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

November 27, 2020

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

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

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

Ladies and gentlemen,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Russian and Belorussian Defense Ministers Give Important Update on Belarus

Via The Saker

Translated by Sasha and subtitled by Leo.

Meeting took place on October 27, 2020.

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu:

Good day, dear colleagues. The Republic of Belarus was and remains our closest neighbour, reliable ally and strategic partner. This is particularly important under the current conditions of international instability, when the mistrust in relations between countries is growing, when attempts are made to undermine the basis of the international law and interests of sovereign states are ignored. Using the ‘colored revolution’ technologies, the United States and its satellites purposefully pump up tensions and undermine the internal political situation in a number of countries.

Very recently, an attempt to change the government in the Republic of Belarus was made with the political and financial support from the West. Among other goals, this was done in order to frustrate the Union State integration process, and to fracture the Russo-Belorussian relations. We decisively condemn such actions and see the meddling in the internal affairs of other countries as unacceptable. The situation along the Western borders of the Union State remains tense, where we must increase our forward presence.

In the immediate vicinity of our borders, the Alliance is developing military infrastructure and stockpiles material and technological means, military equipment and weapons. The segment of the American so-called anti missile defense system whose launch pads can be used for attack weapons is being increased. Despite the pandemic, the intensity of the Bloc’s military exercises is not being reduced. In the conditions of the current political-military situation in the region as well as of the new challenges and threats first of all from the international terrorism, the Defense Ministry of Russia regards guaranteeing the military security of the Union State as one of the priority tasks.

The most important coordinating mechanism for this task is the joint collegium of Defense Ministries of Russia and the Republic of Belarus. Today we are holding the first ever meeting using video communications. I am sure however that the quality of our work will not suffer because of that. I note that the pandemic induced restrictions were not able to reduce the intensity of the military cooperation between our countries. We continue forming the single integrated defense area within the borders of the Union State. The common military doctrine has been adopted, the regional military groups and the united air defense systems are functioning. We’ve set up joint military planning. Our principal attention is directed towards the armed forces training. It includes joint staff exercises, the joint group command on the strategic level, military war exercises ‘West’ and ‘Union Shield’, joint exercises of different types of armed forces and special forces.

In the end of September, Belorussian military personnel took part in the ‘Caucasus 2020’ exercises in the Kapustin Yar training ground. While the Russian paratroopers units, together with Belorussian special operations forces, conducted a joint exercise the ‘Slavic Brotherhood 2020’ in the Republic of Belarus. Additionally we worked out tasks of operational and combat preparation for the international organizations formats, that of the CSTO in the first priority. Thus lately we concluded the peace keeping training ‘Inviolable Brotherhood 2020′, which showed the increased level of our troops’ training and cooperation. Within the framework of respective programs of the Union State, the military infrastructure is being improved and the systems for technical protection of railways and regions are being developed. I believe the level of Russo-Belorussian military cooperation is optimal. I am sure today’s meeting will be constructive and conducive to the further deepening of our military cooperation and to the strengthening of the defense capabilities of our Union State.

Belorussian Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin:

Distinguished Sergei Kuzhugetovich, distinguished members of the Joint Collegium and the participants of this meeting, allow me to greet you in my name and in the name of the Belorussian participants of the Collegium. I am sure that today’s event, as always, will allow the advancing development of Belorussian-Russian cooperation in the military sphere. I wish to stress that the events of the current year have become a real challenge for the international community in the view of the aggravation of the political and economic contradictions between the subjects of the international law, the existing unresolved regional conflicts, the attempt to carry out ‘color revolutions’, as well as the difficult epidemiological situation caused by COVID-19. The events taking place in our country since last August are the salient example of this. Various destructive forces, stirred up by the leaderships of a number of countries, attempted at unconditional regime change.

Only thanks to the coordinated actions by the state’s governing bodies and the Belorussian people we managed to save the country from the lawlessness and arbitrary rule. I particularly wish to express my deep gratitude to the military and political leadership of the Russian Federation for its position and help it rendered to the Republic of Belarus during this difficult time. The unsuccessful attempt to organize a ‘color revolution’ has been replaced by a hybrid war and unprecedented measures of diplomatic and political and economic pressure. Neither does the military component fall behind. During the recent years, NATO’s rotational forces in the neighboring countries have grown seventeen-fold and reached 10,000 troops. Military equipment and personnel, including that of the United States, are being concentrated in the immediate vicinity of our border.

The amount of large scale multinational military exercises of the NATO countries which are held on the territories of our neighboring countries is increasing. The devaluation of the international weapons control system, triggered by the unilateral actions by the United States with support from its NATO allies, is ongoing. The evidence of this are the denunciation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the refusal to ratify the adopted treaty on conventional weapons in Europe, the denunciation of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and finally the concluding procedures of exiting the Open Sky Treaty. All this are links in one chain of actions directed at undermining the international and regional security and securing the legal field for militarization of the European continent by way of the American presence. This is happening at our common borders of the Union State.

We as institutes of our states that are responsible for military security, must react accordingly. We have an integrated regional grouping of troops, as well as common outlook on the military threats in the Eastern European region and on the issues of ensuring security. We, along with our Russian colleagues, set the goal of today’s meeting to, first of all, organize practical actions towards building and strengthening of the required common military potential in order to countermeasure the challenges and threats of a military nature directed against the Union State. In the interest of the support for the regional military group of the Republic of Belarus and the Russian Federation, the Union State continues implementation of programs in connection with development and improvement of the joint system of infrastructure facilities for its intended joint use. I am convinced that the decisions made as a result of our joint work will become effective guidelines for our defense forces in the questions of ensuring security of the Union State.

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

Source

The Transcript follows.

Update : October 24th

The formal transcript is now complete

Update : October 23rd

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

Fyodor Lukyanov: Friends,

Guests of the Valdai Club,

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

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

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

Ladies and gentlemen,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friends, colleagues,

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

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

Thank you very much.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sam, please.

Sam Charap: Hello, Mr. President,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

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

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

Thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vladimir Putin: I see.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you very much.

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

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

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

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

Anatoly Torkunov: Mr President,

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you very much.

Hans-Joachim Spanger has joined us from Frankfurt.

Hans-Joachim Spanger: Mr President,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you very much.

We will stay in Europe for now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

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

Zhao Huasheng: Good afternoon, Mr President.

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

Piotr Dutkiewicz from Canada, please.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

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

Anton Roux, Please, go ahead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I expect it will all work.

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

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

Alexander Rahr, please.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vladimir Putin: What time is it?

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

Vladimir Putin: No, we cannot. I agree.

Alexei Yekaikin: Thank you, Fyodor.

Good evening, Mr President.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you very much.

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

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

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

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

Vladimir Putin: My children, I rarely see them.

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

We have not broken the record; there was a forum where the President spent more time with us, but we are close. We talked with the President of the Russian Federation for almost three hours, for which we are sincerely grateful.

Thank you very much. We will try to quickly get back to our normal schedule, and we look forward to seeing you next year.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much for hosting this.

I want to address all members of the Valdai Club, the analysts, politicians and journalists who work with this entity. It is an entity, because it has been operational for many years now. I hope you find it interesting and useful.

I am grateful to you for showing interest in Russia, in our development plans, in us today and in our history. This means that you are engaged, and it is important for us to know your opinion.

I am saying this sincerely, because by comparing what we are doing, by comparing our own assessments of our progress and our economic and political plans, comparing them with your ideas about what is good and what is bad, we find the best solutions and can adjust our plans.

I want to thank you for this and to wish you every success. I also hope for a personal meeting next time.

Good luck to you. Thank you very much.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you very much. Good-bye.

Vladimir Putin: Good-bye.

Iron Curtain still separates Russia and the EU

Iron Curtain still separates Russia and the EU

October 21, 2020

by Pepe Escobar with permission and first posted at Asia Times

Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s Foreign Minister, is the world’s foremost diplomat. The son of an Armenian father and a Russian mother, he’s just on another level altogether. Here, once again, we may be able to see why.

Let’s start with the annual meeting of the Valdai Club, Russia’s premier think tank. Here we may follow the must-watch presentation of the Valdai annual report on “The Utopia of a Diverse World”, featuring, among others, Lavrov, John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, Dominic Lieven of the University of Cambridge and Yuri Slezkine of UCLA/Berkeley.

It’s a rarity to be able to share what amounts to a Himalayan peak in terms of serious political debate. We have, for instance, Lieven – who, half in jest, defined the Valdai report as “Tolstoyian, a little anarchical” – focusing on the current top two, great interlocking challenges: climate change and the fact that “350 years of Western and 250 years of Anglo-American predominance are coming to an end.”

As we see the “present world order fading in front of our eyes”, Lieven notes a sort of “revenge of the Third World”. But then, alas, Western prejudice sets in all over again, as he defines China reductively as a “challenge”.

Mearsheimer neatly remembers we have lived, successively, under a bipolar, unipolar and now multipolar world: with China, Russia and the US, “Great Power Politics is back on the table.”

He correctly assesses that after the dire experience of the “century of humiliation, the Chinese will make sure they are really powerful.” And that will set the stage for the US to deploy a “highly-aggressive containment policy”, just like it did against the USSR, that “may well end up in a shooting match”.

“I trust Arnold more than the EU”

Lavrov, in his introductory remarks, had explained that in realpolitik terms, the world “cannot be run from one center alone.” He took time to stress the “meticulous, lengthy and sometimes ungrateful” work of diplomacy.

It was later, in one of his interventions, that he unleashed the real bombshell (starting at 1:15:55; in Russian, overdubbed in English): “When the European Union is speaking as a superior, Russia wants to know, can we do any business with Europe?”

He mischievously quotes Schwarzenegger, “who in his movies always said ‘Trust me’. So I trust Arnold more than the European Union”.

And that leads to the definitive punch line: “The people who are responsible for foreign policy in the West do not understand the necessity of mutual respect in dialogue. And then probably for some time we have to stop talking to them.” After all, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen had stated, on the record, that for the EU, “there is no geopolitical partnership with modern Russia”.

Lavrov went even further in a stunning, wide-ranging interview with Russian radio stations whose translation deserves to be carefully read in full.

Here is just one of the most crucial snippets:

Lavrov: “No matter what we do, the West will try to hobble and restrain us, and undermine our efforts in the economy, politics, and technology. These are all elements of one approach.”

Question: “Their national security strategy states that they will do so.”

Lavrov: “Of course it does, but it is articulated in a way that decent people can still let go unnoticed, but it is being implemented in a manner that is nothing short of outrageous.”

Question: You, too, can articulate things in a way that is different from what you would really like to say, correct?”

Lavrov: “It’s the other way round. I can use the language I’m not usually using to get the point across. However, they clearly want to throw us off balance, and not only by direct attacks on Russia in all possible and conceivable spheres by way of unscrupulous competition, illegitimate sanctions and the like, but also by unbalancing the situation near our borders, thus preventing us from focusing on creative activities. Nevertheless, regardless of the human instincts and the temptations to respond in the same vein, I’m convinced that we must abide by international law.”

Moscow stands unconditionally by international law – in contrast with the proverbial “rules of the liberal international order” jargon parroted by NATO and its minions such as the Atlantic Council.

And here it is all over again, a report extolling NATO to “Ramp Up on Russia”, blasting Moscow’s “aggressive disinformation and propaganda campaigns against the West, and unchecked adventurism in the Middle East, Africa, and Afghanistan.”

The Atlantic Council insists on how those pesky Russians have once again defied “the international community by using an illegal chemical weapon to poison opposition leader Alexei Navalny. NATO’s failure to halt Russia’s aggressive behavior puts the future of the liberal international order at risk.”

Only fools falling for the blind leading the blind syndrome don’t know that these liberal order “rules” are set by the Hegemon alone, and can be changed in a flash according to the Hegemon’s whims.

So it’s no wonder a running joke in Moscow is “if you don’t listen to Lavrov, you will listen to Shoigu.” Sergey Shoigu is Russia’s Minister of Defense, supervising all those hypersonic weapons the US industrial-military complex can only dream about.

The crucial point is even with so much NATO-engendered hysteria, Moscow could not give a damn because of its de facto military supremacy. And that freaks Washington and Brussels out even more.

What’s left is Hybrid War eruptions following the RAND corporation-prescribed non-stop harassment and “unbalancing” of Russia, in Belarus, the southern Caucasus and Kyrgyzstan – complete with sanctions on Lukashenko and on Kremlin officials for the Navalny “poisoning”.

“You do not negotiate with monkeys”

What Lavrov just made it quite explicit was a long time in the making. “Modern Russia” and the EU were born almost at the same time. On a personal note, I experienced it in an extraordinary fashion. “Modern Russia” was born in December 1991 – when I was on the road in India, then Nepal and China. When I arrived in Moscow via the Trans-Siberian in February 1992, the USSR was no more. And then, flying back to Paris, I arrived at a European Union born in that same February.

One of Valdai’s leaders correctly argues that the daring concept of a “Europe stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok” coined by Gorbachev in 1989, right before the collapse of the USSR, unfortunately “had no document or agreement to back it up.”

And yes, “Putin searched diligently for an opportunity to implement the partnership with the EU and to further rapprochement. This continued from 2001 until as late as 2006.”

We all remember when Putin, in 2010, proposed exactly the same concept, a common house from Lisbon to Vladivostok, and was flatly rebuffed by the EU. It’s very important to remember this was four years before the Chinese would finalize their own concept of the New Silk Roads.

Afterwards, the only way was down. The final Russia-EU summit took place in Brussels in January 2014 – an eternity in politics.

The fabulous intellectual firepower gathered at the Valdai is very much aware that the Iron Curtain 2.0 between Russia and the EU simply won’t disappear.

And all this while the IMF, The Economist and even that Thucydides fallacy proponent admit that China is already, in fact, the world’s top economy.

Russia and China share an enormously long border. They are engaged in a complex, multi-vector “comprehensive strategic partnership”. That did not develop because the estrangement between Russia and the EU/NATO forced Moscow to pivot East, but mostly because the alliance between the world’s neighboring top economy and top military power makes total Eurasian sense – geopolitically and geoeconomically.

And that totally corroborates Lieven’s diagnosis of the end of “250 years of Anglo-American predominance.”

It was up to inestimable military analyst Andrey Martyanov, whose latest book I reviewed as a must read, to come up with the utmost deliciously devastating assessment of Lavrov’s “We had enough” moment:

“Any professional discussion between Lavrov and former gynecologist [actually epidemiologist] such as von der Leyen, including Germany’s Foreign Minister Maas, who is a lawyer and a party worm of German politics is a waste of time. Western “elites” and “intellectuals” are simply on a different, much lower level, than said Lavrov. You do not negotiate with monkeys, you treat them nicely, you make sure that they are not abused, but you don’t negotiate with them, same as you don’t negotiate with toddlers. They want to have their Navalny as their toy – let them. I call on Russia to start wrapping economic activity up with EU for a long time. They buy Russia’s hydrocarbons and hi-tech, fine. Other than that, any other activity should be dramatically reduced and necessity of the Iron Curtain must not be doubted anymore.”

As much as Washington is not “agreement-capable”, in the words of President Putin, so is the EU, says Lavrov: “We should stop to orient ourselves toward European partners and care about their assessments.”

Not only Russia knows it: the overwhelming majority of the Global South also knows it.

The Great Reset. Our way.

The Great Reset. Our way.

October 19, 2020

By Katerina for the Saker Blog

In this one, which I promise to be the very LAST of my essays, I would like, first of all, to do a short re-cap on the responses to my three previous ones – feedback so to speak. Always useful.

Although in this essay the main subject will be the reflections on a rather unfortunate current relationship between Russia and USA, in the same vein as I did in my last essay regarding England.

First, here is my brief feedback on those three essays’ commentary.

Quite a lot of comments were highly informative and also supportive in what one was trying to say; quite a few provided the necessary backgrounds and the all-important details; there were also those who were trying to show off some knowledge but unfortunately totally missed the whole point; on the other hand, we also had a few that were attempting to discredit the author by any possible means. Difficult to know what motivates and compels these people to act in such a way. Here, someone who took the trouble to analyse and then write something about the subject that concerns them, not doing a full blown historical or whatever essay, just trying to highlight some concerns and to share those with, hopefully, some intelligent readers. And immediately we will have some people here who would be vying among themselves to pull the author down. Why? What are you hoping to archive? Is it the lack of understanding, the lack of manners, the lack of self-confidence, the sheer mendacity or just trying to prove something? What is it? This site is all about analysing the current events and providing some answers. In my opinion those who can take in the offered piece of writing, understand its context and can respond with some degree of intelligence by providing some valid and knowledgeable comments, need to be here. We want to learn a lot more of what is going on in our world and this is a great forum for it. As for the rest of you, the likes of CNN, WaPo, NYT, BBC, etc would do you just fine. For the closed minds to be reinforced by daily propaganda from the above-mentioned media outlets, would be perfect for supporting your attitudes.

What is obvious with those people – if any incoming information does not fit with these ingrained attitudes, that information will be totally ignored, mocked, and dismissed. Sadly, we see it here again and again.

Let’s move on.

Here is the main subject – relations between two global superpowers. (And this one, without any doubt, will also have those commentators showing lots of their ingrained attitudes. Let’s hope some stuff might actually sink in).

For a start, those relations between Russia and USA have NOT been based on unresolvable animosity as exists between Russia and England, on the contrary, USA and Russia were firm allies in the past, right from the beginning. As I have already pointed out in one of my comments, Russia was totally behind the fledging USA in their fight for independence. Russian Tsar Alexander even sent a naval task force to block the English troops heading for America’s shores. Russia has helped a GREAT deal in America’s fight to get its independence from the English Crown. Not that you will find any of that in your “history” books now. What’s more, for a very long time that relationship was friendly and cooperative.

During WWII Russia and USA were close allies once again, this time help was coming from the other side. Russia very much needed the essential supplies in their fight with Nazi Germany and that help came at the right time from one of their closest neighbours, USA. There is only less than 90 km, about 50 or so miles between those two. That’s about the length of the Bering Strait, between Russia and Alaska. Many people forget that.

Now let’s look at the USA from the beginning of the 20th Century. By then some of that country’s vital organs were already taken over by this Anglo Zionist cancer. The Great Depression, at the beginning, was a planned destruction by that very same Banking Cabal that I had described in my previous piece. US recovered from that horror show thanks to some outstanding Presidents that Americans were very fortunate to have at the time. After WWII, the US economy absolutely boomed, as the rest of the world was laying in ruins and needing everything they could get to recover and to re-build, USA was there to provide, but of course at the price. Some of those countries were still paying that debt LONG after the war.

