Lebanon Confirms Its Rights To Confront ’Israel”… What Are Its Power Elements?

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Lebanon Confirms Its Rights To Confront ’Israel”… What Are Its Power Elements?

Charles Abi Nader

Apart from the political contending that preceded and accompanied the administrative-legal path of the Lebanese Maritime Borders Amendment Decree [6433], which also takes its constitutional and diplomatic path [as soon assumed] to the United Nations, it can be said that Lebanon – the government and the institutions – through its delicate and decisive decision to amend that decree, has imposed itself as a powerful player in the game of regional and international interests and conflicts.

The statement that Lebanon has imposed itself as a powerful player in the game of international interests and conflicts may be misplaced or inappropriate if we compare it to the crisis situation in Lebanon today, and what it is experiencing in terms of what looks like a financial, economic and social collapse, in addition to its fragmentation and political imbalance. But in reality, despite all the tragedies that have passed through Lebanon, its position has brought the highest level of challenge to many regional and international players.

First of all, the field of interest in which Lebanon has created itself by amending the decree defining its pure economic waters, is almost the entire eastern Mediterranean region, which is apparently very rich in gas and oil, between Syria and Turkey eastward and northward, between the occupied Palestine and Egypt southward and southwestward, and between Cyprus, Turkey and Greece westward. We are talking here about a maritime field, which is currently experiencing a delicate conflict and danger over the division and determination of the exclusive economic waters of the aforementioned countries, not far from the possibility that it will cause a military confrontation, such as between Greece and Turkey or between Cyprus and Turkey.

On the other hand, while ‘Israel’ is considered Lebanon’s fiercest opponent in this maritime border dispute, and due to its urgent need to exploit the huge wealth from the occupied Palestine’s coasts and to accelerate and advance its partnership with the Forum of Eastern Mediterranean States [Egypt, Cyprus and Greece], which is based on the initiation of the extraction and supply of gas and since it has completed the completion and preparation of the administrative, technical and legal structure for the initiation of the exploration in the Karish border field with Lebanon, which was affected by the aforementioned Lebanese amendment in more than half of its area, it will consider the Lebanese position regarding the amendment of its maritime rights in the south as a declaration of war against it, which would call for a non-simple reaction, not only as it threatened to stop indirect negotiations with Lebanon.

At a time where Lebanon is experiencing this almost complete collapse at all levels, and where most of the external parties involved in the conflict or the file contribute to deepening the collapse by exerting a lot of additional pressure on Lebanon to force it to surrender or submit to the maritime or other border file, and as these parties consider that the Lebanese position is supposed to be lenient and lax, in other words, disregarding what they see as their rights, so that they can make quick use of their needs before its inevitable collapse, Lebanon declares this strong position.

Therefore, the fundamental question remains: On what does Lebanon depend in this powerful position? And what are Lebanon’s power elements in the delicate game of defiance that it got itself involved in?

Of course, the consistent position of His Excellency the President of the Republic as a key official actor in guiding the negotiation process has been instrumental in amending the decree and establishing Lebanese maritime rights by fully supporting and embracing the perspective of the experts in the Lebanese Armed Forces and the specialists of the negotiating delegation in the demarcation process, which highlighted in a scientific-legal manner the correct maritime borders, that must be at first: A valid document for deposit with the United Nations and relevant institutions of the international community, and secondly: a platform for indirect negotiation with the enemy and for the demarcation and precise determination of the border based on it.

On the other hand, the legal and technical point of view presented and proved by the Lebanese Army in scientific details, from which its position was clear and decisive, regarding the necessity of completing indirect negotiations with the enemy on its basis, and in terms of the futility of its completion without it, proves without any doubt that the military, as a matter of national responsibility and duty, will be an essential party in fixing, protecting and supporting the amendment decision, with all possible military or security implications, dangers or repercussions.

Also, it is absolutely impossible to overlook the important role of the unified internal Lebanese position on the amendment, which was finally demonstrated by all concerned, official, partisan and political parties, and despite some initial reservations, which were in good faith in order not to lose the opportunity of demarcation and to benefit from the wealth as soon as possible, due to the urgent need for it today, this united position in terms of cohesion and non-division was essential in confirming the Lebanese decision to amend against all external parties.

In the end, the decisive role remains for the resistance, with its deterrent capabilities and balance of force against the ‘Israeli’ enemy, which is the main foundation in stabilizing and protecting the delicate, sensitive and bold Lebanese position, in terms of modification in general, and in terms of its sensitivity to hit the center of the Karish field, which ‘Israel’ considers to be under its control [within the areas occupied in the Palestinian waters], which had completed all appropriate measures to initiate exploration and exploitation of its wealth, with possible implications and developments, that will produce a provision that the enemy will regard the official Lebanese amendment to the decree as war or targeting what it claims to be its rights. As the Resistance has always stated, it is behind the Lebanese government in supporting and protecting what the latter determines in terms of national rights, land or maritime borders or the borders of Lebanese sovereignty, thus it [the Resistance] will, with its qualitative capabilities, remain the most powerful and solid safety valve for the protection, maintenance and stabilization of these national rights.



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RUSSIAN-SYRIAN GAS CONTRACT HINTS AT SYRIA’S RECOVERY

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 09.04.2021

Russian-Syrian Gas Contract Hints At Syria’s Recovery

Submitted by Steven Sahiounie.

The Syrian government signed a 4-year contract in March with Capital Limited, a Russian firm, to conduct oil and gas exploration in the area known as block No. 1 in the Syrian exclusive economic zone in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of the Tartous province.

The disputed maritime area covers 2,250 square kilometers on the Syrian-Lebanese maritime borders in the Mediterranean Sea.

Large reservoirs of natural gas have been discovered under the seafloor of the eastern Mediterranean and the neighboring nations and energy exploration companies are eager to exploit these gas deposits.

The Levantine basin has proven reserves of more than 60 trillion cubic feet of gas. The US Geological Survey has estimated that 1.7 billion barrels of oil lie in the basin, and as much as 122 trillion cubic feet of gas. That amount of gas is equivalent to about 76 years of gas consumption in the European Union (EU).javascript:window[“$iceContent”]

Natural gas is the cleanest of the fossil fuels and serves as a transition fuel towards more renewables, and to replace coal and nuclear electric generation across the EU.  Gas is the energy of demand for the EU, which is the biggest emerging gas market in the world.

In December 2013, Damascus entered into a major agreement with Moscow to explore oil and gas in the offshore territorial waters for 25 years.  Drilling and exploration costs were estimated at $100 million.  Russia would finance these activities with expenditures recovered from eventual production.

The 2013 deal for gas exploration involved Russia’s SoyuzNefteGaz; however, the current contract involves two Russian companies, Capital Limited and East Med Amrit.

The area in which Russian companies are being allowed to operate is disputed by the Lebanese, with the maritime borders drawn by the Syrians, especially in Block No. 1, overlapping significantly with Block No. 1 and Block No. 2 on the Lebanese side, and encroaching approximately 750 square kilometers within Lebanon’s maritime border.

Lebanon was busy demarcating its southern maritime and land borders with Israel for years, without making any progress.

On April 6, Lebanese caretaker Foreign Minister Charbel Wehbe said that Lebanese President Michel Aoun held a phone conversation with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to discuss the demarcation of maritime borders between the two countries. Wehbe said Aoun confirmed in his call with Assad that “Lebanon won’t accept to diminish from its sovereignty over its waters”, and confirmed that his country sticks to demarcating the maritime borders via negotiations, and not court disputes.

The majority of the land borders between the two countries have been demarcated in 1971, while the maritime borders between Syria and Lebanon have not been delineated. Lebanon had previously demarcated its maritime borders in 2011, and in 2014 launched a round of primary licenses and invited bids for Block No. 1 in the north, but Syria did not recognize the Lebanese demarcation. Damascus objected to the unilateral Lebanese demarcation of its exclusive economic zone in the north, by sending a protest letter to the United Nations in 2014.

Wehbe said that Beirut must negotiate with Damascus about the demarcation of maritime borders.

“This is not an act of aggression but every state demands its rights according to its perspective,” Wehbe said, adding that negotiations must take place within the framework of international laws and the brotherly relations between the two countries.

In late 2010, a dramatic discovery was made in the eastern Mediterranean of a huge natural gas field offshore, in what geologists call the Levant or Levantine Basin. The discovery set into motion a geopolitical plan devised in Washington and Tel Aviv back in 1996.  By March 2011 Syria was immersed into a revolution instigated and fueled by the CIA on orders from President Obama.

In August 2011 findings were revealed by Syrian exploration companies of an immense gas field in Qara near the border with Lebanon and near the port of Tartus, which was leased to the Russian navy. The gas reserves are believed to be equal to or exceed those of Qatar.  The US-backed rebels kept the fighting focused in the area to prevent the recovery of the gas.

Trump ordered the US troops illegally occupying Syria to stay and steal the oil.  The US military prevents the Syrian government from using the oil in the northeast to rebuild or recover from 10 years of war.

The US, NATO, and the EU all worked in coordination to destroy Syria and keep it from reaching its potential as an energy-sufficient nation.

Washington’s ‘regime-change’ strategy was based on instigating internal chaos in Syria through the use of CIA training and weapons of armed fighters following Radical Islam, which they thought would end with an Islamic State as opposed to the existing secular government in Damascus, and supported through the coffers of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, both nations state sponsors of Radical Islam.

The US lost the war in Syria. But, Washington will continue to isolate Russia and try to prevent the unchanged government in Damascus from the gas reserves off-shore.

Turkey began the US-NATO war against Syria as a team player. Turkey was used as a transit point for all the hundreds of thousands of foreign terrorists from the four corners of the globe who flocked to Syria on Team-USA to oust the Syrian government, in favor of Radical Islam. However, Turkey feels left out of the lucrative gas deals, and envious of its neighbors in the eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey is trying to disrupt energy exploration. Meanwhile, it is the babysitter of the Al Qaeda terrorists in control of Idlib and determined to maintain the status quo in Idlib.

While Russia has been in the Syrian port of Tartus for decades, it was in 2015 that they were invited to Syria militarily in the darkest days of terrorist expansion.  The Russians have a long and bloody experience with Radical Islamic terrorists on Russian soil. With Syria laying on the southern front of Russia, it was seen as a national security threat to allow an Islamic state to be proclaimed in Damascus, even if it was only the Muslim Brotherhood politicians supported by the US and housed in hotels in Istanbul.

The Russians felt they could either defeat the terrorists in Syria or wait and fight them on the streets of Moscow. Radical Islam is neither a religion, nor a sect, but a political ideology that is very difficult to deal with once US weapons are placed in their hands.

In 2012, F. William Engdahl wrote a prophetic article Syria, Turkey, Israel and a Greater Middle East Energy War. He wrote, “The battle for the future control of Syria is at the heart of this enormous geopolitical war and tug of war. Its resolution will have enormous consequences for either world peace or endless war and conflict and slaughter.”

Engdahl theorized that Syria would ultimately be a major source for Russian-managed gas flows to the EU.

In late 2015, Pepe Escobar, a journalist with Asia Times, wrote a groundbreaking article Syria: Ultimate Pipelineistan War”.

Escobar wrote, “Syria is an energy war. With the heart of the matter featuring a vicious geopolitical competition between two proposed gas pipelines, it is the ultimate Pipelinestan war.”

In the article, he takes you back to 2009 when Qatar proposed to Damascus the construction of a pipeline traversing Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Syria to Turkey, to supply the EU.

However, in 2010 Syria chose a competing project, the $10 billion Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline. That choice set into motion what the western media terms as the Syrian civil war, but in reality was never civil, and was a classic US ‘regime-change’ project which featured a cast of thousands, and among the supporters were the heads of state from most of the civilised world.

After 10 years of war, Syria may finally be approaching the endgame. President Assad’s government is looking to post-war recovery and reconstruction, which will need foreign and domestic investments. The energy sector is crucial. Syria’s oil exports accounted for 30% of pre-war revenue, and the prospect of gas output was revealed just as the war ramped up. US and EU sanctions will make foreign investment difficult, but the world is watching Russia in the waters off Syria.

Steven Sahiounie is an award-winning journalist and political commentator.

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RUSSIA AND DAMASCUS AGAINST “TERRORIST DEMOCRACY” IN GREATER IDLIB

07.04.2021 

South Front

In Syria’s Greater Idlib, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham continues its attempts at rebranding, all the while keeping up its usual militant activity.

As per the Russian Reconciliation Center, militants in Greater Idlib shelled the surrounding areas 32 times on April 6th.

Another al-Qaeda affiliated militant group in Greater Idlib, Ansar al-Islam, posted photographs of its activities in Idlib province. The footage showed the work of terrorist snipers targeting the Syrian Arab Army. This is more than likely a tool to show that the Damascus government cannot impede their activities, and serves as a recruitment method.

The Russian Aerospace Forces continue responding to all violations by striking militant positions. On April 6th, an air raid was carried out near the settlement of Basankul in Idlib.

In spite of the Damascus Government and Russia’s attempt to deter the militants, the United Nations sent 88 trucks of humanitarian aid to Syria’s Idlib. The aid is supposed to be distributed among the needy people in Idlib and its surrounding areas. It is more likely that it is being used by Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham and other militant groups to consolidate their grip on the region.

In addition to countering the activities of the Greater Idlib factions, the Syrian Arab Army, with its Russian support is containing ISIS in the central region.

In the 72 hours leading into April 6th, the Russian Aerospace Forces killed at least 29 ISIS terrorists in their strikes. A large number were heavily wounded. These attacks were centered on the Hama province, and stretched all the way to the border of the Deir Ezzor province.

Still, limited ISIS operations continue. On April 6th, one civilian was killed, several were injured and a large number of citizens were abducted in the town of al-Sa’an in the eastern countryside of the Al-Salamiyah region in Hama.

The terrorists ambushed government forces who were protecting the civilians. In total 19 were abducted, out of them 11 were civilians.

ISIS minefields also remain, and need to be cleared sometime in the future. On April 5th, a civilian was killed and another injured in a blast, at the Bowera site on the Jabal Abu Rajmein road, north of Palmyra.

The United States profits from chaos, wasting no time in smuggling resources away from the local population.

On April 5th, according to Syrian media, US forces smuggled out a convoy of trucks loaded with wheat stolen from the silos of Tal Alou in Yarubiyah in the northeastern countryside of Hasaka.

Additionally, on the very next day, Washington’s troops smuggled out a further convoy of 34 tanks and trucks carrying stolen quantities of oil and wheat also from the Syrian al-Jazeera region into northern Iraq.

Every party involved in Syria is fighting tooth and nail for their own interests  and any small opportunity is being exploited, as is clear to see.

RUSSIAN SU-24 BOMBERS DESTROYED HTS CAMP, VEHICLES IN GREATER IDLIB

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Yemen’s Blood Is on US Hands, and Still the US Lies about the War

Yemen’s Blood Is on US Hands, and Still the US Lies about the War

4/4/2021

By William Boardman – Towards Freedom

Six years ago, on March 26, 2015, the US green-lighted and provided logistical support for the Saudi bombing of Yemen that continues on a daily basis. The US/Saudi war, which includes as allies the several members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, is an undeclared war, illegal under international law, and an endless crime against humanity. The US and the Saudis have dropped cluster bombs on Yemen since 2009. Yemen has no air force and no significant air defenses. Two years ago, even the US Congress voted to end US involvement in the war, but President [Donald] Trump vetoed the resolution.

In 1937 the Nazis, in support of Franco in Spain, bombed the defenseless northern Spanish town of Guernica, massacring hundreds of civilians gathered in the town on market day. Pablo Picasso’s painting Guernica, a shriek of protest against the slaughter, is one of the world’s best known anti-war works of art. Yemen has had more than 2000 days of Guernicas at the hands of the US and Saudis, but no Picasso.

On February 4, 2021, President [Joe] Biden got a whole lot of good press when he announced that the US would be “stepping up our diplomacy to end the war in Yemen.” Biden also promised that the US would be “ending all American support for offensive operations in the war in Yemen.” Biden gave no specific details. The six-year bombing continues. The six-year naval blockade of Yemen continues. The humanitarian crisis continues, with the threat of famine looming. In effect, Biden has participated in war crimes since January 20, with no policy in sight to end the killing.

On March 1, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken acknowledged that:

The humanitarian crisis taking place in Yemen is the largest and most urgent in the world. Twenty million people, including millions of children, desperately need help. The United States is committed to doing our part, both to provide aid and to help address the obstacles standing in the way of humanitarian access.

That sounds a whole lot better than it is. Blinken did not acknowledge the US role in the air war on Yemen. Blinken did not acknowledge the US role in the naval blockade preventing food and fuel from reaching those 20 million Yemenis. Those obstacles to humanitarian access remain unchanged. The US has the power to remove either one unilaterally, just as it unilaterally chose to impose them. Blinken called on “all parties” to allow unhindered import and distribution of food and fuel, as if the US played no role in blocking both.

Blinken wasn’t done inventing a reality to fit US policy. He pledged support for “the well-being of the Yemeni people” but singled out the Houthis for pressure, even though the Houthis represent a large proportion of the Yemeni people. He called on the Houthis “to cease their cross-border attacks,” even though those attacks are a response to the US/Saudi undeclared war. And then he offered an analysis that would be hilarious if it weren’t so grotesque:

… the Saudis and the Republic of Yemen Government are committed and eager to find a solution to the conflict. We call on the Houthis to match this commitment. A necessary first step is to stop their offensive against Marib, a city where a million internally displaced people live, and to join the Saudis and the government in Yemen in making constructive moves toward peace.

The Saudis are so eager to find a solution to the conflict that they maintain their air war and naval blockade, effectively waging war by starvation – a crime against humanity. The “Republic of Yemen Government” is a fiction and a joke. Yemeni president Mansour Hadi, who is 75, was vice president of Yemen from 1994 to 2011, under the late authoritarian president Ali Abdullah Saleh. When Arab Spring protests erupted against Saleh, he stepped aside in favor of Hadi, who was “elected” president in 2012 with no opposition – a “democratic” result imposed by an international cabal. When you read media referring to his “internationally recognized government,” that’s the fiction they’re hiding. Hadi’s term as president ended in 2014, the international cabal extended it for a year, and that’s pretty much the extent of his legitimacy. That and US/Saudi firepower. By any rational calculation, Hadi is not a legitimate president. He also has no legitimate alternative. No wonder Hadi doesn’t feel safe in Yemen and remains in exile in Riyadh. The population in southern Yemen under the “government’s” control has recently attacked the government palace in Aden in protest against the government’s failure to provide sustenance and stability. A recent bomb attack aimed at a Hadi government minister reflects the reality that southern Yemen has long had a separatist movement quite independent of the Houthis in the north, in effect a second civil war. The most constructive move the Hadi government could make toward peace is to abdicate.

-Marib City, the capital of Marib Governorate, is roughly 100 miles northeast of Yemen’s capital in Sanaa. Marib City was established after the 1984 discovery of oil deposits in the region. Covering 6,720 square miles in central Yemen, the Marib Governorate is somewhat smaller than New Jersey. Marib contains much of Yemen’s oil, gas, and electric resources. Marib is the last governorate under the control of the Hadi government, but it has been under increasing attack by the Houthis since early 2020. Before that, Marib was relatively remote from the fighting in Yemen, providing refuge for a million or more Yemenis fleeing the fighting elsewhere. Marib City had a population of about 40,000 when the civil war broke out in 2014. Now the city has an estimated 1.5 million people.

This map of Yemen shows the oil fields of Yemen as well as the projected route [in dotted lines of the Trans-Yemen oil pipeline, protected by Al Qaeda forces, which, when completed will allow Saudi Arabia to avoid possible clashes with Iran at the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf. Source: The Crash of Flight 3804: A Lost Spy, A Daughter’s Quest, and the Deadly Politics of the Great Game for Oil  by Charlotte Dennett  (Chelsea Green) Map by John Van Hoesen.

The Houthi offensive against Marib has intensified since January 2021. Their offensive has continued in spite of having no air support. For the US Secretary of State to call for the Houthis to stop their offensive is an indication that it’s going their way. By March 8, Houthi forces had breached the northern gates of Marib City. Hadi government forces are supported by the Saudi coalition and local tribes, as well as elements of Al Qaeda and ISIS. [Al Qaeda also fights independently against occupying forces of the United Arab Emirates along the Gulf of Aden coastline.]

Famine has arrived in pockets of Yemen.

Saudi ships blocking fuel aren’t helping.

This was CNN’s headline on March 11, for a story reporting with reasonable accuracy on the very real, years-old humanitarian crisis that the US/Saudi war has brought on the region’s poorest country. CNN quotes a “food insecurity” analysis by the world electronics trade association IPC that predicts that more than 16 million Yemenis (of a total population of about 30 million) are “likely to experience high levels of acute food insecurity” in the first half of 2021. “Out of these, an estimated 11 million people will likely be in Crisis, 5 million in Emergency, and the number of those in Catastrophe will likely increase to 47,000.”

Yemen is an atrocity from almost any perspective. Three US presidents – Obama, Trump, and now Biden – have lied about Yemen while taking the US into an endless nexus of war crimes and crimes against humanity. And for what? To support a Yemeni government that is a fraud? To support a Saudi ally that thought it could win a quick, dirty air war at little or no cost? This abomination, pun intended, never should have happened. So why did it? The formulaic answer in much of the media is usually some variation on this propagandistic patter from Reuters:

A Saudi Arabia-led military coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015 after the Iran-allied Houthi group ousted the country’s government from the capital Sanaa.

This essentially false version of reality in Yemen appears in news media across a wide spectrum, from Al Jazeera to ABC News to this version by CNN:

Saudi Arabia has been targeting Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen since 2015, with the support of the US and other Western allies. It had hoped to stem the Houthis’ spread of power and influence in the country by backing the internationally-recognized government under President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi.

The core falsehood in most versions is “the Iran-allied” or “Iran-backed” Houthis. The grain of truth in that characterization is far outweighed by the history on the ground. The Houthis live in Yemen. They are the only combatant force that lives in Yemen, other than elements of the Hadi government and assorted insurrectionists. Yemen is in the midst of a civil war that has flared over decades. The war that is destroying Yemen is waged entirely by outside countries, primarily the US and the Saudi coalition.

The Houthis, who are mostly Shia Muslims, have lived in northwest Yemen for generations and centuries. They fought a civil war against President Saleh and lost. They have long been an oppressed minority in Yemen. When the Hadi government perpetuated the oppression of the Houthis, they rebelled once again. This time, challenging an unpopular and divided government, they were more successful. In 2014 they captured Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, and captured Hadi himself. Then they released him and he fled first to Aden, then to Saudi Arabia, where he is a puppet figurehead.

Before it could become clear what kind of governance the Houthis would provide for their part of Yemen, the US and the Saudi coalition attacked the country. Their publicly stated motivation has always included the imaginary threat from Iran. But the Houthis have a long and independent history that does not rely on Iran for its coherence and force. Iranian support for the Houthis in 2014 was never shown to be significant. The US/Saudi war had had the perverse effect of incentivizing Iranian support for the Houthis, but there’s no evidence that support comes anywhere close to the strength of the US and Saudi coalition forces directed at the Houthis. The US and the Saudi coalition are waging an aggressive war against a country that did none of them any harm. Iran is providing support for an ally unjustly under siege.

The war in Yemen has been brutal on all sides, according to reports by more or less neutral observers. But only the US and the Saudi coalition are invaders, only they are committing international war crimes. The Houthis, as well as all the other sides fighting in Yemen, have also committed war crimes, but on a far lesser scale. Yemeni forces are not the ones waging war by starvation and disease.

Ultimately, the Houthis are the home team, along with other Yemeni factions. The Houthis have nowhere else to go. The only military solution to the Houthis is extermination, genocide, the very course the US and Saudis have been on for years, with the winking hypocrisy of most of the world.

In April 2015, with the Saudis’ saturation bombing already in its third week, the United Nations Security Council unanimously [14-0] passed Resolution 2216, which “Demands End to Yemen Violence.” The Resolution begins with an obscene misrepresentation of reality:

Imposing sanctions on individuals it said were undermining the stability of Yemen, the Security Council today demanded that all parties in the embattled country, in particular the Houthis, immediately and unconditionally end violence and refrain from further unilateral actions that threatened the political transition.

That is the official lie that has publicly defined the war on Yemen since 2015. The UN sees no terror bombing by foreign countries. The UN sees no invasion by foreign troops. The UN sees no terrorist groups in a country that has had little stability for decades. The UN cites only the Houthis for their sins, as if it were somehow the Houthis’ fault that, having no air force and no air defenses, they weren’t getting out of the way of the cluster bombs dropped on their weddings and their funerals.

Crucial interview of Foreign Minister Lavrov (MUST READ!)

Crucial interview of Foreign Minister Lavrov (MUST READ!)

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April 02, 2021

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview given to Channel One’s Bolshaya Igra (Great Game) talk show, Moscow, April 1, 2021

Vyacheslav Nikonov: The word “war” has been heard increasingly more often lately. US and NATO politicians, even more so the Ukrainian military, have no trouble saying it. Do you have more reasons to be concerned now than ever before?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes and no. On the one hand, the confrontation has hit bottom. On the other, deep down, there’s still hope that we are adults and understand the risks associated with escalating tensions further. However, our Western colleagues introduced the word “war” into the diplomatic and international usage. “The hybrid war unleashed by Russia” is a very popular description of what the West perceives as the main event in international life. I still believe that good judgment will prevail.

Vyacheslav Nikonov: Recently, the United States has ratcheted the degree of confrontation up to never-before-seen proportions. President Joe Biden said President Vladimir Putin is a “killer.” We have recalled Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov.

Sergey Lavrov: He was invited for consultations.

Vyacheslav Nikonov: Hence, the question: How do we go about our relations now? How long will this pause last? When will Mr Antonov return to Washington?

Sergey Lavrov: What we heard President Biden say in his interview with ABC is outrageous and unprecedented. However, one should always see the real actions behind the rhetoric, and they began long before this interview back during the Barack Obama administration. They continued under the Trump administration, despite the fact that the 45th US President publicly spoke in favour of maintaining good relations with Russia, with which he was willing to “get along,” but was not allowed to do so. I’m talking about the consistent degradation of the deterrent infrastructure in the military-political and strategic spheres.

The ABM Treaty has long since been dropped. President Putin has more than once mentioned how, in response to his remark that George W. Bush was making a mistake and there was no need to aggravate relations, the then US President said that it was not directed against Russia. Allegedly, we can take any steps that we deem necessary in response to the US withdrawing from the ABM Treaty. Allegedly, the Americans will not take these actions as directed against them, either. But then they started establishing anti-missile systems in Europe which is the third missile defence position area. It was announced that it was built exclusively with Iran in mind. Our attempts to agree on a transparency format received support during the visit to Moscow by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates, but were later rejected. We now have a missile defence area in Europe. Nobody is saying that this is against Iran now. This is clearly being positioned as a global project designed to contain Russia and China. The same processes are underway in the Asia-Pacific region. No one is trying to pretend that this is being done against North Korea.

This is a global system designed to back US claims to absolute dominance, including in the military-strategic and nuclear spheres.

Dimitri Simes can also share his assessment of what is said and written in the United States on that account. A steadfast course has now been taken towards deploying intermediate and shorter-range missiles in the Asia-Pacific region.

The INF Treaty was discarded by the Americans on far-fetched pretexts. This was not our choice. In his special messages, President Vladimir Putin suggested agreeing, on a voluntary basis and even in the absence of the INF Treaty, on a mutual moratorium with corresponding verification measures in the Kaliningrad Region, where the Americans suspected our Iskander missiles of violating restrictions imposed by the now defunct treaty, and at US bases in Poland and Romania, where the MK-41 units are promoted by the manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, as dual-purpose equipment.

To reiterate, this rhetoric is outrageous and unacceptable. However, President Putin has reacted to it diplomatically and politely. Unfortunately, there was no response to our offer to talk live and to dot the dottable letters in the Russian and English alphabets. All of that has long since gone hand-in-hand with a material build-up in the confrontational infrastructure, which also includes the reckless eastward advance of NATO military facilities, the transformation of a rotational presence into a permanent presence on our borders, in the Baltic States, in Norway, and Poland. So everything is much more serious than mere rhetoric.

Vyacheslav Nikonov: When will Ambassador Antonov return to Washington?

Sergey Lavrov: It’s up to President Putin to decide. Ambassador Antonov is currently holding consultations at the Foreign Ministry. He has met with the members of the committees on international affairs at the State Duma and the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly. He has had conversations at the Presidential Executive Office as well.

It is important for us to analyse the current state of our relations, which did not get to this point overnight, and are not just because of this interview, but have been going this way for years now. The fact that inappropriate language was used during President Biden’s interview with ABC shows the urgency of conducting a comprehensive analysis. This does not mean that we have just been observers and have not drawn any conclusions over the past years. But now the time has come for generalisations.

Dimitri Simes: Now that I am in Moscow, after a year in Washington, I see a striking contrast between statements by the leaders of the two countries. I think you will agree that when officials in Washington talk about relations with Russia, their pattern is simple and understandable: “Russia is an opponent.” Sometimes, Congressmen are more abrupt and call it “an enemy.” However, political leaders from the administration still call it “an opponent.” They allow cooperation with Russia on some issues that are important to the US, but generally it is emphasised that militarily Russia is “the number one opponent,” while politically it is not just a country with objectionable views but a state that “tries to spread authoritarian regimes throughout the world,” that “opposes democracy” and “undermines the foundations of the US as such.”

When I listen to you and President of Russia Vladimir Putin, I have the impression that in Moscow the picture is more complicated and has more nuances. Do you think the US is Russia’s opponent today?

Sergey Lavrov: I will not go into analysing the lexicon of “opponent,” “enemy,” “competitor” or “rival.” All these words are juggled in both official and unofficial statements. I read the other day that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that for all the differences with Russia and China, the US does not have anything against these countries. As for what the US is doing, it is simply “promoting democracy” and “upholding human rights.” I don’t know how seriously one can take this description of US policy towards Moscow and Beijing. However, if they are promoting democracy, practice must justify theory.

George W. Bush announced that democracy was established in Iraq in May 2003. Aboard an aircraft carrier, he declared that Iraq’s liberation from its totalitarian regime was completed and democracy was established in the country. There is no point in elaborating. It is enough to mention the toll of the US-unleashed war – hundreds of thousands of people. We should also remember that the “rule” of the notorious Paul Bremer resulted in the birth of ISIS, which was rapidly joined by members of the Baath Party, employees of Saddam Hussein’s secret services, who had lost their jobs. They simply needed to provide for their families. ISIS emerged not because of ideological differences. Relying on US mistakes, the radicals actively used this fact. This is what democracy in Iraq is all about.

“Democracy” in Libya was established by bombs, strikes and the murder of Muammar Gaddafi which was accompanied by Hillary Clinton’s cry of admiration. This is the result: Libya is a black hole; refugee flows bound for the north are creating problems for the EU that does not know what to do about them; illegal arms and terrorists are being smuggled through Libya to the south, bringing suffering to the Sahara-Sahel Region.

I do not wish to describe what the Americans feel towards the Russian Federation. If their statements about us being their “opponent,” “enemy,” “rival” or “competitor” are based on the desire to accuse us of the consequences of their reckless policy, we can hardly have a serious conversation with them.

Dmitri Simes: When officials in Washington, the Joseph Biden administration or Congress, call Russia an opponent and emphasise this, I think they would not agree that it is simply rhetoric. Nor would they agree that it is designed solely for domestic consumption. The Biden administration is saying that the US did not have a consistent policy towards Russia and that former US President Donald Trump let Russia “do everything the Russian Government of Vladimir Putin wanted.” Now a new sheriff has come in and is willing to talk in a way he sees fit without paying much attention to how Moscow will interpret it; and if Moscow doesn’t like it, this is good. This is being done not to evoke discontent, of course, but to show that Russia is finally realising that it cannot behave like this anymore. Is there any chance that this new Biden administration policy will compel Russia to show some new flexibility?

