Vladimir Putin addressed the plenary session of the 1st Eurasian Economic Forum

May 26, 2022

First Eurasian Economic Forum

Also attending the meeting were Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan, President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev, President of Kyrgyzstan Sadyr Japarov, Prime Minister of Belarus Roman Golovchenko, and Chairman of the Board of the Eurasian Economic Commission Mikhail Myasnikovich. The forum moderator was Alexander Shokhin, President of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, member of the Presidium of the EAEU Business Council.

The purpose of the Eurasian Economic Forum, established by a decision of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council and timed to coincide with a meeting of the SEEC, is to further deepen economic cooperation between the EAEU member states.

The EEF 2022 in Bishkek, themed Eurasian Economic Integration in the Era of Global Shifts: New Investment Opportunities, will focus on promising areas for the strategic development of integration. The participants will discuss ways to deepen industrial, energy, transport, financial, and digital cooperation.

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Address at the plenary session of the 1st Eurasian Economic Forum.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: I am grateful for this opportunity to address you, to speak on the issues which you [Alexander Shokhin] have raised and which, as you suggested, should be addressed in greater detail.

First of all, I would like to thank President of Kyrgyzstan Sadyr Japarov and his team for organising this event. I can see many people in the audience, including businesspeople and government officials. I am sure that the media will take a keen interest in the forum.

This is what I would like to begin with when answering your question. The development of Eurasian integration has no connection whatsoever to current developments or market conditions. We established this organisation many years ago. In fact, we established it at the initiative of the First President of Kazakhstan [Nursultan Nazarbayev].

I remember very well the main conversation we had on that issue, on that subject, when he said, “You must choose what is more important to you: working more actively and more closely with your direct neighbours and natural partners, or prioritising, for example, admission to the World Trade Organisation.” It was in this connection that we had to make decisions.

And although we were interested in joining the WTO and in developing relations accordingly with our Western partners, as you said and as I continue to say, we nevertheless regarded as our main priority the development of relations with our direct and natural neighbours within the common economic framework of the Soviet Union. This is my first point.

The second. Already at that time, we started developing ties – I will speak about this later – within the framework of the Greater Eurasian Partnership. Our motivation was not the political situation but global economic trends, because the centre of economic development is gradually – we are aware of this, and our businesspeople are aware of this – is gradually moving, continues to move into the Asia-Pacific Region.

Of course, we understand the tremendous advantages of high technology in advanced economies. This is obvious. We are not going to shut ourselves off from it. There are attempts to oust us from this area a little but this is simply unrealistic in the modern world. It is impossible. If we do not separate ourselves by putting up a wall, nobody will be able to isolate such a country as Russia.

Speaking not only about Russia, but also about our partners in the EAEU and the world in general, this task is completely unfeasible. Moreover, those who are trying to fulfil it harm themselves the most. No matter how sustainable the economies of the countries pursuing this shortsighted policy are, the current state of the global economy shows that our position is right and justified, even in terms of macroeconomic indicators.

These advanced economies have not had such inflation for the past 40 years; unemployment is growing, logistics chains are breaking and global crises are growing in such sensitive areas as food. This is no joke. It is a serious factor affecting the entire system of economic and political relations.

Meanwhile, these sanctions and bans are aimed at constraining and weakening the countries that are pursuing an independent policy, and they ate not limited to Russia or even China. I do not doubt for a second that there are many countries that want to and will pursue an independent policy and their number is growing. No world policeman will be able to stop this global process. There will not be enough power for this and the desire to do so will evaporate due to a host of domestic problems in those countries. I hope they will eventually realise that this policy has no prospects whatsoever.

Violating rules and norms in international finances and trade is counterproductive. In simple words, it will only lead to problems for those who are doing it. Theft of foreign assets has never done any good to anyone, primarily those who are engaged in these unseemly deeds. As it has transpired now, neglect for the political and security interests of other countries leads to chaos and economic upheavals with global repercussions.

Western countries are sure that any persona non grata who has their own point of view and is ready to defend it can be deleted from the world economy, politics, culture and sports. In fact, this is nonsense, and, as I said, it is impossible to make this happen.

We can see it. Mr Shokhin, as a representative of our business, you certainly face problems, especially in the field of supply chains and transport, but nevertheless, everything can be adjusted, everything can be built in a new way. Not without losses at a certain stage, but it leads to the fact that we really become stronger in some ways. In any case, we are definitely acquiring new skills and are starting to focus our economic, financial, and administrative resources on breakthrough areas.

True, not all the import substitution goals were achieved in previous years. But it is impossible to achieve everything: life is faster than administrative decisions, it develops faster. But there is no problem. We have done everything necessary in key areas that ensure our sovereignty.

Let us move on. After all, import substitution is not a pill for every ill, and we are not going to deal exclusively with import substitution. We are just going to develop. But we will continue to arrange import substitution in those areas where we are forced to do so. Yes, maybe with some mixed results, but definitely we will only become stronger thanks to this, especially in the field of high technologies.

Look, after the CoCom lists – I have already spoken about this many times – after what you said about our work, for instance, within the same former G8 and so on, restrictions still remained. In the most sensitive areas, everything was still closed. In fact, fundamentally – I want to emphasise this – nothing has changed fundamentally.

These issues related to large-block assemblies and so on, it took so much effort to increase localisation within the country, in our economy, in the real sectors of the economy, in industry. And even then we did not agree on key issues in many respects.

Actually, import substitution was necessary

to create not just assembly shops, but also engineering centres and research centres. This is inevitable for any country that wants to increase its economic, financial and ultimately political sovereignty. It is inevitable.

This is why we have been doing it, and not because the current state of affairs demands it from us, but simply because life itself demanded this, and we were active.

And, of course, we will work actively within the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union and within the CIS in general, we will work with the regions of Asia, Latin America and Africa. But I assure you, and you can see it yourselves, many of our companies from Europe, our partners from Europe, have announced that they are leaving. You know, sometimes when we look at those who are leaving, we ask ourselves: isn’t it a good thing that they have left? We will take up their niches: our business and our production – they have matured, and they will safely take root on the ground that our partners have prepared. Nothing will change.

And those who want to bring in some luxury goods, they will be able to do so. Well, it will be a little more expensive for them, but these are people who are already driving Mercedes S 600, and will continue to do so. I assure you, they will bring them from anywhere, from any country. That is not what is important for us. What is important for the country, for its development – I have already said this and I will repeat it – are the engineering centres and research centres that are the basis of our own development. This is what we must think about and what we must work on both within the EAEU and in a broad sense with our partners – those who want to cooperate with us.

We have a very good base that we inherited from the old days, we only need to support it and to invest resources there. As for those areas, in which we did not invest appropriate resources before, including, say, administrative resources, relying on the fact that everything can be bought by selling oil and gas, life itself has now forced us to invest there.

And thank God that this has happened. I do not see any problem here with the fact that we have not completed something in the field of import substitution. We will not do it just because the current economic situation forces us to do so, but only because it is in the interests of our country.

The Eurasian Economic Union has developed a roadmap for industrialisation, with over 180 projects with a total investment of over $300 billion. A programme for agricultural development has been prepared, including more than 170 projects worth $16 billion.

Russia has something to offer here, and businesspeople are well aware of this. We have grown to be highly competitive at the global level, in the global markets. Russia remains – if we speak about agriculture – the largest exporter of wheat, number one in the world. Until recently, we were buying it – now we are selling it, number one in the world. True, countries such as the United States or China produce even more, but they also consume more. But Russia has become number one in international trade.

Our high-tech industries are growing successfully, too. And we would like to continue growing together with our EAEU partners. We can and should restore our collaborative competencies.

I have discussed this with my colleagues, with the President of Kazakhstan and the Prime Minister of Armenia – not because some of Russia’s IT workers have moved to Armenia, not at all. They are free to relocate and work anywhere, and God bless them. But again, it is a certain challenge for us: it means we must create better conditions.

We have opportunities to work with the Republic of Belarus in a number of areas of cooperation, and we will definitely do this, because the Republic of Belarus has retained certain expertise that is very important for us, including in microelectronics. President Lukashenko and I just met in Sochi and talked about it, and even agreed to set aside funding for those projects in Belarus. The products that these enterprises, these industries will make will enjoy demand in Russia. This is a very interesting and promising area.

The EAEU countries have laid the foundation for a common digital landscape, including a unified products traceability system. Various platform solutions are being developed, for example, the Work without Borders search system. The project is very important for all our countries. Despite all the crises and challenges caused by the current political situation, labour migrants continue to send almost as much money home from Russia as before. Moreover, some countries are receiving even more money now, as my colleagues from the CIS have told me.

The practice of payments in national currencies is expanding, which is very important. Notably, their share in the mutual trade of the Union’s countries has already reached 75 percent. We will continue to work on interlinking our national payment systems and bank cards.

We believe it is important to expedite the dialogue on internal international financial and payment mechanisms, such as transitioning from SWIFT to direct correspondent contacts between the banks of the friendly countries, including through the Russian Central Bank’s financial messaging system. We also propose strengthening cooperation with key lending and financial centres in the Asia-Pacific Region.

New topics related to Eurasian integration include developing cooperation in green technology, environmental protection and energy saving. We expect to receive support and proactive suggestions from the business community.

Colleagues,

In the current international conditions when, unfortunately, traditional trade and economic links and supply chains are being disrupted, Russia’s initiative to form a Greater Eurasian Partnership– an initiative we have been discussing for many years – is gaining a special meaning.

We are thankful to the leaders of the EAEU countries for supporting this proposal from the very beginning. BRICS members such as China and India as well as several other countries also supported creating a Greater Eurasian Partnership. The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, ASEAN and other organisations have shown interest in this initiative.

Here, I would like to mention several specific ideas pertaining to the comprehensive development of the Greater Eurasian Partnership.

First, it is reasonable to develop shared institutions for specific growth points, including creating a Eurasian export centre and trade houses, expediting the establishment of a Eurasian reinsurance company, examining the issue of developing special trans-border economic zones, probably even with supranational authority.

The second point. It is important to step up the EAEU’s cooperation with foreign partners and inform them about the benefits and advantages of working with the EAEU and of our key projects and plans. My colleagues know that interest in our association is growing. In this context, the EAEU Business Council could play a significant role. It is already successfully developing ties beyond our union. Its business dialogue system may become an example for a potential business cooperation platform in Greater Eurasia.

That said, as I have already noted, it would be desirable to support the freedom of business initiative, the creative activity of business, of our investors. I suggest creating additional, better incentives for this purpose and investing more in Eurasian projects. Naturally, the companies representing national businesses of the EAEU countries must receive priority support.

My third point. It is time to draft a comprehensive strategy for developing large-scale Eurasian partnership. It must reflect the key international challenges facing us, determine future goals and contain instruments and mechanisms for achieving them. We must consider further steps in developing our system of trade and investment agreements, in part, with the participation of the SCO, ASEAN and BRICS member countries.

In fact, we may draft new agreements that will develop and supplement WTO rules. In this context, it is important to pay attention not only to tariffs but also to the removal of non-tariff barriers. This may produce considerable results without subjecting our national economies to risks.

In conclusion, I would like to say the following. It would be no exaggeration to say that Greater Eurasia is a big civilisational project. The main idea is to create a common space for equitable cooperation for regional organisations. The Greater Eurasian Partnership is designed to change the political and economic architecture and guarantee stability and prosperity on the entire continent – naturally, taking account of the diverse development models, cultures and traditions of all nations. I am confident, and this is obvious anyway, that this centre would attract a big audience.

I would like to wish success and productive cooperation to all participants of the Eurasian Economic Forum.

Thank you for your attention. Thank you.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Meeting of the heads of state of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (update, transcript is now complete)

May 16, 2022

CSTO summit

Taking part in the meeting, timed to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the Collective Security Treaty and the 20th anniversary of the organisation, were the heads of Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.

The main focus of the summit was on key issues of cooperation within the CSTO, topical international and regional problems, and measures to further improve the collective security system.

During the meeting, the leaders signed a Statement of the CSTO Collective Security Council (CSC) in connection with the 30th anniversary of the Collective Security Treaty and the 20th anniversary of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation. They also signed a resolution of the CSTO CSC to award the participants in the CSTO peacekeeping mission in the Republic of Kazakhstan.

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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Colleagues, good afternoon!

I am glad to welcome you all in Moscow.

At the suggestion of our chairman, and today Armenia chairs the organisation, we gathered in Moscow, because this is where 30 years ago the Collective Security Treaty was signed, and 20 years ago, on the basis of this Treaty, the Collective Security Treaty Organisation was created.

This means we have two anniversaries almost on the same day: on May 14 and 15 in 1992 and 2002, respectively. I congratulate you on this.

I hope that the organisation, which has become a full international structure over the years, will continue to develop, even through difficult times. I would like to note in this context that both 1992 and 2002 were difficult times; they never end.

The organisation plays a very important role in the post-Soviet space – a stabilising role. I hope that in this sense its capabilities and influence on the situation in our area of responsibility will only grow.

Here I would like to finish my welcoming remarks and give the floor to the Chairman [of the CSTO Collective Security Council], the Prime Minister of Armenia.

Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan: Thank you, Mr Putin.

Colleagues, I would like to welcome all of you!

I would also like to add my congratulations on the two anniversaries the President of Russia noted. The Treaty on Collective Security was signed on May 15, 1992, and the decision on establishing a Collective Security Treaty Organisation was made on May 14, 2002. We meet today partly in commemoration of both anniversaries.

I suggest we express our views on these anniversaries and on the current situation as always – in alphabetic order. Please hold your comments to 3 to 5 minutes – this is the open section.

Afterwards, we will sign the documents that are ready for signing, and will then continue our discussion behind closed doors.

I give the floor to the President of the Republic of Belarus. Go ahead, please.

President of the Republic of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko: Mr Pashinyan, dear friends!

I will talk a bit longer than usual since I am the first to speak, and the current situation deserves attention.

Today’s meeting is taking place in a difficult time, as the President of Russia has just said – a time of repartitioning the world; the unipolar international system is irretrievably receding into the past, but the collective West is fiercely fighting to keep its position.

Anything goes, including actions in the zone of responsibility of our organisation: from NATO’s sabre rattling at our western borders to a full-scale hybrid war unleashed against us, primarily against Russia and Belarus.

NATO is aggressively building its muscles, drawing Finland and Sweden into its net, countries that only yesterday were neutral. This is based on the attitude, “those who are not with us are against us,” and, hypocritically, NATO continues to declare its defensive nature. The truly defensive and peace-loving position of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation is in contrast to this background.

The United States is building up its military presence on the western flank of the CSTO, its military infrastructure is being upgraded at an accelerated pace and many NATO exercises are taking place. The large-scale exercise, Defender Europe 2022, the likes of which we have not seen before, are now being held on the territory of 19 European countries, in part, near our borders in Poland. You can guess for yourselves whom they are defending themselves against.

Until now, there is a force of about 15,000 military personnel stationed at the Belarusian-Polish border, which were deployed there last year under the pretext of a migration crisis, in addition to the troops that are stationed there permanently. Last year, 15,000 troops, mostly Americans, were redeployed. The migrants left that area a long time ago, but the troops are still there. The question is why?

Clearly, no country is posing any threat to NATO today. Moreover, an additional force of over 10,000 military troops was brought there to reinforce the alliance’s eastern flank with 15,000 troops already deployed in Poland and the Baltic countries as part of the US armed forces’ Atlantic Resolve and NATO-allied Enhanced Forward Presence. For perspective, seven or so years ago, there were 3,500 troops in this location (addressing the CSTO Secretary General Stanislav Zas) on your watch, now there are about 40,000 troops right on the territory of Poland and the Baltic states. And I am not talking about Ukraine yet.

Our military interaction within the framework of the Union State of Belarus and Russia, and Belarus’ membership in the CSTO, are the very stabilisers that have a certain sobering effect on the hotheads on the other side of the border. This shows that if it were not for this, I am afraid that a hot war would already be underway in Belarus. By the way, they tried to do this in 2020.

Today, there is no more pressing or important issue than the Ukraine conflict. Since 2014, all of us have been assisting in every way possible in resolving it. In principle, all of us sitting at this table are ready to do this even now and in any format.

Clearly, Ukraine was fomented, incited and fed nationalism and Nazism. We saw that in Odessa, when people were burned alive. Ukraine was fed Nazism, Russophobia and weapons. They used every approach to poison it.

After the election in Belarus in August 2020, regarding interaction with us, Belarus, Ukraine completely succumbed to the West. We have constantly experienced unfriendly actions from our southern neighbour for over two years now.

Ukraine proactively imposed sanctions on us even before the West, including the Americans. Ukraine was the first to do so. Remember? Their airspace was closed, then railway service, and then they began to train militants and send them to Belarus and ship weapons across the border. Everyone knows that. Provocative actions were carried out with Ukrainian drones conducting reconnaissance missions in Belarus’ airspace.

The facts indicating a threat to our national security are indisputable. This is exactly why we were absolutely right to activate the support mechanism in the framework of our alliance with Russia.

Belarus paid attention to the unjustified growth of the Western military presence in Ukraine and the region as a whole even before the start of the Russian special military operation. We talked about this more than once and warned that a conflict was looming. We expected the West, primarily the US, to accept Russia’s proposal to enter into talks on security guarantees. This process will start eventually in the foreseeable future but what will remain of Ukraine and our region by this time is a big question.

Right now, we are seeing that the West, including Washington, is only interested in prolonging the conflict as much as possible. This is why Ukraine is being flooded with weapons. The goals are clear: to weaken Russia as much as possible by miring it in this war. The flames may reach beyond it – we are seeing this, too. If this is the idea, likely nobody will be able to sit it out.

Currently the most dangerous trend in Ukraine are the attempts to partition the country. Thousand-strong units have already been formed to enter Ukraine in the guise of peacekeepers to “protect” it.

Unity and solidarity among like-minded people are particularly important at a time when norms and principles of international law are being completely ignored. The CSTO member states displayed such solidarity and support in January of this year in a time of trial: you remember the events in Kazakhstan. By acting rapidly when needed, we graphically demonstrated to the entire world our close allied relations and the capacity of our organisation to ensure the security of its members. Nobody in the West even dared think about interfering in this situation because we are stronger together.

But is it possible to claim today that the members of this organisation are really united and bound by ties of solidarity and support as before? Recent events suggest probably not. This is from our perspective, and I may be wrong. But it is enough to recall the ban imposed by some of our CSTO partners on the flights to their countries by national airlines of other CSTO members.

The concepts of unity and solidarity are not always enough, given the brutal, rabid sanctions pressure by the consolidated West. Unfortunately, this is clear from the voting in international organisations.

With the tacit agreement of our partners, Belarus and Russia are being vilified and expelled from international organisations against all laws of international life, just on a Western whim. Yes, you, CSTO members are subjected to pressure – tough and unprincipled pressure – but this is where collective, mutual support is so helpful. We may not exist tomorrow if we do not unite as soon as possible, if we do not strengthen our political, economic and military ties.

Our enemies and detractors are systematically degrading our strongholds and allied ties, and we ourselves are partially helping the West in this regard. I am sure that if we had acted as a united front right off the bat, the hellish, as they say, sanctions would be out of question.

Look how united the European Union is when it votes or acts, and how strong its intra-bloc discipline is. It applies automatically even to those who disagree with its decisions. This begs the question: What is keeping us from using this bloc resource? We need to follow their example. If divided, we will simply be crushed and torn apart.

Back in January, I said that the main goal of certain external forces is to undermine stability and to disrupt the evolutionary path of development throughout the post-Soviet space. They started with Belarus, then the infection spread to Kazakhstan, and now it is Russia’s turn, as we see, and problems are being created in Armenia as well. Make no mistake, no one will be spared.

It is absolutely clear that, without united pushback from the CSTO allies and other integration associations in the post-Soviet space, the collective West will ratchet up its pressure.

What do we need to do to reinforce the CSTO in this unprecedented situation at hand? Off the top of my head, I can visualise the following top-priority steps, which are many, and the President of Tajikistan covered them at length when he talked about the challenge facing that region.

The first is to strengthen political interaction and coordination of the CSTO member states. It is important to improve the efficiency of the foreign policy and security consultation mechanism. We need to speak more often on behalf of the CSTO on international platforms so that its voice and position can be seen and heard, and this voice and position must be united as they are in the West.

Let our foreign ministers consider how best to go about this, and where. Let them think about our political response to a new wave of NATO expansion in light of the intentions declared by well-known states.

We must work out in advance the CSTO position on this matter and make our interests known to the international community. We must act as one in this. Russia should not be alone in voicing its concern and fighting the attempted NATO enlargement.

The second point is to increase the effectiveness of efforts to counter challenges and threats in the information space, including the fight against fake news and disinformation. It is clear that we are facing a hybrid war, the main part of which is an information war.

In order to counter this, we should make the most of the 2017 CSTO Agreement on Information Security Cooperation and actively promote the CSTO on social media, which our Western opponents intensively use, in order to effectively respond to fake news and planted information. Moreover, we need to think seriously and, perhaps, follow China’s policy in the information confrontation, especially on the internet.

Relevant tasks should be assigned to all foreign ministries, special services and the CSTO Secretariat.

Third, there is a clear need to strengthen the forecasting and analytical component in the CSTO Secretariat’s work. I am sure that there are similar departments in the UN, the European Union and NATO. It might be worth considering creating a unit responsible for analysis and strategic planning at the CSTO Secretariat. I think the Secretary-General needs to study this issue.

Fourth, it is worth thinking about combining the potential of the analytical centres of the CSTO member states and forming a network of these centres to assist in the development of conceptual documents on current issues on the international agenda.

Dear friends,

I am offering such seemingly simple proposals at these extremely difficult times because we may not immediately agree on more complex ones. Therefore, these may be the first steps, but we need to go further and deeper, as we used to say in the past

Colleagues,

Everyone understands that the historical era that existed before is ending, and there will be no return to the previous international order. We cannot allow the creation of a new international architecture without us, while the West is already planting false stories and holding talks about it.

I believe that the CSTO should firmly strengthen its status in the international system of checks and balances. The organisation has a powerful collective potential for further progressive development, but it depends only on us today, it is up to us, how effectively the CSTO will use this potential and whether it will continue to exist in the next 10, 20 or 30 years.

After Armenia, the CSTO chairmanship will rotate to Belarus. In addition to the promising areas of work outlined above, we are already seriously considering new proposals aimed at the further development of our organisation, and you will learn about them in the near future. We hope for maximum support and constructive work from all of you, our colleagues. We have no other choice.

Sorry for such a long speech.

Thank you for your attention.

Nikol Pashinyan: Thank you, Mr Lukashenko.

I will give the floor to President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.

President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev: Mr Pashinyan, colleagues!

First of all, I would like to express my gratitude to President of Russia Vladimir Putin for organising this anniversary summit of the Collective Security Council. It is true that our summit today is distinct in marking two CSTO anniversaries.

Over the years our organisation has proven to be an effective mechanism of multilateral cooperation with serious potential for further development.

Once the CSTO was established, a reliable system for collective security was built in the vast expanse of Eurasia. The main goals are to strengthen peace and stability as well as international and regional security, and protect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of its member states.

The CSTO’s permanent working bodies operate successfully; there are various formats for close cooperation and interaction. The CSTO’s authority, law enforcement and peacekeeping potential are being strengthened.

We focus on countering international terrorism and extremism, illegal drug and weapons trafficking, and illegal migration. In this context we attach great importance to the developments in Afghanistan. The unstable situation there as well as the unrelenting activity of armed groups on the territory of Afghanistan continue to threaten the security and stability of our states. I believe the CSTO must consider every potential threat while paying even more attention to ensuring the security of the southern borders of Central Asia.

In the mid-term, developing the organisation’s peacekeeping potential is an unconditional priority. Active work is underway in this area. CSTO peacekeeping forces have been created and are being improved every year; a plan is being developed to equip them with modern weapons, equipment and special tools.

As you know, the institute of Special Representative of the CSTO Secretary-General for peacekeeping has been established, at Kazakhstan’s initiative. This means that all the necessary tools have been created, and we suggest that it is time to set the goal of getting the CSTO involved with the United Nations’ peacekeeping activities.

This step would promote the legal status of the CSTO and ensure the organisation’s participation in international peacekeeping operations.

Colleagues,

Our assessments of the CSTO’s development and common view of the current aspects of international and regional security underlie the anniversary statement of the Collective Security Council. I would like to thank Armenia for its productive chairmanship and Russia for its timely initiative to hold this forum.

Thank you for your attention.

Nikol Pashinyan:Thank you, Mr Tokayev.

Next to speak is President of the Kyrgyz Republic. Mr Sadyr Japarov, please, take the floor.

President of the Kyrgyz Republic Sadyr Japarov: Good afternoon.

Mr Putin, Mr Chairman of the CSTO Collective Security Council Nikol Pashinyan, Messrs heads of state,

I am happy to meet with you in hospitable Moscow.

I would like to begin with congratulations. First, I want to extend my congratulations to our fraternal peoples on the 77th anniversary of the Great Victory. On May 9, many thousands of people across Kyrgyzstan took part in the Immortal Regiment march carrying the slogans “Eternal Glory to the Heroes” and “Nobody Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Forgotten.” The republic holds this holiday sacred, as it epitomises the defeat of Nazism and Fascism by the Soviet people and invariably pays a sincere tribute to the memory of the heroic deed of our fathers and grandfathers.

Second, I want to extend my congratulations to all of us on the 30th anniversary of signing the Collective Security Treaty and the 20th anniversary of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation. We fully support the political statement to be adopted today in connection with these two historic dates.

The international events taking place in recent years show that the strategic decisions taken to ensure shared and collective security from Brest to Vladivostok were right.

At the same time, I am pleased to note that throughout its existence the Collective Security Treaty Organisation has fulfilled the responsible mission assigned to it and developed as an institution, with its potential becoming ever stronger. In this connection, I would like to express my gratitude to CSTO Secretary-General Stanislav Zas, all his predecessors in the post and the CSTO Secretariat staff for their loyal service in the interests of the security of the Organisation’s member states.

Colleagues,

The current international situation does not offer cause for optimism, in terms of both global security and the world economy. Threats to security and military and political tensions have come too close to the borders of the CSTO zone of responsibility. Attempts are being made to interfere from the outside in the internal affairs of the CSTO member states.

For example, earlier this year we had to help a CSTO member state get out of a security crisis it had unexpectedly found itself in. Our response was quick and effective. I fully support the decision to award participants in this peacekeeping mission.

The situation at the southern borders of the CSTO remains alarming, primarily due to the unhindered activities of radical religious terrorist groups in some Afghan provinces. The external sponsors of these groups have far-reaching plans for Central Asia. I think we should keep focusing our attention and analysis on the Afghan issue. It is necessary to carry out an entire package of political-diplomatic and military-technical measures to ensure security in this area. At the same time, it is important to provide humanitarian aid for the Afghan people. Our fellow countrymen are among them.

Colleagues,

We are seriously alarmed by the sanctions war. The Kyrgyz economy has not yet recovered from the coronavirus pandemic, and now the sanctions are already creating a threat to food and energy security, macroeconomic sustainability and social stability.

Under the circumstances, we must discuss and draft a common approach to alleviate the consequences of sanctions and prevent the deterioration of the socioeconomic situation in our countries. We will soon have an opportunity to do so at the meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council and the First Eurasian Economic Forum in the city of Bishkek.

Colleagues, I hope for your personal participation as heads of your delegations, in which I am asking you to include heads of sectoral ministries and business structures.

In conclusion, I would like to congratulate you again on the Day of the Great Victory and the two anniversaries of the Collective Security Treaty.

I sincerely wish you and the friendly nations of the CSTO peace, stability, wellbeing and prosperity.

Thank you for your attention.

Nikol Pashinyan: Thank you, Mr Japarov.

I am giving the floor to President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin.

Mr President, go ahead, please.

Vladimir Putin: Friends and colleagues,

I will agree with the previous speakers – indeed, in the past few decades, the Collective Security Treaty Organisation has become considerably stronger and won a well-deserved reputation as an effective regional defence structure that ensures security and stability in the Eurasian space and reliably protects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its member countries.

Importantly, cooperation in the CSTO has always been built in the spirit of true allied relations, on the principles of friendship and neighbourliness, respect and consideration of each other’s interests, mutual assistance and support. The same principles guide our cooperation in the current difficult situation.

The CSTO’s successful peacekeeping operation, held in Kazakhstan in January 2022 at the request of its leaders, showed the maturity of our Organisation and its real ability to adequately withstand acute challenges and threats.

The contingent of the collective CSTO forces, sent into Kazakhstan for a limited period of time, prevented extremists, including those directed from abroad, from seizing power and helped to quickly stabilise the internal political situation in the republic.

The use of peacekeeping forces at the request of the Kazakhstan leadership was the first operation of this kind in the CSTO’s history. The operation revealed the strong points of practical cooperation between our military structures and security services, and, at the same time, showed what we should work on to improve it.

Today, we will sign a joint statement reaffirming, taking into account the experience gained, among other things, during the afore-mentioned operation, the resolve of our states to continue acting as partners in different areas of military and defence development, and building up our coordinated actions in the world arena.

At the same time, it is quite logical that our current high-priority task is to further improve and streamline the work of the CSTO and its governing bodies. We will also provide the collective CSTO forces with modern weapons and equipment, we will enhance the interoperability of their troop contingents, and more effectively coordinate the joint actions of our military agencies and secret services.

We streamline the relevant operations all the time during CSTO exercises, and we are set to expand such exercises. This autumn, there are plans to hold an entire series of joint CSTO exercises in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. I am confident that these measures will boost the combat readiness of our states’ military agencies and improve their coordination, as well as increase the entire peacekeeping potential of the CSTO.

We also believe that the CSTO should continue its efforts to counter terrorism, drug trafficking and organised crime. Law enforcement agencies of our countries interact rather effectively in this field, so as to prevent the recruitment of people and to neutralise the resource potential of international terrorist organisations.

Efforts to maintain biological security also require the most serious attention. For a long time, we sounded the alarm about US military biological activity in the post-Soviet space.

It is common knowledge that the Pentagon has established dozens of specialised biological laboratories and centres in our common region, and that they are by no means merely providing practical medical assistance to the population of the countries where they are operating. Their main task is to collect biological materials and to analyse the spread of viruses and dangerous diseases for their own purposes.

Now, during the special operation in Ukraine, documentary evidence was obtained that components of biological weapons were developed in close proximity to our borders, which violates the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, and possible methods and mechanisms were worked out to destabilise the epidemiological situation in the post-Soviet space.

In this regard, we count on our colleagues supporting the earliest possible implementation of Russia’s initiative to operationalise the designated CSTO council. Once again, I would like to note the importance of close coordination between CSTO members in matters of foreign policy, coordinated actions at the UN and other multilateral platforms, and promotion of common approaches to the multiplying international security issues.

In this context, it is important to build up cooperation with our “natural” partners in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the Commonwealth of Independent States. By the way, we think it would be appropriate and correct – we will discuss this – to grant the CIS observer status in the CSTO.

I would like to highlight our priority task of jointly defending the memory of Victory in the Great Patriotic War, the feat of our peoples who saved the world from Nazism at the cost of enormous and irreparable sacrifices, and to counteract any attempts to whitewash the Nazis, their accomplices and modern followers.

This is extremely important particularly now, when monuments to the heroes liberators are being barbarously demolished in a number of European countries, laying flowers at memorials is forbidden, and cynical attempts are being made to rewrite history, while praising murderers and traitors and insulting their victims, thus crossing out the feats of those who selflessly fought for Victory and won the war.

Unfortunately, in our neighbouring country, Ukraine, neo-Nazism has been on the rise for a long time now, to which some of our partners from the “collective West” turn a blind eye, and thus actually encourage their activities. All this goes hand-in-hand with an unprecedented surge in frenzied Russophobia in the so-called civilised and politically correct Western countries.

Indeed, we hear, and I hear people say that extremists can be found anywhere, which is true. Extremists are everywhere and one way or another they are leaving their underground hideouts and make themselves known. Nowhere, though – I want to underscore this – nowhere are Nazis being glorified at the state level and not a single civilised country’s authorities are encouraging thousands of neo-Nazi torchlight processions with Nazi symbols. This is something that is not practiced anywhere. But unfortunately, this is happening in Ukraine.

The expansion of the North Atlantic Alliance is a problem that, in my view, is being created in an absolutely artificial manner because it is being done in the foreign policy interests of the United States. Generally, NATO is being used, in effect, as the foreign policy tool of a single country, and it is being done persistently, adroitly, and very aggressively. All of this is aggravating the already complex international security situation.

As for the expansion, including the accession of two prospective new members, Finland and Sweden, I would like to inform you, colleagues, that Russia has no problems with these states. No problems at all! In this sense, therefore, there is no direct threat to Russia in connection with NATO’s expansion to these countries. But the expansion of its military infrastructure to these territories will certainly evoke a response on our part. We will see what it will be like based on the threats that are created for us. But generally speaking, problems are being created from nothing. So, we will respond to it in a fitting manner.

