Seven Days of Failures for the American Empire

Seven Days of Failures for the American Empire

FEDERICO PIERACCINI | 09.12.2018 |

Seven Days of Failures for the American Empire

On November 25, two artillery boats of the Gyurza-M class, the Berdiansk and Nikopol, one tugboat, the Yany Kapu, as well as 24 crew members of the Ukrainian Navy, including two SBU counterintelligence officers, were detained by Russian border forces. In the incident, the Russian Federation employed Sobol-class patrol boats Izumrud and Don, as  well as two Ka-52, two Su-25 and one Su-30 aircraft.

Ukraine’s provocation follows the advice of several American think-tanks like the Atlantic Council, which have been calling for NATO involvement in the Sea of Azov for months. The area is strategically important for Moscow, which views its southern borders, above all the Sea of Azov, as a potential flash point for conflict due to the Kiev’s NATO-backed provocations.

To deter such adventurism, Moscow has deployed to the Kerch Strait and the surrounding coastal area S-400 batteries, modernized S-300s, anti-ship Bal missile systems, as well as numerous electronic-warfare systems, not to mention the Russian assets and personnel arrayed in the military districts abutting Ukraine. Such provocations, egged on by NATO and American policy makers, are meant to provide a pretext for further sanctions against Moscow and further sabotage Russia’s relations with European countries like Germany, France and Italy, as well as, quite naturally, to frustrate any personal interaction between Trump and Putin.

This last objective seems to have been achieved, with the planned meeting between Trump and Putin at the G20 in Buenos Aires being cancelled. As to the the other objectives, they seem to have failed miserably, with Berlin, Paris and Rome showing no intention of imposing additional sanctions against Russia, recognizing the Ukrainian provocation fow what it is. The intention to further isolate Moscow by the neocons, neoliberals and most of the Anglo-Saxon establishment seems to have failed, demonstrated in Buenos Aires with the meeting between the BRICS countries on the sidelines and the bilateral meetings between Putin and Merkel.

On November 30, following almost two-and-a-half months of silence, the Israeli air force bombed Syria with three waves of cruise missiles. The first and second waves were repulsed over southern Syria, and the third, composed of surface-to-surface missiles, were also downed. At the same time, a loud explosion was heard in al-Kiswah, resulting in the blackout of Israeli positions in the area.

The Israeli attack was fully repulsed, with possibly two IDF drones being downed as well. This effectiveness of Syria’s air defenses corresponds with Russia’s integration of Syria’s air defenses with its own systems, manifestly improving the Syrians’ kill ratios even without employing the new S-300 systems delivered to Damascus, let alone Russia’s own S-400s. The Pantsirs and S-200s are enough for the moment, confirming my hypothesis more than two months ago that the modernized S-300 in the hands of the Syrian army is a potentially lethal weapon even for the F-35, forbidding the Israelis from employing their F-35s.

With the failed Israeli attack testifying to effectiveness of Russian air-defense measures recently deployed to the country, even the United States is finding it difficult to operate in the country. As the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War confirms:

“Russia has finished an advanced anti-access/area denial (A2AD) network in Syria that combines its own air defense and electronic warfare systems with modernized equipment. Russia can use these capabilities to mount the long-term strategic challenge of the US and NATO in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and the Middle East, significantly widen the geographic reach of Russia’s air defense network. Russia stands to gain a long-term strategic advantage over NATO through its new capabilities in Syria. The US and NATO must now account for the risk of a dangerous escalation in the Middle East amidst any confrontation with Russia in Eastern Europe.”

The final blow in a decidedly negative week for Washington’s ambitions came in Buenos Aires during the G20, where Xi Jinping was clearly the most awaited guest, bringing in his wake investments and opportunities for cooperation and mutual benefit, as opposed to Washington’s sanctions and tariffs for its own benefit to the detriment of others. The key event of the summit was the dinner between Xi Jinping and Donald Trump that signalled Washington’s defeat in the trade war with Beijing. Donald Trump fired the first shot of the economic war, only to succumb just 12 months later with GM closing five plants and leaving 14,000 unemployed at home as Trump tweeted about his economic achievements.

Trump was forced to suspend any new tariffs for a period of ninety days, with his Chinese counterpart intent on demonstrating how an economic war between the two greatest commercial powers had always been a pointless propagandistic exercise. Trump’s backtracking highlights Washington’s vulnerability to de-dollarization, the Achilles’ heel of US hegemony.

