The New American Leadership: Biden Tells the World What He Wants It to Know

October 14, 2021

By Philip Giraldi

Source

It is sometimes difficult to absorb how much the United States has changed in the past twenty years, and not for the better. When I was in grade school in the 1950s there was a favorite somewhat simplistic saying much employed by teachers to illustrate the success of the American way of life that prevailed at that time. It went “What’s good for General Motors is good for America” and it meant that the U.S. version of a robust and assertive capitalist economy generated opportunity and prosperity for the entire nation. Today, having witnessed the devastation and offshoring of the domestic manufacturing economy by those very same corporate managers, such an expression would be rightly sneered at and considered risible.

Currently the politically motivated expressions of national greatness tend to honor America’s quality rather than the jobs and prosperity that it is able to generate. Presidents speak of the country’s “Exceptionalism,” as well as it being a “force for good” and “leader of the free world” with all that implies. That Americans are now in fact both poorer and less safe has generated its own national myth, that of a country beleaguered by terrorists who despise “our freedom” and which has been stabbed in the back by others, mostly in Asia, who have been engaging in unfair practices to bring America down. President Joe Biden’s gang of apologists has as well been fixated on the positive assertions that “America is back” and that the president will “build back better,” surely meaningless expressions that reflect the vacuity of the Democratic Party pre-electoral hype that Donald Trump had led the country to perdition.

President Joe Biden’s United Nations address three weeks ago was indeed largely Trump without all the bluster, threats and admonishments. He lied to the world leaders that: “I stand here today, for the first time in 20 years, with the United States not at war.” According to the latest available information, the U.S. was involved in seven wars in 2018: Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Niger. Now that Afghanistan is nominally over, the number of current American wars is six officially, though none of them are actually declared by Congress as demanded the Constitution. If one includes clandestine counter-terrorism operations the real number is certainly much higher.

Joe Biden issued a call for all nations to work together to deal with transnational and even global threats like climate change and the pandemic, promising “relentless diplomacy” from the United States with a pledge that “we will look ahead, we will lead.” The response by the audience was predictably tepid as no one asked Joe whether anyone really wanted to be led any more, most notably America’s oldest friend and ally France, which was recently stiffed on a submarine deal by the White House. There are even reports that Biden is on bad terms with Great Britain, usually a completely reliable partner in crime. It was as if the U.S. president were reading from the “General Motors” script, having forgotten to refresh himself on what happened more recently in the debacle retreat from Afghanistan, which was not mentioned at all.

But it wasn’t all sugar and spice as Biden demonstrated his required toughness, cautioning Iran and skewering those who do not “…give their people the ability to breathe free, …who seek to suffocate their people with an iron-hand authoritarianism. The authoritarians of the world, they seek to proclaim the end of the age of democracy, but they’re wrong.” He was speaking, somewhat gratuitously, about Russia and China while also failing to mention the chaos on the U.S. southern border, demonstrating once again that everything is susceptible to change, but not in Washington.

To be sure, perhaps the most interesting aspect of the speech was the complete lack of self-awareness that the world has moved on without the United States, which has been locked into a certain foreign policy mindset since 9/11. In the past two decades Washington has invaded and brought about regime change in Afghanistan and Iraq, and has attempted to do the same unsuccessfully in Syria. It has openly intervened in the electoral process in Ukraine, which brought about a change of government that also generated a major crisis with Russia. It joined together with European allies to overthrow the Libyan government, reducing that stable and prosperous country into what is currently little better than a gangster and terrorist stronghold. It has more recently been seeking to undermine the elected government in Venezuela and has worked assiduously to wreck that country’s economy. It has interfered in Cuba, Bolivia and Ecuador and has dealt out devastating economic sanctions on adversaries like Iran.

It should be noted that all those initiatives, which Joe Biden might describe as “leadership,” took place under both Democratic and Republican Administrations, suggesting that if there is consensus in Washington it likely can be found in the willingness to wreck other nations. And Joe denounces “authoritarian” regimes without recognizing that many Americans have observed how the United States is itself becoming a model totalitarian state, irrationally obsessed with war while also having a health care system that has been ranked as one of the worst in the developed world. Witness the Patriot Act and the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, which have empowered any president to go to war without being endangered by a foreign threat. And then there is the Military Commissions Act which permits the indefinite imprisonment of terror and other suspects without having to charge anyone with a crime. And what about the prisoners still held without trial at Guantanamo after twenty years, or the Obama initiated policy of assassinating U.S. citizens overseas using drones? Or using drones to wipe out entire wedding parties while imprisoning the whistleblower Daniel Hale who had the temerity to reveal that 90% of the drone deaths in Afghanistan were of innocent bystanders who fit a “profile”?

And then there is the handling of the COVID-19 virus vaccination program at home, making it mandatory if people want to stay employed or in school. Or have a government job. The Biden Administration is now making health care decisions that impact directly on all Americans. Joe Biden is all for that and some in his administration are calling for mandatory booster vaccinations to include everyone who is already allegedly protected. Many Americans are resisting the government policies and there is growing dissent from the scientific and medical community over the efficacy of the vaccines, to include some legitimate concerns that they do more harm than good.

The government is also planning on looking at everyone’s bank accounts, an enormous invasion of privacy. A proposal working its way into law would require all banks to report directly to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) all relevant information on any account that has more than $600 in transactions in a year. That would mean nearly all accounts and one can combine that with continued government surveillance of the phones and emails of citizens who have not been involved in any criminal activity plus increased broadening of domestic terrorism legislation and guidelines which will turn half the population into “suspects.”

So, the myth of America trudges on with some new labels attached but otherwise pretty much the same. Many would argue that it is time for a reboot, to return to constitutionalism, small government and an end to pointless foreign wars and interventions. But to do that would pit individuals and small groups against some very powerful interests, i.e. the defense industry, big pharma, and government itself, which sees its natural role as one of growth. It is an unbalanced struggle, but it must be won if the United States of America is to survive with some basic freedoms intact into the 22nd century.

Dissenting Voices in the USA

September 10, 2021

Dissenting Voices in the USA

By Walt Garlington for The Saker Blog

Mr Robert Bridge is mostly right when he says the American impulse to dominate other countries is quite old. Mostly right, for he fails to mention that ‘America’ is not a monolithic entity that speaks with a single voice. There are, in fact, several regional cultures and subcultures with their own folkways that often clash with one another. Relationships with foreign countries is just one of many flash points that have risen between them over the years.

American exceptionalism, as he rightly sees, has its origins with the settlers of New England, who believed they were sent by God to build New Jerusalem in North America. But the Pilgrims were not the only cultural group that settled in the land area that now belongs to the United States. The Southern people, whose history begins at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607, had quite a different temperament and beliefs than the Yankees of New England. Their views of foreign policy were, accordingly, also quite different.

The well-known Farewell Address (1796) of President George Washington (a Southerner from Virginia), is a good place to begin. In it he recommends the following to those in the States:

‘Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it? . . . The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible.’

Pres Thomas Jefferson, also of Virginia, echoes these sentiments:

‘Commerce with all nations, alliance with none, should be our motto’ (letter of 1799).

‘The presumption of dictating to an independent nation the form of its government is so arrogant, so atrocious, that indignation as well as moral sentiment enlists all our partialities and prayers in favor of one [independent nations] and our equal execrations against the other [dictating to other nations]’ (letter of 1823).1

Another important Southern voice is John Randolph of Roanoke: ‘His political creed was that of a latter-day Antifederalist. “Love of peace, hatred of offensive war, jealousy of the state governments toward the general government; a dread of standing armies; a loathing of public debt, taxes, and excises; tenderness for the liberty of the citizen; jealousy, Argus-eyed jealousy, of the patronage of the President.”’

The critical moment for the United States was the so-called Civil War of 1861-1865 (more properly called the War of Northern Aggression or the War to Prevent Southern Independence, for the South was not fighting to take over Washington, D. C.; she wanted to peacefully separate form it and the Northern States and chart her own course). Here Confederate President Jefferson Davis’s statement is key: ‘The lust of empire impelled them [Yankees] to wage against their weaker neighbors [the South] a war of subjugation.’2

The dramatic change that was wrought in the Union through this horrible War – from a voluntary confederation of States to an involuntarily unified nation dominated by the Yankee ruling elite in Washington City – was admitted even by Yankees themselves. A professor at Harvard, George Ticknor, after the War was over, said, ‘It does not seem to me as if I were living in the country in which I was born.’3

From that point onward, the restraint in foreign policy advocated by many Southerners was rejected by and large for the imperial expansion desired by Northerners from Alexander Hamilton to Pres Lincoln. The prediction of General Robert E. Lee in 1866, that the US government would become ‘aggressive abroad and despotic at home’, after the old principles of decentralization and a voluntary compact of independent States were destroyed by Lincoln’s War,4 has come true.

However, with more and more voices predicting a breakup of the current American Union, due to various cultural divisions, failures abroad, and so on, it is possible that the South and the other cultural regions (Great Plains, Old Midwest, etc.) will be able to free themselves after decades of Yankee domination. Smaller confederations conducting foreign policy along the lines laid down by the Old Southern statesmen would spare the countries of the world any further violence from the current Yankee Empire.

Professor William Riker once speculated about how the 20th century would have looked if the unitary American Empire had not arisen; if, instead, North America looked more like South America, with several smaller ‘disconnected republics’ populating it:

‘“I know for certain,” writes Riker, “that the relatively smaller and weaker American nations would not have been able to participate in European wars.” An America-less First World War—or Great War, as we’d be calling it—would have ended in a German triumph, according to Riker. “There would, of course, have been no occasion for Hitler and the Second World War,” and in carving up European Russia the Germans would have unwittingly prevented the rise of Soviet communism.

‘No Constitution means no Hitler, no Stalin . . . and no American Civil War, for that matter.’5

What would the 21st century look like if the American Empire were broken up into its more natural cultural-ethnic components? What terrors could be avoided – war with China, Iran, and Russia? What good could be fostered – more restrictions on the power of Big Tech?

New England does not make up the totality of culture in the United States. There are other cultures, other voices; but they have unfortunately been silenced by the Yankees for the time being. The future of geopolitics hinges in part on whether the peoples of the South, the Midwest, the Spanish Southwest, etc., rediscover and strengthen their cultural identities, withdraw from the arrogant, heretical Yankee American Empire, and pursue a modest and peaceful foreign policy that is in keeping with their unique historical, ethnic qualities.

Notes

1 James and Walter Kennedy, Yankee Empire: Aggressive Abroad and Despotic at Home, Shotwell Publishing, Columbia, SC, 2018, p. 140.

2 Ibid., p. 342.

3 Ibid., p. 142.

4 Ibid., p. ix.

5 Bill Kauffman, Forgotten Founder, Drunken Prophet: The Life of Luther Martin, ISI Books, Wilmington, Del., 2008, p. 34.

Biden Says That America Is Back, But That Might Be A Bad Thing

By Andrew Korybko

Source

Biden Says That America Is Back, But That Might Be A Bad Thing

The world shouldn’t celebrate President Biden’s declaration that “America is back” but should tremble in fear. He doesn’t mean that it’s returning to the international community as an equal member, but that it’s doubling down on its bad habits.

US President Joe Biden thundered that “America is back” while addressing the Munich Security Conference last week via video, but his understanding of what this means might be a bad thing for the rest of the world. There were high hopes that he’d pragmatically re-engage with the international community in order to right his predecessor’s many foreign policy wrongs, but it seems from the rest of the words that he shared during his speech that he has other motivations in mind. The problem is that President Biden revealed how ideological his envisioned foreign policy is, which will inevitably contribute to further international instability in the future.

According to the American leader, the world is presently at an inflection point between democracy and what he described as “autocracy”. He said that his country’s “galvanizing mission” must therefore be to “demonstrate that democracies can still deliver for our people in this changed world” since he’s convinced that “it’s the single best way to revitalize the promise of our future.” In and of itself, that wouldn’t be an issue so long as the US focused solely on improving the state of its democracy at home, but regrettably, he wants to impose its interpretation of this governing system onto the rest of the world in a paradoxically undemocratic way.

Democracy is supposed to be about respecting differences, yet President Biden proclaimed that America will “speak out to defend [its values] around the world”, which differ from other countries’. Every state should have the right to practice their own form of democracy at home in line with their national traditions and culture without coming under pressure from abroad for this choice. Just like every person in a democracy should be able to do whatever they’d like as long as it’s peaceful, responsible, and doesn’t infringe on others’ rights, so too should every member of the international community be able to do this as well.

Unfortunately, President Biden’s ideologically driven foreign policy denies this right to China, which discredits America’s pro-democratic approach to International Relations. He proposed that “the United States, Europe, and Asia work together to secure the peace and defend our shared values and advance our prosperity across the Pacific” due to what he described as their “long-term strategic competition with China”. He also said that “We have to push back against the Chinese government’s economic abuses and coercion that undercut the foundations of the international economic system. Everyone — everyone — must play by the same rules.”

That statement is extremely hypocritical since it doesn’t align with reality. It’s the US that carries out economic abuses and pursues a policy of coercion against others which confirms it’s unwillingness to play by the same rules as everyone else. This is proven by its trade war against China and reliance on illegal sanctions as a foreign policy tool. China, by contrast, has always complied with international law and the rules of the World Trade Organization. Beijing doesn’t believe that there should be any double standards in this respect. It’s consistently advocated for America to return back to respecting international rules and norms instead of violating them.

President Biden’s messianic belief in America’s mission to impose its national interpretation of democracy onto others seems to have made him think that it’s acceptable to apply double standards towards this end. That’s the only explanation for why he’d so shamelessly lie to the rest of the world by claiming that China carries out a policy of economic abuses and coercion when that’s actually what his own country has a proven track record of doing. This observation strongly implies that the fundamental fallacy of his foreign policy is the mistaken assumption that America’s model of democracy is universal and that this thus makes the country exceptional.

That’s not true, though. America isn’t better than anyone else like the country’s conservatives claim, nor is it “the first among equals” like its liberals seem to believe. It’s simply just another member of the international community, albeit the one which is arguably the most responsible for destabilizing the world because of its dangerous belief in its own messianic mission and exceptionalism. Considering this, the world shouldn’t celebrate President Biden’s declaration that “America is back” but should tremble in fear. He doesn’t mean that it’s returning to the international community as an equal member, but that it’s doubling down on its bad habits.

If America Dissolves

January 31, 2021

By Larry Romanoff for the Saker Blog

http://www.bluemoonofshanghai.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/migrante-mother-1.jpg

This essay is an introduction to the topic of Mass Propaganda and, perhaps more importantly, to a brief series of articles detailing how the US has been for more than 100 years the most propagandised and brainwashed nation in the world. The history of this has been buried for generations, but the facts are indisputable. One of the most important elements in this tale, as we shall see, is the employment of propaganda in American war marketing.

To paraphrase Michael Lewis, “One of the qualities that distinguishes Americans from other people is their naive conviction that every foreigner wishes to be one of them, but even the most zealous Japanese patriot has no illusions that other peoples want to be Japanese”. The Americans not only believe everybody secretly wants to be like them, they believe no nation can succeed or even progress without being like them and adopting the entire American value system. It isn’t possible. There are no alternatives to the American way and, if there were alternatives, God would be displeased with them.

The elites in the US government and corporatocracy invented, and for 200 years promulgated, the concept of “manifest destiny”, a theological proposition that “merged religious delusion with boundless hypocrisy and racism” into a popular theory that God was entrusting Americans to rule the world. Reinhold Niebuhr wrote that what promised no end of grief was Americans’ arrogant conviction that “Providence has summoned America to tutor all of humankind on its pilgrimage to perfection”. (1) These ideas of American Exceptionalism and Manifest Destiny rest on a cornerstone of a pervasive political culture infused with the religious concept of a kind of covenant with God. “The packaging of wars of aggression, genocide and imperialism in the tattered camouflage of liberty with a Divinely-directed spin are old propaganda tricks which have been used to delude the US masses throughout the history of the country to the present moment.” (2) To this day, most Americans fervently believe all of their nation’s unjustified and criminal wars were conducted to “make the world safe for democracy”.

American politicians and their allies in the military, in Hollywood, in publishing, in business and banking, deliberately created and then exploited the nationalistic loyalty of a gullible and uninformed public to shape perceptions and values on a massive scale. Americans have been programmed with religion-based politics for generations, being taught to see the world as black and white, good and bad, to believe that only American virtues and values were good for mankind and would always triumph. Their fabricated historical myths taught them that they, their leaders, and their nation were moral, righteous and upright, selfless benefactors to the world, battling evil wherever it was found. Everything was distorted, based not only on misinformation but on outright deceit. America’s image of itself, and its image of the world’s nations and peoples, were tragically and shallowly twisted to create the narrative of American moral superiority.

Most American holidays other than obviously religious ones like Christmas are infused with political and religious overtones, many of them reinforcing the historical myths of the founding or development of their nation. Their false historical memories are aroused, as are their patriotic emotions and spiritual convictions, making a kind of adhesive that creates a false sense of social identity. The entire concept of American nationality is based on this perverted political religion, creating an extremely ideological national identity that is reinforced almost daily to prevent its collapse.

But it’s all they have. To be an American is not to be bound by a common race or language, nor by history, nor by culture or tradition. In all these, Americans are empty, devoid of culture and civilisation, lacking common traditions, beliefs or history. Americans have only their substandard political religion to bind them together, and there is nothing else for them, no community or belonging beyond being a member of this “team”, their political ideology being the only adhesive. Their entire American existence is founded on this false ideological narrative, the entire regime predicated on these moralistic political-religious myths and fables. If we expose and destroy the myths, forcing Americans to face the bare truths of their nation, the entire narrative collapses, and if the narrative collapses, the regime cannot stand.

Someone appropriately wrote that American patriotism may be best understood as the biggest case of mass hysteria in history. But again, it’s all they have. There is nothing else. This is all that anchors the individual lives. Their entire society, their identity, the very core of the American psyche, are all predicated on this hysterical orgy of an all-inclusive political religion. Because they have nothing else of substance as a people or a nation, this modern McCarthyism is all that prevents the collapse of the American identity. As someone pointed out, if France dissolves, the French people are still French. If America dissolves, Americans are nothing.

From all these and much more, America is an extremely ideological country with American nationalism forming a powerful fabricated jingoism resting on the twin pillars of a dysfunctional and misrepresented multi-party political system and a brutal and self-serving capitalism, all wrapped in a shroud of a dangerously primitive and sacrilegious Christianity.

Nor can Americans understand or fathom concepts of civilisation in other societies. To them, a nation’s references to culture or civilisation are just cheap excuses to avoid the inevitable, which is to become American clones, adopting American so-called values and institutions. Americans know nothing about other nations or cultures, other than their presumed vast inferiority. Few Americans have the ability or inclination to learn another language, and even fewer know anything of the history or culture of other civilisations millennia older than their own. They understand consumerism and pride themselves on their rights, using belligerence and social Darwinism (the American Dream) as a substitute for civilisation, culture and humanity.

Americans have from birth been so overwhelmed with propaganda, so steeped in their natural superiority and God-given exceptionalism that they simply cannot abide any people being different from them, and their primitive and violent Christianity dictates they either convert or kill anyone who is different. These deeply-embedded attitudes affect the entire spectrum of the human experience, exhibited in the mindless jingoism where every American attitude or belief, no matter how vacuous, is automatically converted to a universal value and human right. An American acquaintance once stated that her pet’s right to dog food was a ‘human right’ and therefore included in the definition of democracy.

Not only do Americans universalise most everything but, because of the infusion of Christianity into their political beliefs, they moralise everything, which translates into “Your way is not only different, but it’s wrong” – as in morally wrong. And this attitude, which permits them to take the high moral ground on every debatable issue, obtains from their Right-Wing Christian heritage – the belief that everything they do is “right” because God is on their side. They therefore take an unassailable (in their mind) position that whatever they do, however brutal, repulsive, inhumane or dishonest, is justified by their inherent moral righteousness stemming from God’s approval. Given the Americans’ natural belligerence, these attitudes manifest themselves in an alarming eagerness to use violence to impose their values, institutions, and their will, on all other nations.

This is partly why Americans meddle so much, and the reason for their pathological focus on other forms of government. That’s why a newspaper editorial recently pronounced about Syria, “Even if it were illegal for us to interfere, it would still be right”. So, we should overthrow a legitimate government simply because it doesn’t hold our American values – God’s values, and we can ignore man’s laws because we answer to a higher authority. The death and misery inflicted are irrelevant in this context. The American people see meddling in the affairs of other nations because “it’s the right thing to do”, and it’s the right thing because it is the will of God.

American people are nothing if not naive, gullible and simple-minded, at least in their nation’s foreign affairs. Their government always lies, and they always believe the lies. The hundreds of foreign interventions, wars, coups, invasions, have always been presented as missions to rescue less fortunate people, and Americans always cheer, apparently oblivious to the carnage and misery they inflict. US President McKinley said he was going to war in Cuba to stop “oppression at our very doors”, and they cheered. President Taft said he was overthrowing the government of Nicaragua to promote “real patriotism”, and they cheered. George Bush destroyed and enslaved Iraq to “find WMDs”, and they cheered. Obama destroyed Libya to “liberate” it, and they cheered.

An identical public response obtains with America’s state-sponsored killings and assassinations. In days past, these were darkly secret covert operations but today they are carried out openly and converted into PR events. American law has been rewritten to permit the US President to order the killing of individuals in any country without providing any evidence whatsoever to anyone, and do so without charge or trial. Just as with torture, the propaganda machine has re-defined ‘democracy, freedom and human rights’ to include these killings as part of the American political-Christian religion, certified by US Attorney-General Eric Holder flatly stating that these government killings “are not a departure from our American laws and values.”

This propaganda is effective. The same gullible simple-mindedness from generations of intense programming has created widespread public support for these murders. Bush had Saddam Hussein executed in a public hanging, and Americans cheered in the streets. Moammar Khadaffi was captured, sodomised with a huge knife, then shot in the head, and they cheered in the streets. Obama faked the killing of Osama bin Laden, and they cheered in the streets. Americans fabricate their history by creating popular myths and making even a criminal assassination a celebratory occasion for being on the winning team. Only in America will hundreds of thousands of people party in the streets on the news that their leader has just killed someone in another country that he didn’t like.

In this as in virtually all other aspects of foreign affairs, it is necessary to never forget that democracy is a coin with only one side. You will recall the situation in Iraq where the US deliberately set up Saddam Hussein on the matter of invading Kuwait, and then betrayed him. Following the “liberation” of Kuwait the US propagated allegations that Saddam had put out a hit contract on George Bush for the double-cross. No evidence was presented but if the accusation were true it would hardly be a surprise. In response, the US bombed the bejeesus out of Iraq because, according to US President Clinton, the bombing “was essential to … affirm the expectation of civilized behavior among nations.” – the bombing of innocent civilians apparently conforming to the definition of “civilised behavior”. I can kill you, but you can’t kill me. I love democracy.

Let’s return to Libya for a moment. We saw the outline of the real reasons the US government destroyed that nation and had its leader killed – it was for commercial, military, political and financial advantage but, in the shallow depths of the gullible American mind, their government overthrew a brutal dictator and liberated its people on humanitarian grounds. Listen to Hillary Clinton: “I am proud to stand here on the soil of a free Libya. The United States was proud to stand for you in your fight for freedom and we will continue to stand with you as you continue this journey. This is Libya’s moment. This is Libya’s victory and the future belongs to you.” President Obama, the great American Christian and Nobel Peace Prize winner, was equally charming, declaring Kaddafi’s death “a momentous day” and breathlessly telling the American sheep that because of Libya’s utter destruction “countless lives have been saved.” Lies of this magnitude should be punishable by hanging.

And herein lies part of the tragedy of America, and the reason the country will eventually have to implode: the enormous disconnect between the propagandised ideology of the people and the brutal reality of the thin layer of elites that run their government and military, their corporations, banks and mass media. There is no other nation whose population has such a large gap between myth and reality, between what the people believe their government has done and what it has actually done. When the people one day put the pieces together, the US will have another revolution; I don’t believe anything can prevent it. It was not for nothing that George Bush Sr. said, “If the people knew what we were doing, they would hang us in the streets”. Perhaps one day soon, they will.

*

Mr. Romanoff’s writinghas been translated into 28 languages and his articles posted on more than 150 foreign-language news and politics websites in more than 30 countries, as well as more than 100 English-language platforms. Larry Romanoff is a retired management consultant and businessman. He has held senior executive positions in international consulting firms, and owned an international import-export business. He has been a visiting professor at Shanghai’s Fudan University, presenting case studies in international affairs to senior EMBA classes. Mr. Romanoff lives in Shanghai and is currently writing a series of ten books generally related to China and the West. He is one of the contributing authors to Cynthia McKinney’s new anthology ‘When China Sneezes‘. His full archive can be seen at https://www.moonofshanghai.com/ and http://www.bluemoonofshanghai.com/

He can be contacted at: 2186604556@qq.com

Notes

(1) https://williamblum.org/aer/read/100

(2) I have lost the source of this quote.

New U.S. Foreign Policy Problems (2) International files إشكاليات السياسة الخارجية الأميركية الجديدة (2) الملفات الدولية

**Part 2 English Machine translation**Please scroll down for the Arabic version **

Part 1 Here

Click here to see the Video (deleted by You Tube)

Ziad hafiz.

Part 2:  International Files

 What external files will there be a conflict between the  interests of the interventionists and the interests of the forces that want to focus on the internal files?  The contours of foreign policy began to be clarified  after the Senate hearings of Blinken (State Department)  and Heinz (Director of National Intelligence DNI). The  bottom line is that there is little change in substance  about  Obama and Trump’s policies  except  in style and approach. We’ll show here some files, not all of them,  because of the limited space available.

At the international  level, relations with Russia and China are number one. The first signs issued by a number of figures of the President-elect’s transition team do not suggest any future solution in relations with  Russia. Let’s no forget that most of the employees in the new administration were in the Obama  administration,  which  was  anti-Russian.  The Ukrainian crisis was triggered by the Obama administration and then the Vice President, the president-elect today, which had major interventions in Ukrainian affairs,  not to mention the suspicions of corruption that accompanied it. On the other hand, let’s not forget that the entire Democratic Party, the deep state and the dominant corporate media have spent the past four years  demonising President Trump and accusing him of working for Russia. The latter is also accused of  interfering  in the 2016 election in favour of Donald Trump. Taking into account some statements by intelligence leaders supporting Biden that the Russians are lying because lying is an essential part of Russian  DNA, we see that the climate within the new administration is a tough one for Russia. This pessimism is reinforced by the fact that prospective officials  in the new administration n the second  row of foreign affairs, defence and  national security are neoconservatives such as Victoria Newland and liberal  interventionists such as Kathleen Hicks, Wendy Sherman and John Weiner as deputy national security  adviser.  All of them have close ties with the military security complex, research centres and  major    universities, as we explained in an earlier article.  What has attracted the attention of observers  is that  to  date there has been no contact between the transitional administration and the Russian leadership, although  this  is  a tradition that has spanned over the  past decades.