Apart from everything else, apart from this interminable policy of expansion, the North Atlantic Alliance is emerging beyond its geographical destination, beyond the Euro-Atlantic area. It is increasingly active in trying to manage international issues and control the international security situation. It wants to wield influence in other regions of the world, but its actual performance leaves much to be desired. This certainly demands additional attention on our part.

In conclusion, I want to reiterate that Russia will continue to contribute to deepening relations of strategic alliance with all CSTO member states. We will do our best to improve and develop effective partner cooperation within the CSTO and, of course, we will support the Armenian chairmanship’s ongoing work in this area.

As for Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine, we will certainly discuss this, and I will inform you in detail about its causes and the current combat effort. But, of course, we will do this behind closed doors.

Thank you for your attention.

Nikol Pashinyan: Thank you, Mr Putin.

President of the Republic of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon is our next speaker. Please go ahead.

President of the Republic of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon: Colleagues,

First of all, I would like to congratulate you on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Collective Security Treaty and the 20th anniversary of the creation of the CSTO.

I would like to thank the President of Russia for convening today’s meeting dedicated to these milestone events that are important for all of us. Anniversaries are a good opportunity to reflect on the path traveled and the development of the CSTO and to identify prospects for multilateral cooperation seeking to strengthen the common collective security system in light of new realities.

Over the period under review, the CSTO has established itself as an important factor in strengthening peace and ensuring regional security and stability. The organisation’s successful peacekeeping mission earlier this year clearly showed it.

We have created an extensive legal framework, the necessary working and coordinating bodies, as well as mechanisms aimed at fulfilling the organisation’s goals.

In practice, due attention is paid to strengthening and consolidating mutual trust within the CSTO. The CSTO’s international ties are expanding. Last year, we completed the ratification procedure and launched the institutions of observers under the CSTO and the CSTO partners as part of the Tajik chairmanship.

Field and command-staff exercises are conducted on a permanent basis, and measures are being taken to supply modern weapons and military equipment to the collective security system’s forces and means. All this helps maintain a high degree of combat readiness, mobility, training and skills of command and service personnel for bringing joint solutions to common tasks.

Today, the CSTO is an important platform for equal dialogue and cooperation between member states in all three basic dimensions: political interaction, military cooperation and joint efforts to counter modern challenges and threats.

The CSTO Collective Security Strategy to 2025, which reflects the principles of our interaction in the mid-term, is an important document that is guiding our organisation along its own path of development. Our common assessment of the state and development prospects of the organisation is reflected in a joint statement that we will adopt following the summit.

Notably, today we are facing no less important tasks to strengthen our common security. Given the manifold growth of challenges and threats to security, we will have to step up joint efforts to strengthen the Organisation’s potential and capabilities.

For example, we can see that negative factors have been accumulating in Afghanistan over the past 40 years, and they have worsened the military-political and socioeconomic situation in that country. In this regard, the CSTO needs to be prepared for various scenarios on the southern borders.

Tajikistan plans to continue to actively contribute to ensuring common security in the organisation’s regions of responsibility.

Thank you.

Nikol Pashinyan: Thank you very much.

Colleagues, I will now speak in my national capacity, if I may.

First of all, I would like to thank the President of Russia for hosting the anniversary CSTO summit in Moscow and the warm welcome. Of course, our organisation’s anniversary is also an excellent occasion to sum up the intermediate results and to discuss prospects for the further development of our organisation.

The President of Belarus raised important questions about interaction between the CSTO member countries and touched on, frankly, rather problematic issues. In general, there are a lot of positive developments in the history of the CSTO, because in reality it was, is and will be the most important factor in ensuring security and stability in the region.

But, as we see, we are discussing not only anniversary-related issues at this anniversary summit, because the situation is fairly tense in the CSTO area of ​​responsibility. I want to touch on some of the issues that the President of Belarus mentioned.

Regarding voting by the CSTO member countries, this issue does exist, indeed. Often, our voting is not synchronised, but this is not something new. This has been typical of our organisation for a long time now. Armenia has repeatedly raised this issue, and we have repeatedly discussed it in the regular course of business. Clearly, this issue needs to be further discussed as well.

With regard to interaction as well as response and rapid response mechanisms, this is also a critical issue for Armenia, because, as you are aware, last year on these days, Azerbaijani troops invaded the sovereign territory of Armenia. Armenia turned to the CSTO for it to activate the mechanisms that are provided for in the Regulations governing the CSTO response to crisis situations of December 10, 2010 which is a document approved by the Collective Security Council. Unfortunately, we cannot say that the organisation responded as the Republic of Armenia expected.

For a long time now, we have been raising the issue of sales of weapons by CSTO member countries to a country that is unfriendly to Armenia, which used these weapons against Armenia and the Armenian people. This is also a problem.

Frankly, the CSTO member countries’ response during the 44-day war of 2020 and the post-war period did not make the Republic of Armenia and the Armenian people very happy, but I want to emphasise the special role played by the Russian Federation and President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin personally in halting the war in Nagorno-Karabakh.

I would like to reaffirm that Armenia remains committed to the trilateral statements of November 9, 2020. I am referring to the trilateral statements by the President of the Russian Federation, the President of Azerbaijan and the Prime Minister of Armenia, as well as the trilateral statements of January 11, 2021 and November 26, 2021.

I think it is critically important to sum up the results, but Armenia, as a founding member of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, is committed to the organisation’s further development and considers it a key contributor to stability and security in the Eurasian region, as well as the security of the Republic of Armenia, and is positive about providing its full support for the organisation’s further development.

Now I give the floor to CSTO Secretary General Stanislav Zas so that he tells us about the documents that we are going to sign.

CSTO Secretary General Stanislav Zas: Mr Chairman, members of the Collective Security Council,

First, I would like to thank you for today’s meeting devoted to the CSTO’s anniversary. Twenty years is not such a long period for an international organisation. However, it has traversed a very long road during these years – from the formation of the idea of collective defence to the well-established, multi-faceted international organisation that it is today.

Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you, heads of state, on the anniversary and to thank you for your hard work on establishing, developing and strengthening our organisation. I am saying this because, of course, all this would have been impossible without your constant attention and support.

You have an analytical review of the CSTO activities over 20 years of its existence in your folders on the table. This review was prepared at the instruction of the President of the Republic of Tajikistan. Incidentally, our work on this review was very interesting and useful. On the eve of such great anniversaries, we tried to look back at the path travelled and to assess the CSTO’s status. We developed a good feeling that stayed with us: We have reasons to be proud.

The mechanism of foreign policy coordination is functioning well in the CSTO format. Using this mechanism, we form the consolidated position of our states on urgent regional and global issues. That said, I agree with the President of Belarus that this is clearly not enough these days. We should not avoid answers, consolidated answers to the most pressing issues.

We have developed cooperation with international regional organisations and their relevant structures. We have preserved and, importantly, are cultivating the principle of prioritising political and diplomatic means to achieve CSTO goals. This is, probably, one of the main pillars of our organisation.

Over these years, we have considerably built up the CSTO’s

military capacity. We are upgrading the structure, equipment and training of the bodies in charge of managing and forming a collective security system.

We consider the formation of a uniform system for training personnel, management bodies and troops an important achievement of the CSTO. Of course, the highest form of this system is embodied in the planned joint miscellaneous exercises that we hold every year.

We created and are developing an effective mechanism to counter modern challenges and threats, such as drug trafficking, illegal migration, international terrorism, and crime using information technology. To this end, joint emergency and preventive measures are taken and special operations are carried out regularly. The results prove their relevance and effectiveness.

The formation of a collective biological security toolkit is nearing completion. This topic was raised today, and I think we will return to it.

An important place is occupied by the CSTO crisis response system. Considering the first practical experience gained in Kazakhstan in testing this system, it probably makes sense that today we will also consider issues of improving the crisis response system.

The further development of our organisation will be carried out taking into account your decisions and instructions – I am grateful for today’s initiatives and instructions – and based on the plan for implementing the CSTO Collective Security Strategy until 2025.

By the way, next year we need to start preparing the initial data to develop a new CSTO Collective Security Strategy for the next period, 2026–2030. It is high time, and the situation now is significantly different than it was five years ago. This also means a lot of work to be done, and it probably requires that our countries join analytical forces.

Mr Chair and members of the Collective Security Council,

The following two documents have been submitted for your consideration and signing: a draft statement of the CSTO Collective Security Council on the 30th anniversary of the Collective Security Treaty and the 20th anniversary of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation; and a draft decision of the Collective Security Council “On awarding participants in the CSTO peacekeeping mission in the Republic of Kazakhstan.”

The draft decision recognises the most distinguished participants in the peacekeeping operation. Six members of our militaries, including commander of our peacekeeping mission in Kazakhstan, Colonel General Andrei Serdyukov, are recommended for the CSTO honourary badge, I and II Class, for their skillful leadership, preparation and conduct of this operation, and a number of military personnel are recommended for the medal For Strengthening Collective Security for active participation and selflessness in this operation.

The documents have passed the necessary approval procedure, have been adopted by the statutory bodies and are ready for signing.

I would ask you to consider and support these two documents.

Thank you.

Nikol Pashinyan: Colleagues, I propose to move on to the signing of the documents.

Forward to the USSR and Operation Z+

May 04, 2022

Source

By Batiushka

On 28 April 2022 President Lukashenko of Belarus spoke of a possible coming together of various independent countries, former Soviet republics, to join the Russian Federation and Belarus in a ‘Union State’. (https://www.reporter.am/the-former-soviet-republics-may-also-be-part-of-the-union-state-lukashenko/). Then, on 3 May President Putin and President Lukashenko discussed the construction of this Union State further. (https://news.mail.ru/politics/51151818/?frommail=1).

In 1991 the Soviet Union, the successor of the Russian Empire, suddenly collapsed in a remarkably similar way to the way in which the former suddenly collapsed in 1917 and on orders from exactly the same transatlantic financial and political circles. No coincidence. Since then the territory concerned, the heartland of Northern Eurasia, like much of the rest of the world has been in chaos, with poverty, injustice and war. Geopolitically, the formation of a Sovereign Union (not Soviet Union) of the peoples and nations of Northern Eurasia is now perhaps the only way of overcoming the vacuum created, which has been at the root of planetary chaos since 1991.

Northern Eurasia, whatever it has been called, is, like it or not, marked by its central and by far its largest nation, the Russian. This is the only one capable of bringing together the sovereign states of the many and varied peoples who live in this continuous intercontinental land-area for peace and justice. Indeed, many look to Russia to carry out precisely this task and so to rescue them from the present disorder of Western ‘divide and rule’ politics, the resulting Western exploitation of their natural resources and oppression of Western-loving oligarchs.

Speaking to citizens of the former Soviet Union of many nationalities over the last 30 years, some things are certain. Nobody wants to go back to the old Soviet ways, for example, to arrests and imprisonments for criticism of the drab, ultra-centralised system, or simply to the daily queuing to obtain even staple goods, food and clothes, the result of the gross inefficiencies of central planning. Nobody wants to live in a country where sausage meat, appearing at best once a week, was sold out by 10 a.m. and where women could not even obtain sanitary products. Nobody wants to go back to a centralised system, where even minute decisions were made by micro-managing, out-of-touch bureaucrats, working on the basis of falsified statistics in distant Moscow.

On the other hand, whatever happened to free healthcare (even if underfunded), free education, full employment, (modest) homes for all, low crime, social justice, liveable pensions, subsidised high culture and the other benefits of the Soviet Union? Little wonder that there is among many all over Eastern Europe a nostalgia for the old Communist system and many still vote Communist. As one woman said to me in Moscow twelve years ago: ‘Of course, we knew that the Communists were lieing to us about our wonderful life under Communism, but what we did not know is that they were telling us the truth about the awfulness of life under Capitalism. Before we had shortages, but we were secure. Now we do not have shortages, if we have money, but we have no security’.

The old Russian Empire gathered together many peoples beneath its double-headed eagle, looking both ways, uniting both East and West. The old Soviet Empire gathered together many peoples beneath its hammer and sickle, imposing a centralised Union, opposing Capitalism in both East and West. Now, hope against hope, we await the foundation of a successor Union, one which must shun the errors of the past, bravely attempting to provide Justice and Prosperity for all.

A Sovereign Union, composed of sovereign nations with new and just borders, agreed on after referenda, freely co-operating in terms of trade and defence, is possible. These initial sovereign nations, in possible order of membership, could be: The Russian Federation, Belarus, much of the old Ukraine, liberated, with its new name, borders and new government, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

Thus would be formed a new USSR, a Union of Sovereign Social Republics, a Sovereign Union (SU). Many would rejoice at this, for the dangerous vacuum, the social injustices, the neo-feudal oligarchs’ kleptocracy and divisions left by the collapse of the old USSR have proved to be extremely destabilising for the whole of Northern Eurasia, one sixth of the Earth’s land surface. And that instability has affected the rest of the world quite profoundly, as we can see at this very moment, which is left shuddering at the possibility, however slight, of World War III.

A unique Sovereign Union from Brest to Vladivostok, from the Arctic to Central Asia, could provide an Alliance not only for the new nations formed thirty years ago, but also with still to-be-liberated nations in Europe. Freeing themselves from the shackles of the Anti-sovereign and Anti-social EU, these nations would include Hungary and Slovakia, Serbia and Bulgaria, Romania and Greece, Montenegro and Macedonia. Perhaps there could be an Alliance with the undeluded elsewhere in Europe, as well as in Asia, in Mongolia, China, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Iran, and in Africa, and in the ex-Western colonies of the three continents of the New Worlds. Is it really past human ingenuity to live in a system in which there is freedom and social justice for all, in an Alliance, with a Union of Sovereign Social Republics?

A Sovereign Union, standing over the world like a mother stretching out her arms over Eurasia to care for her children, could establish an Alliance of the World’s Nations, a real United Nations, not that corrupt pastiche of one in New York. Everywhere, peoples’ struggles to settle long-standing historic injustices through the abolition of borders drawn up long ago by Colonial Office cultural ignoramuses and natural resource asset-strippers in faraway London, Paris and Washington, would become possible. The formation of new countries, new borders, new constitutions and new prosperity, could gradually be resolved in peace.

After all, what is the alternative? To continue in the present hellish chaos of perpetual war, grinding poverty and cynical injustice? Zorro’s Operation Z, the liberation of the Ukraine, is just the beginning. Operation Z+, the liberation of the world, is the end. Yes, it is a highly unlikely end, but still the only noble one directed towards a worthy New World Order, enough to inspire a direction in even the most disheartened of hearts.

Boris Rozhin – detailed discussion of the situation in the Ukraine

March 19, 2022

Note by Andrei: Boris Alexandrovich Rozhin blogs under the alias Colonel Cassad.  He is based in Crimea and reports about the events in the Ukraine on a daily basis.  I don’t necessarily agree/endorse everything he said here (or elsewhere) and I don’t share his ideological views (he is a Communist).  In in the interview he just gave to a Russian outlet he gives a lot of interesting information.  So what I am posting here is a machine translation of this interview which I would like to use as a basis for a discussion.  Please stay on topic and only post directly related to this interview.  Thank you!

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– Boris Alexandrovich, a document was recently published indicating that Ukraine was preparing a military operation against the LDPR, and possibly an invasion of Crimea. If Russia had not launched its operation on February 24, what could have been the scenario of a war initiated by Ukraine?

— There is indirect evidence, including documentary evidence, indicating that Kiev is preparing an offensive against the DPR and LPR. After the Russian Federation launched a special military operation to protect the people’s republics, we saw significant resources concentrated by Ukraine in the Donbass to conduct its military operation. They were waiting for an opportunity to provide cover in order to attack and destroy the republics. This goal has never been denied by Ukraine. They spoke it directly and were not going to fulfill any Minsk agreements. They were initially set up for the forcible liquidation of the republics. Now they will not have such an opportunity.
As for Crimea, here they also constantly declared their determination to try to take it from Russia one way or another. This is a red thread in the statements of a variety of officials.
There is a similar picture in Belarus. Ukraine actually supported the coup attempt in this country. Kiev actively supplied weapons to those militants who were trying to use to destabilize the situation in Belarus. Groups were sent that the KGB “clapped” at the border. So Ukraine has long been a springboard and a tool that they wanted to use against Russia, including Crimea, against the republics of Donbass with the aim of destroying them, and against Belarus with the aim of overthrowing Lukashenka and establishing a puppet pro-Western regime there. There are no questions or double interpretations in all this.
Regarding the scenario of their actions, at the first stage they expected to capture the LDPR and hoped that Russia, fearing Western pressure, would not dare to directly intervene with its armed forces or at least would not have time to do something significant and stop their blitzkrieg. They also hoped that the cover of the West would not allow Russia to interfere with their actions aimed at destabilizing Belarus. Sending militants there, supporting Belarusian zmagars (translated from Belarusian – fighter, champion, zealot. In Minsk, this is what the oppositionists are called – approx. ed.) with attacks on government authorities, on law enforcement agencies in the territory of the Republic of Belarus. In Crimea, this is the next stage, which would consist in the blockade of the peninsula, provocations, terrorist attacks, and so on. They planned to focus on this after they had resolved the issue with Donbass. They understood that they would not have enough strength for everything at once. Therefore, first Donbass, and then Belarus and Crimea, against which they would have become more active.

– They talk about American laboratories in Ukraine and bacteriological weapons. The amazing thing is that Russia has revealed all this and made it public, and there is practically no reaction in the world. Why? Why did China, which also has such laboratories, limit itself to calling on the United States to make public what they were doing there, while other countries where these laboratories exist are generally silent? For example, Kazakhstan, which we recently saved from a coup.

— The United States, of course, does not want to discuss this topic, because there is already concrete evidence of what they were doing there. Under the pressure of irrefutable evidence, the Americans were forced to admit that the laboratories really were and are. But at the same time they are trying to prove that there is nothing terrible there, and the Russians, as always, compose horror stories and arrange provocations. Now, perhaps, this wave of interest in laboratories in the world will rise. China has already said several times from different rostrums that it is interested in what the Americans are doing in these laboratories. It is possible that such statements will be followed by some actions. Several other countries unfriendly to the United States have also expressed interest in what is happening in these laboratories. So trampling on this topic, most likely, will not work. Especially if Russia throws some more factual materials about the activities of laboratories into the information space. It is clear that the US satellites will not support this topic simply because they are dependent on America and cannot bark against their master. Therefore, they show in every possible way that nothing strange is happening, which once again shows the level of their dependence on the United States. The rest will raise their voices on this topic to the extent that they realize their independence from America. This topic will become a kind of measure of the level of independence of a country from the United States. Of course, there are still fewer independent countries than dependent ones, but their voice is heard louder every year.

— Your colleague, the popular blogger Mikhail Onufrienko, says that initially 200 thousand people were brought into Ukraine from the Russian side, and 600 thousand are opposed to them in total, of which the APU — 252 thousand, territorial defense – 130 thousand, the rest – the SBU, the Interior Ministry, border guards and so on. Question: why did we go to such a deliberately flawed balance of forces in terms of numbers during the operation, especially since the enemy was ready for a conflict?

— Yes, we are conducting an operation numerically smaller forces, but technically more than seriously superior to the enemy, which due to this bears much greater losses when faced with a more modern army. The number of Ukrainian armed forces and various formations was known, and if we wanted to fight differently, Russia could increase its contingent if desired. But it was decided to act with this contingent. And we see that even with such a formal numerical superiority on the part of Ukraine, almost all significant cities from Nikolaev and Kharkov to Kiev are blocked in the combat zone by Russian troops and the LDPR People’s militia. This suggests that today technical factors play a very significant role. We see that Russia, due to its high-tech intelligence and information capabilities and advanced long-range precision weapons, is causing enormous damage to the enemy. Therefore, the situation at the front is still determined by technological superiority.

If desired, Russia can increase its grouping at the expense of volunteers from among its own citizens, who are not allowed yet, and there are already a lot of them. If Russia had seen from the operational situation that it needed to increase the contingent right now, then nothing would have prevented it from opening the reception of volunteers from the very beginning of the operation and forming units from them to be sent to the combat zone. And if she does not do this, then there is no such need at the moment. Will there be such a need in the future? Perhaps. But this will not be due to an increase in the number of losses, but, perhaps, to the expansion of the controlled territory. If such a need arises, then the volunteers are here. They will simply be told: please enroll in the ranks of the LDPR People’s militia, help establish order, for example, on the left bank of the Dnieper. There are such options. Russia has more than a huge military potential, it has not yet carried out either mobilization or conscription of reservists. If now, with the help of the West, Ukraine is already straining all its forces, then Russia is not fighting with all its capabilities.

— And from which countries can volunteers come to us?

– These are Syria, Libya, Iraq, the Central African Republic, Congo, Mali and others. If this work is put on stream, then there will still be those who want to. The anti-fascist movement in the world is quite developed. Volunteers came to Donbass in 2014 to help the republics survive. Accordingly, there is no problem for them to come now. Moreover, the leadership has already given the go-ahead to allow foreigners.

— What are our losses, if it is correct to ask about it?

— We must understand that we are not officially at war now. Russia has not officially declared war on Ukraine. So is Russia’s Ukraine. So all the talk about the war is speculation. Yes, there is fighting going on, but there is officially no war. It has not been declared from the point of view of international law, so Russia calls what is happening a special operation. And we have a law prohibiting the disclosure of losses in peacetime. There, in my opinion, up to 15 years for violation. Therefore, the topic of losses is kept secret. The Ministry of Defense will publish the figures that it considers necessary. I won’t guess. There are losses. And given the scale of the theater of military operations, the forces and means that the enemy uses (despite the fact that NATO countries are helping him), on our side there will be losses in both people and equipment. But Russia makes it clear that it is ready to pay this price to solve the strategic tasks of ensuring the country’s security for the coming decades.
There are some official figures for Ukraine — somewhere around 4-5 thousand killed. There are unofficial estimates: from 10 to 14 thousand dead. Based on the situation at the front, and these are abandoned cities, a large number of equipment lost in battles and abandoned, we can say that the losses are significant. The APU, of course, does not officially confirm any of this at all. Zelensky called some funny 1.3 thousand people in two weeks of a special operation. Given the situation at the front, this is, of course, not serious.
Therefore, now no one will call you real losses either in Russia or in Ukraine.

— How do you interpret the appearance of the mysterious letters Z and V on Russian military equipment? The simplest explanation I’ve seen boils down to the fact that Z is the western military group, and V is the eastern one.

– Yes, there is an opinion that this is the marking of certain groups. Earlier, the Ukrainian General Staff issued its explanation (in their interpretation, Z stands on the equipment of the “eastern forces of the Russian Federation”, V – marines, etc. – ed.), but it turned out to be erroneous. The fact is that Ukrainians interpreted the letter O as the designation of troops from Belarus, but then they themselves admitted that there were no Belarusian military on their territory. This is an indicator that the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine does not really know what exactly these letters mean, and he, too, like everyone else, participates in solving and interpreting this “crossword puzzle”. At the same time, a kind of letter “for advertising” appeared on the Instagram account of the Ministry of Defense, while it was still operating, that Z stands for “For Victory”, V for “loyalty” or “Strength in Truth”. However, Instagram was soon blocked in Russia, and versions are still going around and overgrown with variants. But in practice, the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation continues to remain silent. Naturally, the use of these letters was developed by our security forces, and they, of course, know what it means, but at the same time you will not see any official comments at all. There is just an interpretation of different people.

— How successful, in your opinion, is this letter Z from the point of view of information warfare? How successful is the use of the Latin alphabet in this context? Why not Cyrillic?

— In fact, a certain meme was created. I wonder how this concept was calculated. But it turned out that almost the entire special operation became associated with the letter Z. It is not known to what extent this was part of the plans for information support of military operations. Nevertheless, it is obvious that the meme has completely “shot”. If in 2014 the operation was associated with the meme “Polite people”, then in 2022 it is Operation Z. What does it mean? We can list dozens of interpretations, but we do not know a reliable answer today. It remains to wait until the Ministry of Defense deems it necessary to tell what the deep meaning of the letter Z and other letters is. But I don’t think this will happen before the special operation itself is completed. Personally, I think that these are some kind of designations related to combat missions. On the one hand, this is a certain military marking, and on the other – an element of information support of what is happening.

— I just wanted to ask you as an information warfare specialist. Are we still losing now, or are we starting to win the information war against Ukraine and the global West?

– Of course, before the start of the special operation, the enemy had an overwhelming superiority over us in information resources. It is understandable: the West controls the main information flows in the world, and it has very serious information “troops”. And we see that, especially in the first days of the hot conflict, an attempt was made at an information blitzkrieg in order to convince the population of Russia, to inspire them with the idea not to support the special operation. However, this conditional blitzkrieg failed, and the level of support for the actions of the Russian military in our society remained very high. This once again shows that it is not necessary to absolutize Western information weapons: yes, they can displace all other opinions, but only in their own environment, where they practically control everything.
Why did Russia immediately begin to clean up the information space? That is, they began to systematically eliminate all media resources associated with the enemy on the territory of the country (at the moment, The Echo of Moscow radio station, The Village, TJournal, Snob, Interlocutor, St. Petersburg Paper, Dozhd TV channel (recognized as a foreign agent), Media Zones (recognized as a foreign agent), “Medusa” (also included in the register of media-foreign agents) – ed.)? Because there are a lot of these media structures in Russia and in the current situation they had, according to the plan of their Western curators, to shoot together at the consciousness of the Russian audience. This did not happen, but the cleanup will continue in any case: those resources that have clearly indicated their connection with our external enemies will, of course, be closed.
On the Internet we see positional information battles with the movements of crowds of “commentators”. This will all happen, because information warfare is a very important part of any modern war. It is obvious that on our side there were various shortcomings, mistakes, miscalculations related to the issues of conducting information operations. But this is eliminated already along the way: what does not correspond to reality is dying literally before our eyes. What can, adapts and changes. As a matter of fact, the Russian media machine that we have will change along with the whole country. Accordingly, those who cannot will remain on the sidelines of history. And those who can, will go ahead. After all, the conflict is not limited to one current special operation — it is a long conflict of the Cold War level.

— In this regard, the question is whether the enemy’s remaining information resources in Russia are shooting us in the back?

– Do you remember, there was such a series – “The Sleepers”? As you know, our liberal public disliked him very much, and the director Yuri Bykov then repented for him before “progressive humanity”. In fact, Bykov was able to raise a very important topic. There are people who can even work in Russian state structures or state media, but at a critical moment it suddenly turns out that these are not our people. Actually, that’s the problem. On the one hand, it is good that now is the time of clarity, many are showing themselves, arranging public demarches. But in fact, those who do are safe. Everything is clear with them. They are not with us. Well, all right. The problem is not in them, but in those who seem to have adapted outwardly — he may even shout about his patriotism, but he will work for completely different purposes. Such people believe that the Western future they dreamed of was taken away from them by someone – Putin or someone else. They say that “quilted jackets”, “colorads” have led the country off the European path, and now it is the sacred duty of those who understand this to help return Russia to the pillar road of civilization. However, there comes a time of clarity, and by many signs it becomes immediately clear who is who.

— But won’t our media machine be completely destroyed now — after all, it was, in fact, pro-Western? And how quickly can we build a new one?

– Impressive pieces that have grown on it since the 1990s will fall off from the Russian media machine. Roughly speaking, there are federal TV channels — this is a kind of vertical of media power. Other media meat will be built up around the “vertical”, but on slightly different principles. The car of the old type was arranged according to the patterns of the West, this supposedly free world, where freedom of speech and opinion were declared. But, as it has now turned out, there is no freedom of speech and opinions. It was in Russia for a long time that they allowed discord, tolerated the dominance of liberals in the information space, and in the West they have long mastered totalitarian methods as much as possible: “Think this way or don’t come here at all.” All these notorious values like freedom of the press collapsed literally in February – March – and it was in Western civilization. Everyone saw that you can safely call for murder — and nothing will happen for it. You can call on ethnic grounds to persecute our women and children, and there will be nothing for it either. This shocked many. Therefore, no one particularly regrets that Facebook was blocked, where such appeals became possible. People are even happy that, for example, Echo of Moscow has been closed. Previously, they threw up their hands: “We are not directly in conflict, we are trying to negotiate.” Now it’s different: the old world is gone, we’ll have to get used to living in the new one.
In order to create a new media machine, you will need to build your own digital ecosystems, a full-fledged national video hosting. There are a whole lot of problems that should have been solved for a long time, but they were either solved slowly or crookedly. Now everything will have to be done “from the wheels”, because it has become a vital necessity: replacing the departed or departing Western information resources with their own. There is already a real, not declarative, sovereignization of the media space. This does not mean that uniformity awaits us. Some Western media will continue to work, but already on the terms of admission, as in China. In the Middle Kingdom, if you fulfill the conditions of, say, the propaganda department of the CPC Central Committee and other similar structures, you can function under certain conditions. If Russia can build the same structures, and I don’t see any obstacles to Western media returning to Russia after the end of the acute phase of the conflict, but on different terms. But the old conditions, when the founding companies could ignore the legislation, spit on fines or demands to “land”, will no longer exist. Such media will simply be turned off. Now either you fulfill the requirements, or you go through the forest. Nevertheless, I repeat: I do not think that we are waiting for some kind of mega-rigid censorship. Rather, we are moving towards such a limited, facilitated Chinese version of media control, which leaves the possibility of both state and private media to act. The latter are also in bulk in China.
If we are talking about influencing the younger generation, then I would call TikTok — there is a lot of youth content, which is produced by ordinary people, for example, in support of the army

— Aren’t the blogosphere and, in particular, Russian telegram channels turning into our fighting vanguard now? After all, Telegram is our breakthrough into the global world, because it exists in the USA, Europe, and the East.

– Positional battles continue in Telegram, which may scare someone away. If we are talking about influencing the younger generation, then I would call TikTok — there is a lot of youth content, which is produced by ordinary people, for example, in support of the army. By the way, TikTok is aimed at an audience up to 25 years old, and at the same time it operates not only in Russia. And this is bearing fruit. We know that TikTok is still a Chinese mobile application (owned by the Beijing company ByteDance – editor’s note).

— What could be the fate of the so-called Russian “stars” who hurriedly went on vacation after the events began? While our people are fighting, these people are resting somewhere abroad. Do they have the moral right to come back later? I’m talking about Urgant, Galkin and other “comedians”.

– For sure, when this wave of events subsides, some will try to return slowly. I don’t think there are too many ideological fighters for Ukraine among those who have left. Another thing is how to treat those who will come back? To return them to federal TV channels and pretend that nothing happened, from my point of view, is wrong. Society must show that there is such a thing as social ostracism. Now, on the contrary, it is necessary to move those who support the army and the people. Russian television should be updated, especially since those who escaped have vacated their seats. This means that there is an opportunity to promote other people who will further contribute to the renewal of television. I mean, no one will run after Makarevich or any Panin with persuasions. Well, who needs them, actually? Simply, if it is an official TV channel, the state should not pay for the programs that these people make. Let them shoot a video there in their “YouTube” or on their website, how “everything is bad and everything is gone” – please.

— But we know that these people have patrons in the Russian state elite. What should we do with our own political elite?

— The political elite is heterogeneous, and it is natural that the people you are talking about have some kind of patrons. However, Vladimir Putin recently clearly stated that the Russian people “can always separate true patriots from traitors and spit them out like a fly that accidentally flew in.” This is quite an important symbolic signal on the topic of the fifth column. We are not talking about many dissatisfied people, but first of all about those who consciously and systematically cooperate with our enemies. There may indeed be more serious decisions regarding these people. But who decides? The FSB and other special services decide. If something comes to light, the consequences now may be much more serious than they could have been, say, last year. After all, the country lives in wartime conditions and a long cold war with the United States.

– Tell me, how do you assess the effectiveness of Ukrainian Internet fakes like the “ghost of Kiev” or the “Russian warship” sent in three letters? Or like the “Ichthyander of Azov” that flashed in your telegram channel?

– Such fakes operate only in conditions of a complete information blockade. If people are bombarded with such propaganda 24/7, they simply do not receive other information. By the way, it is no coincidence that comments are simply blocked in most Ukrainian public sites. Read, load your brain, but don’t bark. But when they begin to compare the facts, it becomes clear that the vast majority of these fakes just crumble in just a matter of hours.
The problem is that when we try to argue with logic and facts, readers whose feelings and emotions are being bombarded do not perceive this logic. As they say, if the facts contradict the faith, so much the worse for the facts. But how to work in conditions of complete information suppression, when communication is turned off, when other sources of information are blocked? For comparison, our people read both Russian and Ukrainian telegram channels. We can also get acquainted with the reports of the Ukrainian General Staff, and watch operational videos from the scene. Videos are posted showing our losses, abandoned equipment or something else. It’s like we don’t have such a complete information cap — we know the Western position, we know the logic of the Ukrainian position. In this regard, Russia, despite the obvious restrictions, is now a much more free country from the point of view of information than the same Ukraine. When you go to the “Telegram”, there is no problem to get access to different sources of information. At the same time, Russian channels are now actively blocked in Ukraine. There’s just a propaganda line being broadcast, no comments— and that’s it.

— If we compare the tonality of Ukrainian telegram channels and ours, the difference between the frenzied, jackal-like howl that comes from the Ukrainian telegram space and the rather calm and, as we once said, polite rhetoric of our channels is striking. They are really quite seasoned. In this regard, I would like to return to your meme “Polite people”. How applicable is this meme to Operation Z now? Are we still as polite?