The American-led world system is experiencing setbacks at every turn. The struggle between the Western elites seems to be reaching a boil, with Frau Merkel ever more isolated and seeing her 14-year political dominance as chancellor petering out. Macron seems to be vying for the honor of being the most unpopular French leader in history, provoking violent protests that have lasted now for weeks, involving every sector of the population. Macron will probably be able to survive this political storm, but his political future looks dire.

The neocons/neoliberals have played one of the last cards available to them using the Ukrainian provocation, with Kiev only useful as the West’s cannon fodder against Russia. In Syria, with the conflict coming to a close and Turkey only able to look on even as it maintains a strong foothold in Idlib, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United States are similarly unable to affect the course of the conflict. The latest Israeli aggression proved to be a humiliation for Tel Aviv and may have signalled a clear, possibly definitive warning from Moscow, Tehran and Damascus to all the forces in the region. The message seems to be that there is no longer any possibility of changing the course of the conflict in Syria, and every provocation from here on will be decisively slapped down. Idlib is going to be liberated and America’s illegal presence in the north of Syria will have to be dealt with at the right time.

Ukraine’s provocation has only strengthened Russia’s military footprint in Crimea and reinforced Russia’s sovereign control over the region. Israel’s recent failure in Syria only highlights how the various interventions of the US, the UK, France and Turkey over the years have only obliged the imposition of an almost unparalleled A2AD space that severely limits the range of options available to Damascus’s opponents.

The G20 also served to confirm Washington’s economic diminution commensurate with its military one in the face of an encroaching multipolar environment. The constant attempts to delegitimize the Trump administration by America’s elites, also declared an enemy by the European establishment, creates a picture of confusion in the West that benefits capitals like New Delhi, Moscow, Beijing and Tehran who offer instead stability, cooperation and dialogue.

As stated in previous articles, the confusion reigning amongst the Western elites only accelerates the transition to a multipolar world, progressively eroding the military and economic power of the US.

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Lavrov’s interview and answers to questions for the programme “Moscow. Kremlin. Putin”

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December 03, 2018Lavrov’s interview and answers to questions for the programme “Moscow. Kremlin. Putin”

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview and answers to questions for the programme “Moscow. Kremlin. Putin” on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, December 2, 2018

Question: It was a highly unusual G20 summit, with very many factors.  I don’t remember Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel having to overcome so many obstacles just to get to a meeting. The death of President George H.W. Bush cast a pall over the event. And then there is this strange situation with presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump and the US president’s reaction to the incident in the Black Sea.

What are your feelings over this? Have these events spoiled the G20 meeting or prevented the participants from implementing the agenda?

Sergey Lavrov: I believe that all these circumstances have had their effect on the events that are taking place in Buenos Aires. However, they have hardly had any serious effect on the agenda.

Just as it happened in 2008, when the G20 convened at the top level to discuss the root causes of a crisis that had spread to nearly all the countries, we are now amid a period of transformation in the global economy. There is, first of all, the digital transformation, an unprecedented rise in protectionist policies, up to trade wars, the sovereign debts of many countries and a shadow over the future of free multilateral trade, as well as many other factors. There is also the problem with the reliability of reserve currencies and the obligations of the countries that have them. It is these factors that influenced the preparations for the summit and discussions at it.

I have not mentioned the sanctions, the restrictive, prohibitive or punishing duties and tariffs, all of which created a serious and contradictory background for and influenced the essence of the discussions. It is good that a final declaration has been adopted. This is better than nothing. However, all the sharp angles which I mentioned have been smoothed over. But I don’t think this is connected to the circumstances we were talking about.

Anyway, the G20 has made rather useful decisions. We have outlined our position on the digital economy and the need to start adjusting the labour and education markets to it. We have also put forth our views on the situation when it comes to food security. Russia as a major grain producer is playing an increasing role in these matters.

There was also a thorough discussion on migration, refugees and approaches to this new problem. I would like to say in this connection that we have rejected the attempts to force the “concept of equal responsibility” on the G20 and the international community as a whole for the refugees who fled their homes, for various reasons, in the hope of finding a better future in foreign countries. We clearly pointed out to our colleagues that the root cause of this unprecedented wave of migration in Europe and other countries is the irresponsible policy of flagrant military interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states, primarily in the Middle East and North Africa. The most serious factor is, of course, the aggression against Libya, which has destroyed the country and has turned it into a black hole for the transfer of illegal weapons, drugs and organised crime to southern Africa. The northbound transit, above all via Libya, has brought migrants to Europe where they have become a major problem, including for the EU.

