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

Source

The Transcript follows.

Update : October 24th

The formal transcript is now complete

Update : October 23rd

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

Fyodor Lukyanov: Friends,

Guests of the Valdai Club,

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

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

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

Ladies and gentlemen,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friends, colleagues,

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

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

Thank you very much.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sam, please.

Sam Charap: Hello, Mr. President,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

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

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

Thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vladimir Putin: I see.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you very much.

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

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

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

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

Anatoly Torkunov: Mr President,

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you very much.

Hans-Joachim Spanger has joined us from Frankfurt.

Hans-Joachim Spanger: Mr President,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you very much.

We will stay in Europe for now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

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

Zhao Huasheng: Good afternoon, Mr President.

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

Piotr Dutkiewicz from Canada, please.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

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

Anton Roux, Please, go ahead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I expect it will all work.

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

Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you.

Alexander Rahr, please.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vladimir Putin: What time is it?

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

Vladimir Putin: No, we cannot. I agree.

Alexei Yekaikin: Thank you, Fyodor.

Good evening, Mr President.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you very much.

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

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

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

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

Vladimir Putin: My children, I rarely see them.

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

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

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

Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much for hosting this.

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

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

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

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

Good luck to you. Thank you very much.

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

Vladimir Putin: Good-bye.

Is the US a Global Leader Anymore?

Is the US a Global Leader Anymore?

August 13, 2020

by Zamir Awan for the Saker Blog

Currently, the biggest challenge faced by the world is Pandemic. Outbreak early this year has engulfed the whole world. Indeed, the COVID-19 is not too fatal, yet due to its highly contagious nature, it has impacted society adversely. It is a new virus, a lot of studies are going on, especially on its cure and vaccines. Yet, nothing is commercially available; all such R&D is at the laboratory level. Either it is stage one or two or any other advanced stage, yet it might take some time to make the vaccine available at a commercial scale for everybody to be benefitted.

The number of CVID-19 cases has exceeded 20 million, with a death toll of around 750,000. The economic impact is even more visible. And some of the countries are already slipped into recession, while few are almost near to collapse. Social distance has made everyday life more difficult, people are losing jobs, businesses are suffering, and some of the markets have been closed.

At this challenging moment, the whole world was looking toward the US as a global leader to rescue them. Developing countries and underdeveloped countries were more miserable and was expecting much more from the US. Even the developed nations and well-advanced countries were also expecting some kind of assistance or help from the US.

Unfortunatetely, the US was the worst-hit country in the world, with the highest number of Coronavirus cases and the death toll. It was the time when the US can prove its global leadership role. NATO allies, other friendly countries were in award position, when the US showed cold shoulders.

It is entirely right; every country should look after its own interest and must say his own country first. But for a leader, one has to take everyone else along with and protect everyone.

Acknowledging the US’s global leadership, just after World War II (WWII), by launching the Marshal Program aimed to rebuild war-torn Europe was a successful model. As a result, the US gained a leadership role. But during the last couple of decades, the US policies witnessed a deviation from Global responsibilities.

The US was leaving International organizations and treaties, one after another, ignoring its global obligations and escaping from global responsibilities gradually.

  • In 1982, to maintain its maritime hegemony, the United States refused to sign the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), of which it is still not a party. It has created an imbalance of power in the global maritime and vulnerability.
  • In 1984, the United States formally withdrew from UNESCO, dissatisfied with the gradual erosion of its social control by developing countries. After returning to the Organization in 2003, it once again withdrew in 2017 on the so-called ground of saving funds and urging reform. UNESCO suffered a considerable loss in its routine functions. It has impacted the capabilities of the Organization adversely due to a shortage of funds.
  • In 1985, the United States refused to recognize the compulsory jurisdiction of the United Nations International Court of Justice (ICJ) after Nicaragua complained that US armed intervention violated its sovereignty. A message that the US was not sincere about global justice. As a matter of fact, the US was extensively involved in war-crimes and international terrorism and scared of convictions.
  • In 1995, the United States withdrew from the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and refused to pay arrears by claiming domestic budgetary constraints, damaging the global industrialization program. Yet increased its defense budget.
  • The United States has refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol since 2001, saying it was not in its national interest to meet relevant environmental obligations. By withdrawing, the US denied its responsibility in protecting the global environment. It should be noted that damaging the environment is a severe collective crime with humanity.
  • In 2001, the United States withdrew from the United Nations World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance after failing to prevent discussion of Israeli military action against Palestinians. Today, what is happening in the US is also the result of these policies.
  • In 2001, to strengthen its military advantage, the United States formally withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty signed by the United States and the Soviet Union in 1972. However, it gave supremacy to the US but created an arms race world-wide, forcing other nations to compete in the US.
  • In 2002, the United States withdrew from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, citing unfavorable terms for American soldiers, diplomats, and politicians. It was a message that the US did not feel globally obliged not to commit war crimes, espionage, the aggression of sovereign states, etc.
  • In 2017, the United States announced its formal withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) because it believed that multilateral trade agreements were not in its best interests and hindered its “America First” policy. Although the US is the largest economy of the world, it yet believes in unfair practices.
  • In 2017, the US government announced its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, aimed to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change, believing that it could hinder economic development. An irrational approach and wrong decision again.
  • In 2017, the United States withdrew from negotiations of the United Nations Global impact on Migration and cast votes against the UNGCM at the UN General Assembly.
  • In 2018, even though the IAEA confirmed Iran’s fulfillment of its JCPOA commitment and that the United States had no clear evidence to show Iran conducted nuclear tests in breach of the deal, the United States withdrew from the JCPOA, a deal that has been endorsed by the United Nations Security Council and re-imposed unilateral sanctions against Iran. This decision has damaged the US image adversely. Contaraily imposed irrational sanctions on Iran, making the lives of Iranian more miserable.
  • In 2018, the US announced its withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council, claiming it failed to protect human rights adequately. The current violence in the US may also be the outcome of this decision.
  • In 2018, the United States withdrew from the Optional Protocol to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, Concerning the Compulsory Settlement of Disputes relating to the jurisdiction of the ICJ in order to avoid a Palestinian complaint filed legitimately to the ICJ. It has caused a strong wave of anti-American sentiments in the Arab world.
  • In 2019, the United States withdrew from the INF Treaty to develop short- and medium-range missiles without restraint. Again a wrong decision at wrong timings, pushing the world toward developing more lethal weapons.
  • In 2020, under the pretext of alleged Russian violations of the Open Skies Treaty, the United States announced steps to exit the Treaty.
  • In 2020, the US government, looking for scapegoats for its botched response to COVID-19, announced its withdrawal from the World Health Organization. It should be noted that the United States still owes more than $200 million in assessed contributions. Will the US pay this sum before going out? Exactly, when WHO needs to be strengthened, the US decision harmed the Organization’s capabilities.

Notably, the Trump-Administration has focused only on “America First,” leaving the rest of the world ignored. The Pandemic has exposed Trump-administration’s policies further. Europe was suffering from COVID-19 and expecting that the US may come up with some kind of help and rescue. But, unfortunately, this was not in the minds of the Trump-Administration.

If the United States tries to escape from its global responsibilities, it may no longer enjoy the status of global leadership. The gap created by the US may be filled-in by some other powers. Enjoy authority, but with responsibilities!

Author: Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan, Sinologist (ex-Diplomat), Editor, Analyst, Non-Resident Fellow of CCG (Center for China and Globalization), National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Islamabad, Pakistan.

The U.S. Military Is the World’s Biggest Climate Destroyer. No to War and Occupation! No to Environmental Degradation

Emerging Dynamics of Antiwar and Climate Justice Movements

By Alison Bodine

Global Research, July 03, 2020

Talk by Alison Bodine at the United National Antiwar Coalition National Conference held from February 21–23, 2020, at the People’s Forum in New York City.

*** 

To begin, I hope everyone has been able to see actions across Canada in solidarity with the people of Wet’suwet’en media and social media lately, footage and their hereditary chiefs who are standing against a fracked gas, or what they call a “natural” gas pipeline, up in northern British Columbia. This struggle is part of my talk today, however, the focus of what I wanted to say is about the importance of bringing the anti-war movement and the climate justice movement together or anti-war organizers and the climate justice movement together.

The Devastating Human and Environmental Impact of War & Occupation 

I want to start with just three short examples of the impact of war on the environment that I think are very important to remember. 

On January 24th, over a million people protested in Iraq. The streets were full in Baghdad of people demanding the U.S. Out of Iraq Now! It was incredibly inspiring.

Iraq is a country that has been devastated for 17 years by U.S. led war and occupation. Over a million people have been killed, not to mention the millions who were killed before the war began in 2003 when the U.S. and the United Nations Security Council imposed severe sanctions between 1991 and 2003. Iraq is a devastated country where the U.S. has set up 500 big and small military bases throughout 17 years of occupation, and deployed countless bullets, bombs, chemical weapons, depleted uranium and burn pits filled with toxic plastics, heavy military machinery and shells of weaponry.

No wonder people in Iraq were demanding U.S. Out of Iraq Now! Because of the devastation that has been brought upon them. But I wanted to further centre our discussion on climate justice by talking about one example of what climate devastation and climate justice means to people in Iraq.

In 2010, the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health wrote an article where they reported a 38-fold increase in leukemia, a tenfold increase in breast cancer, and an infant mortality rate eight times higher than in neighboring Kuwait, following what had then been seven years of U.S. war and occupation in Iraq. A big cause of this could be linked to the chemical weapons used, and especially to depleted uranium, which has a half-life of 4.5 billion years. According to a 2007 report by the U.N. Environment Program, between 1000 and 2000 metric tons of depleted uranium were fired into Iraq.

