The Third Patriotic War

May 07, 2022

Source

A St George’s Day Contribution by Batiushka

Introduction: War

I am not a technical-military man, but I have very strong military connections and a keen interest in military history, both Russian and Western, and also in geopolitics, having lectured on it. I lived in Soviet Russia in the 1970s, experienced its weaknesses, its strengths and also its hollowness, understanding that it would eventually fall, for even then nobody believed in Communism any more. All continued by inertia. Collapse was inevitable. I also know contemporary Russia, the Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltics and Moldova very well. In fact, I was in Kiev only last October, being shown the SBU/CIA Secret Police building in the centre and being told to hush my voice as we walked past. No-one wanted to visit the torture-chambers in the basement.

The special operation to free the Russian Donbass from Fascist oppression which began on 24 February 2022 meant a war between the Russian Federation and the Kiev regime, which under Western pressure would refuse to back down. This would inevitably mean a war between Russia and NATO, even if the actual battleground would still be limited to the Ukraine. I firmly believe that the Russian government knew all this and foresaw the consequences, that the West would intervene with all the economic, political, military and technological might of the US/NATO military complex. This knowledge was why the Donbass had had to wait for liberation for eight long and grim years. Russia had had to get ready for the inevitable very carefully.

The Preparation

Let us recall how Soviet Russia fell through treason, ending up dissolving itself on 25 December 1991. In October 1993, 4,000 US Marines (I know one of them) were flown to a base outside Moscow. This was just in case the popular rising against ‘democracy’ and the drunkard Western puppet and traitor Yeltsin went Russia’s way and against the neocons and their privatisers’ ‘shock therapy’. The repression of the October bid for freedom left 5,000 Russian dead. The US support had been there, though it did not have to be used, as there were enough Russian traitors to do the dirty deed themselves.

Russian weakness and internal treachery was why the Russian government betrayed Serbia in the 1990s and Libya in 2011 – it was far too weak to stand up to the West. After the Crimea democratically returned to Russia after 60 years (1954-2014) with the internationally-observed referendum in 2014, the West still applied illegal sanctions to Russia. Then Moscow knew that any action to free the Ukraine from the Western junta in Kiev would have to be prepared very carefully, for the sanctions would only be multiplied. What preparations had to be made?

Firstly, there was the diplomatic and trade front. Allies had to be brought onside, in Eurasia with China, Iran, India, Turkey (Russia rescuing Erdogan from the US assassination attempt at the last moment in July 2016), Hungary, then, from Venezuela to Brazil, Latin America and then, from Egypt to South Africa, Africa. As regards the Western world, especially the EU, there was a chance to present the Russian point of view through RT, as at that time Western censorship was not yet total.

Secondly, there was the modernisation of the Russian Armed Forces to be undertaken, with new, non-nuclear weapons, hypersonic missiles, drones, electronic technology, some of which would be tested out in Syria.

Thirdly, there was the policy of import substitution to be implemented in order to make Russia independent in case of further illegal Western sanctions.

Why Did It Start on 24 February 2022?

There were four triggers which sparked off the special operation on 24 February.

Firstly, the Zelensky regime wanted the Ukraine to become a NATO member. The weak post-Communist Russian Federation had already made that mistake many times, allowing Eastern Europe, notably the Baltics, Poland and Romania, to join that aggressive protection racket. In that way the post-War buffer states of Eastern Europe, providing a demilitarised zone for Russia, ended. After all, if you have been invaded from the West very regularly for 800 years, leaving 27 million of your citizens dead in the most recent invasion, would you not also want a demilitarised buffer zone to protect you? Post-War offensive NATO was the only reason why the defensive Warsaw Pact had to be set up.

Secondly, with missiles on American bases in Poland and Romania and NATO troops smugly parading at the Estonian border with Russia, the Ukraine then threatened to obtain nuclear arms. Did Zelensky, reading his American script as a true actor, really expect Russia not to react to this?

Thirdly, the US, not without the help of its local pronconsul, the cocaine-addled Hunter Biden, had set up some thirty biolabs in the Ukraine. Their target? To find genetically-concocted viruses to infect Russians. Would Russia not defend itself?

Fourthly, though possibly this may not have been discovered by Russia until a day or two after the special operation began, though possibly they knew perfectly well beforehand, the NATO-manipulated, instructed and armed Kiev Army had a plan to invade the Russian Donbass and genocide its people. Had they succeeded, it is doubtful they would have stopped at the Russian border. Truss, the supremely stupid British Foreign Secretary, let slip that NATO already had Russian Rostov and Voronezh in its sights.

After eight years of attempts to negotiate, which Russia used to buy time to prepare for the War in case of Western idiocy, it was only because there was no alternative that it sent in some troops in an initially limited military operation.

A Fight for Survival

This is now a war of attrition. Russia has to destroy all Western/NATO arms and troops that get into the Ukraine from Poland or elsewhere as soon as possible, quicker than they can be sent. And this must go on until the West caves in, because so much Western war material will have been destroyed at huge financial loss to itself.

Russia is also relying on the self-imposed economic problems that the West faces. The West, and not just the EU, is already suffering economically. There could easily be popular uprisings as a result of inflation and the incredible cost of energy. This will hit very hard next autumn and winter. And the embargos on Russian grain and fertilisers have not hit yet. Wait till food costs go up by 100% in Western countries, instead of just going up by 10% as now: then you will have rioting in the streets and looting of supermarkets. As for the Ukrainian currency, it is worthless, propped up by the IMF run by the US, which in 2014 stole the $15 billion of Ukrainian gold reserves in expectation. Otherwise, the Ukraine would long ago have defaulted.

The stakes are huge for all. China stands behind Russia because Russia is like a shield for it. If Russia falls, then China is next and it knows that, which is why it supports Russia. The White Peril will next head towards China, making the British-imposed mass suicide of the so-called ‘Opium Wars’ look like a picnic. There will be no taking back of Taiwan in the near future, instead there will be Harvard economists and merchant bankers taking power and grasping billions in Beijing, as in Russia after 1991. And then, amid civil wars, millions and millions of Chinese will take the path of suicide, exactly as happened in 1990s Russia. Make no mistake, this is a battle for survival of the world’s seven billion against the one billion.

This is why today Russia remains firm, with 80% of the population behind President Putin, unlike in the Western world where it is rare to find a leader who has more than 30% of support. Why? It is simple: President Putin loves his country, he is a patriot: Western leaders are not patriots, they are venal mercenaries, no more so than the US puppet governments in Eastern Europe. The only Russians against President Putin are the traitors, recruited by the CIA, and there are still quite a few in Moscow and elsewhere, but we will not here name names.

True, many of the fifth column of traitors in Moscow have already left or are leaving, Tel Aviv being a popular destination for them. For Russia this is not some localised conflict on its borders, as it still appears to most Western people, lulled into delusions by their Goebbels propaganda ministries (‘media’). For Russia this is just as much a fight for survival as World War Two. This is the Third Great Patriotic War. Let me explain.

For those who do not know, the 1812 invasion of Russia by Napoleon and his multinational barbarian hordes is known as the First Patriotic War. The 1941 invasion by Hitler and his multinational barbarian hordes is known as the Second Patriotic War. It is our view that just as the 1941-1945 defensive War was called the Second Patriotic War, the 2022- ? defensive War will be known as the Third Patriotic War. Warsaw and Bucharest, Berlin and Paris, pay attention.

When Did It All Begin?

When did it all begin? Actually, it was not on 24 February 2022. Some, grudgingly, will admit that it was the US-run regime change of 2014 with its $5 billion price-tag for the hapless US taxpayer. Grudgingly, some might admit that it goes back even further to November 1989, the Fall of the Wall. Some might suggest two generations before that, in September 1939, when Stalin took the poison-chalice of the western Ukraine, Galicia, from Poland and had to fight a CIA-supplied war there against Fascist partisans until 1958.

Some might suggest exactly 100 years ago in 1922, when the brain-syphilitic Lenin transferred from Russia the southern and eastern half of the present Ukraine to the Ukraine, as he wanted the pro-Communist industrial proletariat of the south and east to counterbalance the real Ukrainian agricultural north and west. But we could also go back to 1914, the invasion of the Russian Empire by Germany, Austria-Hungary and Turkey. This is exactly 100 years before the 2014 US-orchestrated colour-revolution in Kiev, with its Lithuanian snipers on the roof of the American Embassy in Kiev murdering Ukrainian policemen and then the US blaming ‘repression’ on the democratically-elected pro-Russian government.

Conclusion: A Fight to the End

Russia must win this War against NATO. However, the last thing Russia wants is a nuclear war, however much some fools in the West talk that up. And however tempting as targets the 1,000 or so US bases around the world may be, Russia certainly does not want the war to spread outside the current Ukrainian territory. If Russia does not win, the Russian Federation will be humiliated and dismantled and become just another group of colonies for Western asset-strippers and slavers. Then the British dream for its 1917 coup d’etat, turned into a nightmare because the stupid dream permitted Bolshevism to come to power, will become real.

After that, China will fall next and then the rest of the still free, if for the moment impoverished and exploited, world will fall just like dominos into neo-colonial Western hands. And that will be the end of the world under a US Global Dictatorship, euphemistically known as ‘the Unipolar World’. We are not ready for that. We prefer to fight. As President Putin has said, a world without Russia is not one we wish to live in. As we have said before, this is our ONLY chance to work towards a Union of Sovereign (NOT Soviet) Social (NOT Socialist) Republics and an Alliance of countries which favour Prosperity and Justice, not Poverty and Injustice.

Russian Orthodox St George’s Day 2022

Hegemon USA’s History of War Crimes

April 7, 2022

Russia’s Sputnik News reported examples of US war crimes post-WW II.

My own examples follow below. First Sputnik’s:

The July 1950 No Gun Ri massacre occurred one month after Truman’s war of aggression on nonbelligerent, nonthreatening North Korea.

Covered up for nearly half a century, what happened took the lives of around 300 men, women and children.

From December 1968 – May 1969, US forces indiscriminately massacred thousands of North Vietnamese civilians in so-called “free-fire zones” during Operation Speedy Express — to cause maximum numbers of casualties.

In February 1991 near end of Operation Desert Storm in Iraq, civilians and fleeing combatants were massacred along the so-called Highway of Death.

In May 1999 near Korisa, Kosovo, US terror-bombing massacred civilian refugees — ones who unsuccessfully sought shelter out of harm’s way.

In the second battle of Fallujah in November 2004 — during the Second Persian Gulf War — US and UK forces terror-bombed Iraqis with banned weapons, including white phosphorous, incendiary bombs, and radiological weapons.

Thousands were massacred in cold blood, largely civilians.

In October 2015, US forces terror-bombed a Kunduz, Afghanistan hospital on the phony pretext of targeting Taliban fighters.

Dozens were killed, dozens more injured.

During the siege of Mosul, Iraq in 2017, an estimated 40,000 Iraqi civilians were massacred on the phony pretext of combating US created and supported ISIS jihadists. 

Similar mass slaughter occurred in the same year against Raqqa, Syria civilians.

US genocides began by mass-exterminating countless millions of Native America to expand the nation from sea-to-shinning sea — by stealing their land, livelihoods and lives.

In his book titled, “A Little Matter of Genocide: Holocaust and Denial in the Americas 1492 to the Present,” Ward Churchill explained that the nation’s indigenous population was reduced to at most 3% of its original numbers before it all began — by butchery and other forms of brutality.

During the infamous Middle Passage transatlantic slave trade — the African holocaust — millions perished en route in extreme discomfort.

Around 100 million human beings arriving in America were sold like cattle.

Describing the centuries-long horror, historian Howard Zinn said the following:

US slavery was “the most cruel form in history.”

It reflected a “frenzy for limitless profit that comes from capitalistic agriculture; the reduction of the slave to less than human status by the use of racial hatred, with that relentless clarity based on color, where white was master, black was slave.”

Post-WW II US genocides occurred against North Koreans, Southeast Asians, Central and Latin Americans, Africans, other Asians, Yugoslavs, Afghans, Yemenis, Iraqis, Libyans, Syrians and others.

With no end of it in prospect, unparalleled genocide has been ongoing by kill shots throughout the West and elsewhere since December 2020 — the human toll unknown because of coverup and denial.

If continues longterm, billions may perish out of sight and mind — unwanted people that US/Western dark forces want exterminated to more greatly empower and enrich the privileged few at their expense.

During America’s dirty 1898 – 1902 Spanish-American War against Spain to cede control of the Philippines, hundreds of thousands of Filipinos were brutally slaughtered.

US cutthroat killer general Jacob Smith ordered his troops to:

“Kill and burn.”

“This is no time to take prisoners.”

“The more you kill and burn, the better.” 

“Kill all above the age of ten.”

Then “turn (the country into) a howling wilderness.”

Few people anywhere suffered longer, more horrifically with anguish than Haitians for over 500 years and still counting.

They endured genocidal oppression, slavery, despotism, colonization, reparations, embargoes, sanctions, deep poverty, starvation, untreated diseases, unrepayable debt, and natural calamities unprotected.

Along with strategic bombing to destroy an adversary’s economic and military might, US terror bombings targeted civilians to break their morale, cause panic, weaken an invented enemy’s will to fight, along with inflicting mass casualties and punishment.

Geneva and other international laws prohibit it. 

The Laws of War: Laws and Customs of War on Land (1907 Hague IV Convention’s Article 25 states:

“The attack or bombardment, by whatever means, of towns, villages, dwellings, or building which are undefended is prohibited.”

Fourth Geneva protects civilians in time of war.

It prohibits violence of any kind against them and requires treatment for the sick and wounded. 

The 1945 Nuremberg Principles forbid “crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity.” 

These include “inhumane acts committed against any civilian population, before or during the war,” including indiscriminate killing and “wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity.”

In virtually all US wars of aggression against invented enemies, the above and similar war crimes occur with disturbing regularity.

During the firebombing of Dresden, Germany in February 1945 — when what Russia calls its Great Patriotic War was virtually won — the US and UK gratuitously incinerated around 100,000 city residents.

The morally indefensible high crime was repeated against Tokyo the same month in similar fashion after virtual surrender by imperial Japan was rejected by Franklin Roosevelt. surrendered and accepted defeat.

In August 1945, Harry Truman gratuitously destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki by nuclear immolation.

When WW II was virtually over, hundreds of thousands were killed.

To this day, future generations were scarred with birth defects and other serious health issues. 

During the post-WW II period, countless millions more were massacred during US imperial wars — accountability for the highest of high crimes never forthcoming.

Genocidal wars were waged against nonbelligerent North Korea, North Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and worldwide against unwanted people.

US use of chemical, biological, radiological and other banned weapons is well-documented throughout US history.

From smallpox infected blankets against Native Americans to chlorine gas during the US Civil War to today’s chemical, biological, radiological and other banned weapons, anything goes has been official US policy throughout its history.

Deadly dioxin-containing Agent Orange and nerve gas were used by US forces in Southeast Asia.

So were other terror weapons in all US wars of aggression.

It’s not a pretty picture. 

The self-styled indispensable state’s history is pockmarked with virtually every type crime imaginable at home and worldwide.

They’ve gone on by endless wars of choice against Native Americans to the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli to the present day at home and abroad worldwide — with no end of them in prospect.

Sitrep UNGA: Russia suspended from 47 member Human Rights Council in Geneva

April 07, 2022

The US-proposed resolution received 93 votes, with 24 countries opposed and 58 abstaining.

The only other country ever to be expelled from the UN Human Rights Council was Libya, in 2011, as NATO bombed the North African country to help militants overthrow the government of Muammar Gaddafi.

From Korea to Libya: On the Future of Ukraine and NATO’s Neverending Wars

April 6, 2022

Ukraine needs peace and security, not perpetual war that is designed to serve the strategic interests of certain countries or military alliances.

By Ramzy BAROUD

Much has been said and written about media bias and double standards in the West’s response to the Russia-Ukraine war, when compared with other wars and military conflicts across the world, especially in the Middle East and the Global South. Less obvious is how such hypocrisy is a reflection of a much larger phenomenon which governs the West’s relationship to war and conflict zones.

Like every NATO-led war since the inception of the alliance in 1949, these wars resulted in widespread devastation and tragic death tolls.

On March 19, Iraq commemorated the 19th anniversary of the US invasion which killed, according to modest estimates, over a million Iraqis. The consequences of that war were equally devastating as it destabilized the entire Middle East region, leading to various civil and proxy wars. The Arab world is reeling under that horrific experience to this day.

Also, on March 19, the eleventh anniversary of the NATO war on Libya was commemorated and followed, five days later, by the 23rd anniversary of the NATO war on Yugoslavia. Like every NATO-led war since the inception of the alliance in 1949, these wars resulted in widespread devastation and tragic death tolls.

None of these wars, starting with the NATO intervention in the Korean Peninsula in 1950, have stabilized any of the warring regions. Iraq is still as vulnerable to terrorism and outside military interventions and, in many ways, remains an occupied country. Libya is divided among various warring camps, and a return to civil war remains a real possibility.

Yet, enthusiasm for war remains high, as if over seventy years of failed military interventions have not taught us any meaningful lessons. Daily, news headlines tell us that the US, the UK, Canada, Germany, Spain or some other western power have decided to ship a new kind of ‘lethal weapons‘ to Ukraine. Billions of dollars have already been allocated by Western countries to contribute to the war in Ukraine.

In contrast, very little has been done to offer platforms for diplomatic, non-violent solutions. A handful of countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia have offered mediation or insisted on a diplomatic solution to the war, arguing, as China’s foreign ministry reiterated on March 18, that “all sides need to jointly support Russia and Ukraine in having dialogue and negotiation that will produce results and lead to peace.”

Though the violation of the sovereignty of any country is illegal under international law, and is a stark violation of the United Nations Charter, this does not mean that the only solution to violence is counter-violence. This cannot be truer in the case of Russia and Ukraine, as a state of civil war has existed in Eastern Ukraine for eight years, harvesting thousands of lives and depriving whole communities from any sense of peace or security. NATO’s weapons cannot possibly address the root causes of this communal struggle. On the contrary, they can only fuel it further.

If more weapons were the answer, the conflict would have been resolved years ago. According to the BBC, the US has already allocated $2.7bn to Ukraine over the last eight years, long before the current war. This massive arsenal included “anti-tank and anti-armor weapons … US-made sniper (rifles), ammunition and accessories.”

