ما هي تغييرات السياسة الأميركيّة في حال خسارة دونالد ترامب

باريس – نضال حمادة

تظهر النتائج شبه النهائية للانتخابات الرئاسية في أميركا تقدّم المرشح الديمقراطي جو بايدن على الرئيس المنتهية ولايته دونالد ترامب، وإنْ كان بفارق ضئيل يجعل ترامب يحاول عرقلة هذه النتيجة عبر الاعتراض وتقديم الشكاوى، دون أن يكون لذلك تأثير مباشر على عملية الانتقال في الحكم التي سوف تحصل بعد شهرين من الآن في حال ثبتت النتائج الحالية بفوز بايدن.

الآن ومع اقتراب موعد ذهاب ترامب كما تشير صناديق الاقتراع، ما الذي سوف يتغيّر في السياسة الأميركية في العالم وفي الشرق الأوسط بخاصة؟

لا شك في أنّ أوّل المتغيّرات سوف يكون في السعودية على صعيد صراع أطراف آل سعود على السلطة ودعم ترامب المباشر لمحمد بن سلمان الذي مكّنه من السيطرة على مقاليد الحكم في السعودية وزجّ كلّ أطراف آل سعود الأقوياء من أبناء عمومته في السجون، ودعمه لإبن سلمان في حرب اليمن التي ربما لن تغيّر إدارة بايدن الموقف منها بقدر ما سوف تسحب الدعم الكبير داخلياً لإبن سلمان في وجه أبناء عمومته الذين يتحيّنون الفرص للثأر منه.

تركيا سوف تتأثر بسبب كره جو بايدن الشخصي لأردوغان، وهو لم يتورّع (أيّ بايدن) عن التصريح مرتين أنّ أميركا يجب أن تعمل على إسقاط أردوغان من حكم تركيا، وهذا ما سوف يزيد اعتماد أردوغان على روسيا وقد يخلق أجواء إيجابية أكثر في سورية.

روسيا سوف تفتقد ترامب الذي حفلت ولايته بتعاون بينه وبين بوتين في أكثر من مكان، منها سورية التي قرّر ترامب مغادرتها لكن ضغوط الجمهوريّين عليه وأموال العرب التي دفعت له جعلته يتراجع عن قراره هذا ثلاث مرات.

إيران التي وعد بايدن بإعادة العمل بالاتفاق النووي معها، وقد تكون غلطة ترامب القاتلة إلغاء هذا الاتفاق من دون إعطاء أيّ بديل عنه للعالم ولإيران، التي ترى أنّ بايدن بعكس ترامب لن ينسحب من سورية ولا من أفغانستان ولا من العراق، وبالتالي فإنّ أجواء التوتر مع أميركا في ظلّ حكمه سوف تستمرّ، كما أنّ كلام بايدن عن ضرورة إسقاط أردوغان لا يصبّ في مصلحة إيران التي ترى أنّ أميركا سوف تعود من باب إسقاط أردوغان إلى سياسة إسقاط الأنظمة في المنطقة.

في سياسات الحصار التي عمل عليها ترامب لا شيء يوحي أنّ بايدن سوف يوقف العمل بها أو بجزء منها من دون مقابل، هو طوال حملته الانتخابية لم ينتقد قوانين الحصار التي فرضها ترامب على إيران وسورية وغيرها من البلدان، وبالتالي لن يكون التخلي عن هذه السياسات من دون مقابل.

على صعيد دول الغرب تترقب كلّ من ألمانيا وفرنسا بفارغ الصبر ذهاب ترامب الذي عمل على تفكيك أوروبا ودعم بوريس جونسون في خروج بريطانيا من الاتحاد الأوروبي، وكانت علاقات ترامب مع ماكرون وميركل سيئة على الصعيد الشخصي بعكس علاقته الشخصيّة مع بوتين مثلاً.

الصين تنظر بارتياح لخروج ترامب من البيت الأبيض وهو الذي دخل معها في حرب تجارية من دون هوادة، واتهمها بتصنيع ونشر فيروس كورونا، وكانت علاقته بها عبارة عن حفلات من الكره وتوجيه الشتائم.

أخيراً الخاسر الأكبر على الصعيد الشخصي سوف يكون بنيامين نتنياهو صنو محمد بن سلمان الذي سوف يفقد ترامب الداعم الكبير لكلّ اليمين المتطرف الأميركي و»الإسرائيلي» رغم أنّ بايدن أعلن مرة أنه صهيوني لكن علاقته بنتنياهو كانت سيئة إبان وجوده في الحكم مع باراك أوباما ولا شيء يوحي بتحسّنها لحدّ الآن…

Why Is Europe Courting Revolution?

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Why Is Europe Courting Revolution? - CORONA stocks

Alastair Crooke

November 2, 2020

All eyes remain on the U.S. election, and on fathoming its consequences. But in the shadow of ‘The Election’, there are other ‘moving parts’: Germany just offered Washington ‘a sweetheart deal’ in which, Europe – with Germany leading – accepts to leverage America’s full-spectrum strategy of isolating and weakening Russia and China. And in return it is asking the U.S. to acquiesce to German leadership of a ‘power-political’, European entity that is raised to parity with the U.S. That, bluntly, is to say, Germany is angling for ‘superpower’ status, atop an EU ‘empire’ for the new era. Putin recognised such a possibility (Germany aspiring to be a superpower) during his recent speech to Valdai.

But the other ‘moving parts’ to this bid are very much in motion, too: Firstly, Germany’s ploy is contingent on their hopes for a Biden win, which may, or may not, occur. And then, too, President Macron seeks for himself, and for France, the leadership of Europe – with this latter – to an extent – being contingent on a ‘no deal’ Brexit taking place at the end of the year, that would further weaken a dis-animated and fading Merkel. France rather, plots the ‘Great Reset’ of Europe: A regulatory and values enforced ‘space’, underpinned by a common fiscal and debt regime that would rebuild France’s economic infrastructure.

All this raises many questions: Should Trump win, he can be expected to puncture any German (or French) aspiration to drain away some of America’s power, however nicely the German FM wraps it, as the U.S. not so much losing power, but as gaining “a strong partner on equal terms”. Huh!

The idea that Europe can leverage this partnership through sweet-talking Germany’s commitment “to the West as a system of values”, which is “at risk in its entirety”, and which, only Germany and the U.S. together can keep strong – does seem a bit of a daydream. Even when sugar-wrapped with “defending against the unmistakable Russian thirst for power, and Chinese ambitions for global supremacy”. Firstly, there is still Trump, and secondly —

China and Russia clearly see the game. Yet European leaders seem to expect that the former will continue as if nothing is awry. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer seems to think so (she is both Defence Minister, and Chair of the CDU, Merkel’s own party). In terms of containing “China’s aggressively controlled state capitalism”, she suggests creating a European trade sphere that is open only to those who want to strengthen and support the liberal, rules-based order – and to which other states must ‘submit’ (Macron’s words). These are the bones to how Brussels proposes to achieve ‘strategic autonomy’ (Charles Michel’s term).

Here are some extracts of Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer’s ‘deal’ given in a 23 October speech:

“… Most of all, America has given us what we call ‘Westbindung’ … Westbindung, to me, is and remains, a clear rejection of the historic temptation of equidistance. Westbindung anchors us firmly in NATO and the EU and ties us closely to Washington, Brussels, Paris and London. It clearly and rightly positions us against a romantic fixation on Russia – and also against an illiberal corporative state that rejects parties and parliaments [i.e. China] … Westbindung is the answer to the famous “German question”, the question of what Germany stands for … Only America and Europe together can keep the West strong, defending it against the unmistakable Russian thirst for power and Chinese ambitions for global supremacy … To be the giver [in a process of ‘give and take with the U.S.] would require us to take a firm power-political stance. To ambitiously play the geopolitical game. But even looking at all this, there are still some Americans who are not convinced that they need NATO. I understand that. Because there is one thing still missing: That is for the Europeans to take powerful action themselves, when push comes to shove. So that the United States can see Europe as a strong partner on equal terms, not as a damsel in distress. As you can see: the German dilemma is a European dilemma as well. We stay dependent [on the U.S.], but at the same time, we must come into our own. In strengthening Europe like this, Germany must play a key role … enabling it to operate more independently of, and more closely with, the United States at the same time …”.

Three major geo-political issues here are intersecting: Firstly, Germany is metamorphosing politically, in a way that holds disturbing parallels with its transition in the pre-WW1, European setting. In short, the ‘German Question’ is surfacing again (but not in AKK’s way): When the Berlin Wall fell, Russia supported the reunification of Germany and pinned hopes on Germany being a partner for the wider unification project: the construction of a ‘Greater Europe’.

It proved to be a chimaera: Germany, far from supporting Russia’s inclusion, instead, favoured the expansion of Europe and NATO to Russia’s borders. The EU – under U.S. pressure – was forming a Greater Europe that would eventually include all the states of Europe, except Russia.

But in so doing, West Europe absorbed into the EU the tumour of East European neuralgia on Russia. Berlin, all the while, has played on America’s visceral hostility towards Russia – more as a tool to build out its European space up to the Russian border. Germany thus has prioritised assuaging Eastern European ancient antipathies, above any real attempt at a relationship with Russia. Now Germany wants to ‘play it again’: In a July interview, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said that the Russian leadership must be “confronted with a clear position: We are well-fortified, and in case of doubt, ready to defend ourselves. We see what Russia is doing, and we will not let the Russian leadership get away with it”.

Well: Fool me once … but fool me twice …? The Navalny episode was the last straw. It was a blatant lie. Merkel and Macron knew it to be a lie. And they knew that Moscow knew it, too. Yet they both preferred to toss the Russophobes another ‘bone’. Moscow gave up with them.

The real puzzle is why Moscow put up with this play for so long. The answer perhaps, lies with the Russian two-headed eagle, whose heads face in opposite directions: one toward Europe, and the other toward Asia. Merkel’s obvious deceit is stretching and testing social trust in Russia, just too far. The Russian élites may lean towards Europe, but their base looks East. Navalny was the humiliating straw that broke the camel’s back

Now Macron – still energised, but himself politically weakened – hopes to drain further Merkel’s strength (in mercantilist terms), through engineering a UK no-deal Brexit that would damage Germany’s huge trade surplus with Britain, at the very moment that Germany is losing markets in Russia (and now possibly in China); and when America, if Trump is re-elected, would likely embark on a trade war with Europe.

Weakening Merkel’s hand – that is – in opposing an European joint debt instrument, together with a common fiscal policies, is the aim, so that France might draw down on German fiscal resources placed within a ‘common pot’, and then deployed to revamp the French economy.

The Brussels plan for a ‘Great Reset’ – transforming the European economy, and the social sphere – through automation and technology is, as Tom Luongo has noted delusional: “[W]hat’s been pretty clear to me is Europe’s delusions that it can subjugate the world under its rubric, forcing its rules and standards on the rest of us, including China, [whilst] again allowing the U.S. to act as its proxy – [as Europe] tries to maintain its [‘power-political’] standing is delusional”.

Why?

‘Delusional’, as although China may be an “aggressively controlled state capitalism” in Euro-speak, it is also a major ‘civilisational state’, with its own distinct values. Brussels may call their regulatory space ‘open’, but it is clearly exclusionary, and not multilateral. The action of this politics is only pushing the world towards a separation of distinct regulatory spheres – and toward deeper recession.

On the practical plane, whereas first phase Covid tended to provide support to Europe’s incumbent governments, this present infection spike is shredding support for incumbents. Protests and riots are increasingly taking place across Europe. Episodes of violence have been met with horror by the authorities, which suspect that organized crime and radical groups are at work to spark a political wildfire. And that potential is very much there.

To the structural unemployment already incurred in phase one, now must be added another wave of possibly irreversible unemployment, (again) in the services sector. For small businesses and the self-employed, it is a nightmare. Not surprisingly, the anger grows as those losing their means of living observe that civil servants and the middle classes more generally, are passing through this episode, virtually unscathed.

European governments have been caught off-guard. There is absolute confusion as governments try to square keeping the economy alive, with containing the infected from overwhelming hospitals – achieving neither. This represents the cost of the ‘summer opening’ to save the tourist season. No one is on their balcony these evenings banging cooking pots in communal solidarity. Today, protests and riots have taken their place.

Into this mounting anger is inserted dark suspicion. Some may view Covid as pure conspiracy; others will not. Yet it is not ‘conspiracy’ to believe that European governments may knowingly have used the pandemic to increase their tools of social control, (despite ‘distancing’ being a genuine medical containment strategy). Was this concerted in anticipation of the changes implicit to the ‘Great Reset’? We do not know. Yet, from the outset, western governments couched their measures as ‘war’ – and as war that required war-time state-directed economics, and war-time public compliance.

Rightly or wrongly, it is becoming a culture war. Overtones of the anger on U.S. streets. Again, dark suspicions that cultural life is being closed down in order to prepare Europeans for the drowning of their cultural identities into a big Brussels-made, melting-pot. These fears may be misplaced, but they are ‘out there’, and viral.

It is Europe’s political fabric and societal cohesion that is in play – and its leaders are not just confused: They fear.

It would indeed be hubristic delusion then, were European leaders to proceed with the automation ‘Great Reset’, and add yet more structural unemployment to a pile, already threatening to topple, under its growing weight (into mass protest). Do they want revolution?

CHICKEN KIEV MEETS COLD TURKEY: BLACK SEA AXIS EMERGES?

South Front

Chicken Kiev Meets Cold Turkey: Black Sea Axis Emerges?

Written by J.Hawk exclusively for SouthFront

Kiev’s Unrequited Love

On the face of it, an alliance between Turkey and Ukraine seems like a rather odd creation, yet one that may surprisingly durable simply because neither country has anywhere else to turn. What practically dooms them to a partnership if not an outright alliance is their unenviable geographic and geopolitical position of occupying the strange “no man’s land” between Russia, NATO, and the Middle East. It is, of course, largely a predicament of their own making. Ukraine, with considerable Western backing and encouragement but nevertheless mostly through efforts of a faction of its own oligarchy, opted out of the Russia-centered network of loose alliances, trade partnerships, and other forms of cooperation that were mutually beneficial to the two in the previous two decades. But that defection was not rewarded by the West in a way the likes of Poroshenko, Yatsenyuk, Avakov, Parubiy, and other architects of the Maidan coup expected. Merely being stridently anti-Russian did not prove enough to warrant a shower of US and European cash, only onerous IMF loans which moreover come with conditions Kiev elites are in no hurry to abide by. EU foreign policy chief Josef Borrel lecturing Kiev that the European Union is not an “ATM machine” delivered that point loud and clear: Kiev is supposed to privatize whatever crown jewels its economy still has (at this point, mainly agricultural land), fight corruption of its own elites and facilitate the corruption of Western elites. Joseph Robinette Biden Junior is hardly the only Western politician with a talentless son in need of a lucrative sinecure. There are entire Western companies eager to participate in the thinly disguised plunder that the privatization of Ukraine’s economy will inevitably turn into. A Kiev court’s recent decision to declare the country’s anti-corruption institutions that were painstakingly stood up with considerable aid and tutelage from Western governments, down to screening appropriately-minded individuals for the job, looks as if it were calculated to send a middle-finger gesture to Borrel in terms even dense EU bureaucratic hacks will comprehend. Pro-EU newspapers like Kiev Post were quick to label this a “death of democracy”, presumably with the intent of interesting EU and NATO in sponsoring yet another Maidan since last one seems not to be delivering the goods. The expected shower of Western weaponry has not materialized, probably because NATO is afraid to give Ukraine so much aid that it will risk a full-blown war with Russia.

Ankara’s Burning Hate

Chicken Kiev Meets Cold Turkey: Black Sea Axis Emerges?

Erdogan’s Turkey, by contrast, is in process of de-facto opting out of NATO, though neither Turkey nor the alliance itself want to take the final step of severing ties completely. NATO membership is still beneficial to Turkey. While the procurement of Russian S-400 air defense systems angered NATO and US in particular, resulting in the expulsion of Turkey from the F-35 program and the cancellation of F-35 sale to the country, evidently Ankara hopes that by nominally remaining in the alliance it limits NATO and EU sanctions that would no doubt be far harsher if it were totally out of the alliance. The hope that Turkey, possibly post-Erdogan, will yet see the error of its ways and return to the fold, prevents NATO from adopting harsher stances that would definitely push Ankara away. Yet the drifting apart is unmistakable, and the animosity between Turkey’s leaders and their Western European counterparts is so intense as to beggar belief. While Germany’s Merkel is careful to tip-toe around the issue due to fear of another wave of refugees as well as unrest among the large Turkish diaspora in Germany, France’s Macron seems to have taken a personal affront to Erdogan’s suggestion he might need a mental evaluation and will press the issue of EU sanctions against Turkey at future Union summits.

But from Turkey’s perspective, getting a cold shoulder from the EU is par for the course. Its own migration to the geopolitical gray zone of Eurasia was motivated by EU’s failure to admit Turkey as a member after decades of leading it by the nose and promising neighborhood in some nebulously distant future right after Hell froze over. Like Ukraine, Turkey was not seeking EU membership because of some mythical “shared values”. It, too, saw EU as an ATM machine that would shower Turkey, one of the poorest countries on the continent, with development assistance and moreover allow Turks to freely travel and work throughout the Union. Needless to say, neither of these prospects appealed to pretty much any European country, no matter how close or distant it was geographically. So after decades of leading Turkey by the nose, EU politely put an end to the charade citing problems with Turkey’s democracy. Thus snubbed, Erdogan opted to chart an independent course and appears to be finding a similarly snubbed oligarch clique in Kiev looking for ways the two countries could extract mutual benefit from their isolated status.

Quid pro Quos

There are plenty of those to be had, as limited as Ukraine’s and Turkey’s resources are, compared to such patrons as EU, NATO, US. Faced with isolation and even a potential ban on arms exports, Turkey has a strong incentive to exploit the resources of the Ukrainian defense industry and engage in some export substitution in case vital supplies are no longer available from the West. Canada’s and Austria’s ban on exports of optronics and engines needed for the Bayraktar TB2 combat drones means Ukraine’s ability to provide substitutes would be most welcome. Ukraine, for its part, would not be against deploying a huge attack drone fleet of its own in the hopes of replicating Azerbaijan’s successful offensive against Nagorno-Karabakh on the Donbass, though there Ukraine’s drones would probably run afoul of Novorossiya’s air defenses in the same way Turkish drones were brought to heel over Idlib. Turkey’s Altay main battle tank is likewise little more than an assembly of components imported from other countries, particularly Germany. Since Germany has already placed a ban on export of powerpacks and transmissions for the Altay, Turkey has been casting about for replacements, looking as far as China. Whether Ukraine’s developments in this realm can be adopted to rescue the Altay project remain to be seen. However, the Oplot powerpacks and transmissions can probably be adapted to Altay use, resulting in Turkey realizing its goal of a home-grown MBT. Ultimately, the greater the contribution of Ukrainian defense industry to Turkey’s military modernization, the more freedom of action it would bestow on Turkey and make it less dependent on other foreign sources of military hardware who can exert influence over Turkey simply by withholding future technical support. If the United States were to follow up on the F-35 expulsion with a ban on servicing Turkish F-16s which form the mainstay of its airpower, the result would be crippling of the country’s air combat capabilities that drones cannot compensate for and which would be sorely missed in any confrontation with another comparable power like Greece. Turkey’s efforts to develop an indigenous fighter aircraft would benefit from Ukraine’s technological contributions and its own interest in indigenous aircraft designs. For Ukraine, the relationship would be an opportunity to acquire NATO-compatible weaponry with the caveat that it would have to pay in full for every last drone, either with cash or in kind. Turkey’s economic situation is not so strong as to allow largesse in the form of free military aid to anyone.

Chicken Kiev Meets Cold Turkey: Black Sea Axis Emerges?

Match Made in Hell

Mitigating against the long-term development of what Zelensky referred to as “strategic partnership” with Turkey is the erratic behavior of Erdogan who seeks to dominate any and all partners and tries to see how far he can push before the partners push back. This practice has led to the confrontations in Syria, Libya, and eastern Mediterranean. Ukraine, in contrast to Russia, France, and even Greece, is hardly in a position to push back. The most dangerous aspect of Turkish politics, from Ukraine’s perspective, is the ideology of Pan-Turkism that just might transform Ukraine’s Tatar community into a proxy force for Turkey right inside Ukraine, adding yet another fissure to the already fractured political picture. On the plus side, Erdogan does not appear interested in “combating corruption” in Ukraine, though that does not preclude the possibility Turkey’s military collaboration with Ukraine might not cost Ukraine dearly, though not to the same extent as EU-promoted privatization efforts.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to questions during the meeting with members of the Association of European Businesses in Russia, Moscow, October 5, 2020

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to questions during the meeting with members of the Association of European Businesses in Russia, Moscow, October 5, 2020

October 08, 2020

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation

Mr Vanderplaetse,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Colleagues,

Thank you for the opportunity to address once again the members of the Association of European Businesses in the Russian Federation. First of all, I would like to congratulate you on the 25th anniversary of your association. We appreciate your efforts to promote our economic, investment and trade ties, laying a solid foundation for building good relations between us and the countries you represent.

Here at the Foreign Ministry we value opportunities for dialogue with European entrepreneurs aimed at pushing forward a pragmatic, politics-free and mutually beneficial agenda. At the end of the day, these efforts are designed to improve the wellbeing of the people in Russia and in your countries. Holding regular meetings in this format has become a good tradition, testifying to our mutual commitment to keeping this dialogue going.

Since our previous meeting last year, in fact more than a year ago, the overall global environment has not become any easier, seriously affecting business activity. For many years now, the problems of international terrorism, drug trafficking and organised crime have been escalating around the world. Regional conflicts continue unabated and their number is growing. Recently, the coronavirus infection emerged as a new and a very serious challenge for all of humanity. It would not be an exaggeration to say that it changed the lives of billions of people overnight. Today, no one can say with certainty when the pandemic will end. I will not elaborate here on how the interruption of global supply chains affects global trade. Unemployment is on the rise in many countries. All this weighs on the global economy, which will have to go through a lengthy and probably challenging recovery.

Speaking broadly, in the global context, the pandemic has yet again highlighted what we have long been talking about, that all countries without exception are interconnected, regardless of their geography, size and the level of economic development. All of them have been affected. This is how the pandemic has shown again that cross-border issues cannot be disregarded in this globalised world.

We believed that the conclusion was obvious, that the common tasks and challenges should bring all of us together based on the universally recognised norms of international law. Regrettably, this has not happened so far.  Quite to the contrary, some of our Western colleagues led by the United States have tried to take advantage of the novel coronavirus crisis to promote their narrow interests even more energetically and to settle scores with their geopolitical rivals. The appeals by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to suspend the illegitimate unilateral sanctions at least during the pandemic, primarily to allow the delivery of medicines and medical equipment as well as the necessary financial transactions, have fallen on deaf ears. Likewise, they have paid no heed to the initiative, put forth by President Vladimir Putin at the online G20 meeting, for setting up green corridors free from trade wars and sanctions to supply medications, food, equipment and technologies. This attitude to unifying initiatives is seriously poisoning the atmosphere of international cooperation and increasing the lack of mutual trust, damaging not only ordinary people, who have been affected first of all, but also the business circles. You know this better than anyone.

These alarming trends have also affected Russia-EU relations. There are hardly any positive achievements to speak about. Since 2014, when the European Union flagrantly violated its own pledge to guarantee the agreement between President Viktor Yanukovych and the opposition, it has not just accepted the coup but has actually been encouraging those who seized power in Ukraine illegally and in violation of the Constitution. In particular, the EU has turned a blind eye to the fact that the coup plotters’ policy is based on Russophobia, and that they threatened to oust Russians from Crimea and tried to browbeat the Russian-speaking regions which refused to recognise the coup and said they wanted to sort out the situation. They were denounced as terrorists, even though they had not attacked anyone, and the army and Ukrainian security forces were sent to fight them. As I said, they have been designated terrorists for refusing to recognise the coup.

Since then, the EU, probably becoming aware of its negative role in these processes but still trying to shift the blame onto someone else. Since 2014, it has ruined the multilevel architecture of interaction between Brussels and Moscow, from summit meetings to over two dozen sectoral dialogues. The programme of four common spaces has been abandoned. To this very day, the normalisation of our relations is being artificially conditioned on the implementation of the Minsk agreements. Moreover, they say openly that it is the Russian Federation that must do this. Meanwhile, our Ukrainian colleagues have announced once again through their leaders, as you probably know, that the Minsk agreements should be preserved as the basis of the EU and US sanctions against Russia. This is their logic.

Of course, we will insist on the implementation of the Minsk Package of Measures, which has been approved by the UN Security Council, but we will not do this because we want the EU to lift its sanctions. We will do this above all in the interests of the fraternal Ukrainian people, who are suffering from what has been recently going on in Kiev and other parts of their country.

Restrictions are still retained on Russian economic operators’ access to external financial markets. European producers, too, continue to sustain multi-billion losses. The other day, we became aware that Sweden has taken yet another discriminatory step. A Swedish company, Quintus Technologies AB, has refused to supply spare parts for GAZ Group’s industrial press, under an absolutely far-fetched pretext. Allegedly, the equipment is of a military nature and has a dual purpose. This is absolutely artificial logic. This press has been in use since 2009, and never before, including the entire period of crisis in our relations after the coup in Ukraine, have the Swedish regulators entertained any doubts. Judging by all appearances, this is by far not the last example, where the wish to curry favour with those who lay down the West’s geopolitical line prevails over commonsense and own interests. Of course, this will also affect Swedish businesses that cooperate with the GAZ Group and the company’s employees.

Regrettably, we have to state that the EU agencies continue their shortsighted policies. In particular, this refers to the EU member countries that have proclaimed themselves “frontline” states. Their mood is also “frontline” and they pursue “frontline” policies. Let me note that in July, the EU set into motion, under an absolutely far-fetched pretext, its 2019 framework for unilateral sanctions against violations of certain “rules” in the cyberspace, which rules have not yet been coordinated on a universal basis. Invented last year, this generic regime, as they decided, should be “test-driven” in practice over Russian citizens. Without providing any real evidence, they have accused them of launching a cyber attack against the headquarters of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague. Created in 2019, this regime is not the only one of its kind. The EU has spawned, also within its “inner circle,” yet another generic regime punishing violations in the field of employment of toxic chemicals, or, to put it in a nutshell, the use of prohibited types of chemicals that are chemical weapons. It is intended to be used in specific situations. I have no doubt that they will be attempting to apply this regime to the situation involving Alexey Navalny. Moreover, there is no need to “test-drive” or discuss the facts for this on a universal basis either.

Our French colleagues, again unilaterally, have established the so-called “partnership against impunity for the use of chemical weapons,” a structure outside of the UN or any universal and generally approved international legal framework. But a narrow circle of soul-mates will establish so called “facts,” whereupon a unilaterally created EU organisation intended to punish those who are allegedly guilty of violations will approve sanctions, based on these unilaterally established “facts.” All of this is sad and makes one think that our Western colleagues’ talk of the need for everyone to respect the rules-based order is not just a figure of speech or a synonym of the need to respect international law, but a conscious policy to substitute unilateral and illegitimate actions for the universal international legal framework that requires a consensus of all states in order to approve relevant conventions.

We are interested in establishing the truth regarding Alexey Navalny. That said, this is an outrageous situation that is unfolding following the exact same scenario as in the so-called Skripal case, when accusations were made without presenting any evidence. As you are aware, Russia’s Prosecutor-General’s Office sent requests under the 1959 European Convention for Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters to the relevant agencies in Germany, France and Sweden, where the required tests were allegedly carried out. Under the protocols to this convention they were asked to share information on the results of these tests. We were told that no action will be taken under this convention, which in itself is a violation, and that the results were handed over to the OPCW. They told us to wait for this organisation to release the results of its tests. However, the OPCW informed us that they continue investigating this matter and the samples they collected (it is unclear who collected them and when). We were told that once they are finished, they will communicate the results to Germany, since the request came from there, leaving it to Germany to decide whether to share this information with us. This is a travesty of common sense, and I believe that everyone understands this, including our Western colleagues who deny our requests that are based on a binding international convention. It seems that their Russophobic fervour is so strong that it prevents them from exercising good judgement.

We regret that trade and economic cooperation is becoming increasingly politicised. I have just cited some examples. Trade and economy have always been viewed as a safety net in relations among nations. Nowadays though, things seem to have shifted into a somewhat different phase. I remember so well that in 2014 German businesses called on the European Union and its agencies not to place politics above the economy in its approach to Ukrainian affairs. At the time it was German Chancellor Angela Merkel who said that there are cases when politics must be above economics. This is regrettable.

We are now witnessing another example. The European Commission has drafted a report with a long title: Report on Significant Distortions in the Economy of the Russian Federation for the Purpose of Trade Defence Investigations. You probably understand what this is all about. The document is clearly biased and can lead to new restrictions on the access of Russian goods to the EU market. You know that this will definitely prompt us to reply. In particular, this report presents regulatory measures that are totally legitimate, including in energy, transport and labour resources, as distortions in the Russian economy. We also have questions regarding another EU initiative. I am referring to the key element of the European Green Deal, the so-called carbon border adjustment mechanism. Brussels said that it will be enacted not later than on January 1, 2023 in one form or another. For now, we are looking into what this initiative actually means. We do hope that this mechanism would not contradict the World Trade Organisation (WTO) norms and will not lead to “trade protectionism on climate issues.” We would like to avoid having to take retaliatory measures. I believe now is not the time for trade wars, even in the current politicised environment.

I will not elaborate too much on the games with Nord Stream 2. It all started quite a few years ago when the EU retrospectively amended the gas directive within its Third Energy Package just to make it harder to carry out this project. This ran counter to all legal norms and established practices approved by all countries. It was with great difficulty that compromises were found. This did not prevent things from going awry afterwards. When the end of the project was on the horizon, a new factor emerged in the form of the heavy hand of the United States that stated its open and unscrupulous intention to derail this project for Russia and the Europeans in order to force the US LNG on the Europeans. They are franticly creating LNG capabilities. Washington claims that these measures are designed to support US producers. This is a gloves-off approach free from any ethical boundaries. They do not seem to be concerned with the fact that higher costs for buying expensive gas will undermine the competitiveness of entire European manufacturing sectors. In fact, this suits the US.

