The Fist of Zion

Darko Lazar

19-03-2018 | 08:18

Headquartered in Tel Aviv, “Israel’s” Mossad is tasked with gathering and analyzing intelligence, as well as carrying out special clandestine operations beyond “Israel’s” borders.

Israeli Forces

With an average annual budget of USD 2 billion, the agency’s work is shrouded in mystery, and as a rule, details about its operations emerge years after the fact. Until 1990, even the identity of the head of the Mossad was kept highly secret.

Today, the agency continues to be the guarantor of ‘security’ for Jews – regardless of whether they live in or outside of “Israel.”

And even though it is estimated to employ only between 1,200 and 2,000 people – including just a few dozen active officers – the Mossad is still able to conduct operations worldwide by relying on a vast network of foreign nationals of Jewish dissent.

Projections put the number of foreigners willing to assist “Israel’s” clandestine services in the tens of thousands.

Working strictly as unregistered operatives, these individuals offer financial assistance, put their properties at the disposal of the agency, and spread propaganda. Most are judges, journalists, and members of the security services.

The Russian Web

Initial reports of more recent Mossad operations in Russia came in 2012, when geopolitical analyst Arayik Sargasyan claimed that the “Israelis” stood behind the music band ‘P…. Riot’.

The conclusion was that Tel Aviv was ‘unhappy’ with the government of Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Today, “Israel’s” disapproval of the Kremlin’s alliance with Tehran, its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and its backing for the Palestinians manifest themselves in far more dangerous ways than bad lyrics.

Moscow has also been stepping up prosecutions against Russian Jews on criminal and espionage charges, which includes prominent figures like the former head of the powerful Russian Jewish Congress, as well as the former chief of the Yukos oil empire, Mikhail Khodorkovsky – also said to be “Israel’s” man.

All of this has only increased the degree of hostility toward Moscow by “Israel’s” Mossad, the UK’s MI6, and the American CIA, as their agents begin to feel less at home in Russia.

Perhaps it is not all surprising then that the “Israelis” have become vastly entangled in conflict zones regarded as having the utmost strategic importance for Russia, including its neighbor Ukraine.

In 2014, rebels in eastern Ukraine discovered the body of Michael Falkov following heavy clashes with battalions loyal to the Kiev government. Falkov was identified through his “Israeli” passport, which was also found on the corpse. The news itself is hardly groundbreaking given the high numbers of ‘former’ “Israeli” soldiers fighting in Ukraine every day.

But Falkov wasn’t just any “Israeli.” He also happened to be the former advisor to both “Israel’s” Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman.

Alternative Russian media outlets that accuse the “Israelis” of attempting to recreate the Palestine scenario by suppressing the local population and resettling a growing number of Jews in countries like Ukraine, also asserted that Falkov was in fact working for the Mossad.

Meanwhile, in Russia itself, there is no shortage of local talent for the Mossad to recruit from.

Particular areas of interest for Russian counterintelligence operatives include social Jewish organizations, especially in Russia’s far east. These groups, which number in the hundreds, are reportedly saturated with “Israeli” spies that select the most skilled and talented youths and organize their departure to “Israel.”

In fact, Moscow believes that “Israeli” advances in the military, economic and scientific fields are made possible partly thanks to Russian emigrants.

During the good old days of the Cold War, the “Israeli” war machine enjoyed considerable benefits from Mossad agents and collaborators in the former Soviet Union.

Both KGB and GRU operatives passed on highly classified information to Tel Aviv about the supply of advanced weapons to Arab states. They also provided full lists of Soviet advisors stationed in Egypt and Syria, as well as information about planned military offensives.

Moreover, a considerable number of Russian Jews trained by the KGB and GRU are reported to have ended up in “Israel” and in the service of the Mossad.

By the 1970s, “Israel’s” intelligence and defense community had been receiving a sizable injection of expertise with the arrival of tens of thousands of Jews from the USSR.

Among them were Red Army officers and Russians who worked in secret military facilities.

In the decades that followed, “Israel’s” knowledge of Russian weapons programs became so intimate that by the time a Russian general began upgrading Syria’s chemical weapons program, Tel Aviv was immediately alerted.

The late General Anatoly Kuntsevich also happens to be the former head of the Novichok project – the deadly nerve agent reportedly used in an attempted murder of a retired Russian double agent on UK soil last week.

In April 2002, in circumstances that remain unknown, Kuntsevich died during a flight from Aleppo to Moscow. The Syrian security services maintain that the Mossad managed to reach and poison the Russian general.

Whatever the truth may be, the Kuntsevich affair appears to underscore the Mossad’s familiarity with both Novichok and its chief architect.

And according to the US Congress Office of Technology Assessment, “Israel” possesses a sizeable weapons of mass destruction program, which includes chemical warfare capabilities and an offensive biological warfare program.

These facts become even more significant when one takes the emblem of the Mossad, enshrined with the words of an old proverb, into consideration; “where there is no guidance, a nation falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”

Source: Al-Ahed

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RUSSIA’S LONG ROAD TOWARD RESURGENCE

17.03.2018 

Russia in the 90’s

The modern day Russian Federation emerged after the collapse of the USSR in 1991. Not only did this change the fate and the standard of life for millions of Soviet people but it also changed the trajectory of development for all mankind. In the first few years of the newly created Russia, the “team of democrats”, with active support from Western countries began its shock economic reforms.

The declared goal of these reforms was to liberalize the Russian [centrally-planned] economy by transitioning it to a market economy. Meanwhile, many believes that the real goal was the seizure of former Soviet property by the “new power holders” and the dismantling of the Soviet industrial economy.

When USSR collapsed, a relatively small group of individuals acquired ownership of tens of trillions of dollars [through a rapid onset of privatization]. Losses suffered by the Soviet production complex as a result of its planned destruction were much higher.

Modern factories were dismantled and exported to scrap metal, machines and equipment were sold for a symbolic 3-5% of their real value, inventory was stolen and all of this was carried out under direct orders or control of the new ruling elite. The territories of the former USSR faced economic and social chaos. The World Bank estimates that only 1.5% of Russia’s population lived in poverty in 1988, but by the mid-1993 that number rose to 39% to 49%. In many regions, people came close to starvation. Wages were paid through goods not money. The resulting hyperinflation reached its peak in the fall of 1992, when retail prices for food and cigarettes increased daily, sometimes multiple times a day.

The main anti-inflationary measure was a further reduction of the monetary supply. This came at the cost of unpaid wages and pensions, unfulfilled government and private contracts. A significant number of enterprises started bartering services.

It is important to note that the goals and methods of economic policies employed by the authorities in the 1990s were formed strictly on the basis of instructions of international financial organizations, primarily the IMF.

Crime flourished. Banditry and racketeering were firmly embedded into everyday life of Russia in the 90’s. Criminal behavior became fashionable.  Law enforcement agencies were not able to deal with these new phenomena in any effective way. Various sects and criminal activity spread rapidly.

Another phenomenon that received direct support from external sources was aggressive separatism and nationalist extremism. By 1992, a bandit formation was formed on the territory of one of Russian regions, the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. The actions of the federal center, before the First Chechen campaign in December 1994, demonstrate that this formation likely appeared with the consent and support from the new “liberal team” that established itself in Moscow.

The presence this black hole and territorial anarchy allowed for massive collusions and schemes throughout Russia. It gave rise to abductions and human trafficking, large-scale theft of petroleum products, drug trafficking, arms trade and much more.

Thus, in 1993-1994, more than 700 trains were attacked on the Grozny branch of the North Caucasian Railway with the total or partial looting of about 6,000 wagons and containers worth more than 22.5 billion rubles. Production of false remittance advices was an emerging new craft, which earned more than 4 trillion rubles. During this period of 1992-1994, about 1800 people were kidnapped and illegally detained in order to obtain ransom in Chechnya. Until 1994, Russian oil continued to flow to Chechnya, while it was not paid for and resold abroad. At the same time, the federal center continued to transfer money to Chechnya from its budget. In 1993, 11.5 billion rubles were allocated to Chechnya.

The change in the trajectory of Russia’s development

In mid and second half of the 1990s, negative events in Russia continued to develop in virtually all sectors of everyday life.

Significant percentage if not most of senior officials were incompetent or corrupt. IMF and the so called “macroeconomic policy and reform advisors” continued a very precise external destructive influence. Moscow was flooded with various “financiers and businessmen” from the United States, Israel and countries of Western Europe with questionable enterprises. The state debt kept growing, production was falling, imbalance in trade increased, monetization of the economy sharply reduced, and a financial pyramid of state treasury obligations emerged.

Background: At the beginning of the reforms in 1991, the monetary supply was 66.4% of GDP, which was consistent with global practice. As of June 1, 1998, the money supply was only 13.7% of GDP for 1997.

All of this lead to the most difficult time for Russia, the “Crisis of 1998”. The situation was further aggravated by the fall of raw material prices in the world and the economic crisis that occurred a year earlier in South-East Asia.

Oil prices (BRENT) fell almost 2-fold, from about 24 dollars per barrel in early 1997 to about 10.5 dollars per barrel by November-December 1998. By the way, it was the IMF who was accused at that time by the national governments in provoking the Asian crisis and the consequences for the global economy.

As a result, in August 1998, the situation in Russian economy became critical. The IMF and the World Bank refused to fulfill their earlier obligations and refused to extend any more loans. On August 17, 1998 the government declared a technical default. At the same time, it was announced that the ruble will not be stabilized against the dollar, the ruble immediately depreciated by a factor of 3.

In September 1998 there was a change of government. Primakov becomes the new Prime Minister of the Russian Federation. Primakov was a former diplomat and intelligence officer who negatively treated those whom he called “pseudo-liberals” and “persons dependent on certain banking structures.” Maslyukov, a former experienced Soviet executive manager, becomes the first deputy chairman. This new government takes extraordinary measures: economic policy changes, reduction of tariffs, value-added tax on food is reduced, and the default is overcome.

Background: By the time Primakov assumed government, the debt of enterprises and organizations to the budget was 50 billion rubles, and the budget debt to enterprises amounted to 150 billion rubles. Debts also accumulated between the enterprises themselves. Federal authorities demanded cash-only payments. Direct clearing settlements were banned in accordance with the recommendations of the IMF i.e. For one side to repay its debt to another, it had to use cash, as did the other side. However, recall that by this time the Russian economy was deliberately demonetized. The volume of monetary supply was reduced by 4-5 times below the average level of other governments of the world. This meant that there was no money and repayment of debt was practically impossible. This promoted a furtherance of debt with respect to wages, pensions, and taxes, lack of capital and other negative phenomena. All of this was done under direct control and through recommendations of the IMF and international advisers. Primakov’s government, contrary to recommendations of the IMF and prior practice, initiated mutual settlements between government and enterprises. At the outset, it allowed to liberate 50 billion rubles.

Almost everything was done in direct contrast to the recommendations of the IMF. It is here, in this moment, that the history of Russia took a turn. The country persevered. Major structural changes in economics took place, there was a rise in economic efficiency of export, and industry began to show signs of recovery. The crisis turned out to be difficult, but short-lived. It is interesting that under Yevgeny Primakov, the thesis about the need to defend the national interests of Russia, became a constant theme in the speeches of both the minster and his subordinates.

It was in the spring and summer of 1998 that the young politician Vladimir Putin’s influence in Kremlin sharply increased. On May 25, 1998 he was appointed first deputy head of the presidential administration of the Russian Federation, responsible for working with the regions. After 2 months, on July 25, 1998, he became director of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation.

The 1998 crisis was the signal and the first wakeup call for the new Russian elites, whose interests were directly tied with the territory and potential of the Russian Federation as a state i.e. those who controlled mineral resources, the military-industrial complex, metallurgy and industry. For these elites, preservation of their newly acquired capital and effective influence was only possible in conditions of the preservation and development of the state as a system-forming factor.

Accordingly, they began a search for a “new leader”, one capable of changing the current situation and ensuring national interests of the state and this part of the elite. At the same time, the new leader had to emerge in Kremlin not as a revolutionary, but through a soft transfer of power with subsequent democratic legitimization. Accordingly, they were choosing the best candidate from those who surrounded president Yeltsin at that moment. Yeltsin’s deteriorating health contributed to this “soft” scenario but the president’s associates, the so called “family” opposed it.

Background: The “family” are relatives and the closest associate of President Yeltsin who controlled all of Yeltsin’s direct contacts with other statesmen and elites. Famous representatives of the family were: Yeltsin’s daughter, Berezovsky, Diatchenko, Voloshin, Korzhakov and others. Many members of the so-called “family” were connected with international financial capital.

The other part of the Russian elite that formed in the 90’s, was comprised, for the most part, of those who acquired speculative financial capital, having established strong ties with the “international financial community”.

