Biden’s Armageddon Warning: Realistic Assessment Or Political Fearmongering?

Oct 12 2022

Source

By Andrew Korybko

As coincidence would have it, his warning came ahead of the 60th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis during what many are now in retrospect describing as the Old Cold War.

US President Joe Biden warned earlier this month that “[For the] first time since the Cuban missile crisis, we have a direct threat of the use [of a] nuclear weapon if in fact things continue down the path they are going. We have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since [US President John F.] Kennedy.” As coincidence would have it, this comes ahead of the 60th anniversary of that selfsame crisis during what many are now in retrospect describing as the Old Cold War.

To remind the reader, the US and the Soviet Union dangerously faced off around the Caribbean island of Cuba during that time. American intelligence revealed that the USSR had deployed nuclear missiles on its ally’s territory, which prompted them to blockade the island. The tense standoff could have led to a nuclear war but was eventually defused. Moscow withdrew those weapons while Washington quietly withdrew its own from Turkiye, which it placed there first and had thus actually provoked the crisis.

Nowadays the dynamics are a lot different but no less dangerous. NATO’s steady expansion eastward after the end of the Old Cold War alarmed Russia. Moscow began warning about this at the start of the century, especially when Washington began building so-called “anti-missile” infrastructure on the territory of the former Warsaw Pact countries that were absorbed by this anti-Russian alliance. The Kremlin suspected that the US wanted to eventually erode its nuclear second-strike capabilities.

This in turn prompted that country to prioritize the research and development of hypersonic missiles and glide vehicles in order to neutralize the threat to its deterrence capabilities, without which it would have been placed in a position of nuclear blackmail. From there, NATO could have also attacked it through conventional means – including via an overland invasion – or at least threatened to do so in order to coerce Russia into a never-ending series of unilateral concessions aimed at its dismemberment.

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned about this emerging scenario late last year, during which time his government shared its security guarantee requests with the US and NATO, albeit ultimately in vain. He therefore felt forced to resort to military action to defend his country’s national security red lines in Ukraine after accusing those two of crossing them in order to advance their long-term nuclear blackmail plot, thus beginning Russia’s special operation in that former Soviet Republic.

It almost immediately transformed into a NATO-Russia proxy war after the first-mentioned unprecedentedly supported Kiev through economic, informational, intelligence, logistical, military, and political means. The Ukrainian Conflict recently reached a new stage in late September after the four Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Kherson, Lugansk and Zaporozhye held referenda that resulted in their incorporation into the Russian Federation and the extension of Moscow’s nuclear umbrella over them.

President Putin warned late last month in no uncertain terms that his country will defend its territorial integrity through all means at its disposal, thus hinting at the use of nuclear weapons if its leadership felt that the need had arisen. About that, Russia’s related doctrine allows this in the event of an overwhelming conventional attack that threatens its territorial integrity and thus existence as a unified state, such as if a NATO-backed but Ukrainian-fronted invasion force swept across its new borders.

Against the context of the partial mobilization of experienced reservists that preceded President Putin’s warning and Russia’s incorporation of those four former Ukrainian territories, the West began wondering whether Russia might actually be preparing to use nuclear weapons, even if only so-called “tactical nukes” in the credible scenario that was just described above. It was with these rapidly evolving military-strategic dynamics in mind that Biden shared his warning about the Armageddon.

The reality, however, is that everything isn’t as simple as the American President misportrayed it as being. Far from Russia being responsible for this dramatic turn of events, it’s actually the US that’s at fault. This is because it continued expanding NATO closer to its opponent’s borders in parallel with the development of “anti-missile” infrastructure aimed at neutralizing its nuclear second-strike capabilities. This anti-Russian bloc and its US hegemon also ignored Moscow’s security guarantee requests last year.

Absent any credible means for diplomatically resolving what International Relations scholars could accurately describe as the security dilemma between these two nuclear superpowers, Russia had no choice but to resort to limited military means for ensuring the integrity of its national security red lines. It also deserves mentioning that the Kremlin has accused the West of sabotaging prior peace talks with Kiev that could have ended the conflict during its early stages in order to perpetuate a proxy war.

President Putin himself ominously warned on 21 September that “this is not a bluff” when reminding the West that Russia will make use of all modern weapons systems to protect its territorial integrity. Nobody should therefore doubt his resolve to protect what his country considers to be its new borders in Ukraine’s four former regions. Therefore, the objective reality is that it’s the US that will decide whether or not to escalate the Ukrainian Conflict to that level by provoking Russia to use such arms.

After all, Ukrainian presidential advisor Alexey Arestovich admitted in late March that Russia had already destroyed his country’s military-industrial complex by that time. The only reason why Kiev still fights is because it’s fully armed by NATO, thus making it a proxy of that anti-Russian alliance. It thus follows that the bloc’s US leader is the one with the power to decide whether to order this NATO-backed but Ukrainian-fronted force to invade Russia’s new borders and thus risk it responding with tactical nukes.

Even in the worst-case scenario that this happens, it still doesn’t mean that the Armageddon is inevitable. America has no mutual defense obligations to Ukraine like it does to fellow NATO members. This means that the declining unipolar hegemon might not react by nuking Russia or even launching a conventional attack against it, whether within its pre-2014 borders or beyond. Therefore, the end of the world shouldn’t be taken for granted even if Russia is provoked into defending itself with tactical nukes.

All told, Biden’s warning appears to be political fearmongering aimed at scaring Europe into uniting around the US, not a realistic assessment. It also purposely decontextualizes the latest phase of the Ukrainian Conflict by omitting any mention of America’s culpability in creating the conditions that compelled Russia to employ military means for defending its national security red lines there. If there’s any silver lining, it might be that this drama revives the peace process in order to de-escalate the crisis.

Biden: Nuclear war cannot be won, must never be fought

21 Sep 2022 20:53

Source: Agencies

By Al Mayadeen English 

The US President claims that the United States does not seek conflict with China or a new Cold War.

US President Joe Biden during his speech at the United Nations General Assembly in New York (Reuters)

    US President Joe Biden accused Wednesday Russia of violating the core tenets of membership in the United Nations over the war in Ukraine, claiming that Moscow was making “irresponsible” threats to use nuclear weapons.

    During his speech at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Biden criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin over the war.

    “Again, just today, President Putin has made overt nuclear threats against Europe, in a reckless disregard for the responsibilities of the nonproliferation regime,” Biden said.

    “A permanent member of the United Nations Security Council invaded its neighbor, attempted to erase a sovereign state from the map. Russia has shamelessly violated the core tenets of the United Nations Charter,” the US President claimed.

    Earlier, Putin announced a partial mobilization in Russia as the war in Ukraine has now lasted for almost seven months.

    “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,” Biden said.

    The US President claimed that Russia was not threatened by any side and that Moscow had sought conflict, vowing that the United States would stand in solidarity with Ukraine.

    US does not seek ‘Cold War’ or ‘conflict’ with China

    Regarding the ongoing tensions with China, Biden told the United Nations that the United States does not seek “conflict” with China or a new Cold War.

    “Let me be direct about the competition between the United States and China. As we manage shifting geopolitical trends, the United States will conduct itself as a reasonable leader,” he said.

    He also claimed that “we do not seek conflict. We do not seek a Cold War. We do not ask any nation to choose between the United States or any other partner.”

    Nuclear wars ‘cannot be won,’ US ready to negotiate arms treaties

    In a different context, Biden warned that nuclear wars “cannot be won” and claimed that Washington is ready to pursue arms control measures.

    “A nuclear war cannot be won, and must never be fought,” Biden told the UN General Assembly, saying that Moscow made “irresponsible nuclear threats.”

    “The United States is ready to pursue critical armed control measures,” said Biden, vowing that Washington will not allow Tehran to obtain atomic weapons, which the Iranian President denied seeking only a few hours earlier at the same session. 

    Americans ‘stand with the brave women of Iran’

    Regarding the case of young Iranian journalist, Mahsa Amini, Biden claimed that Americans “stand with the brave women of Iran.”

    “Today we stand with the brave citizens and the brave women of Iran who right now are demonstrating to secure their basic rights,” the US President told the UNGA, completely disregarding Iranian reports and CCTV footage which clearly show that Amini was not touched by the police officer and that her death was the result of a medical condition she is suffering from. 

    Biden supports expanding UN Security Council

    Furthermore, Biden indicated that Washington supports the expansion of the UN Security Council to better represent areas including Africa and Latin America.

    “The United States supports increasing the number of both permanent and non-permanent representatives of the council,” he said, adding that “this includes permanent seats for those nations we’ve long supported — permanent seats for countries in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean. The United States is committed to this vital work.”

    Biden calls for the extension of grain deal

    During his speech, Biden said, “The United States will work with every nation, including our competitors, to solve global problems like climate change. Climate diplomacy is not a favor to the United States or any other nation and walking away hurts the entire world.”

    Biden said that US sanctions allow Russia to export food and fertilizer, claiming that it was “Russia’s war that is worsening food insecurity.”

    He also called for the extension of the July grain deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey, which allowed Ukraine to resume Black Sea food and fertilizer exports.

    Read more: Iran that was a victim of terrorism became a haven of security: Raisi

    MORE ON THE TOPIC:

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

    30 Aug, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    CHILDHOOD

    Growing up a firebrand Communist among Stalin’s purges

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    STAVROPOL

    Party reformist flourishes in Khruschev’s Thaw

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

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

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

    POLITBURO

    Cutting the line to the throne

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    REFORMS NEEDED

    Overcoming economic inefficiency with temperance campaigns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    More was needed, and Gorbachev knew it.

    PERE­STROIKA

    “We must rebuild ourselves. All of us!”

    Gorbachev at his zenith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    COLD WAR ENDS

    Concessions from a genuine pacifist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ETHNIC TENSIONS

    Smoldering ethnic conflicts on USSR’s outskirts flare up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Down with Communism!”

    “Down with Soviet Imperialism.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    YELTSIN’S CHALLENGE

    New star steals limelight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    USSR IMPLODES

    Failed coup brings down faded leader of fractured country

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    AFTERMATH

    Praised in West, scorned at home

    “Because of him, we have economic confusion!”

    “Because of him, we have opportunity!”

    “Because of him, we have political instability!”

    “Because of him, we have freedom!”

    “Complete chaos!”

    “Hope!”

    “Political instability!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    RAISA

    Passion and power

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Welcoming speech of the Russian Minister of Defence at the opening of 10th Moscow Conference on International Security

    August 17, 2022

    The opening of the 10th Moscow Conference on International Security took place at Avangard Centre for Military and Patriotic Education of Youth within the framework of ARMY 2022 IMTF. The Minister of Defence of the Russian Federation, General of the Army Sergei Shoigu, addressed the participants of the event:

    Ladies and gentlemen!

    It is a pleasure to welcome you to the 10th Moscow Conference on International Security.

    This conference comes at a time of radical change in global and regional security. The unconditional dominance of the US and its allies is a thing of the past. On February 24, 2022, the start of the special military operation in Ukraine marked the end of the unipolar world.

    Multipolarity has become a reality. The poles of this world are clearly defined. The main difference between them is that some respect the interests of sovereign states and take into account the cultural and historical particularities of countries and peoples, while others disregard them. There have been numerous discussions on this topic during previous sessions of the Moscow conference.

    In Europe, the security situation is worse than at the peak of the Cold War. The alliance’s military activities have become as aggressive and anti-Russian as possible. Significant US forces have been redeployed to the continent, and the number of coalition troops in Eastern and Central Europe has increased manifold.

    It is important to note that the deployment of additional NATO Joint Force formations on the bloc’s “eastern flank” had already started before the start of the special military operation in Ukraine.

    NATO has dropped its masks. The aggressive nature of the bloc was no longer concealed by the wording of the coalition’s purely defensive orientation. Today, the alliance’s strategic planning documents enshrine claims to global dominance. Alliance’s interests include Africa, the Middle East and the Pacific Rim.

    In the West’s view, the established system of international relations should be replaced by a so-called rules-based world order. The logic here is simple and ultimatumatic. Either the alliance’s “democratic partner” candidate loses sovereignty and becomes supposedly on the “right side of history”. Or it is relegated to the category of so-called authoritarian regimes, against which all kinds of measures, up to and including coercive pressure, can be used.

    Given that the Conference is attended by heads of defence agencies and security experts from different regions of the world, I would like to highlight some aspects of the special military operation in Ukraine.

    In Ukraine, the Russian military is being confronted by combined Western forces that run the leadership of that country in a hybrid war against Russia.

    The supply of weapons and military equipment to Ukraine is being stepped up, and training of the Ukrainian army is being carried out. Huge financial resources are transferred to maintain the viability of the nationalist regime.

    The actions of Ukraine’s armed forces are planned and coordinated by foreign military advisers. Reconnaissance data is supplied from all available NATO sources. The use of armaments is supervised by Western specialists.

    NATO’s efforts are aimed at prolonging the agony of the Kiev regime. However, we know for a fact that no one in NATO has any doubt that the goals of the Russian leadership’s special military operation will be achieved, and that plans to strategically and economically weaken Russia are failing. The dollar has not reached the ceiling of 200 roubles, as predicted by the US president, the Russian economy has stood firm.

    The special military operation has dispelled the myth of “super-weapons” supplied to Ukraine by the West, which are capable of fundamentally changing the situation on the front. Initially, they were talking about deliveries of Javelin anti-tank systems, some kind of “unique” drones. Lately, the Westerners have been promoting the role of super-weapons with HIMARS multiple launch rocket systems and long-range howitzers. However, these weapons also grind to a halt in battle. They did not make a significant impact. The Russian weapons, for their part, have proved their best qualities in combat.

    We are taking a close look at trophy weapons from the West. The features and their specific qualities are taken into account in order to improve the way combat operations are conducted and the effectiveness of Russian armaments.

    The supply of NATO weapons to Kiev means that Western countries are responsible for their inhumane use and for the deaths of civilians in Donbass and in the liberated territories. Ukrainian armed forces operations are planned in Washington and London. Not only are the coordinates of the targets to be attacked provided by Western intelligence, but the input of this data into weapons systems is conducted under the full control of Western specialists.

    Kiev’s role in the West’s combat approach has been reduced to supplying manpower, which is seen as expendable. This explains the huge loss of personnel in Ukraine’s armed forces and territorial defence formations.

    So far, the real figures of dead soldiers and mobilised so-called territorial defence forces have been concealed by the Kiev leadership.

    In time, however, this information will become public. The testimonies of POWs of AFU allow us to form a realistic picture of what is happening on the other side of the front. The dismissive attitude towards the loss of foreign soldiers reinforces the thesis that NATO has purely selfish interests in Ukraine. Clearly, Britain’s colonial experience as the main sponsor of the Kiev regime has come in very handy for London in dealing with the current leadership in Kiev.

    Against this background, speculation is spreading in the media about the alleged use of Russian tactical nuclear weapons in the special military operation or the readiness to use chemical weapons. All of these information gibberish are lies.

    From a military point of view, there is no need to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine to achieve its goals. The main purpose of Russian nuclear weapons is to deter a nuclear attack. Its use is limited to extraordinary circumstances as defined in the Russian guideline documents, which are open to public inspection.

    The allegations about the possible use of chemical weapons in Ukraine are also absurd. Let me remind you that, unlike the US, such weapons were completely destroyed in our country back in 2017 as part of our international obligations. Meanwhile, poisoning provocations have become the hallmark of Western-sponsored so-called civil society organisations such as the White Helmets in Syria.

    The information provocations are aimed at distracting attention from the facts discovered in Ukraine that US experts have conducted banned military and biological research.

    Currently, a significant amount of data has been accumulated and is regularly made available to the general public. Work will continue in this direction.

    US military-biological activities in Ukraine are not exceptional. Pentagon-controlled laboratories have been established and operate in many post-Soviet, Asian, African and Latin American countries. Local authorities generally have no control over research carried out on their premises that poses a lethal threat to the local population. The consequences of epidemics, I believe, were felt by all during the period of the fight against the spread of coronavirus.

    I would like to focus separately on the humanitarian aspects of the special military operation. Compliance with the Geneva Conventions on the rules of war has always been and remains the focus of commanders at all levels. Since the beginning of the operation, orders have been issued stipulating the procedures to be followed by soldiers in dealing with civilians and enemy prisoners of war.

    In the territories liberated from nationalists, the troops are actively involved in the delivery of humanitarian aid, the restoration of infrastructure and the maintenance of law and order. This was the case in Syria, in Nagorno-Karabakh, and it is also the case in Donbass.

    On humanitarian issues, there has been fruitful cooperation with the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross. We are grateful for the constructive, depoliticised cooperation of the leaders and staff of these organisations who interact with us. In particular, under the auspices of the UN and with Turkey’s active role, the difficult problem of grain exports from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports was resolved. The Red Cross specialists carry out an important mediation mission in relation to captured soldiers.

    NATO has recently initiated a new phase of alliance enlargement, with Sweden and Finland joining the military bloc. The claim that the reason for this was the Russian special operation is untrue.

    The practical rapprochement between these countries and the alliance has been ongoing for many years. In fact, the regional association NORDEFCO (Committee for Nordic Defence Cooperation) is a northern affiliate of NATO and serves as a cover for these countries’ participation in joint military training activities.

    Of course, the official involvement of Helsinki and Stockholm in NATO’s strategic planning and the possible allocation of territory to these states for deployment of strike weapons will change the security environment in the Baltic region and the Arctic and will require a reconsideration of approaches to defence of Russian territory.

    Certain conclusions have already been reached and are enshrined in the updated Maritime Doctrine approved by the President of the Russian Federation on July 31. Work will continue in this area.

    The reinforcement of the NATO military grouping on the “eastern flank” completes the degradation of the trust and arms control mechanisms that emerged in Europe during the Cold War. A few years ago, experts proposed that the European experience should be used to build confidence-building measures, in particular in the Pacific Rim. Now, of all the “baggage” of the Euro-dialogue, only the idea of bloc confrontation is exported to Asia, which has not brought anything positive to security in Europe.

    Today, no one remembers the US destruction of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Limitation Treaty and the Open Skies Treaty. Although previously these agreements were crucial for disarmament and confidence-building.

    Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which was conceived as a platform for dialogue and consideration of different views, has become a generator of anti-Russian narratives.

    Vienna Document 2011 remains formally in force, but there are no prospects for practical implementation. In the absence of trust between the parties, the verification mechanism effectively becomes a source of intelligence, which is not in the spirit of this agreement.

    The situation with regard to the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty is also complicated. The agreement remains in force until 2026. On the Russian side the commitments are fulfilled, the declared levels of carriers and warheads are maintained within the established limits.

    U.S. claims that Russia must earn the right to continue dialogue with the U.S. do not resist criticism. Arms control is a two-way street.

    The result is only achievable if the interests and commitment of all participants are balanced. I believe that the Russian experience of interaction with the West in the field of disarmament shows that the so-called rules-based peace it promotes does not involve the implementation of treaty obligations in the traditional sense. This fact needs to be taken into account when entering into agreements, especially in the field of security and arms control.

    Western opposition to the consolidation of a multipolar world, along with Europe, is most active in the Asia-Pacific region, where the US has begun to dismantle the existing ASEAN-based system of regional cooperation. This started with the announcement of the AUKUS initiative by the US, Australia and the UK. Plans to expand this partnership to include new regional partners have not been concealed. AUKUS is merging with NATO, which in turn claimed a dominant role in the Asia-Pacific region at the June summit. This is despite the fact that all NATO countries are thousands of miles away from the region.

    On 2 August, the Russian Federation marked the 77th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s entry into the war with Japan, the occasion for which was Tokyo’s militarist policy. The defeat of Japanese forces in the Far East effectively sealed the end of World War II and provided the start for the liberation of the peoples of Asia from colonial oppression. The assistance of the USSR was of key importance. We remember and are proud of the legacy of our ancestors, including those who laid the foundation for military cooperation between Russia and the countries of the Asia-Pacific region.

    Another dangerous regional trend is the AUKUS focus on developing a nuclear submarine fleet in Australia. The implementation of this plan would have a complex negative impact on global and regional security, creating the conditions for undermining the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

    The US claims that nuclear-powered submarines are needed in Australia ostensibly to offset China’s growing naval capabilities. This logic in fact replicates the actions of the US in justifying its exit from the Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missile Treaty. The collapse of this agreement was also motivated by the need to offset Russian and Chinese efforts to develop missiles with a range allegedly prohibited by the treaty.

    In the global context, the appearance of a nuclear-powered fleet in Australia will provide an excuse for other states to begin developing similar armaments. Pandora’s box will be opened, the global nuclear arms race will resume.

    AUKUS has the potential to develop into a politico-military alliance. It cannot be excluded that NATO’s experience with joint nuclear planning and joint “allied” nuclear exercises will also be transferred to the region. The technical basis for this is already being laid by the active promotion of US-made aircraft. The participation of nuclear and non-nuclear weapon states in joint exercises on the use of nuclear weapons is contrary to obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Transferring nuclear training from Europe will blow up the region.

    Although it can be assumed that this is precisely the purpose of the US. The provocative landing in Taiwan of a third person of the US bureaucratic hierarchy is another move to destabilise the situation.

    Block-less, equal interaction in the region is an achievement that should not be lost due to externally imposed phobias and attempts to counter a multipolar world.

    Mechanisms for interaction and dialogue with extra-regional partners are created and are proving their relevance and effectiveness. First and foremost is the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ and Partners’ Meeting, the so-called “ADMM-Plus” format. Its diverse activities focus on security issues of relevance to the Asia-Pacific region.

    In addition, there is positive experience of cooperation within the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, of implementing mutually beneficial projects on a bilateral basis.

    As before, we are ready to share our experience of combat training, in particular during the Vostok-2022 strategic exercise to be held in the near future.

    Despite significant successes in the fight against terrorism in the Middle East, the threat of international terrorist groups taking over the initiative remains. The Syrian military, in cooperation with allies and partners and with the support of the Russian Aerospace Forces, continues to suppress spikes in terrorist activity. We see a particular danger in using the Kurdish factor to unsettle the situation in Syria.

    The engagement of the guarantor countries in the Astana format remains virtually the only legal and effective mechanism to address security concerns in Syria. We welcome the increased engagement between the Syrian leadership and the Arab world. Overcoming contradictions created by outside forces is possible and necessary.

    The role of the military in building trust between countries is an important element in the search for political solutions. We expect that the Moscow conference will be one of the rallying points for the stabilisation of the situation in the Near East.

    After the rapid withdrawal of US and NATO forces from Afghanistan, the situation in the Central Asian region remains extremely tense. Afghanistan’s new leadership faces serious military and economic challenges. The legacy of two decades of alliance troop presence is a disappointing one. As a result, there remains a high level of terrorist danger in the region.

    The security problems of Central Asia can only be solved by coordinated action by all the countries and international organisations concerned. For our part, we will continue to support our Collective Security Treaty Organisation allies in enhancing the capabilities of national armed forces.

    It is important to keep the topic of Afghanistan on the agenda of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation discussions. Russia, China, India, Iran and Pakistan together could make a significant contribution not only to stabilising the region, but also to preventing the threat from spreading beyond its borders.

    The security of each region, despite the general trends of a multipolar world, has its own peculiarities.

    For Africa, the specificity lies in the desire of the countries of the collective West to return to the order and rules of engagement typical of the colonial period. Neo-colonialism is imposed through military pressure on governments of sovereign countries and support for separatist and terrorist movements. A case in point is Libya, where statehood has still not been restored after the NATO invasion. Another example is the situation in West Africa, where European troops have been deployed on the pretext of combating terrorism. For decades, these EU missions had been fighting terrorists, training national security forces, until they recognised the utter failure of their own efforts.

    I would like to point out that African governments and leaders are holding their own, as they call it, in the context of a multipolar world, to pursue their own agenda of independence, sovereignty, economic development and defence capabilities.

    The Russian Ministry of Defence is seeking to expand cooperation with African countries in the field of military and military-technical cooperation. Interest in the participation of national teams and delegations from Africa in the Army International Games and the “ARMY 2022” IMTF has increased significantly. It is very encouraging that prominent military commanders from our friendly states – Burundi, Cameroon, Guinea, Mali, Sudan, Uganda, Chad, Ethiopia and the Republic of South Africa – are present in this hall today. We appreciate your support and intend to increase cooperation on mutually beneficial projects.

    Latin America today faces serious security challenges because of the American desire to maintain influence in the region under the provisions of the so-called Monroe Doctrine. Liberal values, whose adherence is seen by the US as agreeing to live in a world based on their rules, in fact mask the true objective – to build up a military presence by blocking the possibility of sovereign development of states.

    U.S. policy focuses on deterring engagement by countries in the region with any other pole of power outside Washington’s control. The purpose of this policy is to involve the region in a confrontation with Russia and the PRC, to destroy traditional ties and to block new forms of cooperation in the military and military-technical spheres.

    Anti-Russian information campaigns are launched in Latin America, hiding the truth about the causes and course of the special military operation in Ukraine. Analogies can be drawn to the British actions during the conflict in the Falkland Islands. What is happening in the Western media today with the coverage of the Russian special military operation was also happening when the media was chorally broadcasting only one point of view – that of London.

    The question arises: are such policies in the fundamental interest of the countries of the region? The answer is clear – no. We hope that during the discussions at the conference we will hear assessments of the situation in Latin America from our partners from Venezuela and Nicaragua.

    The Tenth Moscow Conference on International Security has a special importance for the Russian Ministry of Defence as organiser of the forum for a number of reasons.

    Firstly, the conference is taking place during the ongoing special military operation in Ukraine. Despite attempts of the US and NATO to isolate Russia once again, your participation in the forum is a visible confirmation that these plans have collapsed. We appreciate your support.

    Secondly, a multipolar world is the reality of today. The transition from dominance by a single global leader to several centres of gravity is not an easy one. However, this creates real conditions for the development of sovereign states.

    Thirdly, the role of military agencies is changing in the new realities. The military not only guarantees a secure environment for economic development, but through military cooperation it builds predictability and trust between countries.

    Finally, this is the tenth anniversary conference, which allows for a kind of review of what has been achieved over the years. It is important to observe how the priorities of the discussions have changed, and which conclusions and recommendations from the forum have been put into practice over the years. A short historical overview, prepared by Russian experts, can be viewed on the monitors between plenary sessions.

    I wish you all good health and interesting contacts and discussions during your stay in Moscow.

    Thank you for your attention.

    source: https://eng.mil.ru/en/news_page/country/more.htm?id=12433677@egNews (which is blocked by western freedom loving democracies, so you need a VPN to access it!)

    Germany’s Century-Long Plot To Capture Control Of Europe Is Almost Complete

    July 20, 2022

    By Andrew Korybko

    Source

    Germany was waiting this whole time for a major crisis, which ultimately turned out to be the latest phase of the Ukrainian Conflict that US-led NATO is entirely responsible for provoking, in order to make its two interconnected power plays that are now actively unfolding.

    The German elite has consistently remained hellbent on capturing control of Europe for over a century, with the only thing changing over the decades being their means after military ones horribly failed twice already. The former West Germany came to believe after World War II that the best bet for fulfilling this plot was to play it cool by abandoning unilateralism in favor of US-led multilateralism. That in turn enabled it to strategically disarm the rest of the continent, especially in the run-up to reunification with the former East Germany, after having tricked everyone into thinking that its elite finally changed their ways even though the only change was the means employed to this end.

    The strategic patience practiced by the German leadership in the decades since World War II and especially the end of the Old Cold War was impressive since it certainly did indeed seem as though their elite finally abandoned their hegemonic plans. Even President Putin, who established extremely close relations with former Chancellor Merkel and arguably seemed to trust her, was duped to an extent despite his former career in intelligence. After all, he took her government’s word that it would resolve the ”EuroMaidan” crisis that soon thereafter led to a Berlin-backed coup and then still continued to believe that she’d succeed in getting Kiev to implement the UNSC-endorsed Minsk Accords.

    These observations speak to how convincing the German elite’s act had been that even this world-class professional largely fell for it, which resulted in Russia losing almost eight years’ worth of time before it was finally compelled to commence its ongoing special military operation in Ukraine. This whole time, Germany was playing everyone for fools by plotting behind the scenes to capture control of Europe exactly as it’s sought to do for a century, albeit through different means than what observers had come to expect from Berlin. Instead of military ones, superficial multilateralism was employed via EU institutions and associated hyper-liberal ideology in order to disguise these hegemonic ambitions.

    Germany was waiting this whole time for a major crisis, which ultimately turned out to be the latest phase of the Ukrainian Conflict that US-led NATO is entirely responsible for provoking, in order to make its two interconnected power plays that are now actively unfolding. The first concerns Chancellor Scholz’s plans for his country to have the “biggest conventional army” in Europe and the second involves his latest proposal to abandon national vetoes in order for the EU to compete with other Great Powers. About the last-mentioned, he predictably added that Germany should “assume responsibility for Europe and the world in these difficult times”, which exposed the whole charade as a hegemonic power play.

    Russia finally seems to have wised up to Germany’s complicity in provoking the latest phase of the Ukrainian Conflict, with Foreign Minister Lavrov blaming it and France for killing the Minsk Accords in a recent op-ed. From there, it’s only a proverbial hop, skip, and a jump away from realizing that this was all part of Germany’s plan to capture control of Europe by “passively facilitating” the major crisis that was required to unveil the two interconnected power plays that were mentioned in the preceding paragraph. This hegemonic plot is so important for the German elite that they’re even willing to accept massive self-inflicted economic damage in pursuit of it as proven by their anti-Russian sanctions.  

    In hindsight, this latest phase of the Ukrainian Conflict was the only scenario that could prompt Germany to unveil this long-plotted power play in a “plausibly deniable” way. The 2015 Migrant Crisis concerned unconventional security threats and wouldn’t have realistically necessitated Germany openly aspiring to build the biggest conventional army in Europe, nor would it have been the proper pretext for proposing an end to the EU’s policy of national vetoes. Only a conventional security crisis could have created the conditions for superficially “justifying” that, hence why Berlin “passively facilitated” this outcome for the past eight years after earlier duping everyone into thinking its elite had finally changed.

    What’s different from the last two World Wars and what many have begun describing as a hybrid form of the so-called “Third World War” is that the former saw Germany truly aspiring for independent hegemony over everyone else while the latter sees it willingly behaving as the US’ “Lead From Behind” proxy for managing Europe on Washington’s behalf. In fact, this all seems to have been part of the larger plan too since Germany learned the hard way twice already that America will never let it truly become an independent hegemon, ergo why its elite modified their plot after World War II by incorporating their “junior partner” status vis-à-vis that superpower into everything from the get-go.

    Where Russia got it wrong for so long is that its passionately sovereign leadership subconsciously projected their independent aspirations onto Germany, naively believing that the EU’s de facto leader sought to strive for the same Great Power status that their own civilization-state has while also falling for the charade of thinking that its elite abandoned their hegemonic plans. What really happened is that this same elite simply duped everyone through their embrace of superficial multilateralism via EU institutions and associated hyper-liberal ideology into thinking that they changed when the only thing that’s different is the means through which they’ve consistently pursued the same end.

    France doesn’t feel militarily threatened by Germany anymore so it won’t seek to sabotage its neighbor’s militarization plans, and while its famous perception of itself as the bastion of European culture might be bruised by Berlin proposing that the bloc abandon national vetoes, Paris could always redirect its grand strategic focus away from Europe in response and towards Françafrique (West-Central Africa) where it’s struggling to retain its declining hegemony there in the face of newfound multipolar trends embodied by the Malian junta. This observation suggests that only Poland could stand in the way of Germany’s century-long hegemonic plot, though it’s unrealistic to expect it to succeed.

    Its faux “conservative-nationalist” ruling party already submitted to hyper-liberalism by actively advancing the Ukrainization of their country, plus it’s powerless to indefinitely rebuff Germany’s pressure for Poland to adopt the euro, which gray cardinal Kaczynski just warned would kill its economy once that happens. This aspiring Great Power in its own right might become a nuisance to Germany, but it’s incapable of stopping the latter’s hybrid economic-institutional-military capture of the continent. Poland might temporarily prevent Germany from exerting its envisioned hegemony over the Baltics and especially Ukraine, but Warsaw was ultimately Berlin’s “useful idiot” as it’s finally beginning to realize.

