Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s introductory remarks at the opening of the exhibition of archive records on the 250th anniversary of the reunification of the peoples of Russia and Belarus

September 20, 2022

This year, Russia and Belarus are celebrating the 250th anniversary of the reunification of our fraternal peoples. In Soviet historiography, this event is referred to as the First Partition of Poland in 1772 that took place against the background of incessant wars in Europe.

Count Nikita Panin and Vice Chancellor Prince Alexander Golitsyn conducted talks on Russia’s behalf. They reached an agreement with Prussian envoy Count Solms and Austrian envoy Prince Lobkowitz and signed the relevant conventions in St Petersburg on August 5, 1772. The agreement between the great European powers provided for a peaceful transition (without bloodshed) for the greater part of the Vitebsk and Mogilev regions in present-day Belarus (92,000 sq km and a population of 1.3 million) becoming part of the Russian state.

This epoch event determined the destiny for a common Russian and Belarusian homeland and the course of European history. These primordial Slavic lands returned to the Russian Empire. The populations of these regions had been subjected to artificial Polonising for centuries. I think it would be appropriate to recall that this year we marked 1,030 years since the advent of Orthodoxy to Belarusian lands. Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia coordinated his visits to Polotsk and Minsk with this anniversary.

Due to reunification with Russia in 1772, Belarusians managed to preserve their national identity and language and create conditions for shaping their own statehood. Since then – for a quarter of a millennium now – the Russian and Belarusian people have lived in peace and friendship. They are proud of their great common past and common victories. Together – in the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union, and now in the Union State, they have efficiently resolved and will continue to resolve their urgent tasks and problems. We look to the future with confidence and optimism.

Today, under the Union State’s programmes of coordinated foreign policy actions, Russia and Belarus hold identical positions on the key issues of our time. They support each other at international venues and closely cooperate at the UN and the OSCE.

Under conditions of unprecedented pressure from the collective West, our two countries are strengthening their integration union and are working to create a common socio-economic, migration and defence space. We have something to present to the Russian and Belarusian public. We have fulfilled 50 percent of our goals under 28 union programmes for 2021-2023. We are drafting new cooperation programmes for the next three years. We are implementing our upgraded Military Doctrine and the Union State’s Migration Policy Concept.

I’d like to repeat that Russia and Belarus are inseparably tied by their common culture and history. We are united by common and memorable dates. These include Day of the Baptism of Russia, Day of Slavic Writing and Culture, Day of Unity between the Peoples of Russia and Belarus, February 23, March 8, Easter, Christmas and, of course, Victory Day on May 9, the dearest and holiest holiday for all of us.

This year we will time a meeting of the foreign ministry collegiums of our countries in Minsk in November to another common date – the 210th anniversary of the Battle of Berezina and the victory in the 1812 Patriotic War. I’d like to emphasise that this was a victory not only over the French but actually over all of Europe that was united under Napoleon.

On September 22-23 of this year, our Belarusian friends will hold one more important event in cooperation with the Russian Military Historical Society – the international scientific conference “Partitions of Poland in the historical memory of the peoples of Belarus and Russia.” This work is aimed at ensuring the continuity of our common history and bringing the truth about centuries-old cultural, historical, spiritual, moral and family ties to our people. It deserves respect and support.

In conclusion, I would like to thank once again the organisers of this event, the Archive of Foreign Policy of the Russian Empire, which prepared a thematic exhibition of original documents related to the partition of Poland. These originals have never left the archives. They are the Russian-Prussian and Russian-Austrian conventions on the first partition of Poland, the Warsaw extraordinary peace treaty on the accession of some Polish lands to Russia, and notes on Polish affairs by Alexander Bezborodko, member of the Collegium of Foreign Affairs, to Catherine the Great, which bear her handwritten resolution. We have prepared replicas of these unique documents and will present them to our Belarusian friends as a gift.

Speech by the President of Russia at an expanded meeting of the SCO Heads of State Councila Plus Press Conference (ENG Subtitles)

SEPTEMBER 17, 2022

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr President, colleagues,

https://thesaker.is/speech-by-the-president-of-russia-at-an-expanded-meeting-of-the-sco-heads-of-state-council/I fully share the statements made by my colleagues and their positive assessments of the work of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and its growing prestige in international affairs. Indeed, the SCO has become the largest regional organisation in the world. As previous speakers have pointed out, over half of the world’s population lives in SCO member states, which account for about 25 percent of global GDP and have a powerful intellectual and technological potential and a considerable part of global natural resources.

At the same time, the SCO is not marking time but continues to develop and build up its role in addressing international and regional issues and maintaining peace, security and stability throughout the vast Eurasian space. Colleagues, this is especially important in the current complicated international situation, about which we have talked in detail during our restricted-attendance meeting.

However, I would like to repeat that global politics and economy are about to undergo fundamental and irreversible changes. The growing role of new centres of power is coming into sharp focus, and interaction among these new centres is not based on some rules, which are being forced on them by external forces and which nobody has seen, but on the universally recognised principles of the rule of international law and the UN Charter, namely, equal and indivisible security and respect for each other’s sovereignty, national values and interests.

It is on these principles, which are devoid of all elements of egoism, that the joint efforts of SCO member states are based in politics and the economy. This opens up broad prospects for continued mutually beneficial cooperation in politics, the economy, culture, humanitarian and other spheres.

Fighting terrorism and extremism, drug trafficking, organised crime and illegal armed formations remains a priority of our cooperation. Other key areas include providing assistance in the political and diplomatic settlement of conflicts along our external borders, including in Afghanistan.

Strengthening economic cooperation has traditionally been a critical part of the SCO’s activities. Our joint efforts are designed to expand trade and investment exchanges, carry out mutually beneficial business projects in various industries, and to increase the volume of settlements in national currencies.

As noted above, including by the President of Kazakhstan, we are open to working with the whole world. The SCO is a non-bloc association. We help addressing the energy and food problems that are growing globally as a result of certain systemic errors in the world’s leading economies in the field of finance and energy. Our policy is not selfish. We hope that other participants in economic cooperation will build their policies on the same principles and stop using the tools of protectionism, illegal sanctions and economic selfishness to their own advantage.

The European Commission’s decision to lift sanctions on Russian fertilisers is a vivid example of such selfish behaviour. We are aware of the fertilisers’ important role in overcoming the food problem. Of course, we welcome the decision to lift the sanctions. But it turns out that, in accordance with the clarification of the European Commission of September 10, these sanctions were lifted only for EU countries. It turns out that they are the only ones who can purchase our fertilisers. What about the developing poorest countries around the world?

Taking advantage of the presence of UN Under-Secretary-General [Rosemary] DiCarlo, I would like to ask the UN Secretariat – I discussed this matter with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres the day before yesterday – to use its influence on the European Commission’s decision not in word, but in deed and to demand that they, our colleagues from the European Commission, lift these clearly discriminatory restrictions on developing countries and provide access for Russian fertilisers to their markets.

Also, the day before yesterday I apprised Secretary-General Guterres of the fact that 300,000 tonnes of Russian fertilisers are stocked at the EU seaports. We are ready to make them available to developing countries for free.

I would also like to note that Russia is increasing its grain exports to international markets. This year, it is going to be 30 million tonnes, and next year it will be 50 million tonnes with 90 percent of our food exports going to the markets of Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Undoubtedly, the ongoing summit’s decisions and documents to improve the efficiency of international transport corridors, to expand intraregional, to advance industrial and scientific and technical cooperation, and to introduce high-tech solutions in agriculture and healthcare will promote further development of business ties within the SCO.

It is also important to advance cultural and humanitarian cooperation within the SCO.

Agreements and memorandums on cooperation in tourism and museology that will be signed during today’s meeting will serve as the next step forward on this path.

It appears that opportunities are good for stepping up sports cooperation and potentially holding major sporting events with SCO sponsorship. To do this, we could think about creating an association of sports organisations under our association.

Friends,

It was noted earlier today during the restricted-attendance meeting that the SCO states focus on expanding cooperation with countries that seek to establish an open and equal dialogue with our organisation and are interested in joining it. In this context, Russia, no doubt, favours the earliest possible accession of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the SCO, which is what the documents and the memorandum that will be signed today are designed to accomplish. We are convinced that Iran’s full-fledged participation will be beneficial for the association, as that country plays an important role in the Eurasian region and the world at large.

We also fully stand behind the decision submitted for approval by the Heads of State Council to start the process of admitting the Republic of Belarus as an SCO member. Let me be clear that we have always advocated that Belarus, which is Russia’s strategic partner and closest ally, should participate fully in the SCO. This will undoubtedly improve our ability to advance unity in politics, the economy, security and humanitarian matters.

Of course, we welcome the granting of SCO dialogue partner status to Egypt, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, as well as the commencement of the procedure for obtaining this status by the Kingdom of Bahrain, the State of Kuwait, the Republic of Maldives, the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, and the United Arab Emirates. Notably, there are more countries desirous of cooperating with the SCO in various capacities, and applications from other states and international associations deserve our utmost attention and favourable consideration.

In closing, I would like to thank President Shavkat Mirziyoyev for the hospitality and excellent organisation of our work, and to congratulate Uzbekistan on its successful SCO chairmanship. I would also like to wish every success to our Indian friends who are taking over the chairmanship today.

Thank you for your attention.

Press Conference (ENG Subtitles)

This video was translated and subtitled by Michael Rossi Poli Sci
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A Turning-Point Once Every 500 Years

September 14, 2022

Source

By Batiushka

Introduction: The Old Queen

I recall some forty years ago meeting an elderly English lady, a farmer’s wife called Mrs Dove, who had been present as a schoolgirl at the funeral of Queen Victoria. ‘When the old Queen died all those years ago’, she reminisced nostalgically, ‘everything was draped in black and everyone was dressed in black’. Now Victoria’s great-great-granddaughter, the new ‘old Queen’, is dead, the news announced beneath a rainbow over Windsor Castle. This is the town whose name the Queen’s grandfather, George V, had adopted as the family name, instead of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. The Windsor name was officially adopted on 17 July 1917, just after the British-orchestrated Russian ‘Revolution’ of 1917, one year to the day before the Tsar and his Family were murdered in Ekaterinburg, on the very frontiers of Europe and Asia. The Russian Tsar had been betrayed by his look-alike cousin, King George V.

Whatever you say about Queen Elizabeth II, she personally had modesty, she had dignity, she had presence, she actually believed in something, she had all that her descendants seem utterly to lack. Perhaps her end was hastened by the behaviour of her son Prince Andrew, her grandson Prince Harry and the imbeciles who inhabit 10 Downing Street, the latest of whom she had to appoint Prime Minister only two days before she died. Why live any longer? She must have been fed up with it all. This is the final, final end of the Protestant Empire of Great Britain (1522-2022) (1), whose collapse began exactly three generations ago in 1947 in India. Perhaps the decline will go swiftly now under the disliked King Charles III (called in Russian Karl III) (2), who finds himself without Queen Diana, the only one who could have saved him. Expect the break-up of the UK to be rapid.

The 96 year-old Queen Elizabeth II died in Scotland, in Victoria’s castle at Balmoral, a relic of the 19th century and its British Empire. Her curious, clipped Germanic accent – no English people talk like that – betrayed the Queen’s foreign origins as the last of the rulers shaped by German Protestantism, imported by the City of London merchant and financial class just over 300 years before. However, it is not only her, it is the other leaders of the Western world, relics of the 20th century, who are dying out too. They are gerontocrats. In the USA Biden, born in the first half of the 20th century and soon to be 80, should really be in an old folk’s home. It is cruel to keep parading him in front of the media like that and asking him to remember things. As for Pope Francis, aged 85, he can hardly walk and says that he too might go early, like his predecessor, still alive at 95, a relic forced to serve in the Hitler Youth.

Meanwhile, on the Eastern Front

After the humiliating debacle in Afghanistan in August 2021, when the Americans were kicked out and NATO was routed, the Asian century arrived. While Queen Elizabeth II was dying, senior representatives from sixty-eight countries were gathering at the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) in Vladivostok on Russia’s Pacific coast, a centre of the new multipolar world. They were there to listen to Moscow’s economic and political vision for the Asia-Pacific after the fall of the obsolete unipolar Western Empire. President Putin declared: ‘The new world order is based on the fundamental principles of justice and equality, as well as the recognition of the right of each state and people to their own sovereign path of development. Powerful political and economic centres are being formed right here in the Asia-Pacific region, acting as a driving force in this irreversible process’.

The Russian future is marked by the development of the Russian Arctic and of the Northern Sea Route through the Arctic. On the Northern Sea Route the emphasis is on building a powerful, modern fleet of icebreakers, some nuclear-powered. There is a long-term plan up to 2035 to create infrastructure for safe shipping navigation and a transformation in Arctic navigation and shipbuilding that has been under way for the last few years. A second development for Russia is the International North-South Transportation Corridor with one of its main ports in Chabahar in Iran. Now for the first time India will be directly connected to Central Asia. An Iranian shipping line with 300 vessels which link to Mumbai is taking part in the development of this Transportation Corridor. The creation of such a transport corridor is also leading to the integration of national transit systems in several countries.

In one week’s time the Samarkand Summit of the multipolar Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO) will take place. Apart from the current full members – Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and now Iran – no fewer than eleven more countries wish to join, including Afghanistan and Turkey, making potentially twenty in all. The SCO Summit is to examine economic cooperation with the aim of solving health, energy, food security and poverty reduction issues. India too wants an Asian century, for which close cooperation between India, China and Russia is necessary. For now India is not competitive and needs to diversify to obtain improved access to Eurasia, thanks to logistical help from Russia. Russia will also play a vital role in the Indian Ocean with the need for close co-operation between ‘The Big Three’, Russia, India and China.

We must recall that Asia alone has over 25% of the world’s GDP and 50% of the world’s population. Asia is no longer a series of countries subject to colonisation by Europe and the USA, but the agent for planetary change. The Asian century is here. There is also a global movement to join the BRICS group (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa), including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan and Argentina. It all means that the Global Majority is no longer the US/CA/UK/EU/AUS/NZ and a few US colonies like Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. It is Afro-Eurasia-Latin America, 87.5% of the world. Someone is going to have to find a snappy new name for this alphabet soup, EEF, SCO, BRICS, perhaps something like G2022 or simply ‘The Alliance’? All trade in it will be in bilateral currencies, not in the dollar. The centre has passed from the Atlantic to the Pacific, the Atlantic is becoming a backwater. This is a New Age.

Meanwhile, on the Western Front

The Eastern Economic Forum showed how most Asian nations are ‘friendly’ or ‘neutral’ towards the Russian Special Military Operation (SMO) in the Ukraine. They know that the Russian Armed Forces and the Russian State had been seeking peace and protection for those of Russian speech and culture in the Ukraine for eight years. The Operation was imposed on them by the incredible belligerence and arrogance of the West. Recently the US-backed and mercenary-led Kiev Armed Forces launched a counter-offensive to the south and east of the Ukraine towards Kherson and took many casualties for minor success. Kiev has been trying to compensate for that counter-offensive, where they lost two motorised brigades and over 300 tanks, armoured vehicles and artillery, with strikes to the north-west of Kharkov. But here too Kiev has been suffering such heavy losses that they have had to send reserves. The Allied forces have trapped the Kiev Army and its mercenaries in the open. Do not believe the absurd propaganda that Russia is losing.

According to a document signed by the Commander of the Armed Forces of the Ukraine, General Zaluzhny, by the beginning of July 2022, 76,640 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed (ten weeks on, it must be nearly 100,000). With the seriously wounded generally at a ratio of 1 to 1, this means that up to 200,000 Kiev troops may have been put out of action permanently. And that does not include deserters, captured and missing in action, which could make another 50,000. This confirms earlier reports that total Kiev casualties, those permanently out of the fighting, are a horrendous 250,000. In any case Ukrainian hospitals are overflowing, as friends from the Ukraine on Telegram and Whatsapp tell me every day. Indeed, a great many wounded have had to be sent to hospitals in Poland, which are also crowded, at least in Eastern Poland.

On the other hand, in all the Allies appear to have lost about 10,000 killed, most of them from the Donbass militias. This could mean up to 25,000 out of the fight permanently on their side. That is one tenth of Kiev’s casualties. With such huge Kiev losses, many are suggesting that Zelensky and his puppeteers in Washington and London are in fact guilty of war crimes. Nobody in his right mind sends his troops to the slaughter like this. Hitler proved that. Most analysts and observers consider that the conflict could end towards the end of next year or it could be slowed down till early 2024. By then the Allied Armed Forces could have liberated the nine provinces of Eastern Ukraine and demilitarised the nine provinces of Central Ukraine. This would leave the seven provinces of Western Ukraine, the real ‘borderlands’ (the meaning of the word ‘Ukraine’), 20% of the whole, to be returned to other countries, with five provinces going to Poland, one (Chernovtsy) to Romania and one (Zakarpat’e) to Hungary.

The New Ukraine, or whatever it may be called, may well become a Russian Protectorate, as may Belarus after Lukashenko (it already is in effect just that), and also Kazakhstan, which needs Russia, if only for military and economic reasons. We believe that the three collapsing and heavily depopulated Baltic States will also end up the same way, once their American puppet elites have gone. We would expect that Serbia, Serbian Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbian Kosovo, Montenegro and North Macedonia, though remaining fully independent, will also loosely ally themselves with the Russian Federation, if only for energy reasons. And we would say the same of Orthodox Moldova, Bulgaria, Romania, Greece and Cyprus, and perhaps also of Catholic Hungary. Such an alliance in a very loose Confederation is what Stalin failed to do in 1945. In such a context we foresee the collapse of EU tyranny.

Conclusion: The Eurasian Future

Time is running out for the Combined West as a United World Power. It is formed from a parasitical elite and the peoples, zombified, hoodwinked and betrayed by that elite’s lying propaganda (remember that Goebbels too was a Westerner). All its front organisations, the UN, the EU, the G7, the G20, NATO, the WEF, the IMF, the World Bank etc, have failed. Today, the USA is bitterly divided, some would say, it is on the brink of a Civil War. Australia has become China’s mine. Most of the bankrupt EU and UK look like failed states. Japan is also bankrupt. Taiwan is inevitably returning to China. Korea will be reunified.

The only future for Western Europe is in an alliance with its natural partner, Asia, or rather Eurasia, which means Europe eating humble pie and going through Russia and accepting its leadership and respecting its culture. After reintegrating with Asia, from which it had artificially cut itself off in history, and coming out of its arrogant, navel-gazing isolation, Europe will next have to integrate Afro-Eurasia. This is the sense of the three generations of immigration to Western Europe from Asia and Africa. For Europe it is all about reintegrating the world and realising that it is now on an equal footing with it.

What a time to be alive! I remember so very well the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and all that followed in Romania, Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union soon after. That was a turning point, 50 years after 1939 such a one as happens every 50 years. However, that was just the first part of a much greater change, that which is happening now. For what we are living through now via the Ukraine is a turning-point that happens once every 500 years. And the death of Queen Elizabeth II is the very symbol of this huge sea-change as we move with hope away from the Western mistakes of the past towards the next 500 years.

14 September 2022

Notes:

1. It is true that if we are to give a date to the English Reformation, then 1533 would be more exact. That was when the Pope of Rome excommunicated Henry VIII, who had made himself ‘Head of the Church’. However, we use the date 1522, because that was when Anne Boleyn arrived at the English court as a maid-in-waiting to the sonless Spanish Queen Catherine of Aragon. That was the start of it all. By 1533 Henry, who had been infatuated with Anne for years, was secretly married to her and she gave birth to a daughter in that same year.

Meanwhile, the London Parliament had passed an Imperial Act, which outlawed appeals to Rome on Church matters and proclaimed that: ‘This realm of England is an Empire (our emphasis), and so hath been accepted in the world, governed by one Supreme Head and King having the dignity and royal estate of the Imperial Crown of the same, unto whom a body politic compact of all sorts and degrees of people divided in terms and by names of Spirituality and Temporality, be bounden and owe to bear next to God a natural and humble obedience’.

2. In Russian tradition, Karl, the German form of the name Charles, is used. The name Karl is taken from Charlemagne, in German, Karl der Grosse, who gave rise to the Slavic word for king (kral, kral’, kráľ, król, korol’).

‘If not me, who?’: Mikhail Gorbachev ended Cold War and saved the world, but failed to save Soviet Union FEATURE

30 Aug, 2022

It is hard to imagine that anyone could have dismantled the Soviet Union from the inside faster or more comprehensively than Mikhail Gorbachev, a man who had no such intention. Its crumbling is both Gorbachev’s singular achievement and his personal tragedy.

It is also the most important moment in history since 1945.

Popular perceptions have transformed the former Soviet leader into a kitschy icon, remembered as much for starring in an advert for no-crust pizza, as for picking up a Nobel Peace Prize.

But in the demise of ‘The Evil Empire’ he was no naïf, nor a catalyst for generic historic inevitabilities. Almost every single event in the countdown to the fall of communism in Russia and beyond is a direct reflection of the ideals, actions and foibles of Mikhail Gorbachev and those he confronted or endorsed.

This is the story of a farm mechanic who managed to penetrate the inner sanctum of the world’s biggest country, an explanation of what drove him once he reached the top, and an attempt to understand whether he deserves opprobrium or sympathy, ridicule or appreciation.

First president of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev before a parade marking the 69th anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War.
RIA Novosti.
The first president of the USSR Mikhail Gorbachev signs autographs during the presentation of his new book “Alone with Myself” in the Moskva store.
RIA Novosti.

If not me, who? And if not now, when?
— Mikhail Gorbachev

CHILDHOOD

Growing up a firebrand Communist among Stalin’s purges

Born in 1931 in a Ukrainian-Russian family in the village of Privolnoye in the fertile Russian south, Mikhail Gorbachev’s childhood was punctuated by a series of almost Biblical ordeals, albeit those shared by millions of his contemporaries.

His years as a toddler coincided with Stalin’s policy of collectivization – the confiscation of private lands from peasants to form new state-run farms – and Stavropol, Russia’s Breadbasket, was one of the worst-afflicted. Among the forcible reorganization and resistance, harvests plummeted and government officials requisitioned scarce grain under threat of death.

Gorbachev later said that his first memory is seeing his grandfather boiling frogs he caught in the river during the Great Famine.

Yet another grandfather, Panteley – a former landless peasant — rose from poverty to become the head of the local collective farm. Later Gorbachev attributed his ideological make-up largely to his grandfather’s staunch belief in Communism “which gave him the opportunity to earn everything he had.”

Panteley’s convictions were unshaken even when he was arrested as part of Stalin’s Great Purge. He was accused of joining a “counter-revolutionary Trotskyite movement” (which presumably operated a cell in their distant village) but returned to his family after 14 months behind bars just in time for the Second World War to break out.

Just in time for the Second World War to break out. For much of the conflict, the battle lines between the advancing Germans and the counter-attacking Red Army stretched across Gorbachev’s homeland; Mikhail’s father was drafted, and even reported dead, but returned with only shrapnel lodged in his leg at the end of the war.

Although Sergey was a distant presence in his son’s life up to then and never lived with him, he passed on to Mikhail a skill that played a momentous role in his life — that of a farm machinery mechanic and harvester driver. Bright by all accounts, Mikhail quickly picked up the knack — later boasting that he could pick out any malfunction just by the sound of the harvester or the tractor alone.

But this ability was unlikely to earn him renown beyond his village. Real acclaim came when the father and son read a new decree that would bestow a national honor on anyone who threshed more than 8000 quintals (800 tons or more than 20 big truckloads) of grain during the upcoming harvest. In the summer of 1948 Gorbachev senior and junior ground an impressively neat 8888 quintals. As with many of the agricultural and industrial achievements that made Soviet heroes out of ordinary workers, the exact details of the feat – and what auxiliary efforts may have made it possible – are unclear, but 17-year-old Gorbachev became one of the youngest recipients of the prestigious Order of the Red Banner of Labor in its history.

Having already been admitted to the Communist Party in his teen years (a rare reward given to the most zealous and politically reliable) Mikhail used the medal as an immediate springboard to Moscow. The accolade for the young wheat-grinder meant that he did not have to pass any entrance exams or even sit for an interview at Russia’s most prestigious Moscow State University.

With his village school education, Gorbachev admitted that he initially found the demands of a law degree, in a city he’d never even visited before, grueling. But soon he met another ambitious student from the countryside, and another decisive influence on his life. The self-assured, voluble Raisa, who barely spent a night apart from her husband until her death, helped to bring out the natural ambition in the determined, but occasionally studious and earnest Gorbachev. Predictably, Gorbachev rose to become one of the senior figures at the university’s Komsomol, the Communist youth league — which with its solemn group meetings and policy initiatives served both as a prototype and the pipeline for grown-up party activities.

STAVROPOL

Party reformist flourishes in Khruschev’s Thaw

Upon graduation in 1955, Gorbachev lasted only ten days back in Stavropol’s prosecutor’s office (showing a squeamishness dealing with the less idealistic side of the Soviet apparatus) before running across a local Komsomol official. For the next 15 years his biography reads like a blur of promotions – rising to become Stavropol region’s top Komsomol bureaucrats, overseeing agriculture for a population of nearly 2.5 million people before his 40th birthday.

All the trademarks of Gorbachev’s leadership style, which later became famous around the world, were already in evidence here. Eschewing Soviet officials’ habit of barricading themselves inside the wood-paneled cabinets behind multiple receptions, Gorbachev spent vast swathes of his time ‘in the field’, often literally in a field. With his distinctive southern accent, and his genuine curiosity about the experiences of ordinary people, the young official a struck chord as he toured small villages and discussed broken projectors at local film clubs and shortages of certain foodstuffs.

His other enthusiasm was for public discussion, particularly about specific, local problems – once again in contrast with the majority of officials, who liked to keep negative issues behind closed doors. Gorbachev set up endless discussion clubs and committees, almost quixotically optimistic about creating a better kind of life among the post-war austerity.

POLITBURO

Cutting the line to the throne

By the 1970s any sign of modernization in Soviet society or leadership was a distant memory, as the country settled into supposed “advanced socialism”, with the upheavals and promises of years past replaced by what was widely described as ‘An Era of Stagnation’ (the term gained official currency after being uttered by Gorbachev himself in one of his early public speeches after ascending to the summit of the Soviet system).

Without Stalin’s regular purges, and any democratic replacement mechanisms, between the mid-1960s and 1980s, almost the entire apparatus of Soviet leadership remained unchanged, down from the increasingly senile Leonid Brezhnev, who by the end of his life in 1982 became a figure of nationwide mockery and pity, as he slurred through speeches and barely managed to stand during endless protocol events, wearing gaudy carpets of military honors for battles he never participated in. Predictably, power devolved to the various factions below, as similarly aged heavyweights pushed their protégés into key positions.

The Kremlin Palace of Congresses (now the State Kremlin Palace). The XXV Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Feb. 24-March 5, 1976). CPSU Central Committee General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev delivering speech.
RIA Novosti.

Mikhail Andreyevich Suslov, CPSU CC Politbureau member, CPSU CC secretary, twice Hero of Socialist Labor.
RIA Novosti.Leonid Brezhnev, left, chairman of the USSR Supreme Soviet Presidium and general secretary of the CPSU Central Committee, with Alexei Kosygin, chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers, on Lenin’s Mausoleum on May 1, 1980.
RIA Novosti.The Soviet Communist Party’s politburo member Konstantin Chernenko and central committee member Yury Andropov attend the Kremlin Palace of Congresses’ government session dedicated to the 60th anniversary of the USSR.
RIA Novosti.Yuri Andropov (1914-1984), General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee (since November 1982).
RIA Novosti.

With a giant country as the playground, the system rewarded those who came up with catchy programs and slogans, took credit for successes and steered away from failures, and networked tirelessly to build up support above and below. Gorbachev thrived here. His chief patrons were Brezhnev himself, purist party ideologue Mikhail Suslov, who considered Stavropol his powerbase, and most crucially the hardline head of the KGB, Yuri Andropov. The security chief referred to the aspiring politician as ‘My Stavropol Rough Diamond’ — another rejoinder to those seeking to paint Gorbachev as a naïve blessed outsider, a Joan of Arc of the Soviet establishment.

After being called to Moscow in 1978 to oversee Soviet agriculture — an apocryphal story suggests that he nearly missed out on the appointment when senior officials couldn’t find him after he got drunk celebrating a Komsomol anniversary, only to be rescued by a driver at the last moment — Mikhail Gorbachev was appointed to the Politburo in 1980.

The Politburo, which included some but not all of the ministers and regional chiefs of the USSR, was an inner council that took all the key decisions in the country, with the Soviet leader sitting at the top of the table, holding the final word (though Brezhnev sometimes missed meetings or fell asleep during them). When Gorbachev became a fully-fledged member he was short of his 50th birthday. All but one of the dozen other members were over sixty, and most were in their seventies. To call them geriatric was not an insult, but a literal description of a group of elderly men – many beset by chronic conditions far beyond the reach of Soviet doctors – that were more reminiscent of decrepit land barons at the table of a feudal king than effective bureaucrats. Even he was surprised by how quickly it came.

Brezhnev, who suffered from a panoply of circulation illnesses, died of a heart attack in 1982. Andropov, who was about to set out on an energetic screw-tightening campaign, died of renal failure in 1984. Konstantin Chernenko was already ill when he came to leadership, and died early in 1985 of cirrhosis. The tumbling of aged sovereigns, both predictable and tragicomic in how they reflected on the leadership of a country of more than 250 million people, not only cleared the path for Gorbachev, but strengthened the credentials of the young, energetic pretender.

Leonid Brezhnev’s funeral procession at Vladimir Lenin’s mausoleum.
RIA Novosti.

The decorations of General Secretary of the CPSU Leonid Brezhnev seen during his lying-in-state ceremony at the House of Unions.
RIA Novosti.Mikhail Gorbachev, the first and the last Soviet president (second left in the foreground) attending the funeral of General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee Konstantin Chernenko (1911-1985) in Moscow’s Red Square.
RIA Novosti.The funeral procession during the burial of Leonid Brezhnev, general secretary of the CPSU central committee, chairman of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet.
RIA Novosti.The funeral of Yuri Andropov, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. The coffin is placed on pedestal near the Mausoleum on Red Square.
RIA Novosti.The funeral procession for General Secretary of the CPSU Konstantin Chernenko moving towards Red Square.
RIA Novosti.General Secretary of the Central Comittee of CPSU Mikhail Gorbachev at the tribune of Lenin mausoleum during May Day demonstration, Red square.
RIA Novosti.

On 11 March 1985, Gorbachev was named the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the USSR.

REFORMS NEEDED

Overcoming economic inefficiency with temperance campaigns

As often in history, the reformer came in at a difficult time. Numbers showed that economic growth, which was rampant as Russia industrialized through the previous four decades, slowed down in Brezhnev’s era, with outside sources suggesting that the economy grew by an average of no more than 2 percent for the decade.

The scarcity of the few desirable goods produced and their inefficient distribution meant that many Soviet citizens spent a substantial chunk of their time either standing in queues or trading and obtaining things as ordinary as sugar, toilet paper or household nails through their connections, either “under the counter” or as Party and workplace perks, making a mockery of Communist egalitarianism. The corruption and lack of accountability in an economy where full employment was a given, together with relentless trumpeting of achievement through monolithic newspapers and television programs infected private lives with doublethink and cynicism.

A line of shoppers outside the Lenvest footwear shop.
Ria Novosti.

But this still does not describe the drab and constraining feel of the socialist command economy lifestyle, not accidentally eschewed by all societies outside of North Korea and Cuba in the modern world. As an example, but one central to the Soviet experience: while no one starved, there was a choice of a handful of standardized tins — labeled simply salmon, or corned beef — identical in every shop across the country, and those who were born in 1945 could expect to select from the same few goods until the day they died, day-in, day-out. Soviets dressed in the same clothes, lived in identical tower block housing, and hoped to be issued a scarce Lada a decade away as a reward for their loyalty or service. Combined with the lack of personal freedoms, it created an environment that many found reassuring, but others suffocating, so much so that a trivial relic of a different world, stereotypically a pair of American jeans, or a Japanese TV, acquired a cultural cachet far disproportionate to its function. Soviets could not know the mechanisms of actually living within a capitalist society — with its mortgages, job markets, and bills — but many felt that there were gaudier, freer lives being led all around the world.

And though it brought tens of millions of people out of absolute poverty, there was no longer an expectation that the lifestyles of ordinary Soviets would significantly improve whether a year or a decade into the future, and promise of a better future was always a key tenet of communism.

Several wide-ranging changes were attempted, in 1965 and 1979, but each time the initial charge was wound down into ineffectual tinkering as soon as the proposed changed encroached on the fundamentals of the Soviet regime — in which private commercial activity was forbidden and state control over the economy was total and centralized.

Moscow, Russia. Customers at the Okean [Ocean] seafood store. 1988.
Ria Novosti.

Gorbachev deeply felt the malaise, and displayed immediate courage to do what is necessary — sensing that his reforms would not only receive support from below, but no insurmountable resistance from above. The policy of Uskorenie, or Acceleration, which became one of the pillars of his term, was announced just weeks after his appointment — it was billed as an overhaul of the economy.