They began to act as agents for international interests on the territory of the former USSR and perceived themselves as part of the world oligarchy. These elites sought to maintain the status quo in Russia through control and influence on Yeltsin’s family and his closest associates. They also understood that Yeltsin’s health was a matter of serious concern and actively engaged in the analysis of candidates for possible successors. For them, the main task that Yeltsin’s successor was supposed to provide – was their personal immunity and carte blanche for further operations on the territory of Russia.

There was a conflict between these two competing interests. At the same time, President Yeltsin, despite, to put it mildly, his ambiguous role in the history of Russia, was well aware of the threats and challenges, facing the government as well as the destructive role of a number of individuals in his environment.

Exactly one year after the 1998 crisis, the Second Chechen War began. On August 7, 1999, a large detachment of militants, supported by Al Qaida, invaded Dagestan (a constituent entity of the Russian Federation).  Two days later, on August 9, 1999 Vladimir Putin was appointed as an acting Prime Minister and lead the operation against the militants. In September, 1999 about 8,000 militants operated in Dagestan. However, as early as September 15, 1999 the entire territory of Dagestan was liberated from militants, and on September 30, 1999 federal troops were stationed on the territory of Chechnya. The second Chechen campaign begins.

By the new year of 2000, significant successes of the federal troops and local forces that supported Moscow were already evident. These successes were not only military but also political.

On December 31, 1999 Yeltsin announces his early resignation and the appointment of the young and popular prime minister Putin to the post of Acting President.

Against the backdrop of the chaos of the 1990s, the restoration of the territorial integrity of the state and the economic recovery that begins, bring Putin an unconditional victory in the March 2000 elections. He becomes the second president of Russia. In April 2000, the active phase of the campaign in Chechnya comes to an end.

It seems that Putin was perceived by Yeltsin not only as an energetic politician of a conditionally “patriotic bloc”, but also as a compromise figure for elite groups. At the same time, apparently, Yeltsin was confident that Putin would at least keep his promise to ensure personal immunity to Yeltsin and his family.

The Putin Era: Forming New Russia

Immediately after assuming office, the new president of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin faced many critical challenges, both to the Russian state and to himself personally, as an individual who sought to strengthen the “power vertical” and approach the problem of national development in a more systematic way.

Those with financial power sought to maintain their influence on the political decision-making processes. A significant part of the Russian oligarchy was conducive to the conditions of the 1990: a weak centralized authority, high level of corruption among official, legislative and judicial practices that ensured their personal interests.

At the same time, the Russian Federation had an enormous foreign debt. As of January 1, 2000, the external public debt of the Russian Federation was $158 billion, with the annual GDP (in current USD) of only $259 billion. Federal budget revenue in 2000 was 1,132 billion rubles, or only $40.48 billion USD.

The national tax system, while having nominally high tax rates, allowed big business to evade the tax burden through the use of offshores, legal loopholes, and a shadow economy. During this period there was no tax on extraction of natural resources by mining firms.

Excise taxes were set at a level of .7 to 2 dollars per ton of oil, depending on the enterprise, which was less than 1% of the market value of oil in the world at the time. Other mineral extraction fees were set even lower. The relatively high, income tax rate of 35% was easily bypassed by using a variety of schemes. For example, firms entered into contracts with their own subsidiaries registered in tax havens, and then sold oil at market prices using offshores, where all the profits were stored.

At the same time, the general level of taxation was overestimated. This was the reason for massive tax evasion by many companies.

That is why Vladimir Putin undertook to reform the tax system soon after his election as president in 2000. Overall, the tax reforms of 2000-2004 were successful. One of the most important events for Russia’s economy and its subsequent growth was the introduction of a mineral extraction tax (MET) on January 1, 2002.

Background: The tax rate for crude oil was set in absolute terms (in rubles per ton of extracted oil) and was applied using two coefficients calculated according to certain formulas. The first of these coefficients characterized the level of internasal world oil prices.  The second, introduced in 2007, characterized the degree of depletion of a specific oil deposit.

The introduction of MET and a highly progressive oil export tariff scale in 2002-2004 dramatically increased the fiscal efficiency of the tax system and led to a radical redistribution of revenues generated by the oil sector in favor of the state.

As the calculations on the total tax burden on the oil sector show, the share of taxes in the gross income of the oil sector increased from 28.1% in 2000 to 63.1% in 2008.

As a result of the reforms, by 2004 federal budget revenues increased 2.4 times compared to 2000, and by 2007 more than 6 times. Russia’s foreign debt, in contrast, fell to $121.7 billion by 2004, and by 2007 to $52 billion.

Background: In August 2006, Russia managed to fully pay off Soviet-era debts to the Paris Club member countries. This was preceded by several rounds of complex negotiations: not everyone wanted to lose out on income generated from interest on the loan. This meant that Russia had to pay a 1 billion euro fine. Nevertheless, these early pay offs allowed Russia to save $7.7 billion. Moreover, this allowed Russia to become a creditor instead of being a debtor state.

Putin’s actions to reform the economy, strengthen the vertical of power and the rule of law provoked active resistance from a significant part of the oligarchy, those who can be called the “supranational elites.” These oligarchs were supported by Western leaders and media. A struggle with them took place under the guise of traditional democratic and liberal slogans.

In February 2000, the first of these oligarchs, Gusinskiy, was arrested. A number of other oligarchs, as well as US president Bill Clinton and Israeli Politician Shimon Peres, immediately jumped to his defense. Gusinskiy was released from custody and hid in Spain.

In December 2000, another odious oligarch, Boris Berezovskiy emigrated to London without waiting for the results of the investigation into the “Aeroflot case”.

Background: The ‘Aeroflot case” was a criminal investigation and litigation concerning the embezzlement of funds owned by Aeroflot, and the appropriation of free foreign currency funds of the airline in the amount of 252 million dollars, by the Swiss firm Andava, the main shareholders of which were the top managers of Aeroflot and Boris Berezovsky.

Further, in the first half of 2002, a series of articles appeared in the European press incriminating the leaders of another Russian company, Yukos, of money laundering. These articles were provoked by the French tax police who discovered Swiss bank accounts through which hundreds of millions of dollars have passed. In Russia itself, YUKOS was accused of tax evasion, undervaluation of its taxable worth, and the sale of petroleum through phony intermediaries.

Against this background and in the run-up to the 2004 elections, Mr. Khodorkovsky, the main owner of the Yukos company, begins to oppose Putin, with direct support of the US and the Israeli establishment. Khodorkovskiy, with the help of former intelligence and security services officials, creates the Open Russia civic organization, attempts to seize information channels, conducts active and largely successful liberal propaganda campaigns aimed at the youth, with particular emphasis put on Russian regions, and finances opposition parties. However, Putin’s popularity is very high. He is backed by the majority of the national elites and by the “power ministries.” Everyone clearly remembers the chaos of the 1990s.

Khodorkovskiy commits strategic errors, demonstrates his lack of understanding of Russia’s society, and in the end demonstrates his inability to influence Russia’s political processes. During the March 2004 elections, Vladimir Putin scores an overwhelming victory with 71.31% of the vote.

In 2004, Russian-U.S. relations deteriorate. Earlier, in early 2003, Russia took a tough stance on US intervention in Iraq. At the end of 2004, the situation in the relationship is aggravated by the interference of the US and Western countries in the political crisis in Ukraine. In December 2004, Congressman Ron Paul stated that the US government sponsored the presidential campaign of the leader of the Ukrainian opposition.

After the statements of Ron Paul and L. Kraner, the head of the press service of the US President, Scott McClellan, officially confirmed that over the last two years the US spent about $ 65 million “on the development of democracy” in Ukraine.

Disgraced Russian oligarchs also actively participated in the financing of events in Ukraine. According to Forbes investigation, Berizovsky alone, spent more than $ 70 million to support the “orange revolution”.

With time, Russian-U.S. relation deteriorate further. On May 4, 2006, while in Vilnius, Vice-President Richard Cheney, delivered a speech that many now call “Vilnius”, following the example of Fulton’s Churchill speech. According to Cheney, the US is not satisfied with “the use of Russia’s mineral resources as a foreign policy weapon pressure, violation of human rights in Russia and the destructive actions of Russia in the international arena.” It is important to note that the turn of the US policy towards the Russian Federation took place long before the war in Libya in 2011 and the Crimean events of 2014.

Background: The US Vice President openly expressed his displeasure that many countries receive Russian mineral resources at prices well below market prices. For example, until 2005, Ukraine bought Russian gas for only $50 per thousand cubic meters. This was a price set out in the intergovernmental agreement meant to last until 2019. After the first “orange revolution” inspired by the West in Ukraine in 2005, the new Ukrainian government unilaterally broke this agreement, and started purchasing gas at market price. By 2009 the price of gas in Ukraine is $360 per thousand cubic meters. The profitability of the remaining industrial Ukrainian enterprises falls rapidly and tariffs for the population significantly increase.

Apparently, it was during this period that the American establishment and financial elites, who were interested in Russia’s natural resources, decide to pursue a strategy of uncompromising confrontation in order to change the political trajectory of Russia’s development, oust the post-soviet changes and balkanize the state. That is, they seek to complete the goal that did not work out in the late 90’s.

In August 2008, a new round of confrontation between Russia and the United States was caused by invasion of the Georgian troops into South Ossetia. Russia cleared this “unrecognized” territory, which by that point was almost fully captured by the Georgian army. Afterwards, Russia officially recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states.

In domestic politics, Putin’s second presidential term, from 2004 to 2008, is characterized by the continuation of reforms. In September 2005, the implementation of the “National Projects” was launched in Russia to resolve the most urgent social problems: health care, education, housing policy and agriculture. 6 billion dollars were allocated towards these programs.

Enforcement systems are also enhanced. In fact, during this period, organized crime stops being a factor that significantly influences Russian society.

At the same time, many measures were half-hearted. The level of corruption in the state apparatus remained high. The society expected radical changes that did not happen. On the one hand, the population experienced an increase in income, on the other hand, there is a growing stratification of society. It is impossible to form a new national idea and cultural strategy that the population can adopt. The new elite, including the supreme bureaucracy, grew and increased its power and influence on political decision making. The judicial system remained imperfect. Lawmaking was not effective enough and trailed behind the executive.

Same tendencies are seen during the presidential term of Dmitry Medvedev, from 2008-2012. During this period, Russia faced the problem of obsolescence of production capacities that remained from the Soviet era. Modernization of Russian economy became the main task of the new president.

It should be noted that despite numerous problems, high level of corruption and ineffectiveness of many initiatives, modernization and reindustrialization of the Russian economy has borne fruit.

The country managed to maintain its positions in traditionally strong sectors of the economy: in the military-industrial complex, mining, and science and technology sectors, even during the financial crisis of 2008 which took a hard hit at the economy.

Background: According to the World Bank, Russian crisis of 2008 “began as a crisis of the private sector, provoked by excessive borrowing in conditions of a major triple shock – terms of trade, capital outflows, and tight external borrowing.

However, by the second half of 2009, the country overcame its economic recession. In the third and fourth quarters of that year, Russia’s GDP growth, taking into account seasonality, was 1.1% and 1.9% respectively.

In 2012, during the next presidential election, Vladimir Putin wins again, gaining 63.6% of the vote. Putin and Medvedev switch roles, with the latter becoming prime minister.

Elections take place under difficult circumstances. Russia’s system of government is structured in such a way where all decision-making powers are tied to the president and his administration. Therefore, despite the fact that during Medvedev’s rule, Putin continued to remain unofficial leader, Putin, as a Prime Minister, had very few instruments of operational control compared to the president. Medvedev in turn, was a political figure that was more liberal, soft and subject to influence.  Many experts associate this personal characteristic of his with an insufficiently quick reaction during the South Ossetian conflict.

At the start of the conflict, Premier Putin was in Beijing at the 2008 Olympics and Russian troops began operations in South Ossetia only after his return to the country, that is, at least 2 days later than they could have.

In the political sphere, during Medvedev’s presidency, some liberalization is observed. Up to a point where pro-western opposition forces, which openly declared their goal of changing the country’s constitutional system, receive grants and subsidies from government sources. This could be the reason why various representatives of the opposition, supported by outside forces had decided that they had a chance to seize power. This was further facilitated by a recession in the economy, a decline in the power vertical and increasing confrontation with the U.S.

Opposition received generous support from varied pro-western foundations through the employees of the Georgian, Polish, and Baltic special services.

At the end of 2011 and the start of 2012, there are massive rallies of the opposition. Protests unite very different political movements that can be separated into two parts: Ultra right and ultra left radicals and liberals, including representatives of sexual minorities. The leaders of these protests took all possible measures and methods of “color revolutions”. Media distorted information, by multiplying the number of protestors, providing disinformation about the actions of authorities with respect to the protests, inciting hysteria and an atmosphere of fear. Western media ran fake news stories.