In US, 50s and 60s were the GOLDEN years. It produced great stuff. Even now, when my husband and I need to buy some tool, I would first look for a second-hand one that was made in USA – these were absolutely awesome in their quality and longevity. It was then that the USA was at its best . Unfortunately, they had spoilt a lot of that with their Korean and Vietnam wars.. sadly.

Then came the 70s – the Hippy Era, with drugs and sexual freedoms and from then on, the rot has established itself and then taken hold of that great country. I am saying “great”, for despite its rather unsavoury beginning, starting with the genocide and then slavery – since then it has tried to make up for it to some degree, well, at least, tried. Blacks in USA have been given every opportunity to advance themselves, unfortunately the lack of motivation on their part was not the white Americans fault. Doesn’t matter how those blacks are trying to spin this now – the self-reflection is the hardest thing. One can only help those who want to help themselves. They haven’t shown that.

Here, for simplicity sake, I would call the US citizens “Americans”, with no disrespect to other Americans, in the south and the north.

As people, the Americans, well, the ones that I have met, were quite genuine, open and friendly, with a good sense of humour- much like the Russians in that respect. Stuff that interested them they knew very well and in depth, although they did possess a very American view on the world affairs, but willing to listen to the alternatives to these views. We had no problems whatsoever in communicating, resulting in having a mutual regard and respect.

Why is it so difficult now to do that between the two nations?!

But let’s continue.

Russia, in the 70s had largely escaped that Hippy Era, being very much under the very strict Socialist Communist control. But there were some other major developments appearing – after decades of such oppression people wanted to have some freedoms – to write and to say what they wanted, to express themselves, without being censored or prosecuted, to have some say in the matters that affected their lives, and also, of course, to see the rest of the world. In Russia that rot had set in for the ENTIRE SYSTEM that was in power at that time.

The late 70s and 80s was a strange decade. Lots of thing were obviously happening under the surface but in the visible part it was rather uneventful. No great culture-social movements, the only exception was the appearance of the ghastly Punk Era, thankfully, a short one. Music scene was also rather uninspiring with just a handful of outstanding talents, like Queen, ABBA, Michael Jackson and a few others. (Here I would probably have an avalanche of rebuttals from those for whom that was their time. That’s all right, as long as you had the good times in those days. : )

But things were happening, the mood was changing.

The late 80s-early 90s had suddenly seen the collapse of USSR, something no-one was expecting, thanks to a few traitors, like Gorbachev and Yeltsin plus some others in that power structure. After 75 years it had basically run its course and had to be replaced with something else. People wanted something different. But what? No-one knew.

Enter the USA’s willing and highly motivated “helpers”! Thousands of them poured in – company executives, “experts”, “advisers”, banking specialists, business managers, you name it –they were ALL there. Bringing Instant Capitalism!

Buying Soviet-built industry, resource production, like oil and gas, mines, etc for pennies – everything they could lay their greedy and grubby hands on was looted in this way. Aided and abetted by local scum, feverishly helping themselves to all of that as well, to become the so-called “Russian oligarchs”, with lots of them immediately running to the West with their stolen loot.

With American (read cabal) “help” the new Russian Constitution was duly written, where Russia, obviously, did not have much say in their own national interests. And, of course, the setup of the Central Bank, to control it all! For them it ALL came true at last – their old wet dream has suddenly been realised. Russia was under their control. Or so they though.

These were the terrible 90s in Russia, when it was on its knees, in the gutter, raped, robbed and abused..

In this dire and practically hopeless situation appears a relatively young man, an ex KGB Colonel, who slowly and carefully, over the years, nurses Russia back to health, being surrounded by dedicated group of Russian patriots. This remarkable man has all the necessary skills and abilities that were absolutely needed at that time. His name is Vladimir Putin.

In 90s in Russia, it was a dangerous time. The vultures were not ready to abandon their feeding frenzy – our Colonel had to be extremely careful, smart and clever among that lot and had to be well protected. The vultures sensed the threat.

Add to this the purposely instigated war in Chechnia and the destruction of the “Kursk” submarine, and the young President had an incredible lot on his plate, right from the start.

He had to make that start by seemingly playing along, to a point, with those that managed to get to some levers of power and control at the time, and then slowly, but surely he eliminated all of them from there, one by one. In the West it is known as ”draining the swamp”. He actually did that!

In Russia at present, no State Power or Control belongs to any of the so-called “oligarchs”- they are allowed to have ownership in some business enterprises (paying their taxes of course), but absolutely no power in top political structures. There are a few leftover liberals who still want to hang on to the western idea for Russia, but these people are very much marginalised now. Russia is a democracy not a dictatorship, in Parliament there are quite a few different flavours of various politicians, some quite colourful and entertaining, but the man in charge absolutely knows what he is doing.

The Russian President’s very first task was to re-build Russia’s military power, which he has done truly spectacularly. Russia is now several generations ahead of the rest of the world in its military capabilities. The Russian Constitution has been reviewed and necessary changes made through the people’s referendum. The economy is growing and so are the gold reserves. Next on the list will be the Central Bank, the globalist’s last hook that is still in Russia’s body. Believe me, VVP is working on that as we speak. All takes time. He is against a very powerful and evil entity that wants to be in an absolute control. Careful steps needed.

He is the President of the biggest country on the planet, with 11 time zones, a vast number of nationalities, with infrastructures that other countries cannot even imagine, he has former soviet republics taken over by the western interests that are trying to cause him as much headache there as they possibly can, good examples are Georgia and Ukraine. They are also trying to whip up as much Russophobia as possible, as well as doing other nefarious things, such as building Biolabs. He has an on-going military operation in Syria to eliminate the remnants of ISIS terrorists, which are still being supported and supplied by various players. He had to protect Belarus from the same fate as befell Ukraine, he has the deluded and “ the loose cannon” Turk to deal with, the pathetic EU quislings with their constant inane verbiage, and now he has another instigated war in South Caucuses.

For those who wonder why Russia is having so much trouble with the former Soviet Republics the answer is very simple. These, at the time of USSR break-up, had enthusiastically embraced their newly-found “independence from Russia” thinking that now they can be the ”little kingdoms” with their own “little king”, which is wonderful for one’s ego. Until then, as Dmitry Orlov had wryly observed, they were ”14 greedy little piglets” suckling on emaciated sow, Russia. Once that teat was taken away from them, they were left to fend for themselves and since such was obviously impossible to do – having their own “little kingdoms” and nothing to feed on, they all ran to look for a replacement teat, which was readily offered by the West. With lots of strings attached, obviously. In my previous essay I have already described what these former republics had become since then, so I will not repeat it here, but just to make a point–Russia does not interfere in their affairs, as far as Russia is concerned they are well and truly on their own. There is, of course, a high price to pay for the ungratefulness and the betrayal and that is something that all of them are paying now. Also, sometimes a hard lesson has to be learnt. I believe they are slowly learning that lesson.

At present, any Russian military involvements in these former Republics would be the absolute last resort, I have already explained what a provocation is.

On top of it all the Russian President is also facing the Anglo Zionist Cabal, with their agenda. And that agenda is to start a war with Russia; he is not giving them that chance, as the consequences for the world would be unthinkable. Through all of this he is holding steady and is in control. Meantime, he has re-built his Russia from the ruins, back to being a superpower once again.

Many in the West cannot understand or see that, as their MSM is feeding them something else with regard to Russia. Even here, on this site, we still have some people who are simply incapable of any comprehension as to what the Russian President has to deal with. To them he is either “not doing things fast enough” o,r not doing what they expected him to do, so, “he must be weak” or even some kind of the “western sell-out” then. Really!? Having closed minds has never been a great attribute.

Meantime in USA, there was a different kind of “fun and games” being played on those poor Americans by that very same Cabal. The late 80s – early 90s had also seen quite a lot of changes for US of A. This is when the cabal had decided it was the right time to take over the West’s mass media and education. The Cold War was over, Russia was not in position to be a serious opponent on the global chessboard anymore so, they made their move.

Some people, being adults in that time, no doubt will remember the sudden changes taking place in the large media organisations and what’s more, corporations, appearance of new cable networks, amalgamations, takeovers, sacking of journalists, editors, even directors – it was all happening at once, in USA, in UK, in Europe..

In schools, there suddenly appeared lots of new teachers and subjects, for example something called “social studies” and similar ones that were being introduced, and the subjects that actually gave kids some proper knowledge were taken out and replaced with this weird stuff.

Following that development, (and again some people might remember), was a sudden wave of most disturbing and strange accusations from the kids that their parents had sexually abused them in some ways. Lots of parents had been put through hell at the time. This is what THIS EVIL was doing to those kid’s brains. That was just the beginning, after three decades of such “education” we now have at least two generations of the horrendously brain/mind damaged people, unable to think objectively or even rationally, not looking for facts, unable to have a debate or even effectively communicate with each other face to face. They have been turned into something that can only be described as, yes.. sheeple or even zombies. No other words for them. Looking at them, everyone is with that phone in hand, either lost in that screen or holding that phone above the head to film something so that later they can post that on their FB or Twitter account. All of them doing that, all at the same time, as if some invisible power is controlling them. Which it is.

It is actually quite scary to think that this is the future generations that will soon be in “charge”.

For the Cabal, owing this Mass Media, it is now relatively easy for them to control and manipulate those minds, where they can get them instantly out on the streets, protesting or demonstrating against whatever, (as in “colour revolutions”), most of them probably wouldn’t even know why, but that doesn’t matter. It is that herd mentality.

Such total control of Mass Media also allows this Cabal to easily shape people’s perceptions on various situations and happenings in this world, let alone on issues back in the good old USA. How many Americans think that Iran is their enemy, that Russia is an even bigger enemy and now so is China? Unfortunately, I would say, quite a lot. Where do these perceptions come from? The MSM. All pervasive, powerful, unrelenting. The brainwashing goes on non-stop. Russia has been demonized to such an extent where it is now being made out to be some kind of caricature – on one hand, an all-powerful evil entity that can control your lives and even “influence your elections”, it is “an aggressor, invading Ukraine and annexing it’s territories”, it is planning to “control Europe through its energy supplies there”, “ it’s “bombing sick little children in hospitals in Syria”, but at the same time it is also nothing more than “a gas station masquerading as a country”, “its economy is going down the drain” and “its military is a joke” – all that sounds familiar? This Cabal must be thinking that Americans are absolutely dumb, ignorant and stupid morons, since they continue to feed them this garbage day after day. EVERY SINGLE THING they hear about Russia, or any other country that is supposed to be an enemy of US is a mind-numbing, made-up BS, which is being fed to them CONSTANTLY, and lots of them are swallowing this stinking pigswill. I assume that most of them don’t know any better and I actually feel sorry for them, being subjected to this kind of cruel mental tyranny. No other way to describe it – one can honestly feel sympathy for them as it is obviously very hard to shake yourself awake from that constant, induced, long-term stupor. We can only hope.

Here are few more words that I want to say, this time to the Americans – Russia, as I have said before, is NOT your enemy and never has been, all it wants from you is to STOP this aggressive posturing and provocations – that is not going to end well. Not for the Americans, not for anyone else in this world. Just stop it!

If this insane, deranged doctrine of “maximum pressure” and “containment” (!?) continues towards Russia, Russia will eventually respond. Those imbecilic “Dr Strangelove” characters, that should have been removed from the so-called “administration” long ago, are recklessly and stupidly provoking a very powerful, nuclear armed country and guess what is going to happen to YOUR country when that line is crossed. You, Americans, need to stop these madmen who actually BELIEVE that they can win a war against Russia!! Stop them before it’s too late. You had a great tradition of demonstrating against US instigated wars around the world – bring back that tradition. Right now this is needed more than ever!

You can also go out on the streets and demand that the mind-boggling, trillions of $ worth of military spending budget be spent on adequate health care, on crumbling infrastructure, on proper education, on re-building your economy, reducing massive unemployment (what figures you are fed there is another BS) and to reduce the hardships for the families that lots of them will be facing after this scamdemic is over. This is YOUR MONEY.

The world’s big hope is for US to get itself back to what it used to be. By that, to be once again, just another country on this our planet, the country that looks after its own interests and its own well-being, without trying to control all the others. Not being the world’s belligerent Hegemon that nobody wants and everyone hates. (You, Americans, have no idea just how much you are absolutely hated and despised around the world.)

If there is a will there is a way. Surely you must still have some honest politicians left there who love their country and who have not sold themselves to the Zionists. Commissions that can be set up to clean out your Banking and Wall Street rackets – the way it was done before. Cooperating, trading and dealing with the rest of the world in good faith and with good intentions, without any demands or impositions – you might even get some genuine allies at last, instead of having nothing but pathetic vassals. Closing hundreds(!) of your military bases all around the world and bringing these men back home to their families. Most imperative is to stop this deranged, insane and extremely dangerous “POWER PROJECTION” all around the globe. Tell us what is that all about, for Christ’s sake?! That will bring you nothing but grief.

Both Russia and China have embarked on a great journey of good will cooperation with mutual benefits, also for all of those that want to join in, and my absolute belief is that you, Americans, will do very well by joining them on that journey, as an equal partner. It is THE future for this world.

In conclusion I will repeat it once again – we ALL have ONE COMMON ENEMY, the parasite that needs to be destroyed before it destroys all of us. We must stop fighting among ourselves and concentrate our efforts towards THAT.

May God help us and give us the strength we need for the task.

The Stormtroops Of Regime Change And Counter-Revolution

South Front

October 17, 2020

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

The West is facing an unprecedented threat to its hegemony, as more agile, innovative, and cohesive non-Western powers are growing by leaps and bounds, to the point of making a transition to a global non-Western hegemony for the first time in history. During the last five centuries, the baton had passed from one European power to the next, and ultimately to the United States. Should the United States falter under the double weight of its global imperial overstretch and domestic oligarchy plundering even its own society, there will not be another Western state there to pick up where it left off. European Union, once touted as a likely successor or possible candidate for US-EU co-hegemony, is showing few signs of consolidating into a federation. Thus America’s decline would in all likelihood lead to the People’s Republic of China becoming the global hegemonic power.

Russia certainly has problems with oligarchy as well, but at least there the oligarchs are essentially treated as a “necessary evil” of capitalist economy and kept in check by the national security wing of the Russian state that is directly answerable to the President. Likewise China’s billionaires are kept at arms length from political power, lest they use In the West, on the other hand, the oligarchs run the show and the national security state is kept under close ideological surveillance to ensure that it will come to the defense of the oligarchy “against all enemies, foreign and domestic”. US service academies, which admit on the basis of recommendations by elected US officials, who themselves are creatures of special interests and Big Money, are an example of that ideological oversight. And ultimately the US political system’s apparent inability to reform itself, to make itself more fair and meritocratic, means that it’s bound to lose the great power competition to those who are simply marginally less corrupt.

But that simply won’t do, which means the more effective competitors have to be brought down by other means, up to and including open warfare for which the United States is actually preparing. The current US modernization programs appear to be intended to give the US the ability to wage offensive warfare even against nuclear weapons states by not later than 2030. In the meantime other tactics will be used, such as economic warfare, information warfare, and of course the use of various proxy forces.

Since in an oligarchy property of the elites becomes of paramount importance, right-wing militants have long been used as a means to suppress socialists and communists. Very often these right-wing paramilitaries operate jointly with the official law enforcement and security forces. Examples here include the SA stormtroopers operating as Hilfspolizei in support of German police forces combating left-wing parties in Weimar Germany, the autodefensas in Colombia, even the drug cartels whose own politics tend toward the reactionary end of the spectrum. We are seeing exactly the same process emerge in the United States, in the form of right-wing, white supremacist militias who are allowed to openly flaunt laws of the United States and are invariably, without exception, treated as allies by US police departments, though not at the federal level just yet. The situation is only marginally better in the EU, but even there right-wing militants are treated with kid gloves and, like their Islamist brethren, are allowed to travel to Ukraine and obtain combat training and experience in the Azov Regiment. Considering that, in the view of European leaders, “there is no alternative” to economic neoliberalism, there is little doubt Europe’s far right will be weaponized in support of the regime should pro-democracy protests in European countries rise above the level of the Yellow Vest ones we have seen so far.

But that is only the defensive aspect of weaponizing right-wing nationalists. It keeps the ruling classes secure against threats from below, but does not contribute anything to the struggle against China, Russia, other “emerging threats” to Western hegemony.

Thus whereas extremists are the stormtroopers of counter-revolution waiting in the wings in case there is an actual threat of revolution or even substantial reform in countries of the West, in non-Western countries they are used as the spearhead of regime change. These extremists come in two flavors. The first prong is Islamic extremism, and so far to the extent that Western governments cultivate such individuals (as seems to be the case in Europe), it’s done exclusively for foreign consumption, as it were. For the most part, Western intelligence services displayed remarkable equanimity as French, Belgian, even German islamists traveled back and forth between their home countries and various MENA war zones. Invariably in cases of “blowback” in the form of terror incidents, the perpetrators were described as “known to the security services”. CIA’s investment in Al Qaeda in the 1980s, in particular, did result in fair amount of “blowback” in the form of 9/11, but even that has not dissuaded Western powers from promoting this type of proxy fighter.

The second prong are the ethnic nationalists of Russia and other CIS states. Before Ukraine, not having a war on which to sharpen their claws, they adopted the guise of “soccer hooligans” and, courtesy of UEFA, quickly developed international links. There is little known on Western services’ efforts to utilize these contacts, but it is evident Western countries actually keep track of their “hooligans” in order to occasionally prevent them from international travel if there is danger of excessive violence. Kiev’s ‘hooligans” were in force on the Maidan and formed the lion’s share of Parubiy’s “Maidan security force”. There is also a lot of overlap between these “hooligans” and various right-wing organizations like Right Sector, Azov, C14, and others. But in order to be fully effective, these right-wing militants must be mobilized by someone with big money, usually an oligarch disaffected with the system who enjoys the secret blessing of the US and EU.

