of all people, to argue that. But with the insanity of the COVID-19 fake pandemic, the World Economic Forum’s plans for The Great Reset, and the fomenting a cultural revolution in the U.S. the stakes are now as high as they’ve ever been.

The Davos Crowd is making their big move to consolidate power in Europe. Trump is working with Boris Johnson in the U.K. to oppose that. That’s the simplified version of the chess board.

And this is why I think Trump refuses to give up on stopping Nordstream 2. He’s seen the depths to which The Davos Crowd will go to implement this radical change and he’s forcing the moment to its crisis, as T.S. Eliot put it.

He’s making the choice very clear for Merkel and company. If you want Nordstream 2, suffer the consequences of having to do business without the U.S.

This isn’t about Russia anymore, at all. It’s about Germany and the future of the U.S. If Trump loses in November all of the work done to slow down this push for transnational technocratic oligarchy will end.

If he wins then the current policy sticks, the EU is forced to deal with the U.S. retrenching completely, pulling back on commitments to Europe while divorcing U.S. trade from China.

He may actually be courting lower U.S. dollar flow the world over and forcing Europe into real economic crisis by early next year.

This sanctions policy against Nordstream 2 is consistent with his ‘snap’ decision to pull troops out of Germany, his unilateral abrogation of both the INF treaty and the JCPOA while pressuring NATO to do more.

Merkel, meanwhile, is trying to run out the clock on both Trump and Brexit, as I talked about in my podcast from last week. She’s hoping that Trump will be defeated which will set things back to the way they were before him, force U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson to knuckle under in trade deal talks and establish the primacy of the EU as the center of Western power.

Putin, for his part, doesn’t care who he deals with in the long run. He can’t afford to. He has to play the cards on the table in front of him with the people in power, since Russia is still a minor player but with big potential.

For Trump, I believe he sees Nordstream 2 as the perfect wedge issue to break open the stalemate over NATO and cut Germany loose or bring Merkel to heel.

This next round of sanctions will target the companies involved directly in the pipeline. Germany can’t afford not to finish Nordstream 2. So, we are headed for an epic clash here.

Trump and Merkel hate each other, with good reason. And while I have mixed feelings about the way Trump does business, I know Angela Merkel is the key to the EU’s future.

I mentioned in a recent article that I feel Trump is a guy with almost nothing left to lose. If he’s going out he’s going out with a bang. Arrest Ghislaine Maxwell, sanction China and threaten war over Hong Kong, ramp up dollar diplomacy on Europe.

He knows that hybrid war is the only war the U.S. can ‘win’ decisively given the relative dominance of the U.S. dollar today.

While the end of dollar hegemony is in sight, do not underestimate how much damage can be done to the status quo while Trump is in power. That status quo isn’t good for anyone except those who currently want that power back.


TURKEY’S POISONOUS HAND OF FRIENDSHIP

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Turkey's Poisonous Hand Of Friendship

While the situation in Libya continues to escalate and the parties are preparing for a decisive battle for Sirte, Turkey, which actively supports forces of the Government of National Accord (GNA), is negotiating with its strategic partners. On July 10, National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar went on an official visit to Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. During the visit, Akar checked the work of the diplomatic mission, had dinner with representatives of national minorities, namely Crimean Tatars and Meskhetian Turks, with Ukrainian businessmen and the head of the Special Monitoring Mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Taking into account the high tension of the situation in Libya, the defense minister’s dinner in Kiev was of great importance for the Turkish side.

According to Ukrainian Minister of Defense Andrei Taran, during the talks with Akar, they discussed ways to deepen cooperation in the defense sphere.

“The cooperation of defense companies of Ukraine and Turkey is of particular. The reached agreements will strengthen the defense potential of Ukraine. The potential and maneuverability of the Ukrainian army will significantly increase, what will contribute to the protection of peace in the region,” Taran said.

It cannot be excluded that one of the goals of the visit was to demonstrate to Kiev that Turkey favors provocative actions against Russia. Instability in the East of Ukraine or new provocations in Crimea are in Turkey’s interest at the moment. They allow to weak Russia’s position in the negotiation process on Libya at the very moment when GNA fores, supported by Turkey, are actively preparing for military action on the territory of their country.

In recent days, Kiev has become noticeably more active and has been pursuing a policy of discrediting Russia in all possible directions.

In the East of Ukraine the most recent incident happened on July 14 when 2 Ukrainian fighters died and another one received injures in a failed attempt to enter the territory controlled by self-defense forces of the Donetsk People’s Republic near the village of Zaitsevo. The sabotage and reconnaissance unit tried to attack positions of DPR forces but blew up on landmines in the area.

The Ukrainian side announced that one of the dead soldiers was a military medic, Mikola Ilin, who turned out to be a citizen of Estonia. His death was captured on video.

Foreign Minister of Ukraine, Dmitry Kuleba, called the murder of a medic an act of barbarism.

“I want to make it very clear that from a legal point of view, this murder has signs of a war crime, and from a moral point of view, it is nothing else but an act of barbarism,” Kuleba said.

He stressed that the diplomats will try to make the incident public.

“I will personally raise this issue. The response will be as tough as possible. We will attract all our partners. This situation will be made public,” the foreign minister said.

The death of Ilin led to the desired result, which was required by the Ukrainian authorities. The case was widely publicized. The accusations were immediately joined by the US Embassy, which previously rarely commented on the deaths of Ukrainian soldiers in the Donbass.

The European Union called the murder of a military medic a violation of the Minsk agreements, the agreements of the Normandy summit and international law.

Member of European Parliament, Michael Galer, blamed the Kremlin for the incident in eastern Ukraine on Twitter.

Besides the growing tension in the East of the country, Ukraine is increasingly speculating about Russia’s supposed intentions to conduct offensive operations in the South, which could be a response to the blocking of water supply to Crimea from Ukraine through the North Crimean channel. Water in Crimea is really critically scarce, but to solve this problem, Russia is completing the construction of a water pipeline, and is not preparing to seize the southern territories of Ukraine.

Despite the improbability of rumors about upcoming Russian attacks, on July 13, the head of the Kherson region (southern Ukraine), Yuri Gusev, appealed to the National Security Council to increase the number of military personnel in the region. Gusev also assured that Ukrainian military exercises will be held in autumn together with the Estonian military. However, the exact date of the exercise is unknown and depends on the conduct of large-scale military exercises of the Russian Armed Forces – “Caucasus – 2020”.

It is obvious that at the moment there are no signals that Russia is preparing for an offensive operation on the territory of Ukraine. Russia is currently experiencing quite acute domestic political problems, which the Putin administration is coping with worse. These include mass demonstrations in the city of Khabarovsk in the Far East and the introduction of constitutional amendments. Russian military forces are already involved in Syria, Moscow is actively participating in the negotiation process on the conflict in Libya, and the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan is escalating near its borders. For a number of internal and foreign policy reasons, Russia is currently unable to deploy a major military force in new theater of operations. Thus, there is no real threat to Ukraine, but there are more and more rumors and information noise created in order to discredit Russia.

Turkey's Poisonous Hand Of Friendship

The tactical Turkish support pushes Kiev to continue its provocations against Russia. In the current situation, Erdogan has a number of levers to promote its own interests through Kiev.

Turkey and Ukraine are far from being equal partners. This fact is confirmed by the indicators of bilateral trade. Ukraine is much more interested in the Turkish market than vice versa. Ukraine is on the 27th place in the ranking of import countries to Turkey, while Turkey is one of the main importers of Ukraine.

Since 2012, Ukraine and Turkey have been negotiating the free trade zone agreement, but the document has not yet been signed. Economists note that the parties cannot agree on the terms of access for both industrial goods and agricultural products to each other’s markets.

Vladimir Volya, an expert at the Ukrainian Institute of policy analysis and management, claimed that it was difficult for Ukraine to defend its interests in negotiations with Turkey, because “Turkey is the 17th largest economy in the world and the 6th largest in Europe”.

While the economic dimension is certainly important in Turkish-Ukrainian relations, the main tone of interaction between the two countries is set by the political dimension.

As part of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, Kiev has special hopes for Ankara’s support. First of all, on the issue of Crimean peninsula. Turkey does not recognize Crimea as part of Russia, to a large extent it is connected with the Crimean Tatar population, which is presented by Kiev as allegedly oppressed by Russia. The policy of protectionism gave Turkey a broad influence on the peninsula until 2014. Before Crimea became part of Russia, the Turkish-backed Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people had notable political power in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. Also, thanks to Turkey, various extremist religious organizations, such as Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami, felt blessed on the peninsula. Today Mejlis is banned in Russia and has been replaced by other representative organizations, and the cells of the terrorist organization Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami are consistently eliminated on the territory of Crimea. However, various sources indicate that there is still an extensive network of agents of the Turkish special services among the Crimean Tatars. Ankar still cherishes hopes

The important sphere is cooperation in the defense sphere. Recently, the Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF), Colonel-General Ruslan Khomchak, announced that the Ukrainian Armed Forces troops deployed in Eastern Ukraine will be equipped with Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 UAVs. State-controlled Ukrainian company UkrSpetsExport and private Turkish UAV specialist Baykar Makina signed a $69 million strategic cooperation agreement. Baykar Makina company is the most prominent of new Turkish drone makers penetrating the domestic and foreign markets.

“Turkish-Ukrainian defense cooperation will potentially go beyond drone systems,” the Ankara-based expert forecast. “Promising businesses could be armored vehicle modifications and, most notably, the Altay.”

While only a few European countries have agreed to supply weapons to Ukraine, Kiev is increasingly dependent on US and Turkish military assistance.