The city of Nagasaki is shown as a teeming urban area, above, then as a flattened, desolate wasteland following the detonation of an atomic bomb, below. Circles indicate the thousands of feet from ground zero.

Now I will bring it back home to the U.S. and Canada. In Canada, an Indigenous Dené nation community in the Northwest Territories became known as the “Village of Widows” because men of the population died of cancers that they developed when mining for uranium. This was the same uranium that was used in the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As well, the radium and the uranium mines in the community released tailings into the lake and landfills. The devastating effects of this are still experienced in the community today.

That brings us to what has been said many times, importantly, in this conference already, which is that the U.S. Department of Defense is the world’s largest polluter. We are talking about 1.2 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases emitted annually. That is the equivalent of 257 million cars on the road for a year.

In Canada, the Department of National Defence also makes an enormous contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. A portion of this is through the fueling of the warplanes of Canada and other imperialist countries. The government of Canada is often claiming that they are not participating in U.S.-led wars, but then refueling all the jets that are dropping the bombs. The Canadian military provided 65 million pounds of fuel to refuel aircraft used in the bombing of Iraq and Syria between 2014 and 2019. This is incomparable, of course, to the fuel consumption of the vehicles that any of us here in this room drive.

The Department of Defense in the United States is the largest institutional consumer of fossil fuels. In Canada, the Department of National Defence is the largest consumer of petroleum and Canada’s largest landholder.

This is added to the continued environmental and human impact of chemical and radioactive weapons such as Agent Orange and depleted uranium. Also, the military bases of the United States and its allies around the world persist in poisoning and in polluting.

Another topic to talk about that is important to the discussion about environment and war is military emissions, because specific sources of greenhouse gases are excluded from federal reduction targets due to their important role in “ensuring the national safety and security of all Canadians” — as Canada’s previous environment minister, Catherine McKenna, justified why the declared emissions of the Department of National Defence in Canada has never been counted in Canada’s emission reduction targets.

Military emissions are explicitly stated as excluded in the targets set by the 2015 United National Paris agreements. Under these agreements, countries are “required,” as much as the Paris agreements can “require” anything, to report on their military emissions. Still, countries are not obligated or encouraged to do anything to reduce them. In the international climate agreements that proceeded with the Paris agreement, the Kyoto Accords, military emissions were not even part of the discussion. Military emissions continue to be considered a so-called necessary expense for our planet.

Then, there is the issue of military budgets. For example, the world’s biggest military budget ever has been passed yet again in the United States recently. Instead of being spent on human and environmental destruction, this money could go towards climate justice, meaning health care, education, jobs, public transit, and more.

As Martin Luther King Junior said, and I think this is a good quote for us to use when talking about the environment and war,

“Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.”

So, where is the technology that we need to save our planet earth now? 

The War at Home: Wet’suwet’en & the Struggle for Indigenous Rights 

The wars abroad by imperialist countries such as the U.S. and Canada are also carried out against people at home. And I think every once in a while, there are these escalated times when that reality can shake oppressed people and their very foundations. And that has happened with Indigenous people in Canada over the past few weeks.

There is a war against Indigenous people in Canada. There has been since the colonisation of Indigenous land. The Canadian state has the same roots as the United States of genocide, residential schools, and reservation systems. This history and the current reality of colonization are reflected in the mobilization of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en today. 

It is important to understand that one year ago, the RCMP -the Canadian national police- first invaded the territory of the Wet’suwet’en people, and they kept a detachment there for an entire year. Then this January is when things escalated again because the RCMP moved further into the territory and cleared people off of a road to make way for the development of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, which is in violation of the demands of the Wet’suwet’en people. British Columbia is an unceded territory. No treaties, in 92 percent of the land, were ever signed. So hereditary chiefs and their system of governance are law in those unceded territories. 

The Coastal GasLink pipeline is fracked gas. There has been a lot of talk, specifically in the Province of British Columbia about how the Coastal GasLink pipeline is going to “replace coal for the world,” and at the same time, not have a big impact on greenhouse gas emissions. However, the impact of “natural gas” emissions can only be considered minor when you ignore the methane and poisons that are released when it is extracted and considering that when it is burned, Canada does not have to count those emissions targets. 

It is Time to Unite the Antiwar and Climate Justice Movement

That brings me to my final point, which is about bringing together the anti-war movement with the climate justice movement. One way to do this is by making sure “self-determination for oppressed nations, including Indigenous nations!” is always part of our demands. This has always been part of our demands within Mobilization Against War and Occupation (MAWO) and MAWO has consistently brought this demand to the cross-border movement that we would like to strengthen and build together, including with this conference. 

I think there are four strategies and demands that we need to bring into our antiwar, anti-pollution, and anti-imperialist movement. The first is that we must build a movement that is against imperialist war and occupation. Today, we live in what we in MAWO call “the new era of war and occupation,” which is the never-ending wars that started in 2001, that we are all coming together to organize against. This era is characterized by a campaign to regain hegemony in the Middle East, North Africa, and Latin America by capitalist countries that are facing a grave economic crisis and a rapid falling rate of profit. These countries are on the war path to gain new markets and resources, which means more killing of our planet. 

Secondly, self-determination for oppressed nations, as I said, must be part of our work, from Indigenous and Black people, to oppressed countries under attack and occupation. This important demand calls on us to have strategical unity against any occupation, domestic or international. We cannot just be talking about the U.S. occupying other countries but also what it means when there are oppressed nations within the U.S. and Canada borders.

Thirdly, we need to fight for a world without NATO and U.S. military bases, because of the environmental pollution and also because of the way that the United States uses these bases to increase their wars and occupations and consequently further ecological degradation.

Lastly, I think the environmental struggle ties into the movement against sanctions and blockades, which are war. These attacks do not allow countries to develop their economies or to use their resources for the good of their people. Sanctions and blockades enforce the hegemony of the world’s biggest corporations, which are also the world’s biggest polluters.

If we combine these four pillars, which bring together the war at home and abroad, this is how we can build an anti-imperialist movement, how we can move from just being against war to also being against imperialism. I think we cannot build an effective anti-war movement without centralizing and emphasizing the slogan of self-determination for all oppressed nations.

I will say that I think this slogan of self-determination for all oppressed nations is as important as “Workers of the world unite,” from Marx and Engels.

People of oppressed nations face war and occupation and the denial of self-determination, which unites them in the fight against imperialism. The common struggle that unites workers is their exploitation by the capitalist class and the denial of their rights.

Within the antiwar and the climate justice movement, we must also emphasize that we are building an international movement, one that is also internationalist in character. The struggles of people against massive resource extraction projects are similar in Standing Rock in North Dakota or the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. The struggle for a sustainable world requires international cooperation between oppressed people. It requires solidarity and, more importantly, unity across borders to become powerful and effective. 

There are many opportunities for antiwar activists to bring the antiwar movement to the climate justice movement. There were massive protests around the world in September 2019; over 9 million people participated in global climate strike actions. And I think we need to continue to take advantage of that mobilization on the streets. We need to strategically bring the antiwar movement and the environmental movement together. Fighting against war is fighting against the degradation of the environment and fighting for climate justice is fighting against war and occupation. We are in an era of history that these two causes have become two struggles for one purpose, to save our lives and the planet.

I think we are now facing the opportunity to build a better and sustainable world. We must not feel inactive or depressed about the climate crisis or endless wars and occupations around us. In the face of this devastation, we have no choice but to take up the call and fight back.

People marching on the streets today against climate change can also be very capable of understanding that it is not just a clean planet we are fighting for. It will not matter if we have a clean planet if the earth is still full of poverty and human suffering and wars and occupations. The antiwar and climate justice movement now more than ever has one cause: Save the planet.

United we will win!

*

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First printed in Fire This Time Newspaper Volume 14, Issue 3–5: www.firethistime.net

Alison Bodine is a social justice activist, author and researcher in Vancouver, Canada. She is  the Chair of Vancouver’s peace coalition Mobilization Against War and Occupation (MAWO) and a central organizer with the grassroots climate justice coalition Climate Convergence in Vancouver, Canada. Alison is also on the Editorial Board of the Fire This Time newspaper. 

Featured image is from The GrayzoneThe original source of this article is Global ResearchCopyright © Alison Bodine, Global Research, 2020

Visions of a Post-Covid-19 World

Source

by JOHN DAVIS

Photograph Source: Isengardt – CC BY 2.0

While most of us sit at home, the planet continues to warm – polar ice melts, oceans acidify, glaciers disappear, and seas rise. Plants, animals, and humans continue to be displaced from their accustomed habitats. Life in our climatological greenhouse goes on, but now, one of a trillion microbial species has our attention.

Zoonotic infections, exacerbated by urban development pushing ever further into the remaining wildlands of the world, where fauna and humanity newly comingle, are symptomatically allied to global warming. The Covid-19 pandemic is a late manifestation of ‘The Great Acceleration’, the era of unprecedented human expansion that was initiated post-WWII and has continued into this century – fueled by new technologies and a vastly expanded utilization of fossil energy. Infections are now rapidly disseminated – as the spawn of globalization – on airliners burning kerosene, and cruise ships and freighters burning diesel fuel, across global trade and tourism routes.

Accustomed to fire, flood, drought, extreme temperatures, crop failures, desertification, and the increased incidence of hurricanes and storm surges, either through direct experience or, more often, through the media, the link between the burning of fossil fuels and global warming has effectively infiltrated human consciousness – even as it continues to be fiercely denied by some. This consciousness must now expand to include these connections between fossil fuels and viral pandemics.