In Kiev that scenario worked to perfection. Yes, there were right-wing nationalists, and yes, there were disaffected oligarchs willing to bankroll their organizations and mobilize them to achieve their purposes, which was beforehand blessed by Western powers that be. In Hong-Kong this approach faltered, apparently largely because Beijing was able to reach a behind-the-scenes agreement with the island enclave’s oligarchy which then abandoned its militants to their own devices. Consequently that uprising has all but flared out. In Belarus neither of these conditions were satisfactorily met. The country does not really have oligarchs capable of raising a de-facto army of street-fighters, and the street-fighters themselves are none too numerous. While there is evidence Ukrainian entities participated in grooming Belarusian shock troops, including in the trenches of the Donbass, in the end their numbers and/or enthusiasm was not what the Western curators of Belarus’ coup anticipated. After a few nights of violence, that segment of the protest movement vanished out of sight due to effective Belarusian counter-intelligence efforts. Atlantic Council practically disclosed a state secret when it bemoaned the absence of “robust young men” capable of going toe-to-toe with the security forces. It is evident Lukashenko’s survival took them by surprise, and it is probable someone over-promised their ability to deliver said “robust young men” onto Minsk streets.

Could this work in Russia? Probably not, due to both Russia’s own preparations and the West characteristically shooting itself in the foot. Preparations include formations like Rosgvardia which are meant to combat the low-to-middle intensity scenarios like the Maidan. But the Western economic warfare against Russia, the freezing of assets of Russian firms and individuals, have encountered a consolidation of the Russian oligarchs around the country’s political center. The West overplayed its hand there: expecting a quick, Maidan-like resolution in Moscow, it sent a signal it does not respect Russian individuals’ property rights, and which oligarch wants to have their property rights disrespected?

The tragic irony of it all is that while the strategy of destabilization using the disaffected oligarch—young extremist combination has been progressively less effective with coming years, as governments worldwide have drawn appropriate lessons from color revolutions and are determined not to be undone in a similar manner. Is United States experiencing a genuine, home-grown, grass-roots pro-democracy movement that is not bank-rolled by oligarchs or spearheaded by racial extremists? To be sure, elements in the Democratic Party think it can be used as a “get out the vote” device against Donald Trump, but on the other hand there is mounting evidence it is having an opposite effect. America’s middle bourgeois, being easily frightened and anxious to protect what little property it still has, just might decide Trump’s the guy to keep them safe going forward. But even, or perhaps especially, if Biden is elected one should expect more use of various paramilitaries to maintain order. Unfortunately America’s internal instability will mean even more erratic and reckless international behavior.

Related News

More Pressure On Russia Will Have No Effect

20 years of Vladimir Putin in power: a timeline.

Source

October 17, 2020

Over the last years the U.S. and its EU puppies have ratcheted up their pressure on Russia. They seem to believe that they can compel Russia to follow their diktat. They can’t. But the illusion that Russia will finally snap, if only a few more sanctions ar applied or a few more houses in Russia’s neighborhood are set on fire, never goes away.

As Gilbert Doctorow describes the situation:

The fires burning at Russia’s borders in the Caucasus are an add-on to the disorder and conflict on its Western border in neighboring Belarus, where fuel is poured on daily by pyromaniacs at the head of the European Union acting surely in concert with Washington.

Yesterday we learned of the decision of the European Council to impose sanctions on President Lukashenko, a nearly unprecedented action when directed against the head of state of a sovereign nation.

It is easy enough to see that the real intent of the sanctions is to put pressure on the Kremlin, which is Lukashenko’s guarantor in power, to compound the several other measures being implemented simultaneously in the hope that Putin and his entourage will finally crack and submit to American global hegemony as Europe did long ago.

The anti-Russia full tilt ahead policy outlined above is going on against a background of the U.S. presidential electoral campaigns. The Democrats continue to try to depict Donald Trump as “Putin’s puppy,” as if the President has been kindly to his fellow autocrat while in office. Of course, under the dictates of the Democrat-controlled House and with the complicity of the anti-Russian staff in the State Department, in the Pentagon, American policy towards Russia over the entire period of Trump’s presidency has been one of never ending ratcheting up of military, informational, economic and other pressures in the hope that Vladimir Putin or his entourage would crack. Were it not for the nerves of steel of Mr. Putin and his close advisers, the irresponsible pressure policies outlined above could result in aggressive behavior and risk taking by Russia that would make the Cuban missile crisis look like child’s play.

The U.S. arms industry lobby, in form of the Atlantic Council, confirms the ‘western’ strategy Doctorow describes. It calls for ‘ramping up on Russia’ with even more sanctions:

Key to raising the costs to Russia is a more proactive transatlantic strategy for sanctions against the Russian economy and Putin’s power base, together with other steps to reduce Russian energy leverage and export revenue. A new NATO Russia policy should be pursued in tandem with the European Union (EU), which sets European sanctions policy and faces the same threats from Russian cyberattacks and disinformation. At a minimum, EU sanctions resulting from hostilities in Ukraine should be extended, like the Crimea sanctions, for one year rather than every six months. Better yet, allies and EU members should tighten sanctions further and extend them on an indefinite basis until Russia ends its aggression and takes concrete steps toward de-escalation.

It also wants Europe to pay for weapons in the Ukraine and Georgia:

A more dynamic NATO strategy for Russia should go hand in hand with a more proactive policy toward Ukraine and Georgia in the framework of an enhanced Black Sea strategy. The goal should be to boost both partners’ deterrence capacity and reduce Moscow’s ability to undermine their sovereignty even as NATO membership remains on the back burner for the time being.

As part of this expanded effort, European allies should do more to bolster Ukraine and Georgia’s ground, air, and naval capabilities, complementing the United States’ and Canada’s efforts that began in 2014.

The purpose of the whole campaign against Russia, explains the Atlantic Council author, is to subordinate it to U.S. demands:

Relations between the West and Moscow had begun to deteriorate even before Russia’s watershed invasion of Ukraine, driven principally by Moscow’s fear of the encroachment of Western values and their potential to undermine the Putin regime. With the possibility of a further sixteen years of Putin’s rule, most experts believe relations are likely to remain confrontational for years to come. They argue that the best the United States and its allies can do is manage this competition and discourage aggressive actions from Moscow. However, by pushing back against Russia more forcefully in the near and medium term, allies are more likely to eventually convince Moscow to return to compliance with the rules of the liberal international order and to mutually beneficial cooperation as envisaged under the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act.

The ‘rules of the liberal international order’ are of course whatever the U.S. claims they are. They may change at any moment and without notice to whatever new rules are the most convenient for U.S. foreign policy.

But as Doctorow said above, Putin and his advisors stay calm and ignore such trash despite all the hostility expressed against them.

One of Putin’s close advisors is of course Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. In a wide ranging interview with Russian radio stations he recently touched on many of the issues Doctorow also mentions. With regards to U.S. strategy towards Russia Lavrov diagnoses:

Sergey Lavrov: […] You mentioned in one of your previous questions that no matter what we do, the West will try to hobble and restrain us, and undermine our efforts in the economy, politics, and technology. These are all elements of one approach.

Question: Their national security strategy states that they will do so.

Sergey Lavrov: Of course it does, but it is articulated in a way that decent people can still let go unnoticed, but it is being implemented in a manner that is nothing short of outrageous.

Question: You, too, can articulate things in a way that is different from what you would really like to say, correct?

Sergey Lavrov: It’s the other way round. I can use the language I’m not usually using to get the point across. However, they clearly want to throw us off balance, and not only by direct attacks on Russia in all possible and conceivable spheres by way of unscrupulous competition, illegitimate sanctions and the like, but also by unbalancing the situation near our borders, thus preventing us from focusing on creative activities. Nevertheless, regardless of the human instincts and the temptations to respond in the same vein, I’m convinced that we must abide by international law.

Russia does not accept the fidgety ‘rules of the liberal international order’.  Russia sticks to the law which is, in my view, a much stronger position. Yes, international law often gets broken. But as Lavrov said elsewhere, one does not abandon traffic rules only because of road accidents.

Russia stays calm, no matter what outrageous nonsense the U.S. and EU come up with. It can do that because it knows that it not only has moral superiority by sticking to the law but it also has the capability to win a fight. At one point the interviewer even jokes about that:

Question: As we say, if you don’t listen to Lavrov, you will listen to [Defense Minister] Shoigu.

Sergey Lavrov: I did see a T-shirt with that on it. Yes, it’s about that.

Yes, it’s about that. Russia is militarily secure and the ‘west’ knows that. It is one reason for the anti-Russian frenzy. Russia does not need to bother with the unprecedented hostility coming from Brussels and Washington. It can ignore it while taking care of its interests.

As this is so obvious one must ask what the real reason for the anti-Russian pressure campaign is. What do those who argue for it foresee as its endpoint?

Posted by b on October 17, 2020 at 16:31 UTC | Permalink

A New Wall For A New Cold War?

Source

12 OCTOBER 2020

A New Wall For A New Cold War?

The head of the prestigious Munich Security Conference warned late last month against efforts to “build a new ‘wall’ between Russia and the West” in light of the Navalny incident and the many other disagreements between both sides, and while it’s unrealistic to expect another Berlin Wall-like physical division of Europe, there’s no denying that their different governing models have created a sharp split across the continent.

Welcome To The New Cold War

Last month will probably go down in history as the moment when the New Cold War became impossible to deny. The US has been attempting to rekindle its fading unipolarity since the onset of its coordinated Hybrid War “containment” campaigns against Russia and China in 2014, which only intensified in the aftermath of Trump’s election. The leaders of all three countries addressed the UN General Assembly (UNGA) by video in a series of speeches that laid bare these two sides’ contradictory assessments of contemporary global affairs and related visions of the future. Their keynote speeches were preceded by UN Secretary General Guterres warning the world that “We must do everything to avoid a New Cold War.” Trump obviously didn’t listen to him, which is why the head of the prestigious Munich Security Conference (MSC) followed up that global representative’s warning with his own at the end of that historic week cautioning that “It will result in nothing if we now try to build a new ‘wall’ between Russia and the West because of Navalny and other sad and terrible events.” It’s his dramatic words that form the basis of the present article.

The US’ Hybrid War On Russia

There are many angles through which the ongoing global competition can be analyzed, but the prospect of a new wall of some sort or another accompanying the New Cold War in Europe is among the most intriguing. The MSC head presumably isn’t implying the creation of a 21st-century Berlin Wall, but seems to be speaking more generally about his fear that the growing divisions between Russia and the West will soon become irreversible and potentially even formalized as the new status quo. The author wrote last month that “The US’ Hybrid War On Russian Energy Targets Germany, Belarus, And Bulgaria”, pointing out how even the partial success of this latest “containment” campaign will greatly advance the scenario of an externally provoked “decoupling” between Russia and the West. That would in turn help secure American grand strategic interests in the continent. This “decoupling” would reverse the progress that was made in bilateral relations since the end of the Old Cold War up until the Ukrainian Crisis. Taken to its maximum extent, the spiritual return of the Berlin Wall seems almost inevitable at this point.

Governing Differences

It’s true that the border between the NATO countries and Russia’s CSTO (which importantly includes Hybrid War-targeted Belarus) represents the modern-day military equivalent of the “Iron Curtain”, but the situation isn’t as simple as that. While military divisions remain (albeit pushed much further eastward over the past three decades), ideological and economic ones are less apparent. Russia no long ascribes to communism but follows its own national variant of democracy within a mostly capitalist system, thus reducing the structural differences between itself and its Western counterparts. Unaware observers might wonder why there’s even a New Cold War to begin with when considering how much both sides have in common with one another, but that overlooks their contradictory worldviews which lie at the heart of their mutual suspicions. Russia strongly believes in safeguarding its geopolitical and domestic socio-political sovereignty so it accordingly follows a more conservative path whereas Western countries mostly submit to the US’ authority and generally regard their liberal position on many social issues as universalist.

The End Of The “Great Convergence”

The reason why the thaw in Russian-Western relations failed to achieve the “Great Convergence” that Gorbachev originally hoped for was because the US wanted to impose its will onto Russia by treating it as just another vassal state that would be forced to follow its lead abroad and accept extreme liberal social mandates at home instead of respecting it as an equal partner. Nevertheless, this policy was actually surprisingly successful all throughout the 1990s under Yeltsin, but its fatal flaw was that it went much too far too quickly by attempting to dissolve the Russian Federation through American support for Chechen separatist-terrorist groups. That inadvertently provoked a very patriotic reaction from the responsible members of Russia’s military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies (“deep state”) who worked together to ensure their motherland’s survival in the face of this existential crisis. The end result was that Putin succeeded Yeltsin and subsequently set about to systematically save Russia. This took the form of stabilizing the security situation at home in parallel with reasserting Russia on the world stage.

The “Russian Model”

Putin, though, was always a liberal in the traditional (not post-modern) sense. He never lost his appreciation for Western civilization and sincerely wanted to complete Gorbachev’s hoped-for “Great Convergence”, though only on equal terms and not as a US vassal. Regrettably, the Russian leader’s many olive branches were slapped away by an angry America which feared the influence that a powerful “moderately liberal” state could have on its hyper-liberal subjects. All of Putin’s efforts to take the “Great Convergence” to its next logical step of a “Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok” failed for this reason, after which an intense information warfare campaign was waged to portray Russia was a “radical right-wing state” even though it was never anything of the sort. This modus operandi was intended to prevent Europe’s indoctrinated masses from ever countenancing whether a “moderate” alternative exists whereby they’d preserve their domestic and international sovereignty despite remaining committed to traditional liberal values, just like the “Russian model” that Putin pioneered. Understandably, this would pose a serious threat to American strategic interests, hence the campaign against it.

The Rise Of America’s Russian Rival

As time went on, the “Russian model” was partially replicated in some of the countries of Central Europe such as Poland and even within the US itself through Trump’s election, though this wasn’t due to any so-called “Russian meddling” but was a natural result of the ideological interplay between radical and “moderate” liberals. It just so happened that Russia was the first country to implement this model not because of anything uniquely “Russian” within its society, but simply as the most pragmatic survival plan considering the extremely difficult circumstances of the 1990s and attendant limits on the country’s strategic maneuverability during that time. It was considered by the patriotic members of Russia’s “deep state” to be much too risky to reverse the direction of post-Soviet reforms, hence why the decision seems to have been made to continue with them, though doing all in the country’s power to regain control over these processes from Russia’s Western overlords in order to protect national geopolitical and domestic socio-political interests. This struggle led to Russia becoming an alternative pole of influence (in the governance sense) within the “Greater West”, rivaling the US.

Hillary & Trump: Same Anti-Russian Strategy, Different Infowar Tactics

With this insight in mind, the New Cold War was inevitable in hindsight. Had Hillary been elected, then the infowar narrative would have focused more on Russia’s different “values”, seeking to present its target as a “threat to the (hyper-liberal) Western way of life”. Since Trump’s America interestingly enough shares many of the same values as contemporary Russia does, however, the focus is on geopolitical differences instead. From the prism of International Relations theory, Hillary’s angle of attack against Russia would have been more liberal whereas Trump’s is more realist. Either way, both American leaders (theoretical in the first sense and actual in the second) have every reason to fear Russia since it challenges the US’ unipolar dominance in Europe. Hillary would have wanted to portray Russia as being outside of the “Western family of nations”, though Trump can’t convincingly do that given his much more high-profile provocations against obviously non-Western China, hence why he’s basically competing with Russia for leadership of the “moderate” liberal model of Western civilization, ergo accepting their structural similarities but instead over-hyping their geopolitical differences.

Post-Soviet Russia’s Irreversible Impact On Western Civilization

Taking all of the aforementioned into account, it’s understandable why the US wants to build a “new wall” in Europe by “decoupling” its NATO-captive subjects from Russia through a series of Hybrid Wars, though the genie is out of the bottle since some Central European countries like Poland the even the US itself under Trump already implement elements of the “Russian model”. This means that while the physical separation of Russia and Europe along military, geopolitical, and soon perhaps even economic-energy lines is practically a fait accompli at this point, the ideological-structural influence emanating from Moscow is impossible to “contain”. No “wall” will reverse the impact that the “Russian model” has had on the course of Western civilization, though it should be remembered that the aforesaid model wasn’t part of some “cunning 5D chess plan” but an impromptu survival tactic that was triggered in response to American unipolar-universalist soft power aggression on post-Soviet Russia. It’s not distinctly “Russian”, which is why the hyper-liberal Western elite fear it so much since they know very well that it could take root in their countries too, just like in Poland and the US.

Concluding Thoughts

The typical Western mind is conditioned to think in terms of models, especially historical ones, which is why they imagine that the New Cold War will closely resemble the Old Cold War simply because of the effect that neuro-linguistic programming has on their thought process. This explains why the MSC head warned against the creation of a “new wall” between Russia and the West even though no such scenario is realistic. No physical barrier like the Berlin Wall will ever be erected again, and even though the geopolitical, military, and perhaps even soon economic-energy fault lines between them might become formalized through the impending success of the US’ “decoupling” strategy, this will not address the root cause of the New Cold War which lies with Russia’s “moderately liberal” model of state sovereignty in contrast to the US’ (former?) hyper-liberal universalist one of state vasselhood. It’s this difference that’s primarily responsible for every other dimension of their competition since it placed Russia on the trajectory of supporting a Multipolar World Order instead of the US’ hoped-for Unipolar World Order.By Andrew KorybkoAmerican political analyst

Former USSR Republics Are Going Crazy. Russia Doesn’t Stop Them. (Ruslan Ostashko)

Source

October 12, 2020

Former USSR Republics Are Going Crazy. Russia Doesn’t Stop Them. (Ruslan Ostashko)

Translated by Sasha and subtitled by Leo.

Note for video: If the subtitles are off compared to the text below, it’s because YouTube has changed their captioning system and it is a worse update than usual. This time it doesn’t allow me to update the saves from the original translation file. Next time I will try a different method.

Apparently Azerbaijan’s war against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, which filled the news reels will have to make room now. The Kyrgyz who freed their ex-president Almazbek Atambayev from prison swept into the news agenda. Russia is observing the madness on the post-Soviet territory without interfering.

The member of the Union State, Belorussia remains the only republic of the former USSR where Moscow has drawn an unambiguous line of its interests. (Titlecard of previous video – Ruslan Ostashko: “TU-160 Drew the Borders of Belorussia.”) Let me remind you that its borders were circumnavigated by the Russian TU-160s. As for the other ex-brothers from the common Soviet home, our country lets them lose their minds at a pace chosen voluntarily by these ‘independents’. Some subscribers ask why neither of our channels have shown any of my personal material on Azero-Armenian war. Here’s my answer: in fact they have, only the video was not published on YouTube but in the Club of Experimental History which has a limited membership. Those who didn’t join never saw it. As for the open platforms, I prefer to refrain from commenting. The reason for it is more or less the same as the one brought forward by the sarcastic authors of a well-known patriotic Telegram channel.