Multifaceted U.S. Retreat

But the fact of the matter is that U.S. competitiveness has declined in politics and the economy, and perhaps most importantly in military matters, as we have also explained in previous articles. Confronting Russia is  by  raising the human rights issue in Russia, by deploying a missile belt in neighbouring countries and by  overthrowing neighbouring regimes that are in agreement with Russia. By the way,  despite the Democratic  Party accusing U.S. President Donald Trump of working for Russia it was the U.S. president who imposed the most sanctions on Russia that his predecessor, Barack Obama, had initiated. The main strategic point of contention is the Russian gas file and its role in supplying it to the European Union, while the dispute over  Ukraine comes in the context of attempts at Atlantic expansion in Eastern Europe.  The security issue    being  waved is to cover up the main target.  There is no evidence that Russia is seeking to destabilization’s  European  security and stability, on the contrary it is seeking the best relations  and cooperation  with the EUROPEAN Union.

That’s what  Germany  understood,  but it  bowed to U.S. pressure, as former German Foreign Minister  Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in justifying his government’s acquiescence to U.S.  dictates when he made  it clear  that Germany was economically affected  by those sanctions, but that the policy had a strong errand  on the  economy. But over the past months, Germany has been able to reduce the arrogance of the United  States with regard to its economic interests with Russia and China. Germany has agreed to extend the Russian Laurel  Pipeline (“Tor  Stream 2” in its Baltic Economic Zone (every  day a kilometre of the pipeline is extended).    This was also the case with the Czech Republic to extend the “Yugal” land line, which is an extension  of “North stream  2” on the  German-Czech Saxon border. This reflects the extent of the U.S. retreat at the  European  ally and cuts the road to the pressures that the new administration could  put on it.

On The Other  Hand, on December 30, 2020, China and the European Union signed an agreement that would open the door to mutual investment, despite opposition from the United States and despite traditional human rights pretexts that were being raised against China to prevent any rapprochement with it. This is another  sign  that Western Europe has felt American weakness and is starting to think about the priority of its interests. The EU would not have taken the move without the approval of Germany and France.

Among the outstanding files between the United States and Russia are  Ukraine, particularly eastern Ukraine (Dombesk), the annexation of Crimea, the file of the Caucasus states in Georgia and Nagorno-Karabakh, and the proliferation of Atlantic weapons in the Baltic states and Poland. Recently, the United States tried to  create unrest in Belarus but failed to do so. Russia’s rapprochement with Russia is intensifying and we do not rule out the accession of Belarus to the Russian Federation, which is a resounding blow to the American administration.  Today, Belarus is mandated to confront Poland and the Baltic states on Russia’s  behalf.  In addition  to the Syrian file and the nuclear file with Iran and of course the treaties in the matter of medium-range ballistic missiles. In the context of the treaty file that the United States has emerged on the subject of  ballistic missiles, Russia is no longer committed to it.

The state of denial is in the  mind of  the ruling elites. 

“We  don’t know what the United  States  can  offer  in  all  these  files other than to back down  from its escalatory positions, which will perpetuate the decline of its influence,”he said. But  in the  current  mood  in the transitional administration, it is not ready  for  any  concession.  Since the denial of that retreat is in control of the ruling elites in the  next administration on the basis of “American exceptionalism” and”its manifest value” and in the absence of any theoretical or concrete evidence to acknowledge that retreat, what we can expect is the continued high and hostile tone in addressing Russia without translating into  confrontation on the ground.   The sanctions regime on Russia continues and began under Obama,  and the next  administration cannot lift it for free to market it in the domestic scene.   There is no creativity in thinking about the American side and the Russian side does not consider itself obliged to make concessions,  especially since there is no confidence in the commitments of the  United States. That’s why  we’re seeing  growing  indifference on the Russian side to what could come from the Biden administration as long as  the  horizon of open armed confrontation is blocked. Russia has been able to adapt to sanctions  and even turned it into a self-sufficiency opportunity freeing it from American blackmail.  Sanctions have only succeeded in increasing the isolation of the United States in the world, especially with its European allies. The elites in  Russia see as we see that the new administration will be focused on the internal files because of their seriousness  and complexity and  therefore do not consider that  they can interact permanently in  external files.

But that doesn’t mean that communicating with Russia is out of the way. If it is necessity or inventions, it is  also the mother of understandings. In  this context, the Russian President announced in a letter to the   president-elect that he hopes for friendly relations on the basis of club and mutual respect, a sign that a return  to the method of transcendence is no longer acceptable. On the other hand, the response of the secretary of  state, Anthony Blinken, was that at the height of the nuclear rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union and under the existential nuclear threat of thousands of nuclear ballistic missiles  directed against each of  the two countries, areas of cooperation in many hot files were possible. Therefore,  “opportunities for cooperation”  can be looked forward to controlling the rhythm of  tensions so as not to lead  to  confrontations  from which no one will emerge  unscathed.  Does this mean that the climate for settlements will exist?  Not necessarily, the most realistic case is that there are no major settlements, no major confrontations and everything is possible under that  roof. In  summary, it can be said that the ceiling of the  possible “understanding” with Russia does not go beyond the limits of  linking  the conflict until new balances of power are established and this will not happen in the foreseeable future, i.e. in the  mandate of the new administration.

One might ask why not settle? The simple answer is that Russia sees no justification for settling matters with a party that has always proved that it does not respect treaties. The Russian also believes that the American is in a state of structural weakness that may not survive it and therefore make concessions to a country whose fate is unknown may not be justified. On the other hand, the U.S. side believes that if the balance of power is not in its favour at the current stage, it should only adjust it to its advantage and therefore there is no need to give up anything substantial that might constitute the  board of settlement. The ruling elites of the United  States believe that it is destined to lead the world and that  its exceptionalism will enable it to do so. There is no willingness to acknowledge that the United States has entered the stage of strategic decline, even a likely internal collapse, and therefore the narrative prevailing among those elites will be  that the United States has valued the world regardless of the difficulties it is encountering at this stage.

Why not  face… I don’t think

The other question is why not face? The answer here is that both sides are well aware that confrontation  ultimately means the end of the globe in limited minutes!  The next war will not  be as long as it did in the two world  wars, not even in  regional wars.  It will be related to the duration of ballistic missiles reaching their targets and here we are talking about minutes, not hours! But what is the alternative to confrontation  and compromise?

The alternative is limited tensions in space and time determined by changing objective and regional  circumstances.  But this imposes careful cooperation to prevent slippage, which could lead to an all-out  confrontation that no one wants. On the other hand, multiplayer on the one hand and the absence of  any  force  capable of adjusting  the rhythm alone makes it very difficult. Hence we understand the role and value of the axis where each component has no ability to control whatever its own abilities. But the axis gives  added value to those capabilities and therefore the axis will be the rhythm officer and not the pole. Here the role of  regional gatherings or hubs is highlighted.  We are in a multi-axis world, not a multipolar world.

If we want to sum up the international landscape between the competing pivots, we see that the U.S. axis in    strategic decline may reach a collapse, but it does the work of its tactical  and show-off nature that does not  change anything in the  balance of power on the ground. On the other hand, the  other Axis of Russia and the Chinese with it the axis of resistance in the event of a strategic rise interspersed with acts of a tactical  and defensive character fortify the balances of power that created it. The anti-American axis does not believe  that a tactical confrontation is necessary at this stage because of the strategic decline of the U.S. axis.  The  time factor works in favour of the anti-dominance axis. Therefore, we do not rule out a very fragile stabilisation  phase of tensions between brief periods of calm. In our view, the balances of  power that change in favour of the anti-Western axis also include cultural and intellectual structures. It also includes political  systems where Western neoliberalism has reached an impasse and that all decisions taken by the ruling  elites in the United States and in the West in general  are an escape  from the structural internal  entitlements  facing all  states. Until a political and economic system takes into account the radical  transformations  that  have taken place in societies, especially economic and social gaps, the general  landscape will be the internal  tension in the western countries, which influence their foreign policies. These remarks apply to all  contentious files between the United  States and its competitors.

 On the Chinese issue, there appear to be two conflicting currents within the democratic party leadership.   On the  one hand, there is the  legacy of former President Barack Obama, who was the author of the theory of east-shifting to counter the rising threat posed by China. This trend to the East uses a political narrative  of  protecting human rights that are violated by the Chinese government. The U. S. needs a “moral” justification for interfering in China’s domestic affairs, whether in the Tibet, Hong Kong or Uighur Muslim stooum.   ut after the January 6 spectacle of the ruling elites dealing with angry crowds and the condemnation of these  demonstrations by elites, some leaders have come to demand that public freedoms be undermined, and it is difficult to put forward such rhetoric condemning freedoms in countries that want to submit to American  will.

The actual goal of U.S. policy is to undermine China’s competitiveness,  especially in the field of technology and artificial intelligence, by imposing sanctions on it (here new arguments will be sought for it!) And curbed  its military rise to prevent the expansion of its influence in East and South Asia. In the context of the conflict we mentioned between the group of interventionists and the “realists” the issue of dealing with  Chinese  t-communication companies, Huawei, which has been the target of sanctions in the Trump administration. If  the Biden administration wants to ease the conflict with China, it will settle the Huawei file at least  in its legal dimension. But is this in line with the interests of U.S. companies affected by Chinese competition that    have mostly supported Biden’s presidential bid? Here we see the extent of the contradiction within the  administration. This is where  Obama’s policy meets Trump’s policy f  confronting china’s rising  influence    and hitting the OneWay/One Belt project. But the capabilities of the United States, no matter how limited the governing  team may be, are too limited and cannot change the equations imposed by the transformations.

On the other hand, there is the BidenGroup, which has made confusing and suspicious deals with Chinese companies.  A large number of  Democratic party leaders are involved in suspicious deals with Chinese  government institutions such as former California State Attorney Barbara Boxer, who became the agent of a   Chinese state-owned eavesdropping  company, the current senator’s husband, Diane Feinstein, who has close ties to Chinese companies, or Representative Eric Swal of California, who is accused of having sexual  relations with a Chinese intelligence officer.  The president will be among the hammer of the Obama team,  which  wants to surround China, curb its rise, and the sanders of the special interests of the Biden family  and a number of senior Democratic officials in their dealings with China. The Republicans will undoubtedly raise the scandals championed by Hunter Biden, the president’s son, and James Biden, the president’s brother. They are the subject of investigations by the Federal Bureau of  Investigation (FBI), which refused to disclose  before the election, and William Barr, the outgoing Justice Secretary in the Trump administration, could have undermined Biden’s chances of winning the last election, reinforcing  the theory that the deep state of all its components wanted to get rid of Donald Trump and succeeded in disrupting  his mandate and success  in the  election.

One of Obama’s attempts to blockade China is the Trans Pacific Partnership/TPP,  which aimed to create a large  economic space similar to the European Common Market  before it became the European Union,    without China’s participation.  This project is similar to a European project that excludes Russia! Here is the grave  geopolitical error because it runs counter to the constant geography and changing history, how can an Asian  grouping be conceived without China and how can Russia be excluded from Europe? But Trump’s first  decision when he entered the White House was to destroy the Trans-Pacific Partnership project. In the fall  of 2020, China was able to conclude an economic agreement with Southeast Asian countries that effectively  eliminates  any  possibility of economic blockade of China.  The title of this new economic gathering is the Comprehensive Regional Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) signed on November 12,  2020 at a summit  of  regional  heads of  state such as China, Japan, South Korea, India and other ASEAN countries. 

China’s  most important economic influence…

The Rand Corporation, a Pentagon think  tank, considers  China’s economic influence more important than  U.S. influence in the Pacific and Asia. Asean countries also prioritise economic considerations and interests at the expense of security considerations. China’s economic influence weakens U.S. military influence, according to the RAND Corporation study, especially since countries in that region do not believe that U.S. military  influence is equivalent to China’s economic influence. There is also a conviction in those countries, according to the study, that the USA commitment to the region is questionable. Based on those considerations in the study, the Biden administration’s policy will be very complicated, especially since  the enthusiasm of the countries in the region to align  with them will be weak.

On the other hand, in recent days, the Trump administration has poisoned the atmosphere  between the United States and China by lifting all restrictions on Taiwan. It is clear that the move will anger China and strain relations with the new U.S. administration. The question is how the Biden administration can reinstate the restrictions lifted by the Trump administration, which means that there is no continuity in the outside  decision and weakens confidence in any U.S. pledge. The decisions of any administration become subject to veto by the administration that follows, and this is the result of  falling signs.  We therefore believe  that the Biden administration’s attempts will not go beyond the point of linking the conflict to conflicts of  interest  between the interveners and the realists, while  weighing  in favour of the interventionists  and the weakness of the realists because of the suspicions of corruption surrounding the president-elect and his family. 

 Some of the”positive” steps of the new administration will be to return  to the climate  agreement and the World  Health Organisation and to demand a return to the ballistic agreement. There is little cost here, but  a material for media propaganda to improve the image of the United States. Blinken’s remarks that he should”consult” with allies are a step toward restoring consideration to “diplomacy” that  his predecessor Mike Pompeo did not believe in. But what is the value of diplomacy if it is not  accompanied by  actions that take into account the interests of the various  parties?  The United States has not  yet acknowledged  this,  and it is continuing  its efforts to achieve its goals of domination and domination, but with far  fewer  possibilities. 

*Researcher  and political  economist And the former Secretary General of the  Arab  National Congress

Part 3 Here

إشكاليات السياسة الخارجية الأميركية الجديدة (2) الملفات الدولية

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الجزء الثاني: الملفّات الدولية

فما هي الملفات الخارجية التي ستشهد صراعاً بين مصالح المتدخلّين ومصالح القوى التي تريد التركيز على الملفّات الداخلية؟ ملامح السياسة الخارجية بدأت تتوضح بعد جلست الاستماع في مجلس الشيوخ لكلّ من بلينكن (وزارة الخارجية) وهاينز (مديرة الاستخبارات الوطنية DNI). الخلاصة الأساسية هي لا تغيير يُذكر في الجوهر عن سياسات أوباما وترامب الاّ في الأسلوب وطريقة التعاطي. سنعرض هنا بعض الملفّات وليست جميعها لضيق المساحة المتاحة.

فعلى الصعيد الدولي تأتي في المرتبة الأولى العلاقات مع كلّ من روسيا والصين. الإشارات الأولى التي صدرت عن عدد من رموز الفريق الانتقالي للرئيس المنتخب لا توحي بأيّ حلحلة مرتقبة في العلاقات مع روسيا. فلا ننسى أنّ معظم العاملين في الإدارة الجديدة كانوا في إدارة أوباما التي كانت معادية لروسيا. فالأزمة الأوكرانية فجّرتها إدارة أوباما ونائب الرئيس آنذاك، الرئيس المنتخب اليوم، والتي كانت له تدخّلات كبيرة في الشأن الأوكراني ناهيك عن شبهات الفساد التي رافقتها. من جهة أخرى لا ننسى أنّ مجمل الحزب الديمقراطي والدولة العميقة والإعلام الشركاتي المهيمن أمضى السنوات الأربع الماضية على شيطنة الرئيس ترامب واتهامه بالعمالة لروسيا. كما أنّ الأخيرة متهمة بالتدخل في انتخابات 2016 لصالح دونالد ترامب. وإذا أخذنا بعين الاعتبار بعض التصريحات لقيادات استخبارية داعمة لبايدن بأنّ الروس يكذبون لأنّ الكذب جزء أساسي من الحمض النووي الروسي نرى أنّ المناخ المرتقب داخل الإدارة الجديدة مناخ متشدّد تجاه روسيا. وما يعزّز ذلك التشاؤم هو أنّ المسؤولين المرتقبين في الإدارة الجديدة في الصف الثاني في الخارجية والدفاع والأمن القومي هم من المحافظين الجدد كفيكتوريا نيولند ومن المتدخّلين الليبراليين كـ كاثلين هيكس ووندي شرمان وجون فاينر كنائب مستشار الأمن القومي. وجميعهم لديهم ارتباطات وثيقة مع المجمع العسكري الأمني ومراكز الأبحاث ومن الجامعات الكبرى كما شرحناه في مقال سابق. وما لفت انتباه المراقبين أنه حتى الساعة لم يتمّ أيّ اتصال بين الإدارة الانتقالية والقيادة الروسية علماً أنّ هذا تقليد امتدّ طيلة العقود الماضية.

تراجع أميركي متعدّد الجوانب

لكن حقيقة الأمر هي أنّ القدرة التنافسية الأميركية تراجعت في السياسة والاقتصاد، وربما أهمّ من كلّ ذلك في الشأن العسكري كما شرحناه أيضاً في مقالات سابقة. فمواجهة روسيا تكون عبر إثارة ملف حقوق الانسان في روسيا وعبر نشر حزام صاروخي في الدول المجاورة وعبر إسقاط أنظمة مجاورة تتفاهم مع روسيا. بالمناسبة ورغم اتهام الحزب الديمقراطي الرئيس الأميركي دونالد ترامب بالعمالة لروسيا فإنّ الرئيس الأميركي هو الذي فرض أكثر العقوبات على روسيا والتي كان قد بدأها سلفه باراك أوباما. ونقطة الخلاف الرئيسية الاستراتيجية هي ملف الغاز الروسي ودوره في تزويده للاتحاد الأوروبي بينما الخلاف على أوكرانيا يأتي في سياق محاولات توسع الأطلسي في أوروبا الشرقية. قضية الأمن التي يتمّ التلويح بها هي للتغطية على الهدف الرئيسي. ليس هناك أيّ دليل بأنّ روسيا تسعى لزعزعة الأمن والاستقرار الأوروبي بل العكس تسعى إلى أفضل العلاقات والتعاون مع الاتحاد الأوروبي.

هذا ما فهمته ألمانيا لكنها رضخت للضغوط الأميركية كما صرّح وزير خارجية ألمانيا السابق فرانك والتر ستنماير في تبرير رضوخ حكومته للإملاءات الأميركية عندما قال بوضوح إنّ ألمانيا متضررة اقتصادياً من تلك العقوبات غير أنّ السياسة لها القوّامة على الاقتصاد. لكن خلال الأشهر الماضية استطاعت ألمانيا أن تحدّ من غطرسة الولايات المتحدة فيما يتعلّق بمصالحها الاقتصادية مع روسيا والصين. فقد وافقت ألمانيا على تمديد أنبوب الغار الروسي (“تور ستريم 2) في المنطقة الاقتصادية التابعة لها في بحر البلطيق (كلّ يوم يتمّ مدّ كيلومترا من الأنبوب). كذلك الأمر حصل مع الجمهورية التشيكية لتمديد الخط البرّي “يوغال” الذي هو امتداد لـ “نور ستريم 2) على الحدود السكسونية الألمانية التشيكية. هذا يعكس مدى التراجع الأميركي عند الحليف الأوروبي ويقطع الطريق على الضغوط التي يمكن أن تصدرها الإدارة الجديدة.

من جهة أخرى تمّ التوقيع في 30 كانون الأول 2020 بين الصين والاتحاد الأوروبي على اتفاق يفتح باب الاستثمارات المتبادلة وذلك رغم معارضة الولايات المتحدة ورغم الذرائع التقليدية حول حقوق الإنسان التي كانت تُرفع بوجه الصين لمنع أيّ تقارب معها. هذه إشارة أخرى أنّ أوروبا الغربية شعرت بالضعف الأميركي وبدأت تفكّر بأولوية مصالحها. ولم يكن الاتحاد الأوروبي ليقدم على تلك الخطوة لولا الموافقة لكلّ من ألمانيا وفرنسا.

من ضمن الملفّات العالقة بين الولايات المتحدة وروسيا ملف أوكرانيا وخاصة شرق أوكرانيا (الدومبسك) وضمّ شبه جزيرة القرم، وملف دول القوقاز في جورجيا وناغورنو كراباخ، وانتشار السلاح الأطلسي في دول البلطيق وبولندا. ومؤخراً حاولت الولايات المتحدة خلق القلاقل في بيلاروسيا إلاّ أنها فشلت في ذلك. فالتقارب الروسي البلاروسي يشتدّ ولا نستبعد انضمام بلاروسيا على الاتحاد الروسي ما يشكّل صفعة مدوية للإدارة الأميركية. وبلاروسيا اليوم موكّلة في مواجهة كلّ من بولندا ودول البلطيق نيابة عن روسيا. ويُضاف إليها ملف سورية والملفّ النووي مع إيران وطبعاً المعاهدات في الشأن الصواريخ الباليستية المتوسطة المدى. في سياق ملف المعاهدة التي خرجت عنها الولايات المتحدة في موضوع الصواريخ الباليستية لم تعد روسيا متمسّكة بها.

حالة الإنكار متحكّمة في عقل النخب الحاكمة

لا ندري ماذا يمكن أن تقدّم الولايات المتحدة في كلّ هذه الملفّات غير التراجع عن مواقفها التصعيدية الذي سيكرّس تراجع نفوذها. لكن ليس في المزاج الحالي في الإدارة الانتقالية جهوزية لأيّ بادرة لتقديم أيّ تنازل. وبما أنّ حالة الإنكار لذلك التراجع متحكّمة في عقل النخب الحاكمة في الإدارة المقبلة على قاعدة “الاستثنائية الأميركية” و”قدرها المتجلّي” وبغياب أيّ دليل نظري أو ملموس للإقرار بذلك التراجع، فما يمكن أن نتوقّعه هو استمرار النبرة العالية والمعادية في مخاطبة روسيا دون أن تترجم بمواجهة على الأرض. فنظام العقوبات على روسيا مستمرّ وهو بدأ في عهد أوباما ولا تستطيع الإدارة المقبلة رفعها دون مقابل ملموس لتسويقه في المشهد الداخلي. فليس هناك ابداع في التفكير في الجانب الأميركي والجانب الروسي لا يعتبر نفسه ملزما بتقديم تنازلات خاصة أن لا ثقة بتعهدّات الولايات المتحدة. لذلك نشهد تزايد عدم الاكتراث في الجانب الروسي لما يمكن أن يصدر عن إدارة بايدن طالما أنّ أفق المواجهة المفتوحة المسلّحة مسدود. فروسيا استطاعت التكيّف مع العقوبات بل حوّلتها إلى فرص اكتفاء ذاتي حرّرها من الابتزاز الأميركي. فالعقوبات نجحت فقط في زيادة عزلة الولايات المتحدة في العالم وخاصة عند حلفائها الأوروبيين. والنخب في روسيا ترى كما نرى نحن أنّ الإدارة الجديدة ستكون منصبّة على الملفّات الداخلية لخطورتها وتعقيداتها وبالتالي لا تعتبر أنّ باستطاعتها التفاعل الدائم في الملفّات الخارجية.

لكن هذا لا يعني أنّ التواصل مع روسيا خارج الاحتمالات. فإذا كانت الضرورة امّ الاختراعات فهي أيضاً أمّ التفاهمات. في هذا السياق أعلن الرئيس الروسي في رسالة للرئيس المنتخب أنه يأمل بعلاقات ودية على قاعدة الندّية والاحترام المتبادل، وهذه إشارة إلى أنّ العودة الى أسلوب التعالي لم يعد مقبولاً. من جهة أخرى كان ردّ وزير الخارجية المسمّى أنطوني بلينكن أنّ في ذروة التنافس النووي بين الولايات المتحدة والاتحاد السوفياتي وفي ظلّ الخطر النووي الوجودي المتمثّل بآلاف الصواريخ الباليستية النووية الموجهة ضدّ كلّ من البلدين كانت مجالات التعاون في العديد من الملفات الساخنة ممكنة. وبالتالي يمكن التطلّع إلى “فرص تعاون” لضبط إيقاع التوترات كي لا تؤدّي إلى مواجهات لن يخرج أحد سالماً منها. هل هذا يعني أنّ مناخ التسويات سيكون قائماً؟ ليس بالضرورة، فالحالة الأكثر واقعية هي أن لا تسويات كبرى ولا مواجهات كبرى وكلّ شيء ممكن تحت ذلك السقفين. في الخلاصة يمكن القول إنّ سقف “التفاهم” الممكن مع روسيا لا يتجاوز حدود ربط النزاع إلى ان تتبلور موازين قوّة جديدة وهذا لن يحصل في المدى المنظور أيّ في ولاية الإدارة الجديدة.

قد يسأل المرء لماذا لا تسوية؟ الإجابة البسيطة هي أنّ روسيا لا ترى أيّ مبرّر لتسوية الأمور مع طرف برهن دائماً أنه لا يحترم المعاهدات فما بال التسويات! كما يرى الروسي أنّ الأميركي في حالة ضعف بنيوي قد لا ينجو منها وبالتالي تقديم تنازلات لدولة مصيرها مجهول قد لا يكون مبرّرا. في المقابل، يرى الطرف الأميركي إذا كانت موازين القوّة ليست لصالحه في المرحلة الحالية فما عليه إلاّ أن يعدّلها لمصلحته وبالتالي لا داعي للتنازل عن أيّ شيء جوهري قد يشكّل متن التسوية. وتعتقد النخب الحاكمة في الولايات المتحدة أنّ قدرها هو أن تقود العالم وأن استثنائيتها ستمكّنها من ذلك. ليس هناك استعداد للإقرار بأنّ الولايات المتحدة دخلت مرحلة التراجع الاستراتيجي بل حتى الانهيار الداخلي المرجّح وبالتالي ستكون السردية السائدة عند تلك النخب بأنّ الولايات المتحدة قدر على العالم بغضّ النظر عن الصعوبات التي تلاقيها في المرحلة الحالية.