Politicised energy cooperation is yet another blow at the foundations of what we call European security. Energy is the area of cooperation dating back over 50 years. We recently marked the anniversary with our Austrian colleagues. Energy was always left outside any forms of confrontation during the Cold War. Our joint energy programme and cooperation have survived the dissolution of some states and the formation of others; they have always served the long-term interests of all European nations, including the Russian Federation.

Protectionism and other barriers and restrictions will only aggravate the economic situation, which is already complicated. By the way, we noted that the BusinessEurope Confederation of European Business recently published recommendations aimed at protecting European businesses amidst sanctions-related restrictions. The document directly states that the weaponisation of the sanctions policy to pursue economic interests is unacceptable. It may seem obvious but as things go nowadays, it takes a lot of courage to say something as obvious as this.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Russian leadership is implementing measures to support the public and businesses in the face of COVID-19 related problems. We are doing everything we can, considering certain minimum requirements of the epidemiological authorities, to help return foreign workers to Russia, which you are well aware of. You have made respective requests and requests continue to come in. We will continue to process them promptly. We expect that, according to the forecasts made in Russia and foreign capitals (including multilateral institutions), the depth of the economic decline in our country will not be as significant as in many other countries, including the eurozone.

Our potential for countering infectious diseases is becoming increasingly more effective. We have learned a lot while taking practical measures to fight this challenge. Relying on our past experience in countering various pandemics, we managed to develop a series of test systems to diagnose the coronavirus and launch the production of drugs to treat it efficiently. As you know, we registered the Sputnik V vaccine. Registration of one or two more vaccines developed by the Vector Research Centre is being finalised. We support sharing experience in this area and cooperating with all interested countries because it is important for overcoming the consequences of our common emergency once and for all. As you know, speaking at the 75th session of the UN General Assembly via videoconference, President Vladimir Putin proposed an initiative of holding a high-level online conference involving the states interested in cooperation on developing coronavirus vaccines. We hope to receive a constructive response to this important proposal.

Before concluding my opening remarks, I would just like to say a few more words about the main subject on our agenda today: as we have already seen more than once, economic interdependence can be both a boon and a bane. I don’t really think that anything good will come out of this if the EU continues to see its partners as some “appendages” of the Eurocentric world. The world that was based on the central role of Europe has become history, not regrettably or happily but objectively. The drivers of economic growth and political influence are now in the East. The new polycentric reality calls for new approaches in politics and the economy. The “leader-follower” relationship is no longer tenable. What we need now is respect for the fundamental principle of equality.

Nowadays we must help the global economy through this difficult period and ensure its consistent post-COVID development. This goal should unite all of us, because this is about the welfare of all nations. We call for finding new growth points in order to overcome the global recession. It is crucial in this respect to combine the potentials of the various integration initiatives that are being implemented throughout Eurasia. This is the objective of President Putin’s initiative on the Greater Eurasian Partnership based on the universal principles of international law and transparency and open to all countries of our huge common continent without exception. You are aware that we are actively promoting dialogue on this subject within the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), as well as in relations with ASEAN nations. While doing so, we point out that we would like all countries of our common continent to join this process, both members of regional associations and the unaligned countries. This means that the EU countries could also take a look at this initiative with regard to their own interests, the interests of European businesses, including the possibility of easy access to the rapidly growing markets and new transit routes within the framework of this project. We have a starting point for launching this work in earnest. I am referring to the contacts created at the technical level between the European Commission and the Eurasian Economic Commission. We would like these contacts to break out of the restrictions of technical and regulatory issues. We would like our discussions to move over to a political level and to acquire a political vision of the development of Eurasia, which will become a global economic driver – there is no doubt about this.

We firmly believe that it is in our common interests to prevent the appearance of undesirable dividing lines in the new economic spheres created by the new technological paradigm. Energy and industry are becoming ever greener and all spheres of human activity, including the work of economic operators, are being digitalised. It is our strong conviction that this calls for combining efforts rather than trying to play zero sum games again, as was the case in the past. We are ready for cooperation on the broadest possible basis.

Thank you. I am now ready for the interactive part of our meeting.

Question: There is a saying in my native German language that smart people give way in a dispute. What steps would Russia be ready to make in this regard? What opportunities do you see for giving an impetus to this process and putting it back on a more constructive trajectory? What mechanisms and measures do you see for shielding small islands of cooperation from the collateral damage caused by geopolitical rivalry?

Sergey Lavrov: As far as I can see, the way you used this German saying (smart people giving way in a dispute) suggests that you are certain that the West will never give way.

I also see this in the way many of the ongoing developments are unfolding. In particular, this refers to the complaints we hear. Russia invariably owes something regardless of the international matter, be it Syria, Libya or Belarus. The same goes for Alexey Navalny, any cyber affairs and poisonings. But no evidence is presented. Moreover, when we question their claims and findings, in this case I am referring to the Bundeswehr laboratory, or to the Porton Down laboratory in the Skripal case, they see this as an insult. But no evidence was presented. Our German colleagues are now telling us that this is our problem and that the poisoning took place on Russian territory, so they don’t know anything. Go ahead and open a criminal case, but we will not give you anything, they tell us.

By the way, I remember a rather gruesome episode in our relations with Germany when there was a problem in 2016 with Yelizaveta Fesenko, a Russian underage girl. She disappeared and the search continued for quite a long time. She later resurfaced and said that she had been raped. It turned out that she had not been raped but Germany still opened a criminal case on child sexual abuse charges. One of the defendants received a suspended sentence. But when we tried to become involved to help the girl (apart from a German citizenship she also is a citizen of the Russian Federation) and asked our German colleagues to explain what happened, we faced an outpouring of resentment, including a statement by then German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who said that Russia should not interfere in Germany’s domestic affairs or use this incident for propaganda purposes. This is a similar case. Something happened to a Russian national on German territory. When we asked to explain what had happened they told us that it’s not our business and asked us not to interfere in their domestic affairs. When now we asked our German colleagues to share their findings after analysing Alexey Navalny’s test samples, they referred us to the OPCW. The OPCW referred us to Germany, arguing that it was Germany that filed the request, while Russia should have had the same findings as Berlin. However, the doctors in Omsk passed on to the Germans the results of all the tests they ran and everything they did. When the Germans came to transport Alexey Navalny to Germany, they signed papers confirming that they received all the information. Moreover, Alexey Navalny’s spouse signed a document assuming responsibility for all the consequences of his transfer to Germany, since our doctors were not convinced that this was safe. It is true that they did not find any traces of weapon-grade toxic substances. They honestly said so. Let me draw your attention to the fact that the Charite clinic did not find any toxic agents from the so-called Novichok group in Navalny’s samples either. It was the Bundeswehr clinic that made these findings. We still do not know whether the French and the Swedes collected the samples themselves or the Germans simply passed on these samples to them. The fact that our partners are trying to keep this secret, muddying the waters, is a matter of serious concern for us. We want to get to the truth and will pursue this objective. I don’t know what to do with this. Now we are being accused of the developments in the Central African Republic, and they are trying to pin the blame for something that happened in Mozambique on us as well. We stand accused of everything no matter where it occurs.

When US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, his deputies and other members of the US administration travel around the world, they openly call on their partners during news conferences in Africa, Greece or elsewhere to stop cooperating with Russia and China. These statements are being made officially and unceremoniously, for everyone to hear. It is difficult for me to say now what concessions we can make when it comes to this situation.

As your board chairman has already mentioned, it is good that the ties with the EU are being revived. Yes, they are indeed being revived, but only in specific areas, such as Syria, Libya and Africa – we have recently held such consultations. However, we do not see a systemic approach to our relations on the global and hugely important political plane.

High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell is a good friend of mine. We spoke with him earlier  this year on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference. In June, we talked for two hours via videoconference. We discussed all topics in great detail. There is a common understanding that we need to review the situation, at least so as to see if the EU policy based on sanctions is really effective. This is for the EU to do. In our opinion, it is a flawed policy. Sanctions damage both those against whom they are applied and those who apply them. You are aware that we are trying to abandon all forms of cooperation that can strengthen our dependence on Europe, including in the fields of technology and agricultural goods. I believe that we have achieved good results with this. We are probably doing this because we are no longer sure that our European partners will honour their commitments. I have cited the example of Nord Stream 2. It would seem that the EU’s Legal Service has long analysed this project and concluded that it is good and does not contradict any EU norms. Nevertheless, the question has been reopened and the rules have been changed. Is this how reliable partners act? Moreover, this is being done contrary to the fact that companies from the five respected “old” EU members were fully interested, and continue to be interested, in the Nord Stream 2 project. But politics has prevailed over business.

Of course, selective dialogue is underway on some specific matters, as you mentioned. We are not abandoning it. But we can see that the EU has been trying to preserve the five guiding principles and only to modernise them (and they are based on the fact that the normalisation of EU’s relations with Russia is conditioned by the implementation of the Minsk agreements by Russia, not by Ukraine). While these futile discussions are underway in the EU and the very aggressive and loud Russophobic minority is preventing any efforts to reassess relations with Russia, very serious analytical processes are gathering momentum in Germany. As far as we know (this information is based on German media reports), experts close to the German Government are developing what they describe as “a new Eastern policy,” which actually amounts to removing the remaining positive parts on our agenda.  Their main arguments, as cited by the press, are that strategic partnership is a thing of the past; that the Partnership for Modernisation, which used to be a symbol of our cooperation with Germany and subsequently with the EU as a whole, has not materialised; and that Russia refused to become an ally for the EU and NATO and hence became their opponent when it comes to fundamental political and ideological aspects of the new international order. I have already said that our Western friends want the new international order to be based on rules rather than international law, and on rules invented in a narrow circle of confederates.

As for selective cooperation, the circles close to the Government who are formulating a new agenda say that such cooperation will be possible only after Russians mend their ways. Amid mental stagnation in Brussels, these processes are gathering momentum first of all in Germany. Geopolitical analysts have probably seen that Germany is becoming the lead player in ensuring a strong and lasting anti-Russia charge in all processes underway in the EU.

We have seen this before. The first sanctions were adopted after an absolutely transparent referendum was held in Crimea and nobody questioned their outcome – US representatives told me so immediately after the referendum. Nobody doubted then, and nobody doubts now, that it was a sincere desire of the Crimean residents. But as soon as this happened, we were told in a quite superior manner that Russia should know that there would be no “business as usual.” We replied that yes, there will be no “business as usual.” You yourself have ruined your standing and reputation when you were spit in the face – excuse my French – by those who terminated the agreement guaranteed by France, Germany and Poland. We know very well that there will be no “business as usual,” but we are nevertheless ready to look for spheres of constructive interaction. But take a look at the current situation. Just a small but telling example regarding Nord Stream 2: the Swedish authorities have cancelled their companies’ permit for cooperation with GAZ. There are more examples of this kind too. The question now is not that there will be no “business as usual,” but that there may be no reliable basis for doing business with Europe in the long term and we cannot be sure that our European partners will honour their commitments. I am not talking about companies. They want to do business, but it is the politicians who are ruling over business now. This is the problem. As I have already said, there is no lack of goodwill or desire to develop normal relations on our part. Just read President Putin’s message of greetings to Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel on Germany’s reunification. It clearly says everything. But goodwill cannot be unilateral. It is said that he who is smarter and stronger should take the first step. We probably have grounds to believe that our partners are strong and smart. I really do hope that they think about us in the same way. If there is goodwill on both sides, we can turn the tide. But we do not see any reciprocity so far.

Question: We have noticed these concerns regarding the recent trends that you mentioned, and the articles claiming that the partnership has come to an end. We share these concerns. As an association, we agree that it takes two to tango.

Sergey Lavrov: These days, some prefer breakdancing and you don’t need a partner.

Question: Let’s hope that partner dancing will not go out of style. As an association, we adhere to the principle of independence. We communicate both with Brussels, by voicing our concerns with the current situation, and with officials in Russia. I was very happy to hear your greetings on our anniversary. This year we marked 25 years. We planned to organise a conference using the motto “Russia and Europe in the world of tomorrow: looking back on the past to move towards the future.” How do you see Russia and Europe in the world of tomorrow? What are the most promising areas for continuing the cooperation that has not always been easy but has undoubtedly been productive over these 25 years? What are the key areas for you?

Sergey Lavrov: We spoke about this at length today. If we talk about specific areas, these include, of course, the digital economy, the green economy and everything related to the new types of energy (the Russian-Italian-French thermonuclear reactor project). We have many hi-tech projects with Germany. There is mutual interest. But, again, the political course pursued right now, mainly by the United States, is aimed at preventing any mutually beneficial, promising and competitive economic projects in Europe to be carried out without the American involvement – be it Russia or China. This has been stated openly. Politics is the art of the possible but perhaps, in the current circumstances, the economy is also the art of the possible. As long as the leaders of your countries are capable of protecting the core interests of European businesses, as long as they can protect your competitiveness and as long as they can withstand this pressure.

But, of course, besides the economy, we are deeply concerned about the military and political situation. It is not improving in Europe and, on the contrary, it is becoming more disturbing. By the way, there have been many reports, analysis pieces and articles recently marking the anniversary of the German reunification. Russian television filmed a two-hour documentary, The Wall, which came to a rather sad conclusion: the Berlin Wall was never destroyed; it simply became virtual and moved to the East very close to the Russian border, despite all the promises and assurances. I will not comment on this film right now. I hope you watched it. If you did not, I recommend it because you will understand a lot about the current conditions for the Russia-Europe relations, how the Russian leadership and Russian people remember the times when – and we all know this very well – Russia played the decisive role in the German reunification, by making a huge sacrifice. I am not exaggerating. The withdrawal of our troops was conducted in absolutely cruel and inhumane conditions. We know the real (financial) cost Germany paid for this. We also know that, not that our Western colleagues tried to persuade the Soviet leaders against it but they asked whether they [the Soviet leaders] had thought carefully and whether everybody needed a united Germany. You know the outcome. I find the manner used by some representatives of the German leadership in communication with the Russian Federation not only unacceptable but fully indicative of the fact that the era everybody considered a historic victory of Germans and Russians and eventually the victory of the entire Europe is now completely forgotten. This is unfortunate. I really hope that this anomaly goes away. It cannot reflect the Germans’ true attitude towards Russia. Speaking of which, in a recent public opinion poll, half of the German people across the Federal Republic of Germany, including Western Germany, expressed a positive attitude towards the Russian people. I think the number of people in our country supporting cooperation with Germans will not be less than that. Our historic victory is in overcoming all phobias and focusing on the constructive process in the interests of our nations. Of course, it would be a crime to lose it.

Question: I would like to get back to the issue of highly skilled professionals returning to Russia. We are very grateful for the help we received from the Government of the Russian Federation and, in particular, from the Foreign Ministry. We know that the rules currently in place, the Government Directive No. 635-r of March 16, 2020, is greatly appreciated by our members because it opens a channel for returning highly skilled professionals. However, on the other hand, this process is still complicated and there are many unresolved matters. What are the prospects of relaxing the border crossing regime, especially ahead of the New Year days off?

Sergey Lavrov: I have already spoken on this matter multiple times. The Foreign Ministry will play a secondary role there. Public health is the top priority. Therefore, the epidemiological and sanitary authorities are calling all the shots. We have an Emergency Response Centre headed by Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova, the Federal Supervision Service for Consumer Protection and Welfare, the Healthcare Ministry and the Federal Medical-Biological Agency. All these experts are working on the best measures to protect our citizens and our visitors from the danger of contracting the coronavirus.

It is in the interests of the Foreign Ministry to establish contacts as quickly as possible. As you are aware, the aviation authorities are also interested in this – as are the airline companies which are suffering losses and hoping to resume air services as quickly as possible. Once again, the decisions are up to the epidemiologists.

Question: I can see that Russia is trying to shut itself off from the rest of the world by demanding that production facilities be more localised.  We invested about 2 billion and are one of the largest companies. Seventy percent of our products will not be considered Russia-made products in two years. I am urging you to do everything you can to make sure that Russia does not isolate itself from the rest of the world and cooperates with Western companies. Do not force us to resort to localisation which puts us at a disadvantage and which will seem rather strange after we invested 2 billion.

Sergey Lavrov: I agree with the idea that we should not destroy the global forms of cooperation and build barriers. If we look at localisation as a barrier, this logic probably applies here. But again, we need to remember about the strategic goals set for our economy by President Vladimir Putin and the Government. To a great extent, they have to do with the events in our relations of the past six or seven years and with the fact whether the West demonstrated itself as reliable and capable of negotiating in relations with us.

When it comes to localisation, we are not alone. For example, India is rather actively pursuing its Make in India policy and I think it is much more demanding than the localisation policy in the Russian Federation. Overall, I understand your production-related concerns and assume that these issues should be raised with the Government Foreign Investment Advisory Council that is in charge of these matters.

Question: The Government of the Russian Federation adopted new rules that prevent us from investing for the next two years. We do not know whether we can invest in the future because in two years there will be no benefits in this for us.

Sergey Lavrov: The Foreign Ministry is interested in continuing pragmatic and mutually beneficial economic cooperation; therefore, let’s agree that following this meeting, following our discussion, your chairman, the Director General, will send me a proposal outlining the steps which, in your opinion, would allow our cooperation to continue on a mutually beneficial basis.

I know that you cooperate with the GAZ Group. I meant exactly the same thing that you are talking about when I said that some small European countries are trying to run before the American hounds because the seizures by the United States were once again extended. The Americans are thinking about themselves, too. Many American jobs depend on continuing this cooperation. Our Swedish neighbours decided that they will be more American than the Americans themselves.

Question: When we discuss relaxing the border crossing regime for highly skilled professionals, please do not forget about their family members because it is a major part of their lives here. I would like to ask you to consider this issue.

Sergey Lavrov: Of course, their comfort is important. We will make sure to support requests concerning their family members as well.

Question: We are witnessing the US administration purposefully dismantling the international relations system that took shape after World War II. How much have they managed to accomplish in this regard? Is this an irreversible process? What can we expect from the upcoming election?

Sergey Lavrov: As I mentioned earlier, the current international relations system is collapsing under the banner of the “rules-based world order.” It became part of the political vocabulary, or narrative, in modern parlance, about three to four years ago. We took note of it immediately. When we began to talk about this term which was proposed to be included in the declarations of international forums, we were told that “this is the same as international law.” When we proposed replacing this term with “respect for international law,” we were told, by hook or by crook, that “we need to use some fresh language.” And then everything that I was talking about came to the surface.

Two parallel processes are underway that are directly related to the erosion of the system that was created after World War II, which suited everyone, made it possible to avoid another world war and, as we all hoped, would be ridding itself of confrontational components after the Cold War ended. We have already talked about the Berlin Wall and everything that followed and what we are witnessing now.

There are two obvious areas where this system is being eroded. The first is the privatisation of the existing international organisations’ secretariats. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which is based on the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), is a case in point. It was adopted unanimously (any convention can only be adopted unanimously) and is binding exclusively for the countries that have ratified this Convention, 193 in all. The OPCW is one of the most universal organisations. The Convention can only be amended by way of talks, and the language must be agreed upon by a consensus, after which the amendments are adopted and ratified. Under the convention, the OPCW Technical Secretariat (TC) has the competence to conduct a probe in response to an inquiry by any CWC member country. This should be done by an onsite visit by the experts to a location designated by the corresponding party to take samples that are then taken to certified labs. Then, a report is compiled which says whether a substance prohibited by the special lists attached to the CWC was found in these samples. That’s all there is to it. The OPCW Secretariat began to grossly violate the Convention. For example, in Syria, they were making decisions and compiling reports without onsite visits. They just said that they managed to get samples from, say, Great Britain or France (there was such an episode in Khan Shaykhun), since it was “unsafe” for them to go there. We insisted that, under the Convention, they must go there themselves. The answer was “it’s unsafe.” Then, we asked the British and the French, since they were able to obtain the samples in unsafe circumstances, to use their contacts to ensure the safety of the OPCW inspectors so that they comply with the convention. We were told there was nothing they could do, and it’s “classified.” The Syrian government was accused of airstrikes using bombs filled with toxic agents. This “classified” information was used to conclude that a poisonous agent was used in Khan Shaykhun. End of story. Nobody knows who took these samples, or who took them to which laboratory, because it’s “classified.”

There are many questions. When we started asking them and stopped accepting such reports in the UN Security Council (only the UNSC can decide who is right and who is wrong under international law and the UN Charter), our Western colleagues at the OPCW convened an extraordinary session of all parties to the Convention. They put to the vote a proposal that, in addition to what is allowed for the OPCW Technical Secretariat under the Convention (to determine whether a prohibited poisonous agent was used or not), it should also be authorised to identify the perpetrators and to carry out the attribution. Less than half of the countries members of the convention voted in favour of the proposal. The rest voted against it or abstained. However, according to the rules of procedure, the decision was declared adopted. Thus, instead of an international law instrument, which any universal convention is, we got an instrument of the “rules-based order.” Of course, we will not be paying for the portion of the Secretariat’s activities that focuses on these purposes. China and a number of other countries are doing the same, but that doesn’t make the problem disappear. This is an outright privatisation of the Secretariat, which can now be seen in the way the senior officials of this body (Western countries hold the posts of Director-General and his “right hand”) react to our inquiries on many issues (Syria, Navalny, etc.). Concurrently, privatisation is carried out in less aggressive forms, when the Western employees of the respective secretariats conduct blatantly one-sided policies at the UN organisations.

The second area is about the propensity to move “inconvenient” matters outside the UN system. In my opening remarks, I mentioned that our French colleagues had created the International Partnership against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons. We asked why we can’t discuss this at the UN or the OPCW, which they are trying to manipulate. Why do this somewhere else? We were told that this is just a “group of like-minded people.” Today, I spoke on the phone with my French colleague, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian, and asked him why they were not responding to a request filed by the General Prosecutor’s Office of Russia regarding Alexey Navalny’s tests. Mr Le Drian told me they were waiting for the OPCW to respond. The OPCW has not yet responded (today is October 5). However, already on September 24, our French colleagues initiated the distribution, among their closest partners at the very same organisation in The Hague, of a draft statement by the countries participating in the International Partnership against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons. The draft of this statement is already saying that, as confirmed by the OPCW Secretariat, Mr Navalny was poisoned with Novichok. The Secretariat has not confirmed or said anything. We have an official letter from the OPCW Director General Fernando Arias Gonzalez saying that the process is still underway.

This “privatisation,” as we call it, creates quite serious problems in other areas of the universal institutions’ work as well. Instead of once again provoking scandals at the conferences of the parties to the relevant universal conventions, they are now making decisions in a narrow circle of “like-minded people” and then present this as an example of multilateralism. This approach forms the basis of the Franco-German initiative for a new multilateralism, which they are promoting and which was proclaimed not so long ago. It was stated that the EU is an example of multilateralism. We asked again why multilateralism is being considered outside the framework of the UN multilateral organisation. There’s no answer, but we know it. There will be more cases like this. Along with this International Partnership against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons, the French have created a similar partnership on the freedom of journalism and information in cyberspace.

Question: The impact of geopolitics on de-globalisation. Modern equipment has a very broad built-in functionality for data collection and transmission. At the same time, requirements for a mandatory local hosting are being tightened, in particular, with regard to data collection and transmission. Some forecasts say that by 2030, many countries will close their markets to each other. What do you think could promote the opening of a common economic space?

Sergey Lavrov: For 15 years, if not longer, we have been actively promoting the initiative (it has gained a large number of supporters now) to figure out how the internet should work so that everyone feels comfortable. This question was raised at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), an organisation dealing with all forms of information and communication technologies, and in the UN, where it was proposed to agree on the rules of responsible behaviour in the information landscape. It is about international information security. At the same time, we are promoting initiatives at the UN to combat crime in cyberspace. There is one part that relates to processes affecting national security, and the other is crime proper – drug trafficking, paedophilia, pornography, and so on. But things are moving with difficulty at the ITU. All these years of discussions have led us nowhere. The Americans do not seem interested in making this topic the subject of agreements. The discussion continues, but you know how the internet is governed, how it all works. It suits them. The Americans are actually pushing forward the idea that there is no need for any anti-cybercrime conventions or rules of conduct to ensure security in the information landscape. There is international law and it is applicable. This also reflects our Western partners’ policy to declare cyberspace an arena of potential confrontation, including the possibility of hostilities (and the outer space for good measure).

As we have seen from hours of discussions with the Americans and other Westerners, they are reluctant to introduce new regulations and cite applicable international law because the West again wants to reserve some extra rights. I mentioned the partnership to protect freedom in cyberspace. If it is established that someone has violated “freedom in cyberspace,” they will not have to prove anything to anyone, because international law is already in place. The Americans are primarily interested in Article 51 of the UN Charter (the right to self-defence and the possible use of weapons). They do not hide this and want to reserve the right to strike. More precisely, not reserve, but actually obtain the right to use military force in response to what they might consider an encroachment in cyberspace that affects their national interest. You can implicate just about anything there.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin proposed reopening the existing channels on cybersecurity issues. On October 2, Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolai Patrushev met with US President Trump’s National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, who said that so far, Washington has not seen any Russian interference attempts in the 2020 United States elections. Well, they kind of expected Moscow to interfere, but “Mr Patrushev assured them they won’t.” What the Russian Security Council Secretary proposed – we actually lived through all this many years ago with the Obama administration, and later it resumed with Donald Trump – was a proposal to sign a deal on non-interference in each other’s affairs, including in cyberspace, concerning elections or other processes. The US does not want to, because they really interfere in our internal affairs. After Kiev events in 2014, they passed the Ukraine Freedom Support Act, which explicitly ordered the State Department to spend $20 million a year to liaise with Russian civil society, to support certain “independent” and “non-governmental” organisations. You are certainly well aware of this. Indeed, a cutting-edge sphere like cyberspace and information and communication technologies in general, where progress is rapidly gaining momentum, is a field for competition. Look at what is happening with 5G networks now, how the Americans prohibit Europe and the rest of the world from cooperating with China; look at how these policies affect the atmosphere of international relations. Consider artificial intelligence. I think competition will continue, as we are seeing a new industrial revolution – or rather, not an industrial, but a technological one.

If we consider the US policy line they are pursuing today, it is difficult to predict how and when it will end, whether it will even come to a close in our lifetime, because anything’s possible. Who knows what will happen on this planet in 50-100 years. There are many people who believe the current US policy line is irrevocable, and from now on, they refuse to put up with it. The most interesting thing is that they actually achieve their goals in some cases. As we say, might is right. But it seems to me that the United States should and will try to pay more attention to its internal problems. I would say what we can see there now has very deep roots. There are many forecasts that any empire will reach a crisis at some point and become smaller and quieter. As Vladimir Vysotsky wrote, “it goes at random, all over the place, and downhill.”

I am not trying to make any predictions about the US elections now; I do not want to be blamed again for supporting someone or not supporting someone else. Vladimir Putin has said many times that we will work with anyone they elect. We are watching the squabbles between Democrats and Republicans. No silver lining, of course. Destabilisation in the United States is unlikely to do any good to any of us. We are actually all interested in the United States being a responsible player in the international arena; but for that, they should at least have some internal stability, which is now being tested. We want them to be a responsible player, which means they should follow the rules, not those invented by them, consistently rather than occasionally, and not change those rules at their whim or use loopholes (like we say, every law has a loophole). This is rules-based order. Unfortunately, the trend is quite steady – they have left the UNESCO, the UN Human Rights Council, and withdrawn from nearly all treaties; now the last one, the New START, is going to die. The conditions they set are absolutely unilateral and do not take into account either our interests or the experience of many decades, when arms control was enforced to everyone’s satisfaction and was welcomed by all countries. I cannot rule out that the World Trade Organisation will be next. They are also complaining about it, as I understand it, and continue blocking the dispute resolution body, preventing the appointment of the necessary participants for a quorum.

This question causes everyone’s concern, but I have no answer to give you. Some expound on how empires grow old and new ones emerge, like when you all play together as kids, and there is always the main bully in the sandbox who hits the younger ones. But later, when they grow up, they get even. This probably happens in different forms on a bigger scale, like centuries-long cycles.

Question: As you may be aware, Turkey and Libya have certain agreements regarding the Mediterranean Sea. We’re amid an abnormal situation, where Turkey, a NATO member, has a run-in with Europe, where most countries are NATO members as well. Clearly, in addition to the economic interests, there are geopolitical and military reasons as well. What’s your view about a potential increase in the number of clashes in this region and Russia’s role?

Sergey Lavrov: Here, too, we need to look through the lens of geopolitical interests. The situation in Libya, Syria and a number of other countries is far from being alright, but hydrocarbons are among the factors that clearly influence politics. At least what the Americans are doing with oil having illegally occupied the eastern coast of the Euphrates River in Syria and making a decision allowing their company to produce oil. Together with the Kurds, they are trying to “cobble up” a Kurdish autonomy, which will have quasi-state functions. It is well known that they are also trying to talk the Turks into not objecting to the idea of creating such autonomy, assuring them that the Americans will ensure the Kurds’ loyalty. Flirting with a country’s territorial integrity is a gross violation of international law. In this case, this applies not only to Syria, but also to the Kurdish problem, which can be so explosive that the current situation will appear much less serious. It affects a number of countries in the region. An invitation to separatism and its active promotion can end very badly. This is being done by a distant overseas country, but the countries of the region and Europe will have to deal with the consequences. We are not far away from there, either. So, we have come up with an initiative to develop a security concept in the Gulf with the participation of all Arab countries, Iran, the League of Arab States (LAS), the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the UN Security Council permanent members, and the European Union.

The time has come when too many problems have piled up in and around the Gulf, including the Middle East and North Africa. We need to sit down and talk.

The Americans are also departing from international law and moving to the rules on which they want to establish the world order, I mean a Middle East settlement. They are turning the Arab Peace Initiative upside down, which proclaimed the creation of the Palestinian state followed by the normalisation of relations between the Arab countries and Israel. Now, the process has reversed.

We welcome any agreements that normalise relations between the states, but we cannot agree to this being done to the detriment of the Palestinian people’ interests which are enshrined in numerous consensus resolutions adopted by the Security Council and the UN General Assembly.

Question: More than a year ago now, President of Russia Vladimir Putin met with President of France Emmanuel Macron in Bregancon. How would you assess the results of that meeting? I know that recently in Lithuania, President Macron said he would continue cooperating with Russia because it is crucial for Europe. What do you have to say  on this score?