Another subject on which Russian delegates spoke actively here is the fight against terrorism. We drew the international attention to a new phenomenon of the so-called foreign terrorist fighters who return back to their home or other countries after completing criminal jobs in Libya, Syria, Iraq or some other places. It is vitally important to trace the movement of these dangerous people. Several years ago, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) created a database of foreign terrorist fighters. This database involves 42 security services from 35 countries, including G20 members, such as the BRICS countries, Turkey and South Korea. The UN Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC), Interpol, the CIS Anti-Terrorism Centre, the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure (RATS) and other international organisations have joined this database. We actively promoted this experience at the G20 summit where it aroused keen interest.

Question: Have you managed to bring across to our European partners the truth on what really happened in the Black Sea (and not in the Sea of Azov, as they usually write)? Have they finally heard our position?

Sergey Lavrov: I think they could not but hear it because President Vladimir Putin, while meeting with President of France Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, personally explained “in lay terms” how all this happened, how the provocation had been planned and how its execution was attempted, as well as how responsibly the Russian border guards performed their functions trying to prevent any undesirable incidents. Regrettably, the [Ukrainian] agents provocateurs (and the provocation, carried out by two craft and a tug, was controlled by two Ukrainian Security Service officers) did their best to fulfill the order, which was found after the Russian border guards stepped on board these fire-support craft. It said in no uncertain terms that they should secretly penetrate the neutral waters, perform a breakthrough under the Crimean Bridge without giving any previous notice or hiring a pilot, and sail through the Kerch Strait to the Sea of Azov. President Putin personally told his interlocutors about this. I did not hear from them a response that would be based on different facts.

Question: It is important to note a totally different level of cooperation between Russia, India and China. One gets the impression that this time a unique mutual understanding took shape within the G20 between the three countries that together account for one-third of the world population. They have a totally different point of view than, for example, America and its partners, whom it is easier to call “satellites.”

Sergey Lavrov: It was the first Russia-India-China summit (RIC Group, as we call it) since 2006. The leaders of our three countries have agreed that this format should be maintained, including by holding regular summits in addition to ministerial and expert contacts that, basically, have not been discontinued during these years. What unites our countries was emphasised at the RIC meeting. This is primarily the striving not to allow the disintegration of multilateral universal organisations that are based on the UN Charter and the principles enshrined in it, such as equality, respect for sovereignty, and non-interference in internal affairs. Generally, an intention was voiced to defend the foundations of the multilateral, open economic and trade system. Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi clearly spoke out against the sanctions that were increasingly often used in this sphere by the United States in the hope of enhancing its competitiveness and getting unfair competitive advantages.

As I said, the [three] leaders have agreed to continue holding summits, while instructing their foreign ministers to prepare for the RIC leaders proposals on how to make this cooperation more effective and promote it in new spheres.

Question: Is there any hope that these three countries – Russia, India and China – will have a common understanding and will vote unanimously in the UN Security Council?

Sergey Lavrov: India is not yet a full member of the UN Security Council, but it was elected several times as a non-permanent member for two years. We have identical views on the overwhelming majority of subjects. It is notable that our countries’ positions often overlap not only in the UN Security Council but also during voting on matters of fundamental importance at the UN.

Another example has to do with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and concerns a scandalous process which the West has launched in gross violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). When the Western countries proposed giving the OPCW’s Technical Secretariat the prerogatives that actually belong to the UN Security Council, India, Russia and other like-minded countries unanimously voted against this. The BRICS countries co-authored a statement in which they sharply criticised such inappropriate actions and demanded that all states respect the CWC and their obligations under it. I have mentioned BRICS for a reason, because President of Russia Vladimir Putin, President of China Xi Jinping and Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi have said that these three countries are the driving force behind such organisations as BRICS and the SCO, which India has recently joined. We are connected geographically and politically, share common views on the key aspects of the world order, want all disputes to be settled peacefully and would like to have a free, open and fair trade and economic system, which, taken together, makes us allies in these matters.

Question: Presidents Putin and Trump have held a short meeting after all. As for US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, was he evading you, or did he have to meet with you?

Sergey Lavrov: Of course, I did not pursue him, and he did not try to meet with me. To be quite frank, I do not even know if he is here, because I have not seen the full US delegation. US National Security Adviser John Bolton said in a conversation with Presidential Aide Yury Ushakov, who deals with political matters, that they [the US administration] would like to resume and normalise our dialogue. We are ready to do this as soon as our colleagues are.

Question: As far as I know, there have been very interesting discussions on Syria. Has Russia managed to move the Western countries towards the realistic Russian view on the Syrian problem?