    For these reasons and barring any black swan events such as the consequences of President Putin’s prophesized populist-driven “elite change” across the continent that he made in mid-June while speaking at the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), it should therefore be taken for granted that Germany will inevitably capture control of the continent sooner or later. This poses a complex array of geostrategic challenges for the emerging Multipolar World Order and Russia in particular, though the silver lining is that they can at least be better predicted than previously now that Moscow finally acknowledges Berlin’s hegemonic ambitions.

    By making China the enemy, Nato is threatening world peace

    8 July 2022  

    US President Joe Biden speaks at the Nato summit in Madrid on 30 June 2022 (AFP)
    Jonathan Cook is the the author of three books on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and a winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His website and blog can be found at: http://www.jonathan-cook.net

    Jonathan Cook

    As the saying goes, if you only have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. The West has the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato), a self-declared “defensive” military alliance – so any country that refuses its dictates must, by definition, be an offensive military threat. 

    That is part of the reason why Nato issued a new “strategic concept” document last week at its summit in Madrid, declaring for the first time that China poses a “systemic challenge” to the alliance, alongside a primary “threat” from Russia.

    Beijing views this new designation as a decisive step by Nato on the path to pronouncing it a “threat” too – echoing the alliance’s escalatory approach towards Moscow over the past decade. In its previous mission statement, issued in 2010, Nato advocated “a true strategic partnership” with Russia.

    How are Americans or Europeans suddenly under threat of military conquest from China?

    According to a report in the New York Times, China would have found itself openly classed as a “threat” last week had it not been for Germany and France. They insisted that the more hostile terminology be watered down so as to avoid harming their trade and technology links with China.

    In response, Beijing accused Nato of “maliciously attacking and smearing” it, and warned that the alliance was “provoking confrontation”. Not unreasonably, Beijing believes Nato has strayed well out of its sphere of supposed “defensive” interest: the North Atlantic.

    Nato was founded in the wake of the Second World War expressly as a bulwark against Soviet expansion into Western Europe. The ensuing Cold War was primarily a territorial and ideological battle for the future of Europe, with the ever-present mutual threat of nuclear annihilation.

    So how, Beijing might justifiably wonder, does China – on the other side of the globe – fit into Nato’s historic “defensive” mission? How are Chinese troops or missiles now threatening Europe or the US in ways they weren’t before? How are Americans or Europeans suddenly under threat of military conquest from China?

    Creating enemies

    The current Nato logic reads something like this: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February is proof that the Kremlin has ambitions to recreate its former Soviet empire in Europe. China is growing its military power and has similar imperial designs towards the rival, breakaway state of Taiwan, as well as western Pacific islands. And because Beijing and Moscow are strengthening their strategic ties in the face of western opposition, Nato has to presume that their shared goal is to bring western civilisation crashing down. 

    Or as last week’s Nato mission statement proclaimed: “The deepening strategic partnership between the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation and their mutually reinforcing attempts to undercut the rules-based international order run counter to our values and interests.”

    But if anyone is subverting the “rules-based international order”, a standard the West regularly invokes but never defines, it looks to be Nato itself – or the US, as the hand that wields the Nato hammer. 

    Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping meet in Beijing on 4 February 2022 (AFP)
    Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping meet in Beijing on 4 February 2022 (AFP)

    That is certainly the way it looks to Beijing. In its response, China argued: “Thirty years after the end of the Cold War, [Nato] has not yet abandoned its thinking and practice of creating ‘enemies’ … It is Nato that is creating problems around the world.”

    China has a point. A problem with bureaucracies – and Nato is the world’s largest military bureaucracy – is that they quickly develop an overriding institutional commitment to ensuring their permanent existence, if not expansion. Bureaucracies naturally become powerful lobbies for their own self-preservation, even when they have outlived their usefulness. 

    If there is no threat to “defend” against, then a threat must be manufactured. That can mean one of two things: either inventing an imaginary threat, or provoking the very threat the bureaucracy was designed to avert or thwart. Signs are that Nato – now embracing 30 countries – is doing both. 

    Remember that Nato should have dissolved itself after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. But three decades later, it is bigger and more resource-hungry than ever. 

    Against all advice, and in violation of its promises, Nato has refused to maintain a neutral “security buffer” between itself and Russia. Instead, it has been expanding right up to Russia’s borders, including creeping furtively into Ukraine, the gateway through which armies have historically invaded Russia. 

    Offensive alliance

    Undoubtedly, Russia has proved itself a genuine threat to the territorial integrity of its neighbour Ukraine by conquering its eastern region – home to a large ethnic Russian community the Kremlin claims to be protecting. But even if we reject Russian President Vladimir Putin’s repeated assertion that Moscow has no larger ambitions, the Russian army’s substantial losses suggest it has scant hope of extending its military reach much further. 

    Even if Moscow were hoping to turn its attention next to Poland or the Baltic states, or Nato’s latest recruits of Sweden and Finland, such a move would clearly risk nuclear confrontation. This is perhaps why western audiences hear so much from their politicians and media about Putin being some kind of deranged megalomaniac.

    Has the Ukraine war become a runaway train for both Russia and Nato?
    Read More »

    The claim of a rampant, revived Russian imperialism appears not to be founded in any obvious reality. But it is a very effective way for Nato bureaucrats to justify enlarging their budgets and power, while the arms industries that feed off Nato and are embedded in western capitals substantially increase their profits.

    The impression that this might have been Nato’s blueprint for handling Moscow is only underscored by the way it is now treating China, with even less justification. China has not recently invaded any sovereign territories, unlike the US and its allies, while the only territory it might threaten – Taiwan – is some 12,000 kilometres from the US mainland, and a similarly long distance from most of Europe. 

    The argument that the Russian army may defeat Ukraine and then turn its attention towards Poland and Finland at least accords with some kind of geographical possibility, however remote. But the idea that China may invade Taiwan and then direct its military might towards California and Italy is in the realms of preposterous delusion. 

    Nato’s new posture towards Beijing brings into question its whole characterisation as a “defensive” alliance. It looks very much to be on the offensive. 

    Russian red lines

    Notably, Nato invited to the summit for the first time four states from the Asia-Pacific region: Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.

    The creation of a Nato-allied “Asia-Pacific Four” is doubtless intended to suggest to Beijing parallels with Nato’s gradual recruitment of eastern European states starting in the late 1990s, culminating in its more recent flirting with Ukraine and Georgia, longstanding red lines for Russia.

    Ultimately, Nato’s courting of Russia’s neighbours led to attacks by Moscow first on Georgia and then on Ukraine, conveniently bolstering the “Russian threat” narrative. Might the intention behind similar advances to the “Asia-Pacific Four” be to provoke Beijing into a more aggressive military stance in its own region, in order to justify Nato expanding far beyond the North Atlantic, claiming the entire globe as its backyard? 

    Now, Nato is casting itself as the guardian of the Asia-Pacific region too

    There are already clear signs of that. In May, US President Joe Biden vowed that the US – and by implication Nato – would come to Taiwan’s aid militarily if it were attacked. Beijing regards Taiwan, some 200 kilometres off its coast, as Chinese territory. 

    Similarly, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss called last week for Nato countries to ship advanced weapons to Taiwan, in the same way Nato has been arming Ukraine, to ensure the island has “the defence capability it needs”.

    This echoes Nato’s narrative about its goals in Ukraine: that it is pumping weapons into Ukraine to “defend” the rest of Europe. Now, Nato is casting itself as the guardian of the Asia-Pacific region too.

    ‘Economic coercion’

    But in truth, this is not just about competing military threats. There is an additional layer of western self-interest, concealed behind claims of a “defensive” alliance. 

    Days before the Nato summit, the G7, a group of the seven leading industrialised nations that form the core of Nato, announced their intention to raise $600bn to invest in developing countries.

    How to avert a global conflict between China, Russia and the West
    Read More »

    This move wasn’t driven by altruism. The West has been deeply worried by Beijing’s growing influence on the world stage through its trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative, announced in 2013.

    China is being aggressive, but so far only in exercising soft power. In the coming decades, it plans to invest in the infrastructure of dozens of developing states. More than 140 countries have so far signed up to the initiative.

    China’s aim is to make itself the hub of a global network of new infrastructure projects – from highways and ports to advanced telecommunications – to strengthen its economic trade connections to Africa, the Middle East, Russia and Europe. 

    If it succeeds, China will stamp its economic dominance on the globe – and that is what really worries the West, particularly the US and its Nato military bureaucracy. They are labelling this “economic coercion”.

    This week, the heads of the FBI and MI5 – the US and UK’s domestic intelligence services – held an unprecedented joint news conference in London to warn that China was the “biggest long-term threat to our economic and national security”. Underscoring western priorities, they added that any attack on Taiwan would “represent one of the most horrific business disruptions the world has ever seen”.

    Unilateral aggression

    Back in the Cold War era, Washington was not just, or even primarily, worried about a Soviet military invasion. The nuclear doctrine of mutually assured destruction meant neither had an interest in direct confrontation. 

    Instead, each treated developing nations as pawns in an economic war over resources to be plundered and markets to be controlled. Each side tried to expand its so-called “sphere of influence” over other states and secure a larger slice of the planet’s wealth, in order to fuel its domestic economy and expand its military industries. 

    The West’s rhetoric about the Cold War emphasised an ideological battle between western freedoms and Soviet authoritarianism. But whatever significance one attributes to that rhetorical fight, the more important battle for each side was proving to other states the superiority of the economic model that grew out of its ideology. 

    US soldiers patrol an area near the Syria-Iraq border on 12 January 2021 (AFP)
    US soldiers patrol an area near the Syria-Iraq border on 12 January 2021 (AFP)

    In the early Cold War years, it should be recalled, communist parties were frontrunners to win elections in several European states – something that was starkly evident to the drafters of the Nato treaty.

    The US invested so heavily in weapons – today, its military budget exceeds the combined spending of the next nine countries – precisely to strong-arm poorer nations into its camp, and punish those that refused. That task was made easier after the fall of the Soviet Union. In a unipolar world, Washington got to define who would be treated as a friend, and on what terms, and who a foe. 

    Nato chiefly served as an alibi for US aggression, adding a veneer of multilateral legitimacy to its largely unilateral militarism.

    Debt slavery

    In reality, the “rules-based international order” comprises a set of US-controlled economic institutions, such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, that dictate oppressive terms to increasingly resentful poor countries – often the West’s former colonies – in desperate need of investment. Most have ended up in permanent debt slavery.

    China is offering them an alternative, and in the process it threatens to gradually erode US economic dominance. Russia’s apparent ability to survive the West’s economic sanctions, while those sanctions rebound on western economies, underscores the tenuousness of Washington’s economic primacy.

    The US looks only too ready to drag Nato into a military sequel to the Cold War – and risk taking the world to the brink of nuclear annihilation

    More generally, Washington is losing its grip on the global order. The rival BRICS group – of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – is preparing to expand by including Iran and Argentina in its power bloc. And both Russia and China, forced into deeper alliance by Nato hostility, have been seeking to overturn the international trading system by decoupling it from the US dollar, the central pillar of Washington’s hegemonic status.

    The recently released “Nato 2030” document stresses the importance of Nato remaining “ready, strong and united for a new era of increased global competition”. Last week’s strategic vision listed China’s sins as seeking “to control key technological and industrial sectors, critical infrastructure, and strategic materials and supply chains”. It added that China “uses its economic leverage to create strategic dependencies and enhance its influence”, as though this was not exactly what the US has been doing for decades. 

    Washington’s greatest fear is that, as its economic muscle atrophies, Europe’s vital trading links with China and Russia will see its economic interests – and eventually its ideological loyalties – shift eastwards, rather than stay firmly in the western camp. 

    The question is: how far is the US willing to go to stop that? So far, it looks only too ready to drag Nato into a military sequel to the Cold War – and risk pushing the world to the brink of nuclear annihilation. 

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

    Turkey and NATO: a vital alliance, with limits

    With deepening global polarization, can Ankara retain its foreign policy autonomy within NATO?

    July 04 2022

    Photo Credit: The Cradle

    By MK Bhadrakumar

    Turkey has had an uneasy history as a NATO member country. The push and pull of strategic autonomy constantly grated against a security guarantee the alliance offered, and also a way of reinforcing its western identity. The west, in turn, wanted Turkey because of the Cold War.

    The enigma still continues: Was Turkey’s shift from neutrality to alignment a real necessity in 1951? Did Stalin indeed cast an evil eye on Turkish lands? Would any other Kemalist leader than Ismet Inounu, an unvarnished Euro-Atlanticist whose conception of modernisation implied cooperation with the west, have succumbed to the Anglo-American entreaties?

    The relations between Turkey and the Soviet Union remained relatively calm during the period of Turkey’s admission to NATO.

    In November 1951, Moscow actually directed a note to Turkish Government protesting the latter’s decision to participate in NATO, which asserted that “it is quite obvious that the initiation to Turkey, a country which has no connections whatever with the Atlantic, to join the Atlantic Bloc, can signify nothing but an aspiration on the part of imperialist states to utilise Turkish territory for the establishment of military bases for aggressive purposes on the frontiers of the USSR.”

    The ideological aspirations in becoming an integral  part — at least within the framework of a military alliance — of the western world played a decisive role in Turkey’s decision in 1951, whereas, in reality, there was no imminent or explicit Soviet threat to Turkey.

    On the other hand, Turkey’s geographical importance to both the west and to the Soviet Union gave her a particular value in an east-west context, which, to her credit, Ankara would successfully leverage to its advantage through subsequent decades.

    Curiously, this complex inter-locking in some ways bears an uncanny resemblance to the current accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO. Russian President Vladimir Putin must have alluded to it obliquely when he told the media Thursday on the sidelines of the Caspian Summit in Ashgabat:

    “NATO is a relic of the Cold War and is only being used as an instrument of US foreign policy designed to keep its client states in rein. This is its only mission. We have given them that opportunity, I understand that. They are using these arguments energetically and quite effectively to rally their so-called allies.

     

    “On the other hand, regarding Sweden and Finland, we do not have such problems with Sweden and Finland as we have, regrettably, with Ukraine. We do not have territorial issues or disputes with them. There is nothing that could inspire our concern regarding Finland and Sweden’s accession to NATO. If they want it, they can do it,… let them do it. You know, there are rude jokes about stepping into  unsavoury things. That is their business. Let them step into what they wish.”

    While returning from NATO’s Madrid Summit, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan underscored that by lifting Ankara’s reservations about Sweden’s and Finland’s membership, he advanced Turkish interests. And he added the caveat that their accession is far from a done deal yet, and future developments would depend on their fulfillment of commitments under the memorandum of understanding they signed in Madrid with Turkey.

    Indeed, both Sweden and Finland have bent over backward to give Turkey extensive anti-terrorism assurances that require changes in domestic legislation in return for Ankara withdrawing veto against accession talks. Erdogan insists that what matters are not their pledges but the delivery of those pledges.

    It is a tough sell domestically for both Sweden and Finland, since one of the pledges is the extradition of 76 Kurds, deemed as terrorists by Turkey. This is easier said than done, as the courts in Stockholm and Helsinki may have their own definition of a “terrorist.”

    The Turkish National Assembly’s ratification is a must for the Nordic countries’ admission to be formalised at NATO level. There is some speculation that US President Joe Biden incentivized Erdogan to compromise, but make no mistake, the latter’s warning about compliance by Sweden and Finland — as also the audible rumblings already on the left in Sweden — are reminders that the issue is still wide open.

    After all, North Macedonia had been a NATO partner country since 1995 but could become a NATO member in March 2020. And Greece’s reservation was that the newly independent former Yugoslav republic wanted to be known as Macedonia, whereas Athens saw the name as a threat to its own region of Macedonia — and ultimately, Greece won. In comparison, Turkey’s concerns are tangible and directly impinge on its national security.

    Turkey was never a ‘natural ally’ of NATO. How far Turkey subscribes to NATO’s latest strategic concept of Russia being a “most significant and direct threat” is debatable. Arguably, Turkey would feel more at home with the alliance’s 2010 doctrine that called Russia a “strategic partner.” This would need some explanation.

    Professor Tariq Oguzlu, a leading exponent of the changing dynamics of Turkish foreign policies in recent years from a structural realist point of view, wrote an analysis last week titled Madrid Agreement and the balance policy in Turkish foreign policy, which was interestingly featured by Anadolu, Turkey’s state news agency. Oguzlu explained the rationale behind Turkey’s decision not to veto the two Nordic countries’ accession:

    “Turkiye began to change its perspective on NATO a long time ago due to its strategic autonomy and multilateral foreign policy understanding… Considering the realist turnaround in Turkish foreign policy in the last three years, it is quite meaningful that Türkiye did not veto NATO enlargement..

    “On the one hand, the second Cold War between the west and Russia narrows the room for maneuver in Turkish foreign policy, while on the other hand, it increases Türkiye’s strategic importance. The most important challenge for Turkish foreign policy in the coming years will be the successful continuation of Türkiye’s strategic autonomy-oriented multi-faceted foreign policy practices in an environment of deepening international polarization.”

    “The balance policy pursued between the west and Russia is one of the most important strategic legacies left to the Republic of Türkiye from the Ottoman Empire. It is a strategic necessity for Türkiye, which has a medium-sized power capacity, to follow a policy of balance in order to achieve national interests. The policies adopted by Türkiye since the start of Russia’s war on Ukraine until now and the stance displayed at the last NATO summit in Madrid show that this historical heritage is embraced and successfully executed.”

    To put matters in historical context, in 1920, Mustafa Kemal formally approached Vladimir Lenin with a proposal for mutual recognition and a request for military assistance. The Bolsheviks not only responded positively but by throwing in their lot with the growing movement of Turkish nationalists, they helped shore up the new Turkish state’s southern borders. In the period from 1920 to 1922, Soviet Russia’s military help to Ataturk was almost 80 million lire — twice Turkey’s defense budget.

    In 1921, in Moscow, the two sides concluded the “Treaty of Friendship and Brotherhood,” which resolved the territorial disputes between the Kemalists and the Bolsheviks. The north-eastern border of Turkey established then remains unchanged to this day.

    However, both Moscow and Ankara understood that cooperation between Turkish nationalists and Russian communists would be short-lived. Soon afterward, Turkey deserted Moscow’s camp, banned the communist party, and during the Nazi invasion, looked for an opportunity to invade the Soviet Caucasus if the Red Army collapsed. Nevertheless, Ataturk never forgot the help that Soviet Russia provided in his hour of need.

    A historical perspective is needed to understand the US’ manipulation of Turkey — and of Sweden and Finland in the present-day context. Biden is following President Harry Truman’s footfalls. Washington has used the very same Cold-War tactic to draw Sweden and Finland into the NATO fold as it employed 70 years ago with regard to Turkey.

    The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

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    President Putin: St Petersburg International Economic Forum Plenary session

    June 18, 2022

    Ed Note:  This transcript is not fully complete but we post it because of the renewed DDoS attacks on Russian infrastructure.  When it is complete, we will do an update.   (Mr Putin was on top form with an excellent, even exhaustive and detailed economic tour de force for Russia, and then of course for the sane world, or our Zone B).

    Pepe Escobar created a very high-level summary:

    THE NEW ERA

    Top Ten Breakdown – as announced by Putin

    • The era of the unipolar world is over.
    • The rupture with the West is irreversible and definitive. No pressure from the West will change it.
    • Russia has renewed its sovereignty. Reinforcement of political and economic sovereignty is an absolute priority.
    • The current crisis shows the EU is not ready to play the role of an independent, sovereign actor. It’s just an ensemble of American vassals deprived of any politico-military sovereignty.
    • Sovereignty cannot be partial. Either you’re a sovereign or a colony.
    • Hunger in the poorest nations will be on the conscience of the West and Euro-democracy.
    • Russia will supply grains to Africa and the Middle East.
    • Russia will invest in internal economic development and reorientation of trade towards nations independent of the US.
    • The future world order, currently in progress, will be formed by strong sovereign states.
    • The ship has sailed. There’s no turning back.

    A further summary from RT rounds it out:  https://www.rt.com/russia/557346-putin-spief-speech-takeaways/


    http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/68669

    President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev also took part in the session. President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping and President of the Arab Republic of Egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi addressed the session via videoconference.

    The theme this year is New Opportunities in a New World.

    * * *

    Plenary session moderator Margarita Simonyan: Good afternoon, or almost evening.

    As you may know, we had a minor technical issue. Thankfully, it has been dealt with quickly. We are grateful to those who resolved this.

    We are also grateful to the audience.

    We are grateful to our leader, President Vladimir Putin, for traditionally fitting this forum into his schedule so that he can tell us about economic prospects and other plans.

    We are grateful to President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev for attending our forum. We know that it is not an easy thing to do. Thank you for supporting our forum and our country. We really appreciate this.

    We will have a lot of questions today. You may not like some of them, and I may not be happy to ask some of them. We would be much happier to speak only about good things, but this is impossible today.

    Mr President, I would like to ask you to take the stand and to tell us what lies in store for us all. Thank you.

    President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much. President Tokayev, friends and colleagues,

    I welcome all participants and guests of the 25th St Petersburg International Economic Forum.

    It is taking place at a difficult time for the international community when the economy, markets and the very principles of the global economic system have taken a blow. Many trade, industrial and logistics chains, which were dislocated by the pandemic, have been subjected to new tests. Moreover, such fundamental business notions as business reputation, the inviolability of property and trust in global currencies have been seriously damaged. Regrettably, they have been undermined by our Western partners, who have done this deliberately, for the sake of their ambitions and in order to preserve obsolete geopolitical illusions.

    Today, our – when I say “our,” I mean the Russian leadership – our own view of the global economic situation. I would like to speak in greater depth about the actions Russia is taking in these conditions and how it plans to develop in these dynamically changing circumstances.

    When I spoke at the Davos Forum a year and a half ago, I also stressed that … the era of a unipolar world order has come to an end. I want to start with this, as there is no way around it. This era has ended despite all the attempts to maintain and preserve it at all costs. Change is a natural process of history, as it is difficult to reconcile the diversity of civilisations and the richness of cultures on the planet with political, economic or other stereotypes – these do not work here, they are imposed by one centre in a rough and no-compromise manner.

    The flaw is in the concept itself, as the concept says there is one, albeit strong, power with a limited circle of close allies, or, as they say, countries with granted access, and all business practices and international relations, when it is convenient, are interpreted solely in the interests of this power. They essentially work in one direction in a zero-sum game. A world built on a doctrine of this kind is definitely unstable.

    After declaring victory in the Cold War, the United States proclaimed itself to be God’s messenger on Earth, …without any obligations and only interests which were declared sacred. They seem to ignore the fact that in the past decades, new powerful and increasingly assertive centres have been formed. Each of them develops its own political system and public institutions according to its own model of economic growth and, naturally, has the right to protect them and to secure national sovereignty.

    These are objective processes and genuinely revolutionary tectonic shifts in geopolitics, the global economy and technology, in the entire system of international relations, where the role of dynamic and potentially strong countries and regions is substantially growing. It is no longer possible to ignore their interests.

    To reiterate, these changes are fundamental, groundbreaking and rigorous. It would be a mistake to assume that at a time of turbulent change, one can simply sit it out or wait it out until everything gets back on track and becomes what it was before. It will not.

    However, the ruling elite of some Western states seem to be harbouring this kind of illusions. They refuse to notice obvious things, stubbornly clinging to the shadows of the past. For example, they seem to believe that the dominance of the West in global politics and the economy is an unchanging, eternal value. Nothing lasts forever.

    Our colleagues are not just denying reality. More than that; they are trying to reverse the course of history. They seem to think in terms of the past century. They are still influenced by their own misconceptions about countries outside the so-called “golden billion”: they consider everything a backwater, or their backyard. They still treat them like colonies, and the people living there, like second-class people, because they consider themselves exceptional. If they are exceptional, that means everyone else is second rate.

    Thereby, the irrepressible urge to punish, to economically crush anyone who does not fit with the mainstream, does not want to blindly obey. Moreover, they crudely and shamelessly impose their ethics, their views on culture and ideas about history, sometimes questioning the sovereignty and integrity of states, and threatening their very existence. Suffice it to recall what happened in Yugoslavia, Syria, Libya and Iraq.

    If some “rebel” state cannot be suppressed or pacified, they try to isolate that state, or “cancel” it, to use their modern term. Everything goes, even sports, the Olympics, bans on culture and art masterpieces just because their creators come from the “wrong” country.

    This is the nature of the current round of Russophobia in the West, and the insane sanctions against Russia. They are crazy and, I would say, thoughtless.They are unprecedented in the number of them or the pace the West churns them out at.

    The idea was clear as day – they expected to suddenly and violently crush the Russian economy, to hit Russia’s industry, finance, and people’s living standards by destroying business chains, forcibly recalling Western companies from the Russian market, and freezing Russian assets.

    This did not work. Obviously, it did not work out; it did not happen. Russian entrepreneurs and authorities have acted in a collected and professional manner, and Russians have shown solidarity and responsibility.

    Step by step, we will normalise the economic situation. We have stabilised the financial markets, the banking system and the trade network. Now we are busy saturating the economy with liquidity and working capital to maintain the stable operation of enterprises and companies, employment and jobs.

    The dire forecasts for the prospects of the Russian economy, which were made in early spring, have not materialised. It is clear why this propaganda campaign was fuelled and all the predictions of the dollar at 200 rubles and the collapse of our economy were made. This was and remains an instrument in an information struggle and a factor of psychological influence on Russian society and domestic business circles.

    Incidentally, some of our analysts gave in to this external pressure and based their forecasts on the inevitable collapse of the Russian economy and a critical weakening of the national currency – the ruble.

    Real life has belied these predictions. However, I would like to emphasise that to continue being successful, we must be explicitly honest and realistic in assessing the situation, be independent in reaching conclusions, and of course, have a can-do spirit, which is very important. We are strong people and can deal with any challenge. Like our predecessors, we can resolve any task. The entire thousand-year history of our country bears this out.

    Within just three months of the massive package of sanctions, we have suppressed inflation rate spikes. As you know, after peaking at 17.8 percent, inflation now stands at 16.7 percent and continues dropping. This economic dynamic is being stabilised, and state finances are now sustainable. I will compare this to other regions further on. Yes, even this figure is too much for us – 16.7 percent is high inflation. We must and will work on this and, I am sure, we will achieve a positive result.

    After the first five months of this year, the federal budget has a surplus of 1.5 trillion rubles and the consolidated budget – a surplus of 3.3 trillion rubles. In May alone, the federal budget surplus reached almost half a trillion rubles, surpassing the figure for May 2021 more than four times over.

    Today, our job us to create conditions for building up production and increasing supply in the domestic market, as well as restoring demand and bank financing in the economy commensurately with the growth in supply.

    I mentioned that we have taken measures to reestablish the floating assets of companies. In most sectors, businesses have received the right to suspend insurance premiums for the second quarter of the year. Industrial companies have even more opportunities – they will be able to delay them through the third quarter as well. In effect, this is like getting an interest-free loan from the state.

    In the future, companies will not have to pay delayed insurance premiums in a single payment. They will be able to pay them in equal installments over 12 months, starting in June next year.

    Next. As of May the subsidised mortgage rate has been reduced. It is now 9 percent, while the programme has been extended till the end of the year. As I have mentioned, the programme is aimed at helping Russians improve their housing situation, while supporting the home building industry and related industries that employ millions of people.

    Following a spike this spring, interest rates have been gradually coming down, as the Central Bank lowers the key rate. I believe that that this allows the subsidised mortgage rate to be further cut to 7 percent.

    What is important here? The programme will last until the end of the year without change. It means that our fellow Russians seeking to improve their living conditions should take advantage of the subsidy before the end of the year.

    The lending cap will not change either, at 12 million roubles for Moscow and St Petersburg and 6 million for the rest of Russia.

    I should add that we must make long-term loans for businesses more accessible. The focus must shift from budget subsidies for businesses to bank lending as a means to spur business activity.

    We need to support this. We will allocate 120 billion rubles from the National Wealth Fund to build up the capacity of the VEB Project Financing Factory. This will provide for additional lending to much-needed initiatives and projects worth around half a trillion roubles.

    Colleagues,

    Once again, the economic blitzkrieg against Russia was doomed to fail from the beginning. Sanctions as a weapon have proved in recent years to be a double-edged sword damaging their advocates and architects just a much, if not more.

    I am not talking about the repercussions we see clearly today. We know that European leaders informally, so to say, furtively, discuss the very concerning possibility of sanctions being levelled not at Russia, but at any undesirable nation, and ultimately anyone including the EU and European companies.

    So far this is not the case, but European politicians have already dealt their economies a serious blow all by themselves. We see social and economic problems worsening in Europe, and in the US as well, food, electricity and fuel prices rising, with quality of life in Europe falling and companies losing their market edge.

    According to experts, the EU’s direct, calculable losses from the sanctions fever could exceed $400 billion this year. This is the price of the decisions that are far removed from reality and contradict common sense.

    These outlays fall directly on the shoulders of people and companies in the EU. The inflation rate in some Eurozone countries has exceeded 20 percent. I mentioned inflation in Russia, but the Eurozone countries are not conducting special military operations, yet the inflation rate in some of them has reached 20 percent. Inflation in the United States is also unacceptable, the highest in the past 40 years.

    Of course, inflation in Russia is also in the double digits so far. However, we have adjusted social benefits and pensions to inflation, and increased the minimum and subsistence wages, thereby protecting the most vulnerable groups of the population. At the same time, high interest rates have helped people keep their savings in the Russian banking system.

    Businesspeople know, of course, that a high key rate clearly slows economic development. But it is a boon for the people in most cases. They have reinvested a substantial amount of money in banks due to higher interest rates.

    This is our main difference from the EU countries, where rising inflation is directly reducing the real incomes of the people and eating up their savings, and the current manifestations of the crisis are affecting, above all, low-income groups.

    The growing outlays of European companies and the loss of the Russian market will have lasting negative effects. The obvious result of this will be the loss of global competitiveness and a system-wide decline in the European economies’ pace of growth for years to come.

    Taken together, this will aggravate the deep-seated problems of European societies. Yes, we have many problems as well, yet I have to speak about Europe now because they are pointing the finger at us although they have enough of their own problems. I mentioned this at Davos. A direct result of the European politicians’ actions and events this year will be the further growth of inequality in these countries, which will, in turn, split their societies still more, and the point at issue is not only the well-being but also the value orientation of various groups in these societies.

    Indeed, these differences are being suppressed and swept under the rug. Frankly, the democratic procedures and elections in Europe and the forces that come to power look like a front, because almost identical political parties come and go, while deep down things remain the same. The real interests of people and national businesses are being pushed further and further to the periphery.

    Such a disconnect from reality and the demands of society will inevitably lead to a surge in populism and extremist and radical movements, major socioeconomic changes, degradation and a change of elites in the short term. As you can see, traditional parties lose all the time. New entities are coming to the surface, but they have little chance for survival if they are not much different from the existing ones.

    The attempts to keep up appearances and the talk about allegedly acceptable costs in the name of pseudo-unity cannot hide the main thing: the European Union has lost its political sovereignty, and its bureaucratic elites are dancing to someone else’s tune, doing everything they are told from on high and hurting their own people, economies, and businesses.

    There are other critically important matters here. The worsening of the global economic situation is not a recent development. I will now go over things that I believe are extremely important. What is happening now does not stem from what happened during recent months, of course not. Moreover, it is not the result of the special military operation carried out by Russia in Donbass. Saying so is an unconcealed, deliberate distortion of the facts.

    Surging inflation in product and commodity markets had become a fact of life long before the events of this year. The world has been driven into this situation, little by little, by many years of irresponsible macroeconomic policies pursued by the G7 countries, including uncontrolled emission and accumulation of unsecured debt. These processes intensified with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, when supply and demand for goods and services drastically fell on a global scale.

    This begs the question: what does our military operation in Donbass have to do with this? Nothing whatsoever.

    Because they could not or would not devise any other recipes, the governments of the leading Western economies simply accelerated their money-printing machines. Such a simple way to make up for unprecedented budget deficits.

    I have already cited this figure: over the past two years, the money supply in the United States has grown by more than 38 percent. Previously, a similar rise took decades, but now it grew by 38 percent or 5.9 trillion dollars in two years. By comparison, only a few countries have a bigger gross domestic product.

