Aoun’s trip to Qatar cannot change Lebanon’s fortunes; for that, he must look further east

December 05 2021

Lebanese President Michel Aoun’s trip to Qatar for help can only be a placebo for his country’s woes. To jumpstart Lebanon’s recovery, he needs to be prepared to realign with new regional actors.

Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun heads to Doha to seek urgent help from Qatar’s Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. But Qatar can provide little compared to three other Asian powers.Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Giorgio Cafiero

The crisis in Lebanon goes from bad to worse. Rolling blackouts and soaring gas prices are just some of the ordeals people face day to day. They are buying less meat while pleading with family and friends abroad to send them medicine. Much of Lebanon’s middle class has sunk into poverty. The Lebanese Lira has lost nearly all value while health crises continue to plague the country. And as the crisis grows beyond all expectations, so does public anger.

It is within this context that Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun paid a visit to Qatar on 29 November. While in Doha, Aoun met with Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to discuss Lebanon’s internal crises, as well as the diplomatic row between Beirut and four of Qatar’s fellow Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members – Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The dispute erupted in October after a Qatari news program aired comments made by Lebanon’s former Information Minister George Kordahi, criticizing the Saudi-led invasion of Yemen.

After weeks of undue pressure from Riyadh, which at times was described as tantamount to a war declaration, Kordahi was ultimately forced to resign on 3 December.

For his part Aoun, one of Hezbollah’s political allies, said he wanted Beirut’s relationship with Riyadh to improve significantly. The president of Lebanon and the emir of Qatar have both said that Arab nations need to stand by Lebanon and “overcome any flaws that might face these relations.”

What can Qatar do for Lebanon?

At this juncture questions remain about how much the Lebanese can count on Qatar for help. Doha will likely provide some form of aid, but this kind of assistance or investments are unlikely to generate much change in the Levantine nation. And while the Qataris may be able to ease some friction between Beirut and its GCC partners, it is far from clear if any Qatari mediation can help loosen the Saudi chokehold on Lebanon.

Ryan Bohl, a West Asia analyst at risk consultancy agency Stratfor/Rane, told The Cradle that Aoun’s trip to Doha could open the doors for Lebanon to receive “some humanitarian aid, especially as Qatar looks to keep its human rights defender reputation ahead of the World Cup in 2022.”

Nonetheless, Bohl also believes that there are significant limits to what Lebanon can expect from Qatar at this point. “Doha knows that Lebanon is a financial black hole, and so boosting Lebanon’s currency reserves or providing any other aid beyond humanitarian support is unlikely.”

What has become readily apparent is that GCC states have given up on Lebanon in many respects. And while Doha remains determined to assert some degree of influence through their unique history of building networks in the country, the Qataris are fully aware that Lebanon has undergone changes that make it less important to Gulf monarchies.

“[Although Doha] might agree to pay salaries of certain state employees, or [members of] the military, or potentially put some money into the central bank like the Qataris have done before, it’s unlikely to be a major investment that’s going to turn things around for Lebanon,” Dr. Andreas Krieg, assistant professor at the School of Security Studies at King’s College London, told The Cradle.

“The Qataris are aware that there are issues of corruption [in Beirut]. You’re unlikely to get very good returns on your investments,” Dr. Krieg pointed out.

As far as the diplomatic crisis goes, Qatari officials are looking to mediate between Beirut and the rest of the GCC states in an attempt to have all sides reach a consensual position to restore working relations.

This is a role Doha has been trying to play since the Saudis took it upon themselves to create a rift between its closest GCC allies and crisis-hit Lebanon.

Dr. Krieg also explained how, despite going on record to condemn the comments made by Lebanon’s former Information Minister, the Qataris also took it upon themselves to resolve the row.

“The Qataris very early on went to the Saudis and other GCC partners saying ‘we’re happy to mediate [and try] to find a solution to this,’” Dr. Krieg explains. “They received tacit approval from the Saudis to do that. So, the foreign minister was supposed to go to Lebanon. In the end he didn’t. But I think with the Lebanese president coming to Doha, this is also part of that [Qatari effort] to find a way to explore opportunities for a mediation process.”

According to West Asian analyst Ryan Bohl, Doha’s attempt to dial down the tensions “would once again serve Qatar’s ambition of being a diplomatic powerhouse and mediator as well as a humanitarian facilitator.”

But mediation by Qatar might prove unmanageable considering the firm stance Saudi Arabia and the UAE have taken against Hezbollah, as they consider the resistance group to represent Iran’s influence inside Lebanon. The clear trend among Gulf nations to withdraw resources and energy from Lebanon is not one anyone expects Qatar to reverse.

Saudi influence in Lebanon has been declining for quite some time. Nonetheless, it’s safe to conclude that neither Qatar nor any other GCC member seeks to take over Riyadh’s historic role in Lebanon. “Qatar is neither interested in a proxy struggle with Iran nor … in taking up that role of throwing good money after bad in Beirut,” Bohl says.

Yet Doha is not without experience or networks in Lebanon. Back in the 2000s, the Qataris were involved in the reconstruction of southern Lebanon and took part in mediation efforts between Hezbollah and the Lebanese government.

Today, Doha could build on those networks which position it as a Gulf state with a non-sectarian agenda in the Levantine nation and which has working relations with all major communities in Lebanon.

Lebanon’s bleak situation atop the rift between Beirut and four GCC states offer Doha an opportunity to assert further influence in the country.

Looking east, toward rising economies

Lebanon, in its current form, will likely experience a future where neither western nor GCC states are going to be willing to help with its crises. It might therefore be easy to imagine influential Lebanese figures joining Hassan Nasrallah in the belief that Lebanon must pivot to Chinese and Russian orbits of influence.

Tehran’s influence in Beirut is not a factor that would deter either Beijing or Moscow from assisting Lebanon. This constitutes a major contrast to western powers and most GCC states which consider any influence from Iran in the Mediterranean country a serious issue, a fact made evident by how much Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign harmed the Lebanese economy.

A Lebanon that looks towards the east could therefore complicate its relations with western governments. To be sure, if Lebanon does move closer to China, the country will not only remain a hotspot in the Iranian­–Saudi rivalry, but could also become an arena where the friction between Beijing and western powers plays out in increasingly tense ways.

Over recent years China has deepened its influence in numerous West Asian states, such as the UAE, and even in Israel, by developing their networks and strengthening ties in ways that alarm Washington.

Beijing’s incursion into Lebanon and its image as a possible savior could result in weakening US–Lebanon ties. Washington’s ambassador to Beirut Dorothy Shea has already warned of consequences if Beirut turns to China for investment relief, saying such a move could come “at the expense of the country’s prosperity, stability or fiscal viability or its long-standing relations with the United States.”

Doubtless, China is likely to find ways to benefit from a deeper partnership with Lebanon, especially in light of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). This mega-infrastructure project alone has officials in western governments questioning whether Lebanon can remain what the Foreign Policy columnist Anchal Vohra recently described as “an outpost of Western values and influence in [West Asia].”

Russia is also an essential element of the ‘look east’ approach supported by Hezbollah and others in Lebanon. However, the Russians have far less economic influence in Lebanon compared to the Chinese, which remains the country’s largest trading partner, even prior to the economic crisis.

Yet Moscow remains important to Lebanon in matters of diplomacy, energy, and mainly security, given the Kremlin’s ongoing military presence in neighboring Syria.

Mindful of Washington’s crippling sanctions against the Syrian government and certain actors in Lebanon, Russian companies, many of which are also sanctioned by the US, have much experience operating in the so-called ‘gray sphere.’ This means Russian firms might possess unique advantages that Lebanese businesses and individuals would find appealing, particularly in their ability to circumvent sanctions for trade and transactions involving Syria.

Looking ahead, a Lebanon that moves closer to China and Russia could create a new period of uncertainty for Beirut as it finds new footholds in an increasingly multipolar world.

The risks and rewards of such a pivot to the east are likely to remain the source of debate for many in Lebanon who are looking for help from any country willing to assist it during a crisis that has been described as the worst of the modern era.

Ultimately, while Aoun’s latest trip abroad was to Doha, many Lebanese may be holding on to hope that his next one will be either to Beijing or Moscow.The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

Lukashenko’s Russian Nuke Proposal Should Prompt NATO To Finally Pay Attention

2 DECEMBER 2021

Lukashenko’s proposal should hopefully prompt NATO to finally pay attention to Russia’s legitimate security concerns. The bloc cannot continue expanding eastward in violation of the oral obligations that it made to Moscow at the end of the Old Cold War not to advance past the then-recently reunified German frontier.

Belarusian President Lukashenko earlier said that he’d allow Russia to place nuclear weapons on his country’s territory if NATO moved their own into Poland or elsewhere near his state’s borders. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov elaborated that this was said in reaction to the West’s “reckless policy” of countenancing the placement of such strategic arms in that part of Europe. This isn’t mere speculation either but was suggested by NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg in response to the possibility of Germany’s new coalition government requesting that the American ones that it currently hosts be withdrawn. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov added that “our Western colleagues should stop and think of their own actions” after the security scandal that Stoltenberg provoked.

Lukashenko’s proposal should hopefully prompt NATO to finally pay attention to Russia’s legitimate security concerns. The bloc cannot continue expanding eastward in violation of the oral obligations that it made to Moscow at the end of the Old Cold War not to advance past the then-recently reunified German frontier. President Putin, being the constructive and pragmatic leader that he is, suggested that some kind of deal might be brokered with NATO sometime in the future in order to ensure this. His announcement is consistent with the author’s prediction that the upcoming Biden-Putin Summit (which will most likely be a virtual one) will largely focus on Eastern Europe. It would also align with both Great Power’s ongoing efforts to responsibly regulate their rivalry, which began during last summer’s summit.

The greatest challenge in this respect is the subversive role being played by Poland, Ukraine, and the Baltic States. These five countries feel that their interests are being “sacrificed” for the sake of reaching a “new normal” between Russia and the US-led West. As evidence of this, they point to the US’ waiver of most Nord Stream II sanctions earlier in the year and what they claim is the comparatively blind eye that Washington is turning towards what they describe as Moscow’s so-called “hybrid warfare” against them through the ongoing Eastern European Migrant Crisis. It must be remembered, however, that Nord Stream II is a completely apolitical energy project while the second-mentioned issue owes its origins to the US-led West’s wars against majority-Muslim countries and its anti-Belarusian sanctions.

Coupled with Kiev’s false fearmongering about a supposedly inevitable “Russian invasion”, which is being amplified by those anti-Russian elements of the American “deep state” (permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies) which also want to sabotage any incipient Russian-US rapprochement, the end effect has been that tensions have unprecedentedly spiked in the region. While it’s extremely unlikely that Russia will initiate any hostilities in Ukraine, it’s much more probable that Kiev might be encouraged by anti-Russian US “deep state” elements and its regional partners to launch an “Operation Storm”-like ethnic cleansing campaign in Donbass in order to prompt a Russian response.

Chaos In Eastern Europe Doesn’t Serve Putin’s Interests Unlike What CNN Claims”, the author noted late last month, yet there’s no denying that there are powerful forces that are manipulating perceptions in order to make it seem otherwise as part of their subversive goal that was just described. These same forces would like nothing more than for the US to transfer its nukes from Germany to Poland in order to indefinitely put an end to Washington’s ongoing negotiations with Moscow aimed at responsibly regulating their rivalry. Should Poland and its regional allies succeed in exacerbating regional tensions to the point of provoking another Russian-US crisis, then the strategic situation will worsen for everyone.

By contrast, if they fail in their respective efforts, then the strategic situation will improve for everyone. This includes those five countries too, which are regrettably too blinded by delusions influenced by their “negative nationalism” vis-à-vis Russia to realize that everyone would be better off if Russia and the US agreed to a “new normal” for responsibly regulating their rivalry. It was against this increasingly tense context that Lukashenko proposed hosting Russian nukes in response to the possibility of Poland first doing the same with the US’. Ryabkov clarified that “We are not going in this direction”, yet Russia nevertheless could in theory should the worst-case scenario transpire. Hopefully NATO will finally pay attention to Russia’s legitimate security concerns after Lukashenko’s remark so that doesn’t happen.

By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

GEOFOR interviews The Saker: Will Kiev decide on an open armed conflict?

December 05, 2021

Note: in late November I was interviewed by the Russian website Geofor.  Here is the English language translation of this interview.

GEOFOR: Mr. Raevsky, no sooner have the American warships left the Black Sea than the British went in there. Apparently, “unscheduled exercises” of NATO ships and Ukrainian watercraft are about to commence, again. Again, near the maritime borders of the Russian Federation. Moreover, a couple of American military boats were delivered to Odessa (although, politely speaking, not quite new). As a military analyst with experience in intelligence, how do you assess the degree of threats from this incessant demonstration of force in terms of the possibility of provoking a military conflict with far-reaching consequences?

Andrei Raevsky: From a military point of view, I assess the degree of direct threat from these forces as zero. Firstly, any ship that enters the waters of the Black Sea can be instantly destroyed by a number of Russian coastal defense systems and/or the Russian Aerospace Forces. So, the degree of threat from them is zero. Secondly, they are equipped with  rather outdated Tomahawk missiles. They have a relatively low flight speed, and they do not pose a great threat to Russian air defense systems.

On the other hand, there is an indirect threat from these NATO ships. And very serious. They are nudging Ukrainians in the same way as in 2008 they nudged Saakashvili in Georgia. They give Kiev a mistaken feeling being under an umbrella, under the protection of the US Navy or, say, NATO bomber planes, which is a complete deception and delusion, but this is the real danger.

GEOFOR: Does Russia have the ability to protect itself if it comes to launching Tomahawks? And how is this perceived in Pentagon and NATO headquarters? In the same context: what, in your opinion, is behind the decision of the Russian president to reject the Ministry of Defense’s offer to hold its unscheduled exercises on the Black Sea simultaneously with the United States and NATO? How will it be perceived in the Washington military-political establishment – as confidence in the capabilities of the Russian military to respond adequately to provocative actions or, as a desire not to take a potentially dangerous situation to the extreme?

Andrei Raevsky: Yes, of course, Russia can defend itself. As I just said, these are relatively slow and outdated cruise missiles, which do not pose a great danger to the multi-layered integrated air defense of the Crimea and the South of Russia and the entire Southern Military District of the Russian Federation. You can remember what the US missile strike on Syria was like, where most of them [Tomahawks] were shot down not by the Russian contingent in Syria – this is very important to emphasize – but by the Syrians with their relatively simpler air defense system.

Thus. I don’t think that all these Tomahawks threaten Russia very much.

I will also add that if the United States and NATO wanted to hit Russia with Tomahawks, it would be better for them to get out of the Black Sea and go to the Mediterranean Sea and move away to the maximum distance – just so as not to be instantly sunk.

Putin’s decision not to conduct simultaneous maneuvers in the Black Sea, in my opinion, is absolutely reasonable.

In Washington, this is likely to make an impression, in a certain sense, of a staged scene: Shoigu says: “I am ready”,  and Putin takes such a peacemaking, pacifying step. This is what in the West is called “Good cop – bad cop.” In fact, they are, of course, united in terms of developing principles and strategies for protecting Russia from possible aggression.

GEOFOR: And now a little more about Ukraine and the situation around it. Russian analysts find many analogies in the situation in Ukraine now and the one that was in Georgia on the eve of August 2008. How would you characterize the factors (internal and external) that could lead to Kiev deciding on an open armed conflict? And what will this lead Ukraine and Europe as a whole to? Who, in the end, may be the beneficiary?

Andrei Raevsky: Yes, the situation is very similar to that. And I would even say that the situation Zelensky is in, is worse than the one Saakashvili was in.

I’m afraid that his rating is such that he really has nothing to lose. The question of whether Kiev will decide on an open armed conflict implies that Kiev has an opportunity to solve something. I doubt it very much. Without getting the “go-ahead” from the “Washington Regional Party Committee” Kiev will not move. Thus, if Kiev moves, it will be, at least, in the presence of a “tacit” – not even consent – order, when the West gives the command “Attack!”. Few people in the West care that Kiev will then “get its ass kicked.”

But the most important thing in this context is to remember that the goal is not to “liberate ORDLO from Muscovites” (Note: “ORLDO” is the current official Ukie legal term for the LDNR) or “restore democracy and territorial integrity of Ukraine” and so on. The goal is to force Russia to openly invade Ukraine and start a war: so that it cannot be denied, in order to totally sink energy projects between Russia and the EU and make the EU completely dependent, first of all, on American shale gas and other energy carriers. And to achieve these goals, Ukraine does not need any victory at all – it’s enough to just say: “Here, these evil Putin’s “green men” have seized even more territory! Oh, how bad they are!”

