80 Million Kremlin Agents In United States

South Front

January 18, 2021

It took less than two weeks for the FBI, and other American intelligence agencies, to come to the usual (and expected) conclusion that Russia was somehow involved in the storming of the Capitol building in Washington on January 6th.

Compared to previous developments, it took relatively long for the MSM and various “anonymous” and named officials to point the finger at Russia. Usually, the timeline is much shorter.

The initial discovery that supposedly points to Russia is that an individual in France carried out the biggest ever bitcoin payment in history, transferring $500,000 of the virtual currency to several “protest leaders” in the United States.

One of those that received payments is Nick Fuentes, and there is no evidence at all that he was present inside Capitol building, and he vehemently denies that he was. He was present in the demonstration in front, before the chaos. Other entities and individuals that received payments are the anti-immigration organization VDARE, alt-right streamer Ethan Ralph, and other several addresses who are unknown, but will likely be tied to “known far-right individuals or organizations”.

One should also be wise to remember how color revolutions take place in other countries, and that in many of them the touch of Washington is often found. Still, the FBI concluded that Russia (and China and Iran) allegedly used the chance to further their agendas, by pushing for political interests amidst the Presidential transition chaos in the United States.

As such, the Russian threat is as real as it usually gets in the United States, and that means not very. The situation is such, that the Russian threat is used as a justification that was produced following weeks of preparation for the war-like scenario that Washington will resemble on January 20th.

The justification, this time, was provided post-factum. They are accompanied by detentions that do strongly resemble a witch hunt, but that’s something only the Republicans can do. It is understandable, as if the Russia narrative holds any water, that means “Evil Overlord Vladimir Putin” has about 80 million Kremlin agents in the United States, since they voted for the outgoing US President Donald Trump. There is much to worry about.

On the side of the Democrats, they wish to avoid any sort of escalation when they’re stepping into power, and as such have deployed approximately 25,000 National Guard troops to Washington. In comparison, Trump’s inauguration saw 8,000 Guardsmen deployed, even though his victory was “guaranteed by the Russians.”

The Republicans, however, much more to worry about, since the witch hunt is just gaining traction, but it is accompanied by an end of the adhering to democratic principles.

The neo-liberal agenda appears to be in full bloom and the democratic victory in a legitimate presidential election strongly resembles a demonstration of the triumph of the elite. And it is an elite class that seems to have distanced itself quite far from society. The good news for the neo-liberal supporters is that the RussiaGate 2.0 scandal is just beginning, and it would provide ample opportunity for censorship.

No doubts, soon, Moscow will once again take its “rightful position” as enemy Number 1 of the Western World, and the necessary sanctions and destabilization attempts are all but guaranteed. On the internal playing field of the United States, any conservative voice, or even what the neo-liberals consider “far left” will now be silenced, and dubbed a Putin agent, as the new administration must reign supreme.

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

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

January 18, 2021

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

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

Ladies and gentlemen, colleagues,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued…

The Empire is losing the energy war

January 12, 2021

The Empire is losing the energy war

by The Ister for The Saker Blog

We can see the ongoing war against Russia’s energy industry as an act of revenge from the Empire – but a war which it is losing.

After Putin prevented the looting of the country’s energy reserves in the early 2000s, this economic war was launched, designed to cripple the nascent Russian Federation’s oil and gas industry and by extension the Russian economy as a whole.

This plan began with the planning of the Trans-Caspian, Nabucco, and Baku Tbisili Ceyhan (BTC) pipelines. The BTC pipeline was erected in 2005, pumping oil from Azerbaijan’s Caspian Sea fields through Georgia to Turkey. Next, the planned Nabucco pipeline would have brought Azeri gas from the BTC to the Baumgarten gas hub in Austria, where it would circumvent Europe’s need for Russian energy. As a final blow by NATO, the Trans-Caspian pipeline was intended to cross the Caspian Sea, bringing Turkmen gas and oil to Azerbaijan and eventually to Europe through the BTC and Nabucco routes, isolating Russia.

The Russo-Georgian war can also be understood through this lens. Two days before the outbreak of the conflict, the BTC pipeline suffered from a mysterious explosion. Putin’s victory in the war and subsequent occupation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia held the Nabucco and Trans-Caspian projects at risk, as Western energy corporations would no longer invest in such an expensive undertaking only miles from a conflict zone. The plans were scuttled. Russia’s oil giant Gazprom now signs deals to purchase Turkmen gas directly in order to disincentivize Turkmenistan from taking part in such a future project.

And while we see the reintegration of Crimea as the return of historically Russian territory, it was also a major victory in the energy war. In the Crimean conflict, Putin’s nightmare was that the overthrow of Yanukovych would be followed by the eventually weakening or removal of Russian military positions on the energy-rich Black Sea. A strengthened position in Crimea was leveraged in the creation of the TurkStream pipeline, which then allowed Russia to bypass Ukraine by shipping gas under the Black Sea to Europe.

Russia’s standing in the pipeline battle has been further cemented by recent events regarding the NordStream 2 pipeline, which will bring Russian gas through the Baltic Sea to Germany. Naturally, America is not a fan of this project and has sought to delay the construction by any means possible.

But even Germany, no friend of Putin or Russia, has pushed ahead with the project. Gazprom will now complete the pipeline alongside partners from British, Dutch, Austrian, and German energy companies. And while America may disapprove from afar, all America exports is its fiat dollar which can offer no substitute for the Russian gas and oil required to power Germany’s industrial clusters.

In December of 2020, Gazprom resumed construction on the pipeline despite America’s protestations. In fact, the German-Prussian state of Mecklenburg Vorpommern has recently voted to create a sanction-proof legal structure that would preempt future attempts by America to interrupt the project.

What a turn of fate: to see America’s omnipotence fade as the Empire’s geopolitical meddling is simply circumvented by peaceful trade

So while Russia’s victory in the pipeline battle has been unequivocal, the war has been fought in other domains. For the last 6 years the Empire has won the pricing battle, with its two primary weapons being the oil of Saudi Arabia and the natural gas produced by the shale revolution.

The oil price battle began when John Kerry and the Saudi King met in September of 2014. An arrangement was worked out where the Saudis would suppress crude prices to weaken the Russian economy in exchange for America’s military support in overthrowing Bashar al-Assad. Because Saudi Arabia has the lowest extraction costs of any major producer (3$ per barrel as of 2020), it can profit at prices much lower than its higher-cost oil-producing opponents such as Russia, Iran, and Syria. Under this new arrangement, crude prices fell to new lows as ISIS was spawned in Eastern Syria, and the Free Syrian Army was given American heavy weapons.

The Russian economy shrank almost 40% over the next two years. By comparison, America’s “Great Recession” almost crushed the entire financial system after a mere 2.5% drawdown in GDP. Russia was able to withstand the enormous contraction because under Putin the country’s monetary policy is focused on maintaining net-zero debt: a far cry from the 1990s when Saudi price-suppression (intended to punish Russia for fighting Islamists in Chechnya) hammered down crude prices and resulted in the 1998 Russian financial crisis. Now that Russia operates without external debt, these price tactics are harmful to the populace but no longer imperil the functioning of the state.

While 2020 has seen a renewal of price suppression by the Saudis, the Kingdom’s long-term prospects are plummeting. Below Saudi Arabia sits the state of Yemen. As the high birth rate outstrips the supply of natural resources, Yemen produces an excess of poor and radicalized young men. In response to Saudi and American airstrikes, the Houthi movement has united Shia and Sunni Muslims in Yemen under a common banner against their northern neighbor. Now Yemeni rebels are targeting Saudi oil facilities with increasingly frequent drone strikes, one of which spiked oil prices by almost 20% in Sep 2019.

Another problem for Saudi Arabia is resource depletion. The Saudis are systematically lying about the amount of oil that’s remaining. Leaked communications showed the former VP of Aramco warning the US that their oil reserves could actually be 40% lower than claimed. Consensus used to be that the Ghawar field had 5 million barrels per day capacity. The IPO filing for Aramco revealed a maximum capacity of 3.8 million barrels per day: and that’s their biggest field, producing a third of the nation’s oil output.

If their oil reserves are fine, why has the Kingdom been panickedly talking about economic diversification for the past 5 years? Why did Aramco even have to IPO? America’s vassal state in the crude oil battle seems to be drying up.

Another weapon in the energy price war has been the shale gas revolution. New advancements in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have allowed America to access previously hard to reach “tight” oil and gas reserves. As many small and mid-sized fracking operations rapidly set up shop in the mid 2010s this flooded the world with cheap natural gas and lowered Russia’s energy earnings. However, many of these firms were unprofitable and existed only due to the ultra-low interest rates available at the time, which enabled companies to operate at a loss for several years: meaning that the profitless shale revolution which hurt Russia was de facto financed by the Federal Reserve.

The fall of US shale seems to be on the horizon, as the industry showed signs of huge weakness in 2020. Oil and gas bankruptcies have quadrupled from 2019 to 2020, and production levels from America’s largest fields have dwindled. The Eagle Ford field is down 30% from 2019, Niobrara is down 35%, and Anadarko is down 40%! The best case for America is that these were voluntary production drawdowns due to cheap prices. The worst case is that these are symptoms of the end stage of depletion – the same fate befalling Saudi Arabia.

Even if the large American fields return to their previous production levels, this wave of bankruptcies will remove many small producers from the market who were essentially drilling at an operating loss for years.

There are other developments that suggest that the Empire is losing the energy war

1. Nikol Pashinian, who targeted Gazprom in Armenia with spurious lawsuits, has been given a black eye by Putin. By brokering the Armenian-Azeri peace deal the Russian military now permanently occupies the Caucasus. Anyone who seriously believes it is limited to 5 years should look to the “temporary peacekeeping operations” that have kept Russian troops stationed in the tiny nation of Transnistria for almost 3 decades. Russia’s position in the region – a crucial energy hub, is now stronger than at any other point since the Soviet Union.

2. In defiance of US sanctions, Iran has restarted its domestic shipbuilding industry by constructing new oil tankers with natively sourced parts. New Aframax size tankers have the capacity to hold 750,000 barrels of crude oil and will be used to surreptitiously deliver oil to Iran’s trading partners

3. Despite feeble efforts by Washington to install Juan Guaido in Venezuela – the only country with comparable energy reserves to Saudi Arabia, Maduro is still in power, and Russia and China are now collaborating to circumvent US sanctions. Throughout 2020, crude from Venezuela arrived at Chinese ports, having been snuck past American detection with the aid of Russian state oil company Rosneft, which made the oil appear as if its port of origin was Malaysia.

So what are the takeaways from these events?

First, we can see that Europe is waking up to the necessity of Russian energy. Despite all America’s bluster, it cannot provide a viable alternative even for the countries with which it aligns ideologically. Sure, there will be haphazard attempts like squirreling tight gas from cracks in the Mediterranean Sea, but those are at best partial solutions. Second, sanctions have backfired: the Russian economy is now fully resilient and profitable. There is no further way to wage economic warfare on a nation that has already been isolated from the global financial system. As far as oil trading is concerned, the willingness of America to impose restrictive sanctions has been matched by the creativity of those hoping to bypass them. Finally, the toughest period of the price war seems to be over and the pipeline battle has been won.

The Empire’s diminishing position in this conflict

Nikol Pashinian who targeted Gazprom is out – and Russia now occupies the Caucasus

Special Report: How China got shipments of Venezuelan oil despite U.S. sanctions | Reuters


The Ister is a researcher of financial markets and geopolitics. Author of The Ister: Escape America

These Are Russia’s Five Most Important Tasks For Surviving World War C

By Andrew Korybko

Source

These Are Russia

The full-spectrum paradigm-changing processes brought about over the past year by the world’s uncoordinated efforts to contain COVID-19 can best be described as World War C, and Russia will need to prioritize five tasks in order to survive it in 2021 and beyond: continue practicing “vaccine diplomacy”; lead the “Great Reset”/”Fourth Industrial Revolution”; adjust to the “Great Socio-Civilizational Reset”; defend itself from Western aggression in the New Cold War; and perfect its geostrategic “balancing” act.

Welcome To World War C

The past year saw the opening of Pandora’s box after the world’s uncoordinated efforts to contain COVID-19 unleashed full-spectrum paradigm-changing processes that can best be described as World War C. This struggle for the future of the world is unprecedented in literally every single way, influencing everything from how people interact with one another and their governments to relationships between states. Nothing will ever be the same after 2020, something that Russia is keenly aware of. It’s therefore doing its utmost to get ahead of these trends in order to avoid falling into its historical pattern of “lagging” behind its peer competitors. In the worst-case scenario, Russia might never “catch up” like it always has a knack for doing at what usually seems to be the very last minute, which is why the five following tasks are of the highest priority in order for it to survive World War C in 2021 and beyond:

1. Continue Practicing “Vaccine Diplomacy”

As the author realized in late November, “Russia’s ‘Vaccine DIplomacy’ Is The Basis Of Its New Global Outreach Campaign”. What’s meant by this is that its sudden rise as a vaccine superpower can be cleverly leveraged to expand influence within its growing number of partner states for the purpose of clinching more comprehensive deals with them in other fields such as the political, military, and especially economic ones. Vaccine cooperation is probably the most intimate form of state-to-state ties because the recipient is literally putting their citizens’ lives in the hands of their partners, who will then inject them with what’s regarded as a life-saving inoculation in order to help their countries return to as much of the pre-World War C domestic status quo as possible with time. By continuing to practice its “vaccine diplomacy” and retaining its superpower status in this sphere, Russia might actually manage to “jump ahead” of its peer competitors and “make up for lost time” by restoring its global influence that was lost after the 1991 dissolution of the USSR. Even more importantly, Russia also has a credible chance of more powerfully shaping the emerging world order if it can succeed with this crucial task.

2. Lead The “Great Reset”/”Fourth Industrial Revolution”

Unlike what the many Non-Russian Pro-Russians (NRPR) in the Alt-Media Community wrongly believe, Russia isn’t against the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) “Great Reset”/”Fourth Industrial Revolution” (GR/4IR), but is keenly aware of these plans and actually intends to play a leading role in actualizing them. President Putin attended the WEF’s 2003 meeting in Moscow, while former President Medvedev attended the one in Davos in 2011. President Putin also met with WEF founder Klaus Schwab in St. Petersburg in 2007 and 2008. His most recent meeting with the GR/4IR mastermind took place in November 2019, during which time the Russian leader proudly said that “we have always supported and will continue to support our relations with the forum you founded.” It can’t be known for certain, but it might very well be that Schwab’s 2016 book on the 4IR influenced President Putin’s prediction a year later that “whoever leads in AI will rule the world”, after which he committed his country to becoming the global leader in this sphere. To that end, Russia’s state-run Sberbank is now pioneering Russia’s technological future in the new global conditions of the GR/4IR.

3. Adjust To The “Great Socio-Civilizational Reset”

Socio-cultural and civilizational factors aren’t immune from the full-spectrum paradigm-changing processes catalyzed by World War C. The author wrote back in October that a “Great Socio-Civilizational Reset” has begun whereby cultures across the world will become increasingly assertive of their identity, but that this doesn’t inevitably mean that they’ll clash since cooperation between them is still possible on shared interests such as trade. Similar changes are also taking place within civilizations and states as well, such as the growing contradiction between liberal and conservative viewpoints. “President Assad Slaughtered Neoliberalism’s Four Sacred Cows” last month, though, showing that it’s possible to be both anti-liberal and against religious fundamentalism like secular Syria is. Regarding the Eurasian Great Power, “Be It From Birthrates Or Migration, Russia’s About To Greatly Increase Its Muslim Population” since its top mufti predicted that 30% of its people will be Muslim by 2030. In order to best adjust to all these far-reaching changes, President Putin unveiled a new governing policy last October that the author described as “populist statism”, which holds enormous promise.

4. Defend Itself From Western Aggression In The New Cold War

The socio-economic changes that were earlier described have naturally been accompanied by geopolitical ones as well, the latter of which accelerated the ongoing New Cold War between the West and non-Western Great Powers like Russia and China which first became most noticeable in 2014. The US is seeking to “contain” its two top rivals, having piled immense pressure upon Russia in the years since such as by imposing an ever-increasing sanctions regime, moving massive amounts of military equipment towards its borders, destabilizing the states in its so-called “sphere of influence”, and pulling out of strategic arms control pacts. Its parallel moves to “contain” China also pose a threat to Russian interests since the Eurasian Great Power’s security is partially dependent on that of its East Asian strategic partner as well. In addition, the US is also trying to push back against Russia’s growing influence in the “Global South”, particularly in Muslim-majority countries and Africa. As they say, however, “the best defense is a good offense”, so Russia will need to proactively confront these challenges by redoubling its global outreach efforts and prioritizing its characteristic asymmetric responses.

5. Perfect Its Geostrategic “Balancing” Act

The trickiest of Russia’s five most important tasks for surviving World War C in 2021 and beyond is to perfect its geostrategic “balancing” act, which the author constructively critiqued over the summer with the intent of suggesting realistic solutions for fixing its main shortcomings. The most challenging fulcrums in this respect nowadays are between China & India and Iran & “Israel”. The first was most recently addressed in the author’s analysis about how “Russia’s Unofficial Response To India Did Everything Right” (which cites two prior related analyses early on in the text that should be reviewed by the reader for background context) and “Russian & Iranian Experts Finally Discussed Their Differences Over Syria”. The first one also relies heavily on his September 2020 analysis asking “Is Russia ‘Abandoning’ Or ‘Recalibrating’ Its ‘Balancing’ Act Between China & India?” while the second one was similarly influenced by his September 2019 piece titled “Russia’s Middle East Strategy: ‘Balance’ vs. ‘Betrayal’?” The overarching trend is that “Russia’s Foreign Policy Progressives Have Trumped The Traditionalists”, as the author first observed in September 2017, which will continue to unfold into the future.

——————–

Looking forward, Russia has plenty of reasons to be cautiously optimistic about 2021. The past year saw the Eurasian Great Power suddenly emerge as the global vaccine superpower that’s actively practicing “vaccine diplomacy” in every corner of the world. It also saw Russia make tangible progress on attempting to lead the “Great Reset”/”Fourth Industrial Revolution” following the implementation of state-run Sberbank’s visionary plans to become a global technological player. In addition, Russia is rapidly adapting to the “Great Socio-Civilizational Reset” and other related challenges through President Putin’s unofficial unveiling of a new model of governance that can best be described as “populist statism”. The greatest challenges, however, are the need to defend itself from Western aggression in the New Cold War and perfect its increasingly complex “balancing” act. Nevertheless, with President Putin still at the helm, Russia’s prospects of success remain very promising.

Who Gains From Misportraying Russia As A Rogue Regime?

By Andrew Korybko

Source

Who Gains From Misportraying Russia As A Rogue Regime?

The push by Western forces and those sympathetic to them to misportray Russia as a “rogue regime” after this summer’s Navalny incident is meant to pave the way for a more comprehensive sanctions policy against the Eurasian Great Power and intensify multilateral efforts to “contain” it.

The Western press has recently revived the debunked trope that Russia is a so-called “rogue regime” after the latest developments surrounding this summer’s Navalny incident. The self-described “investigative reporting” outlet Bellingcat and CNN recently published a joint report claiming that the FSB tried to poison the anti-corruption blogger, which is an unrealistic scenario to speculate upon and one which was condemned by President Putin during his year-end press conference as a provocation by foreign intelligence services. Nevertheless, this information warfare narrative persists and was given fresh coverage by former chess champion Gary Kasparov in the op-ed that he published at CNN on Friday about how “It’s time to treat Putin’s Russia like the rogue regime it is”. His piece deserves to be debunked in order to set the record straight and extrapolate his agenda for propagating it.

Kasparov shares a smorgasbord of accusations straight off the bat alleging that Russia is guilty of crimes ranging from assassinating political foes with chemical weapons to invading Ukraine and hacking the US. What he doesn’t mention, however, is that no evidence has been presented to conclusively prove Russia’s responsibility for those aforesaid assassination attempts. Regarding Ukraine, Kasparov leaves out the fact that Crimea reunified with Russia after a democratic referendum and that a real military invasion of that country by Moscow wouldn’t have manifested itself in limited skirmishes contained to Eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region. Moreover, the chess champion omits the fact that Trump contradicted Pompeo’s claims of Russian complicity in the latest hack attack and actually blamed China instead. Evidently, these facts are too “politically inconvenient” for Kasparov to mention and thus had to be ignored in order to advance his weaponized narrative.

That narrative, it should be said, is one of paranoia and speculation. Parts of it read as a fever dream of a brilliant mind gone mad imagining that Russia’s security agencies are falling apart by the second despite he himself previously alleging that they’ve carried out such egregious crimes as the ones that he talked about earlier. This schizophrenic stance is explained away by his theory that President Putin simply doesn’t care anymore about how sloppy his international provocations have become because no meaningful consequences have ever followed. That’s yet another fallacy on Kasparov’s part since Russia has been victimized by an ever-intensifying sanctions regime since 2014. Still, he’s somehow convinced himself that the West is actually “appeasing” Russia by continuing to retain some limited relations with it of a pragmatic nature. These, he believes, must be immediately stopped and followed up by removing Russia from international institutions.

What he’s clamoring for is clear for any objective observer to see, and it’s a redoubling of the Western sanctions regime against Russia and an intensification of the multilateral efforts to “contain” it. Earlier attempts by some American officials to designate Russia as a so-called “state sponsor of terrorism” might receive a second life if Kasparov’s op-ed is coordinated with US intelligence officials to precondition the international public into accepting such a dramatic move. The incoming Biden Administration is chock-full of anti-Russian hawks so it’s quite possible that they might make swift progress in further worsening bilateral relations with Russia on that or some similar pretext. It should be remembered, however, that the entire basis for this scenario is the unquestionable assumption that Russia is responsible for everything that Kasparov and his allies claim, which is highly dubious to say the least.

Even so, it’s nowadays taboo for anyone to publicly challenge those accusations lest they be tarred and feathered as a “Russian agent”. The media-military nexus is operating perfectly insofar as coordinating their messaging to justify forthcoming provocations against Russia. The American people have been brainwashed into believing that Russia is one of their main enemies, with Kasparov’s comments on the latest Navalny development being used to reinforce that narrative. CNN published his op-ed in order to grant it maximum exposure at home and abroad, all for the earlier explained reasons. While his ravings are limited to the internet for now, they might soon have a real-life impact if the US runs with his claims to push through a new sanctions regime and other related “containment” efforts against Russia. This could even happen if Trump pulls off an upset and remains in office after 20 January considering his recent anti-Russian track record.

In conclusion, the only ones who gain by misportraying Russia as a “rogue regime” are the anti-Russian members of the US’ permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies (“deep state”) and their international allies like Kasparov who has a personal axe to grind against President Putin. Objectively speaking, Russia’s alleged “rogue” activity pales in comparison to the US’ actual rogue actions since the end of the Old Cold War, which include drone assassinations, Color Revolution coups, Hybrid Wars, and several large-scale wars. That’s not to deflect with “whatabouttism”, but just to remind the reader of the global strategic context for the purpose of pointing out America’s blatant hypocrisy in this respect. Looking forward, the US’ anti-Russian information warfare campaign will only intensify and won’t ever stop until Moscow submits to Washington’s unipolar hegemonic demands, which won’t ever happen so the infowar is here to stay.

Eurasian Economic Union Enjoying Broader Cooperation

By Vladimir Odintsov
Source: New Eastern Outlook

EUR8311

Noteworthy events to do with increased integration within the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) took place in the first half of December 2020.

On December 7, representatives of the EAEU and China met during the special negotiation session called “Towards a bigger Eurasia via the integration of nations, businesses and people”, which was organized by the Eurasian Development Bank (EDB) and the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC) within the framework of the First Eurasian Congress. The head of the PRC delegation, Deputy Minister of Commerce Yu Jianhua, made a number of fairly interesting proposals aimed at expanding cooperation between China and the EAEU member states. For instance, he suggested adding an economic dimension (a feasibility study) to it so that a free trade zone agreement between the PRC and the EAEU could be implemented. Such a deal will, unquestionably, promote all aspects of mutual cooperation, strengthen the foundations of global trade, foster bilateral dialogue and lead to more unified standards. A joint commission for implementing the agreement between the EAEU and China will facilitate the adoption of measures that will ease global trade involving e-commerce to ensure an uninterrupted supply of goods.