But it did not address the fundamental structural inefficiencies of the Soviet regime. Instead it offered more of the same top-down administrative solutions — more investment, tighter supervision of staff, less waste. Any boost achieved through rhetoric and managerial dress-downs sent down the pyramid of power was likely to be inconsequential and peter out within months.

His second initiative, just two months after assuming control, betrayed these very same well-meaning but misguided traits. With widespread alcohol consumption a symptom of late-Soviet decline, Gorbachev devised a straightforward solution — lowering alcohol production and eventually eradicating drinking altogether.

Doctor Lev Kravchenko conducting reflexotherapy session with a patient at the Moscow Narcological Clinical Hospital #17.
RIA Novosti
Stolichnaya vodka from the Moscow Liqueur and Vodka Distillery.
RIA Novosti.

“Women write to me saying that children see their fathers again, and they can see their husbands,” said Gorbachev when asked about whether the reform was working.

Opponents of the illiberal measure forced Russian citizens into yet more queues, while alcoholics resorted to drinking industrial fluids and aftershave. Economists said that the budget, which derived a quarter of its total retail sales income from alcohol, was severely undermined. Instead a shadow economy sprung up — in 1987, 500 thousand people were arrested for engaging in it, five times more than just two years earlier.

More was needed, and Gorbachev knew it.

PERE­STROIKA

“We must rebuild ourselves. All of us!”

Gorbachev at his zenith

Gorbachev first uttered the word perestroika — reform, or rebuilding — in May 1986, or rather he told journalists, using the characteristic and endearing first-person plural, “We must rebuild ourselves. All of us!” Picked up by reporters, within months the phrase became a mainstay of Gorbachev’s speeches, and finally the symbol of the entire era.

Before his reforms had been chiefly economic and within the existing frameworks; now they struck at the political heart of the Soviet Union.

The revolution came from above, during a long-prepared central party conference blandly titled “On Reorganization and the Party’s Personnel Policy” on January 27, 1987.

In lieu of congratulatory platitudes that marked such occasions in past times, Gorbachev cheerfully delivered the suspended death sentence for Communist rule in the Soviet Union (much as he didn’t suspect it at the time).

“The Communist Party of the Soviet Union and its leaders, for reasons that were within their own control, did not realize the need for change, understand the growing critical tension in the society, or develop any means to overcome it. The Communist Party has not been able to take full advantage of socialist society,”
said the leader to an audience that hid its apprehension.

“The only way that a man can order his house, is if he feels he is its owner. Well, a country is just the same,” came Gorbachev’s trademark mix of homely similes and grand pronouncements.” Only with the extension of democracy, of expanding self-government can our society advance in industry, science, culture and all aspects of public life.”

“For those of you who seem to struggle to understand, I am telling you: democracy is not the slogan, it is the very essence of Perestroika.”

Gorbachev used the word ‘revolution’ eleven times in his address, anointing himself an heir to Vladimir Lenin. But what he was proposing had no precedent in Russian or Soviet history.

The word democracy was used over 70 times in that speech alone.
The Soviet Union was a one-party totalitarian state, which produced 99.9 percent election results with people picking from a single candidate. Attempts to gather in groups of more than three, not even to protest, were liable to lead to arrest, as was any printed or public political criticism, though some dissidents were merely subjected to compulsory psychiatric care or forced to renounce their citizenship. Millions were employed either as official KGB agents, or informants, eavesdropping on potentially disloyal citizens. Soviet people were forbidden from leaving the country, without approval from the security services and the Party. This was a society operated entirely by those in power, relying on compliance and active cooperation in oppression from a large proportion of the population. So, the proposed changes were a fundamental reversal of the flows of power in society.

General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee Mikhail Gorbachyov making his report “October and perestroika: the revolution continues” in the Kremlin Palace of Congresses at a joint session of the CPSU Central Committee and the USSR Supreme Soviet, devoted to the 70th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution.
RIA Novosti.

Between Gorbachev’s ascent and by the end of that year, two thirds of the Politburo, more than half of the regional chiefs and forty percent of the membership of the Central Committee of Communist Party, were replaced.

Gorbachev knew that democracy was impossible without what came to be known as glasnost, an openness of public discussion.

“We are all coming to the same conclusion — we need glasnost, we need criticism and self-criticism. In our country everything concerns the people, because it is their country,”
said Gorbachev, cunningly echoing Lenin, at that January forum, though the shoots of glasnost first emerged the year before.

From the middle of 1986 until 1987 censored Soviet films that lay on the shelves for years were released, the KGB stopped jamming the BBC World Service and Voice of America, Nobel Peace Prize winner nuclear physicist Andrei Sakharov and hundreds of other dissidents were set free, and archives documenting Stalin-era repressions were opened.

A social revolution was afoot. Implausibly, within two years, television went from having no programs that were unscripted, to Vzglyad, a talk show anchored by 20 and 30-somethings (at a time when most Soviet television presented were fossilized mannequins) that discussed the war in Afghanistan, corruption or drugs with previously banned videos by the Pet Shop Boys or Guns N’ Roses as musical interludes. For millions watching Axl Rose, cavorting with a microphone between documentaries about steel-making and puppet shows, created cognitive dissonance that verged on the absurd. As well as its increasing fascination with the West, a torrent of domestic creativity was unleashed. While much of what was produced in the burgeoning rock scene and the liberated film making industry was derivative, culturally naïve and is now badly dated, even artifacts from the era still emanate an unmistakable vitality and sincerity.

Rock for Peace concert in Moscow, 1988.
RIA Novosti.

“Bravo!” Poster by Svetlana and Alexander Faldin. Allegorically portraying USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev, it appeared at the poster exposition, Perestroika and Us.
RIA Novosti.Mikhail Gorbachev, General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee and Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, talking to reporters during a break between sessions. The First Congress of People’s Deputies of the USSR (May 25 — June 9, 1989). The Kremlin Palace of Congresses.
RIA Novosti.

Many welcomed the unprecedented level of personal freedom and the chance to play an active part in their own country’s history, others were alarmed, while others still rode the crest of the wave when swept everything before it, only to renounce it once it receded. But it is notable that even the supposed staunchest defenders of the ancien régime — the KGB officers, the senior party members — who later spent decades criticizing Perestroika, didn’t step in to defend Brezhnev-era Communism as they saw it being demolished.

What everyone might have expected from the changes is a different question — some wanted the ability to travel abroad without an exit visa, others the opportunity to earn money, others still to climb the political career ladder without waiting for your predecessor die in office. But unlike later accounts, which often presented Gorbachev as a stealthy saboteur who got to execute an eccentric program, at the time, his support base was broad, and his decisions seemed encouraging and logical.

As a popular politician Gorbachev was reaching a crescendo. His trademark town hall and factory visits were as effective as any staged stunts, and much more unselfconscious. The contrast with the near-mummified bodies of the previous General Secretaries — who, in the mind of ordinary Soviet citizens, could only be pictured on top of Lenin’s Mausoleum during a military parade, or staring from a roadside placard, and forever urging greater productivity or more intense socialist values — was overwhelming.
Gorbachev was on top — but the tight structure of the Soviet state was about to loosen uncontrollably.

USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev in Sverdlovsk Region (25-28 April, 1990). Mikhail Gorbachev with the people of Sverdlovsk at the Lenin Square.
RIA Novosti.

USSR president Mikhail Gorbachev visits Sverdlovsk region. Mikhail Gorbachev visiting Nizhnij Tagil integrated iron-and-steel works named after V.I. Lenin.
RIA Novosti.CPSU Central Committee General Secretary, USSR Supreme Soviet Presidium Chairman Mikhail Gorbachev in the Ukrainian SSR. Mikhail Gorbachev, second right, meeting with Kiev residents.
RIA Novosti.

COLD WAR ENDS

Concessions from a genuine pacifist

In the late 1980s the world appeared so deeply divided into two camps that it seemed like two competing species were sharing the same planet. Conflicts arose constantly, as the US and the USSR fought proxy wars on every continent — in Nicaragua, Angola and Afghanistan, with Europe divided by a literal battle line, both sides constantly updated battle plans and moved tank divisions through allied states, where scores of bases housed soldier thousands of miles away from home. Since the Cold War did not end in nuclear holocaust, it has become conventional to describe the two superpowers as rivals, but there was little doubt at the time that they were straightforward enemies.

“The core of New Thinking is the admission of the primacy of universal human values and the priority of ensuring the survival of the human race,” Gorbachev wrote in his Perestroika manifesto in 1988.

At the legendary Reykjavik summit in 1986, which formally ended in failure but in fact set in motion the events that would end the Cold War, both sides were astonished at just how much they could agree on, suddenly flying through agendas, instead of fighting pitched battles over every point of the protocol.

“Humanity is in the same boat, and we can all either sink or swim.”

General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee Mikhail Gorbachev (left) and U.S. President Ronald Reagan (right) during their summit meeting in Reykjavik.
RIA Novosti.

Landmark treaties followed: the INF agreement in 1987, banning intermediate ballistic missiles, the CFE treaty that reduced the military build-up in Europe in 1990, and the following year, the START treaty, reducing the overall nuclear stockpile of those countries. The impact was as much symbolic as it was practical — the two could still annihilate each other within minutes — but the geopolitical tendency was clear.

President Reagan: Signing of the INF Treaty with Premier Gorbachev, December 8, 1987

Mikhail Gorbachev, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the US president Ronald Reagan.
RIA Novosti.
Mikhail Gorbachev (left) and the US president Ronald Reagan signing an agreement in the White House. Mikhail Gorbachev, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union on the official visit to the USA.
RIA Novosti.

Military analysts said that each time the USSR gave up more than it received from the Americans. The personal dynamic between Reagan — always lecturing “the Russians” from a position of purported moral superiority, and Gorbachev — the pacifist scrambling for a reasonable solution, was also skewed in favor of the US leader. But Gorbachev wasn’t playing by those rules.

“Any disarmament talks are not about beating the other side. Everyone has to win, or everyone will lose,” he wrote.

The Soviet Union began to withdraw its troops and military experts from conflicts around the world. For ten years a self-evidently unwinnable war waged in Afghanistan ingrained itself as an oppressive part of the national consciousness. Fifteen thousand Soviet soldiers died, hundreds of thousands more were wounded or psychologically traumatized (the stereotypical perception of the ‘Afghan vet’ in Russia is almost identical to that of the ‘Vietnam vet’ in the US.) When the war was officially declared a “mistake” and Soviet tanks finally rolled back across the mountainous border in 1989, very few lamented the scaling back of the USSR’s international ambitions.

Last Soviet troop column crosses Soviet border after leaving Afghanistan.
RIA Novosti.

Driver T. Eshkvatov during the final phase of the Soviet troop pullout from Afghanistan.
RIA Novosti.Soviet soldiers back on native soil. The USSR conducted a full pullout of its limited troop contingent from Afghanistan in compliance with the Geneva accords.
RIA Novosti.The convoy of Soviet armored personnel vehicles leaving Afghanistan.
RIA Novosti.

In July 1989 Gorbachev made a speech to the European Council, declaring that it is “the sovereign right of each people to choose their own social system.” When Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, soon to be executed by his own people, demanded — during the 40th anniversary of the Communist German Democratic Republic in October 1989 — that Gorbachev suppress the wave of uprisings, the Soviet leader replied with a curt “Never again!”

“Life punishes those who fall behind the times,” he warned the obdurate East German leader Erich Honecker. Honecker died in exile in Chile five years later, having spent his dying years fending off criminal charges backed by millions of angry Germans.

Russian tanks did pass through Eastern Europe that year — but in the other direction, as the Soviet Union abandoned its expensive bases that were primed for a war that neither side now wanted.

Graffitti at the Berlin Wall.
RIA Novosti.
East German citizens climb the Berlin Wall at the Brandenburg Gate after the opening of the border was announced early November 9, 1989. REUTERS/Herbert Knosowski BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE.
Reuters.
A big section of the Berlin Wall is lifted by a crane as East Germany has started to dismantle the wall near the Brandenburg Gate in East Berlin, February 20, 1990.
Reuters.

By the time the Berlin Wall was torn down in November, Gorbachev was reportedly not even woken up by his advisors, and no emergency meetings took place. There was no moral argument for why the German people should not be allowed to live as one nation, ending what Gorbachev himself called the “unnatural division of Europe”. The quote came from his 1990 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech.

ETHNIC TENSIONS

Smoldering ethnic conflicts on USSR’s outskirts flare up

Ethnic tensions on the outskirts of the empire lead to full-scale wars after USSR’s collapse. Towards the end of his rather brief period as a Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev had to face a problem many thought of as done and dusted; namely, ethnic strife, leading to conflict and death.

By the mid-1980s, the Soviet Union was officially considered by party ideologists to be one multi-ethnic nation, despite it being comprised of 15 national republics and even more internal republics and regions, with dozens of ethnic groups living there in a motley mixture. The claim was not completely unfounded as the new generation all across the country spoke Russian and had basic knowledge of Russian culture along with Marxist philosophy. In fact, the outside world confirmed this unity by calling all Soviet citizens “Russians” — from Finno-Ugric Estonians in the West to the Turkic and Iranian peoples of Central Asia and natives of the Far East, closely related to the American Indians of Alaska.

Demonstration on Red Square. The International Labor Day. “Long live the brotherly friendship of the peoples of the USSR!” reads the slogan under the USSR national emblem surrounded by flags of 15 of the Union republics carried at a May Day demonstration in 1986.
RIA Novosti.

At the same time, the concept of the single people was enforced by purely Soviet methods — from silencing any existing problems in the party-controlled mass media, to ruthless suppression of any attempt of nationalist movements, and summary forced resettlement of whole peoples for “siding with the enemy” during WWII.

After Gorbachev announced the policies of Glasnost and democratization, many ethnic groups started to express nationalist sentiments. This was followed by the formation or legalization of nationalist movements, both in national republics and in Russia itself, where blackshirts from the “Memory” organization blamed Communists and Jews for oppressing ethnic Russians and promoted “liberation.”

Neither society nor law enforcers were prepared for such developments. The Soviet political system remained totalitarian and lacked any liberal argument against nationalism. Besides, the concept of “proletarian internationalism” was so heavily promoted that many people started to see nationalism as part of a struggle for political freedoms and market-driven economic prosperity. At the same time, the security services persisted in using the crude Soviet methods that had already been denounced by party leaders; police had neither the tools nor the experience for proper crowd control.

As a result, potential conflicts were brewing all across the country and the authorities did almost nothing to prevent them. In fact, many among the regional elites chose to ride the wave of nationalism to obtain more power and settle old accounts. At the same time, the level of nationalism was highly uneven and its manifestations differed both in frequency and intensity across the USSR.

In February 1988, Gorbachev announced at the Communist Party’s plenum that every socialist land was free to choose its own societal systems. Both Nationalists and the authorities considered this a go-ahead signal. Just days after the announcement, the conflict in the small mountain region of Nagorno-Karabakh entered an open phase.

Nagorno-Karabakh was an enclave populated mostly, but not exclusively, by Armenians in the Transcaucasia republic of Azerbaijan. Relations between Armenians and Azerbaijanis had always been strained, with mutual claims dating back to the Ottoman Empire; Soviet administrative policy based purely on geography and economy only made things worse.

In spring 1989, nationalists took to the streets in another Transcaucasian republic — Georgia. The country was (and still is) comprised of many ethnic groups, each claiming a separate territory, sometimes as small as just one hill and a couple of villages, and the rise of nationalism there was even more dangerous. Georgians marched under slogans “Down with Communism!” and “Down with Soviet Imperialism.” The rallies were guarded and directed by the “Georgian Falcons” — a special team of strong men, many of them veterans of the Afghan war, armed with truncheons and steel bars.

“Down with Communism!”

“Down with Soviet Imperialism.”

This time Gorbachev chose not to wait for clashes and a Spetsnaz regiment was deployed to Tbilisi to tackle the nationalist rallies. Again, old Soviet methods mixed poorly with the realities of democratization. When the demonstrators saw the soldiers, they became more agitated, and the streets around the main flashpoints were blocked by transport and barricades. The soldiers were ordered to use only rubber truncheons and tear gas, and were not issued firearms, but facing the Georgian Falcons they pulled out the Spetsnaz weapon of choice — sharp shovels just as deadly as bayonets.

At least 19 people were killed in the clashes or trampled by the crowd that was forced from the central square but had nowhere to go. Hundreds were wounded.

Soviet tanks are positioned on April 9, 1989 in front of the Georgian government building where pro-independence Georgians were killed as paratroopers moved in to break up a mass demonstration. An anti-Soviet demonstration was dispersed on April 9th by the Soviet army, resulting in 20 deaths and hundreds of injuries. In independent Georgia “April 9” is an annual public holiday remembered as the Day of National Unity.
AFP PHOTO.

Moscow ordered an investigation into the tragedy and a special commission uncovered many serious mistakes made both by the regional and central authorities and party leaders. However, at the May Congress of People’s Deputies, Gorbachev categorically refused to accept any responsibility for the outcome of the events in Tbilisi and blamed the casualties on the military.

Further on, the last Soviet leader persisted in the kind of stubbornness that inevitably must have played a part in his fall. In February 1990, the Communist Party’s Central Committee voted to adopt the presidential system of power and General Secretary Gorbachev became the first and last president of the USSR. The same plenum dismantled the Communist Party’s monopoly of power, even though the country had no grassroots political organizations or any political organizations not dependent on the communists save for the nationalists. As a result, the urge for succession increased rapidly, both in the regional republics and even in the Soviet heartland — the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic.

In 1990, the Republic of Lithuania was the first to declare independence from the Soviet Union. Despite his earlier promises, Gorbachev refused to recognize this decision officially. The region found itself in legal and administrative limbo and the Lithuanian parliament addressed foreign nations with a request to hold protests against “Soviet Occupation.”

In January 1991, the Lithuanian government announced the start of economic reforms with liberalization of prices, and immediately after that the Supreme Soviet of the USSR sent troops to the republic, citing “numerous requests from the working class.” Gorbachev also demanded Lithuania annul all new regulations and bring back the Soviet Constitution. On January 11, Soviet troops captured many administrative buildings in Vilnius and other Lithuanian cities, but the parliament and television center were surrounded by a thousand-strong rally of protesters and remained in the hands of the nationalist government. In the evening of January 12, Soviet troops, together with the KGB special purpose unit, Alpha, stormed the Vilnius television center, killing 12 defenders and wounding about 140 more. The troops were then called back to Russia and the Lithuanian struggle for independence continued as before.

A Lithuanian demonstrator stands in front of a Soviet Army tank during the assault on the Lithuanian Radio and Television station on January 13, 1991 in Vilnius.
AFP PHOTO.

Vilnius residents gather in front of the Lithuanian parliament following the takeover of the Radio and Television installations by Soviet troops.
AFP PHOTO.An armed unidentified man guards the Lithuanian parliament on January 19, 1991 in Vilnius.
AFP PHOTO.Vilnius residents holding a Lithuanian flag guard a barricade in front of the Lithuanian parliament on January 20, 1991.
AFP PHOTO.Soviet paratroopers charge Lithuanian demonstrators at the entrance of the Lithuanian press printing house in Vilnius. January, 1991.
AFP PHOTO.

Gorbachev again denied any responsibility, saying that he had received reports about the operation only after it ended. However, almost all members of the contemporary Soviet cabinet recalled that the idea of Gorbachev not being aware of such a major operation was laughable. Trying to shift the blame put the president’s image into a lose-lose situation — knowing about the Vilnius fighting made him a callous liar, and if he really knew nothing about it, then he was an ineffective leader, losing control both of distant territories and his own special forces.

The swiftly aborted intervention — troops were called back on the same day — was a disappointment both to the hardliners, who would have wanted Gorbachev to see it through, and to the democratic reformers, horrified by the scenes emerging from Vilnius.

This dissatisfaction also must be one of the main factors that provoked the so-called Putch in August 1991 — an attempt by die-hard Politburo members to displace Gorbachev and restore the old Soviet order. They failed in the latter, but succeeded in the former as Gorbachev, isolated at his government Dacha in Crimea, returned to Moscow only because of the struggles of the new Russian leader Boris Yeltsin. When Gorbachev returned, his power was so diminished that he could do nothing to prevent the Belovezha agreement — the pact between Russia, Belarus and Ukraine that ended the history of the Soviet Union and introduced the Commonwealth of Independent States. All republics became independent whether they were ready to or not.

This move, while granting people freedom from Soviet rule, also triggered a sharp rise in extreme nationalist activities — the stakes were high enough and whole nations were up for grabs. Also, in the three years between Gorbachev’s offering of freedom and the collapse of the USSR, nothing was done to calm simmering ethnic hatred, and with no directions from Moscow or control on the part of the Soviet police and army, many regions became engulfed in full-scale civil wars, based on ethnic grounds.

Things turned especially nasty in Tajikistan, where fighting between Iranian-speaking Tajiks and Turkic-speaking Uzbeks very soon led to ethnic cleansing. Refugees had to flee for their lives to Afghanistan, which itself witnessed a war between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance.

Government soldiers aim at positions of armed opposition groups in the border area of Afghanistan 08 June 1993. The civil war between pro-communist forces and the opposition has left thousands dead and turned hundreds of thousands of people into refugees in the last year.
AFP PHOTO.

Two fighters of the Tajik pro-Communist forces engage in a battle with pro-Islamic fighters 22 December 1992 in a village some 31 miles from the Tajik capital of Dushanbe.
AFP PHOTO.Tajik women cry over the dead body of a soldier 29 January 1993. The soldier was killed during fighting between Tajikistan government troops and opposition forces in Parkhar.
AFP PHOTO.

The long and bloody war in Georgia also had a significant ethnic component. After it ended three regions that were part of the republic during Soviet times — Abkhazia, Adzharia and South Ossetia – declared independence, which was enforced by a CIS peacekeeping force. At some point, Georgia managed to return Adzharia but when Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, backed and armed by Western nations, attempted to capture South Ossetia in 2008, Russia had to intervene and repel the aggression. Subsequently, Russia recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent nations.

YELTSIN’S CHALLENGE

New star steals limelight

As Stalin and Trotsky, or Tony Blair and Gordon Brown could attest, your own archrival in politics is often on your team, pursuing broadly similar — but not identical aims — and hankering for the top seat.

But unlike those rivalries, the scenes in the fallout between Mikhail Gorbachev, and his successor, Boris Yeltsin played out not through backroom deals and media leaks, but in the form of an epic drama in front of a live audience of thousands, and millions sat in front of their televisions.

The two leaders were born a month apart in 1931, and followed broadly similar paths of reformist regional commissars – while Gorbachev controlled the agricultural Stavropol, Yeltsin attempted to revitalize the industrial region of Sverdlovsk, present-day Yekaterinburg.

Yet, Yeltsin was a definitely two steps behind Gorbachev on the Soviet career ladder, and without his leg-up might have never made it to Moscow at all. A beneficiary of the new leader’s clear out, though not his personal protégé, Yeltsin was called up to Moscow in 1985, and the following year, was assigned the post of First Secretary of the Moscow Communist Party, effectively becoming the mayor of the capital.

Yeltsin’s style dovetailed perfectly with the new agenda, and his superior’s personal style, though his personal relationship with Gorbachev was strained almost from the start. Breaking off from official tours of factories, the city administrator would pay surprise visits to queue-plagued and under-stocked stores (and the warehouses where the consumables were put aside for the elites); occasionally abandoning his bulletproof ZIL limo, Yeltsin would ride on public transport. This might appear like glib populism now, but at the time was uncynically welcomed. In the first few months in the job, the provincial leader endeared himself to Muscovites — his single most important power base in the struggles that came, and a guarantee that he would not be forgotten whatever ritual punishments were cast down by the apex of the Communist Party.

Boris Yeltsin, First Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party’s Moscow City Committee, at the official meeting celebrating the 70th anniversary of the October revolution.
RIA Novosti.

Boris Yeltsin, left, candidate member of the Politburo of the CPSU Central Committee, at lunch.
RIA Novosti.Voters’ meeting with candidate for deputy of the Moscow Soviet in the 161st constituency, First Secretary of the CPSU Moscow Town Committee, Chairman of the USSR Supreme Soviet, Boris Yeltsin, centre.
RIA Novosti.People’s deputy Boris Yeltsin. Algirdas Brazauskas (right) and chairman of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Council Mikhail Gorbachev on the presidium.
RIA Novosti.

But Yeltsin was not just a demagogue content with cosmetic changes and easy popularity, and after months of increasing criticism of the higher-ups, he struck.

During a public session of the Central Committee of the Communist Party in October 1987, the newcomer delivered a landmark speech.

In front of a transfixed hall, he told the country’s leaders that they were putting road blocks on the road to Perestroika, he accused senior ministers of becoming “sycophantic” towards Gorbachev. As his final flourish, Yeltsin withdrew himself from his post as a candidate to the Politburo — an unprecedented move that amounted to contempt towards the most senior Soviet institution.

The speech, which he later said he wrote “on his lap” while sitting in the audience just a few hours earlier, was Yeltsin in a nutshell. Unafraid to challenge authority and to risk everything, with a flair for the dramatic, impulsive and unexpected decision (his resignation as Russian president in his New Year’s speech being the most famous).

Footage shows Gorbachev looking on bemused from above. He did not publicly criticize Yeltsin there and then, and spoke empathetically about Yeltsin’s concerns, but later that day (with his backing) the Central Committee declared Yeltsin’s address “politically misguided”, a slippery Soviet euphemism that cast Yeltsin out into the political wilderness.

Gorbachev thought he had won the round — “I won’t allow Yeltsin anywhere near politics again” he vowed, his pique shining through — but from then on, their historical roles and images were cast.

Gorbachev, for all of his reforms, now became the tame, prissy socialist. Yeltsin, the careerist who nearly had it all, and renounced everything he had achieved at the age of 54 and re-evaluated all he believed in. Gorbachev, the Politburo chief who hid behind the silent majority, Yeltsin the rebel who stood up to it. Gorbachev, the politician who spoke a lot and often said nothing, Yeltsin, the man of action.

Historically, the contrast may seem unfair, as both were equally important historical figures, who had a revolutionary impact for their time. But stood side-by-side, Yeltsin — with his regal bearing and forceful charisma — not only took the baton of Perestroika’s promises, but stole the man-of-the-future aura that had hitherto belonged to Gorbachev, who now seemed fidgety and weaselly by comparison.

While he was stripped of his Moscow role, Yeltsin’s party status was preserved. This had a perverse effect. No one stopped Yeltsin from attending high-profile congresses. No one prevented him from speaking at them. It was the perfect situation — he had the platform of an insider, and the kudos of an outsider. Tens of deputies would come and criticize the upstart, and then he’d take the stage, Boris Yeltsin vs. The Machine.

On June 12, 1990 Russia declared sovereignty from the USSR. A month later, Yeltsin staged another one of his dramatic masterclasses, when he quit the Communist Party on-stage during its last ever national congress, and walked out of the cavernous hall with his head held high, as loyal deputies jeered him.

In June 1991, after calling a snap election, Yeltsin became the first President of Russia, winning 57 percent — or more than 45 million votes. The Party’s candidate garnered less than a third of Yeltsin’s tally.

By this time Gorbachev’s position had become desperate. The Soviet Union was being hollowed out, and Yeltsin and the other regional leaders were now actively colluding with each other, signing agreements that bypassed the Kremlin.

The Communists and nationalists — often one and the same — had once been ambivalent about Gorbachev’s reforms, and anyway had been loath to criticize their leader. But inspired by Gorbachev’s glasnost, and with the USSR’s long term prospects becoming very clear, they now wanted their say as well. A reactionary media backlash started against him, generals pronounced warnings of “social unrest” that sounded more like threats, and some had begun to go as far as to earnestly speculate that Gorbachev was working for the Cold War “enemy.”

USSR IMPLODES

Failed coup brings down faded leader of fractured country

The junta that tried to take power in the Soviet Union on the night of August 18th is one of the most inept in the history of palace coups.

On August 18, all phones at Gorbachev’s residence, including the one used to control the USSR’s nuclear arsenal, were suddenly cut off, while unbeknownst to him, a KGB regiment was surrounding the house. Half an hour later a delegation of top officials arrived at the residence in Foros, Crimea, walked past his family to his office, in their briefcases a selection of documents for Gorbachev to sign. In one scenario, he would simply declare a state of emergency, and proclaim control over all the rebel republics, in another he would hand over power to his deputy Gennady Yanaev, due to worsening health.

Genuinely angry at their disloyalty, the Soviet leader called them “chancers”, and refused to sign anything, saying he would not have blood on his hands. He then showed them out of the house with a lengthy tirade — clearly recollected by all present in their memoirs — in which he crowned the plotters a “bunch of cocks.”

The plotters were not prepared for this turn of events. Gathering once again back in Moscow, they sat around looking at their unsigned emergency decree, arguing and not daring to put their names on the typewritten document. As midnight passed, and more and more bottles of whisky, imported from the decadent West they were saving the USSR from, was brought in, the patriots found their courage, or at least persuaded Yanaev to place himself at the top of the list of signatories. The Gang of Eight would be known as the State Committee on the State of Emergency. Accounts say that by the time they were driven to their dachas — hours before the most important day of their lives — the plotters could barely stand. Valentin Pavlov, he of the unpopular monetary reform, and the prime minister, drank so much he had to be treated for acute alcohol intoxication, and was hospitalized with cardiac problems as the events of the next three days unfolded.

But orders were issued, and on the morning of the 19th tanks rolled into Moscow. While news suggested that nothing had gone wrong — and at this point it hadn’t — the junta made it seem as if everything had. Not only were there soldiers on street, but all TV channels were switched off, with Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake iconically played on repeat. By four o’clock in the afternoon, most of the relatively independent media was outlawed by a decree.

But for all their heavy-handed touch the putsch leaders did nothing to stop their real nemesis. Unlike most coups, which are a two-way affair, this was a triangular power struggle – between Gorbachev, the reactionaries, and Yeltsin. Perhaps, like Gorbachev, stuck in their mindset of backroom intrigue the plotters seemed to underrate Yeltsin, and the resources at his disposal.

Russia’s next leader had arrived in Moscow from talks with his Kazakhstan counterpart, allegedly in the same merry state as the self-appointed plotters. But when his daughter woke him up with news of the unusual cross-channel broadcasting schedule, he acted fast, and took his car straight to the center of Moscow. The special forces soldiers placed around his dacha by the conspirators were not ordered to shoot or detain him.

Yeltsin’s supporters first gathered just a few hundred yards from the Kremlin walls, and then on instruction marched through the empty city to the White House building, the home of the rebellious Russian parliament. There, in his defining moment and as the crowd (although at this early hour it was actually thinner than the mythology suggests) chanted his name, Yeltsin climbed onto the tank, reclaimed from the government forces, and loudly, without the help of a microphone, denounced the events of the past hours as a “reactionary coup.” In the next few hours, people from across Moscow arrived, as the crowd swelled to 70,000. A human chain formed around the building, and volunteers began to build barricades from trolleybuses and benches from nearby parks.

Military hardware in Kalininsky prospect after imposition of a state of emergency in August 1991.
RIA Novosti.
Muscovites block the way for military weaponry during the GKChP coup.
RIA Novosti.

Moscow residents building barricades next to the Supreme Soviet during the coup by the State EmergencyCommittee.
RIA Novosti.Thousands of people rallying before the Supreme Soviet of Russia on August 20, 1991.
RIA Novosti.

Though this seemed as much symbolic, as anything, as the elite units sent in by the junta had no intention of shooting, and demonstrated their neutrality, freely mingling with the protesters. Their commander, Pavel Grachev, defected to Yeltsin the following day, and was later rewarded with the defense minister’s seat. The Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov also supported Yeltsin.

Russian President Boris Yeltsin waves from the balcony of the Russian Parliament to a crowd of demonstrators protesting against the overthrow of Soviet President Gorbachev during the brief coup in August 1991, in Moscow August 20, 1991. The result, ironically, was the dissolution of the Soviet Union. REUTERS/Michael Samojeden IMAGE TAKEN AUGUST 20, 1991.
Reuters.

Realizing that their media blackout was not working, and that they were quickly losing initiative, the plotters went to the other extreme, and staged an unmoderated televised press conference.

Sat in a row, the anonymous, ashen-faced men looked every bit the junta. While Yanaev was the nominal leader, he was never the true engine of the coup, which was largely orchestrated by Vladimir Kryuchkov, the KGB chief, who, with the natural caution of a security agent, did not want to take center stage. The acting president, meanwhile, did not look the part. His voice was tired and unsure, his hands shaking — another essential memory of August 1991.

From left: the USSR Interior Minister Boris Pugo and the USSR Vice-President Gennady Yanayev during the press conference of the members of the State Committee for the State of Emergency (GKCP).
RIA Novosti.
From left: Alexander Tizyakov, Vasily Starodubtsev, Boris Pugo, Gennady Yanayev, and Oleg Baklanov during the press conference of the State of Emergency State Committee (GKCP) members at the USSR Foreign Ministry.
RIA Novosti.

In another spectacularly poor piece of communications management, after the new leaders made their speeches, they opened the floor to an immediately hostile press pack, which openly quoted Yeltsin’s words accusing them of overthrowing a legitimate government on live television.

