How to Undermine a Diplomatic Triumph

About me

26 July 2021

by Lawrence Davidson

Part I—The Backstory

The true status of current negotiations to reinstate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran is unknown to the American public—most of whom are tragically indifferent to the outcome. This is so even though the successful negotiation of this deal with Iran back in 2015 represents one of the greatest triumphs of diplomacy in the last hundred years. What we do know is this triumph was followed by tragedy—a premeditated tragedy—the sort of tragedy only fools can produce. But very few Americans care. That is the way it is with foreign policy. On the one hand, you can start wars to great public acclaim, and on the other, you can destroy hard-won diplomatic achievements almost without public notice. 

At the end of President Obama’s term of office (January 2017) the JCPOA was complete and in force. In exchange for a lifting of “nuclear-related sanctions,” Iran undertook not to pursue research that might allow her to develop nuclear weapons. Up until May of 2018 “Iran’s compliance has been repeatedly verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which oversees the most intrusive inspections regime ever negotiated.” It was in May of 2018 that Donald Trump, perhaps the most despicable human being to hold the presidency since Andrew Jackson, withdrew from the JCPOA, apparently for two reasons: (1) was the treaty was completed by Obama and Trump wanted to destroy the achievements of his non-white predecessor, and (2) Trump thought he could bully the Iranians into a “better deal.” It is important to note that the other signatories to the treaty did not initially follow Trump’s lead. “The leaders of France, the United Kingdom, and Germany issued a joint statement on behalf of their countries that reemphasized their support for the deal and its importance to the nonproliferation regime.” The United Nations expressed “deep concern” over Trump’s decision and released a statement in support of the JCPOA. Russia’s Foreign Ministry also reiterated its support for the JCPOA, and further stated that “U.S. actions compromise international trust in the IAEA.”

How did the Iranians react to Trump’s withdrawal from the treaty and reimposition of harsh sanctions? At first, Tehran suggested that if the other signatories to the agreement would remain loyal to their obligations, Iran too would keep to the treaty. Unfortunately, most of the European nations involved would soon succumb to U.S. economic pressure and cease to hold to their obligations. Nonetheless, it was not until a year following Trump’s irresponsible act that Iran announced that “The Islamic Republic of Iran in reaction to the exit of America from the nuclear deal and the bad promises of European countries in carrying out their obligations will restart a part of the nuclear activities which were stopped under the framework of the nuclear deal.” Even while the Iranian government took this position, it insisted that if at any time the United States returned to the treaty and removed all nuclear-related sanctions, Iran too would return to its obligations. Tehran even suggested a process whereby the U.S. and Iran would take simultaneous steps to that end. 

Everyone but Trump devotees, Israel and its supporters, and those Iranian exiles who would like to see the return of the country’s monarchy recognized that the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA had been a mistake. Accordingly, in the campaign run-up to the 2020 presidential election in the U.S., the Democratic candidate, Joe Biden, promised that upon election he would rejoin the treaty if Iran returned to compliance as well. 

Biden did win, but he has not yet fulfilled his promise. Instead, he entered an extended period of negotiations that is still ongoing. At first it was said that these were about “who goes first” when it comes to returning to requirements of the treaty. Was Iran to give up the small steps in nuclear enrichment since the Trump withdrawal, or was the U.S. going to go first in removing the draconian sanctions placed on Iran by the Trump administration? It was Iran who realized the childish nature of this question and offered a simultaneous return to the compliance mentioned above. While the Biden administration rejected this offer, it has been reported that now both sides are working toward “simultaneous, sequential steps” back to requirements of the treaty. 


Part II—Misleading the American Public


In the meantime, the Biden administration has been releasing misinformation to the public. For instance, Biden has insisted that sanctions relief depends on Iran “returning to compliance.” But, of course, for anyone familiar with the relevant events, it was Washington that broke the treaty and needed to return to compliance. Any subsequent Iranian actions following Trump’s folly were, and still are, perfectly legal under the terms of the JCPOA. Joe Biden can continue to justify draconian economic sanctions in this way—sanctions that are ruining the lives of millions—only because he is addressing an ignorant American audience. 

When Iran failed to be bullied, Biden’s diplomats adopted a “shift the blame” tactic. In May 2021, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said “Iran, I think, knows what it needs to do to come back into compliance on the nuclear side, and what we haven’t yet seen is whether Iran is ready and willing to make a decision to do what it has to do. That’s the test and we don’t yet have an answer.” Translation: the American people should know that we, the Biden administration, are trying, but those Iranians seem to be too thick-headed to do what is necessary. So if the whole thing fails, it is their fault and not ours. 

Blinken went on, “If both sides can return to the original deal, then we can use that as a foundation both to look at how to make the deal itself potentially longer and stronger—and also [to] engage on these other issues, whether it’s Iran’s support for terrorism [or] its destabilizing support for different proxies throughout the Middle East.”

That scenario will not encourage the Iranians. They have repeatedly stated that the JCPOA, and the present negotiations, are about two things: sanctions and the scope of nuclear development. It is not about Iranian foreign policy, which has been so blandly assumed to be “terrorism” by both Trump and Biden. If Mr. Blinken keeps tagging on these extras, we will still be running in circles come Christmas.   

What is the diplomatic aim of the Biden administration? Is it to pursue the Democrats’ traditional, and bankrupt, aim of sounding as tough on foreign policy as the Republicans? That irrelevant goal (remember most Americans don’t care about foreign policy) would not be surprising coming from a professional Democratic politician of Joe Biden’s generation. However, after all the work that has gone into the JCPOA and all the suffering endured by the Iranian population due to brutal U.S. sanctions, such a petty motive reflects the mentality of a street gang competing with rivals, rather than the peaceful ends of an alleged civilized society. 

With statements like this, Secretary of State Blinken transforms himself into someone we might mistake for a

Fox News TV anchor. It would seem that many who pride themselves on eschewing Fox’s lies are ready to swallow whole Mr. Blinken’s bunk. 

Part III—An Israeli Connection?

We know that ex-Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and ex-President Trump were in agreement on Iran policy. In this regard, all the yelling and screaming about Iran’s nuclear program carried on by both men hid their real goal. Particularly for Netanyahu, the hyperbole was aimed at creating a “credible reason” to force regime change in Iran, even if it meant a U.S. invasion. Essentially, the model here was Iraq. Netanyahu was ready to pursue this end till the last dying American soldier. Obviously, the JCPOA was a major obstacle in that path. So was Barack Obama, who thought he was helping Israel and the world in general by negotiating the treaty. 

Now Netanyahu and Trump are gone from office. However, why should we believe that the new Israeli government has changed the ultimate goal? And why should we believe that Joe Biden—who is, as he never fails to remind us, an “ironclad” Zionist—will really follow in Obama’s footsteps?

In June, Israel sent some of its highest-ranking leaders to see Biden. These included Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and Defense Minister Benny Gantz. Both meetings were basically about Iran. “Iran will never get a nuclear weapon on my watch,” Biden told Rivlin. This was billed as a “stark warning” to Iran—a country which has, for religious as well as other reasons, disavowed the desire for such a weapon. How many Americans know this? Does President Biden know this?

Many scholars and other experts in Middle East policy believe that “Mr. Biden’s calculations are rooted in a different era of American-Israeli relations—when Israel’s security concerns commanded far more attention than Palestinian grievances.” This is true. But there is a more personal connection. Biden personally identifies with Israel like no other U.S. president since Lyndon Johnson. He collects yarmulkes and is reported to have knelt down in an impromptu “show of respect” after learning that Rivka Ravitz, President Rivlin’s Orthodox chief of staff, was the mother of 12 children. The Israeli Orthodox Jews often have such large families out of fear of a “demographic holocaust”—that is, the consequences of the Palestinians’ much higher birth rate than that of most Israeli Jews. Finally, Biden has completely accepted the highly debatable notion that world Jewry, many of whom are not Zionists, cannot be safe apart from the existence of Israel. 

Those same experts also believe that, when it comes to Israel, President Biden’s approach has much to do with domestic politics. Thus, getting back to the JCPOA is less important than catering to the desires of the Israel Lobby. This only makes sense for a politician born and bred to the power of that lobby.

Part IV—Conclusion


The U.S. and Israeli leaders are suffering from a group-think environment and tunnel vision, all shaped in good part by political pressure generated by dominant special interests.  At least in this instance, one cannot say the same for the Iranians who, though led by a rigid religious elite, broke through their tunnel vision and joined the JCPOA treaty. The present stalemate is the work of American ideologues tied hand and foot to a major U.S. lobby. 

Outside the tunnel one can see the obvious answer to the present stalemate. Having been polite and empathetic toward Rivlin and Gantz, Joe Biden should ask over to the Oval Office an outsider, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. At the end of June Guterres said, “I appeal to the United States to lift or waive its sanctions outlined in the plan.” He also appealed to Iran to return to full implementation of the deal. Right from the beginning of Biden’s election, the Iranians have been willing to follow Guterres’s lead. It is Biden who has temporized while being encouraged by his confidants from Jerusalem. 

Statements after Putin / Biden summit

June 16, 2021

Source

Statements after Putin / Biden summit

Russian-American consultations began with a restricted-format meeting that included Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

After that the talks continued in an expanded format.

Following the summit, the US – Russia Presidential Joint Statement on Strategic Stability was adopted.

U.S. – Russia Presidential Joint Statement on Strategic Stability

June 16, 2021

We, President of the United States of America Joseph R. Biden and President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, note the United States and Russia have demonstrated that, even in periods of tension, they are able to make progress on our shared goals of ensuring predictability in the strategic sphere, reducing the risk of armed conflicts and the threat of nuclear war.

The recent extension of the New START Treaty exemplifies our commitment to nuclear arms control. Today, we reaffirm the principle that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.

Consistent with these goals, the United States and Russia will embark together on an integrated bilateral Strategic Stability Dialogue in the near future that will be deliberate and robust. Through this Dialogue, we seek to lay the groundwork for future arms control and risk reduction measures.

http://en.kremlin.ru/supplement/5658


President Putin: News conference Q&A following Russia-US talks

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Friends, ladies and gentlemen,

Good afternoon.

I am at your service. I think there is no need for long opening remarks since everyone is familiar with the topics of discussion in general: strategic stability, cyber security, regional conflicts, and trade relations. We also covered cooperation in the Arctic. This is pretty much what we discussed.

With that, I will take your questions.

Question: Good evening,

Perhaps, you can name the topics that were discussed especially closely? In particular, Ukraine is of great interest. In what context was it touched upon, was the situation in Donbass and the possibility of Ukraine joining NATO discussed?

One more thing: before the talks, there were great expectations about the ambassadors of the two countries returning to their stations in the respective capitals. In particular, your assistant, Yury Ushakov, said that this was possible. Have these decisions been made? How did the talks go in general?

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: With regard to the ambassadors returning to their stations – the US ambassador to Moscow, and the Russian ambassador to Washington, we agreed on this matter, and they will be returning to their permanent duty stations. When exactly – tomorrow or the day after tomorrow – is a purely technical issue.

We also agreed that the Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation and the US State Department would begin consultations on the entire range of cooperation on the diplomatic track. There are things to discuss, and an enormous backlog [of unresolved issues] has piled up. I think both sides, including the American side, are committed to looking for solutions.

With regard to Ukraine, indeed, this issue was touched upon. I cannot say that it was done in great detail, but as far as I understood President Biden, he agreed that the Minsk agreements should be the basis for a settlement in southeastern Ukraine.

As for Ukraine’s potential accession to NATO, this issue was touched upon in passing. I suppose there is nothing to discuss in this respect.

This is how it was in general terms.

Question: Mr President, you said strategic stability was one of the topics. Could you tell us in more detail what decisions were made on this issue? Will Russia and the United States resume or start talks on strategic stability and disarmament, and, in particular, on the New START Treaty? Do they plan to start talks on extending New START, perhaps revising its parameters or signing a new treaty altogether?

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: The United States and the Russian Federation bear special responsibility for global strategic stability, at least because we are the two biggest nuclear powers – in terms of the amount of ammunition and warheads, the number of delivery vehicles, the level of sophistication and quality of nuclear arms. We are aware of this responsibility.

I think it is obvious to everyone that President Biden made a responsible and, we believe, timely decision to extend New START for five years, that is, until 2024.

Of course, it would be natural to ask what next. We agreed to start interdepartmental consultations under the aegis of the US Department of State and the Foreign Ministry of Russia. Colleagues will determine at the working level the line-up of these delegations, the venues and frequency of meetings.

Question: Hi, Matthew Chance from CNN. Thank you very much for giving me this question.

First of all, could you characterise the dynamic between yourself and President Biden? Was it hostile or was it friendly?

And secondly, throughout these conversations did you commit to ceasing carrying out cyberattacks on the United States? Did you commit to stopping threatening Ukraine’s security? And did you commit to stop cracking down on the opposition in Russia?

Vladimir Putin: I will begin with a general assessment. I believe there was no hostility at all. Quite the contrary. Our meeting was, of course, a principled one, and our positions diverge on many issues, but I still think that both of us showed a willingness to understand each other and look for ways of bringing our positions closer together. The conversation was quite constructive.

As for cyber security, we have agreed to start consultations on this issue. I consider this very important.

Now about the commitments each side must make. I would like to tell you about things that are generally known, but not to the public at large. American sources – I am simply afraid to mix up the names of organisations (Mr Peskov will give them to you later) – have said that most cyberattacks in the world come from US cyberspace. Canada is second. It is followed by two Latin American countries and then the United Kingdom. As you can see, Russia is not on the list of these countries from whose cyberspace the most cyberattacks originate. This is the first point.

Now the second point. In 2020 we received 10 inquiries from the United States about cyberattacks on US facilities – as our colleagues say – from Russian cyberspace. Two more requests were made this year. Our colleagues received exhaustive responses to all of them, both in 2020 and this year.

In turn, Russia sent 45 inquiries to the relevant US agency last year and 35 inquiries in the first half of this year. We have not yet received a single response. This shows that we have a lot to work on.

The question of who, on what scale and in what area must make commitments should be resolved during negotiations. We have agreed to start such consultations. We believe that cyber security is extremely important in the world in general, for the United States in particular, and to the same extent for Russia.

For example, we are aware of the cyberattacks on the pipeline company in the United States. We are also aware of the fact that the company had to pay 5 million to the cybercriminals. According to my information, a portion of the money has been returned from the e-wallets. What do Russia’s public authorities have to do with this?

We face the same threats. For example, there was an attack on the public healthcare system of a large region in the Russian Federation. Of course, we see where the attacks are coming from, and we see that these activities are coordinated from US cyberspace. I do not think that the United States, official US authorities, are interested in this kind of manipulation. What we need to do is discard all the conspiracy theories, sit down at the expert level and start working in the interests of the United States and the Russian Federation. In principle, we have agreed to this, and Russia is willing to do so.

Give them a microphone – part of the question remained unanswered.

Remark: That’s correct and thank you very much for coming back to me, sir.

So, there were two other parts to the question. The first one is: did you commit in these meetings to stop threatening Ukraine? Remember the reason this summit was called in the first place, or the timing of it, was when Russia was building up lots of forces close to border. And the second part of the question, third part of the question was: did you commit to stopping your crackdown against the opposition groups inside Russia led by Alexei Navalny?

Vladimir Putin: I did not hear that part of the question – either it was not translated, or you just decided to ask a second question.

With regard to our obligations regarding Ukraine, we have only one obligation which is to facilitate the implementation of the Minsk Agreements. If the Ukrainian side is willing to do this, we will take this path, no questions asked.

By the way, I would like to note the following. Back in November 2020, the Ukrainian delegation presented its views about how it was planning to implement the Minsk Agreements. Please take a look at the Minsk Agreements – they are not a confidential document. They say that, first, it is necessary to submit proposals on the political integration of Donbass into the Ukrainian legal system and the Constitution. To do so, it is necessary to amend the Constitution – this is spelled out in the agreements. This is the first point. And second, the border between the Russian Federation and Ukraine along the Donbass line will begin to be occupied by the border troops of Ukraine on the day following election day – Article 9.

What has Ukraine come up with? The first step it proposed was to move Ukraine’s armed forces back to their permanent stations. What does this mean? This means Ukrainian troops would enter Donbass. This is the first point. Second, they proposed closing the border between Russia and Ukraine in this area. Third, they proposed holding elections three months after these two steps.

You do not need a legal background or any special training to understand that this has nothing to do with the Minsk Agreements. This completely contradicts the Minsk Agreements. Therefore, what kind of additional obligations can Russia assume? I think the answer is clear.

With regard to military exercises, we conduct them on our territory, just like the United States conducts many of its exercises on its territory. But we are not bringing our equipment and personnel closer to the state borders of the United States of America when we conduct our exercises. Unfortunately, this is what our US partners are doing now. So, the Russian side, not the American side, should be concerned about this, and this also needs to be discussed, and our respective positions should be clarified.

With regard to our non-systemic opposition and the citizen you mentioned, first, this person knew that he was breaking applicable Russian law. He needed to check in with the authorities as someone who was twice sentenced to a suspended prison time. Fully cognisant of what he was doing, I want to emphasise this, and disregarding this legal requirement, this gentleman went abroad for medical treatment, and the authorities did not ask him to check in while he was in treatment. As soon as he left the hospital and posted his videos online, the requirements were reinstated. He did not appear; he disregarded the law – and was put on the wanted list. He knew that going back to Russia. I believe he deliberately decided to get arrested. He did what he wanted to do. So, what is there to be discussed?

With regard to the people like him and the systemic opposition in general, unfortunately, the format of a news conference precludes a detailed discussion, but I would like to say the following. Look, I think I will not say anything complicated, it will be clear for everyone. If you find it possible to objectively convey this message to your viewers and listeners, I would be very grateful to you.

So, the United States declared Russia an enemy and an adversary. Congress did this in 2017. US legislation was amended to include provisions that the United States must maintain democratic governance rules and order in our country and support political organisations. This is in your law, US law. Now let’s ask ourselves a question: if Russia is an enemy, what kind of organisations will the United States support in Russia? I think not the ones that make the Russian Federation stronger, but the ones that hold it back, since this is the goal of the United States, something that has been announced publicly. So, these are the organisations and the people who are instrumental in the implementation of the United States’ policy on Russia.

How should we feel about this? I think it is clear: we must be wary. But we will act exclusively within the framework of Russian law.

Transcript to be continued.


Remarks by President Biden in post-summit Press Conference

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2021/06/16/remarks-by-president-biden-in-press-conference-4/June 16, 2021 • Speeches and Remarks

Hôtel du Parc des Eaux-Vives
Geneva, Switzerland

7:20 P.M. CEST

(There is some French bleedthrough at the start of the audio for a few moments)

THE PRESIDENT:  It’s been a long day for you all.  (Laughs.)  I know it was easy getting into the — the pre-meeting.  There was no problem getting through those doors, was it — was there?

Anyway, hello, everyone.  Well, I’ve just finished the — the last meeting of this week’s long trip, the U.S.-Russian Summit.

And I know there were a lot of hype around this meeting, but it’s pretty straightforward to me — the meeting.  One, there is no substitute, as those of you who have covered me for a while know, for a face-to-face dialogue between leaders.  None.  And President Putin and I had a — share a unique responsibility to manage the relationship between two powerful and proud countries — a relationship that has to be stable and predictable.  And it should be able to — we should be able to cooperate where it’s in our mutual interests.

And where we have differences, I wanted President Putin to understand why I say what I say and why I do what I do, and how we’ll respond to specific kinds of actions that harm America’s interests.

Now, I told President Putin my agenda is not against Russia or anyone else; it’s for the American people: fighting COVID-19; rebuilding our economy; reestablishing our relationships around the world with our allies and friends; and protecting our people.  That’s my responsibility as President.

I also told him that no President of the United States could keep faith with the American people if they did not speak out to defend our democratic values, to stand up for the universal rights and fundamental freedoms that all men and women have, in our view.  That’s just part of the DNA of our country.

So, human rights is going to always be on the table, I told him.  It’s not about just going after Russia when they violate human rights; it’s about who we are.  How could I be the President of the United States of America and not speak out against the violation of human rights?

I told him that, unlike other countries, including Russia, we’re uniquely a product of an idea.  You’ve heard me say this before, again and again, but I’m going to keep saying it.  What’s that idea?  We don’t derive our rights from the government; we possess them because we’re born — period.  And we yield them to a government.

And so, at the forum, I pointed out to him that that’s why we’re going raise our concerns about cases like Aleksey Navalny.  I made it clear to President Putin that we’ll continue to raise issues of fundamental human rights because that’s what we are, that’s who we are.  The idea is: “We hold these truths self-evident that all men and women…”  We haven’t lived up to it completely, but we’ve always widened the arc of commitment and included more and more people.

And I raised the case of two wrongfully imprisoned American citizens: Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed.

I also raised the ability of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty to operate, and the importance of a free press and freedom of speech.

I made it clear that we will not tolerate attempts to violate our democratic sovereignty or destabilize our democratic elections, and we would respond.

The bottom line is, I told President Putin that we need to have some basic rules of the road that we can all abide by.

I also said there are areas where there’s a mutual interest for us to cooperate, for our people — Russian and American people — but also for the benefit of the world and the security of the world.  One of those areas is strategic stability.

You asked me many times what was I going to discuss with Putin.  Before I came, I told you I only negotiate with the individual.  And now I can tell you what I was intending to do all along, and that is to discuss and raise the issue of strategic stability and try to set up a mechanism whereby we dealt with it.

We discussed in detail the next steps our countries need to take on arms control measures — the steps we need to take to reduce the risk of unintended conflict.

And I’m pleased that he agreed today to launch a bilateral strategic stability dialogue — diplomatic speak for saying, get our military experts and our — our diplomats together to work on a mechanism that can lead to control of new and dangerous and sophisticated weapons that are coming on the scene now that reduce the times of response, that raise the prospects of accidental war.  And we went into some detail of what those weapons systems were.

Another area we spent a great deal of time on was cyber and cybersecurity.  I talked about the proposition that certain critical infrastructure should be off limits to attack — period — by cyber or any other means.  I gave them a list, if I’m not mistaken — I don’t have it in front of me — 16 specific entities; 16 defined as critical infrastructure under U.S. policy, from the energy sector to our water systems.

Of course, the principle is one thing.  It has to be backed up by practice.  Responsible countries need to take action against criminals who conduct ransomware activities on their territory.

So we agreed to task experts in both our — both our countries to work on specific understandings about what’s off limits and to follow up on specific cases that originate in other countries — either of our countries.

There is a long list of other issues we spent time on, from the urgent need to preserve and reopen the humanitarian corridors in Syria so that we can get food — just simple food and basic necessities to people who are starving to death; how to build it and how it is in the interest of both Russia and the United States to ensure that Iran — Iran — does not acquire nuclear weapons.  We agreed to work together there because it’s as much interest — Russia’s interest as ours.  And to how we can ensure the Arctic remains a region of cooperation rather than conflict.

I caught part of President’s — Putin’s press conference, and he talked about the need for us to be able to have some kind of modus operandi where we dealt with making sure the Arctic was, in fact, a free zone.

And to how we can each contribute to the shared effort of preventing a resurgence of terrorism in Afghanistan.  It’s very much in — in the interest of Russia not to have a resurgence of terrorism in Afghanistan.

There are also areas that are more challenging.  I communicated the United States’ unwavering commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.

We agreed to pursue diplomacy related to the Minsk Agreement.  And I shared our concerns about Belarus.  He didn’t disagree with what happened; he just has a different perspective of what to do about it.

But I know you have a lot of questions, so let me close with this: It was important to meet in person so there can be no mistake about or misrepresentations about what I wanted to communicate.

I did what I came to do: Number one, identify areas of practical work our two countries can do to advance our mutual interests and also benefit the world.

Two, communicate directly — directly — that the United States will respond to actions that impair our vital interests or those of our allies.

And three, to clearly lay out our country’s priorities and our values so he heard it straight from me.

And I must tell you, the tone of the entire meetings — I guess it was a total of four hours — was — was good, positive.  There wasn’t any — any strident action taken.  Where we disagreed — I disagreed, stated where it was.  Where he disagreed, he stated.  But it was not done in a hyperbolic atmosphere.  That is too much of what’s been going on.

Over this last week, I believe — I hope — the United States has shown the world that we are back, standing with our Allies.  We rallied our fellow democracies to make concert — concerted commitments to take on the biggest challenges our world faces.

And now we’ve established a clear basis on how we intend to deal with Russia and the U.S.-Russia relationship.

There’s more work ahead.  I’m not suggesting that any of this is done, but we’ve gotten a lot of business done on this trip.

And before I take your questions, I want to say one last thing.  Folks, look, this is about — this about how we move from here.  This is — I listened to, again, a significant portion of what President Putin’s press conference was, and as he pointed out, this is about practical, straightforward, no-nonsense decisions that we have to make or not make.

We’ll find out within the next six months to a year whether or not we actually have a strategic dialogue that matters.  We’ll find out whether we work to deal with everything from release of people in Russian prisons or not.  We’ll find out whether we have a cybersecurity arrangement that begins to bring some order.

Because, look, the countries that most are likely to be damaged — failure to do that — are the major countries.  For example, when I talked about the pipeline that cyber hit for $5 million — that ransomware hit in the United States, I looked at him and I said, “Well, how would you feel if ransomware took on the pipelines from your oil fields?”  He said it would matter.

This is not about just our self-interest; it’s about a mutual self-interest.

I’ll take your questions.  And as usual, folks, they gave me a list of the people I’m going to call on.

So, Jonathan, Associated Press.

Q    Thank you, sir.  U.S. intelligence has said that Russia tried to interfere in the last two presidential elections, and that Russia groups are behind hacks like SolarWinds and some of the ransomware attacks you just mentioned.  Putin, in his news conference just now, accepted no responsibility for any misbehavior.  Your predecessor opted not to demand that Putin stop these disruptions.  So what is something concrete, sir, that you achieved today to prevent that from happening again?  And what were the consequences you threatened?

THE PRESIDENT:  Whether I stopped it from happening again — he knows I will take action, like we did when — this last time out.  What happened was: We, in fact, made it clear that we were not going to continue to allow this to go on.  The end result was we ended up withdrawing — they went withdrawing ambassadors, and we closed down some of their facilities in the United States, et cetera.  And he knows there are consequences.

Now, look, one of the consequences that I know — I don’t know; I shouldn’t say this; it’s unfair of me — I suspect you may all think doesn’t matter, but I’m confidence it matters to him — confident it matter to him and other world leaders of big nations: his credibility worldwide shrinks.

Let’s get this straight: How would it be if the United States were viewed by the rest of the world as interfering with the elections directly of other countries, and everybody knew it?  What would it be like if we engaged in activities that he is engaged in?  It diminishes the standing of a country that is desperately trying to make sure it maintains its standing as a major world power.

