The Longest War Of The 21st Century

15 JANUARY 2022

By Konrad Rekas

Source

The United States and Russia negotiate about limitation of the arms race, which is now even more obvious.   Central-European media threat the public with the “New Yalta” slogan, at the same time promising the inevitable victory of the only right Euro-Atlantic system.  Meanwhile, the geopolitical and geostrategic situation is more complex and much more dangerous, not only for the whole of Europe, being something different than simple new demarcation of spheres of influence between the powers.

No-Missiles Zone

The Cold War has always been closest to the transition to a hot one when it comes to strategic balance of power measured by the deployment and range of missile systems.  This was the case when in 1962 the Soviet Union reverted an attempt to locate American missiles in Turkey, what is known at misleading name of the Cuban Crisis.  That follows in 1980s, when the symbols of Reagan’s and Thatcher’s aggressive imperialism were Pershings, Tomahawks and the Trident System (still continued by UK).  Whenever war hawks prevail in the Euro-Atlantic zone – it can be seen in the translocation of offensive combat systems, moving closer and closer to the borders of the Russian Federation.

In practice, since Donald Trump’s anti-Chinese policy killed the INF (ДРСМД) – there is no effective international regulation of the ongoing, though not officially announced, arms race between the US and the rest of the world.  Of course, a very one-sided race, because although no one denies the modernity and training of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and the power of the People’s Liberation Army – these are the Americans, however, who spend more ($778 billion) on armaments than the next eleven countries on this list combined, eight of which are American allies and dependent countries.  This massive dependence of US policy on the interests of the military-industrial complex, unchanged since the Cold War, always leaves a margin of concern whether such a huge arsenal will tempt someone to finally be used.  Even just to make some space for new purchases…

Disarmament or at least non-proliferation negotiations are therefore a necessity, as urgent as during the most dangerous crises of the two-Blocks era.  In the 1950s example of such an initiative was the Rapacki Plan.  The Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Adam Rapacki, proposed establishing of a nuclear-free zone in Central Europe, encompassing the territories of both Blocks, i.e. both German states, Poland and Czechoslovakia.  Despite support from Moscow, Prague and East Berlin, as well as a very sympathetic reception by anti-war Western circles – this proposal failed facing the resistance of Atlantic militarists.  However, it would certainly be worth referring to it today by creating such a zone excluded from the relocation of missile systems, including at least Poland, Ukraine, Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Scandinavia and the Baltic states.  Depending on a willingness of interested states, similar treaties could also be signed in Asia and other regions of the World.  Otherwise, we are threatened with a permanent state of universal hybrid war – with the possibility of turning into a full-blown global conflict at any time.

Will Russians invade Ukraine?  I invite them to dinner!

Of course, the USA, UK and NATO explain all their expansive actions in the East with „Russia’s aggressive plans towards Ukraine”.  We should add that these plans are so secret and diabolical that thanks to the Western media and politicians, people talk about them over a beer in a pub and at family lunches.  They are so obvious and known to everyone…  It is probably not difficult to guess that if something is the subject of such a clear and intrusive propaganda campaign – we can be absolutely sure that there is no relation to reality.  I have repeated many times, for the past seven years, when almost every day after the Euromaidan the Russian invasion into Ukraine was foretold: if only Russia wants that, after the morning roll call in Rostov, its soldiers will have lunch in Kharkiv, dinner in Kiev, and still have enough time for afternoon tea in Lviv cafes.  And for supper I invite them to the present Polish-Ukrainian border, near which I live…

Unfortunately, however, Russia has not attacked – because the Russians are not responsible for solving other nations’ problems.  Since we know more about the first years of People’s Republics in Donbas, the more we read and hear about the moderating role of Russia, which has tried to stop the escalation of the conflict.  This is not the place to judge whether it was right to grab the hands of Donbas field commanders, not letting them to go too far to the west.  The fact is, however, that it was so.  Russia could have liberated all of Ukraine (or conquered it if someone prefer that) a long time ago, and no one, least the West, could do anything about it.  Why then should it suddenly change politics and interfere with all this Ukrainian mess, especially announcing own entrance with so long run-up?  Just to help Western war hawks, gunmakers and the funny Kiev cacique who dreams of war to save his own stool?

Anyway, even in the Western media we can hear trumpets to retreat now.  After several months of continuous counting, how many thousands of Russian tanks are about to break into a peaceful Ukraine – suddenly we can hear and read that it was probably… “Putin’s bluff” and possibly Russia does not want to invade anyone.  For readers experienced in reading between the lines – the change of the message is therefore clear:  “We will never admit we lied, but now we can say that there will be no war”.  Well, looking at Ukraine’s impressive war budget (323 billion hryvnias, over 11 billion dollars!) it should be noted that the “Russo-Ukrainian war” has already fulfilled some of its tasks. The cash that the West “lends” to Kiev returns to the West in the form of military purchases, the business is booming, and the military-industrial complex with the media on its services counts profits.

For the New International Order

Therefore, there is no doubt that the period of World unipolarity has come to an end, but the new international order has not yet been clearly shaped.  All these collisions and conflicts are absolutely natural way of establishing new rules and defining new spheres of influence.  The descending empires often struggle with such problems, especially previously hiding and denying own weakness and decay.  The United States simply must put on mean face, flex muscles and show the longest missiles.  This is how they understand their prestige, these are their internal needs, and this is how they want to guarantee the subordination of the remaining vassals.  Escaping the crisis with a recent expansion attempt, distracting rivals, delaying the inevitable – these are normal tactical tricks.  Unfortunately, trying to displace reality by throwing everything on one card and creating a global war threat – that is also an option on the table.  And that is no secret that there are American circles that would not hesitate to set the World on fire believing that “all-or-nothing” and “if not us – no one!”.

Of course, however, there are also pragmatists, as well as that part of financial capital sceptical about the policies implemented by states, pointing out that these are large corporations, not the great powers, which became the real subjects of the international order.  These great interests will decide WAR or PEACE and so far (as we can see) the arguments are weighed.  Not only between Washington and Moscow, but even more between Wall Street, City and Beijing/Shanghai.

And as far poor Ukraine concerned… Well, it will be the subject of a conflict between the West and Russia as long as there is still something to be stolen left.  Although organized plunder has been going on practically from the first moments after the Euromaidan – Ukraine is still potentially a very rich country.  Do we not remember how during the previous World War the Germans even uprooted black soils and took them away by trains?  If the Ukrainians themselves do nothing about it, their country will only be left to itself when the last train with their resources leaves for the West.  And even then, Ukraine will be assigned the role of a battlefield, including atomic one.

As we know, Zelensky’s team has already legalised privatisation of land, privileging large foreign property, previously hidden in the form of leases and joint ventures.  In 2022 there is going to be a bargain with 700 of the 3,500 remaining state-owned enterprises, especially the power industry, mining and metallurgical one.  This a reason why Zelensky announced his cabaret “war with the oligarchs” (that means with himself?) – so no one would prevent Western capital from grazing on Ukrainian wealth.  To consume it in peace – capital must threat with war.  That is the whole secret of “Russian aggression plans against Ukraine”…

There will be no other end of the World

So, is the threat of global conflict just a kind of marketing trick?  Not exactly or probably not only.   A few years ago, there was quite popular theory that World War 3 had already begun, but we do not see all its symptoms yet.  The shortage of more dramatic moments made sceptics question this hypothesis – after all better, worse, but we live somehow.  The international situation is quite normal, although from crisis to crisis and overall we can focus on other issues, from celebrities trough climate to pandemic.  The problem is that the prophets of World War 3 were right.  Only, as in the poem by the Polish-Lithuanian poet Czesław Miłosz about the end of the World that no one noticed – perhaps there will be no more global war other than a permanently hybrid war.  And the inhabitants of not infected parts of the World will doubt if it is real at all.  But an endless war for the New World Order will spread everywhere on more and more fronts.

The war we already know from Donbas, Syria, Yemen, Transcaucasia, now also Kazakhstan, soon maybe Taiwan, Ukraine or Baltic States.  But also many, many other conflicts in which enemies from one theatre of operations will often and suddenly become tactical allies elsewhere.  This can be a war not only between states, because we already know that it is possible to fight almost entirely with private capital, only hiring states to carry out heavier air strikes.  Finally, it is a war in which whole cities can disappear under bombs and missiles, as it has been till now.  But also the one in which some silent killer will fly through a window and this child’s-toy-like thing will win the decisive battle.

And most of us, if we only have a bit of luck – might never even notice…

This Is How the U.S. Does ‘Dialogue’

January 13, 2022

Washington will not consider Russian proposals on no expansion of NATO, and has no intention of even discussing the idea. So much for “dialogue”.

by Pepe Escobar,

It was the first high-level Russia-NATO meeting since 2019 – coming immediately after the non sequitur of the U.S.-Russia “security guarantee” non-dialogue dialogue earlier in the week in Geneva.

So what happened in Brussels? Essentially yet another non-dialogue dialogue – complete with a Kafkaesque NATO preface: we’re prepared for dialogue, but the Kremlin’s proposals are unacceptable.

This was a double down on the American envoy to NATO, Julianne Smith, preemptively blaming Russia for the actions that “accelerated this disaster”.

By now every sentient being across Eurasia and its European peninsula should be familiar with Russia’s top two, rational demands: no further NATO expansion, and no missile systems stationed near its borders.

Now let’s switch to the spin machine. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg’s platitudes were predictably faithful to his spectacular mediocrity. On the already pre-empted dialogue, he said it was “important to start a dialogue”.

Russia, he said, “urged NATO to refuse to admit Ukraine; the alliance responded by refusing to compromise on enlargement”. Yet NATO “welcomed bilateral consultations” on security guarantees.

NATO also proposed a series of broad security consultations, and “Russia has not yet agreed, but has not ruled out them either.”

No wonder: the Russians had already noted, even before it happened, that this is noting but stalling tactics.

The Global South will be relieved to know that Stoltenberg defended NATO’s military blitzkriegs in both Kosovo and Libya: after all “they fell under UN mandates”. So they were benign. Not a word on NATO’s stellar performance in Afghanistan.

And then, the much-awaited clincher: NATO worries about Russian troops “on the border with Ukraine” – actually from 130 km to 180 km away, inside European Russian territory. And the alliance considers “untrue” that expansion is “an aggressive act”. Why? Because “it spreads democracy”.

Bomb me to democracy, baby

So here’s the NATO gospel in a flash. Now compare it with the sobering words of Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko.

Grushko carefully enounced how “NATO is determined to contain Russia. The United States and its allies are trying to achieve superiority in all areas and in all possible theaters of military operations.” That was a veiled reference to Full Spectrum Dominance, which since 2002 remains the American gospel.

Grushko also referred to “Cold War-era containment tactics”, and that “all cooperation [with Russia] has been halted” – by NATO. Still, “Russia honestly and directly pointed out to NATO that a further slide of the situation could lead to dire consequences for European security.”

The conclusion was stark: “The Russian Federation and NATO do not have a unifying positive agenda at all.”

Virtually all Russophobic factions of the bipartisan War Inc. machine in Washington cannot possibly accept that there should be no forces stationed on European states that were not members of NATO in 1997; and that current NATO members should attempt no military intervention in Ukraine as well as in other Eastern European, Transcaucasian, and Central Asian states.

On Monday in Geneva, Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov had already stressed, once again, that Russia’s red line is unmovable: “For us, it’s absolutely mandatory to make sure that Ukraine never, never, ever becomes a member of NATO.”

Diplomatic sources confirmed that in Geneva, Ryabkov and his team had for all practical purposes to act like teachers in kindergarten, making sure there would be “no misunderstandings”.

Now compare it with the U.S. State Department’s Ned Price, speaking after those grueling eight hours shared between Ryabkov and Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman: Washington will not consider Russian proposals on no expansion of NATO, and has no intention of even discussing the idea.

So much for “dialogue”.

Ryabkov confirmed there was no progress. Referring to his didacticism, he had to stress, “We are calling on the U.S. to demonstrate a maximum of responsibility at this moment. Risks related to a possible increase of confrontation shouldn’t be underestimated.”

To say, in Ryabkov’s words, that “significant” Russian effort has been made to persuade the Americans that “playing with fire” is not in their interests is the euphemism of the young century.

Let me sanction you to oblivion

A quick recap is crucial to understand how things could have derailed so fast.

NATO’s not exactly secret strategy, from the beginning, has been to pressure Moscow to directly negotiate with Kiev on Donbass, even though Russia is not mentioned in the Minsk Agreements.

While Moscow was being forced to become part of the Ukraine/Donbass confrontation, it barely broke a sweat smashing a coup cum color revolution in Belarus. Afterwards, the Russians assembled in no time an impressive strike force – with corresponding military infrastructure – in European Russia territory to respond in lightning quick fashion in case there was a Ukrainian blitzkrieg in Donbass.

No wonder an alarmed NATOstan had to do something about the notion of fighting Russia to the last impoverished Ukrainian. They may at least have understood that Ukraine would be completely destroyed.

The beauty is how Moscow turned things around with a new geopolitical jiu-jitsu move. Ukro-dementia encouraged by NATO – complete with empty promises of becoming a member – opened the way for Russia to demand no further NATO expansion, with the withdrawal of all military infrastructure from Eastern Europe to boot.

It was obvious that Ryabkov, in his talks with Sherman, would refuse any suggestion that Russia should dismantle the logistical infrastructure set up in its own European Russia territory. For all practical purposes, Ryabkov smashed Sherman to bits. What was left was meek threats of more sanctions.

Still, it will be a Sisyphean task to convince the Empire and its NATO satrapies not to stage some sort of military adventure in Ukraine. That’s the gist of what Ryabkov and Grushko said over and over again in Geneva and Brussels. They also had to stress the obvious: if further sanctions are imposed on Russia, there would be severe blowback especially in Europe.

But how is it humanly possible for seasoned pros like Ryabkov and Grushko to argue, rationally, with a bunch of amateur blind bats such as Blinken, Sullivan, Nuland and Sherman?

There has been some serious speculation on the timeframe ahead for Russia to in fact not even bother to listen to the American “baby babble” (copyright Maria Zakharova) anymore. Could be around 2027, or even 2025.

What’s happening next is that the five-year extension of the new START treaty expires in February 2026. Then there will be no ceiling for nuclear strategic weapons. The Power of Siberia 2 gas pipeline to China will make Gazprom even less dependent on the European market. The combined Russia-China financial system will become nearly impervious to U.S. sanctions. The Russia-China strategic partnership will be sharing even more substantial military tech.

All of that is way more consequential than the dirty secret that is not a secret in the current “security guarantees” kabuki: the exceptionalist, “indispensable” nation is congenitally incapable of giving up on the forever expansion of NATO to, well, outer space.

