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

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

September 18, 2020

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sergey Lavrov: Not all of them.

Question: Can you tell us more about this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QuestionLibya, Syria. We stood for Syria.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QuestionBut they tried to revise it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Question: Microcredits.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Presidents that play chess

Presidents that play chess

September 15, 2020

by Katerina for the Saker Blog

This is a follow-up to my previous contribution, the “Relentless March” and I have to warn you, this one will be much harsher as it will be highlighting some home truths for east Europeans. If you are not ready or simply do not want to face those, I suggest you stop reading now.

In this essay, among other things, I will also try to provide some explanations as to why Russian President (VVP as he is widely known) does not respond to western provocations the way some people would like him to and it seems to bother them, especially those who see the perceived lack of response on his part as an indication of some weakness and indecisiveness..

He is none of that.

Although I have to admit that once I was one of these people. When ukro-nazis embarked on their killing spree in Donbass (historically part of Russia) and started killing Russian population there, I was absolutely enraged that the Russian Government has allowed for this horror to take place.

Looking back at it in a much calmer light I eventually realised that THAT was, without doubt, the right response on the part of Russia. If it got itself involved in that provocation, the body count would have been much, much higher.. besides, Donbass was helped in other ways.

What is a provocation? It is something that your enemy sets up, expecting you to react to it the way they were hoping you would react. So, what you do not do is GIVE them what they expected.

I will also admit that my understanding of this and other things to do with the actions of the Russian President are entirely due to my very calm, collected and analytical husband of Scottish ancestry, who would very patiently explain to me as to why VVP is doing what he does. Although, he had to calm me down first! He understood much better the Russian President’s thinking and actions, better than his Russian born wife! Must be the man thing. : )

I will also touch upon the attitudes towards Russia by former Eastern Bloc allies – former Warsaw Pact members and the reasons for their disturbing Russophobia that is being displayed towards Russia in the last couple of decades.

First on VVP.

President Putin is an exceptional strategist, not to mention, analyst and he sees all of this as a long engagement, very much the same as Chinese in that respect. The short- lived satisfaction of hitting back at every provocation thrown at him is definitely not the way he operates. He will respond only when that response is absolutely required, as in retaliatory sanctions on EU, which apparently now costing them BILLIONS, and his response will be selective and painful. He has also very adequately retaliated for the expulsion of Russian Diplomats after the made-up by UK Skripal nonsense.

He looks far ahead and plans accordingly. Crimea is a very good example of that. He knew what was brewing up in Ukraine for much longer than anyone of us, the Russian intelligence service is second to none, and he was absolutely prepared for that. The speed of his counter-actions there was breath-taking.

And here I will describe the sheer imbecility and stunning ignorance of some morons (no other way to describe them) in the USA administration. Did you know that one of their main objectives in meddling in Ukraine was to remove the Russian Naval Base from Crimea and replace it with their own? They even made plans for the adaptation of the barracks there! Talk about absolute insanity and DELUSION. They actually thought that they could pull that off!! Beyond belief.. But that’s the mentality of the people Russians are dealing with here. The sheer ignorance of not only a country’s history but also it’s sacrifices is incredible! Russian Crimea has always been an extremely important asset to Russia, hence the several and very bloody wars it had to fight with the Ottoman Empire to wrench it back from them. Since then it has always been the home of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet- it is a highly strategic naval base, which also of course, gives Russia an access to the Mediterranean and beyond.

Those imbecilic morons, who planned such idiocy actually thought that they could just cruise in there!! Oh my God… what passes for brains among that lot?!

Their sanctions, which were wheeled out almost immediately when their plan did not succeed, was the result of what can only be described as “sour grapes”. Their Euro “allies” were rather reluctant to join them in those sanctions as most Europeans know very well that Crimea has always been Russian, for more than two centuries, and were fearing the reciprocal sanctions from Russia.

To force their Euro vassals to join them in imposing the sanctions, the imbeciles decided that something needed to be done to make that happen. And so, together with their ukie flunkies that is exactly what they have carried out – an unbelievably evil and shocking crime of shooting down a passenger airliner. The screaming headlines that Russia did it and not only that, Putin himself was responsible, were all over their Western media even before “the wreckage hit the ground”. Their Euro “allies’ had no choice now but to go along with the sanctions. Cui bono? I will repeat again – this is the psychopathic mentality Russia and her President are dealing with.

As for those sanctions – here is a good example of when you “get lemons you turn them into lemonade”. Again, things were anticipated and everything was in place. Since Russian retaliatory sanctions, which were imposed on EU immediately, were to do with banning food imports from Europe, Russia had to become much more self-sufficient in providing for itself what was needed, also including substitutions. In fact, having more adequate self-sufficiency was something that the Russian President had been advocating for years prior – all of this totally played into his hands.

Donbass also wanted to re-join Mother Russia, same as Crimea, but VVP sees it as a very useful buffer and wants to keep it that way. Donbass is protected and now it is de-facto Russian, with same currency, pensions (Kiev “government” stopped paying those when the conflict started), same education programmes as in Russia and of course Russian passports. Russia has got back most of what for centuries belonged to it. Two more regions of what used to be called Ukraine – the south east of it, Mariupol and Odessa in the south (as Russian as it gets!) will eventually follow Donbass, and the rest, as far as Russia is concerned, can go to hell. The western part of so-called Ukraine is former Galicia, the ukro-nazis breeding ground that Russia wouldn’t want to touch with a barge pole, Poland can have it back. In fact, welcome to it!

“Ukraine” as most people know by now, is an artificial construct, (same as EU by the way and as such, will also have no longevity), was created by the Bolsheviks – some territory was added by Lenin (Novorussia), later, the Western parts, by Stalin after WWII and in 1954 Khruschev has “gifted” them Crimea, probably after having one too many one evening. Even under the Soviet Constitution at the time, that was ILLEGAL, as such a move required a Referendum, but being one big USSR with no borders between Republics it did not matter that much at the time. After the break-up of the Soviet Union all historically Russian parts of it should have been returned back to Russia. Ukraine hung on to these for one simple reason – money. Novorussia, which includes Donbass, was the most industrialised part of that country, as for Crimea, well, they were getting paid by Russia for the base.

As for the rest of the former USSR – the cheap little Baltic prostitutes – well, those three have already paid a very heavy price for prostituting themselves to the West. Their economies are routed, population drastically shrunk. Once the supply of money from EU dries out, they will be thrown to the kerb. What’s called “used and abused” and it will be richly deserved. Under no circumstances Russia would want those back.

Georgia is facing a similar fate – the country which owes its very existence to the protection by Imperial Russia at the time, from the total annihilation by Ottomans, and of course with loss of Russian lives.. Rings the bell, doesn’t it? What some of these former Soviet republics have discovered, is that without Russia they are rather nothing, non-entities. The West is simply using them and the very thing that they all had eagerly engaged in, meaning Russophobia – as was demanded and expected by their new, western Master, is now coming back at them with a vengeance. Most of them are broke, depopulated, despised, with no future prospects. That is the price you pay for Russophobia. I believe other countries in Eastern Europe should take some serious notice here as they are pretty much in the same boat, whether they would want to admit that to themselves or not.

After the collapse of the USSR the former Warsaw Pact members, comprising of Eastern Europe states became immediately “invaded” – by various western NGOs, “experts”, “advisors” and what not. Same was happening in Russia – the goal there of course, was looting and pillage, in Eastern block the goal was also plain and simple – to convert them all into one Russophobic entity. And once these countries became members of EU and NATO, well.. what can one say.

It usually starts with the re-writing of one’s history and inventing lies to fit that, and then the insidious, constant and pervasive brainwashing that the Soviet Union (and by extension, Russia) was bad, was an invader and aggressor, no better than the Nazis and Stalin was just as bad as Hitler, etc and so on, was unleashed and has never stopped..

Ironically, these East European nations that have suddenly achieved their long-cherished dream of becoming a part of this “EUROPE”, did not realise at the time that to this “EUROPE” they were nothing more than holops, good old-fashioned Russian word for lowly servant. As they were gleefully giving a middle finger to their Slavic brothers in the East, their new Western Master fully expected them to polish his boots, muck out the stables and fetch and carry. Pathetic is not even a good enough word to describe it. The day might come when you would NEED that Russia, but by then you would have burned all your bridges..

Now, what we have there is at least two generations of these east Europeans that are totally brainwashed, indoctrinated and absolutely ignorant of their ACTUAL history.

Their grandparents and even parents perhaps could tell them that life as they knew it, wasn’t that bad being part of the Eastern Block alliance with the Soviet Union. There was no “ghastly tyranny”, “oppressions” or “massacres” – it was in fact a peaceful and friendly cooperation. In case of the “INVASIONS” of Hungary and Czechoslovakia, well, at the time, the usual EXTERNAL players were trying to foment there the early versions of what is now called “colour revolutions” – obviously those two had to be brought back in line. It was an alliance after all.

One would think that in today’s world where you can get any information you need, there would be at least some attempt to get a true picture of your own history and not become victims of this despicable indoctrination and the vile, “in your face” propaganda. Critical thinking is obviously no longer taught in the class, let alone the ability to have an INFORMED opinion as compared to an acquired attitude. As a result, most of them now have a firm belief that Russia was and is some “enemy” – EXACTLY what your NATO masters want you to believe. The “West” has done it’s job rather well with you – producing generations of dumb-downed, ignorant and brainwashed, and to that lot we can add the sold-out, totally self-serving and west-worshipping “elites” and the rest is just a silent mass.

This is what most East European countries have become. Only Serbia so far has not sold itself out, but her government, unfortunately has, as was amply demonstrated by the latest developments, which I am sure made most Serbs cringe. This, your sad quisling “government” needs to be replaced, and fast. There are, no doubt, lots of great people in Serbia who love their country. Vote for these.

As for the rest of Eastern Europe, I will say this – re-writing your history is never a good move and neither is inventing lies to suit. Pulling down statues of Soviet heroes that liberated your countries from the Nazi scourge is just as bad. And shameful.

I will repeat – the EU is an artificial construct and as such will have no longevity and THEN where would you be?

Unfortunately, Russia also has few of those brainwashed morons as well. This rather useless idiot, Navalny, whom the West has been lovingly grooming to be a “face of Russian opposition” and who is a long-time recipient of Soros’s grants, even he has some following. Not large but none the less showing the exact same mentality shaped by some delusional beliefs picked up from so-called “social media” and in a very much the same age group. They don’t even realise that what they are displaying is a dumb, sheeple mentality and of course, ignorance. It is truly sad to see. I wonder how many of them will believe another made up garbage with another alleged “Novichok poisoning”, now of this twat. By the way, these politicians in Germany that are actually promoting this, do they comprehend as to how utterly stupid they come across with this idiotic accusation? Feel like saying to them – for crying out loud, give it a rest!

Just to note, according to Lavrov, UK still has not produced ANY evidence to support THEIR accusations of the totally made-up and “highly likely” Scripal “poisoning” tale. Well, how can one? But never mind, meanwhile the Russian Diplomats were expelled, en-masse, and some diplomatic properties illegally seized. Mission accomplished.

Sometimes I feel really sorry for both Putin and Lavrov as to what kind of people they have to deal with..

As for the Russian President, it has been often said that he is a very good chess player, and for a chess player to be that good he needs to anticipate his opponent’s every move, well in advance. Besides, he is playing that chess not on just one chessboard, but several at once and dealing with SUCH people it becomes quite a challenge to anticipate every deranged MENDACITY as being displayed by them.

What makes the Russian President stand head and shoulders above those Western politicians is not only his strategic thinking, but his morals and also his unshakable belief in a lawful approach in everything that matters. If you have signed some agreement you absolutely keep to it, if you have given your word you honour it.

In addition, he is also of course a judo master and for these who are not familiar with this particular form of martial art, the objective is to defeat your opponent by using THEIR OWN bulk and strength against them to get them off balance and then throw them on the floor. Hmm..

This is what THE WEST is dealing with when it comes to the President of Russia. There will be some detractors here, sadly without much ability for an astute analysis, who would immediately label me as being Putin’s fan, but we will ignore them. The man is formidable, in every respect.

What most Russians want from their President now is to show a much harder edge, and THAT is actually happening. Lavrov, being a Diplomat Supreme, has been showing this lately, quite noticeably, in his responses, which are now much more pointed, direct and blunt. Still, caution is required.

The hegemon is collapsing in front of our eyes and this is one of the most dangerous moments, but as I have pointed out in one of my previous comments, there is a very wise saying, I believe by SUN TZU – why disturb your enemy when it’s self- destructing. The only question is how much destruction can it wreak on the rest of us in its death throes. A very careful approach is absolutely essential now – the aim is to make this collapse more of a “controlled demolition” than to have it as a very destructive explosion in which many could be very badly hurt as a result, especially with regard to their economies, already rather shaky amid this “scamdemic”.

That is what, I believe, VVP and Xi are now working on, very carefully. Hence the very calculated responses to numerous stupid and nasty provocations. And lots of patience.

We are indeed living in very interesting times.

Relentless March

August 30, 2020

Relentless March

by Katerina for the Saker Blog

I left Russia at the tender age of 24, left not because I wanted to leave my country, just simply happened to marry a foreigner who was there at the time and for several years now been living and working in three very different countries, including Scotland and England. Now I am living in yet another English-speaking country that is equally unique and different. I like to think that my experience of these four different cultures, outlooks, attitudes, not to mention systems, had most definitely expanded my horizons. I also want to think that such experience had allowed me to make certain assessments and analysis which hopefully could be translated into informed opinions.

I have been coming to this site for over two years now since it is rather “pro Russian” and therefore my interest was obvious. I have been reading Saker’s and his contributors posts with great interest, although reading some comments was at times bewildering. There are of course some very intelligent analytical comments and commentators on Saker’s blog, after all that is one of the reasons why we want to come here – for the knowledge we might not yet have, for the insight, for an intelligent analyses by someone who took the trouble and for someone’s else point of view that perhaps can make us think – that’s how I see this blog, and I am sure so does Saker. What compelled me to write this piece, a belief that most people coming to this blog are also looking for that same thing, otherwise why bother. On the other hand some of their expressed comments are not opinions but attitudes. Let me explain the difference. Opinion is something that is based on knowledge and at least some research, an attitude is something that expresses a person’s individual take on some particular issue, which has been shaped by picking up some information possibly from MSM, or from social media or wherever without really ANALYZING it but accepting it because it fits with that person’s mentality. See the difference?

I also see in some comments an understandable ignorance of things Russian and I cannot blame them for that, at least they are interested enough to be on this site, which is commendable. Except some obvious troll like creatures, who try to have some facade but most people here I think are a fairly intelligent lot and can see thru that.

In this my small contribution I would like to try and help with a bit more understanding of Russian side of things, which I suppose is rather difficult for people in the West to really understand, as we have lots of pervasive Western media that does not give one a true picture of Russia. Also, I would endeavor to provide some analysis or at least some explanation on the seemingly ingrained animosity of the West towards Russia and it’s possible origins.

So, let’s start.

“Things Russian”. Here I can try to give you some information that you will not get in your Western MSM, for sure. Having Russian as your first language is a great advantage when you can watch, read and listen to what is happening in Russia at present, what is the general mood that comes across, what worries and concerns them, what they think. One can get a pretty clear picture of all of that through their news channels, daily talk shows, expert’s opinions, people’s comments, etc on practically a daily basis. My knowledge on the subject, I can assure you, is up to date.

First, here are some myths that I want to blow apart for some people – Russia and Russians are NOT that greatly enamored with the West that they are so desperately wanting to be “accepted” and “approved” by this West. FAR FROM IT!

Lots of them, having seen the West’s insane, reckless and criminal behavior such as what it has done to Ukraine, hysterics regarding Crimea going back to Mother Russia, MH17 hideous crime, made-up Scripal garbage, expulsion of Russian Diplomats, criminal seizing of Russian diplomatic property, endless sanctions and relentless demonization of Russia and it’s President – feel it’s enough to start a war! No, whatever warm feelings they might have had in the past towards the West after break- up of USSR and hopes of being friendly at last – all these feelings have been killed and long gone. Now, just as it was back in history, they want to keep the distance. Some of the Western poison seeps thru occasionally but that does not get much traction. The so called “opposition” in Russia mostly survives on Soros’s grants and in Russia they even have a name for them -“sorosyata”, which roughly translates as a Soros’s little piglets. These who join them in their various protests are usually mindless youth looking for a bit of excitement. Too much of that excitement can land them with a heavy fine or expulsion from whatever learning establishment they attend. That cools a lot of hot heads. So, whatever one reads in western media regarding strong Russian “opposition” to Putin’s “dictatorship”, bear in mind he has as much fear of this opposition as an elephant of a flea on it’s back. Besides, if he was such a dictator this lot would not be allowed even to exist as an “opposition”, but they even have their own media channels – I reckon the government sees that as the best way to keep an eye on them.

No, there are no censorship, dictatorship or any other “ship” in Russia that does not allow people, however deluded, to express themselves, but in a civilized fashion. Cities are spotlessly clean, excellent infrastructure, every restaurant you could wish for, great bars and nightclubs, same make of cars on the roads as in any European city, friendly people and no homeless on the streets. Those football fans that arrived in Russia from all over the world for the World Cup couple of years ago, had to “pick their jaws off the pavement”. They could not believe what they were seeing as it was so totally different to what they were expecting from the images shaped for them by western media.

This is modern Russia.

In the last 25 years lots of Russians have traveled around Europe, UK, States, etc – something they could not do so easily before – they had a look, and what most of them discovered is that the grass definitely wasn’t greener on the other side. They were interested to have a look and quite content to get back home.

There were some who fled Russia during the terrible 90s when what was going on in Russia at the time was hell on wheels, as it was being robbed and pillaged by the West, whose wet dream at last came true, unfortunately for them only for a brief moment. Quite a number of Russians who left Russia at the time are now returning back home. The West now has got it’s own version of hell on wheels, so let’s call it KARMA.

What Russians also find distasteful are bad manners on the part of the West, showing up in rather unpleasant and uncalled for displays of arrogant lecturing and attempts to show some inexplicable “superiority” with regard to Russia. I have experienced this myself when in England, but NEVER in Scotland, I will hasten to add. Scotland and Scots for me were always “home from home”.

I was buying a train ticket at the Waterloo station in London and the ticket seller, an Englishman in his 40s, seeing my name, muttered under his breath “bloody Russian”. I was looking at him and wondering what made him say that. Here was someone who probably hardly finished secondary school, selling a ticket to someone who is a highly qualified professional, with two degrees, one of which is Masters, attained from one of the best Scottish Universities (writing a dissertation in second language is not easy, believe me!) and yet, he felt somehow “superior” to this Russian and that compelled him to mutter these words. And I suddenly realized that it was CONDITIONED in him, he didn’t even pause to think, it came out because he couldn’t help it. Attitude!

This negative conditioning in the West towards things Russian obviously had roots at some stage and later, reflecting on it I could see how it might have come about. We will leave religion aside for the moment, although it does play some part. The main culprit in my opinion, is the colonial mindset, combined with actual ignorance. To people in the West, meaning Western Europe and Britain, throughout centuries Russia has always been something dark and unknown and therefore to be feared and distanced from. There were few very sparse contacts but on the whole Russia and the West kept themselves to themselves. And until Peter the Great came along, that arrangement absolutely suited Russians as well. They regarded the West as heinous and un-Godly and much preferred to keep that distance. Tsar Peter has changed all of that in his drive to “open a window into Europe” as he put it.

What is not widely known about “superior” Europe of these days and that includes Britain, is that people there never bathed, fearing that it would kill them. When Tsar Peter arrived there with his entourage for their big Euro tour, they were absolutely shocked at the smell and stink of unwashed bodies, even in the palaces. Russians, before baths and showers were ever invented, for centuries had a wonderful tradition of having a “banya” once a week. Sort of like a nice steamy sauna but with an addition of hot water to actually wash yourself. Now, tell me, what nation is more civilized here?

The Russian Tsar, on the other hand was viewed in the West as some strange and fascinating curiosity. When the average person height in those days was shorter than it is now, Tsar Peter, being a young man, virile, handsome, did not wear wig, full of energy AND at 6’8” tall, of course, towered above everyone. At least now the West had a real chance to see a real Russian.

The tour was a great success. Tsar Peter brought back with him some craftsmen, some interesting new inventions, like the sextant and some experienced boat builders. His burning ambition was for Russia to have a Navy, although at that time it was totally landlocked from both Baltic and Black seas.

At some stage Peter also had to fight and defeat the Swedish King who at the time was trying to expand his kingdom into the rest of Europe. Peter had to get him off the land where he wanted to build his new capital, St Petersburg (he never liked Moskva) and that, of course, gave him an access to the Baltic Sea. In the process he also liberated these parts of Europe that the war-addicted Swedish King had managed to grab. Sweden still cannot forgive Russia for that. Afterwards the energetic Russian Tsar set out to build his new capital, laid foundations for his Navy and among many other things made his Boyars in court shave their beards and wear European attire, complete with powdered wigs. Those who refused to obey and shave Tsar himself did it for them and then fined them heavily. One does not trifle with Imperial orders! Eventually he got himself named an “anti-Christ” by the Russian Church, that passionately believed that Russia should not be “westernized”, that it had it’s own destiny and it’s own path. I tend to agree with them there. Meanwhile Europeans had discovered that they had nothing to fear from Russia and that bathing did not kill them after all and everything went rather swimmingly for a while between Russia and the West.

Until the start of the Industrial revolution.

The West suddenly realized that for such one needs lots of resources, which the West did not have but others did. Everyone went busily sailing around the world looking whom they can easily colonize and loot. Britain, one has to say, outdid every other European rival in those pursuits. Then, when the supply of countries to loot started to dwindle, the collective West turned it’s gaze upon… Russia. And this, in my opinion, was the moment when that animosity had taken root. Here was a country, with hardly any population to speak of, occupying huge territory and not just that, full of everything one can only dream about, every great resource imaginable, including gold and diamonds…

There was only one problem. Those “bloody Russians” in the way!

So, that was the start of it – fueled by greed, envy, resentment and hatred. The rest we all know. The “relentless marches” on Russia, mostly in gangs. Both Napoleon and Hitler had lots of willing European accomplices, all wanting a share of the spoils. Well, they all got what they deserved and here we are now, in 21st century and they are STILL at it! Lessons not learned. Only this time they got themselves a big bully that they can all hide behind but unfortunately for them this bully cannot fight. At least not a serious opponent. Some little helpless nations around the world, no problem, drop few bombs, show up with one of your “carrier groups” and it’s all honky dory. Here, it is facing RUSSIA, a nation that NEVER lost a war.

And now we have this NATO – another gang, controlled by this bully. The problem for them is that NONE of them can really fight, even as a gang and so, what we now have is a circus show, called exercises, each one with more ferocious name than the last. Russia is watching these clowns prancing on her borders and has left them in no doubt whatsoever that just one step over that border and there will be nothing left of them, INSTANTLY. They can also install their missile bases in Romania and Poland, or in any other little euro vassal, sorry, NATO ally, that wants to make itself a prime target – anything fired from those will be immediately shot down and the place from where it was fired will be just one large smouldering crater, several kilometers in diameter. No, Russia does not consider NATO a big threat. Just a nuisance. The game that is being played here is as follows: “we”, NATO allies have to scream very loud and very often about “Russian aggression” and “Russian treat”- failing that this NATO becomes irrelevant and the big MIC will not be able to suck up trillions of taxpayers money to line some very, very deep pockets. And while we are at it, we will force our “allies” to buy our military junk at exorbitant prices. So, here you have it.

I think people in the West hearing this Russophobic propaganda garbage 24/7 start believing it and start imagining that perhaps all of this is true, but remember what Goebbels, Hitler’s chief of propaganda advocated – keep repeating a lie often enough and they will eventually believe you.

Russia is not your enemy. All it wants from the West is to be left alone and also to be shown some respect. This arrogant, talking down to, insulting approach has no place in dealings with an old civilized and cultured nation like Russia, which is also extremely well-armed. That attitude actually reflects very badly on the West and on state of mental midgetry of their politicians, who do not seem to have any grasp that such approach will lead them nowhere. Most of course are puppets, just doing what Uncle Sam is telling them but here is a word of warning – following Uncle Sam might lead one to the cliff edge…

Another bit of info that you will not find in western MSM – RF (Russian Federation) Immigration Services are inundated with applications from people in the West, including USA, (and I am not talking about expats), who want to move to Russia. These people see it as some kind of Noah’s Ark, compared to what is coming to their countries. Living in Russia they feel they can be free to be a normal family with normal family values, not parent1 and parent2, but Mum and Dad and where their children can grow up in a normal environment, without being subjected to creepy gender selections.

In conclusion I will say this – in my experience most people are not that different from each other, after all we are ALL human and we all want the same in life – love, appreciation, family and a future for our children. It’s not that hard to get along if you want to. But what we also have in common is a common enemy that hates humanity and wants us culled (their expression) and what’s left, subjugated. So, rather than facing each other with hands in a fist, how about we direct our attention and all our energies to fighting THAT evil, the one that wants to destroy us all.

Russian-Belarusian Relations: Back To Being Brothers?

16 AUGUST 2020

By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Russian-Belarusian Relations: Back To Being Brothers?

Several recent developments in Russian-Belarusian relations — in particular, Belarus’ return of 32 suspected Wagner mercenaries to Russia, Belarusian opposition leader Tsepkalo’s departure from Russia, and the two phone calls between Presidents Putin and Lukashenko — hint that bilateral ties might soon return to their formerly fraternal level, though the fact of the matter is that Minsk simply doesn’t have any realistic option other than to re-engage Moscow (albeit on the latter’s terms) after the dramatic failure of the former’s “balancing” act and is thus destined to be Russia’s “little brother” instead of its “equal brother”.

A Russian-Belarusian Rapprochement?

Some notable developments occurred since the author’s analysis on Friday about how “Belarus’ ‘Democratic Security’ Operation Shouldn’t Be Exploited For Russophobic Purposes“. That piece painted a bleak picture of Russian-Belarusian relations, one in which Russia’s hosting of Belarusian opposition leader Tsepkalo could have potentially been instrumentalized to protect its national security interests. That’s no longer the case, however, since recent events have changed that calculation. Some observers are nowadays a bit more optimistic about their ties, even believing that they might soon return to their formerly fraternal level, though the fact of the matter is that Minsk simply doesn’t have any realistic option other than to re-engage Moscow (albeit on the latter’s terms) after the dramatic failure of the former’s “balancing” act and is thus destined to be Russia’s “little brother” instead of its “equal brother”.

Resolving The Wagner Incident

The first major development that occurred in the past few days was twofold and concerns both Belarus’ return of 32 suspected Wager mercenaries to Russia on Friday and Tsepkalo’s (subsequent?) departure from Russia. It certainly seems that the two are linked considering the timing in which they occurred, so it might very well have been the case that this was a quid pro quo. To explain, Belarus’ detainment of those nearly three dozen Russians can be seen in hindsight not simply as an anti-Russian provocation and “sign of good faith” about its intent to continue improving relations with the West after the election (before they decided to overthrow its leader), but also a misguided “insurance policy” against what Lukashenko had previously alleged was Moscow’s meddling in its internal affairs. In other words, those Russians were essentially political hostages to ensure that their homeland didn’t allow anti-government figures like Tsepkalo to operate from its territory.

The Tsepkalo Intrigue

His arrival there wasn’t anything that Moscow could have prevented considering the visa-free travel regime in place between the two members of the so-called “Union State”, but Minsk obviously felt uncomfortable with the fact that he fled to the Russian capital at the end of last month a few days prior to the Wagner provocation. In fact, the aforementioned provocation might have even been launched in response to that development considering the very acute “strategic dilemma” between the two nominal “allies” after Lukashenko stopped trusting Russia upon falling for the Western information warfare narrative that his neighbor harbored malicious intentions towards his country. The cover for this speculative quid pro quo of returning the suspected mercenaries in exchange for Tsepkalo’s departure from Russia was that the latter was added to an international wanted persons list upon Minsk’s request, hence why Moscow could no longer allow him to remain there.

Quid Pro Quo

This enabled both sides to “save face” and not appear as though they were enacting any “concessions” towards the other during this unprecedentedly tense period of their relations. Both sides therefore got what they wanted. Russia’s political hostages were released, while Belarus no longer had to worry about the possibility of Russia instrumentalizing Tsepkalo’s presence in its capital. Everything could thus return to how it was before late-July when Tsepkalo fled to Russia and the Wagner provocation occurred shortly thereafter. While ties were still tense up until that time, they weren’t as bad as they were afterwards following those two incidents. It’s premature to call this a “reset” though since a rapprochement is more accurate at this point. This quid pro quo indicates that each side understands the necessity of restoring trust and confidence in one another. As such, their leaders then spoke with one another the next day, Saturday, to take their rapprochement even further.

Two Phone Calls In Two Days

The official Kremlin website didn’t say much about the details of their talk but nevertheless sounded upbeat about the future of their relations. Lukashenko, however, later revealed that “I and he agreed that we will receive comprehensive assistance in ensuring Belarus’ security whenever we request it”. The Belarusian leader also warned against what he described as NATO’s threatening buildup along his borders, implying that the alliance might try to attack his country. The next day, Sunday, Presidents Putin and Lukashenko spoke again, and this time the official Kremlin website reported that they discussed possible security assistance through the CSTO mutual defense pact of which both states are members. This dimension of the crisis adds some more intrigue to the rapidly developing situation by making it seem like a Russian military intervention along the lines of the Crimean one might be imminent, though that scenario more than likely won’t come to pass.