And so it’s not just what I do; it’s what the actions that other countries take — in this case, Russia — that are contrary to international norms.  It’s the price they pay.  They are not — they are not able to dictate what happens in the world.  There are other nations of significant consequence — i.e. the United States of America being one of them.

Q    Mr. President, just a quick follow on the same theme of consequences.  You said, just now, that you spoke to him a lot about human rights.  What did you say would happen if opposition leader Aleksey Navalny dies?

THE PRESIDENT:  I made it clear to him that I believe the consequences of that would be devastating for Russia.

I’ll go back to the same point: What do you think happens when he’s saying, “It’s not about hurting Navalny,” this — you know, all the stuff he says to rationalize the treatment of Navalny — and then he dies in prison?

I pointed out to him that it matters a great deal when a country, in fact — and they asked me why I thought that it was important to continue to have problems with the President of Syria.  I said, “Because he’s in violation of an international norm.  It’s called a Chemical Weapons Treaty.  Can’t be trusted.”

It’s about trust.  It’s about their ability to influence other nations in a positive way.

Look, would you like to trade our economy for Russia’s economy?  Would you like to trade?  And, by the way, we talked about trade.  I don’t have any problem with doing business with Russia, as long as they do it based upon international norms. It’s in our interest to see the Russian people do well economically.  I don’t have a problem with that.

But if they do not act according to international norms, then guess what?  That will not — that only won’t it happen with us, it will not happen with other nations.  And he kind of talked about that — didn’t he, today? — about how the need to reach out to other countries to invest in Russia.  They won’t as long as they are convinced that, in fact, the violations —

For example, the American businessman who was in house arrest.  And I pointed out, “You want to get American business to invest?  Let him go.  Change the dynamic.”  Because American businessmen, they’re not — they’re not ready to show up.  They don’t want to hang around in Moscow.

I mean, I — look, guys, I know we make foreign policy out to be this great, great skill that somehow is, sort of, like a secret code.  Pract- — all foreign policy is, is a logical extension of personal relationships.  It’s the way human nature functions.

And understand, when you run a country that does not abide by international norms, and yet you need those international norms to be somehow managed so that you can participate in the benefits that flow from them, it hurts you.  That’s not a satisfying answer: “Biden said he’d invade Russia.”  You know, it is not — you know.  By the way, that was a joke.  That’s not true.

But my generic point is, it is — it is more complicated than that.

David Sanger.  I thought I saw David.  There he is.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  In the run-up to this discussion, there’s been a lot of talk about the two countries spilling down into a Cold War.  And I’m wondering if there was anything that you emerged from in the discussion that made you think that he —

THE PRESIDENT:  With your permission, I’m going to take my coat off.  The sun is hot.

Q    — anything that would make you think that Mr. Putin has decided to move away from his fundamental role as a disrupter, particularly a disrupter of NATO and the United States?

And if I could also just follow up on your description of how you gave him a list of critical infrastructure in the United States.  Did you lay out very clearly what it was that the penalty would be for interfering in that critical infrastructure?  Did you leave that vague?  Did he respond in any way to it?

THE PRESIDENT:  Let me answer your first — well, I’ll second question, first.

I pointed out to him that we have significant cyber capability.  And he knows it.  He doesn’t know exactly what it is, but it’s significant.  And if, in fact, they violate these basic norms, we will respond with cyber.  He knows.

Q    In the cyber way.

THE PRESIDENT:  In the cyber way.

Number two, I — I think that the last thing he wants now is a Cold War.  Without quoting him — which I don’t think is appropriate — let me ask a rhetorical question: You got a multi-thousand-mile border with China.  China is moving ahead, hellbent on election, as they say, seeking to be the most powerful economy in the world and the largest and the most powerful military in the world.

You’re in a situation where your economy is struggling, you need to move it in a more aggressive way, in terms of growing it.  And you — I don’t think he’s looking for a Cold War with the United States.

I don’t think it’s about a — as I said to him, I said, “Your generation and mine are about 10 years apart.  This is not a ‘kumbaya’ moment, as you used to say back in the ’60s in the United States, like, ‘Let’s hug and love each other.’  But it’s clearly not in anybody’s interest — your country’s or mine — for us to be in a situation where we’re in a new Cold War.”  And I truly believe he thinks that — he understands that.

But that does not mean he’s ready to, quote, figuratively speaking, “lay down his arms,” and say, “Come on.”  He still, I believe, is concerned about being, quote, “encircled.”  He still is concerned that we, in fact, are looking to take him down, et cetera.  He still has those concerns, but I don’t think they are the driving force as to the kind of relationship he’s looking for with the United States.

Jennifer.  Jennifer Jacobs.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Is there a particular reason why the summit lasted only about three hours?  We know you had maybe allotted four to five hours.  Was there any reason it ran shorter?

Also, did — President Putin said that there were no threats or scare tactics issued.  Do you agree with that assessment, that there were no threats or scare tactics?

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.

Q    And also, did you touch on Afghanistan and the safe withdrawal of troops?

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.  Yes, yes, and yes.  Let me go back to the first part.

The reason it didn’t go longer is: When is the last time two heads of state have spent over two hours in direct conversation across a table, going into excruciating detail?  You may know of a time; I don’t.  I can’t think of one.

So we didn’t need, as we got through, when we brought in the larger group — our defense, our intelligence, and our foreign — well, our — my foreign minister — wasn’t the foreign minister — my Secretary of State was with me the whole time — our ambassador, et cetera.  We brought everybody in.  We had covered so much.

And so there was a summary done by him and by me of what we covered.  Lavrov and Blinken talked about what we had covered.  We raised things that required more amplification or made sure we didn’t have any misunderstandings.  And — and so it was — it was — kind of, after two hours there, we looked at each other like, “Okay, what next?”

What is going to happen next is we’re going to be able to look back — look ahead in three to six months, and say, “Did the things we agreed to sit down and try to work out, did it work?  Do we — are we closer to a major strategic stability talks and progress?  Are we further along in terms of…” — and go down the line.  That’s going to be the test.

I’m not sitting here saying because the President and I agreed that we would do these things, that all of a sudden, it’s going to work.  I’m not saying that.  What I’m saying is I think there’s a genuine prospect to significantly improve relations between our two countries without us giving up a single, solitary thing based on principle and/or values.

Q    There were no threats issued?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, no, no.  No.  There were no threats.  There were — as a matter of fact, I heard he quoted my mom and quoted other people today.  There was — it was very, as we say — which will shock you, coming from me — somewhat colloquial.  And we talked about basic, basic, fundamental things.  There was a — it was — and you know how I am: I explain things based on personal basis.  “What happens if,” for example.

And so, there are no threats, just simple assertions made.  And no “Well, if you do that, then we’ll do this” — wasn’t anything I said.  It was just letting him know where I stood; what I thought we could accomplish together; and what, in fact — if it was — if there were violations of American sovereignty, what would we do.

Q    Can you share what you asked him about Afghanistan?  What was your particular request for Afghanistan and the U.S. troops?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, he asked us about Afghanistan.  He said that he hopes that we’re able to maintain some peace and security, and I said, “That has a lot to do with you.”  He indicated that he was prepared to, quote, “help” on Afghanistan — I won’t go into detail now; and help on — on Iran; and help on — and, in return, we told him what we wanted to do relative to bringing some stability and economic security or physical security to the people of Syria and Libya.

So, we had those discussions.

Yamiche.

Q    Thanks so much, Mr. President.  Did you — you say that you didn’t issue any threats.  Were there any ultimatums made when it comes to ransomware?  And how will you measure success, especially when it comes to these working groups on Russian meddling and on cybersecurity?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, it’s going to be real easy.  They either — for example, on cybersecurity, are we going to work out where they take action against ransomware criminals on Russian territory?  They didn’t do it.  I don’t think they planned it, in this case.  And they — are they going to act?  We’ll find out.

Will we commit — what can we commit to act in terms of anything affecting violating international norms that negatively affects Russia?  What are we going to agree to do?

And so, I think we have real opportunities to — to move.  And I think that one of the things that I noticed when we had the larger meeting is that people who are very, very well-informed started thinking, “You know, this could be a real problem.”  What happens if that ransomware outfit were sitting in Florida or Maine and took action, as I said, on their — their single lifeline to their economy: oil?  That would be devastating.  And they’re like — you could see them kind of go, “Oh, we do that,” but like, “Whoa.”

So it’s in — it’s in everybody’s interest that these things be acted on.  We’ll see, though, what happens from these groups we put together.

Q    Can I ask a quick follow-up question?

THE PRESIDENT:  (Laughs.)  The third one, yes.  Go ahead.

Q    Mr. President, when President Putin was questioned today about human rights, he said the reason why he’s cracking down on opposition leaders is because he doesn’t want something like January 6th to happen in Russia.  And he also said he doesn’t want to see groups formed like Black Lives Matter.  What’s your response to that, please?

THE PRESIDENT:  (Laughs.)  My response is kind of what I communicated — that I think that’s a — that’s a ridiculous comparison.  It’s one thing for literally criminals to break through cordon, go into the Capitol, kill a police officer, and be held unaccountable than it is for people objecting and marching on the Capitol and saying, “You are not allowing me to speak freely.  You are not allowing me to do A, B, C, or D.”

And so, they’re very different criteria.

Steve.  Steve Holland, Reuters.

Q    President — sorry — President Putin said he was satisfied with the answer about your comment about him being a “killer.”  Could you give us your side on this?  What did you tell him?

THE PRESIDENT:  He’s satisfied.  Why would I bring it up again?  (Laughs.)

Q    And now that you’ve talked to him, do you believe you can trust him?

THE PRESIDENT:  Look, this is not about trust; this is about self-interest and verification of self-interest.  That’s what it’s about.  So, I — virtually almost — almost anyone that I would work out an agreement with that affected the American people’s interests, I don’t say, “Well, I trust you.  No problem.”  Let’s see what happens.

You know, as that old expression goes, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”  We’re going to know shortly.

Igor, Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty.

Q    Hello, Mr. President.  Hello, Mr. President —

THE PRESIDENT:  You want to go on the shade?  You can’t — can you see?

Q    Thank you.  Yeah.  Yeah, yeah.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  All right.

Q    Yeah.  So, I think you know attacks in civil society and the free — free press continue inside Russia.

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.

Q    For example, Radio Free Europe —

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.

Q    — Radio Liberty; Voice of America; Current Time TV channel, where I work, are branded foreign agents — and several other independent media.  So, we are essentially being forced out in Russia 30 years after President Yeltsin invited us in.

My question is: After your talks with President Putin, how interested do you think he is in improving the media climate in Russia?

THE PRESIDENT:  I wouldn’t put it that way, in terms of improving the climate.  I would, in fact, put it in terms of how much interest does he have in burnishing Russia’s reputation that is not — is viewed as not being contrary to democratic principles and free speech.

That’s a judgment I cannot make.  I don’t know.  But it’s not because I think he — he is interested in changing the nature of a closed society or closed government’s actions relative to what he thinks is the right of government to do what it does; it’s a very different approach.

And, you know, there’s a couple of really good biogra- — I told him I read a couple — I read most everything he’s written and the speeches he’s made.  And — and I’ve read a couple of very good biographies, which many of you have as well.

And I think I pointed out to him that Russia had an opportunity — that brief shining moment after Gorbachev and after things began to change drastically — to actually generate a democratic government.  But what happened was it failed and there was a great, great race among Russian intellectuals to determine what form of government would they choose and how would they choose it.

And based on what I believe, Mr. Putin decided was that Russia has always been a major international power when it’s been totally united as a Russian state, not based on ideology — whether it was going back to Tsar and Commissar, straight through to the — the revolution — the Russian Revolution, and to where they are today.

And I think that it’s clear to me — and I’ve said it — that I think he decided that the way for Russia to be able to sustain itself as a great — quote, “great power” is to in fact unite the Russian people on just the strength of the government — the government controls — not necessarily ideologically, but the government.

And I think that’s the — that’s the choice that was made.  I think it — I — I’m not going to second guess whether it could have been fundamentally different.  But I do think it does not lend itself to Russia maintaining itself as one of the great powers in the world.

Q    Sir, one more question —

Q    One more on COVID — on COVID-19, Mr. President —

Q    Sir, could we ask you one more question, please, sir?  Thank you, sir.  Did military response ever come up in this conversation today?  Did you — in terms of the red lines that you laid down, is military response an option for a ransomware attack?

And President Putin had called you, in his press conference, an “experienced person.”  You famously told him he didn’t have a soul.  Do you now have a deeper understanding of him after this meeting?

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Thank you very much.

Q    Mr. President —

Q    But on the military — military response, sir?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, we didn’t talk about military response.

Q    In the spirit, Mr. President, of you saying that there is no substitute for face-to-face dialogue, and also with what you said at NATO that the biggest problems right now are Russia and China — you’ve spoken many times about how you have spent perhaps more time with President Xi than any other world leader.

So is there going to become a time where you might call him, old friend to old friend, and ask him to open up China to the World Health Organization investigators who are trying to get to the bottom of COVID-19?

THE PRESIDENT:  Let’s get something straight.  We know each other well; we’re not old friends.  It’s just pure business.

Q    So, I guess, my question would be that you’ve said that you were going to press China.  You signed on to the G7 communiqué that said you — the G7 were calling on China to open up to let the investigators in.  But China basically says they don’t want to be interfered with anymore.  So, what happens now?

THE PRESIDENT:  The impact — the world’s attitude toward China as it develops.  China is trying very hard to project itself as a responsible and — and a very, very forthcoming nation; that they are trying very hard to talk about how they’re taking and helping the world in terms of COVID-19 and vaccines.  And they’re trying very hard.

Look, certain things you don’t have to explain to the people of the world.  They see the results.  Is China really actually trying to get to the bottom of this?

One thing we did discuss, as I told you, in the EU and at the G7 and with NATO: What we should be doing and what I’m going to make an effort to do is rally the world to work on what is going to be the physical mechanism available to detect, early on, the next pandemic and have a mechanism by which we can respond to it and respond to it early.  It’s going to happen.  It’s going to happen.  And we need to do that.

Thank you.

Q    Any progress on the detained Americans, sir?

Q    What did Putin say about Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed?

Q    Sir, what do you say to the families of the detained Americans?

Q    President Biden, why are you so confident Russia —

THE PRESIDENT:  The families of the detained Americans, I have hope for.

Q    Say it again; we can’t hear you.

THE PRESIDENT:  I said the families of the detained Americans came up and we discussed it.  We’re going to follow through with that discussion.  I am — I am not going to walk away on that issue.

Q    Why are you so confident he’ll change his behavior, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m not confident he’ll change his behavior.  Where the hell — what do you do all the time?  When did I say I was confident?  I said —

Q    You said in the next six months you’ll be able to determine —

THE PRESIDENT:  I said — what I said was — let’s get it straight.  I said: What will change their behavior is if the rest of world reacts to them and it diminishes their standing in the world.  I’m not confident of anything; I’m just stating a fact.

Q    But given his past behavior has not changed and, in that press conference, after sitting down with you for several hours, he denied any involvement in cyberattacks; he downplayed human rights abuses; he even refused to say Aleksey Navalny’s name.  So how does that account to a constructive meeting, as President — President Putin framed it?

THE PRESIDENT:  If you don’t understand that, you’re in the wrong business.

Thank you.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at the Primakov Readings International Forum, via videoconference, Moscow, June 9, 2021

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at the Primakov Readings International Forum, via videoconference, Moscow, June 9, 2021

June 10, 2021

Mr Dynkin,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Friends,

I am grateful for the invitation to speak again at the Primakov Readings International Forum. It is one of the most highly respected international venues for a committed professional dialogue, although probably the youngest. I would like to thank the leadership of Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) for suggesting the idea of this forum and for the commendable organisation of this year’s event amid the COVID-19 restrictions.

I would like to welcome all the forum’s participants, who represent the Russian and international community of experts and political analysts. A dialogue on all aspects of the current international order is especially important at this stage.

These readings are integrally connected with the intellectual heritage of Yevgeny Primakov, an outstanding statesman. It was during his term as the Foreign Minister of Russia that the principles of Russia’s current foreign policy were formulated. These principles are independence, pragmatism, a multi-vector approach, respect for international law and openness to cooperation with anyone who is willing to interact on the basis of equality and mutual respect.These principles have been incorporated in the Concept of the Foreign Policy of the Russian Federation, which was approved in 2000 after Vladimir Putin’s election as President of Russia and subsequently modified. The current wording of the Concept was adopted in 2016. But the principles I have mentioned, which Academician Primakov formulated, remain effective to this day.

Russia’s major advantage is that these principles allow us to ensure the predictability and sustainability of our foreign policy. This is especially important now that the world order is at an extremely contradictory stage of its development marked by increased turbulence. But as a Chinese saying goes, such periods also offer enormous opportunities, which we must make use of to boost cooperation in the interests of all nations. We can see that positive trends are gaining momentum. I would like to mention in this context primarily the strengthening of the new centres of economic and political influence and the promotion of democracy in interstate relations in general. Incidentally, Yevgeny Primakov predicted this process back in the middle of the 1990s in his concept of a multipolar world.

Russia will energetically promote the continuation of the peaceful movement towards a polycentric world based on the leading states’ collective guidance of efforts to resolve global problems. But we are also realists and hence cannot disregard the stubborn, and I would even say aggressive unwillingness of our Western colleagues to accept this objective reality. We cannot disregard the striving of the collective West to ensure itself a privileged international position at all costs. The results of the upcoming G7, NATO and US-EU summits will be a gauge of the current mentality in the leading Western countries.

Not only Russia but also many others face the situation where the West’s representatives are unprepared for an honest, facts-based dialogue, preferring to act in the “highly likely” spirit. There are many instances of this approach. This is certain to undermine trust in the very idea of dialogue as a method of settling differences and to erode the capabilities of diplomacy as a crucial foreign policy tool.

The zeal, with which our Western colleagues started promoting the notorious “rules-based world order” concept, looks even more irrational and devoid of prospects.  Rules are always needed. Let me remind you that the UN Charter is also a body of rules, but these rules have been universally accepted and coordinated by all members of the international community, and they are not called into question by anyone. This is called international law. The UN Charter is the main part of international law and its foundation. While dodging the term “international law” and using instead the expression “rules-based world order,” our Western colleagues have in mind a totally different thing: they want to develop certain West-centric concepts and approaches to be later palmed off as an ideal of multilateralism and the ultimate truth. These actions are undertaken in areas such as chemical weapons, journalism, cyber security, and international humanitarian law.  There are universal organisations dealing with all these issues, but our colleagues, primarily in the EU as well as in the United States, are eager to promote their own concept in each of these areas.  If asked why this is not being done at the top organisation of multilateralism, the UN, they give no clear answer. We understand that it is, of course, more difficult to advance some initiatives of theirs and reach agreements in a universal format, where there are not only the “docile” members of the Western club but also Russia, China, India, Brazil and African countries. We will see how this “rules-based world order” concept will be reflected in the outcomes of the events that have already been announced, including the so-called Summit for Democracy announced by US President Joe Biden, or in the initiatives in the area of multilateralism announced by President of France Emmanuel Macron and a number of other leaders.

I am confident that we cannot ignore the incontrovertible fact that the present world order is a sum of agreements between the countries that won World War II. Russia will object to those wishing to cast doubt on the outcome of that war. We cannot and will not play up to those who would like to reverse the natural course of history. We, incidentally, have no superpower ambitions, no matter how hard some people try to convince themselves and everyone else of the opposite. Nor do we have the messianic zeal, with which our Western colleagues are attempting to spread their axiological “democratising” agenda to the rest of the world.It has long been clear to us that the outside imposition of development models will do no good. Look at the Middle East, Northern Africa, Libya, Yemen and Afghanistan.

A specific feature of the current situation is that the coronavirus pandemic has greatly accelerated the events, helping to settle existing problems and at the same time creating new ones.  I am referring to the global economic decline, destroyed industrial and marketing chains, growing isolationism and geopolitical opportunism. This common trouble is also reminding us, through growing problems, about the unprecedented connection between all members of the international community. Nobody can weather it out in a safe haven. This is probably one of the main lessons we must draw from what is happening.

Russia calls for cooperation with everyone, as I have already mentioned, on the basis of mutual respect, equality and a balance of interests. We are aware of the value of each international partner, both in bilateral relations and in the multilateral format. We value our friendship with everyone who reciprocates this feeling and is willing to look for honest agreements, without ultimatums and unilateral demands.

The issues we are ready to discuss cover nearly all important spheres of life: security, trade, environmental protection, climate change, digital transformation, artificial intelligence and plenty more.

Russia is promoting its ideas in Eurasia. The principles I have mentioned underlie the operation of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). These associations are based exclusively on the principle of voluntary participation, equality and the common good. There are no “bosses” and “subordinates” in them. These organisations have creative goals and are not spearheaded against anyone, and neither do they claim to spread their narrow values throughout the world, demanding that absolutely all states without exception comply with them, as some other integration structures are doing.

Our unconditional priorities include the strengthening of our comprehensive interaction with China. This year we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Treaty of Good-Neighbourliness and Friendly Cooperation between Russia and China. Another similar goal is to promote our privileged strategic partnership with India. This is how it is defined in the documents that were adopted at the top level. We are expanding our cooperation with ASEAN nations and other Asian-Pacific countries. We are doing this within the framework of the unification philosophy, which constitutes the basis of President Vladimir Putin’s initiative of the Greater Eurasian Partnership. It is open to absolutely all countries of our common Eurasian continent, and the membership of this association will dramatically increase the comparative advantages of all Eurasian countries in this highly competitive world upon the assumption that they will make good use of their natural, God-given advantages and will not try to create new or deepen the existing dividing lines on our continent.

Both China and India support, in principle, the concept of the Greater Eurasian Partnership, which I have already mentioned. Its merits have been highly assessed at the SCO. We are discussing it with ASEAN nations. We are also open for discussions with the EU as our natural neighbour on this huge continent.

I believe that forums such as the Primakov Readings provide ideal venues for discussing any related ideas. There can be alternative approaches by all means, but we would like our discussions to be focused on the future in the interests of all countries of this vast region.

Russia will actively continue to facilitate the settlement of international conflicts. We are working in Syria and helping the people of Nagorno-Karabakh to restore peaceful life after we stopped the bloodshed there. We are taking a vigorous part in international efforts to achieve a settlement in Afghanistan, Libya, around Iran, the Korean Peninsula and many other hot spots.

I am referring to this not to attract attention to our achievements. We do not have an inferiority complex (just as we do not have a superiority complex in global politics) but we are always ready to help those who need assistance. This is our historical mission that is rooted in the centuries of our ancient history. Therefore, we will continue working to this end even on those problems that seem insoluble at first sight like a settlement in the Middle East. We are actively trying to restore the work of the Quartet of International Mediators and promoting the concept of ensuring collective security in the area of the Persian Gulf. We are willing to host a meeting of the Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Moscow as soon as possible. Now it is necessary to wait for the results of the internal political processes in Israel. It is very unfortunate that no attention was paid to our repeated reminders over many years that the concept of normalising Israeli-Arab relations cannot be carried out at the expense of the Palestinian problem. I believe that this is a very serious problem that will only continue to get worse.

We are actively working to coordinate the rules of responsible conduct in the information space now in the UN’s multilateral format. We are promoting cooperation in countering the coronavirus. I would like to emphasise that contrary to the Western allegations, we are invariably interested in pragmatic, mutually beneficial relations with all parties, including the West, be it the United States, its NATO allies or the EU. We are promoting a package of initiatives to prevent the complete collapse of the agreements and understanding in disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation after the Americans destroyed many treaties, for instance, START-3. We suggested a voluntary moratorium on the deployment of the missiles covered by it at least in Europe. Despite our proposals on verifying the moratorium, the West continues avoiding any honest discussion. In much the same manner, NATO has been literally talking our ear off for over two years in response to our very specific proposals aimed at reducing tension and military threat along the entire Russia-NATO contact line.

We are willing to work with any partner but there will be no one-sided game. Neither sanctions nor ultimatums will help anyone talk with us and reach any agreements.

In conclusion, I will quote these words by Yevgeny Primakov: “A strong Russia should not be seen as a threat to world stability. Only the inertia of thinking may suggest the conclusion about a threat emanating from Russia…”

Russia will never give up its fundamental values and will be true to its spiritual sources and its stabilising role in world politics.Therefore, we will continue doing everything for the firm, non-confrontational promotion of our national interests and developing cooperation with as many countries as possible.

I would like to emphasise only one idea: do not interpret our willingness for dialogue with any partner as a weakness. President of Russia Vladimir Putin stressed recently in his response to Western ultimatums that we will determine ourselves the red lines in relations with our Western partners and will primarily uphold our views on the world arrangement, on how to develop international relations in full conformity with the principles fixed in the UN Charter rather than some agreements between a narrow circle of parties.

Question: A question from Wolfgang Schussel, head of the Dialog-Europe-Russia forum and Federal Chancellor of the Republic of Austria in 2000-2007. The leaders’ summit for Russia and the United States is invariably a major international event that introduces new vectors into the work of the diplomats, the military and business on specific issues. The meetings are not always successful like, for example, the most recent summit in Helsinki with the 45th US President Donald Trump. We hope this time everything will be different. President Biden is interested in arms control and resuming the Iranian nuclear deal.

What are your expectations for a possible new agenda after the meeting of the two leaders in any area, in particular, cyberspace, autonomous weapons, or the regional conflicts in Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and North Korea?

Sergey Lavrov: I am happy to greet my good friend Wolfgang Schussel. I thank him for the question.

We have repeatedly made our position known in connection with the upcoming summit in Geneva on June 16. We do not set our expectations high, nor do we entertain any illusions about potential “breakthroughs.” But there is an objective need for an exchange of views at the highest level on what threats Russia and the United States, as the two largest nuclear powers, see in the international arena. The fact that a conversation is happening between the leaders of the two leading nuclear powers is, of course, important. We strongly support this approach by our US colleagues.

Clearly, normalisation of Russian-US relations, I’ll stress this again, can only be possible if the principles of equality, mutual respect and non-interference in each other’s internal affairs are observed. This is a prerequisite not only for maintaining a normal, predictable and steady dialogue (which the Americans claim they want), but it is also important for removing the accumulated issues of confrontation between our countries. We are ready for a candid conversation like this.

I hope that in preparation for the summit, those who are now dealing with Russia in the Biden administration (they used to say “Sovietology,” which would now be called “Russology, I would guess,” though it would be nice if it was “Russophilia”), will finally appreciate the actions, interests and position of the Russian Federation, and our red lines, and will be willing to correct the mistakes in recent years and will not conduct a dialogue solely from a position that claims hegemony in global affairs.

Clearly, any dialogue is better than no dialogue.But if a hegemonic mindset continues to determine the US’s position, if our colleagues from the United States continue to follow in the footsteps of their own propaganda, which deafens the US elite as well, then there’s not much we can expect from this summit. In any case, I think it is important to have a candid exchange of views at the highest level, even if there are differences that many believe are insurmountable.