At the same time, the Russians are very much aware of a quite prosaic truth; the U.S. will not fight for Ukraine.

So welcome to Instagrammed Irrationalism. What happens next? Most possibly a provocation, with the possibility, for instance, of a chemical black ops to be blamed on Russia, followed by – what else – more sanctions.

The package is ready. It comes in the form of a bill by Dem senators supported by the White House to bring “severe costs” to the Russian economy in case Moscow finally answers their prayers and “invades” Ukraine.

Sanctions would directly hit President Putin, Prime Minister Mishustin, Foreign Minister Lavrov, the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces Gen Gerasimov, and “commanders of various branches of the Armed Forces, including the Air Force and Navy.”

Targeted banks and financial institutions include Sberbank, VTB, Gazprombank, Moscow Credit Bank, Alfa-Bank, Otkritie Bank, PSB, Sovcombank, Transcapitalbank, and the Russian Direct Investment Fund. They would all be cut off from SWIFT.

If this bill sounds like a declaration of war, that’s because it is. Call it the American version of “dialogue”.

بوتين ينتقل الى الهجوم الاستراتيجي الوقائي

الاثنين 10 يناير 2022

 ناصر قنديل

في مطلع القرن الواحد والعشرين تقدّم الأميركيون في الجوار الروسي بما هو أبعد من مجرد ضمّ دول أوروبا الشرقية إلى الاتحاد الأوروبي، فكان التزامن بين وصول فلاديمير بوتين الى الرئاسة الروسية وبدء الهجوم الأميركي الأوروبي بالثورات الملوّنة وبالقضم الأمني والعسكري لدول الجوار الروسي، من أوكرانيا الى جورجيا ولتوانيا وصولاً الى دول البلطيق، والتلويح بضمّ دول هذا الجوار الى حلف الناتو الذي تقوم عقيدته العسكرية على اعتبار روسيا العدو الأول، وفي كلّ هذه المرحلة الممتدة حتى عام 2015 سنة التموضع الروسي في سورية، كان موقف موسكو السعي لاحتواء الهجوم الأميركي والغربي، والتركيز على بناء القدرات الاقتصادية والعسكرية لروسيا.

شكل العام 2015 محطة فاصلة في كيفية تعامل روسيا مع الهجوم الأميركي والغربي المستمرّ منذ سقوط جدار برلين وتفكك الاتحاد السوفياتي، فكان قرار الرئيس بوتين بالدخول طرفاً مباشراً في مواجهة الحرب المفتوحة على سورية بقيادة أميركية معلنة، تعبيراً عن قرارة متعددة الأبعاد، أولها القناعة بخطورة المدى الذي بلغه التغوّل الأميركي وخطورة الإنكفاء أمامه، وقد كشف تحالفه المعلن مع الإرهاب من جهة، وحجم تحدّيه للأمن القومي الروسي من جهة موازية، وفي المقابل بعدما ظهر في سورية أنّ مفهوم الدولة الوطنية كمشروع مناهض للمشروع الأميركي هو استثمار قادر على الإنجاز، وأنّ منطقة غرب آسيا التي اختارها الأميركي لإحكام الطوق على روسيا وإيران عبر اللعب على وتر الإسلام السياسي الذي مثلته تركيا بمشروع العثمانية الجديدة، تستطيع ان تكون مقبرة هذا المشروع بتشعّباته التركية والمتطرفة ومن خلفهما الأميركي خصوصاً والغربي عموماً.

عندما تمّ تحريك أوكرانيا بوجه روسيا في قلب الحرب السورية كانت رؤية موسكو واضحة، وقرارها حازماً، بأن لا تراجع مهما كان الثمن، والروس قد قرأوا جيداً ما كتبه زبينغيو بريجنسكي مستشار الأمن القومي الأميركي السابق في ثمانينات من القرن الماضي، وما قاله عن أوكرانيا نقطة الضعف الروسية في التاريخ والجغرافيا، ولذلك تشبّث الرئيس بوتين بقراره في المضيّ قدماً نحو التموضع في سورية وصولاً للحسم الذي بدأته معركة حلب الفاصلة، وذهب نحو قرار ضمّ شبه جزيرة القرم، وهو القرار الذي تحوّل الى أمر واقع رغم كلّ ما قيل يومها عن أنه لن يمرّ، ورغم كلّ التهديدات الغربية بالعواقب الوخيمة، وقد ثبت لموسكو انّ الكلام الغربي عن التهديدات يبقى حبراً على ورق وبعض العقوبات، ولم يحل كلّ ذلك دون السير قدماً ولو بتقطع بمشروع أنابيب السيل الشمالي لنقل الغاز الروسي الى ألمانيا.

هذه المرة عندما أثير ملف أوكرانيا بلغة التهديد لروسيا مجدداً، لم ترتبك موسكو في فهم الرسالة، فالمطروح هو تهديد موسكو بالخروج عن اتفاقات مينسك ودعم حكومة أوكرانيا لضمّ مناطق دونباس في شرق أوكرانيا بالقوة، ولم تتردّد موسكو، فلم تنف استعدادها لإجتياح أوكرانيا إذا تمّت إطاحة اتفاقات مينسك، ووضعت معادلة جديدة على الطاولة، لا ضمانات بعدم اجتياح أوكرانيا، بل مطالبة بضمانات لعدم ضمّ الغرب لأوكرانيا وسواها من دول الجوار الروسي الى حلف الناتو، وشيئاً فشيئاً لم تعد القضية أوكرانيا، بل صارت الضمانات الروسية الموثقة المطلوبة من الغرب، ودار الحوار بين الرئيسين الأميركي جو بايدن والروسي فلاديمير بوتين حول هذا الأمر، تمهيداً لحوارات قيد الانطلاق تحت هذا العنوان، تقول موسكو سلفاً إنها غير مستعدة لتقديم ايّ تنازل خلالها عن ثوابت تمثل أمنها القومي.

جاءت أحداث كازاخستان لتكشف بالمقارنة الزمنية بين الزمن الذي احتاجته القيادة الروسية لاتخاذ قرار التحرك الميداني نحو سورية، والزمن الموازي الذي احتاجته للتحرك الميداني نحو كازاخستان، من سنوات وشهور الى أيام وساعات، تحوّلاً كبيراً في توجهات القيادة الروسية لجهة الإنتقال من الدفاع الاستراتيجي الى الهجوم الاستراتيجي الوقائي، وهو غير الهجوم الاستراتيجي في المطلق، لكنه أحد أشكاله وبداياته.

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NATO expansion to Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova a life-or-death situation: Kremlin

26 Dec 2021

Source: Agencies

By Al Mayadeen Net

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov stressed the sensitivity of Ukraine’s issue to Russia, and that conflict can threaten Ukraine’s statehood.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, Moscow, Russia, on October 2, 2019 (Anadolu Agency)

According to Russian presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, NATO’s expansion to Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova is a matter of life and death for Russia.

Peskov told Rossiya 1 about the issue: “Of course, for us, this is, well, essentially a matter of life and death already, ” talking about NATO’s extension to include nations like Ukraine and other former Soviet Union members.

The Kremlin spokesperson stated, “The equipment is beginning to make its way into Ukraine, military instructors are coming there, there are several thousand of them already,” adding that “NATO is gradually making its way into Ukraine and then, the only thing left will be to make it official.”

When asked if a military escalation could be hazardous to Ukraine’s statehood, Peskov responded “undoubtedly,” adding that “this is something President Putin talked about on multiple occasions and this is something that Kiev knows perfectly well and Washington knows perfectly well.”

Russia released its proposals for security agreements with the US and NATO earlier this month. The draft documents included a proposal to avoid deploying intermediate- and short-range missiles in areas where they could endanger either party to the agreement, as well as other measures.

Lavrov: US approach toward Russia creates a toxic atmosphere

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on December 24 that the US unfriendly approach toward Russia creates a toxic atmosphere and prevents the creation of peaceful contact between the two countries. 

In an interview for Oslobođenje newspaper, Lavrov pointed out that Moscow’s interactions with Washington have led to unfavorable scenarios, revealing that there have been many tensions between the two.

The Russian FM accused the US of being “overtly antagonistic” as it continues to impose sanctions, be hostile, and “make baseless charges against Russia.”

Putin: Russia will not be part of the conflict in the Donbas region

During his annual press conference, Putin stressed, on December 23, that Russia is ready to work with Ukrainian sides who are looking to build good-neighborly relations with Moscow.

On his part, the Russian President said Russia will not be part of the conflict in the Donbas region.

It is worth noting that the Minsk Agreement is an agreement to stop the war in the Donbas region, signed by Ukraine, Russia, the Donetsk People’s Republic, the Luhansk People’s Republic, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe on September 5, 2014.

Putin: Annual Press Conference

December 23, 2021

At the time of posting this is still ongoing.  Mr. Putin takes the podium at time marker 36:58 and proceeds directly to Q&A.  A transcript will be available but will take some time.

Update:  Completed after 3 hours and 56 minutes.  The president fielded the questions of 44 people, focusing on both domestic and international issues.

Why U.S. Security Talks With Russia is Invite to Hall of Mirrors

December 22, 2021

Finian CUNNINGHAM
Former editor and writer for major news media organizations. He has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages

Finian Cunningham

Washington and its partners are the problem. Any engagement being offered to Moscow is an invite into a hall of mirrors while on the outside the threat continues to lurk.

The United States and Russia appear to have reached an agreement to hold talks early in the new year to avert the mounting security tensions over Ukraine. But Moscow must be realistic. The talks will yield little to offset confrontation.

Russia last week unveiled a comprehensive set of proposals for security guarantees from the United States and the NATO military alliance. It called for no eastward expansion of NATO or deployment of U.S. strike weapons in countries bordering Russia. Moscow warned if there was not a reasonable reciprocation over its stated “red lines” then counter military measures would be taken instead. Such measures may include deployment of nuclear weapons in Belarus which Minsk has agreed to facilitate.

The combined Russian move seems to have gotten Washington’s attention. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said this week that a forum for talks had been agreed by the Biden administration and that negotiations would begin sometime during January.

However, getting Washington’s attention and the latter actually listening are two different things. And, unfortunately, the signs are that the United States is not taking Russia’s existential security concerns seriously nor is it capable of framing the situation accurately.

While appearing amenable to holding early talks with Russia on the security stand-off over Ukraine, nevertheless the Biden administration is still provocatively blaming Moscow as the cause of the entire problem. The State Department continues to accuse Russia of “aggression” towards Ukraine and insists that Moscow must “deescalate” the tensions as a condition for any forthcoming talks to be productive.

Furthermore, the Biden administration is continuing its supply of weapons to the anti-Russian regime in Kiev as well as threatening to deploy economic sanctions in concert with the European Union that are designed to cripple Russia.

In other words, the security talks that Washington appears to be willing to hold with Russia in the coming weeks are not based on proper respect nor on a premise of genuinely trying to resolve security concerns. The United States is persisting in peddling its distortion that Russia is to blame when the opposite is true. It is the United States and its NATO allies who are weaponizing the Kiev regime to foment dangerous tensions with Russia. It is the U.S. and its partners who are threatening and aggressing Russia, not the other way around. That distortion is in itself provocative.

There’s another reason why talks with the United States under current circumstances are doomed to yield little progress towards sustainable peace.

The Biden administration says that it will engage with Russia on its security proposals. But, and this is the giveaway, in consultation with NATO allies and partners. That will ensure that Washington’s scope for reciprocating with Moscow is blinkered by the lowest denominator of Russophobia among NATO partners.

The Kiev regime is backed by Poland and the Baltic states who have all condemned any “concessions” to Russia. Polish President Andrzej Duda after meeting with Ukrainian and Baltic counterparts this week declared that NATO should step up military forces and sanctions to “prevent Russian aggression”. Duda accused Russia of “blackmailing” Europe.

Given this array of gross distortion about the source of tensions in Ukraine and Europe generally – Russia is incriminated, rather than the U.S. and its NATO war machine – it is futile to expect any dialogue between Washington and Moscow to produce a badly needed reduction in confrontation and a modus vivendi.

The U.S. and NATO are plying Ukraine with lethal weapons and military advisors. This week, Russia’s Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu claimed that over 100 American private mercenaries were preparing some sort of false flag provocation in the Donbass region with chemicals. Ukraine is being set up for a proxy war in the well-worn U.S. modus operandi of Syria and other nations where covert dirty war was inflicted by the American imperialists and their European accomplices.

Alongside that, the NATO forces continue their large-scale buildup of forces, battalions, and strike weapons near Russia’s borders. And the jackals in NATO, like Poland and Baltic states, are howling for blood.

Yet, the Biden administration continues to insult common intelligence by accusing Russia of aggression and demanding that it must de-escalate for talks to proceed – talks, that is, that will be limited by the input of the most Russophobic mindsets in NATO as well as the unhinged anti-Russia regime in Kiev.

Russia has superb diplomats. They are more than capable of wiping the floor with U.S. and European counterparts when it comes to legal argumentation and logical reasoning. But even the most formidable diplomats can’t vanquish a falsified framework that is loaded like a gun to the head.

The signs are that Russia is being lured into a trap. Washington and its accomplices are not serious about respectful negotiations to resolve security problems. Washington and its partners are the problem. Any engagement being offered to Moscow is an invite into a hall of mirrors while on the outside the threat continues to lurk.

Russia may be better off using different tactics for more effectively communicating its concerns.

By this author

Quick update on the Russian ultimatum

December 21, 2021

A few quick facts.

  • The Chinese Foreign Ministry has officially given its support to Russia: “China believes that in the current environment, Russian proposals are in line with the basic norms of international relations, help to increase mutual trust between countries, reduce the risk of conflicts, and uphold global and regional strategic stability
  • The Russian diesel-electric submarine Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii has just fired a 3M14 Kalibr from a submerged position in the Sea of Japan against a land target in Russia located over 1000km away.
  • German officials have declared that they will not attend the Winter Olympics in China.
  • Estonia has declared that it will ship lethal weapons to the Ukraine 🙂
  • The latest (3rd) US test of a hypersonic weapon has failed, like the previous ones
  • The cost of gas in the EU has broken through the $2’100/m3 for the first time.
  • German Chancellor Scholz and Putin spoke on the phone.
  • The US plans to submit counter-proposals to the Russian side.  Should happen this week.
  • The rating of President “Ze” is now as long as 16%
  • Ex-President Poroshenko has fled the Ukraine (were he is now accused of treason)
  • Several Russian officials are warning that US PMCs are involved in preparing a false flag using chemical weapons on the Donbass (like what the West did in Ghouta, Syria).
  • President Putin declared that the Russian ultimatum was not an ultimatum, as have several other Russian officials.  Putin said:

“We already see that some of our ill-wishers, frankly speaking, interpret them as an ultimatum from Russia. Of course not.  I remind you once again, I want to remind you: everything that our partners did, so we will call them, the United States, in previous years, allegedly ensuring their interests and supposedly their security thousands of kilometers from their national territory, after all, they did it, they are so tough and the most bright things, without any sanction of the UN Security Council.