    The EU’s money supply has also increased dramatically over this period. It grew by about 20 percent, or 2.5 trillion euros.

    Lately, I have been hearing more and more about the so-called – please excuse me, I really would not like to do this here, even mention my own name in this regard, but I cannot help it – we all hear about the so-called ‘Putin inflation’ in the West. When I see this, I wonder who they expect would buy this nonsense – people who cannot read or write, maybe. Anyone literate enough to read would understand what is actually happening.

    Russia, our actions to liberate Donbass have absolutely nothing to do with this. The rising prices, accelerating inflation, shortages of food and fuel, petrol, and problems in the energy sector are the result of system-wide errors the current US administration and European bureaucracy have made in their economic policies. That is where the reasons are, and only there.

    I will mention our operation, too: yes, it could have contributed to the trend, but the root cause is precisely this – their erroneous economic policies. In fact, the operation we launched in Donbass is a lifeline they are grabbing at to be able to blame their own miscalculations on others, in this case, on Russia. But everyone who has at least completed primary school would understand the true reasons for today’s situation.

    So, they printed more money, and then what? Where did all that money go? It was obviously used to pay for goods and services outside Western countries – this is where the newly-printed money flowed. They literally began to clean out, to wipe out global markets. Naturally, no one thought about the interests of other states, including the poorest ones. They were left with scraps, as they say, and even that at exorbitant prices.

    While at the end of 2019, imports of goods to the United States amounted to about 250 billion dollars a month, by now, it has grown to 350 billion. It is noteworthy that the growth was 40 percent – exactly in proportion to the unsecured money supply printed in recent years. They printed and distributed money, and used it to wipe out goods from third countries’ markets.

    This is what I would like to add. For a long time, the United States was a big food supplier in the world market. It was proud, and with good reason, of its achievements, its agriculture and farming traditions. By the way, this is an example for many of us, too. But today, America’s role has changed drastically. It has turned from a net exporter of food into a net importer. Loosely speaking, it is printing money and pulling commodity flows its way, buying food products all over the world.

    The European Union is building up imports even faster. Obviously, such a sharp increase in demand that is not covered by the supply of goods has triggered a wave of shortages and global inflation. This is where this global inflation originates. In the past couple of years, practically everything – raw materials, consumer goods and particularly food products – has become more expensive all over the world.

    Yes, of course, these countries, including the United States continue importing goods, but the balance between exports and imports has been reversed. I believe imports exceed exports by some 17 billion. This is the whole problem.

    According to the UN, in February 2022, the food price index was 50 percent higher than in May 2020, while the composite raw materials index has doubled over this period.

    Under the cloud of inflation, many developing nations are asking a good question: why exchange goods for dollars and euros that are losing value right before our eyes? The conclusion suggests itself: the economy of mythical entities is inevitably being replaced by the economy of real values and assets.

    According to the IMF, global currency reserves are at $7.1 trillion and 2.5 trillion euros now. These reserves are devalued at an annual rate of about 8 percent. Moreover, they can be confiscated or stolen any time if the United States dislikes something in the policy of the states involved. I think this has become a very real threat for many countries that keep their gold and foreign exchange reserves in these currencies.

    According to analyst estimates, and this is an objective analysis, a conversion of global reserves will begin just because there is no room for them with such shortages. They will be converted from weakening currencies into real resources like food, energy commodities and other raw materials. Other countries will be doing this, of course. Obviously, this process will further fuel global dollar inflation.

    As for Europe, their failed energy policy, blindly staking everything on renewables and spot supplies of natural gas, which have caused energy price increases since the third quarter of last year – again, long before the operation in Donbass – have also exacerbated price hikes. We have absolutely nothing to do with this. It was due to their own actions that prices have gone through the roof, and now they are once again looking for somebody to blame.

    Not only did the West’s miscalculations affect the net cost of goods and services but they also resulted in decreased fertiliser production, mainly nitrogen fertilisers made from natural gas. Overall, global fertiliser prices have jumped by over 70 percent from mid-2021 through February 2022.

    Unfortunately, there are currently no conditions that can overcome these pricing trends. On the contrary, aggravated by obstacles to the operation of Russian and Belarusian fertiliser producers and disrupted supply logistics, this situation is approaching a deadlock.

    It is not difficult to foresee coming developments. A shortage of fertiliser means a lower harvest and a higher risk of an undersupplied global food market. Prices will go even higher, which could lead to hunger in the poorest countries. And it will be fully on the conscience of the US administration and the European bureaucracy.

    I want to emphasise once again: this problem did not arise today or in the past three or four months. And certainly, it is not Russia’s fault as some demagogues try to declare, shifting the responsibility for the current state of affairs in the world economy to our country.

    Maybe it would even be nice to hear that we are so powerful and omnipotent that we can blow up inflation in the West, in the United States and Europe, or that we can do things to throw everything into disorder. Maybe it would be nice to feel this power, if only there were truth in it. This situation has been brewing for years, spurred by the short-sighted actions of those who are used to solving their problems at somebody else’s expense and who have relied and still rely on the mechanism of financial emission to outbid and draw trade flows, thus escalating deficits and provoking humanitarian disasters in certain regions of the world. I will add that this is essentially the same predatory colonial policy as in the past, but of course in a new iteration, a more subtle and sophisticated edition. You might not even recognise it at first.

    The current priority of the international community is to increase food deliveries to the global market, notably, to satisfy the requirements of the countries that need food most of all.

    While ensuring its domestic food security and supplying the domestic market, Russia is also able to scale up its food and fertiliser exports. For example, our grain exports in the next season can be increased to 50 million tonnes.

    As a priority, we will supply the countries that need food most of all, where the number of starving people could increase, first of all, African countries and the Middle East.

    At the same time, there will be problems there, and not through our fault either. Yes, on paper Russian grain, food and fertilisers… Incidentally, the Americans have adopted sanctions on our fertilisers, and the Europeans followed suit. Later, the Americans lifted them because they saw what this could lead to.

    But the Europeans have not backed off. Their bureaucracy is as slow as a flour mill in the 18th century. In other words, everyone knows that they have done a stupid thing, but they find it difficult to retrace their steps for bureaucratic reasons.

    As I have said, Russia is ready to contribute to balancing global markets of agricultural products, and we see that our UN colleagues, who are aware of the scale of the global food problem, are ready for dialogue. We could talk about creating normal logistical, financial and transport conditions for increasing Russian food and fertiliser exports.

    As for Ukrainian food supplies to global markets – I have to mention this because of numerous speculations – we are not hindering them. They can do it. We did not mine the Black Sea ports of Ukraine. They can clear the mines and resume food exports. We will ensure the safe navigation of civilian vessels. No problem.

    But what are we talking about? According to the US Department of Agriculture, the matter concerns 6 million tonnes of wheat (we estimate it at 5 million tonnes) and 7 million tonnes of maize. This is it, altogether. Since global production of wheat stands at 800 million tonnes, 5 million tonnes make little difference for the global market, as you can see.

    Anyway, Ukrainian grain can be exported, and not only via Black Sea ports. Another route is via Belarus, which is, incidentally, the cheapest way. Or via Poland or Romania, whichever you prefer. In fact, there are five or six export routes.

    The problem is not with us, the problem is with the adequacy of the people in control in Kiev. They can decide what to do, and, at least in this particular case, they should not take their lead from their foreign bosses, their masters across the ocean.

    But there is also the risk that grain will be used as payment for arms deliveries. This would be regrettable.

    Friends,

    Once again, the world is going through an era of drastic change. International institutions are breaking down and faltering. Security guarantees are being devalued. The West has made a point of refusing to honour its earlier commitments. It has simply been impossible to reach any new agreements with them.

    Given these circumstances and against the backdrop of mounting risks and threats, Russia was forced to go ahead with the special military operation. It was a difficult but necessary decision, and we were forced to make it.

    This was the decision of a sovereign country, which has еру unconditional right to uphold its security, which is based on the UN Charter. This decision was aimed at protecting our people and the residents of the people’s republics of Donbass who for eight long years were subjected to genocide by the Kiev regime and the neo-Nazis who enjoyed the full protection of the West.

    The West not only sought to implement an “anti-Russia” scenario, but also engaged in the active military development of Ukrainian territory, flooding Ukraine with weapons and military advisers. And it continues to do so now. Frankly, no one is paying any attention to the economy or well-being of the people living there, they just do not care about it at all, but they have never spared money to create a NATO foothold in the east that is directed against Russia and to cultivate aggression, hatred and Russophobia.

    Today, our soldiers and officers, as well as the Donbass militia, are fighting to protect their people. They are fighting for Russia’s future as a large, free and secure multiethnic country that makes its own decisions, determines its own future, relies on its history, culture and traditions, and rejects any and all outside attempts to impose pseudo-values steeped in dehumanisation and moral degradation.

    No doubt, our special military operation goals will be fulfilled. The key to this is the courage and heroism of our soldiers, consolidated Russian society, whose support gives strength and confidence to the Russian Army and Navy and a deep understanding of the truth and historical justice of our cause which is to build and strengthen Russia as a strong sovereign power.

    My point is that sovereignty cannot be segmented or fragmented in the 21st century. The components of sovereignty are equally important, and they reinvigorate and complement each other.

    So, what matters to us is not only the defence of our political sovereignty and national identity, but also strengthening everything that determines our country’s economic, financial, professional and technological independence.

    The very structure of Western sanctions rested on the false premise that economically Russia is not sovereign and is critically vulnerable. They got so carried away spreading the myth of Russia’s backwardness and its weak positions in the global economy and trade that apparently, they started believing it themselves.

    While planning their economic blitzkrieg, they did not notice, simply ignored the real facts of how much our country had changed in the past few years.

    These changes are the result of our planned efforts to create a sustainable macroeconomic structure, ensure food security, implement import substitution programmes and create our own payment system, to name a few.

    Of course, sanction restrictions created many challenges for the country. Some companies continue having problems with spare parts. Our companies have lost access to many technological solutions. Logistics are in disarray.

    But, on the other hand, all this opens up new opportunities for us – we often talk about this but it really is so. All this is an impetus to build an economy with full rather than partial technological, production, human and scientific potential and sovereignty.

    Naturally, it is impossible to resolve such a comprehensive challenge instantly. It is necessary to continue working systematically with an eye to the future. This is exactly what Russia is doing by implementing its long-term plans for the development of branches of the economy and strengthening the social sphere. The current trials are merely resulting in adjustments and modifications of the plans without changing their strategic orientation.

    Today, I would like to talk about the key principles on which our country, our economy will develop.

    The first principle is openness. Genuinely sovereign states are always interested in equal partnership and in contributing to global development. On the contrary, weak and dependent countries are usually looking for enemies, fuelling xenophobia or losing the last remnants of their identity and independence, blindly following in the wake of their suzerain.

    Russia will never follow the road of self-isolation and autarky although our so-called Western friends are literally dreaming about this. Moreover, we are expanding cooperation with all those who are interested in it, who want to work with us, and will continue to do so. … They make up the overwhelming majority of people on Earth.

    I will not list all these countries now. It is common knowledge.

    I will say nothing new when I remind you that everyone who wants to continue working or is working with Russia is subjected to blatant pressure from the United States and Europe; it goes as far as direct threats. However, this kind of blackmail means little when it comes to countries headed by true leaders who know the difference between their own national interests, the interests of their people – and someone else’s.

    Russia will build up economic cooperation with these states and promote joint projects. At the same time, we will certainly continue to cooperate with Western companies that have remained in the Russian market despite the unprecedented arm-twisting – such companies exist, too.

    We believe the development of a convenient and independent payment infrastructure in national currencies is a solid and predictable basis for deepening international cooperation. To help companies from other countries develop logistical and cooperation ties, we are working to improve transport corridors, increase the capacity of railways, transshipment capacity at ports in the Arctic, and in the eastern, southern and other parts of the country, including in the Azov-Black Sea and Caspian basins – they will become the most important section of the North-South Corridor, which will provide stable connectivity with the Middle East and Southern Asia. We expect freight traffic along this route to begin growing steadily in the near future.

    But foreign trade is not our only priority. Russia intends to increase scientific, technological, cultural, humanitarian and sports cooperation based on equality and mutual respect between partners. At the same time, our country will strive for responsible leadership in all these areas.

    The second principle of our long-term development is a reliance on entrepreneurial freedom. Every private initiative aimed at benefiting Russia should receive maximum support and space for implementation.

    The pandemic and the more recent events have confirmed how important flexibility and freedom are in the economy. Russian private businesses – in tough conditions, amid attempts to restrain our development by any means – have proved they can compete in global markets. Private businesses should also be credited for Russia’s adaptation to rapidly changing external conditions. Russia needs to ensure the dynamic development of the economy – naturally, relying on private business.

    We will continue to reduce administrative hurdles. For example, in 2016–2018, we imposed a moratorium on routine audits of small businesses. Subsequently, it was extended through 2022. In 2020, this moratorium was extended to cover mid-sized companies. Also, the number of unscheduled audits decreased approximately fourfold.

    We did not stop at that, and last March, we cancelled routine audits for all entrepreneurs, regardless of the size of their businesses, provided their activities do not put people or the environment at high risk. As a result, the number of routine audits has declined sixfold compared to last year.

    Why am I giving so many details? The point is that after the moratorium on audits was imposed, the number of violations by entrepreneurs – this was the result – has not increased, but rather it has gone down. This testifies to the maturity and responsibility of Russian businesses. Of course, they should be offered motivation rather than being forced to observe regulations and requirements.

    So, there is every reason to take another radical step forward, that is, to abandon, for good and on a permanent basis, the majority of audits for all Russian businesses, except on risky or potentially dangerous activities. Everyone has long since understood that there was no need to check on everyone without exception. A risk-oriented approach should be at work. I ask the Government to develop the specific parameters of such a reform in the next few months.

    There is another very sensitive topic for business, which has also become important today for our national security and economic resilience. To reduce and bring to a minimum all sorts of abuse and loopholes to exert pressure on entrepreneurs, we are consistently removing loose regulations from criminal law that are applied to economic crimes.

    Last March, a law was signed, under which tax-related criminal cases against entrepreneurs shall only be brought before a court by the tax service – there is no other way. Soon a draft law will be passed on reducing the statute of limitations for tax-related crimes and on rejecting lawsuits to initiate criminal proceedings after tax arrears have been paid off.

    Working comprehensively, although prudently, we need to decriminalise a wide range of economic offenses, for instance, those that punish businesses without a licence or accreditation. This is a controversial practice today because our Western partners illegitimately refuse to provide such licenses.

    Our own agencies must not single-handedly make our businesses criminally liable for actually doing nothing wrong. The problem is this, and small businesses understand it very well – if a licence has expired, and Western partners refuse to extend it, what are businesses to do, wrap up operations? By no means, let them work. State oversight should continue, but there should be no undue interference in business.

    It also makes sense to think about raising the threshold of criminal liability for unpaid customs duties and other such taxes. Additionally, we have not for a long time reconsidered the parameters of the terms ‘large’ and ‘very large’ economic loss for the purposes of economic offences despite inflation accruing 50 percent since 2016. The law now fails to reflect the current realities and needs to be corrected.

    We need to reconsider the conditions for detaining entrepreneurs and for extending preliminary investigations. It is no secret that these practices have long been used inappropriately.

    Businesses have been forced to cease operations or go bankrupt even before the investigation is over. The reputation of the owners and of the brand name suffers as a result, not to mention the direct financial loss, loss of market share and jobs.

    I want to ask law enforcement to put an end to these practices. I also ask the Government and the Supreme Court to draft appropriate legislation before October 1 of this year.

    In addition, at the Security Council, a special instruction was given to look into criminal cases being opened without later proceeding to court. The number of such cases has grown in recent years. We know the reasons. A case is often opened without sufficient grounds or to put pressure on individuals. We will discuss this in autumn to take legislative action and change the way our law enforcement agencies work.

    It goes without saying that regional governments play a major role in creating a modern business environment. As is customary during the St Petersburg Forum, I highlight the regions that have made significant progress in the National Investment Climate Rankings compiled by the Agency for Strategic Initiatives.

    There have been changes in the top three. Moscow and Tatarstan have remained at the top and were joined by the Moscow Region which, in a span of one year, went from eighth place to the top three. The leaders of the rankings also include the Tula, Nizhny Novgorod, Tyumen, Novgorod, and Sakhalin regions, St Petersburg and Bashkortostan.

    Separately, I would like to highlight the regions that have made the greatest strides such as the Kurgan Region, which moved up 36 spots; the Perm Territory and the Altai Territory, up 26 spots; Ingushetia, up 24 spots; and the Ivanovo Region which moved up 17 spots.

    I want to thank and congratulate our colleagues in the regions for their good work.

    The federal government and regional and municipal governments should focus on supporting individual business initiatives in small towns and remote rural communities. We are aware of such stories of success. That includes developing popular software and marketing locally produced organic food and environmentally friendly products nationwide using domestic websites.

    It is important to create new opportunities, to introduce modern retail formats, including e-commerce platforms, as I mentioned above, and to cut the logistics, transportation and other costs, including by using upgraded Russian Post offices.

    It is also important to help small business employees, self-employed individuals and start-up entrepreneurs acquire additional skills and competencies. Please include corresponding measures tailored specifically to small towns and rural and remote areas as a separate line in the national project for promoting small and medium-sized businesses.

    Today I would like to address our officials, owners of large companies, our business leaders and executives.

    Colleagues, friends,

    Real, stable success and a sense of dignity and self-respect only come when you link your future and the future of your children with your Fatherland. We have maintained ties with many people for a long time, and I am aware of the sentiments of many of the heads and owners of our companies. You have told me many times that business is much more than just making a profit, and I fully agree. It is about changing life around you, contributing to the development of your home cities, regions and the country as a whole, which is extremely important for self-fulfilment. There is nothing like serving the people and society. This is the meaning of your life and work.

    Recent events have reaffirmed what I have always said: it is much better at home. Those who refused to hear that clear message have lost hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars in the West, in what looked like a safe haven for their assets.

    I would like to once again say the following to our colleagues, those who are both in this audience and those who are not here: please, do not fall into the same trap again. Our country has huge potential, and there are more than enough tasks that need your contribution. Invest here, in the creation of new enterprises and jobs, in the development of the tourism infrastructure, support schools, universities, healthcare and the social sphere, culture and sport. I know that many of you are doing this. I know this, but I wanted to say it again.

    This is how the Bakhrushin, Morozov, Shchukin, Ryabushinsky, Akchurin, Galeyev, Apanayev, Matsiyev, Mamontov, Tretyakov, Arsanov, Dadashev and Gadzhiyev families understood their noble mission. Many Russian, Tatar, Buryat, Chechen, Daghestani, Yakutian, Ossetian, Jewish, Armenian and other merchant and entrepreneurial families did not deprive their heirs of their due share, and at the same time they etched their names in the history of our country.

    Incidentally, I would like to note once again that it remains to be seen what is more important for potential heirs: money and property or their forefathers’ good name and service to the country. The latter is something that cannot be squandered or, pardon my language, wasted on drink.

    A good name is something that will always belong to your descendants, to future generations. It will always be part of their lives, going from one generation to another, helping them and making them stronger than the money or property they might inherit can make them.

    Colleagues,

    A responsible and well-balanced macroeconomic policy is the third guiding principle of our long-term development. In fact, this policy has largely enabled us to withstand the unprecedented pressure brought on by sanctions. Let me reiterate that this is an essential policy in the long term, not just for responding to the current challenges. We will not follow in the footsteps of our Western colleagues by replicating their bitter experience setting off an inflation spiral and disrupting their finances.

    Our goal is to ensure robust economic growth for years to come, reducing the inflation burden on our people and businesses and achieving the mid- and long-term target inflation rate of four percent. Inflation was one of the first things I mentioned during my remarks, so let me tell you this: we remain committed to this target of a four-percent inflation rate.

    I have already instructed the Government to draft proposals regarding the new budget guidelines. They must ensure that our budget policy is predictable and enables us to make the best use of the external economic conditions. Why do we need all this? To put economic growth on a more stable footing, while also delivering on our infrastructure and technological objectives, which provide a foundation for improving the wellbeing of our people.

    True, some international reserve currencies have set themselves on a suicidal path lately, which is an obvious fact. In any case, they clearly have suicidal intentions. Of course, using them to ‘sterilise’ our money supply does not make any sense. Still, the principle of planning one’s spending based on how much you earn remains relevant. This is how it works, and we understand this.

    Social justice is the fourth principle underpinning our development. There must be a powerful social dimension when it comes to promoting economic growth and business initiatives. This development model must reduce inequality instead of deepening it, unlike what is happening in other countries. To be honest, we have not been at the forefront when it comes to delivering on these objectives. We have yet to resolve many issues and problems in this regard.

    Reducing poverty and inequality is all about creating demand for Russian-made products across the country, bridging the gap between regions in terms of their capabilities, and creating new jobs where they are needed the most. These are the core economic development drivers.

    Let me emphasise that generating positive momentum in terms of household income growth and poverty reduction are the main performance indicators for government agencies and the state in general. We need to achieve tangible results in this sphere already this year, despite all the objective challenges we face. I have already assigned this task to the Government.

    Again, we provide targeted support to the most vulnerable groups – pensioners, families with children, and people in difficult life situations.

    Pensions are indexed annually at a rate higher than inflation. This year, they have been raised twice, including by another 10 percent on June 1.

    The minimum wage was also increased by 10 percent at the same time, and so was the subsistence minimum – a reference figure used to calculate many social benefits and payments – accordingly, these benefits should also grow, increasing the incomes of about 15 million people.

    In recent years, we have built a holistic system to support low-income families with children. Women are entitled to state support from the early stages of pregnancy and until the child reaches the age of 17.

    People’s living standards and prosperity are the most important demographic factors; the current situation is quite challenging due to several negative demographic waves that have recently overlapped. In April, less than a hundred thousand children were born in Russia, almost 13 percent less than in April 2020.

    I ask the Government to continue to keep the development of additional support measures for families with children under review. They must be far-reaching and commensurate with the magnitude of the extraordinary demographic challenge we are facing.

    Russia’s future is ensured by families with two, three and more children. Therefore, we need to do more than provide direct financial support – we need to target and direct the healthcare system, education, and all areas that determine the quality of people’s lives towards the needs of families with children.

    This problem is addressed, among other approaches, by the national social initiatives, which regional teams and the Agency for Strategic Initiatives are implementing together. This autumn, we will assess the results of their work, review and rank the Russian regions by quality of life in order to apply the best experiences and practices as widely as possible throughout the country.

    Prioritising the development of infrastructure is the fifth principle underlying Russia’s economic policy.

    We have scaled up direct budget spending on expanding transport corridors. An ambitious plan for building and repairing the federal and regional motorway core network will be launched next year. At least 85 percent of the roads are to be brought up to code within the next five years.

    Infrastructure budget lending is a new tool that is being widely used. The loans are issued for 15 years at a 3 percent APR. As I mentioned before, they are much more popular than we originally thought. The regions have multiple well-thought-out and promising projects that should be launched at the earliest convenience. We will look into how we can use this support measure. We debated this issue last night. What I am saying is that it is a reliable tool.

    Upgrading housing and utilities services is a separate matter with a backlog of issues. The industry is chronically underinvested to the tune of 4.5 trillion rubles. Over 40 percent of networks need to be replaced, which accounts for their low efficiency and big losses. About 3 percent of the networks become unusable every year, but no more than 2 percent get replaced, which makes the problem even worse every single year.

    I propose consolidating resources and launching a comprehensive programme for upgrading housing and utilities, and synchronizing it with other infrastructure development and housing overhaul plans. The goal is to turn the situation around and to gradually reduce the number of dated networks, just like we are doing by relocating people from structurally unsafe buildings or fixing roads. We will discuss in detail housing and utilities and the construction complex with the governors at a State Council Presidium meeting next week.

    On a separate note, I propose increasing resources to fund projects to create a comfortable urban environment in small towns and historical settlements. This programme is working well for us. I propose allocating another 10 billion rubles annually for these purposes in 2023–2024.

    We will allocate additional funds for renovating urban areas in the Far Eastern Federal District. I want the Government to allocate dedicated funds to this end as part of the programmes for infrastructure budget lending and housing and utilities upgrading, as well as other development programmes.

    Promoting comprehensive improvements and development for rural areas is a top priority for us. People who live there are feeding the country. We now see that they are also feeding a major part of the world, so they must live in comfort and dignity. In this connection, I am asking the Government to allocate additional funding for the corresponding programme. Export duties on agricultural produce can serve as a source of funding here. This is a permanent source of revenue. Of course, there can be fluctuations, but at least this ensures a constant flow of revenue.

    On a separate note, I suggest that we expand the programmes for upgrading and modernising rural cultural centres, as well as regional theatres and museums by allocating six billion rubles for each of these projects in 2023 and 2024.

    What I have just said about cultural institutions is something that people are really looking forward to, something they really care about. Let me give you a recent example: during the presentation of the Hero of Labour medals, one of the winners, Vladimir Mikhailov from Yakutia, asked me directly for help with building a cultural centre in his native village. This was during the part of the ceremony where we meet behind closed doors. We will definitely do this. The fact that people are raising this issue at all levels shows that they are really eager to see these projects implemented.

    At this point, I would like to make a sidenote on a topic that is especially relevant now, since we are in early summer, when Russians usually take their summer vacations.

    Every year, more and more tourists want to visit the most beautiful corners of our country: national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and nature reserves. According to available estimates, this year this tourist flow is expected to exceed 12 million people. It is essential that all government bodies, businesses and tourists are well aware of what they can and cannot do in these territories, where they can build tourism infrastructure, and where such activity is strictly prohibited because it endangers unique and fragile ecosystems.

    The draft law governing tourism in special protected territories and regulating this activity in a civilised manner is already in the State Duma.

    In this context, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that we must figure out in advance all the relevant estimates and ensure that the decisions are well-balanced. We need to be serious about this.

    I would like to place special emphasis on the need to preserve Lake Baikal. In particular, there is a comprehensive development project for the city of Baikalsk, which must become a model of sustainable, eco-sensitive municipal governance.

    This is not just about getting rid of the accumulated negative environmental impacts from the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill, but about setting a higher standard of living for the city and transforming it into a signature destination for environmental tourism in Russia. We need to rely on the most cutting-edge technologies and clean energy when carrying out this project.

    Overall, we will be developing clean technology to achieve the goals we set in the environmental modernisation of production facilities, and to reduce hazardous emissions, especially in large industrial centres. We will also continue working on closed-loop economy projects, green projects and climate preservation. I spoke about these issues in detail at this forum last year.

    Consequently, the sixth cross-cutting development principle that consolidates our work is, in my opinion, achieving genuine technological sovereignty, creating an integral system of economic development that does not depend on foreign institutions when it comes to critically important components. We need to develop all areas of life on a qualitatively new technological level without being simply users of other countries’ solutions. We must have technological keys to developing next-generation goods and services.

    In the past years, we have focused a lot of attention on import substitution, succeeding in a range of industries, including agriculture, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, defence production and several others.

    But I should stress that there is a lot of discussion in our society about import substitution. And it is not a cure-all nor a comprehensive solution. If we only imitate others when trying to replace foreign goods with copies, even if very high-quality ones, we may end up constantly playing catch-up while we should be one step ahead and create our own competitive technologies, goods and services that can become new global standards.

    If you remember, Sergei Korolyov did not just copy or locally upgrade captured rocket technology. He focused on the future and proposed a unique plan to develop the R-7 rocket. He paved the path to space for humankind and in fact set a standard for the entire world, for decades ahead.

    Proactively – this is how founders of many Soviet research programmes worked at the time. And today, building on that groundwork, our designers continue to make progress and show their worth. It is thanks to them that Russia has supersonic weapons that do not exist in any other country. Rosatom remains the leader in nuclear technology, developing our fleet of nuclear-powered icebreakers. Many Russian AI and Big Data solutions are the best in the world.

    To reiterate, technological development is a cross-cutting area that will define the current decade and the entire 21st century. We will review in depth our approaches to building a groundbreaking technology-based economy – a techno economy – at the upcoming Strategic Development Council meeting. There is so much we can discuss. Most importantly, many managerial decisions must be made in the sphere of engineering education and transferring research to the real economy, and the provision of financial resources for fast-growing high-tech companies. We will also discuss the development of cross-cutting technologies and progress of digital transformation projects in individual industries.

    To be clear, of course it is impossible to make every product out there, and there is no need for that. However, we need to possess critical technologies in order to be able to move swiftly should we need to start our own production of any product. This is what we did when we quickly started making coronavirus vaccines, and most recently launched the production of many other products and services.

    For example, after dishonest KamAZ partners left the Russian market, their place was taken by domestic companies, which are supplying parts for traditional models and even advanced mainline, transport and heavy-duty vehicles.

    The Mir card payment system has successfully replaced Visa and MasterCard on the domestic market. It is expanding its geography and gradually gaining international recognition.

    The St Petersburg Tractor Plant is another case in point. Its former foreign partner stopped selling engines and providing warranty maintenance. Engine builders from Yaroslavl and Tutayev came to the rescue and started supplying their engines. As a result, the output of agricultural equipment at the St Petersburg Tractor Plant hit a record high in March-April. It did not decrease, but hit an all-time high.

    I am sure there will be more positive practices and success stories.

    To reiterate, Russia possesses the professional, scientific and technological potential to develop products that enjoy high demand, including household appliances and construction equipment, as well as industrial and service equipment.

    Today’s task is to scale up the capacities and promptly get the necessary lines up and running. One of the key issues is comfortable work conditions for the businesses as well as the availability of prepared production sites.

    I ask the Government to submit key parameters of the new operating guidelines for industrial clusters by the autumn. What is critical here?

    First – financing. The projects launched in these clusters must have a long-term credit resource for up to ten years at an annual interest rate below seven percent in rubles. We have discussed all these issues with our economic agencies as well. Everyone agreed, so we will proceed.

    Second – taxation. The clusters must have a low level of relatively permanent taxes including insurance contributions.

    Third – supporting production at the early, kick-off stage, forming a package of orders including subsidising the purchases of ready products by such enterprises. This is not an easy issue but I think subsidies may be required. They are needed to ensure the market. We just have to work it out.

    Fourth – simplified administration including minimal or no inspections as well as convenient customs monitoring that is not burdensome.

    Fifth, and probably the most important – we need to set up mechanisms of guaranteed long-term demand for the new innovative products that are about to enter the market. I remind the Government that such preferential terms and respective industrial clusters must be launched as early as January 1, 2023.

    On a related note, I want to say that both new and already operating points of industrial growth must attract small businesses and engage them in their orbit. It is crucial for entrepreneurs, for small entities to see the horizon and grasp their prospects.

    Therefore, I ask the Government together with the SME Corporation [Federal Corporation for the Development of Small and Medium Enterprises] and our biggest companies to launch an instrument for long-term contracts between companies with state participation and SMEs. This will ensure demand for the products of such enterprises for years ahead whereas suppliers can confidently undertake commitments to launch a new manufacturing facility or expand an existing one to meet that order.

    Let me add that we have substantially shortened the timeframe for building industrial sites and eliminated all the unnecessary burdensome procedures. Still, there is much more we can do here. We have things to work on, and places to go from here. For example, building an industrial facility from the ground up takes anywhere from eighteen months to three years, while the persistently high interest rates make it harder to buy suitable land plots.

    Given this, I suggest launching industrial mortgages as a new tool for empowering Russian businesses to quickly start making all the products we need. What I mean are preferential long-term loans at a five-percent interest rate. Companies planning to buy new manufacturing space will be entitled to these loans. I am asking the Government to work out all the details with the Russian banking sector so that the industrial mortgage programme becomes fully operational soon.

    Friends,

    Changes in the global economy, finances and international relations are unfolding at an ever-growing pace and scale. There is an increasingly pronounced trend in favour of a multipolar growth model in lieu of globalisation. Of course, building and shaping a new world order is no easy task. We will have to confront many challenges, risks, and factors that we can hardly predict or anticipate today.

    Still, it is obvious that it is up to the strong sovereign states, those that do not follow a trajectory imposed by others, to set the rules governing the new world order. Only powerful and sovereign states can have their say in this emerging world order. Otherwise, they are doomed to become or remain colonies devoid of any rights.