Participants at the joint session discussed another proposal made by the Chinese delegation regarding the creation of a steel caravan of the Eurasian continent in order to establish joint logistics and warehouse hubs comprising networks of cross-border railways, which will cover the entire Eurasia with trade routes for cargo transportations, thus encouraging the construction of economic corridors, similar to the New Eurasian Land Bridge. Yu Jianhua emphasized that to ensure the trade ties between the PRC and the EAEU continued to strengthen and all the participants of the initiative derived benefits from the process of integration, it was important to facilitate the smooth functioning of green transport corridors and to streamline customs procedures at relevant border harbors.

At present, Central Asia has the necessary infrastructure on the basis of which a broad range of opportunities for continent-wide collaboration could be created. That is why, the session participants actively discussed all the proposals on increased integration. Kairat Kelimbetov, the head of Astana International Financial Centre and the Chairman of the Agency for Strategic Planning and Reforms, pointed out that it would be easy to create a framework for cooperation within the nations of the region, which would, for instance, provide access to sea routes to those countries (such as Kazakhstan) that did not have it.

During the session, Vladimir Chizhov, the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the European Union (EU), stated that there could be a reshuffle among the global players. Such processes occur naturally, which means that the ever-expanding and transforming Greater Eurasia may become one the new global centers as a result.

Another important event in the region, from the point of view of further Eurasian integration, was the online meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council (SEEC) on December 11, which not only leaders of the 5 core member-states took part in but so did heads of observer states (Moldova) and of nations vying for such a status (Uzbekistan and Cuba). The agenda included more than 20 issues that directly dealt with the resolution of outstanding integration-related problems and the provision of economic support to member-states still facing socio-economic hardships, such as Armenia and Kyrgyzstan.

During the SEEC discussion of the points tied to integration, the participants backed an initiative on strategic directions for promoting EAEU integration by 2025, focusing on completing the creation of a common market for goods, services, capital, workers as well as an integrated digital environment. Essentially, the aim is to stimulate the growth of member states’ economies, and to improve the well-being and quality of life of these nations’ inhabitants.

Another important achievement of the recent SEEC video conference, aside from the approval of strategic directions to encourage integration by year 2025, was Uzbekistan and Cuba obtaining observer status within the EAEU.

According to Article 109 of the Treaty on the Eurasian Economic Union, observer states can, upon invitation, attend meetings of EAEU bodies but without the right to participate in decision-making processes and receive any documents approved by the Union that are not confidential in nature.

Incidentally, the EAEU began its life on January 1, 2015, and its member states include Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia. In year 2020, Belarus has the chairmanship within the EAEU. Moldova has been an observer state within the organization since May 2018. The EAEU is an economic union only.

Uzbekistan has been fostering ties with its member states for a long time. As a result of these joined efforts, bilateral trade worth $4.5 billion in 2016 increased two-fold by the end of 2019 to more than $9 billion. In fact, transactions with the Eurasian Economic Union account for one third of all of Uzbekistan’s external trade in value, while their share in the agricultural sector exceeds 75%.

Uzbekistan gaining the observer status with the EAEU was the result of ongoing policies, pursued by the its government and its President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, aimed at promoting an open national economy and at utilizing the country’s transport corridors and logistics networks. Hence, at present, the common EAEU market with its 180 million consumers is increasingly becoming the target for products from Uzbekistan, and of all of this is, in turn, laying the groundwork for closer collaboration and mutual cooperation within Eurasia. The observer status will enable Uzbekistan to build up capabilities in its economy to better meet the demands of the EAEU common market and to increase the share within it taken up by Uzbek manufacturers and suppliers.

Similarly, Cuba also became an observer state in the EAEU. Thus, the organization is expanding not only its economic but also its geopolitical reach. This new status within the Eurasian Economic Union allows Cuba to foster closer economic ties and cooperation not only with Russia and Belarus (which it already collaborates with) but also with other EAEU member states. Cuba needs to increase revenues it earns from its global exports, particularly, from the products and services of the economy’s medical sector. Sugar production is a key sphere of Cuba’s economy, and sugar cane is a crucial agricultural commodity. Recently, the Cuban economy has been experiencing a two-fold crisis: due to the COVID-19 pandemic and tightening US sanctions. In 2020, the nation’s economy will have contracted for the first time in 26 years. Its government has put forward an economic strategy focused on opening up the country to international travelers, stimulating Cuba’s food production sector and introducing economic reforms faster. Hence, a closer relationship between this nation and the EAEU could, in the opinion of the Cuban government, help, in large part, to resolve the country’s current economic woes.

Vladimir Odintsov, a political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

Nasrallah wishes a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all Christians & Muslims

Source

Annual interview with Hezbollah Secretary General Sayed Hassan Nasrallah on December 27, 2020, by the Lebanese pan-Arab channel Al-Mayadeen. This interview lasted almost 4 hours. We will translate extracts from it shortly.

Video: https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x7yfebv

Transcript:

In the Name of God, the Beneficient, the Merciful.

I begin by welcoming you and all viewers.And I address myself to all Christians and Muslims in the world, and in particular in our country, Lebanon,to congratulate them and wish them Merry Christmas on the occasion of the anniversary of the birth of our Master the Messiah, peace be upon him, and with the grace of God a Happy New Year for the (imminent) beginning of 2021, which we hope will be a different year than the ones before it, God willing. […]

Video: https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x7yfebv

***

Putin’s New Year Address to the Nation

Source: http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/64852

Transcript:

Citizens of Russia, friends,

The year 2020 will be over in just a few minutes.

As we were welcoming it a year ago today, just like people around the world, we thought and dreamed of changes for the better. No one could have imagined back then what kind of trials would come our way.

Now, it appears that the outgoing year has taken in the burden of many years. It was a difficult year for all of us, with worries and serious financial difficulties, bitter experiences and, for some, loss of the loved ones.

However, the outgoing year was also filled with hope that we will overcome adversity and with pride for those who showed their best human and professional qualities. It made us appreciate dependable, sincere and genuine relationships between people, as well as friendship and trust.

We walked through this year together with dignity, as befits a single nation which honours the traditions of its ancestors. These values – courage, compassion and graciousness – are in our hearts and blood and show in our deeds.

We look up to our dear veterans – the valiant generation that defeated the scourge of Nazism. Against all odds, we have fulfilled our sacred filial duty and marked the 75th anniversary of the Great Victory with gratitude and appreciation.

Indeed, the dangerous new virus has changed and even turned upside down our usual way of life, work and study, and forced us to reconsider and adjust many of our plans. But that is how things are, and trials are an unavoidable part of life.

They encourage us to take a closer look at what life is all about, listen to our conscience, discard all things that are petty and vain and appreciate what is truly important. This is the gift of human life, our families, mothers and fathers, grandfathers and grandmothers, our children, be they babies or mature adults, our friends and colleagues. This is also selfless help and the general energy of good deeds, both ambitious nationwide efforts and small local projects which are no less important.

Trials and troubles come and go. It has always been that way. The main things that make us noble and strong, such as love, mutual understanding, trust and support, stay with us.

I would like to wish that the hardships of the outgoing year quickly sink into oblivion while everything that we have gained and all the best that has come forward in each person stays with us forever.

Today, it is important to believe in ourselves, not to back off in the face of challenges and to value our unity. This is the foundation of our shared future successes.

I am convinced that together we will overcome the challenges facing us, restore normal life and continue to work to achieve Russia’s goals in the forthcoming third decade of the 21st century with renewed vigour.

Friends,

Not everyone is sitting around the New Year’s table now. Many people remain in the hospitals, and I am sure they all feel the support of their families and friends. With all my heart, I wish you, my dear friends, to get well soon and to go home as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, the epidemic has not yet completely come to an end. The fight against it does not stop for a minute. Doctors and nurses, as well as ambulance crews, continue to work courageously. Many of them are on duty tonight.

The first responders, our servicemen in hot spots outside Russia, peacekeepers and Army and Navy combat crews are also tirelessly and responsibly performing their challenging missions.

Thanks to all those people who carry out their duties day and night under any circumstances, the citizens of Russia can safely gather today in their homes with their loved ones, see in the New Year with plans for the future and hopes for the better, and make their New Year wishes.

Friends,

Let us use these precious moments to dream about the best things in life, peace and prosperity, happiness and joy for everyone who is near and dear to us, and our entire country.

I want to thank every one of you, because we are together. When we stand next to each other, shoulder to shoulder, Russia becomes one big family.

I wish you all good health, faith, hope and love, as people who are close and dear to me. I wish you happiness in the upcoming 2021!

Happy New Year, friends!

Donate as little as you can to support this work and subscribe to the Newsletter to get around censorship.

“Any amount counts, because a little money here and there, it’s like drops of water that can become rivers, seas or oceans…” 

Not a step back!

Not a step back!

December 29, 2020

Not a step back![1]

By Ken Leslie for the Saker Blog

1. A tale of two kingdoms

Given the precarious geopolitical situation, some Russia supporters might feel that the worst thing now for Russia would be to rock the boat and enrage the West by retaliating against the hybrid war waged against it. In my view, the worst is the Baghdad Bob-like complacency and refusal to understand how serious the things are. For make no mistake, no anxious giggling or bravado (or Russian love of affectionate nicknames) can hide the severity of the current situation. If you are of a weaker disposition, skip the next several paragraphs and land on the juicy, positive bits.

I cannot (and am not trying to) offer an in-depth geopolitical analysis of the current situation in the manner of the Saker. What I can do is produce a parable (or is it allegory?) on how a determined and resourceful victim of constant and total attack must respond in order to save itself and make its enemies pay for all the inflicted pain and suffering—with interest (for after all that is what the bully likes more than anything else). What follows is a completely fictional account of a life-and-death conflict between cultures and religions and any similarities with real countries and characters are purely incidental.

Some 30 years ago, a new era in world history was loudly announced by the supposed victors of a protracted war against a large, semi-pagan people that inhabited large swaths of the continent of Sunlandia. Their vast land was called Dayland. Once they had had a large land empire which crashed and burned in the fires of a revolution fomented by its mortal enemies after having survived countless invasions by sundry power-crazed maniacs and constant enmity by the inhabitants of the lands in which the sun sets (to be called Nightland). But, no, not even the destruction of the empire and its religious importance was not enough to satisfy the haters. The new communist state was immediately shunned by the Nightlanders and retained its pariah status for all its 73 years of existence. Not only that, during its incarnation as a land of workers and peasants (nothing wrong with that), it experienced the most horrible holocaust in modern history (another great country assailed from the East, let’s call it “Mornland” suffered at least to the same extent from a different fascist tyrant). An all too brief interlude of hope and glory (apologies to John Boorman) was immediately replaced by the next phase of the never-ending conflict—isolation and attrition, nuclear threats, sanctions and sabotage, proxy wars, intelligence, economic and cultural battles, the list goes on.

Although exsanguinated by the horrors of the holocide by a semi-formal union of the countries to the West of it and exhausted by external pressures, the great county went on to achieve miracles in improving the living standards and literacy rates of its population to the extent unheard of until then. Other miracles were performed by the country in various fields of science and technology and the example set by its heroic struggle inspired countless anti-colonial and anti-imperialist movements which resulted in a fundamental reshaping of the World’s political map. Alas, it was not to last. In spite of great achievements and its crucial role as the bringer of balance to the world affairs, the great (in all senses) country broke up tragically if relatively peacefully. With its demise, the darkening cumulus cloud that had hovered over my head for at least a decade, turned into a giant fat cumulonimbus ready to explode with thunder and lightning.

Although for many people those early years of the new order were the years of hope, soon, the hope was cruelly quashed. Instead of learning the lessons of the “war in all-but-name”, the victors were blinded by their greed and unearned sense of superiority. Instead of healing the wounds of the past, they set out to deepen them by restoring the platform from which most wars of destruction had come. By breaking up federations of the heathen sub-humans, co-opting them into a new feudal system, building a power block around the genocidal transgressor and bleeding the defeated country dry, the Nightland was demonstrating for all to see that its intent was never peaceful.

The first clear inkling of things to come was a beastly aggression committed on a brave and innocent people whose only crime was to have resisted the renewed push towards the East. Conveniently forgotten and explained away by the evil masterminds as a charitable intervention, the war signalled the new phase in the war against Dayland. The border between Nightland and Dayland was pushed about 1500 km eastward. Dayland’s former allies were turned into its worst and most belligerent enemies. With every step to the right, Nightland was gaining and Dayland was losing—friends, trade and influence. Like many times before in its extraordinary history, the country was fortunate in one respect. An exceptional man appeared from nowhere to pull Dayland out of the quagmire and set it on the path of resurgence and renewed greatness. Well, this was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

We, who care about Dayland are cursing the sheer gall and bloodthirst of the criminal aggressors. Some of us are asking—is this offensive ever going to stop? Most of us know the answer—never! As long as Dayland exists with its strange mix of peoples, faiths and worldviews, it must not live. All we have left is the hope that the leadership of Dayland will be able to deal with the oncoming peril. There is a creeping worry that without a more muscular response, the country will eventually succumb to a death by a thousand cuts. So, here is an overview of the principles that should guide Dayland’s fightback—before it becomes too late.

2. The problem

Before I can talk about means, I must address the causes. Despite its size and advanced society, Dayland has no overt allies and the slightly tepid embrace of Mornland is not sufficient to compensate for this. Note, I am saying overt—that means no partners who are committed to the joint defence and who would mobilise their forces if Dayland were to be attacked. It doesn’t even have potential allies as in countries that would eventually fight on Dayland’s side. Admittedly, some of this information is very secret and there might be exceptions. The one worrying aspect is that this has never been the case before. One does not need to be a historian to realise that whenever an attack came from the dark side, at least half of Nightland was either neutral or on Dayland’s side. Some people will interject: “Oh, they are divided, at odds, it’s an illusion maintained by the printing presses, they would get a bloody nose” etc.

All of these statements are questionable.[2] The currently dominant empire of the Nightland has pretty much absolute control over its minions. Minor disputes are normal within any military, political and economic union. Note that none of the predicted cataclysmic ruptures between the partners in crime ever happened. No great economic crisis that has been predicted since before the occupation of the Borderlands has taken place. If anything, the push towards the lands of the light has intensified—the two are not mutually exclusive. Briefly, things are not looking good for Dayland, not because it is not doing well, but because a large portion of the “developed” world is still allied against it and this in itself is unprecedented and must be dealt with pronto.

The “problem” of the title is that such a situation always calls for active steps and measures aimed at weakening, confusing and discouraging the attacking opponent. Of course, such steps should always be combined with defensive and diplomatic moves but to remove the threat, a serious aggressive pushback on the part of Dayland is needed as soon as possible. When I say “aggressive”, I don’t mean crudely so. What I mean is that a fundamental change of heart is necessary. Over a thousand years of defensive wars have conditioned Dayland’s soldiers and politicians to avoid conflict as long as possible. Whether this is because of deficiencies in forward planning or deep morality is moot—the pattern of procrastination and delaying the inevitable has characterised Dayland’s military, diplomatic and political strategies for a very long time. This would not be much of a problem if it didn’t result in significant (and avoidable) losses and casualties.

Actually, it has become something of a cliché, general Winter and all. Daylanders are supposed to suffer horribly and even if they wake up in the end and prevail, the destruction wrought on them will set them back several decades—enough to strengthen Nightland and ensure its supremacy for the foreseeable future. It is this point that was countered by the great statesman who is currently at the helm of Dayland. He’d promised his opponents that Dayland would never again fight a war on its territory. Recently he had announced a substantial change to the country’s nuclear doctrine which from now on will treat any incoming missiles as nuclear—no petty stuff. And yet, this is far from enough. How come, you’ll ask? Well, if the president’s warnings and veiled threats had been sufficient, the Big Bad Wolf would not be knocking on the last piggy’s door. Admittedly, this door is made of a sturdier stuff than the previous ones but nevertheless—the fact that he has come so far should alert everybody at how precarious the situation is. We are one semi-successful colour revolution away from the ultimate victory of Nightland.

No human kindness will dissuade the scum of the earth to desist and embrace the path of peace and co-operation. The Mephistophelian financiers, venal leeches in the media, talentless parasites infesting countless NGOs and “institutes”, petty bureaucrats tasked with pulling down monuments and places of worship, businessmen sabotaging their own companies for the sake of a hidden hand and moronic generals issuing bloodcurdling threats while installing their missiles ever closer to Dayland’s borders—all of these despicable people must be given a message that they will understand and hopefully rethink their course.

3. The solution

Clearly, this is a vast topic and I have only a couple of thousand words (which I’m wasting) to outline a strategy that might or might not be successful but certainly represents a viable departure from the current dilatory posture by Dayland’s government. I shall deliberately ignore some recent attempts at countering the offensive and focus on what’s possible. One of the common quandaries in situations of this kind is that 95% of modern warfare is conducted secretly, in ways that are not only unknown but unknowable by us mere mortals. This is a world of secret institutions with large budgets and no democratic oversight, sophisticated intelligence capabilities and covert action. Although this is probably true to some extent, it makes one susceptible to a fallacy that human agency has no place in a modern war. This is analogous to what I call “cryptographer’s fallacy” which states that a brute force increase in the complexity of a cypher renders it unbreakable. As long as there is a faintest trace of human activity buried under the layers of technological obfuscation, human origins of the cypher remain discernible and actionable. This is my reasoning behind writing this. However sophisticated the enemy might appear, they cannot completely camouflage their weak spots. Even if they don’t possess any, intelligent and creative approach to counter-terror must bear fruit. The key here is unpredictability—not of the kind espoused by Donald Trump but something much more elaborate and advanced—something worthy of Russia’s genius.

Here, let me list a few principles that Dayland should embrace in order to produce a combination of a pushback and payback that is so badly needed at this moment.

3.1. By delaying the pushback, you are only making things worse for yourself. The damage/time function is passed its crossing point. The time to act is now.

3.2. There is no need to be mindlessly aggressive in the manner of the USA. The knowledge that such offensive weapons are available and can be used is often enough to dissuade the opponent. But remember, they have to be able to cause real pain.

3.3. This proposal runs against everything you have been taught and made to believe is right. Targeting “non-military” assets is an important part of this. You will have to stoop to your enemy’s level in order to rise again free from existential threat. And this time you must be ruthless—as ruthless as they are. Those sweet voices telling you to be “better” than your enemy do not necessarily wish you well.

3.4. Aggression is necessary and important in all aspects of statecraft. This does not mean a crude unyielding attack against all and sundry (this is not possible at the moment anyway) but a targeted, co-ordinated yet sub-threshold campaign of: sabotage, political warfare, targeted elimination of external and internal threats, painful reciprocal punishments for every inimical gesture and a ramping up of the threat of armed retaliation.

3.5. For this to work, you must dispense with any hopes that you will ever be accepted as equals by the West. The destruction of two of your previous incarnations in a span of about 60 years and the total war against the current one should be sobering enough. You must work for a new world in which your and other peoples will exist free from the existential threat posed by the eternal vulture.

3.6. Your adversary is neither superior nor supreme. His power rests on the pillage of ancient cultures and peoples and his time as the ruler of the world is coming to an end. That makes him dangerous but also prone to errors. Act like the brave guerrillas of old. Avoid direct punches (set battles) but fight back as fiercely as you can. It is not so much about results but attitude. He must know that any inimical moves will be costly and painful for him and his lackeys.

3.7. Once you accept the above, a whole new arsenal of subtle weapons will become accessible. This includes a myriad of fine-grain activities and micro-scale operations which can achieve remarkable results if capably co-ordinated and efficiently carried out. If you succeed in putting these in motion, you will not need hypersonic weapons (although they do help).

4. The strategy

It is here that things become interesting and difficult. How can a strategy be designed that is so sophisticated that the enemy cannot parry it (while its implementation does not involve undue effort)? First, one has to recognise that the power differential means that there is little room for error. Even more important than this is a lack of predictability which confounds the adversary and transfers initiative to the defending camp. And although the defender has fewer means to retaliate, he can make up for it by leveraging his assets and using them to his maximum advantage. These are not always visible. For example, … oh hell, enough of this silly charade! The ongoing stereotype about Russia is “gas and hackers”.

Although corny and offensive, the stereotype holds a grain of truth. For years, analysts have been speculating on the importance of gas pipelines as an appropriate deterrent. However, after five years of toing and froing on the gas front, it is becoming clear that this kind of weapon is very ineffective. The reasons are: a) it can be easily neutralised or bypassed and b) even if it’s not, it always leads to an eventual loss of influence (workings of the market, anti-Russian Western courts etc.). While it may be useful to have somewhere in the arsenal, history tells us that Russia would never use petrochemicals as a weapon even against its worst enemies. By contrast, the relentless “meddling” campaign in the West reminds us that Russia’s programmers and computer scientists are its top asset and I hope they are sufficiently incentivised to stay in Russia and protect her from the perennial aggressor. The future wars will be largely electronic.

In order to deprive Russia of freedom of action and oxygen of public sympathy, the West has embarked on an unprecedented coordinated campaign of demonisation of Russia as well as persecution, expulsion, arrest and assassination of its citizens. The degree of agreement in public opinion achieved by the new Nazis is mindboggling and I am not using this word lightly. All across the Western world Russian diplomatic property is being confiscated, ambassadors are being killed and diplomats expelled in their hundreds. The very mention of “Russia” is sufficient to trigger adverse associations in the majority of Westerners. Sanction after sanction is fired at the Russian state and its functionaries and capital projects are sabotaged without impunity.

What has been very surprising all the way through this escalating crisis is the apparent meekness of the Russian response to the enemy’s blows. By this I don’t mean complete inaction, but the belief that things are not irretrievably bad, that one event or another (e.g. election) could turn this crusade around and allow the Russians to breathe freely. Unfortunately, highly nuanced diplomatic warnings, allusions to possible outcomes, the tactic of always leaving an escape hatch ajar so that the partnyor doesn’t for one moment have to consider the consequences of his transgressions—are less than ineffective. For the adversary assumes that Russia is more afraid of an escalation (which is happening anyway) than offending or angering the evil behemoth (which is happening anyway).[3]

While going through the motions, the Americans are tightening the screws as we speak. Even the criminal geopolitical reprobate—Germany—dares threaten Russia openly without any meaningful response (Navalny, Byelorussia, Moldova, Ukraine etc.). In a word, Russia’s posture is dangerously passive. Although useful once, when a parity existed in the deadly power between the West and the East, this posture has long outlived its usefulness. It appears as a timorous, peace-at-all costs-seeking response to serious aggressive moves. The aggressor knows that Russian benevolence is not a consequence of power because this is only shown rarely and in exceptional circumstances (like the Americans who occasionally but very rarely give Russia a pat on the back). Rather, in Russia’s case it’s becoming a trope, a cliched modus operandi which hopes to appease the enemy and stay his merciless hand. But his hand won’t be stayed. He has ignored Russia’s pleading and president Putin’s warnings and is marching on. I am convinced that a change of tack is sorely needed. Judo might appear defensive but its ultimate aim is slamming an opponent against the tatami—and worse.

The three requirements that should guide a successful response strategy by Russia are:

4a. A deep change of heart

This point is perhaps the most important because it requires the most extensive social and psychological intervention. What do I mean by a “DCH”? In order to remove the curse of the West from its borders, first Russia needs to remove the West from its hearts. None of the super advanced hypersonic weapons will be worth a dime if those who are supposed to fire them idolise Hollywood and rap and fantasise about living in California or Bavaria (e. g. Gorbachev). I know that this sounds over the top but we are in an over-the-top situation where no rational dialogue is possible. We are dealing with an opponent who understands only brute force and considers Russians nothing more than dangerous semi-humans. I know, you’ll hear Americans say—oh, I’ve had Russian neighbours and they are lovely people, hard-working, keeping themselves to themselves blah blah. Aren’t you tired of that ….? The future for Russia will be very grim unless it breaks off its dependence on the West as an eternal magnetic pole of virtue and civilisation. Shakespeare, Dante, Goethe and Molière are dead and nothing will bring them back. Moreover, they have nothing to do with the unthinking racist, fascist, imperialist and chauvinist West as it is now.