Sergey Lavrov: The policy you mentioned, which is promoted in the forms we are now seeing, has no chance to succeed. This is nothing new: Joseph Biden has come in, started using sanctions against Russia, toughening rhetoric and in general exerting pressure all along the line. This has been going on for many years. The sanctions started with the Barack Obama administration and, historically, even earlier. Like many other restrictions, they have simply become hypertrophied and ideology-based starting in 2013, before the events in Ukraine.

Dimitri Simes: They will tell you, and you know this better than I do, that this policy has not been pursued sufficiently consistently, that it was not energetic enough, and that now they and their NATO allies will get down to dealing with Russia seriously so as to show us that we must change our behaviour fundamentally not just when it comes to foreign policy but also our domestic policy.

Sergey Lavrov: Dimitri, you are an experienced person, you know the United States better than Vyacheslav Nikonov or I do. What else can they do to us? Which of the analysts has decided to prove the practicability of any further pressure on Russia? How well do they know history? This question is for you.

Dimitri Simes: Mr Minister, you probably know that I am not a fervent supporter of the policy of the Biden administration.

Sergey Lavrov: I am asking you as an observer and an independent expert.

Dimitri Simes: In my opinion, the Biden administration still has a sufficient set of tools it can apply against Russia, including new sanctions, the promotion of NATO infrastructure in Europe, a more “harmonised” pressure on Russia together with its allies, the advance of the US policy not closer to the traditional Old Europe (I am referring to Britain and especially to France and Germany) but to Poland, and lastly, the supply of lethal weapons to Ukraine. It is now believed in Washington that it is very important to show Russia that its current policy in Ukraine has no future and that unless Russia changes its behaviour it “will pay a price.”

Sergey Lavrov: My views on the current developments range from an exercise in absurdity to a dangerous play with matches. You may know that it has become trendy to use examples from ordinary life to describe current developments. All of us played outdoors when we were children. Kids of different ages and with different kinds of family upbringing played in the same places. In fact, we all lived as one big family then. There were two or three bad boys on every street; they humiliated other kids, disciplined them, forced them to clean their boots and took their money, the few kopecks our mothers gave us to buy a pie or breakfast at school. Two, three or four years later, these small kids grew up and could fight back. We don’t even have to grow up. We do not want confrontation.

President Putin has said more than once, including after President Biden’s infamous interview with ABC that we are ready to work with the United States in the interests of our people and the interests of international security. If the United States is willing to endanger the interests of global stability and global – and so far peaceful – coexistence, I don’t think it will find many allies for this endeavour. It is true that the EU has quickly towed the line and pledged allegiance. I regard the statements made during the virtual EU summit with Joe Biden as unprecedented. I don’t remember ever hearing such oaths of allegiance before. The things they said publicly revealed their absolute ignorance of the history of the creation of the UN and many other events. I am sure that serious politicians – there are still some left in the United States – can see not just futility but also the absurdity of this policy. As far as I know, the other day 27 political organisations in the United States publicly urged the Biden administration to change the rhetoric and the essence of the US approach to relations with Russia.

Vyacheslav Nikonov: This is unlikely to happen. I believe that your example with “tough guys” on every street is too mild. The United States has gone beyond the pale, let alone the street ethics, which have always been respected. We can see this happening in Ukraine. President Biden is one of those who created modern Ukraine, the Ukrainian policy and the war in Donbass. As I see it, he takes the situation very personally, and he will try to keep it in its current tense state. How dangerous is the situation in Ukraine in light of the ongoing US arms deliveries, the decisions adopted in the Verkhovna Rada on Tuesday, and the statements made by the Ukrainian military, who are openly speaking about a war?  Where do we stand on the Ukrainian front?

Sergey Lavrov: There is much speculation about the documents that the Rada passed and that President Zelensky signed. To what extent does this reflect real politics? Is it consistent with the objective of resolving President Zelensky’s domestic problem of declining ratings? I’m not sure what this is: a bluff or concrete plans. According to the information published in the media, the military, for the most part, is aware of the damage that any action to unleash a hot conflict might bring.

I very much hope this will not be fomented by the politicians, who, in turn, will be fomented by the US-led West. Once again, we see the truth as stated by many analysts and political scientists, including Zbigniew Brzezinski, being reaffirmed. They look at Ukraine from a geopolitical perspective: as a country that is close to Russia, Ukraine makes Russia a great state; without Ukraine, Russia does not have global significance. I leave this on the conscience of those who profess these ideas, their fairness and ability to appreciate modern Russia. Like President Vladimir Putin said not long ago; but these words are still relevant, – those who try to unleash a new war in Donbass will destroy Ukraine.

Vyacheslav Nikonov: The US and Western diplomacy have definitely accomplished one thing: they put Russia and China in one boat. Indeed, we have already become strategic partners in deeds not just in words. You have just come back from China. You go there more often than once a year, for sure. During this trip, was there anything new that you sensed from Chinese leadership, which has recently come under unprecedented and rude attacks from the Americans? How strong are the bonds that are being established between Russia and China? How high is the bar that we can or have already reached in our relationship?

Sergey Lavrov: Like Russians, the Chinese are a proud nation. They may be more patient historically. The Chinese nation’s national and genetic code is all about being focused on a historical future. They are never limited to 4 or 5- year electoral cycles. They look further: “a big journey begins with a small step” and many other maxims coined by Chinese leaders go to show that they appreciate a goal that is not just on the horizon, but beyond the horizon. This also applies to reunifying Chinese lands – incrementally and without haste, but purposefully and persistently. Those who are talking with China and Russia without due respect or look down on us, or insult us are worthless politicians and strategists. If they do this to show how tough they are for the next parliamentary election in a couple of years, so be it.

Winston Churchill famously said that “democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” A big debate is underway about which one is more effective. The coronavirus infection has taken the debate up a notch. To what extent the Western democracies have shown themselves capable of opposing this absolute evil and to what extent countries with a centralised, strong and “authoritarian” government have been successful. History will be the judge. We should wait to see the results.

We want to cooperate; we have never accused anyone of anything, or mounted a media campaign against anyone, even though we are being accused of doing this. As soon as President Putin announced the creation of a vaccine, he proposed establishing international cooperation. You do remember what was being said about Sputnik V. At first, they said that it was not true, and then that this was propaganda and the only purpose was to promote Russia’s political interests in the world. We can see the ripple effect of this. On March 30, Vladimir Putin held talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron. We sensed a more realistic commitment to cooperate rather than try to engage in “vaccine discrimination” or “vaccine propaganda.”

Getting back to the heart of the matter, by and large, no one should be rude to other people. But what we see instead is a dialogue with a condescending tone towards great civilisations like Russia and China. We are being told what to do. If we want to say something, we are asked to “leave them alone.” This was the case in Anchorage when the discussion came to human rights. Antony Blinken said that there were many violations in the United States, but the undercurrent was clear – they would sort it out themselves and are already doing so. However, in Xinjiang Uygur, Hong Kong and Tibet, to name a few, things should be approached differently. It’s not just about a lack of diplomatic skills. It runs much deeper. In China, I sensed that this patient nation, which always upholds its interests and shows a willingness to find a compromise, was put in a stalemate. The other day, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson made a relevant comment. I don’t remember that ever happening before.

With regard to whether we are being pushed into the arms of China or China is being pushed into our arms, everyone remembers Henry Kissinger’s words that the United States should have relations with China which are better than relations between China and Russia, and vice versa. He saw this historical process and knew which way it could go. Many are writing now that the United States is committing a huge strategic mistake making efforts against Russia and China at a time, thereby catalysing our rapprochement. Moscow and Beijing are not allying against anyone. During my visit to China, Foreign Minister Wang Yi and I adopted a Joint Statement on Certain Issues of Global Governance in Modern Conditions, where we emphasised the unacceptability of violating international law or substituting it by some secretly drafted rules, of interference in other countries’ internal affairs and, overall, everything that contradicts the UN Charter. There are no threats there. The documents signed by the leaders of Russia and China always emphasise the fact that bilateral strategic interaction and multifaceted partnership are not directed against anyone, but focus exclusively on the interests of our peoples and countries. They build on a clear-cut and objective foundation of overlapping interests. We look for a balance of interests, and there are many areas where it has been achieved and is being used for the benefit of all of us.

Vyacheslav Nikonov: Have you noticed any change in China’s position? It is clear that Beijing is in a very tight situation. How far is China willing to go in its confrontation with the United States? It is obvious that they are now responding harshly. Sanctions are being introduced against Beijing, so it responds with tough counter-sanctions, and not only against the United States, but also against its allies, who are also joining the sanctions. Europe has joined this confrontation. Are we prepared to synchronise our policies with China, for example, our counter-sanctions, as we did with Belarus? Do we have a common strategy to counter the increasing pressure from the so-called alliance of democracies?

Sergey Lavrov: There is a general strategy, and I just mentioned it. Along with the Statement signed during my visit to China, a comprehensive Leaders’ Statement was adopted last year. Now we are preparing the next document, which will be signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, and dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the Treaty on Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation. Our strategic treaty will be renewed.

These documents spell out our line of conduct. We are not planning, and will not plan, any schemes to retaliate for what they are doing to us. I do not think that we will synchronise our responses to any new sanction acts against China and Russia.

Our level of cooperation continues to grow qualitatively.

You mentioned military alliances. There is popular speculation out there that Russia and China might conclude a military alliance. First, one of the documents signed at the highest level underscored that our relations are not a military alliance, and we are not pursuing this goal. We regard NATO as an example of a military alliance in the traditional sense, and we know that we do not need such an alliance. NATO clearly breathed a sigh of relief after the Biden administration replaced Donald Trump. Everyone was happy to again have someone to tell them what to do. Emmanuel Macron still occasionally tries to vainly mention the EU’s strategic autonomy initiative, but no one else in Europe even wants to discuss it. It’s over, the boss is here.

That kind of alliance is a Cold War alliance. I would prefer thinking in terms of the modern era where multi-polarity is growing. In this sense, our relationship with China is completely different from that of a traditional military alliance. Maybe in a certain sense, it is an even closer bond.

Vyacheslav Nikonov: The “alliance of democracies” will be created. This is obvious although fewer people in Russia still believe that it’s about democracy. In its election, its attitude towards freedom of the media and opportunities to express opposing views, the US has made it very clear that it has big problems with democracy. Europe also gives examples that compel us to doubt its efforts to promote a strong democratic project. After all, it still holds a position as a player under a big boss.

Vladimir Putin had a conversation with Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel via videoconference on March 30 of this year. Without Vladimir Zelensky, by the way. This is the Normandy format minus Ukraine, which resulted in a bitter response from Kiev.

They discussed a broad range of issues. Meanwhile, you have said more than once that our relations with the EU are frozen or absent altogether. Do you mean that we stay in contact or that contact is possible with individual EU members but not with the EU as a whole?

Sergey Lavrov: This is exactly the case, and this was also mentioned during the March 30 talks, and during Vladimir Putin’s conversation with President of the European Council Charles Michel. We are surprised that this assessment offends the EU. This is simply an objective fact.

It took years to develop relations between Moscow and the EU. By the time the state coup in Ukraine took place these relations included: summits twice a year; annual meetings of all members of the Russian Government with all members of the European Commission; about 17 sectoral dialogues on different issues, from energy to human rights; and four common spaces based on Russia-EU summit resolutions, each of which had its own roadmap.

We were holding talks on visa-free travel. It is indicative that the EU broke them off back in 2013, long before the crisis in Ukraine. As some of our colleagues told us, when it came to a decision on signing the proposed agreement, the aggressive Russophobic minority adamantly opposed it: Russia cannot receive visa-free travel status with the EU before Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova do. This is the entire background. What the EU did after that, braking all channels of systematic dialogue was a burst of emotion. They took it out on us because the putschists insulted the West by throwing out the document signed by Yanukovich and the opposition the day before, this despite the fact that Germany, France and Poland had endorsed this document. The first actions of the new authorities were to remove the Russian language from daily life and to expel Russians from Crimea. When Russian-speakers and Russians in Ukraine opposed this and asked to be left alone, a so-called “anti-terrorist operation” was launched against them.

In effect, the EU imposed sanctions on us and broke off all communication channels because we raised our voice in defence of Russian citizens and ethnic Russians in Ukraine, Donbass and Crimea. We try to discuss issues with them when they start making claims against us. They probably understand this; I hope they are still seasoned politicians. But if they understand this but don’t want to consider it in their practical policy, it means that they are being charged with Russophobia or cannot do anything about the aggressive Russophobic minority in the EU.

Dimitri Simes: I believe when we talk about the EU, it’s important to look at what the EU is and to what extent it has changed compared to what it used to be and what it was supposed to be when it was founded. The EU was primarily designed as an organisation for economic cooperation.

No political component was even envisioned at the start. It was about the EU contributing to European economic integration. The possibility was even mentioned of Russia playing some associated role in that process. But then they said the EU should also have some common values. At first, the idea was that those common values were the cement of the EU itself. Then a new idea emerged in Warsaw that it would be nice for those European values ​​(since they are actually universal) to spread to other regions, as well as for Russia to respect them, or even to obey them. When I look at the EU’s approach to Ukraine, the conflict in Donbass and the demands to return Crimea to Kiev, it seems to me that the EU is becoming a missionary organisation. When you deal with crusaders, trying to reckon with them or appealing to their logic and conscience is probably useless. Do you not think that the EU has journeyed to a place where there are limited opportunities for partnership and great potential for confrontation? Or am I being too pessimistic?

Sergey Lavrov: No, I agree with you, absolutely. This is a missionary style – lecturing others while projecting superiority. It is important to see this tendency, as it has repeatedly brought Europe to trouble.

This is actually the case. Established as the Coal and Steel Community, then the European Economic Community – if you look at the EU now, look at their values, they are already attacking their own members like Poland and Hungary, just because these countries have somewhat different cultural and religious traditions. You said it originated in Poland. I actually forget who started this…

Dimitri Simes: I first heard it from Polish delegates at a conference.

Sergey Lavrov: Now Poland itself is facing the consequences of its ideas, only not outside the EU, but within the organisation.

When anyone tries to impose any values on Russia, ​​related, as they believe, to democracy and human rights, we have this very specific response: all universal values ​​are contained in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights that everyone signed. Any values invented now, which they try to impose on us or other countries, are not universal. They have not been agreed upon by the entire international community. Even inside the EU, look at those street protests! A couple of years ago, they had protests in France in defence of the traditional family, the concepts of “mother,” “father,” and “children.” This lies deep. Playing with traditional values ​​is dangerous.

As to the EU once inviting Russia as an associate member, we never agreed to sign an association document. Now the same is being done with regard to the Eastern Partnership countries – Armenia, Ukraine, and Moldova. As for Russia’s relations with the EU, which Brussels destroyed, only one thing remained – the basic document on the terms of trade and investment. It was indeed the subject of negotiation between the Brussels Commission and the Russian Federation. This is a document that remains valid. We cooperate with individual countries, but not with the EU, because those were the terms agreed upon, and their practical implementation is going through bilateral channels. The only thing the EU is doing in this respect now is imposing sanctions and banning its members from fulfilling some parts of this agreement because they want to “punish Russia.” That’s it, there are no other ties.

We are being told that we are deliberately derailing our relations (although the facts are simply outrageous), trying to shift our ties with Europe to bilateral channels, wanting to “split up” the European Union. We don’t want to split anyone up. We always say that we are interested in a strong and independent European Union. But if the EU chooses a non-independent position in the international arena, as we just discussed, this is their right. We cannot do anything about it. We have always supported its independence and unity. But in the current situation, where Brussels broke off all relations, when certain European countries reach out to us (we have not tried to lure anyone) with proposals to talk, to visit any of the sides and discuss some promising projects in bilateral relations, how can we refuse our partners? It is quite unfair (even a shame) to try to present such meetings as part of a strategy to split up the EU. They have enough problems of their own that split them up.

Dimitri Simes: This is a philosophical issue in Russia’s relations with the EU. When the EU has imposed anti-China sanctions, China made a tough response. This was an unpleasant surprise for the EU and caused indignation. Meanwhile, Brussels does not expect such a response from Russia in the firm belief that Russia has no economic levers to oppose the EU. To my knowledge, Russia has not imposed any serious sanctions on the EU.

This is an interesting situation. Russia supplies Europe with 33 percent of its gas. The figures for oil are about the same. I think during all this time Russia has proved convincingly that it won’t use energy for political leverage in Europe. Understandably, Russia has been interested in this, especially when it comes to the completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. It seems to me that certain people in Europe have forgotten that if Russia does not do something, it doesn’t mean that it cannot do it, or won’t be compelled to do it if the EU’s pressure on Russia crosses a line. Do you think this is possible in theory? Or does Russia completely rule out such actions?

Sergey Lavrov: You are saying (metaphorically) that they either have not read (which is most likely) or have forgotten the epic about Ilya Muromets who slept on the stove while nobody paid attention? This is not a threat. We will never use energy supplies or our oil and gas routes in Europe to this end. This is a position of principle regardless of anything else.

Dimitri Simes: Even of you are disconnected from SWIFT and everything else?

Sergey Lavrov: We will not do that. This is a position of principle for President of Russia Vladimir Putin. We will not create a situation where we force EU citizens “freeze.” We will never do this. We have nothing in common with Kiev that shut down water supplies to Crimea and takes delight in it. This is a disgraceful position in the world arena. Frequently accusing us of using energy as an instrument of influence, as a weapon, the West keeps silence on what Kiev is doing with water supplies to Crimea. I believe the provision of basic needs on which the daily life of common citizens depends, should never be an object of sanctions.

Dimitri Simes: In this case, what do you mean by referring to “the phenomenon” of Ilya Muromets?

Sergey Lavrov: It is possible to respond in different ways. We have always warned that we will be ready to respond. We will respond to any malicious actions against us but not necessarily in a symmetric manner. By the way, speaking about the impact of the sanctions on civilians, look what is taking place in Syria under the Caesar Act. My colleagues in Europe and, incidentally, in the region, whisper that they are horrified by the way this act has eliminated any opportunity to do business with Syria. The goal is clear – to stifle the Syrians to make them revolt and overthrow Bashar al-Assad.

Now a few words about our and China’s responses to the European sanctions. After all, China also avoided suspending economic activity. It simply imposed sanctions on a number of individuals and companies that held certain anti-China positions. We are doing basically the same.

Vyacheslav Nikonov: As we know, Ilya Muromets did not shut down oil and gas supplies. He used other methods that were often symmetrical. I think we also have a solid set of instruments.

Don’t we exaggerate the importance of the EU in the modern world? It has an identity and there are European values. I know this since I have dealt with European MPs and experts for many years.

However, I have the impression that there are two main values: the first one is the euro and the second is LGBT and 60 more letters that describe this notion linked with sexual identity, their presence, absence, or mix.

The EU is undergoing a crisis – Brexit. Britain has left the EU. The economic crisis is very bad. Probably, in Europe it is worse than elsewhere. The economy has dropped by up to 10 percent in many countries. The vaccine-related crisis has shown that Europe cannot counter the virus and adopt a common policy. These problems are emerging at all levels. It cannot draft a common economic policy, migration rules, and so on. Maybe, we are really paying too much attention to Europe? Maybe we can act without looking back at this “falling” structure?

Sergey Lavrov: But where are we paying too much attention to Europe? We have a very simple position that President of Russia Vladimir Putin has set forth many times: we do not feel hurt. As we know, hurt people get the short end of the stick, or as we say in Russia, hurt people are made to carry water, something we are short of in Crimea. We will always be willing to revive our relations, practically to raise them from the ashes, but to do this we must know what the EU is interested in. We will not knock on a locked door. They are well aware of our proposals, just as the Americans know our proposals on strategic stability, cyber security and many other things. We have said to all of them: “Our friends and colleagues, we are ready for this. We understand that you will have some reciprocal ideas but we have not yet heard them. As soon as you are ready, let’s sit down and discuss them, seeking a balance of interests.” Meanwhile, now we are being accused of neglecting policy on the EU, so I don’t think we are courting this alliance or exaggerating its importance. It determines its place in the world itself. We have already talked about this today.

As for European values, we have many ongoing debates. Some people need European price tags more than European values. They want to travel there for shopping, recreation, buy some property and return home. As I said, our common values lie in our history, the mutual influence of our cultures, literature, art and music. They are great.

Vyacheslav Nikonov: As for modern European culture and art, have they really…

Sergey Lavrov: I am referring to our historical roots.

Vyacheslav Nikonov: Because I think today’s Europe is pretty empty in terms of culture.

Sergey Lavrov: There are some funny songs; we can listen to them in the car sometimes.

Dimitri Simes: Speaking of relations with the United States, I would like to ask you a personal question because you lived and worked there for a long time when you were Russia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations. Of course, you have also been dealing with the US as the Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation. I lived in the US for almost 50 years.

Sergey Lavrov: Why past tense?

Dimitri Simes: I am now in Moscow. When I look at the United States today, I have the impression that it is undergoing a cultural revolution. I think that if many people in the Joseph Biden administration or the Democrats in Congress are told this, they would not feel offended in any way. They will say that a cultural revolution is long overdue, that it is finally necessary to eradicate racism, give equal and not-so-equal prevailing opportunities to sexual orientation minorities because they were also discriminated against and to develop a true democracy that requires that all those who want to vote can vote. In practice, this means that millions of people will have an opportunity to vote without necessarily being US citizens at all. This is why the Democrats emphatically oppose a ban on voting on Sundays. As you know, there was never any voting in the US on Sundays. Sunday is called God’s day. The Democrats wanted Sunday elections so that buses could go to Afro-American churches and take people to the polling stations.

Vyacheslav Nikonov: Why take them by bus? They can vote by mail.

Dimitri Simes: Both options are available.

Sergey Lavrov: Why not put a ballot box right in a church?

Dimitri Simes: Exactly. Do you believe the United States is, in many respects, evolving into a different country and that this is not necessarily an irreversible process, though a momentous one? Also, would you agree that this process is not a purely American internal matter because it goes hand in hand with the emergence of a new revolutionary ideology that requires that American values spread around the world and that these American models should not be resisted as they are now in Russia and China? Can this lead to an existential conflict?

Sergey Lavrov: We will talk about this but, first, let me finish what I was saying about European culture. Here is, in my view, a telling illustration of the state of European culture today. If we talk about revolutions, including a cultural revolution, the Eurovision  contest speaks volumes.  What they are doing now to the Belarusians is repulsive. This is sheer censorship that goes like this: since we – nobody knows who exactly, some anonymous individuals – fancy that we heard some innuendoes in your song, we will not allow you to take part in the contest unless you have another song. But then the same fate befalls another Belarusian song. What does this have in common with art, culture or democracy?

As for a cultural revolution in the United States, I do feel that processes which deserve to be described like this are unfolding there. Everyone probably wants to eradicate racism and, as for us, we have never had any doubt regarding this. We were trailblazers behind the movement to secure equal rights for all people, regardless of the colour of their skin. However, we should beware that we do not slip into another extreme, the one we have observed during the Black Lives Matter events, and into aggression against white people, white US citizens.

The other day we marked an international day designated to increase awareness of this issue and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, speaking at a General Assembly meeting, said that the previous year had been a year of the most serious and numerous manifestations of white supremacy. I have asked to be given the full text of his speech, as I want to understand what specifically he had in mind. If this is about having a sense of a trend you talked about and the willingness to follow this trend, it is lamentable. This is still the United Nations Organisation and not a venue for promoting US concepts, some US trends.

As for why they need this, yes, they want to spread this to the rest of the world. They have a huge potential to achieve this goal. Hollywood has also started to change its rules, so that everything reflects the diversity of contemporary society, which is also a form of censorship, art control and the way of imposing some artificial restrictions and requirements on others. I have seen black actors perform in Shakespeare’s comedies. The only thing I do not know is when a white actor will play Othello. You see, this is nothing less than absurdity. Political correctness reduced to absurdity will lead to no good.

The other tool is social networks and internet platforms, as well as servers located in the United States. The US flatly refuses to discuss ways of either making internet governance more democratic or establishing common rules regulating social networks for the sake of avoiding the recurrence of the situation with TikTok and other social networks we encountered during the recent events in Russia, including the spread of abominable information, like personal abuse, pedophilia and many other things. We have already approached TikTok and other social networks about the need to establish elementary rules of respect and propriety but the Americans are unwilling to make these types of rules universal.

In Anchorage, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken lectured the Chinese on human rights, ethnic minorities and democracy in China. Indeed, Mr Blinken said they [in the US] also had to address certain issues in this field but they would do it on their own. During talks with the Americans – the same goes for the Europeans – as soon as you start offering to discuss ways of democratising international relations or the supremacy of law on an international scale, they invariably get away from the subject. They want to replace international law with their own rules, which have nothing in common with the supremacy of law globally, on a universal scale. I already talked about large-scale rallies in France in defence of traditional family values. It appears that to secure the rights of one group of people, the rights of another group have to be infringed upon. That is, promoting these values around the world is not an end in itself, but rather a tool for ensuring their dominance.

Dimitri Simes: Richard Nixon once told Nikita Khrushchev that there would be no true harmony or true partnership between the Soviet Union and America unless the Soviet Union stops spreading its ideology. And that was a big problem in the Brezhnev era, I must say, because they discussed a détente while at the same time supporting a continued international class struggle. As I see it, Leonid Brezhnev was doing it without much conviction. But now, things have turned the other way around. Now the collective West is eager to proliferate its ideology and values. And they seem to be doing so with far greater conviction and perseverance than the Soviet Union under Leonid Brezhnev ever tried. Does this pose a risk of collision?

Sergey Lavrov: Under Leonid Brezhnev, the Soviet Union saw no threat to its existence. One can argue whether that stance was far-sighted enough, but that is how it was. Today’s West senses a threat to its dominance. It is a fact. So all those wiggling moves, including the invention of some ‘rules’ – as in the rules-based international order, something the West has come up with to replace the UN Charter – they reflect precisely this tendency.

I agree that we have swapped positions, or rather the Soviet Union and the modern West have. I don’t think this will offend anyone since this is not a big secret. I spoke with Rex Tillerson when he was US Secretary of State. He is a thoughtful and experienced politician and diplomat. It was good to work with him. We disagreed on most things, but we always wanted to continue the dialogue to bring our positions just a little bit closer at least. When he first told me they were concerned about Russia’s interference in some elections, I said they had not proved anything to us yet, and all we heard was accusations. When they began to accuse us of interfering in their elections, we repeatedly proposed using the special channel we had for exchanging information about threats to information networks and organisations. They refused. We had repeatedly offered dialogue even before that, when Barack Obama was president, from October 2016 until Donald Trump’s inauguration in January 2017. They always refused.

I pointed out to Tillerson that they had in fact directly stipulated in legislation that the US State Department should spend $20 million a year to support Russian civil society and promote democracy. That was not even a suspicion on our part as they did it openly (for example, the Ukraine Support Act). There was nothing to prove – they just announced that they would interfere. He told me that was totally different. I asked him why, and he said because we promoted authoritarianism, and they spread democracy. That was it.

Dimitri Simes: And he said it with sincere conviction, didn’t he?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes.

Vyacheslav Nikonov: Mr Lavrov, naturally, this policy leads to a drastic polarisation. The polarisation of international relations is a dangerous thing. We remember the early 19th century, and the early 20th century. It always ended in wars. The Americans, losing their global dominance, will create (they have already announced this) a new ‘alliance of democracies.’ I mean create American and pro-American alliances, compelling everyone else to make their choice. This polarisation will increase. What will this mean for the world and for the alliances where Russia is a member? I mean BRICS (which I think they will try to split up), the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). How far can this go? How dangerous is it?

Sergey Lavrov: This is a deliberate policy and an extension of the agenda we are talking about – about the United States promoting democracy and spreading benefit. The Americans and Europe are very active (but the Americans are especially active) in Central Asia. They are trying to create their own formats such as C5+1. Russia is also part of a 5+1 format in Central Asia, in addition to the SCO, CIS, EAEU and CSTO – one that involves the foreign ministers of five Central Asian countries and your humble servant. That format is useful. True, the volume of economic ties that the US and the EU are now building with Central Asia is still incomparable with our economic interpenetration, but they are pursuing an unambiguous goal to weaken our ties with our allies and strategic partners in every possible way.

The numerous initiatives around the Afghan reconciliation and around the Indo-Pacific region envision Central Asia’s reorientation from its current vector to the South – to help rebuild Afghanistan and at the same time weaken its ties with the Russian Federation.

I could talk for a long time about the Indo-Pacific region and the Indo-Pacific concept. That multi-layered initiative is aimed at hindering China’s Belt and Road Initiative and limiting the Chinese influence in the region, creating constant irritants for that country. There have been some slips about creating an ‘Asian NATO.’ Although in the US interpretation the Indo-Pacific region is described as ‘free and open,’ the chances that positions will be worked out through an equal or open process there are slim. It is already obvious that it isn’t ‘open’. China has not been invited; rather, that country is declared a target for containment. We have not been invited either, which means the attitude to Russia is similar. I would say those are long-term trends. We are talking about this frankly with our neighbours and closest allies. I am confident that they understand all these threats. None of them even considers the possibility of anyone telling them who to talk or not talk to. It is their sovereign right to choose their partners.

The term ‘multi-vector’ has become semi-abusive, but we are not giving up the multi-vector approach. We are open to cooperation and friendship with everyone who is ready for relations based on equality, mutual respect, compromise and balance of interests. That our Western colleagues are clearly abusing this approach, especially in post-Soviet countries, is an obvious fact.

Vyacheslav Nikonov: Is it possible to avoid the actual military scenario in these circumstances? Isn’t it time to create an alliance of free countries given the role reversal that has taken place in the modern world? An alliance, perhaps, of genuine democracies that will oppose the ongoing all-out attack?

Sergey Lavrov: We will not get involved in this kind of political engineering. Russia is committed to the United Nations. When France and Germany put forward the effective multilateralism concept, we asked them what it meant. There was silence followed by joint articles written by the foreign ministers of France and Germany stating that the European Union is an example of effective multilateralism, and everyone needs to adapt to the European processes. Our question why the readily available and universal UN multilateral platform is not a good option remained unanswered. However, the answer is there, and we mentioned it more than once today. They are making up the rules that the international order is supposed to be based on.

Dimitri Simes: Mr Minister, we have taken up much of your time and we appreciate it. But we cannot let you go without asking you one more personal question. What is it like to be Russia’s Foreign Minister in this rapidly changing world?

You have worked in several completely different eras. When you were Russia’s Permanent Representative to the UN in New York, it was a period of Russia’s “romantic infatuation” with the United States, though perhaps not quite on the terms that were beneficial for Russia. In the early 21st century, Russia was in search of partnerships. Well, then we got what we are witnessing now. How do you, a person who, in many ways, is the architect of this era, a witness and a participant of this process, find your work in this very complex role?

Sergey Lavrov: To put it short, I never get bored. That is if we are talking about the different eras in my career. We all lived in these eras, and we have seen these transitions. You asked me earlier whether the United States has changed. It has. A lot.

Dimitri Simes: Have you changed?

Sergey Lavrov: Probably. It’s not for me to say. A person perceives the environment as a constantly evolving process. People grow up, get smarter or dumber, but they have no way of seeing it.

Dimitri Simes: Do you think we have all become disappointed in many ways, but we have grown, too, as a result of these experiences, and, of course, in the first place, a person holding such positions as yours?