Source – Telegram channel ‘Horde’: “For the past thirty years we have divorced quite alright, dear citizens of the post-Soviet states. The strengthening of all sorts of ties, agreements, and what not – all of that is there, but. You have insisted for all these thirty years that you are on your own. Behold the result: now the youngest Russians who could recall how they got drunk in Baku or Yerevan as students are well over fifty, including, by the way, hundreds of thousands of the dear Russians with surnames ending with ‘ian’ [Armenian] and ‘ev’ [Azeri]. You kept building your own, separate from the metropolis life. And finally you have built it. As a result your merry but in reality not merry at all showdowns, during which you began to kill each other by the hundreds, are your sovereign showdowns.”

It is exactly how it is. The Russian state of course takes an interest in all this madness as far as it concerns her security in the geopolitical sense, undertaking actions it deems necessary. But our civic society, whose interests I see myself a representative of, have grown tired of being interested in the ex-brothers who for thirty years have been applying the de-Russification policies and other aspects of independent nationalist awareness. This is why I can say with clear conscience I don’t care how many Azeris and Armenians will kill of each other. It is their sovereign right they tore away with their teeth, no matter what they squeal at us.

Source – Telegram channel ‘Horde’: “Come tell us what Russia will ‘lose’ if it doesn’t support your side. ‘Well OK,’ any person who is an atom in big Russia will say, but what exactly will we lose? Your constant complaints about the evil empire? Your wee tears about how you were persecuted by the tsars and the Soviet Union? Perhaps you support us in the international arena all the time? Did you at least recognise the Crimea? Ah, you vote for the Russian performers at the Eurovision contest. We deeply bow to the ground to you for that… You can count on the full moral support by the respective music establishment. Only don’t ask how many divisions Allegrova or Galkin, or Gotseriyev have. Russia stands for peace. And the Russians observe with a great humanitarian grief how two ancient peoples with unique cultures shed blood over a forester’s lodge. But we are strangers over there at your place.”

The same goes to the events in Kyrgyzstan. What do we care if one Central Asian bey will replace another with the help of the local basmachi? Both Atanbayev and Jeenbekov cooperated with Russia. Who else would they cooperate with? Who needs them except Russia by any standards? Any serious regional player will eat them up without choking. Because the Krygyz haven’t been able to put the life in their republic in order for thirty years of their independence. And instead of building the bright Western democracy standard, they turned back to the Middle Ages.

Well, let them. The main thing is to keep the Russian borders closed when the ‘Gastarbeiter’ crowds, escaping all this and barely understanding the Russian language, will try to force their way in here. The newest history of the post-Soviet republics clearly demonstrates who exactly brought civilization and higher culture there and what the so-called Russian and Soviet occupation, which they have been squealing about for thirty years, really was like. It was their only chance for a path into the civilized future. And by rushing to grab a full bosom of independence they blew that chance.

Source – Telegram channel ‘Horde’: “When thirty years ago they took as much independence as the alconaut Boris Nikolayevich [Yeltsin] was happy to spare, each of the former sister-republics dreamed of becoming something like Switzerland or Singapore, whom everybody likes and where everyone goes for a holiday to praise the national folklore, nature and embroidered shirts, where the rich people want to keep their money. But let’s say it honestly, the sister-republics have grown quite beastly since then, deprived of the ‘Prison of Nations’. They are just smart enough for making revolutions, intrigues and territorial claims against the neighbours. Our perimeter, deprived of the USSR, reverted to the Middle Ages wherein the Lithuanians squabble with the Belorussians, the Azerbaijanis with the Armenians, the Georgians with the Ossetians, the Kyrgyz with the Uzbeks. Freedom does not bring good to some peoples, dear friends.”

The wealthier and culturally richer Russia, where we live and work, becomes, the greater the contrast between our reality of the 21st century and the observed medieval madness that is raging on the post-Soviet territories will be. So I can only say to those citizens of the former USSR republics who don’t wish a dark fate for their children: learn the Russian language diligently as well as the Russian laws. All this will be useful to you when you try to register a patent or a limited stay permission in our country. We’ve had enough of your ancient unique culture’s whose representatives are merely able to slaughter their neighbours. I am only for hardcore Russification. Those who don’t want to want to Russify should stay in their Middle Ages, with all the consequences resulting from it.

Can and should Russia stop the war in the Caucasus?

October 09, 2020

THE SAKER • OCTOBER 10, 2020 

This war is officially a war between Azerbaijan and the (unrecognized) Republic of Nagorno Karabakh (RNK) aka “Republic of Artsakh” (ROA) which I shall refer to simply as Nagorno Karabakh or “NK”. As is often the case, the reality is much more complicated. For one thing, Erdogan’s Turkey has been deeply involved since Day 1 (and, really, even much before that) while Armenia has been backing NK to the hilt since the breakup of the Soviet Union. It is even worse: Turkey is a member of NATO while Armenia is a member of the CSTO. Thus a war started over a relatively small and remote area could, in theory, trigger an international nuclear war. The good news here is that nobody in NATO or the CSTO wants such a war, especially since technically speaking the NK is not part of Armenia (Armenia has not even recognized this republic so far!) and, therefore, not under the protection of the CSTO. And since there have been no attacks on Turkey proper, at least so far, NATO also has no reason to get involved.

I should mention here that in terms of international law, NK is an integral part of Azerbaijan. Still, almost everybody agrees that there is a difference between NK proper and the kind of security zone the army of NK created around NK (see map)

Can and should Russia stop the war in the Caucasus?

(note: the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic is part of Azerbaijan)

The reality on the ground, however, is very different, so let’s look at the position of each actor in turn, beginning with the party which started the war: Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan has been reforming and rearming its military since the Azeri forces got comprehensively defeated in the 1988-1994 war. Furthermore, for President Aliev this war represents what might well be the best and last chance to defeat the NK and Armenian forces. Most observers agree that should Aliev fail to achieve at least an appearance of victory he will lose power.

Armenia would have been quite happy to keep the status quo and continue to form one country with the NK de facto while remaining two countries de jure. Still, living in the tough and even dangerous “neighborhood” of the Caucasus, the Armenians never forgot that they are surrounded by more or less hostile countries just like they also remained acutely aware of Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman ideology which, sooner or later, would make war inevitable.

Iran, which is often forgotten, is not directly involved in the conflict, at least so far, but has been generally sympathetic to Armenia, primarily because Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman ideology represents a danger for the entire region, including Iran.

Turkey has played a crucial behind the scenes role in the rearmament and reorganization of Azeri forces. Just as was the case in Libya, Turkish attack drones have been used with formidable effectiveness against NK forces, in spite of the fact that the Armenians have some very decent air defenses. As for Erdogan himself, this war is his latest attempt to paint himself as some kind of neo-Ottoman sultan which will reunite all the Turkic people under his rule.

One of the major misconceptions about this conflict is the assumption that Russia has always been, and will always be, on the side of Armenia and the NK, but while this was definitely true for pre-1917 Russia, this is not the case today at all. Why?

Let’s examine the Russian position in this conflict.

First, let’s get the obvious out of the way: Armenia (proper, as opposed to NK) is a member of the CSTO and should anybody (including Azerbaijan and/or Turkey) attack Armenia, Russia would most definitely intervene and stop the attack, either by political or even by military means. Considering what Turkey has done to the Armenian people during the infamous Armenian Genocide of 1914-1923 this makes perfectly good sense: at least now the Armenian people know that Russia will never allow another genocide to take place. And the Turks know that too.

And yet, things are not quite that simple either.

For example, Russia did sell a lot of advanced weapon systems to Azerbaijan (see herefor one good example). In fact, relations between Vladimir Putin and Ilham Aliyev are famously very warm. And while it is true that Azerbaijan left the CSTO in 1999, Russia and Azerbaijan have retained a very good relationship which some even characterize as a partnership or even an alliance.

Furthermore, Azerbaijan has been a much better partner to Russia than Armenia, especially since the Soros-financed “color revolution” of 2018 which put Nikol Pashinian in power. Ever since Pashinian got to power, Armenia has been following the same kind of “multi-vector” policy which saw Belarus’ Lukashenko try to ditch Russia and integrate into the EU/NATO/US area of dominance. The two biggest differences between Belarus and Armenia are a) Belarusians and Russians are the same people and b) Russia cannot afford to lose Belarus whereas Russia has really zero need for Armenia.

On the negative side, not only has Azerbaijan left the CSTO in 1999, but Azerbaijan has also joined the openly anti-Russian GUAM Organization (which is headquartered in Kiev).

Next, there is the Turkey-Erdogan factor as seen from Russia. Simply put, the Russians will never trust any Turk who shares Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman worldview and ideology. Russia has already fought twelve full-scale wars against the Ottomans and she has no desire to let the Turks trigger another one (which they almost did when they shot down a Russian Su-24M over northern Syria). Of course, Russia is much more powerful than Turkey, at least in military terms, but in political terms an open war against Turkey could be disastrous for Russian foreign and internal policy objectives. And, of course, the best way for Russia to avoid such a war in the future is to make absolutely sure that the Turks realize that should they attack they will be suffering a crushing defeat in a very short time. So far, this has worked pretty well, especially after Russia saved Erdogan from the US-backed coup against him.

Some observers have suggested that Russia and Armenia being Christian, the former has some kind of moral obligation towards the latter. I categorically disagree. My main reason to disagree here is that Russians now are acutely aware of the disgusting lack of gratitude of our (supposed) “brothers” and (supposed) “fellow Christians” have shown as soon as Russia was in need.

Most Armenians are not Orthodox Christians, but members of the Armenian Apostolic Church, which are miaphysites/monophysites. They are also not Slavs.

The ONLY slavic or Orthodox people who did show real gratitude for Russia have been the Serbs. All the rest of them have immediately rushed to prostitute themselves before Uncle Shmuel and have competed with each other for the “honor” of deploying US weapons systems targeted at Russia. The truth is that like every superpower, Russia is too big and too powerful to have real “friends” (Serbia being a quite beautiful exception to this rule). The Russian Czar Alexander III famously said that “Russia only has two true allies: her army and her navy”. Well, today the list is longer (now we could add the Aerospace forces, the FSB, etc.), but in terms of external allies or friends, the Serbian people (as opposed to some of the Serbian leaders) are the only ones out there which are true friends of Russia (and that, in spite of the fact that under Elstin and his “democratic oligarchs” Russia shamefully betrayed a long list of countries and political leaders, including Serbia).

Then there is the religious factor which, while crucial in the past, really plays no role whatsoever in this conflict. Oh sure, political leaders on both sides like to portray themselves as religious, but this is just PR. The reality is that both the Azeris and the Armenians place ethnic considerations far above any religious ones, if only because, courtesy of the militant atheism of the former USSR, many, if not most, people in Armenia, Azerbaijan and even Russia nowadays are agnostic secularists with no more than a passing interest for the “spiritual values which shaped their national identity” (or something along these lines).

One major concern for Russia is the movement of Turkish-run Takfiris from Syria to Azerbaijan. The Russians have already confirmed that this has taken place (the French also reported this) and, if true, that would give Russia the right to strike these Takfiris on Azeri soil. So far, this threat is minor, but if it becomes real, we can expect Russian cruise missiles to enter the scene.

Finally, there are major Azeri and Armenian communities in Russia, which means two things: first, Russia cannot allow this conflict to sneak across the borders and infect Russia and, second, there are millions of Russians who will have ties, often strong ones, to both of these countries.

Though they are not currently officially involved, we still need to look, at least superficially, at the Empire’s view of this conflict. To summarize it I would say that the Empire is absolutely delighted with this crisis which is the third one blowing up on Russia’s doorstep (the other two being the Ukraine and Belarus). There is really very little the Empire can do against Russia: the economic blockade and sanctions totally failed, and in purely military terms Russia is far more powerful than the Empire. Simply put: the Empire simply does not have what it takes to take on Russia directly, but setting off conflicts around the Russia periphery is really easy.

For one thing, the internal administrative borders of the USSR bear absolutely no resemblance to the places of residence of the various ethnicities of the former Soviet Union. Looking at them one would be excused for thinking that they were drawn precisely to generate the maximal amount of tension between the many ethnic groups that were cut into separate pieces. There is also no logic in accepting the right of the former Soviet Republics to secede from the Soviet Union, but then denying the same right to those local administrative entities which now would want to separate from a newly created republic which they don’t want to be part of.

Second, many, if not most, of the so-called “countries” and “nations” which suddenly appeared following the collapse of the Soviet Union have no historical reality whatsoever. As a direct result, these newborn “nations” had no historical basis to root themselves in, and no idea what independence really means. Some nations, like the Armenians, have deep roots as far back as antiquity, but their current borders are truly based on nothing at all. Whatever may be the case, it has been extremely easy for Uncle Shmuel to move into these newly independent states, especially since many (or even most) of these states saw Russia as the enemy (courtesy of the predominant ideology of the Empire which was imposed upon the mostly clueless people of the ex-Soviet periphery). The result? Violence, or even war, all around that periphery (which the Russians think of as their “near abroad”).

I think that most Russian people are aware that while there has been a major price to pay for this, the cutting away of the ex-Soviet periphery from Russia has been a blessing in disguise. This is confirmed by innumerable polls which show that the Russian people are generally very suspicious of any plans involving the use of the Russian Armed Forces outside Russia (for example, it took all of Putin’s “street cred” to convince the Russian people that the Russian military intervention in Syria was a good idea).

There is also one more thing which we must always remember: for all the stupid US and western propaganda about Russia and, later, the USSR being the “prison of the people” (small nations survived way better in this “prison” than they did under the “democratic” rule of European colonists worldwide!), the truth is that because of the rabidly russophobic views of Soviet Communists (at least until Stalin – he reversed this trend) the Soviet “peripheral” Republics all lived much better than the “leftover Russia” which the Soviets called the RSFSR. In fact, the Soviet period was a blessing in many ways for all the non-Russian republics of the Soviet Union and only now, under Putin, has this trend finally been reversed. Today Russia is much richer than the countries around her periphery and she has no desire to squander that wealth on a hostile and always ungrateful periphery. The bottom line is this: Russia owes countries such as Armenia or Azerbaijan absolutely nothing and they have no right whatsoever to expect Russia to come to their aid: this won’t happen, at least not unless Russia achieves a measurable positive result from this intervention.

Still, let’s now look at the reasons why Russia might want to intervene.

First, this is, yet again, a case of Erdogan’s megalomania and malevolence resulting in a very dangerous situation for Russia. After all, all the Azeris need to do to secure an overt Turkish intervention is to either attack Armenia proper, which might force a Russian intervention or, alternatively, be so severely beaten by the Armenians that Turkey might have to intervene to avoid a historical loss of face for both Aliev and Erdogan.

Second, it is crucial for Russia to prove that the CSTO matters and is effective in protecting CSTO member states. In other words, if Russia lets Turkey attack Armenia directly the CSTO would lose all credibility, something which Russia cannot allow.

Third, it is crucial for Russia to prove to both Azerbaijan and Armenia that the US is long on hot air and empty promises, but can’t get anything done in the Caucasus. In other words, the solution to this war has to be a Russian one, not a US/NATO/EU one. Once it becomes clear in the Caucasus that, like in the Middle-East, Russia has now become the next “kingmaker” then the entire region will finally return to peace and a slow return to prosperity.

So far the Russians have been extremely careful in their statements. They mostly said that Russian peacekeepers could only be deployed after all the parties to this conflict agree to their deployment. Right now, we are still very far away from this.

Here is what happened so far: the Azeris clearly hoped for a short and triumphant war, but in spite of very real advances in training, equipment, etc the Azeri Blitzkrieg has clearly failed in spite of the fact that the Azeri military is more powerful than the NK+Armenian one. True, the Azeris did have some initial successes, but they all happened in small towns mostly located in the plain. But take a look at this topographic map of the area of operations and see for yourself what the biggest problem for the Azeris is:

Almost all of NK is located in the mountains (hence the prefix “nagorno” which means “mountainous”) and offensive military operations in the mountains are truly a nightmare, even for very well prepared and equipped forces (especially in the winter season, which is fast approaching). There are very few countries out there who could successfully conduct offensive operations in mountains, Russia is one of them, and Azerbaijan clearly is not.

Right now both sides agree on one thing only: only total victory can stop this war. While politically that kind of language makes sense, everybody knows that this war will not end up in some kind of total victory for one side and total defeat of the other side. The simple fact is that the Azeris can’t overrun all of NK while the Armenians (in Armenia proper and in the NK) cannot counter-attack and defeat the Azeri military in the plains.

Right now, and for as long as the Azeris and the Armenians agree that they won’t stop at anything short of a total victory, Russia simply cannot intervene. While she has the military power to force both sides to a total standstill, she has no legal right to do so and please remember that, unlike the US, Russia does respect international law (if only because she has no plans to become the “next US” or some kind of world hegemon in charge of maintaining the peace worldwide). So there are only two possible options for a Russian military intervention:

  1. A direct (and confirmed by hard evidence) attack on the territory of Armenia
  2. Both the Azeris and the Armenians agree that Russia ought to intervene.

I strongly believe that Erdogan and Aliev will do whatever it takes to prevent option one from happening (while they will do everything in their power short of an overt attack on Armenia to prevail). Accidents, however, do happen, so the risk of a quick and dramatic escalation of the conflict will remain until both sides agree to stop.

Right now, neither side has a clear victory and, as sad as I am to write these words, both sides have enough reserves (not only military, but also political and economic) to keep at it for a while longer. However, neither side has what it would take to wage a long and bloody positional war of attrition, especially in the mountain ranges. Thus both sides probably already realize that this one will have to stop, sooner rather than later (according to some Russian experts, we are only talking weeks here).

Furthermore, there are a lot of very dangerous escalations taking place, including artillery and missile strikes on cities and infrastructure objects. If the Armenians are really pushed against a wall, they could both recognize NK and hit the Azeri energy and oil/gas infrastructure with their formidable Iskander tactical ballistic missiles. Should that happen, then we can be almost certain that both the Azeris and the Turks will try to attack Armenia, with dramatic and most dangerous consequences.