Crimea 2.0 Is Unlikely

Firstly, foreign forces are ineffective for carrying out “Democratic Security” operations since the target nation’s own ones are required in order for the state to retain legitimacy except in situations where Color Revolutionaries and/or military defectors seize control of military bases and/or cities, which seems unlikely to happen. Secondly, NATO’s reported military buildup is probably just for show and isn’t anything serious. The alliance knows that attacking Belarus would trigger Russia’s mutual defense commitments, thus potentially worsening the crisis to the level of World War III in the worst-case scenario. And thirdly, Belarus previously balked at Russia’s prior request to establish an air base within its borders since it knows that its ally’s increased military presence there would be perceived real negatively by NATO and thus lead to even more pressure upon it. For these reasons, a forthcoming Russian military intervention in Belarus is unlikely.

Lukashenko’s Signals

The question thus becomes one of why Lukashenko is even flirting with this possibility in the first place if it probably won’t happen, with the answer likely being that he intends to send signals to Russia and the West with his words. About the first-mentioned, he’s reaffirming his country’s commitment to its traditional ally in an attempt to shore up support from its media after they’ve been uncharacteristically critical of him in response to his failed “balancing” act of the past year. Regarding the second, the West, he wants them to realize that he’s no longer as naive as before and no longer trusts them after they ordered their Color Revolution cadres to oust him. In other words, he’s trying to recalibrate his “balancing” act by moving closer to Russia in response to the Western pressure being put upon him from above (sanctions threats) and below (Color Revolution). Domestically, these dramatic statements are also intended to distract people by hyping up an external enemy.

Belarus’ Official Position On “Balancing”

A casual observer might be inclined to think that Belarus once again wants to return to its former brotherly relations with Russia, but the situation isn’t as simple as that. After all, Lukashenko declared earlier this month that “it is impossible” to strengthen his country’s “Union State” relations with Russia. “Even if I agreed to the reunification on the most favorable terms for Belarus, the people of Belarus would not accept it. The nation is not ready for this and will never be. The people are overripe. It was possible 20 or 25 years ago when the Soviet Union collapsed. But not now.” Nevertheless, he also said on Sunday that “Belarus does not want to be a ‘buffer zone’…to separate Russia from the West”, which essentially rules out its participation in the Polish-led and US-backed “Three Seas Initiative” (TSI) and related frameworks like the “Lublin Triangle“, at least for now. Put another way, Belarus wants closer relations with Russia, but not formal incorporation into a single state. While it wishes to retain friendly relations with the West, it won’t do so at the expense of Russia either.

Russia > West

The way that the situation is developing, it looks like Belarus has chosen to abandon its “balancing” act in favor of realigning itself with Russia, though it lost whatever previous leverage it thought that it had throughout the course of the past year after it so terribly failed to take advantage of its newfound relations with the West to bargain for better terms from Moscow in the run-up to the ongoing Color Revolution. Lukashenko is therefore at President Putin’s mercy when it comes to any potential Russian assistance to his government, which is unlikely to be military aid for the earlier mentioned reasons but would most probably be deeper integration through the “Union State” framework despite the Belarusian leader’s hesitancy. In a “perfect world”, his “balancing” act would have turned Belarus into the New Cold War’s version of Tito’s Yugoslavia, but in the imperfect reality in which everyone lives, Belarus has little choice but to accept Russia’s “Union State” terms.

“Saving Face”

It’s of the highest importance for Lukashenko to “save face” while commencing this policy pivot (provided of course that he remains in office long enough to see it through), which is where the wording of the Kremlin’s statement on Saturday following the first phone call between him and Putin comes in. The last sentence speaks about the “fraternal nations of Russia and Belarus”, which is a symbolic narrative “concession” to Lukashenko after he complained earlier in the month about “Russia switching from a brotherly relationship to a partnership — suddenly.” The Belarusian leader can therefore claim that the two countries are once again “brothers”, which could be relied upon by him as the pretext for agreeing to resume integration within the “Union State” framework even though it’ll likely be on Russia’s terms instead of his own. That would in effect formalize Belarus’ status as Russia’s “junior partner”, which it’s always been but he’d been loath to acknowledge it.

A True “Brotherhood” Or A “Fraternal Hierarchy”?

This brings the analysis back to the question posed in the title about whether Russian-Belarusian relations have returned back to their formerly fraternal nature. The answer is yes and no. On the one hand, they’ll probably continue to repair their relations after Lukashenko’s failed “balancing” act threatened to ruin them once and for all, but on the other, they won’t ever have equal relations given the hierarchy involved. To use Lukashenko’s own metaphor, President Putin is his “elder brother“, and in traditional family arrangements, seniority carries with it certain perks. So too can the same be said about the relations between a Great Power like Russia and a comparatively smaller and much weaker state like Belarus. Regardless of the rhetoric that politicians love to espouse, there can never be true equality between such vastly different states. What there can be, however, is respect of each other’s core interests but recognition that there still exists a “fraternal hierarchy” among them.

Concluding Thoughts

The Belarusian Crisis is still very serious, though the positive developments of the past two days in respect to bilateral relations with Russia inspire cautious optimism about the future. If Lukashenko can survive the Hybrid War against him, which he’d more than likely have to do on his own without any Russian military support considering the fact that foreign military forces are ineffective in dealing with most manifestations of such wars, then there’s a high chance that Belarus will agree to strengthen its integration with Russia through the “Union State” framework on Moscow’s terms. Lukashenko can still “save face” by claiming that he restored his country’s “brotherhood” with Russia, though that would only be half-true since no true “brotherhood” would exist (or ever has) since what’s really in force is a “fraternal hierarchy”. In any case, Lukashenko seems to have finally learned his lesson about “balancing”, but it’ll remain to be seen whether he learned it too late.

SOUTHFRONT SENDS WARMEST GREETINGS TO US DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Source

August 06, 2020

We are pleased to inform you about another eye-opening report about SouthFront’s work released by the highest levels of the US government.

In early August, the Global Engagement Center of the US Department of State released a report entitled “Pillars of Russia’s Disinformation and Propaganda Ecosystem”. At least 13 of the 77 pages of this report are dedicated to SouthFront: Analysis & Intelligence as a “pillar” of Russian disinformation and propaganda.

Please find the full version of report on the official website of the US Department of State: HERE

SouthFront Sends Warmest Greetings To US Department Of State

SouthFront also feels obliged to make some comments regarding the content of this brilliant investigative report dedicated to our endeavour. We do not think that our comments include anything really new, but it will be useful to recall the history of SouthFront’s creation and development.

SouthFront vs Globalists – Episode We Lost Count

First of all, we want to compliment the authors of the report. It has a very straight and useful logic: If some media organization has Russian citizens or people of Russian origin among its members, or, God forbid, other links with Russia, this media is beyond question spreading Russia’s disinformation and is controlled by the Kremlin.

SouthFront Sends Warmest Greetings To US Department Of State
GEC Special Report: Russia’s Pillars of Disinformation and Propaganda

Setting the tone for the depth of the investigation, the part of the report about SouthFront starts by repeating tired tropes about the registration of the SouthFront website domain (southfront.org) by a Russian domain registrar Reg.ru. This is an open secret and we’ve repeatedly said that this was done intentionally in order to secure the domain in the case of an attempt to censor it. Recent developments demonstrate that this decision was well founded.

Then, the US State Department repeats Facebook stories created to justify the censorship of SouthFront’s public page with about 100,000 subscribers.

SouthFront Sends Warmest Greetings To US Department Of State
GEC Special Report: Russia’s Pillars of Disinformation and Propaganda

The reports’ authors took from the  claims made by Facebook in “April 2020 Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior Report” what they thought to be the most important part: the allegation that SouthFront was based in Crimea, and used this allegation to associate SouthFront with another organization with a similar name “News Front”. This media organization is in fact based in Crimea and officially registered in Russia.

This cheap trick is presented as if it were the result of an in-depth investigation and itself a great revelation of SouthFront’s roots. Nonetheless, many of our readers and subscribers who have been following SouthFront for years well know SouthFront’s history and there has been no secret made of the fact that a few members of SouthFront are of Russian origin, from Russia or are Russian citizens. There are also members from other post-USSR states. This does not mean that SouthFront, as an international team of independent authors and experts, is based in Crimea or that the SouthFront Steering Committee is located in Crimea. This is a blatant lie and we are ready to prove this in court.

It is easy to see that SouthFront has always provided a platform for the various, sometimes opposing, points of view shared by our members, volunteers and contributors. SouthFront also freely provided its umbrella brand for authors and groups of authors, who share the main principles of SouthFront and stand against mainstream disinformation, global censorship and the enforcing neo-liberal, globalist world order.

The report states that the SouthFront account deleted by YouTube in 2015 included ‘crimeanfront’ in its name and makes far-reaching conclusions using this claim.

SouthFront Sends Warmest Greetings To US Department Of State
GEC Special Report: Russia’s Pillars of Disinformation and Propaganda

This is a clear factual error. Even the screenshot used in the report itself confirms this by quoting the following words: “Our new channel is https://youtube.com/user/crimeanfront”. If that is the new channel, then it is only logical to assume that some other channel was deleted. Right?

So here are the actual facts: The channel deleted in April 2015 had the link ‘https://www.youtube.com/c/southfront’ and was removed due to a suspicious story with copyright claims by NATO-affiliated Nordic Films LTD.

Here is the message then shared by our friends, including The Saker:

SouthFront Sends Warmest Greetings To US Department Of State
GEC Special Report: Russia’s Pillars of Disinformation and Propaganda
SouthFront Sends Warmest Greetings To US Department Of State
GEC Special Report: Russia’s Pillars of Disinformation and Propaganda

After the deletion of that channel, SouthFront volunteers of Russian origin proposed using the already existing YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/user/crimeanfront. At that time, this channel already had a certain number of subscribers. Therefore, it was useful to employ it instead of creating a new one with a zero base audience.

Unfortunately for the US State Department investigators, the facts go contrary to their conspiracy theories. If the US analysts had really wanted to go into the matter and produce useful material instead of potential toilet paper, they would have found out that that YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/user/crimeanfront was not deleted in April 2015.

Of course, SouthFront Team is arousing fear among members of the Washington establishment. Nonetheless, the situation itself causes a sad smile.

The next part of the report is based on screenshots showing the redesign of https://www.youtube.com/user/crimeanfront and claims of some person insisting that he created Crimean Front that later became News Front. Using this, the authors of the report claim that SouthFront and News Front are somehow “at least began as sister organizations”.

It is hard to dignify such a superficial investigation with a comment. Even when the SouthFront concept was being created and the like-minded group of people that later created SouthFront: Analysis & Intelligence and evolved into SouthFront Steering Committee first got together, we had no links to the aforementioned organizations.

On top of this, the YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/user/crimeanfront provided to SouthFront by volunteers was not linked to the aforementioned organizations. This is why they were not using this channel. Instead, SouthFront got it for free over 1.5 years after the developments in Crimea in 2014.

At the same time, there is no secret that in 2015 and coming years, SouthFront, an endeavour dedicated to the coverage of conflicts around the world, was covering developments in Ukraine. It’s easy to find this if one opens southfront.org and checks the category #UKRAINE.

As to the idea of the endeavour that later was named SouthFront: Analysis & Intelligence, it first appeared in 2012-2013 and came about as a result of the rapid deterioration of the international situation around the world, especially in the Middle East.

The developments in Crimea, eastern Ukraine and Syria in 2014 became the turning point that led to the creation of SouthFront: Analysis & Intelligence, the SouthFront Steering Committee and to the main foundations of our work: independence, the commitment to freedom of speech, human rights, and combating media disinformation and censorship.

Trying to link SouthFront with News Front, the State Department report ignored the obvious fact that SouthFront appeared earlier than News Front. This can be seen from the date of the creation of the first Facebook page of SouthFront, and screenshots shared by the report’s authors themselves. Therefore, there are two main versions:

1) SouthFront is an all-mighty Kremlin tool that influences other Russian ‘proxy sites’ and ‘disinformation and propaganda’ on the international scene, and its members are on a first-name basis with Vladimir Putin;

2) In the world of State Department fairy-tales, the use of the word “Front” in the name of an organization indicates a connection to any other organization also using “Front” in its name.

Conspiracy theorists may be surprised to learn that SouthFront is a largely volunteer organization with a regularly changing team composition. So, we want to seize this opportunity and inform the US experts about some realities of modern informational warfare and disinformation.

Dear friends, you may have failed to notice this, but in the modern information society, new network organizations work on principles that are quite different to those employed 10-20 years ago. Lies, double-faced policies and distortion of facts by government-funded media set the basis for SouthFront’s power and influence. It is a high time to understand that this concerns people around the world and inspires them to get an independent point of view.

SouthFront Sends Warmest Greetings To US Department Of State
GEC Special Report: Russia’s Pillars of Disinformation and Propaganda

We can perhaps excuse Department of State personnel for not knowing that when one obtains a domain name via a domain registrar, the registration data shows the physical address of the domain registrar office. However, the inability to notice that SouthFront has always had a PayPal account with a .ru address and that this address has always been public and easily found on southfront.org is beyond our understanding.

Do the authors really think that if SouthFront Team members were to work secretly for the Kremlin or Russian intelligence services (for example, the mighty GRU), we would not have found the time to obtain an address through Yahoo.com or some other non-.ru service?

SouthFront Sends Warmest Greetings To US Department Of State
GEC Special Report: Russia’s Pillars of Disinformation and Propaganda

The next part of the investigation showcases 7 links allegedly confirming that SouthFront “directly aligns with Kremlin talking points and disinformation.” Since the launch of southfront.org, we have released several tens of thousands of articles, videos and graphic pieces. Apparently, the State Department staff spent a lot of time checking them to find these seven posts. In any case, SouthFront has never denied that we provide a platform for all sides interested in a constructive discussion, including the pro-Russian perspective.

It is also interesting to note how the authors of the document described SouthFront articles criticizing the internal situation in Russia and the actions of Moscow. For them, this is just a “tactic” to hide “an ocean of Kremlin-aligned disinformation”. However, if one employs this approach, one would have to find that CNN, the Washington Times, the New York Times and other outlets, which release critical articles about Russia, must also be a part of the sophisticated Kremlin-affiliated disinformation network.

SouthFront Sends Warmest Greetings To US Department Of State
GEC Special Report: Russia’s Pillars of Disinformation and Propaganda

Joking aside, if one checks SouthFront articles questioning the actions of the Russian authorities or criticizing them, one would find hundreds of content pieces. In fact, it is hard to find a southfront.org article that would provide a solely positive view on the current internal political situation in Russia or on the actions of Moscow in the last 1-2 years.

The COVID-19 disinformation part also shows no creativity. We have already stated this on previous occasions, but it bears repeating: SouthFront well understands that the COVID-19 outbreak is a sensitive issue. This is why our articles about the outbreak/pandemic always include links to sources and facts. The fact, which deserves special attention, is that SouthFront articles do not fuel hysteria and fear regarding the COVID-19 spread. We seek to objectively cover the situation.

SouthFront Sends Warmest Greetings To US Department Of State
GEC Special Report: Russia’s Pillars of Disinformation and Propaganda
SouthFront Sends Warmest Greetings To US Department Of State
GEC Special Report: Russia’s Pillars of Disinformation and Propaganda

The report includes 6 examples of supposed COVID-19 disinformation. SouthFront releases about 30 content pieces per day. Articles, videos and graphic pieces dedicated to the COVID-19 outbreak make up less than 1% of the content released by SouthFront in 2020 so far. This is less than a statistical error. Nonetheless, the State Department report reads as if half of SouthFront content is ‘COVID-19 disinformation’ and most of the rest is made up of official statements by the Kremlin.

SouthFront Sends Warmest Greetings To US Department Of State
GEC Special Report: Russia’s Pillars of Disinformation and Propaganda

The part of the paper entitled Niche Graphics Capabilities emphasizes the “professionally designed” SouthFront visual content. We, the SouthFront Team, want to say thank you to the Department of State for its high praise of our work. This will motivate us to even greater efforts in the field to produce even more high quality content.

SouthFront Sends Warmest Greetings To US Department Of State
GEC Special Report: Russia’s Pillars of Disinformation and Propaganda

The conspiracy theory explaining the evolution and redesign of southfront.org’s side bar is a third rate fairy tale.

State Department investigators made several screenshots of the partners section of old southfront.org’s side bar pretending that its changes are something ‘strange’ and need ‘explanations’. It seems that far from everybody in the State Department spent time in university doing something useful. At least, we can recommend that they google “Occam’s razor”.

A small hint for State Department employees reading this article: Occam’s razor is the principle that, of two explanations that account for all the facts, the simpler one is more likely to be correct.

Time is moving on. Life is a complex and variable thing. Conflicts start and conflicts end. The geopolitical game continues, the balance of power in different regions of the world changes. It would be strange to expect that the list of organizations with which SouthFront stays in touch or cooperates would not also change over the years. SouthFront has always provided its content for free, on the basis of the fair usage principle, without any paywalls. Therefore, in 2015, when the conflict in Ukraine was dominating the media and SouthFront was producing at least 10% of its content on the issue, there was one list of media partners. In 2018, when the US-Iranian conflict escalated, the partner list was already different, and included some Iranians.

Meanwhile, the website itself was redesigned and optimized and the southfront.org sidebar made way to create additional free space; for example, for the ‘MAPS & INFOGRAPHICS DATABASE’ banner.

GEC Special Report: Russia’s Pillars of Disinformation and Propaganda

GEC Special Report: Russia’s Pillars of Disinformation and Propaganda

In the end, the content of the report just sinks into a conspiracy abyss allowing no chance for common sense to reassert itself. Likely in an attempt to link SouthFront to Iran or to the ‘bloody Assad regime’, the Department of State quotes a comment sent by SouthFront volunteers to Syrian Free Press. The comment includes a proposal to share videos with that blog, and is signed by SouthFront volunteers, not by the SouthFront Steering Committee.

This fact can only serve as a demonstration of the umbrella (franchising) nature of the SouthFront organizational structure. With the exception of facebook.com/southfronten, all the links mentioned in the comment are de-facto independent branches of SouthFront voluntarily created by groups of motivated people from different countries and affiliated with SouthFront only through their commitment to the SouthFront principles at that moment.

SouthFront is always glad to assist and provide consultancy help to people that stand up for freedom of speech and against the globalist censorship.

What is really strange is that State Department investigators failed to find the still existing independent branches of SouthFront in northern and western Europe. Probably, this could serve as another signal of the ‘depth’ of this investigation.

SouthFront Team is sorry to conclude that the Department of State of the world’s sole super power was unable to provide any facts to confirm their speculations about SouthFront being a front for Russian disinformation. Bogus stories, which have been circulating in various media outlets and think tanks funded by Euro-Atlantic structures for years, do not count. In reality, this likely means that the authors did no research of their own in the field and just copy-pasted and patched together already existing reports made by their friends from affiliated or allied organizations.

Thank God, the authors did not try to link SouthFront to supposed Russian meddling in the US election.

After such ‘high-quality investigations’ in this field, the Department of State would not even have a theoretical chance of saving face.

It would be interesting to get the reaction of the bosses of these staff members and of the leadership of the State Department itself, to find out what they think about such quality of work. It is highly likely that the group of State Department specialists that prepared the report presented it as an exclusive investigation that required a significant amount of time and financial resources.

Proposal to US Department of State

SouthFront proposes the leadership of the US Department of State expert help in the field of covering the work of SouthFront as a pillar of Russia’s disinformation and propaganda network. Exclusively for the Department of State, we are ready to prepare weekly reports about our work with a detailed overview of our content, links to the most interesting articles, videos and graphic pieces, and entertaining behind the scenes content about our work.

We are sure that these reports will be not less professional and entertaining than the paper described above. SouthFront’s direct assistance will also help Mr. Pompeo and his employees to avoid foolish factual mistakes in future (e.g.when somebody is not even able to read their own screenshot).

And last but not least, the State Department would be able to save hundreds of thousands of US taxpayer dollars. The US government would then be able to use these funds to combat the COVID-19 outbreak or help combat veterans.

Please, feel free to contact SouthFront via email: info@southfront.org

On August 5, the US Department of State also offered Russians $10 million for information about Russian meddling in US

Taking into account the high level of regard for SouthFront work held by the US government, you also can contact us regarding this topic. $10 million would be a useful donation to SouthFront’s budget. The contact email is the same: info@southfront.org

By the way, US government personnel know our email address very well. In previous years, we have received emails from them with proposals for fruitful cooperation.

As to the style of emails sent to SouthFront, we recommend that the staff of the State Department  contact their counterparts in the Department of Defense. They act and write much more professionally and are not too shy to ask about things that are interesting to them.

Using this opportunity, SouthFront wants once again to assure Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Department of State of our highest consideration.

Sincerely yours,

Russia and the next Presidential election in the USA

Source

Intro: not a pretty picture

Let’s begin with a disclaimer: in this article, I will assume that there will be a US Presidential election in the Fall. Right now, it appears to be likely that this election will take place (there appear to be no legal way to cancel or delay it), but this is by no means certain (see here for a machine translated and very interesting article by one Russian analyst, who predicts a diarchy after the election). Right now, the state of the US society is both extremely worried (and for good reason) and potentially explosive. It is impossible to predict what a well-executed false flag attack could do to the US. There is also the possibility of either a natural disaster (hurricane, earthquake, etc.) or even an unnatural one (considering the condition of the US infrastructure, this is almost inevitable) which could precipitate some kind of state of emergency or martial law to “protect” the people. Finally, though at this point in time I don’t see this as very likely, there is always the possibility of a coup of some kind, maybe a “government of national unity” with the participation of both parties which, as Noam Chomsky correctly points out, are basically only two factions of what could be called the Business Party. There might come a point when they decide to drop this pretense too (just look at how many other pretenses the US ruling elites have dropped in the last decade or so).

Alexander Solzhenitsyn used to explain that all governments can be placed on a continuum ranging from, on one end, “states whose power is based on their authority” to, on the other end, “states whose authority is based on their power“. In the real world, most states are somewhere between these two extremes. But it is quite obvious that the US polity currently has gone very far down the “states whose authority is based on their power” path and to speak of any kind of “moral authority” of US politicians is really a joke. The (probable) upcoming “choice” between Donald “grab them by the pussy” Trump and Joe “creepy uncle” Biden will make this joke even more laughable.

Right now, the most powerful force in the US political system must be the financial sector. And, of course, there are many other powerful interest groups (MIC, Israel Lobby, the CIA and the ridiculously bloated Intel community, Big Pharma, the US Gulag, the corporate media, Oil, etc.) who all combine their efforts (just like a vector does in mathematics) to produce a “resulting vector” which we call “US policies”. That is in theory. In practice, you have several competing “policies” vying for power and influence, both on the domestic and on international front. Often these policies are mutually exclusive.

Last, but certainly not least, the level of corruption in the US is at least as bad as, say, in the Ukraine or in Liberia, but rather than being on the street and petty cash level, the corruption in the US is counted in billions of dollars.

All in all, not a pretty sight (see here for a good analysis of the decline of US power).

Yet the US remains a nuclear power and still has a lot of political influence worldwide and thus this is not a country anyone can ignore. Including Russia.

A quick look at Russia

Before looking into Russian options in relation to the US, we need to take a quick look at how Russia has been faring this year. The short of it would be: not too well. The Russian economy has shrunk by about 10% and the small businesses have been devastated by the combined effects of 1) the economic policies of the Russian government and Central Bank, and 2) the devastating economic impact of the COVID19 pandemic, and 3) the full-spectrum efforts of the West, mostly by the Anglosphere, to strangle Russia economically. Politically, the “Putin regime” is still popular, but there is a sense that it is getting stale and that most Russians would prefer to see more dynamic and proactive policies aimed, not only to help the Russian mega-corporations, but also to help the regular people. Many Russians definitely have a sense that the “little guy” is being completely ignored by fat cats in power and this resentment will probably grow until and unless Putin decides to finally get rid of all the Atlantic Integrationists aka the “Washington consensus” types which are still well represented in the Russian ruling circles, including the government. So far, Putin has remained faithful to his policy of compromises and small steps, but this might change in the future as the level of frustration in the general population is likely to only grow with time.

That is not to say that the Kremlin is not trying. Several of the recent constitutional amendments adopted in a national vote had a strongly expressed “social” and “patriotic” character and they absolutely horrified the “liberal” 5th columnists who tried their best two 1) call for a boycott, and 2) denounce thousands of (almost entirely) imaginary violations of the proper voting procedures, and to 3) de-legitimize the outcome by declaring the election a “fraud”. None of that worked: the participation was high, very few actual violations were established (and those that were, had no impact on the outcome anyway) and most Russians accepted that this outcome was the result of the will of the people. Furthermore, Putin has made public the Russian strategic goals for 2030,which are heavily focused on improving the living and life conditions of average Russians (for details, see here). It is impossible to predict what will happen next, but the most likely scenario is that Russia has several, shall we say, “bumpy” years ahead, both on the domestic and on the international front.

What can Russia reasonably hope for?

This is really the key question: in the best of situations, what can Russia really hope for in the next elections? I would argue that there is really very little which Russia can hope for, if only because the russophobic hysteria started by the Democrats to defeat Trump has now apparently been completely endorsed by the Trump administration and the all the members of Congress. As for the imperial propaganda machine, it now manages to simultaneously declare that Russia tried to “steal” COVID vaccine secrets from the West AND that Russian elites were given a secret COVID vaccine this Spring. As for the US Dems, they are already announcing that the Russians are spreading “disinformation” about Biden. Talk about PRE-traumatic stress disorder (to use the phrase coined by my friend Gilad Atzmon)…

Although I have no way of knowing what is really taking place in the delusional minds of US politicians, I am strongly suspecting that the latest hysteria about “Russia stealing COV19 vaccine secrets” is probably triggered by the conclusion of the US intel community that Russia will have a vaccine ready before the US does. This is, of course, something absolutely unthinkable for US politicians who, (sort of) logically conclude that “if these Russkies got a vaccine first, they *must* have stolen it from us” or something similar (see here for a good analysis of this). And if the Chinese get there first, same response. After all, who in the US legacy media would ever even mention that Russian or Chinese researchers might be ahead of their US colleagues? Nobody, of course.

I would argue that this mantric Russia-bashing is something which will not change in the foreseeable future. For one thing, since the imperial ruling elites have clearly lost control of the situation, they really have no other option left than to blame it all on some external agent. The “terrorist threat” has lost a lot of traction over the past years, the “Muslim threat” is too politically incorrect to openly blame it all on Islam, as for the other boogeymen which US Americans like to scare themselves at night with (immigrants, drug dealers, sex offenders, “domestic terrorists”, etc.) they simply cannot be blamed for stuff like a crashing economy. But Russia, and China, can.

In fact, ever since the (self-evidently ridiculous) “Skripal case” the collective West has proven that it simply does not have the spine to say “no”, or even “maybe”, to any thesis energetically pushed forward by the AngloZionist propaganda machine. Thus no matter how self-evidently silly the imperial propaganda is, the people in the West have been conditioned (literally) to accept any nonsense as “highly likely” as long as it is proclaimed with enough gravitas by politicians and their legacy ziomedia. As for the leaders of the EU, we already know that they will endorse any idiocy coming out of Washington or London in the name of “solidarity”.

Truth be told, most Russian politicians (with the notable exception of the official Kremlin court jester, Zhirinovskii) and analysts never saw Trump as a potential ally or friend. The Kremlin was especially cautious, which leads me to believe that the Russian intelligence analysts did a very good job evaluating Trump’s psyche and they quickly figured out that he was no better than any other US politician. Right now, I know of no Russian analyst who would predict that relations between the US and Russia will improve in the foreseeable future. If anything, most are clearly saying that “guys, we better get used to this” (accusations, sanctions, accusations, sanctions, etc. etc. etc.). Furthermore, it is pretty obvious to the Russians that while Crimea and MH17 were the pretexts for western sanctions against Russia, they were not the real cause. The real cause of the West’s hatred for Russia is as simple as it is old: Russia cannot be conquered, subdued, subverted or destroyed. They’ve been at it for close to 1,000 years and they still are at it. In fact, each time they fail to crush Russia, their russophobia increases to even higher levels (phobia both in the sense of “fear” and in the sense of “hatred”).

Simply put – there is nothing which Russia can expect from the upcoming election. Nothing at all. Still, that does not mean that things are not better than 4 or 8 years ago. Let’s look at what changed.

The big difference between now and then

What did Trump’s election give to the world?

I would say four years for Russia to fully prepare for what might be coming next.

I would argue that since at least Russia and the AngloZionist Empire have been at war since at least 2013, when Russia foiled the US plan to attack Syria under the pretext that it was “highly likely” that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons against civilians (in reality, a textbook case of a false flag organized by the Brits), This means that Russia and the Empire have been at war since at least 2013, for no less than seven years (something which Russian 6th columnists and Neo-Marxists try very hard to ignore).

True, at least until now, this was has been 80% informational, 15% economic and only 5% kinetic, but this is a real existential war of survival for both sides: only one side will walk away from this struggle. The other one will simply disappear (not as a nation or a people, but as a polity; a regime). The Kremlin fully understood that and it embarked on a huge reform and modernization of the Russian armed forces in three distinct ways:

  1. A “general” reform of the Russian armed forces which had to be modernized by about 80%. This part of the reform is now practically complete.
  2. A specific reform to prepare the western and southern military districts for a major conventional war against the united West (as always in Russian history) which would involve the First Guards Tank Army and the Russian Airborne Forces.
  3. The development of bleeding-edge weapons systems with no equivalent in the West and which cannot be countered or defeated; these weapons have had an especially dramatic impact upon First Strike Stability and upon naval operations.