The Ukrainian State Company Ukrspetsexport in December 2019 exported to the Turkish company K.B.A.T. Ithalat Ihracat Mumessillik Ve Danismanlik Ticaret Ltd. the first batch of military goods under a contract for the supply of two S-125M1 Neva-M1 anti-aircraft missile systems totaling $30 million. They were  subsequently delivered to the Government of National Accord in Libya.

Turkey's Poisonous Hand Of Friendship

Apparently, in the conflict in Libya, Ukraine supports Turkey not only by supplying anti-aircraft missile systems. Shortly after Akar’s visit to Kiev, two ships left the Ukrainian ports of Nikolaev and Berdyansk in the direction of Libya. Perhaps Erdogan became more cautious after the French Ministry of Armed Forces accused the Turkish Navy of harassing an arm embargo on Libya.

Ukraine, in turn, is important for Turkey as a tool of maintaining influence in the Black Sea region and for balancing its own interests in relations with Russia. While relations between Turkey and its NATO partners have being deteriorating, and it cannot count on the military support of European countries in the Libyan conflict, Erdogan can rely on Ukraine, which has also been “betrayed” by NATO countries, because despite the protracted negotiation process and long-term promises, NATO is in no hurry to accept Ukraine into its structures.

Ukraine is not the only country of the former Soviet Union where Turkey is pursuing an active policy in order to promote its interests and weaken its ‘strategic partner’, Russia. Recently there has been an escalation of the conflict on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. The moment of escalation is chosen perfectly. The current political leadership of Armenia has done everything possible to turn the Kremlin against itself. Yerevan has provided its territory and created a favorable political regime for the deployment of Western non-state companies whose goal is the destruction of Russia as a state. These organizations are backed by Western Democrats or the Brussels bureaucracy. As a partner of Russia, Armenia did not recognize the annexation of Crimea. And the President of Armenia, Pashinyan and his entourage have consistently given signals of following a Pro-Western policy. Today, the only state that can ensure the existence of Armenia as a state is Russia, but Pashinyan is doing everything possible to break their ties.

Turkey pursues a policy of incitement among partner countries. It is seen is not only by groundless provocations in Ukraine, but also in the unleashed conflict on the Azerbaijani-Armenian border. While Russia does not hurrying to openly support any of the sides, Erdogan accused Armenia of starting the conflict and expressed support for Azerbaijan.

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The Future for China

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The Future for China

July 15, 2020

by Eric Zuesse for the Saker Blog

On July 14th, the two conjoined gangster-regimes, U.S. & UK, simultaneously started, with deadly seriousness, their aggressive economic war against China.

Business Insider headlined “US Navy warship challenges China in South China Sea as US blasts Beijing’s ‘unlawful’ claims and ‘gangster tactics’” and reported that,

After the US Department of State declared Beijing’s maritime claims in the South China Sea and efforts to assert dominance to be unlawful, the US Navy destroyer USS Ralph Johnson further challenged China with a sail-by operation.

The Navy released a couple of photos on Tuesday of the destroyer sailing near the contested Spratly Islands, and a Navy spokesman confirmed that the ship conducted a freedom-of-navigation operation in the area.

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Ralph Johnson (DDG 114) steams near the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. Ralph Johnson is deployed conducting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts for a free and open Indo-Pacific. U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Anthony Collier

On the same day, Russia’s RT headlined “George Galloway: UK ban on Huawei is national self-harm. China’s riposte could devastate the ailing British economy”, and he reported that

Having alienated the remaining 27 members of the European Union and set Anglo-Russian relations back a century, Boris Johnson has just declared an economic war on China. … The proximate reason – that allowing Huawei into Britain’s 5G roll-out is a “security risk” – is patently false. If that were true for 5G, it would be true of 3 and 4G. If it were true then the company would have to be banished now, not in 2027 (by when, incidentally, 5G will be so last year).

There is not a shred, not a scintilla, not a jot or tittle, of evidence that Huawei has ever done anything wrong during its highly successful penetration of the British market, from which Britain has economically benefited mightily.

And if Chinese investment in 5G is not wanted – indeed, is being ejected – what of China’s powerful stake in Britain’s energy sector? What happens if China pulls the plugs on its nuclear power stations? Do all our lights go out? Has anyone thought this Chinese Kick-Away through? … BoJo’s decision to throw the Huawei 5G deal on the scrapheap shows UK poodle still obeys its US master

In this triple whammy of sanctions, gunboats and settlement, the brassy note of Jingoism plays ‘Rule Britannia’, but no one seems to have noticed that China is a vastly richer and more powerful adversary than it was when we extorted Hong Kong from them in punishment for their attempt to halt the flood of British opium into China which caused the addiction of 90 million Chinese people.

The economic sanctions imposed on China in the Huawei affair will be returned several-fold by Beijing.

Galloway might be correct, that China will be able to survive UK’s attempts to stifle China’s rise as a global economic competitor to the UK-U.S. empire, but if the U.S. is allowed to block China’s shipments through the South China Sea, then the war against China has already been won. It’s much more serious.

China has internationally been losing each one of the major rounds in its territorial disputes regarding its territorial claims in the South China Sea. It’s as if the U.S. were losing territorial claims in the Caribbean, except that the South China Sea is far more geostrategically important to China than the Caribbean is to the United States. So, China’s losses here are geostrategic ones. Those are disputes versus the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia, and the U.S. regime has played a decisive role in each case on the basis of its bilateral treaties, such as the 1951 U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty, which enables the Philippines to call upon U.S. military backing in case the Philippines needs muscle in order to assert a territorial claim against another country, such as, say, China, which is the giant in their neighborhood.

U.S. President Harry S. Truman strongly disagreed with his predecessor, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s, opposition to imperialism, and he went for it almost as soon as he became the U.S. President. Actually, he became President at FDR’s death on 12 April 1945, and then, less than four months later, on 26 July 1945, committed himself to the Military-Industrial Complex’s dream of establishing an all-encompassing U.S. global empire. He made that decision, on 26 July 1945, which subsequently created the coups, military invasions, importations of thousands of Nazi officials into The West, to help America’s fight against the Soviet Union, and construction of the CIA’a program to control what international ‘news’ would be off-limits to report in the U.S., and in its vassal-nations.

Elliott Roosevelt, FDR’s son who accompanied his father during crucial international meetings, felt that Truman was a traitor to his father’s anti-imperialistic legacy. FDR, according to his son, Elliott, also wasn’t too fond of Churchill, who agreed with Truman because Churchill had always been a champion of British imperialism and he needed U.S. acceptance of that.

Elliott wrote:

——

https://www.mtholyoke.edu/

Roosevelt and Churchill Discuss Colonial Questions, August 10, 1941, excerpt from Elliott Roosevelt, As He Saw It (New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1946).”

Father [FDR] started it.

“Of course,” he remarked, with a sly sort of assurance, “of course, after the war, one of the preconditions of any lasting peace will have to be the greatest possible freedom of trade.”

He paused. The P.M.’s [Churchill’s] head was lowered; he was watching Father steadily, from under one eyebrow.

“No artificial barriers,” Father pursued. “As few favored economic agreements as possible. Opportunities for expansion. Markets open for healthy competition.” His eye wandered innocently around the room.

Churchill shifted in his armchair. “The British Empire trade agreements,” he began heavily, “are — ”

Father broke in. “Yes. Those Empire trade agreements are a case in point. It’s because of them that the people of India and Africa, of all the colonial Near East and Far East, are still as backward as they are.”

Churchill’s neck reddened and he crouched forward. “Mr. President, England does not propose for a moment to lose its favored position among the British Do-minions. The trade that has made England great shall continue, and under conditions prescribed by England’s ministers.”

You see,” said Father slowly, “it is along in here somewhere that there is likely to be some disagreement between you, Winston, and me.

I am firmly of the belief that if we are to arrive at a stable peace it must involve the development of backward countries. Backward peoples. How can this be done? It can’t be done, obviously, by eighteenth-century methods. Now — ”

Who’s talking eighteenth-century methods?”

Whichever of your ministers recommends a policy which takes wealth in raw materials out of a colonial country, but which returns nothing to the people of that country in consideration. Twentieth-century methods involve bringing industry to these colonies. Twentieth-century methods include increasing the wealth of a people by increasing their standard of living, by educating them, by bringing them sanitation — by making sure that they get a return for the raw wealth of their community.”

Around the room, all of us were leaning forward attentively. [Harry] Hopkins [a major FDR adviser] was grinning. Commander [C. R.] Thompson, Churchill’s aide, was looking glum and alarmed. The P.M. himself was beginning to look apoplectic.

“You mentioned India,” he growled.

“Yes. I can’t believe that we can fight a war against fascist slavery, and at the same time not work to free people all over the world from a backward colonial policy”

What about the Philippines?”

I’m glad you mentioned them. They get their independence, you know, in 1946. And they’ve gotten modern sanitation, modern education; their rate of illiteracy has gone steadily down

There can be no tampering with the Empire’s economic agreements.”

They’re artificial …”

They’re the foundation of our greatness.”

The peace,” said Father firmly, “cannot include any continued despotism. The structure of the peace demands and will get equality of peoples. Equality of peoples involves the utmost freedom of competitive trade. …”

It was after two in the morning when finally the British party said their good nights. I helped Father into his cabin, and sat down to smoke a last cigarette with him.

Father grunted. “A real old Tory, isn’t he? A real old Tory, of the old school.”

“I thought for a minute he was [you were] going to bust, Pop.”

“Oh,” he smiled, “I’ll be able to work with him. Don’t worry about that. We’ll get along famously.”