Yugoslavia was bombed under what pretext? What, with the sanction of the Security Council, or what? Where is Yugoslavia and where is the USA? Destroyed the country. Yes, there is an internal conflict, there are their own problems, but who gave the right to strike at the European capital? No one. They just decided that, and the satellites ran behind them and nodded. That’s all international law.

And under what pretext did you enter Iraq? Development of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. We entered, destroyed the country, created a hotbed of international terrorism, and then it turned out that we were mistaken, and then they said: “The intelligence let us down.” Wow! The country was destroyed! Intelligence failed – and the whole explanation. It turns out that there were no weapons of mass destruction there, no one was preparing. On the contrary, once it was, [but] everything was destroyed as it should be.

How did you go to Syria? With the approval of the Security Council? No. They do what they want. But what they are now doing on the territory of Ukraine, or trying to do and planning to do, is not thousands of kilometers from our national border – this is at the doorstep of our house. They must understand that we simply have nowhere to retreat further.

Specialists sit here, I am in constant contact with them. There are no hypersonic weapons in the United States yet, but we know when they will appear, the same cannot be hidden. Everything is recorded: the tests are successful – unsuccessful. Clearly, we roughly understand when it will be. They will supply Ukraine with hypersonic weapons, and then under its cover – this does not mean that they will use them tomorrow, because we already have Zircon, but they do not have it yet – they will arm and push extremists from a neighboring state into including to certain regions of the Russian Federation, say the Crimea, under favorable, as they believe, circumstances for themselves.

Do they think we don’t see these threats? Or do they think that we will helplessly look at the threats posed to Russia? This is the whole problem, we simply have nowhere to move on – that is the question.”

In plain English, this means this: oh no, this is not at all an ultimatum.  But we remind you that you attacked other countries and all we are saying is that if you continue or do not heed our warnings, then we will be free to do whatever we deem necessary.  But no, of course not, this is not an ultimatum at all 🙂

I will end this by posting a transcript of Putin’s speech Expanded Meeting of the Defence Ministry Board:


Good afternoon, comrade officers,

Let us get down to work.

We have always prioritised and still prioritise the development of the Armed Forces and efforts to strengthen Russia’s defence capability, and we will continue to do this in the future.

Today, at the annual expanded meeting of the Defence Ministry Board, we will discuss what has been accomplished in the field of military development throughout 2021, what results have been achieved in the main areas, and, of course, we will chart future tasks. This is what we always do at the Board’s annual meetings.

I would like to note right away that, just like 2020, the outgoing year has been something extraordinary, mostly due to the continued coronavirus pandemic. You and I realise this. And it is of paramount importance that the Armed Forces efficiently and smoothly accomplish all of their tasks in this challenging context.

For example, work continued on the modernisation of the Army and Navy on a grand scale. Consequently, the share of modern weapons exceeded 71 percent in the troops and 89 percent in the strategic nuclear forces.

We continued to actively develop cutting-edge weapons systems. Some of them, namely the Avangard and Kinzhal systems, have been put on combat duty.

The Navy accomplished a wide range of tasks. Russian ships and submarines constantly patrolled all important sectors of the world’s oceans. A combined naval grouping and long-range aviation units successfully accomplished combat-training tasks in the Baltic and Northern seas and in remote areas of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. A group of submarines and other ships did the same in the Arctic Ocean, operating in difficult ice conditions.

I also want to note a further increase in the level of troops’ combat training. The results of the Zapad 2021 joint strategic exercises have shown this convincingly as the participants successfully practiced accomplishing the tasks of ensuring the security of the Union State of Russia and Belarus.

Our military members in Syria acted honourably, as befits Russian soldiers. Their presence and assistance to the civilian population in solving humanitarian problems is making a tangible contribution to strengthening stability in that republic.

Our peacekeepers have been helping to maintain stability in Nagorno-Karabakh for over a year now. Largely thanks to their efforts, the humanitarian situation has improved in the region; several districts have been demined, the social infrastructure has been restored, and historical and cultural landmarks have been preserved. I would like to thank the personnel performing peacekeeping tasks for their professionalism, endurance and perseverance.

Military doctors deserve the highest praise for their hard work in difficult conditions, for their invaluable help to the civilian population: more than 30,500 patients have been treated at the Defence Ministry’s medical facilities, almost half of them civilians.

Military doctors have helped the civilian population in nine regions fight the coronavirus; they have even helped with the rehabilitation of patients who have suffered moderate or severe cases of the coronavirus infection and continue doing it. People continue to undergo rehabilitation treatment at 32 Defence Ministry health centres. Thank you.

I would like to emphasise that the army itself has taken the necessary measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus in its ranks. Almost 100 percent of military personnel have been vaccinated. This made it possible to stem the tide of infection and protect service members’ health, thereby ensuring high combat readiness among army units and divisions. True, the army has suffered from the coronavirus; there have been severe cases and losses – non-combat casualties. But overall, the Armed Forces have dealt with this problem successfully.

The military construction force has been operating with high efficiency. I am referring to more than building a significant amount of infrastructure for the army and navy on time. The military builders have also helped to ensure uninterrupted water supply to Crimea and Sevastopol. They have also helped build multifunctional medical centres and other socially significant facilities in many regions.

Comrade officers,

Relying on the solid foundation and a powerful research and technology achievements of the past few years, we must definitely continue to improve and strengthen our Armed Forces, which is exactly what we will do.

The military political situation in the world remains complicated, with increased conflict potential and new seats of tension in several regions. In particular, the growth of the US and NATO military forces in direct proximity to the Russian border and major military drills, including unscheduled ones, are a cause for concern.

It is extremely alarming that elements of the US global defence system are being deployed near Russia. The Mk 41 launchers, which are located in Romania and are to be deployed in Poland, are adapted for launching the Tomahawk strike missiles. If this infrastructure continues to move forward, and if US and NATO missile systems are deployed in Ukraine, their flight time to Moscow will be only 7–10 minutes, or even five minutes for hypersonic systems. This is a huge challenge for us, for our security.

In this context, as you are aware, I invited the US President to start talks on the drafting of concrete agreements. Incidentally, during our conversation he actually proposed appointing senior officials to oversee this sphere. It was in response to his proposal that we drafted our proposals on precluding the further eastward expansion of NATO and the deployment of offensive strike systems in the countries bordering on Russia. As you are aware, we have sent the drafts of relevant agreements to our American colleagues and the NATO leadership.

We need long-term legally binding guarantees. Well, we know very well that even legal guarantees cannot be completely fail-safe, because the United States easily pulls out of any international treaty that has ceased to be interesting to it for some reason, sometimes offering explanations and sometimes not, as was the case with the ABM and the Open Skies treaties – nothing at all.

However, we need at least something, at least a legally binding agreement rather than just verbal assurances. We know the worth of such verbal assurances, fine words and promises. Take the recent past, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when we were told that our concerns about NATO’s potential expansion eastwards were absolutely groundless. And then we saw five waves of the bloc’s eastward expansion. Do you remember how it happened? All of you are adults. It happened at a time when Russia’s relations with the United States and main member states of NATO were cloudless, if not completely allied.

I have already said this in public and will remind you of this again: American specialists were permanently present at the nuclear arms facilities of the Russian Federation. They went to their office there every day, had desks and an American flag. Wasn’t this enough? What else is required? US advisors worked in the Russian Government, career CIA officers gave their advice. What else did they want? What was the point of supporting separatism in the North Caucasus, with the help of even ISIS – well, if not ISIS, there were other terrorist groups. They obviously supported terrorists. What for? What was the point of expanding NATO and withdrawing from the ABM Treaty?

They are to blame for what is happening in Europe now, for the escalation of tensions there. Russia had to respond at every step, and the situation was continuously going from bad to worse. It was deteriorating all the time. And here we are today, in a situation when we are forced to resolve it: After all, we cannot allow the scenario I mentioned. Is anyone unable to grasp this? This should be clear.

Sometimes I wonder: Why did they do all this in the then conditions? This is unclear. I think the reason lies in the euphoria from the victory in the so-called Cold War or the so-called victory in the Cold War. This was due to their wrong assessment of the situation at that time, due to their unprofessional, wrong analysis of probable scenarios. There are simply no other reasons.

I would like to emphasise again: we are not demanding any special exclusive terms for ourselves. Russia stands for equal and indivisible security in the whole of Eurasia.

Naturally, as I have already noted, if our Western colleagues continue their obviously aggressive line, we will take appropriate military-technical reciprocal measures and will have a tough response to their unfriendly steps. And, I would like to stress that we are fully entitled to these actions that are designed to ensure Russia’s security and independence.

As we know well, they are operating thousands of kilometres away from their national territory under different pretexts, including the need to ensure their own security. When international law and the UN Charter get in their way, they declare them obsolete and unnecessary. However, when something meets their interests, they immediately refer to the norms of international law, the UN Charter, international humanitarian law and so on. These manipulations are annoying.

In this connection, as I have already said, it is important to continue planned, steady, systemic development of the Armed Forces, including in line with their priorities, set forth in the latest version of the National Security Strategy and the Concept for Building and Developing the Armed Forces through to 2030.

Next year, we will have to focus on the following main tasks.

First, it is necessary to continue the planned and well-balanced procurement of modern weapons and equipment for military units and to devote special attention to deliveries of high-precision systems, cutting-edge reconnaissance, navigation, communications and control systems.

Second, combat and tactical training programmes should prioritise efforts to master modern weaponry, as well as new forms and methods of combat operations. In this connection, combat training programmes should be modified, so that they can be taken into account during exercises next year, including the Vostok 2022 strategic command post exercise.

Third, all-out success in many spheres now directly depends on well-thought-out and rapid decision-making. In the military sphere, during combat operations, decisions are made in minutes or even seconds. It is therefore necessary to develop systems to support the decision-making process by commanders at all levels, especially at the tactical level, and to introduce elements of artificial intelligence into these systems.

Fourth, it goes without saying that effective operational algorithms should be established at all levels, and advanced automatic systems should also be introduced. At the same time, we can see that modern military conflicts do not take place under pre-set patterns. As before, commanders play a key role in these conflicts. A lot depends on their knowledge, experience, personal qualities, and those who make truly unconventional decisions win battles. Consequently, during operational and combat training, it is necessary to train versatile commanders who possess knowledge in all fields. They should be listed in the personnel pool of top military commanders, and it is necessary to keep an eye on them even now, to guide them and to provide them with opportunities for subsequent promotion.

And, finally, here is the fifth aspect. Given the complicated international situation, it is necessary to develop military and military-technical cooperation with states that are members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the Collective Security Treaty Organisation and to pay special attention to strengthening the defence capability of the Russia-Belarus Union State.

Colleagues,

One of our absolute priorities is to increase the level of social guarantees for the military personnel. Defenders of the Motherland perform special tasks which are often highly complicated, demanding and perilous. We will make sure that they are duly rewarded for their service.

As in the previous years, the military allowance must be equivalent and even higher than the wages in the leading industries. We agreed on this with the Government several years ago.

For your information, we have managed to maintain this correlation. According to forecasts, the average wage across the economy as of the end of the year will be 55,000 rubles and the average wage in the leading industries (oil, finance and transport) will be 63,200 rubles. According to my data (the Finance Ministry’s numbers are slightly higher), the Defence Ministry’s average military allowance for lieutenants in 2021 is 81,200 rubles. The figure may differ as all lieutenants are different and serve differently – but the average level of compensation is 81,200 rubles while the leading industries show 63,200 rubles.

The Government must adjust the allowance for inflation and, of course, increase military pensions, in a timely manner and to the extent that will ensure that this correlation is maintained.

We continue to provide military personnel with permanent housing as planned. This year, 4,350 servicepeople purchased new flats using housing subsidies. In the course of the next three years, some 9,000 servicepeople will receive the subsidies. We plan to allocate around 113 billion rubles for this purpose from the federal budget.

The accumulative mortgage system continues to work effectively. Thanks to this programme, 15,000 military personnel have fulfilled their right to housing in 2021. Another 34,000 will obtain new housing in 2022–2024.

Service housing is provided at the same rate. Some 35,000 servicepeople will have obtained it by the end of the year, which is 14 percent higher than our plan.

We will continue to focus very closely on these and other issues concerning military personnel’s social security.

Finally, I would like to thank the leadership and staff of the Defence Ministry for their honest service and good performance. I am confident that you will continue to demonstrate professionalism and competence and use your best efforts to achieve high results. I wish you further success in your service for the benefit of Russia and our people.

Thank you.

Biden to Russia: Don’t You Dare Eat This Moldy Bagel!

DECEMBER 10, 2021

By Dmitry Orlov, posted with permission from the author

I have received a flurry of emails from people concerned that World War III could erupt at any moment. Most of their concern has a single cause: the crazy stuff printed and broadcast by Western press. But I would like to suggest that it is Western press that is the problem, not any incipient military conflict involving the Ukraine. Western press is a joke: there were no weapons of mass destruction; freon does not poke holes in the ozone layer; Trump was not a Russian agent; Syria did not use chemical weapons against its own people; carbon dioxide emissions cause global cooling, not global warming (but not much of it in any case); there are no Russian troops in the Donbass; and… Russia is not going to invade and annex the Ukraine. Furthermore, no number of enticements or provocations can make Russia want to do so. It just plain doesn’t want to trouble itself with that miserable, blighted land.

Suppose you are in a tense negotiation with someone. And suppose that someone puts a plate on the table. On that plate is a bagel. It has green spots and white hair growing out, it is oozing brownish goo, it reeks of ammonia and even the flies are refusing to land on it. And suppose that certain someone then says: if you eat this bagel, it’s war! That’s a tough negotiating stance, isn’t it? After all, that’s really laying down the law, giving an ultimatum, no ifs ands or buts and all that. By adopting this stance, Biden gets to channel just the tiniest bit of John Wayne, with a swagger instead of his usual precarious stumble. For a brief, shining moment he gets to talk to a real world leader and look presidential rather than like a doddering fool who has a useless toxic bimbo for a sidekick.

That’s essentially what Biden did. He told Putin in no uncertain terms: If you invade the Ukraine, then there will be sanctions from Hell. (Begging the question of what sanctions from Heaven would be like, but, never mind, the US is Hell and the Russians seem OK with that.) Biden was careful to point out that the US would not come to the Ukraine’s rescue, because the Ukraine is not a NATO member and so the US is under no obligation to actually take any risks on its behalf, but rest assured that it would huff and it will puff and threaten to blow Putin’s house down should he invade. And should he not invade, then would be right back to “Hey, Vlad, it’s great to see you! It’s your pal Joe, remember me?”.