Referring to Gorbachev as “my friend Mikhail Sergeevich,” Yanaev monotoned that the president was “resting and taking a holiday in Crimea. He has grown very weary over these last few years and needs some time to get his health back.” With tanks standing outside proceedings were quickly declining into a lethargic farce in front of the whole country.

Over the next two days there was international condemnation (though Muammar Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein and Yasser Arafat supported the coup) the deaths of three pro-Yeltsin activists, and an order by the junta to re-take the White House at all costs, canceled at the last minute. But by then the fate of the putsch had already been set in motion.

Meanwhile, as the most dramatic events in Russia since 1917 were unfolding in Moscow, Gorbachev carried on going for dips in the Black Sea, and watching TV with his family. On the first night of the coup, wearing a cardigan not fit for an nationwide audience, he recorded an uncharacteristically meek address to the nation on a household camera, saying that he had been deposed. He did not appear to make any attempt to get the video out of Foros, and when it was broadcast the following week, it incited reactions from ridicule, to suspicions that he was acting in cahoots with the plotters, or at least waiting out the power struggle in Moscow. Gorbachev likely was not, but neither did he appear to exhibit the personal courage of Yeltsin, who came out and addressed crowds repeatedly when a shot from just one government sniper would have been enough to end his life.

On the evening of August 21, with the coup having evidently failed, two planes set out for Crimea almost simultaneously from Moscow. In the first were the members of the junta, all rehearsing their penances, in the other, members of Yeltsin’s team, with an armed unit to rescue Gorbachev, who, for all they knew, may have been in personal danger. When the putschists reached Foros, Gorbachev refused to receive them, and demanded that they restore communications. He then phoned Moscow, Washington and Paris, voiding the junta’s decrees, and repeating the simple message: “I have the situation under control.”

But he did not. Gorbachev’s irrelevance over the three days of the putsch was a metaphor for his superfluousness in Russia’s political life in the previous months, and from that moment onward. Although the putschists did not succeed, a power transfer did happen, and Gorbachev still lost. For three days, deference to his formal institutions of power was abandoned, and yet the world did not collapse, so there was no longer need for his dithering mediation.

Gingerly walking down the steps of the airstair upon landing in Moscow, blinking in front of the cameras, Mikhail Gorbachev was the lamest of lame duck leaders. He gave a press conference discussing the future direction of the Communist Party, and inner reshuffles that were to come, sounding not just out-of-touch, but borderline delusional.

Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev addresses the Extraordinary meeting of the Supreme Soviet of Russian Federation in Moscow in this August 23, 1991 file photo.
Reuters.
Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev touch hands during Gorbachev’s address to the Extraordinary meeting of the Supreme Soviet of Russian Federation in Moscow, August 23, 1991. REUTERS/Gennady Galperin (RUSSIA).
Reuters.

Gorbachev resigned as the President of the Soviet Union on December 25, 1991.

“The policy prevailed of dismembering this country and disuniting the state, which is something I cannot subscribe to,” he lamented, before launching into an examination of his six years in charge.

“Even now, I am convinced that the democratic reform that we launched in the spring of 1985 was historically correct. The process of renovating this country and bringing about drastic change in the international community has proven to be much more complicated than anyone could imagine.”

“However, let us give its due to what has been done so far. This society has acquired freedom. It has been freed politically and spiritually, and this is the most important achievement that we have yet fully come to grips with.”

AFTERMATH

Praised in West, scorned at home

“Because of him, we have economic confusion!”

“Because of him, we have opportunity!”

“Because of him, we have political instability!”

“Because of him, we have freedom!”

“Complete chaos!”

“Hope!”

“Political instability!”

“Because of him, we have many things like Pizza Hut!”

Thus ran the script to the 1997 advert that saw a tableful of men argue loudly over the outcome of Perestroika in a newly-opened Moscow restaurant, a few meters from an awkward Gorbachev, staring into space as he munches his food alongside his 10 year-old granddaughter. The TV spot ends with the entire clientele of the restaurant getting up to their feet, and chanting “Hail to Gorbachev!” while toasting the former leader with pizza slices heaving with radiant, viscous cheese.

The whole scene is a travesty of the momentous transformations played out less than a decade earlier, made crueler by contemporary surveys among Russians that rated Gorbachev as the least popular leader in the country’s history, below Stalin and Ivan the Terrible.

The moment remains the perfect encapsulation of Gorbachev’s post-resignation career.

To his critics, many Russians among them, he was one of the most powerful men in the world reduced to exploiting his family in order to hawk crust-free pizzas for a chain restaurant — an American one at that — a personal and national humiliation, and a reminder of his treason. For the former Communist leader himself it was nothing of the sort. A good-humored Gorbachev said the half-afternoon shoot was simply a treat for his family, and the self-described “eye-watering” financial reward — donated entirely to his foundation — money that would be used to go to charity.

As for the impact of Gorbachev’s career in advertising on Russia’s reputation… In a country where a decade before the very existence of a Pizza Hut near Red Square seemed unimaginable, so much had changed, it seemed a perversely logical, if not dignified, way to complete the circle. In the years after Gorbachev’s forced retirement there had been an attempted government overthrow that ended with the bombardment of parliament, privatization, the first Chechen War, a drunk Yeltsin conducting a German orchestra and snatching an improbable victory from revanchist Communists two years later, and an impending default.

Although he did get 0.5 percent of the popular vote during an aborted political comeback that climaxed in the 1996 presidential election, Gorbachev had nothing at all to do with these life-changing events. And unlike Nikita Khrushchev, who suffered greater disgrace, only to have his torch picked up, Gorbachev’s circumstances were too specific to breed a political legacy. More than that, his reputation as a bucolic bumbler and flibbertigibbet, which began to take seed during his final years in power, now almost entirely overshadowed his proven skill as a political operator, other than for those who bitterly resented the events he helped set in motion.

Other than in his visceral dislike of Boris Yeltsin — the two men never spoke after December 1991 — if Gorbachev was bitter about the lack of respect afforded to him at home, he wore it lightly. Abroad, he reveled in his statesmanlike aura, receiving numerous awards, and being the centerpiece at star-studded galas. Yet, for a man of his ambition, being pushed into retirement must have gnawed at him repeatedly.

After eventually finding a degree of financial and personal stability on the lecture circuit in the late 1990s, Gorbachev was struck with another blow — the rapid death of Raisa from cancer.

A diabetic, Gorbachev became immobile and heavy-set, a pallor fading even his famous birthmark. But his voice retained its vigor (and accent) and the former leader continued to proffer freely his loquacious opinions on politics, to widespread indifference.

Gorbachev’s legacy is at the same time unambiguous, and deeply mixed — more so than the vast majority of political figures. His decisions and private conversations were meticulously recorded and verified. His motivations always appeared transparent. His mistakes and achievements formed patterns that repeated themselves through decades.

Yet for all that clarity, the impact of his decisions, the weight given to his feats and failures can be debated endlessly, and has become a fundamental question for Russians.

Less than three decades after his limo left the Kremlin, his history has been rewritten several times, and his role bent to the needs of politicians and prevailing social mores. This will likely continue. Those who believe in the power of the state, both nationalists and Communists, will continue to view his time as egregious at best, seditious at worst. For them, Gorbachev is inextricably linked with loss — the forfeiture of Moscow’s international standing, territory and influence. The destruction of the fearsome and unique Soviet machine that set Russia on a halting course as a middle-income country with a residual seat in the UN Security Council trying to gain acceptance in a US-molded world.

Others, who appreciate a commitment to pacifism and democracy, idealism and equality, will also find much to admire in Gorbachev, even though he could not always be his best self. Those who place greater value on the individual than the state, on freedom than on military might, those who believe that the collapse of the Iron Curtain and the totalitarian Soviet Union was a landmark achievement not a failure will be grateful, and if not sympathetic. For one man’s failure can produce a better outcome than another’s success.

RAISA

Passion and power

The history of rulers is littered with tales of devoted wives and ambitious women pulling strings from behind the throne, and Raisa was often painted as both. But unlike many storybook partnerships, where the narrative covers up the nuances, the partnership between Mikhail and Raisa was absolutely authentic, and genuinely formidable. Perhaps the key to Mikhail’s lifelong commitment, and even open deference to his wife, atypical for a man of his generation, lay in their courtship.

Raisa Gorbacheva, wife of the General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee and Chairman of the USSR Supreme Soviet Mikhail Gorbachev, in Paris during their official visit to France. Ria Novosti.

In his autobiography, Gorbachev recollects with painful clarity, how his first meeting with Raisa, on the dance floor of a university club, “aroused no emotion in her whatsoever.” Yet Gorbachev was smitten with the high cheek-boned fellow over-achiever immediately, calling her for awkward dorm-room group chats that went nowhere, and seeking out attempts.

— Raisa Gorbacheva
“We were happy then. We were happy because of our young age, because of the hopes for the future and just because of the fact that we lived and studied at the university. We appreciated that.”

It was several months before she agreed to even go for a walk through Moscow with the future Soviet leader, and then months of fruitless promenades, discussing exams at their parallel faculties. With candor, Gorbachev admits that she only agreed to date him after “having her heart broken by the man she had pledged it to.” But once their relationship overcame its shaky beginnings, the two became the very definition of a Soviet power couple, in love and ready to do anything for each other. In the summer vacation after the two began to go steady, Gorbachev did not think it below him to return to his homeland, and resume work as a simple mechanic, to top up the meager university stipend.

The two were not embarrassed having to celebrate their wedding in a university canteen, symbolically, on the anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution on November 7, 1953. Or put off when the watchful guardians of morality at Moscow State University forbid the newlyweds from visiting each other’s halls without a specially signed pass. More substantial obstacles followed, when Mikhail’s mother also did not take to her daughter-in-law, while Raisa agreed to a medically-advised abortion after becoming pregnant following a heavy bout of rheumatism. But the two persevered. Raisa gave birth to their only child in 1955, and as Gorbachev’s star rose, so did his wife’s academic career as a sociologist. But Raisa’s true stardom came when Gorbachev occupied the Soviet leader’s post.

Soviet President and General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party’s Central Committee, Mikhail Gorbachev, 2nd right, and Soviet First Lady Raisa Gorbacheva, right, at the meeting with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, left, at the Soviet Embassy in London.
RIA Novosti.

Raisa Gorbacheva, the wife of the Soviet leader (left), showing Nancy Reagan, first lady of the U.S., around the Kremlin during U.S. President Ronald Reagan’s official visit to the U.S.S.R.
RIA Novosti.General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee Mikhail Gorbachev (center left) and his spouse Raisa Gorbacheva (second from left) seeing off US President Ronald Reagan after his visit to the USSR. Right: The spouse of US president Nancy Reagan. The Hall of St. George in the Grand Kremlin Palace.
RIA Novosti.Raisa Gorbacheva (left), wife of the general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, and Barbara Bush (right), wife of the U.S. president, attending the inauguration of the sculptured composition Make Way for Ducklings near the Novodevichy Convent during U.S. President George Bush’s official visit to the U.S.S.R.
RIA Novosti.Soviet first lady Raisa Gorbacheva meets with Tokyo residents during Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachyov’s official visit to Japan.
RIA Novosti.The meeting between Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, President of the USSR and the heads of state and government of the seven leading industrial nations. From left to right: Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, Norma Major, Raisa Maksimovna Gorbacheva and John Major.
RIA Novosti.Soviet president’s wife Raisa Gorbacheva at the 112th commencement at a female college. The State of Massachusetts. Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev’s state visit to the United States.
RIA Novosti.

In a symbol as powerful as his calls for international peace and reform at home, the Communist leader was not married to a matron hidden at home, but to an urbane, elegantly-dressed woman, regarded by many as an intellectual equal, if not superior to Mikhail himself. Gorbachev consulted his wife in every decision, as he famously told American TV viewers during a Tom Brokaw interview. This generated much ill-natured mockery throughout Gorbachev’s reign, but he never once tried to push his wife out of the limelight, where she forged friendships with such prominent figures as Margaret Thatcher, Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush.

Raisa was there in the Crimean villa at Foros, during the attempted putsch of August 1991, confronting the men who betrayed her husband personally, and suffering a stroke as a result. It was also Raisa by Gorbachev’s side when they were left alone, after the whirlwind settled in 1991. Despite nearly losing her eyesight due to her stroke, Raisa largely took the lead in organizing Mikhail’s foundation, and in structuring his life. In 1999, with his own affairs in order, not least because of the controversial Pizza Hut commercial, and Russians anger much more focused on his ailing successor, Gorbachev thought he could enjoy a more contented retirement, traveling the world with his beloved.

CPSU Central Committee General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev and his wife Raisa at Orly Airport, France.
RIA Novosti.

Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev (center), Soviet first lady Raisa Gorbacheva (right), Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Kazakh first lady Sara Nazarbayeva during Gorbachev’s working visit to Kazakhstan.
RIA Novosti.General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee Mikhail Gorbachev (left) and his spouse Raisa Gorbachev (center) at a friendship meeting in the Wawel Castle during a visit to Poland.
RIA Novosti.Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and his wife Raisa during his official visit to China.
RIA Novosti.An official visit to Japan by USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev. He with wife, Raisa Gorbachev, and Japanese Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu near a tree planted in the garden of Akasaka Palace.
RIA Novosti.Mikhail Gorbachev (center), daughter Irina (right) and his wife’s sister Lyudmila (left) at the funeral of Raisa Gorbachev.
RIA Novosti.Last respects for Raisa Gorbacheva, spouse of the former the USSR president in the Russian Fond of Culture. Mikhail Gorbachev, family and close people of Raisa Gorbacheva at her coffin.
RIA Novosti.Mikhail Gorbachev at the opening of the Raisa exhibition in memory of Raisa Gorbacheva.
RIA Novosti.

— Raisa Gorbacheva
“It is possible that I had to get such a serious illness and die for the people to understand me.”

Then came the leukemia diagnosis, in June of that year. Before the couple’s close family had the chance to adjust to the painful rhythm of hope and fear that accompanies the treatment of cancer, Raisa was dead. Her burial unleashed an outpouring of emotion, with thousands, including many of her husband’s numerous adversaries, gathering to pay their sincere respects. No longer the designer-dressed careerist ice queen to be envied, resented and ridiculed, now people saw Raisa for the charismatic and shrewd idealist she always was. For Gorbachev it made little difference, and all those around him said that however much activity he tried to engage in following his wife’s death, none of it ever had quite the same purpose.

“People say time heals. But it never stops hurting – we were to be joined until death,” Gorbachev always said in interviews

For the tenth anniversary of Raisa’s death, in 2009, Mikhail Gorbachev teamed up with famous Russian musician Andrey Makerevich to record a charity album of Russian standards, dedicated to his beloved wife. The standout track was Old Letters, a 1940s melancholy ballad. Gorbachev said that it came to him in 1991 when he discovered Raisa burning their student correspondence and crying, after she found out that their love letters had been rifled through by secret service agents during the failed coup.

The limited edition LP sold at a charity auction in London, and fetched £100,000.

Afterwards, Gorbachev got up on the stage to sing Old Letters, but half way through he choked up, and had to leave the stage to thunderous applause.

Russia’s top diplomat, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, talks with RT’s editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan in an exclusive interview about the challenges Russia faces amid the Ukraine conflict

July 20, 2022

Highlights as seen by Pepe Escobar:

🇷🇺The highlights of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with Sputnik and RT:

🔹The EU is forced to make amendments to sanctions against Russia as they have exceeded their potential;

🔹Russia is not happy about energy issues that Europe is currently facing, but “will not worry about it too much”;

🔹Western countries are trying to drag UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres into their “games” around Ukrainian grain;

🔹Moscow has sent a signal to Guterres about the need to include a clause on Russian grain in the Istanbul agreements;

🔹It can hardly be in Europe’s interests to fully cut off ties with Russia and switch to liquefied natural gas supplies from the US;

🔹If the EU suddenly changes its position and proposes Russia to restore relations, Moscow needs to decide if this is beneficial to the country;

🔹The geographical area of the special operation has changed and expanded beyond Donbas due to Kiev receiving the US-made HIMARS and other weapons.

Full Transcript now available

Question: You just returned from a trip and are about to leave again soon. This “international isolation” is so tight that you are almost never home.

Here’s a question from our subscribers. At different levels, from the deputies to public officials, our talks with Ukraine are on and off. We say it’s impossible to hold talks now, but the next thing you know someone is saying it would be good to start them. Does it make sense or is it just a diplomatic ritual?

Sergey Lavrov: It doesn’t make any sense given the circumstances. Yesterday, the President touched on this while speaking at the news conference following talks with the leaders of Iran and Türkiye in Tehran.

Vladimir Putin once again made it clear that the Ukrainian leadership asked for talks early on during the special military operation. We didn’t say no. We approached this process honestly, but the first rounds of talks held in Belarus showed that the Ukrainian side didn’t really want to seriously discuss anything. Then, we passed our assessment of the situation over to them noting that if Kiev was serious about the talks, they should give us something “on paper” so we could understand what kind of agreements they had in mind. The Ukrainian side gave us a document that we found agreeable (yesterday the President again cited this fact) and were ready to conclude a treaty based on the principles outlined in it. Building on their logic, we drafted a corresponding document, which we made available to the Ukrainian side on April 15. Since then, we’ve heard nothing from them, but we hear other people such as Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany Olaf Scholz, Boris Johnson (though, not now for obvious reasons), President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, and High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Chief Diplomat Josep Borrell say that Ukraine must “win on the battlefield” and should not engage in talks, because it has a weak position on the front. First, they need to improve the situation and start dominating the Russian armed forces and the Donetsk and Lugansk militias, and only then start talks “from a position of strength.” I don’t think this approach holds water.

Question: It doesn’t hold water because Ukraine will fail to do so?

Sergey Lavrov: It won’t work. They will never be able to formulate “things” that really deserve people’s time. We understood this. It is no secret that Kiev is being held back from taking any constructive steps, and they are not just flooding it with weapons, but making it use those weapons in an increasingly risky manner. Foreign instructors and specialists are there servicing these systems (HIMARS and others).

With strong support from the Germans, Poles, and Balts, our US and British (Anglo-Saxon) “colleagues” want to make this an actual war and pit Russia against the European countries. Washington and London are sitting far away, across oceans and straits, but will benefit from this. The European economy is impacted more than anything else. The stats show that 40 percent of the damage caused by sanctions is borne by the EU whereas the damage to the United States is less than 1 percent, if you look at the cumulative negative impact of the restrictions.

I do not doubt that the Ukrainians will not be allowed to hold talks until the Americans decide they have created enough destruction and chaos. Then, they will leave Ukraine alone and watch it get out of this mess.

Question: Do you think this plan is actionable? A big war, a clash between Russia and the European countries? In fact, it’s about a nuclear war.

Sergey Lavrov: The Americans are not thinking about this. Ambitious people who want to reach new heights in their careers have come to the White House. I’m not sure how they will try to fulfill these goals as part of this administration. They are acting irresponsibly and building plans and schemes that are fraught with major risk. We are talking about this publicly. We could have told them, but the Americans don’t want to talk to us, and we will not chase them.

The dialogue we had before was not meaningless if only because we could look into each other’s eyes and lay out our approaches. As soon as the special military operation started, the United States tore this dialogue down. I think that Washington hasn’t yet understood that it is playing a dangerous game, but many people in Europe are beginning to realise this.

Question: Is a Russia-US clash, a nuclear war possible in our view?

Sergey Lavrov: We have initiated several statements (Russian-American statement and statement by the leaders of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council) to the effect that there can be no winners in a nuclear war and that it cannot ever be unleashed. This is our position and we will firmly stick to it.

Moreover, we have an endorsed doctrine that clearly explains in what cases Russia will be compelled to use nuclear arms. Our partners, colleagues, rivals or enemies (I don’t know how they refer themselves with regard to us) know this very well.

Question:  We consider Vladimir Zelensky the legitimate representative of Ukraine. Why is that? We say with good reason that everything happening in that country is a result of the coup, a forced change of power. This did not happen under Zelensky, but he became president because of these events. Why did we acknowledge this initially?

Sergey Lavrov: Guided by his own ethical considerations, President of France Emmanuel Macron recently let everyone listen to a recording of his February telephone conversation with President of Russia Vladimir Putin in which the  Russian leader expressed himself clearly. President Macron tried to persuade him not to bother too much with implementing the Minsk Agreements. He said that Donetsk and Lugansk were illegal entities and that it was necessary to work in the context of the suggested interpretations – allegedly Zelensky wanted this. Vladimir Putin replied that Vladimir Zelensky was the product of a state coup and that the established regime hadn’t gone anywhere.

Do you remember how events developed after the coup? The putschists spat in the face of Germany, France and Poland that were the guarantors of the agreement with Viktor Yanukovych. It was trampled underfoot the next morning. These European countries didn’t make a peep – they reconciled themselves to this. A couple of years ago I asked the Germans and French what they thought about the coup. What was it all about if they didn’t demand that the putschists fulfil the agreements? They replied: “This is the cost of the democratic process.” I am not kidding. Amazing – these were adults holding the post of foreign ministers.

Crimeans and the east of Ukraine refused to recognize the results of the coup. In Crimea, this led to the holding of a referendum on reuniting with Russia and in Donbass to a refusal to deal with the new, illegitimate central authorities that started a war. Then Pyotr Poroshenko began a presidential campaign. The election took place in late May, 2014. President of France François Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other European leaders tried to persuade the President of Russia to say nothing in advance about his refusal to recognise the results of the Ukrainian elections. Vladimir Putin replied: since Poroshenko is holding the election with the slogans of peace, promises to restore the rights of all Ukrainians, including the residents of Donbass, we will not question the legitimacy of this process.

It turned out that Poroshenko quickly forgot his election promises. He cheated his voters, lied to them and his Western sponsors, and unleashed another round of war that was stopped with great difficulty in February 2015. Later the Minsk Agreements were signed. He recently admitted that he had no intention of fulfilling the agreements and signed them only because Ukraine had to build up its strength economically and militarily to “win back its land,” including Crimea. This is why he concluded these agreements.

Question: We did not realise this, did we?

Sergey Lavrov: Well, I still hoped that some conscience was left there. Poroshenko revealed his true attitude towards the Minsk Agreements: he would not fulfil a document endorsed by the UN Security Council. Thus, he confirmed once again, this time in public, that he was not a legitimate president, one that relies on the foundations of international law.

Vladimir Zelensky came to power with slogans of peace as well. He promised to return peace to Ukraine. He said all citizens of the country who wanted to speak Russian would be able to and nobody would harass them or discriminate against them. Listen to what he is saying now.

In the role of Servant of the People Zelensky played a democrat, a glad-hander, a teacher, one of the people, who defeated the oligarchs and paid off the IMF. The people became free. He dissolved the corrupt parliament and the government. There are video recordings that cannot be hidden. They show how Zelensky upheld the rights of the Russian language and Russian culture…

Question: He is an actor, Mr Lavrov!

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, an actor under the Stanislavsky system – quickly turns coat. He was recently asked about his attitude towards the people of Donbass. Mr Zelensky replied that there are people and there are species. He also said that if people feel Russian, let them go to Russia “for the sake of the future of their children and grandchildren.” This is exactly what Dmitry Yarosh said the first day after the coup in February 2014: “A Russian will never think like a Ukrainian, will not speak Ukrainian and will not glorify Ukrainian heroes. Russians need to leave Crimea.”

The elite that came to power after the coup have already established their national genetic code. Arseny Yatsenyuk “in between” Dmitry Yarosh, Petr Poroshenko and Vladimir Zelensky called the residents of Donbass “subhuman.”

Question: Do you remember Petr Poroshenko saying that Ukrainian children would go to school, while Russian children would sit in basements? He said this to the people he considered to be their own.

Sergey Lavrov: Now they say that they will liberate their lands…

Question: Without any people?

Sergey Lavrov: I don’t know how Kiev is planning to treat these people. They would start an uprising.

Question: What people? They will try to wipe them out in HIMARS strikes. You mentioned conscience, but you can’t judge others by your own standards. If you have a conscience, this doesn’t mean that your “partners” have it as well.

Before you entered the room, we talked with Maria Zakharova about those whom you have described as seemingly serious people. Of course, we poked fun at them, which was bound to happen. Take the recent comment by White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, who has replaced our beloved Jen Psaki. When asked what President Joe Biden was doing the previous two days, she replied that he was thinking about the American people.

I mean that Western leaders are crumbling. Many of them have symptoms of “limited adequacy” and sometimes even “limited sanity.” They are going to be replaced. Are there grounds to believe that those who will replace them will display fewer symptoms of “limited adequacy”?

Sergey Lavrov: I would put it differently. The current political establishment that has been raised in the West can be said to have “adequate limitations.” They consider themselves to be adequate, but they have limited competence in terms of political experience and knowledge.

Question: Why is that?

Sergey Lavrov: I don’t know, but many people have taken note of this. Henry Kissinger mentioned this recently when speaking about Gerhardt Schroeder and Jacques Chirac. He didn’t put it bluntly, but he clearly hinted at the stark contrast.

There is a tendency towards the average in political processes. You should elect people who are easy to understand and who will focus on simple, banal subjects. They invented the green transition, shouting that everyone will have no air to breathe soon and will die, and that dolphins and fish will disappear, leaving human beings alone in a desert. They have to deal with the effects of the green transition now. President Vladimir Putin explained the details of this mechanism in Western politics and how it has led to a painful flop because of the lack of proper calculations.

I don’t know the reason for their inadequacy. Maybe the absence of strong leaders is convenient for someone?

Question: For whom exactly?

Sergey Lavrov: For the bureaucrats in the European Commission. There are 60,000 of them, which is a lot. They have become a thing-in-itself. It is no coincidence that Poland, Hungary and other countries have asked why they should listen to these people, in particular in the areas where they have no competence. This is really so.

Question: In other words, it is a kind of a “deep state” in Europe, isn’t it?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, it seems so. But it is not quite a “deep state” but the elite, the European Commission.

Question: Is it a “shallow state” then?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, and the pendulum is moving away from the side that was associated with rapid integration. The requirements that are being enforced by Brussels, which are not always based on formal arrangements, are becoming annoying and are preventing countries from living in accordance with their own traditions and religious beliefs. Today they are pestering Budapest with their propaganda of non-traditional values, but Hungarians don’t want this, just as we don’t want this and many other nations. The European Commission demands that Budapest must revise its position, or it will not receive the approved funding.  I believe that this is bad for the EU.

Question: But good for us?

Sergey Lavrov: I don’t think so. I believe that we should stay aloof. We cannot be happy that people in Europe will suffer from the cold and lower living standards.

Question: I agree about suffering from the cold. But maybe the Europeans will finally have enough of being forced? Maybe pro-nation politicians will come to power, those who will care about their own people and therefore will not quarrel with Russia? No country can benefit from quarrelling with Russia.

Sergey Lavrov: This is true. It is a proper process of recovery. People are abandoning the illusion that Brussels should decide everything for them, that everything will be the same every day with cheap energy and food, that everything will be fine. This would be in the interests of Europe and European nations, but I don’t know how it will happen.

We will not be happy, but we won’t feel overly concerned either. I believe we should stay aloof. They have created these problems for themselves; they have opted for living in these conditions and for abandoning the natural and beneficial ties, which have been created over decades in energy, logistics and transport links. This is their choice. Love cannot be forced. This process, when they complete it, if at all, because it is incompatible with unilateral profiteering, will cost the subsequent economic development in Europe dearly. They should not ask us to revive agreements. They have been proved unreliable. We cannot rely on such “partners” when planning long-term strategic investment in the development of our country and its foreign ties. We will work with other partners who are predictable. They have always been there for us in the East, in the South and on other continents. Now that the share of the West in our foreign economic ties has been reduced dramatically, the share of our other partners will increase commensurately.

As for trends in Europe, there is also total lack of responsibility when it comes to explaining the reasons for the current crisis to their own people. Chancellor of Germany Olaf Scholz says he has no doubt that there are political rather than technical reasons for Russia’s intention to limit gas deliveries via Nord Stream. He has no doubt! As if the facts, which we have made public on numerous occasions and which President Putin has mentioned, do not prove that Europe has been systematically and consistently reducing the capabilities of Nord Stream 1 and has  suspended Nord Stream 2, and how it retrospectively adopted restrictions on the operation of Nord Stream after all the investments had been made and the financing rules could not be changed. Nevertheless, the European Commission insisted on its decision, and it was adopted. Instead of using the pipeline to its full capacity, we have halved the transit of gas through it.

We are being accused of using hunger as a weapon. Ursula von der Leyen has said this.

Question: Cold and hunger. Do you remember General Frost? Now we have General Grain and General Heating.

Sergey Lavrov: US Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen has made a pompous statement that the United States would not allow Russia, China or anyone else to break the international economic order, which has allegedly been approved by the international community. She said that economic integration has been weaponised by Russia. This is going much further than the other rubbish we have been hearing and looks like an agony. They don’t know how else to explain their own failure.

Question: You mentioned the green transition and how they are trying to force the LGBT agenda on some East European countries for which, like for us, it is completely alien. For you, an experienced person who has observed many processes for decades, it must be clearer than for us, the ordinary people. This agenda includes green transition, LGBT, MeToo, BLM, cancelling ballet at Britain’s biggest dance school, the ban on math exams in some schools because the minorities would not be able to learn it, the ban on using the words “breast milk” and “mother”. People are contemplating but cannot understand what the idea is and who benefits from it. Who do you think is behind it?

Sergey Lavrov: We cannot step in their shoes and see why they are doing what they are doing. It is incomprehensible. If a person has some inclinations, why shouldn’t they be left with that? Let them have these inclinations. Why is it necessary to make a movement banner out of it?

Question: Why did the new White House Press Secretary openly declare that she is gay and black?

Sergey Lavrov: I am also interested to see how and where the Western political thought has been evolving. Some progressive philosophers, from the point of view of imperialism and colonialism, believe that the gold billion, or those who lead it and make political decisions, want to reduce the population of the planet because the resources are limited. Too many people, too few resources. As Mikhail Zhvanetsky joked, there should be fewer of us. He said it in Soviet times, when there was not enough food and goods. And now I read this explanation in some Western publications. It is horrifying.

Question: Which is not very logical, because the golden billion is reducing its own ranks this way, while the population in Africa is increasing. In Nigeria, which now wants to be friends with us, there are seven children per woman.

Sergey Lavrov: No, all these ways are constantly promoted there.

Question: It will take some time for them to get there… Look at the Hollywood elite: every second child is transgender or something, or non-binary, and they will have no grandchildren. Yes, it seems that they have started with themselves.

Sergey Lavrov: Maybe it is part of the plan, to reproduce less. I said that I cannot explain this, and shared with you one of the conspiracy theories.

Question: Both before the special military operation and today, people have believed that the West cannot manage without Russia. This is true in many respects, as the fact that they have lifted some of the sanctions clearly shows. What is less clear is whether the new package of sanctions passed this week contains new restrictions or lifts the sanctions adopted earlier. But what if they can manage without Russia after all? What prospects do you see? Can the West do completely without Russian energy carriers in the future, if not during the upcoming winter but in 2023 or 2024? Will it refuse to launch Nord Stream 2 and stop using the resources of Nord Stream 1? Is it possible? What do you think about this?

Sergey Lavrov: The new package of restrictions includes both the sanctions and various exceptions from them because the West has already run out of spheres where it can inflict damage on Russia. Now they have to think about what they have done and how it affects them. As far as I know, the West has now introduced some clarifications, and this will help facilitate Russian food exports. For many months, they told us that Russia was to blame for the food crisis because the sanctions don’t cover food and fertiliser. Therefore, Russia doesn’t need to find ways to avoid the sanctions and so it should trade because nobody stands in its way. It took us a lot of time to explain to them that, although food and fertiliser are not subject to sanctions, the first and second packages of Western restrictions affected freight costs, insurance premiums, permissions for Russian ships carrying these goods to dock at foreign ports and those for foreign ships taking on the same consignments at Russian harbours. They are openly lying to us that this is not true, and that it is up to Russia alone. This is foul play.

Unfortunately, the West has been trying to involve UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in these games. He became concerned about the food crisis and visited Russia, and he advocated a package deal at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. It is necessary to lift the artificial and illegitimate restrictions on Russian grain, and action should be taken to clear mines at Ukrainian ports where Ukrainian grain is stored. Antonio Guterres said that he would persuade Europe and the United States to remove all obstacles hampering Russian grain deliveries, and that Russia would cooperate with them, Türkiye and Ukraine in clearing mines at Black Sea ports, to facilitate grain shipments.  We replied that, in principle, it was possible to demine Black Sea ports without Russia, but that we would be ready to cooperate if they asked us. The UN Secretary-General actively promoted this package.

Last week, our colleagues visited Istanbul in order to coordinate this mechanism. We agreed on the basic principles for exporting Ukrainian grain. However, when members of the Russian delegation reminded those present about the second part of the package deal, the Ukrainian side flatly refused, and the UN delegation simply blushed and kept quiet.