While some US politicians understood what was going on (I think of Ron Paul, see here), most did not. They were so brainwashed by the US propaganda that they were sure that no matter what, “USA! USA! USA!”. Alas for them, the reality was quite different.

Russian officials, by the way, have confirmed that Russia was preparing for war. Heck, the reforms were so profound and far reaching, that it would have been impossible for the Russians to hide what they were doing (see here for details; also please see Andrei Martyanov’s excellent primer on the new Russian Navy here).

While no country is ever truly prepared for war, I would argue that by 2020 the Russians had reached their goals and that now Russia is fully prepared to handle any conflict the West might throw at her, ranging from a small border incident somewhere in Central Asia to a full-scaled war against the US/NATO in Europe.

Folks in the West are now slowly waking up to this new reality (I mentioned some of that here), but it is too late. In purely military terms, Russia has now created such a qualitative gap with the West that the still existing quantitative gap is not sufficient to guarantee a US/NATO victory. Now some western politicians are starting to seriously freak out (see this lady, for example), but most Europeans are coming to terms with two truly horrible realities:

  1. Russia is much stronger than Europe and, even much worse,
  2. Russia will never attack first (which is a major cause of frustration for western russophobes)

As for the obvious solution to this problem, having friendly relations with Russia is simply unthinkable for those who made their entire careers peddling the Soviet (and now Russian) threat to the world.

But Russia is changing, albeit maybe too slowly (at least for my taste). As I mentioned last week, a number of Polish, Ukrainian and Baltic politicians have declared that the Zapad2020 military maneuvers which are supposed to take place in southern Russia and the Caucasus could be used to prepare an attack on the West (see here for a rather typical example of this nonsense). In the past, the Kremlin would only have made a public statement ridiculing this nonsense, but this time around Putin did something different. Right after he saw the reaction of these politicians, Putin ordered a major and UNSCHEDULED military readiness exercise which involved no less than 150,000 troops, 400 aircraft & 100 ships! The message here was clear:

  1. Yes, we are much more powerful than you are and
  2. No, we are not apologizing for our strength anymore

And, just to make sure that the message is clear, the Russians also tested the readiness of the Russian Airborne Forces units near the city of Riazan, see for yourself:

This response is, I think, the correct one. Frankly, nobody in the West is listening to what the Kremlin has to say, so what is the point of making more statements which in the future will be ignored equally as they have been in the past.

If anything, the slow realization that Russia is more powerful than NATO would be most helpful in gently prodding EU politicians to change their tune and return back to reality. Check out this recent video of Sarah Wagenknecht, a leading politician of the German Left and see for yourself:

The example of Sahra Wagenknecht is interesting, because she is from Germany, one of the countries of northern Europe; traditionally, northern European powers have been much more anti-Russian than southern Europeans, so it is encouraging to see that the anti-Putin and anti-Russia hysteria is not always being endorsed by everybody.

But if things are very slowly getting better in the EU, in the bad old US of A things are only getting worse. Even the Republicans are now fully on board the Russia-hating float (right behind a “gay pride” one I suppose) and they are now contributing their own insanity to the cause, as this article entitled “Congressional Republicans: Russia should be designated state sponsor of terror” shows (designating Russia as a terrorist state is an old idea of the Dems, by the way).

Russian options for the Fall

In truth, Russia does not have any particularly good options towards the US. Both parties are now fully united in their rabid hatred of Russia (and China too, of course). Furthermore, while there are many well-funded and virulently anti-Russian organizations in the US (Neo-cons, Papists, Poles, Masons, Ukrainians, Balts, Ashkenazi Jews, etc.), Russian organizations in the US like this one, have very little influence or even relevance.

Banderites marching in the US

Banderites marching in the US

However, as the chaos continues to worsen inside the US and as US politicians continue to alienate pretty much the entire planet, Russia does have a perfect opportunity to weaken the US grip on Europe. The beauty in the current dynamic is that Russia does not have to do anything at all (nevermind anything covert or illegal) to help the anti-EU and anti-US forces in Europe: All she needs to do is to continuously hammer in the following simple message: “the US is sinking – do you really want to go down with it?”.

There are many opportunities to deliver that message. The current US/Polish efforts to prevent the EU from enjoying cheap Russian gas might well be the best example of what we could call “European suicide politics”, but there are many, many more.

Truth be told, neither the US nor the EU are a top priority for Russia, at least not in economic terms. The moral credibility of the West in general can certainly be described as dead and long gone. As for the West military might, it is only a concern to the degree that western politicians might be tempted to believe their own propaganda about their military forces being the best in the history of the galaxy. This is why Russia regularly engages in large surprise exercises: to prove to the West that the Russian military is fully ready for anything the West might try. As for the constant move of more and more US/NATO forces closer to the borders of Russia, they are offensive in political terms, but in military terms, getting closer to Russia only means that Russia will have more options to destroy you. “Forward deployment” is really a thing of the past, at least against Russia.

With time, however, and as the US federal center loses even more of its control of the country, the Kremlin might be well-advised to try to open some venues for “popular diplomacy”, especially with less hostile US states. The weakening of the Executive Branch has already resulted in US governors playing an increasingly important international role and while this is not, strictly speaking, legal (only the federal government has the right to engage in foreign policy), the fact is that this has been going on for years already.

The example of Sahra Wagenknecht is interesting, because she is from Germany, one of the countries of northern Europe; traditionally, northern European powers have been much more anti-Russian than southern Europeans, so it is encouraging to see that the anti-Putin and anti-Russia hysteria is not always being endorsed by everybody.

But if things are very slowly getting better in the EU, in the bad old US of A things are only getting worse. Even the Republicans are now fully on board the Russia-hating float (right behind a “gay pride” one I suppose) and they are now contributing their own insanity to the cause, as this article entitled “Congressional Republicans: Russia should be designated state sponsor of terror” shows (designating Russia as a terrorist state is an old idea of the Dems, by the way).

Russian options for the Fall

In truth, Russia does not have any particularly good options towards the US. Both parties are now fully united in their rabid hatred of Russia (and China too, of course). Furthermore, while there are many well-funded and virulently anti-Russian organizations in the US (Neo-cons, Papists, Poles, Masons, Ukrainians, Balts, Ashkenazi Jews, etc.), Russian organizations in the US like this one, have very little influence or even relevance.

Banderites marching in the US

Banderites marching in the US

However, as the chaos continues to worsen inside the US and as US politicians continue to alienate pretty much the entire planet, Russia does have a perfect opportunity to weaken the US grip on Europe. The beauty in the current dynamic is that Russia does not have to do anything at all (nevermind anything covert or illegal) to help the anti-EU and anti-US forces in Europe: All she needs to do is to continuously hammer in the following simple message: “the US is sinking – do you really want to go down with it?”.

There are many opportunities to deliver that message. The current US/Polish efforts to prevent the EU from enjoying cheap Russian gas might well be the best example of what we could call “European suicide politics”, but there are many, many more.

Truth be told, neither the US nor the EU are a top priority for Russia, at least not in economic terms. The moral credibility of the West in general can certainly be described as dead and long gone. As for the West military might, it is only a concern to the degree that western politicians might be tempted to believe their own propaganda about their military forces being the best in the history of the galaxy. This is why Russia regularly engages in large surprise exercises: to prove to the West that the Russian military is fully ready for anything the West might try. As for the constant move of more and more US/NATO forces closer to the borders of Russia, they are offensive in political terms, but in military terms, getting closer to Russia only means that Russia will have more options to destroy you. “Forward deployment” is really a thing of the past, at least against Russia.

With time, however, and as the US federal center loses even more of its control of the country, the Kremlin might be well-advised to try to open some venues for “popular diplomacy”, especially with less hostile US states. The weakening of the Executive Branch has already resulted in US governors playing an increasingly important international role and while this is not, strictly speaking, legal (only the federal government has the right to engage in foreign policy), the fact is that this has been going on for years already. Another possible partner inside the US for Russian firms would be US corporations (especially now that they are hurting badly). Finally, I think that the Kremlin ought to try to open channels of communication with the various small political forces in the US which are clearly not buying into the official propaganda: libertarians, (true) liberals and progressives, paleo-conservatives.

What we are witnessing before our eyes is the collapse of the US federal center. This is a dangerous and highly unstable moment in our history. But from this crisis opportunities will arise. The best thing Russia can do now is to simply remain very careful and vigilant and wait for new forces to appear on the US political scene.

Another possible partner inside the US for Russian firms would be US corporations (especially now that they are hurting badly). Finally, I think that the Kremlin ought to try to open channels of communication with the various small political forces in the US which are clearly not buying into the official propaganda: libertarians, (true) liberals and progressives, paleo-conservatives.

What we are witnessing before our eyes is the collapse of the US federal center. This is a dangerous and highly unstable moment in our history. But from this crisis opportunities will arise. The best thing Russia can do now is to simply remain very careful and vigilant and wait for new forces to appear on the US political scene.

How Nazism Came to Dominate Both of America’s Political Parties

July 26, 2020

How Nazism Came to Dominate Both of America’s Political Parties

by Eric Zuesse for The Saker Blog

The following 11-minute youtube video is a good introduction to this article:

Ukraine Crisis — What You’re Not Being Told

On July 20th, Moss Robeson headlined at TheGrayZone, “Influential DC-based Ukrainian think tank hosts neo-Nazi activist convicted for racist violence”, and he reported the inescapably visible tip of America’s iceberg of pro-nazi policies regarding Ukraine. Ukraine is a country which during World War II was torn between supporters of Hitler versus supporters of Stalin, and which became non-aligned after independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, but which U.S. President Barack Obama conquered in a brutal February 2014 coup (called by some “the most blatant coup in history”), which coup turned Ukraine’s Government into the world’s most-far-rightwing, and even sometimes overtly pro-Hitler, anti-Russian, nationalistic White-Power regime. It’s far more anti-Russian than anti-Jewish, but it is both. Obama did this so as to bring into NATO the country that has the longest European border (1,625 miles) with Russia, and which would thus be the best place from which to launch nuclear missiles against major Russian cities including Moscow. Ukraine as the main launching-pad for an invasion of Russia had been only a wet dream for NATO planners until Obama came into the White House, but even as early as June of 2013 Obama was already quietly advertising for bids on what then was a school in Crimea, in order to modify it to serve as part of his planned new U.S. naval base there replacing Russia’s biggest naval base, which Russian naval base has been there, in Crimea, ever since 1783. Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin, enabled Crimea’s residents to block that part of Obama’s plan for Ukraine.

Adolf Hitler hated Slavs, including Russians, almost as much as he hated Jews; and, though Ukraine’s racist fascists — or ideological nazis — hate Russians even more than they hate Jews, America’s adoption of Ukraine’s nazis (racist fascists) and placing them into power, was a crucial turning-point in international affairs toward racist fascism. It is the authentic chief source of the hard-right turn, not only in the United States, but in many European countries. Until recently, nazism was far outside the mainstream, throughout the post-WW-II world. Clearly, now, that is no longer the case, and what Obama did to Ukraine is the main reason why (as will be explained here).

In post-coup Ukraine, children are being taught on the basis of the White-Power ideology, and, in the resisting regions — the regions that reject the coup — are mercilessly slaughtered (and the more graphic videos have been removed by youtube, and similarly for videos of adults being systematically murdered by Ukraine’s nazis). The post-coup Ukraine aims to get rid of its ethnic-Russian population.

Ukraine is the global beach-head for nazism, and even has two nazi Parties, one called “Right Sector,” and the other called “Freedom” (which got renamed that by the CIA from its original “Social Nationalist Party of Ukraine,” so as to be more acceptable to Americans and the EU). Both are even more anti-Russian than anti-Semitic.

The way America’s fake-‘progressive’, Democratic-Party billionaires-controlled, press, deals with the Democratic Party’s own “first Black President” Barack Obama (winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for his deceptive rhetoric) having done this — actually having stoked now racism throughout the world, targeted particularly against Russians — is to focus on the Democratic Party media’s distractionist theme of inter-ethnic, inter-religious, racist and other divisive American conflicts, as if this nazi problem’s overflowing now in Ukraine is not driven instead by geostrategic and imperialistic concerns in specifically U.S. policymaking, driven actually by America’s billionaires’ craving an all-encompassing global conquest, including conquest ultimately of Russia, which will be the last since it is the only other nuclear superpower. For example, the fake-‘progressive’ The Nation magazine, on 22 February 2019, headlined “Neo-Nazis and the Far Right Are On the March in Ukraine”, and focused on this far-right outpouring in Ukraine as being due to anti-Semitism, and to “pogroms against the Roma and LGBT,” as if Obama had cared about those groups. The chief obsession of Ukraine’s far-right has instead been anti-Russian, for at least a century, and that’s the actual fuel on which Obama was firing-up his coup in Ukraine: he was targeting against Russians, and not against Jews nor those other groups. By contrast, this article buried the anti-Russia issue, such as by saying, “A 2017 law mandated that secondary education be conducted strictly in Ukrainian, which infuriated Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and Greece. Several regions passed legislation banning the use of Russian in public life. Quotas enforce Ukrainian usage on TV and radio.” The one and only real target in Obama’s Ukraine is only Russia. The deception that’s practiced by America’s Democratic Party billionaires upon America’s left is probably even more insidious than is the deception that’s practiced by America’s Republican Party billionaires upon America’s right (“God, Mother, Country”). Deception of any person is mental coercion against that person, and such dishonesty is an especially highly skilled art for ‘leftist’ billionaires, because right-wing followers are unashamedly against the poor and minorities and anyone who is weak in the particular society. So, for example, in the present case: the people who were being herded into Odessa’s Trade Unions Building and burnt alive for printing and distributing anti-coup literature, on 2 May 2014, weren’t “Jews” or “Roma,” or “LGBT,” but instead just Ukrainians who were favorable toward Russia. Ukraine’s chief bigotry, under the Obama-imposed regime, is anti-Russian, not anti-Jewish, and any honest news-medium acknowledges this fact, instead of trying to deceive to hide it.

In Twentieth-Century U.S. history, the Republican Party was generally more right-wing than the Democratic Party; and, consequently, Obama’s moving the Democratic Party in the pro-nazi direction was an outright gift to Republicans, whose leading politicians were just as enthusiastic about the regime-change in Ukraine as the Democratic Party’s leadership was — and still is.

The irony here is that America’s biggest assaults against Russia have now come not during the Cold War, when there was an authentic ideological difference (communism versus capitalism), but instead after Russia, in 1991, ended the Cold War on its side (while the U.S. secretly has continued it on the U.S. side, in a craving for global conquest).

The classic article about the radicalism of Obama’s turn to nazism regarding Ukraine was written by an American who lived through these events in Ukraine while they were happening, George Eliason, who headlined, on 16 March 2014, just the first part of his four-part article, “The Nazi’s even Hitler was Afraid of”, and he subsequently posted the complete article here, where it can be read without those needless interruptions. He lives in Ukraine’s breakaway Donbass region, which Obama’s forces were bombing, and which Trump’s continue (though less) bombing, even today. Eliason reported honestly (not like The Nation, etc.). What Obama did to Ukraine was very geostrategic, and the changes in Ukraine were driven by U.S. billionaires, even more than by Ukrainian ones. Interpreting Ukraine’s current nazism as being directed mainly against Jews like Hitler’s German version was is profoundly misrepresenting.

Obama — with the help of both of America’s billionaire-controlled political Parties, and all of America’s billionaire-controlled or “mainstream” ‘news’-media — succeeded in transforming U.S. public opinion toward Russia, from neutral prior to his Ukrainian coup, to strongly negative immediately after it:

Gallup Poll. Feb. 3-16, 2020. N=1,028 adults nationwide. Margin of error ± 4.
“Next, I’d like your overall opinion of some foreign countries. … What is your overall opinion of Russia? Is it very favorable, mostly favorable, mostly unfavorable, or very unfavorable?”
FavorableUnfavorableNo opinion
%%%
2/3-16/2028721
2/1-10/1924733
2/1-10/1825722
2/1-5/1728702
2/3-7/1630655
2/8-11/1524706
2/6-9/1434606
2/7-10/1344507
2/2-5/1250446
2/2-5/1151427
2/1-3/1047457

Furthermore, during Obama’s first term, 2009-2012, he employed great cunning in order to portray himself as being supportive of a “reset in Russian-American relations,” and this lie (that he was intending to improve instead of to worsen U.S.-Russian relations) was one of the reasons he won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, but actually, when he entered office in 2009, he was already starting to plan regime-change not only in Ukraine but also in Syria (if not also in Libya) — two countries whose leaders were on cordial terms with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Obama was able to string Vladimir Putin along until 2012 to hope that Obama’s ‘reset with Russia’ wasn’t merely a ploy. On 26 March 2012, Obama informed Dmitry Medvedev to tell Putin that “On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved, but it’s important for him [the incoming President Putin] to give me space. This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.” However, it was all a lie. His intention was the opposite. The fact is that, already, Obama was actually planning, even as early as 2011, to overthrow the neutralist Government right next door to Russia, in Ukraine, and to replace it with a rabidly anti-Russian regime on Russia’s doorstep, which he was planning to bring into NATO even though only around 30% of Ukrainians wanted Ukraine to join NATO. But Putin had no way of knowing that Obama was planning this. And immediately after Obama’s February 2014 coup in Ukraine, around 60% of Ukrainians suddenly wanted Ukraine to join NATO. (That’s because the newly installed Obama regime propagandized hatred against Russia, which is NATO’s specialty.) People felt that if even such a ‘peacemaker’ as Obama wasn’t ‘able’ to establish constructive relations with Putin, then there had to be something very wrong with Putin.

Obama’s 2012 campaign against Mitt Romney featured prominently this trap for Romney, and he fell right into it. On 16 May 2016, I headlined “Who Is the More Vicious Liar: Trump, or Obama?” and I described there the exquisite deception that Obama had practiced against Romney and also against Putin — and against the American public — regarding U.S.-Russian relations, and Obama’s brilliant use and exploitation of the hopes by each one of those three entities in order to win the Presidency and defeat not only Romney but also Putin, and especially Obama’s own Democratic Party voters.

That deception has largely shaped today’s political world, throughout the world. Barack Obama was like the mythical snake in Genesis 3.

On June 30th, TheGrayZone bannered “US claim of ‘Russian Bounty’ plot in Afghanistan is dubious and dangerous” and their Max Blumenthal put it well: “The constant flow of Russiagate disinformation into the bloodstream of the Democratic Party and its base is moving that party constantly to the right, while pushing the US deeper into this Cold War.” It allows the Republican Party to move even farther toward the right. It moves the political center to the right. Obama was the key figure in this ominous development, which is politically poisoning the entire world. He was an international war-criminal in Libya, Syria, Ukraine, and more, and should be executed for it (as should both Bush and Trump). (That’s executed, after appropriate legal process, not assassinated, which is horrible and produces martyrs instead of lawfully condemned villains.) But his toxic legacy on global politics is even more dangerous than those smaller catastrophes he participated in causing (and for which he deserves to be executed). He was exceedingly ambitious and achieved a lot, of disaster and far worse.

—————

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

TURKEY’S POISONOUS HAND OF FRIENDSHIP

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Turkey's Poisonous Hand Of Friendship

While the situation in Libya continues to escalate and the parties are preparing for a decisive battle for Sirte, Turkey, which actively supports forces of the Government of National Accord (GNA), is negotiating with its strategic partners. On July 10, National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar went on an official visit to Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. During the visit, Akar checked the work of the diplomatic mission, had dinner with representatives of national minorities, namely Crimean Tatars and Meskhetian Turks, with Ukrainian businessmen and the head of the Special Monitoring Mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Taking into account the high tension of the situation in Libya, the defense minister’s dinner in Kiev was of great importance for the Turkish side.

According to Ukrainian Minister of Defense Andrei Taran, during the talks with Akar, they discussed ways to deepen cooperation in the defense sphere.

“The cooperation of defense companies of Ukraine and Turkey is of particular. The reached agreements will strengthen the defense potential of Ukraine. The potential and maneuverability of the Ukrainian army will significantly increase, what will contribute to the protection of peace in the region,” Taran said.

It cannot be excluded that one of the goals of the visit was to demonstrate to Kiev that Turkey favors provocative actions against Russia. Instability in the East of Ukraine or new provocations in Crimea are in Turkey’s interest at the moment. They allow to weak Russia’s position in the negotiation process on Libya at the very moment when GNA fores, supported by Turkey, are actively preparing for military action on the territory of their country.

In recent days, Kiev has become noticeably more active and has been pursuing a policy of discrediting Russia in all possible directions.

In the East of Ukraine the most recent incident happened on July 14 when 2 Ukrainian fighters died and another one received injures in a failed attempt to enter the territory controlled by self-defense forces of the Donetsk People’s Republic near the village of Zaitsevo. The sabotage and reconnaissance unit tried to attack positions of DPR forces but blew up on landmines in the area.

The Ukrainian side announced that one of the dead soldiers was a military medic, Mikola Ilin, who turned out to be a citizen of Estonia. His death was captured on video.

Foreign Minister of Ukraine, Dmitry Kuleba, called the murder of a medic an act of barbarism.

“I want to make it very clear that from a legal point of view, this murder has signs of a war crime, and from a moral point of view, it is nothing else but an act of barbarism,” Kuleba said.

He stressed that the diplomats will try to make the incident public.

“I will personally raise this issue. The response will be as tough as possible. We will attract all our partners. This situation will be made public,” the foreign minister said.

The death of Ilin led to the desired result, which was required by the Ukrainian authorities. The case was widely publicized. The accusations were immediately joined by the US Embassy, which previously rarely commented on the deaths of Ukrainian soldiers in the Donbass.

The European Union called the murder of a military medic a violation of the Minsk agreements, the agreements of the Normandy summit and international law.

Member of European Parliament, Michael Galer, blamed the Kremlin for the incident in eastern Ukraine on Twitter.

Besides the growing tension in the East of the country, Ukraine is increasingly speculating about Russia’s supposed intentions to conduct offensive operations in the South, which could be a response to the blocking of water supply to Crimea from Ukraine through the North Crimean channel. Water in Crimea is really critically scarce, but to solve this problem, Russia is completing the construction of a water pipeline, and is not preparing to seize the southern territories of Ukraine.

Despite the improbability of rumors about upcoming Russian attacks, on July 13, the head of the Kherson region (southern Ukraine), Yuri Gusev, appealed to the National Security Council to increase the number of military personnel in the region. Gusev also assured that Ukrainian military exercises will be held in autumn together with the Estonian military. However, the exact date of the exercise is unknown and depends on the conduct of large-scale military exercises of the Russian Armed Forces – “Caucasus – 2020”.

It is obvious that at the moment there are no signals that Russia is preparing for an offensive operation on the territory of Ukraine. Russia is currently experiencing quite acute domestic political problems, which the Putin administration is coping with worse. These include mass demonstrations in the city of Khabarovsk in the Far East and the introduction of constitutional amendments. Russian military forces are already involved in Syria, Moscow is actively participating in the negotiation process on the conflict in Libya, and the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan is escalating near its borders. For a number of internal and foreign policy reasons, Russia is currently unable to deploy a major military force in new theater of operations. Thus, there is no real threat to Ukraine, but there are more and more rumors and information noise created in order to discredit Russia.

Turkey's Poisonous Hand Of Friendship

The tactical Turkish support pushes Kiev to continue its provocations against Russia. In the current situation, Erdogan has a number of levers to promote its own interests through Kiev.

Turkey and Ukraine are far from being equal partners. This fact is confirmed by the indicators of bilateral trade. Ukraine is much more interested in the Turkish market than vice versa. Ukraine is on the 27th place in the ranking of import countries to Turkey, while Turkey is one of the main importers of Ukraine.

Since 2012, Ukraine and Turkey have been negotiating the free trade zone agreement, but the document has not yet been signed. Economists note that the parties cannot agree on the terms of access for both industrial goods and agricultural products to each other’s markets.

Vladimir Volya, an expert at the Ukrainian Institute of policy analysis and management, claimed that it was difficult for Ukraine to defend its interests in negotiations with Turkey, because “Turkey is the 17th largest economy in the world and the 6th largest in Europe”.

While the economic dimension is certainly important in Turkish-Ukrainian relations, the main tone of interaction between the two countries is set by the political dimension.

As part of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, Kiev has special hopes for Ankara’s support. First of all, on the issue of Crimean peninsula. Turkey does not recognize Crimea as part of Russia, to a large extent it is connected with the Crimean Tatar population, which is presented by Kiev as allegedly oppressed by Russia. The policy of protectionism gave Turkey a broad influence on the peninsula until 2014. Before Crimea became part of Russia, the Turkish-backed Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people had notable political power in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. Also, thanks to Turkey, various extremist religious organizations, such as Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami, felt blessed on the peninsula. Today Mejlis is banned in Russia and has been replaced by other representative organizations, and the cells of the terrorist organization Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami are consistently eliminated on the territory of Crimea. However, various sources indicate that there is still an extensive network of agents of the Turkish special services among the Crimean Tatars. Ankar still cherishes hopes

The important sphere is cooperation in the defense sphere. Recently, the Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF), Colonel-General Ruslan Khomchak, announced that the Ukrainian Armed Forces troops deployed in Eastern Ukraine will be equipped with Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 UAVs. State-controlled Ukrainian company UkrSpetsExport and private Turkish UAV specialist Baykar Makina signed a $69 million strategic cooperation agreement. Baykar Makina company is the most prominent of new Turkish drone makers penetrating the domestic and foreign markets.

“Turkish-Ukrainian defense cooperation will potentially go beyond drone systems,” the Ankara-based expert forecast. “Promising businesses could be armored vehicle modifications and, most notably, the Altay.”

While only a few European countries have agreed to supply weapons to Ukraine, Kiev is increasingly dependent on US and Turkish military assistance.

The Ukrainian State Company Ukrspetsexport in December 2019 exported to the Turkish company K.B.A.T. Ithalat Ihracat Mumessillik Ve Danismanlik Ticaret Ltd. the first batch of military goods under a contract for the supply of two S-125M1 Neva-M1 anti-aircraft missile systems totaling $30 million. They were  subsequently delivered to the Government of National Accord in Libya.

Turkey's Poisonous Hand Of Friendship

Apparently, in the conflict in Libya, Ukraine supports Turkey not only by supplying anti-aircraft missile systems. Shortly after Akar’s visit to Kiev, two ships left the Ukrainian ports of Nikolaev and Berdyansk in the direction of Libya. Perhaps Erdogan became more cautious after the French Ministry of Armed Forces accused the Turkish Navy of harassing an arm embargo on Libya.

Ukraine, in turn, is important for Turkey as a tool of maintaining influence in the Black Sea region and for balancing its own interests in relations with Russia. While relations between Turkey and its NATO partners have being deteriorating, and it cannot count on the military support of European countries in the Libyan conflict, Erdogan can rely on Ukraine, which has also been “betrayed” by NATO countries, because despite the protracted negotiation process and long-term promises, NATO is in no hurry to accept Ukraine into its structures.

Ukraine is not the only country of the former Soviet Union where Turkey is pursuing an active policy in order to promote its interests and weaken its ‘strategic partner’, Russia. Recently there has been an escalation of the conflict on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. The moment of escalation is chosen perfectly. The current political leadership of Armenia has done everything possible to turn the Kremlin against itself. Yerevan has provided its territory and created a favorable political regime for the deployment of Western non-state companies whose goal is the destruction of Russia as a state. These organizations are backed by Western Democrats or the Brussels bureaucracy. As a partner of Russia, Armenia did not recognize the annexation of Crimea. And the President of Armenia, Pashinyan and his entourage have consistently given signals of following a Pro-Western policy. Today, the only state that can ensure the existence of Armenia as a state is Russia, but Pashinyan is doing everything possible to break their ties.

Turkey pursues a policy of incitement among partner countries. It is seen is not only by groundless provocations in Ukraine, but also in the unleashed conflict on the Azerbaijani-Armenian border. While Russia does not hurrying to openly support any of the sides, Erdogan accused Armenia of starting the conflict and expressed support for Azerbaijan.

