Between the lines of the Biden-Putin summit

Between the lines of the Biden-Putin summit

June 17, 2021

Biden hinted US wants Russia ‘back in the fold’ but Putin won’t being leaving China’s embrace any time soon

By Pepe Escobar with permission and first posted at AsiaTimes

Let’s start with the written word.

In Geneva, the US and Russia issued a joint statement where we reaffirm the principle that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”

Assorted Dr. Strangeloves will cringe – but at least the world has it in writing, and may breathe a sigh of relief with this breakthrough of sorts. That doesn’t mean that a “non-agreement capable” US industrial-military complex will abide.

Moscow and Washington also committed to engage in an “integrated bilateral Strategic Stability Dialogue in the near future that will be deliberate and robust.” The devil in the details is in which “near future” the dialogue will progress.

A first step is that ambassadors are returning to both capitals. Putin confirmed that the Russian Foreign Ministry and the State Department will “start consultations” following the new START-3 treaty extension for five years.

Equally important was the actual Rosebud in Geneva: the Minsk protocol. That was one of the key drivers for the White House to actually request the summit to the Kremlin – and not the other way around.

The US establishment was shaken by the lightning-flash military buildup in Russian territory contiguous to Donbas – which was a response to Kiev provocations (Putin: “We conduct exercises on our territory, but we do not conduct exercises dragging equipment and weapons to the US border”).

The message was duly received. There seems to be a change of posture by the US on Ukraine – implying the Minsk protocol is back.

But that can all be – once again – shadow play. Biden said,

“We agreed to pursue diplomacy related to the Minsk agreement.”

To “pursue diplomacy” not necessarily means strictly abiding by a deal already endorsed by the UN Security Council which is being disrespected by Kiev non-stop. But at least it implies diplomacy.

A benign reading would reveal that some red lines are finally being understood. Putin did allude to it: “In general, it is clear to us what our US partners talk about, and they do understand what we say, when it comes to the ‘red lines.’ But I should say frankly that we have not gone as far as placing the emphases in detail and distribute and share something.”

So no detail – at least not yet.

Giving away the game

Talking before boarding Air Force One out of Geneva, a relaxed Joe Biden seems to have given away the game – in a trademark self-deluded way.

He said, “Russia is in a very, very difficult spot right now… They are being squeezed by China. They want desperately to remain a major power.”

This reveals a curious mix between zero knowledge about the complex, always evolving Russia-China comprehensive strategic partnership and outright wishful thinking (“squeezed by China”, “desperate to remain a major power”).

Russia is a de facto major power. Yet Putin’s vision of complete Russian sovereignty can only flourish in a true multipolar world coordinated by a Concert of Sovereigns: a realpolitik-based Balance of Power.

That’s in sharp contrast to the unipolarity privileged by the Hegemon, whose establishment considers any political player calling for sovereignty and multipolarity as a sworn enemy.

This cognitive dissonance certainly was not removed by what Putin, Biden and their extended teams discussed at Villa La Grange.

It’s quite enlightening to revive the arc from Anchorage to Geneva – which I have been chronicling for Asia Times for the past three months. In Alaska, China was hurled into a dingy environment and received with insults at the diplomatic table – responded in kind by the formidable Yang Jiechi. Compare it with the Hollywood-style ceremonial in Geneva.

The difference in treatment offered to China and Russia once again gives away the game.

US ruling elites are totally paralyzed by the Russia-China strategic partnership. But their ultimate nightmare is that Berlin will understand that once again they are being used as cannon fodder – which they are as it’s been clearly visible throughout the Nord Stream 2 saga.

That might eventually propel Berlin into the ultimate Eurasian alliance with Russia-China. The recently signed Atlantic Charter signals that the ideal scenario for the Anglo-Americans – shades of WWII – is to have Germany and Russia as irreconcilable opposites.

So the main American goal in the somewhat quirky Putin-Biden photo op (Putin smirk meets Biden looking into the distance) was to trick Putin into thinking Washington wants Russia “back into the fold”, moving Moscow away from Beijing and avoiding a triple alliance with Berlin.

What about regional stability?

There were no substantial leaks from Geneva – at least not yet. We don’t know whether Lavrov and Blinken actually did much of the talking when only the four of them – plus translators – were in the library room.

At the extended meeting, notorious Maidan cookie distributor Victoria ‘F**k the EU’ Nuland had a seat on the table. That might imply that even if US-Russia agree on nuclear stability, regional stability remains largely off the table (Putin: “What is stable in supporting a coup in Ukraine?”)

Biden vaguely referred to US and Russia possibly working together on humanitarian aid to Syria. That was code for Idlib – where NATO’s Turkey is actively supporting jihadis of the al-Nusra kind. Not a word on illegal American occupation of Syrian territory – complete with oil smuggling, and the fact that the real humanitarian crisis in Syria is a direct result of US sanctions.

None of this was asked in both pressers. A passing word on Iran, another passing word on Afghanistan, not even a mention of Gaza.

Putin, in full command of the facts and insisting on logic, was clearly accommodating, emphasizing “no hostility” and “a willingness to understand each other”. Biden, to his credit, said disagreements were not dealt with in a “hyperbolic atmosphere” and his “agenda” is not directed against Russia.

Putin went into extreme detail explaining how Russia is “restoring lost infrastructure” in the Arctic. He’s “deeply convinced” the US and Russia should cooperate in the Arctic.

On cybersecurity, he was adamant that Moscow provided all information on US requests about cyber attacks, but never receives answers from the Americans. He emphasized most cyber attacks originate in the US.

On human rights: “Guantanamo is still working, does not comply with any international law”. And “torture was used in American prisons, including in Europe.”

Very important: they did touch upon, “casually”, the vaccine wars, and the “possibility” was evoked of mutual recognition of vaccines.

For the record: US mainstream media was invited for Putin’s presser – and felt free to lodge accusatory “questions” faithful to the “rogue Kremlin behavior” script while no Russian media whatsoever was allowed on Biden’s presser.

In a nutshell: applying Kissinger’s Divide and Rule to put a spanner in the Russia-China works was D.O.A. when you’re dealing with ultra-savvy players such as Putin and Lavrov.

Putin, in his presser, said, “I have no illusions, and there can be no illusions”. Later, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was asked if Geneva would lead to the US being removed from Russia’s Unfriendly Nations list: “No…there are no grounds yet.”

Still, there are glimmers of hope. Stranger geopolitical things have happened. If warmongers are sidelined, 2021 might even end up as The Year of Strategic Stability.

Statements after Putin / Biden summit

June 16, 2021

Source

Statements after Putin / Biden summit

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

After that the talks continued in an expanded format.

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

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

June 16, 2021

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

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

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

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


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

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

Good afternoon.

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

With that, I will take your questions.

Question: Good evening,

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

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

Thank you.

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

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

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

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

This is how it was in general terms.

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

Thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transcript to be continued.


Remarks by President Biden in post-summit Press Conference

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

Hôtel du Parc des Eaux-Vives
Geneva, Switzerland

7:20 P.M. CEST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, Jonathan, Associated Press.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q    In the cyber way.

THE PRESIDENT:  In the cyber way.

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

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

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

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

Jennifer.  Jennifer Jacobs.

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

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

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q    There were no threats issued?

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

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

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

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

So, we had those discussions.

Yamiche.

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

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

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

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

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

Q    Can I ask a quick follow-up question?

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

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

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

And so, they’re very different criteria.

Steve.  Steve Holland, Reuters.

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

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

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

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

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

Igor, Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty.

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

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

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

THE PRESIDENT:  All right.

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

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.

Q    For example, Radio Free Europe —

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q    Sir, one more question —

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

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

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

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Thank you very much.

Q    Mr. President —

Q    But on the military — military response, sir?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

Q    Any progress on the detained Americans, sir?

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

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

Q    President Biden, why are you so confident Russia —

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

Q    Say it again; we can’t hear you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

Putin delivers annual address to Federal Assembly

 Source

Putin delivers annual address to Federal Assembly

April 21, 2021

Putin’s speech comes amid a period of diplomatic confrontation with Western nations and a stand-off over the situation in Ukraine and Russian troop movements.

The address to the Federal Assembly is often used to announce major changes in Russian domestic and foreign policy.

This is the current live stream.

The full and complete transcript is now posted.

Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly

The President of Russia delivered the Address to the Federal Assembly. The ceremony took place at the Manezh Central Exhibition Hall.

April 21, 202113:20

Moscow

The ceremony was attended by members of the Federation CouncilState Duma deputies, members of the Government, the heads of the Constitutional and Supreme courts, regional governors, speakers of regional legislatures, the heads of traditional religious denominations and public activists.

* *

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Members of the Federation Council, State Duma deputies,

Citizens of Russia,

Today’s Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly will be dedicated mostly to internal issues. These include, naturally, healthcare, social policy and the economy. Of course, I will say a few words about external affairs and literally a few words about security issues.

It stands to reason that I will begin with last year’s events, when our country and, actually, the entire world faced a new, previously unknown and extremely dangerous infection.

It that period, including during our meetings with experts and conversations with the leaders of many states, I often heard the following description of the situation: we are faced with total uncertainty. And this is how it really was.

I could see this from the information I received from the regions. The number of people who contracted the disease and needed to be rushed to hospital kept growing. Actually, all of you are very well aware of this. Many hospitals were filled to capacity and reported that they could run out of oxygen soon, including in intensive care units. Ventilators, protective masks and PPE were actually distributed by the piece. Shops were running out of basic products, such as cereals, butter and sugar, due to increased demand.

The epidemic was on the offensive. But although there was great concern, I personally had no doubt that we would pull through.

Citizens, society and the state acted responsibly and in unison. We rallied, managed to take preventive action, to create conditions that would reduce the risk of infection, and to provide medical personnel and citizens with personal protective equipment. We increased the number of hospital beds for coronavirus patients more than five times over, to 280,000 beds.

The brief outline of measures conceals the tremendous and intensive work of millions of people in all regions of the Russian Federation. I would like to cordially thank all of you for this. Everyone worked quickly, efficiently and conscientiously.

At that time and later on, we were analysing the situation practically non-stop. I recall vividly my visit to the hospital in Kommunarka. It was necessary to experience, to see at first hand the danger facing us and to assess the working conditions of medical specialists. They immediately found themselves in the thick of events and fought for every life, while risking their own.

Today, doctors, paramedics, medical nurses and members of ambulance teams are sitting here in this hall. Once again my heartfelt thanks to you and your colleagues from all the Russian regions.

Russian researchers made a real breakthrough, and Russia now has three reliable coronavirus vaccines. These and many other achievements of the past few years highlight the country’s growing science and technological potential.

I would like to thank everyone, every person who contributed to the fight against infection, including the workers at the plants manufacturing medications, medical equipment, personal protective equipment, and enterprises working 24 hours a day, housing and utility agencies, trade companies, the Russian business community that quickly converted entire sectors so that they could manufacture essential goods, civilian and military builders, agriculture workers who gathered a record-breaking harvest, one of the biggest in the country’s history, that is, over 130 million tonnes.

The personnel of law enforcement agencies and the special services continued to carry out their duty, and the Russian Armed Forces reliably ensured our country’s security.

I would like to underscore the selfless behaviour of people working for social services, orphanages, boarding schools, retirement homes and hospices who stayed and who continue to stay with their charges. You will certainly agree with me that, while analysing developments at these institutions, one feels proud of people who are carrying out their duty there in such a responsible manner. It could move you to tears. I would like to thank them once again.

I would also like to convey my sincere gratitude to school teachers and the lecturers at universities and other education institutions. You did everything possible to enable your students and pupils to gain knowledge and successfully pass their exams, with the involvement and support of their parents.

Russia’s cultural life continued unabated. Theatres, museums and concert halls remained open to audiences online thanks to modern technology. Everyone who works in this crucial sphere rose to the occasion.

Our people showed discipline and managed to observe, let’s face it, quite exhausting, but vital precautions. Thus, acting together, we have put up an effective barrier to the pandemic.

The people’s solidarity showed in concrete actions, in caring for the loved ones and in willingness to help people in need. Millions became volunteers and engaged in building person-to-person help routes. The nationwide We Are Together campaign brought together people from different walks of life and ages. As always during challenging times, our traditional religions stepped up to provide spiritual support to the society. I see the leaders of our religions here and I would like to bow deeply to you, thank you very much

Throughout history, our people have come out victorious and overcome trials thanks to unity. Today, family, friendship, mutual assistance, graciousness and unity have come to the fore as well.

Spiritual and moral values, which are already being forgotten in some countries, have, on the contrary, made us stronger. And we will always uphold and defend these values.

Colleagues,

The pandemic broke out at a time when the aftermath of the demographic shocks of the 1940s and 1990s converged. We realise that the current demographic situation is an emergency. Unfortunately, this is how things are. We must accept and admit it and do something about it based on our understanding of this situation.

Saving the people of Russia is our top national priority. This priority underlies the stipulations of the updated Constitution concerning the protection of the family, the important role parents play in bringing up their children, strengthening social guarantees, and further developing the economy, education and culture.

Our strategy is to return to sustainable population growth to make sure that the average life expectancy in Russia increases to 78 years in 2030.

Unfortunately, the statistics show us sad and disappointing numbers. We are even seeing a certain decline. It is clear what is happening because of the pandemic, but we will keep our strategic goals in this critical sphere unchanged.

I fully realise that this is no small feat, the more so as the coronavirus has not yet been completely defeated and remains a direct threat. We see the dramatic developments in many countries where the cases of infection continue to grow. We need to keep in check the defence barriers designed to slow down the spread of the virus along our external borders and within our country.

I would like to address all citizens of Russia once again. Friends, please stay alert. I am asking you to take care of yourselves and your loved ones and to comply with the doctors’ and sanitary services’ recommendations as closely as possible.

Vaccination is of crucial importance. I would like to ask the Government, the Healthcare Ministry and the heads of the regions to monitor this process on a daily basis. The opportunity to take the jab must be available everywhere, so that we achieve the so-called herd immunity by the autumn.

The attainment of this goal depends on everyone, on all our citizens. Please, I am asking all citizens of Russia once again to get vaccinated. This is the only way to stop this deadly epidemic. There is no alternative. The other choice is much worse: to contract the disease with unpredictable consequences.