لماذا لا مواجهة…؟

والسؤال الآخر لماذا لا مواجهة؟ الإجابة هنا أنّ الطرفين يدركان جيّداً أنّ المواجهة تعني في آخر المطاف نهاية المعمورة في دقائق محدودة! لن تكون الحرب المقبلة ممتدّة على مدى سنوات كما حصل في الحربين العالميتين ولا حتى في الحروب الإقليمية. ستكون مرتبطة بمدة وصول الصواريخ الباليستية إلى أهدافها وهنا نتكلّم عن دقائق وليس ساعات! لكن ما هو البديل عن المواجهة وعن التسوية؟

البديل هو توتّرات محدودة في المكان والزمان تحدّده الظروف الموضوعية والإقليمية المتغيّرة. لكن هذا يفرض تعاوناً دقيقاً لمنع الانزلاق الذي قد يؤدّي إلى مواجهة شاملة لا يريدها أحد. في المقابل، تعدّد اللاعبين من جهة وعدم وجود أيّ قوّة قادرة بمفردها على ضبط الإيقاع تجعل ذلك الأمر في غاية الصعوبة. من هنا نفهم دور وقيمة المحور حيث كلّ مكوّن له لا قدرة على التحكّم مهما كانت قدراته الذاتية. لكن المحور يعطي قيمة مضافة لتلك القدرات وبالتالي المحور هو الذي سيكون ضابط الإيقاع وليس القطب. هنا يبرز دور التجمّعات أو المحاور الإقليمية. أصبحنا في عالم متعدّد المحاور وليس في عالم متعدد القطبية.

إذا أردنا تلخيص المشهد الدولي بين المحورية المتنافسين نرى أنّ المحور الأميركي في تراجع استراتيجي قد يصل إلى الأفول والانهيار ولكنه يقوم بأعمال طابعها هجومي تكتيكي واستعراضي لا يغيّر أيّ شيء في موازين القوّة على الأرض. في المقابل فإنّ المحور الآخر الروسي الصيني ومعه محور المقاومة في حال صعود استراتيجي تتخلله أعمال طابعها تكتيكي دفاعي تحصّن موازين القوّة التي أوجدتها. والمحور المقاوم للهيمنة الأميركية لا يعتقد أنّ مواجهة تكتيكية ضرورية في المرحلة الراهنة بسبب التراجع الاستراتيجي للمحور الأميركي. عامل الوقت يعمل لصالح المحور المقاوم للهيمنة. لذلك لا نستبعد مرحلة استقرار هشّ للغاية تسوده التوترات بين فترات وجيزة من الهدوء. في رأينا، موازين القوّة التي تتغيّر لصالح المحور المناهض للهيمنة الغربية تشمل أيضاً البنى الثقافية والفكرية. وتشمل أيضاً المنظومات السياسية حيث النيوليبرالية الغربية وصلت إلى طريق مسدود وأنّ كلّ القرارات التي تتخذها النخب الحاكمة في الولايات المتحدة وفي الغرب عموما هي هروب إلى الأمام من الاستحقاقات الداخلية البنيوية التي تواجه كلّ الدول. إلى أن يتبلور نظام سياسي اقتصادي يأخذ بعين الاعتبار التحوّلات الجذرية التي حصلت في المجتمعات وخاصة الفجوات الاقتصادية والاجتماعية فإنّ سمة المشهد العام سيكون التوتر الداخلي في دول الغرب العامل المؤثر على سياساتها الخارجية. هذه الملاحظات تنطبق على كافة الملفات الخلافية بين الولايات المتحدة ومنافسيها.

وفي ما يتعلّق بالملفّ الصيني فهناك تياران متصارعان على ما يبدو داخل قيادات الحزب الديمقراطي. فمن جهة، هناك إرث الرئيس السابق باراك أوباما الذي كان صاحب نظرية التحوّل إلى الشرق لمواجهة الخطر الصاعد الذي تمثّله الصين. وهذا التوجّه إلى الشرق يستعمل سردية سياسية هي حماية حقوق الانسان التي تنتهكها الحكومة الصينية. فالولايات المتحدة بحاجة إلى مبرّر “أخلاقي” للتدخل في الشأن الداخلي في الصين سواء في قضية التيبت أو هونغ كونغ أو المسلمين الأويغور! لكن بعد المشهد الذي قدّمته النخب الحاكمة في 6 كانون الثاني/ يناير في التعامل مع الجماهير الغاضبة وتنديد النخب بهذه المظاهرات وصلت عند بعض القيادات إلى المطالبة بتقويض الحرّيات العامة يصعب عندئذ طرح ذلك الخطاب المندّد للحرّيات في الدول التي تريد الخضوع للمشيئة الأميركية.

الهدف الفعلي لسياسة الولايات المتحدة هو تقويض القدرات التنافسية للصين خاصة في الميدان التكنولوجي والذكاء الاصطناعي وذلك عبر فرض العقوبات عليها (وهنا سيتمّ التفتيش عن حجج جديدة لذلك!) وكبح صعودها العسكري لمنع تمدّد نفوذها في شرق وجنوب آسيا. وفي سياق الصراع الذي ذكرناه بين جماعة المتدخلين وجماعة “الواقعيين” مسألة التعامل مع شركات التواصل الصينية كهواوي التي كانت هدفاً للعقوبات في إدارة ترامب. فإذا أرادت إدارة بايدن التخفيف من حدّة الصراع مع الصين فستقوم بتسوية لملف هواوي على الأقلّ في بعده القانوني. لكن هل هذا يستقيم مع مصالح الشركات الأميركية المتضرّرة من التنافس الصيني وهي التي دعمت إلى أقصى الحدود وصول بايدن إلى الرئاسة؟ هنا نرى مدى التناقض الموجود داخل الإدارة. هنا تلتقي سياسة أوباما مع سياسة ترامب في ضرورة مواجهة النفوذ الصيني الصاعد وضرب مشروع الطريق الواحد/ الحزام الواحد. لكن قدرات الولايات المتحدة مهما كان الفريق الحاكم محدودة للغاية ولا تستطيع تغيير المعادلات التي فرضتها التحوّلات.

ومن جهة أخرى هناك “جماعة بايدن” التي عقدت صفقات مثيرة للالتباس والشبهات مع شركات صينية. ويشاركه في ذلك عدد كبير من قيادات الحزب الديمقراطي في صفقات مشبوهة مع مؤسّسات صينية حكومية كالشيخة السابقة لولاية كاليفورنيا بربرا بوكسر التي أصبحت وكيلة شركة صينية حكومية مختصة بالتنصّت، أو زوج الشيخ الحالية دايان فاينشتين الذي له علاقات وثيقة مع الشركات الصينية، أو النائب أريك سوالوال من كاليفورنيا المتهم بعلاقات جنسية مع ضابطة من الاستخبارات الصينية! فالرئيس سيكون بين مطرقة فريق أوباما الذي يريد محاصرة الصين وكبح صعودها وسندان المصالح الخاصة العائدة لعائلة بايدن ولعدد من كبار المسؤولين في الحزب الديمقراطي في تعاملهم مع الصين. الحزب الجمهوري سيثير دون أيّ شكّ الفضائح التي بطلها هنتر بايدن نجل الرئيس وجيمس بايدن شقيق الرئيس. فهما موضوع تحقيقات يقوم بها المكتب الاتحادي للتحقيقات (أف بي أي) التي رفض الكشف عنها قبل الانتخابات وليم بار وزير العدل المستقيل في إدارة ترامب والتي كان بإمكانها تقويض فرص فوز بايدن في الانتخابات الأخيرة، ما يعزّز نظرية أنّ الدولة العميقة بكافة مكوّناتها أرادت التخلّص من دونالد ترامب وقد نجحت في تعطيل ولايته ونجاحه في الانتخابات.

من محاولات محاصرة الصين التي أطلقها أوباما مشروع الشراكة في المحيط الهادئ ((Trans Pacific Partnership/TPP التي كانت تهدف إلى إيجاد فضاء اقتصادي كبير شبيه بالسوق الأوروبية المشتركة قبل أن تصبح الاتحاد الأوروبي، وذلك دون مشاركة الصين. يتماثل هذا المشروع مع مشروع أوروبي يقصي روسيا! وهنا الخطأ الجيوسياسي الفادح لأنه يتنافى مع الجغرافيا الثابتة والتاريخ المتغيّر، فكيف يمكن تصوّر تجمع آسيوي دون الصين وكيف يمكن أقصاء روسيا من أوروبا؟ لكن أول قرارات ترامب عند دخوله البيت الأبيض كان وأد مشروع الشراكة في المحيط الهادئ. والصين استطاعت أن تعقد في خريف 2020 اتفاقاً اقتصادياً مع دول جنوب شرق آسيا يلغي فعلياً أيّ إمكانية محاصرة الصين اقتصادياً. عنوان هذا التجمّع الاقتصادي الجديد هو اتفاق الشراكة الاقتصادية الإقليمية الشاملة (RCEP) الذي وقّع في 12 تشرين الثاني/ نوفمبر 2020 في اجتماع قمة لرؤساء دول المنطقة كالصين واليابان وكوريا الجنوبية والهند وسائر دول جمعية دول الجنوب الشرقي الاسيوي (ASEAN).

نفوذ الصين الاقتصادي أهمّ…

وتعتبر مؤسسة راند كوربوريشن، وهي مؤسسة أبحاث تابعة للبنتاغون، أنّ نفوذ الصين الاقتصادي أهمّ من النفوذ الأميركي في منطقة المحيط الهادئ وآسيا. كما أنّ دول جمعية جنوب شرق آسيا تعطي الأولوية للاعتبارات والمصالح الاقتصادية على حساب الاعتبارات الأمنية. والنفوذ الاقتصادي الصيني يضعف النفوذ العسكري الأميركي وفقاً لدراسة مؤسسة راند خاصة أنّ دول تلك المنطقة لا تعتقد أنّ النفوذ العسكري الأميركي يوازي النفوذ الاقتصادي الصيني. وهناك أيضاً قناعة عند تلك الدول وفقاً للدراسة المذكورة أنّ التزام الولايات المتحدة تجاه المنطقة مشكوك بأمره. بناء على تلك الاعتبارات التي جاءت في الدراسة المذكورة ستكون سياسة إدارة بايدن معقّدة للغاية خاصة أنّ حماس دول المنطقة للاصطفاف معها سيكون ضعيفاً.

من جهة أخرى أقدمت إدارة ترامب في أيامها الأخيرة على تسميم الأجواء بين الولايات المتحدة والصين عبر رفع جميع القيود على تايوان. من الواضح أنّ ذلك الإجراء سيغضب الصين ويوتر العلاقات مع الإدارة الأميركية الجديدة. والسؤال كيف يمكن لإدارة بايدن إعادة القيود التي رفعتها إدارة ترامب ما يعني أنّ ليس هناك من استمرارية في القرار الخارجي فيضعف الثقة بأي تعهّد أميركي. فقرارات أيّ أدارة تصبح معرّضة للنقض من قبل إدارة تليها وهذا من إرهاصات السقوط. لذلك نعتقد أنّ محاولات إدارة بايدن لن تتجاوز مرحلة ربط النزاع لتضارب المصالح بين المتدخلّين والواقعيين مع ترجيح الكفّة لصالح المتدخلين وضعف الواقعيين بسبب شبهات الفساد التي تحيط بالرئيس المنتخب وعائلته.

بعض الخطوات “الإيجابية” للإدارة الجديدة ستكون في العودة إلى اتفاق المناخ ومنظمة الصحة العالمية والمطالبة بالعودة إلى الاتفاق الباليستي. لا كلفة هنا تذكر بل مادة للدعاية الإعلامية لتحسين صورة الولايات المتحدة. كما أنّ تصريحات بلينكن بضرورة “التشاور” مع الحلفاء خطوة نحو إعادة الاعتبار إلى “الدبلوماسية” التي لم يكن يؤمن بها سلفه مايك بومبيو. لكن ما قيمة الدبلوماسية إن لم ترفقها أفعال تأخذ بعين الاعتبار مصالح مختلف الفرقاء؟ لم تصل الولايات المتحدة حتى الساعة إلى الإقرار بذلك فهي مستمرّة في جهودها لتحقيق أهدافها في السيطرة والهيمنة لكن بإمكانيات أقلّ بكثير ما يؤهّلها بذلك.

*باحث وكاتب اقتصادي سياسي والأمين العام السابق للمؤتمر القومي العربي

فيديوات ذات صلة

Part 3 Here

مقالات ذات صلة

The Making of US Empire at the dawning of its end

The Making of US Empire at the dawning of its end

January 21, 2021

by Pepe Escobar posted with permission and first posted at Asia Times

As the Exceptional Empire gets ready to brave a destructive – and self-destructive – new cycle, with dire, unforeseen consequences bound to reverberate across the world, now more than ever it is absolutely essential to go back to the imperial roots.

The task is fully accomplished by

Tomorrow, the World: The Birth of U.S. Global Supremacy , by Stephen Wertheim, Deputy Director of Research and Policy at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft and a research scholar at the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University.

Here, in painstaking detail, we can find when, why and especially who shaped the contours of US “internationalism” in a roomful of mirrors always disguising the real, ultimate aim: Empire.

Wertheim’s book was superbly reviewed by Prof. Paul Kennedy. Here we will concentrate on the crucial plot twists taking place throughout 1940. Wertheim’s main thesis is that the fall of France in 1940 – and not Pearl Harbor – was the catalyzing event that led to the full Imperial Hegemony design.

This is not a book about the U.S. industrial-military complex or the inner workings of American capitalism and finance capitalism. It is extremely helpful as it sets up the preamble to the Cold War era. But most of all, it is gripping intellectual history, revealing how American foreign policy was manufactured by the real flesh and blood actors that count: the economic and political planners congregated by the arch-influential Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the conceptual core of the imperial matrix.

Behold Exceptionalist nationalism

If just one phrase should capture the American missionary drive, this is it: “The United States was born of exceptionalist nationalism, imagining itself providentially chosen to occupy the vanguard of world history”. Wertheim nailed it by drawing from a wealth of sources on exceptionalism, especially Anders Stephanson’s Manifest Destiny: American Expansion and the Empire of the Right.

The action starts in early 1940, when the State Dept. formed a small advisory committee in collaboration with the CFR, constituted as a de facto proto-national security state.

The CFR’s postwar planning project was known as the War and Peace Studies, financed by the Rockefeller Foundation and boasting a sterling cross-section of the American elite, divided into four groups.

The most important were the Economic and Financial Group, headed by the “American Keynes”, Harvard economist Alvin Hansen, and the Political Group, headed by businessman Whitney Shepardson. CFR planners were inevitably transposed to the core of the official postwar planning committee set up after Pearl Harbor.

A crucial point: the Armaments Group was headed by none other than Allen Dulles, then just a corporate lawyer, years before he became the nefarious, omniscient CIA mastermind fully deconstructed by David Talbot’s The Devil’s Chessboard.

Wertheim details the fascinating, evolving intellectual skirmishes along the first eight months of WWII, when the prevailing consensus among the planners was to concentrate on the Western Hemisphere only, and not indulge in “balance of power” overseas adventures. As in let the Europeans fight it out; meanwhile, we profit.

The fall of France in May-June 1940 – the world’s top army melting down in five weeks – was the game-changer, much more than Pearl Harbor 18 months later. This is how the planners interpreted it: if Britain were the next domino to fall, totalitarianism would control Eurasia.

Wertheim zeroes in on the defining “threat” for the planners: Axis dominance would prevent the United States “from driving world history. Such a threat proved unacceptable to U.S. elites”. That’s what led to an expanded definition of national security: the U.S. could not afford to be simply “isolated” within the Western Hemisphere. The path ahead was inevitable: to shape world order as the supreme military power.

So it was the prospect of a Nazi-shaped world order – and not U.S. security – that shook foreign policy elites in the summer of 1940 to build the intellectual foundations of global U.S. hegemony.

Of course there was a “lofty ideal” component: the U.S. would not be able to fulfill its God-given mission to lead the world towards a better future. But there was also a much more pressing practical matter: this world order might be closed to liberal U.S. trade.

Even as the tides of war changed afterwards, the interventionist argument ultimately prevailed: after all, the whole of Eurasia could (italics in the book) eventually, fall under totalitarianism.

It’s always about “world order”

Initially, the fall of France forced Roosevelt’s planners to concentrate on a minimum hegemonic area. So by midsummer 1940, the CFR groups, plus the military, came up with the so-called “quarter sphere”: Canada down to northern South America.

They were still assuming that the Axis would dominate Europe and parts of the Middle East and North Africa. As Wertheim notes, “American interventionists often portrayed Germany’s dictator as a master of statecraft, prescient, clever and bold.”

Then, at the request of the State Dept., the crucial CFR’s Economic and Financial Group worked feverishly from August to October to design the next step: integrating the Western Hemisphere with the Pacific Basin.

That was a totally myopic Eurocentric focus (by the way, Asia barely registers on Wertheim’s narrative). The planners assumed that Japan – even rivaling the US, and three years into the invasion of mainland China – could somehow be incorporated, or bribed into a non-Nazi area.

Then they finally hit the jackpot: join the Western Hemisphere, the British empire and the Pacific basin into a so-called “great residual area”: that is, the entire non-Nazi dominated world except the USSR.

They found out that if Nazi Germany would dominate Europe, the U.S. would have to dominate everywhere else (italics mine). That was the logical conclusion based on the planners’ initial assumptions.

That’s when U.S. foreign policy for the next 80 years was born: the U.S. had to wield “unquestionable power”, as stated in the CFR planners “recommendation” to the State Dept., delivered on October 19 in a memorandum titled “Needs of Future United States Foreign Policy”.

This “Grand Area” was the brainchild of the CFR’s Economic and Financial Group. The Political Group was not impressed. The Grand Area implied a post-war peace arrangement that was in fact a Cold War between Germany and Anglo-America. Not good enough.

But how to sell total domination to American public opinion without that sounding “imperialistic”, similar to what the Axis was doing in Europe and Asia? Talk about a huge P.R. problem.

In the end, U.S. elites always came back to the same foundation stone of American exceptionalism: should there be any Axis supremacy in Europe and Asia, the U.S. manifest destiny of defining the path ahead for world history would be denied.

As Walter Lippmann succinctly – and memorably – put it: “Ours is the new order. It was to found this order and to develop it that our forefathers came here. In this order we exist. Only in this order can we live”.

That would set up the pattern for the subsequent 80 years. Roosevelt, only a few days after he was elected for a third term, stated it was the United States that “truly and fundamentally…was a new order”.

It’s chilling to be reminded that 30 years ago, even before unleashing the first Shock and Awe over Iraq, Papa Bush defined it as the crucible of a “new world order” (incidentally, the speech was delivered exactly 11 years before 9/11).

Henry Kissinger has been marketing “world order” for six decades. The number one U.S foreign policy mantra is “rules-based international order”: rules, of course, set unilaterally by the Hegemon at the end of WWII.

American Century redux

What came out of the 1940 policy planning orgy was encapsulated by a succinct mantra featured in the legendary February 17, 1941 essay in Life magazine by publishing mogul Henry Luce: “American Century”.

Only six months earlier planners were at best satisfied with a hemispheric role in an Axis-led world future. Now they went winner takes all: “complete opportunity of leadership”, in Luce’s words. In early 1941, months before Pearl Harbor, the American Century went mainstream – and never left.

That sealed the primacy of Power Politics. If American interests were global, so should be American political and military power.

Luce even used Third Reich terminology: “Tyrannies may require a large amount of living space. But Freedom requires and will require far greater living space than Tyranny.” Unlike Hitler’s, the unbounded ambition of American elites prevailed.

Until now. It looks and feels like the empire is entering a James Cagney Made it, Ma. Top of the World! moment – rotting from within, 9/11 merging into 1/6 in a war against “domestic terrorism” – while still nurturing toxic dreams of imposing uncontested global “leadership”.

The idea of ‘exceptionalism’ is deeply ingrained in our national DNA: American author

By Mohammad Mazhari

January 18, 2021 – 11:34

 TEHRAN – An American author says toppling governments around the world is one of Washington’s “specialties”. 

“Overthrowing governments is one of our specialties,” Stephen Kinzer tells the Tehran Times.   

Kinzer also criticizes U.S. exceptionalism. 

“The idea of ‘exceptionalism’ is deeply ingrained in our national DNA,” Kinzer tells the Tehran Times. 

“Last week gave us a glimpse, on a greatly reduced scale, of the havoc we have wreaked elsewhere.”

Kinzer, a former New York Times journalist, says no nation like the U.S. intervenes in others’ domestic issues. 

The following is the text of the interview: 

 Q: How do you assess the recent mob attack on the Capitol building by pro-Trump protesters? What is the message of this incident for the U.S and the world?

“In the U.S. as in most countries, politics often is more powerful than the law.”A: Over the last century, no nation has intervened as often as the United States in so many countries so far away from its own borders.  Overthrowing governments is one of our specialties.  Last week (January 7th) gave us a glimpse, on a greatly reduced scale, of the havoc we have wreaked elsewhere.

Q: U.S. administrations and institutes mostly back protests against governments all around the world but when it comes to the U.S., they rally around national integrity. Isn’t it a kind of double-standard?

A: The idea of “exceptionalism” is deeply ingrained in our national DNA.  Americans grow up presuming that, as Secretary of State Madeleine Albright famously asserted, “We are the indispensable nation, we stand taller and we see further than other countries.”  Our leaders believe they know what is good for the world better than the world itself knows.  This has led the United States to incite rebellion and subversive violence in dozens of countries.  To replace the governments we overthrow, we often promote corrupt demagogues.  Now we face the same combination at home: insurrection and demagoguery.

Q: Why did you publish a tweet saying: “My friends abroad keep reassuring me:  There can never be a coup in the United States because there is no American embassy there?”

“Now the U.S. faces the same combination of ‘insurrection and demagoguery’ at home.” A: The joke is that coups in most countries happen not for domestic reasons, but because of intervention by covert agents who work from the U.S. embassy.  This is not completely true, but true enough so that everyone gets the joke.

Q: Is there any mechanism in the American constitution to prosecute a president who violates the law?

 A: We do have an impeachment procedure but it is political in nature, not legal.  In the U.S. as in most countries, politics often is more powerful than the law.

Q: The Democratic Party of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden succeeded to take control of the Senate. Do you expect the victory would lead to a change in U.S policies, especially in foreign policy areas?

A: Biden will make substantial changes to government policies relating to education, transportation, labor, energy, immigration, and other domestic issues.  There will be no major change in foreign policy.  The U.S. will continue seeing Russia and China as enemies and working more often to confront them than to compromise.  There will, however, be some change in policy toward Iran.  How substantial the change will remain unclear?  It is the subject of intense debate behind the scenes in Washington and the incoming Biden administration.

Q: How do you assess American police’s behavior after pro-Trump fans stormed the Capitol Hill in comparison with its reaction to the summer protests? Was the Insurrection Act applicable?

A: President Biden himself said it: “No one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesting yesterday, they wouldn’t have been treated very differently than the mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol.  We all know that’s true. And it is unacceptable. Totally unacceptable. The American people saw it in plain view.”

 

Why Muslims in the US face a crisis of leadership

Hafsa Kanjwal

8 December 2020 12:12 UTC | 

Last update: 11 hours 18 mins ago

Some Muslim American groups have turned into agents of oppression, providing cover for harmful and destructive policies towards our communities

The King Fahad Mosque in Culver City, California, is pictured on 23 May (AFP)237Shares

For many Muslims in the US, the news that we will not be plunged into fascism with a second term for President Trump has been met with relief.

However, as Muslim Americans begin to reconfigure their political advocacy, we cannot be complicit under a Biden presidency that remains true to the core principles of American neoliberalism and empire. Most importantly, we cannot go back to the Muslim American political subservience that we witnessed during the Obama years.Joe Biden, Emgage and the muzzling of Muslim America

Read More »

Muslim communities around the world – whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Palestine, Kashmir, Yemen, China or Myanmar – face many injustices today. And it is an unfortunate reality that the US is either directly responsible for, or has aided or prolonged, many of these injustices. 

There has been a push in recent decades – and especially during the Obama years – to make Muslim Americans feel a sense of exceptionalism, and to view issues from “back home” as removed from our reality in the US. This is despite the interconnected nature of how Muslims around the world are treated – and how that structural violence also impacts us here. 

From Obama to Trump

The Obama years were defined by the rise of a professional Muslim class that was made into agents of empire and oppression, providing cover or tacit approval to some of the most harmful and destructive policies towards our communities, including the ramping up of counter-violent extremism (CVE) policies using Muslim leaders and institutions. Many of these individuals or organisations positioned themselves as the “resistance” under Trump: we know they will, and already have, gone back to being the native informants for the neoliberal establishment.

The Muslim community in the US faces a crisis in terms of having a principled leadership that speaks truth to power

This means that Muslim Americans have a lot of work cut out for them. We have reached a crucial stage, in which a critical mass of fellow Muslims are pushing to sacrifice Muslims around the world and in the US in order to gain mainstream acceptance and access to certain corridors of power here.

Nowhere is this more evident than in how so many Muslim-American institutions and leaders are normalising Zionism, even as opposition to Zionism is gaining traction within the Jewish-American community. Muslim Americans may not be able to bring about a complete transformation in how the US conducts its affairs in the Muslim world – though they should at least try – but at the very least, they should not contribute to injustice. 

Trump’s presidency was devastating for many people of colour and Muslims in the US. But it also provided political clarity about the US that was not possible under the veneer of the Obama-led liberal establishment. It spurred important, long-awaited conversations about the role of imperialism, neoliberalism and white supremacy in the US that had previously been obscured.

A new generation of Muslim Americans has become politically mature and much more critical than older generations, which are still reeling from the kind of respectability politics in which we have been forced to engage post-9/11. They are building their own institutions. 

Nonetheless, there is a danger that the veering to the far right has left Obama and Biden appear to Muslims as more progressive than they actually are. While the Trump era has ignited more imaginative conversations elsewhere about reducing the military-industrial complex, ending wars, and defunding the police, it has also given establishment Muslims a portal to exercise restraint over developing these wants. 

Going forward

The Muslim community in the US faces a crisis in terms of having a principled leadership that speaks truth to power.

Far too many organisations and leaders are more interested in having access to power than in representing our agenda. Consequently, we need to hold these leaders accountable.

Muslim Americans must advise those who claim to speak on their behalf, and hold them to account if they continue to cause harm to our causes. Lives are at stake when individuals or organisations enable the state’s violence against Black or brown bodies. Silence, or a desire not to “rock the boat” or alienate anyone, makes us complicit. There is no point to “unity” if our goals are not the same. 