Yesterday, we indicated to the UN Secretary-General that this was his initiative to begin with. In reply, Antonio Guterres proposed first resolving the issue of Ukrainian grain shipments, and said that Russian grain deliveries were next in line. This is foul play. People engaged in big politics should not behave in such a way. This means only one thing: I am convinced that the UN Secretary-General has come under tremendous pressure, first of all, from representatives of the United States and the United Kingdom who have settled in around him in the UN Secretariat in the posts of undersecretary-generals and who are actively using this “privatised” structure in their own interests. This is highly regrettable.

Question: How are they putting pressure on him, exactly? Technically, how do we explain this to people? Do as you’re told, or… what? Go to jail?

Sergey Lavrov: I don’t think they are using any personal methods of blackmail. Just, when the UN General Assembly is voting, they come up to the ambassadors, inform them that an anti-Russia resolution has been put to the vote while reminding them, for example, about their account in Chase Manhattan Bank or their daughter at Stanford. Things like that.

Question: But it’s kind of the same thing.

Sergey Lavrov: It happens. Well, of course, they don’t act with such arrogance here. Members of the UN Secretariat (the majority of them are from Western countries because the number of delegated secretariat seats depends on each state’s contribution) aren’t always neutral, as required by the UN Charter and the Regulations on the Secretariat. That’s life. I can assure you, it has always been like this.

Regarding the second part of your question, I think that Western politicians are now making every effort to avoid showing they have been mistaken. The ruling parties will try to do this by hook or by crook – they have no other way. But the opposition – in Austria, voices are increasingly heard (there’s the Austrian Freedom Party, which Brussels does not favour very much, but it’s a legitimate party). In other countries, the opposition is rising their heads: why are we doing this? Why can’t we just look at things and reach agreement? Many people have questions.

Developing countries don’t view the situation as Russia having crossed some “red line.” They remember what the Americans did in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, and Yugoslavia in 1999. With no notice, no warning that American interests were being infringed on, no calls to do something about it…

Question: No eight years of trying to reach agreement…

Sergey Lavrov: The United States bombed countries located 10,000 kilometres away from its coastline and razed cities to the ground. Europe never even dared to make a sound.

Question: No need to protect large communities of American compatriots living there…

Sergey Lavrov: That’s right. Our situation is totally different. There is a real threat, not something invented in order to spread our imperialist tentacles across the ocean – there’s a threat on our borders. For many years, we have been cautioning the West against turning Ukraine into an anti-Russia, with NATO infiltrating that country, against creating direct military threats to our security. Everyone is perfectly aware of this.

Returning to Europe, I don’t think that it is in European interests to completely cut off all ties with us and switch to LNG, which the Americans are trying to…

Question: …foist on them.

Sergey Lavrov: I wanted to use a less polite term, but foist will do. It will be their choice. Serious scientists write that Germany’s entire economic activity, its prosperity of the past decades was due primarily to Russian energy resources they bought at affordable, reasonable and predictable prices. True, LNG is a more flexible commodity. Gas has to be bought at the “end” of the pipeline, while LNG can be redirected. But this is also a disadvantage. When demand rose in Asia, the Americans sent their LNG there, because it was a better deal. This can lead not only to higher prices, but also to a shortage of supplies at a certain stage. But if they do this, we won’t have any particular problems.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin said that, given what they are doing with Nord Stream 2 (we’re ready to launch it, it is under operating pressure), in the current situation, 50 percent of the volume intended for that pipeline are already reserved for internal consumption: for heating purposes, for the chemical industry and for other industrial projects.

We will redirect supplies without any serious losses. I do not doubt it. We have buyers, we have demand; after all, there are applications within the country too – connecting households and facilities and developing the chemical industry.

Question: And thousands of villages without gas…

Sergey Lavrov: That’s why I mentioned connecting them.

So it will be their choice. I would like to say again: we should not (and, thank God, no one is trying to) invent any solutions implying the possibility, the probability, or even desirability of returning to the situation we had six months ago, where it was possible to restore the old supply chains. I think that they need to be discarded and new ones should be built that will be more reliable. This is what we are doing now, including the North-South corridor from St Petersburg to the Indian Ocean, and from India to Vladivostok. Several projects are already halfway through implementation. If and when, at some stage, Europe suddenly says that they have overreacted and are interested in restoring our economic relations and trade, we shouldn’t push them away. We will see how good the offer is, and only then react.

Question: We say if they duped you once, they’ll do it again. You mentioned the diversification of our areas of cooperation. We have covered the East (China, India) extensively. This time, you are going to Africa, which is south. What are you going to do there? What are your expectations? What should we expect?

Sergey Lavrov: We have long-standing good relations with Africa since the days of the Soviet Union which pioneered and led a movement that culminated in decolonisation. We provided assistance to the national liberation movement and then to the restoration of independent states and the rise of their economies. Hundreds of enterprises were built, which now form the basis of many African economies. At the UN, we led the movement to have decolonisation formalised as an integral part of international law and everyday life.

Then, there was the period when the Soviet Union disappeared and the Russian Federation emerged. We were confronted with major problems, not in Africa, but much closer, in our country.

We have been rebuilding our positions for many years now. The Africans are reciprocating. They are interested in having us. We never engaged in teaching them anything, but helped them overcome their problems so that they could live in their country the way they wanted to.

Question: They think we did teach them something, but in a good sense.

Sergei Lavrov: No. We helped them fulfil their goals. That’s how it was. We never told them not to be friends with America or anyone else. To this day, we are not lecturing them, unlike the Americans who go around Africa telling everyone “do not talk with the Chinese or the Russians. All they care about is their selfish interests, even when they trade with you.”

We visit each other every year. Once a year or every two years, the Foreign Minister visits African countries. We’re trying to cover as many countries as possible in a period of two to three years. This year, it will be Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda and the Republic of the Congo. We have good traditions and economic foundations in these countries.

Egypt is our number one trade and economic partner in Africa with trade just under $5 billion. The first nuclear power plant is being built. The construction of a Russian industrial area on the banks of the Suez Canal is nearing completion. Our relations with Africa have even brighter prospects now that the African Union decided last year to establish the African Continental Free Trade Area. Specific criteria and tariffs for this area are being agreed upon, which will take some time. This will benefit Russia as Africa’s rising partner in terms of boosting our trade and investment which are quite modest compared to the United States, China and the EU. We must work hard, with our colleagues, to prepare for the second Russia-Africa summit. The first one took place in Sochi in 2019. The second one is planned to be held next year.

Question: Maybe in Odessa?

Sergey Lavrov: No, probably not in Odessa. We will announce the venue later. An economic forum will be held concurrently with the summit with round table discussions on trade, energy, cybersecurity, agriculture, outer space and nuclear energy.

It is important to step up our efforts. Africa has a population of 1.4 billion people, which is comparable to China and India. This is a great portion of the modern world and probably the most promising market. That is why companies and countries with good vision are building long-term strategies with regard to Africa, which is the continent of the future. We have an excellent political foundation underlying our relations and a good mutual understanding based on the fact that thousands of Africans who hold positions in their respective governments have studied in Russia and continue to do so. We need to use this human and political capital to achieve economic advancement.

Question: What kind of relations do we have with our “exes?” (I understand exes are rarely friends, but it still happens occasionally.) Do we have real friends among our exes, including Belarus? What is going on in Kazakhstan with mixed signals coming from there?  Is there a sense that we ourselves are a little to blame for some things, that we let them go and gave them away to Europe, America, and even Türkiye? What do you think?

Sergey Lavrov: There was such a period. The Soviet Union ceased to exist. We signed the Belovezh Accords. Of course, the countries that were not invited to Belovezhskaya Pushcha were hurt. No doubt about it. I understand them. Then, some efforts were made to improve this situation (to make amends, so to speak). A special meeting was held in Alma-Ata in late 1991. But it still left a bad taste in the mouth. Most importantly, it was an event followed by some processes.

Our leadership did little to prevent the cooling of relations with our neighbours, closest allies, and comrades-in-arms during the first years of independence and sovereignty. We have lived together for many hundreds, even thousands of years. I remember that time. I was Deputy Foreign Minister in 1992-1994 before I left for work in New York. My scope of duties included international organisations, but at some point Andrey Kozyrev asked me to take up the CIS matters. I didn’t do it for long, though. The situation did not look too good (clearly, the Foreign Ministry was not the one to decide on building policies in this area, the Presidential Executive Office was). Back then, everyone thought they had no place to go. We lived together all that time and shared the language, the universities and the tastes. So, we thought we’ll just keep on living like that. Of course, over the long decades and centuries, the economy had become intertwined to the point where breaking ties was impossible.

True, the West wasn’t sitting on its hands. And not only the West. If you look at Central Asia now, you’ll see multiple “Central Asia plus partner” formats there, such as Central Asia plus the United States, or “plus the European Union,” or “plus Japan,” “plus China,” “plus Türkiye,” or “plus India.” “Plus Russia” is there as well. Despite the fact that we have the CIS, the EAEU, the SCO, the CSTO, there was no association where all five Central Asian countries and Russia were together. Now there is.

This is how things are, not only in foreign ministries, but in our economic agencies as well. It’s an important process. Water and energy were shared. Our Western “partners” are now trying to infiltrate these particular areas. The EU and the United States are coming up with their own programmes which will tailor the ongoing water and energy use processes that rely on the Soviet legacy to their needs, the needs of external players. Clearly, it makes sense to join efforts in this department which is what we are encouraging our partners to do. They agree, but the West is trying in every possible way to disrupt this natural process and meddle in our dealings with our “exes,” as you put it. Poet Andrey Voznesensky once famously said, “Don’t return to those you once loved.” This is the opening line. However, the poem ends with “Anyway, you have nowhere else to go.”

Question:  A trendy modern poetess Vera Polozkova has the following line, “She is friends with all her exes as if they had never let her down.”

You, and the Foreign Ministry, said that you knew nothing about the special military operation before it began. At least, you knew nothing about it long before it started. Perhaps, this is not true, but that was the impression. May I ask you how you found out about it? What did you feel? I remember well what Tigran Keosayan and I felt at home at night, when we learned about it. I wonder what you felt back then. What do you think about the people who are now called “frightened patriots” who were frightened and left, those who are “ashamed” etc.?

Sergey Lavrov: The time and date of when I found out about it is not my secret.

Question: So, this is not a state secret?

Sergey Lavrov: This is not a state secret, but it is not my secret, either. If I may, I would like to leave it at that.

The sense of inevitability is what I felt when this announcement was made. Not joy. Imminent hostilities, with the citizens of your country going to defend justice and risk their lives, are not a reason for joy. It was a sense of inevitability and even relief. For many years we were unable to answer the question posed by the people of Donbass and many of our citizens as to how much longer we would allow them to mock common sense, the people, the UN Security Council resolution and every other aspect of it that was brazenly sabotaged.

Question: What do you think of those who are ashamed of being Russian?

Sergey Lavrov: We are now having a big discussion about foreign agents, and whether it was the right thing to do to draft a new law, which some people consider an extension to the old one and ask if it was right or wrong.

I watch talk shows, including those that you host, where issues are debated that everyone can relate to: so they left, what do we do about them now? How do we feel about them if they return? Or should they even be allowed to return? I don’t have an opinion. Each person is the master of their own destiny. That’s the way it is. But everyone must have a conscience. And everyone has to deal with their own conscience. This is how I see it. But there is something I cannot accept, and that’s people publishing things – I have a duty to read some resources designated as foreign agents in my line of work, and they describe with such lustful pleasure those insurmountable (from their point of view) problems that the Russian Federation is facing. They…

Question: Gloat.

Sergey Lavrov: Yes. They predict collapse. One of them wrote that Russia was threatened with death in terms of high technologies, because it has neither brains nor institutions. It is your country you are writing this about!

There are others. When Roscosmos, in response to the sanctions, told the Americans that, since they did not want our engines anymore, we would discontinue supplies to both the US and the UK, they imposed sanctions on our corporation, making any further contact impossible. A foreign agent site launched into a story about how our corporation had violated every conceivable obligation, and was now irreparably tainted as a dishonest partner that no one would ever deal with. We say double standards. That’s how they work, plain and simple.

My opinion is that these people should be left alone with themselves and realise what they have done. How to treat them is another matter. Will their former acquaintances stay in touch with them? How will the state go about renewing relations with them? That is another question. What is important is to leave them alone with their own conscience.

Question: Your trust that every person has a conscience has already done you a disservice with Petr Poroshenko and the Minsk agreements. Maybe you should just stop believing this. Not everyone has a conscience, unfortunately.

We all wonder, and every person in the country wants to know when “this” will end. We all want the special military operation to end as soon as possible, so that people stop dying – our soldiers, and the civilians that their former Ukraine is hitting every day. Ukraine still considers them its citizens de jure, but this isn’t stopping it, as we know. When will it end? We do not know. I won’t ask you about it. Obviously you don’t have an answer.

But where do you think it should end? I am not asking about the goals that Vladimir Putin announced at the start – the goals, and hence the potential results of this operation – the demilitarisation and denazification. This much is clear. Where should it end geographically? Where would it be reasonable, right and good for us?

Sergey Lavrov: As regards any projections or timeframe, I have just recalled an amusing fact. Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmitry Kuleba recently said that Vladimir Zelensky had set a deadline for joining the European Union, but he wouldn’t reveal that deadline, because many in the European Union might get scared and try to slow down their accession to the EU.

We don’t have any deadlines. As for the special military operation and geographic goals, President Vladimir Putin said clearly (as you quoted him): denazification and demilitarisation, which means no threats to our security, no military threats from the territory of Ukraine. This goal remains. Geography-wise, the situation was different when the negotiators met in Istanbul. Our readiness to accept the Ukrainian proposal was based on the situation as of the end of March 2022.

Question: That was the DPR and the LPR?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, more or less. Now the geography is different. It is more than the DPR, the LPR, but also the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions and a number of other areas. This process continues, consistently and persistently. It will continue as long as the West, in its impotent rage, desperate to aggravate the situation as much as possible, continues to flood Ukraine with more and more long-range weapons. Take the HIMARS. Defence Minister Alexey Reznikov boasts that they have already received 300-kilometre ammunition. This means our geographic objectives will move even further from the current line. We cannot allow the part of Ukraine that Vladimir Zelensky, or whoever replaces him, will control to have weapons that pose a direct threat to our territory or to the republics that have declared their independence and want to determine their own future.

Question: How can this be arranged, technically? This is our territory. Then there are the republics that will accede to us. In fact they already have – the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions. You are diplomats, so you cannot say this. I’m a journalist, and I call a spade a spade. Further west, there is the territory controlled by Vladimir Zelensky. They have a common border. So either there should be a 300 kilometre buffer zone or something between them, or we need to march all the way to Lvov inclusive.

Sergey Lavrov: There is a solution to this problem. The military know this.

Question: A secret one? Do you think there is a chance that we will leave half-way? This is something our subscribers and viewers are fearing.

Sergey Lavrov: I see no reason to question what President Vladimir Putin announced on February 24, 2022, and reaffirmed a few days ago – our goals remain the same. And they will be met.

Sergey Lavrov: Presser following talks with Vladimir Makei, Belarus

July 02, 2022

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to media questions at a joint news conference with Foreign Minister of Belarus Vladimir Makei following talks, Minsk, June 30, 2022

Esteemed Mr Makei,
Ladies and gentlemen,
As my colleague and friend has just said, our talks took place in a truly friendly atmosphere of trust and were very substantial, as they should be between allies and strategic partners. First, I would like to thank our Belarusian friends once again for their traditional hospitality in the wonderful city of Minsk and for the brilliant, streamlined organisation of our work.

The visit is timed to an important historical date – 30 years of diplomatic relations (June 25). Of course, this is just one more, albeit important, landmark in the centuries-old history of our truly fraternal nations. To mark this occasion, we have just cancelled postal envelopes specially issued for this date and signed an anniversary joint statement that I hope you will read. It is worth it.

We emphasised that in the past few years we have traversed a long road in developing our integration. The foreign ministries of Russia and Belarus provide diplomatic support for implementing 28 union economic integration programmes endorsed by the Supreme State Council of the Union State in November 2021.
Today, we reviewed topical bilateral issues. We also discussed the schedule of forthcoming contacts, including preparations for a joint meeting of the foreign ministry collegiums of Russia and Belarus, scheduled for the fourth quarter of this year. We reviewed implementation of the plan for foreign ministry consultations in 2022-2023.

We believe we have managed to achieve remarkable success in trade, and economic and investment cooperation. Last year, bilateral trade reached about $40 billion. Major joint projects, such as, for example, the construction of the Belarusian nuclear power plant, are underway. Industrial cooperation is on the up and up, paving the way for new industrial and logistics chains.

We have a high opinion of the vigorous and broad development of interregional ties. Today, the 9th Forum of Russian and Belarusian Regions is to kick off in Grodno, where contracts worth an estimated $1 billion, a record-high amount, are expected to be signed.

We spoke at length about regional and international matters and agreed to continue enhancing foreign policy coordination and stand up together for the interests of our two countries in the world arena, in keeping with the two-year programmes on coordinating our actions in foreign policy.

We supported further steps towards more active cooperation in multilateral associations, primarily, in the EAEU, CSTO and the CIS. We have almost identical views on how Eurasian cooperation should develop in the future.

We agreed that we would also continue to coordinate our approaches in other multilateral formats, first and foremost, at the UN and the OSCE. We discussed the progress on the projects that are being carried out in Belarus under the auspices of the United Nations, many of which are being funded by the Russian side. We will vigorously continue to oppose any attempts to politicise human rights issues. We see hopeless attempts like this being made at the UN and the OSCE. The West keeps making them with enviable persistence.

We are seriously concerned about NATO’s activities in close vicinity to our borders, primarily in the Baltic states and Poland. We share the opinion that these activities are openly confrontational and tend to lead to more tensions, as well as the division of the European security and cooperation space, that is, they are producing the results which the establishment of the OSCE was supposed to help prevent. Now they are dismantling all this with their own hands, waiving, among other things, the principle of indivisible security, which was publicly declared at the highest level in the OSCE in the late 1990s and in 2010, when it was said that no country should enhance its security at the expense of others. The West’s actions have buried this principle.

In the light of the manifestly unfriendly steps taken by the United States and its satellites towards our countries, we reaffirmed that we are firmly determined to further preclude any attempts by the West to interfere in our domestic affairs. We agreed to continue to join efforts to oppose illegitimate unilateral actions by Washington, Brussels and their allies in the international arena.

We advised our colleagues of our assessments of the special military operation in Ukraine. We maintain regular dialogue on these issues. Our presidents discussed this topic at a top-level meeting in St Petersburg on June 25.

We are grateful to our Belarusian allies for completely understanding the causes, goals and tasks of the special military operation. President Vladimir Putin discussed these issues in his remarks yesterday concerning the results of the Caspian Five Summit in Ashgabat.

We focused on biological security, while exchanging opinions on strategic stability and arms control. We agree that US activities on post-Soviet space are quite dangerous and non-transparent. The activities of Pentagon’s biolabs in Ukraine highlight the risks they bear. We exposed these facts but failed to obtain a US response. 

[Biological Security] … we initiated a process, stipulated by the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention …

We sent inquiries to countries, parties to this important international treaty. We perceive threats to the national security of Russia and Belarus, the reluctance of the United States to ensure the transparency of its military-biological activities in many countries on post-Soviet space, primarily those around Russia and Belarus. We have an agreement, within the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, to establish close and transparent interaction on these issues, in order to counter attempts to advance such projects (that cause concern in our countries) behind the scenes and without due transparency.

We are also cooperating in order to counter the dirty information war unleashed by the collective West against our countries. We agreed to expand and upgrade Russian-Belarusian media cooperation, and you should be particularly interested in this issue.

We are satisfied with the results of the talks. They help advance our foreign policy coordination still further on the basis of allied and strategic partnership for the benefit of our countries and fraternal nations.

Question:  A risky redivision of the world’s energy sector is taking place. What are the United States and the EU counting on, while renouncing Russian imports?

Sergey Lavrov: I believe that everyone understands what they are counting on. They have no misgivings about openly discussing this issue. They noted this once again yesterday, at the NATO summit in Madrid. They are expecting all other states to unfailingly obey their will, reflecting their selfish interests, primarily those of the United States. We have repeatedly been convinced that modern Europe, in the form of the EU, is losing its independence or even the signs of independence that it once had. Europe completely obeys positions that the United States imposes on it, including those in the sphere of economic sanctions. It is renouncing Russian imports and demolishing logistic and financial chains that had taken decades to create.

Look at the current list of sanctions. I suggest that you conduct this interesting analysis. Compare restrictions that European countries are imposing on Russia and Belarus with the relevant US restrictions. The United States is sparing itself and is trying not to encroach on various spheres that could seriously damage its own economy. Yes, the United States is also experiencing negative effects from this activity, but Europe is suffering much more. I believe that, apart from “punishing” our countries, the United States wants to weaken the European Union as its rival.

Question: At the Madrid summit, NATO stated that Russia was the main threat to the Alliance according to its new strategic concept. Following this statement and their decision to fortify the eastern flank, does Moscow consider itself bound by its commitments under the Russia-NATO Founding Act, or has this document lost its validity?

Sergey Lavrov: In the legal sense, the Founding Act continues to exist. We did not initiate the procedure for terminating this agreement. In the run-up to the summit, NATO had lengthy and vocal discussions about whether they still needed the Act or whether they would be better off abandoning it. As a result, they decided to let this matter be, but 

[NATO] … their decisions grossly violate the Founding Act …,

primarily with regard to NATO’s commitment not to permanently deploy significant combat forces on the territory of new (Eastern European) Alliance members.

We will analyse the situation and decide on our further moves depending on how and in what form NATO will move forward with the decisions it adopted and announced.

Question: Will it be possible to restore more or less acceptable political and diplomatic relations with EU countries in the future? Will there be another Iron Curtain? Do we have a bloc like NATO or the EU?

Sergey Lavrov (adding after Vladimir Makei): I agree with almost all of that. As for our relations with the EU, Russia has not had them since 2014. Brussels swallowed the humiliating move by the opposition forces which perpetrated a coup in Ukraine in defiance of EU guarantees. In response, the Crimea residents refused to live in a neo-Nazi state. Ukraine’s eastern regions did the same, and the European Union failed to muster enough courage to talk sense into the putschists who carried out an illegal power grab, and in fact began to support them in their attack, including physical, on the people of Crimea and eastern Ukraine. When the referendum took place in Crimea and the DPR and the LPR were proclaimed, the European Union, instead of pushing for compliance with the agreements between President Yanukovych and the opposition it had co-sponsored, sided with the ultranationalist and deep down neo-Nazi regime which proclaimed fighting the Russian language and culture as its goal. In the years that followed, the regimes led by Poroshenko and Zelensky proved Kiev’s loyalty to this particular course.

In 2014, when it all happened, the EU, feeling powerless and aware of its own inability to enforce implementation of its own proposals, said the Russian Federation was to blame. It imposed sanctions on our country and cancelled the Russia-EU summit planned for June 2014, destroyed every other mechanism that it took us decades to create, such as biannual summits, annual meetings between the Russian Government and the European Commission, four common spaces that underlay four road maps, 20 sector-specific dialogues, including a dialogue on visa-free travel and much more. All of that was ruined overnight. Relations have been non-existent since then. There were occasional technical contacts, but nothing major. No wonder there are no relations now, but we never close ourselves off. From now on, we will never trust the Americans or the EU. We are doing our best not to depend on them in the sectors that are critically important for survival of the state, the people and our security. When and if they get over their obsession and come back with some kind of a proposal, we will see what exactly it is about. We will not play along with their self-serving plans. If it comes to resuming the dialogue, we will push for a level playing field for everyone and a focus on balancing the interests of all participants on an equal footing.

With regard to the Iron Curtain, it is already on its way down. They should make sure they don’t get anything caught in it as it goes down.

In all other matters, we have a straightforward position: we are for things being fair.

In 2014, our “partners” refused to hold a summit amid serious events, including a coup, a referendum in Crimea, and a radical change in the situation in the Black Sea region. If you were serious about searching for solutions, this meeting was the way forward. It could have been used to have a candid discussion about the complaints and the counter questions the partners in the Russian Federation had for the EU. The withdrawal from all contacts that took place after March 2014 only goes to show that the EU is not interested in a dialogue, and does not want to understand our interests or listen to what we have to say. What it wants is for everyone to agree with the Brussels’ decisions which are a carbon copy of the decisions made in Washington. We have been able to see that in recent years.

Question: Norway has refused to allow Russian cargo, including food, medicines, and necessary equipment, to Spitsbergen. What steps will be taken to resolve this issue? What might our response be, if any?

Sergey Lavrov: First, we want to see Norway respond to our reaction that immediately followed the incident. We sent an official request demanding clarification as to how this move aligns with Norway’s commitments under the Spitsbergen Treaty of 1920. I hope they will respond promptly. Then, we will analyse the situation. And we will act quickly.

Sitrep Operation Z: SloMo Collapse

July 01, 2022

Source

By Saker Staff

Let us deal with Snake Island first as the level of noise is unbelievable.

Snake Island in the Black sea will remain under Russian naval and air control. Russian Politician Alexei Chernyak.

End of story

Russia can take that piece of serpentine rock and missile it to non-existence but they’ve just used a rock to remove the Ukraine’s biggest impediment (lie) about the paltry amount of wheat in the ships still unable to make passage. Now the supposed ‘international order’ have no more excuses and the Ukraine must demine their naval mines. But always remember, we’re dealing with the Empire of Lies!

For this one, we will look at the bigger world first, and then we will go on to the ramparts.

A reminder: What is this all about?

A Biden advisor says that US drivers will pay a gas premium for as long as it takes, because:

“This is about the future of the liberal world order and we have to stand firm.” https://t.me/IntelRepublic/1516

Liberal world order is code for the rules-based international order which is code for a single pole of power in our world.  In other words, they understand on some level that they are fighting for their existence as the ultimate ruler.

In sharp contrast, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov – Minsk, June 30, 2022

The future world order is at stake. We will go back to the origins and observe in practice the UN Charter principles, above all the principle of sovereign equality of states, or else the world will be plunged into chaos for a long time. Our choice is clear: We stand for unconditional respect for international law. We will uphold this position together with our Belarusian allies and our other numerous like-minded partners who share these approaches, which was confirmed during the recent BRICS summit and in the final documents adopted at this summit.

Russia and the multi-polar world are getting stronger day by day.  Let’s take a look at how the mighty are falling:

EU Circus

We posted a Douglas MacGregor clip recently with the heading: Its collapsed

There is little to be said here and we can only depict this with a cartoon or two.  The number of cartoons generated by this circus exceeded all expectations.  Everyone was cartooning!

NATO – Crisis of Existence and another announcement of Wunderwaffe

The Chinese friends report on the NATO split:

“On the issue of the Russia-Ukraine conflict alone, there are different demands among Western countries, as Germany, France and Italy want to stop the war as soon as possible, and the US is calling on all NATO countries to make a common cause against Russia. Wang Shuo, a professor at the School of International Relations of Beijing Foreign Studies University, believes that in this situation, many European countries are questioning whether NATO can solve the crisis in Ukraine. If it cannot work, what’s the point of NATO’s existence? At the moment when Europeans believe that NATO needs to play a role, it proved itself disunited and incompetent, another sign of NATO’s existential crisis.”

https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202206/1269395.shtml

And on the NATO document:

Zhao Lijian: The NATO 2022 Strategic Concept has misrepresented facts and distorted the truth. In this document, NATO once again wrongly defined China as posing “systemic challenges”. It smeared China’s foreign policy and pointed fingers at China’s normal military posture and defense policy. The document seeks to stoke confrontation and antagonism and smacks heavily of Cold War mentality and ideological bias. China is gravely concerned over this and firmly opposes it.

Here is our message for NATO: hyping up the so-called “China threat” will lead nowhere. NATO must immediately stop its groundless accusations and provocative rhetoric against China, abandon the outdated Cold War mentality and zero-sum game mindset, renounce its blind faith in military might and misguided practice of seeking absolute security, halt the dangerous attempt to destabilize Europe and the Asia-Pacific, and act in the interest of security and stability in Europe and beyond.

The Baltic States no longer believe in NATO.

Latvia and Estonia decided to buy air defense systems for joint defense.

“The NATO Summit gave a clear signal that assistance will be provided to those who are ready to defend themselves,” Estonian Defense Minister Laanet said. The initiative to develop regional defense was also supported by his Latvian counterpart Pabriks. “We are working on developing our own capabilities,” he stressed.

Finland states it will NOT extradite its citizens to OTHER countries UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES – Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto.

So, already Turkey’s pre-condition to Finland entering the NATO bloc is falling apart. Perhaps The Sultan knows that this may not happen at all.  This is what it looks like: Finland and Sweden have not joined NATO yet, and there is a long process ahead, says Erdogan. According to him, the signatures at the Madrid summit do not mean the end of the work to eliminate Ankara’s concerns. Turkey wants to see in practice what the decisions reached will mean.

Scholz (for what he is worth) at this very same NATO meet, got scared and quickly urged not to hinder the transit of Russian goods to Kaliningrad.  He wants to reduce the tensions in the  Baltic region.  The most interesting is that Politico reports this.  But then, he wants to set the rules according to some rules-based international order concept that he seemingly thinks he is entitled to promulgate on the spot.

“Transit rules should be established taking into account the fact that we are dealing here with traffic between two parts of Russia,” he said at the NATO summit in Madrid.

And he also tumbles the sanctions:

“In the case of Kaliningrad, an exception should be made from anti-Russian sanctions”, Scholz stressed.

Politician and former energy minister Panagiotis Lafazanis urges (https://ria.ru/20220701/lafazanis-1799505196.html)

Greece to conclude a strategic alliance with Russia and to lift sanctions, because “Europe is hit hard by the sanctions. Europe has shot itself.”

And then, Germany Seizes Gazprom LNG Tankers which belonged to the Russian energy giants German subsidiary – Gazprom Germania.  And Russia in the form of Gazprom turns up the Pain Dial by turning off the gas faucet to the company, and key gas retailers in Germany and the UK suddenly stare as the bottom of the tank becomes visible.

So, given the extracts from the last few days through the EU Circus and NATO’s announcement of Wunderwaffen, can you see clearly that they are telling only big stories. These weapons may not materialize, and most know it. Besides, if Russia does not destroy them, she buys them.

Arms trade on the line of contact and indirect deliveries of military equipment from Europe to Russia by Ukrainians

In the context of the news (https://t.me/vzglyad_ru/57577) about the transfer of another six units of CAESAR self-propelled guns by France to Ukraine, we want to talk a little about how things are with the arms trade on the line of contact.

We already wrote that two CAESAR self-propelled guns went to the Russian side for a ridiculous 120 thousand dollars. At the same time, Ukrainian negotiators initially requested $1 million for the launcher.

How it looks technically in practice:

  • Negotiations are underway through special forces on the possibility of acquiring one or another model of foreign equipment;
  • Since this whole thing is taking place on the line of contact, control over specific types of weapons and military equipment received from the West is rather conditional there: the most you can count on is a relatively timid commander and rather zealous representatives of the SBU, who will not give a damn about reputational losses of Ukraine in case of loss of foreign equipment;
  • The Russian side acts as a picky buyer who does not need outdated weapons and military equipment: everything that is needed was obtained by undercover intelligence and so on. Local Ukrainian businessmen are trying to cash in and somehow sell the RF Armed Forces what they have. As a result, the deals go through, but are guided by the Russian side, at the same time, only by the expediency of maintaining contacts with the enemy;
  • In the line of special forces, they agree on the organization of a massive artillery raid on a certain already empty square to divert attention while the actual transfer of equipment is carried out;
  • The Russian side has already expressed interest in acquiring HIMARS. They asked for more ammo.
  • To the Russian side, we repeat, such deals provide an opportunity to maintain working contacts with the Ukrainian side, which in the future will allow solving much more pressing issues. On the Ukrainian side, there is a great desire not to fight and earn money.

So that is one of the deals with the wunderwaffe.  Here is another:

Some watcher of Ukrainian channels report that Ukrainian General Staff asked Zelensky in the role of the President to please please stop requesting 777 howitzers and NLAW anti-tank systems, which quickly fail or do not function at all.

(The telegram channel where I found this, notes .. hahahahah fucking Wunderwaffe)

Xi Jinping’s current visit to Hong Kong for its 25th anniversary since its handover from the Brits, speaks volumes. As well as Mr. Putin’s planned visit to the upcoming G20. The fact that these two leaders are now traveling outside of their countries must show that something has changed. Either the risk of Covid is now such that they can take it, or the security environment has changed so that their security staff considers such visits as an acceptable risk.

Europe is slowly curtailing payments to Ukrainian refugees.  Poland no longer pays for food and accommodation for Ukrainian refugees, with exception of pregnant women, disabled people, and families with many children.

These are convincing arguments that the EU is breaking and NATO is cracking.

To the ramparts we go

Russian Defense Ministry announces successful advance into Lisichansk, Lugansk region, with Russian and allied forces taking control of the Lisichansk oil refinery as well as other key districts in the city, as Ukrainian forces said to be in disorganized retreat.