I would like to say once again that the disease is still with us. But we must start thinking already now about healing the wounds it has inflicted and restoring people’s health.

During the peak periods, our hospitals and outpatient clinics had to reduce or even suspend scheduled visits. This increased the risk of the aggravation of chronic illnesses or the risk of missing the first signs of or correctly diagnosing new illnesses.

I would like to ask the Government, the Healthcare Ministry and the constituent entities of the Russian Federation to expand the system of medical check-ups and periodic screenings, taking into account the current epidemiological situation, and to relaunch them in full measure on July 1, 2021 for people of all ages. They must involve the largest number of people possible. This is why we will increase the supply of mobile medical diagnostic systems to the regions in the near future.

One of the targets of the coronavirus is the cardiovascular system. These diseases have always been the leading cause of death. Therefore, special attention during periodic screenings must be given to people with cardiovascular diseases. I would like to instruct the Government to take additional measures to prevent the diseases that are the main causes of premature death. As I have already mentioned, these are cardiovascular diseases plus malignant tumours and respiratory system diseases.

Hepatitis C claims many young lives. Decisions must be made to reduce this threat to the health of the nation to a minimum within 10 years.

To ensure that as many people as possible can restore their health at sanatoriums and health resorts, I propose that the 20 percent rebate programme for domestic travel is extended at least until the end of the year.

Children’s health is our special priority. Indeed, the foundation for good health for many years to come is laid during childhood. Children’s rest and recreation activities must be made as affordable as possible. In this regard, this year, I propose reimbursing half of what parents spend on their children’s summer camps.

In addition, we need to expand opportunities for student tourism. Already this year, we must launch several pilot projects, including accommodation on university campuses and in dormitories in other regions for students who travel around the country during the summer.

And, of course, we must reward the young people who have done well in academic competitions and in volunteer and creative initiatives as well as the projects operated by the Russia – Land of Opportunity platform. For them, the partial reimbursement programme for tourist vouchers will remain valid during the holidays, aka the high season. This is a ground-breaking decision.

I wish to thank all the parliamentary groups which supported the decision on the taxation of high incomes, or rather, a portion of high incomes. These proceeds will go to the dedicated Circle of Kindness fund and have already been released to help children affected by rare and serious diseases, to purchase expensive medicines and medical equipment, and to cover the costs of surgeries.

On April 28, we will celebrate Ambulance Worker Day which was established as a show of respect to those who arrive first to save lives. These specialists must be provided with all necessary supplies. Within the next three years, we will make another 5,000 new ambulances available to rural communities, urban-type localities and small towns, which will replace the ambulance fleet almost in full.

I want to emphasise that public healthcare authorities in many leading countries – we are well aware of it and, in fact, they themselves are saying so – were unable to deal with the challenges of the pandemic as effectively as we did in Russia. At the same time, global health care is on the cusp of a genuine revolution. This must be recognised and clearly seen. We cannot miss it.

The pandemic has exponentially sped up the introduction of telemedicine, artificial intelligence and new approaches in diagnostics, surgery, rehabilitation and the production of medicines everywhere. We must put these technologies at the service of the people of our country.

We must build our healthcare system around this ground-breaking technology, and keep an eye on pressing everyday problems in the process. As we are all aware, they abound, mostly in primary care. There must be no such thing as waiting lines, no hassle making a diagnostics appointment or a specialist doctor appointment, or obtaining prescriptions and sick leaves, for that matter. This has often come up in our discussions lately. The funds have been set side and allocated. It is time to move quickly and efficiently to make it happen.

We have a backlog to deal with in healthcare and other social sectors, including many technical, financial and managerial challenges. However, what people need is qualified and timely medical help. I propose reviewing public healthcare problems from this perspective at an expanded meeting of the State Council some time soon. We will prepare for it and hold it shortly.

I repeat: we have gained some fundamentally new experience in fulfilling our social commitments. During the pandemic, we made direct payments to families bringing up almost 28 million children, and they received their benefits without any unnecessary paperwork or other kinds of red tape – they got the money they needed and were entitled to automatically. I know Government members have been working on this, focusing deliberately, not without some failures, but they have made every effort to accomplish this task, and coped with it. This is great, this is a good example. This approach should become the norm at all levels of government.

This is the essence of the National Social Initiative, which was discussed at a recent joint meeting of the State Council Presidium and the Agency for Strategic Initiatives.

I am calling on the regional governors: it is your direct responsibility to organise the work of local clinics, daycare nurseries and schools, and employment centres, based on the daily needs of families, of each and every person. In many regions, I have seen with my own eyes that such work has already been launched in certain areas. This needs to be done everywhere and in all social sectors.

As soon as in 2022, we must introduce the ‘social treasury’ principles. This means that all federal benefits, pensions and other social payments and services will be provided and paid in a one-stop mode, without having to visit dozens of different agencies, but simply upon marriage, the birth of a child, retirement or other life milestones. Within three years, the vast majority of public and municipal services should be provided to Russian citizens remotely, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, that is, on an ongoing basis.

Separately, we will have to discuss child-support payments, which are a sensitive topic for many families. Unfortunately, this is a problem in our country. This procedure should not be humiliating for anyone. Most issues here need to be resolved remotely and, most importantly, in the interests of the affected party. A mother with a child should not have to camp on the doorstep of various authorities to collect official documents, carrying her baby in her arms, and this is what usually happens. A system of interagency communication needs to be built, with banks included, in such a way as to ensure the unconditional execution of court decisions on the recovery of child-support payments. The state is obliged to protect the rights of the child; this is what we are talking about. I will return to this topic again later.

Colleagues,

We understand the heavy toll that the pandemic has taken on people’s welfare. Statistics show the aggravating effects of this outbreak on social inequality and poverty. It has been a challenge for all countries around the world – remember, all countries, not only Russia, are experiencing the same consequences. Certainly, we should be primarily concerned about the situation in our own country.

We are now facing price hikes that are undercutting people’s incomes. Some urgent decisions have been made, of course, but we cannot solely rely on targeted and essentially directive measures. We remember potential outcomes. Back in the late 1980s and the 1990s in the Soviet Union, they resulted in empty store shelves. But today, even when the pandemic was at its worst, we did not allow the same thing to happen.

The Government’s goal is to create conditions that will be long-term and which, I want to stress this part, colleagues, can, thanks to market mechanisms (which we have), guarantee the predictability of prices and quality replenishment of the domestic market. Nobody is saying that we will be setting prices from the top. There’s no need to muddy the waters and scare people. There are market regulatory mechanisms and they must be employed – promptly and to the extent required and appropriate to a specific situation in the economy and social sphere. We need to stimulate investment activity by reducing business risks. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Surely, the main goal right now is to ensure that people’s real incomes grow – that is, to restore them and secure their further growth. As I said, we need tangible changes in our fight against poverty.

Before anything else, the Government must provide direct support to families with children who are experiencing hardships. This has been our consistent policy and we will continue to pursue it.

We already have a system of benefits paid to parents of one or two children from the time the children are born and until they reach the age of three. Families with incomes below two subsistence minimums per family member are entitled to such benefits. The average monthly amount paid across the country is 11,300 rubles per child. Seventy-eight Russian regions pay benefits for the third child, also 11,300 rubles on average.

Please note that we are making consistent progress in this area, step by step. Last year, we introduced benefits for children aged three to seven. They range from 5,650 to 11,300 rubles per month depending on the region.

I instruct the Government to develop, by July 1, a comprehensive system of support for families with children. Our goal is to minimise the risk of poverty for such families.

But a number of new decisions need to be taken immediately, already today. It is always difficult for a single parent to raise a child. There are plenty of reasons for that. And this is not about the reasons but about supporting children. It is particularly difficult when a single-parent family is having financial problems, especially when children start going to school and family expenses objectively rise.

In particular, we must support single-parent families, where a mother or a father is bringing up a child alone, and only one of the parents is registered on the birth certificate – sorry to be speaking of such mundane things, but this is a fact of life – or the parents have divorced and one of them has the right to child-support payments. Therefore, as of July 1 this year, all children in such families aged between 8 and 16, inclusively, will receive a benefit. The national average of such benefit will be 5,650 rubles.

Of course, we must also help women who are expecting a baby and who have financial problems. It is extremely important for a mother-to-be to get support from the state and society, so that they can keep their pregnancy and know that they will receive help in raising and bringing up their child.

I propose approving a monthly subsidy for women who register at a maternity centre during early pregnancy and who have financial problems. The average subsidy for them will be 6,350 rubles a month.

Next, the sick pay for taking care of a child who falls ill depends on the employment record, which is correct, on the whole, and fair. However, young women receive much smaller sick leave payments. We have discussed this issue at the State Council, and it has been raised by the United Russia. We need to adopt legal decisions on this matter without delay, so that payments for taking care of a sick child aged up to 7 years inclusively are approved at 100 percent of the parent’s salary as soon as this year.

You understand what this means. The majority of those in this room know that the longer the employment record the larger the sick pay. Women who have a long work record usually receive full sick pay, but they usually do not have children at their age. Those who have children do not receive full pay. We must definitely help those who are expecting a baby.

I would also like to remind you that we have expanded and extended the maternity capital programme up until 2026. This benefit will now be paid already for the first child. We could not afford this before. The maternity capital has been adjusted to inflation and is almost 640,000 rubles

Free hot meals for all primary school children were approved as of January 1, 2020, and this measure has become a great help for families.

I would like to point out that all our decisions were designed to support our people. I know that many and very many people have financial problems now. The labour market and real disposable income of the people will be certainly restored, and we will move on. This has not happened yet. Therefore, I suggest approving one more one-off payment for the families that have school children, namely, 10,000 rubles per schoolchild. Moreover, this payment will also be made for the children who will only start school this year. We will transfer the money in mid-August, so that parents can get their children ready for school.

The updated Constitution of Russia includes clauses on demographic development, and protection of the family and childhood. They should be implemented in practice at all levels of government. I propose including a section aimed at supporting young people in each national project.

Friends,

During the pandemic, many young doctors and nurses, recent graduates as well as residents and students of medical universities worked courageously in the so-called red zones, joining their senior colleagues. In that extraordinary situation, teachers, schoolchildren, college and university students continued to teach and study, to have exams. Young family members supported their parents and older relatives. The youth of Russia proved to be extremely worthy during that period of trials. We can be proud of them.

We will do everything to open up as many life opportunities as possible for the younger generation. Their journey certainly begins at school, and I am sure that school will always be a second home for children; a new home, comfortable and modern.

Under the existing federal programme and with additional resources provided by the VEB Development Bank, we will build at least 1,300 new schools for more than a million children by the end of 2024. We will also purchase at least 16,000 school buses over the next four years. All school buses must be modern and safe.

Classroom teachers have been receiving a monthly addition to their salaries since last year. A very necessary and, I am sure, fair decision. I remember how we held discussions on this matter last year.

However, I have received requests, letters from teachers in secondary vocational institutions who say they have been forgotten. This is actually true. Justice must be restored. We have to fix this and establish the same additional payment of 5,000 rubles for supervisors of educational groups at technical schools and colleges.

I propose allocating an additional 10 billion rubles in the next two years for major repairs and technical equipment of our pedagogical universities. I ask the Government to pay close attention to up-to-date training of future teachers. The future of Russia largely depends on them.

Furthermore, school teaching teams should be expanded with teaching assistants, mentors and counsellors, whose job will be to organise exciting projects for children at schools.

It is very important that our young people should look to and be inspired by the achievements and victories of our outstanding ancestors and contemporaries, by their love for our Motherland and aspiration to make a personal contribution to its development. Children should have the opportunity to explore the national history and the multinational culture, our achievements in science and technology, literature and art in advanced formats. You know, I still open certain school textbooks occasionally and am surprised at what I see there – as if what is written there has nothing to do with us at all. Who writes such textbooks? Who approves them? It is unbelievable. They mention everything, the ‘second front’ and a lot of other facts, but not the Battle of Stalingrad – how is that possible? Amazing! I do not even want to comment.

I propose allocating an additional 24 billion rubles within the next three years to renovate cultural centres, libraries and museums in rural areas and small historical towns. This is another crucial area.

It is important to resume the activities of the Knowledge Society – we all remember well what it is – based on a modern digital platform. It seems to have been operational lately, but no one seems to notice it is there, either. Also, in order to support projects in culture, art and creative activities, we will set up a Presidential fund for cultural initiatives. Already this year, we will use its competitive grants to finance over 1,500 creative teams.

Colleagues,

A month from now, 11th grade students will be taking exams. Based on the results, most of them, about 60 percent, will enrol in universities and have their tuition covered from the budget. It can be safely stated that practically no country in the world apart from Russia has this kind of broad and free access to higher education.

In the next two years, we will make an additional 45,000 state-funded places available at our universities. At least 70 percent of them will go to the regions which need university graduates.

Starting this year, at least 100 universities in the constituent entities of our Federation will receive grants in the amount of 100 million rubles or more for opening student technoparks and business incubators, upgrading academic and laboratory facilities, and running training programmes. All state universities will be eligible for this support, including the ones that train future teachers, medical doctors, transport and culture workers. I am confident that the young generation of Russians, Russian scientists, will make their names known in the meaningful research projects that are yet to come.

This year was declared Science and Technology Year in our country. We realise that science is absolutely key in the modern world. Until 2024, Russia will allocate 1.63 trillion rubles from the federal budget alone for civil, including fundamental, research. But that is not all.

We are about to launch ground-breaking programmes in areas that are critical to our country. They will be given the status of nationwide projects. I would like to discuss some of them separately just to give you a sense.

First, we must have a solid and reliable shield to give us sanitary and biological safety. We now understand what it is about. It is imperative to ensure Russia’s independence in the production of the entire range of vaccines and pharmaceutical substances, including medications against infections that are resistant to the current generation of antibiotics. Importantly, this must be achieved with the maximum engagement of Russian-made equipment and domestic components.