Since the mid-1970s, with the advent of computerized climate models, it has been scientifically irrefutable that increased CO2 levels are warming the world in life-threatening ways.  For that almost fifty-year span, we, as individuals, communities, nations and international organizations have sat on our collective hands. Action, in the form of remediation, has been characterized by its absence – the void only breached by broken promises, betrayals, futile bureaucratic machinations, and outright denials of the foundational premise for its necessity.

This spring, a plot twist unfolded in this dispiriting and stultifying saga. While we, perforce, sit at home, inured to many decades of sleep-walking towards the climate apocalypse, the skies cleared, the price of oil dropped to negative $40 a barrel (rebounding to just short of positive $20 at the time of writing) and a global reduction in carbon emissions of nearly 8% is forecast for the year. We are living the dream of effectively confronting our egregious consumption of fossil fuels. From a global warming perspective, our social isolation has been highly efficacious – the pernicious, growth-driven habits of exploitation, extraction and habitat destruction have been put on hold. A window has opened to a less polluted, less traveled, less rapidly warming, and healthier world, albeit one in which the enduring human susceptibility to viral disease has again been exposed.

While the global pandemic has put everyone at risk, the most vulnerable are the elderly, the ill, the obese, the economically distressed, the inadequately housed and the homeless, minorities, the institutionalized and all those who occupy lands governed by the inept and the venal. Across the globe, the frontline communities which suffer the ‘first and worst’ impacts of global warming are similarly devastated by Covid-19.  Yet, at a biological level, the SARS-CoV-2 virus practices rigorous non-discriminatory levels of infection.  Wealth and circumstance can only confer certain levels of protection, to which the daily obituaries attest – none of us is safe. Despite those many exposed to extreme levels of risk by the inequities of their lives, our common humanity is emphasized by our shared vulnerability to this mutated bat virus.

To recapitulate: societal response to the pandemic has slowed the frantic pace of economic activity, largely driven by the one-time energy bonus of unearthed fossil biomass, first realized in the mid nineteenth century but risen to an unprecedented frenzy since the 1950’s. This respite has moderated the climatological blow-back of a carbon-laden atmosphere. The wealth generated by fossil capital has been distributed with extreme prejudice. It has accrued to the rich (made wealthy in former times by land, inheritance, and, in the U.S. and its trading partners, by slavery) and has exacerbated those gross inequalities of power, resources and well-being originally institutionalized in feudal societies and then spread around the world through the process of colonization and conquest.

The subtext of global warming is thus exposed as the ever-widening gulf between the world’s obscenely rich and its metastasizing poor. The recent microbial intervention is revealed as a potential inflexion point in both global warming and wealth disparity.  Still wrapped in the cocoon of social isolation and stunned by the sudden freeze of economic activity, we can now ponder the form society will assume upon its emergence from these unprecedented changes of state. Jason Moore in, Capitalism in the Web of Life, 2015, writes, “Civilizations do not form through Big Bang events. They emerge from cascading transformations and bifurcation of human activity…” He suggests that capitalism “…emerged from the chaos that followed the epochal crisis of feudal civilization after the Black Death, (1347-1353).” What will emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic?

Broadly, there appear to be two competing visions. One favors a return to the status quo ante, a restoration of the old evils for the continued benefit of a tiny minority confident in their ability to ride out the coming climate cataclysm and escape the coming plagues. The other sees the potential for ‘cascading transformations’ that might lead to greater equality, opportunity and increased well-being for the majority in a world that eschews fossil fuels, moderates the escalating impacts of global warming and pulls back from rapacious habitat destruction and its concomitant exposure to novel zoonotic diseases. Recent history suggests the former vision, with little or no consideration of the latter, will prevail. The moment of clarity, expressed in climate and consciousness, will pass and progressives will resume their regular, but now carefully washed, handwringing.

The bank bailouts of 2008, after the financial crash initiated by the mortgage derivatives melt-down, will likely provide the template for the U.S. and other first-world countries re-starting their economies. Old fossil-fuel dependent heavy industries will be revived, airlines resurrected, factory-farming jump-started, the auto industry saved from bankruptcy, the oil industry revivified, and a new era of deregulation birthed – all justified by the economic crisis.

George Monbiot in his weekly Environment column for the U.K. Guardian suggests,

“This is our second chance to do things differently. It could be our last. The first in 2008, was spectacularly squandered. Vast amounts of public money were spent reassembling the filthy old economy, while ensuring that wealth remained in the hands of the rich. Today, many governments seem determined to repeat the catastrophic mistake.”

In the U.S. we can be sure that Trump will promote the feeding of the zombie economy with massive quantities of public monies and celebrate its every flicker of life as it slowly lumbers back to its accustomed habits of growth, pollution and the advertising propaganda that fuels our  search for identity and social meaning through consumption. The Club of Rome, the distinguished international think-tank that published its seminal report, The Limits to Growth, in 1972, suggests an alternative,

“Covid-19 has shown us that overnight transformational change is possible. A different world, a different economy is suddenly dawning. This is an unprecedented opportunity to move away from unmitigated growth at all costs and the old fossil fuel economy, and deliver a lasting balance between people, prosperity and our planetary boundaries.”

In the Netherlands, more than seventy academics have co-signed, Five Proposals for a Post-Covid-19 Development Model.  Leiden University’s web site, where this document originated, has, for the moment gone off-line, perhaps hacked or over-loaded. Its first proposal call for a move away from development focused on aggregate GDP, suggesting that degrowth should be applied to extractive industries and advertising, while growth is encouraged in the health, education and clean energy sectors. Its second recommends a universal basic income funded from progressive taxation, along with job-sharing and a reduced work week. Its third proposes a regenerative transformation of agriculture, local food production and fair wages for farm workers. Its fourth focuses on the need to reduce travel and heedless consumption, and its fifth suggests debt forgiveness for students, workers, small business owners and impoverished nations in the Global South.

This standard wish-list of a progressive agenda would indeed fulfill the Club of Rome’s call for ‘a lasting balance between people, prosperity and our planetary boundaries.’ Endless growth can only end in tears, yet our leaders are addicted to an expansionary economic model that continues to be fossil-fuel dependent. The extraordinary circumstances of a global stand-down as SARS-CoV-2 careens across the planet, has given us, amidst the appalling realities of viral sickness and death, a momentary vision of a saner, healthier, and a cooler world.

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John Davis is an architect living in southern California. Read more of his writing at urbanwildland.org  

Earth Day 2020: nature is a beneficiary of coronavirus

By Faranak Bakhtiari

April 21, 2020 – 16:58

TEHRAN – Human beings have put too much pressure on the Earth causing irreparable damage, however, with the onset of coronavirus outbreak, the planet seemed to prosper and relive the burden which was unprecedented over the past 50 years when the first Earth Day celebrated.

The planet is looking uninhabited these days as people across the world are sheltering in place and avoiding social gatherings to contain the spread of the virus.

The first cases of COVID-19 were identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, which has now spread to more than 210 countries, infecting nearly 2,495,296 people and killing more than 171,064. With large gatherings prohibited, businesses shut down and governments around the world ordering citizens to “stay at home,” the Earth has become so quiet and isolated but feeling much better.

This year, as the world celebrates the 50th anniversary of World Earth Day, the entire Earth is at its best condition in half a century, Mohammad Darvish, a member of the National Security Council for the environment, said.

Referring to the outbreak’s effect on the spread of the pollutants throughout the world, he noted that over the past two months, most people around the world have experienced unprecedented shocks, and for the first time in a row, greenhouse gas emissions, fossil fuel consumption, air, land and water traffic have dropped dramatically.

All of this has led to greenhouse gas emissions in March 2020 being the same as in the 1990s, 30 years ago, and this shows how much people’s lifestyles are at odds with what they call “global resilience,” he highlighted.

The declining human traffic in nature and the outdoor environment has significantly reduced the amount of noise pollution and earthquakes produced on Earth, making it easier for geologists to study the Earth’s outer crusts, he also noted.

He went on to say that about 3.5 billion people on the planet travel by train, car, plane, ship and other means of transportation every day. These movements and construction activities, mines and others are putting pressure on the Earth’s outer crust, but now, following the outbreak of the coronavirus, almost all of these operations and activities in the world have stopped. 

As a result, there is no human-caused quake, and geologists can more easily engage in geological activities and studies, he added.

Effect of coronavirus on ozone layer 

The most important component that caused the ozone layer to perforate was the use of chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) gases, which were used in refrigerators and sprays. Fortunately, these gases have not been used for many years, which is why the ozone layer has been repairing for more than a decade, Darvish stated.

The Montreal Protocol to the Vienna Convention, which recognizes the responsibility of countries to repair the ozone layer and has been one of the most successful environmental conventions, has saved the ozone layer, he also highlighted.

There are reports that the movement of satellites, aircraft, missiles and such activities could also affect the ozone layer, some of which have naturally declined sharply over the past two months, he said, adding, If the ozone layer did not get better over this period, it would continue with the same positive routine.

Biodiversity improves 

Pointing to the pandemic impact on wildlife, he stated that due to declining human presence in natural areas and habitats, living conditions of wildlife have improved dramatically.

He noted that the wildlife population of many countries has declined by 29 to 40 percent over the past decade; but in the wake of the epidemic, improvement and a consequent increase in wildlife populations indicates, which are considered positive.