The speed with which additional military aid has poured into Ukraine following the Russian military operations on February 24 is unprecedented in modern history. This raises not only political or legal questions, but moral questions as well – the eagerness to fund war and the lack of enthusiasm to help countries rebuild.

After 21 years of US war and invasion of Afghanistan, resulting in a humanitarian and refugee crisis, Kabul is now largely left on its own. Last September, the UN refugee agency warned that “a major humanitarian crisis is looming in Afghanistan”, yet nothing has been done to address this ‘looming’ crisis, which has greatly worsened since then.

The amassing of NATO weapons in Ukraine, as was the case of Libya, will likely backfire. In Libya, NATO’s weapons fueled the country’s decade long civil war.

Afghani refugees are rarely welcomed in Europe. The same is true for refugees coming from Iraq, Syria, Libya, Mali and other conflicts that directly or indirectly involved NATO. This hypocrisy is accentuated when we consider international initiatives that aim to support war refugees, or rebuild the economies of war-torn nations.

Compare the lack of enthusiasm in supporting war-torn nations with the West’s unparalleled euphoria in providing weapons to Ukraine. Sadly, it will not be long before the millions of Ukrainian refugees who have left their country in recent weeks become a burden on Europe, thus subjected to the same kind of mainstream criticism and far-right attacks.

While it is true that the West’s attitude towards Ukraine is different from its attitude towards victims of western interventions, one has to be careful before supposing that the ‘privileged’ Ukrainains will ultimately be better off than the victims of war throughout the Middle East. As the war drags on, Ukraine will continue to suffer, either the direct impact of the war or the collective trauma that will surely follow. The amassing of NATO weapons in Ukraine, as was the case of Libya, will likely backfire. In Libya, NATO’s weapons fueled the country’s decade long civil war.

Ukraine needs peace and security, not perpetual war that is designed to serve the strategic interests of certain countries or military alliances. Though military invasions must be wholly rejected, whether in Iraq or Ukraine, turning Ukraine into another convenient zone of perpetual geopolitical struggle between NATO and Russia is not the answer.

commondreams.org

The views of individual contributors do not necessarily represent those of the Strategic Culture Foundation.

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InterventionismIraqNATOUkraineWar

Testing the waters: Could Turkey’s Russian relations sink over Ukraine?

Neither friend nor foe, Turkey and Russia have backed opposing sides in several regional conflicts, yet managed to avoid direct confrontation. Now the Ukraine crisis poses a serious challenge.

March 22 2022

Caught between NATO and Russia over Ukraine, Turkey is forced to walk a thin line to avoid confrontation with either side.Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Yeghia Tashjian

The war in Ukraine has become the latest test for Turkey’s regional ambitions in confronting those of Russia, in what has clearly become a “cooperative rivalry.” This is where both sides, despite their opposite views on various regional conflicts ranging from Libya to Syria to the South Caucasus, have worked to manage these conflicts without directly challenging one another.

The current crisis has raised Turkey’s concerns of being in the firing line of Russia’s hegemonic ambitions. It is important to note that Turkey and Russia are not allies, but bitter ‘frenemies.’ Despite having robust commercial, energy, diplomatic and military ties, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned back in 2016 that NATO has to act and increase its presence in the Black Sea.

Over the past two decades, Russia has consolidated its presence in the Black Sea region by directly controlling Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia in 2008, and annexing Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014. The Black Sea Fleet is responsible for bringing supplies to Russian forces in Syria, mostly based in the port of Tartus and Khmeimim airbase, as well as for patrolling the eastern Mediterranean. Russia’s 2015 Maritime Doctrine clearly prioritizes the Black Sea as a pillar of its power projection.

Turkey’s waning power in the Black Sea

Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea tipped the balance of military power in the Black Sea in favor of Moscow. Not only has Russia significantly increased its Exclusive Economic Zone and its Black Sea coastline, it has also cancelled existing agreements with Ukraine, which limited the latter’s Black Sea fleet in Sevastopol.

Additionally, Russia has stationed new military ships and submarines and installed a dense network of advanced weapons systems across the Crimean peninsula. From Ankara’s perspective, Turkey feels surrounded by Russian military presence from the north (Crimea), east (Armenia), and south (Syria).

In response, Erdogan initiated the construction of the Istanbul Canal to put additional pressure on Russia using the 1936 Montreux Convention whereby Turkey can close the Black Sea Straits to all warships in times of war.

Indeed, following NATO’s intensified pressure, Ankara has started exercising its right under Article 19 of the Convention, and has warned all coastal and non-coastal states that it will not allow warships through the Bosporus and the Dardanelles. The convention also limits the period of stay for warships belonging to non-Black Sea states in the Black Sea.

However, this action also exposed Turkey’s limitations by raising the questions: How will Turkey react if Russian naval warships seek passage through the Straits? Will Turkey prevent them? The answer is clear.

As a Black Sea state, Russia has the privileged right to transit the Turkish Straits to return its warships to their bases. The treaty states that during armed conflict, belligerent warships “shall not” pass through the Straits unless the ships belong to a state that borders the Black Sea and are returning to their home ports.

Once Turkey determined that Russia was “at war,” it had no choice under the treaty but to stop Russian warships from passing through the Straits. The only exception for passage is for Russian warships from other areas returning to their bases in the Black Sea.

For example, a Russian fleet registered in the Black Sea but currently located in the Mediterranean Sea is allowed to pass through the Turkish Straits and return to its base. The condition also applies to Russian fleets currently in the Black Sea that belong to a base in the Mediterranean or Baltic Sea. Russia is free to take them out of the Black Sea. This option provides Russia with enough space to maneuver its naval power and downplay Article 19 of the Montreux Convention.

Turkey is aware that blocking access of Russian warships through its Straits will be viewed in Moscow as a “declaration of war.” This is the last thing Erdogan wants, knowing full well that the economic and political consequences will be harsher than those Turkey tasted after it downed the Russian jet over Syria in 2015.

Turkey’s balancing act between Russia and Ukraine

While Turkey will not directly provoke Russia, it has increased its military cooperation with Ukraine. This includes the supply of Bayraktar TB2 drones to the Kiev government. The Russians, for their part, have shown their preparedness for Turkish drones. Despite the fact that the Bayraktar TB2 drones are still operating and useful to the Ukrainian side, the Russian Ministry of Defense almost daily announces that its forces are downing many drones, including TB2.

This military relationship has also involved Ukraine supplying Turkey with military engines intended to boost Turkey’s growing arms industry; in particular, the Bayraktar’s successor drone and T292 heavy attack helicopters that are currently under production.

For Russia, this poses a threat, as in the future it may shift the military balance of power towards Turkey and Ukraine in the Black Sea. It is for this reason that Russian forces destroyed most of the Ukrainian heavy military infrastructure (including its naval and air force) and arms industry.

As such, Erdogan will aim to continue cooperation with Russia in the region; but he is equally likely to step up engagement with NATO to improve his global standing and reduce international criticism of his domestic conduct. Erdogan knows that standing against Russia and directly confronting Moscow is very risky as – excluding the ongoing war in Ukraine – he would start a war on three fronts in the region: in Libya, Syria, and Nagorno-Karabakh.

In order to extract itself from the ongoing difficulty of placating both sides, in recent days Turkey has engaged in proactive diplomacy and mediation between Kiev and Moscow. Ankara announced that the two adversaries have made progress on their negotiations to halt the war and are “close to an agreement.” However, Ukraine’s president responded by saying that any consequential agreement with Russia would be put to a referendum. This signaled that there is no agreement in sight and Ankara’s mediating efforts are fruitless.

Turkey will not gamble with Ukraine against Russia

Dr Maxim Suchkov, a Moscow-based expert in the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) expresses concern that Turkey may view the crisis as an opportunity to re-establish itself in the Black Sea and strengthen its relations with the west. Ankara enjoys good ties with both Moscow and Kiev and seeks to balance itself, supplying arms to Ukraine, on the one hand, but also refraining from sanctioning Russia.

Suchkov argues that Turkey may indeed be useful to the Russian endgame here, but “Moscow should also be careful since President Erdogan is known for his penchant to fish in muddy waters.” Hence, even if the outcome of the conflict does not favor Erdogan’s interests, Turkey may try to wrest something out of this crisis.

For this reason, President Erdogan cannot antagonize Russia and risk full-scale war as, domestically, the implications of this battle will be heavy on the Turkish government. Already, on 22 February, six Turkish opposition parties, not including the Kurdish HDP, called on a unified platform for the revival of the parliamentary system in the country with the aim of establishing an alliance to topple Erdogan in the coming parliamentary and presidential elections in June 2023.

According to recent public surveys, the opposition coalition is polling ahead, and indeed may oust Erdogan, given the financial chaos Turkey is experiencing. The current crisis will worsen the economic and political situation of Turkey.

One sector that is especially vulnerable is tourism, as between four to seven million Russian tourists and around two million Ukrainian tourists visit Turkey each year. Moreover, western sanctions on Russia will make money transactions difficult between both countries.

Crucially, Turkey imports almost 50 percent of its gas from Russia, and with the increase in global gas prices, Turks find themselves in a difficult quandary. For these reasons, Ankara is unlikely to undertake any risky gambles and will continue to strike a balanced posture in the crisis.

Turkey still has an important role to play

Turkey has general elections scheduled for June 2023, hence any change in the leadership in Turkey would affect the current track of Russian-Turkish relations. In a post-Erdogan Turkey, Ankara is likely to move closer to the western camp due to the pro-western (pro-US) leanings of the Turkish military, entrepreneurs, technocrats, diplomats, and civil servants – regardless of their liberal or nationalistic personal views.

This could form a long-term challenge for Russia-Turkey relations, given the successful “cooperative rivalry” both sides managed to arrange in Libya, Syria, and Nagorno-Karabakh. It is worth mentioning that on 2 March, Meral Akşener, leader of the Turkish opposition İYİ Party, raised the alarm on whether there were any guarantees that Turkey’s eastern provinces would be safe from a similar kind of Russian aggression. She also called Russia a “security threat” for Turkey. This is another indication that the Turkish opposition is not on the same wavelength as Erdogan’s multi-vector foreign policy.

Moscow has never viewed Ankara as an equal partner, but as a junior partner that could help configure a regional order which benefits Russian interests and decreases western influence. However, if Russia becomes stuck in a Ukrainian quagmire, it may need Ankara to arrange a temporary settlement.

Will the Syrian and Nagorno-Karabakh scenario be repeated – in which both sides sidelined western influence and Russia accepted a Turkish role in the region? If Ukraine is divided into two zones, would Russia accept a Turkish ‘peacekeeping force’ in the western part of Ukraine? Would the Americans give Turkey the green light to enter such a game? What would Ankara gain in return? Is such a military adventure within Turkey’s capabilities?

According to Dr Mitat Çelikpala, Professor of International Relations and the Dean of Faculty of Economics, Administrative and Social Sciences at Kadir Has University, such a scenario is beyond Turkey’s financial and military capacities – and Turkey cannot act unilaterally. Hence, for now, Turkey must continue its role of mediation between both sides to avoid any spillover effect near its borders.

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

Beyond the EastMed pipe dream: Can Turkey become Europe’s gas hub?

The Ukraine crisis presents a unique opportunity for Turkey to realize its long-term vision of transforming itself into a global gas transit hub. But will the US, Russia, Iran, and the EU allow it?

March 10 2022

By Daoud Baalbaki

As the Russia-Ukraine crisis intensifies and western sanctions pile up against Moscow, Europe is once more grappling with its foreign gas dependency – 50 percent of which has traditionally been supplied by the Russian Federation.

Will the Ukraine conflict position Turkey as the world’s gas transit hub, or will Ankara have to choose sides and settle for less?Photo Credit: The Cradle

While sanctions on Russian energy supplies have been considered, the potential inflationary backlash and mass shortages Europeans could face make this a dangerous gambit.

The endgame in Ukraine will likely see some seismic shifts in global energy and financial networks. One of these will take place in the Eastern Mediterranean, where in recent years, competing states have jockeyed for primacy in constructing gas pipelines to Europe.

At the moment, in the East Med contest, all eyes are on energy-poor Turkey, which has for decades tried and failed to establish itself as the energy hub connecting Asia to Europe. Recent developments, however, suggest that this situation could very well change.

Russia and Turkey

Eurasian energy giants like Russia and Iran – facing their own geopolitical standoffs with NATO, of which Turkey is a member – have their own preferential oil and gas routes mapped out, and are unlikely to place all their bets on a Turkish hub. That also appears to be the position of Ankara’s western allies, at least under the leadership of Turkey’s longtime President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Until Ukraine reared its head, the Eastern Mediterranean gas issue was the one around which alliances and policies in West Asia were rapidly shifting. In the last months, remarkable developments have taken place around Turkey’s role in this critical theater, opening the way for Ankara to assume a leadership role.

Despite the Russian-Turkish geopolitical competition across multiple regions, the two Eurasian nations have managed to cooperate across a range of areas, and significantly so in the energy sector.

For instance, despite mounting tensions between the two states along the Turkish-Syrian border and their support of opposing sides in the Syria conflict, Moscow and Ankara were able to find common ground in replacing the SouthStream pipeline with TurkStream in 2020 (which passes through Turkey before entering Bulgaria). In doing so, Russia assisted Turkey in achieving its longstanding ambition to be a transit point for gas pipelines entering Europe.

EastMed Gas Forum

At the same time, Turkey was feeling isolated from its US ally in the region, who excluded it from joining the East Mediterranean Gas Forum, or the EastMed Gas Forum (EMGF), and planned to deliver gas directly to Europe, bypassing Turkey altogether.

The EMGF, is an international organization formed by Israel, Egypt, Greece, Cyprus, Italy,  Jordan, and Palestine and is headquartered in Cairo. Established as an international body on 16 January 2020, the forum is the region’s first declared alliance in the gas sector. It is also the first case of Israel being invited to join Arab countries organizationally, with the participation of EU member states.

The alliance also received backing by the US, which along with France, joined the Forum as a member and permanent observer respectively. In December 2020, the UAE was granted observer status at the EMGF, although its membership was vetoed by Palestine last year.

With an estimated cost of $7 billion, and scheduled to be completed by 2025, the Eastern Mediterranean Pipeline Project is expected to run for some 1,900km, starting from Israel’s Levantine Basin, transiting through Cyprus to Europe, and projected to transport at least 11 billion cubic meters of gas per year.

However, the project has been hampered, if not altogether derailed, by the withdrawal of US support earlier this year due to reservations about the project’s financial feasibility.

The US instead voiced its support for the planned EuroAfrica interconnector from Egypt to Crete and the Greek mainland, and the EuroAsia interconnector, linking Israeli, Cypriot and European electricity grids.

Turkey’s opposition to the EastMed pipeline

Washington’s withdrawal was welcomed by Turkey which had perceived the alliance as a means to bypass Turkish interests in the eastern Mediterranean and isolate the country in the vital gas sector.

At the time, Ankara had reacted strongly against what its foreign ministry termed the “axis of malice,” and claimed that the maritime demarcation agreements signed by the Republic of Cyprus (ROC) with other countries were invalid. Turkey claims that Cypriot maritime activities to the west of the island may overlap with Turkey’s continental shelf. Since Turkey does not recognize the ROC, these agreements, it contends, do not represent the Turkish Cypriot population of the island.

After the collision between a Turkish and Greek warship in the disputed zone in August 2020, Turkish Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hami Aksoy said in a statement that, no matter what, Turkey will “resolutely continue to protect both her and Turkish Cypriots’ rights in the Eastern Mediterranean stemming from international law,” adding that “no alliance of malice will manage to prevent this.”

In response to the planned pipeline – which gained official status following an intergovernmental agreement signed between Israel, Greece and the ROC – Ankara hurried to sign its own deal with Libya’s then-interim Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli. Turkey and its Qatari ally supported the GNA while the UAE, Saudi Arabia, France, and Russia backed the Tobruk-based rival forces led by Khalifa Haftar.

This agreement demarcated its own version of the continental shelf zone boundaries between the two countries within the Eastern Mediterranean. Erdogan used the Ankara-Tripoli deal to draw a hard red line for his competition: “Other international actors cannot conduct exploration activities in the areas marked in the [Turkish-Libyan] memorandum. Greek Cypriots, Egypt, Greece, and Israel cannot establish a natural gas transmission line without Turkey’s consent.”

Although the Libya-Turkey maritime deal may have served its purpose in disrupting the EastMed pipeline project, it may already be in jeopardy following recent internal political developments in Libya, where the Tobruk-based House of Representatives has sworn in new Prime Minister Fathi Bashagha, replacing incumbent and embattled Turkish-ally Abdul Hamdi Dbeibeh who has refused to hand over power, except to a government elected by the people.

Turkey as a European gas hub

Natural gas is key to shaping Turkey’s role as a decisive regional power as it sits on the crossroads between natural gas suppliers in Russia, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and West Asia on one hand, and the European Union, as a huge natural gas consumer, on the other. This strategic location has motivated Turkey’s ambition to become a natural gas hub, or at least the main transit country, and to promote its position on the geopolitical map.

Until the end of the last decade, Turkey did not export large enough gas quantities to fulfill its ambition of becoming a natural gas transit country. In 2007, Turkey began exporting natural gas to Greece through the Turkey-Greece Natural Gas Interconnector via Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz field. While the exported quantities have remained only between 1 percent and 2 percent of the imported gas, this figure is expected to change by the beginning of the new decade.

Established in 2018, Azerbaijan’s Shah Denis 2 gas field added 16 bcm (billion cubic meters) of natural gas yearly, with 6 bcm earmarked for Turkey via a direct pipeline, and 10 bcm destined for European consumers via the Trans Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP) that runs through Turkish territory, connecting with the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP).

TAP started delivering Azerbaijani natural gas to European markets on December 31, 2020, and in September 2021 the company announced a transport milestone of 5 bcm.

The TurkStream pipeline

Another step for Turkey on the road to becoming a transit country was in January 2020, when Turkey announced the launch of the TurkStream project with Russia. As previously mentioned, TurkStream replaced the SouthStream project, which was originally intended to supply Russian gas to southern Europe via underwater Black Sea pipelines.