Sergei Kiriyenko visited the Kharkov region. Such a visit is considered a sign that Putin has made a decision that the region, now Kharkiv, and formerly Zaporozhye and Kherson will be annexed to Russia. The issuance of Russian passports has started and the formation of administration is in progress.  Russia takes full responsibility for such a region. The Russian flag is forever if Kiriyenko, who is responsible specifically for domestic politics, has been there.

This lovely photo was taken in the Lugansk region.

Once the passports flow, and the banks open, Russia is there: The first branch of Promsvyazbank, one of the largest Russian state banks, has opened in Kherson and already there is a bunch of people in line:  https://t.me/EurasianChoice/16207

The Kyiv regime is trying to hide the defeat of the Ukrainian troops in Severodonetsk and present the flight of the UAF militants from the Lysychansk direction as a tactical retreat.

Detail as usual comes in many forms and thank you to the commentators who regularly post different takes.  Be aware we’re coming from the fog of Lisichansk, so, don’t believe everything that every Tom, Dick, and Harry pronounce.  Always confirm with the Russian MoD report.    We still like Military Summary.  I would suggest you take in the last report of yesterday before you look at today’s first report.  The reason for that is that he mentions at the end some of those that he works with.

Payback is in progress for the total hack of all Russian sources as the SMO started.

XakNet Team (https://t.me/xaknet_team) hackers hacked the website of the Ukraine is Our Home TV channel. Now the anthem of Russia is played there.

Earlier (https://t.me/rt_russian/117872), they said that they had gained access to the systems of Ukrainian energy companies of the DTEK group.

And today (https://t.me/intelslava/32332), the Killnet (https://t.me/+a3ATRboVqh05MWNi) group brought down the website of the US Federal Tax Payment System.

Enjoy the discussion.  This sitrep will stay up until it gets too full of comments and then we will refresh.

موسكو: أي محاولة لعزل إقليم كاليننغراد سيتنهي باشتباك عسكري

 الأربعاء 29 حزيران 2022

تعهّد الرئيس الروسي فلاديمير بوتين، أمس، بأنّ تفعل بلاده كل شيء من أجل ترتيب الأوضاع في أفغانستان، مشيراً إلى أنّ موسكو لديها اتصالات بجميع القوى السياسية هناك.

وذكر بوتين، خلال لقائه مع الرئيس الطاجيكي إمام على رحمن، بحضور وفد يمثل أفغانستان في منتدى سان بطرسبورغ الاقتصادي الدولي، مشدداً على أنّ “جميع العرقيات في أفغانستان يجب أن تشارك مشاركة كاملة في إدارة البلاد”.

وأفادت وسائل إعلام روسية أنّ بوتين سيتوجّه إلى تركمانستان بعد إكمال زيارته إلى طاجيكستان، للمشاركة في أعمال قمة بلدان منطقة بحر قزوين، كأول جولة خارجية له منذ بدء العملية العسكرية الروسية في أوكرانيا.

من جهته، قال المتحدث باسم الكرملين، ديمتري بيسكوف، إنّ العملية العسكرية الخاصة لحماية دونباس تسير وفقاً للخطة المرسومة، مضيفاً أنّه يمكن أن تنتهي خلال يوم إذا ألقت القوات الأوكرانية سلاحها، دون أن يحدد جدولاً زمنياً محدداً على هذا الصعيد.

وتعليقاً على تصريحات الرئيس الأوكراني فلاديمير زيلنسكي، التي أعرب فيها عن أمله في أن تنتهي العملية العسكرية الخاصة قبل حلول الطقس البارد، قال بيسكوف: “يمكن للجانب الأوكراني أن يوقف كل شيء قبل نهاية اليوم الحالي، فنحن بحاجة إلى أمر لكتائب القوميين بإلقاء أسلحتها، وأمر للجيش الأوكراني بإلقاء أسلحته، وتنفيذ شروط روسيا الاتحادية”.

وكان بيسكوف صرّح منذ أيام بأنّه لا يستبعد استئناف المفاوضات بين روسيا وأوكرانيا، لافتاً إلى عدم “تحقق أي تقدّم في هذا المسار بعد”.

وعن إجراءات الحكومة الليتوانية بشأن إقليم كاليننغراد الروسي، المحاذي لحدودها، لفت بيسكوف إلى أنّه “لم يحدث أي تقدم في مسألة عبور البضائع الخاضعة للعقوبات عبر ليتوانيا إلى منطقة كالينينغراد الروسية”.

وفي الإطار عينه، اعتبر النائب الأول لرئيس لجنة مجلس الاتحاد للشؤون الدولية، فلاديمير جباروف، أنّ “أي محاولة لعزل كالينينغراد عن روسيا ستنتهي باشتباك عسكري معها”، مؤكداً أنّ “موسكو لن تتنازل عن شبر واحد من أراضيها”.

وأعرب البرلماني الروسي عن اعتقاده بأنّ “الناتو يفهم ذلك جيداً”، داعياً حكومتي ليتوانيا وبولندا إلى إعادة التفكير في الانضمام إلى “الناتو”، مع تأكيده أنّهما “أول من سيدخل في مفرمة اللحم”.

وكانت السلطات الليتوانية أرسلت رسالة إلى رئيس المفوضية الأوروبية أورسولا فون دير لاين، ورئيس دبلوماسية الاتحاد الأوروبي جوزيب بوريل، تتضمن نداءً بعدم السماح بعبور البضائع إلى كالينينغراد.

بموازاة ذلك، أعلنت وزارة الخارجية الروسية، إضافة 25 شخصاً إلى قائمة الممنوعين، من بينهم أفراد من عائلة الرئيس الأميركي جو بايدن.

وأصدرت الخارجية الروسية بياناً جاء فيه: “رداً على العقوبات الأميركية المتزايدة باستمرار ضد الشخصيات السياسية والعامة الروسية، تمّ إدراج 25 مواطناً أميركياً في قائمة المحظورين من بين أعضاء مجلس الشيوخ المسؤولين عن تشكيل دورة رهاب روسيا، والمشاركين في ما يسمى بمجموعة ماكفول – يرماك التي تضع توصيات بشأن القيود المعادية لروسيا، وكذلك أفراد من عائلة الرئيس جو بايدن”.

فيديوات متعلقة

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Sitrep Operation Z: Open Thread

June 26, 2022

Source

by the Saker Staff

Wow, too much information out there in addition to the world happenings.  Today and tomorrow we have the G7 in Germany and NATO on June 29-30 in Madrid.  Various threats will surface from these two meetings as well as childish foot-stomping and brave statements on steriods.  Mr Lavrov’s short statement has relevance: ‘We have few illusions that EU’s Russophobic policies will change’ – FM Lavrov

We leave you with one image

And on the battlefront, the news is coming in so fast that it is almost impossible to keep track of.  Of main importance on the front line and from the Russian MoD report:

  • On June 25, the cities of Severodonetsk and Borovskoye, the settlements of Voronovo and Sirotino passed under control of the Lugansk People’s Republic. The localities liberated from the Kiev regime are inhabited by about 108,000 people. Total area of the liberated territory is about 145 square kilometres.
  • Success of the Russian army and the units of people militia of the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics considerably diminish moral and psychological condition of the Ukrainian army personnel.
  • In 30th Mechanised Brigade deployed near Artyomovsk, there are mass cases of alcohol abuse, drug use and unauthorised abandonment of combat positions.

If you take a look at that MoD Report it is becoming so clear that the attrition rate now is counted in brigades.

Attacks have resulted in neutralising 65th, 66th mechanised brigades and 46th Airmobile Brigade from AFU strategic reserves that were finishing their preparation at those training grounds.

Take a look at Larry Johnson’s latest: “Some die hard neo-cons continue to manifest their ignorance of military affairs by pointing to Russia’s slow progress in taking Severodonetsk as evidence of Russia’s incompetent, weak army. What they fail to understand is that Russia was trying to avoid killing the civilians still inside Severodonetsk, who were being used as human shields by the Ukrainians. Putin and the Russian commanders are placing a higher value on saving civilians rather than unleashing their full military might in order to show the world what they can really do. This is a remarkably mature military strategy.”  https://sonar21.com/even-the-uks-sky-news-is-reporting-on-the-ukrainian-debacle-in-the-donbas/

  • Also of note is the strikes on Kiev from the Caspian Sea & from the airspace of Belarus. The Russian Federation used Tu-95 and Tu-160 strategic bombers. They launched X-101 missiles, which can fly up to 5500 km. At the same time, Russian warships fired up to 50 missiles at targets all over Ukraine — targeting Ukrop bases, manufacturing sites of air to air missiles in Kiev disguised as “residential buildings” & other military targets

We leave this for you as an open thread for reporting updates.

Map:  The Readovka Map is up to date.  If you go to this page and click on the map itself, there is a bigger and better quality version.

Belarus reveals mass executions of Iraqi refugees by Polish soldiers

22 Jun 2022

Source: Agencies

By Al Mayadeen English 

Belarus says it informed an Iraqi delegation of the details of an investigation concluded about mass executions and secret burial of Iraqi refugees killed by the Polish army.

Iraqi migrants at the Belarus-Poland border

The Investigative Committee of Belarus said that an Iraqi delegation visiting Minsk was handed over evidence and information about the mass and secret executions of Iraqi refugees by Polish soldiers on the Polish side of the border with Belarus.

According to a statement published on the website of the Committee, a meeting was held with the Iraqi delegation in the Committee’s central office.

During the meeting, the Iraqi side was informed of the details of the investigation concluded about mass executions and secret burial of refugees killed by the Polish army.

The Iraqi side also received information on the progress and results of the investigation into the crimes against humanity, propaganda for war, and willful endangerment of others, as well as details related to violations committed by officials in Poland such as illegal acts including deportation, cruelty, torture and deliberate failure to provide assistance that led to the death of refugees from West Asian countries, including Iraq and Afghanistan.

The statement mentioned that these crimes had been assertedly committed on the basis of race, nationality, nationality, and religion.

According to the statement, “Belarusian investigators documented criminal actions committed against 135 Iraqi citizens, who were physically injured as violence was used against them by Polish security forces.”

The Investigative Committee of Belarus is also investigating three cases related to bodily harm and illegal expulsion from the EU to Belarus, which led to the death of Iraqi citizens.

It is noteworthy that in February 2023, the International Criminal Court in The Hague will look into the statement of Belarusian human rights activists on the genocide of migrants in Poland.

On January 25, Poland’s border guards announced the start of construction of a 186-kilometer (115-mile) fence at the border with Belarus after thousands of migrants from West Asia streamed to the border in an attempt to cross into the European Union.

هل تفجّر ليتوانيا المواجهة بين روسيا والناتو؟

الخميس 23 حزيران 2022

ناصر قنديل

مع وصول الرهان على قدرة القوات الأوكرانية أن تعطّل الاندفاعة العسكرية الروسية بالاستناد الى حجم الدعم الغربي بالمال والسلاح إلى طريق مسدود، باتت الجغرافيا الأوكرانية عاجزة عن تحمل تبعات المواجهة رغم صراخ الرئيس الأوكراني فلاديمير زيلينسكي بصوت مرتفع عن تهديدات لروسيا، وصار تماسك الجيش الأوكراني وبقاؤه في الميدان العسكري كقوة جدية يعتمد عليها موضع سؤال كبير، ولأن حلف الناتو لا يرغب بالدخول في مواجهة مباشرة مع روسيا، جاءت خطوة ليتوانيا بمنع مرور البضائع من روسيا إلى كالينينغراد وبالعكس، تحرشاً محسوباً من الناتو، لوضع موسكو بين خياري المبادرة لعمل عسكري ضد دولة عضو في الناتو، هي ليتوانيا، أو الانكفاء والتسليم بنجاح الناتو بتوجيه صفعة للمهابة الروسية.

كالينينغراد هي مدينة عملياً تقع على بحر البلطيق وتتبع لروسيا رغم انفصالها عنها جغرافياً، وتربطها بها شبكة سكة حديد تمرّ عبر ليتوانيا، قامت الحكومة الليتوانية بإخضاع القطارات العابرة بينها وبين موسكو للتفتيش ومنع عبور البضائع التي تطالها العقوبات الأوروبية، مهددة الوحدة التجارية والسياسية للأراضي الروسية، وبسرعة تحول القرار الليتواني الى كرة نار تتدحرج بين روسيا والناتو، فقد أعلن عدد من المسؤولين الدبلوماسيين والعسكريين في موسكو أن الرد سيصدر قريباً على الخطوة الليتوانية، وانه لن يكون دبلوماسياً، بل بجملة إجراءات عملية، رجح كثير من الخبراء أن تتمثل بعملية عسكرية محدودة بإنشاء جيب روسي بين حدود بولندا وليتوانيا حيث يعبر خط سوالكي للسكك الحديدية، الذي يربط موسكو بكالينينغراد عبر روسيا البيضاء كخط رديف للخط الأصلي الذي يعبر وسط ليتوانيا، والأميركيون وقادة الناتو وجهوا بالمقابل تحذيرات لموسكو من أي مساس بسيادة ليتوانيا، والاستعداد لتفعيل المادة الخامسة من ميثاق حلف الناتو باعتبار أي تعرض لدولة عضو في الحلف بمثابة مواجهة مع الحلف كله.

قد تفاجئ روسيا حلف الناتو بالاستعاضة عن العملية العسكرية الجراحية السريعة، بتحويل الدعسة الناقصة الليتوانية، الى مدخل لحركة بحرية عبر بحر البلطيق، الذي تطل عليه روسيا من أقصى الشمال، وتتشارك ضفته الغربية مع استونيا ولاتفيا وليتوانيا كالينينغراد، فيما تقع على ضفته الشرقية فنلندا والسويد والدانمارك، فتنشر سفنها البحرية في البلطيق، وتعلن إصدار عقوبات على ليتوانيا، وربما سواها، وتكلف سفنها البحرية بتفتيش السفن الذاهبة الى ليتوانيا أو سواها والخارجة منها لتطبيق العقوبات الروسية، أسوة بما تذرعت به ليتوانيا من تطبيق العقوبات الأوروبية على روسيا، ويكون على حلف الناتو أن يختار بين تحمّل الصفعة، أو دخول حرب شاملة من بوابة لا غطاء قانونيّ لها بموجب الفصل الخامس من ميثاق الحلف، حيث لا يكون قد وقع اعتداء على أي من دول الحلف، وسيكون على الحلف اعتبار الخطوة العسكرية الروسية في البلطيق استفزازاً، وأن يرد عليها بالمثل باستفزاز مشابه، فيسرّع على سبيل المثال ضم فنلندا والسويد إلى عضويته، وهو ما ينتظر الموافقة التركية، العالقة في حسابات تجارية ترجح كفة علاقتها بروسيا، مثلتها سفن الحبوب التي أبحرت أمس من ماريوبول، علماً أن ضمّ السويد وفنلندا للناتو قد يجعلهما خاضعتين بالعقوبات البحرية الروسية في البلطيق.

في كل خطوة يريدها الغرب لمحاصرة روسيا او إضعافها، سيجد أن موسكو بقيادة الرئيس فلاديمير بوتين قد سبقته بخطوتين، تماماً كما حدث في العقوبات المالية التي تحولت باباً لمعادلة الغاز بالروبل على أوروبا، وبدأت تشدّ على خناقها.

تفادي الحرب على ضفة الناتو أعلى بمراتب منه على ضفة روسيا، لكن المواجهة تتصاعد، والسباق هو على مَن يدفع الآخر للقيام بالخطوة الأولى ويتحمل المسؤولية؟

5 ضربات محتملة على ليتوانيا.. كيف ستردّ روسيا؟

الأربعاء 22 حزيران 2022

يفغيني أومرينكوف

منذ 30 عاماً، كان السياسيون الليتوانيون يحلمون ويقولون إنهم يملكون خيار حصار كالينينغراد، لكن من الواضح أن فيلنيوس لم تحسب العواقب المحتملة لقرارها.

مهما كانت الإجراءات التي تتخذها ليتوانيا لتقييد العبور إلى منطقة كالينينغراد، فإنها لن تتسبب بأضرار جسيمة لروسي

لدى ليتوانيا عبور محدود بالسكك الحديدية إلى منطقة كالينينغراد: لن يُسمح بعد الآن بمرور نصف البضائع التي تخضع لعقوبات الاتحاد الأوروبي المناهضة لروسيا عبر الأراضي الليتوانية. أوضح عالم السياسة ألكسندر نوسوفيتش، الذي يعيش في كالينينغراد، لصحيفة “كومسومولسكايا برافدا” الوضع بالضبط، إذ يبدو واضحاً أن فيلنيوس (عاصمة ليتوانيا) لم تحسب العواقب المحتملة لقرارها.

أولاً، نتحدث عن منتجات الحديد والصلب. ثانياً، عن بعض السلع التي تدر ربحاً على الميزانية الروسية، من بينها، على سبيل المثال، الكافيار والكحول والأسمدة والأخشاب والمنتجات الخشبية والصناعات الزجاجية. ثالثاً، الفحم الذي يحظر استيراده ونقله، لكن الحظر لن يدخل حيز التنفيذ إلا في 10 آب/أغسطس. رابعاً: النفط ومنتجاته.

ما الخطر الحقيقي الذي يمكن أن يشكله قرار ليتوانيا هذا في عزل روسيا؟

منذ 30 عاماً، كان السياسيون الليتوانيون يحلمون ويقولون إن لديهم مثل هذا الخيار ضد روسيا، أي منع العبور إلى كالينينغراد، وأتت اللحظة الرائعة التي تمكنت فيها ليتوانيا من استخدامه، لكن هذا لن يكون من دون عواقب، لأنهم ظلوا يتحدثون عن المنع باستمرار، فيما كنا نستعد له كل هذا الوقت. لذا، إن أي إجراءات تتخذها ليتوانيا لتقييد العبور إلى منطقة كالينينغراد لن تكون حاسمة بالنسبة إلينا، ولن تتسبب بأضرار جسيمة. 

قبل 20 عاماً، اشترت منطقة كالينينغراد الكهرباء من ليتوانيا، من محطة إغنالينا للطاقة النووية، ولكن لديها الآن محطات الطاقة الخاصة بها. بالنسبة إلى الغاز، لدينا محطة المارشال فاسيليفسكي التي اختبرناها بالفعل في حال قيام ليتوانيا بقطع الغاز عن خط الأنابيب.

في ما يتعلق بالعبور، تحدثت إلى كبار المسؤولين في منطقتنا وممثلي الإدارة المركزية، وأكدوا أن الأسطول المدني الروسي في بحر البلطيق يكفي تماماً لتسليم جميع البضائع التي يمكن لليتوانيا أن تمنعنا من نقلها عن طريق السكك الحديدية. السؤال هو: كيف يمكننا أن نفعل كل ذلك بسرعة؟ لكنني متأكد أننا لن نشهد انقطاعاً في الإمدادات، ولن تكون رفوف المتاجر فارغة.

ما الإجراءات الانتقامية التي يمكن أن تتخذها روسيا ضد ليتوانيا؟

أولاً، إلغاء الاعتراف باستقلالها. إن فكرة الاعتراف بانفصال جمهوريات البلطيق عن الاتحاد السوفياتي بوصفه غير شرعي كانت مطروحة منذ 5 أيلول/سبتمبر 1991، عندما حدث هذا الانفصال. لم يكن لدى مجلس الدولة غير الدستوري الذي ينتمي إليه غورباتشوف الحق في اتخاذ قرارات على هذا المستوى، مثل مراجعة حدود الاتحاد السوفياتي وفصل الأراضي عنه. هذه حقيقة قانونية. في المناسبة، قدم نائب مجلس الدوما يفغيني فيدوروف في الآونة مشروع قانون بهذا الصدد.

ثانياً، الانسحاب من الاتفاقيات مع الاتحاد الأوروبي بشأن ليتوانيا، كما ذكر ديمتري روغوزين، الذي قاد المفاوضات بين موسكو وبروكسل سنة 2002-2003، حين اعترفت روسيا بحدود جمهورية ليتوانيا في مقابل ضمانات بالعبور غير المنقطع للمواطنين الروس والبضائع الروسية من كالينينغراد وإليها. بفضل هذا الاعتراف، تمكنت ليتوانيا من الانضمام إلى الاتحاد الأوروبي وحلف شمال الأطلسي.

ثالثاً، إحياء مطلب روسيا بإعادة مدينة كلايبيدا. إذا انسحبت بروكسل اليوم من الاتفاقيات من جانب واحد، فإن موسكو ستنسحب من التزاماتها، فالعواقب بالنسبة إلى ليتوانيا والاتحاد الأوروبي والناتو قد تكون بعيدة المدى للغاية. دعني أذكّرك على الأقل بأن ملكية أراضي ميميل وكونيغسبرغ انتقلت من ألمانيا إلى الاتحاد السوفياتي كلل، وليس إلى جمهورية محددة من جمهورياته، بموجب قرار مؤتمر بوتسدام الذي أعقب نتائج الحرب العالمية الثانية.

وفي وقت لاحق فقط، نقل ستالين، بقراره الداخلي، كونيغسبرغ إلى جمهورية روسيا الاتحادية الاشتراكية السوفياتية، وأصبح اسمها كالينينغراد، ومُنحت ميميل لجمهورية ليتوانيا الاشتراكية السوفياتية، وأصبح اسمها كلايبيدا. روسيا الحديثة هي الخليفة القانونية لاتحاد الجمهوريات الاشتراكية السوفياتية، أي أن حدود ليتوانيا ما بعد السوفياتية تحددها. وإذا انتهك الاتحاد الأوروبي الاتفاقيات التي تضمن هذه الحدود، فكل شيء يمكن أن يحدث لليتوانيا.

رابعاً، إنشاء “ممر سوالكي”. إذا فرضت ليتوانيا حصاراً على منطقة كالينينغراد، تكون، وفق تعبير عضو مجلس الاتحاد الروسي أندريه كليموف، قد “أطاحت الكرسي” الذي كانت تجلس عليه طوال هذه السنوات كدولة عضو في الاتحاد الأوروبي. 

إنه يحذر من أن السلوك غير المقبول لليتوانيا، الذي يقيد العبور إلى منطقة كالينينغراد، يعرض الناتو للخطر. يعتقد البرلماني أن “الاتحاد الأوروبي، ما لم يصحّح تصرف فيلنيوس الوقح فوراً، سيتبرأ من شرعية جميع الوثائق المتعلقة بعضوية ليتوانيا في الاتحاد الأوروبي، ويفسح لنا المجال لحل مشكلة العبور من وإلى كالينينغراد التي أحدثتها ليتوانيا بأي وسيلة نختارها”. 

والطريقة الأكثر جذرية، كما يعتقد الخبراء منذ مدة طويلة، هي إنشاء “ممر سوالكي”، وهو ممر بري بين ليتوانيا وبولندا يصل طوله إلى 100 كيلومتر، ويمكن أن يربط أراضي بيلاروسيا بمنطقة كالينينغراد الروسية. من الواضح أن هذه الخطوة تعني نشوب حرب مع الناتو.

خامساً، فصل ليتوانيا عن نظام الطاقة. سيكون هذا رد موسكو الاقتصادي الأكثر إيلاماً على خطوة فيلنيوس العدائية. اليوم، تربط حلقة “بريلل” للطاقة بيلاروسيا وروسيا وإستونيا ولاتفيا وليتوانيا. لطالما أعلنت دول البلطيق رغبتها في تركها، والاندماج الكامل في أنظمة الطاقة في الاتحاد الأوروبي. وقد أعلنت رسمياً أنّ هذا سيحدث في عام 2025. 

ومع ذلك، فإن انتقال الطاقة إلى أوروبا يواجه صعوبات كبيرة. لذلك، لا تزال دول البلطيق تعتمد بشكل كبير على الكهرباء الروسية. إنّ فصل ليتوانيا عن “بريلل” قبل الموعد المحدد سيخلق مشاكل خطرة للغاية لاقتصادها وحياة سكانها. بالنسبة إلى كالينينغراد، لا تشكّل هذه الخطوة أي تهديد، فقد انفصلت المقاطعة بالفعل عن هذه الحلقة.

نقله إلى العربية عماد الدين رائف. 

Vladimir Putin: Interview with Rossiya TV

June 04, 2022

The President answered questions from Pavel Zarubin of Rossyia 1 TV channel.

Pavel Zarubin: Mr President, we have just followed your meeting with the head of Senegal who is also the current leader of the African Union. He expressed, and actually in the past week many countries have expressed concern not so much about the food crisis, but they are afraid of large-scale famine because world food prices are climbing and so are oil and gas prices, These issues are interrelated.

Naturally, the West blames Russia for this, too. What is the real situation at this point, how is it developing? And what do you think will happen in the food and energy markets?

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Yes, indeed, we are seeing attempts to place the responsibility on Russia for developments in the global food market and the growing problems there. I must say that this is another attempt to pin the blame on someone else. But why?

First, the situation with the global food market did not become worse yesterday or even with the launch of Russia’s special military operation in Donbass, in Ukraine.

The situation took a downturn in February 2020 during the efforts to counter the coronavirus pandemic when the global economy was down and had to be revived.

The financial and economic authorities in the United States, of all things, found nothing better than to allocate large amounts of money to support the population and certain businesses and economic sectors.

We generally did almost the same thing, but I assure you that we were much more accurate, and the results are obvious: we did this selectively and got the desired results without affecting macroeconomic indicators, including excessive inflation growth.

The situation was quite different in the United States. The money supply in the United States grew by 5.9 trillion in less than two years, from February 2020 to the end of 2021 – unprecedented productivity of the money printing machines. The total cash supply grew by 38.6 percent.

Apparently, the US financial authorities believed the dollar was a global currency, and it would spread, as usual, as it did in previous years, would dissolve in the global economy, and the United States would not even feel it. But that did not happen, not this time. As a matter of fact, decent people – and there are such people in the United States – the Secretary of the Treasury recently said they had made a mistake. So, it was a mistake made by the US financial and economic authorities – it has nothing to do with Russia’s actions in Ukraine, it is totally unrelated.

And that was the first step – and a big one – towards the current unfavourable food market situation, because, in the first place, food prices immediately went up, they grew. This is the first reason.

The second reason was European countries’ short-sighted policies, and above all, the European Commission’s policy in regard to energy. We see what is going on there. Personally, I believe that many political players in the United States and Europe have been taking advantage of people’s natural concerns about the climate, climate change, and they began to promote this green agenda, including in the energy sector.

It all seems fine, except for the unqualified and groundless recommendations about what needs to be done in the energy sector. The capabilities of alternative types of energy are overestimated: solar, wind, any other types, hydrogen power – those are good prospects for the future, probably, but today, they cannot be produced in the required amount, with the required quality and at acceptable prices. And at the same time, they began to belittle the importance of conventional types of energy, including, and above all, hydrocarbons.

What was the result of this? Banks stopped issuing loans because they were under pressure. Insurance companies stopped insuring deals. Local authorities stopped allocating plots of land for expanding production and reduced the construction of special transport, including pipelines.

All this led to a shortage of investment in the world energy sector and price hikes as a result. The wind was not as strong as expected during the past year, winter dragged on, and prices instantly soared.

On top of all that, the Europeans did not listen to our persistent requests to preserve long-term contracts for the delivery of natural gas to European countries. They started to wind them down. Many are still valid, but they started winding them down. This had a negative effect on the European energy market: the prices went up. Russia has absolutely nothing to do with this.

But as soon as gas prices started going up, fertiliser prices followed suit because gas is used to produce some of these fertilisers. Everything is interconnected. As soon as fertiliser prices started growing, many businesses, including those in European countries, became unprofitable and started shutting down altogether. The amount of fertiliser in the world market took a dive, and prices soared dramatically, much to the surprise of many European politicians.

However, we warned them about this, and this is not linked to Russia’s military operation in Donbass in any way. This has nothing to do with it.

But when we launched our operation, our so-called European and American partners started taking steps that aggravated the situation in both the food sector and fertiliser production.

By the way, Russia accounts for 25 percent of the world fertiliser market. As for potash fertilisers, Alexander Lukashenko told me this – but we should double-check it, of course, although I think it is true – when it comes to potash fertilisers, Russia and Belarus account for 45 percent of the world market. This is a tremendous amount.

The crop yield depends on the quantity of fertiliser put into the soil. As soon as it became clear that our fertilisers would not be in the world market, prices instantly soared on both fertilisers and food products because if there are no fertilisers, it is impossible to produce the required amount of agricultural products.

One thing leads to another, and Russia has nothing to do with it. Our partners made a host of mistakes themselves, and now they are looking for someone to blame. Of course, Russia is the most suitable candidate in this respect.

Pavel Zarubin: Incidentally, it has just been reported that the wife of the head of our largest fertiliser companies has been included in the new European package of sanctions.

What will all this lead to in your opinion?

Vladimir Putin: This will make a bad situation worse.

The British and later the Americans – Anglo-Saxons – imposed sanctions on our fertilisers. Then, having realised what was happening, the Americans lifted their sanctions, but the Europeans did not. They are telling me themselves during contacts: yes, we must think about it, we must do something about it, but today they have just aggravated this situation.

This will make the situation in the world fertiliser market worse, and hence the crop prospects will be much more modest, and prices will keep going up – that is it. This is an absolutely myopic, erroneous, I would say, simply stupid policy that leads to a deadlock.

Pavel Zarubin: But Russia is accused by high-ranking officials of preventing the grain that is actually there, in Ukrainian ports, from leaving.

Vladimir Putin: They are bluffing, and I will explain why.

First, there are some objective things, and I will mention them now. The world produces about 800 million tonnes of grain, wheat per year. Now we are being told that Ukraine is ready to export 20 million tonnes. So, 20 million tonnes out of 800 million tonnes amounts to 2.5 percent. But if we proceed from the fact that wheat accounts for merely 20 percent of all food products in the world – and this is the case, this is not our data, it comes from the UN – this means that these 20 million tonnes of Ukrainian wheat are just 0.5 percent, practically nothing. This is the first point.

The second. 20 million tonnes of Ukrainian wheat are potential exports. Today, the US official bodies also say that Ukraine could export six million tonnes of wheat. According to our Ministry of Agriculture, the figure is not six but about five million tonnes, but okay, let us assume it is six, plus it could export seven million tonnes of maize – this is the figure of our Ministry of Agriculture. We realise that this is not much.

In the current agricultural year of 2021–2022, we will export 37 million and, I believe, we will raise these exports to 50 million tonnes in 2022–2023. But this is apropos, by the way.

As for shipping out Ukrainian grain, we are not preventing this. There are several ways to export grain.

The first one. You can ship it out via the Ukraine-controlled ports, primarily in the Black Sea – Odessa and nearby ports. We did not mine the approaches to the port – Ukraine did this.

I have already said to all our colleagues many times – let them demine the ports and let the vessels loaded with grain leave. We will guarantee their peaceful passage to international waters without any problems. There are no problems at all. Go ahead.

They must clear the mines and raise the ships they sunk on purpose in the Black Sea to make it difficult to enter the ports to the south of Ukraine. We are ready to do this; we will not use the demining process to initiate an attack from the sea. I have already said this. This is the first point.

The second. There is another opportunity: the ports in the Sea of Azov – Berdyansk and Mariupol – are under our control, and we are ready to ensure a problem-free exit from these ports, including for exported Ukrainian grain. Go ahead, please.

We are already working on the demining process. We are completing this work – at one time, Ukrainian troops laid three layers of mines. This process is coming to an end. We will create the necessary logistics. This is not a problem; we will do this. This is the second point.

The third. It is possible to move grain from Ukraine via the Danube and through Romania.

Fourth. It is also possible through Hungary.

And fifth, it is also possible to do this via Poland. Yes, there are some technical problems because the tracks are of different gauges and the wheel bogies must be changed. But this only takes a few hours, that is all.

Finally, the easiest way is to transport grain via Belarus. This is the easiest and the cheapest way because from there it can be instantly shipped to the Baltic ports and further on to any place in the world.

But they would have to lift the sanctions from Belarus. This is not our problem though. At any rate, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko puts it like this: if someone wants to resolve the problem of exporting Ukrainian grain, if this problem exists at all, please use the simplest way – through Belarus. No one will stop you.

So, the problem of shipping grain out of Ukraine does not really exist.

Pavel Zarubin: How would the logistics work to ship it from the ports under our control? What would the conditions be?

Vladimir Putin: No conditions.

They are welcome. We will provide peaceful passage, guarantee safe approaches to these ports, and ensure the safe entry of foreign ships and passage through the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea in any direction.

By the way, several ships are stuck in Ukrainian ports at this point. These are foreign ships, dozens of them. They are simply locked up and their crews are still being held hostage.

Vladimir Putin addressed the plenary session of the 1st Eurasian Economic Forum

May 26, 2022

First Eurasian Economic Forum

Also attending the meeting were Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan, President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev, President of Kyrgyzstan Sadyr Japarov, Prime Minister of Belarus Roman Golovchenko, and Chairman of the Board of the Eurasian Economic Commission Mikhail Myasnikovich. The forum moderator was Alexander Shokhin, President of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, member of the Presidium of the EAEU Business Council.

The purpose of the Eurasian Economic Forum, established by a decision of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council and timed to coincide with a meeting of the SEEC, is to further deepen economic cooperation between the EAEU member states.