The West is not a Nirvana of tolerance, gentility and democracy. It’s an artificial predatory organism whose genocidal hunger grows in proportion to the number of innocent lives it has snuffed out. It can sustain social peace at home as long as it is allowed to rob, steal and traduce abroad. Its long-term prospects being bleak, it is intent on dragging the world into the abyss not unlike what a dying Balrog did to Gandalf the Grey (damn that British propaganda). I am not advocating a total break with the West but a watchful, vary mistrust inspired by the awareness of West’s true intentions towards Russia. While it is difficult if not impossible to control the feelings of the millions of ordinary Russians, the example must come from the top. Credit where credit’s due—I am seeing a belated attempt to disrupt the activity of enemy agents inside Russia. I’ll quote Colonel Cassad: “Better late than never”.

4b. Aggressive forward posture

Emotionally, the hardest part for anybody who understands the underlying dynamics of the “European” imperialism and cares about Russia is the reactive posture of the Russian governing structures in the face of dehumanising treatment by the West. The cliches such as “open doors”, “international law”, “peaceful coexistence” and “always ready” etc. only embolden the enemy and show up Russian policy as weak, dilatory and unprepared to respond in kind (even if it Russia’s true strength is much greater).[4] This needs to change very soon if Russia is to stand any chance of regaining initiative in international relations. At the same time, the avalanche of slander and sabotage was so vast that waiting for it to rumble its way down the mountainside might have seemed like a good strategy.

Examples abound, for instance the humiliating treatment of Russia by the Bulgarians (South Stream, diplomat expulsions etc.). What should have been done was to expose Bulgaria to the maximum pressure especially economic and diplomatic. Subtle co-ordinated campaign of harassment of Bulgarian diplomats, businessmen and spies should have been par for the course. A concerted effort to harm Bulgaria might not have destroyed the country but could have contributed to a change in policy. If large gestures were out of question, an accumulation of small steps would have more than sufficed. But nothing ever came of it. The Bulgarians harassed Russian diplomats instead and the whole messy saga was forgotten. What hasn’t changed is the inimical posture by the country which owes its birth and survival to Russia. A more recent insulting treatment of Sergei Lavrov by the Croatian and “Bosnian” apparatchiks stick in one’s craw and reinforce the impression of severe weakness of the Russian foreign policy.

The recent shameful pronouncements by a Jewish president of the Ukraine whose grandfather had fought in the Red Army to the effect that Russia was guilty of starting WWII has been met by a mild rebuke from the Russian foreign ministry. A similar non-response was given following the threat by a Vukro-Nazi to deprive the population of Crimea of running water. Where are all the GRU illegals, Spetznaz snipers and sappers? What about the monuments to the heroes of the Great Patriotic War?

Every insult or threat directed at a Russian citizen (or symbol) irrespective of their status needs to be answered in kind. Let me give you a broad-brush example. For every Russian arrested abroad without a clear criminal case, a national of the offending country should be held in custody until the Russian has been released. If this is not possible, a company belonging to the offending country should be closed down and its property nationalised. For every Russian diplomat dying under less than completely innocent circumstances or being expelled, a foreign diplomat should be expelled in turn or a consulate closed down. This might be costly in the short term but would soon disabuse the barbarians of the notion that Russians are a meek and forgiving sort. Of course, these crude examples should be elaborated in order to confuse the enemy.

Sanctions are a matter of state policy but under no circumstances should they (or counter-sanctions) be applied half-heartedly. All sanctions must be treated as weapons of war. Consequently, they must never be used as a “warning” or a “slap”. Why? Because this kind of response must have been factored in by the enemy at the planning stage. Either they should be aimed at seriously harming the opponent or should be left in the rifle locker. I have the impression that Russia has been applying all of its economic weapons half-heartedly and very reluctantly.

Immediate and painful retaliation must follow any attack on Russia’s interests. Why? Because the cliché about “best served cold” is often just an excuse of the powerless. If the retaliation is not contingent on and contiguous with the original crime, it loses its meaning and its potency. Let me return to the South Stream—Russian pipeline that should have solved the problems of gas supply for the whole of Southern and Central Europe—was cancelled after a single visit to the quisling Bulgarian regime by a rabidly Russophobe US senator. After all the billions of roubles spent and thousands of hours of political, diplomatic and engineering work invested in the project, Russia’s only link with the Balkans was closed down irreversibly in a day. Russia’s response? Zilch, nada. Can this go on?

4c. Unpredictability/flexibility

If response in kind is not possible (I refuse to believe this), then small-scale but unpredictable retaliatory steps are the order of the day. One could argue that Russia’s responses are highly predictable. To illustrate—ever since say 2007, has Russia ONCE made a pro-active move that would inflict pain on its adversaries BEFORE they’d struck Russia? One can drown in excuses—Russians are trying to prevent a war (why is it their duty to do so?), they are polite (typical patronising Western head-patting) and a million others. A great deal has been made of President Putin’s stealthy moves in the Crimea and Syria. YES, that is the right way to go about things in foreign policy but at ALL LEVELS and most of the time (and often in advance of the enemy’s move). Instead of the Duma deliberating at how and when to respond (which leaves Russia an open book to its adversaries), a semi-clandestine organisation within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs needs to be formed which would work out strategies and scheduling of retaliatory responses in advance. This should be based on pseudo-random schedules where the timing and content of individual steps are not easily predicted. Furthermore, such steps should be individually intractable and only understandable when viewed as parts of a higher-level whole.

There is no reason why such strategies cannot be tweaked and adapted to real-life scenarios very quickly. The point is that the enemy reads Russia’s responses as a kind of simple code that is easy to break. “We shall respond symmetrically!” Who cares—the enemy knows this already. You should confound them by responding in a manner that gives your response maximum power. This is particularly important for a country that can compete with the West in terms of intellect but not money. In other words, I am asking for a wholesale change in strategy—from nuclear bombers to mini drone swarms (each element is insignificant but coordinated, large numbers of weak elements are capable of causing substantial damage).

I need to reiterate in conclusion that some of what I described above is starting to percolate into the official pronouncements and actions of the Russian government. They have changed Russia’s nuclear posture, restricted the space for activities of various foreign organisations and possibly social media. Further, the tone of Russian diplomacy has changed considerably in the last six to 12 months (although not perhaps as much as I would wish). This of course is very welcome but again predictable and easily ignored.[5] So in the spirit of the great victory of the Soviet people, I humbly propose: Not a step back!


  1. This is an informal title of the Order 227 issued on 28th July 1942 by Joseph Stalin with the aim of stopping the seemingly unceasing advance by the Germans and their allies. This essay is a polemic and not an attempt at objective analysis. 
  2. As I am finishing this piece, I read that Britain has exited the EU. I consider this a positive sign—the idea of a “united West” (a complete abomination and a death sentence for Russia) has gone for good. Furthermore, the Russian government has undertaken a number of positive and necessary steps aimed at reversing the enemy’s advance. 
  3. I have studied this weakness of Russian statecraft in some depth. A very similar thing occurred in the years preceding WWI when Germany decided to assert its dominance in the Balkans. Russians tried to accommodate the brazen and insulting German demands until the very last moment. To those who disagree—if I am wrong, why is the West continuing with its aggressive plans despite all the warnings by Russia? 
  4. Here we encounter an interesting problem. Constantly underplaying one’s strength is as dangerous as the opposite. For this reason alone, a more aggressive posture by Russia is called for. 
  5. This is another danger of predictable behaviour. The enemy is incentivised to ignore it until it’s too late. By the way, public deliberation is fine as long as it has the potential of producing unexpected outcomes. 

Russia vs a Biden Administration

THE SAKER • DECEMBER 29, 2020 

It sure looks like Biden will take over the White House one way or another, and while Trump and his supporters might still try a few things, the political correlation of forces inside the US ruling classes is clearly against Trump. As for the “deplorables” – they have been neutralized by stealing the election. Which means that Russia will soon face the most rabidly russophobic gang of messianic Neocons in history. So what can the world expect next?

The Dems are not meaningfully different from the Republicans. True, the Dems blame Russia for everything, while the Republicans blame China. Not much of a difference here: it is all about hate and scapegoating. And both of these factions of the oligarchic Uniparty like to blame Iran for, well, being located in the “wrong” part of the world, the Middle-East, which all US politicians (and not to mention their Israeli masters) want to control. As for the Israel Lobby, it has been trying to trigger a US attack on Iran for many decades. Recent US moves of key personnel and bombers might indicate that discussions of an attack on Iran are still very much taking place.

I don’t believe that these fundamental directions in US foreign policy will change much.

Why?

Primarily because the AngloZionist Empire and even the US as we knew them are basically dead, which means that irrespective of who is in control of the US, the objective means/capabilities of the Empire and the US will remain the same. In other words, when Biden promises to show Russia how tough and mighty he will be, he will not have any more capabilities to threaten Russia with than Trump had.

So the first thing we can expect is simply “more of the same”.

Now, in the Empire of Illusions which the United States has become, appearances matter much more than facts. US politicians have two quasi-reflexive reactions to any problem: use violence or throw money at it. Of course, using violence against Russia (or China and Iran) would be extremely dangerous. So throwing money at a problem is the way chosen by the US political elites (see here for the, rather boring, details).

A lot of that money will also be spent on ideological nonsense like supporting trans-gender rights in Africa, woke-awareness in the Baltic, “critical race theory” in Japan (good luck with that!), “Holocaust studies” in Poland and the like.

What will happen next is that this money will be spread amongst a pretty large US and EU bureaucracy (and its subcontractors) to all sorts of political PR actions aimed at presenting modern Russia as “Putin’s Mordor” whose “Nazguls” (scary GRU and/or SVR and/or FSB agents) run around the planet looking for more targets to infect with the totally ineffective, but still scary, “Novichok”. In the past, much of that money was spent inside Russia by all sorts of CIA-run NGOs and much of it was also spent on various propaganda efforts outside Russia. Again, this will not change, if anything, expect even more money poured into what are in reality strategic PSYOP operations.

The sad truth is that US politicians know very little about Russia, a country which they hate and fear, but not a country they even begin to understand. In this case, what US politicians will not realize is that Russia herself has changed a great deal in the past years: many new laws and regulation (see machine translated example here) were adopted which, in essence, “plugged” many political “holes” in the Russian legislation which allowed AngloZionist organizations to have a great deal of influence in Russia. As a result of these reforms, it has become far more difficult for western run NGOs to influence the Russian political scene.

As a direct result of these new rules, I expect that a higher ratio of money will stay allocated to activities situated in the West and less for Russian-based activities. In plain English, this means that more US printed money will be spent on completely useless activities. The only people benefitting from this will be the entire class of pseudo “Russia experts” whose only true expertise is on how to secure grant money. They will produce even more conferences and papers which nobody will care about, but which will allow the US Neocons and their deep state to show how “Biden is firm with Russia”. The typical US cocktail of waste, mismanagement and fraud (and let’s not forget good old corruption!).

Russia’s response to that will also be “more of the same”: Russian politicians will continue to express their disgust with their western “partners” (FYI – when Russians speak of “partners” it is understood by all that they mean this only sarcastically). Foreign Minister Lavrov and one of his deputies have recently made statements basically indicating that Russia will not seek any (!) form of dialog with the West, because, frankly, it is pretty clear to them that this is a total waste of time: Russia has nobody in the West to speak to: the only country with real agency (albeit severely limited by its subordination to Israel) would be the US, all the other countries of the West are really colonies and/or protectorates with no sovereignty at all.

What about all the many military provocations the Empire is organizing all around Russia? Do they concern Russia leaders or not?

Well, no and yes.

In purely military terms, US/NATO military capabilities are no real threat to Russia whose military is much smaller, but also much more capable than the western ones. Why? Simply because building a truly powerful military has been a core strategic priority for the Kremlin who needed a military actually capable of a) deterring the West from attacking Russia and b) defeating the West should deterrence fail. In sharp contrast, western militaries have not been training for real wars for decades already: most of what the US/NATO do is using western militaries for all sorts of propaganda purposes (like “sending messages” or “showing determination” etc.) and for counter-insurgency operations, not for fighting a real, major, wars.

Right now the Russian military is much more modern (about 80% of new gear on average across all military branches and services!) and much better trained for real combat operations. In sharp contrast, the US MIC is heavy on hot air (Space Force! Hypersonic missiles! Artificial Intelligence!) and short on any actually deployed and engageable weapon systems. Away from the propaganda machine (aka “corporate legacy ziomedia”), the reality is that the West is about 1.5-2 decades behind Russia in most critical military technologies.

Last, but not least, wars are not won by machines, computers or fancy engineering: they are won by soldiers, real men, who know what they are defending and why. The contrast between the typical Russian soldier (in any service or branch of the military) and his western counterpart could not be greater than it is today. Simply put: no western country can boast that it has soldiers like Russia has and, again, I don’t mean the “super dooper” elite Spetsnaz operators, I am talking about your very average, garden variety, infantry soldier, like the ones who saved Russia in the Chechen conflict in spite of operating in truly horrible and totally chaotic circumstances. These guys might not look like much, but as soldiers they are the kind every commander dreams about.

All this is to say that Russians have nothing to fear from all the western sabre-rattling, except maybe one thing: the rogue officer, on either side, who would suddenly decide to open fire (for whatever reason) thereby creating a situation which could escalate into a full-scale war very rapidly.

The other thing which is objectively bad for Russia is the number of key treaties the US has now withdrawn from: these treaties are most needed, especially as confidence building measures. Right now there are very few treaties left and that means that the US is desperate to try to suck Russia into an arms race.

This won’t work.

Why?

Putin himself explained it very well when he recently said that while the West throws huge sums of money at any problem, Russia allocates brains, not money. According to Putin, it is the use of brains, rather than wasting money, which allowed Russia to develop all the weapon systems mentioned by Putin for the first time in 2018. This made it possible for Russia to get ahead by a decade or more, while using only a small fraction of the kind of money the US, and other western countries, are allocating on “defense” (while not being threatened by anybody!). In the competition between the US money printing press and the Russian brains, you can be sure that the latter one will always prevail.

The bottom line is this: the US can spend many hundred billion dollars on “countering Russian (or Chinese) influence”, but this will do absolutely nothing to help the objective circumstances and capabilities of the Empire or the US.

So the real question is what will change on the level below direct military confrontation.

In a recent press conference, Putin mentioned something very interesting about the outgoing Trump administration. He said:

“The current administration introduced new sanctions against Russia 46 times – against our legal entities and economic operators. Forty-six times – this has never ever happened before. But at the same time, bilateral trade grew by 30 percent over the previous year, oddly enough, even despite those restrictions.”

So if the putatively pro-Russian Trump Administration sanctioned Russia 46 times, it is normal for the Russians to look at Biden with equanimity or even a resigned fatalism: “the West has always hated us, the West still hates us and the West will always hate us” – this truism is all but unanimously accepted amongst Russian politicians.

Still, we can count on Biden and Harris to try to show how “tough” they are on Russia and Putin: they will show their prowess mostly by demanding that their NATO/EU colonies and protectorates continue “send messages” to Russia and show their “unity” and “solidarity” with each other, mostly by parroting self-evidently nonsensical Anglo and German propaganda. Will the bilateral trade between Russia and the US continue to grow? Probably not as the list of corporations and agencies the US declares to be under sanctions will only grow further. But never say never, especially with the comprehensively hypocritical Dems…

How about the kind of self-evidently ridiculous stories about Russians using (a clearly ineffective) combat biological agent like the so-called “Novichok”, trying to kill irrelevant bloggers and failing to do so, or some variation on “animal Assad” “poisoning his own people”? Will that nonsense also continue? Probably, mainly simply because this is something which the Empire has demonstratively proved that it has the ability to do. So why not continue, especially with a press corps willing to parrot even the most ridiculous nonsense.

The bottom line is this: to get a sense of what any actor could do next, one always has to multiply intentions by capabilities. If there is one thing which the outgoing Maga Administration has shown, is that its declared intentions and actual capabilities are not at all commensurate: hence the long list of countries Trump threatened, but never meaningfully attacked. “Biden” (and I use this term very loosely, meaning “Biden and his real handlers”) will inherit the very same geostrategic toolkit Trump had at his disposal for four years and which did not make it possible for him to effectively flex muscles, not even against weak and nearby Venezuela! We can be pretty sure that the rhetoric about Russia will get even more hate-filled and paranoid. Petty harassment (such as arrest of nationals, closures of offices, expulsion from various international events, etc.) will also continue, not so much because they work, but because a lot of people depend on these for their salary.

How likely is a shooting war? In my personal opinion, not very likely at all. I think that the folks at the Pentagon are mostly aware of the real world out there, and they probably recognize that the US armed forces are in no condition to fight any halfway capable opponent.

How likely is it that the US will use a protectorate like the Ukraine or Georgia to reignite another local war? It is not impossible, especially since the US did support SBU infiltration of terrorists into Russia. Keep in mind that the sole goal of such (a, frankly, suicidal) attack would be to provoke Russia into a military response, not to actually achieve anything else. The main problem here is that the regular armed forces of the Ukraine and Georgia are in no condition to fight, and that the (US letter soup controlled) Ukrainian and Georgian special services have already tried this many times, and so far without success, mainly because, unlike all the western countries, Russia has the actual means to lock her borders when needed.

What about the reported plan to destabilize Russia by creating conflicts all along her periphery?

It would take way too long for me here to describe what is taking place in each of these countries right now, but I will offer just the following bullet points:

  • Russia has officially declared that she will never allow Belarus to be conquered by the West (irrespective of the means used). That ship has sailed.
  • Russia is slowly, but surely and very successfully “choking” the economies of the three Baltic statelets, mostly by denying them transit of Russian cargo and by letting them cut themselves off (yes, they did that to themselves!) from the Russian-Belarusian energy network.
  • Poland is, as always, very loud, and, also as always, highly irrelevant. Poles are only potentially dangerous to a very weak, divided country, or when backed by powerful patrons. Neither is true nowadays.
  • The Ukraine poses no threat to Russia, it is way too weak, too corrupt, too mismanaged and too poor to represent a threat to Russia. The Minsk Agreements have been de-facto rejected by the entire Ukronazi political class and the Donbass is now gone forever.
  • The Caucasus is now firmly in Russian hands (there is no force capable of challenging the Southern Military District or the 58th Combined Arms Army in the region). Those who believe that Turkey strengthened its position in the region simply do not understand the outcome of the recent war (especially the very interesting drone war which showed that while Armenia could not deal with them, Russian EW literally destroyed Turkish drones in mid-air (this also happened in Syria, by the way).
  • Central Asia is an inherently unstable region, mainly because these countries never succeeded in effectively transitioning from the Soviet period to full independence. And yes, the US has a great deal of influence in this region. But only Russia can provide effective security guarantees to the leaders of Central Asia, they all know that. Finally, Kazakhstan plays an important “buffer” role for Russia, putting distance between her and her chronically unstable southern neighbors.
  • In the Far East, Russia and China are enjoying a long honeymoon in which their already very deep relationship only gets deeper and their collaboration stronger (in spite of western PSYOPs trying to scare Russians about how China wants to take Siberia, and other silly fairy tales). Russia is now even supplying key strategic defense technologies to China.
  • Last, but most certainly not least, Russia has total superiority in the Arctic, where the West is many decades behind Russia. In fact, Russia is massively expanding her capabilities (civilian and military) in the Russian north, which will give her even more weight on our planet’s very rich north.

Now ask yourself: do you see any of that changing in the next 4 years, even assuming a rabidly hostile Biden Administration? I sure don’t.

Conclusion:

Yes, the political atmosphere between Russia and the Empire will get worse. Most of the “action” will take place in the public media space. The quasi simultaneous collapse of the Anglo-Zionist Empire and the United States (at least as we knew them before the election steal) will not give much time or energy to western leaders to pursue policies which have already failed in the past and for which they simply do not have the means.

Trump or Biden was never a meaningful choice for Russia (only the Russian court jester Zhirinovskii thought otherwise). It’s not much of a choice today either. The most likely consequence of these collapses will be that the world will split in roughly two sections: “Section A” which will include all the countries of the “collective West” and which will be busy trying to survive a crisis which has only begun and “Section B”: the rest of the world, which will try hard to decouple itself from the sinking West and try to develop itself in this rather unstable environment.

Also, many Russians remember the gerontocracy which ruled in the last years of the USSR and they know how such gerontocracies act (make no difference if the country is ruled by a Chernenko or a Biden – such rulers are always weak and clueless).

Biden or Trump – no real difference for Russia.

This is why most Russians don’t care either way.← NATO and the EU Are Sending a “messag…

Turkey pivots to the center of The New Great Game

Turkey pivots to the center of The New Great Game

December 28, 2020

by Pepe Escobar with permission and first posted at Asia Times

When it comes to sowing – and profiting – from division, Erdogan’s Turkey is quite the superstar.

Under the delightfully named Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), the Trump administration duly slapped sanctions on Ankara for daring to buy Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile defence systems. The sanctions focused on Turkey’s defence procurement agency, the SSB.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s response was swift: Ankara won’t back down – and it is in fact mulling how to respond.

The European poodles inevitably had to provide the follow-up. So after the proverbial, interminable debate in Brussels, they settled for “limited” sanctions – adding a further list for a summit in March 2021. Yet these sanctions actually focus on as-yet unidentified individuals involved in offshore drilling in Cyprus and Greece. They have nothing to do with S-400s.

What the EU has come up with is in fact a very ambitious, global human-rights sanctions regime modeled after the US’s Magnitsky Act. That implies travel bans and asset freezes of people unilaterally considered responsible for genocide, torture, extrajudicial killings and crimes against humanity.

Turkey, in this case, is just a guinea pig. The EU always hesitates mightily when it comes to sanctioning a NATO member. What the Eurocrats in Brussels really want is an extra, powerful tool to harass mostly China and Russia.

Our jihadis, sorry, “moderate rebels”

What’s fascinating is that Ankara under Erdogan always seems to be exhibiting a sort of “devil may care” attitude.

Take the seemingly insoluble situation in the Idlib cauldron in northwest Syria. Jabhat al-Nusra – a.k.a. al-Qaeda in Syria – honchos are now involved in “secret” negotiations with Turkish-backed armed gangs, such as Ahrar al-Sharqiya, right in front of Turkish officials. The objective: to boost the number of jihadis concentrated in certain key areas. The bottom line: a large number of these will come from Jabhat al-Nusra.

So Ankara for all practical purposes remains fully behind hardcore jihadis in northwest Syria – disguised under the “innocent” brand Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. Ankara has absolutely no interest in letting these people disappear. Moscow, of course, is fully aware of these shenanigans, but wily Kremlin and Defence Ministry strategists prefer to let it roll for the time being, assuming the Astana process shared by Russia, Iran and Turkey can be somewhat fruitful.

Erdogan, at the same time, masterfully plays the impression that he’s totally involved in pivoting towards Moscow. He’s effusive that “his Russian colleague Vladimir Putin” supports the idea – initially tabled by Azerbaijan – of a regional security platform uniting Russia, Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia. Erdogan even said that if Yerevan is part of this mechanism, “a new page may be opened” in so far intractable Turkey-Armenia relations.

It will help, of course, that even under Putin pre-eminence, Erdogan will have a very important seat at the table of this putative security organization.

The Big Picture is even more fascinating – because it lays out various aspects of Putin’s Eurasia balancing strategy, which involves as main players Russia, China, Iran, Turkey and Pakistan.

On the eve of the first anniversary of the assassination of Gen Soleimani, Tehran is far from cowed and “isolated”. For all practical purposes, it is slowly but surely forcing the US out of Iraq. Iran’s diplomatic and military links to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon remain solid.

And with less US troops in Afghanistan, the fact is Iran for the first time since the “axis of evil” era will be less surrounded by the Pentagon. Both Russia and China – the key nodes of Eurasia integration – fully approve it.

