A commented reading of Putin’s speech at Valdai

October 24, 2021

Note: Below is the full speech made by made by Vladimir Putin, to which I have added red colors to add emphasis and a few comments of my own written in the blue color.  And while I do not have the energy or time to repeat this exercise for the Q&A section which followed his speech, I highly encourage you all to also read it!
Andrei

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A commented reading of Putin’s speech at Valdai

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Ladies and gentlemen,

To begin with, I would like to thank you for coming to Russia and taking part in the Valdai Club events.

As always, during these meetings you raise pressing issues and hold comprehensive discussions of these issues that, without exaggeration, matter for people around the world. Once again, the key theme of the forum was put in a straightforward, I would even say, point-blank manner: Global Shake-up in the 21st Century: The Individual, Values and the State.

Here Putin clearly indicated that he is not talking about local or even regional political issues, but that what we are witnessing is a planetary crisis and a planetary shakeup of the international world order.

Indeed, we are living in an era of great change. If I may, by tradition, I will offer my views with regard to the agenda that you have come up with.

In general, this phrase, “to live in an era of great change,” may seem trite since we use it so often. Also, this era of change began quite a long time ago, and changes have become part of everyday life. Hence, the question: are they worth focusing on? I agree with those who made the agenda for these meetings; of course they are.

In recent decades, many people have cited a Chinese proverb. The Chinese people are wise, and they have many thinkers and valuable thoughts that we can still use today. One of them, as you may know, says, “God forbid living in a time of change.” But we are already living in it, whether we like it or not, and these changes are becoming deeper and more fundamental. But let us consider another Chinese wisdom: the word “crisis” consists of two hieroglyphs – there are probably representatives of the People’s Republic of China in the audience, and they will correct me if I have it wrong – but, two hieroglyphs, “danger” and “opportunity.” And as we say here in Russia, “fight difficulties with your mind, and fight dangers with your experience.”

This sentence contains two very important components: first, Putin contrasts difficulties with dangers, hinting at the fact that what Russia considered as primarily as “difficulties” in the past is transitioning into a real danger.  Second, he also indicates how Russia fought dangers in the past.  The single most important collective experience in Russia’s recent history are, of course, the two revolutions in 1917 (February and October) and WWII.  The first two were internal, the other one external.  So this could be summed up as “no revolution inside Russia and no outside aggression against Russia“.

Of course, we must be aware of the danger and be ready to counter it, and not just one threat but many diverse threats that can arise in this era of change. However, it is no less important to recall a second component of the crisis – opportunities that must not be missed, all the more so since the crisis we are facing is conceptual and even civilisation-related. This is basically a crisis of approaches and principles that determine the very existence of humans on Earth, but we will have to seriously revise them in any event. The question is where to move, what to give up, what to revise or adjust. In saying this, I am convinced that it is necessary to fight for real values, upholding them in every way.

As I have been repeating it on this blog for more than a decade, the current crisis is not (just) about resources, it is a civilizational crisis and, here is the crucial factor, while in 2010 Putin still talked about Russia being European, the tone has now changed, he is clearly opposing two civilizational models: the Western one and the Russian one.  That, by the way, clearly implies that Russia is not part of the West, at least not civilizationally.

Humanity entered into a new era about three decades ago when the main conditions were created for ending military-political and ideological confrontation. I am sure you have talked a lot about this in this discussion club. Our Foreign Minister also talked about it, but nevertheless I would like to repeat several things.

A search for a new balance, sustainable relations in the social, political, economic, cultural and military areas and support for the world system was launched at that time. We were looking for this support but must say that we did not find it, at least so far. Meanwhile, those who felt like the winners after the end of the Cold War (we have also spoken about this many times) and thought they climbed Mount Olympus soon discovered that the ground was falling away underneath even there, and this time it was their turn, and nobody could “stop this fleeting moment” no matter how fair it seemed.

This is a direct dig at those narcissistic people in the West who thought that they had “defeated Communism” while, in reality, the CPSU defeated itself, and who thought that from now on, the West would rule the world forever and unchallenged.  Some even got medals for “winning the Cold War” while, in reality, the USSR and the CPSU just committed suicide.

In general, it must have seemed that we adjusted to this continuous inconstancy, unpredictability and permanent state of transition, but this did not happen either.

I would like to add that the transformation that we are seeing and are part of is of a different calibre than the changes that repeatedly occurred in human history, at least those we know about. This is not simply a shift in the balance of forces or scientific and technological breakthroughs, though both are also taking place. Today, we are facing systemic changes in all directions – from the increasingly complicated geophysical condition of our planet to a more paradoxical interpretation of what a human is and what the reasons for his existence are.

Here, again, Putin is trying to wake up his audience, especially the delusional folks in the West, about the nature and magnitude of the changes taking place before our eyes: a series systemic changes in all directions.

Let us look around. And I will say this again: I will allow myself to express a few thoughts that I sign on to.

Firstly, climate change and environmental degradation are so obvious that even the most careless people can no longer dismiss them. One can continue to engage in scientific debates about the mechanisms behind the ongoing processes, but it is impossible to deny that these processes are getting worse, and something needs to be done. Natural disasters such as droughts, floods, hurricanes, and tsunamis have almost become the new normal, and we are getting used to them. Suffice it to recall the devastating, tragic floods in Europe last summer, the fires in Siberia – there are a lot of examples. Not only in Siberia – our neighbours in Turkey have also had wildfires, and the United States, and other places on the American continent. It sometimes seems that any geopolitical, scientific and technical, or ideological rivalry becomes pointless in this context, if the winners will have not enough air to breathe or nothing to drink.

The coronavirus pandemic has become another reminder of how fragile our community is, how vulnerable it is, and our most important task is to ensure humanity a safe existence and resilience. To increase our chance of survival in the face of cataclysms, we absolutely need to rethink how we go about our lives, how we run our households, how cities develop or how they should develop; we need to reconsider economic development priorities of entire states. I repeat, safety is one of our main imperatives, in any case it has become obvious now, and anyone who tries to deny this will have to later explain why they were wrong and why they were unprepared for the crises and shocks whole nations are facing.

This is very important.  Whatever one thinks of the virus and the pandemic, the total chaos in which each country did its own thing has shown that even a major crisis does NOT unite humanity, due to many objective reasons.  Furthermore, the capitalist societies, far from being solid, are all barely surviving, by a very thin thread, mostly by printing money, lying to the people and by creating bubbles.  The western unsinkable Titanic is sinking, but the orchestra is still playing, very loudly.

Second. The socioeconomic problems facing humankind have worsened to the point where, in the past, they would trigger worldwide shocks, such as world wars or bloody social cataclysms. Everyone is saying that the current model of capitalism which underlies the social structure in the overwhelming majority of countries, has run its course and no longer offers a solution to a host of increasingly tangled differences.

Marx saw the internal contradictions of capitalism, as did many many others, but nobody reads him anymore and the others are forgotten.  Personally, I will never forget the speech of a Pakistani delegate to the UN in Geneva saying “the internal contradictions of Communism have caught up with the Soviet Union before the internal contradictions of capitalism will catch up with the West“.  How right he was, and now this is hard to deny!  Capitalism, being parasitical in nature, could only live off the plundering of the planet (hence Lenin’s remark about “imperialism being the latest stage of capitalism”).  The West “survived” the USSR by 3 decades only because these decades were decades of plunder of defenseless countries: now that there is nobody else to plunder and rob (what is left is either too poor or too strong), the crisis of capitalism explodes for all to see.

Everywhere, even in the richest countries and regions, the uneven distribution of material wealth has exacerbated inequality, primarily, inequality of opportunities both within individual societies and at the international level. I mentioned this formidable challenge in my remarks at the Davos Forum earlier this year. No doubt, these problems threaten us with major and deep social divisions.

This especially for those who hate Putin for going to Davos: not only does his presence there not prove at all that he is “in cahoots with the western capitalists”, it proves that when Putin meets them (as he should, they are the real powers ruling the Empire), he warns them about their own future and indicates to them how Russia will act when the crisis comes.  This is something that the people in the West seem to have a mental block over: the Russians always talk to everybody, even their worst enemies.  One thousand years of existential warfare as taught them the wisdom of this approach: there is a time for everything, including a time to talk and a time to kill, and Russians are very expert at both!  This is why Russia talks to Israel, Iran and the KSA, and this is why Russia talks to the Taliban (which under Russian law are still terrorists, though Putin hinted that this might change in the future, depending on what the Taliban do).  Russians will never refuse to talk to any entity, no matter how evil or dangerous it is, as long as it/he has real agency!  Do the folks in Davos have real agency?  Hell yes!  So OF COURSE the Russians will talk to them.  Finally, talking to a dangerous enemy is simply not seen as bad thing, Russian princes did that with the Tatars for several centuries.  Then the Russians won, militarily.

Furthermore, a number of countries and even entire regions are regularly hit by food crises. We will probably discuss this later, but there is every reason to believe that this crisis will become worse in the near future and may reach extreme forms. There are also shortages of water and electricity (we will probably cover this today as well), not to mention poverty, high unemployment rates or lack of adequate healthcare.

Here Putin is being very specific: he warns about a future food crisis which will reach an extreme form.  You can be pretty sure that this warning is based on SVR analyses about the very real risk of violent riots, including food riots, happening in the West.  As for Russia, she has the largest freshwater reserves on the planet, is amongst the top agricultural powers on the planet, and has enough energy to keep her going for centuries.  Last but not least, Russia now has the most powerful military on the planet and she will not allow the West, even a hungry West, to come a simply rob her of her own riches.

Lagging countries are fully aware of that and are losing faith in the prospects of ever catching up with the leaders. Disappointment spurs aggression and pushes people to join the ranks of extremists. People in these countries have a growing sense of unfulfilled and failed expectations and the lack of any opportunities not only for themselves, but for their children, as well. This is what makes them look for better lives and results in uncontrolled migration, which, in turn, creates fertile ground for social discontent in more prosperous countries. I do not need to explain anything to you, since you can see everything with your own eyes and are, probably, versed on these matters even better than I.

As I noted earlier, prosperous leading powers have other pressing social problems, challenges and risks in ample supply, and many among them are no longer interested in fighting for influence since, as they say, they already have enough on their plates. The fact that society and young people in many countries have overreacted in a harsh and even aggressive manner to measures to combat the coronavirus showed – and I want to emphasise this, I hope someone has already mentioned this before me at other venues – so, I think that this reaction showed that the pandemic was just a pretext: the causes for social irritation and frustration run much deeper.

The issue of the need to never conflate or confuse cause and pretext is something Putin often mentions.  In this case, what he is saying is that the lockdowns were not the cause of the protests, but rather the spark that set off the social explosion whose true causes are in the unsustainable and, frankly, inhuman nature of the hypocritical, immoral, and unsustainable western capitalist order and worldview (capitalism is both).

I have another important point to make. The pandemic, which, in theory, was supposed to rally the people in the fight against this massive common threat, has instead become a divisive rather than a unifying factor. There are many reasons for that, but one of the main ones is that they started looking for solutions to problems among the usual approaches – a variety of them, but still the old ones, but they just do not work. Or, to be more precise, they do work, but often and oddly enough, they worsen the existing state of affairs.

Western capitalism is all about individualism.  It is based on the notion that the sum of our greeds will result in the best human society possible.  Of course, this is a lie, and while it does force people to work hard motivated either by greed (the rich) or survival (the poor), it cannot generate a society, a civilization, which can act together against a common threat: everybody pulls the blanket to himself, that is all there is to the so-called “western civilizational values”: the rest is just ideological prolefeed for the deceived masses.

By the way, Russia has repeatedly called for, and I will repeat this, stopping these inappropriate ambitions and for working together. We will probably talk about this later but it is clear what I have in mind. We are talking about the need to counter the coronavirus infection together. But nothing changes; everything remains the same despite the humanitarian considerations. I am not referring to Russia now, let’s leave the sanctions against Russia for now; I mean the sanctions that remain in place against those states that badly need international assistance. Where are the humanitarian fundamentals of Western political thought? It appears there is nothing there, just idle talk. Do you understand? This is what seems to be on the surface.

Here Putin even spells out the self-evident truth which is not impossible to conceal: Where are the humanitarian fundamentals of Western political thought? It appears there is nothing there, just idle talk.  The fact that he said it twice, so publicly, is one of the most important statements in his entire career and one of the key reasons why the western ruling classes are now going into deep hysterics: they feel like the proverbial naked king.

Furthermore, the technological revolution, impressive achievements in artificial intelligence, electronics, communications, genetics, bioengineering, and medicine open up enormous opportunities, but at the same time, in practical terms, they raise philosophical, moral and spiritual questions that were until recently the exclusive domain of science fiction writers. What will happen if machines surpass humans in the ability to think? Where is the limit of interference in the human body beyond which a person ceases being himself and turns into some other entity? What are the general ethical limits in the world where the potential of science and machines are becoming almost boundless? What will this mean for each of us, for our descendants, our nearest descendants – our children and grandchildren?

These changes are gaining momentum, and they certainly cannot be stopped because they are objective as a rule. All of us will have to deal with the consequences regardless of our political systems, economic condition or prevailing ideology.

Verbally, all states talk about their commitment to the ideals of cooperation and a willingness to work together for resolving common problems but, unfortunately, these are just words. In reality, the opposite is happening, and the pandemic has served to fuel the negative trends that emerged long ago and are now only getting worse. The approach based on the proverb, “your own shirt is closer to the body,” has finally become common and is now no longer even concealed. Moreover, this is often even a matter of boasting and brandishing. Egotistic interests prevail over the notion of the common good.

There are too many examples to list them here, so I will pick one: the “molecules of freedom” which Uncle Shmuel promised to its European vassals are now in Asia.  QED.

Of course, the problem is not just the ill will of certain states and notorious elites. It is more complicated than that, in my opinion. In general, life is seldom divided into black and white. Every government, every leader is primarily responsible to his own compatriots, obviously. The main goal is to ensure their security, peace and prosperity. So, international, transnational issues will never be as important for a national leadership as domestic stability. In general, this is normal and correct.

We need to face the fact the global governance institutions are not always effective and their capabilities are not always up to the challenge posed by the dynamics of global processes. In this sense, the pandemic could help – it clearly showed which institutions have what it takes and which need fine-tuning.

The re-alignment of the balance of power presupposes a redistribution of shares in favour of rising and developing countries that until now felt left out. To put it bluntly, the Western domination of international affairs, which began several centuries ago and, for a short period, was almost absolute in the late 20th century, is giving way to a much more diverse system.

Okay, but here allow me to point out that I said the same thing, much more directly and in detail, before Putin did :-).  See this article, where I even gave dates: “the Empire died on January 8th 2020, and the US died almost an exact year later, on January 6th 2021“.  To see the non-moderated and, therefore, quite spontaneous reaction these words elicited, please check out the comments section under the Unz version of the same article.  I fully expect the reaction to these words by Putin to mimic the hysterics in the Unz comments section: impotent rage, personal hatred, hysterical flagwaving, and a barrage of unoriginal insults.  None of that noise will affect the outcome, not in the least.  Uncle Shmuel and his Empire are dead, they only appear alive due to momentum (and superb brainwashing in Zone A) and another world order, one in which the West will play a secondary role, at best, is being formed before our eyes.

This transformation is not a mechanical process and, in its own way, one might even say, is unparalleled. Arguably, political history has no examples of a stable world order being established without a big war and its outcomes as the basis, as was the case after World War II. So, we have a chance to create an extremely favourable precedent. The attempt to create it after the end of the Cold War on the basis of Western domination failed, as we see. The current state of international affairs is a product of that very failure, and we must learn from this.

This is a topic which a lot of Russian historians and analysts talk about: in the past, all the vast reorganizations of the international order resulted in wars which then defined the final shape of that order, until the next crisis, that is.  Plainly, this is the issue the Russians are raising: can the West collapse and merge into the new international order without triggering a major war, especially since such a major war will probably be nuclear and threaten the survival of the human race?  Russia did all she can do to deter the West: she built a military capable of matching and even surpassing the united armies of the imperial West on all levels, from the tactical to the operational to the strategic, and if the West decided to go down in its own Götterdämmerung, Russia will make sure that nobody survives her (as Putin said “what need do we have of a world without Russia?” and “at least we will die like martyrs, they will just croak“).  But at the end of the day, whether the leaders of the AngloZionist Empire will trigger the final holocaust of mankind or not is in their hands.  There is nothing more Russia can do to avert that outcome.

Some may wonder, what have we arrived at? We have arrived somewhere paradoxical. Just an example: for two decades, the most powerful nation in the world has been conducting military campaigns in two countries that it cannot be compared to by any standard. But in the end, it had to wind down operations without achieving a single goal that it had set for itself going in 20 years ago, and to withdraw from these countries causing considerable damage to others and itself. In fact, the situation has worsened dramatically.

But that is not the point. Previously, a war lost by one side meant victory for the other side, which took responsibility for what was happening. For example, the defeat of the United States in the Vietnam War, for example, did not make Vietnam a “black hole.” On the contrary, a successfully developing state arose there, which, admittedly, relied on the support of a strong ally. Things are different now: no matter who takes the upper hand, the war does not stop, but just changes form. As a rule, the hypothetical winner is reluctant or unable to ensure peaceful post-war recovery, and only worsens the chaos and the vacuum posing a danger to the world.

Colleagues,

What do you think are the starting points of this complex realignment process? Let me try to summarise the talking points.

First, the coronavirus pandemic has clearly shown that the international order is structured around nation states. By the way, recent developments have shown that global digital platforms – with all their might, which we could see from the internal political processes in the United States – have failed to usurp political or state functions. These attempts proved ephemeral. The US authorities, as I said, have immediately put the owners of these platforms in their place, which is exactly what is being done in Europe, if you just look at the size of the fines imposed on them and the demonopolisation measures being taken. You are aware of that.

There was no coordinated international response to the pandemic, each country did what it thought it should do.  The same will happen with future threats, such is the nature of our current planetary (dis)organization and international institutions made no difference.

In recent decades, many have tossed around fancy concepts claiming that the role of the state was outdated and outgoing. Globalisation supposedly made national borders an anachronism, and sovereignty an obstacle to prosperity. You know, I said it before and I will say it again. This is also what was said by those who attempted to open up other countries’ borders for the benefit of their own competitive advantages. This is what actually happened. And as soon as it transpired that someone somewhere is achieving great results, they immediately returned to closing borders in general and, first of all, their own customs borders and what have you, and started building walls. Well, were we supposed to not notice, or what? Everyone sees everything and everyone understands everything perfectly well. Of course, they do.

That is a dig at the western libertarians: Putin is most definitely a “statist”, and he believes, like most Russians, that the state is not only useful, it is vital.

There is no point in disputing it anymore. It is obvious. But events, when we spoke about the need to open up borders, events, as I said, went in the opposite direction. Only sovereign states can effectively respond to the challenges of the times and the demands of the citizens. Accordingly, any effective international order should take into account the interests and capabilities of the state and proceed on that basis, and not try to prove that they should not exist. Furthermore, it is impossible to impose anything on anyone, be it the principles underlying the sociopolitical structure or values that someone, for their own reasons, has called universal. After all, it is clear that when a real crisis strikes, there is only one universal value left and that is human life, which each state decides for itself how best to protect based on its abilities, culture and traditions.

Here, again, Putin is not being ideological at all, he brings it all down to a basic issue of survival.  And the key to survival is the existence of a truly sovereign and strong state, with real, actual, agency.

In this regard, I will again note how severe and dangerous the coronavirus pandemic has become. As we know, more than 4.9 million have died of it. These terrifying figures are comparable and even exceed the military losses of the main participants in World War I.

That’s for those who still bought into the entire “there is no pandemic” nonsense and implies a question: what would it take for you to wake up to reality? 5 million? 10 million? 20?

The second point I would like to draw your attention to is the scale of change that forces us to act extremely cautiously, if only for reasons of self-preservation. The state and society must not respond radically to qualitative shifts in technology, dramatic environmental changes or the destruction of traditional systems. It is easier to destroy than to create, as we all know. We in Russia know this very well, regrettably, from our own experience, which we have had several times.

Putin here refers to all the terrible revolutions Russia went through during the 20th century: twice in 1917, then 1991 and 1993.  Putin is strongly opposed to ideologically motivated and violent revolutions.  That does not mean that he believes that whatever preceded these revolutions was good or should have been kept, only that changes must be made very gradually and carefully, and never under the hysterical screams and slogans of crazies drunk on ideological certainties.

Just over a century ago, Russia objectively faced serious problems, including because of the ongoing World War I, but its problems were not bigger and possibly even smaller or not as acute as the problems the other countries faced, and Russia could have dealt with its problems gradually and in a civilised manner. But revolutionary shocks led to the collapse and disintegration of a great power. The second time this happened 30 years ago, when a potentially very powerful nation failed to enter the path of urgently needed, flexible but thoroughly substantiated reforms at the right time, and as a result it fell victim to all kinds of dogmatists, both reactionary ones and the so-called progressives – all of them did their bit, all sides did.

These examples from our history allow us to say that revolutions are not a way to settle a crisis but a way to aggravate it. No revolution was worth the damage it did to the human potential.

Quick reminder: even revolutions which are announced as “bloodless” end up spilling more blood than anybody could imagine.  Here I would like to quote Gandhi “I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent“.  Okay, maybe not really permanent, but certainly it lasts much MUCH longer that whatever “good” violence was supposed to achieve.

Third. The importance of a solid support in the sphere of morals, ethics and values is increasing dramatically in the modern fragile world. In point of fact, values are a product, a unique product of cultural and historical development of any nation. The mutual interlacing of nations definitely enriches them, openness expands their horizons and allows them to take a fresh look at their own traditions. But the process must be organic, and it can never be rapid. Any alien elements will be rejected anyway, possibly bluntly. Any attempts to force one’s values on others with an uncertain and unpredictable outcome can only further complicate a dramatic situation and usually produce the opposite reaction and an opposite from the intended result.

That is a direct dig at the Woke-inspired pseudo-Wakanda the crazies in the West are now advocating for, there will be much more about this below.

We look in amazement at the processes underway in the countries which have been traditionally looked at as the standard-bearers of progress. Of course, the social and cultural shocks that are taking place in the United States and Western Europe are none of our business; we are keeping out of this. Some people in the West believe that an aggressive elimination of entire pages from their own history, “reverse discrimination” against the majority in the interests of a minority, and the demand to give up the traditional notions of mother, father, family and even gender, they believe that all of these are the mileposts on the path towards social renewal.

This is about the USA and how it committed suicide.  What Putin is saying is this: you want to commit suicide, by all means, do it, but do not try to get us to follow you, because we never ever will.

Listen, I would like to point out once again that they have a right to do this, we are keeping out of this. But we would like to ask them to keep out of our business as well. We have a different viewpoint, at least the overwhelming majority of Russian society – it would be more correct to put it this way – has a different opinion on this matter. We believe that we must rely on our own spiritual values, our historical tradition and the culture of our multiethnic nation.

It’s all true.  Most Russians, irrespective of their ethnicity, religion or political ideas like gender differentiated couples, with a father and a mother, each in his/her role.  If the USA wants to transform itself into a “Trannystan” run by gender fluid creatures of an undetermined nature and function, no problem.  But Russia openly and categorically rejects such a model no matter how loud the protest of “human rights” (or tranny rights) organization in the West will protest.

The advocates of so-called ‘social progress’ believe they are introducing humanity to some kind of a new and better consciousness. Godspeed, hoist the flags as we say, go right ahead. The only thing that I want to say now is that their prescriptions are not new at all. It may come as a surprise to some people, but Russia has been there already. After the 1917 revolution, the Bolsheviks, relying on the dogmas of Marx and Engels, also said that they would change existing ways and customs and not just political and economic ones, but the very notion of human morality and the foundations of a healthy society. The destruction of age-old values, religion and relations between people, up to and including the total rejection of family (we had that, too), encouragement to inform on loved ones – all this was proclaimed progress and, by the way, was widely supported around the world back then and was quite fashionable, same as today. By the way, the Bolsheviks were absolutely intolerant of opinions other than theirs.

That is also something I have said many times: many of the so-called “minorities” in the West are every bit as intolerant and even violent as the Trotskysts in Soviet Russia.  While they wrap themselves in the mantles of “acceptance”, “positivity” or “diversity” the truth is you better agree with them, or else.  I can personally attest that this blog has lost a few readers (not nearly as many as they wish to believe!) and even authors over my refusal to consider homosexuality as a “normal and natural variation of human sexuality”.  Some of these folks even wrote me long letters of insults in the apparent belief this that would impress me.  There are many minorities in the West and the world and the rulers of the Empire use them to great effectiveness to first, distract from the real issues and, second, to destroy the western civilization (I reposted one recently here).  In my experience, the single most intolerant and ideologically-wired group are homosexuals, leaving militant feminists far behind.  But the BLM or Antifa types are also display a typically Trotskyst mindset.  As for the Alt-Right, Q-anon and the rest of the “don’t tread on me” folks (who have been trodded upon since birth and never had be brains or reality awareness realize this!), they dream about “Evropa”, drive around on Harleys, stock on ammo and guns and sometimes even seem to believe that Putin or Russia is on their side.  And yes, while they are rather pathetic, they are much LESS ideological intolerant and, therefore, less potentially violent, than their “progressive” counterparts.  The US ruling classes use them ALL for the sole purpose of staying in power.

This, I believe, should call to mind some of what we are witnessing now. Looking at what is happening in a number of Western countries, we are amazed to see the domestic practices, which we, fortunately, have left, I hope, in the distant past. The fight for equality and against discrimination has turned into aggressive dogmatism bordering on absurdity, when the works of the great authors of the past – such as Shakespeare – are no longer taught at schools or universities, because their ideas are believed to be backward. The classics are declared backward and ignorant of the importance of gender or race. In Hollywood memos are distributed about proper storytelling and how many characters of what colour or gender should be in a movie. This is even worse than the agitprop department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

He said is plainly here: “aggressive dogmatism bordering on absurdity”.  And, believe me, after 70 years of Bolshevik rule, Russians know all they need to know about “aggressive dogmatism bordering on absurdity”.  Then want NO part of it.

Countering acts of racism is a necessary and noble cause, but the new ‘cancel culture’ has turned it into ‘reverse discrimination’ that is, reverse racism. The obsessive emphasis on race is further dividing people, when the real fighters for civil rights dreamed precisely about erasing differences and refusing to divide people by skin colour. I specifically asked my colleagues to find the following quote from Martin Luther King: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by their character.” This is the true value. However, things are turning out differently there. By the way, the absolute majority of Russian people do not think that the colour of a person’s skin or their gender is an important matter. Each of us is a human being. This is what matters.

That’s one for those ignorant idiots who believe that Russia cares about the “White race”, including, alas, a few folks who consider themselves Russian, or say so, but whose worldview is categorically opposed to the traditional Russian one: Russians don’t think or use categories such as skin color or ethnicity (the last Czar was more German than Russian for example, and his wife was German).  Unlike the West, which was born in the 12th century and who has been imperialist ever since the First Crusade, Russia, like the East Roman Empire (aka Byzantium) or, before that, the Roman and Alexandrian empires, was always multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious and western notions such as “the White race” have no meaning whatsoever in the traditional Russian worldview (even the Bolsheviks officially were internationalists, albeit mostly russophobic ones, but that is another topic).

In a number of Western countries, the debate over men’s and women’s rights has turned into a perfect phantasmagoria. Look, beware of going where the Bolsheviks once planned to go – not only communalising chickens, but also communalising women. One more step and you will be there.

Yup, he dared to say it:  “the debate over men’s and women’s rights has turned into a perfect phantasmagoria”.  I can just imagine the rage these words will trigger.

Also, about “communilizing” chicken or women.  He is referring to the various ideologies, from Plato to Marx, who wanted to subvert the traditional family and make women “communal”.  For those who have no idea what I am referring to, I can only recommend the following book by Igor Shafarevich “The Socialist Phenomenon“.

Zealots of these new approaches even go so far as to want to abolish these concepts altogether. Anyone who dares mention that men and women actually exist, which is a biological fact, risk being ostracised. “Parent number one” and “parent number two,” “’birthing parent” instead of “mother,” and “human milk” replacing “breastmilk” because it might upset the people who are unsure about their own gender. I repeat, this is nothing new; in the 1920s, the so-called Soviet Kulturtraegers also invented some newspeak believing they were creating a new consciousness and changing values that way. And, as I have already said, they made such a mess it still makes one shudder at times.

Here again, Putin OPENLY denounces the entire “Woke” ideology, which he compares to the Nazi ideology (hence his use of the term Kulturtraeger), its ideologues and its CRIMES, see next

Not to mention some truly monstrous things when children are taught from an early age that a boy can easily become a girl and vice versa. That is, the teachers actually impose on them a choice we all supposedly have. They do so while shutting the parents out of the process and forcing the child to make decisions that can upend their entire life. They do not even bother to consult with child psychologists – is a child at this age even capable of making a decision of this kind? Calling a spade a spade, this verges on a crime against humanity, and it is being done in the name and under the banner of progress.

What the US ideologues are doing to children is a crime against humanity.  It is child abuse of the worst kind.  Putin has the courage to say so openly.  Well, at least the gender-crazies in the West cannot get him fired or otherwise “cancelled”.  Good.

Well, if someone likes this, let them do it. I have already mentioned that, in shaping our approaches, we will be guided by a healthy conservatism. That was a few years ago, when passions on the international arena were not yet running as high as they are now, although, of course, we can say that clouds were gathering even then. Now, when the world is going through a structural disruption, the importance of reasonable conservatism as the foundation for a political course has skyrocketed – precisely because of the multiplying risks and dangers, and the fragility of the reality around us.

Same message: enjoy your wannabe Wakanda but stay away from us, our families, our traditions and our children above all!

This conservative approach is not about an ignorant traditionalism, a fear of change or a restraining game, much less about withdrawing into our own shell. It is primarily about reliance on a time-tested tradition, the preservation and growth of the population, a realistic assessment of oneself and others, a precise alignment of priorities, a correlation of necessity and possibility, a prudent formulation of goals, and a fundamental rejection of extremism as a method. And frankly, in the impending period of global reconstruction, which may take quite long, with its final design being uncertain, moderate conservatism is the most reasonable line of conduct, as far as I see it. It will inevitably change at some point, but so far, do no harm – the guiding principle in medicine – seems to be the most rational one. Noli nocere, as they say.

First, “do no harm” should not be a controversial notion.  But the West and all its ideologies and incarnations has dealt with that basic rule in a very simple way: “when WE do it, it is not harm, axiomatically, by definition”.  This sums of 1000 years of western imperialism, violence and intolerance: “when WE do it, it is good, because we are good” – and that is dogma.

Again, for us in Russia, these are not some speculative postulates, but lessons from our difficult and sometimes tragic history. The cost of ill-conceived social experiments is sometimes beyond estimation. Such actions can destroy not only the material, but also the spiritual foundations of human existence, leaving behind moral wreckage where nothing can be built to replace it for a long time.

That is a last warning: keep going on and you will leave nothing such a moral wreckage where nothing can be built to replace it for a long time.  Who are these words addressed to?  Not the leaders of the Empire.  Not the Woke folks, and not the braindead “Don’t tread on me” either. Not the Greta Tunberg types for sure.  I think that this  is a warning to those who still have something to preserve: Mediterranean countries, the Middle-East, Latin America and much of the entire Asian continent.

Finally, there is one more point I want to make. We understand all too well that resolving many urgent problems the world has been facing would be impossible without close international cooperation. However, we need to be realistic: most of the pretty slogans about coming up with global solutions to global problems that we have been hearing since the late 20th century will never become reality. In order to achieve a global solution, states and people have to transfer their sovereign rights to supra-national structures to an extent that few, if any, would accept. This is primarily attributable to the fact that you have to answer for the outcomes of such policies not to some global public, but to your citizens and voters.

However, this does not mean that exercising some restraint for the sake of bringing about solutions to global challenges is impossible. After all, a global challenge is a challenge for all of us together, and to each of us in particular. If everyone saw a way to benefit from cooperation in overcoming these challenges, this would definitely leave us better equipped to work together.

One of the ways to promote these efforts could be, for example, to draw up, at the UN level, a list of challenges and threats that specific countries face, with details of how they could affect other countries. This effort could involve experts from various countries and academic fields, including you, my colleagues. We believe that developing a roadmap of this kind could inspire many countries to see global issues in a new light and understand how cooperation could be beneficial for them.