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There Is a Dark and Dangerous Forest Behind These Burning Trees…

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 • JULY 14, 2020


Roughly half-way through the year 2020 it is becoming pretty obvious that there are a number of major developments which almost got our total attention, and for good reason, as these are tectonic shifts which truly qualify as “catastrophe” (under the definition “a violent and sudden change in a feature of the earth“). These are:
  • The initiation of the global collapse of the AngloZionist Empire.
  • The immense economic bubble whose ever-growing size is the best predictor of the magnitude of the huge burst it will inevitably result in.
  • The implosion of the US society due to a combination of several and profound systemic crises (economic collapse, racial tensions, mass poverty, alienation of the masses, absence of social protections, etc.).
  • The COVID-19 (aka “it’s just like the seasonal flu!!“) pandemic which only exacerbates all the other major factors listed above.
  • Last, but not least, it is hard to imagine what the next US Presidential election will look like, but one thing is certain: by November we will already have a perfect storm – the election will only act like a battery which will feed even more energy into this already perfect storm.
To be sure, these are truly momentous, historical, developments whose importance cannot be over-stated. They are, however, not the only very serious developments. There are, in fact, several areas of serious political tensions which could also result in a major explosion, albeit a regional one “only”!
I will list just a few, beginning with the most visible one:

Turkey

Erdogan is up to no good. Again. What a big surprise, right? Every time I hear somebody writing something about Erdogan the dreaming of becoming the sultan of a new Ottoman Empire, I tend to roll my eyes as this is a cliche. Yet, there is no denial that this cliche is true – the neo-Ottoman ideology is definitely alive and well in Turkey and Erdogan clearly wants to “ride that horse”. So let’s list some of the things which the Turks have been up to:
  1. Syria: The Turks have clearly been dragging their feet in northern Syria where, at least according to the deal Erdogan made with Putin, the “bad terrorists” should have left a long time ago and the key highway should have been under the joint protection of the Russian and Turkish forces. Well, Turkey did some of this, but not all, and the “bad terrorists” are still very much present in northern Syria. In fact, they recently tried to attack the Russian Aerospace Forces base in Khmeimim (they failed, but that is still something which the Turks have to answer for since the attack came from a zone they control). Protecting terrorists in exchange for promises of immunity from their attacks has been tried many times in the past and it has never worked – sooner or later the terrorist groups always slip out of the control of their masters and even turn against them. This is now happening to Turkey.
  2. Libya: The Turks are also deeply involved in the Libyan civil war. In fact, “deeply involved” does not give enough credit to the Turkish military which used Turkish-made drones with devastating effectiveness against the forces of Field Marshal Khalifa Belqasim Haftar, the commander of the Tobruk-based Libyan National Army (which is backed by both Russia and Egypt). Only the prompt (and rather mysterious) deployment of Russian air defenses and a number of unidentified MiG-29s succeeded in eventually bringing down enough Turkish drones to force them to take a pause. The Egyptians have made it clear that they will never allow the so-called “Government of National Accord” to take Sirte or any land East of Sirte. The Libyan Parliament (of East Libya) has now given Egypt the official authorization to directly intervene in Libya. This makes some kind of Egyptian intervention an almost certain thing.
  3. Hagia Sophia: And just to make sure there are enough sources of tension, the Turks have now declared that the Saint Sophia Cathedral in Istanbul will no longer be a museum open to all, but a mosque. Now the CIA-puppet modestly known as “His Most Divine All-Holiness the Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome, and Ecumenical Patriarch” Bartholomew should be the most vocal opponent to this move, but all he can do is mumble some irrelevancies (he wanted to go down as the Patriarch who patronized the Ukrainian schism and, instead, he will go down in history as the Patriarch who did nothing to prevent the Ottomans from seizing one of the holiest sites of the Orthodox world. Truth be told, he probably could not have prevented that (Erdogan’s move is entirely due to upcoming elections in Turkey) – but he sure could have tried a little better. Ditto for the head of the Moscow Patriarchate (and, for that matter, the Russian government) who expressed stuff like concern, or dismay, of some form of condemnation, but who really did nothing to make Erdogan pay for his move.
What the Turks just did is a disgrace, not only for Turkey itself which, yet again, proves that the Ottoman version of Islam is a particularly toxic and dangerous one. It is also a disgrace for the entire Muslim world which, with a few notable exceptions such as Sheikh Imran Hosein, has done nothing to prevent this and, if anything, has approved of this move. Finally, this is a disgrace for the entire Orthodox world as it proves that the entire worldwide Orthodox community has less relevance and importance in the eyes of the Turkish leader than the outcome of local elections. Russia, especially, would have the kind of political muscle needed to inflict all sorts of painful forms of retaliation against Turkey and yet Russia does nothing. This is a sad witness to the extreme weakness of the Orthodox faith in the modern world.
Add to this all the “traditional” sources of instability around Turkey, including the still unsolved (and unsolvable!) Kurdish issue, the tensions between Turkey and Iraq and Iran, Turkish low-key support for anti-Russian factions in the various former Soviet Republics and the constant confrontation with Greece).
Turkey remains one of the most dangerous states on the planet, even if most people remain unaware of this. True, in the recent years Turkey lost a lot of its power, but it still has plenty of formidable assets (including a very strong domestic weapon systems manufacturing capability) which it can use for a vast spectrum of nefarious political and military interventions.

Egypt

Egypt is another country which regularly makes some headlines and then disappears from the public’s radar. Yet, right now, Egypt is faced not with one, but with twopossible wars!
  1. Libya: as I mentioned above, should it come to an open clash between Turkey and Egypt in Libya, there could be a rapid horizontal escalation in which initial military clashes in Libya could turn into clashes over the Eastern Mediterranean and even possible strikes on key military objectives in Turkey and Egypt. The only good news here is that there are a lot of major actors who do not need a shooting war in the Eastern Mediterranean and/or the Middle-East. After all, if it came to a true military confrontation between Turkey and Egypt, then you can be pretty sure that NATO, CENTCOM, Greece, Israel and Russia would all have major concerns. Besides, it is hard to imagine what kind of military “victory” either Turkey or Egypt could hope for. Right now the situation is very tense, but we can hope that all the parties will realize that a negotiated solution, even a temporary one, is preferable to a full-scale war.
  2. Ethiopia: Egypt has a potentially much bigger problem than Libya to deal with: the construction by Ethiopia of the “The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam(GERD)” on the Blue Nile river. While nobody really knows what the eventual impact of this dam will be on Sudan and Egypt, is is pretty clear that a civilization built along the Nile river will face a major threat to its way of life if the way the Nile river flows is disturbed in a major way (which this dam will definitely do).
Of the two possible conflicts I mentioned above, it is the second one which has me most worried. At the end of the day, neither Turkey nor Egypt will get to decide what happens in Libya which is mostly a kind of multi-player “chessboard” where “big guys” (US, France, Russia) will eventually decide the outcome. In the case of the dam in Ethiopia, the local actors will probably have a decisive say, especially since both sides consider that this is an existentially important issue for them.
If you look at a map of the region, you will see that the distance between the Egyptian border and the location of the dam on the border between Ethiopia and Sudan is a long one (about 1’200km or 745 miles). Should it come to a military confrontation between the two countries, this distance will pretty much decide the shape of the warfare we shall see: mainly air and missile strikes. The main problem here (for both sides) is that neither side has the kind of air force or missiles which would allow it to effectively strike the other country. This, however, could change very rapidly, especially if Russia does sell 24 of its advanced Su-35 multi-role air superiority fighters to Egypt, and even more so if Russia throws in a few capable air-to-ground strike missiles into the package (the delivery of the first Sukhois appears to be imminent). Then there is this “minor detail” of Sudan being stuck between the two combatants: Khartoum simply cannot look away and pretend like all is well if two of its major neighbors decide to fight each other over Sudanese airspace.
In theory Egypt could also try to mount some attack from the Red Sea, but right now the Egyptian Navy does not pack the kind of punch which would allow it to effectively strike Ethiopia (especially with Eritrea in between the Red Sea and Ethiopia). But that could also change, especially since Egypt agreed to purchase the two Gamal Abdel Nasser (ex-Mistral) class amphibious assault ships and helicopter carriers which, while not ideal, would definitely boost the Egyptian’s command and control capabilities, especially if the Egyptians succeed in deploying AWACS and strike aircraft (rotary or even light fixed wing V/STOL) on these ships. In practice, however, I think that the Egyptians could engage these ships much more effectively in Libya than they would in the Red Sea (especially since these ships are poorly defended against missile strikes).
Finally, not only is the GERD defended by decent air defense systems (along with a few decent, if aging, air force aircraft), a dam is a pretty hard target to disable: it is big, strong, and has a large volume which, by itself, also contributes to the “hardness” against attacks.
So there are reasons to hope that a conflict can be avoided, but it will be very hard to get the two sides to agree to compromises on issues which both sides see as vital to their national security.

The Ukraine

Yes, the Ukraine. Again. This insanity which began with the Euromaidan has not stopped, far from it. In fact, ever since the election of Zelenskii the Ukraine has become something of a madhouse which would be outright hilariously comical if it wasn’t also so tragic and even horrible for millions of Ukrainians. I will spare you all the details, but we can sum up the main development of the past months as “Zelenskii has completely lost control of the country”. But that would not even begin to cover the reality of this situation.
For one thing, the war of words between Trump and Biden over the Ukraine-gate has now “infected” the Ukrainian political scene and each side is now busy with what is known locally as “black PR”: trying to dig up as much dirt against your opponent as possible. Zelenskii is so weak that, amazingly, the previously almost totally discredited Poroshenko has now made a strong comeback and thereby acquired the support of a lot of influential nationalists. The latest incredible (but true!) “informational bomb” was set off by a member of the Ukrainian Rada, Andrei Derkach, who released a recording of Joe Biden and Poroshenko discussing the pros and cons of organizing a terrorist attack in Crimea (see here for details about this amazing story). This makes both Biden and Poroshenko “sponsors of terrorism” (hardly a surprise, but still). Other “juicy” news stories about the Nazi-occupied Banderastan include Zelenskii possibly fathering a kid with an aide and the brutal attacks on the members of a small (but growing) “Sharii” opposition party which the authorities not only ignored, but most likely ordered in the first place. It is not my purpose here to discuss all the toxic intricacies of internal Ukronazi politics, so I will only look at one of the major dangers resulting from this dynamic: there is talk of war with Russia again.
Okay, we have all heard the very same rumors for years now, and yet no real and sustained Ukrainian attack on the LDNR or, even less so, Crimea ever took place (there were constant artillery strikes and diversionary attacks, but those remain below the threshold of open warfare). But what we hear today is a little bit different: an increasing number of Ukrainian and even Polish observers have declared that Russia would attack this summer or in September, possibly using military maneuvers to move forces to the Ukrainian border and attack. Depending on whom you ask, such an attack could come from Belarus and/or from central Russia – some even worry about a Russian amphibious operation against the Ukrainian coastline and cities like Mariupol, Nikolaev, Kherson or Odessa.
The Ukronazis are truly amazing. First they cut off all the electricity and even water from Crimea, and then they declare that Russia will have to invade to retake control of the water supply. The notion that Russia will solve Crimea’s water problem by peaceful and technological means is, apparently, quite unthinkable for the Ukronazi leaders. In the real world, however, Russia has a comprehensive program to comprehensively solve Crimea’s water problems. This program has begun by laying down water pipes, improving of the irrigation system of Crimea, the use of special aircraft to trigger rain and might even include the creation of a desalination plant. The simple truth is that Russia can easily make Crimea completely independent from anything Ukrainian.
And just to make things worse, the head of the Ukrainian Navy (which exists on paper mostly) has now declared that a new Ukrainian missile, the Neptune, could reach as far as Sevastopol. The problem is not the missile itself (it is a modernized version of an old Soviet design, and it is slow and therefore easy to shoot down), but the kind of “mental background noise” that this kind of talk of war creates.
From a purely military point of view, Russia does not even have to move any troops to defeat the Ukrainian armed forces: all Russia needs to do is to use its powerful long-range stand-off weapons and reconnaissance-strike complexes to first decapitate, then disorganize and finally destroy the Ukrainian military. Russia’s superiority in the air, on the water and on land is such that the Ukrainians don’t have a chance in hell to survive such an attack, nevermind defeating Russia. The Ukrainians all know that since, after all, their entire military could not even deal with the (comparatively) minuscule and infinitely weaker LDNR forces (at least when compared to regular Russian forces).
Still, the Ukrainians have one advantage over Russia: while this would be extremely dangerous to try, they must realize that, unlike in the case of their attacks on the Donbass, should they dare to attack Crimea, President Putin would not have any other option than to order a retaliatory strike of some sort. Any Ukrainian attack or strike on Crimea would probably fail with all the missiles intercepted long before they could reach their targets, but even in this case the pressure on Putin to put an end to this would be huge. Which means that it would not be incorrect to say that whoever is in power in Kiev can force Russia to openly intervene. This means that in this specific case the weaker side can have at least some degree of escalation dominance.
Now the Ukraine definitely cannot achieve strategic surprise and is even most unlikely to achieve tactical surprise, but, again, the actual success of any Ukrainian strike on Crimea does not require the designated targets of the strike to be destroyed: all that would be needed, in some plans at least, is the ability to do two things:
  • Force Russia to openly intervene and
  • Choose the time, place and mode of attack most problematic for the Russian side
Finally, I would suggest that we look at this issue from the point of view of the AngloZionist Empire: in many, if not most, ways, the Banderastan the West created in the Ukraine has outlived its utility: the USN won’t get a base in Crimea which is now lost forever (it is now one of the best defended places on the planet), Russia has not openly intervened in the civil war, the Ukronazi forces were comprehensively trounced by the Novorussians and in economic terms, and the Ukraine is nothing but one big black hole with an ever growing event horizon. Which might suggest to some in the US ruling elites that to trigger a losing war against Russia might be the best (and, possibly, only) thing their ugly creation could do for them. Why?
Well, for one thing, such a war will be bloody, even if it is short. Second, since the Russians are exceedingly unlikely to want to occupy any part of what is today the Nazi-occupied Ukraine, this means that even a total military defeat would not necessarily result in a complete disappearance of the current Banderastan. Yes, more regions in the East and the South might try to use this opportunity to rise up and liberate themselves, and should that happen Russia might offer the kind of help she offered the Novorussians, but I don’t think that anybody seriously believes that Russian tanks will be seen on Kiev or, even less so, Lvov (nevermind Warsaw or Riga). So a military loss against Russia would not be a total loss for Banderastan and it might even yield some beneficial dynamics to whatever consolidated Ukronazi-power might come out from such a conflict. Actually, should that happen I fully expect the Ukronazis to declare a kind of jihad to liberate the Moskal’ -occupied Ukraine. This means that the initial bloodbath would be followed by a festering low to medium level military conflict between Russia and the Ukraine which could last a very long time and also be most undesirable for Russia.
During my studies I had the honor and privilege to study with a wonderful Colonel of the Pakistani Army who became a good friend. One day (that was around 1991) I asked my friend what the Pakistani strategy would be during a possible war against India. He replied to me: “look, we all know that India is much stronger and bigger than Pakistan, but what we all also know is that if they attack us we can give them a very bloody nose”. This is exactly what the Ukrainian strategy might be: to give Russia a “bloody nose”. Militarily, this is impossible, of course, but in political terms any open war against the Ukraine would be a disaster for Russia. It would also be a disaster for the Ukraine, but the puppet-masters of the Ukronazis in Kiev don’t care about the people of the Ukraine anymore than they care about the people of Russia: all they want is to give the Russians a big bloody nose.
In summary, here is one possible scenario which might result in a regional catastrophe: whoever is in power in the Ukraine would begin by realizing that the project of an Ukronazi Banderastan has already failed and that neither the EU nor, even less so, the US is willing to continue to toss money into the Ukie black hole. Furthermore, clever Ukie politicians will realize that neither Poroshenko nor Zelensii have “delivered” the expected “goods” to the Empire. Then the East-European US vassal-states (lead by Poland and the Baltic statelets) also realize that EU money is running out and that far from having achieved any real economic progress (nevermind any “miracle”), they are also becoming increasingly irrelevant to their masters in the EU and US. And, believe me, the political leaders of these US vassal-states have realized a long time ago that a war between Russia and the Ukraine would be a fantastic opportunity for them to regain some value in the eyes of their imperial overlords in the EU and US. To people who think like these people do, even an attempted Neptune strike against Sevastopol would be a quick and quite reasonable way to force Putin’s hand.
Lastly, we can now look at the situation in Russia

Russia

One would think that following the massive victory the Kremlin has achieved with the vote on the changes to the Russian Constitution, the political situation in Russia would be idyllic, at least compared to the sinking Titanic of the “collective West”. Alas, this is far from being the case. Here are some of the factors which contribute to a potentially dangerous situation inside Russia.
  1. As I have mentioned in the past, besides the “official” (pretend) opposition in the Duma, there are now two very distinct “non-system” oppositions to Putin: the bad old “liberals” (which I sometimes call the 5th column) and the (relatively new) “pink-nationalist” Putin-haters which I christened, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, I admit – as a 6th column (Ruslan Ostashko calls them “emo-Marxists“, and that is a very accurate description too). What is so striking is that while Russian 5th and 6th columnists hate each other, they clearly hate Putin even more. Many of them also hate the Russian people because they don’t “get it” (at least in their opinion) and because time and again the people vote with and for Putin. Needless to say, these “5th and 6th columnists” (let’s call them “5&6c” from now on) declare that the election was stolen, that millions of votes were not counted at all, while others were counted many times. According to these 5&6c types, it is literally unthinkable that Putin would get such a high support therefore the only explanation is that the elections were rigged. While the sum total of these 5&6c types is probably not enough to truly threaten Putin or the Russian society, the Kremlin has to be very careful in how it handles these groups, especially since the condition of the Russian society is clearly deteriorating:
  2. Russia has objective, real, problems which cannot simply be dismissed. Most Russians clearly would prefer a much more social and economically active state. The reality is that the current political system in Russia cares little for the “little man”. The way the Kremlin and the Russian “big business” are enmeshed is distressing to a lot of Russians, and I agree with them. Furthermore, while the western sanctions did a great job preparing Russia for the current crisis, it still remains true that Russia does not operate in such a favorable environment, revenues are down in many sectors, and the COVID19 pandemic has also had a devastating effect on Russian small businesses. And while the issue of the COVID19 virus has not been so hopelessly politicized in Russia has it has in the West, a lot of my contacts report to me that many people feel that the Kremlin and the Moscow authorities have mismanaged the crisis. So while the non-systemic opposition of the 5&6c cannot truly threaten Russia, there are enough of what I would call “toxic and potentially dangerous trends” inside the Russian society which could turn into a much bigger threat should a crisis suddenly erupt (including a crisis triggered by an always possible Ukrainian provocation).
  3. More and more Russians, including Putin-supporters, are getting frustrated with what they perceive as being a lame and frankly flaccid Russian foreign policy. This does not necessarily mean that they disagree with the way Putin deals with the big issues (say Crimea, or Syria or the West’s sabre-rattling), but they get especially frustrated by what they perceive as lame Russian responses against petty provocations. For example, the US Congress and the Trump Administration have continued to produce sanctions and stupid accusations against Russia on a quasi-daily basis, yet Russia is really doing nothing much about that, in spite of the fact that there are many options in her political “toolkit” to really make the US pay for that attitude. Another thing which irritates the Russians is that arrogant, condescending and outright rude manner in which western politicians (and their paid for journalists in Russia) constantly intervene in internal Russian matters without ever being seriously called out for this. Sure, some particularly nasty characters (and organization) have been kicked out of Russia, but not nearly enough to really send a clear message Russia’s enemies.
  4. And, just to make things worse, there are some serious problems between Russia and her supposed allies, specifically Belarus and Kazakhstan. Nothing truly critical has happened yet, but the political situation in Belarus is growing worse by the day (courtesy of, on one hand, the inept policies of Lukashenko and, on the other, a resurgence of Kazakh nationalism, apparently with the approval of the central government). Not only is the destabilization of two major Russian allies a bad thing in itself, it also begs the question of how Putin can deal with, say, Turkey or Poland, when Russia can’t even stabilize the situation in Belarus and Kazakhstan.
To a large degree, I share many of these frustrations too and I agree that it is time for Putin and Russia to show a much more proactive posture towards the (eternally hostile) West.
My problem with the 5th column is that it is composed of rabid russophobes who hate their own nation and who are nothing but willing prostitutes to the AngloZionist Empire. They want Russia to become a kind of “another Poland only further East” or something equally insipid and uninspiring.
My problem with the 6th column is that it hates Putin much more than it loves Russia, which is regularly shows by predicting either a coup, or a revolution, or a popular uprising or any other bloody event which Russia simply cannot afford for two main reasons:
  1. Russia almost destroyed herself twice in just the past century: in 1917 and 1991. Each time, the price paid by the Russian people was absolutely horrendous and the Russian nation simply cannot afford another major internal conflict.
  2. Russia is at war against the Empire, and while this war remains roughly an 80% informational/ideological one, about 15% an economic one and only about 5% a kinetic war, it remains that this is a total, existential, war for survival: either the Empire disappears or Russia will. This is therefore a situation where any action which weakens your state, your country and its leader always comes dangerously close to treason.
Right now the biggest blessing for Russia is that neither the 5th nor the 6th column has managed to produce even a halfway credible political figure who at least appears as marginally capable of offering realistic solutions. A number of 5th columnists have decided to emigrate and leave what they see as “Putin’s Mordor”. Alas, I don’t see any stream of 6th columnists leaving Russia, which objectively makes them a much more useful tool for outfits like the CIA who will not hesitate to infiltrate even a putatively anti-US political movement if this can weaken Russia in general, or Putin personally.
Right now the Russian security services are doing a superb job countering all these threats (including the still very real Wahabi terrorist threat) all at the same time. However, considering the rather unstable and even dangerous international political situation, this could change if all the forces who hate Putin and what they call “Putinism” either join forces or simply strike at the same time.

Conclusion

There are, of course, many other potential flashpoints on the planet, including India, Pakistan and China, the South China Sea, the Persian Gulf, the Korean Peninsula and many others. Thus the above is only a sampling of a much larger list.
The huge changes taking place before our eyes are real, and they are huge. But we should not follow the lead of the corporate media and focus on only one or two “hot” topics, especially not when there are plenty of very real dangers out there. This being said, there is no doubt that what will happen in the next couple of months inside the United States is by far the biggest and most important development out there, one which will shape the future of our planet no matter what actually happens. And I am not referring to the totally symbolic non-choice between Biden and Trump.
I am referring to how the US society will deal with a virulently anti-US coalition of minorities which hate this country and everything, good and bad that it stood for in the past. Right now the US elites are committing national suicide by not only failing to oppose, but also by actively supporting the BLM thugs and everything they stand for: BLM & Co. remind me of Ukronazis whose main expression of national identity is to hate everything Russian – the BLM thugs do the same thing: their entire worldview is pure hatred of the hetero White male and the western civilization; and just as the Ukies regale each other with stories about the “ancient Ukrs” the BLM folks imagine that they will somehow turn the US into a type Wakanda before expelling (or worse) all those who are not willing to hand over their country to roaming gangs of illiterate thugs.
While Russia has to face the potential of internal violence, the United States is already facing a dangerous and violent insurrection which is likely to become much worse as the economic crisis triggered by the pandemic fully explodes. So far, the effects of this crisis have been somewhat tempered by a combination of 1) political denials about the nature of the threat (“oh, nonsense, it is just like the seasonal flu!“) 2) the mass distribution of money (which has only helped temporarily) 3) the existence of a huge financial bubble which will only make matters worse, but which temporarily can create the illusion that things are not nearly as bad as they really are.
It is said that nature abhors a vacuum. This is true. It is also true that the collapse of the Empire has now created several vacuums which will be filled by new actors, but there is no guarantee at all that this transition will be peaceful. So while we are watching some very big trees burning, we should not forget that behind these trees there is a big forest which can also burn, possibly creating a much bigger forest fire than the trees we see burning today.

70 Years Of NATO: Is It A High Time To Retire?

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70 Years Of NATO: Is It A High Time To Retire?

NATO is a military and political alliance, a security community that unites the largest number of States on both sides of the North Atlantic. During its existence, NATO has expanded 2.5 times. It accounts for 70% of global military spending. It is rightfully considered the most powerful military association of States in the entire history of mankind in terms of combined armed power and political influence. The fact that this year NATO turned 70 years old, which is more than the independent existence of some of its member States, proves an incredible success of this project. However, while the Alliance has successfully resisted external enemies in its history, today it is experiencing significant internal divisions that threaten its existence more than ever.

The founding date of NATO is April 4, 1949, the day 12 countries signed the Washington Treaty. NATO became a “transatlantic forum” for allied countries to consult on issues that affect the vital interests of participating countries. The organization’s primary goal was to deter any form of aggression against the territory of any member state, as well as to protect against these threats. The principle of collective defense, enshrined in article 5 of the Washington Treaty, implies that if one NATO member state is the victim of an armed attack, all other member States of the Alliance will consider this act of violence an armed attack on all NATO countries and will take actions that the organization deems necessary. At the end of the 20th century, the real threat to the West was the Soviet Union.

70 Years Of NATO: Is It A High Time To Retire?

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the question arose about the existence of NATO, as an Alliance created to protect against the Soviet threat. The disappearance of the external threat has led to a process of transformation that has been going on for 30 years. Each stage of transformation is directly related to the adaptation of the Alliance to certain changes taking place in the international arena and affecting the stability of the security system in the Euro-Atlantic and the world as a whole. In addition to the collapse of the Soviet Union, one of the key events that affected the development of the Alliance was the terrorist attack of 11.09.2001, which actually allowed the Alliance to be preserved, since then there was a common external threat to the member countries.

Traditionally, NATO’s transformations are considered in the following three areas: geographical changes, political transformations, and processes in the military-technical sphere.

Important political transformations are manifested in adapting to changes in the international arena, which are represented primarily by the disappearance of block opposition. The Alliance remains committed to the principle of collective defense, as set out in article 5 of the Washington Treaty. The main command structures also remain the same. The main transformations are expressed in the form of declarations of new NATO functions: maintaining peace and stability not only on the territory of the member States, but also outside the area of responsibility of the Alliance. The operations carried out in these territories are aimed at maintaining local and regional stability, eliminating ethnic and religious conflicts, maintaining respect for human rights and various national minorities, and, most importantly, fighting international terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The “new NATO” is being transformed from a regional organization into a guarantor of global stability, taking responsibility for stability in regions outside its own territories and in situations not covered by article 5 of the Washington Treaty. Assuming global responsibility, NATO is forced to maintain the necessary level of military power, participate in collective planning for the organization of nuclear forces and their deployment on its own territories. New threats encourage NATO to expand geographically.

The expansion of NATO, which implies the inclusion of former members of the Warsaw Pact And the full-scale advance of military infrastructure to the East, represents a change in geography.

Changes in the military-technical sphere imply a General reduction of the Alliance’s collective military forces, their relocation, etc. The main form of transformation of the armed forces was the transition from ” heavy ” military associations to more flexible and maneuverable groups in order to increase their effectiveness in the fight against new threats. The beginning of the economic crisis in autumn 2008 revealed the urgent need for reforms. Member States were forced to reduce their military budgets, which meant abandoning programs involving the development and purchase of precision weapons. In 2010 the plan of the NATO Secretary-General A. Rasmussen’s plan to optimize the budget, and in 2012, the Chicago summit adopted the “smart defense package”, which implies a parallel reduction of funds and increased efficiency.

However, despite all the reforms carried out within the Alliance, today the new missions do not have the same clarity as during the cold war. Options for the purpose of NATO’s existence after the collapse of the USSR vary: the fight against terrorism, assistance in the spread of democracy, nation-building, “world police”, the fight against “soft threats”, the fight against a resurgent Russia. But the main problem of the Organization is that none of the options is universal for all member countries. None of the considered “enemies” unites NATO.

After various stages of transformation, NATO turned out that the condition for its perfect functioning was precisely the situation of structured confrontation. The current unstructured confrontation, which implies that all member countries have different primary threats, makes it meaningless to have a cumbersome and generally rather inert organization.

70 Years Of NATO: Is It A High Time To Retire?
Illustrative Image

In 2014, NATO had another opportunity to create a common external enemy, the role of which was approached by Russia. The summit held in Wales in 2014 radically changed the agenda of the entire Alliance. The main topic of discussion was the Ukrainian crisis, which led to the conclusion about the need to contain Russia. The final Declaration of the summit notes that ” Russia’s aggressive actions against Ukraine have fundamentally called into question the vision of a whole, free and peaceful Europe”. “The illegal self-proclaimed annexation of Crimea and Russia’s aggressive actions in other regions of Ukraine” were highlighted as special threats among the spread of violence and extremist groups in North Africa and the Middle East.

The appearance of a ” dangerous external enemy ” entailed not only political transformations. There have also been reforms in the military sphere of NATO. Among the new security challenges were “hybrid wars”, that is, military actions involving an expanded range of military and civilian measures of an open or hidden nature. The adopted Action Plan, which includes the concept of “hybrid war”, was primarily aimed at countering the tactics of warfare used by Russia. Thus, a number of measures included in the Declaration were directed against Russia.

NATO was forced to return to the role of a guarantor against severe security threats, which significantly increased costs for the organization. At the 2016 NATO Warsaw summit, it was decided to further deploy 4 battalion tactical groups to existing military bases in Poland and the Baltic States. In addition, more than 550 tanks and an armored unit of the United States have been transferred to the region. These units are deployed on a rotational basis, which does not contradict the NATO-Russia Founding act of 1997. In the Declaration of the 2018 Brussels NATO summit it is recorded that the “enhanced presence in the forward area” of tactical groups includes a total of 4,500 military personnel, which is approximately equal to one brigade.

70 Years Of NATO: Is It A High Time To Retire?
Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP

At the same time, it is clear that Russia does not pose a real threat to NATO. Real foreign policy practice proves that Russia will not threaten Western countries in the next 50 years. The only point of instability today is the Ukrainian conflict, which had no preconditions until 2014, and was in turn artificially created by the American establishment in partnership with Brussels. Russia, for its part, even in this conflict does not seek to expand its influence, and also observes the Minsk agreements that are unfavorable to It.

“The main reason why the United States has assumed the role of arbiter of the fate of Ukraine and its citizens is the allegedly increasing threat from Russia not only to Kiev, but also to Europe and the rest of the world. And this is despite the fact that it was with the help of the United States that mass protests were organized and the elected government of Ukraine was overthrown in 2013-2014, which led to the war that has now unfolded in the heart of Eastern Europe,” writes geopolitical columnist Tony Kartaluchi in the new Eastern Outlook.

In 2016, the RAND organization conducted a study that showed that in the event of a Russian invasion of the Baltic States, Russian troops can be on the approaches to the capitals of Estonia and Latvia within sixty hours. The study showed that NATO forces are not sufficient to repel the Russian attack. In an interview, NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller said that the main goal of deploying additional forces in Eastern Europe and Poland is to demonstrate the unity of the Alliance, and to maintain its members ‘ commitment to article 5 of the Washington Treaty. Thus, NATO adheres to the policy of declarative deterrence of Russia, in fact, its forces are not enough to respond to a potential attack from Russia. The NATO administration is well aware that the likelihood of a military conflict with Russia is minimal, but it continues to maintain the image of Russia as an aggressor in order to unite the member countries.