But would Putin ever be tempted to “eat that bagel”? No, certainly not! The Ukraine is looking most unsavory. Ever since its independence three decades ago it has been progressively dismantled by a rapacious oligarchy, its industry sold for scrap and its infrastructure decaying to truly dangerous levels.

Its major assets are as follows:

• 15 Soviet-era nuclear reactors which are being run flat out but there are rolling blackouts anyway, and which are due to be shut down for good, with no funds available to refurbish them

• Quite a lot of good farmland but a dire shortage of paved roads, locomotives or rolling stock to bring the harvest to the docks

• An aging and destitute population that has shrunk by about a third since independence since most able-bodied people have gone to work abroad, millions of them moving to Russia.

• A gas pipeline network that is technically obsolete, being five times less energy efficient than the newest Nord Stream 2, and that is having its redundant pieces cut up and sold for scrap even as some of it is still running.

Its liabilities include a very high level of external debt that is unlikely to ever be repaid using export revenues and a large crop of neo-Nazi meatheads with blood on their hands. Russia has already got almost everything it wanted from the Ukraine, which is Crimea and the Donbass.

The only thing Russia wants from the US regarding the Ukraine is a written security guarantee that the Ukraine will never be made part of NATO, or have NATO troops or weapons systems on its soil, or be allowed to enter into any other anti-Russian alliances that may crop up should NATO dry up and blow away. Putin asked the US to sign binding legal documents that will block any further encroachment on lands that border Russian territory. This would reduce the risk of an accidental war and allow Russia to focus less military strength on its western border.

However, such security guarantees are not something that Biden can provide without suffering a massive loss of face and destroying any sense of purpose that NATO has been struggling in vain to cultivate ever since the USSR collapsed three decades ago. But sometimes just making a demand is almost as good as having it acceded to. If the US fails to help Russia meet its perfectly reasonable security requirements, then that unties Russia’s hands to do so without US help, leaving the Americans free to simply ignore the situation (something they know how to do quite well) to avoid embarrassing themselves.

And that is a good option to have, since there is no shortage of embarrassments for the Biden administration as it is. Producer price inflation in the US is already running at 25%, and is likely to translate into 12-15% consumer price inflation by next summer, but any attempt to crush inflation by raising interest rates Paul Volcker-style would instantly collapse the entire financial pyramid scheme. As it is, the nation’s finances are in a state that will soon necessitate the Congress to pass a bill declaring the term “balanced budget” to be hate speech. Given the experience in Afghanistan, repatriating all the US troops stationed overseas before the money runs out, to avoid stranding them in faraway lands without any resupply, is going to be a bit of a doozy. The midterm elections next fall are likely to make Biden a lame duck for his remaining two years as the number of people willing to vote for his party is likely to be exceeded by the number of those wanting to give Biden another colonoscopy.

Against this backdrop, it becomes obvious why Biden was visibly eager to talk to Putin and even raised his hands in a teleconference hug, for here is a national leader whose biggest national problem of late is a certain rogue parliamentarian (Rashkin of the Communists) who shot a moose without first obtaining a hunting license. Never mind that Putin referred to his teleconference with Biden as a “protocol event” and spoke the words “Mr. Biden” with an even mixture of exasperation and resignation. It was all in a day’s work for Putin, and so you should probably find something else to worry about because World War III over the Ukraine is off the table. There is no grand finale for America to look forward to; just lots of pain, and then, of course… collapse.


Please support my efforts at https://patreon.com/orlov or https://subscribestar.com/orlov.

What Putin really told Biden

December 08, 2021

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

So Russian President Vladimir Putin, all by himself, and US President Joe Biden, surrounded by aides, finally had their secret video link conference for two hours and two minutes – with translators placed in different rooms.

That was their first serious exchange since they met in person in Geneva last June – the first Russia-US summit since 2018.

For global public opinion, led to believe a “war” in Ukraine was all but imminent, what’s left is essentially a torrent of spin.

So let’s start with a simple exercise focusing on the key issue of the video link – Ukraine -, contrasting the White House and Kremlin versions of what happened.

The White House: Biden made it “clear” to Putin that the US and allies will respond with “decisive economic and other measures” to the military escalation in Ukraine. At the same time, Biden called on Putin to de-escalate around Ukraine and “return to diplomacy”.

Kremlin: Putin offered Biden to nullify all restrictions on the functioning of diplomatic missions. He remarked that cooperation between Russia and the US is still in an “unsatisfactory” state.

He urged the US not to shift “responsibility on the shoulders of Russia” for the escalation of the situation around Ukraine.

The White House: the US will expand military aid to Ukraine if Russia takes steps against it.

Kremlin: Putin told Biden that Russia is interested in obtaining legally fixed guarantees excluding NATO’s eastward expansion and the deployment of offensive strike systems in Russia’s neighboring countries.

The White House: Biden did not give Putin any commitments that Ukraine will remain outside NATO.

Minsk or bust

Now for what really matters: the red line.

What Putin diplomatically told Team Biden, sitting at their table, is that Russia’s red line – no Ukraine on NATO – is unmovable. The same applies to Ukraine turned into a hub of the Pentagon’s Empire of Bases, and hosting NATO weaponry.

Washington may deny it ad infinitum, but Ukraine is part of Russia’s sphere of influence. If nothing is done to force Kiev to abide by the Minsk Agreement, Russia will “neutralize” the threat in its own terms.

The root cause of all this drama, absent from any NATOstan narrative, is straightforward: Kiev simply refuses to respect the February 2015 Minsk Agreement.

According to the deal, Kiev should grant autonomy to Donbass via a constitutional amendment, referred to as “special status”; issue a general amnesty; and start a dialogue with the people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk.

Over the years, Kiev fulfilled less than zero of these commitments – while the NATOstan media machine kept spinning that Russia was violating Minsk. Russia is not even mentioned (italics mine) in the agreement.

Moscow always respected the Minsk Agreement – which establishes Donbass as an integral, autonomous part of Ukraine. Russia has made it very clear, over and over again, it has no interest whatsoever in promoting regime change in Kiev.

Before the video link, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov remarked, “Putin will listen to Biden’s proposals on Ukraine ‘with great interest.’” Even the White House states Team Biden did not propose for Kiev to obey the Minsk Agreement. So regardless of what Team Biden may have said, Putin, pragmatically, will adopt a “wait and see” approach, and then act accordingly.

In the run up to the video link, maximum hype revolved around Washington seeking to stop Nord Stream 2 if Russia “invades” Ukraine.

What never transpires out of the “invasion” narrative, repeated ad nauseam across NATOstan, is that hawks overseeing an immensely polarized US, corroded from the inside, desperately need a war in what military analyst Andrei Martyanov calls “country 404”, a black hole contiguous to Europe.

The crux of the matter is that imperial European vassals must not have access to Russian energy: only American LNG.

And that’s what led the most extreme Russophobes in Washington to start threatening sanctions on Putin’s inner circle, Russian energy producers, and even disconnecting Russia from SWIFT. All that was supposed to prevent Russia from “invading” Country 404.

Secretary of State Tony Blinken – present at the video link – said a few days ago in Riga that “if Russia invades Ukraine”, NATO will respond “with a range of high impact economic measures.” As for NATO, it’s far from aggressive: just a “defensive” organization.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, in early December, at the OCSE Ministerial Council meeting in Stockholm, was already warning that “strategic stability” in Europe was “rapidly eroding”.

Lavrov said, “NATO refuses to consider our proposals on de-escalation of tensions and prevention of dangerous incidents…On the contrary, the alliance’s military infrastructure is moving closer to Russia’s borders… The nightmarish scenario of military confrontation is returning.”

So no wonder the heart of the matter, for Moscow, is NATO encroachment. The “invasion” narrative is crass fake news sold as fact. Even the CIA’s William Burns admitted that US intel had no intel to “conclude” that Russia will dutifully answer the War Inc. prayers and finally “invade” Ukraine.

Still that did not prevent a German sensationalist rag from presenting the full contours of the Russian blitzkrieg, when the actual story is the US and NATO attempting to push “country 404” to commit suicide by attacking the people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk.

That legally binding guarantee

It’s idle to expect the video link to produce practical results. As NATOstan remains mired in concentric crises, the current level of high tension between NATO and Russia is a gift from heaven in terms of maintaining the convenient narrative of an external Slavic evil. It’s also an extra bonus for the military-industrial-intelligence-media-think tank complex.

The tension will continue to simmer without becoming incandescent only if NATO does not expand in any shape or form inside Ukraine. Diplomats in Brussels routinely comment that Kiev will never be accepted as a NATO member. But if things can get worse, they will: Kiev will become one of those NATO special partners, a desperately poor, hungry for territory, rogue actor.

Putin demanding from the US – which runs NATO – a written, legally binding guarantee that the alliance will not advance further eastward towards Russian borders is the game-changer here.

Team Biden cannot possibly deliver: they would be eaten alive by the War Inc. establishment. Putin studied his history and knows that Daddy Bush’s “promise” to Gorbachev on NATO expansion was just a lie. He knows those who run NATO will never commit themselves in writing.

So that allows Putin a full range of options to defend Russian national security. “Invasion” is a joke; Ukraine, rotting from the inside, consumed by fear, loathing, and poverty, will remain in limbo, while Donetsk and Lugansk will be progressively interconnected with the Russian Federation.

There will be no NATO war on Russia – as Martyanov himself has extensively demonstrated NATO wouldn’t last five minutes against Russian hypersonic weapons. And Moscow will be focused on what really matters, geoeconomically and geopolitically: solidifying the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) and the Greater Eurasia Partnership.

Related Posts

Foreign Policy hallucinations

December 07, 2021

source: https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/12/06/biden-ukraine-russia-military/

GEOFOR interviews The Saker: Will Kiev decide on an open armed conflict?

December 05, 2021

Note: in late November I was interviewed by the Russian website Geofor.  Here is the English language translation of this interview.

GEOFOR: Mr. Raevsky, no sooner have the American warships left the Black Sea than the British went in there. Apparently, “unscheduled exercises” of NATO ships and Ukrainian watercraft are about to commence, again. Again, near the maritime borders of the Russian Federation. Moreover, a couple of American military boats were delivered to Odessa (although, politely speaking, not quite new). As a military analyst with experience in intelligence, how do you assess the degree of threats from this incessant demonstration of force in terms of the possibility of provoking a military conflict with far-reaching consequences?

Andrei Raevsky: From a military point of view, I assess the degree of direct threat from these forces as zero. Firstly, any ship that enters the waters of the Black Sea can be instantly destroyed by a number of Russian coastal defense systems and/or the Russian Aerospace Forces. So, the degree of threat from them is zero. Secondly, they are equipped with  rather outdated Tomahawk missiles. They have a relatively low flight speed, and they do not pose a great threat to Russian air defense systems.

On the other hand, there is an indirect threat from these NATO ships. And very serious. They are nudging Ukrainians in the same way as in 2008 they nudged Saakashvili in Georgia. They give Kiev a mistaken feeling being under an umbrella, under the protection of the US Navy or, say, NATO bomber planes, which is a complete deception and delusion, but this is the real danger.

GEOFOR: Does Russia have the ability to protect itself if it comes to launching Tomahawks? And how is this perceived in Pentagon and NATO headquarters? In the same context: what, in your opinion, is behind the decision of the Russian president to reject the Ministry of Defense’s offer to hold its unscheduled exercises on the Black Sea simultaneously with the United States and NATO? How will it be perceived in the Washington military-political establishment – as confidence in the capabilities of the Russian military to respond adequately to provocative actions or, as a desire not to take a potentially dangerous situation to the extreme?

Andrei Raevsky: Yes, of course, Russia can defend itself. As I just said, these are relatively slow and outdated cruise missiles, which do not pose a great danger to the multi-layered integrated air defense of the Crimea and the South of Russia and the entire Southern Military District of the Russian Federation. You can remember what the US missile strike on Syria was like, where most of them [Tomahawks] were shot down not by the Russian contingent in Syria – this is very important to emphasize – but by the Syrians with their relatively simpler air defense system.

Thus. I don’t think that all these Tomahawks threaten Russia very much.

I will also add that if the United States and NATO wanted to hit Russia with Tomahawks, it would be better for them to get out of the Black Sea and go to the Mediterranean Sea and move away to the maximum distance – just so as not to be instantly sunk.

Putin’s decision not to conduct simultaneous maneuvers in the Black Sea, in my opinion, is absolutely reasonable.

In Washington, this is likely to make an impression, in a certain sense, of a staged scene: Shoigu says: “I am ready”,  and Putin takes such a peacemaking, pacifying step. This is what in the West is called “Good cop – bad cop.” In fact, they are, of course, united in terms of developing principles and strategies for protecting Russia from possible aggression.

GEOFOR: And now a little more about Ukraine and the situation around it. Russian analysts find many analogies in the situation in Ukraine now and the one that was in Georgia on the eve of August 2008. How would you characterize the factors (internal and external) that could lead to Kiev deciding on an open armed conflict? And what will this lead Ukraine and Europe as a whole to? Who, in the end, may be the beneficiary?

Andrei Raevsky: Yes, the situation is very similar to that. And I would even say that the situation Zelensky is in, is worse than the one Saakashvili was in.

I’m afraid that his rating is such that he really has nothing to lose. The question of whether Kiev will decide on an open armed conflict implies that Kiev has an opportunity to solve something. I doubt it very much. Without getting the “go-ahead” from the “Washington Regional Party Committee” Kiev will not move. Thus, if Kiev moves, it will be, at least, in the presence of a “tacit” – not even consent – order, when the West gives the command “Attack!”. Few people in the West care that Kiev will then “get its ass kicked.”

But the most important thing in this context is to remember that the goal is not to “liberate ORDLO from Muscovites” (Note: “ORLDO” is the current official Ukie legal term for the LDNR) or “restore democracy and territorial integrity of Ukraine” and so on. The goal is to force Russia to openly invade Ukraine and start a war: so that it cannot be denied, in order to totally sink energy projects between Russia and the EU and make the EU completely dependent, first of all, on American shale gas and other energy carriers. And to achieve these goals, Ukraine does not need any victory at all – it’s enough to just say: “Here, these evil Putin’s “green men” have seized even more territory! Oh, how bad they are!”

We can say that from a military point of view, Russia will win very quickly. But from a political point of view, it will be a victory for the United States.