We share an interest in strategic stability. We have fairly strong contacts on how to approach this area of ​​international politics at this point. Frankly, we advocate a comprehensive approach and taking into account all, without exception, factors influencing strategic stability in our dialogue with the United States. I mean nuclear and non-nuclear, and offensive and defensive weapons. Anything that affects strategic stability must be discussed during a dialogue.

The Americans have a much narrower approach. They are only interested in certain aspects of our nuclear triad and are not inclined, at least at this point, to agree on a comprehensive concept that would include everything without exception.

I hope that, based on the preliminary work and consultations in preparation for this summit, President Vladimir Putin and President Joseph Biden will be able to determine a strategic policy for future work in these areas.

Mr Schussel mentioned cyber security as well. We have no shortage of goodwill here. Ever since 2016, when the Obama administration began accusing us of “meddling” in their elections, we have suggested dozens of times sitting down and laying out specific facts and concerns that both sides have in a professional and trust-based manner. What we received was a strong refusal to do so. Now, I hope, we will discuss this matter and see to what extent the Biden administration is ready to do sincere work in this area.

You mentioned Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and North Korea. We maintain communication on all these matters, especially Afghanistan, North Korea and certain aspects of the Syria crisis and the situation in Libya. Together with the Americans, we are participating in internationally recognised multilateral forums. I’m referring to the talks on the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula and what we call the expanded Troika on Afghanistan (Russia, the United States, China and Pakistan).

There is a bilateral mechanism for Syria, primarily dealing with deconfliction. We always emphasise the US’s illegal presence on Syrian soil, especially since it includes plundering Syria’s natural resources and taking advantage of its oil fields and farm land. They use the proceeds to support (everyone is aware of this) separatism on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River thus flirting with a very dangerous problem – I mean the Kurdish problem. These games could come to a sticky end.

Since the US armed forces and combat aircraft are present in Syria, we have a deconflicting mechanism maintained by our respective defence ministries. In addition, sometimes we also have political consultations on how to move forward. We would welcome the United States resuming its participation as an observer in the Astana format and, in general, being more committed to the key principles of UN Security Council Resolution 2254 on the Syrian settlement.

The summit has no agreed upon agenda on paper. Sometimes our colleagues from the European Union (at a time when we still had relations and interaction bodies) focused on the word-for-word, scrupulous coordination of each item, which should then become the agenda of the negotiations. We didn’t have this with the Americans. We just listed the topics that the parties intended to touch on. We are doing the same this time. The work continues. It won’t be a long wait. I think things will become clear soon.We are interested in positive results from the summit, but, as they say, it takes two to tango. And if one party is break dancing, tangoing becomes a more difficult proposition.

Question: The Trump administration threw out the mechanism of the INF Treaty. Russia responded with an unprecedented act of goodwill. The Russian leaders sent a proposal to the United States and NATO to introduce a moratorium on the deployment of medium and shorter-range missiles in Europe. The Trump administration did not respond. There was only a weak reaction from European capitals. Is it possible to continue the dialogue on this problem? Is the proposed moratorium possible at all?

Sergey Lavrov: The INF Treaty is history. It doesn’t exist anymore. We have expressed regret over this.

You mentioned a very important fact. Immediately after this happened, apart from expressing regret over the treaty’s demise, President of Russia Vladimir Putin announced a unilateral moratorium on the deployment of ground-based medium and short-range missiles in Russia. It banned the deployment of the missiles prohibited by the defunct treaty unless similar US systems appeared in a given area. This was a unilateral moratorium.

Later, a few years ago, when this moratorium failed to generate much interest, President Putin took one more step. He sent a detailed message to the US and the other NATO and EU members and our Eastern neighbours (about 50 states in all). In this message, the Russian leader described in detail our moratorium proposal and supplemented it with an invitation to cooperate. He suggested that the Western countries also announce a reciprocal moratorium on their own without signing any legally binding agreements, simply as a goodwill gesture. In this detailed message, we discussed the West’s skeptical statements about Russia’s unilateral moratorium on the deployment of ground-based systems that were banned by the former treaty. The West’s politicians reasoned: “Russia is as cunning as a fox. It has already deployed Iskanders in the Kaliningrad Region that violate the parameters of the former treaty” while the NATO countries have no counterpart, thus this would be an inequitable exchange. However, to begin with, nobody has proved that Iskanders violate INF-established criteria and bans on the range of missiles. The Americans refused to provide any rationale on this.

I would also like to note at this point that they are still stubbornly refusing to present satellite photos from July 2014 when the Malaysian airliner crashed. The court in the Netherlands openly announced recently that there is no hope that the Americans will provide them. So, this question is closed for the court. In other words, evidence of paramount importance is being concealed.

Likewise, nobody has ever shown us the satellite photos that were used by the Americans to prove that our Iskanders violate the INF Treaty.

Considering that the Western countries believe Russia has already done this ahead of them and as we suggested freezing this situation, Russia would benefit from this, President Vladimir Putin said it straight in his Address to the Federal Assembly: considering the mutual mistrust, we suggest measures to verify a reciprocal moratorium. We invite you to come to the Kaliningrad Region and see these Iskanders. In exchange, we want our experts to visit missile defence bases in Romania and Poland because Lockheed Martin, the producer of missile launchers openly promotes them on its website as dual purpose: for launching both counter-missiles and anti-strike cruise missiles. I think this is a very honest proposal. Let’s check: you are concerned about our Iskanders, and we are worried about the dual purpose of those missile defence launchers.

The only positive response came from President of France Emmanuel Macron. He said this was an interesting proposal and that he was ready to take part in implementing it via a multilateral dialogue. But this didn’t happen. The Americans ignored the proposal for obvious reasons since they do not want to let anyone visit their missile defence sites (this is a separate question), while all the others obediently kept silent.

Our proposal remains on the table. I think we will certainly bring this up at the Geneva summit on June 16. Let’s see the response.

Question: Often, especially recently, you have said that the European Union is an unreliable partner. Unfortunately, this is the case, especially against the backdrop of insane and unbecoming for the 21st century Russophobic propaganda and scandals that are made up without providing any evidence.

You have extensive political experience. Do you think the low level of leadership in the EU may be at least partially mitigated during this year’s elections in Germany and other countries? Will the overall crisis be able to give rise to modern European leaders who will “emancipate” themselves, at least a little, from the United States and fulfil their mission which is to serve their respective peoples? This calls for a radical change in the EU’s policy towards Russia. Unfair and ineffective sanctions must be forgotten and we must return to dialogue and mutual trust in order to overcome common problems which cannot be resolved without a full dialogue and cooperation, including with Russia.

We look forward to seeing you in Bulgaria for the unveiling of the bust of our teacher Yevgeny Primakov.

Sergey Lavrov: God willing, I will definitely be there. We maintain a dialogue with Bulgaria via our respective foreign ministries. However, recently, certain factors have appeared, not from our side, that are not conducive to an expansion of constructive interaction. I hope this is temporary.

As for your question about the European Union and our relations with the EU, I have covered this issue many times. We want relations with the European Union that are equal and mutually respectful. We cannot have relations with the EU based on demands for Russia to change its behaviour. The foreign ministers of Germany and other European countries have said many times that we need to be partners (they no longer say friends) with Russia, but it must change its behaviour first. This is a mindset that cannot be changed.

I was talking about the rules-based order which they came up with. In fact, it is the Western vision of how to maintain relations between countries in the 21st century and, moreover, how to organise life within a country. These “messianic” processes on the advancement of democracy are quite aggressive. But as soon as you start talking with the West about democracy in the international arena and ways to promote it not only within the borders of a country (this is each individual state’s concern), but in international affairs so everyone is treated equally and heeds the voice of the majority, but also respects the minority, they immediately back pedal. They do not want to discuss the democratisation of international relations. The very concept of a “rules-based international order” negates any hope that the West will get drawn into a discussion on democratising global processes in international relations.

Literally in May, promoting one of the main elements of the concept of a rules-based world order, namely effective multilateralism, French President Macron bluntly stated that multilateralism does not imply the need to achieve unanimity. “The position of conservatives should not be an obstacle for ambitious frontrunners,” he said. I think this is clear. “Conservatives” are revisionists (you can call them that, although these words are antonyms). We and China are called “conservatives who do not want change” and “revisionists who want to slow things down that move the Western world forward.” At the same time, President Macron did not mention either the UN or international law.

There are “ambitious front-runners” who promote this concept, and there are those who want to “conservatively” hold on to UN Charter principles. That’s the problem. This was expressed by the president of the country, which was among those who, at some point, called for the EU’s strategic autonomy. But these discussions have been muted even in Germany.

At one EU event, President of the European Council Charles Michel praised the return of the United States to Euro-Atlantic solidarity. EU leadership was clearly relieved to know that everything is “good” again, the United States is “at the helm” again and they can follow in its wake.

I’m not trying to hurt anyone’s feelings. I hope no one takes offense, but it’s a fact. These are publicly stated assessments that have been repeatedly uttered by EU leadership.

The Munich Security Conference was held in May where Charles Michel said that the alliance between the United States and Europe is the basis for a rules-based international order. International law was not mentioned. He stressed that it is necessary to aggressively promote democracy to protect this order from “attacks” by Russia, China, Iran and other “authoritarian regimes.” That is, it follows that democracy for these purposes needs to be promoted within these respective countries and not in the international arena. This is more than self-revelatory. Without reservation, a concept is being put forward that is openly seeking dominance, at least claiming it.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said, for example, that with respect to digital transformation, it is necessary for the United States and Europe to develop a “rulebook” that the world can follow.

More recently, our US colleagues said that new trade rules must be determined by the West, not China. What does this mean? A reform of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is being discussed, because the Americans have understood one simple thing: that based on the currently approved rules of international trade and economy, which the United States initiated after WWII (the Bretton Woods system, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation), that determined the course of globalisation, China has achieved much greater success in playing the Americans on their field. So, WTO activities are now blocked. The United States does not allow the appointment of officers for vacancies in the Dispute Settlement Body. All claims brought to this body that the Americans would have surely lost, cannot be considered.

We are talking about creating a new system and reforming the WTO. It is being clearly said that “the new rules of international trade must be determined by the United States and Europe, not China.” That is what this is about. This underlies the concept of a rules-based order.

You asked about the potential outcome of the upcoming elections in European countries, in particular, Germany. This is a question that only the German people and the peoples of the other EU countries can answer.

I have already covered the prospects for the “emancipation” of the EU from the United States.

Question: The United States often introduces sanctions against foreign companies or countries by suspending them from SWIFT, a major financial tool, which they use by virtue of their position of hegemony in the world. As a matter of fact, many countries, including China and even some European countries are suffering from SWIFT, which is controlled by the United States. Recently, the Russian government said the dollar might be removed from the country’s currency reserve. The Chinese government has started issuing digital currency. In theory, digital currency could lead to the creation of a new international financial system, which would significantly alleviate the threat of being suspended from SWIFT. What do you propose that Russia and China do to create a new international financial transaction system and reduce their financial dependence on the US?

Sergey Lavrov: Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a detailed answer to this question when speaking at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum last week. We are not looking to pull out of the existing system, which largely relies on the dollar. The problems stem from the United States being unaware of its responsibility as the country issuing the main reserve currency in the world, or else the US is aware but blatantly abuses its role. There are quite a few stories of how everyone argued that the dollar could be used for political purposes, which makes it unreliable. As we continue to make the point that everyone must honour the universal multilateral approach and not politicise the mechanisms that have been agreed on once and for all but rather use them to achieve objectives that underlie these mechanisms, we, of course, are considering how to respond if our colleagues show yet again their willingness to dictate and punish and use international trade and transaction leverage for this purpose

I want to note that not a single official in the West ever in my memory demanded that Russia, China or any other country be disconnected from SWIFT. That is what some politicians are calling for, but this has never been borne out either in statements by officials from leading Western countries or in SWIFT administration statements.

We really want, and this was officially announced, to remove the dollar from our economy and our financial system. The other day a decision was taken to cease holding the country’s gold and forex reserves in dollars. Appropriate measures have already been taken. But I want to emphasise again that this does not mean that we are discarding the dollar altogether, however, for the reasons mentioned earlier we are interested in relying more on other currencies, including national currencies, in bilateral trade with our partners, including our Chinese partners, other SCO members and many other countries. We are also ready to support transactions that are not denominated in dollars and but that are based on the use of other currencies.

In this context, crypto-currency is a very popular topic today. China is vigorously developing it and has achieved remarkable results. We are also working on this in a substantive manner. I believe there will be a time when crypto currencies will play a significant role and occupy a considerable niche in international settlements, but it might be better to discuss the details of this with economists. The Russian Foreign Ministry watches political developments. We are concerned about how to make sure our country’s economic ties do not pose threats to our security.

Question: Currently, a fairly intensive three-way process is underway to restore transport connections in the region. This process involves Armenia, Russia and Azerbaijan, but not Turkey, which was a full participant in the last war in Karabakh and which is actually a party to the conflict. Meanwhile, you know that the Armenian-Turkish border has been blocked for 30 years after Armenia gained independence. This, by the way, is the only blockade on the territory of geographical Europe and transport lines are there, in particular, a railway which was built in Czarist Russia. It uses electricity from high-voltage power lines that have existed since Soviet times. Don’t you think that Turkey should be involved in this process of unblocking transport connections in the region and bear its share of the responsibility for this?

Sergey Lavrov: I would like to add that Iran does not take part in the work of this trilateral group either, and Iran is no less and, perhaps, more interested in having its interests taken into account. You asked whether we should involve Turkey in this work and make it bear responsibility. The work of the trilateral group on restoring economic ties and transport links is not about punishment; it is about resuming normal economic life, which existed until the late 1980s when the war broke out, which stopped only four years later.

Now the bloodshed is over. It ended a little later than we proposed to the parties. It is not our fault that the war lasted longer than it could have and the truce was reached later than it could have been reached. We were only intermediaries; we could not force either side to do this or that. We only convinced them that further bloodshed was pointless and extremely dangerous, first of all, for how people will continue to live on this land.

Currently, our peacekeepers are carrying out their mandate. There have been no major incidents. Both Baku and Yerevan recognise this. Any minor problems are quickly corrected. Yes, there are tensions at some sections of the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan but they have nothing to do with Nagorno-Karabakh. Simultaneously with the ceasefire, the leaders of our countries agreed on November 9, 2020 to unblock all communications. This was one of the main items that was agreed upon years ago by the OSCE Minsk Group chaired by Russia, France and the United States.

Following this agreement of principle, the leaders of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan met in January. They established a trilateral working group at the prime minister level to deal exclusively with unblocking of all economic, transport and other connections in the region. The examples you gave – railways, roads and electricity lines are all subject to negotiation where professionals will prioritise opening them.

Naturally, the parties are considering the interests of their other neighbours. It would probably be unrealistic to hope that having reached agreement the three sides could neglect the views of Turkey or Iran. This would be a mistake. Many strategic routes pass through this critical area: both north-south and east-west. The most important goal is to develop relations for the long-term perspective rather than think of involving or not involving someone else.

I understand that many people say that the status of Nagorno-Karabakh remains open. This will eventually be coordinated with the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group. At this point, they should not worry too much about its status. Instead, they need to promote confidence measures and the settling of humanitarian issues, and help both Armenians and Azerbaijanis live together in peace, security and economic wellbeing. I can assure you that if we help establish this lifestyle in two or three years, it will be much easier to resolve all the problems of the status of this area.

I would not focus on these or other statements from the capitals of the countries in the region or the immediate parties to the conflict. Emotions tend to prevail in these statements for the most part. We urge everyone involved in this to continue to help those on the ground to remain calm and return to normal life. We are actively involved in doing this via our peacekeeping contingent and the Emergencies Ministry. The results of the efforts by the trilateral group will depend on how much the unblocking efforts help improve everyday life.

Regarding Turkey and its role in this, as I said, the participants of these trilateral discussions do consider the interests of Turkey and Iran because otherwise the opening of links will not produce the best results.

The Russia-Turkey centre is monitoring compliance with the ceasefire from Azerbaijan. With technical equipment, it ensures joint observation of the developments on the ground. This is a very useful part of this general agreement. It ensures the involvement of our Turkish colleagues in this process and is a stabilising factor.

Question: The Russia-India partnership continues to flourish even though the world is going through hard times. Our cooperation on the Sputnik V vaccine confirms this. India and all Indians are grateful for the assistance offered by our Russian friends during the receding second wave of the pandemic.

What short- and long-term lessons can the international community learn about the origin and spread of COVID-19? Some people are worried that even 18 months later, we do not know about the origin of the virus that first appeared in Wuhan. This will not help us in preventing future pandemics.

How can we balance our national responsibility and international cooperation to follow the international health regulations and help the WHO to identify and prevent future outbreaks?

Sergey Lavrov: In general, the coronavirus pandemic has certainly created an unprecedented challenge. It has become a kind of test for “true friendship.” As we know, a friend in need is a friend indeed. However, several states decided not to share their vaccines. Probably, this approach is not justified by human morality or ethics, especially under conditions of interdependence and globalisation. We share these moral principles, as do our dear Indian friends.

Thank you for your kind words about the assistance we have been providing to Indians in these difficult times. During the past month, we managed to organise several large consignments of humanitarian medical aid, including the Sputnik V vaccine and other medications. We are currently developing the production of this vaccine in India. We hope that by taking these and other steps, by pooling our efforts, we will manage to deal with this grievous disease and protect the health of our people as soon as possible.

As for revealing the source of the virus, as you know, the WHO has made serious efforts in this respect. It sent experts to China. They came from 10 countries, including Russia. They also represented related international agencies. The results of their inquiry were published immediately after their visit. They were also presented at the 74th World Health Assembly that ended last week.

You are right. There are no decisive conclusions on the initial origins of COVID-19 so far, but this is not unique. Neither WHO specialists nor we know yet the origins of the Ebola virus that appeared in the 1970s. The specialists continue working on this. As you know, I am not well versed in this discipline, but I am convinced that the specialists must continue this work without politicising it. Any attempt to politicise the situation around COVID-19 is similar to efforts we are seeing in other areas. They reflect a striving of some countries to use methods of unfair competition. We need to develop comprehensive and transparent international cooperation on further studies of the origin of the virus, and, most importantly, on overcoming the pandemic. Talk about who is to blame and who is innocent must not obstruct any response effort.

When emergencies in health protection occur, the main goal is to have strong national healthcare and sanitary-epidemiological systems. The COVID-19 pandemic has confirmed this conclusion. I think the countries with well-organised healthcare systems and a high ability to mobilise medical and other resources have made a more effective response to the challenge of the coronavirus infection.

As for international cooperation, we have been developing this for some time, practically from the start of the pandemic through both bilateral channels and via international agencies. We promote the realisation of the International Health Regulations. They were drafted at our initiative and approved by the WHO but have not yet been incorporated into practical systems in many countries. These regulations are the main instrument of international law in developing national systems for preventing and dealing with epidemics like this. So, the way out of the current crisis probably lies in coordination, transparency, as well as an ability and willingness to share experience and pool efforts.

Question: Would it be possible and desirable for the United States and Russia to undertake, as part of studying cyberspace challenges, to work on countering cyber attacks by criminal groups that use ransomware against a particular country emanating from Russia or the United States? What could the parameters of such cooperation be? Or is the level of mistrust so great that this kind of cooperation is simply not possible now?

Sergey Lavrov: We have been hearing accusations against us of all kinds of transgressions for many years now. With regard to the cyber world, I mentioned the 2016 elections. In later occurrences, a number of incidents in the United States or other countries were immediately and publicly ascribed to the Russian Federation. Not a single fact has ever been presented to us. Now, the latest incident (President Vladimir Putin commented on this at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum) is the notorious attack against Colonial Pipeline and meat processor GBS. Even you in your question wonder whether it is possible to establish cooperation between Russia and the United States on investigating such incidents and on fighting criminal groups, in particular those that demand ransom. Even from this question, it becomes clear that you are motivated by a surge in public opinion about two specific incidents. Notably, I would like to stress, that the US administration does not promote the thesis that the Russian state is responsible for these incidents.

Antony Blinken recently said that these are probably private hackers, but Russia must stop them, because they originate from its territory. As a reminder in this regard (double standards), when the problems in the United States were at their height, American social media and internet platforms were blocking access to information on a particular issue. This topic was discussed, among other things, at the OSCE and the Council of Europe. We emphasised the responsibility of the United States, just like any other country, to ensure that its citizens have 100 percent access to any kind of information. Then the American side told us: “Right, but these are the obligations of the state, and we are talking about the actions of private corporations. We cannot be responsible for their actions.” In this case, the Americans are urging Russia to find these “private operators” and still fulfil the function of the state to suppress illegal actions. Let’s make sure we all follow the rules, and that the rules are universally applicable. Any state that has signed on to the obligation to ensure freedom of access to information is obliged to do so regardless of who is hiding the information – a state entity or a private corporation. Moreover, the bulk of all information is now in the hands of private corporations.

Now, I would like to say a few words about cybersecurity. We not only want, but we have repeatedly proposed to the United States, even, perhaps, somewhat obtrusively, to deal with this issue. When, as part of the above accusations we heard in 2016 (the Obama administration began alleging these things back in October, before the election day) we were presented with claims, we reminded our American colleagues that there’s a closed channel between Moscow and Washington in case of incidents, including in cyberspace. After accusations against the Russian Federation of interfering in the US elections were loudly read out, we suggested that the Americans provide us, through this closed channel, with the facts corroborating their concerns. We sent this proposal, I think, seven times from October 2016 to January 2017, right up to the Trump inauguration. None of these proposals were answered by the Obama administration’s relevant services. Instead, an annoyed Barack Obama, at the end of his tenure, raided and seized our diplomatic property in the US and drove the diplomats out. This impulsive step was a response to our professional offers to do honest and specific work.

This is not the only example. The cybersecurity dialogue with Washington was frozen through no fault of ours. Subsequently, we proposed returning to it. In July 2017, we handed over a draft memorandum on establishing a Russian-American ICT security group. The response appeared to be positive, and we agreed to hold the first meeting in Geneva in early 2018. The US delegation went there, and the Russian delegation was on its way there, too, but when our specialists landed at the Geneva airport, they were told that the Americans canceled the meeting without providing any meaningful reason.

In September 2020, President Vladimir Putin, at his level, issued a statement on how we would want to see cooperation between the United States and the Russian Federation in developing a comprehensive programme of measures to restore cooperation in this sphere. It included specific proposals. After President Biden’s inauguration, we reaffirmed this proposal. It is being reviewed by the US administration. I hope that we will find out in Geneva the reaction of President Biden and his team. The UN is working on international cybersecurity in the context of military-political problems, and at the same time a decision was made to start developing a convention on combating cybercrime. This is exactly what happened to Colonial Pipeline and the GBS meat processing company. In both cases, a consensus was reached, although before that our Western colleagues had objections. But consensus was reached on both issues. I have reason to hope that this will help advance the bilateral dialogue as well. But most importantly, the dialogue must be conducted professionally, rather than loudly and without facts.

Question: Angela Merkel has been Germany’s chancellor for 16 years. What is your opinion of Russian-German relations over this period? How will they change?

Sergey Lavrov: This is another issue President Vladimir Putin spoke about during the St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF). He expressed his opinion of the professionalism and experience of Chancellor Merkel and his satisfaction with their cooperation. Of course, we are monitoring the developments in Germany in the context of the upcoming elections. We hope that their outcome will ensure what I wanted to describe as continuity in our relations, but it would be better if it were not just continuity in the form of a regular dialogue, but continuity that would also take into account the lessons of the past 16 years.

When President Putin assumed his position in the Kremlin after the 2000 election, one of his first foreign visits was to Germany. He addressed the Bundestag in German. Many of us, including yours truly, perceived the emotional and positive energy of his address as the addition of a personal dimension to the previous historical reconciliation of the Russian and German nations. This was obvious.  He invested a huge part of his authority and his policy into Russian-German relations, into reconciliation that should take the form of practical deeds in great many spheres. We are not to blame that our relations have cooled. Incidentally, alarming signs appeared even before 2013 or 2014. For example, in 2010, then President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev had a summit meeting with Chancellor Merkel in Meseberg. One of the decisions reached concerned the establishment of a Russian-German crisis management committee. It was not designed as a simple discussion venue, but as a body that would coordinate joint crisis settlement mechanisms. On the practical level they mentioned Transnistria. The document was coordinated, but Germany later abandoned all efforts to implement it.

Of course, we are aware that the main reason for a far from sunny state of our bilateral relations is support provided by Berlin, the EU in general and the West as a whole to the armed, bloody and anti-constitutional coup that took place in Ukraine in February 2014, barely 12 hours after Germany, France and Poland, acting through their foreign ministers, said they would guarantee compliance with the agreement on a settlement between President Viktor Yanukovych and the opposition.  The agreement was buried by the opposition signatories the very next day. Germany, France, Poland and the EU, which these countries represented, did nothing to challenge the opposition in response to our calls; worse than that, they even encouraged the new turn of events. Those who came to power put forth their anti-Russia position in their very first statements; they called for throwing Russians out of Crimea and sent trains with armed thugs there.

Germany and other European countries closed their eyes to these developments (the United States did the same), saying that reality on the ground had changed. In addition to this extremely negative policy, they accused us of violating the rules they themselves invented, and denounced the free expression of the people’s will in Crimea as annexation. Sanctions were adopted against Russia for the failure of European diplomacy to force the opposition to honour the agreements reached with President Yanukovych through the mediation of Germany, France and Poland.

This is when it all began. But we did not get confrontational; we did not cancel the planned Russia-EU summit. Despite all of this, in 2014 President Putin attended the celebrations of the allied landing in Normandy and the opening of the Second Front. It was there that the sides coordinated the Normandy Format, which led to the signing of the Minsk Agreements in February 2015. We thought once again that the document would be honoured. But just as in the case of the February 2014 agreement, the Minsk Agreements are not being implemented, and it is deeply regrettable that Germany and France, as parties of the Normandy format, are trying to justify Kiev’s absolutely destructive position. Vladimir Zelensky said more than once that he doesn’t want to implement the Minsk Agreements, but that he wants to keep them because as long as they exist there will be sanctions against Russia. Our German, French and other colleagues have never tried to overturn this logic or as much as comment on such statements.   We do want to have normal relations with Germany and work together with it to settle the crises that exist in our common space, in our neighbourhood. But we would like to see that Germany is able to honour agreements.

We appreciate Berlin’s stand in the face of US attacks on Nord Stream 2, which began during Donald Trump’s presidency. President Putin mentioned this as well. But he also pointed out that Germany has done this for a reason, because this is in the fundamental interests of Germany. Incidentally, the story with Nord Stream 2 is not over yet. I have read comments by Antony Blinken to the effect that they are discussing ways for Ukraine to preserve fees for the transit of gas to the EU. We have a transit agreement with Ukraine until 2024. What will happen after that should be discussed, but the US administration is already discussing what should be done to protect Ukraine from harm. According to Blinken, one of the possible ways is to extend the transit agreement “for many years into the future,” so that Ukraine will continue to benefit from the transit fees. If this doesn’t work out, another option is to compensate for the transit fees that Kiev may lose, which is something the Europeans should do.