70 Years Of NATO: Is It A High Time To Retire?
U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and Poland’s President Andrzej Duda, leave at the end of a joint press conference in Warsaw, Poland, in June 2017. (Czarek Sokolowski/AP)

Moreover, maintaining the image of a dangerous enemy gives the United States the opportunity to promote its own interests in Europe and manipulate its “partners”.

On June 25, Donald Trump finally confirmed that part of the American military contingent in Germany would be transferred to Poland. In the end, the American contingent in Germany will be reduced from 52 thousand people to 25 thousand. According to official data, in Germany there are about 35 thousand US military personnel, 10 thousand civil servants of the Pentagon and about 2 thousand contract workers. Some of the US military will return to America, some will go to Poland to strengthen the deterrence of the “Russian threat”. In addition, according to media reports, Polish President Andrzej Duda and Donald Trump discussed the possibility of transferring 30 f-16 fighters.

“They [Germany] spend billions of dollars to buy Russian energy resources, and then we are supposed to protect them from Russia. It doesn’t work that way. I think this is very bad, ” said Donald trump, accusing Berlin of supporting the Nord Stream 2 project.

When asked whether the US administration is trying to send a signal to Russia, Donald Trump stressed that Moscow was receiving a “very clear signal”, but Washington still expected to normalize their relations. This only underscores the fact that the US is taking advantage of the perceived Russian threat to NATO.

The American leader, by undermining cooperation between Moscow and Berlin in the energy sphere, not only prevents Russia, as one of their enemies in the international arena, from developing a profitable project. The US is also interested in weakening the leading European industries, primarily Germany. The United States does not tolerate strong enemies, but it also does not accept strong allies. It is in the interests of the Americans to prevent the redevelopment of Europe as a self-sufficient and independent center of power in the international arena.

70 Years Of NATO: Is It A High Time To Retire?
Defense spendings in relation to GDP of NATO member countries

Therefore, Donald Trump is strongly calling on Germany to reimburse the billions of dollars it owes the White House. Trump is dissatisfied with the fact that Berlin does not comply with the promise made by all NATO members to increase defense spending to 2% of GDP. At the same time, Germany has already followed this path, increasing funding to 1.38%. In its turn, the US spends 3.4% of the state budget on the needs of the Alliance.

The problem of NATO funding is very often the main criticism of Berlin. However, in addition to this issue, new problems are emerging in US-German relations.

Washington is very dissatisfied with Berlin’s interaction with Beijing. The White House, which has strengthened the anti-Chinese vector of its policy, blaming the PRC for the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic and accusing the Chinese side of “controlling” the World Health Organization (WHO), did not receive sufficient support in Europe, and Germany criticized.

Moreover, Berlin does not support Washington’s sanctions policy on Chinese Hong Kong, which Beijing allegedly takes away its independence from.

The US is particularly dissatisfied with the EU’s desire for a major investment agreement with China. Germany is the main ideologue of this process and seeks to close the deal during its six-month presidency of the EU Council.

70 Years Of NATO: Is It A High Time To Retire?
“One Belt, One Road” Initiative

China today, of course, is the main competitor of the United States in the struggle for world hegemony. China also raises considerable concerns among European countries, which is primarily due to economic expansion and the successful development of the large-scale Chinese initiative “One belt, one road”. European leaders are also competing with China for resources in third world countries in Africa and Southeast Asia. In addition, there are ideological differences between the two world regions. However, China does not currently pose a military threat to Europe, which does not allow the use of NATO forces against it.

While Western countries see Russia and China as the main threats, strategically they are primarily concerned about Iran and North Korea. These countries are also a threat primarily to the United States, but their European partners are not ready to conduct active military actions against them at the moment.

The only real dangerous factor that unites almost all NATO member countries remains international terrorism, in the fight against which Western countries act as a united front.70 Years Of NATO: Is It A High Time To Retire?

The current military and political course of the European Union is determined by the clear desire of its leadership to transform the military and political organization into one of the world’s leading centers of power. The aggravation of political and economic differences with the United States is the main incentive for the implementation of this goal. Thus, the EU’s focus on increasing independence in crisis management in the area of common European interests has had a decisive influence on the development of the common security and defense policy. In order to reduce dependence on the United States and NATO for conducting operations and missions within the framework of “force projection”, the leadership of the Association has stepped up activities to develop its own military component.

France and Germany are the main engines of this process, and are promoting the initiative to create the so-called European Defense Union. However, despite active efforts to expand military and military-technical cooperation within the EU, the declared goals of creating a “European army” with collective defense functions that duplicate the status and activities of NATO seem difficult to achieve in the foreseeable future. This situation is due to the reluctance of the majority of EU member States to transfer control over their armed forces to the supranational level. Moreover, the US opposition to the process of forming the European Defense Union and the limited resources available due to the absorption by NATO structures of the major part of the defense potential of European countries, most of which are simultaneously involved in two organizations, do not allow the full implementation of EU political decisions on military construction. In this regard, it is only possible to talk about giving a new impetus to military cooperation in order to increase the collective capacity to protect the territory and citizens of the States of the region.

Given the lack of forces and resources for conducting operations and missions, Brussels is interested in the practice of involving military formations of third countries in its anti-crisis actions on the basis of bilateral framework agreements. Currently, such agreements have been reached with Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and a number of other States.

Currently, the European Union conducts 16 military and mixed operations and missions in various regions of the world, involving about 4,500 people. The greatest attention is paid to the “zones of instability” in North and Central Africa, the Middle East, the Balkans and the post-Soviet space.

70 Years Of NATO: Is It A High Time To Retire?
NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg

Thus, NATO today has to do everything possible to support the unity and coherence of actions of all its member countries, which are more than ever under threat. The main European leaders are no longer ready to support US policy and continue to sacrifice their own national interests. If in the case of Germany, this is manifested primarily in support of the Nord stream 2 project, despite the threats of the United States. France today supports its own interests in Libya, which contradict the interests of other countries-members of the Alliance: Turkey and Italy. Certainly, Turkey and Italy have different positions and aspirations in Libya. Italy was previously a traditional ally of France and does not actively intervene in the military conflict. However, now, given the current predominance of Turkey in Libya, Italy is trying to sit on two chairs. On the one hand, Italy, while supporting Tripoli, does not actively help them. On the other hand, in political terms, it clearly stands on the side of Tripoli and Turkey, thereby trying to ensure its share of participation in the next division of Libyan natural resources after the supposed victory of the Turkish-Tripolitan Alliance.

Summing up, today the imaginary Russian threat no longer allows US to unite the Alliance members, but only serves as a method of implementing US interests. The White House, which has always played a leading role in NATO and retains it thanks to the largest percentage of investment in the Alliance, allows itself to more openly abuse its leading position and promote its own national interests and the interests of its elites through the North Atlantic Alliance to the detriment of the interests of partner countries. Thus, article 4 of the Washington Treaty, which implies decision-making by consensus and is the basis of NATO itself, is of less and less importance in practice. The United States cannot renounce its membership in NATO and is interested in preserving it, because it is the Western Alliance that allows the US to give at least a small share of legitimacy to its military actions. A kind of neo-colonial policy, that the United States is used to employ in relation to European countries, and the current significant shift in the political paradigm within the US itself do not allow us to hope that the American leadership will be able to strengthen its position in Europe in the coming years.

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Ukraine’s Toe-hold in Europe

June 26, 2020

Ukraine’s Toe-hold in Europe

by Francis Lee for The Saker Blog

The open support given by the entire western media and political establishments to the regime now ensconced in Kiev should give cause for concern, but of course it doesn’t. After all it would not do to profess open backing for a staged coup by neo-nazi militants orchestrated and paid for by EU and US through non-government channels. Of course the CIA was involved but only in one of its various front organizations, to wit, the National Endowment for Democracy. This was the prototype ‘colour revolution.’ This process has been exhaustively delineated as follows:

In Ukraine, the demonically violent riots of 2014 were orchestrated by the US; that American agents in both private and public sectors were involved in organizing the “grassroots” campaign designed to destroy what was left of the country are now well known. The same exact script has been played out in Serbia, Georgia, Syria, Iran, Libya, the Gulf states, Turkey (briefly), China, parts of Central Asia and even Armenia. Not all were successful.

In Ukraine, State Department hack Geoffrey Pyatt brought US cash to begin the campaign against the democratically elected President, Yanukovic. Radio Free Europe and the western-controlled Ukrainian media (especially the Kiev Post) began promoting rumours of a “Russian invasion” based upon the obscure issue of Kiev’s desire to join the European Union. George Soros created the “Ukrainian Crisis Media Centre” as both government and private cash went to building a protest movement. The veto of a European Union Association deal was important to the elites in New York, though probably almost totally unknown to Ukrainians, hence, the “spontaneous rebellion” began with that.

The method of public-private manipulation of media, imagery and even language in these cases is well known and several important monographs have been published about it. Yet, over and over again, the organizers of this claim that the “revolutions” are “spontaneous.” over and over again, academics and talking heads – the “instant experts” created by the System – repeat the official line.

In general, the western elite mobilizes urban, privileged elements of the population, uses their own organizers and media personnel, and create riots through the building of local organizations. They are granted cash, equipment, technology, ideology and even leaders with a script to follow. Violence is encouraged and all manner of suitable provocations are provided. A handful in the west point to the fact that a) the trajectory is identical in each case; b) way too many of the protest signs are in English and c) there is no clear ideological mission.

Corporate media then report that this obscure part of the world was run by a “terrorist” that also was a “tyrant.” For the left, the System will say that the government under siege was “conservative” and occasionally “a right-wing military regime.” For the right, they will say that the government in question was “opposed to American interests” or “harbouring terrorists.”

In many cases, hundreds or more are killed. Ostensible and official enemies of the US are financed and armed. A new government takes over that immediately “privatizes” all assets that made that country a target in the first place. Constitutions are rewritten and the penal code revised to ensure no US agent is prosecuted. Afterwards, the government in question is impoverished and without legitimacy. The assets of the state have been liquidated and bought up by western conglomerates based on the “principles of the free market and the rule of law.”

Strange people are seen in cabinet posts having names without much connection with the ethnicity in question. The IMF and World Bank give dire warnings about government policy and yet, give billions that they know will never be paid back or utilized properly. Within a few months, major media begin slowly leaking documents that in fact, the protest were organized by the CIA and that the “revolution” was a failure.

As more time goes by, stories related to this “revolution” nonchalantly speak of the “popular and spontaneous revolution against the tyrant” as if it is obviously true. After several years, almost everyone spouts the original line without criticism, almost with media reports that it was all staged. The American talking head and pseudo-intellectual then carries a conceptual conflict within him that makes any real rebellion against the system psychologically impossible.

This is precisely the nature of the “Colour Revolution” from Tienanmen Square to Kiev.’’ (1)

Thus the situation in Kiev by 2014 was ripe for a colour revolution. But politics in the Ukraine can only be understood by reference to its history and ethnic and cultural make-up – a make-up criss-crossed by lasting and entrenched differences. The country has long been split into the northern and western Ukraine, where Ukrainian is the official and everyday lingua franca, and the more industrialised regions of the east and south where a mixture of Russian speaking Ukrainians and ethnic Russians reside. Additionally, there has long been Hungarian and Romanian settlement in the west of the country, Transcarpathia and Bessarabia, and a particularly important Polish presence in Galicia, whose unofficial capital, Lviv, was once the Polish city of Lwow. The Russian Orthodox Church is the predominant form of Christianity in the East, – but this has recently broken up as a result of the Ukrainian branch which has seen fit to rebrand itself as the Ukrainian wing of the Orthodox church – generally speaking, however, in the west the Christian tradition tends towards Roman Catholicism.

Politically the Eastern and Southern Oblasts (Regions) which includes the cities and centres of heavy industry, Kharkov, Lugansk, Donetsk, Zaporozhe, Nikolayev, Kherson, Simferopol (Crimea) and Odessa, have tended to tilt towards Russia whilst the western regions have had a more western orientation. This has traditionally been reflected in the electoral division of the country. There is no party which can be considered ‘national’ in this respect, except ironically, the old Communist party, which of course is now banned. The major regional parties have been the Fatherland party of Yulia Tymoshenko (since renamed) and the former head of government, Arseniy Yatsenyuk – now departed – as well as the ultra-nationalists predominantly in the west of the country, and the deposed Victor Yanukovic’s Party of the Regions in the East (now defunct) along with its junior partner in the coalition, the Ukrainian Communist Party.

However, what is new since the coup in February 2014 there has been the emergence, or rather the re-emergence, from the shadows of ultra-nationalist (fascist) parties and movements, with both parliamentary and extra-parliamentary (i.e., military) wings. In the main ‘Svoboda’ or Freedom Party, and the paramilitaries of ‘Right Sector’ (Fuhrer: Dimitry Yarosh) who spearheaded the coup in Kiev; these have been joined or changed their names to inter alia the Radical Party, and Patriots of the Ukraine; this in addition to the punitive right-wing militias, such as the Azov Battalion responsible for numerous atrocities in the Don Bass. It should be added that many of these militias have been integrated into the military and armed police, including the Azov Battalion.

Suffice it to say, however, that these political movements and parties did not emerge from nowhere.

This far-right tradition has been historically very strong in the western Ukraine, an area which was one-time part of the Polish empire but incorporated into the Ukraine by Stalin in 1945. The Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) was first established in 1929 and brought together, war veterans, student fraternities, far-right groups and various other disoriented socially and political flotsam and jetsam under its banner. The OUN took its ideological position from the writings of one, Dymtro Dontsov, who, like Mussolini had been a socialist, and who was instrumental in creating an indigenous Ukrainian fascism based upon the usual mish-mash of writings and theories including Friedrich Nietzsche, Georges Sorel, and Charles Maurras. Dontsov also translated the works of Hitler and Mussolini into Ukrainian.

The OUN was committed to ethnic purity, and relied on violence, assassination and terrorism, not least against other Ukrainians, to achieve its goal of a totalitarian and homogeneous nation-state. Assorted enemies and impediments to this goal were Communists, Russians, Poles, and of course – Jews. Strongly oriented toward the Axis powers OUN founder Evhen Konovalets (1891-1938) stated that his movement was ‘’waging war against mixed marriages’’, with Poles, Russians and Jews, the latter which he described as ‘’foes of our national rebirth’’. Indeed, rabid anti-Semitism has been a leitmotif in the history of Ukrainian fascism, which we will return to below.

Konovelts himself was assassinated by a KGB hit-man in 1938 after which the movement split into two wings: (OUN-M) under Andrii Melnyk and, more importantly for our purposes (OUN-B) under Stepan Bandera. Both wings committed to a new fascist Europe. Upon the German invasion in June 1941, the OUN-B attempted to establish a Ukrainian satellite state loyal to Nazi Germany. Stepan Lenkavs’kyi the then chief propagandist of the OUN-B ‘government’ advocated the physical destruction of Ukrainian Jewry. OUN-B’s ‘Prime Minister’ Yaroslav Stets’ko, and deputy to Bandera supported, ‘’the destruction of the Jews and the expedience of bringing German methods of exterminating Jewry to Ukraine, barring their assimilation and the like.’’

During the early days of the rapid German advance into the Soviet Union there were some 140 pogroms in the western Ukraine claiming the lives of between 13000-35000 people (Untermensch, in fascist terminology).

Below is what real anti-semitism looks like. The picture was taken in Lviv (Capital of Banderistan) In June 1941 shortly after the German invasion and during the pogrom which killed in excess of 2000 Jews in the city. The terrified half-dressed Jewish woman is running for her life being pursued by a cudgel-wielding mob of Banderist thugs.

In 1943-1944 OUN-B and its armed wing the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (Ukrainska povstanska armia – UPA) carried out large scale ethnic cleansing resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands; this was a particularly gruesome affair in Volhynia where some 90000 Poles and thousands of Jews were murdered.

The UPA were part of an ethnic cleansing operation carried out in Nazi Germanoccupied Poland by the North Command in the regions of Volhynia (Reichskommissariat Ukraine) and their South Command in Eastern Galicia (General Government) beginning in March 1943 and lasting until the end of 1944. The peak of the massacres took place in July and August 1943. Most of the victims were women and children. UPA’s methods were particularly savage and resulted in 35,000–60,000 Polish deaths in Volhynia and 25,000–40,000 in Eastern Galicia, for the total of between 76,000 and 106,000 casualties.

The killings were directly linked with the policies of the Bandera faction of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN-B) and its military arm, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, whose goal as specified at the Second Conference of the OUN-B on 17–23 February 1943 (or March 1943 according to other sources) was to purge all non-Ukrainians from the future Ukrainian state. Not limiting their activities to the purging of Polish civilians, UPA also wanted to erase all traces of the Polish presence in the area. The violence was endorsed by a significant number of the Ukrainian Orthodox clergy who supported UPA’s nationalist cause. The massacres led to a civil conflict between Polish and Ukrainian forces in the German-occupied territories, with the Polish Home Army in Volhynia responding to the Ukrainian attacks.

The campaign of the UPA continued well into the 1950s until it was virtually wiped out by Soviet forces. It should be remembered in this context that also in play was the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Galician)  which  was a World War II German military formation made up predominantly of military volunteers with a Ukrainian ethnic background from the area of Galicia  later also with some Slovaks and Czechs. Formed in 1943, it was largely destroyed in the battle of Brody, reformed, and saw action in SlovakiaYugoslavia and Austria before being renamed the first division of the Ukrainian National Army and surrendering to the Western Allies by 10 May 1945. The remnants of this force were given entry into both the US and more particularly Canada where they are a significant political force today.

It should be said that during this early period Bandera himself had been incarcerated by the German authorities up until his release in 1944, since unlike Bandera they were not enamoured of an independent Ukrainian state but wanted total control. Bandera was only released at this late date since the German high command was endeavouring to build up a pro-German Ukrainian quisling military force to hold up the remorseless advance of the Red Army. Also pursuant to this it is also worth noting that during this period the 14th Galizian Waffen SS Division, the military Ukrainian collaborationist formation established by none other than, Heinrich Himmler, which was formed to fight the Soviet forces, and yet another being the Nachtingal (Nightingale) brigade; this unit was integrated into the 14th Galizian in due course. It is also interesting to note, that every year, and up to 2014 a commemoration ceremony including veterans of this unit takes place with a march through Lviv. The flag of this unit is not dissimilar to the auto-car Peugeot logo, the standing lion, and can be seen at ultra-nationalist rallies as well as football matches involving Lviv Karparti FC, particularly fixtures in involving Shaktar Donetsk. There is also the annual torchlight demonstration through Kiev every 2 January in commemoration of Bandera’s birthday by some 20000 of his followers. This parade had all the makings of Nazi triumphalism, all very reminiscent of Leni Riefensthal German filmmaker and Nazi sympathiser. There are also numerous statues of Bandera across Ukraine, and since the 2014 coup even street names bearing the same name. Significantly the UPA was to receive political rehabilitation from the Kiev Junta, with Bandera declared a hero of the Ukraine and the UPA rebranded as ‘freedom fighters.’ One particularly splendid statue of Bandera stands proudly in Lviv, lovingly adorned with flowers.

Other novel attractions the capital of Banderestan – Lviv – include ‘Jewish themed restaurants’ one such is Kryivka (Hideout or Lurking Hole) where guests have a choice of dishes and whose dining walls are decorated with larger than life portraits of Bandera, the toilet with Russian and Jewish anecdotes. At another Jewish themed restaurant guests are offered black hats of the sort worn by Hasidim. The menu lists no prices for the dishes; instead, one is required to haggle over highly inflated prices ‘’in the Jewish fashion’’. Yes, it’s all good clean fun in Lviv. Anti-Semitism also sells. Out of 19 book vendors on the streets of central Lviv, 16 were openly selling anti-Semitic literature. About 70% of the anti-Semitic publications in Ukraine are being published by and educational institution called MUAP (The Inter-Regional Academy of Personnel Management). MAUP is a large, well-connected and increasingly powerful organization funded from outside anti-Semite sources, and also connected to White Supremacist groups in the USA and to David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

(It is perhaps one of the ironies of history that if the Zionists in AIPAC and the Washington neo-con think tanks, and the Labour Party Friends of Israel, were so concerned about anti-Semitism, they might try looking for it in Lviv. They wouldn’t have to search very far.)

Present day neo-Nazi groupings in Ukraine – Svoboda (Freedom) party and Right Sector – have been the direct descendants from the prior ideological cesspool. Heading Svoboda is Oleh Tyahnybok. Although these are separate organizations Tyahnybok’s deputy Yuriy Mykhalchyshyn is the main link between Svoboda’s official wing and neo-Nazi militias like Right Sector. The Social-Nationalist party as it was formerly known chose as its logo an amended version of the Wolfsangel, a symbol used by many German Waffen SS divisions on the Eastern front during the war who in 2004 a celebration of the OUN-UPA, stated in 2004, that ‘’they fought against the Muscovite, Germans, Jews and other scum who wanted to take away our Ukrainian state.’’ And further that ‘’Ukraine was ruled by a Muscovite-Jewish mafia.’’ Tyahnybok came under pressure from the then President, Yuschenko, to retract his inflammatory statements, which he did, but he then retracted the retraction!

Given the fact that Svoboda was, apart from its stamping grounds in the west, making little national electoral headway, it was essential to clean up its image and deny its Nazi past. But this was always going to be difficult since the members of such groups cannot help the unscripted outbursts and faux pas which they tend to make and which reveals their true colours. For example, following the conviction and sentencing of John Demjanjuk in 2011 to five years in jail for his role as an accessory to the murder of 27,900 people at the Sobibor death camp, Tyahnybok travelled to Germany and met up with Demjanjuk’s lawyer, presenting the death camp guard as a hero, a victim of persecution ‘’who is fighting for truth’’.

And so it goes on. We can therefore infer that this organization is inveterate fascist. More disturbing Svoboda has links with the so-called Alliance of National European Movements, which includes: Nationaldemokraterna of Sweden, Front Nationale of France, Fiamma Tricolore in Italy, the Hungarian Jobbik and the Belgian National Front. More importantly Svoboda held several ministerial portfolios in the Kiev administration, and Right Sector swaggers around Kiev streets with impunity, and/or are being drafted into a National Guard to deal with the separatist movements in the east, or to beat down anyone who doesn’t conform to their Ayran racial and political ideals.

One would have thought that this mutating revolution in the Ukraine would have drawn attention of the centre-left to the fact that fascism had gained a vital beachhead in Europe, and that the danger signals should be flashing. But not a bit of it; a perusal of the Guardian newspaper quickly reveals that their chief concern has been with a non-existent ‘Russian threat’. One of their reporters – our old friend, Luke Harding -described Right Sector as an ‘’eccentric group of people with unpleasant right-wing views.’’ Priceless! This must rank as the political understatement of the century. In fact, the Guardian was simply reiterating the US-imposed neo-conservative foreign policy. But naturally, this is par for the course. The bald fact of the matter is that there is a de facto alliance between the genuine anti-semites, not only in Ukraine but in the Baltics also, who are now allied with Zionists in the war against the emerging Eurasian bloc.

The Nachtingal (Nightingale) brigade, took part in a three-day massacre of the Jewish population of Lviv from 30 June 1941. Roman Shukhevych was the commander of the Nachtingal and later, in 1943, became commander of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (the “Banderivtsy”) or UPA armed henchmen of the fascist Stepan Bandera, who after the war pretended that they had fought both Nazis and Communists. Members of the division are also accused of having murdered some 800 residents of the Polish village of Huta Pieniacka and 44 civilians in the village of Chłaniów.

Stepan Bandera statue in Lviv

Ukraine today is in a sorry state; the poorest country in Europe only kept alive by an IMF drip-feed. The economic and social ramifications of the 2014 coup will be observed insofar as the full weight of the neo-liberal economic policies has been foisted on the Ukraine, courtesy of the IMF. This was already apparent in the early 80s but the trend accelerated after the coup. The standard IMF/WTO Structural Adjustment Policies (SAPs) a package of ‘reforms’ and ‘fiscal consolidation’ (I just love these IMF euphemisms) consisted of cuts in government expenditure, accompanied by extensive liberalisation of product and labour markets, together with abandonment of exchange rate control and capital flows. These policies along with political instability have had, among other things, a disastrous effect on population growth. Ukraine’s population was 52 million in 1992 and the decline started in that year. By 2016, this figure had fallen to 42.5 million, its 1960 figure, and was accelerated since the coup of 2014. The current Fertility rate stands at 1.3. Any figure less than 2 will mean a shrinking population. The death rate has also increased, along with mass migration with some 2 million Ukrainian guest workers decamping to Russia and Poland in search of work. This is a slow-motion demographic calamity.

Moreover, none of the economic indicators carry any hope of a long-term revival. The fact of economic disaster as measured in various statistics is, however, unmistakable: 2018 figures indicate per capita income languishing at US$3113.00 (compared to Angola US$3437.00). Debt as a % of GDP minus-2.15 Angola 2.19. Trade Balance for Angola stands at 25.3% Ukraine’s trade balance stands at -7.41% as a percentage of GDP. Unemployment stands at (officially at least) 10%, and in terms of external trade the current account has not been positive since 2003, those glorious days which gave rise to the ‘Orange revolution’. Finally, there are the rating agencies who provide the following ratings for Ukraine’s sovereign bonds– Moody’s B3, S&P B, Fitch B. B means below investment grade if we are being polite, junk bonds if we are not. (3) The currency – the hryvnia, exchange rate against the British pound is £1 = 34, hyrvinia. When I was last in Ukraine (2012) you would get only between 8 and 12 hyrvnia for a £. Ukraine is now the poorest country in Europe being pushed down to bottom by the next basket case above, Moldova. Welcome to the Sunflower Republic.

All of this in spite of the IMF’s loans and its unilateral debt forgiveness of the Ukraine’s outstanding sovereign debt to Russia which had become due. In doing this the IMF infringed its own constitution. As Michael Hudson explains:

‘’The IMF broke four of its rules by lending to Ukraine: (i) Not to lend to a country that has no visible means to pay back the loan (the “No More Argentinas” rule, adopted after the IMF’s disastrous 2001 loan to that country). (ii) Not to lend to a country that repudiates its debt to official creditors (the rule originally intended to enforce payment to U.S.-based institutions). (iii) Not to lend to a country at war – and indeed, destroying its export capacity and hence its balance-of-payments ability to pay back the loan. Finally (iv), not to lend to a country unlikely to impose the IMF’s austerity “conditionalities.” Ukraine did agree to override democratic opposition and cut back pensions, but its junta proved too unstable to impose the austerity terms on which the IMF insisted.’’

This was obviously a political decision made by an organization which is supposed to be politically neutral.

NOTES

(1) Matthew Raphael Johnson – Euro-Maidan – Liberal Capitalism – and the Ukrainian Fiasco – 08.06.2016

Victoria Nuland Alert

The foreign interventionists really hate Russia

PHILIP GIRALDI • JUNE 23, 2020 

It is difficult to find anything good to say about Donald Trump, but the reality is that he has not started any new wars, though he has come dangerously close in the cases of Venezuela and Iran and there would be considerable incentive in the next four months to begin something to bolster his “strong president” credentials and to serve as a distraction from coronavirus and black lives matter.

Be that as it may, Trump will have to run hard to catch up to the record set by his three predecessors Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Bush was an out-and-out neoconservative, or at least someone who was easily led, including in his administration Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Perle, Michael Ledeen, Reuel Gerecht, Paul Wolfowitz, Doug Feith, Eliot Abrams, Dan Senor and Scooter Libby. He also had the misfortune of having to endure Vice President Dick Cheney, who thought he was actually the man in charge. All were hawks who believed that the United States had the right to do whatever it considered necessary to enhance its own security, to include invading other countries, which led to Afghanistan and Iraq, where the U.S. still has forces stationed nearly twenty years later.

Clinton and Obama were so-called liberal interventionists who sought to export something called democracy to other countries in an attempt to make them more like Peoria. Clinton bombed Afghanistan and Sudan as a diversion when the press somehow caught wind of his arrangement with Monica Lewinsky and Obama, aided by Mrs. Clinton, chose to destroy Libya. Obama was also the first president to set up a regular Tuesday morning session to review a list of American citizens who would benefit from being killed by drone.

So the difference between neocons and liberal interventionists is one of style rather than substance. And, by either yardstick all-in-all, Trump looks pretty good, but there has nevertheless been a resurgence of neocon-think in his administration. The America the exceptional mindset is best exemplified currently by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who personifies the belief that the United States is empowered by God to play only by its own rules when dealing with other nations. That would include following the advice that has been attributed to leading neocon Michael Ledeen, “Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business.

One of the first families within the neocon/liberal interventionist firmament is the Kagans, Robert and Frederick. Frederick is a Senior Fellow at the neocon American Enterprise Institute and his wife Kimberly heads the bizarrely named Institute for the Study of War. Victoria Nuland, wife of Robert, is currently the Senior Counselor at the Albright Stonebridge Group and a Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution. That means that Victoria aligns primarily as a liberal interventionist, as does her husband, who is also at Brookings. She is regarded as a protégé of Hillary Clinton and currently works with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who once declared that killing 500,000 Iraqi children using sanctions was “worth it.” Nuland also has significant neocon connections through her having been a member of the staff assembled by Dick Cheney.

