Macron Tells NATO Russia Must Come in from the Cold War

South Front

Written by Tom Luongo; Originally appeared on tomluongo.me

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

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

Macron Tells NATO Russia Must Come in from the Cold War

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

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

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

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

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

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

Macron’s full remarks can be found here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the latter point they’ve nearly succeeded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Netanyahu NATO Visit Cancelled over ‘Logistical Problems’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Source

December 2, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Israeli media

How Yemen’s Houthis are bringing down a Goliath

How Yemen’s Houthis are bringing down a Goliath

By Pepe Escobar from Beirut – posted with Permission

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Al-Emad said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Al-Emad’s key demand is actually humanitarian:

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

The real danger

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

As a Dubai-based trader put it:

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

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

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

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

Now compare it with analysis by one trader:

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

The Financial Times’s Interview with President Putin

July 03, 2019

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

WATCH PART 1

WATCH PART 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Secondly, we always assess risks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vladimir Putin: I believe there is such a risk.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vladimir Putin: Did anybody die?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lionel Barber: Did Angela Merkel make a mistake?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vladimir Putin: Please, go ahead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please.

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

Vladimir Putin: For eighteen years.

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

Vladimir Putin: Peter the Great.

Lionel Barber: But he is dead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you very much.

Lavrov’s interview for Zvezda network

April 22, 2019

Lavrov’s interview for Zvezda network

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Olga Belova: Has it become easier to talk?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ukies come to Paris to meet with their bosses

The Ukies come to Paris to meet with their bosses

April 13, 2019

by Le Saker Francophone for the Saker blog

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

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

The other media speaking about that visit is Sputnik France.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MARTIN SIEFF | 06.03.2019 | WORLD / EUROPE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Flickr

Munich Conference Showed That America Is Losing Ground

Source

February 18, 2019

Munich Conference Showed That America Is Losing Ground

by Ruslan Ostashko

Translated by Scott and captioned by Leo.

The annual Security Conference, traditionally hosted by Germany in Munich, this time was not attended by neither the leader of Russia nor by the head of the United States. The latter was replaced by Vice President Mike Pence, who tried to convince the audience that America is strong. This came out not very convincing.

It has been 12 years since Vladimir Putin delivered his famous “Munich speech.” It was dubbed the starting point for a new “Cold War” between Russia and the West. A year and a half later an “Olympic war” commenced and ended with bringing Georgia to its senses despite it being pumped up by the “most advanced” American weapons. And going on further, everything following was deepening of the conflict.

Now, after 12 years, we can sum up some results. The first and the main result: a “unipolar world” has been destroyed. Flown in from Washington, the Vice President of the United States, of course, puffed up his cheeks. But his demands weren’t concerning Russia, but the European vassals of America, who reacted to Pence’s demands without usual enthusiasm. Here’s what was written on this by my friend and colleague Ivan Danilov.

“By and large, on the Munich stage, the world was shown a completely different America, its new image only seen so far by very few people: it’s an image of a Hegemon affronted by the entire world, which is experiencing mental suffering from the fact that its desires are no longer fulfilled like before. Pence presented Germany in particular and the European Union as a whole a fairly large list of grievances that cause irritation in Washington. Vice President of the US criticized the Nord Stream 2 and virtually accused Germany that support for this project, Berlin contributes to the increasing dependency of the EU on Russia.’We cannot protect the West if our allies depend on the East,’ he said. The European Union was required to immediately abandon attempts to circumvent American sanctions against Iran and possibly join them.”

The fact that Pence did not want to talk about cooperation, and demanded submission, has been noticed even by the American media. The New York Times wrote  that the Vice President of the United States “focused on the list of requirements for American allies.”

How exactly these same allies took Pence’s demands is clearly demonstrated in the title of the German magazine Spiegel: Münchner Sicherheitskonferenz Trumps Bauchrednerpuppe. l

“America is not the leader, it is losing ground,” the newspaper writes in response to Pence’s words that ‘the US has become the leader of the free world.’ If we translate from politically correct into Russian, the German journalists actually declared that the “king of democracy” is naked.

The Russian delegation, that had enough of the slogan “America is the strongest,” was adding fuel to the fire. This is what Deputy foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said:

“The West, with its self-conceit, self-aggrandizement, and its belief in the infallibility of its own approaches to civilization, world development, values, should stop and think for a moment: if you value your world order so much, can you increase the risks of your existence for the sake of the pursuit of ephemeral establishment of a universal, God forbid, New Order for the rest of the world?”

It sounds sarcastic and in its form and in its content. Actually, our delegation headed by Sergey Lavrov, focused on shaking the “Euro-Atlantic unity” in Munich. For example, the Russian Foreign Minister sarcastically pointed to the duality of the behavior of representatives of the EU. They were publicly stigmatizing Moscow, but in private whined about the fact that they needed the normalization of relations with Russia.