One of the reasons for wildfires in rangeland and forests was camping and the presence of tourists in natural habitats, but now with the cessation of the tourism industry in most parts of the world, has sharply decreased, he also said.

‘On the other hand, we are facing an increase in the smuggling of wood by local communities, as earning income is much more difficult these days, due to the halt of the tourism industry and local businesses,” he lamented, adding, coal mining and illegal poaching is rising these days, which are extremely worrying.

Why human absence prospers nature?

Pointing out that protecting the planet is important to humans, and we need to maintain the best conditions on Earth after Coronavirus, he said that the pandemic has caused the earth to breathe deeply, and now the wise man is faced with the question that “why, when human activity as a member of the ecosystem decreases, not only does nothing happen, but the condition of nature improves.”

Think of bees being removed from nature. In this case, the integrity of the Earth’s environmental property, the reproduction of many species and humans themselves will be damaged, or if brown bears are removed, soil fertility will decrease, or if wild boars are removed, water permeability will decrease and floods will increase., he explained.

Therefore, there have been wise in the creation of all plant and animal species or even insects, and have contributed to the earth’s resilience, he emphasized.

Why has it now happened that man, who considers himself the best of creatures, that must be more responsible, has behaved in such a way that his absence is in favor of nature and the earth? 

I hope that such happening gives up a lesson to change our development programs in favor of nature and try to understand the laws of nature, instead of spending budgets on warfare, larger and more horrific weapons, he noted, implying that environmental research and health is now more essential as well as improvement of the education system so that in the post-corona crisis world we can appear wiser, more knowledgeable, and more responsible.

World Earth Day 2020

The first Earth Day took place in 1970. Outraged by oil spills, smog, and polluted rivers, 20 million people took to the streets, protesting what they recognized as an environmental crisis. It was the planet’s largest civic event at the time and compelled governments to take concrete actions, including passing environmental laws and establishing environmental agencies. In addition to these practical outcomes, the event demonstrated just how much can be achieved when people come together and demand action.

Selecting climate action as its theme, Earth Day 2020 was already poised to be a historic event. An occasion planned to bring people physically together across a series of events, COVID-19 has now prompted a dramatic shift to completely digital and virtual platforms.

Earth Day 2020 calls for 24 hours of actions, big and small, for people and the planet. On this 50th anniversary, civil society organizers hope to fill the world’s digital landscape with global conversations, positive acts, performances, webinars and events supporting urgent action on climate change.

As the world rushes to plan for a post-pandemic recovery, UNEP and other parts of the United Nations system see this as an opportunity to call attention to the need to “build back better.” The risks faced by ignoring the threats of environmental destruction must be understood and addressed with protections and policies. April 22 is a timely reminder to embrace the opportunities of the natural world for green jobs, sustainable economic stimulus, for urgently taking action to protect ourselves against unsurvivable global heating and for securing healthy, dignified futures.

FB/MG

A Lesson Coronavirus Is About to Teach the World

By Jonathan Cook

Global Research, March 19, 2020

If a disease can teach wisdom beyond our understanding of how precarious and precious life is, the coronavirus has offered two lessons.

The first is that in a globalised world our lives are so intertwined that the idea of viewing ourselves as islands – whether as individuals, communities, nations, or a uniquely privileged species – should be understood as evidence of false consciousness. In truth, we were always bound together, part of a miraculous web of life on our planet and, beyond it, stardust in an unfathomably large and complex universe. 

It is only an arrogance cultivated in us by those narcissists who have risen to power through their own destructive egotism that blinded us to the necessary mix of humility and awe we ought to feel as we watch a drop of rain on a leaf, or a baby struggle to crawl, or the night sky revealed in all its myriad glories away from city lights.

And now, as we start to enter periods of quarantine and self-isolation – as nations, communities and individuals – all that should be so much clearer. It has taken a virus to show us that only together are we at our strongest, most alive and most human.

In being stripped of what we need most by the threat of contagion, we are reminded of how much we have taken community for granted, abused it, hollowed it out. We are afraid because the services we need in times of collective difficulty and trauma have been turned into commodities that require payment, or treated as privileges to which access is now means-tested, rationed or is simply gone. That insecurity is at the root of the current urge to hoard.

When death stalks us it is not bankers we turn to, or corporate executives, or hedge fund managers. Nonetheless, those are the people our societies have best rewarded. They are the people who, if salaries are a measure of value, are the most prized.

But they are not the people we need, as individuals, as societies, as nations. Rather, it will be doctors, nurses, public health workers, care-givers and social workers who will be battling to save lives by risking their own.

During this health crisis we may indeed notice who and what is most important. But will we remember the sacrifice, their value after the virus is no longer headline news? Or will we go back to business as usual – until the next crisis – rewarding the arms manufacturers, the billionaire owners of the media, the fossil fuel company bosses, and the financial-services parasites feeding off other people’s money? 

‘Take it on the chin’ 

The second lesson follows from the first. Despite everything we have been told for four decades or more, western capitalist societies are far from the most efficient ways of organising ourselves. That will be laid bare as the coronavirus crisis deepens.

We are still very much immersed in the ideological universe of Thatcherism and Reaganism, when we were told quite literally: “There is no such thing as society.” How will that political mantra stand the test of the coming weeks and months? How much can we survive as individuals, even in quarantine, rather than as part of communities that care for all of us?Western leaders who champion neoliberalism, as they are required to do nowadays, have two choices to cope with coronavirus – and both will require a great deal of misdirection if we are not to see through their hypocrisy and deceptions.

Our leaders can let us “take it on the chin”, as the British prime minister Boris Johnson has phrased it. In practice, that will mean allowing what is effectively a cull of many of the poor and elderly – one that will relieve governments of the financial burden of underfunded pension schemes and welfare payments.

Such leaders will claim they are powerless to intervene or to ameliorate the crisis. Confronted with the contradictions inherent in their worldview, they will suddenly become fatalists, abandoning their belief in the efficacy and righteousness of the free market. They will say the virus was too contagious to contain, too robust for health services to cope, too lethal to save lives. They will evade all blame for the decades of health cuts and privatisations that made those services inefficient, inadequate, cumbersome and inflexible.

Or, by contrast, politicians will use their spin doctors and allies in the corporate media to obscure the fact that they are quietly and temporarily becoming socialists to deal with the emergency. They will change the welfare rules so that all those in the gig economy they created – employed on zero-hours contracts – do not spread the virus because they cannot afford to self-quarantine or take days’ off sick.

Or most likely our leaders will pursue both options.

Permanent crisis 

If acknowledged at all, the conclusion to be draw from the crisis – that we all matter equally, that we need to look after one another, that we sink or swim together – will be treated as no more than an isolated, fleeting lesson specific to this crisis. Our leaders will refuse to draw more general lessons – ones that might highlight their own culpability – about how sane, humane societies should function all the time. 

In fact, there is nothing unique about the coronavirus crisis. It is simply a heightened version of the less visible crisis we are now permanently mired in. As Britain sinks under floods each winter, as Australia burns each summer, as the southern states of the US are wrecked by hurricanes and its great plains become dustbowls, as the climate emergency becomes ever more tangible, we will learn this truth slowly and painfully. 

Those deeply invested in the current system – and those so brainwashed they cannot see its flaws – will defend it to the bitter end. They will learn nothing from the virus. They will point to authoritarian states and warn that things could be far worse. 

They will point a finger at Iran’s high death toll as confirmation that our profit-driven societies are better, while ignoring the terrible damage we have inflicted on Iran’s health services after years of sabotaging its economy through ferocious sanctions. We left Iran all the more vulnerable to coronavirus  because we wanted to engineer “regime change” – to interfere under the pretence of “humanitarian” concern – as we have sought to do in other countries whose resources we wished to control, from Iraq to Syria and Libya.

Iran will be held responsible for a crisis we willed, that our politicians intended (even if the speed and means came as a surprise), to overthrow its leaders. Iran’s failures will be cited as proof of our superior way of life, as we wail self-righteously about the outrage of a “Russian interference” whose contours we can barely articulate. 

Valuing the common good 

Those who defend our system, even as its internal logic collapses in the face of coronavirus and a climate emergency, will tell us how lucky we are to live in free societies where some – Amazon executives, home delivery services, pharmacies, toilet-paper manufacturers – can still make a quick buck from our panic and fear. As long as someone is exploiting us, as long as someone is growing fat and rich, we will be told the system works – and works better than anything else imaginable. 

But in fact, late-stage capitalist societies like the US and the UK will struggle to claim even the limited successes against coronavirus of authoritarian governments. Is Trump in the US or Johnson in the UK – exemplars of “the market knows best” capitalism – likely to do better than China at containing and dealing with the virus?

This lesson is not about authoritarian versus “free” societies. This is about societies that treasure the common wealth, that value the common good, above private greed and profit, above protecting the privileges of a wealth-elite.

In 2008, after decades of giving the banks what they wanted – free rein to make money by trading in hot air – the western economies all but imploded as an inflated bubble of empty liquidity burst. The banks and financial services were saved only by public bail-outs – tax payers’ money. We were given no choice: the banks, we were told, were “too big to fail”.We bought the banks with our common wealth. But because private wealth is our era’s guiding star, the public were not allowed to own the banks they bought. And once the banks had been bailed out by us – a perverse socialism for the rich – the banks went right back to making private money, enriching a tiny elite until the next crash.

Nowhere to fly to 

The naive may think this was a one-off. But the failings of capitalism are inherent and structural, as the virus is already demonstrating and the climate emergency will drive home with alarming ferocity in the coming years.