Nuland, many will recall, was the driving force behind efforts to destabilize the Ukrainian government of President Viktor Yanukovych in 2013-2014. Yanukovych, an admittedly corrupt autocrat, nevertheless became Prime Minister after a free election. Nuland, who was the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs at the State Department, provided open support to the Maidan Square demonstrators opposed to Yanukovych’s government, to include media friendly appearances passing out cookies on the square to encourage the protesters.

Nuland openly sought regime change for Ukraine by brazenly supporting government opponents in spite of the fact that Washington and Kiev had ostensibly friendly relations. It is hard to imagine that any U.S. administration would tolerate a similar attempt by a foreign nation to interfere in U.S. domestic politics, particularly if it were backed by a $5 billion budget, but Washington has long believed in a global double standard for evaluating its own behavior.

Nuland is most famous for her foul language when referring to the potential European role in managing the unrest that she and the National Endowment for Democracy had helped create in Ukraine. For Nuland, the replacement of the government in Kiev was only the prelude to a sharp break and escalating conflict with the real enemy, Moscow, over Russia’s attempts to protect its own interests in Ukraine, most particularly in Crimea.

And make no mistake about Nuland’s broader intention at that time to expand the conflict and directly confront Russia. In Senate testimony she cited how the administration was “providing support to other frontline states like Moldova and Georgia.” Her use of the word “frontline” is suggestive.

Victoria Nuland was playing with fire. Russia, as the only nation with the military capability to destroy the U.S., was and is not a sideshow like Saddam Hussein’s Iraq or the Taliban’s Afghanistan. Backing Moscow into a corner with no way out by using threats and sanctions is not good policy. Washington has many excellent reasons to maintain a stable relationship with Moscow, including counter-terrorism efforts, and little to gain from moving in the opposite direction. Russia is not about to reconstitute the Warsaw Pact and there is no compelling reason to return to a Cold War footing by either arming Ukraine or permitting it to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Victoria Nuland has just written a long article for July/August issue of Foreign Affairsmagazine on the proper way for the United States manage what she sees as the Russian “threat.” It is entitled “How a Confident America Should Deal With Russia.” Foreign Affairs, it should be observed, is an establishment house organ produced by the Council on Foreign Relations which provides a comfortable perch for both neocons and liberal interventionists.

Nuland’s view is that the United States lost confidence in its own “ability to change the game” against Vladimir Putin, who has been able to play “a weak hand well because the United States and its allies have let him, allowing Russia to violate arms control treaties, international law, the sovereignty of its neighbors, and the integrity of elections in the United States and Europe… Washington and its allies have forgotten the statecraft that won the Cold War and continued to yield results for many years after. That strategy required consistent U.S. leadership at the presidential level, unity with democratic allies and partners, and a shared resolve to deter and roll back dangerous behavior by the Kremlin. It also included incentives for Moscow to cooperate and, at times, direct appeals to the Russian people about the benefits of a better relationship. Yet that approach has fallen into disuse, even as Russia’s threat to the liberal world has grown.”

What Nuland writes would make perfect sense if one were to share her perception of Russia as a rogue state threatening the “liberal world.” She sees Russian rearmament under Putin as a threat even though it was dwarfed by the spending of NATO and the U.S. She shares her fear that Putin might seek “…reestablishing a Russian sphere of influence in eastern Europe and from vetoing the security arrangements of his neighbors. Here, a chasm soon opened between liberal democracies and the still very Soviet man leading Russia, especially on the subject of NATO enlargement. No matter how hard Washington and its allies tried to persuade Moscow that NATO was a purely defensive alliance that posed no threat to Russia, it continued to serve Putin’s agenda to see Europe in zero-sum terms.”

Nuland’s view of NATO enlargement is so wide of the mark that it borders on being a fantasy. Of course, Russia would consider a military alliance on its doorstep to be a threat, particularly as a U.S. Administration had provided assurances that expansion would not take place. She goes on to suggest utter nonsense, that Putin’s great fear over the NATO expansion derives from his having “…always understood that a belt of increasingly democratic, prosperous states around Russia would pose a direct challenge to his leadership model and risk re-infecting his own people with democratic aspirations.”

Nuland goes on and on in a similar vein, but her central theme is that Russia must be confronted to deter Vladimir Putin, a man that she clearly hates and depicts as if he were a comic book version of evil. Some of her analysis is ridiculous, as “Russian troops regularly test the few U.S. forces left in Syria to try to gain access to the country’s oil fields and smuggling routes. If these U.S. troops left, nothing would prevent Moscow and Tehran from financing their operations with Syrian oil or smuggled drugs and weapons.”

Like most zealots, Nuland is notably lacking in any sense of self-criticism. She conspired to overthrow a legitimately elected democratic government in Ukraine because it was considered too friendly to Russia. She accuses the Kremlin of having “seized” Crimea, but fails to see the heavy footprint of the U.S. military in Afghanistan and Iraq and as a regional enabler of Israeli and Saudi war crimes. One wonders if she is aware that Russia, which she sees as expansionistic, has only one overseas military base while the United States has more than a thousand.

Nuland clearly chooses not to notice the White House’s threats against countries that do not toe the American line, most recently Iran and Venezuela, but increasingly also China on top of perennial enemy Russia. None of those nations threaten the United States and all the kinetic activity and warnings are forthcoming from a gentleman named Mike Pompeo, speaking from Washington, not from “undemocratic” leaders in the Kremlin, Tehran, Caracas or Beijing.

Victoria Nuland recommends that “The challenge for the United States in 2021 will be to lead the democracies of the world in crafting a more effective approach to Russia—one that builds on their strengths and puts stress on Putin where he is vulnerable, including among his own citizens.” Interestingly, that might be regarded as seeking to interfere in the workings of a foreign government, reminiscent of the phony case made against Russia in 2016. And it is precisely what Nuland did in fact do in Ukraine.

Nuland has a lot more to say in her article and those who are interested in the current state of interventionism in Washington should not ignore her. Confronting Russia as some kind of ideological enemy is a never-ending process that leaves both sides poorer and less free. It is appropriate for Moscow to have an interest in what goes on right on top of its border while the United States five thousand miles away and possessing both a vastly larger economy and armed forces can, one would think, relax a bit and unload the burden of being the world’s self-appointed policeman.

Philip M. Giraldi, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a 501(c)3 tax deductible educational foundation (Federal ID Number #52-1739023) that seeks a more interests-based U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Website is https://councilforthenationalinterest.org, address is P.O. Box 2157, Purcellville VA 20134 and its email is inform@cnionline.org.

THE ISTANBUL CANAL AS AN INSTRUMENT OF ERDOGAN’S MULTIPOLARITY

South Front

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

From Father of Turks to Father of Ottomans

Turkey’s president Erdogan will no doubt go down in history as the leader who overturned the legacy of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and ended the country’s experiment as a secular nation-state. Perhaps that experiment was doomed to fail from the start—Turkish leaders over the decades have never found a workable formula for including the Kurds in the larger Turkish body politic, except through policies of forcible assimilation. Erdogan, however, was the first to decide to put an end to it and instead reorganize Turkey around principles of neo-Ottomanism and pan-Turkism, in which the economically powerful, politically viable, and culturally proximate Turkish state would no longer seek to join the European Union. Instead it would become a source of international governance, development, and security assistance to the polities which emerged from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire, and even to those which were not part of the empire.

As this policy was guaranteed to provoke a negative reaction from every other power player in the region, including Turkey’s ostensible allies in NATO, Erdogan ended up pursuing a policy of “equidistance” with every politically relevant player in his neighborhood. NATO, yes, but also S-400 from Russia. Allowing Russian military flights to use Turkish airspace, yes, but also sales of Bayraktar attack drones and other military equipment to Ukraine. Turkish Stream, yes, but also the Instanbul Canal.

Ending Montreaux

The 1936 Montreaux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits is but one of many Ataturk’s legacies. Signed in 1936 in the Montreaux Palace in Switzerland, it is arguably the only arms control treaty of the interwar era still extant. At the time, it represented an effort to put an end to the centuries of conflict over the control of the Black Sea Straits by giving Turkey control while at the same time limiting other powers’ ability to project naval military power in or out of the Black Sea. In some respects the restrictions on the passage of warships are very real. For example, the Convention allows no more than nine warships with a total displacement of 15 thousand tons to pass through the Straits at any one time. In practice it means a single US AEGIS cruiser or destroyer, and while nothing prevents additional ships from passing later, the total tonnage of foreign warships belonging to powers that do not have Black Sea coastlines of their own cannot exceed 30 thousand tons (45 thousand in exceptional cases), which, again, limits the US Navy to no more than 2-3 AEGIS ships. Combined with a ban on capital ships, which includes aircraft carriers, from foreign navies, it means NATO would be hard-pressed to mount a serious aeronaval operation against any target on the Black Sea. While Montreaux was not greatly tested during World War 2, and the Warsaw Pact aerial and naval preponderance meant challenging it would be a futile exercise in the first place, it has proven its worth in the last decade, particularly after the reunification of Crimea with the Russian Federation. Had it not been in place, NATO’s demonstrations of force in the Black Sea might have been considerably more muscular, to the point of accidentally triggering an armed confrontation. While Russia has always been a supporter of the Montreaux Convention, its current relative military weakness in the Black Sea, where it faces the navies of three NATO member states and currently also that of Ukraine, means the Convention is all the more important to its security.

However, the proposed Istanbul Canal is not covered by the Montreaux Convention, as it specifically pertains to regulating military traffic through the Straits. To be sure, interested parties are bound to argue the intent of the Convention was to cover the passage of naval warships in and out of the Black Sea, and establish a certain level of collective security there. With that in mind, it should not matter whether foreign warships enter the Black Sea via the Straits or through the new Istanbul Canal. Moreover, even when the Canal is functioning any warship entering the Black Sea will have to have passed through one of the two straits—the Dardanelles, since the Istanbul Canal, if completed, will bypass only one of the two straits. The Montreaux Convention specifically refers to the “regime of the Straits”, not a regime of the Bosphorus. Nevertheless, one can be equally certain that some interested parties will make the legalistic argument that that the Montreaux Convention only regulates the passage of warships that pass through both of the straits. Ships may, after all, gain access to the Sea of Marmara that separates the two straits without restrictions placed on ships passing into the Black Sea. Turkish officials have been ambiguous on the future status of the Montreaux Convention, should Istanbul Canal enter into operation.

Gas Warfare

The second dimension of the proposed canal is economic. While the Montreaux Convention does not regulate the passage of cargo ships through the straits, the Bosphorus in particular remains a relatively narrow and convoluted passageway. When one also considers the high population density on both banks of the Bosphorus, the use of this strait by oil tankers and liquefied natural gas (LNG) carriers raises particular safety concerns. Indeed, up to about 2015 the Turkish government prohibited LNG carriers from traversing the Bosphorus. While this changed during Erdogan’s rule, the ever-present danger of a serious incident means it is only a temporary solution.

Thus even if Turkey opts to apply Montreaux Convention rules on passage of warships remain unaffected, Istanbul Canal will have the potential to considerably increase tanker traffic in and out of the Black Sea. In view of Erdogan’s interest in building up relations with Ukraine, and Ukraine’s search for alternative sources of natural gas, the Canal would have the effect of increasing Turkey’s sphere of influence over the Black Sea. At the moment, there is not a single LNG terminal anywhere on the Black Sea. However, that could change once the construction of the canal moves forward. The most likely candidates are Ukraine, with a proposed site in Odessa, and Romania, with the natural location being Konstanta. US interest in promoting its own interests and expanding political control through oil and gas exports means that either or both projects would be met with enthusiastic US support.

The Mentally Sick Man of Europe

While even the most optimistic estimates do not predict the canal could be built in less than a decade, at a cost approaching $100 billion. Turkey’s own financial situation is not such that it can allow itself such a luxury without undermining other projects, and Erdogan’s ability to alienate other leaders means outside funding might be difficult to come by, particularly if outside funding means outside control over the canal. Yet the whole idea behind the canal is that it should serve the sovereign needs of Turkey. In such circumstances, who would be willing to bankroll Erdogan’s unpredictable whims? No amount of refugee crises is liable to extract that kind of a contribution from the European Union, and US funding would naturally come with US control. So it is no surprise the project’s initial construction start date of 2013 has slipped rather dramatically. Even right now, in 2020, the Turkish government is only talking about launching a tender to select firms that would be engaged in its construction.

Therefore at the moment Istanbul Canal is confined to the realm of pipe dreams. In order for it to be completed, it would have to become the biggest state priority in Turkish politics, and would require international financial and possibly also technological support. While there is no doubting Erdogan’s determination to transform Turkey into a power player capable of dictating its will to its geopolitical neighbors and rivals, the country he governs lacks the capacity for transforming his dreams into reality.

Russian naval presence in Indian Ocean

By Nat South for The Saker Blog

I am interested in the way that narratives that shape individual events are crafted, curated and disseminated, because ultimately there is a tendency to focus mostly on specific events and ignore the wider context. Ultimately, we end up with being presented with a series of disjointed events, not really understanding the history or the detailed framing of these events. One such example would be “Russian ships are prowling around undersea cables”, in the tenor of overstating the Russian threat. Often, the complexity and background of the issue is left completely blank and important facets are blurred. At worst, we are simply presented with a series of ‘soundbites’ such as this stark example: “Russia invaded Crimea”.

The starting point for this naval oriented briefing is the widely reported incident between a U.S. Navy destroyer and a lightly armed Russian navy intelligence reconnaissance ship somewhere in “northern Arabian Sea”. The U.S. Fifth Fleet alleged that on January 9, a Russian Navy ship ‘Ivan Khurs’ (AGI),“aggressively approached” USS Farragut, an Arleigh Burke DDG (guided missile destroyer), “conducting routine operations in the North Arabian Sea”, (in the words of the U.S. Navy press release). Subsequently, Moscow dismissed Washington’s claims.

Note the tone of stating “aggressively approached”, not really a nuanced interpretation of events. What wasn’t mentioned the likelihood that this took place not far from the carrier, ‘USS Harry S. Truman’. No context whatsoever was provided by authorities on this incident. A classic example of a specific event being framed without any further details as to why and how it happened. Nothing mentioned on what took place before the video snippets that don’t make much sense. What is the wider context to this incident? (More on this specific incident later on in this article).

Without getting into details on the well-publicised Iran / U.S. tensions and U.S. naval deployment to the region, I would like to turn to other broader aspects touching upon the Russian naval presence in the region. In January, a series of articles appeared on the geopolitical aspects of the Indian Ocean, such as this on China’s increased presence , “the Russians are coming”, and this that gives an all-round Indian focused overview. Taking an excerpt from the latter:

During the unipolar moment from 1991 till 2010s, Washington still felt comfortable in its position; however, over the last few years, the situation has changed dramatically.”

The most recent element in the turning point that shows the dramatic change would certainly be the late December trilateral naval exercise between Russia, Iran & China. The high-profile, three-day naval exercise took place in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Oman and Arabian Sea. Although not a major strategic exercise, the naval drills conveyed a slight political undertone, particularly with the presence of the Chinese Navy. China’s regional policy remains the same, to engage with all countries in a cautious and balanced manner. This is reflected by the fact the PLAN also held joint naval exercises with Saudi Arabia in November 2019, with the practically the same theme of enhancing maritime security.

The Pentagon’s plan for continued domination of the sea lanes of the Indian Ocean as per Mahan Doctrine in a unipolar world, is started to be eroded by the presence of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy, (PLAN). On paper, the numbers involved is very small compared to the overall U.S. Navy presence in the region. Yet, Chinese encroachment into a space seen by Washington as their turf is already enough of an issue to warrant increased attention in recent years. So far, this has resulted in the creation of dedicated military structures, namely the Indo-Pacific Command, (USINDOPACOM) in 2018 and the release in June 2019 of a US military strategy report specifically on the region.

On top of all of Washington’s angst, is also the presence of the Russian Navy in the region. So, are the Russians just coming to the region now? No. The only noticeable change of recent is the taking part in multi-national exercises, (in Iran and South Africa) jointly with the Chinese.

The Russian Navy has been an occasional visitor for two decades, limited to one combat ship with two support deploying to either bilateral exercises or simply showing the flag as part of naval diplomacy. Take for example the annual bilateral exercises between Russia with India since 2003, (INDRA), with Pakistan since 2014, (Exercise Arabian Monsoon). Both of which are aimed at: “increasing inter-operability amongst the two navies, developing common understanding and procedures for maritime security operations.” Both activities clearly underline the “naval diplomacy” being used by Russia, striking a balance between two significant opposing countries.

What is changing is the nature and format of other newer joint or multilateral exercises. A glimpse of this is the Army International Games “Depth-2019”, competition in July 2017 in Iran. The Black Sea Fleet based rescue tug “Professor Nikolai Muru”, (Project 22870), made a first-ever passage to the Gulf to participate in the event. Insignificant, in the greater scheme of things, probably yes, but interesting the Russian Navy did this.

Lastly let’s not forget that the Russian Navy had infrequently participated in the Horn of Africa anti-piracy missions, probably best remembered by an epic video of the Russian Navy dealing with a pirate boat. Conversely, the PLAN has been a more consistent participant of these types of missions for almost two decades. Nevertheless, as I write this, the Baltic Fleet based ‘Yaroslav Mudry’ is out in the region having recently called in to the Omani port of Salalah. It is in the Gulf of Aden as part of the latest Russian anti-piracy deployment to the Indian Ocean.

A first in the Southern Hemisphere took place in late November 2019 in Cape Town, when Russia and China held their first trilateral naval exercise with South Africa. Exercise ‘Mosi’ was the first time that three countries belonging to BRICS exercised together. Participants included a type 054A frigate Weifang (550) and Slava-class Project 1164 cruiser Marshal Ustinov (055) and the South African Valour class frigate ‘Amatola’.

9th January 2020

Back to the 9th January incident, reminiscent of the era of the Soviet Navy, when there were numerous ‘interactions’ of this kind on and below the waves. Any naval Cold War veteran is able to attest to this. An example of maybe hundreds of incidents and accidents is when the Soviet destroyer ‘Bravyy’ on 9th November 1970, while observing a NATO exercise, collided with the British aircraft-carrier HMS Ark Royal. Other notable incidents were the Black Sea “bumping incidents”, although the context for this was slightly different, taking place in home waters, involving both the USS Caron and the ‘USS Yorktown’, under the activity of “innocent passage and freedom of navigation”. An issue that still provokes intense debate and U.S. FONOP activities, (notably in the South China Sea) as mentioned in a previous article on the Arctic. A snapshot of this rationale for carrying out freedom of navigation voyages can be found in the introduction of a paper presented here.

I had a deja-vu feeling when I heard about this incident. It seems to me practically a re-run of the ‘USS Chancellorsville’ & ‘Admiral Vinogradrov’ incident back in June 2019. I see that many instant experts on Rule 15 have suddenly popped up on social media, hence this specific commentary.  Essentially several things could have done been done to avert this close call situation. The U.S. ship could have speeded up considerably to give the Russian ship more sea room to cross astern with plenty of space. There’s a lot more to this incident than just the videos extracts released by the U.S. Navy. However, this and the June 2019 incident needed to be contrasted with the shenanigans done in 60, 70s and also the 1988 Black Sea bumping incidents. Personally, this is pretty tame stuff in comparison.

The question is why this happens in this manner, (maybe due to saving face or not backing down). The carefully selected excerpts of videos, showing a fraction of the incident in question don’t help to understand the length, context or extent of the incident. The tetchy moments on who had ‘right of way’ (the nautical version of the Road Code – known as COLREGS) regarding the ‘Ivan Khurs’ close encounter with ‘USS Farragut’ can be regarded as just a “braggadocio” event aimed at media sensationalism. Well, not quite. There’s more the story than what it first seems.

As with the June 2019 incident, the U.S. ship was on the port side of the Russian vessel, considered to be a “Constant bearing, decreasing range” (CBDR) situation. Many arguments happened over whether the Ivan Khurs was in crossing situation or overtaking one, (was it 22.5 / 30 degrees angle? Essentially that’s a redundant point given the closeness and the continued CBDR situation, running out of safe sea space). A grey area well-known to mariners, hence the need to be quite clear in intentions from the outset. The video excerpts are equally unhelpful in determining the situation since some time must have passed between the video snippets.

The question that no one asked was why did both sides act early enough to avoid such close approach in the first place. It seems to me, in general one side was blatantly ignoring the CBDR situation and the finer points of Rule 15 or 17 COLREG, while the other won’t try or consider slowing down or bearing away from US ship. Essentially, a total farce where both sides seem to wind each up until the last minute, when finally, the U.S. destroyer actually opens up a bit the throttle. Given that it is a DDG, I’m sure that the USS Farragut has a higher speed than the ‘Ivan Khurs’, so the Russian ship can cross astern safely. Seemingly, neither budged and importantly both sides were basically ignoring parts of Rule 8 which sets out good seamanship practice, well before the Rule 15/17 situation arose, as both had each other on radar and visually for many nautical miles.

The other question is why did this incident occur? Essentially, eyeing each other for intel gathering. Scenario 1: I suspect it is the U.S. ship taking a keen interest, given the ‘Ivan Khurs’ is a probable newcomer to the waters, but was this was close to the area of the U.S. carrier operations. Scenario 2: Possibility of the USS Farragut either wanting to keep the Russian ship away from the U.S. carrier or maybe possibly deploying ASW array.

Of interest to note is the ad hoc presence of Russian AGIs and intelligence reconnaissance ships in the vicinity of U.S. carrier groups. This has been the case elsewhere, in the Eastern Mediterranean particularly, but seemingly a first for the Arabian Sea, (in many decades).

Summary

The Russian Navy is not the Soviet Navy in scope or numbers. As such the remaining current cold war era CCGs & DDGs that visit the region will gradually fade away, to be replaced by a smaller fleet of FFGs & corvettes; yet it will continue to visit the Indian Ocean. Although many pundits see this as a growing Russia’s return to the Indian Ocean as being relatively recent, when in fact it isn’t. So, the muted outcry by Washington of “the Russians are coming” is rather feeble and reveals a deep level of geopolitical insecurity. To paraphrase the Chinese delegate’s question at the Munich Security Conference recently, (see here):

“Do you really think the U.S. Navy presence in the Indian Ocean is so fragile it could be threatened by the occasional visit of Russian and Chinese warships?”

Seemingly yes.

Russia has a new limited strategic presence in the Middle East and Africa and the naval visits are part of the bigger picture. Russian presence will continue given the backdrop of the U.S. public wish for an expansion of a NATO footprint into Gulf & Iraq, adding to the ongoing presence in Afghanistan since 2001.

Russia also has defence-cooperation agreements with about 15 African countries. This is somewhat reflected in the port call make by the ‘Marshal Ustinov’, (en route to South Africa, including Egypt & Algeria, Equatorial Guinea and Cape Verde.

NB:The ‘Marshal Ustinov’ also called into Greece, Cyprus, Turkey (some are NATO countries).

By looking at the Russian Navy’s timid visits, the Indian Ocean is not a high priority regarding Russian maritime presence. Nevertheless, Russia has certainly stepped up its naval diplomacy in the region in different ways, making infrequent regular yearly visits to ports in the region, such as Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka and high-level working visits by heads of navies. Russia is also attentive to maintaining special relationships that it already has with countries like India and Pakistan.

Lastly, I cannot compare the minuscule presence of Russian Navy in region with that of the PLAN which is quickly building a larger force projection capability than the Russian VMF can realistically hope for these days. Let’s be frank, the Chinese PLAN is expanding considerably each year. 2019 alone saw another: 1 aircraft carrier, 1 LDP, 1 LHD & eight 7000t & two 13000t destroyers commissioned) plus 17 corvettes in one year!) The new tonnage must eye watering hard for the West to contemplate.

Further Reading

See this detailed article below I entirely agree with the author, as a civilian ex-mariner.

Who provokes whom and with which goal? https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/us-russian-navy-near-miss-incident-gunter-sch%C3%BCtze

Extra information on the geopolitics of the Indian Ocean:

Indian Ocean: strategic hub or zone of competition? https://uwidata.com/7211-indian-ocean-strategic-hub-or-zone-of-competition/

An visual overview of both recent Chinese and Russian naval port visits in the Indian Ocean is presented on the blog Warvspeace.org


Nat South’s sideline is occasionally commenting on maritime & naval related subjects ,with a special interest in the polar regions.

Perspective on current Russia

The Saker

February 03, 2020

by Alexey Mineev (Проект Кино telegram in Russian) for the Saker’s blog.

“It is the economy, stupid.” It is the corruption, stupid.

The reason that President Putin just undertook the major government shake-up axing PM Medvedev, his economy handling deputies and the minister, as well as several underperforming ministers, is undoubtedly the government’s failure to invigorate economic growth in last years. The plague of the country’s poverty is only the consequence of the government’s impotence in turning around the prolonged under-par economic growth.

Russia’s business environment has indeed made considerable progress evidenced by the World Bank’s ease of doing business rankings. In 2019 Russia made the 28th place, rising from #124 back in 2010.

Inflation went down from 6+% to lower than the targeted 4% level.

However, surprisingly the real growth did not pick up. Instead, the economy slowed down from longer-term annualized 2% real GDP growth to around 1% level.

Although one might attribute the economy’s underperformance to the Western sanctions, this is hardly the primary reason.

Admittingly, Russia had to pay dearly for the reuniting with Crimea. The Rouble lost 50% of its value at the end of 2014. However, inflation did not spike accordingly. It remained lower than 13% annually in both 2014 and 2015. The explanation is that newly built domestic manufacturing had already been in place, ready to meet the increased demand for the locally produced goods driven by the cutting down on expensive imported ones. Here comes the failure. Instead of building upon the improved ease of doing business and capitalizing on the advantage in the form of weak local currency for local manufacturing, Russia continued growing tepidly – lower than 2% annually.

Besides, the highly touted 26 T RUB. (~0.4 T USD) National Projects program turned out to be just minor if any help to the economy in 2019. The government had developed the six-year plan 2019 – 2024 to meet the economic targets, envisioned by President Putin in his annual address to the Federal Assembly in May 2018. The 2024 objectives are as follows:

  1. Stable population growth (As of December 2019, in 2020-2035 annualized 0.5% decrease as low case and still negative 0.2% for mid case in the Russian population is officially forecasted. The high case is estimated as +0.1% annualized growth);
  2. Increased life expectancy to 78 years from the current 74 years (As of December 2019 for 2024 low, mid, high cases officially are: 47.1, 75.5, 76.8 — still short of the target);
  3. A meaningful increase in real income and pensions (basically, the failure of the 20-year term of President Putin);
  4. Decrease twofold in the poverty level;
  5. Improved housing for 5 million households annually;
  6. Accelerated technological innovation;
  7. Digitalization of the economy and social services;
  8. Making #5 largest world economy and keeping inflation at lower than the 4% level;
  9. Creating the export-oriented sectors in the selected core industries of the economy by ensuring the availability and use of modern technology and top-notch professionals.

2019 was the first year of National Projects. The economy is not picking up.

No wonder, though. Because the federal budget remains flattish in real terms over ten years, indeed, we can hardly talk about any meaningful growth driven by government spending.

To this end, in December 2019, Alexey Kudrin, Head of Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation – government-sponsored auditor of the countrywide finances accountable to the Federal Assembly of Russia, eloquently articulated: “The execution of National Projects is not going to translate to the meeting of the national targets.” This clearly is indicative of a significant disconnect between, on the one hand, the 3+% target real GDP growth and the 25% off the GPD level for capital investments and, on the other, the current level of the budgeted government spending. This disconnect is the real cause of the replacement of the economic block of the Russian Federation government.

The negative slope of IHS’s Purchasing Managers Index (Manufacturing) over the last two years currently diving deep below the 50% level could also evidence the seemingly unreasonably swollen expectation of the effect on the economy from the National Projects effort.

The above discussion of the travails of the Russian economy by no means tells us about any upcoming recession. A lot of factors will likely be shoring up the GDP growth just above the 2% level:

  1. Ongoing infrastructure development countrywide;
  2. Inflation in check, improved access to finance;
  3. Likely improvement of meeting the budget spending targets (a current issue), and the implementation of KPI-based performance accountability for governors;
  4. Ample room for an increase in federal budget spending to meet the additional social measures promised by President Putin in the last address to the Federal Assembly on January-15th 2020;
  5. The expected extra effort to revitalize large-scale corporate investment programs (“the list of Belousov” — in the name of the newly appointed first deputy PM Belousov) through custom-tailored government support.

The above analysis leads up to the conclusion that there must be something more than the purely economic factors that have been in play all-time long, making Russia undergo clearly under-par growth last ten years.

The impotent government had been kicking the can down the road too long, doing little to fight corruption. In the meantime, the elites also grew impotent delivering scarcity of meaningful accomplishments in their homeland to be really proud of but enjoying hundreds of million dollars worth yachts, contently presuming that their money was good enough for the West. The abundance of second citizenship or green card among not only business elites but across all elites, including the top government officers, has become a national threat. However, geopolitics took over in 2014. In West’s books, Russia crossed the red line with the reuniting with Crimea and the military involvement supporting the rebels in Eastern Ukraine. The Russian elites were caught off guard. It is really excruciating now for the government to play a catch-up game wrestling the entrenched corruption.

The January 2020 reshuffling of Russia’s government has a clear economic underlying rationale — to turn around the years-long underperformance of the economy. However, looking forward, the country faces the problem that dwarfs the challenge of the ongoing structural economic revamp, which so far gains little traction with investors and entrepreneurs investments-wise.

It is corruption and the lacking-in of law enforcement that, in the long term, drag the economy down, providing breeding soil for groupthink in government ranks, self-censorship in media, brain drain, and messed up social values rather than just taking away from investments.