We can say that from a military point of view, Russia will win very quickly. But from a political point of view, it will be a victory for the United States.

GEOFOR: Do you consider it possible that, with NATO’s symbolic support in the Black Sea, as well as the presence of various American, British and other instructors on land, Kiev will decide on a military provocation not in the Donbas, but in the Black Sea? After all, it is known that everyone is waiting for the Ukrainian military offensive in the east of the country, and why, for example, Zelensky not follow the path of his predecessor Poroshenko, who sent boats to break through the Kerch Strait, and, creating a conflict situation, disrupted the already agreed meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin? Moreover, the second meeting of the Russian and American presidents this year is now being prepared…

Andrei Raevsky: Yes, such a provocation in the Black Sea is very likely. It is enough to recall their provocation when Ukrainian boats tried to pass into the Kerch Strait. And it was without any presence of Americans. Of course, this is possible. I think this is not only possible, but it will definitely happen.

And if there really are plans to arrange a meeting between Biden and Putin, then Ukrainians have very little time left. In December, Americans convene their “Democracy Forum”, then there are holidays…

If there is this meeting – and we don’t know if there will be one – there could be a lot of things that could undermine it. For supporters of the war – both in the United States and in Ukraine – this is a very important moment that cannot be missed.

GEOFOR: And in conclusion. If it is likely that the ongoing Russian-American consultations (the arrival of the Deputy Secretary of State and the director of the CIA in Moscow, for example) and the dialogue between the two leaders, which, hopefully, will take place, will lead to at least some stabilization, both around the Ukrainian problem and in bilateral relations. What problems in this regard could you highlight?

Andrei Raevsky: These consultations are very important, and this is a very desirable development of the situation because American officials of this level have not come to Moscow twice to present some kind of ultimatum.

To present an ultimatum, you can simply use a consul.

To do this, there is absolutely no need to send the highest representatives of the American authorities to Moscow.

The conversations that took place – whatever they were – were to the point. And they were serious. As long as both sides are talking, at least they are not shooting. And this is very desirable.

And we can only hope that such consultations will continue in the future.

Of course, the Americans are the most dangerous enemy for Russia. This needs to be understood.

This is not a get-together with a “vodka-herring” menu to just shoot the breeze. Neither is this a friendly meeting.

But this is a direct dialogue of those who can really make decisions in a difficult situation and influence the situation.

And in this regard, it is very important.

Therefore, there is no need to fall into the mistake that Americans very often fall into when they say: “We don’t talk to such and such.” We don’t talk to terrorists, we don’t talk to states and “regimes” that we don’t recognize. This is a very big mistake.

You need to talk to everyone, often including the fiercest enemies.

source: https://geofor.ru/4710-andrej-raevskij-reshitsya-li-kiev-na-otkrytyj-vooruzhennyj-konflikt.html

The US Should Concede to Its Diminishing Role in the Region As Iran Will Not Accept Compromise

Nov 5, 2021

By Mohammad Youssef

Beirut – The world scene seems very confusing, a lot of tension and strain stretching and extending across the continents, nonetheless, there are doorways that can lead to temporary solutions or compromises in the worst case scenario.

  • The escalating tension between Russia and the western world over Ukraine, and the western military measures there
  • The western-eastern tension between China and the western world over Taiwan
  • The continuous strain in world politics over the Iranian nuclear file, and Vienna negotiations taking place without any hope looming about a longstanding agreement that could be finalized.

This file is preoccupying the world because of its repercussions and ramifications that could translate all over.

Washington has dragged itself and the whole Western governments into a tough place when it unilaterally and without any reasonable justification withdrew from the agreement with Tehran.

Iran proved credibility and has delivered over the agreement with all its articles and subdivisions.

Contrary to this, the US did not respect its commitments nor delivered its share of conditions in the agreement.

It is Tehran’s right to ask for more guarantees from the world society involved in the negotiations to make sure Washington would not dare to breach its commitments again.

One of the issues at stake during the current negotiations is that Tehran wants a direct and complete lift of American and Western sanctions, meanwhile Washington continues the procrastination policy.

Washington, furthermore, is attempting to add new files to the negotiating table, especially those in link to Tehran’s role in the region, more particularly, those in relation with advancing its rockets arsenal and supporting the resistance movements.

Iran continued to insist in limiting the negotiations to the same issues discussed before without adding any extra point.

What are the anticipated results for the ongoing Vienna negotiations?

It seems clearly that the Americans are not in anyway in a position to hand the Iranians guarantees that former US president Donald Trump’s scenario of pulling out of any reached  agreement would not be repeated again. So, the most probable outcome is to reach a temporary agreement that would generally ease the tensions in the region, especially in Iraq and allow for mutual intersection points that would secure a level of stability over different issues.

For its part, Tehran that has never aimed  anytime to have a nuclear weapon, has given and is ready to give necessary assurances to this effect, but will never accept to compromise its full sovereign position vis-a-vis other issues that boils down to its basic interests and principles.

Washington, who day and night preaches about real politics and pragmatism, should accept its dwindling position and diminishing role in the region and the world. 

This entails a different approach that renders the US accept to abandon its arrogant policy, and strike a settlement that would necessarily recognize the vital interests and role of Iran in its surrounding region. This is the most likely scenario; otherwise, we would be entering another vicious cycle of escalation!

Andrei Martyanov on the possibility of war

December 04, 2021

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Posted by permission from Andrei Martyanov

Now comes the final countdown to either peace or war

December 04, 2021

So it is confirmed.  Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden will have what is announced as a “long” direct conversation (not face to face, but by a secure video link) this coming Tuesday.  Considering the extreme tensions taking place between the US/NATO/EU and Russia, this event will be, by definition, a watershed moment, irrespective of its outcome.  The two basic options are a) some kind of deal with be made b) nothing will come out of this meeting.

Personally, I am “cautiously pessimistic”, and I will explain why next.

Let’s look at what the two sides have been doing in preparation for this meeting:

The Empire has basically ratcheted up the tensions as high as possible, both by an avalanche of bellicose statements and by engaging in “petty harassment” exercises near the Russian border.  The main (and sole) advantage of this pre-negotiations strategy is that it costs very little money while having a major PR effect.  The two main disadvantages of this pre-negotiations strategy are that 1) they tend to paint you into a corner from which any concession, no matter how reasonable, can be turned into an “abject surrender to Putin” by your political enemies and 2) that the Russians know that all this sabre-rattling is only hot air and, if anything, a sign of weakness.

Russia has made some comparatively “stronger” verbal protests and mentioned “red lines” which the Empire which the latter has completely ignored.  However, Russia has also made some actual military moves which have truly frightened the Empire, including the sudden flushing out into the Pacific or all the strategic submarines of the Pacific Fleet.

Here is the problem as I see it: “Biden” has allowed all sorts of russophobic nutcases to paint the Biden Administration into the exact same corner where the same russophobic nutcases stuck Trump: a place where no meaningful negotiations (i.e. negotiations which imply the willingness to make mutual concessions) are possible.  All that Kabuki theater about “talking to Russia from a position of strength/force” kind of implies that the Russians will get scared and cave in to the Empire.  The problem is that in the real world (as opposed the political Hollywood of the western propaganda machine), it is Russia which is in a very strong position while the US/NATO/EU are all in a position of extreme vulnerability.  In other words, it is extremely unlikely that the Russians will make major concessions on anything (if only because Russia’s “great retreat” of endless concession to win time for preparations has now left Russia pretty much with her own back also against the wall).  Of course, Russia does not want/need a war anywhere, so she is probably willing to make relatively minor concessions, but only political ones.  In military terms, Russia is now “ready to go” and she will not stand down unless the Empire gives legally binding and verifiable concessions to guarantee Russia’s security on her western border (Putin has specifically said so).

Frankly, none of that is very complex: de-escalation and mutual confidence building measures have been developed by all sides for many decades now and there is no need to reinvent the wheel here.  How to do that is easy and straightforward.  But politically, I don’t know how “Biden” would respond to the MAGA nutcases in Congress who will accuse him of weakness, or even treason, if he does anything but continue to escalate towards an inevitable war: escalations can only be stopped by two means: negotiations or war.  If the former is made impossible, the latter becomes inevitable.

Worse, there are pretty good signs that “Biden” is not fully controlling the Executive branch and that there are characters at the CIA, Pentagon and Foggy Bottom (lead by the totally rabid US Neocons) which actually want a war involving Russia and who believe that such a war would not imply a very high probability of going nuclear.  Blinken, for example, strikes me as a kind of person which would make a great tailor or maybe an insurance salesman, but as a diplomat he is clearly clueless and “loser” written all over his face (ditto for that imbecile Stoltenberg or most EU politicians).  Worst of all, these losers believe in their own superiority and think that they can talk to Putin like, say, Commodore Matthew Perry “talked” to the Japanese or how Reagan showed Grenada “who is boss”.

Finally, the upcoming planned “show of unity and force” (aka Summit for Democracy) will be seen by the Kremlin as a desperate attempt at hide the Empire’s real weakness (death, really) and to make it look as if the West still had the means to rule the planet.  In reality, just Russia and China together are already much more powerful than all the colonies which Uncle Shmuel as summoned to this Summit, even if it is only two against 109 countries on the US side and that is the reality which this summit is designed to conceal from the public eye.

So no hope at all?

Well, not much.  But, in theory, here is what could happen.

The US could agree to give Russia legal binding and verifiable security guarantees on her east, including a pull-back of Ukie forces in exchange for which, Russia could pull back some of her own forces.  Deconfliction measures in the air and the seas could be agreed upon.  Observer missions could be agreed upon and then deployed by both sides to verify the implementation of any agreements.  On the political level, the US could order a dramatic reduction of western military involvement in the Ukraine in exchange for a Russian re-affirmation of the recognition of the Ukraine in her current borders, that is without Crimea and but the Donbass (in other words, the Kremlin would promise not to recognize the LDNR republics sovereign states).  In theory, an international peacekeeping force could be set up in the “grey zone” between the LDNR and the Ukraine (that would require the Ukies to pull out from their current, and totally illegal, occupation of some locations in that zone). The nationality of these peacekeepers would have to be agreed by both sides.

[Sidebar: about the LDNR – please keep in mind that even if de jure the Kremlin does not recognize these republics, it has already basically done so de facto (especially with the latest change to the Russian laws on the economy).  Also, remember that Taiwan is a country that is largely unrecognized, but which is clearly independent, at least for the time being.  Finally, keeping the LDNR inside the Ukraine creates an anti-Ukraine which prevents the Nazi-run Ukraine from fully becoming an anti-Russia.  So no, flag-wavers notwithstanding, agreeing not to recognize the LDNR would not be a “betrayal”, but only a card which must be played later in the game.]

Furthermore, Russia and the USA should establish a standing bilateral (yes, I agree with Nuland on the EU!) discussions mechanism to replace the useless and basically dead NATO-Russia Council.  Other areas of discussion could include such self-evident issues as space, terrorism, immigration, energy, cybersecurity, the Arctic etc. and a full restoration of civilized diplomatic relations (which were totally sabotaged by both the Obama and Trump Administration).  A deal could also be made about mutual non-interference or, at least, improve the current deconfliction between the USA and Russia in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.  And, of course, Russia could agree to a long term gas contract through the Ukraine in exchange for a full US acceptance of NS2.

Does that sound a little pollyannish to you?

It sure sounds pollyannish to me!

But I am not quite willing to declare it as absolutely impossible.  Instead, I would simply say that such an outcome is unlikely but still possible.

The alternative is war with, at the low end, could be limited to some silly Ukie provocation (of the kind they have been regularly pulling off, and failing, for many years now) or, at the high end, to quickly escalate a full-scale (inter)continental war, probably one involving nukes.

Hope dies last, right?

The one thing which makes it possible for me to believe that a war can still be avoided is that besides the real hardcore nutcases, there are still some sober-minded officials in the USA (maybe Gen. Milley?) who understand not only that war is an unspeakable horror, but who ALSO understand that a US attack on Russia will result in a Russian counter-attack on the US itself.  Specifically, it is now an official Russian position that if weapon X is fired at Russia or Russian forces, Russia will not only destroy that weapon and the system which delivered, but will also strike at the command headquarters from which the order to strike Russia was given, and that could be Kiev, Warsaw, Brussels or even Washington DC.  I am quite sure that General Gerasimov explained that to General Milley in exquisite detail and I strongly suspect that Milley got the message.  Let’s just hope that Milley can prevail over Lloyd Austin (who is clearly an incompetent imbecile used by the “war party” only as a disposable figurehead).

If not, then God help us all, because then war is inevitable.

I consider the current situation as the most dangerous the world has ever faced, this is even worse than the Cuban Missile Crisis or the US attacks against Iran (the murder of General Soleimani) or Syria.  By nature, nurture, experience, and training I am an unrepentant pessimist.  But, in this case, I still want to force myself into a stance of “cautious pessimism” meaning that, yes, the situation is terrible and seems unfixable, but I choose to believe that there still are enough sane people in the US to avoid the worst.

Still, I am acutely aware that the UK+3B+PU gang want war at all and any cost and that they are now setting the agenda in both the EU and NATO.  The only actor which still could order them to stand down and shut the hell up would be the USA, but only one ruled by an Administration in real and actual command, not the senile aquarium fish collectively known as “Biden” which is in power (at least officially) right now.

We can also count on the MAGA-crazies to oppose any and all deals with Russia, no matter how urgently needed and self-evidently logical.  The GOP has now become the united party for war doing exactly what the Dems did during the Trump years.  In a way, the US political scene reminds me of the Soviet Union during and after Brezhnev – a political system which simply cannot produce a real leader, so all you see is terminal mediocrities trying as best they can to hide their own mediocrity and total lack of vision.  A Ronald Reagan or a George H. W. Bush would have what it takes to talk to the Russians and get some results.  Alas, none of the presidents since have had enough brains or spine to do anything constructive at all: all they did was to preside over first the destruction of the Empire followed by the destruction of the USA (at least as we knew it before Jan 6th).

The fact that our best (or, should I say, only) hope lies with Biden and “Biden” is a sad and very frightening reality.  All we can do now is wait for Tuesday and pray that both Biden and “Biden” muster enough courage and (real) patriotism to bring the world back from the brink.  It ain’t much, but that’s all we got.

So, what do you think will happen next?

Andrei

Now or Never: The Great ‘Transition’ Must Be Imposed

1 DECEMBER, 2021

By Alastair Crooke

A new wave of restrictions, more lockdowns, and – eventually – trillions of dollars in new stimmie cheques may be in prospect.

Were you following the news this last week? Vaccine mandates are everywhere: one country, after another, is doubling-down, to try to force, or legally compel, full population vaccination. The mandates are coming because of the massive uptick in Covid – most of all in the places where the experimental mRNA gene therapies were deployed en masse. And (no coincidence), this ‘marker’ has come just as U.S. Covid deaths in 2021 have surpassed those of 2020. This has happened, despite the fact that last year, no Americans were vaccinated (and this year 59% are vaccinated). Clearly no panacea, this mRNA ‘surge’.

Of course, the Pharma-Establishment know that the vaccines are no panacea. There are ‘higher interests’ at play here. It is driven rather by fear that the window for implementing its series of ‘transitions’ in the U.S. and Europe is closing. Biden still struggles to move his ‘Go-Big’ social spending plan and green agenda transition through Congress by the midterm election in a year’s time. And the inflation spike may well sink Biden’s Build Back Better agenda (BBB) altogether.

Time is short. The midterm elections are but 12 months away, after which the legislative window shuts. The Green ‘transition’ is stuck too (by concerns that moving too fast to renewables is putting power grids at risk and elevating heating costs unduly), and the Pharma establishment will be aware that a new B.1.1.529 variant has made a big jump in evolution with 32 mutations to its spike protein. This makes it “clearly very different” from previous variants, which may drive further waves of infection evading ‘vaccine defences’.

Translation: a new wave of restrictions, more lockdowns, and – eventually – trillions of dollars in new stimmie cheques may be in prospect. And what of inflation then, we might ask.

It’s a race for the U.S. and Europe, where the pandemic is back in full force across Europe, to push through their re-set agendas, before variants seize up matters with hospitals crowded with the vaccinated and non-vaccinated; with riots in the streets, and mask mandates at Christmas markets (that’s if they open at all). A big reversal was foreshadowed by this week’s news: vaccine mandates and lockdowns, even in highly vaccinated areas, are returning. And people don’t like it.