In the event of an infection as dangerous as the coronavirus, or, God forbid, even more dangerous, Russia must be prepared to develop its own test systems within four days, precisely four days, and to create an efficacious domestic vaccine and start its mass production as soon as possible. These are the goals that we are setting for ourselves. The timeframe for achieving these goals is 2030. But the sooner we get there, the better.

Second, we need new comprehensive approaches to the development of our energy sector, including new solutions for nuclear generation in the promising areas of hydrogen energy and energy storage.

Third, we must find answers to the climate change challenges, adjust our agriculture, industry, the housing and utilities sector and the entire infrastructure to them, create a carbon utilisation sector, bring down emissions and introduce strict control and monitoring measures.

Over the next 30 years, the cumulative emissions in Russia must be smaller than in the EU. It is an ambitious goal, considering the size of our country and the specific features of its geography, climate and economic structure. However, I have no doubt whatsoever that it is a perfectly realistic goal in light of our research and technological potential.

Our new energy and pharmaceutical sectors and the solution of climate problems must provide a powerful boost to a comprehensive modernisation of all economic sectors and the social sphere. It is a direct path to the creation of modern and well-paid jobs.

The efforts taken by each level of government, business, development institutions and the Russian Academy of Sciences must have in view the main, central task: to improve the quality of life for our people. I would like to point out that our position on environmental protection is a matter of principle in this respect, and it will definitely remain unchanged.

The dangers of the alternative position have been recently exemplified by the events in Norilsk, Usolye-Sibirskoye and several other places. We will certainly help the people who live there, but we must also preclude a repetition of such environmental disasters.

I would like to ask those responsible to accelerate the adoption of a law on the financial responsibility of enterprise owners for clearing up the accumulated pollution and for the reclamation of industrial sites. This is a very simple approach. Here it is: if you have benefited from polluting the environment, clean up after yourself. We must act harshly. Rosprirodnadoz [the Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resources] and other regulatory authorities must do their jobs.

I would like to add that the “polluter pays” principle must also be employed in full in the waste disposal sector to ensure transition to the so-called closed-loop economy. With this aim in view, we must launch a mechanism of extended producers and importers’ responsibility for the management of products and packaging wastes as soon as this year.

I also propose marking environmental payments to the federal budget. I know that experts and financial specialists do not like such special marks, but I see this as a vital sphere of our activity. We can make an exception in this case, and invest these funds in clearing up accumulated pollution and improving the environment.

Also, as I said, the amount of hazardous emissions in Russia’s 12 largest industrial centres must be reduced by 20 percent by 2024. We have already discussed this. Obviously, this goal must be accomplished through a comprehensive modernisation of the industrial sector, the housing and utilities sector, transport and energy.

Moreover, I propose expanding the emission quota system to all Russian cities with major air quality problems and introduce strict liability for non-compliance with environmental regulations. Of course, this requires transparent monitoring.

We will definitely support the efforts of businesses to upgrade their facilities up to current environmental standards. For example, upgrading will begin this year at aluminium plants in Bratsk, Irkutsk, Krasnoyarsk and Novokuznetsk based on the state guarantee mechanism. I will later name other cities and towns in other contexts but it does not mean that our work is limited to those areas. They only serve as examples.

Colleagues,

Last year, we allocated unprecedented resources for supporting the economy. Among other things, we managed to preserve over 5 million jobs through subsidised loans for wage payments. I want to stress that this programme succeeded but it succeeded precisely because businesses acted responsibly and did everything they could to keep their employees. We could see that.

Unfortunately, it was not possible to prevent layoffs completely. I understand how hard it is for those who lost their jobs. The Government was instructed to ensure that the labour market recovers by the end of the year. Still, this problem must be solved sooner so that people can have a stable income again. The Government will be encouraging entrepreneurial initiatives and stimulate private investments that create new jobs.

As you know, last year, social insurance contributions for small and medium-sized businesses were reduced by half, from 30 to 15 percent. This decision will remain in force permanently and is not subject to review.

I instruct the Government to present, within the next month, additional proposals on supporting small and medium-sized businesses, such as tax incentives, accessible loans and expanding product distribution and sales, including to major state-run companies.

As for other decisions in the economic sphere, I would like to mention the following.

First, we have already scrapped many archaic norms and requirements in construction and other fields and discontinued many unnecessary control inspections, but we also need to increase the momentum to achieve substantive, clear and tangible results in improving the business climate. For example, building a turnkey factory in Russia should be faster, more economically efficient and easier than in other regions of the world, including countries with developed economies.

Furthermore, we need to simplify the working conditions for non-commodity exporters. We have certainly been pursuing this policy line for a few years now, but we still need to remove all excessive restrictions in forex control for these exporters. This is one of the problems. The new procedure should start functioning in July. We have discussed this matter more than once. All amendments to the legislation must be adopted as quickly as possible during the spring session.

Secondly, the talent of an entrepreneur is primarily the talent of a creator, an aspiration to change life for the better, to create new jobs. The state will definitely support this attitude.

In the modern world where the market situation sometimes changes almost every day, businesses have to deal with high risks, especially when investing in long-term projects. To address this, we will be adjusting the entire private investment support system. We will evaluate how effective the projects are by the new products, services, and technologies they provide people with and how they improve the potential of Russia and each individual region.

The Special Investment Contract mechanism has already been improved; we have implemented a new instrument – Investment Protection and Promotion Agreements. We have consolidated development institutions on the basis of VEB. Their job is to reduce the risks for investing private capital, to help in the creation of new markets and investment mechanisms, the same as with the Project Finance Factory mechanism already in place. It is currently supporting more than 40 commercial projects with a total investment of 3 trillion rubles.

I am waiting for proposals from the Government on the implementation of the ideas proposed in March at a meeting with Russian businesses. Colleagues, you are well aware of this.

Third, we are making all major decisions concerning the economy through a dialogue with the business community. This is the practice established over many years. Of course, we have the right to expect that the auxiliary financial instruments and support mechanisms will bring the most desired result, which is converting profit into investment and development.

There is an important thing I want to say although it is nothing new to businesses. They know it already. The corporate sector is expected to make a record profit this year, despite all the problems that we are dealing with. Despite these problems, this is the real picture. We will take note of how this profit will be used and, based on the annual results, we may decide to calibrate the tax legislation. I want to see specific proposals from the Government. Off the record, I should note: some withdraw dividends while others invest in the development of their companies and entire industries. We will be encouraging those who invest.

Last year, we substantially increased budget expenditure while managing to maintain the stability of state finances. The Government and the Central Bank must continue to pursue a responsible financial policy. Ensuring macroeconomic stability and containing inflation within set parameters is an extremely important task. I assume that it will definitely be accomplished.

At the same time, thanks to our budget capacity and our reserves, we can allocate more funds to support investment in infrastructure and provide regions with new development instruments. Launching these instruments will require the law to be amended. I expect that all parliamentary parties – A Just Russia, the Liberal Democratic Party, the Communist Party and United Russia – will uphold these amendments.

In this regard, I want to thank all constructive public forces in the country for their responsible and patriotic attitude during this difficult epidemic. These are not just meaningless words because it was this attitude and its practical significance that helped all of us preserve the balance and stability of Russia’s government and political system. This is always important but it is especially relevant because we are preparing for the elections to the State Duma and other government bodies, considering the extensive work we will have to carry out. I hope that this competitive mindset that unites us in the face of common goals will persist.

Colleagues,

The country is developing and moving forward, but this is only taking place when the regions of the Russian Federation are developing. A striving of the heads of constituent entities to make their regions successful and self-sufficient must be and will be encouraged in every way.

We will support those who assume responsibility and launch constructive projects. I am confident that every Russian region has huge potential. To help make positive and productive use of this potential, what must we reduce first of all? The governors know what I am referring to: we must reduce the debt burden. These topics must be thoroughly discussed once again.

I ask the Government to submit by June 1 the proposals on ensuring long-term stability of regional and municipal finance and on increasing the regions’ self-sufficiency. We will discuss them in summer at a State Council meeting, and we will do so with due regard for the priority decisions about which I will tell you now.

First of all, we must help regions with large commercial debts. Here is what I suggest: the amount of a region’s commercial debt that exceeds 25 percent of the given region’s own revenues will be replaced with budgetary loans that will mature in 2029.

In addition, I propose restructuring the budgetary loans, yes, budgetary loans that were issued to the regions last year for taking measures to combat the pandemic. I believe that this would be fair. I would like to remind everyone that these loans will mature in two months, on July 1. I suggest extending them to 2029 as well.

I would like to emphasise that the restructuring of accumulated debts should be used as a mechanism of increasing the self-sufficiency of regional economies, especially considering that we will be offering a fundamentally new development tool to our constituent entities. I am referring to the so-called budgetary infrastructure loans with an interest rate of not more than 3 percent per annum and with maturity in 15 years. We intend to allocate a total of at least 0.5 trillion rubles, that is, 500 billion rubles of such infrastructure loans by the end of 2023.

Regional debt restructuring must be based on the concept of justice, which has always been the case, actually. Some constituent entities have large accumulated commercial debts, while other entities did not take out many loans. The latter may feel neglected in this case. This will not do, and we will not permit this. We will support those who have always pursued and continue to pursue a balanced financial policy. The principle of the distribution of infrastructure loans will be as follows: the fewer debts a region had, the more it will be able to receive in infrastructure loans.

We are one country. All levels of government and business must work to one end. Debt restructuring and an innovative investment resource in the form of infrastructure loans will allow us to expand the planning horizon and to launch new solutions that are tied in with the implementation of national projects, sector-specific strategies and a comprehensive plan for upgrading the backbone infrastructure.

Federal infrastructure loans are a powerful resource, but whether they will help us get ahead or attract private investment hugely depends on what regional management teams do and on their ability to conduct an open and candid dialogue with businesses, investors, and, of course, primarily, individuals.

The infrastructure projects in the regions must be implemented, primarily, in the interests of the people, and serve as investment in the creation of new jobs and in promoting the well-being of millions of Russian households and securing the future of our children. The priorities will be building motorways and bypasses in urban areas, upgrading the housing and utilities sector infrastructure and the public transport system, as well as conducting integrated development of territories and building tourist facilities.

Please note that the infrastructure and budget loans will be fully under the control of the Federal Treasury and will be provided exclusively for specific projects that have been thoroughly analysed by experts at the federal level. While we are at it, I would like to say something to regional leaders and the Government: listen, let’s work in a rhythmic and business-like manner. I do not want to use harsh or rude language at this rostrum, but things must be done on time and projects must be prepared, not just pictures shown to the Government. In turn, the Government must quickly process the projects and help the regions deal with things they have problems dealing with. You must help your colleagues, you understand that? Not trash what they have brought to you and say they did a bad job. Some of them are unable to do what you ask of them. Help them, and then things will be on the path forwards.

The scale of the projects may vary, but most importantly, as I said, they must benefit our people and open up new opportunities. For example, in conjunction with our major companies and using the proposed mechanism, the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area will begin the construction of the Northern Latitudinal Railway. This is the railway that will spur the development of the richest resources of the Arctic. This project has been in the works for a long time now, and it’s time to launch it, since we can do so now. For example, as a result, Nizhny Novgorod will be able to continue building the metro and to start renovating the city centre. Chelyabinsk, another city with a million-plus residents, will also have the opportunity to upgrade its transport system through a long-standing metro construction project. I am aware of other similar projects in Krasnoyarsk and other regions.

And, of course, the construction of new facilities must be at a qualitatively higher level. I want the Government to draft a clear step-by-step plan for the end-to-end and widespread use of digital design, and the production and introduction of cutting-edge energy-efficient materials. This is also important if we want to tackle the climate and environmental challenges.

Large-scale infrastructure development sets fundamentally new tasks before the construction industry. In the difficult past year, it worked smoothly and built over 80 million square metres of housing. This is a good result. The more we build, the more affordable housing will there be for Russian families.

Therefore, we have an ambitious goal. We have already discussed it as well and this ambitious goal has not disappeared– we plan to build 120 million square metres of housing every year. That said, we must certainly envisage a special mechanism for supporting private housing construction.

As for large-scale construction, the DOM.RF development institute will attract financial resources through the placement of bonds. This is a tried and tested mechanism that generally works well. These resources must go to developers as targeted loans.

I would like to emphasise that federal budget subsidies will allow DOM.RF to issue loans to developers at a minimal annual rate of about 3–4 percent. The construction of residential neighbourhoods in Tula, Tyumen, the Sakhalin Region and Kuzbass will be pilot projects for developing this model.

Improvement of cities and towns and housing construction growth play a major role in the development of the regions. We must take care of the urgent, daily problems of local residents. Quite a few Russian families live in areas connected to gas networks but their homes still have no access to gas for some reason. It seems the pipe is there but there is no gas at home.

I would like to ask the Government to work out, in cooperation with the regions, a clear-cut plan for bringing gas to such households. In this context, I support United Russia’s initiative, notably, that people do not have to pay for laying gas pipes directly to the border of their land plots in a residential area.

As I have already said, the Government must analyse all details in cooperation with Gazprom and other companies and agencies that work in this area to prevent any setbacks. Otherwise, I will say something from this rostrum and people will be waiting for it but because you don’t put some squiggles or commas in the right place everything will get bogged down again. This is unacceptable, and I will check on it myself, so please pay attention. Mosoblgaz and other companies must understand what they must do, in what timeframe and how much money they have at their disposal.

The goal is certainly more extensive. We must offer every region our solutions on public access to reliable and clean energy sources. This may be electricity, including from renewable sources, or environmentally friendly use of coal, which is also an option in the modern world, pipeline or liquefied gas. I instruct the regional heads to prepare, in coordination with the Government, detailed plans of action and start implementing them next year.

For example, in Kamchatka we must envisage the creation of local gas-receiving infrastructure to ensure reliable long-term gas supplies to the residents and companies of the Kamchatka Territory.

Colleagues,

We will not only give fundamentally new development tools to the regions, but will also directly invest federal resources into the settlement of the worst systemic problems, which will have a compound effect on boosting the regions’ growth and improving the quality of people’s lives.

We will begin with allocations from the National Welfare Fund for building mainline motorways. First of all, we should finance the ongoing construction of the Moscow-Kazan high-speed road and, more than that, extend it all the way to Yekaterinburg, completing this project within three years.