This conflict can get much, much more bloody and much more dangerous. It is thus in the interests of the entire region (but not the US) to stop it. Will the Armenian lobby be powerful enough to pressure the US into a more helpful stance? So far, the US is, at least officially, calling all sides for a ceasefire (along with France and Russia), but we all know how much Uncle Shmuel’s word can be trusted. At least there is no public evidence that the US is pushing for war behind the scenes (the absence of such evidence does, of course, not imply the evidence of the absence of such actions!).

At the time of writing this (Oct. 9th) Russia has to wait for the parties to come back to reality and accept a negotiated solution. If and when that happens, there are options out there, including making NK a special region of Azerbaijan which would be placed under the direct protection of Russia and/or the CSTO with Russian forces deployed inside the NK region. It would even be possible to have a Turkish military presence all around the NK (and even some monitors inside!) to reassure the Azeris that Armenian forces have left the region and are staying out. The Azeris already know that they cannot defeat Armenia proper without risking a Russian response and they are probably going to realize that they cannot overrun NK. As for the Armenians, it is all nice and fun to play the “multi-vector” card, but Russia won’t play by these rules anymore. Her message here is simple: if you are Uncle Shmuels’s bitch, then let Uncle Shmuel save you; if you want us to help, then give us a really good reason why: we are listening”.

This seems to me an eminently reasonable position to take and I hope and believe that Russia will stick to it.

PS: the latest news is that Putin invited the Foreign Ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia to Moscow for “consultations” (not “negotiations”, at least not yet) with Sergei Lavrov as a mediator. Good. Maybe this can save lives since a bad peace will always be better than a good war.

PPS: the latest news (Oct 9th 0110 UTC) is that the Russians have forced Armenia and Azerbaijan to negotiate for over thirteen hours, but at the end of the day, both sides agreed to an immediate ceasefire and for substantive negotiations to begin. Frankly, considering the extreme hostility of the parties towards each other, I consider this outcome almost miraculous. Lavrov truly earned his keep today! Still, we now have to see if Russia can convince both sides to actually abide by this agreement. Here is a machine translation of the first Russian report about this outcome:

Statement by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Armenia

In response to the appeal of the President of the Russian Federation V.V. Putin and in accordance with the agreements of the President of the Russian Federation V.V. Putin, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan I.G. Aliyev and Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia N.V. Pashinyan, the parties agreed on the following steps :

1. A ceasefire is declared from 12:00 pm on October 10, 2020 for humanitarian purposes for the exchange of prisoners of war and other detained persons and bodies of the dead, mediated and in accordance with the criteria of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

2. The specific parameters of the ceasefire regime will be agreed upon additionally.

3. The Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Armenia, with the mediation of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs, on the basis of the basic principles of the settlement, begin substantive negotiations with the aim of reaching a peaceful settlement as soon as possible.

4. The parties confirm the invariability of the format of the negotiation process.

What’s at stake in the Armenia-Azerbaijan chessboard

What’s at stake in the Armenia-Azerbaijan chessboard

October 01, 2020

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

Few geopolitical hot spots across the planet may rival the Caucasus: that intractable, tribal Tower of Babel, throughout History a contentious crossroads of empires from the Levant and nomads from the Eurasian steppes. And it gets even messier when one adds the fog of war.

To try to shed some light into the current Armenia-Azerbaijan face off, let’s crisscross the basic facts with some essential deep background.

Late last month Ilham Aliyev, Azerbaijan’s proverbial “strongman”, in power since 2003, launched a de facto war on the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh held by Armenia.

At the collapse of the USSR, Nagorno-Karabakh had a mixed population of Azeri Shi’ites and Armenian Christians. Yet even before the collapse the Azerbaijani Army and Armenian independentists were already at war (1988-1994), which yielded a grim balance of 30,000 dead and roughly a million wounded.

The Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh declared independence in 1991: but that was not recognized by the “international community”. Finally there was a ceasefire in 1994 – with Nagorno-Karabakh entering the gray area/no man’s land of “frozen conflict”.

The problem is that in 1993, the United Nations had approved no less than four resolutions – 822, 853, 874 and 884 – establishing that Armenia should withdraw from what was deemed to be roughly 20% of Azerbaijani territory. This is at the core of Baku’s rationale to fight against what it qualifies as a foreign occupation army.

Yerevan’s interpretation though is that these four resolutions are null and void because Nagorno-Karabakh harbors an Armenian-majority population who wants to secede from Azerbaijan.

Historically, Artsakh is one of three ancient provinces of Armenia – rooted at least in the 5th century B.C. and finally established in 189 B.C. Armenians, based on DNA samples from excavated bones, argue they have been settled in Artsakh for at least 4,000 years.

Artsakh – or Nagorno-Karabakh – was annexed to Azerbaijan by Stalin in 1923. That set the stage for a future powder keg to inevitably explode.

It’s important to remember that there was no “Azerbaijan” nation-state until the early 1920s. Historically, Azerbaijan is a territory in northern Iran. Azeris are very well integrated within the Islamic Republic. So the Republic of Azerbaijan actually borrowed its name from their Iranian neighbors. In ancient history, the territory of the new 20th century republic was known as Atropatene, and Aturpakatan before the advent of Islam.

How the equation changed

Baku’s main argument is that Armenia is blocking a contiguous Azerbaijani nation, as a look in the map shows us that southwest Azerbaijan is de facto split all the way to the Iranian border.

And that plunges us necessarily into deep background. To clarify matters, there could not be a more reliable guide than a top Caucasus think tank expert who shared his analysis with me by email, but is insistent on “no attribution”. Let’s call him Mr. C.

Mr. C notes that, “for decades, the equation remained the same and the variables in the equation remained the same, more or less. This was the case notwithstanding the fact that Armenia is an unstable democracy in transition and Azerbaijan had much more continuity at the top.”

We should all be aware that “Azerbaijan lost territory right at the beginning of the restoration of its statehood, when it was basically a failed state run by armchair nationalist amateurs [before Heydar Aliyev, Ilham’s father, came to power]. And Armenia was a mess, too but less so when you take into consideration that it had strong Russian support and Azerbaijan had no one. Back in the day, Turkey was still a secular state with a military that looked West and took its NATO membership seriously. Since then, Azerbaijan has built up its economy and increased its population. So it kept getting stronger. But its military was still underperforming.”

That slowly started to change in 2020: “Basically, in the past few months you’ve seen incremental increases in the intensity of near daily ceasefire violations (the near-daily violations are nothing new: they’ve been going on for years). So this blew up in July and there was a shooting war for a few days. Then everyone calmed down again.”

All this time, something important was developing in the background: Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who came to power in May 2018, and Aliyev started to talk: “The Azerbaijani side thought this indicated Armenia was ready for compromise (this all started when Armenia had a sort of revolution, with the new PM coming in with a popular mandate to clean house domestically). For whatever reason, it ended up not happening.”

What happened in fact was the July shooting war.

Don’t forget Pipelineistan

Armenian PM Pashinyan could be described as a liberal globalist. The majority of his political team is pro-NATO. Pashinyan went all guns blazing against former Armenian President (1998- 2008) Robert Kocharian, who before that happened to be, crucially, the de facto President of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Kocharian, who spent years in Russia and is close to President Putin, was charged with a nebulous attempt at “overthrowing the constitutional order”. Pashinyan tried to land him in jail. But even more crucial is the fact that Pashinyan refused to follow a plan elaborated by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to finally settle the Artsakh/Nagorno-Karabakh mess.

In the current fog of war, things are even messier. Mr. C stresses two points: “First, Armenia asked for CSTO protection and got bitch slapped, hard and in public; second, Armenia threatened to bomb the oil and gas pipelines in Azerbaijan (there are several, they all run parallel, and they supply not just Georgia and Turkey but now the Balkans and Italy). With regards to the latter, Azerbaijan basically said: if you do that, we’ll bomb your nuclear reactor.”

The Pipelineistan angle is indeed crucial: for years I have followed on Asia Times these myriad, interlocking oil and gas soap operas, especially the BTC (Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan), conceived by Zbigniew Brzezinski to bypass Iran. I was even “arrested” by a BP 4X4 when I was tracking the pipeline on a parallel side road out of the massive Sangachal terminal: that proved British Petroleum was in practice the real boss, not the Azerbaijani government.

In sum, now we have reached the point where, according to Mr. C,

“Armenia’s saber rattling got more aggressive.” Reasons, on the Armenian side, seem to be mostly domestic: terrible handling of Covid-19 (in contrast to Azerbaijan), and the dire state of the economy. So, says Mr. C, we came to a toxic concourse of circumstances: Armenia deflected from its problems by being tough on Azerbaijan, while Azerbaijan just had had enough.

It’s always about Turkey

Anyway one looks at the Armenia-Azerbaijan drama, the key destabilizing factor is now Turkey.

Mr. C notes how, “throughout the summer, the quality of the Turkish-Azerbaijani military exercises increased (both prior to July events and subsequently). The Azerbaijani military got a lot better. Also, since the fourth quarter of 2019 the President of Azerbaijan has been getting rid of the (perceived) pro-Russian elements in positions of power.” See, for instance, here.

There’s no way to confirm it either with Moscow or Ankara, but Mr. C advances what President Erdogan may have told the Russians: “We’ll go into Armenia directly if a) Azerbaijan starts to lose, b) Russia goes in or accepts CSTO to be invoked or something along those lines, or c) Armenia goes after the pipelines. All are reasonable red lines for the Turks, especially when you factor in the fact that they don’t like the Armenians very much and that they consider the Azerbaijanis brothers.”

It’s crucial to remember that in August, Baku and Ankara held two weeks of joint air and land military exercises. Baku has bought advanced drones from both Turkey and Israel. There’s no smokin’ gun, at least not yet, but Ankara may have hired up to 4,000 Salafi-jihadis in Syria to fight – wait for it – in favor of Shi’ite-majority Azerbaijan, proving once again that “jihadism” is all about making a quick buck.

The United Armenian Information Center, as well as the Kurdish Afrin Post, have stated that Ankara opened two recruitment centers – in Afrin schools – for mercenaries. Apparently this has been a quite popular move because Ankara slashed salaries for Syrian mercenaries shipped to Libya.

There’s an extra angle that is deeply worrying not only for Russia but also for Central Asia. According to the former Foreign Minister of Nagorno-Karabakh, Ambassador Extraordinary Arman Melikyan, mercenaries using Azeri IDs issued in Baku may be able to infiltrate Dagestan and Chechnya and, via the Caspian, reach Atyrau in Kazakhstan, from where they can easily reach Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

That’s the ultimate nightmare of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) – shared by Russia, China and the Central Asian “stans”: a jihadi land – and (Caspian) sea – bridge from the Caucasus all the way to Central Asia, and even Xinjiang.

What’s the point of this war?

So what happens next? A nearly insurmountable impasse, as Mr. C outlines it:

1. “The peace talks are going nowhere because Armenia is refusing to budge (to withdraw from occupying Nagorno-Karabakh plus 7 surrounding regions in phases or all at once, with the usual guarantees for civilians, even settlers – note that when they went in in the early 1990s they cleansed those lands of literally all Azerbaijanis, something like between 700,000 and 1 million people).”

2. Aliyev was under the impression that Pashinyan “was willing to compromise and began preparing his people and then looked like someone with egg on his face when it didn’t happen.”

3. “Turkey has made it crystal clear it will support Azerbaijan unconditionally, and has matched those words with deeds.”

4. “In such circumstances, Russia got outplayed – in the sense that they had been able to play off Armenia against Azerbaijan and vice versa, quite successfully, helping to mediate talks that went nowhere, preserving the status quo that effectively favored Armenia.”

And that brings us to the crucial question. What’s the point of this war?

Mr. C: “It is either to conquer as much as possible before the “international community” [in this case, the UNSC] calls for / demands a ceasefire or to do so as an impetus for re-starting talks that actually lead to progress. In either scenario, Azerbaijan will end up with gains and Armenia with losses. How much and under what circumstances (the status and question of Nagorno-Karabakh is distinct from the status and question of the Armenian occupied territories around Nagorno-Karabakh) is unknown: i.e. on the field of battle or the negotiating table or a combo of both. However this turns out, at a minimum Azerbaijan will get to keep what it liberated in battle. This will be the new starting point. And I suspect that Azerbaijan will do no harm to the Armenian civilians that stay. They’ll be model liberators. And they’ll take time to bring back Azerbaijani civilians (refugees/IDPs) to their homes, especially in areas that would become mixed as a result of return.”

So what can Moscow do under these circumstances? Not much,

“except to go into Azerbaijan proper, which they won’t do (there’s no land border between Russia and Armenia; so although Russia has a military base in Armenia with one or more thousand troops, they can’t just supply Armenia with guns and troops at will, given the geography).”

Crucially, Moscow privileges the strategic partnership with Armenia – which is a member of the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) – while meticulously monitoring each and every NATO-member Turkey’s movement: after all, they are already in opposing sides in both Libya and Syria.

So, to put it mildly, Moscow is walking on a geopolitical razor’s edge. Russia needs to exercise restraint and invest in a carefully calibrated balancing act between Armenia and Azerbaijan; must preserve the Russia-Turkey strategic partnership; and must be alert to all, possible US Divide and Rule tactics.

Inside Erdogan’s war

So in the end this would be yet another Erdogan war?

The inescapable Follow the Money analysis would tells us, yes. The Turkish economy is an absolute mess, with high inflation and a depreciating currency. Baku has a wealth of oil-gas funds that could become readily available – adding to Ankara’s dream of turning Turkey also into an energy supplier.

Mr. C adds that anchoring Turkey in Azerbaijan would lead to “the creation of full-fledged Turkish military bases and the inclusion of Azerbaijan in the Turkish orbit of influence (the “two countries – one nation” thesis, in which Turkey assumes supremacy) within the framework of neo-Ottomanism and Turkey’s leadership in the Turkic-speaking world.”

Add to it the all-important NATO angle. Mr. C essentially sees it as Erdogan, enabled by Washington, about to make a NATO push to the east while establishing that immensely dangerous jihadi channel into Russia: “This is no local adventure by Erdogan. I understand that Azerbaijan is largely Shi’ite Islam and that will complicate things but not render his adventure impossible.”

This totally ties in with a notorious RAND report that explicitly details how “the United States could try to induce Armenia to break with Russia” and “encourage Armenia to move fully into the NATO orbit.”

It’s beyond obvious that Moscow is observing all these variables with extreme care. That is reflected, for instance, in how irrepressible Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, earlier this week, has packaged a very serious diplomatic warning: “The downing of an Armenian SU-25 by a Turkish F-16, as claimed by the Ministry of Defense in Armenia, seems to complicate the situation, as Moscow, based on the Tashkent treaty, is obligated to offer military assistance to Armenia”.

It’s no wonder both Baku and Yerevan got the message and are firmly denying anything happened.

The key fact remains that as long as Armenia proper is not attacked by Azerbaijan, Russia will not apply the CSTO treaty and step in. Erdogan knows this is his red line. Moscow has all it takes to put him in serious trouble – as in shutting off gas supplies to Turkey. Moscow, meanwhile, will keep helping Yerevan with intel and hardware – flown in from Iran. Diplomacy rules – and the ultimate target is yet another ceasefire.

Pulling Russia back in

Mr. C advances the strong possibility – and I have heard echoes from Brussels – that “the EU and Russia find common cause to limit Azerbaijani gains (in large part because Erdogan is no one’s favorite guy, not just because of this but because of the Eastern Med, Syria, Libya).”

That brings to the forefront the renewed importance of the UNSC in imposing a ceasefire. Washington’s role at the moment is quite intriguing. Of course, Trump has more important things to do at the moment. Moreover, the Armenian diaspora in the US swings drastically pro-Democrat.

Then, to round it all up, there’s the all-important Iran-Armenia relationship. Here is a forceful attempt to put it in perspective.

As Mr. C stresses, “Iran favors Armenia, which is counter-intuitive at first sight. So the Iranians may help the Russians out (funneling supplies), but on the other hand they have a good relationship with Turkey, especially in the oil and gas smuggling business. And if they get too overt in their support, Trump has a casus belli to get involved and the Europeans may not like to end up on the same side as the Russians and the Iranians. It just looks bad. And the Europeans hate to look bad.”

We inevitably come back to the point that the whole drama can be interpreted from the perspective of a NATO geopolitical hit against Russia – according to quite a few analyses circulating at the Duma.

Ukraine is an absolute black hole. There’s the Belarus impasse. Covid-19. The Navalny circus. The “threat” to Nord Stream-2.

To pull Russia back into the Armenia-Azerbaijan drama means turning Moscow’s attention towards the Caucasus so there’s more Turkish freedom of action in other theaters – in the Eastern Mediterranean versus Greece, in Syria, in Libya. Ankara – foolishly – is engaged in simultaneous wars on several fronts, and with virtually no allies.

What this means is that even more than NATO, monopolizing Russia’s attention in the Caucasus most of all may be profitable for Erdogan himself. As Mr. C stresses, “in this situation, the Nagorno-Karabakh leverage/’trump card’ in the hands of Turkey would be useful for negotiations with Russia.”

No question: the neo-Ottoman sultan never sleeps.

Related

Russian options in the Karabakh conflict

Russian options in the Karabakh conflict

September 30, 2020

With the eyes of most people locked on the debate between Trump and Biden, the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) has received relatively little attention in the West.  Yet, this is a potentially very dangerous situation.  Just think about this: the Armenians are accusing the Turks of shooting down an Armenian Su-25 over Armenia (not NK!).  If that is true, then some would say that this is huge news because this would mean that a NATO member state has committed an act of aggression against the member of the CSTO.

Does that mean that war between two biggest military alliances on the planet is inevitable?

Hardly.

In fact, it seems to me that neither the CSTO nor NATO have much enthusiasm for getting involved.

Let’s take a step back and mention a few basic things.

Check out the huge US Embassy compound in
Erevan and ask yourself:
what are all these guys doing all day long?

One would have imagined that Russia would immediately side with the Christian Armenia against the Muslim Azeris, but this time around there is some evidence that Russians have (finally!) learned some painful lessons from history, especially about Russia’s putatively “Orthodox” putative “brothers”.  The sad truth is that, not unlike Belarus under Lukashenko, Armenia has, since at least 2018 been following the same type of “multi-vector” political course as Belarus.  I would sum up this policy like this: “holding an anti-Russian political course while demanding the support of Russia”.  The Russians did not like this any more in Armenia than they did in Belarus.  But the big difference is this: while Russia cannot afford to “lose” Belarus, she has no real need of Armenia at all, especially an Armenia hostile to Russia.