For instance, Fox News provided video coverage of protests in Moscow on December 7, 2011, by showing violent acts such as arson. This footage was actually taken in the Greek capital of Athens during nationwide protests in Greece.

The protests did not receive any widespread distribution or public support. Even in Moscow where the opposition sources were concentrated, the largest protests collected no more than 40 thousand people with a population of 12 million (0.3%). In other Russian cities, protests were much more modest ranging from a few hundred to 2 thousand people.

Meanwhile, public leaders of oppositions fully demonstrated their negative qualities both personally and professionally: extreme egoism, hypocrisy, cowardice, inability to consolidate or engage in mutual compromise. Segregation and discriminatory rhetoric became the norm for the leaders of the protests.

They divided the population into the “creative class” which was a small group of people that had liberal views. The rest were considered “cattle”, who were denied the ability to fully exercise their rights.

These events allowed Kremlin’s political advisers to adopt the idea that manifesting real shady faces of the Russian liberal opposition’ leaders is the best method of ensuring support for the ruling regime. The wave of protests was failing by the end of 2012.

Modern Russia

The electorate expected the new “old” president to focus on reforming the state apparatus, the process of elite formation, elimination of clans within the government, genuine battle against corruption, and economic development.

Protectionism and the merger between the new economic elite with the bureaucracy was visible at every level of society. It became a critical problem that delayed the country’s development. The courts were ineffective, many criminal cases concerning corruption, negligence, and abuse of authority never resulted in sentences, and those punishments that were meted our were remarkably mild.

In July 2012, the Krasnodar Kray in southern Russia experienced a flood that killed 172 people. The overall number of victims reached almost 35 thousand. These consequences were the result of incompetence and idleness of local and regional authorities. Planned measures to protect the territory against flood that should have been implemented in the previous decade were not implemented. No alert about the looming menace was issued.

Even more severe damage was avoided only thanks to a timely response by Russia’s EMERCOM, the participation of numerous volunteers in dealing with the flood, and the president’s personal involvement in the process. In spite of the impact on the public opinion and the evidence of negligence by officials, only a few local officials were ever convicted.

Background: Only three local officials were sentenced to imprisonment in penal colonies. According to Russian law, such colonies have no guard force, only supervision by colony administration. They enjoy free movement throughout colony territory between the wake-up and reveille, and can leave the colony without supervision if the administration permits it. The convicts could be allowed to live together with their families not only on colony territory but outside it as well. They could have money on their person, wear ordinary clothing, etc.

During that same 2012, another corruption scandal broke out. Since 2007, the country’s defense minister was a civilian official with education in economics, Anatoliy Serdyukov, who was appointed to carry out “long overdue reforms within Russia’s MOD.” Russia’s military operations during the 2008 conflict with Georgia revealed a mass of problems related to troop command systems, obsolete weapons, equipment, and communications.

However, Serdyukov teams actions, particularly those related to the so-called “optimization” of MOD’s property holdings, the closure of military academies and the destruction of the military health care system, caused growing astonishment within the majority of experts and career soldiers. On top of that, Serdyukov deliberately replaced the top leadership of the MOD, appointing civilian specialists from the private sector in the place of career soldiers.

Background: By 2011, out of 10 Deputy Defense Ministers, only two were military, including the Chief of the General Staff.

In the fall of 2012, Russian investigative agencies discovered large-scale embezzlement at the MOD and the linked Oboronservis commercial entity. Financial losses were estimated at no less than $100 million, resulting in criminal cases launched against almost 20 individuals, many of whom were close to Serdyukov.

After many inspections and a lengthy investigation that lasted for over a year, Serdyukov was also formally charged with negligence. However, in February 2014 the Main Military Investigative Directorate of the Russian Investigative Committee decided to cease investigating Serdyukov since he was covered by the amnesty issued on the 20thanniversary of the Constitution of the Russian Federation. Other key individuals named in the corruption scandal received insignificant prison terms.

Background: The main defendant in the corruption scandal, the former MOD Property Department head E. Vasilyeva was sentenced to 5 years in prison, but spent only 3 months there.

Nevertheless, the corruption scandal led to far-reaching changes, at least in the MOD. The new minister became Army General Sergey Shoygu, who earlier headed the EMERCOM. Shoygu’s appointment was greeted with enthusiasm by the Russian military. The previous leadership’s military reforms were reviewed and swiftly corrected.

Background: On May 22, 2013, Defense Minister Shoygu listed Serdyukov’s greatest errors. Among them was the closure of several academies and the reduction of the number of cadets at the remaining ones which caused a shortage of military specialists in troop units and in the navy, the elimination of military medicine system, the collapse of defense orders, belated signing of contracts with defense enterprises.

It is under Shoygu’s leadership that Russia’s continued and modified military reforms continued, thanks to which the Russian military assumed a “new look” within only a few years. At the same time, it has been argued that the success of recent reforms owes a great deal to the unpopular measures undertaken during the Serdyukov era.

In foreign policy, after Putin’s return to Kremlin, the state system stabilized which lead to a deterioration of relations with the United States and their satellites in Europe. US officials publicly called Putin’s victory “a loss of democracy,” in fact considering it a threat to the next phase of the US global expansion. The characteristic features behind the American establishment became quite obvious: they wanted an unstable state, an economy that is easily controlled by the world bank capital and MNC and degrading population, in effect a colony which would be sold as a “true democratic Russia”.

In any other case, Russia was a threat to “the whole civilized world”. However, in the information space, Western propaganda found nothing better than to resume the use of and to strengthen its traditional narratives.

However, the world was already different. There was disappointment with the consequences of the “Arab Spring” and there was an increasing amount of questions about the real role of the Western elites in world conflicts. It was during this period that the audience began to lose their confidence in the mainstream media (MSM).

Background: The western media’s coverage of the 2008-armed conflict in South Ossetia became one of the turning points in discrediting the MSM. During the conflict and immediately after its termination, MSM accused Russia of aggression and unprovoked invasion of a territory belonging to a sovereign state. The facts, testimonies, and eyewitness reports were hushed or deliberately distorted. The United States and its allies also accused Russia of aggression. However, as early as 2009, an international commission responsible for investigating the circumstances of the war of 2008 in the South Caucasus region, concluded, with irrefutable evidence that the armed conflict was provoked by Georgia. The West did not, in turn, consider it necessary to condemn the Georgian aggression.

The Kremlin immediately took advantage of this, both within the country and in the global information space. In late 2012, the well-known television channel, Russia Today expanded its capacity and moved to a new building. In 2013, state financing of this channel increased many times. It is interesting to note that in the broad strata of Russian society in the period 2012-2013, the words “liberal”, “universal values”, “the entire civilized world” received negative-abusive connotations.

2012-2014 became the period that determined the course of the world in subsequent years. The conflict in the Middle East became worse and ISIS appeared. At that time, instead of actively preventing terrorists from consolidating themselves on the territory of Syria and Iraq, the US and the EU tried to use that political moment to shift the legitimate government of Syria and to secure a geopolitical foothold in the region. In practice, they actually helped to strengthen terrorist quasi-state entities in the territory of Syria and Iraq. Similarly, the West began to operate in Ukraine, where in autumn of 2013 the political crisis began.

Background: The crisis in Ukraine (2013-2014) is a political crisis caused by the decision of the Ukrainian government to suspend the process of signing the Association Agreement with the European Union. This caused massive protests in Kiev and a number of other cities in Ukraine, which were supported and coordinated by the West. These protests grew into street riots and armed clashes with the forces of law and order.

Events in Ukraine moved rapidly from organized protests to unrest. As a result of political deception that took place under the guise of Western “intermediaries” who acted as guarantors on the part of the opposition, the president of Ukraine made concessions and fulfilled the basic demands of the protesters. However, the opposition, using the withdrawal of law enforcement forces as an opportunity, seized government buildings, and an unconstitutional coup took place.

Background: Putin commented on the events of the winter of 2014: “We were approached by our American partners, they asked us to do everything, almost literally a direct request that Yanukovych avoid using the army, so that the opposition can clear the plazas and administrative buildings and move on to implement the agreements that were reached to normalize the situation”. The President noted that the Russian Federation agreed to help the US, but a day later a coup d’état was carried out in Kiev. “They should have said something. There is a term “excess of actions”, we did not want the coup to happen, but this is how the events developed. We did everything to normalize the situation. There was not one word against those who committed a coup d’etait, on the contrary, they had full support.

The West, once again, bet on the radical nationalists and the oligarchic circles, who seized power in Ukraine. A routine practice of using “unknown snipers” and creating sacred sacrifices, named by the Ukrainian media as the Heavenly Hundred, was also used. That situation caused a backlash in the south and east of the country, where a wave of protests, under federalist and pro-Russian slogans, arose against the actions of the ultra-right nationalist organizations and in defence of the status of the Russian language. The new Kiev government began to actively apply force. They sent armed nationalists to the various regions, providing them with complete freedom of actions without any consequence from law enforcement agencies.

Background: On February 20, 2014, in the Cherkassy region of Ukraine, eight buses filled with Crimeans, who participated in rallies against the coup, were attacked. The busses were stopped by groups of armed supporters of Maidan, four buses were burned, people were beaten, and sustained fractures, burns, craniocerebral injuries and were subjected to mockery. About 30 Crimean residents went missing and at least 7 were killed.

During this time, nationalists from the western regions of Ukraine began to infiltrate the territory of Crimea in order to consolidate the anti-Russian forces and provoke a civil conflict.

There were murders, abductions of dissenters, seizure of administrative buildings. With this in mind, local authorities in the Crimea changed the executive bodies of power. The new Crimean authorities refused to recognize the legitimacy of the coup and turned to Russia for support.

Background: On February 27, Russia moved to active operations in Crimea. Over the next few weeks, independence of Crimea was proclaimed, a referendum was held on its status and Crimea was annexed by the Russian Federation. In the east of Ukraine, where Russia has not moved to active action, civil confrontation gradually developed to an armed conflict, and the slogans of the federalization of Ukraine have been replaced by the requirements of the independence of the regions. To suppress anti-government speeches, the Ukrainian leadership announced the beginning of a military operation in mid-April. Civil war broke out.

Events in Ukraine, the annexation of the Crimea and the civil conflict in the east of the country caused further confrontation between the West and Russia. The sanction war began. Both Russia and the West rendered direct support to opposing sides.

In fact, relations between the Russian Federation and the West began deteriorating to the state of the “cold war”. At the same time, the Kremlin does not take any active measures as it did with Crimea. It does not provide direct support to the pro-Russian population in Eastern and Southern regions on Ukraine, as it was done for residents of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. As a result, the new Kiev regime is given a carte blance for actions in other dissenting regions like Kharkov, Odessa and Kherson. Ultra-nationalist formations are introduced into these regions and law enforcement personnel are replaced by people from the west and centre of the country.

Political repressions and mass arrets begin. Total control over information space is established. These measures prove to be effective. Moscow loses its avenues of influence within Ukraine.

At the same time, the situation on Russia’s southern borders is growing more complex. ISIS successes in Iraq and Syria have spread radical ideas among the population of Central Asia and some southern regions of Russia. During the summer of 2015, ISIS included no fewer than 3,000 militants with Russian citizenship and another 2,500 citizens of Central Asian states. The leadership and command staff of ISIS special services and subunits consisted mainly of emigres from Northern Caucasus. Starting in 2015, having a command system and well developed propaganda outlets, ISIS intensified its recruitment on the territory of former USSR. Russian intelligence noted an upsurge of extremist activities on the country’s territory. This, and the prospect of loss of influence in Syria, the last place with Russian presence on the Mediterranean, led Russia’s leadership to provide military assistance to the government of Syria.

Background: On August 26, 2015, Russia and Syria entered into an Agreement on Stationing a Russian Armed Forces Aviation Group on Syrian Territory. Slightly later, in late September 2015, the land portion of Russia’s military operation in Syria began, which included special operations troops, artillery, combat engineers, and also an enlarged complement of instructors and advisors. According to some report, Russian military advisors were present in the ranks of SAA units operating on the most difficult sectors of the front already in the spring of 2015.

The Russian group of forces in Syria demonstrated its high effectiveness. Battlefield situation dramatically changed already in the first months.

In 2016, SAA went on the offensive on every key sector of the front. In the rear areas, Russian advisors and instructors facilitated the regrouping, rearmament, and training of Syrian forces. In late 2016, Syria’s second largest city, the strategically important Aleppo, returned under the control of government forces. By the end of 2017, government controlled the majority of Syria’s territory including Homs, Palmyra, Deir-es-Zor, and the outskirts of Aleppo. ISIS has ceased to exist as a quasi-state terrorist formation.