Sergey Lavrov: In August 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron had a very good and productive meeting in Bregancon. France is the only state whose government responded to Vladimir Putin’s address circulated in autumn 2019, when it became known that the INF Treaty had finally “died.” That long letter went to all NATO members and a number of other states, in which Vladimir Putin spelled out the history of the issue, explained how important the INF Treaty was, how its termination would increase the risks and wipe out any control over such missiles, and proposed to declare a voluntary moratorium. He said that Russia has already announced it and will not build or deploy any such missiles until such US-made systems are deployed in some part of the world. The President of Russia asked his NATO partners to consider the possibility of a counter moratorium without concluding any agreement – just pure goodwill, similar to the previous nuclear test ban. Only a few of them even bothered to respond, usually “thank you and we’ll read it later.” Some just declined. French President Macron was the only one who actually wrote he was ready to discuss the proposal, and who noticed that we were not just proposing two counter-moratoriums in that letter – a Russia-NATO and a wider one – but we were ready to discuss specific ways to verify compliance. Western Europeans as well as our American colleagues said the “cunning” Russia was proposing a moratorium when it allegedly had such missiles in Kaliningrad. They believe our Iskander systems violate this Treaty, but never provided a single fact that proved it. If they say that an Iskander missile has been tested at a prohibited range, then obviously, they should have satellite images, but they never showed any, just as they have not shown any satellite images when it comes to the Malaysian Boeing shot down over Donbass. They have some pictures, but they just don’t show them to anyone. So Vladimir Putin proposed, if they have any such concerns, to discuss what verification measures we can agree upon to make everyone feel comfortable. The only one who responded to that was Emmanuel Macron.

Unlike our selective cooperation with EU’s Brussels on specific conflict matters, sporadically, from time to time, what we have with France is a stable dialogue, including the two-plus-two format with the foreign and defence ministers. In September 2019, our French colleagues were in Moscow. We also established cooperation in more than ten working groups on various strategic tracks. The working groups on combating terrorism and cybersecurity met recently – these topics should obviously be of interest to everyone, but the Americans and most other Westerners, including the Germans, have shown little interest in cooperating on them, to put it mildly.

Emmanuel Macron also makes critical statements. We can hear those. We also have some questions for France. I have just mentioned some of the steps they are taking that undermine the legitimacy of universal organisations, attempts to isolate some issues to be addressed by a narrow circle of participants they find comfortable. But we are having a dialogue, whatever disagreements we might have cannot be a reason to refuse to discuss serious matters, and limit interaction to some selective, elective topics, as the European Union does.

Question: The international community failed to prevent two global catastrophes in the 20th century: the Holocaust and the Armenian Genocide. Today we are witnessing the escalation of a conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan in which Turkey has become involved. Do we have any mechanisms for preventing genocide in the 21st century?

Sergey Lavrov: We have the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Genocide Convention), which is effective. Genocide has been denounced as a crime against humanity. There are different types and forms of genocide. What is happening today to the Russian language and Russian education in the Baltic countries (in Latvia and Estonia), in Ukraine and several other places clearly amounts to infringement on the fundamental rights of a very large group of people.

One of the topics we discussed with Josep Borrell was discrimination against Russian speakers, in particular, in Ukraine. We regularly raise the question of the Baltics with the EU. They seem unable to do anything, and it even looks to me as if they are unwilling to do anything about it. They only speak in favour of naturalisation. The process is underway, they claim, adding that everything will be just fine, in time. Nothing good is taking place there though. And in Ukraine they adopted several laws on education and language, following which they have adopted amendments that stipulate exemptions for EU languages, which has placed the Russian language in conditions of double discrimination, even though the Ukrainian Constitution stipulates the protection of national minority rights. And it directly mentions Russians.

We have informed the EU that there are Hungarian, Bulgarian and Polish communities in Ukraine and called on them to join forces to protect the rights of the national minorities at the UN, the OSCE and the Council of Europe. We sense a trend in each of these countries to settle the problems of their national minorities in Ukraine unofficially, and they don’t care what happens after that. I asked Josep Borrell if Brussels would support this policy. Absolutely not, he replied, adding that they would equally protect all national minority languages and that the EU would never be content with exemptions for their minorities. But these exemptions have already been made. A law prohibiting primary school tuition in any language other than Ukrainian was to become effective as of September 1. A three-year exemption has been approved for the EU languages, but not for the Russian language. I asked Josep Borrell why this was so. He answered that they were working on this problem.

I don’t think a repetition of genocide in its classical form is possible today, but regrettably, discrimination trends will be gathering momentum. Speaking about Karabakh, we maintain contact with Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as with Turkey and Iran as their neighbours. Today I had a telephone conversation with [French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs] Jean-Yves Le Drian, during which we also spoke about Karabakh. The presidents of the three co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group – Russia, France and the United States – have made a very strong statement. We are now preparing a statement of the three countries’ foreign ministers.  However, what we need is not only statements but practical moves that can be made to end the bloodshed and resume negotiations.

You have mentioned that Emmanuel Macron said in Vilnius that cooperation with Russia was crucial for finding solutions to problems. We fully share this view. He also met with Svetlana Tikhanovskaya there; she has met with a number of high-ranking officials from EU countries.

This has jogged my memory regarding a situation, I think it was in 2017, when Jean-Marc Ayrault held the post of foreign minister. In March 2017, Marine Le Pen came to Russia at the invitation of our parliament. She met with President Putin. Mr Ayrault criticised that meeting between the President of Russia and the leader of a large French party. He interpreted it as “an attempt to interfere in the election process.” “We would like to understand if this is so. France is not interfering in Russia’s internal affairs, and we hope that Russia will not interfere in our affairs either,” he said. This is how he commented on President Putin’s meeting with the leader of a French political party who had been invited to visit Russia by our parliament. Now look at the [Western] reaction to what is taking place in Vilnius and other places. This is double standards.

Question: First of all, I would like to point out the importance of [foreign] professionals returning to Russia so that they can resume their operations here. As for our exports to Russia, we would like to say that we account for 25 percent of them, and we would like to continue to increase our share. We can see great potential here, in particular, when it comes to raw materials. We should start with renewable materials and discuss recycling. We also need to coordinate certification issues and think about improving the furniture industry in Russia so as to be able to export more IKEA products from Russia.

Sergey Lavrov: I hope your products will not be designated as military or dual-purpose items, as was the case with Sweden’s Quintus Technologies, and that you will continue to supply us with affordable, solid and reliable furniture.

How Xinjiang “interferes” with the EU-China deal

How Xinjiang “interferes” with the EU-China deal

September 15, 2020

By Pepe Escobar with permission from the author and first posted at Asia Times

A Beijing-Brussels-Berlin special: that was quite the video-summit.

From Beijing, we had President Xi Jinping. From Berlin, Chancellor Angela Merkel. And from Brussels, President of the European Council Charles Michel and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen. The Chinese billed it as the first summit “of its kind in history”.

It was actually the second high-level meeting of the Chinese and European leadership in two months. And it took place only a few days after a high-level tour by Foreign Minister Wang Yi encompassing France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Norway, and the visit by the powerful “Yoda” of the State Council, Yang Jiechi, to Spain and Greece.

The Holy Grail at the end of all these meetings – face-to-face and virtual – is the China-EU investment treaty. Germany currently heads the EU presidency for six months. Berlin wanted the treaty to be signed at a summit in Leipzig this month uniting the EU-27 and Beijing. But Covid-19 had other plans.

So the summit was metastasized into this mini videoconference. The treaty is still supposed to be signed before the end of 2020.

Adding an intriguing note, the mini-summit also happened one day before Premier Li Keqiang attended a Special Virtual Dialogue with Business Leaders, promoted by the World Economic Forum (WEF). It’s unclear whether Li will discuss the intricacies of the Great Reset with Klaus Schwab – not to mention whether China subscribes to it.

We are “still committed”

The mini EU-China video summit was quite remarkable for its very discreet spin. The UE, officially, now considers China as both an essential partner and a “strategic rival”. Brussels is adamant on its will to “cooperate” while defending is notorious human rights “values”.

As for the investment treaty, the business Holy Grail which has been under negotiation for seven years now, Ursula von der Leyen said “there’s still much to be done”.

What the EU essentially wants is equal treatment for their companies in China, similar to how Chinese companies are treated inside the EU. Diplomats confirmed the key areas are telecoms, the automobile market – which should be totally open – and the end of unfair competition by Chinese steel.

Last week, the head of Siemens, Joe Kaeser, threw an extra spanner in the works, telling Die Zeit that “we categorically condemn every form of oppression, forced labor and threat to human rights”, referring to Hong Kong and Xinjiang.

That caused quite a stir. At least 10% of Siemens business is generated in China, where the company is present since 1872 and employs over 35,000 people. Siemens was forced to publicly state that it is “still committed” to China.

China has been Germany’s top trade partner since 2017 – ahead of France and the US. So it’s no wonder alarm bells started to ring, on and off. It was in January last year that the BDI – the Federation of German Industries – first defined China as a “systemic competitor”, and not only as a “partner”. The concern was centered on market “distortions” and the barriers against German competition inside China.

The mini video-summit took place as the trade war unleashed by Washington against Beijing has reached Cold War 2.0 proportions. EU diplomats, uncomfortably, and off the record, admit that the Europeans are caught in the middle and the only possible strategy is to try to advance their economic interests while insisting on the same panacea of human rights.

Thus the official EU demand this Monday – unreported in Chinese media: allow us to send “independent observers” to Xinjiang.

Those Uighur jihadis

So we’re back, inevitably, to the hyper-incandescent issue of Xinjiang “concentration camps”.

The Atlanticist establishment has unleashed a ferocious, no holds barred campaign to shape the narrative that Beijing is conducting no less than cultural genocide in Xinjiang.

Apart from United States government rhetoric, the campaign is mostly conducted by “influencer” US thinks tanks such as this one, which issue reports that turn viral on Western corporate media.

One of these reports quotes “numerous firsthand accounts from Uighurs” who are defined as “employed” to perform forced labor. As a result, the global supply chain, according to the report, is “likely tainted with forced labor”.

The operative word is “likely”. As in Russia is “likely” interfering in US elections and “likely” poisoning opponents of the Kremlin. There’s no way to verify the accuracy of the sources quoted in these reports – which happen to be conveniently financed by “multiple donors interested in commerce in Asia.” Who are these donors? What is their agenda? Who will profit from the kind of “commerce in Asia” they are pushing?

On a personal level, Xinjiang was at the top of my travel priorities this year – then laid to rest by Covid-19 – because I want to check by myself all aspects of what’s really goin’ on in China’s Far West.

As it stands, US copycat “influencers” in the EU are having free reign to impose the narrative about Uighur forced labor, stressing that the clothes Europeans are wearing “could” – and the operative word is “could” – be made by forced laborers.

Don’t expect the Atlanticist network to even bother to offer context in terms of China fighting terrorism in Xinjiang.

In the old al-Qaeda days, I visited and interviewed Uighur jihadis locked up in a sprawling prison set up by the mujahideen under commander Masoud in the Panjshir valley. They had all been indoctrinated by imams preaching in Saudi-financed madrassas across Xinjiang.

More recently, Uighur Salafi-jihadis have been very active in Syria: at least 5,000, according to the Syrian embassy in Beijing.

Beijing knows exactly what would happen if they return to Xinjiang, as much as Moscow knows what would happen if Chechen jihadis return to the Caucasus.

So it’s no wonder that China has to act. That includes closing madrassas, detaining imams and arresting – and “re-“educating” – possible jihadis and their families.

Forget about the West offering context about the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), which declared an Islamic Emirate, ISIS/Daesh-style, in November 2019 in Idlib, northwest Syria. TIP was founded in Xinjiang 12 years ago and has been very active in Syria since 2011 – exactly the same year when they claimed to be responsible for a terror operation in Kashgar which killed 23 people.

It’s beyond pathetic that the West killed and displaced Muslim multitudes – directly and indirectly – with the “war on terror” just to become oh so worried with the plight of the Uighurs.

It’s more enlightening to remember history. As in the autumn of 821, when princess Taihe, sister of a Tang dynasty emperor, rode in a Bactrian camel, her female attendants following her in treasured Ferghana horses, all the way from the imperial palace in Chang’an to the land of the Uighurs.

Princess Taihe had been chosen as a living tribute – and was on her way to wed the Uighur kaghan to cement their peoples’ friendship. She came from the east, but her dress and ornaments were from the west, from the Central Asian steppes and deserts where she would live her new life.

And by the way, the Uighurs and the Tang dynasty were allies.

THE NAVALNY CASE: MERKEL VS. GERMAN DEEP STATE

The Navalny Case: Merkel vs. German Deep State

Written by J.Hawk exclusively for SouthFront

What happened to Navalny?

The short answer is we don’t know. Open-source information is contradictory in the extreme. However, both the course of events and Russian expert opinions make the allegation that Navalny was poisoned with a nerve agent  Russian doctors, including world-renowned toxicologists who have ran analyses on Navalny’s biological samples, are adamant there were no signs of poisoning, and instead hypothesized he has suffered from a rare metabolic disorder. Chemical weapons specialists are similarly incredulous that Navalny supposedly transferred traces of the nerve agent to a water bottle in his possession (as alleged by German politicians) but managed not to poison anyone on that flight, in spite of throwing up in the airplane bathroom and having to be manhandled by passengers and crew after losing consciousness. Nor was the Omsk hospital staff affected—evaluations performed afterwards showed no presence of toxic substances consistent with nerve agents. The absence of nerve agent in Navalny while in Russia is also indirectly confirmed by the Russian government’s willingness, even eagerness, to have him fly to Germany in order to not have his potential death on their hands. That permission would have never been given had nerve agent poisoning been detected in Russia or, worse, Russian leadership actually ordered Navalny killed by poison, which is an extremely unlikely proposition for a wide range of reasons. Moreover, had that order been given, Navalny would have died in the Omsk hospital that actually saved his life—a fact that is hardly consistent with the Putin-ordered assassination theory. Poisoning Navalny, then saving his life and allowing him to go to a NATO country with traces of the poison still in his body, in order to enjoy the inevitable international scandal, simply flies in the face of logic and common sense.

The Navalny Case: Merkel vs. German Deep State
Alexey Navalny

The German version is of course the one Western media portrayed as unalloyed truth. Navalny was poisoned with a “novichok family” nerve agent, with traces of it found in Navalny’s skin and blood samples, and the aforementioned water bottle that remained in the possession of Navalny’s relatives (who likewise suffered no ill effects from handling it). However, according to German news reports, it took several days to isolate the tocsin, and moreover, in contrast to Russian doctors and specialists who spoke on the record, German experts and physicians are entirely anonymous. No German toxicologists have yet come forward and put their reputations on the line. Apart from anonymous press releases, the only Germans to have voiced the allegation of Navalny poisoning are politicians, including Angela Merkel and her Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. To make matters worse, the Bundeswehr biochemical warfare lab that delivered the diagnosis refuses to release a detailed report on how it analyzed the samples, citing “secrecy”.

All in all, in the absence of evidence and given the lack of transparency of the German investigation, combined with the unwillingness to provide Russia with any official documents on the matter, suggests the German version is the less credible of the two by far. What might account for this disparity?

Der Merkelbunker

Considering the state of affairs described above, it would appear that Angela Merkel was set up, with the main question here being, by whom? Even though from the perspective of “cui bono” United States is the obvious suspect, it does not appear “highly likely” it was the reason German labs may have found byproducts of a nerve agent in Navalny’s system. One can also rule out a British or US intelligence operation in the Russian Federation. US agents would have risked capture, and entrusting Navalny’s entourage with such a mission would be a recipe for disaster. Moreover, were Navalny poisoned in Russia by US or British agents, signs of poisoning would have been quickly detected, and an investigation launched against the most likely suspects in Russia.

The Navalny Case: Merkel vs. German Deep State

It appears more “highly likely” that Angela Merkel’s own government factions played a really nasty trick on her, by opportunistically using Navalny’s illness in order to exert pressure on Merkel and force her to scuttle North Stream 2 which is, after all, one of her signature projects. This would not only fatally weaken her politically, but also force a reorientation of Germany’s foreign policy toward a higher state of confrontation with both Russia and China, incidentally fully subordinating its not only foreign but also domestic economic policy to the United States. Angela Merkel’s relatively measured approach to Russia is not due to her being some sort of a Russophile. There is no evidence suggesting such a set of beliefs. She is, however, a German nationalist who is aggressively pursuing the goal of expanding Germany’s power through the domination of the EU, and extensive economic contacts with Eurasia. These policies naturally made her enemies in both Europe and the United States.

But her luster as a leader has worn down over time, making the maintenance of the ruling coalition an ever more difficult task. While her position as Chancellor is still secure, Merkel was not able to avoid being surrounded by ministers who do not share her worldview, and instead have an Atlanticist orientation. The two German politicians who are prime candidates for this betrayal of Merkel are Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (or AKK), the current Defense Minister and chairwoman of CDU who ousted Merkel from that post in 2018, and Heiko Maas, the Foreign Minister. Both of them have been critical of North Stream 2 in the past, have espoused hard-line anti-Russia and pro-US views to the point of advocating the dispatch of German warships to the South China Sea, and who moreover control the relevant entities in the investigation of the Navalny “poisoning”. Maas, for his part, has been speaking in terms of ultimatums leveled at Russia, demanding that it explain how Navalny was poisoned with Novichok in Russia and prove its innocence, a task that he surely knows is impossible to fulfill. It is not difficult to imagine that as soon as the Navalny saga unfolded, Maas and AKK worked behind the scenes to have Navalny flown to Germany as soon as possible, with a German intelligence agent introducing a tiny dose of cholinesterase inhibitors, possibly Novichok-related ones, upon his arrival in Germany. When Charite apparently refused to play ball and limited itself to an inconclusive “cholinesterase inhibitor” funding, the matter was promptly handed over to AKK’s Bundeswehr lab where the desired result was duly produced.

https://www.tiktok.com/embed/v2/6867604717028117766?lang=en-GB

Since Germany is refusing to release the results of Bundeswehr’s testing or to have Navalny re-examined by Russian or international doctors and compare the results of German and Russian analyses (with Merkel tellingly unable to compel her institutions to actually participate in an effort that would almost certainly exonerate Russia), one can now predict that Russia will fail to “convince” AKK and Maas of its innocence, with the outcome being termination of North Stream 2, “coronation” of AKK as the next Chancellor of Germany, and a crackdown on political parties like AfD and Die Linke who have been vocal in questioning the official narrative. Indeed, with the German military and intelligence services playing an active “behind the scenes” role in German politics, one cannot even rule out a “Reichstag fire” style scenario.

Lessons Learned and Crises to Come

The Russian government clearly miscalculated in allowing Navalny to go to Germany, expecting that Angela Merkel still had sufficient political pull to override her hawkish entourage and force a transparent investigation that would reveal the nature of Navalny’s illness. The more appropriate course of action would have been to keep Navalny in Omsk and invite German doctors to perform analyses of Navalny’s blood samples right there in Omsk, where there was no danger of chain-of-custody violation by third parties determined to plant evidence pointing at Npvichok.

But what is even more worrisome is that Western intelligence services, apparently after being burned by the inept staging of the Douma false flag, have found an almost surefire way to stage “Novichok” false flags. From now on literally every loss of consciousness by a prominent figure can be transformed into an international scandal, as long as there is a compliant NATO biochemical warfare laboratory willing to deliver the required diagnosis, without ever having to reveal how it reached that conclusion.  We should expect this tactic will be used many times in the future.

MORE ON THE TOPIC:

Market Friday: The Pipeline and the Poison


Date: September 4, 2020

Author: Tom Luongo

Pipeline politics, like electoral politics, knows no limits.

With Nordstream 2’s completion on schedule to happen around the same time Donald Trump will ‘appear to be re-elected,‘ the amping up of anti-Russian rhetoric and political pressure was to be expected.

The poisoning of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s supposed chief critic, Alexei Navalny, is the latest sad attempt to stop the Nordstream 2 pipeline. Laying aside the reality that Navalny isn’t any real threat to Putin, the basic question you should be asking is if Putin truly wanted him dead why not just create a pretext for it and shoot him?

This is the first and only reason you need to prove that this story is a bad Ian Fleming short story concocted in the bowels of MI6.

Navalny gets arrested and released in Moscow as often as most people change their socks. So, if Putin the Gangsta’ wanted him dead, he’d be dead.

But Navalny as a political asset for the West as Putin’s gadfly was completely spent. The proof of this is Navalny’s inability to marshal any opposition to the recent referendum in Russia blessing the proposed changes to the constitution.

While the Democrats and the media try to keep the dream of Russian interference into our elections alive we are distracted from what the real operation is — to stop Trump’s re-election and delay until the coup is complete in the U.S. to bury all the evidence of Obamagate during a restoration.

That’s all Russiagate and Ukrainegate and Skripalgate and now Navalnygate are — comfort food lies to angry shitlibs who are still haven’t fully processed the 2016 election and Brexit, kept on a drip feed of social media dopamine hits in a state of perpetual Bargaining so that they never move on to Acceptance

And if The Davos Crowd can put the screws to Russia’s future gas supplies to Europe and stunt its growth with all of this nonsense, all the better. The motivations of the factions pro and con to the Nordstream 2 pipeline have grown so murky it’s almost too much to outline anymore.

There is no simple throughline to this story since it encompasses so many different angles and potential motivations of the players, many of whom have competing agendas.

Merkel wanted Nordstream 2 to make Germany the gas transit hub for the European Union. German businesses reached out to Russia to supply them this gas after the EU destroyed South Stream in 2014. It would give the Germans a lot more control over the Poles while placating the German industrialists who are the source of her power. Her motivation on this has been very clear.

She has also allowed Russia and Turkey to go forward with the second leg of the Turkstream pipeline which goes through Bulgaria, Serbia and into Hungary.

What’s new is that Merkel is finally getting push back from people within her own party over Nordstream 2 which adds to the pressure the Trump administration is putting on her.

Merkel’s modus operandi is always status quo. So, she will always try to placate both sides while still advancing her own plans. For the most part Trump sees right through her and never gives her any wiggle room.

That’s why Nordstream 2 is so important to him, but it is more symbolic than it is about the gas itself. I suspect it is more about the growing influence of the EU and the mission creep of NATO more than any antipathy he has to Putin and/or Russia.

And it wouldn’t surprise me at all for this Nordstream 2 pressure from him to be more about remaking the U.S.’s relations with the post-WWII institutional order — the U.N., NATO, etc. — than it is about a paltry 55 bcm annually of natural gas.

Europe’s future gas needs are so big, with the shuttering of all nuclear power and this putsch towards Green Energy, that, in the end, this isn’t about Germany’s reliance on Russia but rather about Russia profiting from its relationship to Germany.

This tweet says it all and the interview excerpt says a lot more.

The last point is very important because whenever there is about to be a chat between Trump and Putin the well has to be poisoned, as it were, to ensure nothing of substance can change.

And this, to me, makes the most sense as to why Merkel came out so forcefully about the Navalny poisoning, it serves to shut down internal opposition to the pipeline, which no German in his right mind would object to, while appearing to appease Trump and the U.S. by standing tall to Putin.

But this is all nonsense. Merkel will not shut down Nordstream 2 or block its completion over Alexei Navalny any more than I’m going to dress in black bloc and join Antifa.

And that brings me back to the 800 lb. faction in the room, the intelligence agencies who helped create this mess in the first place, which ties us right back to the election.

Who has motive, means and opportunity to create an international incident like this on the eve of the election?

The very people who were caught red-handed in a treasonous intelligence operation used to justify spying on a political opponent during the 2016 election campaign.

Who is desperately trying to push all changes to the current state of play until after the election on November 3rd?

Why is Judge Emmet Sullivan purposefully delaying resolution of the Michael Flynn trial until after the election?

Who is behind the riots in the U.S.?

Who is conducting war games on the election outcome, publishing them in their mouthpieces (here and here) and stating the election will be compromised to the point of having to be resolved in the courts reversing what the result will be on election night?

Who stands to lose the most if Trump is re-elected and a No-Deal Brexit goes through?

British Intelligence, the holdover members of the CIA and Barack Obama, that’s who.

Forget Hillary Clinton, she’s dirty but you shouldn’t care about her. Obama is the one who’s head is actually on the chopping block here, since it’s him the evidence is pointing to as to signing off on all of this.

It’s Obama that was chosen by The Davos Crowd to implement the destruction of Trump, not Hillary.

That’s why we’ve been treated to the greatest show on earth about how the U.S. is going to fail, how the U.S. dollar is going the way of the dodo and the European Union is inevitable.

The only problem with this is it’s completely not true.

This Friday we are seeing what it looks like when you push markets and the political narratives supporting them well past their ‘Best if Used By’ date. A violent snap back which sees stocks fall, safe havens like gold and bitcoin get whacked with the ugly stick and even bond yields rising.

We’re staring at a milder version of what we experienced in March, a sell-everything-not-nailed-down-and-get -to-dollars day. All across the markets we’re seeing a turn towards deflation as the mad scramble for dollars begins now that the odds of Donald Trump winning the election have risen sufficiently to cast doubt on the outcome in the minds of traders.

And the canary in the coal mine for this deflation has, for weeks now, been the inability of oil to rally into this high in stocks. If there has been one thing that I’ve learned in my years of watching markets it is that oil prices never flat line.

That is exactly what’s been going on for the past eight weeks.

So no we have a market correction, long delayed from June, lining up with the height of the election campaign. Everyone is exerting maximum political pressure on each other and it won’t get any better.

With follow-through downside action today after Thursday’s massacre markets all over have thrown technical reversals at the weekly level. Expect more follow through next week as a full-blown panic is likely to emerge here.

But, be especially on the lookout for a crash in oil prices as that will be used to construct a new version of a Trump/Putin bromance that goes something like this:

Now that oil prices have collapsed, Putin will put extra pressure on Trump to steal the election because Putin needs higher oil prices while Biden will go after Big Oil if he’s elected.

The reality is that the global economy was broken by these lock downs and the now indisputable over-reaction by governments to effect fundamental political change and oust Trump from power.

But they are also continuations of decades-long policies of pipeline politics dictating where capital is allowed to flow. In the grand scheme of things Trump and Putin are near-equals as enemies to the people behind these policies.

And that’s why whenever things look good for them, sacrifices must be made. This time it was Alexei Navalny.


By Tom Luongo
Source: Gold Goats ‘n Guns

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a news conference following an online meeting of the BRICS Foreign Ministers Council, Moscow, September 4, 2020

Source

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a news conference following an online meeting of the BRICS Foreign Ministers Council, Moscow, September 4, 2020

September 05, 2020

A full-format online meeting of the BRICS foreign ministers has ended. This is the second such meeting this year under Russia’s chairmanship.

The first was dedicated exclusively to mobilising efforts to effectively prevent the spread of the coronavirus infection.

Today, we discussed a wide range of international issues and key items on the agenda of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly as well as our practical cooperation among the five member states.

We have adopted a detailed and appropriate final communiqué. You can read it, so I will not dwell on the key international matters that the communiqué covers in detail.

I would like to note that the communiqué reaffirms the BRICS’ commitment to the principles of multilateralism, reliance on international law and resolving conflicts exclusively through political and diplomatic means and according to the principles enshrined in the UN Charter. Once again, we resolutely supported the central role of the UN in the search for collective answers to the challenges and threats facing humanity.

In this year of the 75th anniversary of Victory in World War II, we noted the importance of preserving the historical memory of this tragedy’s lessons in order to avoid repeating it in the future. We unanimously condemned any and all manifestations of Nazism, racism and xenophobia. The corresponding resolution that is adopted annually by the UN General Assembly is traditionally supported by all BRICS countries.

We agreed to strengthen and promote our strategic partnership in all key areas of BRICS activities, such as politics and security, the economy and finance, and cultural ties.

We are grateful to our friends for supporting Russia’s chairmanship of the Five under rather difficult circumstances, when direct international communication, face-to-face communication, has, in fact, been put on hold. Nevertheless, using modern technology, we have managed to carry out most of the planned activities. We have had over 50 activities and as many will take place before the end of the year. We have every reason to believe (our partners also mentioned this today) that all of the Russian chairmanship’s plans with regard to the BRICS activities will be fulfilled.

We have reached a number of practical agreements, including the one to promote investment and to support the effective participation of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises in international trade. Our respective ministries have adopted a joint statement in support of the multilateral trade system and WTO reform. Another important document, the Memorandum of Cooperation in the Competition Policy, was renewed for another term. Our development banks have agreed on an action plan for innovation and blockchain working groups. Other ministries and departments continue to work energetically.

Most of these initiatives are being drafted with an eye to approving them during the next summit, which is scheduled to be held in Russia in the autumn. We will determine the dates later based on the epidemiological situation.

These are the main results. Once again, the communiqué that we have circulated will provide a great deal of interesting information.

Question: The year in which Russia was the BRICS chair has been fairly difficult. The pandemic has taken its toll on every area. What did you manage to accomplish this year in BRICS? What kind of meetings and statements can we expect before 2020 runs out?

Sergey Lavrov: I partially talked about these issues when I presented the main results of our meeting today. To reiterate, we consider it critically important to have reached an agreement on a number of issues.

This includes a package of documents devoted to trade and investment, encouraging small-, medium- and micro-businesses to participate in international trade, strengthening cooperation between banks (central banks and development banks in our respective countries), and the active work of the New Development Bank, which was created by the leaders of the BRICS countries and is operating successfully.) By the way, the Eurasian Regional Centre of the New Development Bank will open in Russia in October.

The agreements concerning the prevention of new challenges and threats are notable as well. A very powerful document on counter-terrorism has been agreed upon and will be submitted for approval by the heads of state. The activities to combat drug trafficking and drug crime have been resumed. Our joint cybersecurity efforts are on the rise. This is a critical area to which we pay special attention.

Notably, special attention was paid to Russia’s initiatives, which were presented a year ago, and that supplemen BRICS’ activities with two new formats. I’m referring to the Women’s Business Alliance (it has been effectively created and is about to go live) and the Energy Research Platform, which is designed to encourage the research community’s involvement in the practical activities on drawing up energy resource plans. Two major events have taken place as part of the Energy Research Platform. Their results will also be submitted for consideration by the heads of state.

Question: You have repeatedly mentioned the importance of international cooperation in combating the coronavirus. China and Russia are now working to develop their own COVID-19 vaccine. China has officially announced its plans to strengthen cooperation in vaccine research and development.