“So long as you keep off the subject of India.”

“Mmm, I don’t know. I think we’ll even talk some more about India, before we’re through. And Burma. And Java. And Indo-China. And Indonesia. And all the African colonies. And Egypt and Palestine. We’ll talk about ’em all.”

http://east_west_dialogue.

At the Casablanca Conference

A similar kind of discussion occurred between Roosevelt and Churchill at the Casablanca Conference in January 1943. The following is Elliott’s description of his father’s talk with him one evening during that meeting:

His thoughts turned to the problem of the colonies and the colonial markets, the problem which he felt was at the core of all chance for future peace. ‘The thing is,’ he remarked thoughtfully, replacing a smoked cigarette in his holder with a fresh one, ‘the colonial system means war. Exploit the resources of an India, a Burma, a Java; take all the wealth out of those countries, but never put anything back into them, things like education, decent standards of living, minimum health requirements — all you’re doing is storing up the kind of trouble that leads to war. All you’re doing is negating the value of any kind of organizational structure for peace before it begins.

‘The look that Churchill gets on his face when you mention India!

India should be made a commonwealth at once. After a certain number of years — five perhaps, or ten — she should be able to choose whether she wants to remain in the Empire or have complete independence.

As a commonwealth, she would be entitled to a modern form of government, an adequate health and educational standard. But how can she have these things, when Britain is taking all the wealth of her national resources away from her, every year? Every year the Indian people have one thing to look forward to, like death and taxes. Sure as shooting, they have a famine. The season of the famine, they call it.’

He paused for a moment, thinking.

‘I must tell Churchill what I found out about his British Gambia today,’ he said, with a note of determination.

‘At Bathurst?’ I prompted.

This morning,’ he said, and now there was real feeling in his voice, ‘at about eight-thirty, we drove through Bathurst to the airfield. The natives were just getting to work. In rags … glum-looking. … They told us the natives would look happier around noontime, when the sun should have burned off the dew and the chill. I was told the prevailing wages for these men was one and nine. One shilling, ninepence. Less than fifty cents.’

An hour?’ I asked, foolishly.

A {day!} Fifty cents a {day!} Besides which, they’re given a half-cup of rice.’ He shifted uneasily in his big bed. ‘Dirt, disease. Very high mortality rate. I asked. Life expectancy — you’d never guess what it was. Twenty-six years. Those people are treated worse than the livestock. Their cattle live longer!’

He was silent for a moment.

Churchill may have thought I wasn’t serious, last time. He’ll find out, this time.’ He looked at me thoughtfully for a moment. ‘How is it, where you are? How is it in Algeria?’ he asked.

I told him it was the same story. Rich country, rich resources, natives desperately poor, a few white colonials that lived very well, a few native princes that lived very well, otherwise poverty, disease, ignorance. He nodded.

And then he went on to tell of what he thought should be done: France to be restored as a world power, then to be entrusted with her former colonies, as a trustee. As trustee, she was to report each year on the progress of her stewardship, how the literacy rate was improving, how the death rate declining, how disease being stamped out, how. …

Wait a minute,’ I interrupted. ‘Who’s she going to report all this to?’

The organization of the United Nations, when it’s been set up,’ answered Father. It was the first time I’d ever heard of this plan. ‘How else?’ I asked Father. ‘The Big Four — ourselves, Britain, China, the Soviet Union — we’ll be responsible for the peace of the world after. …

‘… It’s already high time for us to be thinking of the future, building for it. … These great powers will have to assume the tasks of bringing education, raising the standards of living, improving the health conditions — of all the backward, depressed colonial areas of the world.

And when they’ve had a chance to reach maturity, they must have the opportunity extended them of independence. After the United Nations as a whole have decided that they are prepared for it.

If this isn’t done, we might as well agree that we’re in for another war.’

https://www.marxists.org/

Elliott’s book as quoted in the 17 September 1946 Look Magazine:

Father remarked,” says Elliott Roosevelt, “on how British and French financiers had dredged riches out of colonies. …” He continued later, “How do they belong to France? Why does Morocco, inhabited by Moroccans, belong to France? By what logic and custom and historical rule?”

——

Obviously, Winston Churchill’s dream came true when FDR died on 12 April 1945 and became replaced by Truman.

Among those statements by FDR, the one specifically regarding the Philippines has particular relevance today. The 1951 U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty violated what FDR had said to Churchill, “I’m glad you mentioned them. They get their independence, you know, in 1946.” That U.S. commitment, “freedom,” to the Philippine nation, had already been made. He promised to Churchill that it would be fulfilled, and that therefore Churchill would not be able to say that America is an imperialist power as England is. It was a basic commitment from him. Furthermore, FDR said:

No artificial barriers,” Father pursued. “As few favored economic agreements as possible. Opportunities for expansion. Markets open for healthy competition.” His eye wandered innocently around the room.

Churchill shifted in his armchair. “The British Empire trade agreements,” he began heavily, “are — ”

Father broke in. “Yes. Those Empire trade agreements are a case in point. It’s because of them that the people of India and Africa, of all the colonial Near East and Far East, are still as backward as they are.”

And: “‘The peace,’ said Father firmly, ‘cannot include any continued despotism. The structure of the peace demands and will get equality of peoples.’”

He linked bilateral, and also multilateral, trade treaties, to the creation of both World Wars. The United States, after his death, has used them in exactly the same way — building toward a WW III. Truman was the death of FDR’s plan. For example, Barack Obama’s proposed TTIP international-trade treaty for the Pacific was specifically designed against China, so as to isolate and diminish China in international trade — precisely the sorts of things that FDR had condemned in his statements to Churchill. Obama was an anti-FDR, pro-Truman, Democrat, who repeatedly emphasized, “The United States is and remains the one indispensable nation.” Every other nation is “dispensable.” Hitler had agreed with Obama’s view, except that in Hitler’s mind, Germany was the only indispensable nation.

In a sense, Hitler posthumously won WW II. His ideology, imperialistic fascism certainly did.

The Philippine President, Rodrigo Duterte, condemns U.S. imperialism and repels any dependency of his country upon the U.S. military. He explains “I have nothing against America. They’re perfectly alright. Trump is my friend. But my foreign policy has shifted from the pro-Western one. I am now working on alliance with China, and I hope to start a good working relationship with Russia. Why? Because the Western world, the EU, and everything – it’s all this double talk.”

CONSEQUENTLY:

The path forward for China will be increasingly for China to serve as a defender of the independence of the nations in its area (such as the Philippines), so that they won’t need to accept the U.S. regime’s offers of military assistance. Either this, or else China itself will cede control of its own neighborhood over to a distant enemy-nation, the ceaselessly grasping U.S. regime, and might as well just quit altogether, and become an American pawn itself.

Either all of the nations in that area will thrive together, or else the U.S.-UK alliance will succeed at crushing and swallowing-up them all.

This means that in the conflicts that China has with its nearby nations, China must grant those nations’ interests as being also China’s interests. China must accept its obligation to defend their interests in order to become enabled to assert its own. Only if this is done will those nearby nations ally with China against the U.S. Empire, not just militarily, but also in regard to commerce and trade. For China not to take on this obligation would be unacceptable, not only for China, but for the entire world. Regardless of what China wants, China has this obligation, now, to protect its region, against America’s billionaires, and their military, and their corporations.

However, the U.S. regime’s unmistakable threat now to block China’s freight-traffic through the South China Sea will succeed if China becomes the first side to attack and tries to down any U.S. forces there. Even if the U.S. strikes without warning and with no clear excuse, China will need to hold back for a while, before retaliating. The U.S. has arrayed an awesome striking force in that area. China will have to wait until the U.S. attacks it first, in any event, but now is the time for China to negotiate with its neighbors. Otherwise China will have almost the whole world against it, if China provides the bad optics of having been the first to strike.

During this time, therefore, China needs to be negotiating with each of the other regional players in order to persuade each one that only a unified facing-down against the U.S. in that region can even possibly salvage the independence of each one of them from now on. Russia may also need to be brought into the arrangement as a protector of China, just in case the U.S. turns out to be uncompromising in its intention to take over the entire world. Either Russia will soon enter this new World War that the UK-U.S. regimes are already waging, or else Russia will be forced to enter it only after Russia’s major allies will already have been swallowed-up by the U.S. The safer choice for Russia is consequently to enter the war sooner, as a guarantor for their side, their allies, the independent nations, than to enter it after those nations have already been defeated and swallowed-up.

—————

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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

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

10 July 2020 15:55

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eastern-Based Libyan Parliament Gives Green Light to Egyptian Army to Interfere in Libyan Conflict

Egyptian army members wearing protective face masks, amid concerns over the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) complete a new area at the Ain Shams field hospital prepared to receive COVID-19 patients in Cairo, Egypt June 16, 2020

Source

 13.07.2020

CAIRO (Sputnik) – The eastern-based Libyan parliament, which supports the Libyan National Army (LNA), has given go-ahead to the Egyptian armed forces to intervene in the Libyan conflict.

In early June, Egypt put forward the Cairo peace initiative, outlining a path for a political settlement in Libya and calling for warring parties to cease fire since 8 June. The proposal was welcomed by the Arab League, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, but was rejected by the Government of National Accord (GNA) and Turkey.

“We call for joint efforts between the two brotherly nations – Libya and Egypt – in order to defeat the occupier and maintain our common security and stability in our country and region,” the statement read.

It added that the parliament “welcomes the words of the Egyptian President, spoken in the presence of representatives of Libyan tribes.”

“The Egyptian armed forces have the right to intervene to protect Libyan and Egyptian national security if they see an imminent threat to the security of our two countries,” the statement added.