The window for the Re-Set may be fast closing. One observer, noting all the frenetic Élite activity, has asked ‘have we finally reached peak Davos?’. Is the turn to authoritarianism in Europe a sign of desperation as fears grow that the various ‘transitions’ planned under the ‘re-set’ umbrella (financial, climate, vaccine and managerial expert technocracy) may never be implemented?

Cut short rather, as spending plans are hobbled by accelerating inflation; as the climate transition fails to find traction amongst poorer states (and at home, too); as technocracy is increasingly discredited by adverse pandemic outcomes; and Modern Monetary Theory hits a wall, because – well, inflation again.

Are you paying attention yet? The great ‘transition’ is conceived as a hugely expensive shift towards renewables, and to a new digitalised, roboticised corporatism. It requires Big (inflationary) funding to be voted through, and a huge parallel (inflationary) expenditure on social support to be approved by Congress as well. The social provision is required to mollify all those who subsequently will find themselves without jobs, because of the climate ‘transition’ and the shift to a digitalised corporate sphere. But – unexpectedly for some ‘experts’ – inflation has struck – the highest statistics in 30 years.

There are powerful oligarchic interests behind the Re-Set. They do not want to see it go down, nor see the West eclipsed by its ‘competitors’. So it seems that rather than back off, they will go full throttle and try to impose compliance on their electorates: tolerate no dissidence.

A 1978 essay “The Power of the Powerless” by then dissident and future Czech President Vaclav Havel begins mockingly that, “A SPECTRE is haunting Eastern Europe: the spectre of what in the West is called ‘dissent’”. “This spectre has not appeared out of thin air. It is a natural and inevitable consequence of the present historical phase of the system it is haunting.” Well, today, as Michael Every of Rabobank notes, “the West has polarisation, mass protests, riots, talk of obligatory vaccinations in Europe, and Yanis Varoufakis arguing capitalism is already dead; and that a techno-feudalism looms”. Now, prompting even greater urgency, are the looming U.S. midterms. Trump’s return (even if confined just to Congress), would cut the legs from under BBB, and ice-up Brussels too.

It was however, precisely this tech revolution, to which Varoufakis calls attention, that both re-defined the Democrat constituency, and turned tech oligarchs into billionaires. Through algorithmically creating a magnetism of like-minded content, cascaded out to its customers, it has both smothered intellectual curiosity, and created the ‘un-informed party’, which is the today’s Managerial Class – the party of the credentialed meritocracy; the party, above all, smugly seeing themselves as the coming era’s ‘winners’ – unwilling to risk a look behind the curtain; to put their ‘safe space’ to the test.

Perversely, this cadre of professionally-corralled academics, analysts, and central bankers, all insist that they completely believe in their memes: That their techno-approach is both effective, and of benefit to humanity – oblivious to the dissenting views, swirling around them, down in the interstices of the internet.

The main function then of such memes today, whether issued by the Pharma Vaccine ‘Command’; the MMT ‘transition’ Command; the energy ‘transition’ Command; or the global managerial technocracy ‘transition’, is to draw a ‘Maginot line’ – a defensive ideological boundary, a “Great Narrative” as it were – between ‘the truth’ as defined by the ruling classes, and with that of any other ‘truth’ that contradicts their narrative. That is to say, it is about compliance.

It was well understood that all these transitions would overturn long-standing human ways of life, that are ancient and deeply rooted and trigger dissidence – which is why new forms of social ‘discipline’ would be required. (Incidentally, the EU leadership already refer to their their official mandates as ‘Commands’). Such disciplines are now being trialled in Europe – with the vaccine mandates (even though scientists are telling them that vaccines cannot be the silver bullet for which they yearn). As one high ‘lodge’ member, favouring a form of global governance notes, to make people accept such reforms, you must frighten them.

Yes, the collective of ‘transitions’ must have their ‘Big, overarching Narrative’ – however hollow, it rings (i.e. the struggle to defend democracy against authoritarianism). But it is the nature of today’s cultural-meme war that ultimately its content becomes little more than a rhetorical shell, lacking all sincerity at its core.

It serves principally, as decoration to a ‘higher order’ project: The preservation of global ‘rules of the road’, framed to reflect U.S. and allied interests, as the base from which the clutch of ‘transitions’ can be raised up into a globally managed order which preserves the Élite’s influence and command of major assets.

This politics of crafted, credentialised meme-politics is here to stay, and now is ‘everywhere’. It has long crossed the partisan divide. The wider point here – is that the mechanics of meme-mobilisation is being projected, not just in the western ‘home’ (at a micro-level), but abroad, into American ‘foreign policy’ too (i.e. at the macro-level).

And, just as in the domestic arena, where the notion of politics by suasion is lost (with vaccine mandates enforced by water-cannon, and riot police), so too, the notion of foreign policy managed through argument, or diplomacy, has been lost too.

Western foreign policy becomes less about geo-strategy, but rather is primordially focussed on the three ‘big iconic issues’ – China, Russia and Iran – that can be given an emotional ‘charge’ in order to profitably mobilise certain identified ‘constituencies’ in the U.S. domestic cultural war. All the various U.S. political strands play this game.

The aim is to ‘nudge’ domestic American psyches (and those of their allies) into mobilisation on some issue (such as more protectionism for business against Chinese competition), or alternatively, imagined darkly, in order to de-legitimise an opposition, or to justify failures. These mobilisations are geared to gaining relative domestic partisan advantage, rather than having strategic purpose.

When this credentialled meme-war took hold in the U.S., millions of people were already living a reality in which facts no longer mattered at all; where things that never happened officially, happened. And other things that obviously happened never happened: not officially, that is. Or, were “far-right extremist conspiracy theories,” “fake news,” or “disinformation,” or whatever, despite the fact that people knew that they weren’t.

Russia and China therefore face a reality in which European and U.S. élites are heading in the opposite direction to epistemological purity and well-founded argument. That is to suggest, the new ‘normal’ is about generating a lot of contradictory realities, not just contradictory ideologies, but actual mutually-exclusive ‘realities’, which could not possibly simultaneously exist … and which are intended to bemuse adversaries – and nudge them off-balance.

This is a highly risky game, for it forces a resistance stance on those targeted states – whether they seek it, or not. It underlines that politics is no more about considered strategy: It is about being willing for the U.S. to lose strategically (even militarily), in order to win politically. Which is to say gaining an ephemeral win of having prompted an favourable unconscious psychic response amongst American voters.

Russia, China, Iran are but ‘images’ prized mainly for their potential for being loaded with ‘nudge’ emotional-charge in this western cultural war, (of which these states are no part). The result is that these states become antagonists to the American presumption to define a global ‘rules of the road’ to which all must adhere.

These countries understand exactly the point of these value and rights-loaded ‘rules’. It is to force compliance on these states to acquiesce to the ‘transitions, or, to suffer isolation, boycott and sanction – in a similar way to the choices being forced on those in the West not wishing to vaccinate (i.e. no jab; no job).

This approach reflects an attempt by Team Biden to have it ‘both ways’ with these three ‘Iconic States’: To welcome compliance on ‘transition issues’, but to be adversarial over any dissidence to mounting a rules framework that can raise the ‘transitions’ from the national, to the supra-national plane.

But do the U.S. practitioners of meme-politics, absorb and comprehend that the stance by Russia-China – in riposte – is not some same-ilk counter-mobilisation done to ‘make a point’? That their vision does stand at variance with ‘the rules’? Do they see that their ‘red lines’ may indeed be ‘red lines’ literally? Is the West now so meme-addicted, it cannot any longer recognise real national interests?

This is key: When the West speaks, it is forever looking over its shoulder, at the domestic, and wider psychic impact when it is ‘making a point’ (such as practicing attacks by nuclear-capable bombers as close to Russia’s borders as they dare). And that when Russia and China say, ‘This is our Red Line’, it is no meme – they really mean it.

Russian Foreign Ministry Statement on the planned US «summit for democracy»

1 December 2021

Cartoon courtesy of Global Times

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation

In connection with the so called summit for democracy to be held on December 9-10 at the initiative of the US administration, we consider it necessary to make the following statement.

The organisers and enthusiasts behind this strange event claim to lead the world in advancing the cause of democracy and human rights. However, the track record and reputation of the United States, Great Britain, and the EU member states in terms of respecting democratic rights and freedoms at home, as well as in the international arena, are, to put it mildly, far from ideal.

The evidence suggests that the United States and its allies cannot and should not claim the status of a “beacon” of democracy, since they themselves have chronic problems with freedom of speech, election administration, corruption and human rights.

The editorial policy of major Western media outlets is, in fact, controlled by the partisan and corporate elites. Well-oiled mechanisms for censorship, self-censorship and the removal of unwanted accounts and content from digital platforms are used to suppress dissent in the media, which represents a gross violation of the right to free expression promoted by the West.

Social media platforms controlled by US corporations are widely used for disinformation, propaganda and manipulation of public opinion. Mass electronic surveillance by intelligence agencies and the IT corporations that collaborate with them has become a reality of daily life in Western states.

About a year ago, during the election campaign in the United States, the world saw how the archaic electoral system of that country began to crumble. The existing vote counting mechanism has revealed itself to have many weaknesses. Millions of Americans question the fairness and transparency of the 2020 presidential election. This is understandable, because the way it was conducted and its outcome involved dubious practices such as gerrymandering, multi-week mail voting, and denying observers, especially international ones, access to polling stations.

Serious questions arise from the continuing reprisals of US authorities against protesters outside the Capitol on January 6, whom the US administration and aligned media openly call “domestic terrorists.” Dozens of people who disagreed with the results of the presidential election were sentenced to prison time which is disproportionate to their opposition activities.

While fashioning itself as the “global democratic leader”, the United States has for many years led the world in the number of prisoners (over 2 million people). Conditions in many penitentiary institutions degrade human dignity. Washington continues to keep silent about torture at the Guantanamo Bay prison. The US intelligence services pioneered the creation of secret prisons in allied states, a practice without precedent in the modern world.

Lobbying in the United States is, in fact, legalised corruption. Legislatures are de facto controlled by big business. Both within the country and internationally, they primarily defend the interests of their sponsors, such as private corporations, rather than the people, voters.

Against this backdrop, the democratising rhetoric coming from Washington is not only completely disconnected from reality, but is also utterly hypocritical. Before embarking on the path of “exporting democracy,” we urge our North American partners to first address their problems at home, and to try to overcome the deepening divisions in society on matters of ethics, values, and vision of the country’s past and future. Humbly admitting that US democracy is not perfect is clearly not enough.

Great Britain cannot position itself as a progressive democracy, either. That country is a comfortable home to organisations professing neo-Nazi ideology with rising incidents of racism and discrimination against ethnic and cultural minorities in many spheres of public life. There have been cases of British intelligence illegally gathering personal data of their own citizens, and police violence, including against peaceful demonstrators, has become commonplace.

The situation in the EU is no better. Brussels consistently ignores the legitimate rights and interests of ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking residents in the Baltic states, Ukraine and Moldova. It turns a blind eye to the mythmaking of the new EU member states in political history, where former Nazi henchmen who committed war crimes are proclaimed national heroes. Administrative suppression of dissent, aggressive inculcation of ultra-liberal values ​​and practices that are destroying the Christian foundations of European civilisation have become commonplace in many EU states.

Claiming to be on the right side of ideology and morality, the United States and a small group of its allies have undermined confidence in themselves with aggressive actions on the world stage under the banner of “promoting democracy.” There were more than a dozen military interventions and attempts at “regime change” over the past 30 years. Provocative actions in the military-political sphere often flagrantly violate international law, and cause only chaos and destruction.

Recent history shows that military adventures with the aim of forced democratisation ended in bloody wars and national tragedies in the countries that fell victim to this policy, among them former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria. All kinds of pretexts were used to unleash wars – the need to combat terrorism and WMD proliferation and “to protect civilians.”

Everyone remembers how after the military intervention of “the coalition of the willing” in Iraq in 2003, President George W. Bush on board the Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier announced the victory of democracy in that country. What happened next is common knowledge. There are no precise statistics to this day but according to some estimates, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis perished before their time.

Despite spending enormous sums running into the trillions of dollars, the American mission in Afghanistan ended in complete failure. The chaotic exodus of Americans and other members of the US-led coalition from Kabul last August was the sad culmination of the “war on terror” that lasted more than 20 years.

Libya has still yet to recover from NATO operation to “protect the civilians”. For all the peculiarities of the former socio-political system in the Jamahiriya, Libya was a stable country that ensured decent living standards for its population. This ill-conceived military action led, among other consequences, to the uncontrolled spread of weapons and terrorists in the entire Sahara-Sahel region.

We can continue quoting examples revealing the hypocrisy at the core of this “summit for democracy.” But is it necessary?

Russia, whom our Western colleagues have accused of almost every mortal sin of late, is shaping its foreign policy in a different way. We do not impose our own development model on anyone. We respect cultural and religious identities of every nation as well as distinct qualities of their political systems. We also respect the right of every nation to detemine in an independent way  its path of development. We are not going to dictate our world view to anyone. In the international arena, the rules we follow are the UN Charter #OurRulesUNCharter .

Russia strives to play a balancing, stabilising role in global politics. We uphold sovereign equality of states, non-interference in their internal affairs, non-use of force or threat of force, and peaceful settlement of disputes. We stand for international relations based on peaceful coexistence, cooperation and solidarity, equal universal security and fair distribution of the benefits of globalisation.

Russia is a world power with Eurasian and European roots to its identity. It does not chart its development trajectory exclusively in line with trans-Atlantic political, economic and cultural templates. We do not agree with the aggressive imposition of the so-called “new ethics” that are destroying moral standards upheld by traditional religions and respected by humanity for centuries.

Pursuing a non-confrontational and well-balanced foreign policy, we strive to create opportunities for the unimpeded development of all international players. We do not copy the example of the Western countries and do not intrude in their domestic affairs: if individuals living in these countries, or some of them, support the destruction of traditional moral and spiritual values, we merely regret this but nothing more than that.

We support dialogue between cultures, religions and civilisations as an important instrument for forming a unifying agenda and building up trust in relations between states and societies.

To resolve pressing problems, we urge all foreign partners not to engage in “democracy promotion,” not to draw new dividing lines, but to return to the compliance with international law and to enforce the principle of the sovereign equality of states, which is enshrined in the UN Charter. It embodies the foundation for a democratic world order that the US and its allies do not accept.

As humanity continues to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftereffects, the cooperation of all states on the basis of the principles of the UN Charter is needed now more than ever.

We will closely follow the “summit for democracy.”


US-Russia Tensions Escalating, Biden Threatens Russia

December 4, 2021

US President Biden threatens Russia saying that new initiatives coming from his administration are intended to deter Russian aggression.

According to Sputnik, Over the last several weeks, tensions have remained high between the US and Russia as American authorities have accused Moscow of laying the groundwork for a potential invasion of neighboring Ukraine. The Kremlin has repeatedly rejected the unsubstantiated claims.

Newly surfaced US intel reports have accused Russia of planning a “multi-front offensive” against Ukraine sometime within the next year, a charge that marks the latest claim pinned to the Kremlin amid weeks of heightened tensions.

An unidentified source with knowledge of the sensitive information alleged to the outlet that Russian forces would be “twice what we saw this past spring during Russia’s snap exercise near Ukraine’s borders”.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on 30 November that NATO is amassing a significant amount of military equipment on Russia’s border.

Lavrov also noted that Moscow cannot rule out the possibility of Kyiv undertaking some kind of “military venture,” which would pose a threat to Russia.

“President Putin spoke about this on 18 November… he stressed that we do not need conflicts but if the West cannot hold Ukraine back, but, on the contrary, encourages it, of course, we will take all the necessary steps to ensure our security,” Lavrov said.

He added that for a while “the West has been provoking Ukraine – and not only Ukraine” – to take “anti-Russian actions.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin also spoke on 30 November, expressing Moscow’s concerns about the military drills taking place near the Russian border, including military exercises that have not been scheduled.

“Russia is also experiencing certain concerns about the fact that large-scale exercises are being conducted near its borders, including unplanned ones, as was the case quite recently in the Black Sea,” Putin said at the VTB Capital Investment Forum “Russia Calling!”

Following to the recent tensions between Russia and US, Joe Biden on 3 December pledged to make it “very, very difficult” for Russia’s Vladimir Putin to take military action in Ukraine and said new initiatives coming from his administration are intended to deter Russian aggression.