The shut-down of borders means the airlines are quickly going bust. They didn’t put money away for a rainy day, of course. They didn’t save, they weren’t prudent. They are in a cut-throat world where they need to compete with rivals, to drive them out of business and make as much money as they can for shareholders.

Now there is nowhere for the airlines to fly to – and they will have no visible means to make money for months on end. Like the banks, they are too big to fail – and like the banks they are demanding public money be spent to tide them over until they can once again rapaciously make profits for their shareholders. There will be many other corporations queuing up behind the airlines. 




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Sooner or later the public will be strong-armed once again to bail out these profit-driven corporations whose only efficiency is the central part they play in fuelling global warming and eradicating life on the planet. The airlines will be resuscitated until the inevitable next crisis arrives – one in which they are key players.

A boot stamping on a face

Capitalism is an efficient system for a tiny elite to make money at a terrible cost, and an increasingly untenable one, to wider society – and only until that system shows itself to be no longer efficient. Then wider society has to pick up the tab, and assist the wealth-elite so the cycle can be begun all over again. Like a boot stamping on a human face – forever, as George Orwell warned long ago.

But it is not just that capitalism is economically self-destructive; it is morally vacant too. Again, we should study the exemplars of neoliberal orthodoxy: the UK and the US.

In Britain, the National Health Service – once the envy of the world – is in terminal decline after decades of privatising and outsourcing its services. Now the same Conservative party that began the cannibalising of the NHS is pleading with businesses such as car makers to address a severe shortage of ventilators, which will soon be needed to assist coronavirus patients.

Once, in an emergency, western governments would have been able to direct resources, both public and private, to save lives. Factories could have been repurposed for the common good. Today, the government behaves as if all it can do is incentivise business, pinning hopes on the profit motive and selfishness driving these firms to enter the ventilator market, or to provide beds, in ways beneficial to public health.

The flaws in this approach should be glaring if we examine how a car manufacturer might respond to the request to adapt its factories to make ventilators.

If it is not persuaded that it can make easy money or if it thinks there are quicker or bigger profits to be made by continuing to make cars at a time when the public is frightened to use public transport, patients will die. If it holds back, waiting to see if there will be enough demand for ventilators to justify adapting its factories, patients will die. If it delays in the hope that ventilator shortages will drive up subsidies from a government fearful of the public backlash, patients will die. And if it makes ventilators on the cheap, to boost profits, without ensuring medical personnel oversee quality control, patients will die.

Survival rates will depend not on the common good, on our rallying to help those in need, on planning for the best outcome, but on the vagaries of the market. And not only on the market, but on faulty, human perceptions of what constitute market forces.

Survival of the fittest 

If this were not bad enough, Trump – in all his inflated vanity – is showing how that profit-motive can be extended from the business world he knows so intimately to the cynical political one he has been gradually mastering. According to reports, behind the scenes he has been chasing after a silver bullet. He is speaking to international pharmaceutical companies to find one close to developing a vaccine so the United States can buy exclusive rights to it.

Reports suggest that he wants to offer the vaccine exclusively to the US public, in what would amount to the ultimate vote-winner in a re-election year. This would be the nadir of the dog-eat-dog philosophy – the survival of the fittest, the market decides worldview – we have been encouraged to worship over the past four decades. It is how people behave when they are denied a wider society to which they are responsible and which is responsible for them.




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But even should Trump eventually deign to let other countries enjoy the benefits of his privatised vaccine, this will not be about helping mankind, about the greater good. It will be about Trump the businessman-president turning a tidy profit for the US on the back of other’s desperation and suffering, as well as marketing himself a political hero on the global stage.

Or, more likely, it will be yet another chance for the US to demonstrate its “humanitarian” credentials, rewarding “good” countries by giving them access to the vaccine, while denying “bad” countries like Russia the right to protect their citizens.

Obscenely stunted worldviewIt will be a perfect illustration on the global stage – and in bold technicolour – of how the American way of marketing health works. This is what happens when health is treated not as a public good but as a commodity to be bought, as a privilege to incentivise the workforce, as a measure of who is successful and who is unsuccessful.

The US, by far the richest country on the planet, has a dysfunctional health care system not because it cannot afford a good one, but because its political worldview is so obscenely stunted by the worship of wealth that it refuses to acknowledge the communal good, to respect the common wealth of a healthy society.

The US health system is by far the most expensive in the world, but also the most inefficient. The vast bulk of “health spending” does not contribute to healing the sick but enriches a health industry of pharmaceutical corporations and health insurance companies.

Analysts describe a third of all US health spending – $765 billion a year – as “wasted”. But “waste” is a euphemism. In fact, it is money stuffed into the pockets of corporations calling themselves the health industry as they defraud the common wealth of US citizens. And the fraudulence is all the greater because despite this enormous expenditure more than one in 10 US citizens has no meaningful health cover.

As never before, coronavirus will bring into focus the depraved inefficiency of this system – the model of profit-driven health care, of market forces that look out for the short-term interests of business, not the long-term interests of us all.

There are alternatives. Right now, Americans are being offered a choice between a democratic socialist, Bernie Sanders, who champions health care as a right because it is a common good, and a Democratic party boss, Joe Biden, who champions the business lobbies he depends on for funding and his political success. One is being marginalised and vilified as a threat to the American way of life by a handful of corporations that own the US media, while the other is being propelled towards the Democratic nomination by those same corporations.

Coronavirus has an important, urgent lesson to teach us. The question is: are we ready yet to listen?

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This essay first appeared on the author’s blog site, Jonathan Cook’s blog.

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His books include “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jonathan-cook.net. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image is from Health.milThe original source of this article is Global ResearchCopyright © Jonathan Cook, Global Research, 2020

Indigenous Resistance Shakes the Canadian State

Indigenous groups resisting a destructive gas pipeline have blockaded one of Canada’s busiest rail lines bringing business as usual to a grinding halt, reports John Clarke

By John Clarke

Global Research, February 21, 2020

Counterfire 17 February 2020

In early February, the RCMP, Canada’s colonial police force, raided the land defender camps of the Wet’suwet’en people in British Columbia, in order to clear the way for pipeline construction. Clearly, none of the political decision makers responsible for this repressive action ever imagined that it would spark a powerful wave of solidarity actions across Canada. There have been ongoing protests and rallies but the focus has been on the tactic of economic disruption, most notably by blockading the railway network. If the attack on the Wet’suwet’en was driven by the profit needs of extractive capitalism, the resistance that has emerged has targeted the flow of goods and services as the most effective form of counter-attack.

In October of 2018, the provincial government of British Columbia approved the building of a 670 km pipeline to bring liquified natural gas from northern BC to a $40-billion export plant, to be constructed in Kitimat. In BC, the New Democratic Party (NDP) is in power, so it was shameful that Canada’s social democratic party would join with the federal Liberals to provide “a bouquet of government subsidies for BC’s largest carbon polluter.”

From the outset, it was clear that there would be a major problem with driving this environmentally destructive project through Indigenous territory. Unlike the rest of Canada, BC has been built up on disputed or ‘unceded’ land over which no treaties between the Crown and the Indigenous nations were ever drawn up. This is because the process of colonization in BC was especially ruthless and lethal. In 1862, when a smallpox epidemic broke out in Victoria, infected Indigenous people were driven back into the interior of the province, spreading the disease. At least 30,000 died as a result, which was about 60% of the Indigenous population at the time. Following this successful genocide, treaties seemed unnecessary to the colonizers. “The Indians have really no rights to the lands they claim,” concluded land commissioner, Joseph Trutch, in 1864.

Trutch and his friends would doubtless be chagrined to learn that, in the 21st Century, an unintended legacy of their handiwork has emerged. The Wet’suwet’en Nation lays claim to a 22,000 square kilometre unceded territory through which the Coastal GasLink project must pass. Moreover, almost twenty five years ago, in the Delgamuukw ruling, the Supreme Court of Canada held that there is, indeed, Aboriginal title over such land. Coastal GasLink and its apologists make much of the fact that they were able to coerce and cajole twenty Indigenous band councils into signing agreements with them. However, these bands only have authority, under the Indian Act, over the reserves they operate. They have no jurisdiction over Wet’suwet’en land as a whole, whereas the hereditary chiefs of the Nation have a claim that predates Canada and that various court rulings have acknowledged is still highly relevant.

The hereditary chiefs remain implacably opposed to the pipeline project and neither the Trudeau Liberals in Ottawa, the BC government or the pipeline company have the “free, prior and informed consent” that is required under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that Canada has signed onto.

Solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en Against the Colonial Policies of the Canadian State

Resistance and Solidarity

The brutal arrogance with which the RCMP were unleashed on the land defenders was so shocking and appalling that it blew up in the faces of those responsible. After a previous assault on the Wet’suwet’en, in January of last year, it was discovered that RCMP planners were ready to shoot to kill. The notes of their meeting included an observation that “lethal overwatch is req’d.,” a reference to the deployment of snipers. After this last raid, a video emerged of a cop training his telescopic sights on the unarmed defenders. The footage and accounts of the militarized police action against people trying to protect their own ancient land was as heartbreaking as it was enraging.

“This is Wet’suwet’en territory. We are unarmed. We are peaceful. You are invaders,” yelled Eve Saint, the daughter of one of the hereditary chiefs. She later told the media that, “I held my feather up and cried because I was getting ripped off my territory and there was nothing I could do about it. That’s the type of violence our people face. It’s embedded in my DNA and hit me in the heart. This is what my people have been going through since contact (with colonizers).”