In other words, the Europeans’ attitude to the issues on which we are cooperating will be put to the test many times yet. I hope very much that the German people will be guided by their interests, just as they always have been throughout their history. We are interested in strengthening our partnership as much as possible. Many people say that the Russian-German partnership and rapprochement threaten the trans-Atlantic alliance. But this is an issue for the future periods of geopolitical research.

نموذج الدولة المارقة: بلينكن والجولان

10-06-2021

المعتدي أحياناً يكون مسكوناً بوهم اقتناع أنه صاحب حق فهو في هذه الحالة أقل سوءاً ورداءة من الذي يعرف الحق ويعترف به ويجد أعذاراً للتنكر له. وهذا هو المنافق، وعندما يكون ممثلاً لدولة تعرف الحق وتتنكّر له، وتعترف بالقانون وتشجع على انتهاكه فتسمّى بالدولة المارقة.

استعمل الأميركيون في وصف الدولة المارقة كل خصومهم، من دون أن يتكبّدوا عناء تقديم الدليل على ذلك، لأنهم منحوا مواقفهم صفة أعلى من القانون، واعتبروا كل خلاف معهم يعني انتهاكاً للقانون وتمرّداً على أحكامه، ما يسمح بوصف مَن يقوم بذلك بالمارق.

عندما نقارن بين موقفي دونالد ترامب وخلفه جو بايدن وإدارته التي يمثلها وزير خارجيته انتوني بلينكن من قضية الجولان السوري المحتل، سنجد أننا أمام مفارقة غريبة، فترامب المتحمّس لموقف كيان الاحتلال عقائدياً يؤيد قرار الكيان بضمّ الجولان. وهذا الموقف العدواني منسجم مع صاحبه، الذي وجد في احتلال الكيان للجولان والقدس الشرقية استعادة لحقوق يعتبرها الكيان جزءاً منه ويؤيده هو في ذلك، ولا يهم ترامب أن يخالف القرارات الصادرة عن مجلس الأمن الدولي، فالقانون عنده هو ما يراه الكيان وتؤيده واشنطن، ولذلك لم يجد ترامب مانعاً من مساندة الكيان بضم الجولان والقدس الشرقية كأراضٍ تمّ احتلالها عام 67 وصدرت بصددها القرارات الدولية خصوصاً القرارين 242 و338.

يأتي بلينكن ليقول إن كيان الاحتلال يضع يده على القدس الشرقية والجولان بصفته قوة احتلال، لا يملك الشرعيّة للتصرف بها، وهو بذلك يريد أن يظهر منسجماً مع القرارات الدولية التي تدعو للانسحاب منهما، لكنه كمنافق يمثل دولة مارقة لا يجد مانعاً من القول إنه يؤيد بقاء قوات الاحتلال في الجولان وطبعاً في القدس الشرقية، باعتبار هذا البقاء حاجة أمنية للكيان.

هل يوجد في القانون الدولي والمواثيق الدبلوماسية ما يبيح احتلال أراضي الغير بالقوة بداعي الضرورات الأمنية؟ أليست كل عمليات الاحتلال التي وجد القانون الدولي لإدانتها، تجد تبريراتها من الاحتلال بمصالح أمنية أو مائية أو ما يعادلها، وقد كان القانون الدولي حاسماً برفضها وإدانتها؟

السياسة الأميركية دائماً معادية للعرب، وحقوقهم، مرّة بالتصرف كشريك عقائدي لكيان الاحتلال، وعندما تصير عقلانية تتحوّل الى دولة مارقة.

التعليق السياسي

“المونيتور”: هل عاد “حل الدولتين” إلى الأجندة الإسرائيلية؟ Is two-state solution back on Israel’s agenda?

الكاتب: مزال معلم

المصدر: المونيتور

يتعين على القيادة الإسرائيلية أن تفهم أن حل الدولتين، الذي أبعده ترامب، قد عاد إلى جدول أعمال إدارة بايدن.

نتنياهو وبلينكن خلال محادثاتهما الأخيرة في القدس المحتلة.
نتنياهو وبلينكن خلال محادثاتهما الأخيرة في القدس المحتلة.

كتبت الصحافية الإسرائيلية مزال معلم مقالة في موقع “المونيتور” الأميركي تناولت فيه عودة “حل الدولتين” إلى أجندة الإدارة الأميركية مع الرئيس جو بايدن. وقالت إن الاجتماع  الذي عقد بين رئيس الوزراء الإسرائيلي بنيامين نتنياهو ووزير الخارجية الأميركي أنتوني بلينكين في القدس المحتلة في 25 أيار / مايو الجاري قد كشف عن التغييرات الكبيرة التي تحدث في المنطقة، منذ ترك الرئيس الأميركي السابق دونالد ترامب منصبه.

وأضافت أن الاجتماع كان جيداً جداً إذ بذل بلينكين أقصى جهده “لإظهار الصداقة الوثيقة بين الدولتين، مع التركيز على التزام الرئيس جو بايدن الطويل الأمد بحق “إسرائيل” في الدفاع عن نفسها ضد منظمة (حماس) تطلق الصواريخ على مواطنيها.. فخلال الأسبوعين الماضيين، خلال عملية “حارس الأسوار”، أثبتت تصرفات بايدن أنه يقف مع “إسرائيل”. لقد حافظ على اتصالات منتظمة وودية مع نتنياهو، في حين أن دعواته لوقف إطلاق النار كانت تتم بهدوء، وبلباقة دبلوماسية محسوبة. كما أبدى بايدن احتراماً لنتنياهو إذ لم يوجه البيت الأبيض أي تهديدات له كما حدث في أكثر من مناسبة خلال إدارة أوباما.

وقالت الكاتبة إنه برغم كل هذه الدبلوماسية الأميركية اللبقة، فإن الأسبوعين الماضيين أظهرا أن ثمة تغيرات كبيرة في المواقف الأميركية تجاه “إسرائيل”، وخاصة بشأن علاقة “إسرائيل” بالفلسطينيين. فما فعله بايدن هو إعادة المفاوضات مع الفلسطينيين، بهدف تحقيق حل الدولتين، إلى الصدارة، بعد أن تم تجميد الحل إلى أجل غير مسمى في عام 2014، بعدما شعر بايدن بأنه مضطر للتدخل نتيجة للصراع الأخير في غزة. 

وأوضحت الكاتبة أن المثال الأكثر وضوحاً على هذا التغيير هو قرار إدارة بايدن إعادة فتح القنصلية الأميركية في القدس الشرقية، والتي أغلقتها إدارة ترامب. وأبلغ بلينكين نتنياهو بهذا القرار خلال لقائهما، وجدد السياسة الجديدة خلال لقائه بالرئيس الفلسطيني محمود عباس في رام الله. ورأت الكاتبة أن هذا الأمر هو أكثر من عمل رمزي. فعلى مدى العقود الثلاثة الماضية، كانت القنصلية بمثابة التمثيل الدبلوماسي للولايات المتحدة لدى السلطة الفلسطينية. تم إغلاقها في تشرين الأول / أكتوبر 2018، عندما نقل ترامب السفارة الأميركية في الكيان الإسرائيلي من تل أبيب إلى القدس. وتقرر أنذاك دمج المكتبين الدبلوماسيين في القدس. ما يعنيه ذلك عملياً هو أن القنصلية، التي كانت في يوم من الأيام مسؤولة عن جميع الاتصالات مع السلطة الفلسطينية، كانت تابعة للسفير الأميركي لدى “إسرائيل”، أي فقدت القنصلية وضعها المستقل.

وأضافت أن قرار إغلاق القنصلية كان إظهار للعلاقة الدافئة بين ترامب ونتنياهو والتي أدت إلى شطب أي مساعٍ لتحقيق حل الدولتين من جدول أعمال الإدارة الأميركية. اعتبر الفلسطينيون ذلك عملاً عدوانياً وجزءاً من سياسة أوسع أظهرت تفضيلاً للمصالح الإسرائيلية على أي تطلعات قومية لديهم. لذلك، فإن إعادة إدارة بايدن فتح القنصلية في القدس الشرقية تعتبر خطوة مهمة في الجهود المبذولة لتجديد العلاقة بين الولايات المتحدة والفلسطينيين. كانت لفتة تصالحية من إدارة بايدن تجاه الرئيس عباس، الذي تعرض لموقف عدائي من ترامب.

وقالت الكاتبة إنه كان لدى بلينكن المزيد من المفاجآت للفلسطينيين. فقد أبلغ نتنياهو وعباس أن الولايات المتحدة تخطط لإرسال 75 مليون دولار إلى غزة في عام 2021 للمساعدة في إعادة بناء القطاع بعد جولة العنف الأخيرة. وخلصت إلى أن بلينكن قدم في زيارته الرسمية الأولى لـ”إسرائيل” والشرق الأوسط سياسة أميركية جديدة تجاه المنطقة تختلف بشكل ملحوظ عن سياسة الإدارة السابقة. فالتأمل في صيف  2020، عندما بدأ توقيع اتفاقات أبراهام، يظهر مدى جدية هذا التغيير حيث أن ترامب قد ألغى عاملين رئيسيين حاول الرئيس السابق باراك أوباما دفعهما إلى الأمام: الاتفاق النووي مع إيران الذي انسحبت منه الولايات المتحدة، والمحادثات بين “إسرائيل” والفلسطينيين ، والتي أزيلت عن الطاولة. وقد عاد كلاهما كمسألة بارزة على الأجندة الأميركية، حتى لو كان الأسلوب المستخدم للنهوض بهما مختلفاً.

وأضافت: كأن بلينكين أراد مخاطبة الجمهور الإسرائيلي مباشرة. كان يعلم أنهم معجبون بترامب، وكانت هذه فرصته لتعريفهم بأجندة بايدن الجديدة. فقد أراد أن يؤكد الالتزام المطلق للولايات المتحدة بالمصالح الإسرائيلية، وفي الوقت نفسه، أراد أن يبث حياة جديدة في حل الدولتين للصراع الإسرائيلي الفلسطيني.

وخلال مقابلة له مع القناة 12 الأخبارية الإسرائيلية، عندما سئل عما إذا كانت هناك محاولة لإحياء عملية السلام الإسرائيلية الفلسطينية، أجاب بلينكن قائلاً: “لا نزال نؤمن بأن حل الدولتين ليس فقط أفضل طريقة، ولكنه ربما الطريقة الوحيدة للتأكد من أن إسرائيل لديها مستقبل كدولة يهودية وديمقراطية آمنة، وأن الفلسطينيين لديهم دولة يستحقونها. لذلك أعتقد أننا نريد الوصول إلى ذلك. لكن ينصب التركيز حالياً على التعامل مع العنف الأخير، ومحاولة البناء على وقف إطلاق النار، ..، ثم معرفة ما إذا كانت الظروف لاحقاً توفر بيئة أفضل للسعي لمتابعة حل الدولتين”.

وتابعت الكاتبة: لقد اعتاد الإسرائيليون على أن يكونوا مستفيدين من هدايا ترامب السخية. فقد نقل السفارة الأميركية إلى القدس، واعترف بالضم الإسرائيلي للجولان السوري وعزز معاهدات السلام مع الدول العربية “المعتدلة”. الآن، بدأ الإسرائيليون يدركون أن شيئاً جديداً ومختلفاً يجري.. لكنهم يدركون كذلك أن بايدن يختلف عن أوباما، الذي كان يعتبره العديد من الإسرائيليين مؤيداً للفلسطينيين. ينجح بايدن في تقديم نفسه كشخص يتفهم حقاً المزاج السائد في إسرائيل، ويحب إسرائيل كثيراً”.

حتى الآن، تمكن نتنياهو ، وهو سياسي متمرس، من اجتياز هذه المعضلة سالماً. على عكس تعاملاته الحادة مع أوباما، ليس لنتنياهو خلافات عامة مع بايدن حالياً. لكن كل هذه التغييرات القادمة من واشنطن تضع “إسرائيل” في حالة من عدم الاستقرار السياسي. ومن المحتمل جداً أن تنتهي فترة حكم نتنياهو الطويلة قريباً. الآن وبعد أن أصبح هناك ائتلاف إسرائيلي جديد لتأليف الحكومة، مؤلف من أحزاب من اليسار واليمين، فإن السؤال المطروح هو ما هي السياسات التي سيتبناها هذا الائتلاف في التعامل مع الفلسطينيين؟

وقالت الكاتبة إنه من المحتمل أن يكون رئيس وزراء هذه الحكومة الجديدة هو السياسي اليميني نفتالي بينيت، الذي يدعو إلى ضم المستوطنات الإسرائيلية في الضفة الغربية، بينما يدعم رئيس الوزراء البديل، يائير لابيد، حل الدولتين. فيما تعتبر أحزاب اليسار، وعلى رأسها حركة ميرتس، المستوطنات رمزاً للاحتلال الإسرائيلي. تعرض رئيس حزب ميرتس، نيتسان هورويتز، لهجوم من اليمين في آذار / مارس الماضي، عندما أعرب عن دعمه للمحكمة الجنائية الدولية في لاهاي، التي أعلنت أنها تحقق مع “إسرائيل” في جرائم حرب. في 27 أيار / مايو، قال هورويتز في مقابلة إذاعية إنه يؤيد استئناف المفاوضات بين “إسرائيل” والفلسطينيين. تكمن أهمية ذلك في أنه إذا تم تشكيل حكومة تغيير جديدة، فلن يكون هناك إجماع داخلها حول كيفية تعاملها مع الصراع الفلسطيني الإسرائيلي. كان الوضع في قطاع غزة هادئاً نسبياً عندما اتفق الطرفان على تشكيل مثل هذه الحكومة بهدف واضح هو عزل نتنياهو من منصبه. لذلك كان لديها مجال للزعم بأنها ستتجنب القضية الفلسطينية وتركز على قضايا مدنية وعسكرية أخرى. لكن الأسبوعين الماضيين أعادا الوضع الأمني ​​إلى صدارة الأجندة الإسرائيلية وأعادا إمكانية حل الدولتين إلى مركز الصدارة.

نقله إلى العربية بتصرف: الميادين: الآراء المذكورة في هذه المقالة لا تعبّر بالضرورة عن رأي الميادين وإنما تعبّر عن رأي الصحيفة حصراً

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Is two-state solution back on Israel’s agenda?

Israel’s leadership must understand that as far as the Biden administration is concerned the two-state solution is back on the agenda.

May 27, 2021

The meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Jerusalem May 25 offered insight into the enormous changes taking place in the region, ever since President Donald Trump left office. 

On the one hand, it was a very good meeting. Blinken made every effort to showcase the close friendship between the two countries, with an emphasis on President Joe Biden’s longstanding commitment to Israel’s right to defend itself against a terrorist organization firing rockets on its citizens. This was more than just rhetoric, too. Over the last two weeks, during Operation Guardian of the Walls, Biden’s actions proved that he stood with Israel. He maintained regular and cordial contacts with Netanyahu, while his calls for a cease-fire were made quietly, with calculated diplomatic tact. Biden made a point of respecting Netanyahu. The White House made no threats, nor did it bully him, as happened on more than one occasion during the Obama administration.

On the other hand, despite all the elegant diplomacy, the last two weeks show that there have been enormous changes to American attitudes toward Israel, particularly when it comes to Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians.

What Biden effectively did was return negotiations with the Palestinians — with the goal of achieving a two-state solution — back to center stage, after they were frozen indefinitely in 2014. This happened when Biden felt forced to intervene as a result of the recent conflict in Gaza. What made his new policy notable was that it consisted of more than just rhetorical flourishes. It had a number of operative components, too.

The most obvious and immediate example of this is the Biden administration’s decision to reopen the US Consulate in East Jerusalem, which was shut down by the Trump administration. Blinken informed Netanyahu of this decision during their meeting, and reiterated the new policy during his meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

This is, of course, much more than some symbolic act. Over the last three decades, the consulate served as the United States’ diplomatic representation to the Palestinian Authority (PA). It was shut down in October 2018, when Trump moved the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It was decided at the time to merge the two diplomatic offices in Jerusalem. What this meant in practical terms was that the consulate, which was once responsible for all contact with the PA, was subordinated to the ambassador to Israel. In other words, it lost its independent status.

The decision to shut down the consulate was a highlight of the unusually warm relationship between Trump and Netanyahu. Inevitably, it led to any efforts to achieve a two-state solution being removed from the agenda. The Palestinians considered this an act of belligerence and part of a larger policy that showed preference to Israeli interests over any national aspirations they had.

That is why the reopening of the consulate is considered to be an important step forward in the effort to renew the relationship between the United States and the Palestinians. It was a conciliatory gesture to Abbas, who had been subjected to a chilly and sometimes hostile attitude from Trump.

And Blinken had even more surprises for the Palestinians. He informed both Netanyahu and Abbas that the United States plans to send $75 million to Gaza in 2021 to help rebuild the enclave after the current round of violence.

There is no doubt that in his first official visit to Israel and the Middle East, Blinken presented a new American policy toward the region, which differed markedly from that of the previous administration. Reflecting back on the summer of 2020, when the Abraham Accords began to emerge, shows how serious this change is. Trump eliminated two key factors that President Barack Obama tried to advance: a nuclear deal with Iran, from which the United States withdrew, and talks between Israel and the Palestinians, which were taken off the table. Both of these are, once again, prominent points on the American agenda, even if the style used to advance them is different.

It looked like Blinken wanted to address the Israeli people directly. He knew that they were enamored with Trump, and this was his chance to introduce them to the new Biden agenda. On the one hand, he wanted to highlight the absolute nature of the US commitment to Israeli interests, while at the same time, he wanted to breathe new life into the two-state solution to the conflict.

Before leaving Israel for Egypt and Jordan, Blinken gave an exclusive primetime interview to Israel’s main news broadcast on Channel 12. When asked if there would be an attempt to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, he responded, “We continue to believe very strongly that a two-state solution is not just the best way, but probably the only way to really assure that going forward Israel has a future as a secure Jewish and democratic state, and the Palestinians have a state to which they’re entitled. So I think we want to get to that. But right now, the focus is on dealing with the aftermath, the recent violence, trying to build on the cease-fire, address the immediate needs and concerns, and then see if over time the conditions are such that there’s a better environment for trying to pursue a two-state solution.”

Israelis had gotten used to being the beneficiaries of Trump’s generous gifts. He moved the embassy to Jerusalem, recognized Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights and fostered peace treaties with moderate Arab states. Now, Israelis are beginning to realize that something new and different was happening.

At the same time, however, they also recognize that Biden is unlike Obama, who was considered by many Israelis to be decidedly pro-Palestinian. Biden succeeds in presenting himself as someone who really understands the mood in Israel, and who loves Israel dearly.

So far, Netanyahu, an experienced politician, managed to get through this baptism by fire unscathed. In contrast to his heated dealings with Obama, Netanyahu had no public disputes for the moment with Biden.

All these changes coming from Washington catch Israel in a state of political instability. It is very possible that Netanyahu’s long term in office will soon end. Now that a new coalition made up of parties from the left and the right is on the table yet again, the question being raised is what policies it will adopt in dealing with the Palestinians.

The prime minister of this new government would probably be Yamina party Chairman Naftali Bennett, who advocates the annexation of Israeli West Bank settlements, while the alternative prime minister, Yair Lapid, supports a two-state solution. Furthermore, the left-wing parties, headed by Meretz, consider the settlements to be a symbol of the Israeli occupation, with all the corruption this engenders. Meretz party Chairman Nitzan Horowitz came under attack from the right last March, when he expressed support for the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which announced that it was investigating Israel for war crimes. On May 27, Horowitz said in a radio interview that he supports renewing negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

The significance of this is that if a new government of change is, in fact, formed, there would be no consensus on how it will handle the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The situation in the Gaza Strip was relatively quiet when the parties agreed to form such a government with the express purpose of removing Netanyahu from office. It therefore had the leeway to claim that it would avoid the Palestinian question and focus on other civil and military issues. The last two weeks have restored the security situation to the top of the national agenda and returned the possibility of a two-state solution to center stage.

 



It’s a Nikolai Patrushev-Yang Jiechi world

May 31, 2021

It’s a Nikolai Patrushev-Yang Jiechi world

As Sino-Russo-Iranophobia dissolves in sanctions and hysteria, mapmakers carve the post-unilateral order

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

It’s the Nikolai Patrushev-Yang Jiechi show – all over again. These are the two players running an up and coming geopolitical entente, on behalf of their bosses Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping.

Last week, Yang Jiechi – the director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee – visited Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev in Moscow. That was part of the 16thround of China-Russia strategic security consultations.

What’s intriguing is that Yang-Patrushev happened between the Blinken-Lavrov meeting on the sidelines of the Arctic Council summit in Reykjavik, and the upcoming and highest-ranking Putin-Biden in Geneva on June 16 (possibly at the Intercontinental Hotel, where Reagan and Gorbachev met in 1985).

The Western spin before Putin-Biden is that it might herald some sort of reset back to “predictability” and “stability” in currently extra-turbulent US-Russia relations.

That’s wishful thinking. Putin, Patrushev and Lavrov harbor no illusions. Especially when in the G7 in London, in early May, the Western focus was on Russia’s “malign activities” as well as China’s “coercive economic policies.”

Russian and Chinese analysts, in informal conversations, tend to agree that Geneva will be yet another instance of good old Kissingerian divide and rule, complete with a few seducing tactics to lure Moscow away from Beijing, an attempt to bide some time and probing openings for laying out geopolitical traps. Old foxes such as Yang and Patrushev are more than aware of the game in play.

What’s particularly relevant is that Yang-Patrushev laid the groundwork for an upcoming Putin visit to Xi in Beijing not long after Putin-Biden in Geneva – to further coordinate geopolitically, once again, the “comprehensive strategic partnership”, in their mutually recognized terminology.

The visit might take place on July 1, the hundredth anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party – or on July 16, the 20thanniversary of the China-Russia Treaty of Friendship.

So Putin-Biden is the starter; Putin-Xi is the main course.

That Putin-Luka tea for two

Beyond the Russian president’s “outburst of emotions” comment defending his Belarusian counterpart’s action, the Putin-Lukashenko tea for two in Sochi yielded an extra piece of the puzzle concerning the RyanAir emergency landing in Minsk– starring a blogger from Belarus who is alleged to have lent his services to the ultra-nationalist, neo-Nazi-ridden Azov battalion, which fought against the people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk in the Ukrainian Donbass in 2014.

Lukashenko told Putin he had “brought along some documents so you can understand what is going on.” Nothing has been leaked regarding the contents of these documents, but it’s possible they may be incandescent – related to the fact that sanctions were imposed by the EU against Belavia Airlines even though the carrier had nothing to do with the RyanAir saga – and potentially capable of being brought up in the context of Putin-Biden in Geneva.

The Big Picture is always Eurasia versus the Atlanticist West. As much as Washington will keep pushing Europe – and Japan – to decouple from both China and Russia, Cold War 2.0 on two simultaneous fronts has very few takers.

Rational players see that the 21st century combined scientific, economic and military power of a Russia-China strategic partnership would be a whole new ball game in terms of global reach compared with the former USSR/Iron Curtain era.

And when it comes to appealing to the Global South, and the new iterations of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), emphasis on an international order upholding the UN Charter and the rule of international law is definitely sexier than a much-vaunted “rules-based international order” where only the hegemon sets the rules.

In parallel to Moscow’s lack of illusions about the new Washington dispensation, the same applies to Beijing – especially after the latest outburst by Kurt Campbell, the former Obama-Biden 1.0 assistant secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific who is now back as the head of Indo-Pacific Affairs on the National Security Council under Obama-Biden 3.0.

Campbell is the actual father of the ‘pivot to Asia’ concept when he was at the State Department in the early 2010s – although as I pointed out during the 2016 US presidential campaign, it was Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State who claimed Mothership of the pivot to Asia in an October 2011 essay.

At a gig promoted by Stanford University last week, Campbell said, “The period that was broadly described as engagement [with China] has come to an end.” After all, the “pivot to Asia” never really died, as there has been a clear Trump-Biden continuum.

Campbell obfuscated by talking about a “new set of strategic parameters” and the need to confront China by working with “allies, partners and friends”. Nonsense: this is all about the militarization of the Indo-Pacific.

That’s what Biden himself reiterated during his first address to a joint session of the US Congress, when he boasted about telling Xi that the US will “maintain a strong military presence in the Indo-Pacific” just as it does with NATO in Europe.

The Iranian factor

On a different but parallel track with Yang-Patrushev, Iran may be on the cusp of a momentous directional change. We may see it as part of a progressive strengthening of the Arc of Resistance – which links Iran, the People’s Mobilization Units in Iraq, Syria, Hezbollah, the Houthis in Yemen and now a more unified Palestine.

The proxy war on Syria was a tragic, massive fail on every aspect. It did not deliver secular Syria to a bunch of takfiris (aka “moderate rebels”). It did not prevent the expansion of Iran’s sphere of influence.  It did not derail the Southwest Asia branch of the New Silk Roads. It did not destroy Hezbollah.

“Assad must go”? Dream on; he was reelected with 95% of Syrian votes, with a 78% turnout.

As for the upcoming Iranian presidential election on June 18 – only two days after Putin-Biden – it takes place when arguably the nuclear deal revival drama being enacted in Vienna will have reached an endgame. Tehran has repeatedly stressed that the deadline for a deal expires today, May 31.

The impasse is clear. In Vienna, through its EU interlocutors, Washington has agreed to lift sanctions on Iranian oil, petrochemicals and the central bank, but refuses to remove them on individuals such as members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

At the same time, in Tehran, something very intriguing happened with Ali Larijani, former Parliament speaker, an ambitious member of a quite prominent family but discarded by the Guardian Council when it chose candidates to run for President. Larijani immediately accepted the ruling. As I was told by Tehran insiders, that happened with no friction because he received a detailed explanation of something much bigger: the new game in town.

As it stands, the one positioned as the nearly inevitable winner on June 18 seems to be Ebrahim Raeisi, up to now the chief justice – and close to the Revolutionary Guards. There’s a very strong possibility that he will ask the International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors to leave Iran – and that means the end of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as we knew it, with unforeseen consequences. (From the Revolutionary Guards’ point of view, the JCPOA is already dead).

An extra factor is that Iran is currently suffering from severe drought – when summer has not even arrived. The power grid will be under tremendous pressure. The dams are empty – so it’s impossible to rely on hydroelectric power. There’s serious popular discontent regarding the fact that Team Rouhani for eight years prevented Iran from obtaining nuclear power. One of Raeisi’s first acts may be to command the immediate construction of a nuclear power plant.

We don’t need a weatherman to see which way the wind is blowin’ when it comes to the top three “existential threats” to the declining hegemon – Russia, China and Iran. What’s clear is that none of the good old methods deployed to maintain the subjugation of the vassals is working – at least when confronted by real sovereign powers.