I have already mentioned the challenges international institutions are facing. Unfortunately, this is an obvious fact: it is now a question of reforming or closing some of them. However, the United Nations as the central international institution retains its enduring value, at least for now. I believe that in our turbulent world it is the UN that brings a touch of reasonable conservatism into international relations, something that is so important for normalising the situation.

The leaders of the West have tried to subvert and discredit the UN for many decades already.  Why?  Simple: they don’t have a superior status there, and the P5 can veto anything.  Hence all the tall by various US Presidents about a new “rules-based international order” or a “alliance of democracies”.  That is just nonsense whose sole purpose to subvert the UN because of Russia and China.  The leaders of the West want a total monopoly on power, and when they can’t get it, they simply ignore the rules they themselves agreed to after WWII.

Many criticise the UN for failing to adapt to a rapidly changing world. In part, this is true, but it is not the UN, but primarily its members who are to blame for this. In addition, this international body promotes not only international norms, but also the rule-making spirit, which is based on the principles of equality and maximum consideration for everyone’s opinions. Our mission is to preserve this heritage while reforming the organisation. However, in doing so we need to make sure that we do not throw the baby out with the bathwater, as the saying goes.

There is much more to this: for example, the West has taken total control of organizations such as the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the ICC or even the IOC.  The list of such totally controlled international organizations is very very long.  They also run Amnesty, WWF, the ICRC etc.  As somebody who worked both at the UN and (very shortly) at the ICRC, I can personally confirm this.  Putin is too diplomatic to say this but, believe me, the Russians are absolutely aware of this, and for good reason.

This is not the first time I am using a high rostrum to make this call for collective action in order to face up to the problems that continue to pile up and become more acute. It is thanks to you, friends and colleagues, that the Valdai Club is emerging or has already established itself as a high-profile forum. It is for this reason that I am turning to this platform to reaffirm our readiness to work together on addressing the most urgent problems that the world is facing today.

Friends,

The changes mentioned here prior to me, as well as by yours truly, are relevant to all countries and peoples. Russia, of course, is not an exception. Just like everyone else, we are searching for answers to the most urgent challenges of our time.

Of course, no one has any ready-made recipes. However, I would venture to say that our country has an advantage. Let me explain what this advantage is. It is to do with our historical experience. You may have noticed that I have referred to it several times in the course of my remarks. Unfortunately, we had to bring back many sad memories, but at least our society has developed what they now refer to as herd immunity to extremism that paves the way to upheavals and socioeconomic cataclysms. People really value stability and being able to live normal lives and to prosper while confident that the irresponsible aspirations of yet another group of revolutionaries will not upend their plans and aspirations. Many have vivid memories of what happened 30 years ago and all the pain it took to climb out of the ditch where our country and our society found themselves after the USSR fell apart.

Our society has developed what they now refer to as herd immunity to extremism that paves the way to upheavals and socioeconomic cataclysms“.  That is absolutely true, thanks to 3 terrible revolutions,  several bloodbaths (including the one in 1993 and Chechnia), the total self-destruction of the post-Maidan Ukraine and now the collective suicide of the West, soemthing which is reported about every day in the Russian media, state, corporate and social.  This is why the talk about a coup against Putin is so silly: not only does he have full and total control of all the “power ministries” and the support of a majority of Russians, but as soon as any wannabe “Maidan” (like what the West tried in Belarus recently) is attempted in Russia, an infinitely larger anti-Maidan will spontaneously happen.

The conservative views we hold are an optimistic conservatism, which is what matters the most. We believe stable, positive development to be possible. It all depends primarily on our own efforts. Of course, we are ready to work with our partners on common noble causes.

I would like to thank all participants once more, for your attention. As the tradition goes, I will gladly answer or at least try to answer your questions.

Thank you for your patience.

Conclusion: this was, by far, the most important speech ever made by Putin and it is a direct, open, challenge to the West.  We all, humans, are now truly entering a most dangerous period.  When Putin came to power, he perfectly understood how weak Russia was.  So he engaged in what appeared to be 2 decades of constant Russian concessions, a retreat on all fronts, and that got a lot of people very frustrated and angry at him.  But now, in 2021, we see that what he did was trade time (and space!) to fundamentally transform Russia from a plundered, humiliated and basically dying country into a power which can finally throw a direct challenge at the consolidated West: the dead AngloZionist Empire, the dying Anglosphere and a Europe gone completely insane.  And there is really nothing much his enemies in the West can do, short of starting a suicidal war they cannot win.   After 2 decades of very careful preparations Russia is now looking directly at the West, with no fear whatsoever and with a firm resolution to not allow the West to pull Russia into its own suicidal direction.

Andrei

The world according to Vladimir Putin

October 23, 2021

The world according to Vladimir Putin

Russian president, in Sochi, lays down the law in favor of conservatism – says the woke West is in decline

By Pepe Escobar, posted with permission and first posted at Asia Times

The plenary session is the traditional highlight of the annual, must-follow Valdai Club discussions – one of Eurasia’s premier intellectual gatherings.

Vladimir Putin is a frequent keynote speaker. In Sochi this year, as I related in a previous column, the overarching theme was “global shake-up in the 21st century: the individual, values and the state.”

Putin addressed it head on, in what can already be considered one of the most important geopolitical speeches in recent memory (a so-far incomplete transcript can be found here) – certainly his strongest moment in the limelight. That was followed by a comprehensive Q&A session (starting at 4:39:00).

Predictably, assorted Atlanticists, neocons and liberal interventionists will be apoplectic. That’s irrelevant. For impartial observers, especially across the Global South, what matters is to pay very close attention to how Putin shared his worldview – including some very candid moments.

Right at the start, he evoked the two Chinese characters that depict “crisis” (as in “danger”) and “opportunity,” melding them with a Russian saying: “Fight difficulties with your mind. Fight dangers with your experience.”

This elegant, oblique reference to the Russia-China strategic partnership led to a concise appraisal of the current chessboard:

The re-alignment of the balance of power presupposes a redistribution of shares in favor of rising and developing countries that until now felt left out. To put it bluntly, the Western domination of international affairs, which began several centuries ago and, for a short period, was almost absolute in the late 20th century, is giving way to a much more diverse system.

That opened the way to another oblique characterization of hybrid warfare as the new modus operandi:

Previously, a war lost by one side meant victory for the other side, which took responsibility for what was happening. The defeat of the United States in the Vietnam War, for example, did not make Vietnam a “black hole.” On the contrary, a successfully developing state arose there, which, admittedly, relied on the support of a strong ally. Things are different now: No matter who takes the upper hand, the war does not stop, but just changes form. As a rule, the hypothetical winner is reluctant or unable to ensure peaceful post-war recovery, and only worsens the chaos and the vacuum posing a danger to the world.

A disciple of Berdyaev

In several instances, especially during the Q&A, Putin confirmed he’s a huge admirer of Nikolai Berdyaev. It’s impossible to understand Putin without understanding Berdyaev (1874-1948), who was a philosopher and theologian – essentially, a philosopher of Christianity.

In Berdyaev’s philosophy of history, the meaning of life is defined in terms of the spirit, compared with secular modernity’s emphasis on economics and materialism. No wonder Putin was never a Marxist.

For Berdyaev, history is a time-memory method through which man works toward his destiny. It’s the relationship between the divine and the human that shapes history. He places enormous importance on the spiritual power of human freedom.

Nikolai Berdyaev. Photo: Center for Sophiological Studies

Putin made several references to freedom, to family – in his case, of modest means – and to the importance of education; he heartily praised his apprenticeship at Leningrad State University. In parallel, he absolutely destroyed wokeism, transgenderism and cancel culture promoted “under the banner of progress.”

This is only one among a series of key passages:

We are surprised by the processes taking place in countries that used to see themselves as pioneers of progress. The social and cultural upheavals taking place in the United States and Western Europe are, of course, none of our business; we don’t interfere with them. Someone in the Western countries is convinced that the aggressive erasure of whole pages of their own history – the “reverse discrimination” of the majority in favor of minorities, or the demand to abandon the usual understanding of such basic things as mother, father, family or even the difference between the sexes – that these are, in their opinion, milestones of the movement toward social renewal.

So a great deal of his 40 minute-long speech, as well as his answers, codified some markers of what he previously defined as “healthy conservatism”:

Now that the world is experiencing a structural collapse, the importance of sensible conservatism as a basis for policy has increased many times over, precisely because the risks and dangers are multiplying and the reality around us is fragile.

Switching back to the geopolitical arena, Putin was adamant that “we are friends with China. But not against anyone.”

Geoeconomically, he once again took time to engage in a masterful, comprehensive – even passionate – explanation of how the natural gas market works, coupled with the European Commission’s self-defeating bet on the spot market, and why Nord Stream 2 is a game-changer.

Afghanistan

During the Q&A, scholar Zhou Bo from Tsinghua University addressed one of the key, current geopolitical challenges. Referring to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, he pointed out that, “if Afghanistan has a problem, the SCO has a problem. So how can the SCO, led by China and Russia, help Afghanistan?”

Putin stressed four points in his answer:

  • The economy must be restored;
  • The Taliban must eradicate drug trafficking;
  • The main responsibility should be assumed “by those who had been there for 20 years” – echoing the joint statement  after the meeting between the extended troika and the Taliban in Moscow on Wednesday; and
  • Afghan state funds should be unblocked.

He also mentioned, indirectly, that the large Russian military base in Tajikistan is not a mere decorative prop.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is BunkerTajikistan-300x181.jpg

Putin went back to the subject of Afghanistan during the Q&A, once again stressing that NATO members should not “absolve themselves from responsibility.”

He reasoned that the Taliban “are trying to fight extreme radicals.” On the “need to start with the ethnic component,” he described Tajiks as accounting for 47% of the overall Afghan population – perhaps an over-estimation but the message was on the imperative of an inclusive government.

He also struck a balance: As much as “we are sharing with them [the Taliban] a view from the outside,” he made the point that Russia is “in contact with all political forces” in Afghanistan – in the sense that there are contacts with former government officials like Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah and also Northern Alliance members, now in the opposition, who are self-exiled in Tajikistan.

Those pesky Russians

Now compare all of the above with the current NATO circus in Brussels, complete with a new “master plan to deter the growing Russian threat.”

No one ever lost money underestimating NATO’s capacity to reach the depths of inconsequential stupidity. Moscow does not even bother to talk to these clowns anymore: as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has pointed out, “Russia will no longer pretend that some changes in relations with NATO are possible in the near future.”

Moscow from now on only talks to the masters – in Washington. After all, the direct line between the Chief of General Staff, General Gerasimov, and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander, General Todd Wolters, remains active. Messenger boys such as Stoltenberg and the massive NATO bureaucracy in Brussels are deemed irrelevant.

This happens, in Lavrov’s assessment, right after “all our friends in Central Asia” have been “telling us that they are against … approaches either from the United States or from any other NATO member state” promoting the stationing of any imperial “counter-terrorist” apparatus in any of the “stans” of Central Asia.

And still the Pentagon continues to provoke Moscow. Wokeism-lobbyist-cum-Secretary of Defense Lloyd “Raytheon” Austin, who oversaw the American Great Escape from Afghanistan, is now pontificating that Ukraine should de facto join NATO.

That should be the last stake impaling the “brain-dead” (copyright Emmanuel Macron) zombie, as it meets its fate raving about simultaneous Russian attacks on the Baltic and Black Seas with nuclear weapons.

Russian President Vladimir Putin comments on the Beirut port explosion.

21 Oct 2021

Source: Al Mayadeen

By alMayadeen Net

Russian President Vladimir Putin comments on the Beirut port explosion.

Visual search query image
the statements were made at the Valdai Discussion Club, held in Sochi, Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed that “the Beirut port blast disaster was linked to the desire of some to achieve financial gains, by selling fertilizers at better prices.” 

Putin’s words came during the conclusion of the Valdai Discussion Club, held in Sochi. The Russian President stressed that the position on Hezbollah differs from one country to another, and explained in response to a question, “I know very well that different people in different countries take different positions on Hezbollah.” As for the Russian position, he divulged that “Hezbollah is a significant political force in Lebanon.”

Putin indicated that his country is working with all Lebanese political forces to maintain security, stability, and peace in Lebanon. He stressed Russia “practically communicates with all political forces in Lebanon and will continue to do so.”

“In Russia, they are completely concerned with finding common ground for an agreement between the Lebanese parties without a fight,” and he added, “We are working with all the Lebanese to prevent bloodshed.”

About the Beirut Blast investigation

On the issue of the investigation into the Beirut port blast, he announced that “we will study the possibility of assisting in the investigation of the Beirut port explosion, and we will provide satellite images, if available.”

Putin added, “We cannot comment on political processes related to the Lebanese judiciary. We cannot support one party against another, because that will have counterproductive results on our efforts to reconcile between the Lebanese parties.”

2020 Beirut Blast

On August 4, 2020, a massive explosion rocked the Lebanese capital, Beirut. The blast followed a fire in a warehouse inside the port. Investigations showed that this warehouse was storing large quantities of ammonium nitrate.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is participating in the plenary session of the 18th Annual Meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club in Sochi.

October 21, 2021

Russian President Vladimir Putin is participating in the plenary session of the 18th Annual Meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club in Sochi.

Theme:  ‘Global Shake-Up in the 21st Century: The Individual, Values, and the State’

(Partial transcript now available – at this point it contains all of Mr Putin’s presentation and the Kremlin has started posting the Questions and Answers)

This year’s theme is Global Shake-up in the 21st Century: The Individual, Values and the State. The four-day programme includes over 15 in-person and online sessions.

* * *

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Ladies and gentlemen,

To begin with, I would like to thank you for coming to Russia and taking part in the Valdai Club events.

As always, during these meetings you raise pressing issues and hold comprehensive discussions of these issues that, without exaggeration, matter for people around the world. Once again, the key theme of the forum was put in a straightforward, I would even say, point-blank manner: Global Shake-up in the 21st Century: The Individual, Values and the State.

Indeed, we are living in an era of great change. If I may, by tradition, I will offer my views with regard to the agenda that you have come up with.

In general, this phrase, “to live in an era of great change,” may seem trite since we use it so often. Also, this era of change began quite a long time ago, and changes have become part of everyday life. Hence, the question: are they worth focusing on? I agree with those who made the agenda for these meetings; of course they are.

In recent decades, many people have cited a Chinese proverb. The Chinese people are wise, and they have many thinkers and valuable thoughts that we can still use today. One of them, as you may know, says, “God forbid living in a time of change.” But we are already living in it, whether we like it or not, and these changes are becoming deeper and more fundamental. But let us consider another Chinese wisdom: the word “crisis” consists of two hieroglyphs – there are probably representatives of the People’s Republic of China in the audience, and they will correct me if I have it wrong – but, two hieroglyphs, “danger” and “opportunity.” And as we say here in Russia, “fight difficulties with your mind, and fight dangers with your experience.”

Of course, we must be aware of the danger and be ready to counter it, and not just one threat but many diverse threats that can arise in this era of change. However, it is no less important to recall a second component of the crisis – opportunities that must not be missed, all the more so since the crisis we are facing is conceptual and even civilisation-related. This is basically a crisis of approaches and principles that determine the very existence of humans on Earth, but we will have to seriously revise them in any event. The question is where to move, what to give up, what to revise or adjust. In saying this, I am convinced that it is necessary to fight for real values, upholding them in every way.

Humanity entered into a new era about three decades ago when the main conditions were created for ending military-political and ideological confrontation. I am sure you have talked a lot about this in this discussion club. Our Foreign Minister also talked about it, but nevertheless I would like to repeat several things.

A search for a new balance, sustainable relations in the social, political, economic, cultural and military areas and support for the world system was launched at that time. We were looking for this support but must say that we did not find it, at least so far. Meanwhile, those who felt like the winners after the end of the Cold War (we have also spoken about this many times) and thought they climbed Mount Olympus soon discovered that the ground was falling away underneath even there, and this time it was their turn, and nobody could “stop this fleeting moment” no matter how fair it seemed.

In general, it must have seemed that we adjusted to this continuous inconstancy, unpredictability and permanent state of transition, but this did not happen either.

I would like to add that the transformation that we are seeing and are part of is of a different calibre than the changes that repeatedly occurred in human history, at least those we know about. This is not simply a shift in the balance of forces or scientific and technological breakthroughs, though both are also taking place. Today, we are facing systemic changes in all directions – from the increasingly complicated geophysical condition of our planet to a more paradoxical interpretation of what a human is and what the reasons for his existence are.

Let us look around. And I will say this again: I will allow myself to express a few thoughts that I sign on to.

Firstly, climate change and environmental degradation are so obvious that even the most careless people can no longer dismiss them. One can continue to engage in scientific debates about the mechanisms behind the ongoing processes, but it is impossible to deny that these processes are getting worse, and something needs to be done. Natural disasters such as droughts, floods, hurricanes, and tsunamis have almost become the new normal, and we are getting used to them. Suffice it to recall the devastating, tragic floods in Europe last summer, the fires in Siberia – there are a lot of examples. Not only in Siberia – our neighbours in Turkey have also had wildfires, and the United States, and other places on the American continent. It sometimes seems that any geopolitical, scientific and technical, or ideological rivalry becomes pointless in this context, if the winners will have not enough air to breathe or nothing to drink.

The coronavirus pandemic has become another reminder of how fragile our community is, how vulnerable it is, and our most important task is to ensure humanity a safe existence and resilience. To increase our chance of survival in the face of cataclysms, we absolutely need to rethink how we go about our lives, how we run our households, how cities develop or how they should develop; we need to reconsider economic development priorities of entire states. I repeat, safety is one of our main imperatives, in any case it has become obvious now, and anyone who tries to deny this will have to later explain why they were wrong and why they were unprepared for the crises and shocks whole nations are facing.

Second. The socioeconomic problems facing humankind have worsened to the point where, in the past, they would trigger worldwide shocks, such as world wars or bloody social cataclysms. Everyone is saying that the current model of capitalism which underlies the social structure in the overwhelming majority of countries, has run its course and no longer offers a solution to a host of increasingly tangled differences.

Everywhere, even in the richest countries and regions, the uneven distribution of material wealth has exacerbated inequality, primarily, inequality of opportunities both within individual societies and at the international level. I mentioned this formidable challenge in my remarks at the Davos Forum earlier this year. No doubt, these problems threaten us with major and deep social divisions.

Furthermore, a number of countries and even entire regions are regularly hit by food crises. We will probably discuss this later, but there is every reason to believe that this crisis will become worse in the near future and may reach extreme forms. There are also shortages of water and electricity (we will probably cover this today as well), not to mention poverty, high unemployment rates or lack of adequate healthcare.

Lagging countries are fully aware of that and are losing faith in the prospects of ever catching up with the leaders. Disappointment spurs aggression and pushes people to join the ranks of extremists. People in these countries have a growing sense of unfulfilled and failed expectations and the lack of any opportunities not only for themselves, but for their children, as well. This is what makes them look for better lives and results in uncontrolled migration, which, in turn, creates fertile ground for social discontent in more prosperous countries. I do not need to explain anything to you, since you can see everything with your own eyes and are, probably, versed on these matters even better than I.

As I noted earlier, prosperous leading powers have other pressing social problems, challenges and risks in ample supply, and many among them are no longer interested in fighting for influence since, as they say, they already have enough on their plates. The fact that society and young people in many countries have overreacted in a harsh and even aggressive manner to measures to combat the coronavirus showed – and I want to emphasise this, I hope someone has already mentioned this before me at other venues – so, I think that this reaction showed that the pandemic was just a pretext: the causes for social irritation and frustration run much deeper.

I have another important point to make. The pandemic, which, in theory, was supposed to rally the people in the fight against this massive common threat, has instead become a divisive rather than a unifying factor. There are many reasons for that, but one of the main ones is that they started looking for solutions to problems among the usual approaches – a variety of them, but still the old ones, but they just do not work. Or, to be more precise, they do work, but often and oddly enough, they worsen the existing state of affairs.

By the way, Russia has repeatedly called for, and I will repeat this, stopping these inappropriate ambitions and for working together. We will probably talk about this later but it is clear what I have in mind. We are talking about the need to counter the coronavirus infection together. But nothing changes; everything remains the same despite the humanitarian considerations. I am not referring to Russia now, let’s leave the sanctions against Russia for now; I mean the sanctions that remain in place against those states that badly need international assistance. Where are the humanitarian fundamentals of Western political thought? It appears there is nothing there, just idle talk. Do you understand? This is what seems to be on the surface.

Furthermore, the technological revolution, impressive achievements in artificial intelligence, electronics, communications, genetics, bioengineering, and medicine open up enormous opportunities, but at the same time, in practical terms, they raise philosophical, moral and spiritual questions that were until recently the exclusive domain of science fiction writers. What will happen if machines surpass humans in the ability to think? Where is the limit of interference in the human body beyond which a person ceases being himself and turns into some other entity? What are the general ethical limits in the world where the potential of science and machines are becoming almost boundless? What will this mean for each of us, for our descendants, our nearest descendants – our children and grandchildren?

These changes are gaining momentum, and they certainly cannot be stopped because they are objective as a rule. All of us will have to deal with the consequences regardless of our political systems, economic condition or prevailing ideology.

Verbally, all states talk about their commitment to the ideals of cooperation and a willingness to work together for resolving common problems but, unfortunately, these are just words. In reality, the opposite is happening, and the pandemic has served to fuel the negative trends that emerged long ago and are now only getting worse. The approach based on the proverb, “your own shirt is closer to the body,” has finally become common and is now no longer even concealed. Moreover, this is often even a matter of boasting and brandishing. Egotistic interests prevail over the notion of the common good.

Of course, the problem is not just the ill will of certain states and notorious elites. It is more complicated than that, in my opinion. In general, life is seldom divided into black and white. Every government, every leader is primarily responsible to his own compatriots, obviously. The main goal is to ensure their security, peace and prosperity. So, international, transnational issues will never be as important for a national leadership as domestic stability. In general, this is normal and correct.

We need to face the fact the global governance institutions are not always effective and their capabilities are not always up to the challenge posed by the dynamics of global processes. In this sense, the pandemic could help – it clearly showed which institutions have what it takes and which need fine-tuning.

The re-alignment of the balance of power presupposes a redistribution of shares in favour of rising and developing countries that until now felt left out. To put it bluntly, the Western domination of international affairs, which began several centuries ago and, for a short period, was almost absolute in the late 20th century, is giving way to a much more diverse system.

This transformation is not a mechanical process and, in its own way, one might even say, is unparalleled. Arguably, political history has no examples of a stable world order being established without a big war and its outcomes as the basis, as was the case after World War II. So, we have a chance to create an extremely favourable precedent. The attempt to create it after the end of the Cold War on the basis of Western domination failed, as we see. The current state of international affairs is a product of that very failure, and we must learn from this.

Some may wonder, what have we arrived at? We have arrived somewhere paradoxical. Just an example: for two decades, the most powerful nation in the world has been conducting military campaigns in two countries that it cannot be compared to by any standard. But in the end, it had to wind down operations without achieving a single goal that it had set for itself going in 20 years ago, and to withdraw from these countries causing considerable damage to others and itself. In fact, the situation has worsened dramatically.

But that is not the point. Previously, a war lost by one side meant victory for the other side, which took responsibility for what was happening. For example, the defeat of the United States in the Vietnam War, for example, did not make Vietnam a “black hole.” On the contrary, a successfully developing state arose there, which, admittedly, relied on the support of a strong ally. Things are different now: no matter who takes the upper hand, the war does not stop, but just changes form. As a rule, the hypothetical winner is reluctant or unable to ensure peaceful post-war recovery, and only worsens the chaos and the vacuum posing a danger to the world.

Colleagues,

What do you think are the starting points of this complex realignment process? Let me try to summarise the talking points.

First, the coronavirus pandemic has clearly shown that the international order is structured around nation states. By the way, recent developments have shown that global digital platforms – with all their might, which we could see from the internal political processes in the United States – have failed to usurp political or state functions. These attempts proved ephemeral. The US authorities, as I said, have immediately put the owners of these platforms in their place, which is exactly what is being done in Europe, if you just look at the size of the fines imposed on them and the demonopolisation measures being taken. You are aware of that.

In recent decades, many have tossed around fancy concepts claiming that the role of the state was outdated and outgoing. Globalisation supposedly made national borders an anachronism, and sovereignty an obstacle to prosperity. You know, I said it before and I will say it again. This is also what was said by those who attempted to open up other countries’ borders for the benefit of their own competitive advantages. This is what actually happened. And as soon as it transpired that someone somewhere is achieving great results, they immediately returned to closing borders in general and, first of all, their own customs borders and what have you, and started building walls. Well, were we supposed to not notice, or what? Everyone sees everything and everyone understands everything perfectly well. Of course, they do.

There is no point in disputing it anymore. It is obvious. But events, when we spoke about the need to open up borders, events, as I said, went in the opposite direction. Only sovereign states can effectively respond to the challenges of the times and the demands of the citizens. Accordingly, any effective international order should take into account the interests and capabilities of the state and proceed on that basis, and not try to prove that they should not exist. Furthermore, it is impossible to impose anything on anyone, be it the principles underlying the sociopolitical structure or values that someone, for their own reasons, has called universal. After all, it is clear that when a real crisis strikes, there is only one universal value left and that is human life, which each state decides for itself how best to protect based on its abilities, culture and traditions.

In this regard, I will again note how severe and dangerous the coronavirus pandemic has become. As we know, more than 4.9 million have died of it. These terrifying figures are comparable and even exceed the military losses of the main participants in World War I.

The second point I would like to draw your attention to is the scale of change that forces us to act extremely cautiously, if only for reasons of self-preservation. The state and society must not respond radically to qualitative shifts in technology, dramatic environmental changes or the destruction of traditional systems. It is easier to destroy than to create, as we all know. We in Russia know this very well, regrettably, from our own experience, which we have had several times.

Just over a century ago, Russia objectively faced serious problems, including because of the ongoing World War I, but its problems were not bigger and possibly even smaller or not as acute as the problems the other countries faced, and Russia could have dealt with its problems gradually and in a civilised manner. But revolutionary shocks led to the collapse and disintegration of a great power. The second time this happened 30 years ago, when a potentially very powerful nation failed to enter the path of urgently needed, flexible but thoroughly substantiated reforms at the right time, and as a result it fell victim to all kinds of dogmatists, both reactionary ones and the so-called progressives – all of them did their bit, all sides did.

These examples from our history allow us to say that revolutions are not a way to settle a crisis but a way to aggravate it. No revolution was worth the damage it did to the human potential.

Third. The importance of a solid support in the sphere of morals, ethics and values is increasing dramatically in the modern fragile world. In point of fact, values are a product, a unique product of cultural and historical development of any nation. The mutual interlacing of nations definitely enriches them, openness expands their horizons and allows them to take a fresh look at their own traditions. But the process must be organic, and it can never be rapid. Any alien elements will be rejected anyway, possibly bluntly. Any attempts to force one’s values on others with an uncertain and unpredictable outcome can only further complicate a dramatic situation and usually produce the opposite reaction and an opposite from the intended result.

We look in amazement at the processes underway in the countries which have been traditionally looked at as the standard-bearers of progress. Of course, the social and cultural shocks that are taking place in the United States and Western Europe are none of our business; we are keeping out of this. Some people in the West believe that an aggressive elimination of entire pages from their own history, “reverse discrimination” against the majority in the interests of a minority, and the demand to give up the traditional notions of mother, father, family and even gender, they believe that all of these are the mileposts on the path towards social renewal.

Listen, I would like to point out once again that they have a right to do this, we are keeping out of this. But we would like to ask them to keep out of our business as well. We have a different viewpoint, at least the overwhelming majority of Russian society – it would be more correct to put it this way – has a different opinion on this matter. We believe that we must rely on our own spiritual values, our historical tradition and the culture of our multiethnic nation.

The advocates of so-called ‘social progress’ believe they are introducing humanity to some kind of a new and better consciousness. Godspeed, hoist the flags as we say, go right ahead. The only thing that I want to say now is that their prescriptions are not new at all. It may come as a surprise to some people, but Russia has been there already. After the 1917 revolution, the Bolsheviks, relying on the dogmas of Marx and Engels, also said that they would change existing ways and customs and not just political and economic ones, but the very notion of human morality and the foundations of a healthy society. The destruction of age-old values, religion and relations between people, up to and including the total rejection of family (we had that, too), encouragement to inform on loved ones – all this was proclaimed progress and, by the way, was widely supported around the world back then and was quite fashionable, same as today. By the way, the Bolsheviks were absolutely intolerant of opinions other than theirs.

This, I believe, should call to mind some of what we are witnessing now. Looking at what is happening in a number of Western countries, we are amazed to see the domestic practices, which we, fortunately, have left, I hope, in the distant past. The fight for equality and against discrimination has turned into aggressive dogmatism bordering on absurdity, when the works of the great authors of the past – such as Shakespeare – are no longer taught at schools or universities, because their ideas are believed to be backward. The classics are declared backward and ignorant of the importance of gender or race. In Hollywood memos are distributed about proper storytelling and how many characters of what colour or gender should be in a movie. This is even worse than the agitprop department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Countering acts of racism is a necessary and noble cause, but the new ‘cancel culture’ has turned it into ‘reverse discrimination’ that is, reverse racism. The obsessive emphasis on race is further dividing people, when the real fighters for civil rights dreamed precisely about erasing differences and refusing to divide people by skin colour. I specifically asked my colleagues to find the following quote from Martin Luther King: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by their character.” This is the true value. However, things are turning out differently there. By the way, the absolute majority of Russian people do not think that the colour of a person’s skin or their gender is an important matter. Each of us is a human being. This is what matters.

In a number of Western countries, the debate over men’s and women’s rights has turned into a perfect phantasmagoria. Look, beware of going where the Bolsheviks once planned to go – not only communalising chickens, but also communalising women. One more step and you will be there.

Zealots of these new approaches even go so far as to want to abolish these concepts altogether. Anyone who dares mention that men and women actually exist, which is a biological fact, risk being ostracised. “Parent number one” and “parent number two,” “’birthing parent” instead of “mother,” and “human milk” replacing “breastmilk” because it might upset the people who are unsure about their own gender. I repeat, this is nothing new; in the 1920s, the so-called Soviet Kulturtraegers also invented some newspeak believing they were creating a new consciousness and changing values that way. And, as I have already said, they made such a mess it still makes one shudder at times.

Not to mention some truly monstrous things when children are taught from an early age that a boy can easily become a girl and vice versa. That is, the teachers actually impose on them a choice we all supposedly have. They do so while shutting the parents out of the process and forcing the child to make decisions that can upend their entire life. They do not even bother to consult with child psychologists – is a child at this age even capable of making a decision of this kind? Calling a spade a spade, this verges on a crime against humanity, and it is being done in the name and under the banner of progress.

Well, if someone likes this, let them do it. I have already mentioned that, in shaping our approaches, we will be guided by a healthy conservatism. That was a few years ago, when passions on the international arena were not yet running as high as they are now, although, of course, we can say that clouds were gathering even then. Now, when the world is going through a structural disruption, the importance of reasonable conservatism as the foundation for a political course has skyrocketed – precisely because of the multiplying risks and dangers, and the fragility of the reality around us.

This conservative approach is not about an ignorant traditionalism, a fear of change or a restraining game, much less about withdrawing into our own shell. It is primarily about reliance on a time-tested tradition, the preservation and growth of the population, a realistic assessment of oneself and others, a precise alignment of priorities, a correlation of necessity and possibility, a prudent formulation of goals, and a fundamental rejection of extremism as a method. And frankly, in the impending period of global reconstruction, which may take quite long, with its final design being uncertain, moderate conservatism is the most reasonable line of conduct, as far as I see it. It will inevitably change at some point, but so far, do no harm – the guiding principle in medicine – seems to be the most rational one. Noli nocere, as they say.

Again, for us in Russia, these are not some speculative postulates, but lessons from our difficult and sometimes tragic history. The cost of ill-conceived social experiments is sometimes beyond estimation. Such actions can destroy not only the material, but also the spiritual foundations of human existence, leaving behind moral wreckage where nothing can be built to replace it for a long time.

Finally, there is one more point I want to make. We understand all too well that resolving many urgent problems the world has been facing would be impossible without close international cooperation. However, we need to be realistic: most of the pretty slogans about coming up with global solutions to global problems that we have been hearing since the late 20th century will never become reality. In order to achieve a global solution, states and people have to transfer their sovereign rights to supra-national structures to an extent that few, if any, would accept. This is primarily attributable to the fact that you have to answer for the outcomes of such policies not to some global public, but to your citizens and voters.

