A Trap in the Name of Peace – a Mechanism For the Transformation of the Nontransformable

February 09, 2019

By Rostislav Ishchenko

A Trap in the Name of Peace – a Mechanism For the Transformation of the Nontransformable
Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard
cross posted with https://www.stalkerzone.org/rostislav-ishchenko-a-trap-in-the-name-of-peace-a-mechanism-for-the-transformation-of-the-nontransformable/ 
source: https://ukraina.ru/opinion/20190208/1022621728.html

On February 8th 1994, 25 years ago, Ukraine joined the “Partnership for Peace” (PFP) NATO program.

It happened practically immediately after the establishment of the program in January, 1994. It is characteristic that also then, in 1994, a similar plan of interaction between the EU and the post-socialist space was put forward by the French Prime Minister Edouard Balladur of that time. This was the first project that received the informal name “Balladur plan”. In 2007 he also voiced the idea of unification into one structure of the US and the EU, which also received the name “Balladur plan” in daily use. But unlike the project of 1994, nobody ever tried to realise the idea of 2007.

In 1994, within the framework of the “Balladur plan” numerous events (round tables) were held, and in their course a number of Eastern European countries was defined, which in the future, during the waves of expansion in 2004 and 2007, became a part of the EU. 10 years were spent for their preliminary adaptation to European structures. However, even now, 10-15 years after their accession, it is difficult to call these countries fully-fledged members of the EU. The stability of their budgets and financial systems directly depends not only on the financial aid of the EU as such, but also on the preservation of its volumes. Without permanent annual multi-billion injections from the EU, these states as economic systems are unviable.

The “Partnership for Peace” program was some kind of NATO analog of the “Balladur plan”. Removing the concerns of those post-socialist states that will never become NATO members, as well as the preparation for NATO membership of those who it was decided to accept, were its main tasks. At the same time, like in the case with accession to the EU, the achievement of the criteria that grants the right to become a NATO member was decided randomly, and the opinion of Washington played a decisive role in it.

Thus, for example, Romania – which was considerably inferior to Ukraine until 2014 in terms of economic and in military-political weight, in terms of the question of the development of democracy, and even in terms of the amount of corruption – nevertheless became a NATO member in 2004 and an EU member in 2007. In 2009 Albania – in the boondocks of Europe – was accepted into NATO (now it one of the first in the queue for EU membership). Washington tried only once, in 2008, at the Bucharest NATO summit, to push forward the Membership Plan of Action for Ukraine and Georgia (which would make them official candidates for membership in NATO), but this American initiative was blocked by France and Germany, who didn’t want to spoil relations with Russia. But the question of the reception of Kiev in the EU was in general never on the agenda.

At the same time, it must be kept in mind that the Ukrainian authorities did everything that depended on them to achieve at least the status of a candidate for NATO membership. In 2002 the NATO-Ukraine Action Plan – the highest form of cooperation within the framework of the “Partnership for Peace” (PFP) – was adopted. In April 2004 the Verkhovna Rada adopted the law on free access to the territory of Ukraine for NATO forces, and in June 2004 president Kuchma approved the military doctrine that determined the entry of Ukraine in NATO as the ultimate goal.

This, by the way, will be useful to grasp for those who consider that the danger of NATO bases appearing in Ukraine arose only in 2014 and only because Russia didn’t send tanks to fight against Banderists. By the way, the introduction at the initiative of Poroshenko of the amendments to the Constitution canceling the non-bloc status of Ukraine and determining NATO accession as the ultimate goal is also secondary. 15 years prior Kuchma, quietly, without excess noise and without paying attention to the Constitution, solved the same problem with his decree (which approved the military doctrine). In general, by the middle of 2004, half a year before Maidan, and seven months prior to Yushchenko coming to power, Ukraine was quite ready for NATO accession. Since then Kiev has been in the starting blocks during all this time, but it isn’t invited anywhere.

PFP for NATO played the same role that the “Balladur plan”, and then the “Eastern Partnership”, played for the EU. In fact, they were complementary programs. In 1994 the West still hadn’t made a final decision on what to do with the post-socialist space. Meanwhile, the former countries of socialist camp and the former federal republics were actively rushing into western structures, thinking that joining them would give them the opportunity to solve both their social-economic and military-political problems.

Originally the PFP program was supposed to bring down the heat of Eastern European emotions, busying the countries that were rushing into NATO with mastering a certain mechanism that allowed to “prepare” them over decades for “compliance to criteria” of membership. The criteria are extremely indistinct. PFP members are required to observe the UN charter and international law, to refuse to threaten with the use of force, to meet democratic standards of the West, to carry out military reforms, and to provide civil control over the armed forces. In general, “for everything good and against everything bad”. At the same time, the worthiest one – i.e., the US – had to decide who is most worthy for membership.

Another important point was that within the framework of PFP a country cooperated with NATO on an individual basis. Thus, the West prevented the creation of lobbyist groups, such as the Visegrád Four, which already existed back then (and which was originally considered by the countries that created it as a mechanism for joint accession to the EU and NATO).

In general, thanks to PFP the West received time to decide on a strategy concerning the countries of the former socialist camp. At the same time, their wishes weren’t rejected straight off. Moreover, a mechanism was created, and with its help it was possible to accept any country into NATO at any time and to reject any country under a specious excuse. This same thing also concerns the mechanisms that were created in order to regulate the process of the EU’s expansion.

Within the framework of PFP obligations were taken only by partner countries, while NATO agreed only to the emergency carrying out of consultations if a partner country feels that its territorial integrity is under threat. It is necessary to say that these consultations haven’t helped anybody to date; they created the mechanism of NATO (and de facto the US) interference in any inter-state conflict whereby at least one partner country is involved.

Today’s attempts to actualise the topic of accession to NATO undertaken by Kiev (in particular, the introduction of the corresponding amendments to the Constitution), which have a pronounced propaganda character and have no practical value, are indeed caused by the understanding of that fact that within the framework of PFP Ukraine is perhaps indeed a partner of NATO, but NATO isn’t a partner of Ukraine. Kiev can’t speak with Brussels as equals, it also can’t leave the PFP program, since it would be regarded as the largest foreign policy failure of the current authorities. At the same time, within the framework of PFP Ukraine can only follow the instructions of NATO (in reality, the US) while receiving nothing in exchange.

In general, PFP, which was originally presented as a mechanism for the adaptation of potential candidates to NATO requirements, quickly turned into a trap that keeps those countries that the bloc doesn’t intend to bring into its structure in the orbit of NATO in the quality of “junior partners”.

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Lavrov’s interview with Radio Komsomolskaya Pravda

December 19, 2018

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with Radio Komsomolskaya Pravda, Moscow, December 17, 2018

 

Question: Mr Lavrov, we met with you in the same format one and a half year ago.

We began by stating that the foreign policy situation surrounding Russia at the time was growing alarming. But you assured us that there would be no war because the Russian leaders were absolutely against it. Our partners, as you said, were certainly not interested in it either. Now, one and a half year later, we can see no improvements. On the contrary, things are growing increasingly alarming. Some of our listeners even feel scared. Others compare the current situation with the late 1930s. One of the readers even asks: “Please be honest and say what we should expect? Will we be attacked?”

Sergey Lavrov: There are comparisons that go farther back into history. Both in this country and elsewhere, there are figures who predict that a situation will arise resembling that on the eve of World War I. They are referring to the pent-up antagonisms existing in Europe, including, by the way, in the Balkans. But it is my strong, firm conviction that the politicians in the key countries cannot allow a big war to happen. The public opinion and the nations themselves will not let them. I hope that the parliaments in each Western country will also display maximal responsibility.

But I absolutely agree that tensions are being fomented in an unprecedented way. We see international agreements collapsing. Not so long ago, the United States unilaterally disrupted the ABM Treaty. We had to adopt measures that would prevent this extremely negative event from undermining strategic stability. Next in line is the INF Treaty, which Washington believes to be outmoded, while accusing us of violating it. In so doing, they are hinting in no uncertain terms that they would like to extend the restriction identical to that assumed by the USSR and the United States to China and a number of other countries, including North Korea and Iran.

We are categorically against this initiative. We are in favour of keeping the INF Treaty. The entire international community has repeatedly recognised it as a cornerstone of international security and strategic stability. Today at the UN, we will make a second attempt to submit a General Assembly resolution in support of preserving this Treaty.

Apart from that, we have presented the US with our concerns regarding how it implements this Treaty. These concerns are based on concrete facts and developments in the military technical sphere, specifically the deployment of a US military base in Romania and deployment plans for Poland. We hear statements by our US colleagues that the only way to save the Treaty is to destroy the 9M729 missile, which Russia has allegedly developed with a range exceeding the limit imposed by the Treaty. In response, Minister of Defence Sergey Shoigu, following similar steps at the expert level, has officially suggested that he and US Secretary of Defence James Mattis meet and start a professional discussion. The US did not even reply or at least formally acknowledge the receipt of the invitation. Possibly, if they had done this, they would have had to explain why they are evading a professional discussion and continue to act in the notorious “highly likely” style, as though wishing to say that what remains for us is to repent because we are allegedly to blame for everything.

While we are on this subject, I would like to say this. I have no doubt that US President Donald Trump was sincere when he said during his election campaign that he wanted good relations with the Russian Federation. Regrettably, the consequences of Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton have caused a tsunami in US domestic political life, primarily because the so-called system elites have felt uncomfortable. They saw the current developments as something that was putting power within reach of ordinary voters. Since then, no one has ever corroborated with facts the repeated charges of Russian meddling in the US elections, hacker attacks on the Democratic Party and other US agencies, etc.

Let me note that this Russophobia, as we are convinced, is to a decisive degree linked to the internal political infighting [in the US]. The United States, no matter who would advocate good relations with Russia, sees us as a rival as it does China. It is not accidental that for the lack of facts proving our “sins” against US democracy, the Russophobic campaign has brought no results whatsoever.

In recent days, the US propagandists have pitched in at China. In their view, China is already the “chief hacker” undermining the mainstay of US society. It is regrettable that the interests of the international community, global strategic stability and international security are being sacrificed for the sake of domestic political squabbles. But we will always be ready for dialogue. Even under these circumstances, we never refuse to take part in a professional discussion in areas where our partners are prepared to consider the existing threats and problems in an equal and honest manner.

After a long break, yet another round of talks on fighting terrorism has been held. Our security services are in contact on a number of other issues, including Syrian settlement, the North Korean nuclear problem and Afghanistan. We maintain regular enough contacts, even though we are not always on the same page.

Question: They write, with such friends, who needs enemies?

Sergey Lavrov: We have this proverb in Russian.

Question: When we mentioned the growing tension in the world, we actually meant Ukraine. The Kerch Strait incident is going too far. We also had in mind Donbass, where almost every day they are expecting an attack. Why do we compare poorly to Ukraine, according to the opinion of the world community?

Ukraine has assumed a clear ideological position: Russia confronts us, so we fight Russia, defending ourselves, and so on. We – Russia – are declared the enemy. Soon our church, our priests may become great martyrs, because we do not know what will happen to them. Some get imprisoned, and criminal cases are brought against them. Then, there might be a religious war, we have already gone this far. With the situation so aggravated, we still hold a sluggish, relaxed position, when Ukraine has openly declared us an enemy, and introduced martial law. Why don’t we declare Ukraine a Nazi regime? We have a lot of evidence: the new law on the Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army recognising Hitler’s rabble as heroes. This has already been proven. Why do we not explicitly declare that Nazism is a rabid dog one doesn’t talk to, but shoots? This would give us a moral trump card in the global community. This would not be a conflict with Ukraine, which has declared us an enemy and has already declared martial law, but a fight against the Nazi regime. The Ukrainian people are not our enemy. The enemy is the Nazi regime. Why not declare it directly?

We are putting our diplomats who remain there at risk (our readers write about this). Why not withdraw the Embassy from that country?

Many people ask us when Russia will recognise the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics.

Sergey Lavrov: We are not at war with the Ukrainian regime, which has all the features of the Nazi and neo-Nazi. The Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine who live in Donbass are fighting it.

Question: Then maybe we should break off the relations with them? How can we have a relationship with the Nazi regime?

Sergey Lavrov: We have relations with the Ukrainian state. The Ukrainian state is much more important for us than the regime that came to power thanks to the West betraying all norms of international law and international behaviour.