Last week Egyptian armed forces conducted an exercise near Libya’s border. The drills, codenamed Resolve 2020, took place in the northwestern district of Qabr Gabis, some 37 miles (60 kilometres) away from the Libyan border.

Libya has been suffering from internal conflict since its long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown and killed in 2011. At the moment, the east of the country is ruled by the parliament, while the west is controlled by the Tripoli-based Government of GNA, which was formed with the help of the United Nations and the European Union. The authorities in the east cooperate with the LNA, which has been attempting to take control of Tripoli.

Related

USA seeks to drive regime-change by starving the people of Syria

Source

30 June 2020 

By:Reneva Fourie

The United States of America has intensified its economic warfare against the people of Syria. Battered by a 9-year war that resulted in investment and capital flight; and infrastructure and industry destruction, Covid-19 came as a heavy blow to the ailing Syrian economy. The most devastating however has been the ongoing, escalating, illegally imposed USA-driven, and European Union supported, sanctions against Syria. 

Sanctions barring USA-based companies from trading with Syria were imposed in 2004. In 2011 it was extended to include the financial and energy sectors (this while the USA pillages Syrian oil daily; an act that has been designated as illegal under international law and the rules of war, yet there are no repercussions). On Wednesday, June 17, 2020 the sanctions provisions of the USA so-called ‘Caesar’ Civilian Protection Act of 2019, which extends sanctions to all foreign firms or countries that deal with the government of Syria, came into force.

The government of Syria had largely managed to control their weakening currency during the war, despite its domestic challenges. The value of the currency, however, plummeted over the past three weeks in anticipation, and due to the implementation of, the ‘Caesar’ Act.  The Syrian Pound (SYP), which was trading at around SYP 47 (about R ) to the dollar prior to the war, is now, as at end June 2020, hovering around SYP 2 500 to the dollar.

The impact of these sanctions on the quality of life of the Syrian people has been disastrous. According to UNDP data, Syria’s human development index was on the rise between 2000 and 2010.

The IMF outlook for 2010 was as follows, “The outlook for 2010 points to an overall strengthening in economic performance. The ongoing recovery in Syria’s trading partners is expected to contribute to a gradual increase in exports, remittances, and FDI in 2010.” The currency was beginning to appreciate against the dollar. But the gains made during those years were reversed by the war and subsequent sanctions, and the country experienced a drop of nearly 60 percent in GNI per capita from 2010 to 2016.

As political stability in the country increased recently, the economy was once again beginning to show signs of recovery. Sadly, the ‘Caesar’ Act, will cause a major setback.

Syria, home of some of the oldest cities in the world, has a highly sophisticated and cultured populace, who have relatives across the world. Sanctions have compelled them to do much of their banking, particularly that of an international nature, from Lebanon. Most Syrians have relatives in Lebanon due to the historic ties between the two countries.

Traveling between the two countries is a common practice and goods and medication that could not be accessed in Syria due to sanctions, were still obtainable in Lebanon. All that has now come to an abrupt halt.

Covid-19 has made travel across borders difficult; but threats of sanctions against Lebanon, which has its own economic crisis that pre-dates Covid-19, for trading with Syria, will be the final nail in the coffin. Syria is unable to repair the power stations and water infrastructure that was damaged during the war by the West, Israel, Turkey, and insurgents including Isis and al-Qaeda, as they cannot purchase the parts due to sanctions.

Domestic manufacturing of medicines is waning as ingredients cannot be imported. The exemptions around food and medicines touted by the USA and EU are misleading as they apply mostly to areas that remain outside of government control and their “humanitarian aid” in these occupied areas primarily serves to strengthen counter-revolutionary activities.

Exacerbating the cruelty of the general adverse economic impact of sanctions, are the deliberate actions to undermine food security through the regular burning of staple crops by the USA and Turkey-backed mercenaries. For example, Apache helicopters affiliated to the USA occupation forces dropped thermal balloons on barley and wheat crops in a number of villages surrounding al-Shaddadi city, while Turkey-backed mercenaries set fire to a number of wheat and barley fields in Abu Rasin and Tal Tamir towns.

The intention literally is to starve the people of Syria into submission. According to the World Food Programme, as at June 2020, food prices have increased by a staggering 209 percent in the last year, in which most of the increases occurred over the past weeks. This country, where less than 7.5 percent of the population experienced multidimensional poverty in 2009, now has more than 80 percent of its population living below the poverty line, thanks to the USA and its allies. 

The government of Syria has tried to ease the impact of this economic onslaught on its people, who have already suffered tremendous human losses, by broadening access to food parcels, vouchers, subsidised fuel, and government-subsidised grocery shops.  The interventions are however unsustainable. Domestic and international protests calling for the lifting of sanctions in Syria took place regularly over the past two weeks.

But while there have been reports of protests in Syria, almost none of those reports, even from ‘reputable’ entities, state that the protests were AGAINST the USA and its implementation of the Act. The international protests received little coverage.

Sanctions must be lifted. In fact, the USA’s regime-change agenda in Syria must be stopped.

Sanctions are but one aspect of the continued broader regime-change agenda of the USA. The ‘Statement of Policy’ which serves as a preamble to the ‘Caesar’ Act states, “to support a transition to a government in Syria that respects the rule of law, human rights, and peaceful co-existence with its neighbours.”  The last phrase – ‘peaceful co-existence with its neighbours’ – can only refer to Israel, which illegally occupies the Golan and regularly conducts acts of military aggression against Syria.

It must be noted that prior to the war, neither the UNDP nor the IMF made any reference to corruption, maladministration, and human rights abuses in Syria. It became the buzz word when an alleged Syrian military dissenter codenamed Caesar, after whom the USA Act is named, who in 2014 revealed thousands of photographs supposedly depicting torture in Syrian prisons.

An examination of the photos however revealed that it could not be indisputably proven that the injuries depicted in the photographs were indeed inflicted in government prisons.  In fact, the Human Rights Watch found that at least half the photographs depict the bodies of government soldiers killed by the armed opposition.  This confirmed that the opposition is violent and has killed large numbers of Syrian security forces.

The credibility of ‘Caesar’ is highly questionable given the discrepancies in his ‘evidence’ and the USA’s history for fabricating information to suit its interests. Prof Theodore Postol, a respected expert on missile defence and nuclear weapons, who was part of the Joint Investigative Mechanism that investigated allegations of the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government, disputed the conclusiveness of the allegation. 

Note further that the preamble does not say ‘peaceful transition’, thereby justifying military intervention.  The military situation remains tense despite the cease-fire negotiated between Russia and Turkey in the northwest of the country, as the USA and Turkey continue to reinforce their troops in Syria.

Turkey-backed insurgents and mercenaries continue to engage in motorcycle and car bombs in areas that are outside of the Syrian government’s control.  And Israel regularly invades Lebanese air space to advance missile attacks on the south of Syria.

In addressing the United Nations earlier this month, the Syrian Ambassador, Bashar al-Jaafari stated, “The crimes and practices perpetrated by the governments of those states (the West, Israel and Turkey) rise to the level of war crimes and constitute a violation of the rules of international law and a direct aggression on the sovereignty, safety, independence and territorial integrity of Syria.”

The continued aggression in Syria cannot be delinked from other developments in the region.  The Israeli government continues to persecute the people of Palestine and is determined to forge ahead with implementing the Trump ‘Deal of the Century’. Tension between Lebanon and Israel remains high.  And USA-led sanctions against Iran remain. 

The USA-Israeli-Turkey alliance with their allies continue to seek hegemony in the region, supposedly to reduce the influence of Iran, Russia, and China. Their relentless aggression has however cost this region too many lives.  The people of the region have also suffered too much due to sanctions. Their actions are tantamount to genocide.

As we join the global demand for an end to racism, we should also call for a just and peaceful world. Implementation of this demand begins with a call for all USA troops to exit West Asia, as well as an end to Israeli aggression in the Middle East.

* Reneva Fourie is a policy analyst specialising in governance, development and security and currently resides in Damascus, Syria.She is also a member of the Central Committee of the South African Communist Party.

This article was first published by Independent  Online,South Africa  

Reem Haddad 

Editor-in-chief

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حالة الانكشاف

سعادة مصطفى ارشيد

تمر العلاقات الدولية عالمياً في حال متغيّرة، تفرضها من جانب قوانين التغير والحركة والتطور دائمة الدوران، ومن جانب آخر عوامل مساعدة منها جائحة كورونا التي تجاوز عدد ضحاياها نصف المليون نفس بشرية، وعدد المصابين بالفيروس قد قفز عن حاجز الاثني عشر مليوناً، والأعداد في تزايد مستمر. ومع دخول الجائحة طوراً ثانياً اعتبرته منظمة الصحة العالمية أكثر ضراوة، نلاحظ أنها تجاوزت في عدوانها الإنسان وسلامته لتصيب وتعطل الدورة الاقتصادية من صناعة وتجارة وزراعة في طول العالم وعرضه؛ الأمر الذي قاد إلى معدلات بطالة مرتفعة حتى في المجتمعات الصناعية النشطة وكساد اقتصادي وانهيار في أسعار النفط ومعظم السلع وأثر بدوره على الرعاية الاجتماعيّة والنظم الصحيّة اللاهثة وراء الجائحة.