However, this does not mean that exercising some restraint for the sake of bringing about solutions to global challenges is impossible. After all, a global challenge is a challenge for all of us together, and to each of us in particular. If everyone saw a way to benefit from cooperation in overcoming these challenges, this would definitely leave us better equipped to work together.

One of the ways to promote these efforts could be, for example, to draw up, at the UN level, a list of challenges and threats that specific countries face, with details of how they could affect other countries. This effort could involve experts from various countries and academic fields, including you, my colleagues. We believe that developing a roadmap of this kind could inspire many countries to see global issues in a new light and understand how cooperation could be beneficial for them.

I have already mentioned the challenges international institutions are facing. Unfortunately, this is an obvious fact: it is now a question of reforming or closing some of them. However, the United Nations as the central international institution retains its enduring value, at least for now. I believe that in our turbulent world it is the UN that brings a touch of reasonable conservatism into international relations, something that is so important for normalising the situation.

Many criticise the UN for failing to adapt to a rapidly changing world. In part, this is true, but it is not the UN, but primarily its members who are to blame for this. In addition, this international body promotes not only international norms, but also the rule-making spirit, which is based on the principles of equality and maximum consideration for everyone’s opinions. Our mission is to preserve this heritage while reforming the organisation. However, in doing so we need to make sure that we do not throw the baby out with the bathwater, as the saying goes.

This is not the first time I am using a high rostrum to make this call for collective action in order to face up to the problems that continue to pile up and become more acute. It is thanks to you, friends and colleagues, that the Valdai Club is emerging or has already established itself as a high-profile forum. It is for this reason that I am turning to this platform to reaffirm our readiness to work together on addressing the most urgent problems that the world is facing today.

Friends,

The changes mentioned here prior to me, as well as by yours truly, are relevant to all countries and peoples. Russia, of course, is not an exception. Just like everyone else, we are searching for answers to the most urgent challenges of our time.

Of course, no one has any ready-made recipes. However, I would venture to say that our country has an advantage. Let me explain what this advantage is. It is to do with our historical experience. You may have noticed that I have referred to it several times in the course of my remarks. Unfortunately, we had to bring back many sad memories, but at least our society has developed what they now refer to as herd immunity to extremism that paves the way to upheavals and socioeconomic cataclysms. People really value stability and being able to live normal lives and to prosper while confident that the irresponsible aspirations of yet another group of revolutionaries will not upend their plans and aspirations. Many have vivid memories of what happened 30 years ago and all the pain it took to climb out of the ditch where our country and our society found themselves after the USSR fell apart.

The conservative views we hold are an optimistic conservatism, which is what matters the most. We believe stable, positive development to be possible. It all depends primarily on our own efforts. Of course, we are ready to work with our partners on common noble causes.

I would like to thank all participants once more, for your attention. As the tradition goes, I will gladly answer or at least try to answer your questions.

Thank you for your patience.

Moderator of the 18th annual meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club closing session Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you very much, Mr President, for your detailed remarks covering not only and not so much the current political problems, but fundamental issues. Following up on what you said, I cannot fail to ask you about the historical experience, traditions, conservatism and healthy conservatism that you have mentioned on several occasions in your remarks.

Does unhealthy conservatism frighten you? Where does the boundary separating the healthy from the unhealthy lie? At what point does a tradition turn from something that binds society together into a burden?

Vladimir Putin: Anything can become a burden, if you are not careful. When I speak about healthy conservatism, Nikolai Berdyayev always springs to mind, and I have already mentioned him several times. He was a remarkable Russian philosopher, and as you all know he was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1922. He was as forward-thinking as a man can be, but also sided with conservatism. He used to say, and you will excuse me if I do not quote his exact words: “Conservatism is not something preventing upward, forward movement, but something preventing you from sliding back into chaos.” If we treat conservatism this way, it provides an effective foundation for further progress.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Speaking of traditions, you also tend to mention traditional values quite frequently, and this is a hot topic in our society. In particular, you have proposed relying on traditional values as a foundation for bringing the world together. However, traditions are destined to be unique for every nation. How can everyone come together around the same traditional values, if they have their own traditions?

Vladimir Putin: Do you know what the trick is? The trick is that of course there is a lot of diversity and every nation around the world is different. Still, something unites all people. After all, we are all people, and we all want to live. Life is of absolute value.

In my opinion, the same applies to family as a value, because what can be more important than procreation? Do we want to be or not to be? If we do not want to be, fine. You see, adoption is also a good and important thing, but to adopt a child someone has to give birth to that child. This is the second universal value that cannot be contested.

I do not think that I need to list them all. You are all smart people here, and everyone understands this, including you. Yes, we do need to work together based on these shared, universal values.

Fyodor Lukyanov: You made a powerful statement when you said that the current model of capitalism has run its course and no longer offers a solution to international issues. One hears this a lot these days, but you are referring to our country’s unfortunate experience in the 20th century when we were actually rejecting capitalism, but this did not work out for us either. Does this mean that this is where we want to return? Where are we headed with this dysfunctional capitalist model?

Vladimir Putin: I also said that there were no ready-made recipes. It is true that what we are currently witnessing, for example on the energy markets, as we will probably discuss later, demonstrates that this kind of capitalism does not work. All they do is talk about the “invisible hand” of the market, only to get $1,500 or $2,000 per 1,000 cubic metres. Is this market-based approach to regulation any good?

When everything goes well and there is stability, economic actors around the world demand more freedom for themselves and a smaller role for the state in the economy. However, when challenges arise, especially at a global scale, they want the government to interfere.

I remember 2008 and 2009 and the global financial crisis very well. I was Prime Minister at the time, and spoke to many Russian business leaders, who were viewed as successful up to that point, and everything is fine with them now, by the way. They came to me and were ready to give up their companies that were worth tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions of dollars, for a ruble. Why? They had to assume responsibility for their workforce and for the future of these companies. It was easier for them just to keep what they earned and shift their responsibility to others.

At the time, we agreed that the state would lend them its shoulder: they kept their businesses, while the state paid off their margin loans and assumed responsibility, to a certain extent. Together with the businesses, we found a solution. As a result, we saved Russia’s largest private companies, and enabled the state to make a profit afterwards. We actually made money because when the companies were back on their feet, they paid back what they owed the state. The state made quite a profit.

In this regard, we do need to work together and explore each other’s experience. Other countries also had positive experiences in making the state and the market work in tune with each other. The People’s Republic of China is a case in point. While the Communist Party retains its leading role there, the country has a viable market and its institutions are quite effective. This is an obvious fact.

For this reason, there are no ready-made recipes. Wild capitalism does not work either, as I have already said, and I am ready to repeat this, as I have just demonstrated using these examples.

In a way, this is like art. You need to understand when to place a bigger emphasis on something: when to add more salt, and when to use more sugar. You see? While being guided by the general principles as articulated by international financial institutions such as the IMF, the OECD, etc., we need to understand where we are. To act, we need to understand how our capabilities compare with the plans we have. By the way, here in Russia we have been quite effective over the past years, including in overcoming the consequences of the epidemic. Other countries also performed quite well, as we can see.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Do you mean that we are moving not only towards an optimistic conservatism but also towards an optimistic capitalism?

Vladimir Putin: You see, we need to build a social welfare state. Truth be said, Europe, especially the Nordic countries, have been advocating a social welfare state for a long time. This is essential for us, considering the income gap between various social groups, even if this problem exists in all the leading economies of the world. Just look at the United States and Europe, although the income gap is smaller in Europe compared to the United States.

As I have said on multiple occasions, only a small group of people who were already rich to begin with benefited from the preferences that became available over the past years. Their wealth increased exponentially compared to the middle class and the poor. This problem clearly exists there, even if it is not as pressing in Europe, but it still exists.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

I will ask the last question so that we do not keep the audience waiting. You mentioned the UN’s invaluable role. We can understand this, since the UN is a fundamental institution, and so on. However, many now criticise the UN, and you have mentioned this in your remarks.

Just a few days ago, President of Turkey Erdogan, whom you know well, said that the Security Council must be reformed because a group of WWII victor countries monopolised power, which is not the way it should be. Do you agree with this statement?

Vladimir Putin: I do not. He has recently visited Russia, as you know, and I had a meeting with him. I raised this question myself, saying that I saw his main points. I have to admit that I did not read the entire book, but I did look at some of the ideas. I agree with some of them. This is a good analysis. We can understand why a Turkish leader raises this issue. He probably believes that Turkey could become a permanent Security Council member. It is not up to Russia to decide, though. Matters of this kind must be decided by consensus. There are also India and South Africa. You see, this is a question of fairness, of striking a balance.

Different solutions are possible here. I would rather not talk about this now, getting ahead of things and preempting Russia’s position on this discussion. But what is important (I just said so in my opening remarks, and I also said this to President Erdogan), if we dismantle the permanent members’ veto, the United Nations will die on the same day, will degrade into the League of Nations, and that will be it. It will be just a platform for discussion, Valdai Club number two. But there is only one Valdai Club, and it is here. (Laughter.)

Fyodor Lukyanov: We are ready to step in.

Vladimir Putin: Valdai Club number two will be in New York.

Fyodor Lukyanov: We will go and replace it with pleasure.

Vladimir Putin: But this is the point – we would rather not change anything. That is, some change might be necessary, but we would rather not destroy the basis – this is the whole point of the UN today, that there are five permanent members, and they have the power of veto. Other states are represented on the Security Council, but they are non-permanent members.

We need to think how we could make this organisation more balanced, because indeed – this is true, and in this sense, President Erdogan is right – it emerged after World War II, when there was a certain balance of power. Now it is changing; it has already changed.

We are well aware that China has overtaken the United States in purchasing power parity. What do you think that is? These are global changes.

And India? Another nation of almost 1.5 billion people, a rapidly developing economy, and so on. And why is Africa not represented? Where is Latin America? We definitely need to consider this – a growing giant there such as Brazil. These are all topics for discussion. Only, we must not rush. We must not make any mistakes on the path of reform.

Fyodor Lukyanov: The leaders of the Valdai Club will consider holding a meeting in New York. Only, they might not issue visas to all of us, I am afraid, but no problem, we will work on that.

Vladimir Putin: By the way, why not? The Valdai Club might as well meet in New York.

Fyodor Lukyanov: After you and Biden agree on the visas. (Laughter.)

Vladimir Putin: I do not think the heads of state will need to step in. Just ask Sergei Lavrov, he will speak with his colleagues there.

Why not? I am serious. Why not hold a Valdai Club session on a neutral site, outside the Russian Federation? Why not? I think it might be interesting.

We have important people here in this room, good analysts who are well known in their countries. More people can be invited in the host country to join these discussions. What is wrong with that? This is good.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Well, we have just set a goal.

Vladimir Putin: It is not a goal; it is a possibility.

Fyodor Lukyanov: A possibility. Like a crisis. It is also a possibility.

Vladimir Putin: Yes.

To be continued.

FM’s Sergey Lavrov’s answers to media at the 18th Valdai Club

October 20, 2021

FM’s Sergey Lavrov’s answers to media at the 18th Valdai Club

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s answers to media questions following the 18th annual session of the Valdai International Discussion Club, Sochi, October 19, 2021

Question: The day before yesterday, Moscow announced measures in response to NATO’s aggressive moves. Are these measures prompted by Russia’s belief that NATO has to take the first step towards improving relations with Moscow?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, this is our approach. We have never been the first to start aggravating our relations with NATO, or the European Union, or any other country in the West or elsewhere. Everyone knows the following story: when in August 2008, Mikheil Saakashvili issued the criminal order to bomb the city of Tskhinval and the peacekeeper’s positions, including Russian peacekeepers, Russia insisted that the Russia-NATO Council meet to consider the situation. US Secretary of State at the time, Condoleezza Rice, refused flatly, although, according to the Founding Act, which was signed by Russia and NATO when they established the Council, it must be effective in any “weather,” particularly in the case of a crisis. This was one example [in a series of events] that led to the status quo of today in relations between our country and NATO.

Question: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the UN Security Council had no right to decide the fate of the whole world, referring to the five countries that won WWII as a handful of victors. He added that he had a road map to drive the UN Security Council members into a corner. What do you think of this? Is it possible?

Sergey Lavrov: President Erdogan’s eloquence is well known.  He feels free to air his views on different topics. I agree that the five countries which are the permanent members of the UN Security Council have no right to dictate the world’s fate. They do not, however, claim this role – they only have the authority provided for in the UN Charter, which reflects the collective will of all members of the world community. The five permanent member countries bear special responsibility for the situation in the world, primarily, for preventing a global conflict. Their efforts have proved successful in the course of more than 75 years. Hopefully, the situation will remain like this in the future.

But today, the UN and the Security Council need to adapt to a new reality. There are not 50 countries in the world, the way it was when the UN was established, and not 70 countries, like at the time the UN Security Council grew from 12 to 15 members, but many more: this world organisation has 193 member countries. The developing countries have every right to insist that their representation at the main UN body be increased. Today, of the 15 members on the UN Security Council, at least six are Western countries. When Japan is elected to the Security Council to represent Asia, it is counted as a seventh vote in favour of the policy that the West is pushing via the UN Security Council. No more seats at this body should be given to the West, while it is absolutely necessary to have more developing nations from Asia, Africa and Latin America represented in the UN Security Council.

Question: NATO officials said they regret Russia’s decision to suspend the NATO mission in Moscow. However, they were the ones that started this. Why do you think NATO continues to degrade our relations? Will the Russia-NATO Council continue?

President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky said again yesterday that he is ready to meet with President of Russia Vladimir Putin in any format. That said, the Press Secretary of the Russian President described such a meeting as unlikely. In what case will Ukraine succeed in “soliciting” a meeting with the Russian President? Is it true that Victoria Nuland came to Moscow to agree on US accession to the Normandy format (as reported by Kiev)?

Sergey Lavrov: As for NATO, I have talked about how this all began and how NATO itself has buried the main rules underlying the formation of the Russia-NATO Council – the need for urgent consultations in crises. This went on when the Americans provoked and supported the coup in Ukraine in February 2014, while the European Union swallowed the actions by the opposition even though on the eve of the coup Germany, France and Poland guaranteed by their signatures on an agreement between then president of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovich and the opposition. On the following morning, the opposition trampled underfoot these EU guarantees and had its own way. In response, the EU imposed sanctions on the Russian Federation. This is not about logic.

The same applies to statements made in NATO capitals as regards our forced response to three steps by NATO. Our mission was reduced three times. The main point is that the mission is simply not allowed to do its work. To get into NATO headquarters, our representatives, as distinct from all other NATO partners, have to apply in advance for a permit to enter the building and use only designated corridors. There have been no information exchanges with NATO headquarters in a long time.

The main thing is that all contact between the military personnel was cut off, and this was officially announced. So, what loss of an opportunity or talks are we talking about? Two years ago, Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov suggested coming to terms on withdrawing exercises to a certain distance from the Russia-NATO contact line and on the minimum distances not to be violated by combat aircraft and warships. There were many other proposals at that time as well. There was a wall of silence. The Foreign Minister of Germany said Russia’s actions showed that it was not ready for talks. I have just told you that we were fully ready for talks and NATO has simply been ignoring us for many years. Western officials understand that such statements are self-defeating. They want to put the blame at the wrong door and they lack diplomatic culture.

As for statements by President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky, they attracted many comments. They were made by the chief of his office, some advisor (I don’t remember his name) and President Zelensky himself just recently. A number of days before that, someone from his office said that President Putin seemed to be ready but his entourage did not advise him to meet one-to-one because such a meeting might produce a surprise. I will not even comment on this stream of consciousness. It is impossible to react to all public statements made in Ukraine as regards possible meetings at various levels or developments in Donbass and around Ukraine. One’s imagination is too limited for that, but they fantasise everywhere and every day.

When John Kerry was US Secretary of State, he came to Moscow on a regular visit. We were received by the President of Russia. Vladimir Putin said we saw how the Americans exerted influence on Ukraine. He mentioned a special US envoy to whom Pyotr Poroshenko listened. Maybe it is worth talking with Germany and France so you can join the Normandy format? I was at this meeting. John Kerry said that if they were invited they would probably consider it. Later, we asked the Germans and French about this but they bluntly rejected the idea: no, we need to work in the format that was created and in which the Minsk agreements were signed. This is the only option. It is not necessary to turn the Four into the Five or into Seven to facilitate a settlement. The Americans have a dominant influence on Zelensky and his team. Our dialogue resumed. Victoria Nuland met with Dmitry Kozak who is in charge of supervising issues of Ukraine, other near-abroad and CIS countries. They agreed to stay in touch. If the Americans are indeed willing to support the implementation of the Minsk agreements, it would be possible to resolve the problem very quickly.

Question: Unfortunately, the KP newspaper reporter in Belarus, Gennady Mozheyko, is still in prison. KP is banned in Belarus. Can anything be done in this regard?

Sergey Lavrov: I have already commented on this. We have posed this question to our Belarusian colleagues. We are working on it.

Question: Is Russia ready to become the first country to recognise the Taliban as the official authority in Afghanistan, and what are the conditions for this?

The United States will not be participating in the Moscow format meeting on Afghanistan. Will this influence the significance of the meeting in any way?

Sergey Lavrov: Russia has already stated its position on the Taliban. Like most other countries that have an influence in that region, we maintain contact with them and urge them to deliver on the promises they made when they came to power to ensure inclusiveness in the government not only in terms of ethnicity, but also in terms of political conviction so that the entire range of political allegiances in their society has a voice in the government. Official recognition has not yet been discussed; we have said this publicly.

The new US Representative for Afghanistan, Thomas West, called our representative Zamir Kabulov yesterday and expressed regret with that turn of events. He was appointed right before the Moscow format meeting and said that he definitely wanted to contact us and come to Russia. We will be delighted to have him.

Russians are in total awe at the suicidal stupidity of the West

October 14, 2021

The Russians are openly expressing their absolute amazement at the utter stupidity of the West. 

Three examples:

A recent article by Medvedev:

Dmitry Medvedev: Why contacts with the current Ukrainian leadership are meaningless

Dmitry Medvedev: Why contacts with the current Ukrainian leadership are meaningless

Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev addressed Kommersant with his new article, titled: Five short polemical theses Kindly note that this is a machine … Continue reading

Dmitry Medvedev: Why contacts with the current Ukrainian leadership are meaninglessThe Vineyard of the Saker

Putin’s speech at the recent energy forum in Russia:

Russian President Vladimir Putin: Speech at Russian Energy Week (REW) international forum

Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a speech at the plenary session of Russian Energy Week (REW) international forum Future of Russian fuel and energy industry, prospects for international cooperation and … Continue reading

Russian President Vladimir Putin: Speech at Russian Energy Week (REW) international forumThe Vineyard of the Saker

Shall I even bother to list what caused such reactions?

The self-imposed energy crisis in which the EU is BOTH trying to delay/stop NS2 while AT THE SAME TIME demanding that Russia increase her energy output?

As for the Ukrainiane, the Putin just offered them, again, not for $1500/cubic meters but for $175.  But this US vassal state proudly rejects any such offers.

The fact that Uncle Shmuel promised his “molecules of freedom” to the EU but is now selling these molecules to Asia (which has the means to pay much more). Yet the EU remains as subservient  to the USA as ever…

Or the fact that the entire, united, consolidated western media accuses Russia of creating the crisis while, in reality, not only did Russia fulfill all her contractual obligations but even INCREASED (by 10% if I remember correctly) her sales above her contractual obligations?  Putin repeated many times “tell us what you need, give us a contract to sign and we will deliver whatever you need!”

Then the there Victoria “fuck the EU” Nuland who, apparently, demanded that the Russian unilaterally lift Russian counter-sanctions while the US would not.

Here is how the western elites seem to be “thinking” (I am being generous here).

  1. We accuse Russia of everything and anything
  2. Then these Russian bastards have the nerve to demand evidence
  3. We accuse them some more
  4. And then these Russian bastards have the nerve to refer to facts
  5. Then we tell them that we will sanction them
  6. And then these Russian bastards have the nerve to counter-sanction us
  7. Then we engage in military exercises right along the Russian border
  8. And then these Russian bastards have the nerve to engage in military exercise also right along the Russian border
  9. Then, to try scare them to “negotiate from a position of strength” with our empty words about being invincible
  10. And then these Russian bastards design and deploy weapons systems we can only dream about
  11. Then we tell the Russian we want them to remain neutral while we deal with the “Chinese threat” (to whom?)
  12. And then these Russian bastards laugh their heads off

I will stop here, but I want to stress that Putin and plenty of Russian analysts are saying: the consolidated West is so totally out of touch with reality that it is, in essence, committing suicide.  Putin and others have also said the following many times already: “we don’t need to do anything, nothing, just watch how the West self-destructs“.

About the Ukraine: please read Medvedev’s article carefully.  Some say that it was not written by him, but by Putin.  The most likely explanation is that this text was prepared, vetted and approved by the Security Council of the Russian Federation (where Medvedev hold the position of Deputy Chairman) and that the reason why Medvedev signed it was diplomacy: he could be much more direct than President Putin, but you can be sure that this articles does express Putin’s point of view.

The Russians are now openly calling the Ukraine a vassal state of the USA and say that it makes no sense to talk to the Ukies, only to their masters, hence the visit of Nuland to Russia.

The Russians are not (yet?) officially openly calling the entire EU a vassal state of the USA, but they are strongly suggesting it.

So from the Russian’s point of view, only the USA retains at least some agency and is, therefore, worth talking to.

Yet the pre-2021 USA is dead and gone.

What’s left is a deeply dysfunctional society where the ruling elites seem to care only about gender fluidity and tranny rights, body positivity,  Woke ideology, “inclusive mathematics” and even a homosexual Superman (which ought to then be renamed “superperson” I suppose!).  Still, the Russians will still talk to this wannabe Wakanda entity, if only because the latter still has nukes (and quite a lot of momentum left, even dead) left, but they don’t feel ANY need to take it very seriously or do much about it.

As I have written many times before, Russia’s future in not in the West, but in the South (Central Asia, Middle-East), East (China) and North (Arctic).

As for the insane asylum called “Europe”, the Russians will let “general Winter” deal with them and try to bring them from “its multicultural lala land” and the worship of Greta Thunberg back to reality.

Hope dies last I suppose…

I will end with a personal anecdote.  While studying at the School of International Service (SIS) at the American University I had an absolutely fantastic teacher, a former Naval intel guy of Polish origin.  His lessons were absolutely superb, each time.  One day, we did something really interesting (and fun!): for half of the class we read letter of WWII German officers serving on the Eastern Front in the early phases of the invasion: they were full of the usual stuff about Russian subhumans getting their asses kicked by the “culture-carrying master race” (Kulturträger Herrenvolk).  In the second half of the class, we also read letter written by German officers, but after Stalingrad in which they were actually calling Russian quasi-superhumans.  The contrast was absolutely amazing.

Nothing sobers up somebody drunk on ideology as a brutal confrontation with a reality which cannot be denied.

The same happened to the French, by the way.  The Russian word shval’ (шваль) roughly means scum/trash/worthless comes from the French word “cheval”, meaning horse.  Can you guess why?  Because the retreating French had to use their dead horses for food!  For details, I HIGHLY recommend this book “Les Cahiers du capitaine Coignet” – these are the diary notes of Jean-Roch Coignet, who participated in all the Napoleonic wars.  It is a fascinating read and an eye opener on how a French solider lived through all these years.

I can just imagine how the current mass insanity in the West will go down in history books.  Maybe as the dumbest and most incredible self-destruction in history?

Andrei

China in the crosshairs – is a war in the Far East and Pacific next?

OCTOBER 03, 2021

China in the crosshairs – is a war in the Far East and Pacific next?

As in my previous post, I will begin with referring you to two pieces.

First, the typical China-bashing propaganda: https://www.zerohedge.com/geopolitical/taiwan-bristles-lashes-out-after-chinas-record-aerial-show-force

Second, a very solid debunking of the China-bashing crap above: https://www.moonofalabama.org/2021/10/how-ap-reuters-and-scmp-propagandize-their-readers-against-china.html

By the way, I also highly recommend to all my readers to read Moon of Alabama  (https://www.moonofalabama.org/) at least once a day.  ‘b’ is a very solid analyst and his website is superb.  Even better is the fact that he often writes about topics I do not cover, or he covers them differently, so make sure to check him out daily 🙂

Now about China.

There is no doubt in my mind that the Anglos have had China in the crosshairs for a while and that now China has become the evil, devious boogeyman #1, displacing Russia from that position.   By the way, this hysterical paranoia and hatred of China is equally shared by the two indistinguishable factions of the single Imperial Party which runs the USA: hatred for China is a political consensus, at least in the USA ruling class (hence the stupid “CCP virus” expression and other such illiterate infantilisms).

Here is my strictly personal and subjective interpretations of what happened and why China is now the Official Enemy Number One Hypervillain.

I will being by comparing China to the other two AngloZionist Official Hypervillain Enemies Number 2 and 3.

Russia.  The US/NATO/EU policy on Russia has comprehensively failed.  It has failed politically (the Evil Putin “KGB killer” is still in power and does not even have a semi-serious competitor – pro-western sentiments in Russias are now somewhere in the 1-2 percent max), economically (Russia has recovered from both sanctions and the COVID induced crisis and is booming, at least compared to the West) and militarily (the US and NATO are now the proverbial paper tigers).  Finally, the entire “Ukrainian strategy” has also faceplanted and has now turned into an unmanageable nightmare for the EU (which richly deserves this). In other words, Europe is now a “bad place” for the USA which really can’t do much to change this reality.

Iran.  The US/NATO/EU policy on Iran has also comprehensively failed.  Yes, Iran is going through very difficult times, the sanctions and COVID did, and are still, hurting it, but militarily Iran has successfully defeated the AngloZionist alliance in two ways: first, by deterring the AngloZionists from a direct attack (so far) and by showing its true capabilities in its superb missile strikes on US bases: a CENTCOM+Israeli attack on Iran would be suicidal, and the AngloZionists know it (even while they deny it).  Add to this the Russian+Iranian victory in Syria and the terminal inability of the Israelis to deal with Hezbollah and and Saudis to deal with the Houthis, and you will see that the Middle East is yet another “bad place”  for the USA which really can’t do much to change this reality (if they attack Iran it will be the end of Israel and CENTCOM). And I won’t even mention the Kabul event which showed to the word the true face and capabilities of the US armed forces.

Which logically leaves only China as the Official Enemy Number One Hypervillain.  Here are a few reasons for that:

  • China is the biggest and strongest economic power on the planet and the Chinese are geniuses in commerce and trade.
  • China is run by a leadership which the US cannot control, break, corrupt or otherwise subdue (I am talking about the leadership collectively, not individuals;  traitors exist everywhere).
  • China and Russia have a very successful alliance which the Anglos tried very hard to break by spreading anti-Chinese propaganda in Russia and anti-Russian propaganda in China.  The result?  The two countries are MORE than “just” allied, they are symbionts who are so “perfectly different” and that “fit together” like Lego pieces!
  • China has made incredible progress in the military field: in the 80s and 90s, China had a huge military, but which was decades behind the USA and the USSR/Russia.  This is now changing very very fast and has been for 20 years.
  • While the US has a money printing press, China has actual technologies and real manufacturing capabilities and the outcome here is not in doubt: it’s just a matter of time before the quasi industrialized USA becomes un-resucable by just printing billions of dollars.
  • The US cannot control the Chinese Internet, which deprives it from is main weapon (all that crap about human rights, the (non-) massacre in Tienanmen, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet etc. etc. etc. as if the West was not the worst violator of human rights on the planet, and by far!)

I am sure there are many more reasons, but the above is just a sample.  It is crucial to keep in mind the difference between reasons and pretexts.  Nobody in the western ruling class give a damn about human rights or any other Chinese problems (fictional or very real).  And I am not denying that there are real problems in China, like in any other country by the way.  I am saying that the western rhetoric about China is hypocritical crap.

Also, China does have real weaknesses.  I will list only the few I am aware of:

  • While the Chinese military has made immense progress, it is mostly technological.  Russian officers who trained with their Chinese counterparts regularly report that “culture” of the Chinese ground forces is still much inferior to, say, the Russian ones.  But I bet you that a Chinese solider in defense of his own land will outperform any Anglo imperialist solider fighting for “democracy” (Ha!) thousands of miles away from home.  Again, like the USA, the Chinese culture is not really a military one and the strengths of the Chinese lie elsewhere (commerce, emigration, business, etc.).  Also, it is likely that the problems reported by Russian military advisors about the Chinese ground forces do not apply to “high tech” domains such as aerospace, acoustics, etc.  Finally, even if  historically the Chinese are not a nation born warriors, it is likely that this weakness is much more evident in “general purpose” military forces and is much less applicable to the PRC’s specialized and high-tech forces (Air Force, Navy, special forces, ELINT, etc.)
  • The Chinese are still struggling in some key military technology domains, such as aircraft engines, but they are catching up really fast.  From the Anglo point of view, this means that it is a “now or never” situation, lest China accomplishes what Russia did between 2000 and 2021, which they might.
  • China, like Russia, is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious state, which is why the Anglos always try to use this diversity against the peoples of China (they failed in Russia, but in Chechnia they came very close, do we should never discount that real Anglo capability!).
  • China is run by the Chinese Communist Party which inevitably brings images of Nike-Gulags, devious secret agents and all the rest of the stuff Anglos like to scare themselves with.  That the word “Communism” in 2021 has a totally different meaning than in the 20th century is too complex a notion for many to even contemplate.
  • As many of my readers know, I do not consider that Russia is culturally part of Europe, but it is geographically European, at least west of the Urals, and the Russians are (mostly) “White” which western racists nowadays seem to like a lot (not so much in the times of Nazi Europe, obviously).  So the bad old European racism, itself a pretext for imperialism, is even worse with these “Fu-manchu gooks”.  Sinophobia has a particularly long history in the United States, much older than russophobia, by the way.
  • China is at least partially surrounded by Anglo colonies run comprador elites (Taiwan, Japan, etc.) and by countries who fear the very real regional influence and power of China (Philippines, India, etc.).
  • The US has some truly ideal “unsinkable bases” in the region (Japan, Hawaii, Australia, etc.) which are hard to neutralize (but that is also changing, and quickly).

Again, this is a partial list, and I am sure that our commentators can expand on this, or point out that some of my assumptions are simply wrong.

But let’s not overthink this either.

The western ruling elites are in a panic and they are consolidating into a smaller but potentially tougher “Anglosphere” whose best (or “least bad”) positions are in the Pacific (as I have always maintained, big, multinational alliances are great as fig-leafs to justify imperialism, but militarily they inevitably suck, badly).  From their point of view this policy of “circling the wagons” (expression straight from genocidal, imperialistic times) makes sense and is really the own viable option.

I will mention a few good news, and then let our commentators take over.  Here are a few good ones:

  • Russia will never allow the Anglosphere to defeat China militarily.  Simply put, she can’t afford it.  I will make a prediction: Chinese SSNs will, in the near future, get much better sensors and integration, they “develop” better quieting technologies and faster SSNs with smaller crews and superior automation.  As for Chinese aircraft, they are already very impressive, and China does not have the same need as Russia for advanced long range strategic bombers (where they still lag behind the most): they can use missiles instead.
  • The pace of progress of the PRC is truly amazing and, unlike Russia’s, the Chinese industrial base is huge and once they “get” a technology “right” – they can produce it in huge amounts.  So even IF the best Chinese submarine is still inferior or, at best, more or less on par, with the original Los Angeles class, they can produce them (and other ships or aircraft) in much larger amounts than the Anglosphere.
  • The Chinese space program does, to my admittedly non-engineer eyes, look much more promising that the PR crap of Bezos or Musk managed to peddle to the terminally misinformed US tax payer.  This is very important, crucial even, for modern warfare.
  • The Chinese leaders are (FINALLY!) speaking up!!  In the past, it was all Putin and Russia, the Chinese mostly kept a low profile, but now they are confident enough to call a “stone and stone” and they are very successfully hitting back at the Anglo propaganda, openly and bluntly.
  • By all accounts, the Chinese are proud patriots who will not sell their newly and very painfully acquired sovereignty to anybody (good for them, may all countries follow this model!).  They also know history, including how the Anglos waged war on them to sell opium (no crap about human rights then, just brute gang warfare).  They can also look at modern Japan and see what true Anglo domination can do to a ancient and noble culture.