    We need to move forward and change in keeping with the times, while demonstrating our national will and resolve. Russia enters this nascent era as a powerful sovereign nation. We will definitely use the new immense opportunities that are opening up for us in this day and age in order to become even stronger.

    Thank you for your attention.

    Margarita Simonyan: Thank you, Mr President.

    I would very much like to say that after such exhaustive remarks and such an exhaustive analysis, we have nothing left to talk about, because you have answered all the questions. Still, some questions remain, and we will certainly ask them.

    And now I would like to ask President Tokayev to come over here and share with us his perspective on the processes taking place in his country, in our country, and in relations between our countries and in the world.

    Thank you.

    President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev: President Putin,

    forum participants,

    I congratulate everyone on a significant event – the 25th St Petersburg International Economic Forum. I thank President Putin for the invitation and for the warm and cordial welcome in the cultural capital of Russia.

    Over the past quarter of a century, the St Petersburg Forum has deservedly gained respect as a prestigious expert platform and occupies a worthy place among other world discussion platforms.

    Today, we are meeting in rather extraordinary circumstances – I am referring to the elevated political and economic turbulence. The global upheavals caused by the pandemic and the rising geopolitical tensions have led to a new reality. Globalisation has given way to an era of regionalisation, with all its inherent advantages and disadvantages. Be that as it may, the process of reformatting traditional economic models and trade routes is accelerating.

    The world is changing rapidly – unfortunately, in most cases it is not for the better. Inflation in many countries is breaking ten-year records, global economic growth is slowing down, and competition for investment and resources is intensifying.

    There are constraining factors for economic growth such as climate change, growing migration flows, and faster technological change. We certainly pay attention to these processes.

    Speaking about the new reality, it is important to bear in mind the rapidly changing structure of the international order – even the seemingly stable East-West, North-South vectors of interaction are shifting. It is important for the countries in our region not only to find the right answers to all these challenges, but also to try to make the most of them. Therefore, we have to consistently reach our full potential for cooperation within the Eurasian Economic Union. The project to link Eurasian integration with China’s One Belt, One Road initiative is relevant here.

    As you know, Kazakhstan is now implementing large-scale political and economic reforms. Their goal is to reset public administration and build a fair, new Kazakhstan. We are working to ensure that there is a correlation between economic growth and rising living standards for our people. We want to achieve sustainable development of trade and economic ties, open new production lines, support the growth of human capital, and make investments.

    As part of our large-scale effort to modernise the country, we are drafting new rules of the game in the economy without glaring monopolies and rampant corruption. Our priority is to support businesses and improve the business climate with a view to providing the utmost protection for the rights of investors, and promoting stability and predictability. We will continue meeting all of our commitments to our traditional partners. Kazakhstan will continue building an inclusive, fair society without social inequality.

    I believe that to ensure sustainable development of all countries of the region, it is necessary to determine new horizons of cooperation and create new growth points in our economies. Along with this, we must always remember the very important task of ensuring international and regional security.

    In this context, I would like to draw your attention to the following points.

    The first task, as I have already mentioned, is to strengthen the capacity of the Eurasian Economic Union. This task remains relevant for us. The aggregate size of the economies of its members exceeds $2 trillion. This is an enormous market with free movement of goods, capital, services and workforce. At any rate, this is what it should be.

    Despite the pandemic and geopolitical upheavals, cooperation in the EAEU continues to grow stronger. Last year, its trade reached a record $73 billion, which is a third higher than last year.

    Russia has been and remains Kazakhstan’s key economic partner in the EAEU. Last year, our trade went up by almost a third to exceed $24 billion. These are record figures for us. The dynamics remains positive this year as well. Our trade increased by over 12 percent in the first quarter of 2022.

    I believe that, considering the new reality, it would be appropriate and useful to develop an innovative trade strategy within the Eurasian Economic Union. Instead of imposing counter-sanctions, which, frankly, are unlikely to be productive, a more proactive and flexible trade policy should be pursued covering the Asian and the Middle Eastern markets. Kazakhstan could be instrumental in its role of a buffer market.

    Overall, the ultimate success of Eurasian integration largely, if not massively, depends on our effective common trade strategy. Kazakhstan and Russia can break new ground in industrial cooperation.

    We have a special plan, a programme for industrial cooperation in the new circumstances. Investors from Russia will be provided with industrial sites complete with infrastructure, and a favourable investment climate will be created for them. As a matter of fact, this is already being done.

    The full unlocking of our countries’ agricultural potential is particularly important in these circumstances. According to the FAO [the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations], Russia and Kazakhstan are global leaders in terms of available agricultural land. This fact is of particular importance in light of declining global food security. According to the UN, the number of malnourished people will go from 270 million to 323 million this year.

    Providing people with high-quality and safe food remains a priority and a factor in maintaining internal stability.

    To create a reliable food system, it is important to implement innovative solutions and advanced technologies, as well as to cut food losses.

    Approaches to ensuring food security should be developed at the national level and within regional associations, including the EAEU with account taken of the interests of all state participants. Achieving declared goals in this extremely important area is unlikely without coordinated work.

    In other words, fighting skyrocketing inflation and food shortages is our common challenge, which will remain a priority in the foreseeable future, because it directly concerns the well-being of our people. Our countries’ potential makes it possible to consistently and fully supply our markets with the necessary foods, as the President of Russia convincingly demonstrated today.

    Secondly, I believe that it is essential that we continue expanding trade and economic cooperation with third countries. Kazakhstan is proactively involved in integration processes, and has always stood for mutually beneficial cooperation with other international organisations.

    As far as I know, there has been much interest on the sidelines of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum in Russia’s initiative to build a Greater Eurasian Partnership. This concept consists of offering regional organisations a platform for creating a common space of equal cooperation. It is for this reason that Kazakhstan continues to have a positive outlook on the effort to build the Greater Eurasian Partnership.

    This year, Kazakhstan chairs the Commonwealth of Independent States. Over the years, this structure has built up a positive track record despite all the geopolitical challenges, which proves that multilateral dialogue tools are effective.

    I believe that the CIS is perfectly suited for serving as a foundation for this megaproject. I am referring to Greater Eurasia, or the Greater Eurasian Partnership. It can encompass the SCO, ASEAN, and the Eurasian Economic Union as its integral elements.

    Over the next decade, China, India, as well as countries in the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia, which have traditionally been friendly to us, can become major investors in the economies of our region.

    China has already emerged as Kazakhstan’s main economic and foreign trade partner. This country invested in our economy more than $22 billion over the past 15 years. For this reason, strengthening our multilateral cooperation with China is a very important goal for our country.

    Of course, the economy matters today just as much as political considerations. I believe that we have to promote business-to-business ties and build new transport and logistics corridors. Today, we treat these matters as our top priorities when meeting with people from Russia and other interested nations.

    There is a lot of potential for combining our efforts to develop a pool of breakthrough innovation and technology projects, as well as uninterrupted transportation and logistics chains. At the end of the day, this will create new economic growth opportunities for our countries.

    Thirdly, Kazakhstan maintains its unwavering commitment to international efforts to combat climate change. We will be consistent in our efforts to promote green investment and carry out corresponding projects. Environmental problems are global in nature, affecting almost all countries without exception, including Kazakhstan.

    Last year, our farmers had serious problems due to a draught that was triggered by low rainfall and low water level in rivers. The cross-border Ural River is in critical condition. We call it Zhayyq on our territory.

    I believe we should tackle such problems together when faced with such long-term challenges to the sustainable development of our states. I think we should give serious thought to the prospects of introducing the principles of closed-loop or circular economy. We are working to reduce the GDP’s energy-output ratio, expand the renewable energy sector and reduce transit losses in this area.

    The similarity of our economies, industrial infrastructure ties between our two countries and geography as such are prompting us to pool efforts in this strategically important area as well. I hope that together we will manage to draft effective approaches and specific measures for tangible progress in this field.

    Fourthly. High quality human resources and constructive inter-cultural dialogue are a reliable source of economic growth. As part of the UN-proclaimed International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures, we will continue our policy of preserving the cultural diversity of our country and promoting international dialogue between civilisations.

    In September our capital will host yet another congress of world and traditional religions. We welcome the participation of religious figures from Russia in this forum. Practically all of them confirmed their participation.

    Kazakhstan is actively reformatting the system of its higher education with the participation of leading foreign universities, including Russian ones. The deepening of international academic ties has special significance for promoting the traditions of bilateral cooperation.

    I am convinced that the successful implementation of a number of joint educational and cultural initiatives will allow us to make a tangible contribution to the steady economic advance of our country.

    Participants of the forum,

    Kazakhstan proceeds from its firm conviction that Eurasia is our common home and that all countries on our continent should closely cooperate in the community. We are confident that the building of a peaceful, stable and economically strong Eurasia will become a major factor of sustainable development and inclusive growth on a global scale.

    I am convinced that this prestigious discussion venue that unites top class experts has great potential in searching for constructive ideas aimed at normalising the international situation and recovering the positive dynamics of the world economy.

    Thank you for your attention.

    Margarita Simonyan: Thank you very much, President Tokayev.

    Eurasia is indeed our common home. We all want this home to be safe and prosperous through God’s help and our mutual efforts.

    And now we will turn to Africa. We have a video address from President of Egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Can we have it on the screens, please? Thank you.

    President of Egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi: In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful,

    President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin,

    Ladies and gentlemen,

    At the outset, allow me to extend to His Excellency, President Vladimir Putin, my sincere congratulations on the silver jubilee of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum. Since 1997, when it has been held for the first time, the forum has become a leading platform for the business community and a remarkable economic event that seeks to discuss the key economic issues facing emerging markets and the world.

    Ladies and gentlemen,

    The Arab Republic of Egypt, as a guest country, will be part of this year’s session of the forum, which marks the 25th anniversary of its launch, thus confirming the distinguished level that Egyptian-Russian economic relations have reached over the recent years.

    This year’s forum is being held amid unprecedented political and economic challenges of a strategic nature. We hope that the outcomes of the forum will contribute to finding effective solutions to these challenges in a way that mitigates the impact of the global economic crisis and its negative repercussions on many countries in the world, especially the economies of emerging countries, takes the concerns and interests of all parties into account, and achieves the security and tranquility of peoples.

    This would be achieved through long-term political understandings that open the way for the growth of the global economy, especially in the wake of the severe coronavirus pandemic, which has cost our societies many victims and considerable money and resources, thus making us keen to avoid any slowdown in the global economy.

    Ladies and gentlemen,

    Let me use this opportunity to reiterate that the Arab Republic of Egypt values its firm, historic friendship relations with the Russian Federation, and values the tangible progress the two countries’ relations have been witnessing over the past years in a multitude of vital sectors, for the two countries’ economies and the prosperity of the two peoples.

    The Arab Republic of Egypt and the Russian Federation have been engaged over the past years in the implementation of mega and ambitious projects that serve our countries and respond to the aspirations of our peoples to realise more economic progress.

    The most prominent of these are: the project for the establishment of the Dabaa nuclear power plant, which comes within the context of the Egyptian State’s strategy to expand national projects for the use of new and renewable sources of energy.

    Another project is the establishment of the Russian Industrial Zone in the Economic Zone of the Suez Canal, which is meant to become an important platform for industry in Africa.

    This is in addition to cooperation between the two countries to upgrade the Egyptian railway network and other joint ventures that realise the benefit of the two peoples.

    Ladies and gentlemen,

    You must be aware that the exceptional events that have been taking place in the Arab Republic of Egypt over the past decade had their immense impact on the overall economic situation in the country. The Egyptian people stood up to surmount this crisis by supporting a clear vision, based on investing in the Egyptian citizen and developing his capabilities.

    Therefore, Egypt Vision 2030 was launched to reflect the state’s long-term strategic plan to achieve the principles and goals of sustainable development, with its economic, social and environmental dimensions.

    Based on this vision, the Government of Egypt has modernised its legislative structure to enable Egypt to attract more foreign investment. This qualified Egypt to become the top destination for attracting foreign investments in Africa and one of the few countries in the world capable of achieving a growth rate of up to 3.3 percent in 2021, despite the negative challenges posed by the spread of COVID-19 and their impact on the global economy. We expect the Egyptian economy to grow by 5.5% during the current fiscal year. The country’s non-petroleum exports also increased during 2021 to reach $32 billion.

    Egypt has also succeeded, within the framework of its strategy to increase its capabilities, to implement mega agricultural projects that are aimed at increasing agricultural land by almost 2 million feddans.

    This is in addition to the mega projects Egypt is implementing in the fields of transport, by expanding thousands of kilometers of roads and upgrading Egypt’s transport system by introducing new projects. Those include the high-speed rail that will constitute a means to link the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, thus boosting and facilitating international trade.

    Adding to this are the mega industrial projects and the numerous projects in the field of clean energy production, which have been established in Egypt at a rapid pace over the past period.

    Despite the previously-mentioned national efforts, Egypt’s actions and efforts to achieve progress were hit recently by economic crises caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The world was partially recovering from its effects and repercussions, when it was hit again by a great economic crisis that cast a shadow over growth rates and negatively affected states’ budgets, reflecting on the rise of fuel prices and the decline in the value of the national currencies in the face of hard currencies. This is in addition to the disruption in supply chains, the emergence of the food crisis, as well as the irregular movement of civil aviation. This sector is connected with vital fields of the Egyptian economy, primarily tourism and insurance.

    Addressing this crisis, which has an international character, requires international efforts and collaboration among all parties in order to get matters back to their normal state, particularly the movement of maritime traffic and the regularity of supply chains, particularly foodstuff, such as grain and vegetable oil.

    This also requires working toward restoring calm and stability at the international level, in order to mitigate the impact of this economic crisis on the peoples, who seek peace and development.

    I also call on all companies participating in this forum and others to take advantage of this huge opportunity that is provided by investing in Egypt in all fields.

    I would not miss, before concluding my speech, thanking the people of Saint Petersburg, this brave city throughout history, which at the same time represents an icon for culture and openness on the outside world.

    Finally, I would like, once again, to thank His Excellency, President Vladimir Putin, for his kind invitation for Egypt to participate in this forum as a guest of this round, wishing the forum and the participants all success and blessings and wishing our friendly countries more constructive cooperation, prosperity and progress. We pray God Almighty to spread peace and stability across the world and to spare our peoples the scourge of war and its economic and social impact by giving priority to the language of dialogue, understanding and co-existence.

    Thank you.

    Margarita Simonyan: We are grateful to the President of Egypt. I think that the people of the host city should be especially pleased to hear his warm words about St Petersburg.

    We have just a little time left before the discussion begins. They say anticipation increases desire.

    We will now listen to an address by President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping.

    President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping (retranslated): President Putin, ladies and gentlemen, friends,

    I am delighted to have this opportunity to address the plenary session of the 25th St Petersburg International Economic Forum, which I attended in person three years ago.

    In February this year, President Putin visited China and attended the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing. We had a detailed exchange of views, following which we reached a vital agreement on expanding our comprehensive practical cooperation and implementing the concept of global governance based on joint consultations, joint participation and joint use.

    Cooperation between China and Russia is currently ascending in all spheres. Our bilateral trade reached $65.8 billion over the first five months of this year. We can expect to attain new records by year-end. This is evidence of the high resilience and ingenious potential of Chinese-Russian cooperation.

    The world is entering a new period of turbulence and transformation amid the ongoing radical changes and the coronavirus pandemic. There is an obvious trend of anti-globalism, a growing divide between the South and the North, and a weakening of cooperation drivers in the area of development, which could plunge the erratically reviving global economy into a deep recession and create unprecedented challenges to the implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

    According to ancient Chinese words of wisdom, a clever man sees a seed of crisis in every opportunity and an opportunity in every crisis. Danger and opportunity always go together. By overcoming danger, you get opportunity. Strength lies in confidence. The more there are difficulties, the more important it is to remain confident.

    During last year’s session of the UN General Assembly, I proposed a Global Development Initiative, which was positively received and supported by a number of international organisations, including the UN, and about a hundred countries.

    Today, at a time when the international community is ever more interested in achieving more equitable, sustainable and secure development, we should seize opportunities, meet challenges head-on, and work on the implementation of the Global Development Initiative to build a shared future of peace and prosperity.

    First, we need to create conditions for development. It is important that we follow true multilateralism, respect and support all countries’ pursuit of development paths suited to their national conditions, build an open world economy, and increase the representation and voice of emerging markets and developing countries in global economic governance with a view to making global development more balanced, coordinated and inclusive.

    Second, we need to strengthen development partnerships. It is important that we enhance North-South and South-South cooperation, pool cooperation resources, platforms and networks of development partnerships, and scale up development assistance in order to forge greater synergy for development and close the development gap.

    Third, we need to advance economic globalization. It is important that we enhance the coordination of development policies and international rules and standards, reject attempts at separation, supply disruption, unilateral sanctions and maximum pressure, remove trade barriers, keep global industrial and supply chains stable, tackle the worsening food and energy crises, and revive the world economy.

    Fourth, we need to pursue innovation-driven development. It is important that we unlock the potential of innovation-driven growth, improve the rules and institutional environment for innovation, break down barriers to the flow of innovation factors, deepen exchanges and cooperation on innovation, facilitate deeper integration of science and technology into the economy, and make sure the fruits of innovation are shared by all.

    Ladies and gentlemen, friends,

    The fundamentals of the Chinese economy are its strong resilience, enormous potential and long-term sustainability, which remain unchanged. We have full confidence in China’s economic development. China will continue to promote high-quality development, promote openness with firm resolve, and pursue high-quality Belt and Road cooperation.

    China stands ready to work with Russia and all other countries to explore development prospects, share growth opportunities, and make new contributions to deepening global development cooperation and building a community with a shared future for mankind.

    Thank you.

    Margarita Simonyan: Thank you, Mr President.

    Coming to learn Chinese wisdom and some of Chinese sagacity is always a good thing, especially now that Chinese wisdom might come in useful for the entire world.

    Mr President, I would like to show you something that I have brought with me especially. It is juice, and it used to be so nicely coloured. It does not matter what sort of juice it is; you cannot even see the brand here, although it is a popular one. And now – do you see? A small picture and the rest is white. Why is that? And this is happening on a massive scale.

    Because we ran out of paint. The producer of paint for such packaging has left Russia, and the producer of the packaging also announced that they are leaving. I bought this two weeks ago, and soon this will disappear. As a result, we will have to pour it into bottles or three-litre glass jars, like it was in my childhood, unless we discover that we do not produce bottles either.

    There are conflicting opinions on this. You have touched upon this issue today. Some of the participants – a considerable part, maybe even the majority – came here by Sapsan trains. Some say “We will swap Sapsans for Chinese trains, they are even better,” since Siemens has gone. Others say “We will learn to make them ourselves.” Let me remind you that we launched our own high-speed trains in 1984, I think they were called ER200. I was four years old, did not go to school yet, but we already had high-speed trains – but we do not have them any longer. It is sad, isn’t it?

    And there are also people who say that no, we cannot replace all that, we can use Sapsan trains for another couple of years and then we will just give up high-speed railways, which means we will step back from what we got used to. And it is like this with everything: telephones, computers, everything we got used to. This is a very sad, I would even say heartbreaking plan.

    Maybe there is a different plan?

    Vladimir Putin: Whenever any decisions are taken, the key issues must be to singled out. What is key for us? Being independent, sovereign and ensuring future-oriented development both now and for the future generations? Or having packaging today?

    Unless we have sovereignty, we will soon have to buy everything and will only produce oil, gas, hemp fibre, saddles and sell rough logs abroad.

    It is inevitable. I have already said so in my speech: only sovereign countries can expect to have a sovereign future. That does not mean, however, that we need to plunge back into a situation of 30, 40 or 50 years ago.

    Regarding packaging. I do not think it is such a complicated thing that either our partners from other countries can replace, who will be pleased to occupy this market sooner or later, or we will be able to make ourselves.

    Margarita Simonyan: You do not see it, but President Tokayev is nodding his head: they will probably be able to replace it.

    Kassym-Jomart Tokayev: Absolutely, this is not a problem.

    Vladimir Putin: Of course, we will able to replace it.

    The question is about a totally different matter. We keep talking about import substitution. In my speech here I also said – and I will just add a couple of words so as not to take too much time while answering only one question.

    The issue is not about import substitution, the issue is to establish our own capabilities based on progress in education, science and new promising schools of engineering. We will always be given packaging materials and other simple things, event telephones and smartphones. What we have never been given and never will be is critically important technologies. We have never been given them before even though we had problem-free relations with our Western partners in the previous decades. This is the problem.

    And when we begin to stand up for our rights, we are immediately slapped with some sanctions and restrictions; this is what the problem is all about. Therefore, we must commit ourselves to that and have the capacity to reproduce critically important technologies on the basis of what I mentioned. And with that base we will always be able to manufacture the goods you mentioned: packaging materials, telephones and smartphones. If we realise that and keep focusing on solving fundamental issues, we will resolve everything else without a problem.

    Let me reiterate: others are already coming to that place – those who produce the packaging materials, those who produce the paints. We are also starting to produce paints and other consumer goods as well as goods employed in industry in a broader sense. We can make anything – I have absolutely no doubt about that.

    Obviously, some things will be lost, other things will be made on a new basis, much more advanced – the way it happened earlier. Therefore, when we talk about import substitution, we will substitute something while other things will have to be done on a totally new promising basis of our own making.

    Margarita Simonyan: Thank you. President Tokayev, would you like to add anything?

    Kassym-Jomart Tokayev: I think everything is clear here, and judging by President Putin’s extremely interesting speech, we can understand that he is thinking in the categories of historical perspective, so to say.

    Margarita Simonyan: As always.

    Kassym-Jomart Tokayev: And juice packaging has no place here.

    Indeed, it is a small problem, nature abhors a vacuum: others will come who will be producing juice packaging that is just as good, and local producers will appear.

    The issue is about something else. In particular, I said in my speech about the importance of Eurasian cooperation, about the importance of uniting efforts to resolve unexpected problems. I think we will arrive at the result we are seeking on this road.

    To be continued.

    The US Is Recalibrating Its Eurasian Containment Strategy Against Russia & China

    19 MAY 2022

    By Andrew Korybko

    American political analyst

    The US’ grand strategy pretty much amounts to preparing for what many fear might be the inevitable conventional phase of what some are already calling the ongoing Third World War that’s thus far only being waged through hybrid (economic, financial, information, proxy, etc.) means.

    Russia’s ongoing special military operation in Ukraine prompted the US to decisively shift for the time being to focusing more on “containing” it than China, which has thus far succeeded in uniting the West under its previously fading hegemony. Nevertheless, this temporary pivot raised questions about the US’ hegemonic commitment to “containing” China in the Asia-Pacific, made all the more uncertain by India’s proud flexing of its strategic autonomy by continuing to practice a policy of principled neutrality towards the Ukrainian Conflict in spite of unprecedented American pressure to condemn and sanction Moscow.

    Biden’s trip to South Korea and Japan gives the US the opportunity to recalibrate its Eurasian “containment” strategy in light of these new international conditions. He’ll participate in a meeting with the Quad while in Tokyo on 24 May, during which time the American leader will have to make the best out of India’s refusal to join that network’s anti-Russian crusade while still trying to find a role for it play in “containing” China despite that South Asian state being left out of AUKUS. Furthermore, India’s trust in the US has greatly deteriorated due to America’s hegemonic pressure campaign against it.

    The only way that the US can simultaneously “contain” Russia and China is to rely on a supercontinental-wide version of its “Lead From Behind” model that was first experimented with during NATO’s War on Libya in 2011. This concept refers to the US getting regional partners with shared interests to do the proverbial “heavy lifting” while it provides all the necessary back-end assistance such as intelligence and logistics, not to mention occasionally “leading from the front” by publicly setting the agenda and directly confronting the targeted state.

    In the Western Eurasian theater of the New Cold War, the US’ plans to incorporate Finland and Sweden into NATO are aimed at complicating Russia’s regional security environment, dividing its focus, and thus creating opportunities for the EU to more effectively leverage its existing military capabilities to continue threatening Russia’s national security interests. The US’ 100,000 troops will remain in the continent to serve as credible tripwires against any Russian kinetic action towards its NATO vassals while mostly focusing on enhancing their capabilities to “contain” that country.

    For instance, Poland could become a regional center of NATO gravity in the “Three Seas Initiative” (3SI) across Central & Eastern Europe (CEE) that Warsaw envisions falling within its “sphere of influence”. The Scandinavian countries (Denmark/Finland/Iceland/Norway/Sweden), meanwhile, would form their own so-called “Viking Bloc”. Similarly, Bulgaria and Romania could function as the US’ Balkan outposts in the Black Sea. France and Germany might move towards a so-called “EU Army” that could involve them all while the UK could assist the US in managing all of this per its junior partnership in that hegemonic axis.  

    On the Eastern Eurasian front, India can’t be relied upon to “contain” China “to the last Indian” like the US manipulated Ukraine into “containing” Russia “to the last Ukrainian”. This throws a major spanner in America’s grand strategic plans, but it’s not an irreparable problem in principle. India can still function as a siphon of foreign investment from China, especially if the People’s Republic continues practicing its zero-COVID policy that’s hurt supply chains, but it still has a long way to go before reaching that point. Nevertheless, India’s economic role in this “containment” model is more promising than its military one.

    AUKUS is indisputably the “tip of the sphere” when it comes to the US’ military “containment” plans against China, and this emerging network will likely recruit more regional partners such as the Philippines and South Korea. Moreover, NATO is expanding to the Asia-Pacific under the false pretext of the EU’s response to the China-Solomon Islands deal, so that’ll help “share the burden” of US hegemony there. It might even be the case that this bloc’s Balkan, CEE, and Scandinavian members take the lead in “containing” Russia while its Western European ones shift to “containing” China in the Asia-Pacific.

    For this grand strategic scenario to materialize, the US must first “lead from the front” by formulating these complex plans and providing incentives for every member to play their envisioned roles. This will include setting the agenda through public statements, providing economic incentives (e.g. preferential trade deals and/or threatening to impose “secondary sanctions” against all who don’t curtail their ties with Russia and China), selling state-of-the-arm military equipment, carrying out joint military exercises, and devising a joint infowar strategy for all its partners to participate in against those two.

    The task ahead is unprecedented in scale and scope but represents the only way that America has any credible chance of stopping the decline of its unipolar hegemony, not to mention potentially reversing it in some respects like it just succeeded in doing in the EU. It pretty much amounts to preparing for what many fear might be the inevitable conventional phase of what some are already calling the ongoing Third World War that’s thus far only being waged through hybrid (economic, financial, information, proxy, etc.) means. The US doesn’t seem deterred by this though and is proceeding at full speed ahead.

    FM Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at the 30th Assembly of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy

    May 16, 2022

    Moscow, May 14, 2022

    Mr Lukyanov,

    Mr Karaganov,

    Colleagues,

    I am glad to be here again, at this anniversary assembly. Last time, we met in this room on October 2, 2021. But I have an impression that this was in a totally different historical epoch.

    I would like to congratulate you on the 30th anniversary of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy. Its activities are a fine example of Russian expert involvement in the foreign policy process. From the very start, the Council has brought together professionals, including politicians, state officials, journalists, academics, and entrepreneurs.  Throughout these years, this has ensured an effective and rewarding combination of practical experience and impeccable knowledge of the subject matter. Therein lies the key to comprehending the most complex international processes, particularly at stages like the present one. Advice, analytical materials, and debates (occasionally heated debates involving a clash of opinions) are of much help to us. We invariably take them into consideration in our foreign policy activities.

    It is a cliche to say that this meeting is taking place at a historical turning point. I agree with the experts (Mr Karaganov and Mr Lukyanov have written a lot about this), who say that we again have to choose a historical path, like we did in 1917 and 1991.

    The external circumstances have not just changed radically; they are changing ever more profoundly and extensively (though not becoming more elevated, unfortunately) with each passing day. And our country is changing along with them. It is drawing its conclusions. The choice we have taken is made easier by the fact that the “collective West” has declared a total hybrid war against us. It is hard to forecast how long this will last. But it is clear that its consequences will be felt by everyone without exception.

    We did everything in our power to avoid a direct conflict. But they issued a challenge and we have accepted it. We are used to sanctions. We have been living under one or another form of sanctions for a long time now. The surprising thing is a surge of rabid Russophobia in almost all “civilised” countries. They have thrown to the wind their political correctness, propriety, rules, and legal norms. They are using the cancel culture against all things Russian. All hostile actions against our country are allowed, including robbery. Russian cultural figures, artists, athletes, academics, businesspeople and just ordinary citizens are exposed to harassment.

    This campaign has not bypassed Russian diplomats. They often have to work under extreme conditions, occasionally with a risk to their health or life. We do not remember anything like the current massive and synchronised expulsion of diplomats happening even in the grimmest Cold War years. This is destroying the general atmosphere of relations with the West. On the other hand, this is freeing up energy and human resources for work in the areas with which our country’s future development should be associated.

    In accordance with the demands of the times, we are carrying out our professional duties conscientiously and to the fullest extent. There are no traitors among our diplomats, although such attempts have been made from abroad and within the country. We do our best to defend the rights and interests of Russian citizens abroad. When the West hysterically reacted to the beginning of our special military operation and all flights were cancelled, we immediately helped Russians who were abroad at the time to return home. The routine consular services to Russians (of which there have always been many) are provided as always. It is clear that the situation demands that the diplomatic service works in a special regime. This is required by the new tasks set by the country’s leadership to protect national interests.

    This is not only and not so much about Ukraine, which is being used as an instrument to contain the peaceful development of the Russian Federation in the context of their course to perpetuate a unipolar world order.

    The Americans started preparing the current crisis long ago, right after the end of the Cold War, having decided that the way to global hegemony was then open. NATO’s eastward expansion has been one of the key components of such a course. We tried hard to convince them not to do this. We showed where and why our red lines are drawn. We were flexible, ready to make concessions and look for compromises. All this proved futile. President Vladimir Putin reminded us of this once again in his speech on May 9 on Red Square.

    Today Western countries are ready to oppose Russia, as they now say, “to the last Ukrainian”. At first glance, this is a very convenient position, especially for the United States, which is managing these processes from across the ocean. At the same time, they are weakening Europe by clearing its markets for its goods, technologies and military-technical products.

    In fact, the situation has many layers. Russia, the United States, China and all others realise that it is being decided today whether the world order will become fair, democratic and polycentric, or whether this small group of countries will be able to impose on the international community a neo-colonial division of the world into those who consider themselves “exceptional” and the rest – those who are destined to do the bidding of the chosen few.

    This is the aim of the “rules-based order” concept that they have sought to introduce into general circulation for years. No one has seen, or discussed, or approved these “rules”, but they are being imposed on the international community. As an example, let me quote a recent statement by US Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen, who called for a new Bretton Woods framework and said that the United States would practice “the friend-shoring of supply chains to a large number of trusted countries” that shared “a set of [liberal] norms and values about how to operate in the global economy.” The hint is absolutely clear: the US dollars and the “benefits” of the international financial system are only for those who follow these American “rules.” Dissenters will be punished. Clearly, Russia is not the sole target, all the more so as we will fight back. The attack is aimed at all those capable of conducting an independent policy.  Take, for example, Washington’s pet Indo-Pacific strategy, which is directed against China. In parallel, it seeks to firmly and reliably harness India to the US and NATO. In the spirit of the Monroe doctrine, the United States wants to dictate standards to Latin America. The inevitable question is whether the Americans are really able to follow the key principle of the UN Charter, which states: “The Organisation is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members.”

    The “rules-based order” envisions neither democracy, nor pluralism even within the “collective West.” The case in point is the revival of tough bloc discipline and an unconditional submission of the “allies” to Washington’s diktat. The Americans will not stand on ceremony with their “junior partners.” The EU will finally lose all attributes of independence and obediently join the Anglo-Saxon plans to assert the unipolar world order, while sacrificing the Europeans’ quality of life and key interests in order to please the United States. Just recall how Victoria Nuland defined the EU’s place in Washington’s plans to reformat Ukraine in her conversation with the US Ambassador in Kiev in December 2013, at the height of the Maidan riots. Her prediction came true in its entirety. In security matters, the EU is also blending in with NATO, which, in turn, is making increasingly louder claims about its global ambitions. What defensive alliance? We are being told and assured to this day that NATO’s expansion is a defensive process and threatens no one. The Cold War defence line ran along the Berlin Wall – concrete and imagined – between the two military blocs. Since then, it has been moved east five times. Today, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, and others are telling us that NATO has a global responsibility to solve security problems, primarily in the Indo-Pacific region. As I understand it, the next defence line will be moved to the South China Sea.