– Other times — other memes. The term lives, it has acquired a personal and public sound. It is clear that at the same time, he is historically tied to the 2014 operation. The current meme will certainly have something to do with Operation Z. That is, officially it will be SVO (special military operation), and unofficially – Operation Z.

– By the way, was the term “Polite people” really born by chance? Do you not renounce its authorship?

— Its origin is connected with my post “Polite people seized two airfields in the Crimea”. I wrote this on the night of February 28, 2014, citing one of the first reports about the seizure of the Simferopol airfield. This fragment is not difficult to find on the web, and I referred to the messages of a resource belonging to Euromaidan supporters. “At about one o’clock in the morning, Simferopol airport was seized by the same people. With weapons, strong, in the same clothes. The head of security said that his people were politely asked to leave,” that’s how it sounded. I was hooked by the expression “politely”, and I beat him, but without any expectation that it would have any large-scale effect. The most I hoped for was to elicit understanding chuckles from some of my readers. Therefore, in my article on IA REX (there is an error here, it appeared for the first time in the blog) I constructed the following phrase: “As reported by the media, “polite people”, after spending several hours at the Simferopol airport, left its location.” But, I emphasize, initially Ukrainian resources wrote about the “polite” seizure of the airport.

– By the way, have you tried to register the trademark “Polite People” or are you not a selfish person?

—I’m not. There was no goal to make money on this. Then some merchants registered a patent for the production of “Polite People” T-shirts and other products. I didn’t have a goal to make money on it.

— There are children’s soldiers “Polite people” — a whole series.

— There are a lot of things there — T-shirts and soldiers.

– Now on the technique. The official representative of the Ministry of Defense of Russia Igor Konashenkov said that our troops have already destroyed about 1.2 thousand tanks and other armored vehicles of Ukraine. Are there many more of them left and how dangerous are they?

– Actually, the number of tanks from this is slightly more than 300 units. Formally, at the beginning of the special operation, Ukraine had somewhere about 2 thousand tanks. It is clear that some of them were not on the move, but still there are tanks there so far, and quite a lot. There is a big problem in the gradually ending SAMs, various radar complexes that are being knocked out, and in the destruction of the bulk of aviation and helicopters. Air supremacy has been seized by Russia, they are trying to challenge it, but it does not work. The air defense system of Ukraine as a full-fledged structure has been destroyed. She moved on to the focal defense. Some complexes are hiding in residential areas or in the woods and trying to shoot. Sometimes they achieve some success, but Ukraine cannot regain control of its airspace in this way. That’s why, in fact, they are asking the West – give us planes, give us air defense systems.

— All more or less large Ukrainian cities and settlements have been turned into defense nodes, the basis of which are armored tanks. With these fists they often make sorties and strike at our columns. Given that there are still a lot of such defense nodes in the combat zone, how long will they last and how dangerous are they for us?

— If you miss such a blow, it can cause a lot of trouble. But our drones are hanging there, and it’s all being monitored. The last attempt to get out of Kharkov ended badly enough for them. Near Balakleya, artillery and aviation ground them. Plus, they have a growing fuel crisis, as our aviation methodically destroys their oil depots, oil storage facilities, and accumulations of refueling equipment. Therefore, fuel for tanks is becoming less and less. This leads to the fact that when they retreat, they throw a huge amount of serviceable equipment. It was visible both under Happiness, and under Volnovakha, and in other places. It just runs out of fuel, and the equipment becomes useless. Such a problem is rapidly increasing on the Left Bank of the Dnieper. In the second half of March, it will become very acute for the APU.

– Konashenkov says that the Russian Armed Forces have already destroyed about 130 unmanned aerial vehicles. What kind of drones are these? Whose production? How many of them are still available?

– There is a national hodgepodge. These are Turkish Bayraktars, Israeli reconnaissance drones, old Soviet Tu-143 Reis, and all sorts of large commercial and civilian quadrocopters. In general, a rather colorful park. The first batch of “Bayraktars” has almost all been destroyed. Now they are already fighting the second batch, which the Turks are selling to them. Ukrainians are trying to actively use drones, as they are an integral part of modern warfare. But at the same time, this technical tool is a fairly expensive consumable. It was quickly shot down, and you need to immediately produce or purchase a new one and fight on. Now there is practically no war without drones. In Ukraine, there is an option of constantly replenishing the fleet of drones by buying something on the market and by direct supplies from the West.

—Are they dangerous to us?”

– Of course, they are dangerous. Therefore, it is necessary to create and maintain a high level of tactical air defense combat capability. From the experience of military operations, we see that she copes with her duties quite successfully. Ukraine’s partners supply these drones to it, we grind them. They certainly cause some damage, but we destroy them quickly. In general, there is a process familiar from a number of other local wars.

— If you look at the map of active hostilities, their zone is so far limited from south to north by the Mykolaiv and Zhytomyr regions. From Vinnitsa to Lviv, everything is calm. We’re not going there?

– No one reveals such plans. This is a military secret. Even if someone knew these plans of the General Staff, who would tell you them in an interview? There is no complete clarity on how exactly the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation are going to conduct this operation. There are many different kinds of assumptions. Russian troops and the LDPR People’s militia are now advancing in many places. Aviation and long-range fire systems strike with high-precision ammunition in the western regions as well. The airfield in Vinnitsa was destroyed. They bombed military facilities near Rivne. The last example is the defeat by long-range missiles of the training centers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the village of Starichi and at the Yavorovsky military training ground. The result, according to Konashenkov, whom you have already quoted— is that up to 180 foreign mercenaries and a large batch of foreign weapons have been destroyed, with which NATO countries have been supplying Ukraine in recent weeks. So the blows are being struck, just not so intensely. Gradually, the fire pressure and the activation of missile and bomb attacks will increase and shift to the west. But there is no real understanding of what exactly is laid down in the plan of the General Staff regarding the goals, timing and tasks of the operation.

– Onufrienko said in another summary that the weapons that are now coming from the West are not coming to the fighting units, but are settling in Western Ukraine, and a powerful fist is being formed here. As he says, perhaps in order to create some Galician republic here or something similar. But this is an assumption. And it may happen that this fist, together with the mercenaries, will then hit the tired and battle-battered Russian army.

– Yes, they can use this fist both in Western Ukraine and strengthen some already fighting direction. For example, try to transfer something to Kiev or Odessa. The problem is that there are few heavy land vehicles there. The most combat-ready part of it was still on the Left Bank. These formations may create some problems for us in the medium term, but they cannot throw them somewhere on a threatening scale now. They are engaged in accumulating forces for a longer conflict.

— There was information that the Russian aviation was actively and closely working on the former pride of the Soviet industry – the Malyshev Kharkiv Tractor Plant, and now the tank-building plant. If this is being done within the framework of demilitarization, then why are we not actively and tightly bombing other facilities, for example in Dnepropetrovsk – we can say, the capital of Ukrainian rocket engineering?

– The nomenclature of strikes is determined by the General Staff. He does not disclose the principle by which certain objects are selected. There is a certain set of goals. They were knocked out, they move on to the next ones. Blows are struck every day, and, obviously, these blows are not delivered in a chaotic manner, but in a certain planned order. What has already been destroyed, apparently, was considered a higher priority than what has not yet been destroyed. The conflict is not over yet. A lot of things will be destroyed in the coming weeks.

– Well, now we will destroy all these factories, and then who will restore these giants of the industry?

– No one reveals such plans. This is a military secret. Even if someone knew these plans of the General Staff, who would tell you them in an interview? There is no complete clarity on how exactly the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation are going to conduct this operation. There are many different kinds of assumptions. Russian troops and the LDPR People’s militia are now advancing in many places. Aviation and long-range fire systems strike with high-precision ammunition in the western regions as well. The airfield in Vinnitsa was destroyed. They bombed military facilities near Rivne. The last example is the defeat by long-range missiles of the training centers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the village of Starichi and at the Yavorovsky military training ground. The result, according to Konashenkov, whom you have already quoted— is that up to 180 foreign mercenaries and a large batch of foreign weapons have been destroyed, with which NATO countries have been supplying Ukraine in recent weeks. So the blows are being struck, just not so intensely. Gradually, the fire pressure and the activation of missile and bomb attacks will increase and shift to the west. But there is no real understanding of what exactly is laid down in the plan of the General Staff regarding the goals, timing and tasks of the operation.

– Onufrienko said in another summary that the weapons that are now coming from the West are not coming to the fighting units, but are settling in Western Ukraine, and a powerful fist is being formed here. As he says, perhaps in order to create some Galician republic here or something similar. But this is an assumption. And it may happen that this fist, together with the mercenaries, will then hit the tired and battle-battered Russian army.

– Yes, they can use this fist both in Western Ukraine and strengthen some already fighting direction. For example, try to transfer something to Kiev or Odessa. The problem is that there are few heavy land vehicles there. The most combat-ready part of it was still on the Left Bank. These formations may create some problems for us in the medium term, but they cannot throw them somewhere on a threatening scale now. They are engaged in accumulating forces for a longer conflict.

— There was information that the Russian aviation was actively and closely working on the former pride of the Soviet industry – the Malyshev Kharkiv Tractor Plant, and now the tank-building plant. If this is being done within the framework of demilitarization, then why are we not actively and tightly bombing other facilities, for example in Dnepropetrovsk – we can say, the capital of Ukrainian rocket engineering?

– The nomenclature of strikes is determined by the General Staff. He does not disclose the principle by which certain objects are selected. There is a certain set of goals. They were knocked out, they move on to the next ones. Blows are struck every day, and, obviously, these blows are not delivered in a chaotic manner, but in a certain planned order. What has already been destroyed, apparently, was considered a higher priority than what has not yet been destroyed. The conflict is not over yet. A lot of things will be destroyed in the coming weeks.

– Well, now we will destroy all these factories, and then who will restore these giants of the industry?

– No one is going to restore them. One of the main tasks of the operation is demilitarization. Why does Ukraine need a lot of military factories?! Ukraine should not threaten Russia militarily. The destruction of military infrastructure, the elimination of offensive weapons and the elimination of industrial opportunities for the production of weapons dangerous to Russia are the inseparable goals and objectives of the operation. Russia has already announced that factories that repair and manufacture military equipment are legitimate military targets. Accordingly, the longer Ukraine and its patrons delay military operations, the fewer enterprises they will have.

– Now about the strange statements of our Foreign Ministry. “The special military operation of the Russian Federation is not aimed at overthrowing the current government of Ukraine or destroying its statehood, it is aimed at protecting the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, demilitarization and denazification of the country, as well as eliminating the military threat to Russia,” says the official representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Maria Zakharova. It sounds very strange. How, for example, could the military threat from Germany be demilitarized, denazified and eliminated without destroying the National Socialist statehood and overthrowing the power of Hitler and his team?

— The term “denazification” is not disclosed and is not specified. Apparently, there is some set of requirements that are planned to be discussed after the signing of the terms of the surrender of the regime of Vladimir Zelensky. Until he signed them. Yes, Russia says that he should sign them as the current president of Ukraine. If he doesn’t sign it, it’s good, so the operation continues. The longer and fiercer the Ukrainian resistance, the tougher the conditions of surrender will be. At some point, Zelensky may simply cease to be recognized as the president of Ukraine, and that’s it. Russia has a wide space for maneuvers. Until recently, we officially recognized both the DPR and the LPR as part of Ukraine. Now our Foreign Ministry says that Zelensky is the president of Ukraine, and a week later it can say that we no longer think so, because Zelensky missed the time. In reality, Zelensky is already just an American puppet, therefore, as long as it is profitable for us, we recognize him as president. It will become unprofitable – we will stop recognizing.
We can say that Russia stands for the “Finlandization” of Ukraine. That is, for turning it into a neutral country with a ban on neo-Nazi formations. The consolidation of its neutral status in the Constitution of the country and the termination of its military development by foreign states. This is the process that took place in Finland after its defeat in World War II, when the country accepted the conditions of the Soviet Union and turned from, in fact, a fascist state into a neutral one.

– Will the NATO members, with the level of Russophobia that is now inflamed, agree to this?

— What will remain of modern Ukraine will be such a “bedbug” like Idlib (a city in Syria – ed.). Gangs of Nazis will run around there under the roof of their patrons, but they can only really be used in some kind of terrorist form. They will no longer pose a global threat with nuclear or bacteriological weapons. There’s just nothing left for that.

— There are practically no people or parties loyal to Russia in Ukraine now. Even the platform “For Life” of Medvedchuk and Boyko took a “patriotic” position against us.

– Looking for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine now, as well as political forces in general, advocating peace and friendship with Russia, is like looking for pro-Soviet forces in Nazi Germany 1944-1945. Yes, there were forces that opposed the continuation of the war, even for the murder of Hitler and some negotiations with the allies, but in the conditions of fascist terror, no open political life is impossible. There is no political life in Ukraine right now. There is a regime of fascist dictatorship, where dissenters are simply killed. Political life can begin in the liberated territories or in the conditions of the neutralization of Ukraine. But not now. Therefore, the military is solving the problem so that fascist terror stops in Ukraine and political life appears.

— And where is Viktor Medvedchuk, why is he not visible and not heard? Is he alive at all?

– Viktor Medvedchuk is a long-played card. Of course, it can still be used for something, but it has never been particularly popular in Ukraine, including in the south-east. He tried to position himself and sell himself as a kind of representative of the south-east, but these were intra-elite sales. In fact, his party has always had a fairly low rating. Of course, they can attach him somewhere, but in fact this figure is inflated and unpromising.

— So you think that after the end of the military operation in Ukraine there will be some political forces advocating good-neighborly relations with Russia?

— There will be a sufficient number of parties advocating the neutralization of Ukraine, for its non-aligned status. The main thing is that all these conditions should be spelled out in the Ukrainian Constitution. All this, of course, will need to be settled with the West, but before that you still need to, as they say, get there. So far, there is nothing, and the operation continues.

— And what about the famous Ukrainian oligarchs – Kolomoisky, Akhmetov, Firtash and others?

– Rinat Akhmetov is performing. He says that he is a patriot, that he transfers money to defense, and everything like that. And not just him. Others also speak out because they understand that everything is over for them in the Donbass. If anything has remained until now, then everything will now be taken away clean. There is a risk of losing assets in other liberated territories as well. But here the choice is small: if you contacted the fascists, then you painted yourself in these colors. Now don’t be surprised by the consequences. We still have some property of Ukrainian oligarchs in Crimea, which has not been fully selected. Now, in response to the nationalization of Russian property in Ukraine, everything may well be taken away. This public is unlikely to cooperate with Russia in any way. And that’s good. These bloodsuckers from both Donbass and Russia should be unhooked, and as soon as possible.

— Where are the former Ukrainian presidents? Kravchuk six months ago posed with a double-barreled Goering shotgun and said that he would shoot “Muscovites”.

— They are alive and also perform. Both Kravchuk and Kuchma say what megapatriots they are. But this is all the barking of the powerless. We have always known perfectly well that they hate us. Geographically, some of them are now entrenched in Western Ukraine, some are already in Europe. This is unprincipled, because they can’t say anything new. They repeat the same thing, just now there is more hysteria and more curses. I think there is no point in paying attention to them. This is a historical scrap.

— What are the sentiments prevailing in the Ukrainian diaspora in Russia? Did anyone from her environment go to war against the nationalists in the current operation of the Russian Federation?

– Different moods. Someone opposes the military operation, goes to rallies. At the same time, a huge number of people fled to Russia after the Maidan revolution and the civil war unleashed in Ukraine. This is a mass of political emigrants, intellectuals, just people who have not accepted rabid nationalism and terror against dissidents. These people enthusiastically accept the Russian operation in the hope that their country will become normal and someone will even be able to return to their home, where they have not been for many years. Now, if this man comes back, he may just be killed. If we look at the sociology of support for Russia’s military operation among its citizens, its level is quite high. According to various estimates, this is at least 70 percent. I think that among the Ukrainian diaspora in Russia, the level of support is about the same, because first of all Russian sympathizers fled from Ukraine, not Western ones.

— And how do you feel about terrorist threats from Ukraine?

– Russia has more than a wealth of experience working with such an audience in the Caucasus and Syria. With the end of active hostilities in the liberated territories, a counter-terrorist operation will still be carried out to destroy the remaining remnants and neo-Nazi gangs there. They will do this with an adjustment to local peculiarities and do the same as they do in the Caucasus, in Syria, in the interior regions of Russia, where cells of radical Islamists from among migrants and not only are identified and liquidated. This is a long but understandable process. In the end, they will come to an agreement with someone, and the irreconcilable will be laid in the ground.

– Putin gave the command to strengthen the western direction in connection with the build-up of NATO forces at our borders. What exactly will this build-up consist of?

– A direct NATO war with us is unlikely, because it will almost immediately become nuclear. Russia now needs to resolve the Ukrainian issue, but in parallel, our western borders are already being strengthened. There will be a build-up of the grouping in Kaliningrad, strengthening of troops in Belarus. The issue of the supply of new equipment to Belarus has been resolved. Accordingly, we will have more troops and equipment in the West. A new Iron curtain is being actively formed, and troops will be standing on both sides of this curtain. Only earlier it passed through the territory of Germany, and now it will pass on the borders of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine.

— What about Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua? Will we build up and resist the foes, if such a war of nerves has gone on?

— Well, while NATO does not place missiles in Eastern Europe, we also do not place anything in Latin America. There are such options. Venezuela and Cuba are potential locations for such weapons. This is a trump card in our hands, and no one will just throw it away now. It is kept in reserve.

— Will the sanctions disrupt our weapons programs?

— I think there will be certain technological problems, but in recent years our industry has become more focused on domestic and, let’s say, non-Western suppliers. There are many workarounds. The same Iran, under the conditions of the most severe sanctions, managed to develop new ballistic missiles and create one of the most advanced UAV programs in the world. And Russia has much more such opportunities than Iran. Therefore, basically these problems are solvable.

– Recently, the media and telegram channels reported on the explosion of a drama theater in Mariupol. And initially they tried to present it as a consequence of the explosion of a Russian aerial bomb – despite the fact that thousands of civilians were hiding in the theater, who, fortunately, remained alive. Was it also an attempt to create an information bomb on the deaths of innocent people?

— This bomb, let’s say, did not explode in full force due to the fact that there were many warnings published four days before this provocation. There are testimonies of people who were there. They reported that the people in the bomb shelter are all alive. Now they will interrogate prisoners for organizing provocations. I think in about a week there will be videos with the testimony of detainees and witnesses.
Currently, fighting is already underway in the city quarters of Mariupol. It is unclear how much strength the nationalists have left, but gradually the city is being cleared. On the eve of 30 thousand people have already been able to go outside the city limits. Again, this is an indicator that the nationalists do not completely control Mariupol, and people are fleeing from there in the direction of the Russian border.

—Aren’t we being too polite?” I understand that we are protecting civilians, but this makes it difficult for us to advance.

– That’s right, we are paying an additional price, including with the lives of the military, in order to save the civilian population. This again shows that the purpose of the operation is not a war with the Ukrainian people, but a war with Ukrainian Nazism. We separate Ukrainian Nazism from the Ukrainian people. And this is part of the struggle for people’s minds. In this regard, we can recall that when Soviet troops entered the territory of Germany, Stalin gave an order not to commit violence against peaceful civilians under threat of death penalty. The slogan “Kill the German!”, which was needed during the difficult years of the war, ceased to be relevant when we had already driven the fascists from our land and came to German territory. In this regard, the position of Putin and the military leadership, in principle, copies the approaches that Stalin used in relation to the civilian population of Germany. That is, in no case should rape, robbery, looting be allowed. And we see that there are simply no reports that the Russian army is killing civilians on purpose, with the exception of fake messages from Ukrainian telegram channels. We are willing to pay an additional price in order not to conduct military operations like butchers. We are not going as conquerors, we are going as people who are liberating Ukraine from Nazism.

– By the way, why do you think Ramzan Kadyrov needed to come to Ukraine directly to the war zone?

– To support his military at the front, showing that he was not afraid to come and meet with his people. At the same time, it shows that Ukraine is now in a heavyweight position, since even Ramzan Kadyrov, who cannot be called an inconspicuous figure, can take and come to Nezalezhnaya and be somewhere there next to Kiev and at the same time troll the Ukrainian leadership. He also shows himself: “look, here I am – I was not afraid and came to you near Kiev. I’m already here. You are not threatening me somewhere, but I have already arrived and am standing at your doorstep.” Again, this is an element of information warfare. From the point of view of PR, Kadyrov, of course, does a lot there. He capitalizes on himself, as it were, in the media, and at the same time helps to exert information pressure on the Kiev regime.

— Thus, the international is fighting on our side: Chechens, Russians, Tatars, “fighting Buryats”, and on their side it is the nationalists. This is the international against the national!

– Yes, and the Buryats are fighting there. As for the Chechen units, they fight together with combined arms units and solve common tasks. This helps (at least for a while) to relieve tension along the national line, because Russians and Chechens shed blood together. Ossetians, Armenians, and representatives of other nations are coming to Ukraine. From the point of view of the international factor, this is quite an important point.

— What about the Foreign Legion of Ukraine? He crumbled, I take it?

— He suffered serious losses after a high-precision strike on the Yavorovsky training ground. Now they are restructuring tactics: mercenaries will no longer be gathered in such crowds and concentrated in one place. Of course, this is a great achievement of Russian intelligence, which revealed such a cluster. The battalion of mercenaries was put out of action almost immediately. Moreover, the so-called “Foreign Legion of Ukraine” is either just mercenaries fighting for money, or various ultra-rightists. Plus some percentage of ordinary combat veterans. But now their belligerent fervor has diminished.

Facebook and Instagram Say It Is Okay to Support Nazism in Ukraine, and They Modify Terms Allowing Advocacy for Death to Russians

March 14, 2022

By Sundance

Global Research,

The Last Refuge 10 March 2022

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***

There are very few things in this world that can leave me almost speechless.  This is one of them.

Dropping all pretense of their hidden ideology, Reuters is reporting exclusively that Facebook and Instagram have modified their terms and conditions to permit advocacy and support for the Nazi party in Ukraine (Azov Regiment), and they have modified their violence terms to allow platform users to advocate for death to Russians.

I don’t quite know where to begin.  However, this report from Reuters does actually make sense based on some pictures that were floating around a few days ago.  The pictures show U.S. military “advisors” training Ukrainian neo-Nazi’s in the Azov regiment how to use FGM-148 javelin missiles.

It would be odd if Big Tech were generically against all Nazi’s, while U.S. military advisors are in Ukraine training specific Azov Regiment Nazi’s to fight Russians.   The Javelin missile system, pictured above, is what Ukraine is using to defeat Russian tanks and armored vehicles.  The U.S. is sending the Ukraine military thousands of them.  Apparently arming and training Nazis is okay right now.

The Reuter’s article notes:

“Emails also showed that Meta would allow praise of the right-wing Azov battalion, which is normally prohibited, in a change first reported by The Intercept.  Meta spokesman Joe Osborne previously said the company was “for the time being, making a narrow exception for praise of the Azov Regiment strictly in the context of defending Ukraine, or in their role as part of the Ukraine National Guard.” (link)

Facebook and Instagram to Permit Posts Calling for Violence Against Russians and Death of Putin

March 10 (Reuters) –

Meta Platforms (FB.O) will allow Facebook and Instagram users in some countries to call for violence against Russians and Russian soldiers in the context of the Ukraine invasion, according to internal emails seen by Reuters on Thursday, in a temporary change to its hate speech policy.

The social media company is also temporarily allowing some posts that call for death to Russian President Vladimir Putin or Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in countries including Russia, Ukraine and Poland, according to internal emails to its content moderators.

“As a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine we have temporarily made allowances for forms of political expression that would normally violate our rules like violent speech such as ‘death to the Russian invaders.’ We still won’t allow credible calls for violence against Russian civilians,” a Meta spokesperson said in a statement.

The calls for the leaders’ deaths will be allowed unless they contain other targets or have two indicators of credibility, such as the location or method, one email said, in a recent change to the company’s rules on violence and incitement.

The temporary policy changes on calls for violence to Russian soldiers apply to Armenia, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, and Ukraine, according to one email.

[…] “We are issuing a spirit-of-the-policy allowance to allow T1 violent speech that would otherwise be removed under the Hate Speech policy when: (a) targeting Russian soldiers, EXCEPT prisoners of war, or (b) targeting Russians where it’s clear that the context is the Russian invasion of Ukraine (e.g., content mentions the invasion, self-defense, etc.),” it said in the email. (read more)

For almost fifteen years we have been outlining the connection of the Obama and EU ideologues to Nazism.  This is something that everyone associated with the Democrat Party have denied repeatedly.   Now, all of a sudden, Facebook and Instagram, the support system in Big Tech for the ideology of Democrats, is openly admitting a change in position allowing public support for Nazism on their platforms.

This is a remarkable moment.

*

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Copyright © SundanceThe Last Refuge, 2022

قبل تدخلها في أوكرانيا.. كيف واجهت موسكو تطويق واشنطن والناتو لحدودها؟

2022 السبت 25 شباط

المصدر: الميادين.نت

بتول رحال 

العملية العسكرية الروسية في أوكرانيا ليست الأولى من نوعها. فقبل ذلك، قامت موسكو بالتدخل في بلدانٍ مجاورة لها، ضد وجود الولايات المتحدة والناتو وتأثيرهما فيها.

لا تتوانى روسيا عن حماية حدودها ومجالها الحيوي أمام أي مخاطر تواجهها

“هل يجب علينا أن ننظر، مكتوفي الأيدي وغير مبالين، إلى مختلف النزاعات الداخلية في بعض الدول، وإلى فظائع الأنظمة الاستبدادية والطغاة وانتشار أسلحة الدمار الشامل؟ هل نستطيع النظر مكتوفي الأيدي إلى ما يجري؟ سأحاول الإجابة عن هذا السؤال، بالطبع، لا ينبغي لنا النظر مكتوفي الأيدي”

(الرئيس الروسي فلاديمير بوتين في مؤتمر ميونيخ، في الـ10 من شباط/فبراير 2007)

تضمّن هذا الخطاب الشهير للرئيس الروسي، فلاديمير بوتين، آنذاك، انتقاداتٍ لاذعةً للولايات المتّحدة، ودول الغرب، وخصوصاً دول حلف شمال الأطلسي، التي “تسعى لتمدد الحلف نحو حدود روسيا، على الرغم من الوعود التي قدّمها الناتو سابقاً إلى موسكو”، وفق بوتين.

بمقارنة خطاب بوتين قبل 15 عاماً، مع خطابه الذي ألقاه قبيل بدء العملية العسكرية الروسية في دونباس، والذّي أكّد خلاله أنّ المواجهة بين روسيا والقوى القومية المتطرفة في أوكرانيا “لا مفر منها”، وأنّه “لن يسمح لأوكرانيا بامتلاك أسلحة نووية”، نرى أنّ روسيا ما زالت متمسكّةً بموقفها في مواجهة أي تهديدٍ أو تأثيرٍ للولايات المتحدة وحلف الناتو، وخصوصاً في البلدان الواقعة عند حدودها، ولاسيما أنّ هذه ليست المرّة الأولى التي تتدخّل فيها موسكو، أمنياً أو سياسياً، في بلدان مجاورة لها، في وقت لم تتراجع واشنطن ودول الناتو أيضاً عن تطويق روسيا.  

التدخل العسكري الروسي في جورجيا

في السابع من آب/أغسطس 2008، اندلع نزاعٌ مسلّح في جمهورية أوسيتيا الجنوبية، المعترف بها جزئياً في جنوبي القوقاز، وذلك بعد أن شنّت جورجيا هجوماً عنيفاً على عاصمة أوسيتيا الجنوبية، تسخينفالي، وحاولت فرض السيطرة على الجمهورية باعتبارها جزءاً من أراضيها.

بعدها بيومٍ واحد، في الثامن من آب/أغسطس، أعلن الرئيس الروسي آنذاك، ديمتري مدفيديف، إطلاق “عملية عسكرية لتطبيق السلام” في منطقة النزاع – في أوسيتيا وأبخازيا على البحر الأسود -، اختُتمت في الـ12 من آب/أغسطس، بطرد القوات الجورجية من أراضي أوسيتيا الجنوبية وجمهورية أبخازيا، المعترف بها جزئياً أيضاً، وسيطرة الجيش الروسي على عدد من البلدات والمدن الجورجية، وأيضاً باعتراف موسكو بهما دولتين مستقلتين. 

حينذاك، تعهّد الرئيس الروسي، ديمتري مدفيديف، “احترام حياة المواطنين الروس وكرامتهم أينما وُجدوا”، إذ إنّ أوسيتيا وأبخازيا، يتكلّم معظم السكان فيهما الروسية، ويحملون جواز سفرٍ روسياً. بعد ذلك، قام مدفيديف، في الـ16 من آب/أغسطس، مع رئيسي أوسيتيا الجنوبية وأبخازيا والرئيس الجورجي، ميخائيل ساكاشفيلي، بالتوقيع على خطة لتسوية النزاع.

وبشأن سبب قيام جورجيا بهذه الخطوة ضدّ أوسيتيا الجنوبية، أوضح فلاديمير بوتين، الذي كان رئيساً للوزراء آنذاك، أن “مستشارين عسكريين أميركيين شاركوا في الصراع الذي اندلع في جورجيا”، مشيراً إلى أنّ “روسيا وجدت علامات على أن مواطنيين أميركيين كانوا في منطقة العمليات العسكرية في البلاد”.

يُشار إلى أنّ هذه الأحداث اندلعت بعد أشهرٍ قليلة من تعهّد حلف “الناتو” رسمياً، في قمة  بوخارست، في نيسان/أبريل 2008، منحَ كل من جورجيا وأوكرانيا العضوية فيه، عندما “تتوافقان مع معايير الحلف”.

استعادة روسيا شبه جزيرة القرم

بعد أحداث جورجيا بعدة أعوام، أُطيح الرئيس الأوكراني، الحليف لروسيا، فيكتور يانوكوفيتش، في الـ21 من شباط/فبراير 2014، عقب موجة احتجاجات شهدتها العاصمة كييف، عُرفت بحركة “الميدان الأوروبي”، بسبب تعليق الأخير التوقيع على اتفاقية شراكة تجارية مع الاتحاد الأوروبي.

إلا أنّ هناك مَن رفض هذه التحركات ووصفها بـ”الانقلاب”، وبدأت احتجاجات في المناطق الشرقية والجنوبية من أوكرانيا، طلباً لعلاقات أوثق بروسيا، بينما تعدَّدت التظاهرات في شبه جزيرة القرم من أجل فكّ الارتباط بأوكرانيا والالتحاق بالاتحاد الروسي.

لم تغضّ روسيا الطرف عن طلب مواطني القرم، بل سارعت إلى تنفيذه، لتعلن انضمام الإقليم إلى أراضيها في الـ18 من آذار/مارس بعد أن قامت قوات موالية لها بالسيطرة على شبه الجزيرة، وعقب استفتاء أجرته القرم، أيّد 96% من المشاركين فيه هذا الانضمام.

روسيا تدعم لوكاشينكو في احتجاجات عام 2020

أمّا في بيلاروسيا، فقامت روسيا بدعم الرئيس البيلاروسي ألكسندر لوكاشنكو، في مواجهته  للاحتجاجات غير المسبوقة، التي نددت بإعادة انتخابه  في التاسع من آب/أغسطس 2020، وذلك عن طريق إقرارها بشرعية الانتخابات الرئاسية في البلاد، مبديةًً استعدادها لتقديم المساعدة العسكرية أو غيرها من المساعدات لتطبيق القانون، على لسان رئيسها فلاديمير بوتين.  

وذكرت صحيفة “نيويورك تايمز”، في تقرير تعليقاً على كلام الرئيس الروسي، أن تحذير بوتين من أن روسيا يمكن أن تتدخل لاستعادة النظام، يشير إلى “الدعم الكامل للوكاشينكو بقدر أقل من إرساله رسالة إلى الغرب، مفادها: إذا واصلتَ الضغط على بيلاروسيا، فسيكون لديك أوكرانيا أخرى بين يديك”.

حينها، اتهم لوكاشينكو الدول الغربية بالتدخل المباشر في الوضع في البلاد. أمّا وزير الدفاع الروسي، سيرغي شويغو، فوصف الاحتجاجات التي شهدتها البلاد بـ “الثورة الملوَّنة” التي تقدّم الولايات المتحدة مساعدةً تقنية إليها، عبر تأجيج التوترات، مؤكّداً أنّه كان للثورة الملونة عدة أهداف، من بينها “تعطيل تكامل دولة الاتحاد مع روسيا، وتخريب العلاقات بين موسكو ومينسك”.

يُذكَر أن تلك الاحتجاجات حدثت في وقت كان حلف شمال الأطلسي يعمل على تحسين بنيته التحتية العسكرية، وتخزين المواد والوسائل التقنية والأسلحة والمعدات العسكرية بالقرب من حدود الاتحاد الروسي. 