Again, I invite you all to add to this list, or dispel my misconceptions!

My personal bottom line is this: the major powers are all preparing for a major war in Far East Asia and the Pacific.  God willing, and with the wise leadership of Putin and Xi, it will never happen.

But yes, China is, in my opinion, definitely in the Anglo crosshairs.

Now I turn this over to you.

Hugs and cheers

Andrei

There are positive developments on the ground in Syria, but for America it’s sanctions and suffering as usual

Sep 30, 2021, RT.com

moi

-by Eva K Bartlett

Jordan is re-opening its border crossing with Syria and resuming flights to Damascus. In Syria, more armed groups lay down their weapons but while these positive developments occur, the US hunkers down to inflict more pain.

On September 29, Jordan’s Nassib border crossing to Syria re-opened, meaning a resumption not only of travel but of trade between the two nations. In early October, Royal Jordanian will start flying again to Syria’s capital.

In Syria’s south, after years of the government and allied attempts to restore full peace, the last armed groups have finally laid down their weapons in Dara’a, which journalist Vanessa Beeley wrote about after her recent return there.

And while the Biden administration recently changed talking heads for a Syria related diplomatic position, little else has altered regarding America’s position on Syria.

Sanctions against the Syrian people have continued under Biden, and the at least 900 US troops illegally occupying Syria remain.

Same old, same old, for Syrians, who have endured 10 years of foreign war and terrorism against their country, as well as ten years of some of the most obnoxious lies and war propaganda.

Read here

In their September 13 meeting in Moscow, Presidents Assad and Putin made clear that while Syria continues to work towards restoring stability, doing so has been hampered by the presence of foreign troops not invited by the Syrian government and not under a mandate of the UN.

While speaking diplomatically, it is clear they meant the US and Turkish troops occupying areas of Syria, which—along with the proxy forces they support—bring the opposite of peace to Syrians.

Yet, type “Syria” into your search engine of choice and you will still come across screaming headlines of inexplicable “violence” in Syria, and that Syria is “not safe” for the return of refugees. Many of these recent claims emanate from a recent update from the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria.

But this is not true. In fact since September 2015, nearly 1 million Syrians have returned to Syria, with another nearly 1.4 million internally displaced refugees re-settling, according to the September 27, 2021 bulletin of the Center for Reconciliation of Opposing Sides and Control of the Movement of Refugees.

What the delusional articles, omit are the real factors that make life in Syria difficult, and dangerous: the continued presence of al-Qaeda-affiliated groups in Idlibterrorizing the population and firing on civilian areas in surrounding Hama and Aleppo provinces; and the deadly Western sanctions against Syrians, among still other preventable factors.

Starving and thieving Syria

The latest from the UN commission refers to the fuel shortages and food insecurity without a mention of the many brutal Western sanctions against Syrians, once again showing the supposed impartiality of the UN is non-existent.

Read here

I have written repeatedly about the deadly impact of sanctions, noting that they impact Syria’s ability to import medicines or the raw materials needed to manufacture them, medical equipment, machines and materials needed to for prosthetics, among other things.

The food insecurity mentioned by the UN commission comes as a direct result of sanctions which, “cripple a state’s economy; disrupt the availability of food, medicines, drinking water, and sanitation supplies; interfere with the functioning of health and education systems; and undermine people’s ability to work.”

Deliberating causing the devaluing of the Syrian pound (as US envoy James Jeffrey boasted about) is not targeting the Syrian government, it is targeting the Syrian people. Western leadership have blatantly said sanctions will continue until Assad is deposed.

More recently, journalist Dan Kovalik was in Syria. He noted that, “10 years ago, abject poverty in Syria affected less than one percent of the population. By 2015, this had risen to 35 percent of the population. The rise in food prices – up 209 percent in the last year – is also noted.”

Indeed, the comparison of pre-war Syria and lack of abject poverty then rings true to what Syrians have told me over and over again in my visits to their country since 2014: that they were living wellin safety, and in harmony.

As for the increasingly debilitating effects of the sanctions, I saw life get increasingly more expensive. Syrians got more desperate during the 6 months I spent there last year, and again even more so this May and June, with skyrocketing prices meaning Syrians, in spite of working multiple jobs, can’t afford to put food on the table.

Under the Biden administration, the illegal US forces continue to pillage Syrian oil. Last year, I wrote about this theft of around $30 million a month. In March 2021, Syria’s petroleum minister compared the illegal US forces to “pirates” for plundering Syria’s oil, saying the US occupation inflicted over $92 billion in damage on Syria’s petroleum sector.

Turkish-backed terrorists imprison, torture and kill civilians (including children) in northeastern Syria, with Turkish forces themselves routinely shelling Syrian villages. Meanwhile, before his meeting with President Putin, Turkey’s Erdogan sent still thousands more troops into Syria.

These are all factors contributing further to Syrians’ hellish circumstances and poverty, as well as factors omitted by most media and UN reports on Syria.

Peace-bringing reconciliation initiatives ignored

When armed groups reconcile with the state, laying down their weapons, they’re largely ignored by Western leaders, media and the UN.

Indeed, the same UN report mentioned earlier claimed that under Assad’s leadership there seems to be, “no moves to unite the country or seek reconciliation.”

Reconciliations have been ongoing since the Reconciliation ministry was established in 2012. Although the process is not perfect—the state cannot guarantee that armed groups who promise to cease violence against the state and population will adhere to their word—it is still the most peaceful option of enabling armed Syrian men to reintegrate into society, if they so choose.

How would America deal with such men on US soil? Kill them without blinking, most likely.

I interviewed the Minister of Reconciliation in 2014 and 2017, after the successes of returning peace to HomsAleppoMadaya, al-Waer, among others.

The objectives of Reconciliation are the obvious restoration of security and enabling Syrians to return to their lives. But also, according to Minister Haidar, helping Syrians resolve their suffering in all respects: “Their security and safety, the economy, social services, education, the large number of martyrs and injured, the kidnapped, the missing, the internally-displaced… We are trying to find a solution to each one of these cases. That is the deepest meaning of ‘reconciliation’: to return people to their normal lives.”

In our 2017 conversation, I asked the Minister whether Syria had any outside support for Reconciliation. Only, he said, from countries who are friends of Syria.

He said even the UN wasn’t interested.

The UN during this period was siding with the Western policies, and not mentioning the achievement that the Syrian government has reached from these efforts. Western governments were against this project because it considered it a victory for the Syrian government and a major pillar for the unity of the Syrian people and the Syrian territories.”

At the end of our conversation, he made one particularly poignant point: “Most of the people that support the reconciliation process are the martyred’s families. For example, I was in a Latakia suburb and there I met a mother of four martyrs. She said, ‘I lost 4 children and I don’t want other mothers to suffer what I suffered.’”

Incidentally, the minister is also father of a martyr: His son was gunned down by terrorists in 2012, in what Haidar described as an attempt to assassinate himself.

Dara’a, a long-awaited reconciliation

The UN commission called the restoration of peace to Dara’a al-Balad an unfolding tragedy. That’s right, it is utterly tragic that armed extremists who have shelled, killed and maimed civilians for years are finally laying down their weapons.

As Vanessa Beeley wrote“The armed groups that had committed multiple war crimes and atrocities against Syrian civilians and anti-terrorism armed forces had no intention of relinquishing their campaign of retaliatory crimes against anyone they considered to be loyal to the Syrian government and state. A vicious offensive was unleashed by these extremist gangs formerly associated with terrorist Al Qaeda and ISIS factions in the southern region.”

Further, it is truly tragic (sarcasm) that those terrorists can no longer shell and snipe the state hospital, preventing civilians from getting medical care, as they have done for years.

As I wrote, in May 2018 before Daraa was fully liberated, in a hired taxi I went to areas which were under fire from terrorists, and took a perilous high speed ride to the state hospital, down a road exposed to terrorist sniping from less than 100 metres away.

The hospital was battered and partially destroyed from terrorists’ mortars, and mostly empty of patients. The director showed me destroyed wards and off-limits areas due to high risk of snipers.

In that article I noted that upon my return months later, I was able to see just how close the near terrorist headquarters had been to the hospital: 50 metres away, hence the extreme risk of being shot while inside the hospital.

Read here

So yes, UN and Western media, shed your tears that another reign of terror has come to an end.

And keep ignoring the brutal Western sanctions as you churn out more war propaganda against the Syrian people and ignore positive developments on the ground. Because you care so much for the Syrian people…

RELATED LINKS:

It’s 10 years since the war in Syria began, and Western media & pundits are still eager to keep it going

‘They know that we know they are liars, they keep lying’: West’s war propaganda on Ghouta crescendos

Absurdities of Syrian war propaganda

Meeting with President of Syria Bashar al-Assad

Liberate Syria’s Idlib, precisely for the civilians that America fakes concern over

Faked concern: Haley & corporate media bleating about Idlib civilians, ignore terrorists’ presence

The bombs rain down as I visit the Idlib frontlines, and witness the atrocities committed against civilians by NATO-backed terror

Scoundrels & gangsters at UN: Silencing the Syrian narrative

A Western-backed war couldn’t destroy Syria, now sanctions are starving its people

US sanctions are part of a multi-front war on Syria, and its long-suffering civilians are the main target

The New U.S. “Caesar” Sanctions on Syria Are Illegal

As Foreign Insurgents Continue to Terrorize Syria, the Reconciliation Trend Grows

Liberated Homs Residents Challenge Notion of “Revolution”

Syria War Diary: What Life Is Like Under ‘Moderate Rebel’ Rule

Order Returns To Western Cities as Syrian Civilians Recount Horrors Of Rebel Rule

Western media quick to accuse Syria of ‘bombing hospitals’ – but when TERRORISTS really destroy Syrian hospitals, they are silent

Iran’s SCO promotion & the rise of a new world order: Report

September 27, 2021

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A recent report published on Al Mayadeen’s website highlights the significance of Iran’s accession to full membership status at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a powerful international body that just grew even bigger.

The report suggests that Iran’s admission into the SCO is part of a broader global shift to a new world order in which the Asian region plays a central role.

Source:  Al Mayadeen (Website)

Date:  September 17, 2021

(Note: Please help us keep producing independent translations by contributing a small monthly amount here )

Transcript:

Iran is a Full Member of the “Shanghai Organization” … Timing and Economic Importance

17 September, 2021

The acceptance of Iran as a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) at this time  indicates(positive) signs (for the Islamic Republic), as it coincides with changes inside and outside the country. (These) changes appear to be in (Iran’s) favor, especially after it broke the US economic embargo by signing a strategic partnership agreement with China.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit began today in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, on the 20th anniversary of the foundation of this organization. The (SCO) defines itself as an international political, economic and security organization with a regional character represented by the Eurasia region. It was founded by China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan in the year 2001.

In 2005, Iran, India and Pakistan joined the organization as observer members, and in 2017, India and Pakistan became permanent members. Afghanistan, Mongolia and Belarus are currently observer member states of the organization, while the countries of Armenia, the Republic of Azerbaijan, Nepal, Cambodia, Turkey and Sri Lanka applied to join the organization in 2015.

However, the role of this organization and its political influence extend beyond the Eurasia region to other regions of the Asian continent, and even beyond (Asia’s) borders, given the economic and military weight enjoyed by its members. It is also gradually expanding outside its narrow scope by including other countries from the Central Asian region, the most important of which are India and Pakistan.


Iran as a Full Member of the Shanghai Organization

In another expansionary step with great significance at various levels, the Organization announced at its meeting today – through the words of Chinese President Xi Jinping – its acceptance to grant Iran full membership after (Tehran) had been an observer member for years. The Chinese president said: “Iran will be considered a full member of the Shanghai Organization at today’s meeting.”


The Significance of the Timing of the Membership

Granting Iran full membership within the Shanghai Organization at this time seems remarkable as it comes after:

1)  The China-Iran strategic agreement, which was signed in Tehran on March 27 (2021), after a regional tour by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi that included the Gulf states and Turkey. The Strategic Partnership Agreement, as it was called, is a 25-year agreement between the two countries covering the political, economic, military and industrial fields.

This agreement serves both countries, as it guarantees the global economic giant (China) further expansion in its role and establishment of its presence on the international scene, especially in the countries that the United States has placed on the list of “forbidden regions” upon which harsh economic sanctions are imposed. It also gives Iran an opportunity to liberate itself from these sanctions and sell its oil products which the US not only refuses to buy, but also prevents other countries from buying by threatening them with sanctions, in an attempt to put economic pressure on Iran to change its political positions.

(According to this agreement), in return for its exported oil, Iran can import what it needs in terms of industrial equipment, machinery and expertise, and prepare (develop) its ports and infrastructure with Chinese assistance. (This step) allows China to use these facilities to export its products via land and sea towards the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, and on to the European continent in the north, and Africa in the south.


2) The complete and rushed US military withdrawal from Afghanistan, the country that has been occupied by the United States and its NATO allies for 20 years.

Afghanistan is located within the borders of the Eurasian region, between the two major countries in the world, China and Russia. The United States sought to prevent the rapprochement (between these two countries) and impede their economic growth, especially China’s, by cutting off the routes for its land and sea exports to the West, and threatening its security by igniting wars and security disturbances.

It is worth noting that it is no coincidence that the organization was formed only 4 months before the date of the American invasion of Afghanistan, and to the sound of the drums of war that the US and Britain started after the September 11 attacks that toppled the World Trade Center in New York and targeted the US Department of Defense (Pentagon).

The US role in obstructing the work of the Shanghai Organization and the growth of China’s economic standing was demonstrated by the rush of the “Taliban” movement leaders – which quickly and gradually seized all the Afghan regions in conjunction with the departure of the occupying (US) forces – to visit China, meet officials in its Foreign Ministry, emphasize China’s pivotal role in the reconstruction of the country exhausted by occupation and conflicts, and reassure (Beijing) that they will not use Afghan territory to target the security of other countries.


3) The election of a new president of Iran last June.

The (former) head of the judiciary and a strongman, Ibrahim Raisi won by a large margin of votes over his remaining rivals, this after the withdrawal of the most famous candidates in his favor, one of which was the former chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili.

Since the beginning of his term, Raisi has sought to enhance his country’s presence and position in the world by strengthening its relations at the regional level, and benefiting from all its capabilities, foremost of which is its geographical location. During his speech at the (Shanghai) summit, the Iranian president stated that “Iran can be a bridge for Eurasia linking the north to the south.”

Before heading to Tajikistan, Raisi said that his country’s participation in the summit “will focus on our economic and cultural relations with Asian countries,” stressing that “cooperation with neighboring countries and the region is a top priority of Iran’s foreign policy.” Last August, Raisi declared that strengthening Iran’s relations with Russia and China, the two main members of the organization, was one of the priorities of his foreign policy.


Creating Economic Opportunities for Iran and Liberating it from the US Embargo

Of the three previous points, the strategic agreement between Iran and China – Beijing forming the most prominent pillar of the organization – is the most important thing that contributed to Iran’s full membership. What occurred appears to be nothing other than the expansion of the official international recognition of Iran’s regional role and presence; a greater facilitation (for Iran) to help it get through the (all-out) US embargo; and the creation of opportunities for Iran in different fields by China and Russia.

President Vladimir Putin stated during his speech at the summit that his country “supports the decision submitted for approval by the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization regarding the start of procedures for Iran’s admission to the organization,” stressing the mutual importance of its admission by saying that this would “increase the international influence of the organization.”

The first Iranian comment came from the spokesman for the head of the Iranian Parliament, Nizamuddin Mousavi, who said in an interview with ISNA that what we are witnessing is “the establishment of a new world order, where the Eastern Power Quartet (Russia, China, India, Iran) brings together some of the most important international players in this new world order.” He added that “Iran’s admission into this organization, despite Washington’s opposition, proves that the era of unilateral policies is over, and that we are witnessing the establishment of a new world order.”

In economic terms, Mousavi said that his country’s admission “means reaching a market of 3 billion people, and this is a great opportunity that requires a roadmap so that we can benefit from it in the best way.”

This accession was preceded by the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 states, several rounds of which were conducted in the Austrian capital Vienna in the last months of the term of former President Hassan Rouhani. There was talk of future rounds of negotiations after the formation of the first Iranian government under President Ibrahim Raisi. The accession (of Iran to SCO membership) also came after the positive visit of the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, to Tehran, and his meeting with the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Mohammad Eslami.

All the foregoing factors contribute to the reassurance that Iran feels at the beginning of Ibrahim Raisi presidency, and brings the country closer to an international position that (Tehran) seeks despite the obstacles posed by its enemies. However, to hold on to these gains and take advantage of the new opportunities available, Iran will face major challenges (in the road ahead).


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Putin the Poisoner? More Doubts Over Attempts to Delegitimize Russia’s Leader

September 23, 2021

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By Philip Giraldi

Source

Attempts to delegitimize President Putin by making him an international poisoner is tragedy elevated by its absurdity to the level of farce.

It seems that ever since Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump in the U.S. presidential election of 2016 the western media and numerous politicians have been working especially hard to convince the world that the Russian government is little better than a modern version of Josef Stalin’s USSR. Part of the effort can be attributed to the Democratic Party’s desire to blame someone other than the unattractive candidate Hillary for the defeat, but there is also something more primitive operating behind the scenes, something like a desire to return to a bipolar world in which one knew one’s enemies and one’s friends.

The anti-Russian bias has manifested itself in a number of ways, to include the fabricated libel referred to as Russiagate, but it also featured personal denigration of the Russian leadership as a rogue regime inclined to employ assassination by poisoning against its critics and political opponents.

The first widely publicized assassination of a Russian dissident took place in London in 2006. Alexander Litvinenko, a former Federal Security Service (FSB) officer and critic of the government who had sought asylum in England, died after met two Russian acquaintances in a hotel bar and was reportedly poisoned by a dose of radioactive polonium inserted into his cup of tea. The Russians whom he had met with were named by the British police but the Russian government refused extradition requests. Without any evidence, the British media claimed that Litvinenko had been killed under orders from Putin personally.

More recently, the poisoning of former Russian intelligence agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia on March 4th, 2018 made headlines around the world. Sergei was living near Salisbury England and his daughter was visiting from Moscow when they were found unconscious on a park bench. A policeman later investigating the incident also suffered from the effects of what appeared to be a nerve agent, which investigative sources claimed had been sprayed on to the front door handle of the Skripal residence. Both Sergei and Yulia survived the incident.

There was quite a bit that was odd about the Skripal case, which came at a time when there was considerable tension between Russia and the NATO allies over issues like Syria and Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin was regularly demonized, seen in the western media as a malevolent presence stalking the world stage.

Observers noted that the British investigation of the poisoning relied from the start “…on circumstantial evidence and secret intelligence.” And there was inevitably a rush to judgment. British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson blamed Russia before any chemical analysis of the alleged poisoning could have taken place. British Prime Minister Theresa May told Parliament shortly thereafter to blame the Kremlin and demand a Russian official response to the event in 36 hours, declaring that the apparent poisoning was “very likely” caused by a made-in-Russia nerve agent referred to by its generic name novichok. The British media was soon on board, spreading the government line that such a highly sensitive operation would require the approval of President Putin himself. Repeated requests by Russia to obtain a sample of the alleged nerve agent for testing were rejected by the British government in spite of the fact that a military grade nerve agent would have surely killed both the Skripals as well as anyone else within 100 yards.

The expulsion of scores of Russian diplomats and imposition of sanctions soon followed with the United States and other countries following suit. The report of the new sanctions was particularly surprising as Yulia Skripal had subsequently announced that she intends to return to her home in Russia, leading to the conclusion that even one of the alleged victims did not believe the narrative being promoted by the British and American governments.

The response within the United States was also immediate and threatening. A New York Times editorial on March 12th entitled Vladimir Putin’s Toxic Reach thundered: “The attack on the former spy, Sergei Skripal, who worked for British intelligence, and his daughter Yulia, in which a police officer who responded was also poisoned, was no simple hit job. Like the 2006 murder of Alexander Litvinenko, another British informant, who was poisoned with radioactive polonium 210, the attack on Mr. Skripal was intended to be as horrific, frightening and public as possible. It clearly had the blessing of President Vladimir Putin, who had faced little pushback from Britain in the Litvinenko case. The blame has been made clearer this time and this attack on a NATO ally needs a powerful response both from that organization and, perhaps more important, by the United States.”

But the story of the poisoning of the Skripals begun to come apart very quickly. Former UK Ambassador Craig Murray detailed how the narrative was cooked by “liars” in the government to make it look as if the poisoning had a uniquely Russian fingerprint. Meanwhile prize winning U.S. investigative reporter Gareth Porter summed up the actual evidence or lack thereof, for Russian involvement, suggesting that the entire affair was “based on politically-motivated speculation rather than actual intelligence.”

The head of Britain’s own top secret chemical weapons facility Porton Down even contradicted claims made by May and Johnson, saying that he did not know if the nerve agent was actually produced in Russia as the chemical formula was revealed to the public in a scientific paper in 1992 and there were an estimated twenty countries capable of producing it. Some speculated that a false flag operation by the British themselves, the CIA or Mossad, was not unthinkable. Development of novichok type poisons is known to have taken place at both Porton Down and at the U.S. chemical weapon facility Fort Dietrich Maryland.

But the most damning evidence opposing a Russian role in the alleged poisonings was that Moscow had no motive to kill a former British double agent who had been released from a Kremlin prison in a spy swap after ten years in prison and who was no longer capable of doing any damage. If Moscow had wanted him dead, they could have killed him while he was still in Russian custody. Putin had an election coming up and Russia was to be the host of the World Cup in the summer, an event that would be an absolute top priority to have go smoothly without any complications from a major spy case.

There is now new evidence that the claims of Russian involvement in the alleged assassination attempt was fraudulent, engineered by the British government, possibly in collusion with American intelligence, to smear Vladimir Putin in particular. Bulgarian investigative journalist Dilyana Gaytandzhieva has written an article entitled “UK Defense Ministry Document Reveals Skripals’ Blood Samples Could have been Manipulated.”

Relying on a series of British-version Freedom of Information Act queries, Gaytandzhieva determined that there was a considerable gap between the time when it was claimed the Skirpals’ blood was drawn and the time when it was actually tested for possible poisons at Porton Down. The gap is inexplicable and means in legal terms that the chain of custody was broken. It further suggests that the samples could have been deliberately diverted and tampered with.

Gaytandzhieva, who provides copies of the relevant government documents in her article, sums up her case as “New evidence has emerged of gross violations during the UK investigation into the alleged poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury on 4th March 2018.” The Ministry of Defense, which is in charge of the British military laboratory DSTL Porton Down which analyzed the Skripals blood samples responded to a request that “Our searches have failed to locate any information that provides the exact time that the samples were collected.” The samples “were collected at some point between 16:15 on 4 March 2018 and 18:45 on 5 March 2018. Even the time of arrival at Porton Down is indicated as “approximate.”

She also cites some expert testimony, “A British toxicologist [commented] that ‘It is inconceivable that with such a visibility case, and the obvious significance of any and all biological samples, normal and expected sample logging and documentation did not take place. The person drawing the sample, in any clinical or forensic setting knows that the date and time must be recorded, and the donor positively identified. In a criminal case, evidence gleaned from these samples would be thrown out as inadmissible… This lack of protocol is either very sloppy or clandestine.”

If the Skripals case sounds very similar to the recent alleged poisoning of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny it should, as the same rush to judgement by many of the same players took place. Navalny became ill while on a flight from Tomsk to Moscow on August 20th, 2020 and was taken to a hospital in Omsk after an emergency landing. The Russian hospital could not find any poison in his blood and attributed his condition to metabolic disorder. Two days later, the Russian government allowed Navalny to be transported to a hospital in Germany which then announced that the Putin government had poisoned Navalny with novichok, which became the story that was read and televised worldwide. Interestingly, there is now evidence that the air medevac team was standing by and ready even before anyone knew Navalny was ill, suggesting that it was planned in advance. Once in Germany, as in the case of the Skripal poisoning, the evidence of the crime mysteriously disappeared for a while. Blood samples and water bottles allegedly containing the novichok were sent to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons offices for verification. They took five days to arrive.

The doubts regarding both the Skripals and Navalny poisonings might suggest that the Cold War never really ended, at least from the Anglo-American perspective. Whatever Vladimir Putin has been doing for the past three years hardly touches on genuine U.S. or British interests, unless one considers the governance of places like Ukraine and Syria to be potentially threatening. That someone, somewhere, somehow seems to be making an effort to isolate and delegitimize President Putin by making him an international poisoner is tragedy elevated by its absurdity to the level of farce. It serves no purpose and, in the end, can only lead to mistrust on all sides that can in turn become very, very ugly.

Eurasia takes shape: How the SCO just flipped the world order

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With Iran’s arrival, the SCO member-states now number nine, and they’re focused on fixing Afghanistan and consolidating Eurasia.Photo Credit: The Cradle
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SEPTEMBER 22, 2021

By Pepe Escobar posted with permission and cross-posted with The Cradle

Part 1 of 2 on Eurasia

With Iran’s arrival, the SCO member-states now number nine, and they’re focused on fixing Afghanistan and consolidating Eurasia.

As a rudderless West watched on, the 20th anniversary meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization was laser-focused on two key deliverables: shaping up Afghanistan and kicking off a full-spectrum Eurasian integration.

The two defining moments of the historic 20th anniversary Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Dushanbe, Tajikistan had to come from the keynote speeches of – who else – the leaders of the Russia-China strategic partnership.

Xi Jinping: “Today we will launch procedures to admit Iran as a full member of the SCO.”

Vladimir Putin: “I would like to highlight the Memorandum of Understanding that was signed today between the SCO Secretariat and the Eurasian Economic Commission. It is clearly designed to further Russia’s idea of establishing a Greater Eurasia Partnership covering the SCO, the EAEU (Eurasian Economic Union), ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and China’s Belt and Road initiative (BRI).”

In short, over the weekend, Iran was enshrined in its rightful, prime Eurasian role, and all Eurasian integration paths converged toward a new global geopolitical – and geoeconomic – paradigm, with a sonic boom bound to echo for the rest of the century.

That was the killer one-two punch immediately following the Atlantic alliance’s ignominious imperial retreat from Afghanistan. Right as the Taliban took control of Kabul on August 15, the redoubtable Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of Russia’s Security Council, told his Iranian colleague Admiral Ali Shamkhani that “the Islamic Republic will become a full member of the SCO.”

Dushanbe revealed itself as the ultimate diplomatic crossover. President Xi firmly rejected any “condescending lecturing” and emphasized development paths and governance models compatible with national conditions. Just like Putin, he stressed the complementary focus of BRI and the EAEU, and in fact summarized a true multilateralist Manifesto for the Global South.

Right on point, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev of Kazakhstan noted that the SCO should advance “the development of a regional macro-economy.” This is reflected in the SCO’s drive to start using local currencies for trade, bypassing the US dollar.

Watch that quadrilateral

Dushanbe was not just a bed of roses. Tajikistan’s Emomali Rahmon, a staunch, secular Muslim and former member of the Communist Party of the USSR – in power for no less than 29 years, reelected for the 5th time in 2020 with 90 percent of the vote – right off the bat denounced the “medieval sharia” of Taliban 2.0 and said they had already “abandoned their previous promise to form an inclusive  government.”

Rahmon, who has never been caught smiling on camera, was already in power when the Taliban conquered Kabul in 1996. He was bound to publicly support his Tajik cousins against the “expansion of extremist ideology” in Afghanistan – which in fact worries all SCO member-states when it comes to smashing dodgy jihadi outfits of the ISIS-K mold .

The meat of the matter in Dushanbe was in the bilaterals – and one quadrilateral.

Take the bilateral between Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Chinese FM Wang Yi. Jaishankar said that China should not view “its relations with India through the lens of a third country,” and took pains to stress that India “does not subscribe to any clash of civilizations theory.”

That was quite a tough sell considering that the first in-person Quad summit takes place this week in Washington, DC, hosted by that “third country” which is now knee deep in clash-of-civilizations mode against China.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was on a bilateral roll, meeting the presidents of Iran, Belarus, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. The official Pakistani diplomatic position is that Afghanistan should not be abandoned, but engaged.

That position added nuance to what Russian Special Presidential Envoy for SCO Affairs Bakhtiyer Khakimov had explained about Kabul’s absence at the SCO table: “At this stage, all member states have an understanding that there are no reasons for an invitation until there is a legitimate, generally recognized government in Afghanistan.”

And that, arguably, leads us to the key SCO meeting: a quadrilateral with the Foreign Ministers of Russia, China, Pakistan and Iran.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Qureshi affirmed: “We are monitoring whether all the groups are included in the government or not.” The heart of the matter is that, from now on, Islamabad coordinates the SCO strategy on Afghanistan, and will broker Taliban negotiations with senior Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara leaders. This will eventually lead the way towards an inclusive government regionally recognized by SCO member-nations.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was warmly received by all – especially after his forceful keynote speech, an Axis of Resistance classic. His bilateral with Belarus president Aleksandr Lukashenko revolved around a discussion on “sanctions confrontation.” According to Lukashenko: “If the sanctions did any harm to Belarus, Iran, other countries, it was only because we ourselves are to blame for this. We were not always negotiable, we did not always find the path we had to take under the pressure of sanctions.”

Considering Tehran is fully briefed on Islamabad’s SCO role in terms of Afghanistan, there will be no need to deploy the Fatemiyoun brigade – informally known as the Afghan Hezbollah – to defend the Hazaras. Fatemiyoun was formed in 2012 and was instrumental in Syria in the fight against Daesh, especially in Palmyra. But if ISIS-K does not go away, that’s a completely different story.

Particular important for SCO members Iran and India will be the future of Chabahar port. That remains India’s crypto-Silk Road gambit to connect it to Afghanistan and Central Asia. The geoeconomic success of Chabahar more than ever depends on a stable Afghanistan – and this is where Tehran’s interests fully converge with Russia-China’s SCO drive.

What the 2021 SCO Dushanbe Declaration spelled out about Afghanistan is quite revealing:

1. Afghanistan should be an independent, neutral, united, democratic and peaceful state, free of terrorism, war and drugs.

2. It is critical to have an inclusive government in Afghanistan, with representatives from all ethnic, religious and political groups of Afghan society.

3. SCO member states, emphasizing the significance of the many years of hospitality and effective assistance provided by regional and neighboring countries to Afghan refugees, consider it important for the international community to make active efforts to facilitate their dignified, safe and sustainable return to their homeland.

As much as it may sound like an impossible dream, this is the unified message of Russia, China, Iran, India, Pakistan and the Central Asian “stans.” One hopes that Pakistani PM Imran Khan is up to the task and ready for his SCO close-up.

That troubled Western peninsula

The New Silk Roads were officially launched eight years ago by Xi Jinping, first in Astana – now Nur-Sultan – and then in Jakarta.

This is how I reported it at the time.

The announcement came close to a SCO summit – then in Bishkek. The SCO, widely dismissed in Washington and Brussels as a mere talk shop, was already surpassing its original mandate of fighting the “three evil forces” – terrorism, separatism and extremism – and encompassing politics and geoeconomics.

In 2013, there was a Xi-Putin-Rouhani trilateral. Beijing expressed full support for Iran’s peaceful nuclear program (remember, this was two years before the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the JCPOA).

Despite many experts dismissing it at the time, there was indeed a common China-Russia-Iran front on Syria (Axis of Resistance in action). Xinjiang was being promoted as the key hub for the Eurasian Land Bridge. Pipelineistan was at the heart of the Chinese strategy – from Kazakhstan oil to Turkmenistan gas. Some people may even remember when Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State, was waxing lyrical about an American-propelled New Silk Road.

Now compare it to Xi’s Multilateralism Manifesto in Dushanbe eight years later, reminiscing on how the SCO “has proved to be an excellent example of multilateralism in the 21stcentury,” and “has played an important role in enhancing the voice of developing countries.”

The strategic importance of this SCO summit taking place right after the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) in Vladivostok cannot be overstated enough. The EEF focuses of course on the Russian Far East – and essentially advances interconnectivity between Russia and Asia. It is an absolutely key hub of Russia’s Greater Eurasian Partnership.

A cornucopia of deals is on the horizon – expanding from the Far East to the Arctic and the development of the Northern Sea Route, and involving everything from precious metals and green energy to digital sovereignty flowing through logistics corridors between Asia and Europe via Russia.