What is your take on the prospects for possible cooperation between China and Russia in vaccine development and production? To what extent will cooperation between the two countries help ensure access to vaccines for other countries in need of support, including the BRICS members?

Sergey Lavrov: Today, we confirmed that this area remains a BRICS priority. Russia and China’s partners (India, Brazil and South Africa) actively supported Moscow and Beijing’s efforts in this regard. All of them appreciated the statements made by our Chinese colleague and myself to the effect that we are interested in the broadest possible cooperation, including with the participation of our BRICS friends. Notably, the coronavirus has by no means initiated the motivation for BRICS cooperation in this area. Interaction began much earlier. The first document on this subject was adopted at the BRICS Summit in Ufa, Russia, in 2015, when the heads of the BRICS states put forward an initiative to establish cooperation in combating infectious diseases. Then, at the 2018 South Africa Summit, our South African partners advanced an initiative to establish a vaccine development and research centre. So, this work has been ongoing for the past five years, even before the coronavirus infection posed very difficult problems for us.

Thanks to the visionary decisions adopted at the earlier summits, the BRICS countries were well prepared and are now able to mobilise their full potential in the face of the coronavirus infection.

Russia’s additional initiatives introduced this year have been reviewed and approved. One of them concerns the creation of an early warning system for epidemiological threats. The other proposes developing specific steps for the legal regulation of medical products which will certainly improve our ability to cope with the coronavirus now and prepare for the fact that we will most likely have to deal with similar challenges more than once in the future. So, BRICS is among the leaders in developing measures to prevent such epidemics and to deal with the aftereffects.

Question:  How will statements that we’ve heard in the past two days from Berlin on the issue of Alexei Navalny influence the strategic dialogue between Russia and Europe? Today, NATO urged Russia to fully open its file on Novichok to the   OPCW. Who is now interested in a crime scenario on Navalny’s poisoning?

Sergey Lavrov: Representatives of the Presidential Executive Office and the Foreign Ministry have already made statements on this issue. We have nothing to hide. Let me recall again that as soon as Navalny felt unwell on the plane it landed immediately. An ambulance was waiting for him in the airport and he was instantly taken to hospital, switched to an artificial lung ventilator and given other necessary measures. As I understand it, Navalny spent a bit more than a day and a half there. During this time, we were urged every hour to explain what happened and report any information immediately.

For over a week after he was taken to Germany, no one who raised a concern during his stay in Omsk has expressed interest in his case or loudly demanded information from the German doctors. We don’t have new information on this up to this day. It’s the same old story: we are publicly accused of something and our official requests for answers to specific questions from the Russian Prosecutor-General’s Office, under legal assistance treaties, remain unanswered. German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel has been accusing us for two days of this action (ostensibly, the poisoning) but cannot present anything specific. Today, we once again asked our colleagues in the EU and Germany whether Ms Merkel plans to instruct her staff to send the German Justice Ministry’s response to the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office inquiry.

I already have to say out loud that we have information that this reply is being delayed due to the position of the German Foreign Ministry. We have instructed the Russian Ambassador to Germany to ask for a reason for the delay. Today we were at least promised that the reply would come soon. We will react when we receive it with specific facts. As I see it, the Germans believe their reply will contain these facts. Let me repeat that, regrettably, all this brings to mind what happened with the Skripals and other incidents where Russia was groundlessly accused and the results of the investigation (that took place in Britain in the latter case) remain classified. Nobody sees the Skripals themselves.

I would like to remind you that when, on the wave of this Russophobic hysteria over the Skripals, our British colleagues compelled most EU countries to expel our diplomats (to which Moscow certainly responded), we confidentially asked the EU members whether the Brits presented any facts in addition to what they publicly reported in the media. We received a negative answer. Facts were not presented but they asked to expel our diplomats and promised that specific information would be provided later. I am not being lazy and whenever I meet with my colleagues, I ask them about the Skripals case when they expelled Russian diplomats based on London’s parole of honour and followed its appeal. I ask them whether they were given the promised specific information in addition to what was publicly mentioned and they again said “no.” Nobody has given any information to anyone.

This is why we now approach such high-flown, dramatic statements by our Western colleagues with a large dose of scepticism. We’ll see what facts they present. I think this public conduct and such haughty, arrogant demands made in a tone that our Western partners allow themselves shows that there is little to present except artificially fueled pathetics.

Question: The Ukrainian foreign minister said that the foreign ministers of Germany and France seek to hold a Normandy format foreign minister meeting in September. According to him, you have no objections to this. Is that right?

Sergey Lavrov: The Foreign Ministry has already responded to this question. If someone wants to meet, let them meet. We have not discussed any such matter. We are now talking about preparing a meeting of foreign policy advisers to the Normandy format leaders. Nobody said anything specific about a meeting of foreign ministers, because, I think, they are well aware of our position. First, we need to act upon what the leaders of our countries agreed on in Paris in December 2019. There has been little progress so far. We only see more problems in connection with the constant worsening of the Ukrainian authorities’ position with regard to their commitment to implementing the Minsk agreements.

Question: Yesterday, it became known that the Democrats in the United States demanded immediate imposition of sanctions on Russia in connection with the upcoming US presidential election in November. They are referring to intelligence that says that Russia can allegedly intervene. What can you tell us about this?

Sergey Lavrov: We have been hearing accusations that Russia is interfering in US presidential elections for many years now. It has now become a kind of a game of who is interfering more: Russia, China or Iran? A US national intelligence official recently said that China is interfering more than Russia or Iran. So, grown-up people have been playing these games for a long time now, and this does not surprise us. Sometimes, though, we can’t help but be surprised. I’m referring to recent accusations against Russia to the effect that we are trying to abuse or use in the interest of a particular candidate the planned voting by mail in the United States. I was surprised by this accusation, because until then I thought that voting by mail was part of the differences between President Trump, who outright refuses to allow this type of vote to be held, and the Democrats, who want to use voting by mail as much as possible.

Truth be told, we are used to these attacks. In this case, as in the case of poisonings and other situations in different countries, we will respond to specific facts, if they are presented to us. We keep telling our partners – Americans and Europeans alike – if you have any concern about anything, especially cybersecurity, which has become a particularly common subject for accusations and reproaches against us, let’s sit down and review your facts. We are ready to do so. Unfortunately, our partners in the United States and the EU shun direct conversations based on professional analysis of available facts. We are ready for this, and we encourage our colleagues to do so. They should stop living in the past reminiscing about the colonial era and considering themselves smarter and mightier than others and start working on the basis of what they signed in 1945, namely, the UN Charter principles, including equality, balance of interests and joint and honest work. We are ready for this.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation

ترامب يخوض حرب شوارع في أوروبا والهدف ميركل وبوتين…!‏

محمد صادق الحسيني

منذ أن اتخذ بروكسيل مقراً له وهو يغامر بشنّ حروب خفيّة لا يمكن الإمساك بكافة خيوطها بسهولة، فمَن هو هذا الرجل وماذا يمثّل..!؟

من جهة أخرى فقد شهدت مدينة شتوتغارت الألمانية الجنوبية ليلة أمس الاول حرب شوارع عنيفة حتى الصباح، فيما يشبه الحروب الأهلية في بلاد العرب والمسلمين، فمن يقف وراء هذه الاحداث حقاً..!؟

على الرغم من أن المستشارة الألمانية، انجيلا ميركل، ليست القائدة الشيوعية روزا لوكسمبورغ، التي اغتالها النازيون سنة 1919 من القرن الماضي، ولا هي حتى اشتراكية ديموقراطية، كي نقول إن ترامب يتهمها بأنها يسارية، الا انه يواصل شن حربه عليها وعلى بلادها، منذ أن تسلم الحكم في واشنطن. حيث عاملها بفظاظة وقلة احترام، في كل اللقاءات التي أجراها، او اضطر لإجرائها معها.

فلماذا يا ترى؟ وما هي الأسباب الحقيقية وراء هذا الموقف؟ وما هي الأدوات التي يستخدمها ترامب في حربه هذه؟ وهل تمكن من لَيِ ذراع المستشارة ميركل وذراع بلادها، العملاق الاقتصادي الأوروبي، الذي يطمع ويطمح الرئيس الأميركي في إخضاعه بشكل شامل وكامل لمتطلبات واحتياجات السوق الأميركية، وبالتالي إخضاعه (العملاق الاقتصادي) لمصالح رؤوس الأموال التي تحكم الولايات المتحدة، من خلال القوى العميقة والخفية، التي ترسم سياسة ترامب.

إذن، فالقضية ليست عدم وفاء ألمانيا بالتزاماتها تجاه حلف شمال الاطلسي، وهي بالطبع تهمة غير صحيحة، وإنما هناك قطبة مخفيةً في هذه القضية.

فما هي هذه القطبة يا ترى؟

إنها قطبةٌ مزدوجة تتكوّن من شقين:

الأول: اقتصادي محض، سببه إصرار المستشارة الالمانية وحكومتها على تنفيذ مشروع خط أنابيب الغاز الروسي، المسمّى: السيل الشمالي / رقم 2 / وهو قيد الإنشاء وينطلق من الأراضي الروسية الشمالية الغربية، بالقرب من لينينغراد، ويسير تحت بحر البلطيق، بطول 1222 كم مباشرةً الى الأراضي الالمانية، ومن هناك الى فرنسا وغيرها من الدول الأوروبية الغربية.

وهو المشروع الذي يعارضه ترامب والقوى العميقة، التي تقف وراءه ويمثل مصالحها، بشدة وذلك لأنهم يريدون او يخططون لما يلي:

أ) لإرغام الدول الاوروبية على شراء الغاز الأميركي المسال، والذي قام محمد بن سلمان بتمويل إنشاء إحدى عشرة محطة شحن له، في الولايات المتحدة قبل سنتين. ولكن هذه الدول لا ترغب في ذلك لأسباب عديدة منها المالي ومنها البيئي ومنها السياسي ايضاً.

ب) لإلحاق الضرر بالاقتصاد الروسي بدايةً، عبر تقليص واردات الدول الاوروبية من واردات الغاز الطبيعي الروسي، غير المسال ، وذلك تمهيداً لإخراج روسيا من سوق الطاقة الاوروبي وما يعنيه ذلك من ضربة للصادرات الروسية من ناحية وإحكام السيطرة والهيمنة الأميركية على الاقتصادات الأوروبية، من خلال سيطرتها على قطاع الطاقة والتحكم بالتالي بمستويات النمو والتطور في اقتصادات جميع الدول الأوروبية.

الثاني: هو سبب سياسي محض، يتعلق بموقف ألمانيا من الاتفاق النووي الإيراني، حيث ترفض ألمانيا سياسات ترامب المتعلقة بالموضوع، وهي بذلك تشكل رافعة لبقية الدول الأوروبية، التي وقعت الاتفاق، أن تبقى على موقفها الهادف الى منع انهيار هذا الاتفاق (وان كانت تصب في النهاية لجانب الموقف الأميركي بسبب كونها دولة محتلة من أميركا لم تستطع ومعها الدول الأوروبية الأخرى من الخروج على القرار الأميركي).

كما أن الموقف الفعلي، الذي اتخذته المانيا، تجاه موضوع العقوبات الدولية، المفروضة على بيع السلاح لإيران، والتي سينتهي العمل بها في بداية شهر 10/2020، يثير غضب القوى العميقة (الدوائر الإنجيلية المتطرفة في الولايات المتحدة) التي تدعم ترامب وتستخدمه رأس حربة لها، في مواجهة الجمهورية الاسلامية الايرانية. اذ ان هذا الموقف بالذات هو الذي جعل الرئيس الأميركي يتخذ قراره بتخفيض عديد الجنود الأميركيين الموجودين في القواعد العسكرية الأميركية في المانيا.

ولكن حسابات ترامب وداعميه كانت خاطئةً كالعادة، حيث أفاد مصدر دبلوماسي أوروبي، انه وعلى العكس من كل ما يتردد في الإعلام، حول تداعيات هذه الخطوة الترامبية على أمن المانيا، فإن الحكومة الألمانية والمستشارة انجيلا ميركل لا تكترثان لهذا التخفيض، خاصة أن المانيا لا تتعرّض لأي تهديد، أمني او عسكري، من اي جهةٍ كانت، سوى التهديدات المستمرة، التي تشكلها محاولات زيادة السيطرة الأميركية على كل شيء في أوروبا، وتلك النشاطات التي تنفذها ادوات اليمين الأميركي الإنجيلي المتطرف في اوروبا.

فإلى جانب الضغوط المباشرة، التي يمارسها الرئيس الأميركي وإدارته، على العديد من الدول الأوروبية وفي مقدمتها المانيا، هناك ضغوط هائلة غير مباشرةٍ، لكنها مرئيةً وملموسةً، تمارس على المستشارة الالمانية وحزبها، الحزب الديموقراطي المسيحي الالماني، والذي يمثل رأس الحربة فيها كبير مستشاري ترامب الاستراتيجيين في البيت الابيض سنة 2017، ستيف بانون ، الذي يدير مدرسة تدريب القيادات اليمينية في أوروبا (من مقرّه في بروكسل) وحقنها بما يطلق عليه تسمية القيم اليهودية المسيحية الغربية. هذه المدرسة التي يدير نشاطاتها اليومية ويقرّر توجّهاتها الفكرية، النائب البريطاني الجنسية والسيرلانكي الأصل، نيرج ديڤا، بالاعتماد على معهد أبحاث متطرف ومرتبط بحزب المحافظين البريطاني، اسمه:

اذ كان للنشاط، المتعدد الأشكال والأنواع، الذي قام به ستيف بانون قبيل الانتخابات التشريعية الالمانية، في ايلول 2017، الأثر البالغ في حصول الحزب الألماني النازي الجديد، حزب البديل لألمانيا على 94 مقعداً في البرلمان الألماني، من اصل 709، حيث احتل المرتبة الثالثة بين الأحزاب، بعد حزب المستشارة الديموقراطي المسيحي والحزب الاشتراكي الديموقراطي، الأمر الذي يشكل خطراً على النظام السياسي ليس فقط في ألمانيا، كما يعلمنا التاريخ.

اما آخر المحاولات، التي قام بها «تلامذة» ستيف بانون لمعاقبة المستشارة الالمانية وهز الاستقرار في بلادها فكانت أحداث الشغب الواسعة النطاق، التي قامت بها أعداد كبيرة من المشاغبين، مقسمة على مجموعات صغيرة، في مدينة شتوتغارت الصناعية الهامة (مركز شركة مرسيدس) ليلة السبت الأحد 20/21-6-2020 والتي استمرت من منتصف ليلة الاحد حتى الصباح، وفشلت خلالها قوات الشرطة في السيطرة على الوضع، رغم استدعاء تعزيزات شرطية من كل أنحاء المقاطعة. وهو ما خلف دماراً وتخريباً كبيراً في الأملاك الخاصة والعامة، تخللتها عمليات نهب واسعة النطاق، في المدينة.

ومن أهم القضايا اللافتة للنظر في أحداث الليلة الماضية، في مدينة شتوتغارت الألمانية، ما يلي:

*التنظيم العالي المستوى، الذي تمتعت به هذه المجموعات المشاغبة، خلال الاشتباكات مع الشرطة.

*مرونة وسرعة حركة هذه المجموعات والتنسيق العالي بينها، ما يدل على وجود مركز قيادة وسيطرة موحّد، يدير هذا التحرك.

*العنف الشديد الذي مارسته هذه المجموعات، سواءً في تخريب الأملاك العامة والخاصة ونهبها، او تجاه وحدات وآليات الشرطة، حتى تلك الآليات المتوقفة في أنحاء المدينة ولا تشارك في المواجهات. وذلك على الرغم من ان الشرطة لم تطلق اي غازات مسيلة للدموع او القنابل الدخانية او غير ذلك من وسائل مكافحة الشغب طوال فترة المواجهات والتزمت بضبط نفس شديد.

اذن، كان هذا النشاط عنفياً بامتياز قامت به مجموعات ذات ارتباطات سياسة واضحة، مع جهات تريد إرسال رسالة جليةً للمستشارة الالمانية، مؤداها أننا قادرون على ضرب الاقتصاد الالماني، بوسائل أخرى / القوة الناعمة / اذا ما واصلت المانيا عنادها في موضوع السيل الشمالي وموضوع الاتفاق النووي الإيراني ورفع حظر بيع الأسلحة لإيران. وهذا بالطبع نوع من انواع الحرب الاقتصادية، ولو أنها لا تتخذ شكل العقوبات المباشرة، تماماً كالحرب الاقتصادية التي يمارسها ترامب ضد 39 دولة في العالم، على رأسها إيران وروسيا وسورية والصين وكوريا الشمالية، اضافة الى حزب الله اللبناني.

عبثاً يحاول ترامب أن يخرج سالماً من هذه الحروب العبثية..!

لأن سهامه كلها سترتدّ الى نحره إن عاجلاً او آجلاً.

هكذا هي السنن الكونية.

بعدنا طيبين، قولوا الله.

A Pipelineistan fable for our times

June 08, 2020

A Pipelineistan fable for our times

By Pepe Escobar – posted with permission

Ukraine was supposed to prevent Russia from deepening energy ties with Germany; it didn’t work out that way

Once upon a time in Pipelineistan, tales of woe were the norm. Shattered dreams littered the chessboard – from IPI vs. TAPI in the AfPak realm to the neck-twisting Nabucco opera in Europe.

In sharp contrast, whenever China entered the picture, successful completion prevailed. Beijing financed a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Xinjiang, finished in 2009, and will profit from two spectacular Power of Siberia deals with Russia.

And then there’s Ukraine. Maidan was a project of the Barack Obama administration, featuring a sterling cast led by POTUS, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, John McCain and last but not least, prime Kiev cookie distributor Victoria “F**k the EU” Nuland.

Ukraine was also supposed to prevent Russia from deepening energy ties with Germany, as well as other European destinations.

Well, it did not exactly play like that. Nord Stream was already operational. South Stream was Gazprom’s project to southeast Europe. Relentless pressure by the Obama administration derailed it. Yet that only worked to enable a resurrection: the already completed TurkStream, with gas starting to flow in January 2020.

The battlefield then changed to Nord Stream 2. This time relentless Donald Trump administration pressure did not derail it. On the contrary: it will be completed by the end of 2020.

Richard Grennel, the US ambassador to Germany, branded a “superstar” by President Trump, was furious. True to script, he threatened Nordstream 2 partners – ENGIE, OMV, Royal Dutch Shell, Uniper, and Wintershall – with “new sanctions.”

Worse: he stressed that Germany “must stop feeding the beast at a time when it does not pay enough to NATO.”

“Feeding the beast” is not exactly subtle code for energy trade with Russia.

Peter Altmaier, German minister of economic affairs and energy, was not impressed. Berlin does not recognize any legality in extra-territorial sanctions

Grennel, on top of it, is not exactly popular in Berlin. Diplomats popped the champagne when they knew he was going back home to become the head of US national intelligence.

Trump administration sanctions delayed Nordstream 2 for around one year, at best. What really matters is that in this interval Kiev had to sign a gas transit deal with Gazprom. What no one is talking about is that by 2025 no Russian gas will be transiting across Ukraine towards Europe.

So the whole Maidan project was in fact useless.

It’s a running joke in Brussels that the EU never had and will never have a unified energy policy towards Russia. The EU came up with a gas directive to force the ownership of Nord Stream 2 to be separated from the gas flowing through the pipeline. German courts applied their own “nein.”

Nord Stream 2 is a serious matter of national energy security for Germany. And that is enough to trump whatever Brussels may concoct.

And don’t forget Siberia 

The moral of this fable is that now two key Pipelineistan nodes – Turk Stream and Nord Stream 2 – are established as umbilical steel cords linking Russia with two NATO allies.

And true to proverbial win-win scripts, now it’s also time for China to look into solidifying its European relations.

Last week, German chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese premier Li Keqiang had a video conference to discuss Covid-19 and China-EU economic policy.

That was a day after Merkel and President Xi had spoken, when they agreed that the China-EU summit in Leipzig on September 14 would have to be postponed.

This summit should be the climax of the German presidency of the EU, which starts on July 1. That’s when Germany would be able to present a unified policy towards China, uniting in theory the 27 EU members and not only the 17+1 from Central Europe and the Balkans – including 11 EU members – that already have a privileged relationship with Beijing and are on board for the Belt and Road Initiative.

In contrast with the Trump administration, Merkel does privilege a clear, comprehensive trade partnership with China – way beyond a mere photo op summit. Berlin is way more geoeconomically sophisticated than the vague “engagement and exigence” Paris  approach.

Merkel as well as Xi are fully aware of the imminent fragmentation of the world economy post-Lockdown. Yet as much as Beijing is ready to abandon the global circulation strategy from which it has handsomely profited for the past two decades, the emphasis is also on refining very close trade relations with Europe.

Ray McGovern has concisely detailed the current state of US-Russia relations. The heart of the whole matter, from Moscow’s point of view, was summarized by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, an extremely able diplomat:

“We don’t believe the US in its current shape is a counterpart that is reliable, so we have no confidence, no trust whatsoever. So our own calculations and conclusions are less related to what America is doing …. We cherish our close and friendly relations with China. We do regard this as a comprehensive strategic partnership in different areas, and we intend to develop it further.”

It’s all here. Russia-China “comprehensive strategic partnership” steadily advancing. Including “Power of Siberia” Pipelineistan. Plus Pipelineistan linking two key NATO allies. Sanctions? What sanctions?

ألمانيا المحتلة أميركيّاً والانتقام الصهيونيّ من المقاومة وحزب الله!

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محمد صادق الحسينيّ

بنظرة موضوعيّة في تقييم قرار الحكومة الاتحاديّة الألمانيّة، الذي اتخذته يوم 29/4/2020، بإعلان حزب الله منظمة إرهابية وحظر نشاطاته على أراضيها، نستطيع التأكيد على مجموعة من القضايا، المتعلقة بالخلفية التاريخية لهذا القرار، والإضاءة على دور الأنظمة الرجعية العربية، في تسهيل اتخاذه.

وأهمّ هذه القضايا هي التالية:

أولاً: إنّ ألمانيا الاتحادية دولة محتلة، من قبل الولايات المتحدة وبريطانيا وفرنسا، منذ نهاية الحرب العالمية الثانية، ولا زالت محتلة عسكرياً، على الرغم من إقامة نظام حكم “ديمقراطي” وحكومة ألمانية ودمجها في منظمة حلف شمال الأطلسي، لتغطية وشرعنة احتلالها.

ثانياً: إنّ هذا القرار ليس إلا تعبيراً عن سياسة التبعية الكاملة، لكلّ من حَكَمَ ألمانيا الاتحادية بعد الحرب العالمية الثانية، للولايات المتحدة والدوائر الصهيونية العالمية. خاصة أن الحزب الحاكم حالياً، الحزب الديمقراطي المسيحي، بزعامة المستشارة أنغيلا ميركل، هو الحزب نفسه الذي كان يقود البلاد سنة 1952، الذي كان يتزعّمه كونراد أديناور آنذاك، والذي وقع اتفاقية التعويضات مع “إسرائيل” ومجلس المطالب اليهودية Jewish Claims Councle (وهو منظمة صهيونية عالمية تدّعي تمثيل اليهود “ضحايا النازية”، بتاريخ 10/9/1952 في لوكسمبورغ.

تلك الاتفاقية التي أطلق عليها اسم: اتفاقيّة لوكسمبورغ بين ألمانيا الاتحادية و”إسرائيل” والتي التزمت ألمانيا، بموجبها بدفع تعويضات للكيان الصهيوني بقيمة ثلاثة مليارات ونصف المليار مارك ألماني. ثم شكلت هذه الاتفاقيّة قاعدة ثابتة، لابتزاز حكومات تل أبيب لحكومة ألمانيا الاتحادية، التي واصلت تلبية الطلبات المالية الإسرائيلية، بحيث وصل مجموع ما دفعته ألمانيا للكيان الغاصب سنة 2007 مبلغ خمسة وعشرين مليار يورو. ثم ارتفع المبلغ سنة 2018 الى أربعة وسبعين مليار يورو.

ثالثاً: وهنا تجب الإشارة الى انّ أولى المليارات الألمانية التي دفعت للكيان الصهيوني قد استخدمت في هدفين:

الأول: هو تمويل شراء مفاعل ديمونا النووي من فرنسا وتدريب الكوادر الإسرائيلية في المجال النووي. ايّ انّ ألمانيا الاتحادية هي مَن مكَّنَ “إسرائيل” من امتلاك قدرات نووية وهي نفسها التي تتهم إيران زوراً وبهتاناً بمحاولات امتلاك أسلحة نووية.

الثاني: تمويل صفقات سلاح وتجهيزات عسكرية ألمانية وبريطانية وفرنسية، لصالح الجيش الإسرائيلي، وذلك لتحديث تسليح هذا الجيش، حيث اشترت “إسرائيل “العديد من الدبابات البريطانية الحديثة (آنذاك) من طراز سينتوريون Centuriun وبدأت بعقد صفقات للتزود بطائرات ميستير Mystere وسوبرميستير الفرنسية المقاتلة النفاثة (شركة داسو الفرنسية)، هذا الى جانب قيام حكومة ألمانيا الاتحادية، بتحديث أسطول آليات النقل العسكرية الإسرائيلية كاملاً، فور توقيع الاتفاقية المُشار اليها أعلاه. الأمر الذي لا يمكن اعتباره إلا مشاركة ألمانية مباشرة، عبر تمويل صفقات السلاح، في العدوان الثلاثيّ على مصر سنة 1956 وكذلك في العدوان الاسرائيلي على الدول العربية سنة 1967.

ذلك العدوان الذي نفذته عصابات تل أبيب انطلاقاً من قاعدة الحرب الخاطفة، الهتلرية الألمانية، معتمدة على سلاح جوّ فعّال امتلك أحدث المقاتلات الفرنسية وسلاح مدرّعات حديثاً وفعالاً شكلت الدبابات البريطانية الحديثة (آنذاك) عموده الفقري. وكلها أسلحة مموّلة من حكومة ألمانيا الاتحادية.

رابعاً: كما يجب على المرء، عند تقييم القرار الألماني باعتبار حزب الله منظمة إرهابية، أن لا ينسى انّ حكومة ألمانيا الاتحادية (الديمقراطية المسيحية كما هي الحكومة الحاليّة)، برئاسة المستشار لودفيغ إيرهارد (Ludwig Erhard)، هي التي اعترفت بـ “إسرائيل” وأقامت معها علاقات ديبلوماسية كاملة بتاريخ 12/5/1965، على الرغم من معارضة وزارة الخارجية الألمانية لذلك القرار في حينه. وهو ما شجّع حكومة الاحتلال آنذاك، وبعد أن كانت قد استكملت تجهيز جيش الاحتلال الإسرائيلي بأحدث الأسلحة الغربية المموّلة من حكومة ألمانيا الاتحادية، على تنفيذ عدوانها الواسع على الدول العربية واحتلال بقية فلسطين وأراضٍ من مصر وسورية.

وهذا يعني انّ حكومة ألمانيا الاتحادية، بقرارها المشؤوم الذي اتخذ قبل أيام، إنما نفذت قراراً أميركياً صهيونياً بمعاقبة حزب الله، على قتاله قوات الاحتلال الإسرائيلي في جنوب لبنان حتى الهزيمة النهائية وانسحابه غير المشروط من الأراضي اللبنانية سنة 2000 وهزيمة جيش الاحتلال نفسه للمرة الثانية عندما اعتدى على لبنان في تموز 2006، وكذلك معاقبة الحزب على المشاركة الفعّالة في قتال داعش وهزيمته في سورية والعراق ولبنان بشكل خاص. أيّ أنّ حكومة المستشارة ميركل هي شريكة، من الدرجة الأولى، للولايات المتحدة بالمناورة بالإرهابيين واستغلال وجودهم ونشاطهم المدعوم غربياً لتحقيق أهدافٍ سياسية كان للحزب دور مركزي في منع تحقيقها (الأهداف السياسية الغربية).

خامساً: وبما أنّ الشيء بالشيء يُذكر، فلا بدّ من الربط، بشكل موضوعي، بين هذه الخطوة الألمانيّة المدانة بشدة وبين العديد من الخطوات والسياسات العربية الخليجية على وجه الخصوص والتي شجّعت حكومة ألمانيا المحتلة على اتخاذ قرار كهذا بدلاً من أن تتصدّى لسياسات شيطنة كلّ من يعمل على مقاومة مشاريع الاحتلال والهيمنة على العالم العربي ومقدراته. كما لا بدّ من التذكير بالدور التخريبي لهذه الأنظمة الخليجية التابعة عملياً للاستعمار والصهيونية، منذ أن تمّ توكيلها الحكم في الجزيرة العربية، وهو الدور الذي يتواصل اليوم في العمل على تغيير العقيدة الوطنية العربية، ليس فقط في دول الجزيرة العربية وإنما في كلّ الدول العربية، عبر أعلامها المتصهين والمسموم، سواء المرئي والمقروء أو ذلك الافتراضيّ.

هذا التخريب، الذي تمارسه دول البترودولار في الجزيرة العربية، والذي يعمل من دون توقف وبإمكانيّات ماليّة هائلة، والهادف الى اختراع عدو وهمي للأمة العربية، اسمه إيران، إنما هو نفسه مَن يتحمّل حجم المسؤولية الألمانية نفسه في اتخاذ هذا القرار، خاصة أنّ حزب الله يقاتل الإرهاب ولا يموّله ويقدّم له كلّ أنواع الدعم، كما تفعل الحكومة الألمانيّة وحكومات ممالك النفط العربية الآيلة الى الانقراض قريباً، وهو ما يعني أنّ الحكومة الألمانية ومعها الولايات المتحدة الأميركية و”إسرائيل” وممالك النفط العربية تعمل على تحقيق الهدف نفسه، المتمثل في تدمير الدولة الوطنية العربية وتعزيز دور دويلة الاحتلال الاسرائيلي، من خلال محاربة كلّ من يدعم القضية الفلسطينية كحزب الله اللبناني والجمهورية الإسلامية الإيرانية.