Since the start of operations in Syria, Russia encountered the opposition of the US and its allies, which from the start actively supported the armed opposition. Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary in the Obama Administration, said that Russia aim was not fighting extremists but supporting the “Assad regime,” “while the rest of the world community…is cooperating with the US within the ranks of the anti-ISIS coalition in Syria which also fights against other extremists.” The US official’s term “world community” was an apparent reference to the 60-some countries in the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). However, during the previous two years, the US and the “world community” have failed to reconquer a single square meter from ISIS, not to mention “other extremists”. And they were also unable to achieve their main goal, the toppling of Assad.

The conflict in Syria in any event made the US-Russia relations even more complex. As part of its anti-Russia strategy, the West opted to continue and expand sanctions war that started in 2014 under the pretext of events in Ukraine. These measures had their results.

In particular, the limitations on access to world finance and international credit instruments were painful. Sanctions and the fall of energy prices were one of the causes of ruble devaluation in 2014. In August-October 2017, the ruble was the most rapidly falling currency out of 170.

Background: Sanctions were one of the reasons for the large-scale outflow of capital from Russia, which in the first 10 months of 2014 reached 110 billion dollars. On April 27, 2015, Vladimir Putin noted during e legislative council meeting that sanctions cost the Russian economy $160 billion.

2015 and the first half of 2016 were the most difficult for Russia’s economy. However, the West and its sanctions unwittingly helped drain the Russian bureaucratic swamp. Both the state apparatus and major corporations were forced to act. The food embargo was introduced as an answer to the sanctions already in 2014. The embargo had its greatest effect on the economy of Ukraine and Baltic States.

Background: The embargo was introduced in 3 phases: in 2014 on the EU, US, Australia, Canada, and Norway, in 2015 on Iceland, Liechtenstein, Albania, and Montenegro, in 2016 on Ukraine.

Positive consequences of the embargo in Russia include the significant increase in agricultural production and food processing. Negative ones include retail price increases of goods that fell under the embargo. In the first phase, food prices increased by 10%-25%. However, the annual 2016 food price inflation stood at 4.6%, and in 2017 it dropped to 1.1%.

Assessing the results of the sanctions war on various sectors of Russia’s economy as of early 2018, one could say that the embargo and sanctions overall had positive consequences, if not for the whole of the economy then at least for its manufacturing component. The national manufacturing sector finally experienced long-awaited and necessary changes which were not implemented since the break-up of USSR. One could also identify positive institutional changes in the military and space industries.

Background: Roskosmos head Oleg Ostapenko stated that “overall one can discern a positive impact of sanctions on our branch.” He added that new technological solutions are being implemented more rapidly, and likewise standardization measures are also carried out more swiftly.

The introduction of sanctions accelerated the process of import substitution in the space industry, which was already ongoing for several years. The Russian financial sector was forced to remember the lessons of late 1990s, in other words, how to operate under the conditions of an unfriendly international financial environment.

On the other hand, a number of Russian corporations, particularly in the fuel and energy sector, attempted to (and succeeded) to recoup their losses induced by sanctions and drop in energy prices using the budget and national reserve funds.

In the meantime, the Russian government continued to seek ways to reduce tensions. The victory of Donald Trump in presidential elections in November 2016 gave rise to hopes in Russia that bilateral relations would improve.

Background: On November 14, 2016, in the first phone conversation between President Putin and President-Elect Trump, the two speakers agreed that “the state of Russia-US relations is extremely unsatisfactory, and spoke in favor of active efforts to improve them and to work on constructive cooperation on a widest range of issues”.

Nevertheless, there has not occurred a single genuine summit meeting between the two countries in the first year after the election. Moreover, right after the election highly placed members of the Washington establishment accused Russia of meddling in the election and swaying its outcome.

Background: According to this version of events, “Russian secret services” organized a cyberattack on DNC servers and published email messages embarrassing to Hillary Clinton, and also used social media to manipulate US public opinion.

Limited Russian successes in propagating alternative points of view on international events using RT, Sputnik, and other instruments allowed the Washington establishment, with the help of mainstream media, to paint a picture of so-called “Russian propaganda” and to accuse Russia of unleashing a “hybrid war”.

Russia’s successes in this area were greatly exaggerated, as was the influence of Russian state media on the world audience, in order to increase budgets for “combating propaganda” and stepping up censorship of alternative media both in the US and the world at large. By 2018 this campaign acquired the character of mass hysteria.

Thus on January 10, 2018, Democratic senators published a 200 page report titled Putin’s Asymmetric Assault on Democracy in Russia and Europe: Implications for US National Security, in an effort to push Trump toward harsher sanctions. The report called for creating a new global front against the “Russian threat”, including European allies.

Background: In the 2 years of investigating the so-called “Russian meddling”, not a single convincing fact or piece of evidence has been presented.

US-Russian relations are at their lowest point since Russian independence. On December 28, 2017, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced in a New York Times editorial:

“On Russia, we have no illusions about the regime we are dealing with. The United States today has a poor relationship with a resurgent Russia that has invaded its neighbors Georgia and Ukraine in the last decade and undermined the sovereignty of Western nations by meddling in our election and others’.” One should particularly note the use of the phrase “resurgent Russia”. Apparently the phenomenon of a “resurgent” Russia as a center of world power is behind the observed actions by the Capitol Hill establishment.

On March 13, 2018 the Secretary of State Tillerson who was not known for his love for Russia was replaced with a more aggressive individual, the CIA Director Mike Pompeo. His nomination was enthusiastically received by both the Democrats and the more hawkish Republicans.

Backgorund: “We hope Mr. Pompeo will turn a new leaf and strengthen our anti-Putin and anti-Russia policies,” said the Senate Minority Leader, Democrat Chuck Schumer. For his part, the well-known GOP hawk Lindsey Graham emphasized that “one couldn’t pick a better person.”

Presidential Election 2018

By the time of its March 2018 presidential elections, Russia found itself in a complex situation. In spite of certain successes in overcoming crises and challenges posed by the sanctions war, Russia’s economy is continuing to experience difficulties.

Background: In the fourth quarter of 2017, Russia’s GDP growth dropped to an annualized rate of 1%, and during the entire 2017 Russia’s economy grew by about 1.5-1.6%, which is considerably lower than the Ministry of Economic Development September 2017 forecast of 2.1%.

Disposable incomes are not growing. Small and medium business is still hidebound by excessive bureaucracy. Conditions necessary for their development still do not exist. Financial sanctions, tight monetary and credit policy, low demand, and negative expectations have led to a shortage of private sector investments.

On the other hand, while two years ago the ruble exchange rate was tightly linked to world oil prices, that dependence has greatly decreased.

In 2015, the ruble-oil correlation was around 80%, by 2017 it dropped to about 30%. The record low inflation rate of 2.5% in 2017 stopped the rise in prices. In spite of the expanding sanctions, Russian assets such as the Russian state obligations, Eurobonds, and the ruble, continue to appreciate.

The state is stimulating the economy through investment in global infrastructure projects such as the Crimea Bridge, and the Power of Siberia gas pipeline.

Overall, the Russian economy is displaying a variety of trends, and the likelihood of a dramatic worsening is extremely low. The situation is more complicated when it comes to social relations.

During the entire period of existence of new Russia, the question of fighting corruption and clannishness has always remained a tool of political warfare. However, there were no systemic measures until 2016. Only in 2017 did the ruling team start to take systemic measures.

Background: In 2017, Russia adopted a range of measures to combat the growth of corruption. In December 2017, State Duma adopted after the third reading the law on a registry of officials who lost public trust and were discharged for bribery.

Several highly placed officials had criminal cases launched against them. The total sum of bribes uncovered in 2016 reach about $41 million, or about $18 million more than a year earlier. In 2017, that sum reached $120 million. This increase was not the result of its growth in corruption bur rather due to different approaches to combating it and heightened attention by law enforcement.

It is remarkable that in 2017 the number of launched corruption cases decreased by 11.2% by comparison in 2016, while the sum of bribes increased by almost a factor of 3. It indicates that the attention of law enforcement shifted from “petty” corruption to combating bribery among top officials.

Background: The sums mentioned refer only to cases concerning Article 290 of Russian Federation Criminal Code, Receiving Bribes.

Thus in 2016-17, individuals charged with bribery and arrested included the Minister of Economic Development Ulyukayev, several current and former regions heads, dozens of highly placed officials and managers of state enterprises.

At the same time, a significant portion of Russia’s population is skeptical, and believes that the law enforcement are using corruption for political and electoral reasons and are not touching people close to ruling clans.

This public perception was formed over the course of the last 2 decades and it obviously can’t be changed in a year or two. This has been effectively used by opposition figures. Opposition also has been using quite correct, given Russian realities, slogans of budget inefficiency, absence of social mobility among youth, problems in health care and education systems.

Nevertheless, due both to Vladimir Putin’s actual successes and to opposition composition and their views, it has not been able to select a competitive candidate for 2018 elections or propose a rational alternative development plan for Russia, acceptable to any sizable portion of the population. One also ought to distinguish the so-called “liberals” from among the opposition as a whole.

Background: Liberal oppositionists include mainly representatives of humanist and creative intelligentsia, some small and medium businessmen (mostly in retail, financial), IT and service sectors, a proportion of college students, and office workers in big cities, mainly Moscow, St. Petersburg, Ekaterinburg, and Novosibirsk. Their electoral base does not exceed 5% of the population.

Rank and file oppositionists’ aspirations include positive changes in daily life, such as less bureaucracy, more entrepreneurship, an open society, in other words, creating a European model of democracy from the 1990s. Therefore, and traditionally, contemporary West is idealized. This has been effectively used by that part of Russia’s elite whose interests are tied to global financial capital and establishment and who see Russia as, at best, West’s raw materials base.

These individuals who call themselves leaders of protest opposition understand they lack broad popular support and can’t directly compete with Putin.

Background: All early March polls suggest Putin will win a decisive victory in the first round.

At the same time 2018 elections are perceived as a chance to change the direction of the country’s development and to use external forces to topple the “Putin regime”, up to and including a coup d’etat. Therefore they have chosen the tactic of attempting to discredit the elections as such. Already several weeks prior to the elections, the liberal media and the social media have launched a large-scale campaign promoting non-participation in the elections and, at the same time, accusing the government of planning mass forgeries.

The aim is to create the necessary image for MSM and “the entire world community” in order to continue the campaign to declare the elections illegitimate, with the support of external forces.

Background: For the last several years, media resources of “liberal opposition” have been focusing on youth aged 12-20 years. Most of that audience cannot yet take part in presidential elections, since the voting age is 18. This fact demonstrates that the opposition is not seeking to come to power using the existing elections process, but through discrediting the system and implementing a scenario resembling in some ways the Kiev Euro-Maidan or Arab Spring.

Moreover, the combination of “international support” and “illegitimate” elections results could be used both to launch street protests which would draw large numbers of 14-16 year old youths, in the hopes of creating images of “the bloody Putin regime beating children.”

Nevertheless, protests alone, even protests involving tens of thousands of participants will not be able to destabilize the existing Russian Federation state institutions. They would require assistance in the form of pressure by international crises, escalating instability close to Russian borders, or even a new theater of military confrontation or the threat of global war.

International crisis pressure would have to be based on several unrelated but major charges against Russia’s leaders. The British provocation in the form of “the Skripal poisoning” fits into this scenario perfectly, as does the alleged preparations by the Syrian government to use chemical weapons in Eastern Ghouta, as do the provocations in eastern Ukraine. It is entirely possible that the world will see, during the 2-3 weeks immediately after the elections, several other improbably brazen anti-Russian provocations.

Even if they fail to damage Russia’s statehood, they will serve as an excuse to strengthen Russian sanctions in 2018, expand efforts against the so-called Russian propaganda and, most importantly, to significantly increase US defense spending as well as defense spending of several other NATO countries.

Newly revealed Russian weapons systems: political implications

Newly revealed Russian weapons systems: political implications

[This analysis was written for the Unz Review]

For those interested in the military implications of the recent revelations by Vladimir Putin about new Russian weapon systems I would recommend the excellent article entitled “The Implications of Russia’s New Weapon Systems” by Andrei Martyanov who offers a superb analysis of what these new weapons mean for the USA and, especially, the US Navy. What I want to do here is something a little different and look at some of the more political consequences of these latest revelations.

The first two of the five stages of grief: denial and anger

Right now, the AngloZionists are undergoing something very similar to the first two of the Five Stages of the Kübler-Ross Grief model: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Mostly this manifests itself in criticisms of the quality of the videos presented by Putin and by simple incantations about “these weapons only exist on paper”. This is absolutely normal and will not last too long. That kind of denial is a normal coping mechanism whose primary function is to “soften the blow”, but not something one can base any actual policy or strategy on. However, it is worth looking into why exactly these revelations triggered such a powerful reaction as things are a little more complicated than might first appear.