As Putin hinted in his keynote speech, this is what the Greater Eurasia Partnership is all about: the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU), BRI, India’s initiative, ASEAN, and now the SCO, developing in a harmonized network, crucially operated by “sovereign decision-making centers.”

So if the BRI proposes a very Taoist “community of shared future for human kind,” the Russian project, conceptually, proposes a dialogue of civilizations (already evoked by the Khatami years in Iran) and sovereign economic-political projects. They are, indeed, complementary.

Glenn Diesen, Professor at the University of South-Eastern Norway and an editor at the Russia in Global Affairs journal, is among the very few top scholars who are analyzing this process in depth. His latest book remarkably tells the whole story in its title:  Europe as the Western Peninsula of Greater Eurasia: Geoeconomic Regions in a Multipolar World. It’s not clear whether Eurocrats in Brussels – slaves of Atlanticism and incapable of grasping the potential of Greater Eurasia – will end up exercising real strategic autonomy.

Diesen evokes in detail the parallels between the Russian and the Chinese strategies. He notes how China “is pursuing a three-pillared geoeconomic initiative by developing technological leadership via its China 2025 plan, new transportation corridors via its trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative, and establishing new financial instruments such as banks, payment systems and the internationalization of the yuan. Russia is similarly pursuing technological sovereignty, both in the digital sphere and beyond, as well as new transportation corridors such as the Northern Sea Route through the Arctic, and, primarily, new financial instruments.”

The whole Global South, stunned by the accelerated collapse of the western Empire and its unilateral “rules-based order, now seems to be ready to embrace the new groove, fully displayed in Dushanbe: a multipolar Greater Eurasia of sovereign equals.

Russian World as a global project

SEPTEMBER 19, 2021

Russian World as a global project

Most of us at The Saker Blog are involved in either understanding or have fully joined the Russian World as a global project.  In one simplistic sense, we still talk about the splitting of the world into Zone A (hegemonic) and Zone B (resistance and this is on various levels of maturity).  This is a fine new era model to start with but we are beginning to deal with the actual consequences of what today is seen as a bifurcation.  It is of course not that simple and our model needs to be further developed.  Rostislav Ishchenko‘s article begins to plumb the depths of this major change.  I machine translate it here, for the start of a discussion on this massive global change.


I don’t like terminological discussions in politics. They usually do not explain anything and do not unite anyone, causing pointless disputes and dangerous splits from scratch. Something similar happened with the discussion about the “Russian World”. For fifteen or twenty years, only the lazy did not try to give a complete definition of this phenomenon.

However, all these attempts were futile, since they consisted in giving world-historical significance to one’s own subjective views, beliefs, and even feelings. In fact, each of those who tried to give a complete definition of the term “Russian World” only translated into society their incomplete and completely unformed views on the immediate prospects for the development of Russia and the entire post-Soviet space as a whole.

When in 2014 I once wrote that the ” Russian World “is still an un-established concept, the final content of which depends on us, because if it becomes attractive, France (as well as any other country) can become part of the” Russian World “after some time, a considerable number of critics from” professional Russians “immediately arose, who themselves appointed themselves the only correct Russians, and appropriated the right to decide what is true and what is not true, from the point of view of”true Russianness”. All their claims were reduced to repeating a thesis that explains nothing and proves nothing: “We are Russians! Based on this thesis, they concluded that I was trying to blur the uniquely noble Russianness with a foreign language, spreading the potential ” Russian World “to Westerners and other”barbarians”.

The fact that this thesis was stated by Generalissimo Suvorov, during whose service the officer corps of the Russian army consisted of non-Russian percentages by 40, reaching 60% or more in senior positions, did not stop those who operated with this thesis. They agreed to consider the Georgian Bagration, the Scotsman Barclay de Tolly, the German Bennigsen, Catherine the Great herself, the mass of Ostsee nobles, the Tatars, Yakuts, Buryats, and Dzungars as Russians — basically everyone who was part of Russia before the collapse of the USSR. All the others, even if they were three times Russian, from their point of view did not fall into the Russians, and they considered it blasphemy to assume that France would ever be part of the “Russian World”.These same people start to fight in rodimchik, hearing the term Russian. They believe that in this way some hidden enemies (probably reptilians) are derussififying the Russian people.

Meanwhile, in Russia, Russians are the state-forming people, but not only Russians live in it. Accordingly, Ramzan Kadyrov, for example, is a Chechen by nationality, a Muslim by religion, and a Russian by citizenship. Vladimir Putin is Russian by nationality, Orthodox by religion, but the same Russian by citizenship. At the same time, a non-Russian Russian is an absolute part of the “Russian World”. But the same part is also a foreign Russian (if he considers himself a part of the” Russian World”), even if he is a citizen of another state. On the other hand, you can be Russian by nationality, live in Russia, but not be part of the “Russian World” and dream of leaving “this country” forever at the first opportunity.

To be a part of the Russian world, you just need to share the principles on which Russian civilization is based. Russia is the center of Russian civilization, but it does not exhaust it completely.From this point of view, not every Frenchman or Chinese is part of the “Russian World”, but everyone can become one if they want. As for the state, we can count it among the “Russian World” if its society is dominated by the idea of universal attractiveness of the foundations of Russian civilization.In 2014, the end of American hegemony was not yet obvious to many. Therefore, they believed that Pax Romana and Pax Americana were one thing, and the “Russian World” was something else. This view was caused by the psychological trauma received as a result of the collapse of the USSR and the acquisition by the United States of the position of global hegemon. It was easy for people who lived through the 90s to understand why Germans or French were part of the “American World”, but it was absolutely unclear how they could be part of the “Russian World”in the future.Well, it’s been almost eight years and we’re in a new era. The post-Soviet era, characterized by American dominance, has finally come to an end. The post-American era has begun, and the early stage of it (which we are experiencing now) is characterized by multipolarity, which determines the competition of civilizational models.

Some Western elites continue to promote the left-liberal model of globalist tolerance as the” bright future of all mankind”. It may seem to us that this model is doomed due to its discrediting in the light of the landslide foreign policy defeat of the United States. But in reality, everything is not so simple. It still has quite a few ideologized adherents in the West, who still retain control over American and, to a large extent, over European politics. They are trying to win the current round against their domestic political opponents (representing the conservative model) by temporarily curtailing international activity, concentrating on domestic political issues and gaining a preponderance in domestic politics by attracting large numbers of migrants from Africa, Asia and Latin America, and giving them citizenship and the right to vote in elections. Thus, the left-liberal part of the West expects to gain a decisive advantage in the fight against its right-conservative domestic political opponents. Having solved their domestic political problems, they expect to once again turn to an active foreign policy. At the same time, they hope that their tolerant migration policy will attract the sympathies of the countries of origin of migrants to them, and thus they will also gain a preponderance in foreign policy.

I think that in this last case they are wrong. Left-liberal policies lead to accelerated destruction of the national economy. In the context of the rejection (even if from their point of view temporary) of global hegemony, the Western elites cannot compensate for their own economic decline by redistributing the global resource in their favor, as it was before. Thus, they should lose in the foreign policy arena faster than they will win in the domestic political arena.

However, history and politics are not deterministic. The loss of the West is inevitable only if non-Western states that offer alternative models build their international game correctly. In this case, they will indeed succeed in preventing a new unification of the West and the third world, leaving the West alone with its exhausted resource base and forcing it to capitulate.

The first danger that threatens Russia and China, as centers of alternative civilizational proposals, is the overestimation of the adequacy of Western right—wing conservative elites. They are really close to us with their commitment to traditional family values, their desire to abandon the left-liberal policy of global tolerance and return to the model of classical civilization. Hence, in our society, there is a fairly high percentage of sympathizers with Trumpism or the European new right.

These sympathies would be justified, if not for one “but”. Despite their proximity to our civilizational model, the right-wing conservatives of the West are still trying to restore the world of Western hegemony, only the model is not 2013, but 1993. They are also trying to reduce their foreign policy activity and solve the domestic political problem by defeating their own left-liberal globalists. But after this victory, they, just like their domestic political opponents after their own, intend to restore the world of global domination of the West, because they simply cannot live in another.

Thus, from the point of view of our interests, at this stage, only tactical alliances with the struggling elites of the West are possible, designed to prolong this struggle as long as possible. Russia does not need (and even is dangerous) the current Western elites as strategic allies. Russia needs them to destroy each other (in the political sense), and new elites will sprout from the land they have destroyed, whose conservatism will not be complicated by imperialism and for whom the values of the “Russian World” will be close and understandable.

In other words, Western elites must fight each other and China until they naturally (by destroying other opportunities and discrediting other paths) come to realize their own commitment to the civilizational values of the “Russian World” and express a desire to become a part of it.

For Russia, such an expansion of the “Russian World” to include a reformatted Western civilization is also important because China also offers the world an alternative civilizational model. This model was recently sketched out by Xi Jinping. Prior to this speech, it was possible to expect that the Russian and Chinese models would coincide in general terms, which would ensure a strategic partnership for several decades or even a century, ahead. But the recent speech of Comrade Xi showed that the Chinese model will be based on similar, but not only not identical, but also in many ways contradicting the Russian civilizational foundations.

In fact, Xi Jinping predestined the development of Chinese statehood along the path of the paternalistic dictatorship of the party aristocracy. Total control, universal austerity (“voluntary” restriction of consumption according to the standards defined by the leadership), and living according to the principle: what is good for the state is good for every citizen of it are the foundations of a”bright future” in Chinese. If Deng Xiaoping urged not to pay attention to the color of the cat, if it catches mice well, then Xi Jinping decided that the cat was already sufficiently skilled in catching so that it could be painted in the color approved by the party without consequences.

China, of course, can still stop and return to the path of Deng Xiaoping, but today the situation is developing in the direction of changing the model based on the professionalism of cats, to a model based on the correct cat coloring.

The first model is pragmatic and within its framework, we could move towards a merger in a single Russian-Chinese world (civilizational, not state merger). The second model is ideological, which means that no matter what the Chinese comrades think about it today, it will suffer from messianism and expansionism. Moreover, as practice and experience shows, such ideologized Messianic models very quickly come to a resource shortage. All of them (from the collapsed USSR to the current Belarus) require a regular influx of resources from outside. This means that in the foreseeable future, Chinese expansionism will become not only ideological but also mercantile. Just like Washington at the end of Pax Americana, the “Chinese World” will need global hegemony simply to maintain its current level of development and material prosperity.

Thus, if China does not return to Deng Xiaoping’s pillar road, after a while it will become a civilizational competitor for Russia, and the convergence of the” Russian World “and the” Chinese World ” will become impossible.

In this case, it is precisely the spread of the civilization of the “Russian World” to the West, which is highly likely to lose its own civilizational identity by that time and will be in search of a new one, and with the help of the West, to a significant part of the third world, that will allow Russia to balance China and achieve peaceful coexistence and healthy competition between the two worlds. In this case, Russia will need healthy competition within the rules. In it, all other things being equal, a free society will always win the paternalistic regime in the economic competition.

Thus, today the Russian World, as a new global civilizational project, is based on the principle of unobtrusiveness.

For domestic politics, this means the principle of ” what is good for the state is what is good for the majority of its citizens.” This does not mean that the state begins to automatically distribute cakes and ice cream to everyone, declaring labor optional for obtaining material benefits, since most of any society is prone to laziness and parasitism. The ideal state protects precisely the deep, long-term interests of society, providing it with maximum employment, decent wages for work, provision of the widest range of goods at the most affordable prices, high-quality medicine, high-quality and generally accessible, but not compulsory (outside of primary school) education. Freedom of spiritual, cultural development, and political activity. Reasonable protection of the rights of the minority against the dictatorship of the majority. Not by creating privileged minorities, but by prohibiting State and/or public interference in the affairs of voluntarily created communities that do not violate the law.

If you want, you can buy a plot of land (for how much money is enough), put a fence around it, and build communism there for your family and friends, or if you want, you can also create a community of anti—vaccinators, or fans of the “new chronology”, or fighters against the dominance of reptilians. The state should only ensure that those who have recovered can freely leave the walls of your monastery of sorrow and that children have a free choice: follow the path of their parents or live in a normal society.

The state’s priority in domestic policy should be to ensure internal stability and continuity of policy. It is the politicians who have already learned to ensure the continuity of the team. Now it is necessary that the successor should not be eager to prove that he can do more than his predecessor, but rather strive to maintain the progressive development set by his predecessor.

The Russian economy needs stable and calm, moderate and steady growth, without sudden spurts and deep crises. The source of this growth should be an internal resource, and its task, resource accumulation (further increase).

Foreign policy should ensure that the country continues to gain peaceful weight. Any military campaign is undesirable and is sanctioned only if there are no ways to avoid a collision without losses exceeding the losses from the war (not only human but also general resource). The country needs at least another 50 years of “golden peace”, and preferably as long as possible without a crisis life. It is necessary to avoid the characteristic mistake of the winner in a fundamental conflict, which, by the way, the United States made after becoming the hegemon of the post-Soviet world. Intervention in the affairs of other countries can only be carried out at the request of these countries themselves and with the aim of overcoming the crisis as soon as possible. In all other cases, it is possible to offer intermediary services, help with advice, but do not insist. Forcing peace to prevent genocide and other unpleasant things should be carried out only with the UN Security Council’s approval on an international basis.

On the basis of a balanced and economical foreign and domestic policy, as well as the completion of the creation of a self-sufficient economic cluster within the Russian borders and an environment interested in expanding economic interaction and trade with Russia, it is necessary to solve the problem of leveling the demographic pit and ensuring moderate (without jerks and recessions) population growth by about 1.5-2 million.  In general, Russia needs to continue (as so far) to protect and strengthen its resource base inside and reputation outside.

We must come to a situation where the “Russian World” becomes much more attractive to the world’s population than the American world recently was when being part of the Russian civilization is dreamed of as a great honor, and the consent of Russia, at the request of the local population, to include some territory (for example, Switzerland or Finland) is considered both by those who join, and

Let me emphasize that Russkiy Mir does not aim at Russian territorial expansion. This is just a civilizational proposal. But if a certain nation wants to become part of Russia, then it must meet the criteria of the “Russian world”, and the Russian state. The most important of these criteria is the feeling of not joining, but reuniting, merging two parts of a divided whole, as well as the mutually beneficial combination (together, two combining parts should live and develop much better; and both of them than each of them separately).

Over the past twenty years, Russia has created a clear outline of the civilizational foundations of the “Russian World”. Now the most difficult thing remains: to win the competition of civilizational projects without hurrying, without considering your work as a great universal mission, without breaking down, without aggression and coercion, to ensure the globality of the” Russian World ” and extend it into eternity.

Читать далее: https://ukraina.ru/opinion/20210916/1032260829.html

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بوتين والأسد يفتتحان المرحلة الجديدة

 ناصر قنديل
إدلب إلى الواجهة مجدّداً: هل يتكرّر سيناريو «M5»؟

يقدم الاجتماع الهام الذي جمع الرئيس الروسي فلاديمير بوتين بالرئيس السوري بشار الأسد في موسكو، تأكيداً جديداً على ما أظهرته أحداث السنوات العشر الماضية من إشارات لموقع ومكانة سورية في معادلات المنطقة، بعدما أريد لهذه الأحداث ان تمحو تلك المكانة التي حجزتها سورية على مدى عقود ماضية، وتكمن أهمية لقاء الرئيسين بوتين والأسد أنه يأتي في لحظة تقاطع جملة أحداث دولية وإقليمية وسورية، ليشكل نقطة انطلاق لمسار جديد ترتسم معالمه بسرعة بعد جمود امتد لسنوات في ملفات المنطقة منذ إعلان الانسحاب الأميركي من التفاهم النووي مع إيران، ضمن سياق تصعيدي لكسر جبهة المواجهة التي تضم روسيا والصين وإيران وسورية ودول وقوى آسيوية أخرى، جمعها السعي لكسر مشروع الهيمنة الأميركية على أكبر قارات العالم مساحة وسكاناً، والتي تختزن أكثر من نصف ثروات العالم وأكثر من نصف قدرات العالم العسكرية، فصمدت جبهة المواجهة ونجحت باحتواء عاصفة التصعيد.

خلال هذا العام ومع تسلم الإدارة الأميركية الجديدة، شهدت آسيا تكريساً لتفاهم القوى الصاعدة في آسيا على قطع الطريق أمام عروض الصفقات الثنائية التي توهمت إدارة الرئيس الأميركي الجديد جو بايدن أنها سياسة قادرة على استعادة زمام المبادرة، وبدأت ملامح التسليم الأميركي بالفشل مع الانسحاب الأميركي من أفغانستان، الذي تزامن مع انتقال دول وقوى محور المقاومة إلى الهجوم لكسر خطط الحصار الأميركية، فخرجت فلسطين منتصرة من معركة سيف القدس، وخرجت إيران بانتخاباتها الرئاسية تحمل راية القائد الجنرال قاسم سليماني بإخراج القوات الأميركية من المنطقة، وبلغ الملف النووي الإيراني مراتب علمية تضع واشنطن بين خيارات أحلاها مر، فإما تقبل بلوغ إيران اللحظة النووية الحرجة المتمثلة بامتلاك كمية من اليورانيوم المخصب على درجة عالية تكفي لتصنيع قنبلة نووية، أو الانكفاء عن الشروط وقبول العودة بلا شروط إلى الاتفاق النووي، وتوج هذا الهجوم المعاكس مشهد السفن الإيرانية التي استقدمها حزب الله تحت شعار السفن قطعة أرض لبنانية، لتنقلب واشنطن من خط الحصار إلى البدء بفك الحصار من باب التراجع عن بعض عقوبات قانون قيصر لتتيح نقل الغاز من مصر والكهرباء من الأردن عبر سورية إلى لبنان.

موسكو كانت على ضفة التلقي لكل هذه المتغيرات المتحركة، حتى جاءت زيارة المبعوث الأميركي الخاص بالملف الإيراني روبرت مالي إلى موسكو مدخلاً لإحداث النقلة في السياسات، فسورية هي حجر الرحى في معادلات المنطقة، وقد باءت كل محاولات تجاوزها بالفشل، بمثل ما فشلت خلال السنوات الماضية مشاريع إسقاطها وتفتيبها، فلا شام جديد فاعل بلا الشام، ولا قمة جوار العراق تنجح بلا الجار الأول، وواشنطن تعترف بفشل العقوبات في صناعة السياسة كما اعترفت بفشل القوة العسكرية بصناعتها وفقاً لتوصيف الرئيس بايدن لحاصل الحرب في أفغانستان، ويحضر العرض الروسي على طاولة المباحثات، تشجيع روسي لإيران للعودة إلى مفاوضات فيينا وإنجاز تفاهم تقني أولي مع الوكالة الدولية للطاقة الذرية مقابل التزام أميركي بالتخلي عن الأوهام التي عطلت التوصل لتفاهم في جولات فيينا يضمن العودة إلى الاتفاق الأصلي من دون تعديلات وشروط وإضافات، ودعوة روسية لواشنطن لحسم أمر الانسحاب من سورية لقوات أميركية تتواجد بصورة غير شرعية، لحساب تولي موسكو مواصلة الحرب على “داعش” وإدارة الحوار بين الجماعات الكردية التي ترعاها واشنطن والدولة السورية وتنشيط العملية السياسية، بما يفتح الباب لسقوط الذريعة التركية للبقاء في شمال غربي سورية. وجاءت المعارك التي خاضها الجيش السوري في منطقة الجنوب، والتي انتهت بدخوله إلى درعا تحت نظر قاعدة التنف لتقول لجميع الجماعات الموهومة بالإسناد الأميركي أن مرحلة جديدة قد بدأت، وأن بسط سيطرة الدولة السورية على كامل أراضيها تنطلق.

يدرك الأميركيون معنى فقدان المشروعية الداخلية والخارجية للبقاء في سورية والعراق بعد انسحابهم من أفغانستان، بعدما فقدوا شرعية هذا البقاء في العراق بعد مطالبتهم من مجلس النواب العراقي بالانسحاب، بينما لم يملكوا شرعية وجودهم في سورية يوماً، كما يدرك الأميركيون أن فترة السماح المتاحة أمامهم لإعلان الانسحاب لن تطول قبل أن تبدأ عمليات المقاومة باستهدافهم، ويدركون أن المخرج المتاح بأقل الخسائر هو تظهير الانسحاب من سورية كحلقة من حلقات تقاسم مهام الحرب على الإرهاب مع روسيا، وإظهار نية التشارك مع موسكو في الدفع باتجاه تنشيط فرص الحل السياسي في سورية على قاعدة التراجع التدريجي عن العقوبات وفكفكتها لحساب توفيرالتمويل لإعادة النازحين وإعادة الإعمار، كما قالت دراسة الدبلوماسي الأميركي السابق الخبير بشؤون سورية جيفيري فيلتمان، ونصائح السفير الأميركي السابق لدى سورية روبرت فورد.

مرحلة جديدة في المنطقة ستبدأ من سورية، وفرص يمكن أن يلتقطها، ويفترض أن يلاقيها بعض العرب واللبنانيين كي لا يظهروا مجرد صدى للصوت الأميركي.

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Putin, Assad Meet in Moscow, Praise Mutual Anti-terrorism Achievements

Putin, Assad Meet in Moscow, Praise Mutual Anti-terrorism Achievements

By Staff, Agencies

Russian President Vladimir Putin, at a meeting with his Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad, congratulated him on the victory in the presidential election, praising mutual achievements in fighting against terrorism.

“I am very glad to welcome you to Moscow again,” Putin said at the beginning of the meeting.

“And, of course, in a personal format – with a very good result of the presidential elections. The results indicate that people trust you and, despite all the difficulties of previous years and the tragedies of previous years, they still associate the process of recovery and return to a normal life with you,” the Russian president said.

While receiving Assad in the Kremlin as part of an unannounced visit, the Russian leader said that Syria’s main problem is the illegitimate presence of foreign forces on its soil.

Assad said that the international terrorism knows no limits and spreads across the world like an epidemic.

He then highlighted that “Our two armies, the Russian and the Syrian have achieved significant results not only in the liberation of the occupied territories seized by militants and in the destruction of terrorism, but also facilitated the return of refugees who were forced to leave their homes, to leave their homeland.”

“Considering the fact that international terrorism knows no borders, and spreads like an infection throughout the world, our armies, I can state, have made a huge contribution to protecting all mankind from this evil,” he added.

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بوتين مستقبلاً الأسد: بجهودنا المشتركة وجهنا ضربة للإرهابيين

الثلاثاء 14 أيلول 2021

الميادين نت المصدر

في زيارة غير معلنة مسبقاً، الرئيس الروسي فلاديمير بوتين يعقد اجتماعاً مع نظيره السوري بشار الأسد في العاصمة الروسية موسكو.

بوتين يلتقي الأسد في موسكو: القوات الأجنبية عائق أمام توحيد سوريا
بوتين يستقبل الأسد في الكرملين

أفاد الكرملين، صباح اليوم الثلاثاء، بأن الرئيس الروسي فلاديمير بوتين عقد اجتماعاً مع نظيره السوري بشار الأسد الذي وصل إلى العاصمة الروسية موسكو في زيارة غير معلنة مسبقاً.

وأشار بوتين خلال اللقاء إلى أن “الرئيس السوري يفعل الكثير لإقامة حوار مع المعارضين السياسيين”.

كما هنأ بوتين الأسد بـ”النتائج الجيدة للانتخابات الرئاسية”، قائلاً إن هذه النتائج “تؤكد أن السوريين يثقون بك، وعلى الرغم من كل الصعوبات والمآسي التي شهدتها السنوات السابقة، فإنهم يُعوّلون عليك في عملية العودة إلى الحياة الطبيعية”.

وأضاف الرئيس الروسي: “بجهودنا المشتركة وجهنا ضربة للإرهابيين”، لافتاً إلى أن “الجيش السوري يسيطر على أكثر من 90% من أراضي البلاد، رغم بقاء عدد من بؤر الإرهاب قائمة”.

وأشار إلى أن المشكلة الأساسية لسوريا هي الوجود غير الشرعي للقوات الأجنبية على أراضيها، معتبراً أن “هذا يعيق التقدم على طريق تعزيز وحدة البلاد”.

ولفت بوتين إلى أن التبادل التجاري بين روسيا وسوريا ازداد بمقدار 3.5 مرة في النصف الأول من العام الجاري، كما أنه تم تسليم أولى شحنات لقاحات “سبوتنيك V” و”سبوتنيك لايت” لسوريا.

وبحسب الكرملين، توجه الرئيس الأسد لبوتين بالقول إن “جيشي البلدين أسهما كثيراً في حماية البشرية من شرّ الإرهاب الدولي”، مضيفاً أن “بعض الدول لها تأثير مدمر على إمكانية إجراء العمليات السياسية بكل الطرق”.

وأضاف الأسد أن الجيشين السوري والروسي حققا نتائج مهمة في تحرير الأراضي وتدمير الإرهاب، وساهما بعودة اللاجئين الذين أجبروا على مغادرة منازلهم.

واعتبر أن “الإرهاب الدولي لا يعرف حدوداً وينتشر مثل العدوى في جميع أنحاء العالم”، مشدداً على أن “الجيشين أسهما إسهاماً كبيراً في قضية حماية البشرية جمعاء من الإرهاب”.

الرئيس السوري أكد أن “أعمالنا السياسية سواء كانت في سوتشي أو في أستانة ساهمت أيضاً في تطبيع الحياة في سوريا”، مشيراً إلى أن “بعض الدول التي لها تأثير مدمر على إمكانية إجراء العمليات السياسية بكل طريقة”.

ووصف الأسد العقوبات المفروضة على سوريا بأنها “لا إنسانية ولا شرعية”، شاكراً “روسيا وشعبها على المساعدة الإنسانية التي يقدمها الاتحاد الروسي إلى سوريا”.

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President Assad Holds a Lengthy Summit with President Putin in Moscow

 ARABI SOURI 

Syrian President Bashar Assad meets Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow

Syrian President Bashar Assad held a lengthy summit with the Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday, Monday, in Moscow, the summit lasted 90 minutes and the presidents were later joined by the Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs Faysal Mekdad and the Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoigu for an additional 45 minutes.

The visit was unannounced earlier due to security reasons, though it was planned for, President Bashar Assad is accompanied by a large delegate of Syrian officials.

President Bashar Assad meets President Vladimir Putin in Moscow

At the reception, President Bashar Assad highlighted the joint cooperation between the Syrian and Russian states, peoples, and armed forces, in combating terrorism in Syria which also saves many innocent citizens around the world because ‘terrorism knows no political borders and does not stop at political borders,’ President Assad thanked Russia for its support and highlighted the negative work of countries that impose inhuman, immoral, and illegal siege against the Syrian people.

President Putin congratulated President Assad on the ‘well-deserved excellent results in the presidential elections,’ President Putin told President Assad that the Syrian people have high hopes in him, they ‘associate his name with restoring normal life in Syria,’ for the efforts President Assad is exerting in this regard.

‘We have delivered a blow to the terrorists and now the Syrian state controls more than 90% of the Syrian territories,’ President Putin added, he also highlighted the illegal presence of foreign forces in Syria who are uninvited and contradict the international law, hinting at both the US and Turkish forces without naming them.

The following is the video released by the Syrian Presidency with the full transcript in English:

The video is also on BitChute and YouTube.

The video transcript:

Thank you, Mr. President. I am glad that we meet today in Moscow. The joint anti-terrorist operation has been going on for nearly 6 years, during which the Syrian and Russian armies achieved great achievements, not only by liberating lands or by returning refugees to their villages and cities, but also by protecting many innocent citizens in this world because terrorism knows no political borders and does not stop at political borders.

Of course, in addition to the important results in the liberation of lands and the retreat of terrorists was the launch of the political process, whether in Sochi, Astana, or recently in Geneva. This process has been going on for about two years now, but as you know there are obstacles because there are countries that support terrorists and have no interest in continuing this process in the direction that achieves stability in Syria.

Some countries have imposed a siege on the Syrian people, which we describe as inhuman, immoral and illegal, nevertheless, we are determined in Syria, as a government, and as state institutions, to go in parallel in the process of liberating the territories and in the process of political dialogue.

Today’s visit is an important opportunity to discuss these two points in addition to the bilateral relations that a team of specialists in the two governments will follow up in parallel with our meeting.

I want to take advantage of this meeting in order to thank the Russian state and the Russian people for the humanitarian aid provided to the Syrian people, whether with regard to the Corona pandemic recently or with regard to securing all the basic necessities that the Syrian citizen requires in his daily life.

I would like to thank you and the Russian political establishment, especially the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for the efforts they made in international forums to defend international law, which at the outset states the sovereignty of states and the right of peoples to determine their future and destiny which managed effectively and strongly to prevent the exploitation of the process of combating terrorism in the world for political goals that serve the agendas of some countries.

Once again, thank you, Mr. President.

Honorable President, I am pleased to welcome you again to Moscow,

First, I would like to congratulate you on your birthday, and I also congratulate you personally on your well-deserved victory with an excellent result in the presidential elections, these results prove that people trust you, despite the difficulties and complications that Syria has gone through in the previous period, people associate your name with restoring normal life to Syria, which you are working hard to achieve including arranging the course of dialogue between you and your political opponents, and we hope that this process will continue.

Achieving this kind of synergy between all Syrian political forces will enable us to move forward in order to achieve a better future for the Syrians, many steps have been taken to achieve this, and thanks to our joint efforts, the largest part of the Syrian territory has been liberated despite all the difficulties and tragedies, and thanks to these efforts, the Syrian government today controls more than 90% of the territory.

The problem was the presence of some foreign armed forces on Syrian territory, in contradiction to all international references, and without permission from the Syrian government, which of course contradicts all international laws.

This gives you the possibility to make the maximum possible efforts to unite all the forces of the country to control the entire Syrian territory, as well as the possibility to reconstruct Syria as much as you can, in the absence of any armed forces in the Syrian territory.

But at the same time, unfortunately, we are still witnessing some actions by terrorists who not only control some lands, but also spread terror among the people.

The liberated areas are also witnessing the return of refugees, and I visited Syria with your kind invitation and witnessed with my own eyes how people return to their homes and rebuild their homes and work actively and energetically to return to normal life.

Our joint efforts are not limited to humanitarian assistance only, but also contribute to the development of economic and trade relations. During the past year, the volume of trade exchange increased by three and a half times.

At the same time, we are working together to get rid of the basic problem facing humanity, and I mean combating the Corona pandemic, we witnessed the supply of the first shipments of the Sputnik (7) and Sputnik Lite vaccines to Syria, we hope that, with our joint efforts, we will succeed in helping the Syrian people get back on their feet in the face of all these problems, including the reconstruction of the Syrian economy, social life and the health field.

Once again, I am pleased to welcome you, Mr. President. Welcome.

End of the transcript.

Russia Affirms its Support to Syria Economically, Politically, and Militarily

https://syrianews.cc/russia-affirms-its-support-to-syria-economically-politically-and-militarily/embed/#?secret=Ftd1XhBwWM

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Interview with A.B. Abrams about his latest book and the war in Syria

September 12, 2021

Interview with A.B. Abrams about his latest book and the war in Syria

by Andrei for the Saker blog

A.B. Abrams has just released a new book entitled World War in Syria – Global Conflict on the Middle Eastern Battlefields.  Here are two locations were you can order this most interesting volume:

For those who don’t remember who Abrams is, here are two of his previous contributions to the Saker blog:

The book got A LOT of praise already, so I posted a few endorsements at the end of this interview (see at the bottom)

Rather than offer my own endorsement or write a full review, I decided to interview Abrams about both his book and his views on the international aggression against Syria.  I hope you enjoy it and, yes, get the book!

Andrei


1)–Please introduce us to your new book!  Tell us what was your main purpose in writing it and whom, what audience, did you want to reach?

I wrote this book to provide one of the first comprehensive histories of the Syrian War published to mark ten years after it began in 2011. The book places the war in the context of both the history of Syria’s decades long conflict with Western interests which began in the late 1940s, as well as broader Western geopolitical goals in the region and beyond. The title ‘World War in Syria’ reflects an assessment of the conflict primarily not through the paradigm of a civil war, as is more common in the West, but rather as a global conflict which has pitted the Western Bloc and its regional partners against Damascus and its allies – namely Russia, Iran, North Korea and Hezbollah. The war has seen special forces and other assets from all these parties deployed to Syrian soil, with the West, Turkey, the Gulf States and Israel undertaking considerable military, economic and information warfare efforts to bring about the Syrian government’s overthrow.