Sergey Lavrov: This is true, of course. How can this not influence the formation of a person? The personality never stops to evolve. It is something that lasts until the end of our lives. Those revolutionary developments had a strong influence on me. I believe the 9/11 attacks were the turning point in the American life. I was in Manhattan, in New York, at the time, and I felt that odour. I was having a hard time trying to make a phone call, because the phones went dead. Since then, New York has become a different city. This free city, living its own life around the clock and enjoying it, became wary and started looking over its shoulder to see if there was someone around who could hurt it.

This suspicion then spread deeply into American society. There were probably serious reasons for that. I have to commend the US intelligence services, because since then, apart from the Boston Marathon, which we had warned them about, there have been no other terrorist attacks. However, wariness and aloofness can still be felt. Perhaps, there are people who want to take advantage of this in order to do things that you just mentioned. If 11 million Americans become eligible to vote, welcome to the one-party system, Back in the USSR.

Vyacheslav Nikonov: Mr Lavrov, thank you very much for the interview. Now that we are within the historic walls of the Foreign Ministry’s Mansion on Spiridonovka, a place where history and great diplomacy were made, including the diplomacy of the great powers, I would like to wish us all the return of diplomacy. If it comes back, as President Vladimir Putin is conveying to President Joe Biden, in the form of a live-stream dialogue, then The Great Game will be at your service and at the service of the two presidents.

Sergey Lavrov: Thank you. President Biden has already said that diplomacy has returned to US foreign policy. Your dream has come true.

source: https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/4662534

China And Russia Are Jointly Leading A Real-Life Justice League

By Andrew Korybko

Source

China And Russia Are Jointly Leading A Real-Life Justice League

Before the world’s eyes, a real-life Justice League is quickly emerging, jointly led by China and Russia.

America loves its superhero films, but fiction is fast transforming into fact as China and Russia aspire to lead a real-life Justice League. The comic book series and film of the same name refers to a collection of superheroes who save the world from evil, which is essentially what those countries are trying to do. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday during the latter’s two-day visit to the People’s Republic that “We should act as guarantors of justice in international affairs.”

He also added that “China is ready to promote the international system established by the United Nations, protect the world order based on international law, and abide by universal values such as peace, development, justice, democracy, equality and freedom.” This was preceded by Mr. Lavrov’s support the day earlier for their shared Venezuelan partner’s earlier proposal to assemble a worldwide anti-sanctions coalition. He said that “We must form a maximally wide coalition of countries that would combat this illegal practice.”

Russia’s top diplomat also declared on Monday that “We must deviate from the use of the West-controlled international payment systems. We must lower risks of sanctions by means of enhancing our own technical self-dependence, transition to payments in national currencies and international currencies, which are alternative to the [US] dollar.” The two Foreign Ministers then released a joint statement calling for a UN Security Council (UNSC) summit “to resolve humankind’s common problems in the interests of maintaining global stability.”

Before the world’s eyes, a real-life Justice League is quickly emerging, jointly led by China and Russia. These two rising powers are multipolar and strictly ascribe to the principles of the UN Charter. They stand in firm opposition to America’s hegemonic bullying and its doomed philosophy of zero-sum gains. By embracing its foil of win-win cooperation, they hope to inspire the rest of the international community to follow their lead in charting a new era of International Relations with their excellent bilateral ties serving as the perfect example.

It deserves mention that this year also marks the 20th year anniversary of their historic Treaty of Good- Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation, which stands in hindsight as a defining moment in International Relations whereby two large and powerful countries proved that it’s possible to put aside their past differences in cooperating to build a better future for all. The resilience and lasting relevance of this pact serves as proof that pragmatic relations are always mutually beneficial and stabilize the international system.

The US should seriously consider China and Russia’s joint call for convening an urgent UNSC summit at the earliest availability. America’s aggression has destabilized the world, made all the worse by the fact that everyone is still struggling to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of continuing to provoke those two countries, Washington should pragmatically cooperate with them on matters of shared interest such as nuclear non-proliferation, climate change, epidemiological security, cyber security, and reviving the global economy.

In the event that America declines their peaceful proposal, then it’ll finally expose its true intentions once and for all before the eyes of the world. The real-life Justice League jointly led by China and Russia will continue to peacefully promote their new model of International Relations inspired by the shining example of their comprehensive and strategic partnership with the aim of restoring true equality to the global system. The first order of business clearly rests in enhancing victimized nations’ capabilities to resist unilateral sanctions.

America’s policy of economic coercion was long considered to be the ace up its sleeve that it could pull out in lieu of costly military pressure to more easily impose its will onto others, yet that trick is increasingly losing its luster as China and Russia take meaningful steps to neutralize its effectiveness. Their real-life Justice League will inevitably succeed in fulfilling Mr. Wang’s vision of “act[ing] as guarantors of justice in international relations” by restoring the primacy of international law and genuine equality between all nations with time.

Save Sheikh Jarrah: The online campaign giving hope to Palestinian refugees in East Jerusalem

Residents of Karm al-Jaouni live under the threat of forcible eviction that would see them replaced by Israeli settlers

Nabil al-Kurd, a long-time resident of Karm al-Jaouni, stands next to a wall graffitied with “We will not leave” in Arabic (MEE/Aseel Jundi)

By Aseel Jundi in Sheikh Jarrah

Published date: 22 March 2021 16:06 UTC 

At first glance, everything looked seemingly normal in Karm al-Jaouni in the Sheikh Jarrah district, but the clamour of gathering news outlets and legal institutions last week told another story of a neighbourhood in turmoil.

The Sheikh Jarrah district is inhabited by refugees who were expelled from their towns and villages by Zionist militia during the Palestinian Nakba (Catastrophe) in 1948. But due to Israel’s push to populate the area with Israeli settlers, Palestinian residents are now, once again, facing the spectre of expulsion.

In an effort to garner international support, activists launched an online campaign, #SaveSheikhJarrah, in Karm al-Jaouni on Monday to help save the residents, who have lived in the neighbourhood for decades, from forcible removable, which many of their neighbours have already endured. 

Nabil al-Kurd, a 70-year-old Jerusalemite and resident of Karm al-Jaouni, sees the campaign as a glimmer of hope that could help him retain his current home, and avoid reliving the experience of having been forced out of his family house in Haifa in 1948.

Karm al-Jaouni
Israel’s judicial system has repeatedly shown bias toward Israeli settlers (MEE/Aseel Jundi)

“We want to relay our voices to Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, the United Nations and international law organisations because all these parties are involved in our issue, which has certainly reached the level of war crime,” he said.

In 1956, the Jordanian government, together with the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, reached an agreement to settle these families in Jerusalem in return for their UNRWA documents.

Some 28 families were selected and provided with housing units, built by the Jordanian government, for three years, after which the ownership of the property will be automatically theirs. The lease contracts expired in 1959 and the residents became the owners of the property.

‘Their dogs attack us, their trash floods the entrance, they have killed the trees and turned the house into ruins’

– Nabil al-Kurd, resident

However, after the occupation of Jerusalem in 1967, with the eastern part of the city coming under Israeli control, the inhabitants of Sheikh Jarrah district were taken by surprise when two Jewish committees registered their ownership of the 18-dunums of land at the Land Department in 1972.

Thereafter, dozens of judicial cases were raised in Israeli courts, as the 28 nuclear Palestinian families expanded and the number of residents facing eviction in favour of settlers rose to around 600 Palestinians.

In 2019, lawyer Sami Ershied told MEE that Sheikh Jarrah eviction cases are discriminatory because the legal procedures do not take into account that East Jerusalem is an occupied territory.

Under international law, an occupying state cannot forcibly transfer residents of occupied territories because it has an obligation to preserve the demographic composition of the inhabitants.

Another point of contention has been claims made by religious Israelis that a sacred shrine belonging to Shimeon al-Siddiq (founder of the Israelite Tribe of Simeon) is located in the heart of the Karm al-Jaouni district.

Palestinian residents refute this claim, asserting that the shrine is Islamic, and known as the saint Saad al-Din Hijazi, who was buried there 400 years ago, and that “Ottoman maps” prove their narrative.

Relentless harassment

Al-Kurd’s experience with the Israeli occupation is a flagrant example of Palestinians suffering at the hands of settlers.

In 2001, he built a house adjacent to the one he already had, only for Israeli occupation authorities to confiscate the keys to the new house, just four days before he was planning to move in. In 2009, settlers came and occupied the house, turning Kurd’s life into hell. 

At the time, al-Kurd erected a tent at the entrance of the house where Palestinian, European and Jewish activists came to demonstrate their support. Settlers harassed the activists by spraying them with spoiled milk, hitting them with rotten fruits, vegetables, and waste and setting rodents on them while they slept.A decade in, Palestinian family fights on against East Jerusalem eviction

Five years later, the settlers set fire to the tent and burned it down, but the harassment of the family did not stop, even after the sit-in ended.

“Settlers would take their clothes off and stand at the windows overlooking our home. I had to hang a fabric barrier to protect my wife and daughters,” Nabil said. 

“Their dogs attack us, their trash floods the entrance, they have killed the trees and turned the house into ruins.”

Since his retirement several years ago, this elderly Jerusalemite has divided his time between keeping an eye on settlers, lest they suddenly attack his family, and countering the Israeli judicial system.

The Israeli district court has recently issued a verdict giving al-Kurd a grace period to vacate his house before May.

Al-Kurd said that although the settlers lack any proof of ownership of the land, they are adamant to evacuate its residents in accordance with the Judaisation policies in occupied East Jerusalem.

Residents of the neighbourhood, he said, have had no means of defending themselves except resorting to the law, but that avenue has been marred with challenges as the judicial system has repeatedly shown bias toward the settlers.

‘I did not surrender’

The online campaign, which has been trending in both Jordan and Palestine, has given hope to Fawziah al-Kurd, who was forcibly removed from Karm al-Jaouni in 2008, that an international campaign would stop Israel from expelling these refugees for a second time, and allow her to return to her neighbourhood.

Fawziah, who is better known as Um Kamel al-Kurd, said that although it has been 13 years since she was forced to leave, she still visits the place three times a week. 

Fawziah al-Kurd
A 2008 photo shows the tent that Fawziah al-Kurd lived in for a year after she was expelled from her home in Sheikh Jarrah (provided)

She said she passes by her house, which is currently occupied by settlers, as a show of resilience and to reiterate her refusal to abandon it. 

“I lived in the house for 40 years, the last five of which were the hardest because Israelis took half of my house by force before practically throwing me out on the street along with my ailing husband,” Fawziah told MEE. 

“Despite all of this, I did not surrender and I lived in a tent adjacent to my house for a whole year.”

Save Sheikh Jarrah

One of the coordinators of #SaveSheikhJarrah, Karmel al-Qasim, who lives in the area, said that his family was given until early May to vacate their house in which they have been living since 1956.

‘Our one and only demand is to let us live peacefully in our homes just like any normal family anywhere in the world’

– Karmel al-Qasim, resident

He pointed out that the goal behind the campaign is to convey the voice and the suffering of Karm al-Jaouni residents to the whole world and generate international political pressure to stop the displacement and dispersion of its inhabitants, once again.

“Our one and only demand is to let us live peacefully in our homes just like any normal family anywhere in the world, without the threat of eviction and displacement,” Qasim said. 

“Through the #SaveSheikhJarrah campaign, we call upon UNRWA and Jordan to assume their legal and moral responsibilities toward us because we have been living here in compliance with an agreement that both parties reached in the 1950s.” 

Karmel said he will not abandon his right to resist the policy of eviction and will continue to follow in the footsteps of his late mother Amal al-Qasim, a refugee who was expelled from Jaffa in 1948. 

He, along with his brothers and sisters, intend to stand fast in their neighbourhood, which is strategically located near the Old City of Jerusalem.

Aref Hammad, a member of Sheikh Jarrah Refugees Housing Units Committee, told MEE that the Skafi, Qasim, al-Kurd, al-Jaouni, Hammad, al-Daoudi and al-Dijani families are in the process of filing an appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court, in a last push in the legal recourse against the eviction verdicts recently issued by the district court. 

Hammad said that 169 residents of the neighbourhood have received orders to vacate their homes, including 46 children from 12 different families. 

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FM Sergey Lavrov gave an extensive interview to the RBK Media Holding – Communication between Brussels and Moscow has completely fallen apart

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FM Sergey Lavrov gave an extensive interview to the RBK Media Holding – Communication between Brussels and Moscow has completely fallen apart

February 20, 2021

A good sub-title for this interview could be “Lavrov Unplugged”.

A quote from the transcript (which incidentally was available faster than any other transcript from the The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation ):

“… when it became clear that Russia did not want to live in the house of “a self-appointed boss,” all these complications began to emerge.

….

All this started when this signal was not perceived (to be more precise, Russia was seen again as a “hoodlum” in the world arena and they were again going to teach it “good manners”). In any event, the West began its ideological preparations, for its current actions, at that time.”

Video in Russian without subtitles or English voiceover as yet.

Question: There is a feeling that the West is very annoyed by the appearance of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine. At first, they were very aggressive and wouldn’t let it go. When I talked with Minister of Trade and Industry Dmitry Manturov, he called it “the vaccine war.” Now the opinion has changed. Is this about the quality of the vaccine or is politics involved in this?

Sergey Lavrov: I think it is possible to use the logic of the Russian proverb that can be translated into English as “love it so but mother says no.” Western experts know that the Sputnik V vaccine is definitely one of the best, if not the very best. Otherwise, there would not be such a stream of requests for it, which is growing geometrically.

On the other hand, they realise that the spread of Sputnik V and other Russian vaccines that will soon enter the international market, will enhance our authority and status in the world. They do not want this to happen. But they have come to realise that their first response was simply outrageous in the context of the facts and medical science. When President Vladimir Putin announced the development of the vaccine in August 2020, the offensive was completely undiplomatic. Their response just betrayed their irritation, you are perfectly right.

And now many countries (the Czech Republic and others) are saying they can’t wait for the certification of the vaccine by the European Medicines Agency. In Hungary, they believe they are ready to start vaccination and supplies are now underway. The number of requests from Europe is steadily on the rise. Just the other day, Prince Albert II of Monaco sent a request for the vaccine for the entire population of his principality.

After independent agencies published their scientific evaluations, the West had to admit that the vaccine was good. Yet, attempts to discredit it continue.

Just yesterday I read a somewhat ambiguous statement by President of France Emmanuel Macron. He put us and the Chinese into the category of those who are trying to gain advantages in the world arena at the expense of their medical achievements. The day before yesterday, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen spoke with an emphatically negative connotation about the supplies of the Russian vaccines to foreign countries.

We must follow the correct position of principle, first voiced by President of Russia Vladimir Putin, notably, that we were the first to develop the vaccine, and we will continue to increase its production. This is not easy, we do not have enough capacities, and this is why we are negotiating with India, South Korea and other countries. At the same time, he said we are open to the broadest possible cooperation.

There is one more important point. When this issue was discussed at the UN the other day, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the countries that have this vaccine or have the money to buy it, not to forget about the poor. In the meantime, attempts are being made to accuse us of trying to gain geopolitical favour by supplying it abroad. This is an obvious discrepancy. It is clear that the West is poorly prepared for this discussion.

Question: So, it’s about the same as when President Putin said at the Davos Forum that the world cannot continue creating an economy that will only benefit the “golden billion,” and we are actually accused of supplying the vaccine for the benefit of the “golden billion.” Still, are they talking about the vaccine like this just because it was made in Russia?

Sergey Lavrov: I don’t see any other reason, because no one even tried to conduct a medical or a scientific test. They just said right away that it was impossible just because it’s impossible, meaning that “no one can do this that quickly.” It was only in October 2020, when the West said they would be able to report on their achievements. President Putin announced in August that the Russian-made vaccine was ready for rollout.

Unfortunately, I often see that the response to everything we do, say or offer is, at best, questioned right off the bat. Usually, they say that “the Russians are playing their geopolitical games again.”

Question: EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, who was here recently and met with you, said that Russia is distancing itself from the West. At the same time, Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov said we are open to cooperation with Europe. You said we are ready to break up, but we are not breaking off our relations. What really stands in the way of normal relations between the EU and Russia?

Sergey Lavrov: A biased attitude, by and large. I worked with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, a good colleague of mine, when he was Spanish Foreign Minister. Now many, in an attempt to give a controversial dimension to the High Representative’s visit to Russia, forget how it all began. In May 2019, Mr Borrell said: “Our old enemy, Russia, says again ‘here I am,’ and it is again a threat.” We then asked his protocol service to confirm what he said. We were told that it was a figure of speech and that he was misunderstood. However, this attitude shows.

We are seen as a stranger. In my interview with Vladimir Solovyov, replying to his question as to whether we are ready to break off with the EU, I gave an affirmative answer because there are no relations to talk about. As former US President Barack Obama once said (although he said it about the Russian economy), relations have been “torn to shreds.”

Indeed, the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement [between the EU and Russia] entered into force in 1997. It contained a number of declarative goals for moving towards common economic, humanitarian and cultural spaces. For many years, we used a mechanism of summits, which were held every six months in Russia and in the EU alternately. In fact, our entire Government held annual meetings with the European Commission to discuss the participants’ responsibilities in the context of over 20 sector-specific dialogues. We were building four common spaces and roadmaps for each of them. These were 100 percent substantive and specific projects. It was all destroyed, just like the Partnership and Cooperation Council, within which the Russian Foreign Minister and the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy reviewed the entire range of relations. This disappeared long before the Ukraine crisis.

Many in our country are just waiting for a chance to pounce on the Russian Government’s foreign policy. We are being asked how we can say that we are ready to break off with the EU when it is our largest trade and economic partner. If we take the EU as a collective partner, it is our largest partner in terms of gross trade. For example, in 2013 (before the Ukraine events) Russia became a WTO member. From that moment, our trade relations were built on the principles advocated by that organisation rather than the EU’s principles. As a single trade bloc, the EU also participated in the WTO. We traded with member countries based on WTO guidelines. If you think the EU is a valuable trade and economic partner, here are some statistics for you: in 2013, the United States was the EU’s biggest trading partner with about $480 billion, followed by China with $428 billion and Russia with $417 billion. That is, these numbers are of the same order of magnitude. Where do we stand now? In 2019, EU’s trade with the United States stood at $750 billion, with China $650 billion, and with Russia at about $280 billion. In 2020, it was $218 billion, if counting with Great Britain, and $191 billion without it.

The reason? It’s the sanctions imposed by our “valued” and largest economic partner for reasons that have never relied on any facts whatsoever. At least, no facts have ever been presented to us. We understand Crimea. We understand Donbass as well. It’s just that the EU admitted its inability, or perhaps, unwillingness, to prevent the anti-constitutional coup with an open Russophobic slant and chose to turn things upside down. Brussels shifted the blame to us and imposed sanctions on Russia rather than the putschists, who, by and large, spat on the guarantees of the European Union, which signed the corresponding agreements, totally ignoring, as I said, the fact that the actions of the government, which they supported, were openly and violently anti-Russian.

Question: Without the events in Ukraine, would our relations with the West have sunk to where they are now?

Sergey Lavrov: It is difficult for me to talk about this. After all, later there were other events linked with the accusations of “the poisoning in Salisbury.” No facts were presented. We were not allowed to meet with our citizens. No evidence was offered. Everything was similar to what is happening now with the alleged poisoning of Alexey Navalny.

Question: It seems the West is looking for a pretext to spoil our relations.

Sergey Lavrov: They are looking but there are many pretexts: it’s always possible to use something as an excuse to put the relationship on the required track. But it’s not that they want to spoil relations. I don’t think this is their main goal. They want to bolster their self-esteem. Now they are starting to act like the US, revealing the mentality of an exclusive group of states. I quoted German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. When asked why they continue discussing sanctions against Russia and what goals they had achieved by imposing sanctions, he replied that he didn’t believe sanctions should be used for any purpose. What matters is that they don’t leave any action by the Russian Federation unpunished.

The concealment of facts that could somehow confirm accusations against us started long before the crisis in Ukraine. We can recall 2007 – the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko in the hospital. There was a coroner’s inquest. Later this trial was declared “public.” In George Orwell’s logic, in Britain this means a “secret trial” during which no inquisitorial procedures of the secret services may be presented. You know, these are system-wide problems.

I listed what we used to have in our relations with the European Union. Nothing is left now, not even sporadic contacts on some international issues. As regards the Iran nuclear programme, we are taking part in the work of the collective group of countries, which are trying to somehow put this programme back on track. This is not part of our relations with the EU proper. In the Middle East, we have a Quartet of mediators consisting of Russia, the US, the EU and the UN. In other words, this is multilateral cooperation rather than our relations with just the EU.

With regard to who is taking steps to prevent our relations from further decline, at least a little, we were thinking about that when Josep Borrell, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, was getting ready to visit Moscow. He suggested cooperating in healthcare and vaccines. We have already discussed this here. As a Brussels institution, the EU will hardly be allowed to contact Russian agencies or companies independently regarding the vaccines. We would sooner cooperate directly with the producers of AstraZeneca, as this is already taking place.

On the eve of Mr Borrell’s visit, we invited his experts to make a joint statement on the Middle East by the Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Our positions are nearly identical on the matter and we thought it would be appropriate to urge the Quartet to resume its activities and call for direct Palestinian-Israeli talks, respect for the relevant UN resolutions, and so on.

We gave them a page and a half text that was easy to approve after the first reading. Several days prior to his arrival, we were told that “it did not work out.” I will reveal a secret because this is a blatant example. I asked Mr Borrell at the negotiating table: “What about this statement? Why didn’t it work out?” He started turning his head all around. It was clear from his reaction, and he confirmed this later, that nobody had even told him about it. These are the people that deal with what some of our liberals call “relations with the EU.”

Question: Concluding this theme, I’d like to say that as a man born in the USSR, I understand that during the Soviet-Western confrontation we had different ideologies, economies and so on. Later, I thought that everything was the same on both sides. They were for democracy and we were for democracy; they had a market economy and we had a market economy. So what are the differences? Why do we fail to find a common language to this day? I thought we found it in the 1990s? Why did we find it then?

Sergey Lavrov: We found it at that time because nobody in the Russian Federation disputed the answer to the question of who was ruling the show. President of Russia Vladimir Putin has talked about this many times. We decided that was it – the end of history. Francis Fukuyama announced that from now on liberal thought would rule the world. Now there are attempts to push this liberal thought to the fore again in a bid to gain international influence. But when it became clear that Russia did not want to live in the house of “a self-appointed boss,” all these complications began to emerge.

Initially, having become President, Vladimir Putin and his team tried to convey this message through diplomatic signals that educated and smart people would be bound to understand. But nobody listened. Then the explanations had to be made politely but openly in the Munich speech. All this started when this signal was not perceived (to be more precise, Russia was seen again as a “hoodlum” in the world arena and they were again going to teach it “good manners”). In any event, the West began its ideological preparations, for its current actions, at that time.

Question: Regarding the sanctions. Bloomberg posted a news item today that new sanctions against Russia are planned concerning the Nord Stream 2, however, they are not going to be tough but rather “soft.” On the other hand, they report that the Americans want to thwart the Nord Stream project but without irritating Germany. Where are we in this situation?

Sergey Lavrov: We are a country that completely complies with the contractual obligations undertaken by our companies that are part of the project, along with the EU companies that joined it. The current situation is largely due to a decision taken by what we call the European Union, a decision that proves beyond doubt what sort of alliance it is. A few years ago, when the Poles, and others sharing their attitude, attempted to impede the Nord Stream project, the Legal Service of the European Commission was asked for legal advice, official opinion. The service presented a document which stated in no uncertain terms that the investment project had been launched long before amendments were made to the EU’s gas directive, the Third Energy Package. That’s it. Period. This issue should be closed for any person who has respect for the law. But no, the European Commission took this opinion and launched its own quasi-legal procedure which resulted in the conclusion that the project had indeed been launched much earlier, yet it fell under this third energy package and the gas directive. That’s what kind of a partner we have in this “relationship.”

This is about how we can “pounce” on them and express readiness to break relations with them when they are our main economic partner – that’s what kind of a partner they are. Meanwhile, now Germany alone is fighting for the project.

And in fact, Joe Biden’s administration will not cancel anything which was done by Donald Trump except for leaving the World Health Organisation (WHO). The Democrats are returning there now.

The NATO defence ministers meeting has just ended. But there was no let-up in US demands to pay 2 percent of a country’s GDP for defence needs, i.e. for purchasing US weaponry. There was no backing off the demands on Europe regarding Nord Stream 2 – to stop participating in some matters that undermine European security. They see it better from across the ocean, right? This is about who is the boss. Europe also wants to run the house but it was taken down a peg. The situation around Nord Stream 2 is straightforward.

For now they are saying publicly that bargaining is underway and possible agreements between Washington and Berlin are being discussed, including that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline may be allowed to be completed and even start operating. However, if at the same time gas transiting via Ukraine is going to be falling, then Nord Stream 2 must be shut off. I cannot decide for Germany, however, it is obvious to me that this proposal is humiliating. As Russian President Vladimir Putin said at his meeting with parliamentary party leaders, this is yet further evidence that they want Russia to pay for their Ukraine geopolitical venture.

Question: Do we have to pay for this geopolitical project?  Why do they think we have to pay for it?

Sergey Lavrov: Because they don’t feel like lashing out on it. They need the Ukrainian regime for the sole purpose of constantly irritating Russia and finding new reasons to support their Russophobic policy. They want to weaken anything around us – Belarus, Central Asia, and now also the South Caucasus, as they got nervous after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s successful mediation mission between Armenia and Azerbaijan: why was this done without them? They are now trying to infiltrate this region and step up their activities there. All of that has nothing to do with the Cold War-era ideology of a showdown between the two systems you talked about a few minutes ago. It has to do with the fact that our Western partners are unwilling, unprepared and unable to speak on an equal footing, whether with Russia, China, or whoever. They need to create a system where they will be the boss regardless. This is why they are taking an increasing dislike to the United Nations since they cannot have total control of it.

Question: Do you see the EU as a monolith, or as something more loose, with certain processes unfolding inside and some countries, no matter what, starting to talk about their willingness to be friends with Russia? In the case of the sanctions, the key figures behind them are, strange as it may seem, the Baltic States, which do not play a prominent role in the EU but, for some reason, everyone is listening to them.

Sergy Lavrov: It sounds inappropriate to refer to the EU as a monolith a mere couple of months after Brexit. This “monolith” is not the same as before. If you mean a monolith in a figurative sense, my answer is no. Quite a few countries are maintaining relations with Russia. The visit of Josep Borrell was the first trip by an EU official of this level to Russia in three years. In the same three years, about two dozen ministers from European Union member countries have visited Russia. We are having a great dialogue, without wasting too much time on confrontation and moralising. Indeed, all of them do have their assignments – a couple of sheets of paper from which they read a script approved by the “party committee” in Brussels.

Question: Do you mean they bring a notebook with instructions with them?

Sergey Lavrov: Certainly. They do not dare to veer off course. This, for example, goes for Alexey Navalny, or the Skripals as in the previous case, or human rights. Now scientist Yury Dmitriyev from Karelia is in the spotlight. They flatly refuse to accept evidence of his involvement in crimes, like pedophilia. They read from their notebook and I would adduce my arguments to the contrary and describe our vision of this or that situation and wonder why we cannot obtain evidence on the Navalny case or the Skripal case. In response they simply read again from their notebook. Apart from this discipline induced by the bloc member states’ solidarity, we discuss things normally. Yes, the EU sets the terms on which [its member countries] participate in the World Trade Organisation (WTO), while we are trading with these countries in the WTO on the terms that were agreed on for Russia to join this organisation. But the EU has nothing to do with this cooperation in trade and investment activity, except for its attempts to restrict trade and economic ties with the sanctions.

You mentioned the Baltic States. Indeed, they run the show in this respect to a great extent. I have talked to your colleagues about this on more than one occasion. When in 2004 there were hectic activities to drag them into the EU, Russia and Brussels maintained a very frank dialogue. The President of the European Commission at the time was Romano Prodi. In 2005, the objective was set to move to visa-free travel.

Question: Nobody has any memories of this today.

Sergey Lavrov: We remember this when we reply to those who ask how we dare say that we are ready to break relations with the EU. You mentioned the Baltic States. We had long been negotiating an updated version of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between Russia and the EU, which the EU terminated in 2014. It was expected to go a bit beyond the boundaries of the WTO rules and allow us to negotiate additional trade preferences. At one time there was an objective to establish a free trade zone, but this has long since fallen into oblivion. However, there were plans to update the agreement in order to liberalise trade even more, in addition to the WTO rules. In 2014, they ceased to exist – another example of breaking down our relations.

A visa-free travel agreement was also finalised back in 2013. We had met all of the EU requirements: we agreed that only people with biometric passports would be eligible for visa-free travel and that those who violated EU entry rules or any other EU rules while in an EU country during a visa-free period would be subject to readmission. We signed the relevant agreement. Everything they asked for, and that suited us, was done. Later, when it was time to sign the agreement and then ratify it, the EU said: “Let’s wait.” It did not take us long to learn why they had said this, all the more so as they did not try to conceal their motives. This Brussels team decided that it was politically incorrect to approve a visa-free travel agreement with Russia prior to offering it to Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova.

Question: In other words, Russia was made dependent on other countries?

Sergey Lavrov: It sure was, at the Baltic States’ initiative. This is also important for understanding the nature of our relations. This is an attitude from people who decided that they were European, which is not at all the case. Russia sees Europe in all its diversity. If the “party committee” in Brussels does not like it, we cannot force them to.

Question: Europe stretches at least to the Urals.

Sergey Lavrov: Correct. In 2009, when Jose Manuel Barroso was President of the European Commission, we held a Russia-EU summit in Khabarovsk. Our European colleagues arrived later in the day. We went out for a walk along the embankment. We were showing them around the city and Mr Barroso said: “It’s amazing. It took us 13 hours to get here from Brussels, and it’s still Europe.” This is the key message behind the slogan “Europe from the Atlantic to the Pacific.”

Question: I’m going to ask you about one other country, Belarus. There will be a presidential summit on February 22. President Lukashenko will come to Russia. Recently, Foreign Minister of Belarus Vladimir Makei gave an interview to the RBC media holding and mentioned Belarus’ multi-directional foreign policy. Do you think we have managed to work well with Minsk on integration? What should we expect from these talks?

Sergey Lavrov: The term “multi-directional” should not be used as a profanity. Most normal states want it. Russia, too, has used a multi-directional approach as the basis of its foreign policy since 2002. In our understanding, a multi-directional approach is possible only if based of equality, respect and a balance of interests, as well as mutual benefit. This is the only way it can work.

First, they threaten us with sanctions, and then the same people are saying that we “had it coming” and impose unilateral restrictions on us, and then say that we are “bad” because “we are looking to the East.” Everything has been turned upside down.

Russia is a Eurasian country. We have close contacts with Europe, which have been cultivated for centuries, before anyone even thought of a European Union, and the Europeans fought and competed against each other. By the way, we often helped them achieve peace and fair outcomes in wars.

Question: We even saved the monarchies?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, and they are aware of it. The republic in the United States, too, to a certain extent.

However, our European neighbours have severed almost all of our ties and left only sporadic contacts on international crises that are of interest to the EU in order to keep a profile on the international arena. In many ways, the EU is driven by a desire to be seen as an important operator in Syrian and other matters. If we are not welcome here, we will simply continue to work with our other neighbours who are not prone to whims like that.

Objectively, our trade with the EU is almost half of what it was in 2013. Our trade with China has doubled over the same period.

Question: Back to Minsk. What can we expect from talks between President Putin and President Lukashenko on February 22?