Of course the Iranian rial has collapsed against the US dollar, and oil income has fallen from over $100 billion a year to something like $7 billion. But non-oil exports are going well over $30 billion a year.

All is about to change for the better. Iran is building an ultra-strategic pipeline from the eastern part of the Persian Gulf to the port of Jask in the Gulf of Oman – bypassing the Strait of Hormuz, and ready to export up to 1 million barrels of oil a day. China will be the top customer.

President Rouhani said the pipeline will be ready by the summer of 2021, adding that Iran plans to be selling over 2.3 million barrels of oil a day next year – with or without US sanctions alleviated by Biden-Harris.

Watch the Golden Ring

Iran is well linked to Turkey to the west and Central Asia to the east. An extra important element in the chessboard is the entrance of freight trains directly linking Turkey to China via Central Asia -bypassing Russia.

Earlier this month, the first freight train left Istanbul for a 8,693 km, 12-day trip, crossing below the Bosphorus via the brand new Marmary tunnel, inaugurated a year ago, then along the East-West Middle Corridor via the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway, across Georgia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan.

In Turkey this is known as the Silk Railway. It was the BTK that reduced freight transport from Turkey to China from one month to only 12 days. The whole route from East Asia to Western Europe can now be travelled in only 18 days. BTK is the key node of the so-called Middle Corridor from Beijing to London and the Iron Silk Road from Kazakhstan to Turkey.

All of the above totally fits the EU’s agenda – especially Germany’s: implementing a strategic trade corridor linking the EU to China, bypassing Russia.

This would eventually lead to one of the key alliances to be consolidated in the Raging Twenties: Berlin-Beijing.

To speed up this putative alliance, the talk in Brussels is that Eurocrats would profit from Turkmen nationalism, pan-Turkism and the recent entente cordiale between Erdogan and Xi when it comes to the Uighurs. But there’s a problem: many a turcophone tribe prefers an alliance with Russia.

Moreover, Russia is inescapable when it comes to other corridors. Take, for instance, a flow of Japanese goods going to Vladivostok and then via the Trans-Siberian to Moscow and onwards to the EU.

The bypass-Russia EU strategy was not exactly a hit in Armenia-Azerbaijan: what we had was a relative Turkey retreat and a de facto Russian victory, with Moscow reinforcing its military position in the Caucasus.

Enter an even more interesting gambit: the Azerbaijan-Pakistan strategic partnership, now on overdrive in trade, defence, energy, science and technology, and agriculture. Islamabad, incidentally, supported Baku on Nagorno-Karabakh.

Both Azerbaijan and Pakistan have very good relations with Turkey: a matter of very complex, interlocking Turk-Persian cultural heritage.

And they may get even closer, with the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INTSC) increasingly connecting not only Islamabad to Baku but also both to Moscow.

Thus the extra dimension of the new security mechanism proposed by Baku uniting Russia, Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia: all the Top Four here want closer ties with Pakistan.

Analyst Andrew Korybko has neatly dubbed it the “Golden Ring” – a new dimension to Central Eurasian integration featuring Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, Azerbaijan and the central Asian “stans”. So this all goes way beyond a possible Triple Entente: Berlin-Ankara-Beijing.

What’s certain as it stands is that the all-important Berlin-Moscow relationship is bound to remain as cold as ice. Norwegian analyst Glenn Diesen summed it all up: “The German-Russian partnership for Greater Europe was replaced with the Chinese-Russian partnership for Greater Eurasia”.

What’s also certain is that Erdogan, a master of pivoting, will find ways to simultaneously profit from both Germany and Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin Holds Annual Press Conference

Source

December 17, 2020

Russian President Vladimir Putin Holds Annual Press Conference

Mr Putin answers questions by press representatives and the general public in his annual press conference.  This video is the live stream and we are already 3 hours into the meeting.  I find the translators better than in previous years, but kindly refrain from complaining about quality.  This is what we have currently.  A transcript will be available but will probably take some days.  The video starts at the current time in the conference, so, to listen from the start, move your video back to the start.

Update : a partial transcript is available earlier than usual.  It will be posted here, as the sections become available.

The news conference is being broadcast live by Rossiya 1, Rossiya 24, Channel One, NTV and MIR television channels, as well as Mayak, Vesti FM and Radio Rossii radio stations. Public Television of Russia (OTR) and its site (http://www.otr-online.ru/online/) provide live sign language interpretation of the event.

Representatives of federal and foreign media are working at the World Trade Centre in Moscow. In addition, special platforms have been set up in all federal districts, where representatives of regional media can participate and ask their questions.

The call centre continues to accept questions from individuals. You can ask your question on the website https://moskva-putinu.ru or using the Moskva-Putinu mobile app.

* * *

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.

My greetings to all of you, here in Novo-Ogaryovo, in the call centre and across the regions of the Russian Federation, in Moscow and St Petersburg.

Today we are holding the traditional news conference to wind up this year’s results. Since COVID-19 prevented us from holding the Direct Line live, my colleagues have tried to merge these two events into a single one by introducing elements inspired by the Direct Line format into this news conference so that I can interact directly with people, hear what they have to say, what is going on in the country, and listen to their proposals on what more can be done in order to address matters in the best possible way and find effective solutions to the issues we face and deliver on our objectives.

Allow me to mention that over the past years it has become a good tradition for us to ensure that all the questions we get, and there are hundreds of thousands of them, are answered in one way or another. For that, I would like to thank my colleagues from the Presidential Executive Office, the Government, but first and foremost from non-governmental organisations: the Civic Chamber and the Russian Popular Front, the volunteers who contacted the people who took part in previous Direct Lines, talked to them, discussed the challenges pinpointed by these people, and quite often succeeded in resolving various matters that people were concerned with, and which probably remain relevant to this day.

I very much hope that we will do the same this year. I would like to ask volunteers, the Russian Popular Front to continue this wonderful practice, very useful for the country.

For me, I would like to emphasise, such events are not formal; I highly value them. Even though I have a vast flow of information about what is happening in the country reaching me through various channels, still, there is nothing more valuable than direct communication with the people, with Russian citizens, there is nothing more valuable than hearing their opinions about their lives and concerns, and again, what we need to do in order to have a better life.

You know, I would rather finish my opening remarks here. It would be a good idea to start the Q&A without wasting any more time. I would like to give the floor to Mr Peskov, who is at the call centre now. He will continue to moderate our meeting.

Mr Peskov, please.

Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov: Good afternoon, Mr President. Hello everyone.

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.

Dmitry Peskov: We have our participants scattered widely across our vast country, and I suggest we start from the easternmost point.

Vladivostok, please.

Once again, I urge everyone to be brief and dynamic so that as many journalists as possible have time to ask their questions.

Please, Vladivostok, help me out, for a start.

Dmitry Kaistro: Good evening. It is evening here already.

So this is Vladivostok, the capital of the country’s largest federal district, the Far East. There are 50 correspondents here, and you can see how active they are. Each of them has their own established audience and their own questions for the head of state.

I suggest we begin now. We seem to have people here who really have something to say.

Mr Peskov, would you choose who will go first?

Dmitry Peskov: Could you show me the audience, please? Did I see Magadan there?

Dmitry Kaistro: Yes, the young lady in blue.

Lyudmila Shcherbakova: Good afternoon.

Magadan State Television and Radio Company. My name is Lyudmila Shcherbakova.

First of all, I would like to greet you Mr President, and all the spectators and the audience on behalf of Russia’s Far East and Magadan Region in particular.

I have the following question. We all know that this was a challenging year, to an extent that I can hardly find the right words to describe. Still, in your opinion, was this year all bad, or was there something positive as well?

Vladimir Putin: The year was… What do you mean by calling this a bad year? This is like the weather: is it good or bad? Weather is just the way it is. The same goes for the year: it had its ups and downs, as it always happens in life.

Of course, this year brought us a problem that is on everyone’s lips, and is a matter of concern for all of us: the coronavirus pandemic. However, not only Russia, the entire world has been hit by this scourge. We are fully aware of this, since over 70 million people have already been infected by the coronavirus, according to WHO data. This problem has affected all aspects of our lives.

What is a pandemic? It means lockdowns, curbed production, declining passenger and cargo traffic and all that goes with it. Unfortunately, it also means fewer jobs, and lower incomes. This has all become a reality.

At the same time, here is what I wanted to point out. First (and I will try to provide figures to back this up), despite the plethora of challenges we have been facing, and there has been plenty of problems, and we will discuss them today, since this is why we are here, the whole world has been submerged in this ocean of problems. Still, we can affirm in all confidence that we faced up to these problems with dignity and in some ways maybe even better than other countries of the world that have every right to be proud of their economies, social services and healthcare systems.

I have some prompts here (it is not my intention to delve deep into numbers since it sounds boring) to show you where we are right now. At this point in time, Russia’s GDP has fallen by 3.6 percent, which is less than in the leading European, EU countries, and less than in the United States. In some EU countries GDP has so far dropped by as much as 9 percent (I think this is the case in Great Britain).

We have industrial production down 3 percent now – mainly due to oil, because we have made the OPEC Plus deal and began to cut production, and this affected our overall performance. But there is also good news (better in some areas, worse in others, but we do have some improvements): yesterday, my colleagues from the Government reported to me that processing industries (manufacturing) showed 1.1 percent growth in November. This gives us reason to hope that this trend will continue, that we will move forward in this direction.

Over the past few years, our agricultural industry has posted good figures, and now, at the moment, it is somewhere around up 1.8. The Minister said agriculture might not even show a decline for the year, but an increase of up to 2 percent. I hope this will be the case.

Our banking sector is in a very satisfactory condition, with profits estimated at about 1.3 trillion rubles for the year. This definitely testifies to the financial system’s stability.

Real wages. I ask the country’s citizens, try not to be angry with me because what I will say now might not correspond to how people feel in real life; nevertheless, I am going to cite an averaged figure, and it also needs to be taken into account. I hope real wages will grow by about 1.5 percent by the end of the year across Russia, although unfortunately, there will be a decline in real disposable incomes. Why is this happening? What does it mean? Where does this difference come from? This has to do with the declining incomes of individual entrepreneurs, and the resulting changes. Overall, real incomes, unfortunately, will fall by around 3 percent.

Unemployment rate in Russian was 4.7 percent at the beginning of 2020; now, as you know, it has grown to 6.3 percent. We will certainly talk about this later.

Everything we do to support the economy, to support the affected industries, is aimed at maintaining employment. We have [unemployment at] 6.3 percent now, but I hope that over the next year, we will be able to bring it down to the earlier figures.

A positive trade balance can be considered a good indicator. It creates conditions for good macroeconomic development.

Our national debt had been at its lowest at $70 billion, in dollar terms. It shrank by another 10 billion since. We borrow less in foreign markets, while regularly servicing all our loan obligations. Our international reserves have grown. At the beginning of this year, they amounted to 554.4 billion; now, as of December 4, they are already about 587.7 billion. The same holds true for the National Wealth Fund. In ruble terms, it was 7.7 trillion, now it is almost 13.5 trillion. This is significant growth.

There is something I need to draw your attention to. What is an obviously positive part of our economic growth? As much as 70 percent of the Russian federal budget comes from non-oil and gas revenues now. This means, well, we are not entirely off the so-called oil and gas needle, but we are starting to get away from it. Even if someone still likes to think of Russia as a petrol station, they no longer have real grounds for that. Even though the dependence is still strong enough, and we have to bear this in mind.

Finally, this outgoing year is also associated with major national events, such as the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War. Despite all the difficulties caused by the pandemic, we nevertheless celebrated it properly, with the Victory Parade on Red Square; and the Immortal Regiment march also took place, albeit online. These are all positive aspects.

But most importantly, there is something else I definitely need to mention now, and I would like to thank the citizens of our country for it: even in the most difficult circumstances, we have once again reaffirmed what underlies the Russian identity – people rallying together in the face of a threat. We have seen it all, the work of volunteers, the work of doctors – we bow down before them again as a sign of deepest gratitude – the prevailing attitude in society, people are ready to help and support their neighbours, those especially in need of help and support. That showed a nationwide unity – let alone the We Are Together volunteer campaign, which is just an external manifestation of the internal attitude in society – this, in my opinion, is something that determines our country and is a decisive factor. Once again, I would like to express my gratitude to everyone who took part in those major campaigns.

Thank you.

Dmitry Peskov: I would like to remind everyone that after asking your questions you should change the mike cover for a new one. After all, we must comply with the sanitary rules.

Let us proceed. The Kremlin pool, please, show us Novo-Ogaryovo.

We will give the floor to our largest holding, the VGTRK, Rossiya channel.

Alexei Petrov: Thank you. Alexei Petrov, Vesti news programme, Rossiya TV channel.

Mr President, face masks have become an unpleasant symbol of the times. It is obvious that the pandemic is the main event of the year. My question concerns the situation in the Russian healthcare system. How would you describe its state of readiness? How well has it responded and how well is it responding to the current challenges?

There is an important nuance here. Do you think the situation is being analysed? Are the shortcomings and drawbacks being considered? This includes the shortage and labelling of medications, something that has been spoken about many times, and our social activists have reported about this to you. What is the net result?

Another thing has to do with the primary care system reform. A lot of money has been invested in it. How will it proceed now in the light of the lessons of the pandemic?

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Regarding the readiness of our healthcare system. Of course, not a single healthcare system in the world was ready for the scale of the problem we faced. There are simply no such systems. We are analysing everything that is taking place across the world, and we see that there are no such systems. But there are examples of how the pandemic response was organised in Russia. Compared to other countries, although we do have a great number, an ocean of problems, some of which you have mentioned, but compared to what was happening in the world our healthcare system has proved to be more effective.

I will now talk about medicine shortages and other problems – it goes without saying that the problems are still there, and we can see them all. It is evident from the incoming questions, and I can hear it in your question, it suggests that not everything has been resolved. But look, when the pandemic was only just starting, when the very first signals came from our friends in the People’s Republic of China that there was a problem, we reacted immediately at the border, and – I have already said this many times – it bought us time to get prepared, so that when it all hit us on a large scale, we were ready.

It bought us time, we began to quickly deploy the healthcare system proper, as well as other measures to prevent a pandemic, and we did not waste any of that time. The required number of beds for coronavirus patients was 95, we are counting in millions, and the availability was only 50 percent; now we have 125 – sorry, I meant thousands – 125,000, and now we have 177,000 deployed, even 277,000 – a total of 277,000 beds deployed in a fairly short time. During that time, we have built 40 coronavirus centres: 30 of them were built quickly by the Ministry of Defence, and 10 by the regions. Overall, we will have 40, as the last one should be completed in the final days of 2020. This shows our ability to quickly respond to a problem.

Yesterday, when I was inspecting equipment, I spoke to a young woman working as a volunteer: at the time the pandemic began, we had very few doctors or specialists – 8,300, and now, there are 150,000 doctors working with this infection, and total medical staff numbers are more than half a million, some 520,000–530,000, I think.

What happened? We were able to quickly convert some of the medical institutions available for dealing with COVID and set up a retraining system for medical personnel. We introduced bonuses for people working in the ‘red zones’ in order to support our doctors, also 10,000 for senior students of medical universities, and 7,000 each for college students, as you know. We quickly expanded the production of personal protective equipment and suits, and disinfectants to sanitise premises. In some cases, the expansion was dramatic: for example, with the facemasks everyone is sick and tired of by now, we increased production 20 times, and this rarely happens.

Our healthcare system and state governance system in this area have shown that they can quickly mobilise resources, and they have done this. Incidentally, the required amount of medications has doubled. It is true that some regions have problems – I am aware of this and have just received information from the call centre based on what people say. There is a shortage of medications at hospitals, not to mention pharmacies, and free medications are not provided – I will say a few words about this as well. But these are not the same problems that we faced at the beginning. These problems have to do with logistics and purchase and delivery delays, but on the whole our industry has responded well enough.

At the beginning of the pandemic we did not know what we were facing, how to identify or test the disease, what treatment to use, and whether there would ever be an antidote, that is, a vaccine against it.

Just look now: we have moved forward a great deal in all of these areas. Russia is one of the world’s top three countries for COVID testing, and the WHO believes that mass testing is a way to deal with the problems created by the spreading infection. Take medications: we are now producing domestic medications in the necessary amount. And lastly, vaccination: Russia is the first country in the world to create and produce a vaccine, or vaccines created at the Gamaleya National Research Centre and at the Novosibirsk-based Vektor Centre. These are good vaccines, as I have said on numerous occasions, safe and effective: their efficacy rate is over 95 percent, approaching 96 or 97 percent, according to experts, and not a single case of serious side effects has been reported.

Thankfully, our foreign colleagues have changed their attitude towards us and are ready to collaborate in the areas where it is not working out for them. The Anglo-Swedish AstraZeneca is ready to work with us, and is in the process of signing a corresponding agreement. This is very good; I am really glad when top-notch specialists – this is a large and good company with a global reputation – join forces, including with their Russian partners. I have no doubt that this will have a very good result not just for our citizens, but for the world as a whole.

Everything I have said just now shows that although there are quite a few problems, our healthcare system has responded appropriately to the threats our citizens faced.

Turning to the question on primary healthcare, it is true, of course, that we had to channel the necessary resources into what I have just mentioned, fighting the coronavirus, helping doctors, volunteers, students, etc., and acquiring the required manufacturing capability as soon as possible. We have postponed the effort to upgrade primary healthcare, without forgetting about it or placing it on the back burner. Instead of launching this undertaking on July 1, we will begin on January 1, and all the resources that were to be spent on this programme will be engaged within the timeframe set out in the programme. This is 500 billion rubles from the federal budget and another 50 billion from regional budgets. Over the next three years or so, some 300 billion rubles will have been made available and used.

We have started improving some aspects of primary healthcare. This includes buying motor vehicles, for example. We need these vehicles right now, as I can see from the questions we have been receiving, but this is also part of the programme to develop primary healthcare.

Since we are on this topic, I would like to say that ensuring that all people enjoy access to medical services is what the efforts to develop primary healthcare are all about. I know that there are many issues here that need to be resolved without delay. This will be our priority. Of course, this is also about personnel training, infrastructure, etc.

As for your question on how to respond to challenges that arose in the course of the fight against the pandemic and have yet to be resolved, of course, we are looking into these issues. In this context, let me reiterate that our event today is essential since it provides us with massive feedback from all regions across the country, giving us a picture of what is being done in specific regions of the Russian Federation, and allowing us to respond to these developments and fine-tune our actions.

We can draw the obvious conclusion that we need to move towards building a better sanitary and epidemiological service and reforming it. We need to understand how many specialised hospital beds we need and in what regions, and how many specialists are required. This programme is ready by all accounts, and we will make it a reality.

Dmitry Peskov: Let’s move on. Ura.Ru.

Anton Olshannikov: Good afternoon, Mr President.

My name is Anton Olshannikov, from the Ura.Ru news agency.

The epidemic is a problem indeed, but life goes on, and in this regard, I have this compound question about life, concerning elections, the big campaign we are going to have next year.

How do you think this upcoming political campaign will differ from the last one? What will the political landscape be like in the country?

The second part of my question is about the old mainstream opposition parties. Isn’t it time for them to make way for young parties, and do these young parties even have a chance, given how they have shown themselves at the municipal elections?

And the last part of my question is about external interference. It is obviously quite possible, especially since this campaign is so important. How do you intend to block this interference?

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: As for the 2021 parliamentary elections, there will be a few differences, of course, mainly because we have adopted amendments to the Constitution – this is my first point. This means that the parliament now has more powers in a number of areas, including in forming the Government of the Russian Federation. You know, I would like to repeat this again, the State Duma now in fact makes the final decision not only regarding the Prime Minister, but also on cabinet ministers and deputy prime ministers.

The President must sign the personnel decisions adopted by parliament. And this – I do not think everyone has fully realised this yet – this greatly augments the importance of the deputy corps’ work, of their responsibility to the country, including for the work of the Government. This link between parliament and the Government is extremely important, I think. This is the first point.

Second, about the new parties and whether the old political heavyweights should cede their places to them. This is not for the new parties or for the political heavyweights, that is, the traditional parties, but for our citizens, the voters to decide. They will decide at the elections which parties to support. But does our political system, which continues developing, offer an opportunity for more political forces and parties to participate in the general election campaigns? Yes, it does. I think, no, I am sure that next year up to 16 parties will be taking part in the elections without collecting signatures, as far as I am aware. This is because in accordance with our legislation they have won seats in several Russian regions and therefore have the right to try their hand on the national political stage.

I wish them every success, but I would like to repeat that it is for the voters to decide whom to elect. I would like to note in this connection that the traditional parties are well known and have been represented in parliament for many years. It should be said that different, sometimes widely different views are expressed in parliament, where heated debates are held on a number of priority matters facing the country. At the same time, nearly all these parties act patriotically in the interests of the nation while offering their own solutions to the problems the country is facing. Approaches and ways to address problems may differ, but the goal of all our traditional political parties is the same – the welfare and development of the country.

Dmitry Peskov: Let us move from Moscow to Siberia now. Novosibirsk, you have an opportunity to ask your question.

Anton Vernitsky: Mr President, you have mentioned Novosibirsk as a centre where one of our vaccines has been created. Allow me to take Mr Peskov’s place now and act as a moderator. Can I choose who will ask the question? The thing is that I have seen a poster with the word “vaccine” on it. Go ahead, please, but first introduce yourself.

Lyudmila Keibol: Lyudmila Keibol, Altai Territory.

Mr President, I would like to ask if you have been vaccinated. What do you think about compulsory vaccination if there are not enough pilot vaccine doses in the regions? The epidemiological situation is quite complicated in Altai Territory.

And one more question: will we have enough vaccine doses in Russia if we help out other countries?

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Look here. I urge everyone to pay close attention to specialists’ recommendations. I see, Lyudmila, that you have put on a mask. This is great. And you have gloves as well.

Specialists are telling us that the vaccines that are now coming into civil circulation are designed for people in a certain age group. So vaccines have not yet reached people like me. Let me repeat that I am a law-abiding person in this sense, I follow the recommendations of our specialists, therefore I have not been vaccinated yet. But I will do it as soon as it becomes possible. This is the first point.

Now the second one: I hear from specialists that it is necessary to have an interval between, say a flu shot and the coronavirus vaccine. Some of them say it should be two weeks whereas others insist it should be at least four weeks. I am referring to the coronavirus vaccine.

The third point is about the need for a large-scale or universal vaccination campaign. I think it must be done. It is not only Russian virologists who say this but also their colleagues practically throughout the world. Mass vaccination is one of the few ways of dealing with all pandemic-related issues. It is this vaccination that will create nationwide, community immunity. And let me repeat once again: our vaccine is effective and safe. Therefore, I do not see any reasons for rejecting it.

Finally, the next issue that is related to aid to other countries, as you put it. First of all, as I have always said and will say it again because I want all people in this country to hear me, our task is to carry out vaccination inside the Russian Federation. There are some issues in this respect.

What are they? The vaccine itself and its components are good. But we are still short of the hardware, the equipment for producing the amount of the vaccine we need. I believe 70 million people have already got flu shots. This is large-scale vaccination all over the country. This is what we must also do to counter COVID-19. But to produce this vaccine, we need corresponding plants, companies and equipment. We will build them. I assume that all plans in this respect will be carried out. Next year, in the very beginning, we will already have millions of vaccine doses and we will keep increasing its production on and on.

With regard to cooperation with other countries, since we need time in order to boost the technological capabilities of our enterprises to produce the vaccine, nothing is preventing us from producing the components of this vaccine in other countries, which will invest their own money into expanding their production capacities and purchasing the corresponding equipment. This is what I am talking about. In no way does this interfere with vaccinating the public in Russia. On the contrary, it will even improve the final quality of the product, since increasingly it will be mass produced.

Anton Vernitsky: Mr President, let us continue the tradition Mr Peskov started here. (Addressing Lyudmila Keibol) We would like to present you with a microphone windscreen. The fact is that you used the microphone without wearing a mask. Now you have it, so go ahead and use it.

Vladimir Putin: You are a perfectionist, I would say. But never mind.