إدخال قوات حفظ السلام الروسية لكازاخستان

على الخطى نفسها، سارت روسيا في كازاخستان، التي شهدت في مطلع العام الحالي موجة احتجاجات بدأت بمطالب اقتصادية، تحولت إلى اشتباكات عنيفة بين المتظاهرين وقوات الأمن في عدد من المدن، بينها ألما آتا كبرى مدن البلاد. 

قامت موسكو، مع تصاعد الاحتجاجات في كازاخستان، بإدخال قوات حفظ السلام الروسية، العاملة ضمن مهمة منظمة معاهدة الأمن الجماعي، للبلاد، تلبيةً لطلبٍ من الرئيس الكازاخي، جومارت توكاييف، من أجل تنفيذ المهمات الموكلة إليها بشأن حماية المنشآت الحيوية والبنية التحتية الرئيسة هناك.

وخرجت قوات حفظ السلام الروسية بعدها بأسبوع عقب انتهاء مهماتها، وإعلان السلطات إنهاء عملية “مكافحة الإرهاب” في ألما آتا ومنطقتين في جنوبي البلاد، الأمر الذي وصفه توكاييف بأنّه “نجاة من عملية انقلاب”.

وتبيّن بعد ذلك أنّ “المظاهرات في كازاخستان مُعَدّة مسبقاً لزعزعة استقرار الوضع في البلاد، وأن منظّميها تلقوا دعماً من الخارج”، وفق رئيس اللجنة التنفيذية لرابطة الدول المستقلة، سيرغي ليبيديف. وهو ما تدخّلت روسيا ودول منظمة الأمن الجماعي، بحسب بوتين، من أجل إيقافه. 

وبحسب الرئيس البيلاروسي، ألكسندر لوكاشنكو، فإنّ التدخّل حدث لأنّه “لا يمكن التخلي عن كازاخستان كهدية، مثل أوكرانيا، إلى أميركا وحلف شمال الأطلسي”.

اتّخذت روسيا، منذ زمن، قرار مواجهة الأحادية الأميركية، ووضعٍ حدّ لتوسّع الناتو، وهي من أجل ذلك لا تتوانى عن حماية حدودها ومجالها الحيوي أمام أي مخاطر تواجهها، إن كان من خلال تشكيل التحالفات العسكرية والسياسية، مثل معاهدة الأمن الجماعي، أو توقيع المعاهدات الأمنية مع جيرانها من الدول، مثل الاتفاقية التي تمّ الإعلان عنها مؤخراً بين روسيا وأذربيجان، أو من خلال العمليات العسكرية كالتي تحدث الآن في أوكرانيا، وحدثت سابقاً في عدد من الدول. 

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Who “lost” Kazakhstan and to whom?

Jauary 09, 2022

Dear friends, Christ is born!  Glorify Him!

The magnitude of the crisis in Kazakhstan has surprised many, including myself.  Some compared what happened to the Euromaidan in Kiev, but that is a very bad comparison, if only because the Euromaidan happened on one square of one city whereas the violent insurrection (because that it was it was!) in Kazakhstan began in the western regions but quickly spread to the entire country (which is huge).  Just by the sheer magnitude of the insurrection (about 20’000 well organized and trained combatants all over the country) and its extreme violence (cops had their heads cut off!), it was pretty obvious that this was not something spontaneous, but something carefully prepared, organized and then executed.  The way the insurgents immediately attacked all TV stations and airports, while bigger mobs were trashing the streets and looting stores, shows a degree of sophistication Ed Luttwak would have approved of!

To me, this is much more similar to what happened in Syria in the cities of Daraa, Homs, Hama, Aleppo, Damascus, and many more.

I will admit that my initial reaction also was “wow, how could the Kazakh and Russian intelligence services miss all the indicators and warnings that such a huge insurrection was carefully prepared and about to explode?”.  Then came the news that President Tokaev appealed to The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which up until now was a rather flaccid organization and that very same evening Russia began an air bridge to move forces to Kazakhstan, including the subunits of the 45th Guards Separate Special Forces Brigade, 98th Guards Airborne Division and 31st Guards Airborne Assault Brigade.  Russian military transporters also airlifted small contingents of Armenian, Kyrgyz, Tadjik special forces.  Most interestingly, the Belarusians also sent one reinforced company from their elite 103rd Separate Guards Airborne Brigade (that is the famous Vitebsk Airborne Division, one of the best Soviet Airborne Divisions).  Considering the current tensions with the West over the Ukraine, the speed with which these forces were sent to Kazakhstan indicated to me that this was clearly a prepared move.

In other words, at least the Russians had advanced warning and were fully prepared.  If so, I doubt they said anything to their colleagues from the CSTO, with the possible (likely?) exception of the Belarusians.

Okay, so let’s explore the implications of the above.

If the Russians knew, why did they do nothing at all to prevent what just happened?

Here we first need to revisit what recently happened in Belarus.

President Lukashenko had pretty much the same foreign policy as President Tokaev: something they call a “multi-vector” foreign policy which I would summarize as follows: pump all the aid and money from Russia, while suppressing pro-Russian forces inside your own country and try to show the AngloZionist Empire that we can be bought, just for the right price of course (this is also what Vucic is doing in Serbia right now).  Now let’s recall what happened in Belarus.

The Empire and its vassal states in the EU tried to overthrow Lukashenko who had no other choice than to turn to Russia for help and survival.  Russia, of course, did oblige, but only in exchange for Lukashenko’s “good behavior” and comprehensive abandonment of his “multi-vector” foreign policy.  Lukashenko prevailed, the opposition was crushed, and Russia and Belarus have already taken major further steps towards their integration.

Now I know that there are those out there who love to accuse Putin (personally) that he “showed weakness”, “let the US and NATO blow up countries on the Russian periphery”, etc. etc. etc.  To those inclined to this, I ask a simple question: compare the Belarus before the insurrection and after.  Specifically, from the Russian point of view, was the multi-vectoring Belarus preferable to the fully aligned Belarus of today or not?  The answer, I submit, is absolutely obvious.

Now let’s look at Kazakhstan.  Potentially, this is a much more dangerous country for Russia than Belarus: it has a huge border (7’600km, open and undefended as Kazakhstan is a member of the Eurasian Economic Community!), a strong pan-Turkic underground (supported by Turkey), an equally strong Takfiri underground (supported by various non-state and even state actors in the region), ethnic tensions between the Kazakhs and the Russian minority and very important security ties to Russia.  To have the Empire take over Belarus would have been very bad indeed, but the Empire taking over Kazakhstan would have been even much worse.

Yet, as a direct (and, I submit, predictable) consequence of the insurrection, Tokaev now knows that his fate depends on Russia, just like Lukashenko’s.  Is that a bad or a good outcome for the Kremlin?

I will toss in another name here: Armenia’s Pashinian, who was a notorious russophobe until the Azeris attacked at which point he had no other choice but to turn to Russia for help and, frankly, survival.  That is also true of Erdogan, but he is an ungrateful SOB who can’t ever be trusted, not even for minor matters.

Now remember all those dummies who were screaming urbi et orbi that the CSTO is useless, that the Russians just let the Azeris beat the crap of Armenia and could do nothing about it?  As soon as Russia got involved, the war stopped and the “invincible” Bayraktars stopped flying.  Is that a good or bad outcome for Russia?

And now, oh sweet irony, the self-same Pashinian happens to be the formal head of the CSTO (more like Stoltenberg really, a official mouthpiece with no real authority) and he had to “order” (announce, really) the CSTO operation into Kazakhstan.

So we have Lukashenko, Pashinian and now Tokaev all ex-multi-vector politicians begging Russia for help and getting that help, but at the obvious political price of ditching their former multi-vector policies.

I don’t know about you, but for me this is a triumph for Russia: without any military intervention or “invasion” (what the TV watching infantiles in the West scare themselves with at night), Putin “cracked” three notorious multi-vectorist and got them to be nice, loyal and very grateful (!) partners for Russia.  By the way, Russia also has a very deep “penetration” into all the other “stans” whose leaders are not stupid and who, unlike the western journos and “experts” all read the writing on the wall.  The impact of what just took place in Kazakhstan will reverberate all over Central Asia.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is The_Caucasus_and_Central_Asia_-_Political_Map.jpg

About the CSTO operation itself.  First, the Russian and Belarusian forces (about 3’000 Russians and 500 Belarusians): they are truly elite, top of the line, battle hardened, professional, highly trained and  superbly equipped forces (the other smaller contingents are more for “PR decoration” than for anything else).  Officially, their mission is only to protect key official (Kazakh and Russian) facilities but these forces would be more than enough to make minced meat of out any western or Turkish trained Takfiris or nationalists, even if their numbers are much higher than the 20’000 estimate.  And, in the worst case, these forces happen to be in control of key airports were Russians (and Belarusians) could send in even more forces, including at least two Russian airborne divisions.  That would be a force nothing in Central Asia can even dream of taking on.  I should also mention that Russia has a large and strategically crucial military base in Tadjikistan which has trained to fight against Takfiri terrorists and insurgents for decades now and which could also support any Russian military operation in Central Asia.

So the objective of these forces are:

  • To free up Kazakh security and military forces to put down the uprising (which they are doing)
  • To send a political message to the Kazakh security forces: we got your back, no worries, do your job.
  • To send a political message to the insurgents: you will either lay down arms, flee abroad or die (which is what Putin ordered in both Chechnia and Syria, so these are not empty threats at all).
  • To send a political message to the US and Turkey: Tokaev is our guy now, you lost him and this country!
  • To send a political message to the entire Central Asia and Caucasus: if Russia has your back, you will stay in power even if the idiots at CIA/NED/etc. try to color-revolutionize you.
  • To send yet another message to folks like Erdogan or Vucic – all that multi-vectorness will end up very badly for you, use your head before it is too late (for you, not for us – we are fine either way!).

Some have suggested that the timing of the insurrection Kazakhstan was some kind of attempt by US/NATO to “hurt” Russia in her “weak underbelly” and to show Russia that she has to back down from her ultimatum to the West (negotiations are supposed to start tomorrow, in an atmosphere of general pessimism).  Well, I don’t have any info out of Langley or Mons, but if that was the US plan, then this entire project not only collapsed, but has backfired very very badly indeed.

Remember, the PSYOP narrative was that Putin is either stupid, or weak or sold out to the West, yet when we look at the “before and after” thingie, we see that while the West “almost” (or so they think) “got” Belarus, Armenia, Azerbaijan and, now, Kazakhstan, the reality is that in each case it appears that the narcissistic megalomaniacs running the West have confidently waltzed into a carefully laid Russian trap which, far from giving the Empire the control of the countries it “almost” acquired, made them lose them for the foreseeable future.

Can you imagine the level of impotent rage and frustration in Langley and Mons when the watch that kind of footage: oy veh!!

Of sure, the AngloZionist propaganda machine and the clueless trolls (paid or not) who parrot that nonsense won’t say a word about all this, but just use your own common sense, use the “before and after” thing, and reach your own conclusions.

Joint briefing by the commander of the collective peacekeeping forces of the CSTO in the Republic of Kazakhstan, Colonel General Andrei Serdyukov, Commander of the Russian Airborne Forces, and Deputy Minister of Defense of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Lieutenant General Sultan Gamaletdinov.

Speaking of conclusions: how about all those who bitched about the CSTO being a toothless wannabe copy of NATO which can get nothing done?  You still find it so toothless now?

How does it compare to NATO, no, not on paper, but in terms of combat operations capability?

The West wanted to turn Kazakhstan into a “Russian Afghanistan” (same plan for the Ukraine, by the way).  Turkey wanted to turn Kazakhstan into a Turkish-run vassal state.  The Takfiris wanted to turn Kazakhstan into some kind of Emirate.

In your opinion, how do you evaluate the effectiveness of a collective security treaty which could foil all of these plans with only a brigade-sized force and in just a few days?

One more thing: there is something else which Kazakhstan and Syria have in common: there were A LOT of CIA/MI6/Mossad/etc agents around Assad, this became quite clear by the number of high-level Syrian officials who either backed the insurrection, or even led it.  Most later fled to the West, some were killed.  But the point is that the “apple” of the powers structure in Syria was quite rotten.  The same can be said for Kazakhstan where a huge purge is taking place, with the highly influential head of the security services (and former Prime Minister!) not only demoted, but arrested for treason!

So in plain English, the SVR/FSB/GRU will now have a free hand to “clean house” the same way the Russians “cleaned house” around Lukashenko and Assad (in this case with Iranian help): quietly and very effectively,

Again, I can hear the hysterical and desperate wailing out of Langley and Mons.  That’s what you get for believing your own stupid propaganda!

As for those who bought that silly “Putin losing countries all over the former Soviet Union space” PSYOP narrative, they probably feel quite stupid right now, but won’t ever admit it.  Speaking of stupid,

No, Putin is NOT, repeat, NOT trying to “re-create” the Soviet Union.

And while that mediocre non-entity Blinken warns about how the Russians are “hard to get out once they come in” (coming from a US Secretary of State this is both quite hilarious and a new, even higher, level of absolute hypocrisy!), the truth is that most CSTO forces will leave pretty soon, if only because there will be no need to keep them in Kazakhstan.  Why?  Simple: the hardcore trained terrorists and insurgents will soon be dead, the looting rioters will get off the streets and hope that they don’t get a visit from the Kazakh NSC (National Security Committee) or cops, the traitors in power will either leave the country for the EU or be jailed and the Kazakh security and military forces will regain control of the country and maintain law and order.

Why would the Russian paratroopers and special forces need to stay?

Furthermore, Russia has no need, or desire, to invade or, even less so, administer poor, mostly dysfunctional countries, with major social problems and very little actual benefits to offer Russia.  And now that Lukashenko, Pashinian, and Tokaev know that they serve at the pleasure of the Kremlin, you can rest assured that they will generally “behave”.  Oh sure, they will remain mostly corrupt states, with nepotism, tribal affiliation, and religious extremism all brewing at some level, but as long as they represent no threat to a) the Russian minority in these states and 2) to Russian national security interests, the Kremlin will not micro-manage them.  But at the first sign of a resurgence of “multi-vectoriality” (possibly inspired by the many western corporations working in Kazakhstan) the chairs upon which these leaders currently sit will immediately begin shaking pretty badly and they will know whom to call to stop this.

Speaking of weak “idiots” who “lost” countries to the Empire, does anybody care to make a list of countries the Empire has ACTUALLY snatched away from Russia (or any other adversary) and succeeded in keeping?  Syria?  Libya?  Afghanistan?  Iraq maybe?  Yemen?  And that is after the “Mission Accomplished” declaration by a “triumphant” US President 🙂

Okay, the three Baltic statelets.  Bravo!  Captain America won another Grenada!

Ah, I can hear the voices chanting “the Ukraine!  What about the Ukraine!?”.  Well, what about the Ukraine?

There is a Russian saying (цыплят по осени считают) which can be roughly translated as “do not count your chickens before they are hatched“.  Right now, NOBODY can confidently predict what will happen with the Ukraine further down the road.  Not only has the Ukraine become a country 404 deindustrialized shithole, it now is run by an entire class (in the Marxist sense) of Nazis whom, apparently, nobody has the will or the ability to de-Nazify (Russia could, but has exactly zero motive to do so, as for the US/NATO, LOL!!).  Even if Russia and the US agree to some kind of neutral status for the Ukraine, this will not remove a single Nazi from power and, if anything will create the conditions for an even bigger breakup of the country (which is what I think will eventually happen anyway, but very slowly and very very painfully).

The one thing which the Ukraine does have in common with Kazakhstan is that these are both invented countries created by the rabidly Russophobic Bolsheviks: not only are their current borders meaningless (and I mean totally completely meaningless), but these borders bring under one totally artificial political “roof” completely different regions and ethnic groups.  The big difference is, of course, that the Ukie leaders, all of them, were, and still are, infinitely worse than either Nazarbaev or Tokaev ever were.  Also, Ukie nationalism is the most hate-filled and demented on the planet, they can only be compared with the Hutu Interahamwe in Rwanda.  Yes, there is definitely a nationalist streak in the Kazakh society (lovingly nourished and fed by the West for decades), but in comparison with the Ukronazis, these are soft-spoken and mostly mentally sane humanitarians.  In my personal, and therefore admittedly subjective, experience, Kazakhs and Russians get along much better than Ukrainians and Russians.

Belarusian-style “housecleaning” in Kazakhstan has already begun!

Belarusian-style “housecleaning” in Kazakhstan has already begun!

Last, but not least, it will take decades to de-Nazify the Ukraine, and God only knows who will be willing and capable of doing that (certainly NOT Russia!) whereas Kazakhstan’s insurgents are already being killed, in large numbers (several thousand by some accounts), by Kazakh security forces.  As for the Kazakh oligarchs and officials who assisted them, they are either dead or in jail or already abroad.

Did I mention China?  It is a very important actor in Kazakhstan.  On one level, China and Russia are economic and even political competitors in Kazakhstan, however China absolutely and categorically cannot allow Kazakhstan to be taken over by either the US/NATO, or the Takfiris or the pan-Turkists.  The Chinese have not flexed their military muscle (yet), but they could, and you can be rest assured that they will flex with (immense) economic muscle to prevent such an outcome.  So while the poor Ukraine has Poland as a neighbor, Kazakhstan has both Russia and China which are absolutely determined not to allow any hostile force (anti-Chinese or anti-Russian, these are the same forces) to color-revolutionize Kazakhstan and turn it into the kind of nightmarish shithole the Empire turned so many countries into, from the US-occupied EU to the Nazi-occupied Ukraine (before eventually losing them anyway!).

The bottom line about the Ukraine is this: let’s wait and see what kind of chickens the Ukie eggs will hatch in time and whether the eventual outcome will be worse or better for Russia.  And, by “outcome” I do not refer to the roaring statements coming from western politicians and the talking heads on the idiot box, I mean actual outcomes, which in such matters can take months or even years before becoming fully apparent.  (I know, those dead set on the “Putin is weak” thing will ignore my advice or any facts or logic, I am mostly addressing these suggestions to those who hear that narrative and want to figure out for themselves whether it is true or false).

Conclusion:

What just happened in Kazakhstan was both a US-triggered full-scale insurrection AND an attempted coup.  There is overwhelming evidence that the Russians were aware of what was coming and allowed the chaos to get just bad enough to give only one possible option to Tokaev: to appeal for a CSTO intervention.  The extreme swiftness of the Russian military operation took everybody by surprise and none of the parties involved in that insurrection+coup (the US, the Takfiris and the Turks) had any time to react to prevent the quick deployment of (extremely) combat-capable forces which then made it possible for the Kazakh military and security forces to regroup and go on the offensive.  Having Pashinian “order” this CSTO operation was beautiful, karmic, cherry on the cake 🙂

All in all, this is just the latest in a series of cataclysmic failures of the leaders of the (already dead) AngloZionist Empire and the (equally dead) USA to actually get something, anything, done.  In the confrontation between western hot air and Russian military action, the latter has prevailed, yet again.

Tomorrow the US will try to scare Russia with talks about “sanctions from hell”.  Good luck with that!

🙂

Andrei

Steppe on Fire: Kazakhstan’s Color Revolution

January 6, 2022

A view shows a burning police car during a protest against LPG cost rise following the Kazakh authorities’ decision to lift price caps on liquefied petroleum gas in Almaty, Kazakhstan January 5, 2022. REUTERS/Pavel Mikheyev – RC2KSR9GWQCN
Independent geopolitical analyst, writer and journalist

Pepe Escobar

Maidan in Almaty? Oh yeah. But it’s complicated.

So is that much fear and loathing all about gas? Not really.

Kazakhstan was rocked into chaos virtually overnight, in principle, because of the doubling of prices for liquefied gas, which reached the (Russian) equivalent of 20 rubles per liter (compare it to an average of 30 rubles in Russia itself).

That was the spark for nationwide protests spanning every latitude from top business hub Almaty to the Caspian Sea ports of Aktau and Atyrau and even the capital Nur-Sultan, formerly Astana.

The central government was forced to roll back the gas price to the equivalent of 8 rubles a liter. Yet that only prompted the next stage of the protests, demanding lower food prices, an end of the vaccination campaign, a lower retirement age for mothers with many children and – last but not least – regime change, complete with its own slogan: Shal, ket! (“Down with the old man.”)

The “old man” is none other than national leader Nursultan Nazarbayev, 81, who even as he stepped down from the presidency after 29 years in power, in 2019, for all practical purposes remains the Kazakh gray eminence as head of the Security Council and the arbiter of domestic and foreign policy.

The prospect of yet another color revolution inevitably comes to mind: perhaps Turquoise-Yellow – reflecting the colors of the Kazakh national flag. Especially because right on cue, sharp observers found out that the usual suspects – the American embassy – was already “warning” about mass protests as early as in December 16, 2021.

Maidan in Almaty? Oh yeah. But it’s complicated.

Almaty in chaos

For the outside world, it’s hard to understand why a major energy exporting power such as Kazakhstan needs to increase gas prices for its own population.

The reason is – what else – unbridled neoliberalism and the proverbial free market shenanigans. Since 2019 liquefied gas is electronically traded in Kazakhstan. So keeping price caps – a decades-long custom – soon became impossible, as producers were constantly faced with selling their product below cost as consumption skyrocketed.

Everybody in Kazakhstan was expecting a price hike, as much as everybody in Kazakhstan uses liquefied gas, especially in their converted cars. And everybody in Kazakhstan has a car, as I was told, ruefully, during my last visit to Almaty, in late 2019, when I was trying in vain to find a taxi to head downtown.

It’s quite telling that the protests started in the city of Zhanaozen, smack into the oil/gas hub of Mangystau. And it’s also telling that Unrest Central immediately turned to car-addicted Almaty, the nation’s real business hub, and not the isolated, government infrastructure-heavy capital in the middle of the steppes.

At first President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev seemed to have been caught in a deer facing the headlights situation. He promised the return of price caps, installed a state of emergency/curfew both in Almaty and Mangystau (then nationwide) while accepting the current government’s resignation en masse and appointing a faceless Deputy Prime Minister, Alikhan Smailov, as interim PM until the formation of a new cabinet.

Yet that could not possibly contain the unrest. In lightning fast succession, we had the storming of the Almaty Akimat (mayor’s office); protesters shooting at the Army; a Nazarbayev monument demolished in Taldykorgan; his former residence in Almaty taken over; Kazakhtelecom disconnecting the whole country from the internet; several members of the National Guard – armored vehicles included – joining the protesters in Aktau; ATMs gone dead.

And then Almaty, plunged into complete chaos, was virtually seized by the protesters, including its international airport, which on Wednesday morning was under extra security, and in the evening had become occupied territory.

Kazakh airspace, meanwhile, had to contend with an extended traffic jam of private jets leaving to Moscow and Western Europe. Even though the Kremlin noted that Nur-Sultan had not asked for any Russian help, a “special delegation” was soon flying out of Moscow. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov cautiously stressed, “we are convinced that our Kazakh friends can independently solve their internal problems”, adding, “it is important that no one interferes from the outside.”

Geostrategy talks

How could it all derail so fast?

Up to now, the succession game in Kazakhstan had been seen mostly as a hit across Northern Eurasia. Local honchos, oligarchs and the comprador elites all kept their fiefdoms and sources of income. And yet, off the record, I was told in Nur-Sultan in late 2019 there would be serious problems ahead when some regional clans would come to collect – as in confronting “the old man” Nazarbayev and the system he put in place.

Tokayev did issue the proverbial call “not to succumb to internal and external provocations” – which makes sense – yet also assured that the government “will not fall”. Well, it was already falling, even after an emergency meeting trying to address the tangled web of socioeconomic problems with a promise that all “legitimate demands” by the protesters will be met.

This did not play out as a classic regime change scenario – at least initially. The configuration was of a fluid, amorphous state of chaos, as the – fragile – Kazakh institutions of power were simply incapable of comprehending the wider social malaise. A competent political opposition is non-existent: there’s no political exchange. Civil society has no channels to express itself.

So yes: there’s a riot goin’ on – to quote American rhythm’n blues. And everyone is a loser. What is still not exactly clear is which conflicting clans are flaming the protests – and what is their agenda in case they’d have a shot at power. After all, no “spontaneous” protests can pop up simultaneously all over this vast nation virtually overnight.

Kazakhstan was the last republic to leave the collapsing USSR over three decades ago, in December 1991. Under Nazarbayev, it immediately engaged in a self-described “multi-vector” foreign policy. Up to now, Nur-Sultan was skillfully positioning itself as a prime diplomatic mediator – from discussions on the Iranian nuclear program as early as 2013 to the war in/on Syria from 2016. The target: to solidify itself as the quintessential bridge between Europe and Asia.

The Chinese-driven New Silk Roads, or BRI, were officially launched by Xi Jinping at Nazarbayev University in September 2013. That happened to swiftly dovetail with the Kazakh concept of Eurasian economic integration, crafted after Nazarbayev’s own government spending project, Nurly Zhol (“Bright Path”), designed to turbo-charge the economy after the 2008-9 financial crisis.

In September 2015, in Beijing, Nazarbayev aligned Nurly Zhol with BRI, de facto propelling Kazakhstan to the heart of the new Eurasian integration order. Geostrategically, the largest landlocked nation on the planet became the prime interplay territory of the Chinese and Russian visions, BRI and the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU).

A diversionary tactic

For Russia, Kazakhstan is even more strategic than for China. Nur-Sultan signed the CSTO treaty in 2003. It’s a key member of the EAEU. Both nations have massive military-technical ties and conduct strategic space cooperation in Baikonur. Russian has the status of an official language, spoken by 51% of the republic’s citizens.

At least 3.5 million Russians live in Kazakhstan. It’s still early to speculate about a possible “revolution” tinged with national liberation colors were the old system to eventually collapse. And even if that happened, Moscow will never lose all of its considerable political influence.

So the immediate problem is to assure Kazakhstan’s stability. The protests must be dispersed. There will be plenty of economic concessions. Permanent destabilizing chaos simply cannot be tolerated – and Moscow knows it by heart. Another – rolling – Maidan is out of the question.

The Belarus equation has shown how a strong hand can operate miracles. Still, the CSTO agreements do not cover assistance in case of internal political crises – and Tokayev did not seem to be inclined to make such a request.

Until he did. He called for the CSTO to intervene to restore order. There will be a military enforced curfew. And Nur-Sultan may even confiscate the assets of US and UK companies which are allegedly sponsoring the protests.

This is how Nikol Pashinyan, chairman of the CSTO Collective Security Council and Prime Minister of Armenia, framed it: Tokayev invoked a “threat to national security” and the “sovereignty” of Kazakhstan, “caused, inter alia, by outside interference.” So the CSTO “decided to send peacekeeping forces” to normalize the situation, “for a limited period of time”.

The usual destabilizing suspects are well known. They may not have the reach, the political influence, and the necessary amount of Trojan horses to keep Kazakhstan on fire indefinitely.

At least the Trojan horses themselves are being very explicit. They want an immediate release of all political prisoners; regime change; a provisional government of “reputable” citizens; and – what else – “withdrawal of all alliances with Russia.”

And then it all gets down to the level of ridiculous farce, as the EU starts calling on Kazakh authorities to “respect the right to peaceful protests.” As in allowing total anarchy, robbery, looting, hundreds of vehicles destroyed, attacks with assault rifles, ATMs and even the Duty Free at Almaty airport completely plundered.

This analysis (in Russian) covers some key points, mentioning, “the internet is full of pre-arranged propaganda posters and memos to the rebels” and the fact that “the authorities are not cleaning up the mess, as Lukashenko did in Belarus.”

Slogans so far seem to originate from plenty of sources – extolling everything from a “western path” to Kazakhstan to polygamy and Sharia law: “There is no single goal yet, it has not been identified. The result will come later. It is usually the same. The elimination of sovereignty, external management and, finally, as a rule, the formation of an anti-Russian political party.”

Putin, Lukashenko and Tokayev spent a long time over the phone, at the initiative of Lukashenko. The leaders of all CSTO members are in close contact. A master game plan – as in a massive “anti-terrorist operation” – has already been hatched. Gen. Gerasimov will personally supervise it.

Now compare it to what I learned from two different, high-ranking intel sources.

The first source was explicit: the whole Kazakh adventure is being sponsored by MI6 to create a new Maidan right before the Russia/US-NATO talks in Geneva and Brussels next week, to prevent any kind of agreement. Significantly, the “rebels” maintained their national coordination even after the internet was disconnected.

The second source is more nuanced: the usual suspects are trying to force Russia to back down against the collective West by creating a major distraction in their Eastern front, as part of a rolling strategy of chaos all along Russia’s borders. That may be a clever diversionary tactic, but Russian military intel is watching. Closely. And for the sake of the usual suspects, this better may not be interpreted – ominously – was a war provocation.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with Solovyov Live YouTube channel, Moscow, December 27, 2021

December 28, 2021

Interview:   27 December 2021 22:40

(Note:  This transcript is currently partially complete and will be posted as it becomes available)

Vladimir Solovyov: We are like three-winged birds. The Russian Foreign Ministry operates on three fronts: on the first one, it communicates with our American partners, the second one is NATO, and the third are the Europeans, no matter what they call themselves (the OSCE is a bit more than just the Europeans). What matters the most to us in the extremely challenging dialogue at this stage? We launched it using methods that are totally at odds with the customary ways of Russian diplomacy. This approach proved to be very effective. Which of these fronts has the most importance?

Sergey Lavrov: What matters the most, as President of Russia Vladimir Putin has said, is that there is less empty talk, so that they don’t water down our proposals in endless discussions, which is something the West knows how to do and is notorious for. These diplomatic efforts must yield results. Even more importantly, these results must be achieved within a determined timeframe. We did not put forward any ultimatums. However, engaging in never-ending talks during which the West once again will make ambiguous promises, and will then definitely double-cross us down the road – we do no need that. In this context, the United States is our main negotiating party. It is with the United States that we will hold the main round of talks right after the New Year holidays.

Speaking on NATO’s behalf, its Secretary General and Chair of the Russia-NATO Council Jens Stoltenberg proposed holding a Russia-NATO Council meeting right after that, the very next day. Of course, they did so at the initiative of the United States. This organisational structure reflects the projects we have submitted and presented to the United States and NATO for review. I am referring to the Russia-US treaty on security guarantees and a Russia-NATO agreement on limiting risks and threats on the European stage (hopefully, not a stage of military operations). These documents set forth specific proposals. You have seen them. They present our vision of NATO and the Russian Federation, with its allies, making their respective armed forces less of a threat.

Vladimir Solovyov: Who will lead the talks?

Sergey Lavrov: An interagency delegation with the participation of the Foreign Ministry and the military. There is no lack of understanding on behalf of the United States. As for NATO, we have warned them that since they have put all the military-to-military initiatives on hold since 2014 and reduced our contacts to sporadic telephone calls to the Chief of the General Staff, the conversation will make sense only if the military are directly involved. Our delegation will include high-ranking army representatives. We asked the other side to confirm whether they will do the same. We are waiting for their reply.

Vladimir Solovyov: Overall, NATO has been acting in quite a strange manner. By and large, we don’t talk to them. There are virtually no contacts. They expelled our representatives. The ties have been severed almost entirely. Jens Stoltenberg’s statements caused an international crisis. He said that if need may be, NATO would be ready to deploy its military infrastructure to the east of Germany. President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko answered him, which caused an outpouring of criticism against him.

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, Jens Stoltenberg has a Nordic mentality. He makes quite simple statements. Yes, this is true.

Vladimir Solovyov: How will you deal with him?

Sergey Lavrov: We will not be dealing with him. I would like to repeat that we have proposed a Russia-NATO agreement. It will not be necessarily drafted at the Russia-NATO Council, although this is not impossible either. We will not be dealing with Jens Stoltenberg, who is, technically, executive manager of the NATO Secretariat. We will be negotiating with the top members of the bloc, primarily the United States. It is logical that US President Biden reacted to our initiative days after we advanced it. He mentioned the negotiators: the United States plus the four leading Western countries. This provoked an outcry from the other NATO members, including Ukraine, which said that it must take part in the talks. What matters to us is not the form of our contacts with NATO, but the essence of the talks. First of all, they must be held professionally and responsibly in the military-to-military format.

Vladimir Solovyov: NATO is an amorphous organisation. They say they cannot do anything without a consensus decision.

Sergey Lavrov: That is none of our business. It is their internal matter. We do not care about the Washington Treaty, including Article 5, which stipulates collective defence. If NATO were a defence alliance, as Stoltenberg has been shouting from the rooftops, it would not have expanded eastward. NATO has become a purely geopolitical project aimed at taking over the territories orphaned by the collapse of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation and the Soviet Union. This is what it is doing now. And we cannot sit on our hands when they are approaching “the doorstep of our house,” as President Putin has said.

Vladimir Solovyov: What about the declared right of each country to choose their allies independently? They are using this argument all the time.

Sergey Lavrov: They are just trying to prop themselves up. It is an unscrupulous attempt made through foul means to use a document that is based on compromise. Not a single “brick” can be removed from that compromise without bringing it down. This is what they are doing. Even the 1990 Charter of Paris for a New Europe says that all states are free to choose their own security arrangements, including the alliances they join. But it also says that while doing this they must respect the principle of indivisible security.