Sergey Lavrov: There are some who want to interpret Minsk’s words about the multi-directional nature of its foreign policy as proof of its “unreliability” as a partner and ally. I do not think so.

In the Council of Europe, of which Belarus is not a member yet, we advocate the CoE establishing relations with Minsk. We supported the accession of Minsk to a number of Council of Europe conventions. We have always been in favour of Belarus enjoying normal relations with its western neighbours. I’m not sure what the CoE will do next. Russophobia has swept over most of the EU countries, and the most “violent” ones are in charge of the agenda.

I read the remarks by President Lukashenko (not all his interviews, but they were cited) to the effect that he sees no obstacles to deepening integration. Progress will depend on how President Vladimir Putin and President Lukashenko agree on things.

There are two more days to go before the talks. I don’t think we should be speculating on the outcome of the summit. We will know everything soon.

Question: Recently, US President Joseph Biden said the United States will no longer be “rolling over in the face of Russia’s aggressive actions” (ostensibly, Donald Trump did this). How can we build our relations now? Are there subjects we can discuss with Washington? Are they ready to talk with us?

Sergey Lavrov: These comments on who is rolling over or will be rolling over in the face of someone’s actions illustrate a very deep split in US society. It reached a level of personal enmity that is aggressive and contrary to American political culture. The politicians did not particularly mince their words during previous presidential campaigns or prior to elections to Congress, but I don’t remember anything comparable to what is being said now.

Our liberal media promote a tough pro-Western line. In looking for objects of criticism in Russia, they are infringing on the threshold of decency and getting personal. They are very crude, and behave not like journalists but like inveterate propagandists, accusing others of propaganda.

The fact that the New Start Treaty was extended in time is a very positive step. This shouldn’t be overrated, but it shouldn’t be underrated, either. In his election speeches Joseph Biden mentioned his willingness to extend it, but these were election speeches after all. His promise could be interpreted differently later, but he extended this important document for five years without any conditions, like we suggested. If this had not happened, there would not have been a single instrument of international law, not only in Russian-US relations but in the entire range of multilateral ties, that contained any restrictions in the sphere of disarmament, arms control and nuclear weapons non-proliferation.

It is very important that just a few days prior to February 5, 2021, the date the treaty was extended for five years, President of Russia Vladimir Putin and US President Joseph Biden reaffirmed their intention to promote talks on strategic stability in these new conditions, in their first telephone conversation after the US presidential election. The situation has changed substantially since 2010: We and the Americans have acquired new weapons some of which are covered by the treaty. We announced this last year. We said that they must be taken into account. Some other weapons are not covered by the treaty – they are basically very different because of their physical characteristics.

Question: Are you talking about hypersonic weapons?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, the United States also has such weapons. Hypersonic weapons are partly covered by the New START Treaty, if these are ballistic missiles.

The New START Treaty already covers some weapons systems, so we now have to include these weapons systems in the Treaty for the next five years and see how all this will be verified. But it does not cover some weapons.

The United States has developed a new system called the Prompt Global Strike (PGS). By the way, this system implies a non-nuclear strike. We have suggested negotiating all issues without exception that have an impact on strategic stability and the legitimate interests of the contracting parties.

Question: Did they agree to this? Are they ready?

Sergey Lavrov: In October 2020, we submitted draft joint understandings to the Trump administration. This rough outline shows how we can sit down and start negotiating the agenda. We have received no reply from them. Instead of addressing this matter, Marshall Billingslea, the Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control, mostly made vocal statements that the United States was all for it but that the Russians did not want to do this.

When I spoke with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, I reminded him that Russia had submitted its proposals to the Trump administration, which dealt with this matter and many other issues, including cybersecurity and concerns over interference in each other’s domestic affairs. We would like to get back to them, and to hear the Biden administration’s opinions in this regard. We realise that they now need some time to settle down in the White House and the Department of State. I hope that this will not take too long.

There are still some questions on disarmament, for example, the lineup of participants in the disarmament process. The US position on China, approved by Donald Trump, remains unchanged; the same concerns a number of other matters.

Regarding multilateral talks, first of all, this should not annul Russian-US agreements because we have several times more nuclear weapons than other nuclear countries. Second, if we make this a multilateral process, then all prospective participants, primarily the five nuclear powers, should reach a voluntary agreement. We will never try to persuade China. We respect the position of Beijing, which either wants to catch up with us or proposes that we first reduce our arsenals to China’s levels and then start on the talks. All circumstances considered, if this is a multilateral process, then we will get nowhere without the United Kingdom and France. The Trump administration insisted that China should take part and at the same time said about its allies that they were the good guys, literally. This sounds funny. Apart from the complicated and lengthy disarmament process, we do not have so many promising spheres where we can cooperate constructively.

Question: Does this mean that their vision of the issue is entirely different or that they are reluctant to negotiate?

Sergey Lavrov: They think that they are the boss, and this mentality is still here and it determines the perception of their enemies. So far, they have not designated China as an enemy, but they have called us an enemy a couple of times. Democrats have an additional motivation for expanding this policy. Their position is that, supposedly unlike with Donald Trump, they will be “no Russian tail wagging the dog.”

Question: Don’t you think that Democrats have come to power with the intention of taking revenge against Russia, and that they will implement Donald Trump’s anti-Russia plans that he failed to accomplish in four years.

Sergey Lavrov: They made such statements during the election campaign. Joe Biden and his supporters said openly that the Trump administration had gone soft, that it was constantly making advances and working for the Russian intelligence. Donald Trump said that he was conducting the toughest policy with regard to Russia. He said that he liked Vladimir Putin, but he introduced more sanctions than all of his predecessors taken together.

We are also witnessing a cowboy-style showdown there. But this is normal for US politics, especially today. Disagreements between liberals who considered liberalism an irreversible trend have become aggravated to the greatest possible extent. Donald Trump, who did not like liberal principles and approaches, suddenly took over. He tried to think more about the basic interests of the American founders, the people who moved there (and it has always been a nation of immigrants), and who accepted its laws. So, the big question is whether people should remain loyal to the country that has accepted them, or do they want to erode its principles?

Question: Should they try to fit in?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, and they want to be the boss. Everything boils down to this once again.

Question: Karabakh, the subject of that. Fortunately, the war is over and a peace agreement has been inked. We covered extensively the role Russia and Azerbaijan played. I have a question to do with Turkey. I was in Azerbaijan during the war and heard many people say that the Azerbaijanis are supportive of the Great Turan idea (a state that covered the territory from Turkey to Central Asia). Is Moscow concerned by Turkey becoming a stronger state?

Sergey Lavrov: This opinion is entertained by a portion of the society. I’m not going to give a percentage of how many people support this idea. I’m not sure many of those who informed you about this really know what “Great Turan” is all about.

The relations between Turkic-speaking peoples have become an integral part of cooperation between Turkey and the corresponding countries, including Azerbaijan and a number of Central Asian states.

There is the Cooperation Council of the Turkic-Speaking States, in which we participate as observers. A number of our republics are interested in contacts with it and are promoting their specific projects.

There is TURKSOY  ̵  the International Organisation of Turkic Culture. There’s also the Parliamentary Assembly of Turkic-Speaking Countries. All of them have been functioning for a long time now. They draft their own plans and hold functions. Their cooperation is mainly based on cultural, linguistic and educational traditions.

Speaking about the Great Turan as a supranational entity in a historical sense, I don’t think that this is what Turkey is after. I don’t see how former Soviet and now independent countries can be supportive of this idea in any form. On the contrary, their foreign policies and practices focus on strengthening their national states.

Turkey has its interests which include its fellow tribesmen who speak the same language. We also want the Russian World to communicate. We have created an extensive network of organisations of our compatriots living abroad; we are opening Russian World centres at universities in different countries with purely linguistic, educational and scientific goals.

The Centre for the Russian Language and Culture created by the Russkiy Mir Foundation was recently closed in Krakow. This is an obvious step for Poland, as well as for the Baltic States, which are fighting everything that is Russian. Ukraine followed in their footsteps and shut down several media outlets and imposed a language ban. We are well aware of all this. We will keep raising this matter at the OSCE, the Council of Europe and the corresponding UN agencies. One cannot pretend that this comes with the “growth” and the “coming of age” of the Ukrainian nation, which, as they say, is an “ill-fated” one. The Ukrainians claim that they are the descendants of Alexander the Great. In that case, they should be responsible for the orders they introduce. The EU, and Germany and France as the Normandy format participants, avoid performing their duties when it comes to “educating” Ukraine in terms of making it comply with the Minsk agreements, and this has become a chronic behaviour pattern which does not reflect well on Germany or France.

Question: It was announced that Ukraine was recognised an unfriendly state. How will this affect relations between us?

Sergey Lavrov: This is just a descriptive attribute. What’s friendly about it? Russian schools are being closed, customers and shop assistants are not allowed to speak their native language, and the Nazis are burning Russian flags.

Question: This is reminiscent of the Baltic States 20 to 30 years ago.

Sergey Lavrov: Back when the Baltic States were about to be admitted to the EU, we asked the Brussels bureaucrats, the Eurogrands, whether they were sure they were doing the right thing. The problems that are at odds with the membership criteria persist, including non-observance of the rights of the Russian-speaking minorities in Latvia and Estonia. We were told that the Baltic States are phobic of Russia (war, the so-called occupation, etc.), the EU will bring it into its fold, it will calm down and ethnic minorities will be happy and contented. Things turned out the other way round. The Russians were not granted any rights, and statelessness is still there.

Question: Let’s go back to Turkey: Ankara’s stronger position, its active role in the Nagorno-Karabakh war, President Erdogan’s visit to Northern Cyprus (which a Turkish leader has not done for quite a while). What does Moscow think about it?

Sergey Lavrov: As far as Turkey and Northern Cyprus are concerned, we see it as Ankara’s relations with its “fellow countrymen.” I have not heard about Turkey refusing to honour the UN obligations accepted by the conflicting parties. These obligations include seeking a mutually acceptable solution and creating a bicommunal bizonal federation. There is a discussion of whether the federation will be strong or weak. But there is no disagreement about the fact that it must be one state. Although not so very long ago, it was the common opinion that the entire project would fail and they would have to create two states. We understand that Ankara is interested in Cypriot Turks living in equality and their rights being observed. We support the idea that the same motives with which Turkey explains its actions in the Eastern Mediterranean, including with respect to hydrocarbons, should determine its dialogue with Greece and Turkey.

On February 17, 2021, I spoke with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias who told me that on January 25, 2021, he had had a probing conversation with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. They did not iron out all issues. But it is good news that a dialogue was established. They agreed to continue it. On February 18, 2021, I spoke with Mevlut Cavusoglu. We continued sharing opinions following the telephone conversations between President Putin and President Erdogan on Syria, Libya, Nagorno-Karabakh and our bilateral relations. New power units of a nuclear power station are under construction; the TurkStream project is ongoing. There is much common ground between our countries when it comes to energy.

In October 2019, the first Russia-Africa Summit in history was held in Sochi. A record number of heads of state and heads of government attended. In the course of the preparations for the summit, we reviewed the development of our relations with African countries and the current state of affairs, including from the perspective of expanding our presence on the continent which political scientists consider to be the most promising in the long term. We reviewed other countries’ presence in Africa. Since 2002, the number of Turkish embassies in Africa has increased from 12 to 42. Turkey’s trade with the region is estimated at around 20 billion dollars a year and Russia’s trade is around 15 billion dollars. This is to say that Turkey has an eye for potential.

Question: Perhaps Turkey is disappointed with the EU because nobody accepted it?

Sergey Lavrov: I believe it could partially be the case. In its contacts with the EU, Ankara continues to insist that the EU promised it accession. Turkey is spreading its wings and gaining weight despite the existing economic problems at home. Turkey mainly goes on by accumulating its national debt but this model is widely common around the world.

Question: 2020 is the year of the pandemic. During such times, countries should join forces and help each other. Do you think that this was the case? Or did the world fail to put aside disagreements and rally together even when it came to the COVID-19 infection?

Sergey Lavrov: Now this conversation is back to square one. There are no ideologies anymore. But this ideology-based, politicised perception of the Russian vaccine was not a very good signal. The Sputnik V vaccine was announced in August 2020, many months after the G20 summit (March 2020) where Vladimir Putin strongly advocated cooperation in vaccine production. Even then, we were ready to create joint scientific teams. But Western countries and their companies, unwilling to help competitors, did not respond to that proposal. So much for unification in this purely medical field.

There is also the humanitarian sphere. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet made calls during the pandemic to suspend all unilateral sanctions in fields directly affecting food, the supply of medicine and medical equipment, in order to alleviate the suffering of the population in countries that were under unilateral sanctions (regardless of their reasons). There was no reaction from the initiators of those sanctions (primarily the US and the EU). Also, there was no response to President Vladimir Putin’s proposal, at the G20 summit, to create ‘green corridors’ for the period of the pandemic, to move goods under the most relaxed rules – without tax, duties, tariffs, delays, or special customs inspections.

We are all in the same boat, and it’s not so big. Some forecasts say this situation will continue for a long time, and the coronavirus will be a seasonal infection, and it is not at all the same as the flu or other diseases, so we will have to use precautions permanently, use PPE. This realisation should somehow prod countries to more open cooperation, especially those that up until recently had some doubts.

True, there have been some good shifts. One of them is the United States’ return to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Some hotheads in Washington believe that, now that they have returned, they will make others do their bidding. There are fewer than 50 Chinese people in the WHO Secretariat, 25 Russians, over 200 Americans, and more than 2,000 NATO representatives. The past US administration said China was manipulating the WHO. That is not true. Otherwise, we are admitting the complete helplessness of 2,000 NATO members who should be the majority in the WHO Secretariat.

Nevertheless, there are some positive results though. This problem has been recently considered at the UN General Assembly and the Security Council. It is important now to focus on equitable collaboration within the WHO. Besides the attempts at carrying out “soft coups” and establishing their own rules in the organisation, hardly based on consensus, an idea has been suggested to move the main decision-making on global health policies outside the universal organisation. We have been pointing out this tendency for some time now – the one to replace international law with a rules-based world order. As it turns out in reality, those rules boil down to working out all decisions in a circle of those who agree with you rather than in a group with universal representation where you have to argue your case and search for balances and compromises. And then you just present the decision as ‘the ultimate truth’ and demand that everyone respect it.

This underlies the Franco-German initiative for a new multilateralism and some limited partnerships in the West. For example, Paris has launched an International Partnership Against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons. Under this non-universal, non-UN partnership, the EU creates the so-called ‘horizontal’ regime of sanctions to be imposed on anyone that France-initiated partnership points at. A similar sanctions regime is being created for cybersecurity. Instead of any open-ended discussion, the French are promoting some partnership to defend freedom in cyberspace. This is another example of rules on which ‘order’ will be based.

There are attempts to start similar groups outside the WHO. But people’s health is not a field where one can play geopolitics. Unless there is a conspiracy behind this to reduce the population of the Earth. Many are now starting to develop such theories and concepts.

المرسوم 6433 / 2011 جريمة بحق لبنان والتمسّك به جريمة أكبر

العميد د. أمين محمد حطيط

من غير إطالة والعودة الى مسار إجراءات تحديد المنطقة الاقتصادية الخالصة للبنان، نكتفي بالتذكير بأنّ لبنان في تداوله لهذا الملف ارتكب جملة أخطاء عرّضت حقوقه للخطر والضياع، وكان الخطأ الأوّل في العام 2007 عندما أرسل وفداً ناقص الأهلية والمؤهّلات القانونية والمهنية الى قبرص للتفاوض على الحدود الغربية الجنوبية للمنطقة الاقتصادية تلك. وكان خطأ يومها في وضع النقطة (1)، ولكن لبنان وبسبب أو آخر لم يوقع الاتفاق النهائي مع قبرص ما جعل الحقّ قابلاً للتصحيح بالتراجع عن الخطأ، فلبنان لم يبرم الاتفاق هذا، ولم يجعل لاتفاقية ترسيم حدود المنطقة الاقتصادية وضعاً قانونياً ملزماً له خاصة أنّ رئيس الجمهورية لم يوقع ومجلس الوزراء لم يقرّ، ومجلس النواب لم يأخذ علماً ولم يصدّق وبقيت المسألة في إطار مشروع اتفاق لم يسلك مساره القانوني.

وبعد جمود سنتين، حرك الملف ووضع بعهدة قيادة الجيش بقرار من رئيس الجمهورية، وهنا رُسم خط جديد لحدود المنطقة الاقتصادية اللبنانية الجنوبي يعدّل الخط السابق وينقل نقطة الزاوية الجنوبية الغربية للمستطيل من النقطة 1 الى النقطة 23 ويعطي لبنان مساحة 863 كلم 2 زيادة عما كانت الاتفاقية مع قبرص تعطيه. وهنا ظنّ لبنان أنه صحّح الخطأ المرتكب من قبل وفد فؤاد السنيورة الى قبرص واستعاد مساحة مهمة للبنان في منطقته الاقتصادية الخالصة، وحتى يثبت العمل دولياً سارع الى توقيع مرسوم أرسله الى الأمانة العامة للأمم المتحدة يعلمها بها بحدود المنطقة الاقتصادية اللبنانية التي رسمها وفقاً لاتفاقية قانون البحار للعام 1982 التي انضمّ إليها لبنان في العام 1994.

وهنا وللوهلة الأولى ظنّ المتابعون للقضية أنّ في فعل الحكومة اللبنانية وإيداعها المرسوم 6433/2011 الأمم المتحدة صيانة لحقوق لبنان ودفاعاً عن ثرواته وحدوده وتصحيحاً لخطأ عرضها للخطر، ولكن في الحقيقة انطوى هذا المرسوم أو واجه أمرين خطيرين: الأول إقليمي دولي والثاني حقوقي داخلي.

ففي الأول امتنعت «إسرائيل» عن الإقرار بالحقوق اللبنانية المحددة بالمرسوم المودع لدى الأمم المتحدة واعتبرت انّ لبنان بتوقيعه مشروع الاتفاقية مع قبرص يكون قد أقرّ عملياً بمدى الحق الذي يدّعيه، وهي لا تتقبّل فكرة أي تعديل وتتمسك بالنقطة 1 الظاهرة في الخريطة المرفقة بمشروع اتفاقية لبنان/ قبرص.

اما في الثاني وهنا الوضع أشدّ وأدهى فيتعلق بالمرسوم ذاته والخريطة المرفقة به، حيث إنّ دراسة الملف تؤدّي الى تسجيل الملاحظات الخطيرة التالية:

أولاً: رسم لبنان خط حدود منطقته الجنوبيّة من النقطة 18 قرب الشاطئ الى النقطة 23 واختار النقطة 18 بعيدة عن الشاطئ لمسافة تتعدى عشرات الأمتار (28 م) من غير أيّ سند او مرجع او مرتكز قانوني ما يجعل قانون الخط (18-23) خطاً واهناً لا يرتكز على حجة قانونية تمكن من الدفاع عنه.

ثانياً: أرفق بالمرسوم خريطة يظهر عليها اسم «إسرائيل» بدل فلسطين في اعتراف واضح وبوثيقة رسمية لبنانية موقعة من رئيس الدولة بكيان العدو خلافاً للموقف الرسمي اللبناني.

ثالثاً: لم تظهر الخريطة المرفقة بالمرسوم 6433 /2011 حدود لبنان الدولية مع فلسطين المحتلة، وفي ذلك مماشاة للعدو الإسرائيلي الذي يريد التنصل من اتفاقية بوليه نيوكمب.

أما من حي الشكل فقد غاب عن المرسوم توقيع الوزراء/ الوزير المختص واكتُفي بتوقيع وزير الأشغال بينما وفقاً للقانون اللبناني فإنه يجب الحصول على تواقيع وزراء المال والدفاع والخارجية، وبغياب هذه التواقيع يكون في المرسوم عيب جوهري يقتضي التصحيح إما بالأبطال او بالإبدال.

وعلى ضوء ذلك بات ملحاً إلغاء المرسوم 6433 واعتباره كأنه لم يكن لأنّ التمسك به يعني ببساطة اعترافاً بـ «إسرائيل» وتنازلاً عن حدود لبنان الدولية مع فلسطين وإطاحة باتفاقية «بوليه نيوكمب» وباتفاقية الهدنة. وهذا ما فعله وللأسف اتفاق الإطار الذي يبقى من غير قيمة قانونية ملزمة وفقاً للنظام القانوني اللبناني حيث لم تصدّقه أيّة جهة رسمية مخوّلة او ذات صلاحية دستورية، ثم انّ موقف العماد عون صحّح او سدّ ما جاء فيه من ثغرات.

ومن جهة أخرى فإننا نذكر بأنّ لبنان وقبل إعداد المرسوم أعلاه، كان قد طلب من مكتب بريطاني مختص رأياً فنياً تقنياً قانونياً حول حدود المنطقة الاقتصادية اللبنانية الجنوبية الخالصة، واستجاب المكتب للطلب اللبناني وأودع نتيجة دراسته الاستشارية العلمية والقانونية والفنية الحكومة اللبنانية في آب 2011، وتظهر الدراسة انّ للبنان حق بمساحة 2290 كلم 2 زيادة على المساحة التي حدّدت له بمشروع اتفاقية مع قبرص، ولكن الغريب بالأمر انّ الدراسة البريطانية أخفيت في الأدراج، وتمسّك المسؤول اللبناني بما كان أعدّه من مرفقات ومضمون في المرسوم 6433 /2011 وأرسله إلى الأمم المتحدة بعد شهرين من تلقي الدراسة البريطانية، باعتباره وثيقة رسمية لبنانية تحدّد حدود المنطقة الاقتصادية اللبنانية.

مع هذا التباين في الموقفين اللبناني و»الإسرائيلي» تدخل أو أدخل الأميركيون لفضّ النزاع، على أساس انّ سقف الطلب اللبناني هو ما حدّد في المرسوم 6433 (أيّ المطالبة بـ 860 كلم 2) وسقف الطلب الإسرائيلي هو الخط B1-1 وانّ الخلاف واقع على 860 كلم2، وبعد طويل تفاوض غير مباشر توصل فريدريك هوف الى رسم خط اقترحه لفصل النزاع بحيث يعطي لبنان 55% من المنطقة المتنازع عليها ولم يستطع هوف أن يفرض اقتراحه على الطرفين فتجمّدت المفاوضات وأوقف هوف حركته المكوكيّة بين الطرفين.

في هذه الأثناء عاد لبنان وتحديداً قيادة الجيش لمراجعة الملف من أساسه واستعانت القيادة بأعرق وأهمّ الخبراء ومكاتب الدراسات الأوروبية وتوصّلت الى نتائج صادمة، حيث إنها وقفت على حقيقة خطر الأخذ بمشروع الاتفاق مع قبرص/ ووهن وخطورة الأخذ بما جاء في المرسوم 6433 /2011 الذي لا يمكن الدفاع عنه لأنه لا يستند الى أيّ حقيقة او مرجعية قانونية وتوصلت بنتيجة الدراسة الى رسم الخط النهائي العلمي والقانوني لحدود المنطقة الاقتصادية بشكل يأخذ بالاعتبار اتفاقية «بولية نيوكمب» واتفاقية الهدنة التي منهما تؤخذ نقطة البرّ التي تنطلق منها الحدود البرية شرقاً والحدود البحرية غرباً، كما وقانون البحار للعام 1982 الذي يحدّد قواعد وأسس رسم حدود المنطقة الاقتصادية البحرية، ورسمت بنتيجة ذلك خطاً جديداً هو ما يجب أن يكون حدود المنطقة اللبنانية جنوباً. وللمفارقة تبيّن أنّ هذا الخط هو متطابق بنسبة 99% مع الخط الموصى به من قبل المكتب الاستشاري البريطاني ذاك الخط الغارق في الأدراج الرسمية اللبنانية منذ آب 2011.

وعلى ضوء هذه الحقائق القانونية والوقائع الميدانية العملية بات على لبنان أن يسارع الى إصدار مرسوم يصحّح به خطأ الماضي ويصون مصالحه وثرواته، عليه أن يسارع بالفعل وعلى مرحلتين الأولى إلغاء المرسوم 6433 /2011 وإبلاغ الأمم المتحدة بالإلغاء وسحبه منها بتوقيع من سبق ووقع، والمرحلة الثانية إصدار مرسوم نهائيّ يتضمّن الحق اللبناني كاملا ويحمل تواقيع الوزراء المختصين.

أما القول بأننا لسنا بحاجة الى هذا الأمر فيعني ببساطة التمسك بالمرسوم 6433 الواهن والخطر وغير القابل للدفاع عنه ما سيؤدي الى التفريط الأكيد بالحقوق اللبنانية، فحجة لبنان بالمطالبة بحقه بـ 2290 كلم 2 ضعيفة بوجود المرسوم 6433 لأنّ الأخير يفسّر بأنه إقرار لبنان بمدى الحق اللبناني والإقرار سيّد الأحكام، فإذا لم يصحّح العيب هنا ضاع الحق اللبناني وانّ كلّ من يؤخر او يعارض او يعرقل سحب المرسوم 6433 من الأمم المتحدة وإرسال البديل الصحيح يكون عن قصد أو غير قصد يضعف الموقف اللبناني التفاوضي ويفرط بالحق اللبناني بثرواته البحرية إقراراً بالاعتراف بـ «إسرائيل» وتنازلاً عن اتفاقية «بوليه نيوكمب» والحدود الدولية التي ترسمها كما تظهر الخريطة المرفقة به.

*أستاذ جامعي – باحث استراتيجي.

General Soleimani’s military acumen in fighting terrorists was ‘unmatched’, says American professor

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January 2, 2021 – 19:51

TEHRAN – Nader Entessar, a professor emeritus of political science from the University of South Alabama, praises General Qassem Soleimani’s shrewdness in devising asymmetrical “warfare strategies” against terrorists, calling his abilities “unmatched”.

“His military acumen, ability to devise asymmetrical anti-terrorism warfare strategies, and bringing together unruly groups to work together were unmatched,” Entessar tells the Tehran Times.

“The United States has now ‘weaponized’ the term (terrorism) in pursuit of its foreign policy goals.  That is, practically any person, institution, or country that actively opposes Washington’s global hegemony is labeled as a “terrorist” thus making it difficult to tackle the problem of terrorism in a meaningful way.”The professor also says Iran has been at the “forefront” of the war against Daesh and other terrorist groups to protect its security.

“In general, Iran has been at the forefront of fighting regional terrorist groups such as Daesh (ISIS) and others that carry terrorist acts against Iran’s security, sovereignty, and territorial integrity,” the American professor notes.   

Following is the full text of the interview:

Q: In 1972, a specialized Committee on Terrorism was set up at the United Nations, and member states made great efforts to provide appropriate definitions of international terrorism, but due to intense political differences, the actual definition of international terrorism and comprehensive conventions in practice was impossible. Security Council Resolution 1373 was the most serious attempt to define terrorism after 9/11, which evolved into UN Security Council Resolution 1535. Despite providing a definition of terrorism, countries approach it differently. What is the reason?

A: The definition of the term “terrorism” provided by the UN is a minimalist one designed to satisfy conflicting views on this topic.  Terrorism is first and foremost a political term that does to easily lend itself to a universally accepted legal definition.  One country’s “terrorist” can be viewed as a “freedom fighter” by another country.  Furthermore, the United States has now “weaponized” the term in pursuit of its foreign policy goals.  That is, practically any person, institution, or country that actively opposes Washington’s global hegemony is labeled as a “terrorist” thus making it difficult to tackle the problem of terrorism in a meaningful way.   

Q: How do you assess the role and position of Iran in the fight against terrorism in the region?

A: In general, Iran has been at the forefront of fighting regional terrorist groups such as Daesh (ISIS) and others that carry terrorist acts against Iran’s security, sovereignty, and territorial integrity.  However, as attacks against major institutions/infrastructures and the assassination of some prominent Iranian officials in recent years have shown, a lot of work needs to be done to thwart similar foreign-assisted and foreign-funded terrorist acts.  It has now become clear that Iran’s enemies have taken advantage of existing vulnerabilities and holes to carry out their terrorist acts against the country.  I am not sure exactly where the problem lies, but Iran needs to seriously re-evaluate its counterterrorism, intelligence, and counterintelligence structures. 

“In general, Iran has been at the forefront of fighting regional terrorist groups such as Daesh (ISIS) and others that carry terrorist acts against Iran’s security, sovereignty, and territorial integrity.”Q: How do you assess the role and position of General Soleimani in the fight against terrorism, particularly ISIS, in the region?

A: General Soleimani’s focus was primarily on fighting anti-Iran terrorism in the region.  This was clearly evident in General Soleimani’s indispensable role in creating the necessary environment and conditions in containing and fighting Daesh (ISIS). General Soleimani’s role as perhaps the single most important person in fighting anti-Iran terrorist groups should be emphasized.  His military acumen, ability to devise asymmetrical anti-terrorism warfare strategies, and bringing together unruly groups to work together were unmatched.  

Q: Given the conflict of interests of different countries, can we see the same action by countries against terrorism? What mechanism can equalize the performance of countries against terrorism?

A: As I alluded in my answer to the first question, getting countries to see eye-to-eye when it comes to combating terrorism is akin to forcing a square peg in a round hole.  Perhaps in a very broad definitional term, countries can agree on fighting terrorism, but in practical terms, it is a herculean task to expect countries to work together on this issue.  Terrorism has already become weaponized, and countries will continue to rely on this weapon to confront and contain each other in today’s polarized world of international relations.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to media questions at a joint news conference with Foreign Minister of Belarus Vladimir Makei

November 27, 2020

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to media questions at a joint news conference with Foreign Minister of Belarus Vladimir Makei

While this press conference contains a shorter Belarus update, it has a wider context and is posted to illustrate Foreign Minister Lavrov’s clear expression of irritation with the west, which he now covers in each of his routine press conferences.  In this one, he handles among other topics, protests across the world, Heiko Maas, Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (CMCE), International agencies, including the Office of the UN Human Rights Commissioner being silent and not doing their jobs, as well as strategic stability.

Joint session of the collegiums of the Russian and Belarusian Foreign Ministries, November 26, 2020

Ladies and gentlemen,

We have held a joint session of the collegiums of the Russian Foreign Ministry and the Belarusian Foreign Ministry. By tradition, it took place in a confidential and truly friendly atmosphere.

Using this opportunity, I would like to thank again our Belarusian friends for their traditional hospitality and excellent organisation of work. We highly value these annual meetings in the format of members of the collegiums and other representatives of the two ministries’ top management. They allow us to discuss in detail the most urgent international issues that involve the interests of our countries and need to be addressed.

Despite the complicated epidemiological situation, we managed to meet offline and talk face to face. We had four items on our agenda: relations of our countries with the European Union, participation in UN peacekeeping missions (in part, in the context of the prospects of the CSTO’s involvement in the UN peacekeeping activities), cooperation in the EAEU on forming the Greater Eurasian Partnership and ways of ensuring international information security.

We achieved specific agreements on all of these issues. They are reflected in a resolution that we signed in addition to the plan of consultations between our foreign ministries in 2021. We also spoke about broader cooperation in international organisations, including the CIS, CSTO, EAEU, UN and OSCE.

We and our Belarusian colleagues had to state that unfortunately our US-led Western partners continue persistently promoting their narrow selfish interests in a bid to preserve their hegemony in the world arena. They are using the concept of the “rules-based” world order, setting it directly against universal, commonly recognised standards of international law, including the UN Charter.

We are concerned about the attempts by the Western countries to establish control over international organisations, up to and including privatisation of their secretariats. When this fails, they try to replace collective work in universal formats with private get-togethers where all those who agree with the Western policy make decisions that are later presented as multilateral and binding. It is hardly possible to make us follow these rules. The overwhelming majority of countries are firmly committed to the old, tried-and-tested principle – respect for international law, primarily the UN Charter.