The Ukrainian people have nothing to do with it. The overwhelming majority, I am sure, wants peace in the country, wants to get rid of this shameful regime and return to normal relations with the Russian Federation. For that, the internal problems of Ukraine will have to be resolved, of course. They are much wider, and much deeper than just the DPR and the LPR. As a reminder, it all happened because the West has committed criminal connivance, I should say. Back in February 2014, the European Union, through the foreign ministers of Germany, Poland, and France, guaranteed an agreement between Viktor Yanukovych and the opposition. The next morning, the opposition destroyed that agreement. Neither France, nor Germany, nor Poland, nor the United States, which did not sign the document, but actively supported it, lifted a finger. They did not even apologise to those who had hoped that the agreement would lead to a peaceful settlement.

Three days later, Dmitry Yarosh who led all the military operations on the Maidan, publicly stated (it was his official statement and is still available) that “Russians should not be in Crimea, because they will never glorify Stepan Bandera or Roman Shukhevych and will never think in Ukrainian.” Therefore, he said, Russians in Crimea “must either be destroyed or expelled.” After that, unrest began among the Crimean people. When Yarosh later tried to organise an attack on the Supreme Council, it erupted in a protest, which led to a referendum and eventually to the decision to return Crimea to the Russian Federation.

Now we are obliged to fulfill the Minsk Agreements.

Question: They collapsed long ago. You spoke about this 18 months ago. Nobody remembers that now, except Donbass.

If you come to the village of Zaitsevo, where every household has buried someone, and if you mention the Minsk Agreements, I don’t know what they will do to you. They honour them, and the fact that they are being killed on a daily basis – is that Minsk Agreements as well?

Sergey Lavrov: I believe that there is no alternative to the Minsk Agreements, and I also said that back in 2016. The UN Charter has also been violated many times, and it has also malfunctioned on many occasions. But we must not give in to panic. Are you suggesting that we recognise the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics?

Question: Yes, of course.

Sergey Lavrov: And then what?

Question: After that, we would defend our territory, recognised by us, and we would help our fraternal peoples.

Sergey Lavrov: Do you want to lose the rest of Ukraine? Do you want to leave it at the mercy of the Nazis?

Question: As I see it, we should go to war against the Nazi regime because they declared martial law against us, they have called us enemies, and they attack our ships.

Sergey Lavrov: We will not go to war against Ukraine, I can promise you that.

Question: What should be done about the church?

Sergey Lavrov: You suggest recognising the independence of the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics and declaring war (I don’t know how you imagine that Russia would attack Ukraine). That would just amount to a nervous breakdown and weakness. If we want to preserve Ukraine as a normal, adequate and neutral country, we must ensure that people living in Ukraine have a comfortable life. I disagree with your position if you want the rest of Ukraine to celebrate the creation of the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, as well as the birthdays of Roman Shukhevych and Stepan Bandera, rather than May 9, as their national holidays. The Minsk Agreements formalise the principle of Ukraine’s decentralisation and the use of the Russian language where Russian-speaking people want to speak it. Today, this regime is moving to wreck its own constitution, which guarantees the rights of the Russian language, as well as its international obligations; but this does not mean that we must abandon all Ukrainians who are governed by this regime to their own devices.

Question: Why don’t we officially recognise it as a Nazi regime, and why don’t we say that we will not have any dealings with it because it is impossible to have dealings with Hitler?

Sergey Lavrov: This is an appealing position. Somewhere in the village of Zaitsevo people will probably rejoice for a week if we now sever all relations with this regime. And what will happen next? After that, you will need to explain why progressive and civilised humankind lost Ukraine.

We want to keep it. Today, we have the right under international law to demand this from Ukraine and, most importantly, from the West, which now controls Ukraine.

Question: What do you think of the OSCE’s work in that region? Its representatives are coming here while in fact working against us, spying against the Donbass defenders and communicating their information to Kiev. After the OSCE visits a town or a village, they become subject to strikes. It is a known fact. The OSCE is never on our side.

Sergey Lavrov: First of all, it is not true that the OSCE brings shells to their targets. The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) is indeed under very serious pressure – mainly from pro-Western Ukrainians; but the mission is also susceptible to our influence and is gradually making steps in the right direction, although it takes a while to be pushed first. I will give you an example. We have been asking the SMM to stop writing such things in their reports as “this week, so many strikes took place, so many civilian facilities were destroyed, there were so many civilian casualties”, but to specify from which side of the contact line [the strikes came], which victims and what kind of destruction. A year ago, with great difficulty, we managed to get the OSCE to write its first report on this matter which said that the eastern side of the contact line – where the self-defence forces are living and defending themselves – account for the overwhelming majority of civilian casualties and destruction in the civilian sector.

Ukraine tried hard to stop this report, to stop it from being published. But it failed. The OSCE eventually did what it was supposed to do and the required statistics became publicly available.

We have one more concern regarding our Western partners (who, I believe, discredited themselves in this Ukrainian story starting in February 2014, when they failed to compel the opposition to fulfil the agreement with the government). This, in fact, has to do with the media. You, for example, go to Donbass. Our television crews are working at the contact line 24/7 to show the frontline from the perspective of the self-defence forces. When our Western partners claim that the self-defence forces are to blame for all the clashes and attacks, that they provoke them, we show them our journalists’ work, which is always available on air and is broadcast repeatedly on the news. We ask them: if they are so sure that the Ukrainian government is acting in the right way and they want to show the truth to international audiences, then why are there no Western journalists working on the western side of the contact line the same hours as our journalists? There were a couple of cases when, I think, BBC reporters travelled there for a few days and, by the way, filmed a rather objective report (perhaps this is why this practice was stopped).

They can’t wait for us to break off the relationship with Ukraine and withdraw from the Minsk Agreements. Just like after the coup of February 21, 2014, they will wash their hands of them and say, “so it died” – meaning they are not bound by anything. It will be a huge mistake.

Question: If President of Ukraine Petr Poroshenko now sends troops to Donbass or warships to break through the Kerch Strait, what will we do?

Sergey Lavrov: I am sure that there will be provocations. The day before yesterday we heard Petr Poroshenko speak at a show called Unification Council for Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Actually, he has never stuck to the diplomatic language before, but this time he crossed all lines imaginable and unimaginable. I have never heard such rudeness from a leader who considers himself a politician. He seemed to actually lose control a few times. Apparently, something is happening to him. But this is not my problem.

Commenting on the martial law he wanted to introduce for 60 days, then 30, first across the country, then only in Russian-speaking areas, where he has a very low popularity rating (it is low enough everywhere, but there he is not popular at all, and does not even enjoy minimum understanding), Poroshenko said they would not extend martial law unless there are armed provocations along the contact line in Donbass or, as he put it, “on the administrative border” with Crimea.

The 30-day martial law expires on December 25. We have information (official Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova has mentioned this more than once) that Ukraine has concentrated around 12,000 troops and a large amount of equipment on the contact line. American, British and, apparently, other instructors are actively helping them. An American drone regularly patrols the area. We have reported this. According to additional information that we tend to believe, in the last ten days of December, President Poroshenko is planning an armed provocation on the border with the Russian Federation – Crimea.

He will get a response. He won’t find it funny, I can assure you.

This is our country, our border, and we will not allow him to try in any way to defend “his interests” as he sees them and violate those rights that the Crimeans have defended in full accordance with international law. Moreover, according to our information, he is discussing this provocation on the border with Crimea with his Western curators and “trustees.”

According to our data, which seem credible, he is advised to maintain low-intensity hostilities to support the ongoing outcry in the propaganda space about “Russians attacking Ukraine” and “Russians need to be further sanctioned,” but in no case should military operations be allowed to reach a phase to elicit a full-blown response. Nasty, petty provocation. Our respective services take all necessary measures to prevent such excesses from happening.

Question: I would like to talk about Russian-US relations again. Mr Poroshenko is behaving boorishly, but I think he is emulating US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who made unacceptable comments about the Russian Government after our bombers arrived in Venezuela, telling us how we must spend public funds.

As for President Donald Trump, he doesn’t seem to know his own mind. You said he was really willing to meet with President Vladimir Putin. He said when boarding the plane for the G20 summit that he was looking forward to a face-to-face with President Putin. But when he disembarked in Argentina several hours later, he said he had called off the meeting. He did an about-face, as the saying goes. Maybe they really don’t want to conduct a constructive dialogue with us?

Sergey Lavrov: They are extremely pragmatic people. They want to talk when this can benefit them, especially now that the business mentality is taking a hold in US foreign policy.

This is a very short-sighted position, because it can help you get something today but will undermine your long-term positions and harm your strategic interests. The Americans live in two-year cycles. Every two years they need to show everyone that they are tough guys who can do what others can’t, and that everyone else is soft.

Look at the unilateral sanctions that have been imposed not only on Russia or China but also on some of the US allies. The United States continues to threaten others with sanctions and imposes new sanctions simply for violating a US law that prohibits trade with Iran. There are no such laws in France or Germany. But when their companies engage in business that is perfectly legal from the viewpoint of their own legislation or international law, they are forced to pay billions of dollars in a deal that would allow them to work in the United States. This is racketeering.

There are also sanctions that concern settlements in US dollars. In  the near future before the next elections, these sanctions may benefit US companies, weaken their rivals and increase employment in the United States, but in the long run they will undermine trust in the dollar. This will harm the fundamental interests of the US because many countries are thinking of reducing their dependence on the dollar.

Question: Do the Americans see this danger?

Sergey Lavrov: Analysts possibly do. But politicians think in the moment, they want to win the election, and they don’t care what happens afterwards.

As for Mr Pompeo, it’s a long time since we met. I think he is no longer involved with US policy towards Russia. But both of us understand that we need to meet and to talk.

As of now, US foreign policy has been clearly delegated to John Bolton. He has come to Russia several times. He has met with President Putin and his counterpart, Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev. I have held rather lengthy talks with Mr Bolton. There is a kind of dialogue.

We have not met for a long time at the level of the Russian Foreign Ministry and the US Department of State. The last time was in New York in September, when the foreign ministers of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council held a traditional meeting. But it was not a bilateral meeting. Our deputies and department directors hold meetings, although the Americans often pull stunts and cancel meetings with barely a day’s notice. But as I said, we don’t hold on to grudges.

Question: Why?

Sergey Lavrov: Because a grudge is a heavy burden to carry.

Question: Well, a grudge is, indeed, a heavy burden to carry. For example, what is Russia doing in the Council of Europe, where it has no right to vote? Why does such a sovereign state as Russia submit to the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg? Why don’t we withdraw completely from such organisations, where we don’t play any role at all? We can use this money to build schools. What are we doing there? And how much do we pay to the European Court of Human Rights?

Sergey Lavrov: We don’t pay anything to the European Court of Human Rights. We pay for its decisions. Do you know what percentage of our payments to the ECHR has to do with Russian courts’ decisions on payments to our citizens that the Russian Treasury violates and withholds the payments?

Question: In that case we must get back to our own problems. Why are we running to foreigners for help?

Sergey Lavrov: As you probably know, we are now facing a situation that we are actively discussing: the future of Russia’s Council of Europe membership is in question. There is no doubt that our decision to join this organisation was sincere and met the country’s interests. You should discuss this matter with judges, representatives of the Supreme and Constitutional courts and the Ministry of Justice. A huge set of laws that make life easier for Russian citizens and protect their life and rights was passed during our cooperation with the Council of Europe and as a result of our perception of the practices that could be applied to Russian legislation. Russian citizens are forced to apply to the European Court of Human Rights after a Russian court has ruled that the state must pay them. If the state has failed to pay a citizen in compliance with a Russian court’s ruling, do you think that therefore he or she does not deserve this payment?

Question: Of course, they deserve them. But instead of taking the case to a foreign court, we need to sort things out at home. What is your opinion of this?

Sergey Lavrov: In some cases, we were unable to rectify the situation without the ECHR. I will tell you more: Russia is now by no means the main client of the European Court of Human Rights.

We make an overwhelming majority of payments under Russian courts’ decisions.  Please keep that in mind.

Question: Are we going to leave the Council of Europe?

Sergey Lavrov: To show that we don’t care?

Question: If they don’t take us seriously, yes, we should show them that we don’t care.