Vladimir Solovyov: That is, as Vladimir Putin has said on the gas issue, “they lie all the time”?

Sergey Lavrov: They are telling half-truths, which is probably worse that outright lies, because they are trying to present their position as legally faultless. But legal is not a term that can be used in this case. All these documents, including the Paris Charter and the documents of the 1999 OSCE summit in Istanbul are political pledges. And the 1997 Russia-NATO Founding Act is a political document as well. All these political commitments made publicly at the highest level not to strengthen their security to the detriment of others’ security and not to deploy substantial armed forces have been destroyed systematically many times over, including during the five waves of NATO eastward expansion carried out contrary to their pledges, as President Putin has pointed out. Therefore, this time we demand – this is the only option – legally binding security guarantees. Trust but verify.

You have mentioned the OSCE: that organisation’s striving to posture itself on the international stage is a separate subject. Back in 1975, when the Helsinki Final Act of the then Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe was signed, US President Gerald Ford said solemnly and even pompously: “History will judge this Conference not by what we say here today, but by what we do tomorrow – not by the promises we make, but by the promises we keep.”

Vladimir Solovyov: That’s wise.

Sergey Lavrov: The very truth itself, I would say. All our actions are guided by this legacy of one of the great American presidents.

Vladimir Solovyov: At the same time, Jens Stoltenberg keeps claiming that NATO never promised Russia that there would be no eastward expansion, alleging that he heard this from Mikhail Gorbachev. I showed this video to Mikhail Gorbachev, who tells me: “What do you mean there were no promises? What about James Baker? On February 9, 1990, he gave me this promise. We had this conversation, there are written records, and the transcripts are available.” For these people, nothing matters unless there is a paper trail. Did they promise us that there would be no eastward expansion of NATO? The Americans keep repeating this narrative all the time.

Sergey Lavrov: Of course, they did. Only recently, I read the memoirs of a British diplomat who was involved in the talks, including on the reunification of Germany from a NATO perspective, on having no nuclear weapons to the east of the line where they were deployed at the time. He says that yes, they honestly promised that there would be no expansion of NATO, but this was not what they meant. They were driven by the historical opportunity to build a new Europe free from confrontation and so forth. This is what Zbigniew Brzezinski told one of his colleagues in all honesty: “We tricked them.”

Vladimir Solovyov: Under Boris Yeltsin, Russia did not demand any written commitments either. On the contrary, during a visit to Poland we agreed…

Sergey Lavrov: This is all that there was to our relations with the West when the Soviet Union was coming apart and we were building new relations between us. President Vladimir Putin has mentioned this many times. There was an unprecedented level of trust and an enormous desire to be friends, if not allies, as Vladimir Putin likes to say. However, we now see that all this was a mistake. You cannot take anything these people say on trust.

Vladimir Solovyov: The person who used to head the Russian Foreign Ministry, and is now a retiree living in Florida – his surname is Kozyrev – made a bombastic statement that at this stage Russia must join NATO. How come Russia does not want to be part of the family of civilised nations?

Sergey Lavrov: For many Russian politicians, primarily those in the opposition, the West is an undisputable ideal, an unchallenged leader to be followed in everything. For them, there is nothing bad about the West, and they fail to notice the damage the West causes around the world when it destroys countries and shatters their statehood. Some just want to fall into line with what is going on. Why look overseas to Florida? I read about this every day. The Presidential Executive Office provides us a digest of publications from the Russian media, including Meduza, Republic, and Novaya Gazeta. What they write…

Vladimir Solovyov: Didn’t Mikhail Bulgakov say: “Don’t read…”

Sergey Lavrov: But this is not about the communist…

Vladimir Solovyov: It’s basically the same thing, just the other way around.

Sergey Lavrov: Quite a while ago it struck me that just as in the Soviet times, I learned to understand what an article is about by simply reading its headline. You can now treat many media publications this way. For example, the Republic or Novaya Gazeta tend to extol the West in their articles. A prominent Russian opposition figure wrote on what the West tried to portray as a crisis this past spring on the border with Ukraine, when we were holding regular exercises (there was much talk about it at the time around the world). But the exercise came to an end, and the troops returned to the places of their permanent deployment. This is how this was presented: “See, Putin got scared. He got a phone call from Joe Biden, and immediately withdrew the troops.” The writer is a serious person who used to be part of our political establishment and was viewed as an interesting character. By the way, he took part in several shows of yours. Novaya Gazeta then published a long article titled “The fate of an outcast. Where will the Russian foreign policy take us.” Of course, this was about the stubborn Russian Federation unwilling to come to terms with its diminished international role. It lost the Cold War, and that’s all there is to it. You must show more modesty after that. You lost, so stay where you are. The historical comparisons in this article included post-WWII Germany and Japan. They lost, accepted this fact, and received a “wonderful democracy” in return. These are the words of a former deputy foreign minister from the time you have mentioned. By the way, he worked a lot on the Kuril Islands during the talks with Tokyo.

Vladimir Solovyov: No surprise there.

Sergey Lavrov: There is no shortage of revelations of this kind. Treating the West as the holder of the ultimate truth is quite a serious matter.

Vladimir Solovyov: Many people had the same mistaken beliefs. At the very beginning of his presidential term, Vladimir Putin said that Russia did not object to different NATO accession terms, ones that would be equitable and partner-like. Are they offering such terms to us? Is there any possible situation when Russia could join NATO?

Sergey Lavrov: Of course, not. I cannot imagine such a situation because the entire process does not revolve around NATO and the European Union. It revolves around the fact that the West does not want any rivals with a more or less comparable level of influence on the international stage. This explains the hysteria regarding the rise of China. Well, China has risen because it accepted global economic and financial rules of the game, introduced by the West. Acting in line with this globalisation and Western rules, it has outplayed the West on its own field. Today, Washington and Brussels are demanding that all regulations of the World Trade Organisation be changed, and the WTO overhauled. They are saying openly that the United States and Europe should work on this and that all others should not even think about this. We will tell you in due time what you need to do. I don’t even see any ideology here. President Putin has repeatedly said that this is not so much an ideology as it is a struggle for influence.

Vladimir Solovyov: Napoleon said that war is all about geography, first and foremost. And politics is all about geography, first and foremost.

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, that’s right.

Vladimir Solovyov: Does this mean that we are enemies? Does it mean that NATO sees us as enemies, and that it simply wants to destroy us?

Sergey Lavrov: This life and geography can take on the form of adversity. But it can also be rivalry or competition. I believe that if the West was ready for fair competition, it would be an optimal way out of the current confrontation.

Vladimir Solovyov: Then it wouldn’t be the West anymore.

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, it wouldn’t be the West anymore. They now want to change the rules of globalisation and the World Trade Organisation because China is leading the way under these regulations. China will become the largest power by 2030, in terms of all parameters, if it retains the current pace.

Vladimir Solovyov: Since we are talking about the WTO, now we are hearing how shameful it is that they imposed sanctions but, instead of dropping on our knees in tears, we dared to retaliate with our own measures. They have actually calculated how much money we owe them.

Sergey Lavrov: The WTO is not involved in this.

Vladimir Solovyov: But they complained to the WTO.

Sergey Lavrov: The World Trade Organisation must follow its own procedures. Right now, it is pretty much paralysed. The dispute resolution body was essentially inactive and did not work until recently. When China inundated this body with completely substantiated and fair complaints against the United States and its unfair competition practices, the United States took advantage of procedural ploys and started blocking any new appointees to this body. As a result, it could never meet the quorum requirement.

Vladimir Solovyov: Now Europeans have addressed them. They are saying: “What are you doing, Russians? You caused us enormous damage.” Even though we had warned them. Joe Biden twisted their arm, admitting that Europe did not want to impose sanctions. And now it turns out that we were telling the truth.

Sergey Lavrov: We don’t even have to discuss this matter. It was a shameful act on behalf of the European Union. I feel sorry for the politicians who decided to publicly make this kind of statements complaining against Russia. It is simply beyond the pale.

Vladimir Solovyov: Everybody was saying: “Who do the Russians think they are? The economy is practically invisible. How dare they write to the Americans with their demands?” Everybody who looks up to the West as if it were the sun without spots claimed they would not even speak to us or deign to read our proposal. “Who do you think you are? You are about to be eaten for breakfast.” At the same time, as you said, Americans did not say no. They are studying it carefully. Certain topics have been outlined for the dialogue to happen right after the holidays, very soon. Who will represent Russia in this dialogue? And who will represent the United States? It seems that the Americans are not unanimous on this matter and there are discrepancies in Jake Sullivan’s stance and in Anthony Blinken’s comments and views (they may be stylistic discrepancies, but they seem to exist).

Sergey Lavrov: We will announce that. I can say that the representatives will be from the Foreign Ministry and the Defence Ministry. We are aware of the Americans’ plans. They are aware of ours. I think these plans will become public shortly.

Vladimir Solovyov: Are we preparing for these talks every day?

Sergey Lavrov: We have been ready since the Soviet Union.

Vladimir Solovyov: Although not all of us happened to be pioneers.

To be continued…

Lukashenko’s Russian Nuke Proposal Should Prompt NATO To Finally Pay Attention

2 DECEMBER 2021

Lukashenko’s proposal should hopefully prompt NATO to finally pay attention to Russia’s legitimate security concerns. The bloc cannot continue expanding eastward in violation of the oral obligations that it made to Moscow at the end of the Old Cold War not to advance past the then-recently reunified German frontier.

Belarusian President Lukashenko earlier said that he’d allow Russia to place nuclear weapons on his country’s territory if NATO moved their own into Poland or elsewhere near his state’s borders. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov elaborated that this was said in reaction to the West’s “reckless policy” of countenancing the placement of such strategic arms in that part of Europe. This isn’t mere speculation either but was suggested by NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg in response to the possibility of Germany’s new coalition government requesting that the American ones that it currently hosts be withdrawn. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov added that “our Western colleagues should stop and think of their own actions” after the security scandal that Stoltenberg provoked.

Lukashenko’s proposal should hopefully prompt NATO to finally pay attention to Russia’s legitimate security concerns. The bloc cannot continue expanding eastward in violation of the oral obligations that it made to Moscow at the end of the Old Cold War not to advance past the then-recently reunified German frontier. President Putin, being the constructive and pragmatic leader that he is, suggested that some kind of deal might be brokered with NATO sometime in the future in order to ensure this. His announcement is consistent with the author’s prediction that the upcoming Biden-Putin Summit (which will most likely be a virtual one) will largely focus on Eastern Europe. It would also align with both Great Power’s ongoing efforts to responsibly regulate their rivalry, which began during last summer’s summit.

The greatest challenge in this respect is the subversive role being played by Poland, Ukraine, and the Baltic States. These five countries feel that their interests are being “sacrificed” for the sake of reaching a “new normal” between Russia and the US-led West. As evidence of this, they point to the US’ waiver of most Nord Stream II sanctions earlier in the year and what they claim is the comparatively blind eye that Washington is turning towards what they describe as Moscow’s so-called “hybrid warfare” against them through the ongoing Eastern European Migrant Crisis. It must be remembered, however, that Nord Stream II is a completely apolitical energy project while the second-mentioned issue owes its origins to the US-led West’s wars against majority-Muslim countries and its anti-Belarusian sanctions.

Coupled with Kiev’s false fearmongering about a supposedly inevitable “Russian invasion”, which is being amplified by those anti-Russian elements of the American “deep state” (permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies) which also want to sabotage any incipient Russian-US rapprochement, the end effect has been that tensions have unprecedentedly spiked in the region. While it’s extremely unlikely that Russia will initiate any hostilities in Ukraine, it’s much more probable that Kiev might be encouraged by anti-Russian US “deep state” elements and its regional partners to launch an “Operation Storm”-like ethnic cleansing campaign in Donbass in order to prompt a Russian response.

Chaos In Eastern Europe Doesn’t Serve Putin’s Interests Unlike What CNN Claims”, the author noted late last month, yet there’s no denying that there are powerful forces that are manipulating perceptions in order to make it seem otherwise as part of their subversive goal that was just described. These same forces would like nothing more than for the US to transfer its nukes from Germany to Poland in order to indefinitely put an end to Washington’s ongoing negotiations with Moscow aimed at responsibly regulating their rivalry. Should Poland and its regional allies succeed in exacerbating regional tensions to the point of provoking another Russian-US crisis, then the strategic situation will worsen for everyone.

By contrast, if they fail in their respective efforts, then the strategic situation will improve for everyone. This includes those five countries too, which are regrettably too blinded by delusions influenced by their “negative nationalism” vis-à-vis Russia to realize that everyone would be better off if Russia and the US agreed to a “new normal” for responsibly regulating their rivalry. It was against this increasingly tense context that Lukashenko proposed hosting Russian nukes in response to the possibility of Poland first doing the same with the US’. Ryabkov clarified that “We are not going in this direction”, yet Russia nevertheless could in theory should the worst-case scenario transpire. Hopefully NATO will finally pay attention to Russia’s legitimate security concerns after Lukashenko’s remark so that doesn’t happen.

By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Lukashenko must go and Russia and Belarus must truly unite

NOVEMBER 15, 2021

Lukashenko must go and Russia and Belarus must truly unite

If there is one thing which is obvious for all to see is that the EU and NATO hold one language against Belarus and another against Russia.  For example, the EU has just agreed to impose a 5th package of sanctions on Belarus, but their official statement does not mention Aeroflot, Russia, or Putin by a single word.  Of course, western politicians make all sorts of noises and grandstanding statements about Putin and Russia, but that is just that – hot air.  They can bark at Russia all they want because they know that Russia does not care one bit about noise, especially since the Russians fully understand that there is nothing that the West could do, even theoretically, against Russia, as she is simply too powerful.

Ditto for economic sanctions.  The EU has banned overflights by Belavia, but it has not touched Aeroflot (yet).  Why not?  Simple, because Russia could simply close her airspace which is currently the most expensive airspace on the planet, as it links Europe to Far East Asia.

Belarus, in sharp contrast to Russia, still remains weak, mostly because of Lukashenko’s incompetence and lack of vision.  All he cares about is remaining in power, which also means that he does not want Belarus to be truly incorporated into Russia, lest he loses his status of “King of Belarus” or whatever he fancies himself to be.

Now I submit that becoming part of Russia is not only the best solution to all of Belarus’ problems, it is the only solution.  By the way, that outcome is exactly what the western ruling elites are desperately trying to avoid, because they all realize that once Belarus becomes a part of Russia, say as an autonomous Federal subject, the party is over for the EU which won’t be able to touch Belarus – not economically, not politically and most definitely not militarily.

It is important to keep in mind that Polish, German, or Lithuanian military forces are a joke, at best they can have (small) parades, and shoot at unarmed civilians.  But even taking on “just” the Belarussian military alone (without any Russian help) is not an option for them: there is no comparison between a Polish solider (or a Lithuanian one, for that matter) and a Belarusian one, it would be like comparing perfumed and fluffy show-dog with a wolf.  Numbers here matter a lot less than the quality, training, and determination of the soldiers on both sides.

Still, shooting a Belarusian border guard and shooting a Russian paratrooper are two very, very different propositions, and the folks in the West know that.  So far the Poles have only shot blanks or in the air, at least they say so, but if their current defenses are breached, or if a bullet flies across the border, the violence will ensue, that is inevitable.  Right now, this is even likely.

I have to repeat myself: I have exactly *zero* trust in Lukashenko who, in my opinion, cares only about himself and remaining in power.  Belarus claims to want to be an “allied state” to Russia, but has not even recognized Crimea as part of Russia!  Right now, Belarus is, de facto, a Russian parasite, a freeloader country, run by a megalomaniac which needs to be replaced with a person the Kremlin can trust or, even better, with a person whose role would cease to be so important simply because Belarus and Russia would be truly and fully unified.

In the past, Lukashenko has zig-zagged even more than Erdogan, and his current pro-Russian stance is only due to the fact that the dimwits in the EU have tried to overthrow him one time too many, so now he is angry and wants to make them pay.  But irrespective of how stupid EU politicians are, Belarus is in no condition to take on the entire EU by itself, so at the end of the day, it is Russia that will have to bail Belarus out (yet again!).  Personally, I find that unacceptable.

Furthermore, objectively, right now the Poles and the Belarussians both have the same interest: to try to make the most out of this crisis.  The Poles by proving how tough, courageous, and generally heroic they are in the defense of the sacred borders of the EU, the Belarussians by showing how cold-hearted and evil the Poles are.  And for all the media attention to the 3-4 thousand people at the Polish border, this is a tiny number compared to the much larger numbers which cross into the EU every day or cross from France into the UK.  In other words, this is completely and totally a manufactured pseudo-crisis.  And the main beneficiary from this circus is the Poles who, from being the black sheep of the EU suddenly have turned into the heroic “defenders of the European realm from the Russia Asiatic hordes” at exactly zero risk for them.  That needs to change.

As for the Russians, they are now forced to politically back Belarus in a crisis that in no way benefits Russia.  And when Lukashenko makes (totally empty) threats to cut off the Russian gas lines to Poland, he is objectively helping the Western propaganda about Russia wanting to use her energy to blackmail Europe.

Finally, Belarus could bring a lot of good things to Russia, including a very (pro-)Russian population, a strong military, plenty of high-tech industries, and a good place to deploy forces to protect Kaliningrad.

By remaining separate, Belarus and Russian gain nothing, they both only stand to lose on many levels.

The good news is that the Belarusian and Russian militaries are already deeply integrated, but that integration needs to be SHOWN, and the best place to show it would be right at the Polish border.  Again, pull back all the Belarussian border guards and replace them with a single regiment of Russian paratroopers and that alone will RADICALLY change the tone and actions of the West.

That would be the proverbial “tripwire force” which would absolutely terrify the Poles and the rest of the clowns who are playing at this “pretend-almost-war” on the border with Belarus (including 600 Brits, and assorted Germans and French units).

So my solution to this entire crisis is simple: fully unify Russia and Belarus.  The only thing preventing this today is Lukashenko, so this process has to begin by getting rid of him.

Andrei

Meeting of the Supreme State Council of the Union State: Russia-Belarus

November 05, 2021

http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/67066

Meeting of the Supreme State Council of the Union State: Russia-Belarus

November 4, 2021Sevastopol

Documents signed during the meeting included the Decree of the Supreme State Council of the Union State that sets forth the Guidelines for Implementing the Provisions of the Treaty Establishing the Union State in 2021–2023. Also, following the meeting, the sides signed resolutions of the Supreme State Council of the Union State On the Results of Russian-Belarusian Trade and Economic Cooperation Throughout 2020 and in January-June 2021, On the Union State’s Military Doctrine, On Awarding the 2021 Union State Prize in Science and Technology, as well as the Resolution of the Supreme State Council of the Union State On Implementing the Decisions of the Supreme State Council of the Union State.

* * *

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Lukashenko, friends,

The meeting of the Supreme State Council of the Union State we are holding today is, without exaggeration, truly important. We will be adopting a series of documents for further promoting and enhancing the economic, political and military integration of Russia and Belarus.

It is symbolic that this meeting is taking place on a special day for Russia – National Unity Day. Mr Lukashenko, thank you very much for your congratulations. This holiday symbolises the sincere and deep love of our Motherland, as well as the triumphant spirit of unity that has been passed on from one generation to another for many centuries.

In this regard, Russia and Belarus have much in common. We share the bond of centuries-old brotherly friendship, a shared past, spiritual and moral values, and quite often, family ties. In all times, our peoples have assisted one another in their hour of need. Together, we have defended freedom and independence, fought shoulder to shoulder against external enemies, and worked hand in hand to ensure the wellbeing and prosperity of our peoples.

I have said this on many occasions, but still I would like to reiterate that for Russia, Belarus is not just a good neighbour and our closest ally, with whom we have built a relationship of mutual respect and support, seeking to take into account each other’s interests, but also a truly brotherly Republic, a brotherly people. Making sure that it stays this way forever is our unwavering commitment.

Since the citizens of our countries want unity, 25 years ago Russia and Belarus embarked on a journey to establish a political and economic integration structure, the Union State. Over the past quarter of a century, we have accomplished a great deal together for our common economic space.

Our countries’ economies are closely intertwined and deeply interconnected. Russia is the main business partner for Belarus and accounts for almost one half of Belarus’ foreign trade. We rank first in terms of direct investment in the Belarusian economy, that’s about US$4 billion. Some 2,400 Russian companies operate in Belarus. In turn, Belarus is Russia’s number one trading partner within the CIS and ranks fourth among all our foreign trade partners with a share close to 5 percent.

Even during the coronavirus pandemic, as the President of Belarus has just mentioned, there has been some positive momentum in our bilateral economic cooperation. In particular, according to the data we have, in the first eight months of 2021 bilateral trade increased by almost 36 percent to US$24 billion, while Mr Lukashenko has data for the first nine months: the numbers could be approaching US$28 billion, which is a very robust result.

Multifaceted sectoral ties and industrial cooperation between Russia and Belarus are also picking up steam with new shared value chains and a growing common transport infrastructure. We are carrying out high-tech, research-intensive projects, including the construction of a nuclear power station in Belarus – the first unit was launched this year.

I would like to remind you about the proposal put forward by Belarus; the President of Belarus also mentioned this in his remarks. It deals with adding a Belarusian cosmonaut to the International Space Station crew. Yesterday, we discussed this with Roscosmos executives in Sochi. We are ready to support this proposal and to carry it out soon. We need to agree on some aspects, but these are not challenging matters, so I am sure we will resolve them.

As for integration, we will not rest on our laurels. The President of Belarus said we would be approving a comprehensive and far-reaching document today: the Guidelines for Implementing the Provisions of the Treaty Establishing the Union State for 2021–2023. This is the fruit of lengthy, intensive, and sometimes challenging talks between our governments and corresponding agencies. Mr Lukashenko and I kept a close eye on the progress of these talks.

This document covers 28 sectoral Union programmes designed to promote a coordinated macroeconomic strategy, introduce unified taxation principles, which is extremely important, implement a common policy in the credit and financial and banking sectors, in industry and agriculture, harmonise regulations for the unified oil, gas and electric power markets and for transport services.

By the way, I have just mentioned the oil and gas markets. We keep a close eye on these matters since they are very important and often cause controversy and heated debate. Nevertheless, even in this sphere we have achieved serious progress. You are probably aware of what has been going on in the global oil and gas markets. Today, Belarus receives natural gas from Russia at a price that is seven or eight times, and at certain points, nine or ten times lower than the European spot markets. Even if we are talking about gas supplies to our consumers under Gazprom’s long-term contracts and make a comparison with them, the price Belarus pays is still three or four times lower. This concerns the people of Belarus and the households there that get energy at the lowest possible price. This also benefits the entire Belarusian economy and its industry, placing it in a favourable competitive environment, which facilitates its development.

By carrying out these sectoral integration programmes, Russia and Belarus can create an equal and unified business environment. The two economies will follow common rules and standards, which creates new, truly broad opportunities to promote their progress and will benefit all sectors without exception.

Of course, full economic integration would be impossible without progress on establishing a single migration and visa space. It is essential that we fully deliver on the promise of unimpeded labour mobility and guarantee our citizens the freedom of movement while taking into consideration all associated security risks. This is the purpose of the Union State Migration Policy Concept as drafted by our governments. A lot has been done on this front as well.

Building the Union State is not just about intertwined economies, but also about coordinating our efforts in other spheres, including political and defence matters. The President of Belarus has mentioned this as well. In this regard, it is essential that we facilitate close ties between Russian and Belarusian ministries and agencies. Of course, the role of the Permanent Committee of the Union State will be growing.

Creating an atmosphere of stability and security along our external borders has special importance in this context. We will work together to counter any attempts to interfere in the domestic affairs of sovereign states. Make no mistake, Russia will continue supporting the brotherly people of Belarus.

The Union State will make meaningful progress in promoting integration. At the end of the day, this will improve the standard of living and wellbeing of our people. Of course, we will keep up our targeted efforts to give new significance to the Union State and fully unlock its creative potential.

Thank you for your attention.

The Ukraine claims to be ready for an imminent war, today or tomorrow :-)

September 10, 2021

The Ukraine claims to be ready for an imminent war, today or tomorrow :-)

by Andrei for the Saker blog

Well, we heard that, what, 10’000 times already?  Probably.

But is this a reason to simply ignore yet another tsunami of hysterics coming out of Kiev?

I mean, I get it: North Stream 2 has been completed today, all that’s left is a bunch of paperwork (which the Poles and Ukies are still trying to sabotage by offering to “participate” in the bureaucratic processes). Barring any last-minute “creative solutions” by the 3B+PU gang, the gas itself should start flowing on October first.  And since the “Turkish stream” is already working, it is true that Russia has successfully bypassed all the crazies and is now offering its energy to Europe directly.

As for the “West” and its values, well, let’s just say that greed is far more sacred to the West than its own propaganda.  How do we know that? Nobody offered the Ukies any “compensation” or, even less so, “security guarantees”.

The US/NATO/UK/EU have clearly shown that while they love to act like the infamous “civilized” “White Man” with his famous “burden”, they have no stomach for screwing around with Russia for real, not in the Black Sea, not in the Ukraine, not in the Baltic and not in the North or anywhere else.

In other words, the Ukronazis feel ditched and are watching the events in Afghanistan in utter horror.

Also, since the Ukronazis always said that Russia will attack the Ukraine as soon as NS2 is completed, so in a way, there is a logic here: since NS2 was completed today, therefore Russia must attack today.  Especially since the Zapad 2021 military maneuvers have started (and they are involving a bigger and much more capable military force than the entire military power of the 3B+PU countries).

In the Ukie logic, this all means that Russia will attack today or tomorrow at the latest, from both Belarus and Russia.  BTW – Lukashenko was in Moscow yesterday and the two countries signed 28 documents further integrating Russia and Belarus economically and militarily.  As for political integration, Putin and Lukashenko both said that first, the two countries must align their economies before going into stuff like a single currency or even a single Parliament.  So that is for the (not too far away) future.

Then there are the various statements from top Ukro officials.

Zelenskii declared that a war is now inevitable.  He also stated that the Ukronazi armed forces were now amongst the most formidable on the planet and that NATO would “lose” without the Ukraine and the EU would become very weak (he was not joking).

The head of the Ukronazi Security Council, Danilov, not only agreed, but he said that if the Ukies see an impending Russian attack, the Ukies would attack first and “liberate” the Donbass.  He got a standing ovation from the Ukronazi corner.

The head of the Ukrainian military admitted that he daydreamed about, listen to this, a Ukrainian military parade on the Red Square in Moscow, with Ukie flags and all (that old Polish wet dream again…).

Remember the other “NATO candidate” Saakashvili who lost a war against a small Russian military force in 3 days only?  He now declared that if Russia attacks the Ukraine, all the US would send, at best, is warm blankets and inflatable boats.  He is right.  Welcome to reality Ukies!

As for the official Ukie media (all non-regime-run TV channels have now been banned), let’s just say that they “further amplified” the feelings of Ukie politicians and leave it at that.

Foreign Minister Lavrov reacted to all that by saying that the folks in Kiev were “schizophrenics”.  Peskov also spoke of mental problems.

So, will we have a full-scale war in Europe today or tomorrow?

Probably not.  HOWEVER

First, never say never, especially when dealing with schizophrenics.  Normal deterrence theory assumes what is called “a rational actor” on all sides.  The one thing which the Ukronazis sure ain’t is “rational”!

Second, you have to stop thinking like you normally do and imagine yourself in, say, Ze’s skin.  Objectively, for them, a continuation of, well, maybe not “peace”, that has not happened since the Ukronazi coup, but at least “low simmering” war might well be WORSE than a full-scale war with Russia.  The kind of “non-full-war” which the Nazi-occupied Ukraine has been (barely) surviving is a surefire way to a final, total, collapse.  Not only that, but Ze & Co. probably do realize that even if Russia does openly intervene, it would at most be to liberate the rest of the Donbass and probably move towards the Mariupol direction.  Sure, the Russians would probably do to the Ukies something similar to what they did to Saakashvili and basically defang the Ukraine, but remember that in 08.08.08 the Russians were already advancing on Tbilissi and stopped not because the “invincible Georgian army” stopped the invader, but because the Russians have ZERO need for anything Georgian once their fangs have been removed, least of all any need to enter their capital.  In fact, the Russians quickly packed and left, leaving just enough forces in South Ossetia and Abkhazia to make darn sure that they would never be attacked again.  This is most likely what the Russians would do in case of a war with the Ukraine, only at a larger scale.  But now think like Ze: Saakashvili himself is not in power, but he is alive, got plenty of money and basically is living a good life (in their minds, at least).  He did not get lynched by angry Georgians (who did put him on an international wanted list for many of his crimes).  Ze would much rather be the future Saakashvili than the future Mussolini, and that goes for a lot of them.  Sure, the Ukronazi true believers will all be killed by Russians, but the top folks will do what ex-President Ashraf Ghani did and pack their money and run.

Third, dumb and desperate (D&D) rulers always see war as a solution to get the flag-waving kind to blindly support them.  I vividly remember how Argentinian General and dictator Galtieri pulled off exactly that with his ill-fated liberation of the Malvinas/Falklands from the Brits (which, of course, I support 110% on principle, but the execution was nothing short of terrible, by the fault of Argentinian politicians and Galtieri himself (and the local commander too, Mario Menendez).  And that is a trick which every President except Trump pulled at least once while in office (and he basically also did that with the murder of Soleimani which was an act of war).

The Neocons still seem to be dreaming of attacking somebody, anybody, but following the monumental faceplant in Afghanistan, there are very few nations out there that the US can seriously take on (Monaco?  Lichtenstein?  Costa Rica (which has no military to begin with)?  Grenada (no military either, but lots of very bad and even traumatic memories for the US)?  Not the Vatican, the ceremonial Swiss guard might do what it did during the insurrection of 1792 and declare “We are Swiss, the Swiss do not part with their arms but with their lives. We think that we do not merit such an insult. If the regiment is no longer wanted, let it be legally discharged. But we will not leave our post, nor will we let our arms be taken from us” (yes, tiny Switzerland had a proud and very interesting history, and she only became the Empire’s cheap prostitute in 1990).  And today’s Swiss guards at the Vatican could change their (rather silly) ceremonial uniforms, but on real fatigues and fight to the end.  I don’t see these genius super-warriors taking them on 🙂

So – war later today or tomorrow?

No, probably not.

But the fact is that the Ukies simply have no other choice than to try all they can to trigger a war sooner or later (but preferably sooner).  For these Nazi schizophrenics war is, REALLY, preferable to peace.  Remember for all the butthurt crazies on other websites who were going into hysterics every time I spoke of “Nazis” in the Ukie context, the fact remains that while Ze initially came to power as a total NON-Nazi (while Poroshenko’s gang was “the real deal”), the fact that Ze is, literally, a clown and has no real power base other than the pro-peace Ukrainians whom he totally betrayed, resulted into the Ukie Nazis taking de facto control of the Ze regime.

Just like the Neocons are a minority in the USA, but one which sets the agenda no matter who is in power in the White House, so are the Ukronazis: a minority, but one which sets the agenda.  And “their” Ukraine is, truly, an anti-Russia, something which Putin publicly declared a “red line” which Russia will never allow.

See any venues for compromise here?

Me neither.

Finally, a war would allow the Ukronazis to “consolidate” their power in the western regions of the (historically real) “Ukraine” which Russians will certainly stay away from (Lvov, Ivano-Frankovsk, etc.).  Most of the locals *truly* are non-Russians and have never been Russians in the past.  The Ukronazi ideology is still popular there, so the Ukronazis can create their little and landlocked “Nazi Taiwan” and give up a country they cannot control, if only because it is entirely artificial, and accept a smaller country, but once which makes more sense and which they can control.

So “something” is definitely coming.  It might be a stupid stunt like trying to pass under the bridge to Crimea or some major terrorist attack (that is the one thing which the SBU is actually pretty darn good at, we should not dismiss them too quickly!).  Or this, the Ukies are regularly flying all types of drones over the Donbass and even over Crimea.  What if they sent a manned aircraft of some kind?  It will be shot down for sure (even over the LDNR).  They can also set off a false flag very very easily (just like the Czechs recently did): blow up some major civilian infrastructure object which the cannot be maintained (no money, all the specialists gone) anyway and blame it on Putin and, of course, “Petrov and Boshirov”.

I think of that as a “home made MH-17” (the initial one was clearly a US operation like KAL007 many years ago).

We cannot predict what “it” will be, but we can be sure that will be 1) very visible 2) very ugly 3) very bloody.

Yes, the Russians are as ready as can one can be.  But the Ukies will have the advantage of choosing the time and place.  This means that the SVR/GRU must now carry the burden of making darn sure that the Ukronazis authorities are chock full with SVR/GRU agents and even officers: it is vital for Russia to make sure that the Kremlin gets any such Ukie plans even before they are finalized in Kiev.  Удачи вам, ребята! (good luck guys!).

Andrei

News conference following Russian-Belarusian talks (important development of ‘Union State’)

September 10, 2021

News conference following Russian-Belarusian talks (important development of ‘Union State’)

Vladimir Putin and President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko held a joint news conference at the Kremlin following Russian-Belarusian talks

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Lukashenko, ladies and gentlemen,

We will briefly inform you about the results of our today’s work.