This way, together with the existing Moscow-St Petersburg high-speed road and the Central Ring Road, this will ensure safe high-speed motorway transit across the entire European part of Russia, from the Baltic Sea to the Urals, by 2024.

However, it is not enough to simply connect the end-of-line destinations. What good will this do, if it does not change anything about life in villages or small towns but only gives the people there an opportunity to watch high-speed trains and vehicles rush past? The backbone infrastructure must definitely lead to the development of all the territories where it has been built, giving rise to the development of a modern regional network.

The constituent entities will now be able to use infrastructure loans to speed up the implementation of these construction projects. But in their development plans, our colleagues should remember and take into account that the federal and regional mainlines must function as a unified system in the interests of our citizens, businesses and regions. In this way, the infrastructure loans and the resources of the National Welfare Fund will be working for the benefit of all Russian regions.

The same goes for our new national project in the tourist sphere. A programme of easy loans will be launched soon to finance the construction and renovation of hotels and other tourist infrastructure. The interest rate on these loans will be 3–5 percent as well, and the loans will mature in 15 years.

There are many other pilot projects. I will only mention some of them: the development of Sheregesh, the leading mountain ski resort in Kuzbass; the creation of a yachting resort in the Bay of Balaklava in Sevastopol; and the development of the tourist industry on the Altai and in the Kaliningrad Region.

The infrastructure loans project will give a new impetus to entire tourist clusters. In particular, several regions in Central Russia will be able to modernise and expand the Golden Ring route at a fundamentally new level, realising the tourist potential of small towns such as Tarusa, Palekh, Murom, Gorokhovets, Tutayev and Borovsk. Development projects will be launched in the Volga Region cities, the Crimean resorts, the Black Sea and Pacific coast areas, as well as in our resort towns such as Staraya Russa in the Novgorod Region and Kavkazskiye Mineralnye Vody in the Caucasus, including its gem, Kislovodsk.

Russia is a hospitable country that is open to its good friends. You surely remember what happened during the 2018 football championships. As soon as the epidemiological situation allows, we will lift the remaining restrictions and millions of tourists from all over the world will come to Russia again. We have a practical task at hand: to ensure that e-visas for travel to Russia are available remotely and without undue formalities within a matter of four days in the majority of countries.

Colleagues,

The meaning and purpose of Russia’s policy in the international arena – I will just say a few words about this to conclude my address – is to ensure peace and security for the well-being of our citizens, for the stable development of our country. Russia certainly has its own interests we defend and will continue to defend within the framework of international law, as all other states do. And if someone refuses to understand this obvious thing or does not want to conduct a dialogue and chooses a selfish and arrogant tone with us, Russia will always find a way to defend its stance.

At the same time, unfortunately, everyone in the world seems to be used to the practice of politically motivated, illegal economic sanctions and to certain actors’ brutal attempts to impose their will on others by force. But today, this practice is degenerating into something even more dangerous – I am referring to the recently exposed direct interference in Belarus in an attempt to orchestrate a coup d’état and assassinate the President of that country. At the same time, it is typical that even such flagrant actions have not been condemned by the so-called collective West. Nobody seemed to notice. Everyone pretends nothing is happening.

But listen, you can think whatever you like of, say, Ukrainian President [Viktor] Yanukovych or [Nicolas] Maduro in Venezuela. I repeat, you can like or dislike them, including Yanukovych who almost got killed, too, and removed from power via an armed coup. You can have your own opinion of President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko’s policy. But the practice of staging coups d’état and planning political assassinations, including those of high-ranking officials – well, this goes too far. This is beyond any limits.

Suffice it to mention the admission made by the detained participants in the conspiracy about a planned siege of Minsk, including plans to block the city infrastructure and communications, and a complete shutdown of the entire power system in the capital of Belarus! This actually means they were preparing a massive cyberattack. What else could it be? You know, you cannot just do it all with one switch.

Clearly, there is a reason why our Western colleagues have been stubbornly rejecting Russia’s numerous proposals to establish an international dialogue on information and cyber security. We have come up with these proposals many times. They avoid even discussing this matter.

What if there had been a real attempt at a coup d’état in Belarus? After all, this was the ultimate goal. How many people would have been hurt? What would have become of Belarus? Nobody is thinking about this.

Just as no one was thinking about the future of Ukraine during the coup in that country.

All the while, unfriendly moves towards Russia have also continued unabated. Some countries have taken up an unseemly routine where they pick on Russia for any reason, most often, for no reason at all. It is some kind of new sport of who shouts the loudest.

In this regard, we behave in an extremely restrained manner, I would even say, modestly, and I am saying this without irony. Often, we prefer not to respond at all, not just to unfriendly moves, but even to outright rudeness. We want to maintain good relations with everyone who participates in the international dialogue. But we see what is happening in real life. As I said, every now and then they are picking on Russia, for no reason. And of course, all sorts of petty Tabaquis are running around them like Tabaqui ran around Shere Khan – everything is like in Kipling’s book – howling along in order to make their sovereign happy. Kipling was a great writer.

We really want to maintain good relations with all those engaged in international communication, including, by the way, those with whom we have not been getting along lately, to put it mildly. We really do not want to burn bridges. But if someone mistakes our good intentions for indifference or weakness and intends to burn or even blow up these bridges, they must know that Russia’s response will be asymmetrical, swift and tough.

Those behind provocations that threaten the core interests of our security will regret what they have done in a way they have not regretted anything for a long time.

At the same time, I just have to make it clear, we have enough patience, responsibility, professionalism, self-confidence and certainty in our cause, as well as common sense, when making a decision of any kind. But I hope that no one will think about crossing the “red line” with regard to Russia. We ourselves will determine in each specific case where it will be drawn.

I will now say, just as I always do during the annual addresses to the Federal Assembly, that the improvement and qualitative strengthening of Russia’s Armed Forces continues on a regular basis. In particular, special attention will be given to the development of military education both at military school and academies and at military training centres at civilian universities.

By 2024, the share of modern weapons and military equipment in the armed forces will reach nearly 76 percent, which is a very good indicator. This share in the nuclear triad will be over 88 percent before this year is out.

Standing on combat duty are the latest Avangard hypersonic intercontinental missile systems and the Peresvet combat laser systems, and the first regiment armed with Sarmat super-heavy intercontinental ballistic missiles is scheduled to go on combat duty in late 2022.

The number of combat air systems with Kinzhal hypersonic missiles, and warships armed with precision hypersonic weapons such as Kinzhal that I mentioned, and with the Kalibr missiles, is increasing. The Tsirkon hypersonic missiles will be put on combat duty soon. Work is underway on other modern combat systems, including Poseidon and Burevestnik, in accordance with the development plans of the Armed Forces.

As the leader in the creation of new-generation combat systems and in the development of modern nuclear forces, Russia is urging its partners once again to discuss the issues related to strategic armaments and to ensuring global stability. The subject matter and the goal of these talks could be the creation of an environment for a conflict-free coexistence based on the security equation, which would include not only the traditional strategic armaments, such as intercontinental ballistic missiles, heavy bombers and submarines, but – I would like to emphasise this – all offensive and defensive systems capable of attaining strategic goals regardless of the armament.

The five nuclear countries bear special responsibility. I hope that the initiative on a personal meeting of the heads of state of the permanent members of the UN Security Council, which we proposed last year, will materialise and will be held as soon as the epidemiological situation allows.

Russia is always open to broad international cooperation. We have consistently advocated the preservation and strengthening of the key role of the United Nations in international affairs, and we try to provide assistance to the settlement of regional conflicts and have already done a great deal to stabilise the situation in Syria and to launch a political dialogue in Libya. As you know, Russia played the main role in stopping the armed conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.

It is on the basis of mutual respect that we are building relations with the absolute majority of the world’s countries: in Asia, Latin America, Africa and many European countries. We are consistently expanding as a priority contacts with our closest partners in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, BRICS, the Commonwealth of Independent States, and our allies in the Collective Security Treaty Organisation.

Our common projects in the Eurasian Economic Union are aimed at ensuring economic growth and the wellbeing of our people. There are new, interesting projects here, such as the development of transport-and-logistics corridors. I am sure they will become a reliable infrastructure backbone for large-scale Eurasian partnership. The Russian ideas of this broad, open association are already being put into practice, in part, via alignment with other integration processes.

All these projects are not just geopolitical ideas but strictly practical instruments for resolving national development tasks.

Colleagues,

I began today’s Address with urgent healthcare issues, and concluding it, I would like to say the following. Nobody in the world knew what misfortune we would have to face. However, we, citizens of Russia, have already done much and will do all we can to counter the threat of the epidemic. Our country has reliable resources for this. We created them in healthcare, science, education and industry in previous years.

However, we must definitely move forward. We have mapped out national development tasks. Naturally, the challenge of the epidemic has made objective adjustments to our work. Today’s Address contains instructions on demography and family support, as well as on efforts to fight poverty, increase incomes, create jobs, improve the business environment and raise state management to a new level.

I would like to ask the Government to focus on these tasks in preparing new initiatives on Russia’s socioeconomic development and instruct it to present them by July 1 of this year.

What do I have in mind? Doing everyday work, we must certainly not forget about our strategic development goals and our national development goals, and we must improve the mechanisms for reaching them.

We will discuss the Government’s proposals with the participation of the relevant State Council commissions, our business associations, experts and the Civic Chamber. Following such a broad discussion, we will make final decisions on further financial and organisational actions at the meeting of the Council for Strategic Development and National Projects.

Now I would like to address all citizens of Russia once again to say that we will do everything in our power to achieve the goals set. I am sure we will move forward together and accomplish all the tasks that we have set for ourselves.

Thank you very much for your attention.

The National Anthem of the Russian Federation is played.

Pirates are breaking through America’s fortified walls. Is there any secret left? القراصنة يخترقون أسوار أميركا الحصينة.. هل بقي من أسرار؟

**Please scroll down for the English Machine translation**

الميادين نت

21 كانون الأول 20:03

منذر سليمان مدير مكتب الميادين في واشنطن و جعفر الجعفري 

تبدو أميركا مكشوفة لمن أقدم على الاختراق الذي يوازيه في الخطورة اهتزاز الثقة بتفوق التقنية الأميركية في النطاق السيبراني.

لم يعد هناك من يستطيع تخفيف هول الصَّدمة التي تعرّضت لها الولايات المتحدة

اكتشفت الولايات المتحدة أنها كانت تتعرَّض لهجمات قرصنة واسعة النطاق منذ “شهر آذار/مارس 2020 على الأقل”، بحسب الرواية الرسمية، ومنذ مطلع تشرين الأول/أكتوبر 2019، بحسب اختصاصيي البرمجيات. شملت جهود القرصنة أعلى درجات المؤسَّسات السريّة في النظام السياسي والدفاعي الأميركي، والوزارات السيادية والهيئات الحكومية، وتلك المعنية بالإشراف على تطوير الأسلحة النووية.

تباينت سبل تقييم الضرر وحصره منذ البداية، وخصوصاً أن الكشف تم “بالصدفة”، وعبر شركة خاصة كطرف ثالث، حتى أصبح بعض كبار العلماء يقتربون من الجزم بأنَّ التوقف عند التداعيات “يبدو شبه مستحيل”. الاختصاصي في علم التشفير والأمن السيبراني في جامعة “هارفرد” العريقة، بروس شنايير، ذهب إلى المطالبة “بالتخلّي عن (النظم) الراهنة وإعادة تشكيلها من الصفر”، كحل وحيد لضمان أمن الشبكات التي تعرّضت للقرصنة.

لم يعد هناك من يستطيع تخفيف هول الصَّدمة التي تعرّضت لها الولايات المتحدة، ولا سيَّما بين السياسيين، في ظل الإقرار الجماعي من السياسيين والاختصاصيين بأنهم أُخذوا على حين غرة، “وتمت تعرية ثغرة أمنية حساسة محتملة في البنى التحتية للتقنية الأميركية المتطورة”.

عضو لجنتي الاستخبارات والقوات المسلَّحة، السيناتور آنغس كينغ، كان من أوائل السياسيين الذين أوضحوا حجم الاختراق، قائلاً: “يشكّل الهجوم، بكلّ أسف، حملة تجسس شاملة وناجحة استهدفت المعلومات والبيانات السرية للحكومة الأميركية. جهود التقصي الجارية توضح أنه هجوم استثنائي في نطاقه وتقنياته المعقَّدة وتداعياته”.

الاختصاصي في الأمن الإلكتروني في جامعة “جونز هوبكينز”، توماس ريد، أعرب عن اعتقاده بأنَّ ما ظفر به القراصنة من ملفات وبيانات مختلفة، “يعادل عدة مرات ارتفاع مسلّة واشنطن” التي ترتفع نحو 170 متراً أو 555 قدماً.

رئيس لجنة الاستخبارات في مجلس الشيوخ، ماركو روبيو، خرج عن طوره المعتاد في الدفاع المستميت عن أركان الدولة وأجهزتها المتعدّدة، وقال عقب إحاطة سريّة شارك بها مع كبار مسؤولي الأجهزة الاستخباراتية: “لا يزال مدى الحجم الكامل للقرصنة غير معلوم، لكنَّنا ندرك أنَّ نطاقه غير مسبوق. على الأرجح، لا تزال القرصنة جارية، وعلى درجة من التعقيد لا تقدر عليها إلا بضع دول فقط”.

استهدفت جهود القراصنة شبكات الأجهزة والوزارات الأميركية التالية، بحسب تقييم اللجنة الموحّدة لمكافحة القرصنة المشكّلة من أعلى مستويات الأجهزة الاستخباراتية والأمنية: وزارات الخزانة والتجارة والأمن الداخلي والخارجية والطاقة، والإدارة الفيدرالية الناظمة للطاقة، والمختبرات العلمية التي تجري أبحاثاً سريّة وغيرها لحساب وزارة الطاقة (“سانديا” و”لوس ألاموس”)، والهيئة الوطنية للأمن النووي – المشرفة على الترسانة النووية للولايات المتحدة، ومكتب حماية النقل الاتحادي. وأُضيف تباعاً عدد من المؤسَّسات والهيئات الأخرى، أبرزها مصلحة الضرائب وسجلات الرعاية الصحية في بعض الولايات.