دفع كل ذلك دول العالم للانكفاء إلى دواخلها، وإلى البحث عن حلول لما تعانيه بشكل منفرد، والتفكير بأساليب الحماية والاكتفاء الداخلي (الذاتي) وإعادة التفكير باتفاقيات التجارة الحرة وضريبة القيمة المضافة، وظهر الوهن على المنظمات العابرة للقومية، كالاتحاد الأوروبي الذي فشل في معالجة الجائحة كاتحاد وترك إيطاليا وإسبانيا واليونان تعالج كل منها جراحها بشكل منفرد فيما رأت ألمانيا أن أولوياتها ألمانية بحتة، نتيجة لذلك أخذت دول الاتحاد تتلمس طرقها القومية القديمة بمعزل عن القوميات الشريكة لها في الاتحاد الأوروبي. فبدأت الدولة الإيطالية طريق العودة إلى إيطاليتها وإسبانيا إلى إسبانيتها وكذلك ألمانيا بمعزل عن المشروع الإقليمي.

وإذا كان العالم يمرّ في هذا المخاض المأزوم، فإن العالم العربي يمرّ بما هو أدهى وأمرّ. حاله غير مسبوقة من السيولة وأبواب أمن قومي مشرّعة لا حارس لها، في المشرق العربي استطالت الأزمة السورية، وإن كانت ملامح نهايتها بادية، إلا أن الأعداء لا زال لديهم من الأوراق ما يطيل في عمرها. ولبنان يترنّح تحت ضغط سعر صرف الليرة مقابل الدولار، والدولة تعاقب القاضي الفاضل الذي أنفذ القانون بالطلب من سفيرة الولايات المتحدة عدم التدخل في شؤونه الداخلية. العراق يعيش حالة تقسيم بادية للعيان، والأردن يعاني من التغول الإسرائيلي بالضفة الغربية. الأمر الذي يمثل تهديداً وجودياً له، فيما تكشف تصريحات رئيس وزراء أسبق عما يدور في العقل السياسي لبعض جماعة الحكم، ولمن رسم شكل الأردن في مرحلة ما بعد عام 1994 (اتفاقية وادي عربة)، وفلسطين التي تعارض رسمياً قرار نتنياهو بضمّ ثلث الضفة الغربية، إلا أنها لا تملك من الآليات وأدوات الضغط ما يحول دون ذلك، هذا وإن تفاءل البعض من المؤتمر الصحافي المشترك لقياديين من فتح وحماس، إلا أن المؤتمر الصحافي لم يتطرق للبحث في الآليات أو في إنهاء حالة الانقسام البشع أو الاتفاق على برنامج حد أدنى واقتصر على مجاملات متبادلة. وعملية الضمّ من شأنها تقطيع ما تبقى من الضفة الغربية إلى ثلاثة معازل منفصلة بالواقع الاستيطاني الذي سيتم ضمة ويحول دون قيام دولة أو شبه دولة في الضفة الغربية. اليمن يصمد ويقاوم بأكلاف عالية، فيما الكورونا والفساد يضربان كل هذه المجتمعات.

الأوضاع في غرب العالم العربي تفوق خطورة وتهافت الأوضاع في مشرقه على صعوبتها، فحالة السيولة وأبواب الأمن القومي المشرّعة، خاصة في ليبيا ومصر والسودان. ليبيا اليوم مسرح وساحة مفتوحة للفرنسيين والأتراك فيما تلعب مصر دوراً ملحقاً بالفرنسيين بدلاً من أن يكون العكس، وأصبحت ليبيا مصدر خطر على مصر من خاصرتها الغربية التي لم تكن عبر تاريخ مصر الطويل تمثل تهديداً لأمنها القومي، فلم يحدث أن غُزيت مصر من الغرب إلا مرة واحدة على يد المعز لدين الله الفاطمي.

طيلة عقود تحاشت مصر الاهتمام بمسائل الأمن القومي، وهي التي رسمت أولى ملامح نظريات الجغرافية السياسية والاستراتيجية وضرورات الأمن القومي بالاشتراك الصدامي مع اتحاد الدول الكنعانية وذلك في القرن الخامس عشر قبل الميلاد في معركة مجدو الشهيرة بقيادة مملكتي قادش ومجدو، حيث رأى الفرعون المصري أن أمن بلاده يبدأ من مرج إبن عامر، فيما رأى التحالف الكنعاني أن أمن اتحادهم يبدأ من غرب سيناء. تطوّرت نظرية الأمن القومي المصري لاحقاً لتضيف عنصراً ثانياً وهو نهر النيل وفيضانه ومنابعه. هذه الرؤية الاستراتيجية سكنت العقل السياسي المصري وعقل كل مَن توالى على حكم مصر منذ تحتمس الثالث حتى عهد الرئيس الأسبق أنور السادات.

منذ تسلم السادات حكم مصر بدأ العمل على إخراج مصر من عالمها العربي، وقد أخذت ملامح هذا الدور تتبدّى خلال حرب تشرين، بمحادثات فك الارتباط بمعزل عن دمشق، ثم ما لبث أن أخذ شكله الصريح عام 1977 في زيارة السادات المشؤومة للقدس وتوقيع اتفاقية كامب دافيد في العام التالي، ثم الترويج لذلك الانقلاب على الاستراتيجيا بالتنظير أن العالم العربي كان عبئاً على مصر التي تستطيع بالتخفف منه الانطلاق في عوالم السوق الرأسمالي والتطور والازدهار وتحقيق الرخاء، ولم تلتفت تلك التنظيرات إلى أن علاقة مصر مع العالم العربي تكاملية يحتاج فيها كل منهما أن يكون ظهيراً للآخر. هذه المدرسة أنتجت ورثة السادات، ومنهم مَن أيّد بحماس تدمير العراق واحتلاله، وتواطأ على الجناح الشرقي للأمن القومي في سورية، وافتعل معارك لا لزوم لها حول منطقة حلايب مع السودان، ولم يلتفت – ولا زال – لخطورة الاعتراف بدولة جنوب السودان التي يمرّ من أراضيها النيل الأبيض، واستمر بعلاقات عدائية مع إثيوبيا التي ينبع من هضبتها النيل الأزرق، ولم يستقبل من أمره ما استدبر لإيقاف مشروع سد النهضة أو للتفاهم مع إثيوبيا بالدبلوماسية أو بغيرها طيلة عقد من الزمن كانت الشركات الإسرائيلية والأميركية تنفذ خلاله مشروع بناء ذلك السد، ولم تستشعر أجهزة أمنه أن خمس مؤسسات مالية مصرية قد استثمرت في السندات الإثيوبية التي موّلت بناء السد الذي قد يحرم مصر من سرّ وجودها، وقد قيل قديماً أن مصر هبة النيل.

في شرق مصر تم إهمال الخاصرة الشرقية التي حددها تحتمس الثالث وسار على هديها كل من أتى من بعده، فلم يتم ايلاء شبه جزيرة سيناء أي اهتمام وتمّ استثناؤها من مشاريع التنمية والرعاية الحكومية، هذا الإهمال والتجاهل الذي هدف إلى إفراغها من كثير من سكانها إرضاء لتل أبيب عاد على مصر بنتائج عكسية إذ خلق بيئة رطبة ومناسبة لجراثيم الإرهاب والتطرف، في حين انصبّ اهتمام الدولة في مرحلة ما قبل الربيع الزائف على بناء حاجز تحت الأرض يحول دون إمداد غزة بحاجاتها الأساسية، وفي العهد الحالي تم إغراق الأنفاق الغزيّة بمياه البحر وإقامة جدار مكهرب فوق الأرض، وكأن المهم أمن «إسرائيل» لا أمن مصر القومي.

مصر التي نحبّ في خطر، وهذا الخطر لا يصيبها منفردة وإنما بالشراكة مع كامل المحيط العربي، مصر لم يهزمها الغرباء والأعداء ولا الجهات الخارجية أو المؤامرات الأجنبية، وإنما هزمها مَن قدّم أولوية البقاء في الحكم على حسابات الاستراتيجية والأمن القومي، ومن جعل الأمن القومي ضحيّة لأمن النظام.

لك الله يا مصر.

*سياسيّ فلسطينيّ مقيم في جنين – فلسطين المحتلة

PM Diab Receives Phone Call from EU’s Borrell over IMF Negotiations, UNIFIL Mandate Renewal

Source

 July 7, 2020

Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab

Prime Minister Hassan Diab has received a phone call from the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, Josep Borrell who expressed the EU’s concern and care for Lebanon.

The discussion also touched on the current socioeconomic conditions in Lebanon, negotiations with the International Monetary Fund, and the renewal of the UNIFIL mandate at the end of August.

PM Diab raised the issue of the list of countries that were not included in the travel restrictions adopted by the European Union on June 30, and the need to amend it soon, in light of the effective measures adopted by Lebanon to contain the spread of the Covid-19 in order to classify Lebanon among the countries have dealt effectively with the pandemic.

Caesar’s law and its implications for trade and transit through Syria and the need to spare Lebanon the consequences were also highlighted.

Diab finally drew the attention of the EU official to the danger of Israel’s oil and gas exploration along the exclusive economic zone for Lebanon, stressing Lebanon’s legitimate rights in its internationally recognized regional waters.

Kazakhstan may hold the secret for Greater Eurasia

Source

July 06, 2020

Kazakhstan may hold the secret for Greater Eurasia

Submitted by Pepe Escobar – source Asia Times

The no holds barred US-China strategic competition may be leading us to the complete fragmentation of the current “world-system” – as Wallerstein defined it.

Yet compared to the South China Sea, the Korean peninsula, the Taiwan Straits, India-China’s Himalayan border, and selected latitudes of the Greater Middle East, Central Asia shines as a portrait of stability.

That’s quite intriguing, when we consider that the chessboard reveals the interests of top global players intersecting right in the heart of Eurasia.