Our talks with the President of Belarus were intensive and constructive, as they have always been, which is fully in line with the nature of relations between our countries.

I have said this before but would like to repeat it today: Belarus, for us, is a good neighbour and our closest ally. Russian-Belarusian cooperation rests on the principles of mutual respect, support and consideration for each other’s interests. Close friendly ties between Russia and Belarus are buttressed by a common history and spiritual values and often by family relations.

The Republic is our main trade and economic partner in the CIS and was our third largest partner in the world in 2020, in this respect. This year, trade is once again on the rise and has already surpassed the pre-pandemic level. In January-June it amounted to $17.8 billion, recording growth of 34.9 percent, almost 35 percent.

Russia accounts for almost half of all of Belarus’ foreign trade. Russia has also made the biggest investment in the Belarusian economy.

So, it is no accident that during today’s talks we focused on trade and investment in our bilateral relations and on the issues linked with integration within the Union State framework.

As you know, over several years – we said today that we stepped up this work three or four years ago – our governments have been intensively working on a package of documents to further deepen integration between Russia and Belarus.

These are 28 so-called “union programmes” that are aimed at the unification of laws in Russia and Belarus in various economic areas, the levelling of conditions for the operation of the two countries’ economic entities, the formation of uniform financial and energy markets, transport infrastructure, the development and implementation of a common industrial and agricultural policy.

Today, I would like to say with satisfaction, that all 28 programmes have been agreed upon. Tomorrow, they are to be approved at a meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Union State in Minsk, after which they will be submitted for approval by the Supreme State Council of the Union State, which will convene before the end of this year. Mr Lukashenko and I have agreed on that, and we will now check our schedules and determine a more or less exact timeline.

Let me briefly go over the contents of these programmes.

Some of them seek to harmonise the taxation and customs legislation of our two countries. In particular, an agreement will be signed covering the general principles of levying indirect taxes. An integrated system for administering indirect taxes within the Union State will be put in place. The goal is to make the price structure of products clear.

Also, the general guidelines for forming a single monetary policy in the future, and implementing currency regulation, integrating national payment systems and creating a common payment space within the Union State have been outlined. All this will help ensure fair competition and boost business activity on the financial market, as well as effectively mitigate the risks of money laundering and the financing of criminal activities, including terrorism.

We have reached agreements on matters that are highly sensitive for the Belarusian side, which are related to prices for Russian energy. After lengthy discussions, we managed to come up with mutually acceptable approaches to gas supplies. The price for Russian natural gas for Belarus will remain at the current level in 2022.

A document to create a unified gas market within the Union State will be signed before December 1, 2023. In addition, we will conclude an agreement on merging the petroleum and petroleum product markets, as well as an agreement on a single electricity market.

I would like to emphasise the fact that common approaches to legislation covering labour relations, occupational safety and health, employment, social insurance and pensions, as well as support for families with children, will be developed within the framework of these union programmes as well.

Implementing the Union State programmes will be an important step towards creating a single economic space for our two countries, as provided for in the 1999 Treaty on the Establishment of the Union State.

Eventually, this will provide a strong impetus to the further growth of the two countries’ economies, will facilitate an increase in labour efficiency, serve the interests of large, mid-sized and small businesses and help create more jobs.

Russian and Belarusian businesses will be given the opportunity to expand their activities across the Union State, including by establishing new joint ventures and boosting their export potential.

Most importantly, the average person in the two countries will, hopefully, benefit from the integration. Russians and Belarusians will be given equal rights and equal opportunities in the economic and social spheres and, the most important thing, the necessary conditions will be put in place to ensure a real improvement in living standards and the wellbeing of the people.

Today, we also discussed matters related to building a single defence space and ensuring the security of the Union Sate along its borders.

In this context, we gave much attention, as we attach great importance to this, to upcoming joint military exercises, Zapad 2021, to be held in Russia and Belarus. These exercises are not targeting anyone. However, conducting these exercises is logical, given that other alliances, for example, NATO, are moving fast to build their military presence close to the borders of the Union State and the Collective Security Treaty Organisation countries.

Mr Lukashenko talked about the political situation in the Republic of Belarus, which has stabilised.

In conclusion, returning to the main topic of today’s talks, I want to note that the development of equitable and mutually beneficial cooperation in the Union State has remained an explicit strategic priority for our two countries.

I want to thank the governments, ministries and teams of experts of the two countries who took part in developing and coordinating the Union State programmes. Thanks to you – I am now addressing our colleagues – and your well-coordinated and painstaking work, we have managed to achieve very impressive results on the path to integration. We believe – I am again addressing my colleagues in the government – that you will continue to proceed like this in the future.

Thank you for your attention.

President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko: Mr Putin, media representatives,

According to traditions and protocol, first of all, I would like to thank my colleague, the President of Russia, for the warm welcome that our delegation has been given today, as well as the extremely honest, open and constructive nature of today’s meeting.

Among other things, all of you, journalists, finally have an opportunity to hear firsthand about the results of our meeting today. We must frankly admit that we have not often indulged you with such meetings after our long negotiations.

I would like to start with the biggest and perhaps the most popular topic of today’s conversation. Everyone is interested in the future of the union programmes. Taking into account what the President of Russia has just said, I will just try to add a few things. But I must apologise because I have to start with the history of this matter.

The President has just mentioned that this work begun more than three years ago now, and we have been duly reacting to all the feedback, concerns and criticism voiced in both Russia and Belarus, about the Union State having lost some of its dynamics.

As I said, substantive work on the so-called roadmaps, as you remember, began more than three years ago. Those roadmaps, in fact, provided integration frameworks for specific areas, that is, the roadmaps indicated in broad strokes the path that we were ready to take with regard to a specific topic of interstate relations. That is, we outlined our plans.

Each of today’s programmes – they actually evolved into programmes about 18 months ago, when we approached specific agreements because we thought that we had enough framework plans and needed more specific ones to respond to our people’s requests, and so – each of the programmes is a specific plan of actions we are going to implement. The governments have done a tremendous job. Mr Putin and I have made all the fundamental decisions today that concerned us.

I do not want to go into the contents of the documents we have reviewed. They are not classified and will be made public. But I will just mention a few of the main points. They include equal rights for businesses of both countries, Belarus and Russia, the importance of which various representatives of Belarus, including me as the president, have been stressing for many years now. That is the basics. We are equal partners. The competition must be honest for all companies on the Belarusian and Russian markets. It was the equality, beneficial and fruitful cooperation that the Belarusian‒Russian integration was started for in the first place.

The union programmes clearly describe development mechanisms for our shared economic space, for building integrated sector-specific markets and for implementing harmonised policies in finances, taxes, lending, pricing and trade.

I would like to specifically point out such matters as solving the problem of energy supply to Belarus, the increase in transportation services, funding for new investment projects, adopting common approaches to implementing our agricultural and industrial policies, and raising the level of mutual social guarantees for our citizens. President Putin has just covered these topics extensively.

Yet, it is high time we asked our critics in Belarus – specifically, in Belarus – the so-called opposition, both fugitives and those living in Belarus, who criticised me and the government and shouted so loud. I would like to ask the critics of our integration in Russia as well: where do you see a ball chained to Russia’s legs? There are no downsides for either Belarusians or Russians in these programmes – and there could not be. As President Putin mentioned, the aim of all these measures is to improve the welfare of our peoples. And it is probably time to put a lid on this matter. Our integration was coined to be mutually beneficial and nothing else.

It is fundamentally important that we have managed to achieve mutual understanding on all major aspects. Our governments will immediately start polishing certain points – tomorrow, during a meeting of the Union State’s Council of Ministers in Minsk. If the final touches are approved and agreed upon (and we are certain they will be), we will be ready to approve the package of union programmes, as President Putin said, during a meeting of the Supreme State Council. We will try to set a date for this meeting today.

We often hear accusations that the Union State is a purely political project. No, it is a unique integration framework that is advanced in many spheres, including politics. Take our military and political union. It is not a secret. We have advanced quite substantially in many fields, such as foreign policy, defence and security.

I would like to stress: life is convincingly proving that everything we do is for the benefit of our people and is aimed to meet their concrete needs. The Belarusians and the Russians do not feel they are aliens in either country: they have freedom of movement and they can get an education and [easily] find a job. This stands high. Moreover, people are confident that it is a matter of course, that it has always been this way. And this is the best proof of the viability of our union. I am absolutely certain that broadening integration and building up multi-faceted collaboration is the most indicative and effective reply to all our ill-wishers. Together we can only get stronger.

At the start of our talks, the President of Russia mentioned a very important and interesting phrase: We are emerging from the situation of a pandemic-crazy world, where production volumes and many other processes have sunk to nought over this period of time. We have to look for additional stimuli to promote the socioeconomic development of our countries. He said this and it is bang on to the point. We are looking for these advantages in the union of our two countries in order to overcome the negative consequences of the pandemic.

Today, we have also discussed in detail some current international problems and our relations with neighbouring countries and assiciations. We have dwelled on the situation in zones of instability, primarily in Afghanistan, from the point of view of threats to security of the Union State of Russia and Belarus. The priority in this context is to ensure comprehensive security of our countries and the CSTO as a whole. We will jointly approve a common position on this matter during the upcoming events in Dushanbe.

Even we, though located in the centre of Europe far from the so-called theatre of operations, felt the impacts of the Afghan crisis. Look at the refugee crisis on our borders, at how the progressive West is behaving: they are rattling the saber all the time. As is only natural, we have broached the subject of our allied military exercise, Zapad-2021. We will continue to build up our joint counteraction to common challenges and threats. There is no need to scream out loud that we are holding this exercise. We have an army, we have a joint force deployed in the Western sector, and it needs to be trained and instructed in military tactics. We are doing nothing that wouldn’t be done by our rivals and adversaries.

We have also focused on further normalisation of transport communications and cooperation in the field of microelectronics and building industry. Yes, we are confident that the Union State should expand the use of its scientific and technological potential.

It is clear that far from all the knots in our relations have been untied. But it is normal, given the existing scale of collaboration, and a platform for further progress has been created. Based on this platform, we will continue to ensure social guarantees and consistently enhance the wellbeing of Belarusians and Russians.

Many people will get the impression that our talks on these subjects and Union programmes are going on forever, and that we are handling these matters with kid gloves, to put it mildly. There can be no alternative because somewhere in the mid-1990s and by the late 1990s when you and I were exchanging ratification instruments of the Union State Treaty, we agreed to conduct integration at various speeds and various levels. At that time, the Belarus-Russia Union and the Eurasian Economic Union, called the Customs Union at the time, was established on your insistent initiative, and the CIS.

We maintain different speeds at these three levels on post-Soviet territory, but we were always ahead. During the era of President Yeltsin, we discussed the possibility of renouncing the Union State and the Belarus-Russia Union and making this format part of the Eurasian Economic Union. At that period of time, we had enough intelligence and wisdom not to go ahead with this. The new President of Russia supported this, and we were not mistaken. We are setting an example of how to move ahead within the EAEU and all the more so within the CIS. In effect, we are pushing ahead like a bulldozer, and we are paving the way for, as we really hope, future associations and unions in the post-Soviet region. The Union is an example and a road that all states counting on a more close-knit union will have to take.

The President of Russia tactfully avoided mentioning all kinds of assertions that someone would take over someone, and so on and so forth. I would just like to point out that the President of Russia and I never suffered from this disorder. We can treat anyone who has had this disorder. I have recently said that we are sufficiently smart people, and if we find it necessary to make our already thoroughly close relations even more powerful, he and I will accomplish this in no time at all. Therefore one should not rattle and juggle old phrases and terminology about us trying to take over someone or to merge together contrary to the desires of our peoples. We simply wanted to accomplish something, and we singled out 28 areas and implemented the task in three years. Quite possibly, three years is a long time, but this is a mere instant in terms of history. Therefore one should not worry in this respect, and we will do everything possible in the interests of the people. And if we need even more close political and military integration, we will do this without delay, as soon as we feel this is required by our people in Belarus and Russia.

Most importantly, and the President of Russia and I have discussed this, 28 programmes have been inked, and this is a conceptual view of any specific problem. Today, it is necessary to sift through volumes of domestic legislation and our joint agreements, to adapt them or to channel them via a direction that has been determined by the President of Russia and me. As has been said, we will finally approve this direction at a meeting of our Supreme State Council.

Thank you.

Question: Good afternoon,

I have a question for you, President Putin.

Indeed, the list of subjects included in the union programmes brings union integration between our two countries to the highest and broadest level.

We must give credit to the governments that were able to agree upon a number of highly sensitive and principled matters such as monetary and foreign exchange policy, customs and taxation systems, a number of sector-specific problems, and social guarantee convergence. However, we must also admit the fact that for a number of years now, year in and year out, the development of the Union State was held back by a number of trade and economic hurdles. Frankly speaking, it is not easy for the Belarusian people to understand some of them. For example, the working conditions for Belarusian carriers in Russia are worse than for the Lithuanian or Polish carriers, and this despite the fact that our countries agreed on creating a common economic space more than 20 years ago.

In this regard, my question is: do you think that once adopted and implemented, these union programmes will make it possible to resolve that pile of long-standing mutual problems and to leave them behind as we push ahead into the future?

Vladimir Putin: You have taken a bird’s eye view of the matters finding a solution to which was a challenge for us. But if we start to dig deeper, it will become quite clear why it was so difficult for us to agree on things. It is because one side believed that it was enough to make some operational decisions at the governmental level and things would be settled, while the other side believed that certain decisions on certain matters could not be made until more fundamental decisions had been made.

I just mentioned what we agreed on, and I will say it again, since this is an absolutely critical matter. So, we have agreed on conducting common macroeconomic policy. I will not go into details now, and you are probably aware of what this is about. We have also agreed on harmonising monetary policy, payment system integration, ensuring information security, and deepening cooperation in customs regulations and taxation. That is, we are talking about transparency of the customs value of goods and definition of the transparent structure of the value of goods in the economy in general.

Our experts believed that without resolving these matters we cannot move on to other matters concerning individual commodity groups, including energy. We agreed to create a single methodology, which is important, for harmonising indirect taxes and a department which would control these processes.

When the economy becomes transparent, when it becomes clear how much the goods cost when they are imported into any of the two states, Russia or Belarus, and then enter our customs territories, then we can talk about those goods’ real value. And this allowed us to agree on something else – we are now moving towards a unified industrial policy and access to government procurement and government contracts. This amounts to a transition to very specific work in these areas.

But we disagreed for quite a long time. I have to say that our Belarusian partners are hard negotiators, but still, gradually, breaking the ideas down to elemental parts, we have practically – well, not practically, but fully agreed on all these matters. The President of Belarus and I have reaffirmed this today. We have agreed on all the details, you know, all the problems. When we got down to the details and spelled it all out, this puzzle just came together, and I hope it all really works.

Question: Thank you very much.

Please, if it’s possible one more short question, since I have such an opportunity. Did you discuss full resumption of air services today after COVID-19, and further developments in general? Were some decisions made maybe?

Vladimir Putin: No, we discussed this at our previous meeting. This time, the President of Belarus did not bring up this matter, but the President of Belarus does not yet know about the decision just made at the government commission, which met not far from here, at Government House. They decided to lift all COVID-related restrictions on air services.

Alexander Lukashenko: You have not told me about this.

Vladimir Putin: No I did not, but now I am informing you.

Alexander Lukashenko: Well, thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Before these so-called COVID restrictions were introduced, we had over 200 flights a week. To be precise, 201 in fact, and at the moment just 36.

I do not expect the pre-COVID level to get back to normal in just a couple of two days – to over 200 flights – because it all depends on the market and the carriers. But I believe the process will unfold speedily, also because, I hope, the agreements and the programmes we have informed you about will be quickly and efficiently implemented.

Question: A question for both presidents. You touched upon the topic of economic integration. What are the prospects for political integration, or are there any?

And, back to the Union State programmes, will Belarus enjoy special prices for energy resources? Is there a plan to create a single energy market regulator in the Union State? I am also interested if a decision is planned on a common Union State currency. Have you discussed additional credit support for Minsk?

Vladimir Putin: With regard to political integration, this is what the Union Treaty was tasked to accomplish from the outset, when the Union Treaty was being formed in 1997 and a treaty signed a little later, I think, in 1999.

We believe – just as your colleague asked a question about individual commodity groups, and what they succeeded in agreeing upon and what remains to be agreed – we decided that we need not to focus on separate items that are beneficial or not to a particular side, but instead should make comprehensive decisions thus creating a solid economic foundation for making progress in sensitive, but still peripheral matters.

It works the same way here. We operate on the premise that, in spite of this being a noble cause, we must first create political integration and an economic basis, a foundation, in order to be able to move forward, on the political track as well. We have not taken up these issues yet. To reiterate, we believe that we should first focus on the economy, and everything else will then need additional regulation, including, perhaps, at the level of the Union parliament. I do not rule out the possibility of this being created. But before we do that we need, as they say, to grow up. We did not discuss this, and these items were not on our agenda.

With regard to the second part of your question, I have already said that we will be addressing issues related to individual product groups in a comprehensive manner, even though we understand that the energy issue is highly sensitive. Therefore, as I said, we will leave the same price for Belarus for the next year, 2022. The price for Belarus will be $128.5 per 1,000 cubic metres. For your information, in case you are not aware of it, the price on the European market is $650 per 1,000 cubic metres. So, I think, the difference is clear.

We will not even adjust the price for Belarus to take account of the dollar inflation, which is quite high. They planned 2 percent, but it will be over 5 percent actually. Now, they are saying it will be a little lower, but still two to three times higher than the target. But we are not going to adjust either for the inflation in Russia or for the dollar inflation. We will keep the price as it is this year. However, later on, as I said, we will nevertheless work out common approaches both on the gas market and on the petroleum and petroleum product market.

What was the third matter?

Question: Are you planning to provide additional support to Minsk in terms of lending?

Vladimir Putin: Yes, the governments are discussing this. The President of Belarus and I also discussed this. The total volume of loans from September through late 2022 will amount to about $630 million, approximately $630–640 million. Anyway, it is going to be over $600 million.

Alexander Lukashenko: As concerns political integration, I fully support President Putin although he was too modest and did not mention his own role in resolving this matter.

We hit a brick wall at the time with certain issues in the Union, including political issues. It was then that the Russian President said words that became proverbial. We were having similar talks, in this very office where we had a one-to-one meeting today. That meeting was in an extended format. He reproached both Belarusian and Russian experts and said: “If we hit a wall and obviously have no way of solving this problem today, let’s put it aside until a moment comes when we can deal with it, when the time is ripe.” We have managed to not politicise our talks too much ever since.

I have just said openly and honestly: we can go back to any problem, including a political one, if we need to, and we will develop our relations based on that premise. This issue will not get rusty, as we like to say in Russia and Belarus. This is why I support President Putin’s idea that the time will come and we will not keep anybody waiting.

As for special prices, you must know that in fact, all our products are priced based on special terms due to free trade agreements in the Union State and the EAEU. We pay no duties, with the exception of energy. President Putin spoke about gas. Because it is an exception, we review the prices, including gas prices, almost every year. At this point, the oil exported outside Belarus sells at global prices if we exclude the duty.

Regarding loans, President Putin did not say anything but I must admit that I told him that we do not need more loans. If we can save money thanks to the nuclear power plant for which we received a loan (according to Russia’s practice everywhere in the world), I asked him to give us this saved money as a loan. He agreed to consider it if there were good promising projects for Belarus and Russia. We are happy with this. There is also the loan that my colleague has just mentioned.

Speaking about common currency, I would like you, as journalists, to understand: the question is not whether Putin or Lukashenko are stalling on this process. Remember, we have researched this issue. The Central Bank of Russia and the National Bank of Belarus unanimously asked us not to consider this issue yet. They said that neither they nor our countries were ready. President Putin and I listened and put this issue aside. It does not mean we will never get back to it. Currency is not the problem per se. It does not matter if the value of the dollar, euro or ruble increases, what matters and has always mattered is a common issuing institution. There is a definite problem with this. I think we may be able to solve it even while we are both presidents.

This is the background I wanted to explain.

Vladimir Putin: Regarding a common currency unit, we agree with this, and the President of Belarus has also agreed that it is very important to implement a unified macroeconomic policy. We have taken the first steps in this field. I have already said that the Central Bank of Russia and the National Bank of Belarus should harmonise monetary policy, ensure the integration of payment systems and facilitate information security in the financial sphere. This means that we are moving to address a more difficult and complicated problem.

Alexander Lukashenko: Yes, this is correct.

Vladimir Putin: We need to work gradually. The road maps and these programmes stipulate all this. Consequently, everything will be obvious there. We can see that countries with weaker economies are suffering in the European Union. They could devalue something in a well-known situation, but they are unable to do this because they have no national currency. The euro is a strong currency, and what are they to do? All-out price hikes is the only option fraught with dire social consequences. Therefore we must act very cautiously, analyse the pluses and minuses, the positive aspects of our neighbours and negative examples. We are trying to do this.

You are talking about energy prices. I have said that 1,000 cubic metres cost $650 on the free European market. But the wise-guy members of the European Commission’s previous line-up invented market gas pricing, and the results are here for everyone to see.

And we prefer a different approach. We also stipulate market pricing, and this price is pegged to the crude oil price. No one but market regulates it. But the fluctuations are much less pronounced. But here, someone has failed to pump the required 27 billion cubic metres into underground gas reservoirs, causing a shortage in gas supplies, business activity increased or something else happened, and there you are – gas prices start to exceed the prices of crude oil and petroleum derivatives. So you can see a substantial price hike.

Gazprom does not charge such selling prices under long-term contracts and our pricing principles. Those Europeans who have agreed to sign long-term contracts with us can rub their hands with joy and feel happy because they would otherwise have to pay $650. Gazprom sells gas to Germany for $220; at any rate, this was the case only recently.

Considering rising oil prices considered, this price will still go up, but the process will be more gradual. In reality, Gazprom is interested in this because it also creates a certain safety cushion. There will be no abrupt slump and drop in prices. This is the gist of the matter. Everyone stands to gain from this. Those members of the European Commission who came up with their own ideas have got the desired result.

Question: Mr Lukashenko, Mr Putin,

I have a question about migrants. It is a consequence of the current developments in Afghanistan, which actually concern Belarus as well. The humanitarian crisis in the nearby European region is gaining momentum and growing stronger, but the EU has turned a blind eye to the Polish authorities’ actions towards refugees from Afghanistan and other countries. Instead of helping, they are ousting them, throwing them out of their territory quite harshly, with the use of special equipment. This has little to do with respect for human rights and democratic principles, which the West loves to talk about so much.

The question is whether we can expect Minsk and Moscow to take joint efforts soon to settle this problem.

Alexander Lukashenko: You are providing interesting facts.

Vladimir Putin: My Western colleagues and the leaders of some European countries have called on me to take joint actions, saying that there is a crisis on the Belarusian border with Lithuania and Poland. They are asking me to influence the situation. My answer is very simple: this is no concern of ours; this is not our border. It is the state border of the Republic of Belarus with Lithuania and Poland.

This leads to my first question. In principle, all sides would like to talk directly with the Taliban, even though the movement is on the UN list of designated terrorist groups. Nevertheless, they say that the Taliban is controlling the territory and so we need to talk with them. But President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko did not come to power as a result of a war but by means of a public vote. Whether some people do not like the results of the vote is another matter. So my answer is why talk with us? Talk with the Belarusian authorities instead. Russia has nothing to do with this. This is the first thing that I wanted to say.

Second, many people are indeed asking us to help evacuate the citizens of other countries and even some Afghans from Afghanistan. We are doing this. We are not doing this secretly; we are doing this after coordinating the matter regarding certain groups of citizens with the Taliban. European countries are also talking about the catastrophe underway there, beating their breasts and blaming themselves for leaving their people in the lurch. If this is so, and if some Afghans (or not only Afghans, because all refugees, including Afghans, are being pushed out of European countries) have approached the Belarusian border with Lithuania or Poland, I do not understand the logic. You can accuse Belarus of all kinds of things, but at least screen the refugees and allow the Afghans to stay. Should they be pushed back to Afghanistan? And then they will ask us to help evacuate them from the country, won’t they? There is no logic in that.

I will not provide any political assessment now, but I would like to point out once again that Russia has nothing to do with this, that this is a sovereign concern of Belarus and its neighbours.

Question: May I ask an additional question? What is your personal view on the situation? Do you believe that Belarus has, as the West claims, launched a hybrid war against the EU?

Vladimir Putin: You see, very many sharp statements have been made to this effect. My Belarusian colleague himself is a professional when it comes to sharp statements. You can ask him, and he will tell you.

Alexander Lukashenko: No, I cannot do this in your presence…

Vladimir Putin: No, do not do this, please.

Well, has anyone started a war there? I am not aware of this. The answer is very simple: if you want to clear up a question or a problem, if you really do want this, talk with the Belarusian authorities at any level, I do not know which level it should be, and do settle the problem with the neighbouring state. Where do we come in on this?

Alexander Lukashenko: You know, the President of Russia is being delicate again. We are perfectly aware of the problem, and I have updated him; we discussed it. The EU and others are trying to settle this problem, in part, by making some complaints to the Russian leadership, in particular, my colleague, asking him to influence or pressure Lukashenko, and so on. I am grateful to him for his position, which he puts forth everywhere, that the Belarusian leadership and authorities are there and, as President Putin has said, the problem should be taken up with them. However, they claim that they cannot talk with us because the President [of Belarus] is not legitimate or the authorities are not what they should be. But the Taliban are a different matter, as we say, this is a different story, and so they can talk and communicate with them. Therefore, I am grateful to the President and leadership of Russia for their position. I personally and the authorities of Belarus appreciate this position.

Second, we have overlooked one point. In fact, we have not overlooked it, as journalists in Russia and Belarus know very well. What did Washington say as soon as the acute phase of the US presence in Afghanistan ended? They called on everyone, including Russia and the Central Asian republics, and ordered – yes, ordered – the EU to take in all those who will flee (I am speaking plainly) from Afghanistan. We have recently discussed this issue during an online conference, a videoconference, and we have coordinated a nearly unanimous view on what we should do. Europeans have just rolled over and invited the Afghans in. Take a look at this information; it has happened only recently.

But if you invited them, do take them along no matter where they came from: after all, they have worked for you all this time. There are hundreds of thousand Afghans, who spent 20 years working for those who have fled to their holes. What complaints can there be here against me, or Belarusians, let alone Russia?

But it must be understood that some Afghans and Iraqis – they have also ruined Iraq, as you know, it was not us or Russia, – they are fleeing from Lebanon and Syria and other countries they invaded. These people are fleeing via Russia, via Belarus, or directly to Belarus. This concerns Russia and Belarus most directly. We have not invited them and they are not heading for Belarus: they are crossing via Belarus to countries that have invited them. So, take them, they are your problem. This is our position.

And then, what are you urging us to do? Every day, you introduce new sanctions against us. In terms of sanctions, we are ahead of the Russian Federation by an order of magnitude. Over the past six months they have imposed a lot of sanctions on us. So, is it my duty or that of the Belarusian people to defend them on the border? No! They have wound down all programmes, leaving just a readmission agreement. You know about this. Well now, enjoy the fruit of your policies.

Look at the face they present. I won’t speak straight from the shoulder, although I could. Look at the democratic face they present: they fire at people, they set the dogs on them, they catch migrants in Poland and Lithuania, marshal them into groups and march them across the border to Belarus, shooting above their heads. Thank God, so far they are firing into the air, although there are victims. There are dead bodies that they chuck across the border for us to pick up. This is their democratic face.

This is why I don’t see any reasons for grievances against us. We honestly carried out our mission until they started turning the situation upside down by force and toppling the government. It is up to the Belarusian people to decide whether the government is legitimate or not. We did not meddle in the US elections, when they were shooting people point-blank during the ballot and afterwards. Therefore, they better sort out things at home.

What we have to do as a reliable partner, we will do under all circumstances. If Europe wants to have normal relations with us, we are ready to talk at their earliest opportunity. And we will ask Russia to support us, if necessary, and we will operate jointly. But so far, there is no such need – thank God. If need be, we will join hands in no time and will counteract all the negative trends in the interests of Russians and Belarusians.

Question: Good afternoon. My question is for both leaders.

Today you said a lot about important allied programmes, but the Treaty on the Creation of the Union State was signed over 20 years ago, and as we know, most of those decisions have not been implemented yet. Proceeding from today’s decisions, in your opinion, at what integration stage are Russia and Belarus? And how much closer – if at all – have they come to the implementation of these agreements reached 20 years ago?

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: I believe that we should have started with what we agreed upon today. We need to create an economic base, as I said, the foundation of our relations, and everything else is a political superstructure, as it was said back in the old days.

So we are doing what we have agreed upon today, and then we will be ready to take the next steps. But it is work for the future; we need to monitor the rapidly changing situation. We will see what will happen after the implementation of the programme I have just mentioned. I am sure that we are on the right track.

Alexander Lukashenko: I totally agree with the President of Russia, nothing to add here. That was a short and clear answer to the question.

If you want to dig into the previous agreements, and I am not sure which agreements you mean, we can return to this matter in some other format and see what those agreements were and which of them we did not implement.

The President is right, we have created a base for further progress, and we cannot fail. It could take two hours for both of us to tell you about the mistakes the European Union has made, and we used to model ourselves on it. And look at it now, there are numerous trends leading to destruction. They are openly ctiticising each other already. We do not want to make the same mistakes and the mistakes that were made in our union state, the Soviet Union. We draw conclusions. Time has passed and we could have missed something, and we can dwell on that, but we have returned to the creation of a base. As the President said, without the foundation, it is impossible to build the integration house. We have long abandoned the idea of starting building the house from the roof.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much.

Alexander Lukashenko: Thank you.

—-


Ed Note:  This is currently a machine translation of the 28 points of ‘Union State’ Development and it is here for people to understand the scope of this development.  We have to wait for a formal transcript from Russian to English to avoid miscommunication.  I beg your understanding on this issue.

1. Convergence of macroeconomic policies

An agreement was reached on the synchronization of strategic management in the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus in terms of macroeconomic policy and the formation of official statistical information. Harmonization of the legislation of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus in this area will create a basis for joint support of small and medium-sized businesses, streamline the consideration of situations in the field of insolvency and bankruptcy.

2. Harmonization of monetary policy and macroprudential regulation

An agreement was reached to conclude an agreement between the Central Bank of the Russian Federation and the National Bank of the Republic of Belarus on the principles and mechanisms of monetary policy harmonization by December 2022.

The implementation of the agreement will be aimed at achieving a comparable and consistently low level of inflation, creating similar financial conditions for business entities in both countries.

3. Harmonization of foreign exchange regulation and control

The parties agreed to harmonize the rules for opening bank accounts for residents in non-resident banks, conducting currency transactions, and requirements for the repatriation of foreign currency earnings.

4. Harmonization of information security requirements in the financial sector

The parties agreed to harmonize approaches to ensuring information security, create a mechanism for mutual recognition of audit results in the field of information security, and apply cross-border integrity control and authentication tools in the exchange of electronic information.

5. Harmonization of regulatory norms for credit and non-credit financial institutions, as well as the financial market as a whole, including ensuring the creation of common principles of deposit insurance

The parties agreed to harmonize the regulation of the financial market, in particular leasing organizations and microfinance institutions, as well as mutual access of banking and insurance organizations to the financial markets of the Union State.

6. Harmonization of anti-money laundering and financial terrorism (AML/CFT) requirements for the financial sector

An agreement was reached between the Central Bank of the Russian Federation and the National Bank of the Republic of Belarus on the harmonization of the AML/CFT legislation of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus for the financial sector and the implementation of joint activities in this area.

7. Integration of payment systems in the field of national payment card systems, financial message transmission and settlement systems, implementation of the international financial message standard ISO 20022, fast payment systems, development of financial technologies, harmonized approaches in the field of supervision and monitoring of payment systems

The parties agreed to improve the mechanisms of cross-border exchange of financial information between Russian and Belarusian credit institutions and legal entities, as well as to develop cooperation on fast payments, transfer of financial messages and settlements, supervision of payment service market participants, and development of financial technologies.

8. Harmonization of requirements in the field of protection of the rights of consumers of financial services and investors, as well as prevention of unfair practices in the financial market

The parties agreed to develop proposals for the harmonization of the legislation of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus in order to ensure the provision of an equal amount of protection of rights to consumers of financial services using the same financial services.

9. Integration of information systems of state regulatory bodies on traceability of goods

The parties agreed to synchronize approaches to the functioning of the traceability mechanism, integrate information systems to automate data exchange, which will ensure control over the turnover of goods subject to traceability.

10. Integration of product labeling information systems

The parties agreed to unify approaches to the legal regulation and technical support of mandatory labeling of goods by means of identification, to synchronize the work necessary for mutual recognition of identification tools, in order to ensure unhindered access to the market of labeled goods.

11. Harmonization of tax and customs legislation and cooperation in the customs sphere

In the tax and customs spheres, the parties agreed to conclude international agreements on general principles of taxation for indirect taxes and on deepening cooperation between customs authorities, introduce an integrated system of indirect tax administration of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus, and establish a joint advisory body – the Union State Committee on Tax Issues.