The EEF 2022 in Bishkek, themed Eurasian Economic Integration in the Era of Global Shifts: New Investment Opportunities, will focus on promising areas for the strategic development of integration. The participants will discuss ways to deepen industrial, energy, transport, financial, and digital cooperation.

* * *

Address at the plenary session of the 1st Eurasian Economic Forum.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: I am grateful for this opportunity to address you, to speak on the issues which you [Alexander Shokhin] have raised and which, as you suggested, should be addressed in greater detail.

First of all, I would like to thank President of Kyrgyzstan Sadyr Japarov and his team for organising this event. I can see many people in the audience, including businesspeople and government officials. I am sure that the media will take a keen interest in the forum.

This is what I would like to begin with when answering your question. The development of Eurasian integration has no connection whatsoever to current developments or market conditions. We established this organisation many years ago. In fact, we established it at the initiative of the First President of Kazakhstan [Nursultan Nazarbayev].

I remember very well the main conversation we had on that issue, on that subject, when he said, “You must choose what is more important to you: working more actively and more closely with your direct neighbours and natural partners, or prioritising, for example, admission to the World Trade Organisation.” It was in this connection that we had to make decisions.

And although we were interested in joining the WTO and in developing relations accordingly with our Western partners, as you said and as I continue to say, we nevertheless regarded as our main priority the development of relations with our direct and natural neighbours within the common economic framework of the Soviet Union. This is my first point.

The second. Already at that time, we started developing ties – I will speak about this later – within the framework of the Greater Eurasian Partnership. Our motivation was not the political situation but global economic trends, because the centre of economic development is gradually – we are aware of this, and our businesspeople are aware of this – is gradually moving, continues to move into the Asia-Pacific Region.

Of course, we understand the tremendous advantages of high technology in advanced economies. This is obvious. We are not going to shut ourselves off from it. There are attempts to oust us from this area a little but this is simply unrealistic in the modern world. It is impossible. If we do not separate ourselves by putting up a wall, nobody will be able to isolate such a country as Russia.

Speaking not only about Russia, but also about our partners in the EAEU and the world in general, this task is completely unfeasible. Moreover, those who are trying to fulfil it harm themselves the most. No matter how sustainable the economies of the countries pursuing this shortsighted policy are, the current state of the global economy shows that our position is right and justified, even in terms of macroeconomic indicators.

These advanced economies have not had such inflation for the past 40 years; unemployment is growing, logistics chains are breaking and global crises are growing in such sensitive areas as food. This is no joke. It is a serious factor affecting the entire system of economic and political relations.

Meanwhile, these sanctions and bans are aimed at constraining and weakening the countries that are pursuing an independent policy, and they ate not limited to Russia or even China. I do not doubt for a second that there are many countries that want to and will pursue an independent policy and their number is growing. No world policeman will be able to stop this global process. There will not be enough power for this and the desire to do so will evaporate due to a host of domestic problems in those countries. I hope they will eventually realise that this policy has no prospects whatsoever.

Violating rules and norms in international finances and trade is counterproductive. In simple words, it will only lead to problems for those who are doing it. Theft of foreign assets has never done any good to anyone, primarily those who are engaged in these unseemly deeds. As it has transpired now, neglect for the political and security interests of other countries leads to chaos and economic upheavals with global repercussions.

Western countries are sure that any persona non grata who has their own point of view and is ready to defend it can be deleted from the world economy, politics, culture and sports. In fact, this is nonsense, and, as I said, it is impossible to make this happen.

We can see it. Mr Shokhin, as a representative of our business, you certainly face problems, especially in the field of supply chains and transport, but nevertheless, everything can be adjusted, everything can be built in a new way. Not without losses at a certain stage, but it leads to the fact that we really become stronger in some ways. In any case, we are definitely acquiring new skills and are starting to focus our economic, financial, and administrative resources on breakthrough areas.

True, not all the import substitution goals were achieved in previous years. But it is impossible to achieve everything: life is faster than administrative decisions, it develops faster. But there is no problem. We have done everything necessary in key areas that ensure our sovereignty.

Let us move on. After all, import substitution is not a pill for every ill, and we are not going to deal exclusively with import substitution. We are just going to develop. But we will continue to arrange import substitution in those areas where we are forced to do so. Yes, maybe with some mixed results, but definitely we will only become stronger thanks to this, especially in the field of high technologies.

Look, after the CoCom lists – I have already spoken about this many times – after what you said about our work, for instance, within the same former G8 and so on, restrictions still remained. In the most sensitive areas, everything was still closed. In fact, fundamentally – I want to emphasise this – nothing has changed fundamentally.

These issues related to large-block assemblies and so on, it took so much effort to increase localisation within the country, in our economy, in the real sectors of the economy, in industry. And even then we did not agree on key issues in many respects.

Actually, import substitution was necessary

to create not just assembly shops, but also engineering centres and research centres. This is inevitable for any country that wants to increase its economic, financial and ultimately political sovereignty. It is inevitable.

This is why we have been doing it, and not because the current state of affairs demands it from us, but simply because life itself demanded this, and we were active.

And, of course, we will work actively within the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union and within the CIS in general, we will work with the regions of Asia, Latin America and Africa. But I assure you, and you can see it yourselves, many of our companies from Europe, our partners from Europe, have announced that they are leaving. You know, sometimes when we look at those who are leaving, we ask ourselves: isn’t it a good thing that they have left? We will take up their niches: our business and our production – they have matured, and they will safely take root on the ground that our partners have prepared. Nothing will change.

And those who want to bring in some luxury goods, they will be able to do so. Well, it will be a little more expensive for them, but these are people who are already driving Mercedes S 600, and will continue to do so. I assure you, they will bring them from anywhere, from any country. That is not what is important for us. What is important for the country, for its development – I have already said this and I will repeat it – are the engineering centres and research centres that are the basis of our own development. This is what we must think about and what we must work on both within the EAEU and in a broad sense with our partners – those who want to cooperate with us.

We have a very good base that we inherited from the old days, we only need to support it and to invest resources there. As for those areas, in which we did not invest appropriate resources before, including, say, administrative resources, relying on the fact that everything can be bought by selling oil and gas, life itself has now forced us to invest there.

And thank God that this has happened. I do not see any problem here with the fact that we have not completed something in the field of import substitution. We will not do it just because the current economic situation forces us to do so, but only because it is in the interests of our country.

The Eurasian Economic Union has developed a roadmap for industrialisation, with over 180 projects with a total investment of over $300 billion. A programme for agricultural development has been prepared, including more than 170 projects worth $16 billion.

Russia has something to offer here, and businesspeople are well aware of this. We have grown to be highly competitive at the global level, in the global markets. Russia remains – if we speak about agriculture – the largest exporter of wheat, number one in the world. Until recently, we were buying it – now we are selling it, number one in the world. True, countries such as the United States or China produce even more, but they also consume more. But Russia has become number one in international trade.

Our high-tech industries are growing successfully, too. And we would like to continue growing together with our EAEU partners. We can and should restore our collaborative competencies.

I have discussed this with my colleagues, with the President of Kazakhstan and the Prime Minister of Armenia – not because some of Russia’s IT workers have moved to Armenia, not at all. They are free to relocate and work anywhere, and God bless them. But again, it is a certain challenge for us: it means we must create better conditions.

We have opportunities to work with the Republic of Belarus in a number of areas of cooperation, and we will definitely do this, because the Republic of Belarus has retained certain expertise that is very important for us, including in microelectronics. President Lukashenko and I just met in Sochi and talked about it, and even agreed to set aside funding for those projects in Belarus. The products that these enterprises, these industries will make will enjoy demand in Russia. This is a very interesting and promising area.

The EAEU countries have laid the foundation for a common digital landscape, including a unified products traceability system. Various platform solutions are being developed, for example, the Work without Borders search system. The project is very important for all our countries. Despite all the crises and challenges caused by the current political situation, labour migrants continue to send almost as much money home from Russia as before. Moreover, some countries are receiving even more money now, as my colleagues from the CIS have told me.

The practice of payments in national currencies is expanding, which is very important. Notably, their share in the mutual trade of the Union’s countries has already reached 75 percent. We will continue to work on interlinking our national payment systems and bank cards.

We believe it is important to expedite the dialogue on internal international financial and payment mechanisms, such as transitioning from SWIFT to direct correspondent contacts between the banks of the friendly countries, including through the Russian Central Bank’s financial messaging system. We also propose strengthening cooperation with key lending and financial centres in the Asia-Pacific Region.

New topics related to Eurasian integration include developing cooperation in green technology, environmental protection and energy saving. We expect to receive support and proactive suggestions from the business community.

Colleagues,

In the current international conditions when, unfortunately, traditional trade and economic links and supply chains are being disrupted, Russia’s initiative to form a Greater Eurasian Partnership– an initiative we have been discussing for many years – is gaining a special meaning.

We are thankful to the leaders of the EAEU countries for supporting this proposal from the very beginning. BRICS members such as China and India as well as several other countries also supported creating a Greater Eurasian Partnership. The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, ASEAN and other organisations have shown interest in this initiative.

Here, I would like to mention several specific ideas pertaining to the comprehensive development of the Greater Eurasian Partnership.

First, it is reasonable to develop shared institutions for specific growth points, including creating a Eurasian export centre and trade houses, expediting the establishment of a Eurasian reinsurance company, examining the issue of developing special trans-border economic zones, probably even with supranational authority.

The second point. It is important to step up the EAEU’s cooperation with foreign partners and inform them about the benefits and advantages of working with the EAEU and of our key projects and plans. My colleagues know that interest in our association is growing. In this context, the EAEU Business Council could play a significant role. It is already successfully developing ties beyond our union. Its business dialogue system may become an example for a potential business cooperation platform in Greater Eurasia.

That said, as I have already noted, it would be desirable to support the freedom of business initiative, the creative activity of business, of our investors. I suggest creating additional, better incentives for this purpose and investing more in Eurasian projects. Naturally, the companies representing national businesses of the EAEU countries must receive priority support.

My third point. It is time to draft a comprehensive strategy for developing large-scale Eurasian partnership. It must reflect the key international challenges facing us, determine future goals and contain instruments and mechanisms for achieving them. We must consider further steps in developing our system of trade and investment agreements, in part, with the participation of the SCO, ASEAN and BRICS member countries.

In fact, we may draft new agreements that will develop and supplement WTO rules. In this context, it is important to pay attention not only to tariffs but also to the removal of non-tariff barriers. This may produce considerable results without subjecting our national economies to risks.

In conclusion, I would like to say the following. It would be no exaggeration to say that Greater Eurasia is a big civilisational project. The main idea is to create a common space for equitable cooperation for regional organisations. The Greater Eurasian Partnership is designed to change the political and economic architecture and guarantee stability and prosperity on the entire continent – naturally, taking account of the diverse development models, cultures and traditions of all nations. I am confident, and this is obvious anyway, that this centre would attract a big audience.

I would like to wish success and productive cooperation to all participants of the Eurasian Economic Forum.

Thank you for your attention. Thank you.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Meeting of the heads of state of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (update, transcript is now complete)

May 16, 2022

CSTO summit

Taking part in the meeting, timed to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the Collective Security Treaty and the 20th anniversary of the organisation, were the heads of Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.

The main focus of the summit was on key issues of cooperation within the CSTO, topical international and regional problems, and measures to further improve the collective security system.

During the meeting, the leaders signed a Statement of the CSTO Collective Security Council (CSC) in connection with the 30th anniversary of the Collective Security Treaty and the 20th anniversary of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation. They also signed a resolution of the CSTO CSC to award the participants in the CSTO peacekeeping mission in the Republic of Kazakhstan.

* * *

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Colleagues, good afternoon!

I am glad to welcome you all in Moscow.

At the suggestion of our chairman, and today Armenia chairs the organisation, we gathered in Moscow, because this is where 30 years ago the Collective Security Treaty was signed, and 20 years ago, on the basis of this Treaty, the Collective Security Treaty Organisation was created.

This means we have two anniversaries almost on the same day: on May 14 and 15 in 1992 and 2002, respectively. I congratulate you on this.

I hope that the organisation, which has become a full international structure over the years, will continue to develop, even through difficult times. I would like to note in this context that both 1992 and 2002 were difficult times; they never end.

The organisation plays a very important role in the post-Soviet space – a stabilising role. I hope that in this sense its capabilities and influence on the situation in our area of responsibility will only grow.

Here I would like to finish my welcoming remarks and give the floor to the Chairman [of the CSTO Collective Security Council], the Prime Minister of Armenia.

Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan: Thank you, Mr Putin.

Colleagues, I would like to welcome all of you!

I would also like to add my congratulations on the two anniversaries the President of Russia noted. The Treaty on Collective Security was signed on May 15, 1992, and the decision on establishing a Collective Security Treaty Organisation was made on May 14, 2002. We meet today partly in commemoration of both anniversaries.

I suggest we express our views on these anniversaries and on the current situation as always – in alphabetic order. Please hold your comments to 3 to 5 minutes – this is the open section.

Afterwards, we will sign the documents that are ready for signing, and will then continue our discussion behind closed doors.

I give the floor to the President of the Republic of Belarus. Go ahead, please.

President of the Republic of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko: Mr Pashinyan, dear friends!

I will talk a bit longer than usual since I am the first to speak, and the current situation deserves attention.

Today’s meeting is taking place in a difficult time, as the President of Russia has just said – a time of repartitioning the world; the unipolar international system is irretrievably receding into the past, but the collective West is fiercely fighting to keep its position.

Anything goes, including actions in the zone of responsibility of our organisation: from NATO’s sabre rattling at our western borders to a full-scale hybrid war unleashed against us, primarily against Russia and Belarus.

NATO is aggressively building its muscles, drawing Finland and Sweden into its net, countries that only yesterday were neutral. This is based on the attitude, “those who are not with us are against us,” and, hypocritically, NATO continues to declare its defensive nature. The truly defensive and peace-loving position of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation is in contrast to this background.

The United States is building up its military presence on the western flank of the CSTO, its military infrastructure is being upgraded at an accelerated pace and many NATO exercises are taking place. The large-scale exercise, Defender Europe 2022, the likes of which we have not seen before, are now being held on the territory of 19 European countries, in part, near our borders in Poland. You can guess for yourselves whom they are defending themselves against.

Until now, there is a force of about 15,000 military personnel stationed at the Belarusian-Polish border, which were deployed there last year under the pretext of a migration crisis, in addition to the troops that are stationed there permanently. Last year, 15,000 troops, mostly Americans, were redeployed. The migrants left that area a long time ago, but the troops are still there. The question is why?

Clearly, no country is posing any threat to NATO today. Moreover, an additional force of over 10,000 military troops was brought there to reinforce the alliance’s eastern flank with 15,000 troops already deployed in Poland and the Baltic countries as part of the US armed forces’ Atlantic Resolve and NATO-allied Enhanced Forward Presence. For perspective, seven or so years ago, there were 3,500 troops in this location (addressing the CSTO Secretary General Stanislav Zas) on your watch, now there are about 40,000 troops right on the territory of Poland and the Baltic states. And I am not talking about Ukraine yet.

Our military interaction within the framework of the Union State of Belarus and Russia, and Belarus’ membership in the CSTO, are the very stabilisers that have a certain sobering effect on the hotheads on the other side of the border. This shows that if it were not for this, I am afraid that a hot war would already be underway in Belarus. By the way, they tried to do this in 2020.

Today, there is no more pressing or important issue than the Ukraine conflict. Since 2014, all of us have been assisting in every way possible in resolving it. In principle, all of us sitting at this table are ready to do this even now and in any format.

Clearly, Ukraine was fomented, incited and fed nationalism and Nazism. We saw that in Odessa, when people were burned alive. Ukraine was fed Nazism, Russophobia and weapons. They used every approach to poison it.

After the election in Belarus in August 2020, regarding interaction with us, Belarus, Ukraine completely succumbed to the West. We have constantly experienced unfriendly actions from our southern neighbour for over two years now.

Ukraine proactively imposed sanctions on us even before the West, including the Americans. Ukraine was the first to do so. Remember? Their airspace was closed, then railway service, and then they began to train militants and send them to Belarus and ship weapons across the border. Everyone knows that. Provocative actions were carried out with Ukrainian drones conducting reconnaissance missions in Belarus’ airspace.

The facts indicating a threat to our national security are indisputable. This is exactly why we were absolutely right to activate the support mechanism in the framework of our alliance with Russia.

Belarus paid attention to the unjustified growth of the Western military presence in Ukraine and the region as a whole even before the start of the Russian special military operation. We talked about this more than once and warned that a conflict was looming. We expected the West, primarily the US, to accept Russia’s proposal to enter into talks on security guarantees. This process will start eventually in the foreseeable future but what will remain of Ukraine and our region by this time is a big question.

Right now, we are seeing that the West, including Washington, is only interested in prolonging the conflict as much as possible. This is why Ukraine is being flooded with weapons. The goals are clear: to weaken Russia as much as possible by miring it in this war. The flames may reach beyond it – we are seeing this, too. If this is the idea, likely nobody will be able to sit it out.

Currently the most dangerous trend in Ukraine are the attempts to partition the country. Thousand-strong units have already been formed to enter Ukraine in the guise of peacekeepers to “protect” it.

Unity and solidarity among like-minded people are particularly important at a time when norms and principles of international law are being completely ignored. The CSTO member states displayed such solidarity and support in January of this year in a time of trial: you remember the events in Kazakhstan. By acting rapidly when needed, we graphically demonstrated to the entire world our close allied relations and the capacity of our organisation to ensure the security of its members. Nobody in the West even dared think about interfering in this situation because we are stronger together.

But is it possible to claim today that the members of this organisation are really united and bound by ties of solidarity and support as before? Recent events suggest probably not. This is from our perspective, and I may be wrong. But it is enough to recall the ban imposed by some of our CSTO partners on the flights to their countries by national airlines of other CSTO members.

The concepts of unity and solidarity are not always enough, given the brutal, rabid sanctions pressure by the consolidated West. Unfortunately, this is clear from the voting in international organisations.

With the tacit agreement of our partners, Belarus and Russia are being vilified and expelled from international organisations against all laws of international life, just on a Western whim. Yes, you, CSTO members are subjected to pressure – tough and unprincipled pressure – but this is where collective, mutual support is so helpful. We may not exist tomorrow if we do not unite as soon as possible, if we do not strengthen our political, economic and military ties.

Our enemies and detractors are systematically degrading our strongholds and allied ties, and we ourselves are partially helping the West in this regard. I am sure that if we had acted as a united front right off the bat, the hellish, as they say, sanctions would be out of question.

Look how united the European Union is when it votes or acts, and how strong its intra-bloc discipline is. It applies automatically even to those who disagree with its decisions. This begs the question: What is keeping us from using this bloc resource? We need to follow their example. If divided, we will simply be crushed and torn apart.

Back in January, I said that the main goal of certain external forces is to undermine stability and to disrupt the evolutionary path of development throughout the post-Soviet space. They started with Belarus, then the infection spread to Kazakhstan, and now it is Russia’s turn, as we see, and problems are being created in Armenia as well. Make no mistake, no one will be spared.

It is absolutely clear that, without united pushback from the CSTO allies and other integration associations in the post-Soviet space, the collective West will ratchet up its pressure.

What do we need to do to reinforce the CSTO in this unprecedented situation at hand? Off the top of my head, I can visualise the following top-priority steps, which are many, and the President of Tajikistan covered them at length when he talked about the challenge facing that region.

The first is to strengthen political interaction and coordination of the CSTO member states. It is important to improve the efficiency of the foreign policy and security consultation mechanism. We need to speak more often on behalf of the CSTO on international platforms so that its voice and position can be seen and heard, and this voice and position must be united as they are in the West.

Let our foreign ministers consider how best to go about this, and where. Let them think about our political response to a new wave of NATO expansion in light of the intentions declared by well-known states.

We must work out in advance the CSTO position on this matter and make our interests known to the international community. We must act as one in this. Russia should not be alone in voicing its concern and fighting the attempted NATO enlargement.

The second point is to increase the effectiveness of efforts to counter challenges and threats in the information space, including the fight against fake news and disinformation. It is clear that we are facing a hybrid war, the main part of which is an information war.

In order to counter this, we should make the most of the 2017 CSTO Agreement on Information Security Cooperation and actively promote the CSTO on social media, which our Western opponents intensively use, in order to effectively respond to fake news and planted information. Moreover, we need to think seriously and, perhaps, follow China’s policy in the information confrontation, especially on the internet.

Relevant tasks should be assigned to all foreign ministries, special services and the CSTO Secretariat.

Third, there is a clear need to strengthen the forecasting and analytical component in the CSTO Secretariat’s work. I am sure that there are similar departments in the UN, the European Union and NATO. It might be worth considering creating a unit responsible for analysis and strategic planning at the CSTO Secretariat. I think the Secretary-General needs to study this issue.

Fourth, it is worth thinking about combining the potential of the analytical centres of the CSTO member states and forming a network of these centres to assist in the development of conceptual documents on current issues on the international agenda.

Dear friends,

I am offering such seemingly simple proposals at these extremely difficult times because we may not immediately agree on more complex ones. Therefore, these may be the first steps, but we need to go further and deeper, as we used to say in the past

Colleagues,

Everyone understands that the historical era that existed before is ending, and there will be no return to the previous international order. We cannot allow the creation of a new international architecture without us, while the West is already planting false stories and holding talks about it.

I believe that the CSTO should firmly strengthen its status in the international system of checks and balances. The organisation has a powerful collective potential for further progressive development, but it depends only on us today, it is up to us, how effectively the CSTO will use this potential and whether it will continue to exist in the next 10, 20 or 30 years.

After Armenia, the CSTO chairmanship will rotate to Belarus. In addition to the promising areas of work outlined above, we are already seriously considering new proposals aimed at the further development of our organisation, and you will learn about them in the near future. We hope for maximum support and constructive work from all of you, our colleagues. We have no other choice.

Sorry for such a long speech.

Thank you for your attention.

Nikol Pashinyan: Thank you, Mr Lukashenko.

I will give the floor to President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.

President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev: Mr Pashinyan, colleagues!

First of all, I would like to express my gratitude to President of Russia Vladimir Putin for organising this anniversary summit of the Collective Security Council. It is true that our summit today is distinct in marking two CSTO anniversaries.

Over the years our organisation has proven to be an effective mechanism of multilateral cooperation with serious potential for further development.

Once the CSTO was established, a reliable system for collective security was built in the vast expanse of Eurasia. The main goals are to strengthen peace and stability as well as international and regional security, and protect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of its member states.

The CSTO’s permanent working bodies operate successfully; there are various formats for close cooperation and interaction. The CSTO’s authority, law enforcement and peacekeeping potential are being strengthened.

We focus on countering international terrorism and extremism, illegal drug and weapons trafficking, and illegal migration. In this context we attach great importance to the developments in Afghanistan. The unstable situation there as well as the unrelenting activity of armed groups on the territory of Afghanistan continue to threaten the security and stability of our states. I believe the CSTO must consider every potential threat while paying even more attention to ensuring the security of the southern borders of Central Asia.

In the mid-term, developing the organisation’s peacekeeping potential is an unconditional priority. Active work is underway in this area. CSTO peacekeeping forces have been created and are being improved every year; a plan is being developed to equip them with modern weapons, equipment and special tools.

As you know, the institute of Special Representative of the CSTO Secretary-General for peacekeeping has been established, at Kazakhstan’s initiative. This means that all the necessary tools have been created, and we suggest that it is time to set the goal of getting the CSTO involved with the United Nations’ peacekeeping activities.

This step would promote the legal status of the CSTO and ensure the organisation’s participation in international peacekeeping operations.

Colleagues,

Our assessments of the CSTO’s development and common view of the current aspects of international and regional security underlie the anniversary statement of the Collective Security Council. I would like to thank Armenia for its productive chairmanship and Russia for its timely initiative to hold this forum.

Thank you for your attention.

Nikol Pashinyan:Thank you, Mr Tokayev.

Next to speak is President of the Kyrgyz Republic. Mr Sadyr Japarov, please, take the floor.

President of the Kyrgyz Republic Sadyr Japarov: Good afternoon.

Mr Putin, Mr Chairman of the CSTO Collective Security Council Nikol Pashinyan, Messrs heads of state,

I am happy to meet with you in hospitable Moscow.

I would like to begin with congratulations. First, I want to extend my congratulations to our fraternal peoples on the 77th anniversary of the Great Victory. On May 9, many thousands of people across Kyrgyzstan took part in the Immortal Regiment march carrying the slogans “Eternal Glory to the Heroes” and “Nobody Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Forgotten.” The republic holds this holiday sacred, as it epitomises the defeat of Nazism and Fascism by the Soviet people and invariably pays a sincere tribute to the memory of the heroic deed of our fathers and grandfathers.

Second, I want to extend my congratulations to all of us on the 30th anniversary of signing the Collective Security Treaty and the 20th anniversary of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation. We fully support the political statement to be adopted today in connection with these two historic dates.

The international events taking place in recent years show that the strategic decisions taken to ensure shared and collective security from Brest to Vladivostok were right.

At the same time, I am pleased to note that throughout its existence the Collective Security Treaty Organisation has fulfilled the responsible mission assigned to it and developed as an institution, with its potential becoming ever stronger. In this connection, I would like to express my gratitude to CSTO Secretary-General Stanislav Zas, all his predecessors in the post and the CSTO Secretariat staff for their loyal service in the interests of the security of the Organisation’s member states.

Colleagues,

The current international situation does not offer cause for optimism, in terms of both global security and the world economy. Threats to security and military and political tensions have come too close to the borders of the CSTO zone of responsibility. Attempts are being made to interfere from the outside in the internal affairs of the CSTO member states.

For example, earlier this year we had to help a CSTO member state get out of a security crisis it had unexpectedly found itself in. Our response was quick and effective. I fully support the decision to award participants in this peacekeeping mission.

The situation at the southern borders of the CSTO remains alarming, primarily due to the unhindered activities of radical religious terrorist groups in some Afghan provinces. The external sponsors of these groups have far-reaching plans for Central Asia. I think we should keep focusing our attention and analysis on the Afghan issue. It is necessary to carry out an entire package of political-diplomatic and military-technical measures to ensure security in this area. At the same time, it is important to provide humanitarian aid for the Afghan people. Our fellow countrymen are among them.

Colleagues,

We are seriously alarmed by the sanctions war. The Kyrgyz economy has not yet recovered from the coronavirus pandemic, and now the sanctions are already creating a threat to food and energy security, macroeconomic sustainability and social stability.

Under the circumstances, we must discuss and draft a common approach to alleviate the consequences of sanctions and prevent the deterioration of the socioeconomic situation in our countries. We will soon have an opportunity to do so at the meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council and the First Eurasian Economic Forum in the city of Bishkek.

Colleagues, I hope for your personal participation as heads of your delegations, in which I am asking you to include heads of sectoral ministries and business structures.

In conclusion, I would like to congratulate you again on the Day of the Great Victory and the two anniversaries of the Collective Security Treaty.

I sincerely wish you and the friendly nations of the CSTO peace, stability, wellbeing and prosperity.

Thank you for your attention.

Nikol Pashinyan: Thank you, Mr Japarov.

I am giving the floor to President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin.

Mr President, go ahead, please.

Vladimir Putin: Friends and colleagues,

I will agree with the previous speakers – indeed, in the past few decades, the Collective Security Treaty Organisation has become considerably stronger and won a well-deserved reputation as an effective regional defence structure that ensures security and stability in the Eurasian space and reliably protects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its member countries.

Importantly, cooperation in the CSTO has always been built in the spirit of true allied relations, on the principles of friendship and neighbourliness, respect and consideration of each other’s interests, mutual assistance and support. The same principles guide our cooperation in the current difficult situation.

The CSTO’s successful peacekeeping operation, held in Kazakhstan in January 2022 at the request of its leaders, showed the maturity of our Organisation and its real ability to adequately withstand acute challenges and threats.

The contingent of the collective CSTO forces, sent into Kazakhstan for a limited period of time, prevented extremists, including those directed from abroad, from seizing power and helped to quickly stabilise the internal political situation in the republic.

The use of peacekeeping forces at the request of the Kazakhstan leadership was the first operation of this kind in the CSTO’s history. The operation revealed the strong points of practical cooperation between our military structures and security services, and, at the same time, showed what we should work on to improve it.

Today, we will sign a joint statement reaffirming, taking into account the experience gained, among other things, during the afore-mentioned operation, the resolve of our states to continue acting as partners in different areas of military and defence development, and building up our coordinated actions in the world arena.

At the same time, it is quite logical that our current high-priority task is to further improve and streamline the work of the CSTO and its governing bodies. We will also provide the collective CSTO forces with modern weapons and equipment, we will enhance the interoperability of their troop contingents, and more effectively coordinate the joint actions of our military agencies and secret services.

We streamline the relevant operations all the time during CSTO exercises, and we are set to expand such exercises. This autumn, there are plans to hold an entire series of joint CSTO exercises in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. I am confident that these measures will boost the combat readiness of our states’ military agencies and improve their coordination, as well as increase the entire peacekeeping potential of the CSTO.

We also believe that the CSTO should continue its efforts to counter terrorism, drug trafficking and organised crime. Law enforcement agencies of our countries interact rather effectively in this field, so as to prevent the recruitment of people and to neutralise the resource potential of international terrorist organisations.

Efforts to maintain biological security also require the most serious attention. For a long time, we sounded the alarm about US military biological activity in the post-Soviet space.

It is common knowledge that the Pentagon has established dozens of specialised biological laboratories and centres in our common region, and that they are by no means merely providing practical medical assistance to the population of the countries where they are operating. Their main task is to collect biological materials and to analyse the spread of viruses and dangerous diseases for their own purposes.

Now, during the special operation in Ukraine, documentary evidence was obtained that components of biological weapons were developed in close proximity to our borders, which violates the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, and possible methods and mechanisms were worked out to destabilise the epidemiological situation in the post-Soviet space.

In this regard, we count on our colleagues supporting the earliest possible implementation of Russia’s initiative to operationalise the designated CSTO council. Once again, I would like to note the importance of close coordination between CSTO members in matters of foreign policy, coordinated actions at the UN and other multilateral platforms, and promotion of common approaches to the multiplying international security issues.

In this context, it is important to build up cooperation with our “natural” partners in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the Commonwealth of Independent States. By the way, we think it would be appropriate and correct – we will discuss this – to grant the CIS observer status in the CSTO.

I would like to highlight our priority task of jointly defending the memory of Victory in the Great Patriotic War, the feat of our peoples who saved the world from Nazism at the cost of enormous and irreparable sacrifices, and to counteract any attempts to whitewash the Nazis, their accomplices and modern followers.

This is extremely important particularly now, when monuments to the heroes liberators are being barbarously demolished in a number of European countries, laying flowers at memorials is forbidden, and cynical attempts are being made to rewrite history, while praising murderers and traitors and insulting their victims, thus crossing out the feats of those who selflessly fought for Victory and won the war.

Unfortunately, in our neighbouring country, Ukraine, neo-Nazism has been on the rise for a long time now, to which some of our partners from the “collective West” turn a blind eye, and thus actually encourage their activities. All this goes hand-in-hand with an unprecedented surge in frenzied Russophobia in the so-called civilised and politically correct Western countries.

Indeed, we hear, and I hear people say that extremists can be found anywhere, which is true. Extremists are everywhere and one way or another they are leaving their underground hideouts and make themselves known. Nowhere, though – I want to underscore this – nowhere are Nazis being glorified at the state level and not a single civilised country’s authorities are encouraging thousands of neo-Nazi torchlight processions with Nazi symbols. This is something that is not practiced anywhere. But unfortunately, this is happening in Ukraine.

The expansion of the North Atlantic Alliance is a problem that, in my view, is being created in an absolutely artificial manner because it is being done in the foreign policy interests of the United States. Generally, NATO is being used, in effect, as the foreign policy tool of a single country, and it is being done persistently, adroitly, and very aggressively. All of this is aggravating the already complex international security situation.

As for the expansion, including the accession of two prospective new members, Finland and Sweden, I would like to inform you, colleagues, that Russia has no problems with these states. No problems at all! In this sense, therefore, there is no direct threat to Russia in connection with NATO’s expansion to these countries. But the expansion of its military infrastructure to these territories will certainly evoke a response on our part. We will see what it will be like based on the threats that are created for us. But generally speaking, problems are being created from nothing. So, we will respond to it in a fitting manner.

Apart from everything else, apart from this interminable policy of expansion, the North Atlantic Alliance is emerging beyond its geographical destination, beyond the Euro-Atlantic area. It is increasingly active in trying to manage international issues and control the international security situation. It wants to wield influence in other regions of the world, but its actual performance leaves much to be desired. This certainly demands additional attention on our part.

In conclusion, I want to reiterate that Russia will continue to contribute to deepening relations of strategic alliance with all CSTO member states. We will do our best to improve and develop effective partner cooperation within the CSTO and, of course, we will support the Armenian chairmanship’s ongoing work in this area.

As for Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine, we will certainly discuss this, and I will inform you in detail about its causes and the current combat effort. But, of course, we will do this behind closed doors.