And that brings us to a key question: How could Kazakhstan, the 9th largest country in the world, manage to remain neutral in the current, incandescent geopolitical juncture? What are the lineaments of what could be described as the Kazakh paradox?

These questions were somewhat answered by the office of First President Nursultan Nazarbayev. I had discussed some of them with analysts when I was in Kazakhstan late last year. Nazarbayev could not answer them directly because he has just recently recovered from Covid-19 and is currently in self-isolation.

It all harks back to what was Kazakhstan really like when the USSR dissolved in 1991. The Kazakhs inherited a quite complex ethno-demographic structure, with the Russian-speaking population concentrated in the north; unresolved territorial issues with China; and geographical proximity to extremely unstable Afghanistan, then in a lull before the all-out warlord conflagration of the early 1990s which created the conditions for the emergence of the Taliban.

To make it even harder, Kazakhstan was landlocked.

All of the above might have led to Kazakhstan either dispatched to political limbo or mired in a perpetual Balkan scenario.

Have soft power, will travel

Enter Nazarbayev as a fine political strategist. From the beginning, he saw Kazakhstan as a key player, not a pawn, in the Grand Chessboard in Eurasia.

A good example was setting up the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building measures in Asia (CICA) in 1992, based on the principle of “indivisibility of Asian security”, later proposed to the whole of Eurasia.

Nazarbayev also made the crucial decision to abandon what was at the time the fourth nuclear missile potential on the planet – and a major trump card in international relations. Every major player in the arc from the Middle East to Central Asia knew that selected Islamic nations were extremely interested in Kazakhstan’s nuclear arsenal.

Nazarbayev bet on soft power instead of nuclear power. Unlike the DPRK, for instance, he privileged Kazakhstan’s integration in the global economy in favorable terms instead of relying on nuclear power to establish national security. He was certainly paving the way for Kazakhstan to be regarded as a trustworthy, get down to business neutral player and a mediator in international relations.

The trust and goodwill towards Kazakhstan is something I have seen for myself in my pan-Eurasia travels and in conversations with analysts from Turkey and Lebanon to Russia and India.

The best current example is Astana, currently Nur-sultan, becoming the HQ of that complex work in progress: the Syrian peace process, coordinated by Iran, Turkey and Russia – following the crucial, successful Kazakh mediation to solve the Moscow-Ankara standoff after the downing of a Sukhoi Su-24M near the Syria-Turkish border in November 2015.

And on the turbulent matter of Ukraine post-Maidan in 2014, Kazakhstan simultaneously kept good relations with Kiev and the West and its strategic partnership with Russia.

As I discussed late last year, Nur-sultan is now actively taking the role of the new Geneva: the capital of diplomacy for the 21st century.

The secret of this Kazakh paradox is the capacity of delicately balancing relations with the three main players – Russia, China and the US – as well as leading regional powers. Nazarbayev’s office boldly argues that can be even translated to Nur-sultan placed as the ideal venue for US-China negotiations: “We are tightly embedded in the US-China-Russia triangle and have built trusting relationships with each of them.”

In the heart of Eurasia

And that brings us to why Kazakhstan – and Nazarbayev personally – are so much involved in promoting their special concept of Greater Eurasia – which overlaps with the Russian vision, discussed in extensive detail at the Valdai Club.

Nazarbayev managed to set a paradigm in which none of the big players feel compelled to exercize a monopoly on Kazak maneuvering. That inevitably led Kazakhstan to expand its foreign policy reach.

Strategically, Kazakhstan is smack in the geographical heart of Eurasia, with huge borders with Russia and China, as well as Iran in the Caspian Sea. Its territory is no less than a top strategic bridge uniting the whole of Eurasia.

The Kazakh approach goes way beyond connectivity (trade and transport), two key planks of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), to get closer to the converging vision of BRI and the Russian-led Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU): a single, integrated Eurasian space.

Nazarbayev sees the integration of the Central Asian “stans” with Russia and with Turkic-speaking countries, including of course Turkey, as the foundation for his concept of Greater Eurasia.

The inevitable corollary is that the Atlanticist order – as well as the Anglo-American predominance in international relations – is waning, and certainly does not suit Asia and Eurasia. A consensus is forming across many key latitudes that the driving force for the reboot of the global economy post-Covid-19 – and even a new paradigm – will come from Asia.

In parallel, Nazarbayev’s office make a crucial point: “A purely Asian or Eastern answer is unlikely to suit the collective West, which is also in search of optimal models of the world’s structure. The Chinese Belt and Road Initiative clearly showed that Western countries are not psychologically ready to see China as a leader.”

Nur-sultan nonetheless remains convinced that the only possible solution would be exactly a new paradigm in international relations. Nazarbayev argues that the keys to solve the current turmoil are not located in Moscow, Beijing or Washington, but in a strategic transit node, like Kazakhstan, where the interests of all global players intersect.

Thus the push for Kazakhstan – one of the key crossroads between Europe and Asia, alongside Turkey and Iran – to become the optimal mediator allowing Greater Eurasia to flourish in practice. That is the uplifting option: otherwise, we seem condemned to live through another Cold War.

Central Downtown Nur-Sultan: in center Bayterek tower

“Israeli’, UAE Technology Firms Pen Deal on COVID-19 Research

Source

“Israeli’, UAE Technology Firms Pen Deal on COVID-19 Research

By Staff, Agencies

In the most recent act of normalization with the “Israeli” entity, a state-linked technology company in the United Arab Emirates [UAE] has signed a partnership with two major “Israeli” defense firms to research ways of combating the coronavirus pandemic.

The agreement, announced late Thursday, comes just weeks after the UAE warned the “Israeli” entity that proceeding with its planned annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank would upend its efforts to improve ties with Arab states.

G42, an Abu Dhabi-based company specializing in artificial intelligence and cloud computing, signed a memorandum of understanding with Rafael and “Israel” Aerospace Industries, the UAE’s state-run WAM news agency reported. It said executives held a signing ceremony by video link between the two countries, which do not have diplomatic relations.

Rafael and IAI’s Elta subsidiary confirmed the agreement. Elta, which specializes in sensors, radars, electronic warfare and communication systems, said they would cooperate on research and technology focused on artificial intelligence, sensors and lasers.

They said the collaboration would not only benefit the two countries, but the entire world as it grapples with the pandemic.

The “Israeli” entity’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has vowed to annex all of the occupied West Bank settlements as well as the strategic Jordan Valley, had announced an agreement with the UAE a week ago, without providing specifics.

“Israel” and Gulf countries have quietly improved ties in recent years, in part because of their shared concerns about Iran.

In recent weeks, senior UAE officials have warned that annexation would jeopardize those improved ties, but have also suggested that the two countries could set aside their political disputes to collaborate on humanitarian and other projects.

US President Donald Trump’s Middle East plan, which overwhelmingly favors “Israel” and was rejected by the Palestinians, would allow the entity to annex up to 30% of the West Bank, which it occupied in the 1967 war along with east al-Quds [Jerusalem] and the Gaza Strip.

The UN, European and Arab countries have warned “Israel” against annexation, which is widely seen as a violation of international law.

Group 42, also known as G42, is led by CEO Peng Xiao. He previously ran Pegasus, a subsidiary of DarkMatter, a cyber-security firm based in the UAE that has recruited Western intelligence agents.

Since late 2016, Dubai police have partnered with Pegasus to use its “big data” application to pool hours of surveillance video to track anyone in the emirate. DarkMatter’s hiring of former CIA and National Security Agency analysts has raised concerns, especially as the UAE has imprisoned human rights activists.

وسائل إعلام إسرائيلية تكشف عن خريطة الضم التي اقترحتها “إسرائيل”

المصدر: الميادين نت

وسائل إعلام إٍسرائيلية تكشف عن خطة الضم التي اقترحتها
إعلام إسرائيلي: خريطة الضم الإسرائيلية تقتضي ضمّ 30% من المناطق

خريطة الضمّ التي اقترحتها “إسرائيل” على الإدارة الأميركية تقتضي ضمّ 30% من الأراضي الفلسطينية، وتتضمن حوالي 20 نقطة استيطانية كحزام واسع من المستوطنات المعزولة.

كشفت وسائل إعلام إسرائيلية عن خريطة الضمّ التي اقترحتها “إسرائيل” على الولايات المتحدة، مشيرةً إلى أنها تعديل لخطة الرئيس “الأميركي بفرض السيادة على نقاط استيطانية، مقابل تبادل مناطق مع الفلسطينيين”. 

وتشمل الخارطة الإسرائيلية تعديلات أدخلتها “إسرائيل” على الخطة الأميركية الأصلية المعروفة بـ”صفقة القرن”.

وذكرت قناة “كان” الإسرائيلية أن الفارق بينها وبين المقترحِ الأميركي، هو أن المستوطنات المعزولة أصبحت أحزمةً واسعةً جداً، تتضمن حوالي 20 نقطة استيطانية، لم تظهر في الخُطة السابقة.

وأشارت القناة إلى أن الحفاظ على الموقف الذي قدّمه الأميركيون، “سيقتضي ضمّ 30% من المناطق، وإعطاء 70% للفلسطينيين”.

وفي سبيل ذلك، اقترح رئيس الحكومة الإسرائيلية بنيامين نتنياهو، منح الفلسطينين “تعويضاً” عبارة عن “قطاع من الأراضي بالمنطقة المعروفة باسم صحراء يهودا بالضفة”.