Former US President Barack Obama hosts an iftar dinner at the White House in 2014 (AFP)
Former US President Barack Obama hosts an iftar dinner at the White House in 2014 (AFP)

The community must also put a check on American exceptionalism. Our lives here are not more important or more valuable than those of the victims of American imperialism. Furthermore, Muslims living amid some of the most disheartening conditions around the world have a great deal to teach us – we cannot simply adopt a colonial attitude and think we know best.

In addition, Muslim Americans need to understand that Islamophobia is not just restricted to a Muslim travel ban, or someone saying negative things about Muslims. Anti-Muslim racism is built into the fabric of a number of institutions in this country, and very much part of the neoliberal establishment.

The Muslim community must move beyond symbolism, and recognise when that is weaponised. What is the point, for example, of us getting excited over a political leader saying “inshallah” if he was actively campaigning for the immoral and illegal Iraq war and was bombing Muslim communities around the world? 

The heart of Islam

Most importantly, we need to push our institutions towards meaningful representation and to hold the government accountable.

Muslim Americans need to ask themselves where they, their leaders and their institutions are standing

How many mainstream, national Muslim American organisations are talking about surveillance, entrapment, Guantanamo Bay, the military-industrial complex, or the ravages of capitalism? Are these not issues where Muslims should be at the forefront, providing leadership based on our religious values?

Situating ourselves with the most vulnerable and the oppressed has been the core of our faith and its teachings: it is the heart of Islam. 

Muslim Americans need to ask themselves where they, their leaders and their institutions are standing. Are they looking up, trying to protect their interests, serving as tokens, or maintaining the pretence of influence – or are they with the people?

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Hafsa Kanjwal is an assistant professor in South Asian history at Lafayette College. Her PhD, from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, was on the social history of modern Kashmir.

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.

3 weeks to election: No 2nd household stimulus? No mass protests? No pulse?

3 weeks to election: No 2nd household stimulus? No mass protests? No pulse?

October 14, 2020

By Ramin Mazaheri for the Saker Blog

If you had said back in May that the CARES Act would be the only fiscal stimulus in the world’s richest country surely you would have responded, “But then by October America will certainly be in pandemonium?”

Well… where’s the pandemonium?

I can best explain this American exceptionalism – that they go postal only when they should not, instead of when they should – via this October 3rd report I did for PressTV.

For those of you who don’t want to deal with the “inexplicable” glitches and stops which somehow “magically” afflict every PressTV report I try to watch from inside the US, here’s the recap: in Chicago, which is just a half-million people short of being a megacity, only about 150 people showed up for an anti-unemployment demonstration even though half the country is affected by either joblessness or under-employment.

In urban areas like San Francisco, with a metro area half the size of Chicago’s, you have 11 jobless for every one job opening, and yet… 150 people here?

As a reporter I just give the facts… and then, as I refuse to be a “useful idiot”, I also openly interpret the facts: the fact is, Americans have no idea what they are doing when it comes to politics. If you ask them whether the problem is either ignorance or apathy, they respond, “I don’t know and I don’t care.”

The problem, as I am a staunch believer in (non-Obama-related types of) hope, is not with the average Joe but with the Washington elite, who even if they came from an average Joe quite obviously do not care about the average Joe anymore.

Of course, as the currently-under-confirmation-proceedings Supreme Court Justice nominee Amy Coney Barrett proves, those tapped for the most truly elite spots are rarely from average Joe areas: Barrett would be, incredibly, the first justice who did not spend most of her life on the East Coast. To give an objective point to those in favor of the “Americans are ignorant” theory: mention “East Coast bias” to an American and they will think you are talking about how ESPN keeps talking about the Patriots and Yankees.

But the bewildering lack of any 2nd stimulus for households so emphatically proves that the Democratic leadership does not care about the average Joe (Republicans only care about an average Joe if said Joe is willing to reject all government assistance in every form) that even CNN had to hold Nancy Pelosi’s feet to the fire for the first time since Trump won the Republican primaries in 2016. Pelosi accused Wolf Blitzer and CNN of – now get ready to laugh – being “apologists for Republicans” simply because he pressed her on the bewildering and poverty-fuelling lack of a 2nd household stimulus.

LOL – maybe the Russians have flipped Wolf, eh Nancy? Putin’s power is limitless!

No, it’s just bewildering to even the CNN journalists as to why Democratic leadership refuses to alleviate massive economic suffering. I explained it here: No 2nd stimulus? Time to admit both parties want to destroy the average American, for those in the inexperienced youth class who can’t believe that Democrats could be as merciless and self-interested as those aren’t-they-just-ghastly conservatives.

Is this another boring article of me complaining about the super-failures of the super-capitalist imperialist US in 2020?

No, it’s to point out how wrong I am. Way back on May 28, in an article titled August 1: when the unemployment runs out and a new era of US labor battles begin I correctly opined, “I think there is no chance that the US 1% authorises an extension of the $600 per week extra past August 1 – it was totally out of keeping with US ideology to begin with, and yet another indicator of the hysteria which swept the US regarding coronavirus.” But – as I often can’t keep my mouth shut – I foolishly added, “Buy some popcorn and watch the show – August 1 is going to see public labor-related rage for the first time since the 1930s.”

So it’s less than three weeks until the election – where’s the labor-related rage?

I was in Kenosha, Wisconsin, again yesterday – the place is still totally boarded up, which seems rather much to me: There hasn’t been any widespread social rebellion since the end of August, anywhere. This article asks why that is?

The answer is the super-failures of the super-capitalist imperialist US that the US system produces tremendous political apathy, which has a side effect of increasing political ignorance.

As proof: I cannot express how pleas to “get out and vote” amazingly outnumber the advertisements for McDonalds, Coke and Beyonce combined – that seems like an impossibility, no? But such is the enormous political inertia here.

This apathy results in cases such as the nation’s third-largest city mustering only 150 people, 95% of whom were under 30, as the youth class has not relinquished that unique American optimism which eventually buckles under the reality encountered outside of school of the super-failures of the super-capitalist imperialist US.

If the trend of calm continues, the 2020 record will have to state that it was only Black-related issues which caused public protest despite the massive, massive societal chaos.

We can perhaps explain this by noting that the only truly successful protests in the US since nearly 1917 (the first year of socialist success) have been for Black-related issues. Stick with what works, I guess?

Indeed, the last grassroots, from-the-streets victory by White Americans was in 1920 – the year that anti-alcohol Prohibition was passed, as was women’s suffrage. Ever since socialism became a real thing it should be clear that White Americans are not about to march under anything resembling that successful banner, as it obviously opposes US domination.

Don’t tell me that Baby Boomers stopped Vietnam – the Vietnamese resistance booted out the invaders in 1975, not Western hippies. Americans didn’t flee until 8 full years after the “Summer of Love”.

2020 proves what we have known since those fun, marijuana-fuelled protests of the 1960s: White Americans simply don’t protest.

Republicans don’t protest, period. After all, they are status quo-lovers, and they aren’t about to muck up the system which they believe is the best in the world and always will be.

Democrats aren’t protesting because their elite leadership in 2020 has kept them overflowing with fear (corona), anger (Trump), identity politics (Black Lives Matter (which is not nonsense to Black people, of course, but which is inherently a minority-based movement as opposed to a broad, class-based, majority movement), and – above all – the rabid, competitive, evangelical fervor to win short-term growth via any means necessary in November’s elections.

But the bottom line is: for decades Americans have insisted on the status quo and violently rejected the call for any sort of revolutionary change in the economic and political structures upon which several centuries of Western culture has been based (bourgeois, aristocratic liberalism (for those who can afford it)). They have said to any nation or person – if you are not totally with us in maintaining these structures which preserve the status quo then we are totally against you.

Indeed, this is why I have always thought that “Civil War II is coming” worries are rather nonsense and impossible: Americans, for myriad reasons – ranging from fear of each other to smug complacency to apocalyptic apathy – simply don’t upset the apple cart. They are propagandised to always be selling apples, no matter how rotten they obviously are.

So there are no protests and I am proved wrong. But it is my job to opine, and thus to look foolish because – as a journalist – my learning is done in public.

But hope springs eternal – perhaps in the coming days Americans will indeed harness their widespread inner pandemonium against a leadership class which can’t even suggest that they eat cake amid massive hunger and shortages.

Ramin Mazaheri is currently covering the US elections. He is the chief correspondent in Paris for PressTV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism’as well as ‘I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China’, which is also available in simplified and traditional Chinese.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with RTVI television, Moscow, September 17, 2020

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with RTVI television, Moscow, September 17, 2020

September 18, 2020

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation

Question: I’ll start with the hottest topic, Belarus. President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko visited Bocharov Ruchei. Both sides have officially recognised that change within the Union State is underway. This begs the question: What is this about? A common currency, common army and common market? What will it be like?

Sergey Lavrov: It will be the way our countries decide. Work is underway. It relies on the 1999 Union Treaty. We understand that over 20 years have passed since then. That is why, a couple of years ago, upon the decision of the two presidents, the governments of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus began to work on identifying the agreed-upon steps that would make our integration fit current circumstances. Recently, at a meeting with Russian journalists, President Lukashenko said that the situation had, of course, changed and we must agree on ways to deepen integration from today’s perspective.

The presidential election has taken place in Belarus. The situation there is tense, because the opposition, backed by some of our Western colleagues, is trying to challenge the election outcome, but I’m convinced that the situation will soon get back to normal, and the work to promote integration processes will resume.

Everything that is written in the Union Treaty is now being analysed. Both sides have to come to a common opinion about whether a particular provision of the Union Treaty is still relevant, or needs to be revised. There are 31 roadmaps, and each one focuses on a specific section of the Union Treaty. So, there’s clearly a commitment to continue the reform, a fact that was confirmed by the presidents during a recent telephone conversation. This is further corroborated by the presidents’ meeting in Sochi.

I would not want that country’s neighbours, and our neighbours for that matter, including Lithuania, for example, to try to impose their will on the Belarusian people and, in fact, to manage the processes in which the opposition is unwittingly doing what’s expected of it. I have talked several times about Svetlana Tikhanovskaya’s situation. Clearly, someone is putting words in her mouth. She is now in the capital of Lithuania, which, like our Polish colleagues, is strongly demanding a change of power in Belarus. You are aware that Lithuania declared Ms Tikhanovskaya the leader of the Republic of Belarus, and Alexander Lukashenko was declared an illegitimate president.

Ms Tikhanovskaya has made statements that give rise to many questions. She said she was concerned that Russia and Belarus have close relations. The other day, she called on the security and law-enforcement forces to side with the law. In her mind, this is a direct invitation to breach the oath of office and, by and large, to commit high treason. This is probably a criminal offense. So, those who provide her with a framework for her activities and tell her what to say and what issues to raise should, of course, realise that they may be held accountable for that.

Question: Commenting on the upcoming meeting of the presidents of Russia and Belarus in Sochi, Tikhanovskaya said: “Whatever they agree on, these agreements will be illegitimate, because the new state and the new leader will revise them.” How can one work under such circumstances?

Sergey Lavrov: She was also saying something like that when Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin went to Belarus to meet with President Lukashenko and Prime Minister Golovchenko. She was saying it then. Back then, the opposition was concerned about any more or less close ties between our countries. This is despite the fact that early on during the crisis they claimed that they in no way engaged in anti-Russia activities and wanted to be friends with the Russian people. However, everyone could have seen the policy paper posted on Tikhanovskaya’s website during the few hours it was there. The opposition leaders removed it after realising they had made a mistake sharing their goals and objectives with the public. These goals and objectives included withdrawal from the CSTO, the EAEU and other integration associations that include Russia, and drifting towards the EU and NATO, as well as the consistent banning of the Russian language and the Belarusianisation of all aspects of life.

We are not against the Belarusian language, but when they take a cue from Ukraine, and when the state language is used to ban a language spoken by the overwhelming majority of the population, this already constitutes a hostile act and, in the case of Ukraine, an act that violates its constitution. If a similar proposal is introduced into the Belarusian legal field, it will violate the Constitution of Belarus, not to mention numerous conventions on the rights of ethnic and language minorities, and much more.

I would like those who are rabidly turning the Belarusian opposition against Russia to realise their share of responsibility, and the opposition themselves, including Svetlana Tikhanovskaya and others – to find the courage to resist such rude and blatant manipulation.

Question: If we are talking about manipulation, we certainly understand that it has many faces and reflects on the international attitude towards Russia. Internationally, what are the risks for us of supporting Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko? Don’t you think 26 years is enough? Maybe he has really served for too long?

Sergey Lavrov: The President of the Republic of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, did say it might have been “too long.” I believe he has proposed a very productive idea – constitutional reform. He talked about this even before the election, and has reiterated the proposal more than once since then. President of Russia Vladimir Putin supports this attitude. As the Belarusian leader said, after constitutional reform, he will be ready to announce early parliamentary and presidential elections. This proposal provides a framework where a national dialogue will be entirely possible. But it is important that representatives of all groups of Belarusian society to be involved in a constitutional reform process. This would ensure that any reform is completely legitimate and understandable for all citizens. Now a few specific proposals are needed concerning when, where and in what form this process can begin. I hope that this will be done, because President Alexander Lukashenko has repeatedly reaffirmed carrying out this initiative.

Question: Since we started talking about the international attitude towards Russia, let’s go over to our other partner – the United States. The elections in the US will take place very soon. We are actively discussing this in Russia. When asked whether Russia was getting ready for the elections in the US at the Paris forum last year, you replied: “Don’t worry, we’ll resolve this problem.” Now that the US elections are around the corner, I would like to ask you whether you’ve resolved it.

Sergey Lavrov: Speaking seriously, of course we, like any other normal country that is concerned about its interests and international security, are closely following the progress of the election campaign in the US. There are many surprising things in it. Naturally, we see how important the Russian issue is in this electoral process. The Democrats are doing all they can to prove that Russia will exploit its hacker potential and play up to Donald Trump. We are already being accused of promoting the idea that the Democrats will abuse the mail-in voting option thereby prejudicing the unbiased nature of voting. I would like to note at this point that mail-in voting has become a target of consistent attacks on behalf of President Trump himself. Russia has nothing to do with this at all.

A week-long mail-in voting is an interesting subject in comparing election systems in different countries. We have introduced three-day voting for governors and legislative assembly deputies in some regions. You can see the strong criticism it is subjected to, inside Russia as well. When the early voting in the US lasts for weeks, if not months, it is considered a model of democracy. I don’t see any criticism in this respect. In principle, we have long proposed analysing election systems in the OSCE with a view to comparing best practices and reviewing obviously obsolete arrangements. There have been instances in the US when, due to its cumbersome and discriminatory election system, a nominee who received the majority of votes could lose because in a national presidential election the voting is done through the Electoral College process rather than directly by the people. There have been quite a few cases like that. I once told former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in reply to her grievances about our electoral system: “But look at your problem. Maybe you should try to correct this discriminatory voting system?” She replied that it is discriminatory but they are used to it and this is their problem, so I shouldn’t bother.

When the United States accuses us of interference in some area of its public, political or government life, we suggest discussing it to establish who is actually doing what. Since they don’t present any facts, we simply recite their Congressional acts. In 2014, they adopted an act on supporting Ukraine, which directly instructed the Department of State to spend $20 million a year on support for Russian NGOs. We asked whether this didn’t amount to interference. We were told by the US National Security Council that in reality they support democracy because we are wreaking chaos and pursuing authoritative and dictatorial trends abroad when we interfere in domestic affairs whereas they bring democracy and prosperity. This idea is deeply rooted in American mentality. The American elite has always considered its country and nation exceptional and has not been shy to admit it.

I won’t comment on the US election. This is US law and the US election system. Any comments I make will be again interpreted as an attempt to interfere in their domestic affairs. I will only say one thing that President Vladimir Putin has expressed many times, notably, that we will respect any outcome of these elections and the will of the American people.

We realise that there will be no major changes in our relations either with the Democrats or with the Republicans, as representatives of both parties loudly declare. However, there is hope that common sense will prevail and no matter who becomes President, the new US Government and administration will realise the need to cooperate with us in resolving very serious global problems on which the international situation depends.

Question: You mentioned an example where voters can choose one president and the Electoral College process, another. I even have that cover of Time magazine with Hillary Clinton and congratulations, released during the election. It is a fairly well-known story, when they ran this edition and then had to cancel it.

Sergey Lavrov: Even the President of France sent a telegramme, but then they immediately recalled it.

And these people are now claiming that Alexander Lukashenko is an illegitimate president.

Question: You mentioned NGOs. These people believe that NGOs in the Russian Federation support democratic institutions, although it is no secret to anyone who has at least a basic understanding of foreign and domestic policy that those NGOs act exclusively as institutions that destabilise the situation in the country.

Sergey Lavrov: Not all of them.

Question: Can you tell us more about this?

Sergey Lavrov: We have adopted a series of laws – on public associations, on non-profit organisations, on measures to protect people from human rights violations. There is a set of laws that regulate the activities of non-government organisations on our territory, both Russian and foreign ones.

Concepts have been introduced like “foreign agent,” a practice we borrowed from “the world’s most successful democracy” – the United States. They argue that we borrowed a practice from 1938 when the United States introduced the foreign agent concept to prevent Nazi ideology from infiltrating from Germany. But whatever the reason they had to create the concept – “foreign agent” – the Americans are still effectively using it, including in relation to our organisations and citizens, to Chinese citizens, to the media.

In our law, foreign agent status, whatever they say about it, does not prevent an organisation from operating on the territory of the Russian Federation. It just needs to disclose its funding sources and be transparent about the resources it receives. And even that, only if it is engaged in political activities. Initially, we introduced a requirement for these organisations that receive funding from abroad and are involved in political projects to initiate the disclosure process. But most of them didn’t want to comply with the law, so it was modified. Now this is done by the Russian Ministry of Justice.

Question: Do you think that NGOs are still soft power?

Sergey Lavrov: Of course. In Russia we have about 220,000 NGOs, out of which 180 have the status of a foreign agent. It’s a drop in the ocean. These are probably the organisations, funded from abroad, that are more active than others in promoting in our public space ideas that far from always correspond to Russian legislation.

There is also the notion of undesirable organisations. They are banned from working in the Russian Federation. But there are only about 30 of them, no more.

Question: Speaking about our soft power, what is our concept? What do we offer the world? What do you think the world should love us for? What is Russia’s soft power policy all about?

Sergey Lavrov: We want everything that has been created by nations and civilisations to be respected. We believe nobody should impose any orders on anyone, so that nothing like what has now happened in Hollywood takes place on a global scale. We think nobody should encroach on the right of each nation to have its historical traditions and moral roots. And we see attempts to encroach upon them.

If soft power is supposed to promote one’s own culture, language and traditions, in exchange for knowledge about the life of other nations and civilisations, then this is the approach that the Russian Federation supports in every way.

The Americans define the term “soft power” as an attempt to influence the hearts and minds of others politically. Their goal is not to promote their culture and language, but to change the mood of the political class with a view to subsequent regime change. They are doing this on a daily basis and don’t even conceal it. They say everywhere that their mission is to bring peace and democracy to all other countries.

Question: Almost any TV series out there shows the US president sitting in the Oval Office saying he’s the leader of the free world.

Sergey Lavrov: Not just TV series. Barack Obama has repeatedly stated that America is an exceptional nation and should be seen as an example by the rest of the world. My colleague Mike Pompeo recently said in the Czech Republic that they shouldn’t let the Russians into the nuclear power industry and should take the Russians off the list of companies that bid for these projects. It was about the same in Hungary. He then went to Africa and was quite vocal when he told the African countries not to do business with the Russians or the Chinese, because they are trading with the African countries for selfish reasons, whereas the US is establishing economic cooperation with them so they can prosper. This is a quote. It is articulated in a very straightforward manner, much the same way they run their propaganda on television in an unsophisticated broken language that the man in the street can relate to. So, brainwashing is what America’s soft power is known for.

Question: Not a single former Soviet republic has so far benefited from American soft power.

Sergey Lavrov: Not only former Soviet republics. Take a look at any other region where the Americans have effected a regime change.

QuestionLibya, Syria. We stood for Syria.

Sergey Lavrov: Iraq, Libya. They tried in Syria, but failed. I hope things will be different there. There’s not a single country where the Americans changed the regime and declared victory for democracy, like George W. Bush did on the deck of an aircraft carrier in Iraq in May 2003, which is prosperous now. He said democracy had won in Iraq. It would be interesting to know what the former US President thinks about the situation in Iraq today. But no one will, probably, go back to this, because the days when presidents honestly admitted their mistakes are gone.

QuestionHere I am listening to you and wondering how many people care about this? Why is it that no one understands this? Is this politics that is too far away from ordinary people who are nevertheless behind it? Take Georgia or Ukraine. People are worse off now than before, and despite this, this policy continues.

Will the Minsk agreements ever be implemented? Will the situation in southeastern Ukraine ever be settled?

Returning to what we talked about. How independent is Ukraine in its foreign policy?

Sergey Lavrov: I don’t think that under the current Ukrainian government, just like under the previous president, we will see any progress in the implementation of the Minsk agreements, if only because President Zelensky himself is saying so publicly, as does Deputy Prime Minister Reznikov who is in charge of the Ukrainian settlement in the Contact Group. Foreign Minister of Ukraine Kuleba is also saying this. They say there’s a need for the Minsk agreements and they cannot be broken, because these agreements (and accusing Russia of non-compliance) are the foundation of the EU and the US policy in seeking to maintain the sanctions on Russia. Nevertheless, such a distorted interpretation of the essence of the Minsk agreements, or rather an attempt to blame everything on Russia, although Russia is never mentioned there, has stuck in the minds of our European colleagues, including France and Germany, who, being co-sponsors of the Minsk agreements along with us, the Ukrainians and Donbass, cannot but realise that the Ukrainians are simply distorting their responsibilities, trying to distance themselves from them and impose a different interpretation of the Minsk agreements. But even in this scenario, the above individuals and former Ukrainian President Kravchuk, who now heads the Ukrainian delegation to the Contact Group as part of the Minsk process, claim that the Minsk agreements in their present form are impracticable and must be revised, turned upside down. Also, Donbass must submit to the Ukrainian government and army before even thinking about conducting reforms in this part of Ukraine.

This fully contradicts the sequence of events outlined in the Minsk agreements whereby restoring Ukrainian armed forces’ control on the border with Russia is possible only after an amnesty, agreeing on the special status of these territories, making this status part of the Ukrainian Constitution and holding elections there. Now they propose giving back the part of Donbass that “rebelled” against the anti-constitutional coup to those who declared these people terrorists and launched an “anti-terrorist operation” against them, which they later renamed a Joint Forces Operation (but this does not change the idea behind it), and whom they still consider terrorists. Although everyone remembers perfectly well that in 2014 no one from Donbass or other parts of Ukraine that rejected the anti-constitutional coup attacked the putschists and the areas that immediately fell under the control of the politicians behind the coup. On the contrary, Alexander Turchinov, Arseniy Yatsenyuk and others like them attacked these areas. The guilt of the people living there was solely in them saying, “You committed a crime against the state, we do not want to follow your rules, let us figure out our own future and see what you will do next.” There’s not a single example that would corroborate the fact that they engaged in terrorism. It was the Ukrainian state that engaged in terrorism on their territory, in particular, when they killed [Head of the Donetsk People’s Republic] Alexander Zakharchenko and a number of field commanders in Donbass. So, I am not optimistic about this.

Question: So, we are looking at a dead end?

Sergey Lavrov: You know, we still have an undeniable argument which is the text of the Minsk Agreements approved by the UN Security Council.

QuestionBut they tried to revise it?

Sergey Lavrov: No, they are just making statements to that effect. When they gather for a Contact Group meeting in Minsk, they do their best to look constructive. The most recent meeting ran into the Ukrainian delegation’s attempts to pretend that nothing had happened. They recently passed a law on local elections which will be held in a couple of months. It says that elections in what are now called the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics will be held only after the Ukrainian army takes control of the entire border and those who “committed criminal offenses” are arrested and brought to justice even though the Minsk agreements provide for amnesty without exemptions.

Question: When I’m asked about Crimea I recall the referendum. I was there at a closed meeting in Davos that was attended by fairly well respected analysts from the US. They claimed with absolute confidence that Crimea was being occupied. I reminded them about the referendum. I was under the impression that these people either didn’t want to see or didn’t know how people lived there, that they have made their choice. Returning to the previous question, I think that nobody is interested in the opinion of the people.

Sergey Lavrov: No, honest politicians still exist. Many politicians, including European ones, were in Crimea during the referendum. They were there not under the umbrella of some international organisation but on their own because the OSCE and other international agencies were controlled by our Western colleagues. Even if we had addressed them, the procedure for coordinating the monitoring would have never ended.

Question: Just as in Belarus. As I see it, they were also invited but nobody came.

Sergey Lavrov: The OSCE refused to send representatives there. Now that the OSCE is offering its services as a mediator, I completely understand Mr Lukashenko who says the OSCE lost its chance. It could have sent observers and gained a first-hand impression of what was happening there, and how the election was held. They arrogantly disregarded the invitation. We know that the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) is practically wholly controlled by NATO. We have repeatedly proposed that our nominees work there but they have not been approved. This contradicts the principles of the OSCE. We will continue to seek a fairer approach to the admission of members to the organisation, but I don’t have much hope for this. Former OSCE Secretary General Thomas Greminger made an effort with this for the past three years but not everything depended on him – there is a large bloc of EU and NATO countries that enjoy a mathematical majority and try to dictate their own rules. But this is a separate issue.

Returning to Crimea, I have read a lot about this; let me give you two examples. One concerns my relations with former US Secretary of State John Kerry. In April 2014, we met in Geneva: me, John Kerry, EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and then Acting Foreign Minister of Ukraine Andrey Deshchitsa. We compiled a one page document that was approved unanimously. It read that we, the representatives of Russia, the US and the EU welcomed the commitments of the Ukrainian authorities to carry out decentralisation of the country with the participation of all the regions of Ukraine. This took place after the Crimean referendum. Later, the Americans, the EU and of course Ukraine “forgot” about this document. John Kerry told me at this meeting that everyone understood that Crimea was Russian, that the people wanted to return, but that we held the referendum so quickly that it didn’t fit into the accepted standards of such events. He asked me to talk to President Vladimir Putin, organise one more referendum, announce it in advance and invite international observers. He said he would support their visit there, that the result would be the same but that we would be keeping up appearances. I asked him why put on such shows if they understand that this was the expression of the will of the people.