The book shows the Syrian War as part of a broader trend towards countries outside the Western sphere of influence, namely the minority of countries without Western military presences on their soil, being targeted for destabilisation and overthrow. For targeting countries with significant Muslim populations, Western cooperation with radical Islamist elements to support such objectives has been common, as seen in Indonesia (1950s and early 60s), Chechnya, Afghanistan (1979-92), and Yugoslavia among others. These precedents are explored at the beginning of the book to provide context to Western efforts to employ similar means against Syria.

The book is not aimed at any specific audience, but at anyone with a general interest in the Syrian War, Western, Russian, Iranian or Turkish foreign policy, Middle Eastern politics, contemporary military affairs, insurgency or terrorism. It follows a previous book published in 2020 on the history of North Korea’s 70 year war with the United States, which similarly sought to provide a comprehensive analysis of a major conflict between the U.S.-led Western Bloc and a targeted country including the Western way of war and the use of both economic and information warfare.

2)–Do you believe that Putin is “allowing” (or even helping!) Israel to bomb Syria? Or maybe the Russian and Syrian air defenses are totally ineffective?  How do you explain all the Israeli strikes?

Russia’s position on Israeli strikes has been interesting and caused a great deal of debate and in some cases controversy. I assess that Russian military intervention in Syria in 2015 had the limited goals of supporting counterinsurgency efforts and limiting Western and Turkish efforts to illegally occupy Syrian territory through the imposition of safe zones and no fly. The Russian presence has also served to deter Western and Turkish attacks, as evidenced by the vast discrepancy between the massive strikes planned under Obama to topple the government in 2013, and the very limited attacks carried out under Trump in 2017 and 2018. A longer term goal has more recently materialised with the entrenching of the Russian military presence in Latakia on Syria’s western coast, with Russia’s sole airbase in the region expanded and increasingly oriented away from counterinsurgency operations and towards providing a strategically located asset against NATO.

The expectation among many that Russia ought to prevent Israeli strikes on Syria may well be a result of the Soviet position in the 1980s, when the USSR threatened to intervene if Israel attacked Syria. This resulted in the confinement of Israeli-Syrian clashes that decade to within neighbouring Lebanon’s borders. A number of factors, however, mean that this is no longer feasible. Unlike in the 1980s, Israel is today far from the most pressing threat to Syrian security, while the discrepancy in military capabilities favours Israel much more strongly. Under the Netanyahu government, Russia also cultivated close ties with Israel as a valuable partner with a degree of policy independence from the Western world which could, for example, sell on sensitive Western technologies as it did with the Forpost drone to Russia or with American air defence technologies to China. Israel’s ability to act independently of Western hegemonic interests to some degree has been an asset to Moscow as well as Beijing to strengthen themselves against the West through cooperation. Thus the relationship between Moscow and Tel Aviv is very different from what it was in the 1980s, as is Moscow’s relationship with Damascus, meaning that Russia will be less inclined to take a hard line against Israeli strikes.

Perhaps most importantly, the fact that Russia has not taken a harder line in protecting Syria from Israeli attacks reflects Russia’s much diminished power to influence events beyond its borders compared to the Soviet era. The Russian military intervention in Syria was its first major military action outside the former USSR since the 1980s, and was a major feat considering the poor state of the military just seven years prior in its war with Georgia. The Russian military is nevertheless already stretched protecting its own forces in Syria and deterring Western or Turkish escalation, which is far from easy considering how far these operations are from Russian soil. Unlike in the late Soviet era, Russia no longer has the world’s second largest economy, a large sphere of influence of developed allied economies for support, a blue water navy, 55,000 tanks or 7000 fighters/interceptors. Its military is capable, but if it took on Israel directly as well as Turkey, the West, and the jihadist insurgency at the same time for all attacking Syria, the risk of escalation would be significant and would force it to divert considerable resources away from its own defence – resources which are far more scarce than those the USSR had 40 years ago.

Russia has nevertheless deployed its top fighters the Su-35s, and on at least one occasion Su-34s, to intercept Israeli F-16s before they could attack Syria, which alongside the strengthening of Syrian air defences has made it more difficult for Israel to strike. Russia does not condone Israeli strikes, but they have not been an immediate priority. Although they are damaging particularly to Iranian interests, such strikes do not seriously threaten Syria’s stability and have generally pursued limited goals. While Israel has called for greater Western intervention against Syria in the past, Tel Aviv’s own limitations mean it is not looking to overthrow the Syrian government singlehandedly. This contrasts to Turkey, whose president has stated multiple times and recently in 2020 that the intention is to maintain an occupation and hostile relations until the Damascus government is overthrown. This also remains a long term objective for the West currently through economic warfare, theft of Syrian oil and targeting of crops.

Israeli aircraft have since February 2018 relied in the large majority of attacks on launching standoff weapons from a safe distance outside Syrian airspace, meaning for Syrian ground based air defences to engage them and they must instead intercept the missiles as they approach and cannot target the aircraft themselves. Syria is itself aware of its limitations, and against both Israeli and Turkish strikes it has refrained from escalating by deploying its own fighters/interceptors to attack the enemy aircraft. Syrian aircraft optimised for air to air combat have instead been held in reserve to respond to more serious full scale attacks like the kind the U.S. and is allies were planning in September 2013. As Syrian defences improve with the delivery of the first new fighters as aid from Russia in 2020, the refocusing of resources away from counterinsurgency, and the possible placing of new S-300 systems under Syrian control, the country’s airspace may again begin to be respected as it largely was before the war began. If Syria does begin to deploy fighter units for air defence duties it will reflect a renewed sense of faith in the country’s security, although Turkey rather than Israel is likely to be the first target due to the heated nature of conflict over the Turkish occupation of Idlib and the much weaker state of Turkey’s air force.

3)–I have always suspected that the former Syrian regime (of Assad Sr.) was full of Israeli agents.  My evidence?  The impossible to organize without top complicity murder of Imad Mughniyeh (his widows also believes that, by the way, she is in Iran now) or the huge list of defectors/traitors and other officials/officers who quickly took their money and joined the international war in Syria.  Has that now changed, do you feel that the government is stable and in control?

Based on my knowledge of Syria and Arab nationalist republics more generally, while strong fifth columns have almost certainly been prevalent they are unlikely to be predominantly pro-Israeli and much more likely pro-Western. Although Syria’s Ba’athist government aligned itself very closely with the USSR particularly from 1982, much of the elite and the population maintained strongly pro-Western sentiments. This included the current president in his initial years who, according to Western sources cited in the book, was looking to pivot the country towards closer alignment with the West while sidelining Russia, Iran and the Ba’ath Party. Many in the Arab world even in states which are formally aligned against Western interests aspire to integration and a degree of Westernisation, which has long been a leading weakness in Arab nationalist states’ efforts to establish themselves as independent powers.

The West’s colonial legacy provided a strong basis since the middle of the last century to cultivate considerable soft power in the Arab World. This was perhaps most clearly alluded to by Mohamed Heikal, a leading intellectual of the non-aligned movement and Minister of Information for the United Arab Republic, who noted regarding the political and military elites of Arab republics in the 1950s, 60s and 70s: “All the formative influences in the new leaders’ lives- the books they had read, the history they had learned, the films they had seen- had come from the West. The languages they knew in addition to their own were English or French – Russian was, and remained, a mystery to them. It was impossible for them to remain unaffected by all that they had heard about the communist world- the closed society, the suppression of thought, the ‘Stalinist terror’… they wanted to keep their distance.” Heikal stressed that many of these leaders would turn to the West for assistance “almost automatically,” as the psychology of colonialism persisted. Many of those who turned to a partnership with the Soviets did so only because they were given no other choice, having been refused by the West.

This remains largely true until today at many levels of Syrian society. Perhaps one of the most striking examples was documented by a journalist accompanying the Syrian Arab Army to the frontlines engaging Western-backed insurgents. While the West made war on Syria, it was clear that strongly Western supremacist sentiments persisted throughout the population as a result of Western soft power, with Syrian soldiers on the frontlines reported to exclaim regarding their country: “Look how beautiful this land is! It is almost as beautiful as Europe!” Such sentiments were common even in wartime. The idea of Western primacy and supremacy, long engrained across much of the world through colonial rule, remained a key weakness which made it far from difficult for the Western world to cultivate westphilian fifth columns. According to multiple sources, including British journalist Patrick Seale, this included the President Hafez Al Assad’s brother who had a love for all things American and for parties with Western belly dancers. In this way Syria and Arab nationalist states bear a strong contrast to Western adversaries such as North Korea, which placed a strong emphasis on political education and on ensuring new generations did not grow up seeing the world through paradigms that promote Western supremacy (see Chapters 18 and 19 of my prior book that cover that topic.)

Regarding Israel, while there are strongly pro-Western sentiments within Syria and the Arab world, there are also strong anti-Israeli sentiments which, combined with Israel’s lack of any comparable soft power, makes pro-Israeli fifth columns much more difficult to cultivate. It is highly possible, however, that pro-Western elements in Syria could be led to pursue actions which, while furthering Western interests, also benefit Israel as you mentioned.

4)— How did the war in Syria really start?  Can you give us a summary of the true story (the full story is in your book) of how what began with some local protests (almost) ended with the Takfiris in control of Damascus?

It is difficult to do this question justice with a summary answer as there are so many factors at play. One could trace the origin back to 2007, when following Hezbollah’s unexpected military successes against Israel the previous year the Bush administration began to perceive Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, rather than Al Qaeda, as its primary adversaries. This also led to the first mentions of the possibility of manipulating Al Qaeda-type jihadist groups with the help of regional allies (Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia in particular) to focus on attacking Syria and other Iranian partners. By 2009 militants were receiving Western training for operations in Syria. Pro-Western activists in Syria and other Arab countries were also receiving training in the U.S. supported by the State Department, Google, Facebook and others on how to stir unrest using tools such as social media. Media networks and most notably Al Jazeera, which had a long history of being heavily influenced by Western intelligence, began in 2011 to be put to use to vilify the Syrian government, and the Qatari monarchy soon after would lead calls for a Libya-style Western assault.

On the ground in the war’s initial weeks the Syrian government faced large scale incursions by well armed and trained militants from across the Turkish and Jordanian borders, and simultaneously a number of largely peaceful protests against living conditions in some cities. Confusion was sown and the situation quickly escalated out of control. Mass privatisation of public property, years of crop failures, and disparity between the conservative Muslim rural population and the much more liberal lifestyle in major cities, were among a multitude of factors detailed which fuelled unrest and provided foreign powers with an opening to destabilise the country. These details are all fully referenced in the book itself as well as a much more elaborate explanation of the multitude of preparations and incidents which paved the way to war.

5)–Could you please compare and contrast, HOW the Russian and Iranian interventions happened, WHAT these forces did to turn the tide and then tell us WHAT the Russian and Iranian PLANS were and are for Syria – do these two actors more or less agree, or do they have different visions for the future of Syria?

The Russian and Iranian stances towards Syria have contrasted from the war’s outset, with Russia’s Dmitry Medvedev administration in particular being openly resigned to seeing the Syrian state toppled and offering Damascus little in the way of support in the conflict’s critical early stages. Although Russian support increased from 2012 almost as soon as a new administration came to power, namely with arms sales and a blocking of Western efforts to target Syria through the United Nations, it would be three more years before Russia felt the need to deploy its forces. Iranian efforts to make a case for Russian intervention to Moscow, namely through Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani who met with President Putin in 2015, was an important factor.

Iran by contrast, alongside Hezbollah and North Korea, had boots on the ground from 2012-13 and were all committed to supporting counterinsurgency efforts and preserving the Syrian state. For Iran the fall of Syria to Western-backed jihadists as Afghanistan had fallen in 1992 was seen as unacceptable. As senior Iranian cleric Mehdi Taeb famously said: “If the enemy attacks us and wants to take either Syria or [the outlying Iranian province of] Khuzestan, the priority is to keep Syria… If we keep Syria, we can get Khuzestan back too, but if we lose Syria, we cannot keep Tehran.” Iran has thus been much more heavily invested in supporting Damascus throughout the war than Russia has.

There have been similarities between Russian and Iranian support for Syria. Both have sought to support the Syrian economy with Iran emerging as the country’s largest trading partner shortly after the war began, although it has since been displaced by China, while Russia has shown a strong interest in post war investment. Both sought to avoid relying too heavily on deployment of their own manpower on the frontlines as the Soviets had in Afghanistan, and instead focused on arming and training auxiliary forces. Russia, for example, oversaw the creation and arming of the Syrian 5th Corps and provided T-62M and T-72B3 tanks from its own reserves, while Iran facilitated the deployment of allied paramilitaries such as the Afghan Hazara Fatemiyoun. Russia’s military intervention was aimed largely at demonstrating new capabilities to NATO, with many of its strikes meant more than anything as shows of force. An example was in November 2015 when its air force flew Tu-160 supersonic bombers from the Arctic around Ireland and through the Straits of Gibraltar to fire cruise missiles over the Mediterranean at insurgents in Syria before returning to Russia – which was initially widely dismissed by Western officials as phantastic before being confirmed several hours later. Iran’s intervention was significantly quieter and received less fanfare in local media, but was more persistent and tenacious due to the much higher stakes the conflict represented for Tehran. The Iranian and Hezbollah campaigns have also involved much more significant clashes with Israel, as well as with Turkey in Hezbollah’s case, while Russian units have seldom fired on or been fired on by forces from state actors. A significant number of other major contrasts between Iranian and Russian interventions exist, but for the sake of brevity I will restrict the examples to those above.

Although both share the goal of restoring Syrian territorial integrity and bolstering Damascus, Russia and Iran certainly have different visions in accordance with their very different ideological positions, which themselves contrast with Syria’s Ba’athist socialist party-state that is much closer to the USSR, China or North Korea than to either of them. Iran’s influence has led to the growth of Shiite paramilitary groups in Syria which have been major supporters of the Syrian Arab Army on the ground, but their presence contrasts with Syria’s long history of secularism and separation of religion from the state and the security apparatus. This influence may well have an impact on Syrian political culture and policies as it did in neighbouring Iraq. Russia under the current liberal democratic capitalist system, or ‘Western liberalism with Russian characteristics’ as some have referred to it, also has a much greater ideological gap with Damascus than it did in the Soviet era. Russia has been known to try to influence states to move in this direction with reform, most notably Belarus, and could well seek to have a similar influence in Syria. Syria’s ruling party, for its part, is likely to resist both influences but accommodate Russian and Iranian interests on its soil in exchange for their continued economic and military support.

6)–How do you see the future of Syria, Israel and the future of the Middle East?  What has that war changed?

The Syrian War, and the NATO assault on Libya which began almost simultaneously in March 2011, have reshaped the Arab world and Middle East profoundly by in one case removing, and in the other seriously weakening the two Arab states which had longest and most persistently opposed Western hegemony. From the late 1970s and early 1980s, as Iraq and Egypt pivoted to align themselves with the West, Syria and Libya alongside South Yemen and Algeria remained the only countries which had not been absorbed into the Western sphere of influence.

The Syrian conflict marked a turning point in several trends in regional affairs. The U.S.’ refusal to invest heavily in the conflict, particularly in 2013 when a full scale assault had been expected, marked an important step in the Obama administration’s Pivot to Asia initiative. This has since been carried forward by Trump and Biden to focus resources on countering China and North Korea specifically and reduce commitments in the Middle East. The Syrian War set an important precedent for how the Western Bloc could seriously erode an adversary at a very low cost. The campaign avoided the need for tens of thousands of Western boots on the ground as in Iraq and instead relied on jihadist militant groups, with much of the funding to support them coming from the Gulf States and Turkey. While the CIA was responsible for organisation and logistics and for coordinating between the insurgency’s Western-aligned sponsors, the Pentagon budget was not seriously affected by the war. A similar mode of attack was seen in Libya, although jihadists there were less effective and had a much smaller support base and Western air power was applied much more to compensate. Attempts to replicate this low cost means of neutralising Western adversaries are likely.

Other major turning points were seen in Turkey, where its attempt to play a leading role in forcing the overthrow of the Syrian government marked the beginning of a more assertive and interventionist foreign policy stance which recently materialised in its intervention against Armenia in 2020. In Egypt Western support for jihadists in Libya and Syria, and ties between these jihadists and the Muslim Brotherhood domestically, contributed to alienating the Egyptian Military from the West after it took power in 2013. The region also saw Russia remerge as a major player with its first significant combat operations since the early 1970s. Moscow sought to use the strong impression its intervention had made to capitalise on discontent among traditional Western clients such as the Gulf States and Egypt and form new partnerships of its own.

For Syria itself, as the war largely comes to an end, the world in the 2020s is one very different from when the war begun with China having since emerged as the world’s leading economy and Russia having seemingly abandoned its hopes for integration into the West to pursue a more independent foreign policy. This shift has seriously dampened the impacts of Western sanctions on Damascus, with Huawei rebuilding its telecoms networks and China providing everything from busses to power generators as aid which make it far easier Syria and other Western targets in similar positions to survive. Nevertheless, the continued occupation in the north by Western powers led by the U.S., and in Idlib by Turkey, will continue to pose a serious threat until restored to Syrian government control. Occupied areas reportedly hold 90% of Syria’s oil output, which will continue to be illegally expropriated to undermine Damascus’ reconstruction efforts. Idlib meanwhile, as the largest Al Qaeda safe haven the world has seen since September 2001, continues to be a launching pad for jihadist attacks into Syria. Both Idlib and the northern regions could form the bases for Kosovo-style partitioning of Syria enforced by NATO, and for Damascus it will thus be a leading priority to prevent this and impose continued costs on Western and Turkish forces. An example of how this could be done was the Syrian government ballistic missile strike on an oil facility run by militants under Turkish protection in March 2021.

7)– Last, but not least, what is, in your opinion, the US end goal for Syria (and Lebanon)?

The primary goal is the removal of the Ba’ath Party and Syrian military establishment as organisations which can arrange their domestic and foreign policies and their security with a great deal of independence from the West, and are thus able to oppose Western hegemony in the region. Their continued existence has for decades been a thorn in the side of Western efforts to shape the Middle East in line with its interests. In Lebanon the same applies for Hezbollah. This is hardly a U.S. goal exclusively, but is shared by the major NATO members such as Britain, Germany, France and Turkey and is in the common interests of furthering Western global hegemony.

Should the West achieve its objective, what follows could be a civil war as seen in Libya after Gaddafi’s death, in which NATO powers support both sides to ensure any outcome is favourable to Western interests, or the establishment of a client government as the West recently achieved in Sudan with a coup April 2019. While five major motivations for making war on Syria are explored in detail in the book, at the heart of all of them is that the Syrian government was not part of the Western-led order, did not align itself with Western policy objectives against Iran, China and others, and did not house Western soldiers on its soil. This made the state’s existence unacceptable to the West, as did its close security cooperation with Iran, North Korea and Hezbollah. Whether the outcome of Western intervention is a partitioning, a unified Syria remade as a client state, or an indefinite civil war, the primary goal of neutralising Syria as an independent actor would be achieved. Once the goal of destroying the party, state and military was thwarted, and it became clear from 2016 that the Syrian government would retain power, the Western and Turkish goal changed to prolonging the conflict, creating Kosovo-type enclaves under NATO control, and placing downward pressure on Syrian living standards and the economy. They could thereby impede post-war recovery and a return to normality and ensure that Syria would remain weakened and a burden to its allies.

–Thank you!!

PRAISE FOR WORLD WAR IN SYRIA

“Impressive in its scholarship, pondered in its judgements, above all
searing in its dissection of Western powers’ war on Syria waged over

many decades, the book is a must-have on the bookshelves of any seri-
ous fair-minded student of Syria.”

– Peter Ford, British Ambassador to Syria from 2003–2006.
“The most detailed history of the war in Syria so far, providing a richness

of highly interesting details, as well as a critical analysis of its com-
plex international and domestic dimensions, rarely encountered in other

Western publications.”
– Nikolaos van Dam, former Special Envoy for Syria, 2015–16.
Ambassador of the Netherlands to Iraq, Egypt, Turkey, Germany and
Indonesia, 1988–2010. Author of Destroying a Nation: The Civil War
in Syria.
“A. B. Abrams explores the widening scope of the Syrian conflict in his
important book. Solving Syria’s civil war will require a regional approach
engaging stakeholders whose interests are fundamentally opposed.”
– David L. Phillips, Senior Adviser in the Clinton, Bush, and Obama State
Departments. Former Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council. Director of
the Program on Peace-Building and Human Rights, Columbia University
ISHR.

“Abrams is a meticulous guide to the labyrinth of Syria’s modern polit-
ical history.”

– Richard W. Murphy. U.S. Ambassador to Syria, 1974 to 1978. Consul in
Aleppo, Syria, 1960–63.
“A. B. Abrams has written an extremely informative and illuminating

account on the international dimension of the origins, outbreak and evo-
lution of the Syrian conflict. His empirically rich analysis in this nuanced

and comprehensive study make it one of the best books, if not the best
book, written about the Syrian crisis. This book is a MUST read for
anyone who wants to understand the Syrian conflict, the Middle East,
and the role of the great powers in the region.”
– Jubin Goodarzi, Professor and Deputy Head of International Relations,
Webster University, Geneva. Former consultant and political adviser
on Middle Eastern affairs for the UNHCR. He formerly held posts at
Chatham House, CSIS and the Ford Foundation.
PRAISE FOR WORLD WAR IN SYRIA

“An insightful and dispassionate record of the Syrian Maelstrom and the
West’s role as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice.”
– John Holmes, Major General and Director Special Forces (ret.), British
Army.
“This is a sad tale of betrayal and conspiracy. Not just theory but facts
meticulously uncovered by Abrams. The conspiracy was part of broader
trends in the United States and Europe towards the non-Western World.

Since its fight for independence from French rule in 1946, Syria’s strug-
gles to remain free of Western hegemonic ambitions have continued to

play out for decades culminating in the crisis which emerged in 2011 and
became a proxy war of international proportions.”
– Dawn Chatty, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology and Forced Migration
at the University of Oxford. Fellow at the British Academy. Author of
Syria: The Making and Unmaking of a Refuge State.
“Abrams’ book provides essential historical and geopolitical context to
Syria’s ten-year war, reflecting a particularly deep and comprehensive
understanding of the conflict and of the country’s strategic importance.”
– Military Watch Magazine.
“Supported by a weight of evidence, this book sets out the context and
details of the Syrian conflict and effectively helps the reader to chart a
course between the overwhelming complexity of the crisis and Western
efforts to tell a simplified story of events on the ground. It will be of
interest to researchers, students and those interested in the messy reality
of one of the past decade’s foremost crises.”
– Jack Holland, Associate Professor in International Security at the
University of Leeds. Author of Selling War and Peace: Syria and the
Anglosphere.

“A well-researched and well-written book. Abrams provides the his-
torical context of post-independence Syria within which one can find

the reasons why the war became such a nodal point for regional and
international intrigue. While doing so, he also hones in as no one else
previously has – on some critical turning points during the civil war that
determined the direction of the conflict.”
– David Lesch, Leader of the Harvard-NUPI-Trinity Syria Research
Project. Ewing Halsell Distinguished Professor of Middle East History
at Trinity University. Author of Syria: A Modern History and Syria: The
Fall of the House of Assad.

“The countries intervening in Syria without approval of the Security
Council under Chapter VII were consciously violating international
law. Abrams’ intensive, highly-documented work provides an excellent
resource for understanding the historical and present dimensions of the
conflict.”
– Alfred De Zayas, Professor, Geneva School of Diplomacy. Former UN
Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable
International Order.
“A. B. Abrams has written a timely, balanced and insightful account
of the Syrian war. The book is well-researched and provides both the

necessary historic context but reveals also present-day drivers that re-
sulted in Syria becoming a theater for regional and global competition

for influence.”
– Alex Vatanka, senior fellow in Middle East Studies at the U.S. Air Force

Special Operations School. Senior fellow and director of the Iran pro-
gram at the Middle East Institute, Washington D.C. Adjunct professor at

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
“An impressive and comprehensive feat of in-depth research, most
notably concerning developments in political and military strategy of
international actors in the Syrian war. The author provides a unique and
sophisticated chronological overview of pre-war socio-political and
economic realities in Syria, a detailed description of the conflict over its

entire duration, and an outline of possible post-war scenarios. An excep-
tional feature of the book lies in the author’s profound understanding of

how supplies of specific armaments on both sides influenced the course
of the war. World War in Syria is an excellent work, highly beneficial for

war and security studies professionals and students, as well as for histo-
rians, international relations scholars and the general public wishing to

better understand the effects of external involvement on the development
and outcome of the Syrian conflict.”
– Daria Vorobyeva, Centre for Syrian Studies, University of St. Andrews.
Co-Author of The War for Syria: Regional and International Dimensions
of the Syrian Uprising.

“A superb narrative dealing with tactical, operational and strategic mat-
ters of that war, in as fine military history writing as any by the first rate

military historian, and also shows a horrendous toll this war exerted on
the people of Syria. It is a superb book which makes a great contribution
to the field of study of the Middle East and of global politics and balance
of forces.”
– Andrei Martyanov, former naval officer. Frequent contributor to the U.S.
Naval Institute Blog. Author of The (Real) Revolution in Military Affairs.

News conference following Russian-Belarusian talks (important development of ‘Union State’)

September 10, 2021

News conference following Russian-Belarusian talks (important development of ‘Union State’)

Vladimir Putin and President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko held a joint news conference at the Kremlin following Russian-Belarusian talks

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Lukashenko, ladies and gentlemen,

We will briefly inform you about the results of our today’s work.

Our talks with the President of Belarus were intensive and constructive, as they have always been, which is fully in line with the nature of relations between our countries.

I have said this before but would like to repeat it today: Belarus, for us, is a good neighbour and our closest ally. Russian-Belarusian cooperation rests on the principles of mutual respect, support and consideration for each other’s interests. Close friendly ties between Russia and Belarus are buttressed by a common history and spiritual values and often by family relations.

The Republic is our main trade and economic partner in the CIS and was our third largest partner in the world in 2020, in this respect. This year, trade is once again on the rise and has already surpassed the pre-pandemic level. In January-June it amounted to $17.8 billion, recording growth of 34.9 percent, almost 35 percent.

Russia accounts for almost half of all of Belarus’ foreign trade. Russia has also made the biggest investment in the Belarusian economy.

So, it is no accident that during today’s talks we focused on trade and investment in our bilateral relations and on the issues linked with integration within the Union State framework.

As you know, over several years – we said today that we stepped up this work three or four years ago – our governments have been intensively working on a package of documents to further deepen integration between Russia and Belarus.

These are 28 so-called “union programmes” that are aimed at the unification of laws in Russia and Belarus in various economic areas, the levelling of conditions for the operation of the two countries’ economic entities, the formation of uniform financial and energy markets, transport infrastructure, the development and implementation of a common industrial and agricultural policy.

Today, I would like to say with satisfaction, that all 28 programmes have been agreed upon. Tomorrow, they are to be approved at a meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Union State in Minsk, after which they will be submitted for approval by the Supreme State Council of the Union State, which will convene before the end of this year. Mr Lukashenko and I have agreed on that, and we will now check our schedules and determine a more or less exact timeline.

Let me briefly go over the contents of these programmes.

Some of them seek to harmonise the taxation and customs legislation of our two countries. In particular, an agreement will be signed covering the general principles of levying indirect taxes. An integrated system for administering indirect taxes within the Union State will be put in place. The goal is to make the price structure of products clear.

Also, the general guidelines for forming a single monetary policy in the future, and implementing currency regulation, integrating national payment systems and creating a common payment space within the Union State have been outlined. All this will help ensure fair competition and boost business activity on the financial market, as well as effectively mitigate the risks of money laundering and the financing of criminal activities, including terrorism.

We have reached agreements on matters that are highly sensitive for the Belarusian side, which are related to prices for Russian energy. After lengthy discussions, we managed to come up with mutually acceptable approaches to gas supplies. The price for Russian natural gas for Belarus will remain at the current level in 2022.

A document to create a unified gas market within the Union State will be signed before December 1, 2023. In addition, we will conclude an agreement on merging the petroleum and petroleum product markets, as well as an agreement on a single electricity market.

I would like to emphasise the fact that common approaches to legislation covering labour relations, occupational safety and health, employment, social insurance and pensions, as well as support for families with children, will be developed within the framework of these union programmes as well.

Implementing the Union State programmes will be an important step towards creating a single economic space for our two countries, as provided for in the 1999 Treaty on the Establishment of the Union State.

Eventually, this will provide a strong impetus to the further growth of the two countries’ economies, will facilitate an increase in labour efficiency, serve the interests of large, mid-sized and small businesses and help create more jobs.

Russian and Belarusian businesses will be given the opportunity to expand their activities across the Union State, including by establishing new joint ventures and boosting their export potential.

Most importantly, the average person in the two countries will, hopefully, benefit from the integration. Russians and Belarusians will be given equal rights and equal opportunities in the economic and social spheres and, the most important thing, the necessary conditions will be put in place to ensure a real improvement in living standards and the wellbeing of the people.

Today, we also discussed matters related to building a single defence space and ensuring the security of the Union Sate along its borders.

In this context, we gave much attention, as we attach great importance to this, to upcoming joint military exercises, Zapad 2021, to be held in Russia and Belarus. These exercises are not targeting anyone. However, conducting these exercises is logical, given that other alliances, for example, NATO, are moving fast to build their military presence close to the borders of the Union State and the Collective Security Treaty Organisation countries.

Mr Lukashenko talked about the political situation in the Republic of Belarus, which has stabilised.

In conclusion, returning to the main topic of today’s talks, I want to note that the development of equitable and mutually beneficial cooperation in the Union State has remained an explicit strategic priority for our two countries.

I want to thank the governments, ministries and teams of experts of the two countries who took part in developing and coordinating the Union State programmes. Thanks to you – I am now addressing our colleagues – and your well-coordinated and painstaking work, we have managed to achieve very impressive results on the path to integration. We believe – I am again addressing my colleagues in the government – that you will continue to proceed like this in the future.

Thank you for your attention.

President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko: Mr Putin, media representatives,

According to traditions and protocol, first of all, I would like to thank my colleague, the President of Russia, for the warm welcome that our delegation has been given today, as well as the extremely honest, open and constructive nature of today’s meeting.

Among other things, all of you, journalists, finally have an opportunity to hear firsthand about the results of our meeting today. We must frankly admit that we have not often indulged you with such meetings after our long negotiations.

I would like to start with the biggest and perhaps the most popular topic of today’s conversation. Everyone is interested in the future of the union programmes. Taking into account what the President of Russia has just said, I will just try to add a few things. But I must apologise because I have to start with the history of this matter.

The President has just mentioned that this work begun more than three years ago now, and we have been duly reacting to all the feedback, concerns and criticism voiced in both Russia and Belarus, about the Union State having lost some of its dynamics.

As I said, substantive work on the so-called roadmaps, as you remember, began more than three years ago. Those roadmaps, in fact, provided integration frameworks for specific areas, that is, the roadmaps indicated in broad strokes the path that we were ready to take with regard to a specific topic of interstate relations. That is, we outlined our plans.

Each of today’s programmes – they actually evolved into programmes about 18 months ago, when we approached specific agreements because we thought that we had enough framework plans and needed more specific ones to respond to our people’s requests, and so – each of the programmes is a specific plan of actions we are going to implement. The governments have done a tremendous job. Mr Putin and I have made all the fundamental decisions today that concerned us.

I do not want to go into the contents of the documents we have reviewed. They are not classified and will be made public. But I will just mention a few of the main points. They include equal rights for businesses of both countries, Belarus and Russia, the importance of which various representatives of Belarus, including me as the president, have been stressing for many years now. That is the basics. We are equal partners. The competition must be honest for all companies on the Belarusian and Russian markets. It was the equality, beneficial and fruitful cooperation that the Belarusian‒Russian integration was started for in the first place.

The union programmes clearly describe development mechanisms for our shared economic space, for building integrated sector-specific markets and for implementing harmonised policies in finances, taxes, lending, pricing and trade.

I would like to specifically point out such matters as solving the problem of energy supply to Belarus, the increase in transportation services, funding for new investment projects, adopting common approaches to implementing our agricultural and industrial policies, and raising the level of mutual social guarantees for our citizens. President Putin has just covered these topics extensively.