Following a military clash between Russia and Turkey on the Syrian border, the two sides agreed in 2016 to build the TurkStream pipeline, and interestingly, signed the agreement just one month before the Syrian government launched its successful campaign to liberate the city of Aleppo. The TurkStream project will consist of two parallel pipelines with a total capacity of 31.5 bcm per year (15.75 bcm each).

One of the pipelines is intended to fulfill Turkey’s domestic gas demand and also, incidentally, to replace the Trans-Balkan pipeline which runs from Ukraine to Turkey. This way, Russian gas would bypass Ukraine, which may prove critical in light of the current conflict there.

The other pipeline is intended to feed southeastern and central European markets via Bulgaria, Serbia, and Hungary. Russia’s majority state-owned Gazprom began gas deliveries to some markets via TurkStream in January 2020, using partially completed and existing infrastructure.

The second phase of the project TurkStream 2 (the European part) comprises new and existing infrastructure. Pipeline construction in Bulgaria and Serbia, totaling about 550 miles in length, is largely complete, while several compressor stations and a segment connecting TurkStream to Hungarian infrastructure have not yet been completed.

However, this part of the project is now under threat of US sanctions because it would deepen Europe’s reliance on Russian natural gas, and reduce Ukraine’s role as a transit state.

Will Turkey join the ‘Axis of Malice’?

Turkey’s goal now is to prevent the direct passage of large gas quantities to Europe through the Mediterranean corridor which can weaken Ankara’s position as the southern hub for European gas.

In 2013, Turkey began talks with Israel to build a pipeline from Israeli fields to Turkey, only to then watch Israel prioritize the EastMed pipeline and its alliance with Egypt, Cyprus, and Greece in the EMGC.

Following the US withdrawal from the project, Erdogan actively re-emphasized that Turkey is the only viable route for Israeli gas sales to Europe: “This cannot happen without Turkey.”

Well in advance of Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s visit to Ankara this week, Erdogan openly stated that Turkey “could use Israeli natural gas in our country, and beyond that, we could also work together to carry it to Europe,” according to Daily Sabah.

Amid the thawing of ties between Israel and Turkey, and with Herzog’s historic visit to Ankara this week, Turkey’s role as a transit point for Israeli gas has become a focal point of interest. Yesterday, Israeli sources confirmed that Erdogan did in fact propose a Israel-Turkey-Europe project during their meeting.

This development is taking place in parallel with several diplomatic shifts elsewhere in West Asia that could even trigger regional realignments. Ankara launched talks with Cairo in May, while renewed dialogue with the United Arab Emirates culminated in a reconciliation visit by Abu Dhabi’s crown prince in November. Erdogan is also expected to visit Saudi Arabia in the coming weeks.

These changes are, in part, a result of President Biden’s policy shifts in the region. Washington is trying to end rifts between its allies in order to obstruct Turkish-Russian rapprochement by sacrificing the EastMed pipeline, so to speak.

It now remains to be seen whether Ankara will join the so-called “malice alliance,” and dump its Russian TurkStream 2 project under US pressure. Equally possible is that Erdogan will seek to avoid that hard choice, try to juggle both sides, and shoot for a pre-election miracle by recasting Turkey as a global gas hub.

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

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Video: NATO Too Weak to Face Russia? Scott Ritter on Russian Offensive

February 28, 2022

By Scott Ritter and Richard Medhurst

Global Research,

Richard Medhurst 25 February 2022

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Today, the dangers of military escalation are beyond description.

What is now happening in Ukraine has serious geopolitical implications. It could lead us into a World War III scenario.

It is important that a peace process be initiated with a view to preventing escalation. 

Global Research condemns Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

A Bilateral Peace Agreement is required.


Scott Ritter, a former US Marine Corps intelligence officer, discusses the military invasion of Russia in Ukraine with Richard Medhurst.

According to Ritter, this is a massive Russian operation that aims to “demilitarize” and “denazify” Ukraine which means two things. One, Ukrainian military will cease to exist. And two, Ukrainian government will be gone because President Putin says it is a Nazi government.

Watch the interview below.

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The original source of this article is Richard Medhurst

Copyright © Scott Ritter and Richard MedhurstRichard Medhurst, 2022

Media Is Spotting Suspicious Libyan-‘Israeli’ Activity  

Jan 16 2033

By Staff

It seems that Libya is cooking something related to normalization with the ‘Israeli’ occupation entity.

Most recently, correspondent of ‘Israeli’ media outlets endorsed a new narrative which detailed that the executive plane [P4-RMA] used by Libyan General Khalifa Hefter landed in the ‘Israeli’-occupied territories on Thursday after a “diplomatic stop” in Cyprus.

“After two hours on the ground the plane took off back to Cyprus,” Military Correspondent of ‘Israeli’ Channel 11 Itay Blumental, wrote in a tweet that was also retweeted by the Arab Affairs Correspondent of ‘Israeli’ Kan broadcaster, Roi Kais.

Earlier, Saudi and Libyan media outlets reports released on Wednesday night suggested that Jordan hosted ‘Israeli’ Mossad spy agency Director David Barnea and Libyan Prime Minister Abdulhamid Mohammed Al-Dabaiba, as they discussed normalization and security cooperation.

The reports also noted that Al-Dabaiba’s office denied that the meeting occurred.

Back in November, ‘Israeli’ Haaretz newspaper reported that Saddam Haftar, son of Libyan warlord Gen. Khalifa Haftar, flew to Ben Gurion Airport for meetings with ‘Israeli’ officials regarding potential normalization with the occupation regime.

It was unclear who Haftar met with.

On one hand, the Tevel department of the Mossad has reportedly had contacts with various Libyan officials over the years.

On the other hand, former ‘Israeli’ ‘Security Council’ Chief Meir Ben Shabbat and his messenger, known only as “Maoz,” also reportedly had such contacts, and their handling of the file has been passed on to former Shin Bet official Nimrod Gez.

Gez had strong ties to Ben Shabbat and had supported him as a potential future Shin Bet chief before former Zionist Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lost power and that scenario disappeared.

It is unclear whether any of the above Libyan officials could substantively carry out normalization with the Tel Aviv occupation regime given the ongoing chaos the African country has been in for years.

Last month, the country’s long-awaited elections were postponed and it is unclear if the various on-again and off-again warring groups will be capable of carrying out the elections, let alone altering decades of officially hostile relations with the occupying regime.

Crimes without Punishment – Ever

November 25, 2021

A protest against US military aid to Israel. (Photo: File)
– Jeremy Salt taught at the University of Melbourne, at Bosporus University in Istanbul and Bilkent University in Ankara for many years, specializing in the modern history of the Middle East. Among his recent publications is his 2008 book, The Unmaking of the Middle East. A History of Western Disorder in Arab Lands (University of California Press). He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle. 

What a chamber of horrors the third millennium has been so far in the Middle East, without even a quarter of it having passed.  Iraq, Syria and Yemen on a scale unimaginable even at the high point of imperialism in the 19th century. An estimated 300 children under five dying every day in Yemen from malnutrition, Palestinians shot dead in their occupied country every day, Lebanon and Syria slowly strangled by US sanctions, Iran threatened with military destruction and the revelation of yet another massacre by the US, in Syria, where “about” 70 women and children were killed at Baghuz by bombs dropped one after the other to make sure that no-one escaped.

There is no suggestion that anyone should be punished for yet another ‘mistake.’  This is where thousands of years of drawing up covenants to make the world a safer place have ended up:  back where we started,  the law of the jungle.

This is what the guardians of ‘western civilization’ have given to the world just in the past three decades:

Two wars on Iraq, the ‘cradle of civilization’ shattered by the cradle of a violent hamburger junk culture, millions killed or displaced. Libya, the most developed country in Africa, pulled up by its roots, uncounted thousands killed, the leader of its 1969 revolution slaughtered as Hillary Clinton cackled with glee like one of the witches around the cauldron in  Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’. Syria torn to pieces, ancient cities and markets destroyed, and half a million killed. In Yemen, more than 230,000 dead, with 43 percent of prematurely born babies dying because of the lack of medical equipment and a genocidal famine – 75 percent of children are suffering from acute malnutrition –  continuing even as fresh supplies of weaponry are dropped off in the Saudi kingdom by the US and Britain. Iran,  Syria and Lebanon targeted with economic sanctions: in occupied Palestine, in Syria and in Iran the Zionist state continues its murderous march through history.

Not one of the global criminals responsible for these massive crimes against humanity has been punished.  They play golf or roam the world picking up millions for their speaking engagements and their ‘philanthropic’ foundations. Not one word of contrition or remorse has been spoken by any of them for the lives they have ended or ruined. Not even the death of children has forced admission of guilt out of them.  Others have been punished for lesser crimes but not this gang. They are completely remorseless.

Imagine the reaction if these crimes were committed in Europe and white people were being slaughtered or driven out of their homes, out of their countries and drowning in their thousands as they tried to escape across the seas.

Well, between 1939-45 it did happen and those responsible were hanged at Nuremberg. We have no Nuremberg now but we do have an International Criminal Court (ICC) which does punish the architects of war crimes and crimes against humanity – as long as their skin is the right color. With the exception of pale-skinned Balkan Serbs charged after the breakup of Yugoslavia, all those hauled before the ICC have been brown or black.

The tsunami of death and destruction which began rolling across the region when Napoleon landed in Egypt in 1798 shows no sign of receding.  Almost no country from the Atlantic coast of West Africa down to the Arab Gulf has avoided being swamped by it and many have been swamped several times.

The prime beneficiary of all of the above in the past century has been the settler state implanted in Palestine after 1918. Israel is the heart and soul of US foreign policy. Indeed, US foreign policy is no more than the Stars and Stripes draped over the interests of the Zionist state.

Take Iran as an example. After the death of Ayatullah Khumayni, Presidents Rafsanjani and Khatami sought to repair relations with the US. They offered investment concessions, diplomatic rapprochement and a political pathway into a region of critical interest, central Asia. Iranian society is conservative and God-fearing, rather like the US itself, but as long as Rafsanjani and Khatami refused to drop Iran’s righteous defense of the Palestinians, nothing else counted. Even in the ‘moderate’ Khatami’s time, economic sanctions were tightened, paving the way for the election of the ‘hardliner,’ Mahmud Ahmedinejad.

The attempted strangulation of Iran and Syria through war, assassination and sanctions necessarily involves Lebanon, Hezbollah’s home base.  Since the 1980s Hezbollah has successfully fought off all attempts by Israel – backed to the hilt by the US of course –  to destroy it.  Far from being weakened, Hezbollah has gone from strength to strength, militarily and as a Lebanese political party. The lesson learned by the US and Israel is just that they have to try harder,  to tear Lebanon apart if that is what it takes to destroy Hezbollah.

The latest provocation through Israel’s agents took place in Beirut on October 14, in the predominantly Shia neighborhood of Chiyah, bordering predominantly Maronite Christian Ain Rummaneh, where the ‘bus massacre’ of 27 Palestinians on April 13, 1975, was the trigger pulled to start the civil war.

This time snipers positioned on rooftops shot at Amal and Hezbollah supporters as they moved towards the Palace of Justice in Al Tayouneh to hold a vigil calling for the removal of Tariq al Bitar as the judge appointed to investigate the Beirut port explosion on August 5, 2020, on the grounds that he is running a heavily politicized inquiry heading towards a preordained conclusion, that this was a crime committed by Hezbollah.

Holding Hezbollah or Syria responsible for the crimes they have not committed was first tried after the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005. Initially, four ‘pro-Syrian’ generals were imprisoned for four years before an international tribunal took over the prosecution and released them for lack of evidence. It immediately pointed the finger at Hezbollah, eventually finding one person, Salim Ayyash, guilty of “involvement” on the sole basis of tapped phone calls made through communications networks known to have been completely penetrated and manipulated by the Zionist state.

The tribunal cleared Hezbollah’s leadership. What this actually means is that if the leadership did not order the assassination, no senior figure in the movement would have carried it out.   Nasrallah and Hariri had differences but a good working relationship and it is virtually unthinkable that Nasrallah would ever have sanctioned such a heinous act.

The only beneficiaries of this monstrous act were the US, Israel and their agents in Lebanon.  Syria was embarrassed internationally and had to withdraw its remaining forces from the Bika’a valley. Lebanon was thrown into the chaos that gave birth to the rise of the anti-Syrian/pro-Saudi, US and Israel March 14 alliance.

Hezbollah produced intercepted reconnaissance footage showing that Israel had been tracking Hariri with drones wherever he went for years and was flying an AWACS plane and another reconnaissance aircraft over Beirut at the precise time of the assassination.  One of its agents had been located at the scene of the killing only the day before.   None of this circumstantial evidence was ever followed up by the tribunal.    Israel and the US have shed buckets of blood in Lebanon over many decades, have between them committed the most atrocious crimes, but the tribunal never even considered them as suspects.

The snipers waiting on the top of apartment buildings in Tayouneh on October 14 killed seven people, one a woman shot dead in her own home. Not just on rooftops, however, but on the ground, the demonstrators were surrounded by militiamen waiting to ambush them with guns, knives and even rocks.   Despite denials by Samir Geagea (Ja’ja), the head of the fascist/sectarian Maronite Christian Lebanese Forces (LF), the armed men were clearly LF and acting on his orders.   Of the 19 arrested, several quickly implicated him.

Geagea is one of the most murderous individuals in Lebanese history, which says a lot given the bloody track record of many others. During the civil war (1976-1989) he killed rivals within his own Maronite Christian ranks as well as Palestinians and other enemies outside them.  In 1994 he was sentenced to four life sentences for the assassinations of former Prime Minister Rashid Karameh (1987), National Liberal Party leader Dany Chamoun (1990), Falangist (Kata’ib) head Elias al Zayek (1990) and the attempted assassination of Defence Minister Michel Murr (1991).  In 1978 he and Elie Hobeika, at the behest of Bashir Gemayel, then head of the Falangists, led 1200 men in an attack on the north Lebanon family home of Tony Frangieh, leader of the Maronite Marada (Giants) faction.  Geagea was wounded and had to be taken away before Frangieh, his wife and three-year-old daughter were killed.

In the 1990 attack, Dany Chamoun’s wife and two of his sons were also killed.   If there is any poetic justice in any of this shedding of blood – including entirely innocent blood – it lies in the 1982 assassination of Bashir Gemayel and the car bombing murder in 2002 of Elie Hobeika, Israel’s leading henchman in the Sabra and Shatila massacres of 1982.

Geagea himself served eleven years of four life sentences before being released under amnesty after the assassination of Hariri and allowed to take up the leadership of the LF. His brutality is a powerful weapon in the hands of Israel and the US, whose ambassador, Dorothy Shea, has been open in her interference in Lebanese politics.

US economic sanctions against Lebanon have one primary target, Hezbollah; one secondary target, Syria; and one-third target, Iran. How many Christians die defending ‘Christian Lebanon’ is not an issue for the US and Israel any more than the number of Muslims who die fighting them.  All they want is the chaos that will further their ambitions.  They tore Lebanon apart before and they will do it again, mercilessly, ruthlessly, callously, without a care for the innocent blood of thousands that will be shed.

Whatever cause Samir Geagea thinks he is serving, the piecemeal destruction of Lebanon, indeed of the entire Middle East, is primarily about the protection of Israel.  However, Israel is not as safe as it used to be or it might think it still is. It is confronted by enemies who have not backed off one meter from the struggle to liberate Palestine.  Israel has tried hard to destroy them. Up to now, it has failed, so it is getting ready to try again. While planning/contingency planning is a constant, Israel now appears to be actively preparing for a massive military strike that would target  Iran’s nuclear plants and missile capacity.

In September the Zionist chief of staff, Avi Kohavi, said plans for such a strike had been “greatly accelerated.” The military has been given an additional $1.5 billion to buy aircraft, drones and ‘bunker buster’ bombs that would probably include the USAF’s new 5000 lb. (2,267 kg.) GRU-72 Advanced 5k Penetrator, which would be aimed at Iran’s underground nuclear installations. Anticipating a simultaneous war with Hezbollah, Israel has also been carrying out extensive military exercises in northern occupied Palestine, coordinated with all emergency civil services to deal with an expected crisis on the domestic front once the missiles start falling. Israel is clearly planning for a big war, and can be expected to throw everything into this attempt to crush its principal enemies once and for all.

Unlike the white settlers in South Africa, the Zionist leadership sees no writing on the wall, no indications that history is not on their side even as it builds up against them.  No more than Netanyahu does Naftali Bennett have any intention of giving anything back to the Palestinians except the smallest fragments of municipal responsibility. Like Netanyahu, he sees no need to negotiate, no need to give anything away.  Why would he, when in the last resort Israel even has nuclear weapons to destroy its enemies? This is the question to which there can be no answer until the day comes when Israel faces the reality that even its conventional weapons are not sufficient to destroy its enemies.

All appearances to the contrary, unlimited US economic and military support has been a curse for Israel. It has created the illusion of power. Israel is like a plant with shallow roots. Only as long as the US keeps watering it, can the plant thrive. There is no permanent, unbreakable bond between states and all appearances to the contrary, there never will be between Israel and the US. Slowly, Americans are waking up and Israel’s incessant pleading is already beginning to fall on deaf ears, as the public becomes more aware of Israel’s criminality and as congressmen and women (mainly women) are emboldened to speak out. The time may come when the US can no longer afford Israel. The time may come when public opinion has changed to allow a US government to treat Israel as it treats other states.

US economic and military aid has had the same effect on Israel as steroids have on a bodybuilder. The 97-lb weakling is now the neighborhood bully swaggering down the street with pumped-up muscles. He smacks people around or they run in fright but Hezbollah and Iran are not running. They are standing firm and preparing to defend themselves. In any case, in the next war, Israel will take damage it has never experienced before, to the point where so many Jewish Israelis will just want to get out that Israel as a Zionist state is likely to crumble from within and die of its own contradictions.  Is this what it is going to take for peace to become possible?

The Afghanistan Debacle: When Will They Ever Learn?

August 24, 2021

British and Australian armies’ veteran, former deputy head of the UN military mission in Kashmir and Australian defense attaché in Pakistan

Brian Cloughley

President Biden should reset in the Marshall mode and concentrate on forging amity and cooperation while combating the real enemies of humanity

Following World War Two, Europe was reeling from the devastation of so many years of savagery that it seemed it might never recover. The casualty figures are staggering, with, in addition to the Soviet Union’s some 25 million, about seven millions were killed in each of Germany and Poland, and 800,000 in France, 1.7 million in Yugoslavia, and half a million in each of Austria, Italy and Greece. The majority of these people were civilians and the surviving citizens of all these countries were suffering gravely from the catastrophe, not the least hazard being actual starvation.