آلية اختراق القراصنة، وفق ما حدَّدتها الأجهزة الأمنية وتبنّتها الوسائل الإعلامية كافة، عبّرت عنها يومية “نيويورك تايمز”، قائلة إنَّها من النوع الذي استهدف “سلسلة التوريدات” التي تعتمد عليها كل الأجهزة والهيئات الرسمية من شبكات القطاع الخاص بكل تشعباتها واختصاصاتها، وإنها “شملت 18000 شبكة وجهة حكومية”. ومضت الصحيفة وغيرها إلى القول إنَّ من المرجّح أن تكون روسيا وراء الهجوم، ليجري تبنّي السردية تباعاً على لسان وزير الخارجية مايك بومبيو.

بما أنّ المسؤولية الرسمية للجهة أو الجهات الفاعلة لم يتم تحديدها أو توفير أدلّة حولها، خرج الرئيس الأميركي دونالد ترامب عن صمته “الطويل” ليناقض وزير خارجيته وآخرين، قائلاً في تغريداته الشهيرة: “تم إعلامي بشكل كامل، وكل شيء تحت السيطرة. روسيا روسيا روسيا، هذه أول لازمة تتردد عند حصول أي شيء”، مشيراً إلى أن الصين “قد” تكون متورطة أيضاً.

“وكالة الأمن الوطني” والهيئات الأمنية الأخرى أصدرت بياناً مشتركاً في 17 كانون الأول/ديسمبر الجاري، تحذر فيه من “هجمات قرصنة جارية من قبل روسيا”، فاقمها اختراق برامج شركة “سولار ويندز”، الذي يتكامل مع الجهد الروسي السابق المعروف للسيطرة على بيانات المتعاقدين، لكن الوكالة الرسمية والمكلفة بالإشراف على التحقيقات لم توجه التهمة مباشرة إلى روسيا.

“سلسلة التوريدات” المشار إليها أعلاه تأثرت بنجاح دخول القراصنة إلى تحديثات برنامج شركة “سولار ويندز” قبل عرضه على الخادم المصرح لزبائنها استخدامه وتفعيل التحديث، الحلقة الأضعف في السلسلة، وتم تنزيل التحديث المقرصن على الأجهزة المتصلة التي تمتد على نطاق واسع لأدق الهيئات حساسية في الحكومة الأميركية والمتعاقدين معها من قطاع خاص، وربما حكومات أجنبية قيل إن “إسرائيل والإمارات” من بينها، وبالتالي استطاع القراصنة ضمان “ثغرة خلفية” للنفاذ إلى الشبكات والأجهزة والاستفادة من البيانات والمعلومات الهائلة على خوادمها وأجهزتها الفردية.

يشير بعض الاختصاصيين إلى جزء يسير من جهود القراصنة الذين عملوا بدأب وتأنٍ على امتداد عدة سنوات، استطاعوا خلالها التحكّم بشبكات “تم التخلي عنها سابقاً”، وإعادة استخدامها للنفاذ إلى “الحلقة الأضعف” في سلسلة التوريدات عبر شركة “سولار ويندز”. مسؤول استخباراتي سابق في الأجهزة البريطانية أبلغ زملاءه الأميركيين بأن “عدة حكومات غربية، إضافة إلى الولايات المتحدة، تتوقع التوصل إلى أدلّة على اختراقات في نظمها في الأسابيع المقبلة”، ويعتقد أن القرصنة المكتشفة تعود إلى “4 سنوات” مضت.

العنصر الفارق في هذه الحالة، وفق هؤلاء، “أنَّ الجهود الحديثة لم تستهدف تدمير الشبكات وإلغاء البيانات أو التلاعب بها، كما درجت عادة هواة القراصنة، بل زرعت برامجها الضارة، واختبأت لعدة سنوات، إلى أن تم الكشف عنها عن طريق الصدفة”، الأمر الذي حفّز منسق الأمن السيبراني الأسبق في إدارة الرئيس أوباما، مايكل دانيال، إلى توصيف ما جرى بأنه بمثابة “عين سوداء” للأجهزة الاستخباراتية الأميركية، التي استنفدت جهوداً عالية في التوعية من التدخل الروسي في الانتخابات الرئاسية، محذراً من النطاق العميق والواسع للقرصنة، “والذي سيتطلب زمناً طويلاً لتحديد مدى الدمار، وربما ستكون هناك كلفة مرتفعة لتحصين الشبكات المختلفة”.

يشار إلى أنَّ حادث قرصنة سابقاً في العام 2017 استهدف “البرامج الضريبية الأوكرانية”، كانت له تداعيات على مستويات عالمية، وتأثرت به “شركة فيد إكس”، التي دفعت 400 مليون دولار للتغلب عليه، وأيضاً شركة “ميرك” للأدوية التي كلفها الأمر مبلغ 670 مليون دولار.

التقديرات الأولية للأضرار

الهيئة الوطنية للأمن النووي المكلفة بـ”الحماية والتيقن من سلامة أمن الترسانة النووية الأميركية وفعاليتها”، يشمل نطاق عملها المفاعلات النووية المولدة للطاقة على متن حاملات السفن والغواصات الأميركية، والإشراف على التفجيرات النووية المسموح بها وفق المعايير الدولية التي تجريها في صحراء ولاية نيفادا على عمق 225 متراً تحت سطح الأرض.

وبما أن مكونات الأسلحة النووية من “بلوتونيوم” و”تريتيوم” معرضة للتحلل النووي، يقع على عاتق الهيئة التيقن من حجم التحلل للقيام بصيانته أو التخلص منه، باستخدامها أحدث التقنيات الخاصة بتجارب محاكاة التفجير النووي.

من خصائص الهيئة امتلاكها البرامج الإلكترونية التي تعينها على تصميم أسلحة نووية وحساب الطاقة الناجمة بدقة. تستخدم الهيئة قدراتها التقنية لتصميم وتطوير المفاعلات النووية لصالح سلاح البحرية، والتقيد بصرامة بحجمها وحمولتها أثناء تنقلاتها، والتخلص من النفايات النووية وإشعاعاتها.

وتمتلك الهيئة أيضاً ورشات عمل متطورة لإنتاج بعض المعدات النووية الحساسة، ومنها منشأة الصاعق الوطني المختصة بأبحاث إشعاع الليزر، لاختبار حجم الضغط الأولي للمتفجرات النووية.

استناداً إلى ما تمتلكه “الهيئة الوطنية للأمن النووي” وتمثله من قدرات علمية وبشرية بالغة الحساسية والسرية، لم يكن مستغرباً تعرّضها للهجمات السيبرانية، بل كانت من أولى الهيئات الحكومية التي تمت قرصنتها، بحسب الأجهزة الاستخباراتية الأميركية.

من المستبعد أن يصدر تقرير وافٍ وشفاف حول نطاق الاختراق الإلكتروني في أي وقت قريب، لكن توفر مثل هذه المعلومات الحساسة لأي جهة، رسمية كانت أو غير رسمية، قد يعادل تسليم أسرار تصنيع القنابل النووية لأي جهة لا تملكها. أميركا تبدو مكشوفة لمن أقدم على الاختراق الذي يوازيه في الخطورة اهتزاز الثقة بتفوق التقنية الأميركية في النطاق السيبراني.

فيديوات ذات صلة

مقالات متعلقة

Pirates are breaking through America’s fortified walls. Is there any secret left?

America seems exposed to those who have made the breakthrough, which is that is equivalent in severity to the shaking of confidence in the superiority of American technology in the cyberspace.

The United States has discovered that it has been the target of large-scale piracy attacks since “at least March 2020,” according to the official version, and since early October 2019, according to software specialists. Hacking efforts included the highest levels of secret institutions in the U.S. political and defense system, sovereign ministries and government agencies, and those involved in overseeing the development of nuclear weapons.

The methods of assessing and limiting the damage varied from the beginning, especially since the detection was done “by chance”, and through a private company as a third party, so that some leading scientists came close to asserting that stopping at the fallout “seems almost impossible.” Bruce Schneier, a specialist in cryptographic and cybersecurity at Harvard University, went on to demand that “the current systems be abandoned and reconfigured from scratch” as the only solution to ensure the security of hacked networks.

No one can ease the trauma of the United States, particularly among politicians, with the collective admission of politicians and specialists that they were taken by surprise, “and a potentially sensitive security gap has been exposed in the infrastructure of advanced U.S. technology.”

“The attack is, unfortunately, a comprehensive and successful espionage campaign targeting the U.S. government’s classified information and data,” said Senator Angus King, a member of the Intelligence and Armed Services Committees. The ongoing investigation efforts demonstrate that it is an exceptional attack in its scope, complex techniques and implications.”

Thomas Reed, a cybersecurity specialist at Johns Hopkins University, believed that the hacker’s various files and data were “several times the height of the Washington Obelisk” which rises about 170 meters or 555feet.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Marco Rubio, departing from his usual phase of desperate defense of the nation’s pillars and multiple agencies, said after a secret briefing he shared with top intelligence officials: “The full extent of the hacking remains unknown, but we recognize that its scope is unprecedented. Most likely, piracy is still going on, and it is a degree of complexity that only a few countries can afford.”

According to the U.S. Unified Committee against Piracy, which is made up of the highest levels of intelligence and security agencies, the hacker’s efforts targeted the following U.S. agencies and departments: the Departments of Treasury, Commerce, Homeland Security, State, And Energy, the Federal Energy Regulatory Administration, scientific laboratories conducting covert and other research for the Department of Energy (Sandia and Los Alamos), the National Nuclear Security Agency , which oversees the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and the Federal Transportation Protection Bureau. A number of other institutions and bodies have been added, most notably the Tax authority and health-care records in some states.

The mechanism of hacker penetration, according to what was identified by the security services and adopted by all media outlets, was expressed by the daily “The New York Times”, saying that it was the kind that targeted the “supply chain” on which all official agencies and bodies depend from the private sector networks with all their ramifications and specializations, and that it “included 18,000 government destination networks. The newspaper and others went on to say that Russia was likely behind the attack, so that the narrative would be adopted in turn by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Since the official responsibility of the actor or actors has not been determined or provided with evidence, U.S. President Donald Trump broke his “long” silence to contradict his secretary of state and others, saying in his famous tweets: “I have been fully informed, and everything is under control. Russia, Russia, Russia, this is the first crisis that resonates when anything happens,” he said, adding that China “may” be involved as well.

The National Security Agency and other security agencies issued a joint statement on December 17, warning of “ongoing hacking attacks by Russia,” exacerbated by the hacking of SolarWinds software, which is integrated with Russia’s previous well-known effort to control contractors’ data, but the official agency charged with overseeing the investigations did not directly charge Russia.

The “supply chain” referred to above was affected by the success of the hacker access to solar winds software updates before it was introduced to the authorized server for its customers to use it and activate the update, the weakest link in the chain, and downloaded the pirated update to connected devices that extend widely to the most sensitive bodies in the U.S. government and its private contractors, and possibly foreign governments said that “Israel and the Emirates” among them, and thus the hackers were able to secure a “rear gap” to access networks and devices and take advantage of the vast data and information on their servers and individual devices.

Some specialists point to a fraction of the efforts of hackers who have worked diligently and diligently over several years, during which they have been able to control “previously abandoned” networks and reuse them to access the “weaker link” in the supply chain through Solar Winds.

The difference in this case, they say, “is that recent efforts were not aimed at destroying networks and eliminating or manipulating data, as has traditionally been the practice of hacker enthusiasts, but rather planted their harmful software, and hid for several years, until it was revealed by accident,” which prompted the former cybersecurity coordinator in the Obama administration, Michael Daniel, to describe what has been described as a “black eye” for U.S. intelligence agencies, which have exhausted high efforts to raise awareness of Russian interference in the presidential election, warning of the deep and wide spread of piracy, “which will take a long time to determine the extent of the destruction, and perhaps there will be a high cost of fortifying different networks.”

A previous hacking incident in 2017 targeting “Ukrainian tax programs” has had global repercussions, affecting VidX, which paid $400 million to overcome it, as well as Merck Pharmaceuticals, which cost it $670million.

Preliminary damage estimates

The National Nuclear Security Agency charged with “protecting and verifying the security and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear arsenal” includes nuclear reactors generating energy on U.S. ship carriers and submarines, and overseeing nuclear explosions permitted in accordance with international standards conducted in the Nevada desert at a depth of 225 meters below the surface.

Since the components of nuclear weapons of plutonium and tritium are subject to nuclear degradation, it is the authority’s responsibility to ascertain the size of the decomposition for maintenance or disposal, using the latest technology for nuclear explosion simulation experiments.

One of the characteristics of the Authority is its possession of electronic software that helps it to design nuclear weapons and calculate the energy produced accurately. The Authority uses its technical capabilities to design and develop nuclear reactors for the Navy, strictly adhere to its size and payload during its movement, and to dispose of nuclear waste and radiation.

The Authority also has advanced workshops for the production of some sensitive nuclear equipment, including the National Laser Radiation Research Facility, to test the initial pressure volume of nuclear explosives.

Based on the highly sensitive and secret scientific and confidential capabilities of the National Nuclear Security Agency, it was not surprising that it was subjected to cyberattacks, but was one of the first government agencies to be hacked, according to U.S. intelligence agencies.


It is unlikely that a complete and transparent report on the scope of the cyber breach will be issued anytime soon, but the availability of such sensitive information to any party, official or unofficial, may equate to handing over nuclear bomb manufacturing secrets to any party that does not own it. America appears exposed to those who have undertaken the breakthrough that is equivalent in severity to the shaking of confidence in the superiority of American technology in the cyberspace.

Russian Hacking Big Lie Never Dies

Stephen Lendman. US Waging Wars on Multiple Fronts...Majority In Favor of  War

By Stephen Lendman

Source

Along with phony accusations of Russian US election meddling, allegations of Kremlin hacking are never supported by credible evidence because none exists.

In response to the latest Big Lie about Russian hacking, Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the following:

“I reject these statements, these (phony) accusations once again.”