    It is being insinuated that NATO as the vanguard of the community of democracies should replace the UN in matters of international politics, or at least bring global affairs under its sway. The G7 should step in to run the global economy and from time to time invite benevolently the extras the West needs at this or that moment.

    Western politicians should accept the fact that their efforts to isolate our country are doomed. Many experts have already recognised this, even if quietly and off the record, because saying this openly is “politically incorrect.” But this is happening right now. The non-Western world is coming to see that the world is becoming increasingly more diverse. There is no escaping this fact. More and more countries want to have a real freedom to choose their development ways and integration projects to join. An increasing number of countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America are refusing to abandon their national interests and to pull chestnuts out of the fire for the former parent countries. An overwhelming majority of our partners, who have felt the effects of Western colonialism and racism, have not joined the anti-Russia sanctions. The West, which President Putin described as the “empire of lies,” has not been considered an ideal of democracy, freedom and well-being for a long time. By plundering other countries’ material assets, the Western countries have destroyed their reputation of predictable partners who honour their commitments. Nobody is safe from expropriation and “state piracy” now. Therefore, not just Russia but also many other countries are reducing their reliance on the US dollar and on Western technologies and markets. I am sure that a gradual de-monopolisation of the global economy is not a distant future.

    We have taken note of Fyodor Lukyanov’s article published in the newspaper Kommersant (on April 29, 2022), in which he writes, with good reason, that the West will not listen to us or hear what we have to say. This was a fact of life long ago, before the special military operation, and a “a radical reorientation of assets from the west to other flanks is a natural necessity.” I would like to remind you that Sergey Karaganov has been systematically promoting this philosophy by for many years. It is perfectly clear to everyone that the process has begun and not on our whim – we have always been open to an equal dialogue – but because of an unacceptable and arrogant behaviour of our Western neighbours, who have followed Washington’s prompting to “cancel Russia” in international affairs.

    Forging closer ties with the like-minded forces outside of what used to be referred to as the Golden Billion is an absolutely inevitable and mutually driven process. The Russia-China relations are at their all-time high. We are also strengthening our privileged strategic partnerships with India, Algeria, and Egypt. We have taken our relations with the Persian Gulf countries to a whole new level. The same applies to our relations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, as well as other countries in Asia-Pacific, in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

    We are fully aware of the fact it is at this juncture, which perfectly lends itself to be called a turning point, that the place for Russia and all other countries and forces in the future international architecture will be determined.

    We believe the aim of Russia’s diplomacy is, on the one hand, to act with great resolve to fend off all adversarial attacks against us, while, on the other hand, to consistently, calmly and patiently reinforce our positions in order to facilitate Russia’s sustained development from within and improve the quality of life for its people. There is much to be done, as usual. We always have a packed agenda, but in the current environment we are witnessing a serious shift in the mindsets of many of our comrades in all spheres of Russia’s life. This makes meetings held by the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy especially useful because they help nurture ideas which make their way into Russia’s foreign policy.

    Two Cheers for Realism

    April 19, 2022

    Source

    By Francis Lee

    One of the unstated and extant features of the contemporary age has been the demise of the Westphalian Treaty. This arrangement had in times past regulated the relationship and clashes of interest among the great powers. We should remind ourselves that the key precepts of the system were preceded by the carnage of the 30 years’ war in Europe circa 1618-1648, and eventually agreed upon at the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 – an arrangement which brought an end to the wars of the Reformation and agreed upon and binding on all parties. These precepts were:

    ‘’The Westphalian peace reflected a practical accommodation to reality, not a unique moral insight. It relied on a system of independent states refraining from interference in each other’s domestic affairs and checking each other’s ambitions through a general equilibrium of power. No single claim to truth or universal rule had prevailed in Europe’s contests. Instead, each state was assigned the attribute of sovereign power over its territory. Each would acknowledge the domestic structures and religious vocations of its fellow states and refrain from challenging their existence. A recognition of the existence of sovereign states within their own clearly defined borders and sphere of influence.’’ * So argued Henry Kissenger (2014)

    Alas this is no more, and the system had undergone a long decline throughout its inception for reasons which in time were to become obvious. It was earlier in the wake of World War I that the Westphalian system began to falter. US President Woodrow Wilson joined the war not so much to defend American territory as to “make the world safe for democracy”. If “democracy” was a religion, rather than an ideology or a system of government, then Wilson would not sound very different from the most zealous Crusaders of medieval Europe. Despite Wilson’s idea for a League of Nations failing to gain congressional approval at home, the leaders of Europe went ahead and formed the organization themselves. While the main purpose of the League was to make war obsolete, it utterly failed to do so.

    The putative new world ‘order’ in the shape of the UN Charter was first established in 1945 and was an explicitly globalist organization. Whereas Westphalian nationalism held that each country was its own sovereign unit, post-war globalism instead held that certain concepts such as ‘liberal democracy’ and ‘civil rights’ were universal to all humanity, and therefore any nation that restricted such things lost the protections of sovereignty. All very noble but roughly translated this should read.

    The two or three great powers had the ability and resolve to structure the world in their own image and in doing so maximise and extend the reach of their power. As for humanity and the subaltern classes and nations; they were to be subordinated to the interests of larger powers and serve those interests. End of.

    The great powers would go through the motions in pursuit of their interests – they always do, but the outcome would be tailored to those interests. For example. In 1991, US President George H. W. Bush announced a war against Iraq, which had invaded and occupied the neighbouring nation of Kuwait. However, when push came to shove the great power(s) – in this instance the US – did not hesitate to use their formidable resources – including war, annexation and starvation – against the weaker smaller states who became the objects of war.

    Cold War 1 lasted until the break-up of the USSR in 1991. This was manna from heaven for the imperial juggernaut who saw a game-changing opportunity to push ahead with its global hegemonic agenda whilst Russia was entering the Yeltsin disaster years. This was made perfectly clear in a ground breaking directive issued by the then US Under Secretary of Defence for Policy at that time (neo-conservative) Paul Wolfowitz. This was to become known as The Wolfowitz doctrine:  Not intended for initial public release, it was leaked to the New York Times on March 7, 1992. It read:

    ‘’Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, that poses a threat of the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union. This is a dominant consideration underlying the new regional defence strategy and requires that we endeavour to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power.’’(1)

    In short: Me Tarzan, you Jane. The US and its satellites were top of the pile and would remain so. Other potentially hostile states will be surrounded, threatened, and intimidated into accepting their subaltern status. This was described by Senator Edward Kennedy as “a call for 21st century American imperialism that no other nation can or should accept.” (2) And just to rub salt into the wound the US and its vassal states expanded NATO to include former Soviet republics and ex Warsaw pact states and pushed right up to Russia’s western borders.

    Suffice it to say this geo-political arrangement involved a complete rejection of Westphalian principles and has imposed global liberal practise of hegemony and interventionism under the command of the principal global hegemon, the United States. This pursuit of global hegemony represents the implementation of the belief in America’s so-called ‘Manifest Destiny’ – a divine providence to spread the liberal-democratic global order to the rest of the planet and usher in a global Shangri-La of peace, prosperity … and so on and so forth. Of course, this puts the world on a permanent war footing. This has been instanced by wars waged by the empire against Iraq, Libya, Yugoslavia and Syria with more in the pipeline as well as a cyber-attack on Iran – the Stuxnet attack – and a number of colour revolutions paid for and organized by the US, Georgia and Ukraine being the most obvious and well-known. But the big prize is and always has been the Eurasian bloc. This of course may well involve a nuclear exchange, but hey, America’s intentions are noble and worth fighting for are they not? It should be understood that the United States is the indispensable, exceptional nation, the shining city on the hill. Blah, blah, blah.

    What is particularly disturbing is that this absurd and dangerous doctrine has become akin to a religious orthodoxy. Comparable perhaps to the fanaticism of Wahhabist cults in parts of the Muslim world. It is suggestive of an infantile mindset which views international relations as a Manichean struggle between good and evil. Whether the non-adult proponents actually believe in this doctrine is a moot point. But the pervasiveness of this cult is all but total; this is a 21st century inquisition complete with heresy hunts and a fanatical priesthood of the media and their security handlers in the deep state, in their attempts to close down any other or any independent counter-narrative.

    However, once the ideological stranglehold on policy has built up momentum it becomes very difficult to change course. In the language and ideology of neo-con exceptionalism, diplomacy is akin to appeasement, the West is threatened, Russia-Putin is on the rampage, proof (sic) of this was his ‘’invasion’’ of Ukraine. China also is becoming a threat to the western way of life; Carthage must be destroyed. Of course, every one of these assertions are extremely contentious and could/should be countered, but of course they are not; the dominant narrative shall not be profaned or challenged.

    As the US and its vassals therefore prepare for war, its populations must be conditioned to believe and accept such an inevitable outcome. The propaganda machine has been stepped up to unprecedented levels. The message is simple. Our side = good, Their side = bad. Our side does good things, their side does bad things. Thus, the media – now an asset of the deep state – plays an essential role of propagating this political construction among the populations of the Anglo-Zionist heartlands.

    All of which is very reminiscent of Orwell’s short novel Animal Farm. After the Animal Revolution and the eviction of Jones the Farmer, the sheep were instructed by the ruling group – the pigs – into reciting the goodness of the animals and the badness of humans. The short and endless bleat of the sheep went as follows: ‘’Four legs good, two legs bad,’’ repeated endlessly.

    That is about the level of western foreign policy. Good guys, bad guys, white hats, black hats, no compromise, no surrender. Result war. The question we must now ask is has this menacing process gone too far to go into reverse? This of course remains an open question. But the thrust of neo-conservative foreign policy would suggest this war would be a logical outcome. Either that or the whole thing is a bluff. Up to this point the US performance in attacking recalcitrant weak states has not been a roaring success. The same goes for Israel. Bombing countries with no air defence or shooting Palestinian kids with sniper rifles is easy-peasy. Taking on Iran is a different matter entirely. The irresistible force seems to be meeting its immovable object.

    From a realist as opposed to a neo-conservative foreign policy the idea of an American world empire is frankly deranged. Pursuit of this pipedream can only result in mutually assured destruction; yes, M.A.D. still applies. The United States and its minions might not like it, but it will have to learn to live with other great powers. Russia, China have legitimate spheres of influence and this should be respected. This will involve an end to the gross provocations in the South China Sea and in Poland, Romania, and the Baltics, not to mention the ongoing series of colour revolutions.

    This is true in spades with regard to Israel – a country of a mere 8 million souls with an ambition to create a greater Israel from the Euphrates to the Nile. This objective, involving a ruthless ethnic cleansing has been unremittingly pursued since the British left Palestine in 1948. According to one David Ben-Gurion about how to deal with Palestinians in their midst: ‘’There is a need for strong and brutal reaction’’ (to Palestinian opposition) ‘’ … We need to be accurate about timing, place and those we hit. If we accuse a family, we need to harm them without mercy, women and children included, otherwise this is not an effective reaction … there is no need to distinguish between guilty and not guilty.’’(3) This of course has been par for the course since the late 1940s. But Israel like its American sponsor, must learn to live within its own sphere of influence and not tempt fate by embarking on a Zionist crusade against its near neighbours. It would do well to remember that the Crusades were in their neck of the woods for nearly 200 years, but the invaders were finally driven out in 1291.

    The liberal-imperialist Anglo-Zionist regime change ideology is supplemented by the appeal to ‘human rights’ and Responsibility to Protect – R2P. Human Rights apparently override national sovereignty. According to one Francis Fukuyama:

    ‘’Dictators and Human Rights abusers like Serbia’s Milosevic could not hide behind the principle of sovereignty to protect themselves as they committed crimes against humanity particularly in multi-ethnic states like Yugoslavia where the borders of the sovereign state in question were themselves contested. Under these circumstances outside powers, acting in the name of human rights and democratic legitimacy, had not just the right, but the obligation to intervene. (4)

    There you have it. The ‘intervention’ a 78-day bombing offensive by NATO resulted in the deaths of in excess of 5000 civilians in Serbia and elsewhere. But of course, this was not a crime against humanity. Doublethink!? Of course, the glaring anomaly in the regime change R2P ideology lies in its inconsistency. But this is to be expected. It should always be borne in mind that the mission of the AZ-Empire is world domination, not coexistence or democracy. This, however, must never be openly admitted. The veneer of a crusade to make the world a Garden of Eden, is simply a cover for imperial aggrandisement.

    ‘’Liberal democracies have little difficulty in conducting diplomacy with illiberal states when they are acting according to realist dictates, which is most of the time. In those circumstances, liberal democracies do whatever is necessary to maximize their survival prospects, and that includes negotiating with authoritarian leaders. They sometimes even support or form alliances with murderous dictators as the US did in WW2 when it worked with Joseph Stalin to defeat Nazi Germany, or when it cooperated with Mao Zedong after 1972 to contain the Soviet Union. Occasionally they even overthrow democratic regimes (all over Latin America – FL) which they perceive as being hostile. Liberal democracies go to great lengths to disguise such behaviour with liberal rhetoric, but in fact they are acting contrary to their own – professed – principles.’’ (6)

    However, this unstable combination of outward authoritarianism and domestic democracy has inbuilt destabilising forces. Long ago it was pointed out by the Greek historian Thucydides that Empire and Democracy cannot co-exist in the long-term. Moreover, the methods of empire would be brought home to deal with the destabilising effects of empire on the state. (5)

    Nowhere is this more an ever-present fact than in the great hegemon, the United States itself. It would appear that the United States polity has, at every level, descended into a variety of collective insanity. Witness Rachel Maddow, I know it’s difficult, but bear with me, asserting with complete conviction and sang-froid, night after night, that Donald Trump was a Russian agent! What made this worse was that no-one challenged this idiocy? Ms Maddow’s rant can be compared to the ‘two minutes hate’ in 1984 (only unfortunately it lasted for more than 2 minutes) and of the level of a latent pathology in the media in particular and the body politic more generally.

    Speaking of Orwell, his essay Notes on Nationalism nailed this particular political phenomenon. He firstly made it clear that what he meant by nationalism was a more general description of particular religious, or political outlooks.

    ‘’By ‘nationalism’ I mean first of all the habit of assuming that human beings can be classified like insects and that whole blocks of millions or tens of millions of people can be confidently labelled ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – But secondly – and this is much more important – I mean the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or other unit, placing it beyond good and evil and recognising no other duty than that of advancing its interests.’’

    Thus Neo-Conservatism, Pacifism, Political Catholicism, Zionism, and curiously enough, Anti-Semitism, are all types of nationalism, broadly understood.

    Of course, the unprepossessing Ms Maddow is a virulent specimen of this type of mental aberration. The nationalist has to perform the most intricate forms of mental gymnastics in order to believe that their particular beliefs are true and will not tolerate profanation. As Orwell writes:

    ‘’The nationalist does not only disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has the remarkable capacity of not even hearing about them …All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts. A British Conservative will defend self-determination in Europe but oppose it in India with no feeling of inconsistency. Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage – torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians – which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ’our’ side … Some nationalists are not far from clinical schizophrenia, living quite happily amid dreams of power and conquest, which have no connexion with the physical world … ‘’

    Not far from clinical schizophrenia! I would say well ahead.

    And there’s the rub. Realist foreign policy was often cruel and callous but rational, cold and calculating and unlike neo-conservatism it was at least generally non-ideological, which is to say, sane. Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, were ideological projects and Western Imperialism, particularly of the white settler variety, the US, UK Israel, Australia, NZ, were openly racist and murderous in both practise and theory.

    In the present geopolitical configuration, it is difficult to assess the outcome of the Anglo-Zionist crusade against the Eurasian bloc. Russia and China are reading from a Westphalian text, the US is reading from a neo-conservative playbook, with its European allies being reluctantly dragged along. In this situation it is difficult to know how this titanic struggle will eventually pan out and to whose benefit. One of the problems which besets any appraisal lies in the fact that the Westphalian system depended upon dialogue with rational actors. These have become as rare as hen’s teeth, if not extinct species in the western centres of power. The US and its reluctant allies will seemingly not give up on its strategic objective of world domination and Russia and China are going to defend themselves. Something has to give, but what?

    NOTES

    (1)  Defence Planning Guidance for the 1994–99 fiscal years (dated February 18, 1992)

    (2)   Orlando Caputo Leiva and Marlene Medrano- Latin American Perspectives Volume. 34, No. 1, The Crisis of U.S. Hegemony in the Twenty-First Century (January 2007), pp. 9-15

    (3) Quoted in Pappe, – Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine – p.69. For background on Ben-Gurion’s comment, see Ibid, 61-72. Quoted in – The Israel Lobby – John J Mearsheimer and Stephen M Walt p.99, fn.95

    (4) Francis Fukuyama – State Building, Governance and World Order in the 21st Century – p.131.

    Other US Realist Diplomats saw things somewhat differently. Commenting on the expansion of NATO into Eastern Europe In 1996, the 92-year-old veteran US geopolitical realist, George Kennan, warned that NATO’s expansion into former Soviet territory was a “strategic blunder of potentially epic proportions.” I think it is the beginning of a new cold war … ‘’I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies. I think it a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anybody else. This expansion would make the Founding Fathers of this country turn over in their graves. We have signed up to protect a whole series of countries, even though we have neither the resources nor the intention to do so in any serious way. NATO expansion was simply a light-hearted action by a Senate that has no real interest in foreign affairs.” (5) John J Mearsheimer – The Great Delusion, Liberal Dreams and International Realities – p.157.

    Quo Vadis Europa

    March 31, 2022

    Source

    By Ljubisa Malenica

    Thanks to the current conflict in Ukraine, all the masks of so-called “Western values” fell before the eyes of the world public in a very short time. On the theme of Russophobia itself, another full text in its own right can be written. It came to the surface of everyday life throughout the West rather fast. For now, it is enough to notice the haste with which chauvinism towards Russians began to manifest itself in Western countries. It would seem as if Russophobia had been practiced for years. If you spend your life listening how “exceptional” you are, the very logic of this argument leads to the conclusion that others are in one way or another beneath you, only average, and it should come as no surprise to see these outpourings of hatred towards those “average” who dared to bring into question the “exceptional” order.

    The ongoing propaganda campaign, demonizing both Russia and Putin, is trying to convince the world and domestic audiences of Russian isolation. It is enough to look at the map of the countries that imposed sanctions on the Russian Federation, and this narrative of isolation falls apart. On the other hand, the same map clearly indicates that those who have introduced sanctions to Moscow are limited to collective West and its satellites. Unfortunately, the war in Ukraine has nothing to do with Ukraine. This is an indirect war of the United States against Russia and represents only the final phase of a long process that began at the time of the disappearance of the Soviet Union. Even in terms of combat itself, Russian troops are not engaging domestically envisioned Ukrainian strategy or tactics. As Scott Ritter[1] pointed out, Ukrainian army has been for eight years trained and equipped by NATO officers and instructors, up to NATO standards. Any unit of Ukrainian military is fully interchangeable within overall NATO battle order with any other unit from any other NATO member country, thus we are left with a silent fact that on the ground in Ukraine we have a war between Russian and NATO strategy, tactics and, to an extent, weapon systems.

    During the Cold War, Europe was considered, for several understandable reasons, as the inevitable and most important battleground between NATO and the Warsaw Pact. The sword of possible nuclear destruction hung constantly above it. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Fukuyama’s specter of the end of history was introduced into Europe as well. Unipolar moment of the United States swept over countries of Western Europe as well, which firmly believed that they also played a part in the disappearance of the USSR. Finally, the great war in which not a single shot was fired, came to an end. Moscow was defeated, then humiliated and rejected. These same European countries, which by the logic of things should have been the most concerned about increasing insecurity on European soil, watched apathetically as Washington dismantled the security architecture set up during the Cold War.

    The mentioned security architecture was developed and set up with the aim of creating as many obstacles as possible on the path of rapid escalation towards the nuclear conflict between the then two nuclear superpowers, Soviet Union and the USA. European countries have benefited the most from these agreements and should have been the most interested in maintaining them. This unpacking of security agreements began during the Bush administration, when the then US president announced in 2002 that Washington would withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Agreement, which limited the number of defense systems that each of the two superpowers could deploy on its territory.[2] The next step was the United States withdrawal from the Mid-Range Nuclear Forces Agreement in 2019, [3] while the final move came also during Trump’s term, the withdrawal from the Open Skies Agreement[4] in 2020, which allowed signatory countries to monitor each other openly so as to reduce possible military tensions. Each of these moves further strained relations between Russia and the western powers while making it clear that the collective West was not interested in negotiations based on mutual understanding and reciprocity.

    While all this was happening, Europe did nothing. No major European country has offered real resistance to NATO expansion. There was such resistance certainly, on part of individuals, but at the level of official policy, all European capitals of importance have unquestioningly followed Washington in further pushing the alliance’s positions to the east, towards Russia’s borders. This breakdown of Cold War security mechanisms was given little attention.

    Even now that the war has engulfed Ukraine and nearly two million refugees[5] have arrived in Europe, European leaders have barely been able to resist US pressure to stop importing Russian gas and oil.[6] These two energy sources are of key importance for the European Union, which receives 25% of its oil and 40% of its gas from Moscow.[7] Imposing sanctions on the Russian Federation, which could retaliate with reciprocal measures, would be a disaster for European countries. Previous fall, much earlier than the Russian military operation in Ukraine began, representatives of German industry warned the political elite of the negative consequences that high energy prices will have on their operations.[8] In Germany alone, natural gas meets 50% of energy needs within chemical and pharmaceutical industries.[9] Each of the European countries is dependent on Russian energy and some countries are completely dependent on Russian gas. Given the quantities in question, and prices, all statements about some kind of replacement for Russian oil and gas with other energy sources in a short period of time cannot be taken seriously. Even the German Minister of Foreign Affairs, Annalena Baerbock, in a statement for the German Bildt pointed out that “we import a third of our oil from Russia. If imports were stopped immediately, the whole of Germany would stop the next day”.[10]

    Weather it likes it or not, Europe is linked to Russia by energy ties, because only Moscow can provide the necessary quantities of energy to maintain the European industrial base, at sufficiently affordable prices. Of course, this was the situation until the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine, after which both oil and gas reached record and historical prices. Even faced with this unquestionable reality, the European political elite did not hesitate to impose sanctions on Moscow or to arm Ukrainian forces and Nazis with modern anti-tank weapons. Only when the very survival of the European industry became questionable due to Washington’s intentions to completely stop importing Russian energy, did the European capitals decide to oppose it.[11]

    When the conflict in Ukraine is viewed from the perspective of diplomatic and political activities, the European Union rarely appears. The heads of state, such as France and Germany, are somewhat more noticeable, but this is mostly sporadic and impotent action to which superficial attention is paid. Military operation in Ukraine exposed the reality. Just look at the main actors of the drama, the United States and Russia. Even China is more active in the issue of Ukraine as a sovereign political actor than the EU countries, which are almost completely overshadowed by the actions of the United States.

    In addition to this humiliating political position, which is far from the recent chest thumping of French and German politicians about the need for more independent action on the world stage, renewed appearance of dark specters from the not-so-distant past might be more serious. The degree of Russophobia that could be seen in all Western countries immediately after the beginning of the Russian military action points to the fact that hatred toward the Russian people is covered by a thin layer of artificial civility. Russian athletes are banned from participating in competitions, Russian-owned restaurants are vandalized, Russian diplomatic missions are exposed to attacks, great works of Russian music and literature classics are rejected and removed, Russian products are discarded and even Russian cats are banned from exhibitions. In every way, there seem to be a push to punish and, in accordance with the popular Western culture of “cancellation”, reject everything that is Russian.

    For the United States, with its fear of the Soviet Union in the 1950s and McCarthy’s witch hunts, Russophobia is somewhat understandable. Even during Trump’s tenure, James Clapper, the former director of the National Intelligence Service, made public chauvinistic claims that the Russians were “almost genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favor.” [12] If we accept as a logical explanation that the American position arose on the basis of historical circumstances, then the question arises why identical situations are repeated within most European countries that have been in contact with Russia for much longer than Washington. Why do the nations and elites of given countries voluntarily participate in demonization of Russia if they are already forced by political circumstances to impose economic sanctions on Moscow?

    One of the possible explanations is the Americanization of Western Europe, and with it, the transplantation of the ideology of “exceptionalism”. Of course, the countries of the European West will never be as “exceptional” as the United States, but imitating lifestyles and political, military and economic links give them a sense of superiority over others who do not belong to the same prestigious club. This sense of superiority serves as a screen to hide the disappearance and extinction of one’s own cultural and national identity and, accordingly, real sovereignty in foreign and domestic policy. Perhaps that is why French President Emanuel Macron once pointed out that “there is no such thing as French culture”.[13][14]

    What exacerbates Europe’s subordination is the fact that the current American elite serves as a subject of ridicule both outside the United States and within it. We are all already familiar with the phrase “Let’s go Brandon” and know what message is actually sent by its use. Neither Secretary of State Blinken nor Vice President Kamala Harris are in a more enviable position. One of the most famous American journalists of today, certainly one of the most watched, Tucker Carlson regularly uses his show on Fox News to document and criticize, in a humorous way, all the incompetence of the American political class currently in power. Whether Joseph Biden is just someone’s puppet or a partially independent actor, his behavior is, to say the least, a humiliation for the United States. He is, by all accounts, incapable of performing the duty placed upon him. After the Russian intervention in Ukraine, the Western media filled the information space for days with questions about whether Vladimir Putin is crazy, incompetent, angry or emotionally unstable. By the way, did you notice how that narrative disappeared almost overnight? Every possible conceivable formulation of the question “is Putin crazy” had been tried, but in the case of Biden, no similar scrutiny could be found, not even in traces. That says plenty about the Western media, and nothing we did not know beforehand.

    Being subordinate to such an American administration reflects the sad state of the European Union and European countries in general, especially those in the West. The fact that Serbia together with Bosnia and Herzegovina have not imposed sanctions on Russia or banned flights only makes the political picture of current Europe gloomier. The head of the foreign affairs of the European Union, Joseph Borell, points out that Brussels has reached the limit of its capabilities to impose sanctions on Russia[15] and anything more would seriously damage the Europeans themselves, who are already buying oil and gas at historically record prices. Only now, when possible retaliation towards the most sensitive sectors of European economy and industry is looming, does Europe decide to halt. The lives of Russians and Ukrainians in Ukraine are irrelevant, democracy, sovereignty, human rights, all that is irrelevant, just don’t touch the standard of living and the economic calculus. While the western part of the continent is doing well, everything else is irrelevant. One month into the conflict we can see sanctions have not worked so well for the EU countries. We seem to have made a full circle back to Russophobia and the fact that the current European elites have never seen Russia as part of Europe, which is a mistake in itself, and that the same elites would be happy to sanction Moscow into the ground rather than accept it as an equal interlocutor, if only there were none of that pesky geographical and economic connections and interdependencies.

    Undoubtedly, there are those political forces in European countries that look at Russia much more positively. This is almost a characteristic of most opposition parties in Germany and France, but also elsewhere. Thanks to Viktor Orban, Hungary neither allows the transfer of weapons for the Kiev regime through its territory nor participates in the further arming of Ukrainians. In most Slavic countries, even those that are most Russophobic, such as Poland, there are political forces which, without sympathizing with the Russian Federation, understand that Russia exists as part of Europe and that this cannot be changed. Any security architecture in Europe, especially one created for the long run, cannot be imagined without Moscow’s constructive participation. Undoubtedly, there is a Europe that is primarily Europe and only then the West, but as we have witnessed trough out the years, this national and sovereignist Europe is in constant conflict, one which it is losing, with globalist and Atlanticist “Europe” which has very little in common with what is culturally, traditionally and historically Europe. This same Atlanticist Europe is now openly sending modern weapons to Ukrainian troops while imposing sanctions on Moscow, hoping for its defeat and weakening. If we assume the worst possible scenario, which is a complete Russian defeat, the fall of Vladimir Putin and the collapse of the Russian state, the consequences of such a traumatic event would not bypass Europe. Given that Russia has a population of 145 million, a possible wave of refugees alone would be a burden that EU could not cope with, not to mention other aspects of such an event. Warsaw and Krakow are already warning of the impossibility of accepting additional refugees from Ukraine, and are demanding help from the European Union and the UN.[16]

    As far back as 2017 and 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin[17][18][19] warned of the existence of programs for the development of biological weapons in Ukraine, and of programs for collecting DNA material from Slavs in both Russia and Ukraine. The foreign media, especially the Western one, dismissed[20] all of this as another example of Putin’s madness. Those Western officials who addressed this issue unanimously rejected the claims as Russian propaganda. It was all a conspiracy theory[21] until the Russian military operation in Ukraine began. Among the first to notice something unusual was Dilyana Gaytandzhieva, [22] an independent journalist from Bulgaria. Namely, she pointed out that all data about eleven American biolaboratories[23] on the territory of Ukraine was deleted from the website of the American Embassy in Kiev. This went unnoticed until March 8, when, during her testimony to the Senate Committee, Deputy Secretary for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland openly acknowledged the existence of biological laboratories on the territory of Ukraine, certainly under supervision from the United States. When Senator Marco Rubio asked if Ukraine possessed chemical or biological weapons, Nuland replied that “Ukraine has biological research facilities, which in fact we are now quite concerned Russian troops, Russian forces maybe seeking to gain control of. We are working with the Ukrainians on how they can prevent any of those research material from falling into the hands of Russian troops should they approach”.[24] Thank you Vicky, that was more than clear enough. Immediately following this, US administration began damage control, stating the reasons for the existence of laboratories, such as reducing the risk of chemical and biological weapons leftover from the Soviet period, [25] and harmless study of diseases for the common good.[26] If we accept these explanations, a couple of very clear questions arise.

    Given that Washington’s activities in Ukraine on this issue have been going on since 2005, it is logical to ask how much time is actually needed to remove or destroy the chemical and biological weapons of the former USSR. Is seventeen years not enough? On the other hand, if these research facilities are really doing harmless research for the benefit of mankind, then why is Victoria Nuland worried about the possibility of them being taken over by the Russians? The conclusion is quite simple, although there is a chance it is wrong. They are lying, both in regard to the purpose of laboratories and in regard to the nature of materials contained within them.

    The most worrying part of the issue related to biological laboratories is the possibility that they conducted research on bioweapons that would target specific national groups, in this case it being Slavic population, Russians and Ukrainians. As we already pointed out, back in 2017, Vladimir Putin mentioned the existence of programs for collection of DNA samples from the Russian population. The US Department of Defense did not refute these allegations, but indirectly confirmed them. In a statement from the 59th Medical Wing of the Center for Advanced Molecular Detection, Captain Beau Downey said the center was conducting research “to identify various biomarkers associated with trauma…this needed two sets of samples and since the first set, containing the initial group of diseases had Russian origin, the control group should also be of Russian origin”.[27][28]

    Now let the author, who is a laymen when it comes to microbiology and military, try to unpack this, with warning that the following train of thought could be completely wrong. So, a military medical institution within US is doing research connected to trauma. It is presumed trauma here refers to injury. Fair enough, after all, this type of activities would seem only logical for such an institution. Given we are talking about trauma, we should ask trauma of whom? Civilians or military personnel? There has to be more than enough civilian medical institutions dealing with issues of civilian injuries, so it would seem logical 59th Medical Wing of the Center for Advanced Molecular Detection deals with injuries suffered by soldiers. Again, this seems logical. Soldiers of which country? Logically, United States. Let us now contemplate who the soldiers of the US Army are. According to Pew research from 2017, 57% of military personnel were white,[29] while 43% belonged to other races, as defined by US census. US population, roughly 330 million people, encompasses around 3 million Russians, which is little bit less than 1% of total population. This leads us to conclude that overwhelming majority of white Americans serving in US army belong to German, Anglo-Saxon and other non-Slavic European nations. If our logic has been sound so far, it begs a question why the sample taken for this research was not more diverse in its origin? Why was it not more representative of the real genetical composition of US forces, as described above? If there is research being conducted with emphasis on identification of biomarkers associated with trauma, why focus your attention to rather minor part of your population, and accordingly, your military units? It seems a wasted effort or Captain Downey is obfuscating real intentions. It does pay to bear in mind this identification of trauma biomarkers might not be used solely for healing purposes, this could have offensive value as well. This is all conjecture, given real informations are scarce, however, to the author, a layman, it seems illogical to conduct a research of this type on a minor and, from US military point of view, irrelevant sample, if we are considering only trauma detection and injury remediation.