The United States had only a handful of civilian casualties and prospered greatly from the commercial demands of war. In consequence it was in a position of immeasurable economic and military ascendancy and fortunately was governed by an administration that, by and large, was sympathetic and prepared to be supportive in alleviating the misery of the countless millions in Europe who seemed to have nothing in their future but endless hardship.

President Truman and his State Department brought their considerable talents to bear and constructed a scheme whereby shattered Europe could be best assisted. As noted by the History website, the 1948 European Recovery Plan was “The brainchild of Secretary of State George C Marshall, for whom it was named.” It was “crafted as a four-year plan to reconstruct cities, industries and infrastructure heavily damaged during the war and to remove trade barriers between European neighbours — as well as foster commerce between those countries and the United States.” In its final essence it didn’t entail a great deal of actual sacrifice on the part of the U.S., and in fact benefitted the agricultural community and the economic furnace that had been so effective in winning the war.

Nevertheless it was based on good will, charitable feeling, and concern for humanity, as expressed by Marshall himself in June 1947 in a speech delivered at Harvard University where he declared “It is logical that the United States should do whatever it is able to do to assist in the return of normal economic health in the world, without which there can be no political stability and no assured peace. Our policy is directed not against any country or doctrine but against hunger, poverty, desperation, and chaos. Its purpose should be the revival of a working economy in the world so as to permit the emergence of political and social conditions in which free institutions can exist.”

If only there had been more Marshalls in later years, the world would be a better place. Certainly, the United States would be in a position of international economic supremacy — but it wouldn’t have invaded and almost destroyed Afghanistan and Iraq and blitzed Libya into an even worse shambles than it created further east.

And as the U.S.-Nato military alliance staggers out of Afghanistan, defeated but grovelingly defiant, it should be giving thought to what has happened in that benighted country and planning for the future on the basis of what it has learned. The problem is that Nato doesn’t seem to have learned anything by its absurd foray, and is indeed intent on widening its horizons in order to attempt to justify its existence. The best lesson from Nato’s Afghanistan debacle (and its eight month bombing fandango that destroyed Libya’s economic infrastructure and encouraged home-basing of terrorist groups where none had formerly dared set a foot) is that it would be globally beneficial if Nato were to disband, but we have to be realistic and accept that common sense will not prevail in that regard.

Along the same lines, it would be sensible for Washington to objectively assess the value of the vast number of U.S. military bases around the globe, and inform U.S., openly and without qualifications or caveats, exactly what benefit their existence is supposed to offer to the U.S. and to the rest of the world. But again the signs are not good, as indicated on August 16 when an anonymous White House official spoke about a visit to Singapore and Vietnam by Vice President Kamala Harris and told the Washington Post that in spite of the concurrent Taliban takeover in Afghanistan she would continue with her trip because “Given our global leadership role, we can and we must manage developments in one region while simultaneously advancing our strategic interests in other regions on other issues. The United States has many interests around the world, and we are well-equipped to pursue them all at the same time.”

When will they ever learn?

Does President Biden genuinely believe that his Administration is “managing developments” in Afghanistan? Why is he determined to continue pursuing the supposed strategic interests of the U.S. by deploying increasing numbers of troops and ships and planes and missiles all round the globe to confront China and Russia and provoke them to react against the “global leader”?

The Washington establishment may have heard or read the latest pronouncement from the European Union concerning the wider effects of the Afghanistan debacle, but unfortunately it is unlikely it will prompt an objective analysis. On August 19 Josep Borrell, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs, affirmed to the European Parliament and the world at large that “this is a catastrophe… Let me speak clearly and bluntly: This is a catastrophe for the Afghan people, for Western values and credibility, and for the developing of international relations.”

What the rest of the world is waiting for is an alternative use of the word “reset” by the Administration in Washington. Instead of conducting another “reset” aimed at military domination and increasing confrontation with China and Russia, President Biden should reset in the Marshall mode and concentrate on forging amity and cooperation while combating the real enemies of humanity as a whole. An Economist/YouGov poll in early 2021 indicated that “Most Americans think of China and Russia as our country’s greatest enemies. Of the two, China is the most frequently mentioned threat, followed closely by Russia”, and it is disconcerting that the U.S. President appears to be making no effort whatever to reduce international tensions.

President Biden should reflect on the civilised declaration by General George Marshall that “our policy is directed not against any country or doctrine but against hunger, poverty, desperation, and chaos” and consider how much better a world he could help forge if he concentrated the mightiness of the United States against the challenges presented by so many desperate problems besetting the peoples of the world.

Imagine what a Marshall Plan could achieve today.

But it seems unlikely that the U.S. Administration will consider any such thing, and it is painfully evocative of the 1960s folk-song “Where have all the flowers gone” which contains the evocative phrase “When will they ever learn?” When, indeed?

News conference following Russian-German talks

August 20, 2021

http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/66418

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With Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel at a news conference following Russian-German talks. Photo: TASS

With Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel at a news conference following Russian-German talks. Photo: TASS

(The formal transcript is not fully released yet, but this page will be updated as it gets released.)

Update: The formal transcript is now complete on this page.

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

Today’s talks with Madam Federal Chancellor were traditionally constructive and business-like.

We had an in-depth discussion, including with the participation of the delegations, on the current state of Russian-German relations and their prospects and exchanged views on a wide range of issues.

As you are aware, this visit by Ms Merkel is special since she is about to step down as Federal Chancellor after the parliamentary elections in the Federal Republic in September. But I want to say right away that we will always be delighted to see Ms Merkel in Russia as a welcome guest.

The fact that Angela Merkel has been heading the government of the Federal Republic for as long as 16 years inspires respect. She has been leading one of the largest, leading European countries with confidence, and she is rightfully among the most authoritative European and world leaders.

Over many years of working side by side, we have developed a good business relationship. We maintained regular contacts and close communication, discussed pressing bilateral matters and strived to coordinate our positions on challenges of global politics.

Occasionally, of course, we saw thing differently, but our dialogue has always been candid and meaningful and was aimed at reaching compromises and solving the most complicated challenges.

Importantly, Germany is indeed one of Russia’s priority partners in politics and the economy.

Speaking about Russian-German trade and economic ties, I would like to note that despite the coronavirus pandemic, which remains a major hindrance to restoring our business contacts in full, mutual trade has begun to expand. In January-May, this figure reached almost 33 percent to exceed $21 billion. Counter capital investment has come close to the $30 billion mark.

Russian-German Economy and Sustainable Development years are being held in 2020–2022. Businesspeople and entrepreneurs of the two countries are communicating at numerous events held as part of this campaign, and a number of promising joint projects in trade, the manufacturing industry and agriculture are being discussed in the process.

We have major projects that everyone is aware of. They are being implemented, and we very much hope that we will have more of them.

Of course, many pressing issues of international politics were touched upon during today’s talks.

Due to the rapidly unfolding events in Afghanistan, we prioritised this issue. The Taliban now controls almost the entire territory of that country, including its capital. This is the reality, and we must proceed from this reality as we strive to avoid the collapse of the Afghan state.

It is imperative to put an end to the irresponsible policy of imposing outside values ​​on others, to the desire to build democracies in other countries according to other nations’ “patterns” without regard to historical, national or religious specifics and totally ignoring the traditions of other nations.

We know Afghanistan, and we know it well enough to understand how this country functions and have had the opportunity to learn first-hand the extent to which trying to impose unusual forms of government or social life on it is counterproductive.

There has not been a single time when socio-political experiments of this kind succeeded. All they do is destroy states and degrade their political and social fabric.

At the same time, we see that the Taliban has already put an end to hostilities and is now seeking to ensure order, promising to guarantee safety for both local residents and foreign missions. I hope that this is how things will go.

The international community should keep a close eye on these developments with the UN Security Council playing a coordinating role.

There is one more point I wanted to make in this regard. We believe that it is essential at this point to prevent terrorists of all kinds from spilling over into Afghanistan’s immediate neighbours, including under the guise of refugees.

Among other international topics, we had a detailed discussion on promoting a settlement in southeastern Ukraine. As you know, Ms Merkel has done a lot to bring about a resolution to Ukraine’s internal crisis. She was at the origins of the Normandy Format, and we all worked together on ways of restoring peace in Donbass.

Unfortunately, so far we have not been able to accomplish this. Today, the Russian and German side expressed serious concern about the growing tension along the line of contact. We talked this over, and I hope that we follow up on this conversation in the nearest future. More than a thousand ceasefire violations have been reported since the beginning of August, and Donbass towns and villages face artillery fire every day.

Another matter of concern is that Ukraine has adopted a number of laws and regulations that essentially contradict the Minsk agreements. It is as if the leadership of that country has decided to give up on achieving a peaceful settlement altogether. In this connection, we ask Ms Federal Chancellor once again to exercise her influence over Ukraine, including during her upcoming visit to Kiev, to see that Ukraine honours its obligations.

Of course, we covered the situation in Belarus. Madam Chancellor touched on this issue as well. We believe that the differences in Belarusian society can only be resolved within the constitutional and legal framework and solely by the Belarusians themselves without any external interference.

When discussing the situation with the Iranian nuclear programme, Madam Chancellor and I expressed hope that once the new government in Iran has been formed, vigorous efforts to preserve the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action will resume. I informed Madam Federal Chancellor of my recent telephone conversation with the newly elected President of Iran.

As you are aware, Ms Merkel is committed to promoting an intra-Libyan settlement. Last January, I also took part in the Berlin Conference on Libya, which was convened on the initiative of Madam Chancellor, and the decisions it adopted helped improve the situation on the ground.

We believe that the international community should maintain a dialogue with all influential political forces in Libya in order to retain and build on the positive achievements that have yet to come.

We shared our vision of the state of affairs in Syria with our German partners. The ceasefire is in force throughout most of the country; the ruined economy and infrastructure are being rebuilt, but the terrorist threat still persists. Due to the illegal sanctions imposed on Damascus and the coronavirus pandemic, the socioeconomic situation there remains challenging.

We attach great importance to UN Security Council Resolution 2585, which was approved in July, on providing comprehensive humanitarian assistance to Syria. This is largely the outcome of the agreements reached during the Russia-US summit held in Geneva in June. We hope that the European countries, including the Federal Republic, will join in the efforts to help the Syrian people.

I would like to close by once again thanking Madam Federal Chancellor for our productive joint work – not only during today’s talks, but also during the previous years. I said it before, and I will say it again: we will always be delighted to see Ms Merkel in Russia.

Thank you.

Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel (retranslated)Thank you.

President Putin, dear Vladimir, ladies and gentlemen,

Earlier today, at the beginning of my visit, I laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to honour the memory of the fallen and as a reminder that 80 years ago Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union.

Today, we are very pleased to know that there is a dialogue going on between our governments, and our dialogue is constructive. Of course, we talked about different views and approaches to our joint decisions.

With regard to the nature of our bilateral relations, it is important to highlight a number of positive developments. I would like to mention economic relations, namely, the Year of Germany in Russia, which Mr President mentioned, during which a large number of meetings have taken place. In addition, there is an economic initiative involving the 1,000 Trainees project, which makes it possible for thousands of young Russians to take internships at German enterprises. These are the relationships that are very gratifying to have.

But, of course, we discussed the very depressing situation with Alexei Navalny. From our perspective, his sentence and imprisonment in a correctional facility were based on a court ruling that the ECHR found unobvious and disproportionate. This is unacceptable to us. I once again demanded that the President of Russia release Alexei Navalny and stressed that we would continue to monitor this case.

I also said that we are disappointed to see three German NGOs that have done a lot of work as part of the Petersburg Dialogue for cooperation between civil societies included on the list of objectionable organisations. I would like to know if it is possible to take these organisations off the list and to have the Petersburg Dialogue continue as before. From my perspective, this would send a very important message.

We also talked about bilateral economic relations, which are moving forward. In this regard, of course, we talked about Nord Stream 2. I would like to emphasise that this is not a bilateral German-Russian project, but a project of European dimension, because companies from other countries are also part of it.

In this context, we talked about the document concluded between the United States and the Federal Republic of Germany, and Mr President and I emphasised that Georg Graf Waldersee would act as a highly experienced negotiator with regard to gas transit through Ukraine beyond 2024. This is his assignment. We bear certain responsibility in this regard despite the economic developments that need to be taken into account.

In this context, we also discussed relations between Russia and the EU. It became clear that Russia is interested in entering an exchange with the EU on the “Fit for 55” climate package with account taken of cross-border carbon regulation and other problems. And I also noted that I am in favour of this approach.

Afghanistan was also among the current issues that we discussed today. This is a very important issue. We exchanged views, and I emphasised that it is very unfortunate that the Taliban are back in power in the country. However, this is how things stand. I also said that Germany believes helping people who had worked with Germany over the 20 years of NATO operations and missions in Afghanistan is currently a priority. We need to provide them refuge and ensure their safety in Germany and to take as many people as possible to Germany over the next few days.

I asked the Russian side to raise during the talks with the Taliban the question of UN humanitarian aid in Afghanistan, to make sure that it can be provided. The people who helped us, including those who assisted the Bundeswehr and the federal police, should be able to leave Afghanistan.

We also discussed developments in Ukraine. The Normandy Format is the only political framework we have for discussing these contentious issues. Currently the situation is in a deadlock. Unfortunately, Ukrainian service personnel are dying on the line of contact. I have always advocated reviving this format and giving it more weight. The last meeting was in December 2019, in Paris, and the goals we set back then were achieved both by the separatists in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, and by Ukraine.

I pointed out that I am ready to make further progress on this matter in the interest of the people of Ukraine, so that everyone can live in peace in Ukraine. This is what we stand for.

For us, the annexation of Crimea constitutes a violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, we will insist on this point, and I will continue supporting Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

Speaking of Belarus, I stated that I firmly condemn the use of people, refugees from other countries who find themselves in a dire situation, as a hybrid weapon of sorts. I am referring to the situation on the border between Belarus and Lithuania.

Of course, we discussed developments in Libya and Syria. On Libya, we need to implement the outcomes of the Libyan conference, which called for a proportionate and reciprocal withdrawal of foreign mercenaries, while empowering Libyan forces to shape a future for the country they want. On this issue, Germany and Russia have a number of points in common.

We also talked about the challenges posed by climate change. Both Germany and Russia have suffered from natural disasters. In Russia, Siberia, even north of the Arctic circle, was especially hard hit. For this reason alone, we are convinced that we need to fight climate change, which calls for close cooperation. The same applies to a number of other international matters.

I wanted to say that over the past 16 years I have been to Russia 16 times, which is to say that I was open to contact. Talks between us have not always been easy. There has been a lot of debate and controversy around them, including on the international stage, but I always sought compromise. I think that there is no alternative, at least no reasonable one, to dialogue and the exchange of opinion. This invariably requires a lot of work. Everything could have been a lot easier, but our dialogue should continue. I have no doubts about this.

Thank you.

Question (retranslated): Madam Chancellor, you said you spoke in support of Alexei Navalny and in favour of his release today. Here is a question for you, President Putin: what is needed to set Alexei Navalny free and what is needed to put an end to the persecution of Alexei Navalny’s supporters?

And a question for both of you. Today is the anniversary of the attempted poisoning of Alexei Navalny. He published an article in which he demands fighting corruption, since it is the root of all evil. What do you think about this proposal, Mr Putin? For example, he demands imposing sanctions on the oligarchs that are close to you.

Vladimir Putin: With regard to the person you just mentioned, he was not convicted for his political activities, but a criminal offense against foreign partners.

As far as political activity goes, no one should be using political activity as a front to carry out business projects, which, on top of that, violate the law. This is the first part of what I have to say to your question.

Second, with regard to non-systemic opposition in general. I don’t remember seeing in Western countries, Europe or the United States – Occupy Wall Street in the United States or the Yellow Vests in France – these people enjoying much support on their way to representative bodies, including parliament. We do not see anything like that. Moreover, when, following the US elections, people entered Congress with political demands, more than 100 criminal cases were brought against them. And judging by the charges brought against them, they are facing long prison terms anywhere from 15 to 20–25 years, maybe even more. To be completely objective, please pay attention to this side of the problem as well.

As for us, our political system is evolving, and all citizens of the Russian Federation have the right to express their opinions on political issues, form political organisations, and participate in elections of all levels. However, this must be done within the limits of applicable law and the Constitution. We will do our best to keep the situation in Russia stable and predictable. Russia exhausted its limit on revolutions back in the 20th century. We do not want revolutions. What we want is evolutionary development of our society and state. I hope that this will be so. As for the decision of the judicial authorities of the Russian Federation, please treat these decisions with respect.

Fighting corruption is critically important, but it should not be used as a tool in a political struggle. We, as well as you, are well aware that this toolkit is used to achieve political goals and is recommended for achieving political goals by the organisations that are in charge of activities by people of this kind. Indeed, fighting corruption is critically important in and of itself, and it is our top priority, and we will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to eradicate corruption in the broadest sense of the word.

Angela Merkel: I would like to emphasise that we have talked at length about the way we understand political systems and freedoms. I believe that the questions of good governance and fighting corruption are actually entwined.

Regarding Alexei Navalny’s call for more sanctions, I would like to say that today the European Union imposes sanctions in the face of the relevant facts but linking economic corruption to sanctions is never easy. Still, within the European Union we believe in the need to discuss these matters, since there is a genuine link between corruption and political activity, no matter where it takes place. This includes Germany, I believe. Fighting corruption requires independent courts, a free press, as well as non-profit organisations that refuse to play along.

Vladimir Putin: Overall, who should be fighting corruption? People who fully abide by the law themselves. This is an essential prerequisite for ensuring that these efforts are effective.

Question: Taking into consideration the ongoing developments in Afghanistan, what is your assessment of the 20-year operation by the US and its allies and its outcome? Can this be called a total failure and will it result in the US-led West to rethink its approach to imposing democracy on third countries?

I also have a question or rather a request for Madam Chancellor. You probably know that RT is preparing to launch a German-language channel, but unfortunately, the German authorities are doing everything they can to obstruct this project. First, the German banks were advised to close all RT accounts and not to open new ones. Now the German government is pressuring Luxembourg not to issue RT a broadcasting licence, and everyone knows this since the German media have been reporting on this issue.