As Sino-Russo-Iranophobia dissolves in a fog of sanctions and hysteria, mapmakers like Yang Jiechi and Nikolai Patrushev relentlessly carve the post-unilateral order.

Israel-Palestine: Israeli forces kill Palestinian in West Bank during predawn raid

Undercover Israeli special unit shot Ahmed Jamil Fahd, a resident of the al-Amari refugee camp, and left him bleeding in the street until he died

Mourners gather around the body of Palestinian Ahmad Jameel Fahad, who was killed by Israeli forces near Ramallah (AFP)

By MEE staff

Published date: 25 May 2021

A Palestinian man was killed on Tuesday morning by an Israeli special unit in the Umm al-Sharayet neighbourhood, south of the town of al-Bireh, near Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank.

An undercover Israeli special unit shot Ahmed Jamil Fahd, a resident of the al-Amari refugee camp, and left him bleeding in the street until he died, according to the official Palestinian news agency Wafa.Israel-Palestine: Blinken arrives in Tel Aviv following mass arrests of Palestinians

Read More »

Israel said that the Yamam unit killed Fahd while it was carrying out a predawn raid as part of an arrest operation in the area, Wafa reported.

An Israeli security official told AFP that a Palestinian was killed during “attempted arrests” near Ramallah.

The killing of Fahd comes hours before US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken meets Israeli and Palestinian officials after two weeks of daily protests in East Jerusalem, the occupied West Bank and inside Israel, and the armed confrontation between Israel and Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip.

Wave of arrests

In occupied East Jerusalem, Israeli forces arrested nine Palestinians overnight from the Old City, al-Tor, al-Zaim and Beit Daku towns.

Mohammad Abu Ziyad, the president of al-Zaim municipality, told Wafa that the Israeli forces had raided a number of homes in al-Zaim, east of Jerusalem, and carried out a search in the town’s Al-Rifatia area.

On Tuesday, 91 Israeli settlers broke into the al-Aqsa complex flanked by police. They entered the complex from the Morrocan Gate, which is controlled by Israel.

Read more

A little less conversation, a little more action

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks at a meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the sidelines of the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting, Reykjavik, May 19, 2021
A little less conversation, a little more action

May 20, 2021

by Pepe Escobar and first posted at Asia Times

So Sergey Lavrov and Tony Blinken met for nearly two hours at the Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavik, on the sidelines of the ministerial session of the Arctic Council.

Frosty? Not really. Even if the get together may not have been a throwback to a Reagan-Gorbachev funfest in the good old Cold War days. After all, there was a NATO warship parked right outside the windows of Harpa Hall – like a prop in a Marvel blockbuster.

Self-described “amateur guitarist” Blinken may have been relatively swayed by the charms of the 1968 Elvis stunner A Little Less Conversation.

Well, at least there was some conversation. As for “a little more action”, as Elvis sang it, it remains to be seen. A good sign is that they addressed each other as “Sergey” and “Tony”. Blinken even attempted a “Spasiba”.

Let’s start with Lavrov – who routinely dwells in the Valhalla of diplomacy, unlike average apparatchik Blinken.

We agreed to continue our joint actions, which are developing quite successfully, on regional conflicts where the interests of the United States and Russia coincide. This is the nuclear problem of the Korean Peninsula, and the situation with efforts to restore the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the Iranian nuclear program. This is Afghanistan, where the expanded troika consisting of Russia, China, the United States, Pakistan is actively working. We discussed how at this stage we can make all our joint actions more effective.

So there was “a very useful conversation” (Lavrov again) on what they do coincide (revival of the JCPOA), don’t coincide (Afghanistan) and hardly coincide (North Korea).

More than useful, actually: “constructive”. Lavrov again: “There is an understanding of the need to overcome the unhealthy situation that developed between Moscow and Washington in previous years.”

Lavrov made it very clear what we are at a stage of mere “proposal” to “start a dialogue, considering all aspects, all factors affecting strategic stability: nuclear, non-nuclear, offensive, defensive. I have not seen a rejection of such a concept, but experts still have to work on it.”

So Blinken did not reject it. The devil is how the “experts” will “work on it”.

Those pesky “laws of diplomacy”

It’s quite useful to compare what they said to each other – at least according to what was leaked.

Lavrov stressed discussions must be “honest, factual and with mutual respect”. Most important area of cooperation is “strategic stability”. He crucially invoked the “laws of diplomacy” – something that the Hegemon has not exactly been fond of lately: they “call for reciprocity, especially when it comes to responding to any kind of unfriendly action.” Implied is Moscow’s willingness to solve problems “inherited from previous US administrations.”

Blinken said the US wants a predictable and stable relationship: “It’s our view that if the leaders of Russia and the United States can work together cooperatively, our people, the world can be a safer and more secure place.” Areas where interests “intersect and overlap” include battling Covid-19 and climate change, apart from Iran, Afghanistan and North Korea.

“Russian aggression” though could not simply be thrown into the Arctic Sea: “If Russia acts aggressively against us, our partners, our allies, we will respond… not for purposes of escalation, not to seek conflict, but to defend our interests.”

So “experts” will have a field day – actually, days, weeks and months – figuring out how which brands of “Russian aggression” attack “our interests.”

As it stands, it looks like the bilateral Putin-Biden summit next month in a “European diplomatic capital” – as rumors swirl in Brussels – may be a go. To hope that it would take place, for instance, in Nursultan – the diplomatic capital of Eurasia – is a long shot.

Lavrov: “We will prepare proposals for our presidents both on these issues [the work of diplomatic missions] and the matters related to our dialogue on strategic stability.”

It’s quite enlightening to consider two parallel developments to Reykjavik.

The State Dept. confirmed it will waive sanctions against the Swiss-based company overseeing the construction of Nord Stream 2. And SWIFT confirmed to the Russian Central Bank that business continues as usual, and Moscow won’t be cut off from the system.

These may be interpreted as goodwill gestures ahead of the possible June summit. Afterwards, no one knows.

It’s also enlightening to note what Lavrov and Blinken did not discuss: vaccine diplomacy.

Sergey Naryshkin, the director of the SVR foreign intel, is now on the record saying that the registration of Sputnik V vaccine at the EU is being stalled by “signals from the corridors of power” in Brussels – something I confirmed weeks ago with relatively independent diplomats. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) still sustains that the vaccine may be registered before the end of the month.

And then there are glaring cases like Brazil, the target of tremendous pressure by Washington to prevent Sputnik V’s approval. Sputnik V has been registered by 61 nations, overwhelmingly in the Global South.

Let’s assume that Cold War 2.0, in theory, may have been put on hold. Now it’s time then for a “little more action”. Will it come to the point that Sergey and Tony will agree on “a little less fight, a little more spark” and dance to the rhythm of “all this aggravation ain’t satisfactioning me”?

Related

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with Director General of Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency Dmitry Kiselev Moscow, April 28, 2021

April 28, 2021

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with Director General of Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency Dmitry Kiselev Moscow, April 28, 2021

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation

We have available video in Russian and transcript in English.

Transcript:

Dmitry Kiselev: Our relations with the United States are really “hell”. Personally, I don’t recall them being at such a low ebb ever before. This is even worse than the Cold War times, in my opinion. Ambassadors have returned back to their home countries. What’s going to happen next? What is the possible scenario?

Sergey Lavrov: If it depended on us alone, we would gladly resume normal relations. The first possible step towards this, which I regard as obvious, is to zero out the measures restricting the work of Russian diplomats in the United States. It was as a response measure that we restricted the operations of American diplomats in Russia.

We proposed this to the Biden administration as soon as it had taken the oath and assumed office. I have mentioned the idea to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. I did not try to press it; I just said that an obvious way to normalise our relations would be to zero out the measures initiated by Barack Obama. Several weeks before leaving office, he was so annoyed he virtually slammed the door by seizing Russian property in violation of all the Vienna conventions and throwing Russian diplomats out. This has caused a chain reaction.

We patiently sat back for a long time, until the summer of 2017, before taking any response measures. The Trump administration asked us to disregard the excessive measures taken by the outgoing Obama administration. However, Donald Trump’s team failed to normalise the situation, and so we had to take reciprocal measures. But the Americans have not stopped there.

We can see that the Biden administration continues to go downhill, although US President Biden said during his conversation with President of Russia Vladimir Putin soon after his inauguration, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told me that they are thoroughly reviewing their relations with Russia, hoping that this would clarify many things. However, instead they adopted new sanctions, which triggered not simply a mirror response on our part. Our response was asymmetrical, just as we had warned them on numerous occasions. It has to do, in part, with a considerable disparity in the number of diplomats and other personnel of the US diplomatic missions in Russia, which is way above the number of Russian diplomats in the United States.

As for the strategic picture of our relations, I hope that Washington is aware, just as Moscow is, of our responsibility for global stability. There are not only the problems of Russia and the United States, which are complicating our citizens’ lives and their contacts, communications, businesses and humanitarian projects, but also differences that are posing a serious risk to international security in the broadest possible meaning of the word.

You remember how we responded to the outrage that took place during Joe Biden’s interview with ABC. You are also aware of how President Putin reacted to President Biden’s proposal of a meeting. We have taken a positive view of this, but we would like to understand all aspects of this initiative, which we are currently analysing.

Nothing good will come out of this, unless the United States stops acting as a sovereign, as President Putin said during his Address to the Federal Assembly, accepts the futility of any attempts to revive the unipolar world or to create an architecture where all Western countries would be subordinate to the United States and the Western camp would work together to “rally” other countries across the world against China and Russia, admits that it was for a purpose that the UN Charter sealed such principles as respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as non-interference in the internal affairs of other states and sovereign equality of states, and simply honours its commitments and starts talking with us, just as with any other country, on the basis of respect for each other and for a balance of interests, which must be established. President Putin said this clearly in his Address, pointing out that Russia is always open to broad international agreements if they suit our interests. But we will harshly respond to any attempts to cross the red line, which we ourselves will determine.

Dmitry Kiselev: Would it be realistic to expect them to become aware of this and stop acting as a sovereign? Hope is fine, but the reality is completely different.

Sergey Lavrov: I have not expressed any hope. I just mentioned the conditions on the basis of which we will be ready to talk.

Dmitry Kiselev: And what if they refuse?

Sergey Lavrov: It will be their choice. This means that we will be living in conditions of a Cold War, or even worse, as you have already mentioned. In my opinion, tension did run high during the Cold War and there were numerous high-risk conflict situations, but there was also mutual respect. I believe that this is lacking now.

There have been some schizophrenic notes in the statements made by some of the Washington officials. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said just a while ago that sanctions against Russia would be continued, that they are producing, by and large, a desired effect, and that their objective is not to “escalate” with Russia. Even I am at a loss about how to comment on this. I hope anyone can see that such statements are doing no credit to those who are upholding and promoting this policy.

Dmitry Kiselev: I had a chance to hear an opinion – perhaps even a commonplace opinion, to some extent, in certain circles – to the effect that diplomats are doing a poor job, that we are constantly digging in our heels, that our position is inflexible and non-elastic, and this is the reason why our relations are poor.

Sergey Lavrov: Are you alluding to circles inside this country?

Dmitry Kiselev: Yes, inside this country.

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, I also read these things. Thankfully, this country protects freedom of speech much better than many Western countries, including the United States. I read the opposition’s online resources and newspapers, and I think that perhaps these people have a right to express their point of view that consists in the following: “If we refrained from disputing with the West, we’d have Parmesan cheese and lots more things that we are sincerely missing; but for some reason, they have cut short food purchases in the West [they do not even explain that this was done in response], they have stopped buying food and gone into import substitution, thus increasing the price of food.”

You know, this is a narrow, lopsided view taken entirely from the standpoint of creature comforts, a choice between a television set and a fridge. If they think it essential to accept US values, I would like to remind them about what US President John Kennedy, the greatest US President to my mind, once said: “Don’t think what your country can do for you. Think what you can do for your country.” This is a radical distinction from today’s liberal views, where personal wellbeing and personal feelings alone are the things that matter.

The promoters of these philosophical approaches, as I see it, are not just unaware of what our genetic code is all about, but are trying in every way to undermine it. For, apart from the desire to live well, to be well-fed, to be confident that one’s children, friends and relatives are well too, a feeling of national pride always played an equally important role in what we did throughout our one thousand years’ history. If someone thinks that these values are of no importance for him or her, as it is [politically] correct to say now, it is their choice, but I am certain that the overwhelming majority of our people have a different opinion.

Dmitry Kiselev: Are you counting on a meeting with Antony Blinken? When can this meeting be held, and will it take place at all in the foreseeable future?

Sergey Lavrov: When we were talking over the phone, I congratulated him in keeping with the diplomatic etiquette. We exchanged a few appraisals of the [current] situation. The talk was, I feel, well-meaning, calm and pragmatic. When our US colleagues have completed staffing their Department of State, we will be prepared to resume contacts – naturally, on the understanding that we will engage in a search for mutually acceptable arrangements on many problems, starting from the functioning of the diplomatic missions and ending with strategic stability and many other things. US and Russian business communities are concerned with expanding their cooperation, something that the American-Russian Chamber of Commerce has recently told us. We have concluded by stating that there will be some joint multilateral events, on whose sidelines we will be able, as chance offers, to talk. But no signals have come from the US so far. Speaking about the schedule of events, Russia will be taking over the Arctic Council chairmanship from Iceland three weeks from now. An Arctic Council ministerial meeting is scheduled to take place in Reykjavík on May 20-21. If Secretary Blinken leads the US delegation, I will, of course, be prepared to talk with him, if he is interested.  Given that we will chair the Arctic Council for the next two years, I have informed our Iceland colleagues that I will attend this ministerial meeting.

Dmitry Kiselev: Is there any certainty as to who will definitely join the list of unfriendly states?

Sergey Lavrov: The Government of Russia is attending to this on instructions from President of Russia Vladimir Putin. We are participating in this work, as are other respective agencies.  I would not like to jump the gun right now.  We are reluctant to be indiscriminate and put on that list just any country that will say somewhere “something wrong” about Russia. Our decision will be based, of course, on a deep-going analysis of the situation and on whether we see opportunities to have a dialogue with that country in a different way. If we come to the conclusion that there is no chance of this, then, I think, the list will, of course, be periodically extended. But this is not a “dead” paper. As is only natural, it will be revised in tune with how our relations develop with this or that state.

Dmitry Kiselev: When will the public be able to read this list?

Sergey Lavrov: Soon, I think. The Russian Government has concrete assignments. We understand the criteria that are guiding us in this work. So, I think, the wait will not be very long now.

Dmitry Kiselev: Will the unfriendly states be banned from hiring local workforce?

Sergey Lavrov: There will be a ban on hiring any physical persons whether Russian or foreign.

Dmitry Kiselev: Is this the only measure with regard to unfriendly states or some others are in the offing?

Sergey Lavrov: At this stage, this is the concrete aim set in the executive order signed by President of Russia Vladimir Putin.

Dmitry Kiselev: Donbass is another subject. Tensions have continued to escalate there since early 2021, and it appears that they have subsided a little since US President Joe Biden called President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin. In my show News of the Week, I noted that US military guarantees to Ukraine had turned out to be a bluff. Nevertheless, shootouts continue, and they are using banned large-calibre weapons. It seems like this peace is not very different from war, and that the balance is highly unstable. Over 500,000 Russian citizens now live in Donbass. Will there be a war?

Sergey Lavrov: War can and should be avoided, if this depends on us and on the self-defence fighters, as far as we understand their principled approaches. I cannot speak and make guesses on behalf of the Ukrainian party and President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky because, by all indications, his main goal is to stay in power. He is ready to pay any price, such as pandering to neo-Nazis and ultra-radicals who continue to brand the Donbass self-defence fighters as terrorists. Our Western colleagues should reassess the developments that have taken place since February 2014.  None of these districts attacked the rest of Ukraine. They were branded as terrorists, and an anti-terrorist operation was launched against them and then another operation involving “joint forces.”. But we do know for sure that they have no desire to make war on representatives of the Kiev regime.

I have repeatedly told our Western colleagues, who are totally biased in their assessment of current developments, and who unconditionally defend Kiev’s actions, that Russian journalists and war correspondents working on the other side of the demarcation line show an objective picture. They work in trenches there almost without respite, and they provide daily news reports. These reports show the feelings of the people living in these territories that are cut off from the rest of Ukraine by an economic blockade, where children and civilians are being regularly killed, and where the civilian infrastructure, schools and kindergartens are being destroyed. I asked our Western colleagues why they don’t encourage their media outlets to organise the same work on the left side of the demarcation line, so that the scale of damage there can be assessed and to see which facilities have been the hardest hit.

As for the recent developments, when we openly announced the military exercises in the Southern and Western military districts – we made no secret of that, you remember the shouts about the alleged Russian build-up on the border with Ukraine. Just take a look at the terms used: we speak about drills in the Southern and Western military districts, while they say that Russia is amassing troops on the Ukrainian border. And when the drills ended and we made the relevant announcement, the West claimed maliciously that Russia had to back off, to withdraw. This is an example of wishful thinking.

This is reminiscent of the situation with the G7: every time they meet they announce that Russia will not be invited to the group. We have stated on numerous occasions that we will never re-join it, that there will not be any G8, and that this is a thing of the past. However, continued references to this subject, as well as claims that Russia has “rolled back” and has ordered its troops to “return to their barracks” shows, of course, that in this instance the West wants above all to take advantage of this situation to prove that it has the last word and the dominant place in modern international relations. This is regrettable.

The subject of a settlement in Ukraine has been discussed by President Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The other day President Putin spoke about it with President of France Emmanuel Macron. The issue was also raised during a recent conversation with US President Joe Biden. The situation is clear, as I see it. The patrons of President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky and his team refuse to make him honour the Minsk Agreements, even though they are aware of the futility of trying to use military force; they have heard the signals sent from Donetsk and Lugansk about their readiness to defend their land, their homes and their people who refuse to live by the laws being enforced by neo-Nazis.

President Putin has said clearly that we will never abandon the people of Donbass, who are standing up to the openly radical neo-Nazi regime. President Zelensky keeps saying in his interviews that there are no problems with the Russian language or the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, and that he is willing to discuss all these subjects with President Putin. It is a shame perhaps that a person I have always regarded as clever says that the Russian language and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church have no problems in Ukraine. I have no doubt that he is very well aware of the situation. Maybe nothing at all is being reported to him, but in that case he is living in a dream world. But the West has definitely sent its signals to Zelensky.

As you have mentioned, it would be senseless to pin hopes on US military assistance. This has always been clear to everyone. If anyone entertained such illusions, such advisers are good for nothing in any government, including the government of Mr Zelensky. Regrettably, the West continues to try to convince us that the Minsk Agreements should be mitigated and the sequence of the actions set out in them changed. Zelensky says he likes the agreements, but only if it is all the other way round, that they first take full control of these territories, including the border with Russia, and only then deal with the elections, amnesty and a special status for these territories. It is clear that if they did this, if they were allowed to do this, there would be a massacre. The West is unable or unwilling to force Zelensky to comply with the Minsk Agreements strictly in accordance with the sequence set out in them, which does not permit any double interpretation and has been formulated unambiguously from the first to the last step. Control of the border is the very last step to be taken after these territories receive a special status, which must be sealed in the Constitution of Ukraine, after free elections are held there and their results are recognised as such by the OSCE.

Of course, there must also be total amnesty. Not in the way envisaged by the Poroshenko government or the current regime, which only want to approve an  amnesty on an individual basis for those who are proved to have committed no crime. This is yet another misinterpretation. The Minsk Agreements stipulate an amnesty for those who took part in fighting on both sides, without any transitional justice process, which our Western colleagues are now beginning to discuss.

I believe that the brunt of responsibility lies with the West, because only the West can make President Zelensky honour the commitments which his predecessor signed and he himself signed in Paris in December 2019 when he, the presidents of Russia and France and the Chancellor of Germany reaffirmed the absence of any alternative to the strict observance of the Minsk Agreements, and he pledged to amend the legislation and the Ukrainian Constitution to formalise the special status of Donbass on a permanent basis.

Dmitry Kiselev: Many people are wondering why Russia fails to recognise Donbass. It did recognise Abkhazia and South Ossetia. There is an inner “lobby” in Russia, even among my fellow journalists, who are demanding that we recognise Donbass – the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic. Why are we failing in this?

Sergey Lavrov: You are right that there is an analogy with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. But there is just one exception: no agreements similar to the Minsk Package of Measures were signed in those countries, when Saakashvili’s aggression against Tskhinval and the positions of peacekeepers, including Russian peacekeepers, occurred. The Medvedev-Sarkozy document was discussed there, and it implied a number of steps. But it was not signed by Georgia. President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, after reaching an agreement with us in Moscow, took a plane to Tbilisi to ensure Saakashvili’s support for the document. Saakashvili signed it, but he deleted all the key provisions.  Mr Sarkozy attempted to represent this as a compromise, but everyone understood everything. It had a preamble saying that the Russian Federation and the French Republic, desirous of normalising the situation in South Caucasus, propose to Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia the following:  a ceasefire. Saakashvili crossed out the heading, leaving just the first and subsequent items. Since then, the West has been demanding that we comply with these agreements. This is just an example.

In the case of Donbass, the situation was different. The 17-hour long negotiations in Minsk involving the Normandy format leaders (President Franсois  Hollande of France, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, President Petr Poroshenko of Ukraine, and President of Russia Vladimir Putin) produced a result, which was endorsed, two days later, by the UN Security Council without any amendments or doubts that it should be implemented.

Today, the moral and international legal truth is on our side and on the side of the Donbass militias.  I think that we must not let Mr Zelensky and his entire team “off the hook,” writhing as they might. Mr Zelensky’s statement is a fine specimen (made when he had all but given up hope of turning the Minsk Agreements upside down) to the effect that they are no good, albeit necessary, because the saving of the Minsk Agreements guarantees that the sanctions against Moscow will be preserved as well. We asked the West, what they think about this. They just look aside shamefacedly and say nothing.  I think it is a shame and a disgrace, when an international legal document is held up to mockery in this manner.  The West, which has co-authored this document and supported it at the UN Security Council, is demonstrating absolute helplessness.

Dmitry Kiselev: President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky cannot get a call through to President of Russia Vladimir Putin, who is not picking up the receiver. Your Ukrainian counterpart, Dmitry Kuleba, cannot get a call through to you. What does this mean? Why is this?

Sergey Lavrov: This means that they are seeking to revise the Minsk Agreements and represent Russia as a party to the conflict even in this area of their activities.

Requests that came in until recently both from my counterpart Kuleba and President Zelensky dealt with the topic of settlement in Donbass. We replied that this [topic] should be discussed not with us, but with Donetsk and Lugansk, as you agreed under the Minsk Agreements.   The agreements say in black and white that the key stages of settlement should be the subject of consultations and coordination with Donetsk and Lugansk. When they say that a “nasty situation is looming large” at the line of contact and want to talk to Minister Sergey Lavrov and President Vladimir Putin, they are barking up the wrong tree. Meeting with President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko in the Kremlin the other day, President Putin made it amply clear that if they wanted to talk about this, the address should be different.  If our colleagues, including President Zelensky, want to discuss how to normalise bilateral relations, they are welcome. We are always ready to talk about this.

Dmitry Kiselev: There is no reply or acceptance so far, is there?

Sergey Lavrov: I heard that Mr Zelensky instructed the chief of his office, Andrey Yermak, to come to terms on the timeframes. The location is of no importance, because each day of delay means new deaths.

Incidentally, let us take the fact that people are dying and what is happening at the line of contact. Over the last couple of weeks, Kiev has been insisting quite aggressively on the need to reaffirm the ceasefire. All of its Western patrons have also been urging us to influence Donbass so that the ceasefire takes hold in earnest. Speaking on the phone with President Emmanuel Macron and Chancellor Angela Merkel last week, President Putin reminded them of the facts. And the facts are as follows: In July 2020, the Contact Group reached what was perhaps the most serious and effective ceasefire agreement, because it contained a verification mechanism.  It implied a sequence of actions, primarily each side’s commitment not to return fire immediately on the spot but report the violation to the top command and wait for its order on how to act, to wit, whether to respond in kind or to negotiate an arrangement under the mechanisms created for commander-to-commander liaison on the ground.   This agreement, as it was implied, was translated into military orders issued by the DPR and the LPR. These orders were published. Kiev pledged to do the same, but did nothing. Instead it started fiddling with words again. Instead of performing the obligation to report each shelling attack to the top command and get orders from them, they began replacing this clear-cut arrangement with confused formulas, although they were blamed for this by Donetsk and Lugansk at all subsequent meetings, and Russian representatives in the Contact Group, too, repeatedly said as much. The same happened in the Normandy Format.  This is what Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office Dmitry Kozak has been doing all these months in contacts with his French and German colleagues. The head of President Zelensky’s Office, Andrey Yermak, was representing Ukraine. I read transcripts of their talks. It was like talking to a brick wall. They were at cross purposes: the Ukrainian leaders had obviously decided that it was necessary to revive the ceasefire story. It was shameful and unseemly.

It was a great pleasure to watch the Servant of the People series, when no one suspected that its main character would follow this path in real life. But he took the wrong path. If Mr Zelensky watched the series again today and tried to fathom the convictions of the person he had impersonated so well on screen, and later compared those convictions with what he is doing now, he would, perhaps, have achieved one of the most effective transformations.  I do not know when he was himself and when he underwent a transformation. But the contrast is striking.

Dmitry Kiselev: Another subject is the Czech Republic. What was it? How are we to understand it?

Sergey Lavrov: I cannot speculate on this because I do not understand intellectually what they wanted. One can watch it like a not too elegant television series.

This story is full of schizophrenic components. Czech president Milos Zeman says it should be sorted out, not denying the possibility of a subversive act by foreign agents, but suggesting taking into account the story told by the Czech leadership, including the incumbent Prime Minister Andrej Babis (the then Minister of Finance, in 2014), that it was the result of negligence by the depot owners. President Zeman only suggested that consideration should be given to the case that has never been disproven over the seven years. He is accused of high treason now. President of the Senate Milos Vystrcil said that by stating the need to investigate all the leads President Zeman had disclosed a state secret. Is this not schizophrenia? A pure case, I think.

There needs to be an investigation into what was stored in the depot. The German media said that they kept antipersonnel mines prohibited by the convention signed, inter alia, by the Czech Republic and Bulgaria. A lot of questions remain.

Dmitry Kiselev: Indeed, how could it happen that a certain Bulgarian citizen supplying antipersonnel mines (by all appearances they were found there), controlled a depot in the Czech Republic which was not then under the control of the government?

Sergey Lavrov: It so happens.

Dmitry Kiselev: Maybe the Czechs would be better to start with themselves?

Sergey Lavrov: Probably. Or follow the example of Ukraine where too a vast number of armed people, weapons and ammunition are controlled not by the Ukrainian armed forces, but by “volunteer battalions.” It is a trend where the state proves its inability to ensure, if you like, its monopoly over the use of force.