Sergey Lavrov: I don’t know how close we have managed to move them towards our position, but it is becoming increasingly clear that they don’t have any alternative strategy or tactic on this matter. Likewise, it is becoming clear that unacceptable things are taking place on the eastern bank of the Euphrates. The United States is trying to create quasi-public structures there, investing hundreds of millions of dollars so that the people could resume a normal peaceful way of life in these regions. At the same time, they refuse to rebuild the infrastructure in the regions that are controlled by the Syrian government. It is becoming obvious to everyone that the developments on the eastern bank of the Euphrates run contrary to the general commitment to Syria’s territorial integrity as sealed in a relevant UN Security Council resolution, although the United States has been trying to present its activities there as a temporary solution.

The US activities on the eastern bank of the Euphrates and in other Syrian regions where it has special forces and advisers include playing the Kurdish card. It is a very dangerous game, considering that the Kurdish question is very acute in several countries apart from Syria, such as Iraq, Iran and, obviously, Turkey. President Putin discussed this matter at a meeting with President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the last day of the G20 session. They have confirmed their commitments regarding the Idlib de-escalation zone. We pointed out that not all extremists have heeded the demand to leave the 20-mile demilitarised zone, despite the active and consistent operations of our Turkish colleagues. We have coordinated further moves to ensure compliance with the agreement on the demilitarised zone and also to prevent the extremists from sabotaging this crucial agreement, which all sides welcomed.

The third aspect of the Syrian subject is the political process. The overwhelming majority of countries agree that the Constitution Committee, which is being created at the initiative of the three guarantor countries of the Astana process as per the decisions of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress held in Sochi, is the only viable method to start implementing UN Security Council Resolution 2254, under which all Syrian sides must hold negotiations to coordinate common and mutually acceptable views on life in their country and on its future development. This is exactly what is stipulated in the above-mentioned UN Security Council resolution. After they reach this understanding, they should adopt a new constitution and hold elections based on its provisions. However, as I have said before, no reasonable alternatives have been proposed over the past years to the initiatives advanced by the three Astana countries on combating terrorism, creating conditions for the return of the refugees and internally displaced persons back home, providing humanitarian aid and launching a political process.

Question: When the death of President George H.W. Bush was announced, President Putin expressed his condolences in a very emotional message. George Bush Sr. believed that one of the worst mistakes of his presidency was failure to prevent the Soviet Union’s dissolution. Did you meet with him? What are your impressions of him?

Sergey Lavrov: I did not meet with him often, but we did meet. I believe that George Bush Sr greatly contributed to the development of the United States and ensured that his country responsibly played its role in the world, considering its weight in international affairs.

I remember very well how President George H.W. Bush visited Moscow, I believe it was in 1991, and then he went to Ukraine where he encouraged the Soviet republics’ political forces to act responsibly and do their duty by preserving the country rather than create huge, tragic problems for millions of people who became citizens of different states the next morning after the Soviet Union collapsed.

Mr Bush was a great politician. I believe that every word that will be said about his achievements reflect the people’s true attitude to this man. However, one comment among the great number of condolence messages can be connected to your question about the link between President Bush and the demise of the Soviet Union. I watched CNN and Fox News on the day he died, and I heard a commentator say that George Bush Sr made history by helping Mikhail Gorbachev soft-land the Soviet Union. In fact, George Bush Sr never did that; he simply wanted to protect the millions of people who had lived in one country for decades or even centuries from political games. This is what we can say confidently about him.

***

Question: Do you think there is a connection between the provocation in the Kerch Strait and the US cancellation of the planned meeting between our presidents?

Sergey Lavrov: I don’t believe in the conspiracy theories. However, there have been too many coincidences, when a provocation that takes place ahead of a major event is used for fanning hysteria over sanctions. British Prime Minister Theresa May has demanded that Brussels further worsen its Russia policy, even though Britain has almost exited the EU.

We know our partners very well, and we have masses of questions about the adequacy of their approach to serious problems. There are very serious and very real threats. The fight against these challenges cannot be improved by making sacrifices to immediate geopolitical considerations.

Question: When will President Putin and President Trump hold a full-scale meeting after all?

Sergey Lavrov: I won’t even try to guess.

مثلث بوتين يُربك ترامب

 

ديسمبر 1, 2018

ناصر قنديل

– لا يبدو الرئيس الروسي فلاديمير بوتين منزعجاً من إلغاء اللقاء المقرر مع الرئيس الأميركي دونالد ترامب، فتعليقات الكرملين عن حاجة بوتين لمزيد من الوقت للقاءاته مع القادة المشاركين في قمة الأرجنتين أو تجاهل الكرملين لبيان البيت الأبيض عن تحميل التحقيقات مع ترامب داخل أميركا مسؤولية تدهور العلاقات الأميركية الروسية، تشير إلى أن توقيت اللقاء الذي بدا محرجاً للرئيس الأميركي بما سيفرضه من تفاهمات وتسويات لا يملك ترامب قدرة السير بمندرجاتها، في ظل تأزم وضعه الداخلي، هو أيضاً توقيت مبكر بالنسبة للرئيس الروسي الذي كان يرغب لإكمال مناوراته الكبرى قبل إنضاج معادلات تتيح تحقيق المزيد من الإنجازات التي يتم ترصيدها في التسويات.