Sergey Lavrov: No, we shouldn’t do that. Instead we should have a sense of dignity.

Speaking of the Council of Europe, we have no right to vote only at the Parliamentary Assembly, which would be an unimportant body if it weren’t for its function to elect judges, the Commissioner for Human Rights and the Secretary General of the Council of Europe.

No one has deprived us of any rights at the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, which is a regulatory, rather than consultative, body.

Today, we are trying to convince the Council of Europe that this situation cannot last indefinitely, and that, under the Council of Europe Statute, all member countries have equal rights at all its bodies. The incumbent Secretary General’s legal findings state that the PACE decision runs counter to the Council of Europe Statute and should therefore be modified.

We have repeatedly explained to our colleagues that there can be no halfway decisions here. They tried to assuage our concerns by proposing to reinstate our right to elect officials, including judges, the Secretary General and the Commissioner for Human Rights, but to withhold all other rights for the time being. We emphatically rejected this offer.

The moment of truth will come in June, when the new Council of Europe Secretary General will be elected. If we don’t take part in this election, it would send a message that the Council of Europe is losing its importance for us as an organisation that does not respect the principle of equality.

Question: You mentioned dignity. As I see it, our dignity is being trampled in various situations.

Poland has destroyed many monuments to Soviet soldiers. Actually, 600,000 of our boys were killed there. Why doesn’t Russia give an appropriate response in line with diplomatic traditions?

Do you want to hit our monuments? In that case, we will send bulldozers to Katyn, and we will demolish your monuments if you touch ours.

Sergey Lavrov: Are you serious?

Question: Absolutely. Why can they wreck our monuments?

Sergey Lavrov: I wish you were not serious. I was hoping this is a joke.

Question: Unfortunately, my colleague is voicing a common opinion that is expressed by our audiences. What can you say on this score?

Sergey Lavrov: I believe this position has nothing to do with Orthodox Christianity or Christianity in general.

Question: Are they acting like Christians?

Sergey Lavrov: Of course, not.

Question: So, where is our symmetrical diplomatic response? You do something nasty to us, and we will reciprocate. Where is our dignity?

Sergey Lavrov: Our dignity tells us that we must be above all this, and that we must never descend to the level of these neo-Nazis.

Question: We are always above that. We were above it in the Skripal case too.

But what about the Skripals? Where is our consul? Where is Yulia Skripal? Local lawyers ask me why our consuls are not suing to see Yulia Skripal – dead or alive. After all, she is a Russian citizen. The West operates only through courts. The state should sue and demand access to Yulia Skripal. All conventions are on our side. Why are we being so sluggish?

Why don’t we sue, when British Prime Minister Theresa May accuses our President of having committed murder? We could hire Swiss lawyers and sue. Could it be that there are things we don’t know and an action of this sort is being pursued?

Sergey Lavrov: If you followed our Ministry’s reports, including the information delivered by the ministry spokesperson at her briefings, you would have a somewhat different picture of what is happening.

We have been acting in full conformity with international law, because English law is of no help in this case. There is the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which makes it mandatory for the British government to grant us access to a Russian citizen. Sergey Skripal is an arguable case because he has dual citizenship, but Yulia Skripal is only a Russian citizen.

Question: But we can apply to the British court, can’t we? Lawyers in the UK explained this to me. And Swiss layers also said we could apply to the British court for the Russian citizen to be delivered to us or at least in order to arrange her meeting with a Russian consul.

Sergey Lavrov: No court will help us. There is an international obligation, the Vienna Convention, which is absolutely irrevocable. And we will demand that it is obeyed.

Question: What stage are the talks at now?

Sergey Lavrov: I am not yet through with the courts. Let me remind you how we tried to deal with the Litvinenko case, when [Litvinenko] was also allegedly poisoned.

The court did not want to prove anything. The court just made the investigation secret and conducted it in a format that banned the demonstration of security service documents.

In this instance, when we demanded information on the Skripals that was linked, among other things, to the British exploiting the Skripal theme at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, we got an official reply to the effect that this issue was related to British security. For this reason, it is not subject to any disclosure or London’s meaningful reply.

Question: But international law has precedence over their law, hasn’t it? Does the Vienna Convention have precedence?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes it does.

Question: Can’t we achieve anything through the courts?

Sergey Lavrov: We will continue to press for a meeting with our citizen.

Question: But isn’t it their minister who said that Russia should “shut up and go away?”

Sergey Lavrov: He (the UK Defence Secretary. – Ed.) is a man whose oversized amour propre is superimposed upon an inferiority complex. I saw his colleague too, and it is very sad that the UK assigns foreign ministers of this sort to handle foreign policy.

He contacted me when five ministers of foreign affairs of the five permanent member states of the UN Security Council were meeting in New York. The five of us were just sitting around a table. After that he went out and started saying that he had challenged me on 12 counts and accused me of everything.

Question: What did you say to him in response?

Sergey Lavrov: I didn’t say anything: you can’t talk with people like that.

As for the Skripal case, I can assure you that we will not drop this issue. I am absolutely convinced that we must demand answers, just like with the Malaysian Boeing. And the longer our partners delay with a response, the more out of line they will look.

Question: But we have been sued by the relatives of those who have died in the Boeing crash.

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, they have sued us. There is one thing we need to understand. They say that we have done it to the Skripals and that we must say whether it was done on orders from President Putin or whether he had lost control over the secret services which did this without his consent. Nobody else had a clear reason [to poison the Skripals], so it is highly likely that Russia is responsible, they say.

This is baby talk, not a serious investigation.

We put concrete questions to them: Where is Yulia Skripal? Why has her cousin been denied a visa which we requested officially many times? Unfortunately, you can’t sue for a visa.

We ask similar questions about the Malaysian Boeing. Why haven’t they included in their investigation the material that has been provided by Almaz-Antey, the producer of the Buk systems? Why haven’t the Ukrainians provided their radar data, unlike Russia, or the transcript of what their air controllers said? Why haven’t the Americans provided their satellite information? No answer. But we will continue to ask these questions and we will keep reminding everyone that a day will come when these shameful intrigues will end.

Question: Maybe we should not remind but demand? There are already jokes about your recommendations on social media. Can I tell one of them?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, certainly. I have read many things about myself.

Question: Sergey Lavrov enters a room for talks with Mike Pompeo, opens his briefcase and takes out a jar of fat chance, a dead donkey’s ears and a heap of fig leaves. He lights a cigarette and politely says “Hello” to Mike Pompeo.

Maybe this is how we should talk with them, not “express concern” or “draw their attention” to problems?

Sergey Lavrov: The meeting I had in this joke was not with Pompeo but with Taro Kono.

Really, do you want us to use four-letter words in international discourse, so that we will all be in the same league? No, I think that if Jupiter is angry, it means he is wrong.

I have read your reports from hot spots, and I respect you for what you are doing. We have criticised our Western colleagues for not sending their journalists to Donbass to report the truth. There are few Western journalists in Syria as well. When somebody wants to drive you mad and you resort to foul language in response, I would caution against this, even if we are not full of grace ourselves. We must not exceed the bounds of decency even if we ourselves set the boundaries.

Question: Is it true that the Foreign Ministry cellars are stocked with coffers of your great patience?

Sergey Lavrov: We have no cellars.

Question: I have worked in Armenia and Georgia. The situation there is dramatic.

I am shocked that we have let go of the situation in Georgia. The Americans are building a deep-water port in Anaklia, a stone’s throw from Sochi. Initially, they planned to deploy their nuclear submarines there, which would be extremely dangerous for us. A NATO base is under construction near Tbilisi. They have signed an official declaration to this effect. And there are three bio laboratories in Georgia.

The Americans are training nine motorised battalions. When I asked who these battalions would be used against, the answer was, “Against our enemies, against Russia.”

President Elect Salome Zurabishvili said at her inauguration that she would do her utmost to fight the Russian occupation.

The situation is very serious, considering that the Americans have failed to build a naval base in Crimea. But now they will build it on our doorstep, on Abkhazia’s border with Georgia. Yet we remain silent.

The Georgians who are on our side – 40 per cent of people in Georgia are for rapprochement and 80 per cent for dialogue with Russia – say that we are feeding them.

Their shops are stocked with Russian goods. There were 1.6 million [Russian] tourists.

Sergey Lavrov: I know this.

Question: They ask why we keep silent, why we don’t say to them that either they shut down the bases, which are a direct threat to our security, or we close the border to their goods.

Sergey Lavrov: Where did you find these highway advisers?

Question: Why do we sell Georgian wines? They are making money through us, and at the same time they are fighting against our “occupation.”

Sergey Lavrov: You surely know that Ukrainians earn millions of roubles in Russia.

Question: We must respond to this. Why do we remain the whipping boys?

Sergey Lavrov: We don’t say that we know all the answers. How can we respond? Close the border? Sever all ties?

Question: The Georgians themselves have proposed closing the border and suspending trade and money transfers until the construction of a base on Russia’s doorstep is stopped. They complain that we don’t have a policy towards Georgia, that we are glad that Mikheil Saakashvili is no longer in Georgia. But we forget that there are very many other anti-Russia forces working there.

Sergey Lavrov: Just imagine how it would be if we severed the relations which we have been developing in recent years.

First we launched chartered flights. Now we have scheduled flights, and their number has increased to include Tbilisi, Moscow, St Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Kutaisi. The planes are filled with tourists. Our trade is on the upswing. I believe Russia has become Georgia’s largest trade partner. Our civil societies hold regular events. People are meeting, talking and trying to understand which point in our relations we have reached.

Imagine that we stop all this simply to please your friends, who feel hurt. We stop all this, but they complete the base anyway and train the battalions, and the bio laboratory continues working. Who will stand to gain from this?

Question: Should there be some response from our side? What should we do?

Sergey Lavrov: I would like to ask you, do you think that we need to respond just to establish our importance or what?

Question: We do need to show our importance.

Sergey Lavrov: And that’s all?

Question: No, that’s not all. There are levers of economic pressure, similar to military ones. If Georgia lives at our expense, it will howl when it has nothing to eat.

Sergey Lavrov: I assure you, they will find a way to live. I would like to look at this from a different angle. Are you proposing to choke Georgia? What for? You say 40 percent of the population supports contacts with Russia. Break these contacts, and it will be 2 percent.

Question: But we will need to explain why we are doing this. We can say: it threatens our security.

Sergey Lavrov: Once again. The most serious threat here is the biological laboratories. I am confident that they will not go anywhere with their battalions. They understand that we have allied relations with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and we will not allow anyone to attack our allies. There are bio labs not only in Georgia, but also in Armenia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan. It will be useless to talk about it with Ukraine. We are talking about it with Georgia through the relevant organisations, the Convention on the Prohibition of Biological and Toxin Weapons. Similarly, we are talking with Kazakhstan and Armenia. Georgians have already invited diplomats to their bio lab to look around. We thanked them because it was a large group of diplomats and we noted that we would be more interested in sending professionals who understand what is being done in this bio lab better than diplomats. We need to know how big a threat these experiments pose to the Russian Federation and neighbouring countries.

On principle, I am categorically against a foreign policy that amounts to breaking off relations every time someone does us wrong. Otherwise we would have to break off relations with America and Britain. Do you by any chance have friends there who offer you advice?

Question: America clearly responds with sanctions. We do not impose sanctions. Introduce sanctions against Georgia. Armenia is our strategic ally. Why did we allow the building of three US bio labs there in 2016? We have the best friendship in the Eurasian Economic Union.

Sergey Lavrov: With Armenia, we are completing the work on a document that will guarantee the non-presence of the foreign military in these biological labs and full transparency.

Question: And Kazakhstan?

Sergey Lavrov: The same.

Question: Will they remove these labs? Or make sure there are no foreign nationals?

Sergey Lavrov: You are not listening to me. I have just told you that an agreement is being prepared that will guarantee that there will be no foreign military in the bio labs and everything that is done there will be transparent, with guarantees, without any threats or risks.

Question: Consider this example: When you come to Armenia, you find 19 Russian diplomats and 2,500 American workers there – an impressive ratio, of course. I do not understand how we can have only 19 diplomats in such a strategically important country. Political strategists in Armenia say: “Russia really uses clumsy force against the former Soviet republics. It never works with the opposition, so for Russia, Nikol Pashinyan came as a huge surprise. Russia never works with the civil society, but only with people in power who are hated in society and whose ratings, according to your Russian officers, are below zero. What is it, the blindness of your diplomacy? I do not know; it is unexplainable. There are normal people in the opposition with whom you could be cooperating.”