This ugly use of state power was made all the more vile and disgusting by Justin Trudeau’s hypocrisy. He is fully implicated in the attempt to crush Indigenous rights yet he postures as a champion of ‘reconciliation.’ The response was remarkable and powerful and created a political crisis, as hard-hitting actions took place across the country. BC’s NDP Premier, John Horgan, has been left ‘despondent’ by a solidarity action that disrupted his government’s throne speech. A day of action targeted BC government offices across the province. The Port of Vancouver has been blockaded. On the other side of the country, in Halifax, the Ceres container terminal was blocked by protesters chanting, “Where are we? Mi’kmaqi! Respect Indigenous sovereignty!” as well as, “Shut down Canada!”

It is, however, the rail blockades that have had such a huge economic impact and that have taken things to the level of political crisis. Action taken by residents of the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory in eastern Ontario has prevented the movement of train traffic along a vital corridor connecting Toronto with Ottawa and Montreal for almost two weeks now and has had a national impact. The Mohawks have refused to obey a court injunction ordering them to leave on the grounds that Canadian courts have no right to tell them what to do on their land and they have made clear that they are going nowhere until the just demands of the Wet’suwet’en have been met. The economic impact of their action, along with a series of other rail blockades across Canada, has been enormous and it is growing. It is reported that “wood, pulp and paper producers have lost tens of millions of dollars so far.” At least 66 cargo ships have been unable to unload in BC and the president of the province’s Chamber of Shipping says, “those line-ups are only going to increase, of course ships are continuing to arrive. Eventually, there will be no space and they’ll be waiting off the coast of Canada, which is a situation we’d like to avoid.”

The federal Indigenous Services Minister, Marc Miller, has now been to Tyendinaga to meet with members of the community. His account of the hours long meeting doesn’t suggest much was resolved at all. Clearly, the Trudeau government is in a very difficult situation. They have seen the response to the RCMP raid on the Wet’suwet’en and they desperately fear the consequences of moving on the rail blockades. Yet the driving of pipelines through Indigenous territory is vital to their strategic priority of exporting dirty oil and gas to the Pacific market. The Coastal GasLink project is the harbinger of much more to come and the resistance of Indigenous people and their allies poses a threat to all their plans.

The considerable ability of the Liberal Party to serve the interests of the capitalists while containing social resistance is being tested to the limit. The vulnerability to disruption of the global supply chain that has been created during the neoliberal era, with its wide ranging sources of raw materials and component parts and its systems of ‘just in time’ inventory, makes the blockades and the economic disruption even more of a threat than they would have been at an earlier time.

The political crisis that has been unleashed by this wave of action in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en is already very serious but if state power is unleashed to remove the blockades, at Tyendinaga or at other locations, especially if a serious confrontation ensues, the mood across the country is such that disruptive actions could intensify dramatically. In that eventuality, the choice for Trudeau and his provincial allies would be between a dangerous escalation or a retreat on so fundamental an objective as the pursuit of environmentally disastrous extractive capitalism. Sparked by the magnificent defiance of the Wet’suwet’en, a struggle is unfolding with the most important implications for the building of resistance in Canada to the colonial project that Indigenous people face. At the same time, however, it is also creating a precious model for the global struggle against the deadly consequences of corporate climate vandalism.

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John Clarke is a writer and retired organizer for the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP). Follow his tweets at @JohnOCAP and blog at johnclarkeblog.com.

Featured image: Rail blockade. Photo: Twitter/Krystalline KrausThe original source of this article is CounterfireCopyright © John ClarkeCounterfire, 2020https://www.globalresearch.ca/indigenous-resistance-shakes-canadian-state/5704242

‘Cars Flying Over Our Heads’–Footage of Hurricane Destruction in the Caribbean

An act of God, or an act of man?

Reality and its Enemies – An Analysis (28 May 2017) by Lawrence Davidson

tothepointanalyses

 Part I – Reality

There is an ongoing reality that is destroying hundreds of thousands of lives in the Middle East. And though most Americans are ignorant of the fact, and many of those who should be in the know would deny it, the suffering flows directly from decisions taken by Washington over the last 27 years. Some of the facts of the matter have just been presented by the first Global Conflict Medicine Congress held at the American University of Beirut (AUB) earlier this month (11-14 May 2017). It has drawn attention to two dire consequences of the war policies Americans have carried on in the region: cancer-causing munition matierial and drug-resistant bacteria.

— Cancer-causing munition material: Materials such as tungsten and mercury are found in the casing of penetrating bombs used in the first and second Gulf wars. These have had long-term effects on survivors, especially those who have been wounded by these munitions. Iraqi-trained and Harvard-educated Dr. Omar Dewachi, a medical anthropologist at AUB fears that “the base line of cancers [appearing in those exposed to these materials] has become very aggressive. … When a young woman of 30, with no family history of cancer, has two different primary cancers – in the breast and in the oesophagus – you have to ask what is happening.” To this can be added that doctors are now “overwhelmed by the sheer number of [war] wounded patients in the Middle East.”

— Drug-resistant bacteria: According to Glasgow-trained Professor Ghassan Abu-Sittah, head of plastic and reconstructive surgery at AUB Medical Center, drug resistance was not a problem during the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-1988. However, after the fiasco of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, things began to change. In the period after 1990, Iraq suffered under a vicious sanctions regime imposed by the United Nations at U.S. insistence. During the next 12 years “Iraqis were allowed to use only three antibiotics” and bacterial resistance quickly evolved. Those resistant bacteria spread throughout the region, particularly after the American invasion of the country in 2003. Today, according to a Medecins Sans Frontieres analysis, “multidrug resistant [MDR] bacteria now accounts for most war wound infections across the Middle East, yet most medical facilities in the region do not even have the laboratory capacity to diagnose MDR, leading to significant delays and clinical mismanagement of festering wounds.”

Insofar as these developments go, it is not that there aren’t contributing factors stemming from local causes such as factual fighting. However, the major triggers for these horrors were set in motion in Washington. As far as I know, no American holding a senior official post has ever accepted any responsibility for this ongoing suffering.

 

Part II – Hiding Reality

As the cancers and untreatable infections grow in number in the Middle East, there is here in the United States a distressing effort to rehabilitate George W. Bush – the American president whose decisions and policies contributed mightily to this ongoing disaster. It is this Bush who launched the unjustified 2003 invasion of Iraq and thereby – to use the words of the Arab League – “opened the gates of hell.” His rehabilitation effort began in ernest in April 2013, and coincided with the opening of his presidential library. In an interview given at that time, Bush set the stage for his second coming with an act of self-exoneration. He said he remained “comfortable with the decision making process” that led to the invasion of Iraq – the one that saw him fudging the intelligence when it did not tell him what he wanted to hear – and so also “comfortable” with the ultimate determination to launch the invasion. “There’s no need to defend myself. I did what I did and ultimately history will judge.”

The frivolous assertion that “history will judge” is often used by people of suspect character. “History” stands for a vague future time. Its alleged inevitable coming allows the protagonist to fantasize about achieving personal glory unchallenged by present, usually significant, ethical concerns.

Those seeking George W. Bush’s rehabilitation now like to contrast him to Donald Trump. One imagines they thereby hope to present him as a “moderate” Republican. They claim that Bush was and is really a very smart and analytical fellow rather than the simpleton most of us suspect him to be. In other words, despite launching an unnecessary and subsequently catastrophic war, he was never as ignorant and dangerous as Trump. He and his supporters also depict him as a great defender of a free press, again in contrast to Donald Trump. However, when he was president, Bush described the media as an aider and abettor of the nation’s enemies. This certainly can be read as a position that parallels Trump’s description of the media as the “enemy of the American people.”

But all of this is part of a public relations campaign and speaks to the power of reputation remodeling – the creation of a facade that hides reality. In order to do this you have to “control the evidence” – in this case by ignoring it. In this endeavor George W. Bush and his boosters have the cooperation of much of the mainstream media. No sweat here: the press has done this before. Except for the odd editorial the mainstream media also contributed to Richard Nixon’s rehabilitation back in the mid 1980s. These sorts of sleights-of-hand are only possible against the background of pervasive public ignorance.

 

Part III – Closed Information Environments

Local happenings are open to relatively close investigation. We usually have a more or less accurate understanding of the local context in which events play out, and this allows for the possibility of making a critical judgment. As we move further away, both in space and time, information becomes less reliable, if for no other reason than it comes to us through the auspices of others who may or may not know what they are talking about. As a society, we have little or no knowledge of the context for foreign events, and thus it is easy for those reporting on them to apply filters according to any number of criteria. What we are left with is news that is customized – stories designed to fit preexisting political or ideological biases. In this way millions upon millions of minds are restricted to closed information environments on subjects which often touch on, among other important topics, war and its consequences.

So what is likely to be more influential with the locally oriented American public: George W. Bush’s rehabilitated image reported on repeatedly in the nation’s mainstream media, or the foreign-based, horror-strewn consequences of his deeds reported upon infrequently?

This dilemma is not uniquely American, nor is it original to our time. However, its dangerous consequences are a very good argument against the ubiquitous ignorance that allows political criminals to be rehabilitated even as their crimes condemn others to continuing suffering. If reputation remodelers can do this for George W. Bush, then there is little doubt that someday it will be done for Donald Trump. Life, so full of suffering, is also full of such absurdities.