Peskov added that if hacking occurred, Russia “ha(d) nothing to do with this.”

Nor has the US intelligence community, Congress, or any other source in the country ever presented evidence of illegal or improper Russian actions against the country — nor by any other nations.

When these accusations surface, they’re always from dark elements hostile to Russia and other nations free from US control.

So hostile to world peace and stability accusations are invented.

They’re spread by government and media sources to manipulate the public to believe Russia and other countries threaten the US and its people when no foreign threats exist.

What’s going on is all about unjustifiably justifying trillions of dollars spent for militarism and belligerence at the expense of a nation fit to live in.

Whenever these accusation surface, they’re fabricated every time, never legitimate, including the latest alleged cyber breach, falsely attributed to Russia.

Pompeo either initiated the latest anti-Russia Big Lie or repeated it, mass deception one of his many nefarious specialties.

On Friday, he recited the following Big Lies to be ignored, not swallowed, saying:

“You see the news of the day with respect to (Russian) efforts in the cyber space (sic).”  

“We’ve seen this for an awfully long time, using asymmetric capabilities to try and put themselves in a place where they can impose costs on the United States (sic).”

“Vladimir Putin remains a real risk to those of us who love freedom (sic), and we have to make sure that we prepare for each of them.”

“(T)here was a significant effort to use a piece of third-party software to essentially embed code inside of US government systems (sic), and it now appears systems of private companies and companies and governments across the world as well (sic).”  

“This was a very significant effort, and I think it’s the case that now we can say pretty clearly that it was the Russians that engaged in this activity (sic).”

Like always before, no evidence was presented to corroborate Pompeo’s accusations because there is none.

It’s unclear whether any hacking of government and/or private systems occurred anywhere.

No evidence suggests Russian responsibility for anything hostile to US interests domestically or abroad — not now or earlier.

True enough, Russia’s military has been involved in Syria since September 2015 — legitimately at the request of Damascus to combat US supported ISIS and likeminded terrorists.

It’s a noble mission in stark contrast to aggression against a sovereign state threatening no one by the US, NATO, Israel and their imperial partners.

Virtually nothing Pompeo claims is credible. Once a serial liar, always one.

During his annual marathon tour de force presser days earlier, Putin noted that virtually always before when US accusations were made against Russia, they proved groundless — the latest example no exception.

Not according to establishment media propaganda, NYT fake news leading the war of words on Russia, saying:

“(T)he Kremlin…used a variety of sophisticated tools to infiltrate dozens of government and private systems, including nuclear laboratories and the Pentagon, Treasury and Commerce Departments (sic).”

As always before in these type Times pieces, no evidence was cited. Without it, accusations are groundless.

Yet the Times claimed that “evidence…piled up this week (indicating that) an elite Russian intelligence agency” was behind reported hacking (sic) that perhaps didn’t occur, surely not by Russia.

Where’s the verified evidence? None was cited by Washington, the Times and other media.

Spreading lies, Big Lies, and damn lies is standard practice when these accusations are made — pointing always at US adversaries.

CIA-connected WaPo headlined:

“The massive cyber spy campaign against the U.S. government is grave and ongoing…and Russia…clearly behind it (sic).”

The WSJ headlined:

“Computer Hack Blamed on Russia Tests Limits of US Response,” adding:

Neocon US Senator “Dick Durbin called the (alleged hacking) a declaration of war (sic).”

Axios mimicked Durbin’s Big Lie, headlining: “Russian Hacks Acts of War (sic).”

WaPo pseudo-journalist Fareed Zakaria tweeted:

“Russia hasn’t just hacked our computer systems (sic). It’s hacked our minds (sic).”

The latest widely proliferated fake news about Russia surely won’t be the last time it’s smeared  by false accusations.

Whenever these claims surface about nations unwilling to sacrifice their sovereign rights to a higher power in Washington, ignore them.

They’re baseless mind-manipulating propaganda — fake news by US dark forces and their press agent media against all sovereign independent nations.

Real threats don’t exist so they have to be invented to throw trillions of dollars at the US military, industrial, security complex — along with Wall Street and other corporate favorites.

It comes at the expense of a nation that’s safe and fit to live in.

It’s long gone, perhaps never to return.

Dystopian totalitarian rule replaced it, enforced with police state harshness.

A Final Comment

After briefed on an alleged Russian cyberattack, Trump tweeted the following:

“The cyber hack is far greater in the fake news media than in actuality.” 

“I have been fully briefed and everything is well under control.” 

“Russia, Russia, Russia is the priority chant when anything happens because lamestream is, for mostly financial reasons, petrified of discussing the possibility that it may be China (it may!).” 

“There could also have been a hit on our ridiculous voting machines during the election, which is now obvious that I won big, making it an even more corrupted embarrassment for the USA.”

No evidence was presented to show any hacking occurred, nothing pointing fingers at Russia, China, or any other foreign countries.

Hackers Target US Nuclear Weapons Security Agency-‘Israel’ Is Afraid, Fears More Advanced Cyberattacks

Hackers Target US Nuclear Weapons Security Agency

By Staff, Agencies

The US nuclear weapons agency is reportedly targeted by hackers as part of a massive cyber security breach against federal agencies and critical infrastructure.

Politico reported on Thursday that hackers targeted the Department of Energy [DOE] and its National Nuclear Security Administration [NNSA], which secures the US nuclear weapons stockpile.

The attack was part of a massive cyber campaign that affected at least half a dozen federal agencies, including the Treasury, State, War and Commerce Departments, Bloomberg reported.

The US has a total of 3,800 nuclear weapons, many of which were produced during the early years of the Cold War and are overseen by the NNSA.

US President-elect Joe Biden described the cybersecurity breach as a matter of great concern, saying his team would impose “substantial costs” on parties responsible for such attacks.

Biden promised he “will make cybersecurity a top priority at every level of government, and we will make dealing with this breach a top priority from the moment we take office.”

“But a good defense isn’t enough; we need to disrupt and deter our adversaries from undertaking significant cyber-attacks in the first place,” Newsweek reported, quoting from a statement sent Biden’s transition team. “We will do that by, among other things, imposing substantial costs on those responsible for such malicious attacks, including in coordination with our allies and partners.”

Senator Deb Fischer, chair of the Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, said that she was “troubled” by reports of the security breach.

“Our nuclear deterrent is the bedrock of our national security. The NNSA’s infrastructure and computer systems play a vital role and must be protected,” she said in a statement.

Earlier this week, the US Department of Homeland Security and thousands of businesses were targeted by a sweeping hacking campaign that officials suspect was directed by the Russian government.

Emails sent by officials at DHS, which oversees border security and defense against hacking, were monitored by the hackers as part of the sophisticated series of breaches, three people familiar with the matter told Reuters Monday.

Technology company SolarWinds, which was the key steppingstone used by the hackers, said up to 18,000 of its customers had downloaded a compromised software update that allowed hackers to spy unnoticed on businesses and agencies for almost nine months.

The United States issued an emergency warning on Sunday, ordering government users to disconnect SolarWinds software which it said had been compromised by “malicious actors.”

‘Israel’ Is Afraid, Fears More Advanced Cyberattacks

‘Israel’ Is Afraid, Fears More Advanced Cyberattacks

By Staff, Haaretz

‘Israel’ is under attack and it is growingly afraid after hackers have targeted at least 80 ‘Israeli’ firms, with more possible attacks are still expected.

The attack, led by a group called Pay2Key, is the latest in a string of cybercampaigns targeting the Zionist entity. However, the latest move is said to have financial motives – further blurring the lines between hacktivism and cybercrime.

Omri Segev Moyal, CEO of the cybersecurity firm Profero, claimed that “The Iranian attack has been in the works for months, and is only growing and continuing to inflict damage on the ‘Israeli’ market. Much like the tit-for-tat dynamic of war,” he told Haaretz.

“The ‘Israeli’ economy is the ‘home’ front in this war, and we need to defend it,” he added.

“Winter is coming,” Segev Moyal tweeted in an attempt to warn others in the Zionist entity.

“We cannot and should not underestimate them,” said Segev Moyal, adding that “most of the ‘Israeli’ market is not prepared to deal with such an attack.”

But what do cyber-experts mean when they talk about ideologically driven cybercrime? We spoke to the team that first managed to locate Pay2Key and linked it back to Iran to try to understand.

Pay2Key was discovered in November in a joint research project by two ‘Israeli’ cybersecurity firms, Check Point and Whitestream. Initially, the group was thought to be another band of cybercriminals active in the field of ransomware, albeit a very advanced one.

The hacker group was extremely careful to delete its tracks. The combination of the two is a new and impressive skill that has rarely been seen by run-of-the-mill cybercriminals.

CURSE OF SAUDIS: TANKER EXPLOSIONS AND OTHER UNFORTUNATE EVENTS

South Front

A series of unfortunate events linked to the Saudi invasion in Yemen continues to pursue the Kingdom.

On December 14, an explosion hit the Singapore-flagged BW Rhine, a chemical tanker hauling gasoline, off the Saudi port city of Jeddah, which is also known as the distribution center for oil giant Saudi Aramco. The BW Group said that the explosion erupted after the Singapore-flagged BW Rhine was hit by “an external source”, but all 22 sailors on board received no injures. Later, Saudi media claimed that the explosion was caused by an attack with a water-born improvised explosive device. At the time of the attack, the ship was carrying more than 60,000 metric tons of gasoline from the Aramco refinery at Yanbu.

This is not the first attack in the Red Sea waters attributed to the Houthis. About three weeks ago, on November 25, a Greek-managed oil tanker was damaged in a WBIED attack on the Saudi petroleum terminal located near Jeddah. A few days earlier, on November 23, the Houthis struck the Jeddah distribution station with a Quds-2 cruise missile.

The developments in the Red Sea, one of the key areas of global maritime transportation of energy resources, come amid the increase in tensions between Iran and the US-Israeli bloc.

On November 27, the top Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was assassinated in an apparent US-Israeli plot outside of Tehran. This move contributed to the growth of tensions and Iran, expecting even more attacks before President Trump leaves office, even reinforced its defenses on the coast of the Persian Gulf. The Iranian leadership also promised to avenge the assassination. The increase of attacks on US-Israeli interests and their allies in the region is likely a part of this asymmetric response.

On December 14, Israeli media also reported a large-scale cyberattack on 40 Israeli firms working in the financial, technology and logistics sectors. On December 13, a “sophisticated hacking group backed by a foreign government” allegedly committed a cyber attack and stole information from the U.S. Treasury Department and a U.S. agency responsible for deciding policy reguarding the internet and telecommunications, according to reports in mainstream media. US “anonymous sources” expectedly accused the Russians, but there are more candidates.

In the coming weeks tensions will likely continue to grow in the Greater Middle East, as the United States and Israel are working to secure their recent diplomatic breakthroughs and are taking active steps to entrench the legacy of the 4 years of the Trump presidency.

Sinophobia, Lies and Hybrid War

Sinophobia, Lies and Hybrid War

September 23, 2020

by Pepe Escobar and with permission cross-posted with Asia Times

It took one minute for President Trump to introduce a virus at the virtual 75th UN General Assembly, blasting “the nation which unleashed this plague onto the world”.

And then it all went downhill.

Even as Trump was essentially delivering a campaign speech and could not care less about the multilateral UN, at least the picture was clear enough for all the socially distant “international community” to see.

Here is President Xi’s full statement. And here is President Putin’s full statement. And here’s the geopolitical chessboard, once again; it’s the “indispensable nation” versus the Russia-China strategic partnership.

As he stressed the importance of the UN, Xi could not be more explicit that no nation has the right to control the destiny of others: “Even less should one be allowed to do whatever it likes and be the hegemon, bully, or boss of the world .”

The US ruling class obviously won’t take this act of defiance lying down. The full spectrum of Hybrid War techniques will continue to be relentlessly turbo-charged against China, coupled with rampant Sinophobia, even as it dawns on many Dr. Strangelove quarters that the only way to really “deter” China would be Hot War.

Alas, the Pentagon is overstretched – Syria, Iran, Venezuela, South China Sea. And every analyst knows about China’s cyber warfare capabilities, integrated aerial defense systems, and carrier-killer Dongfeng missiles.

For perspective, it’s always very instructive to compare military expenditure. Last year, China spent $261 billion while the US spent $732 billion (38% of the global total).

Rhetoric, at least for the moment, prevails. The key talking point, incessantly hammered, is always about China as an existential threat to the “free world”, even as the myriad declinations of what was once Obama’s “pivot to Asia” not so subtly accrue the manufacture of consent for a future war.

This report by the Qiao Collective neatly identifies the process: “We call it Sinophobia, Inc. – an information industrial complex where Western state funding, billion dollar weapons manufacturers, and right-wing think tanks coalesce and operate in sync to flood the media with messages that China is public enemy number one. Armed with state funding and weapons industry sponsors, this handful of influential think tanks are setting the terms of the New Cold War on China. The same media ecosystem that greased the wheels of perpetual war towards disastrous intervention in the Middle East is now busy manufacturing consent for conflict with China.”

That “US military edge”

The demonization of China, infused with blatant racism and rabid anti-communism, is displayed across a full, multicolored palette: Hong Kong, Xinjiang (“concentration camps), Tibet (“forced labor”), Taiwan, “China virus”; the Belt and Road’s “debt trap”.

The trade war runs in parallel – glaring evidence of how “socialism with Chinese characteristics” is beating Western capitalism at its own high-tech game. Thus the sanctioning of over 150 companies that manufacture chips for Huawei and ZTE, or the attempt to ruin TikTok’s business in the US (“But you can’t rob it and turn it into a US baby”, as Global Times editor-in-chief Hu Xijin tweeted).

Still, SMIC (Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation), China’s top chip company, which recently profited from a $7.5 billion IPO in Shanghai, sooner or later may jump ahead of US chip manufacturers.

On the military front, “maximum pressure” on China’s eastern rim proceeds unabated – from the revival of the Quad to a scramble to boost the Indo-Pacific strategy.

Think Tankland is essential in coordinating the whole process, via for instance the Center for Strategic & International Studies, with “corporation and trade association donors” featuring usual suspects such as Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman.