Sergey Lavrov: Who writes all this to you?

Question: Political observers with whom I spoke in Armenia.

Sergey Lavrov: This “your diplomacy” – have Armenians written this?

Question: Yes, Armenians. Why isn’t Russian diplomacy working with the opposition? Remember the last time we argued about soft power? There are 5,000 US NGOs that are canvassing young people who then grow up pro-America and anti-Russia, but there are no Russian NGOs or media there. We have already spoken about this many times.

Sergey Lavrov: So what is your bottom line? As I understand it, the options are either to send 3,000 diplomats and create 5,000 NGOs there, or to break off diplomatic relations.

Question: This is where I think soft power is the best option.

Sergey Lavrov: Why?

Question: At least the people’s attitude to Russia was good; now it has grown worse. It will continue deteriorating. The youth is growing up.

Sergey Lavrov: We are treated well in Georgia. And you propose breaking off relations.

Question: What ideas are being fed to young people? They are raised on the idea that Russia is bad. They are now arguing who was the first to attack.

Sergey Lavrov: Where – in Georgia?

Question: I just watched a talk show where they are proving to children that it was Russia who attacked Georgia ten years ago. And the children are listening.

Sergey Lavrov: There is a report prepared for the EU by a group of experts led by Heidi Tagliavini, which clearly blames Saakashvili for starting the war. Nobody in the EU has contested this conclusion. Now they say that our response was unacceptable. This is sheer hypocrisy.

As for soft power, I fully agree on this. There are two or three times fewer Russian diplomats in Armenia or any other CIS country than American ones. Our diplomatic staff numbers 2,500 together with rotation personnel.

Question: The Americans have the largest staff in Bagdad and second largest in Armenia.

Sergey Lavrov: They have their own criteria for their work. And we have our traditions and financial limitations, because their non-governmental team working in the former Soviet republics costs big money. In most cases, these NGOs are financed by the Agency for International Development of the US State Department, the National Democratic Institute (NDI), which is affiliated with the Democratic Party, or other similar organisations. George Soros is very active there, just as in many other parts of our space and beyond. Of course, they have the  advantage in numbers. We cannot respond in kind; we cannot create the same number of puppet organisations. Very many of them have a provocative negative agenda.

I agree that we must work with all political forces, which we are doing. We are working with everyone not only in the South Caucasus but also in other post-Soviet republics. We are working with registered opposition groups. We don’t work with nonregistered or underground groups. I believe that this is correct. We have maintained ties with various parliamentary groups, including the nine MPs who represented Nikol Pashinyan’s party when Serzh Sargsyan was president of Armenia.

It is another matter that we have probably acquired immunity against revolutions, because everything the West is doing in the post-Soviet space is preparing revolutions. This may be our problem, but we definitely cannot be blamed for this. We have survived several revolutions, which claimed a great number of lives and destroyed cities and villages. We don’t want to see a repetition of this, and we don’t wish it on others.

Therefore, the conclusion is simple: we must work with society and people, promote projects of interest to them in culture, language, sport, education and people-to-people interaction. I believe we can report certain positive results in this sphere. But we must not stop now. You can’t have enough of such events. We have established interregional forums, days of culture and educational exchanges with nearly all CSTO countries. We are opening branches of our universities there. I have recently visited Azerbaijan where MGIMO University is opening a branch. It is a very popular form of cooperation.

Question: Yet the most influential instrument is mass media. But Margarita Simonyan cannot work for all of us. We need our own local media outlets that will look to you in their work. Very many people would like to work in this way. But they simply don’t have the money.

Sergey Lavrov: Exactly.

Question: Do you mean that we don’t have the money for this?

Sergey Lavrov: The Foreign Ministry doesn’t.

Question: Why cannot we ask our oligarchs? They could be made responsible for certain areas.

Sergey Lavrov: Those of our people who have big money buy media outlets, including in Russia. If they do the same abroad, we would not complain.

Question: The Americans do this. They have more money.

Sergey Lavrov: But they don’t buy on behalf of the state.

Question: They set up a state fund to finance such projects.

Question: Why not lease the Kuril Islands? The sovereignty would be ours either way. Hong Kong was once leased on these terms. China leased a village and got a major modern city.

Question: There is such a thing as zugzwang in chess, when any move leads to a worse position. We have not had this peace treaty, so why do we need this “piece of paper?” We have diplomatic and economic relations, but no military relations. Nor will there be any in the future. Why do we need a peace treaty with Japan, if we consider the Kuril issue on this basis?

Sergey Lavrov: We are interested in having good relations with Japan.

The situation is very simple. We are people obeying international law. In 1956, the USSR signed an agreement with Japan, the so-called 1956 Declaration. When the USSR was dissolved, the Russian Federation was recognised not just as the legal successor state (all constituent republics except the Baltic states became legal successors) but the USSR’s only continuing state. This is the legal status under which we assumed all the obligations as well as all the assets of the USSR. This was one of the grounds for signing, within the CIS, a treaty on the “zero option” for properties abroad. We assumed all of the USSR’s debt obligations as all the properties were transferred to us (something that is happening today). This is why, when President Vladimir Putin was elected and this issue came up for the first time during his presidency in some situation (I think it was a meeting with then prime minister, Yoshiro Mori) he said that as the successor to the USSR we assumed the 1956 Declaration and were prepared to sign a peace treaty based on that.

In Singapore, we agreed to declare that we had come to terms on revisiting negotiations on signing a peace treaty based on the 1956 Declaration. In this regard, it is very important to understand what this document is all about and basically what situation has taken shape around it. It says: You shall sign a peace treaty. After that, the USSR – as a goodwill gesture and with regard for the interests of the neighbourly Japanese people, not as a move to return [the islands] – will be prepared to transfer the Habomai Ridge and Shikotan Island. President Putin has repeatedly explained, including at his news conference in Singapore and later in Buenos Aires, that this was not a directly applicable obligation of the USSR that had transferred to Russia and that the parties would have to discuss how, to whom, when, and in what form to transfer [whatever there is to transfer].

This was in 1956. After that were the events of 1960, when Japan and the US signed the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, under which the Americans could deploy their military bases practically wherever they wanted, in any part of Japanese territory. Under the same treaty, the US is creating the Asian segment of its antimissile defence system and deploying antimissile launchers that can be used to fire Tomahawk missiles.

Japan has withdrawn from the Declaration of its own free will. Of course, the USSR responded to the signing of the US-Japan security treaty. Therefore, when we say “based on the Declaration,” we cannot ignore the fact that the events of 1960 have taken place since then, which, from the point of view of a US military presence on the Japanese islands, are increasingly of a very serious nature as a threat to our security. We have explained all of this to our Japanese colleagues at talks with foreign ministry and security council representatives. We are waiting for a response. For us, this is a problem of direct practical importance.

But, most importantly, when we say “based on the 1956 Declaration,” this expresses Japan’s unconditional recognition of the results of World War II. So far, our Japanese colleagues are not ready for this, and they are sending all sorts of signals to the effect that this will not work out. This is a serious issue.

Recently, my Japanese counterpart went on record as saying that he apologised to the Japanese media for having avoided answering the question about the upcoming talks, on several occasions. He stated that he was unwilling to discuss the subject because Japan’s position was unchanged but, if he said this he would provoke his Russian colleagues to state their point of view. Consider that it was not he who provoked us. It is just that we were never ashamed of our position. If Japan’s position is unchanged then we are in the same position we have always been in. This is basically a refusal to recognise the results of World War II, while recognising the results of World War II is an inalienable first step in any talks, let alone any legal negotiations.

Question: Should we perhaps leave this matter to the judgment of future generations and place it on record as is?

Sergey Lavrov: We do not refuse to talk, but I have outlined the terms and the framework, within which these talks will proceed.

Question: May I ask you a few private questions that are often asked by our readers – in the blitz mode?

Sergey Lavrov: Go ahead.

Question: You are one of the most popular and best-known politicians in our country. How do you feel in that capacity?

Sergey Lavrov: I have never thought about it. It is a pleasure for me to communicate with people when I go somewhere, whether on a working mission or not. I talk to young people. It is interesting to listen to questions and comments. If my work meets with a positive response, I am pleased for our Ministry.

Question: As you know, the former Soviet Foreign Minister Alexei Gromyko was dubbed in the West as nothing other than “Mr No”. Andrei Kozyrev must have been a “Mr Yes”. How would you describe your own image in similar terms? Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia Sergey Lavrov is “Mr what?”

Sergey Lavrov: Whatever, but certainly not “Mr Yesman.”

Question: In your interviews, you nearly always refer to our foes as partners. Why?

Sergey Lavrov: Sometimes, I fail to express irony through intonation.

Question: In one of your interviews, you said that you respect Vladimir Vysotsky’s work. What words from his songs would you use to describe the current international situation?

Sergey Lavrov (laughing): “Lukomorye exists no more…” and so on and so forth.

Question: Your opponents were talking such nonsense lately. What self-composure you have. Is it hard to deal with a negotiating partner if you feel that he or she has a grudge against you?

Sergey Lavrov: I have grown used to it.

Question: What helps you remain so calm and coolheaded?

Sergey Lavrov: Maybe life has hardened me over the past years. In New York, I had a good schooling in terms of responding to all sorts of crisis situations at the UN Security Council. Someone would dash in and say that something had erupted, broken out and it was necessary to urgently adopt a resolution, when we wanted to work the matter through and take no abrupt steps.

Question: Were there episodes during your service as minister, when things grew very alarming and even frightening?

Sergey Lavrov: Probably not, considering that I was already accustomed to crisis situations in my work prior to my appointment to this post. Maybe, that experience helps.

Question: Do you feel like putting work aside

And sailing down the river with a guitar,

Making a campfire at sunset

And talking of peace and love?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, certainly. Moreover, I even do that.

Question: What is the largest fish that you caught during your river trips? Where did it happen and how much did it weigh?

Sergey Lavrov: I do not remember, because, actually, I am not really a fishing sort. When we go canoeing down the river Katun, two of our group members handle the fishing and I break camp and watch the campfire.

Question: Suppose you had a time machine, who of our country’s rulers of the past years or even centuries would you like to talk to and what essential question would you ask that person?

Sergey Lavrov: Among our fellow countrymen – Alexander Gorchakov. Much has been written about him and all his diplomatic achievements are well known. I would ask him exactly the same thing that you asked me – about his self-composure that enabled him to return Crimea.

Question: Who of the US presidents of the past would you like to talk to and what would you ask him?

Sergey Lavrov: Maybe, Harry Truman. After Franklin Roosevelt’s policy, he made a sharp turn towards the “cold war”. It would be interesting to understand why. Though, as a matter of fact, it looks like everyone understands everything. The USSR was a real ally of Britain and the United States in the war, but maybe a situational ally, after all, though that situation was about the life or death of the whole of humanity. Almost. And it was a genuine alliance. Nevertheless, they never fully considered us to be one of theirs, and back then they already saw a threat.

Question: If you had the opportunity to turn back the clock and influence some event in our country or elsewhere, what would you change?

Sergey Lavrov: First, I have no opportunity to turn back the clock. Second, I do not want to. Third, we all know that history has no “ifs”. Whatever God does is for the best. There are many proverbs, for example, “it does not hurt to dream.”

Question: Will the Eurasian Economic Union survive as an entity, considering our problems with President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko and Kazakhstan?

Sergey Lavrov: It will survive. In any event, we have common interests. In the five years of its existence or even less (there used to be a Customs Union, followed by the Eurasian Economic Union), we are making great strides forward, as compared with the deadlines that allowed Europe to achieve the same level of integration.

Question: It was easier for us.

Sergey Lavrov: Nevertheless, economic ties were disrupted considerably after the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Question: President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko says that he is planning to leave the Eurasian Economic Union.

Sergey Lavrov: Just like other countries’ leaders, we judge the policies of other countries by their deeds, rather than words. When US President Donald Trump conducts talks, he also makes all kinds of statements.

Question: Is this blackmail?

Sergey Lavrov: It is preparations for talks, if you like. I cannot say that US President Donald Trump is blackmailing anyone, although he exerts tough pressure.