That is not to say that Russian ought to back Azerbaijan.  Why?  Well, this has nothing to do with language or religion and everything to do with the fact that modern Azerbaijan is a political protégé of Erdogan’s Turkey, which is truly one of the most dangerous countries and political regimes out there, which Russia ought to deal with with the caution of a snake-handler dealing with a particularly nasty and unpredictable pit viper.  Yes, Russia has to engage with both Turkey and Azerbaijan, if only because these two are powerful countries (at least in a regional sense) and because they are almost always up to no good, especially Turkey.

Then there is the issue of the US role in all this.  We can be pretty sure that the US is talking to both sides telling them that as long as they maintain an anti-Russian course they will get the support of Uncle Shmuel.  There are two problems with this:

  • Both sides know that the US is talking to both sides
  • When push comes to shove, the support of the USA really matters very little

I would even argue that any major escalation of the conflict will prove to both parties that the US is long on promises and short on actually delivering on them.  In sharp contrast, Turkey does deliver.  Yes, recklessly and, yes, in violation of international law, but still – Turkey does deliver and they are not shy about confirming this.

Just like in the case of Belarus or the Ukraine, Russia could stop this conflict, especially if the Kremlin decides to use military force, but this would be terrible in political terms and I am confident that Russia will not intervene overtly.  For one thing, this war is a clear case of a zero-sum game in which a negotiated compromise is almost impossible to achieve.

Furthermore, both sides appear to be determined to flight this one to the end, so why should Russia intervene?

Seems to be that remaining a neutral intermediary is the best and only thing Russia ought to do for the time being.  Once the dust settles and once either side fully realizes that Uncle Shmuel is more about words than action, then maybe Russia can, once again, try to offer a regional solution, possibly involving Iran and excluding the USA for sure.  But that can only happen later.

Right now both sides have painted themselves into a corner and both sides seem to be equally committed to a total military victory.

Conclusion: in this conflict, Russia has no allies and no friends.   Right now the Azeris seem to be winning, but if Armenia engages its Iskander missiles or recognizes the independence of NK (both of which the Armenians are now threatening to do), this will get ugly and a Turkish intervention will become possible.  Let’s see how (and even if) the USA will do something to help Erevan.  If not, it will be interesting to see what will happen once the Armenians re-discover a well-known historical truth: Armenia cannot survive without Russia.  And even if the Armenians come to this conclusion, I still would recommend that Russia be very careful in placing her weight behind either side of the conflict (especially since the Azeris have international law on their side).

In other words, I recommend that Russia act only and exclusively in her own geostrategic interest and let the entire region discover how much help Uncle Shmuel can really deliver.  Specifically, I submit that it is in Russia’s national security interest to make sure that:

  1. Turkey remains as weak as possible for as long as possible
  2. The USA remains as weak as possible in the entire region

Right now the Pax Americana is as bad in the Caucasus as it is in the Middle-East.  This is good for Russia and she ought to do nothing which would help Uncle Shmuel.  Only once the US is out of the picture, including in Armenia, should Russia offer aid and support to a peace settlement between the two belligerents.

The Saker

Related

The World Has Gone Absolutely Insane!

THE SAKER • SEPTEMBER 25, 2020

We all know that we are living in crazy, and dangerous, times, yet I can’t help being awed at what the imperial propaganda machine (aka the legacy ziomedia) is trying to make us all swallow. The list of truly batshit crazy stuff we are being told to believe is now very long, and today I just want to pick on a few of my “favorites” (so to speak).

First, of course, comes the “Novichok Reloaded” scandal around the alleged poisoning of the so-called “dissident” Alexei Navalnyi. I already mentioned this absolutely ridiculous story once, so I won’t repeat it all here. I just want to mention a few very basic facts:

  • Navalnyi is pretty much a discredited non-entity in Russia. “Putin” (because this is how the imperial propaganda machine always personalizes the evils of Russia: “Putin” did this or that, as if Putin was personally in every alleged Russian evil deed) had absolutely and exactly zero reasons to harm Navalnyi in any way. I would even add that IF Navalnyi was poisoned in Russia (which I do not believe) then the FSB screwed up by not offering him 24/7 protection, especially in the current political climate (i.e. struggle for the completion of North Stream 2).
  • The Empire always likes to produce a “sacrificial lamb” to symbolize the putative evil of the nation which dares to resist. In Iran it was Neda, in Kuwait the infamous “incubator babies”, in Syria anonymous kids killed by Russian gas, and in Russia it was Nemtsov (did not really work) and now Navalnyi (I wonder who the sacrificial lamb will be in Belarus (Tikhanovskaia?). The FSB should have seen this coming, especially after Nemtsov.
  • There is exactly zero evidence that the mineral water bottle which the Germans claim contained traces of, what else, “Novichok”, ever was anywhere near Navalnyi or even that it ever was in Russia. No such bottle was found by, or mentioned to the Russian investigators. This bottle was, allegedly, hidden from the FSB by Navalnyi supporters, and secretly brought to Germany. What that means in terms of “chain of custody” is self-evident.
  • As I have mentioned in my past article, if what the German authorities are claiming is true, then the Russians are truly the dumbest imbeciles on the planet. Not content to use this now famous “Novichok” gas against Skripal in the UK and after failing to kill Skripal, these stupid Russians decided to try the very same gas, only “improved”, and they failed again: Navalnyi is quite alive and well, thank you!
  • Then there is this: according to the imperial propaganda machine, Novichok was so horribly dangerous, that the Brits had to use full biosuits to investigate the alleged poisoning of Skripal. They also said that they would completely destroy the dangerous Skripal home (though they never did that). The self same propaganda machine says that the Novichok used on Navalnyi was a more powerful, improved version. Okay. Then try to answer this one: why did the Russians NOT put on biosuits, why did not a single passenger suffer from any side effects (inside a closed aircraft cabin!)? How is it that this super-dooper Novichok not only failed to kill Navalnyi (who, allegedly, ingested it!) but also failed to even moderately inconvenience anybody from the many people Navalnyi was surrounded by on that day?

I could continue to deconstruct all this nonsense, but that would take pages. I will mention two thing though:

First, the Russians have requested any and all evidence available to the Germans and to the Organization for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons – but they got absolutely nothing in return. Yet the EU is demanding an investigation (which is already under way in Russia anyway!) as if the Russians did not want the exact same!

After being exposed to an improved Novichok and after weeks in coma in intensive care, here is Navalnyi trotting down stairs feeling great

After being exposed to an improved Novichok and after weeks in coma in intensive care, here is Navalnyi trotting down stairs feeling great

Second, Navalnyi apparently has an immunity to otherwise deadly Russian biological agents, just take a look at him on this post-Novichok photo:

[By the way, the first time around the Brits also never gave the Russians any information, nevermind any kind of evidence. Apparently, to hide some super-secret secrets. Yeah, right!]

Next, I absolutely have to mention the absolutely insane situation around Belarus.

To make a long story short, the EU wants to sanction Russia for intervening in Belarus while that self-same EU is intervening in every possible imaginable manner: from the Poles who treat Tikhanovskaia as a modern False Dmitri the Fifth (see here for a summary of Polish-run False Dmitris), to the promise of a special “Marshall Plan for Belarus”, to the coordination of all the protests from Poland. The EU refuses to recognize Lukashenko as the winner (in spite of the fact that there is exactly zero evidence suggesting that Lukashenko lost) and refers to Tikhanovskaia as the “Leader of Belarus” (whatever that means).

As for our US American friends, having learned exactly nothing from the abject failure of their Guaido coup in Venezuela, they now want to repeat exactly the same with Tikhanovskaia in Belarus. As a result, Tikhanovskaia has been re-christened “Juanita Guaido”

But the worst are still the Europeans. Not only are they prostituting themselves to the leaders of the Empire, the following countries were the first to declare that they will not recognize Lukashenko as the leader of Belarus: Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia (which is no surprise, they all compete for the title of most pro-US colony on the planet), but also putatively mentally sane countries such as Germany, Czechia, Slovakia, Denmark. The case of Germany is particularly amazing, because Germany will now be placed under immense pressure to cancel North Stream 2, something which the entire German industry opposes. Eventually, the US, Canada, the Ukraine, the UK and the entire EU joined in and also refused to recognize Lukashenko as the leader of Belarus.

What is especially amazing to me is that these EU imbeciles apparently don’t care that without North Stream 2 they will have to purchase US gas, at much higher prices, which will make the EU economy less effective than the US one. And I thought that prostitutes are always acutely aware of the money they can make: not the European ones, apparently.

Still, I think that the “top honor” in this category goes to Poland which, while condemning some undefined Russian intervention in Belarus, runs the NEXTA Telegram channel which runs videos like this one: (in Russian – no, not in Belarusian, they know that 99.9999% Belarussians speak Russian):

Oh, but it gets better.

NATO seems to be trying to frighten Russia with maneuvers in Poland and B-52 flights over the Ukraine and the Black Sea (see here for a full analysis). As for the Poles and Ukronazis, they apparently believe that the Russian bear covered himself in poop and ran away at full speed.

What I am going to say next is not a secret, every military person who looked into this issue knows and understands this: NATO, and I mean the combined power of all NATO member states, simply does not have the hardware needed to wage a war against Russia in Europe. What NATO does have is only sufficient to trigger a serious incident which might result in a shooting war. But once this war starts, the chances of victory for NATO are exactly zero. Why?

Well, for one thing, while coalitions of countries might give a thin veneer of political legitimacy to a military action (in reality, only a UNSC resolution would), in purely military terms you are much better off having a single national military. Not only that, but coalitions are nothing but the expression of an often held delusion: the delusion that the little guy can hide behind the back of the big guy. Poland’s entire history can be summarized in this simple principle: strike the weak and bootlick (or even worse!) the powerful. In contrast, real military powers don’t count on some other guy doing the heavy lifting for them. They simply fight until they win.

Yes, the Europeans, being the cowards that they are, do believe that there is safety in numbers. But each time these midgets gang up on Russia and start barking (or, to use Putin’s expression, start oinking) all together, the Russians clearly see that the Europeans are afraid. Otherwise, they would not constantly seek somebody to protect them (even against a non-existing threat).

As a direct result of this delusion, NATO simply does not have the equivalent of the First Guard Tank Army in spite of the fact that NATO has a bigger population and much bigger budgets than Russia. Such a tank Army is what it would take to fight a real war in Europe, Russia has such an Army. NATO does not.

The other thing NATO does not have is a real integrated multi-layered air defense system. Russia does.

Lastly, NATO has no hypersonic weapons. Russia does.

(According to President Trump, the US does have super-dooper “hydrosonic” weapons, but nobody really knows what that is supposed to mean).

I would even argue that the comparatively smaller Belarusian military could make hamburger meat of the roughly three times larger Polish armed forces in a very short time (unlike the Poles, the Belarusian are excellent soldiers and they know that they are surrounded by hostile countries on three sides).

As for the “armed forces” of the Baltic statelets, they are just a sad joke.

One more example: the Empire is now sending ships into the Black Sea as some kind of “show of force”. Yet, every military analyst out there knows that the Black Sea is a “Russian lake” and that no matter how many ships the US or NATO sends into the Black Sea, their life expectancy in case of a conflict would be measured in minutes.

There is a popular expression in Russia which, I submit, beautifully sums up the current US/NATO doctrine: пугать ежа голой задницей, which can be translated as “trying to scare a hedgehog with your naked bottom”.

The truth is that NATO military forces currently are all in very bad shape – all of them, including the US – and that their only advantage over Russia is in numbers. But as soon as you factor in training, command and control, the ability to operate with severely degraded C3I capabilities, the average age of military hardware or morale – the Russian armed forces are far ahead of the West.

Does anybody sincerely believe that a few B-52s and a few thousand soldiers from different countries playing war in Poland will really scare the Russian generals?

But if not – why the threats?

My explanation is simple: the rulers of the Empire simply hope that the people in the West will never find out how bad their current military posture really is, and they also know that Russia will never attack first – so they simply pretend like they are still big, mighty and relevant. This is made even easier by the fact that the Russians always downplay their real capabilities (in sharp contrast to the West which always brags about “the best XYZ in the world”). That, and the fact that nobody in the Western ruling classes wants to admit that the game is over and that the Empire has collapsed.

Well, they apparently can hide these truisms from most of their public opinion: Trump promises super-dooper missiles and big red buttons, and his supporters immediately wave (Chinese made) US flags! But I assure you that the Russians (political leaders and even the general public) know what the real score is.

Yet the Empire still refuses to deal with Russia in any other way except insults, bullying, threats, accusations, sanctions, and constant sabre-rattling. This has never, and I mean never, worked in the past, and it won’t work in the future. But, apparently, NATO generals simply cannot comprehend that insanity can be defined as “doing the same thing over and over again, while hoping to achieve different results”.

Finally, I will conclude with a short mention of US politicians.

First, Trump. He now declares that the Russians stole the secret of hypersonic weapons from Obama. This reminds me of how the Brits declared that Russia stole their vaccine against the sars-cov-2 virus. But, if the Russians stole all that, why is it that ONLY Russia has deployed hypersonic weapons (not the US) and ONLY Russia has both two vaccines and 2 actual treatments (and not the UK)? For a good laugh, check out Andrei Martyanov’s great column “Russia Steal Everything”.

And then there is Nancy Pelosi who, apparently, is considering, yes, you guessed it – yet another impeachment attempt against Trump? The charge this time? Exercising this Presidential prerogative to nominate a successor to Ruth Ginsburg. Okay, Pelosi might be senile, but she also is in deep denial if she thinks impeaching Trump is still a viable project. Frankly? I think that she lost it.

In fact, I think that all the Dems have gone absolutely insane: they are now considering packing both the Supreme Court and the Senate. The fact that doing so will destroy the US political system does not seem to bother them in the least.

Conclusion: quos Deus vult perdere prius dementat!

We live in a world where facts or logic have simply become irrelevant and nobody cares about such clearly outdated categories. We have elevated “doubleplusgoodthinking” into an art form. We have also done away with the concepts of “proof” or “evidence” which we have replaced with variations on the “highly likely” theme. We have also, for all practical purpose, jettisoned the entire corpus of international law and replaced it with “rules-based international order“. In fact, I can only agree with Chris Hedges who, in his superb book the “Empire of illusions” and of the “triumph of spectacle”. He is absolutely correct: not only is this a triumph of appearance over substance, and of ideology over reality, it is even the triumph of self-destruction over self-preservation.

There is not big “master plan”, no complex international conspiracy, no 5D chess. All we have is yet another empire committing suicide and, like so many before this one, this suicide is executed by this empire’s ruling classes.

هل اقتربت الحرب النهائية في سورية؟

د. وفيق إبراهيم

تتراجع الموانع التي كانت تحول دون فتح معارك واسعة لطرد الأميركيين من شرقي الفرات والأتراك من منطقة ادلب.

هذا استنتاج روسي أطلقه وزير خارجيتهم لافروف الذي أعلن أن المعارضة السورية التقليدية انتهت ولم يبق إلا هيئة تحرير الشام وريثة منظمة القاعدة في ادلب المدعومة من قوات تركية منتشرة فيها، مضيفاً ان الاميركيين في شرق الفرات يحتلون المنطقة بالتعاون مع انفصاليين أكراد وتسرق شركاتهم الاميركية النفط السوري.

هناك اذاً تحولٌ عميقٌ في الموقف الروسي الذي يحدد للمرة الأولى ضرورة العمل على تحرير شرقي الفرات وطرد الهيئات الإرهابية من مناطق النفوذ التركي.

ولتجميل موقفه قال إن الاتراك يعملون على تضييق الرقعة التي يسيطر عليها الإرهاب في ادلب.

لماذا هذه الاندفاعة الروسية المفاجئة؟

يعتقد البعض أنها ردة فعل على التدخلات الاميركية الخطيرة في بيلاروسيا التي تستهدف النفوذ الروسي فيها بالإضافة الى الضغوط الأميركية على المانيا واوكرانيا وتركيا لإلغاء الخطوط التي تنقل الغاز الروسي الى اوروبا.

يمكن إضافة التحركات الاميركية العنيفة لإسقاط الرئيس الفنزويلي مادورو صديق الروس والصينيين.

قد تكون هذه الأسباب راسخة في العقل الروسي، لكنها ليست عناصر وحيدة تحكم المعطيات الحقيقية.

لذلك تجب العودة الى مركزية الأسباب المتعلقة بأمرين: انهيار المعارضات الداخلية السورية واستمرار الاحتلالين التركي والاميركي.

الى جانب حصار اقتصادي اميركي يقفل حدود سورية مع الأردن والعراق ويعمل على إقفالها نهائياً من جهة لبنان، خصوصاً أن معلومات فرنسية كشفت عن سرقة مصرفية مشبوهة أخلت فيها بنوك لبنانية ودائع سورية قيمتها أربعون مليار دولار تقريباً كان رجال أعمال سوريون يستخدمونها لاستيراد بضائع للزوم الأسواق السورية عبر حدود لبنان.

بما يعني أن هذا الحصار الأميركي للبنان وسورية يريد خنق البلدين معاً.

ولا يمكن ايقافه إلا بإلغاء الدور الاحتلالي الأميركي في شرق سورية وذلك لإلغاء المشروع الانفصالي الكردي وتحرير آبار النفط والغاز لإعادة استخدامها في تلبية الاستهلاك السوري الداخلي الذي يتعرّض حالياً لأزمة وقود كبيرة هي جزء كبير من ازمة اقتصادية عامة تدفع بسورية الى مزيد من الفقر.

هذا الى جانب اقتراب موسم الشتاء الذي يستهلك فيه السوريون عادة كميات أكبر من الطاقة.

أما الأسباب الأكثر عمقاً فلها علاقة بإصرار الدولة السورية على تحرير كامل أراضيها المحتلة، انسجاماً مع وطنيّتها وتطبيقاً للقانون الدولي الذي يعتبر أي قوة عسكرية تتموضع في أراضي بلد آخر غير دولتها ومن دون موافقة اصحاب السيادة هي قوة احتلال، يمكن التعامل معها بالقوة المسلحة.

الموضوع اذاً ليس موضوع قوانين دولية ينتهكها الأميركيون بشكل دائم منذ خروجهم الى ملعب المنافسات الدولية بعد انتصارهم في الحرب العالمية الثانية في 1945.

إنها مسألة موازين قوى تدفع مَن يحوز عليها الى تحصيل حقوقه. هذا في حالة سورية، او الاعتداء على الآخرين وفق النموذج الاميركي والتركي.