We noted numerous facts of crude interference by the US and those who follow in its wake (I am referring to some European capitals) in the internal affairs of sovereign states. The dirty methods of colour revolutions continue to be used. These include manipulation of public opinion, instigation and support of overtly anti-government forces and contribution to their radicalisation. We are seeing how these methods are being applied to the Republic of Belarus. We spoke about this in detail today both with Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei and President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, who received us before this meeting.

We were informed in great detail about the current developments in Belarus. We are not indifferent to them. The Republic of Belarus is our ally and strategic partner and also a fraternal nation. We are interested in a calm and stable situation in that country. This will be facilitated by the Constitutional reform that was launched by the Belarusian leadership as a major transformation of the political, economic and legal systems.

We believe the Belarusian people are wise and always act in a balanced manner. They are capable of resolving their problems without any outside prompting or obtrusive proposals on unwanted mediation. It is obvious that attempts to jeopardise normalisation are being made. There are many examples of this: a desire to radicalise the protesters, encouraging people to engage in subversion and high treason, which are made, in part, from abroad.

Today we again reviewed in detail the entire range of our ties and ways of protecting the interests of each of our countries, as well as the interests of the Union State of the Republic of Belarus and the Russian Federation.

I would like to emphasise again that we are content with our joint discussion. We will carry out everything we have agreed on today.

Question (addressed to both ministers): On November 18, 2020, your German counterpart Heiko Maas accused the authorities of Belarus of violently suppressing peaceful protests. Having said this, he urged the Council of Europe to use its instruments for monitoring the situation even in those European countries that do not want to join the organisation. Could you comment on this, please?

Sergey Lavrov (speaking after Vladimir Makei):  We took note of how Germany took over the Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (CMCE). German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas first made a speech at a closed CMCE meeting and then held a news conference. His speech was unconventional for the presidency of this pan-European body because the main goal of the Council of Europe, which is recorded in its statute, is to promote greater unity of all European countries. By definition, the President, all the more so in the Council of Europe, must focus on enhancing unity in his future work rather than stir up confrontation.

It is no secret that at the CMCE meeting prior to that news conference, Heiko Maas presented his programme for the next sixth months in a politicised vein and unacceptable tone, in a crude, undiplomatic manner. He made a number of Russophobic statements. He had grievances not only as regards the Republic of Belarus but also made groundless Russophobic accusations in respect of Crimea, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transnistria and southeastern Ukraine. His opinion on the Nagorno-Karabakh agreement also sounded rather strange.

At the news conference Mr Maas urged everyone “to respect the rules-based order.” Our Western colleagues are not going to respect international law as a matter of principle. He did say that the principles of the Council of Europe must be imposed by using relevant instruments, including on those countries that are not members of the Council of Europe. I consider this absolutely unacceptable.

It is indeed strange that of all countries it is Germany that has recently decided to act as a driver of aggressive approaches to the countries that are not NATO or EU members.

Those who are objective and pay attention to double standards will note that neither Mr Maas, nor other Western representatives or UN human rights agencies have said a word about rather serious incidents in France and Germany. There were protests by yellow vests in France, demonstrations against COVID restrictions in Germany and some other countries, and protests against a ban on abortions in Poland. They were dispersed in a very tough manner.

International agencies, including the Office of the UN Human Rights Commissioner, stayed silent. Human rights champions in France covered the yellow vests protests in a completely different manner than they cover events in Russia and Belarus. Only in the beginning did they cautiously urge the sides to overcome their differences. But later the yellow vests began to encounter a tough police response. In the estimate of French human rights activists, almost 15,000 rubber bullets were shot at the protesters; 2,500 people were wounded and 12,000 detained, including 2,000 who were sentenced, in part, to real prison terms. But nobody speaks about this. This is considered normal because these are their compatriots. It is necessary to get rid of this attitude, especially for those who head the Council of Europe.

About a month ago, Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejcinovic Buric asked us in Moscow about our assessments of the events in the Republic of Belarus. She received our answers and inquired whether the Council of Europe can contribute to normalisation there in some way. We promised do convey her wish to those concerned. She emphasised that this will be possible only if the Republic of Belarus makes this request itself. But as you can see, the German Presidency has different plans in this respect. This is regrettable.

We will try to compel the Council of Europe, all the more so under the German Presidency, not to forget about the issues that the West is trying to hush up in many different ways. This applies to discrimination against Russian speakers in the Baltic states, the disgraceful lack of citizenship, and the so-called reforms in the field of education and language in Ukraine that are aimed only against the Russian language, as distinct from the languages of other national minorities because they are EU languages. We will not accept the efforts of the Council of Europe (or some of its members) to hush up the facts of the purposeful harassment of the Russian media, not to mention the glorification of Nazism. The German Presidency must remember all this and must not divert the Council of Europe to the discussion of issues that are more comfortable for the West and justify its positions, while ignoring the problems that have become chronic for our Western colleagues.

Question: What are the prospects for concluding new strategic stability treaties with the United States once the new administration is in office? Last year, President Trump mentioned a new trilateral document involving Russia, the United States and China. What will happen now?

Sergey Lavrov: This is a long-standing matter. True, the Trump administration was consumed (I can’t come up with any other word) by a desire to involve the People’s Republic of China in disarmament talks. Initially, they talked about the need to include the PRC in the START Treaty which is still in force, although this is impossible by definition. Then, they proposed creating a new treaty and not renewing the current one, because it’s outdated and bilateral, whereas they would like to take a step towards multilateral disarmament and arms control. Their position was erratic. As a result, they came up with a proposal to extend the treaty for another year, but on the condition that we recount each other’s warheads and put in overseers at the defence plants’ checkpoints. Counting warheads and ignoring carriers and innovative technologies that directly affect strategic stability is a frivolous and unprofessional approach.

Earlier this year, we made proposals to our US colleagues about structuring our future dialogue on arms control and non-proliferation. They stood their ground and insisted on warheads alone. They have long been interested in Russian tactical nuclear weapons, hence their interest in warheads at the expense of everything else. We say we will be ready to discuss non-strategic nuclear weapons, including warheads, when the Americans withdraw their tactical weapons from other countries. In Europe, these weapons are deployed in five NATO countries. Also, NATO structures conduct training in handling nuclear weapons for military personnel from non-nuclear countries in flagrant violation of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

With regard to the People’s Republic of China, President Putin has repeatedly stated that we have nothing against it, but the decision is up to the PRC. China has officially and publicly stated on several occasions that it is not going to join the talks with Russia and the United States, since its nuclear arsenal is an order of magnitude smaller than the corresponding arsenals of Moscow and Washington. We respect this position. If and when the Americans persuade China to join multilateral talks, we will have no objection to that. We will be willing to participate in them if the PRC agrees to this of its own accord. But we are not going to persuade Beijing to do so just at the whim of the Americans. But if and when a multilateral format in disarmament and arms control talks is created, we will push for France and the United Kingdom to join it as well.

When we told the Americans about this, they told us that these counties are their allies and they vouch for them. Precisely because they are allies of the United States, we would like to see them at the negotiating table, if the talks become multilateral. Washington’s absolutely hostile doctrine towards Russia cannot but raise questions about the motives of the US allies, whether in Europe or Asia. When they enter into a military alliance with a country that declares us a hostile state, we must draw our own conclusions regarding these allies.

I don’t see how we can seriously discuss anything related to the continuation of the arms control process with the Trump administration. We do not know yet what kind of administration will move into the White House or what kind of policy it will conduct. The voting results have not yet been announced officially, but there’s already an understanding that the change-of-command process is underway. Let’s wait and see what kind of assessments will eventually form in the minds of those who will shape the US strategic stability policy after January 21, 2021.

Question (addressed to both ministers): Popular protests have been growing around the world for various reasons, including political ones. The law enforcement reaction is the same everywhere, going as far as the use of force and special equipment. At the same time, such events in Belarus are receiving heightened attention from foreign politicians. What do you think is the reason?

Sergey Lavrov: I have already cited examples of protests being suppressed in France. Those drastic figures are rarely revealed to the general public. Human rights agencies in the UN system, as well as numerous human rights rapporteurs are trying their best to avoid any topics that are uncomfortable for Western representatives.

Speaking of the protests in Paris, there is a huge wave of protest against the global security bill, which includes a ban on photographing, filming or otherwise identifying law enforcement officers. I can imagine the kind of racket a bill like that would have sparked if it were proposed in Russia or Belarus. The French public and human rights groups are concerned, yet we can see no reaction from international bodies. The police used water cannons and noise grenades during rallies against the bill. The protesters, too, provoked the police, using stones and sticks. One police officer was injured. And yet, I repeat, this does not prevent the West from lecturing anyone who is not their ally.

Voting processes in Russia and Belarus have been scrutinised through a magnifying glass. When a similar story happens in the United States, it is declared “normal, it’s democracy, and everything is just fine.” Though, even respected and influential think tanks in the United States openly write about “the problems with the US electoral system.” To put it mildly, that system does not fully comply with the principles of democracy or the rule of law. They write these things themselves, but our international partners prefer to ignore them and concentrate on the countries whose “regimes” they find undesirable.

When UN rapporteurs, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, describe violent clashes in Western capitals, they urge everyone to find a solution through dialogue. When they criticise us or Belarus, they demand a change of the system. This difference is visible to the naked eye. We have long lost any illusions about what kind of standards the West is promoting and how they use double standards. We will fight, and will defend our position at the UN bodies, where these issues should be considered. We will not allow the vices that the Western community is demonstrating to be forgotten.

Question (addressed to both ministers): How can you comment on Pavel Latushko’s last interview, where he spoke about the possibility of unofficial contacts with Moscow?

Sergey Lavrov: Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has just shown me part of that interview. Not only did he mention the possibility of unofficial contacts with Moscow – he said such contacts were underway and were coordinated. He shamelessly declared he could not cite any names, but mentioned “contacts at a sufficiently high level.” He speculated whether I will be allowed to tell my Belarusian friends about it. I will answer briefly: this is a blatant lie, and it once again says something about those trying to make some kind of career with foreign handouts.

Millions of Children’s Lives at High Risk as Yemen Inches Towards Famine – UNICEF

Millions of Children’s Lives at High Risk as Yemen Inches Towards Famine - UNICEF

By Staff, Agencies

The United Nations Children’s Fund [UNICEF] Executive Director Henrietta Fore warned in a statement that “As Yemen slowly inches towards what the UN Secretary-General has described as potentially ‘the worst famine in decades,’ the risk to children’s lives is higher than ever.”

“The warning signs have been clear for far too long. More than 12 million children need humanitarian assistance,” she added.

The UNICEF Executive Director further noted that acute child malnutrition rates have reached record levels in some parts of the country, marking a 10 per cent increase just this year.

“Nearly 325,000 children under the age of five suffer from severe acute malnutrition and are fighting to survive.”

With the fact that more than five million children face a heightened threat of cholera and acute watery diarrhea, the UN official explained that chronic poverty, decades of underdevelopment, and over five years of unrelenting conflict have exposed children and their families to a deadly combination of violence and disease.

She went on to highlight that the COVID-19 pandemic has turned a deep crisis into an imminent catastrophe.

“Yemen’s health system has been on the verge of collapse for years. Countless schools, hospitals, water stations and other crucial public infrastructure have been damaged and destroyed in the fighting.”

“Humanitarian aid alone will not avert a famine nor end the crisis in Yemen. Stopping the war, supporting the economy and increasing resources are critical,” she added.

“There is no time to waste. Children in Yemen need peace. An end to this brutal conflict is the only way they can fulfil their potential, resume their childhood and, ultimately, rebuild their country,” Fore concluded.

UN Adopts Resolution Affirming Syrians, Palestinians’ Sovereignty in Occupied Territories

UN Adopts Resolution Affirming Syrians, Palestinians’ Sovereignty in Occupied Territories

By Staff, Agencies

The United Nations [UN] General Assembly adopted on Thursday a resolution that affirms permanent sovereignty of Syrians in the ‘Israeli’-occupied Syrian Golan and of Palestinians in the ‘Israeli’-occupied Palestinian territories over their natural resources.

A resolution entitled “Permanent sovereignty of the Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including occupied al-Quds, and the Syrians in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources,” was adopted as per a recommendation of the second economic and financial committee with a majority of 153 votes and an opposition of the ‘Israeli’ occupation entity with five other states, while 16 states have abstained.

The General Assembly stressed in its resolution the inalienable rights of Syrians in the occupied Syrian Golan and the Palestinians in their natural resources including land, water and energy resources.

The Assembly further demanded that the Zionist regime stop exploiting the natural resources in the occupied Syrian Golan and the occupied Palestinian territories, including al-Quds, and stop sabotaging them, or exposing them to danger.

The Secret Agenda of the World Bank and IMF

The Secret Agenda of the World Bank and IMF
Koenig is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization.Peter is an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also a water resources and environmental specialist. He worked for over 30 years with the World Bank and the World Health Organization around the world in the fields of environment and water. He lectures at universities in the US, Europe and South America. He writes regularly for online journals such as Global Research; ICH; New Eastern Outlook (NEO) and more. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on facts and on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe.
Peter is also co-author of Cynthia McKinney’s book “When China Sneezes: From the Coronavirus Lockdown to the Global Politico-Economic Crisis” (Clarity Press – November 1, 2020) Peter

November 17, 2020

by Peter Koenig for the Saker Blog

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) work hand in glove – smoothly. Not only are they regularly lending huge sums of money to horror regimes around the world, but they blackmail poor nations into accepting draconian conditions imposed by the west.

In other words, the WB and the IMF are guilty of the most atrocious human rights abuses.

You couldn’t tell, when you read above the entrance of the World Bank the noble phrase, “Our Dream is World Free of Poverty”.

To this hypocrisy I can only add, ”…And we make sure it will just remain a dream.” This says both, the lie and the criminal nature of the two International Financial Institutions, created under the Charter of the United Nations, but instigated by the United States.

The front of these institutions is brilliant. What meets the eye, are investments in social infrastructure, in schools, health systems, basic needs like drinking water, sanitation – even environmental protection – over all “Poverty Alleviation”, i.e. A World Free of Poverty. But how fake this is today and was already in the 1970’s and 1980’s is astounding. Gradually people are opening their eyes to an abject reality, of exploitation and coercion and outright blackmail. And that, under the auspices of the United Nations. What does it tell you about the UN system? In what hands are the UN? – The world organization was created in San Francisco, California, on 24 October 1945, just after WWII, by 51 nations, committed to maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations and promoting social progress, better living standards and human rights.

The UN replaced the League of Nations which was part of the Peace Agreement after WWI, the Treaty of Versailles. It became effective on 10 January 1920, was headquartered in Geneva Switzerland, with the purpose of disarmament, preventing war through collective security, settling disputes between countries, through negotiation diplomacy and improving global welfare. In hindsight it is easy to see that the entire UN system was set up as a hypocritical farce, making people believe that their mighty leaders only wanted peace. These might leaders were all westerners; the same that less than 20 years after the creation of the noble League of Nations, started World War II.

——-
This little introduction provides the context for what was eventually to become the UN-backed outgrowth for global theft, for impoverishing nations, around the world, for exploitation of people, for human rights abuses and for shoveling huge amounts of assets from the bottom, from the people, to the oligarchy, the ever-smaller corporate elite – the so-called Bretton Woods Institutions.

In July 1944 more than 700 delegates of 44 Allied Nations (allied with the winners of WWII) met at the Mount Washington Hotel, situated in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, United States, to regulate the international monetary and financial order after WWII. Let’s be sure, this conference was carried out under the auspices of the United States, the self-declared winner of WWII, and from now on forward the master over the financial order of the world – which was not immediately visible, an agenda hidden in plain sight.

The IMF was officially created to ‘regulate’ the wester, so-called convertible currencies, those that subscribed to apply the rules of the new gold standard, i.e. US$ 35 / Troy Ounce (about 31.1 grams). Note that the gold standard, although applicable equally to 44 allied nations was linked to the price of gold nominated in US dollars, not based on a basket of the value of the 44 national currencies. This already was enough reason to question the future system. And how it will play out. But nobody questioned the arrangement. Hard to believe though that of all these national economists, none dared question the treacherous nature of the gold-standard set-up.

The World Bank, or the Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), was officially set up to administer the Marshall Plan for the Reconstruction of war-destroyed Europe. The Marshall Plan was a donation by the United Stated and was named for U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall, who proposed it in 1947. The plan gave $13.2 billion in foreign aid to European countries that had been devastated physically and economically by World War II. It was to be implemented from 1948 to 1952 which of course was much too short a time, and stretched into the early 1960s. In today’s terms the Marshall plan would be worth about 10 time more, or some US$ 135 billion.

The Marshall Plan was and still is a Revolving Fund, paid back by the countries in question, so that it could be relent. The Marshall Plan money was lent out multiple times and was therefore very effective. The European counterpart to the World Bank-administered Marshall Fund was a newly to be created bank set up under the German Ministry of Finance, The German Bank for Reconstruction and Development (KfW – German acronym for Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau”).

KfW, as the World Bank’s European counterpart still exists and dedicates itself mostly to development projects in the Global South, often in cooperation with the World Bank. Today there is still a special Department within KfW that deals exclusively with Marshall Plan Fund money. These funds are used for lending to poor southern regions in Europe, and also to prop up Eastern European economies, and they were used especially to integrate former East-Germany into today’s “Grand Germany”.

Two elements of the Marshall Plan are particularly striking and noteworthy. First, the reconstruction plan created a bind, a dependence between the US and Europe, the very Europe that was largely destroyed by the western allied forces, while basically WWII was largely won by the Soviet Union, the huge sacrifices of the USSR – with an estimated 25 to 30 million deaths. So, the Marshall Plan was also designed as a shield against communist Russia, i.e. the USSR.

While officially the Soviet Union was an ally of the western powers, US, UK, and France, in reality the communist USSR was an arch-enemy of the west, especially the United States. With the Marshall Plan money, the US bought Europe’s alliance, a dependence that has not ended to this day. The ensuing Cold War against the Soviet Union – also all based on flagrant lies, was direct testimony for another western propaganda farce – which to this day, most Europeans haven’t grasped yet.

Second, The US imposition of a US-dollar based reconstruction fund, was not only creating a European dollar dependence, but was also laying the ground work for a singular currency, eventually to invade Europe – what we know today, has become the Euro. The Euro is nothing but the foster child of the dollar, as it was created under the same image as the US-dollar – it is a fiat currency, backed by nothing. The United Europe, or now called the European Union – was never really a union. It was never a European idea, but put forward by US Secret Services in disguise of a few treacherous European honchos. And every attempt to create a United Europe, a European Federation, with a European Constitution, similar to the United States, was bitterly sabotaged by the US, mostly through the US mole in the EU, namely the UK.

The US didn’t want a strong Europe, both economically and possibly over time also militarily (pop. EU 450 million, vs US pop. 330 million; 2019 EU GDP US$ 20.3 trillion equivalent, vs US GDP US$ 21.4 trillion. Most economists would agree that a common currency for a loose group of countries has no future, is not sustainable. In comes the European Central Bank (ECB), also a creation inspired by the FED. The ECB has really no Central Bank function. It is rater a watch dog. Because each EU member country has still her own Central Bank, though with a drastically reduced sovereignty.

Out of the currently 27 EU members only 19 are part of the Euro-zone. Those countries not part of the Eurozone, i.e. Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Sweden – and more, have preserved their sovereign financial policy and do not depend on the ECB. This means, had Greece opted out of the Eurozone when they were hit with the 2008 / 2009 manufactured “crisis”, Greece would now be well on her way to full recovery. They would not have been subject to the whims and dictate of the IMF, the infamous troika, European Commission (EC), ECB and IMF, but could have chosen to arrange their debt internally, as most debt was internal debt, no need to borrow from abroad.

In a 2015 bailout referendum, the Greek population voted overwhelmingly against the bailout, meaning against the new gigantic debt. However, the then Greek President Tsipras, went ahead as if the referendum had never taken place and approved the huge bailout despite almost 70% of the popular vote against it.

This is a clear indication of fraud, that no fair play was going on. Tsipras and / or his families may have been coerced to accept the bailout – or else. We may never know, the true reason why Tsipras sold his people, the wellbeing of the Greek people to the oligarchs behind the IMF and World Bank – and put them into abject misery, with the highest unemployment in Europe, rampant poverty and skyrocketing suicide rates.

Greece may serve as an example on how other EU countries may fare if they don’t “behave” – meaning adhere to the unwritten golden rules of obedience to the international money masters.

This is scary.

——-
And now, in these times of covid, it is relatively easy. Poor countries, particularly in the Global South, already indebted by the plandemic, are increasing their foreign debt in order to provide their populations with basic needs. Or so they make you believe. Much of the debt accumulated by developing countries is domestic or internal debt, like the debt of the Global North. It doesn’t really need foreign lending institutions to wipe out local debt. Or have you seen one of the rich Global North countries borrowing from the IMF or the World Bank to master their debt? – Hardly.

So why would the Global South fall for it? Part corruption, part coercion, and partly direct blackmail. – Yes, blackmail, one of the international biggest crimes imaginable, being committed by the foremost international UN-chartered financial institutions, the WB and the IMF.

For example, the whole world is wondering how come that an invisible enemy, a corona virus hit all 193 UN member countries at once, so that Dr. Tedros, Director General of WHO, declares on 11 March a pandemic – no reason whatsoever since there were only 4,617 cases globally – but the planned result was a total worldwide lockdown on 16 March 2020. No exceptions. There were some countries who didn’t take it so seriously, like Brazil, Sweden, Belarus, some African countries, like Madagascar and Tanzania – developed their own rules and realized that wearing masks did more harm than good, and social distancing would destroy the social fabric of their cultures and future generations.

But the satanic deep dark state didn’t want anything to do with “independent” countries. They all had to follow the dictate from way above, from the Gates, Rockefellers, Soroses, et al elite, soon to be reinforced by Klaus Schwab, serving as the chief henchman of the World Economic Forum (WEF). Suddenly, you see in Brazil, a drastic surge in new “cases”, no questions asked, massive testing, no matter that the infamous PCR tests are worthless according to most serious scientists (only sold and corrupted scientists, those paid by the national authorities, would still insist on the RT-PCR tests). Bolsonaro gets sick with the virus and the death count increases exponentially – as the Brazilian economy falls apart.

Coincidence?

In comes the World Bank and / or the IMF, offering massive help mostly debt relief, either as grant or as low interest loans. But with massive strings attached: you must follow the rules laid out by WHO, you must follow the rules on testing on vaccination, mandatary vaccination – if you conform to these and other country-specific rules, like letting western corporations tap your natural resources – you may receive, WB and IMF assistance.

Already in May 2020 the World Bank Group announced its emergency operations to fight COVID-19 had already reached 100 developing countries – home to 70% of the world’s population with lending of US$ 160 billion-plus. This means, by today, 6 months later and in the midst of the “Second Wave” the number of countries and the number of loans or “relief’ grants must have increased exponentially, having reached close to the 193 UN member countries. Which explains how all, literally all countries, even the most objecting African countries, like Madagascar and Tanzania, among the poorest of the poor, have succumbed to the coercion or blackmail of the infamous Bretton Woods Institutions.

These institutions have no quarrels in generating dollars, as the dollar is fiat money, not backed by any economy – but can be produced literally from hot air and lent to poor countries, either as debt or as grant. These countries, henceforth and for pressure of the international financial institutions will forever become dependent on the western masters of salvation. Covid-19 is the perfect tool for the financial markets to shovel assets from the bottom to the top.

In order to maximize the concentration of the riches on top, maybe one or two or even three new covid waves may be necessary. That’s all planned, The WEF has already foreseen the coming scenarios, by its tyrannical book “Covid-19 – The Great Reset”. It’s all laid out. And our western intellectuals read it, analyze it, criticize it, but we do not shred it apart – we let it stand, and watch how the word moves in the Reset direction. And the plan is dutifully executed by the World Bank and the IMF – all under the guise of doing good for the world.

What’s different from the World Bank and IMF’s role before the covid plandemic? – Nothing. Just the cause for exploitation, indebtment, enslavement. When covid came along it became easy. Before then and up to the end of 2019, developing countries, mostly rich in natural resources of the kind the west covets, oil, gold, copper and other minerals, such as rare earths, would be approached by the WB, the IMF or both.

They could receive debt relief, so-called structural adjustment loans, no matter whether or not they really needed such debt. Today these loans come in all forms, shapes and colors, literally like color-revolutions, for instance, often as budget support operations – I simply call then blank checks – nobody controls what’s happening with the money. However, the countries have to restructure their economies, rationalizing their public services, privatizing water, education, health services, electricity, highways, railroads – and granting foreign concessions for the exploitation of natural resources.

Most of this fraud – fraud on “robbing” national resources, passes unseen by the public at large, but countries become increasingly dependent on the western paymasters – peoples’ and institutional sovereignty is gone. There is always a corrupter and a corruptee. Unfortunately, they are still omni-present in the Global South. Often, for a chunk of money, the countries are forced to vote with the US for or against certain UN resolutions which are of interest to the US. Here we go – the corrupt system of the UN.

And of course, when the two Bretton Woods organizations were created in 1944, the voting system decided is not one country, one vote as in theory it is in the UN, but the US has an absolute veto right in both organizations. Their voting rights are calculated in function of their capital contribution which derives from a complex formula, based on GDP and other economic indicators. In both institutions the US voting right and also veto right is about 17%. Both institutions have 189 member countries.
—–

Covid has laid bare, if it wasn’t already before, how these “official” international, UN-chartered Bretton Woods financial institutions are fully integrated in the UN system – in which most of the countries still trust, maybe for lack of anything better.

Question, however: What is better, a hypocritical corrupt system that provides the “appearance”, or the abolition of a dystopian system and the courage to create a new one, under new democratic circumstances and with sovereign rights by each participating country?

Ron Arad is Dead, Israel Spent Millions of US Dollars to Confirm a Hezb Allah Statement

November 3, 2020 Arabi Souri

Israel IDF Pilot Ron Arad - South Lebanon

Ron Arad is Dead; after decades of fruitless efforts and spending millions of US dollars, if not tens of millions and if not more, the Israeli ‘intelligence’ confirmed what Hezb Allah already informed them through the UN.

Ron Arad was an Israeli IDF pilot terrorist, his US-supplied fighter jet was shot down while he was bombing southern Lebanon on 16 October 1986, he was captured alive by the AMAL movement, and then no more information about him.

In 2007, post the Israeli ruthless aggression on Lebanon and its defeat in that war it started in 2006, Hezb Allah, the Lebanese resistance movement, informed a German negotiator that the Israeli IDF terrorist is not alive. Hezb Allah was negotiating the exchange of Lebanese and Palestinians kidnapped by the Israelis with remains of Israeli terrorists killed in Lebanon.

Yet, the Israeli super corrupt officials launched a lengthy ‘high risky’ and very costly covert operations that reached ‘into several continents’ to try to prove their terrorist Ron Arad was moved from Lebanon to Iran, despite the confirmation of Hezb Allah, AMAL movement, and Iranian officials through the United Nations and direct German negotiators.

The Israelis do not care about the human cost in such operations knowing very well their ‘agents’ will not be treated badly if they are caught in other countries like how they treat those they kidnap, and knowing that many western countries that provide their passports to Israeli operatives abroad will interfere at all costs to release them, and at the end, the Israelis can kidnap hundreds of civilians and politicians and ask for an exchange with their operatives.

More importantly, the Israelis also do not bother about the monies wasted in their endeavors, they don’t pay for it, the US taxpayers do, mainly, and other wilful western citizens.

So the operation to find the non-existing continued for a decade before the Israeli ‘intelligence’ informed their regime officials on 11 October 2016 that their IDF terrorist Ron Arad is dead since 1988!

In January 2006, Hezb Allah chief said that Ron Arad is dead and his body is missing.

In 2006, the Lebanese resistance AMAL movement confirmed that Ron Arad is dead and his body is missing.

In 2008, the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said ‘in 2008 I had no doubt that Ron Arad is not alive’.

Israeli commandos raided a Lebanese village and interrogated a family who the Israeli terrorist Ron Arad was held in a basement in their house and they confirmed that Ron Arad escaped his prison and was dead on his way to the occupied Palestinian territories.

Israel stopped the operation in October 2016!

US taxpayers must feel the pride of the insistence of their Israeli dependencies, German, British, Aussies, French, and other western nationals who Israeli operatives use their passports for cover, must also feel proud of the cover they provide for such terrorist operations to the extent they risk their own lives while traveling abroad as they become suspects of being also Israeli operatives, the precedent is set.

And once again, the constant fact is established: Hezb Allah is credible and consistent; on the other hand, all the information coming from Israeli officials are not.

There will be a report today, Tuesday, on one of the Israeli TV channels of the ‘wide military operation by the Israeli Mossad (overseas hitmen), and Shabak (internal spy agency), and the IDF terrorists since the beginning of 2007 in an attempt to solve the mystery of the disappearance of Ron Arad’, Lebanese Al Mayadeen news agency reported.

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Saudi-led blockade keeps lifeblood Yemeni port at standstill

Saudi-led blockade keeps lifeblood Yemeni port at standstill

October 31, 2020

Original link: http://middleeastobserver.net/saudi-led-blockade-keeps-lifeblood-yemeni-port-at-standstill-news-report/

Description:

News report on the deteriorating situation at Yemen’s lifeblood port of Al Hudaydah caused by the Saudi-led blockade.

Source: RT Arabic

Date: October 24, 2020
(Important Note: Please help us keep producing independent translations for you by contributing as little as $1/month here: https://www.patreon.com/MiddleEastObserver?fan_landing=true)
Transcript:

RT reporter:

A complete standstill and empty berths with no commercial ships nor humanitarian aid… This is the situation at the Yemeni port of “Al Hudaydah” that is waiting for cargo-laden ships to bring it back to life.

Al Hudaydah Port is the second biggest Yemeni port. It is the lifeblood of two-thirds of Yemen’s population. The overpopulated provinces receive imports, and medical and food aid via this port. The restrictions and measures imposed by the (Saudi-led) Arab coalition on the entry of ships (to the port) increase the suffering of civilians, as asserted by those in charge of the facility who have called on (the Saudi-led coalition) to keep the port out of the conflict.

Yahya Sharaf (Al-Deen), Vice Chairman of Red Sea Ports Corporation in Hudaydah:

The blockade and restrictions on foodstuff and oil products are one of the most significant factors that have led to this humanitarian crisis. However, unfortunately, the United Nations (UN) does not mention the (Yemeni) crisis except when it is looking for donors. It talks about the suffering and humanitarian crisis in Yemen only to scrounge help from (other) states. However, it turns a deaf ear to the actions of the (Saudi- led) coalition that are preventing the Red Sea Ports Corporation from receiving oil products and food supplies.

RT reporter:

The dockers at the (Al Hudaydah) Port are living in terrible conditions due to the decline in the number of ships arriving. Their suffering worsens because their source of income has been cut off.

Yasser Makbouli, a worker at Al Hudaydah Port:

The Al Hudaydah Port is suffering because of the (Saudi-led) Coalition. More than 30 or 40 tankers carrying diesel, fuel and petrol (have been detained by the Coalition). We are suffering greatly. The poor workers at the Al Hudaydah Port don’t earn enough to live on for even one day. We have been just sitting around (doing nothing) for four months.

Muhammad Al-Rimi, a worker at Al Hudaydah Port:

The situation (at the port) is miserable for everyone, present or absent. There is nothing to do. We are just sitting around.