Question: What would be the first thing you saved if the Foreign Ministry building caught fire?

Sergey Lavrov: God forbid.  We don’t need any self-fulfilling prophecies, and we have a good fire safety system.

Question: What do you eat to improve your mood?

Sergey Lavrov: I prefer tasty food.

Question: Could you be more specific? All of us like tasty food.

Sergey Lavrov: Sauerkraut shchi and borsch. I like soups very much.

Question: How do you relax? And what is your favourite music? How do you manage to stay in shape all the time? Perhaps you like rap music?

Sergey Lavrov: I am not into rap music. I like bard singers, including Vladimir Vysotsky, Bulat Okudzhava, Yury Vizbor and Oleg Mityayev. And I love the outdoors.

Question: If on New Year’s Eve you found a magic lantern that could grant any personal wish, what would it be?

Sergey Lavrov: A personal wish? I don’t know. Never thought about it. I am not used to making wishes. I am more of a realist than a dreamer.

Question: So when the Kremlin chimes welcome the New Year in, you never make a wish?

Sergey Lavrov: No. On my rafting team, we have this principle – never drink to anything in advance. We do not celebrate what is to come, but celebrate what happened. If it’s someone’s birthday, we raise a glass of champagne. But we never toast what is still to come. It is even considered wrong.

Question: Figuratively speaking, if we take Russia’s foreign policy in recent years, was there anything you would toast with a glass of champagne with your colleagues?

Sergey Lavrov: I am not assessing the work of my Ministry now. One of our most significant projects in recent years was the chemical disarmament agreement in Syria, which helped us avoid an act of American aggression. This agreement was documented in a UN Security Council resolution, but, unfortunately, after that, the OPCW, whose job was to physically remove and destroy toxic substances from Syria, suffered a hostile takeover from the inside.

Question: Do you mean following the Skripal case?

Sergey Lavrov: No, this was not following the Skripal case. It primarily had to do with Syria. It was a separate story. Some of our western partners are now trying to replace international law with a “rules-based order.” But what they mean is not any universally agreed rules, but those they consider convenient for themselves. Western media are already openly writing about it. In particular, the British newspaper The Times wrote that the departure from international law is leading to a very unstable system, where relationships will be determined by the balance of power, brute force or economic and financial pressure such as blackmail, and bilateral agreements. This is roughly what the Americans are trying to do now, breaking the multilateral structures, including the World Trade Organisation, and moving from relations with the EU to resolving all problems bilaterally. Therefore, the agreement on chemical disarmament in Syria was indeed a serious achievement. Now, under various far-fetched pretexts, the Americans and their closest allies are trying to claim that not everything has been destroyed. Although international organisations, namely the OPCW, in the presence of observers, including those from the United States, verified the destruction of all chemical facilities and substances in Syria. Such are our partners.

Question: Do we still have any influence in that organisation?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes.

Question: Do you remember the most unusual New Year gift you received or gave?

Sergey Lavrov: My “hard drive” does not store such things. They have been erased from memory. These days I am more busy thinking about work than about the New Year.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish all the listeners and readers of Komsomolskaya Pravda a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. All the best to you, good health and good luck.

NATO’s Aggression Reaches for Russian Waters

December 7, 2018 (Tony Cartalucci – NEO) – The recent Kerch Strait incident marks a new low amid the US-led expansion of NATO eastward.

The intentional provocation executed by Kiev saw three Ukrainian naval vessels seized by Russia. The vessels were intentionally violating protocol for passing through the Strait – protocol previously agreed upon by Kiev and previously observed by Ukrainian naval vessels.

The extent to which Ukraine was aware of these protocols and the 2003 agreement that put them in place includes entire events organized in Ukraine by NATO-sponsored “think tanks” discussing the necessity to “rip them up” and attempt to assert greater control over the current joint-use of the Sea of Azov.

In the wake of this incident – predictable calls are being made to use it as a pretext to expand NATO even further east, with senior American Foreign Policy Council fellow and former professor at the US Army War College Stephen Blank declaring the need for the US to “lease” Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov, patrol the sea with US warships,  all while committing to the “full-fledged” arming of Ukrainian forces.

Blank’s commentary – published in The Hill in a piece titled, “Russia’s attack on Ukraine is an act of war,” predicates an anti-Russian narrative and NATO’s eastward expansion into Ukraine upon a number of blatant falsehoods.

He mentions Russia’s “seizure” of Crimea, its “claiming that Crimea, the Sea of Azov, and the Kerch Strait are exclusively Russian waters,” and the building of the Crimean Bridge which Blank claims is impeding Ukrainian commerce in the Sea of Azov – all as Russian provocations.

However, Blank conveniently omits the US-NATO backed putsch that seized power in Ukraine in 2013 – setting off Ukrainian-Russian tensions in the first place. Nowhere in Blank’s commentary does he mention the prominent role paramilitary Neo-Nazi organizations have played in both overthrowing the elected government in 2013 and militancy carried out against Russian businesses, institutions, and even Ukrainians of Russian decedent – particularly in Donbass, eastern Ukraine.


Blank would even feign ignorance over Russian President Vladimir Putin’s motives in repatriating Crimea and taking measures against a now fully hostile Ukraine sitting on Russia’s borders.

Also conveniently omitted from Blank’s commentary was any mention of decades of NATO’s eastward expansion along with various episodes in NATO’s history where it waged wars well beyond its jurisdiction and mandate, including in Libya and Afghanistan.

Coupled together with Blank’s prescription for a “response” – it is abundantly clear who stood most to benefit from the Kerch Strait incident – especially considering the systematic expansion of NATO that has been ongoing long before President Putin ever came to power.

Blank suggests:

Beyond imposing more sanctions, waging a robust informational campaign and transferring more arms to Ukraine we can and must do something more innovative and decisive. We have the means and precedent for doing so.

He then suggests (emphasis added):

Ukraine could lease ports on the Black Sea and even in the Sea of Azov to the U.S. while we lend them military equipment they need for air, naval, and ground warfare. The U.S. or NATO naval vessels could then stay at those ports for as long as necessary without bringing Ukraine formally into NATO. It would greatly diminish the chance of Russian attack if those forces patrolled the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.

Blank concludes by claiming:

Not only do these forces deter future Russian attacks they show everyone, not least in Moscow, that Putin’s reckless adventurism has merely brought NATO into Ukraine to stay, the exact opposite of his goals.

Yet, claiming Russia’s actions prompted NATO’s entrance into Ukraine is preposterous – especially considering NATO’s decades-long and relentless expansion eastward. The US-NATO backed putsch in 2013 was aimed wholly at placing a proxy regime in power that would uproot all Russian influence and interests in Ukraine, fast-track Ukraine’s entry into both the European Union and NATO, and join the front-line of NATO expansion – literally right on Russia’s borders.

NATO Expansion was the Goal Long Before “Putin’s Reckless Adventurism”  

Despite assurances from senior US representatives to the Soviet Union toward the end of the Cold War that NATO would not be expanded “one inch to the east,” it has since been expanded directly to Russia’s borders.

NATO members bordering Russia now include Estonia, Latvia, and Norway – with Georgia and Ukraine both bordering Russia and being considered “aspirant” countries.

Norway was host of one of the largest NATO exercises in decades – Trident Juncture. Other exercises are regularly held in the Baltic states bordering Russia. And US troops have carried out training, have provided arms to, and have ensured compliant regimes remain in power in Ukraine and Georgia.

Then US Secretary of State James Baker – as revealed in now declassified documents maintained in archives by George Washington University – personally and repeatedly made assurances to then Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not be further expanded toward Russian borders.

In one document titled, “Memorandum of conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and James Baker in Moscow,” Baker would state in regards to the reunification of Germany (emphasis added):

We fought a war [World War 2] together to bring peace to Europe. We didn’t do so well handling the peace in the Cold War. And now we are faced with rapid and fundamental change. And we are in a better position to cooperate in preserving peace. I want you to know one thing for certain. The President and I have made clear that we seek no unilateral advantage in this process. 

In other words – the US recognized the Soviet Union’s role in defeating Nazi Germany and admitted both nations failed to broker peace in the war’s aftermath. The US also stated it sought to cooperate with Russia regarding the reunification of Germany and the post-Cold War political order in Eastern Europe. It would stand to reason that in exchange for any sort of cooperation from Moscow, certain assurances would have to be made that NATO would not be expanded further eastward.

Baker would continue, claiming (emphasis added):

All our allies and East Europeans we have spoken to have told us that they want us to maintain a presence in Europe. I am not sure whether you favor that or not. But let me say that if our allies want us to go, we will be gone in a minute. Indeed, if they want us to leave, we’ll go and I can assure you that the sentiment of the American people is such that they will want us to leave immediately. The mechanism by which we have a US military presence in Europe is NATO. If you abolish NATO, there will be no more US presence. 

Of course, if the sentiment of the American people was and is for the US to withdraw its military presence from Europe – as a defender of global democracy – the US finds itself making a very undemocratic decision by keeping its military in Europe regardless.

Baker then claims (emphasis added):

We understand the need for assurances to the countries in the East. If we maintain a presence in a Germany that is part of NATO, there would no extension of NATO’s jurisdiction for forces of NATO one inch to the east.

Baker would reiterate this point by asking Gorbachev the question:

Would you prefer a united Germany outside of NATO that is independent and has no US forces or would you prefer a united Germany with ties to NATO and assurances that there would be no extension of NATO’s current jurisdiction eastward? 

Obviously then, just as now, Russia had nothing to gain by allowing NATO to continue expanding eastward. A meeting between then German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Gorbachev following the Baker-Gorbachev meeting would again reiterate commitments not to expand NATO any further eastward.

The US has – in retrospect and to no one’s surprise – claimed that the meetings, language used, and agreements were non-binding, misinterpreted, and ultimately did not equate to any sort of constraint on NATO’s expansion, including up to and along Russia’s borders.Some have claimed that the assurances only applied to NATO’s presence in Germany – but clearly Baker’s assurances of not expanding NATO’s jurisdiction eastward inside of Germany was an acknowledgement that NATO’s move eastward – anywhere – was seen as a threat and provocation by Moscow.

If the US understood that eastward expansion of NATO’s jurisdiction inside of Germany would be perceived rightfully as a threat and provocation, why wouldn’t it be equally understood that eastward expansion outside of Germany and up to Russia’s borders would be perceived as an even greater threat and provocation?  Wouldn’t the US equally see similar expansion by Russia westward as a threat and provocation?

Putting the Shoe on the Other Foot – How Would Washington React to “Russian Expansion?”

To understand how bad NATO expansion actually looks outside the bubble of American exceptionalism and just what sort of situation Moscow is faced with – consider what Washington’s reaction would be to a Russian-backed coup in Canada, Mexico, or both.

Consider both nation’s hosting Russian troops and receiving Russian arms with high-level Russian politicians vowing to overthrow the political order of the United States next.

Consider as Russia did this, it also imposed sanctions on the United States – crippling its economy – then blamed Washington’s “incompetence” rather than Russia’s own sanctions for the predictable economic crisis. Consider if Russia also imposed secondary sanctions on American allies, preventing them from trading with the US, thus attempting to impose a modern-day blockade on the United States itself.

It takes little imagination to conclude Washington would not tolerate such activity – and considering what the US has already done in reaction to unfounded claims of “Russian meddling” in US elections, such extreme meddling, sanctions, and military and economic encirclement carried out along America’s borders would fall well within the realm as “acts of war.”

Washington has lied the American people into serial wars abroad, destroying entire regions of the planet and killing millions. One can only imagine what Washington would do if actually confronted with genuine acts of war carried out directly on its borders.

And yet Russia’s reaction to exactly these sort of very real provocations carried out by the US and NATO all along its borders and against its allies has been measured, patient – and for some – considered even woefully inadequate.

Despite this, US policymakers and the Western media still manage to twist the narrative a full 180 degrees and portray Russia – a nation with a military budget and GDP a fraction of those of the United States – as the “aggressor.”

NATO Will Not Stop Itself  

It is clear that NATO’s expansion is aimed at Moscow itself. It will continue until it is forcibly stopped. This means either by Russia warding off NATO expansion until NATO collapses under its own unsustainable weight, or Russia outmatches NATO at the very edge of the West’s extent in areas Moscow clearly holds the military, sociopolitical, and economic advantage.