The second example concerns the recent statements by the EU and the European Parliament to the effect that “the occupation” of Crimea is a crude violation of the world arrangement established after the victory in World War II. But if this criterion is used to determine where Crimea belongs, when the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic joined the UN after WWII in 1945, Crimea did not belong to it. Crimea was part of the USSR. Later, Nikita Khrushchev took an illegal action, which contradicted Soviet law, and this led to them having it. But we all understood that this was a domestic political game as regards a Soviet republic that was the home to Khrushchev and many of his associates.

Question: You have been Foreign Minister for 16 years now. This century’s major foreign policy challenges fell on your term in office. We faced sanctions, and we adapted to them and coped with them. Germany said it obtained Alexey Navalny’s test results. France and Sweden have confirmed the presence of Novichok in them. Reportedly, we are now in for more sanctions. Do you think the Navalny case can trigger new sanctions against Russia?

Sergey Lavrov: I agree with our political analysts who are convinced that if it were not for Navalny, they would have come up with something else in order to impose more sanctions.

With regard to this situation, I think our Western partners have simply gone beyond decency and reason. In essence, they are now demanding that we “confess.” They are asking us: Don’t you believe what the German specialists from the Bundeswehr are saying? How is that possible? Their findings have been confirmed by the French and the Swedes. You don’t believe them, either?

It’s a puzzling situation given that our Prosecutor General’s Office filed an inquiry about legal assistance on August 27 and hasn’t received an answer yet. Nobody knows where the inquiry has been for more than a week now. We were told it was at the German Foreign Ministry. The German Foreign Ministry did not forward the request to the Ministry of Justice, which was our Prosecutor General Office’s  ultimate addressee. Then, they said that it had been transferred to the Berlin Prosecutor’s Office, but they would not tell us anything without the consent of the family. They are urging us to launch a criminal investigation.

We have our own laws, and we cannot take someone’s word for it to open a criminal case. Certain procedures must be followed. A pre-investigation probe initiated immediately after this incident to consider the circumstances of the case is part of this procedure.

Some of our Western colleagues wrote that, as the German doctors discovered, it was “a sheer miracle” that Mr Navalny survived. Allegedly, it was the notorious Novichok, but he survived thanks to “lucky circumstances.” What kind of lucky circumstances are we talking about? First, the pilot immediately landed the plane; second, an ambulance was already waiting on the airfield; and third, the doctors immediately started to provide help. This absolutely impeccable behaviour of the pilots, doctors and ambulance crew is presented as “lucky circumstances.” That is, they even deny the possibility that we are acting as we should. This sits deep in the minds of those who make up such stories.

Returning to the pre-investigation probe, everyone is fixated on a criminal case. If we had opened a criminal case right away (we do not have legal grounds to do so yet, and that is why the Prosecutor General’s Office requested legal assistance from Germany on August 27), what would have been done when it happened? They would have interviewed the pilot, the passengers and the doctors. They would have found out what the doctors discovered when Navalny was taken to the Omsk hospital, and what medications were used. They would have interviewed the people who communicated with him. All of that was done. They interviewed the five individuals who accompanied him and participated in the events preceding Navalny boarding the plane; they interviewed the passengers who were waiting for a flight to Moscow in Tomsk and sat at the same bar; they found out what they ordered and what he drank. The sixth person, a woman who accompanied him, has fled, as you know. They say she was the one who gave the bottle to the German lab. All this has been done. Even if all of that was referred to as a “criminal case,” we couldn’t have done more.

Our Western partners are looking down on us as if we have no right to question what they are saying or their professionalism. If this is the case, it means that they dare to question the professionalism of our doctors and investigators. Unfortunately, this position is reminiscent of other times. Arrogance and a sense of infallibility have already been observed in Europe, and that led to very regrettable consequences.

Question: How would you describe this policy of confrontation? When did it start (I mean during your term of office)? It’s simply so stable at the moment that there seems no chance that something might change in the future.

Sergey Lavrov: President of Russia Vladimir Putin has repeatedly spoken on this topic. I think that the onset of this policy, this era of constant pressure on Russia began with the end of a period that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union, a time when the West believed it had Russia there in its pocket – it ended, full stop. Unfortunately, the West does not seem to be able to wrap its head around this, to accept that there is no alternative to Russia’s independent actions, both domestically and on the international arena. This is why, unfortunately, this agony continues by inertia.

Having bad ties with any country have never given us any pleasure. We do not like making such statements in which we sharply criticise the position of the West. We always try to find compromises, but there are situations where it is hard not to come face to face with one another directly or to avoid frank assessments of what our Western friends are up to.

I have read what our respected political scientists write who are well known in the West. And I can say this idea is starting to surface ever stronger and more often – it is time we stop measuring our actions with the yardsticks that the West offers us and to stop trying to please the West at all costs. These are very serious people and they are making a serious point. The fact that the West is prodding us to this way of thinking, willingly or unwillingly, is obvious to me. Most likely, this is being done involuntarily. But it is a big mistake to think that Russia will play by Western rules in any case – as big a mistake as like approaching China with the same yardstick.

Question: Then I really have to ask you. We are going through digitalisation. I think when you started your diplomatic career, you could not even have imagined that some post on Twitter could affect the political situation in a country. Yet – I can see your smile – we are living in a completely different world. Film stars can become presidents; Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook can become drivers of political campaigns – that happened more than once – and those campaigns can be successful. We are going through digitalisation, and because of this, many unexpected people appear in international politics – unexpected for you, at least. How do you think Russia’s foreign policy will change in this context? Are we ready for social media to be impacting our internal affairs? Is the Chinese scenario possible in Russia, with most Western social media blocked to avoid their influence on the internal affairs in that country?

Sergey Lavrov: Social media are already exerting great influence on our affairs. This is the reality in the entire post-Soviet space and developing countries. The West, primarily the United States, is vigorously using social media to promote their preferred agenda in just about any state. This necessitates a new approach to ensuring the national security. We have been doing this for a long time already.

As for regulating social media, everyone does it. You know that the digital giants in the United States have been repeatedly caught introducing censorship, primarily against us, China or other countries they dislike, shutting off information that comes from these places.

The internet is regulated by companies based in the United States, everyone knows that. In fact, this situation has long made the overwhelming majority of countries want to do something about it, considering the global nature of the internet and social media, to make sure that the management processes are approved at a global level, become transparent and understandable. The International Telecommunication Union, a specialised UN agency, has been out there for years. Russia and a group of other co-sponsoring countries are promoting the need to regulate the internet in such a way that everyone understands how it works and what principles govern it, in this International Union. Now we can see how Mark Zuckerberg and other heads of large IT companies are invited to the Congress and lectured there and asked to explain what they are going to do. We can see this. But a situation where it will be understandable for everyone else and, most importantly, where everyone is happy with it, still seems far away.

For many years, we have been promoting at the UN General Assembly an initiative to agree on the rules of responsible behaviour of states in the sphere of international information security. This initiative has already led to set up several working groups, which have completed their mandate with reports. The last such report was reviewed last year and another resolution was adopted. This time, it was not a narrow group of government experts, but a group that includes all UN member states. It was planning to meet, but things slowed down due to the coronavirus. The rules for responsible conduct in cyberspace are pending review by this group. These rules were approved by the SCO, meaning they already reflect a fairly large part of the world’s population.

Our other initiative is not about the use of cyberspace for undermining someone’s security; it is about fighting crimes (pedophilia, pornography, theft) in cyberspace. This topic is being considered by another UNGA committee. We are preparing a draft convention that will oblige all states to suppress criminal activities in cyberspace.

QuestionDo you think that the Foreign Ministry is active on this front? Would you like to be more proactive in the digital dialogue? After all, we are still bound by ethics, and have yet to understand whether we can cross the line or not. Elon Musk feels free to make any statements no matter how ironic and makes headlines around the world, even though anything he says has a direct bearing on his market cap. This is a shift in the ethics of behaviour. Do you think that this is normal? Is this how it should be? Or maybe people still need to behave professionally?

Sergey Lavrov: A diplomat can always use irony and a healthy dose of cynicism. In this sense, there is no contradiction here. However, this does not mean that while making ironic remarks on the surrounding developments or comments every once in a while (witty or not so witty), you do not have to work on resolving legal matters related to internet governance. This is what we are doing.

The Foreign Ministry has been at the source of these processes. We have been closely coordinating our efforts on this front with the Security Council Office, and the Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media and other organisations. Russian delegations taking part in talks include representatives from various agencies. Apart from multilateral platforms such as the International Telecommunication Union, the UN General Assembly and the OSCE, we are working on this subject in bilateral relations with our key partners.

We are most interested in working with our Western partners, since we have an understanding on these issues with countries that share similar views. The Americans and Europeans evade these talks under various pretexts. There seemed to be an opening in 2012 and 2013, but after the government coup in Ukraine, they used it as a pretext to freeze this process. Today, there are some signs that the United States and France are beginning to revive these contacts, but our partners have been insufficiently active. What we want is professional dialogue so that they can raise all their concerns and accusations and back them with specific facts. We stand ready to answer all the concerns our partners may have, and will not fail to voice the concerns we have. We have many of them.

During the recent visit by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas to Russia, I handed him a list containing dozens of incidents we have identified: attacks against our resources, with 70 percent of them targeting state resources of the Russian Federation, and originating on German territory. He promised to provide an answer, but more than a month after our meeting we have not seen it so far.

Question: Let me ask you about another important initiative by the Foreign Ministry. You decided to amend regulations enabling people to be repatriated from abroad for   free, and you proposed subjecting the repatriation guarantee to the reimbursement of its cost to the budget. Could you tell us, please, is this so expensive for the state to foot this bill?

Sergey Lavrov: Of course, these a substantial expenses. The resolution that provided for offering free assistance was adopted back in 2010, and was intended for citizens who find themselves in situations when their life is at risk. Imagine a Russian ambassador. Most of the people ask for help because they have lost money, their passport and so on. There are very few cases when an ambassador can actually say that a person is in a life-threatening situation and his or her life is in danger. How can an ambassador take a decision of this kind? As long as I remember, these cases can be counted on the fingers of my two hands since 2010, when an ambassador had to take responsibility and there were grounds for offering this assistance. We wanted to ensure that people can get help not only when facing an imminent danger (a dozen cases in ten years do not cost all that much). There were many more cases when our nationals found themselves in a difficult situation after losing money or passports. We decided to follow the practices used abroad. Specifically, this means that we provide fee-based assistance. In most cases, people travelling abroad can afford to reimburse the cost of a return ticket.

This practice is designed to prevent fraud, which remains an issue. We had cases when people bought one-way tickets knowing that they will have to be repatriated.

Question: And with no return ticket, they go to the embassy?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, after that they come to the embassy. For this reason, I believe that the system we developed is much more convenient and comprehensive for dealing with the situations Russians get into when travelling abroad, and when we have to step in to help them through our foreign missions.

Question: Mr Lavrov, thank you for your time. As a Georgian, I really have to ask this. Isn’t it time to simplify the visa regime with Georgia? A second generation of Georgians has now grown up that has never seen Russia. What do you think?

Sergey Lavrov: Georgians can travel to Russia – they just need to apply for a visa. The list of grounds for obtaining a visa has been expanded. There are practically no restrictions on visiting Russia, after obtaining a visa in the Interests Section for the Russian Federation in Tbilisi or another Russian overseas agency.

As for visa-free travel, as you know, we were ready for this a year ago. We were actually a few steps away from being ready to announce it when that incident happened with the Russian Federal Assembly delegation to the International Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy, where they were invited in the first place, seated in their chairs, and then violence was almost used against them.

I am confident that our relations with Georgia will recover and improve. We can see new Georgian politicians who are interested in this. For now, there are just small parties in the ruling elites. But I believe our traditional historical closeness, and the mutual affinity between our peoples will ultimately triumph. Provocateurs who are trying to prevent Georgia from resuming normal relations with Russia will be put to shame.

They are trying to use Georgia the same way as Ukraine. In Ukraine, the IMF plays a huge role. And the IMF recently decided that each tranche allocated to Ukraine would be short-term.

Question: Microcredits.

Sergey Lavrov: Microcredits and a short leash that can always be pulled a little.

They are trying to use Georgia the same way. We have no interest in seeing this situation continue. We did not start it and have never acted against the Georgian people. Everyone remembers the 2008 events, how American instructors arrived there and trained the Georgian army. The Americans were well aware of Mikheil Saakashvili’s lack of restraint. He trampled on all agreements and issued a criminal order.

We are talking about taking their word for it. There were many cases when we took their word for it, but then it all boiled down to zilch. In 2003, Colin Powell, a test tube – that was an academic version. An attack on Iraq followed. Many years later, Tony Blair admitted that there had been no nuclear weapons in Iraq. There were many such stories. In 1999, the aggression against Yugoslavia was triggered by the OSCE representative in the Balkans, US diplomat William Walker, who visited the village of Racak, where they found thirty corpses, and declared it genocide of the Albanian population. A special investigation by the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia found they were military dressed in civilian clothes. But Mr Walker loudly declared it was genocide. Washington immediately seized on the idea, and so did London and other capitals. NATO launched an aggression against Yugoslavia.

After the end of the five-day military operation to enforce peace, the European Union ordered a special report from a group of invited experts, including Swiss diplomat Heidi Tagliavini. She was later involved in the Minsk process, and then she was asked to lead a group of experts who investigated the outbreak of the military conflict in August 2008. The conclusion was unambiguous. All this happened on the orders of Mikheil Saakashvili, and as for his excuses that someone had provoked him, or someone had been waiting for him on the other side of the tunnel, this was just raving.

Georgians are a wise nation. They love life, perhaps the same way and the same facets that the peoples in the Russian Federation do. We will overcome the current abnormal situation and restore normal relations between our states and people.


In addition, if you follow the Minister, follow up on this interview with Sputnik

Exclusive: Sergei Lavrov Talks About West’s Historical Revisionism, US Election and Navalny Case

NATO 2020: A COALITION OF THE UNWILLING

 25.07.2020 

Written and produced by SF Team: J.Hawk, Daniel Deiss, Edwin Watsont

The problem with alliances is that they ultimately either become victims of their own success, or cannot figure out what to do with themselves once the original rationale disappears. The original Cold War-era NATO was a relatively cohesive entity led by one of the two superpowers, with most of its members being the industrialized democracies of Western Europe, with West Germany being its eastern-most European member, and alliance planning revolving around USSR. But even then there were cracks in the alliance. Italy, for example, had nearly no role to play as it did not border any Warsaw Pact country and did not practice deploying its forces to West Germany to practice its defense against the anticipated Warsaw Pact invasion. And while Greece and Turkey were ostensibly part of that alliance as well, in practice they spent more time clashing with one another than planning for joint action against USSR.

The end of the Cold War made the problem of alliance cohesion far worse, for two reasons. One, it quickly added as many members as possible thus greatly expanding its geographical extent, and two, it lost that single unifying factor in the form of USSR. Today’s NATO is a patchwork of mini-alliances revolving around the United States which is determined to replace the alliance aspect of NATO which assumes that all members have interests that are to be taken into consideration, by patron-client relationships.

Not to put too fine a point on it, the goal of the United States is global domination. This goal is shared by the entire political elite and major portions of the population, though it is nearly never discussed openly or directly. Instead, it is framed in terms of “American Leadership”, “New American Century”, and of course “American Exceptionalism” which is used to justify any policy that violates international law, treaties, or agreements. Given that every country which has not recognized “American Leadership” is described as a “regime”, there is no indication the US elite is interested in anything resembling peaceful coexistence with other sovereign states.

NATO plays a double role in achieving that goal. First, it is a military alliance that projects military power against anyone refusing to accept “American Leadership”. Military contributions by European member states are certainly important, not least by giving America the veneer of international legitimacy, but the presence of US bases on the European continent is far more so. US forces stationed in or staged out of European naval, air, and land bases are indispensable to its efforts to control the MENA region and to promote the US policy of driving a wedge between Europe on the one hand and Russia and China on the other. Secondly, a European country’s membership in NATO means a sacrifice of considerable portion of its sovereignty and independence to the United States. This is a wholly asymmetrical relationship, since US bases its forces in European countries and sells its weapons to them, not the other way around. The penetration of a European country thus achieved allows US intelligence service to develop agent networks and to employ the full range of lobbying techniques which have been particularly visible in the US efforts to press F-35 aircraft into the hands of NATO member states.

America’s self-appointed task is made not easier or harder by the fact that today’s NATO is therefore fragmented along both geographic and national power lines. The geographical divide is plainly easy to see: Norway and Denmark mainly care about the Arctic, Poland and Romania obsess about Russia, Mediterranean countries freak out about what’s happening in North Africa. The wrangling over sending more troops to Mali or to Estonia is the reflection of the differing security concerns of individual members of the far-flung pact. The power divide is less easy to see but more problematic for Washington. V_3 (A2) Of the European powers, only four—Germany, France, Italy, and Great Britain—may be considered to be powerful and independent political actors with which the US has to contend on anything like an equal basis. The first three form the core of the European Union, whereas Great Britain opted for Brexit, likely in part because of the looming big power struggle between the US and the EU that has the potential of degenerating into a destructive trade war. It is doubtful that the skirmishes over Huawei and North Stream 2 are anything but the opening salvoes in the confrontation over whether the EU will emerge as a political actor independent of the US, or be reduced to a collection of client states. Unfortunately, America’s task is made easier by the fact of the intra-European divisions mentioned above.

United States is pursuing development of several hypersonic missile systems with the aim of ultimately fielding very large numbers of them in order to be able to launch disarming first strikes against Russian and Chinese nuclear arsenals. Since the weapons themselves are relatively short-ranged (though that may change once the US allows New START to lapse), they require basing close to their intended targets. That means having to find countries willing to base them in Europe, where it is liable to provoke a  political debate of the magnitude comparable to that of the original Euromissile controversy of the 1980s. Since Germany is not interested in being reduced to the status of a US client, it has resisted the US on a variety of fronts, including the North Stream 2, the refusal to buy F-35s, and now also the lack of desire to host the new US missiles. Even the German defense spending increases are intended at least as much to counter US influence in Eastern Europe as the supposed Russian threat to NATO. The United States has responded using the usual array of tools: economic sanctions on any and all European entities participating in the project and even using the gas, apparently launching a cyber-attack that US-friendly German intelligence promptly blamed on Russia, and also threatening to move US troops out of Germany and possibly to Poland. There is even discussion and rumors that US nuclear weapons stationed in Germany might be moved to Poland.

The outcome of this so far is a power struggle between two NATO allies, US and Germany, over the political alignment of a third—Poland. While Germany has the power of EU institutions on its side and massive economic gravitational pull, US has cultivated a cadre of friends, possibly intelligence assets, as a result of post-9/11 collaboration in Afghanistan, Iraq, and in the realm of intelligence-sharing. This has produced a government more than willing to deploy US troops, missiles, and even nukes on Poland’s territory. The power of US influence is visible in Poland’s weapons procurement: Patriot, Javelin, HIMARS, F-35, and not a single comparable European system in recent years. The US weakness in this confrontation consists of the unwillingness to subsidize Poland economically which, combined with the ruling party’s fiscal irresponsibility, will make it difficult for the country to maintain its anti-German course in the longer term.

While in Eastern Europe US national security state is using Poland as a proxy against Germany, in the Mediterranean it has adopted Turkey as a proxy against France and Italy. After some hemming and hawing, the US hawks dropped the Kurds yet again, with Trump happily taking the blame, in order to piggy-back on Erdogan’s Libya ambitions to curtail French and Italian interests there. To be sure, Turkey retains far more autonomy in the relationship than Poland, which was unable or unwilling to play US and Russia and EU against one another in order to secure a measure of freedom of action. But the US Congress measures to allow the purchase of S-400 weapons from Turkey is an indicator that Turkey’s behavior is once again useful to the US. And even though Turkey was excluded from the F-35 program, its firms continue to make components for various assembly plants. The result has been a number of stand-offs between Turkish warships on one hand and French and Italian on the other off the coasts of Libya. And whereas France and Italy are backing the Marshal Haftar’s LNA, Turkey’s preferred proxy is the GNA, leading to a veritable “anti-Turkey” alliance being formed that includes Turkey’s old time NATO adversary Greece. While the US is officially aloof of the entire situation, in practice controlling Libya’s oil is part of the Washington strategy of “energy dominance” every bit as the North Stream 2 sanctions are.

The remarkable part of these two sets of conflicts among NATO powers is that in both cases Russia has sided with Germany and France against the US in both cases. It is Russia’s policies that are more beneficial to French and German interests than America’s, since Russia is not actually seeking to monopolize energy supplies to Europe in the way that the US clearly and openly is.

So far the US strategy consisted of steadily ratcheting up pressure through sanctions and proxies and occasional intelligence-generated anti-Russia provocations (sometimes helpfully delivered by British agencies), trying to find that happy middle of policies that actually force Germany, France, and Italy to change their policies and which do not force a permanent breach in the trans-Atlantic relationship. But the cracks in the relationship are clearly visible and they are not attributable to Trump’s erratic and brusque manner. It is the US Congress which passed the successive rounds of anti-North Stream 2 sanctions, with strong partisan majorities. It means the assertion of US control over European major powers is part of the US agenda. Since that agenda is motivated by a US political and economic crisis of a magnitude not seen since the 1930s, there is little likelihood Biden’s presidency would represent a radical departure from the current trend.

Of course, for Germany, France, and Italy to successfully resist US encroachment they would first need to transform the EU into something closer than a federation. The COVID-19 pandemic and the associated economic crisis already providing considerable impetus for such a transformation, America’s insatiable appetites might provide the rest.

Protests show ‘American exceptionalism’ is over: political researcher

Source

June 17, 2020 – 12:0

TEHRAN – Lebanese political researcher Ali Mourad tells the Tehran Times that the anti-racism protests across the United States show that “American Exceptionalism” has come to an end.

Following the suffocation of George Floyd, a black African-American, at the hands of a white policeman on May 25 in Minneapolis, anti-racism protests have engulfed the United States.
Mourad also says, “We are witnessing an apparent ‘conflict of ideologies and identities’ in American society.”

Following is the text of the interview:

1. What are the messages of the recent protests in America against racial discrimination?

Answer: Of what we’ve seen up till now in those protests we can note that the Black struggle against systematic racism in the United States has risen back again, with new means of expression and a broad base of solidarity worldwide, which is more comprehensive than the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. It tells us also that it’s a declaration of the end of the so-called “American Exceptionalism” or what was also named as the “American Melting Pot.” We are witnessing an apparent “Conflict of Ideologies and Identities” in American society.
“Trump is somehow trying to make use of the protests by showing that it’s a rebellion of the blacks against the system ‘that is owned and run by the white people’.”2. Do you think that the Trump administration bears the responsibility for what happened against George Floyd, who was suffocated under the knee of a white police officer, or should we accuse the political structure in America, which is built based on racism?

A: Since he entered the White House, Trump is indeed responsible for inciting the violent actions against people of color in America, looking forward to tightening the loyalty of the electoral base that delivered him into power in 2016. However, I believe he’s not the only one or his party to blame for the Black community grievances. What the African Americans experienced and still inside the United States dates back to 400 years ago. The so-called “Founding Fathers” of the U.S. who wrote the “Declaration of Independence” were racists and owned slaves. Even the third president (Jefferson) writes: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that their Creator endows them with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness”. However, he had 600 slaves. He even started raping his slave “Sally Hemings” when she was 14 years old and had six children from her whom he refused to accept them as his children officially. It’s always been a racial system that governed in the United States. Right after Abraham Lincoln freed Blacks they were used to reconstruct the country after the civil war ended, later on, the Blacks were enrolled in the U.S. army so they could fight America’s battles in WWI and WWII and other conflicts. Even today, the majority of U.S. prisoners are black, and they are used under forced labor to manufacture the weapons of major U.S. arms companies.

3. Do you think that Trump is trying to militarize response to civil unrest for economic and geopolitical considerations which may enhance the prospects of a civil war in the future?

A: I think Trump wants nothing but re-elected again, so he’s reading from Richard Nixon’s book. The latter used the “Law & Order” speech to win the votes of the white population in the southern states, who were upset with the massive protests of the black community in spring 1968 after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. By then, the Republicans had what they called “The Southern Strategy” that aimed to flip the white conservative political views in the southern states from Democrats to Republicans, by adopting a militarist fear-mongering speech from the black community so they would attract them. It worked for the Republicans, and since the early 1970s, all Republican presidential candidates used the same strategy, and Trump is using it today. So yes, Trump is somehow trying to make use of the protests by showing that it’s a rebellion of the blacks against the system “that is owned and run by the white people.”
“MBS (Muhammad Bin Salman) and some other heads of Arab sheikhdoms believe their destiny is linked with Trump’s, that’s why they’re defending him.”4. What is the secret behind some Arab countries’ silence on recent events in the U.S. and the Saudi media attack on all those who support the protests and criticize Trump’s racism?

A: Most of the Arab regimes are very careful when it comes to Trump. They don’t want to upset him because they fear his reaction. As for Saudi Arabia, you can easily realize how nervous Riyadh was during those protests. In general, Saudi doesn’t believe in the right to protest, what if it was a protest against the protector of MBS? So yes, the Saudi media was doing the job that no U.S. media outlet dares to do, trying to alienate the protests and even accuse the protestors of being run by outsiders! MBS (Muhammad Bin Salman) and some other heads of Arab sheikhdoms believe their destiny is linked with Trump’s, that’s why they’re defending him.

5. How do the American protests affect the upcoming presidential elections?

A: It’s still early to evaluate the outcomes of the protests, but I think what matters to the un-politically affiliated “silent majority” is the economy, more than the racial issue. That’s America, and it will always be so. Between 1970 and 2020, African Americans conducted tens of significant protests and uprisings all over America, but little was achieved concerning gaining their full civil and economic rights. Trump is acting in a way that’s clear he doesn’t care if he lost the vote of the little margin the voters of color. He is trying to focus on his “successful” economic performance to gain some points for his polls.

6. The U.S. is using methods of violence against domestic protests, a practice it has repeatedly used in its imperial adventures abroad. How does it show the brutality of capitalism against suppressed people?