Dmitry Peskov: Let us visit the call centre.

Nailya Asker-Zade: The call centre has received many pandemic-related questions, as well as questions about the doctors’ work during this challenging period. These questions were handled by a medical worker and volunteer Alevtina Kiselyova. She worked five months as a general practitioner at an outpatient clinic and saw COVID-19 patients.

Good afternoon, Alevtina,

Tell us what Russia’s citizens are complaining about.

Alevtina Kiselyova: Good afternoon,

We received many complaints about serious problems, including testing, getting a home visit by a doctor, and a lack of medications in both pharmacies and hospitals. At times, people waited over a week for an ambulance to arrive.

I also handled messages from the “red zone” doctors, which I would like to focus on.

Doctors from the town of Kola, Murmansk Region, and the town of Kachkanar, Sverdlovsk Region, have not once been paid a bonus for working with COVID-19 patients. The last time the bonus was paid to the military hospital personnel in Nizhny Novgorod and the doctors at an infectious disease hospital in the city of Tver was September.

We have received many requests from those who are risking their lives just as doctors but do not receive any additional payments for this. These are the support personnel – lift operators, cleaning staff and canteen workers. They are working in the risk zone, and the operation of the “red zone” would be impossible without them. I feel sorry for those who are at the forefront of the war against the pandemic but do not feel appreciated.

Mr President, we have a large number of questions regarding this, and we can give them to you so that you would issue instructions on dealing with every one of them. Mr President, is it possible to settle this problem?

Vladimir Putin: Thank you. Alevtina, was it you I talked with yesterday?

Alevtina Kiseleva: Yes, I talked with you yesterday.

Vladimir Putin: I see.

I have a question from the call centre, possibly from you, from the Ryazan Region: “We live in a small town, and we never have access to medications, free medications. Why do coronavirus patients have to pay for their medications? They said that confirmed cases would receive free medications, but we do not. Everyone I know is buying their own medications. Where is the money?” I would like to know this too. It is from Vladimir Korshunov, Ryazan Region.

Alevtina, this is what I would like to tell you and all those who have sent in their questions, including Mr Korshunov. We have indeed allocated 10 billion rubles to the regions for a prompt response to arising problems connected with the purchase of PPE and the preparation of medical centres and facilities for dealing with COVID. We have also allocated 5 billion rubles, or even slightly more, for the provision of free medications to those who receive treatment at home.

As for the Ryazan Region, I know for sure that all the approved allocations have been transferred from the federal budget to the region. It is not clear why these medications are not provided to the people; we will definitely look into the matter. Here is the procedure for receiving free medications: notify your outpatient clinic, which should confirm the diagnosis and provide the necessary medications.

Alevtina, we will systematise the complaints that you received, and respond to other similar complaints and requests. To reiterate, we gave 10 billion to the regions for institutions and personal protective equipment, and 5 billion to help people directly. Of course, we will investigate where this money went. All the money from the federal budget was made available to the regions. Some governors – I am in constant contact with all of them – are reporting back to me that the money is being disbursed. There may be, of course, isolated irregularities, I hope that this is the case. Judging by the number of complaints, though, these are not isolated instances, but a widespread problem. We will definitely take a closer look at it.

Alevtina Kiselyova: Thank you very much.

Dmitry Peskov: Let us go back to the World Trade Centre.

Introduce yourself, please.

Pyotr Marchenko: MIC Izvestia, REN TV channel.

Good afternoon, Mr President,

Thank you for the vaccine. Above all, thanks go to the researchers. However, talk about fighting the pandemic has overshadowed the issue of the origin of that scourge. The debate continues until now, with the United States accusing China, and China accusing the United States of the virus being man-made or non-man-made. What do we know about it? Perhaps you ordered the special services to get on it and find out the source of the problem?

Vladimir Putin: There are many rumours regarding its origin. I do not feel like discussing this in front of the entire country and the whole world, especially since we do not have any evidence to back up these accusations. I think we need to join our efforts in combating the problem rather than look for the culprits. Cooperation will be the right thing to do. This is my first point.

Secondly, some of our Western partners never stop emphasising that they adhere to humanistic principles in their domestic and foreign policies. So, we should think about how to help the people in particularly difficult circumstances and lift trade restrictions and sanctions for the countries and areas of cooperation that are critical for overcoming the pandemic fallout. Perhaps restrictions on supplying medications, medical equipment and doctor training should be lifted in the first place. This is what everyone should be thinking about rather than looking for the culprits.

I have to note that, fortunately, we are developing cooperation with many countries, including the People’s Republic of China, at the level of specialists, regional heads and at the federal level.

As for the tasks assigned to the special services: there are many various tasks, of course, but I believe this is not the right place to discuss how these tasks are fulfilled.

One of the earlier questions was about possible interference in our elections. I am sorry, I did not respond to it, but not because I do not want to answer it. I just thought there are other issues that are more important, and focused on them. But this is a general question. Of course, they will try to interfere, they always do, and not only in our elections, but almost all over the world. This is global policy. Just like there are bases all over the world, there is interference on a worldwide scale. We know about it and are getting ready for it. But we will be able to efficiently block it only if the overwhelming majority of our citizens understand that a) it is interference, b) we must counteract it, and c) it is unacceptable and we must determine our destiny ourselves.

It is very important that our society feels this. Therefore, the sentiments of internet bloggers, the sentiments of the media and their intention to protect themselves is a crucial thing, the protection of our sovereignty. At the same time, of course, we are open to cooperation with our partners and international observers.

I think there is no such transparency anywhere else in the world. In some US states, you know, there are over a dozen states where it is prohibited for any foreign observers to attend the elections. We are nothing like that. On the contrary, we are open, we will work, and observers inside the country are working actively, including public organisations, the Civic Chamber, and others, and they are allowed to take part as observers. There are more opportunities for political parties and the media to observe the political processes inside the country, as it was before. We will definitely boost this activity to make our citizens confident that the elections are open and transparent and that their results should be respected.

Dmitry Peskov: We will stay at the World Trade Centre. Alexander Gamov, one of the most prominent members of the presidential pool, go ahead, please.

Alexander Gamov: Mr President, first, thank you very much for holding this countrywide gathering, I almost called it a Union-wide one, since it is so great for us to come together at this time and get an opportunity to tell you the truth.

In general, you know that the coronavirus has dealt a heavy blow to the standard of living of many people. I come from the regions, and I get a lot of phone calls from there with people saying that they find it extremely difficult to get by, worse than ever before: poverty is on the rise, and poor people are getting even poorer, with unemployment, the falling ruble, growing prices and higher mortality. Also, I wanted to tell you that prices have been gradually increasing since about September or August. Why did it take until December to start talking about it? A minister would not sweat until cornered by the President, it seems.

Could you tell us, please, whether there is a programme for resolving the issue with growing prices within a week, as you have said? Does the President or the Government have a programme to help Russia in the coming weeks?

Thank you very much. I represent the Komsomolskaya Pravda website, radio station and newspaper. Alexander Gamov.

Vladimir Putin: As I have said at the outset, this is a challenging situation. When I said that the pandemic caused the shutdown of several manufacturers, rising unemployment and a decline in disposable incomes, these were not empty words, and not something that can be overlooked. This means that we see and understand what is going on.

You said that things have never been as hard as they are today. This is not so. In 2000, 29 percent of the population lived below the poverty line. Almost one third of the country earned less than the subsistence level. One person out of three lived below the poverty line earning less than the subsistence level.

In 2017, we had 12.3 percent of the population below the poverty line. Unfortunately, today this level increased to 13.5 percent, due to all these problems. Of course, 20 million people is still too many.

You asked me whether there is a plan. Of course, there is a plan. Reducing the number of people below the poverty line is one of our key priorities. Let me elaborate on this subject.

First, here is the plan: by 2030, we need to bring down the share of the population living in poverty from the current 13.5 percent to 6.5 percent. Having 6.5 percent of the population earning less than the subsistence level is still not good, but we need to be realistic. This is a far-reaching, but feasible goal. This is the first point I wanted to make.

Now about prices. It is true that some prices are growing for objective reasons, for example, because the cost of their component parts has increased due to changes in the exchange rate. This is inevitable. Some products are only assembled in Russia, and we are now paying more for a large share of component parts, which have become more expensive because the ruble has slumped a bit.

But when the price hike is not related to objective reasons, this provokes a painful reaction. This is what made me angry, frankly speaking. For example, although we had a record large harvest this year, the largest harvest in the past six years – it will be 131 million tonnes and possibly even 134 million tonnes this year, yet bread and pasta prices are growing. How is that? Why? This is the first thing I wanted to say.

Second, sugar. I was told in the past that we should do something about cane sugar so as to support our own producers. We did so, in a number of ways, but not because we wanted to create a shortage on the domestic market. The minister has told me that we produce enough sugar for domestic consumption. But how can it be enough if sugar prices have soared by 75 percent?

Or take sunflower oil: prices have grown by 17 percent. Is there a shortage of sunflower seeds? No. There is also plenty of that. Why did it happen then? Because prices have grown on the global market, and so our producers increased exports and started adjusting domestic prices to global ones, which is absolutely unacceptable.

This is why we had such a tough discussion. The Government has responded. The main thing now is not to go too far with disciplinary action. This should have been done before with market measures; we should have adjusted the import duty, and this would have solved the problem. These are well known instruments, but they should be used on time. I hope we will do this now.

Contracts have been signed or will be signed – I think they have already been signed – between producers and retail chains: producers will bring down their prices to a certain level, and the retail chains should do the same for basic foods.

Of course, prices need to be monitored, and we will certainly do this. I hope to see the required changes within days, or weeks at the most.

Now about what can and must be done and what we are doing to help the people in this difficult period.

To begin with, we have substantially increased unemployment benefits since the unemployment rate has grown from 4.7 percent to 6.3 percent. This is common knowledge.

But the most difficult situation is taking shape in families with children, and we have created a whole programme to support families with children: from zero to 1.5 years, from 1.5 to three years and from three to seven years old. We have introduced an allowance for toddlers from zero to 1.5 years, and the rules are as follows: if every family member receives less than two subsistence minimums (at first, it was was 1.5, but later we expanded this programme and now it covers more people), such families are entitled to receive one child subsistence minimum for every child. As for children from 1.5 to three years of age, if their parents’ incomes are below these levels, they can receive the same payments but from the maternity capital: we have given them the right to receive these funds from the maternity capital. And, finally, for children aged between three and seven years we have introduced the following rule: if the income of each family member is below the subsistence minimum, they will start getting half of the subsistence minimum per each child. However, we decided from the very start to analyse this situation and see how it will affect the incomes of families. If not all families reach one subsistence minimum per member, starting January 1, that is, in two weeks from now, we will be already paying them one subsistence minimum for every child.

These are, so to speak, urgent measures to support Russian families. I did not mention lump sum payments for all children under 16.

And then there is support for the labour market. We will probably talk about it later on, and I will speak about it separately, so as not to drag out the answer to your question. However, this is certainly one of the key issues, therefore I allow myself to devote more time to it.

But the main point, of course, is that we need to develop the economy, reach the national development goals and implement national projects that contain these goals, create new jobs, raise the economy to a new level meeting the latest requirements, as well as develop artificial intelligence, digitisation and modern production lines that would allow people to have interesting jobs and receive decent incomes. The entire package of our measures envisaged by the national projects is aimed at reaching these goals.

Dmitry Peskov: Let’s not forget about the regions.

Yekaterinburg, please. We have not had any questions from Yekaterinburg yet.

Olga Armyakova: Colleagues, good afternoon. This is Yekaterinburg, the capital of the Urals.

We are broadcasting from the office of the presidential envoy, where journalists from all over the Ural Federal District have gathered. Accreditation has been approved for 70 journalists, but only 69 are present now. We learned why just a minute ago. Colleagues, I must share this with you: a journalist from a local news agency could not come to the news conference because she had a son yesterday. I think that is a good reason, and that you, Mr President, will accept it. As for the others, you can see that they are all ready to leap into action, to ask their questions.

Mr Peskov, what will we do? Will you choose the questions yourself?

Dmitry Peskov: Can you show me the room?

Olga Armyakova: Yes, of course.

Dmitry Peskov: Show me the room, please.

Right there, in the front row, with the “Waste” poster. Let’s have your question.

Olga Armyakova: The front row, please, go ahead.

You can remove the face mask, and don’t forget to introduce yourself. And then ask your question.

Olga Balabanova: Good afternoon, Mr President. Olga Balabanova from Magnitogorsky Metall newspaper, Magnitogorsk.

I have an environmental question, about waste management reform. As everyone is aware, it was officially launched in January 2019, but in fact it began long before that, five years ago. At any rate, a concession agreement was signed and a project was drafted in my city in 2015, but it came to a halt at the government expert review level. It looks as if they have started building [the recycling plant] now.

Why is the reform, which is vitally important for the whole country, dragging on in all regions, and what can be done about this?

Vladimir Putin: I do not think it is dragging on, this reform. There are many problems with organising production but the reform itself is proceeding.

There are several large objectives.

First, we must create a new industry, full-cycle production, when waste is not taken to landfills but recycled for use in other sectors. This is the first objective.

Second, we must ensure proper waste sorting so that by 2030 waste can be separated into different groups for subsequent recycling.

Currently, one of the tasks for the organisers of all this work is to ensure that manufacturers and packaging companies carry more responsibility so that the burden of waste disposal could shift from customers to packaging producers.

Overall, this is a practice typical almost everywhere in the world, and we will adhere to this very practice. For example, in car manufacturing, we charge a recycling fee. It works in our country and in the rest of the world. The same needs to be done in these areas.

I assure you that the Government is dealing with this, as are regional authorities. And they will continue to work on this, no question about that. We allocate substantial resources for these efforts, and there is a solid plan. This money will not be reassigned to any other purpose, and this work will be completed according to plan.

Since you are from Magnitogorsk, you know, one of the questions I have here has to do with Magnitogorsk and atmospheric emissions. The person asking the question wrote about what is happening in Magnitogorsk in relation to atmospheric emissions. Frankly speaking, I was a bit surprised because I know that over the past few years, the Magnitogorsk Iron and Steel Works has invested significant resources into upgrading its production facilities with the specific intention of reducing emissions and, according to the reports I received, the emissions have indeed decreased. And then I read this.

Olga, what do you think? What is happening in Magnitogorsk in terms of atmospheric emissions?

Olga Balabanova: Perhaps, as a patriot (I work for a newspaper associated with this plant), I believe that if waste treatment facilities were built, it is not a window you can open or close, as one of my friends says. It is an entire complex of facilities. My fellow residents may tear me to pieces for my words, but I think that many people take the fog they can see over the left riverbank for smog. In fact, the tank was separated from the plant with a closed circuit system. The water there is warm and does not freeze, which often produces fog. People look at it from the right bank and think that they see smog over the left bank. There are other production facilities in the city, such as a poultry factory, that may produce the smell that people often notice. But I do not think that the situation is as critical as they like to inflate it on social media.

Vladimir Putin: Right, but this inquiry did not come from social media but from a specific person in Magnitogorsk. It is not social media.

Olga Balabanova: We read about this on social media as well. Perhaps there is a problem, but the plant is dealing with it, and I do not think these are just idle promises.

Vladimir Putin: I asked because I know that the plant has invested heavily in reducing emissions, much more than other metallurgical production centres. And in fact emissions have gone down, when measuring in tonnes. So, this came as a surprise to me. It seems that this matter does deserve some attention in general.

Speaking about the environment, we are working on deploying a network of sensors across the country where polluters are especially active. Metallurgical production centres will be first on the list, and the system will be paid for by the companies themselves. I believe we will act accordingly in Magnitogorsk, and we will closely monitor, probably in a more objective manner what is happening there.

Thank you very much.

You know, there was a question earlier, if I may interrupt our presenters, on teachers’ salaries. “A top-category teacher in a rural area working 18 hours, which is full-time employment for a teacher, earns the same salary as a cleaning lady at the same school” – this is what Sergei Stepanchenko wrote us. This is a burning issue. This is why I picked it from this folder with many similar questions.

Do you see what has happened here? I will tell you what happened and what needs to be done.

Why did this happen? We took a decision that the minimum wage cannot be below the subsistence level, which led to an increase in salaries. This led to what you mentioned in your letter: the minimum wage cannot be less than the subsistence level, so the minimum wage went up, and a cleaning lady no longer earns less than minimum wage. She now has a higher salary. This had to be accompanied by an increase in salaries for other categories, but it was not done due to budget constraints. But the government will have to do this regardless. For this reason I would like to draw the Government’s attention to the fact that this state of affairs is far from normal.

Dmitry Peskov: Let us go back to the World Trade Centre. We gave the floor to the most seasoned journalist here, now I want to give the floor to an aspiring journalist. I saw Sergei Shnurov there. Please give him the microphone.

Sergei Shnurov: Good afternoon, Mr President,

Sergei Shnurov, RTVI international channel.

I will leave the high-profile questions about Navalny to my colleagues, I will be nicer this time. Since I work for an international channel, my question is as follows: why did Russian hackers not help Trump get reelected? Have they all gone to the Silicon Valley already? No one is left behind, as you like to say. What kind of job can Trump count on now? Will you provide him with shelter if he asks for political asylum, like Snowden? This was an open-ended question coming from the channel.

Now, a question from me: how can an ordinary Russian, someone representing the majority of the population in our country, describe this life without using profane language?

Vladimir Putin: I will start with the final part of your question. Just go back to the classics of Soviet cinema. Remember, when you have a radiator section land on your foot, you should say, “you dirty so-and-so?” instead of using curse words. Russian is rich enough to let anyone get his or her message across clearly and intelligibly, without resorting to the strong language you referred to.

I want to thank you for not using it now, as you sometimes do, as I understand, from stage, addressing large audiences. Thank you very much for being courteous today.

Why did Russian hackers not help Trump get reelected? I believe that this is not so much a question as a provocation. Russian hackers did not help the incumbent president of the United States to get elected the first time around and did not interfere in the domestic affairs of that great power. This is nothing but speculation and an excuse to degrade relations between Russia and the United States. This is an excuse to not recognise the incumbent US president’s legitimacy for domestic US considerations. In this sense, Russia-US relations have become hostage to domestic politics in the United States.

I believe that, primarily, this is bad for the United States, but it is up to them, let them do as they please. We believe that the president-elect will figure out what is going on. He is a seasoned politician both in domestic and foreign affairs. We look forward to the new administration resolving at least some of the existing problems.

I do not think Mr Trump will need to look for employment. Almost 50 percent of the people voted for him, if you count the number of registered voters, not electors. He relies on a fairly large base in the United States and, as far as I understand, is not going to leave his country’s political scene.

Dmitry Peskov: Let us now turn to Novo-Ogaryovo and the Kremlin pool reporters, who are in the same room with the President.

LIFE, go ahead please.

Alexander Yunashev: Good afternoon, Mr President.

I will take the advice from the young reporter. A number of interesting investigative reports have been released lately, for example, about your daughter, your former son-in-law Shamalov and other people who are allegedly close to you. This week the Alexei Navalny investigation also came out. Could you tell us why a criminal investigation into his poisoning and who did it has not been launched until now?

Vladimir Putin. I see.

It is no surprise that these fake news stories emerge. It has always been this way and always will. There is a battle unfolding in the media space. Nothing new here. Do you remember the terrible developments in the Caucasus and efforts to fight international terrorism? How was yours truly portrayed by the international media and, unfortunately, in Russia as well? Remember how they portrayed me with fangs? I remember all this very well. Still, I have invariably proceeded from the premise that I need to be doing what I believe to be right for our country. When I do something, I do it not for the sake of pleasing someone abroad. This is the first part of my answer.

The second part has to do with my close ones. This report is impossible to read. I flipped through it, since it talks about me, it seems, but it is such a cut-and-paste job, with so many things piling up, that I was unable to finish reading it. What did I want to point out in this regard? The report keeps repeating “the president’s son-in-law” over and over again. At the end, however, he is referred to as the former son-in-law. This is the first thing I wanted to say. Still, in the text they keep driving home the message that he is my son-in-law. So this goes for point one.

The second point is about “President Putin forbidding the elite to hold overseas assets.” There is no ban preventing the elite from holding assets abroad. Public servants cannot have financial assets abroad. This was the right thing to do. They cannot hold accounts or other financial assets abroad. The company in question is 100-percent private. The state does not own a single share in it.

The next question: who received shares in this company and how? It turns out that the company released a statement on this matter and what it thinks about these allegations. The company had a compensation scheme for its senior executives, and Mr Shamalov received stock just like all other senior executives. There are also other programmes for executives at a different level, and they received stock following a different scheme. Nothing special here.

But ultimately, in my opinion, the most important thing is this: just now, aspiring journalist Shnurov asked about our hackers. What is written in the beginning? Note that it says that an unknown, anonymous person is pursuing goals we do not understand and then, apparently, this anonymous person is tracked down. What do I mean? It is said that what happened is similar to the events in 2016 when outlawed Russian hackers associated with Russian military intelligence hacked US Democratic Party members’ emails. Here is your anonymous person. I think we know who that is. Who called these hackers outlaws associated with Russian military intelligence? It was the US Department of State and US intelligence agencies, which are in fact the authors. At any rate, it is completely obvious that it was done upon their instructions. This is the first thing.

The second is that the reference to the insinuation that our hackers, as they believe, interfered with US domestic policy in 2016 means that the purpose of this is clear. The purpose is to take revenge and try to influence public opinion in our country in order to interfere, of course, with our domestic politics. This is absolutely obvious. It is absolutely obvious to me and, I think, it will also become clear to the majority of readers if they pay attention to the things I have just mentioned.

But to this end, I would like to emphasise the following:

One should be driven by… now I want to address those who ordered these publications, not those who actually wrote them. I know that if they get an assignment from intelligence services they have to write it. But those who order these kinds of articles, should not be driven by revenge or act on the assumption of alleged exceptionalism; instead, they should develop relations with their international partners based on mutual respect and the fundamental standards of international law. Then we will be able to achieve shared success in the areas that are essential to all of us.

Now, with regard to the patient of a Berlin clinic. I have already mentioned it many times, and can repeat only certain things. Mr Peskov told me just yesterday about the latest speculations in this regard concerning our special service officers’ data and so on. Listen, we are perfectly aware of what this is all about. It is about legalisation the first time around and now. This is not about an investigation. This is about legalising the materials from the US special services.

Do you really think we are unaware of the fact that they are tracking locations? Our special services understand this well and are aware of it. Officers of the FSB and other special services are aware of it and use telephones whenever they believe they should not be hiding their location, etc. But if this is so – and rest assured that this is so – it means that this patient of a Berlin clinic has the support of the special services, those of the United States in this particular case. And if this is the case, then it gets interesting and the special services should, of course, be looking after him. However, this does not mean at all that he must be poisoned. Who cares about him? If they really wanted to, they would have, most likely, carried it through. His wife addressed me, and I gave the green light to have him treated in Germany that very second.

There is one important thing that the general public is not paying attention to. It is a trick to attack the people at the top. Those who perform it thus propel themselves up to a certain level where they can say: see who I am talking to? I am a person of the same calibre, so treat me as a person of nationwide importance. It is a well-known trick that is used in political dealings around the world.

I think, though, that something else, not these tricks, should be used to gain people’s respect and recognition. You need to prove your worth either by doing something important or by putting together a realistic programme with specific goals that can be implemented in a particular country, Russia, in this particular case.

I urge the opponents to the current government and all political forces in our country to be led not by personal ambitions, but by the interests of the people of the Russian Federation, and to come up with a positive agenda in order to overcome the challenges facing the country. And we have many of them.

Dmitry Peskov: Moving on to Rostov-on-Don.

Go ahead, please.

Aina Nikolayeva: Good afternoon, Mr President. Good afternoon, colleagues.

We are here at Don State Technical University. This is where the staff for the region’s major manufacturers like Rostselmash is educated. But today we have people with a humanities bent, mostly my colleagues, journalists. If you allow me, I will not waste your time anymore and pass the microphone to them.

Sofia Brykanova: Good afternoon.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to ask a question.