The Kerch Strait incident and attempts to leverage it as a pretext to place NATO warships in the Sea of Azov is a dangerous provocation – the Sea of Azov is not “international waters” and is considered by both Ukraine and Russia as an inland sea they share control over.

If people like Stephen Blank have their way and warships enter the Sea of Azov – NATO will be one step past many of the proxy wars the West is already fighting Russia through – and one step closer to fighting Russian forces directly.

Blank’s claiming NATO must act to confront Russian “provocations” is an instance of inverse reality. In this case – NATO is encircling Russia, violently stripping it of buffer states where the West and East have and could have continued to share influence to avoid conflict, and is instead turning them into frontier fortresses in preparation for what is clearly further and more direct conflict planned with Russia in the future.

A nation leading an alliance that must cross the Atlantic Ocean and several seas to station its vessels in Russian waters is not reacting to provocations – it is the provocateur.

Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook”.

The trials and tribulations of Turkish foreign policy

December 01, 2018

The trials and tribulations of Turkish foreign policy

Professor Hasan Unal, a top political scientist based in Istanbul, explains the geopolitics of his region, the eastern Mediterranean and into the Black Sea

by Pepe Escobar (cross-posted with The Asia Times by special agreement with the author)

When Vladimir Putin visited President Erdogan’s lavish new $500-million presidential palace in Ankara, he had one thing to say: “I’m very impressed.” Professor Hasan Unal, savoring the dry humor, derives as much pleasure in retelling the story as Putin’s remark may have been lost on Erdogan, who is famous for his lack of humor.

Professor Hasan Unal is one of Turkey’s foremost political scientists and international relations experts. I had the pleasure of spending a long afternoon with Unal at Maltepe University in Istanbul, where he now enjoys plenty of time to “just teach” after an extremely busy academic career in Ankara. These are some of the highlights of our conversation:

Tell me your views about the Khashoggi affair?

Unal: “The Turkish government played the first stage very well. When you get to the second stage, what you get is very dangerous articles in Turkish media suggesting that the Turkish government now has a wonderful opportunity to strike at the Saudi Crown Prince [Mohammed Bin Salman]. Once you move to that stage, it’s not in Turkey’s interest. Who’s going to sign on the future of the Crown Prince? Not Turkey. Not Russia. But the United States. They have invested so much in this Crown Prince. Would it be in Turkey’s interest to push the United States into a corner?

What about the explosive new equation in the Eastern Mediterranean?

Unal: “What Turkey should have done is to use this incident in Istanbul to cultivate the [Saudi] King and say, “King Salman, look, your son is implicated.” But if you attack his son, how are you going to cultivate that relationship? Turkey should have said, ‘Let’s improve our relations first’. And also, ‘I need your support over Egypt’. That would be basically a win-win situation. And I would sell it to my gallery as a major victory. We need Egypt in the Eastern Mediterranean. What this government has done is a dangerous thing. They have pushed both Israel and Egypt into the hands of the Greeks in the Eastern Mediterranean. They have basically formed an anti-Turkish alliance. And that is foolish from the part of the Turkish government. But to get to that stage, Ankara should have realized something first: ‘Get your mind out of Idlib [in Syria]’.

This brings us to ideology and foreign policy. What is your take on this?

Unal: “What the Crown Prince represents is a region-wide, anti-Muslim Brotherhood policy. That is like a Russian matryoshka. You never know who’s going to pop up next. Turkish foreign policy should be focused on the national interest. I would say that an ideologically driven foreign policy went off-track in 2011. And events proved it could not produce the desired effect. That policy was reconsidered a few times, but there’s still fall-out – ideological baggage that seems to be poisoning Turkish foreign policy.”

Professor Hasan Unal, Istanbul

Professor Hasan Unal. Photo: Asia Times

Can we switch now to NATO and the Black Sea from a Turkish standpoint?

Unal: “NATO is forcing itself into the Black Sea through Romania and Bulgaria, not through Turkey. And they are forcing Georgia to act like a NATO country. Georgia in NATO, that would be out of order, it would be like [starting] a Third World War, basically. The Americans want the Montreux agreement, which basically governs the Straits, to be sidelined [under the 1936 agreement Turkey controls the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles and rules on the transit of warships].

“Turkey would never accept that. Over Ukraine, Turkish policy officially is, we support the territorial integrity of Ukraine. You can’t say anything more than that or less than that. What you say in favor of Russia may backfire on you in another dispute. If you recognize Crimea as part of Russia, what you are you gonna say about the Karabagh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan?”

Tell us about Turkey, Russia, Cyprus, and Crimea.

Unal: “In the end, it might actually come to a point where the Russians recognize northern Cyprus and we recognize Crimea as part of Russia. I would basically set up a naval and air base in northern Cyprus jointly used by Russia and Turkey. Don’t forget, the whole geopolitics of the Eastern Mediterranean has changed since the Syrian conflict. There’s got to be concessions. When states want to do something, they formulate a policy with a little bit of international law, a bit about historical arguments, politics, population, geography, and then you make an argument. And if you don’t want to do anything, again you bring this all together to support the opposite. The other important concession is the Russians should get the Armenians out of Azerbaijan-occupied territories.”

What about a key silent player, Kazakhstan’s President Nazarbayev?

Unal: “Nazarbayev is a very wise leader. He wields all this influence over Putin and Russia, as much as they wield influence over him. Don’t forget that these guys worked together. Nazarbayev was their superior. Kazakhs, when you talk to them, they say, if the Soviet Union had continued, he was going to be the Soviet leader. When [former Turkish President Suleyman] Demirel visited the Soviet Union, he had heard a lot about imprisoned Turks in the Soviet empire. Then he visited Moscow and saw the Turks running the show – [plus] Uzbeks, Kazakhs …”

How do you see Turkey’s role in China’s Belt and Road Initiative?

Unal: “The only good thing I’m happy about is that at least we have not made an ideologically-driven policy about the initiative to oppose it. The Uighur problem always pops up when it comes to Turkey-China relations. We don’t know the scale of what’s been happening in there [Xinjiang). A certain section of Turkish public opinion would buy the notion of concentration camps for Uighurs. But for the general public, it’s not something they understand. When I was working in Gazi University in Ankara, a group of scholars at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, experts on Xinjiang, they came, challenged prejudices, they were very confident. There are Turkish-Chinese negotiations about joint production of missiles. Building of roads and high-speed railways is something our present government would love to see happening. Perhaps they think they are already supporting it [BRI] without letting it be known.”

Eternal Maidan – Three Sources, Three Components

 

Eternal Maidan – Three Sources, Three Components

November 14, 2018

By Rostislav Ishchenko

Translated by Ollie Richardson and Angelina Siard
cross posted with http://www.stalkerzone.org/rostislav-ishchenko-eternal-maidan-three-sources-three-components/
source

In Ukraine there is talk about the first Maidan, the second Maidan, a future Maidan, and an aborted Maidan (“Ukraine without Kuchma” event). Politicians, political scientists, journalists, and already even scientific historians (if it is possible to call as such the people representing Ukrainian historical science) discuss the quantity of Maidans in the history of the “European nation”, as well as their correct periodisation and world-wide/ historical value.

This is good and correct. An exact definition of the quantity and quality of Maidans – both realised and not realised ones, both peaceful and not peaceful coup attempts – indeed allows us to come to global generalisations, and to define – being accurate within one year – the exact moment when the US transitioned to a regime of a confrontation with Russia (without reporting about it officially yet). Consequently, when the “multi-vector policy” stopped to suit them (we will note, a quite pro-American multi-vector policy), which is characteristic not only for Ukraine, but also for all the post-Soviet space.

This is a very important moment of a strategic geopolitical U-turn. It is precisely the decision of the US not to drag things out, biding their time for when Russia suffocates from their “friendly” embraces, but to finish it off within the framework of a direct and open confrontation, having created a belt of hatred along its borders out of the former Soviet republics, that gave Moscow the chance to do a U-turn in a lost geopolitical game in its own favour, which Russia was able to take advantage of, despite all the scantiness of this chance.

The creation of a belt of hatred demanded to remove the compromising (from the point of view of the domestic policy of the relevant states) “multi-vector” regimes and to replace them with radical nationalist, “Euro-Atlantic”, forces, whose representatives didn’t enjoy special popularity in their own countries. It wasn’t a question of the elites of post-Soviet states being against integration into NATO and the EU, but of radical contradictions between semi-marginal groups of “ideologists”, who fed themselves from American grants and in principle weren’t interested in the economy, and the emerging national oligarchy, which fed itself from the national economy, desired to control the domestic market, and had some interests and ambitions in foreign markets – in particular, the Russian market.

Creeping “suffocation from embraces” assumed taking into account the interests of the national oligarchy. Such “taking into account” excluded a transition to a forced offensive on Russia. National economies should have been sacrificed for the nationalist ideological mobilisation of the peoples against Russia.

It was possible to achieve success in such a situation only by a coup. But the open putsch of marginals would be suppressed by the authorities and wouldn’t be supported by the world community. That’s why it was necessary to mask it under a color “people’s revolutions”. Nevertheless, the coming to power of radical nationalist-russophobes was so destructive for the interests of local elites that in most cases the coup didn’t take place, and pathetic attempts were easily suppressed by the authorities, despite the sluggish protests of the “civilised world”.

The coups succeeded in separate cases, but even here in most cases the old elites were able to preserve control over the situation and also the “multi-vector” strategy. Only in Georgia and Ukraine did Russophobic regimes (Saakashvili and Yushchenko) remain in power for a long time. But in the end Saakashvili’s regime in Georgia fell, and his successors are quite “multi-vector” russophobes. Whereas in Ukraine Yushchenko’s regime, having degraded in five years towards full marginality and having lost power, was again revived in 2014 in the form of a direct radical nationalist dictatorship, which was carelessly veiled with the pseudo-democratic regime of Poroshenko.

Now the new “opposition” tries to unite against Petro Poroshenko on the basis of this same “multi-vectorism”. And it seems that they are having some success. But here it is a question of changing the person who is the president and about firing several dozens (or maybe only several) of his closest employees, who have compromised themselves too much by their proximity to the criminal regime. It isn’t at all a question about changing the principles of governance. They speak about the need for reconciliation with Russia, but not about recognising the Russian status of Crimea. They speak about terminating the war, but not about recognising the People’s Republics of Donbass as equal partners in negotiations on solving the crisis. But there is no talk about condemning the coup or about holding accountable those who violated the constitution and the laws of the country, committed massacres and illegal arrests, humiliated people, used the army against their own people, and bombed and shelled their own cities. They also don’t oppose the plans to create a local church. The “opposition” is “anti” only Poroshenko and corruption – because it is connected to Poroshenko, and “pro” everything being like it was before the coup, but without a revision of the political results of the coup.

We can ascertain that irrespective of whether or not the “opposition” appeals to the East (BoykoRabinovich) or to the West (Tymoshenko), whether or not it has a pro-American (Yatsenyuk), pro-European (Klitschko), or pro-Russian (Medvedchuk) reputation, we are dealing with the opposition of Maidan, and not the opposition to Maidan. They fight not against the results of the coup, but for the power in the country created by this coup. They – being in the center of events, unlike many Russian experts, who consider that Ukraine becomes stronger – directly say that the state crumbles and not very optimistically estimate the timeframe of the final disintegration. They understand that the resource for the stabilisation of the situation and the preservation of statehood is situated in Russia, and they want to receive this resource, but at the same time not refuse any of Maidan’s “gains”.

They are ready to sacrifice Poroshenko. But not because Poroshenko somehow doesn’t govern the country as he should. Ultimately, today’s oppositionists to the “corrupt regime” have had serious parliamentary representation. For more than two years Poroshenko hasn’t been able to implement his initiatives via the Rada without the support of the opposition, i.e., the opposition has a formal parliamentary majority, albeit non-united and non-structured. The head of the government also pursues a rather independent policy, and the decisions of the Cabinet of Ministers are influenced more by Avakov’s position than Poroshenko’s. The sources of the influence of the president are the Ministry of Defence, the SBU, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Prosecutor-General’s Office. This is enough in order to remain in power, but it isn’t enough to pursue an independent policy.