RT reporter:

Yemen is facing a humanitarian crisis described by the UN as the worst globally because of the ongoing war and blockade. This (crisis) has caused food shortages, an increase in malnutrition rates, and even famine in some remote areas, in addition to a spread of diseases and epidemics as medicine stocks dwindle.

Jamal Al Ashwal, RT, at the Al Hudaydah Port.

Lebanese Delegation Insists on Regaining All National Rights during Second Round of Indirect Negotiations to Delineate Maritime Borders with Zionist Enemy

Capture

October 28, 2020

The second round of indirect negotiations between the Lebanese and Israeli enemy delegations, under the auspices of the United Nations and with US mediation, has ended, amid tensions caused by the Zionist rejection of acknowledging Lebanon’s rights regarding the positions of the demarcation of the marine borders.

Al-Manar reporter said that after the end of the break at 1;30 p.m., the UN and US representatives surprisingly ended the session after it was scheduled to continue till 3:30, adding the tension which dominated over the first session is expected to be behind winding it up.

The two delegations are set to resume discussions over the delineation of maritime borders tomorrow (Thursday) at 10:00 am at the UNIFIL headquarters in Ras Naqoura.

During today’s meeting, the Lebanese delegation carried maps and documents showing points of disagreement. Meanwhile, Naqoura and its outskirts witnessed a wide deployment of Lebanese Army troops conducting joint patrols with the UNIFIL.

On another level, the Lebanese Army organized a field tour for journalists in Naqoura, mainly in the region in which indirect negotiations took place a kilometer away from the headquarters, where naval signs could be seen as placed by the Israeli enemy in Ras Naqoura sea off B1 point.

Source: Al-Manar English Website and NNA

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Russian President Putin Delivers Speech at Valdai Discussion Club -2020 – Update

Source

The Transcript follows.

Update : October 24th

The formal transcript is now complete

Update : October 23rd

Note that it is not quite complete and we are waiting for the Kremlin resources to complete (as usual correct and accurate) the complete transcript.  Yet, most of it is here, and the most interesting details are in the Questions and Answers.  (Settle in, it was a 3 hour session and nobody wanted to let Mr Putin go, even after 3 hours!)

Fyodor Lukyanov: Friends,

Guests of the Valdai Club,

I am delighted to welcome you to the final session of the 17th annual meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club. It is my special honour and pleasure to welcome our traditional guest for our final meetings, President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues, friends,

Participants of the 17th plenary meeting of the Valdai Club,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to welcome you all to our traditional annual meeting. We are meeting in an unusual format this time; we are videoconferencing. But I can see there are also people in the room. Not as many as usual of course, but nevertheless there are people present, and, apparently, you have had an in-person discussion, and I am delighted that you have.

We are certainly aware, we can see that the coronavirus epidemic has seriously affected public, business, and international affairs. More than that – it has affected everyone’s routine rhythm of life.

Almost all countries had to impose various restrictions, and large public gatherings have been largely cancelled. This year has been challenging for your Club as well. Most importantly, though, you continue to work. With the help of remote technology, you conduct heated and meaningful debates, discuss things, and bring in new experts who share their opinions and present interesting outside-the-box, sometimes even opposing, views on current developments. Such an exchange is, of course, very important and useful now that the world is facing so many challenges that need to be resolved.

Thus, we still have to understand how the epidemic affected and will continue to affect the present and future of humanity. As it confronts this dangerous threat, the international community is trying to take certain actions and to mobilize itself. Some things are already being done as collaborative efforts, but I want to note straight away that this is only a fraction of what needs to be done in the face of this formidable common challenge. These missed opportunities are also a subject for a candid international discussion.

From the onset of the pandemic in Russia, we have focused on preserving lives and ensuring safety of our people as our key values. This was an informed choice dictated by our culture and spiritual traditions, and our complex, sometimes dramatic, history. If we think back to the great demographic losses we suffered in the 20th century, we had no other choice but to fight for every person and the future of every Russian family.

So, we did our best to preserve the health and the lives of our people, to help parents and children, as well as senior citizens and those who lost their jobs, to maintain employment as much as possible, to minimise damage to the economy, to support millions of entrepreneurs who run small or family businesses.

Perhaps, like everyone else, you are closely following daily updates on the pandemic around the world. Unfortunately, the coronavirus has not retreated and still poses a major threat. Probably, this unsettling background intensifies the sense, like many people feel, that a whole new era is about to begin and that we are not just on the verge of dramatic changes, but an era of tectonic shifts in all areas of life.

We see the rapidly, exponential development of the processes that we have repeatedly discussed at the Valdai Club before. Thus, six years ago, in 2014, we spoke about this issue when we discussed the theme The World Order: New Rules or a Game Without Rules. So, what is happening now? Regrettably, the game without rules is becoming increasingly horrifying and sometimes seems to be a fait accompli.

The pandemic has reminded us of how fragile human life is. It was hard to imagine that in our technologically advanced 21st century, even in the most prosperous and wealthy countries people could find themselves defenceless in front of what would seem to be not such a fatal infection, and not such a horrible threat. But life has shown that not everything boils down to the level of medical science with some of its fantastic achievements. It transpired that the organisation and accessibility of the public healthcare system are no less, and probably much more important in this situation.

The values of mutual assistance, service and self-sacrifice proved to be most important. This also applies to the responsibility, composure and honesty of the authorities, their readiness to meet the demand of society and at the same time provide a clear-cut and well-substantiated explanation of the logic and consistency of the adopted measures so as not to allow fear to subdue and divide society but, on the contrary, to imbue it with confidence that together we will overcome all trials no matter how difficult they may be.

The struggle against the coronavirus threat has shown that only a viable state can act effectively in a crisis – contrary to the reasoning of those who claim that the role of the state in the global world is decreasing and that in the future it will be altogether replaced with some other forms of social organisation. Yes, this is possible. Everything may change in the distant future. Change is all around us, but today the role and importance of the state do matter.

We have always considered a strong state a basic condition for Russia’s development. And we have seen again that we were right by meticulously restoring and strengthening state institutions after their decline, and sometimes complete destruction in the 1990s.

Then, the question is: what is a strong state? What are its strengths? Definitely, not total control or harsh law enforcement. Not thwarted private initiative or civic engagement. Not even the might of its armed forces or its high defence potential. Although, I think you realise how important this particular component is for Russia, given its geography and the range of geopolitical challenges. And there is also our historical responsibility as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council to ensure global stability.

Nevertheless, I am confident that what makes a state strong, primarily, is the confidence its citizens have in it. That is the strength of a state. People are the source of power, we all know that. And this recipe doesn’t just involve going to the polling station and voting, it implies people’s willingness to delegate broad authority to their elected government, to see the state, its bodies, civil servants, as their representatives – those who are entrusted to make decisions, but who also bear full responsibility for the performance of their duties.

This kind of state can be set up any way you like. When I say “any way,” I mean that what you call your political system is immaterial. Each country has its own political culture, traditions, and its own vision of their development. Trying to blindly imitate someone else’s agenda is pointless and harmful. The main thing is for the state and society to be in harmony.

And of course, confidence is the most solid foundation for the creative work of the state and society. Only together will they be able to find an optimal balance of freedom and security guarantees.

Once again, in the most difficult moments of the pandemic, I felt pride and, to be honest, I am proud of Russia, of our citizens, of their willingness to have each other’s backs. And of course, first of all, I am proud of our doctors, nurses, and ambulance workers – everyone, without exception, on whom the national healthcare system relies.

I believe that civil society will play a key role in Russia’s future. So, we want the voice of our citizens to be decisive and to see constructive proposals and requests from different social forces get implemented.

This begs the question: how is this request for action being formed? Whose voice should the state be heeding? How does it know if it is really the voice of the people and not some behind-the-scenes messages or even someone’s vocal yelling that has nothing to do whatsoever with our people and that at times becomes hysterical?

Occasionally, someone is trying to substitute self-serving interests of a small social group or even external forces for a genuine public request.

Genuine democracy and civil society cannot be “imported.” I have said so many times. They cannot be a product of the activities of foreign “well-wishers,” even if they “want the best for us.” In theory, this is probably possible. But, frankly, I have not yet seen such a thing and do not believe much in it. We see how such imported democracy models function. They are nothing more than a shell or a front with nothing behind them, even a semblance of sovereignty. People in the countries where such schemes have been implemented were never asked for their opinion, and their respective leaders are mere vassals. As is known, the overlord decides everything for the vassal. To reiterate, only the citizens of a particular country can determine their public interest.

We, in Russia, went through a fairly long period where foreign funds were very much the main source for creating and financing non-governmental organisations. Of course, not all of them pursued self-serving or bad goals, or wanted to destabilise the situation in our country, interfere in our domestic affairs, or influence Russia’s domestic and, sometimes, foreign policy in their own interests. Of course not.

There were sincere enthusiasts among independent civic organisations (they do exist), to whom we are undoubtedly grateful. But even so, they mostly remained strangers and ultimately reflected the views and interests of their foreign trustees rather than the Russian citizens. In a word, they were a tool with all the ensuing consequences.

A strong, free and independent civil society is nationally oriented and sovereign by definition. It grows from the depth of people’s lives and can take different forms and directions. But it is a cultural phenomenon, a tradition of a particular country, not the product of some abstract “transnational mind” with other people’s interests behind it.

The duty of the state is to support public initiatives and open up new opportunities for them. This is exactly what we do. I consider this matter to be the most important for the government’s agenda in the coming decades – regardless of who exactly will hold positions in that government. This is the guarantee of Russia’s sovereign, progressive development, of genuine continuity in its forward movement, and of our ability to respond to global challenges.

Colleagues, you are well aware of the many acute problems and controversies that have accumulated in modern international affairs, even too many. Ever since the Cold War model of international relations, which was stable and predictable in its own way, began to change (I am not saying I miss it, I most certainly do not), the world has changed several times. Things in fact happened so quickly that those usually referred to as political elites simply did not have the time, or maybe a strong interest or ability to analyse what was really going on.

Some countries hastily ran to divide the cake, mostly to grab a bigger piece, to take advantage of the benefits the end of the cold confrontation brought. Others were frantically looking for ways to adapt to the changes at any cost. And some countries – recall our own sad experience, frankly – just fought for survival, to survive as a single country, and as a subject of global politics, too.

Meanwhile, time increasingly and insistently makes us question what lies ahead for humanity, what the new world order should be like, or at least a semblance of one, and whether we will take informed steps forward, coordinating our moves, or we will stumble blindly, each of us just relying on ourselves.

The recent report of the Valdai Club, your club, reads: “…in a fundamentally changed international setting, the institutions themselves have become an obstacle to building a system of relations corresponding to the new era rather than a guarantee of global stability and manageability.” The authors believe that we are in for a world where individual states or groups of states will act much more independently while traditional international organisations will lose their importance.

This is what I would like to say in this respect. Of course, it is clear what underlies this position. In effect, the post-war world order was established by three victorious countries: the Soviet Union, the United States and Great Britain. The role of Britain has changed since then; the Soviet Union no longer exists, while some try to dismiss Russia altogether.

Let me assure you, dear friends, that we are objectively assessing our potentialities: our intellectual, territorial, economic and military potential. I am referring to our current options, our overall potential. Consolidating this country and looking at what is happening in the world, in other countries I would like to tell those who are still waiting for Russia’s strength to gradually wane, the only thing we are worried about is catching a cold at your funeral.

As a head of state who works directly in an environment that you and your colleagues describe from a position of expertise, I cannot agree with the assumption that existing international structures must be completely rebuilt, if not dismissed as obsolete and altogether dismantled. On the contrary, it is important to preserve the basic mechanisms of maintaining international security, which have proved to be effective. This is the UN, the Security Council and the permanent members’ right to veto. I recently spoke about this at the anniversary UN General Assembly. As far as I know, this position – the preservation of the fundamentals of the international order established after World War II – enjoys broad support in the world.

However, I believe that the idea of adjusting the institutional arrangement of world politics is at least worthy of discussion, if only because the correlation of forces, potentialities and positions of states has seriously changed, as I said, especially in the past 30 to 40 years.

Indeed, like I said, the Soviet Union is no longer there. But there is Russia. In terms of its economic weight and political influence, China is moving quickly towards superpower status. Germany is moving in the same direction, and the Federal Republic of Germany has become an important player in international cooperation. At the same time, the roles of Great Britain and France in international affairs has undergone significant changes. The United States, which at some point absolutely dominated the international stage, can hardly claim exceptionality any longer. Generally speaking, does the United States need this exceptionalism? Of course, powerhouses such as Brazil, South Africa and some other countries have become much more influential.

Indeed, by far not all international organisations are effectively carrying out their missions and tasks. Called to be impartial arbiters, they often act based on ideological prejudices, fall under the strong influence of other states, and become tools in their hands. Juggling procedures, manipulating prerogatives and authority, biased approaches, especially when it comes to conflicts involving rival powers or groups of states, have unfortunately become common practice.

The fact that authoritative international organisations following in the wake of someone’s selfish interests are drawn into politicised campaigns against specific leaders and countries is saddening. This approach does nothing but discredit these institutions, and leads them towards decline and exacerbates the world order crisis.

On the other hand, there are positive developments when a group of interested states joins forces to resolve specific issues, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, which for almost 20 years now has been contributing to the settlement of territorial disputes and strengthening stability in Central Eurasia, and is shaping a unique spirit of partnership in this part of the world.

Or, for example, the Astana format, which was instrumental in taking the political and diplomatic process regarding Syria out of a deep impasse. The same goes for OPEC Plus which is an effective, albeit very complex, tool for stabilising global oil markets.

In a fragmented world, this approach is often more productive. But what matters here is that, along with resolving specific problems, this approach can also breathe new life into multilateral diplomacy. This is important. But it is also obvious that we cannot do without a common, universal framework for international affairs. Whatever interest groups, associations, or ad-hoc alliances we form now or in the future – we cannot do without a common framework.

Multilateralism should be understood not as total inclusivity, but as the need to involve the parties that are truly interested in solving a problem. And of course, when outside forces crudely and shamelessly intervene in a process that affects a group of actors perfectly capable of agreeing among themselves – nothing good can come of that. And they do this solely for the purpose of flaunting their ambition, power and influence. They do it to put a stake in the ground, to outplay everyone, but not to make a positive contribution or help resolve the situation.

Again, even amid the current fragmentation of international affairs, there are challenges that require more than just the combined capacity of a few states, even very influential ones. Problems of this magnitude, which do exist, require global attention.

International stability, security, fighting terrorism and solving urgent regional conflicts are certainly among them; as are promoting global economic development, combatting poverty, and expanding cooperation in healthcare. That last one is especially relevant today.

I spoke in detail about these challenges at the UN General Assembly last month. Meeting them will require working together in a long-term, systematic way.

However, there are considerations of a more general nature that affect literally everyone, and I would like to discuss them in more detail.

Many of us read The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry when we were children and remember what the main character said: “It’s a question of discipline. When you’ve finished washing and dressing each morning, you must tend your planet. … It’s very tedious work, but very easy.”

I am sure that we must keep doing this “tedious work” if we want to preserve our common home for future generations. We must tend our planet.

The subject of environmental protection has long become a fixture on the global agenda. But I would address it more broadly to discuss also an important task of abandoning the practice of unrestrained and unlimited consumption – overconsumption – in favour of judicious and reasonable sufficiency, when you do not live just for today but also think about tomorrow.

We often say that nature is extremely vulnerable to human activity. Especially when the use of natural resources is growing to a global dimension. However, humanity is not safe from natural disasters, many of which are the result of anthropogenic interference. By the way, some scientists believe that the recent outbreaks of dangerous diseases are a response to this interference. This is why it is so important to develop harmonious relations between Man and Nature.

Tensions have reached a critical point. We can see this in climate change. This problem calls for practical action and much more attention on our part. It has long stopped being the domain of abstract scientific interests but now concerns nearly every inhabitant of the planet Earth. The polar ice caps and permafrost are melting because of global warming. According to expert estimates, the speed and scale of this process will be increasing in the next few decades.

It is a huge challenge to the world, to the whole of humanity, including to us, to Russia, where permafrost occupies 65 percent of our national territory. Such changes can do irreparable damage to biological diversity, have an extremely adverse effect on the economy and infrastructure and pose a direct threat to people.

You may be aware that this is very important to us. It affects pipeline systems, residential districts built on permafrost, and so on. If as much as 25 percent of the near-surface layers of permafrost, which is about three or four metres, melt by 2100, we will feel the effect very strongly. Moreover, the problem could snowball into a crisis very quickly. A kind of chain reaction is possible, because permafrost melting will stimulate methane emissions, which can produce a greenhouse effect that will be 28 times (sic!) larger than in the case of carbon dioxide. In other words, the temperature will continue rising on the planet, permafrost will continue melting, and methane emissions will further increase. The situation will spiral. Do we want the Earth to become like Venus, a hot, dry and lifeless planet? I would like to remind you that the Earth has an average surface temperature of 14°C while on Venus it’s 462°C.

Another subject, completely different. I would like to say a few words on a different subject. Let us not forget that there are no longer just geographical continents on Earth. An almost endless digital space is taking shape on the planet, and people are mastering it with increasing speed every year.

The restrictions forced by the coronavirus have only encouraged the development of remote e-technology. Today, communications based on the internet have become a universal asset. It is necessary to see that this infrastructure and all cyberspace operates without fail and securely.

Thus, remote, distance work is not just a forced precaution during a pandemic. This will become a new form of organising labour, employment, social cooperation and simply human communication. These changes are inevitable with the development of technological progress. This recent turn of events has merely precipitated these processes. Everyone appreciates the opportunities and conveniences provided by new technology.

But, of course, there is a reverse side as well – a growing threat to all digital systems. Yes, cyberspace is a fundamentally new environment where, basically, universally recognised rules have never existed. Technology has simply moved ahead of legislation and thus, judicial oversight. At the same time, this is a very specific area where the issue of trust is particularly urgent.

I think that at this point we must return to our historical experience. What do I mean? Let me recall that the established notion of “confidence-building measures” existed during the Cold War. It applied to relations between the USSR and the US, and between the Warsaw Pact and NATO, that is, military-political relations.

That said, let me emphasise that now, competition is usually “hybrid” in character. It concerns all areas, including those that are just taking shape. This is why it is necessary to build confidence in many areas.

In this sense, cyberspace can serve as a venue for testing these measures, like at one time, arms control paved the way for higher trust in the world as a whole.

Obviously, it is very difficult to draft a required “package of measures” in this area, cyberspace. However, it is necessary to start on it. This must be done now.

As you may be aware, Russia is actively promoting bilateral and multilateral cyber security agreements. We submitted two draft conventions on this subject at the UN and established a corresponding open-ended working group.

Recently, I proposed starting a comprehensive discussion of international cybersecurity issues with the United States. We are aware that politicians in the United States have other things to focus on now because of the election campaign. However, we hope that the next administration, whatever it may be, will respond to our invitation to start a discussion of this subject just like other items on the Russia-US agenda such as global security, the future of the strategic arms reduction treaty and a number of other issues.

As you are aware, many important matters have reached the point that they require candid talks, and we are ready for a constructive discussion on an equal footing.

Of course, the times when all important international matters were discussed and resolved by essentially just Moscow and Washington are long gone, lost to the ages. However, we see the establishment of a bilateral dialogue, in this case on cyber security, as an important step towards a much broader discussion involving many other countries and organisations. Should the United States choose not to take part in this work, which would be regrettable, we will still be willing to work with all interested partners, which I hope will not be lacking.

I would like to point out another important aspect. We live in an era of palpable international shocks and crises. Of course, we are used to them, especially the generations which lived during the Cold War, let alone World War II, for whom it is not just a memory, but a part of their lives.

It is interesting that humanity has reached a very high level of technological and socioeconomic development, while at the same time facing the loss or erosion of moral values and reference points, a sense that existence no longer has meaning and, if you will, that the mission of humankind on planet Earth has been lost.

This crisis cannot be settled through diplomatic negotiations or even a large international conference. It calls for revising our priorities and rethinking our goals. And everyone must begin at home, every individual, community and state, and only then work toward a global configuration.

The COVID-19 pandemic, which we have all been dealing with this year, can serve as a point of departure for such a transformation. We will have to reassess our priorities anyway. Trust me, we really will have to do it, sooner or later. All of us are aware of this. Therefore, I fully agree with those who say that it would be better to start this process now.

I mentioned history and the older generations who went through all the trials of last century for a reason. Everything we are discussing today will soon become the responsibility of young people. Young people will have to deal with all of the problems which I mentioned and you discussed today. Speaking about Russia, its young citizens, who are still growing up and gaining experience, will have to do this as soon as in the 21st century. They are the ones who will have to confront new and probably even more difficult challenges.

They have their own views on the past, present and future. But I believe that our people will always retain their best qualities: patriotism, fortitude, creativity, hard work, team spirit and the capacity to surprise the world by finding solutions to the most difficult and even seemingly insoluble problems.

Friends, colleagues,

I touched on a wide range of different issues today. Of course, I would like to believe that despite all the current difficulties the international community will be able to join forces to combat not imaginary but very real problems, and that we will eventually succeed. After all, it is within our power to stop being egoistical, greedy, mindless and wasteful consumers. Some may wonder if this is utopia, a pipe dream.

To be sure, it is easy to wonder if this is even possible considering what some individuals are doing and saying. However, I believe in reason and mutual understanding, or at least I strongly hope that they will prevail. We just need to open our eyes, look around us and see that the land, air and water are our common inheritance from above, and we must learn to cherish them, just as we must cherish every human life, which is precious. This is the only way forward in this complicated and beautiful world. I do not want to see the mistakes of the past repeated.

Thank you very much.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Mr President, thank you for this detailed statement. You have said that COVID-19 can serve as a point of departure for a reassessment. I can see that you are indeed reassessing things, because it is not everyone who speaks now about trust, harmony, the meaning of life and our mission on the planet Earth, and it was rarely so in the past as well.

I would like to say a few things in follow-up to what you have said. Of course, such a rethinking is ongoing, and we are trying to contribute to this process at the Valdai Club. However, the shocking spring developments, when we thought that the world would never be the same again, were followed by a degree of stabilisation. When global politics awoke from the mental torpor, it turned out that the agenda has hardly changed at all: we are facing the same problems, the conflicts are back and their number has even increased. But you continue with your active work despite the strained situation in global politics. Do you think that this shock had any effect on us? Do you feel any change in the sentiments of your counterparts at the top level?

Vladimir Putin: You said that the conflicts resumed when the situation improved a bit. In fact, they never abated. There is much talk about a second wave, and that the situation is back to where we were in the spring. But just look at what is happening in Nagorno-Karabakh: the conflict is still with us. And it is not just the conflicts that matter. I believe that no matter how the necessity to combat the pandemic can rally the international community, we still need to take systemic measures to settle recurring problems. This concerns the Middle East, the Syrian crisis, Libya and a great number of other problems, including terrorism and the environment. In other words, the pandemic will not help us to deal with them.

However, the pandemic is playing into our hands when it comes to raising our awareness of the importance of joining forces against severe global crises. Unfortunately, it has not yet taught humanity to come together completely, as we must do in such situations. Just look at the crises I have mentioned. We have already proposed, at the UN, among other places, that all economic and cultural restrictions be lifted for humanitarian reasons, at least temporarily.

I am not referring now to all these sanctions against Russia; forget about that, we will get over it. But many other countries that have suffered and are still suffering from the coronavirus do not even need any help that may come from outside, they just need the restrictions lifted, at least in the humanitarian sphere, I repeat, concerning the supply of medicines, equipment, credit resources, and the exchange of technologies. These are humanitarian things in their purest form. But no, they have not abolished any restrictions, citing some considerations that have nothing to do with the humanitarian component – but at the same time, everyone is talking about humanism.

I would say we need to be more honest with each other and abandon double standards. I am sure that if people hear me now on the media, they are probably finding it difficult to disagree with what I have just said, difficult to deny it. Deep down in their hearts, in their minds, everyone is probably thinking, “Yes, right, of course.” However, for political reasons, publicly, they will still say, “No, we must keep restrictions on Iran, Venezuela, against Assad.” What does Assad even have to do with this when it is ordinary people who suffer? At least, give them medicines, give them technology, at least a small, targeted loan for medicine. No.

Therefore, on the one hand, it seems like there is a tendency to unite, but, frankly speaking, by and large, I do not see any practical steps to bring it to reality. Although this trend does exist.

As for technology, it is another side of the matter. As for technology, of course, online education, telemedicine and other advanced solutions – all the modern digital technologies that had been increasingly penetrating all spheres, of course, with the pandemic have made a breach in the existing regulatory systems. They are forcing politicians, legal professionals, and administrative regulators, to move towards decision-making at a faster pace than they used to. And this is certainly, definitely changing the world.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

Here is one more question related to what you have said.

Speaking about the strategy of combating the epidemic, you clearly and unequivocally stated that people’s life and safety are the main values. This strategy is understandable, but tactics differ. Last spring, the countries that chose a different path were sharply criticised.

For example, Sweden and Belarus did not introduce an economic lockdown or a tight quarantine. There were many pro and contra arguments. Six months later, we can see that the world is largely following in the footsteps of these countries instead of doing what we did in spring. I believe that you also said yesterday that there would not be any economic lockdown.

Does this mean that the balance is changing and that the balance should sometimes change in favour of the economy?

Vladimir Putin: I would say that nothing is changing in our country. I do not know about Sweden. On the other hand, I do know some things, and I will say a few words about them. The same is true about Belarus and other countries, where the decisions are made by their leadership. As for us, nothing has changed: people’s lives and health remain our priorities, without a doubt.

On the other hand, life and health are directly connected to healthcare, which must receive serious support from the federal and other budgets. For these budgets to be replenished, we need a working economy. Everything is closely interconnected. One needs to find a balance. I believe that we found this balance at the very beginning. We took a number of serious steps to support the economy. This support amounted to 4.5 percent of the GDP. Some other countries allocated even more funds for this purpose.

The point is actually not so much the amount of allocated funds but their effective use. I believe (we discussed several related issues with the Government today) that we disposed of these funds quite effectively, in a selective way and using the considerable resources we accumulated in the past years, as well as relying on the macroeconomic health of our economy, macroeconomic indicators and all the other positive achievements of the past years, to support our people, families with children, small and medium-sized businesses, and even large companies and whole industries.

Overall, there is no need in the current situation, at least in Russia, to reintroduce such restrictions as we had in spring, when we sent our people on paid leave and closed down whole enterprises. There is no need for this also because our healthcare system performed quite efficiently. We have also built up reserves, including a reserve of hospital beds, created new medicines and developed treatment guidelines. Our medics have learned how to deal with this disease, they know what and when needs to be done. In other words, we have become confident that we can deal with these problems. This is the first thing I wanted to say.

The second thing. We said from the beginning – I would just like to remind you, keeping in mind the vastness of our territory – that we were handing down a considerable part of authority for decision-making to the level of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation. Incidentally, all major countries, have, in fact, followed this path somewhat later. This has proven to be the right approach.

There is no such need today. The economy is recovering. The processing industry is recovering, the agro-industrial sector is performing quite well and is even growing, exports are recovering… Yes, we have issues that we should target. But look, we have basically acceptable macroeconomic indicators. Russia’s second-quarter economic contraction was 8 percent, and, say, the US economy, declined by 9 [percent], and the Euro zone, if I am not mistaken, by 14.5 – 14.7 [percent].

You have mentioned Sweden that imposed no restrictions, but they also happened to face an economic downturn. At first, they went public with the figure of 8.3 [percent], which was later adjusted to less than 8 [percent] – 7.7 [percent], if my memory serves me correctly. Here we go: they have introduced no restrictions, nor have they done what we have in supporting people and the economy, but their result is the same as ours. The modern world is extremely interconnected. But an economic decline is inevitable, the first thing to do is to take care of the people. This logic is immaculate. I am certain that you will agree on this point.

Now, regarding Belarus. President Lukashenko – I had many conversations with him – is fully aware of the COVID-19 threat. But Belarus has no comparable gold and currency reserves, nor such a diverse economic landscape, and he, as he says, simply had to keep the economy viable. But on the whole, the situation there is not worse, in fact, than in many other countries.

Therefore we face – and faced – no choice of this sort; our priorities are people, health, and life. We are not going to impose tough restrictions, there is no such need. There is no need to close businesses. What is needed is to adjust support for certain sectors, for example, for small and medium-sized businesses. Certain parts of this work require additional support, maybe the extension of tax benefits and some other measures that are due to expire shortly. It is necessary to take a closer look at transportation, the transport sector, and the services. We are aware of all this, we see this, and we will continue to work in these areas, no matter how difficult this might be. As I have repeatedly said, we will get through this difficult period together, with the people’s support and trust.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Colleagues, we are moving on to our traditional conversation. This time the setup of this discussion will be quite complex, since we have people sitting in the audience here, and I am also receiving questions from those who are watching online, and some of our colleagues will be able to ask their questions in person. Therefore, I will try to act as an impartial moderator and manage this conversation, and I apologise for any possible hiccups.

Let us begin. Timofei Bordachev, our colleague from the Valdai Club.

Timofei Bordachev: Good evening, and thank you for this unique opportunity.

Mr President, there has been much talk and debate, in the context of the global economic upheavals, about the fact that the liberal market economy has ceased to be a reliable tool for the survival of states, their preservation, and for their people.

Pope Francis said recently that capitalism has run its course. Russia has been living under capitalism for 30 years. Is it time to search for an alternative? Is there an alternative? Could it be the revival of the left-wing idea or something radically new? Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Lenin spoke about the birthmarks of capitalism, and so on. It cannot be said that we have lived these past 30 years in a full-fledged market economy. In fact, we are only gradually building it, and its institutions. Russia had to do it from the ground up, starting from a clean slate. Of course, we are doing this taking into consideration developments around the world. After all, after almost one hundred years of a state-planned economy, transitioning to a market economy is not easy.

You know, capitalism, the way you have described it, existed in a more or less pure form at the beginning of the previous century. But everything changed after what happened in the global economy and in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s, after World War I. We have already discussed this on a number of occasions. I do not remember if I have mentioned this at Valdai Club meetings, but experts who know this subject better than I do and with whom I regularly communicate, they are saying obvious and well-known things.

When everything is fine, and the macro economic indicators are stable, various funds are building up their assets, consumption is on the rise and so on. In such times, you hear more and more that the state only stands in the way, and that a pure market economy would be more effective. But as soon as crises and challenges arise, everyone turns to the state, calling for the reinforcement of its supervisory functions. This goes on and on, like a sinusoidal curve. This is what happened during the preceding crises, including the recent ones, like in 2008.

I remember very well how the key shareholders of Russia’s largest corporations that are also major European and global players came to me proposing that the state buy their assets for one dollar or one ruble. They were afraid of assuming responsibility for their employees, pressured by margin calls, and the like. This time, our businesses have acted differently. No one is seeking to evade responsibility. On the contrary, they are even using their own funds, and are quite generous in doing so. The responses may differ, but overall, businesses have been really committed to social responsibility, for which I am grateful to these people, and I want them to know this.

Therefore, at present, we cannot really find a fully planned economy, can we? Take China. Is it a purely planned economy? No. And there is not a single purely market economy either. Nevertheless, the government’s regulatory functions are certainly important. For example, consider major industries such as aircraft construction. Without some regulatory function from the top – or from the left, right, bottom, for that matter, whether this regulatory function is visible or not – without it, it is impossible to operate in this market. And we can see that all the countries that claim respect as aircraft-building powers (contextually, I would say), their governments provide assistance to their aircraft manufacturers, all of them. And there are plenty of support methods.