Earlier this week, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement revealing that over 50 NATO reconnaissance aircraft and drones are being detected near the country’s borders every week. Addressing the allegations of Moscow “escalating” the situation on the Ukrainian border, the ministry outlined that the Russian actions are “of a purely defensive nature.”

Source: Agencies

Russia’s Greatest Weapon is not a Weapon

December 03, 2021

by Dmitry Orlov, posted with permission of the author

An ultimately very healthy but in the meantime very unpleasant realization is gradually dawning in West—an insight that is simply shocking, that fundamentally alters their picture of the world: that the stronger becomes the hurricane of woke transformations that is raging there, the more attractive Russia becomes for hundreds of millions of Europeans and Americans. What is Russia’s most powerful weapon? Is it nuclear? Is it hypersonic (or “hydrosonic,” as per Trump)? Cybermagic, perhaps? No, Russia’s most powerful weapon is its values. And it grows stronger and more dangerous every day, in direct proportion to the intensifying fire of multiculturalism and political correctness that is raging in Europe and in America.

A recent article in The National Interest summarized various American authors who claim that the Kremlin is gradually developing its strategy of soft power and using it to successfully fight the West, splitting it and undermining it from within. What is the cause of their paranoid hysteria? Could it be that they have accidentally discovered who their true enemy is, and that it is… they themselves?

The simplest and most effective way to knock a geopolitical adversary out of the game is to impose on it a system of values ​​that will split its society and lead the most active part of its population to occupy public buildings, to erect barricades and to support a pretender to the throne that is immediately given support and recognition by the country’s enemies. This is how all color revolutions of the late 20th and the early 21st centuries have been done: broadcast some propaganda, recruit some activists, help them to organize, provide some clandestine financial support, and then at some point this human mass, confident in their strength and their righteousness, surges through the police barriers and goes on to create history by overthrowing some faux-democrat petty tyrant, clearing the path for the next faux-democrat petty tyrant to be installed, with the country growing weaker, poorer and more disordered with each iteration. The process starts with the conversion of some significant part of the target population to “universal human values” with secular proselytizing of the “one true democratic faith.”

To the extent that this could be called a game, the West had a huge head start in it. The tools for fighting the “evil empire” have been honed for half a century. In the course of fighting the Cold War, radio stations, foundations, newspapers and magazines, parties and communities, publishing houses and TV channels have been created. Virtually all of them were then repurposed from fighting against the USSR to fighting against Russia. Collapse of the USSR, it was foolishly thought, was but a first step toward destroying Russia and absconding with its crude oil, natural gas, metal ores, fertile farmland and other natural treasures. And then, just in time, new, internet-based forms of influence appeared, completely controlled from America. For a time, the combination of a huge head start and the newly weaponized internet technologies seemed overwhelming.

But then something miraculous took place.

For a long time the USSR struggled mightily to propagandize socialist ideas in the United States and in Western Europe—to no avail. In the US, from its inception as a quintessential pirate colony, centuries of being conditioned to think that good persons are good by virtue of having goodly quantities of bounty and loot in their coffers has rendered people immune to socialist values. Meanwhile, Europe—its western half after the defeat of Nazism and in its eastern after the demise of Soviet communism—have been reduced to American satrapies where American propaganda reigns supreme and ceaselessly paints Russia as backward, corrupt, despotic and generally evil. No amount of broadcasting by Russia Today and no amount of toil by Russian internet trolls would ever be able to reprogram the consciousness of a Western person. But then suddenly Russia was awarded the supreme prize, giving it attractiveness, charm and influence no one could have dreamed of.

What has suddenly transformed the situation was mass insanity into which the West has been plunged. This group madness has destroyed much of what is infinitely dear to a very significant, if not overwhelming, part of Western civilization. Those conditional “conservatives”—normal people who do not want to be forced to be ashamed of their skin color, heterosexuality, respect for religion, generally accepted morality, and so on, are now humiliated, discriminated against and persecuted by the newest crop of toxic lefties.

Here is a lovely quote from an article in the Daily Beast: “…The Kremlin intends to attract Western converts with… bigotry—turning Russia into the land of ultimate political incorrectness, the world’s anti-woke capital.” Never mind the spurious claim of Kremlin’s intent to make Russia attractive; that is akin to blaming a beauty pageant contestant for being beautiful. Never mind the spurious claim of bigotry when it comes to opposing the West’s gender dysphoria and other psychiatric symptoms; there is a perfectly valid counterclaim of a society-wide psychiatric disorder that has plenty of biological science to back it up. What’s important is that the world has flipped to its mirror image: no longer is the United States “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” Russia now is, in the eyes of the Americans themselves! No longer is it Ivan sighing enviously while dreaming of American blue jeans, Coca-Cola and rock-and-roll; it is John who is wildly jealous of the absence of black-on-white racism, dumbed-down high school curricula, laughable yet lethal accusations of sexual harassment and a rainbow of public toilets.

Russia itself could never have achieved such a high level of attractiveness merely by using its propaganda machinery (all one and a half TV channels of it). It arose by itself when traditional (i.e., white heterosexual Christian) Europeans and Americans began to compare the surrounding Bedlam with Russia’s naturalness and orderliness. And then there spontaneously arose in them a very simple feeling: to hell with past grievances; it is the future which we must make livable for ourselves and our children. In the past, Russia was an adversary, but that past ended thirty years ago, and in the present Russia is safe, secure and happier than ever while we are burning in Hell and have no idea what to do about it. But at least we have Russia to hold up as a positive example.

It must also be understood that there are no other candidates for this role. There is no LGBT insanity, sexual harassment mania or violent reverse racism in North Korea, or Iran, or Saudi Arabia, or China, but these examples are all far too exotic and come with toxic baggage of their own. What the persecuted white Western Christian conservative heterosexual male needs is a normal European country, full of white people, comfortable for living in, but without any of the things he hates. What other options are there? It is not a competition if there is just one contestant.

And thus we have come to the point where Russia—in all seriousness and without any irony or puffery whatsoever, really—has become the light of the world, a shining city set upon a hill, a beacon of hope, a bastion of righteousness and free spirit and the symbol of a truly free world. This is an almost magical transformation: it was able to win this exalted status outright without even playing the game. It did the barest minimum in standing its ground and in preventing a smallish faction of foreign-controlled traitors and fools from destroying their country. Theirs has remained a wholesome world of brave, masculine men, of attractive, feminine women and of their above-average, non-gender-confused children. In their world, rewards and privileges are based on merit, corrupt politicians and businessmen spend years in jail, and respect for traditional ethics and religious faith is mandatory. In their world, all of history is permanently theirs: none of it will ever be forgotten, falsified or erased—all thousand-plus years of it, including life under the Golden Horde, the serfdom, great victories of the Russian Empire, the revolutionary terror, collectivization, Stalin’s purges, the defeat of Nazism, the destruction of Western colonialism throughout Africa and Asia, the conquest of space, the national humiliation of Gorbachev’s and Yeltsin’s puppet regimes and Russia’s rebirth under Putin.

It is a world to which more and more people in the West want to escape to, leaving behind a landscape blighted by leftist vandalism and enforced repentance for the crime of being of a certain race or of daring to exhale carbon dioxide. They do not wish to subject themselves to the unholy inquisition which doles out punishments to those who remain unenthusiastic about and unsupportive of sexual perversity, gender dysphoria, the destruction of traditional families and the brainwashing of youth. Even if they cannot escape, they can take comfort in knowing that a more normal and less damaged alternative reality exists, and they can secretly sympathize with it.

What makes this transformation particularly remarkable is that ten years ago Russia’s soft power barely existed. At that time, a small but vocal opposition demonstrated in the center of Moscow, chanting “We need a different Russia.” But now hundreds of millions of French, Germans, Americans and others in the West are chanting what amounts to “We need a different West.” To the abject horror of their political elites they look to Russia—the country of extreme political incorrectness—with longing, delight and hope. These people are self-organizing into parties, uniting like-minded people in much greater numbers than the Communist International had ever been able to gather. In many countries they already exert a very significant influence on the political agenda. The more the pandemic of woke madness rages, the greater their influence will become. When this conflagration of mass insanity finally burns itself out, it is Russia that will have the civilizational seed stock with which to re-fertilize the devastated cultural landscape of the West.

In the meantime, this is already shaping up to be a Russian century. This level of soft power is something beyond anyone’s wildest dreams; it is is Putin’s judo mastery taken to the nth level. In judo, one directs one’s opponent’s own force against him; here, the opponent is directing his own power against himself while the judo master merely stands back and watches, nodding in approval. In every country that the liberals attempt to reformat to their liking, Russia automatically gains millions of fans, forcing any possible geopolitical confrontation with Russia to fade into the background before the neutralizing force of a great commonality of traditional values. Remaining passive and risking nothing, Russia has gained a myriad ways to turn the geopolitical situation to its advantage.

For a very long time the West had monopolized the dominant discourse, but now Russia has gained control of it. Needless to say, this does not go down well with those who have been accustomed to uncontested dominance. They react hysterically: by throwing around groundless accusations and insults, staging provocations, imposing toothless yet self-defeating sanctions… They will try anything that they think might help to defer the moment when they will be forced to admit the horrible truth: that they have checked themselves into an insane asylum in Hell and they can’t check out. Meanwhile, all Russia has to do is to wait patiently for the fires of Hell to consume them and to burn themselves out; because they always do. Their desperate thrashing about and threatening Armageddon is for Russia to ignore.

[Based loosely on a text by Aftershock’s SKonst published as «Страна крайней политической некорректности»: как Россия обрела «мягкую силу» во всём мире]

Lavrov gives press conference after OSCE Ministerial Council in Stockholm

December 02, 2021

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov holds a press conference after the 28th OSCE Ministerial Council in Stockholm on Thursday, December 2. The annual OSCE Ministerial Council, chaired by Sweden, takes place on December 2-3. The ministers are expected to discuss security issues in the OSCE area and review the organisation’s activities.

Please forward the video.

Western officials in a hurry to wrap up Vienna talks with Iran: Report

December 02 2021

ByNews Desk

Iran’s negotiators say they are ready to continue intensive talks and are not beholden to “artificial deadlines or time tables”

On the third day of long-awaited Vienna nuclear talks, European representatives reportedly urged an “immediate conclusion” to this round of negotiations.

According to Iranian media reports on 1 December, this call by several of the signatories of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is due to their “insistence” to receive case-by-case directives from the US, which continues to disrupt and prolong discussions.

Despite this apparent snag, the Islamic Republic’s delegation has maintained they are ready to engage in talks for “as long as needed.”

“The Islamic Republic has come to Vienna with full seriousness and is negotiating with transparent demands and proposals,” a senior member of Iran’s negotiating team told Press TV on 1 December.

“[Iran] stands prepared to continue intensive talks as long as needed, [but] it will not be ready to sacrifice its principled demands and the Iranian nation’s rights for mere artificial deadlines or time tables,” the unnamed source went on to add.

Israeli media have quoted Biden administration officials as saying that they expect to wrap the talks up “on Thursday or Friday.”

Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian took to Twitter to say that talks are continuing and that a good deal is “within reach if the west shows good will.”

Officials from Iran and the P4+1 group of countries — Britain, France, Russia, and China plus Germany — arrived in the Austrian capital on 29 November to negotiate the removal of unilateral US sanctions placed on Iran.

US officials are also present in Vienna but are not taking part in the talks directly.

Regarding the possibility of an agreement during this round of negotiations, Russia’s Permanent Representative to International Organizations in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, told reporters on Wednesday that he sees “a real chance” for an agreement despite the difficulties and serious disagreements between Iran and the US.

“The situation is very difficult, and it is clear that there are a lot of differences between the Americans and the Iranians,” Ulyanov said. “Both in previous rounds of negotiations and in the current round.”

“Nevertheless, we think there is still a real chance to resolve all issues through diplomacy and negotiation,” he continued.

The Russian diplomat went on to explain that most of these differences stem from Iran’s ongoing work on its nuclear energy program, which was done “not out of malice, but in response to the irresponsible policy of maximum US pressure in the form of extraterritorial sanctions.”

“The Americans must first lift the sanctions, and Iran must align its nuclear program with the provisions of the IAEA Board,” Ulyanov added.

Amid all these developments, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh has accused Israel of trying to “poison” the negotiation process, tweeting that: “All parties in the room now face a test of their independence & political will to carry out the job — irrespective of the fake news designed to destroy prospects for success.”

This comes in response to several media reports saying Israel has shared intelligence over the past two weeks with the US and several European allies alleging that “Iran was taking technical steps to prepare to enrich uranium to 90 percent purity, the level needed for a nuclear weapon.”

Russia is primed for a Persian Gulf security ‘makeover’

December 01 2021

Russia is the one state with the necessary clout, tools, sweeteners and relationships to nudge the Persian Gulf into a new security paradigm

By Pepe Escobar

Russia is teeing up a re-launch of its Collective Security Concept for the Persian Gulf RegionPhoto Credit: The Cradleview-as ShareFacebookTwitterWhatsAppTelegramview-as TranslateSelect LanguageAfrikaansAlbanianAmharicArabicArmenianAzerbaijaniBasqueBelarusianBengaliBosnianBulgarianCatalanCebuanoChichewaChinese (Simplified)Chinese (Traditional)CorsicanCroatianCzechDanishDutchEsperantoEstonianFilipinoFinnishFrenchFrisianGalicianGeorgianGermanGreekGujaratiHaitian CreoleHausaHawaiianHebrewHindiHmongHungarianIcelandicIgboIndonesianIrishItalianJapaneseJavaneseKannadaKazakhKhmerKinyarwandaKoreanKurdish (Kurmanji)KyrgyzLaoLatinLatvianLithuanianLuxembourgishMacedonianMalagasyMalayMalayalamMalteseMaoriMarathiMongolianMyanmar (Burmese)NepaliNorwegianOdia (Oriya)PashtoPersianPolishPortuguesePunjabiRomanianRussianSamoanScots GaelicSerbianSesothoShonaSindhiSinhalaSlovakSlovenianSomaliSpanishSundaneseSwahiliSwedishTajikTamilTatarTeluguThaiTurkishTurkmenUkrainianUrduUyghurUzbekVietnameseWelshXhosaYiddishYorubaZulu  Powered by

It’s impossible to understand the resumption of the JCPOA nuclear talks in Vienna without considering the serious inner turbulence of the Biden administration.

Everyone and his neighbor are aware of Tehran’s straightforward expectations: all sanctions – no exceptions – must be removed in a verifiable manner. Only then will the Islamic Republic reverse what it terms ‘remedial measures,’ that is, ramping up its nuclear program to match each new American ‘punishment.’

The reason Washington isn’t tabling a similarly transparent position is because its economic circumstances are, bizarrely, far more convoluted than Iran’s under sanctions. Joe Biden is now facing a hard domestic reality: if his financial team raises interest rates, the stock market will crash and the US will be plunged into deep economic distress.

Panicked Democrats are even considering the possibility of allowing Biden’s own impeachment by a Republican majority in the next Congress over the Hunter Biden scandal.

According to a top, non-partisan US national security source, there are three things the Democrats think they can do to delay the final reckoning:

First, sell some of the stock in the Strategic Oil Reserve in coordination with its allies to drive oil prices down and lower inflation.

Second, ‘encourage’ Beijing to devalue the yuan, thus making Chinese imports cheaper in the US, “even if that materially increases the US trade deficit. They are offering trading the Trump tariff in exchange.” Assuming this would happen, and that’s a major if, it would in practice have a double effect, lowering prices by 25 percent on Chinese imports in tandem with the currency depreciation.

Third, “they plan to make a deal with Iran no matter what, to allow their oil to re-enter the market, driving down the oil price.” This would imply the current negotiations in Vienna reaching a swift conclusion, because “they need a deal quickly. They are desperate.”

There is no evidence whatsoever that the team actually running the Biden administration will be able to pull off points two and three; not when the realities of Cold War 2.0 against China and bipartisan Iranophobia are considered.

Still, the only issue that really worries the Democratic leadership, according to the intel source, is to have the three strategies get them through the mid-term elections. Afterwards, they may be able to raise interest rates and allow themselves time for some stabilization before the 2024 presidential ballot.

So how are US allies reacting to it? Quite intriguing movements are in the cards.

When in doubt, go multilateral

Less than two weeks ago in Riyadh, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), in a joint meeting with France, Germany and the UK, plus Egypt and Jordan, told the US Iran envoy Robert Malley that for all practical purposes, they want the new JCPOA round to succeed.