They are ready to gift Poroshenko’s head to Moscow simply because they themselves need his removal, but removing his head is better. I.e., they want to pay for this support with what they will do anyway – because if it’s not they who will remove him, then it will be he who will remove them. And moreover, it’s not a question of support in the course of elections. They perfectly understand that if they won’t be able to resolve the issue of power in Ukraine by their own efforts, then nobody will help them – neither Russia, nor the US, nor the EU. It is about massive financial-economic support (by granting credits, financing joint production projects, and opening Russian markets for Ukrainian production) for the new government.

In fact, the Ukrainian “opposition” hopes that Russia will financially support a neomaidan government in exchange for its main face being replaced. At the same time, since the issue of power after a coup is resolved not by voting, but by armed support, the “opposition” needs to obtain support or at least the neutrality of nationalist (legal and illegal) armed formations. First of all, this concerns Biletsky, who already declared that since Tyagnibok refused to head the united right-wing radicals, it will be him (Biletsky) who will do it.

Biletsky controls the most numerous and branched structure, which includes, besides the “Azov” regiment, up to 10,000 reservists who have combat experience and who, thanks to accumulated stocks of illegal weapons, can be deployed in two-three brigades, with their own quasi-police formations present in every settlement from the district center and further and with a branched party structure leaning on public and youth organisations. At the moment he, apparently, tries to enter into an alliance with Tyagnibok, due to the influence of “Svoboda” in 3 Galician regions, and the only thing that is left for other right-wing radicals – including the once legendary Yarosh – to do is to join Biletsky as younger partners. In addition, he has Avakov’s support, and thus the Ministry of Internal Affairs too. Moreover, it is especially Avakov who is more interested in preserving interaction with Biletsky, i.e., the latter is rather free in his political gestures.

He already made his first demand. He wants the political system to legalise the carrying by his activists of the illegal military weapons collected by them. It is possible that this isn’t the only price of the neutrality of the extreme-right that he will demand to pay. Of course, it is possible to refuse him, and he will be refused on some points, but there will be an obligation to accept some of his conditions. And it means that the extreme-right will become stronger and more centralised at the back-end of the Ukrainian presidential campaign. Any government – be it old or new – will be forced to reckon with this.

Thus, Maidan – if to consider that it isn’t just the periodic festival of marginals on the central square of Kiev veiling a banal coup, but the steady movement of Ukraine along the way of more and more Russophobic and more and more terroristic regimes emerging – will be continued after these elections, irrespective of their results. Maidan in Ukraine is in general eternal. It started before the declaration of independence (“revolution on granite”) and it will exist for some time after the disappearance of the Ukrainian state, irrespective of whether it will be divided, absorbed, or will simply collapse into many small “gulyai-pole” [power changing hands frequently – ed] and Malinovka.

Three sources, three components feed the Eternal Ukrainian Maidan, which is the prerequisite for, as well as the symbol and sense of, the existence of independent Ukraine:

  1. Non-professionalism of the provincial bureaucracy, which turned out to be incapable of governing an independent state, fatally afraid of its own people and therefore feeling the need to transfer its sovereignty to an external manager, having become its vassal. Such a position initially excluded a union with Russia. Moscow possessed the situation in Ukraine too well and Kiev was afraid that it will demand too big a slice for protection.
  2. The inability of the oligarchy to transition from a burglarious economy to a productive one. Work in accordance with the scheme “stole-sold-stole” doomed not only the country, but also the oligarchy to the quick exhaustion of cash resources and the fight over dividing up what remains, and thus – a split in the elites and their inability to effectively defend state interests. Finally, this resulted in the purely Ukrainian theory that state interests as such are a myth.
  3. Concentration of the people on consumer expectations. The independence of Ukraine, the plans of “European integration”, all Maidans, and a confrontation with Russia were considered by the people as a certain mystical action, after which capitalist communism – when nobody works, but “to each according to his needs” – will immediately come.

Of course, in Ukraine there were sensible managers, gifted politicians, talented businessmen, and simply a mass of adequate people. But the idea of independence is the idea of Maidan, and the idea of Maidan consists of doing nothing but having everything. Independence dooms Ukraine to an Eternal Maidan. Any opposition in Kiev that comes out with whatever very beautiful slogans, but is “for” the preservation of independence, supports also the preservation of the Eternal Maidan.

But in Kiev there is no opposition that wouldn’t support independence. In 27 years such opposition was completely ousted from politics, and now it is being ousted also from life. Kiev fears even federalism like the plague, since it guarantees the fast end of independence. Regions will quickly figure out that nearby there are federal centers that serve the interests of their province much more qualitatively and cheaper.

That’s why during the approaching elections it will become a question not of the fight of Maidan vs. anti-Maidan (this fight was definitively lost by anti-Maidan in the spring of 2014), but only of the form of Maidan. But since neither the vector nor the principles of Ukraine’s development change, we can ascertain that having travelled – within the framework of the Eternal Maidan – the path from a soft nationalist democracy, through an oligarchical republic, to an oligarchical dictatorship leaning on the extreme-right, Ukraine moves towards a barefaced dictatorship of the extreme-right. The only question is will the state live long enough to see an extreme-right dictatorship or will it collapse earlier than it will be destroyed by this dictatorship that yearns for power in order to strengthen it [the state – ed].

The only thing that Ukrainian politicians can do to influence matters is to accelerate or slow down the processes leading towards the inevitable end that they can already see. They try to slow it down, but I think that for Ukraine it would be better to accelerate it, because it is that case when a horrible end is better than horror without an end.

NATO membership for Ukraine & Georgia would bring out the bear in Russia

Robert Bridge
Robert Bridge is an American writer and journalist. Former Editor-in-Chief of The Moscow News, he is author of the book, ‘Midnight in the American Empire,’ released in 2013.
NATO membership for Ukraine & Georgia would bring out the bear in Russia
Western leaders argue that the growth of NATO along Russia’s border together with the militarization of Eastern Europe is necessary for preserving peace with Moscow. Nothing could be further from the truth.

There has been an unmistakable trend in the realm of geopolitics since the start of the new millennium – of which Ukraine and Georgia may represent the next phase – and it bodes absolutely disastrous for the future of mankind. Indeed, it may very well lead to its ultimate destruction. I am talking about NATO’s incessant encroachment upon Russia’s borders amid a crumbling arms treaty architecture.

Despite past promises that such a scenario would never happen, and regardless of which US leader was holding power in Washington, NATO’s relentless eastward advance – under the guise of one excuse or another – has been ongoing for many years.

A history of deception

Despite the relatively upbeat, positive mood that accompanied the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, West-Russia relations were already strained by 1999 as the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland were newly absorbed into the Western military bloc. This was considered outrageous by many observers at the time since the Warsaw Pact had been dissolved almost a decade earlier.

However, the wheels really began to fall off the apple cart called ‘global stability’ when then-US president George W. Bush announced in late 2001 that he would withdraw the United States from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM). Predicated on the suicidal rationale of “mutually assured destruction,” the arms control treaty managed to keep the peace for 30 long years between the nuclear powers. Putin called the decision “a mistake.

The purpose of mentioning that abrogated treaty is that it has fueled Russia’s anxiety with regard to NATO’s ulterior motives ever since. With ABM out of the way, the United States was able to move forward with a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe. Despite some fits and starts by the Bush administration, and unfulfilled assurances by the Obama administration that the US would cooperate with Moscow on the system, such a partnership never transpired.

In May 2016, NATO announced that the missile defense base in Romania was fully operational.

Now, had Moscow sat back and done nothing, hoping that NATO would eventually accede to its request for cooperation, then the anti-missile defense system smack on Russia’s border would have been a real game-changer. But as we know, Russia did not sit back and do nothing. In fact, it did something rather incredible. Vladimir Putin revealed in March that Russia had developed – with mind-boggling swiftness – a number of advanced weapons systems, including a nuclear-powered cruise missile with nearly unlimited range. That weapon alone essentially makes NATO efforts to neutralize Russia’s nuclear deterrent obsolete.

Unfortunately, the US missile-defense system smoking in Russia’s geopolitical backyard is not Moscow’s only concern. Behind an advance guard comprised of Western media propaganda and think-tank fallacies, organizations responsible for disseminating unfounded accusations of ‘Russian aggression,’ NATO forces have been able to make serious inroads inside the territories of member states, primarily those that are situated close to or on the Russian border.

Poland, for example, despite already having a rotational US troop presence in its country, is now seeking a permanent US military footprint, even willing to pay $2 billion for the pleasure. In September, prior to a meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda, Donald Trump said he would consider the proposal “very seriously.”

READ MORE: Trump mulls idea of permanent US military base in Poland, says Warsaw ‘likes it very much’

Meanwhile, coming shortly after a large-scale US-led military exercise called Saber Strike 18 on the territory of Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, NATO is now in the middle of Trident Juncture 18 drills (October 25-November 7), involving some 45,000 troops from 31 countries. Designed to prepare for an act of aggression from a “foreign belligerent,” Western scare tactics of late make the identity of the fictional bogeyman rather obvious.

Taking aim at Ukraine and Georgia

For anyone who believes that US-led NATO would be content with 29 members in its rapidly growing military clique has not been following the arc of political events.

Undoubtedly, one of the worst recent flash-points in NATO-Russia relations came in February 2014, when a series of violent protests, prompted by Kiev opting out of an association agreement with the European Union, led to the ouster Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and the overthrow of the government. A number of American – not Russian – politicians and diplomats, including the late John McCain and Victoria Nuland, appeared on the streets of Kiev at the height of the unrest, not just stoking the glowing embers of opposition, but literally helping to determine who would lead the country. However, it is Russia that is blamed to this day in the Western media for its “invasion of Ukraine.”

Much of that fabrication was based on a democratic referendum in Crimea, held at the height of hostilities when extreme-right forces were threatening the entire country, in which some 97 percent voted in favor of joining the Russian Federation. One year after that historic vote, Western media were forced to admit that positive sentiments towards Russia had not changed.

Yet even today, many Westerners still believe that Russia seized Crimea through military force thanks to comments like this example from a British tabloid: “In 2014, Russian forces annexed the Ukrainian region of Crimea, rapidly incorporating it into the Russian Federation.” Funny, not a single mention of a referendum among those 17 misguided words.

READ MORE: Crimea is Russian, the matter is finished

Another event that has allowed the Western world to portray Russia as the world’s foremost beast of burden is the five-day conflict between Russia and Georgia. Once again, here is how the Western media regularly explains that event: “Russia launched a large-scale land, air and sea invasion in 2008, accusing Georgia of aggression against Russian separatists in the South Ossetia region.” It’s pretty clear who sounds like the aggressor here since the above sentence puts the cart before the horse. In fact, it really was Georgia that was responsible for attacking and killing Russian peacekeepers stationed in South Ossetia, thereby triggering a Russian response.

It is largely on the basis of these two events, of which the Western public has an extremely poor understanding due to their agenda-based media, that an argument is being made with increasing frequency for Ukraine and Georgia to join NATO.

Needless to say, such a scenario would set West-Russia relations back to the Stone Age.

And that may be more literally the case than one would first realize, since we are now dealing with the possibility of nuclear weapons loose in the region. This comes after Donald Trump announced his intention to leave the decades-old Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF).

READ MORE: US quitting landmark INF treaty is ‘fact’, Moscow prepares response to ‘questions’ – Lavrov

Analysts say such a move would bring the world closer to the outbreak of nuclear war.

Andrei Kelin, director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s European Cooperation Department, said the risk of Georgia joining NATO, at a time when the US is talking about withdrawing from yet another arms treaty, would force Russia to respond with a “defense belt near Sochi.”

We will have to spend colossal resources on preventing likely actions by a hypothetical enemy, this is inevitable,” Kelin told an audience at the Valdai discussion group, which meets annually in Russia. Ukraine’s accession to the alliance would also present equally serious considerations, and would force Russia “to shift the emphasis of our defense structures towards the south.”

In other words, unless some intelligent people start speaking up in the West, describing the reality of the situation in that Russia poses no threat to Western interests, then the likelihood of some future catastrophe will increase by a degree of magnitude.

While Kelin described Ukrainian and Georgian accession to NATO as “very unlikely” for the time being, we should keep in mind that most people also thought it “very unlikely” just five years ago that US-Russia relations would hit rock bottom in a matter of just months.