First, a stunning revelation of sorts: the deployment of these weapons systems does not fundamentally change the nuclear balance between Russia and the USA, at least not in terms of first strike stability (for a detailed discussion see here). Yes, it is true that the US nuclear arsenal is becoming increasingly antiquated, especially when compared with the Russian one and, yes, it is true that in an entire family of technologies the Russians are now clearly many years ahead of the USA. But no, this does not mean that Russia could get away with a first strike against the USA (neither could, for that matter, the USA could get away with a first strike against Russia). Both countries possess more than enough nuclear warhead delivery capabilities even if their forces were to be reduced by a full 90% in any putative disarming (counterforce) strike. The point of Putin’s warning was not at all to threaten the West or to suggest that Russia could prosecute a successful nuclear war, far from it! First and foremost, his speech was a much-needed case of public psychotherapy. You could say that his intention was to force the Empire to eventually enter the next, more constructive, three stages of grief: bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Bringing a sense of reality to a deeply delusional Empire

The leaders of the Empire, along with their brainwashed ideological drones, live in a world completely detached from reality. This is why Martyanov writes that the USA “still continues to reside in her bubble which insulates her from any outside voices of reason and peace” and that Putin’s speech aimed at “coercing America’s elites into, if not peace, at least into some form of sanity, given that they are currently completely detached from the geopolitical, military and economic realities of a newly emerging world ”. Martyanov explains that:

American power elites, the majority of whom have never served a day in uniform nor ever attended serious military academic institutions and whose expertise on serious military-technological and geopolitical issues is limited to a couple of seminars on nuclear weapons and, in the best case scenario, the efforts of the Congressional Research Service are simply not qualified to grasp the complexity, the nature, and application of military force. They simply have no reference points. Yet, being a product of the American pop-military culture, also known as military porn and propaganda, these people—this collection of lawyers, political “scientists”, sociologists and journalists who dominate the American strategic kitchen which cooks non-stop delusional geopolitical and military doctrines, can understand one thing for sure, and that is when their poor dears get a bulls-eye on their backs or foreheads.

The fact that in the real world these elites have had a bulls-eye on their backs for decades doesn’t change the fact that they also managed to convince themselves that they could remove that bulls-eye by means of withdrawing from the ABM treaty and by surrounding Russia with anti-missile launchers. The fact that some (many? most?) US politicians realized, at least in the back of their minds, that their ABM systems would never truly protect the USA from a Russian counter-strike did not really matter because there were some uniquely US American psychological factors which made the notion of an ABM system irresistibly attractive:

1) An ABM system promised the USA impunity: impunity is, along with military superiority, one of the great American myths (as discussed here). From Reagan with this “weapons which kill weapons” to the current crisis in Korea, US Americans have always strived for impunity for their actions abroad: let all countries drown in an ocean of fire, murder and mayhem as long as our “homeland” remains the untouchable sacrosanct citadel. Since WWII US Americans have killed many millions of people abroad, but when 9/11 came (nevermind that it was obviously a false flag) the country went into something like clinical shock from the loss of about 3’000 innocent civilians. Soviet, and then later, Russian nuclear weapons promised to deliver many tens of millions of deaths if the USSR/Russia was attacked and that is why spinning the fairy tale about an ABM “shield” was so appealing even if it was technologically speaking either a pipe-dream (Reagan’s “Star Wars”) or an extremely limited system capable of stopping maybe a few missiles at most (the current ABM system in Europe). Again, facts don’t matter at all, at least not in American politics or in the US collective psyche.

2) An ABM system promised a huge financial bonanza for the fantastically corrupt US Military-Industrial Complex for which millions of US Americans work and which made many of them fantastically rich. Frankly, I suspect that many (most?) folks involved in the ABM programs fully realized that this was a waste of time, but as long as they were getting their bank accounts filled with money, they simply did not care: hey, they pay me – I will take it!

3) The US military culture never had much of an emphasis on personal courage or self-sacrifice (for obvious reasons). The various variations of the ABM fairy tale make it possible for US Americans to believe that the next war would be mostly fought by pressing buttons and relying on computers. And if real bombs start falling, let them fall somewhere else, preferably on some remote brown people who, well, ain’t quite as precious to God and humanity as us, the White “indispensable nation”.

Add to this a quasi-religious belief (a dogma, really) in the myth of American technological superiority and you understand that the Russian leaders began to realize that their US counterparts were gradually forgetting that they did have a bulls-eye painted on their backs. So what Putin did is simply paint a few more, different ones, just to make sure that US leaders come back to reality.

The goal of Putin’s speech was also to prove both Obama (“the Russian economy is in tatters”) and McCain (“Russia is a gas station masquerading as a country”) wrong. The Russian message to the US ruling elites was simple: no, not only are we not lagging behind you technologically, in many ways we are decades ahead of you, in spite of sanctions, your attempts to isolate us, the dramatic drop in energy prices or your attempts at limiting our access to world markets (the successful development of this new generation of weapons systems is a clear indicator of the real state of fundamental research in Russia in such spheres are advanced alloys, nanotechnology, super-computing, etc.).

To the warmongers at the Pentagon, the message was equally clear and tough:

we spend less than 10% of what you can spend on defense global aggression; we will match your quantitative advantage with our qualitative superiority. Simply put, you fight with dollars, we will fight with brains.

US propagandists, who love to speak about how Russia always uses huge numbers of unskilled soldiers and dumb but brutal weapons now have to deal with a paradigm which they are completely unfamiliar with:

a Russian soldier is much better trained, much better equipped, much better commanded and their morale and willpower is almost infinitely higher than the one of the typical US serviceman.

For a military culture used to mantrically repeat that everything about it is “the best in the world” or even “the best in history” this kind of new reality will come as a very painful shock and most will respond to it by going into deep denial. To those who believed in the (historically completely false) narrative about the USA and Reagan bankrupting the USSR by means of a successful arms race, it must feel very strange to have sort of “traded places” with the bad old USSR and being in the situation of having to face military-spending induced bankruptcy.

Nothing will change in the Empire of Illusions (at least for the foreseeable future)

Speaking of bankruptcy. The recent revelations have confirmed what the Russians have been warning about for years:

all the immense sums of money spent by the USA in ABM defenses have been completely wasted. Russia did find and deploy an asymmetrical response which makes the entire US ABM program completely useless and obsolete.

Furthermore, as Martyanov also points out, the current force structure of the US surface fleet has also been made basically obsolete and useless, at least against Russia (but you can be sure that China is following close behind). Potentially, this state of affairs should have immense, tectonic repercussions: immense amounts US taxpayer money has been completely wasted, the US nuclear and naval strategies have been completely misguided, intelligence has failed (either on the acquisition or the analytical level), US politicians have made disastrous decisions and this is all a total “cluster-bleep” which should trigger God knows how many investigations, resignations, and numerous sanctions, administrative or even criminal ones. But, of course, absolutely nothing of this, nothing at all, will happen. Not a single head will roll…

In the “Empire of Illusions,” facts simply don’t matter at all. In fact, I predict that the now self-evidently useless ABM program will proceed as if nothing had happened. And, in a way, that is true. The zombified US general public won’t be told what is going on, those who will understand will be marginalized and powerless to make any changes, as for the corrupt parasites who have been making millions and billions from this total waste of taxpayer money, they have way too much at stake to throw in the towel. In fact, since the USA is now run by Neocons, we can very easily predict what they will do. They will do what Neocons always do: double down. So, after it has become public knowledge that the entire US ABM deployment is useless and outdated, expect a further injection in cash into it by “patriotic” “Congresspersons” (<<== my attempt at being politically correct!), surrounded by flags who will explain to the lobotomized public that they are “taking a firm stance” against “the Russian dictator” and that the proud US of A shall not cave in to the “Russian nuclear blackmail”. These colors don’t run! United we stand! Etc. etc. etc.

As for the USN, this won’t even be a topic. So some Russian guy (I mean Martyanov) wrote some stuff for the Unz Review. Who cares? That is just more “Russian propaganda” of course. It will be dismissed even before it is actually parsed and inevitably the reassuring conclusion will be, as always, “we are #1”, “Britannia America rules the waves” and all the rest of the usual jingoistic nonsense US admirals have been feeding the public for decades. Also, keep in mind that the smart folks in the USN, and there are plenty of those, knew what was going on all along, but they either had no influence or kept their silence for obvious career reasons.

The reality is that what Martyanov calls “the American myth of technological superiority” is so deeply ingrained in the US collective psyche that it has become part of the national identity and it cannot, ever, be successfully challenged. Even if Putin decided that videos and speeches simply aren’t enough and decided to make a live firing demonstration, the flag-waving zombies in the media, government and public will find a way to deny it all, pretend it did not happen, or put a mysterious smile on their faces and reply something along the lines of “yeah, cute, but if you only knew about the super-weapons we are not showing you!!” (as one drone actually wrote, “ there has to be weaponry up the USA’s sleeve that would be used in the event of an attack.”). So, for the foreseeable future, expect the collective denial to continue.

“When your head is in the sand, your ass is in the air”

Image result for When your head is in the sand, your ass is in the air

And yet, reality exists. No matter how US propagandists have tried to spin it, deny it, obfuscate it or dismiss it, something very fundamental has changed for the United States. One such element of reality which, with time, will start to slowly seep into the minds of the people of the USA is that their beloved “homeland” and they themselves are now personally and directly at risk.

Indeed, for the first time in history, the United States is now targeted by powerful conventional weapons which can reach any target inside the United States. Not only that but unlike the bad old ICBMs, the launches of the weapons systems, which can now strike anywhere in the United States, the cruise missiles, are extremely hard to detect and can give the US little or no warning time. We already knew about the Russian cruise missiles 3M-54 Kalibr and the KH-101/102 with ranges of 2600km and 5500km (or more). Vladimir Putin has now announced that Russia also has nuclear-powered cruise missiles whose range is essentially infinite. Keep in mind that these missiles are very hard to detect since their launch does not generate a strong thermal signal, they fly most of their trajectory at subsonic speeds (only accelerating at the end), their thermal signature is therefore very low, their shape results a very low radar cross-section and they can fly very low (nap of the earth) flight courses which further conceals them. Best of all, however, is that they can be launched from what externally appears to be a regular commercial container. Please take a look at this short propaganda video showing how such missiles could be concealed, deployed and used:

What Putin has now officially added to this arsenal are cruise missiles with an infinite range which could, in theory, destroy a command post in, say, the US Midwest, while being fired from the southern Indian Ocean or from the Tasman Sea. Even better, the launching platform does not need to be a Russian Navy ship at all but could be any commercial (cargo, fishing, etc.) ship, even a cruise ship. Russian heavy transport aircraft could also deliver such “containers” to any location in, say, Africa or even Antarctica and strike downtown Omaha from there with either a conventional or a nuclear warhead. That is also a fundamental game changer.

Conversely, you can think of the new nuclear-powered torpedo as a kind of “underwater cruise missile” with similar capabilities against surface ships or coastal installations. Except that this “underwater cruise missile” could “fly” under the polar ice cap. Needless to say, all of these cruise missiles can, if needed, be armed with nuclear warheads.

But it is not only the US mainland which is now targetable. All US military installations worldwide can now be attacked leaving the US very little or no reaction time.

It is not an exaggeration to say that this is truly a radical change, even a revolution, in modern warfare. I hate to admit it, but this is also an undesirable development from the point of view of first-strike stability as this places a good segment of the US nuclear triad in danger, along with almost all vital US military and conventional sites. Having said that, the entire blame for this situation is to be placed upon the arrogant and irresponsible policies of the United States since its disastrous US withdrawal from the ABM Treaty in 2002. Furthermore, I am confident that the Russians will gladly sit down with the Americans and explore reasonable any means to come to a mutual agreement to restore first-strike stability between these two countries. Nobody, besides the corrupt leaders of the US MIC, of course, needs any kind of arms race between Russia and the USA or the immense costs associated with such an endeavor. But since this arms race will probably continue (as said above, Neocons always double down), Russia has a huge advantage in this race for two key reasons

1) Unlike Russia, the USA will, for absolutely idiotic prestige reasons, categorically refuse to scale down its useless ABM and carrier centered naval procurement programs and all the monies allocated to actually trying to counter these Russian capabilities will be spent on top, not instead of, these useless and obsolete programs. Russia, in contrast, will spend her money on programs which actually make a real difference.