A: There is news that some major U.S. arms companies are about to sell police departments and law enforcement military tools and weapons, so that be used against U.S. citizens. Trump is pushing forward, so this happens when he says, “I’ll support and fund the law enforcement.” I think it’s a moment where we realize the deep quagmire America is facing: Washington is not capable anymore of starting a new war that they guarantee a victory in it after their defeat in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, etc. And since arms companies need to sell their products, it seems Washington has no problem to pour those weapons inside the country. With the U.S. 2nd amendment being guarded by white supremacy and arms companies’ lobbyists, America would be heading towards a second civil war in the future so that the capitalist corporate industrial complex gains more money. They did it to the oppressed people all over the world; now, they might be doing it against the minorities or even themselves inside America. That’s what you call: “Greed Capitalist Ideology.”

 

Is American Exceptionalism Shaping Our Scientific Response to the Coronavirus?

By David Swanson

Source

While New York City suffers through coronavirus, it’s worth recalling that in the name of science in 1966, the U.S. government released bacteria in the New York subways. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.

(DavidSwanson.org) — What’s the matter with science? By that, do I mean, why don’t we turn away from corrupt politics and religion and follow the way of science? Or do I mean, why have we allowed science to so corrupt our politics and our culture? I mean, of course, both.

We don’t need an uneducated jackass telling people how to control a viral pandemic because he’s a president. At the same time, we don’t need corporate, for-profit, and ignorant media outlets using the arrogant science of computer models to predict the course of a pandemic in a manner at odds with what has already happened in the actual world with this pandemic, not to mention past ones.

We don’t need politicians bought and paid for by oil companies telling us that the earth’s climate is doing fine. But, of course, the oil companies bought and paid for scientists (and university departments) before they bought and paid for politicians. Scientists are telling the public that nuclear energy is the answer, that war is good for them, that relocating to another planet is possible, and that a scientific solution to climate change will be here soon, not to mention that blissfully destroying the earth with all sorts of machinery developed by scientists is simply not to be questioned.

The Governor of New York has no qualifications whatsoever to decide how people should behave to save lives during a plague. But mathematicians at RAND have absolutely no business telling politicians to base their foreign policy on nuclear deterrence, secrecy, and dishonesty.

So, is the answer science or not science? Can’t you just put it in a tweet, for godsake?

The answer is that public decisions need to be made on a basis of morality, independence from corruption, maximum information and education, and maximum democratic public control, and that one tool in acquiring information should be science — meaning not just anything with numbers or scientistic vocabulary or a scientistic source, but independently verifiable research into areas that have been selected on a basis of morality, independence from corruption, maximum information and education, and maximum democratic public control.

The Tragedy of American Science

Clifford Conner’s new book, The Tragedy of American Science: From Truman to Trump, takes us on a tour of what’s the matter with science. He blames two chief evils: corporatization and militarization. He addresses them in that order, creating the possibility that at least a few people not previously ready to question militarism will be by the time they reach the middle of the book — a book packed with wonderful examples and insights into both new and familiar topics.

Conner takes us through numerous accounts of the corruption of science. Coca-Cola and other sugar profiteers backed science that led the U.S. government to drive people away from fat, but not away from sugar, and straight toward carbohydrates — which made the U.S. public fatter. The science wasn’t simply lies, but it was simply too simplistic to be a basis for guidance on the topic at hand.

Scientists developed new varieties of wheat, rice, and corn. And it’s not that they didn’t work. But they required huge amounts of fertilizer and pesticide, which poor people could not afford. This poisoned the earth while concentrating big agriculture. Even more farmers suffered when too much food was produced, which destroyed prices. And people continued to go hungry because the main problem had always been poverty, not the type of wheat being grown.

Scientists developed GMO crops to require less fertilizer and pesticide, and to withstand increased use of herbicides used on weeds, thereby creating new problems while solving problems of their own creation, and never addressing the primary problems in need of solution. Scientists have simultaneously been paid to claim that GMO crops are safe for human consumption and produce more food, without actually providing evidence of either claim. Meanwhile corporate-captive governments block the public from being able to know whether food in stores contains GMOs or not — a move that can only fuel suspicion.

Because science is a field of expertise that reaches a public that knows scientists have lied for a buck about cigarettes, diet, pollution, climate, racism, evolution, and so on, and because it reaches us through highly distrusted government agencies and corporate media outlets, and because there’s always been a huge market for baseless, magical, mystical, and optimistic claims anyway, distrust of science is prevalent. That distrust is often wrong and often right, but always partially to blame on the garbage people are presented with as science.

Tobacco is a story we think we all know already. But how many know the origins of big tobacco’s lies in the nuclear Manhattan Project? And how many know that 480,000 deaths a year in the United States are still caused by smoking, or that globally the figure is 8 million and rising, or that the tobacco industry still pays its scientific researchers 20 times what the American Cancer Society and American Lung Association combined spend on theirs? This is typical of many reasons to read The Tragedy of American Science.

My view, of course, is that once you make science American it’s doomed. It needs to be human to have a chance. American exceptionalism is not just part of basing pandemic predictions on computer models rather than on the other 96% of humanity. It’s also part of denying the possibility of success for universal health coverage or workplace rights or required sick leave or a reasonable distribution of wealth. As long as something has never worked in the United States, an American Science can deny its legitimacy, even if the rest of the world finds it successful.

Conner also finds for-profit pharmaceutical pain-profiteers to blame for the opioid crisis, not to mention for the failure to do the world of good that could have been done had research been directed elsewhere. One choice in science is what to research. Melanoma and cystic fibrosis and ovarian cancer get funding, while sickle-cell anemia doesn’t. The former mainly impact white people, the latter black. Similarly, deadly viruses that only impact other countries are not a top priority — until they threaten the people who matter.

Beyond big money deciding the priorities of big medicine, Conner chronicles an array of methods used to produce the desired science. These include seeding trials (phony trials intended simply to introduce a drug to doctors), medical ghostwriting, predatory journals, and disease mongering. Drug advertising is unique to the United States and New Zealand, and it’s part of the creation of diseases to fit drugs, as opposed to the development of drugs to fit diseases.

All such tails are only half the story. The other half is war-making. Conner traces the militarization of science from the Atoms for Peace pretense to today. Over half of U.S. government spending on scientific research over the past 50 years has been on war, including research into nuclear weapons, chemical weapons, biological weapons, “conventional” weapons, drones, torture techniques, and even imaginary weapons never scientifically found to work (such as “missile defense” or “brain washing”).

While New York City suffers through coronavirus, it’s worth recalling that in the name of science in 1966, the U.S. government released bacteria in the New York subways. The bacteria that was released is a frequent cause of food poisoning and can be deadly.

What do we need instead of the current state of affairs?

Conner proposes 100% public funding and control of all scientific research, with agencies like the EPA, FDA, and CDC free of corporate corruption. He also seems to favor open global sharing of research, which would be our best hope against coronavirus and much else.

He also puts a spin on Grover Norquist’s madness with this:

I don’t want to abolish the military-industrial complex. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”

I don’t know whether 100% public funding is possible. I don’t agree with Conner regurgitating accusations of chemical weapons use by Syria without providing any evidence. I’m not sure he’s right that stopping and reversing global warming would be a relatively simple step if we got science out of the hands of the military. And I have a serious question about his take on military spending.

But I highly recommend this book and consideration of what I take to be its main message: science could have worked wonders if properly used (and if a bit of military budgets were spent on something useful) and perhaps it still can.

The United States of America’s Doll House: A Vast Tapestry of Lies and Illusions

By Edward Curtin

Source

 

Trump Security Meeting b889d

 

“It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.”  Harold Pinter’s Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech, 2005

While truth-tellers Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning sit inside jail cells and Edward Snowden lives in exile in Russia, the American people hole up in an illusionary dwelling constructed to reduce them to children afraid of the truth.  Or is it the dark?  This is not new; it has been so for a very long time, but it has become a more sophisticated haunted doll’s house, an electronic one with many bells and whistles and images that move faster than the eye can see. We now inhabit a digital technological nightmare controlled by government and corporate forces intent on dominating every aspect of people’s lives. This is true despite the valiant efforts of dissidents to use the technology for human liberation. The old wooden doll houses, where you needed small fingers to rearrange the furniture, now only need thumbs that can click you into your cell’s fantasy world.  So many dwell there in the fabricated reality otherwise known as propaganda.  The result is mass hallucination.

In a 1969 interview, Jim Garrison, the District Attorney of New Orleans and the only person to ever bring to trial a case involving the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, said that as a result of the CIA’s murderous coup d’état on behalf of the military-industrial-financial-media-intelligence complex that rules the country to this day, the American people have been subjected to a fabricated reality that has rendered them a nation of passive Eichmanns, who sit in their living rooms, popping pills and watching television as their country’s military machine mows down people by the millions and the announcers tell them all the things they should be afraid of, such as bacteria on cutting boards and Russian spies infiltrating their hair salons.  Garrison said:

The creation of such inanities as acceptable reality and unacceptable reality is necessary for the self-preservation of the super-state against its greatest danger: understanding on the part of the people as to what is really happening.  All factors which contribute to its burgeoning power are exaggerated.  All factors which might reveal its corrosive effect on the nation are concealed.  The result is to place the populace in the position of persons living in a house whose windows no longer reveal the outside but on which murals have been painted.  Some of the murals are frightening and have the effect of reminding the occupants of the outside menaces against which the paternal war machine is protecting them.  Other murals are pleasant to remind them how nice things are inside the house.

But to live like this is to live in a doll’s house.  If life has one lesson to teach us, it is that to live in illusion is ultimately disastrous.

In the doll’s house into which America gradually has been converted, a great many of our basic assumptions are totally illusory. [i]

Fifty years have disappeared behind us since the eloquent and courageous Garrison (read On the Trail of the Assassins) metaphorically voiced the truth, despite the CIA’s persistent efforts to paint him as an unhinged lunatic through its media mouthpieces.  These days they would probably just lock him up or send him fleeing across borders, as with Assange, Manning, and Snowden.

It is stunning to take a cue from his comment regarding the JFK assassination, when he suggested that one reverse the lone assassin scenario and place it in the U.S.S.R.  No American could possibly believe a tale that a former Russian soldier, trained in English and having served at a top Soviet secret military base, who had defected to the U.S. and then returned home with the help of the K.G.B., could kill the Russian Premier with a defective and shoddy rifle and then be shot to death in police headquarters in Moscow by a K.G.B. connected hit man so there would be no trial and the K.G.B. would go scot free.  That would be a howler!  So too, of course, are the Warren Commission’s fictions about Oswald.

Snowden, Assange, and Manning

If we then update this mental exercise and imagine that Snowden, Assange, and Manning were all Russian, and that they released information about Russian war crimes, political corruption,  and a system of total electronic surveillance of the Russian population, and were then jailed or sent fleeing into exile as a result, who in the U.S., liberal, libertarian or conservative, would possibly believe the Russian government’s accusations that these three were criminals.

Nevertheless, Barack Obama, the transparency president, made sure to treat them as such, all the while parading as a “liberal” concerned for freedom of speech and the First Amendment.  He made sure that Snowden and Manning were charged under the Espionage Act of 1917, and that Assange was corralled via false Swedish sex charges so he had to seek asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London (a form of jail).  He brought Espionage Act prosecutions against eight people, more than all former presidents combined.   He hypocritically pardoned Manning on his way out the door as if this would polish his deluded liberal legacy after making her suffer terribly through seven years of imprisonment.  He set the stage for Trump to re-jail Manning to try to get this most courageous woman to testify against Assange, which she will not do, and for the collaborationist British government to jail Assange in preparation for his extradition to the United States and a show trial.  As for Snowden, he has been relegated to invisibility, good for news headlines once and for a movie, but now gone and forgotten.

Obama and Trump, arch political “enemies,” have made sure that those who reveal the sordid acts of the American murderous state are cruelly punished and silenced.  This is how the system works, and for most Americans, it is not happening.  It doesn’t matter.  They don’t care, just as they don’t care that Obama backed the 2009 coup d’état in Honduras that has resulted in so many deaths at the hands of U.S trained killers, and then Trump ranted about all these “non-white” people fleeing to the U.S. to escape a hell created by the U.S., as it has been doing throughout Latin America for so long.  Who does care about the truth?  Has anyone even noticed how the corporate media has disappeared the “news” of all those desperate people clamoring to enter the U.S.A. from Mexico?  One day they were there and in the headlines; the next day, gone.  It’s called news.

The Sleepwalkers

But even though a majority of Americans have never believed the government’s explanation for JFK’s murder, they nevertheless have insouciantly gone to sleep for half a century in the doll’s house of illusions as the killing and the lies of their own government have increased over the years and any semblance of a democratic and peaceful America has gone extinct. The fates of courageous whistle-blowers Assange, Manning, and Snowden don’t concern them. The fates of Hondurans don’t concern them.  The fates of Syrians don’t concern them. The fates of Iraqis, Afghans, Yemenis, Palestinians don’t concern them. The fates of America’s victims all around the world don’t concern them.  Indifference reigns.

Obviously, if you are reading this, you are not one of the sleepwalkers and are awake to the parade of endless lies and illusions and do care. But you are in a minority.

That is not the case for most Americans.  When approximately 129 million people cast their votes for Donald Trump and HilIary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, you know idiocy reigns and nothing has been learned. Ditto for the votes for Obama, Bush, Clinton, et al.  You can keep counting back.  It is an ugly fact and sad to say.  Such a repetition compulsion is a sign of a deep sickness, and it will no doubt be repeated in the 2020 election.  The systemic illusion must be preserved at all costs and the warfare state supported in its killing.  It is the American way.

It is true that average Americans have not built the doll’s house; that is the handiwork of the vast interconnected and far-reaching propaganda arms of the U.S. government and their media accomplices.  But that does not render them innocent for accepting decades of fabricated reality for so-called peace of mind by believing that a totally corrupt system works.  The will to believe is very powerful, as is the propaganda.   The lesson that Garrison spoke of has been lost on far too many people, even on those who occasionally leave the doll house for a walk, but who only go slightly down the path for fear of seeing too much reality and connecting too many dots.  There is plain ignorance, then there is culpable ignorance, to which I shall return.

Denying Existential Freedom

One of the first things an authoritarian governing elite must do is to convince people that they are not free.  This has been going on for at least forty years, ever since the Church Committee’s revelations about the CIA in the mid-seventies, including its mind-control program, MKULTRA.  Everyone was appalled at the epiphany, so a different tactic was added.  Say those programs have been ended when in fact they were continued under other even deeper secret programs, and just have “experts” – social, psychological, and biological “scientists” – repeat ad infinitum that there is no longer any mind control since we now know there is no mind; it is an illusion, and it all comes down to the brain.  Biology is destiny, except in culturally diversionary ways in which freedom to choose is extolled – e.g. the latest fashions, gender identity, the best hair style, etc.  Create and lavishly fund programs for the study of the brain, while supporting and promoting a vast expansion of pharmaceutical drugs to control people.  Do this in the name of helping people with their emotional and behavioral problems that are rooted in their biology and are beyond their control.  And create criteria to convince people that they are sick and that their distress has nothing to do with the coup d’état that has rendered them “citizens” of a police state.

We have been interminably told that our lives revolve around our brains (our bodies) and that the answers to our problems lie with more brain research, drugs, genetic testing, etc. It is not coincidental that the U. S. government declared the 1990s the decade of brain research, followed up with 2000-2010 as the decade of the behavior project, and our present decade being devoted to mapping the brain and artificial intelligence, organized by the Office of Science and Technology Project and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). How convenient! George H. W. Bush, Clinton, George W. Bush, Obama, Trump — what a difference! But this is science and the welfare of the world.  Science for idiots.

Drip by drip, here and there, in the pattern of the best propaganda, as the French sociologist Jacques Ellul says – “for propaganda is not the touch of the magic wand. It is based on slow, constant impregnation. It creates conviction and compliance through imperceptible influences that are effective only by continuous repetition”[ii] – articles, books, media reports have reiterated that people are “determined” by biological, genetic, social, and psychological forces over which they have no control. To assert that people are free in the Sartrean sense (en soir, condemned to freedom, or free will) has come to be seen as the belief of a delusional fool living in the past , a bad philosopher, an anti-scientist, a poorly informed religionist, one nostalgic for existential cafes, Gauloises, and black berets.  One who doesn’t grasp the truth since he doesn’t read the New York Times or watch CBS television. One who believes in nutty conspiracy theories.

The conventional propaganda – I almost said wisdom – created through decades-long media and academic repetition, is that we are not free.

Let me repeat: we are not free.  We are not free.

Investigator reporter John Rappoport has consistently exposed the propaganda involved in the creation and expansion of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) with its pseudo-scientific falsehoods and collusion between psychiatrists and the pharmaceutical industry.  As he correctly notes, the CIA’s MKULTRA mind-control program has morphed into modern psychiatry, both with the same objectives of disabling and controlling people by convincing them that they are not free and are in need of a chemical brain bath.[iii]

Can anyone with an awareness of this history doubt there is a hidden hand behind this development?  Once you have convinced people that they are not free in the most profound sense, the rest is child’s play.  Convinced that they are puppets, they become puppets to be willingly jerked around.

“He played with me just as I used to play with dolls,” says Nora in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House.

Now who would want to get people to believe they were not free?  The answer is obvious given a minute of thought.  It is not just Nora’s husband Torvald.

Perfect examples of the persistence of the long-term, repetitive, impregnating propaganda appear in news headlines constantly.  Here is an egregious example concerning the little understood case of the assassination of Senator Robert Kennedy.  On Friday, August 30, 2019, Sirhan, who has been in prison for fifty-two years for the murder of RFK that he did not commit, was stabbed by another prisoner.  A quick click through the MSM headlines reporting this showed the same words repeated by all the corporate media as they fulfilled their function as CIA stenographers. One example, from CBS News, will suffice: “Robert Kennedy assassin hospitalized after prison stabbing.”[iv]  RFK assassin, RFK assassin, RFK assassin … all the media said the same thing, which they have been doing for fifty-two years. Their persistency endures despite all the facts that refute their disinformation and show that Senator Kennedy, who was on his way to becoming president, was murdered, like his brother John, by forces of the national security state.

Sartre and Bad Faith

Lying and dissembling are ubiquitous.  Being deceived by the media liars is mirrored in people’s personal lives.  People lie and want to be deceived.  They choose to play dumb, to avoid a confrontation with truth.  They want to be nice (Latin, nescire, not to know, to be ignorant) and to be liked.  They want to tuck themselves into a safe social and cultural framework where they imagine they will be safe. They like the doll’s house. They choose to live in what Jean Paul Sartre called bad faith (mauvaise foi):  In Existential Psychoanalysis he put it thus:

In bad faith it is from myself that I am hiding the truth. But with this ‘lie’ to myself, the one to whom the lie is told and the one who lies are one and the same person, which means that I must know in my capacity as deceiver the truth which is hidden from me in my capacity as the one deceived.

Such bad faith allows people to fabricate a second act of bad faith: that they are not responsible for their ignorance of the truths behind the government’s and corporate media’s lies and propaganda, even as the shades of the prison house ominously close around us and the world edges toward global death that could arrive in an instant with nuclear war or limp along for years of increasing suffering.

Those of us who write about the U.S. led demented wars and provocations around the world and the complementary death of democracy at home are constantly flabbergasted and discouraged by the willed ignorance of so many Americans.  For while the mainstream media does the bidding of the power elite, there is ample alternative news and analyses available on the internet from fine journalists and writers committed to truth, not propaganda. There is actually far too much truth available, which poses another problem. But it doesn’t take a genius to learn how to research important issues and to learn how to distinguish between bogus and genuine information.  It takes a bit of effort, and, more importantly, the desire to compare multiple, opposing viewpoints and untangle the webs the Web weaves.  We are awash in information (and disinformation) and both good and bad reporting, but it is still available to the caring inquirer.

The problem is the will to know.  But why?  Why the refusal to investigate and question; why the indifference?  Stupidity?  Okay, there is that.  Ignorance?  That too.  Willful ignorance, ditto.  Laziness, indeed. Careerism and ideology?  For certain.  Upton Sinclair put it mildly when he said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on not understanding it.”  Difficult?  No, it’s almost impossible.

But then there are many very intelligent people who have nothing to lose and yet adamantly refuse to entertain alternative possibilities to the reigning orthodoxies that have them in their grip.  As do many others, I know many such people who will yes me to death and then never fully research issues.  They will remain in limbo or else wink to themselves that what may be true couldn’t be true.  They close down.  This is a great dilemma and frustration faced by those who seek to convince people to take an active part in understanding what is really going on in the world today, especially as the United States wages war across the globe, threatens Russia, China, and Iran, among many others, and expands and modernizes its nuclear weapons capabilities.

As for Assange, Manning, and Snowden, their plight matters not a whit.  In fact, they have been rendered invisible inside the doll’s house, except as the murals on the windows flash back their images as threats to the occupants, Russian monsters out to eat them up.  As the great poet Constantine Cavafy wrote long ago in his poem “Waiting for the Barbarians” and they never come: “Now what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?  Those people were a kind of solution.”  Then again, for people like U.S. Representative Adam Schiff, who knows the Russian barbarians have and will come again, life must be terrifying as he tries so manfully to bar the gates.  The Russians have been the American solution in this fairy tale for so long that it’s hard for many Americans to believe another story.

The Two-Headed Monster

On the one hand, there is the massive propaganda apparatus operated by American intelligence agencies in conjunction with their media partners.

On the other, there is the human predilection for untruth and illusions, the sad need to be comforted and to submit to greater “authority,” gratefully to accept the myths proffered by one’s masters.  This tendency applies not just to the common people, but even more so to the intellectual classes, who act as though they are immune.  Erich Fromm, writing about Germans and Hitler, but by extension people everywhere, termed this the need to “escape from freedom,” since freedom conjures up fears of vertiginous aloneness and the need to decide, which in turn evokes the fear of death.[v]  There are also many kinds of little deaths that precede the final one: social, career, money, familiar, etc., that are used to keep people in the doll’s house.

Fifty years ago, the CIA coined the term “conspiracy theory” as a weapon to be used to dismiss the truths expressed by critics of its murder of President Kennedy, and those of Malcom X, MLK, and RFK.  All the media echoed the CIA line.  While they still use the term to dismiss and denounce, their control of the mainstream media is so complete today that every evil government action is immediately seconded, whether it be the lies about the attacks of September 11, 2001, the wars against Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Iran, etc., the coups disguised as color revolutions in Ukraine, Venezuela, Bolivia, Hong Kong, the downing of the Malaysian jetliner there, drone murders, the Iranian “threat,” the looting of the American people by the elites, alleged sarin gas attacks in Syria, the anti-Russia bashing and the Russia-gate farce, the “criminals” Assange, Manning, Snowden – everything.  The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Fox News, the Washington Post, CNN, NPR, etc. – all are stenographers for the deep state.

So much of the ongoing propaganda travels under the banner of “the war on terror,” which is, of course, an outgrowth of the attacks of September 11, 2001, appropriately named and constantly reinforced as 9/11 in a wonderful example of linguistic mind-control: a constant emergency reminder to engender anxiety, depression, panic, and confusion, four of the symptoms that lead the DSM “experts” and their followers to diagnose and drug individuals.  The term 9/11 was first used in the New York Times on September 12, 2001 by Bill Keller, the future Times’ editor and Iraq war cheerleader.  Just a fortuitous coincidence, of course.Jacques Ellul on Propaganda

Jacques Ellul has argued convincingly that modern propaganda in a technological mass society is more complicated than the state and media lying and deceiving the population.  He argues that propaganda meets certain needs of modern people and therefore the process of deceit is reciprocal.  The modern person feels lost, powerless, and empty. Ellul says, “He realizes that he depends on decisions over which he has no control, and that realization drives him to despair.”  But he can’t live in despair; desires that life be meaningful; and wants to feel he lives in a world that makes sense.  He wants to participate and have opinions that suggest he grasps the flow of events.  He doesn’t so much want information, but value judgments and preconceived positions that provide him with a framework for living.  Ellul wrote the following in 1965 in his classic book Propaganda:

The majority prefers expressing stupidities to not expressing any opinion: this gives them the feeling of participation.  For they need simple thoughts, elementary explanations, a ‘key’ that will permit them to take a position, and even ready-made opinions….The man who keeps himself informed needs a framework….the more complicated the problems are, the more simple the explanations must be; the more fragmented the canvas, the simpler the pattern; the more difficult the question, the more all-embracing the solution; the more menacing the reduction of his own worth, the greater the need for boosting his ego.  All this propaganda – and only propaganda – can give him.[vi]

Another way of saying this is that people want to be provided with myths to direct them to the “truth.”  But such so-called truth has been preconceived within the overarching myth provided by propaganda, and while it satisfies people’s emotional need for coherence, it also allows them to think of themselves as free individuals arriving at their own conclusions, which is a basic function of good propaganda.  In today’s mass technological society, it is essential that people be convinced that they are free-thinking individuals acting in good faith.  Then they can feel good about themselves as they lie and act in bad faith.

Culpable Ignorance

It is widely accepted that political leaders and the mass media lie and dissemble regularly, which, of course, they do. That is their job in an oligarchy.  Today we are subjected to almost total, unrelenting media and government propaganda. Depending on their political leanings, people direct their anger toward politicians of parties they oppose and media they believe slant their coverage to favor the opposition.  Trump is a liar.  No, Obama is a liar.  And Hillary Clinton.  No, Fox News.  Ridiculous! – it’s CNN or NBC.  And so on and so forth in this theater of the absurd that plays out within a megaplex of mainstream media propaganda, where there are many shows but one producer, whose overall aim is to engineer the consent of all who enter, while setting the different audiences against each other.  It is a very successful charade that evokes name-calling from all quarters.

In other words, for many people their opponents lie, as do other people, but not them. This is as true in personal as well as public life.  Here the personal and the political converge, despite protestations to the contrary.  Dedication to truth is very rare.

But there is another issue with propaganda that complicates the picture further.  People of varying political persuasions can agree that propaganda is widespread.  Many people on the left, and some on the right, would agree with Lisa Pease’s statement in her book on the RFK assassination, A Lie Too Big to Fail: The Real History of the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, that “the way the CIA took over America in the 1960s is the story of our time.” [vii]  That is also what Garrison thought when he spoke of the doll’s house.

If that is so, then today’s propaganda is anchored in the events of the 1960s, specifically the infamous government assassinations of JFK, Malcolm X, MLK, and RFK, the truth of which the CIA has worked so hard to conceal. In the fifty or so years since, a vast amount of new information has made it explicitly clear that these murders were carried out by elements within the U.S. government, and were done so to silence the voices of four charismatic leaders who were opposed to the American war machine and the continuation of the Cold War. To turn away from this truth and to ignore its implications can only be described as an act of bad faith and culpable ignorance, or worse.  But that is exactly what many prominent leftists have done.  Then to compound the problem, they have done the same with the attacks of September 11, 2001.