If one thing is certain these days, it would surely have to be the level of uncertainty in the world of geopolitics. That should be of tremendous concern to all of us.

@Robert_Bridge

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

The War of 08.08.08 and Ten Years of Struggle for Russian Sovereignty

The War of 08.08.08 and Ten Years of Struggle for Russian Sovereignty

August 09, 2018

By Aleksandr Rodgers
Translated by Ollie Richardson and Angelina Siard
cross posted with http://www.stalkerzone.org/aleksandr-rodgers-the-war-of-08-08-08-and-ten-years-of-struggle-for-russian-sovereignty/
source: https://jpgazeta.ru/aleksandr-rodzhers-voyna-08-08-08-i-desyat-let-borbyi-za-suverenitet-rossii/

In reality, those processes that we now observe didn’t arrive “suddenly”, but developed (and were being prepared) over a long period of time.

And although on August 8th, 2018, it is ten years since 08.08.08, we will start the conversation with other events.

Because officially it is a completely different date, namely February 10th, 2007 – the Munich speech of Putin, that can be considered as the official beginning of events that followed. Where he, for the first time, described for the entire planet:

  • the injustice of the existing global system;
  • the fact that China already overtakes the US, and BRIC overtakes the EU;
  • the inevitability of the end of the unipolar world;
  • the need to put an end to the arbitrariness of the US, which leans on brute force;
  • his disagreement with injustice.

If to look at the video, it is possible to see that many in the hall smiled and thought that Putin jokes (how can it be possible to protest against American hegemony – it’s unheard of!). But he wasn’t joking.

It is clear that this speech of Putin was not spontaneous, and it was preceded by big preparation (removing semibankirschina from power, cancellation of the Production Sharing Agreement, reforming the army, and so on). But most laypeople think in the category “if I don’t see something, then it does not exist”.

That’s why the events on August 8th, 2008 were a surprise for them.

On August 8th the American puppet Mikheil Saakashvili, who came to power in Georgia as a result of an illegal coup (called by propagandists as the “Rose Revolution”), ordered his troops – armed and trained according to NATO standards (and on American money) – to perform a punitive operation against the inhabitants of South Ossetia, having started to massively shell the capital of the republic – Tskhinvali.

In the city there were Russian peacekeepers, which had a UN mandate, and such aggression, according to the plan of the American owners of Saakashvili, had to show Russia “its place”. But something went astray.

According to the plan (approved, among other things, by the former Minister of Defence of Georgia Irakli Okruashvili), the Georgian army had to firstly carry out the large-scale bombing of Tskhinvali and the surrounding villages by means of long-range artillery and MLRS, and then, after defeating the not numerous Ossetian army (in total about 3,000 people), to start ethnic cleaning.

In order to implement this plan the US developed a large-scale program of training the Georgian army – its main focus was on “anti-insurgent actions”.

In particular, the British “Financial Times” newspaper openly wrote that 80 Georgian special forces members were trained by American instructors by the order of the Pentagon according to a program that was tested in Croatia in 1995 within the framework of the operation of the Croatian armed forces for the capture of Serbian Krajina. The FT noted that this operation was one of the worst episodes of ethnic cleaning in the history of the Yugoslavian war (since Vietnam the Americans have had a wide experience of war against a peaceful and unarmed population, much like their current Banderist lackeys).

During Saakashvili’s reign, Georgia increased its military budget by 30-fold (at the same time, ordinary Georgians outside the capital survived on $30-40 a month, which is below the norms of the UN for absolute poverty). If in 2003 military expenses of the state budget of Georgia were $30 million (0.7% of GDP), then in 2007 it was already $940 million (8% of GDP). For comparison, now in NATO the standard is 2%, and even this is too much for the majority of member countries, which thus don’t implement it).

In 2008 the military expenses of Georgia totalled $990 million, which exceeded a quarter of the entire state budget of this poor country! All of this, of course, was done contrary to the interests of ordinary Georgians and at their expense.

At the same time, Georgia received some weapons from Ukraine by bypassing standard procedures. It happened at the personal order of Viktor Yushchenko – one more American puppet (who also came to power as a result of a “soft” coup d’etat inspired by the US).

But all of this preparation didn’t help.

It should be noted that the Ossetian conflict was preceded by the illegal recognition of the independence of Kosovo. On February 17th, 2008 the independence of Kosovo was declared, and on the next day it was recognised by a number of the countries – first of all, the US.

The recognition of the independence of Kosovo caused an extremely negative reaction in the leadership of Russia, President Putin at the summit of the CIS countries on February 22rd said:

“The Kosovo precedent is a horrifying precedent. <…> Those who do it don’t foresee the results of what they do. Finally, this is a double-edged sword, and the second edge will one day hit them on the head”.

Since the end of July, 2008 the Georgian army starts to shell the settlements of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Since August 1st the Prime Minister of South Ossetia Yury Morozov starts the partial evacuation of the residents of Tskhinvali.

On August 7th the Georgian army tried to occupy Prisi heights around Tskhinvali, but this attack was repelled. On the same day the American ambassador in Georgia John Tefft reported to Washington that the troops of Georgia, including units with MLRS “Grad”, move in the direction of South Ossetia.

In the afternoon of August 7th, 2008 the secretary of the Security Council of South Ossetia Anatoly Barankevich stated:

“The activity of Georgian troops is observed along the entire border with South Ossetia. All of this says that Georgia starts large-scale aggression against our republic“.

At 2 o’clock in the morning on August 8th, 2008 the Georgian army, hoping that Russia won’t react to aggression during the Olympic Games, started an offensive.

On the morning of August 8th the commander of Georgian “peacekeepers” Mamuka Kurashvili called the actions of Georgia in South Ossetia “an operation on restoring constitutional order in the Tskhinvali region”. Later, in October, 2008, during enquiries into the August events in the Georgian parliament, Kurashvili stated that his words were impulsive and weren’t authorised by the top political leadership of Georgia (they always start trembling when the time comes to answer).

Later, Saakashvili tried to lie by saying that the war started after “the offensive of Russian troops from the territory of Ukraine”. By this he implied the departure of ships of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation from Sevastopol, which took place several days before the beginning of the Georgian offensive (in general, they regularly depart ports for raids, and there is never any aggression).

Also, Saakashvili lied by saying that “the president of Ukraine Yushchenko tried to stop by his decree the Black Sea Fleet, but Russia ignored it”. In reality, Yushchenko’s decree appeared only on August 13th, i.e., 5 days after the beginning of the war, and already after the President of Russia Medvedev officially announced the termination of the military operation aimed at coercive peacemaking.

Having gobbled up his tie, overdosed on cocaine, changed his pants after fleeing from the“invisible Russian jets”, and again overdosed on cocaine, Saakashvili raved that:

  • “the Georgian army forced Russian generals to flee from the battlefield for the first time since World War II” (I am not joking, he spurted this out in all seriousness);
  • “95% of the efficient part of the Armed Forces of Russia fought against Georgia”;
  • “the 58th Russian army was actually burned by the 4th Georgian brigade”;
  • “when the 58th army was defeated, Russia used ground and air forces. They fired more than half their ‘Iskander’ ammo”;
  • and so on.

In general, Saakashvili is a worthy colleague of the alcoholic Poroshenko in terms of killing brains via substance abuse, as well as in terms of “destroying Russian armies in words”.

Everybody laughed, but only at the words of the little fool Saakashvili.

Because as a result of Georgian aggression (which, by the way, had the code name “Clear Field”, which openly hints at the intention to carry out the genocide of Ossetians and Abkhazians), which started at 00:15 Moscow time on August 8th with the “Grad” shelling of Tskhinvali, 15 Russian peacekeepers died (and about 40 were wounded), and about 1600 peaceful citizens of South Ossetia were killed (and almost as much wounded). The “Human Rights Watch” human rights organisation confirmed the fact of the destruction of the Russian peacekeeping posts in Tskhinvali and Khetagurovo.

At 00:30 Moscow time the commander of the operations of the armed forces of Georgia General Mamuka Kurashvili announced on the air of the “Rustavi-2” TV channel that, in connection with the refusal of the Ossetian side to hold talks on the stabilisation of the situation in the conflict zone, the Georgian side “made the decision to restore constitutional order in the conflict zone”, which completely disproves the latest Georgian insinuations – that Ossetians and/or Russians attacked first.

At 10:00 on August 8th the Georgian state Minister for Reintegration Temur Yakobashvili called on Russia to “act as a real peacekeeper” and stated that “Georgia controls almost all the settlements of South Ossetia, except Tskhinvali and Dzhava”.

On the morning of August 8th Russian aircraft started bombing military facilities on the territory of Georgia: the military base in Gori; the airfields of Vaziani and Marneuli, where Su-25 and L-39 planes, as well as a radar station 40 kilometers from Tbilisi were based.

At 14:30 Moscow time, the first unit of the Russian army – the 1st battalion of the 135th regiment – passed through the Roki tunnel.

At about 17:00 the Foreign Minister of Georgia Eka Tkeshelashvili called on foreign countries to put pressure on the Russian government in order to stop “direct military aggression” on the territory of Georgia. The Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in reply reminded that on the morning of August 8th Georgia called on Russia to act as a peacekeeper. “So that’s what we are doing,” said Lavrov.

On the morning of August 9th the 76th Guards Air Assault Division based in Pskov was transferred to the area of military operations. Russian ships entered the territorial waters of Georgia and started fighting the patrol.

On August 10th the ships of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation sank two Georgian combat kayaks.

On August 11th the “proud Georgians” fled.

By the way, even when the Georgian army carried out a cunning strategic manoeuvre under the name “chaotic escape”, the grant-eating Georgian media continued to report that:

  • “as a result of fighting in the Tskhinvali region the Russian 58th army lost 1789 soldiers, 105 tanks, 81 fighting vehicles, 45 armoured troop-carriers, 10 ‘Grad’ units, and 5 ‘Smerch’ units”;

or

  • “in Georgia there are so many corpses of Russian soldiers that they aren’t transported back to Russia” (compare to the fake information about the losses of Russians in Donbass and in Syria – the similarity of propaganda methods is obvious).

In reality everything is on the contrary: it is the Georgian armed forces that didn’t take any action to recover the corpses of their perished soldiers from Tskhinvali region, and some of the perished Georgian military personnel were buried in mass graves without being identified (compare to the cauldrons in Donbass and several thousand anonymous graves of UAF soldiers).

But all of this is just details. The main thing is that on 08.08.08 Russia showed to the whole world (not only Georgia) that:

  • it won’t allow genocide to be carried out on its borders;
  • it won’t allow its soldiers to be killed with impunity any more;
  • it is ready to pursue an independent policy (both internal and external);
  • the Russian army isn’t in ruins at all and not as destroyed as the West thought, but completely on the contrary – it is capable of destroying in literally several days a NATO army armed with American weapons and trained by American military advisers;
  • Russians can’t be pushed around; it is only possible to reach an agreement with Russians.

The first milestone is the Munich speech of Putin.

The second milestone is the defeat of the Georgian army under the howling and hysterics of the West.

The third milestone is the failure of the Bolotnaya Square attempt at a white ribbon coup.

The fourth milestone is the return of Crimea.

The fifth milestone is the uprising in Donbass.

The sixth milestone is the essential strengthening of the presence of the state in the economy of Russia, especially in strategic spheres.

The seventh milestone is the crushing of Anglo-Saxon proxies (ISIS, al-Nusra, and other puppet terrorists) in Syria.

The eighth milestone is transferring the vector of activity further away from its borders – to Africa (in addition to the Central African Republic, at least four other African countries).

The ninth milestone is the dumping of American debt papers (treasuries).

And there are many other smaller and not so noticeable steps, like: the emergence of new types of weapons; accession to various international organisations, contracts and associations (trade and economic, as well as security contours), as well as the involvement in these organisations of new countries; import substitution; the introduction of the “foreign agent” status; the creation of its own payment system; and many other things.

And all of this is on the way to the restoration of the sovereignty and greatness of Russia.

But at first there was Munich and 08.08.08.

The Essential Saker II
The Essential Saker II: Civilizational Choices and Geopolitics / The Russian challenge to the hegemony of the AngloZionist Empire
The Essential Saker
The Essential Saker: from the trenches of the emerging multipolar world
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