2) The USA is now dramatically lagging behind in many key areas all of which have long development cycles. Frankly, I can’t even begin to imagine how the US is going to extricate itself from such design-disasters as the littoral combat ship (LCS) or, even the worst of them all, the F-35. Just like Russia in the 1990s, the USA is nowadays ruled by corrupt incompetent cowards who simply don’t have what it takes to embark upon a real, meaningful, military reform and, as a result of that, the US armed forces are suffering from problems which are only going to get much worse before they get better again. For the time being the difference between Putin’s Russia and Trump’s USA is as simple as it is stark: Russia spends her money on defense, the USA spends its money on enriching corrupt politicians and businessmen. With that set of parameters, the USA doesn’t stand a chance in any arms race, irrespective of the talent and patriotism of US engineers or soldiers.

Russia and the USA are already at war and Russia is winning

Russia and the USA have been at war since at least 2014 (I have been warning about this year, after year, after year). So far, this war has been about 80% informational, 15% economic and 5% kinetic. But this could very well change, and very suddenly. Russia has therefore embarked on an immense effort to prepare against both a conventional and a nuclear atack by the AngloZionist Empire. Here are some of the measures which have been taken in this context: (partial, non-exhaustive list!)

In response to the conventional NATO threat from the West:

  • Putin has ordered the re-creation of the First Guards Tank Army. This Tank Army will include two Tank Divisions (the best ones in the Russian military – 2nd Guards Tamanskaya Motor Rifle Division and the 4th Guards Kantemirovskaya Tank Division), and a total of 500+ T-14 Armata tanks. This Tank Army will be supported by the 20th Guards Combined Arms Army (in progress). This will be what was called a “Shock Army” during WWII and the Cold War.
  • The deployment of the Iskander-M operational-tactical missile system (completed)
  • The doubling of the size of the Russian Airborne Forces from 36’000 to 72’000 (in progress).
  • Creation of a National Guard: which will include troops of the Interior Ministry (about 170’000 soldiers), personnel from the Ministry of Emergency Situations, the OMON riot police forces (about 40’000 soldiers), the SOBR rapid-reaction forces (about 5000+ soldiers), the Special Designation Center of the Operational Reaction Forces and Aviation of the Ministry of Internal Affairs including the Special Forces units “Zubr”, “Rys’” and “Iastreb” (about 700+ operators) for a total of about 250’000 soldiers which will probably reach the 300’000 men figure in the near future.
  • The procurement and deployment of advanced multi-role and air superiority fighters and interceptors (MiG-31BM, Su-30SM, Su-35S and, soon, the MiG-35 and Su-57).
  • Deployment of S-400 and S-500 air defense systems along with very long range radars.
  • The adoption of about 70% of new, modern, systems across all the armed forces.

In response to the ABM “encirclement” of Russia by the USA:

  • The deployment of the RS-28 Sarmat ICBM with hypersonic maneuverable reentry vehicles
  • The deployment of conventionally armed very long-range cruise missiles
  • The deployment of a nuclear powered cruise missile with a basically unlimited range
  • The deployment of a nuclear powered unmanned submersible with intercontinental range, very high speed, silent propulsion and capable of moving a great depths
  • The deployment of the Mach 10 hypersonic missile Kinzhal with a 2’000 kilometer range
  • The deployment of a new strategic missile Avangard capable of Mach 20 velocities

This list is far from being exhaustive, there is much more missing from it including new submarines, (air-independent propulsion, conventional diesel-electric, nuclear attack and SSBNs), strike aircraft, new armored vehicles of various types, new advanced (high tech) individual soldier equipment, new artillery systems, etc. etc. etc. But by far the most important element in the Russian readiness to confront and, if needed, repel any western aggression is the morale, discipline, training, and resolve of Russian soldiers (so powerfully illustrated in several recent examples in Syria). Let’s just say that in comparison US and EU servicemen (or their commanders, for that matter) are not exactly an impressive lot and leave it at that.

Si vis pacem, para bellum

The reality is, of course, that nobody in Russia plans for a war, needs a war or wants a war. In fact, Russia as a country needs many more years of (even relative) peace. First, because time is obviously on Russia’s side and that the military balance with the USA is very rapidly shifting in Russia’s favor. But no less important is the fact that, unlike the USA which strives for conflicts, wars, and chaos, Russia badly needs peace to deal with her still very numerous internal problems which have been neglected for all too long. The problem is that the entire US political system and economy are completely dependent on a permanent state of war. That, combined with an imperial hubris boosted by an increasingly vocal russophobia is a potent and potentially dangerous mix leaving Russia no other options than “bare her fangs” and engage in some saber rattling of her own. So will Putin’s speech be enough to wake up the Empire’s ruling elites from their delusional slumber?

Probably not. In fact, in the short term, it might have the opposite effect.

Remember when the Russian’s deflected Obama’s planned attack on Syria? The US reaction was to trigger the Maidan. Sadly, I expect something very similar will happen soon, most likely in the form of a full-scale Ukronazi attack against the Donbass this Spring or during the World Cup this summer. Of course, regardless of the actual outcome of such an attack (already discussed here), this will not in any way affect the actual correlation of forces between Russia and the Empire. But it will feel good (Neocons love revenge in all its forms). We can also expect further provocations in Syria (already discussed here). Hence and for the foreseeable future, the Russians will have to continue on their current, admittedly frustrating and even painful course, and maintain a relatively passive and evasive posture which the Empire and its sycophants will predictably interpret as a sign of weakness. Let them. As long as in the real world the actual power (soft or hard) of the Empire continues to decline, as long as the US MIC continues to churn out fantastically expensive but militarily useless weapon systems, as long as US politicians are busy blaming everything on “Russian interference” while doing nothing to reform their own, collapsing economy and infrastructure, as long as the USA continues to use the printing press as a substitute for actual wealth and as long as the internal socio-political tensions in the USA continue to heat up – then Putin’s plan is working.

Russia needs to continue to walk a very narrow path: to act in a sufficiently evasive manner as to avoid provoking a direct military confrontation with the USA while, at the same time, sending clear enough signals to prevent the US Americans from interpreting Russia’s evasiveness as a sign of weakness and then doing something really stupid. The Russian end-goal is simple and obvious: to achieve a gradual and peaceful disintegration of the AngloZionist Empire combined with a gradual and peaceful replacement of a unipolar world ruled by one hegemon, by a multipolar world jointly administered by sovereign nations respectful of international law. Therefore, any catastrophic or violent outcomes are highly undesirable and must be avoided if at all possible. Patience and focus will be far more important in this war for the future of our planet than quick-fix reactions and hype. The “patient” needs to be returned to reality one step at a time. Putin’s March 1st speech will go down in history as such a step, but many more such steps will be needed before the patient finally wakes up.

The Saker

Putin: The Man Who Stopped Washington’s Regime Change Rampage

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“It is essential to provide conditions for creative labor and economic growth at a pace that would put an end to the division of the world into permanent winners and permanent losers. The rules of the game should give the developing economies at least a chance to catch up with those we know as developed economies. We should work to level out the pace of economic development, and brace up backward countries and regions so as to make the fruit of economic growth and technological progress accessible to all. Particularly, this would help to put an end to poverty, one of the worst contemporary problems.” Vladimir Putin, President Russian Federation, Meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club

Putin wants to end poverty? Putin wants to stimulate economic growth in developing countries? Putin wants to change the system that divides the world into “permanent winners and losers”? But, how can that be, after all, Putin is bad, Putin is a “KGB thug”, Putin is the “new Hitler”?

American liberals would be surprised to know that Putin actually supports many of the same social issues that they support. For example, the Russian President is not only committed to lifting living standards and ending poverty, he’s also a big believer in universal healthcare which is free under the current Russian Constitution. Naturally, the Russian system has its shortcomings, but there has been significant progress under Putin who has dramatically increased the budget, improved treatment and widened accessibility. Putin believes that healthcare should be a universal human right. Here’s what he said at the annual meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club:

“Another priority is global healthcare…. All people in the world, not only the elite, should have the right to healthy, long and full lives. This is a noble goal. In short, we should build the foundation for the future world today by investing in all priority areas of human development.” (Vladimir Putin, President Russian Federation, Meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club)

How many “liberal” politicians in the US would support a recommendation like Putin’s? Not very many. The Democrats are much more partial to market-based reforms like Obamacare that guarantee an ever-increasing slice of the pie goes to the giant HMOs and the voracious pharmaceutical companies. The Dems no longer make any attempt to promote universal healthcare as a basic human right. They’ve simply thrown in the towel and moved on to other issues.

Many Americans would find Putin’s views on climate change equally surprising. Here’s another clip from the Valdai speech:

“Ladies and gentlemen, one more issue that shall affect the future of the entire humankind is climate change. … I suggest that we take a broader look at the issue….What we need is an essentially different approach, one that would involve introducing new, groundbreaking, nature-like technologies that would not damage the environment, but rather work in harmony with it, enabling us to restore the balance between the biosphere and technology upset by human activities.

It is indeed a challenge of global proportions. And I am confident that humanity does have the necessary intellectual capacity to respond to it. We need to join our efforts, primarily engaging countries that possess strong research and development capabilities, and have made significant advances in fundamental research. We propose convening a special forum under the auspices of the UN to comprehensively address issues related to the depletion of natural resources, habitat destruction, and climate change. Russia is willing to co-sponsor such a forum…..” Valdai)

Most people would never suspect that Putin supports a global effort to address climate change. And, how would they know, after all, bits of information like that– that help to soften Putin’s image and make him seem like a rational human being– are scrubbed from the media’s coverage in order to cast him in the worst possible light. The media doesn’t want people to know that Putin is a reflective and modest man who has worked tirelessly to make Russia and the world a better place. No, they want them to believe that he’s is a scheming tyrannical despot who’s obsessive hatred for America poses a very real threat to US national security. But it’s not true.

Putin is not the ghoulish caricature the media makes him out to be nor does he hate America, that’s just more propaganda from the corporate echo-chamber. The truth is Putin has been good for Russia, good for regional stability, and good for global security. He pulled the Russian Federation back from the brink of annihilation in 2000, and has had the country moving in a positive direction ever since. His impact on the Russian economy has been particularly impressive. According to Wikipedia:

“Between 2000 and 2012 Russia’s energy exports fueled a rapid growth in living standards, with real disposable income rising by 160%. In dollar-denominated terms this amounted to a more than sevenfold increase in disposable incomes since 2000. In the same period, unemployment and poverty more than halved and Russians’ self-assessed life satisfaction also rose significantly.”

Inequality is a problem in Russia just like it is in the US, but the vast majority of working people have benefited greatly from Putin’s reforms and a system of distribution that –judging by steady uptick in disposable incomes– is significantly superior to that in the United States where wages have flatlined for over 2 decades and where virtually all of the nation’s wealth trickles upward to the parasitic 1 percent.

Since Putin took office in 2000, workers have seen across-the-board increase in wages, benefits, healthcare and pensions. Poverty and unemployment have been reduced by more than half while foreign investment has experienced steady growth. Onerous IMF loans have been repaid in full, capital flight has all-but ceased, hundreds in billions in reserves have been accumulated, personal and corporate taxes have been slashed, and technology has experienced an unprecedented renaissance. The notorious Russian oligarchs still have a stranglehold on many privately-owned industries, but their grip has begun to loosen and the “kleptocracy has begun to fade.”

Things are far from perfect, but the Russian economy has flourished under Putin and, generally speaking, the people are appreciative. This helps to explain why Putin’s public approval ratings are typically in the stratosphere. (70 to 80 percent) Simply put: Putin the most popular Russian president of all time. And his popularity is not limited to Russia either, in fact, he typically ranks at the top of most global leadership polls such as the recent Gallup International End of Year Survey (EoY) where Putin came in third (43 percent positive rating) behind Germany’s Angela Merkel (49 percent) and French President Emmanuel Macron. (45 percent) According to Gallup: “Putin has gone from one in three (33 percent) viewing him favourably to 43 percent, a significant increase over two years.”

The only place where people have a negative view of Putin is in the United States (14 percent) and EU (28 percent), the two locations where he is relentlessly savaged by the media and excoriated by the political class. This should come as no surprise to Americans who know that the chances of stumbling across an article that treats Putin with even minimal objectivity is about as likely as finding a copper coin at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. The consensus view of the western media is that Putin is a maniacal autocrat who kills journalists and political opponents (no proof), who meddles in US elections to “sow discord” and destroy our precious democracy (no proof), and who is conducting a secret and sinister cyberwar against the United States. (no proof). It’s a pathetic litany of libels and fabrications, but its impact on the brainwashed American people has been quite impressive as Gallup’s results indicate. Bottom line: Propaganda works.