GEOFOR: Do you consider it possible that, with NATO’s symbolic support in the Black Sea, as well as the presence of various American, British and other instructors on land, Kiev will decide on a military provocation not in the Donbas, but in the Black Sea? After all, it is known that everyone is waiting for the Ukrainian military offensive in the east of the country, and why, for example, Zelensky not follow the path of his predecessor Poroshenko, who sent boats to break through the Kerch Strait, and, creating a conflict situation, disrupted the already agreed meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin? Moreover, the second meeting of the Russian and American presidents this year is now being prepared…

Andrei Raevsky: Yes, such a provocation in the Black Sea is very likely. It is enough to recall their provocation when Ukrainian boats tried to pass into the Kerch Strait. And it was without any presence of Americans. Of course, this is possible. I think this is not only possible, but it will definitely happen.

And if there really are plans to arrange a meeting between Biden and Putin, then Ukrainians have very little time left. In December, Americans convene their “Democracy Forum”, then there are holidays…

If there is this meeting – and we don’t know if there will be one – there could be a lot of things that could undermine it. For supporters of the war – both in the United States and in Ukraine – this is a very important moment that cannot be missed.

GEOFOR: And in conclusion. If it is likely that the ongoing Russian-American consultations (the arrival of the Deputy Secretary of State and the director of the CIA in Moscow, for example) and the dialogue between the two leaders, which, hopefully, will take place, will lead to at least some stabilization, both around the Ukrainian problem and in bilateral relations. What problems in this regard could you highlight?

Andrei Raevsky: These consultations are very important, and this is a very desirable development of the situation because American officials of this level have not come to Moscow twice to present some kind of ultimatum.

To present an ultimatum, you can simply use a consul.

To do this, there is absolutely no need to send the highest representatives of the American authorities to Moscow.

The conversations that took place – whatever they were – were to the point. And they were serious. As long as both sides are talking, at least they are not shooting. And this is very desirable.

And we can only hope that such consultations will continue in the future.

Of course, the Americans are the most dangerous enemy for Russia. This needs to be understood.

This is not a get-together with a “vodka-herring” menu to just shoot the breeze. Neither is this a friendly meeting.

But this is a direct dialogue of those who can really make decisions in a difficult situation and influence the situation.

And in this regard, it is very important.

Therefore, there is no need to fall into the mistake that Americans very often fall into when they say: “We don’t talk to such and such.” We don’t talk to terrorists, we don’t talk to states and “regimes” that we don’t recognize. This is a very big mistake.

You need to talk to everyone, often including the fiercest enemies.

source: https://geofor.ru/4710-andrej-raevskij-reshitsya-li-kiev-na-otkrytyj-vooruzhennyj-konflikt.html

Lavrov gives press conference after OSCE Ministerial Council in Stockholm

December 02, 2021

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov holds a press conference after the 28th OSCE Ministerial Council in Stockholm on Thursday, December 2. The annual OSCE Ministerial Council, chaired by Sweden, takes place on December 2-3. The ministers are expected to discuss security issues in the OSCE area and review the organisation’s activities.

Please forward the video.

The NATOstan Clown Show

November 29, 2021

Flags wave ahead of a NATO Defence Ministers meeting at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, October 21, 2021. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol – RC28EQ9178EG

The charade has come to a point that – diplomatically – is quite unprecedented: Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov lost his Taoist patience.

Source

Independent geopolitical analyst, writer and journalist

By Pepe Escobar,

American hysteria over the “imminent” Russian invasion of Ukraine has exploded every geopolitical Stupid-o-Meter in sight – and that’s quite an accomplishment.

What a mess. Sections of the U.S. Deep State are in open revolt against the combo that remote controls Crash Test Dummy, who impersonates POTUS. The neocon-neoliberal axis is itching for a war – but has no idea how to sell it to an immensely fractured public opinion.

UKUS, which de facto controls the Five Eyes spy scam, excels only in propaganda. So in the end it’s up to the CIA/MI6 intel axis and their vast network of media chihuahuas to accelerate Fear and Loathing ad infinitum.

Russophobic U.S. Think Tankland would very much cherish a Russian “invasion”, out of the blue, and could not give a damn about the inevitable trouncing of Ukraine. The problem is the White House – and the Pentagon – must “intervene”, forcefully; otherwise that will represent a catastrophic loss of “credibility” for the Empire.

So what do these people want? They want to provoke Moscow by all means available to exercise “Russian aggression”, resulting in a lightning fast war that will be a highway to hell for Ukraine, but with zero casualties for NATO and the Pentagon.

Then the Empire of Chaos will blame Russia; unleash a tsunami of fresh sanctions, especially financial; and try to shut off all economic links between Russia and NATOstan.

Reality dictates that none of the above is going to happen.

All exponents of Russian leadership, starting with President Putin, have already made it clear, over and over again, what happens if the Ukro-dementials start a blitzkrieg over Donbass: Ukraine will be mercilessly smashed – and that applies not only to the ethno-fascist gang in Kiev. Ukraine will cease to exist as a state.

Defense Minister Shoigu, for his part, has staged all manner of not exactly soft persuasion, featuring Tu-22M3 bombers or Tu-160 White Swan bombers.

The inestimable Andrei Martyanov has conclusively explained, over and over again, that “NATO doesn’t have forces not only to ‘counter-act’ anything Russia does but even if it wanted to it still has no means to fight a war with Russia.”

Martyanov notes, “there is nothing in the U.S. arsenal now and in the foreseeable future which can intercept Mach=9-10+, let alone M=20-27, targets. That’s the issue. Same analytical method applies to a situation in 404. The only thing U.S. (NATO) can hope for is to somehow provoke Russia into the invasion of this shithole of a country and then get all SIGINT it can once Russia’s C4ISR gets into full combat mode.”

Translation: anything the Empire of Chaos and its NATO subsidiary try in Donbass, directly or indirectly, the humiliation will make the Afghanistan “withdrawal” look like a House of Gucci dinner party.

No one should expect clueless NATO puppets – starting with secretary-general Stoltenberg – to understand the military stakes. After all, these are the same puppets who have been building up a situation which might ultimately leave Moscow with a single, stark choice: be ready to fight a full scale hot war in Europe – which could become nuclear in a flash. And ready they are.

It’s all about Minsk

In a parallel reality, “meddling in 404” – a delightful Martyanov reference to a hellhole that is little more than a computer error – is a totally different story. That perfectly fits American juvenilia ethos.

At least some of the adults in selected rooms are talking. The CIA’s Burns went to Moscow to try to extract some assurance that in the event NATO Special Forces were caught in the cauldrons – Debaltsevo 2015-style – that the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, with Russian help, will concoct, they would be allowed to escape.

His interlocutor, Patrushev, told Burns – diplomatically – to get lost.

Chief of the General Staff, Gen Valery Gerasimov, had a phone call with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen Mark Milley, ostensibly to ensure, in Pentagonese, “risk-reduction and operational de-confliction”. No substantial details were leaked.

It remains to be seen how this “de-confliction” will happen in practice when Defense Minister Shoigu revealed U.S. nuclear-capable bombers have been practicing, in their sorties across Eastern Europe, “their ability to use nuclear weapons against Russia”. Shoigu discussed that in detail with Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe: after all the Americans will certainly pull the same stunt against China.

The root cause of all this drama is stark: Kiev simply refuses to respect the February 2015 Minsk Agreement.

In a nutshell, the deal stipulated that Kiev should grant autonomy to Donbass via a constitutional amendment, referred to as “special status”; issue a general amnesty; and start a dialogue with the people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk.

Over the years, Kiev fulfilled exactly zero commitments – while the proverbial NATOstan media machine incessantly pounded global opinion with fake news, spinning that Russia was violating Minsk. Russia is not even mentioned in the agreement.

Moscow in fact always respected the Minsk Agreement – which translates as regarding Donbass as an integral, autonomous part of Ukraine. Moscow has zero interest in promoting regime change in Kiev.

This charade has come to a point that – diplomatically – is quite unprecedented: Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov lost his Taoist patience.

Lavrov was forced, under the circumstances, to publish 28 pages of correspondence between Moscow on one hand, and Berlin and Paris on the other, evolving around the preparation of a high-level meeting on Ukraine.

Moscow was in fact calling for one of the central points of the agreement to be implemented: a direct dialogue between Kiev and Donbass. Berlin and Paris said this was unacceptable. So yes: both, for all practical purposes, destroyed the Minsk Agreement. Public opinion across NATOstan has no idea whatsoever this actually happened.

Lavrov did not mince his words: “I am sure that you understand the necessity of this unconventional step, because it is a matter of conveying to the world community the truth about who is fulfilling, and how, the obligations under international law that have been agreed at the highest level.”

So it’s no wonder that the leadership in Moscow concluded it’s an absolute waste of time to talk to Berlin and Paris about Ukraine: they lied, cheated – and then blamed Russia. This “decision” at the EU level faithfully mirrors NATO’s campaign of stoking the flames of imminent “Russian aggression” against Ukraine.

Armchair warriors, unite!

Across NATOstan, the trademark stupidity of U.S. Think Tankland rules unabated, congregating countless acolytes spewing out the talking points of choice: “relentless Russian subversion”, “thug” Putin “intimidation” of Ukraine, Russians as “predators”, and everything now coupled with “power-hungry China’s war on Western values.”

Some Brit hack, in a twisted way, actually managed to sum up the overall impotence – and insignificance – by painting Europe as a victim, “a beleaguered democratic island in an anarchic world, which a rising tide of authoritarianism, impunity and international rule-breaking threatens to inundate”.

The answer by NATOstan Defense Ministers is to come up with a Strategic Compass – essentially an anti-Russia-China scam – complete with “rapid deployment forces”. Led by who, General Macron?

As it stands, poor NATOstan is uncontrollably sobbing, accusing those Russian hooligans – scary monsters, to quote David Bowie – of staging an anti-satellite missile test and thus “scorning European safety concerns”.

Something must have got lost in translation. So here’s what happened: Russia conclusively demonstrated it’s capable of obliterating each and every one of NATO’s satellites and blind “all their missiles, planes and ships, not to mention ground forces” in case they decide to materialize their warmongering ideas.

Obviously those deaf, dumb and blind NATOstan armchair warrior clowns – fresh from their Afghan “performance” – won’t get the message. But NATOstan anyway was never accused of being partial to reality.

Who Wants Some Ukraine?

November 25, 2021

by Dmitry Orlov, posted with permission of the author

On Tuesday, 23 November, Russia’s most senior military general, Valery Gerasimov, had a “deconfliction” phone conference with US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, in which the two discussed “pressing issues of international security.

US, Russia army chiefs talk recent skirmish in Syria

” Actual details of what they discussed are not available; what is available is Western media speculation, which in recent days has included false reports of Russian troops massing on the Ukrainian border and supposedly getting ready to invade. What Western media has studiously ignored is an actual massing of Ukrainian troops on the borders of the Donbass region—the industrialized temporarily Ukrainian region that has been de facto independent since the Kiev putsch of 2014.

Following that putsch, and the refusal of the Donbass (along with Crimea) to recognize the new US State Department-installed Ukrainian government, the Ukrainians made attempt to recapture the Donbass by force. This attempt failed, and Kiev managed to avoid all-out defeat by signing the Minsk agreements of February 2015, but has clearly had no intention of ever fulfilling them. Instead, ever since then, Ukrainian forces have been shelling the no man’s land between Ukrainian-held territory (which is mostly open prairie) and Donbass (which is urbanized and thickly settled), killing small numbers of civilians and local militia members and causing considerable property damage. Although Western press has continuously reported on “Russian forces” in the Donbass, they are yet to present any evidence of it. And although Western press likes to describe the Donbass using the hackneyed epithet “war-torn” it is actually more prosperous and stable than the rest of the Ukraine, integrated into the Russian economy and essentially functioning as a Russian region.

Turning down Western media noise, a Russian military effort to capture the Donbass, never mind the rest of the Ukraine, is exceedingly unlikely. Russia already has everything it wants. Unlike Crimea which in its 2014 referendum produced a 97% vote for integration of the region into the Russian Federation with an 83% voter turnout, in a similar referendum in the Donbass (held against Moscow’s wishes) only 27.5% of the 74.87% who turned out voted in favor of joining the Russian Federation. Based on this result, Moscow chose to soft-pedal the Donbass situation, providing humanitarian aid and diplomatic support, granting Russian citizenship to those who want it and gradually integrating the region socially and economically. In other Ukrainian regions, were similar referendums to be held there, the level of support for joining Russia would in all likelihood have been even lower, and now, seven years later, would be lower still. From this, a conclusion can be drawn: other than Crimea (which was part of an independent Ukraine for just 23 years), none of the Ukraine was or is a candidate for inclusion within the Russian Federation. The Russians living there will receive some amount of Russian support and are, of course, welcome to move to Russia, but that is really it.

Having ruled out that which is exceedingly unlikely, let us turn to that which is quite likely; and that is a provocation in the Donbass staged by the authorities in Kiev and by their State Department, Pentagon and CIA handlers, designed to deflect the blame from the truly disastrous economic situation that is unfolding there in the hopes of being able to maintain political control of the situation. In blundering into the Ukraine and converting it into a sort of anti-Russian bulwark, the US gained a brazenly corrupt and unruly dependency. Unable to stop its inexorable slide into failed-statedom and political and social disintegration, the US is faced with the prospect of another Afghanistan-style rout, with desperate left-behinds running after US transport planes hastily taking off from Kiev’s Borispol Airport, after which point even the mental laggards who run the European Union will be forced to admit that American security guarantees are an utter joke and will start getting ready to walk into the Kremlin on their knees to kiss the gem-encrusted felt slipper.

Given this unwelcome scenario, the US is quite eager to control the optics and to make it look like it is all Russia’s fault. Since merely jumping up and down and screaming “The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!” is no longer doing the trick, they are looking for something—anything!—that will make the Russians show up and put up even a tiny bit of a fight so that CNN and MSNBC can broadcast staged photos of a bloodied baby blanket and US Congress can then harrumph-harrumph about “Russian aggression” and impose sanctions on Russian baby blanket manufacturers. That “anything” is called a provocation, and what better place to stage it than the Donbass, which is an existing bleeding sore they’ve been picking away at for seven years now. Of course, they will do this in great trepidation of an escalation they would be unable to control, hence the hasty “deconfliction” conference with General Gerasimov: “Look, we go pew-pew, then you go pew-pew, then we declare hostilities over and toast each other with vodka and caviar; OK?”

Given that a provocation of some sort appears to be very likely, it is worth pondering what it would look like and what the outcome of it might be.