“Apparently, while this has not happened, they somehow have to be guided by their mutual responsibility and follow the course, which is fixed in the European Union under the pressure of an aggressive Russophobic minority. But we patiently explain our readiness to resume relations on an equal basis to the extent and with such speed in which it will be convenient to our partners.”

That is, the second result of the “Cold War 2.0” can be formulated as follows: “the US sustainable sovereignty over the EU is no more.” Sergey Lavrov used constructive terms to describe the situation:

“The common European house needs major repairs. The tasks are really large-scale. They can only be effectively addressed together, on a universal basis.”

The participants of the conference who listened to these words burst into thunderous applause. They only applauded more to Angela Merkel, while Mike Pence did not receive any applause at all.

*Clip plays*

I thank you for your attention, and I’m ready to answer your questions.

*Loud applause*

Finally, about the third result of the Cold War 2.0. It’s the fact that the plan to strangle Russia with the notorious “isolation” failed. Moreover, as admitted by the same Lavrov before leaving for Moscow, Russian diplomats would not mind a bit of “isolation.”

“We would even like to see some isolation, because the negotiations went back-to-back for more than two dozen meetings. Our entire delegation worked without a break.”

What is 12 years on the historical scale? Nothing. To destroy in such a short period of time all that the United States has built up over the decades since the creation of NATO and to the peak of its power at the beginning of the XXI century – is something remarkable. It will take another 12 years to compare the “overhaul” of the world order with the situation today. Do you have any predictions about what our country will achieve by February 2031?

«بلطجة» ترامب.. هل توقف التراجع الأميركي؟

يناير 25, 2019

د. وفيق إبراهيم

يوجِّه الرئيس الأميركي دونالد ترامب ضربات عسكرية واقتصادية وسياسية في كل الاتجاهات. فما أن يحل عليه الوهن في سورية حتى يظهر في اوروبا موجهاً لرؤسائها دروساً في الإخلاف وعلى طريقة الكاوبوي، مُحدثاً دوياً إعلامياً قليل الفاعلية على المستوى العملي..

لكنه لم ينسَ حديقته الخلفية أميركا الجنوبية مُستشعراً تحسناً في علاقات بعض دولها بروسيا والصين مسترجعاً صور التنافس التاريخي مع الاتحاد السوفياتي فينتابه اكتئاب مقرراً تعيين رئيس مجلسها النيابي صديق السياسة الأميركية، غوايدو رئيساً لفنزويلا وبديلاً عن رئيسها الحالي مادورو الذي يمارس سلطاته الرئاسية استناداً إلى انتخابات شعبية فاز بها مؤخراً. وهذا لم يعجب ترامب الذي يهدد بغزو عسكري لفنزويلا إذا لم يرحل طوعاً رئيسها الحالي، ويختفي إلى الأبد للإشارة فإن واشنطن تحاصر فنزويلا اقتصادياً وتمنع عنها كل أنواع المساعدات، فيما تحرض المخابرات الأميركية المعارضة الفنزويلية لإسقاط بادورو وتزوّدها بالسلاح والمال والمعلومات.

هذه عيّنة عشوائية من سياسات ترامب «العالمية» ويبدو أولها سببان: احساس الرجل أن إمبراطورية بلاده في حالة متفاقمة من التراجع في الدور السياسي وبالتالي الاقتصادي، أما السبب الثاني فرغبته في التحول قائداً تاريخياً ينقذ الامبراطورية فينتخبه الأميركيون لولاية ثانية. وقد يستطيع بهذه الطريقة أن يقود الحزب الجمهوري أو بعض الاتجاهات اليمنية المحافظة الجامعة بين مسيحية متطرفة وعبرية قديمة كما يردد في مجالسه الضيقة، وكذلك كقيادة تاريخية متواصلة.

للتذكير هذا، فترامب هو الرئيس الأميركي الوحيد الذي يتدخل في أكثر من ثلاثين دولة في أول سنتين من ولايته وبشكل صدامي مركزاً على بلدان الشرق الأوسط واوروبا والصين وروسيا وجنوب شرق آسيا واليابان، وكندا ومجمل أميركا الجنوبية، إلا أن استراليا بمفردها نجت حتى الآن من تحرشاته.

آخر إبداعات ترامب، قانون «قيصر» لمعاقبة سورية بشكل صارم بذريعة أن عسكرياً سورياً متمرداً نقل الآن الصور إلى المخابرات الأميركية التي تسجل تعذيب السجناء السوريين وقتلهم من قبل عسكريي النظام في سجونه.