وفقاً لهذا المعطى المثبت بالأسانيد التاريخية، تستشعر الدولة السورية والحليف الروسي والصديق الايراني ان انتهاء المعارضات السورية الداخلية هو التوقيت الدقيق للبدء بالتعامل مع آخر المعوقات التي لا تزال تعرقل سيادة سورية على كامل أراضيها واستعادتها للموقع الداخلي والإقليمي والازدهار الاقتصادي.

ما يجب التأكيد عليه بعد هذه القراءة ان تصريح لافروف هو نتيجة مشاورات مع الرئيس الأسد وقيادته استناداً الى تغيير في موازين القوى الداخلية لمصلحة حلف الدولة السورية.

لجهة هذه الموازين، يكفي أن هناك تمرداً من أبناء شرق الفرات على الحلف الأميركي – الكردي يتطوّر بسرعة نحو التحالف مع الدولة السورية على الرغم من محاولات سعودية – إماراتية لإعادة جذب العشائر السورية في الشرق لحضن الأميركيين وبالتعاون مع قوات قسد الكردية الانفصالية.

كما أن أبناء ادلب وشريط الحدود السورية مع تركيا يعلنون سخطهم من الدور التركي الذي يصفونه بشبيه الاحتلالات الأميركية والتركية.

هل تندلع الحرب السورية على الأميركيين والأتراك في وقت قريب؟

الظروف أصبحت ناضجة إلا أن الواضح ان الروس يعوّلون على علاقاتهم بالأتراك لإقناعهم بالانسحاب من ادلب ويعتقدون ان انطلاق المقاومة الشعبية السورية في شرقي الفرات بالتنسيق مع الجيش العربي السوري هو الفيصل في إقناع التركي بالتراجع الى أراضيه من دون أي تسويات لا يزال يصرّ عليها بين الدولة السورية والاخوان المسلمين.

تشير هذه المعطيات الى أن الازمة السورية تدخل الحروب الأخيرة من معارك تحرير سورية واستعادتها لسيادتها من جهة ودورها الإقليمي في كبح مسلسل التطبيع من جهة ثانية وتحالفاتها العربية والإقليمية والدولية التي تعمل على إسقاط النظام الأحادي القطبي الاميركي لمصلحة عالم أكثر أماناً واستقراراً.

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Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) Statement About the Situation in Belarus

Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) Statement About the Situation in Belarus

September 19, 2020

SVR RF Press Bureau – September 16, 2020

(Italics and bolding added for emphasis.)

The Director of the Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation, Sergey Naryshkin stated:

“The events in Belarus show clearly visible Western traces. The protest actions from the very beginning carry a well organized character and is coordinated from abroad.

It’s remarkable that the West began preparing the protests long before the elections. In 2019 – early 2020 alone, the United States allocated about $20 million through various NGOs to organize anti-government protests. This money was used to form a network of ‘independent bloggers’ and informational accounts in social networks, to prepare activists for street actions. The most promising of them were trained abroad, in particular in Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine, where they were trained by experienced American instructors in ‘non-violent protest’.

According to information available to the SVR, the United States plays a key role in the current events in Belarus. Although Washington is trying to stay ‘in the shadows’ in the public space, after the start of mass street protests, the Americans have multiplied their funding of Belarusian anti-government forces. Its volumes are estimated in tens of millions of dollars. The United States has taken under close guardianship the former presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya and other opposition activists who are being promoted as ‘people’s leaders’ and future leaders of ‘democratic Belarus’.

In our contacts with European allies, Washington insists on the need to increase pressure on Minsk to induce the legitimate leadership of Belarus to launch a dialogue with the so-called Coordination Council on the ‘transfer of power’. In fact, we are talking about a poorly veiled attempt to organize another ‘color revolution’ and an anti-constitutional coup, the goals and objectives of which have nothing to do with the interests of Belarusian citizens.”

S.N. Ivanov

Head of the SVR Press Bureau

Meddling in Belarus’s affairs via UN inadmissible, help only at Minsk’s request – Moscow

By Newsdesk -2020-09-19

Vladimir Putin and Lukashenko at the Kremlin

Third countries should refrain from soliciting interference in Belarus’ internal affairs via the United Nations and other tools unless asked for assistance by Minsk itself, Pyotr Ilyichev, the head of the Department of International Organizations at the Russian Foreign Ministry, told Sputnik on Saturday.

“Unfortunately, in the context of Belarus, we see a familiar picture: Western countries, trampling on the fundamental principles of the UN Charter, are trying to use the post-electoral situation [in Belarus] to promote their own narrow interests,” Ilyichev said.

In doing so, the diplomat said third countries were using “habitual instruments, including illegal unilateral sanctions.”

“For our part, we consistently emphasize the unacceptability of interference in Belarus’ internal affairs, including with the use of the UN ‘platform,’” Ilyichev said.

“It is fundamentally important that the Belarusian people resolve their internal political issues independently, without external pressure. Any international assistance to Minsk should be provided exclusively at its request,” the diplomat said.

According to Ilyichev, Moscow regularly informs its foreign partners on these stances.

Mass protests in Belarus have been ongoing for over a month now. People took to the streets in Minsk and other big cities following the August 9 presidential election, according to which incumbent Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko collected over 80 percent of the vote.

Police cracked down on protesters during the first several days of the unrest, but have since halted the excessive use of force. More than 6,700 people were detained during the initial phase of the protest. According to the Belarusian Interior Ministry, three people died and several hundred others sustained injuries during that period, including more than 130 security officers.

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The European Union is currently putting together a list of individuals believed to be responsible for electoral fraud and violence against pro-opposition protesters in Belarus.

Source: Sputnik

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

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

September 18, 2020

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sergey Lavrov: Not all of them.

Question: Can you tell us more about this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QuestionLibya, Syria. We stood for Syria.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QuestionBut they tried to revise it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Question: Microcredits.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

من القوقاز إلى المحيط الهنديّ ثلاثيّة ما بعد الدولار…!

محمد صادق الحسينيّ

يواصل المفكرون والباحثون والسياسيون والديبلوماسيون والإعلاميون نقاشاتهم وتحليلاتهم، حول طبيعة العلاقات القائمة بين كل من جمهورية الصين الشعبية من جهة وروسيا من جهة أخرى وحول طبيعة العلاقات بين كل من الصين وروسيا وإيران، الى جانب التركيز الإعلامي والاستخباري المتزايد، حول طبيعة العلاقات الروسية الإيرانية والعلاقات السورية الإيرانية.

وبغضّ النظر عن وجهات النظر المختلفة، الصادرة عن العديد من أصحاب الرأي، فإنّ هنالك أسباباً موضوعية، تحكم تلك العلاقات المذكورة أعلاه، تفرضها طبيعة الصراع بين القوى العظمى في العالم، وليست محكومة بمزاجات او نزوات شخصية او ما شابة ذلك.

إذ إنّ الناظم الموضوعي الثابت لهذه العلاقات، يتمثل في المصالح القوميّة العليا لكلّ من البلدان، التي تدور حول علاقاتها كل هذه النقاشات. وهي مصالح محكومة بطبيعة العلاقات السائدة، بين كلّ من هذه الدول والولايات المتحدة والدول الأوروبية، في إطار الصراع الدولي الشامل وسعي كلّ طرف من الاطراف ان تكون له اليد العليا في العالم ليتصدر قيادته، بناءً على موازين القوى التي يفرزها هذا الصراع.

وبما ان جوهر هذا الصراع يتمحور حول انهاء السيطرة الأميركية الاحادية القطبية على العالم فإن كل القوى التي تعارض هذه الهيمنة الأميركية لا بد ان تلتقي مصالحها عند نقطة مشتركة، تجعل التعاون بينها اقتصادياً وسياسياً وعسكرياً، أمراً حتمياً لا غنى عنه.

إن نظرة مجردة، وغير خاضعة للأهواء الشخصية، للعلاقات التي تربط الدول التي تعمل على التصدي للهيمنة الأميركية، وهي بشكل اساسي وقوي كلٌّ من الصين الشعبية وروسيا وإيران، يضاف اليها العديد من الدول الإقليمية المهمة في آسيا، وكذلك الأمر بالنسبة للجزائر وجنوب افريقيا، في القارة الأفريقية، كما المكسيك وفنزويلا وقريباً البرازيل، بعد سقوط حكم بولسونارو، نقول إن نظرة الى هذه العلاقات تجعلنا نصل بالضرورة الى النتائج التالية:

أولاً: إن الاستراتيجية التي تنطلق منها هذه الدول، في مواجهتها لهيمنة الولايات المتحدة، هي استراتيجية موحدة او مشتركة او حتى يمكن القول إنها واحدةً، رغم التمايز في سياساتها، والذي يلاحظ في معالجتها لبعض قضايا العالم، أي لقضايا دولية، خارج إطار علاقة كل واحدة من هذه الدول مع الدولة او الأخرى.

ثانياً: وهذا يعني أن الدول الثلاث أعلاه هي دول متحالفة حول الاهداف، اي حول برنامج عمل محدّد ومتفق عليه، على الرغم من عدم وجود حلف يجمعها، وعدم ارتقاء المعاهدات الدولية، التي تجمع هذه الدول مع دول أخرى في العالم، كمعاهدة شنغهاي وغيرها، وهو الامر الذي يضفي مرونة كبيرة، على علاقات هذه الدول البينية وعلاقاتها مع دول أخرى. وهنا يحضرنا ذكر العلاقات، التي تربط روسيا بسورية وروسيا بـ”إسرائيل”، وكذلك علاقات الصين مع كل من سورية و”إسرائيل”، على الرغم من أن الآفاق الأوسع، لتطوير علاقات الصين وروسيا في “الشرق الاوسط “، توجد في البلدان العربية وليس في “إسرائيل”، وعليه فإن هذه العلاقات المتميّزة، بين القوتين العظميين والكيان الصهيوني، ليست الا علاقات مؤقتة سوف تتلاشى تزامناً مع تلاشي كيان الاحتلال.

ثالثاً: من هنا فانّ هذه الدول، ومنذ بداية تطوير العلاقات الروسية الصينية بشكل حيوي، بعد انتهاء الحرب الباردة، وبداية الحروب العسكرية الأميركية، في الفضاء الاستراتيجيّ للدول الثلاث، والتي بدأت بالحرب الأميركية على العراق سنة 1991، ثم احتلال افغانستان سنة 2001 واحتلال الجيوش الأميركية والبريطانية للعراق سنة 2003، وما تبعها من حرب أميركية اسرائيلية، ضد الحليف الموضوعي لتلك الدول، أي حزب الله، سنة 2006، وما تلاه من محاولة أميركية إسرائيلية لزعزعة الوضع على حدود روسيا الجنوبية، سنة 2008 في جورجيا، نقول إن الدول الثلاث وبالنظر الى ما اوردناه، وغير ذلك من الأسباب، فقد قررت اتباع استراتيجية تجميع وتوحيد القوى، المعادية للهيمنة الأميركية كأولوية دولية، وزجها موحدة في ميدان الصراع الدولي، بهدف الحدّ من السيطرة الأميركية شيئاً فشيئاً وإرغامها على تقليص انتشارها العسكري في العالم.

رابعاً: أن هذه السياسة، التي تجلت في التعاون الاقتصادي الواسع النطاق، بين روسيا والصين، خاصة في مجال الطاقة، وكذلك التعاون العسكري التقني بين الدولتين، الذي يساعد في مراكمة القوة الاقتصادية والعسكرية الضرورية، لخلق توازن دولي جديد، وكذلك الأمر في ما يخص العلاقات الروسية الإيرانية، التي تشمل العديد من القطاعات الهامة، والتي ستشهد تطورات متلاحقة وتعميقاً عاماً لها، بعد رفع حظر بيع وشراء السلاح المفروض على إيران وفشل الولايات المتحدة في تمديده. وكذلك الأمر بالنسبة للعلاقات الصينية الإيرانية التي شهدت تحسنًا ونمواً مضطرداً، رغم الحصار المفروض على إيران أميركياً، وهو تعاون سيفضي قريباً جداً الى توقيع اتفاقيات تعاون استراتيجي، سيكون له ما بعده (التعاون).

خامساً: كما لا بد من التأكيد على أن أحد أهم مجالات تطبيق هذه الثلاثية الأبعاد، الصينية الروسية الإيرانية، هو مجال الادوار التي لعبتها الدول الثلاث، سياسياً وعسكرياً، ليس فقط في حماية الدولة السورية، وبالتالي المنطقة العربية كلها، من التمزيق الشامل، وإنما أسّست لحضور عسكري استراتيجي روسي في شرق المتوسط يشكل خط دفاع أول عن بكين وموسكو ولا يستبعد أن يكون له دور عام في حماية مصالح الدول الثلاث في المنطقة والعالم، خاصة بالنظر الى مشروع طريق واحد حزام واحد الصيني العملاق، الذي لن تستطيع الولايات المتحدة منع تنفيذه مهما قامت بأعمال تفجير هنا وهناك، سواءً في البر او في البحر.

كما لا بدّ ايضاً من الاضاءة على أهمية التعاون السوري العراقي، مع كلّ من روسيا والصين وإيران، لما لذلك من أهمية على مشاريع إعادة الإعمار في العراق وسورية، وكذلك الأمر في قطاع خطوط نقل الغاز، التي لا بدّ أن تكون السواحل والموانئ السورية واللبنانية، رغم تفجير ميناء بيروت مرتين خلال شهر واحد تقريباً، هي محطات ضخ الغاز إلى اوروبا وليس ميناء حيفا المحتلّ، على الرغم من انّ شركة صينية هي التي تدير الميناء. اذ انّ كلّ مشاريع الغاز التي تتحدّث عنها الإدارة الأميركية والاحتلال الإسرائيلي هي مشاريع هدامة، تهدف قبل كل شيء الى إلحاق أضرار استراتيجية بصادرات الغاز الروسية، وبالتالي بالمداخيل المالية للدولة الروسية، خدمة لمشاريع واشنطن، الهادفة لإخضاع روسيا والصين لهيمنتها، سواءً من خلال الضغط العسكريّ أو الضغوط المالية والاقتصادية، عبر العقوبات والادوات الأخرى.

سادساً: وبالاضافة الى ذلك فانّ من الجدير بالذكر انّ تعاون هذه الدول الثلاث، الصين وروسيا وإيران، في كلّ المجالات، وعلى رأسها المجال العسكري، يواصل التنامي ومراكمة القوة اللازمة لمواجهة مؤامرات وتحرّشات الولايات المتحدة وحلف الناتو، سواء ضدّ الصين، في المحيطين الهندي والهادئ وبحار الصين واليابان والفلبين المختلفة، او ضدّ إيران، في بحر العرب ومنطقة الخليج وغرب المحيط الهندي، او ضدّ روسيا، في المحيط الهادئ والبحر الأسود وبحر البلطيق.

حيث قامت الدول الثلاث أعلاه بالردّ على تلك التحرّشات والاستفزازات الأميركية بإجراء تدريبات عسكرية بحرية مشتركة، في بحر العرب وغرب المحيط الهندي، استمرت لمدة ثلاثة ايام، من 27/12 وحتى 30/12/2019. وهي مناورات حملت العديد من الرسائل الهامة، لمن يعنيه الأمر، واظهرت ان إيران أصبحت قادرة على تنفيذ مهمات بحرية خارج محيطها الجغرافي، اذ انّ منطقة المناورات شملت شمال المحيط الهندي ايضاً، البعيد جغرافياً عن إيران، الأمر الذي يؤكد (القدرة الإيرانية) في تحدي للولايات المتحدة وإرسال ناقلات النفط الإيرانية الى فنزويلا، التي تبعد آلاف الكيلومترات عن السواحل الإيرانية مثال صارخ على ذلك.

علماً أنّ نجاح هذه الخطوة يُعتبر نجاحاً للدول الثلاث، خاصة اذا ما نظرنا الية كعملية مكملة للجسرين الجوي الصيني والروسي، اللذين أقيما لتقديم المساعدات لفنزويلا بداية العام الحالي، الى جانب التحليق القتالي الذي نفذته القاذفات الروسية العملاقة، من طراز توبوليڤ 160، في أجواء البحر الكاريبي والعديد من دول هذا البحر، أواسط شهر 12/2019، وما حملته تلك التحليقات الاستراتيجية من رسائل واضحة لواشنطن.

سابعاً: بالنظر الى استمرار التآمر والعبث الأميركي الغربي بأمن الصين، في بحار الصين والمحيط الهادئ وشرق المحيط الهندي (منطقة مضيق مالَقا) وكذلك العبث بالأمن الإيراني وامن منطقة الخليج بأكملها، من خلال مواصلة الحرب على اليمن ومحاولات إقامة حلف امني عسكري خليجي إسرائيلي، موجّه ضدّ إيران، حسب ما اعلن وزير الخارجية الأميركي، وما تقوم به أسلحة الجو للولايات المتحدة وجميع دول حلف الناتو، من محاولات انتهاك الأجواء الروسية، سواء على الجبهة الجنوبية، اي في منطقة البحر الأسود، او في بحر البلطيق وبحر بارينتس وشمال المحيط الهادئ، عند الحدود الروسية الجنوبية مع الصين واليابان، نقول إنه وبالنظر الى كلّ هذه الاستفزازات، مضاف اليها استمرار واشنطن وبروكسل في تعزيز حشود الناتو على حدود روسيا الشمالية الغربية، منطقة لينينغراد التي أصبحت في مرمى مدفعية قوات الناتو، وكذلك المحاولات اليائسة، التي تقوم بها واشنطن وبروكسل، لإسقاط الدولة في روسيا البيضاء والسيطرة على أراضيها رفعاً لمستوى التهديد الغربي للدولة الروسية، فإن كلاً من: روسيا والصين وإيران، الى جانب روسيا البيضاء وباكستان ودول أخرى عديدة، قرّرت اجراء تدريبات عسكرية مشتركة (تحت عنوان القوقاز 2020)، في جنوب غرب روسيا، تستمرّ من 21 وحتى 26 من شهر ايلول الحالي، وذلك في إطار الاستعدادات المشتركة لمواجهة أية اخطار عدوانية تواجه الدول المشاركة في التدريب.