Mr President, I have what has become a traditional question for your news conferences, about Donbass. It is invariably relevant to our region.

Aina Nikolayeva: Please, introduce yourself.

Sofia Brykanova: I am sorry. Sofia Brykanova, Don-24 news agency.

I have the following question: what prospects do you see for settling the conflict in Donbass and what, in your opinion, does the future hold for Russian-Ukrainian relations?

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Regarding the future of Russian-Ukrainian relations, this largely depends on the Ukrainian government, rather than Ukraine itself, I would say. After all, all the preceding heads of state, just as the current one, Vladimir Zelensky, came to power with slogans on unifying the country, which, at the end of the day, included building a relationship with Russia. But they have not been able to deliver on this promise so far. In fact, on their way to power they garner support from a majority of the people and voters, but when they get there, they hesitate and start looking back at the extreme nationalist forces. I think they simply lack the political courage. And the process stalls.

This is what is happening right now, more or less. Thank goodness, when we met in Paris within the Normandy Format, we agreed on ending hostilities. This is holding, which is a major achievement. An exchange of detainees has taken place.

However, there has been no progress in removing economic and social restrictions. In fact, nothing has been done to advance a political settlement. Moreover, officials in Kiev have said time and again that they do not intend to abide by the Minsk agreements and have suggested revising their key provisions.

I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the Minsk agreements have been confirmed by a UN Security Council resolution, which means that they are international law. As such, they cannot be subject to unilateral revision. They have to respect the other side that signed the agreements, namely Donbass representatives.

For these reasons, I believe a settlement is inevitable. It will happen sooner or later. The question is when. Let me reiterate that this largely depends on the current Ukrainian government.

Russia will keep supporting Donbass as it has been. We will even increase our support. This includes supporting manufacturing, resolving social and infrastructural issues, etc. We will calmly proceed in this direction. Make no mistake, we understand the complicated situation in Donbass. Again, we will remain proactively involved not only on the humanitarian front, but also through direct cooperation.

Dmitry Peskov: Now let’s take a question from Nizhny Novgorod. Nizhny Novgorod, please.

Yevgeny Khvan: Good afternoon, Mr President, Mr Peskov.

This is Nizhny Novgorod, the capital of the Volga Federal District. We have more than 70 journalists in our studio today. Of course, I can see everybody holding colourful posters. But allow me, as moderator, to choose a question based on the format of this news conference. Mr Peskov, will you allow me or will you choose yourself?

Dmitry Peskov: Of course, go ahead.

Yevgeny Khvan: Please, colleague with the poster saying “Online.” Since this is an online conference; don’t forget to introduce yourself.

Oleg Kashtanov: Good afternoon, Mr President.

Oleg Kashtanov. Izvestia Mordovii, Saransk.

My question is about online education. This is a widely discussed matter. Last spring, our schools and universities had to switch to distance learning. I would like to know your opinion: do you think our higher education system and our schools tackled this challenge successfully? And could you be very specific? Because people are asking if this online education system is here to stay. And in this difficult time, could it be that the quality of education is declining? And, as a result, are graduates less qualified?

Vladimir Putin: Oleg, look, there should be a distinction between online education in schools and online education in colleges and universities. We have 39,900 schools in the country and only 2 percent are teaching online while a small part are using a mixed format and a major part are operating as normal. As for universities, all of them were asked to consider switching to remote classes.

Regarding schools, I have plenty of notes here on their preparedness and technical capability to administer online learning, and I will talk about this in more detail later when I answer the written questions. But, of course, there are problems. There are problems with hardware because many people don’t have computer equipment. There are also problems with internet access and even access to phones. These difficulties exist, especially in small towns.

What are we going to do? In 2021, all schools in the Russian Federation will be provided with access to high-speed internet. Some schools already have the internet, but in 2021, all schools must have it. This is the first thing.

As for higher education, we have allocated support for universities twice this year, in July and in the autumn, with financial resources to support remote activity. And they are supposed to expand their capabilities in online learning, as independent economic entities, with the government support I just mentioned. This support has been provided twice this year.

Now, on the quality of education. Of course, the online format will never replace a direct face-to-face interaction between students and teachers. At any rate, it will not happen for a long time. I think I do not need to go into detail as everybody understands what I mean. Nevertheless, an online format of education will be used; it exists and, of course, will be developed further both at schools and at universities.

You know, just yesterday I spoke to some colleagues of mine. What can we project for the future? For example, it is not always possible for an expert in a very specific area to be present in several places at once, at several schools. Besides, this expert may be busy with his or her own research. But he or she can teach online. And we should certainly use this opportunity.

To be continued.

The Deep State wins the 2020 Presidential election: USA RIP

The Deep State wins the 2020 Presidential election: USA RIP

December 15, 2020

The Saker

Okay, this time it does look like it’s over. Mitch McConnell congratulated Biden and Harris, thereby signifying the official surrender of the GOP (which, let’s be honest here, never really was ready to fight for Trump).  Vladimir Putin also sent his congratulations in the following way: (official Russian statement)

Congratulations to Joseph R. Biden on winning US presidential election

Vladimir Putin sent a message to Joseph R. Biden congratulating him on his victory in the presidential election in the United States of America.

December 15, 2020

In his message, Vladimir Putin wished the President-elect every success and expressed confidence that Russia and the United States, which bear special responsibility for global security and stability, can, despite their differences, effectively contribute to solving many problems and meeting challenges that the world is facing today.

The President of Russia noted that with this in mind, Russian-American cooperation, based on the principles of equality and mutual respect, would meet the interests of both nations and the entire international community.

“For my part, I am ready for interaction and contacts with you,” Russia’s Head of State stressed.

Russian journos were quick to notice that unlike previous congratulation messages to Obama and Trump, this one did not express any kind of hopes.  I can only agree.  Frankly, the Russians have been sending signals about this for a long time, even Lavrov seems to have flushed the “collective West” down to the toilet of Kremlin political priorities: the Russians clearly consider the western leaders as collectively brain dead (the nonsense around Navalnyi really did not help, of course).

What comes next will be both dangerous and ugly.  Why?

Well, for one thing, the election was stolen, even if the SCOTUS has in essence declared that 1) those who contested this outcome had no valid reason to complain and 2) that the SCOTUS does not care what the US Constitution says.  This total betrayal by seven out of nine SC Justices sealed the fate of the USA.  The rule of law in this country is over, dead.

Second, there will be resistance to what many US Americans will see – correctly – as an illegitimate regime which came to power by criminal means and a 4 year long color revolution.

Third, just as any other political regime, the power of the US Executive branch rests on two fundamental pillars (just one of them is not enough):

  1. A social consensus
  2. The exclusive control of the legal means of violence

Not only will there be a large proportion of the population which will be convinced that the election was stolen (what a beautiful, if dangerous, karma at work: after 4 years of Dems saying “not my President”, they themselves will now hear that same mantra for the next four years), but I also believe that a lot of folks in law enforcement will feel that the White House is against them (correctly) and will refuse to take any risks for that White House.  Remember that even the elite special units of the KGB refused twice (in 1991 and in 1993) to storm the Russian Parliament.  Do you expect their US counterparts to act differently and engage in a potential bloodbath on behalf of the two cop-hating clowns in the White House who, we all know, will backstab and betray them?

Ask yourself: would you obey orders coming out of this White House?

Fourth, folks – now comes the era of total, unapologetic, and truly stratospheric incompetence.  No, I don’t just mean Biden (even though he is clearly senile) or Harris (a call girl who made it into politics “horizontally”), but I mean the freak show which the next Administration appears to shaping up to be (even Psaki is coming back!!!).

Last, but not least, these are angry, frustrated, narcissistic and profoundly evil people (Peter Strzok types) .  Yeah, I know, that also describes the likes of Bolton or Pompeo, but at least these two freaks had comparatively saner folks, like Mattis or even Trump himself, to keep them in check.  That is now over.

The really scary thing is that now that they won, the US legacy ziomedia and the Big IT corporations are not just allies of the Deep State and the Dems anymore, but their accomplicesThat is crucial because that means that they are now all linked with a mutual survival pact.

Since the Dems have now total control of the Federal level (Executive, Legislative, Judiciary and media), the resistance will now move “down” to the state and local level.  Expect this struggle to get very ugly fast as the highly ideological Dems will now show their (totally fake) love for blacks, homosexuals and feminists (that is their vague notion of “diversity”!) while waging a crusade against the majority of the people of the USA and, especially, the First and Second Amendments (which, like it or not, were considered as the cornerstones of the Constitution by the Founding Fathers, hence their number 1 and 2 positions!).

And let’s not kid ourselves – there are plenty of freaks and idiots in Trump’s camp too – and they will likely do a lot of dumb and dangerous things which will only further justify the regime in DC to crack down on all the “deplorables” imaginable.  Expect all sorts of false flags, fake terror attacks and, most dangerous of all, carefully groomed “sacrificial victims” including, possibly, folks in/near the White House.

Still, it would be wrong and naive to think that all Trump supporters are only Trumptards: there are still A LOT of truly patriotic US Americans who see Trump for what he is (a cowardly and spineless narcissist), but who also understand that what just happens is not the end of the “Orange Menace” but the end of the USA as we knew them until now.  In fact, a Hegelian analysis of history would very strongly suggest that any Biden/Harris Administration will face such huge challenges and contradictions that from the day Biden/Harris are officially sworn in on – it will all go downhill from there, and pretty fast.

Millions of US Americans will now have to choose between the oath of office they gave and obedience to a regime which they will know has ZERO legitimacy.  I don’t envy them (I never took the US citizenship, so I never had to give any oaths).

We are about to enter a transition period which will probably last more than a decade, possibly two.  Paradoxically, I am rather optimistic that whatever state(s) and regime eventually emerges at the end of this process will be a much better one than any other in this generation’s memory, mainly because what will emerge at the is either one, or several, successor states, but not an empire.  Good riddance! Finally!

But I do fear the dangers of the transition period we are about to begin: history teaches that these “transition” periods can be worse than full scale wars.

I am too young to remember that (I was 2 days old exactly), but a lot of very wise US Americans have told me that the murder of President Kennedy was the first big blow delivered to the United States.  I think that the next blow for the USA were the totally illegal and illegitimate wars of aggression against the Serbian nation and against Iraq.  Though these wars were presented to us as “victories” – they were anything but.  Crucially, the utter lawlessness behind these aggressions also ushered in the next blow for the USA, I am speaking of 9/11 of course.  The theft of the 2020 election is, in my opinion, the last and truly mortal blow to this country (you could say that the “chicken of illegality” have come home to roost).

Notice that the four events listed above all have one thing in common: most people, at least the ones still capable of thought, realize that they were all covered up with lies, lies and more lies.  Of all these lies, the easiest to demonstrate would, of course, be 9/11, which is paradoxical since in spite of the fact that the 9/11 lies were truly debunked “beyond reasonable doubt” by hard, scientific data, they were also completely ignored by ALL the political elites (including, of course, Giuliani and Trump himself!).  In other words, 9/11 was the “glue” which brought together all the US elites, even the pretend-outsiders with “swamp draining” pretensions.

Frankly, I am saddened by what I am observing.  I can hardly be called an optimist by nature, but I still held some, residual, hope that judges, especially SC Justices, would refuse to dishonor themselves (and forever ruin their legacy) and would at the very least hear the case on its merits.  My wiser friends had no such illusions and they warned me.  I guess that being a grateful guest in this country (which has treated me and my family extremely well), I cannot but wish its people well and hope that, somehow, the good and honest people of this country would prevail.  Now I understand that, just like in Russia in February 1917, August 1991 and October 1993, what the US need is a new generation of patriots, not blind flag-waving xenophobic imbeciles, but sober-minded and yet idealistic patriots who will understand that to love one’s country is not enough, you have to be ready to really fight, fight hard, for it.  Of course, the US staple ideology of individualism and its toxic and dogmatic beliefs in the “virtues” of capitalism will have to die first.  No worries – in time, they will, that is what inevitably comes next in such collapses (just like Russians have rejected Marxist ideological dogmas).  But now is not the time for this conversation, much more must happen before it can take place.

Bottom line: the EU is going down the drain, and so are the USA (the Empire itself, has been dead for a while, even of many/most people do not realize this yet).  Conversely, I would argue that Russia and China have won, not quite the war, but a crucial battle (think Stalingrad or Kursk).  Any attack, economic or military, launched by the collective West against these two countries will fail.  The Dem “geostrategic experts” will blame Russia and Putin personally, while the GOP “geostrategic experts” will blame China and Xi personally.  That is why they all are, collectively, losers of the worst possible kind!

Things will only begin to really change when a new generation of US leaders will begin look at themselves and at their own responsibility for the catastrophe which has now happened.

Sadly, right now I can only advise everybody fill yourself with a lot patience.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks at the 28th Assembly of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy, Moscow, December 10, 2020

Source

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks at the 28th Assembly of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy, Moscow, December 10, 2020
File Photo

11 December 202000:22

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks at the 28th Assembly of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy, Moscow, December 10, 2020

Colleagues, friends,

Fyodor Lukyanov spoke about the role of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy. Who would have thought at the time when the Council was created, and I was invited to join in as a co-founder, that the Council would live to this day. The experience gained over the decades of its functioning is instrumental in our work and makes it possible to bounce ideas off the expert community, which is deeply versed in international matters and is keenly interested in them. This is important.

This year was truly challenging and pivotal. Humanity was unprepared for the differences and mixed trends that had been piling up on the agenda over years and exacerbated confusion in international affairs. The habitual way of life of hundreds of millions of people and states, as well as ordinary citizens, has been upended, many sectors of the economy found themselves on the verge of collapse, business activity has significantly decreased, global cooperation chains were disrupted and the unemployment rates went up. Closed borders abruptly reduced the chances for maintaining multifaceted contacts between the countries and the people.

The scale and inertia of the events that we are witnessing in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic make it impossible to say when life will get back to normal. I hope Mr Lukyanov was right when he confidently stated, albeit with reservations, that we will be able to meet in person in the spring. So far, humanity and its best representatives in the person of healthcare professionals are just trying to understand where we are and when this might end. Many people are saying that this will never end, and we will have to live with it just like the annual flu, but with much more severe consequences. One of the key lessons of the pandemic is that no one can secure themselves against these cross-border threats.

The pandemic affected literally everyone. Clearly, this kind of global cataclysm can only be overcome by uniting and rising above fleeting differences. President Putin has repeatedly stated this firm position adopted by Russia. Unfortunately, a number of countries, primarily the United States and its allies, are trying to take advantage of this situation in their geopolitical interests and ignore the needs that are common to humanity.

The term “common to humanity” does not at all mean an average, consensus-based or accommodating understanding of how the inter-civilisational diversity should be respected. This manifests itself in way too many areas of modern international life, including the interpretation of multilateralism energetically promoted and propagated by our Western colleagues. This is also happening in connection with the coronavirus pandemic, despite the fact that people in America and Europe are suffering from COVID-19 as badly as people in other countries.

The need for conducting a mutually respectful dialogue and rejecting artificially created confrontational schemes is nowhere to be seen. Just think of the indiscriminate accusations against China regarding the spread of the disease. There was an attempt to blame the PRC for everything that happened. This undermined the efforts to achieve unity, including of the research capacities, in order to come up with effective responses. In addition to healthcare aspects, we must take a closer look at the international bodies in charge of the health and well-being of the people. The WHO-related developments are quite telling in his regard. Ideas are being put forward to create some non-governmental institutions mandated to determine the international community’s policy. This is a clear attempt to sideline the World Health Organisation. These developments are reminiscent of neo-colonial approaches and habits and show the attempts to restrain the formation of new global centres and to punish those who pursue an independent foreign policy. This can also be seen in the “vaccine race.” We are well aware of attempts to oppose the new concept of the so-called rules-based international order to everything that has been created after establishing the UN and forming a large block of universal international legal instruments.

Russia believes it is imperative to look for ways to unite countries and governments, to look for a constructive agenda relying on the principles of collegiality and equality, which should contribute to de-escalating international tensions and ensuring the predictability of global processes. Later, we will discuss the initiatives that Russia has been promoting to this end. A CSTO summit and a Collective Security Council meeting took place on December 2. Among other decisions, the participants adopted a statement by the heads of state on forming a just and sustainable international order. Among other initiatives, this document proposes setting up a meeting of authorised representatives of the CSTO, the CIS, the SCO, the OSCE, NATO and the EU and seeing if these organisations can sit down and form a common agenda, jointly identify problems and, ideally, outline ways to overcome them. This is not something radically revolutionary. In 1999, the Platform for Co-operative Security was adopted at the OSCE Summit in Istanbul. It proclaimed the unification of the efforts of the OSCE and other sub-regional organisations in the Euro-Atlantic space. Some time ago, before the pandemic, we told our Western partners that it would be nice to take advantage of that consensus and try to build bridges between these organisations, instead of watching them build up confrontational potential, but our Western colleagues chose to step aside. Cooperative security and engagement of the bodies created in the post-Soviet space were important in the 1990s (in this case, in 1999), when the West still hoped that we would follow the path charted by the winners of the Cold War. Now, we have officially submitted a proposal on behalf of the CSTO heads of state. Let’s see how the West will respond to it.

Our goal is clear. We seek stability, fair opportunities for all states, including, of course, Russia. Gunboat diplomacy or democratic or any other sort of messianism is hardly an option if we want to accomplish this. I mentioned the rules which the West wants to base the international order on. There’s an “effective multilateralism” initiative which is openly opposed to multilateralism within the UN. There’s a tendency to interpret it as the need to return to Euro-Atlantic solidarity without exemptions. We are seeing this. I believe that more positive and sustainable results can be achieved through joining efforts based on the observance of the norms and principles of the UN Charter. We are upholding this consistently. President Putin’s initiative to hold a summit of the UN Security Council’s permanent members is part of our policy. It is imperative that they realise their responsibility under the UN Charter and act upon this responsibility. We must do our best to defuse this tension acting together. Heads of all UN Security Council permanent member states gave their consent. The coronavirus pandemic thwarted our efforts to agree on specific dates. However, we are working on it and agreeing on the concept and the potential outcomes of this summit.

We realise that the UN is not a static structure. It needs reform, including the reform of the UN Security Council. Our position is absolutely clear and consistent. It is necessary to increase the representation of the developing countries of Asia, Latin America and Africa if we want to make this body more representative. Only this approach will add value to reforming the UN Security Council. Everything else is up for discussion, but it is unlikely that an increase in Western representation on the Security Council will add diversity of opinions to this central body, which is in charge of peace and security on the planet. In any case, it is necessary to strive for the broadest possible agreement between the member states, so everything will depend on compromises. We are ready to discuss these compromises based on a balance of interests. In principle, this is the key to what needs to be accomplished if we want to ensure stability and harmony in the world inasmuch as this harmony is possible.

We believe that respect for the cultural and civilisational specifics of the modern world and refusal to impose one development model and values on everyone is an absolutely necessary step if we want to calm down the current situation. We see that this approach is shared by the overwhelming majority of participants in international communication. We disagree with the Western attempts to portray Russia as a country in isolation or a geopolitical loner. The viewpoint of our Western colleagues whereby everyone who disagrees with them is a lonely state probably has the right to exist.

However, we can see how the positions that we share are promoted within BRICS, the SCO, the CSTO and the CIS. The EAEU is actively working to align its plans with China’s Belt and Road Initiative. There is the G20. It has been in existence for quite a while, but was brought to the highest level and its meetings were made regular after the 2008 crisis. At first they met twice a year, then once a year. The G20 is the recognition of the fact that the G7 (and even the G8 in its old format) is not capable of resolving all international problems. The G20 includes the G7, the BRICS countries and a number of other like-minded states. The recognition that the G20 is necessary in order to develop generally acceptable approaches based on the balance of interests is a highly symptomatic trend.

Reviewing peace problems should not be driven by ideology, but rather be approached on the basis of equality. President Putin’s initiative to form a Greater Eurasian Partnership is going in the same vein. The partnership is supposed to unite continental efforts with the participation of the EAEU, the SCO and ASEAN and be open to all countries of our vast continent, including the EU states in the long run. This is a long process, but it is crucial to set this goal.

Russia’s proposals regarding strategic stability, arms control and European security are indicative of our constant readiness to achieve mutual understanding. You are aware of our position on renewing the Strategic Offensive Arms Treaty (START), a moratorium on deploying ground-based intermediate and shorter-range missiles and de-escalating tensions along the Russia-NATO contact line. We came up with a proposal to agree on an arrangement that the exercises on both sides are conducted at a distance from the contact line, and also agree on the minimum distances that may not be violated by military aircraft and warships of Russia or NATO.

Conceptually, we came up with a proposal a long time ago (and failed to see any reciprocity on the part of the United States) to confirm, in the statement made by our countries, and perhaps in the Russia-NATO format, the unacceptability of nuclear war. Many of you have probably seen the recent remarks by US Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea, where he almost ridiculed our proposal and called on any future US Administration to never agree with the statement on the unacceptability of nuclear war.

We believe that implementing these initiatives or, at least, a professional straight-to-the-point and substantive discussion of the subject, possibly along with other steps, would help improve the overall atmosphere in Russia-West relations.  Dialogue itself on these matters would improve it. But so far these ideas have been hanging in the air.

Leaving behind almost everything that has been achieved so far, including our proposals, Mr Billingslea puts forward confrontational ideas, including sanctions against all buyers of military products from Russia and China. This is a fairly telling philosophy, which, unfortunately, has not met any serious opposition in Washington so far.

If we take a close look at what we have heard from the North Atlantic camp so far, we can come to a conclusion that it has consciously opted for not just a policy of containment, but confrontation. Perhaps this approach underlies its unwillingness to admit that the world must change. We are now witnessing two opposite trends in Europe. French President Emmanuel Macron is strongly promoting the EU’s strategic autonomy. The trend embodied by Germany is based on the assumption that defending Europe without the United States is impossible. We have already asked about whom they want to defend it from, but haven’t received a clear answer yet. Given this, multipolarity, which Yevgeny Primakov foresaw many years ago, has shown its objective nature. In an effort to stop it, they are doing whatever it takes in order to minimise the number of potential poles that have the strength and courage to uphold national interests.

One of Washington’s primary goals is to make the EU lose its strategic independence and return to the fold of Euro-Atlantic unity, where everyone is aware of who pays the piper and calls the tune.

Despite the above, we are open to an equal dialogue. Most importantly, our counterparts must be willing to engage. We will keep the communication channels open until they are. Our proposals and initiatives remain on the negotiating table. They have been reiterated many times. It is enough for our partners to know that they remain valid. However, in order to move ahead, we need our Western colleagues to respond to them.

Keeping open the channels for a dialogue on all matters, we will continue to work on the newly available opportunities in the economy, culture, science and people-to-people contacts. We do not fence ourselves off from this. Those who want to impose their agenda on us and ignore our status of a subject in international affairs must understand that we are not going to either make excuses or seek approval for our actions. Threats, sanctions or attempts to come up with other punishments are absolutely pointless and counterproductive. It is strange that the West has not realised this so far.

We do not need interaction with the West any more than the West needs Russia and what it has to offer. If our Western colleagues prefer to stick to certain rules and concepts that they themselves invented when they talk with each other, this is up to them. They can build a dialogue with other participants in international life, including Russia, solely on the basis of a generally accepted code of conduct. You can call it the rules enshrined in the UN Charter, namely, respect for the sovereign equality of states, the principle of non-interference in each other’s internal affairs and the peaceful settlement of disputes.

We are pursuing our own foreign policy, which has taken shape over the past two decades. It is aimed at ensuring the country’s security and creating the most favourable external environment for achieving our internal development goals. We are aware that the goal of the West is to prevent us from creating this particular external environment that is beneficial for our internal development. Everything that is being done to contain Russia is clearly done to this end. Attempts to destroy external opportunities that can be used to promote Russia’s growth continue unabated, but, in any case, there’s more to the world than the West. In the 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, we wanted to become part of something, but we now realise that there isn’t much we can become part of. At least, the West is not building anything of its own. Indeed, President Macron has come up with a proposal to conduct an analytical and philosophical dialogue about whether modern capitalism can meet the needs of the people and resolve related problems.