سادساً: ولعلّ من المفيد أيضاً تذكير المستشارة الألمانية وحكومتها أن هذه السياسات، المتبعة من قبلهما، والتي هي انعكاس للتبعية العبودية للولايات المتحدة الأميركية والدوائر الصهيونية العالمية لا يمكن أن تؤدّي إلا الى خلق المزيد من التطرف، في المجتمع الألماني، كما هو حاصل حالياً، حيث يسيطر الحزب اليميني المتطرف (عملياً نازيون جدد رغم انخراطه في العملية الانتخابية في ألمانيا)، والمسمّى: المبادرة من أجل ألمانيا (Alternative für Deutschland (AfD حيث يسيطر هذا الحزب على 89 مقعداً من أصل 620 مقعداً في البرلمان الحالي.

كما لا بدّ من تذكير المستشارة ميركل بأنّ عليها وحكومتها منع شبكات الإرهاب النازي الجديد، وحظر نشاطها في ألمانيا، كالشبكة، التي تسمى شبكة ميلبيتس Milbitz، وهي شبكة نازيين جدد تملك معسكرات للتدريب على الأسلحة، في منطقة رودولشتات Saalfeld – Rudolstadt، وسط ألمانيا، والتي نفذت العديد من الاعتداءات المسلحة على أماكن إقامة المهاجرين وطالبي اللجوء السياسي. وهي شبكات لا تتعرّض حتى لأيّ مضايقات، من قبل حكومة ميركل، حتى يومنا هذا.

ولعلّ الفضيحة الكبرى، التي تفجّرت في ألمانيا، على أثر انكشاف قيام قائد جهاز المخابرات الداخلية الألماني (Bundesamts für Verfassungsschutz)، هانس غِيورغ ماسين Hans- George Maaßen، بعقد اجتماعات تنسيقية مع الناطقة باسم الحزب اليميني الألماني المتطرف، / مبادرة من أجل ألمانيا/، واسمها فراوكي بيتري Frauke Petry، واستقالته من وظيفته إثر ذلك.

اذن انها الحكومات الرجعية، التي تؤمّن الغطاء للعناصر المتطرفه والإرهابيين ورؤساء تلك الحكومات، كالمستشارة ميركل، هي الجهة المسؤولة عن انتشار الإرهاب في بلادها وبقية أنحاء العالم وليس حزب الله، الذي يحارب داعش والنصرة في كلّ أنحاء منطقة غرب آسيا، ولا الجمهورية الاسلامية الإيرانية التي تقوم بالدور نفسه وتتعرّض للتشويه والتهديد والحصار والعقوبات والاغتيالات، والتي كان آخرها اغتيال الجنرال قاسم سليماني، الذي قاد جبهة حلف المقاومة في حربها ضد الإرهاب في العالم العربي.

سابعاً: وعليه، فإنّ على المستشارة الألمانية، وغيرها من الروساء ورؤساء الحكومات الأوروبيين، الإقلاع عن ممارسة السياسات الخاطئة نفسها، التابعة لواشنطن ودوائر الصهيونيّة العالمية فيها، والتي أثبتت عجزها، أو امتناعها، حتى عن تقديم ايّ دعم طبي او صحي للدول الأوروبية في مواجهة وباء كورونا. الأمر الذي يحتم على ألمانيا، وهي الاقتصاد الرائد في أوروبا، أن تعود الى سياسة “ريال بوليتيك” (Realpolitik) التي أرسى قواعدها المستشار الألماني السابق، الاشتراكي الديمقرطي ڤيللي براندت، كسياسة عمل الممكن (في التعامل مع الخصم/ آنذاك الاتحاد السوفياتيّ وألمانيا الديمقرطية)، ولا بأس بتذكيرها بمرتكزات سياسة أوتو فون بيسمارك، Otto von Bismarck، مؤسس ألمانيا الموحدة في الثلث الأخير من القرن التاسع عشر، وما أقامه من تحالفات لم تكن تخطر على بال.

ثامناً: وفي الختام نطرح على المستشارة ميركل سؤال: ماذا ستتوقع عندما ستأتي لحظة التصويت على عروض شركة سيمينس الألمانيّة في البرلمان اللبناني؟ هل بإمكانك تجنّب فيتو نواب حزب الله وحلفائه الذين يشكلون الأكثرية البرلمانية الحاكمة؟ وماذا سيكون موقف شركة سيمنس إذا ما ربحت مشروع الكهرباء في لبنان، هل ستمنعها حكومة المستشارة ميركل من تنفيذ إقامة شبكات الكهرباء في المناطق التي تسمّى بالمناطق الشيعيّة في لبنان لأنها البيئة الحاضنة للحزب والمقاومة مثلاً؟

هل اتهام أكثر من ثلث الشعب اللبناني بالإرهاب هو سياسة واقعية تخدم المستقبل والعلاقات الدوليّة المبنيّة على الاحترام المتبادل والمصالح المشتركة!؟ ام انّ لذلك مساراً آخر تعرفه المستشارة ميركل ولا تستطيع سلوكه بسبب الضغوط الأميركية الصهيونية!؟

إنّ السياسة البناءة والديناميكية تتطلب من السيدة ميركل ان ترسل قائد جهاز مخابراتها الخارجية الى لبنان فوراً ليتفاهم مع قيادة حزب الله ويحاول إصلاح ما أفسده وزير الداخلية الألماني، الذي اتخذ القرار المتعلق بحزب الله، لعله يجد مخرجاً من أزمة لا تفيد ألمانيا قطعاً، ولن تؤثر في مسيرة حزب الله واستراتيجيته، التي دأبت على قطع دابر الإرهاب، وتأمين السلام والاستقرار في “الشرق الأوسط” والذي بدونه لن يكون هناك أيّ تطور إيجابي وستبقى المنطقة فريسة للكثير من التصعيد والتوترات الاقتصادية والسياسية والأمنية، وربما العسكرية التي ستفضي ليس في وقت بعيد الى زوال الكيان الصهيوني الذي يحظى بدعم ألمانيا الاتحادية وسيد البيت الأبيض وأذنابه في الجزيرة العربية.

إنهم قد يرونه بعيداً، لكننا نراه قريباً، لذلك وجبت العبرة، والحذر كلّ الحذر من ابتلاع الطعم الأميركي، يا ميركل!

بعدنا طيّبين، قولوا الله…

If Germany rejects Corona bonds they must quit the Eurozone

March 30, 2020

If Germany rejects Corona bonds they must quit the Eurozone

By Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker Blog

Germany and their moral poses… a century of Europe cries, “Enough!”

It’s hard for those living outside of Europe to understand the resentment towards Germany; Germans themselves often seem totally oblivious – the “German professor” only ever sees bad, unruly students, after all.

When I first moved to Paris in 2009 I remarked how all the Germans I met were so very nice. I was told, “They have to be, after what they’ve done.”

Low blow?

Hardly. Ignoring history is not politeness or PC progress or evidence of forward-thinking: it’s denial, hysteria and illusory thinking.

To paraphrase Henny Youngman: Take my Mutti – please. Angela Merkel is my generation’s Margaret Thatcher. When Thatcher died there were street parties in the UK, which were brutally repressed by cops, but the billionaire-directed Western Mainstream Media ordered paeans to be penned instead.

For Merkel there has similarly never been anything but fawning coverage, as evidenced – aggravatingly – by this recent story from the Associated Press: Merkel shines in handling of Germany’s coronavirus crisis.

Why such love for an abusive mother? Because she certainly hasn’t abused the German 1%: under Merkel German corporations have re-colonised much of Central Europe, they have extracted as much wealth as possible from weaker Eurozone nations like Greece, and downward pressure on wages was maintained on the German post-Hartz Re(De)forms workforce via the importation of hundreds of thousands of skilled Syrians and detested “minijobs”.

On a pan-European level ever since 2008, and even in the heat of the 2012 European Sovereign Debt Crisis, we have Germany’s constant refusal for “more Europe”, which is the only possible way to save this (atrocious, anti-democratic, unaccountable, corrupt, American-penned, socialism-detesting) version of the pan-European project. Germany refuses to collateralise Eurozone debt, even though it is Germany who would collect as they are the debtors, because Germany doesn’t want mere dead gold but living debt slaves.

The Eurozone is simply so riddled with contradictions and stupidities it just defies journalistic explanation:

Germany just doesn’t get it – for every country with an export surplus, there simply has to be a country with a corresponding deficit. It was German (and French) banks who signed off on the bad loans to the “immoral” Greeks which precipitated the biggest Eurozone problems, and yet it is German banks who got bailed out, despite their errors; and yet it is German banks who got QE to loan; and yet it is German banks which didn’t loan a dime of QE, and certainly not to Greeks. Germany is the biggest recipient of the ECB bond-buying, even though they don’t need it, whereas Greece was excluded even though they need it?

Crazy, but let’s look at Germany’s explanation for all these selfish actions action: moral hazard. They simply cannot perpetuate immorality, and deficits (even if to pay for the elderly, the poor, health care, education, etc.) are immoral. Haven’t you read your Kant, and his OCD-morality? German absolutism is absolute; their personal conscience must be clean no matter how many murderers must be let in the door to commit murder.

So… explain your €822 billion bailout, Germany?

Wait – what? A bailout worth 22% of annual German GDP?

What happened to budget rigour and the moral imperative of balanced budgets? What happened to the total, facile nonsense that a national economy is simply a household writ large? What happened to Yanis Varoufakis recycling absurd stereotypes like “Teutonic discipline” (has he never seen an Oktoberfest?)?

Oh, I get it… Germany is in a crisis – EU deficit rules need to be relaxed.

However: Greece and others were in a crisis for years – why didn’t their crises matter?

(Millions starving in Yemen, millions dying of bad water globally, deaths from natural disasters – indeed, why does the Corona crisis matter so very, VERY much more than those crises? I just can’t comprehend the West’s crisis criterion.)

But it gets worse with Germany: Bailouts for Greece and other crisis-hit nations were contingent on forcing open their economies. German and Dutch companies gleefully bought up assets and market share, and forced in their products but now Germany Will Block Foreign Takeovers to Avoid Economy Sell-Out?

It’s disgusting, German hypocrisy.

But Europeans have been dealing with this for quite some time. In January I wrote this article to explain Europe’s perpetual stagnation and unrest: 1941, 1981, 2017 or today – it’s still Germany’s fault.

Need more? In 2017, foolishly assuming that QE would actually end, I wrote France’s historic effort for an anti-austerity Eurozone, which detailed the self-harming, wooing efforts from De Gaulle to Mitterrand to Hollande aimed at ending this historical trend: “France wanted to not be conquered by the US-German alliance, so they kept proposing a Franco-German (capitalist) alliance.”

Ramin, you seem rather anti-German. Are you a tribalist-racist?

No. What I am is a daily hard news journalist in the heart of Europe and I am fed up with reading lecture after lecture from Germany; hypocrisy after hypocrisy; duplicity upon duplicity.

Just tell me this: where is the “moral hazard” in the Corona crisis, Germany?

Shine a light on that for me, Mutti Merkel.

She cannot. There is none.

There are healthy companies – who have as much Teutonic economic discipline, intelligence and good DNA as a pure and spotless German – in places like Italy which are going to go under without something like Corona-bonds to provide financing wrought by the Marxist logic-defying Western shutdown.

Forget it – shot down already by Germany and their Dutch toadies. Same old story….

The corona overreaction defies Marxist logic and is economic suicide (socialist-inspired nations like China and Iran control their economies, so they can do things which the corporate-dominated West cannot) but yet another German refusal to help, to pool debt and risk, to show solidarity means Germany must leave the Eurozone.

Hell, we KNOW they have the money – while they have had their boots on the throats of people like the Greeks the Germans have also been assiduously picking their pockets. Germany can afford such a staggeringly huge bailout because of these incredibly immoral profits! Oh no Ramin, you’re wrong – they got those profits simply because German capitalists are so very moral. Sure, sure….

German bankers entrapped poorer Eurozone countries into debt slavery, and now that their slaves are sick Germany wants a quarantine?

You’ll never read such analyses in the West, that’s for sure, but what is absolutely, absolutely certain is that the average Eurozone citizen knows what I am talking about already. Anti-German sentiment is going to absolutely explode if Germany’s historical pattern – pro-US imperialism, anti-European project, self-interest above solidarity – continues.

Everybody in Europe (and the whole world) has seen how China, and not Germany, is the one sending supplies to corona-hit Italy. Yes, the Eurozone’s terrible structure means it is always fiddling while Rome burns, but I truly believe that German (capitalist-imperialist) leadership simply doesn’t care.

Of course there are good Germans who want Corona bonds, but the simplest solution to the Eurozone’s crisis has always been to expel Germany.

If Germany is unwilling to take the basic steps needed to improve the currency union, it should do the next best thing: Leave the eurozone.” That’s an assessment from Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz. Yes, I did write ‘The Euro’ by Stiglitz: Even fake leftists say ‘exit’, but the point is that only far-right neoliberals don’t see that a “Deutsch-parture” can painlessly end the Eurozone’s near-constant stagnation and dissension. The Netherlands can similarly be invited to leave as well.

Unless naked, would-be German emperors can finally get off their high horses and on board with morality and unity – via something like Corona bonds – a huge explosion of jingoism and neo-fascism in the Eurozone is around the corner.

Fine by me I guess – history shows that this is the last step before socialism because: how can fascism ever possibly succeed for the lower classes? It seems some Western nations need to go through this step (yet again) before accepting that the needs of workers, not bankers, and the poor must always be predominant in political policy.


Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of the books ‘I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China’ and the upcoming ‘Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism’.

Putin Marks 75th Anniversary of WWII With Speech Warning About Looming Global Conflict!

February 07, 2020

Full Transcript : http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/62732

Presentation of foreign ambassadors’ letters of credence

February 5, 202013:45The Kremlin, Moscow

Vladimir Putin received letters of credence from 23 newly-appointed foreign ambassadors. The ceremony was held in the Grand Kremlin Palace’s Alexander Hall.

Letters of credence were presented to the President of Russia by Graeme Leslie Meehan (Australia), Lotfi Bouchaara (Kingdom of Morocco), Zhang Hanhui (People’s Republic of China), Malena Mard (Kingdom of Sweden), Geza Andreas von Geyr (Germany), Brian McElduff (Ireland), Miroslav Lazanski (Republic of Serbia), Sadasivan Premjith (Republic of Singapore), Eat Seyla (Kingdom of Cambodia), Ekaterini Nassika (Hellenic Republic),Abdulrahman Hamid Mohammed Al-Hussaini (Republic of Iraq), Mohamed Sherif Kourta (People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria), Dulamsuren Davaa (Mongolia), Tarak ben Salem (Republic of Tunisia), Kazem Jalali (Islamic Republic of Iran), Kamrul Ahsan (People’s Republic of Bangladesh), Deborah Jane Bronnert (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland), Si’alei van Toor (New Zealand), Alison LeClaire (Canada), Pierre Levy (French Republic), John J. Sullivan (United States), Efrain Villarreal Arenales (Republic of Panama) and Yermek Kosherbayev (Republic of Kazakhstan).

* * *

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to welcome you in the Kremlin at this ceremony to present your credentials and to congratulate you on officially commencing your diplomatic activities here in Russia.

You have an important and serious mission: to promote the development of comprehensive relations between the countries you represent and Russia. We proceed from the fact that you will be responsible for expanding our political dialogue and trade and economic ties as well as deepening cultural exchanges and promoting people-to-people contacts. And we are sincerely interested in making your embassies’ work in these key spheres successful. You can always count on the help of the Russian official agencies as well as businesses and civil circles. All your useful endeavours will definitely be supported.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII. In May we invite foreign leaders and delegations to attend celebrations marking the great Victory in Moscow to commemorate the memory of millions of victims, pay tribute to the veterans and show our committal to the ideals of peace, freedom and justice. The victor countries, members of the anti-Hitler coalition, made these ideals the foundation of the post-war world order embodied in the United Nations Charter 75 years ago.

Unfortunately, nowadays humankind is coming ever closer to a dangerous line. Regional conflicts are multiplying, the threats of terrorism and extremism are growing and the arms control system is being uprooted. The global economy is also unstable.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today’s ceremony is attended by the heads of diplomatic missions of 23 countries of Europe, Asia, Africa, America and Australia. By tradition, I would like to say a few words about our bilateral relations.

Russia favours pragmatic and business-like cooperation with Australia. We are giving support to the business circles of both countries in their effort to implement mutually beneficial joint projects and are facilitating the expansion of humanitarian contacts.

We are satisfied with the present state of collaboration with Morocco. Our states have achieved decent results in mutual trade, agriculture, and deep-sea fisheries. There are opportunities for advanced Russian technologies and R&D results to reach the Moroccan market.

Our relations with the People’s Republic of China are at an unprecedentedly high level. In fact, this is a comprehensive strategic partnership. Bilateral trade is consistently being built up. The Power of Siberia gas pipeline has been put into operation. Ties in the field of defence and military-technical cooperation are developing successfully. In April, we are planning to launch the Russian-Chinese cross Year of Scientific, Technological and Innovation Cooperation. Our two countries coordinate their positions on key global and regional problems and work in unison at international organisations and associations, including the UN, BRICS, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. China and all of us have come face to face with the threat of the coronavirus. Leaders of the PRC have been taking resolute and energetic measures to halt the epidemic. We are ready to render help and every kind of assistance to the friendly Chinese people.

We are keen to promote cooperation with Sweden in the spirit of good-neighbourliness and mutual respect. Held in St Petersburg last year, our talks with Prime Minister Stefan Löfven have confirmed that our two countries have the capacity for invigorating our economic, cultural and humanitarian contacts and for joint work on matters related to the Baltic Sea and other regional affairs.

Russia attaches much importance to promoting constructive collaboration with the Federal Republic of Germany. We regularly discuss with Ms Chancellor Angela Merkel current international and bilateral issues. We have supported the idea to hold a conference on a Libyan settlement in Berlin and participated in it in the most pro-active manner. Russia and the FRG are intensifying their mutually beneficial cooperation in trade, investment, and energy, and we intend to continue this joint positive work.

Russia and Ireland are striving for closer trade and economic cooperation, including in high technology, innovation and agriculture. There are opportunities for bilateral cooperation in education, culture and similar areas.

Russia and Serbia are linked by a strategic partnership that relies on traditions of friendship and the cultural, spiritual and historical affinity of our fraternal peoples. Last December, meaningful talks were held with President Aleksandar Vucic in Sochi. Important agreements were reached on bilateral cooperation in an entire range of areas: the economy, trade, the power industry, culture and coordination on regional matters. Russia is doing much to help maintain the situation in the Balkans stable and safe. We want Belgrade and Pristina to reach a mutually acceptable solution to the Kosovo problem on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 1244.

Singapore is Russia’s highly promising partner in the Asia-Pacific Region. We appreciate our political dialogue that is actively promoting practical cooperation. The implementation of the free trade agreement signed by the Eurasian Economic Union and Singapore at the end of last year is designed to give an impetus to mutual trade and investment growth. We hope to conclude a Russia-Singapore bilateral agreement on services and investment.

We are friends and partners with the Kingdom of Cambodia. We are interested in further developing our relations in diverse areas, including politics and security, trade and investment, as well as educational and other people-to-people exchanges.

I am convinced that the further development of relations between Russia and the Hellenic Republic meets the interests of our states and certainly aligns with the centuries-old traditions of friendship and mutual affinity between our nations. In addition to our cooperation in politics, the economy and the power industry, there are good opportunities for expanding our contacts in tourism and culture. In this context, I would like to mention the current Cross Year of Language and Literature.

Russia and Iraq have accumulated a wealth of experience of mutually beneficial cooperation in many spheres, including the fuel and energy sector. Russia firmly stands for the preservation of Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and has helped to ensure Iraqi security. We believe that efforts towards internal political stability in Iraq should be taken within the framework of a broad national dialogue based on respect for the interests of all citizens, regardless of their ideological beliefs and ethnic and religious backgrounds.

Russia has strong and friendly ties with Algeria. The presidential election held there late last year was a big step towards political and social reform in your country. We support Algeria’s balanced policy in international and regional affairs. We see good possibilities for building up our economic and military technical cooperation and for coordinating our efforts in the interests of stronger stability and security in North Africa and the Sahel-Saharan zone. I recently had a short conversation with your President in Berlin. I hope to see him in Russia soon.

Mongolia is a good neighbour and a tried and tested friend. Last year Russia and Mongolia celebrated the 80th anniversary of victory in the Battle of Khalkhin Gol and signed a termless Treaty on Friendly Relations and Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. We consider it reasonable to complement our close political interaction with practical projects in trade, investment and humanitarian spheres. We are satisfied with the development of the trilateral Russia-Mongolia-China dialogue. We would like to see Mongolia more actively involved in operations of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation as well.

We are resolved to further strengthen bilateral cooperation with Tunis, which is among Russia’s traditional partners in the Middle East and North Africa. We are ready to work together on current regional matters, including a settlement in Libya.

Russia enjoys friendly and mutually respectful relations with Iran. Major bilateral projects in the energy sector, including nuclear energy, in railway transport and other sectors of the economy are steadily expanding. An interim agreement to create a free trade area between Iran and the EAEU came into force in 2019 and gave an additional boost to Russian-Iranian trade and investment relations. We plan to promote cooperation with Iran in fighting international terrorism, coordinate our actions as part of the Astana process and facilitate a settlement in Syria. Russia will continue to make efforts to preserve the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action for the Iranian nuclear programme. We believe this international agreement is critically important for global and regional stability.

Russian-Bangladeshi ties are quite dynamic. Trade is up, and a major project to build Bangladesh’s first nuclear power station, Rooppur, is in progress. Given the proximity of our respective states’ approaches to most pressing regional problems, we look forward to continuing close cooperation at the UN and other multilateral organisations.

The current state of relations between Russia and Great Britain can hardly be considered satisfactory by either side. We are convinced that restoring a mutually respectful political dialogue, strengthening trade and economic exchanges, and building up cultural and people-to-people contacts is in our common interest. We are ready for this.

We stand for promoting Russia-New Zealand ties in trade, investment and culture. We find it useful to interact on international issues, including counterterrorism, climate change and research in the Antarctic.

We are open to cooperation with Canada based on mutual respect for and consideration of each other’s interests. Canada and Russia are neighbours in the Arctic and share common responsibility for ensuring the sustainable development of this vast region, preserving the traditional way of life of the indigenous peoples and taking good care of its fragile ecosystem.

France is one of Russia’s key international partners. We maintain contacts with President Macron, hold regular meetings, discuss issues such as a settlement in Libya, Syria and the Middle East in general, and interact on the Ukraine crisis within the Normandy format. At a bilateral summit held in Fort de Bregancon last August, we agreed to work jointly on ensuring stability and security in Europe. Economic ties between Russia and France, including in industry and energy, continue to expand. On January 16, the Russian Seasons festival opened in France. It is designed to promote friendship and mutual understanding between the peoples of our countries.

Global peace and security largely depend on the state of relations between Russia and the United States, as well as on their stability and predictability. We are convinced that these relations should hinge on the principles of equality, respect for sovereignty and non-interference in each other’s domestic affairs. We are ready for detailed dialogue with the American side, including on arms control and strategic stability, the fight against terrorism and the peaceful resolution of regional crises. For us, it is absolutely obvious that resuming constructive bilateral collaboration meets the interests of Russia, the United States and the entire world.

We advocate the further development of ties with the Republic of Panama, efforts to streamline the legal framework, cooperation and expanded contacts on the economic agenda. We will continue to encourage educational exchanges and help train specialists for Panama.

Relations between Russia and Kazakhstan are an example of reliable strategic partnership and allied cooperation. Bilateral collaboration is based on solid historical, cultural and spiritual bonds between our nations. We appreciate the current level of trust and collaboration with the leaders of Kazakhstan. Last year, we held nine meetings with President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. And, of course, we maintain close contacts with our good friend Nursultan Nazarbayev. Sustainable integration within the Eurasian Economic Union continues to develop largely through joint efforts of Russia and Kazakhstan. Trade and economic relations between our countries are expanding in all areas, including in industry, energy and investment. Russia and Kazakhstan closely coordinate their approaches to matters on the international agenda. It is common knowledge that our Kazakhstani partners provided a venue for launching the Astana negotiating process to achieve a Syrian peace settlement.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Intensive but highly interesting work awaits all of you. I hope that you will be able to get to know Russia better, feel its pulse and watch our country accomplish important and ambitious tasks of political, economic and social development. I also hope that you will provide real assistance in expanding bilateral ties between Russia and the states you represent and will facilitate stronger friendship and mutual understanding between our nations. I wish you every success and all the best.

Thank you.

Merkel trod on holy Ukrainian toes

January 14, 2020

Rostislav Ishenko, 13 Jan 2020

Translated by Nikolai

The visit by the Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel to Russia and her negotiations with Vladimir Putin were full of negative signals for Ukraine.

Merkel busily carved on the crossroad milestone:

– go right – lose your head;

– go left – lose your life;

– go straight – be forever lost;

– stay in place – death will reach you;

– turn back – you will not reach home.

The fact alone that Berlin and Moscow discussed virtually all pressing topics of the global agenda (including Syria, Libya and Iran) should have put Kiev on notice. After all, if these two countries have so many areas of common interest, Ukraine cannot count on exclusive German support. The contrary is rather probable – if Berlin can agree with Moscow on all other key points of the international agenda, then it can quite easily sacrifice Ukrainian interests in favor of full understanding.

In addition, the chancellor also discussed the Ukrainian problem in separate with the president of Russia. By all appearances, they did not spend a lot of time on this discussion. As a result, during the press conference they were brief and clear in announcing their united position – Ukraine must fulfill the Minsk agreements. During the last year, such statements became common, so I will remind that it was not so long ago (in 2018) that Berlin usually stated in such cases that it expects Russia to constructively work with the DNR/LNR, who in turn must fulfill the Minsk agreements. And in 2015-2017 Berlin (in chorus with Paris) demanded that the Minsk agreements were Russia’s responsibility to implement.

France and Germany went over to Moscow’s point of view sort of casually and discretely. Moreover, being more involved in the Ukrainian crisis, Berlin was more stoic than Paris.

Zelensky, when striving for the “Normandy format” meeting, was clearly counting on that he would be accommodated (as a young, popular “new formation politician” as he was called in Ukraine) and allowed to at least partially rework the Minsk agreements, or even better – declare them null and void and begin prolonged, tedious and pointless negotiations on the new format for regulation of the crisis. It was not a coincidence that right after the meeting in Paris the Ukrainian media and diplomats attempted to propose their own version for the translation of Merkel’s words at the press conference and tried to attribute to the federal chancellor a statement supposedly saying that the Minsk agreements are not dogma and can be modernized. They broadcasted this so often and with such certainty, that they even convinced some Russian experts, who began to accept Merkel’s phrase as “ambiguous”.

And so now, the German leader says unequivocally that the Minsk agreements must be implemented without any modernization, that Russia and Germany, in fact, have the same view on this topic. The caringly constructed concept of zelensky diplomacy comes crashing down. The people at home can be still indoctrinated about the “great leap forward” achieved. But the concurring and unequivocal position of Berlin and Moscow means that there will not be a new meeting in Berlin in the “Normandy format” without corresponding steps made by Kiev (doing their homework, as they were told in Paris). Pity for Zelensky, who was so convincing in Paris, saying how he already did everything he could and that he is prevented from moving forward by evil radicals, so everyone should just “understand and forgive” him and get busy reconsidering the “Minsk” in the interests of Kiev.

This is a fiasco. Now, the minister of foreign affairs of Ukraine Vadim Pristaiko and company have to think on how to rationalize before the people taking it all in and frozen in expectations of further diplomatic breakthroughs that the April “Normandy format” meeting is cancelled or postponed to an unclear date. Remember, Kiev already voiced a wealth of demands for the “modernization” of the Minsk agreements, which they were planning on stating and pressing in Berlin. And the April meeting was presented by Ukrainian propaganda as 100% arranged. Mind you, April is very soon: February 23rd, March 8th, then the May holidays are already near – April will arrive suddenly.

Something has to be done and decided with this. But what? The fact is, it is very hard to move Merkel from a position taken in advance. However, if she did change her mind, it is even harder to bring her back around.

Well, Merkel changed her mind, seriously and decisively. This is indicated by another topic discussed by the two leaders. I think no one was surprised upon hearing at the press conference that the chiefs of the two countries discussed the fate of the Nord Stream II gas pipeline. At this time Merkel again stated that the pipeline will be finished despite American sanctions. Putin in turn stated the probable timetable for the end of works: end of this year – first half of next year. This means that during 2022 the gas pipeline must reach its design capacity no matter what.

I will note that for the first time the federal chancellor did not say anything about the Ukrainian transit. This can be because the transit agreement has been signed. However, it has been signed only for five years. And by the end of 2022, when Nord Stream II reaches peak flowrate, three of these years will already have passed. Previously, in 2016, 2017, 2018 and in 2019 Merkel each time packed up the startup of Nord Stream II with the preservation of the Ukrainian transit. She was not talking about prolonging it for five years but about guaranteeing significant transit volumes through the Ukrainian gas transmission network (GTN).

In principle, Gazprom is interested in preserving the transit through the Ukrainian GTN (as is the GTN itself, which actually should be transferred under Gazprom’s control). First, demand for gas in Europe is rising, and the marine “Streams” are just not being built fast enough. Second, it is always better to use available infrastructure than build a new one. Third, Gazprom does not endeavor to move away from the Ukrainian monopoly on transit only to create a German or Turkish one. Of course, this does not mean that Gazprom is ready to start pumping 80-100 bln m3 yearly through the Ukrainian GTN, but it could quite do 30-40 bln.

However, Gazprom is not willing to tolerate Ukraine’s provocative behavior, who has been motivating “substantiated” (“market”) transit costs with its own need for cash and trying to block Gazprom from building gas pipelines going around its territory. Until now, this was a problem for Gazprom and Russia. However, after the frankly anti-European sanctions from the USA that were meant to put the brakes (if not stop completely) on the building of Nord Stream II, the position of Germany changed in a similar, almost unnoticed fashion, since Germany had determined this pipeline as one of the most important infrastructure projects both in concerning European energy safety and German economy.   

Statements by Berlin on the subject of Nord Stream II are now completely lacking mentions of the need to consider Kiev’s interests and provide guarantees of loading the Ukrainian GTN. It seems, the hard pro-American position accepted by Ukraine on this issue decidedly convinced Germany that Kiev is ready to completely irrationally make decisions that are harmful not only to itself (which is not a concern for Berlin), but also to Germany (which is a very strong concern) in order to protect the strategic interests of Washington.