كذلك نقلت القناة عن مصادر سياسية إسرائيلية أن نتنياهو يسعى لضم مستوطنتين “تنطويان على أهمية دينية”، هما بيت إيل (قرب رام الله وسط الضفة) و”شيلو” (بين رام الله ونابلس)، لافتة إلى أن فرض السيادة على تلك المناطق يمثل “أهمية للوبي الإنجيلي (الداعم لإسرائيل والرئيس الأميركي دونالد ترامب) في الولايات المتحدة”.

وكانت وكالة “أسوشيتد برس”، قد نشرت تقريراً قالت فيه إن “كبار مساعدي الأمن القومي للرئيس الأميركي دونالد ترامب لم يتمكنوا من التوصل إلى قرار بشأن ما إذا كان سيتم دعم خطة إسرائيلية لضم أجزاء كبيرة من الأراضي”.

وعارض الاتحاد الأوروبي خطة الضم، المزمع الإعلان عنها غداً الأربعاء، فيما حذرت المفوضية السامية لحقوق الإنسان”إسرائيل” من المضي قدماً في خططها لضم مساحة غير مشروعة من الأراضي الفلسطينية. 

Maduro Orders EU Envoy to Leave Within 72 Hours Over New Sanctions

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Maduro Orders EU Envoy to Leave Within 72 Hours Over New Sanctions

By Staff, Agencies

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has ordered EU envoy Isabel Brilhante Pedrosato to leave within 72 hours after the EU sanctioned a group of Venezuelan officials.

“I have decided to give the European Union ambassador 72 hours to leave the country,” Maduro said in a televised address, also noting that Pedrosato will be allowed to use a plane to leave the country.

“Enough of European colonialism against Venezuela,” Maduro added.

Maduro’s order comes hours after the Council of the European Union on Monday sanctioned 11 additional Venezuelan officials, including parliamentarians, a magistrate and a senior military chief, for acting against the National Assembly, which is dominated by the opposition, Reuters reported. The individuals sanctioned are recognized by the Maduro government but not by the members of the Assembly.

The sanctions include a travel ban and an asset freeze. So far, 36 Venezuelan officials linked to the Maduro government face sanctions.

According to the Council, the 11 newly-sanctioned individuals “are particularly responsible for acting against the democratic functioning of the National Assembly, including stripping the parliamentary immunity of several of its members,” Reuters reported. The Council also accused the individuals of “creating obstacles to a political and democratic solution to the crisis in Venezuela.”

The United States itself has imposed numerous rounds of sanctions against Venezuela in response to the political developments in the country. On January 23, 2019, opposition leader Juan Guaido proclaimed himself Venezuela’s interim president, denouncing Maduro’s government as undemocratic and calling for Maduro’s ouster. Since then, several failed attempts have been made to remove Maduro from power.

Last year, the US also imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s state-owned oil and natural gas company PDVSA. Recently, the Trump administration sanctioned three Mexico-based individuals for selling crude oil from Venezuela.

“The illegitimate Maduro regime created a secret network to evade sanctions, which Treasury has now exposed,” US Deputy Secretary Justin G. Muzinich said in a statement at the time. “The United States will continue to relentlessly pursue sanctions evaders, who plunder Venezuela’s resources for personal gain at the expense of the Venezuelan people.”

Last Wednesday, Washington also imposed sanctions on the captains of five Iranian tankers over oil deliveries to Venezuela.

“Today, the United States is sanctioning five Iranian ship captains who delivered around 1.5 million barrels of Iranian gasoline to Venezuela in support of the illegitimate Maduro regime,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

Maduro has repeatedly stated that the US is using sanctions to choke out his government and gain access to the country’s oil reserves, which are the largest in the world.

“Let’s not allow a Vietnam in Latin America,” Maduro said last year, warning against the dangers of US intervention.”If the United States intends to intervene here, they will have a Vietnam worse than what they can imagine. Let’s not allow violence.”

‘Israeli’ Annexation to Meet Dreadful Palestinian Resistance – Amir Abdollahian

Source

By Staff, Agencies

‘Israeli’ Annexation to Meet Dreadful Palestinian Resistance – Amir Abdollahian

Iranian Speaker’s Special Adviser for International Affairs Hossein Amir Abdollahian warned that any action by the ‘Israeli’ regime to annex the West Bank will be dreadfully met with the Palestinian Resistance.

In a tweet on Friday, Amir Abdollahian referred to the Zionist entity by describing it as the ‘fake regime’.

He also noted that the future is undoubtedly in the interest of the Resistance and the Palestinian people.

“Any move by the fake Israeli regime about the #WestBank annexation will face the dreadful response by the Resistance Front. The FUTURE will be in the favor of the Resistance Front & the #Palestinian people. The Zionists do have no room in the future of the region.”

Amir Abdollahian’s remarks came as the Zionist occupation entity intends to annex parts of the West Bank occupied in the 1967 war to the territories under its control. The move is part of US President Donald Trump’s so-called “Deal of the Century” and has angered Palestinians and international communities including the European Union.

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White Privilege and Racism Debate: a British East European point of view

Source

June 22, 2020

by Nebojša Radić for The Saker Blog

White Privilege and Racism Debate: a British East European point of view

In this country[1]I am regarded as White and therefore, privileged – it seems.

People in the streets and on television say that Whites should kneel and apologise.

Really?

How come I find myself in this bizarre situation?

How did I get here?

How did a refugee from warn-torn socialist Yugoslavia turned fisherman in the South Pacific become a privileged White male?

Did I miss anything?

Is it something I did?

Something I said?

No, it’s not something I did or said. It has nothing to do with me.

Except that… it has everything to do with me and there is no-one to speak out for me!

So, there you go now, hear my voice.

I was born in Yugoslavia, the most multicultural country in Europe. Through the non-allied movement, it had many links with third-world countries and we used to call Africans: braća crnci, Black Brothers. I grew up in Belgrade listening to African American blues musicians such as BB King, Jimi Hendrix, John Lee Hooker and Blind Lemon Jefferson, playing basketball to better the likes of Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson! It was only in the late 90s that I noticed that the footballer Edson Arantes do Nascimento better known as Pele was black! And I remember watching him play for the first time in Sweden 1970! It took me thirty years or perhaps, ten years of living in an English-speaking country to think of the great football magician in terms of race.

In the early nineties, like many of my countrymen (and women, yes), I fled the war. I found myself in Nelson, New Zealand where a friend of a friend operated a fleet of fishing boats. I learnt the trade and a couple of years later, upon graduation, I could tell ALL the commercial fish species in the South Pacific. Filling the many forms of the New Zealand immigration service and later of the government, I identified as a Pakeha, the Maori term for white people and, apparently, also for a pig. Pakeha or Caucasian, that was the choice I had. At the same time, for most the Yugoslav immigrants in Aotearoa,[2], I was naš – ours. I was just one of us, ex-Yugoslavs and we all spoke naški – our language. We never bothered (very wisely) to call it Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian or…

Locals struggled to tell us apart the same as we struggled to tell the English from the Dutch or the Maoris from the Pacific Islanders (nota bene: the great rugby player, Jonah Lomu was of Tongan origin, an Islander – not a Maori[3]).

While in Nelson, down very South, a good friend of mine Kit Carson, a farmer, wood turner and artist taught me an important lesson. We were barbequing some meat near the Tahunanui beach when Max said that as an Irish-born immigrant, Kit wasn’t a real Kiwi. The already well-aged and proud son of Joyce, Beckett, Heaney and a very long line of Celtic storytelling alchemists stood up from his chair with a drink in his mighty rugged hand and roared:

– You were born in this country, Max, but I chose to come here out my own free will. I am much more of a New Zealander than you will ever be!

Thus, spoke Kit Carson, Down Under Below, raising his glass to a thunderous – slaintè!

On the day the New York twin towers fell, I left Aotearoa[4] and moved to Britain (this country?). I now live in Cambridge, a multi-cultural city with a peculiar town and gown historical (class, racial?) divide.

For the immigration service and the government here, I am White, the other White, mind you. The official government web page lists those options:

One of the home nations[5] or Irish (Kit Carson!), Gypsy or Irish Traveller (Tyson Fury, the boxer) or any other White background. You can also belong to mixed ethnicities or declare yourself to be Jewish, Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Chinese or of any other Asian background. You can be AfricanCaribbean or of any other Black background. You could be Arab too (Dr Ali Meghji[6])![7]

So, all Europeans are other Whites. Nigel Farage however, the prominent and outspoken British politician, does not complain about his French, Italian or German and not even Greek neighbours. He just does not recommend living next door to a bunch of Romanians!

At the same time, ‘Go home Poles’ graffiti compete with Banksy’s excellent artwork, anti-Russian hyper-hysteria (you don’t really want me to give you any links for this one) and the already metastatic anti-Serbian bias (uh, where shall I start with links…) that I have been exposed to over these 30 years.

Nine in ten of my conversations that started with where are you from originally? and continued with me saying I am from Serbia, ended right there – in embarrassment and silence. A sure sign that my interlocutors were educated on the topic by alphabet soup corporations (CNN, BBC… ESPN, CIA?) rather than history or any other books. While I do not expect people to have read all the novels by the Nobel laureate Ivo Andrić or seen the films of multiple Palme d’Or winner Emir Kusturica, to have ever found themselves trapped in one of the Marina Abramović arty installations, to have understood the principles of Nikola Tesla’s coil and wireless transmission of electricity or even watched Novak Đoković play tennis, it would be nice if they could make a small mental effort to move beyond the “murderous Serbs” stereotype and the likes of Milošević, Karadžić and Mladić.

So, the western political correctness pill may pretend to be covering Muslims, Blacks and Jews but it does not cover the others, with special reference to Eastern Europeans (our subject).