If we take Western development models, we have no place to fit in. The coronavirus, as if everything else wasn’t enough, showed it very convincingly. We need to build something ourselves. This is a fairly ambitious and complex goal, but it calls for immediate action.

NATO and the EU Are Sending a “message” to Russia. Again.

THE SAKER • DECEMBER 10, 2020

I lived most of my life in Europe and even though by the time I moved to the US (2002) Europe was already in a very bad shape, what I see happening there now never ceases to amaze me. In fact, it makes me wonder if the Europeans or, more accurately, the European leaders have gone completely insane. Either that, or maybe they have some kind of death wish?

The first thing which absolutely amazes me is the fact that the EU leaders are acting as if this was still the 1980s when Europe still mattered and when the European continent was relatively prosperous. And even when EU leaders acknowledge the problems facing Europe today (crime, immigration, lockdowns, civil unrest, tensions with Russia, self-defeating sanctions under US pressure, etc.), they systematically deal with them (so to speak) by minimizing their actual and potential impact and consequences. And if nothing else matters, they use the riot police forces to “solve” the issue.

Then there is NATO which now seems to believe that mantric incantations and some really dumb military “for show” activities along the borders of Russia will terrify the Kremlin and turn Russians into Poles. Apparently, the entire analytical apparatus of NATO has never opened a history book. Either that, or they have decided to ignore the lessons of history, because “this time around” the Russians will definitely surrender.

To be fair, all the military operations along the Russian border bother the Russians only because they show that the “collective West” still hates and fears Russia. But in purely military terms, they are a joke.

Not so long ago the endless western provocations eventually got a reaction out of Russia: the Russians re-created of the First Guards Tank Army (FGTA). For most people, the concept of “Tank Army” means little. A “Guards Tank Army” even less. So rather than use any Russian sources (Putin’s never sleeping “hackers” and “agents”), let’s take a source which nobody can suspect of being pro-Russian: Wikipedia. Please check this Wikipedia entry for the history of the First Guard Tank Army”. At the bottom of the article, there is a partial list of units and subunits composing this Army. Check it out:

  • Army Headquarters (Odintsovo, Moscow Oblast)
  • 60th Command Brigade (Selyatino village near Odintsovo, Moscow Oblast)
  • 2nd Guards Motor Rifle ‘Tamanskaya’ Division (Kalininets, Moscow Oblast)
  • 4th Guards Tank ‘Kantemirovskaya’ Division (Naro-Fominsk, Moscow Oblast)
  • 6th Separate Tank ‘Częstochowa’ Brigade (Mulino, Nizhny Novgorod Oblast)
  • 27th Separate Guards Motor Rifle ‘Sevastopol’ Brigade (Mosrentgen, Moscow City)
  • 112th Guards Missile ‘Novorossiysk’ Brigade (Shuya, Ivanovo Oblast) (9K720 Iskander)
  • 288th Artillery ‘Warsaw’ Brigade (Mulino, Nizhny Novgorod Oblast)
  • 49th Missile Air Defence Brigade (Krasnyi Bor, Smolensk Oblast) (Buk-M2)
  • 96th Separate ISTAR (intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance) Brigade (Sormovo, Nizhny Novgorod City)
  • unknown Combat Engineer Regiment (in formation until the end of 2018) (unknown location in Moscow Oblast)
  • 20th Separate NBC Defence Regiment (Tsentralny, Nizhny Novgorod Oblast)
  • 69th Separate Logistics Brigade (Dzerzhinsk, Nizhny Novgorod Oblast)

No need to go into all the details, but let’s just say two things about this Tank Army: first, it has a lot more capabilities than “just” tanks and, second, this was the Army which really broke the back of the Nazi forces in WWII: it destroyed or captured 5,500 tanks, 491 self-propelled guns, 1,161 aircraft, 1,251 armored vehicles and armored personnel carriers, 4,794 guns of various calibers, 1,545 mortars, 5,797 machine guns, 31064 vehicles and other military equipment. The 1st guards tank army fought its way from Kursk to Berlin, which stretched for three thousand kilometers (source).

By the way, the FGTA will also get the very newest and best Russian tanks (there is no point in deploying the Armata family of armored vehicles elsewhere but towards the western borders of Russia), and the two most famous tank divisions of modern Russia.

Furthermore, we need to understand that this Tank Army will not operate in isolation, but will be directly supported by the Western and Southern Military Districts, the Black and Baltic Sea Fleets (equipped with the newest Russian hypersonic missiles) and the Aerospace Forces. Even the powerful Northern Fleet and the Caspian Flotilla (!) could, if needed, provide support for central European operations thanks to the long reach of Russian missiles.

So what is the purpose of the FGTA? Think of it as a powerful armored “fist” whose main goal is to stop any enemy attack and then punch through its defenses. Russia also announced that she will double the size of her Airborne Forces (currently at 4 Airborne/Air Assault Divisions, 4 Air Assault Brigades, 1 Special Operations Brigade, with roughly 45’000+ soldiers). Besides these Airborne/Air Assault units, the Russian military can also make use of her Spetsnaz Forces (8 Spetsnaz Brigades and 1 Spetsnaz Regiment according to the IISS’s Military Balance 2020). True, only part of these units will go to the Western and Southern Military Districts, but that is already much more than what NATO could realistically hope to be able to cope with (for details, see here).

Here is a short video to give you a sense of how Russian Airborne Forces (all fully mechanized, unlike their western “equivalents”) are preparing for next generation wars:

Oh, and did I mention that the entire Russian nuclear triad has been modernized (or is currently in the process of modernization)?

Now comes the interesting question:

What kind of forces does NATO have which could deal with this kind of power?

On paper, a lot. In terms of raw numbers (what military analysts call “bean counts”), the West has much larger forces than the Russian ones.

But, in reality, very, very little, at least of military value.

What is NATO today? First, a coalition of small countries trying to find the courage to bark at the Russian bear the way dozens of chihuahuas would bark at a big brown bear. These small countries are what I call “prostitute states” – they don’t want sovereignty, freedom or dignity. All they want is for Uncle Shmuel to protect them when they bark and for the EU to give them tons of money as a reward for their prostitution to the collective West. They are apparently unaware that Uncle Shmuel is a world champion in destroying countries, but in terms of actually winning wars, Uncle Shmuel is one of the worst war losers in history (in that sense, the US and Russian militaries are polar opposites). They are also apparently unaware that the EU is broke and in a deep crisis. Besides, even the normally compliant the Germans are now getting fed up spending billions of Euros on their clueless and hopeless eastern neighbors (and I don’t blame them!).

There are also more civilized countries in NATO, countries which used to have some very real military power and a history of winning and losing wars: Germany, the UK, France, etc – what Rumsfeld called “Old Europe”. They are all former imperial powers of their own, and they are much more aware of what it takes to win (or lose) a war.

Their problem, however, is that they are now true US protectorates/colonies, with no real foreign policy of their own. Their top leaders, political and military, are also prostitutes, just like “New Europe”, so while they have a wealth of historical experience to draw from, they cannot act on it because of the iron grip Uncle Shmuel has on their political throats. Even France, which used to have some real independence, under such leaders as de Gaulle and Mitterrand, now is just another voiceless and clueless protectorate.

Which leaves the US. I won’t repeat it all here, but to sum it all up: there are only two segments of the US military forces which are still meaningfully combat capable: the nuclear triad and the US submarine forces (strategic and attack). Both use mostly old, even outdated, equipment, both waste absolutely fantastic sums of money, but both are still for real. The problem with such a lop-sided force is that while it can devastate any enemy, it can only do so at the cost of being devastated by the Russian counter-strikes. In other words, by the time the US SSN and SSBN are engaged against Russia, we will be dealing with a large-scale war (even more so if nukes are used, which they probably will, at least on the tactical level). Oh, and this too: no amount of subs and nukes can “protect” any part of Europe from a (entirely hypothetical) Russian attack (conventional or not). For that, you still need the one thing the US has the least of: combat capable “boots on the ground”.

Did you know that in the 1990s Russia had almost no defenses in the western direction? Nothing bigger than division/brigade sized forces. And they were all in very bad shape. And the Kremlin, under Eltsin, only wanted to further “reform” (i.e. “destroy”) the Russian military.

So what brought about such dramatic changes in the Russian force posture?

The EU/US/NATO war against the Serbian nation.

And the endless western threats, of course.

One could be excused for thinking that the collective West would have realized this mistake and that now they would try something smarter?

Nope!

They did exactly the same thing again, this time with the Kaliningrad enclave.

And they are now openly talking about “dealing with Russia from a position of force”!

Last time Germany tried that, it didn’t go too well, did it?

Let me summarize what recently happened: the Russians mostly deployed defensive systems in Kaliningrad: air defenses, early warning radars, signals intelligence, fighters, interceptors, electronic warfare units, etc. According to Russian sources, these systems had the ability to spy on much of northern Europe and were capable of simultaneously engaging 475 aerial targets (missiles, aircraft, etc.). Furthermore, these capabilities provided much needed support for the operations of the Baltic Sea Fleet.

Western analysts, always in search for some kind of buzzword or fancy sounding acronym, described that as “anti-access and area denial” aka A2/AD, and proceeded to use it as a justification for more money spending on completely unrealistic plans (see here for a good example). But that was not all, NATO commanders openly stated that they would “send” all sorts of “signals” to “deter” Russia. Again. And, so they did. They sent comparatively tiny forces to their 3B+PU (that is 3 Balts plus Poland and the Ukraine) protectorates where they played at all sorts of seriously sounding wargames.

Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior, but NATO analysts apparently don’t know that. But what had to happen did happen: Russia has now announced that she will create a full Motor-Rifle Division inside the Kaliningrad enclave. And this division won’t be “sending” any “messages” to 3B+PU, NATO or anybody else. But they will train for real war, the kind of war which Russia always waged on her enemies when attacked. Bravo NATO! Now you are going to have to deal with a much more dangerous force than before, well done!

As for the Poles, they are now claiming that the entire “Fort Trump” plan, of which they were so proud of, was just a concept. Why? Because these losers are now terrified that the Biden team will remember how they backed Trump during the past four years (as did the rest of the 3B+PUs). This really is worth repeating: unlike those countries which heroically resisted the AngloZionist Empire (Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, etc), or those who at least did not volunteer to be occupied (Japan, Korea, Germany), the 3B+PU are the only countries actually willing to pay (while being mostly broke!) for the US military to occupy them. Just from that perspective any Russian will immediately conclude that irrespective of their numbers on paper, these country’s actual combat potential is close to zero (the Russians remember very well that all the many units composed of volunteers from many European countries occupied by Germany and who were fighting on the side of Germany during WWII were only good at massacring and terrorizing civilians, but when faced with the regular Red Army they *always* ran like hell).

Finally, if you think of NATO as a structure, then the US military is both its foundation and its cornerstone. With the US entering the worst crisis of its (admittedly short) history, it is completely unable to perform even its normal tasks, nevermind fighting the most powerful military force on the planet.

If the EU leaders had any kind of awareness of these realities, they could immediately embark on a series of steps to stop this insanity. Amongst these could be such “unthinkable” steps as:

  • Declaring that Russia and/or Putin are not always responsible for all the evil and problems in the universe.
  • Immediately being to take small, but steady, confidence building measures, including resuming normal contacts between western and Russian militaries.
  • Resuming economic collaboration with Russia, not because anybody has to like or approve of Putin, but simply to give the best possible conditions to the European industries.
  • Stop parroting the idiocies à la Skripal/Navalnyi cooked up about Russia by the Anglos and tell them that they can fight their own (useless) propaganda wars if they like them so much.
  • Getting together with the Russians and any mentally sane central European leaders to discuss what to do together to save the Ukraine from its current implosion (which will very negatively affect the EU, much more so than Russia).
  • Define a list of policy issues in which Russia and the EU could work together, stuff like immigration, crime, terrorism, Takifirism, space, health crises, etc.

These are just a few, basic, suggestions. A real list could be several pages long and be much wider than the few options I listed. None of them require anything painful or crucial from Europe, just good old common sense.

But no, not only are EU leaders not making even small steps to return to sanity, they still think they can bully and threaten Russia into some kind of compliance. I wish somebody told them something as simple as “Russia ain’t Poland”, really.

At the core of it all, there is a cultural difference: Europeans (and nevermind their US bosses!) are not really afraid of war. That is why they are not really prepared for it at all. The Russians are very, very afraid of war, because they know and remember it. This is why the West is all threats and no action, while Russia is all actions and no threats. From the Russian point of view, the best way to avoid war is to really, really prepare for it. One could argue that 1000 years of Russian history were a never ending lesson in preparation for war, especially since most wars fought by Russia were existential.

As my friend Andrei Martyanov recently mentioned in his blog, “Russians also have a saying: once every century Europeans gather their forces and go to Russia to get the shit beaten out of them”. He is right. But last time around Russia lost 30+ millions of people in truly horrible battles. She also lost most of her economy. Then, in the 1990s, Russia almost completely disappeared as a country. As a result, there is this notion of “never again – enough is enough!” underlying most Russian actions today.

The US and Europe can only ignore this at the greatest possible risk for their own survival. Take it from Putin himself, who recently declared “as a citizen of Russia and the head of the Russian state I must ask myself: Why would we want a world without Russia?”

Why Did RT Hire Liberals That Are Bringing Harm to Russia? (Ruslan Ostashko)

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Translated and captioned by Leo.

Guess who started the cycle of documentaries about the “main people of the country” on the state channel RT Russia? From the editor-in-chief of the disgusting Russophobic radio station Echo of Moscow, Alexei Venediktov. It is this person who, in violation of the law, does not liquidate the media despised by the people, according to RT, is worthy of the title of “the main person of Russia.” The question arises: maybe it was for this that Margarita Simonyan recruited liberals like Anton Krasovsky on RT?

No matter how politically active a Russian is, they will not say a few sweet words after hearing the name of the most odious liberal media of the country. The same editor-in-chief whose editorial office apparently gets saved from closing due to pressure on shareholders. Against this background, personally for me it was disgusting to see the TV channel RT bends to Venediktov along with Anton Krasovsky. “And here is the first non-related directly with me product by RT Russia. This is a series of documentaries about the most important people of Russia. Starting off with Venediktov. Watch it.”

It turns out by the opinion of editors at RT Russia, the liberal leader of Echo of Moscow stands first on the list of important people in the country. And in order to film a movie about it, a whole week was wasted of workers time which was paid by the state budget.

RT Russia’s description on the video: “For a whole work week, we followed Alexei Venediktov with cameras. We filmed how he conducts meetings on Echo of Moscow, comes up with new radio shows, follows the live broadcast, threatens to fire employees, jokes with Tina Kandelaki, criticizes Stanislav Belkovsky, meets with Moscow prefects, meets in the Moscow public chamber, generates ideas and new projects. And from this video you will learn why Venediktov lives in a hotel, how he raises his son and why, as he himself says, ‘arranges the fate of the world.’”

Like a Pathos. Look at that, Venediktov not only arranges the fate of the world, but he also raises his adult yet dodging-the-army-conscription son. As if the society is not aware of the product of this raising. Tell me, respectable subscribers, if it was up to you regarding what work time should be spent on for the RT journalists, would you have approved the filming of movie about a liberal as one of the most important people in the country? I would say that not only would it not be approved, but they would get a loaf stuffed in them for those trying to approve it. However, you political Russian media managers like Margarita Simonyan do not depend on us. Which is why they do what they want.

For example, they bring to work specific people like Krasovsky himself. In the past I was calmly reacting to him, sometimes even citing his attacks on other quacks. But just like with the other ones, I think he has a lower side to himself. While journalist Krasovsky was doing documentaries about the Coronavirus epidemic and the problems with medicine, he was in his own spot. But as soon as he was assigned to do an interview with the press secretary of the president of Russia [Dmitry Peskov], then that was it, he went down a pediment. And for me, it’s hard to not agree with what the publicist Alexander Rogers wrote about it:

Zhurnalistskaya Pravda (Journalist Truth), Alexander Rogers: “Now explain to me, I sincerely do not understand. In Russia there are thousands of journalists, tens of thousands, but for some reason they sent the only openly gay one to interview the president’s press secretary. Why?! Is he an outstanding journalist, a shining interviewer? Never once! This interview is impossible to listen to the end. It is impossibly boring, and not because of Peskov, but namely because of Krasovsky. He came to the interview with fishnet socks, laid his leg on his other leg, rolled his shoe around, and for more than an hour licked the earpiece of his glasses. Generally, he behaved like ‘not even a man with reduced social responsibility.’ Thank you Putin for the precision of wording.”

Sitting and having your mouth on the earpiece of glasses in front of an interviewee is what? An increase in journalistic professionalism? Or is it a method to show your orientation? What is this new form of interviewing state officials? The content however is even worse:

Alexander Rogers: “This interview is absolutely liberal in essence, and completely not interesting to the Russian people. For almost 15 minutes discussing the ‘poisoning’ of Navalny. Despite half of the Russian population in general does not know who that is! And the rest will say ‘Oh, this is some kind of schmuck that they want to use for imposing new sanctions against Russia.’ Then the tying attempts by Krasovsky to make Russia look extreme. From betraying the Armenians, to betraying Ukrainians and Belarussians. Everything was made into a stupid template according to a boring manual. Peskov also burned in certain points. On his words about the political wisdom of Pashinian, I almost hit myself with a facepalm. And about what kind of talks that Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin] is carrying out there.But at the end, a little talk on an actual topic – how the fight against the pandemic is going. Although this topic actually needs to be discussed not with Peskov, but with relevant ministries and specialists.”

So like in the case of the film about Venediktov, the work time by journalists which was paid by Russian state money was wasted on the promotion of the anti-Russian liberal narrative. Do you need that content? I definitely don’t. If it went in that direction, then Rogers wrote it correctly. Peskov like a PR spokesman should have been asked not about the ‘wisdom of the crapped-pants Pashinian’, but instead about the information war of the West against Russia. There is a whole section of hot topics there:

Alexander Rogers: “For example, how does Mr. Peskov feel about the censorship in Western social networks and platforms? Or to the fact that ‘The New York Times’ journalists calls to ban even truthful information if it can be used against the US Democratic Party? Or even how Twitter censors the acting US president? And how TV channels cutoff the broadcast to his statements, because ‘we don’t like what he’s saying.’ Or how for example, YouTube deleted the channel ‘News-Front’, which had 460,000 subscribers and almost half a billion views on their videos, without any explanation for it? And also, why Google and other Western search engines cut from their search results many Russian medias. (Including Zhurnalistskaya Pravda in that regard)?

But Krasovsky did not ask about any of the named subjects. He only continuously licked the earpiece of his glasses, rolled his shoe around and broadcasted an anti-Russian agenda. Does RT need such employees like him, Maria Baronova, or other liberals picked by Margarita Simonyan? In my opinion, no. What do you think, respectable subscribers?

President of Russia Vladimir Putin address to G20 member countries

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President of Russia Vladimir Putin address to G20 member countries

Vladimir Putin addressed the meeting of the heads of delegations of the G20 member countries, invited states and international organisations.

The summit chaired by Saudi Arabia is held via videoconference on November 21–22.

The forum’s agenda includes issues of tackling the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, providing universal access to vaccines, strengthening healthcare systems, global economic recovery and employment, as well as cooperation in the digital economy, fighting climate change, environmental protection and countering corruption.

* * *

President of Russia Vladimir Putin:

Colleagues,

The scope of problems humanity has faced in 2020 are truly unprecedented. The coronavirus pandemic, global lockdown and frozen economic activity have launched a systemic economic crisis the world probably has not known since the Great Depression.

The growth of national economies has been severely undermined. The pandemic claimed dozens, hundreds of thousands of lives while millions of people have lost their jobs and incomes.

The main risk, obviously, even despite some positive signals, the main risk remains: mass long-term unemployment, a so-called “stagnant” unemployment with the subsequent growth of poverty and social insecurity. The role of the G20 is to stop this from happening.

Russia highly values Saudi Arabia’s efforts during its G20 Presidency. In the present situation, the forums’ agenda was re-focussed towards global economic recovery and the protection of people’s health and wellbeing.

Drawing on the experience of fighting the 2008–2009 global financial crisis, the G20 launched a number of multilateral initiatives to curb pandemic-related economic risks and to restore business activity including via key global management institutions, namely the United Nations Organisation, the World Health Organisation, IMF, the World Bank and others.

Our countries have designed a package of incentives for the world economy totalling $12 trillion. The US President has spoken now about the US efforts – indeed, it is a very big contribution to the recovery of the American economy, which also means the recovery of the world economy.

We all together facilitated the emergency mobilisation of $21 billion for essential medical needs and gave a start to international cooperation in developing, producing and distributing vaccines.

Like other nations, Russia took unparalleled anti-crisis steps as it gave top priority to the key and fundamental value – people’s lives and health.

To ensure the sustainability of the national economy and maintain social stability, Russia’s Government together with the Bank of Russia are implementing a comprehensive plan of assistance to the population, small and medium-sized businesses and industries in the risk zone. Support was provided to the banking sector and regional budgets, businesses were issued loans while government investments were increased. The current volume of anti-crisis budget support totalled 4.5 percent of the GDP.

The timely adoption of these targeted measures allowed Russia, as well as the majority of developed countries, to mitigate the economic decline, to enhance the healthcare system and get through the hard times without irreparable losses. Both our accumulated reserves and attracting loan resources in the domestic market helped to finance the above measures.

Yet we are aware that the developing economies and some emerging market economies objectively lack such resources. Their fiscal revenues have plunged while the need to allocate considerable funds for fighting the pandemic is growing practically daily. National currency devaluation carries a big risk, and respectively, the cost of servicing on the state debt, primarily for low income countries, which have two thirds of their loans in US dollars.

The IMF and the World Bank rendered significant assistance to developing countries. Following their proposal, G20 made a decision in April to install a temporary moratorium on developing nations’ debt payments. That is certainly a much-needed initiative, but it only covers the poorest countries. It does not include their debt to private creditors and concerns less than four percent of the developing countries’ overall costs of servicing state debt in the current year.

I believe additional measures are needed to prevent the deterioration of the situation and the growth of economic and social inequality.

Urgent issues that have accumulated in international trade also need to be addressed. Thus, it is necessary to try to contain protectionism, to abandon the practice of unilateral sanctions and to resume delivery chains. We spoke about this just yesterday at another international platform, APEC.

Adjustment of multilateral universal trade rules to e-commerce (much needs to be done in this area) and other new economic realities are also on the agenda.

On the whole, the G20 should continue searching for new approaches to reforming the World Trade Organisation to meet present-day challenges. This task defies a solution without a stable and effective multilateral trade system, but at present, there is no alternative to the World Trade Organisation.

Russia supports the draft key decision of the current summit aimed at making effective and safe vaccines accessible for everyone. Undoubtedly, immunisation drugs are and must be universal public domain. Our country, Russia, is ready to provide the countries in need with the vaccines developed by our researchers. This is the world’s first registered vaccine Sputnik V, based on human adenoviral vectors platform. The second Russian vaccine, EpiVacCorona from a Novosibirsk research centre, is also ready. The third Russian vaccine is coming.

The scale of the pandemic compels us to engage all the resources and research available. Our common goal is to form portfolios of vaccines and ensure reliable protection for the planet’s population. It means that there will be enough work for everyone, colleagues, and I think it is a case when competition may be inevitable but we must proceed primarily from humanitarian considerations and make it a priority.

Let me stress – this crisis must become an opportunity to alter the trajectory of global development, preserve the favourable environment and climate, ensure equal conditions for all nations and peoples, build up effective tools of multilateral cooperation and key international institutions while drawing upon the UN Charter and universally accepted norms and principles of international law. We see this approach to solving global issues as the key task and responsibility of the G20 as the main forum of the world’s leading economies.

Colleagues, I would like to once again thank the hosts of today’s event, Saudi Arabia. Thank you for your attention.