First, here is some background. The Ukraine (which is Russian for “borderland”) has always been less a country than a heterogeneous, endlessly disputed territory, tossed back and forth between Russia, Turkey, Poland, Austria, Germany and even, very briefly, Sweden. It mostly borders Russia (Crimea, Krasnodar, Rostov, Voronezh, Belgorod, Кursk and Bryansk regions). It also borders Belarus (short for “White Russia”) which is a whole lot like Russia. It has smaller borders with Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Moldova and the unrecognized, Russian-defended Transnistria. It also borders Donetsk and Lugansk regions, collectively known as the Donbass, which is short for “Donetsk Coal Basin,” and which was formerly part of the Ukraine but de facto independent for the last 7 years and economically integrated with Russia.

Of these, the Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova were quite recently part of the USSR while the rest were part of the Warsaw Pact allied with the USSR. For most of them, those were the good days; for reasons incomprehensible to rapacious Western imperialists, Russia lavished a great deal of attention and investment on its ethnically heterogeneous periphery, not only building a great deal of social and industrial infrastructure and enterprises there but also staffing it all with relocated Russians. This, most Russians now realize, was a poor choice. This lesson is continuously reinforced by observing just how poorly the former Soviet republics have performed since they gained their independence. The Ukraine is a case in point, losing as much as a third of its population (exact numbers are impossible to ascertain) and steadily degenerating from a prosperous, highly developed region to the poorest one in all of Europe.

The Ukraine aspires to NATO and EU membership, but this prospect appears exceedingly unlikely since it is much more of a liability than an asset: destitute, bankrupt, politically unstable and not in control of its own government or its own territory—a failed state, essentially. Plus, the EU and NATO are themselves perhaps not too long for this world, the EU having recently lost the United Kingdom and NATO having just fabulously failed in Afghanistan, and not really capable of accepting new members. Sensing their own weakness, and projecting onto Russia their own instincts to engulf and devour all that they can, they automatically assume that Russia will exploit this weakness and reconquer the Ukraine and perhaps some other parts of Eastern Europe as well. But this is all it is—a projection, because the contemporary Russian project is something else entirely. Russia does periodically move its troops around its own territory, thereby keeping the West in a constant state of nervous agitation bordering on outright panic, but from the Russian perspective that is just a pleasant side-effect of regularly scheduled training exercises. There was a recent hysterical outburst in Western press over Russian tanks massed on the Belorussian border, for instance. Russia is always “about to invade,” on Tuesdays especially, but somehow never gets around to it.

That is not because Russia lacks the means or the opportunity; but it does entirely lack the motive. Does it need more land? Certainly not! Does it need a restive, alienated population that will then demand to be fed, hospitalized as needed and kept safe and warm all the while resisting assimilation? Not at all! Does it need the reputational losses from unprovoked aggression? Again, no. Quite the opposite, Russia is most eager to draw the line somewhere—a notional Great Wall of Russia, with the stable, economically liberal and socially conservative Orthodox/Moslem/Buddhist Russian World on one side and an alien, increasingly bankrupt, culturally degenerate, sexually deviant and permanently hostile Europe on the other. This will give Russia the peace and stability it needs to continue developing. The problem is that, because of the messy way in which the USSR broke up, many Russians were left stranded on the wrong side of previously insignificant borders, and this Great Wall has to remain porous, allowing Russians to filter back in.

A point can be made that Russia’s romance with Western Europe was always destined to end in tears. Russia’s cooperative, egalitarian instincts have been developed and perfected over many centuries within the Eurasian context of a relatively small population controlling a vast but difficult land with almost infinite but rather diffuse resources. In this context, cooperation rather than competition are keys to survival. These instincts have been wasted on little Eastern European fiefdoms that have spent an eternity squabbling over their tiny plots of land. Their history has conditioned them to only understand and respect subservience and domination, causing them to see Russian largesse as a weakness to be exploited. When the USSR suddenly vanished, they swiftly switched allegiance, forgetting their Russian, learning English and eagerly welcoming American and Western European financial swindlers and thieves to come and pick them clean. And now that they’ve been picked clean and Americans are leaving, they would perhaps be happy for Russia to “reoccupy” them and resume feeding them (if it were not for their wounded pride), but Russia will have none of it.

Within this overall context, each Eastern European country has its own unique fate. Most of them—specifically, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Moldova—are simply too small and inconsequential to matter and have been left to wither away slowly, being of little interest to the West or to Russia. Belarus stands out in that it quickly joined a union state with Russia, but this has not saved it from some fateful dalliances with the West which almost ended in disaster in the summer of 2020 when a foreign-instigated astroturf insurgency threatened to overthrow the elected government and install a Western stooge by the name of Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, nicknamed the cutlet fairy. Since then, Minsk and Moscow turbocharged their integration process, producing the odd situation where the Belorussians feel free to poke their fingers in the eyes of Western leaders while hiding behind Russia’s broad back.

And then there is the Ukraine. It is the second-largest country in Europe by area—second only to Russia—and strategically located to be rather consequential. Ever since its independence, which it was awarded against the wishes of the majority of its population when the USSR was dissolved by a tiny group of conspirators, it has been ruled by a succession of swindlers and thieves who have continuously looted and robbed it until now it is a mere shadow of its former self, broken and destitute. This has made it an easy mark for Western geopolitical engineers who sought to fashion into a sort of anti-Russia, with the idea of preventing Russia from becoming an empire based on some flawed reasoning by the rabidly Russophobic Pole Zbigniew Brzeziński. Grand plans hatched by fools tend to misfire grandly, and this one is no exception. Instead of somehow containing Russia, it gave Russia everything it could ever want:

1. The fantastic level of Ukrainian political dysfunction that resulted from endless Western political meddling reduced the Ukraine from one of Russia’s major regional competitors to а major regional basket case and supplier of qualified Russian-speaking labor. The Ukraine once had strategically important industries that were essential for Russia’s military and civilian production, including large marine diesels, helicopter engines, rocket engines, aircraft building, shipbuilding and much else. All of these industries have now been relocated to Russia, often together with all of the blueprints and the technical expertise, and produce great value for both domestic consumption and export.

2. The 2014 putsch allowed Russia to return Crimea by undoing two mistakes—by Khrushchev, who gave it to the Ukraine in 1954, and by Gorbachev, who failed to get it back in 1991. It also allowed Russia to partially undo an older mistake—by Lenin, who gave the Donbass to the Ukraine in 1920. While the Donbass is strategically not too consequential, the return of Crimea provided numerous benefits. Coupled with the western enclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic and new Russian hypersonic rockets, Crimea has allowed Russia to keep all of NATO’s European territory within its sphere of military dominance, providing an effective treatment for Europe’s congenital defect which causes it to periodically march on Moscow. Western sanctions imposed in response to Russian annexation of Crimea allowed Russia to claw back all of the disadvantages it incurred by joining the World Trade Organization, including bringing back agriculture and key manufacturing sectors, to find new, friendlier trading partners around the world, and to find ways to thrive within conditions of limited autarky. Crimea has also provided a very useful litmus test for political participation: automatically excluding anyone who would claim that Crimea is Ukrainian made it possible to effectively purge the ranks of all internal enemies and foreign agents. There are numerous other benefits as well, too many to mention.

3. The civil war in the Donbass, which is ongoing, gave Russia the opportunity to force through the Minsk agreements, whose implementation is mandated by the UN Security Council Resolution 2202 (2015), and which require the Ukraine to federalize, granting a high level of autonomy to its regions. This, in the Ukrainian context, equates with the end of the Ukrainian unitary state. Beyond that point, the Ukraine becomes a set of disparate, disconnected, foreign-dominated fiefdoms, each with its own pathetic little oligarchy, with Kiev retained as a purely symbolic capital and an ancient Kievan Russia museum and tourist attraction. The government in Kiev has resisted the implementation of the Minsk agreements, realizing full well that this would spell its end, but this is merely a postponement. The civil war also simplified any future anti-Nazi mop-up operation and war crimes tribunal. Whereas before various Ukrainian nationalists and krypto-Nazis might have been difficult to identify, it has forced them to not only stand up and be counted but also to commit crimes for which there is no statue of limitations, making it easy to permanently take them out of circulation when the time comes to clean the place up.

This, then, is the background to the current situation, bringing us to the present, in which the US seems to be cooking up something in a big hurry. First, the US sends the message that Kiev must fulfill the terms of the Minsk agreements. Second, the US claims that Russia is massing troops on the Ukrainian border, getting ready to invade. The Ukrainian military denies this fact. The US repeats their claim and also sends some more weapons to the Ukraine. As the Ukrainian military is still unsure what’s going on, they are summoned and told exactly what to think. And so, there is going to be a provocation. But Russia is certainly not interested in any sort of attack or invasion, so what do you suppose is going to happen? A reasonable battle plan is for the Ukraine to attack first, to preempt the Russian invasion and to take up defensive positions within the Donbass territory. That’s a brilliant plan, if I say so myself!

The most the Ukrainian military can do is launch an attack on the Donbass. Attacking Crimea across the isthmus would be stupid and pathetic; attacking Crimea from the water would be stupid and absolutely hilarious to watch. And so Donbass it has to be, again. It won’t take long for the Russians to respond using unidentified long-range precision artillery and demolish the Ukrainians’ supply lines, trapping them in cauldrons where they will run out of ammunition, food and fuel and gradually bleed out. This is what transpired before, in 2015, leading Kiev to sign on to the Minsk agreements, because their other choice was to lose their entire army. Except now there will not be another set of Minsk agreements, no terms of surrender, no cease fires and no safe corridors for withdrawal. There will just be death. To the Russians, these people are terrorists, and terrorists get to meet God before the rest of us.

And that, perhaps, may be the entire point. The US wants to close out the entire sorry Ukrainian saga, cut its losses, pull an Afghanistan and leave in a hurry, because it has a long list of countries it has to pull out of before the fuel and the money run out, and it badly needs to pick up the pace. Okinawa is on that list; Guam; Puerto Rico; Alaska. California. Texas. The Ukraine has been refusing to even start fulfilling the Minsk agreements, which start with military deescalation along the line of contact. What seems to be the problem? Perhaps, as the US has finally figured out, it has to do with the fact that the Ukraine has a military; if it no longer had any military of any sort at all, there would be nothing to deescalate and the problem would not exist. And so that may be the clever plan for the Ukraine: suicide by Russia. As an added bonus, there will be Russia to blame because, no doubt at all, it will have all been Russia’s fault. Sanctions against Russian baby blanket manufacturers are being drafted as we speak. American TV viewers will watch it, and they will like it. They will think, “Bad Russkies! America strong!”

“But what about the Ukraine?” you might be tempted to ask. Well, the correct answer to that question seems to be, “Nobody cares.” Seriously, looking at recent Ukrainian history, that seems to be the only answer that makes sense. The Americans certainly never cared, the Russians once cared but care less and less with each passing day, and the Ukrainians themselves don’t care either and have been making that point by voting with their feet. The European Union and NATO may care a great deal about having a large failed state in the middle of Europe, and they should, because that is probably just the beginning, but a very good start.

New Paradigm of US Foreign Policy and Relations with Russia: Valdai Club Analytics

NOVEMBER 17, 2021

New Paradigm of US Foreign Policy and Relations with Russia: Valdai Club Analytics

https://valdaiclub.com/a/highlights/new-paradigm-of-us-foreign-policy/

US foreign policy is by no means becoming less ideological. Liberal ideology in its newest left-liberal form is turning from a means of expansion into an instrument for consolidating the “collective West”, defining “us and them” and splitting the international community into opposing blocs, writes Valdai Club expert Dmitry Suslov.

US foreign policy is undergoing an important transition. The US withdrawal from Afghanistan drew a final and symbolic line under the period of its foreign policy, which began not on September 11, 2001, but in the early 1990s — what’s commonly called the “post-Cold War” period. In the early 1990s, intoxicated by the “victory in the Cold War” declared by George Bush Sr., the United States, being confident of the “end of history” and not meeting any resistance from outside in the context of the emerging “moment of unipolarity”, embarked on a course to transform everything else in the world in accordance with its values. These included the universalisation of the collective West and the spread of the American-centric “New World Order”. It was then that the goal of American policy towards Russia and China became their liberal-democratic transformation in accordance with Western patterns and integration into the American-centric world as junior players. US policy objectives regarding so-called “Rogue countries” (that is, those who stubbornly did not want to go over to the “right side of history”) became regime change.

That policy reached an impasse in the second half of the 2000s; since then the United States has been mired in a deep foreign policy crisis, due to the fact that the world had “suddenly” stopped developing in line with the American ideological guidelines. Russia and China refused to be transformed in accordance with Western patterns and integrate into the American world order as junior players, and attempts to democratise Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East generally failed. It was obviously not possible to extend the American-centric world order to the entire international system, and this order itself gradually began to burst at the seams.

Barack Obama tried to find a way out of this crisis by changing the instruments of American foreign policy, but maintaining the paradigm of spreading the American-centric world order to the rest of the world. The “reset” of relations with Russia and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (Washington hoped that China would eventually be forced to join the TPP) were, in fact, the latest attempts to “draw” Moscow and Beijing into the American-centric world order. Supporting the Arab Spring and fighting Arab dictators was the latest attempt to transform the Middle East. Both attempts failed again.

The first president of the United States to abandon the paradigm of transforming the rest of the world in accordance with American values was Donald Trump. Under his administration, for the first time since the Cold War, the US didn’t initiate any new military interventions, openly declared its refusal to spread democracy by military means, and made a fundamental decision to leave Afghanistan by signing an agreement with the Taliban (banned in Russia). It announced that henceforth, US foreign and defence policy would be focused primarily on the confrontation with Washington’s global rivals and adversaries, namely China and Russia. However, both the American elite and the establishment of most of the US allies mistakenly perceived Trump and his policies as a temporary aberration, after which a “return to normal” US policy (as it was after the end of the Cold War) should occur. Trump’s turnaround did not seem real or final to many. However, their projections were all in vain.

Biden’s historical significance lies in the fact that, despite being flesh and blood part of the traditional American establishment, having removed Trump from the White House, and receiving the support of elites and the “deep state”, he not only did not abandon the foreign policy of Trump, but also saw it to its conclusion. In doing so, he gave it a much more systemic and complete character. The main ways in which Biden’s foreign policy differs from that of Trump are that the United States has increased the importance of combating transnational threats (primarily climate change), and also changed its rhetoric towards its European allies, making it more sympathetic. On most fundamental issues, however, continuity prevails.

The abandonment of the paradigm of universalisation of the American-centric world order is in no way a signal of the readiness of the United States to form a joint multipolar world order with non-Western centres of power, primarily with China and Russia. The fundamentals of American foreign policy — the commitment to primacy and ideological messianism — remain unchanged: they are the result of the nature of the American state as an ideological project and its position as the most powerful player in its environment. The history of US foreign policy does not know the joint formation of a multipolar world order and participation in it; the American ideology simply excludes this.