Approaches to maintaining statistics on mutual trade, systems for categorizing participants in foreign economic activity, and the institution of authorized economic operators will be harmonized.

12. Integration of information systems of state regulatory authorities in terms of veterinary and quarantine phytosanitary control

The parties agreed to integrate information systems in order to automate the process of data exchange on issued certificates of quarantine phytosanitary control (supervision). Traceability of controlled goods and quarantined products will be ensured, which will increase the effectiveness of quarantine phytosanitary and veterinary control (supervision) and speed up the movement of goods and vehicles across the state border. The Parties will ensure traceability of all livestock and plant-based products.

13. Integration of transport control information systems of state regulatory bodies

The parties agreed to develop software that will allow the exchange of data on the results of transport control on the territory of the two states, which will increase the transparency and safety of road transport.

14. Unification of transport market regulation

In the field of air transport, equal tariff conditions will be implemented for the provision of airport and air navigation services, as well as restrictions on frequency and unification of airworthiness regulation will be lifted.

In the field of railway transport, it is planned to work out the unification of legislation, including tariff regulation, licensing, organization of passenger and cargo transportation, security, and requirements in the field of labor relations.

In the sphere of water transport, vessels flying the Russian and Belarusian flags are supposed to sail along the internal waterways of the parties according to unified rules.  In the field of road transport, an agreement on transportation on a non- permissive basis will be concluded.

In the field of road management, general norms of legislation will be prepared in terms of classification of roads, requirements for the implementation of road activities, ensuring road safety, placing road service facilities, and carrying out control and supervisory activities.

15. Formation of a unified gas market

The parties agreed to coordinate actions regarding the formation of prices for Russian gas for the Belarusian Side in 2022, as well as to develop principles for the functioning and regulation of the unified gas market of the Union State (by July 2022).

Until December 1, 2023, it is planned to sign an addendum to the Union Program that defines the basic principles of functioning and regulation of the unified gas market, as well as the timing of their implementation, based on the movement towards convergence of business conditions in the gas sector relative to the current level.

16. Formation of unified oil and petroleum products markets

The parties agreed to adopt an international agreement on the unification of the oil and petroleum products markets of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus and the harmonization of national legislation.

17. Formation of the unified electric energy market

The parties agreed to sign an interstate agreement on the formation of a unified electricity market and rules for the functioning of this market, providing for the harmonization of the legislation of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus, and also outlined a trajectory for implementing the principles of deeper integration of the electricity markets of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus.

18. Development of nuclear energy

The parties agreed to ensure the unification of legislation in the areas of operation of nuclear power facilities, regulation of radiation safety, emergency preparedness and response, and management of nuclear fuel and radioactive waste by the end of 2023.

19. Formation of a unified agricultural policy

The parties agreed to implement the convergence of legislation in the field of agriculture in order to increase the volume of mutual trade in agricultural products, remove administrative barriers, ensure food security and joint scientific and technological development of agriculture.

20. Formation of a unified industrial policy

The parties agreed to encourage the development of joint ventures, as well as to implement a unified policy to support production and sales. It provides for the elimination of economic and technical barriers to the production of industrial products in order to increase the transparency of bilateral trade and increase trade turnover.

21. Introduction of uniform rules for access to state orders and public procurements

The parties agreed to harmonize legislation in the field of ensuring equal access to public procurement and public procurement, as well as in the field of regulating state (municipal) procurement. An agreement was reached to use bank guarantees issued by Belarusian banks for public procurement in Russia and eliminate restrictions on access to state (municipal) procurement.

22. Uniform rules for consumer protection

The parties agreed to conclude an intergovernmental agreement on common Rules for consumer protection in the Union State by December 31, 2022.

23. Unified competition rules

The parties agreed to approve common approaches to the formation and implementation of competition rules on the basis of an intergovernmental agreement that will define common competition rules, including the powers of the antimonopoly authority in terms of the possibility of appointing unscheduled inspections and examinations.

24. Unification of requirements for the organization and implementation of trading activities

The parties agreed on the adoption of regulatory legal acts that provide common requirements in the field of trade and public catering regulation, as well as on the harmonization of legislation in this area.

25. Formation of common principles of functioning of the single communications and informatization market

The parties agreed to develop new and update existing intergovernmental, interdepartmental and other agreements in the field of communications and informatization, to unify legislation in the field of postal communications, to build the infrastructure of communication networks, as well as to abolish roaming on the territory of the Union State. It provides for the harmonization of the use of electronic documents and electronic signatures, as well as the provision of public services in electronic form.

26. Unification of accounting regulations and preparation of accounting (financial) statements

The parties agreed to create conditions for the circulation of comparable consolidated financial statements of business entities, to form an information base for expanding foreign economic, investment and business ties, to allow business entities to enter international capital markets, and to provide interested parties with access to the financial statements of business entities.

27. Unification of legislation in the field of tourism activities

The parties agreed on the harmonization of tourism development strategies, norms for the activities of guides and interpreters, and the creation of common rules for informing about the standardization of the quality of hotel services.

Guarantees provided to tourists in the provision of tourist services, requirements for conducting tourist activities in terms of financial responsibility of the tour operator will be unified, and the rights of tourists will be protected if the tour operator cannot fulfill its obligations to provide tourist services.

28. Implementation of a coordinated social and labor policy

The parties agreed to develop common approaches to the harmonization of legislation in terms of labor relations and labor protection, employment, social insurance and pension provision, support for families with children, social services and social support for certain categories of citizens.

At the meeting of the Council of Ministers, the draft Decree of the Supreme State Council of the Union State on approval of the Main directions for implementing the provisions of the Treaty on the Establishment of the Union State for 2021-2023 and Union Programs was approved.

The Heads of Government note that the positive development of the Union State, the strengthening of national economies, and the solution of social tasks vital for the citizens of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus are hindered by the destructive actions of a number of Western states and structures that contradict international law. In this regard, joint actions were agreed in the context of applying illegitimate economic sanctions against the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus.

The Russian and Belarusian sides also note their firm intention not to stop there, but to step up joint efforts to deepen integration processes within the framework of the Union Building process. We will continue to implement all the fundamental provisions of the Treaty on the Establishment of the Union State.

What about the deescalation in the Donbass? (OPEN THREAD #17)

What about the deescalation in the Donbass? (OPEN THREAD #17)

April 23, 2021

The Saker

There is, amongst some, a strong sense of relief: Defense Minister Shoigu has declared that the formations deployed by Russia to western Russia will now return to their regular bases.  Of course, the Ukrainians claim that they “deterred a Russian attack” while the Russians say that “the West got the message”.  Is that so and, if yes, who is right?

Well, I think that we can dismiss the Ukie nonsense out of hand.  Nobody out there, except the Ukrainians themselves, seriously believe that Russia “blinked”, if only because destroying the entire Ukrainian military would take Russia less than a week.  In fact, the Ukrainians know that very well, they just won’t admit it.

Notice that while the Ukrainians claim that they deterred Russia, Russia does not claim to have deterred the Ukrainians, instead Russia declared that the Russian bear roared loud enough to deter the united West.  Right there we have an important clue as to what has really happened.

I, however, submit that the causes which triggered the initial Ukrainian move to bring a large armored force right to the line of contact are still here.  In other words, nothing has been resolved.

What happened is this: in response to the threat from both the Ukrainians and US/NATO, Russia simply demonstrated her ability to quickly concentrate a truly huge force (2 Armies and 2 Airborne Divisions) along her border.  She also redeployed the Caspian Flotilla into the Black Sea, brought in large landing ships and, generally, “flexed her military muscles” in order to convey a clear message to the Ukrainians, the Europeans and the US:

  • To the Ukrainians: attack the Donbass and you will die, as for the Ukraine, it will break apart into several new successor states.
  • To the EU: if a war starts, you will even lose the very little agency you have left and your economy will not be competitive against the USA.
  • To the USA: if a war starts, you will face a stark choice: lose face or start a full-scale war against Russia.

Yes, so far, this strategy has proved very effective.  The Ukrainians were clearly terrified and the EU showed no enthusiasm for that war (except the UK, which risks very little, and the Poles who specialize in stupid historical decisions).  As for “Biden”, he realized that a full scale war against Russia was suicidal.

So are we now out of the danger zone?

Absolutely not.  There is still one thing the West is determined to achieve: to fight Russia down to the last Ukrainian.  For the US Neocons, to see the two Slavic brothers kill each other is old dream come true.  Furthermore, the US still needs to bring the EU down to its economic knees to force it to buy energy, services and goods from the USA.  Last, but not least, the Ukraine has lost any appeal it might have had for the USA: the only thing which the Ukraine can still offer is to be a thorn in Russia’s side.

And then, there is the “Ze” regime in Kiev: not viable, not reformable, the Ukraine is has been comprehensively deindustrialized and now the Ukrainians are dying in huge numbers from the COVID pandemic: Banderastan is the ultimate failed state, worse than many African ones, in fact.

Yes, “Ze” was told by his masters to “cool it” and, so far, he has obeyed, but that solves exactly none of his problems.  Worse, there are a lot of well-armed Ukronazi deathsquads who still have the means to create some kind of incident which would reignite the whole thing again.  Also, it is worth remembering that the Brits and the Ukies both have a proven record of successful covert operations, which by definition include false flags.

In other words, nothing has really changed.  Yes, right now, Uncle Shmuel is trying to find out what his options are, and he will come up with a corrected plan (remember, Neocons are stupid, yes, but they are also clever in a short term, “horizontal” way).  Right now “Biden” is licking his wounds from the embarrassing faceplant with the attempt to kill Lukashenko and the (frankly silly) nonsense coming out of the Czech Republic.  There are some signs that at least the Germans realize what is really going on and who is truly trying to screw them over (while most of the German political class is corrupt to the bone, some German politicians are sensitive to the mood of the German business community).

Simply put: all we are observing today is a short term reprieve, nothing more.

The Russians know that, and it is safe to say that while some of their forces will demonstratively retreat, others will stay.  More importantly, now that this operational redeployment of key formations has been rehearsed, very publicly, the Russians have shown the US/NATO that Russia can deal with any military threat (in contrast, it would take NATO months to bring a big enough force to eastern Europe to represent a credible threat).

Finally, Ze has made a rather ridiculous speech telling Putin that they should meet.  Putin’s response was perfect: you want to meet with me to discuss our bilateral relations (which, incidentally, you have destroyed) – sure.  No problem.  But if you want to discuss the Donbass, you have to engage in direct talks with the LDNR, as the Minsk Agreement and the Steinmeier formula, which you have signed, stipulate.  In other words, back to square one.

This is a situation of not one, but two “thorns”: the Ukronazi Banderastan is definitely a thorn in the side of Russia, while the LDNR is a thorn in the side of Banderastan.  Make a guess, which side can put up with its thorn longer than the other side?

Many have forgotten it, but in a moment of anger, Poroshenko did tell Putin “take the Donbass if you want it!”, and Putin declined.  Since then, the Russians have shown over and over again that they do NOT want the Donbass.  At most, they might have to take it to save it from genocide, but even in this case the Russians have no intentions of invading the rest of the Ukraine only to have to deal with 1) Ukronazi insurgencies and 2) rebuilding this failed state from its current zero all the way back.  And that is the worst Russian threat not only for the Ukraine, but for all of Europe: Russia does NOT want, or need, the Ukraine and Russia won’t take it over, even in case of a full-scale war.  At most, Russia will repeat what she did in the 08.08.08 war: defang the Nazi regime by obliterating the Ukrainian military, and then let the regime naturally collapse.

Anyway, I will write a more detailed analysis of this situation next week, but right now I submit that all that is happened is a limited and temporary deescalation, not any kind of return to even semi-normality (and the Ukies are still murdering LDNR civilians every day, including with heavy weapons).

So, what do you think?  Back to sanity, or only a reprieve?

The Saker

Putin rewrites the law of the geopolitical jungle

Putin rewrites the law of the geopolitical jungle

April 23, 2021

By Pepe Escobar and first posted at The Saker Blog

Putin’s address to the Russian Federal Assembly – a de facto State of the Nation – was a judo move that left Atlanticist sphere hawks particularly stunned.

The “West” was not even mentioned by name. Only indirectly, or via a delightful metaphor, Kipling’s Jungle Book. Foreign policy was addressed only at the end, almost as an afterthought.

For the best part of an hour and a half, Putin concentrated on domestic issues, detailing a series of policies that amount to the Russian state helping those in need – low income families, children, single mothers, young professionals, the underprivileged – with, for instance, free health checks all the way to the possibility of an universal income in the near future.

Of course he would also need to address the current, highly volatile state of international relations. The concise manner he chose to do it, counter-acting the prevailing Russophobia in the Atlanticist sphere, was quite striking.

First, the essentials. Russia’s policy “is to ensure peace and security for the well-being of our citizens and for the stable development of our country.”

Yet if “someone does not want to…engage in dialogue, but chooses an egoistic and arrogant tone, Russia will always find a way to stand up for its position.”

He singled out “the practice of politically motivated, illegal economic sanctions” to connect it to “something much more dangerous”, and actually rendered invisible in the Western narrative: “the recent attempt to organize a coup d’etat in Belarus and the assassination of that country’s president.” Putin made sure to stress, “all boundaries have been crossed”.

The plot to kill Lukashenko was unveiled by Russian and Belarusian intel – which detained several actors backed, who else, US intel. The US State Department predictably denied any involvement.

Putin: “It is worth pointing to the confessions of the detained participants in the conspiracy that a blockade of Minsk was being prepared, including its city infrastructure and communications, the complete shutdown of the entire power grid of the Belarusian capital. This, incidentally means preparations for a massive cyber-attack.”

And that leads to a very uncomfortable truth: “Apparently, it’s not for no reason that our Western colleagues have stubbornly rejected numerous proposals by the Russian side to establish an international dialogue in the field of information and cyber-security.”

“Asymmetric, swift and harsh”

Putin remarked how to “attack Russia” has become “a sport, a new sport, who makes the loudest statements.” And then he went full Kipling: “Russia is attacked here and there for no reason. And of course, all sorts of petty Tabaquis [jackals] are running around like Tabaqui ran around Shere Khan [the tiger] – everything is like in Kipling’s book – howling along and ready to serve their sovereign. Kipling was a great writer”.

The – layered – metaphor is even more startling as it echoes the late 19th century geopolitical Great Game between the British and Russian empires, of which Kipling was a protagonist.

Once again Putin had to stress that “we really don’t want to burn any bridges. But if someone perceives our good intentions as indifference or weakness and intends to burn those bridges completely or even blow them up, he should know that Russia’s response will be asymmetric, swift and harsh”.

So here’s the new law of the geopolitical jungle – backed by Mr. Iskander, Mr. Kalibr, Mr. Avangard, Mr. Peresvet, Mr. Khinzal, Mr. Sarmat, Mr. Zircon and other well-respected gentlemen, hypersonic and otherwise, later complimented on the record. Those who poke the Bear to the point of threatening “the fundamental interests of our security will regret what has been done, as they have regretted nothing for a very long time.”

The stunning developments of the past few weeks – the China-US Alaska summit, the Lavrov-Wang Yi summit in Guilin, the NATO summit, the Iran-China strategic dealXi Jinping’s speech at the Boao forum – now coalesce into a stark new reality: the era of a unilateral Leviathan imposing its iron will is over.

For those Russophobes who still haven’t got the message, a cool, calm and collected Putin was compelled to add, “clearly, we have enough patience, responsibility, professionalism, self-confidence, self-assurance in the correctness of our position and common sense when it comes to making any decisions. But I hope that no one will think about crossing Russia’s so-called red lines. And where they run, we determine ourselves in each specific case.”

Back to realpolitik, Putin once again had to stress the “special responsibility” of the “five nuclear states” to seriously discuss “issues related to strategic armament”. It’s an open question whether the Biden-Harris administration – behind which stand a toxic cocktail of neo-cons and humanitarian imperialists – will agree.

Putin: “The goal of such negotiations could be to create an environment of conflict-free coexistence based on equal security, covering not only strategic weapons such as intercontinental ballistic missiles, heavy bombers and submarines, but also, I would like to emphasize, all offensive and defensive systems capable of solving strategic tasks, regardless of their equipment.”

As much as Xi’s address to the Boao forum was mostly directed to the Global South, Putin highlighted how “we are expanding contacts with our closest partners in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the BRICS, the Commonwealth of Independent States and the allies of the Collective Security Treaty Organization”, and extolled “joint projects in the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union”, billed as “practical tools for solving the problems of national development.”

In a nutshell: integration in effect, following the Russian concept of “Greater Eurasia”.

“Tensions skirting wartime levels”

Now compare all of the above with the White House Executive Order (EO) declaring a “national emergency” to “deal with the Russian threat”.

This is directly connected to President Biden – actually the combo telling him what to do, complete with earpiece and teleprompter – promising Ukraine’s President Zelensky that Washington would “take measures” to support Kiev’s wishful thinking of retaking Donbass and Crimea.

There are several eyebrow-raising issues with this EO. It denies, de facto, to any Russian national the full rights to their US property. Any US resident may be accused of being a Russian agent engaged in undermining US security. A sub-sub paragraph (C), detailing “actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions in the United States or abroad”, is vague enough to be used to eliminate any journalism that supports Russia’s positions in international affairs.

Purchases of Russian OFZ bonds have been sanctioned, as well as one of the companies involved in the production of the Sputnik V vaccine. Yet the icing on this sanction cake may well be that from now on all Russian citizens, including dual citizens, may be barred from entering US territory except via a rare special authorization on top of the ordinary visa.

The Russian paper Vedomosti has noted that in such paranoid atmosphere the risks for large companies such as Yandex or Kaspersky Lab are significantly increasing. Still, these sanctions have not been met with surprise in Moscow. The worst is yet to come, according to Beltway insiders: two packages of sanctions against Nord Stream 2 already approved by the US Department of Justice.

The crucial point is that this EO de facto places anyone reporting on Russia’s political positions as potentially threatening “American democracy”. As top political analyst Alastair Crooke has remarked, this is a “procedure usually reserved for citizens of enemy states during times of war”. Crooke adds, “US hawks are upping the ante fiercely against Moscow. Tensions and rhetoric are skirting wartime levels.”

It’s an open question whether Putin’s State of the Nation will be seriously examined by the toxic lunatic combo of neocons and humanitarian imperialists bent on simultaneously harassing Russia and China.

But the fact is something extraordinary has already started to happen: a “de-escalation” of sorts.

Even before Putin’s address, Kiev, NATO and the Pentagon apparently got the message implicit in Russia moving two armies, massive artillery batteries and airborne divisions to the borders of Donbass and to Crimea – not to mention top naval assets moved from the Caspian to the Black Sea. NATO could not even dream of matching that.

Facts on different grounds speak volumes. Both Paris and Berlin were terrified of a possible Kiev clash directly against Russia, and lobbied furiously against it, bypassing the EU and NATO.

Then someone – it might have been Jake Sullivan – must have whispered on Crash Test Dummy’s earpiece that you don’t go around insulting the head of a nuclear state and expect to keep your global “credibility”. So after that by now famous “Biden” phone call to Putin came the invitation to the climate change summit, in which any lofty promises are largely rhetorical, as the Pentagon will continue to be the largest polluting entity on planet Earth.

So Washington may have found a way to keep at least one avenue of dialogue open with Moscow. At the same time Moscow has no illusions whatsoever that the Ukraine/Donbass/Crimea drama is over. Even if Putin did not mention it in the State of the Nation. And even if Defense Minister Shoigu has ordered a de-escalation.

The always inestimable Andrei Martyanov has gleefully noted the “cultural shock when Brussels and D.C. started to suspect that Russia doesn’t ‘want’ Ukraine. What Russia wants is for this country to rot and implode without excrement from this implosion hitting Russia. West’s paying for the clean up of this clusterf**k is also in Russian plans for Ukrainian Bantustan.”

The fact that Putin did not even mention Bantustan in his speech corroborates this analysis. As far as “red lines” are concerned, Putin’s implicit message remains the same: a NATO base on Russia’s western flank simply won’t be tolerated. Paris and Berlin know it. The EU is in denial. NATO will always refuse to admit it.

We always come back to the same crucial issue: whether Putin will be able, against all odds, to pull a combined Bismarck-Sun Tzu move and build a lasting German-Russian entente cordiale (and that’s quite far from an “alliance’). Nord Stream 2 is an essential cog in the wheel – and that’s what’s driving Washington hawks crazy.

Whatever happens next, for all practical purposes Iron Curtain 2.0 is now on, and it simply won’t go away. There will be more sanctions. Everything was thrown at the Bear short of a hot war. It will be immensely entertaining to watch how, and via which steps, Washington will engage on a “de-escalation and diplomatic process” with Russia.

The Hegemon may always find a way to deploy a massive P.R. campaign and ultimately claim a diplomatic success in “dissolving” the impasse. Well, that certainly beats a hot war. Otherwise, lowly Jungle Book adventurers have been advised: try anything funny and be ready to meet “asymmetric, swift and harsh”.

Putin delivers annual address to Federal Assembly

 Source

Putin delivers annual address to Federal Assembly

April 21, 2021

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

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

This is the current live stream.

The full and complete transcript is now posted.

Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly

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

April 21, 202113:20

Moscow

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

* *

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

Citizens of Russia,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colleagues,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colleagues,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colleagues,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colleagues,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colleagues,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colleagues,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colleagues,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colleagues,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you very much for your attention.

The National Anthem of the Russian Federation is played.

The deafening sound of silence in the West (OPEN THREAD #15)

The deafening sound of silence in the West (OPEN THREAD #15)

April 20, 2021

The story about the attempt to murder Lukashenko in much the same manner as Anwar Sadat (during a military parade) broke over the week-end, but even I was too tired to report it.  But on Monday I wrote a reasonably detailed column about it under the title “Did the US just try to murder Lukashenko“.  Much more relevantly, the Kremlin fully confirmed the story and the Russian media discussed it at length.  It also became known that Putin and Biden discussed this topic during their telephone call (ironic, no? Biden called Putin a ‘killer’ while the self same “Biden” tried to kill a foreign head of state).  What we are talking about here is both an act of international terrorism and a de facto act of war.

I was pretty sure that by today, Tuesday, the western media would be busy ridiculing and dismissing it all as “Russian disinformation” but, instead, there is nothing, not a word.  The “united West” simply totally ignored this information.

Even more puzzling is the total silence in the “alternative” free media and the blogosphere…

Then there is the truly comical Czech fairy tale about Petrov and Boshirov (the folks the Brits accused of poisoning Skripal) blowing up a weapons depot in 2014 (!).

Again, deafening silence.

But the upcoming death of Navalnyi is the one Russia-related topic the western media seems to be interested in.

Even RT and Sputnik seemed to be “covering” this very minimally and very reluctantly (these two have become so bad, I rarely even bother reading them, but that is another story).

My request today is this: if you do come across any reports discussing either the failed coup in Belarus or the Czech mental collapse, please post the links in the open thread below.  Maybe I missed all the “good” coverage the “free media” of the “allied western democracies” provided?

Finally, just to show you how different the mood is in Russia, check out this (wholly unscientific) readers survey by the Russian website Vzgliad (which I would describe as moderately patriotic, pretty close to the Russian mainstream):

Translation:

Question: Is it possible in the future to build friendly and partnership relations between Russia and the United States?

Answers:

Yes, in the short term: 1.05%
Yes, in the medium term: 4.57%
Yes, in the long run: 29.15%
no never: 65.24%

Which, in plain English, means that the Russians have basically given up on the US in total disgust.

They have also finally convinced US Ambassador to “voluntarily” leave Russia (he was apparently waiting to be expelled).

But, of course, the narcissistic West will never admit that it mostly elicits disgust and contempt from the vodka-guzzling Russian savages.  All of the above will be dismissed as yet more “Russian disinformation” and “Kremlin propaganda”.

And, in the meantime, the WP is urging Biden to meet with Svetlana Tikhanovskaya.  If ignorance is truly bliss, then these two will be in heaven together.

The Saker

PS: I forgot to add that the Czech version says that the Russians blew up that weapons depot because this was the depot from which the Czechs were sending weapons to both the Urkonazi regime in Kiev and to the “good terrorists” in Syria.  Interesting, no?  Is that not evidence that both the US and NATO were, in fact, arming both the Nazis in the Ukraine and the Takfiris in Syria? As I have said it many times, the united West will ally itself to even the Devil if that is against Russia.  This is the story of 1000 years of hatred for everything Russian and/or Orthodox.

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Tensions are running high between the United States and Russia. The two superpowers have imposed sanctions on each other, bringing their bilateral ties to a new low since the Cold War. Russia has unveiled counter sanctions against US by expelling and banning current and former US officials, warning the US to back away from confrontation.

Did the US just try to murder Lukashenko? (OPEN THREAD #14) (UPDATED)

Did the US just try to murder Lukashenko? (OPEN THREAD #14) (UPDATED)

April 19, 2021

Amazing news over the week-end: President Lukashenko has declared that Biden gave the order to kill him in a coup organized by the CIA.  Now, we all know that Lukashenko says all sorts of things, many of them false or plain silly.  Except that the Russian FSB has confirmed it all!  According to the Russians, a joint operation of the (Bielorussian) KGB and the Russian FSB has uncovered the plot early on and the Russians monitored the full operation until they had enough evidence to arrest all the plotters.  Not only do the Russians have videos of their meetings, they also intercepted their Zoom videoconferences (Zoom users, use Jitsi instead!).

So far so good.  But it gets better!

Unlike the US/UK and others, the Russian FSB did not say that they were “confident” that it was “highly likely” that this operation took place.  They released all the footage of a meeting of the plotters in Moscow which confirms it all (I don’t have the time to translate that footage, but I am confident that somebody will – if you come across an English language translation, please post it in the comments section below!).

One not familiar with such operations might be baffled over why this meeting took place in Moscow and not in Warsaw or Riga.  There are several reasons for that:

  • There is a practically open border between Belarus and Russia, which form “а unified state”, and there is nothing easier for the (supposed) Bielorussian traitors (from the military) to jump in a car and get to Moscow.
  • Using Warsaw or Riga would dramatically reduce what the CIA calls “plausible deniability” for the US and NATO.
  • Yes, meeting in Moscow was still stupid, but no more stupid than the failed US coup to do to Maduro when the US did exactly what they tried to do to Lukashenko.  The fact that both operations failed is par for the course for the (mostly clueless) CIA.
  • The main plotter, a very well-known anti-Lukashenko activist, is a double national Bielorussian and US American and for him to move to Minsk for that meeting would be very dangerous.
  • Last, but not least, the Bielorussian KGB operates in a very tightly controlled Bielorussian society whereas Russian is an open and liberal society, so one could have (mistakenly) thought that a meeting in Moscow would have been a better idea.

Interesting story, no?

Also, if you wonder whether it is credible that the FSB saved Lukashenko – I will remind you that it was the Russians who saved Erdogan from a US-backed coup which was also supposed to include Erdogan’s murder (the Turks practically admitted it publicly several times).

But it gets even better!

As soon as the accusation of a CIA plan to murder Lukashenko in a coup came out, they did what they always do: denied it against all evidence and created a huge distraction: the US colony known as the “Czech Republic” declared that the explosion of a weapons depot in the Czech Republic in 2014 was a Russian sabotage involving…   … wait for it… … drum roll…. the very same Petrov and Boshirov whom the UK accused of poisoning the Skripals!

Friends, the Czechs released this story withing ONE HOUR of the Bielorussian news!  One hour, seriously!

The Czechs immediately expelled 18 Russian diplomats and the Russian reciprocated by expelling 20 Czech diplomats leaving only 5 in Moscow.  So if we use the English expression about the “shitting hitting the fan”, then it would also be fair to refer to the Czechs as “shit shields” for the Empire 🙂

By the way, the official Czech investigation in 2014 concluded that the explosion was caused by negligence, not sabotage but, really, who cares?  After all, look at these accusations, all as unproven and as silly as this one: (partial list in no special order)

  • Russian invaded the Donbass
  • Russia shot down MH-17
  • Russia tried to poison the Skripals
  • Russia murdered Berezovskii
  • Russia tried to poison Litvenenko
  • Russia tried to poison Navalnyi
  • Russia murdered Boris Nemtsov
  • Russia murdered Politkovskaia
  • Russia tried to poison Yushchenko
  • Russia interfered in two US elections
  • Russia hacked the DNC computers
  • Russia paid Afghans to kill US soliders
  • The Russian shot down the aircraft of the Polish president over Smolensk
  • The Russian tried to organize a coup in Montenegro
  • The Russians organized the movement for an independent Catalonia

To repeat, none, NONE of these accusations were ever proven or even substantiated.  ALL of these accusations are solely based on the putatively undeniable credibility of the western special services.

And, of course, the western “Russia experts” all fully endorsed this nonsense (hey, that is what these so-called “experts” are paid to do; as somebody who once was a member of the IISS, I know these “experts” and their “expertise” well enough – I even resigned from the IISS in protest over its total subservience to US anti-Russian narratives).

And people who call themselves “democrats” and people capable of critical thought buy all this shit with no doubts whatsoever, none.  They don’t even see how pathetic and clueless they really are…

So the Czechs (and their US masters) are running a well rehearsed and “safe” track because they all know that the western audience is fully accustomed to hear the following:

We accuse Russia of X, we say that our special services have evidence, but we won’t present any; as for the western media, they will, of course, trust the western special services, because they are “democratic” and, therefore, “trustworthy” (Iraq anybody?!).

Another trick, which the Czechs used in this case, is this: on the first day announce urbi et orbi that “we will soon release all the incontrovertible evidence we have” and then simply declare it classified because it is important not to show the Russians the evidence of their own, putatively Russian, operation.  As for the western press, they, of course, simply forget about that and go onto the the next Russia bashing story.

It is simple, but with the kind of sheep the western regimes deal with, it is also effective.

Finally, when truly desperate, you can count on the MI6 run Bellincat to get their “evidence”, I kid you not, from the social media on the Internet.

And, again, the western sheep “eat it all up”, with appetite and gusto!  Sic transit gloria mundi indeed!

Still, accusing the self same two putative GRU agents Petrov and Boshirov shows how desperate the Czechs were too cook up some story literally overnight.  Now they look stupid beyond any conceivable explanations for such a massive and, frankly, hilarious faceplant.

Will the people of the Czech Republic now revolt in outrage against the sheer idiocy of their leaders?  Nah, of course not.  After all, we are living in a post-truth (and, I would argue, post-logical) world where the only thing which matters is to follow the SS motto of “my honor is fidelity” and blind obedience to the masters of the day.

What about the US in all this?  Would “Biden” really be crazy enough to try to murder a foreign leader?

Well, as I like to say, past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior, right?  How many foreign leaders has the CIA actually murdered and how many did she only try, and fail, to murder?  (Note: somebody ought to compare the number of foreign leaders murdered by the US and the USSR.  I am sure that the comparison would be both shocking and very telling).  How about the official (White House admitted) murder of General Soleimani?  Was that operation not far more dangerous than to use locals to try to assassinate a weakened and embattled leader like Lukashenko?

So, you tell me: true story of “Russian disinformation”?

The Saker

PS: in case you wonder, the Russians are laughing hysterically and scratching their heads wondering what in the world happened to a once civilized western society.

PPS: by the way, the Russian FSB also arrested the Ukie consul in Saint Petersburg at the moment when he was receiving classified information from what he thought was an agent.  He will be expelled.  It was a great week end for the FSB – there will be lost of medals handed out for this good work.

UPDATE1:  Maria Zakharova, the Foreign Ministry’s chief spokeswoman has now officially confirmed it all on Russian TV.

UPDATE2: The Kremlin just confirmed the Putin and Biden discussed this topic during their telephone conference.

UPDATE3: Got to love the western media, not a word about the coup, all about the Czech fairy tale.

FM Sergey Lavrov gave an extensive interview to the RBK Media Holding – Communication between Brussels and Moscow has completely fallen apart

Source

FM Sergey Lavrov gave an extensive interview to the RBK Media Holding – Communication between Brussels and Moscow has completely fallen apart

February 20, 2021

A good sub-title for this interview could be “Lavrov Unplugged”.

A quote from the transcript (which incidentally was available faster than any other transcript from the The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation ):

“… when it became clear that Russia did not want to live in the house of “a self-appointed boss,” all these complications began to emerge.

….

All this started when this signal was not perceived (to be more precise, Russia was seen again as a “hoodlum” in the world arena and they were again going to teach it “good manners”). In any event, the West began its ideological preparations, for its current actions, at that time.”

Video in Russian without subtitles or English voiceover as yet.

Question: There is a feeling that the West is very annoyed by the appearance of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine. At first, they were very aggressive and wouldn’t let it go. When I talked with Minister of Trade and Industry Dmitry Manturov, he called it “the vaccine war.” Now the opinion has changed. Is this about the quality of the vaccine or is politics involved in this?

Sergey Lavrov: I think it is possible to use the logic of the Russian proverb that can be translated into English as “love it so but mother says no.” Western experts know that the Sputnik V vaccine is definitely one of the best, if not the very best. Otherwise, there would not be such a stream of requests for it, which is growing geometrically.

