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.

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