Dmitry Kiselev: Ukraine is one thing but the Czech Republic is a member of the EU. It is bound by other international commitments than those of Ukraine and presents itself differently.

Sergey Lavrov: Above all, in addition to the aforementioned conventions (Ottawa Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention and the so-called Arms Trade Treaty, they are all parties to it), the EU has its own quite strict rules that do not encourage but rather prohibit any actions like supplies and sending forces to regions where there are conflicts.

Dmitry Kiselev: What do you think about the so-called British files? This looks like an orchestrated information campaign against Russia.

Sergey Lavrov: As before, the British continue to play a very active, serious and subversive role in relations between Russia and Europe. Britain has withdrawn from the EU but it has not slackened its activities there. On the contrary, it has been trying to exert maximum influence on the EU countries’ positions towards Moscow. This is not surprising at all.

You don’t even need to go very far back in history. In 2006, Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned with polonium. The inquest began in one way, and then the process was classified because it was necessary to analyse the materials of intelligence services. And then they announced the verdict, but the materials involved in the case have never been made public. As Arnold Schwarzenegger used to say, “Trust me.” I would rather side with Ronald Reagan’s “trust but verify.” But they don’t allow us to verify; they only demand that we trust them.

In 2014, the Malaysian Boeing was downed. They formed a team comprising a narrow group of four countries – the Netherlands, Belgium, Australia and Ukraine. They did not even invite Malaysia, the country that lost the plane. These four countries have agreed, as it has since transpired, that any information would only be revealed on the basis of consensus. Ukraine, where the disaster took place, was given the right of veto, while Malaysia was invited to join the group only six months later. The black boxes, which the self-defence forces provided to Malaysia, were analysed in London. I don’t recall them making the information public.

In 2018, there were the Skripals and the “highly likely.” Nobody knows to this day how the Skripals survived the alleged poisoning, why the police officer who worked with them did not display any symptoms of poisoning, and why the woman involved died while her partner did not get sick. There are very many questions.

In 2020, we had the case of Alexey Navalny. He was flying from Tomsk to Moscow, but the plane landed in Omsk. Nobody on board the plane or in the Omsk hospital got sick. A bottle of water [from his hotel room] was taken by Maria Pevchikh to Germany on the plane that transported Navalny – nobody knows anything. Doctors at the Charité hospital did not find any traces of poison, but they were found at the Bundeswehr. German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer demanded transparency in connection with our recent military drills in the southern and western regions of Russia. But we announced the drills beforehand, whereas the Bundeswehr, whose experts allegedly found traces of Navalny’s poisoning, is keeping information from us. Our request for the results of tests and biomaterials has been denied.

After that there was a long story involving the OPCW. It allegedly took part in collecting samples from Navalny. According to the remarkable information from Berlin, German experts were present during the collection of the samples, but OPCW experts are not mentioned at all. We are trying to sort this information out. Nobody wants to explain anything. Germany is directing us to the OPCW, which says that the request came from Germany and so we should ask them. It is a conspiracy of silence. We have seen this happen in crime movies about bandit groups operating all over the country after the war. This is regrettable.

Getting back to Britain, we can see that London is continuing its anti-Russia policy. Chief of the UK Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) Richard Moore said a few days ago that Russia is “a declining power” whose allegedly “reckless behaviour” needs to be dealt with. This is inherent arrogance and a belief that they continue to rule the world. They are sending “signals” to us and propose establishing ties. In other words, they are not against communicating with us, but they are trying to discourage others from doing the same. This could be an aspiration for a monopoly of contacts and a desire to prove that they are superior to others.

Dmitry Kiselev: Speaking about decline, Britain is a perfect example of a declining empire “on which the sun never sets,” a small island in the North Sea with clouded prospects. To return to the Czech Republic, opinions within the country on the latest developments are totally inconsistent. There is no consensus, and nothing has yet been proven, but diplomats have been expelled. There has already been a result.

Sergey Lavrov: They claim that this is not the reason why our diplomats were expelled.  Two statements were made on the same day. They appeared to be interconnected. Prague is now trying to prove that there is no connection between them. They have announced that the explosions were organised by Petrov and Boshirov, the ubiquitous Russian suspects. It’s like blaming them for the sinking of the Titanic. The same day it was announced that 18 diplomats would have to leave the country. The majority of people accepted this as “punishment” for the 2014 explosions. After that, the Czech authorities said they would track down Petrov and Boshirov and issue an arrest warrant for them. As for the 18 diplomats, they identified them as spies. They expelled them because they turned out to be intelligence agents. No proof that any of these 18 diplomats are guilty of illegal activities has been provided. It is not surprising that former Czech President Vaclav Klaus said that the country’s authorities were like a tiny pooch barking at a huge dog, hoping that the big boys (the United States and Britain) would throw their weight behind them. Do you remember a time from your childhood when local bullies waited until dusk to demand 15 kopeks from a smaller kid, and if he refused they summoned the “big boys.” The logic is very similar. This is regrettable.

We never schemed against our Czech colleagues. Why would we need to blow up that warehouse? Some people say that the Russians were angry that the Bulgarian planned to send munitions to Ukraine. This is a completely schizophrenic view of the situation. This is impossible to imagine. But the machinery has been set in motion. I hope our Czech colleagues will come to their senses after all and will take a look at what they have done. If reason prevails, we will be ready to gradually rebuild the conditions for our diplomatic missions to function normally.  If not, we will make do. We know how we will be working. We don’t have to ingratiate ourselves with anyone.

Dmitry Kiselev: Working on what?

Sergey Lavrov: We know how we will be working in the Czech Republic and other countries. Pinpoint attacks are being made against Russia in the Baltics, Poland and, recently, Romania. Bucharest has added, though, that its decision was in no way connected to the EU’s position. This came as a surprise. They just decided to send that Russian diplomat back home. Why? They have not explained.

Dmitry Kiselev: It is notable that Germany has not supported the Czech Republic.

Sergey Lavrov: I have read the relevant statement by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. He spoke like a responsible politician. It is not always that the German Foreign Ministry takes such a balanced and astute position. Many of its other statements have indiscriminately supported injustice, for example when Ukraine adopted sanctions against the Opposition Platform – For Life political party, its leader Viktor Medvedchuk and several of his associates, all of them Ukrainian citizens.  The German Foreign Ministry expressed its approval, saying that this was fully in keeping with OSCE principles. This is absurd.

Therefore, what Heiko Maas said the other day is a responsible political statement. It has not smoothed over differences but pointed out the importance of maintaining dialogue and looking for agreements, since we live side by side.

Dmitry Kiselev: Recently in China, you said we needed to look for alternatives to the SWIFT international payment system, and Russia was preparing for this. Is there a specific timeframe, and what stage of the preparations are we at?

Sergey Lavrov: Many have already spoken about this. This is happening because in recent years, the West has been looking for more ways of infringing on Russia’s legitimate interests. Now they are openly mentioning the possibility of disconnecting our country from SWIFT. Responsible politicians just have to think of ways to play it safe.

In addition to these statements, the United States is increasingly abusing the role of the dollar in the international monetary system, using certain countries’ dependence on dollar settlements to limit their competitive opportunities – China and other states they dislike. China, Russia, and Turkey are now looking for opportunities to reduce their dependence on the dollar by switching to alternative currencies, or even better – by making settlements in their national currencies. The responsible agencies, including in our country, are thinking about how to prevent damage to the economy and the financial system if some hotheads actually disconnect us from SWIFT. Russia launched a national payment card system a few years ago; MIR cards have been in use in Russia since then. The system is already developing ties with its foreign counterparts, as similar cards are being issued in China and Japan. It is also building ties with the internationally accepted payment card Maestro.

As regards the SWIFT system, specifically, the Central Bank of Russia recently introduced and continued to develop a system for the transfer of financial messages. It is quite popular. I think we need to support and strengthen this in every possible way to ensure we do not depend on anyone. Let me emphasise that we are not trying to self-isolate. We want to be part of the international community. Part of a community where justice and democracy work. We have discussed the problems of democracy with the West. But once they are asked to come to an agreement, to declare that democracy should triumph in international relations, too, they lose their enthusiasm. They are full of lectures on internal democratic processes, but when it comes to the international arena, we get raised eyebrows. Here, allegedly, there are established ‘practices’ that ‘Russia and China are trying to implement’ (it’s about this). But in reality, Moscow and Beijing only want to preserve the principles of the UN Charter, according to which everyone is equal and must seek agreement.

One needs to have a safety net in terms of payment systems and transfer of financial messages. We have one. I hope it will grow stronger and be able to provide a guarantee if suddenly, contrary to our desire to cooperate with everyone, the West discriminates against Russia, abusing its current position in the international economic and monetary systems, in this situation, we really cannot afford to depend on anyone.

Dmitry Kiselev: So the Central Bank’s system for transfer of financial messages is the budding alternative to SWIFT?

Sergey Lavrov: I am not an expert. I don’t know how reliably and effectively it provides a full warranty. But the groundwork is already there. I am confident that the Government and the Central Bank must do everything to make it reliable and guarantee us complete independence and protection from more damage that might be inflicted on us.

Dmitry Kiselev: In a conversation with your Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, you proposed an initiative to create a coalition of countries affected by illegal sanctions. To what extent has this project progressed? What countries could join it?

Sergey Lavrov: I would not put it like that. We have been working at the UN for a long time to end the practice of unilateral illegitimate sanctions such as embargoes, blockades and other restrictions. We have been working for a number of decades to lift the embargo the United States declared on Cuba. The respective resolution is supported by more than 190 votes annually, with only the United States and one small island nation voting against it.

However, since this practice of unilateral restrictions began to be widely used (started by Barack Obama, expanded by Donald Trump, and applied to this day), a large group of countries voted in the UN to establish the position of Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights and their impact on the civilian population and the socioeconomic situation in a particular country. Special Rapporteur Alena Douhan is a citizen of Belarus. This institution, created by the UN General Assembly, is working and circulating reports. I think it is a very useful step.

Another specific course of action is now being developed in New York to the same end, as you mentioned, to counter illegal unilateral measures. It is a group in support of the UN Charter. Nothing revolutionary – just in response to our Western colleagues forming flagrantly non-universal groups.

US President Joe Biden has put forth the idea of ​​holding a Summit for Democracy. Naturally, the Americans will recruit the participants and will judge who is worthy to be called a democracy and who is not.

Also, in recent years, our French and German colleagues have being making calls to ensure freedom of the media through the Alliance for Multilateralism, a group they announced outside the framework of universal institutions. They rallied more than thirty states under its banners even though there is UNESCO, where the same topic is discussed by everyone.

Or, there was an appeal in support of international humanitarian law. Law is universal. It is the responsibility of the UN bodies. But again, they recruited about 50 states.

Such appeals have nothing to do with universal bodies, but they cover the agenda that is discussed at a universal level. They place that agenda into a framework where they are more comfortable negotiating with those who obey, and then they present it as the ultimate truth.

This movement against illegitimate unilateral actions is much broader than just sanctions.

Dmitry Kiselev: Can this movement be formalised by membership?

Sergey Lavrov: The membership is in the UN. This is the difference: we are not creating anything against anyone. In the Asia-Pacific region, we would like to leave everything as it is. ASEAN has its partners, while anyone else can join security discussions. The logic of the West acts against this. They are implementing the Indo-Pacific Strategy with its declared goal of containing China and isolating Russia.

The same is happening at the UN. They create various partnerships on topics that need to be discussed as part of the UN agenda. We insist that everyone must fulfil their obligations under the UN Charter, not scatter the global agenda across their compartments, only to present it later as the international community’s opinion.

Dmitry Kiselev: A recent update: the Americans confirmed they had made efforts to prevent Brazil from buying the Russian Sputnik V vaccine. Brazil indeed refused, even though the coronavirus situation in that country is simply awful. What is your assessment?

Sergey Lavrov: This does not surprise me. The Americans are not even embarrassed to do things like that; they are not hiding it.

When former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo travelled to Africa, he openly and publicly called on his colleagues at a press conference to cut off trade with Russia and China because these countries pursue selfish goals. Right, the United States trades with African states for the sole benefit of their peoples, of course.

As for the vaccine issue, a protest movement kicked off in Brazil against that decision. If the Americans have admitted they were behind it, that means they are true to their logic and believe everything is possible and permitted, and they can now openly dictate their will.

Not so long ago, French President Emmanuel Macron warned of a new type of world war, and that Russia and China were using vaccines as a weapon and means of propaganda. That rhetoric is now receding. Germany, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, is already seriously talking about the possibility of using the Russian vaccine.

We are not going to force anyone. I think life itself will set things straight. Vladimir Vysotsky said: “I always try to find the good in people. They will show the bad themselves.”

Dmitry Kiselev: A year ago, in an interview with our agency in the midst of the pandemic, you said you missed football. Are you back to sport yet?

Sergey Lavrov: In fact, I am. I did miss playing for a couple of weeks. We took a break and kept it low-key. But later, when we realised what precautions we could take, the games resumed. We play every Sunday.

So Who Wants a Hot War?

So Who Wants a Hot War?

April 17, 2021 

by Pepe Escobar and cross-posted with Strategic Culture Foundation

It’s not by accident that the Hegemon is going no holds barred to harass and try to smash Eurasian integration by all means available.

It’s a scorpion battle inside a vortex of distorted mirrors inside a circus. So let’s start with the mirrors in the circus.

The non-entity that passes for Ukrainian Foreign Minister traveled to Brussels to be courted by US Secretary of State Blinken and NATO secretary-general Stoltenberg.

At best, that’s circus shadowplay. Much more than NATO advisers in a frantic revolving door in Kiev, the real shadowplay is MI6 actually working very close with President Zelensky.

Zelensky’s warmongering script comes directly from MI6’s Richard Moore. Russian intel is very much aware of all the fine print. Glimpses were even carefully leaked to a TV special on the Rossiya 1 channel.

I confirmed it with diplomatic sources in Brussels. British media also got wind of it – but obviously was told to further distort the mirrors, blaming everything on, what else, “Russian aggression”.

German intel is practically non-existent in Kiev. Those NATO advisers remain legion. Yet no one talks about the explosive MI6 connection.

Careless whispers in Brussels corridors swear that MI6 actually believes that in the case of a volcanic but as it stands still preventable hot war with Russia, continental Europe would burn and Brexitland would be spared.

Dream on. Now back to the circus.

Oh, you’re so provocative

Both Little Blinken and NATO straw man Stoltenberg parroted the same script in Brussels after talking to the Ukrainian Foreign Minister.

That was part of a NATO “special meeting” on Ukraine – where some Eurocrat must have told a bunch of extra clueless Eurocrats how they would be carbonized on the spot by Russian TOS-1 Buratino’s terrifying explosive warheads if NATO tried anything funny.

Listen to the sound of Blinken yappin’: Russian actions are “provocative”.

Well, his staff certainly did not hand him a copy of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu examining step by step the deployment of the annual US Army DEFENDER-Europe 21: “The main forces are concentrated in the Black Sea and Baltic region.”

Now listen to the sound of Stoltenberg yappin’: We pledge “unwavering support” to Ukraine.

Woof woof. Now go back to play in your sandboxes.

No, not yet. Little Blinken threatened Moscow with “consequences” whatever happens in Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov’s infinite patience is nearly Daoist. Sun Tzu’s Art of War, by the way, is a Daoist masterpiece. Peskov’s answer to Blinken: “It is simply not necessary for us to go around forever proclaiming: ‘I am the greatest!’ The more one does this sort of thing, in fact, the more people doubt it…”

When in doubt, call the irreplaceable Andrei Martyanov – who always tells it like it is. The Crash Test Dummy gang in D.C. still does not get it – although some Deep State pros do.

Here’s Martyanov:

As I am on record constantly – the United States never fought a war with its Command and Control system under the relentless sustained fire impact and its rear attacked and disorganized. Conventionally, the United States cannot win against Russia in Europe, at least Eastern part of it and Biden Admin better wake up to the reality that it may, indeed, not survive any kind of escalation and, in fact, modern Kalibrs, 3M14Ms, as a matter of fact, have a range of a 4,500 kilometers, as well as 5,000+ kilometer range of X-101 cruise missiles, which will have no issues with penetrating North American airspace when launched by Russia’s strategic bombers without even leaving the safety of Russia’s airspace.

The Patrushev effect

The circus went on with the phone call from “Biden” – that is, Crash Test Dummy with an earpiece and a teleprompter in front of the phone – to President Putin.

Call it the Patrushev effect.

In his stunning interview to Kommersant, Triple Yoda Patrushev mentioned a very civilized late March phone call he had with US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan. Of course there’s no smokin’ gun, but if anyone would come up with the face-saving idea of a Biden-Putin phone call that would have been Sullivan.

The spin from Washington and Moscow is only slightly divergent. The Americans highlight that “Biden” – actually the deciding combo behind him – wants to build “a stable and predictable relationship with Russia, consistent with US interests.”

The Kremlin said that Biden “expressed interest in normalizing bilateral relations.”

Away from all this fog, what really matters is Patrushev-Sullivan. That has to do with Washington telling Turkey that US warships would be transiting the Bosphorus towards the Black Sea. Sullivan must have told Patrushev that no, they won’t be “active” in Donbass. And Patrushev told Sullivan, OK, we won’t incinerate them.

There are absolutely no illusions in Moscow that this putative Biden-Putin summit in a distant future will ever take place. Especially after Daoist Peskov had made it very clear that “no one will allow America to speak with Russia from a position of strength.” If that sounds like a line straight out of Yang Jiechi – who made shark fin’s soup out of Blinken-Sullivan in Alaska – that’s because it does.

Kiev, predictably, remains stuck in circus mode. After getting sharp messages from Mr. Iskander, Mr. Khinzal and Mr. Buratino, they changed their mind, or at least pretend to, and are now saying they don’t want war.

And here comes the intersection between circus and the serious stuff. The “Biden” combo never said, explicitly, on the record, that they don’t want war. On the contrary: they are sending those warships to the Black Sea and – circus again! – designating an envoy, Ministry of Silly Walks-style, whose only job is to derail the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

So the cliffhanger – like a teaser for Snowpiercer – is what happens when Nord Stream 2 is completed.

But before that, there’s something even more momentous: next Wednesday, on his speech to the Russian Security Council, President Putin will lay down the law.

It’s Minsk 2, stupid

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergei Ryabkov, has struck a much less Daoist note than Peskov: “The United States is our enemy, doing everything to undermine Russia’s position in the international arena, we do not see other elements in their approach to us. These are our conclusions”.

That’s stone to the bone realpolitik. Ryabkov knows the Hegemon’s “non agreement-capable” mindset inside out. So an added dimension to his observation is its direct connection to the only solution for Ukraine: the Minsk 2 agreements.

Putin reiterated Minsk 2 on his live teleconference with Merkel and Macron – and certainly to “Biden” in their phone call. The Beltway, the EU and NATO are all aware of it. Minsk 2 was signed by Ukraine, France and Germany and certified by the UN Security Council. If Kiev violates it, Russia – as a member of the UNSC – must enforce it.

Kiev has been violating Minsk 2 for months now; it refuses to implement it. As a faithful Hegemon satrapy, they are also not “agreement-capable”. Yet now they are seeing the – firepower – writing on the wall if they as much as think of starting a blitzkrieg against Donbass.

The open secret in the whole Ukraine/Donbass wilderness of mirrors under the circus tent is of course China. Yet Ukraine, in a sane world, would not only be part of a Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) corridor, but also part of the Russian Greater Eurasia project. China specialist Nikolai Vavilov recognizes the importance of BRI, but is also certain Russia is above all defending its own interests.

Ideally, Ukraine/Donbass would be inserted in the overall revival of the Silk Roads – as in internal Central Eurasian trade based and developed taking into consideration Eurasia-wide demand. Eurasia integration – in both the Chinese and Russian vision – are all about interconnected economies via inter-regional trade.

So it’s not by accident that the Hegemon – on the verge of becoming an irrelevant player across Eurasia – is going no holds barred to harass and try to smash the continental integration by all means available.

In this context, manipulating a failed state to meet its own doom is just (circus) business.

Analyzing Saudi Arabia’s Changing Attitude Towards Former Allies & Enemies

By Denis Korkodinov

Source

Analyzing Saudi Arabia

There is a huge possibility that the kingdom will nevertheless reconsider some of the directions of its foreign policy, given that the new US President Joe Biden and the head of the American State Department Antony Blinken began to exert tremendous pressure on Riyadh, demanding, in particular, to complete the war in Yemen.

A key feature of the development of the Middle East, from the mid-1970s to the present, is its direct dependence on the global hydrocarbon market. Nevertheless, based on the new geopolitical reality and the existing uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, MENA states are forced to significantly reduce their costs and abandon projects related to ensuring regional interests. Saudi Arabia, which for a long time positioned itself as the leading donor for the overwhelming majority of states, is also forced to experience economic difficulties. Such a picture can negatively affect the kingdom’s ability to ensure the realization of its own regional interests and forces it to reconsider its relations with former enemies and allies. First of all, this concerns Iran and Syria.

The main stumbling block between the countries is the draft political settlement of the Syrian crisis. Official power in Damascus, are loyal to the Iranian Ayatollah regime. Riyadh, especially since the beginning of the period of the so-called “Arab Spring”, has been pursuing the goal of reducing Tehran’s influence in the region, but it no longer regards Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as an ideological adversary. Differences in views with Iran are the main source of existing problems on the path to normalizing Syrian-Saudi relations. However, there is a huge possibility that the kingdom will nevertheless reconsider some of the directions of its foreign policy, given that the new US President Joe Biden and the head of the American State Department Antony Blinken began to exert tremendous pressure on Riyadh, demanding, in particular, to complete the war in Yemen. It is quite clear that such a requirement is deliberately impracticable, primarily for political reasons. Thus, the withdrawal of Saudi troops from Yemen may cause another escalation of the conflict, which, in principle, is already clearly visible in the situation in the province of Marib. Of course, this development of events does not meet the interests of the Saudi monarchy, which is especially sensitive to attacks carried out by the Ansar Allah movement both inside and outside Yemen. It should also be noted that the withdrawal from Yemen risks undermining the position of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. In addition, Washington is seeking to re-establish a nuclear deal with Iran, thereby placing the kingdom at a real threat. In such conditions, Riyadh needs to urgently transform its foreign policy, including towards Syria.

On March 1, 2021, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov became the first “extra-regional” high-ranking diplomat to make an official visit to Riyadh and meet in person with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after the United States announced a series of anti-Saudi sanctions. Moscow is highly counting on the kingdom’s assistance in recognizing the new Libyan government and resolving the Syrian crisis. According to Russia, this would serve as an international guarantee that the region can soon return to a peaceful life and forget about the time of the protracted Arab Spring. In turn, Riyadh is interested in using Moscow as a mediator in negotiations with Damascus. In addition, the kingdom pursues the goal of determining the direction of its further path in the international arena and finding a “spare ally” in the person of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Initially taking an irreconcilable position in relation to official Damascus, Saudi Arabia is gradually beginning to change its mind and is ready for a dialogue with Bashar al-Assad, including within the framework of the League of Arab States, from which Syria was excluded in 2011. Now Riyadh is considering the possibility of resuming Damascus’s membership in the “Arab family”, but the timeframe for the implementation of this plan is still unclear. So, according to a former employee of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kuwait, retired Colonel Abdullah Mohsen Lafi al-Shammari, this may not happen before the presidential elections in Syria to be held in December 2021. In addition, the question of whether Damascus will want to return to the Arab League raises great doubts. In any case, now Russia and Iran are almost completely compensating Syria for all the costs that could be borne by the member countries of the international Arab organization.

One can, of course, consider that the starting point of such a sharp turn in Saudi diplomacy is the “destructive” policy of US President Joe Biden, who, having attacked Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with harsh criticism, called this approach a “recalibration.” However, a former member of the General Staff of the Saudi Arabian Armed Forces, Major General Mohammad al-Harbi, said there is an understanding in the Saudi court that the American “condemnation strategy” is part of a larger geopolitical game. Kuwaiti expert Abdul Mohsen al-Shammari is of the same opinion. At least no one in Riyadh views the murder of Jamal Khashoggi as a serious reason for breaking off relations with Washington. Based on the principle of “real politics,” the Saudi court will not revise the format of cooperation with the White House in the next 30-50 years, even if force majeure circumstances arise in the form of a global conflict.

By putting pressure on Mohammad bin Salman, Washington, apparently, hopes for his categoricality, primarily in issues related to Iran and Russia. Joe Biden dislikes that Riyadh has questioned the US plan to reopen the nuclear deal with Tehran. In addition, the royal family’s interest in developing a constructive dialogue with Moscow also raises concerns in the White House administration. At the same time, Washington’s anti-Saudi rhetoric can be viewed as a kind of manifestation of jealousy.

Recently, US President Joe Biden sanctioned strikes against Iranian targets in Syria. This was a kind of signal for Saudi Arabia, which the US administration thus asked to join its military campaign. And, apparently, in Riyadh they are in no hurry to welcome this “invitation”, preferring to renew good relations with Damascus, but at the same time not to offend Washington. This opinion was confirmed by the Saudi expert Mohammed al-Harbi and his Kuwaiti counterpart Abdul Mohsen al-Shammari.

It is also worth noting that Russia and Saudi Arabia are trying to put pressure on the United States to ease sanctions on Syria in accordance with the “Caesar’s Law.” Our countries agree that Caesar’s Law is generally toxic to regional security and stability. In particular, due to the worsening humanitarian crisis in Syria, the parties to the conflict may attempt another escalation and shift the field of armed struggle to other states. Recent negotiations between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, touched upon, among other things, this problem.

Saudi Arabia is ready to reconsider its relations not only with Syria, but also with Turkey, the political tension with which has become especially aggravated after the events of October 2018. Ankara and Riyadh actually took diametrically opposed positions in the international arena. In just two years, more than 20 Turkish schools have been closed in Mecca and Medina, and imports of Turkish goods into the kingdom in December 2020 reached an all-time low of $13.5 million, about 9 percent of imports in the same period in 2019. However, the situation began to change. Paradoxically, the reason for this was the results of the Second Karabakh war between Armenia and Azerbaijan. At least Riyadh positively assessed the use of Turkish drones during the conflict as a tool for enforcing peace and in March 2021 expressed its intention to purchase 8 Bayraktar TB2 complexes from Ankara, which was officially confirmed by Turkish President Recep Erdogan.

Saudi expert Mohammad al-Harbi, speaking about the transformation of foreign policy approaches in the Middle East, noted that Riyadh is ready to forget about grievances and start building friendly relations with many regional and non-regional players. According to the Saudi general, under the influence of the global economic crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic, the kingdom’s foreign policy has undergone dramatic changes. Ideological differences with many states are a thing of the past. There is a huge need for the development of a regional anti-crisis communication system. As a first step on this path, Riyadh is pursuing the goal of normalizing relations with Syria, as well as trying to neutralize the “sharp corners” in the dialogue with Turkey with the obligatory mediation of Russia.