للتنبيه فإن ترامب لم يفعل هذا الأمر حتى مع منظمة داعش التي أبادت علناً وبنقل مباشر من المحطات الأميركية والغربية عشرات آلاف الأسرى واغتصاب مئات آلاف الأسيرات.

لا بدّ أن ترامب نسي مدى تقدم التصوير التلفزيوني والسينمائي المفبرك في قطر وتركيا وبلاده، ومداها الأوروبي.. أما إعلانه تحويل العراق قاعدة لتحرك قواته في منطقة سورية وجزيرة العرب وحصار إيران، فبدا مدهشاً، ومثيراً لحيرة العراقيين أنفسهم الذين لم يخبرهم بهذا التطور، قبل مغادرته بلادهم خلسة، أي تماماً كما دخل إليها.

كما يحاول تحشيد الشرق الأوسط في قمة وارسو الشهل المقبل «لتدمير إيران» داعماً السيسي في مصر لتمرير صفقة القرن وإنهاء القضية الفلسطينية على أساس حلف عربي ـ إسرائيلي.

ولا يتأخر عن تزويد بعض القوى السياسية لضرب حزب الله والحشد الشعبي العراقي وأنصار الله اليمني فاتحاً مفاوضات مع طالبان في افغانستان وهي «ابنة القاعدة بيولوجياً»، وللتضييق على جارتها، روسيا. زارعاً أسلحة صاروخية وغير تقليدية في مجمل أوروبا الشرقية والبلقان باستثناء بلدين صديقين لروسيا هما أرمينيا وصربيا.

لكن هذه الاهتمامات لم تجعله ينسى منافسيه، روسيا التي يفرض عليها عقوبات والصين التي يعاقبها ويفاوضها. كذلك كوريا الشمالية التي يحاول إرضاء بكين بالتفاوض معها، بأسلوب عقد المهرجانات لا المباحثات اما عدوته إيران فلا يدخر وسعاً لإسقاط جمهوريتها بالحصار والتحشيد والتهديد بحرب، وتحريض الإيرانيين على إسقاط ما يسمّيه الغرب «جمهورية الملالي».

ولإظهار مشروعه بالسيطرة على الاقتصاد العالمي، رفع العصا بوجه ادواته في الخليج، منتزعاً آلاف مليارات الدولارات منها، وعارضاً عليها الاستيراد الحصري من بلاده، مع بعض الاستثناءات الاوروبية والتنسيق الإلزامي مع روسيا في أسواق الطاقة.

تركيا بدورها هي العضو في الحلف الأطلسي والأداة الاميركية منذ خمسينيات القرن الفائت يعاقبها اقتصادياً ويهددها سياسياً.

فهل نجا أحد من سياسات ترامب الضاربة في كل مكان؟

هناك دولة واحدة لم يقترب منها الرئيس الاميركي إلا من اتجاه تأكيد تميزها عن الآخرين وعمق صداقة الأميركيين لها وهي «إسرائيل».

والدليل أن ترامب هو الرئيس الأميركي الوحيد الذي نقل عاصمة بلاده الى القدس معترفاً بها عاصمة لـ»إسرائيل» لاغياً الاونروا واللاجئين الفلسطينيين في العالم ودافعاً باتجاه صفقة قرن لإنهاء قضية فلسطين والتأسيس لحلف عربي ـ اسرائيلي يستهدف إيران وروسيا والصين.

بالنتيجة أدت هذه السياسات الى استنفار اوروبي يحاول التميز عن الحلف الاطلسي بدليل ان المستشارة الألمانية ميركل نسفت كل مساعي ترامب لمنع تراجع امبراطورية بلاده، ودعت بعد اجتماعها بالرئيس الفرنسي ماكرون الى «عالم متعدّد القطب»، والحفاظ على مكتسبات التجارة المفتوحة وإصلاح المنظمات الدولية، وتأسيس جيش إوروبي مستقل.

هذا الكلام للمستشارة هو الاجابة الشافية لفشل دور ترامب العالمي، فاعترافها بالتعددية القطبية، إقرار بتراجع الإمبراطورية الاميركية، أما مبدأ التجارة المفتوحة أيضاً رفض لمفهوم الحمائية الذي يتبناه ترامب واعياً فيه الى إقفال الحدود الاقتصادية.

لجهة تأسيس جيش اوروبي فهو انقلاب كبير على الحلف الأطلسي الذي يشكل اداة الهيمنة الاميركية على العالم.

وبذلك تكون تصريحات ميركل هي الرد البليغ على استمرار تراجع الأحادية الاميركية مهما بالغ الرئيس الاميركي في الاعتداء على دول العالم. فالمسألة اقتصاد وسياسة وتحالفات ـصبحت تعبر عن نفسها بالصعود الصيني الاقتصادي والتقدم الروسي العسكري واتساع الدور الإقليمي لإيران الى جانب إصرار أوروبي على احتلال موقع في نظام تعددية القطب، أي تماماً كما قال وزير الخارجية الروسية لافروف منذ أعوام عدة عن نظام قوة عالمي يضم نظاماً رباعياً يجمع بين الولايات المتحدة وروسيا والصين وأوروبا.