On the other hand, they realise that the spread of Sputnik V and other Russian vaccines that will soon enter the international market, will enhance our authority and status in the world. They do not want this to happen. But they have come to realise that their first response was simply outrageous in the context of the facts and medical science. When President Vladimir Putin announced the development of the vaccine in August 2020, the offensive was completely undiplomatic. Their response just betrayed their irritation, you are perfectly right.

And now many countries (the Czech Republic and others) are saying they can’t wait for the certification of the vaccine by the European Medicines Agency. In Hungary, they believe they are ready to start vaccination and supplies are now underway. The number of requests from Europe is steadily on the rise. Just the other day, Prince Albert II of Monaco sent a request for the vaccine for the entire population of his principality.

After independent agencies published their scientific evaluations, the West had to admit that the vaccine was good. Yet, attempts to discredit it continue.

Just yesterday I read a somewhat ambiguous statement by President of France Emmanuel Macron. He put us and the Chinese into the category of those who are trying to gain advantages in the world arena at the expense of their medical achievements. The day before yesterday, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen spoke with an emphatically negative connotation about the supplies of the Russian vaccines to foreign countries.

We must follow the correct position of principle, first voiced by President of Russia Vladimir Putin, notably, that we were the first to develop the vaccine, and we will continue to increase its production. This is not easy, we do not have enough capacities, and this is why we are negotiating with India, South Korea and other countries. At the same time, he said we are open to the broadest possible cooperation.

There is one more important point. When this issue was discussed at the UN the other day, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the countries that have this vaccine or have the money to buy it, not to forget about the poor. In the meantime, attempts are being made to accuse us of trying to gain geopolitical favour by supplying it abroad. This is an obvious discrepancy. It is clear that the West is poorly prepared for this discussion.

Question: So, it’s about the same as when President Putin said at the Davos Forum that the world cannot continue creating an economy that will only benefit the “golden billion,” and we are actually accused of supplying the vaccine for the benefit of the “golden billion.” Still, are they talking about the vaccine like this just because it was made in Russia?

Sergey Lavrov: I don’t see any other reason, because no one even tried to conduct a medical or a scientific test. They just said right away that it was impossible just because it’s impossible, meaning that “no one can do this that quickly.” It was only in October 2020, when the West said they would be able to report on their achievements. President Putin announced in August that the Russian-made vaccine was ready for rollout.

Unfortunately, I often see that the response to everything we do, say or offer is, at best, questioned right off the bat. Usually, they say that “the Russians are playing their geopolitical games again.”

Question: EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, who was here recently and met with you, said that Russia is distancing itself from the West. At the same time, Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov said we are open to cooperation with Europe. You said we are ready to break up, but we are not breaking off our relations. What really stands in the way of normal relations between the EU and Russia?

Sergey Lavrov: A biased attitude, by and large. I worked with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, a good colleague of mine, when he was Spanish Foreign Minister. Now many, in an attempt to give a controversial dimension to the High Representative’s visit to Russia, forget how it all began. In May 2019, Mr Borrell said: “Our old enemy, Russia, says again ‘here I am,’ and it is again a threat.” We then asked his protocol service to confirm what he said. We were told that it was a figure of speech and that he was misunderstood. However, this attitude shows.

We are seen as a stranger. In my interview with Vladimir Solovyov, replying to his question as to whether we are ready to break off with the EU, I gave an affirmative answer because there are no relations to talk about. As former US President Barack Obama once said (although he said it about the Russian economy), relations have been “torn to shreds.”

Indeed, the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement [between the EU and Russia] entered into force in 1997. It contained a number of declarative goals for moving towards common economic, humanitarian and cultural spaces. For many years, we used a mechanism of summits, which were held every six months in Russia and in the EU alternately. In fact, our entire Government held annual meetings with the European Commission to discuss the participants’ responsibilities in the context of over 20 sector-specific dialogues. We were building four common spaces and roadmaps for each of them. These were 100 percent substantive and specific projects. It was all destroyed, just like the Partnership and Cooperation Council, within which the Russian Foreign Minister and the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy reviewed the entire range of relations. This disappeared long before the Ukraine crisis.

Many in our country are just waiting for a chance to pounce on the Russian Government’s foreign policy. We are being asked how we can say that we are ready to break off with the EU when it is our largest trade and economic partner. If we take the EU as a collective partner, it is our largest partner in terms of gross trade. For example, in 2013 (before the Ukraine events) Russia became a WTO member. From that moment, our trade relations were built on the principles advocated by that organisation rather than the EU’s principles. As a single trade bloc, the EU also participated in the WTO. We traded with member countries based on WTO guidelines. If you think the EU is a valuable trade and economic partner, here are some statistics for you: in 2013, the United States was the EU’s biggest trading partner with about $480 billion, followed by China with $428 billion and Russia with $417 billion. That is, these numbers are of the same order of magnitude. Where do we stand now? In 2019, EU’s trade with the United States stood at $750 billion, with China $650 billion, and with Russia at about $280 billion. In 2020, it was $218 billion, if counting with Great Britain, and $191 billion without it.

The reason? It’s the sanctions imposed by our “valued” and largest economic partner for reasons that have never relied on any facts whatsoever. At least, no facts have ever been presented to us. We understand Crimea. We understand Donbass as well. It’s just that the EU admitted its inability, or perhaps, unwillingness, to prevent the anti-constitutional coup with an open Russophobic slant and chose to turn things upside down. Brussels shifted the blame to us and imposed sanctions on Russia rather than the putschists, who, by and large, spat on the guarantees of the European Union, which signed the corresponding agreements, totally ignoring, as I said, the fact that the actions of the government, which they supported, were openly and violently anti-Russian.

Question: Without the events in Ukraine, would our relations with the West have sunk to where they are now?

Sergey Lavrov: It is difficult for me to talk about this. After all, later there were other events linked with the accusations of “the poisoning in Salisbury.” No facts were presented. We were not allowed to meet with our citizens. No evidence was offered. Everything was similar to what is happening now with the alleged poisoning of Alexey Navalny.

Question: It seems the West is looking for a pretext to spoil our relations.

Sergey Lavrov: They are looking but there are many pretexts: it’s always possible to use something as an excuse to put the relationship on the required track. But it’s not that they want to spoil relations. I don’t think this is their main goal. They want to bolster their self-esteem. Now they are starting to act like the US, revealing the mentality of an exclusive group of states. I quoted German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. When asked why they continue discussing sanctions against Russia and what goals they had achieved by imposing sanctions, he replied that he didn’t believe sanctions should be used for any purpose. What matters is that they don’t leave any action by the Russian Federation unpunished.

The concealment of facts that could somehow confirm accusations against us started long before the crisis in Ukraine. We can recall 2007 – the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko in the hospital. There was a coroner’s inquest. Later this trial was declared “public.” In George Orwell’s logic, in Britain this means a “secret trial” during which no inquisitorial procedures of the secret services may be presented. You know, these are system-wide problems.

I listed what we used to have in our relations with the European Union. Nothing is left now, not even sporadic contacts on some international issues. As regards the Iran nuclear programme, we are taking part in the work of the collective group of countries, which are trying to somehow put this programme back on track. This is not part of our relations with the EU proper. In the Middle East, we have a Quartet of mediators consisting of Russia, the US, the EU and the UN. In other words, this is multilateral cooperation rather than our relations with just the EU.

With regard to who is taking steps to prevent our relations from further decline, at least a little, we were thinking about that when Josep Borrell, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, was getting ready to visit Moscow. He suggested cooperating in healthcare and vaccines. We have already discussed this here. As a Brussels institution, the EU will hardly be allowed to contact Russian agencies or companies independently regarding the vaccines. We would sooner cooperate directly with the producers of AstraZeneca, as this is already taking place.

On the eve of Mr Borrell’s visit, we invited his experts to make a joint statement on the Middle East by the Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Our positions are nearly identical on the matter and we thought it would be appropriate to urge the Quartet to resume its activities and call for direct Palestinian-Israeli talks, respect for the relevant UN resolutions, and so on.

We gave them a page and a half text that was easy to approve after the first reading. Several days prior to his arrival, we were told that “it did not work out.” I will reveal a secret because this is a blatant example. I asked Mr Borrell at the negotiating table: “What about this statement? Why didn’t it work out?” He started turning his head all around. It was clear from his reaction, and he confirmed this later, that nobody had even told him about it. These are the people that deal with what some of our liberals call “relations with the EU.”

Question: Concluding this theme, I’d like to say that as a man born in the USSR, I understand that during the Soviet-Western confrontation we had different ideologies, economies and so on. Later, I thought that everything was the same on both sides. They were for democracy and we were for democracy; they had a market economy and we had a market economy. So what are the differences? Why do we fail to find a common language to this day? I thought we found it in the 1990s? Why did we find it then?

Sergey Lavrov: We found it at that time because nobody in the Russian Federation disputed the answer to the question of who was ruling the show. President of Russia Vladimir Putin has talked about this many times. We decided that was it – the end of history. Francis Fukuyama announced that from now on liberal thought would rule the world. Now there are attempts to push this liberal thought to the fore again in a bid to gain international influence. But when it became clear that Russia did not want to live in the house of “a self-appointed boss,” all these complications began to emerge.

Initially, having become President, Vladimir Putin and his team tried to convey this message through diplomatic signals that educated and smart people would be bound to understand. But nobody listened. Then the explanations had to be made politely but openly in the Munich speech. All this started when this signal was not perceived (to be more precise, Russia was seen again as a “hoodlum” in the world arena and they were again going to teach it “good manners”). In any event, the West began its ideological preparations, for its current actions, at that time.

Question: Regarding the sanctions. Bloomberg posted a news item today that new sanctions against Russia are planned concerning the Nord Stream 2, however, they are not going to be tough but rather “soft.” On the other hand, they report that the Americans want to thwart the Nord Stream project but without irritating Germany. Where are we in this situation?

Sergey Lavrov: We are a country that completely complies with the contractual obligations undertaken by our companies that are part of the project, along with the EU companies that joined it. The current situation is largely due to a decision taken by what we call the European Union, a decision that proves beyond doubt what sort of alliance it is. A few years ago, when the Poles, and others sharing their attitude, attempted to impede the Nord Stream project, the Legal Service of the European Commission was asked for legal advice, official opinion. The service presented a document which stated in no uncertain terms that the investment project had been launched long before amendments were made to the EU’s gas directive, the Third Energy Package. That’s it. Period. This issue should be closed for any person who has respect for the law. But no, the European Commission took this opinion and launched its own quasi-legal procedure which resulted in the conclusion that the project had indeed been launched much earlier, yet it fell under this third energy package and the gas directive. That’s what kind of a partner we have in this “relationship.”

This is about how we can “pounce” on them and express readiness to break relations with them when they are our main economic partner – that’s what kind of a partner they are. Meanwhile, now Germany alone is fighting for the project.

And in fact, Joe Biden’s administration will not cancel anything which was done by Donald Trump except for leaving the World Health Organisation (WHO). The Democrats are returning there now.

The NATO defence ministers meeting has just ended. But there was no let-up in US demands to pay 2 percent of a country’s GDP for defence needs, i.e. for purchasing US weaponry. There was no backing off the demands on Europe regarding Nord Stream 2 – to stop participating in some matters that undermine European security. They see it better from across the ocean, right? This is about who is the boss. Europe also wants to run the house but it was taken down a peg. The situation around Nord Stream 2 is straightforward.

For now they are saying publicly that bargaining is underway and possible agreements between Washington and Berlin are being discussed, including that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline may be allowed to be completed and even start operating. However, if at the same time gas transiting via Ukraine is going to be falling, then Nord Stream 2 must be shut off. I cannot decide for Germany, however, it is obvious to me that this proposal is humiliating. As Russian President Vladimir Putin said at his meeting with parliamentary party leaders, this is yet further evidence that they want Russia to pay for their Ukraine geopolitical venture.

Question: Do we have to pay for this geopolitical project?  Why do they think we have to pay for it?

Sergey Lavrov: Because they don’t feel like lashing out on it. They need the Ukrainian regime for the sole purpose of constantly irritating Russia and finding new reasons to support their Russophobic policy. They want to weaken anything around us – Belarus, Central Asia, and now also the South Caucasus, as they got nervous after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s successful mediation mission between Armenia and Azerbaijan: why was this done without them? They are now trying to infiltrate this region and step up their activities there. All of that has nothing to do with the Cold War-era ideology of a showdown between the two systems you talked about a few minutes ago. It has to do with the fact that our Western partners are unwilling, unprepared and unable to speak on an equal footing, whether with Russia, China, or whoever. They need to create a system where they will be the boss regardless. This is why they are taking an increasing dislike to the United Nations since they cannot have total control of it.

Question: Do you see the EU as a monolith, or as something more loose, with certain processes unfolding inside and some countries, no matter what, starting to talk about their willingness to be friends with Russia? In the case of the sanctions, the key figures behind them are, strange as it may seem, the Baltic States, which do not play a prominent role in the EU but, for some reason, everyone is listening to them.

Sergy Lavrov: It sounds inappropriate to refer to the EU as a monolith a mere couple of months after Brexit. This “monolith” is not the same as before. If you mean a monolith in a figurative sense, my answer is no. Quite a few countries are maintaining relations with Russia. The visit of Josep Borrell was the first trip by an EU official of this level to Russia in three years. In the same three years, about two dozen ministers from European Union member countries have visited Russia. We are having a great dialogue, without wasting too much time on confrontation and moralising. Indeed, all of them do have their assignments – a couple of sheets of paper from which they read a script approved by the “party committee” in Brussels.

Question: Do you mean they bring a notebook with instructions with them?

Sergey Lavrov: Certainly. They do not dare to veer off course. This, for example, goes for Alexey Navalny, or the Skripals as in the previous case, or human rights. Now scientist Yury Dmitriyev from Karelia is in the spotlight. They flatly refuse to accept evidence of his involvement in crimes, like pedophilia. They read from their notebook and I would adduce my arguments to the contrary and describe our vision of this or that situation and wonder why we cannot obtain evidence on the Navalny case or the Skripal case. In response they simply read again from their notebook. Apart from this discipline induced by the bloc member states’ solidarity, we discuss things normally. Yes, the EU sets the terms on which [its member countries] participate in the World Trade Organisation (WTO), while we are trading with these countries in the WTO on the terms that were agreed on for Russia to join this organisation. But the EU has nothing to do with this cooperation in trade and investment activity, except for its attempts to restrict trade and economic ties with the sanctions.

You mentioned the Baltic States. Indeed, they run the show in this respect to a great extent. I have talked to your colleagues about this on more than one occasion. When in 2004 there were hectic activities to drag them into the EU, Russia and Brussels maintained a very frank dialogue. The President of the European Commission at the time was Romano Prodi. In 2005, the objective was set to move to visa-free travel.

Question: Nobody has any memories of this today.

Sergey Lavrov: We remember this when we reply to those who ask how we dare say that we are ready to break relations with the EU. You mentioned the Baltic States. We had long been negotiating an updated version of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between Russia and the EU, which the EU terminated in 2014. It was expected to go a bit beyond the boundaries of the WTO rules and allow us to negotiate additional trade preferences. At one time there was an objective to establish a free trade zone, but this has long since fallen into oblivion. However, there were plans to update the agreement in order to liberalise trade even more, in addition to the WTO rules. In 2014, they ceased to exist – another example of breaking down our relations.

A visa-free travel agreement was also finalised back in 2013. We had met all of the EU requirements: we agreed that only people with biometric passports would be eligible for visa-free travel and that those who violated EU entry rules or any other EU rules while in an EU country during a visa-free period would be subject to readmission. We signed the relevant agreement. Everything they asked for, and that suited us, was done. Later, when it was time to sign the agreement and then ratify it, the EU said: “Let’s wait.” It did not take us long to learn why they had said this, all the more so as they did not try to conceal their motives. This Brussels team decided that it was politically incorrect to approve a visa-free travel agreement with Russia prior to offering it to Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova.

Question: In other words, Russia was made dependent on other countries?

Sergey Lavrov: It sure was, at the Baltic States’ initiative. This is also important for understanding the nature of our relations. This is an attitude from people who decided that they were European, which is not at all the case. Russia sees Europe in all its diversity. If the “party committee” in Brussels does not like it, we cannot force them to.

Question: Europe stretches at least to the Urals.

Sergey Lavrov: Correct. In 2009, when Jose Manuel Barroso was President of the European Commission, we held a Russia-EU summit in Khabarovsk. Our European colleagues arrived later in the day. We went out for a walk along the embankment. We were showing them around the city and Mr Barroso said: “It’s amazing. It took us 13 hours to get here from Brussels, and it’s still Europe.” This is the key message behind the slogan “Europe from the Atlantic to the Pacific.”

Question: I’m going to ask you about one other country, Belarus. There will be a presidential summit on February 22. President Lukashenko will come to Russia. Recently, Foreign Minister of Belarus Vladimir Makei gave an interview to the RBC media holding and mentioned Belarus’ multi-directional foreign policy. Do you think we have managed to work well with Minsk on integration? What should we expect from these talks?

Sergey Lavrov: The term “multi-directional” should not be used as a profanity. Most normal states want it. Russia, too, has used a multi-directional approach as the basis of its foreign policy since 2002. In our understanding, a multi-directional approach is possible only if based of equality, respect and a balance of interests, as well as mutual benefit. This is the only way it can work.

First, they threaten us with sanctions, and then the same people are saying that we “had it coming” and impose unilateral restrictions on us, and then say that we are “bad” because “we are looking to the East.” Everything has been turned upside down.

Russia is a Eurasian country. We have close contacts with Europe, which have been cultivated for centuries, before anyone even thought of a European Union, and the Europeans fought and competed against each other. By the way, we often helped them achieve peace and fair outcomes in wars.

Question: We even saved the monarchies?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, and they are aware of it. The republic in the United States, too, to a certain extent.

However, our European neighbours have severed almost all of our ties and left only sporadic contacts on international crises that are of interest to the EU in order to keep a profile on the international arena. In many ways, the EU is driven by a desire to be seen as an important operator in Syrian and other matters. If we are not welcome here, we will simply continue to work with our other neighbours who are not prone to whims like that.

Objectively, our trade with the EU is almost half of what it was in 2013. Our trade with China has doubled over the same period.

Question: Back to Minsk. What can we expect from talks between President Putin and President Lukashenko on February 22?

Sergey Lavrov: There are some who want to interpret Minsk’s words about the multi-directional nature of its foreign policy as proof of its “unreliability” as a partner and ally. I do not think so.

In the Council of Europe, of which Belarus is not a member yet, we advocate the CoE establishing relations with Minsk. We supported the accession of Minsk to a number of Council of Europe conventions. We have always been in favour of Belarus enjoying normal relations with its western neighbours. I’m not sure what the CoE will do next. Russophobia has swept over most of the EU countries, and the most “violent” ones are in charge of the agenda.

I read the remarks by President Lukashenko (not all his interviews, but they were cited) to the effect that he sees no obstacles to deepening integration. Progress will depend on how President Vladimir Putin and President Lukashenko agree on things.

There are two more days to go before the talks. I don’t think we should be speculating on the outcome of the summit. We will know everything soon.

Question: Recently, US President Joseph Biden said the United States will no longer be “rolling over in the face of Russia’s aggressive actions” (ostensibly, Donald Trump did this). How can we build our relations now? Are there subjects we can discuss with Washington? Are they ready to talk with us?

Sergey Lavrov: These comments on who is rolling over or will be rolling over in the face of someone’s actions illustrate a very deep split in US society. It reached a level of personal enmity that is aggressive and contrary to American political culture. The politicians did not particularly mince their words during previous presidential campaigns or prior to elections to Congress, but I don’t remember anything comparable to what is being said now.

Our liberal media promote a tough pro-Western line. In looking for objects of criticism in Russia, they are infringing on the threshold of decency and getting personal. They are very crude, and behave not like journalists but like inveterate propagandists, accusing others of propaganda.

The fact that the New Start Treaty was extended in time is a very positive step. This shouldn’t be overrated, but it shouldn’t be underrated, either. In his election speeches Joseph Biden mentioned his willingness to extend it, but these were election speeches after all. His promise could be interpreted differently later, but he extended this important document for five years without any conditions, like we suggested. If this had not happened, there would not have been a single instrument of international law, not only in Russian-US relations but in the entire range of multilateral ties, that contained any restrictions in the sphere of disarmament, arms control and nuclear weapons non-proliferation.

It is very important that just a few days prior to February 5, 2021, the date the treaty was extended for five years, President of Russia Vladimir Putin and US President Joseph Biden reaffirmed their intention to promote talks on strategic stability in these new conditions, in their first telephone conversation after the US presidential election. The situation has changed substantially since 2010: We and the Americans have acquired new weapons some of which are covered by the treaty. We announced this last year. We said that they must be taken into account. Some other weapons are not covered by the treaty – they are basically very different because of their physical characteristics.

Question: Are you talking about hypersonic weapons?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, the United States also has such weapons. Hypersonic weapons are partly covered by the New START Treaty, if these are ballistic missiles.

The New START Treaty already covers some weapons systems, so we now have to include these weapons systems in the Treaty for the next five years and see how all this will be verified. But it does not cover some weapons.

The United States has developed a new system called the Prompt Global Strike (PGS). By the way, this system implies a non-nuclear strike. We have suggested negotiating all issues without exception that have an impact on strategic stability and the legitimate interests of the contracting parties.

Question: Did they agree to this? Are they ready?

Sergey Lavrov: In October 2020, we submitted draft joint understandings to the Trump administration. This rough outline shows how we can sit down and start negotiating the agenda. We have received no reply from them. Instead of addressing this matter, Marshall Billingslea, the Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control, mostly made vocal statements that the United States was all for it but that the Russians did not want to do this.

When I spoke with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, I reminded him that Russia had submitted its proposals to the Trump administration, which dealt with this matter and many other issues, including cybersecurity and concerns over interference in each other’s domestic affairs. We would like to get back to them, and to hear the Biden administration’s opinions in this regard. We realise that they now need some time to settle down in the White House and the Department of State. I hope that this will not take too long.

There are still some questions on disarmament, for example, the lineup of participants in the disarmament process. The US position on China, approved by Donald Trump, remains unchanged; the same concerns a number of other matters.

Regarding multilateral talks, first of all, this should not annul Russian-US agreements because we have several times more nuclear weapons than other nuclear countries. Second, if we make this a multilateral process, then all prospective participants, primarily the five nuclear powers, should reach a voluntary agreement. We will never try to persuade China. We respect the position of Beijing, which either wants to catch up with us or proposes that we first reduce our arsenals to China’s levels and then start on the talks. All circumstances considered, if this is a multilateral process, then we will get nowhere without the United Kingdom and France. The Trump administration insisted that China should take part and at the same time said about its allies that they were the good guys, literally. This sounds funny. Apart from the complicated and lengthy disarmament process, we do not have so many promising spheres where we can cooperate constructively.

Question: Does this mean that their vision of the issue is entirely different or that they are reluctant to negotiate?

Sergey Lavrov: They think that they are the boss, and this mentality is still here and it determines the perception of their enemies. So far, they have not designated China as an enemy, but they have called us an enemy a couple of times. Democrats have an additional motivation for expanding this policy. Their position is that, supposedly unlike with Donald Trump, they will be “no Russian tail wagging the dog.”

Question: Don’t you think that Democrats have come to power with the intention of taking revenge against Russia, and that they will implement Donald Trump’s anti-Russia plans that he failed to accomplish in four years.

Sergey Lavrov: They made such statements during the election campaign. Joe Biden and his supporters said openly that the Trump administration had gone soft, that it was constantly making advances and working for the Russian intelligence. Donald Trump said that he was conducting the toughest policy with regard to Russia. He said that he liked Vladimir Putin, but he introduced more sanctions than all of his predecessors taken together.

We are also witnessing a cowboy-style showdown there. But this is normal for US politics, especially today. Disagreements between liberals who considered liberalism an irreversible trend have become aggravated to the greatest possible extent. Donald Trump, who did not like liberal principles and approaches, suddenly took over. He tried to think more about the basic interests of the American founders, the people who moved there (and it has always been a nation of immigrants), and who accepted its laws. So, the big question is whether people should remain loyal to the country that has accepted them, or do they want to erode its principles?

Question: Should they try to fit in?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, and they want to be the boss. Everything boils down to this once again.

Question: Karabakh, the subject of that. Fortunately, the war is over and a peace agreement has been inked. We covered extensively the role Russia and Azerbaijan played. I have a question to do with Turkey. I was in Azerbaijan during the war and heard many people say that the Azerbaijanis are supportive of the Great Turan idea (a state that covered the territory from Turkey to Central Asia). Is Moscow concerned by Turkey becoming a stronger state?

Sergey Lavrov: This opinion is entertained by a portion of the society. I’m not going to give a percentage of how many people support this idea. I’m not sure many of those who informed you about this really know what “Great Turan” is all about.

The relations between Turkic-speaking peoples have become an integral part of cooperation between Turkey and the corresponding countries, including Azerbaijan and a number of Central Asian states.

There is the Cooperation Council of the Turkic-Speaking States, in which we participate as observers. A number of our republics are interested in contacts with it and are promoting their specific projects.

There is TURKSOY  ̵  the International Organisation of Turkic Culture. There’s also the Parliamentary Assembly of Turkic-Speaking Countries. All of them have been functioning for a long time now. They draft their own plans and hold functions. Their cooperation is mainly based on cultural, linguistic and educational traditions.

Speaking about the Great Turan as a supranational entity in a historical sense, I don’t think that this is what Turkey is after. I don’t see how former Soviet and now independent countries can be supportive of this idea in any form. On the contrary, their foreign policies and practices focus on strengthening their national states.

Turkey has its interests which include its fellow tribesmen who speak the same language. We also want the Russian World to communicate. We have created an extensive network of organisations of our compatriots living abroad; we are opening Russian World centres at universities in different countries with purely linguistic, educational and scientific goals.

The Centre for the Russian Language and Culture created by the Russkiy Mir Foundation was recently closed in Krakow. This is an obvious step for Poland, as well as for the Baltic States, which are fighting everything that is Russian. Ukraine followed in their footsteps and shut down several media outlets and imposed a language ban. We are well aware of all this. We will keep raising this matter at the OSCE, the Council of Europe and the corresponding UN agencies. One cannot pretend that this comes with the “growth” and the “coming of age” of the Ukrainian nation, which, as they say, is an “ill-fated” one. The Ukrainians claim that they are the descendants of Alexander the Great. In that case, they should be responsible for the orders they introduce. The EU, and Germany and France as the Normandy format participants, avoid performing their duties when it comes to “educating” Ukraine in terms of making it comply with the Minsk agreements, and this has become a chronic behaviour pattern which does not reflect well on Germany or France.

Question: It was announced that Ukraine was recognised an unfriendly state. How will this affect relations between us?

Sergey Lavrov: This is just a descriptive attribute. What’s friendly about it? Russian schools are being closed, customers and shop assistants are not allowed to speak their native language, and the Nazis are burning Russian flags.

Question: This is reminiscent of the Baltic States 20 to 30 years ago.

Sergey Lavrov: Back when the Baltic States were about to be admitted to the EU, we asked the Brussels bureaucrats, the Eurogrands, whether they were sure they were doing the right thing. The problems that are at odds with the membership criteria persist, including non-observance of the rights of the Russian-speaking minorities in Latvia and Estonia. We were told that the Baltic States are phobic of Russia (war, the so-called occupation, etc.), the EU will bring it into its fold, it will calm down and ethnic minorities will be happy and contented. Things turned out the other way round. The Russians were not granted any rights, and statelessness is still there.

Question: Let’s go back to Turkey: Ankara’s stronger position, its active role in the Nagorno-Karabakh war, President Erdogan’s visit to Northern Cyprus (which a Turkish leader has not done for quite a while). What does Moscow think about it?

Sergey Lavrov: As far as Turkey and Northern Cyprus are concerned, we see it as Ankara’s relations with its “fellow countrymen.” I have not heard about Turkey refusing to honour the UN obligations accepted by the conflicting parties. These obligations include seeking a mutually acceptable solution and creating a bicommunal bizonal federation. There is a discussion of whether the federation will be strong or weak. But there is no disagreement about the fact that it must be one state. Although not so very long ago, it was the common opinion that the entire project would fail and they would have to create two states. We understand that Ankara is interested in Cypriot Turks living in equality and their rights being observed. We support the idea that the same motives with which Turkey explains its actions in the Eastern Mediterranean, including with respect to hydrocarbons, should determine its dialogue with Greece and Turkey.

On February 17, 2021, I spoke with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias who told me that on January 25, 2021, he had had a probing conversation with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. They did not iron out all issues. But it is good news that a dialogue was established. They agreed to continue it. On February 18, 2021, I spoke with Mevlut Cavusoglu. We continued sharing opinions following the telephone conversations between President Putin and President Erdogan on Syria, Libya, Nagorno-Karabakh and our bilateral relations. New power units of a nuclear power station are under construction; the TurkStream project is ongoing. There is much common ground between our countries when it comes to energy.

In October 2019, the first Russia-Africa Summit in history was held in Sochi. A record number of heads of state and heads of government attended. In the course of the preparations for the summit, we reviewed the development of our relations with African countries and the current state of affairs, including from the perspective of expanding our presence on the continent which political scientists consider to be the most promising in the long term. We reviewed other countries’ presence in Africa. Since 2002, the number of Turkish embassies in Africa has increased from 12 to 42. Turkey’s trade with the region is estimated at around 20 billion dollars a year and Russia’s trade is around 15 billion dollars. This is to say that Turkey has an eye for potential.

Question: Perhaps Turkey is disappointed with the EU because nobody accepted it?

Sergey Lavrov: I believe it could partially be the case. In its contacts with the EU, Ankara continues to insist that the EU promised it accession. Turkey is spreading its wings and gaining weight despite the existing economic problems at home. Turkey mainly goes on by accumulating its national debt but this model is widely common around the world.

Question: 2020 is the year of the pandemic. During such times, countries should join forces and help each other. Do you think that this was the case? Or did the world fail to put aside disagreements and rally together even when it came to the COVID-19 infection?

Sergey Lavrov: Now this conversation is back to square one. There are no ideologies anymore. But this ideology-based, politicised perception of the Russian vaccine was not a very good signal. The Sputnik V vaccine was announced in August 2020, many months after the G20 summit (March 2020) where Vladimir Putin strongly advocated cooperation in vaccine production. Even then, we were ready to create joint scientific teams. But Western countries and their companies, unwilling to help competitors, did not respond to that proposal. So much for unification in this purely medical field.

There is also the humanitarian sphere. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet made calls during the pandemic to suspend all unilateral sanctions in fields directly affecting food, the supply of medicine and medical equipment, in order to alleviate the suffering of the population in countries that were under unilateral sanctions (regardless of their reasons). There was no reaction from the initiators of those sanctions (primarily the US and the EU). Also, there was no response to President Vladimir Putin’s proposal, at the G20 summit, to create ‘green corridors’ for the period of the pandemic, to move goods under the most relaxed rules – without tax, duties, tariffs, delays, or special customs inspections.

We are all in the same boat, and it’s not so big. Some forecasts say this situation will continue for a long time, and the coronavirus will be a seasonal infection, and it is not at all the same as the flu or other diseases, so we will have to use precautions permanently, use PPE. This realisation should somehow prod countries to more open cooperation, especially those that up until recently had some doubts.

True, there have been some good shifts. One of them is the United States’ return to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Some hotheads in Washington believe that, now that they have returned, they will make others do their bidding. There are fewer than 50 Chinese people in the WHO Secretariat, 25 Russians, over 200 Americans, and more than 2,000 NATO representatives. The past US administration said China was manipulating the WHO. That is not true. Otherwise, we are admitting the complete helplessness of 2,000 NATO members who should be the majority in the WHO Secretariat.

Nevertheless, there are some positive results though. This problem has been recently considered at the UN General Assembly and the Security Council. It is important now to focus on equitable collaboration within the WHO. Besides the attempts at carrying out “soft coups” and establishing their own rules in the organisation, hardly based on consensus, an idea has been suggested to move the main decision-making on global health policies outside the universal organisation. We have been pointing out this tendency for some time now – the one to replace international law with a rules-based world order. As it turns out in reality, those rules boil down to working out all decisions in a circle of those who agree with you rather than in a group with universal representation where you have to argue your case and search for balances and compromises. And then you just present the decision as ‘the ultimate truth’ and demand that everyone respect it.

This underlies the Franco-German initiative for a new multilateralism and some limited partnerships in the West. For example, Paris has launched an International Partnership Against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons. Under this non-universal, non-UN partnership, the EU creates the so-called ‘horizontal’ regime of sanctions to be imposed on anyone that France-initiated partnership points at. A similar sanctions regime is being created for cybersecurity. Instead of any open-ended discussion, the French are promoting some partnership to defend freedom in cyberspace. This is another example of rules on which ‘order’ will be based.

There are attempts to start similar groups outside the WHO. But people’s health is not a field where one can play geopolitics. Unless there is a conspiracy behind this to reduce the population of the Earth. Many are now starting to develop such theories and concepts.

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