A joint statement, shared by Europeans and Arabs, noted “a return to mutual compliance with the [nuclear deal] would benefit the entire Middle East, allow for more regional partnerships and economic exchange, with long-lasting implications for growth and the well-being of all people there, including in Iran.”

This is far from implying a better understanding of Iran’s position. It reveals, in fact, the predominant GCC mindset ruled by fear: something must be done to tame Iran, accused of nefarious “recent activities” such as hijacking oil tankers and attacking US soldiers in Iraq.

So this is what the GCC is volunteering to the Americans. Now compare it with what the Russians are proposing to several protagonists across West Asia.

Essentially, Moscow is reviving the Collective Security Concept for the Persian Gulf Region, an idea that has been simmering since the 1990s. Here is what the concept is all about.

So if the US administration’s reasoning is predictably short-term – we need Iranian oil back in the market – the Russian vision points to systemic change.

The Collective Security Concept calls for true multilateralism – not exactly Washington’s cup of tea – and “the adherence of all states to international law, the fundamental provisions of the UN Charter and the resolutions of the UN Security Council.”

All that is in direct contrast with the imperial “rules-based international order.”

It’s too far-fetched to assume that Russian diplomacy per se is about to accomplish a miracle: an entente cordiale between Tehran and Riyadh.

Yet there’s already tangible progress, for instance, between Iran and the UAE. Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri held a “cordial meeting” in Dubai with Anwar Gargash, senior adviser to UAE President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. According to Bagheri, they “agreed to open a new page in Iran-UAE relations.”

Geopolitically, Russia holds the definitive ace: it maintains good relationships with all actors in the Persian Gulf and beyond, talks to all of them frequently, and is widely respected as a mediator by Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Lebanon, and other GCC members.

Russia also offers the world’s most competitive and cutting edge military hardware to underpin the security needs of all the parties.

And then there’s the overarching, new geopolitical reality. Russia and Iran are forging a strengthened strategic partnership, not only geopolitical but also geoeconomic, fully aligned to the Russian-conceptualized Greater Eurasian Partnership – and also demonstrated by Moscow’s support for Iran’s recent ascension to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the only West Asian state to be admitted thus far.

Furthermore, three years ago Iran launched its own regional security framework proposal for the region called HOPE (the Hormuz Peace Endeavor) with the intent to convene all eight littoral states of the Persian Gulf (including Iraq) to address and resolve the vital issues of cooperation, security, and freedom of navigation.

The Iranian plan didn’t get far off the ground. While Iran suffers from adversarial relations with some of its intended audience, Russia carries none of that baggage.

The $5.4 trillion game

And that brings us to the essential Pipelineistan angle, which in the Russia–Iran case revolves around the new, multi-trillion dollar Chalous gas field in the Caspian Sea.

A recent sensationalist take painted Chalous as enabling Russia to “secure control over the European energy market.”

That’s hardly the story. Chalous, in fact, will enable Iran  – with Russian input – to become a major gas exporter to Europe, something that Brussels evidently relishes. The head of Iran’s KEPCO, Ali Osouli, expects a “new gas hub to be formed in the north to let the country supply 20 percent of Europe’s gas needs.”

According to Russia’s Transneft, Chalous alone could supply as much as 52 percent of natural gas needs of the whole EU for the next 20 years.

Chalous is quite something: a twin-field site, separated by roughly nine kilometers, the second-largest natural gas block in the Caspian Sea, just behind Alborz. It may hold gas reserves equivalent to one-fourth of the immense South Pars gas field, placing it as the 10th largest gas reserves in the world.

Chalous happens to be a graphic case of Russia-Iran-China (RIC) geoeconomic cooperation. Proverbial western speculative spin rushed to proclaim the 20-year gas deal as a setback for Iran. The final breakdown, not fully confirmed, is 40 percent for Gazprom and Transneft, 28 percent for China’s CNPC and CNOOC, and 25 percent for Iran’s KEPCO.

Moscow sources confirm Gazprom will manage the whole project. Transneft will be in charge of transportation, CNPC is involved in financing and banking facilities, and CNOOC will be in charge of infrastructure and engineering.

The whole Chalous site has been estimated to be worth a staggering  $5.4 trillion.

Iran could not possibly have the funds to tackle such a massive enterprise by itself. What is definitely established is that Gazprom offered KEPCO all the necessary technology in exploration and development of Chalous, coupled with additional financing, in return for a generous deal.

Crucially, Moscow also reiterated its full support for Tehran’s position during the current JCPOA round in Vienna, as well as in other Iran-related issues reaching the UN Security Council.

The fine print on all key Chalous aspects may be revealed in time. It’s a de facto geopolitical/geoeconomic win-win-win for the Russia, Iran, China strategic partnership. And it reaches way beyond the famous “20-year agreement” on petrochemicals and weapons sales clinched by Moscow and Tehran way back in 2001, in a Kremlin ceremony when President Putin hosted then Iranian President Mohammad Khatami.

There’s no two ways about it. If there is one country with the necessary clout, tools, sweeteners and relationships in place to nudge the Persian Gulf into a new security paradigm, it is Russia – with China not far behind.The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

The upcoming Summit for Democracy as a time machine

November 29, 2021

Introduction:

Biden’s “Summit for Democracy” scheduled for December 9-10, 2021, has posted its final list of invited countries.

Let’s take a look:

Albania
Angola
Antigua and Barbuda
Argentina
Armenia
Australia
Austria
Bahamas
Barbados
Belgium
Belize
Botswana
Brazil
Bulgaria
Cabo Verde
Canada
Chile
Colombia
Costa Rica
Croatia
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Democratic Republic of Congo
Denmark
Dominica
Dominican Republic
Ecuador
Estonia
European Union
Fiji
Finland
France
Georgia
Germany
Ghana
Greece
Grenada
Guyana
Iceland
India
Indonesia
Iraq
Ireland
Israel
Italy
Jamaica
Japan
Kenya
Kiribati
Kosovo
Latvia
Liberia
Lithuania
Luxembourg
Malawi
Malaysia
Maldives
Malta
Marshall Islands
Mauritius
Mexico
Micronesia
Moldova
Mongolia
Montenegro
Namibia
Nauru
Nepal
Netherlands
New Zealand
Niger
Nigeria
North Macedonia
Norway
Pakistan
Palau
Panama
Papua New Guinea
Paraguay
Peru
Philippines
Poland
Portugal
Republic of Korea
Romania
Saint Kitts and Nevis­
Saint Lucia
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Samoa
Sao Tome and Principe
Senegal
Serbia
Seychelles
Slovakia
Slovenia
Solomon Islands
South Africa
Spain
Suriname
Sweden
Switzerland
Taiwan
Timor-Leste
Tonga
Trinidad and Tobago
Tuvalu
Ukraine
United Kingdom
Uruguay
Vanuatu
Zambia

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace also published this very helpful map:

Finally, let us also recall the purpose of this summit, as explained by the US Department of State:

  1. Defending against authoritarianism
  2. Addressing and fighting corruption
  3. Promoting respect for human rights

Next, the first thing we need to do is to translate the above into plain English.  Here is how I would translate all this:

  1. Faithfully supporting a single World Hegemony of the (already dead, but nevermind that, they can pretend it is still alive) AngloZionist Empire and obediently participate in any anti-Russian and anti-Chinese operations to prevent the latter from creating a multi-polar world.
  2. Overthrow those government who refuse to participate in the operations mentioned under #1 and/or get rid of some truly useless and too embarrassing “our SOBs” (Zelenskii anybody?)
  3. Participating in strategic PSYOPs to demonize those countries not invited to the Summit while allowing those invited to use any level of repression/suppression of dissent needed to stay in power.

How relevant is this summit in reality?

By itself, such a summit has zero value, if only because it tries to unite around a single (and vapid) agenda countries with totally different circumstances.  It is therefore pretty obvious that all that which come out from this grand show is some insipid declaration “for everything good and against everything bad” (Russian expression).

Results of the regional and municipal elections in Venezuela

One telling example shows how out of touch with reality this entire endeavor will be: the White House has even extended an invitation to uberloser Juan Guaido!  That in spite of the fact that the people of Venezuela have recently massively rejected Guaido and everything he stands for.

This, by the way, also strongly suggest that even though, for example, almost all Latin American countries have been invited to the Summit, this participation is a very good illustration of the comprador nature of the ruling classes in Latin American.  If the people were given the right to decide whether they want to subserviently support the “Yankee/gringo” Empire or not, very few, if any, of the invited countries would send delegates.

In other words, this Summit is first and foremost about APPEARANCES, a PR move destined to strong-arm each government on the planet to make a simple choice, the very same choice Baby Bush offered when he said that “you are either with us or with the terrorists”.  The updated version of this could be “you are either with us, or with the evil Russians and the evil Chinese”.

[BTW – This is the list of countries which have not been invited (for various reasons): Afghanistan, Algeria, Andorra, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Brunei, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cote D’Ivoire, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Comoros, Congo, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, The Holy See, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iran, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lebanon, Lesotho, Libya, Liechtenstein, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Monaco, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nicaragua, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Qatar, Russia, Rwanda, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Vietnam, Yemen, and Zimbabwe.]

The real (people’s) map would look very differently

What would a realistic map look like?

First, almost none of the Latin American countries would be represented.

Second, all of Europe would, but primarily because the EU’s comprador elites are desperate to get from this summit a legitimacy which they are increasingly losing in their own countries due to the truly phenomenal, I would even say, suicidal policies of the EU member states (economy, energy, COVID, crime, immigration, Wokism, etc.).

Next, all of Africa would participate, in a desperate attempt to get as much aid as possible (military, economic, political, etc.) and to show how abjectly subservient to their colonial masters all the African governments still are.  This is hardly their fault, true, but that does not change the abject reality of African politics…

Next, the wider Middle-East, India and Pakistan would also participate, but for very different reasons: these governments have all read the writing on the wall, albeit with some differences, and they know that the US is on the way out, but they want that “out” to be played on terms advantageous to them.  Nobody wants to be the “next Erdogan” and be overthrown by CENTCOM.  I would also add that while CENTCOM ain’t much of a military force anymore, there are numerous multi-billion dollar contracts still linking the USA to these countries and that is reason enough to show up at the Summit, and say all the right things, and then come home and return to business as usual.

Which leaves the entire Asian continent, including Russia, China, Central and Far East Asia.  Here the map is simple: countries near Russia and China are not invited, countries near(er) Australia are.  Asia currently is the continent with the most agency, by far, and the one with the brightest future due not only to its immense resources (human and natural) but also due to the fact that the two Asian giants (Russia and China) are moving together as one to begin to build the multi-polar world they eventually want to see worldwide on the continent they share.  Russia and China also happen to have the most powerful militaries on the planet (especially if counted together, which they increasingly should).

If Malcolm X was still alive today he would probably say that “all the house Negroes have been invited and all the field Negroes have not” (see here) 🙂

The Summit for Democracy as a time machine?

I would argue that the upcoming Summit is like a time machine, not one which allows us to actually travel in time, but one which shows us who will be part of shaping the future of our planet and who will not.  The folks invited by the (already dead) AngloZionist Empire are either comprador elites, or regimes with no real agency (and, therefore, no real legitimacy), and a few desperately poor countries which are literally willing to do anything, anything at all, to please their current masters.  They have no real future to speak of.

As for the future, it is pretty evident that Asia will be, by far, the most important continent to set the agenda for the foreseeable future.  I personally believe that Latin America will be next, all that is needed their is for a few well chosen “dominoes” to fall and the entire continent will be flipped very quickly.  True, right now, if we ONLY look at the official map, Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Bolivia look rather isolated.  But let’s look at this differently, the fact that these countries can survive while being surrounded by pro-USA regimes is a very telling sign by itself.  Furthermore, there are also two giants in Latin America: Argentina and Brazil, especially the latter.  Should Brazil be “flipped”, then that would have a huge impact on the rest of the continent.

Next, the two regions which will “fall” next would be the Middle-East, first, and eventually, Europe, second.

There is very little, if anything, the Empire or the USA can do about the Middle-East: the truth is that the future of the region will be set by Iran (the regional superpower) and Russia.  Yes, the Axis of Kindness countries (US+KSA+Israel) can still trigger a major regional war.  But they can’t win it.  That ship has now sailed.

With the EU, however, things are much more complicated and all the Kabuki theatre we currently see about the “imminent” Russian invasion is all about two things: first, “elegantly” get rid of the Ukraine (to a Russian invasion would be best) and about reasserting the Anglo dominance over the European continent.  That plan might still succeed, especially when we consider the very real political power the UK+3B+PU gang has ever EU decision (yes, even the UK still has a lot of influence over the EU ruling classes via its still very real financial power!).

As for Oceania and Africa, they simply don’t matter very much, the former a nicely isolated by distance, the latter has no agency and is totally dependent on some kind of foreign masters.

In the meantime, the brain-dead EU politicians, which should have been placed on suicide watch years ago, are still at it: NATO threatens Russia with “consequences” while the US declares that “all options are on the table“.  We can be sure that Putin personally and everybody else in Russia are absolutely *terrified* by such language, and that is why when the “imminent” Russian invasion does not materialize, the leaders of the (long dead) Empire will proclaim themselves “victorious” against the “Putin regime”!  Bravo!

And even if the Ukies succeed in forcing Russia to intervene, then NATO will proudly declared that its invincible might is what forced the Russians to stop (doesn’t really matter where exactly). Again, bravo!

All this craziness actually makes perfect sense, as an imaginary war is the only one these losers can “win”.

Andrei

The NATOstan Clown Show

November 29, 2021

Flags wave ahead of a NATO Defence Ministers meeting at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, October 21, 2021. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol – RC28EQ9178EG

The charade has come to a point that – diplomatically – is quite unprecedented: Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov lost his Taoist patience.

Source

Independent geopolitical analyst, writer and journalist

By Pepe Escobar,

American hysteria over the “imminent” Russian invasion of Ukraine has exploded every geopolitical Stupid-o-Meter in sight – and that’s quite an accomplishment.

What a mess. Sections of the U.S. Deep State are in open revolt against the combo that remote controls Crash Test Dummy, who impersonates POTUS. The neocon-neoliberal axis is itching for a war – but has no idea how to sell it to an immensely fractured public opinion.

UKUS, which de facto controls the Five Eyes spy scam, excels only in propaganda. So in the end it’s up to the CIA/MI6 intel axis and their vast network of media chihuahuas to accelerate Fear and Loathing ad infinitum.

Russophobic U.S. Think Tankland would very much cherish a Russian “invasion”, out of the blue, and could not give a damn about the inevitable trouncing of Ukraine. The problem is the White House – and the Pentagon – must “intervene”, forcefully; otherwise that will represent a catastrophic loss of “credibility” for the Empire.

So what do these people want? They want to provoke Moscow by all means available to exercise “Russian aggression”, resulting in a lightning fast war that will be a highway to hell for Ukraine, but with zero casualties for NATO and the Pentagon.

Then the Empire of Chaos will blame Russia; unleash a tsunami of fresh sanctions, especially financial; and try to shut off all economic links between Russia and NATOstan.

Reality dictates that none of the above is going to happen.

All exponents of Russian leadership, starting with President Putin, have already made it clear, over and over again, what happens if the Ukro-dementials start a blitzkrieg over Donbass: Ukraine will be mercilessly smashed – and that applies not only to the ethno-fascist gang in Kiev. Ukraine will cease to exist as a state.

Defense Minister Shoigu, for his part, has staged all manner of not exactly soft persuasion, featuring Tu-22M3 bombers or Tu-160 White Swan bombers.

The inestimable Andrei Martyanov has conclusively explained, over and over again, that “NATO doesn’t have forces not only to ‘counter-act’ anything Russia does but even if it wanted to it still has no means to fight a war with Russia.”

Martyanov notes, “there is nothing in the U.S. arsenal now and in the foreseeable future which can intercept Mach=9-10+, let alone M=20-27, targets. That’s the issue. Same analytical method applies to a situation in 404. The only thing U.S. (NATO) can hope for is to somehow provoke Russia into the invasion of this shithole of a country and then get all SIGINT it can once Russia’s C4ISR gets into full combat mode.”

Translation: anything the Empire of Chaos and its NATO subsidiary try in Donbass, directly or indirectly, the humiliation will make the Afghanistan “withdrawal” look like a House of Gucci dinner party.

No one should expect clueless NATO puppets – starting with secretary-general Stoltenberg – to understand the military stakes. After all, these are the same puppets who have been building up a situation which might ultimately leave Moscow with a single, stark choice: be ready to fight a full scale hot war in Europe – which could become nuclear in a flash. And ready they are.