The increased Saudi interest in the peace process in Syria certainly plays a defining role in bilateral contacts. Riyadh intends to contribute to the achievement of peace in the Syrian Arab Republic and agrees to a leading position in the country of Bashar al-Assad. Nevertheless, according to Muhammad al-Harbi, the process of revising the Saudi policy towards official Damascus is still at a starting level, and therefore, it is not yet clear what such a policy can lead to. Nevertheless, Riyadh intends to clearly and consistently implement the Syrian-Saudi “warming” project. It is noteworthy that the regime of Bashar al-Assad quite adequately responds to the good aspirations of the kingdom. At the very least, Damascus is showing international sympathy for the Saudis to become guarantors of security in the MENA region, while maintaining Moscow’s mediating role. However, now the main obstacle is the pro-Iranian and pro-Turkish armed formations that have occupied a significant part of Syrian territory. These “unwanted forces” act as a trigger in regional politics and significantly complicate the implementation of the peacekeeping project under the auspices of Saudi Arabia.

It is possible that following the visit of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to Riyadh, direct talks may be organized between the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad already directly in Moscow. In any case, the Saudi court feels a great need for such a negotiation process to take place. The Russian Kremlin, apparently, is working out the details of this plan, hoping, thereby, to strengthen its own positions in the region. After all, if Bashar al-Assad and Mohammed bin Salman really meet directly and can shake hands, then this will generate a global resonance, and this act in terms of its geopolitical impact can be comparable to the conclusion of the Versailles Peace Treaty. At the very least, Riyadh and Damascus, through the resumption of bilateral relations, will be able to end the protracted armed conflict that has led to the deaths of more than 2 million ordinary Syrians.

لماذا لا تملك واشنطن خياراً غير العودة للاتفاق النوويّ؟ Why does Washington have no choice but to return to the nuclear deal?

**English Machine translation Please scroll down for the Arabic original version **

مفاوضات فيينا تنتهي بنجاح.. واتفاق على استكمال المباحثات

لماذا لا تملك واشنطن خياراً غير العودة للاتفاق النوويّ؟

ناصر قنديل

يتزامن في 22 أيار المقبل الموعد المعلن من إيران للانتقال الى مرحلة تخصيب لليورانيوم على درجة 40%، مع مرور ثلاثة شهور على دخول الرئيس الأميركي جو بايدن الى البيت الأبيض، والزمن القياسي بالنسبة لمهمة بحجم الملف النووي الإيراني، من موقع إدارة أميركية تدخل للتوّ الى موقع القرار وتمسك بعشرات الملفات الدولية والداخلية الضاغطة والملحّة، وهذا يعني أن انعقاد اجتماع فيينا الذي يجري تحت عنوان وضع خريطة طريق لعودة واشنطن وطهران الى التزاماتهما بموجب الاتفاق النووي، تعبير عن سرعة استثنائية بمفهوم العلاقات الدولية، مع التزام مبدئي من الطرفين الأميركي والإيراني بالاستعداد للعودة الى التزاماتهما، وخلافهما حول كيفية هذه العودة، كما قال المبعوث الأميركي الخاص للملف النووي، روبرت مالي، مع اعترافه بأن مناقشة القضايا الخلافية من خارج الاتفاق كقضية الصواريخ البالستية الإيرانية والنزاعات الإقليمية، يجب أن تنتظر لما بعد العودة الى الاتفاق الأصلي. وهذا الاعتراف الأميركي يزيل أول عقبة من طريق العودة للاتفاق.

الواضح أن النقاش الدائر في فيينا لا يتصل بمبدأ العودة الأميركية عن العقوبات، ولا بمبدأ العودة الإيرانية عن تخفيض الالتزامات بموجبات الاتفاق، فمن الزاوية القانونية المبدئية يشكل الاتفاق مقايضة بين التزامين، أميركي برفع العقوبات، وإيراني بقبول ضوابط للملف النووي، ونحن اليوم أمام إعلان متبادل لترجمة هذا الاستعداد، تراجعت لأجله واشنطن عن دعوات سابقة للرئيس بايدن وفريقه تشترط للعودة إلى الاتفاق ورفع العقوبات باتفاق آخر، يضمن مزيداً من الضوابط التقنية، ويمتد لزمن أطول، ويطال تفاهمات أشمل نحو ملف الصواريخ البالستية الإيرانية وملفات النزاع الإقليمي، وهذا أكبر تحول يفتح الباب للعودة إلى الاتفاق النووي، لأن ما تبقى يقوم على قاعدة سياسية تتصل برغبة وقدرة الفريقين الأميركي والإيراني بتسهيل المهمة على الشريك الآخر في الاتفاق. فواشنطن تطلب من طهران، كما قال مالي، مساعدتها على تسويق العودة للاتفاق أمام الداخل الأميركي، بينما تتمسك طهران بمعادلة قانونيّة قوامها، أن طهران خفضت التزاماتها رداً على الانسحاب الأميركي من الاتفاق، ولم تنسحب من الاتفاق، بل أبقت بنداً من بنوده يجيز هذا التخفيض مقابل إخلال الأطراف الأخرى بموجباتها، ولذلك تتشدد طهران باعتبار العودة الأميركية إلى الاتفاق، وترجمتها بإلغاء كل العقوبات التي صدرت بناء على الانسحاب الأميركي، لتتم مطالبة إيران من قلب الاتفاق ووفقاً لبنوده بالعودة الى موجباتها.

في فيينا تشكلت لجان من المشاركين الدوليين مع كل من الفريقين الأميركي والإيراني نسختان من لجنتين، واحدة للالتزامات الإيرانية وواحدة للالتزامات الأميركية، لإنتاج تصوّر تفاوضيّ مع الوفد الإيراني في ملفي العودة للالتزامات والتراجع عن العقوبات، ومثله تصور تفاوضي مع الوفد الأميركي المقيم خارج قاعة الاجتماعات لملفي العودة عن العقوبات والعودة للالتزامات، والبدء بمحاولة تقريب التصورين سعياً لمنطقة وسط، والمقصود بالمنطقة الوسط هو تحديداً، ما هو حجم العقوبات الذي يمكن التفاهم مع واشنطن على رفعها قبل العودة الإيرانية إلى التزاماتها، مقابل ضمانة المشاركين الدوليين بأن إيران ستعود، وتقبله إيران للبدء بالخطوة الأولى في العودة إلى التزاماتها، وما هي المدة التي تطلبها واشنطن وتقبلها إيران لاستكمال إنهاء العقوبات، قبل أن تُقدم إيران على الخطوة الأخيرة في العودة إلى التزاماتها.

الطريق الذي فتح في فيينا محكوم أميركياً باللاعودة، وباب النهاية الوحيد له هو العودة إلى الاتفاق بأقل المخاطر والخسائر الممكنة، وفقاً لمعادلة قالها كل من وزير الخارجية الأميركية توني بلينكن ومستشار الأمن القومي جايك سوليفان، ومضمونها السباق مع الزمن للعودة إلى الاتفاق قبل أن تمتلك إيران المقدرات اللازمة لإنتاج أول سلاح نوويّ، طالما هي خارج الاتفاق، والموعد الأميركيّ المرتقب لذلك هو نهاية شهر أيار.

فيديوات متعلقة


Why does Washington have no choice but to return to the nuclear deal?

Nasser Kandil

– Next May 22 coincides with the announced date of Iran to move to a stage of uranium enrichment at a level of 40%, with the passage of three months after the entry of US President Joe Biden to the White House, to hold dozens of international and internal files that are pressing and urgent, and this means that the Vienna meeting that is taking place under The title of laying out a road map for the return of Washington and Tehran to their obligations under the nuclear agreement is an expression of exceptional speed in the international relations, with an initial commitment on the American and Iranian parties to prepare for a return to their commitments, and their disagreement over how to do this return, as said by the US special envoy for the nuclear file, Robert Malley, admitting that outside the agreement such as Iran’s ballistic missile issue and regional conflicts, discussing issues outside the agreement, such as the Iranian ballistic missile issue and regional disputes, must wait until after the return to the original agreement. This American admission removes the first obstacle to returning to the agreement.

– It is clear that the debate in Vienna is not related to the principle of U.S. return from sanctions, nor to the principle of Iran’s return from reducing obligations under the agreement, from the initial legal point of view the agreement constitutes a trade-off between two commitments, the U.S. lifting of sanctions, and Iran accepting controls on the nuclear file, and today we are facing a mutual declaration to translate this readiness, for which Washington has retracted earlier calls for President  Biden and his team to return to the agreement and the lifting of sanctions with another agreement, guaranteeing more technical controls, extending longer, and extending broader understandings toward the Iranian ballistic missile file and regional conflict files, the biggest shift opens the door to a return to the nuclear agreement, because what remains is based on a political base related to the desire and ability of the U.S. and Iranian teams to facilitate the task over the other partner in the agreement. Washington is asking Tehran, Mali said, to help it market the return to the agreement in front of the U.S. interior, while Tehran adheres to a legal equation, that Tehran has reduced its obligations in response to the U.S. withdrawal from the agreement, and has not withdrawn from the agreement, but has kept one of its provisions authorizing this reduction in exchange for other parties violating its terms.  Tehran therefore tightens its consideration of the U.S. return to the agreement, translated into the abolition of all sanctions issued based on the U.S. withdrawal, so that Iran is asked to reverse the agreement and in accordance with its terms to return to its obligations.

– In Vienna, committees of international participants were formed with both the U.S. and Iranian teams, two versions of two committees, one for Iranian commitments and one for U.S. commitments, to produce a negotiated vision with the Iranian delegation in the return of commitments and the lifting of sanctions, as well as a negotiated vision with the U.S. delegation residing outside the meeting room to lift sanctions and return to commitments, and to begin trying to bring the two scenarios closer together in an effort to find a settlement. What is meant by the settlement is specifically, what is the size of the sanctions that can be agreed upon with Washington to lift them before Iran returns to its commitments, in exchange for the international participants ’guarantee that Iran will return, and Iran accepts it to start the first step in returning to its commitments, and what is the period that Washington demands and Iran accepts to complete End the sanctions, before Iran takes the final step in returning to its commitments

– The road opened in Vienna is doomed to  return, and the only end door to it is to return to the agreement with the least possible risks and losses, according to an equation said by U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken and National Security Adviser  Jake Sullivan, and its content is the race against time to return to the agreement before Iran has the capabilities to produce the first nuclear weapon, as long as it is outside the agreement, and the expected U.S. date is the end of May.

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

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

4/4/2021

By William Boardman – Towards Freedom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Famine has arrived in pockets of Yemen.

Saudi ships blocking fuel aren’t helping.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GERMANY’S POLITICAL CRISIS AND THE FUTURE OF NORD STREAM 2

South Front

April 03, 2021

Germany’s Political Crisis and the Future of Nord Stream 2

To make matters worse, at the EU summit Blinken pointed out that his threats aimed at Nord Stream 2 are a reflection of US Congress laws demanding any and all firms participating in its construction to be sanctioned, though omitting that the Executive Branch has considerable freedom of action in implementing legislation impinging on the presidential foreign policy prerogatives.

It does not appear as if Blinken’s “shock and awe” show on three continents has had the desired results. Germany’s Foreign Ministry pointedly refused to endorse Biden’s characterization of Vladimir Putin as a “killer”, in contrast to several other European countries traditionally adhering to an anti-Russia stance. Moreover, there is no evidence that German companies are about to drop their work on Nord Stream 2. Doing so would be a fatal blow to Germany’s position as the leading EU member state and would introduce a greater degree of chaos into EU power struggles. Factors putting a certain degree of steel into Germany’s spine is the apparent realization that, emboldened by the effectiveness of a mere threat of sanctions against Germany, the US State Department will grow accustomed to using that instrument on a routine basis with Germany and other members of the EU. United States’ apparent desire to denigrate Germany’s international status seems to have led to a few other snubs, such as the failure to invite it to a high-level meeting on Afghanistan that Russia, China, and even Turkey will attend.

Germany’s Green Hell

If the United States has an ace in a hole that might yet reverse the decline of its fortunes, it is the gradual ascendancy of Germany’s Green Party. German and indeed international public opinion have come a long way from the heady days of Spring 2020, when Angela Merkel was roundly hailed as the “scientist” whose combination of empirical astuteness and political savvy would bring COVID-19 to heel, in stark contrast to the ignorant fools that Boris Johnson and Donald Trump were supposed to be. Back in May or June 2020, it certainly did not appear as if anything could threaten Merkel’s political fortunes. Yet it is Merkel who is now facing calls for a Bundestag vote of confidence. The botched pandemic response, the puzzling back-and-forth of lockdowns, relaxations, then new lockdowns, and a number of corruption scandals associated with pandemic response contracts that implicated a number of CDU/CSU deputies, have undermined the public’s confidence in the ruling party and its leadership. It certainly did not help matters that the EU official most closely associated with the botched vaccine procurement at the Union level is the President of the European Commission Ursula van der Leyen who previously occupied several ministerial posts, including that of Defense, in the various Merkel governments.

It is therefore unsurprising that Germany is potentially facing a major electoral upheaval that threatens to significantly rearrange the country’s political landscape. As of March 27, 2021, a Kantar opinion poll attempting to ascertain the level of support each of Germany’s parties might enjoy during this year’s Bundestag elections showed CDU/CSU still in the lead with potentially 25% of the vote, with the Greens in close second at 23%. The other political parties posted notably weaker figures. The once-dominant SPD scored only 17%, Alternative for Germany (AfD) and FDP 10% apiece, Die Linke 9%, with 6% distributed among the remaining parties. Other German opinion polls delivered roughly similar results, varying only by a couple percentage points.

Its rise is driven by several factors, including the exhaustion with the ruling CDU/CSU coalition, the SPD suffering from the abandonment of its leftist principles in favor of Blair/Clinton-like “third way” neoliberal policies, Die Linke still lingering under a cloud of suspicion due to its German Democratic Republic ancestry, and of course the Alternative for Germany attracting unwanted attention from Germany’s own “Deep State” which, like its US and British counterparts, is playing an increasingly active role in the country’s politics.

Gruen Nach Osten

That the Greens’ coming to power is bound to result in Germany becoming more militaristic and interventionist on the world stage is also suggested by the curious case of Tareq Alaows, a Syrian man born in Damascus who came to Germany in 2015 and, only six years later, was declared a Bundestag candidate from the Green Party already as a German citizen. Given that the rest of the 1.5 million refugees who arrived in Germany at roughly the same time are still not German citizens and are likely never to become them, Alaows’ rapid elevation suggest that the Greens have friends within Germany’s “deep state”, and are interested in following US and British lead in “weaponizing” social issues such as gender rights, environmentalism, and other issues in order to justify aggression against countries deemed insufficiently dedicated to what the West claims to be “universal values”. They would not be Europe’s first “Green” party to go neo-conservative. Sweden’s Greens have likewise inducted many Islamists into their ranks in order to press for greater foreign interventionism. Moreover, since Germany’s Green Party is a relatively recent invention and is therefore not associated with Germany’s earlier military aggressions (and here one should note that even the SPD was staunchly supportive of Germany’s aggression in World War I, and likely would have been in World War II had it not been banned by the Nazis),  they are the most logical front for Germany’s neo-cons. One can readily imagine empowered Greens declaring Germany has a sacred mission to rid the world of coal, oil, and natural gas as sources of energy which naturally means a confrontation with China and Russia in order to install governments in those countries that naturally share the Greens’ priorities and incidentally also enact policies highly favorable to German business interests. While the Green Party began its existence as a radical party of the Left, by the end of the Cold War it began to reinvent itself along neo-conservative lines. Its support for NATO’s wars against Yugoslavia and other military adventures, its peculiar interest in Aleksey Navalny who is not exactly known as an environmentalist, combined with strident opposition to Nord Stream 2, collectively make it very attractive to the Bidens and Blinkens of the world interested in making Germany a US client state. What remains to be seen is whether German and US “deep states” are capable of smoothing the Greens’ path into power, and whether the German people will accept the Green regime that is being prepared for them.

MORE ON THE TOPIC:

Sitrep China : Xinjiang backlash market shock

March 30, 2021

Sitrep China : Xinjiang backlash market shock

Selections from Godfree Roberts’ extensive weekly newsletter : Here Comes China, plus editorial notes. You can get it here: https://www.herecomeschina.com/#subscribe


The last two weeks we’ve watched in awe the Chinese telling the US in Alaska that a more assertive China now is a reality as the empire has left it no choice.  Of course the Alaska meeting was spiked with sanctions poison minutes before the meetings started, to present a strongman ‘advantage’ (or so they thought) to empire.   This backfired spectacularly and lasted but 15 minutes of a blistering response by China, so perfectly translated by the Chinese translator that she immediately became a new sensation in the eyes of the Chinese people.   The Chinese response is continuing and the stance is now permanent.  I think it is fair to say that China will take no more empire so-called ‘rules-based’ international order.

We saw Mr.Biden calling President Putin a “killer with no soul”.  We saw Russia moving away from empire, in action and in (less than diplomatic) words, with Foreign Minister Lavrov completing a triumphant visit to China directly after the Alaska meeting, and in press conferences making it clear that the petrodollar is now oh so last century news.  New economic and financial mechanisms will put it in its place and we already see this.  Take a look:

China signed a currency swap agreement with Sri Lanka before $3.7 billion of its foreign debt matures this year. Sri Lanka is entitled to a $1.5 billion swap facility from the PBOC, valid for three years. More than 22% of the nation’s foreign purchases were from China last year. Read full article →.

And then these wild two weeks ended with China and Iran signing a 25-year comprehensive strategic partnership, of course, not using any last century petrodollars.

The US fought back fiercely, with nothing else but rumors and the rest of the west sanctioned everything that they could possibly think of.  The rumors and propaganda are about Xinjiang and included the bathwater and the baby, cold war style, threatening hot war style and seemingly quite out of step with developments in the rest of the world.  We will look at the market fall-out in some detail.

But why now? Why did both Russia and China stand up and declare that they are here to stay, while we were used to a more muted approach from both?

James W. Carden and Patrick Lawrence considers that it is a deep disappointment with discovering the “retrograde character of the Biden administration’s foreign policies”  “We thought too well of the United States” Mr Yang, Foreign Minister of China said.  They had hopes for Biden, in other words. Given his fading competence, we ought to add, we think these policies will be shaped and directed in large measure by Blinken and Sullivan, with an adjunct role for Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. This will prove another competence problem.

https://thescrum.substack.com/p/our-cold-two-front-war

What has not had much media coverage, is foreign minister Wang Yi’s tour to the Middle East after the Iran agreement announcement.   He visited Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Oman, all Belt and Road member countries.   To cap off these two weeks of telling empire to become productive, take their rightful place in the world if they can, stop playing warmonger and policeman and economic hitman, the take-away statement from this tour is that Wang repeatedly said global powers should butt out of making the Middle East their arena for big-power rivalry.

(Imagine empire confusion while the penny drops that their empire is over.  Anyone hearing someone playing the fiddle or more accurately the lute?)


A short video from Professor Bill Brown at Xiamen University in southeast China’s Fujian province about the changes in China after spending 33 years there.

The empire struck back with an all-out attack against the province of Xinjiang.  The Xinjiang cotton industry was attacked with baseless rumors and propaganda about the Uyghur people and the propaganda and sanctions machines went into overdrive and we saw sanctions everywhere, mainly against anyone buying cotton from the region.  It is quite ludicrous to pretend to care for the Uyghurs if your sanctions are designed to deprive them of their major industry and their income, which is from cotton.  As fast as the western sanctions were announced, they were responded to with reciprocal sanctions.  Mr.Lavrov already mentioned that there will be a concerted effort throughout the world to do away with unilateral sanctions, so, it is almost as if they do not matter, as no country in the world can or should spare the resources to manage all the sanctions.

But China is striking back hard.  In addition, the cotton manufacturers out of Xinjiang are bringing legal action against Adrian Zenz, who stitched together the rumors of forced labor, labor camps, forced sterilization, and many others.  If you do not want to watch this video, just take a scroll through the comments though.

The Chinese people got angry and a major market kerfuffle commenced and is still ongoing.  For Australia with their thoughtless comments against China, their trade (excluding iron ore) has dropped by 40%.

H&M’s agony, Nike’s fear, the market strikes back. H&M craters after saying it would not source cotton from Xinjiang. All e-commerce platforms removed it from their websites. Searches for ‘H&M’ and ‘HM’ yielded no results, celebrities cut ties, and 200 million Weibo users boycotted H&M’s 450 stores. Nike and Adidas are under attack for using the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), which stopped licensing farms in Xinjiang. https://www.scmp.com/news/china/politics/article/3126828/hm-under-fire-china-over-refusal-buy-xinjiang-cotton

A-list Uyghur stars Dilraba Dilmurat (Dílì Rèbā), an actress with a huge Han fan base, and Liú Yìfēi, who starred in Mulanended their business relationships with Adidas. Nike, Calvin Klein, and Converse have lost their Chinese brand ambassadors. https://supchina.com/2021/03/24/hm-faces-boycott-in-china-over-year-old-xinjiang-cotton-ban/

Japanese fashion retailer Muji, with 17% of its total sales from China, said its stores in China will continue carrying products made with Xinjiang cotton. The company has conducted due diligence on all companies in Xinjiang involved in its supply chain. https://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Retail/Muji-features-Xinjiang-cotton-as-Chinese-netizens-lash-its-rivals

“H&M, Nike, and others are now suffering heavy losses to their reputations in the Chinese market. Enormous investment in public relations has been destroyed instantly. They need to complain to Western society, because they know that, whether they are active or passive, they have indeed done something intolerable to Chinese consumers”. – Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the Global Times.  https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202103/1219413.shtml

Why this focus on the Chinese province Xinjian?  Is it really caring deeply about the Uyghurs?  Of course not.  This is not how empire conducts its business.

“The investments and the infrastructure development under the BRI will bring an explosion of growth in Xinjiang. It will not just become a wealthy region, it will become ‘Dubai wealthy,’ said engineer Robert Vannrox, “the West does not want this. The more Chinese investment pours into Xinjiang, the louder the anti-China propaganda becomes.”


Cover Image: Chinese archaeologists announced Saturday that some new major discoveries have been made at the legendary Sanxingdui Ruins site in southwest China, helping shed light on the unified, diverse origin of the Chinese civilization.  https://www.shine.cn/news/nation/2103206280/

This is but a fraction of what I gleaned from the Here Comes China newsletter.  If you want to learn about the Chinese world, get Godfree’s newsletter here: https://www.herecomeschina.com/#subscribe

Amarynth

Whose interests are really being served with US anti-China alliance?

By Jim W. Dean, Managing Editor -March 28, 2021

NEO – Building an anti-China Alliance is the Last US Bid for Political Survival in Asia & the Pacific

by Salman Rafi Sheikh, …with New Eastern Outlook, …and the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, a research institution for the study of the countries and cultures of Asia and North Africa.

[ Editor’s Note: Is this Biden reinventing Trump’s unipolar power dominance via a two step Biden unipolar power move in Asia with allies in tow, so they are available for cannon fodder use when deemed necessary to keep US trade fluctuations down?

What is important in this Biden plan story is to take a broad overview. By pulling allies into a coalition, he is positioning them for bullet magnets in case of hostilities. So one has to ask, why would they want this exposure when they can just be trade friendly countries with China and sit on the sidelines during a war?

China has no real invasion capability at this point, and has been spending its military money on a defensive navy as protection against the massive US navy firepower. It is also building a strong retaliatory defense as a first strike deterrent. If you want to talk about a threat, that is an undeniable one.

Within this context, to call China’s Navy expansion a threat is just hoaxing the American people to support an aggressive policy by the US to move into a first strike decapitation capability to threaten China.

As for why our own government would want to create a Neo Cold war against someone, the answer is the usual one. The uber wealth interests, who have their hooks deep inside our government, can see themselves making a shit load of military funding money ‘confronting China’, and also Russia, if the peacetime economy is looking dim for them.

NATO is doing a similar move pushing up to the Russian border via Ukraine. Then we have the US wanting the EU to be more dependent on US energy, not for their own security, but so we can have that advantage over them in a time of need.

And, there is the not discussed item that for Biden’s much hyped infrastructure spending to create high paying jobs here, US products based on such will be much less marketable overseas.

Biden needs a cover to always have sanctions put on China so Americans can’t buy Chinese, even if it is better, because sanctions run up the costs.

Economists have always warned that such contrived market moves fail in the long run.

But for countries with a huge military and unlimited borrowing power, which the super rich love, a slow peacetime trade market can always be replaced by a profitable war time market in a jiffy. Think false flag. You just have to press the right buttons… Jim W. Dean ]

First published … March 25, 2021

While the recently held QUAD summit-meeting did not mention China directly, there is little gainsaying that the basic thrust of the group is against China.

Although there are internal disagreements on whether to tackle China through military means or otherwise, or whether to keep this grouping strictly anti-China or not, the Biden administration has no doubts.

For them, the QUAD is a ‘Asia Pivot 2.0.’ and that the very survival of the US in Asia & the Pacific depends on selling a ‘China threat’ and subsequently placing itself as the primary bulwark against it; hence, the hurriedly done arrangements to hold QUAD’s first ever summit level meeting.

In other words, at the heart of Biden’s “China Strategy” is the imperative of rebuilding ties with allies in Asia & the Pacific, especially those frustrated by Trump’s policies, and then assembling a grand anti-China coalition.

Therefore, while the QUAD summit did not mention China as the rival, the so-called “The Spirit of the QUAD” is more than categorically specific about establishing a US led regime of rules governing Asia & the Pacific.

“The spirit” is about making the QUAD “strive for a region that is free, open, inclusive, healthy, anchored by democratic values, and unconstrained by coercion.” As such, while the summit did not mention China, it still addressed China directly. Indeed, this was more about making China “hear.”

The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently told a US Congress House Foreign Affairs Committee that

“the more China hears not just our opprobrium, but a course of opprobrium from around the world the better the chance that we’ll get some changes. We have a number of steps we have taken, or can take, going forward to include for those directly responsible for acts of genocide, gross human rights violations – sanctions, visa restrictions, etc.”

Again, while the QUAD summit was not overtly anti-China, the Biden administration’s follow up visits to Asia & the Pacific are very much focused on building and cementing anti-China alliance.

For instance, the US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Saturday March 13 that he was traveling to Asia to boost military cooperation with American allies and foster “credible deterrence” against China, adding that “China is our pacing threat” and that “Our goal is to make sure that we have the capabilities and the operational plans and concepts to be able to offer credible deterrence to China or anybody else who would want to take on the US”

Criticising the Trump administration’s ambivalent policies that concerned themselves with ‘trade war’ and ‘deal making’, Austin said while the US competitive edge has eroded, “We still maintain the edge and we’re going to increase the edge going forward.”