Madam Federal Chancellor, please, help us enjoy freedom of expression.

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Regarding the operation in Afghanistan, it can hardly be described as a success. Quite the contrary, but concentrating on it for too long, emphasising this failure does not serve our interests.

We were interested in having stability in this country. But the situation is what it is. I think that many politicians in the West are beginning to realise what I just said in my opening remarks: you cannot impose political standards or behaviour on other countries and peoples, while ignoring their special nature, which includes the ethnic and religious structure and historical traditions. I think that eventually they will understand this, and this understanding will become the guiding principle in their realpolitik.

We saw what happened during the Arab Spring, now Afghanistan. However, it is important for our partners to make this rule universal and treat their partners with respect and be patient, whether they like something or not, they should still give these peoples the right to determine their future, no matter how long it may take them to bring democracy to their countries and regardless if they like what is happening in these countries or not. They must build neighbourly relations and respect each other’s interests in the international arena.

I think that this is the lesson we should learn from Afghanistan, and we should team up with our other partners – the United States and the European countries – we, that is Russia, must do whatever it takes to join our efforts today in order to support the Afghan people with the aim of normalising the situation in that country and establishing neighbourly relations with it.

Angela Merkel: With regard to Afghanistan, I would like to remind everyone about the starting point – the 9/11 attacks 20 years ago, in 2001. Back then, terrorist attacks on the United States were masterminded from Afghanistan. This started the fight against terrorism followed by NATO operations and missions.

The situation with terrorism in Afghanistan has improved since then, but the international community must fight the resurgence of terrorism in Afghanistan. With regard to the other project, that is, the Afghan people’s overall stance regarding their own future, we failed to achieve our goals; I am openly admitting this.

In December 2001, [German] Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer convened a conference with all Afghan representatives at the Petersberg hotel and urged Afghans to find a common shared solution. While trying to cooperate for development, we did not want to impose our position on the Afghan people, but we saw millions of happy girls who were allowed to go to school and empowered women. Many people find the current situation upsetting. However, it should be noted that the Taliban received more support than we would like. We will now need to talk with them and try to save the lives of the people who are now in harm’s way so they can leave the country, and we can continue to work for the benefit of Afghanistan.

It would be disappointing to see progress in these areas taper off. I hope we will find entities that can help Afghanistan find a path of its own, and that we will not be exposed to the threat of international terrorism.

As for RT, Germany did not put any pressure on Brussels or the decisions it made. In Germany, neither the federal government nor the state governments engage in matters like that.

Question (retranslated): Madam Federal Chancellor, the Minsk agreements are 6 years old now, but Ukraine remains divided, and you yourself said that people along the demarcation line in Donbass are dying. Following your talks today, are there any concrete plans to hold new talks at the heads of state or government level, or should we conclude that the Normandy format has failed?

And a question for you, Mr President. Once the Nord Stream 2 is completed, can you guarantee that gas transit across Ukraine will remain in place, and if so, will this arrangement remain in force after Ms Merkel leaves the post of chancellor?

Angela Merkel: With regard to the Minsk agreements: we have failed to achieve the goals that we wanted to achieve. But this is the format we have, including the trilateral contact group, and talks with the separatists in Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

So, this format needs to be handled with care, but progress is not as good as I would like it to be. However, if we identify an agenda, we can make arrangements for high-level meetings and talks. But we need to know what to discuss. During my visit to Ukraine, I will be pushing for identifying this agenda, because any minor progress can be decisive. However, this represents a very ambitious goal and a very challenging task. There are many inputs here. I still recommend this format, even though it is taking more time than we wanted, but we still need to avoid a dead end.

Vladimir Putin: I agree with the Federal Chancellor regarding the Minsk agreements and the Normandy format. We have no other tool to achieve peace, and I believe that it should be treated very carefully and with respect, despite the fact that we have so far failed to achieve the ultimate goals of the settlement.

The Minsk agreements are enshrined in a corresponding UN Security Council resolution, and in this sense, the Minsk agreements have become international law.

We are concerned that during the official talks and in their contacts with the media, the Ukrainian side says one thing, but inside the country it says something very different. In fact, and I want to emphasise this, it is enough to look at what the top public officials are saying, and they are saying that they are not going to comply with the Minsk agreements.

Today, I informed the Federal Chancellor that another draft law has been submitted by the Ukrainian government. If this law is adopted – please read it, it is not a classified document, it is probably available online – it means that Ukraine will, in fact, withdraw from the Minsk process unilaterally. Because it is not just that only certain things contradict the Minsk agreements, everything there contradicts the Minsk agreements. This will mean Ukraine’s de facto withdrawal from these agreements. I hope that during her visit, the Federal Chancellor will use some of her influence and exert some pressure on the Ukrainian authorities, and that this law will not be adopted.

Now, with regard to gas transit. Indeed, the Federal Chancellor has always advocated this approach. Always, mind you, even during construction, which is about to be completed. There are 44 or 45 kilometres left to go. (Addressing Alexei Miller.) How many, Mr Miller? 15? There are 15 more kilometres across the sea to go. We can safely assume that this project is nearing completion. But the Federal Chancellor has always raised the issue of continuing transit across Ukrainian territory even after the expiry of the transit contract.

The first thing I want to say in this regard. First, today this issue was raised again by the Federal Chancellor during the talks. I assured the Federal Chancellor that we will fully comply with our obligations under the transit contract even after she leaves the office of Federal Chancellor. Russia will fulfil all its obligations. We are doing so now and we will continue to do so going forward.

Next, Nord Stream 2. Some people claim the project is politically motivated. This is a fallacy or an attempt to mislead people. It is 2,000 kilometres shorter than the Ukrainian transit route. And it is a modern environmentally friendly system, and I mean it. It uses innovative equipment which, I believe, cuts carbon emissions into the atmosphere during the transit of our hydrocarbons to Europe by five times. We just need to be aware of it and know it. And it is much cheaper than transit across Ukraine.

However, we stand ready, and I’ll say it again, I have already said it publicly before and I want to make a point of it now, that we stand ready to transit gas across Ukraine beyond 2024. But we must understand the timeframe and volumes. And for this, we must know, and our European partners must tell us, how much they are willing to buy from us. This is obvious.

We cannot sign a transit contract if we have not signed supply contracts with our consumers in Europe. With the green agenda, which is already underway in Europe, we are wondering whether anyone will be buying gas from us altogether and, if so, how much. This needs to be discussed.

In any case, this is a purely business matter. I mean there is yet another component that is the technical condition of the pipeline system. To reiterate, we are not only willing to discuss this, we are really willing to get there. This is especially true of our supplies to Southern Europe. Consumption is on the rise, and I hope it will keep rising in the years ahead. Today, there is no other, more reliable source than Russian gas for German and other European consumers.

Question: Mr President, Ms Merkel,

You have been in close contact during the past 16 years: you have met and have spoken by phone. There have been ups and downs in relations between Russia and Germany during those 16 years. In general, what is your appraisal of the results achieved over 16 years and what is your vision of the future of Russian-German relations?

Vladimir Putin: The question is not quite pertinent. I would rather not appraise the performance of the Federal Chancellor, as only the German people can do this, including at the upcoming elections to the Bundestag.

Indeed, our relations have lived through different times. We just noted that we have taken different approaches to assessing various situations. Nevertheless, cooperation between us over these years, despite the difficulties we faced throughout this fairly lengthy period, has expanded and become more diverse.

Today, we talked about the economic aspect [of our relations]. The Federal Republic is our second largest trade and economic partner next to China – over $7 billion… We invested about $7.5 billion – it is even $9.5 billion – in Germany, while our German partners invested $18 billion [in our economy]. Importantly, German companies largely operate in the industrial sector. We appreciate this.

Today, Madam Chancellor put forth some concrete questions in connection with – I understand this, as I do the same on our behalf – the need to safeguard the interests of German businesses in the Russian market. This has to do with the level of domestic content and the like. All these are current issues. Generally, the quality of our relations has changed fundamentally, getting, of course, better. Hopefully, after the elections and the change of government, this trend will remain in place.

Angela Merkel: I believe that, despite different political systems, we need to keep communications channels open and exchange opinions. This is evidenced by the global situation and the history of relations between Germany and Russia. Our countries have lived through different periods, some of them terrible and some very pleasant.

Of course, during my term as chancellor, the political systems in our two countries have developed in different directions, so there are some vital matters that need to be discussed. All these differences notwithstanding, we have always managed to keep the negotiating channel open. I hope I have managed to contribute to this. I will always say that a failure to maintain dialogue is a poor choice.

After Egypt, will Erdogan lose Tunisia and then Libya?

ARABI SOURI 

Turkish madman president Erdogan leader of Muslim Brotherhood Turkey Tunisia Egypt Sudan Qatar Syria Lebanon Libya

Erdogan will not easily accept a second loss after the failure of his plan in Egypt, which may push him to maneuver and tactics in Tunisia.

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The following is the English translation from Arabic of the latest article by Turkish career journalist Husni Mahali he published in the Lebanese Al-Mayadeen news site Al-Mayadeen Net:

With the difference between the “Brotherhood” of Egypt and the “Ennahda” of Tunisia, Ankara did not delay in responding to the positions of Tunisian President Kais Saied, and considered it “a coup against democracy and the will of the Tunisian people,” forgetting that these people elected Saied by 73% compared to 12% for the Ennahda candidate in the October 2019 elections.

With the noticeable decline in the tone of the attack, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s attempts to calm down with President Saied through the mediation of Qatari Emir Tamim Al Thani, who called the Tunisian President (a day later the Saudi Foreign Minister traveled to Tunisia), everyone knows that Erdogan does not, and will not easily accept a loss again after losing Egypt.

Which may push him to maneuver and tactics (with statements by Ghannouchi, who admitted his party’s mistakes, and his willingness to dialogue with President Saied) after the failure of his plan in Egypt, ideologically, politically, and historically, when Sisi overthrew the “Brotherhood” Mohamed Morsi (in Egypt) on July 3, 2013, and then the military overthrew his ally Omar al-Bashir (in Sudan) in April 2019.

This explains the signs and messages sent by President Erdogan, eight years after the coup, for reconciliation with Sisi, who stipulated for this to stop all kinds of support for the “Brotherhood” and to stop interfering in the affairs of Arab countries, and this means first of all Libya, the neighboring country of both Egypt and Tunisia.

Everyone remembers the reactions of the Tunisian opposition to the secret visit paid by Rashid Ghannouchi to Istanbul on January 10, 2020, and his meeting with President Erdogan (a day before Fayez Al-Sarraj’s visit to Istanbul) without informing the Tunisian Parliament and President of the Republic Kais Saied of his visit in advance. The visit was the beginning of the dispute between Saied and Ghannouchi, who took positions in support of Erdogan’s policies in Libya, in exchange for a different position from President Saied, who is known for his nationalist positions.

The Tunisian opposition parties and forces at the time accused Ghannouchi and the leaders of “Ennahda” of obtaining financial support from Ankara and accused it of leaking information related to national security to foreign countries, and it meant Turkey and Qatar, the two countries that embrace all political Islam movements, support and finance them, civilly and militarily, especially after what It has been called the “Arab Spring”, which makes Tunisia’s developments more important to President Erdogan and his Qatari ally, Prince Tamim, and they coordinate together against Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and with them Egypt.

It seems clear that Egypt is very happy with what President Saied has done, this, of course, if it was not in advance in the picture of preparations to get rid of Ennahda and the effects of its rule over Tunisia over the past ten years, even if through weak alliances with other parties that Ennahda exploited to achieve its secret and public goals, including the travel of thousands of Tunisian youths to Turkey and from there to Syria to fight in the ranks of terrorist factions, including “ISIS” and “Al-Nusra” and the like. This is the case of thousands of citizens of other Arab countries, especially Saudi Arabia, when it was in the same trench with other Arab countries and Turkey to fight against the Syrian state, which is still a target for all regional moves, including Tunisia’s developments and their possible results.

The Gulf regimes rushed to provide billions of dollars in aid to President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi after his overthrow of the “Brotherhood” to prevent him from rapprochement with Damascus, especially since Riyadh, Manama, and Abu Dhabi declared the “Brotherhood” a terrorist organization, without this announcement preventing them from continuing coordination and cooperation with Doha. And Ankara to support the armed Brotherhood factions in Syria until June 2017, when these capitals, along with Cairo, severed diplomatic relations with Doha. The response came quickly from President Erdogan, who sent his army to Qatar to protect it from its Gulf sisters, and its tales are no less exciting than the tales of “One Thousand and One Nights.” Despite the Qatari reconciliation with Cairo, and Prince Tamim’s efforts to mediate between Sisi and Erdogan, the dispute between Doha and Abu Dhabi continues, and until Riyadh resolves its final position on this dispute, i.e. personal competition, and before that it was between the “young men” Mohammed bin Salman and Tamim Al Thani and they are all orbiting in the American orbit.

Although it is still too early to talk about the possible results of what President Kais Saied, who is backed by the army and security forces, did and will do, everyone knows that limiting the role of “Ennahda” and removing it from power will be reflected in one way or another on the potential developments in Libya, through the continuation of reconciliation efforts, with or without it. The armed factions, moderate and extremist, are all under the Turkish umbrella, and are closely monitoring the situation in Tunisia because repeating Egypt’s experience there will put these factions in the jaws of the Egyptian-Tunisian alliance, and it will be supported by European countries, the most important of which are France and Greece, and later from other countries that do not hide its annoyance with President Erdogan’s statements and actions of a religious and historical nationalist, ie Ottoman, character.

In this context, everyone knows that the practical successes that President Kais Saied and his political and military team will achieve in the way of quickly addressing Tunisia’s health, economic, financial and social crises which will determine the course of the next stage, and its repercussions on all regional and international accounts.

As was the case after Al-Sisi’s coup in 2013, most Western capitals, led by Washington, made phone calls to President Saied, and assured him, in quite similar terms, “the need to respect the constitution and constitutional institutions, the rule of law, to remain calm, and to avoid any resort to violence, in order to preserve the stability of the country,” without it occurring in the minds of these capitals to direct any criticism of the Gulf regimes, whose countries lack even constitutions, and where democracy has no place of expression, politically, socially and morally. Nor did the aforementioned capitals take any practical positions against President Erdogan, who took advantage of the failed coup on July 15, 2016, to get rid of all his enemies and opponents, and established an “authoritarian regime”, and this quote is of President Biden, before he became president at the end of 2019, also these aforementioned capitals did not make any move when Erdogan, in April 2017, changed the constitution and took control of all state agencies, facilities, and institutions, saying that he “derived his powers from the constitution,” which President Kais Saied said, with significant differences in content, performance, goals, and results.

In the end, the judgment remains for the Tunisian people, in all their categories, because it is they who will decide the fate of their country which seems that it was and still is an arena for hidden and open conflicts, as is the case in Libya, and to a lesser extent in Algeria and Sudan, and it is close to the arenas in which ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, and similar groups are active in Mali, Chad, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia. and Burkina Faso, for which the imperialist and colonial countries are drawing up a number of plans.

Ankara, in turn, established wide and varied relations with these countries after it opened its embassies in 45 African countries, President Erdogan visited a large number of them, in an attempt to compete with the traditional French, Italian, and other traditional European colonial roles, and he says, “His country did not colonize any of these countries.”

All this comes with accusations by the Turkish opposition to President Erdogan of “pursuing expansionist policies, militarily, politically, economically and intelligence,” not only in Arab and African geography but even in the Balkans, the Caucasus and Central Asia, “and where the Ottomans set foot,” as President Erdogan himself said. The past ten years have proven that he is serious about this issue, otherwise, the situation in Tunisia, and before that Egypt, would not be among his interests, and because defeat there would mean a retreat in other locations, foremost of which is Libya, and then Syria, from which it was the beginning, and with its loss, Erdogan loses Turkey.

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بعد مصر.. هل يخسر إردوغان تونس ثم ليبيا؟

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لمصدر: الميادين نت

حسني محلي ا

إردوغان لن يتقبّل بسهولة خسارة ثانية بعد فشل مخططه في مصر وهو ما قد يدفعه إلى المناورة والتكتيك في تونس.

مع الفارق بين “إخوان” مصر و”نهضة” تونس، لم تتأخر أنقرة في الردّ على مواقف الرئيس التونسي قيس سعيّد، واعتبرتها “انقلاباً على الديمقراطية وإرادة الشعب التونسي”، ناسية أن هذا الشعب انتخب سعيد بنسبة 73٪ في مقابل 12٪ لمرشح “النهضة” في انتخابات تشرين الأول/أكتوبر 2019. 

الحد من دور “حركة النهضة” وإبعادَها عن السلطة سينعكسان بصورة أو بأخرى على التطورات المحتملة في ليبيا

ومع التراجع الملحوظ في لهجة الهجوم، ومحاولات الرئيس التركي رجب طيب إردوغان التهدئة مع الرئيس سعيد عبر وساطة الأمير القطري تميم آل ثاني، الذي اتّصل بالرئيس التونسي (بعدها بيوم سافر وزير الخارجية السعودي إلى تونس)، فالجميع يعرف أن إردوغان لا، ولن يتقبّل بسهولة خسارة ثانية بعد خسارة مصر. 

وهو ما قد يدفعه إلى المناورة والتكتيك (مع تصريحات الغنوشي الذي اعترف بارتكاب حزبه الأخطاء، واستعداده للحوار مع الرئيس سعيد) بعد فشل مخططه في مصر، عقائدياً وسياسياً وتاريخياً، عندما أطاح السيسي “الإخوَنجيَّ” محمد مرسي في 3 تموز/يوليو 2013، ثم أطاح العسكر حليفَه عمر البشير في نيسان/أبريل 2019. 

ويفسّر ذلك الإشارات والرسائل التي بعثها الرئيس إردوغان بعد ثماني سنوات من الانقلاب، من أجل المصالحة مع السيسي، الذي اشترط من أجل ذلك وقف كل أنواع الدعم لـ”الإخوان”، والكفّ عن التدخل في شؤون الدول العربية، والمقصود بذلك أولاً ليبيا، البلد الجار لكل من مصر وتونس. 