One cannot help thinking of what the CIA official Cord Meyer called these people in the 1950s: “the compatible left.”  He felt that effective CIA propaganda, beside the need for fascist-minded types such as Allen Dulles and James Jesus Angleton, depended on “courting” leftists and liberal into its orbit. For so many of the compatible left, those making a lot of money posing as opponents of the ruling elites but often taking the money of the super-rich, the JFK assassination and the truth of September 11, 2001 are inconsequential, never to be broached, as if they never happened, except as the authorities say they did. By ignoring these most in-your-face events with their eyes wide shut, a coterie of influential leftists has done the work of Orwell’s crime-stop and has effectively succeeded in situating current events in an ahistorical and therefore misleading context that abets U.S. propaganda.  They truncate the full story to present a narrative that distorts the truth.

Without drawing a bold line connecting the dots from November 22, 1963 up to the present, a critique of the murderous forces ruling the United States is impossible.

Among the most notable of such failures are Noam Chomsky, Alexander Cockburn, Howard Zinn, and Chris Hedges, men idolized by many liberals and leftists.  And there are many others who have been deeply influenced by Chomsky, Cockburn, and Zinn and follow in their footsteps.  Their motivations remain a mystery, but there is no doubt their refusals have contributed to the increased power of those who control the doll’s house.  To know better and do as they have is surely culpable ignorance.

From Bad to Worse

Ask yourself: Has the power of the oligarchic, permanent warfare state with its propaganda and spy networks, increased or decreased in the past half century?  Who is winning the battle, the people or the ruling elites?  The answer is obvious. It matters not at all whether the president has been Trump or Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush, Barack Obama or George H. W. Bush, Richard Nixon or Jimmy Carter.  The power of the national security state has grown under them all and everyone is left to moan and groan and wonder why.  All the while the doll’s house has become more and more sophisticated and powerful with the growth of electronic media and cell phone usage.

The new Cold War now being waged against Russia and China is a bi-partisan affair, as is the confidence game played by the secret government intended to create a fractured consciousness in the population.  This fragmentation of consciousness prevents people from grasping the present from within because so many suffer from digital dementia as their attention hops from input to output in a never-ending flow of mediated, disembodied data. Trump and his followers on one side of the coin; liberal Democrats on the other. The latter, whose bibles are the New York Times, NPR, The Washington Post, Democracy NowThe Guardian, etc. – can only see propaganda when they can attribute it to Trump or the Russians. The former see everything as a liberal conspiracy to take down Trump.  The liberals have embraced a new McCarthyism and allied themselves with the deep-state forces that they were once allegedly appalled by, including Republicans.  Their embrace of the formerly despised war-monger John Bolton in the impeachment trial of Trump is a laughable case in point, if it weren’t so depraved and slimy.  It surely isn’t the bloodthirsty policies of the Trump administration or his bloviating personality, for these liberals allied themselves with Obama’s anti-Russian rhetoric, his support for the U.S. orchestrated neo-fascist Ukrainian coup, his destruction of Libya, his wars of aggression across the Middle East, his war on terror, his trillion dollar nuclear weapons modernization, his enjoyment of drone killing, his support for the coup in Honduras, his embrace of the CIA and his CIA Director John Brennan, his prosecution of whistle-blowers, etc.  The same media that served the CIA so admirably over the decades became the liberals’ paragons of truth.  It’s enough to make your head spin, which is the point.  Spin left, spin right, spin all around, because we have possessed your mind in this spectacular image game where seeming antinomies are the constancy of the same through difference, all the presidents coined by the same manufacturer who knows that coin flipping serves to entertain the audience eager for hope and change.

This is how the political system works to prevent change.  It is why little has changed for the better over half a century and the American empire has expanded.  While it may be true that there are signs that this American hegemony is coming to an end (I am not convinced), I would not underestimate the power of the U.S. propaganda apparatus to keep people docile and deluded in the doll’s house, despite the valiant efforts of independent truth-tellers.

How, for example, is it possible for so many people to see such a stark difference between the despicable Trump and the pleasant Obama?  They are both puppets dancing to their masters’ tunes – the same masters.  They both front for the empire.

In his excellent book, Obama’s Unending Wars: Fronting the Foreign Policy of the Permanent Warfare State, Jeremy Kuzmarov assiduously documents Obama’s crimes, including his CIA background.[viii] As Glen Ford, of Black Agenda Report, says in the first sentence of his forward, “Barack Obama may go down in presidential history as the most effective-and deceptive-imperialist of them all.” Read the book if you want all the details.  They form an overwhelming indictment of the con artist and war criminal that is irrefutable.  But will those who worship at the altar of Barack Obama read it?  Of course not.  Just as those deluded ones who voted for the reality television flim-flam man Trump will ignore all the accumulating evidence that they’ve been had and are living under a president who is Obama’s disguised doppelganger, carrying out the orders of his national security state bosses. This, too, is well documented, and no doubt another writer will arise in the years to come to put it between a book’s covers.

Yet even Jeremy Kuzmarov fails to see the link between the JFK assassination and Obama’s shilling for the warfare state.  His few references to Kennedy are all negative, suggesting he either is unaware of what Kennedy was doing in the last year of his life and why he was murdered by the CIA, or something else.  He seems to follow Noam Chomsky, a Kennedy hater, in this regard.  I point out this slight flaw in an excellent book because it is symptomatic of certain people on the left who refuse to complete the circle.  If, as Kuzmarov, argues, Obama was CIA from the start and that explains his extraordinarily close relationship with the CIA’s John Brennan, an architect, among many things, of the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program, and that Obama told CIA Director Panetta that the CIA would “get everything it wanted,” and the CIA killed JFK, well, something’s amiss, an enormous gap in the analysis of our current condition.

The doll’s house is a mind game of extraordinary proportions, orchestrated by the perverted power elites that run the show and ably abetted by their partners in the corporate mass media, even some in the alternative press who mean well but are confused, or are disinformation agents in the business of sowing confusion together with their mainstream Operation Mockingbird partners.  It is a spectacle of open secrecy, in which the CIA has effectively suckered everyone into a game of to-and-fro in which only they win.

Our only hope for change is to try and educate as many people as possible about the linkages between  events that started with the CIA coup d’état in Dallas on November 22, 1963, continued through the killings of Malcolm X, MLK, RFK and on through so much else up to September 11, 2001, and have brought us to the deeply depressing situation we now find ourselves in where truthtellers like Julian Assange, Chelsey Manning, and Edward Snowden are criminalized, while the real perpetrators of terrible evils roam free.

Yes, we must educate but also agitate for the release of this courageous trio.  Their freedom is ours; their imprisonment is ours, whether we know it or not.  The walls are closing in.

Lisa Pease is so right: “The way the CIA took over America in the 1960s is the story of our time, and too few recognize this.  We can’t fix a problem we can’t even acknowledge exists.”

If we don’t follow her advice, we will be toyed with like dolls for a long time to come.  There will be no one else to blame.

Endnotes:

  1. Interview with Jim Garrison, District Attorney of Parish of Orleans, Louisiana, May 27, 1969, kennedysandking.com
  2. Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes, Jacques Ellul, Vintage Books, 1973, pp. 17-18
  3. CIA mind control morphed into psychiatry?” Jon Rappoport, com, July 11, 2017
  4. Robert Kennedy assassin Sirhan Sirhan hospitalized after prison stabbing,” Caroline Linton, CBS, August 31, 2019
  5. Escape from Freedom, Erich Fromm, Rinehart & Company, Inc., 1941
  6. Ellul, op cit., p. 140
  7. A Lie Too Big To Fail, Lisa Pease, Feral House, 2018, pp.500-501
  8. Obama’s Unending Wars: Fronting the Foreign Policy of the Permanent Warfare State, Jeremy Kuzmarov, Clarity Press, 2019

EDITORIAL Henry Kissinger Gets It… US ‘Exceptionalism’ Is Over

Image result for Henry Kissinger Gets It… US ‘Exceptionalism’ Is Over
November 29, 2019

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger made prudent remarks recently when he said the United States is no longer a uni-power and that it must recognize the reality of China as an equal rival.

The furor over a new law passed by the US this week regarding Hong Kong and undermining Beijing’s authority underlines Kissinger’s warning.

If the US cannot find some modus vivendi with China, then the outcome could be a catastrophic conflict worst than any previous world war, he admonished.

Speaking publicly in New York on November 14, the veteran diplomat urged the US and China to resolve their ongoing economic tensions cooperatively and mutually, adding: “It is no longer possible to think that one side can dominate the other.”

A key remark made by Kissinger was the following: “So those countries that used to be exceptional and used to be unique, have to get used to the fact that they have a rival.”

In other words, he is negating the erroneous consensus held in Washington which asserts that the US is somehow “exceptional”, a “uni-power” and the “indispensable nation”. This consensus has grown since the early 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when the US viewed itself as the sole super-power. That morphed into a more virulent ideology of “full-spectrum dominance”. Thence, the past three decades of unrelenting US criminal wars and regime-change operations across the planet, throwing the whole world into chaos.

Kissinger’s frank assessment is a breath of fresh air amid the stale and impossibly arrogant self-regard held by too many American politicians who view their nation as an unparalleled power which brooks no other.

The seasoned statesman, who is 96-years-old and retains an admirable acumen for international politics, ended his remarks on an optimistic note by saying: “I am confident the leaders on both sides [US and China] will realize the future of the world depends on the two sides working out solutions and managing the inevitable difficulties.”

Aptly, Kissinger’s caution about danger of conflict was reiterated separately by veteran journalist John Pilger, who warned in an exclusive interview for Strategic Culture Foundation this week that, presumed “American exceptionalism is driving the world to war.”

Henry Kissinger is indeed a controversial figure. Many US scholars regard him as one of the most outstanding Secretaries of State during the post-Second World War period. He served in the Nixon and Ford administrations during the 1970s and went on to write tomes about geopolitics and international relations. Against that, his reputation was badly tarnished by the US war in Vietnam and the horrendous civilian death toll from relentless aerial bombing across Indochina, believed to have been countenanced by Kissinger.

Kissinger has also been accused of supporting the military coup in Chile in 1973 against elected President Allende, and for backing the dirty war by Argentina’s fascist generals during the 1970s against workers and leftists.

To his credit, however, Kissinger was and is a practitioner of “realpolitik” which views international relations through a pragmatic lens. Another realpolitik US state planner was the late Zbigniew Brzezinski, who died in 2017 at the age of 89. Both advocated a policy of detente with the Soviet Union and China.

President Richard Nixon’s groundbreaking visit to China in 1972 is credited to the advice given by Kissinger who was then National Security Advisor to the White House.

That same year, the US and the Soviet Union signed the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty, also under the guidance of Kissinger on the American side. The US would later withdrew from the treaty in 2002, a move which has presaged a long deterioration in bilateral relations between the US and Russia to the present day.

For all their faults, at least people like Kissinger and Brzezinski were motivated by practical goal-orientated policy. They were willing to engage with adversaries to find some modus vivendi. Such an attitude is too often missing in recent Washington administrations which seem to be guided by an ideology of unipolar dominance by the US over the rest of the world. The current Washington consensus is one of hyper-ideological unrealism and hubris, which leads to a zero-sum mentality of antagonism towards China and Russia.

At times, President Donald Trump appears to subscribe to realpolitik pragmatism. At other times, he swings to the hyper-ideological mentality as expressed by his Vice President Mike Pence, as well as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mike Esper. The latter has labeled China as the US’s “greatest long-term threat”.

This week President Trump signed into law “The Human Rights and Democracy Bill”, which will impose sanctions on China over alleged repression in its Hong Kong territory. Beijing has reacted furiously to the legislation, condemning it as a violation of its sovereignty.

This is exactly the kind of baleful move that Kissinger warned against in order to avoid a further poisoning in bilateral relations already tense from the past 16 months of US-China trade war.

One discerns the difference between Kissinger and more recent US politicians: the former has copious historical knowledge and appreciation of other cultures. His shrewd, wily, maybe even Machiavellian streak, informs Kissinger to acknowledge and respect other powers in a complex world. That is contrasted with the puritanical banality and ignorance manifest in Trump’s administration and in the Congress.

Greeting Kissinger last Friday, November 22, during a visit to Beijing, President Xi Jinping thanked him for his historic contribution in normalizing US-China relations during 1970s.

“At present, Sino-US relations are at a critical juncture facing some difficulties and challenges,” said Xi, calling on the two countries to deepen communication on strategic issues. It was an echo of the realpolitik views Kissinger had enunciated the week before.

While sharing a public stage with Kissinger, the Chinese leader added: “The two sides should proceed from the fundamental interests of the two peoples and the people of the world, respect each other, seek common ground while reserving differences, pursue win-win results in cooperation, and promote bilateral ties to develop in the right direction.”

Likewise, China and Russia have continually urged for a multipolar world order for cooperation and partnership in development. But the present and recent US governments refuse to contemplate any other order other than a presumed unipolar dominance. Hence the ongoing US trade strife with China and Washington’s relentless demonization of Russia.

This “exceptional” ideological mantra of the US is leading to more tensions, and ultimately is a path to the abyss.

Henry Kissinger gets it. It’s a pity America’s present crop of politicians and thinkers are so impoverished in their intellect.

The views of individual contributors do not necessarily represent those of the Strategic Culture Foundation.

Racism to the Maximum: Outrage in US after Photo Showing Police Leading Black Man by a Rope Goes Viral

By Staff, Agencies

Outrage erupted across the United States after a photo of two white police officers mounted on horseback walking a handcuffed black man by a rope – recalling the long history of violence, slavery and racism against African Americans during the era of segregation – went viral.

Vernon Hale, the police chief of the US city of Galveston in the state of Texas, issued an apology following the incident, but his statement drew more criticism for being “weak”.

Hale said the black man in the photo, Donald Neely, who was arrested on Saturday for trespassing, should have been taken to the station in a police car, instead of horse-mounted officers.

Neely was then escorted on foot, led by a length of rope and flanked by the two police.

“Although this is a trained technique and best practice in some scenarios, I believe our officers showed poor judgement in this instance,” said Hale, in a statement published on Monday on Facebook.

“First and foremost I must apologize to Mister Neely for this unnecessary embarrassment,” Hale said, adding that policy had been changed so that the technique would no longer be used.

Neely is free on bond. He has no listed telephone number and could not be reached for comment.

Hale told The Galveston County Daily News that he regularly talks to his officers about how their actions affect people’s perception of the department.

We have verified with law enforcement officials in Galveston, that the photograph taken in Galveston is real. It is hard to understand why these officers felt this young man required a leash, as he was handcuffed and walking between two mounted officers.

“You have to be aware of the images we portray,” he said. “We talk about it when we talk about use of force, when we talk about vehicle pursuits. Quite frankly, I never would have dreamed of it in the context of mounted officers.”

Hale’s statement, however, sparked frustration, with some activist groups saying his response was “weak” and “inadequate”.

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U.S. Economic Warfare and Likely Foreign Defenses*

 

July 25, 2019

U.S. Economic Warfare and Likely Foreign Defenses*

by Michael Hudson, posted by special permission on the Saker blog

* Keynote Paper delivered at the 14th Forum of the World Association for Political Economy, July 21, 2019.

Today’s world is at war on many fronts. The rules of international law and order put in place toward the end of World War II are being broken by U.S. foreign policy escalating its confrontation with countries that refrain from giving its companies control of their economic surpluses. Countries that do not give the United States control their oil and financial sectors or privatize their key sectors are being isolated by the United States imposing trade sanctions and unilateral tariffs giving special advantages to U.S. producers in violation of free trade agreements with European, Asian and other countries.

This global fracture has an increasingly military cast. U.S. officials justify tariffs and import quotas illegal under WTO rules on “national security” grounds, claiming that the United States can do whatever it wants as the world’s “exceptional” nation. U.S. officials explain that this means that their nation is not obliged to adhere to international agreements or even to its own treaties and promises. This allegedly sovereign right to ignore on its international agreements was made explicit after Bill Clinton and his Secretary of State Madeline Albright broke the promise by President George Bush and Secretary of State James Baker that NATO would not expand eastward after 1991. (“You didn’t get it in writing,” was the U.S. response to the verbal agreements that were made.)

Likewise, the Trump administration repudiated the multilateral Iranian nuclear agreement signed by the Obama administration, and is escalating warfare with its proxy armies in the Near East. U.S. politicians are waging a New Cold War against Russia, China, Iran, and oil-exporting countries that the United States is seeking to isolate if cannot control their governments, central bank and foreign diplomacy.

The international framework that originally seemed equitable was pro-U.S. from the outset. In 1945 this was seen as a natural result of the fact that the U.S. economy was the least war-damaged and held by far most of the world’s monetary gold. Still, the postwar trade and financial framework was ostensibly set up on fair and equitable international principles. Other countries were expected to recover and grow, creating diplomatic, financial and trade parity with each other.

But the past decade has seen U.S. diplomacy become one-sided in turning the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, SWIFT bank-clearing system and world trade into an asymmetrically exploitative system. This unilateral U.S.-centered array of institutions is coming to be widely seen not only as unfair, but as blocking the progress of other countries whose growth and prosperity is seen by U.S. foreign policy as a threat to unilateral U.S. hegemony. What began as an ostensibly international order to promote peaceful prosperity has turned increasingly into an extension of U.S. nationalism, predatory rent-extraction and a more dangerous military confrontation.

Deterioration of international diplomacy into a more nakedly explicit pro-U.S. financial, trade and military aggression was implicit in the way in which economic diplomacy was shaped when the United Nations, IMF and World Bank were shaped mainly by U.S. economic strategists. Their economic belligerence is driving countries to withdraw from the global financial and trade order that has been turned into a New Cold War vehicle to impose unilateral U.S. hegemony. Nationalistic reactions are consolidating into new economic and political alliances from Europe to Asia.

We are still mired in the Oil War that escalated in 2003 with the invasion of Iraq, which quickly spread to Libya and Syria. American foreign policy has long been based largely on control of oil. This has led the United States to oppose the Paris accords to stem global warming. Its aim is to give U.S. officials the power to impose energy sanctions forcing other countries to “freeze in the dark” if they do not follow U.S. leadership.

To expand its oil monopoly, America is pressuring Europe to oppose the Nordstream II gas pipeline from Russia, claiming that this would make Germany and other countries dependent on Russia instead of on U.S. liquified natural gas (LNG). Likewise, American oil diplomacy has imposed unilateral sanctions against Iranian oil exports, until such time as a regime change opens up that country’s oil reserves to U.S., French, British and other allied oil majors.

U.S. control of dollarized money and credit is critical to this hegemony. As Congressman Brad Sherman of Los Angeles told a House Financial Services Committee hearing on May 9, 2019: “An awful lot of our international power comes from the fact that the U.S. dollar is the standard unit of international finance and transactions. Clearing through the New York Fed is critical for major oil and other transactions. It is the announced purpose of the supporters of cryptocurrency to take that power away from us, to put us in a position where the most significant sanctions we have against Iran, for example, would become irrelevant.”[1]

The U.S. aim is to keep the dollar as the transactions currency for world trade, savings, central bank reserves and international lending. This monopoly status enables the U.S. Treasury and State Department to disrupt the financial payments system and trade for countries with which the United States is at economic or outright military war.

Russian President Vladimir Putin quickly responded by describing how “the degeneration of the universalist globalization model [is] turning into a parody, a caricature of itself, where common international rules are replaced with the laws… of one country.”[2] That is the trajectory on which this deterioration of formerly open international trade and finance is now moving. It has been building up for a decade. On June 5, 2009, then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev cited this same disruptive U.S. dynamic at work in the wake of the U.S. junk mortgage and bank fraud crisis.

Those whose job it was to forecast events … were not ready for the depth of the crisis and turned out to be too rigid, unwieldy and slow in their response. The international financial organisations – and I think we need to state this up front and not try to hide it – were not up to their responsibilities, as has been said quite unambiguously at a number of major international events such as the two recent G20 summits of the world’s largest economies.

Furthermore, we have had confirmation that our pre-crisis analysis of global economic trends and the global economic system were correct. The artificially maintained uni-polar system and preservation of monopolies in key global economic sectors are root causes of the crisis. One big centre of consumption, financed by a growing deficit, and thus growing debts, one formerly strong reserve currency, and one dominant system of assessing assets and risks – these are all factors that led to an overall drop in the quality of regulation and the economic justification of assessments made, including assessments of macroeconomic policy. As a result, there was no avoiding a global crisis.[3]

That crisis is what is now causing today’s break in global trade and payments.

Warfare on many fronts, with Dollarization being the main arena

Dissolution of the Soviet Union 1991 did not bring the disarmament that was widely expected. U.S. leadership celebrated the Soviet demise as signaling the end of foreign opposition to U.S.-sponsored neoliberalism and even as the End of History. NATO expanded to encircle Russia and sponsored “color revolutions” from Georgia to Ukraine, while carving up former Yugoslavia into small statelets. American diplomacy created a foreign legion of Wahabi fundamentalists from Afghanistan to Iran, Iraq, Syria and Libya in support of Saudi Arabian extremism and Israeli expansionism.

The United States is waging war for control of oil against Venezuela, where a military coup failed a few years ago, as did the 2018-19 stunt to recognize an unelected pro-American puppet regime. The Honduran coup under President Obama was more successful in overthrowing an elected president advocating land reform, continuing the tradition dating back to 1954 when the CIA overthrew Guatemala’s Arbenz regime.

U.S. officials bear a special hatred for countries that they have injured, ranging from Guatemala in 1954 to Iran, whose regime it overthrew to install the Shah as military dictator. Claiming to promote “democracy,” U.S. diplomacy has redefined the word to mean pro-American, and opposing land reform, national ownership of raw materials and public subsidy of foreign agriculture or industry as an “undemocratic” attack on “free markets,” meaning markets controlled by U.S. financial interests and absentee owners of land, natural resources and banks.

A major byproduct of warfare has always been refugees, and today’s wave fleeing ISIS, Al Qaeda and other U.S.-backed Near Eastern proxies is flooding Europe. A similar wave is fleeing the dictatorial regimes backed by the United States from Honduras, Ecuador, Colombia and neighboring countries. The refugee crisis has become a major factor leading to the resurgence of nationalist parties throughout Europe and for the white nationalism of Donald Trump in the United States.

Dollarization as the vehicle for U.S. nationalism

The Dollar Standard – U.S. Treasury debt to foreigners held by the world’s central banks – has replaced the gold-exchange standard for the world’s central bank reserves to settle payments imbalances among themselves. This has enabled the United States to uniquely run balance-of-payments deficits for nearly seventy years, despite the fact that these Treasury IOUs have little visible likelihood of being repaid except under arrangements where U.S. rent-seeking and outright financial tribute from other enables it to liquidate its official foreign debt.

The United States is the only nation that can run sustained balance-of-payments deficits without having to sell off its assets or raise interest rates to borrow foreign money. No other national economy in the world can could afford foreign military expenditures on any major scale without losing its exchange value. Without the Treasury-bill standard, the United States would be in this same position along with other nations. That is why Russia, China and other powers that U.S. strategists deem to be strategic rivals and enemies are looking to restore gold’s role as the preferred asset to settle payments imbalances.

The U.S. response is to impose regime change on countries that prefer gold or other foreign currencies to dollars for their exchange reserves. A case in point is the overthrow of Libya’s Kaddafi after he sought to base his nation’s international reserves on gold. His liquidation stands as a military warning to other countries.

Thanks to the fact that payments-surplus economies invest their dollar inflows in U.S. Treasury bonds, the U.S. balance-of-payments deficit finances its domestic budget deficit. This foreign central-bank recycling of U.S. overseas military spending into purchases of U.S. Treasury securities gives the United States a free ride, financing its budget – also mainly military in character – so that it can taxing its own citizens.

Trump is forcing other countries to create an alternative to the Dollar Standard

The fact that Donald Trump’s economic policies are proving ineffective in restoring American manufacturing is creating rising nationalist pressure to exploit foreigners by arbitrary tariffs without regard for international law, and to impose trade sanctions and diplomatic meddling to disrupt regimes that pursue policies that U.S. diplomats do not like.

There is a parallel here with Rome in the late 1st century BC. It stripped its provinces to pay for its military deficit, the grain dole and land redistribution at the expense of Italian cities and Asia Minor. This created foreign opposition to drive Rome out. The U.S. economy is similar to Rome’s: extractive rather than productive, based mainly on land rents and money-interest. As the domestic market is impoverished, U.S. politicians are seeking to take from abroad what no longer is being produced at home.

What is so ironic – and so self-defeating of America’s free global ride – is that Trump’s simplistic aim of lowering the dollar’s exchange rate to make U.S. exports more price-competitive. He imagines commodity trade to be the entire balance of payments, as if there were no military spending, not to mention lending and investment. To lower the dollar’s exchange rate, he is demanding that China’s central bank and those of other countries stop supporting the dollar by recycling the dollars they receive for their exports into holdings of U.S. Treasury securities.

This tunnel vision leaves out of account the fact that the trade balance is not simply a matter of comparative international price levels. The United States has dissipated its supply of spare manufacturing capacity and local suppliers of parts and materials, while much of its industrial engineering and skilled manufacturing labor has retired. An immense shortfall must be filled by new capital investment, education and public infrastructure, whose charges are far above those of other economics.

Trump’s infrastructure ideology is a Public-Private Partnership characterized by high-cost financialization demanding high monopoly rents to cover its interest charges, stock dividends and management fees. This neoliberal policy raises the cost of living for the U.S. labor force, making it uncompetitive. The United States is unable to produce more at any price right now, because its has spent the past half-century dismantling its infrastructure, closing down its part suppliers and outsourcing its industrial technology.

The United States has privatized and financialized infrastructure and basic needs such as public health and medical care, education and transportation that other countries have kept in their public domain to make their economies more cost-efficient by providing essential services at subsidized prices or freely. The United States also has led the practice of debt pyramiding, from housing to corporate finance. This financial engineering and wealth creation by inflating debt-financed real estate and stock market bubbles has made the United States a high-cost economy that cannot compete successfully with well-managed mixed economies.

Unable to recover dominance in manufacturing, the United States is concentrating on rent-extracting sectors that it hopes monopolize, headed by information technology and military production. On the industrial front, it threatens disrupt China and other mixed economies by imposing trade and financial sanctions.