Thank you for your attention.

Nikol Pashinyan: Thank you, Mr Putin.

President of the Republic of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon is our next speaker. Please go ahead.

President of the Republic of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon: Colleagues,

First of all, I would like to congratulate you on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Collective Security Treaty and the 20th anniversary of the creation of the CSTO.

I would like to thank the President of Russia for convening today’s meeting dedicated to these milestone events that are important for all of us. Anniversaries are a good opportunity to reflect on the path traveled and the development of the CSTO and to identify prospects for multilateral cooperation seeking to strengthen the common collective security system in light of new realities.

Over the period under review, the CSTO has established itself as an important factor in strengthening peace and ensuring regional security and stability. The organisation’s successful peacekeeping mission earlier this year clearly showed it.

We have created an extensive legal framework, the necessary working and coordinating bodies, as well as mechanisms aimed at fulfilling the organisation’s goals.

In practice, due attention is paid to strengthening and consolidating mutual trust within the CSTO. The CSTO’s international ties are expanding. Last year, we completed the ratification procedure and launched the institutions of observers under the CSTO and the CSTO partners as part of the Tajik chairmanship.

Field and command-staff exercises are conducted on a permanent basis, and measures are being taken to supply modern weapons and military equipment to the collective security system’s forces and means. All this helps maintain a high degree of combat readiness, mobility, training and skills of command and service personnel for bringing joint solutions to common tasks.

Today, the CSTO is an important platform for equal dialogue and cooperation between member states in all three basic dimensions: political interaction, military cooperation and joint efforts to counter modern challenges and threats.

The CSTO Collective Security Strategy to 2025, which reflects the principles of our interaction in the mid-term, is an important document that is guiding our organisation along its own path of development. Our common assessment of the state and development prospects of the organisation is reflected in a joint statement that we will adopt following the summit.

Notably, today we are facing no less important tasks to strengthen our common security. Given the manifold growth of challenges and threats to security, we will have to step up joint efforts to strengthen the Organisation’s potential and capabilities.

For example, we can see that negative factors have been accumulating in Afghanistan over the past 40 years, and they have worsened the military-political and socioeconomic situation in that country. In this regard, the CSTO needs to be prepared for various scenarios on the southern borders.

Tajikistan plans to continue to actively contribute to ensuring common security in the organisation’s regions of responsibility.

Thank you.

Nikol Pashinyan: Thank you very much.

Colleagues, I will now speak in my national capacity, if I may.

First of all, I would like to thank the President of Russia for hosting the anniversary CSTO summit in Moscow and the warm welcome. Of course, our organisation’s anniversary is also an excellent occasion to sum up the intermediate results and to discuss prospects for the further development of our organisation.

The President of Belarus raised important questions about interaction between the CSTO member countries and touched on, frankly, rather problematic issues. In general, there are a lot of positive developments in the history of the CSTO, because in reality it was, is and will be the most important factor in ensuring security and stability in the region.

But, as we see, we are discussing not only anniversary-related issues at this anniversary summit, because the situation is fairly tense in the CSTO area of ​​responsibility. I want to touch on some of the issues that the President of Belarus mentioned.

Regarding voting by the CSTO member countries, this issue does exist, indeed. Often, our voting is not synchronised, but this is not something new. This has been typical of our organisation for a long time now. Armenia has repeatedly raised this issue, and we have repeatedly discussed it in the regular course of business. Clearly, this issue needs to be further discussed as well.

With regard to interaction as well as response and rapid response mechanisms, this is also a critical issue for Armenia, because, as you are aware, last year on these days, Azerbaijani troops invaded the sovereign territory of Armenia. Armenia turned to the CSTO for it to activate the mechanisms that are provided for in the Regulations governing the CSTO response to crisis situations of December 10, 2010 which is a document approved by the Collective Security Council. Unfortunately, we cannot say that the organisation responded as the Republic of Armenia expected.

For a long time now, we have been raising the issue of sales of weapons by CSTO member countries to a country that is unfriendly to Armenia, which used these weapons against Armenia and the Armenian people. This is also a problem.

Frankly, the CSTO member countries’ response during the 44-day war of 2020 and the post-war period did not make the Republic of Armenia and the Armenian people very happy, but I want to emphasise the special role played by the Russian Federation and President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin personally in halting the war in Nagorno-Karabakh.

I would like to reaffirm that Armenia remains committed to the trilateral statements of November 9, 2020. I am referring to the trilateral statements by the President of the Russian Federation, the President of Azerbaijan and the Prime Minister of Armenia, as well as the trilateral statements of January 11, 2021 and November 26, 2021.

I think it is critically important to sum up the results, but Armenia, as a founding member of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, is committed to the organisation’s further development and considers it a key contributor to stability and security in the Eurasian region, as well as the security of the Republic of Armenia, and is positive about providing its full support for the organisation’s further development.

Now I give the floor to CSTO Secretary General Stanislav Zas so that he tells us about the documents that we are going to sign.

CSTO Secretary General Stanislav Zas: Mr Chairman, members of the Collective Security Council,

First, I would like to thank you for today’s meeting devoted to the CSTO’s anniversary. Twenty years is not such a long period for an international organisation. However, it has traversed a very long road during these years – from the formation of the idea of collective defence to the well-established, multi-faceted international organisation that it is today.

Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you, heads of state, on the anniversary and to thank you for your hard work on establishing, developing and strengthening our organisation. I am saying this because, of course, all this would have been impossible without your constant attention and support.

You have an analytical review of the CSTO activities over 20 years of its existence in your folders on the table. This review was prepared at the instruction of the President of the Republic of Tajikistan. Incidentally, our work on this review was very interesting and useful. On the eve of such great anniversaries, we tried to look back at the path travelled and to assess the CSTO’s status. We developed a good feeling that stayed with us: We have reasons to be proud.

The mechanism of foreign policy coordination is functioning well in the CSTO format. Using this mechanism, we form the consolidated position of our states on urgent regional and global issues. That said, I agree with the President of Belarus that this is clearly not enough these days. We should not avoid answers, consolidated answers to the most pressing issues.

We have developed cooperation with international regional organisations and their relevant structures. We have preserved and, importantly, are cultivating the principle of prioritising political and diplomatic means to achieve CSTO goals. This is, probably, one of the main pillars of our organisation.

Over these years, we have considerably built up the CSTO’s

military capacity. We are upgrading the structure, equipment and training of the bodies in charge of managing and forming a collective security system.

We consider the formation of a uniform system for training personnel, management bodies and troops an important achievement of the CSTO. Of course, the highest form of this system is embodied in the planned joint miscellaneous exercises that we hold every year.

We created and are developing an effective mechanism to counter modern challenges and threats, such as drug trafficking, illegal migration, international terrorism, and crime using information technology. To this end, joint emergency and preventive measures are taken and special operations are carried out regularly. The results prove their relevance and effectiveness.

The formation of a collective biological security toolkit is nearing completion. This topic was raised today, and I think we will return to it.

An important place is occupied by the CSTO crisis response system. Considering the first practical experience gained in Kazakhstan in testing this system, it probably makes sense that today we will also consider issues of improving the crisis response system.

The further development of our organisation will be carried out taking into account your decisions and instructions – I am grateful for today’s initiatives and instructions – and based on the plan for implementing the CSTO Collective Security Strategy until 2025.

By the way, next year we need to start preparing the initial data to develop a new CSTO Collective Security Strategy for the next period, 2026–2030. It is high time, and the situation now is significantly different than it was five years ago. This also means a lot of work to be done, and it probably requires that our countries join analytical forces.

Mr Chair and members of the Collective Security Council,

The following two documents have been submitted for your consideration and signing: a draft statement of the CSTO Collective Security Council on the 30th anniversary of the Collective Security Treaty and the 20th anniversary of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation; and a draft decision of the Collective Security Council “On awarding participants in the CSTO peacekeeping mission in the Republic of Kazakhstan.”

The draft decision recognises the most distinguished participants in the peacekeeping operation. Six members of our militaries, including commander of our peacekeeping mission in Kazakhstan, Colonel General Andrei Serdyukov, are recommended for the CSTO honourary badge, I and II Class, for their skillful leadership, preparation and conduct of this operation, and a number of military personnel are recommended for the medal For Strengthening Collective Security for active participation and selflessness in this operation.

The documents have passed the necessary approval procedure, have been adopted by the statutory bodies and are ready for signing.

I would ask you to consider and support these two documents.

Thank you.

Nikol Pashinyan: Colleagues, I propose to move on to the signing of the documents.

‘Victory over death itself’: Why the 9th of May is so important for Russians

9 May, 2022

People holding photographs of their relatives who fought against Nazi Germany in WWII attend the Immortal Regiment march marking the 77th anniversary of the victory in World War II, in Moscow, Russia. © Sputnik / Grigory Sysoev

77 years after World War Two, Victory Day is regarded as the country’s most important holiday

By Evgeny Norin, a Russian historian focused on Russia’s wars and international politics

People holding photographs of their relatives who fought against Nazi Germany in WWII attend the Immortal Regiment march marking the 77th anniversary of the victory in World War II, in Moscow, Russia. © Sputnik / Grigory Sysoev

May 9 is a special holiday for Russians, and the great attention we pay to this date often seems unusual to people from other countries and cultures. Indeed, to say that “for Russians, the Second World War ended yesterday,” it is not far from the truth. 

Evgeny Dering was a veterinarian who treated horses. He lived in St. Petersburg, which was then called Leningrad. On June 22, 1941, he went off to war. Before he left, he asked his wife Regina to take their children – two daughters and a son just born in April – and leave for the depths of Russia. As it turned out, this request saved their lives. A few days later, Regina took her children to the village of Makarevo, in the Nizhny Novgorod oblast (then Gorky), and settled in a 15th century convent that had been set up as a shelter for refugees like her. More than 600,000 Leningrad residents died of hunger during the great siege of the city. Regina survived, as did all her children, but she never saw her husband again. In October of 1943, Evgeny Dering was killed by artillery shelling at a small marshy bridgehead on the Dnieper River… 

For Russians, Victory Day is literally a celebration of victory over death – one in which everyone was involved. Almost every family has a story about what their ancestors did during the war. These stories vary greatly, but they are almost always dramatic. Many have tales about people who died. The Soviet Union lost more than 27 million people during the war. About 12 million were soldiers and officers, while the rest were civilians who died at the hands of the Nazis during the fighting or from hunger. By the time Berlin had been taken and Adolf Hitler had committed suicide in his bunker in 1945, the USSR was a country where almost everyone mourned someone. A person who had lost ‘only’ friends was considered lucky. 

The Nazis waged war with extreme brutality. Jews were never spared, but nothing good awaited anyone else either. A Belarusian government database contains the names of 9,000 villages that were burned by the invaders during the war, and this was only in one of the Soviet Union’s occupied republics. In many of the destroyed hamlets, the number of victims is often identical to, or nearly matches, the number of their inhabitants, at the time. The most common method of extermination was to drive the population into a barn and set it on fire. People also died from shelling and starvation or were simply callously shot. Criminal acts committed against the civilian population were exempt from accountability under a special order issued by Hitler. 

A red cross provided no protection during the war – ambulances and ships were often destroyed by direct fire. No allowances were made for age either – children were killed on a par with adults. 

However, for us, the war is not just a story of monstrous cruelty. It is a legend of incredible national unity, where an ordinary worker and a world-renowned composer could converge in a volunteer fire brigade, and a young bohemian from Moscow could share bread with a miner from the Donbass and an Asian conscript from a Kazakh steppe village in a trench. It is a story of the remarkable ability not to give up when all circumstances seem to be against you and resistance seems futile. After each lost battle, the surviving officers would analyze their failures and try to figure out what they had done wrong and how to change the situation. It is a story of amazing self-sacrifice, when recruiting volunteers for a new division resembled a competitive university admissions process. 

And it is a story about military triumph. The Third Reich was a deadly enemy. The five-million strong invading army reached the Caucasus mountains and threatened to take Moscow and Leningrad, but nevertheless ended up being defeated. For us, it is a story about how we shed torrents of blood, but the army that came to kill us was completely destroyed, the enemy capital was taken by storm, the dictator who ordered the invasion committed suicide, and the banners of the losing army were thrown against the walls of the Kremlin. We paid a terrible price, but our triumph was absolute. 

In Russia, you rarely hear people say ‘World War II’. The term formulated in those times, ‘The Great Patriotic War’, is still in use today. This is not an attempt to somehow disregard what the Second World War was for others, but a desire to emphasize that, for us, it is still a kind of special event that goes beyond an ordinary armed conflict. For us, it is a truly heroic epic. It is the Iliad, a number of whose heroes are still alive and walking among us today. They are very old now, and yet some are still here. Our Ajax still sometimes goes out into his yard in the evenings, jingling medals for storming Vienna, to sit on a bench; our Diomedes can be seen every morning walking his dog. 

The memory of the war has influenced many aspects of life in Russia. You can hear it in personal stories, see it in culture, and even sense it in politics. Some of our government’s obsession with the security of the country’s western borders is a vestige of exactly that catastrophe, when we had to retreat to the very edge with our backs pressed against the wall. This memory seriously affects our relations with our neighbors and is nearly impossible to erase. 

But perhaps the main thing that we learned from the upheavals of that era is a simple truth: we can endure any difficulties, stand our ground, and rebuild our country after any trial. It is a memory not only of a feast of death, but also the triumph of life. 

…Evgeny Dering’s son, Gennady, never saw his father. He did not return to Leningrad and spent his childhood and youth in Makarevo. Fifteen years after the war, he met a girl named Albina, whom he married. These are my grandparents. They are still alive. Their daughter is my mom. Historical events often turn out to be surprisingly close to us today. 

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Europe´s mad ban on Russian oil

May 08, 2022

Source

By Jorge Vilches

Ursula von der Leyen

Cognitive scientists would concur in that the current performance of European leadership could be diagnosed as either myopic ignorance or — most probably — full intellectual blindness. In the case of so far happy-go-lucky Ursula von der Leyen there is no doubt it´d be the latter… but only if we first dismiss her warm on-the-record support for Bundeswehr colonial policies and military involvement… plus her praise of Third Reich famous general Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, Commander of the Führer Headquarters. But leaving that possible Nazi whiff aside, full ´intellectual blockage´ is the only kind way to dare explain a most strategic project as foolish and doomed to fail as banning Russian oil sales worldwide. Why so you may ask ? Ref #1 https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/06/20/vond-j20.html

asymmetrical retaliation

The short answer is massive — ´Russian´ massive – unmitigated “asymmetrical non-military retaliation” through surgical and divisive optional sales of natural gas – and other key commodities – just leaving EU sanctioned Russian oil for sale to and re-sale by third parties. And, oh yes, weaponization is not limited to any particular means as various European war schools should have internalized already. War means war and pretty much anything is fair game. But apparently, it´d be as if through the centuries, uppity European leaders – most especially German, French, Swedish, British and Poles — have not learned a single thing despite the über-high costs already paid for by their nations large-caliber warfare experiences most especially with Russia. By the way, the UK also has the additional ( unsolvable? ) burden of its current Brexit ballast… Ref # 2 https://www.zerohedge.com/energy/eu-proposes-ban-russian-oil-imports

La candidata a presidir la Comisión Europea dijo estar dispuesta a un nuevo aplazamiento del Brexit si hay "una buena razón" - Infobae

Ursula´s softball

May I call you Ursula ? Thank you. “We will make sure that we phase out Russian oil in an orderly fashion [… a phenomenal bad joke of sorts… ] in a way that allows us and our partners to secure alternative supply routes and minimises the impact on global markets” you said. Question: will the Russians just idly watch you trying to execute such enormity at the EU´s preferred speed and political and geopolitical sequencing? And the Russians would never dare to strike back with natural gas or other restrictions no? For starters, what about nickel, uranium, and lithium? Not having them would be like trying to prepare tasty food without salt, pepper or mustard. Without uranium no nuclear power is possible, did you know? [ more on that later ]. Ursula, your pink unicorn wishful thinking is unfathomable gal.

EU kelpers

This mad-ban requires EU approval with conditional support from Hungary, Greece, and others. So some special EU members will be exempted while regular EU ´kelpers´ will not. Now could that lead to serious friction ? How many years will it take all of Europe to reconvert its industry and supply chains? “This is why we will phase out Russian supply of crude oil within 6 months and refined products by the end of the year.” Okay, so Aunty Ursie you believe the Russians are dumb enough to let you phase this idea out nice and easy at your own pace and whenever you decide to act per your own special EU schedule. No market dynamics involved as Europe plays everybody else´s pieces too as grandpas would do with 3-year-old grandkids. Ref # 3 https://www.rt.com/business/555065-russia-oil-ban-exemption-eu/

Russian DNA

No way Ursula, the Russians play world-class professional chess while you play elementary school checkers, not even being good at that either. The instant Russia perceives the initial execution of your game plan regarding banning of Russian oil, they´ll make their moves, not yours. And those Russian moves will not be nice and pretty. For one, Europe will not have anywhere nearly ready its own diesel refining capacity by the end of 2022 while the middle distillate market is ever much tighter everywhere as demand recovers from the Covid pandemic. So the EU “plan” is to frantically search for hard-to-find or simply non-existent substitutes while investing tons of time, money, effort and risk. Well, the Russians know that already even before you start. Diesel is already in critically short supply in the EU.

Furthermore, Europe will continue buying Russian oil and distillates via third countries once it introduces any embargo only that at much higher prices than today. Such old, quick and dirty business is known as “triangulation” Ursula.

Russian hardball

The existential threat imposed on Russia by the EU with its macabre “Ukraine Plan” and sanctions has not left Russia any way out other than playing hardball for keeps. Furthermore, the Russian non-military retaliation domain is actually unlimited due to the full-scale and open-ended addiction that Europe has developed for Russian imports of different sorts including commodities of any and every imaginable type. Without such, Europe will cease to exist as we know it in a matter of a very few months, if not weeks. As Francis Fukuyama should posit, Europe´s dependency on Russian commodities is the end of its own history. The unipolar world is dying, admit it Frank. Hint: write a new book guy.

Ref # 4 https://www.zerohedge.com/energy/trump-was-right-putins-gas-strategy-gives-germany-only-bad-worse-choices

Ref # 5 https://www.rt.com/business/554968-moscow-toughens-response-western-sanction

not your dog

It seems that Ursula von der Leyden has convinced the EU that feeding a refinery or a chemical plant is pretty much like feeding your dog. But nothing can be further from the truth. Chemical plants and refineries are very closely matched and subtly calibrated to very specific supply feeds very difficult to substitute. Changes can and have been made, but it requires lots of time, effort, money, dedicated facilities, experimentation, specific expertise, risk, and most important fixed, unchanging feeds always complying with specs. This means that Russia today supplies Europe with exclusive unreplaceable oil & gas grades of very specific chemical content (even coal grades) that would be impossible to get from third parties fast enough and cheap enough. So it´s a very delicate and tight matching already achieved between European facilities and Russian fuels and other inputs that cannot be altered or replaced that easily, let alone all at the same time !! Are EU countries aware of all this ? Ref #6 https://www.ifo.de/en/node/69417

expensive divorce

So maybe after investing years, money, expertise, trials & errors, risk and lots of hard work Europe may possibly and eventually be able to partially switch from current to dirtier or far more inefficient options. But that would be (a) against the EU´s Green Deal compliance and (b) a very short-term non-sustainable “solution” (c) against the whole world.

So how can Europe transition to a 0% Russian supplies end-point as swiftly and safely as Chinese plate spinners?  Ref # 7 https://www.rt.com/business/555087-energy-warning-russia-sanctions/

No minimally informed no-nonsense mindset has thought out the foolish idea of coordinating the whole European continent in this self-destructive mission. Taking matters to an extreme, let´s assume that Europe completely weans itself – or is cut off — from Russian oil & gas imports tomorrow morning and everything else sourced in Russia. In that hypothetical case, Moscow may feel the financial problem possibly within 6 months… or maybe never. But if such event were to happen, the timing would be quite different as the EU would necessarily start imploding in 6 days and would achieve full implosion in 6 weeks. With the oil mad-ban Europe would badly need to find substitutes for Russian imports. The problem is such need cannot ever be satisfied fast enough and right enough no matter how it is diced or sliced. Triangulation means Europe will buy quality Russian imports via third countries only that at much higher prices

plug & play (not)

No, it is not anywhere near “plug & play” either. No. Several EU landlocked countries can only import nat-gas thru existing Russian pipeline unless a nightmarish and highly risky sea-land supply lines are established by different means going across complicated mountain ranges sometimes, a project which no one wants to entertain. Replacing Russian feeds & supply lines is an incommensurable task that Russia will not help out with either. Once Russia withstands the “ban Russian oil” idea, Europe will find itself in the worse of both worlds not being able to rewind back.

tit-for-tat ?

Also, the impact of the Russian reaction may most probably result to be disproportionate to the damage inflicted by an EU worldwide ban on Russian oil. Hence, ´asymmetrical´, simply because an exact ´tit-for-tat´ result is impossible to calculate for and let alone effectively achieve. If ever implemented, the unintended consequences of a haphazard decision such as proposed will necessarily mean for the EU either to (1) instantly back-pedal to square one or (2) finally suicidal Europe would follow through and achieve its goal. I kid you not. Other commodities could be included.

human food

And food for thought, as Europe would face famine in-its-face if grains from Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and elsewhere are tied up or absent by Russian retaliation or impossibility to deliver. And the lack of cheap diesel and natural gas from Russia means that farmers everywhere face sharply increased costs, whereby fertilizer is either not available at all, or too expensive to use, and thus crop yields will fall worldwide increasing the price of food products. Greenhouse producers in many parts of Europe have already shut down over high energy costs as prices stand today, not even thinking of the possibility of having Russian oil banned worldwide. Banning Russian oil from Europe can only back-fire.

Ref # 8 https://www.zerohedge.com/commodities/worlds-largest-fertilizer-company-warns-crop-nutrient-disruptions-through-2023

Russian leverage

It´s impossible to approach all aspects involved at once, so let´s briefly touch upon part of Russia´s bargaining power.

  1. Russia does not want, let alone need, to defeat all of Europe. Just turning Germany — or Poland for that matter — into a messy mess would be more than enough for the whole EU to focus and reason out basic stuff.
  2. No uranium from Russia means the 3 remaining German nuclear power stations cannot be re-commissioned. Not having already scheduled substitute delivery of finely-tuned Russian uranium means an adaptive retro-fit with newly-sourced feed, which technically is risky and mission almost impossible which would take years.
  3. China + India + Brazil have ´free-patent-IP´ investments plans in Russia kicking off an entirely new ball game
  4. 60% of German gas consumption is Russian. Today German industry would not survive without Russian gas.
  5. A partial or total reduction of Russian nat-gas and coal supply in retaliation for banning Russian oil would negatively and instantly impact Europe in many ways and the rest of the world with irregular market dynamics.
  6. If not delivered to the EU, the Russian nat-gas can be vented or flared at well-heads as there is plenty more.
  7. Russian oil can be sold elsewhere and/or stockpiled relatively rapidly and easily, or production can be slowed down without damaging reservoirs or wells. Russia will actually increase its “drill baby drill” policy.
  8. Paraphrasing former US Secretary of Treasury John Connally “Sorry, Russian commodities, your problem
  9. Russia´s market is 85% of the world population largely under growth and just as fed up with the US-dollar reserve currency system. The EU trade embargo on Russia does not work per parallel imports from 3rd parties
  10. The defiant Russian economy is doing just fine, the Ruble is as strong as ever. US President Biden vowed “to make sure the pain of our sanctions hits the Russian economy, not ours” as if he were getting the picture…
  11. China and others definitely back Russia while the rest of the world de-dollarizes and does not sanction Russia
  12. There are $ 500 billion worth of physical Western assets in Russia that can be confiscated at any time.

Ref # 9 https://www.rt.com/business/555076-moscow-allows-foreign-goods/

Ref # 10 https://www.rt.com/business/553038-russia-lifts-ban-parallel-imports/

Ref # 11 https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/russia-and-china-unveil-a-pact-against-america-and-the-west

Ref # 12 https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=39ef25c3-1bf0-4029-bac2-de0ac11965da

Ref # 13 https://www.rt.com/business/555097-russia-sanctions-recession-economist/

Ref # 14 https://www.rt.com/business/555119-russia-india-oil-sales-increase/

eyes wide shut

Agreed, it´s a multi-variable environment in a context of constant change with plenty of moving parts interacting on each other. But, for starters, no ( or less) Russian nat-gas and no Russian oil means many unsolvable things for the EU today. We´d also need to add the impact of having no oil, coal, or gas substitutes fast enough in large enough quantities. All of that put together means no (or less) refined products, no intermediate distillates, no heavy-duty machinery (think mining) no nickel nor aluminum, cobalt or lead or magnesium, no neon, no grains or edibles at large, wheat, corn, barley, rye, soybeans, timber, paper, titanium, rocket engines, nitrogen fertilizer, crop nutrients, potash, less petrochemicals, iron ore, minerals and rare-earths, uranium for nuclear power plants, lithium for batteries, no inputs for production of metals, plastics, fabrics, pharmaceuticals, fertilizer, chemicals, etc., no manganese, chromium, platinum, essential palladium for catalytic converters, copper, tin, mica, wolfram, bismuth, kaolin, talcum, tungsten, diamonds, phosphates, sulphur… and even no gold. By the way, as we should all know, none of these can be printed.

Russian vacations

By the way, fewer distillates such as diesel and fuel oil means that private and public transportation and freight would slow down lots, also affecting heavy-duty vehicles, industrial machinery, and airplane travel. Also far lower tourism. So might as well shut down the EU and go away on vacation to beautiful Russia right? You won´t find that much food or heating or A/C either, just new massive unheard of migrations all around you. With less Russian imports, very huge German industrial giants run the certainly serious risk of shutting down otherwise continuous year-round processes which cannot be re-started and would mean irreparable harm & negative impact on the German economy and the rest of the world. And it’s not only Russian produce that would be missing. Also from Belarus and Ukraine itself + the Stans

mission impossible

Only mediocre light-brained European leadership can propose such suicidal move 100% guaranteed to blowback in-their-face much harder and faster than their original strike. It´d be like poking a bear ( sound familiar ? ) with a sharply pointed pole and pretending the beast to continue munching fish unbothered by the aggression itself and the presence of the aggressor, both. Not even young unexperienced teen-aged urban Canadians would think of doing such a thing. Of course, they would know that the bear will necessarily focus attention first ( already done that… ) then would rise on his hind legs and swing his sharp deadly paw wide and fast sooner than the EU can react to what just happened.

It isn´t European David vs. Russian Goliath either. It´s a well-fed and rested Russian Goliath with hypersonic weapons under his arm vs. a worn-out underweight European David with a worn-down sling and lots of very small stones…

to “Schwedt” or not to “Schwedt

Schwedt is a key refinery for which the German government better find fast good & reliable sources of substitute Russian oil. If Schwedt does not deliver as usual, problems will be felt throughout Germany, Poland, and elsewhere.

But one problem is that Schwedt is majority-owned by Rosneft, the Russian state oil company which has control.

Now supposedly Schwedt has already dramatically reduced its dependence on Russian oil. But there´s a rub.

data laundromat

The rub is that EU member countries are very good at data laundering practices since inception of EU membership acceptance proceedings. Don´t trust me, ask Goldman Sachs they should know. So, for example, if imported Russian oil stays stationary in an EU depot for a couple of months it is “nationalized” and it is no longer considered to be ´Russian´.  Also, the official oil inflow figures cheat, as for partial mixtures of Russian oil 45%+ 55% ´oil from somewhere else´ it is considered to be non-Russian, see? So Russian oil import substitution is a topic not yet anywhere close to being solved. And if Russian oil is banned right here, well Russians might deny delivery of either Russian oil or Russian gas – or whatever — over there. They defend their interests, not the EU´s. Ref # 15 https://www.rt.com/business/555059-europe-needs-russian-gas/ Ref # 16 https://www.rt.com/business/555022-germany-petrol-shortages-russia-oil/

two to tango

Which brings us to the fact that the EU cannot dream of moving its pieces in a vacuum as if the Russian enemy were not there also playing in the same theater scenarios and moving its pieces alternatively. The instant the EU makes any headway whatsoever regarding the possible banning of Russian oil, then Russia will respond in kind or possibly before so as to carry out a pre-emptive deterrence sort of like a taste of things to come such as in Poland and Bulgaria

We have every right to take a matching decision and impose an embargo on gas pumping through the [existing] Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline. So firstly, Russia may reduce or cut off its gas exports if the West goes ahead with a ban on Russian oil”. Understand? The EU attacks Russian oil and Russia counter-attacks reducing or cutting off Russian natural gas, etc. In other words, asymmetric non-military retaliation. Ref # 17 https://www.bbc.com/news/58888451

Prices

If the Russian oil ban attempt goes ahead, agreed that the first thing that Russia may do is reduce or cut off nat-gas supplies – or other key commodities — with the stroke of a keyboard.. And it would be impossible to find replacements for Russian oils fast enough also. It would take years of adaptation and readjustments and it will still be much more expensive for European consumers. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak left on record that a “rejection of Russian oil would lead to catastrophic consequences for the global market causing oil prices to more than double to $300 a barrel”…possibly up to $ 500 pundits say assertively in specialized blogs. Be it $300 or $500 does the EU actually want that ? And Russia would end up earning much more by exporting far less. Trust US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, she said it, not me. And the higher the price, the higher the inflationary pressure and the higher the prices at the supermarkets already at approx. 35% p.a.. I can´t believe having to explain all this, really…

Ref # 18 https://www.bbc.com/news/business-60656673

Despite sanctions, Russia has almost doubled its monthly earnings from selling fossil fuels to the EU, according to the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air. The EU has imported about $23 billion dollars of fossil fuels per month from Russia since March 2022 as oil and gas prices have soared, compared with an average of about $ 12 billion in 2021. Meanwhile, transfers of oil between tankers have surged as buyers take advantage of discounted Russian crude. Different crude blends shipped from Russia may also contain oil from elsewhere which would also be affected.

logistics & freight

Banning Russian oil also means a logistics major reversal from-East-to-West to from-South-to-North. Such cardinal change is costly and risky. New shipping freighters are unprepared for unknown delivery schedules and product specs. Ports and oceans are different, shipping lanes are different, climate is different, seasonal availability of product and ship size and type are also different. That also involves lots of negotiating time, coordination, money, expertise, risk, permanent costs, and new dependencies with yet unknown trade and business partners, new modus operandi, brokers, insurance companies, etc. That is why every EU government has failed to build a realistic energy strategy that does not depend on Russia. Continuity, LNG & LPG terminal bottlenecks, and processing, availability, cost, no weather restrictions when needed. Pipe delivery is safe, dependable, and cheap, sea freight is risky and cost-prohibitive

nuclear blues

Germany had 15 nuclear plants in operation. The last 3 operating nuclear plants in Germany were scheduled to be decommissioned permanently in 2022. Part of the “Green Agenda” in the EU is to eliminate nuclear plants. France does not approve this, but is having technical trouble with its nuclear plants. France has said it will shut down 50% of its nuclear plants for critical maintenance this year at the worst possible timing imaginable.

Ref # 19 https://www.bbc.com/news/business-61298791

military impact

No readily available fuels of the right type (careful) mean no deployment no planes or other aircraft which means pretty much being stuck. Bad logistics, less food, no (or less) supplies, no heating to speak of. The European conventional military dependence on Russian fuels is beyond overwhelming, close to checkmate. Fuel imports are not anywhere near a military solution, just a way for civilians to survive if and when available and at a terribly high price.

“So the EU better be prepared to continue paying (many) billions of euros each week to Russia, supporting the Ruble and subsidizing its military in the process. It’s not just a short-term problem, either. If Germany manages over time (many years ?) to find adequate replacements for Russian natural gas, oil and coal, it will be at (tremendously) much higher prices. The era of cheap-Russian natural gas fueling the German economy is over. German energy-intensive companies, like its chemical giants, could not compete in the global market. Germany will face painful choices about the future of its industrial economy”. So without very specific and unreplaceable exclusive Russian grades of natural gas and oil and coal the European military are pretty much game-over.

Ref # 20 https://www.zerohedge.com/energy/trump-was-right-putins-gas-strategy-gives-germany-only-bad-worse-choices

unmanageable world finances

The camel is 990% overloaded and this one foolish decision may break its back. The world already rides on a wild $ 600+ trillion of a derivatives tiger that can only survive provided the corresponding counterparties do not fail.

“ Clearly, central banks in conjunction with their governments will have no option but to rescue their entire financial systems, which involves yet more central bank credit being provided on even greater scales than seen over Covid, supply chain chaos, and the provision of credit to pay for higher food and energy prices. It must be unlimited.”

Ref # 21 https://www.goldmoney.com/research/goldmoney-insights/financial-war-takes-a-nasty-turn?gmrefcode=gata

So unless something dramatically favorable happens very soon, economic-financial considerations will have highly negative socio-political impact driving the crisis to a high-pitch climax with the pitchforks roaming about European streets. Per Rabobank: “ When the ´food system´ breaks down, everything will break down with it”.