So here we have what Ray McGovern brilliantly describes as MICIMATT – the Military-Industrial-Congressional-Intelligence-Media-Academia-Think-Tank complex – as the comptrollers of Sinophobia Inc.

Assuming there would be a Dem victory in November, nothing will change. The next Pentagon head will probably be Michele Flournoy, former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy (2009-2012) and co-founder of the Center for a New American Security, which is big on both the “China challenge” and the “North Korean threat”. Flournoy is all about boosting the “U.S. military’s edge” in Asia.

So what is China doing?

China’s top foreign policy principle is to advance a “community of shared future for mankind”. That is written in the constitution, and implies that Cold War 2.0 is an imposition from foreign actors.

China’s top three priorities post-Covid-19 are to finally eradicate poverty; solidify the vast domestic market; and be back in full force to trade/investment across the Global South.

China’s “existential threat” is also symbolized by the drive to implement a non-Western trade and investment system, including everything from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the Silk Road Fund to trade bypassing the US dollar.

Harvard Kennedy School report at least tried to understand how Chinese “authoritarian resilience” appeals domestically. The report found out that the CCP actually benefitted from increased popular support from 2003 to 2016, reaching an astonishing 93%, essentially due to social welfare programs and the battle against corruption.

By contrast, when we have a MICCIMAT investing in Perpetual War – or “Long War” (Pentagon terminology since 2001) – instead of health, education and infrastructure upgrading, what’s left is a classic wag the dog. Sinophobia is perfect to blame the abysmal response to Covid-19, the extinction of small businesses and the looming New Great Depression on the Chinese “existential threat”.

The whole process has nothing to do with “moral defeat” and complaining that “we risk losing the competition and endangering the world”.

The world is not “endangered” because at least vast swathes of the Global South are fully aware that the much-ballyhooed “rules-based international order” is nothing but a quite appealing euphemism for Pax Americana – or Exceptionalism. What was designed by Washington for post-WWII, the Cold War and the “unilateral moment” does not apply anymore.

Bye, bye Mackinder

As President Putin has made it very clear over and over again, the US is no longer “agreement capable” . As for the “rules-based international order”, at best is a euphemism for privately controlled financial capitalism on a global scale.

The Russia-China strategic partnership has made it very clear, over and over again, that against NATO and Quad expansion their project hinges on Eurasia-wide trade, development and diplomatic integration.

Unlike the case from the 16th century to the last decades of the 20th century, now the initiative is not coming from the West, but from East Asia (that’s the beauty of “initiative” incorporated to the BRI acronym).

Enter continental corridors and axes of development traversing Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Indian Ocean, Southwest Asia and Russia all the way to Europe, coupled with a Maritime Silk Road across the South Asian rimland.

For the very first time in its millenary history, China is able to match ultra-dynamic political and economic expansion both overland and across the seas. This reaches way beyond the short era of the Zheng He maritime expeditions during the Ming dynasty in the early 15th century.

No wonder the West, and especially the Hegemon, simply cannot comprehend the geopolitical enormity of it all. And that’s why we have so much Sinophobia, so many Hybrid War techniques deployed to snuff out the “threat”.

Eurasia, in the recent past, was either a Western colony, or a Soviet domain. Now, it stands on the verge of finally getting rid of Mackinder, Mahan and Spykman scenarios, as the heartland and the rimland progressively and inexorably integrate, on their own terms, all the way to the middle of the 21st century.

رياح الشمال تكسر شراع سفينة نتن ياهو…!

محمد صادق الحسيني

لم يتعلم رئيس العصابة الحاكمة في تل أبيب من خيباته السابقة، ورغم تكرار مسلسل الفشل في مسرحياته واستعراضاته الهوليودية البائسة بهدف تحقيق انتصارات وهمية مع جبهة الشمال، فإنه عاد ليلة أمس الاول ووقع في فخ حرب لا قِبَلَ له فيها مع رجال باتوا يفوقونه ويتفوّقون عليه بكلّ أشكال ومستويات “معركة بين حروب”…!

فما أن أقلعت طائرة وزير الخارجية الاميركي، مايك بومبيو، من مطار اللدّ الفلسطيني المحتلّ، يوم الثلاثاء 25/8/2020، متجهة الى الخرطوم، حتى أقلعت مروحية تابعة لسلاح الجو الاسرائيلي، من طراز ، وعلى متنها رئيس الوزراء الاسرائيلي نتن ياهو وزوجته وأولاده، متجهة الى قاعدة روش بينا الجوية، والتي تسمّى ايضاً قاعدة ماخانايم حيث تقع القيادة العامة للمنطقة الشمالية في الجيش الاسرائيلي. وهي القاعدة التي لا تبعد عن مدينة صفد سوى أحد عشر كيلومتراً، حيث انتقل نتن ياهو وعائلته الى أحد أفخر الفنادق فيها، بحجة قضاء بضعة أيام من الراحة، حسب بيانات إسرائيلية صادرة عن الجيش.

علماً أنّ المكان وطبيعته مناسبان جداً للراحة والاستجمام، اذ ان مدينة صفد تقع في منطقة جبلية عليلة الأجواء ولا تبعد إلا 25 كيلومتراً عن بحيرة طبريا، الأمر الذي يجعلها مكاناً مناسباً جداً لقضاء إجازة جبلية بحرية دون أيّ عناء.

الا انّ الهدف غير المعلن لهذه “الإجازة” تمثل في أنّ نتن ياهو كان يخطط لمسرحية جديدة، تظهره بطلاً مرة أخرى، وذلك بافتعال “حادث أمني” على حدود لبنان الجنوبية، ليدّعي بمواكبة “الحدث” أنه كان يقود المعركة ضدّ حزب الله من الخطوط الأمامية، وذلك كي يتمكن من استحداث وسيلة جديدة للضغط على الأمم المتحدة والجهات الدولية الأخرى، المعنية بالامر، باتجاه إقرار تعديلات على مهمات قوات اليونيفيل في الجنوب اللبناني.

ولكن حزب الله، الذي يقف بالمرصاد، حسب ما أفاد مصدر عسكري أوروبي تابَع هذا التطور بحكم جهة اختصاصه، قام بإفساد كل ما كان يفكر به نتن ياهو من مخططات وذلك بعد ان نفذ مناورات عدة لحرب الكترونية جعلت قيادة المنطقة الشمالية تتأكد بأنّ قوات المقاومة في جنوب لبنان تتابع تحركات نتن ياهو خطوة بخطوة، تماماً كما تتابع تحركات جيشه في المنطقة على مدار الساعة.

ويتابع المصدر قائلاً إنّ الامر لم يتوقف عند الإنذارات / الإشارات السيبرانية، التي وصلت الى قيادة المنطقة الشمالية في الجيش الاسرائيلي، بل إن قوات حزب الله قد أتبعت ذلك بتفعيل نوع من الروبوتات على الخط الأزرق، مقابل المحمية الطبيعية الاسرائيلية ، الأمر الذي دفع الجيش الاسرائيلي يدخل في حالة هستيريا ويبدأ بإطلاق نيران المدفعية والرشاشات الثقيلة ويقوم بعملية تمشيط واسعة النطاق، اعتقاداً منه أنّ الأصوات التي أصدرتها حركة ما يُعتقد أنها روبوتات، تابعة للحزب داخل الأراضي اللبنانية، هي حركات صادرة عن مجموعة تحاول التسلل الى داخل فلسطين المحتلة.

وهو ما أثار حالة هلع عامة، في صفوف الجيش أولاً وفي صفوف المستوطنين لاحقاً، بعد أن أصدر الجيش تعليماته المشدّدة لهم بالتزام المنازل والبقاء بالقرب من الملاجئ، وما صدر من بيانات متناقضة جداً عن قيادة الجيش الاسرائيلي على مدى ساعات عدة، وصولاً الى اضطرار الجيش الاسرائيلي لإصدار بيان توضيحي، فجر أمس الاربعاء 26/8/2020، يؤكد فيه انّ أياً من وحداته لم تتعرّض لإطلاق النار من داخل الأراضي اللبنانية وانّ الامر يقتصر على التباس لا تفسير له حتى الآن.

وبذلك تكون مسرحية نتن ياهو قد فشلت تماماً، بينما وصلته رسالة حزب الله في الوقت المناسب، مما ادّى الى اضطرار قوات “اليونيفيل” ان تقرّ بعدم وقوع ايّ إطلاق نار من داخل الأراضي اللبنانية، الأمر الذي ضاعف فشل مخطط نتن ياهو.

بالاضافة الى بيان الجيش اللبناني الذي كشف عن عدوان صهيوني موصوف وقع على مواقع مدنية تابعة لـ “جمعية اخضر بلا حدود” في كلّ من راميا وعيتا الشعب وعيترون وميس الجبل وحولا ومارون الراس وحضائر ماعز في المنطقة، الامر الذي زاد في الطين بلة من حيث انه كشف طبيعة الكيان العدوانية الوحشية إضافة الى فشله وخيبته…

فهل فهم نتن ياهو الإشارة السيبرانية التي أدخلها حزب الله الى غرفة نومه، في مدينة صفد المحتلة، وأفسد عليه رحلة الاستجمام؟ لعله فهم!

بعدنا طيّبين قولوا الله…

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ترامب والانتخابات والحرب السيبرانية: هل يشتري الوقت؟

روزانا رمّال

المنطقة والعالم بانتظار الاستحقاق الرئاسي الأميركي الكبير والذي تبنى على اساسه اجندات مركزية للتعامل بين دول المنطقة انطلاقاً من أولوية تقدير العلاقة مع «إسرائيل». ومع ان العلاقة بين واشنطن وتل ابيب لا تقع ضمن دائرة تأثير هوية او انتماء الرئيس «جمهوري» كان ام «ديمقراطي» عليها، الا ان تجربة العشر سنوات الاخيرة تؤكد العكس تحديداً اثناء تولي الرئيس باراك اوباما الحكم وهي مرحلة فيها الكثير بين سطورها من تفاصيل تحاكي الفشل الذريع في التقاط «كيمياء» للعلاقة بين المسؤولين الإسرائيليين وتحديداً رئيس الوزراء بن يمين نتنياهو والرئيس الديمقراطي «اوباما» الذي كان من أشد المتحمّسين للعلاقة مع إيران وتعبيد الطريق عبر الاتفاق النووي في فيينا عام 2015 وكان أقل الرؤساء حماساً لتقديم الطروحات الإسرائيلية كأولوية حسب مسؤولين إسرائيليين والسبب عدم التوافق الشخصي مع نتنياهو، الا ان الرد الديمقراطي على هذا الكلام كان أخذ الأمن الإسرائيلي بعين الاعتبار من منظار آخر يعتبر فيه الانكفاء عن الحروب والنزعة نحو التسويات اضمن لكل الأطراف في الشرق الاوسط.

هذا الوضع رفضته «إسرائيل» بالكامل ومع قدوم دونالد ترامب توج الرئيس الأكثر «خدمة» لـ»إسرائيل». فما قام به لم يكن متوقعاً لجهة نقض سياسات خلفه اوباما بالكامل بين «نسف الاتفاق النووي مع إيران» وطرح «صفقة القرن» كأجندة بعيدة المدى موضوعة ضمن مساعي التنفيذ عبر مستشاره جاريد كوشنر، وهي بمثابة تعهد للإسرائيليين للسنوات المقبلة يضاف الى التجرؤ على التصعيد العسكري بالمنطقة في غير مرة عبر ضرب مواقع في سورية واستهداف قادة عراقيين وإيرانيين في العراق وتسجيله اقوى الاهداف في مرمى الامن الإيراني باستهداف قائد فيلق القدس اسطورة قادة المنطقة بالنسبة لإيران وحلفائها الجنرال قاسم سليماني، إضافة الى اقصى العقوبات المالية على حزب الله.

كل ما انتهجه ترامب يثير اهتمام المسؤولين الإسرائيليين وتحديداً نتنياهو الذي يرغب وبشدة باستكمال ما بدأه حيال الملف الإسرائيلي – الفلسطيني وتحديداً ضم المزيد من الأراضي وصولاً حتى فرض صفقة القرن واقعاً.

وبعيداً هنا عن إمكانية نجاح المشروع من عدمه الا ان المساحة الأساسية لأمن «إسرائيل» عند ترامب تفوّقت على رؤساء كثر أملاً بالحصول على دعم بالانتخابات الرئاسية الأميركية عبر دعمه من خلال الضغط على اللوبي الإسرائيلي «الناخب الوازن» في الولايات المتحدة حيث تندرج ضمن نفوذه مؤسسات تسيطر على صناعة الرأي العام الأميركي والتأثير عليه منها مراكز دراسات امنية واستراتيجية.

يطرح الرئيس الأميركي «المأزوم» اليوم دونالد ترامب رغبته بتأجيل الانتخابات عن موعدها المقرر لان الظروف الصحية لا تسمح بإجرائها سوى عبر الانترنت او التصويت الالكتروني. وهذا ما يجعل القلق ينتابه لأسباب كثيرة ودقيقة أبرزها:

اولاً: ان الحرب السيبرانية التي تأخذ مداها بين واشنطن وطهران والتي يبقى جزء منها قيد الكتمان بالأعم الاغلب من الحوادث التي ذكرت في وسائل الإعلام تبقى من دون تفاصيل. وهي التطور الكبير الذي ظهر على المشهد او على تغير شكل الحرب الدائرة بين الطرفين. وبالتالي فان امكانية اختراق الإيرانيين للشبكة الأميركية المعنية بالانتخابات ليس مستبعداً بل سيكون الأكثر طرحاً وقوة خصوصاً أن إيران لم تقفل ملف الرد على اغتيال الجنرال قاسم سليماني والمرشد الأعلى السيد على خامنئي لا يزال يكرر هذا في كل مناسبة. وبالتالي فان اي تلاعب بالنتائج او تخريبها وارد جداً.