The attacks on Putin began sometime in 2006 during Putin’s second term when it became apparent that Russia was going to resist the looting and exploitation the US requires of its vassal states. This is when the powerful Council on Foreign Relations funded a report titled “Russia’s Wrong Direction” that suggested that Russia’s increasingly independent foreign policy and insistence that it control its own vast oil and natural gas resources meant that “the very idea of a ‘strategic partnership’ no longer seems realistic.” That’s right, Russia was thrown under the bus because they wanted to control their own oil and their own destiny.

John Edwards and Jack Kemp were appointed to lead a CFR task force which concocted the absurd pretext that that Putin was “rolling back democracy” in Russia. They claimed that the government had become increasingly authoritarian and that the society was growing less “open and pluralistic”. Kemp and Edwards provided the ideological foundation upon which the entire public relations campaign against Putin has been built. Twelve years later, the same charges are still being leveled at Putin along with the additional allegations that he meddled in the 2016 presidential elections.

Needless to say, none of the nation’s newspapers, magazines or broadcast media ever publish anything that deviates even slightly from the prevailing, propagandistic narrative about Putin. One can only assume that the MSM’s views on Putin are either universally accepted by all 325 million Americans or that the so-called “free press” is a wretched farce that conceals an authoritarian corporate machine that censors all opinions that don’t promote their own malign political agenda.

What Washington really despises about Putin is that he has refused to comply with their diktats and has openly rejected their model of a “unipolar” world order. As he said at the annual Security Conference at Munich in 2007:

“The unipolar world refers to a world in which there is one master, one sovereign; one center of authority, one center of force, one center of decision-making. At the end of the day this is pernicious not only for all those within this system, but also for the sovereign itself because it destroys itself from within.”

Despite Russia’s efforts to assist the US in its War On Terror, Washington has continued to regard Putin as an emerging rival that would eventually have to be confronted. The conflict in Ukraine added more gas to the fire by pitting the two superpowers against each other in a hot war that remains unresolved to this day.

But Syria was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Russia’s intervention in the Syrian War in September 2015 proved to be the turning point in the 7 year-long conflagration. By rolling back the CIA-trained militants, Putin bloodied Washington’s nose and forced the Pentagon to adopt a backup plan that relied heavily on Kurdish proxies east of the Euphrates. At present, US Special Forces and their allies are clinging to a strip of arid wasteland in the Syrian outback hoping that the Pentagon brass can settle on a forward-operating strategy that reverses their fortunes or brings the war to a swift end.

The Syria humiliation precipitated the Russia-gate Information Operation (IO) which is the propaganda component of the current war on Russia. The scandal has been an effective way to poison public perceptions and to make it look like the perpetrator of aggression is really the victim. More important, failure in Syria has led to a reevaluation of how Washington conducts its wars abroad. The War on Terror pretext has been jettisoned for a more direct approach laid out in the Trump administration’s National Defense Strategy. The focus going forward will be on “Great Power Competition”, that is, the US is subordinating its covert proxy operations to more flagrant displays of military force particularly in regards to the “growing threat from revisionist powers”, Russia and China. In short, the gloves are coming off and Washington is ramping up for a land war.

Putin has become an obstacle to Washington’s imperial ambitions which is why he’s has been elevated to Public Enemy Number 1. It has nothing to do with the fictitious meddling in the 2016 elections or the nonsensical “rolling back democracy” in Russia. It’s all about power. In the United States the group with the tightest grip on power is the foreign policy establishment. These are the towering mandarins who dictate the policy, tailor the politics to fit their strategic vision, and dispatch their lackeys in the media to shape the narrative. These are the people who decided that Putin must be demonized to pave the way for more foreign interventions, more regime change wars, more bloody aggression against sovereign states.

Putin has repeatedly warned Washington that Russia would not stand by while the US destroyed one country after the other in its lust for global domination. He reiterated his claim that Washington’s “uncontained hyper-use of force” was creating “new centers of tension”, exacerbating regional conflicts, undermining international relations, and “plunging the world into an abyss of permanent conflicts.” He has pointed out how the US routinely displayed its contempt for international law and “overstepped its national borders in every way.” As a result of Washington’s aggressive behavior, public confidence in international law and global security has steadily eroded and “No one feels safe. I want to emphasize this,” Putin thundered in Munich. “No one feels safe.”

On September 28, 2015 Putin finally threw down the gauntlet in a speech he delivered at the 70th session of the UN General Assembly in New York. After reiterating his commitment to international law, the UN, and state sovereignty, he provided a brief but disturbing account of recent events in the Middle East, all of which have gotten significantly worse due to Washington’s use of force. Here’s Putin:

“Just look at the situation in the Middle East and Northern Africa… Instead of bringing about reforms, aggressive intervention destroyed government institutions and the local way of life. Instead of democracy and progress, there is now violence, poverty, social disasters and total disregard for human rights, including even the right to life…

The power vacuum in some countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa obviously resulted in the emergence of areas of anarchy, which were quickly filled with extremists and terrorists. The so-called Islamic State has tens of thousands of militants fighting for it, including former Iraqi soldiers who were left on the street after the 2003 invasion. Many recruits come from Libya whose statehood was destroyed as a result of a gross violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1973….”

US interventions have decimated Iraq, Libya, Syria and beyond. Over a million people have been killed while tens of millions have been forced to flee their homes and their countries. The refugee spillover has added to social tensions across the EU where anti-immigrant sentiment has precipitated the explosive growth in right wing groups and political organizations. From Northern Africa, across the Middle East, and into Central Asia, global security has steadily deteriorated under Washington’s ruthless stewardship. Here’s more from Putin:

“The Islamic State itself did not come out of nowhere. It was initially developed as a weapon against undesirable secular regimes. Having established control over parts of Syria and Iraq, Islamic State now aggressively expands into other regions….It is irresponsible to manipulate extremist groups and use them to achieve your political goals, hoping that later you’ll find a way to get rid of them or somehow eliminate them….”

Putin clearly blames the United States for the rise of ISIS and the surge in global terrorism. He also condemns Washington’s strategy to use terrorist organizations to achieve its own narrow strategic objectives. (regime change) More important, he uses his platform at the United Nations to explain why he has deployed the Russian Air-force to bases in Syria where it will it will be used to conduct a war against Washington’s jihadist proxies on the ground.

Putin: “We can no longer tolerate the current state of affairs in the world.”

Less than 48 hours after these words were uttered, Russian warplanes began pounding militant targets in Syria.

Putin again: “Dear colleagues,….relying on international law, we must join efforts to address the problems that all of us are facing, and create a genuinely broad international coalition against terrorism….Russia is confident of the United Nations’ enormous potential, which should help us avoid a new confrontation and embrace a strategy of cooperation. Hand in hand with other nations, we will consistently work to strengthen the UN’s central, coordinating role. I am convinced that by working together, we will make the world stable and safe, and provide an enabling environment for the development of all nations and peoples.”

So, here’s the question: Is Putin “evil” for opposing Washington’s regime change wars, for stopping the spread of terrorism, and for rejecting the idea that one unipolar world power should rule the world? Is that why he’s evil, because he won’t click his heels and do as he’s told by the global hegemon?

We should all be so evil.

The US is Executing a Global War Plan

By Finian Cunningham

February 18, 2018 “Information Clearing House” – Washington is moving inevitably on a global war plan. That’s the grim conclusion one has to draw from three unfolding war scenarios.

Ultimately, it’s about American imperialism trying to assert hegemony over the international order for the benefit of US capitalism. Russia and China are prime targets for this global assault.

The three unfolding war scenarios are seen in Syria, North Korea and Ukraine. These are not disparate, disassociated conflicts. They are inter-related expressions of the American war plans. War plans which involve the moving of strategic military power into position.

Last week’s massacre of over 100 Syrian government forces by American warplanes near Deir ez-Zor was an audacious overt assault by the US on the Syrian state. The US, along with other NATO allies, have been up to now waging a seven-year proxy war for regime change against Russia’s ally, President Assad. The massacre last week was certainly not the first time that US forces, illegally present in Syria, have attacked the Syrian army. But it seems clearer than ever now that American forces are operating on the overt agenda for regime change. US troops are transparently acting like an occupation army, challenging Russia and its legally mandated support for the Syrian state.

Heightening international concerns are multiple reports that Russian military contractors were among the casualties in the US-led air strike near Deir ez-Zor last week.

Regarding North Korea, Washington is brazenly sabotaging diplomatic efforts underway between the respective Korean leaderships in Pyongyang and Seoul. While this inter-Korean dialogue has been picking up positive momentum, the US has all the while been positioning nuclear-capable B-52 and B-2 bombers in the region, along with at least three aircraft carriers. The B-2s are also reportedly armed with 14-tonne bunker-buster bombs – the largest non-nuclear warhead in the American arsenal, designed to destroy North Korean underground missile silos and “decapitate” the Pyongyang leadership of Kim Jong-un.

American vice-president Mike Pence, while attending the Winter Olympics in South Korea, opening last week, delivered a blunt war message. He said that the recent detente between North Korea and US ally South Korea will come to an end as “soon as the Olympic flame is extinguished” – when the games close later this month. This US policy of belligerence completely upends Russia and China’s efforts to facilitate inter-Korean peace diplomacy.

Meanwhile, the situation in Eastern Ukraine looks decidedly grim for an imminent US-led invasion of the breakaway Donbas region. Pentagon military inspectors have in the past week reportedly arrived along the Contact Zone that separates the US-backed Kiev regime forces and the pro-Russian separatists of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics. Donetsk’s military commander Eduard Basurin warned that the arrival of Pentagon and other NATO military advisors from Britain and Canada indicate that US-armed Kiev forces are readying for a renewed assault on the Donbas ethnic Russian population.

Even the normally complacent observers of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), charged with monitoring a nominal ceasefire along the Contact Zone, have lately begun reporting serious advancement of heavy weapons by the Kiev forces – in violation of the 2015 Minsk Peace Accord.

If the US-led Kiev forces proceed with the anticipated offensive next month in Donbas there are real fears for extreme civilian casualties. Such “ethnic cleansing” of Russian people by Kiev regime forces that openly espouse Neo-Nazi ideology would mostly likely precipitate a large-scale intervention by Moscow as a matter of humanitarian defense. Perhaps that is what the US planners are wagering on, which can then be portrayed by the dutiful Western news media as “another Russian aggression”.

US-based political analyst Randy Martin says: “It is undeniable that Washington is on a war footing in three global scenarios. Preparation for war is in fact war.”

He added: “You have to also consider the latest Nuclear Posture Review published by the Pentagon earlier this month. The Pentagon is openly declaring that it views Russia and China as targets, and that it is willing to use nuclear force to contest conventional wars and what the Pentagon deems to be asymmetric aggression.”

Martin says that it is not clear at this stage what Washington wants exactly.

“It is of course all about seeking global domination which is long-consistent with American imperialism as expressed for example in the Wolfowitz Doctrine following the end of the Cold War,” says the analyst.

“But what does Washington want specifically from Russia and China is the question. It is evidently using the threat of war and aggression as a lever. But it is not clear what would placate Washington. Perhaps regime change in Russia where President Putin is ousted by a deferential pro-Western figure. Perhaps Russia and China giving up their plans of Eurasian economic integration and abandoning their plans to drop the American dollar in trade relations.”

One thing, however, seems abundantly clear. The US is embarking on a global war plan, as can be discerned from the grave developments unfolding in Syria, the Korean Peninsula and Ukraine. Each scenario can be understood as a pressure point on Moscow or China to in some way acquiesce to American ambitions for global dominance.

To be sure, Washington is being reckless and criminal in its conduct, violating the UN Charter and countless other international laws. It is brazenly acting like a rogue regime without the slightest hint of shame.

Still, Russia and China are hardly likely to capitulate. Simply because the US ambition of unipolar hegemony is impossible to achieve. The post-Second World Order, which Washington was able to dominate for nearly seven decades, is becoming obsolete as the international order naturally transforms into a multipolar configuration.

When Washington accuses Moscow and Beijing of “trying to alter the international order to their advantage” what the American rulers are tacitly admitting is their anxiety that the days of US hegemony are on the wane. Russia and China are not doing anything illegitimate. It is simply a fact of historical evolution.

So, ultimately, Washington’s war plans are futile in what they are trying to achieve by criminal coercion. Those plans cannot reverse history. But, demonically, those plans could obliterate the future of the planet.

The world is again on a precipice as it was before on the eve of the First and Second World Wars. Capitalism, imperialism and fascism are again center stage.

As analyst Randy Martin puts it: “The American rulers are coming out of the closet to show their true naked nature of wanting to wage war on the world. Their supremacist, militarist ideology is, incontrovertibly, fascism in action.”

Finian Cunningham has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. He is also a musician and songwriter. For nearly 20 years, he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organisations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent.