And Now The Climate Has Turned Antisemitic

March 06, 2017  /  Gilad Atzmon

by Gilad Atzmon

Authorities have determined that tombstones disturbed at a  historic Jewish cemetery in New York this weekend were damaged by environmental causes and not by vandalism and Jew haters. It may suggest that weather also has turned against the chosen people. I am looking forward to see ADL’s reaction to this sudden cosmic change. However, the negligence in the Jewish cemetery suggests that the tribe might not care about its dead as much as it wants the rest of us to believe.

Hillary Clinton’s Global-Burning Record

Global Research, February 25, 2016
Hillary Clinton

On 17 July 2015, Paul Blumenthal and Kate Sheppard at Huffington Post bannered, “Hillary Clinton’s Biggest Campaign Bundlers Are Fossil Fuel Lobbyists”  and the sub-head was “Clinton’s top campaign financiers are linked to Big Oil, natural gas and the Keystone pipeline.” This description of her fits for a politician who does the lobbyists’ bidding while she provides liberal rhetoric that denies she will, and so who burns-up not only the planet but the trust of the liberals who have voted for her in the mistaken belief that because her label is “Democrat” and because she makes her appeals to women, Blacks, Hispanics, and other disenfranchised groups, she’s not actually representing (just like the Republicans do) their common-enemies, which go beyond such ethnic or other groups and constitute the top-0.0001%-economic-class that’s exploiting almost the entire public — including  women, Blacks, Hispanics, etc. 

Her record does show that she represents those lobbyists, not the public. As I had reported previously, the Hillary Clinton State Department’s two environmental impact statements on the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline were triple-hoaxes that totally and scandalously ignored the proposed pipeline’s impact on climate-change but that did discuss the impact of climate-change on the proposed pipeline (as if anybody even cared about that); neither of the two studies had even one climatologist on the team that prepared the report; and the State Department didn’t do either of the reports themselves, but instead hired two oil-industry contractors that were proposed to the State Department by TransCanada Corporation, which is the company that was proposing to build and own the pipeline. So: those ‘studies’ were rigged to enable the President to approve the Pipeline — which he ultimately decided not  to do.

Furthermore, on 2 May 2013, Steve Horn headlined, “Digging Into TransCanada’s Lobbying History,” and he found that, indeed, Hillary Clinton was surrounded by TransCanada lobbyists while the reports were being prepared by TransCanada’s chosen oil-industry contractors. On 12 March 2014, I headlined “Keystone XL Pipeline Corruption With State Department Should Not Be Legal,”  and reported that, “The Office of Inspector General (IG) of the U.S. State Department has determined that all of the corruption that was entailed in the preparation of the Hillary Clinton State Department’s two Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) on the TransCanada corporation’s proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, and that is still present in the John Kerry State Department’s final EIS, was legal.” This didn’t mean that it was at all ethical. It was disgustingly corrupt, regardless of whether it was legal. But, he found: it was legal.

Hillary Clinton is also a big champion of fracking. In September 2014, Mariah Blake bannered “How Hillary Clinton’s State Department Sold Fracking to the World,” and reported that, “As part of its expanded energy mandate, the State Department hosted conferences on fracking from Thailand to Botswana. It sent US experts to work alongside foreign officials as they developed shale gas programs.” The energy-companies didn’t pay for those sales-calls by the U.S. Secretary of State; taxpayers did.

On 10 April 2015, New Yorkers Against Fracking sent a letter to Clinton, opening, “We, the undersigned citizens groups from across the United States, write to urge you to join the growing majority of Americans against fracking.” Probably, she will, verbally, ‘join’ them, but her record shows that she often doesn’t follow her word, but that she does reliably follow her money: where that points, she goes (but as much in the dark as she possibly can — ergo, her private email server being used for government-business).

She earns her keep, for the lobbyists, and for her financial backers.

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

Hezbollah Demands End to Waste Crisis ‘Farce’, Rampant Corruption

Local Editor

Hezbollah called for the end of the negative repercussions ‘farce’ to the crisis of waste and demanded ‘reasonable solutions’ that address the transition phase ahead of reaching a long-term strategic plan.

wasteIn a statement issued on Tuesday, Hezbollah affirmed the right of peaceful and reasonable protests, indicating that “just solutions would calm people down and pave the ground for actions in the people’s interest in this important issue.”

“The waste crisis clearly indicates who is responsible for it,” Hezbollah said, adding: “The extent of the popular explosion to demand a solution for it in all Lebanon proves the size of the environmental, social and moral disaster resulting from ill-management of such issue by the successive governments.” The statement was referring to the weekend protests led by the YouReek civil society campaign against the waste management crisis.

“The trash crisis is one of the faces of the accumulating and rampant corruption throughout the last two decades,” Hezbollah said. “We hoped that this sensitive issue would have been addressed positively, but unfortunately we were shocked by the scandal of the proposed prices of tenders” for the waste management.

Since the weekend, Lebanon has been plagued with the waste disposal crisis, with people bursting across the streets of the capital after being fed up with political corruption.

Source: Al-Manar Website

25-08-2015 – 20:46 Last updated 25-08-2015 – 22:00

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Israel’s Environmental Racism: Cancer-Causing Chemical Plants in Tulkarem

Posted on 

tulkarem

The ISM website has posted an article about a protest held today by locals in the West Bank city of Tulkarem. The protest was against the presence of 11 Israeli chemical plants that have been located there and that have been linked to spiking rates of cancer in the area.

Tulkarem, with a population of 62,000, is located in the northern part of the West Bank, lying west of the city of Nablus and east of the Israeli town of Netanya. The city makes up just five percent of the West Bank’s population, but accounts for 20 percent of all cancer cases, according to the report. And the article offers a glimpse into why this might be:

The protest against Israel’s chemical plants have been continuous since Gushiri Industries, a manufacturer of pesticides and fertilizers, first arrived in Tulkarem in the mid-1980s. The plant used to be located in the Israeli city of Netanya, only 12 kilometers away. However, a 1982 Israeli court order said the company was violating pollution regulations, making the company relocate to the West Bank’s Area C, which is under full Israeli control. The court order came after a complaint filed by Israeli citizens.

In other words, the Israeli citizens in Netanya sued to have the plant shut down so that it wouldn’t be operating near their homes and endangering their health or the health of their children. Finding that Gushiri was indeed violating pollution regulations, a judge ruled in their favor. The plant shut its doors and moved to Tulkarem. Were the courts and other Israeli officials satisfied with this resolution of the situation? Apparently so.

The following comes from Wikipedia’s article on Environmental Racism:

Environmental racism is placement of low-income or minority communities in proximity of environmentally hazardous or degraded environments, such as toxic wastepollution and urban decay. While there are competing views as to an exact definition, the interplay between environmental issues and social indicators are key to its understanding.

The primary contention issue in the definition is intent. Some definitions hold that only intentional discrimination against minorities in issues regarding the environment is what constitutes environmental racism, while others focus on the presence of unfavorable environmental conditions for minorities, intentional or not. A significant factor in creation of effective environmental segregation is the fact that low-income communities lack the organization and political power to resist introduction of dangerous technologies, as well as greater mobility of richer citizens away from areas falling into industrial and environmental decline.

If there’s any doubt in your mind as to whether the degradation of Tulkarem’s environment came about as a result of “intentional” pollution, perhaps the next paragraph from the ISM story might help clear that up:

Since the arrival of Gushiri Industries, ten other chemical plants have located nearby, the last one in 2007. The location of these plants have caused many local farmers to lose most of their land and contributed to unemployment and poverty in the area. Hence, many local Palestinians have been forced to work at these chemical plants, as the Israeli corporations are taking advantage of the low labor costs and the non-applicability of Israeli labor laws in Area C.

That’s a total of 11 toxic chemical plants, all Israeli-owned, all located in a Palestinian city with a population of just 62,000 people. I’m not a legal expert, but I’m guessing it probably would qualify as “intentional” environmental racism, at least by any reasonable standard of jurisprudence.

So what does all this mean in practice? What’s it like to be a local living in the city of Tulkarem? Here’s a bit more from the ISM story:

A representative from the Palestine Technical University (PTU), which neighbors the Gushiri chemical plant to the south and the Apartheid Wall to the west, said today that the smell is “unbearable” after 3 pm, which explains why most residents of Tulkarem always keep their windows shut. Residents living near the factories have also developed health issues including asthma, reduced lung capacity, skin ailments and eye infections. This is especially true for elementary students.

Additionally, it has been estimated that approximately 300 dunams, i.e. 300,000 square meters, of agricultural land is contaminated by emissions from the factories.

And finally, the article informs us of this:

The global civic organization Avaaz is currently running a campaign named “A child’s cry: Stop poisioning Palestine’s schools” to help stopping the chemical plants in Tulkarem. By signing a petition on their website, you can help putting pressure on the EU, their biggest market, to apply their strict(er) environmental regulations and impose an import ban on these factories.

This would, of course, be the same Avaaz which is campaigning for the imposition of a no-fly zone in Syria, similar, presumably, to the one set up in Libya in 2011–the sameorganization, by the way, whose founders have been described, by at least one critic, as “imperialist pimps of militarism.”

Why would a group campaigning for “humanitarian intervention” in Syria be launching an advocacy campaign for Palestinian children in Tulkarem? What purposes are served? Perhaps they feel it helps give their organization “legitimacy”–something which, of course, the country of Israel forfeited a long time ago.

The only thing that can be said with any certainty, is that the present government of Israel has no intentions of ending its occupation. There simply are too many profitable advantages from continuing it, having a convenient place to dump toxic waste being but one.

By the way, the protest today took place outside the Gishuri plant. And how do you think it turned out? Israeli soldiers fired tear gas canisters and shot one man in the abdomen with a rubber coated steel bullet. You can go here to read the full story.