As in the issue of the Minsk agreements, the positions of Moscow and Berlin are united and coordinated as never before concerning Nord Stream II. The fact that Ukraine is taking a pro-American orientation on this issue in only an additional push for Berlin to distance itself from Kiev. Especially since Germany has experience in dealing with Poland. The latter realized that the multi-billion giveaways from EU funds (mostly filled by German money) will soon end and started talking about receiving reparations for World War II (luckily they are not yet demanding Poland be returned to its borders of the times of Bolesław I the Brave and compensations from Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Ukraine and Belarus for a millennium of “unlawful ownership” of “immemorial polish lands”).

All in all, Merkel’s visit to Russia does not bode anything good for Kiev. Rather it’s all bad. It seems, German politicians have finally understood the simple truth –support Ukraine or not, but you have to plan your future in such a way that the Ukrainian factor influences it as little as possible, or even better – does not influence it at all.

Source – https://ukraina.ru/opinion/20200113/1026284231.html

Macron Tells NATO Russia Must Come in from the Cold War

South Front

Written by Tom Luongo; Originally appeared on tomluongo.me

Last week I went through just some of the highlights as to why Russia is becoming a destination for global capital.

For years it’s been a little lonely out here banging on about how well the Russian state headed by Vladimir Putin has navigated an immense campaign by the West to marginalize and/or isolate Russia from the world economy.

Macron Tells NATO Russia Must Come in from the Cold War

But that is changing rapidly. And 2020 will likely be the year the New Cold War begins to end. And it starts with Europe. In recent weeks there have been a number of moves made on both sides to end the economic isolation of Russia by Europe.

As always, however, it begins politically. French President Emmanuel Macron speaking at a press conference before 70th Anniversary NATO Summit in London no less, made it clear that he no longer wants the EU positioning itself as an adversary of Russia or China.

Standing next to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg Macron put a further down payment that he is looking to replace German Chancellor Angela Merkel as the person setting the tone for European Foreign Policy.

“NATO is a collective defense organization, but against what or against who? Who is our common enemy? We need to clarify that. And it is a very strategic question,” he told reporters at a press conference in Paris on Nov. 28.

“Sometimes I hear some saying that it is Russia or China, our enemy. Is it the purpose of the Atlantic Alliance to identify one or the other as our enemies? I don’t think so. Our joint enemy, clearly within the Alliance, is terrorism that’s struck our countries.”

Macron said that NATO needs “a common definition of terrorism, of who the terrorist groups are and how to act in coordination against them.” He said that “the absence of dialogue with Russia” did not make the European continent safer and that he wants to “clarify our relationship with Russia.” “We want a lucid, robust, and demanding dialogue with Russia, with neither naivety nor complacency,” he said.

Macron’s full remarks can be found here.

The big shift here is Macron signaling out that NATO needs to shift its focus away from Russia and China and focus on threat of terrorism. There are at least two reasons for him doing this.

First, this aligns Macron with Putin on where the focus of security concerns should be. Putin has been banging this drum for years, certainly since his game-changing speech at the 2015 U.N. General Assembly two days before he sent Russian troops into Syria.

These words more than the others are music to Putin’s ears and a complete needle-scratch for the foreign policy orthodoxy on K Street and in Vauxhall. As they have been the architects of this new Cold War with Russia which has altered the landscape of EU economic progress for the past five years.

At some point the ‘frozen conflicts’ that Macron mentions in his remarks have to thaw because, as he rightly points out, it has been Europe that has been made less safe by U.S. foreign policy imperatives — ending the INF Treaty, freezing all diplomacy with Russia, etc.

So, Macron is prepping the table for his upcoming Normandy format talks with Germany, Russia and Ukraine on how to end the conflict in Ukraine.

Reality has seen in that Crimea is now off the table for NATO and so are the eastern breakaway provinces of the Donbass. I’ve maintained for years that Russia was always playing the game of attrition in Ukraine, winning by waiting for the EU and Ukrainians to tire of the war and eventually sue for peace.

Moreover, the economic defense of Russia that Putin mounted supported this policy. By doing the unthinkable in 2014, floating the ruble and allowing it to fall, he laid the foundation for today’s victory.

Make no mistake, this speech by Macron is a victory for Russia and, by extension, the world. Because Macron, Merkel and Putin have all the tools in their grasp to now push Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to fully implement Ukraine’s responsibilities under the Minsk agreements.

This would never happen under former President Petro Poroshenko, who is a long-standing U.S. asset and who openly bankrupted Ukraine during his tenure even more than his predecessor Viktor Yanukovich, no mean feat that.

Secondly, Macron’s comments underscore his desire to raise a transnational EU army and his comments are a direct statement that he wants the two security infrastructures to have separate mandates. It’s clear Macron doesn’t want Europe’s security to depend on the U.S. any longer.

And I’m sure that this idea gets a sympathetic ear from President Trump. The problem, of course, is that that idea isn’t popular with anyone else in the U.S. Deep State. Hence the push to create a chimeric impeachment process to remove him from power, or, at least, neuter him completely.

On the latter point they’ve nearly succeeded.

To Macron, NATO should deal with terrorism, downgrading its importance and paving the way for ending it in the future, while the EU army is under the control of the European Commission, which to a globalist like Macron is the epitome of ‘sovereignty.’

Macron, with these remarks as a prologue of what he will argue for at the NATO Summit, is telling the world Europe is done paying the price for the U.S.’s Cold War with Russia.

He’s also letting everyone know that 2020 will see the end of the sanctions in exchange for ending the conflict in Ukraine and re-opening the floodgates of European investment into Russia.

This puts paid everything I talked about in last week’s blog and which was also picked up by Alexander Mercouris at The Duran who is one of the very few analysts who understood Russia’s strategy and what the end-game would look like.

This is welcome news in Germany who absolutely want the sanctions lifted which will put Merkel under even more pressure to lift them. Putin has already made the moves necessary for Merkel to save face here — offering a new gas transit contract for Ukraine, handing back the ships seized in the Kerch Strait incident, prisoner exchange, etc.

A lot will ride on Putin’s upcoming meeting with Zelensky. There is so much coming together for the first half of December that by year-end we could be staring a very different geopolitical landscape in Europe.

Netanyahu NATO Visit Cancelled over ‘Logistical Problems’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Source

December 2, 2019

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won’t attend the NATO summit that will be held in London starting Tuesday, despite plans to meet with US State Secretary Miko Pompeo, Israeli media reported.

Netanyahu’s visit was canceled over “logistical problems,” Haaretz quoted officials involved in the planning of the Israeli PM’s visit as saying.

Many heads of states are set to attend the summit, and Netanyahu’s team gave organizers only a short notice, the officials added.

Other officials said German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron hadn’t responded to diplomatic attempts to arrange meetings with Netanyahu on the summit’s sidelines, the daily said.

Netanyahu now hopes to arrange a meeting with Pompeo in Lisbon later this week, according to Haaretz.

The two-day summit comes at a critical moment for the 29-member military alliance, which has been fraying in the face of US President Donald Trump’s complaints that too many NATO members are spending too little on defense.

The White House said Trump is expected to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron on the summit’s sidelines. Trump, however, has no meeting scheduled, as of now, with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the summit host.

Source: Israeli media

How Yemen’s Houthis are bringing down a Goliath

How Yemen’s Houthis are bringing down a Goliath

By Pepe Escobar from Beirut – posted with Permission

‘From a military perspective, nobody ever took our forces in Yemen seriously,’ scholar says

An image taken from a video made available on July 7, 2019 by the press office of the Yemeni Shiite Houthi group shows ballistic missiles, labeled ‘Made in Yemen,’ at a recent exhibition of missiles and drones at an undisclosed location in Yemen. Footage showed models of at least 15 unmanned drones and missiles of different sizes and ranges. Photo: AFP/ Al-Houthi Group Media Office

“It is clear to us that Iran bears responsibility for this attack. There is no other plausible explanation. We support ongoing investigations to establish further details.”

The statement above was not written by Franz Kafka. In fact, it was written by a Kafka derivative: Brussels-based European bureaucracy. The Merkel-Macron-Johnson trio, representing Germany, France and the UK, seems to know what no “ongoing investigation” has unearthed: that Tehran was definitively responsible for the twin aerial strikes on Saudi oil installations.

“There is no other plausible explanation” translates as the occultation of Yemen. Yemen only features as the pounding ground of a vicious Saudi war, de facto supported by Washington and London and conducted with US and UK weapons, which has generated a horrendous humanitarian crisis.

So Iran is the culprit, no evidence provided, end of story, even if the “investigation continues.”

Hassan Ali Al-Emad, Yemeni scholar and the son of a prominent tribal leader with ascendance over ten clans, begs to differ.

“From a military perspective, nobody ever took our forces in Yemen seriously. Perhaps they started understanding it when our missiles hit Aramco.”

A satellite image from the US government shows damage to oil and gas infrastructure from weekend drone attacks at Abqaig on September 15.

Al-Emad said:

“Yemeni people have been encircled by an embargo. Why are Yemeni airports still closed? Children are dying without treatment. In this current war, the first door [to be closed against enemies] was Damascus. The second door is Yemen.”

Al-Emad considers that Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Sayed Nasrallah and the Houthis are involved in the same struggle.

Al-Emad was born in Sana’a in a Zaydi family influenced by Wahhabi practices. Yet when he was 20, in 1997, he converted to Ahlulbayat after comparative studies between Sunni, Zaydi and the Imamiyyah – the branch of Shi’ite Islam that believes in 12 imams. He abandoned Zaydi in what could be considered a Voltairean act: because the sect cannot withstand critical analysis.

I talked and broke bread – and hummus – with Al-Emad, in Beirut, during the New Horizon conference among scholars from Lebanon, Iran, Italy, Canada, Russia and Germany. Although he says he cannot get into detail about military secrets, he confirmed:

“Past Yemeni governments had missiles, but after 9/11 Yemen was banned from buying weapons from Russia. But we still had 400 missiles in warehouses in South Yemen. We used 200 Scuds – the rest is still there [laughs].”

Al-Emad breaks down Houthi weaponry into three categories: the old missile stock; cannibalized missiles using different spare parts (“transformation made in Yemen”); and those with new technology that use reverse engineering. He stressed:

“We accept help from everybody,” which suggests that not only Tehran and Hezbollah are pitching in.

Smoke billows from the Aramco oil facility in Abqaiq in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern province after the Sept 14 attacks. Photo: AFP

Al-Emad’s key demand is actually humanitarian:

“We request that Sana’a airport be reopened for help to the Yemeni people.” And he has a message for global public opinion that the EU-3 are obviously not aware of: “Saudi is collapsing and America is embracing it in its fall.”

The real danger

On the energy front, Persian Gulf energy traders that I have relied upon as trustworthy sources for two decades confirm that, contrary to Saudi Oil Minister Abdulazziz bin Salman’s spin, the damage from the Houthi attack on Abqaiq could last not only “months” but even years.

As a Dubai-based trader put it:

“When an Iraqi pipeline was damaged in the mid-2000s the pumps were destroyed. It takes two years to replace a pump as the backlogs are long. The Saudis, to secure their pipelines, acquired spare pumps for this reason. But they did not dream that Abqaiq could be damaged. If you build a refinery it can take three to five years if not more. It could be done in a month if all the components and parts were available at once, as then it would be merely a task of assembling the components and parts.”

On top of this, the Saudis are now only offering heavier crudes to their customers in Asia. “Then,” adds a trader,

“We heard that the Saudis were buying 20,000,000 barrels of heavier crudes from Iraq. Now, the Saudis were supposed to have as much as 160 million barrels a day of stored crude.  So what does this mean?  Either there was no stored crude or that crude had to go through Abqaiq in order to be sold.”

Al-Emad explicitly told me that Houthi attacks are not over, and further drone swarms are inevitable.

Now compare it with analysis by one trader:

“If in the next wave of drone attacks 18 million barrels a day of Saudi crude are knocked out, it would represent a catastrophe of epic proportions. The US does not want the Houthi to believe that they have such power through such fourth generational warfare as drones that cannot be defended against. But they do. Here is where a tiny country can bring down not only a Goliath such as the US, but also the whole world.”

Asked about the consequences of a possible US attack against Iran – picking up on Robert Gates’ famous 2010 remark that “Saudis want to fight Iran to the last American” – the consensus among traders is that it would be another disaster.

“It would not be possible to bring Iranian crude on line for the world to replace the rest of what was destroyed,” said one.

He noted that Senator Lindsey Graham had said he “wanted to destroy the Iranian refineries but not the oil wells”. This is a very important point.  The horror of horrors would be an oil war where everyone is destroying each others’ wells until there was nothing left.”

While the “horror of horrors” hangs by a thread, the blind leading the blind stick to the script: Blame Iran and ignore Yemen.

 

 

The Financial Times’s Interview with President Putin

July 03, 2019

Ahead of the G20 Osaka Summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke with The Financial Times Editor Lionel Barber and Moscow Bureau Chief Henry Foy, The Kremlin, Moscow, June 27, 2019.

WATCH PART 1

WATCH PART 2

http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/60836

Lionel Barber: Mr President, you head for Osaka shortly as the senior statesman at the G20. Nobody has been to so many international meetings of this grouping and the G7 over the last 20 years while you have been in charge of Russia. Before we talk about the G20 agenda and what you hope to achieve, we know that there are rising tensions between America and China in trade, the risk of conflict in the Gulf. I would be very grateful if you could talk a bit about how you have seen the world change over the last 20 years while you have been in power.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: First, I have not been in power for all these 20 years. As you may know, I was Prime Minister for four years, and that is not the highest authority in the Russian Federation. But nevertheless, I have been around for a long time in government and in the upper echelons, so I can judge what is changing and how. In fact, you just said it yourself, asking what has changed and how. You mentioned the trade wars and the Persian Gulf developments. I would cautiously say the situation has not changed for the better, but I remain optimistic to a certain extent. But, to put it bluntly, the situation has definitely become more dramatic and explosive.

Lionel Barber: Do you believe that the world now has become more fragmented?

Vladimir Putin: Of course, because during the Cold War, the bad thing was the Cold War. It is true. But there were at least some rules that all participants in international communication more or less adhered to or tried to follow. Now, it seems that there are no rules at all. In this sense, the world has become more fragmented and less predictable, which is the most important and regrettable thing.

Lionel Barber: We will return to this theme of the world without rules, fragmentation, more transactional. But first, Mr President, tell us what you want to achieve in Osaka, in terms of your relationships with these other parties? What are your main goals for the summit?

Vladimir Putin: I would very much like all the participants in this event, and the G20, in my opinion, is a key international economic development forum today, so I would like all the G20 members to reaffirm their intention – at least an intention – to work out some general rules that everyone would follow, and show their commitment and dedication to strengthening international financial and trade institutions.

Everything else is details that complement the main topics one way or another. We certainly support Japan’s Presidency. As for the development of modern technology, the information world, the information economy, as well as our Japanese colleagues’ attention to matters such as longevity and the environment – all this is extremely important, and we will certainly support it and will take part in all these discussions. Even though it is hard to expect any breakthroughs or landmark decisions in the current conditions; we can hardly count on it today. But in any case, there is hope at least that during these general discussions and bilateral meetings we will be able to smooth out the existing disagreements and lay a foundation, a basis for positive movement forward.

Lionel Barber: You will have a meeting with Mohammad bin Salman in Osaka. Can we expect an extension of the current agreement on oil production? Limitations?

Vladimir Putin: As you know, Russia is not an OPEC member, even though it is among the world’s largest producers. Our daily production is estimated at 11.3 million barrels, I believe. The United States has surged ahead of us, though. However, we believe that our production stabilisation agreements with Saudi Arabia and OPEC in general have had a positive effect on market stabilisation and forecasting.

I believe both energy producers, in this case, oil producing countries, and consumers are interested in this, because stability is definitely in short supply at present. And our agreements with Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members undoubtedly strengthen stability.

As for whether we will extend the agreement, you will find out in the next few days. I had a meeting on this issue with the top executives of our largest oil companies and Government members right before this interview.

Lionel Barber: They are a little bit frustrated. They would like to produce more. Is that correct?

Vladimir Putin: They have a smart policy. It is not about increasing production, although that is a major component in the work of large oil companies. It is about the market situation. They take a comprehensive view of the situation, as well as of their revenues and expenses. Of course, they are also thinking about boosting the industry, timely investments, ways to attract and use modern technology, as well as about making this vital industry more attractive for investors.

However, dramatic price hikes or slumps will not contribute to market stability and will not encourage investment. This is why we discussed all these issues in their totality today.

Lionel Barber: Mr President, you have observed four American presidents at close quarters and will maybe five, you have had direct experience. So, how is Mr Trump different?

Vladimir Putin: We are all different. No two people are the same, just like there are no identical sets of fingerprints. Anyone has his or her own advantages, and let the voters judge their shortcomings. On the whole, I maintained sufficiently good-natured and stable relations with all the leaders of the United States. I had an opportunity to communicate more actively with some of them.

The first US President I came into contact with was Bill Clinton. Generally, I viewed this as a positive experience. We established sufficiently stable and business-like ties for a short period of time because his tenure was already coming to an end. I was only a very young president then who had just started working. I continue to recall how he established partner-like relations with me. I remain very grateful to him for this.

There have been different times, and we had to address various problems with all other colleagues. Unfortunately, this often involved debates, and our opinions did not coincide on some matters that, in my opinion, can be called key aspects for Russia, the United States and the entire world. For example, this includes the unilateral US withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty that, as we have always believed, and as I am still convinced, was the cornerstone of the entire international security system.

We debated this matter for a long time, argued and suggested various solutions. In any event, I made very energetic attempts to convince our US partners not to withdraw from the Treaty. And, if the US side still wanted to withdraw from the Treaty, it should have done so in such a way as to guarantee international security for a long historical period. I suggested this, I have already discussed this in public, and I repeat that I did this because I consider this matter to be very important. I suggested working jointly on missile-defence projects that should have involved the United States, Russia and Europe. They stipulated specific parameters of this cooperation, determined dangerous missile approaches and envisioned technology exchanges, the elaboration of decision-making mechanisms, etc. Those were absolutely specific proposals.

I am convinced that the world would be a different place today, had our US partners accepted this proposal. Unfortunately, this did not happen. We can see that the situation is developing in another direction; new weapons and cutting-edge military technology are coming to the fore. Well, this is not our choice. But, today, we should at least do everything so as to not aggravate the situation.

Lionel Barber: Mr President, you are a student of history. You have had many hours of conversation with Henry Kissinger. You almost certainly read his book, World Order. With Mr Trump, we have seen something new, something much more transactional. He is very critical of alliances and allies in Europe. Is this something that is to Russia’s advantage?

Vladimir Putin: It would be better to ask what would be to America’s advantage in this case. Mr Trump is not a career politician. He has a distinct world outlook and vision of US national interests. I do not accept many of his methods when it comes to addressing problems. But do you know what I think? I think that he is a talented person. He knows very well what his voters expect from him.

Russia has been accused, and, strange as it may seem, it is still being accused, despite the Mueller report, of mythical interference in the US election. What happened in reality? Mr Trump looked into his opponents’ attitude to him and saw changes in American society, and he took advantage of this.

You and I are talking ahead of the G20 meeting. It is an economic forum, and it will undoubtedly have discussions on globalisation, global trade and international finance.

Has anyone ever given a thought to who actually benefited and what benefits were gained from globalisation, the development of which we have been observing and participating in over the past 25 years, since the 1990s?

China has made use of globalisation, in particular, to pull millions of Chinese out of poverty.

What happened in the United States, and how did it happen? In the United States, the leading US companies –the companies, their managers, shareholders and partners – made use of these benefits. The middle class hardly benefitted from globalisation. The take-home pay in the US (we are likely to talk later about real incomes in Russia, which need special attention from the Government). The middle class in the United States has not benefited from globalisation; it was left out when this pie was divided up.

The Trump team sensed this very keenly and clearly, and they used this in the election campaign. It is where you should look for reasons behind Trump’s victory, rather than in any alleged foreign interference. This is what we should be talking about here, including when it comes to the global economy.

I believe this may explain his seemingly extravagant economic decisions and even his relations with his partners and allies. He believes that the distribution of resources and benefits of globalisation in the past decade was unfair to the United States.

I am not going to discuss whether it was fair or not, and I will not say if what he is doing is right or wrong. I would like to understand his motives, which is what you asked me about. Maybe this could explain his unusual behaviour.

Lionel Barber: I definitely want to come back to the Russian economy. But what you said is absolutely fascinating. Here you are, the President of Russia, defending globalisation along with President Xi whereas Mr Trump is attacking globalisation and talking about America First. How do you explain this paradox?

Vladimir Putin: I don’t think that his desire to make America first is a paradox. I want Russia to be first, and that is not perceived as a paradox; there is nothing unusual there. As for the fact that he is attacking some manifestations of globalisation, I made that point earlier. He seems to believe that the results of globalisation could have been much better for the United States than they are. These globalisation results are not producing the desired effect for the United States, and he is beginning this campaign against certain elements of globalisation. This concerns everyone, primarily major participants in the system of international economic collaboration, including allies.

Lionel Barber: Mr President, you have had many meetings with President Xi, and Russia and China have definitely come closer. Are you putting too many eggs in the China basket? Because Russian foreign policy, including under your leadership, has always made a virtue of talking to everybody.

Vladimir Putin: First of all, we have enough eggs, but there are not that many baskets where these eggs can be placed. This is the first point.

Secondly, we always assess risks.

Thirdly, our relations with China are not motivated by timeserving political any other considerations. Let me point out that the Friendship Treaty with China was signed in 2001, if memory serves, long before the current situation and long before the current economic disagreements, to put it mildly, between the United States and China.

We do not have to join anything, and we do not have to direct our policy against anyone. In fact, Russia and China are not directing their policy against anyone. We are just consistently implementing our plans for expanding cooperation. We have been doing this since 2001, and we are just consistently implementing these plans.

Take a look at what is written there. We have not done anything that transcends the framework of these accords. So there is nothing unusual here, and you should not search for any implications of the Chinese-Russian rapprochement. Of course, we assess the current global developments; our positions coincide on a number of matters on the current global agenda, including our attitude towards compliance with generally accepted rules in trade, the international financial system, payments and settlements.

The G20 has played a very tangible role. Since its inception in 2008, when the financial crisis flared up, the G20 has accomplished many useful things for stabilising the global financial system, for developing global trade and ensuring its stabilisation. I am talking about the tax aspect of the global agenda, the fight against corruption, and so on. Both China and Russia adhere to this concept.

The G20 has accomplished a lot by advocating quota changes at the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Both Russia and China share this approach. Considering the major increase in the global economic share of emerging markets, this is fair and right, and we have been voicing this position from the very beginning. And we are glad that this continues to develop and to proceed in line with changes in global trade.

Over the past 25 years or so (25, I believe), the share of G7 countries in the global GDP has declined from 58 percent to 40 percent. This should also be reflected in international institutions in some way. That is the common position of Russia and China. This is fair, and there is nothing special about this.

Yes, Russia and China have many coinciding interests, this is true. This is what motivates our frequent contacts with President Xi Jinping. Of course, we have also established very warm personal relations, and this is natural.

Therefore, we are moving in line with our mainstream bilateral agenda that was formulated as far back as 2001, but we quickly respond to global developments. We never direct our bilateral relations against anyone. We are not against anyone, we are for ourselves.

Lionel Barber: I am relieved that this egg supply is strong. But the serious point, Mr President, is, you are familiar with Graham Allison‘s book, The Thucydides’s Trap. The danger of tensions or a military conflict risk between a dominant power and a rising power, America and China. Do you think that there is a risk of a military conflict in your time between you, America and China?

Vladimir Putin: You know, the entire history of mankind has always been full of military conflicts, but since the appearance of nuclear weapons the risk of global conflicts has decreased due to the potential global tragic consequences for the entire population of the planet in case such a conflict happens between two nuclear states. I hope it will not come to this.

However, of course, we have to admit that it is not only about China’s industrial subsidies on the one hand or the tariff policy of the United States on the other. First of all, we are talking about different development platforms, so to speak, in China and in the United States. They are different and you, being a historian, probably will agree with me. They have different philosophies in both foreign and domestic policies, probably.

But I would like to share some personal observations with you. They are not about allied relations with one country or a confrontation with the other; I am just observing what is going on at the moment. China is showing loyalty and flexibility to both its partners and opponents. Maybe this is related to the historical features of Chinese philosophy, their approach to building relations.

Therefore I do not think that there would be some such threats from China. I cannot imagine that, really. But it is hard to say whether the United States would have enough patience not to make any rash decisions, but to respect its partners even if there are disagreements. But I hope, I would like to repeat this again, I hope that there would not be any military confrontation.

Lionel Barber: Arms control. We know that the INF agreement is in grave jeopardy. Is there any place, from Russia’s point of view, for future arms control agreements or are we in a new phase when we are likely to see a new nuclear arms race?

Vladimir Putin: I believe there is such a risk.

As I said already, the United States unilaterally withdrew from the ABM Treaty, and has recently quit the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty as well. But this time, it did not just quit but found a reason to quit, and this reason was Russia. I do not think Russia means anything to them in this case, because this war theatre, the war theatre in Europe is unlikely to be interesting to the US, despite the expansion of NATO and NATO’s contingent near our borders. The fact remains, the US has withdrawn from the treaty. Now the agenda is focused on theStrategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). I hope that I will be able to talk about it with Donald if we happen to meet in Osaka.

We said that we are ready to hold talks and to extend this treaty between the United States and Russia, but we have not seen any relevant initiative from our American partners. They keep silent, while the treaty expires in 2021. If we do not begin talks now, it would be over because there would be no time even for formalities.

Our previous conversation with Donald showed that the Americans seem to be interested in this, but still they are not making any practical steps. So if this treaty ceases to exist, then there would be no instrument in the world to curtail the arms race. And this is bad.

Lionel Barber: Exactly, the gloves are off. Is there any chance of a triangular agreement between China, Russia and America on intermediate nuclear forces or is that a dream, pie in the sky? Would you support such an end?

Vladimir Putin: As I said at the very beginning, we will support any agreement that can advance our cause, that is, help us contain the arms race.

It should be said that so far, the level and the development scale of China’s nuclear forces are much lower than in the United States and Russia. China is a huge power that has the capability to build up its nuclear potential. This will likely happen in the future, but so far our capabilities are hardly comparable. Russia and the United States are the leading nuclear powers, which is why the agreement was signed between them. As for whether China will join these efforts, you can ask our Chinese friends.

Lionel Barber: Russia is a Pacific power as well as a European and Asian power. It is a Pacific power. You have seen what the Chinese are doing in terms of their buildup of their Navy and their maritime strength. How do you deal with those potential security problems, territorial disputes in the Pacific? Does Russia have a role to play in a new security arrangement?

Vladimir Putin: You mentioned the build-up of naval forces in China. China’s total defence spending is $117 billion, if memory serves. The US defence spending is over $700 billion. And you are trying to scare the world with the build-up of China’s military might? It does not work with this scale of military spending. No, it does not.

As for Russia, we will continue to develop our Pacific Fleet as planned. Of course, we also respond to global developments and to what happens in relations between other countries. We can see all of this, but it does not affect our defence development plans, including those in the Russian Far East.

We are self-sufficient, and we are confident. Russia is the largest continental power. But we have a nuclear submarine base in the Far East, where we are developing our defence potential in accordance with our plans, including so that we can ensure safety on the Northern Sea Route, which we are planning to develop.

We intend to attract many partners to this effort, including our Chinese partners. We may even reach an agreement with American shippers and with India, which has also indicated its interest in the Northern Sea Route.

I would say that we are also primed for cooperation in the Asia Pacific region, and I have grounds to believe that Russia can make a considerable, tangible and positive contribution to stabilising the situation.

Lionel Barber: Can we just turn to North Korea? How do you assess the current situation and do you believe that in the end, any deal or agreement will have to accept the fact that North Korea has nuclear weapons and that total dismantling is just not possible? If I could just add, Mr President, I ask you this because Russia has a fairly small but still a land border with North Korea.

Vladimir Putin: You know, whether we recognise North Korea as a nuclear power or not, the number of nuclear charges it has will not decrease. We must proceed from modern realities, which are that nuclear weapons pose a threat to international peace and security.

Another pertinent question is where this problem stems from. The tragedies of Libya and Iraq have inspired many countries to ensure their security at all costs.

What we should be talking about is not how to make North Korea disarm, but how to ensure the unconditional security of North Korea and how to make any country, including North Korea feel safe and protected by international law that is strictly honoured by all members of the international community. This is what we should be thinking about.

We should think about guarantees, which we should use as the basis for talks with North Korea. We must be patient, respect it and, at the same time, take into account the dangers arising from this, the dangers of the nuclear status and the presence of nuclear weapons.

Of course, the current situation is fraught with unpredictable scenarios, which we must avoid.

Lionel Barber: You have obviously thought of this as an experienced foreign policy and security analyst and a strategist. How do you see the North Asia security situation over the next five to ten years, given you have Russia, you have China, you have Korea and Japan?

Vladimir Putin: You have said correctly that we have a common border, even if a short one, with North Korea, therefore, this problem has a direct bearing on us. The United States is located across the ocean, and the UK is located far away, while we are right here, in this region, and the North Korean nuclear range is not far away from our border. This why this concerns us directly, and we never stop thinking about it.

I would like to return to my answer to your previous question. We must respect North Korea’s legitimate security concerns. We must show it respect, and we must find a way of ensuring its security that will satisfy North Korea. If we do this, the situation may take a turn nobody can imagine today.

Do you remember what turn the situation took after the Soviet Union adopted the policy of détente? Do I need to say anything else?

Lionel Barber: Mr President, you have been in power or very close to power. I think in Davos I said to you when we met – you were not in power but still calling all the shots. After 20 years at the top or near the top, has your appetite for risk increased?

Vladimir Putin: It did not increase or decrease.Risk must always be well-justified. But this is not the case when one can use the popular Russian phrase: “He who doesn’t take risks, never drinks champagne.” This is not the case. Quite possibly, risks are inevitable when one has to make certain decisions. Depending on the scale of any decision, risks can be small or serious.