By the way, the situation is much the same in the automotive industry, and in other industries. We just need to determine for ourselves the reasonable level of the state’s involvement in the economy; how quickly that involvement needs to be reduced, if at all, and where exactly. I often hear that Russia’s economy is overregulated. But during crises like this current pandemic, when we are forced to restrict business activity, and cargo traffic shrinks, and not only cargo traffic, but passenger traffic as well, we have to ask ourselves – what do we do with aviation now that passengers avoid flying or fly rarely, what do we do? Well, the state is a necessary fixture, there is no way they could do without state support.

So, again, no model is pure or rigid, neither the market economy nor the command economy today, but we simply have to determine the level of the state’s involvement in the economy. What do we use as a baseline for this decision? Expediency. We need to avoid using any templates, and so far, we have successfully avoided that. As I have said, the so-called developed economies, in Europe, have seen their GDP plummet by more than 14 percent. How high has unemployment grown in the eurozone? As far as I know, by over 10 percent. Ours has grown, too, but only by 6.3 percent. This is the result of government regulation. Or take inflation. We have been fighting it desperately. Is this not a regulatory function of the state?

Of course, the Central Bank and the Government are among the most important state institutions. Therefore, it was in fact through the joint efforts of the Central Bank and the Government that inflation was reduced to 4 percent, because the Government invests substantial resources through its social programmes and national projects and has an impact on our monetary policy. It went down to 3.9 percent, and the Governor of the Central Bank has told me that we will most likely keep it around the estimated target of around 4 percent. This is the regulating function of the state; there is no way around it. However, stifling development through an excessive presence of the state in the economy or through excessive regulation would be fatal as well. You know, this is a form of art, which the Government has been applying skilfully, at least for now.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Mr President, since you mentioned greed, I have to ask you the following. A lively discussion began the other day on the Finance Ministry’s proposal to reduce the staff at security-related agencies and to adjust their salaries and pensions. Is this a good time for this proposal? Or is it that the crisis is forcing us to cut expenses?

Vladimir Putin: The Finance Ministry regularly makes such proposals, crisis or no crisis. It is always in favour of reducing expenditure. In general, nearly all finance ministries in other countries do this as well. There is nothing unique in the proposal of the Russian Finance Ministry.

We do not envisage making any decisions yet. We have no term reduction or extension plans. It was just one of the Finance Ministry’s proposals. It has not even been reported to me yet. It is still at the level of discussion among Government agencies. When we need to make a final decision, I will take into account the economic realities and the real situation regarding people’s incomes, including in the security and military spheres, and a comparison of the levels of income in the country’s military and civilian sectors. There are many factors we need to take into account to prevent an imbalance on the labour market, and so on. I would like to repeat that these issues have not been discussed on the practical level. These discussions are ongoing within the framework of the Government.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Great. Our meeting has produced at least one result: the military can breathe out.

I would like to give the floor to our long-time friend who has been helping the Valdai Club a lot. Please meet Sam Charap from Washington, D.C. Usually, we had him here, but now he is at his workplace. We can get him on air now.

Sam, please.

Sam Charap: Hello, Mr. President,

I would like to return to your initiative to restore trust in cyberspace, which you mentioned in your remarks. Many argue whether there is trust in the outcome of the talks or the premises for holding them. It is not only about the election campaign, but the firm belief of many in Washington (and outside of it) that Russia is actively interfering in this area, and so on.

Can we ponder some kind of truce in this sphere in order to create proper grounds for talks and a minimum level of trust as a prerequisite for achieving more during ensuing talks? How do you think such a digital truce, so to say, may look like?

Vladimir Putin: Listen, as far as cybercrime is concerned, it always went hand in hand with digital technology and will probably always be there just like other offences. However, when we talk about relations between states, it is no coincidence that in my opening remarks I mentioned the dialogue on limiting offensive arms between the Soviet Union and the United States.

We agreed among ourselves to keep these weapons at a certain level. We propose reaching agreements in the sphere that is taking shape now right before our eyes and which is extremely important for the entire world and our countries. We need to discuss these matters in a broad context and come up with solutions.

I am not quite sure what kind of truce you are talking about. I believe it is already in place. You said that Russia is actively interfering. But I say: “We are not interfering in anything.” Moreover, the official probes conducted in the United States, including with the involvement of a special counsel, did not bring any results. They led to admitting the fact that there was no evidence of Russia’s interference. Therefore, I believe there is no need to set any preliminary conditions for us to start this dialogue. We must immediately sit down and talk. What is wrong with that approach? We are not proposing anything that does not meet our partners’ interests. If someone thinks that someone else is interfering in their affairs, well, let us come up with some general rules and develop verification tools to monitor compliance. Frankly, I do not understand where this persistence is coming from.

During the last months of President Obama’s presidency, his administration sent us a message to the effect that, indeed, it had taken them a while to review this matter, but they are now ready for a dialogue. Unfortunately, this ended quickly, and another president came to office. We started from centre-field with the new administration. Again, almost four years later now, we have not accomplished much.

I strongly hope that when the elections are over, our partners will return to this issue and respond positively to our proposals.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

Fyodor Voitolovsky, Director of IMEMO, our flagship institute of international relations. Please.

Fyodor Voitolovsky: Mr President, in your statement today you mentioned one of the most burning issues of global politics, arms control. During the Cold War and especially at its final stage, the Soviet Union and the United States both applied a huge amount of efforts to create a network of treaties and a system of confidence-building measures, which limited the quantitative growth of their arsenals and reduced the risk of a conflict. Over the past 20 years, our American partners have consistently and very easily dismantled this system: first the ABM Treaty, and then the INF and Open Skies treaties. As of now, there are problems with extending the New START Treaty. Hence my question. Do you think the arms control system has a future? What new moves can be taken in this sphere?

Thank you.

Fyodor Lukyanov: I would like to add that we have a great number of questions about strategic offensive arms and especially the latest initiative advanced two days ago, and also a great deal of bewilderment over what this may mean and whether Russia has made excessive concessions.

Vladimir Putin: You asked if such arms control treaties have a future. I think that the world will have no future unless limits are put on the arms race. This is what all of us should think about, and this is what we are urging all of our partners to think about.

All of us are well aware of the problem, and you have mentioned this just now: withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, the INF Treaty and the Open Skies Treaty (the United States has not officially pulled out of it yet, but it has stated that it had launched the withdrawal process). Why? What is the reason for this decision? They do not even try to explain. They simply do not explain. Our European colleagues tell us, “Let them withdraw, but you should not do the same.” I reply, “All of you are NATO members, and so you will make flights and forward the data you collect to the Americans, while we will be unable to do this because we will remain committed to the Treaty. Let us not play dumb. Let us be honest with each other.” In fact, as far as I am aware, the United States’ European partners would like it to remain a member of the Open Skies Treaty, to keep it intact.

With regard to the INF Treaty, we have spoken about it many times, and I do not want to go over it again. When withdrawing from the ABM Treaty, the United States acted openly, directly and bluntly, but honestly. Here, though, they came up with an excuse and accused Russia of some violations, and then withdrew from the Treaty. If this were the case, if everything were just like our American partners are saying, they could also go ahead and violate it without much ado. Who was stopping them? Instead, they took this step publicly for everyone to see.

Just do not tell me that they are white and fluffy goody two-shoes who are not into underhand dealings. We are aware of what is happening with verification, in the sphere of nuclear weapons among other thing, where they weld the lids or tamper with the aircraft. They get away with it and do not let us in there. Okay, we keep quiet, but the experts know what I am talking about. They just made it a point to take these steps, and to do so publicly, with broad coverage. Clearly, they are pursuing a political goal. I just do not see any military purpose here. But the best solution is for the verification and monitoring to be implemented by all contracting parties, so that our agreements are reliably protected by these monitoring systems.

Now, START-3.We took account of all the problems when we were negotiating these issues. Only one thing was left out. It is what Russia acquired in response to the United States withdrawing from the ABM Treaty. Precisely in response to the withdrawal. I am referring to our innovative high-precision hypersonic weapons. Indeed, neither the United States nor other countries have access to such weapons, although they are working on it, and someday they will have them as well. They are telling us, “You have it, we do not, so we must take this into account.” Well, we do not mind, let us take it into account. Both regarding the number of carriers and the number of warheads. We do not mind.

There are other issues that we can discuss. But what choice do we have? The treaty expires in February. After all, my proposal is very straightforward. It lies on the surface. Nothing will happen if we extend this agreement, without any preconditions, for one year and persistently work on all the issues of concern both to us and the Americans. We will work on it together and look for solutions.

After all, the trick is that we have had hardly any constructive discussions about this so far. Our partners, to put it bluntly, shied away from a direct and substantive professional discussion. The treaty will expire in February 2020, and that is all we have left now.

Question: What is better: to preserve the current treaty as it is, to start discussing it in detail and try to find some compromise during the year or to lose it altogether and leave us, the US and Russia, and the entire world practically without any legal foundation that limits the arms race? I believe the second option is much worse than the first.

I think it is simply unacceptable but I have said, and I want to emphasise it once again, that we are not holding on to this treaty. If our partners decide it is not necessary – all right, let it be, there is nothing we can do to prevent them. Our security, Russia’s security will not be damaged by this, especially because we have the latest weapons systems. This is the first part.

The second part boils down to making these agreements multilateral by including our Chinese friends in them. But are we against this? Russia is not against this but just do not shift on us the responsibility of making this treaty multilateral. If someone wants to do this, it is fine to try to achieve this. We do not object to this. Are we an obstacle on this road? No.

But the arguments quoted by our Chinese friends are very simple. China is an enormous country, a great power with an enormous economy and 1.5 billion people. But the level of its nuclear potential is almost twice, if not more lower than that of Russia and the US. They are asking a lawful question, “What will we limit? Or will we freeze our inequality in this area?” What can you reply to this? It is the sovereign right of a 1.5 billion strong nation to decide on the best way of building its policy on ensuring its own security.

Of course, it is possible to turn this into a subject of an argument or discussion and simply block any agreement. But may I ask why would only China be pressed to be involved in this process and in signing this treaty? Where are the other nuclear powers? Where is France that, as the press reports, has just tested another submarine-launched cruise missile? Great Britain is also a nuclear power. There are other nuclear states that are not officially recognised as such, as it were, but the whole world knows that they have nuclear arms. So, are we going to behave like ostriches? Hide our heads in the sand and pretend that we do not understand what is going on? What we need is not a checkerboard pattern on our car. We need to drive it, therefore we need to ensure security. So, let us get them involved as well. Let us do it. We are not against this. The only question is whether there is any reason for this, a goal to strive for, whether there is any positive example to follow such as the agreements between the US and Russia? Or is there nothing at all?

We are ready to work from scratch, from centre-field, fine. If you ask about our position, I believe it is better not to lose what was achieved before, to move forward from the positions that have already been reached by previous generations, by the leaders of our countries. However, if our partners decide on something different, we are willing to work in any format and on any of these tracks.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

Anatol Lieven, another one of our veterans, who could not come to this meeting but is taking part in it via videoconference. Please.

Anatol Lieven: Thank you very much, Mr President, for speaking to us. And I would also like to thank you personally for your very strong statement on climate change and the environment.

My question, however, relates to the new outbreak of conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. Russia, like other members of the international community, has been trying very hard to bring about a peaceful solution to this conflict, but so far these efforts have failed. If they continue to fail, given Russia’s old historic links and given Russia’s military alliance with Armenia, will it be necessary in the end for Russia to take sides against Azerbaijan and Turkey?

On the other hand, could this perhaps provide a positive opportunity for Russia, given the increasing confrontation which we see between France and Turkey over Turkey’s claims in the Eastern Mediterranean? Could this perhaps be an opportunity for a rapprochement between Russia and France and other West European countries? Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: I did not quite understand the last part of the question. What does the [Nagorno-Karabakh] conflict have to do with this?

Fyodor Lukyanov: Maybe he meant the possibility of rapprochement with France and Europe, since Turkey is now opposed to both them and, to a degree, to us?

Vladimir Putin: I see.

Let us begin at the beginning, with Nagorno-Karabakh and who to support in this conflict. You said that Russia has always had special relations with Armenia. But we have also always had special ties with Azerbaijan as well. There are over 2 million Armenians and some 2 million Azerbaijanis living in Russia, both those who have come to Russia in search of jobs and those who live here permanently. They send billions of dollars to their families back home. All these people have stable and close ties with Russia at the humanitarian level, person-to-person, business, humanitarian and family ties. Therefore, Armenia and Azerbaijan are both equal partners for us. And it is a great tragedy for us when people die there. We would like to develop full-scale relations with both Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Yes, there are some individual elements in each case, and some things in our relations with one partner differ from our relations with the other partner. In the case of Armenia, it is Christianity. But we also have very close ties with Azerbaijan in other spheres.

Speaking about religion, I would like to point out that nearly 15 percent of Russian citizens are Muslims. Therefore, Azerbaijan is not an alien country to us in this sense either.

But what we certainly cannot forget is what happened in the destiny of the Armenian people, the Armenian nation during World War I. This is an enormous tragedy for the Armenian people, This is the second part.

The third part is based on the fact that this conflict broke out not just as an interstate conflict or struggle for territories. It started with ethnic confrontation. Regrettably, it is also a fact that violent crimes against the Armenian people were also committed in Sumgait and later in Nagorno-Karabakh. We must consider all this in a package.

At the same time, we understand that a situation where Azerbaijan has lost a substantial part of its territory cannot continue. Over the years, we have suggested many diverse options for settling this crisis with a view to stabilising the situation in the long-term historical perspective.

I will not go into detail at this point but believe me, this was intensive work on bringing the positions of the parties closer. Sometimes it seemed like a bit more effort, another small step and we would find the solution. Regrettably, it did not happen, and today we are seeing the worst-case scenario in this conflict. The death of people is a tragedy. There are heavy losses on both sides. According to our information, there are over 2,000 dead on either side. The total number of victims is already approaching 5,000.

Let me emphasise that the Soviet Union, the Soviet army lost 13,000 people during the ten years of war in Afghanistan. Now the toll is almost 5,000 in such a short span of time. And how many are wounded? How many people, how many children are suffering? This is why it is a special situation for us.

Yes, the Minsk Group was established, I believe, in 1992. As its co-chairs, Russia, France and the US are responsible for organising the negotiating process. It is clear, and I am 100 percent confident of this, that all participants in the process are sincerely striving to settle the situation. That said, nobody is interested in this as much as Russia is, because this is a very sensitive issue for us. This is not just happening before our eyes, but in a broad sense, it is happening with our people, our friends and our relatives. This is why we are in a position that allows us to be trusted by both sides and play a substantial role as a mediator on the rapprochement of positions in settling this conflict. I would very much like to find a compromise here.

As you may be aware, I maintain close contacts with both President Aliyev and Prime Minister Pashinyan. I speak to them on the phone several times a day. Our respective foreign ministers, defence ministers and heads of special services are constantly in contact. Foreign ministers of both countries came to us again. Today, or rather on October 23, they will have a meeting in Washington. I strongly hope that our American partners will act in unison with us and promote a settlement. Let us hope for the best. This covers the first part.

The second part concerns disputes within NATO between Turkey and France. We never take advantage of frictions between other states. We have good and stable relations with France. I would not say they are full-fledged, but they hold a lot of promise and, in any case, have a good track record.

Our cooperation with Turkey is expanding. Turkey is our neighbour, and I can tell you in more detail how important interaction between our states is for both Turkey and Russia.

I do not think anyone needs our mediation. Turkey and France are perfectly capable of regulating relations between themselves. No matter how tough President Erdogan’s stance may look, I know that he is a flexible person, and finding a common language with him is possible. Therefore, I hope the situation will get back to normal here as well.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Mr President, a follow-up if I may, since it is a hot topic.

Still, Turkey’s much more active role than ever before is what makes the current crisis in the South Caucasus different. You said President Erdogan is flexible. That may well be the case as you spent a lot of time with him. However, many experts believe that Erdogan’s policy is actually about expanding his zone of influence to the borders of the former Ottoman Empire. These borders stretched far and wide, as we know, and they enclosed a lot of territory, including Crimea, which was part of it at some point. It was a long time ago, but nonetheless.

Should we not fear that if this becomes a consistent policy, we would have certain differences with Ankara?

Vladimir Putin: Russia is not afraid of anything. Thank goodness, we are not in a position where we should be afraid of anything.

I do not know about President Erdogan’s plans or his attitude towards the Ottoman legacy. You should ask him about it. But I know that our bilateral trade exceeds $20 billion. I know that Turkey is really interested in continuing this cooperation. I know that President Erdogan is pursuing an independent foreign policy. Despite a lot of pressure, we implemented the TurkStream project together rather quickly. We cannot do the same with Europe; we have been discussing this issue for years, but Europe seems unable to show enough basic independence or sovereignty to implement the Nord Stream 2 project, which would be advantageous to it in every respect.

As for Turkey, we implemented our project quite quickly, despite any threats. Erdogan, who was aware of his national interests, said that we would do it, and we did it. The same is true of our ties in other areas, for example, our military-technical cooperation. Turkey decided it needed a modern air defence system, and the world’s best is the S-400, a triumph of Russian industry. He said he would do it, and he bought it. Working with such a partner is not only pleasant but also safe.

As for aspirations, regarding Crimea or anything else, I know nothing about them, and I do not care about them because the interests of Russia are reliably protected, take my word for it. I am sure that our other partners are fully aware of this.

Regarding Turkey’s refusal to recognise Crimea as part of Russia, well, we do not see eye to eye on all subjects. For example, we are not always on the same page regarding the situation in the South Caucasus. But we also know about the positions of Europe and the United States. They claim to be true dyed-in-the-wool democrats, but they do not even want to hear about the people of Crimea voting for their future in a referendum, which is the highest form of direct democracy.

As I said, they adopted sanctions against the Crimean people. If Crimea was annexed, then they are the victims. Why are sanctions adopted against the victims? But if they voted freely, it was democracy in action, so why are they being punished for democracy? This is all rubbish and nonsense, but it is also a fact of life. So why point the finger at Erdogan? Just take a look at what is happening in other countries.

This is a consistent stand: he does not recognise Crimea, and he does not recognise Nagorno-Karabakh. What should we do? We must continue working with everyone and remain calm. This is exactly what we have been doing: trying to prove that our position is correct, and we will continue to uphold it, and when positions diverge, we look for compromise.

For example, as far as I know, our views on the developments in the South Caucasus do not coincide, because we believe that conflicts should be settled diplomatically at the negotiating table rather than with the use of armed force. Of course, one could say that talks have been ongoing there for 30 years, but to no avail. Well, I do not see this as a reason to start shooting.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you very much.

Of course, Mr Erdogan has been consistent. For example, he recognises Northern Cyprus. But this is perhaps part of the flexibility that you were talking about.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, you are right. I agree. I was supposed to say this but it slipped my mind. But you are correct. Northern Cyprus, yes. However, as far as I know, Turkey does not object to the country finally being unified. The principles of this unification are the problem. But, overall, you are right.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

Anatoly Torkunov, President of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.

Anatoly Torkunov: Mr President,

Although there are still more than two months left in 2020, I think all of us see this year as one of very dramatic and unpredictable events. So of course, there is a joke that goes, if by the end of the year we encounter aliens, nobody will be surprised.

Never mind the aliens, we will see how it goes. My question is, of course, not about them. It is related to the developments around our borders. Thank you for such a detailed and interesting account. As an expert, I was very curious to hear your remarks on the South Caucasus.

But in general, developments around our borders seem to be rather dramatic. Let us take the events in Kyrgyzstan. The elections in that country have always prompted some kind of turbulence, although this year the civil disturbances have been particularly rough. The situation in Belarus is somewhat complicated. There is also the problem of Donbass. I understand that you must be tired of talking about this. We know your firm and consistent stance on this issue.

My question is what are Russia’s current fundamental foreign policy goals in the post-Soviet space, considering that it directly concerns our security and humanitarian links? Today you have stressed several times that these people are not foreigners to us – meaning the Caucasus but also our friends in Central Asia and our friends in Belarus and Ukraine.

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: You know this better than anyone else, you are a very experienced person and a professional with a capital “P”. Our policy in the post-Soviet space within the CIS framework is the main component of our overall foreign policy. This is obvious because all the countries you listed and every other country with which we have good, very good multilateral relations, as well as those with whom our ties seem to be in a stalemate in some cases – they are not foreign countries to us all the same. These are not remote countries somewhere overseas about which we know little.

It is obvious that we lived in a single country, and not just for many years but for centuries, We have strong ties and very deep cooperation in the economy, humanitarian ties. We all speak a common language. In a sense, to a greater or lesser degree, we are essentially people of the same cultural space, not to mention our history. We have a common history and a common victory over Nazism. Our predecessors – our fathers and grandfathers – validated our special relations with their blood.

Regardless of the current events and today’s political environment, I am sure that this community of interests will eventually pave the way to the restoration of our ties with all these countries, no matter how difficult our ties with them are.

At the same time, and this is also an obvious fact, when our common state, the USSR began disintegrating, the people who dealt with this did not think about the consequences this would lead to, something they should have thought about. But it was clear that our neighbours did not always have identical interests. Sometimes their interests diverged and rope pulling was always possible. I believe we must and will find solutions to complicated issues in any way we can, but we need to avoid fueling or exaggerating anything or emphasising disputed issues. On the contrary, we must look at what can and must unite us and what does unite us. What is this? Our common interests.

Look, with respect to economic integration, who is not interested in this? Only our competitors. And the post-Soviet countries are bound to understand, at least smart people are bound to understand that a concerted effort, considering we have a common infrastructure, common transport and energy system and a common language that unites rather than divides us, etc., is our distinct competitive advantage in achieving the things for which some economic associations and structures have been fighting for decades, while we have received all this from our predecessors. We must use this, and this brings benefits to all of us. It is absolutely obvious that this is simply beneficial.

Look, Ukraine saw a revolution in 2004, and then in 2014 another revolution, a state coup. What happened as a result? Read the statistics published by the Ukrainian statistical services: shrinking production, as if they had more than one pandemic. Some of the local industries, ones the entire Soviet Union and Ukraine itself were proud of – the aircraft industry, shipbuilding, rocket building – developed by generations of Soviet people, from all Soviet republics, a legacy Ukraine, too, could and should be proud of – are almost gone. Ukraine is being de-industrialised. It was perhaps the most industrialised Soviet republic, not just one of them. There was of course the Russian Federation, Moscow, St Petersburg, Siberia, the Urals – all right, but Ukraine still was one of the most industrialised republics. Where is all this now and why is it lost?

It was just the stupidity of those who did it, just stupidity, that is all. But I hope that these common interests will still pave the way for common sense.

You just mentioned Belarus – indeed, we have witnessed these turbulent processes there. But there is something I would like to highlight As you may have noticed, Russia did not interfere in what was happening there. And we expect no one else to interfere either. No one should be stirring up this conflict to promote their own interests and impose any decisions on the Belarusian people. I already said in my opening remarks that nothing introduced from the outside without taking into account the peculiarities, culture and history of the people will ever work for that culture, those people.

The Belarusians themselves should be given the opportunity to calmly handle their situation and make appropriate decisions. The decisions they will make could pave the way for amending the country’s Constitution or adopting a new Constitution. President Lukashenko said this publicly. True, people can say, well, he will just write something for his own benefit, this kind of constitution will have nothing to do with democracy. But, you know, it is possible to slander just about anything, and there are always sceptics. But I already said this, so I will not go into more detail.

But what happened in Belarus compares favourably with what happened on the streets of some big cities in developed democracies, do you see that? There has been some harsh action indeed, I give you that, and maybe even unjustified, but then, those who allowed it should be made responsible. But in general, if you compare and look at the pictures – in Belarus, no one shot an unarmed person in the back, that is what I mean. So let us just calmly deal with this.

The same goes for Kyrgyzstan. I think current developments there are a disaster for Kyrgyzstan and its people. Every time they have an election, they practically have a coup. What does this mean? This is not funny. It means that many of these countries are taking the first steps towards their own statehood and the culture of state development.

I have told my colleagues many times that the post-Soviet countries should be treated with special attention, and we must carefully support these new sprouts of statehood. In no case should we be pressing advice or recommendations on them, and even more so, avoid any interference, because this will destroy the fragile, nascent institutions of sovereignty and statehood in those countries. It is necessary to give these nations the opportunity to carefully build these relations within society leading by example, but not acting like an elephant in a china shop with advice and piles of money to support one or the other side.

I strongly hope that we have helped Kyrgyzstan, as a member of the CSTO and the EAEU, to get on its feet, invested hundreds of millions of dollars to support the Kyrgyz economy and various industries and to help Kyrgyzstan adapt so it can join the EAEU. This also goes for phytosanitary services, customs systems, individual sectors of the economy and enterprises. We have recently implemented projects valued at up to $500 million. I am not even talking about grants that we provide annually in the amount of tens of millions of dollars.

Of course, we cannot look at what is happening there without pity and concern. Please note that we are not pressing our advice or instructions on them. We are not supporting any particular political forces there. I strongly hope that things in Kyrgyzstan will get back to normal, and that Kyrgyzstan will get on the path to progress and we will maintain excellent relations with them.

The same goes for Moldova. We can see the developments related to Moldova, and we know the Moldovan people’s needs for promoting democracy and economy. But who is buying Moldovan wine? Will France buy Moldovan wine? Who needs it in the European markets? They have more than enough of their own. When they ship wine from country to country, even within the European Union, the farmers dump it into ditches just to get rid of the cargo.

This is not just about wine. Other sectors of the economy are so closely tied to Russia that they simply cannot exist without it, at least for now. They can only sell their products in Russia. This is exactly what happened to Ukraine. Therefore, we hope that during the next election in Moldova, the Moldovan people will appreciate the efforts that the current President of the republic is undertaking to build good relations with Russia.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you very much.

Hans-Joachim Spanger has joined us from Frankfurt.

Hans-Joachim Spanger: Mr President,

Allow me to turn to an issue which is connected with a person whose name reportedly is not really used in the Kremlin, at least not in public – Alexei Navalny.

A renowned Russian scholar, Dmitry Trenin, the director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, recently stated, let me quote: “The poisoning of the opposition activist Alexei Navalny has become a turning point in Russo-German relations.” And this, according to him, essentially means that, another quote, “this special role performed by Germany and its Chancellor in recent years is now a thing of the past. From now on, Germany will have the same attitude to Russia as all the other countries in Western Europe.”

My question is whether you share this view that a) there was such a special role of Germany in bilateral German-Russian relations, and b) whether you also detect such a turning point now, and if so, what Russia can do to avoid it happening, or, conversely, to turn the turning point around again? Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: I will start with the first part of your question, about the poisonings. First, we have heard about poisonings here and there many times. It is not the first time.

Second, if the authorities had wanted to poison the person you mentioned or to poison anybody, it is very unlikely they would have sent him for medical treatment to Germany. Don’t you think so? As soon as this person’s wife contacted me, I immediately instructed the Prosecutor General’s Office to see if it was possible to allow him to travel abroad for medical treatment. They could have prohibited it because he was under restrictions due to an investigation and a criminal case. He was under travel restrictions. I immediately asked the Prosecutor General’s Office to allow that. And he was taken to Germany.

Then we were told that they found traces of this infamous Novichok that is known around the world. I said, “Please give us the materials.” Primarily, the biological material and the official report so that we can do more research that can give us official and formal legal grounds for initiating criminal proceedings. What was unusual about this request? Our Prosecutor General’s Office, in keeping with the agreements we have with Germany, has repeatedly forwarded official requests for these materials. Is this unusual? In addition, in a conversation with a European leader, I suggested that our specialists go to Germany and together with French, German and Swedish experts work on site to obtain the necessary materials, which we could use to initiate criminal proceedings and, should this incident prove to be a crime, investigate it. But they would not give us anything. How can you explain why? There is no explanation, there is just no explanation. This all looks strange.

Well, they said that they had found traces of Novichok. Later they passed whatever they had on to the OPCW – the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Then quite unexpectedly, they said, it is not Novichok – it is something else. So, is it Novichok or not? This has cast doubt on what was said before. Well, let us investigate the incident together. I say, as I have said several times, that if this is really true, we will definitely conduct an investigation. Unfortunately, there have been attempts on the lives of public figures and businessmen in our country. These cases were investigated in Russia, the culprits were found and punished and, what is important, all of them were punished. We are prepared to spare no effort in this case as well.

As for specific individuals, we have quite a few people like Saakashvili, but I do not think that currently these people have influence to speak of… They may also change, why not? They may undergo some transformation – which, in principle, is not bad – and will also get involved in realpolitik instead of making noise in the street. Take Occupy Wall Street – where is it? Where? Where is all the informal opposition in many European countries or the United States, for that matter? There are many parties there. Where are they? Two parties dominate the political stage and that is it. However, look what is going on in the streets.

This is why we are developing the Russian political system and will continue to do so, offering all political forces – seriously-minded, sincere and patriotic ones – the opportunity to work in compliance with the law.

Now, regarding Germany’s role. We have had very good relations with Germany in the post-war years. I think this was largely due to the German Democratic Republic, the GDR, which was the Soviet Union’s key and main ally in Europe, at least during the time that state existed. We have developed very good relations at the personal and political levels, and in the economic sphere. I know there are still a lot of people there now who sympathise with Russia. And we appreciate that.

Incidentally, the Soviet Union did play a decisive role in the reunification of Germany. It was indeed a decisive role. Some of your current allies, allies of Germany, in fact, objected to the unification of Germany, no matter what they said. We know this; we still have it in our archives. While the Soviet Union played this role. I personally believe that it was the right thing to do, because it was wrong to break a single whole into parts, and if the people there really want something, in Germany’s case they wanted unity, reunification, their pursuit should not be contained by force, as it will not do anyone any good. As for building relations between East and West Germany – this should be up to the Germans, of course. Has Germany played any special role, say, as a mediator between Russia and the rest of the world or Russia and the rest of Europe? I do not think so. Russia is a country that does not need intermediaries.

At the same time, we have always had very special economic, and even humanitarian ties with Germany. Why? Because Germany wanted to play a special role? Well, no, I think it had more to do with Germany’s own interests. Even now, Germany is Russia’s second largest trade partner, in gross volume. It used to be the first, by the way, but it is second to China now, as our trade with China is twice the volume it is with Germany. Nevertheless, there are more than 2,000 companies with German capital in our market. We have a fairly large volume of German investment and German businesses are interested in working in Russia. We are happy about this, because we know these are sincere people interested in expanding ties with our country. I regularly meet with representatives of German business; they are all our friends, or I would like to think so, anyway. This cooperation provides millions of jobs in the Federal Republic of Germany as well, because goods produced by German enterprises go to the Russian market; they enjoy demand here, which means jobs there.

Incidentally, many industries have been seeing a high level of cooperation in recent years. All the above are manifestations of the special nature of our relations, of a mutual interest, I would say. Mutual interest is at the heart of this relationship – not an ambition to play some special role. And this mutual interest will not go away, regardless of the current political situation, and we will maintain such relations, no matter what anyone does.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you very much.

We will stay in Europe for now.

Nathalie Tocci from Rome has joined us. Nathalie, please go ahead.

Nathalie Tocci: Thank you, Mr President, for your extremely candid remarks.

You spoke very eloquently about the importance and centrality of the state, but at the same time the importance of international cooperation, and, in particular, highlighted areas like security as well as climate, which I would associate also with energy transition.

Now, when it comes to security, perhaps a follow-up question on the Caucasus and the resumption of war between Armenia and Azerbaijan. At some point, hopefully very soon, there will be a new ceasefire. At the same time, the conflict itself won’t be resolved. Given that the current configuration of the three Minsk Group co-chairs has been unable to deliver a settlement in all these 26 years, does Russia think that this is the setup that should be reconsidered?