I can inform you, for instance, that there is no such a thing as an East European accent.[8] Same as there is no such a thing as a Western European accent. The geographical Eastern Europe features languages that belong to different groups : Finno-Ugric, Greek, Romance, Slavic and Albanian among others. Native speakers of these language do not and cannot possibly have the same English accents. Again, is there such a thing as a Jewish, African or Muslim accent?

For instance,

  • Talking to a woman wearing a burka you ask leisurely: Oh, is that a Muslim accent that I hear, darling?
  • Talking to Shaquille O’Neal during a pick-up basketball game you say: Where does your accent come from? West Africa, perhaps? or,
  • Talking to a rabbi who happen to be dressed as a rabbi: Interesting accent that you have – Semitic isn’t it?

(Nota bene: do NOT try any of these techniques at home)

East European is not an ethnicity. East Europeans as a compact group do not exist linguistically, culturally оr religiously and they are no different from Western Europeans in that respect. East European is a prejudiced political, cold war denomination for marginalised white (other) people.

My ancestors fought the Ottoman Turks for centuries not to be enslaved or taken away by the Janissaries. As my name is not Muhammed and I am a Christian, grandad seems to have done well. Now both the descendants and victims of the British Empire slave traders tell me I should apologise. Uh, let me see…

Is racism, as we now know it, not a construct of Western European maritime imperial nations, of genocide, slave trade and slavery?

Where I come from we learnt about these sinister exploits at school. We were told about what happened to the American Indians, the Aborigines, the Mayas and the Incas, the Africans abducted from their ancestral homes, enslaved and shipped to the new brave world. We knew about the East India Company, the British concentration camps in South Africa, Churchill’s racism and crimes, the utter high-tech barbarism visited upon the civilian populations of Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Dresden.

This was all common knowledge among people outside the Anglo-Saxon imperial reach.

The British Empire is racist, you now tell me? No kidding.

The American fathers of the exceptional nation were slave owners? Say no more.

The Empire committed atrocities with the ‘excuse’ that their victims we not really human.[9] If they now, suddenly accepted the humanity of the colonised, exploited and murdered peoples, their minds would blow and disintegrate along with all of their cherished ethical, religious principles and civilised posturing.

But let’s go back to our topic, my Eastern European predicament. I am White, remember? Other White but still – sort of, White! To be better represented, I might want to join forces with the other Asians and the other Africans perhaps? So much for an identity crisis of the Others (capitalised though, mind you)!

I don’t think I am either privileged or responsible for racial tensions. I support human rights and equality and will not kneel or beg for forgiveness.

One day, when I return to the Balkans I may lay down and die of shame for what we allowed to happen to my generation and my country in those mountains. But I will not kneel. Not here, not now, not ever!

So, East Europeans are other Whites. We are not privileged and we often find ourselves at the receiving end of prejudice and intolerance. Do not paint us thus, with the old, stained, black & white brush. There are too many dirty brushes around us already… and so many wonderful colours.

Nebojša Radić is a native of Belgrade, Serbia. He has published fiction, essays and academic work in English (nom de guerre Sam Caxton), Serbian and Italian. He is Associate Professor at the University of Cambridge in the UK. Nebojša has two PhDs, one in Creative Writing from the UEA in Norwich and one in fish chucking form Talley’s Fisheries in Nelson, New Zealand.

Cambridge, UK

  1. No-one ever says in Britain, England, the UK… 
  2. New Zealand is officially bilingual and this is the Maori name. Aotearoa translates as The Land of the Long White Cloud
  3. Advice based on personal experience acquired on the deck of a 15 metre-long fishing trawler at high sea during a storm: never call a Maori an Islander – BIG difference! 
  4. Maori for New Zealand – The Land of the Long White Cloud
  5. English, Northern Irish, Scottish or Welsh. 
  6. https://www.ethnicity-facts-figures.service.gov.uk/ethnic-groups 
  7. My enunciations have been accused many times over of possessing such a dubious quality. 
  8. Churchill was a ‘racist’ and comparable to Hitler, says academic.”

Islamic Jihad Calls for Cutting Off All Ties with Zionist Entity, Says Jordan-EU Stance “Appreciated, yet Not Enough”

Source

June 19, 2020

manar-06849490015376483365

The Palestinian resistance movement, Islamic Jihad, called for cutting off all ties with the Zionist entity in order to expose its illegitimate existence in Palestine, stressing that ‘Israel’ has been committing crimes against the Palestinians for more than 70 years.

The group’s official, Ahmad Al-Modallel, stressed that the Jordanian and European stances are appreciated, but not enough, in light of the ethnic cleansing crime which the enemy intends to commit against the Palestinian people.

Al-Modallel pointed out that the Zionist narrative has been refuted and that the Palestinian people has been suffering from the Zionist oppression with all its forms of killing, displacing original residents, destroying constructions, arresting locals, imposing siege, carrying out the Judaization plot and building settlements.

The Zionist entity is scheduled to start annexing parts of the occupied West Bank in July in a move viewed by the Palestinian resistance and its supporters as a major escalation and aggression.

Source: Al-Manar English Website

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A Pipelineistan fable for our times

June 08, 2020

A Pipelineistan fable for our times

By Pepe Escobar – posted with permission

Ukraine was supposed to prevent Russia from deepening energy ties with Germany; it didn’t work out that way

Once upon a time in Pipelineistan, tales of woe were the norm. Shattered dreams littered the chessboard – from IPI vs. TAPI in the AfPak realm to the neck-twisting Nabucco opera in Europe.

In sharp contrast, whenever China entered the picture, successful completion prevailed. Beijing financed a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Xinjiang, finished in 2009, and will profit from two spectacular Power of Siberia deals with Russia.

And then there’s Ukraine. Maidan was a project of the Barack Obama administration, featuring a sterling cast led by POTUS, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, John McCain and last but not least, prime Kiev cookie distributor Victoria “F**k the EU” Nuland.

Ukraine was also supposed to prevent Russia from deepening energy ties with Germany, as well as other European destinations.

Well, it did not exactly play like that. Nord Stream was already operational. South Stream was Gazprom’s project to southeast Europe. Relentless pressure by the Obama administration derailed it. Yet that only worked to enable a resurrection: the already completed TurkStream, with gas starting to flow in January 2020.

The battlefield then changed to Nord Stream 2. This time relentless Donald Trump administration pressure did not derail it. On the contrary: it will be completed by the end of 2020.

Richard Grennel, the US ambassador to Germany, branded a “superstar” by President Trump, was furious. True to script, he threatened Nordstream 2 partners – ENGIE, OMV, Royal Dutch Shell, Uniper, and Wintershall – with “new sanctions.”

Worse: he stressed that Germany “must stop feeding the beast at a time when it does not pay enough to NATO.”

“Feeding the beast” is not exactly subtle code for energy trade with Russia.

Peter Altmaier, German minister of economic affairs and energy, was not impressed. Berlin does not recognize any legality in extra-territorial sanctions

Grennel, on top of it, is not exactly popular in Berlin. Diplomats popped the champagne when they knew he was going back home to become the head of US national intelligence.

Trump administration sanctions delayed Nordstream 2 for around one year, at best. What really matters is that in this interval Kiev had to sign a gas transit deal with Gazprom. What no one is talking about is that by 2025 no Russian gas will be transiting across Ukraine towards Europe.

So the whole Maidan project was in fact useless.

It’s a running joke in Brussels that the EU never had and will never have a unified energy policy towards Russia. The EU came up with a gas directive to force the ownership of Nord Stream 2 to be separated from the gas flowing through the pipeline. German courts applied their own “nein.”

Nord Stream 2 is a serious matter of national energy security for Germany. And that is enough to trump whatever Brussels may concoct.

And don’t forget Siberia 

The moral of this fable is that now two key Pipelineistan nodes – Turk Stream and Nord Stream 2 – are established as umbilical steel cords linking Russia with two NATO allies.

And true to proverbial win-win scripts, now it’s also time for China to look into solidifying its European relations.

Last week, German chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese premier Li Keqiang had a video conference to discuss Covid-19 and China-EU economic policy.

That was a day after Merkel and President Xi had spoken, when they agreed that the China-EU summit in Leipzig on September 14 would have to be postponed.

This summit should be the climax of the German presidency of the EU, which starts on July 1. That’s when Germany would be able to present a unified policy towards China, uniting in theory the 27 EU members and not only the 17+1 from Central Europe and the Balkans – including 11 EU members – that already have a privileged relationship with Beijing and are on board for the Belt and Road Initiative.

In contrast with the Trump administration, Merkel does privilege a clear, comprehensive trade partnership with China – way beyond a mere photo op summit. Berlin is way more geoeconomically sophisticated than the vague “engagement and exigence” Paris  approach.

Merkel as well as Xi are fully aware of the imminent fragmentation of the world economy post-Lockdown. Yet as much as Beijing is ready to abandon the global circulation strategy from which it has handsomely profited for the past two decades, the emphasis is also on refining very close trade relations with Europe.

Ray McGovern has concisely detailed the current state of US-Russia relations. The heart of the whole matter, from Moscow’s point of view, was summarized by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, an extremely able diplomat:

“We don’t believe the US in its current shape is a counterpart that is reliable, so we have no confidence, no trust whatsoever. So our own calculations and conclusions are less related to what America is doing …. We cherish our close and friendly relations with China. We do regard this as a comprehensive strategic partnership in different areas, and we intend to develop it further.”

It’s all here. Russia-China “comprehensive strategic partnership” steadily advancing. Including “Power of Siberia” Pipelineistan. Plus Pipelineistan linking two key NATO allies. Sanctions? What sanctions?

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