فالجميع يتذكر ردود فعل المعارضة التونسية على الزيارة السرية التي قام بها راشد الغنوشي لإسطنبول في 10 كانون الثاني/يناير 2020، ولقائه الرئيس إردوغان (قبل يوم من زيارة فايز السراج لإسطنبول) ومن دون أن يبلغ إلى البرلمان التونسي ورئيس الجمهورية قيس سعيد بزيارتَه مسبّقاً. وكانت الزيارة بداية الخلاف بين سعيد والغنوشي الذي اتَّخذ مواقف مؤيدة لسياسات إردوغان في ليبيا في مقابل موقف مغاير من الرئيس سعيد المعروف بمواقفه القومية. 

واتهمت أحزاب المعارضة التونسية وقواها آنذاك الغنوشي وقيادات “النهضة” بالحصول على دعم مالي من أنقرة، كما اتهمتها بتسريب معلومات تخصّ الأمن الوطني إلى دول أجنبية، والمقصود بها تركيا وقطر، البلدين اللذين يحتضنان كل حركات الإسلام السياسي ويدعمانها ويموّلانها، مدنياً وعسكرياً، وخصوصاً بعد ما سُمّي “الربيع العربي”، وهو ما يجعل تطورات تونس أكثرَ أهمية بالنسبة إلى الرئيس إردوغان وحليفه القطري الأمير تميم، وينسّقان معاً ضد السعودية والإمارات ومعهما مصر. 

ويبدو واضحاً أن مصر سعيدة جداً بما قام به الرئيس سعيد، هذا بالطبع إن لم تكن مسبقاً في صورة التحضيرات للتخلص من “النهضة” و آثار حكمها لتونس طوال السنوات العشر الماضية، ولو عبر التحالفات الضعيفة مع أحزاب أخرى استغلتها “النهضة” لتحقيق أهدافها السرية والعلنية، بما في ذلك سفر الآلاف من الشبان التونسيين إلى تركيا ومنها إلى سوريا للقتال في صفوف الفصائل الإرهابية، ومنها “داعش” و”النصرة” وأمثالهما. وهو حال الآلاف من مواطني الدول العربية الأخرى، وفي مقدمتها السعودية، عندما كانت في خندق واحد مع سائر الدول العربية وتركيا للقتال ضد الدولة السورية، التي ما زالت هدفاً لكل التحركات الإقليمية، بما فيها تطورات تونس ونتائجها المحتملة. 

لقد استعجلت أنظمة الخليج تقديم مليارات الدولارات من المساعدات إلى الرئيس عبدالفتاح السيسي بعد إطاحته “الإخوان” لمنعه من التقارب مع دمشق، وخصوصاً أن الرياض والمنامة وأبو ظبي أعلنت “الإخوان” تنظيماً إرهابياً، ومن دون أن يمنعها هذا الإعلان من الاستمرار في التنسيق والتعاون مع الدوحة وأنقرة لدعم الفصائل الإخوانية المسلحة في سوريا حتى حزيران/يونيو 2017 عندما قطعت هذه العواصم، ومعها القاهرة، علاقاتها الدبلوماسية بالدوحة. وجاء الرد سريعاً من الرئيس إردوغان، الذي أرسل جيشه إلى قطر لحمايتها من شقيقاتها الخليجية، وحكاياتها ليست أقل إثارة من حكايات “ألف ليلة وليلة”. فعلى الرغم من المصالحة القطرية مع القاهرة، ومساعي الأمير تميم للوساطة بين السيسي وإردوغان، فإن الخلاف بين الدوحة وأبو ظبي ما زال مستمراً، وإلى أن تحسم الرياض موقفها النهائي حيال هذا الخلاف، أي المنافسة الشخصية، وكانت قبلها بين “الشابين” محمد بن سلمان وتميم آل ثاني، وهم جميعاً يدورون في الفلك الأميركي.

ومع أن الوقت ما زال مبكّراً للحديث عن النتائج المحتمَلة لما قام وسيقوم به الرئيس قيس سعيد، المدعوم من الجيش والقوى الأمنية، فالجميع يعرف أن الحد من دور “النهضة” وإبعادَها عن السلطة سينعكسان بصورة أو بأخرى على التطورات المحتملة في ليبيا، عبر استمرار مساعي المصالحة فيها، أو من دون ذلك. فالفصائل المسلحة، المعتدلة منها والمتطرفة، هي جميعاً تحت المظلة التركية، وتراقب الوضع عن كثب في تونس، لأن تكرار تجربة مصر هناك سيضع هذه الفصائل بين فكَّي التحالف المصري – التونسي، وسيكون مدعوماً من دول أوروبية، أهمها فرنسا واليونان، ولاحقاً من دول أخرى لا تُخفي انزعاجها من مقولات الرئيس إردوغان وتصرفاته ذات الطابعَين الديني والقومي التاريخي، أي العثماني.

وفي السياق، يعرف الجميع أن ما سيحقّقه الرئيس قيس سعيد وفريقه السياسي والعسكري من نجاحات عملية في طريق المعالجة السريعة لأزمات تونس الصحية والاقتصادية والمالية والاجتماعية، هو الذي سيحدّد مسار المرحلة المقبلة، وانعكاساتها على مجمل الحسابات الإقليمية والدولية.

فكما كان الوضع عليه بعد انقلاب السيسي عام 2013، أجرت أغلبية العواصم الغربية، وفي مقدمتها واشنطن، اتصالات هاتفية بالرئيس سعيد، وأكدت له، في عبارات متشابهة تماماً، “ضرورة احترام الدستور والمؤسسات الدستورية، وسيادة القانون، والتحلي بالهدوء، وتجنّب أيّ لجوء إلى العنف، حفاظاً على استقرار البلاد”، من دون أن يخطر في بال هذه العواصم أن توجّه أيّ انتقاد إلى أنظمة الخليج، التي تفتقر دولها حتى إلى الدساتير، وليس للديمقراطية فيها أي مكان من الإعراب، سياسياً واجتماعياً وأخلاقياً. كما لم تتخذ العواصم المذكورة أي مواقف عملية ضد الرئيس إردوغان، الذي استغل الانقلاب الفاشل في 15 تموز/يوليو 2016 فتخلص من جميع أعدائه ومعارضيه، وأقام “نظاماً استبدادياً”، والقول للرئيس بايدن، قبل أن يصبح رئيساً نهاية عام 2019. كما لم تحرّك العواصم المذكورة ساكناً عندما قام إردوغان، في نيسان/أبريل 2017، بتغيير الدستور، وسيطر على جميع أجهزة الدولة ومرافقها ومؤسساتها، قائلا إنه “استمدّ صلاحياته من الدستور”، وهو ما قاله الرئيس قيس سعيد، مع فوارق كبيرة في المضمون والأداء والأهداف والنتائج.

يبقى الحكم في النهاية للشعب التونسي، في كل فئاته، لأنه هو الذي سيقرر مصير بلاده. ويبدو أنها كانت وما زالت ساحة للصراعات الخفية والمكشوفة، كما هي الحال في ليبيا، وبنِسَب أقل في الجزائر والسودان، وهي قريبة من الساحات التي تنشط فيها “داعش” و”القاعدة” و”بوكو حرام”، ومجموعات مماثلة في مالي وتشاد والنيجر ونيجيريا والصومال وبوركينا فاسو، التي تضع من أجلها الدول الإمبريالية والاستعمارية عدداً من الخطط. 

أقامت أنقرة بدورها علاقات واسعة ومتنوعة بهذه الدول بعد أن افتتحت سفاراتها في 45 دولة أفريقية، وزار الرئيس إردوغان عدداً كبيراً منها، في محاولة منه لمنافسة الأدوار الفرنسية والإيطالية والأوروبية الاستعمارية التقليدية، وهو يقول “إن بلاده لم تستعمر أياً من هذه الدول”.

يأتي كل ذلك مع اتهامات المعارضة التركية للرئيس إردوغان بـ”انتهاج سياسات توسُّعية، عسكرياً وسياسياً واقتصادياً واستخبارياً”، ليس فقط في الجغرافيا العربية والأفريقية، بل حتى في البلقان والقوقاز وآسيا الوسطى، “وحيث وطئت أقدام العثمانيين”، والقول للرئيس إردوغان نفسه. وأثبت السنوات العشر الماضية أنه جادّ في هذا الموضوع، وإلاّ لَما كان الوضع في تونس، وقبلها مصر، ضمن اهتماماته، ولأن الهزيمة هناك ستعني التراجع في مواقع أخرى، وفي مقدمتها ليبيا، ثم سوريا، التي كانت منها البداية، وبخسارتها يخسر إردوغان تركيا. 

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تونس: يكفي إعادة التوازن للحياة العامة

31 تموز 2021

 ناصر قنديل

غالباً ما تخفي المواقف المبالغة برفع السقوف لتبرير السلبية دفاعاً عن ضفة سياسية يصعب تبنيها علناً، كمن يشترط لدعم موقف سورية بوجه العدوان المتكرر لجيش الاحتلال أن تقوم بالرد القاسي على كل مرة تتعرّض للعدوان، ويكون هو فعلياً بذلك يريد مساندة العدوان ولا يجرؤ، أو انه يدعم الجماعات الإرهابية المناوئة للدولة السورية، ويعلم ان احد اهداف الاعتداءات على الجيش السوري تخفيف الضغط على هذه الجماعات، لكنه يعبر عن دعمه لهذه الجماعات بهذه الطريقة التي تكمل أهداف العدوان، مَن يقول إنه مع مقاومة حزب الله شرط أن تبدأ من جنوب لبنان بتحرير فلسطين، تحت شعار ما قيمة السلاح والمقدسات تنتهك والقدس تهوّد والشعب الفلسطيني محاصر ويتعرّض كل يوم لعدوان جديد، وهو يرى بأم العين الجيوش العربية المصطفة بكل أسلحتها لا تكتفي بعدم تحريك ساكن لدعم فلسطين وشعبها، بل تنسّق مع الاحتلال، وتشارك في محاصرة الفلسطينيين وملاحقة المقاومين، ولا يأتي على سيرة هذه الجيوش بكلمة مركزاً اشتراطاته على المقاومة، وهذا لا يريد إلا أن يصرف النظر عن القضية الحقيقية التي تستعد لها المقاومة، شيطنة كل أمل بتغيير موازينها.

فيما تشهده تونس هذه الأيام وسط مشهد إقليمي دولي معقد، حيث لا يمكن فصل الواقع التونسي عن واقع الجغرافيا السياسية المحيطة بتونس من جهة ليبيا ومسارات الحرب فيها، او جهة المغرب ومسارات التطبيع فيه، أو جهة الجزائر والأطماع الدولية لتطويعها، وليس خافياً أن قطبي التجاذب في هذا المثلث هما تركيا وقطر من جهة ومصر وفرنسا والإمارات من جهة مقابلة، وفي تونس مسار سنوات من سيطرة الأخوان المسلمين على الحكم ومؤسسات الدولة، بحضور نيابي فشل في الدورة الأخيرة بتحقيق النتائج المرجوة، وفشل في الانتخابات الرئاسية في بلوغ الهدف، وأظهر الشعب التونسي الذي لا يملك أحزاباً ومرشحين لتشكيل أغلبية نيابية بوجه الأخوان تعبيراً عن رفضه لمشروعهم، عبر الإنتخابات الرئاسية مكانة الأغلبية الشعبية المناوئة للأخوان، عبر الفوز الساحق للرئيس قيس سعيد بأكثر من 70% من أصوات التونسيين.

خلال سنوات سيطرة الأخوان، تحوّلت تونس الى امتداد لجبهات الحرب الليبية إسناداً للدور التركي العسكري الذي ينال من السيادة الليبية ويعقد فرص الحل السياسي فيها، ويشكّل حاضنة للجماعات الإرهابية أسوة بما يفعله في سورية، كما حوّلت هذه السيطرة تونس الى ظهير حماية للتطبيع المغربي مع كيان الاحتلال حيث حكومة الإخوان في الحكم، وحوّلت هذه السيطرة تونس الى قاعدة لتصدير الإرهابيين الى المنطقة وسورية خصوصاً، ولم يعُد خافياً الدور الذي لعبه الأخوان في فرض مناخات إرهابية على الحياة السياسيّة والحريات والمنافسة الديمقراطيّة في تونس مع اغتيال رموز العملية الديمقراطيّة التي مثلها قادة مثل محمد البراهمي وشكري بلعيد، وتغوّلت سيطرة الأخوان على مؤسسات الدولة التونسية وعائداتها المالية، بصورة جعلت حصول المواطنين على الخدمات المستحقة من مؤسسات الدولة مشروطة بالمرور عبر مؤسسات الأخوان، وما أزمة تفشي كورونا والفشل في مواجهتها الا بنتيجة لهذه المعادلة.

الذي فعله الرئيس التونسي قيس سعيّد هو توظيف كل هذه التوازنات الخارجية والداخلية، ومن استعداد الجيش والقوى الأمنية والمؤسسات القضائية للتحرك، بفعل تهميشها من جهة وتشجيعها من المناوئين لدور الأخوان ومرجعيتهم الإقليمية من جهة موازية، وذلك لفرض واقع جديد يحرر الدولة التونسية ومؤسساتها الخدمية والإعلامية والإدارية والتربوية والصحية من سيطرة الاخوان، وفرض واقع أمني ينهي قدرتهم على فرض معايير الرعب السياسي على الخصوم والمنافسين، وانهاض دور مؤسسات الأمن والقضاء، بصورة تتيح استرداد التوازن الى المعادلة الداخلية، والتوازن الى موقع تونس الاقليمي والدولي.

الذين يريدون تصنيف حركة الرئيس التونسي في خانة تنفيذ اجندة إماراتية تهدف للتطبيع او أجندة فرنسية تهدف لمحاصرة الجزائر أو اجندة مصرية تهدف لتوظيف تونس في المعادلة الليبية، يتنكّرون لمواقف الرئيس قيس سعيّد من التطبيع ومن الاستعمار الفرنسي ومن تورط تونس في الحرب الليبية، ويخفون بانتقاداتهم تأييدهم لهيمنة الاخوان على الدولة التونسية وتحويلها الى قاعدة يحتاجها الأتراك الذين ليسوا أبعد من المطبعين العرب عن التطبيع، وببساطة تستطيع أن تكون مع الرئيس قيس سعيد وأن تدين تطبيع الإمارات وتحذر من خطورته وأن تبقى بصوت مرتفع بوجه المشروع الاستعماري الفرنسي وان لا تتطابق مع السياسات المصرية وأنت تؤيدها بوجه مخاطر حرب المياه الإثيوبية وتعارضها في أدائها على حدود غزة، إن كنتم صادقين!

للذين لا يعرفون تونس يجب لفت الانتباه إلى أن في تونس حالة فريدة عربياً يمثلها الاتحاد العام التونسي للشغل، وهو أوسع إطار شعبي منظم له عراقة النقابات التاريخية، ومبادئ وطنية وقومية تحررية ثابتة تشكل ميراثه وثوابته، بالتمسك بالاستقلال وفلسطين والعروبة والديمقراطية، وهو صمام أمان هذه العناوين الأربعة عندما تتهدّدها الرياح.

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Russia in the Middle East: From Arms to Mercenaries

BY ANTON MARDASOV

May 10, 2021

Russian military vehicles drive on the road as Russia makes a new military and logistic reinforcement of 30 vehicles to its military points in Kamisli, which is occupied by PKK terrorist organization on September 14, 2020. Photo by Samer Uveyd, Anadolu Images

The Kremlin’s successful “comeback” in the Middle East is explained by the fact that Moscow has become accustomed to appearing on the political scene only during crises, when conventional players seek a quick but often emotional resolution. Another obvious reason is the logic of the Russian authorities which have traditionally exploited different upheavals to gain greater political leverage inside the country.

In general, the Syrian war has enabled the Kremlin to make a quiet “comeback” in the Middle East. From the outset, Moscow managed to raise its contacts with key regional and extra-regional stakeholders to an unprecedented level, thus achieving a dialogue on an equal footing that had been sought by the Kremlin since the annexation of Crimea in 2014. Yet, many observers wonder whether Russia will be able to use these gains efficiently in the long term. This crucial question is still open-ended as the answer depends on the capabilities and consistent steps of the power vertical.

No arms sale windfall following the weapons tests in Syria

Experts in Moscow enjoy discussing how the war in Syria became a promotion campaign for Russia’s weaponry. The real-world evidence for this hypothesis, however, is somewhat scant. Despite Moscow testing a wide spectrum of weaponry and military hardware in Syria, this has not translated into an uptick of its military exports to the Middle East and Northern Africa, a region which occupies a special place for Russia to expand its military-technical cooperation with countries around the globe.

Taking into account that arms negotiations usually take two years to conclude, it was rather amusing to read various hot takes on the upsurge in Russia’s weapons sales only six months after the start of Moscow’s intervention in Syria.

VIDEO: Mercenaries Reborn: How Private Armies Violate Human Rights

Russia’s military exports demonstrated steady growth prior to 2013 but have been plateauing ever since. According to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s public statements, the volume of Russia’s military sales amounted to $15 billion in 2014, $14.5 billion in 2015, $15.3 billion in 2016, $15.3 billion in 2017, $16 billion in 2018, $13 billion in 2019 (the Defense Department puts the figure for this year at $15.2 billion), and around $13 billion in 2020.

In 2015-2020, Egypt, Algeria, and Iraq were the main importers of Russia’s weapons. All three countries began striking their bundle agreements (or negotiating over particular classes of weapons) with Russia before its intervention in the Syrian civil war.

The values of contracts might be subject to manipulation, so looking at the actual physical volume of deliveries could give us a more accurate picture. In 2015-2020, Egypt, Algeria, and Iraq were the main importers of Russia’s weapons. All three countries began striking their bundle agreements (or negotiating over particular classes of weapons) with Russia before its intervention in the Syrian civil war.

The exception to this rule includes some of the agreements between Russia and Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the UAE. Those deals became media highlights due to the specifics of those countries’ relations with the U.S. But neither the sums of the contracts nor their assortment points at any sort of arms sale windfall.

Read: Orthodoxy and Russian Foreign Policy: A Story of Rise and Fall

With the Qatar blockade lifted, the hype around Middle Eastern countries racing to purchase Russian-made S-400 is subsiding. The interest in the Russian systems was fuelled by the Saudi-Qatari conflict and, more pertinently, by the S-400 radar’s ability to enable Doha to look deep into the neighboring Saudi territory. Another factor constraining sales of Russia’s weaponry is the U.S. sanction provisions contained in the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) that was signed by Donald Trump in 2017.