– بالتزامن مع تحضيرات قمة الأرجنتين وفرضية اللقاء الروسي الأميركي على هامشها، كانت تتحرّك بسرعة ثلاث مناورات كبرى للرئيس الروسي، بمفهوم المناورة كحركة استراتيجية، وليس كما هو رائج للمفهوم بصفته عملية خداع وتلاعب، فمن جهة كانت رسائل الردع الروسية في التعامل مع أوكرانيا تبلغ ذروتها باحتجاز السفن وتزويد شرق أوكرانيا بمقدرات عسكرية جديدة، ومن جهة مقابلة كانت المفاوضات في أستانة تسير على جبهتين، جبهة تأجيل البت بتكوين اللجنة الدستورية خلافاً للرغبة الأميركية، وجبهة السير بجلب تركيا لتغطية عمل عسكري كبير ضد جبهة النصرة بعدما استنفدت المهل التي طلبها الرئيس التركي لتفكيك النصرة سياسياً وأمنياً، وبالتوازي تثبيت مقدرات سورية الصاروخية ما يجعل أي حركة إسرائيلية معادية لسورية عالية الكلفة. ومن جهة ثالثة مواصلة التجاهل لكل الحملة التي تستهدف ولي العهد السعودي، والإيحاء باستعدادات روسية لاحتضان موقف السعودية في توقيت الضغط الداخلي الأميركي لتخفيض مستوى التعامل مع السعودية.

– وصل الرئيس ترامب إلى قمة الأرجنتين منهكاً، تحت ضغوط الكونغرس والإعلام والمخابرات، وقد وصلته رسالة تبلور تكتل من 63 عضواً في مجلس الشيوخ ينقصهم أربعة فقط ليكتمل النصاب المطلوب في أي مساءلة يمكن لمجلس الشيوخ ملاحقة ترامب بها وهو كان قبل أسبوعين يتغنى بفوز الجمهوريين بأغلبية مجلس الشيوخ، ويعتبرها أركان إدارته الضمانة لعدم الدخول في أزمة دستورية في ملاحقة الرئيس ترامب، وفوق ذلك يحمل ترامب أثقال مأزق السعودية في حرب اليمن وقضية قتل الخاشقجي، وأعباء الاختناق الاستراتيجي لـ«إسرائيل» بين العجز عن خوض حرب والفشل الكبير لصفقة القرن، بينما يصل الرئيس بوتين إلى بيونس آيرس مرتاحاً لثبات معادلاته الكبرى ففي جبهة أوكرانيا المبادرة بيد روسيا، وفي جبهة سورية الجيش السوري يخرج عشية القمة من مواجهة مظفرة مع سلاح الجو الإسرائيلي الذي فشلت غاراته ببلوغ أي هدف، وعجزت طائراته عن دخول الأجواء السورية، وخرج المفاوضون الروس من اجتماعات أستانة عشية قمة الأرجنتين بإنجاز سياسي بحماية ظهر الدولة السورية في قضية اللجنة الدستورية، والتحضير لإنجاز عسكري تخشاه واشنطن في إدلب. وعلى جبهة ثالثة يصل ولي العهد السعودي إلى قمة الأرجنتين معزولاً ومصاباً بالإحباط بإلغاء مواعيده وخصوصاً فرص اللقاء بالرئيس الأميركي فيصير صيداً روسياً سهلاً، ويصل الرئيس التركي الذي كان راغباً بإظهر مكانته الوسيطة بين موسكو وواشنطن، ويتصيّد فرص وراثة السعودية في الحسابات الأميركية وقد ألغي موعده مع الرئيس ترامب، فيصير الرئيس بوتين سيد اللعبة يصول ويجول متباهياً في قاعات القمة، يضرب كفاً بكف مع إبن سلمان ليصل صوت الفرقعة إلى أذان ترامب، والكرملين يتحدّث عن زيارة بوتين إلى السعودية.

– المضحك هو حال حلفاء السعودية وأميركا في لبنان، وهم في ضياع يسألون: ماذا لو حط بوتين في الرياض وطار إبن سلمان إلى موسكو؟

 

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