As a result, a new paradigm of American foreign policy is already being shaped. Its defining priority is the fight against global rivals, this time China and Russia, and attempts to build a new bipolarity, where one pole would be the “world of democracies” led by the United States, and the other pole would be the “world of authoritarians” with the leading roles played by China and Russia. From attempts to universalise the American-centric world order, the United States has moved to its consolidation and defence, and from the “post-Cold War” era to the era of a new global confrontation.

US foreign policy is by no means becoming less ideological. Liberal ideology in its newest left-liberal form is turning from a means of expansion into an instrument for consolidating the “collective West”, defining “us and them” and splitting the international community into opposing blocs.

By rejecting the old, failed foreign policy paradigm and adopting a new one, Biden has been able to lead America out of the foreign policy crisis of the past decade and a half. The fiasco in Afghanistan was associated with an incorrect assessment of how long the Ghani government would hold out after the withdrawal of American troops. However, this dramatic narrative should not be misleading: Washington was well aware that this government would fall and that the Taliban would inevitably come to power (within between several months and two years), but nevertheless decided to leave.

The new global confrontation is intended to restore meaning, order and self-confidence to American foreign policy. With its help, the United States seeks to rally allies and partners around itself, consolidate the “collective West” and strengthen its leadership, and, perhaps, even mitigate its internal problems — to try and glue back together a divided American society, albeit partially, and reduce the polarisation of the political elite.

Of course, the practice of American foreign policy is more complex and multidimensional than the rhetoric about a new global confrontation between democracies and autocracies.

First, the world does not fit into the Procrustean bed of a new ideological confrontation. As in the previous Cold War, in the fight against global adversaries, the United States needs to partner with a number of non-democratic countries (for example, Vietnam). Many of the official US allies are authoritarian (including most allies in the Middle East, including Turkey), and Washington is unlikely to abandon these alliances, even though relations with some of them have deteriorated. Loyal NATO allies such as Poland also face serious problems with democracy. However, most importantly, an increasing number of countries, including democracies, do not want to join the US-China or US-Russia confrontation on the side of one of the powers, and are striving to pursue an increasingly independent foreign policy. An illustrative example is South Korea, which, being an ally of the United States and a democracy, in every possible way avoids being drawn into anti-Chinese policies.

Therefore, it is already reasonable to raise the question of how soon the United States will enter a new foreign policy crisis associated with its inability to achieve a new global demarcation along ideological lines and rally around itself most of the “free world” in opposition to China and Russia. Where, in this case, will the American foreign policy strategy develop? But these are questions of a more distant future.

Second, an important priority of the Biden administration is the fight against transnational challenges, primarily climate change, which requires cooperation with global opponents of the United States and non-democratic countries in general. So far, the Biden administration has been trying to combine its geopolitical rivalry with Moscow and Beijing with cooperation with them regarding climate change and other global challenges. It is difficult to say whether such a combination works. Moreover, Russia and China are invited to cooperate on the basis of the Western agenda, not a joint agenda, and at the same time the United States is using the same climate agenda to discredit Moscow and Beijing, exposing them as “climate spoilers” that refuse to reduce carbon emissions on a larger scale.

Third, the Biden administration makes it clear that China, perceived as the only rival capable of undermining American global primacy today, is a much more important and strategic adversary than Russia, and the Pacific region is a much higher priority region than Europe.

It is precisely at the containment of China and the consolidation of the anti-Chinese coalition that the United States is trying to throw its main forces, sometimes to the detriment of its policy of consolidating the Atlantic community and containing Russia. The history of the creation of AUKUS and NATO’s decision to designate China in its future strategic concept (planned to be adopted in 2022) as a threat to the security of the alliance, along with Russia, speak of the same thing: Europe is interesting for the Biden administration not only as a springboard and an ally for containment Russia, but also as an assistant in the fight against China.

Equally, it is the desire of the United States to focus maximum resources and attention on the fight against China, as well as to weaken the tendency towards further rapprochement between Moscow and Beijing, which has led to their mutual strengthening, including the military strengthening of China. That is the main reason why the Biden administration is now aiming to stabilise the confrontation with Russia, and to prevent its further escalation. While maintaining the existing deterrent tools (sanctions, information war, support for the current governments in Ukraine and Georgia and their Euro-Atlantic orientation, etc.), Washington, nevertheless, has not provided a qualitative increase in support for Kiev and Tbilisi and seeks to prevent what could lead to a new escalation of the military conflict in the Donbass or in the South Caucasus.

However, while confrontation with Russia is not an equal priority of US foreign policy versus confrontation with China, it remains and will remain an important issue. The United States has neither the desire nor the ability to overcome or at least significantly reduce the confrontation with Russia at the cost of its own concessions, and will strive to make it more passive.

There is no possibility of reducing confrontation on the part of the United States, primarily due to its domestic political restrictions:

In recent years, a strong anti-Russian consensus has developed there. US policymakers perceive Russia as both a geopolitical and an ideological adversary that seeks to undermine the position of the United States around the world, strengthen its main strategic rival (China), as well as undermine the American political system, and undermine America’s faith in democracy and liberal values. This perception and the need to combat it is one of the few issues on which there is almost complete agreement in the polarised political system of the United States.

In the context of this polarisation, which has turned many foreign policy topics into instruments of domestic political struggle, any positive step towards Russia becomes a pretext for accusations of treason, and anyone who takes this step pays a high price. This limitation has been observed since the time of Barack Obama, but since then, its scale has increased many times over.

Since the adoption of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) in 2017, no administration has been able to significantly reduce the scale of anti-Russia sanctions.

In addition, NATO will try to maintain the Russian-American confrontation; the anti-Russian focus has sharply increased since the failure in Afghanistan. Finally, in the wake of the Afghanistan fiasco, the United States simply cannot afford to diminish support for countries directly involved in the conflict with Russia, such as Ukraine and Georgia. In order to reduce reparation damage and convince allies and partners of the reliability of American commitments, the Biden administration must show in every possible way that, although it is ready to turn away from “unnecessary” satellites, by no means will it abandon those that play an important role in the fight against global adversaries. The visits of US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to Georgia and Ukraine in October 2021 confirmed this very task.

The lack of any desire to improve relations with Russia is primarily due to the perception of Russia as a weakening power, which, in the opinion of the US, will in the foreseeable future be forced to seek cooperation with the West from the position of a vassal due to either a large-scale internal crisis or a geopolitical clash with China as a result of the growing asymmetry between Russia and the PRC (something the majority in the American mainstream stubbornly believe in).

As a result, the Biden administration’s policy towards Russia is essentially to wait and see as Russia returns to the western orbit while continuing the confrontation, but minimising the damage associated with this confrontation, that is, preventing it from creating an immediate threat to American security.

Thus, given the impossibility and unwillingness of the United States to reduce the intensity of the confrontation with Russia, let alone to overcome it, it is quite possible to conclude that the global confrontation with China and Russia has indeed become, and will remain in the near future, a new core and organising principle of US foreign policy. It will serve as the basis for the development of their national interests, determining the scale of their presence and the nature of their obligations in different regions of the world. One reservation: containing China and consolidating allies and partners against it will remain a higher priority than containing Russia.

In practical terms, this means that the United States will strive to increase its presence, range of partners and military-political commitments in Asia and strengthen relations with those countries it considers important in containing China (the creation of AUKUS and Biden’s statement that Washington will provide military assistance to Taiwan in the event of a military invasion by the PRC is a direct confirmation). It also intends to maintain its presence in Europe and support for Ukraine and Georgia as countries playing a central role in the geopolitical struggle with Russia at the current level. Additionally, it will seek to weaken the US presence and commitments in countries and regions that Washington does not consider central or important to the fight against China and Russia.

The latter include, for example, the Middle East. Washington does not see this region as an arena for fighting global opponents and therefore can afford to reduce its military presence and political role there. The US was guided by the same logic toward Afghanistan: they knew that the “vacuum” left there by their departure would not be filled by either Beijing or Moscow.

So, for Russian-American relations, the new paradigm of US foreign policy creates the preconditions for the formation of a model resembling a controlled or stable confrontation, when the parties are not interested in further escalation or in overcoming it through their own concessions.

Note about the current naval operations in the Black Sea

NOVEMBER 14, 2021

Note about the current naval operations in the Black Sea

There is a lot of speculation about the current US/NATO operations in the Black Sea region.  I would like to offer the following bulletpoint comments about what I believe is going on.

  • If we add up all the US+NATO forces involved in this operation, they fall far short of what would be needed for an attack on Russia.  Thus, in purely military terms, this is just a Kabuki theater, not a real threat to Russia.
  • Both the Russians and the US commanders know that.
  • The intended audience is the Ukrainian population whom the following “message” is sent: “we are here, we are invincible, we got your back, and if you happen to get into an open conflict/war with Russia, we will protect you“.  Of course, not such commitment is formally made, only implied.  This is an exact repeat of what happened in 08.08.08.
  • At the same time, the hysterical warmongering in the Ukie media is going absolutely through the roof, these folks are now seriously considering not only “liberating” the Donbass and beating the crap out of the Russian military, some even want to “liberate” some Russian territory.  These idiots actually very much look forward to a war against Russia!

Those interested in the details can check my previous entry on this topic here: http://thesaker.is/why-i-see-a-war-in-the-donbass-as-almost-inevitable/

Next, we have to always keep in mind the following crucial fact: the USA does not have what it takes to attack Russia.  In purely conventional (non nuclear) terms, the US+NATO do not have the numbers needed in Europe to conduct any semi-successful attack against Russia.  For example, if any US destroyer launches its (old and slow) Tomahawks towards Russia or Russian forces, this launch will be instantly detected and hypersonic missiles (or, alternatively, underwater torpedoes) will get to the USN ships even before the Tomahawks get anywhere near their intended targets.  This is especially true for Crimea where Russia deployed a very modern and integrated air defense system capable of firing many more missiles than the USN ships can launch.  If the US wanted to really attack Russia, then it would take them many months to prepare itself for such a huge undertaking.

The US Americans are not stupid, they know that, and they have zero need for such a situation.

In theory, a “thin” forward deployed force can also serve as a “tripwire”, but not in this case: why would the Russians ever feel the need to sink ships which present no military danger and which they can always destroy in minutes?

Likewise, folks at the Pentagon know that even if they launched a massive attack on Russia, especially a nuclear one, the USA would cease to exist in just a few hours.

Again, both the Russians and the US Americans know that.

And, again, the intended audience are the clueless Ukies which now are preparing for a “crushing victory over Russia”.

This is why I don’t see any circumstances under which the US would deliberately attack Russia (though a mistake or a quick escalation is always possible) and that is why I see a Ukie attack/provocation as inevitable (the Ukronazis in Kiev really have nothing at all to lose).

BTW – the EU is also gearing up for such a situation, already demonizing Russia even more than it has for the last decades.  The 3B+PU are in full martial hysteria mode, especially the Poles who realize that triggering a war involving Russia is pretty much their last chance to remain of some relevance to the real Europe.  And since Uncle Shmuel is putting pressure on the Europeans to fall in line, there are really very few European politicians who dare oppose the current verbal escalation against Russian (and Belarus).

Finally, the situation around Belarus is very dangerous indeed, as any local violence could quickly involve both Belarussian and Polish forces (along with a few NATO tripwire units).  In that case, the adults in the room (Russia and the USA) would need to very quickly intervene to contain the situation and de-escalate.  Since I do not believe that the US wants a war with Russia, I think that this is exactly what both sides would do.

So where are we headed?  In my opinion, towards a crushing Russian military victory over whatever the Ukies throw at her followed by a no less crushing US political victory over the EU and Russia.  The Ukies will be used as canon-fodder and they will lose some territory again (thereby getting rid of a population which hates them and which will never vote for the Ukronazis).  The EU will have to fall in line behind Uncle Shmuel and the ruling classes of the Empire will finally get what they wanted all along: a very tense confrontation with Russia which they will then exploit to keep the Europeans nice and subservient.  That is also the last option available to the Empire to shut down NS2.

Putin has announced that he will not order any special Russian military exercises in the Black Sea (which the MoD suggested).  He did that for two very good reasons, one official one not so much:

  • Official reason: we are the good guys, so we will de-escalate as much as possible
  • Real reason: there is not need for any maneuvers at all, every US/NATO ship/aircraft is already tracked and the Russians can sink (or shoot them down) from their current position and state of alert.
The USN task force as seen on the displays of the Admiral Essen frigate

Besides, the US ships are already shadowed by the missile cruiser Moskva and the Admiral Essen frigate anyway, along with several advanced diesel-electric multi-purpose submarines.

The Kremlin is working very hard on trying to de-escalate all this, but it takes two to tango.  The party which has the most to lose from all this would be the EU, but it is run by pliable and incompetent politicians who have no understanding, no vision and no spine.  They won’t make a difference.

As for the people of the Ukraine, who will really lose more than anybody else, they have shown almost no ability to fight the Nazis in power.  If anything, a state of war would make it even EASIER for the Nazis to deal with any and all opposition.

Hope dies last, and maybe some behind the scenes discussions between the USA and Russia can defuse the current standoff, but I am not very hopeful here.  At least we know that the US and Russia are talking to each other on the highest levels, which is by definition preferable to a shooting war.

We have been on the brink in the past, will we cross over this time around?

I honestly don’t know.

Andrei

Eva Bartlett: About me, update

November 9, 2021

moi

Hi folks,

Since some of you may have come across me in recent years/months/weeks…I’m sharing my “about” section, filled with links to my journalism & activism from 2007 on, in occupied Palestine, Syria, Venezuela, the Donbass and elsewhere.

Perhaps you’ve come across me regarding my reporting from Syria, and maybe haven’t read about the things I witnessed & documented in occupied Palestine, particularly in my three years in Gaza (spanning from late 2008 to early 2013, including 2 Israeli massacres of the people of Gaza and many daily Israeli terrorism bombings that never make the “news”, as well as working with farmers and coming under Israeli live fire (which also doesn’t make the news), and the brutal effects of Israel’s draconian siege on Gaza.

In any case, read here for more on my earlier reporting (sadly, it is still very pertinent today, the situation in Gaza even worse than when I wrote about it 10 years ago, and still out of the headlines…).

Check here for my Linktree–links to various media platforms, since censorship is so rampant.

Join my Telegram channel, where I share news from a variety of other sources & channels.

And thank you to all who support in any way!