One might think that the change of Russia’s tack is part of the 2024 presidential election game. While this is undoubtedly the case, this all is merely part of ongoing Russia’s wakening and finally dealing with the economic policy execution issues.

More importantly, though, it is the end of the government’s impotence. Targeting 3+% GDP growth, the government is in dire need to strike a long-term deal with Russian businesspeople, making them start investing to reach the 25% off GDP target for capital investments. The government is to offer a substantial increase in government spending, effectively guaranteeing the investment returns.

In the way stands Russian-style “business as usual”- embezzlement. It will be dealt with, as this is a must. Yet, this is not enough. The eradication of corruption is the most significant moving part in the longer-term country’s fate-defining question about whether Russia manages to defend its sovereignty or, otherwise, Russia is bound to be subdued by the technologically more developed part of the world.

Erdogan Urges Russia to ‘Assume Obligations’ in Idlib, Says Crimea Annexation ‘Illegal’

 February 3, 2020

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Monday for Russia to honor its pledges under a 2018 agreement after five Turkish soldiers were killed in shelling by Syrian government forces in northwestern Syria.

“I hope that everyone will assume their obligations under the Astana and Sochi agreements,” Erdogan told a news conference in the Ukrainian capital Kiev, in an implicit reference to Russia.

Syrian forces killed five Turkish soldiers and three civilians in shelling in Idlib, the last opposition bastion in northwestern Syria, early on Monday, according to Erdogan.

“It cannot continue like this and a response has been given,” Erdogan said. “We will make them pay the necessary price and will continue to do so.”

Crimea Annexation ‘Illegal’

He was speaking on a visit to Ukraine, where he also reiterated his opposition to the “illegal” Russian annexation of Crimea.

Turkey does not recognize Russia’s ‘illegal’ annexation of Crimea, Erdogan told the joint news conference with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky.

The Turkish president expressed Ankara’s “ongoing support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” as quoted by Anadolu news agency.

Last week, Erdogan accused Moscow of “not honoring” agreements made with Ankara in Idlib, where Russian and Syrian forces have stepped up an offensive in recent weeks.

As part of the Sochi deal, Turkey set up 12 observation posts, one of which was surrounded by Syrian government forces in December.

Erdogan said Turkey had been ‘too patient’ in Idlib.

Turkey, which already hosts more than 3.7 million Syrians, fears a further influx of refugees fleeing violence in Idlib.

Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu spoke by phone with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, and the two sides agreed to “look in detail” at the situation in Idlib, according to the Russian foreign ministry.

Source: AFP and Anadolu

Russia Challenges Turkish Narrative on Idlib Fire Exchange

February 3, 2020

Confusion reigns over what has happened in the past few hours between the Turkish army and the Syrian government forces in Syria’s Idlib province, where the military campaign against Takfiri terrorists continues.

AFP news agency cited Turkish media as saying that Turkey raided Syrian Army positions in Idlib Monday, in response to the Syrian fire that claimed lives of Turkish soldiers.

Five Turkish soldiers and a civilian attached to the army were killed on Monday by Syrian forces’ shelling in the northwestern province.

“Our F-16 aircraft and artillery are currently bombing targets defined by our intelligence services” in response to the Syrian shelling, said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a press conference in Istanbul.

Meanwhile, reports on the number of casualties among the ranks of the Syrian Army were conflicting. AFP reported that 30 to 35 Syrian soldiers were killed, while the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the number at 13.

However, the Russian Defense denied there have been Turkish air raids against Syrian Army positions, assuring that Turkish planes have not violated Syrian airspace over IdlIb province which is under control Russian forces.

This narrative is close to that of SANA news agency which reported that there was sporadic fire between the Syrian and the Turkish sides, but denied there were casualties among the ranks of the Syrian Army.

The exchange of fire comes as the Syrian Army has intensified for several weeks their offensive in this province and in the western regions of the province of Aleppo, to clear the area of Nusra Front terrorists.

After having liberated the key town of Maarat al-Noaman, then that of Khan Touman, the Syrian Army is now advancing towards Saraqeb.

Source: Agencies

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LIVE: Putin holds annual press conference in Moscow

December 19, 2019

The version from RT on Twitter is the best one available currently:

https://twitter.com/i/broadcasts/1dRKZLQDDYDJB

English Soundtrack:

Putin holds annual press conference in Moscow

Vladimir Putin addressed State Duma deputies, Federation Council members, heads of Russian regions and civil society representatives in the Kremlin.

Dear friends, we have gathered here today in connection with an issue that is of vital, historic significance to all of us. A referendum was held in Crimea on March 16 in full compliance with democratic procedures and international norms.


More than 82 percent of the electorate took part in the vote. Over 96 percent of them spoke out in favour of reuniting with Russia. These numbers speak for themselves.

To understand the reason behind such a choice it is enough to know the history of Crimea and what Russia and Crimea have always meant for each other.

Everything in Crimea speaks of our shared history and pride. This is the location of ancient Khersones, where Prince Vladimir was baptised. His spiritual feat of adopting Orthodoxy predetermined the overall basis of the culture, civilisation and human values that unite the peoples of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. The graves of Russian soldiers whose bravery brought Crimea into the Russian empire are also in Crimea. This is also Sevastopol – a legendary city with an outstanding history, a fortress that serves as the birthplace of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. Crimea is Balaklava and Kerch, Malakhov Kurgan and Sapun Ridge. Each one of these places is dear to our hearts, symbolising Russian military glory and outstanding valour.

Crimea is a unique blend of different peoples’ cultures and traditions. This makes it similar to Russia as a whole, where not a single ethnic group has been lost over the centuries. Russians and Ukrainians, Crimean Tatars and people of other ethnic groups have lived side by side in Crimea, retaining their own identity, traditions, languages and faith.

Incidentally, the total population of the Crimean Peninsula today is 2.2 million people, of whom almost 1.5 million are Russians, 350,000 are Ukrainians who predominantly consider Russian their native language, and about 290,000–300,000 are Crimean Tatars, who, as the referendum has shown, also lean towards Russia.

True, there was a time when Crimean Tatars were treated unfairly, just as a number of other peoples in the USSR. There is only one thing I can say here: millions of people of various ethnicities suffered during those repressions, and primarily Russians.

Crimean Tatars returned to their homeland. I believe we should make all the necessary political and legislative decisions to finalise the rehabilitation of Crimean Tatars, restore them in their rights and clear their good name.

We have great respect for people of all the ethnic groups living in Crimea. This is their common home, their motherland, and it would be right – I know the local population supports this – for Crimea to have three equal national languages: Russian, Ukrainian and Tatar.

Colleagues,

In people’s hearts and minds, Crimea has always been an inseparable part of Russia. This firm conviction is based on truth and justice and was passed from generation to generation, over time, under any circumstances, despite all the dramatic changes our country went through during the entire 20th century.

After the revolution, the Bolsheviks, for a number of reasons – may God judge them – added large sections of the historical South of Russia to the Republic of Ukraine. This was done with no consideration for the ethnic make-up of the population, and today these areas form the southeast of Ukraine. Then, in 1954, a decision was made to transfer Crimean Region to Ukraine, along with Sevastopol, despite the fact that it was a federal city. This was the personal initiative of the Communist Party head Nikita Khrushchev. What stood behind this decision of his – a desire to win the support of the Ukrainian political establishment or to atone for the mass repressions of the 1930’s in Ukraine – is for historians to figure out.

What matters now is that this decision was made in clear violation of the constitutional norms that were in place even then. The decision was made behind the scenes. Naturally, in a totalitarian state nobody bothered to ask the citizens of Crimea and Sevastopol. They were faced with the fact. People, of course, wondered why all of a sudden Crimea became part of Ukraine. But on the whole – and we must state this clearly, we all know it – this decision was treated as a formality of sorts because the territory was transferred within the boundaries of a single state. Back then, it was impossible to imagine that Ukraine and Russia may split up and become two separate states. However, this has happened.

Unfortunately, what seemed impossible became a reality. The USSR fell apart. Things developed so swiftly that few people realised how truly dramatic those events and their consequences would be. Many people both in Russia and in Ukraine, as well as in other republics hoped that the Commonwealth of Independent States that was created at the time would become the new common form of statehood. They were told that there would be a single currency, a single economic space, joint armed forces; however, all this remained empty promises, while the big country was gone. It was only when Crimea ended up as part of a different country that Russia realised that it was not simply robbed, it was plundered.

At the same time, we have to admit that by launching the sovereignty parade Russia itself aided in the collapse of the Soviet Union. And as this collapse was legalised, everyone forgot about Crimea and Sevastopol ­– the main base of the Black Sea Fleet. Millions of people went to bed in one country and awoke in different ones, overnight becoming ethnic minorities in former Union republics, while the Russian nation became one of the biggest, if not the biggest ethnic group in the world to be divided by borders.

Now, many years later, I heard residents of Crimea say that back in 1991 they were handed over like a sack of potatoes. This is hard to disagree with. And what about the Russian state? What about Russia? It humbly accepted the situation. This country was going through such hard times then that realistically it was incapable of protecting its interests. However, the people could not reconcile themselves to this outrageous historical injustice. All these years, citizens and many public figures came back to this issue, saying that Crimea is historically Russian land and Sevastopol is a Russian city. Yes, we all knew this in our hearts and minds, but we had to proceed from the existing reality and build our good-neighbourly relations with independent Ukraine on a new basis. Meanwhile, our relations with Ukraine, with the fraternal Ukrainian people have always been and will remain of foremost importance for us.

Today we can speak about it openly, and I would like to share with you some details of the negotiations that took place in the early 2000s. The then President of Ukraine Mr Kuchma asked me to expedite the process of delimiting the Russian-Ukrainian border. At that time, the process was practically at a standstill. Russia seemed to have recognised Crimea as part of Ukraine, but there were no negotiations on delimiting the borders. Despite the complexity of the situation, I immediately issued instructions to Russian government agencies to speed up their work to document the borders, so that everyone had a clear understanding that by agreeing to delimit the border we admitted de facto and de jure that Crimea was Ukrainian territory, thereby closing the issue.

We accommodated Ukraine not only regarding Crimea, but also on such a complicated matter as the maritime boundary in the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait. What we proceeded from back then was that good relations with Ukraine matter most for us and they should not fall hostage to deadlock territorial disputes. However, we expected Ukraine to remain our good neighbour, we hoped that Russian citizens and Russian speakers in Ukraine, especially its southeast and Crimea, would live in a friendly, democratic and civilised state that would protect their rights in line with the norms of international law.

However, this is not how the situation developed. Time and time again attempts were made to deprive Russians of their historical memory, even of their language and to subject them to forced assimilation. Moreover, Russians, just as other citizens of Ukraine are suffering from the constant political and state crisis that has been rocking the country for over 20 years.

I understand why Ukrainian people wanted change. They have had enough of the authorities in power during the years of Ukraine’s independence. Presidents, prime ministers and parliamentarians changed, but their attitude to the country and its people remained the same. They milked the country, fought among themselves for power, assets and cash flows and did not care much about the ordinary people. They did not wonder why it was that millions of Ukrainian citizens saw no prospects at home and went to other countries to work as day labourers. I would like to stress this: it was not some Silicon Valley they fled to, but to become day labourers. Last year alone almost 3 million people found such jobs in Russia. According to some sources, in 2013 their earnings in Russia totalled over $20 billion, which is about 12% of Ukraine’s GDP.

I would like to reiterate that I understand those who came out on Maidan with peaceful slogans against corruption, inefficient state management and poverty. The right to peaceful protest, democratic procedures and elections exist for the sole purpose of replacing the authorities that do not satisfy the people. However, those who stood behind the latest events in Ukraine had a different agenda: they were preparing yet another government takeover; they wanted to seize power and would stop short of nothing. They resorted to terror, murder and riots. Nationalists, neo-Nazis, Russophobes and anti-Semites executed this coup. They continue to set the tone in Ukraine to this day.

The new so-called authorities began by introducing a draft law to revise the language policy, which was a direct infringement on the rights of ethnic minorities. However, they were immediately ‘disciplined’ by the foreign sponsors of these so-called politicians. One has to admit that the mentors of these current authorities are smart and know well what such attempts to build a purely Ukrainian state may lead to. The draft law was set aside, but clearly reserved for the future. Hardly any mention is made of this attempt now, probably on the presumption that people have a short memory. Nevertheless, we can all clearly see the intentions of these ideological heirs of Bandera, Hitler’s accomplice during World War II.

It is also obvious that there is no legitimate executive authority in Ukraine now, nobody to talk to. Many government agencies have been taken over by the impostors, but they do not have any control in the country, while they themselves – and I would like to stress this – are often controlled by radicals. In some cases, you need a special permit from the militants on Maidan to meet with certain ministers of the current government. This is not a joke – this is reality.

Those who opposed the coup were immediately threatened with repression. Naturally, the first in line here was Crimea, the Russian-speaking Crimea. In view of this, the residents of Crimea and Sevastopol turned to Russia for help in defending their rights and lives, in preventing the events that were unfolding and are still underway in Kiev, Donetsk, Kharkov and other Ukrainian cities.

Naturally, we could not leave this plea unheeded; we could not abandon Crimea and its residents in distress. This would have been betrayal on our part.

First, we had to help create conditions so that the residents of Crimea for the first time in history were able to peacefully express their free will regarding their own future. However, what do we hear from our colleagues in Western Europe and North America? They say we are violating norms of international law. Firstly, it’s a good thing that they at least remember that there exists such a thing as international law – better late than never.

Secondly, and most importantly – what exactly are we violating? True, the President of the Russian Federation received permission from the Upper House of Parliament to use the Armed Forces in Ukraine. However, strictly speaking, nobody has acted on this permission yet. Russia’s Armed Forces never entered Crimea; they were there already in line with an international agreement. True, we did enhance our forces there; however – this is something I would like everyone to hear and know – we did not exceed the personnel limit of our Armed Forces in Crimea, which is set at 25,000, because there was no need to do so.

Next. As it declared independence and decided to hold a referendum, the Supreme Council of Crimea referred to the United Nations Charter, which speaks of the right of nations to self-determination. Incidentally, I would like to remind you that when Ukraine seceded from the USSR it did exactly the same thing, almost word for word. Ukraine used this right, yet the residents of Crimea are denied it. Why is that?

Moreover, the Crimean authorities referred to the well-known Kosovo precedent – a precedent our western colleagues created with their own hands in a very similar situation, when they agreed that the unilateral separation of Kosovo from Serbia, exactly what Crimea is doing now, was legitimate and did not require any permission from the country’s central authorities. Pursuant to Article 2, Chapter 1 of the United Nations Charter, the UN International Court agreed with this approach and made the following comment in its ruling of July 22, 2010, and I quote: “No general prohibition may be inferred from the practice of the Security Council with regard to declarations of independence,” and “General international law contains no prohibition on declarations of independence.” Crystal clear, as they say.

I do not like to resort to quotes, but in this case, I cannot help it. Here is a quote from another official document: the Written Statement of the United States America of April 17, 2009, submitted to the same UN International Court in connection with the hearings on Kosovo. Again, I quote: “Declarations of independence may, and often do, violate domestic legislation. However, this does not make them violations of international law.” End of quote. They wrote this, disseminated it all over the world, had everyone agree and now they are outraged. Over what? The actions of Crimean people completely fit in with these instructions, as it were. For some reason, things that Kosovo Albanians (and we have full respect for them) were permitted to do, Russians, Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars in Crimea are not allowed. Again, one wonders why.

We keep hearing from the United States and Western Europe that Kosovo is some special case. What makes it so special in the eyes of our colleagues? It turns out that it is the fact that the conflict in Kosovo resulted in so many human casualties. Is this a legal argument? The ruling of the International Court says nothing about this. This is not even double standards; this is amazing, primitive, blunt cynicism. One should not try so crudely to make everything suit their interests, calling the same thing white today and black tomorrow. According to this logic, we have to make sure every conflict leads to human losses.

I will state clearly — if the Crimean local self-defence units had not taken the situation under control, there could have been casualties as well. Fortunately this did not happen. There was not a single armed confrontation in Crimea and no casualties. Why do you think this was so? The answer is simple: because it is very difficult, practically impossible to fight against the will of the people. Here I would like to thank the Ukrainian military – and this is 22,000 fully armed servicemen. I would like to thank those Ukrainian service members who refrained from bloodshed and did not smear their uniforms in blood.

Other thoughts come to mind in this connection. They keep talking of some Russian intervention in Crimea, some sort of aggression. This is strange to hear. I cannot recall a single case in history of an intervention without a single shot being fired and with no human casualties.

Colleagues,

Like a mirror, the situation in Ukraine reflects what is going on and what has been happening in the world over the past several decades. After the dissolutionof bipolarity on the planet, we no longer have stability. Key international institutions are not getting any stronger; on the contrary, in many cases, they are sadly degrading. Our western partners, led by the United States of America, prefer not to be guided by international law in their practical policies, but by the rule of the gun. They have come to believe in their exclusivity and exceptionalism, that they can decide the destinies of the world, that only they can ever be right. They act as they please: here and there, they use force against sovereign states, building coalitions based on the principle “If you are not with us, you are against us.” To make this aggression look legitimate, they force the necessary resolutions from international organisations, and if for some reason this does not work, they simply ignore the UN Security Council and the UN overall.

This happened in Yugoslavia; we remember 1999 very well. It was hard to believe, even seeing it with my own eyes, that at the end of the 20th century, one of Europe’s capitals, Belgrade, was under missile attack for several weeks, and then came the real intervention. Was there a UN Security Council resolution on this matter, allowing for these actions? Nothing of the sort. And then, they hit Afghanistan, Iraq, and frankly violated the UN Security Council resolution on Libya, when instead of imposing the so-called no-fly zone over it they started bombing it too.

There was a whole series of controlled “colour” revolutions. Clearly, the people in those nations, where these events took place, were sick of tyranny and poverty, of their lack of prospects; but these feelings were taken advantage of cynically. Standards were imposed on these nations that did not in any way correspond to their way of life, traditions, or these peoples’ cultures. As a result, instead of democracy and freedom, there was chaos, outbreaks in violence and a series of upheavals. The Arab Spring turned into the Arab Winter.

A similar situation unfolded in Ukraine. In 2004, to push the necessary candidate through at the presidential elections, they thought up some sort of third round that was not stipulated by the law. It was absurd and a mockery of the constitution. And now, they have thrown in an organised and well-equipped army of militants.

We understand what is happening; we understand that these actions were aimed against Ukraine and Russia and against Eurasian integration. And all this while Russia strived to engage in dialogue with our colleagues in the West. We are constantly proposing cooperation on all key issues; we want to strengthen our level of trust and for our relations to be equal, open and fair. But we saw no reciprocal steps.

On the contrary, they have lied to us many times, made decisions behind our backs, placed us before an accomplished fact.This happened with NATO’s expansion to the East, as well as the deployment of military infrastructure at our borders. They kept telling us the same thing: “Well, this does not concern you.” That’s easy to say.

It happened with the deployment of a missile defence system. In spite of all our apprehensions, the project is working and moving forward. It happened with the endless foot-dragging in the talks on visa issues, promises of fair competition and free access to global markets.

Today, we are being threatened with sanctions, but we already experiencemany limitations, ones that are quite significant for us, our economy and our nation. For example, still during the times of the Cold War, the US and subsequently other nations restricted a large list of technologies and equipment from being sold to the USSR, creating the Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls list. Today, they have formally been eliminated, but only formally; and in reality, many limitations are still in effect.

In short, we have every reason to assume that the infamous policy of containment, led in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, continues today. They are constantly trying to sweep us into a cornerbecause we have an independent position, because we maintain it and because we call things like they are and do not engage in hypocrisy. But there is a limit to everything. And with Ukraine, our western partners have crossed the line, playing the bear and acting irresponsibly and unprofessionally.

After all, they were fully aware that there are millions of Russians living in Ukraine and in Crimea. They must have really lacked political instinct and common sense not to foresee all the consequences of their actions. Russia found itself in a position it could not retreat from. If you compress the spring all the way to its limit, it will snap back hard. You must always remember this.

Today, it is imperative to end this hysteria, to refute the rhetoric of the cold war and to accept the obvious fact: Russia is an independent, active participant in international affairs; like other countries, it has its own national interests that need to be taken into account and respected.

At the same time, we are grateful to all those who understood our actions in Crimea; we are grateful to the people of China, whose leaders have always consideredthe situation in Ukraine and Crimea taking into account the full historical and political context, and greatly appreciate India’s reserve and objectivity.

Today, I would like to address the people of the United States of America, the people who, since the foundation of their nation and adoption of the Declaration of Independence, have been proud to hold freedom above all else. Isn’t the desire of Crimea’s residents to freely choose their fate such a value? Please understand us.

I believe that the Europeans, first and foremost, the Germans, will also understand me. Let me remind you that in the course of political consultations on the unification of East and West Germany, at the expert, though very high level, some nations that were then and are now Germany’s allies did not support the idea of unification. Our nation, however, unequivocally supported the sincere, unstoppable desire of the Germans for national unity. I am confident that you have not forgotten this, and I expect that the citizens of Germany will also support the aspiration of the Russians, of historical Russia, to restore unity.

I also want to address the people of Ukraine. I sincerely want you to understand us: we do not want to harm you in any way, or to hurt your national feelings. We have always respected the territorial integrity of the Ukrainian state, incidentally, unlike those who sacrificed Ukraine’s unity for their political ambitions. They flaunt slogans about Ukraine’s greatness, but they are the ones who did everything to divide the nation. Today’s civil standoff is entirely on their conscience. I want you to hear me, my dear friends. Do not believe those who want you to fear Russia, shouting that other regions will follow Crimea. We do not want to divide Ukraine; we do not need that. As for Crimea, it was and remains a Russian, Ukrainian, and Crimean-Tatar land.

I repeat, just as it has been for centuries, it will be a home to all the peoples living there. What it will never be and do is follow in Bandera’s footsteps!

Crimea is our common historical legacy and a very important factor in regional stability. And this strategic territory should be part of a strong and stable sovereignty, which today can only be Russian. Otherwise, dear friends (I am addressing both Ukraine and Russia), you and we – the Russians and the Ukrainians – could lose Crimea completely, and that could happen in the near historical perspective. Please think about it.

Let me note too that we have already heard declarations from Kiev about Ukraine soon joining NATO. What would this have meant for Crimea and Sevastopol in the future? It would have meant that NATO’s navy would be right there in this city of Russia’s military glory, and this would create not an illusory but a perfectly real threat to the whole of southern Russia. These are things that could have become reality were it not for the choice the Crimean people made, and I want to say thank you to them for this.

But let me say too that we are not opposed to cooperation with NATO, for this is certainly not the case. For all the internal processes within the organisation, NATO remains a military alliance, and we are against having a military alliance making itself at home right in our backyard or in our historic territory. I simply cannot imagine that we would travel to Sevastopol to visit NATO sailors. Of course, most of them are wonderful guys, but it would be better to have them come and visit us, be our guests, rather than the other way round.

Let me say quite frankly that it pains our hearts to see what is happening in Ukraine at the moment, see the people’s suffering and their uncertainty about how to get through today and what awaits them tomorrow. Our concerns are understandable because we are not simply close neighbours but, as I have said many times already, we are one people. Kiev is the mother of Russian cities. Ancient Rus is our common source and we cannot live without each other.

Let me say one other thing too. Millions of Russians and Russian-speaking people live in Ukraine and will continue to do so. Russia will always defend their interests using political, diplomatic and legal means. But it should be above all in Ukraine’s own interest to ensure that these people’s rights and interests are fully protected. This is the guarantee of Ukraine’s state stability and territorial integrity.

We want to be friends with Ukraine and we want Ukraine to be a strong, sovereign and self-sufficient country. Ukraine is one of our biggest partners after all. We have many joint projects and I believe in their success no matter what the current difficulties. Most importantly, we want peace and harmony to reign in Ukraine, and we are ready to work together with other countries to do everything possible to facilitate and support this. But as I said, only Ukraine’s own people can put their own house in order.

Residents of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, the whole of Russia admired your courage, dignity and bravery. It was you who decided Crimea’s future. We were closer than ever over these days, supporting each other. These were sincere feelings of solidarity. It is at historic turning points such as these that a nation demonstrates its maturity and strength of spirit. The Russian people showed this maturity and strength through their united support for their compatriots.

Russia’s foreign policy position on this matter drew its firmness from the will of millions of our people, our national unity and the support of our country’s main political and public forces. I want to thank everyone for this patriotic spirit, everyone without exception. Now, we need to continue and maintain this kind of consolidation so as to resolve the tasks our country faces on its road ahead.

Obviously, we will encounter external opposition, but this is a decision that we need to make for ourselves. Are we ready to consistently defend our national interests, or will we forever give in, retreat to who knows where? Some Western politicians are already threatening us with not just sanctions but also the prospect of increasingly serious problems on the domestic front. I would like to know what it is they have in mind exactly: action by a fifth column, this disparate bunch of ‘national traitors’, or are they hoping to put us in a worsening social and economic situation so as to provoke public discontent? We consider such statements irresponsible and clearly aggressive in tone, and we will respond to them accordingly. At the same time, we will never seek confrontation with our partners, whether in the East or the West, but on the contrary, will do everything we can to build civilised and good-neighbourly relations as one is supposed to in the modern world. 

Colleagues,

I understand the people of Crimea, who put the question in the clearest possible terms in the referendum: should Crimea be with Ukraine or with Russia? We can be sure in saying that the authorities in Crimea and Sevastopol, the legislative authorities, when they formulated the question, set aside group and political interests and made the people’s fundamental interests alone the cornerstone of their work. The particular historic, population, political and economic circumstances of Crimea would have made any other proposed option — however tempting it could be at the first glance — only temporary and fragile and would have inevitably led to further worsening of the situation there, which would have had disastrous effects on people’s lives. The people of Crimea thus decided to put the question in firm and uncompromising form, with no grey areas. The referendum was fair and transparent, and the people of Crimea clearly and convincingly expressed their will and stated that they want to be with Russia.

Russia will also have to make a difficult decision now, taking into account the various domestic and external considerations. What do people here in Russia think? Here, like in any democratic country, people have different points of view, but I want to make the point that the absolute majority of our people clearly do support what is happening.

The most recent public opinion surveys conducted here in Russia show that 95 percent of people think that Russia should protect the interests of Russians and members of other ethnic groups living in Crimea – 95 percent of our citizens. More than 83 percent think that Russia should do this even if it will complicate our relations with some other countries. A total of 86 percent of our people see Crimea as still being Russian territory and part of our country’s lands. And one particularly important figure, which corresponds exactly with the result in Crimea’s referendum: almost 92 percent of our people support Crimea’s reunification with Russia. 

Thus we see that the overwhelming majority of people in Crimea and the absolute majority of the Russian Federation’s people support the reunification of the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol with Russia.

Now this is a matter for Russia’s own political decision, and any decision here can be based only on the people’s will, because the people is the ultimate source of all authority.

Members of the Federation Council, deputies of the State Duma, citizens of Russia, residents of Crimea and Sevastopol, today, in accordance with the people’s will, I submit to the Federal Assembly a request to consider a Constitutional Law on the creation of two new constituent entities within the Russian Federation: the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, and to ratify the treaty on admitting to the Russian Federation Crimea and Sevastopol, which is already ready for signing. I stand assured of your support.

Ukraine Peace Hostage to Washington’s Russophobia

Image result for Ukraine Peace Hostage to Washington’s Russophobia

December 15, 2019

After Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky finished multilateral peace talks in Paris, the emphatic media message was that “no red lines had been crossed” in negotiations with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. It sounded like Zelensky was far more concerned with trying to reassure observers he hadn’t “capitulated” to Putin, rather than engaging in a genuine dialogue to resolve his country’s conflict.

The so-called Normandy Four format of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine is scheduled to meet again in four months. The meeting in Paris on December 9 was the first time leaders had convened after nearly a three-year hiatus. It is to be welcomed that President Zelensky, who was elected in April, shows a willingness to engage with Russia, unlike predecessor Petro Poroshenko, in order to bring peace to eastern Ukraine. The region has been mired in nearly six years of civil war.

During the Paris talks, there was agreement to uphold a ceasefire in Ukraine’s Donbas region, and to extend deconfliction zones by withdrawing troops and artillery. There was also agreement on the exchange of all prisoners between Ukraine government forces and the pro-Russia rebels in Donbas. All very good. But what about the full implementation of the Minsk Accord signed back in 2015?

That accord obliges the government in Kiev to permit elections and regional autonomy in the Donbas. It also obliges a full amnesty for rebels who took up arms against the Kiev administration, which came to power through an illegal US-backed coup in February 2014. The Kiev power grab ushered in an ultra-nationalist Russophobic regime intent on dominating the pro-Russian eastern region. The dramatic shift in power in Kiev towards Neo-Nazi demagogues and paramilitaries was the decisive factor in Donbas taking up arms and also in pro-Russia Crimea seceding in March 2014 and joining the Russian Federation.

Regrettably, President Zelensky appears unwilling to implement the Minsk deal which his predecessor signed up to. In fact, at the concluding press conference jointly held by the four leaders at the Paris talks, Zelensky was given to trying to re-write Minsk. He insisted on “security issues” being settled before political issues. That suggests he wants rebels in Donbas to disarm without Kiev recognizing the region’s autonomy. Zelensky also insisted on “not giving up Donbas and Crimea”, and of regaining control over all of Ukraine’s borders, including those adjacent to Russia.

The Minsk deal – which France, Germany and Russia are in concurrence on as being the only viable way forward to peace – does not say anything about Crimea “being returned” to Ukraine. The accord does not precondition autonomy in the Donbas on a prior disarmament.