The restrictions threw a wrench into Russia’s negotiations with Kuwait on the purchase of the T-90MS/MSK, which the Gulf country had already tested in 2014. As a result, Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 systems stands as Moscow’s only real breakthrough deal in the region since the start of the Syrian war.

Dialogue on equal footing

Russia’s policy towards the Middle East has a special characteristic which pro-Kremlin pundits like emphasizing. Moscow can simultaneously and to a large extent officially engage in talks with opposing parties, say, Israel and Iran, the U.S. and Hezbollah, Turkey and the PYD. Its neutral status that relies on multipolarity as a fairer way of dealing with other partners has helped Russia mount a “comeback” on the global stage and establish itself as an actor whose participation, as Putin stated back in 2003, was indispensable to tackling any global or regional problem.

Read: Biden-Putin Diplomacy: A Push-Me-Pull-You Game?

However, it would be a misconception to interpret such steps as Moscow’s desire to become a mediator or that it is interested in building a balanced architecture of regional security – it just seeks to present itself as a mentor.

Strategically speaking, Russia has pursued a “clinger” policy in recent years. Moscow has been trying importunately to interact with everyone in order to impose a “dialogue on an equal footing” on Washington, its principal rival.

The Kremlin seeks to bolster its position by playing the contradictions card and making the most of the lack of concordance among traditional allies; by gaining a firmer foothold in the countries at the apex of the crisis – Syria, Lebanon, Iraq; or by mediating the overdue policy to diversify political ties.

Read: Russia’s Changing Relationship with India: Arms Talk

Such tactics tend to be typical of non-state actors which do not have the means to secure themselves. The Kremlin has them in plentiful supply, both nuclear and non-nuclear ones. However, insufficient economic resources prevent Russians from winning unswerving loyalty – even that of their strategic allies, not to mention tactical ones.

Recipe for “success”

In the official propaganda, the emphasis is on exceptional strength which is devoid of significant economic power and which stems from the Soviet paradigm. The latter has defined the agenda promoted by the Kremlin and reinforced the familiar bugaboo of the external enemy against the image of upright state leadership.

Therefore, Putin, a politician who became a historic figure with the annexation of Crimea, could not simply put up with the sanctions imposed after 2014 or see Russia being compared to a besieged fortress. Although the image of the external enemy is indispensable to Russian officials’ speeches, it contradicts, first of all, the existing Western centrism of the Russian elite.

Read: Russian Expansionism under Vladimir Putin

Moreover, pretending to see a threat and moralizing are not tantamount to rule-setting on the world stage. After the Russian “comeback” in the Middle East, where it had to deal with numerous non-state and quasi-state actors, Moscow was forced to resort to parallel diplomacy given the inability of official departments to solve the foreign policy tasks assigned to them in an effective manner.

Hence, we have seen the involvement of the Chechen think tank (Kadyrov’s Muslim team) in the negotiations, the deployment of Prigozhin’s mercenaries to fulfill military tasks, and the engagement of military intelligence to get rid of undesirables. Naturally, special forces should coordinate such activities rather than the Foreign Ministry.

Formally, the Russian Foreign Affairs and Defense Ministries work very close and in tandem. Nevertheless, it has been clear since 2017 that security officials, and military and intelligence agencies, sidelined diplomats in the Syrian and later in the Libyan cases. Still, the key players were only too glad to let Moscow call the shots in Syria as Russia would have to shoulder the burden of the crisis settlement and the responsibility for the survival of Assad’s ossified regime.

Putin delivers annual address to Federal Assembly

 Source

Putin delivers annual address to Federal Assembly

April 21, 2021

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

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

This is the current live stream.

The full and complete transcript is now posted.

Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly

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

April 21, 202113:20

Moscow

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

* *

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

Citizens of Russia,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colleagues,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colleagues,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colleagues,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colleagues,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colleagues,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colleagues,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colleagues,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colleagues,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you very much for your attention.

The National Anthem of the Russian Federation is played.

SAUDI ARABIA SUFFERS FROM HOUTHI ATTACKS. IS THERE A NEW JOB FOR TURKEY’S MERCENARIES?

South Front

12.04.2021 

Yemen’s Ansar Allah give the impression that it has an endless supply of drones.

The Houthis (as Ansar Allah is also known) appear to be adept at using them, if their own claims are to be entirely trusted.

On April 11th, two Qasef-2K drones were used to separately target the Jizan Airport and the King Khalid Airbase.

The Jizan Airport is a new target that has recently come up in reports of Houthi attacks.

The location includes hangars containing Saudi warplanes.

The King Khalid Airbase in ‘Asir suffers from the Houthi drone attacks more frequently, and has been subject of attacks at least 4 times in separate incidents since April 1st.

On April 9th, the Jizan Airport was targeted for the first time, and so was the Abha International Airport.

The Houthis are using their drones to disturb the aerial operations of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

Riyadh generally either denies these reports of attacks or says they were ineffective, while Ansar Allah claims they successfully fulfilled their mission.

Clashes on the ground continue in Yemen, with the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthis fighting in the Madghal district, and in the southern Kadhah district.

Saudi Arabia attempts to dig out every reason why its war in Yemen is failing, and on April 10th announced the execution of three of its soldiers for “high treason”.

They were allegedly collabarating with an enemy against Riyadh’s military interests.

They could have been in contact with the Houthis or with Iran.

This is practically the same, as Tehran supports Ansar Allah.

This means that Riyadh can’t fully trust its own armed forces, and it could require some help, in the form of mercenaries.

The militants in Syria that Turkey deploys and uses in small-scale conflicts such as Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh could be potential candidates for this.

Turkey, under Egyptian pressure, is expected to withdraw the mercenaries from Libya.

According to reports, it will do so within the next 5 months.

Separately, a video showing Turkish-backed Syrian mercenaries complaining for not getting paid after fighting for Azerbaijan went viral.

Immediately after it gained popularity, these same militants released a video saying that the news was fabricated, and that they never fought in Nagorno-Karabakh to begin with.

According to unnamed Yemeni intelligence sources, terrorists from Syria were expected to join the Saudi-led coalition in early April.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was reportedly waiting for new militants to arrive in Yemen’s southern province of Abyan to latter send them to Marib.

Today, many Turkish-backed mercenaries are sitting idly, unemployed.

This could mean either bad news for Syria, which will have to deal with them, or Ankara might decide to send them to Riyadh, if it “asks” for assistance.

Related Videos

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More official proof of US supporting al-Qaeda terrorism in Syria

Where are the war crimes tribunals when you really need them?

By Jim W. Dean, Managing Editor

…by PressTV, Tehran

[ Editor’s Note: This is a rare open admisssion by a US senior diplomat, that using proxy terrorists to pursue ‘US interests’ was fair game, even if the group slaughtered innocent civilians in the process. Politicians often refer to this generically as ‘exporting American values’.

Ambassador James Jeffrey uses the typical weasel word language to couch his support for aiding and abetting terrorists, that it was “the least bad option” for implementing US strategy in Syria. The US has used drone assassinations against others doing just this.

This will be my shortest article lead in ever, due to there really being not anything else to say other than where are the war crimes tribunals when you really need them? But I do thank Mr. Jeffrey for the quote… Jim W. Dean ]

First published … April 03, 2021

Top US diplomat James Jeffrey has admitted that a Syrian rebranded al-Qaeda affiliate was a US “asset” for pursuing Washington’s hegemonic policy in the Middle East.

Jeffrey, who served as a US ambassador under both Republican and Democrat administrations and most recently as former US President Donald Trump’s special representative for Syria and later as the special envoy to the global anti-Daesh coalition, said the Syrian al-Qaeda-affiliated militant group known today as the Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) terrorist group was “an asset” to the US to undermine the democratically-elected government of Bashar Assad.

The top US diplomat said the HTS militant group, which had emerged from Jabhat al-Nusra and later Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, was the “least bad option” for the United States for implementing its strategy in Idlib, Syria.

In an interview with FRONTLINE correspondent Martin Smith, Jeffrey said that Idlib was one of the crucial locations in the Middle East conflict.

“They are the least bad option of the various options on Idlib, and Idlib is one of the most important places in Syria, which is one of the most important places right now in the Middle East,” he said in the March 8 interview.

The US State Department had said that the group’s leader, Abu Mohammad al-Jolani, aimed to topple Assad’s government, making him an ally for the US.

Jolani’s “ultimate goal is the overthrow of the Syrian regime,” it said, noting that attacks carried out by his group “killed innocent Syrian civilians.”

US supported Al -Qaeda in Syria, Libya and Yemen.

*

James Jeffrey

James Franklin Jeffrey (born February 8, 1946) aka Jim Jeffrey is an American diplomat who served most recently as the United States Special Representative for Syria Engagement and the Special Envoy to the International military intervention against ISIL.[1][2]

He has held senior assignments in Washington, D.C., and abroad, including as United States Ambassador to Iraq (2010–2012); United States Ambassador to Turkey (2008–2010); Deputy National Security Advisor (2007–2008); and United States Ambassador to Albania (2002–2004). In 2010 Jeffrey was appointed to the highest rank in the U.S. Foreign Service, Career Ambassador. From 1969 to 1976, Jeffrey was a U.S. Army infantry officer, with service in Germany and Vietnam.

Jeffrey is a visiting fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a member of the CIA External Advisory Board, a member of the American Council on Germany, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He serves on the advisory board for America Abroad Media.[3] He is a frequent commentator on broader foreign policy, national security, and economic trends.

BIOGRAPHYJim W. Dean, Managing Editor

Managing Editor

Jim W. Dean is Managing Editor of Veterans Today involved in operations, development, and writing, plus an active schedule of TV and radio interviews. 

Read Full Complete Bio >>>

Jim W. Dean Archives 2009-2014https://www.veteranstoday.com/jim-w-dean-biography/jimwdean@aol.com

The Yankees Are Coming Home: The Taliban Won. Get Over It

American soldiers can still win wars, but it has to be a real war where there is something genuine at stake, like protecting one’s home and family.

By Philip Giraldi

Global Research, April 09, 2021

Strategic Culture Foundation 8 April 2021

All Global Research articles can be read in 51 languages by activating the “Translate Website” drop down menu on the top banner of our home page (Desktop version).

***

It hardly made the evening news, but the New York Times reported last week that after twenty years of fighting the Taliban are confident that they will fully control Afghanistan before too long whether or not the United States decides to leave some kind of residual force in the country after May 1st. The narrative is suggestive of The Mouse that Roared, lacking only Peter Sellers to put the finishing touches on what has to be considered a great humiliation for the U.S., which has a “defense” budget that is larger than the combined military spending of the next seven countries in order of magnitude. Those numbers include both Russia and China. The Taliban, on the other hand, have no military budget to speak of. That enormous disparity, un-reflected in who has won and lost, has to nurture concerns that it is the world’s only superpower, admittedly self-proclaimed, which is incapable of actually winning a war against anyone.

In fact, some recent wargaming has suggested that the United States would lose in a non-nuclear conflict with China alone based on the obsolescence of expensive and vulnerable weapons systems that the Pentagon relies upon, such as carrier groups. Nations like China, Iran and Russia that have invested in sophisticated and much cheaper missile systems to offset U.S. advantages have reportedly spent their money wisely. If the Biden foreign policy and military experts, largely embroiled in diversifying the country, choose to take on China, there may be no one left around to pick up the pieces.

Those who are warning of the apparent ineffectiveness of the U.S. armed forces in spite of their global presence in more than one thousand bases point most commonly to the historical record to make their case. Korea, fought under United Nations auspices, was a stalemate, with the peninsula divided to this day and a substantial American military force continuing to be a presence along the DMZ to enforce the armistice that not quite ended the war. Vietnam was a defeat, resulting in more than 58,000 Americans dead as well as an estimated 3 million Vietnamese, most of whom were civilians. The real lesson learned from Vietnam was that fighting on someone else’s turf where you have no real interests or stake in the outcome is a fool’s game, but the Pentagon instead worked to fix the mechanics in weapons and training at great cost without addressing why people fight wars in the first place. The other lesson was that the United States’ military was perfectly willing to lie to the country’s civilian leadership to expand the war and keep it going, a performance that was repeated in 2001 with the “Iraq is supporting terrorists and will have nuclear weapons” lies and also with the current crop of false analogies used to keep thousands of Americans in Afghanistan and the Middle East.

As a veteran of the Vietnam War army, I can recall sitting around with fellow enlisted men reading “Stars & Stripes,” the exclusive in-house-for-the-military newspaper that was covering the war. The paper quoted a senior officer who opined that the Soviets (as they were at that time) were really envious of the combat experience that the United States Army was obtaining in Vietnam. We all laughed. That same officer probably had a staff position away from the fighting but we draftees knew well that the war was a very bloody mistake while he may have tested his valor post-retirement working for Lockheed-Martin. The “Soviets” in any event demonstrated just how much they envied the experience of combat when they fought in Afghanistan in the 1980s, eventually withdrawing with their tails between their legs just as the U.S. had done in Vietnam after they lost 15,000 men. The “Grave of Empires,” indeed.History: Reversing the Vietnam Verdict

Since Vietnam there have been a number of small wars in places like Panama and Grenada, but the global war on terror has been a total disaster for American arms. Afghanistan, as it was for the Russians, is the ulcer that keeps on bleeding until it ends as a major defeat for the United States with the Taliban fully in control, as they are now predicting. Likewise, the destruction of a secular Iraq, regime change in Libya, and a continuing war against a non-threatening Syria have all failed to make Americans either safer or more prosperous. Iran is next, apparently, if the Joe Biden Administration has its way, and relations with major adversaries Russia and China have sunk even lower than they were during Donald Trump’s time as president. The White House has recently sent a shipload of offensive weapons to Kiev and the Ukrainian government has repeated its intention to retake Crimea from Russia, a formula for a new military disaster that could easily escalate into a major war. What is particularly regrettable is the fact that the United States has no compelling national interest in encouraging open warfare between Moscow and Kiev, a conflict that it will be unable to avoid as its is supplying Ukraine with weaponry.

There was almost no discussion of America’s wars during the recent election. One should take note, however, of a recent article by former Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence Korb that appeared on National Review which seeks to provide an explanation for “The Real Reason the U.S. Can’t Win Wars Anymore” in spite of the fact that it is “the most powerful country in the history of the world.” To be sure, Kolb largely blames the policymakers for the defeat in Vietnam, aided and abetted by a culture of silence in the military where many officers knew that the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which escalated the conflict, was a fraud but chose to say or do nothing. He also observes that the war itself was unwinnable for various reasons, including the observation by many working and middle class Americans that they were little more than cannon fodder while the country’s elites either dodged the draft or exploited their status to obtain national guard or reserve commissions that were known to be mechanism to avoid Vietnam. Kolb notes that “…the four most recent presidents who could have served in Vietnam avoided that war and the draft by dubious means. Bill Clinton pretended to join the Army ROTC; George W. Bush used political connections to get into the Air National Guard, when President Johnson made it clear that the reserve component would not be activated to fight the war; Donald Trump, of course, had his family physician claim he had bone spurs, (Trump himself cannot remember which foot); and Joe Biden claimed that the asthma he had in high school prevented him from serving even though he brags about his athletic exploits while in high school.”

Kolb also reveals how America’s presumed prowess on the battlefield has distorted its “democracy building” endeavors to such an extent that genuine national interests have been ignored. When the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, success in overthrowing the Taliban was derived from critical assistance from Iran, which correctly regarded the extremist Sunni group as an enemy. But the Bush White House, far from showing gratitude, soon thereafter added Iran to its “axis of evil” list. A golden opportunity was wasted to repair a relationship which has poisoned America’s presence in the Middle East ever since.

One might add something else to Kolb’s assessment of failure at war. Most American soldiers have been and are proud of their service and consider it an honor to defend their country but the key word is “defend.” There was no defending going on in Vietnam nor in Afghanistan, which did not attack the U.S. and was willing to turn over Osama Bin Laden if the White House could provide evidence that he was involved in 9/11. Nor was there anything defensive about Obama’s destruction of Libya and the decades long “secret” wars to overthrow the Syrian and Iranian governments. Soldiers are trained to fight and obey orders but that does not mean that they can no longer observe and think. Twenty years of “Reconstruction” duty in Afghanistan is not defending the United States and the morale of American soldiers in the combined Democratic and Republican Parties’ plan to reconstruct the world is not a sufficient motivator if one is being asked to put one’s life on the line. Sure, American soldiers can still win wars, but it has to be a real war where there is something genuine at stake, like protecting one’s home and family. That is what the people who run Washington, very few of whom are veterans and most of whom first ask “But what’s in it for me?” fail to understand.

*

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Philip M. Giraldi, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a 501(c)3 tax deductible educational foundation (Federal ID Number #52-1739023) that seeks a more interests-based U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Website is https://councilforthenationalinterest.orgaddress is P.O. Box 2157, Purcellville VA 20134 and its email is inform@cnionline.org

He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Could Turkish involvement in Yemen free Saudi Arabia?

2018 Istanbul protest against Saudi actions in Yemen
Could Turkey help out Saudi Arabia in Yemen? Just 28 months ago, as seen here on Nov. 11, 2018, Turks were chanting slogans and holding posters in protest of Saudi Arabia’s actions in Yemen outside the Saudi Consulate. The October 2018 murder of journalist and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi inside the consulate had helped push attention to the war in Yemen.


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Fehim Tastekin

April 2, 2021

In part as a result of the Biden administration’s shifting policies toward Iran and Washington’s decision to temporarily freeze and review weapons sales to Saudi Arabia over the Yemeni war, Ankara is aiming to turn Saudi Arabia’s growing international isolation to Turkey’s advantage.

Some Syrian opposition sources claim Turkey might transfer Syrian fighters to Yemen to fight alongside the Saudi-led coalition against the Houthi rebels. The immediate interpretation of these claims might be that Turkey is extending an olive branch to Saudi Arabia following a yearslong frostiness in relations.

The second interpretation might be that Ankara is signaling to Tehran Turkey’s disgruntlement over Iranian military activities in Iraq and Syria. Iran believes Russia made too many concessions to Turkey on Syria and has overtly expressed its opposition against Turkish military operations in Iraq, prompting diplomatic bickering between Ankara and Tehran.