This article was originally published by “Strategic Culture Foundation

Lessons From History

The Saker

February 16, 2018

Lessons From History
This comment was chosen by moderator HS from the post  “Syrian War Report – February 13, 2018: Israel Deploys New Anti-Missile Systems Near Syria”. The moderator felt the comment was exceptionally informative.

Comment by Auslander

Our world is slowly, actually in the last month not so slowly, approaching the active continuation of the war that started in 1914. While there have been interludes of relative ‘peace’, read the main antagonists were not bayoneting each other by the tens of thousands daily, reality is there has been no peace since that fateful day in 1914.

The fall of the Russian Empire, to a more or less great extent by it’s own hand, was one of the main events of that war and this destruction effectively negated any Russian influence in world events for a generation during which time all the protagonists managed to grow another generation of fighting age men. Looking back from the relatively clear vision of a century, one can see that the second part of this war was inflicted on themselves by the supposed victors of the first active phase of the war with their draconian sanctions and reparations pushed on Germany and Austria. The ‘victors’ certainly harvested what they had sown and in spades, as did most of the northern hemisphere of this rock we are on.

Through the three decades after the second active phase of the 1914 war, massive rebuilding was done in all the continental areas of the fighting and in China and Japan. Entire cultures had been flattened and some completely wiped out, never to return, in the first two active phases of the war. Such is war which saw England die on Flanders fields, France had died on the retreat from Moskau in 1812, bayoneted yet again in the 1870’s and effectively destroyed at Verdun. Russia was prostrate after 1918, rebuilt herself by the 1930’s and attacked again in 1941, being almost totally destroyed from Moskau west to the borders of ‘olde Europe’ by 1945. Reality is USA was the only one standing in 1945, Europe, North Afrika, Japan and China were destroyed.

In the ensuing ‘peace’, aka Pax Rossiya, of 1954 to 1990, Europe, Russia and Japan rebuilt themselves from the ground up. Both Russia and US occupied Europe and US occupied Japan, US still occupying these areas, Russia having withdrawn when SSSR disintegrated around 1990. In the ensuing 25 years since SSSR ceased to exist, Russia has pulled herself up by her boot straps and to a fair extent stopped the wholesale looting and plundering of former SSSR riches and resources.

In the meantime, US has, against all guaranties given to SSSR and Russia, expanded nato to the very borders of Russia and has actively engaged Russia in several fronts, most recent in Gruzya and Syria. The Gruzya war was short and a lesson to both us/nato and Russia. Now, at the request of the legal government of Syria, Russia has stepped in to stop the ‘civil’ war, read attempt to destroy and fragment Syria, and to a large extent defeated ISIL (or whatever name they go by on this day) and pushed us/nato away from the main population centers of Syria. The cost has been horrendous but there is a glimmer of victory, and peace, on the horizon.

Us/nato have done their very best to negate Russia’s efforts in Syria and the success of President Putin in stopping any possibility of war and occupation by us/nato of Krimea and Sevastopol, both entities being the prize of the coup in Kiev in 2014. As a result of President Putin’s success in these two agendas and President Putin stopping the genocide and destruction of Novorossiya, to some ‘Donbas’, us/nato are now fully committed to war against Russia. They are slowly but steadily putting a ring of missile defenses around Russia, from the Baltic area down to the east and southern Black Sea (and shortly in Gruzya), now Korea and Japan, and of course defenses are in and have been in Alaska.

Now, here’s a little breath of reality. When the wagon train, aka Russia, has circled, and the bad guys, aka us/nato, are slowly moving closer and closer to the circle of wagons while continuously muttering platitudes and disavowing any ulterior motives, what is one to think whilst sitting inside the circle of wagons? We KNOW what to think and we know what is coming, the only question is when. The problem is us/nato knows they can not defeat Russia in a conventional war and they know a ‘non conventional’ war will see the utter and total destruction of at least the northern half of our home planet.

Therefore us/nato have only one, actually two, possibilities of action at this time. One is the ongoing and ever increasing sanctions against Russia, each an act of war in and of itself. The other is to actively fight against Russia in Syria and this is what us/nato have been doing since Russia was invited by the legally elected government of the Sovereign State of Syria to help defeat the terrorists/us/nato attempting to destroy Syria. In this ongoing war, and that’s exactly what it is, a war between us/nato and Russia, losses have and will occur to both sides. Both sides will use whatever propaganda they can to make themselves look like virtuous warriors while denigrating the other side. Such is life for eons. The reality is us/nato and Russia have tried not to actively fight each other with their own troops, they use proxies in general and both sides have advisers helping their proxies and for Russia helping the armed forces of Syria. As a result of these advisers and proxies, losses occur on each side.

The actual fight ballyhooed in the news was simply an air attack by illegal us/nato forces against Syrian government forces approaching an area us/nato did not want them near. It is unknown if Russia or Syria was aware of the actual quite small force advancing towards a ‘us/nato secure zone’ but the air attack did happen and reliable reports are three contractors and ‘a few’ Syrian troops were killed. Such is war and the end result was some more grieving widows and families on both sides as us/nato protected their ISIL proxies, nothing more.

Now as far as reality in this ongoing continuation of the 1914 war. Who are you to believe and put your faith in? Are you to believe a man who came from virtually nowhere in 1999, reached down and pulled Russia from the deadly morass she was sinking in, rebuilt the Russian economy, rebuilt the Russia armed forces in to a force that is both patriotic and a force to be reckoned with, restored the diplomatic corp of Russia with the likes of Minister Lavrov, restored the faith of the population to Russia and enjoys somewhere around 80% approval of his policies both home and international? Or are you to believe in the likes of Tillerson and Mattis, in the likes of a country whose president has no real power to this day and in my opinion is the midst of an ongoing and vicious coup d’etat against the legally elected government and the president, whose military is a half assed experiment in social engineering and is scattered all across the globe with no real power in any one given area? A country that actively stifles any descent against it’s will all over this globe and is steadily moving to war against a nuclear armed country that has displayed no aggression since 1990? A country that is rapidly turning in to an economic disaster and becoming a police state the likes of which Goebbels and Beria would love and admire?

I know that’s a difficult question but sitting here on one of many ground zeroes, I know who my faith is in.

IAF CROSS-BORDER RAIDS IN THE LARGER PICTURE OF HEZBOLLAH VS ISRAEL

IAF Cross-Border Raids in the Larger Picture of Hezbollah vs Israel

Illustrative image

Written by Dennis M. Nilsen exclusively for SouthFront

As has become worldwide news, on February 10 the Syrian Air Defense Forces succeeded in causing, directly or indirectly, the downing of an Israeli Air Force (IAF) F-16I.  The warplane comprised part of an eight-plane attack group returning from a raid on the Tiyas Military Airbase just west of Palmyra, launched in response to the shooting down of a drone over Israeli territory just beyond the Golan Heights.  An Apache attack helicopter of the IAF shot down what Israel claims was an Iranian drone launched from the Syrian airbase, and upon the demise of one of its F-16s the IAF launched further raids on Syrian and Iranian military targets in the vicinity of Damascus, including three air defense posts.  Syria claims its air defense thwarted the attacks, while the Iranian IRGC have refused to confirm the Israeli claims and, further, deny that they have set up military installations in Syria.  The Syrians and Iranians both claim that the drone was engaged in an operation against one of the several terrorist groups operating on the Syrian-Lebanese border.  Incidentally, the two Israeli pilots successfully ejected; while one is in serious condition in hospital, his partner walked away with minor injuries.  Casualties for their opponents have yet to be confirmed.

While Israeli consternation at the violation of its airspace is understandable, the fact that the IAF has done the very same to Syria on over 100 occasions since the beginning of the revolt against President Assad is getting lost in the media coverage.  This brings up the larger picture of the opposition between the US/Israel block and the Axis of Resistance.  The Zionists insist that the IRGC is taking advantage of the generally distracted state of Syria to move arms shipments to Hezbollah through the country and into the forward areas of that group in southern Lebanon, concerned as they have become at a pending Israeli attack to wipe them out.  They have further accused the Islamic Republic of building missile factories in southwest Syria near to Hezbollah-controlled areas in order to considerably cut the supply route distance.  However, the larger arsenal which Hezbollah possesses and which it continues to augment thanks to the IRGC only makes the Israelis that much more jittery over the existence of such a weapons cache just across their northern border.  Are both sides to blame here, or does the blame lay solely on one side?

Hezbollah formed in 1982 to oppose the secular Amal then engaged in the Lebanese Civil War.  Frustrated at the Shiite group’s refusal to seek an Islamic state and inspired by the recent revolution in Iran, a group of clerics actively sought the aid of the newly-established IRGC to form a military to pull away Shiite support from Amal and to organize a viable front to the South Lebanese Army, allied with the Israelis.  Though it has modified its militant stance considerably vis-à-vis internal Lebanese politics, Hezbollah continuously refuses to acknowledge the existence of the Zionist State and to stand against any compromise short of the full withdrawal of Israel to the 1948 borders (the Golan Heights, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip) and the return of the Palestinian exiles.  Since these objectives have not been met, Hezbollah continues to exist in opposition to both Israeli policy and the Israeli state.

The considerable missile arsenal which it possesses (thanks to the IRGC) is officially proclaimed to stand collectively as a defensive weapon against a potential Israeli strike, although Israel and its chief ally the United States refuses good faith to Hezbollah and as a consequence refuses this doctrine.  With their backs to the sea, it is entirely reasonable for the Israelis to face the southern Lebanese border with a strong military presence and to constantly plan and exercises for another war with the group.  Further, because the Zionist State was formed without the acceptance of most of the Arab world, its leadership cannot afford to abide by the ruling of any international body, particularly the UN and its refusal to acknowledge the legality of Israeli occupation of the three above-named territories.  The result, impossible for Western mainstream media comprehension, is the existence of Israel as a rogue state, not only occupying land foreign to it but also allowing and (depending upon the party in power) actively encouraging the creation of settlements in those territories by militant members of Israeli society who claim their right to do so based not upon international law, but upon a very worldly interpretation of the Old Mosaic Dispensation.

This may very well serve as the historical background to Hezbollah’s and the larger Muslim animosity against the Zionist State, but the immediate blame which Israel must shoulder is the continued violation of Syrian airspace to strike at targets they rightly or wrongly believe to directly aid Hezbollah’s military capabilities.  Even if their military intelligence is correct about the targets they hit, such strikes must only occur with the permission of the Syrian Government and, lacking this, constitute de facto acts of war.  This latest incident merely showed Syria responding in kind and the IAF suffering the loss of an aircraft, which perplexedly drove an additional IAF raid to destroy as much of the Syrian air defense system as possible, which was merely carrying out its duty in the first place.

What of the Hezbollah missile arsenal in Lebanon?  If it does indeed constitute a threat to Israel, does the latter have the right to invade another country to prevent its augmentation?  Certainly not.  Saying yes, as many apologists in the West do, is like agreeing that Russia, mutatis mutandis, has the right to send weapons to the forces of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics to oppose the Ukrainian armed forces bent on subduing them.  The Ukrainian means of waging war have been nothing short of savage and so it is reasonable for the rebels to wish to arm themselves as much as possible to prevent injustice against themselves, their families and their property.  Is Hezbollah’s arsenal likewise a reasonable precaution against a repeat of the 2006 Israeli aerial campaign that destroyed most of Lebanon’s infrastructure, or a primarily offensive weapon for use against Israeli population centers?  Even if it is the latter, Hezbollah will not risk fomenting a war against the Zionist state unless provoked by the latter, and so the Israelis have no choice but to allow this build up.  But with the military they possess – including the multi-layered missile defense system – what do they really have to fear?  The fact that they are seeking to prevent it only adds fuel to the regional fire and further ostracizes them diplomatically.

As for Iran, if it is establishing missile manufacturing bases in Syria with that country’s permission explicitly to supply Hezbollah and to create a deterrent to another possible massive Israeli military action against Lebanon, or the West Bank or Gaza for that matter, what of it?  As is admitted by all the world save themselves, the Israelis possess a nuclear arsenal in addition to technology and a military far superior to any of its neighbors.  Distrusting the Zionist state as it does, how can Hezbollah be blamed for seeking to acquire the only deterrent to give the Israelis pause?  Israel seeks the destruction of that group and vice versa so how can the one be blamed any more than the other?  If the Israelis continue to act as they do, this will only prove to Hezbollah as well as to Syria and Iran that the former cannot be trusted and to the further build up an arsenal to be ready as a counter to any Israeli attacks.  Iran is free to choose its regional partners and for religious, ideological and strategic reasons, it has chosen Hezbollah.

Western commentators, especially those who espouse the right of NATO to move troops right up to Russia’s border and to conduct military exercises in the teeth of Putin’s veterans, should take pause before leveling charges against the Axis of Resistance.

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