Yet, it is high time we asked our critics in Belarus – specifically, in Belarus – the so-called opposition, both fugitives and those living in Belarus, who criticised me and the government and shouted so loud. I would like to ask the critics of our integration in Russia as well: where do you see a ball chained to Russia’s legs? There are no downsides for either Belarusians or Russians in these programmes – and there could not be. As President Putin mentioned, the aim of all these measures is to improve the welfare of our peoples. And it is probably time to put a lid on this matter. Our integration was coined to be mutually beneficial and nothing else.

It is fundamentally important that we have managed to achieve mutual understanding on all major aspects. Our governments will immediately start polishing certain points – tomorrow, during a meeting of the Union State’s Council of Ministers in Minsk. If the final touches are approved and agreed upon (and we are certain they will be), we will be ready to approve the package of union programmes, as President Putin said, during a meeting of the Supreme State Council. We will try to set a date for this meeting today.

We often hear accusations that the Union State is a purely political project. No, it is a unique integration framework that is advanced in many spheres, including politics. Take our military and political union. It is not a secret. We have advanced quite substantially in many fields, such as foreign policy, defence and security.

I would like to stress: life is convincingly proving that everything we do is for the benefit of our people and is aimed to meet their concrete needs. The Belarusians and the Russians do not feel they are aliens in either country: they have freedom of movement and they can get an education and [easily] find a job. This stands high. Moreover, people are confident that it is a matter of course, that it has always been this way. And this is the best proof of the viability of our union. I am absolutely certain that broadening integration and building up multi-faceted collaboration is the most indicative and effective reply to all our ill-wishers. Together we can only get stronger.

At the start of our talks, the President of Russia mentioned a very important and interesting phrase: We are emerging from the situation of a pandemic-crazy world, where production volumes and many other processes have sunk to nought over this period of time. We have to look for additional stimuli to promote the socioeconomic development of our countries. He said this and it is bang on to the point. We are looking for these advantages in the union of our two countries in order to overcome the negative consequences of the pandemic.

Today, we have also discussed in detail some current international problems and our relations with neighbouring countries and assiciations. We have dwelled on the situation in zones of instability, primarily in Afghanistan, from the point of view of threats to security of the Union State of Russia and Belarus. The priority in this context is to ensure comprehensive security of our countries and the CSTO as a whole. We will jointly approve a common position on this matter during the upcoming events in Dushanbe.

Even we, though located in the centre of Europe far from the so-called theatre of operations, felt the impacts of the Afghan crisis. Look at the refugee crisis on our borders, at how the progressive West is behaving: they are rattling the saber all the time. As is only natural, we have broached the subject of our allied military exercise, Zapad-2021. We will continue to build up our joint counteraction to common challenges and threats. There is no need to scream out loud that we are holding this exercise. We have an army, we have a joint force deployed in the Western sector, and it needs to be trained and instructed in military tactics. We are doing nothing that wouldn’t be done by our rivals and adversaries.

We have also focused on further normalisation of transport communications and cooperation in the field of microelectronics and building industry. Yes, we are confident that the Union State should expand the use of its scientific and technological potential.

It is clear that far from all the knots in our relations have been untied. But it is normal, given the existing scale of collaboration, and a platform for further progress has been created. Based on this platform, we will continue to ensure social guarantees and consistently enhance the wellbeing of Belarusians and Russians.

Many people will get the impression that our talks on these subjects and Union programmes are going on forever, and that we are handling these matters with kid gloves, to put it mildly. There can be no alternative because somewhere in the mid-1990s and by the late 1990s when you and I were exchanging ratification instruments of the Union State Treaty, we agreed to conduct integration at various speeds and various levels. At that time, the Belarus-Russia Union and the Eurasian Economic Union, called the Customs Union at the time, was established on your insistent initiative, and the CIS.

We maintain different speeds at these three levels on post-Soviet territory, but we were always ahead. During the era of President Yeltsin, we discussed the possibility of renouncing the Union State and the Belarus-Russia Union and making this format part of the Eurasian Economic Union. At that period of time, we had enough intelligence and wisdom not to go ahead with this. The new President of Russia supported this, and we were not mistaken. We are setting an example of how to move ahead within the EAEU and all the more so within the CIS. In effect, we are pushing ahead like a bulldozer, and we are paving the way for, as we really hope, future associations and unions in the post-Soviet region. The Union is an example and a road that all states counting on a more close-knit union will have to take.

The President of Russia tactfully avoided mentioning all kinds of assertions that someone would take over someone, and so on and so forth. I would just like to point out that the President of Russia and I never suffered from this disorder. We can treat anyone who has had this disorder. I have recently said that we are sufficiently smart people, and if we find it necessary to make our already thoroughly close relations even more powerful, he and I will accomplish this in no time at all. Therefore one should not rattle and juggle old phrases and terminology about us trying to take over someone or to merge together contrary to the desires of our peoples. We simply wanted to accomplish something, and we singled out 28 areas and implemented the task in three years. Quite possibly, three years is a long time, but this is a mere instant in terms of history. Therefore one should not worry in this respect, and we will do everything possible in the interests of the people. And if we need even more close political and military integration, we will do this without delay, as soon as we feel this is required by our people in Belarus and Russia.

Most importantly, and the President of Russia and I have discussed this, 28 programmes have been inked, and this is a conceptual view of any specific problem. Today, it is necessary to sift through volumes of domestic legislation and our joint agreements, to adapt them or to channel them via a direction that has been determined by the President of Russia and me. As has been said, we will finally approve this direction at a meeting of our Supreme State Council.

Thank you.

Question: Good afternoon,

I have a question for you, President Putin.

Indeed, the list of subjects included in the union programmes brings union integration between our two countries to the highest and broadest level.

We must give credit to the governments that were able to agree upon a number of highly sensitive and principled matters such as monetary and foreign exchange policy, customs and taxation systems, a number of sector-specific problems, and social guarantee convergence. However, we must also admit the fact that for a number of years now, year in and year out, the development of the Union State was held back by a number of trade and economic hurdles. Frankly speaking, it is not easy for the Belarusian people to understand some of them. For example, the working conditions for Belarusian carriers in Russia are worse than for the Lithuanian or Polish carriers, and this despite the fact that our countries agreed on creating a common economic space more than 20 years ago.

In this regard, my question is: do you think that once adopted and implemented, these union programmes will make it possible to resolve that pile of long-standing mutual problems and to leave them behind as we push ahead into the future?

Vladimir Putin: You have taken a bird’s eye view of the matters finding a solution to which was a challenge for us. But if we start to dig deeper, it will become quite clear why it was so difficult for us to agree on things. It is because one side believed that it was enough to make some operational decisions at the governmental level and things would be settled, while the other side believed that certain decisions on certain matters could not be made until more fundamental decisions had been made.

I just mentioned what we agreed on, and I will say it again, since this is an absolutely critical matter. So, we have agreed on conducting common macroeconomic policy. I will not go into details now, and you are probably aware of what this is about. We have also agreed on harmonising monetary policy, payment system integration, ensuring information security, and deepening cooperation in customs regulations and taxation. That is, we are talking about transparency of the customs value of goods and definition of the transparent structure of the value of goods in the economy in general.

Our experts believed that without resolving these matters we cannot move on to other matters concerning individual commodity groups, including energy. We agreed to create a single methodology, which is important, for harmonising indirect taxes and a department which would control these processes.

When the economy becomes transparent, when it becomes clear how much the goods cost when they are imported into any of the two states, Russia or Belarus, and then enter our customs territories, then we can talk about those goods’ real value. And this allowed us to agree on something else – we are now moving towards a unified industrial policy and access to government procurement and government contracts. This amounts to a transition to very specific work in these areas.

But we disagreed for quite a long time. I have to say that our Belarusian partners are hard negotiators, but still, gradually, breaking the ideas down to elemental parts, we have practically – well, not practically, but fully agreed on all these matters. The President of Belarus and I have reaffirmed this today. We have agreed on all the details, you know, all the problems. When we got down to the details and spelled it all out, this puzzle just came together, and I hope it all really works.

Question: Thank you very much.

Please, if it’s possible one more short question, since I have such an opportunity. Did you discuss full resumption of air services today after COVID-19, and further developments in general? Were some decisions made maybe?

Vladimir Putin: No, we discussed this at our previous meeting. This time, the President of Belarus did not bring up this matter, but the President of Belarus does not yet know about the decision just made at the government commission, which met not far from here, at Government House. They decided to lift all COVID-related restrictions on air services.

Alexander Lukashenko: You have not told me about this.

Vladimir Putin: No I did not, but now I am informing you.

Alexander Lukashenko: Well, thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Before these so-called COVID restrictions were introduced, we had over 200 flights a week. To be precise, 201 in fact, and at the moment just 36.

I do not expect the pre-COVID level to get back to normal in just a couple of two days – to over 200 flights – because it all depends on the market and the carriers. But I believe the process will unfold speedily, also because, I hope, the agreements and the programmes we have informed you about will be quickly and efficiently implemented.

Question: A question for both presidents. You touched upon the topic of economic integration. What are the prospects for political integration, or are there any?

And, back to the Union State programmes, will Belarus enjoy special prices for energy resources? Is there a plan to create a single energy market regulator in the Union State? I am also interested if a decision is planned on a common Union State currency. Have you discussed additional credit support for Minsk?

Vladimir Putin: With regard to political integration, this is what the Union Treaty was tasked to accomplish from the outset, when the Union Treaty was being formed in 1997 and a treaty signed a little later, I think, in 1999.

We believe – just as your colleague asked a question about individual commodity groups, and what they succeeded in agreeing upon and what remains to be agreed – we decided that we need not to focus on separate items that are beneficial or not to a particular side, but instead should make comprehensive decisions thus creating a solid economic foundation for making progress in sensitive, but still peripheral matters.

It works the same way here. We operate on the premise that, in spite of this being a noble cause, we must first create political integration and an economic basis, a foundation, in order to be able to move forward, on the political track as well. We have not taken up these issues yet. To reiterate, we believe that we should first focus on the economy, and everything else will then need additional regulation, including, perhaps, at the level of the Union parliament. I do not rule out the possibility of this being created. But before we do that we need, as they say, to grow up. We did not discuss this, and these items were not on our agenda.

With regard to the second part of your question, I have already said that we will be addressing issues related to individual product groups in a comprehensive manner, even though we understand that the energy issue is highly sensitive. Therefore, as I said, we will leave the same price for Belarus for the next year, 2022. The price for Belarus will be $128.5 per 1,000 cubic metres. For your information, in case you are not aware of it, the price on the European market is $650 per 1,000 cubic metres. So, I think, the difference is clear.

We will not even adjust the price for Belarus to take account of the dollar inflation, which is quite high. They planned 2 percent, but it will be over 5 percent actually. Now, they are saying it will be a little lower, but still two to three times higher than the target. But we are not going to adjust either for the inflation in Russia or for the dollar inflation. We will keep the price as it is this year. However, later on, as I said, we will nevertheless work out common approaches both on the gas market and on the petroleum and petroleum product market.

What was the third matter?

Question: Are you planning to provide additional support to Minsk in terms of lending?

Vladimir Putin: Yes, the governments are discussing this. The President of Belarus and I also discussed this. The total volume of loans from September through late 2022 will amount to about $630 million, approximately $630–640 million. Anyway, it is going to be over $600 million.

Alexander Lukashenko: As concerns political integration, I fully support President Putin although he was too modest and did not mention his own role in resolving this matter.

We hit a brick wall at the time with certain issues in the Union, including political issues. It was then that the Russian President said words that became proverbial. We were having similar talks, in this very office where we had a one-to-one meeting today. That meeting was in an extended format. He reproached both Belarusian and Russian experts and said: “If we hit a wall and obviously have no way of solving this problem today, let’s put it aside until a moment comes when we can deal with it, when the time is ripe.” We have managed to not politicise our talks too much ever since.

I have just said openly and honestly: we can go back to any problem, including a political one, if we need to, and we will develop our relations based on that premise. This issue will not get rusty, as we like to say in Russia and Belarus. This is why I support President Putin’s idea that the time will come and we will not keep anybody waiting.

As for special prices, you must know that in fact, all our products are priced based on special terms due to free trade agreements in the Union State and the EAEU. We pay no duties, with the exception of energy. President Putin spoke about gas. Because it is an exception, we review the prices, including gas prices, almost every year. At this point, the oil exported outside Belarus sells at global prices if we exclude the duty.

Regarding loans, President Putin did not say anything but I must admit that I told him that we do not need more loans. If we can save money thanks to the nuclear power plant for which we received a loan (according to Russia’s practice everywhere in the world), I asked him to give us this saved money as a loan. He agreed to consider it if there were good promising projects for Belarus and Russia. We are happy with this. There is also the loan that my colleague has just mentioned.

Speaking about common currency, I would like you, as journalists, to understand: the question is not whether Putin or Lukashenko are stalling on this process. Remember, we have researched this issue. The Central Bank of Russia and the National Bank of Belarus unanimously asked us not to consider this issue yet. They said that neither they nor our countries were ready. President Putin and I listened and put this issue aside. It does not mean we will never get back to it. Currency is not the problem per se. It does not matter if the value of the dollar, euro or ruble increases, what matters and has always mattered is a common issuing institution. There is a definite problem with this. I think we may be able to solve it even while we are both presidents.

This is the background I wanted to explain.

Vladimir Putin: Regarding a common currency unit, we agree with this, and the President of Belarus has also agreed that it is very important to implement a unified macroeconomic policy. We have taken the first steps in this field. I have already said that the Central Bank of Russia and the National Bank of Belarus should harmonise monetary policy, ensure the integration of payment systems and facilitate information security in the financial sphere. This means that we are moving to address a more difficult and complicated problem.

Alexander Lukashenko: Yes, this is correct.

Vladimir Putin: We need to work gradually. The road maps and these programmes stipulate all this. Consequently, everything will be obvious there. We can see that countries with weaker economies are suffering in the European Union. They could devalue something in a well-known situation, but they are unable to do this because they have no national currency. The euro is a strong currency, and what are they to do? All-out price hikes is the only option fraught with dire social consequences. Therefore we must act very cautiously, analyse the pluses and minuses, the positive aspects of our neighbours and negative examples. We are trying to do this.

You are talking about energy prices. I have said that 1,000 cubic metres cost $650 on the free European market. But the wise-guy members of the European Commission’s previous line-up invented market gas pricing, and the results are here for everyone to see.

And we prefer a different approach. We also stipulate market pricing, and this price is pegged to the crude oil price. No one but market regulates it. But the fluctuations are much less pronounced. But here, someone has failed to pump the required 27 billion cubic metres into underground gas reservoirs, causing a shortage in gas supplies, business activity increased or something else happened, and there you are – gas prices start to exceed the prices of crude oil and petroleum derivatives. So you can see a substantial price hike.

Gazprom does not charge such selling prices under long-term contracts and our pricing principles. Those Europeans who have agreed to sign long-term contracts with us can rub their hands with joy and feel happy because they would otherwise have to pay $650. Gazprom sells gas to Germany for $220; at any rate, this was the case only recently.

Considering rising oil prices considered, this price will still go up, but the process will be more gradual. In reality, Gazprom is interested in this because it also creates a certain safety cushion. There will be no abrupt slump and drop in prices. This is the gist of the matter. Everyone stands to gain from this. Those members of the European Commission who came up with their own ideas have got the desired result.

Question: Mr Lukashenko, Mr Putin,

I have a question about migrants. It is a consequence of the current developments in Afghanistan, which actually concern Belarus as well. The humanitarian crisis in the nearby European region is gaining momentum and growing stronger, but the EU has turned a blind eye to the Polish authorities’ actions towards refugees from Afghanistan and other countries. Instead of helping, they are ousting them, throwing them out of their territory quite harshly, with the use of special equipment. This has little to do with respect for human rights and democratic principles, which the West loves to talk about so much.

The question is whether we can expect Minsk and Moscow to take joint efforts soon to settle this problem.

Alexander Lukashenko: You are providing interesting facts.

Vladimir Putin: My Western colleagues and the leaders of some European countries have called on me to take joint actions, saying that there is a crisis on the Belarusian border with Lithuania and Poland. They are asking me to influence the situation. My answer is very simple: this is no concern of ours; this is not our border. It is the state border of the Republic of Belarus with Lithuania and Poland.

This leads to my first question. In principle, all sides would like to talk directly with the Taliban, even though the movement is on the UN list of designated terrorist groups. Nevertheless, they say that the Taliban is controlling the territory and so we need to talk with them. But President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko did not come to power as a result of a war but by means of a public vote. Whether some people do not like the results of the vote is another matter. So my answer is why talk with us? Talk with the Belarusian authorities instead. Russia has nothing to do with this. This is the first thing that I wanted to say.

Second, many people are indeed asking us to help evacuate the citizens of other countries and even some Afghans from Afghanistan. We are doing this. We are not doing this secretly; we are doing this after coordinating the matter regarding certain groups of citizens with the Taliban. European countries are also talking about the catastrophe underway there, beating their breasts and blaming themselves for leaving their people in the lurch. If this is so, and if some Afghans (or not only Afghans, because all refugees, including Afghans, are being pushed out of European countries) have approached the Belarusian border with Lithuania or Poland, I do not understand the logic. You can accuse Belarus of all kinds of things, but at least screen the refugees and allow the Afghans to stay. Should they be pushed back to Afghanistan? And then they will ask us to help evacuate them from the country, won’t they? There is no logic in that.

I will not provide any political assessment now, but I would like to point out once again that Russia has nothing to do with this, that this is a sovereign concern of Belarus and its neighbours.

Question: May I ask an additional question? What is your personal view on the situation? Do you believe that Belarus has, as the West claims, launched a hybrid war against the EU?

Vladimir Putin: You see, very many sharp statements have been made to this effect. My Belarusian colleague himself is a professional when it comes to sharp statements. You can ask him, and he will tell you.

Alexander Lukashenko: No, I cannot do this in your presence…

Vladimir Putin: No, do not do this, please.

Well, has anyone started a war there? I am not aware of this. The answer is very simple: if you want to clear up a question or a problem, if you really do want this, talk with the Belarusian authorities at any level, I do not know which level it should be, and do settle the problem with the neighbouring state. Where do we come in on this?

Alexander Lukashenko: You know, the President of Russia is being delicate again. We are perfectly aware of the problem, and I have updated him; we discussed it. The EU and others are trying to settle this problem, in part, by making some complaints to the Russian leadership, in particular, my colleague, asking him to influence or pressure Lukashenko, and so on. I am grateful to him for his position, which he puts forth everywhere, that the Belarusian leadership and authorities are there and, as President Putin has said, the problem should be taken up with them. However, they claim that they cannot talk with us because the President [of Belarus] is not legitimate or the authorities are not what they should be. But the Taliban are a different matter, as we say, this is a different story, and so they can talk and communicate with them. Therefore, I am grateful to the President and leadership of Russia for their position. I personally and the authorities of Belarus appreciate this position.

Second, we have overlooked one point. In fact, we have not overlooked it, as journalists in Russia and Belarus know very well. What did Washington say as soon as the acute phase of the US presence in Afghanistan ended? They called on everyone, including Russia and the Central Asian republics, and ordered – yes, ordered – the EU to take in all those who will flee (I am speaking plainly) from Afghanistan. We have recently discussed this issue during an online conference, a videoconference, and we have coordinated a nearly unanimous view on what we should do. Europeans have just rolled over and invited the Afghans in. Take a look at this information; it has happened only recently.

But if you invited them, do take them along no matter where they came from: after all, they have worked for you all this time. There are hundreds of thousand Afghans, who spent 20 years working for those who have fled to their holes. What complaints can there be here against me, or Belarusians, let alone Russia?

But it must be understood that some Afghans and Iraqis – they have also ruined Iraq, as you know, it was not us or Russia, – they are fleeing from Lebanon and Syria and other countries they invaded. These people are fleeing via Russia, via Belarus, or directly to Belarus. This concerns Russia and Belarus most directly. We have not invited them and they are not heading for Belarus: they are crossing via Belarus to countries that have invited them. So, take them, they are your problem. This is our position.

And then, what are you urging us to do? Every day, you introduce new sanctions against us. In terms of sanctions, we are ahead of the Russian Federation by an order of magnitude. Over the past six months they have imposed a lot of sanctions on us. So, is it my duty or that of the Belarusian people to defend them on the border? No! They have wound down all programmes, leaving just a readmission agreement. You know about this. Well now, enjoy the fruit of your policies.

Look at the face they present. I won’t speak straight from the shoulder, although I could. Look at the democratic face they present: they fire at people, they set the dogs on them, they catch migrants in Poland and Lithuania, marshal them into groups and march them across the border to Belarus, shooting above their heads. Thank God, so far they are firing into the air, although there are victims. There are dead bodies that they chuck across the border for us to pick up. This is their democratic face.

This is why I don’t see any reasons for grievances against us. We honestly carried out our mission until they started turning the situation upside down by force and toppling the government. It is up to the Belarusian people to decide whether the government is legitimate or not. We did not meddle in the US elections, when they were shooting people point-blank during the ballot and afterwards. Therefore, they better sort out things at home.

What we have to do as a reliable partner, we will do under all circumstances. If Europe wants to have normal relations with us, we are ready to talk at their earliest opportunity. And we will ask Russia to support us, if necessary, and we will operate jointly. But so far, there is no such need – thank God. If need be, we will join hands in no time and will counteract all the negative trends in the interests of Russians and Belarusians.

Question: Good afternoon. My question is for both leaders.

Today you said a lot about important allied programmes, but the Treaty on the Creation of the Union State was signed over 20 years ago, and as we know, most of those decisions have not been implemented yet. Proceeding from today’s decisions, in your opinion, at what integration stage are Russia and Belarus? And how much closer – if at all – have they come to the implementation of these agreements reached 20 years ago?

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: I believe that we should have started with what we agreed upon today. We need to create an economic base, as I said, the foundation of our relations, and everything else is a political superstructure, as it was said back in the old days.

So we are doing what we have agreed upon today, and then we will be ready to take the next steps. But it is work for the future; we need to monitor the rapidly changing situation. We will see what will happen after the implementation of the programme I have just mentioned. I am sure that we are on the right track.

Alexander Lukashenko: I totally agree with the President of Russia, nothing to add here. That was a short and clear answer to the question.

If you want to dig into the previous agreements, and I am not sure which agreements you mean, we can return to this matter in some other format and see what those agreements were and which of them we did not implement.

The President is right, we have created a base for further progress, and we cannot fail. It could take two hours for both of us to tell you about the mistakes the European Union has made, and we used to model ourselves on it. And look at it now, there are numerous trends leading to destruction. They are openly ctiticising each other already. We do not want to make the same mistakes and the mistakes that were made in our union state, the Soviet Union. We draw conclusions. Time has passed and we could have missed something, and we can dwell on that, but we have returned to the creation of a base. As the President said, without the foundation, it is impossible to build the integration house. We have long abandoned the idea of starting building the house from the roof.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much.

Alexander Lukashenko: Thank you.

—-


Ed Note:  This is currently a machine translation of the 28 points of ‘Union State’ Development and it is here for people to understand the scope of this development.  We have to wait for a formal transcript from Russian to English to avoid miscommunication.  I beg your understanding on this issue.

1. Convergence of macroeconomic policies

An agreement was reached on the synchronization of strategic management in the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus in terms of macroeconomic policy and the formation of official statistical information. Harmonization of the legislation of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus in this area will create a basis for joint support of small and medium-sized businesses, streamline the consideration of situations in the field of insolvency and bankruptcy.

2. Harmonization of monetary policy and macroprudential regulation

An agreement was reached to conclude an agreement between the Central Bank of the Russian Federation and the National Bank of the Republic of Belarus on the principles and mechanisms of monetary policy harmonization by December 2022.

The implementation of the agreement will be aimed at achieving a comparable and consistently low level of inflation, creating similar financial conditions for business entities in both countries.

3. Harmonization of foreign exchange regulation and control

The parties agreed to harmonize the rules for opening bank accounts for residents in non-resident banks, conducting currency transactions, and requirements for the repatriation of foreign currency earnings.

4. Harmonization of information security requirements in the financial sector

The parties agreed to harmonize approaches to ensuring information security, create a mechanism for mutual recognition of audit results in the field of information security, and apply cross-border integrity control and authentication tools in the exchange of electronic information.

5. Harmonization of regulatory norms for credit and non-credit financial institutions, as well as the financial market as a whole, including ensuring the creation of common principles of deposit insurance

The parties agreed to harmonize the regulation of the financial market, in particular leasing organizations and microfinance institutions, as well as mutual access of banking and insurance organizations to the financial markets of the Union State.

6. Harmonization of anti-money laundering and financial terrorism (AML/CFT) requirements for the financial sector

An agreement was reached between the Central Bank of the Russian Federation and the National Bank of the Republic of Belarus on the harmonization of the AML/CFT legislation of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus for the financial sector and the implementation of joint activities in this area.

7. Integration of payment systems in the field of national payment card systems, financial message transmission and settlement systems, implementation of the international financial message standard ISO 20022, fast payment systems, development of financial technologies, harmonized approaches in the field of supervision and monitoring of payment systems

The parties agreed to improve the mechanisms of cross-border exchange of financial information between Russian and Belarusian credit institutions and legal entities, as well as to develop cooperation on fast payments, transfer of financial messages and settlements, supervision of payment service market participants, and development of financial technologies.

8. Harmonization of requirements in the field of protection of the rights of consumers of financial services and investors, as well as prevention of unfair practices in the financial market

The parties agreed to develop proposals for the harmonization of the legislation of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus in order to ensure the provision of an equal amount of protection of rights to consumers of financial services using the same financial services.

9. Integration of information systems of state regulatory bodies on traceability of goods

The parties agreed to synchronize approaches to the functioning of the traceability mechanism, integrate information systems to automate data exchange, which will ensure control over the turnover of goods subject to traceability.

10. Integration of product labeling information systems

The parties agreed to unify approaches to the legal regulation and technical support of mandatory labeling of goods by means of identification, to synchronize the work necessary for mutual recognition of identification tools, in order to ensure unhindered access to the market of labeled goods.

11. Harmonization of tax and customs legislation and cooperation in the customs sphere

In the tax and customs spheres, the parties agreed to conclude international agreements on general principles of taxation for indirect taxes and on deepening cooperation between customs authorities, introduce an integrated system of indirect tax administration of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus, and establish a joint advisory body – the Union State Committee on Tax Issues.

Approaches to maintaining statistics on mutual trade, systems for categorizing participants in foreign economic activity, and the institution of authorized economic operators will be harmonized.

12. Integration of information systems of state regulatory authorities in terms of veterinary and quarantine phytosanitary control

The parties agreed to integrate information systems in order to automate the process of data exchange on issued certificates of quarantine phytosanitary control (supervision). Traceability of controlled goods and quarantined products will be ensured, which will increase the effectiveness of quarantine phytosanitary and veterinary control (supervision) and speed up the movement of goods and vehicles across the state border. The Parties will ensure traceability of all livestock and plant-based products.

13. Integration of transport control information systems of state regulatory bodies

The parties agreed to develop software that will allow the exchange of data on the results of transport control on the territory of the two states, which will increase the transparency and safety of road transport.

14. Unification of transport market regulation

In the field of air transport, equal tariff conditions will be implemented for the provision of airport and air navigation services, as well as restrictions on frequency and unification of airworthiness regulation will be lifted.

In the field of railway transport, it is planned to work out the unification of legislation, including tariff regulation, licensing, organization of passenger and cargo transportation, security, and requirements in the field of labor relations.

In the sphere of water transport, vessels flying the Russian and Belarusian flags are supposed to sail along the internal waterways of the parties according to unified rules.  In the field of road transport, an agreement on transportation on a non- permissive basis will be concluded.

In the field of road management, general norms of legislation will be prepared in terms of classification of roads, requirements for the implementation of road activities, ensuring road safety, placing road service facilities, and carrying out control and supervisory activities.

15. Formation of a unified gas market

The parties agreed to coordinate actions regarding the formation of prices for Russian gas for the Belarusian Side in 2022, as well as to develop principles for the functioning and regulation of the unified gas market of the Union State (by July 2022).

Until December 1, 2023, it is planned to sign an addendum to the Union Program that defines the basic principles of functioning and regulation of the unified gas market, as well as the timing of their implementation, based on the movement towards convergence of business conditions in the gas sector relative to the current level.

16. Formation of unified oil and petroleum products markets

The parties agreed to adopt an international agreement on the unification of the oil and petroleum products markets of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus and the harmonization of national legislation.

17. Formation of the unified electric energy market

The parties agreed to sign an interstate agreement on the formation of a unified electricity market and rules for the functioning of this market, providing for the harmonization of the legislation of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus, and also outlined a trajectory for implementing the principles of deeper integration of the electricity markets of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus.

18. Development of nuclear energy

The parties agreed to ensure the unification of legislation in the areas of operation of nuclear power facilities, regulation of radiation safety, emergency preparedness and response, and management of nuclear fuel and radioactive waste by the end of 2023.

19. Formation of a unified agricultural policy

The parties agreed to implement the convergence of legislation in the field of agriculture in order to increase the volume of mutual trade in agricultural products, remove administrative barriers, ensure food security and joint scientific and technological development of agriculture.

20. Formation of a unified industrial policy

The parties agreed to encourage the development of joint ventures, as well as to implement a unified policy to support production and sales. It provides for the elimination of economic and technical barriers to the production of industrial products in order to increase the transparency of bilateral trade and increase trade turnover.

21. Introduction of uniform rules for access to state orders and public procurements

The parties agreed to harmonize legislation in the field of ensuring equal access to public procurement and public procurement, as well as in the field of regulating state (municipal) procurement. An agreement was reached to use bank guarantees issued by Belarusian banks for public procurement in Russia and eliminate restrictions on access to state (municipal) procurement.

22. Uniform rules for consumer protection

The parties agreed to conclude an intergovernmental agreement on common Rules for consumer protection in the Union State by December 31, 2022.

23. Unified competition rules

The parties agreed to approve common approaches to the formation and implementation of competition rules on the basis of an intergovernmental agreement that will define common competition rules, including the powers of the antimonopoly authority in terms of the possibility of appointing unscheduled inspections and examinations.

24. Unification of requirements for the organization and implementation of trading activities

The parties agreed on the adoption of regulatory legal acts that provide common requirements in the field of trade and public catering regulation, as well as on the harmonization of legislation in this area.

25. Formation of common principles of functioning of the single communications and informatization market

The parties agreed to develop new and update existing intergovernmental, interdepartmental and other agreements in the field of communications and informatization, to unify legislation in the field of postal communications, to build the infrastructure of communication networks, as well as to abolish roaming on the territory of the Union State. It provides for the harmonization of the use of electronic documents and electronic signatures, as well as the provision of public services in electronic form.

26. Unification of accounting regulations and preparation of accounting (financial) statements

The parties agreed to create conditions for the circulation of comparable consolidated financial statements of business entities, to form an information base for expanding foreign economic, investment and business ties, to allow business entities to enter international capital markets, and to provide interested parties with access to the financial statements of business entities.

27. Unification of legislation in the field of tourism activities

The parties agreed on the harmonization of tourism development strategies, norms for the activities of guides and interpreters, and the creation of common rules for informing about the standardization of the quality of hotel services.

Guarantees provided to tourists in the provision of tourist services, requirements for conducting tourist activities in terms of financial responsibility of the tour operator will be unified, and the rights of tourists will be protected if the tour operator cannot fulfill its obligations to provide tourist services.

28. Implementation of a coordinated social and labor policy

The parties agreed to develop common approaches to the harmonization of legislation in terms of labor relations and labor protection, employment, social insurance and pension provision, support for families with children, social services and social support for certain categories of citizens.

At the meeting of the Council of Ministers, the draft Decree of the Supreme State Council of the Union State on approval of the Main directions for implementing the provisions of the Treaty on the Establishment of the Union State for 2021-2023 and Union Programs was approved.

The Heads of Government note that the positive development of the Union State, the strengthening of national economies, and the solution of social tasks vital for the citizens of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus are hindered by the destructive actions of a number of Western states and structures that contradict international law. In this regard, joint actions were agreed in the context of applying illegitimate economic sanctions against the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus.

The Russian and Belarusian sides also note their firm intention not to stop there, but to step up joint efforts to deepen integration processes within the framework of the Union Building process. We will continue to implement all the fundamental provisions of the Treaty on the Establishment of the Union State.