The Most Contaminated Land in the Middle East

DateMonday, June 17, 2013 at 6:34PM AuthorGilad Atzmon

By Gilad Atzmon

Ynet reported today that Haifa District Court judge ruled that there was no causal link between Kishon River’s pollution and the illness of more than 70 Israeli Navy seal divers, despite expert claims that ‘exposure to one molecule’ could lead to illness.

For more than 25 years, the Israeli elite Navy seals used to dive and train in the Kishon River in the Haifa Bay, apparently, the most polluted river in Israel. Authorities were warned about the lethal concentrations of cancerous substances in the river for years.

The Haifa  District Court ruled Monday that there is no causal link between the pollution in the Kishon River and the illness of 70 former Navy commandos.

The divers’ suit was filed against the Haifa Municipality, Haifa Chemicals, oil refineries, and the Haifa Region Association of Towns, claiming they are responsible for the pollution and toxic waste in the river, including arsenic, nickel, chromium, cadmium, lead and benzene.

Seemingly it took 2000 years for the Jews to come back to their so-called  ‘promised land’ but just a few years to pollute the rivers and contaminate the land.

She’s Alive… Beautiful… Finite… Hurting… Worth Dying for.

She’s Alive… Beautiful… Finite… Hurting… Worth Dying for.

http://widgets.vodpod.com/w/video_embed/Groupvideo.10277431

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian

Samir Geagea’s ‘greens’…

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Samir Geagea’s ‘greens’…

the ‘environment’ is very big on Geagea’s agenda … but Hezbollah stands in the way’
“… Twenty-eight years after the Sabra and Shatila massacres, the president of Lebanon’s only golf course is still having to deny the bodies are buried there. Bayan Nuwayhed al Hout, author of “Sabra and Shatila: September 1982,” told CNN she’s convinced the bodies of victims of the massacres lie beneath the golf course.
“I’m positive that dozens of people were buried there with the help of bulldozers,” she said. “The bulldozers were used to get rid of the dead bodies.”Robert Fisk, a journalist who wrote “Pity The Nation” about the 1975-1990 Lebanese civil war, maintains the number buried is even higher.”There are perhaps 1,000 murdered Palestinian civilians under the golf course (of course, these hapless souls will have to be added to the tallied 2000 innocent Palestinians & Lebanese slaughtered by Samir Geagea’ Audubon-Society-like thugs, and overseen by the master killers of Ariel Sharon!) near Beirut airport, dumped there by Israel’s Phalangist allies after the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacres,” Fisk wrote in the British newspaper The Independent.”No one will dig them up. Golfers play without reflecting upon what lies beneath the verdant 18th hole.”
Posted by G, Z, or B at 6:23 PM

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian

Catastrophes Severe as Global Warming Becomes Near

11/08/2010 Floods, landslides, wildfires and warmness have mired several countries in the world signaling that global warming crisis was near. The catastrophes that devastated areas in China, Pakistan, Sudan and Russia have all left huge toll of victims with an unexpected number of homeless.

Scientists say nations will need to start adapting to climate change impacts such as more intensive droughts and floods but poorer nations with limited cash face the toughest challenge.

This year is on track to be the warmest since reliable temperature records began in the mid-19th century, beating 1998, mainly due to a buildup of greenhouse gases from fossil fuels, according to the UN’s World Meteorological Organization.

Hopes of finding survivors from China’s worst mudslides in decades faded Wednesday as the death toll topped 700, with more than 1,000 people still missing under an avalanche of rock and sludge. More than 10,000 soldiers and rescuers combed through the mountains of mud that buried a remote area of the northwest province of Gansu at the weekend, but 72 hours after the disaster, the window of survival was quickly closing.

Tens of thousands of residents of hardest-hit Zhouqu county were without adequate food and drinking water. A Red Cross worker said it was hard to find safe ground to erect tents. Meteorologists have predicted thunderstorms in Zhouqu over the next few days — which could hinder clean-up efforts and frighten rattled residents already wary of sleeping on unstable ground. As homeless residents milled around town, saying they did not know where to go, relief workers said the difficult terrain had hindered their efforts to provide temporary housing in the form of more than 4,000 tents.

In Sudan, heavy rains and floods last month have killed at least 16 people and driven thousands from their homes in three counties of south Sudan.

Heavy rains have also flooded land and some refugee camps across North and West Darfur states, said the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Three children drowned after falling into trenches filled with floodwater in Abu Shouk refugee camp near the capital of North Darfur El Fasher.

Floods have been most devastating in Taliban’s stronghold in the northwest. Across Pakistan they have left six million people dependent on humanitarian help for their survival, the United Nations said. The United States announced Tuesday it would increase its flood aid by another 20 million dollars to 55 million dollars, while the UN said it would launch an international appeal for several hundred million dollars. The world body believes 1,600 people have died in the floods while the Pakistani government has confirmed 1,243 deaths.

Pakistan’s Taliban have denounced all foreign aid for victims of the country’s catastrophic flooding, and said they can match the latest US pledge of 20 million dollars. “We will ourselves distribute relief under leadership of our chief Hakimullah Mehsud among the people, if the government assures us that none of our members will be arrested,” a spokesman for the group, Azam Tariq, told AFP by telephone.

The flood made it hard on the Pakistanis as the Holy Month of Ramadan had started especially that the prices of food highly increased after vast stretches of crops were destroyed. Beyond the northwest, about 1.5 million people have been evacuated in the south and a large swathe of fertile farmland has been destroyed in the central province of Punjab. But weather cleared Tuesday, allowing Pakistani and Afghan helicopters to distribute relief items and rescue people stranded in the northwest. President Asif Ali Zardari is now back home after courting massive criticism for not cutting short a visit to Britain and France, although it was unclear if he would visit flood-hit areas.

In Russia, firefighters and soldiers are battling to stop wildfires from engulfing key nuclear sites and morgues in Moscow as officials estimate 5,000 have died in the worst heat wave in 130 years. The total area of the wildfires in central Russia has halved in the last 24 hours but there are still hundreds of wildfires raging, the emergencies ministry said Wednesday.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian

COP 15- Chavez: Capitalism will destroy the planet. BRILLANT!!!!

Link

Posted on December 18, 2009 by Antievil

Brillant speech right to the core. No dark “whitness” spots unattended!

Filed under: A MUST READ, ANTI -NEOCON & NEOLIB, ANTI-US, Racism/hate, Resistance, USA, VIDEO & PICTS, for PEACE, imperialism, neo liberalism & neo capitalism, reflection, resistance | Tagged: , , , , ,

CLIMATEGATE TOON

LINK

December 16, 2009 at 11:44 am (Associate Post, Cartoons)

The REAL reason behind Global Warming….
Image ‘Copyleft’ by Carlos Latuff

The Regionalization of Hizballah

Link

A few years back, folks were debating when Hizballah would finally become “Lebanonized” and confine their activities to the Lebanese political sphere. Between 2000 and 20005, roughly, scholars hopefully wrote about the “Lebanonization” of Hizballah. In the end, something else happened.

I have been among those who advises everyone to take a deep breath whenever Michael Braun and others — operating under a very loose definition of who is and is not “Hizballah”* — start feeding stories about how Hizballah is masterminding the drug trade along our southern border and other such nonsense. Hizballah is not a transnational terror organization like al-Qaeda that operates without being rooted in a local constituency. Hizballah is, for the most part, a violent non-state actor that both participates in the Lebanese political process and carries out a foreign and defense policy separate from that of the state of Lebanon. The vast majority of its military activities are confined to southern Lebanon.

In the past year or so (perhaps since the 2006 war, actually), though, Hizballah’s rhetoric has become regional in its focus. Hassan Nasrallah, in speeches, has consistently recognized the “resistance” in not only Palestine but also in Iraq.** Rhetorical support, though, is different from material support. Now, though, not only is Hizballah open about its “train and equip” mission for Palestinian groups in Lebanon, it is also claiming a Hizballah operative caught in Egypt is in fact a Hizballah operative and that he was carrying out logistical missions in support of Palestinian groups.

This is extraordinary. It is also a huge mistake. Egypt, for all its flaws as a state, is not Lebanon. The security apparatus in Egypt is strong, and Egyptians — no matter how much they dislike Hosni Mubarak — did not much like it when Hassan Nasrallah called him out on television during the Gaza War. I do not believe Nasrallah wants Egypt to start cracking down on all the Shia Lebanese expatriates who pass through. In the same way, it is not in Hizballah’s interest for the international community to come to the conclusion that Hizballah is not content to confine its operations to southern Lebanon. Because what could be dismissed as a sub-regional issue now becomes a regional issue. And that brings in more states and international actors.

So I think Hizballah has overreached here. And I think that they and the constituency upon whom they rely for support are going to pay a price for that overreach.

*The definitions of many domestic agencies about who can be considered “Hizballah” often conform to legal definitions — which are designed to include those who have given monetary support to the organization by way of donations — but lack explanatory power because they fail to separate the actual activists from those who just happen to be Lebanese Shia expatriates who support Hizballah’s agenda. As many Lebanese Shia expatriates tend to do. Case in point: the government of Germany claims it has 800 Hizballah operatives active in Germany. Do you see the problem here? That’s almost as many men as Hizballah is estimated to have put in the field during the 2006 war. So either someone’s math is off, or we need to tweak our definition of who is and is not “Hizballah”.
**To be fair, support for the Palestinian resistance has been a constant of Hizballah rhetoric and policy and is nothing new.

Posted by Abu Muqawama at 8:06 AM

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