The World is on the Brink Yet Again

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It’s all so sensational, I am sure there is no journalists or playwright who can begin to express how messed up the world is today. In America, a president acts like a petulant adolescent. In Europe, a league of nations cannot cope with anything, at least not effectively. Even a global pandemic has not been able to galvanize humanity onto a single course of action. Instead of rallying behind scientists and doctors, people now question everything. The situation is dire. And worse still, it is obscured slightly by the still churning wheels of former progress. Momentum is all that is holding the world together.

Everywhere, trust in leaders and in government is at an all-time low. Not even our most revered institutions are credible anymore, at least not for a huge swath of society. The people are caught in a nightmarish reality where Trump seems ready to snatch democracy into a dark age. Half the world is eager to take a new vaccine to prevent COVID-19 and to end the costly lockdowns, and the other half seems ready to refuse the same remedy, for fear some billionaire has put a control chip inside the vaccine. Yes, millions and millions of people believe a global pandemic is fake. They believe that somehow every doctor and scientist in the world has been bribed to blame COVID for each death.

I was on Twitter yesterday commenting on a crazy tweet by a well-known architect in the UK when I finally realized how close we are to the rim of confrontation. From Athens to Venice, the fire starters of anarchy are pouring gas on civil unrest against prudent mask wearing and lockdowns. Many on Twitter and across social media have been tweeting and sharing their brains out telling their world how lockdowns to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are going to kill us all! How wearing masks will end us all! And that COVID-19 is actually not all that bad after all! Yes, educated people are taking their valuable time to go nuts disseminating dangerous information, as if they are the saviors or humankind!

To gasp how monumentally dangerous this is, just multiply one provocative post by tens and hundreds of millions on social media and off. Magnify their flawed science, ideas, fears, and personal agendas by a few million even, and the future of humanity clings by threads to civilization. We are about to see a total meltdown, I fear. A meltdown where two sides of an argument crush all those caught in the middle. The “knowing” are about to mow down anyone standing in between, in the chasm created by COVID, bad leadership, and economic cataclysm.

Then there’s the “news” that Vladimir Putin in preparation for World War III. The Russian president’s announcement of the completion of an H-Bomb proof command center has the alt-media going nutso speculating on when, where, and how President Putin will run the fireworks while the rest of the world glows nuclear blue. But wait, wouldn’t we all be disappointed if Vladimir Putin did not prepare? Given the circumstances today, the former KGB Colonel would be stupid not to plan for a pretty obvious contingency. Or am I wrong? Let’s see how this might pan out.

In scenario number one, Donald Trump trips totally out and seizes power through the support of his backers and the U.S. military. A civil war ensues, where this soulless adolescent declares war on his own people. The west descends into anarchy as the American glue that held the whole mess together, melts down into something Medieval. Trump finally snatches a dictatorship from a republic, and then the bullets and rockets start to fly. Bye, bye civilized world. Or, something like that.

Another scenario, the more likely one, evolves once Joe Biden is inaugurated as president. The man owned lock, stock, and barrel by the military-industrial complex does a Ukraine redux and continues the work of the Obama, Bush, and Clinton administrations, changing every regime that stands in the way of total world domination by America and her cousins in London. Russia is pushed to the brink, and so are all the nations outside the NATO beehive. With no alternative in sight, and with all the cards on the table finally, Russia and China have to draw that line in the sand. And trust me, Joe Biden and his string-pullers won’t back down. The liberal order has their own command bunkers, and they are crazy enough to believe mutually assured destruction (MAD) is a good thing for them.

This is the place where people like Bill Gates will be able to put their plans in place. When the population has thinned down to a few hundred thousand, that’s when your chip goes into your veins. I know some of you get it. Joe Biden the warmonger, is almost as dangerous as Donald Trump.

In the midst of all the bad news, in between the bad wishes for Russia and Putin to fail, somewhere beyond Americans feating a Chinese invasion, and overshadowing fears southern rednecks will start a new civil war in America for Trump, Russia’s president is beseeching Washington to renew an old agreement. Putin’s representatives have now invited Washington to seriously consider the arms control initiative put forward by Russian President Putin on October 26. But don’t hold your breath, Washington is boiling over.

As for positive news, a new type of cotton face mask releases reactive oxygen species (ROS) that kill viruses and bacteria. Scientists have developed a special type of cotton face mask that kills up to 99.9999% of bacteria and viruses within 60 minutes of daylight exposure. Unfortunately, Half of Facebook’s 1 billion users will gleefully search Google for yet another reason facemasks and lockdowns will kill us all. So now you must surely get it. It’s you versus your alter ego-self with the other opinion. Someday, probably sooner than later, the two sides of this trying human experiment are going to go to war. And we’ve fought hundreds of deadly wars over much less furious opinions and ideas.

Phil Butler, is a policy investigator and analyst, a political scientist and expert on Eastern Europe, he’s an author of the recent bestseller “Putin’s Praetorians” and other books. He writes exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”

UGLY TRUTH BEHIND DEVASTATING ARMENIAN DEFEAT IN KARABAKH WAS REVEALED

South Front

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan led Armenian forces to collapse in the Nagorno-Karabakh war and lost Shusha because he was refusing to accept Russian peacekeepers and allow displaced Azerbaijani citizens to return. This was revealed by Russian President Vladimir Putin during answers to media questions on November 17.

“On October 19-20, I had a series of telephone conversations with both President Aliyev and Prime Minister Pashinyan. And then the Azerbaijani armed forces regained control over an insignificant southern part of Karabakh. In general, I managed to convince President Aliyev that it is needed to stop hostilities, but a mandatory condition on his part was the return of refugees, including to the city of Shusha,” Putin said. The proposed peace agreement supposed to allow Armenian forces to maintain control over their side of the contact line, including Shusha, and to allow the return of civilians under the supervision of Russian peacekeepers. However the Pashinyan government said that it was “unacceptable” for them because this move would supposedly threaten Armenian interests. In the ensuing weeks after the refusal to accept the Russian peacekeepers deployment, Armenian forces retreated from a large number of areas in southern and central Karabakh, lost the symbolic town of Shusha and in the end accepted a much worse peace deal. After total defeat in the war with Azerbaijan, it was obliged to surrender the districts of Lachin, Kalbajar and Agdam. Shusha is in the hands of Azerbaijani troops. Thousands of Armenians were killed. These are the costs of the actions of the Soros-grown Pashinyan clique that was obsessed with pleasing its western puppeteers by distancing from Russia rather than defending Armenians.

As to the current status of Nagorno-Karabakh, it has not been settled and, according to Putin, the sides agreed to “maintain the status quo”. A “significant factor” that played a role in the Second Karabakh War and now influences the potential settlement process is that Armenia itself has neither recognized Karabakh as an independent state nor as a part of Armenia.

“To put it bluntly, after the former Georgian leaders’ undoubtedly criminal moves, I mean the attacks against our peacekeepers in South Ossetia, Russia recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. We recognized the expression of the will of the people living in Crimea to reunite with Russia as just, and we met the people halfway, we did so openly. Some people may like it, others may not like it, but we did it in the interests of the people who live there and in the interests of Russia, and we are not ashamed to speak about it openly.

This did not happen with Karabakh, and this, of course, has significantly influenced the developments there,“ Putin noted.

Meanwhile, the Armenian prime minister and his circle continue crying foul blaming previous governments, the Armed Forces and even the Armenian nation in general for the loss of the war. Armenia has become another sad example of how color revolutions and the seizure of power by pro-globalist grant-suckers eventually lead to the destruction of statehood and major territorial or economic losses for the countries where this happens.

Related

Understanding the outcome of the war for Nagorno-Karabakh

THE SAKER • NOVEMBER 11, 2020 • 3,100 WORDS • 

A lot has happened very rapidly in the past two days and I will begin this analysis by a few bullet points summarizing what just happened (not in any particular order, including chronological):

  • The war which has just ended was a real bloodbath and it has seen more casualties (counting both sides) than what the Soviet Union lost in 10 years of warfare in Afghanistan
  • This war is now over, Russian peacekeepers have already been deployed along the line of contact. So far, neither side has dared to resume hostilities (more about that below).
  • There have been two days of celebrations in Baku where President Aliev has declared that the war was a triumph for Azeri forces and that Pashinian got nothing. He is right.
  • The Azeris are now declaring that they want compensation from Armenia.
  • There are now Turkish forces in Azerbaijan and Russian and Turkish forces have created a joint committee to coordinate actions.
  • Erdogan has insisted that he wanted Turkey to send in peacekeepers, but Putin has categorically rejected this demand: like any other state, Azerbaijan has the undisputed right to invite foreign forces on its territory, but these forces will not have the status and rights of a peacekeeping force.
  • Violent riots have broken out in Erevan where violent mobs have stormed government buildings, beaten officials and sacked the Parliament.
  • Seventeen Armenian opposition parties have declared that they want a committee of national salvation and the resignation of Pashinian.
  • Nobody knows where Pashinian is hiding, but he seems to still be somewhere in Armenia.
  • These mobs also destroyed the Soros offices in Erevan and they are now looking for Pashinian “the traitor” to lynch him.
  • Pashinian has complained on Twitter that his offices were sacked, that a computer, his driver license and, I kid you not, a bottle of perfume (poor perfumed baby!) were stolen.
  • The Russian peacekeeping force will be constituted of subunits of the 15th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade which itself is part of the 2nd Guards Combined Arms Army of the Central Military District. It will include about 2000 armed soldiers, APCs and IFVs, specialized vehicles (EW, C3I, etc.), drones and air defense systems.
  • Russians peacekeepers will stay deployed in this area for no less than 5 years.
  • Russia will now control both the Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) corridor and the Nakhichevan corridor.

Now let’s look at the position of the parties at the end of this war and compare them.

Armenia: there is no doubt that Armenia is the biggest loser in this war. Pashinian and his gang of russophobic Sorosites has brought a real calamity upon his people. Since he came to power his anti-Russian actions included almost totally eliminating any Armenian participation on the CSTO, he completely ceased any collaboration with Russia (including in the intelligence and security domains), he purged the Armenian military and security forces from all the supposed “pro-Russian” elements, he banned Russian language schools. In contrast, Armenia has an absolutely huge US embassy with about 2000 personnel (as much as the entire Russian peacekeeping force!) and when the Azeris attacked, Pashinin refused to ask Russia for help for a full month. He did ask Trump, Merkel and Macron for help instead. Needless to say, they did exactly nothing once the crisis erupted.

Truth be told, the Armenians had absolutely no other option but to accept the Azeri terms. The Armenians have suffered huge losses while the Azeris have taken Shushi, the key strategic city which controls both the capital of NK Stepanakert and the corridor between NK and Armenia. Had Pashinian not signed, the surrounded Armenians would have been slaughtered by the Azeris (in this war, both sides reported having almost no prisoners. Why? Because almost all were all executed, often after gruesome tortures by both sides). Russian analysts also say that Armenia was simply running out of supplies very fast (a fact also mentioned by Pashinian).

Simply put: Aliev’s plan worked, the blind arrogance of the Armenian leaders, along with their suicidal polices have almost cost Armenia the complete loss of NK and, possibly, even the existence of their own country. With all the best Armenian officers removed (including heroes from the first Karabakh war, which Armenia won), what was left were delusional clowns who promised that Armenia, without any help including without Russian help, could win the war and drive its forces to Baku (yes, they did sound just as delusional as some Ukie leaders).

Turkey: the next big loser in this war is Turkey whose objectives of bringing all Turkic nations under one neo-Ottoman empire have, predictably, crashed. Again. Erdogan is a world class megalomaniac and trouble maker, and he has involved Turkey in wars (or quasi wars) with Syria, Israel, Iraq, Greece, Libya, Iran, Russia and even (to some degree) NATO. And let’s not forget the bloody operations against the Kurds everywhere. He is a bona fide megalomaniac and that makes him very, very dangerous. Russia has intervened militarily in Syria, Libya and now Azerbaijan to deny Turkey its wannabe empire status and each time we saw that Turkey, as a country, simply does not have the resources to try to build an empire, especially since Erdogan simply does not understand that simultaneously opening conflicts on several fronts in a recipe for disaster.

There is also pretty strong likelihood that it was the Turks who shot down the Russian Mi-24 right inside the Armenian air space: their goal was to force Russia to stop seeking a negotiated solution and to impose a continuation of hostilities. Thank God for Aliev’s superb strategic skills which made it possible for him to do something very smart: he took the blame for what he called a tragic mistake and offered all sorts of compensations and excuses. Aliev’s decision to take the blame probably came after he and Putin (who are close friends) had what diplomats call a “frank exchange of views”.

The Turks are making a big deal out of the fact that the Azeris have invited Turkish forces into Azerbaijan. But let’s be honest here: the Azeris and Turks were always close and there was no outcome which could have prevented the Azeris from legally inviting Turkish forces into Azerbaijan. The real issue is what these forces can do. I submit that while we should never discard the toxic potential of any Turkish force anyway, there is little this force will be able to do than to a) monitor the situation and 2) coordinate with the Russians to stay out of each other’s way. But what these forces won’t be able to do is to attack, or even threaten to attack, Armenian and/or Russian forces (see below why).

Russia: Russia is the only true winner of this war. I know, there is a powerful Armenian lobby in the USA, in Europe and in Russia, and they are trying to present their defeat as a defeat for Russia. Frankly, I understand their bitterness and I feel sorry for them, but they are absolutely wrong. Here is why:

First, Russia has now established herself as the sole power in the Caucasus which can bring about peace. 2000 US personnel in Erevan did absolutely nothing for years to really help Armenia, all they did is force suicidal russophobic policies on Armenia, that’s about it. The same amount of Russian soldiers literally brought peace overnight. Here I have to explain a little something about the units which was sent Azerbaijan: 15th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade (15IMRB).

The 15IMRB is not a peacekeeping force in the western meaning of the world. This is an elite combat force which specializes in peacekeeping and peacemaking (“coercion to peace” in Russian terminology) missions. It’s personnel is 100% composed of professionals, most of whom have extensive combat experience: they participated in the coercion to peace operation against Georgia in 08.08.08 and in Syria. These are top of the line, well trained, superbly equipped forces who, on top of their own capabilities, can fully count on the support of the Russian forces in Armenia and from the full support of the entire Russian military. Those who say that this force is a lightly armed token force simply do not understand these issues.

The entire theatre of operations of this war is very much inside the (conceptual) under 1000 kilometers from the Russian border which the Russian military wants to be capable of domination escalation should a war break out. To repeat, the Russian military is not organized the way the US military is: the Russian military doctrine is purely defensive, this is not propaganda, and it relies for this defense on its ability to very rapidly deploy high readiness mechanized forces anywhere inside Russia and within about 1000km from the Russian border and the ability to destroy any force entering this zone. Russia also relies on advanced weapons systems capable of unleashing a lot of firepower in defense of its deployed task forces forces. In other words, while the 15IMRB is only a brigade sized expeditionary force, it is trained to hunker down and hold a position until the reinforcements (personnel and/or firepower) are deployed from Russia. You can think of this as something similar to the Russian task force in Syria, only much closer to Russia and, therefore, much easier to support if needed.

Coming back to the shooting down of a Russian Mi-24, this action will not go unnoticed or forgotten, of that you can be sure. The fact that Putin (and the Russian military) don’t act like the US would and immediately initiate reprisals does not mean that the Russians don’t care, have forgotten or are afraid. There is a Jewish proverb which says “a good life is the best revenge”. I would paraphrase this by saying that Putin’s motto could be “an advantageous outcome is the best retaliation”: this is what we saw in Syria and this is what will happen in Azerbaijan.

Another sweet spot for Russia is that she can now (truthfully) declare that color revolutions inevitably result in territorial losses (the Ukraine, Georgie and now Armenia) and political chaos (everywhere).

Next, please look at the following map (in Russian, but that is no problem):

Please look at the two thick blue lines: they are showing corridors between Azerbaijan and the Azeri province of Nakhichevan and the corridor between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. These two corridors are absolutely vital for both of these countries and they will now be under the control of FSB Border Guards (Russian border guards are light, mobile and elite units comparable in terms of training and capabilities to their colleagues from the Airborne Forces. Again, don’t assume that they are anything like the US or EU border or customs officials). They are very tough elite units which are trained to fight a much superior force until reinforcements come in.

What that means in strategic terms is that Russia now has an iron grip on what is a vital strategic artery for both Azerbaijan and Armenia. None of the parties are willing to comment very much on this, no need to humiliate anybody, but those in the know realize what a fantastic pressure capability Putin has just added to Russia in the Caucasus. You can think of these two corridors as a lifeline for both states as long as you also realize that these corridors are also strategic daggers in Russian hands pointed at the vital organs of both states.

The usual Putin-hating choir which has been singing the “Putin lost control of the near abroad” mantra should now be both ashamed of their lack of understanding, and livid at what “Putin” did to their hopes, but that kind of magical thinking won’t change reality on the ground: far from losing anything, Putin secured an immense strategic Russia victory at the cost of 2 dead soldiers, one wounded and one helicopter.

From now on, Russia will have permanent military forces in both Armenia and Azerbaijan. Georgia has been effectively neutered. The Russian Caucasus is mostly peaceful and prosperous, both the Black Sea and the Caspian are de facto “Russian lakes” and the Russian “underbelly” is now much stronger than it ever was before.

Let’s when any western power achieves a similar result 

Conclusion:

This war is now only frozen and, like in Syria, there will be provocations, false flags, setbacks and murdered innocents. But, like in Syria, Putin will always prefer a quiet strategy with minimal losses over one with a lot of threats, grandstanding and instant retaliations. There is also what I call the “Putin use of force rules”: never use force where expected, always use force when least expected and always use force in a way your enemies do not plan for. Still, let’s not see all this in rosy colors, there will be setbacks for sure, Erdogan is angry and he still wants to play a role. Putin, in a typical Russian manner will give him exactly that “a role”, but that role will be minimal and mostly for internal Turkish PR consumption. Erdogan, far from being a new Mehmed The Conqueror and “The Great Eagle”, will go down in history as Erdogan The Loser and the “Defeated Chicken”. Megalomania might be a prerequisite for an empire builder, but that alone is clearly not enough.

🙂

What comes next?

Pashinian will be overthrown, that is pretty sure. What matters most for Armenia is who will replace him. Alas, there are anti-Pashinian nationalists out there who are just as russophobic as the Pashinian gang. Furthermore, considering the hysterics taking place in Armenia, there is a real possibility that a new government might annul the ceasefire and demand a “fight to the end”. This could be a major problem, including for the Russian forces in Armenia and the peacekeepers, but it is also likely that by the time the Armenian people really understand that 1) they have been lied to and 2) they have suffered a crushing defeat these calls will eventually be drowned out by more sane voices (including those of the currently jailed pre-2018 leaders).

There is also a huge Armenian immigration in Russia which will hear all the reporting and analyses produced in Russia and will be fully aware of the reality out there. These immigrants represent a huge ressource for Armenia as they are going to be the one who will push for a strong collaboration with Russia which, frankly, Armenia now needs more than anything else. Right now, judging by what pro-Armenian Russian analysts are saying, the Armenians and their supporters are absolutely horrified by this outcome and they are promising that the Turks have now penetrated deeply inside the Russian sphere of influence. To them sane voices reply that this so-called “move” into the Russia sphere of influence will be mostly PR and that it is far better for some Turkish forces to move inside the Russian sphere of influence than for some Russian force to be deployed inside the Turkish sphere of influence. In other words, when these Armenia supporters say that Erdogan has moved deeply inside the Russian sphere of influence, they are also thereby admitting that this is a Russian, not Turkish, sphere of influence. They just don’t realize what they are saying, that’s all.

Frankly, the Armenian diasporas in Russia, the EU and the USA are superbly organized, they have a lot of money, and they currently control the narrative in the EU and the USA (in Russia they tried and miserably failed). Add to this the fact the Aliev was the one who started that war and that he is deeply enmeshed with Erdogan’s Turkey and you will see why the magnitude of the Armenian defeat is systematically underplayed in the western media. That’s fine, let a few months go by and the reality of the situation will eventually convince those currently in denial.

Right now, this is exactly the process which is (violently) taking place in Erevan. But sooner or later, looting mobs will be replaced by some kind of government of national unity and if that government wants to put an end to the horrendous losses and wants to rebuild what is left standing, they will have to call the Kremlin and offer Russia some kind of deal. Needless to day, the immense US embassy, and the hundred of Soros-sponsored “NGOs” will oppose that with all their might. But with the USA itself fighting for survival, the EU in total disarray and the Turks failing at everything they try, that is simply not a viable option.

Russians used to joke that it takes 2 Jews to cheat 1 Armenian, meaning that Armenians are possibly even smarter than Jews (who, in all fairness, are not that smart at all, that is mostly self-serving and self-worshiping propaganda). I tend to share this admiration of the Armenian people: Armenians are an ancient, truly noble and beautiful nation and culture, who deserve to live in peace and security and who have suffered many horrors in their history. They deserve so much more than this CIA/MI6 stooge Pashinian! Right now, the Armenian nation is definitely at a low moment in its history, comparable to the “democratic” 90s in Russia or the current “liberal” horror taking place in the USA. But, as Dostoevsky liked to say, “one should never judge a nation by how low it can sink, but by how high it can soar”.

The best thing for Armenia, objectively, would be to become part of Russia (which Armenia was in its recent past). But that is not going to happen: first, Armenian nationalism is as blind and as obtuse as ever and, furthermore, Russia would never accept Armenia into the Russian Federation, and why would she? Armenia has exactly nothing to offer Russia, except a difficult to protect territory with potentially dangerous neighbors. No, Russia never lost Armenia – it was Armenia which lost Russia. Now the most the Kremlin will offer to Armenia is 1) protection against all neighbors and 2) economic help.

As for the rest, let’s see if the next Armenian government re-joins the CSTO not only in words (as was the case for the past couple of years), but in actions (like resume intel exchanges, military collaboration, joint security operations, etc.). That would be a great first step for Armenia.

Statement by the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia and the President of the Russian Federation

Source

Statement by the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia and the President of the Russian Federation

November 10, 2020

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation

We, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan and President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, hereby declare the following:

1. A complete ceasefire and the termination of hostilities in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone will become effective as of midnight, Moscow time, on November 10, 2020. The Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Armenia, hereinafter referred to as the Parties, shall remain in their current positions.

2. The Agdam District shall be returned to the Republic of Azerbaijan before November 20, 2020.

3. A peacekeeping force of the Russian Federation comprising 1,960 military personnel with light weapons, 90 armoured personnel carriers and 380 military and special vehicles shall be deployed along the contact line in Nagorno-Karabakh and along the Lachin Corridor.

4. The deployment of the Russian peacekeeping force shall proceed simultaneously with the withdrawal of Armenian troops. The peacekeeping force will be deployed for the duration of five years, to be tacitly extended for subsequent five-year periods unless either party announces its intention to terminate this provision six months before expiry.

5. A peacekeeping ceasefire verification centre shall be established to enhance the monitoring of the compliance with the agreements by the Parties to the conflict.

6. The Republic of Armenia shall cede the Kalbajar District to the Republic of Azerbaijan before November 15, 2020, and the Lachin District before December 1, 2020. The five-kilometre wide Lachin Corridor, which will ensure connection between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia but will not include the city of Shusha, shall be controlled by the peacekeeping force of the Russian Federation.

By agreement of the Parties, a plan shall be coordinated in the next three years for the construction of a new route in the Lachin Corridor to connect Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia, with the subsequent redeployment of the Russian peacekeeping force to protect the new route.

The Republic of Azerbaijan shall guarantee the safe movement of people, vehicles and cargo along the Lachin Corridor in both directions.

7. The internally displaced persons and refugees shall return to Nagorno-Karabakh and the adjacent regions under the supervision of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

8. The parties shall exchange prisoners of war, hostages, other detainees and the dead.

9. The blockade of all economic and transport ties in the region shall be lifted. The Republic of Armenia shall guarantee the safety of transport between the western regions of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic with the aim of facilitating the free movement of people, vehicles and cargo in both directions. The oversight of transport communications shall be ensured with the involvement of the agencies of Russia’s FSB Border Guard Service.

By agreement of the Parties, the construction of new transport communications shall be launched to connect the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic with the western regions of Azerbaijan.

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