Speech by President of Russia Vladimir Putin at the BRICS summit + New Delhi Declaration

September 10, 2021

Speech by President of Russia Vladimir Putin at the BRICS summit + New Delhi Declaration

The theme of the summit is “BRICS@15: Intra-BRICS cooperation for continuity, consolidation and consensus.”

The summit was attended by President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro, Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, President of China Xi Jinping, and President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa.

The key agreements have been laid down in the New Delhi Declaration.

* * *

Speech by President of Russia Vladimir Putin at the BRICS summit

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Prime Minister Modi, President Xi Jinping, President Ramaphosa, President Bolsonaro,

Ladies and gentlemen,

First, I would like to join my colleagues who spoke before and thank Prime Minister Modi and all our Indian friends for the active work conducted by India as the BRICS chair this year.

Despite the special conditions related to the coronavirus pandemic, India as the chair has done everything it could to ensure the progressive development of strategic partnership of the BRICS countries without any setbacks.

I agree with my colleagues who expressed this opinion that the authority of our association is growing. Its role in international affairs is on the rise and it is substantial. This is a logical result of the BRICS ability to develop effective cooperation in the entire range of topical global and regional issues during 15 years of our joint activities.

Such close partnership of the BRICS countries is greatly in demand, considering that the global situation still remains very turbulent. The risks of the coronavirus pandemic are obvious to all of us, and my colleagues have just spoken about this. This threat has affected practically all aspects of our life, impeding the development of the global economy and exacerbating many social problems.

In addition to this, what is happening around the world remains very tense. Global security is subjected to serious trials and the system of strategic stability has noticeably deteriorated. Far from being settled, long-standing regional conflicts are flaring up with renewed force.

The withdrawal of the US and their allies from Afghanistan has led to a new crisis situation, and it remains unclear how it will affect regional and global security, so it is absolutely right that our countries pay special attention to this issue.

Understandably, just like its BRICS partners, Russia has consistently advocated the establishment of long-awaited peace and stability in Afghanistan, where the people have been fighting for many decades and have earned the right to independently determine what their state will be like.

At the same time, we are not interested in Afghanistan remaining a threat to neighbouring countries or having terrorism and illegal drug trafficking coming from the Afghan territory threaten us. We are interested in stopping the migration flow and we want the Afghans to be able to live a peaceful and dignified life in their own country.

I have mentioned many times that the current round of the crisis in Afghanistan is a direct consequence of irresponsible extraneous attempts to impose someone else’s values on the country and to build “democratic structures” using socio-political engineering techniques, ignoring the historical and national specifics of other nations and the traditions by which they live.

All of that leads to nothing but destabilisation and, ultimately, chaos, after which the masterminds behind these experiments hastily retreat leaving their charges behind. The entire international community then has to face the consequences.

I am convinced that peaceful progress in international relations can be guaranteed only through ensuring the existence of states with different political and social systems, their own national interests and spiritual and moral values, but with mandatory observance of the fundamental principles of international law enshrined in the UN Charter, including non-interference in internal affairs and respect for sovereignty.

It is likewise important to maintain and promote mutually respectful, constructive and meaningful interaction at the global level, to strengthen the emerging multipolar system which comprises independent centres of economic growth and political influence, of which BRICS is, of course, a part.

In this context, we consider very relevant the topic of our meeting and the topic of the entire year in BRICS that was chosen by our Indian partners and the Indian chairmanship which is promoting cooperation on the basis of continuity, consolidation and consensus. In fact, the entire international community is facing this challenge, and five BRICS countries are playing a significant and noticeable role in addressing it.

I hope our work today will be substantive and productive. I would like to emphasise once again that Russia stands ready to continue close interaction with the BRICS countries in all areas.

Thank you.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to questions from MGIMO students and faculty

September 02, 2021

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to questions from MGIMO students and faculty

Ed: This is a wide ranging discussion of international affairs

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to questions from MGIMO students and faculty on the occasion of the beginning of a new academic year, Moscow, September 1, 2021

Friends,

As always, I am delighted to be here on September 1, and not only on this day, of course, since we hold events here at other times of the year as well. But September 1 has special importance, since this is Knowledge Day. First-year students get to feel the university spirit, and meetings like this help us streamline this experience and are sure to benefit students in their studies.

I am certain that you will not regret choosing this university. MGIMO graduates find work in a wide variety of spheres, from public service and research to business and journalism. We are proud that our alma mater has such a great reputation. MGIMO Rector, Anatoly Torkunov, has just shared some enrolment statistics. They are impressive. He said that the minister keeps a close eye on everything going on in this school. But you cannot keep track of everything, and I mean this in a good way. MGIMO University constantly improves its programmes and activity and expands its partnership networks. Today, MGIMO University will sign yet another cooperation agreement, this time with Ivannikov Institute for System Programming. This shows that we always need to be in step with the times. This is the right way to go. The quality of the education that graduates receive at this university is recognised both in Russia and around the world.

I am glad MGIMO University continues to attract international students. This is an important channel for maintaining humanitarian, educational and people-to-people ties. In today’s world these ties have special importance, since at the intergovernmental level our Western colleagues have little appetite for talking to us on equal terms. As you probably know, and I am certain that you have a keen interest in foreign policy, they persist with their demands that we change the way we behave and act the way they view as being correct. This is a dead end. We are open to a frank, constructive, mutually beneficial dialogue, taking into account each other’s interests. It is along these lines that we maintain dialogue and promote cooperation and partnerships with the overwhelming majority of countries around the world. This includes our closest allies and strategic partners – members of the CSTO, CIS, EAEU, SCO and BRICS. We have many reliable friends, almost in all continents interested in promoting mutually beneficial projects that benefit all the participants.

To counter this trend toward a multipolar world, which reflects the cultural and civilisational diversity on this planet, our Western partners seek to maintain their dominant standing in international affairs. They are acting in quite a brash manner making no secret out of the fact that their main objective is to contain their competitors, primarily Russia and China. The documents adopted at the NATO, EU, and US-EU summits over the past months are designed to consolidate the “collective West” in their efforts to counter the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China.

The Indo-Pacific strategies that are openly pursuing the goal (as it has been proclaimed) of containing China have gained currency in the Asia-Pacific region. They are trying to implicate another of our strategic partners, India, in these games. Everyone can see it and everyone understands what it is all about. But those who gave up their sovereignty and joined the ranks of the countries led by the United States and other Western countries are not in a position to utter a word of disagreement.

Truth be told, following the tragic events in Afghanistan and after the United States and its NATO allies had hurriedly left that country, a chorus of voices began to be heard in Europe advocating self-reliance in foreign affairs, especially in matters involving the deployment of armed forces, rather than reliance on directives issued by Washington that it can change in an instant. These are glimpses of something new in the position of the West, in this case, the Europeans.

The second notable aspect highlighted by US President Joe Biden and President of France Emmanuel Macron is as follows: both announced within one or two days of one another that it was time to give up on interfering in other countries’ internal affairs in order to impose Western-style democracy on them.

We welcome such statements. We have long been urging our Western colleagues to learn from the reckless ventures that they have got themselves into in recent decades in Iraq and Libya, and they tried to do the same in Syria. I hope (if the above statements are a true reflection of their hard-won understanding of the matter) that our planet will be a safer place in the future. But all the same, we have to “clear out the rubble” of the past policies. Hundreds of thousands of people, civilians, were impacted or killed during the invasion of Iraq and the attack on Libya. There are lots of problems stemming from the revived international terrorism in the Middle East and North Africa and huge numbers of illegal migrants. The illegal arms trade, drug smuggling and much more are on the rise. All this needs to be “cleared up” by the international community, because it affects almost everyone.

Now that the NATO troops have pulled out from Afghanistan, the most important thing for us is to ensure the security of our allies in Central Asia. First, they are our comrades, including comrades-in-arms, and second, the security of Russia’s southern borders directly depends on this.

I hope that if we act together, we will be able to agree on these external steps that will help create an environment within Afghanistan for forming a truly national leadership. We are working energetically to this end.

We are witnessing two trends in the international arena. On the one hand, it is about the formation of a multipolar and polycentric world. This trend reflects the position of most states around the world. On the other hand, efforts are being made to hold back this objective historical process and to artificially preserve control over everything that is happening in the international arena, including with the use of unscrupulous methods such as unilateral illegal sanctions, competition that is occasionally reminiscent of ultimatums, or changing the rules in the midst of an ongoing project.

The West tends to mention less often (if at all) the term “international law” and calls on everyone to maintain a “rules-based world order.” We have nothing against the rules. After all, the UN Charter is also a set of rules, but they were agreed with all states without exception. They are supported by every country that is a member of this one-of-a-kind organisation with incredible and unmatched legitimacy. The West has different rules in mind. They are creating formats of their own. For example, the US has announced that it will convene a Democracy Summit to create an Alliance of Democracies. Clearly, Washington will be the one to determine who will be invited and who is considered a democracy. By the same token, France and Germany announced an initiative to create an Alliance for Multilateralism, i.e. “multilateralists.” When asked why these issues cannot be discussed at the UN, where multilateralism is at its finest in the modern world, the answer is that the UN is home to “retrogrades” and they want to create an Alliance for Multilateralism based on “advanced” ideas. And the “leaders,” above all the EU, will set the rules for multilateralism, and the rest will have to look up to them. This is a crude description, but it conveys the essence of what they are trying to tell us in so many words.

There are initiatives to create partnerships, including in the areas that were supposed to be discussed at universal platforms long ago. Numerous initiatives appearing in the developing world are also being used for the same purpose. There are attempts to channel them to meet Western interests.

The policy of undermining international law and universal principles sealed in the UN Charter is reflected, to a certain extent, in the efforts to call into doubt the results of World War II. They are aimed at trying to equate the winners in this bloodiest war in human history with those who unleashed it and proclaimed the destruction of whole nations as their goal. These attempts are aimed at undermining our positions in the world. Similar attacks are being made on China’s positions. We cannot give up and remain indifferent on this issue.

Every year, we put forward major initiatives at the UN on the inadmissibility of glorifying Nazism, waging a war against monuments and fuelling any forms of racial discrimination and xenophobia.

The overwhelming majority of states not only support these initiatives but also become their co-authors. In most cases, our Western colleagues bashfully abstain from this. They explain that the appeal to prevent certain trends runs counter to democracy and freedom of speech. In other words, for them the neo-Nazi trends that are obvious in Europe, in part, in the Baltic states and Ukraine, do not amount to a gross violation of the Nuremberg trials verdict but merely reflect a commitment to tolerance and freedom of speech.

I do not think it is necessary to explain in detail the harmful and pernicious nature of such attempts to rewrite history and give the green light to those who want to reproduce misanthropic attitudes in the world arena. I do not believe it is necessary to speak in detail about the need to counter these attitudes with resolve and consistency.

We have a foreign policy course endorsed by President of Russia Vladimir Putin. Its main goal is to ensure the most favourable conditions for national development, security, economic growth and the improvement of the living standards of our citizens. We will consistently translate this course into reality.

We have never striven for confrontation, not to mention isolation. We are open to cooperation with the Western countries if they change their approach and stop acting like teachers who “know everything” and are “above reproach,” treating Russia like a pupil that must do its homework.  It is inappropriate to talk to anyone in this manner, let alone Russia.

Our plans enjoy firm support of our people for the course towards strengthening the sovereignty of the Russian Federation and promoting good, friendly relations with our neighbours and all those who are willing to do this honestly, on an equitable basis.

Question: The question has to do with the changes in modern diplomacy under the influence of new technology. Digital diplomacy is a widespread term today. Technological development adds a fundamentally new dimension to a diplomats’ work, and also leads to a qualitative transformation of the system of international relations. How do you think new technologies will affect energy policy in particular and diplomacy in general?

Sergey Lavrov: I am asked this question every time I speak at Knowledge Day here. Apparently, this reflects the thinking of each new generation of students, about how technology will generally affect the processes concerning state-level problem solving and international relations.

Indeed, digital technologies are rapidly penetrating our lives, even faster in the context of the coronavirus pandemic. Many events, including international events, have transitioned to the online format. There is an upside to this. To a certain extent, it helps to save time, which is becoming a more sparse resource every day, given the aggravating international challenges and problems that our foreign policy tries to resolve.

When it comes to holding official meetings such as the UN Security Council or the UN General Assembly with a pre-agreed agenda where each country wants to express its point of view, such statements are prepared in advance through the efforts of a large number of specialists. The result is a policy document on a specific matter on the international agenda, which then goes through debates in one format or another. I see no problem with participating in this kind of discussion online using digital technology.

There are other international meetings, when something needs to be agreed upon as soon as possible; these meetings can also be held remotely. At least this way is better than a phone call because you can see the other person’s face, and this is very important.

But the most serious issues cannot be resolved online. All my colleagues agree with this. Maybe in the future, humanity will invent a way to convey the feeling of personal contact. But I doubt this will be possible. No machine is capable of replacing a person.

I am confident that conventional diplomacy will retain its importance as the main tool in international affairs. As soon as a serious problem arises, it is imperative to meet and try to negotiate.

Question: Will the autumn 2021 elections to the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation impact Russia’s foreign policy in the international arena?

Sergey Lavrov: A good question. Elections in our country actually begin in a little more than a fortnight. Even now Western colleagues make it clear that they are set to cast discredit on them. Various political scientists are publishing articles and making speeches aimed at preparing public opinion in the direction of the narrative that the elections results will be rigged.

We regularly invite international observers to our national elections. This year, around 200 observers will come to us as well, including those from international organisations. The only one of them who arrogantly declined the invitation was the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). We told them they could send a group of 60 observers. This is the largest group we invite from abroad. They said they wanted 500. When you are being invited to visit someone, you do not demand gifts for yourself instead of showing respect towards the hosts. OSCE does not have a rule under which ODIHR must dictate election monitoring provisions. All the countries have only one obligation there – to invite international observers to elections. It is not even written down that they should be from OSCE. They may be from anywhere you like. We do it regularly and meet our obligations in full. This is an example of how international law (and this principle is prescribed at OSCE, I mean that all issues must be solved by consensus) is being replaced by “rules.” This Office itself made up a rule, along the same lines the West operates, by demanding that its own “rules” must be obeyed.

However important international observers might be, we will also have our own observers. Their number is immense. The voting will be streamed live in full. Our Central Electoral Board provides detailed coverage of this and other innovations being introduced. We are taking steps to ensure maximum transparency of voting at our embassies and general consulates. As always, we are making arrangements so that it is possible for our citizens abroad to cast their vote and fulfil their election right.

With all the importance of international observers, it is ultimately our citizens who will take a decision on how we will live on and with which members our parliament will draft new laws. Those who are going to objectively figure out developments in the Russia Federation are always welcome. As to those who have already passed a judgement, let them bear the shame.

Question: I know that poetry and art are among your hobbies. How can we make Russian literature and cinema more effective as a soft power tool abroad?

Sergey Lavrov: There is only one way, and that is to promote these works in other countries’ markets. This policy was vigorously pursued in the Soviet Union. That was a useful experience for the international film and literary community as well. I believe we are renewing these traditions now. I do not know about literary exhibitions, I just do not think I have seen a lot of information on this, but many film festivals recognise the work of our directors, actors and producers. A number of Russian films are highly valued in Cannes and in Karlovy Vary. We must continue to do this.

Question: Does Russia have effective and proportionate methods of fighting manifestations of Russophobia, oppression of Russians, persecution against the Russian language and the Russian world in certain countries?

Sergey Lavrov: This is a difficult question, given the recent manifestations of inappropriate attitudes towards ethnic Russians in a number of countries, including some of our neighbours. This topic has several dimensions to it. The most important point is that the government of a country where our citizens are subjected to some kind of discriminatory influence must firmly oppose such manifestations and take steps to prevent them. This is important, not only because they attack Russians or our other compatriots, but also because it’s required by international conventions, the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and many other documents that are universal and approved by everyone.

In Russia, too, we have seen situations recently where some migrant labourers were at odds with other labour migrants. This is also a problem because Russia needs migrant labourers. We are trying to make immigration as clear, transparent and legitimate as possible. We negotiate with the countries they come from for long-term employment (mostly the Central Asian countries) and agree on special courses for potential migrants that make sure they speak minimal Russian and are familiar with Russian customs, our laws, and that they are planning to behave in a way that is appropriate for being hired in the Russian Federation. This is important for our economy. Without migrant labourers, many Russian industries are now experiencing a significant shortage of personnel.

It is also important to keep in mind that these countries are our allies. We, as allies, must support each other; one way to do so is to ensure an appropriate environment for citizens who represent a different ethnic group.

We have a huge number of ethnic groups living in Russia. Russia is a record holder in multi-ethnicity. All this cultural and religious diversity has always made our country strong, providing the solid foundation on which we stand. We have never tried to destroy the traditions, cultures or languages ​​of any peoples that have lived here since the Russian Empire, then the Soviet Union and now the Russian Federation. We have always supported their languages, cultures, and customs.

Another factor that must be taken into account is the basic quality of life for each and every citizen. We pursue a most open policy. We will make every effort to ensure that our neighbours or other countries where our compatriots live or work fully comply with their international obligations. The fight against discrimination must use political methods based on respect for international commitments.

Question: Do conditions exist for economic and investment cooperation with Japan on the Kuril Islands?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, they do, of course. It is even more than that. We made a relevant proposal to our Japanese colleagues a long time ago. When, several years ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with the Japanese Prime Minister at the time, Shinzo Abe, we came up with an initiative to engage in joint economic activity on these islands. Our Japanese neighbours agreed to this proposal after a while, but decided to confine our cooperation to relatively unsophisticated areas, like aquaculture and waste treatment. These things are important but they are of no strategic significance. We offered them cooperation in any industry of their choice on the southern Kuril Islands and this has been stated repeatedly in the correspondence with our Japanese colleagues. However, the Japanese are seeking to secure a deal with us that would allow them to engage in economic activity and invest money [in the area], not in compliance with Russian law, but rather on the basis of an agreement that provides for another jurisdiction – not that of the Russian Federation. Under this jurisdiction, Russian and Japanese representatives in a certain administrative body would enjoy equal rights, meaning that some hybrid laws would be introduced. This cannot be done under our Constitution.

Regretfully, our Japanese friends are missing out on the opportunity to invest money with us for our mutual benefit. Nonetheless, we have good plans. Soon, new privileges will be announced for our foreign partners who agree to work with us in this part of the Russian Federation. I believe there will be practical interest in this.

Question: In one of your interviews you said (and I fully agree) that modern Western-style liberal democracies have run their course. How will nation states evolve going forward? What forms of state organisation hold the most promise? What should we be striving for?

The UN is plagued by many problems, ranging from Greta Thunberg to agreements that are not being acted upon, such as, for instance, the Paris Agreement. What can be done to turn this deplorable trend around? What laws need to be adopted? What kind of organisations must be created? What does Russia think about this?

Sergey Lavrov: I briefly touched on this matter in my opening remarks. I believe each state should be structured around its customs and traditions and be comfortable for its residents who will have children, grandchildren, etc. It appears that they have promised to stop trying to impose democracy on other countries. At least, President Biden and President Macron said this almost simultaneously. We’ll see how they deliver on their promises.

Each country should take care of its own affairs independently. Everyone now agrees that imposing a Western system on Afghanistan was a grave mistake. Afghanistan has always been a fairly decentralised country where clan-based and other bonds, as well as relations between different ethnic groups, have always played a major role. And Kabul usually balanced out these relations. Saying that tomorrow you will have elections and everyone should go and cast their vote to elect a president who will have certain powers – it was not the Afghans who came up with this idea. It was imposed on them and the ones who did it hurt themselves badly. I hope the promises not to impose democracy on anyone else will be kept.

With regard to environmental protection, the Paris Agreement can hardly be described as a treaty that is not being acted upon. It was based on the fundamental principle that included the need to reduce carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions, but each country was supposed to assume commitments of its own. Preparations for another conference of the parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which will take place in Glasgow this autumn, are underway.

As part of this process, the most important thing is to agree on variables that will meet the interests of each participant. The proposal of several Western countries to stop using coal-fired power generation starting literally today cannot be complied with by many countries, including several Western countries, simply because this would undermine their energy security. The same applies to large developing countries, including China and India. They are reluctant to stop their growth. They are making it clear to the West that the Western countries have attained their current level of development due to intensive use of natural resources, which gave rise to the greenhouse effect, and now the West wants large developing countries to skip their current phase of development and go straight to a post-carbon economy. It doesn’t work that way, they say. First, they need to complete the economic development of their respective states, which is a complex process that involves the interests of each state. An attempt to balance these interests is being undertaken in the course of preparations for the next conference of the parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

We made a commitment that by 2030 we would have 70 percent of the 1990 level when the countdown began under the UN Climate Convention. It is unlikely that anyone would have complaints with regard to us. President Vladimir Putin has made clear more than once that we must be extremely careful with regard to everything that is happening. The fact that Russia’s Arctic zone, which is mainly permafrost, is warming up much faster than the rest of the planet is worrisome. This matter is being carefully addressed by several of our ministries, and it is a concern for all of our Government.

Question: Can environmental issues motivate the world powers tо unite against a background of general discord? What is the potential for green diplomacy?

Sergey Lavrov: Environmental protection and concern for the planet’s climate must become a motive for pooling our efforts. It is hard to say now to what extent the world powers will manage to achieve this.

Let me repeat that the developing nations are strongly inclined to use their opportunities for the current stage of their development before assuming the commitments promoted by their Western colleagues. Many interests come together here. Our global interest lies in the health of the planet and the survival of humanity. However, every country has its own national assessment of the current situation and the commitments to their people. It is a complicated matter, but there is no doubt that this is a challenge that must prompt all of us to come together. We stand for pooling our efforts.

Question: Can the Russian Federation “enforce Ukraine to peace” under the Minsk Agreements?

Sergey Lavrov: The Minsk Agreements do not envisage any enforcement. They have been voluntarily approved, signed and unanimously endorsed by the UN Security Council, thereby becoming international law. When Ukraine as a state, both under Petr Poroshenko and Vladimir Zelensky, is doing all it can to avoid fulfilling these agreements, we must point this out to those who compiled them with us. I am primarily referring to Germany, France and other Western countries that are going all-out to justify the Kiev regime. When I say that it is trying to avoid fulfilling these agreements, I am referring to many laws that actually prohibit the Russian language, the transfer of special authority to the territories that have proclaimed themselves the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics and the efforts to harmonise the parameters of local elections in them. These are the basics of the Minsk Agreements.

Recently, German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Moscow. This issue was raised at her talks with President of Russia Vladimir Putin. We showed our German colleagues the legal bans that Mr Zelensky adopted himself to justify his complete inability to fulfil what is required by all states in the world. All countries without exception believe that there is no alternative to the Minsk Agreements for settling the crisis in Donbass. Our Ukrainian colleagues are true prestidigitators. At one time, they believed that Rus was the true name of Ukraine (our ministry has already replied to this, so I will not repeat it). Later they said that the conversion of Rus was a Ukrainian holiday. This is sad. Mr Zelensky claims that Russian gas is the dirtiest in the world. He is doing this not because he is particularly bright but because he wants to maintain and fuel his Russophobic rhetoric and actions to prompt the West to continue supporting Kiev.

Ukraine continues to exploit the obvious efforts of the West to unbalance and destabilise Russia, sidetrack it from resolving its vital problems and make our foreign policy less effective. The Ukrainian regime is exploiting all this. This is clear to everyone. Having placed its bets on Kiev, the West feels uncomfortable about giving up on them. But this approach has obviously failed. The realisation of this fact is coming up but has not yet been embodied in practical steps aimed at convincing or, to use your expression, “enforcing” anything. It is the West that must enforce compliance from its client.

Question: How do you see yourself as a State Duma deputy, something you may soon be? Do you have proposals or ideas to offer? Perhaps, you have specific initiatives to promote our relations with Armenia or Georgia?

Sergey Lavrov: I will not speculate on the outcome of the elections to the State Duma.

We deal with our relations with Armenia and Georgia as Foreign Ministry officials. Armenia is our ally. New Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan was just in Moscow, on August 31. We had a good discussion. Our bilateral agenda is quite fulfilling and includes mutual visits, major projects and expanded economic cooperation. All of that is unfolding in a very intensive and confident manner.

There is the Nagorno-Karabakh problem, and Russia has played a decisive role in bringing a solution to it. The President of Russia, the President of Azerbaijan and the Prime Minister of Armenia signed agreements on November 9, 2020 (on ceasing hostilities and developing cooperation in this region) and on January 11. These agreements include specific actions that follow up on our leaders’ proposals to unblock all transport lines and economic ties. This is not a one-day project. It is underway, and the leaders of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan are closely following it. Our military personnel in the Russian peacekeeping contingent in Nagorno-Karabakh work daily on the ground to reduce tensions and build trust. The border guards are helping their Armenian allies sort out issues with their Azerbaijani neighbours.

Relations with Georgia are almost non-existent. There is a Section of Russia’s Interests in Georgia and a Section of Georgia’s Interests in Russia. There is trade, which is quite significant. Russia is one of Georgia’s leading trade partners. Our people love to go to Georgia (I myself love the country). There are no official interstate or diplomatic relations; they were severed at Tbilisi’s initiative. We have offered to resume them more than once. We planned to reciprocate to our Georgian neighbour when they introduced visa-free travel for our citizens. At first, we followed closely the developments as they were unfolding. We are not banning anyone from going to Georgia. In 2019, we were also willing to announce visa-free travel for Georgian citizens, but an unpleasant incident occurred with gross provocations against the Russian parliamentary delegation, which arrived in Tbilisi for a meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of Orthodoxy. Our deputy was the assembly chairman. In a conference room in Georgia, the Georgian hosts offered him the chair of the chairman of the parliament themselves. Then, immediately, a group of thugs came in the room demanding that Russia stop interfering in Georgia’s internal affairs and stop “occupying” their parliament. It even came to fisticuffs. With no apologies coming our way, we held back introducing visa-free travel for Georgian citizens and put our decision to resume regular flights on hold. We were ready to go ahead with it. If Georgia really doesn’t want to “play the Russian card” in an effort to retain Western protection, but instead prefers to have good relations with us as a neighbour, we will respond at any time.

Question: What qualities do you think a diplomat’s wife might need? What rules of etiquette she should observe?

Sergey Lavrov: There are no special rules here. A wife and a husband should both understand each other. Rather than obstructing the other, they should help each other carry out the ideas they have decided to devote their lives to and also achieve self-fulfillment in their professions. There is no universal advice.

When I was a rank-and-file diplomat, I worked with some top officials, whose wives had different “styles” – this occurs sometimes. In both cases, this proved to be effective and useful in our work. If a wife has a profession, her husband should also have respect for it. When a woman, regardless of whether she is the wife of an ambassador or a diplomat in a lower position, goes to a country which her husband has been posted to but where she cannot realise her professional potential, this can be a serious problem, which has to be addressed. In this situation, each family decides on its own whether the spouses go together or each of them keeps his or her job and tries to travel as often as possible to see the other. This is life; it doesn’t necessarily fit into a particular pattern.

Question: I believe the man himself comes first – Sergey Lavrov – and only then there is the Russian Foreign Minister. I like to look at politics through the prism of humaneness. What is your favourite song, the one you listen to and feel happy?

Sergey Lavrov: There are many. I will not give examples. The list is long. I do not want to leave anyone out. These are mostly songs by singer-poets. I enjoy listening to them whenever I have the chance, say, in my car or when I meet with my friends.

Question: I have a question about Russia’s relations with the Eastern European countries, given the complexity of regulating relations in this region since World War II, not to mention after the USSR’s collapse. How will they develop in the near future?

Sergey Lavrov: If a particular country has a government concerned about national interests, projects that meet the needs of its population, economic growth, and a search for partners that will help it resolve these problems in the best way, Russia has no problems in relations with any Central or East European country or any other country in the world.

We have close ties with Hungary and it is being criticised for this. In the European Union, Hungary and Poland are reprimanded for not obeying the EU’s general standards and principles. Thus, they hold referendums calling into doubt LGBT rights. Recently, Hungary held a referendum on the same law as Russia did. This law does not prohibit anything but imposes administrative liability for promoting LGBT ideology among minors. Nothing else. I think this is the right thing to do. In addition to major economic projects (nuclear power plants, and railway carriage production for Egypt), we have many other undertakings and good humanitarian cooperation.

Together with Armenia and the Vatican in the OSCE and the UN Human Rights Council, Russia and Hungary are acting as the driver in protecting the rights of Christians, including in the Middle East where Christians are seriously harassed. Hungary is not embarrassed about its Christian roots (incidentally, nor is Poland ashamed of its past and present). When they start talking about the need to raise their voice in defence of Christians, other European countries say that this is not quite politically correct.

In the OSCE, we suggested adopting a declaration against Christianophobia and Islamophobia, because it has already passed a declaration on anti-Semitism. However, these proposals are getting nowhere. Seven years ago, the West promised to adopt them but so far the OSCE countries have failed to adopt a common position on banning both Christianophobia and Islamophobia.

Regarding other East European countries, we have good relations with Slovenia. In particular, we are both working to preserve our common memory, including the bloody events of WWI and WWII. People in Slovenia care a lot about war memorials. Recently, they established a new monument devoted to all Russian soldiers who perished in both world wars. Our economic cooperation is in good shape.

We are implementing economic projects with other Eastern European countries, for instance, with Slovakia. We have considered many ideas about projects with the Czech Republic, but in the past few months it has decided to take a more Russophobic attitude and adopt overtly discriminatory decisions, like banning Rosatom from a tender on building a new nuclear power plant unit. It justified its policy with allegations that have never been proved by anyone. It blamed us for detonating some arms depots in 2014. Even many people in the Czech Republic consider this far-fetched.

However, the allegations remain. We are used to being accused of all kinds of “sins” without any evidence. This happened during the so-called poisoning of the Skripals and Alexey Navalny, and the investigation of the Malaysia Airlines crash in Donbass in July 2014. As in many other cases, these accusations are not buttressed by anything. Our requests to present facts are ignored or qualified as “classified.” Or we are told someone has “prohibited” to transmit information or some other excuse. This position is not serious. It reflects the Western approach to fueling Russophobic tensions without grounds.

Question: Do you think that we can describe the meeting between President of Russia Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden in Switzerland as the beginning of a relative normalisation of relations between the two countries?

Sergey Lavrov: Holding a meeting is better than having no contact at all. No breakthroughs occurred, but there was a mutually respectful conversation, on an equal footing, without any grievances expressed to either side.  The dialogue was permeated with the awareness of responsibility that the two biggest nuclear powers had for the state of affairs in the world. The presidents paid attention to the need to intensify bilateral contacts, particularly in the interests of stakeholders in the business community. But the main focus was on the international agenda.

The United States withdrew from the Treaty on Open Skies (TOS) just a few months before the meeting and from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) in 2019.   This has created a background for the fading of the international arms reduction and control agenda. When Joe Biden took office, he promptly responded to the proposal (which was made way back to the Trump administration but remained unanswered for a couple of years) on the need to extend the New START Treaty without any preconditions. We have managed to preserve at least this element of the arms control architecture for the next five years.

This was the context for the presidents’ meeting in Geneva. The main positive result of the meeting is that the two leaders reaffirmed the position that there can be no winners in a nuclear war and therefore it must never be unleashed. A statement to this effect was made a long time ago by the USSR and the USA. We suggested that the United States confirm this axiom. The previous administration evaded this, but Joe Biden accepted the proposal.

Within the same statement that spoke about the inadmissibility of unleashing a nuclear war, the two presidents outlined an instruction to start a dialogue on matters of strategic stability.  The first tentative meeting took place in July of this year. The second one is scheduled for September. At this stage, the parties’ positions are far apart, but the fact that the dialogue is under way gives hope for the coordination of a basis for further specific talks on arms limitation.   These are our short-term objectives.

They also talked in general terms about the need to establish a dialogue on cyber security. This is yet another topic on which we were unable to reach out to Washington for several years. Vladimir Putin’s official statement was dedicated to the initiatives on ensuring a transparent dialogue based on trust and facts on cyber security in Russian-American relations. Contacts of this kind are being prepared as well. There are reasons to believe that we will reduce international tension just a little in some areas. But this does not abolish the fact that the United States continues to see the containment of Russia and China as one of its main tasks, as well as the encouragement of measures that may be instrumental in having an irritating effect on us.

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