And then, perhaps, if I may, a question on climate change and, in particular, energy transition. Now, energy transition requires funding. The European Union, for instance, will dedicate approximately 40 percent of its next-generation new fund to the Green Deal. Now, when it comes to Russia, it is clear that, being a country that has depended quite importantly on its fossil fuel exports, stabilising energy markets is obviously going to be key for Russia in order to obtain the funds to move forward.

In your speech you highlighted the importance OPEC Plus had in that stabilisation of the market, and I think Russia itself played an extremely important role in ensuring that supplies were cut so as to stabilise prices. But at the same time, we are now in a second wave of the pandemic, and we are likely to see demand continuing to be rather sluggish. Would you expect, or would you like to see in 2021, a further cut in supplies to ensure a further stabilisation of prices?

Vladimir Putin: I will start with the first part of your question regarding the Minsk Group negotiation format and whether it should be changed. Unfortunately, Nathalie, I cannot answer your question. This is for a number of objective reasons, not because I want to emphasise Russia’s role, we all understand that Russia is where it is, nearby. These are our neighbours, and we have special relations with these countries and these peoples. The influences are very strong. I have already said that 2.4 million Armenians and about 2 million Azerbaijanis live in Russia. They wire tens of billions of dollars to support their families. But this is just one factor. I am not even mentioning many others, including the use of markets, cultural ties, and so on. That is, in our case, the situation is very different from relations between the United States and Armenia, or the United States and Azerbaijan, or even Turkey and Azerbaijan. Therefore, of course, we bear special responsibility and must be very careful in what we do.

In this context, the support of the United States, France and other members of the Minsk Group – 10 or 12 countries – matters a lot to us. There are European countries there, and Turkey as well. Do we need to change anything in this regard? I am not sure. Maybe the format could be tweaked a little, but it is imperative to find constructive and acceptable compromises for both sides.

To reiterate, for many years we have been looking for these compromises. We have proposed, believe me, very persistently, a variety of compromises, down to minute details and kilometres, to tell you the truth. All sorts of “corridors” were suggested, as well as an exchange of territories. All the things that were suggested… Unfortunately, we were unable to identify a solution, which eventually led to this tragedy. I hope these hostilities will come to an end soon. I agree with those who believe, including you, that the first thing is to immediately stop the hostilities. We, in fact, agreed to this during the meeting in Moscow. Unfortunately, we were unable to avoid this situation. We will continue to strive for this.

Now I would like to say a few words about oil and everything connected with it, the demand for oil and so on. We are working on alternative energy sources ourselves. We are one of the richest countries in hydrocarbons, oil and gas, but this does not mean at all that we should not think about the future. We are thinking about it and about solar energy and hydrogen energy. We are working on this. Moreover, we are working on this with a view to improving the current situation.

You know for sure that we have adopted a decision in line with which in 2022 we must make our 300 largest contaminators, that is, 300 major companies that are the biggest emitters of these gases, switch to the most accessible, latest technology that would minimise emissions into the atmosphere and into the environment in general of any pollutants, and reduce these emissions by 20 percent by 2024. But we understand that by dealing with these 300 companies and 12 cities where most of them are located, we will not drastically improve the situation. Our strategy in this respect is aimed at halving all anthropogenic emissions by 2030. We must move towards this goal. We have set it for ourselves and will pursue it consistently. We will work on it.

That said, I do not think it will be realistic, provided every country wants to be competitive, to abandon hydrocarbons in the near future. I believe the near future embraces several decades: 30, 40 and 50 years from now. This is simply unrealistic.

Therefore, when we hear about European novelties on hydrocarbons and relevant restrictions, I do not know on what basis these proposals, conclusions and decisions are made. Are they explained by domestic political struggle? Later they are followed by restrictions in international trade and cooperation, right? I do not think this will lead to anything good. It is necessary to achieve a result in this respect not through restrictions but through cooperation and a striving to reach common goals.

We have done what we ought to do under the Kyoto agreement. We have fulfilled everything we did. We are active participants in the Paris agreement and intend to do all this. We are not shutting down from it. On the contrary, we think this is the way to go.

I spoke in my opening remarks about the speed at which permafrost is disappearing and the consequences this may have for all humankind. And what about us? We have a lot of transport systems in this zone: oil and gas pipelines and railways. Our residential districts and whole cities are located on this territory. This is a huge problem for us, and that is why we are willing to work and will work, both ourselves and at the international level, for a clean environment and a reduction in anthropogenic emissions. That said, it is impossible to do without hydrocarbons.

But there is also natural gas as a hydrocarbon source. It is actually the cleanest of hydrocarbons. And what about nuclear energy? Despite what anyone says or the scare tactics around nuclear power and nuclear power stations, it is one of the cleanest kinds of energy. So what are we talking about? Take automobiles, what is the primary energy source there? Even now, Europe and the entire world still use coal to produce electricity. Yes, coal’s share is falling but it is still used.

Why should any fiscal constraints be placed on using natural gas and even diesel fuel? By the way, it can be made to be extremely clean with modern purification and usage standards. So what is the point? To give competitive advantages to certain sectors of the economy in this or that country, with politicians standing behind it. That is the only way I can explain it, not as a simple desire to improve the environment. Nevertheless, I hope sound decisions will be taken here and we will be able to find a proper balance between environmental and economic interests.

As for the demand for oil and work within OPEC+, we maintain contacts with all our partners – both the Americans and the Saudis. We do so regularly at the ministerial level. Literally just the other day I spoke to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, we consult with one another. We believe there is no need to change anything in our agreements as of yet. We will be closely tracking the recovery of the market. You said it was sluggish. It was but is recovering, I will note, it is growing.

The world economy did indeed contract due to the pandemic but consumption is on the rise. That has something to do with our decisions as part of OPEC+. We are of the opinion that nothing needs to change right now. However, we are not ruling out either maintaining existing production limits or not lifting them as soon as we had intended earlier. And if necessary, we will make further reductions. But currently we do not see the need. We have agreed with all our partners that we will closely monitor the situation.

Russia is not interested in higher or lower prices necessarily. Here, our interests overlap with those of our US partners, perhaps primarily with them, because if oil prices drop significantly, shale production will experience great difficulties, to put it mildly. However, although it did not join the OPEC+ deal in a meaningful way, the United States has, in fact, reduced output.

So, almost all market participants, all players have close or overlapping interests, as diplomats say. We will proceed based on the actual situation so as not to make a negative impact on the market. As you are aware, it is important not to impact geological exploration and the preparation of new wells. If we treat the energy sector like a stepchild and keep saying it is not good enough and does nothing but pollute, investment will dry up, and prices will skyrocket.

That is why it is necessary to act responsibly and not politicise this issue or chatter idly, especially for those who know nothing about it, but to act based on the interests of the global economy and their own countries’ interests and find a compromise between protecting nature and growing the economy, so our people can earn enough to support themselves and their families. We will succeed only if we manage to balance these interests. Anything less will lead to ruin.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Mr President, we at the Valdai Club have the pleasure to meet with you regularly and so we have a basis for comparison. If I may say so, I think you have learned something from the pandemic. You sound at peace when you talk about it. I have to ask. You speak so well of Europe, but does it bother you that you are considered almost a murderer there, that those closest to you in government are sanctioned and you are always called on to justify something? And yet I can hear absolution in what you say.

Vladimir Putin: You know, there is little that bothers me, because to a certain extent, when I carry out my official duties, I become the function of protecting the interests of the Russian people and the Russian state. Everything else I try to shut out, so that it does not interfere with the performance of this function. I have had a long time to get used to these attacks, since 2000, when we fought international terrorists in the Caucasus. I heard and saw everything. They portrayed me with fangs and in every other way imaginable. So, it has no effect on me.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

Let us jump to the other side. Zhao Huasheng, Shanghai.

Zhao Huasheng: Good afternoon, Mr President.

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.

Zhao Huasheng: Thank you very much for this great opportunity.

This year’s theme at this Valdai Club session is The Lessons of the Pandemic and the New Agenda: How to Turn a World Crisis into an Opportunity for the World. I will paraphrase this: how can we turn a world crisis into an opportunity for Sino-Russian relations?

The world is rapidly changing now. Given these conditions, how do you think Sino-Russian relations should develop? I am referring to political and economic ties and regional and international cooperation. What new approaches can be expected? Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: I would give a very brief answer to the question on how to further develop Sino-Russian relations: the same way we have been doing it and are doing it now. Russian-Chinese relations have reached an unprecedented level.

I am not even mentioning the term “specially privileged” relations, etc. What matters is not the name but the quality of these ties. As for the quality, we treat each other with deep trust; we have established durable, stable, and most importantly, effective ties across the board.

My friend – and I have every reason to call him a friend –President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping and I continuously consult each other on what and how things need to be done based on what has already been achieved, but we always find a way to move forward.

You know that we are working together in aviation and nuclear power engineering, as I have just mentioned, and further developing trade ties. Last year, our trade was over 111 billion. This is far from the highest figure that we can achieve. We will certainly achieve more.

We are developing infrastructure, building bridges that unite us in the literal meaning of the word. We are developing humanitarian ties and seeking implementation rather than simply planning large projects in the areas where we supplement each other effectively, including energy.

China is a big shareholder in a number of large Russian projects on gas production, and later, on liquefaction (LNG). Where are these projects carried out? Not on the border with China but in the north of the Russian Federation. We work together in a variety of other areas. And, as we have said many times, there is no doubt that international cooperation is a very important factor in stabilising world affairs; this is absolutely obvious.

To say nothing of our military and defence industry cooperation. We have traditionally maintained relations in this area on a significant scale. I am not only talking about buying and selling, I also mean the sharing of technologies. We hope to maintain this working relationship with our Chinese friends – a friendly relationship based on mutual respect, oriented toward achieving the best results for the people of both China and Russia.

As for Shanghai, it happens to be a sister city of St Petersburg, where I am from. I have been to Shanghai on more than one occasion. It is a magnificent and beautiful city, and I wish the people of Shanghai all the best.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

Here is a follow-up question from China to clarify a bit what you just said. Professor Yan Xuetong wants to ask you a very simple and straightforward question: Is it possible to conceive of a military alliance between China and Russia?

Vladimir Putin: It is possible to imagine anything. We have always believed that our relations have reached such a level of cooperation and trust that it is not necessary, but it is certainly imaginable, in theory.

We hold regular joint military exercises – at sea and on land in both China and the Russian Federation – and we share best practices in the build-up of the armed forces. We have achieved a high level of cooperation in the defence industry – I am not only talking about the exchange or the purchase and sale of military products, but the sharing of technologies, which is perhaps most important.

There are also very sensitive issues here. I will not speak publicly about them now, but our Chinese friends are aware of them. Undoubtedly, cooperation between Russia and China is boosting the defence potential of the Chinese People’s Army, which is in the interests of Russia as well as China. Time will tell how it will progress from here. So far, we have not set that goal for ourselves. But, in principle, we are not going to rule it out, either. So, we will see.

Anyway, we are satisfied with the current state of relations between Russia and China in this area. Unfortunately, we have to confront new threats. For example, the intention stated by our American partners to possibly deploy medium- and short-range missiles in the Asia-Pacific Region, of course, raises alarm, and we undoubtedly will have to take reciprocal steps – this fact is self-evident.

Of course, before it comes to that, we have to see what if anything is going to happen, what threats it will pose to us, and, depending on that, we will take reciprocal measures to ensure our security.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

Piotr Dutkiewicz from Canada, please.

Piotr Dutkiewicz: Mr President, thank you so much for this unique opportunity to talk to you.

You mentioned in your speech that the youth will have to push the future of Russia, the development of Russia forward. But young people are very unhappy with the world. Look at what is happening in the US, France and Israel. They are saying we have shut the door to a good future for them. According to international opinion polls, over half of young people think they will live worse than their parents do. But they are not impressed by any of this. So, I would like to ask you as the President of the Russian Federation, what you can advise and offer to Russian youth?

Vladimir Putin: I touched on this in my opening remarks, but I can say it again. Of course, the future belongs to the youth, This is the first thing.

Second, young people are usually discontent not with what is happening but with what they have achieved for today, and they want more. And this is right, this is what underlies progress. This is a foundation for the young people to create a better future than the one we have built. And there is nothing surprising or new in this idea. We can understand this from classic Russian literature. Read Fathers and Sons, it is all there.

But what can we offer? We believe we will give young people more opportunities for professional growth and create more social lifts for them. We are building up these instruments and creating conditions for people to receive a good education, make a career, start a family and receive enough income for a young family.

We are drafting an increasing number of measures to support young families. Let me emphasise that even during the pandemic, most of our support measures were designed for families with children. What are these families? They are young people for the most part.

We will continue doing this in the hope that young people will use their best traits – their daring striving to move ahead without looking back at formalities that probably make older generations more reserved – for positive, creative endeavours. Eventually, the younger generation will take the baton from the older generation and continue this relay race, and make Russia stronger.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

We have an unusual connection with Australia today. I do not remember anything like this before.

Anton Roux, Please, go ahead.

Anton Roux: Thank you, Mr President, for the opportunity to ask you a question. I really appreciated your insightful, heartfelt and considered remarks during your speech; and I come to you from our second state lockdown in Melbourne, Australia, which is also a sister city to St Petersburg. I embrace also your urging to cast aside silo mentalities.

My question is the following: How do you want to be remembered? What do you want your legacy to be as a world leader and the President of the Russian Federation during the first half of the 21st century? How would you like international historians across the world to write about you and your legacy as a leader, a man and a human being at the end of the 21st century? And how might you shape this any differently during the next phase of your leadership as President of the Russian Federation?

Vladimir Putin: If the translation is correct, you said “who lived in the 21st century.” But, thank God, we are alive and keep living in the 21st century. To be honest, I never think in terms of the areas you mentioned. I do not think about my role in history; those who are interested can decide. I never read a single book about myself.

I just keep working day in, day out, trying to resolve current issues and looking into the future so that these current issues do not stand in the way of achieving our strategic goals. It is, in fact, routine work. I proceed from what I must accomplish today, tomorrow, this year, or in three years given that we plan the budget of the Russian Federation three years in advance.

Of course, as I have said, we do consider strategic goals; this is why we have drafted and continue pursuing national development plans and national projects. But this totally unrelated to any desire to mark my place in history in some way. It is related to something completely different – ensuring the interests of the Russian people, the Russian state, strengthening Russia.

How I will be seen by future generations, I would rather leave to them and their judgment. But then, I do not think I would be interested in these judgments when they are made. In this sense I am a pragmatic person, and I am trying to work not for my image as a world leader, and I do not think I am one (I do not think I am any different from my colleagues – the heads of other states), I work to strengthen my country. This my priority and the meaning of my life.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you. I remember your interview a few months ago, ahead of the constitution referendum, when you openly said that an opportunity to remain in office after 24 years is a guarantee against bureaucratic intrigue, the people around you, so they would not look around in search of a successor.

But if this is true, it is an endless circle; they will always be searching, even while you remain in office.

Vladimir Putin: No, it must definitely end one day, I am perfectly aware of that. And the changes in the Constitution you mentioned are aimed not only at granting the incumbent head of state the right to be elected in 2024 and later, but these amendments are basically aimed at reinforcing the sovereignty of the Russian Federation, outlining our development prospects and building up the fundamental constitutional foundation for progress in the economy, the social sphere and enhancing our sovereignty.

I expect it will all work.

As to what will happen in 2024 or later – we will see when the times comes. Now we all just have to work hard like St Francis, everyone at his or her place.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

Alexander Rahr, please.

Alexander Rahr: Mr President, my question is about nostalgia as well. I remember your historical speech at the German Bundestag 20 years ago, where you actually proposed building a common space from Lisbon to Vladivostok. Do you regret that?

Here is my point. The French and the Germans supported the idea. The Eastern Europeans did not. America will not, either. Actually, that keeps us from building our relations with Russia, which, I think, many Europeans would like.

If you had the opportunity to address the Bundestag again, would you also propose working together in the digital sphere or, perhaps, the environment, which would unite Europe and Russia in terms of energy? I think this is a promising idea for the future.

Vladimir Putin: Regarding what I would say if I were speaking there now, here is what happened back then.

At that time (it was 2007, correct?), many of my colleagues told me it was a bit harsh and it was not very good.

What did I actually say? I will refresh your memory. I said it is unacceptable for one country to extend its law beyond its national borders and try to subject other states to its regulations. Something along these lines.

What is happening now? Is it not Western European leaders who are saying that secondary sanctions and extending US jurisdiction to European companies are unacceptable?

If only they had enough guts to listen to what I said back then and to try to at least change the situation, do it carefully, without destroying Atlantic solidarity or the structural arrangement in NATO or elsewhere. I was not talking about that, but about the fact that it is unacceptable and bad for everyone, including those who do this.

Back then, our European partners seemed not to care and everyone looked the other way. Here again, what happened then is happening now. I am saying that this is still bad for everyone, including those who are pursuing or trying to pursue a policy of exceptionalism, because this actually destroys relations and interaction between Europe and the United States, and ultimately causes damage to the United States itself. Why do this?

This fleeting tactical gain that the United States is seeking may lead to negative strategic consequences and the destruction of trust. This is not my business, but since we are having an exchange at the discussion club, I will go ahead and philosophise. This is an absolutely obvious thing.

So, I did not say anything unusual, harmful or aggressive in Munich in 2007. But if I were to speak there now, I would not, of course, say I told you so. I would not do that just out of respect for my colleagues. I am fully aware of the realities back then and today. We do not live in a vacuum, but in real life conditions, our relationships are real and our interdependence is strong.

We understand everything perfectly well, but we need to change things. We are talking about a new world order, so these realities must be taken into account when building modern international relations, which must, of course, be based on consideration for each other’s interests and mutual respect, and respect for sovereignty.

I hope we can build our relations carefully and calmly, without destroying what has been created over previous decades, but while taking into account today’s needs. These relations will meet present requirements and the interests of all participants in international communication.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Alexei Yekaikin. Since we have talked a lot about ecology today, we cannot go without this.

Vladimir Putin: What time is it?

Fyodor Lukyanov: Yes, we are finishing up, Mr President. We feel we have already exceeded our time, but we cannot do without ecology in the end.

Vladimir Putin: No, we cannot. I agree.

Alexei Yekaikin: Thank you, Fyodor.

Good evening, Mr President.

Maybe, this question will seem a bit surprising to you although we have met several times over the years and talked about this. I would like to raise it again. It is about the Antarctic. We spoke about this at the climate session and, in general, this is an anniversary year for us – 200 years since the discovery of the Antarctic.

This is what my question is about. Russia has adopted or is adopting a strategy for developing activities in the Antarctic. A new Vostok station is under construction in the Central Antarctic as part of this strategy. You know this.

It would seem that everything is fine, investment in the infrastructure and the like. So, you may get the impression that we are doing well in the Antarctic. Alas, this is not the case, because the policy is about infrastructure but does not say a word about science. This is a fairly paradoxical situation. I would call it strange because we invest in the infrastructure whereas the main goal for which we need it, that is, science, remains somewhere backstage.

At our Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute, we have prepared a draft federal programme for studying the area around the Vostok station for the next 15 years. It has been drafted in detail. It consists of two main themes. The first is the study of the past climate based on ice core data, and this study is very closely connected with the climate theme. Yes, this is drilling the ice, that is right.

The second theme concerns the subglacial lake Vostok. You also know about this. It is one of the most unique phenomena on the planet.

These are two subjects in which we, Russian scientists, are generally strong; we are not trying catch up with anyone in this respect. We are at the proper level and even ahead of some of our colleagues. Nonetheless, there is no government support for research in the Antarctic. I find this strange.

We sent this draft programme to the Ministry of Natural Resources, our relevant ministry. I do not know where exactly it is now. We do not know what happened to it. My question is very simple: does the Russian Government have the opportunity to support our efforts to study the Antarctic or will this topic go down the drain?

After all, it would be a pity to lose our priority in this area.

Thank you very much.

Vladimir Putin: Alexei, first of all, the fact that your colleagues and you made it to Lake Vostok and made this discovery, got to this water that is thousands of years old and that was not connected in any way with the world, remaining under the ice, this, of course, is of great interest to people like you, researchers, who study what eventually became the Earth and how the climate was changing.

I saw this; they brought me the core samples and the water. It is exciting. However, the fact that the infrastructure is being created means that preparations for research are underway. I do not know the plans regarding the allocation of funds for these purposes. You said that money was allocated for the infrastructure, but not scientific research. I doubt this is a lot of money. If the Ministry of Natural Resources …unfortunately, budget cuts are underway, which are caused by certain economic difficulties.

I am not sure if it was necessary to cut the already small expenses associated with Antarctic research. I promise I will look into it. We will punish anyone who made a mistake.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Mr President, you mentioned in your speech that you do not miss the Cold War. Do you miss anything at all?

Vladimir Putin: My children, I rarely see them.

Fyodor Lukyanov: We at the Valdai Club miss the opportunity to get together in person. With all the great advances in technology that allow us to hold almost complete meetings, we would still very much like to talk in person to you and each other next year.

We have not broken the record; there was a forum where the President spent more time with us, but we are close. We talked with the President of the Russian Federation for almost three hours, for which we are sincerely grateful.

Thank you very much. We will try to quickly get back to our normal schedule, and we look forward to seeing you next year.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much for hosting this.

I want to address all members of the Valdai Club, the analysts, politicians and journalists who work with this entity. It is an entity, because it has been operational for many years now. I hope you find it interesting and useful.

I am grateful to you for showing interest in Russia, in our development plans, in us today and in our history. This means that you are engaged, and it is important for us to know your opinion.

I am saying this sincerely, because by comparing what we are doing, by comparing our own assessments of our progress and our economic and political plans, comparing them with your ideas about what is good and what is bad, we find the best solutions and can adjust our plans.

I want to thank you for this and to wish you every success. I also hope for a personal meeting next time.

Good luck to you. Thank you very much.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you very much. Good-bye.

Vladimir Putin: Good-bye.

The United Nations and the Neglected Conflict of Kashmir

By Ghulam Nabi Fai

Source

Washington D.C, October 08 (KMS): The principle of ‘right of self-determination’ and its applicability to the 72-year-old Kashmir conflict needs to be considered during the 75th session of the Fourth Committee of the United Nations General Assembly that is taking place between October 08 to November 10, 2020 at its headquarters in New York. The committee will discuss and deliberate the issues related to international conflicts and decolonization. What I do hope to offer is an unstarry-eyed view of the fate of self-determination in Kashmir; and, the indispensability of convincing the United Nations that international peace and security would be strengthened, not weakened, by resolving the Kashmir conflict to the satisfaction of all parties concerned.

The self-determination of peoples is a basic principle of the United Nations Charter, which has been reaffirmed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and applied countless times to the settlement of international disputes.

The concept seems to be as old as government itself and was the basis of French and American revolutions. In 1916, President Wilson stated that self-determination is not a mere phrase. He said that it is an imperative principle of action and included it in the famous 14-point charter. This gave a prominence to the principle. Self-determination as conceived by Wilson was an imprecise amalgamation of several strands of thought, some long associated in his mind with the notion of “self-determination”, others hatched as a result or wartime developments, but all imbued with a general spirit of democracy.

Self-determination is a principle that has been developed in philosophic thought and practice for the last several hundred years. It is an idea that has caused people throughout the world to rise up and shed the chains of oppressive governments at great risk.

Finally, in 1945 the establishment of the UN gave a new dimension to the principle of self-determination. It was made one of the objectives, which the UN would seek to achieve, along with equal rights of all nations. Article 1.2 of the Charter of the United Nations reads: “To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples.”

From 1952 onwards, the General Assembly of the UN adopted a series of resolutions proclaiming the right to self-determination. The two most important of these are resolution 1514 of 14 December 1960 and resolution 2625 of 24 October 1970. Resolution 1514 was seen almost exclusively as part of process of decolonization. 1514 is entitled: Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.

International Court of Justice considered the several resolutions on decolonization process and noted: “The subsequent development of International Law in regard to non-self governing territories as enshrined in the Charter of the UN made the principle of self-determination applicable to all of them.” This opinion establishes the self-determination as the basic principle for the process of decolonization.

The principle of self-determination in modern times can be defined as the right of peoples to determine their own political status and pursue their own economic, social and cultural policies. Self-determination in its literal meaning or at a terminological level also implies the right [of a people] to express itself to organize in whatever way it wants. A people must be free to express their will without interference or threat of interference from a controlling authority. This includes alien domination, foreign occupation and colonial rule.

Although, the applicability of the principle of the self-determination to the specific case of Jammu and Kashmir has been explicitly recognized by the United Nations, it was upheld equally by India and Pakistan when the Kashmir dispute was brought before the Security Council. Since, on the establishment of India and Pakistan as sovereign states, Jammu and Kashmir was not part of the territory of either, the two countries entered into an agreement to allow its people to exercise their right to self-determination under impartial auspices and in conditions free from coercion from either side. The agreement is embodied in the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, explicitly accepted by both governments. It is binding on both governments and no allegation of non-performance of any of its provisions by either side can render it inoperative.

It is apparent from the record of the Security Council that India articulated the principle, accepted the practical shape the Security Council gave to it and freely participated in negotiations regarding the modalities involved. However, when developments inside Jammu & Kashmir made it doubt its chances of winning the plebiscite, it changed its stand and pleaded that it was no longer bound by the agreement. Of course, it deployed ample arguments to justify the somersault. But even though the arguments were of a legal or quasi-legal nature, it rejected a reference to the World Court to pronounce on their merits. This is how the dispute became frozen with calamitous consequences for Kashmir most of all, with heavy cost for Pakistan and with none too happy results for India itself.

By all customary moral and legal yardsticks, 23 million Kashmiris from both sides of the Ceasefire Line (CFL) enjoy a right to self-determination. Kashmir’s legal history entitles it to self-determination from Indian domination every bit as much as Eritrea’s historical independence entitled it to self-determination from Ethiopian domination.

India’s gruesome human rights violations in Kashmir also militate in favor of self-determination every bit as much as Yugoslavia’s human rights violations and ethnic cleansing created a right to self-determination in Bosnia and Kosovo. Kashmir’s history of social and religious tranquility further bolsters its claim to self-determination every bit as much as East Timor’s history of domestic peace before Indonesia’s annexation in 1975 entitled it to self-determination in 1999.

If law and morality are overwhelmingly on the side of Kashmiri self-determination, then why has that quest been thwarted for 72 years? The answer is self-evident: the military might of India. India is too militarily powerful, including a nuclear arsenal, and too economically mesmerizing to expect the United States, the United Nations, NATO, or the European Union to intervene. The United States is reluctant to exert moral suasion or pressure to prod India because it covets more India’s alluring economic markets and collaboration in fighting global terrorism. Further, the size and wealth of the Indian lobby in the United States dwarfs the corresponding lobbies supporting Kashmir.

The world powers need to understand that there is no way the dispute can be settled once and for all except in harmony with the people’s will, and there is no way the people’s will can be ascertained except through an impartial vote. Secondly, there are no insuperable obstacles to the setting up of a plebiscite administration in Kashmir under the aegis of the United Nations. The world organization has proved its ability, even in the most forbidding circumstances, to institute an electoral process under its supervision and control and with the help of a neutral peace-keeping force. The striking example of this is Namibia, which was peacefully brought to independence after seven decades of occupation and control by South Africa; East Timor and Southern Sudan, which got independence only through the intervention of the United Nations. Thirdly, as Sir Owen Dixon, the United Nations Representative, envisaged seven decades ago, the plebiscite can be so regionalized that none of the different zones of the state will be forced to accept an outcome contrary to its wishes.

In conclusion, a sincere and serious effort towards a just settlement of the Kashmir dispute must squarely deal with the realities of the situation and fully respond to the people’s rights involved in it. Indeed, any process that ignores the wishes of the people of Kashmir and is designed to sidetrack the United Nations will not only prove to be an exercise in futility but can also cause incalculable human and political damage.

Western Anger as China, Russia Elected to UN Human Rights Council and Saudi Arabia Rejected

By Alan Macleod

Source

The rejection of Saudi Arabia, the only country that did not receive the required number of votes from UN member states, has been seen as a repudiation of the Kingdom’s decreasing international support.

In a secret ballot at the United Nations yesterday, Saudi Arabia was rejected for a position on the body’s 47-country Human Rights Council (HRC). The only country that did not receive the required number of votes from member states, the failure has been seen as a repudiation of the Kingdom’s abysmal human rights record and its decreasing international support.

15 positions were filled yesterday, although most of them were pre-selected. Only the Asia-Pacific region faced an open vote from UN member states. Pakistan received 169 “yes” votes out of a possible 193, Uzbekistan 164, Nepal 150, and China 139. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, received just 90.

Saudi Arabia’s allies in the West had actually been campaigning to halt the election of states that draw Washington’s ire, including China, Russia, and Cuba, trying to organize opposition against those nations, but were ultimately unsuccessful. China received 41 fewer votes than it did in 2016, amid increased global concern over the alleged treatment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang Province, but ultimately comfortably surpassed the 50 percent threshold for admission.

U.N. Watch, a western NGO that has a history of attacking Washington’s enemies and has condemned the UN for its supposed antisemitic bias over its criticism of Israeli human rights abuses, claimed that “electing these dictatorships as UN judges on human rights is like making a gang of arsonists into the fire brigade.”

The reaction from the U.S. government, which left the HRC in 2018 over its perceived bias against Israel, was similarly angry. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo released a statement claiming that the election of countries like China, Russia, Cuba (and Venezuela in 2019) has shown that the institution is now broken beyond repair.https://cdn.iframe.ly/qY2oDPd?iframe=card-small&v=1&app=1

“The United States’ commitment to human rights consists of far more than just words,” Pompeo said, as he boasted of employing sanctions against all those nations. “Our commitments are spelled out clearly in the UN’s Declaration, and in our record of action. The United States is a force for good in the world, and always will be,” he added. Yet earlier this year Pompeo himself said that the U.S. should abandon most of the rights enshrined in the UN Declaration and focus only on property rights and religious freedoms.

The spin war

Much of the media today has been in a furor that the “world’s worst abusers” (The Times) like China, Russia, and Cuba are set to join or rejoin the council. The Guardian suggested that the institution’s credibility is at stake. Yet in the talk of human rights violators joining the council, the election of other states with questionable records was never discussed. Bolivia, whose murderous far-right government came to power in a U.S.-backed military coup in November, was also elected, but with no fanfare or condemnation. As was Cameroon, whose dictatorial head of state Paul Biya has been in charge of the country since Gerald Ford was president of the United States. Other states with contentious records included were Narendra Modi’s India, Rodrigo Duterte’s Philippines, and the Qatari dictatorship.

Both the Guardian, left, and the Times, right, failed to report on other human rights violators being elected to the council

Saudi Arabia was elected twice to the HRC between 2014-2016 and 2017-2019. Its new failure to secure more than 90 votes is a sign of increasing discontent with its policies in Yemen, declared the world’s worst humanitarian disaster by the United Nations, where 24 million people (80 percent of the country) need some form of humanitarian assistance. Yet under pressure from the U.S. government, aid has been cut to just 25 cents per person, per day. The kingdom has played a key role in stymying any international action to deal with the humanitarian catastrophe, using its position at the HRC to block UN inquiries into its own abuses in Yemen.

Internally, the country is often described as the most repressive regime on the planet, with millions of people suffering under slave-like conditions, according to Human Rights Watch. While on the council, it attempted to block a resolution that condemned the use of torture by law enforcement and reaffirms the human rights of LGBT people. Inside Saudi Arabia, homosexuality is still punishable with the death penalty.

Ultimately, while yesterday’s election is the sign of a slightly more multipolar world, the results are unlikely to seriously change the direction of the organization, with the United Nations constantly blocked from taking action unless all of the world’s superpowers allow it.

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