Any decision-making process is accompanied by risk. Before taking one’s chances, one has to meticulously assess everything. Therefore, risk based on an assessment of the situation and the possible consequences of the decisions is possible and even inevitable. Foolish risks overlooking the real situation and failing to clearly comprehend the consequences are unacceptable because they can jeopardise the interests of a great number of people.

Lionel Barber: How big was this Syria risk in terms of your decision to intervene?

Vladimir Putin: It was sufficiently high. However, of course, I thought carefully about this well in advance, and I considered all the circumstances and all the pros and cons. I considered how the situation around Russia would develop and the possible consequences. I discussed this matter with my aides and ministers, including those in charge of law enforcement agencies and other senior officials. In the long run, I decided that the positive effect from our active involvement in Syrian affairs for Russia and the interests of the Russian Federation would far outweigh non-interference and passive observation of how an international terrorist organisation grows ever stronger near our borders.

Lionel Barber: What has the return been like on the risk taken in Syria?

Vladimir Putin: I believe that it has been a good and positive return. We have accomplished even more than I had expected. First of all, many militants planning to return to Russia were eliminated. This implies several thousand people. They were planning to return to Russia or neighbouring countries with which we do not maintain any visa regime. Both aspects are equally dangerous for us. This is the first thing.

Secondly, we have managed to stabilise the situation in a nearby region, one way or another. This is also highly important. Therefore, we have directly strengthened Russia’s domestic security. This is the third thing.

Fourthly, we have established sufficiently good business-like relations with all regional countries, and our positions in the Middle East region have become more stable. Indeed, we have established very good, business-like, partner-like and largely allied relations with many regional countries, including Iran, Turkey and other countries.

Primarily, this concerns Syria, we have managed to preserve Syrian statehood, no matter what, and we have prevented Libya-style chaos there. And a worst-case scenario would spell out negative consequences for Russia.

Besides, I would like to openly speak of the mobilisation of the Russian Armed Forces. Our Armed Forces have received such practical experience that they could not have obtained during any peace-time exercises.

Lionel Barber: Are you committed to Mr al-Assad remaining in power or can we see, at some point, the transition in Syria that Russia would support, which would not be Libya?

Vladimir Putin: I believe that the Syrian people should be free to choose their own future. At the same time, I would like the actions of external players to be substantiated and, just as in the case of the risks you have mentioned, predictable and understandable, so that we can consider at least our next moves.

When we discussed this matter only recently with the previous US administration, we said, suppose Assad steps down today, what will happen tomorrow?

Your colleague did well to laugh, because the answer we got was very amusing. You cannot even imagine how funny it was. They said, “We don’t know.” But when you do not know what happens tomorrow, why shoot from the hip today? This may sound primitive, but this is how it is.

Therefore, we prefer to look at problems thoroughly from all possible angles and not to be in any hurry. Of course, we are perfectly aware of what is happening in Syria. There are internal reasons for the conflict, and they should be dealt with. But both sides should do their bit. I am referring to the conflicting parties.

Lionel Barber: Mr President, does that same argument apply to Venezuela? In other words, you are not prepared to see a transition in Venezuela and you are absolutely committed to President Maduro.

Vladimir Putin: Oh, and it seemed we had started so well. Please do not take offence to what I am going to say next. You won’t, will you? We were off to such a terrific start, talking seriously, and now you have moved back to the stereotype views on Russia.

We have no nothing to do with what is happening in Venezuela, if you know what I mean.

Lionel Barber: What are those advisors doing then in Caracas?

Vladimir Putin: I will say this now, if you just let me finish. There is no problem with that.

Back under [President] Chavez we sold weapons to Venezuela, without any limits and problems. We did this absolutely legally just as it is done all around the world and as every country does, including the United States, the UK, China and France. We did this too – we sold weapons to Venezuela.

We signed contracts, which say what we have to do when it comes to servicing this military equipment, that we must train local specialists, ensure that this equipment is maintained in combat readiness, and so on. We provide maintenance services for this equipment. I have already said this many times, including to our American partners: there are no Russian troops there. Do you understand? Yes, there are Russian specialists and instructors there. Yes, they are working there. Only recently, I believe it was a week ago, a group of our advisers and specialists left the country. But they can return.

We have an agreement that our aircraft fly there from time to time to take part in exercises. And this is it. Are we regulating the rebels’ actions as some of our partners are doing, or the actions of President Maduro? He is the president, why should we control his actions? He is in control. Whether he is doing well or not, this is another matter altogether. We do not make any judgments.

I believe that many things could have been done differently there when it comes to the economy. But we do not meddle in things; it is none of our business. We have invested billions of dollars there, mostly in the oil sector. So what? Other countries are doing the same as well.

It looks like everything is preserved only by Russian weapons. This is not true. It has nothing in common with reality. Where are the self-proclaimed presidents and opposition leaders? Some of them have taken refuge in foreign embassies and others are in hiding. What do we have to do with this? This problem should be sorted out by the Venezuelan people themselves. This is all.

Lionel Barber: I was just applying your theory and your experience of seeing what happened in Libya and Iraq to Venezuela. And therefore, logically, you would say, “We are committed to Mr Maduro because we do not want to see regime change from outside.” Is that the Russian position? Or might you be willing to say, “We will support Guaido because we have important oil interests in Venezuela”?

Vladimir Putin: We are prepared for any developments in any country, including Venezuela, if they are taking place in accordance with internal rules and the country’s legislation, its Constitution, and in line with the people’s will.

I do not think that Libyan or Iraqi statehood would have been wrecked if there had been no intervention there. It would not have happened in Libya, the situation was absolutely different there. Indeed, Gaddafi wrote his books there, set forth his theories, and so on, which did not meet specific standards, and his practical work did not meet European or American perceptions of democracy.

Incidentally, the President of France said recently that the American democratic model differs greatly from the European model. So there are no common democratic standards. And do you, well, not you, but our Western partners want a region such as Libya to have the same democratic standards as Europe and the United States? The region has only monarchies or countries with a system similar to the one that existed in Libya.

But I am sure that, as a historian, you will agree with me at heart. I do not know whether you will publicly agree with this or not, but it is impossible to impose current and viable French or Swiss democratic standards on North African residents who have never lived in conditions of French or Swiss democratic institutions. Impossible, isn’t it? And they tried to impose something like that on them. Or they tried to impose something that they had never known or even heard of. All this led to conflict and inter-tribal discord. In fact, a war continues in Libya.

So why should we do the same in Venezuela? Do we want to revert to gunboat diplomacy? What do we need it for? Is it necessary to humiliate Latin American nations so much in the modern world and impose forms of government or leaders from the outside?

By the way, we worked with President Chavez because he was president. We did not work with President Chavez as an individual, but we worked with Venezuela. That is why we channelled investments in the oil sector.

And where did we plan to deliver Venezuelan oil while investing in the oil sector? As you know, Venezuela has unique oil that is mostly delivered to US refineries. What is so bad about that? We wanted the Venezuelan oil and gas sector to operate steadily, predictably and confidently and to make deliveries to those US refineries. I do not understand what is so wrong with this.

First, they faced economic problems, followed by domestic political problems. Let them sort things out by themselves, and these leaders will come to power by democratic means. But when a person enters a square, raises his eyes to the sky and proclaims himself president? Let us do the same in Japan, the United States or Germany. What will happen? Do you understand that this will cause chaos all over the world? It is impossible to disagree with this. There will be pure chaos. How could they act like this? But no, they started supporting that person from the very outset.

He may be a very good person. He may be just wonderful, and his plans are good. But is it enough that he entered a square and proclaimed himself president? Is the entire world supposed to support him as president? We should tell him to take part in elections and win them, and then we would work with him as the state leader.

Lionel Barber: Let us talk about another democracy in Europe, my own country. You are going to have a meeting with Mrs May, which is going to be one of her last meetings before she steps down as Prime Minister. Do you think that there is a possibility of some improvement in Anglo-Russian relations and that we can move on from some of these issues that are obviously of great sensitivity, like the Skripal affair? Or do you think that we are going to stay in a deep freeze for the next three or five years?

Vladimir Putin: Listen,all this fuss about spies and counter-spies, it is not worth serious interstate relations. This spy story, as we say, it is not worth five kopecks. Or even five pounds, for that matter. And the issues concerning interstate relations, they are measured in billions and the fate of millions of people. How can we compare one with the other?

The list of accusations and allegations against one another could go on and on. They say, “You poisoned the Skripals.” Firstly, this must be proved.

Secondly, the average person listens and says, “Who are these Skripals?” And it turns out that Skripal was engaged in espionage against us [Russia]. So this person asks the next question, “Why did you spy on us using Skripal? Maybe you should not have done that?” You know, these questions are infinite. We need to just leave it alone and let security agencies deal with it.

But we know that businesses in the United Kingdom (by the way, I had a meeting with our British colleagues in this same room), they want to work with us, they are working with us and intend to continue doing so. And we support this intent.

I think that Mrs May, despite her resignation, could not help but be concerned that these spy scandals made our relations reach a deadlock so we could not develop our ties normally and support business people, who are doing what? They do not only earn money, this is what is on the outside. They create jobs and added value, plus they provide revenue at all levels of the tax system of their countries. This is a serious and multifaceted job, with the same risks you mentioned, including risks related to business operations. And if we add an unpredictable political situation, they will not be able to work at all.

I think that both Russia and the United Kingdom are interested in fully restoring our relations. At least I hope that a few preliminary steps will be made. I think it would be easier for Mrs May, maybe, because she is leaving and is free to do what she thinks is right, important and necessary and not to bother about some domestic political consequences.

Lionel Barber: Some people might say that a human life is worth more than five pennies. But do you believe, Mr President that whatever happened…

Vladimir Putin: Did anybody die?

Lionel Barber: Oh yes. The gentleman who had a drug problem and he died after touching the Novichok in the car park. I mean somebody did that because of the perfume. It was more than one person that died, not the Skripals. I am just…

Vladimir Putin: And you think this is absolutely Russia’s fault?

Lionel Barber: I did not say that. I said somebody died.

Vladimir Putin: You did not say that, but if it has nothing to do with Russia… Yes, a man died, and that is a tragedy, I agree. But what do we have to do with it?

Lionel Barber: Let me just ask this and I really want to talk about the Russian economy. Do you believe that what happened in Salisbury sent an unambiguous message to anyone who is thinking of betraying the Russian state that it is fair game?

Vladimir Putin: As a matter of fact, treason is the gravest crime possible and traitors must be punished. I am not saying that the Salisbury incident is the way to do it. Not at all. But traitors must be punished.

This gentleman, Skripal, had already been punished. He was arrested, sentenced and then served time in prison. He received his punishment. For that matter, he was off the radar. Why would anybody be interested in him? He got punished. He was detained, arrested, sentenced and then spent five years in prison. Then he was released and that was it.

As concerns treason, of course, it must be punishable. It is the most despicable crime that one can imagine.

Lionel Barber: The Russian economy. You spoke the other day about decline in the real wages in the Russian workforce and Russian growth has been less than expected. But at the same time, Mr President, you have been accumulating foreign exchange reserves and international reserves at some 460 billion. What are you saving for? What is the purpose? Can’t you use some of this money to ease up on the fiscal side?

Vladimir Putin: Let me correct a few very small details. Real wages are not in decline in Russia. On the contrary, they are starting to pick up. It is the real household disposable income that is falling.

Wages and income are two slightly different things. Income is determined by many parameters, including loan servicing costs. People in Russia take out a lot of consumer loans and interest payments are counted towards expenses, which drags down real income indicators. Also, the shadow economy is undergoing legalisation. A substantial part of self-employed people – I believe, 100,000 or 200,000, have already legalised their business. This, too, affects real incomes of the population, disposable incomes.

This tendency has persisted for the past four years. Last year we recorded a small increase of 0.1 percent. It is not enough. It is still within the margin of error. But it is one of the serious problems that we need to deal with and we are dealing with it.

Real wages started to grow recently. Last year there was an 8.5-percent increase. This year, the growth rate of real wages has significantly decreased due to a whole range of circumstances. I mean that last year we saw a recovery growth and there are some other factors involved. However, it continues. And we really expect that it will have an effect on real household disposable incomes.

Even more so because lately we have adopted a number of measures to speed up the growth of retirement pensions. Last year the inflation rate was 4.3 percent and, based on these results, in the beginning of this year pensions were adjusted for inflation by 7.05 percent. And we set ourselves a goal, a task – which, I am certain, will be achieved – to adjust pensions by a percentage that is above the inflation rate.

Now, real incomes were also affected because we had to increase VAT from 18 to 20 percent, which affected people’s purchasing power because the inflation rate exceeded 5 percent.

In other words, we expected that the negative impact of the VAT increase would be short-term, which is exactly what happened. Fortunately, it worked out and our calculations proved right. Now the inflation rate is going down, the macroeconomic situation is improving; investment is rising slightly. We can see that the economy has overcome those difficulties that were caused by internal and external shocks. The external shocks were related to restrictions and slumping prices on our traditional export products. The economy has stabilised.

The macroeconomic situation in the country is stable. It is not accidental and all rating agencies registered it. The three major agencies raised our investment rating. Economic growth last year was 2.3 percent. We do not think it was enough but we will, of course, work on speeding up the pace. The growth rate in industrial production was 2.9 percent and even higher, up to 13 percent in some industries (light industry, processing and garment industries and several others). Therefore, overall, our economy is stable.

But the most important task we need to achieve is to change the structure of the economy and secure a substantial growth of labour productivity through modern technologies, Artificial Intelligence, robotics and so on. This is exactly why we increased VAT, to raise budget funds for performing a certain part of this job that is the state’s responsibility, in order to create conditions for private investment. Let us take transport and other infrastructure development. Hardly anybody besides the state is involved in it. There are other factors related to education and healthcare. A person who has health problems or has no training cannot be efficient in the modern economy. The list goes on.

We really hope that by starting this work on key development areas, we will be able to increase labour productivity and use this basis for ensuring an increase in the incomes and prosperity of our people.

As concerns the reserves, you are not exactly correct here, either. We have over 500 billion in gold and foreign currency reserves, rather than 460 billion. But the understanding is that we need to create a safety net that would let us feel confident and use the interest on our existing resources. If we have 7 percent more, we can spend those 7 percent.

This is what we plan for the next year and there is a high probability that we will succeed. Do not think that this money is just sitting on the shelf. No, it creates certain guarantees for Russia’s economic stability in the midterm.

Lionel Barber: The Central Bank has done a very good job in helping to secure macroeconomic stability even if some of the oligarchs complain about banks being closed.

Vladimir Putin: You know, first of all, we do not have oligarchs anymore. Oligarchs are those who use their proximity to the authorities to receive super profits. We have large companies, private ones, or with government participation. But I do not know of any large companies that get preferential treatment from being close to the authorities, these are practically non-existent.

As for the Central Bank, yes, it is engaged in a gradual improvement of our financial system: inefficient and small-capacity companies, as well as semi-criminal financial organisations are leaving the market, and this is large-scale and complicated work.

It is not about oligarchs or large companies; the thing is that it affects, unfortunately, the interests of the depositor, the average person. We have relevant regulatory acts that minimise people’s financial losses and create a certain safety net for them. But each case should be considered individually, of course.

In general, the work of the Central Bank, in my opinion, deserves support. It is related to both the improvement of the financial system and the calibrated policy regarding the key interest rate.

Lionel Barber: Mr President, I would like to go back to President Xi and China. As you know, he has pursued a rigorous anticorruption campaign in order to clean up the party, maintain the legitimacy and strengthen the party. He has also read the history of the Soviet Union, where Mr Gorbachev essentially abandoned the party and helped to destroy the country – the Soviet Union. Do you think that Mr Xi is right in his approach that the party is absolutely crucial? And what lessons do you draw for Russia? If I can just add, you said something interesting a few years ago about the breakup of the Soviet Union being the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century.

Vladimir Putin: These two issues are not connected. As for the tragedy related to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, this is something obvious. I meant, first of all, the humanitarian aspect of it. It appears that 25 million ethnic Russians were living abroad when they learned from the television and radio that the Soviet Union had ceased to exist. Nobody asked their opinion. The decision was simply made.

You know, these are issues of democracy. Was there an opinion poll, a referendum? Most (over 70 percent) of the citizens of the USSR spoke in favour of retaining it. Then the decision was made to dissolve the USSR, but nobody asked the people, and 25 million ethnic Russians found themselves living outside the Russian Federation. Listen, is this not a tragedy? A huge one! And family relations? Jobs? Travel? It was nothing but a disaster.

I was surprised to see the later comments on what I said, in particular, in the Western media. They should try to live through seeing their father, brother or any other close relative finding themselves living in a different country, where a whole new life has started. I assure you.

As for the party and the party state building in China, this is for the Chinese people to decide; we do not interfere. Today’s Russia has its own principles and rules of life, and China with its 1.35 billion people has its own. You try to rule a country with such a population. This is not Luxembourg, with all due respect to this wonderful country. Therefore, it is necessary to give the Chinese people the opportunity to decide how to organise their lives.

Lionel Barber: Again a big picture question. I talked at the beginning of our conversation about fragmentation. Another phenomenon today is that there is a popular backlash against elites and against the establishment and you have seen that – Brexit in Britain. Perhaps you were speaking about Trump’s America. You have seen it with the AFD in Germany; you have seen it in Turkey; and you have seen it in the Arab world. How long do you think that Russia can remain immune to this global movement of backlash against the establishment?

Vladimir Putin: You should look at the realities in each particular case. Of course, there are some trends, but they are only general. In each particular case, when looking at the situation and how it unfolds, you should take into account the history of the given country, its traditions and realities.

How long will Russia remain a stable country? The longer the better. Because very many other things and its position in the world depend on stability, on internal political stability. Ultimately, the wellbeing of the people depends, possibly primarily, on stability.

One of the reasons, the internal reason for the Soviet Union’s collapse was that life was difficult for the people, whose take-home wages were very small. The shops were empty, and the people lost the intrinsic desire to preserve the state.

They thought that it could not get worse no matter what happened. It turned out that life became worse for very many people, especially at the beginning of the 1990s when the social protection and healthcare systems collapsed and industry was crumbling. It could be ineffective, but at least people had jobs. After the collapse, they lost them. Therefore, you should look at each particular case separately.

What is happening in the West? What is the reason for the Trump phenomenon, as you said, in the United States? What is happening in Europe as well? The ruling elites have broken away from the people. The obvious problem is the gap between the interests of the elites and the overwhelming majority of the people.

Of course, we must always bear this in mind. One of the things we must do in Russia is never to forget that the purpose of the operation and existence of any government is to create a stable, normal, safe and predictable life for the people and to work towards a better future.

There is also the so-called liberal idea, which has outlived its purpose. Our Western partners have admitted that some elements of the liberal idea, such as multiculturalism, are no longer tenable.

When the migration problem came to a head, many people admitted that the policy of multiculturalism is not effective and that the interests of the core population should be considered. Although those who have run into difficulties because of political problems in their home countries need our assistance as well. That is great, but what about the interests of their own population when the number of migrants heading to Western Europe is not just a handful of people but thousands or hundreds of thousands?

Lionel Barber: Did Angela Merkel make a mistake?

Vladimir Putin: Cardinal mistake. One can criticise Trump for his intention to build a wall between Mexico and the United States. It could be going too far. Yes, maybe so. I am not arguing about this point. But he had to do something about the huge inflow of migrants and narcotics.

Nobody is doing anything. They say this is bad and that is bad as well. Tell me, what is good then? What should be done? Nobody has proposed anything. I do not mean that a wall must be built or tariffs raised by 5 percent annually in the economic relations with Mexico. This is not what I am saying, yet something must be done. He is at least looking for a solution.

What am I driving at? Those who are concerned about this, ordinary Americans, they look at this and say, Good for him, at least he is doing something, suggesting ideas and looking for a solution.

As for the liberal idea, its proponents are not doing anything. They say that all is well, that everything is as it should be. But is it? They are sitting in their cosy offices, while those who are facing the problem every day in Texas or Florida are not happy, they will soon have problems of their own. Does anyone think about them?

The same is happening in Europe. I discussed this with many of my colleagues, but nobody has the answer. The say they cannot pursue a hard-line policy for various reasons. Why exactly? Just because. We have the law, they say. Well, then change the law!

We have quite a few problems of our own in this sphere as well. We have open borders with the former Soviet republics, but their people at least speak Russian. Do you see what I mean? And besides, we in Russia have taken steps to streamline the situation in this sphere. We are now working in the countries from which the migrants come, teaching Russian at their schools, and we are also working with them here. We have toughened the legislation to show that migrants must respect the laws, customs and culture of the country.

In other words, the situation is not simple in Russia either, but we have started working to improve it. Whereas the liberal idea presupposes that nothing needs to be done. The migrants can kill, plunder and rape with impunity because their rights as migrants must be protected. What rights are these? Every crime must have its punishment.

So, the liberal idea has become obsolete. It has come into conflict with the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population. Or take the traditional values. I am not trying to insult anyone, because we have been condemned for our alleged homophobia as it is. But we have no problems with LGBT persons. God forbid, let them live as they wish. But some things do appear excessive to us.

They claim now that children can play five or six gender roles. I cannot even say exactly what genders these are, I have no notion. Let everyone be happy, we have no problem with that. But this must not be allowed to overshadow the culture, traditions and traditional family values of millions of people making up the core population.

Lionel Barber: Does that include – this is very important, like you say – the end of this liberal idea, because – what else did you say – uncontrolled immigration, open borders, definitely, as you say, diversity as an organizing principle in society? What else do you think is just finished over in terms of the liberal idea? And would you say – if I could just add – that religion therefore must play an important role in terms of national culture and cohesiveness?

Vladimir Putin: It should play its current role.It [religion] cannot be pushed out of this cultural space. We should not abuse anything.

Russia is an Orthodox Christian nation, and there have always been problems between Orthodox Christianity and the Catholic world. This is exactly why I will now say a few words about Catholics. Are there any problems there? Yes, there are, but they cannot be over-exaggerated and used for destroying the Roman Catholic Church itself. This is what cannot be done.

Sometimes, I get the feeling that these liberal circles are beginning to use certain elements and problems of the Catholic Church as a tool for destroying the Church itself. This is what I consider to be incorrect and dangerous.

All right, have we forgotten that all of us live in a world based on Biblical values? Even atheists and everyone else live in this world. We do not have to think about this every day, attend church and pray, thereby showing that we are devout Christians or Muslims or Jews. However, deep inside, there must be some fundamental human rules and moral values. In this sense, traditional values are more stable and more important for millions of people than this liberal idea, which, in my opinion, is really ceasing to exist.

Lionel Barber: So religion, religion is not the opium of the masses?

Vladimir Putin: No, it is not. But I get the impression that you are detached from religion because it is already 12.45 am Moscow Time, and you continue to torture me. As we say here, there is no fear of God in you, is there? (Laughter)

Lionel Barber: This is history. I have waited a long time for this. I have got one last question. And thank you for your – go on please.

Vladimir Putin: Please, go ahead.

Henry Foy: Mr President, would you say – I was reflecting on what you just said: some of the themes you were referring to would echo in people such as Steve Bannon, and Mr Trump himself, and the groups in Europe who have come to power. Do you think if the end of the liberal idea is over, is now the time of the ‘illiberals’? And do you see more and more allies growing around the world to your way of seeing the human existence at the moment?

Vladimir Putin: You know, it seems to me that purely liberal or purely traditional ideas have never existed. Probably, they did once exist in the history of humankind, but everything very quickly ends in a deadlock if there is no diversity. Everything starts to become extreme one way or another.

Various ideas and various opinions should have a chance to exist and manifest themselves, but at the same time interests of the general public, those millions of people and their lives, should never be forgotten. This is something that should not be overlooked.

Then, it seems to me, we would be able to avoid major political upheavals and troubles. This applies to the liberal idea as well. It does not mean (I think, this is ceasing to be a dominating factor) that it must be immediately destroyed. This point of view, this position should also be treated with respect.

They cannot simply dictate anything to anyone just like they have been attempting to do over the recent decades. Diktat can be seen everywhere: both in the media and in real life. It is deemed unbecoming even to mention some topics. But why?

For this reason, I am not a fan of quickly shutting, tying, closing, disbanding everything, arresting everybody or dispersing everybody. Of course, not. The liberal idea cannot be destroyed either; it has the right to exist and it should even be supported in some things. But you should not think that it has the right to be the absolute dominating factor. That is the point.

Please.

Lionel Barber: You really are on the same page as Donald Trump. Mr President, you have been in power for almost 20 years.

Vladimir Putin: For eighteen years.

Lionel Barber: You have seen many world leaders. Who do you most admire?

Vladimir Putin: Peter the Great.

Lionel Barber: But he is dead.

Vladimir Putin: He will live as long as his cause is alive just as the cause of each of us. (Laughter). We will live until our cause is alive.

If you mean any present-day leaders from different countries and states, of the persons that I could communicate with, I was most seriously impressed by former President of France Mr Chirac. He is a true intellectual, a real professor, a very level-headed man as well as very interesting. When he was President, he had his own opinion on every issue, he knew how to defend it and he always respected his partners’ opinions.

In modern-day history, taking a broader view, there are many good and very interesting people.

Lionel Barber: Peter the Great, the creator of the Greater Russia. Need I say any more? My last question, Mr President. Great leaders always prepare succession. Lee Kuan Yew prepared succession. So please share with us what would the process be by which your successor will be chosen.

Vladimir Putin: I can tell you without exaggeration that I have always been thinking about this, since 2000. The situation changes and certain demands on people change, too. In the end, and I will say this without theatrics or exaggeration, in the end the decision must be made by the people of Russia. No matter what and how the current leader does, no matter who or how he represents, it is the voter that has the final word, the citizen of the Russian Federation.

Lionel Barber: So the choice will be approved by the Russian people in a vote? Or through the Duma?

Vladimir Putin: Why through the Duma? By means of direct secret ballot, universal direct secret ballot. Of course, it is different from what you have in Great Britain. We are a democratic country. (Laughter)

In your country, one leader has left, and the second leader, who is for all intents and purposes the top figure in the state, is not elected by a direct vote of the people, but by the ruling party.

It is different in Russia, as we are a democratic country. If our top officials leave for some reason, because they want to retire from politics like Boris Yeltsin, or because their term ends, we hold an election through universal direct secret ballot.

The same will happen in this case. Of course, the current leader always supports someone, and this support can be substantive if the person supported has the respect and trust of the people, but in the end, the choice is always made by the Russian people.

Lionel Barber: I cannot resist pointing out that you did take over as president before the election.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, this is true. So what? I was acting president, and in order to be elected and become the head of state, I had to take part in an election, which I did.

I am grateful to the Russian people for their trust back then, and after that, in the following elections. It is a great honour to be the leader of Russia.

Lionel Barber: Mr President, thank you for spending time with the Financial Times in Moscow, in the Kremlin.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you for your interest in the events in Russia and your interest in what Russia thinks about the current international affairs. And thank you for our interesting conversation today. I believe it was really interesting.

Thank you very much.

Lavrov’s interview for Zvezda network

April 22, 2019

Lavrov’s interview for Zvezda network

 

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview for Glavnoye with Olga Belova programme on Zvezda network, Moscow, April 21, 2019

http://www.mid.ru/ru/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/3622162?p_p_id=101_INSTANCE_cKNonkJE02Bw&_101_INSTANCE_cKNonkJE02Bw_languageId=en_GB

Olga Belova: Mr Lavrov, thank you so much for agreeing to this interview today. Thank you for your time. We are recording this interview on the eve of the second round of Ukraine’s presidential election, so if you would allow me, we will begin with this subject, since it is currently making headlines. Against this backdrop we cannot fail but to recall the events that took place five years ago during the 2014 election in Ukraine. Since then the question of whether Russia had to recognise the outcome of the 2014 election resurfaces from time to time in the public space. What will happen this time around? Does recognising this election make any sense? We understand all too well that Russia has many formal and moral reasons to break up all contacts with the Ukrainian authorities.

Sergey Lavrov: Five years ago when the presidential election was called in Ukraine, it happened in the aftermath of an armed and anti-constitutional government coup that, for some reason, was carried out within a day after the signing of an agreement between the opposition and President Viktor Yanukovich. Moreover, foreign ministers of Germany, Poland and France assumed the role of guarantors under this agreement that was also proactively backed by the US. But the next morning the opposition announced on Maidan Square that they had seized power and had formed a government of victors. This is when they began splitting their people apart. This agreement was signed on February 21, 2014, and if we recall its text, the first paragraph sets forth the need to form a “national unity government.” Instead, they established a government of victors, and started treating everyone else like losers. They put forward multiple requirements that ran counter to the interests of a significant part of people in Ukraine, including minorities such as Russians and Russian speakers. All this brought about serious problems and triggered a referendum in Crimea as a response to the threats made by nationalists to expel Russians from the peninsula and attempts to take over the Supreme Council building by force.

Let me mention one more event. In mid-April, that is before the election was called, but after the referendum in Crimea, Geneva hosted a meeting attended by US Secretary of State John Kerry, yours truly, EU High Commissioner for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton, and then acting Foreign Minister of Ukraine Andrey Deshitsa. At this meeting we agreed on a one-page declaration, and its key provision consisted of supporting the intention of the Ukrainian authorities to implement federalisation, that is to decentralise the country with the involvement of all regions. A representative of the new Ukrainian government that came to power in Kiev following a coup signed this document, guaranteeing federalisation with the involvement of all regions of the country.

But this commitment was instantly forgotten. Against this backdrop, when people started to state their intention to run for president, President of Ukraine Petr Poroshenko was saying on every street corner that he was a “president of peace” and would settle the conflict in a matter of two or three weeks. It is for this reason that Western capitals, Paris and Berlin, urged Russia to refrain from making a statement rejecting the election outcome. We did refrain in order to give them a chance.

In early June 2014, President-elect Petr Poroshenko met with President of France Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President of Russia Vladimir Putin, when they all attended celebrations of the allied Normandy landings. The very fact that Vladimir Putin took part in this meeting, proposed by France and Germany, attested to Russia’s commitment to peace in Donbass and protecting the rights of those who were firm in their refusal to accept an armed coup. We proceeded from the premise that Petro Poroshenko was primarily elected for this promise to resolve the problem peacefully. With this in mind, I would refrain from stirring up the past on this particular matter.