ثامناً: وفي الختام لا بدّ من الإشارة الى انّ مراكمة القدرات، الاقتصادية والسياسية والعسكرية، لمواجهة العدوان الأميركي، قد جاءت نتيجة لثلاثين لقاء، بين الرئيسين الصيني والروسي، والعديد من اللقاءات بين الرئيسين الروسي والإيراني، كما أنها تشكل جزءاً من الردّ على الاستفزازات الجوية الأميركية الأوروبية، في أجواء البحر الاسود بشكل خاص، حيث اضطرت المقاتلات الروسية للتصدي لطائرات استطلاع وقاذفات استراتيجية أميركية أكثر من ثلاثين مرة، خلال شهر آب الماضي.

وهو الأمر الذي جعل إيران ايضاً تنفذ تمريناً عسكرياً بحرياً اطلقت علية اسم: ذو الفقار، بمساندة سلاح الجو والدفاع الجوي وقوات الانزال البحري وسلاح الصواريخ، في منطقة تمتد من بحر العرب وخليج هرمز وحتى غرب المحيط الهندي وتبلغ مساحتها مليوني كيلومتر مربع مستمرة حتى يومنا هذا، حيث تصدّت خلالها الدفاعات الجوية الإيرانية لثلاث طائرات استطلاع أميركية، الأولى من طراز P – 8، أما الثانية فهي مسيّرة من طراز غلوبال هوك MQ – 9، بينما الثالثة مسيّرة ايضاً ومن طراز RQ – 4، حيث كانت هذه الطائرات قد دخلت منطقة الاستطلاع الدفاعي الإيراني، مما اضطر طائرة إيرانية من طراز كرار أن تطلق طلقات تحذيرية باتجاه الطائرات الأميركية التي اضطرت الى مغادرة المنطقة.

وغنيّ عن القول طبعاً انّ في ذلك رسالة واضحة من إيران مفادها، انّ امن المنطقة الإقليمي، الممتدّ من سواحل إيران الجنوبية وبحر العرب وصولاً الى خط بحر قزوين/ البحر الأسود، هي من مسؤوليات دول المنطقة، ولا علاقة لا للولايات المتحدة ولا لدول الناتو بهذا الموضوع، على الرغم من انتشار قواعدها العسكرية على السواحل الغربية للبحر الاسود، في كل من بلغاريا ورومانيا وبعض الوجود العسكري في اوكرانيا.

اذن فهو تعاون ميداني مشترك، ذلك القائم بين الصين وروسيا وإيران، على الرغم من عدم وجود قاعدة عقائدية مشتركة، وهو ما يجعله تعاوناً يرتقي الى مستوى الحلف من دون ان يكون حلفاً ملزماً لكلّ اعضائه بكلّ السياسات والتفاصيل بالضرورة، كما هو حال حلف الناتو حالياً وحلف وارسو سابقاً، وهو الأمر الذي يمكن اعتباره تجديداً في العلاقات الدبلوماسية الدولية، ولكنه يتطابق تماماً مع احكام القانون الدولي، الذي ينظم العلاقات بين الدول.

وهذا ما جعل الكاتب الأميركي، دووغ باندو ينشر مقالاً، في مجلة ذي ناشيونال انتريست الأميركية، يوم 9/9/2020، تحت عنوان: لماذا يجب على أميركا الخوف من هذا الحلف؟

صحيح أن للخوف الأميركي هذا ما يبرره حالياً، لكن الصحيح ايضاً أن لا مبرر له، اذا ما اقتنعت الولايات المتحدة بان التطور الاقتصادي الصيني لن يوقفه لا الخوف الأميركي ولا المخططات العسكرية العدوانية للبنتاغون، وان الطريقة الوحيدة لقتل الخوف الأميركي، هي الرضوخ لمبدأ التعاون البناء مع الصين وروسيا وإيران إذا ما ارادت اثبات حسن نيتها في العلاقات الدولية، والاقتداء بنموذج هذه الدول في التطوير العلمي والتكنولوجي، اذ ان الصين هي الدولة الاولى في ألعالم من ناحية الاستثمار في البحث العلمي والتطوير التكنولوجي، وهي ايضاً الدولة التي يتخرج من جامعاتها سبعة ملايين مهندس، في مختلف الاختصاصات الهندسيّة بما فيها هندسة الكمبيوتر، وما يعنيه ذلك من اثراء لقدرات الدولة، على مختلف الصعد. وهذا ما ينطبق على كل من روسيا وإيران تماماً، ما يجعل المواجهة الاستراتيجية الدولية محسومة النتائج، لصالح التجمع المعادي للهيمنة الأميركيه، ولا مجال لإعادة عقارب الساعة الى الوراء، ولن تنفع اوهام ترامب، التي اعلن عنها يوم أمس، قائلاً ان لديه صواريخ لا يمتلك أحد مثلها…!

فليست بالصواريخ وحدها تعيش الأمم.

فهذا القرن هو قرن الحروب البيولوجيّة وعليك مواجهة الكورونا والقادم من الأوبئة وتنقذ الشعب الأميركي من صواريخك العبثية، قبل أن تتباهى بصواريخ لا وجود لها.

عالم جيوش اليانكي والكاوبوي يتقهقر، عالم ما بعد الدولار يتقدّم وينهض.

بعدنا طيبين قولوا الله…

لوكاشينكو يكشف عن نصائح بوتين له وبيسكوف يستبعد تكرار السيناريو البيلاروسي في بلاده

البناء

كشف رئيس بيلاروس، ألكسندر لوكاشينكو عن الرسالة التي بعثها من خلال ظهوره أمام عدسات وسائل الإعلام مسلحاً ببندقية حربية، على خلفية موجة الاضطرابات الاجتماعية التي تمر بها بلاده.

وجاء ذلك في معرض تعليق لوكاشينكو، في حوار مع ممثلين عن وسائل الإعلام الروسية في مينسك، على شريط الفيديو المدوي الذي يظهره وهو يحلق على متن مروحية فوق مينسك ويخرج منها لدى هبوطها أمام قصر الاستقلال (المقر الرئاسي) حاملا بندقية كلاشنيكوف.

Might Belarus become the next Syria?
Might Belarus become the next Syria?

وأوضح لوكاشينكو أنه «قام بتلك الرحلة على متن المروحية الرئاسية بغية الاطلاع على واقع الوضع على الأرض، فيما كان المحتجون المعارضون يتقدمون لأول مرة نحو قصر الاستقلال».

وتابع: «أظهرت أن أطفالي هنا ووطني هنا وسأدافع عنه بأي ثمن».

وأشار الرئيس إلى أن «مسؤولين في إدارته حاولوا إقناعه بعدم مغادرة المقر الرئاسي في ذلك اليوم»، قائلاً: «كانوا يمسكون يدي وقدمي».

كما كشف لوكاشينكو، عن حديثه مع الرئيس الروسي فلاديمير بوتين، حول دعم رئيس أوكرانيا فلاديمير زيلينسكي.

وقال لوكاشينكو، رداً عن سؤال حول موافقة بوتين بأن يدعم رئيس أوكرانيا: «نعم (دعمني) في العديد من القضايا… (وقال بوتين) تحدث إليه بطريقة أبوية، إنه شاب… وقلت له حسناً، لقد تحدثت إليه، خلال مشاركتي في منتدى هناك، وأوضحت له (لزيلينسكي) أن بوتين ليس هدفه الاستيلاء على كييف… والسيطرة على كل شرق أوكرانيا».

وتابع لوكاشينكو، «بوتين تكفيه روسيا… وناقشنا العديد من القضايا الحياتية وحاولت إقناعه (زيلينسكي)، وهو شخص متفهم وعاملني بشكل جيد».

وحذر الرئيس البيلاروسي، من انهيار بلاده، منوهاً بأن» روسيا ستكون التالية إذا حدث ذلك»، قائلاً: «هل تعلمون إلى ماذا توصلنا مع المؤسسات والقيادة الروسية؟ إذا انهارت بيلاروس اليوم، فالتالية ستكون روسيا».

بدوره، علق المتحدث باسم الرئاسة الروسية، دميتري بيسكوف، على تصريحات لوكاشينكو، عن إمكانية تكرار الاضطرابات التي تشهدها بلاده في روسيا.

وقال بيسكوف للصحافيين، أمس: «لا أعتقد أن المقارنة ممكنة في هذا الشأن، إذ نحن بلدان مختلفان ودولتان سياديتان، وإن كنا متحدين ضمن الدولة الاتحادية التي نثمّنها كثيراً. فلكل منهما ما يميزه من الثقافة السياسية والواقع السياسي والتوجهات السياسية. لذا فيبدو لي أن من غير الصواب إطلاق أي تعميمات في هذا الشأن».

وأشار المتحدث باسم الكرملين إلى أن «روسيا تحترم بالكامل الثقافة السياسية البيلاروسية، على الرغم من هذه الاختلافات».

وفي تعليقه على تقارير عن اختفاء بعض النشطاء المعارضين في بيلاروس، وخاصة قياديين بمجلس التنسيق التابع للمعارضة هناك، قال بيسكوف: «بالتأكيد يمثل اختفاء أشخاص ما أمراً مثيراً للقلق.. وبالطبع نعوّل على أنه سيتم تقديم معلومات معينة (حول هذه الحوادث) في مواعيد محددة وفقا للقانون».

فيما قالت المحامية لودميلا كازاك إن «عضو هيئة رئاسة مجلس التنسيق المعارض في بيلاروسيا، ماريا كوليسنيكوفا، موقوفة بالاشتباه بها في قضية محاولة الاستيلاء على السلطة». وأصبحت كوليسنيكوفا من أول قادة المجلس بهذا الوضع.

ورداً على سؤال توضيحي، أضافت كازاك أن كولسنيكوفا مشتبه بها في ما يسمى «قضية مجلس التنسيق»، والتي بدأت بموجب المادة الخاصة بمحاولة الاستيلاء على السلطة.

وألقي القبض، أول أمس الثلاثاء، على عضو هيئة رئاسة المجلس التنسيقي للمعارضة البيلاروسية، ماريا كوليسنيكوفا، على الحدود مع أوكرانيا، والبحث جار عن ممثلين آخرين في المجلس، وهما إيفان كرافتسوف، وأنتون رودنينكوف، بالتعاون مع كييف.

ووفقاً لوكالة الأنباء التلفزيونية الأوكرانية: «اجتاز الهاربون نقاط التفتيش الحدودية والجمارك وعند تفتيش السيارة فقدوا أعصابهم، وانطلقوا بسرعة في اتجاه أوكرانيا حيث كادوا يصدمون أحد عناصر حرس الحدود، وفي الوقت نفسه دفعوا بـ كوليسنيكوفا من السيارة».

من جانبها أكدت لجنة حدود الدولة البيلاروسية، في وقت سابق، أن «الأشخاص الثلاثة تم تسجيلهم عند نقطة التفتيش وتوجهوا نحو أوكرانيا نتيجة لذلك تمكن أنطون رودنينكوف وإيفان كرافتسوف من الهرب، ولم تستطع كوليسنيكوفا فعل ذلك، وتم اعتقالها على الحدود مباشرة، والآن البحث جار عن الهاربين مع الجانب الأوكراني».

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US/NATO Preparing for War on Russia? Six Military Exercises at Russia’s Doorstep

By Stephen Lendman

Global Research, September 07, 2020

Wars by hot and other means are all about Washington’s main strategy to advance its imperium — seeking dominance over other nations, their resources and populations by brute force if other methods don’t achieve its objectives.

From inception, the US has been addicted to war, glorifying it deceptively in the name of peace.

In 1982, founder of the Pentagon’s nuclear navy Admiral Hyman Rickover explained the risks to Congress in the age of super-weapons able to end life on earth if used in enough numbers, saying the following:

“The lesson of history is when a war starts every nation will ultimately use whatever weapons it has available” to win, adding:

“I think the human race is going to wreck itself, and it is important that we get control of this horrible force and try to eliminate it.”

Rickover regretted his role in what became a nuclear arms race.

“I would sink…all” US nuclear powered ships, he said. “I am not proud of the part I played in” their development.

“That’s why I am such a great exponent of stopping this whole nonsense of war.”

Bertrand Russell noted the risk, saying:

“Shall we put an end to the human race, or shall mankind renounce war.” It’s the only way to live in peace. The alternative risks annihilation.

World powers have a choice. End wars or sooner or later they’ll end us.

Russia is a prime US target. In 1961, hardline US Air Force chief of staff General Curtis LeMay believed nuclear war with Soviet Russia was inevitable and winnable — at the time, calling for preemptive war on the country with overwhelming force.

Joint Chiefs chairman Lyman Lemnitzer at the time urged a surprise nuclear attack on the Soviet Union during a National Security Council meeting.

Expressing disgust, Jack Kennedy walked out of the session, telling then-Secretary of State Dean Rusk:

“And we call ourselves the human race.”

JFK’s Defense Secretary Robert McNamara rejected what LeMay and Lemnitzer called for.

Their recklessly dangerous ideas never went away. In an age when super-weapons can end life on earth in days if detonated in enough numbers, the risk of mass annihilation is real.

Weeks earlier, Russia’s Defense Ministry accused US-led NATO of conducting “provocative” military drills near its borders — what goes on with disturbing regularity. See below.

In June, Russian Colonel-General Sergey Rudskoy, head of its General Staff sent NATO a letter that called for scaling down military exercises by both countries.

With US-led NATO drills in the Barents Sea at the time, he accused the Pentagon of simulating strikes on Russian territory and intercepting its retaliatory ICBMs.

According to Rudskoy, provocative Barents Sea drills at the time were the first of their kind by US-dominated NATO since Soviet Russia’s 1991 dissolution.

He also criticized increasing numbers of flights by Pentagon nuclear-capable strategic bombers near Russia’s borders — at times forcing its military to scramble warplanes and put air defense forces on high alert.

Since the Obama regime’s 2014 coup d’etat in Ukraine, replacing democratic government with neo-Nazi infested fascist tyranny on Russia’s border, bilateral relations  sank to a post-Cold War low.

Moscow considers the deployment of US-led NATO forces near its borders a destabilizing threat to its national security.

Rudskoy said “(t)he US and its allies are continuing to destroy Europe’s security system under the guise of a perceived ‘Russian aggression’ ” that doesn’t exist.

The US refused Moscow’s offer for dialogue to reduce tensions and the risk of conflict by accident or design.

On Sunday, Rudskoy again highlighted the threat of provocative US-led NATO actions near Russia’s borders, including increased surveillance and aerial operations to test its air defenses.

In August, provocative US/NATO aerial maneuvers increased about 30% over the comparable 2019 period, he explained, including simulated missile strikes on Russian targets.

Shoigu called what’s going on “alarming,” notably because several incidents occurred close to Russia’s borders.

Last week, Russia scrambled warplanes to intercept three US nuclear-capable B-52 bombers over Ukraine and the Black Sea near Crimea, a statement saying:

“Violations of the state border of the Russian Federation by American aircraft were prevented.”

Two weeks earlier, a similar incident occurred in international airspace over the Black Sea.

Days earlier, Moscow slammed the US for holding live-fire exercises in Estonia near its border.

A statement by its Washington embassy said the following:

“Russia has repeatedly proposed to the United States and its allies to limit training activities and to divert the exercise zones from the Russia-NATO contact line,” adding:

“Why do this demonstrative saber-rattling? What signals do the NATO members want to send us?”

“Who is actually escalating tensions in Europe? And this is all happening in the context of (a made-in-the-USA) aggravated political situation in” Belarus.

“(H)ow would the Americans react” if Russia conducted similar provocative exercises near its borders?

According to NATO, the following US-led military exercises are ongoing or soon to begin in Europe (and near Iranian waters the Mediterranean):

Operation Dynamic Move II 20 — ongoing through September 10 in waters near Italy, explaining:

“To exercise naval mine warfare (NMW) tactics and procedures, the Allied Worldwide Navigational System (AWNIS), and Naval Cooperation on and Guidance for Shipping (NCAGS) procedures in order to enhance participant’s ability to conduct littoral and amphibious operations.”

Operation Steadfast Pyramid 20 — begun in Latvia on Sunday will continue through September 11, NATO explaining:

“An Exercise Study focused on further developing the abilities of commanders and senior staff to plan and conduct operations through the application of operational art in decision making based on the ACO Comprehensive Operations Planning Directive (COPD) and utilizing a complex, contemporary scenario.”

Operation KFOR III 20 will be held from September 8 – 16 in Herzegovina, explaining:

“Conducted to familiarize future Key Leaders of HQ KFOR with their new tasks, the overall situation in KFOR AOR (Area of Responsibility), and to prepare a smooth transition without loss of continuity.”

Operation Ramstein Guard 9 20 is scheduled for Romania from September 13 – 17, explaining:

“The NATO Electronic Warfare Force Integration Program is a means to exercise the NATO designated regional elements of NATO’s Integrated Air and Missile Defence System conducted through the CAOCs (Combined Air Operation Center) while also including some national systems and assets.”

“It is designed to train Air Command Ramstein and subordinate units on the reporting/coordination requirements while exposing them to a wide variety of EW (electronic warfare) tactics and techniques in a controlled environment.”

Operation Steadfast Pinnacle 20 is scheduled for Latvia from September 13 – 18, explaining:

“An Exercise Study focused on further developing the abilities of commanders and senior staff to plan and conduct operations through the application of operational art in decision making based on the ACO (Allied Command Operations) Comprehensive Operations Planning Directive (COPD) and utilizing a complex, contemporary scenario.”

Operation Ramstein Guard 10 20 is scheduled for Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania from September 20 – 24, NATO explaining:

“The NATO Electronic Warfare Force Integration Program is a means to exercise the NATO designated regional elements of NATO’s Integrated Air and Missile Defence System conducted through the CAOCs (Combined Air Operation Center) while also including some national systems and assets. It is designed to train Air Command Ramstein and subordinate units on the reporting/coordination requirements while exposing them to a wide variety of EW (electronic warfare) tactics and techniques in a controlled environment.”

Exercises like the above go on at all times near the borders of Russia, China, Iran, and other nations on the US target list for regime change.

From now through yearend 2020 near the borders of Russia and Iran alone, other US-led NATO military exercises will be held in Turkey, France, the UK, Kosovo, the Mediterranean Sea, Spain, Lithuania, Estonia, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Bosnia Herzegovina, Serbia, Poland and Norway.

Instead of prioritizing world peace, stability, and cooperative relations with the world community of nations, US-dominated NATO is preparing for greater wars than already ongoing in multiple theaters by its forces.

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Award-winning author Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG)

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.The original source of this article is Global ResearchCopyright © Stephen Lendman, Global Research, 2020

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