Why I see a war in the Donbass as (almost) inevitable

October 29, 2021

Why I see a war in the Donbass as (almost) inevitable

First, I want to present the parties to the conflict and describe their intermediate objectives and final goals

EntityIntermediate objectiveGoal
The USA+UK+3B+PForce Russia to openly interveneRecover total control of Europe
The EU (mostly northern)Force Russia to openly interveneDeflect blame from its own leaders and failures
The Nazi regime in KievForce Russia to openly interveneCut-off the disloyal eastern Ukraine and retain political control of the rest of the country
The LDNRSurvive until Russia intervenesIntegrate with Russia
RussiaPrevent any escalationPartition the Ukraine

The first thing we notice is that three of the main actors (USA+UK+3B+P+EU+U) want to force Russia to intervene.  Why? Because as I have written a million times already, the goal is not to defeat Russia militarily, the goal is to defeat Russia politically.  Any Russian intervention will be used by the Anglos to “prove” that “NATO is vital for European security” and for the 3B+PU gang to prove its utility to their Anglo masters.

As for the Nazi regime in Kiev, it main goal is to survive, blame the destruction of the Ukraine on Russia and to get rid of disloyal territories.  The fact that these eastern Ukrainian territories would be liberated and/or recognized by Russia would allow the Ukronazis to declare an eternal state of emergency, destroy whatever little is left from the opposition by calling them “traitors/collaborators” and to blame any internal problems on Russia.

For the LDNR things are much simpler, in a stark way: they need to be capable of surviving long enough until Russia is forced to intervene.

Now let’s look at what the outcomes the main parties want to avoid:

EntityWhat to avoidWhy
The USA+UK+3B+PAn open war with RussiaUnwinnable and potentially suicidal
The EU (mostly northern)An open war with RussiaUnwinnable and potentially suicidal
The Nazi regime in KievLDNR survival without a Russian interventionPolitically suicidal
The LDNRA quick Ukronazi breakthrough their linesIt would be a bloodbath
RussiaAn open war with the USTaking control over much/must of the UkraineUnwinnable and potentially suicidalEconomically suicidal

Now we can look at what “tools” each side has

Entity“Tools”Desired effect
The USA+UK+3B+PProvide weapons and PR supportEncourage the Ukronazis to escalate
The EU (mostly northern)Provide weapons and PR supportEncourage the Ukronazis to escalate
The Nazi regime in KievEscalateForce Russia to intervene
The LDNRSurvive until Russia intervenesIntegrate with Russia
RussiaDelay any open intervention for as long as possibleIntegrate with only the eastern Ukraine

It is absolutely crucial to keep the following things in mind:

  • Neither the Ukronazis nor their bosses in the West believe for even half a second that the Ukraine can win militarily.  They all *know* that the LDNR+Russia will win any military confrontation, and it is their goal to secure a bloody Ukrainian defeat.
  • The main target of the current strategic PSYOP are not the Russians, but the Ukrainian people: by telling them that a) you now have super dooper Wunderwaffen and b) we got your back, the West wants to convince the Ukrainians that they are safe from an outcome like 08.08.08.
  • The Russians *know* that this is a trap.  The problem is that with every passing month the Ukraine acquires more and more capabilities to, no, not defeat Russia, but to force Russia to take the bait.  Remember their idiotic attempt at forcing their way under the Crimean Bridge?  Well, this entire Bayraktar thing (whatever this really was) is exactly the same, but unlike the Ukie Navy which does not exist, there are between 6-12 (depending on sources) Bayraktars available to the Ukraine, with a range of 150km and a weapons range of 8km.  If and when future Bayraktars eventually fail, as they will, then the Ukies could use even outdated cruise of tactical-operational missiles.  In other word, and only in this sense, time is on the Ukie side: the more the West provides them with toys to provoke (as opposed to win), the worse the internal situation, the more incentive they have to do something really provocative.

In the last couple of days, I advocated for a no-fly zone over the LDNR.  I still do.  But I need to clarify the following:

Any Russian no-fly zone over the LDNR will be used by the West to send Ukies in harms way, thereby, again, to escalate the conflict.  Yes, a no-fly zone would buy Russia more time, but does she still need more time and, if yes, how much?

I don’t think so.  Yes, between 2013 and 2021 Russia vitally needed time to prepare for any contingency.  But now I think that any further delays would be counter-productive: it will make Russia look weak and hesitant and providing no objective benefits (not military not political).  Militarily, economically and politically, Russia is now stronger than she ever was in a very long time.

Frankly, the entire Ukrainian issue is just the tip of a much bigger political iceberg: it appears that, once again, the united West needs to get a brutal smackdown (political and military) from Russia.  I want to illustrate the Russian approach with the following personal recollection:

Many years ago, in 1993, I spent a entire night talking to two officers of a special forces unit whose main mission was to protect Russian nuclear weapons not by passive, static, defenses, but by proactive counter-infiltration methods: they would not stand guard around the weapons, but they would do what an attacker would do: hide in its proximity and try to detect any intruder even before he got anywhere near the Russian nukes.  They mentioned their training and one of them said this: “yes, sure, we study martial arts, but for us to run around a hot room in a Karategi or in shorts (he was referring to the typical outfit Karate or MMA fighters wear) makes no sense.  Our terrain is the Taiga, thus we need to train fight, even hand to hand, in full winter combat gear with backpack, weapons, ammo, food, radios and more (50kg easily).  In this terrain, which only we are truly trained to survive, we can run circles around any super dooper western special forces intruders, we can watch them slowly die without even engaging them and then, when they will be too weak, exhausted and desperate to even move, we will come out and just spit at them, without even having to fire one bullet“.

1000 years of existential warfare have taught the Russians to take their time, even a long time, to wait until their enemy is at its weakest and you are at your strongest before engaging him.  But that approach has its potentially negative aspect: it won’t work against an enemy who was not send in to win, but who was sent in to lose.

If your enemy is dead set on losing, then you really have no choice other than the choice of how/when to defeat him.

Furthermore, the Ukies are not the enemy, they have no agency, the real enemy is the West and it is this collective West which Russia must defeat, not its Ukrainian cannon-fodder.

Even if the Russian succeed in, somehow, getting the Ukie back from the brink (which already happened twice in the past), this only guarantees that the next time around the Ukies will come up with an even more “provocative provocation”.  So why wait any further?

So the real battle is not for the LDNR or the Ukraine, it is a battle for the future of the European continent.  Russia needs to do what she did to Georgia in 08.08.08 not “just” to the Ukronazis in Kiev, but even more so to their patrons in the US and EU.  Yes, the Ukie military must be de-fanged, but in such a way which would force the EU leaders to come back to their senses and give up their current war (80% informational, 15% economic and 5% kinetic) against Russia.

Every century or so, the rulers of Europe like to unite to take on Russia.  The past teaches them nothing because they are too narcissistic and too ideological to see that they are the ideological heir of Napoleon and Hitler (and many others before these two).

I don’t see any options left for the Kremlin but to “remind” these western ruling elites of how their previous attempts ended, and they need to do so not by words, or even by military exercises inside Russia, but by action, clear, unambiguous and observable actions.  Nothing short of that kind of action will bring the western ruling classes back to reality.

Andrei

PS: I have been listening/reading the Russian corporate/social media and there is A LOT of talk about “enough is enough”.  Interestingly, talk show hosts are also expressing their frustration with what they see as a non-existing response from the Kremlin.  With each Ukie provocation, the percentage of Russians who say “now that’s enough!” rises.  Might this be the explanation for the Kremlin’s lack of action?  Are they waiting until the percentage of Russian in favor of direct action reaches a certain level?

PPS: so far there STILL is no evidence whatsoever that the Ukies conducted a Bayraktar strike in the LDNR.

PPPS: Just to clarify, when I mean that Russia needs to act, I am not talking hours or days, but weeks and months.  But no more than that.

PPPPS: The Pentagon is now asking all EU colonies to sell lethal weapon systems to the Ukraine.

Related

Crying wolf in the Ukraine (again)

Crying wolf in the Ukraine (again)

THE SAKER • JULY 5, 2021 

I have to admit that before I sat down to write this column I had some misgivings: I thought “not another article warning about a potential explosion in the Ukraine! Not again!”. And yet, events on the ground are what they are and ignoring them under the pretext that I am fed up “crying wolf” again and again is not a wise solution either. I will try to keep it short though. First, let me provide you a quick summary of what has been happening in the Ukraine since my last column about the Ukraine on June 28th.

As most of you know, NATO and the Ukraine have been conducting maneuvers on the Black Sea, air and land called “Sea Breeze”. This is nothing new, but this year these maneuvers attracted more countries than usual, as you can see for yourself.

Officially, 32 countries from six continents providing 5,000 troops, 32 ships, 40 aircraft, and 18 special operations and dive teams are participating in this exercise: Albania, Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, France, Georgia, Greece, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Morocco, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Romania, Senegal, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and the United States. Kristina Kvien, the chargé d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, declared that “USS Ross‘ participation in this year’s Sea Breeze maritime exercise is a tangible demonstration of U.S. support for Ukraine and is necessary now more than ever (…) it is part of the enduring commitment that the United States and our NATO Allied and partner nations have made since 1997 to enhance maritime security in the Black Sea”.

Now here are a few examples of what the Ukies are saying:

  • Let’s see if the accursed Mokal’s will dare to shoot at the Ross which (at least according to the Ukies) can sink the entire Russian Black Sea Fleet with one salvo of its super-dooper Tomahawk missiles.
  • The Ukraine now has missiles which can bring down the bridge over the Kerch Strait.
  • The USA is delivering us fast attack boats while Turkey is giving us Bairaktar drones – with those we will liberate Crimea and the Donbass from the accused Moskal’.
  • The Ukrainian military is now the best in Europe (in fact, it protects the entire EU from assaults by the Russian hordes) and it will make minced meat of the Russians for sure the next time around.
  • In their current format, the Minsk Agreements are dead and we will never implement them. If the Moskal’ refuse to amend them then we also have a plan B: to build a big wall and totally cut all our ties with Russia. Either that, or we will liberate Crimea and the Donbass manu militari!
  • The next time the accursed Moskal’ try to prevent a Ukie vessel from traversing the Kerch Strait we will sink any force trying to stop us.

Keep in mind that all TV channels which are not controlled by Ze have now been banned. The Ukie Rada passed a law declaring that Russians are not native to the Ukraine (makes me wonder where they came from, outer space I suppose). All the main leaders of the rather uninspiring opposition are constantly harassed or even kept under house arrest. All this is to say that the insane examples of what the Ukronazis are saying above is not some minority of hardcore delusional Ukronazis – this is what many of the members of the party of Ze (and others!) are openly saying 24/7.

Now, let’s cut to the chase and see what is really going on!

PartyOfficial position
Official White HouseWe want to contain Russia, maintain a dialog where it is in the interests of the USA and we will defend our friends and values in the region and the whole world
US/NAT/EU officialsWe will resist any Russian provocation or use of force, we have the means to force Russia to renounce her plans to rebuild the Soviet Union.
UkronazisThe world is with us. Russia is weak and isolated. The US, NATO and our invincible military will teach a painful lesson to the Russian bear which really belongs East of the Urals (the latter are the natural border between the EU and China). We are now rehearsing the liberation of Crimea with our allies.
RussiansJust try

Let’s sum this up: while the top US officials have not held the same kind of language as the US, UK and Dutch Navy officers on their ships last week, it is pretty clear that one of two things will happen: either NATO will try to “poke the bear” or they won’t.

  • In the first case, NATO will have looked like it “blinked” and that for all its posturing, NATO is afraid of taking on Russia.
  • In the second case, Russia will sink a NATO ship (or shoot down a NATO aircraft) and if NATO does not repost, it will have blinked, hard and with both eyes.

Both of these outcomes are highly undesirable for the US, NATO or the Empire. These outcomes are also bad news for the EU (which cannot afford to lose NS2 to some silly three letter agency provocation against Russia).

The main problem is that many western officials have declared urbi et orbi that “the civilized world (by that we mean “us” of course) has not recognized the Russian annexation of Crimea and, therefore, we don’t recognize the waters off Crimea as legit Russian waters”. This must have sounded really cool to the first simpletons who declared this, but the Ukies and their UK+3B+PU have immediately, and logically (in their own simple-minded way), declared “okay, great! Prove it by ignoring the Russian warnings and send something across this Russian “red line” to prove to the world that you are not only bark and no bite”. In other words, this is yet another iteration of a favorite challenge amongst US teenagers: “and whatcha gonna do about it?”.

Frankly, this is a legit question. And the US/NATO have until July 10th (this Saturday) to answer it. Okay, I guess they could also answer it after Sea Breeze 2021 is over, but since US Americans (and their clueless NATO counterparts) believe that coalition warfare is the way to victory (in reality, it is a way to defeat, as I have explained it in this article) and the real leaders of the Empire also believe that large coalitions offer a veneer of legitimacy (they don’t, as only a UNSC Resolution can) to their (imperialistic and illegal) actions with lots of small Tabaquis to make it all look kosher.

Furthermore, in the Ukronazi media the SeaBreeze 2021 is presented like this: “hey, Moskal’, it is way easier to threaten a small Ukrainian vessel than to take on NATO!!! Right?! If you just move, we will kick your asses from the Black Sea to Siberia (where you belong!)”; and the conclusion, “we are invincible, NATO is invincible, the US is invincible and the entire civilized world, which is also invincible, is against you”.

As for the clueless (and spineless and brainless) EU leaders, they talk about “containing” Russia by interacting with her “from a position of force”. In other words, this is what is really happening now: NATO encourages the Ukraine to try something, the Ukraine encourages NATO to try something, and both sides take a great deal of (quite misplaced) pride in ignoring not only the Russian warnings, but also the Russian capabilities.

I should also mention that much of the imperial propaganda machine (aka “the free press”) is also hyping the expectations of those who still take them seriously. Their message: “our invincible navies will kick the Russian bear in the ass and teach him a lesson”. Rah! Rah! Rah!

In other words: unless the US/NATO/Ukies trigger some kind of incident, the US/NATO/Ukies will lose face by the 11th of this month.

As for Putin, this is what he had to say recently when asked about the risks of a major war:

“Here is what I would like to say. You said that this put the world on the brink of a global war. No, of course, not. Even if we had sunk that ship, it is nevertheless difficult to imagine that this would have put the world on the brink of a third world war because those who did this know they could not win a war like that. This is very important.”

Pretty clear, no?

Putin will come under a lot of pressure, and even outright anger, if he does not back his words with some real action. This is an election year and the Kremlin simply cannot afford being all bark and no bite.

Last, but not least, from a geostrategic/military point of view, the Russian military cannot afford to ignore NATO’s actions.

Conclusion: alas, only more crying wolf…

Crying wolf is a very unthankless task, and in the case of the Nazi-occupied Ukraine, this is made even worse by the fact that every time the wolf fails to show up, an increasing number of people get used to the idea that the wolf (or bear) turned into a demure and fully tamed koala.

We shall soon find out which side will “blink” and which one won’t.

Related

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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.

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