    So for the purposes of their research, American military did indeed collect samples of the Russian genetic code. Igor Kirilov, head of CBRN defense for the Russian Army, points out that in the period from 2020 to 2021, under the auspices of studies with various pathogens, several thousand samples of patient serum (patients were of Slavic origin) were transferred from Ukraine to the United States. The final destination of these samples was the military Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in the US, the largest institution of its kind in the America.[30] Shortly after Victoria Nuland’s statement, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman called on Washington to present details of its military-biological activities to the public, stressing that the United States has 336 laboratories in 30 countries, 26 of which are in Ukraine.[31][32][33] At the same time, just a day after the Russian army began its operation, the official website of the American National Endowment for Democracy, the infamous NED, removed all documentation related to its activities on the territory of Ukraine.[34] We should not lose sight of the fact that NED, according to its own data, has been active in Ukraine since 1989.

    After only ten days of Russian progress, we came to a situation where we had to accept, as a fact, that United States have funded laboratory work in Europe with some of the most dangerous pathogens known to man. The laboratory in Odessa[35] is classified as level three biosafety facility, out of four possible levels.[36] Level three biosafety enables work with anthrax and tuberculosis, among other things. It is also necessary to take into account that there is a significant possibility of European countries being acquainted with the entire program, which only further emphasizes the subordination of the European Union to American interests.

    The possibility that other Slavic countries deliberately cooperated with Washington on this issue shows an extremely dangerous degree of frivolity, especially when we consider that one of the main characteristics of both viruses and bacteria is mutations aimed at facilitating their spread. It is not impossible to imagine that a virus artificially created to attack Russians after several mutations becomes dangerous for Poles or Czechs, given the common Slavic roots and similar characteristics of the genetic code in all Slavic peoples.

    Finally, we will look at the economic consequences of current events, and they are best seen when looking at oil and natural gas prices on the world market. At the time of writing, a barrel of oil sells for $ 110, while a thousand cubic meters of natural gas costs $ 4,705. These are astronomical figures, figures that already have a visible negative impact on European industry. On March 10, the only state-owned steel plant in Germany, Lech-Stahlwerke, was forced to shut down its Bavarian plant due to high energy prices.[37] This factory produced a million tons of steel a year, and consumed as much energy as the city of 300,000 inhabitants.

    According to a survey by the Federation of German Industries, high energy prices are jeopardizing the survival of a quarter of all German small and medium-sized enterprises.[38][39] According to available data, 23% of these companies see energy prices as a threat to their own survival, while 21% are considering moving plants abroad. It should be borne in mind that these are data just before the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine, which logically leads to the conclusion that the current situation is much worse. This is of particular importance given that more than half of jobs in Germany are created by small and medium-sized enterprises.[40] These same companies generate 37% of the total annual turnover and make up almost 99% of all existing German companies.[41]

    Unfortunately for Europe, Germany has been transformed through EU into the economic engine of the entire continent, and any instability within Germany itself can only have a negative impact on the rest of the countries, both inside and outside Europe. At the same time, the European Union is introducing a new package of sanctions against Russia, which includes a ban on export of luxury goods to the Russian Federation and the import of iron and steel from it.[42][43] Russia is one of the five largest exporters of iron and steel globally. Sanctioning Moscow in this regard can only lead to a further rise in metal prices. Russian authorities have already announced additional duties of 15% on the export of 340 products made of steel and other metals, which will be in force from August 1 to December 31 this year. Since we are talking about exports, this will also affect the increase in prices, and from this move, a profit of 160 billion rubles is expected.[44] According to data from 2019, the EU import of semi-finished steel products from Russia and Ukraine accounts for as much as 71% of imports in this category. In other categories of steel products, the Russian Federation, together with Ukraine, appears as one of the major trade partners of the European Union as well.[45]

    Russia is also a leading exporter of cereals, especially wheat. Ukraine and the Russian Federation provide as much as a quarter of the world’s wheat export,[46] which is crucial for nutrition of a number of countries, including those in Europe. Given the current events, the chances are extremely low that Ukrainian farmers will sow their fields this year. Without sowing there can be no harvest. Food prices are expected to rise globally.[47] At the same time, Russia is the primary exporter of neon, nickel, copper and precious metals,[48] with neon and palladium standing out due to their key role in production of microchips.[49][50]

    There is not even theoretical possibility that Western countries will remain unaffected by their own sanctions. Three weeks after start of the conflict, Washington has already been forced to send a diplomatic mission to Nicolas Maduro with the goal of convincing Venezuela to compensate for oil that Moscow delivered to the United States.[51] Not so long ago Maduro was a dictator and a drug dealer.

    While the West is feverishly looking for new ways to sanction Russia for “violating international law”, economic and political processes worthy of attention are taking place on the other side of the Eurasian supercontinent. In early March, the Russian Federation and Pakistan signed a major trade agreement by which Islamabad agreed to import two million tons of wheat and natural gas from Russia.[52] Shortly afterwards, India and Russia decided to finalize a system of mutual trade that would take place in the national currencies of the two countries, thus bypassing the dollar. According to available data, edible oil and fertilizer are of key interest for New Delhi at the moment, but once established, this system can easily be used to trade in other goods as well.[53] At the same time, China and the Eurasian Economic Union are agreeing to create a common and independent international monetary and financial system based on the “new international currency”.[54] This new currency is supposed to take yuan as a reference base and its value would be calculated on the basis of the index of national currencies of the participating countries, as well as commodity prices.[55] In addition to all this, there are signs of negotiations between Saudi Arabia and China regarding possibility that Riyadh would accept the Chinese yuan instead of the dollar as a means of payment for oil bought by Beijing,[56] especially now that dedollarization has become an integral part of developing one’s own sovereignty. For the sake of the record, China buys 25% of total Saudi oil exports.

    Despite warnings from major banks on Wall Street, Western sanctions included expulsion of Russian banks from the global SWIFT payment system, but this is proving to be another future problem for Western capitals. A Bloomberg article points out that “booting Russia from the critical global system — which handles 42 million messages a day and serves as a lifeline to some of the world’s biggest financial institutions — could backfire, sending inflation higher, pushing Russia closer to China and shielding financial transactions from scrutiny by the West. It might also encourage the development of a SWIFT alternative that could eventually damage the supremacy of the U.S. dollar.”[57]

    This warning has already proven to be correct, considering that Moscow has connected its own system for international financial exchange not only with China, but also with India and all the countries that make up the EAEU. Russia’s System for Transfer of Financial Messages already links more than 400 banks.[58] If we take into account the previously emphasized importance of the Russian Federation as an exporter of several key raw materials, it is logical to expect a further increase in the number of institutions involved in the network. Given that India and China together have close to three billion inhabitants, their participation in this system is crucial and there is no real reason why these two countries would not join it.

    Russia itself is already discussing the nationalization[59] of assets of foreign companies that left the country in protest over the conflict in Ukraine, while the director of the Center for Economic Research of the Institute of Globalization and Social Movements, Vasily Koltashov, advocates de facto confiscation of foreign technologies through a law on friendly and hostile states which would allow Russian Federation to cease recognizing US rights to patents.[60] Koltashov believes that “if a country turns out to be on the unfriendly list, then we can start copying its technologies in pharmaceuticals, industry, manufacturing, electronics, medicine. It can be anything – from simple details to chemical compositions.”[61] Western sources also warn of the dangers regarding sanctions in the technological sphere.[62]

    Late last year, Iran and Russia finalized agreements to sign a major comprehensive co-operation agreement for a period of twenty years, which is likely to be similar to the agreement reached between Tehran and Beijing.[63] At the same time, on the very day the Russian operation in Ukraine began, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was in Moscow. During this visit, an agreement was reached on the construction of a large gas pipeline “North-South” which would transfer liquefied gas from the southern Pakistani port of Karachi to the northern part of the country.[64] The value of this project, which should be executed by Russian companies, is estimated at two billion dollars. In addition to cooperation with Asian countries, Moscow seems to be expanding cooperation with South American countries as well. During the meeting between Putin and Bolsenaro in February, the Brazilian president pointed out the high degree of interest in cooperation in the field of SMRs, that is, small modular nuclear reactors, especially their role in the development of Brazilian nuclear submarines, and expanding “dialogue on issues such as off-shore hydrocarbon production, hydrogen and nuclear energy…strengthening military cooperation and bilateral exchanges.”[65]

    As we can see, a series of constructive moves that should strengthen mostly opponents and competitors of the United States. Meanwhile, in the clown world of EU, the Brussels is preparing to impose sanctions on Poland and Hungary for refusing to comply with European Union dictates regarding LGBT propaganda and other decadent Western “values.” Namely, on March 10, the European Parliament, by a large majority, passed a decision calling on the European Commission to start the procedure of withholding funds from those countries that “do not respect the rule of law”, with special emphasis on Warsaw and Budapest.[66][67]

    This can only deepen the Union’s already existing agony, especially given the duration of this crisis, and the existence of several other simultaneous issues that are eroding internal cohesion and functioning. If the EC really implements this decision, question of Poland’s, and possibly Hungary’s, exit from the European Union, would inevitably become actual again. In line with European solidarity, which we could witness in action during the pandemic, Brussels also said it was grateful to states of the Western Balkan for backing EU sanctions against Russia, but noted that there were no plans for compensation funds to mitigate the damage these countries will suffer due to harmonization with the measures of the European Union.[68] Much ado about solidarity.

    By all accounts, the European Union is entering a period of economic and political turmoil carried on a false wave of moral superiority over Russia and the Russian people. It is enough to look at the map of the Eurasian supercontinent to see the undoubted place of Europe itself in this great expanse. The whole series of events that led us to the conflict in Ukraine were a kind of test measuring the real independence of European Union, and now we can say that European countries have failed that test. More than fifteen years, since Vladimir Putin’s famous speech in Munich, have been wasted. Neither France nor Germany exerted the necessary pressure, and they were quite capable of doing so, upon Kiev to fulfill the Minsk agreements, all the while arming the Ukrainian army and training units that we can now openly say are nothing but modern versions of Nazi troops from eighty years ago. After their ancestors were classified as “subhumans” by the “Aryan overlords” from the Third Reich, it is sad to see one Slavic people embrace this disgusting ideology with the intention of using it against another Slavic nation.

    By no means are all Ukrainians open to Nazism. In fact, it is probably true that a small minority has truly accepted this ideology. However, it is necessary to accept that the part which did embrace Hitler’s ideas did so with the tacit blessing of both United States and European Union. It is depressing to observe how Europe, a space with extremely long traditions of statehood, art, culture, with the richness of its own history and historical experience, becomes even more deeply dependent on Washington. We should not cultivate illusions, in war between Russia and Ukraine, the European Union seems to be the biggest loser. Russia will be hit by sanctions but it can always turn to Asia. Iran has been under US sanctions for decades and continues to function as a state, Cuba and North Korea as well. Given this, it is relatively safe to assume that Russia will likewise survive the sanctions and continue to exist. But what will Europe do? Europe which had a rather clear and obvious choice. Either the continuation of dependence on the Atlantic order or the building of one’s own capacities with the aim of forming one of the hubs of the new multipolar order and the development of Eurasian connectivity. Apparently, Europe has chosen its path, and it could eventually lead to its disappearance. It is enough to look at the overall European birth rates, combined with impact of neoliberal open borders policy, to have a clear picture a possible future in store for Europe.

    Given that this article was originally published some ten days ago, it would be prudent to take a quick look at what happened while it was translated. Economy seems to be the area where most of the action is happening right now. Syrian ambassador to Moscow, Riad Hadadd, affirmed Damascus readiness to discuss mutual trade settlements with Russia in respective national currencies.[69] At the same time, Syria eastern neighbor, Iraq, shows intent on increasing cooperation with Russian Federation. Deputy speaker of Iraq legislative body, Shahwan Abdallah said as much during his meeting in Baghdad with Russian ambassador Elbrus Kutrashev.[70] Meanwhile, Russia and Venezuela are developing possibility to use Mir cards in this South American country.[71] Vladimir Putin’s announcement that hostile countries will have to pay for oil and gas in rubles caused shock among the western countries and provided significant boost to ruble recover.[72] Putin also pointed out that gold and bitcoin would be acceptable as well.[73] Despite protestations from European countries, Moscow announced possibility that other exports from the Russian Federation will have to be paid in rubles as well.[74] It would seem that on the 30th March 2022 all westward gas flow, that is from Russia to Germany, through Yamal gas pipeline declined to zero.[75]

    Meanwhile, in the background to all of this, Russian Central Bank announced it will continue to buy gold at fixed price of 5.000 rubles for a gram, which was interpreted as a clear step towards creation of gold-backed ruble[76] and which should provide further basis for strengthening of the Russian currency.[77] At the moment of writing, ruble stands at 84,5 for a dollar, almost exactly the same as at the start of the military operation.

    On the other side, “leader of the free world” Joe Biden caught with cue cards instructing him on how to answer previously prepared questions. Author believed this was a joke, but apparently it is not.[78] In a rather short time frame a lot of dirty secrets became public regarding Hunter Biden, most notable being his part in financing previously mentioned biolaboratories. After everything, even MSM had to buckle and admit laptop was real and its content rather damning. On 24th March India refused to receive a UK delegation, described as high-powered, after it apparently became known British were intending to pressure and lecture New Delhi on the issue of its position regarding Russian military operation.[79]

    On the ground, military situation in terms of territory possession has not changed drastically due to the fact siege of Mariupol has been ongoing for roughly two weeks now and it would seem it is entering its final phase. Latest reports indicate Nazi elements and Ukrainian troops are in possession of ever shrinking urban territory with ammunition and other supplies being nearly depleted. In other areas, intensive Russian air raids and missile strikes were noted against military training grounds, ammo and fuel depots.

    Earlier statement of war in Ukraine being about anything but Ukraine seems to be corroborated in general by the developments outside the bounds of the conflict itself. The bigger picture indicates recomposition of forces, especially in the light of recent Chinese, rather indicative, comments regarding Taiwan and Beijing cooperation with Russia. And in all of this, Europe remains divided, under economic and political strain which is only going to increase. Everything happening now could have been avoided, and yet EU and US administration did everything in their power to make this war happen. In their hubris they believed in the “exceptionality” of their position, but apparently forgot that every arrogance has its price.


    1. https://twitter.com/RealScottRitter 
    2. https://carnegieendowment.org/2021/12/13/u.s.-exit-from-anti-ballistic-missile-treaty-has-fueled-new-arms-race-pub-85977 
    3. https://www.armscontrol.org/act/2019-09/news/us-completes-inf-treaty-withdrawal 
    4. https://www.armscontrol.org/act/2020-12/news/us-completes-open-skies-treaty-withdrawal 
    5. https://www.dw.com/en/ukraine-number-of-refugees-reaches-2-million-un-says/a-61048556 
    6. https://www.politico.eu/article/germany-rejects-calls-for-banning-russian-oil-and-gas/ 
    7. https://edition.cnn.com/2022/03/08/energy/gas-russia-europe/index.html#:~:text=The%20European%20Union%20depends%20on,President%20Vladimir%20Putin’s%20war%20effort
    8. https://www.cleanenergywire.org/news/gas-price-hike-may-hit-german-economy-production-cuts-media-reports 
    9. https://www.cleanenergywire.org/factsheets/energy-crunch-effects-households-and-businesses-and-governments-reaction 
    10. https://www.rt.com/russia/551505-banning-russian-oil-will-grind/ 
    11. https://www.politico.eu/article/germany-putin-oil-gas/ 
    12. https://observer.com/2017/05/james-clapper-russia-xenophobia/ 
    13. http://europeanpost.co/macron-denies-the-existence-of-a-french-culture/ 
    14. https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/macron-and-uprooting-france 
    15. https://www.tasnimnews.com/en/news/2022/03/10/2680003/eu-has-reached-limit-of-its-capabilities-to-impose-financial-sanctions-on-russia-borrell-says 
    16. https://notesfrompoland.com/2022/03/11/we-cant-take-any-more-refugees-polish-cities-call-on-government-to-seek-eu-and-un-help/ 
    17. https://www.rferl.org/a/russia-biological-warfare-accusations-raise-eyebrows-lawsuit/28834069.html 
    18. https://www.opindia.com/2022/02/russia-ukraine-invasion-bioweapons-labs-patrushev-putin-wuhan-coronavirus/ 
    19. https://parstoday.com/en/news/world-i67050-us_military_says_collecting_russian_dna_for_research_purposes%E2%80%99 
    20. https://www.newsweek.com/russia-claim-ukraine-making-ethnic-specific-bioweapons-science-fiction-united-states-1687219 
    21. https://www.airforcetimes.com/news/pentagon-congress/2017/11/02/how-a-pentagon-research-project-convinced-vladimir-putin-of-a-coming-biowar/ 
    22. https://www.mintpressnews.com/us-admits-funding-biological-laboratories-ukraine-dilyana-gaytandzhieva/279904/ 
    23. https://twitter.com/dgaytandzhieva/status/1497556518278991873?s=20&t=bk7a7jpdDTLk5Zk3LaGAJg 
    24. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y39veTO7kF4 
    25. https://www.bbc.com/news/60711705 
    26. https://www.opindia.com/2022/03/usa-admits-biolabs-in-ukraine-says-biological-attack-russias-fault/ 
    27. https://www.airforcetimes.com/news/pentagon-congress/2017/11/02/how-a-pentagon-research-project-convinced-vladimir-putin-of-a-coming-biowar/ 
    28. https://www.yjc.news/en/news/15083/us-military-says-collecting-russian-dna-for-%E2%80%98research-purposes%E2%80%99 
    29. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/09/10/the-changing-profile-of-the-u-s-military/#:~:text=In%202017%2C%2057%25%20of%20U.S.,grown%20steadily%20in%20recent%20decades
    30. https://www.wionews.com/world/found-30-biological-labs-in-ukraine-possibly-for-bioweapons-claim-russian-forces-460189 
    31. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BCydUeHAhzQ 
    32. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-7Rg7Nt1Bo 
    33. https://www.opindia.com/2022/03/us-has-336-biolabs-in-30-countries-including-26-in-ukraine-alleges-china/ 
    34. https://covertactionmagazine.com/2022/03/07/national-endowment-for-democracy-deletes-records-of-funding-projects-in-ukraine/ 
    35. https://www.rfi.fr/en/international/20220311-us-funded-biolabs-in-ukraine-at-the-core-of-ongoing-propaganda-war 
    36. https://consteril.com/biosafety-levels-difference/ 
    37. https://www.nasdaq.com/articles/steelmaker-lech-stahlwerke-halts-production-as-power-prices-soar 
    38. https://www.cleanenergywire.org/news/one-four-german-industry-companies-fear-existence-due-costly-energy-survey 
    39. https://bdi.eu/presse/#/artikel/news/strom-und-gaspreise-drohen-wirtschaft-zu-erdruecken/ 
    40. https://www.bmwi.de/Redaktion/EN/Publikationen/wirtschaftsmotor-mittelstand-zahlen-und-fakten-zu-den-deutschen-kmu.pdf?__blob=publicationFile&v=1 
    41. https://www.bmwi.de/Redaktion/EN/Dossier/sme-policy.html#:~:text=The%20success%20of%20German%20business,Approx
    42. https://www.spglobal.com/commodity-insights/en/market-insights/videos/market-movers-asia/031422-russia-oil-espo-sokol-china-india-japan-korea-sanctions-bunker-marine-fuel-steel-wheat-indonesia-coal 
    43. https://www.reuters.com/markets/europe/eu-unveils-fourth-set-sanctions-against-russia-2022-03-11/ 
    44. https://www.metalbulletin.com/Article/3996007/Russia-sets-export-duties-on-340-metal-products-[CORRECTED].html 
    45. https://legacy.trade.gov/steel/countries/pdfs/imports-eu.pdf 
    46. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/2/17/infographic-russia-ukraine-and-the-global-wheat-supply-interactive 
    47. https://oec.world/en/blog/post/affects-of-russian-invasion-of-ukraine-on-global-food-access 
    48. https://gpovanman.wordpress.com/2022/03/15/slamming-the-door-behind-them/ 
    49. https://theconversation.com/five-essential-commodities-that-will-be-hit-by-war-in-ukraine-177845 
    50. https://www.fierceelectronics.com/electronics/ukraine-war-could-hurt-supplies-neon-palladium-needed-chips 
    51. https://www.ft.com/content/503e557e-947c-4993-8016-69b2135f4432 
    52. https://www.business-standard.com/article/international/pakistan-signs-trade-deal-with-russia-amid-war-how-will-the-imf-react-122030400406_1.html 
    53. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/india-finalising-alternative-payment-system-to-carry-on-russia-trade-101647174800298.html 
    54. https://kapital.kz/finance/103768/yeaes-i-knr-razrabotayut-proyekt-mezhdunarodnoy-finsistemy.html 
    55. https://thecradle.co/Article/columns/7975 
    56. https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202203/1255048.shtml 
    57. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-02-25/wall-street-counsels-washington-against-kicking-russia-off-swift 
    58. https://thecradle.co/Article/columns/7385 
    59. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/mar/10/russia-plans-to-seize-assets-of-western-companies-exiting-country 
    60. https://www.opednews.com/articles/3/Follow-the-Money–How-Rus-by-Pepe-Escobar-Central-Banks_Chinese-President-Xi-Jinping_Follow-The-Money_Oil-Cost-Of—220301-583.html 
    61. https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2022/03/03/us-russia-technology-dependence/ 
    62. https://www.russia-briefing.com/news/russia-and-iran-to-sign-20-year-cooperation-deal.html/ 
    63. https://www.ft.com/content/9294890a-593c-442b-bc53-13099d14d36f 
    64. https://brazilian.report/liveblog/2022/02/16/russia-nuclear-talks/ 
    65. https://notesfrompoland.com/2022/03/10/european-parliament-calls-on-eu-to-block-funds-for-rule-of-law-violators/ 
    66. https://hronograf.net/2022/03/10/eu-uvodi-sankcije-poljskoj-i-madjarskoj/ 
    67. https://www.politika.rs/scc/clanak/502066/U-EU-ne-planiraju-pomoc-za-balkanske-zemlje-koje-su-podrzale-sankcije-Rusiji 
    68. https://etleboro.org/g/36df9eee5886b3135017a253f7500802en/ambassador-haddad-syria-is-ready-to-discuss-mutual-trade-settlements-with-russia-in-national-currency 
    69. https://tass.com/world/1429731?utm_source=google.com&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=google.com&utm_referrer=google.com 
    70. https://tass.com/economy/1425851?utm_source=google.com&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=google.com&utm_referrer=google.com 
    71. https://tass.com/economy/1429217 
    72. https://www.cnbc.com/2022/03/24/russia-might-take-bitcoin-as-payment-for-oil-and-gas-as-sanctions-rise.html 
    73. https://www.reuters.com/business/find-roubles-if-you-want-russian-oil-grain-or-metals-top-lawmaker-says-2022-03-30/ 
    74. https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/russian-gas-flows-europe-remain-steady-2022-03-30/ 
    75. https://tomluongo.me/2022/03/28/got-gold-rubles-russia-just-broke-the-back-of-the-west/ 
    76. https://www.wsj.com/articles/russia-built-parallel-payments-system-that-escaped-western-sanctions-11648510735?mod=e2fb 
    77. https://news.yahoo.com/photos-biden-caught-using-cue-012506645.html?guccounter=1 
    78. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2022/mar/24/rift-over-ukraine-exposed-as-high-powered-uk-delegation-to-india-called-off 

    President Joe’s remarks about President Putin are inappropriate.

    March 29, 2022

    Source

    By Zamir Awan

    Although official denial of President Joe Biden’s remarks about President Putin, yet, it has a severe impact on geopolitics. Even his close allies like UK and France have not appreciated such remarks. China has also objected to such furious remarks. Public opinion around the globe is also criticizing his remarks. It is not the first time, he used harsh words for President Putin in the past like “Killer”, “Butcher” etc.

    It is unusual in politics to use sarcastic remakes in international politics. Especially, for his counterparts, he needs to follow diplomatic antiquates. Even, during the cold-war era, no one has used abusive language toward each other at this high level. How so ever he may explain, it has harmed the international political atmosphere and heated up the political environment already.

    It is true, the US has been playing a dirty role in changing regimes and manipulating elections in adversary countries. Sometimes, a direct military action, or indirect covered operations, has been changing regimes in many countries. The more polite way used was manipulating during the elections and helping the candidates of their own choice in elections. During the cold war era, the US has changed more than seventy regimes. However, in the post-cold war era, the reports are not publicized yet. American interference in developing countries or underdeveloped countries is a matter of routine, but, this time his remarks about a superpower, with nuclear weapons are a rather serious matter and concern of every sensible person around the globe.

    For more than a decade, the US has been following a policy to contain China and counter Russia. The creation of “Quad” and “AUKUS” is designed to counter China, but, the expansion of NATO was to counter Russia. After the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, there was no justification for keeping NATO. Yet, the US not only kept NATO intact but also expanded involving many members of former Warsaw Pact nations. Although Russia was objecting to an expansion of NATO and opposed its immediate neighboring countries to join NATO. But, the US ignored all genuine security concerns raised by Russia. Even though, Russia has been warning Ukraine of a red line, which was also ignored by the US. What so ever is happening in Ukraine, the US, NATO, UK, EU are responsible. Unfortunately, the victim is Ukraine alone. Despite security guarantees, Ukraine has to face this situation alone.

    It is a lesson for many countries and nations in the rest of the world, who is looking at the US as a true and sincere friend and depend on them for protection in case of any aggression from any other country. All nations and countries having security pacts or promises with the US, need to think twice. It is not only Ukraine who has been betrayed, but, India being the major defense partner with the US has not got any support when was at war with China in Ladakh. Pakistan being a non-NATO close ally, was not helped in 1971 during its war with India and lost half of the country. The US has a history of embarrassing friends. It is also a warning for Taiwan, which depends on the US in case of war with China.

    President Joe Biden almost 80 years old is a very mature politician, and since 1972 is part of various administrations in various capacities. He is a law graduate and understands international politics very well. He was part of many wars and conspiracies in the different roles during the cold war era as well as the post-cold war era. He has met President Putin as vice president too. He has sufficient interaction with President Putin and then, his remarks with this background are really unacceptable.

    It is hoped that President Putin shows greatness and ignores his remarks and should not react or overreact. In fact, he is a wise person and responsible politician. His calmness and ignoring President Joe’s remarks will elevate his stature. He might become more popular in Russia as well as globally. He may emerge as a hero and popular global leader.

    The US should do something practical to defuse tension and mere statements of denial will not fulfill the requirements. American behavior will decide how sincere they are and how responsible they are. The world has been focusing on US performance and on-ground actions closely. It is time to demonstrate “Peace” and measures to attain peace for all.

    If President Joe Biden’s administration focuses on a domestic issue, millions of America will uplift their standard of life. And the rest of the world will feel great relief. Live your own life and let others live in peace. Domestic issues are rather complicated and deserve more attention.

    It is desired that both sides dilute the tension and ensure global peace, stability, and security. Otherwise, the consequences of World War III may be a total disaster for humankind. We must learn lessons from WWI and WWII. Wars are not a solution to any issue. No one is the beneficiary of wars. Even the winner is also a net loser. The only option is to resolve all differences and disputes through diplomatic and political dialogue under the UN Charter. In today’s world, with the advancement of hi-tech and Science and technology, both have developed lethal weapons and possess enough pile of weapons to destroy the whole world. Wars are scaring scenario!

    The most precious thing in this universe is the human being, the rest of everything is to serve humankind. It is our prime duty to protect human lives. The loss of human lives is a net loss of humanity. It is worth mentioning that all human beings are born through an identical biological process, all mothers face the same pains. Irrespective of race, religion, color, ethnicity, or nationality, all human beings are the same and equal. All human beings deserve respect and equal rights. All lives Matter!

    It is appealed to all scholars, intellectuals, thinkers, and sensible nations as well as individuals to stand up for the protection of human being around the globe.


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

    «العولمة السعيدة» لا تمنع حرباً: العالم على عتبة الانشطار

      الثلاثاء 22 آذار 2022

    روسيا تُركّز ضرباتها: تحضيرات لحسم «الدونباس» أحمد الحاج علي

    وليد شرارة

    أدّت الحروب بين القوى الكبرى، في العصور الغابرة والحديثة، دوراً مركزياً في صياغة العالم، أو إعادة صياغته، على المستويات الجيوسياسية والجيو ــــ اقتصادية، وفقاً لرؤى المنتصرين فيها ومصالحهم. وإذا حصرنا اهتمامنا بفترة ما بعد الحرب العالمية الثانية، فإن مآلات هذه الأخيرة، وموازين القوى التي كرّستها، هي التي أنتجت “النظام الدولي الليبرالي” ــــ وهو الاسم الكودي للهيمنة الأميركية على عدد من بقاع المعمورة ــــ، من جهة، وأتاحت تشكيل المعسكر الاشتراكي وانتصار حركات التحرّر الوطني في بقاع أخرى، من جهةٍ ثانية. الأمر نفسه ينطبق على المرحلة التي تلت نهاية الحرب الباردة، بعد انهيار الاتحاد السوفياتي، وما تخلّلها من مساعٍ لتوسيع نطاق الهيمنة الأميركية نحو مناطق جديدة، وتأبيدها على الصعيد الدولي.

    «إحياء الناتو» ضدّ موسكو وبكين

    لم يكن “الناتو” في “حالة موت سريري”، كما قال الرئيس الفرنسي، إيمانويل ماكرون، في لحظة انفعال، رداً على تهديدات متكرّرة من نظيره الأميركي آنذاك، دونالد ترامب، بالانسحاب من الحلف، بذريعة عدم مضاعفة أعضائه الأوروبيين إنفاقهم العسكري السنوي. علاوة على ذلك، فإن الإهانات المستمرّة التي وجّهها ترامب للمسؤولين الأوروبيين خلال عهده، وتلويحه بإمكانية توقّف الولايات المتحدة عن “حماية” بلدانهم، حدت ببعض هؤلاء إلى استعادة معزوفة الدفاع الأوروبي المشترك والمستقلّ، على المستوى الخطابي لا أكثر. فالتعاون العسكري الأورو ــــ أميركي في إطار “الناتو”، لم يتراجع يوماً، وخاصّة في دول جبهته الشرقية مع روسيا، حيث ازداد عديد قواته المنتشرة في بولندا وبلدان البلطيق، وكذلك المناورات التي تجريها. ولا بدّ من الإشارة أيضاً إلى أن الاتحاد الأوروبي ودوله كان لهم دور رئيسيّ في افتعال الأزمة في أوكرانيا، عندما ساهموا، في أواخر عام 2013، في التحريض على رئيسها آنذاك، فيكتور يانوكوفيتش ــــ الذي رفض توقيع اتفاقية التجارة والشراكة مع الاتحاد ــــ، ودعموا القوى التي أطاحته في أواخر شباط 2014.

    فسخ الشراكة وتفكّك العولمة

    أولى الدعوات إلى إعادة النظر بالعولمة الاقتصادية، وما نجم عنها من مفاعيل “سلبية” بالنسبة إلى الاقتصاد الأميركي، أطلقها الرئيس الأميركي السابق، دونالد ترامب، الذي شنّ حرباً تجارية على الصين، وحضّ على فسخ الشراكة معها. المواقف الرافضة لسياساته وتوجهاته ــــ آنذاك ــــ لم تصدر فقط من بكين، بل كذلك من أوساط الشركات الأميركية والغربية الكبرى، ووسائل الإعلام اللصيقة بها، كمجلة “إيكونوميست” وصحيفة “فايننشال تايمز”. اللافت، اليوم، هو أن الدعوات إلى إخضاع المصالح الاقتصادية، ومبدأ حرية التجارة “المقدّس” للاعتبارات الاستراتيجية، أضحى يصدر من هذه الأبواق، حتى ولو لم تشجّع على فسخ شراكة شاملة.