It’s all about Minsk

In a parallel reality, “meddling in 404” – a delightful Martyanov reference to a hellhole that is little more than a computer error – is a totally different story. That perfectly fits American juvenilia ethos.

At least some of the adults in selected rooms are talking. The CIA’s Burns went to Moscow to try to extract some assurance that in the event NATO Special Forces were caught in the cauldrons – Debaltsevo 2015-style – that the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, with Russian help, will concoct, they would be allowed to escape.

His interlocutor, Patrushev, told Burns – diplomatically – to get lost.

Chief of the General Staff, Gen Valery Gerasimov, had a phone call with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen Mark Milley, ostensibly to ensure, in Pentagonese, “risk-reduction and operational de-confliction”. No substantial details were leaked.

It remains to be seen how this “de-confliction” will happen in practice when Defense Minister Shoigu revealed U.S. nuclear-capable bombers have been practicing, in their sorties across Eastern Europe, “their ability to use nuclear weapons against Russia”. Shoigu discussed that in detail with Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe: after all the Americans will certainly pull the same stunt against China.

The root cause of all this drama is stark: Kiev simply refuses to respect the February 2015 Minsk Agreement.

In a nutshell, the deal stipulated that Kiev should grant autonomy to Donbass via a constitutional amendment, referred to as “special status”; issue a general amnesty; and start a dialogue with the people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk.

Over the years, Kiev fulfilled exactly zero commitments – while the proverbial NATOstan media machine incessantly pounded global opinion with fake news, spinning that Russia was violating Minsk. Russia is not even mentioned in the agreement.

Moscow in fact always respected the Minsk Agreement – which translates as regarding Donbass as an integral, autonomous part of Ukraine. Moscow has zero interest in promoting regime change in Kiev.

This charade has come to a point that – diplomatically – is quite unprecedented: Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov lost his Taoist patience.

Lavrov was forced, under the circumstances, to publish 28 pages of correspondence between Moscow on one hand, and Berlin and Paris on the other, evolving around the preparation of a high-level meeting on Ukraine.

Moscow was in fact calling for one of the central points of the agreement to be implemented: a direct dialogue between Kiev and Donbass. Berlin and Paris said this was unacceptable. So yes: both, for all practical purposes, destroyed the Minsk Agreement. Public opinion across NATOstan has no idea whatsoever this actually happened.

Lavrov did not mince his words: “I am sure that you understand the necessity of this unconventional step, because it is a matter of conveying to the world community the truth about who is fulfilling, and how, the obligations under international law that have been agreed at the highest level.”

So it’s no wonder that the leadership in Moscow concluded it’s an absolute waste of time to talk to Berlin and Paris about Ukraine: they lied, cheated – and then blamed Russia. This “decision” at the EU level faithfully mirrors NATO’s campaign of stoking the flames of imminent “Russian aggression” against Ukraine.

Armchair warriors, unite!

Across NATOstan, the trademark stupidity of U.S. Think Tankland rules unabated, congregating countless acolytes spewing out the talking points of choice: “relentless Russian subversion”, “thug” Putin “intimidation” of Ukraine, Russians as “predators”, and everything now coupled with “power-hungry China’s war on Western values.”

Some Brit hack, in a twisted way, actually managed to sum up the overall impotence – and insignificance – by painting Europe as a victim, “a beleaguered democratic island in an anarchic world, which a rising tide of authoritarianism, impunity and international rule-breaking threatens to inundate”.

The answer by NATOstan Defense Ministers is to come up with a Strategic Compass – essentially an anti-Russia-China scam – complete with “rapid deployment forces”. Led by who, General Macron?

As it stands, poor NATOstan is uncontrollably sobbing, accusing those Russian hooligans – scary monsters, to quote David Bowie – of staging an anti-satellite missile test and thus “scorning European safety concerns”.

Something must have got lost in translation. So here’s what happened: Russia conclusively demonstrated it’s capable of obliterating each and every one of NATO’s satellites and blind “all their missiles, planes and ships, not to mention ground forces” in case they decide to materialize their warmongering ideas.

Obviously those deaf, dumb and blind NATOstan armchair warrior clowns – fresh from their Afghan “performance” – won’t get the message. But NATOstan anyway was never accused of being partial to reality.

Oh the beauty of Ukie nationalism!

November 29, 2021

This is the translated text: (red emphasis added)

Good morning. This drawing in the hands of a girl is the dream of all Ukrainians. A new generation is growing up, which was not “brainwashed” by the Soviet mindset. This is our future, which we are fighting for!

source: https://t.me/The3rdForceUA/559

By the way, to those who might be tempted to dismiss this has “just a drawing” on “just a Telegram channel”, I want to remind you all of what, for example, the official symbol of the Ukie military intelligence stupidity service looks like:

To see Putin and die

November 29, 2021

by Rostislav Ischenko for Ukraina.ru
source: 
Note: this machine translated text

Joseph Biden, the 46th president of the United States, has asked Russian President Vladimir Putin for a meeting for the second time in six months. This would not be surprising: in the end, international tensions have reached a limit, and not only the most alarmist of experts, but also the most cautious of politicians have already started talking about the high probability of war

In such circumstances, responsible leaders of great powers are simply obliged to meet and seek compromises.

But this is the same Biden, whose team cried all the tears over Russian interference in the American elections and twice tried to organize the impeachment of the 45th US President Donald Trump, accusing the latter of surrendering American interests to Russia and working for Putin. Meanwhile, Putin and Trump had only one full-format meeting (in Helsinki, July 16, 2018, a year and a half before the expiration of Trump’s powers), and the rest — about five short conversations “on the sidelines” of various summits.

Relations between Russia and the United States had sunk to the freezing point even before Trump. At the same time, the 45th American president, although he negotiated more harshly, was still much more constructive than the 46th. Trump was inclined to seek a compromise, despite all the contradictions, because only a mutually acceptable compromise can ensure a long and lasting peace.

Biden, in a typical American manner, is trying to deceive a partner in the negotiation process, seeking only a truce – a postponement of confrontation for some time, during which the United States will try to solve its problems in order to take up the old with renewed vigor later.

That is why Biden’s team is begging for meetings with Putin, as if their ancient boss is afraid to die without telling Vladimir Vladimirovich something important. Pay attention to the diplomatic activity of the American president who does not always adequately perceive reality during the first year of his term:

* spring – activation of the US-European Union, an attempt to force the EU to go to a sharp deterioration in relations with Russia and abandon the SP-2;
* summer – a sudden request for a meeting with Putin, insistence on its early organization, declared readiness to resolve the entire spectrum of controversial issues. In fact, absolutely empty and unacceptable hints for Russia about the readiness of the United States not to interfere if the Kremlin decides to restore its exclusive sphere of influence in the post-Soviet space by force, so that, as a reciprocal courtesy, Russia refuses an informal (but very problematic for the United States) alliance with China. The rest of the summer is devoted to spreading disinformation that Moscow is ready to negotiate with the United States at the expense of Beijing;
* autumn — the formation of an anti-Chinese alliance of US vassals in the Asia-Pacific region and part of the European powers, followed by a sharp and persistent desire to organize a personal meeting between Xi Jinping and Biden (the meeting took place, was in vain, after which the United States began spreading disinformation that Beijing is ready to negotiate with Washington at the expense of Moscow);
* winter — against the background of the sharp aggravation of the situation on the borders of Russia and Belarus that began in the autumn and an undisguised attempt to draw Russia into a war with the participation of Eastern European members of NATO and the EU, a new insistence on a personal meeting with Putin.

In my opinion, there is no need to have an outstanding intellect to see the “swing” on which the United States is trying to “rock” Russia and China in order to break their partnership (absolutely nullifying all attempts by the United States to regain the status of a global hegemon) and suppress Moscow and Beijing one by one and one by one. The United States offers everyone something unnecessary, but seriously binding their hands and requiring large resource costs, they try to link everyone with a regional war with their allies (who, however, are not in a hurry to drag chestnuts out of the fire for Washington), they inspire everyone that the partner has almost agreed to the American proposal and we must hurry to negotiate ourselves so as not to be made fools of.

The method is simple, has been used since ancient times and quite often led to success. The United States understands that neither Russia nor China want to win right now and annex the post-Soviet territories in Europe and Taiwan (respectively).

Moscow and Beijing would prefer to solve these problems peacefully and later. At this stage, the too clearly expressed intention to return the fallen imperial territories may not only limit the possibilities of cooperation between Russia and China to resist the military-political and financial-economic pressure of the United States, but also undermine the entire system of Eurasian unions built by them.

Therefore, the United States, in order to persuade Russia and China to make concessions in the negotiations, frighten both of them with an unnecessary regional war, while at the same time offering to negotiate and solve this problem. If someone gives up and starts at least discussing options, Washington will immediately provide a proof leak of information in order to persuade the second partner to make a concession, and then bargain with both from a favorable position to bring down the price.

Realizing all this, the Russian leadership is in no hurry to talk with Biden. Peskov, on behalf of the Kremlin, said that the exact date has not yet been determined. However, the Kremlin has agreed in principle to organize a videoconference before the end of the year. Why did they do that?

Every month (not to mention a year) without war, Russia and China strengthen and weaken the United States. If we hold out for two or three years, the war will become meaningless for the United States, because, by their own admission, after 2024 they do not see the possibility of defeating China militarily. Consequently, in two years, the opportunities for American blackmail will decrease sharply, and America’s allies, who are already unwilling to risk themselves because of the Washington games, will become even more thoughtful, it will be even more difficult to persuade them to demonstrative aggressive actions against Moscow and Beijing. A certain US deadline is approaching, we need to act already. Under these conditions, Washington, having lost hope of achieving its goal by peace, can really bet on provocation of war.

Any negotiations are a way to delay time. While they are preparing and while they are going, it is unprofitable for the United States to be unconstructive, which means they will try to keep their allies on a short leash. But vassal states are not trained dogs that can be set on an object or calmed down in one second, rocking the situation takes time (albeit a little). The solution suggests itself: as long as possible to delay the time in determining the date of negotiations, postponing them for later. As soon as it becomes impossible to pull further – to hold negotiations and try, without giving a single opportunity to interpret their outcome as a willingness to take seriously American proposals for the surrender of an ally, to involve the United States in the preparation of the next meeting by creating permanent expert groups in the areas.

Any diplomatic department is a complex bureaucratic machine that is extremely difficult to force to move simultaneously in two directions. If you give the task to begin diplomatic preparations for war, this apparatus will move in one direction, if you set the task of finding a compromise, then in another. At the same time, it will have a serious informational impact on both the international and domestic agenda. That is, even meaningless, but regular meetings of experts reduce (though not completely remove) the risk of fatal confrontation.

Russia’s actions indicate that the Kremlin clearly sees the threat and has chosen the right tactics. The agreement on the creation of expert groups was reached during the first meeting with Biden, with the organization of which they stretched out as much as they could. However, America countered this agreement by saying that the expert groups did not work. So, now Russian diplomats will point this out and demand more constructive.

The current meeting is also being delayed as much as they can, having already postponed it until the end of December. If it works out, then under the pretext of New Year’s holidays they will postpone it until the middle-end of January (however, this is unlikely, the United States is in a hurry). The current meeting will be held online: the coronavirus. Although he does not interfere with Putin and Biden’s meetings with other politicians, but in this case only online. And not because I don’t want to waste time on flights, knowing in advance that the negotiations will be in vain. The online mode does not allow the organization of fake leaks about the content of negotiations. This is not a face-to-face conversation (in the presence of only unknown and controlled translators, in an office protected from wiretapping) – everything is recorded, and by both sides.

Thus, Russia is trying to win one and a half to two months out of the 48 required. Will it be possible to win the world completely?

This question has no definite answer. On the one hand, time is running out, and with the approach of 2024, the United States has nothing to lose, and in the vassal countries designated by them for slaughter, there are their own war parties that (for personal gain) are ready to start even a losing war that destroys their states. On the other hand, the current authorities, who are now in charge of American consumables, are doing everything possible to get rid of the honorable mission of pointlessly dying for the interests of the United States. How strong will they have enough strength to continue maneuvering on the verge of a foul? How ready are Americans to increase pressure on the dependent elites of limitrophs? Where is the weak link ready to break: in Europe or in Asia and who is it (Ukraine, Taiwan, someone else)? We can only assume with more or less certainty.

Often the expected danger comes at all from where it is not expected or when they stopped waiting and relaxed.

White House Comments on JCPOA, COVID Vaccines, Petroleum Strategic Reserves

29 Nov 2021

Source: Agencies

By Al Mayadeen

The White House says that their goal is a return to mutual compliance with the JCPOA, and that they have not reconsidered their decision to release strategic oil reserves.

White House Spokesperson Jen Psaki

White House Spokesperson Jen Psaki said on Monday that the United States’ goal of full return to compliance with the Iran nuclear agreement has not changed.

“Our objective has not changed,” Psaki said. “It remains a mutual return to full compliance with the JCPOA.”

The Vienna Talks were restarted today after a 5-month hiatus. Russia’s Permanent Representative to International Organizations in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, said today that the seventh round of negotiations on the renewal of the nuclear deal has begun successfully.

Psaki also commented on the Biden administration’s decision to release oil from the US Strategic Petroleum Reserves, saying the administration has not reconsidered its position on the release.

Psaki: No plans to restrict Biden’s travel for Omicron

Psaki was asked during the press briefing whether there are plans to restrict President Joe Biden’s travel on account of the new Omicron variant, to which Psaki said that there are “none planned at this point.”

She also clarified that Biden will put forward a detailed strategy on how to fight covid this winter next Thursday, adding that there are no recommendations on changing US citizens’ travel plans during the upcoming holiday season.

Psaki said that they had pressed on pharmaceutical companies in the past to be a productive player in the fight against the pandemic, but “we can’t compel or force anyone to share their intellectual property data… that’s not something written into these contracts which obviously were done prior to the president taking office.” However, Biden’s “supports the IP waiver,” she declared.

China, Russia and India: Foreign Ministers Joint Communique

November 27, 2021

Joint Communique of the 18th Meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Russian Federation, the Republic of India and the People’s Republic of China

November 26, 2021

1. The 18th Meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Russian Federation, the Republic of India and the People’s Republic of China was held in the digital video-conference format on 26 November 2021. The meeting took place in the backdrop of negative impacts of the global Covid-19 pandemic, on-going economic recovery as well as continuing threats of terrorism, extremism, drug trafficking, trans-national organized crime, natural and man-made disasters, food security and climate change.

2. The Ministers exchanged views on further strengthening the Russia-India-China (RIC) trilateral cooperation and also discussed various regional and international issues of importance. The Ministers recalled their last meeting in Moscow in September 2020 as well as the RIC Leaders’ Informal Summit in Osaka (Japan) in June 2019 and noted the need for regular high level meetings to foster closer cooperation among the RIC countries.

3. Expressing their solidarity with those who were negatively affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Ministers underlined the importance of a timely, transparent, effective and non-discriminatory international response to global health challenges including pandemics, with equitable and affordable access to medicines, vaccines and critical health supplies. They reiterated the need for continued cooperation in this fight inter-alia through sharing of vaccine doses, transfer of technology, development of local production capacities, promotion of supply chains for medical products. In this context, they noted the ongoing discussions in the WTO on COVID-19 vaccine Intellectual Property Rights waiver and the use of flexibilities of the TRIPS Agreement and the Doha Declaration on TRIPS Agreement and Public Health.

4. Emphasizing the need for collective cooperation in the fight against Covid-19 pandemic, the Ministers noted the measures being taken by the World Health Organization (WHO), governments, non-profit organisations, academia, business and industry in combating the pandemic. In this context, the Ministers called for strengthening the policy responses of WHO in the fight against Covid-19 and other global health challenges. They also called for making Covid-19 vaccination a global public good.

5. The Ministers agreed that cooperation among the RIC countries will contribute not only to their own growth but also to global peace, security, stability and development. The Ministers underlined the importance of strengthening of an open, transparent, just, inclusive, equitable and representative multi-polar international system based on respect for international law and principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and central coordinating role of the United Nations in the international system.