By the way, during the Normandy format meetings that followed, Petr Poroshenko proved that he was not a “president of the peace,” and was forced by the developments on the ground to sign the Minsk Agreements. Russia also believed that it was unacceptable for him to consistently fool his people, while also lying to his curators abroad, since they were irritated by Poroshenko “getting out of hand.” I am talking about the Europeans represented within the Normandy Format, namely France and Germany. When the Minsk Agreements were signed everyone let out a sigh of relief, considering that this created a clear path to peace, especially since the UN Security Council approved the Minsk Agreements, thus implementing them into international law. However, in this sphere as well Petr Poroshenko proved to be very apt in dodging responsibility, turning for protection to the US administration which does not encourage Ukraine to abide by the Minsk Agreements. The Europeans found themselves in an awkward situation.

This was a look at the past, but coming back to your question, we have seen electoral programmes released by Petr Poroshenko and Vladimir Zelensky. We see how they approached the run-off. I have the impression that what matters the most for them at this point is to attract voters by some kind of a constructive agenda in order to secure victory. This is what their efforts are all about. I would rather not draw any final conclusions on what Vladimir Zelensky’s policy will look like if he is elected president, which is a done deal as far as observers are concerned. I would refrain from paying too much attention to declarations coming from his campaign. We have to wait for the second round results when they will have to deal with real things instead of campaign slogans and propaganda. Only then will we understand what this person as president thinks about the millions of his compatriots who speak Russian, love the Russian language and culture and want to live according to their values and the values of the winners in the Great Patriotic War, instead of being guided by values that extoll Roman Shukhevich, Stepan Bandera and other Petlyuras.

Olga Belova: You said we need to wait for the president-elect to take actual steps. Everyone realises that it is imperative to sit down and talk no matter what happens. What should Kiev’s first actions, statements and steps be so that, to use your words, Moscow “gives them another chance” to a peaceful resolution of the situation?

Sergey Lavrov: Most importantly, the new or old government should be able to talk and reach agreements and to respect international law and Ukraine’s international obligations. Such obligations include an international legal instrument which is the UN Security Council resolution, which approved the Minsk Agreements. A direct dialogue between Kiev, on the one hand, and Donetsk and Lugansk, on the other hand, lies at the core of these agreements. This will be the key to success. To reiterate, we heard about the plans to continue the settlement in the election statements, in particular, on the part of Mr Zelensky and his staff, but this time with the involvement of the United States and Great Britain and without direct dialogue with the proclaimed republics − DPR and LPR.

When contenders for a post make such statements, they will then be somehow tied in with such a position in the future. I hope that life will make them realise that there’s no alternative to implementing the Minsk Agreements and, in any case, that there’s no alternative to direct dialogue with the people who represent an enormous part of your nation, if you still consider them to be such, of course.

Olga Belova: We see that so far no one has been talking to them, and there’s no direct dialogue with the republics. Recently, the DPR published the foreign policy concept which shows a certain dualism: on the one hand, there’s a commitment to the Minsk Agreements and, on the other hand, the Republic of Donbass recognises itself as an independent state. What does Moscow think about the dualism of this document? What is your vision of the future of that region following the elections?

Sergey Lavrov: I don’t see anything unusual here, because these republics proclaimed sovereignty five years ago, in May 2014, responding to what we just talked about, namely, radical nationalists who came out with strong anti-Russian statements and launched an attack on the language, cultural and religious rights of ethnic minorities. It started a long time ago. These republics responded by declaring independence. Let’s remind our Western colleagues, if they ever take any interest in these unpleasant facts from recent history, that these republics did not attack the rest of Ukraine. The rest of Ukraine declared them terrorists. This, of course, is a stunning phenomenon in modern diplomacy and politics.

The rest of Ukraine was represented by the putschists who seized power in Kiev and launched an attack on millions of their fellow citizens demanding that they submit to illegal authorities. So, as I understand it, independence was simply reaffirmed in these doctrinal documents adopted in Donbass. But after this independence was declared five years ago in May − returning to what we think about the then elections and the election of Poroshenko solely because he proclaimed that his goal was immediate peace and an immediate agreement on resolving the Donbass problem by way of talks, Russia talked these republics into agreeing to a political process.

Political and diplomatic efforts were interrupted by the military actions of Kiev, which did not respect the truce and ceasefire agreement. There was the August offensive which ended badly for the Ukrainian armed forces and, most importantly, claimed a huge number of human lives, followed by the January offensive in Debaltsevo. Only after receiving a rebuff, did Petr Poroshenko sit down at the negotiating table. That’s how the Minsk Agreements were signed.

I was in Minsk and saw how the leaders of the four countries spent 17 hours at the negotiating table taking short breaks, mostly talking between themselves, and sometimes inviting us as experts to clarify certain fine points. It took considerable effort to convince the leaders of the DPR and LPR who were present in Minsk to give the go-ahead to the Minsk Agreements. We did it. We convinced them to once again demonstrate their willingness, even determination, if you will, to achieve peace with the rest of Ukraine.

Unfortunately, the way the current Ukrainian authorities see our efforts is disappointing. Despite provocations, we will push for these agreements to be implemented. We are a country that is capable of reaching agreements.

Olga Belova: That is, if I understood you correctly, Moscow is still capable and willing to continue to influence the leadership of these republics? Are we going to push them to sit down and talk as best we can, or not? I’m asking this because the leaders of the republics have made it clear that they have parted ways with Kiev.

Sergey Lavrov: You said there was a dual decision to reaffirm independence and commitment to the Minsk Agreements. To a certain extent (I will not frame it in terms of a percentage), this is the result of our influence on them and our call for them not to follow the example of the Ukrainian authorities which break down and trample upon their own promises. We will continue to exert this influence. We have long been calling, above all, the Germans and the French, to realise their responsibility for Kiev’s behaviour, because the Minsk Agreements involve, above all, proactive steps on the part of the Ukrainian authorities. The Contact Group is the only format where Donetsk, Lugansk and Kiev sit down at one table with the representatives of the OSCE and Russia. It took an inordinate amount of effort to create it, primarily because Mr Poroshenko began to back pedal shortly after the Minsk Agreements had been signed, and refused to maintain direct dialogue with the republics. But we forced our Ukrainian colleagues do that. Although in practical work − the Contact Group meets every month −  and even more often than that the Ukrainian government outwardly sabotages everything that was agreed upon, be it security, separating forces and means, the political process, coordinating the formula for conducting elections or providing this region with a special status in accordance with the Minsk Agreements. There is an open and blatant sabotage. We need to understand how the election results will affect the Ukrainian delegation’s activities in the Contact Group, and what kind of people will be delegated there.

Olga Belova: Indeed, now everything depends on how the presidential election will end, including the situation in the Kerch Strait, which was endlessly brought up in the first part of the campaign, before the first round. How harshly are we ready to respond if another provocation is made, especially considering that NATO has declared its readiness to support Ukrainian warships if they undertake another breakthrough?

Sergey Lavrov: Morally and politically – maybe they will support it. But I do not see a situation where NATO ships will join these adventurers for a military provocation. I do not foresee such a situation, and, considering the information that we have, I have reason to believe that this has already been decided at NATO.

Olga Belova: So all the support they will be getting is just words?

Sergey Lavrov: Probably, as it was the last time, a condemnation, and once again they will come up with some new sanctions. As we have said many times, we have no problem with Ukrainian warships passing from the Black Sea to their ports in the Sea of ​​Azov. The only condition is to comply with the safety requirement for navigation along the Kerch Strait. It is a complex stretch of water, which is quite shallow and doesn’t go in a straight line and requires compulsory pilotage as well as coordination when it comes to the weather conditions. All ships — and there are thousands of them — stop at the entrance to the Kerch Strait, report to the channel operators, pilotage, recommendations, and, depending on the weather forecast, move on to the Sea of ​​Azov, as was done before Ukraine’s warships last November. They passed smoothly without any incidents.

In November 2018, Petr Poroshenko, obviously during the election heat, tried to create a scandal to have reason to appeal to the West again, complaining of Russia harassing him, and insisting on more sanctions. He is better at it than many others. So the warships tried to secretly pass through the Kerch Strait, trespassing into our territorial waters – the part that was Russia’s territorial waters even before the referendum in Crimea. What they did actually boiled down to probing the limits of those who ensure the security of the Kerch Strait and the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation.

I must note that among the numerous arguments our opponents seem to forget is the fact that the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea actually implies a so-called unimpeded passage through the territorial waters of a foreign state, including military vessels, subject to several conditions. One of them is the mandatory fulfillment of security requirements, which in this case was grossly violated. The second is that a coastal state cannot allow military ships to maneuver through its territorial waters. That is, you either pass complying with the rules or you violate the Convention. What they did was military maneuvers, trying to hide from our border guards. This much is clear to all without exception. I have no doubt about it.

That we have nothing to hide can be confirmed by a very simple fact.

In mid-December, German Chancellor Angela Merkel asked President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin to allow German specialists to observe the process to better understand what the hitch was and to study the conditions for passing through the Kerch Strait. Vladimir Putin immediately agreed. We reaffirmed the agreement and asked for their names and dates that would suit them. They made a pause, and then suddenly my colleague, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, said at a meeting in January when I reminded him of this that they wanted to bring French experts along.

I said that was new, but I was confident that our President would also agree to French specialists being on this study tour. But after some time, the Germans sent us the concept of their visit, which was not a single visit at all but involved establishing a kind of permanent observation mission, which would be associated with the OSCE mission in Donbass, and would also include Ukrainians. All of them would be staying in our territory doing I do not know what.

Olga Belova: You mean they actually wanted to come and stay there?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, they certainly wanted to stay. The Germans are usually very punctual and precise people. When Angela Merkel asked Vladimir Putin whether their experts could come and see, he said yes… Apparently, after that, they consulted with their big brothers.

Olga Belova: So they just thought it would be a good reason to enter and station their ships there?

Sergey Lavrov: Of course, but this is an absolutely hopeless story. At the same time, I can assure with all responsibility that if the Germans and the French still have an interest in visiting and seeing it firsthand, so as not to rely on the gossip that the Ukrainian side spreads, they are very welcome.

Olga Belova: You believe that Russia will not directly clash with NATO ships in the Kerch Strait because NATO will not have the courage to sail there.

But there is another place where Russian interests clash with those of its Western partners, which is Venezuela. Will Washington decide to stage a military intervention there? What do you think of this? If yes, how far is Russia ready to go in this region? Are we prepared for a direct and tough stand-off in the region that would culminate in a peace enforcement operation against those who don’t want this, provided that all legal formalities are complied with?

Sergey Lavrov: I don’t want to bring up this scenario. I am convinced that Washington does not yet completely understand that its line regarding Venezuela has become deadlocked. They believed that the people of Venezuela would rebel against the incumbent government from the very outset, that they would be disappointed with the government’s inability to ensure the normal operation of the socioeconomic sector. Our Western colleagues took care of this: The United States froze the Venezuelan oil company’s accounts, and the United Kingdom impounded the country’s gold reserves. They hoped to stifle Venezuela using economic methods. When the crisis was in its early stage, they also organised humanitarian relief aid deliveries and tried to cross the Venezuelan border. Obviously, that was a very cheap show. Yes, they said all the options were on the table, but they obviously expected a blitzkrieg. However, they admit that no blitzkrieg took place. Indeed, the country faces a very complicated economic situation which was complicated and continued to deteriorate even before all this began. We repeatedly advised the government of Venezuela, at its request, how to launch economic reforms. Quite possibly, someone did not like this, and they also decided to halt this process, so as to prevent the situation from working in favour of the Maduro government. They decided to further stifle Venezuela by economic and financial methods. When the blitzkrieg petered out, when it became clear that the people of Venezuela had their own pride and a feeling of national dignity, when they became obviously insulted by a situation when, speaking from abroad, US Vice President Mike Pence noted that he was appointing Juan Guaido as Acting President, one should be very far from historical experience while hoping that the people of Venezuela would “swallow” this.

Today, when the Americans continue to say that all options are on the table, I don’t doubt the fact that they are assessing the consequences of an audacious military undertaking. It is highly unlikely that anyone in Latin America will support them. To the best of my knowledge, they are counting on one or two countries. I have no doubts, and I know that the Latin Americans have a great feeling of personal dignity. This would pose a challenge to all of them, all the more so as a righteous rejection of such a dictate has been accumulating for several months already, especially when the Americans de-mothballed the Monroe Doctrine and said it was quite appropriate to use this doctrine in the current situation.

On April 17, US National Security Adviser John Bolton said the United States was bringing its own version of freedom to the region. And what version of freedom does the region prefer? Would you like to ask them how they perceive their own freedom?

I hope very much that a line which stipulates talks and which is conducted by Mexico, Bolivia, Uruguay and the Caribbean Community will prevail. President of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro is ready for such talks, and he has repeatedly confirmed this in public. Juan Guaido emphatically and ostentatiously refuses, comprehending Washington’s support and counting on this support alone. It appears that he has copied the bad example of President of Ukraine Petr Poroshenko who also behaved in the same way with regard to the need for conducting a national dialogue that would involve all political forces, and he hoped that Washington would shield him whatever the situation.

Olga Belova: Washington says it is bringing freedom to the region. But what is it that we are bringing to the region?

Sergey Lavrov: We want international law to be respected in the region as well as in the world at large. This means that states build their relations via dialogue and a balance of interests takes shape. This also means that we listen to each other and want to negotiate mutually beneficial security, economic and humanitarian projects as well as projects in any other spheres, where countries and peoples operate. Our relations with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) rest precisely on this basis. We are finalising talks with the South American Common Market (MERCOSUR). There is an agreement with the Central American Integration System (CAIS) and a number of other sub-regional organisations.

We have even-handed and good relations with practically all the Latin American countries. We don’t force anyone to do things we would like to get as unilateral advantages. The entire US policy towards Russia comes down to the US ambassador in any country visiting, with envious regularity, government agencies and demanding that they don’t receive Russian delegations, nor send delegations to Russia, nor trade with Russia, nor buy anything from Russia, particularly military products, and the like.

You can’t conceal information in today’s world. We learn this the moment these “visits” occur, the more so that the Americans are not particularly hiding the fact. They publicly say: Don’t communicate with Russia. It is Russia along with Iran and Cuba that are to blame for what is going on in Venezuela. They demand that not a single Russian soldier be found in Venezuela because the US wants it this way: no one located outside of the Western Hemisphere has the right to be there at all. Our explanation that the Russian military are performing contractual obligations servicing military equipment that was supplied on fully legitimate terms way back in the 2000s are simply disregarded. The fact that the US military and other NATO personnel – Britons and Canadians – have filled Ukraine is not mentioned. It looks like they proceed from logic suggested by the saying “What is allowed to Jupiter, is not allowed to the bull.” This is rotten logic, very much so, and it will not help our US colleagues. I am quite hopeful that they will come to understand this. Yes, within some historically very brief period preceding the next electoral cycles in the US, they are likely to reap certain benefits because they are brazenly putting pressure on countries that are unable to resist them. But in the long term, increasingly more countries will proceed from the assumption that America is just an unreliable and impolite partner that is abusing its influence in the world. The UN Charter insists on sovereign equality of states. We build our relations precisely in this way.

I cannot refrain from mentioning the fact that the United States has recently added a frontal attack on Orthodox Christianity to the arsenal of its policy towards Russia. Given that the Russian Orthodox Church was a world Orthodoxy leader, the crazy gamble involving the conferral of autocephality on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, known today as the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, a gamble undertaken by the Istanbul Patriarch Bartholomew, has been – we have enough facts to claim this – inspired and supported by Washington. Today Washington is engaged in tough diplomatic action as it works with other Orthodox Churches that have refused to support the Istanbul Patriarch’s self-willed decision. Its aim is to somehow make them recognise what has happened. This unceremonious and gross interference in church affairs is at odds with all diplomatic norms and international law in general. And this is deplorable.

We would like the United States to be a decent member of the world community. We are open to dialogue but their approach to relations is highly utilitarian and selfish.

They suggest that we and the Chinese cooperate with them when it comes to Afghanistan and North Korea because they are unable to operate successfully on their own there. And we accept this because a settlement in Afghanistan, on the Korean Peninsula and in Syria, on which we can communicate usefully, is also in our interests. We don’t dig in our heels and say that we will not negotiate on these issues if they don’t want to discuss other ones. Our position is more pragmatic. Russia is ready to work with all influential parties who see eye to eye with us and can help to achieve a settlement.

But generally their policy towards Russia is based solely on the wish to make us accept their unilateral domination and renounce international law. This is deplorable and cannot last ad infinitum. The Americans will be unable to sustain this course for long. They are antagonising a huge number of countries. So, it is in their best interests to come back to square one and start talking to all countries respectfully. Currently, they are doing this arrogantly, something that cannot help their interests.    

Olga Belova: We do need to talk, but so far talking to these Western partners of ours has been quite challenging. There is a saying: Those who do not want to talk with Sergey Lavrov will have to deal with Sergey Shoigu. This echoes what you have been saying. In your opinion, who is the main guardian of peace now, the military or the diplomats? What enables Russia to maintain parity: state-of-the-art armaments or the power of words? Who has priority at present?

Sergey Lavrov: When the Soviet Union was being dissolved, pro-democracy forces both here in Russia and in the West were ecstatic. There was a theory whereby the factor of strength in international relations was no longer relevant now that the bipolar world order was no more, the Cold War became a thing of the past, ideological differences faded away and we all came together on a strong democratic footing. This euphoric state persisted for several years. The situation was far from rosy of course, but as you may remember, in the 1990s Russia was young and proactive in its commitment to working with the US and NATO, all but deciding to join the alliance. However, disillusionment came very quickly. It dawned on everyone that behind the veil of these beautiful words the West meant only one thing: Russia was to give up on using the factor of strength in its policy, while the West would continue relying on it. Why was NATO still around after the Warsaw Pact was dissolved? How come we did not come together within the OSCE to transform it into a pan-European, Euro-Atlantic organisation without any western or eastern variants in order to address all questions without exception based on consensus? It did not happen. Of course, the plan they nurtured was to use Russia’s weakness in the first years after the collapse of the Soviet Union in order to achieve an overwhelming military and strategic advantage.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin has talked about this on numerous occasions. It became clear to us that our positive attitude towards the West was not reciprocal. The West continued to push NATO further east in violation of all possible promises, moving its military infrastructure to our borders, and there was no end in sight, especially when the US withdrew from the ABM Treaty. At this point, everything was clear. Decisions were taken, paving the way to the development of the weapons the President presented during his address last year to the Federal Assembly. Of course, it is highly regrettable that in today’s world no one will talk to you, unless you have a strong army and cutting-edge weapons.

Olga Belova: Has it become easier to talk?

Sergey Lavrov: When I was appointed to this post, the situation was already beginning to change. However, I would not say that talking was a challenge before, and that now things are easier. Unfortunately, the US, as our main partner, labelled Russia its “high-priority adversary,” as you have said. Later the US backtracked, and propelled China to this position. Later Russia was again on the list, and after that we were accompanied by China and Iran. They want to set their policy straight. They want to be in total control, but have yet to understand how this can be done. Sanctions work in some cases, but definitely not with Russia. They will not work with other countries that respect their history and identity.

We have no problems talking with the Europeans when it comes to relations with each specific country. There are challenges in our dialogue with NATO, since the US decided to convene meetings of the Russia-NATO Council with the sole purpose of lecturing us on Ukraine and other matters or criticising us for allegedly violating and dismantling the Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. We do not intend to attend any meetings of this kind in the future. If they want to have a serious conversation, they have to convene a Russia-NATO Council meeting at the military level. The outgoing Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO Allied Command Operations, General Curtis Scaparrotti, recently voiced regret over the lack of military-to-military interaction with Russia that existed even during the Cold War. Better late than never. Let us hope that his successor in this position is receptive to this advice. This is what we hope for.

We have a very good dialogue with each country of the European Union. Yes, we sometimes happen to disagree. We have problems with the Baltic countries, with Poland, but we are ready to talk about them. Especially because the Baltic states are our neighbours, and we have good trade and investment cooperation in business. There are also security issues, because NATO is pushing its units into Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. It is too close to our borders. At the same time, NATO is moving away from implementing the understandings we reached following the initiative of President of Finland Sauli Niinisto concerning flight safety over the Baltic. We responded to it; our military proposed ideas that would help allay concerns. It is possible to talk with everyone. On a bilateral basis, even the Baltic countries show interest: President of Estonia Kersti Kaljulaid has visited Moscow. We are talking in a neighbourly way about what we can do so that people can live comfortably and there would be no security concerns. But the collective platforms – NATO and the EU – are dominated by mutual responsibility: the Russophobic minority in the EU imposed sanctions on Russia, punishing us for supporting the will of the people of Crimea. This position of the European Union is now extended every six months, and no one can do anything, although individually, they assure us that the majority already understands that this is a dead end and something needs to be done. We are patient people, but as long as the EU as an organisation is not ready to restore all the mechanisms of our strategic partnership – we used to have summits twice a year, a ministerial council that oversaw more than 20 sectoral dialogues, four common spaces … All that was frozen because someone decided to try to “punish” us. Funny, honestly.

We are always open to honest, equal and respectful dialogue both through the military and through diplomatic channels. We have a very good tradition with a number of countries, in particular, with Italy and Japan, the 2 + 2 format, when Sergey Shoigu and I meet with our colleagues, the four of us. This is a very interesting format. It enables us to consider security issues through the prism of diplomacy and vice versa – purely military issues in foreign policy. We had such formats with the Americans and the British – but they froze them on their own initiative. But with the Italians and the Japanese, we continue these processes.

Olga Belova: I seem to understand why they froze them. Because when you two come to the negotiations, it’s simply impossible to resist you in such a duo.

Sergey Lavrov: Oh, don’t say that. We are modest people. Modest and polite.

Olga Belova: You’re modest and polite – but are you ready to give everyone a second chance, as with Ukraine?

Sergey Lavrov: Some do not need to be given a chance – they already rely on their national interests, not on what some foreign brother tells them. But if someone digs in their heels and expects an apology from us – well, we have nothing to apologise for. Our actions are guided by international law, and the UN Charter. We respect the right of any nation to determine its own future. This also applies to the rights of national minorities, in Crimea or anywhere else. We are always ready for dialogue.

The Ukies come to Paris to meet with their bosses

The Ukies come to Paris to meet with their bosses

April 13, 2019

by Le Saker Francophone for the Saker blog

Macron, the French president, always eager to take the center stage to show his dynamism, has received the two outsiders of the presidential election of Ukraine, Zelenski and Poroshenko, on the same day with 3 hours interval. On april 12th Zelinski is convened at L’Elysée at 3 pm then Poroshenko at 6 pm.

Le Monde, one of the few French newspaper to speak about that visit says: “It is Zelenski team who took the initiative for the meeting. For the young candidate, who see himself as an ‘Ukrainian Macron’ the interest is clear : to show its closeness with a president that is appreciated by the people of Ukraine, to show its international stature, and after being described as a puppet manipulated by the Russian, to show that his loyalty goes for the West… Mr Poroshenko has requested too an invitation and l’Elysée accepted it not to look as favoring one upon the other”.

The other media speaking about that visit is Sputnik France.

The French presidency said that the talks will be about bilateral relations and the cooperation in the frame of the Normandy agreement. No more details has been added. This vague declaration may hide some kind of “talks” that could be not politically correct enough to be publicly announced. One could think that the anglosionist system, whose Macron is a slavish representative, wants to “suggest” its instructions and conditions to the future Ukrainian president, especially Zelinski who got 30% of the votes for the first round while Poroshenko got only 16%.

Zelenski did not say anything about that planned meeting. Porochenko said that «the fate of the State, of security in Ukraine and in Europe too, in the whole continent, are at stake…and it is necessary to consider for some more sanctions against Russia”. Before coming to France, Poroshenko paid a visit to Merkel. But the spoke person of the German chancelier took the precaution to precise that it should not be seen as a support for the Ukrainian candidate.

The Western backers of Poroshenko looked puzzled by the high score of Zelenski, a guy they did not choose.

Johann Wadephul, vice president of the main party at the German parliament said “Ukraine cannot afford to bend on an unexperienced government, especially because of its conflict with Russia and difficult economic and social situation”.

After first saying that the USA will not interfere in Ukrainian election, Kurt Volker, the U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine, said “today the people of Ukraine has to choose. Do they want somebody who just oppose the system and promise huge reforms or somebody who may have disappoint them but who has done more reforms for Ukraine than anybody else since 20 years, and is able to face Poutine”.

Even with this backing, the chance for Poroshenko to win look weak and “the West could insist for the two contender to get an agreement. If Poroshenko falsify the results, Zelenski will have to stay quiet. It is one of the option. But if they consider that Zelenski could make a suitable president for Ukraine they could try to convince him to give a good political position to Poroshenko” thinks Rostislav Ichtchenko, president of a Russian think tank.

“Macron want to evaluate Zelenski and the potential consequences if he becomes president. Especially for his relation with Russia. Poroshenkko has been invited only to be polite with him as the European Union has been backing him those last years”, says Bogdan Bezpalko another Russian expert.

After the meeting, Zelenski declared to the Ukrainian media «What pleased me with Macron, what characterize him on the contrary of many politicians is that he has an excellent sense of humor. Then I am now not the only one”. And that they talked about “the most important problems in Ukraine, especially how to stop the war with Donbass”.

Of course The Kremlin reacted with irony to that convocation. Dmitri Peskov is curious to know how Arsen Avakov will denounce that French interference in an Ukrainian election with the same virulence as he denounces Russian interference. On her side, Maria Zakharova reminded that French and Western interference are not new in Ukraine, and that “…foreign ministers, including the French one, personally gave support to the Maidan demonstrators, in the very centre of Kiev». Then, to tease Macron she added “For some months we observe the Yellow Vets movement. Did you see Foreign ministers of other countries – europeans, arabs or americans – coming in the middle of the crowds to push them to take over the Elysée palace or to ask for the destitution of the government?”

Coincidentally, Hubert Fayard, the Donbass representative in France, has been arrested and put in custody for “procurement”. The story is unclear as “an Ukrainian woman he just met proposed to lend him some money”. The day after police searched his house and arrested him for procurement.

Gone with the Wind: The Disastrous Passion of Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron

Gone with the Wind: The Disastrous Passion of Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron

MARTIN SIEFF | 06.03.2019 | WORLD / EUROPE

Gone with the Wind: The Disastrous Passion of Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron

Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Emmanuel Macron of France have run their once great nations into the ground as rage, frustration, poverty and fear erupt across the streets of Western Europe. But Merkel and Macron are not concerned: They have eyes only for each other. Their mutual regard and unlimited support for each other’s catastrophic policies continue unabated.

Merkel has been in power for more than 13 years and is old enough to be Macron’s mother. Macron is a neophyte of less than two years in power, though with an inflated sense of self-regard as ridiculous as the comic character of Mr. Toad in the British children’s book, “The Wind in the Willows.”

Merkel and Macron share the same assumptions, were raised up by the same forces and are endless feted and fraudulently praised by the same worthless pundits.

Both are arrogant elitist intellectuals. Both believe in stripping and shrinking the social functions and responsibilities of the state towards the weak and the poor. Both agree that the state should help and protect large national corporations and that ordinarily people rate a poor second to this: In fact they do not rate at all.

Both believe that they and their regimes represent the absolute perfections of human achievement and therefore must be replicated around the world, instantly if possible. Merkel looks to advance regime change to the east, across all of Eurasia. Macron in his faux-Mussolini style dreams of being the neo-Napoleonic wise leader of the Mediterranean, orchestrating the remaking of the Maghreb across North Africa and of the Arab Middle East.

Both leaders see themselves selfless, visionary internationalists and regard Presidents Donald Trump in the United States and Vladimir Putin in Russia with fastidious distaste because they presume to put the interests of their own peoples first.

Both Merkel and Macron have condescending contempt for their own peoples and believe the native populations of their countries need injections of millions of immigrants from around the world as quickly as possible. Neither of them cares a fig for the values of the Christian civilizations that built and embodied their nations for more than a millennium. Instead, they openly despise those who take their national heritage seriously.

Yet there is also a strange, even creepy mutual attraction between the aging German chancellor and the (supposedly) young and dynamic French president.

Neither of them ever had any children. Merkel likes to play the wise and experienced stateswoman to younger, callow world leaders who share her superficial fashionable assumptions. Barack Obama of the United States filled that role for her and Obama, whose ignorance of affairs outside the borders of the US was proverbial, eagerly appreciated her condescension.

As Obama left office, he memorably praised Merkel as his closest friend among world leaders. This comment, farcically, stunned British Prime Minister David Cameron whose spin machine had for six years pumped out the reassuring fairy tale that Cameron was the closest confidant to Obama and his trusted sidekick on the world scene.

Macron has always gravitated to older women. His wife is 24 years older than he is and they met when she was his teacher in high school.

In the United States and Britain, this kind of misalliance would have been fodder for the tabloid newspapers. The National Enquirer and the Daily Mail could have run with prurient speculations on the nature of their relationship for years. In France, where no human proclivity surprises people they take this kind of thing in their stride.

Still, for Macron the progression from his wife to Merkel is as consistent as Merkel replacing Obama with Macron as her admiring young disciple and/or favorite nephew.

However, the most enduring image that the strange Merkel-Macron pairing conjures up is an older one. Before World War II, the most enduring popular romantic movie of all time was made in Hollywood – “Gone with The Wind,” a tear-jerking melodrama of passionate love between privileged white racists in the Antebellum South before the US Civil War.

It is not at all too much of a stretch of the imagination to see Macron farcically replacing the chiseled features of Clark Gable as unscrupulous, rather fraudulent but always dashing gambler Rhett Butler and the imperious Kaiserin (Lady Empress) Merkel instead of British fiery, imperious beauty Vivien Leigh as the movie’s riveting pain-in-the-neck heroine Scarlett O’Hara. Like Kaiserin Angela, Scarlett, always, always had to have her own way.

In “Gone with the Wind” the tempestuous, virtually insane passion between Rhett and Scarlett survives as the entire society of the racist Southern Confederate Slave State crashes to ruins around them. In the end, the city of Atlanta burns, but the fiery passion of Rhett and Scarlett survives, even when they are apart.

The cities of France and Germany may well be burning soon as testament to the disastrous policies of “Rhett” Macron and “Scarlett” O’Merkel. But it is a safe bet that they will be even more oblivious to the consequences of their own actions. In the words of Rhett Butler that end the movie, neither Merkel nor Macron really gives a damn.

Photo: Flickr

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