In other words, Zelensky is going off script on the Minsk terms for finding a peace settlement. His position is still not adhering to the obligations his government signed up to. Perhaps over the coming months, the Ukrainian president may come round to fulfilling responsibilities as stipulated by the Minsk accord.

But there are, unfortunately, reasons to be skeptical. That’s because the relentless Russophobia residing in Washington leaves Zelensky with little room for maneuver. The shaky Kiev regime is totally reliant on Washington’s patronage for its IMF financial life-line, as well as for military support. Zelensky is the president of a vassal state. Washington calls the tune and the tributes.

As could be seen more than ever during the recent impeachment hearings on President Trump, the consensus in Washington is that Ukraine is “at war with Russia”. American politicians and media are convinced in their Cold War delusions that Russia has invaded Ukraine and is the “aggressor” against a “freedom-loving nation”. That propaganda narrative, of course, reinforces the delusions of the Russia-hating ultra-nationalists in Ukraine who have threatened Zelensky’s life if he “surrenders” to Russia.

Hence, the conflict in Ukraine is not being addressed as the internal one that it really is. Instead, it is being viewed through the Russophobic lens as an external problem, allegedly created by Russian aggression. That means the “solution” is about standing up to Russia with lots more US military aid, rather than addressing the core issues of Kiev’s toxic politics and policies towards its separatist regions.

Russia is a guarantor of Minsk, just like France and Germany are. It is not a party with obligations to fulfill. Those obligations are on the politicians in Kiev and the rebels in eastern Ukraine.

With Washington pressing Zelensky to stand up to non-existing “Russian aggression” that means the search for peace in Ukraine will remain elusive. Peace will only come to Ukraine when Washington stops kicking Kiev around like a political football to gratify its Cold War hostility towards Russia. That’s unlikely to happen in the near future.

When Zelensky seeks to reassure that “no red lines” have been crossed, his mind is not on genuine peace negotiations. Rather, he is seeking to placate Ukraine’s hostage-takers in Washington.

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

MintPress Sits Down with Russia’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova

MintPress Sits Down with Russia’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova

Russia’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova weighs in on Syria, Crimea, the Moscow protests and more.

Moscow — In a simple meeting room at the Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry building, Russia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova gave me a generous hour of her time in a conversation peppered with bemused laughter at Western allegations about Russia and clear frustration at the West’s incessant vilification of all things Russia.

I traveled to Moscow in August, where to my delight I had the opportunity to interview Zakharova. Given that Russia is the focus of obsessive and largely negative Western media reporting, and also the country’s role in eliminating the proliferation of terrorist groups that once controlled large swaths of Syria, I wanted to ask Zakharova for her take on a variety of topics related to both Russia and Syria.

In our wide-ranging discussion, Zakharova spoke of the U.S. sanctions regime against Russia and of the Western interference in Russian domestic issues — such as the protests seen in Moscow in July and August.

On Syria, she addressed the issue of exploitation of children in propaganda against Syria and Russia — notably Omran Daqneesh, a child whose image was splashed across newspapers and screens worldwide in 2016, incriminating Russia and Syria in an airstrike that was later proven to have never happened. An official apology from one of the most adamant perpetrators of that narrative, CNN’s Christian Amanpour, also never happened.

One cannot discuss the war in Syria and related propaganda without addressing the massively-funded White Helmets. In discussing the group, Zakharova gave examples of its role in fomenting support for Western military intervention, including in pushing responsibility on the Syrian government for the alleged but unproven and, by most honest accounts, staged chemical attack in Douma, eastern Ghouta, in 2018. Footage of the attack included video starring the White Helmets and another exploited Syrian boy, Hassan Diab, whose testimony of the events ran in stark contrast to the allegations against the Syrian government that were being circulated in the Western media.

Zakharova also addressed the inconsistencies around the Skripal case, the historic importance of Crimea’s referendum, and the U.K. “media freedom” conference of July 2019, where cases of imprisoned journalists like Julian Assange and Kirill Vyshinsky were notably not part of the conference program.

In an unexpected development since my discussion with Zakharova, Ukrainian-Russian journalist and editor Vyshinsky was released from his over 15 months of imprisonment without trial by Ukraine. Referring to his imprisonment, Zakharova described him as a hostage.

The interview took place at a time when Western media reporting would have one believe that the streets of Moscow were full of chaos and unrest with the protests. In fact, contrary to media reporting, Moscow was calm, as were the protests I attended on August 10. Once again, it seemed, the media was hyping and distorting reality, as they have so often done elsewhere in the world.

Zakharova’s words are a reality check and offer an informative insight into the Russian perspective on Russian, Syrian, and global events.

Feature photo | Maria Zakharova sits down with Eva Bartlett at a Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry building in Moscow, Russia in August, 2019.  Eva Bartlett | MintPress News

Eva Bartlett is a Canadian independent journalist and activist. She has spent years on the ground covering conflict zones in the Middle East, especially in Syria and occupied Palestine, where she lived for nearly four years. She is a recipient of the 2017 International Journalism Award for International Reporting, granted by the Mexican Journalists’ Press Club (founded in 1951), was the first recipient of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism, and was short-listed in 2017 for the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism. See her extended bio on her blog In Gaza

Booming Sochi – Debunking the $50-billion Olympic Expenditure Hoax

September 10, 2019

by Jon Hellevig for The Saker Blog

Booming Sochi – Debunking the $50-billion Olympic Expenditure Hoax

It’s a two and a half hour flight from Moscow to Sochi and when you land you are in another world. Sochi is absolutely unique and like no place else in Russia, a gem in its own right. Sheltered by the Caucasian mountains from the severe northern winds which sweep over most of Russia in wintertime and tempered by the Black Sea breezes the summer, Sochi has a pleasant climate all year round. While the other resorts to the west on the same Russian Black Sea coast may get winter peak colds of -10 degrees and below, Sochi could see morning frosts but daily temperatures rarely drop below +10. There’s a reason the climate is characterized as subtropical.

Leaving Moscow birch trees and Siberian pines behind, the traveler when he emerges from the airport is amazed to be welcomed by swaying palm trees. And, above the palms, you will behold the snowcapped peaks of the guarding mountains lit by the sun.

It’s not only the nature and climate that make Sochi special, the man-made environment is also unique for Russia and at the highest global levels. Russia went through some rough times in the 20th century, which set a mark on most its cities, but in Sochi there is not a trace of bygone Soviet decay. Everything is as neat as we would think of countries like Switzerland. At the same time, we see stunning new Miami-style high-rise buildings perfectly placed among the lush scenery. A lot of that marvel came courtesy of Vladimir Putin’s bold decision to transform Sochi into a world-class all-year tourist destination in the run-up to the 2014 Winter Olympics.

The Sochi hoax just won’t go away

I was reminded of this just recently, when in my research on the Russian economy I plowed through a couple of grant-fueled Western accounts of the economic history of the Putin years. One was Chris Miller’s book (2018) with the ridiculous title “Putinomics” (as unfit as they come for a book purporting to be academic research). The other one, a 2019 book from the Atlantic Council’s fiction department hack Anders Aslund – of Russian shock therapy fame – with the no less bizarre title “Russia’s Crony Capitalism.” In the case of Aslund and his employer, I am sure nobody would have expected anything else.

Miller unilaterally declared: “What is clear, however, is that a significant share of the funds invested [in Sochi] were wasted or stolen.” For evidence he refers to Navalny’s fraudulent pamphlet in addition to all the other propaganda clichés. (*1). In his book, Aslund in turn returns time after time – without any justification – to Sochi as an alleged hotbed of corruption and waste and one of the alleged original sins of Putin.

As these fellows cannot in the real Russia detect, no matter how hard they try, any Putinomics and not much of crony capitalism either, they just make it up. One of the favorite clichés such sham analysts resort to in order to back up their agenda-driven narratives about Russia is the supposed corruption and lavish spending in connection with the Olympic Games, trying to convince their readers that it was all nothing but “Putin’s vanity project.”

This line of attack was first developed in a desperate attempt to destroy the reputation of the Russian Olympic games even before they were held. Another topic on the anti-Sochi black agenda centered around the fake claims that gay people were supposedly persecuted in the country. And everything culminated just a couple of days before the games started in the wacky claim going viral in Western media that the Russians had built “twin-seat toilets,” toilets designed to have two people doing their business next to each other in one cubicle. In reality, the photos were from work in progress just before the partition walls and cubicle doors were being installed.

The Nemtsov report

The original raw material for the corruption and overspending narrative was delivered by late rabid opposition activists – derailed presidential hopeful from the anarchy of the 90s – Boris Nemtsov. It was a shamelessly forged report titled “Winter Olympics in the Subtropics: Corruption and Abuse in Sochi” (2013). (*2). Nemtsov as a sworn nemesis of Putin was a totally unreliable witness to start with, it was clear that he would have no intention to render an honest and fair account of what was going on. All he wanted to do was to destroy the Games and deny millions of Russians, whose lives he had already conspired to wreck in the 1990s, to take pride in the Olympic Games which symbolized the national awakening and resurrected prosperity. – But the Western press sucked it all up – of course, because they were part of it.

Nemtsov’s report was rehashed in January 2014, just before the games were set to open, by another frenzied one-cause anti-Putin activist, Alexey Navalny, who basically plagiarized Nemtsov’s report with an added portion of hyperbole. (*3). This with the predictable and orchestrated knee-jerk reactions of the combined Western media.

The central claim and giant falsehood in these reports was the contention that the $50 billion dollar budget for the Sochi region in the run-up to the Olympics would have been event-based, that is, supposedly been spent on organizing the Games with a zero residual value. Following this blatantly false argument, the critics then pushed the meme that the Sochi Olympics would have been by far the most expensive in history. In reality, the actual organizing costs of hosting the Games, including the construction of all the sporting facilities was $10.6 billion, while the resting $39 billion were investments in the Sochi urban infrastructure. This infrastructure spending was related to the Games only insofar as Putin had wanted to take the chance of upgrading at one fell swoop Sochi into a modern urban area and world-class resort, a first for Russia. It was an investment for the future. Real experts never doubted the wisdom of that decision, but today only the most diehard lying propagandist could argue against it, as it is shown in the present report.

The $10.6 billion spent on Sochi is perfectly in line with other recent Games. The cost of London 2012 Olympics was $13.9bn, and that is a city which even from before had all the sporting infrastructure you could wish for. Sochi had none. Vancouver in 2010 coughed up $8.9bn. Pyeongchang 2018 had a cost of $13.1bn.

With the $40 billion, which did not form part of the organizational costs, Sochi has indeed been transformed into a top destination for both winter and summer tourism as well as business travel with amazing congress facilities and a solid offering of high-class hotels.

This is what Sochi in reality got with that money

Let’s see what Sochi in reality got for that money in addition to the amazing sports facilities:

  • A state-of-the art modern airport
  • A new seaport for cargo, passenger liners, ferries and personal boats
  • Several new railway stations, among them the Adler station which is one of the biggest in Russia (not known for its miniscule rail stations
  • 367 km of roads and bridges
  • 967,400 square meters of road surface and pavements
  • 200 km of railways, with 22 tunnels, 54 bridges and several multi-level junctions
  • Two thermal power plants and one gas power plant with a combined capacity of 1200 MW, and four electric substations
  • 480 km of low-pressure gas pipelines
  • 550 km of high voltage power lines
  • A new water and wastewater treatment facility
  • Three new sewage treatment plants
  • A new graduate-level Russian International Olympic University
  • 60 new educational, cultural and health facilities
  • Two hospitals
  • A fascinating cluster of mountain villages built from scratch in the Krasnaya Polyana area (Gorky Gorod, Rosa Khutor, and others)
  • 25,000 additional hotel rooms, with 56 hotels rated four-star and above
  • A new theme park (Sochi Park)
  • A Formula 1 racing track (not an Olympic sport)
  • Renovation of a huge number of residential houses and public space
  • Barrier-free accessibility to public and commercial buildings for disabled persons
  • A 7-kilometer pedestrian and bicycle seaside boardwalk, Russia’s coolest along the newly created impressive beach down at the Olympic Village in the Imereti Lowlands

Most of the details for the above list were derived from Oleg Golubchikov’s marvelous report on the actual costs of the Sochi investments. (*4). Golubchikov provides transparent and detailed costs on each investment category with a division of the costs on organizational costs and investments in sporting facilities, and the Sochi urban infrastructure. Incidentally, he reaches the same grand total of $50 billion ($49.5bn, to be precise) for the combined costs as the propagandists announced, but with the difference that he shows where the funds in reality went. According to Golubchikov, the direct costs for holding the Games amounted to $10.75bn, whereas the infrastructure costs were $38.76bn. There is a break-down of both cost groups in his report, while the below table focuses on the infrastructure costs, which were the objects of the fabricated scandal.

This data on the costs and the infrastructure investments that they went into should convince anybody who is interested in the truth that there has absolutely been no squandering of funds and that $39 billion of the alleged “most expensive Olympics ever” in fact were investments in the Sochi urban infrastructure. Nevertheless, we will proceed below with exposing some more details, which should finally put the Nemtsov hoax to rest.

Nemtsov’s calculations just don’t hold water – and were never meant to

Nemtsov’s and Navalny’s propaganda pamphlets were masquerading as sound economic analysis based on global comparisons of alternative costs. Their findings then purported to show that Russia had built the Sochi objects significantly more expensively than global best practices would have it. As those reports are nothing but blatant propaganda and the calculations without merit, it would not make any sense to try to decipher them in detail. Just one example, concerning road and railroad works, the most expensive objects, will suffice more than enough.

I remind, 367 km of roads and bridges and 200 km of railways were constructed with 22 tunnels, 54 bridges and several multi-level junctions. These included, among other things, a new elevated road passing through the whole city of Sochi (the Kurortny Avenue bypass road), an extension of the Sochi ring road, and the combined railroad and highway connecting the sporting cluster down at the Adler coastal area with the skiing cluster up in the mountains at Krasnaya Polyana. The latter was by far the most expensive individual investment. The railroad and highway are each 48-kilometer long and include 10.3 km of railroad tunnels, 6.7 km of highway tunnels and 6.7km of escape tunnels, in addition to 40 highway and 37 railway bridges and overpasses with a combined length of 35 km.

The total cost for these were $10.3. In Nemtsov’s account the cost was $9.404. The difference may be explained by the additional stretch of railroad going from the Adler railway station to the airport. Nemtsov claimed that the expenditure on the road would normally buy 940 kilometers of highway. That is a highly dubious claim in itself, but most importantly, Nemtsov is here cutting corners and straightening the bends by comparing flatland highway with a mountainous road with tunnels, bridges and underpasses. But those were precisely the challenging and costly parts of the entire combined highway and railroad.

Instead of minding the Nemtsov antics, we can just look at a very transparent comparative project cost from the United States. In 2013, construction began on the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement tunnel, a bored highway tunnel in the city of Seattle, Washington. It is a 2-mile (3.2 km) tunnel under Downtown Seattle. The construction cost was estimated at $3.3 billion. (*5).

Once again, this is a 3.2 km tunnel that cost $3.3 billion. But the Adler-Krasnaya Polyana highway had 6.7 km of automotive road tunnels, 10.3 km of railroad tunnels, 6.7km of escape tunnels, and 77 bridges and overpasses. Now, compare that with the total price of the merely 3.2-km Seattle tunnel. What can you say, glaring economy in favor of Russia here. With the Seattle cost level, the expenditure on tunnels alone would have been $17.5 billion, not counting the escape tunnels, bridges, overpasses and the surface parts of the 48-km four-lane road and 48-km railroad.

There is no reason to refrain from spelling it out: Nemtsov was not mistaken here, he was lying. His narrative is full of holes and deliberate attempts to confuse the reader. (He would not have fooled anybody, hadn’t it been for the orchestrated media propaganda). In his scandalous report, Nemtsov claimed that the combined “highway/railroad” had cost $9.404 billion. But immediately in the next paragraph, the activist dropped the railroad part and pretended that the expenditure was exclusively for the highway, to quote: “For 266 billion rubles, you could build 940 kilometers (and they only built 48 kilometers!) of high-quality four-lane highway in Russia…” (*6). Thus the 48 km railroad – which made up at least half of the cost – was magically made disappear from the comparison.

But that’s not all, next Nemtsov spirited away the tunnels, bridges and overpasses. Quote: “To estimate the cost of the 35-kilometer portion of the four-lane highway, we will use the average European cost – $10 million per kilometer. Thus, the price of the automobile road without the bridges and tunnels would be $350 million. One kilometer of high-speed railroad track, according to average European standards, is $45 million. Thus, the 25.7 kilometers of regular rail track should cost $1.156 billion.” – Here the railroad is back in the narrative, but the items that objectively carry a high cost – tunnels, bridges, overpasses – were all wiped out and never returned into Nemtsov’s mendacious narrative. Interestingly enough, there was that admission of those costly items being omitted. That is a common propaganda ploy, the fabulists mining their narratives with half-truths to gain tools to deflect criticism.

The above exposure of the Nemtsov bluff has clearly shown that the intention was just that: to bluff, to create a giant propaganda hoax aimed at spoiling the Games and sullying the reputation of Russia and its president.

There’s another giant transparent con right in the introduction of the Nemtsov travesty. Although he proceeds further down in the report to discuss the cost of the road building, Nemtsov pretends in the introduction that the $50 billion was all spent on sporting facilities. Quote: “With over $50 billion already spent, it is more expensive than the sports buildings of all 21 other Winter Olympics combined.” (*7). – He compares the cost for an airport, a seaport, several railway stations, power plants, power lines, gas pipelines, all those 367 km of roads and bridges, 25,000 hotel rooms, etc. etc. with previous costs on sports building. Give me a break and STFU.

Spinning the facts, he tells that the original budget for the sporting facilities and organization costs were $12 billion, but then allows (referring to the experience from previous Games) for regular Olympic cost overruns and inflation (from 2007 to 2013) and concludes that $24bn would have been the fair price. Therefore, Nemtsov fancies, the remaining $26bn would consists of nothing but “embezzlement and kickbacks.” (*8). This ridiculous postulation amounts to saying that the real price of organizing the Games and getting all that amazing infrastructure – of which only the Adler-Krasnaya Polyana combined highway and railroad had a fair cost, by global comparison, of at least $25bn – would have been only $24bn.

The Sochi Olympic expenditure also compares favorably with the Berlin Brandenburg Airport (in construction since 2006 and still unfinished, sic!) with a present price tag of 10.3 billion euro. (Approximately USD 13 billion). (*9).

A good gauge is also the approximately $3 billion that Toronto is planning to invest in just one subway station. (*10).

Enough of the fairy tales, now let’s return back to the real Sochi.

Tourists are Flocking to Sochi

All these infrastructure goodies obviously remained in Sochi after the Olympics. They were not dismantled and tucked away after the Games as the brothers-in-arm Nemtsov and Navalny and their cheerleaders in the Western media insinuated. They are there for the millions of visitors and the population of Sochi to enjoy. Notably, the population has grown with one fifth, up from the pre-Olympic 368 thousand to present day 450 thousand.

In the same period from 2013 to 2018, the number of visitors has nearly doubled from 3.8 million to levels around 7 million. It is difficult to pinpoint an exact figure for visitors as many stay in private accommodation, rented or owned, but that must be the level. A foolproof indicator is the number of passengers travelling through Sochi airport. It has grown 150% from 2.4 million in 2013 to 6.3 million in 2018. (Note, both arrivals and departures are counted in airport statistics). A further 10% growth has been reported for first half of 2019.

Obviously, this tremendous growth in population and visitors would not have been possible without the $40 billion investment in Sochi’s infrastructure.

It has been established that 25,000 additional hotel rooms where built for the Olympics, of these 12,000 in 56 new world class hotels rated four-stars or above. This practically doubled the pre-Olympic capacity to a total of 55,000 rooms. Before the Olympic boom, Sochi had only one single hotel conforming to international standards, a Gazprom owned Radisson establishment with 200 rooms.

There’s more devastating news in store for the propagandists. The Olympic constructions did not result in any overcapacity, far from it, on the contrary the number of hotel rooms has significantly further risen since then. Reporting on the results of completing the new mandatory star rating procedures for hotels, the Sochi city administration told in February 2019, that the city now possessed a total capacity of 84 thousand rooms combined in 2,387 hotels, guest houses and hostels. (*12). On top of that comes the huge number of private accommodation.

This means that there has been a major shift towards more value-added visitors. With this total capacity, Sochi was ready to accommodate 200 thousand guests simultaneously in one day during the FIFA football world cup.

For sake of comparison, Helsinki (Finland) has built only 63 hotels with a combined 9,373 rooms in its entire history. (*12). Sochi then built 5 times more in just a couple of years before and after the Olympics than one of Europe’s major capital cities managed in over 100 years.

Interestingly, due to good bookings, the mountain resort hotels also get guests in the summer, and the coastal hotels in the winter.

Western wishful predictions of doom and gloom failed to materialize

Right after the Olympic games, the Western media kicked off a follow-up campaign designed to convince that all the investments actually had been in vain. Sochi is “Deserted and already falling apart,” The Daily Mail gleefully declared. (*13). A “ghost town,” announced the spooks at The Guardian (*14). “A $51 billion ‘ghetto’: Extraordinary images show Vladimir Putin’s Sochi Olympic park lying desolate and abandoned one year after most expensive games in history,” more lies from London. (*15). I cannot even get worked up about these claims — they are so ludicrously flawed — just what one would expect from the London fiction factory.

As there simply was nothing real to complain about, what the Western reporters did was to go up to the mountain winter sport cluster in summertime to report that no skiers were spotted, as the CNN did (*16), and then descend onto the coastal beach resort in wintertime (*17) to share their amazement over the empty beaches, as The Daily Mail did. (*18). The winter is mild down there, rarely cooler than 10°C in daytime, but it hardly qualifies for a beach season.

As post-Olympic Sochi really has been a resounding success, this line of attack is largely dead in the media. My impression is that the only ones who are trying to rehash the scandals are Moscow based correspondents of Western media who want to take a long weekend off and travel over to Sochi to enjoy some nice days in the sun during the Moscow winter gloom. It’s a surefire trick to get your employer to pay for it by promising a report about the “post-Olympic decay of Putin’s vanity project.” But even so, they seem not to be able to deliver, as for example was the case with Marjo Nakki from Yle, Finland’s state broadcasting corporation. She enjoyed her free meal but really had nothing to complain about. (*19).

For those who are interested to see how the real Sochi looks like, I refer to an article which I wrote back in 2017. It has a lot of pictures displaying the beauty of Sochi. Here is the link https://russia-insider.com/en/society/sochi-sunny-side-reality/ri4658

White Elephants Live and Kicking

What about the claims that the Olympic sporting arenas stand out like white elephants – unfinished, useless and abandoned? Already a few days before the games even took off, Voice of America declared that “Sochi Facilities Will Not Be Used After Olympics.” (*20). Alas, this wish did not come true; far from it.

These sporting facilities are surrounded on a large territory by hotels, convention centers, and various clusters of housing developments originally built to accommodate the Olympic teams, support staff, organizers and media. The result is an extraordinarily vibrant residential and recreational area with a gorgeous beach on one side and snowcapped mountains on the other. This area will for sure provide for some of the best quality of life in Russia, and a good one by any global standards.

And the venues are bustling with activity. One of the ice rinks is the busy home rink of the new Sochi Hockey Club, debuting in Russia’s prestigious KHL league right after the Olympics in 2014. The club draws between six to ten thousand spectators per game. Another ice rink is being used for various figure skating activities and ice shows. A third one has been converted into a Russian central facility for child health and sports activities. The speed skating arena was turned into a tennis center with nine courts under roof and 15 open-air courts. The Fisht Stadium, the central stadium of the Sochi Olympics, which hosted the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, was fast reconstructed to serve as one of football stadiums for the FIFA World Cup in Russia 2018. In 2014 Sochi hosted its first annual Formula One race on a street circuit built around these venues of the Sochi Olympic Park.

The sporting venues and adjacent hotels and congress centers have also been busy with continuously hosting one or another top level conference or summit.

President Putin has practically transformed Sochi into the country’s summer capital, where he frequently meets with foreign dignitaries during the sunnier half of the year. This also tallies with Russia’s pivot to Asia as Sochi is much closer to those countries.

Real Estate

Sochi saw a lot of real estate development – not included in the famous $50 billion price tag – across the city in the years leading up to the Olympic Games. After the sharp devaluation of the Russian ruble in 2014/2015 in the wake of the Western-imposed sanctions and the decline of the oil price, the Sochi real estate prices initially declined in in dollar terms. But since the decline the prices have surged by more than 100 to 200%. Premium category apartments with a sea view currently sell at a level of five to ten thousand dollars per square meter.

Concluding remarks

The present report should serve to convince the skeptic that without even a glimmer of doubt the bulk of the much touted Sochi $50 billion investment budget went towards a regional transformation and a thorough infrastructural overhaul of Sochi with a lasting impact. The reports about vanity spending and corruption can be firmly put down to malicious propaganda aimed at destroying Russia’s and its presidents external image, wipe out national support for the Games, and destabilize Russia’s political system.

Now, we are not saying that there would not be any legitimate concerns about the Sochi spending, there always are in connection with such huge projects, in all countries of the world. And while Russian law enforcement and the president have addressed some of them, the so-called opposition and their foreign cheerleaders have done nothing to expose any kinds of real misallocation of funds, solely concentrating on an entirely fictious propaganda narrative.

In addition to the impressive data evidencing the permanent economic boost that those investments delivered to Sochi, we may look at this from the point of view of the national economy. After the Sochi investments and the reunification of Crimea with Russia, the nation’s current account surplus got a $20 billion boost in form of a much lower capital outflow on foreign travel. In 2013, Russians spent $53 billion on travel abroad, but by 2018 the figure was down at $34 billion. Obviously, not all that money saved from foreign travel was spent in Sochi and Crimea, but these places sure made an enormous contribution towards it.

Finally, let’s see how miniscule the alleged scandal would be in an international comparison, even if the whole propaganda lie had been true. In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, the United States spent on entirely murky bailouts of the country’s banks and largest corporations 475 billion on the federal TARP bailout program. In addition to that the Federal Reserve’s own bailout program regaled the banks and corporations with $1.2 trillion in the immediate aftermath of the crisis (*21) without any oversight in blatant corruption schemes. (*22). These were followed by more venal schemes in form of Fed’s program to pump $3.5 trillion of virtually interest free money to those private entities belonging to the American financial aristocracy. (*23). Those funds were further contributed by the highly contentious $787 billion Obama stimulus package. Independent analysts have shown that, Obama’s stimulus package resulted in nothing else but “waste, fraud and abuse as well as highly questionable projects.” (*24).

I bring up the American corruption here, because the fabricated Sochi spending scandal was aimed at portraying Russia as a particularly corrupt country. Without any evidence and distorted facts and outright lies the propaganda media indeed managed to convince a substantial majority of the Western populations that this was the case. Therefore, I find it very opportune to remind where the real corruption and waste resides. After all, those people, and types like above referenced Chris Miller and Anders Aslund, especially designed their narratives to convince the public how a supposed byzantine Russian government was the epitome of crony capitalism in comparison with the shining city upon a hill that their America is supposed to be.

FOOTNOTES:

*1. Chris Miller (2018). Putinomics. Pages 139 and 140.

*2. Boris Nemtsov and Leonid Martynyuk (2013). Winter Olympics in the Subtropics: Corruption and Abuse in Sochi” (2013). https://www.putin-itogi.ru/cp/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Report_ENG_SOCHI-2014_preview.pdf

*3. Alexey Navalny (2014). Sochi 2014: The Comprehensive Report. https://sochi.fbk.info/en/report/

*4. Oleg Golubchikov (2017): From a sports mega-event to a regional megaproject: the Sochi winter Olympics and the return of geography in state development priorities, International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/19406940.2016.1272620

*5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alaskan_Way_Viaduct_replacement_tunnel

*6. Nemtsov report, pages 23 – 25.

*7. Nemtsov report, page 6.

*8. Nemtsov report, page 6 and 7.

*9. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berlin_Brandenburg_Airport

*10. https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/nov/24/3bn-subway-station-toronto-alaska-bridge-pyongyang-hotel-valencia-city-arts-sciences

*11. https://ria.ru/20190219/1551082088.html

*12. https://www.stat.fi/til/matk/2018/12/matk_2018_12_2019-02-07_tau_005_fi.html

*13. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2589194/How-Sochi-ghost-town-just-weeks-Olympics.html

*14. https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2014/dec/17/sochi-olympics-legacy-city-feels-like-a-ghost-town

*15. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2941216/Extraordinary-images-Vladimir-Putin-s-Sochi-Olympic-park-lying-desolate-abandoned.html

*16. https://edition.cnn.com/videos/world/2014/10/13/bizview-davies-rus-ghosts-of-sochi.cnn

*17. https://edition.cnn.com/videos/world/2014/10/13/bizview-davies-rus-ghosts-of-sochi.cnn

*18. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2589194/How-Sochi-ghost-town-just-weeks-Olympics.html

*19. https://yle.fi/uutiset/3-10380886

*20. https://www.voanews.com/content/expert-worry-sochi-facilities-will-not-be-used-after-olympics/1844282.html

*21. https://www.forbes.com/sites/mikecollins/2015/07/14/the-big-bank-bailout/#482128b32d83

*22. A fantastic description about the bailout and Federal Reserve quantitative easing frauds and corruption schemes is provided by David Stockman in his The Great Deformation (2013).

*23. https://www.awaragroup.com/blog/with-global-recession-looming-russia-looks-strong/

*24. https://www.judicialwatch.org/corruption-chronicles/more-stimulus-fraud-waste/

 

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