6. The Ministers reiterated that a multi-polar and rebalanced world based on sovereign equality of nations and respect for international law and reflecting contemporary realities requires strengthening and reforming of the multilateral system. The Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to upholding international law, including the purposes and principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations. The Ministers acknowledged that the current interconnected international challenges should be addressed through reinvigorated and reformed multilateral system, especially of the UN and its principal organs, and other multilateral institutions such as International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank (WB), World Trade Organization (WTO), World Health Organization (WHO), with a view to enhancing its capacity to effectively address the diverse challenges of our time and to adapt them to 21st century realities. The Ministers recalled the 2005 World Summit Outcome document and reaffirmed the need for comprehensive reform of the UN, including its Security Council, with a view to making it more representative, effective and efficient, and to increase the representation of the developing countries so that it can adequately respond to global challenges. Foreign Ministers of China and Russia reiterated the importance they attached to the status of India in international affairs and supported its aspiration to play a greater role in the United Nations.Foreign Ministers of Russia and China congratulated India for its successful Presidency of the UNSC in August 2021.

7. Underlining the significance they attach to the intra-BRICS cooperation, the Ministers welcomed the outcomes of the 13th BRICS Summit held under India’s chairmanship on 9 September 2021. They agreed to work actively to implement the decisions of the successive BRICS Summits, deepen BRICS strategic partnership, strengthen cooperation in its three pillars namely political and security cooperation; economic and finance; and people-to-people and cultural exchanges. Russia and India extend full support to China for its BRICS Chairship in 2022 and hosting the XIV BRICS Summit.

8. In the year of the 20th Anniversary of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) the Ministers underlined that the SCO as an influential and responsible member of the modern system of international relations plays a constructive role in securing peace and sustainable development, advancing regional cooperation and consolidating ties of good-neighbourliness and mutual trust. In this context, they emphasized the importance of further strengthening the Organization’s multifaceted potential with a view to promote multilateral political, security, economic and people-to-people exchanges cooperation. The Ministers intend to pay special attention to ensuring stability in the SCO space, including to step up efforts in jointly countering terrorism, illicit drug trafficking and trans-border organized crime under the framework of SCO-Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure. They appreciated the Ministerial meeting in the SCO Contact Group on Afghanistan format held on 14th July 2021 in Dushanbe.

9. The Ministers supported the G-20’s leading role in global economic governance and international economic cooperation. They expressed their readiness to enhance communication and cooperation including through G-20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and other means, through consultations and mutual support in areas of respective interest.

10. The Ministers stand for maintaining and strengthening of ASEAN Centrality and the role of ASEAN-led mechanisms in the evolving regional architecture, including through fostering ties between ASEAN and other regional organizations such as the SCO, IORA, BIMSTEC. The Ministers reiterated the importance of the need for closer cooperation and consultations in various regional fora and organizations, East Asia Summit (EAS), ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting Plus (ADMM-Plus), Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) and the Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD), to jointly contribute to regional peace, security and stability.

11. The Ministers consider it important to utilize the potential of the countries of the region, international organizations and multilateral associations in order to create a space in Eurasia for broad, open, mutually beneficial and equal interaction in accordance with international law and taking into account national interests. In that regard, they noted the idea of establishing a Greater Eurasian Partnership involving the SCO countries, the Eurasian Economic Union, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and other interested States and multilateral associations.

12. The Ministers condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. The Ministers reaffirmed that terrorism must be comprehensively countered to achieve a world free of terrorism. They called on the international community to strengthen UN-led global counter-terrorism cooperation by fully implementing the relevant UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions and the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. In this context, they called for early adoption of the UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism. The Ministers stressed that those committing, orchestrating, inciting or supporting, financing terrorist acts must be held accountable and brought to justice in accordance with existing international commitments on countering terrorism, including the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the FATF standards, international treaties, including on the basis of the principle “extradite or prosecute” and relevant international and bilateral obligations and in compliance with applicable domestic legislation.

13. The Ministers emphasized the importance of the three international drug control conventions and other relevant legal instruments which form the edifice of the drug control system. They reiterated their firm resolve to address the world drug problem, on a basis of common and shared responsibility. The Ministers expressed their determination to counter the spread of illicit drug trafficking in opiates and methamphetamine from Afghanistan and beyond, which poses a serious threat to regional security and stability and provides funding for terrorist organizations.

14. The Ministers reiterated the need for a holistic approach to development and security of ICTs, including technical progress, business development, safeguarding the security of States and public interests, and respecting the right to privacy of individuals. The Ministers noted that technology should be used responsibly in a human-centric manner. They underscored the leading role of the United Nations in promoting a dialogue to forge common understandings on the security of and in the use of ICTs and development of universally agreed norms, rules and principles for responsible behaviour of States in the area of ICTs and recognized the importance of strengthening its international cooperation. The Ministers recalled that the development of ICT capabilities for military purposes and the malicious use of ICTs by State and non-State actors including terrorists and criminal groups is a disturbing trend. The Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to principles of preventing conflicts stemming from the use of ICTs, as well as ensuring use of these technologies for peaceful purposes. In this context, they welcomed the work of recently concluded UN-mandated groups namely Open Ended Working Group on the developments in the fields of Information and Telecommunications in the context of international security (OEWG) and the Sixth United Nations Group of Governmental Experts (UNGGE) on Advancing responsible State behaviour in cyberspace in the context of international security and their consensual final reports. The Ministers supported the OEWG on the security of and in the use of ICTs 2021-2025.

15. The Ministers, while emphasizing the important role of the ICTs for growth and development, acknowledged the potential misuse of ICTs for criminal activities and threats. The Ministers expressed concern over the increasing level and complexity of criminal misuse of ICTs as well as the absence of a UN-led framework to counter the use of ICTs for criminal purposes. Noting that new challenges and threats in this respect require international cooperation, the Ministers appreciated the launch of the UN Open-Ended Ad-Hoc Intergovernmental Committee of Experts to elaborate a comprehensive international convention on countering the use of ICTs for criminal purposes under the auspices of the United Nations, pursuant to the United Nations General Assembly resolution 74/247.

16. The Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to broadening and strengthening the participation of emerging markets and developing countries (EMDCs) in the international economic decision-making and norm-setting processes, especially in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. In this regard, they emphasized the importance of constant efforts to reform the international financial architecture. They expressed concern that enhancing the voice and participation of EMDCs in the Bretton Woods institutions remains far from realization.

17. The Ministers reaffirmed their support for a transparent, open, inclusive and non-discriminatory multilateral trading system, with the World Trade Organization (WTO) at its core. In this context, they reiterated their support for the necessary reform which would preserve the centrality, core values and fundamental principles of the WTO while taking into account the interests of all members, especially developing countries and Least Developing Countries (LDCs). They emphasized the primary importance of ensuring the restoration and preservation of the normal functioning of a two-stage WTO Dispute Settlement system, including the expeditious appointment of all Appellate Body members. The post-pandemic world requires diversified global value chains that are based on resilience and reliability.

18. The Ministers agreed that the imposition of unilateral sanctions beyond those adopted by the UNSC as well as “long-arm jurisdiction” were inconsistent with the principles of international law, have reduced the effectiveness and legitimacy of the UNSC sanction regime, and had a negative impact on third States and international economic and trade relations. They called for a further consolidation and strengthening of the working methods of the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee to ensure their effectiveness, responsiveness and transparency.

19. The Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in its three dimensions- economic, social and environmental in a balanced and integrated manner – and reiterated that the Sustainable Development Goals are integrated and indivisible and must be achieved ‘leaving no one behind’. The Ministers called upon the international community to foster a more equitable and balanced global development partnership to address the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and to accelerate the implementation of 2030 Agenda while giving special attention to the difficulties and needs of the developing countries. The Ministers urged developed countries to honour their Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitments, including the commitment to achieve the target of 0.7 percent of gross national income for official development assistance (ODA/GNI) to developing countries and to facilitate capacity building and the transfer of technology to developing countries together with additional development resources, in line with national policy objectives of the recipients.

20. The Ministers also reaffirmed their commitment to Climate action by implementation of Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement adopted under the principles of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), including the principle of Equity, Common But Differentiated Responsibilities, the criticality of adequate finance and technology flows, judicious use of resources and the need for sustainable lifestyles. They recognized that peaking of Greenhouse Gas Emissions will take longer for developing countries, in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty. They stressed the importance of a Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework that addresses the three objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in a balanced way. They welcomed the outcomes of the 26th Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-26) and the 15th Conference of Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP-15).

21. The Ministers underlined the imperative of dialogue to strengthen international peace and security through political and diplomatic means. The Ministers confirmed their commitment to ensure prevention of an arms race in outer space and its weaponization, through the adoption of a relevant multilateral legally binding instrument. In this regard, they noted the relevance of the draft treaty on the prevention of the placement of weapons in outer space and of the threat or use of force against outer space objects. They emphasized that the Conference on Disarmament, as the single multilateral negotiating forum on this subject, has the primary role in the negotiation of a multilateral agreement, or agreements, as appropriate, on the prevention of an arms race in outer space in all its aspects. They expressed concern over the possibility of outer space turning into an arena of military confrontation. They stressed that practical transparency and confidence building measures, such as the No First Placement initiative may also contribute towards the prevention of an arms race in outer space. The Ministers reaffirmed their support for enhancing international cooperation in outer space in accordance with international law, based on the Outer Space Treaty. They recognized, in that regard, the leading role of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS). They agreed to stand together for enhancing the long-term sustainability of outer space activities and safety of space operations through deliberations under UNCOPUOS.

22. The Ministers reiterated the importance of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction (BTWC) as a key pillar of the global disarmament and security architecture. They highlighted the need for BTWC States Parties to comply with BTWC, and actively consult one another on addressing issues through cooperation in relation to the implementation of the Convention and strengthening it, including by negotiating a legally binding Protocol for the Convention that provides for, inter alia, an efficient verification mechanism. The BTWC functions should not be duplicated by other mechanisms. They also reaffirmed support for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and called upon the State Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) to uphold the Convention and the integrity of the CWC and engage in a constructive dialogue with a view to restoring the spirit of consensus in the OPCW.

23. The Ministers showed deep concern about the threat of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) falling into the hands of terrorist groups, including the use of chemicals and biological agents for terrorist purposes. To address the threat of chemical and biological terrorism, they emphasized the need to launch multilateral negotiations on an international convention for the suppression of acts of chemical and biological terrorism at the Conference on Disarmament. They urged all States to take and strengthen national measures, as appropriate, to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction, their means of delivery and materials and technologies related to their manufacture.

24. The Ministers noted rising concerns regarding dramatic change of the situation in Afghanistan. They reaffirmed their support for basic principle of an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and called for formation of a truly inclusive government that represents all the major ethnic and political groups of the country. The Ministers advocated a peaceful, secure, united, sovereign, stable and prosperous inclusive Afghanistan that exists in harmony with its neighbors. They called on the Taliban to take actions in accordance with the results of all the recently held international and regional formats of interaction on Afghanistan, including the UN Resolutions on Afghanistan. Expressing concern over deteriorating humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, the Ministers called for immediate and unhindered humanitarian assistance to be provided to Afghanistan. The Ministers also emphasized on the central role of UN in Afghanistan.

25. They stressed the necessity of urgent elimination of UNSC proscribed terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda, ISIL and others for lasting peace in Afghanistan and the region. The Ministers acknowledged the widespread and sincere demand of the Afghan people for lasting peace. They reaffirmed the importance of ensuring that the territory of Afghanistan should not be used to threaten or attack any other country, and that no Afghan group or individual should support terrorists operating on the territory of any other country.

26. The Ministers reiterated the importance of full implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and UNSC Resolution 2231 and expressed their support to the relevant efforts to ensure the earliest reinvigoration of the JCPOA which is a landmark achievement for multilateral diplomacy and the nuclear non-proliferation.

27. The Ministers reaffirmed their strong commitment to the sovereignty, political independence, territorial integrity and unity of Myanmar. They expressed support to the efforts of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) aimed at implementation of its Five-Point Consensus in cooperation with Myanmar. They called on all sides to refrain from violence.

28. The Ministers underlined the importance of lasting peace and security on the Korean Peninsula. They expressed their support for a peaceful, diplomatic and political solution to resolve all issues pertaining to the Korean Peninsula.

29. The Ministers welcomed the announcement of the Gaza ceasefire beginning 21 May 2021 and stressed the importance of the restoration of general stabilization. They recognized the efforts made by the UN and regional countries to prevent the hostilities from escalating. They mourned the loss of civilian lives resulting from the violence, called for the full respect of international humanitarian law and urged the international community’s immediate attention to providing humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian civilian population, particularly in Gaza. They supported in this regard the Secretary General’s call for the international community to work with the United Nations, including the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), on developing an integrated, robust package of support for a swift and sustainable reconstruction and recovery as well as for appropriate use of such aid. The Ministers reiterated their support for a two-State solution guided by the international legal framework previously in place, resulting in creating an independent and viable Palestinian State and based on the vision of a region where Israel and Palestine live side by side in peace within secure and recognised borders.

30. The Ministers reaffirmed their strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic. They expressed their conviction that there can be no military solution to the Syrian conflict. They also reaffirmed their support to a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned, UN-facilitated political process in full compliance with UNSC Resolution 2254. They welcomed in this context the importance of the Constitutional Committee in Geneva, launched with the decisive participation of the countries-guarantors of the Astana Process and other states engaged in efforts to address the conflict through political means, and expressed their support to the efforts of Mr. Geir Pedersen, Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General for Syria, to ensure the sustainable and effective work of the Committee. They reiterated their conviction that in order to reach general agreement, members of the Constitutional Committee should be governed by a sense of compromise and constructive engagement without foreign interference and externally imposed timelines. They emphasized the fundamental importance of allowing unhindered humanitarian aid to all Syrians in accordance with the UN humanitarian principles and the post-conflict reconstruction of Syria that would contribute to the safe, voluntary and dignified return of Syrian refugees and internally displaced persons to their places of origin thus paving the way to achieving long-term stability and security in Syria and the region in general.

31. The Ministers expressed grave concern over the ongoing conflict in Yemen which affects the security and stability not only of Yemen, but also of the entire region, and has caused what is being called by the United Nations as the worst humanitarian crisis currently in the world. They called for a complete cessation of hostilities and the establishment of an inclusive, Yemeni-led negotiation process mediated by the UN. They also stressed the importance of providing urgent humanitarian access and assistance to all Yemenis.

32. The Ministers welcomed the formation of the new transitional Presidency Council and Government of National Unity in Libya as a positive development and hoped that it would promote reconciliation among all political parties and Libyan society, work towards restoration of peace and stability and conduct elections on 24 December 2021 to hand over power to the new government as per the wishes of the Libyan people. They also noted the important role of UN in this regard.

33. The Ministers noted that some of the planned activities under the RIC format could not take place in the physical format due to the global Covid-19 pandemic situation. They welcomed the outcomes of the 18th RIC Trilateral Academic Conference organized by the Indian Council of World Affairs, New Delhi (ICWA) in the video-conference format on 22-23 April 2021. In this context, they also commended the contribution of the Institute of Chinese Studies (New Delhi), Institute of Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Moscow) and China Institute of International Studies (Beijing) in establishing the RIC Academic Conference as the premier annual analytical forum for deepening RIC cooperation in diverse fields.

34. The Ministers expressed their support to China to host Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

35. Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of China and the Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation thanked the External Affairs Minister of India for successful organization of the RIC Foreign Ministers Meeting. External Affairs Minister of India passed on the chairmanship in the RIC format to the Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of China. The date and venue of the next RIC Foreign Ministers Meeting will be agreed upon through the diplomatic channels.

“A Lot of Mistakes”: The Guardian and Julian Assange 

November 27th, 2021

By John McEvoy and Pablo Navarrete

Source

Three years on from the explosive Julian Assange/Paul Manafort story, we question whether the Guardian has honored its stated commitment to the truth.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND — In 1921, the Manchester Guardian’s editor, Charles Prestwich Scott, marked the newspaper’s centenary with an essay entitled “A Hundred Years.” In it, Scott declared that a newspaper’s “primary office is the gathering of news. …Comment is free, but facts are sacred.”

One hundred years on from Scott’s famous essay, and on the three-year anniversary of the Guardian’s Julian Assange/Paul Manafort story, we question whether the Guardian’s coverage of Julian Assange has honored the newspaper’s stated commitment to the truth.

Based on private communications between a Guardian correspondent and their source inside a security company at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, as well as two exclusive interviews, we trace the events behind two of the Guardian’s most explosive stories this decade.

“Russia’s secret plan to help Julian Assange escape from UK”

On September 21, 2018, the Guardian published a bombshell report entitled “Revealed: Russia’s secret plan to help Julian Assange escape from UK.” The story detailed an alleged conspiracy between Russian diplomats and WikiLeaks to illicitly smuggle Assange out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

During the months before publication, Guardian correspondent Stephanie Kirchgaessner seemed eager to connect Assange to a Russian plot to escape the embassy.