    كان بإمكان دول أوروبا، عندما حشد بوتين قواته على حدود أوكرانيا، التجاوب مع مطلبه بتحييدها

    ففي عددها الأخير، وعنوان غلافه “النظام الدولي البديل”، رأت”ذي إيكونوميست”، أن “المواجهة مع روسيا كشفت تناقضاً متنامياً بين حرية التجارة والحرية كمبدأ”. ففي مقال بعنوان “تجارة مع العدو”، اعترفت الأسبوعية “الرصينة” بأن “العدوانية العسكرية لبوتين تثير أسئلة مزعجة حول العولمة بالنسبة إلى أنصار حرية التجارة مثل الإيكونوميست. هل يصحّ أن تقيم مجتمعات مفتوحة علاقات اقتصادية مع أخرى مستبدّة، كالصين وروسيا، تنتهك حقوق الإنسان وتهدّد الأمن، وتصبح أكثر خطورة كلّما ازدادت ثراءً؟ الإجابة سهلة من حيث المبدأ: على الديموقراطيات أن تطوّر مبادلاتها التجارية دون المساس بأمنها القومي. عملياً، الموازنة بين الأمرَين مهمّة بالغة الصعوبة. حرب روسيا تظهر ضرورة إعادة صياغة جراحية لشبكات الإنتاج والتوريد لمنع الدول المستبدّه من التنكيل بتلك الليبرالية… الاجتياح الروسي أكد للغرب خطورة التجارة مع الخصوم. الاعتبار الأوّل أخلاقي. عقود شراء نفط الأورال وقمح البحر الأسود موّلت القمع الذي يمارسه بوتين وإنفاقه العسكري المتعاظم. الاعتبار الآخر أمني، يرتبط بإدمان أوروبا وصناعاتها على غاز روسيا، وما تصدّره من معادن وأسمدة. هذه التبعية تزيد من قوّة الأنظمة المستبدّة، وتُضعِف عزم الديموقراطيات، وتضعها في موقع شديد الهشاشة في حالة الحرب”.

    إخراج روسيا من النظام المالي الدولي، عبر إقصائها من نظام “سويفت”، والسعي إلى إيجاد مصادر بديلة منها للغاز والنفط بالنسبة إلى أوروبا، وحزمة العقوبات المفروضة عليها، والتي يجري التلويح بها حيال الصين وأيّ دولة أخرى تتعاون معها لـ”التحايل” على الأخيرة، ما هي سوى خطوات أولى في مجابهة مرشّحة للتصعيد، بالتوازي مع استعار تلك الدائرة في الميدان العسكري. وبما أن القوى الغربية ترى أن هذه المجابهة المصيرية هي مع محور روسي ــــ صيني، وليس مع روسيا وحدها، وأن الصين هي الخصم الأخطر والمستفيد الأوّل منها، فإن الاعتبارات الاستراتيجية ستطغى على تلك الاقتصادية في التعامل معها. بطبيعة الحال، فإن ضخامة المصالح المشتركة مع بكين، وحجم الأضرار الذي سينجم عن عملية فكّ ارتباط معها، سيدفع قوى اقتصادية وازنة في الغرب إلى الاعتراض عليه، غير أن الاستراتيجية العليا لدول تحاول وقف تراجع هيمنتها، في مقابل أخرى صاعدة بسرعة هائلة، لا تنسجم مع المصالح الخاصّة لبعض الشركات. في مثل هذا السياق، فإن وجود مصالح مشتركة حتى بين الدول نفسها لا يحول دون الحرب في ما بينها، وعلى من يشكّ في ذلك أن يقرأ، أو يعيد قراءة، كتاب المفكر السياسي الأميركي غراهام أليسون، “فخ توسيديد”، ليتحرّر من بقايا خرافات “العولمة السعيدة” وأوهامها.

    فيديوات متعقلة

    فيديوات متعقلة

    War in the Ukraine, Tragedy and Hope (Part III)

    March 18, 2022

    Source: Al Mayadeen Net

    Niloufer Bhagwat 

    Ukraine, as it once was, is an industrialized and technologically advanced republic of the former USSR.

    War in the Ukraine, Tragedy and Hope (Part III)

    Ukraine was once one of the most advanced and industrialized republics of the former USSR, well integrated into the former multinational state of the USSR, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. It is also true that for the first time after the Russian Revolution of 1917, the first Socialist Revolution, that the Ukrainian Republic was constituted as one of the republics of the former USSR, before that it was an integral part of the territories of Tsarist Russia. It is necessary to recall that the peoples of all the republics of the Soviet Union lived in harmony, in a closely-knit society sharing culture, inter-marrying. It was not uncommon for one spouse to be Russian and the other Ukrainian. There was even more exotic pairing, such as Tartar and Cossack, Daghestani and Ukrainian, and so on. The Ukrainian Republic of the USSR had regions that were culturally Russian-speaking regions, integrated for administrative and other reasons into the Ukrainian Republic. Ukrainian and Russian languages are similar as is the culture of both people, there was never any problem of co-existence. It was much more than co-existence; it was a mutual culture and life shared over a thousand years. The Russian-speaking nationality and, to a lesser extent, other nationalities settled in different parts of what was earlier an integral part of the Tsarist Russian Empire. This continued in the USSR.

    For those of us living for almost a year on the Black Sea in 1982-1983, awaiting the commissioning of the destroyer built by the once-famous Nikolayev Shipyard to be handed over to the Indian Navy by the Soviet Navy after completion of trials in the Black Sea and military exercises off the Crimea, the cities of Sevastopol, Mariupol, and Odessa were all Russian. The Indian contingent/ Team or ‘Ekipazh’, was not the only contingent there. There were seven other contingents from different countries, including Libyan and Cuban, awaiting the delivery of ships and boats of all sizes. None of us used the politically correct term ‘Soviet’, for us everything was Russian. Citizens from our host country from different republics of the USSR did not dissent or frown on or attempt to correct our expression or to explain or distinguish what was Ukrainian from what was Russian, or what was Crimean from what was Russian, and no one from the host country complained about ‘Great Russian National Chauvinism’.

    To me, a ‘ Soviet watcher’, a legacy from my father, an Indian Muslim by birth, religion, and culture, who believed that the Russian Revolution of 1917 was one of the most important events of the 20th Century, influencing National Liberation Struggles around the world, including those that led India’s freedom struggle, with some Indian revolutionaries in exile crossing over from Afghanistan into Uzbekistan after the 1917 Revolution, as recorded by Soviet scholars… to me, what seemed remarkable was that for decades the USSR from 1922-1953 was led by Josef Stalin, a Georgian and Asian by nationality. Josef Stalin, a former student of a religious seminary training to be a priest, before he became a revolutionary, as a Commissar after the revolution, was directed to implement the Bolshevik policy of autonomy for ‘nationalities’ to be reorganized into Republics of the USSR, by the famous Russian revolutionary, visionary, and first head of state of the revolutionary government, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov or Lenin, as he is widely known; still loved across Asia, Africa, and Latin America; even today considered a leading authority against ‘Imperialism’. Ukraine was a beneficiary of this policy as President Putin correctly asserted.

    Lenin was determined to abolish the oppression of all subject nationalities by empires and colonialists. On the other hand, Josef Stalin’s reservations on aspects of this policy were known, though he implemented the policy deferring to his leader. Josef Stalin personally witnessed the misuse of Russia’s ‘nationalities’ in the famous Oil city of Baku, a beautiful city now in independent Azerbaijan on the Caspian, then a part of the Tsarist Russian Empire in the pre-revolutionary period. In Baku, murderous attacks took place to divide workers’ movements; one nationality was used against another. It was because of this direct field experience that Stalin understood, as did Rosa Luxemburg, the famous German Revolutionary, of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, later of the ‘Spartacus’ group of the SPD, that Imperialism would ‘pervert this policy for autonomy for  Nationalities’ to divide people in every country targeted for plunder of resources and the working class.

    This is predictably what occurred in Western Ukraine during the Second World War, in those regions of Ukraine earlier occupied by the Polish – Lithuanian Kingdom and later the Second Polish Republic – and in Hungary and Romanian territories of the Austrian-Hapsburg Empire. The Nazis at the very outset of their infamous military invasion, ‘Operation Barbarossa’, used Stepan Bandera, the Ukrainian fascist, and other extreme right-wing Ukrainian nationalists for the killings and genocide of Slavs, Poles, and Jews, manipulating the theory of a Ukrainian ‘Superior Race’. This was a barbaric attempt by the German Nazi Army to divide people in Ukraine to weaken the national defense of the Soviet Union. This cynical and cold-blooded Nazi policy, though it inflicted death and destruction on people of different nationalities in Ukraine in millions, in what was clearly genocide, could not defeat the USSR, as the majority of the Ukrainians defended the Soviet Union, serving selflessly and courageously in the Red Army. Every republic of the USSR, including Ukraine, made a heroic contribution to the victory of the former USSR in what is known as the ‘Great Patriotic War’, during which the Soviet army faced not only the might of the German Army, but also the combined military and technological might of the advanced countries of Europe, closely allied with Hitler and the Nazi party. It was a ‘Fascist Europe’ with its contingents led by Nazi Germany which was defeated by the Soviet Union’s Red Army liberating one country of Europe after another; one of the remarkable achievements in military history. The United States was to enter the war in its last stage with the Normandy landings, to participate in the spoils of a tragic war that destroyed Europe.

    Aspects of this more than 75-year-old history of the use of fascism in Ukraine have been repeated by the descendants of those who created Hitler and the Nazi party. How many know that it was the United States of America’s Rockefeller’s New Jersey Standard Oil Company which supplied fuel to the Nazi Army, without which the fascist subjugation of Europe and the invasion of the USSR by Nazi hordes was not possible? IBM among other US companies equally collaborated in maintaining an efficiently compiled data of Slavs, Jews, Romas, and other minorities in Nazi Germany to be targeted. Some US companies used slave labor in Nazi Germany like the best and brightest German Corporations, which even stole whole factories from occupied territories; similar to what happened recently when Syria was occupied by Turkish troops and ISIS legions of NATO and its alliance partners who stole whole factories from Syria, from Aleppo and other occupied regions. The United States and Turkey have been regularly looting Syrian oil after unleashing ISIS hordes on Syria for invasion and occupation, stationing their troops in Syria.

     After the Second World War, even as the ink on the Judgments of the Nuremberg trials was hardly dry, ‘Operation Paper Clip‘ began by the United States, to rehabilitate Nazi war criminals, intelligence agents, scientists, doctors, and others in the United States for use in the so-called “Cold War”, a continuance of the war on the Soviet Union by other means, and to use the scientific and medical expertise of German and Japanese scientists and intelligence agents, who were war criminals. Many former Nazis were successfully rehabilitated along with East European fascists, who subsequently, along with their descendants, held high-ranking posts in National Security Councils and the State Department of the United States. Significantly, a leading member of President Trudeau’s cabinet in Canada, prominent during the crackdown on the democratic struggle of the ‘Truckers’ Resistance’ to indiscriminate vaccine mandates, is the progeny of one such Nazi collaborator. Is it surprising that those who made small donations to the ‘Truckers Movements’ had their bank accounts blocked by a government decree?

    The opinions mentioned in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Al mayadeen, but rather express the opinion of its writer exclusively.

    Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with RBC TV channel, Moscow, March 16, 2022

    March 17, 2022

    https://www.mid.ru/en/press_service/minister_speeches/1804655/

    Question: Initially, the in-person talks were held in Belarus followed by online talks. You met with Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba in Antalya, Turkey, on March 10. What’s your take on the negotiating process?

    Sergey Lavrov: I did not fly to Turkey in order to forestall the Belarusian negotiating track agreed upon by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky which is now being implemented via video conference. President Zelensky asked President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to speak with President Putin in order to set up a meeting between Dmitry Kuleba and me in Antalya, since we both planned to take part in the Antalya Diplomacy Forum.

    Based on this request, President Vladimir Putin instructed me to hold a meeting and find out what Dmitry Kuleba has to offer (which is what I asked him to do). He stated that he did not arrive there to reiterate public statements. This statement got my attention. Dmitry Kuleba failed to vocalise any new ideas during the 90-minute conversation in the presence of Foreign Minister of Turkey Mevlut Cavusoglu, despite multiple reminders to the effect that I wanted to hear things that had not been said publicly. I did my part and made myself available to listen to what he had to say. Anyway, we had a conversation, which is not a bad thing. We are ready for such contacts going forward. It would be good to know the added value derived from such contacts and how the proposals to create new channels of interaction correlate with the functioning of an existing and steady negotiating process (the Belarusian channel).

    I’m not going to comment on the details, which are a delicate matter. According to head of the Russian delegation Vladimir Medinsky, the talks focus on humanitarian issues, the situation on the ground in terms of hostilities, and on matters of political settlement. Overall, the agenda is known (it was repeatedly and publicly announced by President Vladimir Putin in his elaborate remarks) and includes matters of security and saving lives of the people in Donbass; preventing Ukraine from becoming a permanent threat to the security of the Russian Federation; and preventing the revival in Ukraine of neo-Nazi ideology, which is illegal around the world, including civilised Europe.

    I base my opinion on the assessments provided by our negotiators. They state that the talks are not going smoothly (for obvious reasons). However, there is hope for a compromise. The same assessment is given by a number of Ukrainian officials, including members of President Zelensky’s staff and President Zelensky himself.

    Question: President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky said that the positions of Russia and Ukraine during the talks have become more “realistic.”

    Sergey Lavrov: This is about a more realistic assessment of the ongoing events coming from Vladimir Zelensky. His previous statements were confrontational. We can see that this role and function has been reassigned to Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba, who started saying that Russia’s demands are “unacceptable.” If they wish to create additional tension (as if the current tension were not enough) in the media space, what can we do?

    We saw a similar tendency with respect to the Minsk agreements. Dmitry Kuleba was riding ahead on a dashing horse, along with those who were hacking the Minsk agreements into pieces. He publicly stated that the agreements would not be fulfilled. I would give negotiators an opportunity to work in a calmer environment, without stirring up more hysteria.

    Question: President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky said that they are “reasonable people” and they realise that they are no longer welcome in NATO. What made him change his rhetoric? NATO aspirations are stated in one of the articles of the Ukrainian Constitution. They have been saying it all along that Kiev actually wants to be part of the alliance.

    Sergey Lavrov: The rhetoric has changed because more reasonable thinking is paving its way to the minds of the Ukrainian leaders. The issue of dissolving the Soviet Union was resolved in a very odd manner: very few parties were asked; the decision was split “between three,” so to speak, and it was done. Later, certain common ground was achieved in the form of the Commonwealth of Independent States. It is good that the other former Soviet republics were shown some respect, at least post factum.

    In the Declaration of State Sovereignty of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, adopted before the Belovezh Accords, it was stated in black and white that Ukraine would be a non-aligned and militarily neutral state. In all the subsequent documents characterising the formation of Ukrainian statehood, the declaration was always listed among fundamental documents. After the anti-constitutional coup in February 2014, the Ukrainian Constitution was amended to include statements on continuous movement towards NATO (in addition to the European Union). That undermined the integrity of the previous process and the fundamental documents that the Ukrainian state is based on – because the Declaration of Sovereignty and the Act of Ukraine’s Independence are still listed among the founding documents of the Ukrainian state.

    This is not the only inconsistency. The provision of the Ukrainian Constitution on ensuring the rights of the Russian and other ethnic minorities remains intact. However, a huge number of laws have been adopted that run counter to this constitutional provision and flagrantly discriminate against the Russian language, in particular, against all European norms.

    We remember that President Zelensky recently said that NATO must close the sky over Ukraine and start fighting for Ukraine, recruiting mercenaries and sending them to the frontline. That statement was made very aggressively. The reaction of the North Atlantic Alliance, where some clear-headed people still remain, had a cooling effect. This reasonable approach in the current situation deserves to be welcomed.

    Before the final decision was made to begin the special military operation, President Vladimir Putin spoke about our initiatives concerning the security guarantees in Europe at a news conference in the Kremlin, explaining that it is unacceptable that Ukraine’s security be ensured through its NATO membership. He clearly said that we are ready to look for any ways to ensure the security of Ukraine, the European countries and Russia except for NATO’s expansion to the east. The alliance has been assuring us that we should not be worried as it serves a defensive purpose and nothing threatens us and our security. The alliance was declared as defensive in its early days. During the Cold War, it was clear who was defending whom, where and against which party. There was the Berlin Wall, both concrete and geopolitical. Everybody accepted that contact line under the Warsaw Pact and NATO. It was clear which line NATO would protect.

    When the Warsaw Pact and later the Soviet Union were dissolved, NATO started, at its own discretion and without any consultations with those who used to be part of the balance of power on the European continent, working its way to the east, moving the contact line further to the right each time. When the contact line came too close to us (and nobody took our reasoning seriously in the past 20 years), we proposed the European security initiatives which, to my great regret, were also ignored by our arrogant partners.

    Question: Many people in Russia and Ukraine are asking themselves whether the situation could not have been resolved peacefully. Why didn’t this work out? Why did it become necessary to conduct a special operation?

    Sergey Lavrov: Because the West did not want to resolve this situation peacefully. Although I have already discussed this aspect, I would like to highlight it once again. This has absolutely nothing to do with Ukraine. This concerns the international order, rather than Ukraine alone.

    The United States has pinned down the whole of Europe. Today, some Europeans are telling us that Russia started behaving differently, that Europe had its own special interests differing from those of the United States, and that we have compelled Europe to share the United States’ fervour for the cause. I believe that what has happened is entirely different. Under President Joe Biden, the United States set the goal of subordinating Europe, and it has succeeded in forcing Europe to implicitly follow US policies. This is a crucial moment, a landmark in contemporary history because, in the broad sense of the word, it reflects the battle for a future international order.

    The West stopped using the term “international law,” embodied in the UN Charter, many years ago, and it invented the term “rules-based order.” These rules were written by members of an inner circle. The West incentivised those who accepted these rules. At the same time, narrow non-universal organisations dealing with the same matters as the universal organisations were established. Apart from UNESCO, there is a certain international partnership in support of information and democracy. We have international humanitarian law and the UN Refugee Agency dealing with related issues. The European Union is setting up a special partnership for dealing with the same matter. However, decisions will be based on EU interests, and they will disregard universal processes.

    France and Germany are establishing an alliance for multilateralism. When asked about the reason for setting it up at a time when the UN – the most legitimate and universal organisation – embodies multilateralism, they gave an interesting reply that the UN employed many retrogrades, and that the new alliance prioritised avantgardism. They also stated their intention to promote multilateralism in such a way that no one would hamper their efforts. When asked what the ideals of this multilateralism were, they said that they were EU values. This arrogance and misinterpreted feeling of one’s own superiority also rule supreme in a situation that we are now reviewing, namely, the creation of a world where the West would a priori manage everything with impunity. Many people now claim that Russia has come under attack because it remains virtually the only obstacle that needs to be removed before the West can start dealing with China. This straightforward statement is quite truthful.

    You asked why it was impossible to peacefully resolve the situation. For many years, we suggested resolving the matter peacefully. Many reasonable politicians from the US and Europe responded in earnest to Vladimir Putin’s proposal at the 2007 Munich Security Conference. Unfortunately, decision-makers in Western countries ignored it. Numerous assessments by world-famous political analysts, published in many leading US magazines, such as Foreign Policy and Foreign Affairs, and European magazines, were also ignored. A coup took place in 2014. The West unconditionally backed Ukraine and the coup’s perpetrators who had gained power in Kiev. The West emphatically refuses to set any framework in relations between NATO and the territory of Russian interests. These warnings were also voiced but were disregarded, to put it mildly.

    You should read the works of Zbigniew Brzezinski, who said back in the 1990s that Ukraine would become a key issue. He said openly that a friendly Ukraine would make Russia a great power, and that a hostile Ukraine would turn it into a regional player. These statements concealed geopolitical implications. Ukraine merely acted as a tool for preventing Russia from upholding its legitimate and equal rights on the international scene.

    Question: Not long ago, I heard the current adviser to the President of Ukraine, Alexey Arestovich, speak. A couple of years ago, he said that neutral status was too expensive for Ukraine. “We can’t afford it,” he said. What do you think about this statement? Is that true? Following up on what worries ordinary Ukrainians – security guarantees – what is Russia ready to do? What kind of guarantees can it provide?

    Sergey Lavrov: Neutral status is being seriously discussed in a package with security guarantees. This is exactly what President Vladimir Putin said at one of his news conferences: there are multiple options out there, including any generally acceptable security guarantees for Ukraine and all other countries, including Russia, with the exception of NATO expansion. This is what is being discussed at the talks. There is specific language which is, I believe, close to being agreed upon.

    Question: Can you share it with us yet or not?

    Sergey Lavrov: I’d rather not, because it is a negotiating process. Unlike some of our partners, we try to adhere to the culture of diplomatic negotiations, even though we were forced to make documents public that are normally off-limits. We did so in the situations where our communication with the German and French participants of the Normandy format was misrepresented to the point where it was the opposite of what really happened. Then, in order to expose the culprits before the international community, we were forced to make things public. No attempts at provocation are being made now as we discuss the guarantees of Ukraine’s neutrality. Hopefully, the first attempts at a businesslike approach that we are seeing now will prevail and we will be able to reach specific agreements on this matter even though simply declaring neutrality and announcing guarantees will be a significant step forward. The problem is much broader. We talked about it, including from the point of view of values such as the Russian language, culture and freedom of speech, since Russian media are outright banned, and the ones that broadcast in Ukraine in Russian were shut down.

    Question: But they can always tell us that they are an independent country and it’s up to them to decide which language to speak. Why are you – Russia and Moscow – forcing us to speak Russian?

    Sergey Lavrov: Because Ukraine has European obligations. There is the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. There are multiple other commitments, including in the Council of Europe, which we are leaving (this has been announced officially). However, we will never renounce our obligations regarding the rights of ethnic minorities, be they linguistic, cultural, or any other. We will never “withdraw from the documents” that guarantee freedom of access to information.

    In the 1990s, everyone was rubbing their hands together in anticipation of the Soviet Union becoming an absolutely obedient and obsequious partner of the West. Back then, we did our best to show that perestroika and new thinking were opening up a groundbreaking chapter in the history of our state. We signed everything that the West wanted us to sign at the OSCE, including the declaration proposed by the West and supported by us which contained obligations to ensure freedom of access to information in each country and to transboundary information sources. Now, we are unable to get through to the West so that it itself starts fulfilling this obligation, which they themselves initiated.

    This Russian language-related requirement is enshrined in the obligations. Ukraine did not turn them down. Can you imagine the consequences of Finland banning the Swedish language? There are 6 percent of Swedes in Finland, and Swedish is the second official language. Or, Ireland banning English, or Belgium banning French? The list goes on and on. All these minority languages ​​are respected, regardless of the fact that they have a parent state, whereas our case represents an exception. This is a case of outright discrimination, and what is known as enlightened Europe is just keeping quiet about it.

    Question: We have decided to withdraw from the Council of Europe before being expelled. Why?

    Sergey Lavrov: By and large, this decision was formulated long ago. Not because of a series of suspension and reinstatement of our rights, but because that organisation has fully degenerated. It was established as a pan-European organisation of all countries, with the exception of Belarus which was given observer status. We did our best to help Belarus participate in several conventions, which is possible in the Council of Europe. In general, Belarus was considering the possibility of joining it.

    However, over the years the Council of Europe has turned into a kind of OSCE, (excuse my language), where the initial idea of interaction and consensus as the main instruments of attaining the goal of common European cooperation and security was superceded by polemics and rhetoric, which was becoming increasingly Russophobic and was determined by the unilateral interests of the West, in particular, NATO countries and the EU. They used their technical majority in the OSCE and the Council of Europe to undermine the culture of consensus and compromise and to force their views on everyone, showing that they have no regard whatsoever, do not care one iota for our interests and only want to lecture and moralise, which is what they have actually been doing.

    Our intention to withdraw matured long ago, but our decision to withdraw has been accelerated by the recent events and the decision enforced through voting. The Parliamentary Assembly issued recommendations for the Committee of Ministers, which has voted to suspend our rights. They told us not to worry, that we would only be unable to attend the sessions but can still make our payments to the budget.  This is what they have openly said.

    The Foreign Ministry pointed out in a statement that our withdrawal from this organisation will not affect the rights and freedoms of Russian citizens under the European Convention on Human Rights, from which we are withdrawing as part of our withdrawal from the Council of Europe. First of all, there are constitutional guarantees and guarantees under the international conventions to which Russia is a party. These universal conventions are the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (which the United States has not signed); the Convention on the Rights of the Child (the US is not among its signatories) and many other conventions and covenants most of which have been incorporated into the national legislation. Our lawyers are working with the Constitutional Court and the Justice Ministry on additional amendments to Russian laws to prevent any infringement on the rights of our citizens as the result of our withdrawal from the Council of Europe.

    Question: Several counties have been trying to develop dialogue between Moscow and Kiev. France was the first to do this, followed by Israel, and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu will come to Moscow today. Turkey has stepped up its activity. Why are these three countries so active on this issue?

    Sergey Lavrov: They are not the only ones to offer their services. The President of Russia had a telephone conversation with President of the European Council Charles Michel yesterday. He has had contacts with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, President of France Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister of Israel Naftali Bennett. My foreign colleagues have contacted me as well. For example, Switzerland, which has traditionally posed as a country where compromises are reached, is ready to mediate.

    In this context, it is strange that mediation services are being offered by the countries which have joined the unprecedented sanctions against Russia and have proclaimed the goal (they make no bones about stating this openly) of setting the Russian people against the Russian authorities. We take a positive view on the mediation offers coming from the countries which have refused to play this Russophobic game, which are aware of the root causes of the current crisis, that is, the fundamental and legitimate national interests of Russia, and which have not joined this war of sanctions. We are ready to analyse their proposals. Israel and Turkey are among these states.

    Question: Do they come with proposals, asking if they could help establish dialogue?  Or how is this taking place in reality?

    Sergey Lavrov: This happens in different ways. Right now, I cannot go into detail, but both want to help achieve accord at the talks conducted via the “Belarusian channel.”  They know the state of the talks, what proposals are on the table, and where there is a bilateral rapprochement.   They are sincerely trying to speed up the rapprochement. We welcome this, but I would like to stress once again that the matter of key importance is having a direct dialogue between the Russian and Ukrainian delegations and  solving what we consider fundamental issues related to the effort not only to ensure the physical security of people in eastern Ukraine and for that matter in other parts of Ukraine, but also to enable them to live normal, civilised lives in the country that has a duty to ensure the rights of  those who are known as ethnic minorities, rights that have been trampled underfoot in every sense.

    Let us not forget about the tasks of demilitarisation. Ukraine cannot have weapons that create a threat to the Russian Federation. We are ready to negotiate on the types of armaments that do not present a threat to us. This problem will have to be solved even regardless of the situation’s NATO aspect. Even without NATO membership, the United States or anyone else can supply offensive weapons to Ukraine on a bilateral basis, just as they did with the anti-missile bases in Poland and Romania. No one asked NATO. Let us not forget that [Ukraine] is perhaps the only OSCE and European country that has legislatively legalised the neo-Nazis’ right to promote their views and practices.

    These are matters of principle. I hope that the realisation of their legitimacy, justifiability and key importance for our interests and therefore the interests of European security will enable those, who are graciously offering their good offices, to promote relevant compromises in contacts with Ukraine, among others.

    Question: We have named certain countries that are helping to settle this crisis. Has the United States offered any services in this connection, like “let us help to establish contacts?” After all, it is no secret to anyone that Russia-US relations were at a very low level. Now they have hit rock bottom, haven’t they?

    Sergey Lavrov: Yes, there is such a figurative expression. Of course, the situation is unprecedented. I can’t recall anything like the frenzied policy that Washington is conducting right now. To a considerable extent, this policy is generated by Congress whose members have lost all sense of reality and are throwing all conventions to the winds. I am not even mentioning the diplomatic proprieties that have long since been abandoned.

    The United States certainly has played the decisive role in shaping the position of the Kiev authorities. The Americans have maintained a huge “presence” in Kiev’s “corridors of power” for many years, including the uniformed agencies, the security service, and the top brass. Everyone knows this. The CIA and other US secret services have their missions there.

    Like other NATO members (the Canadians, the British), they have sent hundreds of their instructors to train combat units not only within the Armed Forces of Ukraine but also in the so-called volunteer battalions, including Azov and Aydar. However, some seven or eight years ago, in 2014, immediately after the coup d’etat, the Azov battalion was officially struck off the list of recipients of US aid.  This was done precisely because it was regarded as an extremist, if not terrorist, organisation. Today, all pretences have been removed.

    Now any person or group in Ukraine that declares Russia its enemy is immediately taken under the wing of overseas and Western patrons.

    They are talking about the supremacy of law and about democracy. What supremacy of law, if the EU, in violation of its own law on the inadmissibility of arms supplies to conflict zones, takes the decision to do the opposite and send offensive arms to Ukraine?

    We do not see any sign that the United States is interested in settling the conflict as soon as possible. If they were interested, they would have every opportunity, first, to explain to the Ukrainian negotiators and President Zelensky that they should seek compromises. Second, they need to make it clear that they are aware of the legitimacy of our demands and positions, but do not want to accept them, not because they are illegitimate but because they would like to dominate the world and are unwilling to restrain themselves with any commitments to take into consideration the interests of others. They have already brought Europe to heel, as I have said.

    The US has been telling Europe for years that Nord Stream 2 could undermine their energy security. Europe responded that they should find out that on their own. They took the decision and their companies invested billions of euros. The Americans were claiming that this was contrary to the EU’s interests. They offered to sell them their liquefied gas. If there are no gas terminals, they should be built.  The Germans told me this a few years ago. It was during President Trump’s administration. Europe was complaining that this would considerably increase gas prices for their consumers. Donald Trump replied that they were rich guys and will compensate the difference from the German budget. That’s their approach.

    Today, Europe was shown its place. Germany eventually said that its regulator was taking a break, and this precisely defines the FRG’s place in the arrangements that the Americans are making on the world scene.

    Question: Has Germany become a less independent state under the new chancellor? Would it have acted the same under Angela Merkel?

    Sergey Lavrov: The Nord Stream 2 was commissioned, albeit temporarily suspended afterwards, under the new chancellor. I hope that experience will bring an understanding of the need to uphold national interests, rather than to fully rely on the overseas partner who will make all the decisions for you and then do everything for you as well. Clearly, the enormous number of US troops on German soil is also a factor that interferes with independent decision-making.

    Articles are being published to the effect that the “politics of memory” is vanishing. It has always been considered a sacred thing in Germany and meant that the German people would never forget the suffering they brought during World War II, primarily to the peoples of the Soviet Union. After I read this, I realised that many people are aware of it. These are open publications. German political scientists are talking about this and, of course, ours do so as well. Several years ago, I spotted something that was probably the early phase of this emerging trend. We were holding ministerial and other consultations with the Germans (I’m talking about foreign policy talks) at the level of department directors and deputy ministers. I never saw this at the ministerial level. The thought that was conveyed to us during the talks was that “we, the Germans, have paid our dues to everyone and owe nothing to anyone, so stop bringing this up.”

    Speaking of the Germans, there is a thing that is worth mentioning. We are now talking a lot about attributes of genocide or racial discrimination. Take, for instance, the siege of Leningrad. For many years and with all my colleagues, starting with Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Guido Westerwelle, Heiko Maas, and most recently Annalena Baerbock, I very persistently, with each of them, raised the topic of paying compensations to the Leningrad siege survivors. The German government has made two one-time payments but only to Jewish survivors. We asked why only Jews, because many ethnic groups, including Russians and Tatars, lived in Leningrad and continue to live there. Many of them are still alive. How are they supposed to understand the fact that only the Jews have received some kind of help from the German government when at the time they were boiling shoes, burying children and transporting corpses on sleds together? The payments in question are not big. But, first, for many of them they matter, and second, they serve as the recognition of the fact that everyone has been impacted by the siege. Their answer was interesting. The Jews, they said, are victims of the Holocaust. These payments cannot be made to other survivors, because they are not Holocaust victims. Our attempts to reach out to the German legislators and politicians and tell them that the siege of Leningrad was an unparalleled event in the history of WWII, where there was no distinction between Jews, Russians or other ethnic groups, failed. We reached out to Jewish organisations. It is a matter of honour for them as well. We will continue this work going forward. January marked yet another anniversary of the lifting of the siege of Leningrad. The President of Russia signed an executive order on one-time payments to all siege survivors, including the Jews. We have not seen any sign of conscience awakening in Germany so far.