The great gamble is whether these other countries will defend themselves by joining in alliances enabling them to bypass the U.S. economy. American strategists imagine their country to be the world’s essential economy, without whose market other countries must suffer depression. The Trump Administration thinks that There Is No Alternative (TINA) for other countries except for their own financial systems to rely on U.S. dollar credit.

To protect themselves from U.S. sanctions, countries would have to avoid using the dollar, and hence U.S. banks. This would require creation of a non-dollarized financial system for use among themselves, including their own alternative to the SWIFT bank clearing system. Table 1 lists some possible related defenses against U.S. nationalistic diplomacy.

As noted above, what also is ironic in President Trump’s accusation of China and other countries of artificially manipulating their exchange rate against the dollar (by recycling their trade and payments surpluses into Treasury securities to hold down their currency’s dollar valuation) involves dismantling the Treasury-bill standard. The main way that foreign economies have stabilized their exchange rate since 1971 has indeed been to recycle their dollar inflows into U.S. Treasury securities. Letting their currency’s value rise would threaten their export competitiveness against their rivals, although not necessarily benefit the United States.

Ending this practice leaves countries with the main way to protect their currencies from rising against the dollar is to reduce dollar inflows by blocking U.S. lending to domestic borrowers. They may levy floating tariffs proportioned to the dollar’s declining value. The U.S. has a long history since the 1920s of raising its tariffs against currencies that are depreciating: the American Selling Price (ASP) system. Other countries can impose their own floating tariffs against U.S. goods.

Trade dependency as an aim of the World Bank, IMF and US AID

The world today faces a problem much like what it faced on the eve of World War II. Like Germany then, the United States now poses the main threat of war, and equally destructive neoliberal economic regimes imposing austerity, economic shrinkage and depopulation. U.S. diplomats are threatening to destroy regimes and entire economies that seek to remain independent of this system, by trade and financial sanctions backed by direct military force.

Dedollarization will require creation of multilateral alternatives to U.S. “front” institutions such as the World Bank, IMF and other agencies in which the United States holds veto power to block any alternative policies deemed not to let it “win.” U.S. trade policy through the World Bank and U.S. foreign aid agencies aims at promoting dependency on U.S. food exports and other key commodities, while hiring U.S. engineering firms to build up export infrastructure to subsidize U.S. and other natural-resource investors.[4] The financing is mainly in dollars, providing risk-free bonds to U.S. and other financial institutions. The resulting commercial and financial “interdependency” has led to a situation in which a sudden interruption of supply would disrupt foreign economies by causing a breakdown in their chain of payments and production. The effect is to lock client countries into dependency on the U.S. economy and its diplomacy, euphemized as “promoting growth and development.”

U.S. neoliberal policy via the IMF imposes austerity and opposes debt writedowns. Its economic model pretends that debtor countries can pay any volume of dollar debt simply by reducing wages to squeeze more income out of the labor force to pay foreign creditors. This ignores the fact that solving the domestic “budget problem” by taxing local revenue still faces the “transfer problem” of converting it into dollars or other hard currencies in which most international debt is denominated. The result is that the IMF’s “stabilization” programs actually destabilize and impoverish countries forced into following its advice.

IMF loans support pro-U.S. regimes such as Ukraine, and subsidize capital flight by supporting local currencies long enough to enable U.S. client oligarchies to flee their currencies at a pre-devaluation exchange rate for the dollar. When the local currency finally is allowed to collapse, debtor countries are advised to impose anti-labor austerity. This globalizes the class war of capital against labor while keeping debtor countries on a short U.S. financial leash.

U.S. diplomacy is capped by trade sanctions to disrupt economies that break away from U.S. aims. Sanctions are a form of economic sabotage, as lethal as outright military warfare in establishing U.S. control over foreign economies. The threat is to impoverish civilian populations, in the belief that this will lead them to replace their governments with pro-American regimes promising to restore prosperity by selling off their domestic infrastructure to U.S. and other multinational investors.

US Warfare on Many Fronts —————————————————————— Dedollarization defense

Military warfare (the Near East, Asia)NATO and bilateral treaty (Saudi, ISIS, Al Qaida). color revolutions and proxy wars. Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and pressure for Europe to withdraw from NATO unless the U.S. alleviates its New Cold War threats.
Dollarization is monetary warfare. The US Treasury-bill standard finances the mainly military U.S. balance-of-payments deficit. SWIFT threatens to isolate Iran and Russia Dedollarization will refrain from foreign central banks financing U.S. overseas military spending by keeping their savings in dollars.Creation of alternative payments clearing system.
The IMF finances US client regimes and seeks to isolate those not following US policy. An alternative global financial organization, such as Europe’s INSTEX to circumvent US anti-Iran sanctions, and Russo-China alternative to SWIFT.
Creditor policy forcing austerity on debtor economies, forcing them to privatize and sell off their public domain to pay debts. An international court empowered to write down debts to the ability to pay, based on the original principles that were to guide the BIS in 1931.
The World Bank finances trade dependency on US food exports and opposes national food self-sufficiency. An alternative development organization based on food self-sufficiency. Annulment of World Bank and IMF debt as “odious debt.”
Unilateral US trade war based on levy of US protectionist tariffs, quotas and sanctions, Countervailing sanctions, and creation of an alternative to the WTO or a strengthened organization free of US control.
Cyber War, spycraft via US internet platforms, and Stuxnet sabotage. Work with Huawei and other alternatives to US internet options.
Class War: austerity program for labor MMT, taxation of rentier income and capital gains.
Neoliberal monetarist doctrine of privatization and creditor-oriented rules Promotion of a mixed economy with public infrastructure as a factor of production.
US patent policy seeks monopoly rents. Non-recognition of predatory monopoly patents.
Investment control Deprivatization and buyoutsof US assets abroad.
International law and diplomacy The U.S. as the world’s “exceptional nation,” not subject to international laws or even to its own treaty agreements.Veto power in any organization it joins. The basic principle that the U.S. is not subject to any foreign say over its laws and policies.

Global Problems caused by US Policy ——————————-  Response to U.S. Disruptive Policy

U.S. refuses to join international agreements to reduce carbon emissions, Global Warming and Extreme Weather.U.S. diplomacy is based on control of oil to make other countries dependent on U.S. energy dominance. Trade and tax sanctions against U.S. exporters and banks. Taxes on U.S. tax avoidance by the oil industry’s “flags of convenience” (convenient for tax avoidance).Taxation or isolation of U.S. exports based on high-carbon production.
Attempt to monopolize new G5 Internet technology, Sanctioning of Huawei, insistence on US priority in high-tech. Rejection of patents on basic IT, medicine and other basic human needs.
Patent laws in pharmaceuticals, etc. Taxation of monopoly rents.

There are alternatives, on many fronts

Militarily, today’s leading alternative to NATO expansionism is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), along with Europe following France’s example under Charles de Gaulle and withdrawing. After all, there is no real threat of military invasion today in Europe. No nation can occupy another without an enormous military draft and such heavy personnel losses that domestic protests would unseat the government waging such a war. The U.S. anti-war movement in the 1960s signaled the end of the military draft, not only in the United States but in nearly all democratic countries. (Israel, Switzerland, Brazil and North Korea are exceptions.)

The enormous spending on armaments for a kind of war unlikely to be fought is not really military, but simply to provide profits to the military industrial complex. The arms are not really to be used. They are simply to be bought, and ultimately scrapped. The danger, of course, is that these not-for-use arms actually might be used, if only to create a need for new profitable production.

Likewise, foreign holdings of dollars are not really to be spent on purchases of U.S. exports or investments. They are like fine-wine collectibles, for saving rather than for drinking. The alternative to such dollarized holdings is to create a mutual use of national currencies, and a domestic bank-clearing payments system as an alternative to SWIFT. Russia, China, Iran and Venezuela already are said to be developing a crypto-currency payments to circumvent U.S. sanctions and hence financial control.

In the World Trade Organization, the United States has tried to claim that any industry receiving public infrastructure or credit subsidy deserves tariff retaliation in order to force privatization. In response to WTO rulings that U.S. tariffs are illegally imposed, the United States “has blocked all new appointments to the seven-member appellate body in protest, leaving it in danger of collapse because it may not have enough judges to allow it to hear new cases.”[5] In the U.S. view, only privatized trade financed by private rather than public banks is “fair” trade.

An alternative to the WTO (or removal of its veto privilege given to the U.S. bloc) is needed to cope with U.S. neoliberal ideology and, most recently, the U.S. travesty claiming “national security” exemption to free-trade treaties, impose tariffs on steel, aluminum, and on European countries that circumvent sanctions on Iran or threaten to buy oil from Russia via the Nordstream II pipeline instead of high-cost liquified “freedom gas” from the United States.

In the realm of development lending, China’s bank along with its Belt and Road initiative is an incipient alternative to the World Bank, whose main role has been to promote foreign dependency on U.S. suppliers. The IMF for its part now functions as an extension of the U.S. Department of Defense to subsidize client regimes such as Ukraine while financially isolating countries not subservient to U.S. diplomacy.

To save debt-strapped economies suffering Greek-style austerity, the world needs to replace neoliberal economic theory with an analytic logic for debt writedowns based on the ability to pay. The guiding principle of the needed development-oriented logic of international law should be that no nation should be obliged to pay foreign creditors by having to sell of the public domain and rent-extraction rights to foreign creditors. The defining character of nationhood should be the fiscal right to tax natural resource rents and financial returns, and to create its own monetary system.

The United States refuses to join the International Criminal Court. To be effective, it needs enforcement power for its judgments and penalties, capped by the ability to bring charges of war crimes in the tradition of the Nuremberg tribunal. U.S. to such a court, combined with its military buildup now threatening World War III, suggests a new alignment of countries akin to the Non-Aligned Nations movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Non-aligned in this case means freedom from U.S. diplomatic control or threats.

Such institutions require a more realistic economic theory and philosophy of operations to replace the neoliberal logic for anti-government privatization, anti-labor austerity, and opposition to domestic budget deficits and debt writedowns. Today’s neoliberal doctrine counts financial late fees and rising housing prices as adding to “real output” (GDP), but deems public investment as deadweight spending, not a contribution to output. The aim of such logic is to convince governments to pay their foreign creditors by selling off their public infrastructure and other assets in the public domain.

Just as the “capacity to pay” principle was the foundation stone of the Bank for International Settlements in 1931, a similar basis is needed to measure today’s ability to pay debts and hence to write down bad loans that have been made without a corresponding ability of debtors to pay. Without such an institution and body of analysis, the IMF’s neoliberal principle of imposing economic depression and falling living standards to pay U.S. and other foreign creditors will impose global poverty.

The above proposals provide an alternative to the U.S. “exceptionalist” refusal to join any international organization that has a say over its affairs. Other countries must be willing to turn the tables and isolate U.S. banks, U.S. exporters, and to avoid using U.S. dollars and routing payments via U.S. banks. To protect their ability to create a countervailing power requires an international court and its sponsoring organization.

Summary

The first existential objective is to avoid the current threat of war by winding down U.S. military interference in foreign countries and removing U.S. military bases as relics of neocolonialism. Their danger to world peace and prosperity threatens a reversion to the pre-World War II colonialism, ruling by client elites along lines similar to the 2014 Ukrainian coup by neo-Nazi groups sponsored by the U.S. State Department and National Endowment for Democracy. Such control recalls the dictators that U.S. diplomacy established throughout Latin America in the 1950s. Today’s ethnic terrorism by U.S.-sponsored Wahabi-Saudi Islam recalls the behavior of Nazi Germany in the 1940s.

Global warming is the second major existentialist threat. Blocking attempts to reverse it is a bedrock of American foreign policy, because it is based on control of oil. So the military, refugee and global warming threats are interconnected.

The U.S. military poses the greatest immediate danger. Today’s warfare is fundamentally changed from what it used to be. Prior to the 1970s, nations conquering others had to invade and occupy them with armies recruited by a military draft. But no democracy in today’s world can revive such a draft without triggering widespread refusal to fight, voting the government out of power. The only way the United States – or other countries – can fight other nations is to bomb them. And as noted above, economic sanctions have as destructive an effect on civilian populations in countries deemed to be U.S. adversaries as overt warfare. The United States can sponsor political coups (as in Honduras and Pinochet’s Chile), but cannot occupy. It is unwilling to rebuild, to say nothing of taking responsibility for the waves of refugees that our bombing and sanctions are causing from Latin America to the Near East.

U.S. ideologues view their nation’s coercive military expansion and political subversion and neoliberal economic policy of privatization and financialization as an irreversible victory signaling the End of History. To the rest of the world it is a threat to human survival.

The American promise is that the victory of neoliberalism is the End of History, offering prosperity to the entire world. But beneath the rhetoric of free choice and free markets is the reality of corruption, subversion, coercion, debt peonage and neofeudalism. The reality is the creation and subsidy of polarized economies bifurcated between a privileged rentier class and its clients, eir debtors and renters. America is to be permitted to monopolize trade in oil and food grains, and high-technology rent-yielding monopolies, living off its dependent customers. Unlike medieval serfdom, people subject to this End of History scenario can choose to live wherever they want. But wherever they live, they must take on a lifetime of debt to obtain access to a home of their own, and rely on U.S.-sponsored control of their basic needs, money and credit by adhering to U.S. financial planning of their economies. This dystopian scenario confirms Rosa Luxemburg’s recognition that the ultimate choice facing nations in today’s world is between socialism and barbarism.

  1. Billy Bambrough, “Bitcoin Threatens To ‘Take Power’ From The U.S. Federal Reserve,” Forbes, May 15, 2019. https://www.forbes.com/sites/billybambrough/2019/05/15/a-u-s-congressman-is-so-scared-of-bitcoin-and-crypto-he-wants-it-banned/#36b2700b6405. 
  2. Vladimir Putin, keynote address to the Economic Forum, June 5-6 2019. Putin went on to warn of “a policy of completely unlimited economic egoism and a forced breakdown.” This fragmenting of the global economic space “is the road to endless conflict, trade wars and maybe not just trade wars. Figuratively, this is the road to the ultimate fight of all against all.” 
  3. Address to St Petersburg International Economic Forum’s Plenary Session, St Petersburg, Kremlin.ru, June 5, 2009, from Johnson’s Russia List, June 8, 2009, #8, 
  4. https://www.rt.com/business/464013-china-russia-cryptocurrency-dollar-dethrone/. Already in the late 1950s the Forgash Plan proposed a World Bank for Economic Acceleration. Designed by Terence McCarthy and sponsored by Florida Senator Morris Forgash, the bank would have been a more truly development-oriented institution to guide foreign development to create balanced economies self-sufficient in food and other essentials. The proposal was opposed by U.S. interests on the ground that countries pursuing land reform tended to be anti-American. More to the point, they would have avoided trade and financial dependency on U.S. suppliers and banks, and hence on U.S. trade and financial sanctions to prevent them from following policies at odds with U.S. diplomatic demands.  
  5. Don Weinland, “WTO rules against US in tariff dispute with China,” Financial Times, July 17, 2019. 

 

US elites remain incapable of understanding China

Source

February 17, 2019

by Pepe Escobar (cross-posted with the Asia Times by special agreement with the author)US elites remain incapable of understanding China

A new report on US policy toward China launched by the Asia Society in New York is another example of how supposedly bipartisan US intellectual elites, instead of offering impartial advice, do little more than parrot Washington’s talking points, failing to admit they know nothing of substance about the existential “threats” posed by Russia and China.

The report ‘Course Correction: Toward an Effective and Sustainable China Policy‘ was written in collaboration with the 21st Century Chinese Center at the University of California, San Diego. Orville Schell, one of the chairs of the Task Force Report, should be seen as one of the least biased among an uneven basket of self-declared US experts on China.

Still, he frames the report as trying to find a way between “confronting China” and “accommodating China.” That does not include “respecting” China – considering all the nation’s achievements 40 years after the reforms launched by Little Helmsman Deng Xiaoping.

Then Schell admits his experts are left “wondering what’s going on in the upper reaches of the leadership in China.” That’s even more serious, implying no intel on the ground.

So we’re left with China-bashing. We learn of devious attacks against the “rules-based global order” – which is always not so subtly equated with the “interests and values of the United States;” China’s “mercantilist zero-sum policies;”and the “lavishly funded state-led effort to build China into a high-tech superpower” – as if no country in the Global South should be allowed to go high-tech.

On foreign policy, the report warns about “expansive claims of sovereignty in the South China Sea,” which is a de facto regurgitation of the Pentagon’s master narrative.

Earlier this week, the head of the US Indo-Pacific Command, Admiral Philip Davidson, testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that US-China competition represents “two incompatible visions of the future”, and that China is the “greatest long-term strategic threat to a free and open Indo-Pacific and to the United States.”

What about BRI?

The full report is here. The Asia Society is promoting it as the most comprehensive analysis of the state of play between the US and China – the result of two years of work. Yet it walks and talks more like a summary of the frantically repetitive news cycle always focusing on China’s “hegemonic” designs on 5G, the suspicious, technology-stealing Made in China 2025, attacks on “freedom of navigation” and China’s insidious nationalism.

As if the Trump administration was not applying myriad forms of economic pressure – and not only on China – ranging from exercises of sovereignty to unabashed protectionism.

The report recommends applying more pressure and exercising more control to “correct” Chinese behavior. So, it’s easy to imagine how this condescending, exceptionalist-based attitude is totally dismissed by Beijing.

When one looks at the signatories of the report, it’s easy to see why.

Among them, there’s Winston Lord, a former US ambassador to China and former right-hand man to Henry Kissinger; Kurt Campbell, the man who invented the “pivot to Asia,” sold it to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who convinced President Obama about it; former trade negotiator and Clinton acolyte Charlene Barshevsky; and David Shambaugh from George Washington University, who used to be reliable but has recently veered toward a Sinophobic path.

Instead of “confronting” or “accommodating” China, what passes for the upper reaches of the US intellectual elite could do worse than trying to understand China. And that means understanding the scope of an actual policy; the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative.

BRI is the de facto foreign policy developed for a geoeconomic superpower all the way to 2049, based on trade, investment and internationalization of what is bound to become a major currency, the yuan.

Up to the end of last year, the China Development Bank, Exim Bank, the Silk Road Fund, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the New Development Bank (NDB) set up by the major emerging economies had invested at least $460 billion in myriad BRI projects.

BRI is already a global band. For all the 24/7 demonization, the absolute majority of BRI-related investments accrue China’s power projection, soft power included. That’s visible all across the Global South. Fine tunings, as in Malaysia or Sri Lanka, are inevitable. This is a massive work in progress – and it’s just beginning.

Until US elites understand what Belt and Road is all about, economically and geopolitically, expect think tank-concocted containment and accommodation strategies to flounder in irrelevance.

Sergey Lavrov’s Straight Talk on Imperial America

By Stephen Lendman
Source

Is he reading my articles? In remarks days earlier, he was uncharacteristically more straightforward about how Washington operates. More on what he said below. 

Repeatedly I’ve stressed that diplomacy with Washington is futile. With rare exceptions, it never worked before. 

It won’t ahead as long as dark forces run things, nearly the entire Congress and executive branch going along with their hegemonic agenda to rule the world, endless brute force their favored strategy.

The US doesn’t negotiate. It demands, operating by its own rules alone, time and again breaching international treaties, conventions, bilateral agreements, Security Council resolutions, as well as its own Constitution and statute laws.

Its contempt for rule of law principles, democratic values, peace, equity and justice is well documented – including by the late William Blum in his book titled “Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower.”

Michael Parenti called it “a superb antidote to officialdom’s lies and propaganda.”

Peter Dale Scott said “it is an invaluable corrective to the establishment portrait of America as the world’s greatest force for peace.”

Along with must-reading works of numerous other distinguished scholars, academics, historians, political scientists, and activists I greatly admire, Blum’s book and others he wrote greatly influenced my thinking, writing, and public comments.

US history isn’t pretty. The late Howard Zinn stressed that “(y)ou can’t be neutral on a moving train,” explaining that “events are already moving in certain deadly directions, and to be neutral means to accept that.”

He stressed that “war brutalizes everyone involved, begets a fanaticism in which the original moral factor (like fighting fascism) is buried at the bottom of a heap of atrocities committed by all sides.” 

He explained how impossible it is to wage war on terrorism since war is the worst kind of terrorism – the most “vicious” enemy of human and civil rights.

His People’s History of the United States explained it’s centuries-long global expansionism, its wars on humanity, its contempt for principles it claims to support – from the point of view of ordinary people, workers, minorities, the poor and disadvantaged, persecuted and oppressed, victimized, forgotten and ignored.

It covered the period from 1492 to new millennium imperial hubris and arrogance under Bush/Cheney – another book that greatly influenced me, an antidote to how history is taught in America from grammar school through higher education, pretending a nation abhorring democracy is governed by its principles.

America’s Constitution is no masterpiece of political architecture. It’s a conservative document the founders crafted so the nation could governed to “resist the pressure of popular tides (and protect) a rising bourgeoisie(‘s freedom to) invest, speculate, trade and accumulate wealth,” Michael Parenti explained.

Throughout its history, America has always been governed the way its first Supreme Court Chief Justice John Jay explained – by “(t)he people who own the country,” serving them exclusively at the expense of most others.

Russia has been America’s enemy since its 1917 revolution, an ally of convenience during WW II against the scourge of Nazi Germany. Any pretense of alliance vanished during the Cold War, bilateral relations more dismal today than ever.

Rare exceptions proved the rule earlier, notably when Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan signed the landmark 1987 INF Treaty – abandoned by Trump regime hardliners along with the JCPOA Iran nuclear deal, anti-peace and stability actions, risking greater wars than already.

Peace and rapprochement initiatives by Kennedy, Nixon and Reagan were considered threats to Washington’s hegemonic agenda.

Long knives wielded by dark forces cooked up Watergate to remove Nixon from office on trumped up charges. Reagan’s efforts to the end the Cold War came near the end of his two-term tenure. 

Jack Kennedy wanted rapprochement with Soviet Russia, denuclearization, and peace in Southeast Asia, not war. His fate was sealed, assassinated by CIA hitmen.

The only language both right wings of US duopoly governance understand is toughness. Anything less shows weakness. It’s counterproductive and self-defeating. 

Washington isn’t Russia’s partner, ally or colleague. US bipartisan hardliners comprise a large majority in the nation’s capital. They consider Russia, China, Iran, and other sovereign independent nations their mortal enemies.

On a path toward possible war with countries not already attacked, they’re delusional believing a nuclear war is winnable – what no nation can win, what can kill us all if waged.

Days earlier, Sergey Lavrov commented on dismal Russia/US relations. Domestic politics in Washington “influence(s) our bilateral relations and create(s) additional difficulties in building a dialogue,” he explained, adding:

“(O)ne can expect that as the next presidential election in November 2020 approaches, attempts to play the ‘Russian card’ will be undertaken by individual politicians in Washington more actively and more persistently.”

If past is prologue, bilateral relations may deteriorate more than already. There’s virtually no chance for improvement any time soon, despite Lavrov’s hope for things moving in this direction.

Russia’s advocacy for “normal, predictable dialogue with the United States  based on the principles of mutual understanding and respect for interests” is rejected by Republicans and undemocratic Dems.

Things haven’t moved in this direction “because of Washington’s unfriendly actions, incessant attempts to exert pressure on us with the help of economic, political, military, and other tools.”

Lavrov saying “bilateral and international efforts for maintaining stability and security in the world…stalled” misses what’s most important.

Efforts for peace and mutual cooperation by Russia, China, Iran, and other countries aren’t reciprocated by Washington and its imperial allies. 

Things didn’t stall. They never began. They conflict with Washington’s aim for unchallenged global dominance, wanting all nations transformed into US vassal states.

Lavrov: “Russia for the American political establishment is an object. We are demonized in order to keep Europe in check and to strengthen the trans-Atlantic bond.”

“(M)any in Washington suffer from…an illusion…dictated by the desire to make us a tool to serve US interests…(T)his will not work with us.”

As long as bipartisan US policymakers continue seeking this aim, relations with Russia “will not change.”

Moscow seeks world peace, stability, multi-world polarity, and mutual cooperation with other nations. These objectives are unfulfilled because of longstanding US hegemonic aims.

Pullout from the INF Treaty and JCPOA by Trump regime hardliners were shots across the bow of likely worse to come, notably an arms race, including greater nuclearization instead of stepping back from the brink.

Lavrov warned the Trump regime, saying “we cannot and will not ignore the deployment of new American missiles that threaten us and our allies.” 

“There should be no doubt that we have the necessary set of means to ensure our own security, and we can also further strengthen our defense capabilities.” Steps are being actively taken in this direction.

Russia’s diplomatic outreach on issues of mutual interest have gone unanswered by US officials. “(T)here has so far been no desire to negotiate with us from the US side,” he said.

“They shy away from dialogue. They do not offer any guarantees, apparently preferring to have completely ‘free hands.’ ”

War between the US and Russia would be disastrous for both sides and humanity.

Lavrov persists in urging US and other Western officials “to act in a predictable way, to scrupulously abide by the principles and rules of international law, to rely on the United Nations Charter.”

US policymakers are implacably hostile to these principles, and everything else conflicting with their aim to rule the world unchallenged – by eliminating key rivals Russia and China, along with co-opting and colonizing all other sovereign independent states.

That’s the cold, hard reality Russia must deal with. Diplomatic outreach to the US achieves nothing – not earlier (rare exceptions noted), not now, and surely not ahead any time soon, maybe never.

Since Reagan’s outreach to Gorbachev over 30 years ago, US relations with Russia have been on a downward trajectory.

“They shy away from dialogue. They do not offer any guarantees, apparently preferring to have completely ‘free hands.’ ”

War between the US and Russia would be disastrous for both sides and humanity.

Lavrov persists in urging US and other Western officials “to act in a predictable way, to scrupulously abide by the principles and rules of international law, to rely on the United Nations Charter.”

US policymakers are implacably hostile to these principles, and everything else conflicting with their aim to rule the world unchallenged – by eliminating key rivals Russia and China, along with co-opting and colonizing all other sovereign independent states.

That’s the cold, hard reality Russia must deal with. Diplomatic outreach to the US achieves nothing – not earlier (rare exceptions noted), not now, and surely not ahead any time soon, maybe never.

Since Reagan’s outreach to Gorbachev over 30 years ago, US relations with Russia have been on a downward trajectory.

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