On July 12, 2018, Kirchgaessner wrote to a source at UC Global, the private security company hired by the Ecuadorian government to protect Assange and its embassy in London: “We heard that the Russians wanted to help Assange and maybe get him a diplomatic visa. This was last year. But then the plan was rejected. By the Russians or by Assange? Why? Can you help? Do you know?”

On August 30, 2018, three weeks before publication, Kirchgaessner wrote again: “Hello. I am trying you again. I want to write a story about the discussions last year to get JA out of the embassy. The talks that happened with the Russians. Can I send you some questions?”

When the article was eventually published, the authors — Kirchgaessner, Dan Collyns, and Luke Harding — claimed that “Russian diplomats held secret talks in London … with people close to Julian Assange to assess whether they could help him flee the UK” in late 2017.

Though it was acknowledged that “details of the Assange escape plan are sketchy,” the authors used two unnamed sources to assert that Fidel Narváez, the former consul at the Ecuadorian Embassy, “served as a point of contact with Moscow.”

The story appeared to add weight to the “Russiagate” narrative – the belief that the Donald Trump campaign colluded with Russia to subvert the 2016 U.S. presidential election, with help from WikiLeaks. The authors noted that the alleged escape plan “raises new questions about Assange’s ties to the Kremlin.”

The Guardian pulled out all the stops in its September 2018 report attempting to link Assange to Russia

Two individuals with first-hand knowledge of events reject the Guardian’s story, however, and provide details about what really happened in late 2017 when Assange tried to leave the embassy.

In an exclusive interview, Aitor Martinez, a lawyer who oversaw Ecuador’s effort to grant Assange diplomatic protection, explained that plans were drawn up to appoint Assange as an Ecuadorian diplomat and transport him to a third country. That way, Assange could legally leave the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he was subject to arbitrary detention and where his health was declining.

Martinez drew up a list of countries that Ecuador should approach: China, Serbia, Greece, Bolivia, Venezuela or Cuba, noting:

Of course, they were the countries that don’t have good relations with the U.S. and could accept the appointment. Russia was never, ever on that list. There was a huge conspiracy theory in the U.S. with Russiagate; it didn’t make sense. So those were the countries.”

Martinez continued:

It took two or three weeks and we didn’t get any answer from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. And suddenly the Ministry said that they had appointed him to Russia.”

Foreign Minister María Fernanda Espinosa’s cousin worked at the Ecuadorian Embassy in Moscow and, through this cousin, she concocted a plan to appoint Assange to the one country that was the subject of mass-media hysteria.

“Julian and all of us at the legal team refused this appointment,” Martinez explained. “We said, ‘that’s crazy, what are you talking about?’ We refused.”

After Assange’s legal team refused, a second passport was issued to replace the diplomatic passport appointed to Russia, and Martinez personally brought the second passport to Assange at the embassy.

On December 21, Rommy Vallejo — the head of the Ecuadorian intelligence agency, Senain — visited Assange at the embassy to discuss the logistics for his transfer to a third country. Martinez said:

As soon as Vallejo arrived, he left his mobile phone at the entrance. And UC Global opened the mobile and took the IMEI code and also the sim card, as usual. Take into account that Senain was the entity that hired UC Global and this was the chief of Senain, and they spied on him.”

Martinez continued, referring to open court documents:

According to the UC Global chat, they were listening through the door and everything. They knew everything about the operation and we didn’t know they were spying on us, and reporting everything to the Americans, according to the witness declarations before the Spanish court.”

Martinez can reveal how, over the following days, the U.S. learned of Assange’s plans to leave the embassy. The Minister of Foreign Affairs called Martinez and asked:

What the hell happened? This is crazy, this operation plan was secret, was handled just by five or six people, and suddenly the U.S. ambassador in Quito came to my office and told me: ‘We know that Julian Assange is about to leave the embassy using a diplomatic passport, and we will never allow it.’”

Martinez explained that, at the time, Assange’s legal team couldn’t figure out how the Americans learned about this operation. “Now we can assume that it was because UC Global sent information about the plan. So, she [the foreign minister] said we have to stop everything because the Americans know,” he said.

At this time, the U.S. intelligence agencies were pressuring UC Global to link Assange with Russia. Martinez said:

UC Global drafted exaggerated and faked reports for the Americans. The protected [UC Global] witness claimed before a court that they had drafted exaggerated reports just to feed the Americans with information and to show that UC Global is very important for them at the embassy. If you check UC Global reports, it’s very funny; they make up everything.”

A recent Yahoo! News article suggests that these reports were taken seriously.

As well as listening through the wall, UC Global staff secretly recorded video and audio footage of Assange and Vallejo’s meeting. “They even created a Dropbox link to send it – they took the data, cut the conversation and sent it to Morales,” said Martinez. This footage was then presumably sent to Morales’s handlers in the U.S.

Assange Surveillance
Surveillance footage shows Assange meeting with a confidant at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Screenshot | El Pais

On November 12, 2018, Kirchgaessner contacted a source within UC Global requesting access to the transcript of Assange’s meeting with Vallejo.

Kirchgaessner wrote: “Hola. The transcript?”

Her source responded: “In this moment its [sic] difficult I think tomorrow I can”

Kirchgaessner was thankful: “Really? That would be amazing. You know which one I mean?”The next day, Kirchgaessner messaged again: “Hello. I mean the one with Rommy Vallejo.”

Kirchgaessner never received the transcript. Nonetheless, it is noteworthy that the Guardian knew that a security company hired to protect Assange was in fact compiling transcripts on his private meetings long before this became public knowledge, and this wasn’t treated as the story. The Guardian instead promoted a narrative that Assange’s team was conspiring with Russia to illicitly flee the embassy.

To the contrary, Martinez emphasised that Ecuador had tried to help Assange leave the embassy through legal diplomatic channels, before the U.S. caught wind of the plan through a corrupt security firm that was clandestinely spying on Assange.

“A lot of mistakes”

Fidel Narváez, former consul at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, categorically denies holding secret discussions with Russian diplomats. Narváez said:

I challenged the Guardian and I said this is false information – there was no Russian escape plan. To start with there was not an escape plan – escape, which means something clandestine, illicit, something not legal. That, there was not ever. Let alone something devised or orchestrated by a third country.”

Narváez lodged a formal complaint against the Guardian, attesting that “the Guardian has not, and cannot, substantiate with solid evidence its […] false assertions” that “Russian diplomats held secret talks in London last year;” and that “a tentative plan was devised that would have seen the WikiLeaks founder smuggled out of Ecuador’s London Embassy.”

On advice from its internal regulator, the Guardian amended the article to emphasize that “the plan in relation to Mr. Assange’s ability to be able to leave the Ecuadorian Embassy was not devised or instigated by Russia,” and that “there was nothing illicit about the ‘plan’ as described in the Article.

The Guardian’s climbdown from its original assertions suggests a loss of confidence in the information provided by its unnamed sources. Indeed, Kirchgaessner was warned by a source inside UC Global that the Guardian was being fed with false information from questionable sources months before the article was published.

On May 16, 2018, following the Guardian’s reporting on Operation Hotel (Ecuador’s multi-million-dollar operation to support Assange’s embassy stay), Kirchgaessner was told by a UC Global source:

I’ve read part of your article and [Ecuadorian news agency] plan V; there are a lot of mistakes and things that are confused or mixed; there are people who have provided that information so you do not know why they have given that …”

Perhaps more concerningly, Kirchgaessner appeared to know about the relationship between UC Global’s activities at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and the security company’s proximity to Trump megadonor Sheldon Adelson almost a year before it became public knowledge.

UC Global’s loyalties had shifted in 2016, when its CEO David Morales attended a security fair in Las Vegas and won a contract to guard Queen Miri, a multi-million-dollar yacht owned by Adelson. “Given that Adelson already had a substantial security team assigned to guard him and his family at all times,” wrote Max Blumenthal, “the contract between UC Global and Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands was clearly the cover for a devious espionage campaign apparently overseen by the CIA.” Blumenthal continued:

Throughout the black operations campaign, U.S. intelligence appears to have worked through Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands, a company that had previously served as an alleged front for a CIA blackmail operation several years earlier. The operations formally began once Adelson’s hand-picked presidential candidate, Donald Trump, entered the White House in January 2017.

The relationship between Adelson and UC Global’s operations at the Ecuadorian Embassy was first reported in El País in September 2019. Yet on October 12, 2018, Kirchgaessner emailed her source within UC Global: “Also the [Las Vegas] Sands and Sheldon Adelson – did he pay for the embassy to move?”

If Kirchgaessner knew about the relationship between Adelson and UC Global’s activities at the Ecuadorian Embassy, why was it not reported at the time? Indeed, evidence of an elaborate spying operation on Assange, with links to the Republican Party and the Trump administration, would seem to disrupt the narrative of a secret Assange-Trump-Russia plot to subvert American politics – a narrative that the Guardian would not abandon easily.

“Manafort held secret talks with Assange in Ecuadorian Embassy”

On November 27, 2018, while Narváez’s formal complaint to the Guardian about its Assange coverage was still being processed, the newspaper published another blockbuster story claiming that Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s campaign manager and key aide during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, had “held secret talks with Julian Assange inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London” in 2013, 2015, and Spring 2016.

The story was immediately picked up by the world’s largest news outlets, including CNNMSNBC, the Daily Mail, and the Los Angeles Times. “If it’s right,” commented a U.S. national security reporter, “it might be the biggest get this year.”

Indeed, the article appeared to provide additional evidence of “collusion” between WikiLeaks, Trump, and Russia in the lead-up to the 2016 U.S. election, during which time WikiLeaks released thousands of Democratic National Committee emails.

As the article’s authors, Luke Harding and Dan Collyns, claimed, the last alleged meeting between Assange and Manafort in Spring 2016 “is likely to come under scrutiny and could interest Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor who is investigating alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.”

The Guardian’s Manafort scoop began to unravel almost as soon as it was published.

The WikiLeaks Twitter account responded: “Remember this day when the Guardian permitted a serial fabricator to totally destroy the paper’s reputation. @WikiLeaks is willing to bet the Guardian a million dollars and its editor’s head that Manafort never met Assange.” Both Manafort and Assange denied that any of the visits took place.

Indeed, even the Guardian didn’t seem sure.

Though the Guardian’s sources were able to offer precise details about Manafort’s appearance (“casually dressed when he exited the embassy, wearing sandy-coloured chinos, a cardigan and a light-coloured shirt”) as well as the meeting’s duration (it “lasted about 40 minutes”), the authors were unable to establish exactly when Manafort allegedly visited.

Within a request for comment sent to WikiLeaks shortly before the article was published, Harding was not even able to specify during which month Manafort’s 2016 visit supposedly occurred. The meeting “took place,” Harding wrote, “in or around March 2016, around the time Manafort joined Donald Trump’s presidential campaign,” a detail that remained vague within the published article.

In the time since, the Guardian appears to have lost even more confidence in its own report.

Within hours of publication, the Guardian modified its headline to add “sources say” to the original claim that “Manafort held secret talks with Assange in Ecuadorian embassy.” The print edition, issued one day after online publication, added inverted commas: “Manafort ‘held secret talks with Assange’.”

The main body of the report was also modified. Whereas the original claimed that “It is unclear why Manafort wanted to see Assange and what was discussed,” an updated version read that “It is unclear why Manafort would have wanted to see Assange and what was discussed.” [emphasis added]

Harding’s 2020 book, Shadow State: Murder, Mayhem, and Russia’s Remaking of the West, moreover, makes no mention of Manafort’s alleged meetings with Assange, even though the subject matter’s clear focus is malign Russian involvement in Western politics. Mueller did not mention the alleged meeting in his report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Despite watering down the article’s key claims, the Guardian has yet to add any correction notes or provide a retraction.

Visitor’s log

In paragraph 14 of the Guardian’s Manafort story, the authors note that: “Visitors normally register with embassy security guards and show their passports. Sources in Ecuador, however, say Manafort was not logged.”

It is curious that the Guardian glided over this crucial point. Narváez, who was in charge of the day-to-day functioning of the embassy, asserted that nobody could enter the building without being logged. Visitors required written approval from the ambassador, before registering their visit with security personnel and leaving a copy of their identification, which would be added to the visitor’s log.

Private UC Global discussions raise even more questions.

On November 22, 2018, five days before the Guardian published its Manafort story, an email was sent from UC Global CEO David Morales, asking: “Do we have a record that Paul Manafort during 2013, 2015, and 2016 visited the embassy?” UC Global staff discussed the matter:

Staff A: Hello… send me the name to search for

Staff B: Paul Manafort

Staff A: Ok, I’ll look and let you know

Any date?

I can’t find anything

Staff B: So there’s nothing?

Staff A: I can only find two Pauls… Stafford and Nigel

It seems that the Guardian’s request for information on visits to the embassy was flushed through Ecuadorian intelligence to UC Global and came back negative. Why did the Guardian glide over crucial evidence that contradicted its key claim, without offering any attempt at explaining why Manafort was not in the visitor’s log?

Indeed, the Guardian had relied on the visitor’s log for a separate story, and had privileged access to it.

On May 6, 2018, Kirchgaessner contacted a source within UC Global, saying:

I am interested in Nigel Farage because he went to see [Assange] once in 2017 and said it was the only time he went to see him. But other people think he went more and I am interested in knowing if that is true. Farage pushed for Brexit and he was also close to the Trump campaign.”

On May 18, 2018, Kirchgaessner emailed once more: “Have you seen what we published this week in the Guardian? We didn’t include the name of the company [UC Global]. […] Could you send me the list of visitors for the first week [sic] of 2016 (January – June 2016)?”

It is also curious that no video or photo evidence of Manafort’s alleged visit was provided, especially given that the Guardian had lines to access the embassy’s CCTV records.

On May 14, 2018, Kirchgaessner emailed a source at UC Global, asking: “Can you bring the video again of him [Assange] outside when you come [to a meeting] tomorrow?” Four days later, Kirchgaessner emailed again: “We are very interested in the video of JA [Julian Assange] outside. Do you think that you could get the film in a few weeks?”

If the Guardian could access CCTV footage at the embassy, why was it not able to provide material evidence of Manafort’s alleged visit? Did the Guardian even ask?

Concealed author

To this day, the online version of the Guardian’s Manafort story presents only two authors: Luke Harding and Dan Collyns.

In early December 2018, however, WikiLeaks wrote that the Guardian had “mysteriously hid[den the] third author of fabricated front page story” – Ecuadorian political activist and journalist Fernando Villavicencio.

In 2014, the Ecuadorian government pointed the finger at Villavicencio for providing the Guardian with allegedly forged documents relating to a secret $1billion “deal with a Chinese bank to drill for oil under the Yasuni national park in the Amazon.”

Even before the Guardian’s Manafort story was published, Villavicencio had promoted doubtful claims about Assange’s visitors at the Ecuadorian Embassy. On May 16, 2018, Villavicencio and Cristina Solórzano correctly wrote in La Fuente that “[Nigel] Farage visited Assange in March of last year, stayed for roughly 40 minutes and when asked about why he visited, responded ‘I don’t remember’.”

However, they added that, according to their source, “Farage returned to the embassy the next month, entering 28 April 2018 at 17:10 and leaving at 19:40.”

The allegation was almost certainly false. In late March 2018, the Ecuadorian authorities had removed Assange’s access to the outside world, including a ban on visitors. These rights were only partially restored in October 2018, meaning Farage had supposedly visited while Assange could not accept visitors.

Questions

A number of crucial questions remain unanswered by the Guardian:

  • What did Kirchgaessner know about the relationship between UC Global, Sheldon Adelson, and the Ecuadorian Embassy security operation in 2018, before this was public knowledge? Why was this not reported on at the time?
  • Why did the Guardian not report on the fact that Assange’s private conversations were being transcribed by a security company that was supposed to be protecting him?
  • Did the Guardian continue to use sources in Ecuador’s intelligence service after it was warned that they were spreading disinformation?
  • Given that the Guardian had lines to access CCTV footage at the Ecuadorian Embassy, did it try to attain material evidence of Manafort’s alleged visit? If not, why?
  • Why has the Guardian not added any correction notes or provided a retraction to its Manafort story?
  • Why is the third author of the Manafort story, Fernando Villavicencio, still not listed on the Guardian’s website? Why was he seen as a reputable journalist to cover Assange?

Until these questions are answered, the newspaper cannot credibly defend itself against the charge that it has committed serious journalistic malpractice in its coverage of Julian Assange.

The Guardian did not respond to a request for comment at the time of publication.

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