The key to increasing the edge is through alliances. It is the alliances that, as Austin emphasised, “give us a lot more capability and so one of the big things the Secretary of State and I want to do, is begin to strengthen those alliances — great alliances, great partnerships to begin with.” This will be the key to furthering US interests in Asia & the Pacific against China.

Accordingly, Austin’s visits to Japan and South Korea are most likely to focus on repairing the damaged done to their ties by the Trump administration.

While Japanese officials are sure to seek assurances from Austin that the US military would come to Japan’s aid in the event of a conflict with China over the Senkaku Islands, his time in Seoul is expected to be consumed with the question of whether to resume regular large-scale military exercises with South Korea, which Trump had abruptly cancelled. 

Already, the two countries have reached a cost-sharing agreement for stationing American troops in South Korea, a presence that Trump had also threatened to end.

Austin’s full-scale visit to Asia & the Pacific also includes India, another QUAD member and a country at its lowest point in relations with China in decades after deadly clashes last year. Austin’s visit, therefore, will be particularly focused on utilizing the existing tensions between India & China to the US’ advantage.

The US, as it stands, cannot let these opportunities un-utilized; for, such opportunities allow them [the US ] to inject themselves in conflict zones in ways that, instead of de-escalating tensions, serve US interests first and foremost. If the US needs India as an ally against China, it needs to convince the Modi regime that India’s survival against China demands partnership with the US.

Again, the fact that the Trump administration stood virtually aloof in the last year India-China border skirmishes did a great deal of damage to India’s belief about the extent to which it could rely on the US. Austin’s mission will be, first and foremost, focused on rebuilding India’s belief and assuring the Indian government of the inevitability of the US support for their survival against China.

There is little gainsaying that the core focus of the Biden administration’s foreign policy is China. This is evident not only from the first ever summit level meeting of the QUAD, but also from Lloyd Austin’s first ever overseas mission as the Pentagon Chief.

What it shows is that the Biden administration, which is still less than two months into the presidency, is in no hurry to change of the course of tense relations with Chain set by the Trump administration.

In fact, the Biden administration is not only building on the same tensions, but is also utilizing its relatively more “responsible”, more “democratic” and more “stable and predictable” outlook as compared to the previous administration to woo their somewhat estranged allies into a sort of “global coalition” that Mike Pompeo had sought, and failed, to build and lead.

Salman Rafi Sheikh, research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

BIOGRAPHY

Jim W. Dean, Managing Editor

Managing Editor

Jim W. Dean is Managing Editor of Veterans Today involved in operations, development, and writing, plus an active schedule of TV and radio interviews. 

Read Full Complete Bio >>>

Jim W. Dean Archives 2009-2014https://www.veteranstoday.com/jim-w-dean-biography/jimwdean@aol.com

Washington’s Obsession with China Expands

March 25, 2021 (Brian Berletic – NEO) – Mid-March saw a series of events helping to measure with exactitude US foreign policy regarding China – a commitment to and a doubling down on a decades-long encirclement and containment policy that has – so far – failed to return on Washington’s immense investments in it. 

The first indicator was the new US administration of President Joe Biden continuing without even the slightest deviation Trump-era policy regarding the targeting and banning of Chinese companies. 

German state media – Deutsche Welle – in an article titled, “US designates Huawei, four other Chinese tech firms national security threats,” would note: 

The US has labeled five Chinese tech companies, including Huawei, as national security risks. President Joe Biden may be continuing his predcessor’s hardline stance against China’s growing technological dominance.

Evidence justifying US claims of Chinese companies presenting a national security risk to the US has never been produced – and it is clear that these claims are meant to justify what is otherwise merely America’s inability to compete with rising Chinese companies. Because, in addition to banning Chinese companies from doing business in the US – the US has sought to pressure nations around the globe to similarly deny market access to China. 

This is an ongoing bid to secure US market shares through threats and intimation rather than through innovation and competitive business strategies.  

Why two apparently “opposite” political candidates like Trump and Biden have indistinguishable foreign policies is easy to explain when considering these policies are generated and promoted by unelected corporate interests who influence US foreign policy regardless of who sits in either the White House or Congress. These are the very interests who see their market shares and the associated power and influence that comes from them under threat by rising Chinese competitors. Another indicator was US Secretary of State Anthony Bliken and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s “tour” of the Indo-Pacific, including stops in South Korea and Japan. 

Foreign Policy magazine in an article titled, “Blinken and Austin in Japan to Bolster Asian Allies,” would claim: 

The Biden administration wants to prod Japan more on defense and resolve tensions between Tokyo and Seoul.

The article would cite an op-ed by Blinken and Austin in the Washington Post claiming: 

“Our combined power makes us stronger when we must push back against China’s aggression and threats,” Blinken and Austin wrote in a joint Washington Post op-ed, citing human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Tibet, and China’s pushback on freedoms in Taiwan and Hong Kong. “If we don’t act decisively and lead, Beijing will.”

The deeply flawed notion that the US should “lead” in Asia rather than China – a nation actually residing in the region – is at the root of US-Chinese tensions – tensions driven entirely by Washington’s unreasonable pursuit of unwarranted influence in – even primacy over the Indo-Pacific Region. Foreign Policy would also note: 

…there is growing concern about how to nudge a politically wary Japan to boost its missile defenses, while hardening the U.S. presence that’s increasingly vulnerable to improving Chinese missiles.

And that: 

Japan already has Aegis-class destroyers equipped with SM-3 missiles offshore, which the United States helped develop, and is a co-producer in the F-35 program. But last June, Tokyo canceled delivery of the U.S. Aegis Ashore missile system, a shore-based missile-defense system, pushing instead to develop a domestically produced solution. That’s another area where the Pentagon may press the Japanese.

SM-3 missiles used on Aegis-class destroyers as well as with Aegis Ashore systems are manufactured by Raytheon – an arms manufacturer Lloyd Austin sat on the board of directors of until being brought in as Biden’s Secretary of Defense. 

In essence, a former Raytheon director will be selling missiles for Raytheon in his official capacity as Secretary of Defense – and based on the supposed threat of China – the largest economy and most populous nation in the region – “leading” rather than the US. 

To paper over the corruption at the very core of US foreign policy – the US pursues a propaganda war against China – citing manufactured and patently false claims of “repression” and “abuse” everywhere from Hong Kong and Taiwan to Xinjiang and Tibet. 

A 2019 US State Department strategy paper titles, “A Free and Open Indo-Pacific: Advancing a Shared Vision,” would repeat these false claims, stating: 

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) practices repression at home and abroad. Beijing is intolerant of dissent, aggressively controls media and civil society, and brutally suppresses ethnic and religious minorities. Such practices, which Beijing exports to other countries through its political and economic influence, undermine the conditions that have promoted stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific for decades.

It is difficult to understand what “stability” and “prosperity” the US is referring to. 

It is amid China’s rise that the region enjoys unprecedented levels of both as well as accelerated development through projects built in cooperation with China – and all in stark contrast to the decades of war triggered by US interventions on the Korean Peninsula and all across Southeast Asia as part of its Vietnam War and adjacent military operations. 

These were conflicts that have left the region permanently scarred and in several instances – such as the residual impact of chemical weapons used in Vietnam or unexploded ordnance dropped by the US over nations like Laos – are still disfiguring and killing people to this day. 

Underneath this thin and peeling layer of US propaganda lies the truth of waning American primacy around the globe and the fundamental lack of interest by Washington and Wall Street to adjust US foreign policy toward a cooperative and constructive role among the nations of the world rather than unobtainable aspirations to dominate over all other nations. 

Brian Berletic is a Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook”.  

Sino-US Dialogue in Alaska: Outcomes.

Sino-US Dialogue in Alaska: Outcomes.

March 23, 2021

by Zamir Awan for the Saker Blog

The first direct, high-level dialogue, under Joe Biden Administration, was held on 18-189 March 2021 in Anchorage, Alaska, USA. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, national security adviser Jake Sullivan, Chinese Director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs Yang Jiechi, and Foreign Minister Wang Yi attended the dialogue.

After welcoming the Chinese guests, Secretary of state Mr. Blinken accused China of many issues, including Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Taiwan, cyberattacks on the United States, and economic coercion toward our allies. Each of these actions threatens the rules-based order that maintains global stability.

Director Yang responded that “What China and the international community follow or uphold is the United Nations-centered international system and the international order underpinned by international law, not what is advocated by a small number of countries of the so-called rules-based international order. And the United States has its style — United States-style democracy –and China has the Chinese-style democracy. It is not just up to the American people, but also the people of the World, to evaluate how the United States has advanced its own democracy. After decades of reform and opening up in China’s case, we have come a long way in various fields. In particular, we have engaged in tireless efforts to contribute to the peace and development of the World and to upholding the purposes and principles of the U.N. Charter.”

“The wars in this World are launched by some other countries, which have resulted in massive casualties. But for China, what we have asked for, for other countries, is to follow a path of peaceful development, which is the purpose of our foreign policy. We do not believe in invading through the use of force, in toppling other regimes through various means, or massacring other countries’ people because all of those would only cause turmoil and instability in this World. And at the end of the day, all of those would not serve the United States well. So we believe that it is important for the United States to change its own image and stop advancing its own democracy in the rest of the World. Many people within the United States actually have little confidence in the democracy of the United States, and they have various views regarding the government of the United States. In China, according to opinion polls, China’s leaders have the wide support of the Chinese people. So no attempt to — the opinion polls conducted in the United States show that China’s leaders have the support of the Chinese people. No attempt to smear China’s social system would get anywhere. Facts have shown that such practices would only lead the Chinese people to rally more closely around the Communist Party of China and work steadily towards the goals that we have set for ourselves.”

“Xinjiang, Tibet, and Taiwan are an inalienable part of China’s territory. China is firmly opposed to U.S. interference in China’s internal affairs. We have expressed our staunch opposition to such interference, and we will take firm actions in response. On human rights, we hope that the United States will do better on human rights. China has made steady progress in human rights, and the fact is that there are many problems within the United States regarding human rights, which is admitted by the U.S. itself as well. The United States has also said that countries can’t rely on force in today’s World to resolve the challenges we face. And it is a failure to use various means to topple the so-called authoritarian states. And the challenges facing the United States in human rights are deep-seated. They did not just emerge over the past four years, such as Black Lives Matter. It did not come up only recently. So we do hope that for our two countries, it’s important that we manage our respective affairs well instead of deflecting the blame on somebody else in this World. We’ve had a confrontation in the past, and the result did not serve the United States well. China will pull through and has pulled through such confrontation.”

Outcomes:

China availing this opportunity has conveyed that China will not accept U.S. supremacy and will not accept dictation. China will not allow any country to interfere in its domestic issues. Generally speaking, the Chinese are well-mannered, polite, submissive, and friendly people. It seems that the U.S. has crossed all the limits where China have to take a firm and blunt stand and express their point of view so clearly. It is up to the U.S. administration to analyze the Chinese response and do their homework before meeting them again.

The World has conceived well that the U.S. can not sustain its hegemony anymore. It is no longer a unipolar world, and the U.S. is no longer a unique superpower. The U.S. needs to understand the emerging geopolitics and have to accept realities. It might need to share power with other rising nations and respect them. The U.S. must keep in mind the existence of other emerging nations’ potential while making any decision.

It is an established fact that the U.S., after enjoying the global leadership role for seven decades, may not sustain this status anymore. The U.S. is on the decline and, with every passing day, may decline further. Whereas China is a rising power and, with the passage of each day, may grow further. The time is on the Chinese side. If Americans are wise, they might give up confronting China and extend cooperation to be the beneficiary of Chinse rise. There exists enormous goodwill about America among the general public in China.

The American claim of promoting democracy and the law-based rule is no more trusted as the Americans are a supporter of all dictators in the oil-rich Gulf countries in the Middle-East. The U.S. was behind the toppling of the democratically elected legitimate Government of Mr. Adil Morsey in Egypt. Again, it was the U.S. who was among the first nations to support the dictator General Sissi in Egypt. American history is full of supporting dictators around the globe. Regarding law-based rule, it is just a joke. It was the U.S. that destroyed Iraq, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, etc.

Under the Trump Administration, America was deteriorated in respect of human rights violations, hate among various ethnicities in America. And official discriminatory laws were introduced against Muslims; immigration laws were biased. The pandemic was mismanaged, the economy was collapsed. President Trump harmed America so severely that it might take several decades to recover such losses. President Trump has offended some of his close allies too.

President Joe Biden’s remarks about President Putin were misconceived and may spoil the geopolitics further. More tensions between Russia and the U.S. are predictable visibly. It may cement China-Russia relations further.

Author: Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan, Sinologist (ex-Diplomat), Editor, Analyst, Non-Resident Fellow of CCG (Center for China and Globalization), National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Islamabad, Pakistan. (E-mail: awanzamir@yahoo.com).

Welcome to shocked and awed 21st century geopolitics

Welcome to shocked and awed 21st century geopolitics

March 23, 2021

With a Russia-China-Iran triple bitch slap on the hegemon, we now have a brand new geopolitical chessboard

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

It took 18 years after Shock and Awe unleashed on Iraq for the Hegemon to be mercilessly shocked and awed by a virtually simultaneous, diplomatic Russia-China one-two.

How this is a real game-changing moment cannot be emphasized enough; 21st century geopolitics will never be the same again.

Yet it was the Hegemon who first crossed the diplomatic Rubicon. The handlers behind hologram Joe “I’ll do whatever you want me to do, Nance” Biden had whispered in his earpiece to brand Russian President Vladimir Putin as a soulless “killer” in the middle of a softball interview.

Not even at the height of the Cold War the superpowers resorted to ad hominem attacks. The result of such an astonishing blunder was to regiment virtually the whole Russian population behind Putin – because that was perceived as an attack against the Russian state.

Then came Putin’s cool, calm, collected – and quite diplomatic – response, which needs to be carefully pondered. These sharp as a dagger words are arguably the most devastatingly powerful five minutes in the history of post-truth international relations.

In For Leviathan, it’s so cold in Alaska, we forecasted what could take place in the US-China 2+2 summit at a shabby hotel in Anchorage, with cheap bowls of instant noodles thrown in as extra bonus.

China’s millennial diplomatic protocol establishes that discussions start around common ground – which are then extolled as being more important than disagreements between negotiating parties. That’s at the heart of the concept of “no loss of face”. Only afterwards the parties discuss their differences.

Yet it was totally predictable that a bunch of amateurish, tactless and clueless Americans would smash those basic diplomatic rules to show “strength” to their home crowd, distilling the proverbial litany on Taiwan, Hong Kong, South China Sea, “genocide” of Uighurs.

Oh dear. There was not a single State Dept. hack with minimal knowledge of East Asia to warn the amateurs you don’t mess with the formidable head of the Foreign Affairs Commission at the CCP’s Central Committee, Yang Jiechi, with impunity.

Visibly startled, but controlling his exasperation, Yang Jiechi struck back. And the rhetorical shots were heard around the whole Global South.

They had to include a basic lesson in manners: “If you want to deal with us properly, let’s have some mutual respect and do things the right way”. But what stood out was a stinging, concise diagnostic blending history and politics:

The United States is not qualified to talk to China in a condescending manner. The Chinese people will not accept that. It must be based on mutual respect to deal with China, and history will prove that those who seek to strangle China will suffer in the end.

And all that translated in real time by young, attractive and ultra-skilled Zhang Jing – who inevitably became an overnight superstar in China, reaping an astonishing 400 million plus hits on Weibo.

The incompetence of the “diplomatic” arm of the Biden-Harris administration beggars belief. Using a basic Sun Tzu maneuver, Yang Jiechi turned the tables and voiced the predominant sentiment of the overwhelming majority of the planet. Stuff your unilateral “rules-based order”. We, the nations of the world, privilege the UN charter and the primacy of international law.

So this is what the Russia-China one-two achieved almost instantaneously: from now on, the Hegemon should be treated, all across the Global South with, at best, disdain.

An inevitable historical process

Pre-Alaska, the Americans went on a charming offensive in Japan and South Korea for “consultations”. That’s irrelevant. What matters is post-Alaska, and the crucial Sergey Lavrov-Wang Yi meeting of Foreign Ministers in Guilin.

Lavrov, always unflappable, clarified in an interview with Chinese media how the Russia-China strategic partnership sees the current US diplomatic train wreck:

As a matter of fact, they have largely lost the skill of classical diplomacy. Diplomacy is about relations between people, the ability to listen to each other, to hear one another and to strike a balance between competing interests. These are exactly the values ​​that Russia and China are promoting in diplomacy.

The inevitable consequence is that Russia-China must “consolidate our independence: “The United States has declared limiting the advance of technology in Russia and China as its goal. So, we must reduce our exposure to sanctions by strengthening our technological independence and switching to settlements in national and international currencies other than the dollar. We need to move away from using Western-controlled international payment systems.”

Russia-China have clearly identified, as Lavrov pointed out, how the “Western partners” are “promoting their ideology-driven agenda aimed at preserving their dominance by holding back progress in other countries. Their policies run counter to the objective international developments and, as they used to say at some point, are on the wrong side of history. The historical process will come into its own, no matter what happens.”

As a stark presentation of an inevitable “historical process”, it doesn’t get more crystal clear than that. And predictably, it didn’t take time for the “Western partners” to fall back into – what else – their same old sanction bag of tricks.

Here we go again: a US, UK, EU, Canada “alliance” sanctioning selected Chinese officials because, in Blinken’s words, “the PRC [People’s Republic of China] continues to commit genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang.”

The EU, UK, and Canada didn’t have the guts to sanction a key player: Xinjiang party chief Chen Quanguo, who’s a Politburo member. The Chinese response would have been – economically – devastating.

Still, Beijing counterpunched with its own sanctions – targeting, crucially, the German far-right evangelical nut posing as “scholar” who produced the bulk of the completely debunked “proof” of a million Uighurs held in concentration camps.

Once again, the “Western partners” are impermeable to logic. Adding to the already appalling state of EU-Russia relations, Brussels chooses to also antagonize China based on a single fake dossier, playing right into the Hegemon’s not exactly secret Divide and Rule agenda.

Mission (nearly) accomplished: Brussels diplomats tell me the EU Parliament is all but set to refuse to ratify the China-EU trade deal painstakingly negotiated by Merkel and Macron. The consequences will be immense.

So Blinken will have reasons to be cheerful when he meets assorted eurocrats and NATO bureaucrats this week, ahead of the NATO summit.

One has to applaud the gall of the “Western partners”. It’s 18 years since Shock and Awe – the start of the bombing, invasion and destruction of Iraq. It’s 10 years since the start of the total destruction of Libya by NATO and its GCC minions, with Obama-Biden “leading from behind”. It’s 10 years since the start of the savage destruction of Syria by proxy – complete with jihadis disguised as “moderate rebels”.

Yet now the “Western partners” are so mortified by the plight of Muslims in Western China.

At least there are some cracks within the EU illusionist circus. Last week, the French Armed Forces Joint Reflection Circle (CRI) – in fact an independent think tank of former high officers – wrote a startling open letter to cardboard NATO secretary-general Stoltenberg de facto accusing him of behaving as an American stooge with the implementation of NATO 2030 plan. The French officers drew the correct conclusion: the US/NATO combo is the main cause of appalling relations with Russia.

These Ides of March

Meanwhile, sanctions hysteria advance like a runaway train. Biden-Harris has already threatened to impose extra sanctions on Chinese oil imports from Iran. And there’s more in the pipeline – on manufacturing, technology, 5G, supply chains, semiconductors.

And yet nobody is trembling in their boots. Right on cue with Russia-China, Iran has stepped up the game, with Ayatollah Khamenei issuing the guidelines for Tehran’s return to the JCPOA.

1. The US regime is in no position to make new demands or changes regarding the nuclear deal.

2. The US is weaker today than when the JCPOA was signed.

3. Iran is in a stronger position now. If anyone can impose new demands it’s Iran and not the US.

And with that we have a Russia-China-Iran triple bitch slap on the Hegemon.

In our latest conversation/interview, to be released soon in a video + transcript package, Michael Hudson – arguably the world’s top economist – hit the heart of the matter:

The fight against China, the fear of China is that you can’t do to China, what you did to Russia. America would love for there to be a Yeltsin figure in China to say, let’s just give all of the railroads that you’ve built, the high-speed rail, let’s give the wealth, let’s give all the factories to individuals and let the individuals run everything and, then we’ll lend them the money, or we’ll buy them out and then we can control them financially. And China’s not letting that happen. And Russia stopped that from happening. And the fury in the West is that somehow, the American financial system is unable to take over foreign resources, foreign agriculture. It is left only with military means of grabbing them as we are seeing in the near East. And you’re seeing in the Ukraine right now.

To be continued. As it stands, we should all make sure that the Ides of March – the 2021 version – have already configured a brand new geopolitical chessboard. The Russia-China Double Helix on high-speed rail has left the station – and there’s no turning back.

Tense U.S.-China Talks End With No Breakthroughs “نيويورك تايمز”: قضايا صعبة في المحادثات الأميركية الصينية

The negotiations, held in Alaska, featured rocky exchanges between Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and his Chinese counterpart. A former Green Beret was charged with attacking multiple officers during the Capitol riot.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, left, said that U.S. officials had raised numerous issues with their Chinese counterparts.
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, left, said that U.S. officials had raised numerous issues with their Chinese counterparts.Credit…Pool photo by Frederic J. Brown

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — American diplomats ended a fraught round of high-level talks with Chinese officials in Alaska on Friday with no major diplomatic breakthroughs, and acknowledged that a tense relationship lies ahead for Washington and Beijing.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said that U.S. officials had raised numerous issues with their Chinese counterparts — including human rights in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, the status of Tibet and Taiwan, and cybersecurity — which caused tension.

“We certainly know, and knew going in, that there are a number of areas where we are fundamentally at odds,” Mr. Blinken said, adding that “it’s no surprise that when we raised those issues,” U.S. officials “got a defensive response.”

Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s national security adviser, said that American officials had expected the talks to be difficult, and that the delegation had laid out its priorities for how the Biden administration would approach diplomatic relations with Beijing.

“We were cleareyed coming in, we’re cleareyed coming out,” Mr. Sullivan said, “and we will go back to Washington to take stock of where we are.”

In setting up the two days of discussions, the Biden administration had sought to build a baseline for its approach to China, one that officials have said would be grounded in competition but leave space for cooperation or confrontation with Beijing when necessary.

But they kicked off Thursday afternoon with more than an hour of heated accusations passing between Mr. Blinken and his Chinese counterpart, a rocky exchange that played out in front of TV cameras and threw into doubt any prospect of their geopolitical rivalry softening.

Yang Jiechi, China’s top diplomat, accused the United States of taking a “condescending” approach to the talks and said the American delegation had no right to accuse Beijing of human rights abuses or give lectures on the merits of democracy.

At one point, he said the United States would do well to repair its own “deep seated” problems, specifically pointing to the Black Lives Matter movement against American racism. At another, after it looked as if the opening remarks had concluded and journalists were initially told to leave the room to let the deeper discussions begin, Mr. Yang accused the United States of being inconsistent in its championing of a free press.

Mr. Blinken appeared taken aback but tried to keep the discussion on an even keel. He had opened the talks by asserting a goal to “strengthen the rules-based international order.”

It is now unclear how much cooperation between the two nations will be possible, although that will be necessary to achieve a host of shared goals, including controlling the pandemic, combating climate change, and limiting Iran’s nuclear program and North Korea’s weapons systems.

— Lara Jakes and Pranshu Verma

Related

“نيويورك تايمز”: قضايا صعبة في المحادثات الأميركية الصينية

لارا جاكس

المصدر: نيويورك تايمز

19 آذار 11:15

تنتقل واشنطن إلى موقف أكثر تنافسية مع الصين، لمواجهة دبلوماسيتها حول العالم وضمان عدم حصول بكين على ميزة دائمة في التكنولوجيا الحيوية.

وزير الخارجية الأميركي أنتوني بلينكن يتلقي مسؤولين صينيين لمحاولة تحسين العلاقات الثنائية المتوترة.
بلينكن يتلقي مسؤولين صينيين لمحاولة تحسين العلاقات الثنائية المتوترة.

قالت صحيفة “نيويورك تايمز” الأميركية إن التحول الحاد للرئيس الأميركي جو بايدن في سياسة الولايات المتحدة تجاه الصين يطرح قضايا صعبة على الطاولة اليوم في أول اجتماع كبير بين كبار المسؤولين من إدارته ونظرائهم الصينيين.

وأضافت الصحيفة أن وزير الخارجية الأميركي أنطوني بلينكين ومستشار الأمن القومي الأميركي جيك سوليفان سيلتقيان اليوم مع اثنين من كبار الدبلوماسيين الصينيين، عضو مجلس الدولة وانغ يي ورئيس الشؤون الخارجية للحزب الشيوعي الصيني يانغ جيتشي، في مدينة أنكوريج في ألاسكا، حيث من المحتمل أن تتمحور محادثاتهم حول هونغ كونغ، ووضع تايوان ومزاعم قمع الصين للمسلمين الأويغور.

وأوضحت الصحيفة أن الولايات المتحدة إلى تنتقل إلى موقف أكثر تنافسية مع الصين، لمواجهة دبلوماسيتها حول العالم وضمان عدم حصول بكين على ميزة دائمة في التكنولوجيا الحيوية.

وأشارت “نيويورك تايمز” إلى أن إدارة بايدن تعمل على جمع الحلفاء، ولا سيما اليابان وكوريا الجنوبية والهند وأستراليا، لصياغة استراتيجية مشتركة في آسيا.

فمن وجهة نظر الصين، سيكون الاجتماع أول دليل على عزم بكين على الوقوف في وجه الإدارة الجديدة. وكان المسؤولون الصينيون يركزون على تعزيز قوة بلادهم، حيث يبتعد الزعيم الصيني، شي جينبينغ، بشكل متزايد عن الاعتماد على الآخرين.

وأبلغ سفير الصين لدى الولايات المتحدة كوي تيانكاي وسائل الإعلام الصينية أن بلاده “لا تتوقع حواراً واحداً لحل جميع القضايا بين الجانبين”، لكنه يأمل أن يؤدي ذلك إلى بدء حوار بناء.

وقالت وكالة شينخوا الصينية إن الصين والولايات المتحدة تعقدان حواراً استراتيجياً رفيع المستوى يومي الخميس والجمعة في مدينة أنكوراج بولاية ألاسكا الأميركية، معتبرة أنها ستكون هذه أول محادثات مباشرة بين كبار الدبلوماسيين الصينيين والأميركيين منذ تولي الرئيس جو بايدن رئاسة الولايات المتحدة.

ونقلت الوكالة عن الخبراء قولهم إن أحد أسباب عقد الاجتماع في ألاسكا هو موقعها. إذ تقع ألاسكا في منتصف الطريق بين بكين وواشنطن العاصمة، وهذا يعني حرفياً أن الجانبين يلتقيان في منتصف الطريق.

نقله إلى العربية: الميادين نت

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