    To be continued…

    Chris Hedges: Waltzing Toward Armageddon with the Merchants of Death

    March 14, 2022

    “Raft of Doom” / Illustration by Mr. Fish
    Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning NewsThe Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He is the host of the Emmy Award-nominated show On Contact.  AUTHOR LINK

    By Chris Hedges

    Source

    PRINCETON, NEW JERSEY (Scheerpost) — The Cold War, from 1945 to 1989, was a wild Bacchanalia for arms manufacturers, the Pentagon, the CIA, the diplomats who played one country off another on the world’s chessboard, and the global corporations able to loot and pillage by equating predatory capitalism with freedom. In the name of national security, the Cold Warriors, many of them self-identified liberals, demonized labor, independent media, human rights organizations, and those who opposed the permanent war economy and the militarization of American society as soft on communism.

    That is why they have resurrected it.

    The decision to spurn the possibility of peaceful coexistence with Russia at the end of the Cold War is one of the most egregious crimes of the late 20th century. The danger of provoking Russia was universally understood with the collapse of the Soviet Union, including by political elites as diverse as Henry Kissinger and George F. Kennan, who called the expansion of NATO into Central Europe “the most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-Cold War era.”

    This provocation, a violation of a promise not to expand NATO beyond the borders of a unified Germany, has seen Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania, Croatia, Montenegro, and North Macedonia inducted into the Western military alliance. This betrayal was compounded by a decision to station NATO troops, including thousands of US troops, in Eastern Europe, another violation of an agreement made by Washington with Moscow. The Russian invasion of Ukraine, perhaps a cynical goal of the Western alliance, has now solidified an expanding and resurgent NATO and a rampant, uncontrollable militarism. The masters of war may be ecstatic, but the potential consequences, including a global conflagration, are terrifying.

    Peace has been sacrificed for US global hegemony. It has been sacrificed for the billions in profits made by the arms industry. Peace could have seen state resources invested in people rather than systems of control. It could have allowed us to address the climate emergency. But we cry peace, peace, and there is no peace. Nations frantically rearm, threatening nuclear war. They prepare for the worst, ensuring that the worst will happen.

    So what if the Amazon is reaching its final tipping point where trees will soon begin to die off en masse. So what if land ice and ice shelves are melting from below at a much faster rate than predicted. So what if temperatures soar, monster hurricanes, floods, droughts, and wildfires devastate the earth. In the face of the gravest existential crisis to beset the human species, and most other species, the ruling elites stoke a conflict that is driving up the price of oil and turbocharging the fossil fuel extraction industry. It is collective madness.

    Ukraine Art
    The Butcher’s Cut | Illustration by Mr. Fish

    The march towards protracted conflict with Russia and China will backfire. The desperate effort to counter the steady loss of economic dominance by the US will not be offset by military dominance. If Russia and China can create an alternative global financial system, one that does not use the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency, it will signal the collapse of the American empire. The dollar will plummet in value. Treasury bonds, used to fund America’s massive debt, will become largely worthless. The financial sanctions used to cripple Russia will be, I expect, the mechanism that slays us, if we don’t first immolate ourselves in thermonuclear war.

    Washington plans to turn Ukraine into Chechnya or the old Afghanistan, when the Carter administration, under the influence of the Svengali-like National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, equipped and armed the radical jihadists that would morph into the Taliban and al Qaeda in the fight against the Soviets. It will not be good for Russia. It will not be good for the United States. It will not be good for Ukraine, as making Russia bleed will require rivers of Ukrainian blood. The decision to destroy the Russian economy, to turn the Ukrainian war into a quagmire for Russia and topple the regime of Vladimir Putin will open a Pandora’s box of evils. Massive social engineering — look at Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya or Vietnam — has its own centrifugal force. It destroys those who play God.

    The Ukrainian war has silenced the last vestiges of the Left. Nearly everyone has giddily signed on for the great crusade against the latest embodiment of evil, Vladimir Putin, who, like all our enemies, has become the new Hitler. The United States will give $13.6 billion in military and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, with the Biden administration authorizing on Saturday an additional $200 million in military assistance. The 5,000-strong EU rapid deployment force, the recruitment of all Eastern Europe, including Ukraine, into NATO, the reconfiguration of former Soviet Bloc militaries to NATO weapons and technology have all been fast tracked. Germany, for the first time since World War II, is massively rearming. It has lifted its ban on exporting weapons. Its new military budget is twice the amount of the old budget, with promises to raise the budget to more than 2 percent of GDP, which would move its military from the seventh largest in the world to the third-, behind China and the United States. NATO battlegroups are being doubled in size in the Baltic states to more than 6,000 troops. Battlegroups will be sent to Romania and Slovakia. Washington will double the number of U.S. troops stationed in Poland to 9,000. Sweden and Finland are considering dropping their neutral status to integrate with NATO.

    This is a recipe for global war. History, as well as all the conflicts I covered as a war correspondent, have demonstrated that when military posturing begins, it often takes little to set the funeral pyre alight. One mistake. One overreach. One military gamble too many. One too many provocations. One act of desperation.

    Russia’s threat to attack weapons convoys to Ukraine from the West; its airstrike on a military base in western Ukraine, 12 miles from the Polish border, which is a staging area for foreign mercenaries; the statement by Polish President Andrzej Duda that the use of weapons of mass destruction, such as chemical weapons, by Russia against Ukraine, would be a “game-changer” that could force NATO to rethink its decision to refrain from direct military intervention — all are ominous developments pushing the alliance closer to open warfare with Russia.

    Once military forces are deployed, even if they are supposedly in a defensive posture, the bear trap is set. It takes very little to trigger the spring. The vast military bureaucracy, bound to alliances and international commitments, along with detailed plans and timetables, when it starts to roll forward, becomes unstoppable. It is propelled not by logic but by action and reaction, as Europe learned in two world wars.

    The moral hypocrisy of the United States is staggering. The crimes Russia is carrying out in Ukraine are more than matched by the crimes committed by Washington in the Middle East over the last two decades, including the act of preemptive war, which under post-Nuremberg laws is a criminal act of aggression. Only rarely is this hypocrisy exposed as when USAmbassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the body: “We’ve seen videos of Russian forces moving exceptionally lethal weaponry into Ukraine, which has no place on the battlefield. That includes cluster munitions and vacuum bombs which are banned under the Geneva Convention.” Hours later, the official transcript of her remark was amended to tack on the words “if they are directed against civilians.” This is because the U.S., which like Russia never ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions treaty, regularly uses cluster munitions. It used them in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Iraq. It has provided them to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen. Russia has yet to come close to the tally of civilian deaths from cluster munitions delivered by the US military.

    The Dr. Strangeloves, like zombies rising from the mass graves they created around the globe, are once again stoking new campaigns of industrial mass slaughter. No diplomacy. No attempt to address the legitimate grievances of our adversaries. No check on rampant militarism. No capacity to see the world from another perspective. No ability to comprehend reality outside the confines of the binary rubric of good and evil. No understanding of the debacles they orchestrated for decades. No capacity for pity or remorse.

    Elliot Abrams worked in the Reagan administration when I was reporting from Central America. He covered up atrocities and massacres committed by the military regimes in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and by the US-backed Contra forces fighting the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. He viciously attacked reporters and human rights groups as communists or fifth columnists, calling us “un-American” and “unpatriotic.” He was convicted for lying to Congress about his role in the Iran-Contra affair. During the administration of George W. Bush, he lobbied for the invasion of Iraq and tried to orchestrate a U.S. coup in Venezuela to overthrow Hugo Chávez.

    “There will be no substitute for military strength, and we do not have enough,” writes Abrams for the Council on Foreign Relations, where he is a senior fellow: “It should be crystal clear now that a larger percentage of GDP will need to be spent on defense. We will need more conventional strength in ships and planes. We will need to match the Chinese in advanced military technology, but at the other end of the spectrum, we may need many more tanks if we have to station thousands in Europe, as we did during the Cold War. (The total number of American tanks permanently stationed in Europe today is zero.) Persistent efforts to diminish even further the size of our nuclear arsenal or prevent its modernization were always bad ideas, but now, as China and Russia are modernizing their nuclear weaponry and appear to have no interest in negotiating new limits, such restraints should be completely abandoned. Our nuclear arsenal will need to be modernized and expanded so that we will never face the kinds of threats Putin is now making from a position of real nuclear inferiority.”

    Putin played into the hands of the war industry. He gave the warmongers what they wanted. He fulfilled their wildest fantasies. There will be no impediments now on the march to Armageddon. Military budgets will soar. The oil will gush from the ground. The climate crisis will accelerate. China and Russia will form the new axis of evil. The poor will be abandoned. The roads across the earth will be clogged with desperate refugees. All dissent will be treason. The young will be sacrificed for the tired tropes of glory, honor, and country. The vulnerable will suffer and die. The only true patriots will be generals, war profiteers, opportunists, courtiers in the media and demagogues braying for more and more blood. The merchants of death rule like Olympian gods.  And we, cowed by fear, intoxicated by war, swept up in the collective hysteria, clamor for our own annihilation.

    بوتين يسأل: لماذا العجلة؟.. فالوقت معنا!

     ناصر قنديل

    هي ليست حرب أوكرانيا بل حرب أوروبا، فالصراع الروسي الأميركي يدور حول موقع أوروبا في الخريطة العالمية الجديدة، ومن غير المعقول أن تكون روسيا على أبواب إعلان آسيا خالية من الوجود الأميركي بينما أميركا تمسك بكل أوروبا في قبضتها، والحرب على أوروبا كانت حرباً من طرف واحد خاضها الأميركيون طوال ثلاثين عاماً، فتقدموا الى الحدود الروسية بلا تردد، سمحوا بولادة الاتحاد الأوروبي من بوابة حرب يوغوسلافيا، فالاتحاد الذي منعوا قيامه في أيام وجود الاتحاد السوفياتي منذ عام 1964 كي لا يتحول إلى قوة مستقلة، أفرجوا عنه بعد تفكك الاتحاد السوفياتي عام 1994 ليكون آلتهم القانونية لوراثته واستقطاب الدول الأوروبية الشرقية كمرحلة تمهيدية لضمها إلى حلف الناتو. والمعادلة بسيطة وهي أن أوروبا الغربية ستتحمل أكلاف الدول الأوروبية الشرقية الفقيرة، وزحف سكانها وأياديهم العاملة الرخيصة نحو الغرب وسلعهم الزراعية المنافسة، والوعد الأميركي لأوروبا هو تطويق روسيا وإلزامها بتأمين تدفق الغاز تحت شروط تفرضها واشنطن، كميات وأسعاراً، بما يتناسب ويتلاقى مع نتائج الزحف الذي بدأ نحو آسيا من قبل أميركا منذ عام 2000 وحربي أفغانستان والعراق لتطويق الصين، ووضع سقف لنموّها الاقتصادي وكميات وأسعار استهلاكها للطاقة، لتعوض أوروبا كل أكلافها على فقراء الاتحاد الأوروبي، وتحكم سيطرتها على الأسواق الآسيوية، دون مزاحمة صينية، ودون تحكم روسي بأسعار ومصادر الطاقة، وعندما لم يعد من أمل لإنعاش حروب أميركا الآسيوية، خصوصاً بعد الفشل في الحرب على سورية التي تحولت الى حرب أميركية روسية مباشرة، وبعد الانسحاب من افغانستان الذي تحول الى خيبة أوروبية كبرى، وصعود إيران التي تحولت الى مأزق أميركي أوروبي مشترك، وضع الأميركيون أوكرانيا كعنوان للحرب التي ستعيد أوروبا الى بيت الطاعة مجدداً، وستتيح جمع الطاقات الأميركية الأوروبية في حرب مشتركة تحت العنوان نفسه، محاصرة روسيا وإضعافها، وصولاً لإملاء الشروط عليها.

    الحرب على روسيا لم تتوقف وفقاً لقراءة الرئيس الروسي فلاديمير بوتين، فعام 1990 انتهت الحرب الباردة من طرف واحد هو الطرف الروسي بينما بقيت مستمرة من الطرف الأميركي، والهدف تفتيت وحدة روسيا وتحويلها الى أشلاء ممزقة ضعيفة وعاجزة، وفق نظرية قوامها أن روسيا لا بد أن تقوم يوماً ما وتستعيد عافيتها وتعود للبحث عن مستقبل يشبه ماضيها، وطالما لديها الجغرافيا والموارد والسكان والجيش، كعناصر لهذا النهوض فهي خطر على الهيمنة الأميركية على العالم؛ ولذلك خاضت روسيا اختبارات عديدة لرسم سيناريو المواجهة لقطع الطريق على الحلقة الأخيرة من هذه الحرب التي بدأت مؤشراتها بالظهور، من بوابة قيام أوكرانيا بشن حرب لاستعادة دونباس، والبدء بفتح جبهة شبه جزيرة القرم، ولأن روسيا تفهم الشيفرة الأميركية وأميركا تفهم الشيفرة الروسية، لم يكن هناك التباس حول أن أوكرانيا، روسيا الثانية بالنسبة للغرب بحجم مساحتها وسكانها وتاريخها ومواردها وجيشها، هي رأس الحربة، من خارج حلف الناتو، منعاً للتورط في حرب مباشرة. والنظر الى حجم وسرعة الإجراءات المتبادلة التي اتخذتها دول الغرب من جهة وروسيا من جهة أخرى، يبدو واضحاً أن الخطط كانت جاهزة لكل الفرضيات على طرفي الصراع، باعتبار ما يجري آخر الحروب، وأم الحروب، والحرب الفاصلة.

    بالنسبة لروسيا كانت كل الاختبارات التي تلت حرب أوكرانيا الأولى عام 2014، محور تجميع ودراسة لرسم السيناريوات والخطط، ولذلك توقفت موسكو عند حدود ضمّ شبه جزيرة القرم وأبقت وضع دونباس معلقاً، خشية أن يشكل نقطة الضعف التي تفجّر الحرب قبل ان تكون مستعدة لكل احتمالاتها، وكانت كلمة السر المفهومة من الطرفين الروسي والغربي، أن إعلان الاعتراف بجمهوريتي دونباس يعني إعلان الحرب، وأهم ما تحققت منه روسيا هو خشية أميركا وأوروبا من المواجهة العسكرية المباشرة وسعيهما لتفاديها، ورهانهما على العقوبات الاقتصادية والمالية المشددة كضربة قاضية تعادل حرباً نووية، لذلك تركزت خطة روسيا على كسب الوقت في احتواء أعلى درجات العقوبات المالية، عبر مراكمة مخزون احتياطي مالي يكفيها لسنتين، لا تطاله العقوبات، وترصد كل محاولة لتخزين احتياطات اوروبية تحرّر أسواق أوروبا من الارتهان للغاز والنفط الروسيين، وضبط أسواق النفط والغاز على حافة التوازن بين العرض والطلب، بحيث يؤدي أي تأزم إلى جنون السوق، بحيث تنتقل معركة تداعيات العقوبات إلى أوروبا، وتتحوّل التداعيات بنتائجها الى مصدر لزيادة العائدات الروسية النقدية السائلة. وإذا سارت هذه الجبهة كما يجب فتصبح إطالة أمد الحرب خطة روسية، لأن موسكو لا تريد تكرار تجربة الأميركيين في العراق، لا لجهة بسط احتلال أجنبي يصبح عرضة لحرب استنزاف، ولا لجهة بناء حكم مؤيد يعجز عن انتزاع ثقة الشعب، والحرب يجب أن تبقى نافذة مواربة مفتوحة لحل سياسي دولي شامل تكون أميركا وأوروبا شريكتين فيه.

    يستغرب الروس الحديث عن معيار السرعة لقياس نجاح عمليتهم العسكرية، وينقلون عن الرئيس فلاديمير بوتين قوله، لماذا العجلة؟.. فالوقت معنا!

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    How Propaganda Shapes the Past, Present and Future

    3 March 2022)

    Lawrence Davidson is professor of history emeritus at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He has been publishing his analyses of topics in U.S. domestic and foreign policy, international and humanitarian law and Israel/Zionist practices and policies since 2010.

    An Analysis by Lawrence Davidson

    Part I—George Orwell’s Insight

    There is a famous quote from George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, that goes, “those who control the present control the past and those who control the past control the future.” This process is achieved by substituting propaganda for reality. In so doing, thinking is bound to present culturally acceptable storylines that support official views of the past and are designed to carry on into the future.

    At the present moment in the United States, this is exemplified by popular responses to two crises. The first involves a majority of U.S. states that are seeking to use political power to control how their past is officially taught and interpreted. This is being done with the hope of forging a unified view among future citizenry—one that returns to perceptions of U.S history, race and gender characteristic of a time before the civil rights movement of the late 1950s and 1960s. This mindset accepts segregation and discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation and the like as reflections of acceptable traditional values.

    The second crisis involves the revival of Cold War perceptions to shape the present and future U.S. public views concerning Russia and Ukraine. Here, the proffered story is of a bipolar world—one side, led by the United States, is allegedly a “free world” and the other side, led by Russia, is a hostile, dictatorial and expansionist world. These perceptions are characteristic of the time prior to 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union. It would seem this past point of view, like the domestic mindset mentioned above, never went away but only retreated. In this way, past manipulated mindsets reemerge into the present when circumstances are right, and threaten to ideologically skew the future.

    Let’s examine these two crises beginning with the efforts of the American states.

    Part II—On the Domestic Scene

    A revealing Portside article of 14 February 2022 describes how 36 American states either have or are seeking to pass laws that censor the teaching of both local and national history so as to tell a traditional, Eurocentric story. This effort seeks to deny the demonstrable facts about the role racism has played in shaping social and economic development since the nation’s inception. Against this trend, 17 U.S. states have moved to officially expand their history and social studies curriculum to make it more racially and class inclusive.

    We should state clearly that the teaching of such a culturally approved official history has always been pursued in the United States, and is indeed not just an American tactic. It is a ubiquitous practice in much of the world. As public education evolved in the American colonies during the 19th century, it had specific goals: (1) to make the young as literate and skilled as necessary for an evolving capitalist economy and (2) to teach political loyalty. If in this effort there was any reference to or concern for “the truth,” it was allegedly to be represented by the daily repetition of the Lord’s Prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance.

    In the case of the United States, this two-pronged purpose for public schools came to be safeguarded by indoctrinated citizens themselves sitting on state and local boards of education. It is they who began the censorship of school textbooks and libraries, minimizing uncomfortable and “divisive” topics such as slavery, lynching, systematic discrimination against non-white peoples, the genocidal attack on native peoples, and the history of labor struggles and unionization. The success of this censored teaching is the reason the history of non-white Americans is so often left out of the curriculum.

    It has only been in the last fifty or so years, beginning with the civil rights movement, that this treatment of U.S. history has been challenged. If the 17 U.S. states expanding their curriculum to make it more racially and class inclusive are an expression of that challenge, the 36 states seeking to increase censorship are part of the reactionary response to progressive actions ranging from Affirmative Action to Black Lives Matter. Most recently there is the exaggerated response to Critical Race Theory—a largely academic investigation of the role of institutionalized white racism in American history. It should be noted that these efforts at censorship now go hand in hand with “the wave of voter suppression laws promoted by the same rightwing political forces.”

    As of now, the national organizations that represent U.S. teachers, the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), both shaped by the past few decades of progressive change, stand against the conservative, reactionary effort to turn the clock back. As AFT President Randi Weingarten put it, the organization stands against the “culture warriors” who “are bullying teachers and trying to stop us from teaching students accurate history.” However, reactionary state legislatures and fanatical parents have the ability to intimidate more than just teachers. They can scare and manipulate school administrators who hire and fire teachers. If the legislators of those 36 states noted above hold their positions through multiple elections and stay their reactionary course, they can repopulate public schools with teachers of their own persuasion.

    In other words, assuming the present politicians can keep their elected positions, rightwing propaganda will be used to control present education long enough to shape how the past is taught and interpreted. This will impact the future in a sort of circular process that will go on until the thought police are removed from positions of authority.

    Part III—The Foreign Policy Scene

    The same process of resurrecting a traditional mindset is now taking place in the area of foreign policy. Here the traditional worldview is represented by Cold War tropes resurrecting Russia as Europe’s perennial bad guy. In this case it is not rightwing reactionaries who are the driving force. Rather it is the centrist Democrats, heirs of Cold War thinking, who interpret present-day events in Eastern Europe in terms of an ideologically colored pre-1989 past.

    The current trouble centers on Ukraine and its ambition to join North Atlantic Treaty Alliance (NATO). If Ukraine had done so, Russia’s southwestern border would have been in the hands of a hostile Western alliance. The Russians initially approached this dilemma in a peaceful manner. Moscow approached the West and demanded a security treaty that would have halted the eastward expansion of NATO and ended any speculation about Ukraine joining that alliance. However, the U.S. and NATO refused to consider such a treaty and thus considerably narrowed Russian options.

    Russia’s bid for a security treaty had solid historical reasons behind it. I laid these reasons out in my analysis Russia Reacts to NATO and History (20 January 2022). These historical facts had long ago been deleted from the Western Cold War storyline that depicted the Soviet Union as ideologically driven to imperial expansion. This traditional interpretation of Russian motives, only partially papered over since 1989, has now been resurrected. For instance, President Biden has accused President Putin of wanting to “re-establish the Soviet Union.” A more realistic interpretation of the present would suggest that by refusing to negotiate a limit on NATO expansion eastward and declaring that NATO would remain open to the possibility of Ukrainian membership, Western leaders forced Russia to take action against Ukraine.

    In other words, the past in the form of years of post-World War II anti-Soviet propaganda now shapes present perceptions and has assured a violent future for Ukraine. These same propaganda has been censored to hide the hypocritical nature of the U.S. position on the present crisis.

    Consider the following facts so often censored out of popular perceptions: MSNBC host Medhi Hasan noted in an on the air monologue, “the United States would have ‘more credibility’ to condemn the recent actions of Russia in Ukraine if it wasn’t currently supporting illegal occupations by its allies around the world—and if it didn’t have its own long record of carrying out brazenly unlawful invasions of sovereign countries.” He recognized this hypocrisy on the part of the U.S. while still being critical of the Russian treatment of Ukraine.

    In contrast, consider the following attempt to resurrect an idealized yet official perception of the past. The New York Times opinion columnist Bret Stephens has complained that the Ukraine crisis shows us that “at some point in the last 30 years, the concept of the ‘free world’ fell out of favor. … The free world is the larger idea that the world’s democracies are bound by shared and foundational commitments to human freedom and dignity; that those commitments transcend politics and national boundaries; and that no free people can be indifferent to the fate of any other free people, because the enemy of any one democracy is ultimately the enemy to all the others.” Though Mr. Stephens no doubt believes this, it is a hollow idealization of a world that never was.

    The inability of Americans—even those who profess expertise—to consider U.S. hypocrisy while welcoming Bret Stephens fantasy is a measure of popular loyalty to a traditional storyline about the past. This story precludes the possibility that today’s Russian Republic might have the same security needs as any other country. Indeed, Russia is actually acting much as the United States would have acted during the Cuban Missile crisis if the Russians had not reversed course and removed their missiles. I think we can safely say that if the U.S. and NATO had reversed course and given Russia the reasonable security guarantees it sought, things would have turned out differently for the Ukrainians.

    Part IV—Conclusion

    We all live in multilayered states of perception shaped by culture and open to interpretative manipulation in areas, among others, of history and politics. That means that culture can be the seedbed for much propaganda. In some cultural milieus traditional ideas about race and gender have become official guides to history despite the harm done by generations of discrimination. In some cultural milieus traditional Cold War ideas make Russia an object of fear and enmity undeserving of secure boundaries.

    This being the case, it should come as no surprise that there are millions of white people mostly, though not exclusively, in the American South and Midwest who are quite willing to throw the idea of egalitarian democracy out the window. It should also come as no surprise that the American people never hear about the many thousands of Ukrainians who were critical of their country’s alleged “sovereign right” to join NATO.

    It is interesting that, within the American milieu, it is the presence or absence of competitive ideas that make these two cases different. In the case of the U.S. domestic scene, the power of white racists is localized and confronted by a larger cultural bubble that is critical of their efforts to censor history. In the case of U.S. foreign policy there are very few who are critical of the traditional Cold War propaganda. Thus, there is no larger context to support perceptions that might accept Russia’s security needs. Thus, debate rages on one front but is largely absent on the other.

    A matter of self-defence

    MARCH 03, 2022

    Source

    by Ghassan Kadi

    I am not here to write about historic, strategic and military details pertaining to the issues surrounding the Ukraine crisis. Apart from those fabricating Hollywood material, there are many excellent analysts covering these areas competently.

    But as a Syrian/Lebanese, within my limited capacity, I have a duty to show support and reciprocate Russia’s support to Syria where it is due and, in this case, it is as it is one that is based on truths and moral issues that cannot be overlooked, even if Russia did not support Syria at all.

    What I want to discuss is the justification and morality of self-defence.

    War is a heavily-loaded word, a word that implies man killing man, humanity fighting humanity, armies pillaging nations, creating orphans and widows, refugees, sex slaves, destroying civilizations, economies, beautiful ancient architectural icons and a whole hoard of other atrocities that often are never repaired or resolved.

    But there are wars and there are wars.

    One cannot place the actions of the USA’s invasion of Iraq in the same basket as that of resistance against Nazi occupation.

    People, and nations, have the right of self-defence. Self-defence is not an act of aggression. It is an act to prevent further aggression.

    Not surprisingly, when the rules of the jungle prevail, just like in La Fontaine’s fables, aggressors on one hand conjure up for themselves the justification to kill, and on the other hand, they vilify the victims of their aggression when they try to exercise their right of self-defence.

    The USA has been engaged in wars ever since WWII ended. Beginning with the Korean War, the West moved the theatre to Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Iraq I and Iraq II, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria; not to mention other smaller wars. In reality, there was never ever any justification for any of them and the national security of the United States of America was never under threat by any of those much pooper and much less equipped nations.

    What is ironic is the fact that even though the odds were always in favour of America, and this is an understatement, America never won any of those wars. Some cynics argue that America’s objectives were not about winning wars but about leaving mess and destruction behind. Whilst I partially agree with this sentiment, I cannot accept that America has intentionally invaded Iraq to hand it on a silver platter to Iran any more that it invaded Taliban’s Afghanistan to hand it back to the Taliban. Those who believe that America has always been successful in achieving its target of havoc seem to give it more kudos than it deserves. I genuinely believe that America has been a total failure and that its performance as the world’s self-appointed custodian of the post WWII era had been abysmal to put it mildly.

    Perhaps America could be excused for it actions during the hot Cold-War era. It was a period of uncertainty, fear, and what was behind the ‘dreaded’ ‘Iron Curtain’ left little surprises to be desired.

    But, using American administration rhetoric, with the dismantling of the USSR this hot-cold War era was also supposed to cease.

    Contrary to the commonly-held belief in the West, America did not win the Cold War. The Cold War ended when Gorbachev negotiated with Raegan the terms of disengagement. https://sputniknews.com/20190402/gorbachev-nato-expansion-reasons-1073764558.html

    The rest is history. The manner in which America broke all of its promises to never encroach into Eastern Europe, how it coaxed former Warsaw Pact nations to join NATO, how it positioned missiles close to Russian borders, how it pillaged Serbia, how it tried to create a puppet regime in Georgia in 2008, how it sponsored a coup d’etat in Ukraine in 2014 putting Neo-Nazis in charge, how it bombarded the Eastern provinces for eight long years, how it reneged on the Minsk Agreements, how it refused to reach a deal on Ukraine in Jan 2022, a deal that took into consideration Russia’s legitimate security concerns, are all acts of provocation that can only lead to war; a Russian war of self-defence.

    Western arrogance remains high despite the fact that Russia has clearly demonstrated red lines in Georgia and Syria. But Kiev is not Damascus. Kiev was the capital of the Russian Empire long before Texas was a state of the Union.

    Furthermore, Russia is not Afghanistan or Somalia. Russia is not only a nuclear superpower, but also one with weaponry that is far more advanced than the West’s.

    The Western bully has been picking on the wrong would-be adversary, and for a very long time.

    What is most unbelievable about the current situation is the Western European compliance with America’s stance. Americans may well be distanced from the history and internal politics of Europe, but Germany, France, Italy and Spain must surely know better, but they are behaving in a manner as if they are either totally ignorant or extremely callous.

    Puppet states of Eastern Europe should look over their shoulders and see what real support Ukraine is receiving from America after America promised Ukraine the world and then hung it out to dry.

    This brings us back to the issue of drawing the line between instigating war for no reason other than imperial gain and fighting legitimately for self-defence.

    The West and its media are taking the line of presenting Russia as the aggressor, portraying Putin as a crazed Tzar who wants to rebuild the USSR; not only ignoring the events of 2014 onwards, but also ignoring past and present atrocities of the West that had no justification at all.

    Have we forgotten Iraq’s WMD blunder?

    Russia did all it could to avert a military confrontation in Ukraine.

    For eight long years, Russia refused to acknowledge the independence of the eastern provinces.

    Russia continued to keep all bridges of communication with the West open in the hope of reaching an agreement to end the impasse.

    Russia made it clear to America time after time, that it has red lines that cannot be crossed, including not accepting Ukraine to join NATO.

    But all that America did was to ignore and continue to intimidate. When the talk about the impending Russian invasion of Ukraine was flagged on Western media, it was because America had the full intention to make sure that the January 2022 Switzerland talks with Russia must fail leaving the military option alone on the table.

    The actions of Russia to neutralize and de-Nazify Ukraine are acts of self-defence. Any fair and proper court of justice would attest to this, but not in the West, where media is the echo chamber of the Western globalists and the only key to the hearts and minds of people in the West who unquestionably believe what their media dishes out.

    But why are some of Russians so surprised and dismayed now by the new wave of anti-Russian propaganda? Lucky enough to visit Russia a few years ago, I found myself in an alternative paradigm; not a ‘Truman Show’ little bubble, but a huge world that did what it believed was right and didn’t give a pig’s butt (excuse the French) about what the West and Western media thought and decreed.

    I was able to see the so-called ‘iron curtain’, way after the USSR was no longer, but not from a Western xenophobic vantagepoint, but from a Russian one that did not seem to care much at all about the views and the attitude of the West.

    It was disappointing to see Western franchises like Starbucks and McDonald’s, but Russia looked like a proud stand-alone nation that is big enough, strong enough and rich enough to dictate its own directive and destiny.

    If anything, a few years later, Russia is now in a much stronger position to dictate what it wants to the old ailing West and the stronger sanctions today are not going to be any more effective than previous milder ones.

    President Biden now represents the West in many more ways than one. Not only he is meant to be the leader of the so-called ‘Free World’, but at his old age, a mental state that borders dementia, he represents the global hemisphere that has lost its technical edge and rationality; not to mention economic clout.

    It is very sad that the once developed West that paved the rest of the world in technology and innovation has put its leadership under the hands of short-sighted impotent leaders like Biden, Merkel (formerly), Johnson and Macron. Those weak and shortsighted leaders are pushing the West into the corner of cultural suicide.

    They represent the political legacy that led to the exodus of Western manufacturing base.

    They are the legacy that destroyed family values, cultural values as well as moral values.

    They are the ones forcing Russia to create an alternative global power with China; the West’s main and primary competitor.

    But the problem with Western political leaders is that they are not serving their own people; they are serving their sponsors and their own profit and loss statements.

    Nations are not corporations, and the corporate aspect of Western political leadership is bursting its own bubble. It is not ready to confront the challenges of either Russia or China, let alone both of them combined. The West continues to live in the euphoria of a bygone era in which it had the upper hand by way of being a leader in technological advances and manufacturing which are the basic foundations for strong economies. It has lost its technical edge, placing itself in a conflict it can neither win, let alone be able to fight.

    The West needs to learn to accept humility as a desired value. For the sake of humanity as a whole, it needs to learn this lesson before its obstinance and arrogance leads the world into further and deeper wars and disasters.

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