Possible Turkish involvement in the Yemeni war might provide Saudi Arabia the face-saving exit from the conflict that Riyadh has been looking for. Reportedly, Turkey’s support might also include Turkish armed drones that have been game changers in the Libyan and Azeri-Armenian conflicts.

The Yemeni Al-Islah Party — the Yemeni branch of the Muslim Brotherhood — has been asking Turkey to step into the fray. However, the United Arab Emirates has long opposed the Al-Islah Party’s cooperation in the conflict, while Saudi Arabia has only reluctantly accepted cooperation to date. 

Saudi officials have reportedly been advised to improve ties with Turkey after a chilliness with the Biden administration developed as a result of the administration’s positive messages on the Iranian nuclear deal, the release of a CIA report exposing Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s role in the Jamal Khashoggi murder and the decision to lift the Houthis from the US list of foreign terrorist groups. The pro-government Turkish media has also trumpeted a narrative that Riyadh “desperately needs” Turkey.

While the idea of sending Syrian fighters to Yemen may be mere speculation, there have been a number of claims about the matter. Citing a source from the Syrian armed group Sultan Suleiman Shah, the North Press Agency reported that the Syrian National Army, a rebel group backed by Turkey, “has been working for weeks to prepare dozens of militants to send to Yemen.” According to the report, fighters have been offered salaries up to $2,500 a month and were told they were going to be positioned on the Yemeni-Saudi border and not participate in the clashes. It’s worth mentioning that Syrian fighters who were sent to Azerbaijan had also been told that they did not have to participate in the fighting, only to find themselves on the front lines.

Similarly, the Violations Documentation Center in Northern Syria said Turkey’s intelligence agency assigned an opposition commander to recruit fighters to be sent to Yemen. According to the report, the fighters were offered $2,500 monthly; $100 of this amount would be deducted for document expenses, fighters would receive $400 in cash initially and the remaining $2,000 would be paid to their families after the move to Yemen.

Journalist Lindsey Snell shared a voice recording that reportedly belongs to a Sultan Murad Brigades commander in which he seeks identification documents from his fighters who “wish to go to Yemen.” Snell said in a tweet accompanying the recording, “This happened in the couple weeks before Azerbaijan, too.” This was in reference to the transfer of Syrian fighters to the Azeri-Armenian conflict. Social media is abuzz with similar claims. 

Meanwhile, a Turkish armed drone was downed by Houthi rebels in al-Jawf region, further fanning claims about possible Turkish involvement in the conflict. Houthi military spokesman Col. Yahya Saree said the downed drone was a Turkish-built Vestel Karayel aircraft. 

Yet Saudi Arabia acquired these drones as part of a contract worth $200 million that Vestel Defense signed with Riyadh last year. According to the Saudi General Authority for Defense Industries, Riyadh is aiming to build up to 40 armed drones in five years, with six of them planned to be built in 2021.  

Despite rife speculation, there is no official confirmation that Baykar Makina, the manufacturer of the Bayraktar drones used in Libya and the northern Caucasus, will play a role in the Yemen conflict. 

According to Deutsche Welle Arabic, the Al-Islah party, might have played a mediator role in the recent Saudi Arabia-Turkey rapprochement. Citing former Yemeni Transportation Minister Saleh al Yemeni’s remarks to local Yemeni media, Deutsche Welle Arabic reported that an alliance between Turkey and Saudi Arabia in Yemen was “imminent” after disagreements surfaced between UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Riyadh. The UAE media, meanwhile, paints these news reports as Muslim Brotherhood propaganda. 

According to the London-based Al Arab newspaper, Turkey, Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood network are relying on increasing concerns of the Saudi side following the US policy shift on the Yemeni war and Houthi rebels’ advances toward the oil- and gas-rich Marib region. The newspaper said the first call for Saudi-Turkish cooperation in Yemen came from one of the Al-Islah Party leaders who lives in Istanbul. Hamid al-Ahmar told Al Jazeera that Saudi Arabia turned to Turkey for advanced weapons after the US weapons freeze.

The UAE, like Egypt, is insisting that Turkey should cut its support to the Muslim Brotherhood to mend relations with Abu Dhabi. However, the Emiratis’ diminishing support for Khalifa Hifter in Libya and its decision to pull back from a military base in Eritrea that was key to Yemeni operations could be a manifestation of a downgrade in the UAE’s regional ambitions.

Muslim Brotherhood groups’ desire to draw Turkey into the Yemeni conflict, meanwhile, seems quite clear. Al Jazeera commentator Faisal al Kasim trumpeted that the balance of power on the ground in Yemen would change as soon as “Turkey has started to step into the Yemeni file.” Turkish-based Egyptian journalist Jamal Sultan claimed that Turkish-built Bayrak drones were spotted in Yemeni skies.

Pro-government Turkish media outlets sing a similar tune. The Yeni Safak daily, a governmental mouthpiece, claimed that Saudi Arabia was left alone in the Yemeni conflict. “Saudi Arabia has lost its fear of Turkey,” the paper wrote, “Turkey is the only country that could save Saudi Arabia from the mess it is in.”

Burhanettin Duran — a member of a foreign policy board advising the president and head of the pro-government think-tank SETA — argued that Gulf policies to restrain Iran and Turkey have failed. The Saudis “now need Turkey to fight off Iran’s expansionist policies in the region including in Yemen,” according to Duran. 

The Iranian media also appears to take claims of Turkish involvement in the Yemen conflict seriously. Iran’s official news agency IRNA reported that Saudi authorities have decided to put aside differences with their Turkish counterparts to cooperate with Ankara on the Yemen file.

Although mutual Turkish Saudi interests could spell a new beginning in Ankara-Riyadh ties, the lack of any official acknowledgment is an indication of reluctance and caution on both sides. Defusing a confrontation of some seven years between Turkey and Arab countries requires comprehensive consideration as the “Arab skepticism” that was fanned by Turkey’s expansionist ambitions in the region still is in play and appears to shape Arab countries’ approach to Turkey.


“المونيتور”: هل تتدخل تركيا في اليمن لإنقاذ السعودية؟

الكاتب: فهيم تستكين

المصدر: المونيتور 6 نيسان 14:54

يجادل الإخوان المسلمون ومصادر مقربة من الحكومة التركية بأن السعودية يمكن أن تجد مخرجاً لحفظ ماء وجهها في الصراع اليمني من خلال التعاون مع تركيا.

أتراك يحتجون أمام القنصلية السعودية في اسطنبول عام 2018.
أتراك يحتجون أمام القنصلية السعودية في اسطنبول عام 2018
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كتب الصحافي التركي فهيم تستكين مقالة في موقع “المونيتور” الأميركي قال فيها إن تركيا تسعى إلى تحويل العزلة الدولية المتزايدة للسعودية لصالحها، وذلك في أعقاب سياسات إدارة الرئيس الأميركي جو بايدن المتغيرة تجاه إيران وقرار واشنطن بتجميد ومراجعة مبيعات الأسلحة إلى السعودية مؤقتاً بسبب الحرب اليمنية.

وأضاف الكاتب أن بعض مصادر المعارضة السورية تزعم أن تركيا قد تنقل مقاتلين سوريين إلى اليمن للقتال إلى جانب التحالف الذي تقوده السعودية ضد الحوثيين. وقد يكون التفسير الفوري لهذه الادعاءات هو أن تركيا تمدّ غصن زيتون إلى السعودية بعد سنوات من الجمود في العلاقات.

أما التفسير الثاني فقد يكون أن أنقرة تشير إلى استياء تركيا من الأنشطة العسكرية الإيرانية في العراق وسوريا. وتعتقد إيران أن روسيا قدمت الكثير من التنازلات لتركيا بشأن سوريا وأعربت صراحةً عن معارضتها للعمليات العسكرية التركية في العراق، مما أثار مشاحنات دبلوماسية بين أنقرة وطهران.

ورأى الكاتب أن التورط التركي المحتمل في الحرب اليمنية للسعودية قد يوفر مخرجاً من الصراع كانت الرياض تبحث عنه ويحفظ لها ماء وجهها. وبحسب ما ورد، فقد يشمل دعم تركيا كذلك طائرات مسلحة تركية بدون طيار كانت بمثابة تغيير لقواعد اللعبة في النزاعين الليبي والأذري-الأرميني.

ويطالب حزب الإصلاح اليمني – الفرع اليمني للإخوان المسلمين – تركيا بالدخول في المعركة. ومع ذلك، لطالما عارضت الإمارات العربية المتحدة التعاون مع حزب الإصلاح في الحرب ضد “أنصار الله”، بينما قبلت السعودية على مضض التعاون معه حتى الآن.

وأضاف الكاتب أنه ورد أن المسؤولين السعوديين نُصحوا بتحسين العلاقات مع تركيا بعد أن تطورت حالة من النفور من إدارة بايدن نتيجة للرسائل الإيجابية للإدارة بشأن الاتفاق النووي الإيراني، وصدور تقرير لوكالة الاستخبارات المركزية الأميركية يفضح دور ولي العهد السعودي الأمير محمد بن سلمان في جريمة قتل جمال خاشقجي وقرار رفع “انصار الله” الحوثيين من القائمة الأميركية للجماعات الإرهابية الأجنبية. كما روجت وسائل الإعلام التركية الموالية للحكومة لرواية مفادها أن الرياض “بحاجة ماسة” إلى تركيا.

وقال الكاتب إنه في حين أن فكرة إرسال مقاتلين سوريين إلى اليمن قد تكون مجرد تكهنات، إلا أن هناك عدداً من المزاعم حول الأمر. فقد نقلت وكالة “نورث برس” عن مصدر من الجماعة المسلحة السورية التي تدعى “سلطان سليمان شاه”، أن “الجيش الوطني السوري”، وهو جماعة معارضة تدعمها تركيا، “يعمل منذ أسابيع لإعداد عشرات المسلحين لإرسالهم إلى اليمن”. وبحسب التقرير، عُرض على المقاتلين رواتب تصل إلى 2500 دولار شهرياً وقيل لهم إنهم سيتمركزون على الحدود اليمنية السعودية ولن يشاركوا في الاشتباكات. ومن الجدير بالذكر أن المقاتلين السوريين الذين تم إرسالهم إلى أذربيجان تم إخبارهم أيضاً أنه ليس عليهم المشاركة في القتال، فقط ليجدوا أنفسهم في الخطوط الأمامية.

بدوره، قال مركز توثيق الانتهاكات في شمال سوريا إن وكالة الاستخبارات التركية كلفت أحد قادة المعارضة بتجنيد مقاتلين لإرسالهم إلى اليمن. وبحسب التقرير، عرض على المقاتلين 2500 دولار شهرياً حيث سيتم خصم 100 دولار من هذا المبلغ لتغطية نفقات المستندات، وسيحصل المقاتلون على 400 دولار نقداً في البداية، وسيتم دفع مبلغ 2000 دولار المتبقي لعائلاتهم بعد الانتقال إلى اليمن.

وشاركت الصحافية ليندسي سنيل تسجيلاً صوتياً يُقال إنه يعود إلى قائد في “كتائب السلطان مراد” السورية الموالية لتركيا يسعى فيه للحصول على وثائق هوية من مقاتليه الذين “يرغبون في الذهاب إلى اليمن”. وقالت سنيل في تغريدة مصاحبة للتسجيل، “حدث هذا في الأسبوعين السابقين لأذربيجان كذلك”. كان هذا في إشارة إلى نقل مقاتلين سوريين إلى الصراع الأذري الأرمني. كما أن وسائل التواصل الاجتماعي تعج بمزاعم مماثلة.

في هذه الأثناء، أسقط اليمنيون طائرة مسيّرة مسلحة تركية في منطقة الجوف، مما زاد من تصاعد المزاعم حول احتمال تورط تركيا في الصراع. وقال المتحدث باسم الجيش اليمني العقيد يحيى سريع إن الطائرة المسيّرة كانت من طراز “فيستل كرايل” تركية الصنع.

واستحوذت السعودية على هذه الطائرات بدون طيار كجزء من عقد بقيمة 200 مليون دولار وقعته شركة “فيستل” مع الرياض العام الماضي. ووفقاً للهيئة العامة للصناعات الدفاعية السعودية، تهدف الرياض إلى تصنيع ما يصل إلى 40 طائرة مسيّرة مسلحة في غضون خمس سنوات، ومن المقرر تصنيع ست طائرات منها في عام 2021.

وعلى الرغم من التكهنات المنتشرة، لا يوجد تأكيد رسمي بأن شركة “بايكار مكينا”، الشركة المصنعة للطائرات بدون طيار المستخدمة في ليبيا وشمال القوقاز، ستلعب دوراً في الصراع اليمني.

وبحسب قناة “دويتشه فيله” الألمانية، ربما لعب حزب الإصلاح اليمني دوراً وسيطاً في التقارب السعودي التركي الأخير. ونقلاً عن تصريحات وزير النقل اليمني السابق صالح اليمني لوسائل إعلام يمنية محلية، ذكرت “دويتشه فيله” بالعربية أن تحالفاً بين تركيا والسعودية في اليمن كان “وشيكاً” بعد ظهور خلافات بين ولي العهد الإماراتي محمد بن زايد آل نهيان والرياض. في غضون ذلك، يصور الإعلام الإماراتي هذه التقارير الإخبارية على أنها دعاية للإخوان المسلمين.

وبحسب صحيفة العرب، التي تتخذ من لندن مقراً لها، تعوّل تركيا وقطر وشبكة الإخوان المسلمين على مخاوف متزايدة للسعوديين في أعقاب التحول في السياسة الأميركية بشأن الحرب اليمنية وتقدم المتمردين الحوثيين نحو منطقة مأرب الغنية بالنفط والغاز. وقالت الصحيفة إن الدعوة الأولى للتعاون السعودي التركي في اليمن جاءت من حميد الأحمر، أحد قيادات حزب الإصلاح الذي يعيش في اسطنبول إذ قال إن السعودية لجأت إلى تركيا للحصول على أسلحة متطورة بعد تجميد الأسلحة الأميركية.

ورأى الكاتب أن رغبة جماعات الإخوان المسلمين في جر تركيا إلى الصراع اليمني تبدو واضحة تماماً. وادعى الصحافي المصري جمال سلطان المقيم في تركيا بأنه تم رصد طائرات بدون طيار تركية الصنع في سماء اليمن.

وسائل الإعلام التركية الموالية للحكومة تردد نغمة مماثلة. فقد زعمت صحيفة “يني شفق”، الناطقة باسم الحكومة، أن السعودية تُركت وحيدة في الصراع اليمني. وكتبت الصحيفة: “تخلت المملكة العربية السعودية عن خوفها من تركيا، فتركيا هي الدولة الوحيدة التي يمكن أن تنقذ السعودية من الفوضى التي تعيش فيها”.

وجادل برهان الدين دوران – عضو مجلس إدارة السياسة الخارجية الذي يقدم المشورة للرئيس ورئيس مركز الفكر “سيتا” الموالي للحكومة – بأن سياسات الخليج لكبح جماح إيران وتركيا قد فشلت. وقال دوران إن السعوديين “يحتاجون الآن إلى تركيا لمحاربة سياسات إيران التوسعية في المنطقة بما في ذلك اليمن”.

ويبدو أن وسائل الإعلام الإيرانية تأخذ بدورها مزاعم تورط تركيا في الصراع اليمني على محمل الجد. فقد ذكرت وكالة الأنباء الإيرانية الرسمية (إرنا) أن السلطات السعودية قررت وضع الخلافات مع الأتراك جانباً للتعاون مع أنقرة في ملف اليمن.

وخلص الكاتب إلى أنه على الرغم من أن المصالح السعودية التركية المتبادلة يمكن أن تشكل بداية جديدة في العلاقات بين أنقرة والرياض، فإن عدم وجود أي اعتراف رسمي بذلك هو مؤشر على التردد والحذر من كلا الجانبين. إذ يتطلب نزع فتيل مواجهة دامت نحو سبع سنوات بين تركيا والدول العربية دراسة شاملة لأن “الشكوك العربية” التي أذكتها طموحات تركيا التوسعية في المنطقة لا تزال قائمة ويبدو أنها تشكل مقاربة الدول العربية تجاه تركيا.

نقله إلى العربية بتصرف: هيثم مزاحم

Telephone conversation with Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel

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Telephone conversation with Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel

April 08, 2021

http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/65325

Vladimir Putin had a telephone conversation with Federal Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany Angela Merkel.

April 8, 202114:30

The two leaders had a detailed discussion on a number of topical international matters.

While exchanging opinions on ways of resolving the intra-Ukrainian crisis, the Russian President and the German Chancellor voiced concern in connection with the escalation of tensions in southeastern Ukraine. Vladimir Putin drew attention to the provocative actions of Kiev which is now deliberately aggravating the situation along the line of contact. The parties noted the need for the Kiev authorities to implement earlier agreements without fail, in particular those aimed at the launch of direct dialogue with Donetsk and Lugansk and at legally formalising the special status of Donbass.

They urged the parties to the conflict to display restraint and to invigorate the negotiating process in order to fully implement the 2015 Minsk Package of Measures as the only legal foundation for a peace settlement. They reaffirmed their commitment to further close coordination of Russian and German efforts, including within the Normandy Format, between political advisers and foreign ministers.

Mr Putin and Ms Merkel continued to exchange opinions on the subject of Syria and noted the high priority of tasks to improve the humanitarian situation in Syria. The Russian party underscored the unacceptability of politicising issues as regards the provision of foreign assistance to the people of Syria, the restoration of the socioeconomic infrastructure and the return of refugees.

While discussing the situation in Libya, both leaders praised the establishment of interim national institutions of state authority in the country. They voiced readiness to help normalise the domestic situation and to facilitate Libya’s peaceful development. They agreed to continue coordinating their efforts in this direction.

The two leaders touched upon the situation in the Balkans and noted the importance of further well-coordinated steps to ensure stability and inter-ethnic accord, including with due consideration for the decisions of the Steering Committee of the Council to fulfil the 1995 General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, or the Dayton Agreement.

In connection with the interest displayed by the Federal Chancellor, the situation regarding Alexei Navalny was touched upon.

At Vladimir Putin’s initiative, certain matters regarding the activities of foreign media outlets and NGOs in both countries were reviewed.

It was agreed to maintain close working contacts through various channels.

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