Per The Guardian, “…Come October, it’s going to get horrific, truly horrific … a scale beyond what we can deal with”.

Europe´s mad ban on Russian oil is just another perfect example of sheer Anglo-Saxon European puppeteering.

Ref # 22 https://www.theguardian.com/business/2022/apr/19/energy-chiefs-fear-40-of-britons-could-fall-into-fuel-poverty-in-truly-horrific-winter

Ref # 23 https://www.zerohedge.com/markets/rabobank-when-food-system-breaks-down-everything-will-break-down-it

Vladimir Putin held talks with President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko at Vostochny Cosmodrome.

April 12, 2022

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Lukashenko,

Thank you very much for coming here, to the Russian Far East, to a project that is still under construction but is already working, our new Vostochny Cosmodrome. You have seen the scale of the project.

It is symbolic that we are meeting here on April 12, Cosmonautics Day, because very many things in the life of the former Soviet Union, in our lives and in the life of our generations, are associated with that day, April 12, 1961. It was a day of triumph for the Soviet Union, the day of the first man in space, the first manned flight. It is pleasant that we are talking about continuing our cooperation today, under new conditions, based on the achievements reached in the previous decades and the latest best practices.

I am referring to the creation of a new satellite for high-resolution remote sensing of the Earth and our future joint project on plasma engine, which we can make use of; it is a highly promising area. Of course, there is also the construction of the cosmodrome – we need good construction professionals, with high competencies and good technologies. Thanks to your efforts, Belarus has not only preserved all these resources but is actively developing them, and we can use them to address our common goals, which will undoubtedly boost the development of our economies and high technologies in our countries.

Of course, I would like to use this occasion, our meeting today, to talk about our continued cooperation in the spheres we have outlined for the further development of the Union State. There is still much to do.

Despite the so-called external pressure, our economic relations are growing successfully. Our trade has reached nearly US$40 billion or more precisely US$38 billion, which is a very good indicator. Belarus is one of Russia’s leading trade partners.

Moreover, the current circumstances and external pressure offer us new opportunities to make use of all our potential capabilities to support each other and to provide unconditional support to our development, including in such high-tech spheres as space exploration.

This is in addition to [our cooperation in] agriculture and industry. We have done a great deal over the past years to boost our cooperation. Essentially, we have opened up our market to Belarusian goods. I believe that it is a very good pillar of cooperation on both sides.

I would also like to mention our cooperation in energy, including nuclear energy (we are completing a major project in Belarus) and hydrocarbons, that is, oil and gas. There are issues we need to consider and discuss, including industry, and not only the production of agricultural equipment but also many other branches, mechanical engineering, namely heavy machine building.

I am delighted to see you. Welcome.

To be continued.

Russia and Serbia are projected to become the Empire’s white colonies

April 03, 2022

Source

by Prof. Slobodan Antonić – (Translated by Joran Velikonja)

In this article I will present the various plans that Germany had with the Serbs and Russians after the expected victory in World War II. Why do I fall back to history? We frequently perceive Hitler and Nazism as an aberration in Western history. But Hitler was, in fact, just openly announcing that in Europe he will do what the West has already done elsewhere. As we’ll see, Hitler took the extermination of the Native Americans as a model for the colonization of Slavic lands, Russia in particular.

“It would be best if Serbia just disappeared from the map” —as attested by Hermann Neubacher, that opinion was prevalent within the German leadership in 1941 (see here, p. 89). But we find the same opinion in The Manchester Guardian (as The Guardian was formerly called), in August 1914: “If it were physically possible for Servia to be towed out to sea and sunk there, the air of Europe would at once seem cleaner” (herehere, p. 53).

Actually, the only difference between Hitler and the English was Hitler’s brutally proclaiming to do—and he had done as much as he could—what others in the West were doing slower and more subtly, the things they didn’t yet dare to undertake or weren’t able to accomplish.

* * *

Unlike the Kaiser, who wanted territorial expansion towards the Middle East and a redistribution of African and Asian colonies, Hitler’s primary goal was to colonize Slavic lands, from the Baltic to the Black Sea for starters and then onward to the Urals.

In Mein Kampf he writes that the Kaiser was mistaken in pushing Germany southwards. “When in today’s Europe we speak of new soil and land”, he wrote, “we primarily mean only Russia and the peripheral countries subservient to her. It appears that destiny itself wants to show us the way. […] The giant Empire in the East is ripe for its downfall.” (here; 44th unabridged German edition, p. 742-3; compare here, p. 118)

By the way, Hitler had adopted many concepts from the West. As J. Q. Whitman revealed in Hitlerʼs American Model (2017), race laws in the United States were the legal inspiration for the race laws in the Third Reich. In his book Hitler: The Definitive Biography (2014), John Toland showed how impressed Hitler had been with the system of Indian Reservations, the extermination of the indigenous peoples, the epidemics and starvation policies. According to Toland, when speaking to the German leaders, the Führer frequently “extolled the efficacy of the American extermination of the ‘red savages’ by starvation and in unequal combat” (here, p. 802).

“As a passionate reader of Karl May’s novels”, writes John Pool in his book Hitler and His Secret Partners (1997), “he would frequently refer to the Russians as redskins. He saw a parallel between his own efforts to occupy and colonize Russia and the conquest of the American West” (p. 272). He used to say that in the European East the Germans “had one single purpose: Germanization by peopling with Germans and treating the locals as redskins”. He even encouraged military officers to read Karl May and learn about all kinds of combat with the natives.

How did the Germans imagine their colonization of Russia and Eastern Europe?

The Generalplan Ost (1942) anticipated three types of agricultural estates to accomplish the colonization of Slavic lands between the Baltic and the Black Sea: individual (25-29 hectares; approx. 60-70 acres), intermediate (40-100 ha; approx. 100-250 acres) and large ones (250 ha; approx. 620 acres). The colonization was supposed to be carried out by some 6 to 12 million Germans, settled in areas from which 31 million Slavs would be banished across the Urals. The displacement would include 65 percent of Ukrainians and 75 percent of Belorusians, leaving behind 14 million Slavs, primarily as servants and unskilled workers (here).

The Plan foresaw an initial establishment of three settler colonies: in the Baltic (Memel-Narew Gebiet), in the Leningrad Oblast (Ingermannland) and in Crimea (Gotengau; see map here). Their foundation would have been Germanic farmers-warriors, living on family or collective estates, as in some form of a Military Frontier. Regional centers would have consisted of settler towns, 36 of them, numbering 20,000 inhabitants each, interconnected by a network of highways and railroad lines. The colonies were supposed to spread gradually, until they would merge into a unified whole.

The Slavs would have been exiled from their towns, whereas in the villages they would have been retained as farm hands. Slavic education wouldn’t have gone further than reading and writing (while also switching over to the Latin alphabet; here, p. 122). Hitler even thought that the Slavs should not be taught anything beyond the “knowledge of traffic signs, to be able to stay out of our way” (ibid.).

“Hitler liked to reiterate that the words Russia and Russian should be forbidden. Allowed are only Muscovy and Muscovites. After the victory of the Reich, the Muscovites will be simply driven onto their reservations, like the Indians in the USA” (here, p. 285).

* * *

What would have happened to Serbia?

In his book The German New Order and South-East Europe (in Serbian: Nemački novi poredak i Jugoistočna Evropa), Milan Ristović describes the plans for Serbia. Generally, there were two plans in existence.

According to the first one, submitted to the Ministry of External Affairs in July 1941, two million ethnic Germans (Volksdeutsche) from Hungary, Romania and Yugoslavia were to be amassed in the Danubian German state Prinz Eugen Stadt. [or Staat?] It would have stood sentry over communications along the Danube and, akin to the Military Frontier, barring access to the Lebensraum from the south and east (here, pp. 101-106; 362-363).

Pursuant to that plan, the Serbs would have been exiled from Belgrade, Smederevo and other places along the Danube. The Plan stipulates that the “Serbs have to be driven away from the Danube and out of Belgrade in order to stress their political insignificance and to prevent any new plots against Germany, the order in the Balkans and in Europe — a frequent historical occurrence” (ibid., p. 106).

Belgrade was chosen as the heart of the German Danubian state, as the strategic center of the river basins of the Tisa, Drava, Sava and Morava. It was to become the “fortress of the Reich” in the borderland (Reichsfestung Belgrad), with the specific task of safeguarding two economic resources of key importance for Grossdeutschland: the Djerdap Gorge (Iron Gates) and the mining complex in Bor (ibid., pp. 105-106).

The Djerdap Gorge was essential for navigation control on the Danube and as the place where the Germans intended to build the largest hydropower plant in Europe.

On 25 September 1941 Hitler proudly proclaimed that now the Germans had finally returned to “places which already witnessed the breakthrough of the Germanic-German race: we were standing at the Iron Gates, we had been in Belgrade, we had entered the Russian space” (276). Two weeks later he speaks enthusiastically of the Danube as the “river course of the future” (der Zukunftsstrom). It will connect Germany, via the Black Sea, with the boundless granaries of her future colonies around the Dnieper and Don, then with the oil wells around Baku (the pipeline reached ports on the Black Sea), as well as with coal mines in the Donbas (276) [[1]].

Exhilarated by the conquests of Belarus and the Ukraine, Hitler then presents his vision of the future, in which the Danube is the main traffic artery of the Grossraum (the German economic space): “As big as it may become, the Danube-Main Canal cannot be built sufficiently large; of course, the Danube-Oder Canal should be added to it; thus, we will be getting an economic bloodstream of unheard-of proportions; Europe will be the land of unlimited possibilities” (276).

The Germans also worked out a plan (Grossprojekt “Eisernes Tor”) which anticipated the construction of a hydropower plant at the Iron Gates, “producing as much electricity as one half of all German power plants” (282). From the Iron Gates, electricity would have been transmitted to Graz and Vienna. Also foreseen was the “creation of one of the largest aluminum production facilities in Europe” due to the proximity of Romanian bauxite (Bihor Mountains) (ibid.). The Iron Gates Dam would be built by Russian prisoners and all construction was to be completed by 1947 (282-283).

The other key resource belonging to Serbia, was the Bor Mining Complex. It was the largest copper ore deposit in Europe, making Yugoslavia the top producer of copper on the continent in 1941 (here, p. 103). In 1943 the Germans were extracting up to 50,000 tonnes of ore per month (here, p. 354). Other Serbian ore resources, too, were of interest to the Greater Germanic Reich, such as lead mines (Trepča, Kopaonik, Avala, Ajvalija, Janjevo, Lece, Novo brdo i Rudnik) or antimony (40 % of European production: Krupanj, Zajača, Lisa and Bujanovac; here, p. 105).

So, all that had to be placed under control through the establishment of the Danubian German state, from which, as stated, the Serbs would have been displaced. Reichsminister Krosigk announced in 1942 the possibility of a new “Migration Period” (Völkerwanderung), with mass displacement—as he explicitly specified—of the Czechs, Poles and Serbs (here, p. 91).

* * *

But Hitler himself was not thrilled with the idea of a Prinz Eugen Stadt [or Staat?]. He planned to recruit the required six to twelve million German colonists of the European East by including those same two million Danube Swabians (111-113; 363). He did not, in fact, consider the area of the Danube basin in the Balkans as part of the German “living space” (Lebensraum), but rather as merely a piece of the Germanic “economic sphere” (Wirtschaftsraum; 172-173).

Hitler actually perceived the Balkans as a “junkyard of small states” (Kleinstaatgerümpel), which only the Germans can rearrange and civilize (50-51). After the Reichʼs victory those staes, too, would be placed into a special vassal relationship of stepwise arranged semi-sovereign and pseudo-sovereign statelets, as was planned in Berlin (ibid.).

Europe outside the Reich was regarded as the German Grossraum (larger habitat), which—after the victory—would see the establishment of a “hierarchy of peoples/nations” (Rangordnung der Völker/der Nationen). Even Italians were aware that within that order only the Germans would be at the top. As early as 13 October 1941 Mussolini was saying that Italy, too, would be reduced to a colony and might be forced to cede to the Reich parts of her territory, such as Trieste (334).

The Balkan peoples, deemed anyway poorly suitable for assimilation (nichtumvolkbar; 83), would be at the bottom of the European hierarchy, whereas the Serbs, as the “sworn enemies of order” (361), would find themselves on the bottom rung—provided, of course, that they were not re-educated in the meantime (362) [[2]].

That’s why the Serbs were treated as one of those peoples, along with the Russians and Poles, who “would have to remain under German dominion in the long run” (65). Unlike the vassal states, such as Croatia, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania or Bulgaria, which still had certain elements of independence, Serbia and Greece (the latter also perceived as a “problematic” country; 70), were occupied territories, where the administration was directly installed by the occupying power (360). Serbia was put under a particularly strict occupation regime (62,184 people were executed by firing squads; here, 116,264), while the Serbs across the border on the Drina were even worse off, having been mercilessly turned over to the Croatian genocide.

Still, even the “truncated Serbia” (Rumpfserbien; 285) probably would have become part of the European order in the end. But what would have been her fate?

The Germans didn’t really see the future European Völkerordnung as an order of states (Denken in Staaten), but rather as a system of commercial colonies (74-75; 161). The countries outside the Reich, especially those at the edge of the Grossraum, would be “advised” to “refrain” from developing their own “manufacturing of automobiles, electrical devices, locomotives, engines for transportation and industry, precision mechanics, chemicals, dyes…”, which would be under the exclusive authority of Germany. Others would have to stick to agriculture, mining and the coarsest processing of raw materials, “which do not require a particularly qualified workforce” (187). In order to absorb the agricultural labor surplus, industry would have to be developed in the Balkans, too, but it would be primarily linked with the exploitation of natural resources and only for the first phase of their processing (188).

As part of the de-industrialization idea, particularly with regard to the defense industry, 268 railway freight cars containing 4,488 pieces of machinery were hauled off to Germany from the Military Engineering Plant in Kragujevac, Serbia, in the course of 1941 alone! In March of 1943, 43 more freight cars were towed away, followed by another 37 in April. In the second half of 1943, 94 additional carriages with machinery were taken from Kragujevac, 96 freight cars with machinery from the Military Engineering Plant in Čačak, 88 freight cars from the factory in Obilić, 140 freight cars from the plant in Ravnjak close to Kruševac, 75 freight cars from the Military Engineering Plant in Lazarevac, 84 carriages from the “Vistad” factory, and so on. “This was the best organized looting of third-party property in recorded history” (here, p. 106).

The plan was to eliminate any competition to the Reich’s economy in all European vassal states, so as to ensure “absolute supremacy of German corporations” (here, p. 200). By way of example, the administration and use of the remaining industrial facilities in Serbia was handed over to the management of 29 major German companies with the entire production intended for the Reich, so that “almost nothing was left for the needs of Serbia and the Serbian public” (here, p. 108). Only the rail-road network enjoyed unlimited investment, but its primary role was to enable a more efficient exploitation of natural resources for the Grossdeutsches Reich (here, p. 188).

In addition to ores, large amounts of grain and lumber from Serbia were also hauled off to Grossdeutschland. As early as 19 June 1941 it was announced that farmers must cede for compulsory purchase all grain except 30 kilograms of wheat or 60 kilograms of corn per household member (here, p. 117). In 1942 Serbia was forced to deliver 320,000 tonnes of wheat, 600,000 tonnes of corn and 90,000 tonnes of oats, rye and barley (118). The “purchase” of all commodities was paid for with the money which Serbia had to remit as contribution for its own occupation (119-120), so that Germany was getting all goods from Serbia literally free of charge.

As a result of the export of lumber (but also due to insurgent activities), Serbia—although densely forested—was left with almost no firewood. In Belgrade they even contemplated “to log the Košutnjak park-forest and Mount Avala, in order to save the urban population from the approaching winter” (123).

But still, despite all that, it was assessed in Germany that, in fact, “the workforce from the South-East (of Europe) is the most valuable export commodity these countries can give us even now, but especially after the war” (here, p. 255). The Balkans was regarded as an “inexhaustible workforce pool” (257), able to provide to the Reich “more than three million workers”, of which number at least 1.5 million would be seasonal labor (up to ten months per year; 255). The war interfered with a more substantial export of manpower to the Reich and yet, from Serbia alone, 80,000 workers went (or were deported) to Germany (268).

Most interesting of all, this entire colonial order in Europe, designed for the unrestrained exploitation of markets, labor and natural resources, was supposed to be masked beneath the narrative of a “common European future” and a Europe “from Sweden to the Balkans” (352). In order to minimize the resistance of the vanquished peoples, it was recommended as early as 1940 to avoid the term “German large-area economy” (Grossraumwirtschaft) and to speak “always and only of Europe” (151). In the propaganda it was emphasized that “Germany does not seek to hold sway over countries”, the only ostensible goal being “an economically whole” Europe in which the peoples would “economically complement” each other (155). This “complementing” became reality after Germany tore down almost all intra-European (zwischeneuropäische) borders (288).

Hitler himself was actually a great European, except that he equated “European” with “pan-German” (31-32). The Germans, by the way, did not view the ongoing war in Europe as merely a war of conquest, but as a form of great economic restructuring. “This is not a war for throne and altar”, as Goebbels kept explaining (31 May 1942)—or rather it is not a war about who will govern over the peoples nor what their religion will be. According to the Reichsminister für Propaganda, this is “a war for raw materials” because we Germans “only want to cash in” (150).

It is clear that in such a system Serbia would have been but a marginal colony, no more than a German depot from which cheap labor, food and raw materials are taken as needed.

* * *

I am sure that the the above text was triggering parallels with contemporary circumstances in the reader’s mind, both in the geostrategic [[3][3] and economic sense. Russia got away (for the time being)—although the West hasn’t given up its pretensions to dismember her as a nation and subdue her as a culture (patterned after the Vatican’s current formula of “consecrating Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary”). But today’s Serbia is clearly not too far from the position assigned to her by the Nazi Plan B.

Change of mindset, limited sovereignty, deindustrialization, a readily available source of auxiliary labor, cheap raw materials, a pliant market, unprotected workers, unpaid work of the “natives” (with subsidies to foreign investors)… All those things are of current significance even today and I have written about it all in my texts: To Understand What We AreThe Colonial Establishment in SerbiaColonial PolyarchyThe Subservient IntelligentsiaSerbia — the “Territory” Grappled Over by Germany and Croatia

Now, I would add to this only an insight into the current wave of mass exodus to Germany. The Germans, as they say, currently need 1.4 million workers and our people are in demand because they easily integrate and assimilate. But don’t you have the feeling that in today’s Serbia there appears to exist some hidden Ministry of Emigration and Propaganda to Depart for Germany?

Not only that the National Employment Service recruits workers and sends them to that country, but “employers from Germany and their local agents openly canvass pre-graduation highschoolers right in their classrooms, all with the consent of the education authorities”. By the way, who’s to blame that Serbia has as many as 17 medical school graduates annually for every 100,000 inhabitants whereas poor Germany has only 11.

Another story is the open propaganda to emigrate, cultivated by, say, the daily Danas, in its column charmingly titled “Our People around the World”. It was already pointed out by Zoran Ćirjaković that this column had been “converted into a campaign for turning oneʼs back on Serbia”. The captions from the column speak for themselves: “Leaving Serbia wasnʼt easy, but it was essential”; “Despite all changes, life in Dubai is incomparably better than in Serbia”; “I miss Serbia, but Austria has offered me security”; “Itʼs not our fault, our system is rotten”; “We Serbs know how to get by and to gain respect”; “People from Serbia are accustomed to being more resourceful than ‘normal folks’”; “I bid adieu to this Serbia, but the love for the country still remains”…

“Along with the columns of numerous haters of this country”, notes Ćirjaković, “those shamefully spun testimonies of the escapees paint an image of Serbia as a repugnant, hopeless gas chamber in which no progress is possible”.

Thus the young migrant A. Kosanović, a political scientist, says that “a normal person canʼt bear the amount of horror and barbarism by the people who run things around Serbia” and that therefore “the average Serb has an extraordinary poverty of mind (?!), is in moral crisis and wracked by the tough life”. His colleague M. Pantić even argues that “in Serbia, everything has to be built from scratch (?!), thereʼs nary a meter of room to mend anything” (?!). And a similar campaign is spearheaded by Radio Free Europe (e.g. here).

Danas brags about being the Croatian ambassadorʼs favorite morning reading. Maybe thatʼs one of the reasons this paper will never raise questions such as: why two hundred Croatian companies are doing business in Serbia, whereas the number of Serbian ones in Croatia is — eight? And whether it is really necessary that our children learn from schoolbooks by Croatian publishers, eat Croatian meat products, indulge in Croatian confectioneries, drink Croatian water… — while the opposite, of course, is beyond imagination.

But Danas is surely the favorite paper of the German ambassador, too. On its pages, denkverbot is any topic that could awaken an ever so slight awareness of the colonial status in which Serbia finds itself, but even more so of the possible ways out of that situation (about some of which I have written here and here).

“The greatest success of (neo)colonialism is to convince people that it does not exist”. That’s why the first step towards emancipation is for us to understand the nature of the Atlanticist spirit, then to recognize the strategic interests of the West and to vow to ourselves, but also to each other, that we won’t allow them to be ousted from the Danube (so they could settle here some other, more suitable people); and no, we won’t allow to be treated, or to treat ourselves, as if we were — redskins.

Himmler had suggested, in his time, that the “Serbian people has grown out of rebellions over the centuries” and that with us one has to be forever on guard. Because no matter how defeated he may appear, “a Serb is always a Serb” (here, p. 90).

We only have to remain Serbs. Is that so much of a problem?

  1. [] In other respects, too, the Danube was the main transportation route for bulk cargo (Massengüter) — oil, lumber, grain and ores, not only because back then the traffic network was less well developed, but also on account of the much cheaper fluvial transport as compared to road and railway traffic (here, p. 277; 286). For instance, all the oil from Ploeşti (Romania), the main European oilfield at that time (278), was transported to the Reich upstream the Danube. That’s why Hitler was saying that “to safeguard navigation, the Iron Gates have to be placed under the umbrella of the Wehrmacht and stay under it in perpetuity” (283). 
  2. [] It is a fact that the Germans held Serbs in high regard as warriors and on that account were seeing them as a dangerous disturbance factor of their New Order. Hitler lamented that he tried to win over the Serbs “by promising them Thessalonica” and “demanding nothing of them”, only to burst out that “never before in his life was he as outraged as on March 27”, when it became obvious that “the Serbs were just a gang of conspirators” (89).“The Serbs, as eternal instigators of unrest, have to be cornered and suppressed as much as possible” was the dominant view in the upper echelons of the Reich, as attested by Neubacher (89). When in 1943 he suggested to Hitler to annex Montenegro to Serbia, the latter responded that the “Serbs (historically) have demonstrated their state-building power and far-reaching goals, all the way to the Aegean Sea”, and that “a people with such a political sense of mission” should not be allowed “to become dominant in the Balkans” (90). 
  3. [] “A glance at the map of today’s European Union reveals its striking resemblance with the farthest reach of the German military forces during the First and Second World Wars, especially on the Eastern Fronts. The fact that some Eastern Orthodox countries, such as Bulgaria and Romania, already are in the European Union, doesn’t mean that there is room for other Eastern Orthodox nations, too. Their accession into the EU signifies the fulfilment of the old German strategic goal of exerting control over the Balkans. One also shouldn’t forget that these two countries, Serbia’s neighbors, were German allies in WW II, and Bulgaria even in the Great War”. 

Is Qatar the means for a US comeback in Eurasia?

Energy-rich Qatar’s designation as a major non-NATO ally may upset the Persian Gulf balance, but could be a means for the US to counter a Sino-Russian lockhold on Eurasia.

March 21 2022

Washington’s sudden upgrade of Qatar to a Major Non-NATO Ally is not only about gas, but a means to get a foothold back in Eurasia.Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Agha Hussain

The US’ designation of Qatar as a Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA) carries more geopolitical significance than is immediately evident. It in fact can be viewed as one of Washington’s first steps toward a new strategy for a US riposte against Russia and China at key theaters in Eurasian great-power competition.

On 31 January, US President Joe Biden hosted the Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hammad Al-Thani in Washington and declared Qatar an MNNA. Also discussed was gas-rich Qatar’s potential role in alleviating Europe’s reliance on Russian gas for its energy supply – a key leverage point for Moscow to dissuade European NATO members from confronting it over Ukraine.

It should be noted, however, that Qatar itself has cast doubt over any speculation that it could unilaterally replace the continent’s gas needs in case of a shortage.

Indeed, there is no western military response to current Russian operations in Ukraine. Whether US or European Union (EU), the western strategic calculus does not deem Kiev important enough to rescue from Russia.

Nonetheless, Ukraine is still crucial for the US as a means to help counter Russian influence in vast, resource-rich Eurasia. Namely, through connecting China to Europe via the multimodal Kazakhstan-Azerbaijan (via the Caspian Sea)-Georgia-Ukraine (via the Black Sea) route and thus helping China reduce reliance on its currently most-used land route to Europe, i.e. via Russia and Belarus, a close Russian ally.

Photo Credit: The Cradle

This strategy would give the US a rare opportunity to leverage China’s global economic expansion through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which it usually tries to counter with limited success, to reduce Russia’s geo-economic depth in Eurasia.

However, the aforementioned Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (TITR) is more time-consuming, costly, and closer to conflict areas than Russia-Belarus. And Moscow and Tehran have all but blocked the Caspian Sea as a transit route for pipelines. Moreover, to justify the investment needed to improve Ukraine’s transit capacity and to ensure that traders even use the TITR, the EU needs to sanction Moscow and render the Russia-Belarus route untenable.

Thus, the EU hypothetically replacing Russia with Qatar as its gas supplier, and subsequently becoming more willing to confront Moscow, unlocks a major roadmap for the US to counter Russia.

In this scenario, the EU could enhance and leverage China’s own interest in tilting to the TITR from Russia. According to a 2016 study in the European Council of Foreign Affairs, Ukraine’s harmonization with EU trade standards boosted China’s interest in increasing its Ukrainian food imports, which necessitated enhancing Ukraine’s transport infrastructure since these imports cannot travel to China via the Belarus-Russia route due to Moscow’s sanctions on Kyiv. Indeed, China signed agreements with Ukraine last year to develop the latter’s transport infrastructure.

Afghanistan

The freezing of Afghan central bank assets are burning US bridges with Afghanistan – where the US fought its longest war (2001-21) in its short history. However, the US’ withdrawal from Afghanistan in July 2021 provided an opportunity for Russian and Chinese influence to fill the void. Thus, as the US’ great-power rivalries with Russia and China deepen, the case for rebuilding contacts and connections in Afghanistan will strengthen in Washington.

Afghanistan is central to the US’ goal of building new international transport routes for the Central Asian Republics (CARs) that do not transit through Russia, whose territory and infrastructure the CARs disproportionately rely on. This is an official US objective, as represented by the C5+1 platform and Washington’s official ‘Strategy for Central Asia 2019-25’.  Afghanistan is the transit state for this strategy, to connect the CARs to its own neighbor Pakistan and Pakistani Arabian Sea ports for access to global shipment.

For a proper ‘return’ to Afghanistan as a Eurasia-focused great-power, the US appears to have selected Qatar as its conduit. In this vein, Washington shifted its operational command for Afghanistan to Qatar during the withdrawal and designated Doha its official diplomatic representative in Kabul in November 2021.

Moreover, the US picked Qatar from amongst a broad mix of options for military involvement in post-withdrawal Afghanistan. Such options included negotiating with Pakistan to allow US aircraft to transit its airspace into Afghanistan for combat purposes and even Moscow’s offer, made during the withdrawal, for the US to use Russian bases in Central Asia for intel gathering flights over Afghanistan.

Qatar stood out as the best choice from the US’ great-power perspective. Pakistan’s close regional rapport with China and emphasis on cooperation, made it unlikely to facilitate an inroad for the US. Furthermore, Qatar’s retention of its own diplomatic channels to Afghanistan makes it yet more suitable to the US’ great-power sensitivities.

Qatar hosted US-Taliban peace talks since 2013, years before platforms such as the Moscow-led ‘Extended Troika’ or Beijing’s ‘Quadrilateral Coordination Group’ (QCG) were launched. Doha was not party to either platform, or of other multilateral dialogues on Afghanistan.

Hence, the US can integrate Qatar into its bigger-picture for Afghanistan without making the Gulf state feel as if it is sacrificing its positive bilateral relations with Afghanistan’s other external stakeholders.

Aside from Ukraine and Afghanistan, Washington has another potential front against its Eurasian rivals: Qatar’s home turf in the Persian Gulf region, where common ground exists between Doha’s own ambitions and the US’ containment efforts aimed at China in particular.

The Persian Gulf and China

China and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states are especially important trading partners to each other given the unmatched size of the former’s market for the latters’ energy exports. Beijing also invests heavily in the GCC to turn it into a commercial and logistics hub for the (BRI), the single most consequential driver of Eurasian geoeconomics.

The US views China’s expanding role in the Gulf – whether in the BRI, tech investment or security realms – as a challenge to its own decades-old status as the GCC states’ main security guarantor. How the Sino-GCC embrace pans out is therefore of special interest to Washington.

As noted by Jonathan Fulton, a specialist on Sino-GCC relations, the extent of GCC participation in the BRI is dependent on each Gulf state’s own development plans with BRI. Saudi Arabia and the UAE lead the way in this respect, hosting the bulk of China’s BRI supply chain in the region in the form of industrial parks and ports heavily invested in by Beijing.

In contrast, Chinese-Qatari relations lack this connectivity dimension and are more restricted to just trade.

“In general, Qatar and China maintain a very warm relationship,” noted Gulf affairs analysts Giorgio Cafiero and Anastasia Chisholm in August last year. “The Sino-Qatari partnership is mainly energy-oriented. Beyond the cooperation in the liquefied natural gas (LNG) sector, however, there is much less to Doha’s relationship with Beijing compared to Saudi Arabia or the UAE’s relations with China.”

China has also signed ‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnerships’ with the Saudis and Emiratis in contrast to the lower-level ‘Strategic Partnership’ with Qatar.

Since Chinese investments in Qatar do not springboard the BRI the way those in Saudi Arabia and the UAE do, it makes sense for the US to boost Qatar as a hedge against complete Chinese monopoly over the Gulf’s integration with Eurasia via BRI.

The end of the three-and-a-half year, Saudi-led blockade against Qatar has not necessarily led to a halt in Doha’s rivalry with Abu Dhabi and Riyadh. Rather it has grown more central to its foreign policy as it reclaims its place in the GCC without letting its guard down. This is a reality of Gulf affairs that will likely accompany the GCC’s closer integration with the BRI.

Qatar can offset its GCC rivals’ gains from the BRI by increasing its military engagement with the US. Both the Saudis and Emiratis still rely on the security umbrella that complying with the US’ great-power priorities brings yet have also strengthened ties with China.

This dilemma could also turn Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s increasing defence ties with both China and Russia into driving factors of a partisan pro-Qatari slant in the US’ Gulf policy. After all, Qatar has kept its own defence dealings with China and Russia minimal compared to those with the US.

The UAE recently suspended talks with the US to import the latter’s F-35 fighter jets. One of the reasons for this impasse is Emirati resentment at the US tying the deal to Abu Dhabi’s 5g contract with Chinese telecom giant Huawei, which Washington sees as means for China to compromise the Emirati-imported F35s’ technology. Meanwhile, Qatar’s own talks for the F-35s proceed with less complications and are arguably boosted by its MNNA designation.

China does not want its regional investments getting caught up in the intra-GCC competition for primacy in the Gulf, which could happen if the US greenlights the F-35s for Qatar but not for the UAE, thus setting a precedent for deeper rivalry.

After all, intra-GCC competition has increasingly exhibited zero-sum tendencies. This was seen last year when Saudi Arabia told companies doing business in the kingdom that they would lose their government contracts unless they shifted their regional headquarters to Riyadh from Dubai and then also excluded imports from Emirati economic zones from their preferential tariffs.

Such “zero-sumism” is antithetical to what China wants in the Gulf, which is the harmonization of each Gulf state’s trade and connectivity policies. Beijing needs this to synergize its various Gulf investments into serving a broader, unified global strategy as per the BRI.

Thus, the US could use its ascendant ties with Qatar to cause China a significant headache in the Gulf, especially considering how far Beijing stays from contributing to zero-sum rivalries and standoffs due to its neutrality-oriented foreign policy.

Mutual convenience

However it pans out, the emerging US-Qatari alliance in Eurasia is highly convenient to both sides.

At the very least, the US can try to leverage Qatar’s potential energy role in Europe, its diplomatic role in Afghanistan and its ambitious Gulf policies relative to growing Chinese influence there for its own geopolitical interests.

As for Qatar, the fact that these roles do not threaten its bilateral relations with either China or Russia is a major plus point. Neither of the Eurasian great-powers is zero-sum in its foreign relations outlook and is unlikely to deem Qatar’s prospective participation in the US’ Eurasia strategy a major problem.

Eurasia is once again at the forefront of geopolitics and great power rivalries. Following the US exit from Afghanistan last summer, the incumbent superpower, was perceived to be scaling back if not withdrawing from this strategically important region, however in its relationship with Qatar, the US has shown it may be down but not quite out of Eurasia.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

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