ثانياً: واجه ترامب بداية فوزه بالانتخابات بالولاية الاولى اتهامات كادت تسحب منه الرئاسة على خلفية بروز تقارير تؤكد تدخل روسيا بالانتخابات الأميركية للمرة الاولى ودعم ترامب عبر لقاءات جرت مع أحد الدبلوماسيين الروس. وهو الأمر الذي وضع ترامب في موقف محرج ادى الى اتخاذه قرارات تصعيدية منذ بداية ولايته لاستعادة الثقة به. وهو الامر الذي يخشى حدوثه مرة جديدة عبر خرق روسي ايضاً او ربما صيني بعد الاتهامات الكبرى المتبادلة جراء جائحة كورونا والعمل على نسف شبكات الامان الاجتماعي للدول الكبرى.

ثالثاً: إن إمكانية التدخل والتزوير والضغط على الناخب كبيرة، خصوصاً من جهة الديمقراطيين فهذه العملية لا تكون شفافة من دون ان تتم بمراكز خاصة وراء عازل يحفظ للناخب حرية خياراته اضافة الى امكانية التزوير في الولايات الديمقراطية والتأثير بأشكاله كافة على عملية التصويت.

قد تبدو هواجس ترامب حجة للتمديد. هكذا يقرأها الديمقراطيون وهكذا يروجون الا ان هذا ليس صحيحاً. فالقلق في مكانه، ومصير ترامب ليس مطمئناً لجهة شكل العملية.

هناك تجارب حصلت في حزيران، سمحت ولاية نيويورك للناخبين بالتصويت بواسطة البريد في الاقتراع الأولي لمرشحي الحزب الديمقراطي للرئاسة. ولكن حدث تأخير طويل في فرز بطاقات الاقتراع، ولا تزال النتائج غير معروفة. هذا ما تؤكده المعلومات المنشورة.

وبعيداً عن السياسات الخارجية وقع ترامب بألغام محلية كبيرة بعد ان تقدم بالاقتصاد الاميركي نحو موقع افضل الا ان انتشار فيروس كوفيد 19 وتعاطيه معه اضافة الى انفجار لغم “العنصرية” ضد ذوي البشرة السمراء وضع امامه حقيقة خسارة اصوات الأكثرية الساحقة من هؤلاء الذين اختاروه رئيسا في الولاية الاولى..

يتحدث خبراء عن حظوظ كبيرة للمرشح جو بايدن فقد عانى من صدمة فقدان زوجته الأولى وابنته ذات الثلاث عشرة سنة في حادث سيارة بعد فوزه في انتخابات مجلس الشيوخ عام 1972. وفي عام 2015 توفي ابنه الذي نجا من الحادث نتيجة نوع نادر من سرطان الدماغ ما أكسبه تعاطفاً بشكل تلقائي.. وهذا ما يجعله قريباً من الكثيرين من أفراد العائلات التي فقدت أحباء لها نتيجة وباء كورونا وعددعم 140 ألفاً، حسب التقارير.

كل المؤشرات السيئة تحيط بترامب، لكن هذا لا يخفي ابداً فكرة قربه من الشباب الذين يختارونه للمرة الثانية حسب الاستطلاعات واعتبار بعض الاقتصاديين انه خيار افضل عن بايدن بالوقت الذي يبدو فيه الأخير ضعيفاً في هاتين الناحيتين..

و عليه، تصبح هذه الفترة هي الأخطر على المنطقة بحيث يحتاج ترامب فيها الى تطور كبير ربما يكون التوجه لتسويات مع اعدائه كي لا يتآمروا عليه انتخابياً او ربما يأخذه هذا المنطق نحو تصعيد كبير

هل تحقق أميركا أهدافها بـ «استراتيجية القوة الذكيّة الخفيّة»؟

العميد د. أمين محمد حطيط

كان السعي الأميركي ويكاد لا يزال مستميتاً من أجل السيطرة على العالم، ورغم كلّ الإخفاقات التي وقع فيها المشروع الأميركي العالمي القائم على فكرة الأحاديّة القطبيّة، فإنّ كثيراً من أرباب هذا المشروع لا يزالون مصرّين على المحاولة ويتصوّرون وجود فرص لإنقاذه، رغم أنّ أحداً من العقلاء لا يرى أنّ فرص نجاح الأحاديّة القطبيّة فيها شيء من العقلانية والموضوعية بل نكاد نرى إجماعاً بين الباحثين والاستراتيجيين العقلاء الموضوعيين، على القول بموت الأحادية وتشكل البيئة الدولية لنظام عالمي قيد التشكل حالياً قائم على تعددية المكونات والمجموعات الاستراتيجية، نظام لا ينفرد به أحد ولا يُقصى عنه إلا الضعفاء الخائرو القوى، ويكون للمكون فيه من الوزن والنفوذ مقدار ما يملك من قوة وقدرة ذاتية او تحالفية..

بيد أنّ أميركا التي خسرت منطقيّاً مشروعها الأحادي القطبية تصرّ على محاولة السيطرة وإسقاط الأعداء ومحاصرتهم، ويبدو لها الشرق الأوسط الميدان الرئيسي للعمل المجدي نظراً لخصائص هذا الميدان وجغرافيّته وثرواته، ومن أجل الإمساك الأحادي بالمنطقة عملت أميركا باستراتيجيات متتابعة مختلفة، كلما تعثرت في واحدة انتقلت إلى أخرى بدءاً من العام 1990 أيّ بعد تفكّك الاتحاد السوفياتيّ حيث سارعت إلى زجّ جيوشها وجيوش حلفائها في جبهات الشرق الأوسط عملاً بـ “استراتيجية القوة الصلبة” التي تعثرت في العام 2006، حيث عجزت في لبنان عن تحقيق أهداف “إسرائيل” وأميركا في الميدان عجزاً أجبر أميركا على التحوّل إلى “استراتيجية القوة الناعمة” التي سقطت هي الأخرى في العام 2009 في إيران بعد لبنان، فكان تحوّل أميركي إلى “استراتيجية القوة العمياء” والحروب البديلة التي تخوضها أميركا بتجميعات إرهابية شكلت واستجلبت وزجّت في الميدان تحت عناوين دينيّة تحاكي ما كان قاله رئيس “سي أي آي” (C.I.A.) السابق في محاضرته أمام معهد عسكري في أميركا في العام 2006 أيّ بعد هزيمة “إسرائيل” وأميركا في جنوب لبنان، حيث قال هذا المسؤول السابق “علينا ان نصنع لهم سلاماً يناسبنا فينقسمون حوله ويقتتلون حتى يتآكلوا ثم يستغيثوا بنا فنعود إليهم محتلين مجدّداً”.

وبمقتضى “استراتيجية القوة العمياء” هذه شنّت الحرب الكونية على سورية، لكن سورية صمدت في مواجهتها واستطاعت بعد ان كانت فقدت السيطرة على 80% من أرضها في العام 2015، استطاعت ان تستعيد السيطرة على أكثر من 80% من مساحتها ووجهت بذاك رسالة حاسمة وقاطعة لقوى العدوان وعلى رأسها أميركا بأنهم فشلوا وانّ استراتيجيتهم أخفقت كما فشلت سابقاتها الصلبة والناعمة، واصطفّت العمياء إلى جانب ما مضى.

وبدل أن تقرّ أميركا باستحالة مشروعها وتتحوّل عنه إلى نهج واقعي عادل تعترف فيه للآخرين بحقوقهم، أمعنت في النهج العدواني وابتدعت استراتيجية عدوان رابعة قد تكون الأكثر خبثاً وكيداً مما سبق، استراتيجية عبّر عنها أحد المنظرين الاستراتيجيين لديهم في محاضرة ألقاها في “إسرائيل” في 1/12/2018 أكد فيها أنّ المواجهة الجديدة ستكون مختلفة عما عداها ويجب أن تنجح هذه المرة في تحقيق المبتغى، فهذه المرة “ليس الهدف تحطيم المؤسسة العسكرية للعدو بل الهدف هو الإنهاك والتآكل البطيء لقوى العدو، ويكون ذلك بزعزعة الاستقرار في دولة الخصم وهو أمر ينفذه مواطنون من الدولة بوجه حكوماتهم، وحصار وتجويع يمارَس من الخارج حتى يثور الشعب بوجه الحكومة ويمارس ذلك بشكل متواصل وصولاً إلى إرغامه على المجيء راكعاً إلى طاولة التفاوض والخضوع لإرادتنا”.

هذه هي استراتيجية أميركا اليوم في المنطقة، الاستراتيجية التي تترجم في لبنان حصاراً ودفعاً إلى التآكل وعدم الاستقرار. وهذا ما يفسّر كلّ ما جرى من آذار 2019 حيث أطلق بومبيو خطة إسقاط لبنان من بيروت… انّ استراتيجية القوة الخفية الذكية التي تشنّ أميركا بمقتضاها الحرب على لبنان وتدّعي أنها حرب على حزب الله فقط، تترجم بالتلاعب بالنقد الوطني والحصار الاقتصادي والتهويل بالتجويع، وأخيراً بطرح “حياد لبنان” وما أنتجه الطرح من انقسام في لبنان ينذر بانفجار داخلي لم يعد أمره مستبعداً في ظلّ الاحتقان القائم بسبب طرح عقيم لا أرضية واقعية مطلقة لنجاحه، طرح علم صاحبه استحالة تطبيقه واستمرّ مُصراً عليه، وهنا الارتياب الشديد من الطرح وصاحبه، حيث يبدو أنّ المقصود هو التشرذم والانقسام وليس تنفيذ الطرح بذاته.

أما في سورية فإنّ “استراتيجية القوة الخفية الناعمة تترجم بالمقولة الأميركية “إطالة أمد الصراع” ومنع الحلّ السياسي ومنع الحسم العسكري ما يقود إلى الإنهاك والتأمّل وهذا ما تنفذه أميركا بيدها وعبر أدواتها تركيا والجماعات الإرهابية ويعطى الدور المتقدّم فيها لتركيا و”قسد” والآن تحرك جماعات المسلحين في الجنوب، طبعاً يُضاف إلى هذا ما جاء به “قانون قيصر” من حصار وخنق لسورية اقتصادياً ومالياً ورغبة في فرض عزلة دولية كامل عليها اقتصادياً.

ونصل إلى إيران، حيث تبدو تطبيقات “القوة الخفية الذكية” من طبيعة مختلفة قسوة وإيلاماً، فقد لجأت أميركا و”إسرائيل” إضافة إلى الحرب والإرهاب الاقتصادي ضدّ إيران، وبعد أن مارست عمليات الاغتيال الصريح المعلن عنها، لجأت إلى الحرب السيبيرانية وعمليات الخلايا الإرهابية لتنفيذ التخريب والإخلال بالأمن في الداخل الإيراني، وترجم هذا باغتيالات مسؤولين، وتفجيرات مراكز ذات صلة بالملف النووي الإيراني السلمي، وحرائق في مراكز اقتصادية استراتيجية واعتداءات على مراكز عسكرية، تطبيقاً لاستراتيجية “القوة الخفيّة الذكيّة” التي تسبّبت في إيران بخسائر بشرية ومادية أنتجت حذراً وفرضت تأهّباً لا بدّ منه.

وبهذا نقول وضوحاً إنّ المنطقة والعالم عامة ومحور المقاومة بشكل خاص دخلا في طور جديد من المواجهة مع أرباب المشروع الصهيو – أميركي، مواجهة تعتمد استراتيجية القوة الخفية الذكية المركبة من إخلال بالأمن، وحصار اقتصادي، وأعمال قتل وتخريب لا يُعلن عن الفاعل فيها (ولذلك هي قوة خفية) ويقوم بتنفيذها بشكل رئيسي مواطنون من الدولة المستهدفة، عملاء أو مغرّر بهم، وخلايا مسلحة خفية نائمة أو علنية رافضة للحكومة، وتدار بيد أميركية صهيونية تعلن عن نفسها حيناً وتبقى متخفية أكثر الأحيان.

بيد انّ الدفاع في مواجهة القوة الخفية الذكية المركبة ليس امراً سهلاً حيث لا بدّ ان يكون أيضاً دفاعاً مركباً فيه التدابير الداخلية لتحصين المناعة الداخلية منعاً للإنهاك المعنوي، وفيه اجتراح البدائل لتعطيل مفاعيل الحصار الاقتصادي، وفيه التدابير السياسية والأمنية للمحافظة على الاستقرار الداخلي ومنع زعزعته، وأخيراً وهذا الهامّ جداً فيه العمليات الانتقامية وردود الفعل المؤلمة ضدّ العدو عبر عمليات أمنية وهجومات سيبرانية وأعمال انتقامية تصيب بنيته، وهذا ما بدأت إيران بفعله ويقتضي تكثيف العمل على هذا المسار حتى يشعر العدو بالألم فيتوقف عن العدوان.

وعليه نرى انّ شروط نجاح أميركا في استراتيجية القوة الخفية الذكية المركبة هي أربعة…

ـ وجود مواطنين في الدولة يرتضون التحوّل إلى عملاء لها لزعزعة الاستقرار، وعجز الدولة عن احتوائهم ومنعهم من ارتكاب جرائهم، ثم عجز الدولة عن إيجاد البدائل الاقتصادية التي تمنع الجوع والانهيار، وأخيراً عجز الدولة عن القيام بالأعمال الدفاعية الانتقامية رداً على الحرب السيبيرانية والإرهابية التخريبية.

وفي تقييم أوّلي نجد انّ إيران بما لديها من قوة وإرادة وخبرة قادرة على المواجهة، وقادرة على إنزال الهزيمة بالعدو في استراتيجيته الرابعة هذه، أما سورية التي صمدت وانتصرت في مواجهة أعتى حرب كونية تستهدف دولة فإنها تملك القدرة والخبرة والثقة والإرادة على أفشال أميركا و”إسرائيل” في هذا النمط الجديد أيضاً، ويبقى لبنان الذي قد يشكل خاصرة الضعف في المشروع نظراً لاعتبارات ديمغرافية وسياسية وبنوية وطائفية، وهذا ما يستلزم الاستعداد والحذر، ورغم ثقتنا بقدرة المقاومة وحلفائها في السلطة وخارجها كما ومناعة بيئة المقاومة ثقتنا بقدرتهم على المواجهة حتى تحقيق فشل المشروع، إلا أننا نرى انه من الواجب التحذير من خطورة الموقف…

*أستاذ جامعي – خبير استراتيجي

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