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Seven Days of Failures for the American Empire

Seven Days of Failures for the American Empire

FEDERICO PIERACCINI | 09.12.2018 |

Seven Days of Failures for the American Empire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

U.S Insists On Maintaining Military Occupation Of Europe – Opposes Independent European Army

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Published on: Nov 22, 2018 @ 19:59 – The United States has asked the European Union (EU), if it should create a European army, that it be formed “in line” with NATO.

The US demands more clarity in the European position on its plans to create its own army, which should be a complement to NATO rather than its replacement, Gordon Sondland, the US permanent representative to the EU, told European parliamentarians.

In his view, the situation in this field is worsening, as the European Union has decided that it is able to handle everything by itself and with its own Armed Forces, which undermines NATO.

According to the representative, this issue is “very sensitive” to the US.

In fact, he pointed out that Washington is hearing from Europe two diametrically opposed points of view on defense issues – some want to limit themselves to resolving small conflicts in North Africa, others speak of creating a true Armed Forces.

The director of the Russian Institute of Strategic Planning, Aleksandr Gusev, suggested that the idea of ​​a European army could become predominant.

According to the Russian political scientist, the idea of ​​creating a pan-European army is not new. In the early 2000s, Europeans decided to create their own army – not as an alternative to NATO, but as an addition to the bloc. But gradually this topic disappeared, because in fact the American troops occupied Europe, the Americans control the internal and external security system of Europe.

“Now that there has been a proposal by French President Emmanuel Macron to create a common European army, they have come back to that idea again. Of course, the Americans, led by President Donald Trump, will sabotage this idea because it is very advantageous for them to control everything in Europe,” Gusev said.

According to the Russian expert, “Europeans are held hostage by the Americans.” And Americans, at least in the near future, will not allow Europeans to create their own internal and external security system independent of them, they will sabotage it and create conditions for Europeans to be controlled by them.

Recently, French President Emmanuel Macron proposed to create a “common European army” that does not depend on the US, including to ensure cybersecurity, and was supported by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The head of European diplomacy, Federica Mogherini, later stated that the European Union is not engaged in the creation of a “European army” because it is a political, not a military alliance.

Fort Russ News’ parent organization, the Center for Syncretic Studies – in conjunction with official statements our representatives have made in Iran’s Press TV – has noted since 2015 that the creation of a European Army is both inevitable, and a positive development in terms of the progress of multipolarity.

Presently, NATO acts as both a combined force of Europe as well as a US military occupation of Europe. For these reasons, it is understandable the ‘grave concerns’ that the US is now expressing over this development. Within the last five years, Germany has made tremendous progress in changing its security apparatus, in particular reform of its intelligence agencies. Largely this has revolved around removing US agents and assets from Germany’s apparatus.

At the time CSS made these prognostications, others in our field believed that European leaders would not push this program forward. It is clear, for example, that the present government of Germany has been tasked with managing the pro-Atlanticist, pro-Europeanist, and pro-Eurasianist forces on the European peninsula of Eurasia.

كلفة السياسة على الاقتصاد

سبتمبر 27, 2018

ناصر قنديل

– أربعة نماذج أمامنا تكفي لقراءة كلفة السياسة على الاقتصاد بطريقة تجعل الفقر والعوز والركود من جهة وارتفاع الأسعار وتفشي الفساد وارتفاع المديونية من جهة أخرى، سمات الاقتصاد العالمي والإقليمي واللبناني. فما يعيشه الاقتصاد الأوروبي جراء العقوبات الأميركية على روسيا وإيران تتحدث عنه بالأرقام الدوريات الأوروبية المتخصصة، حيث يشكل السوق الروسي سوقاً للاستثمار والتصدير لكبريات الشركات الأوروبية، وكانت إيران بعد التفاهم على ملفها النووي فرصة واعدة تسابقت إليها الشركات الأوروبية. وجاءت العقوبات الأميركية على تركيا ضربة أميركية ثالثة على الرأس الأوروبي. ووصل الأمر إلى حدّ قول المستشارة الألمانية إنّ العقوبات الأميركية على روسيا وإيران تكاد تكون عقوبات مباشرة على أوروبا وشركاتها، بينما على المقلب الآخر من العالم إجراءات حرب تجارية أميركية بحق الصين سينتج عنها في حال نجاحها وقف النمو الاقتصادي الصيني والتسبّب بأزمة معيشية لبلد المليار ونصف المليار نسمة، وفي حال فشلها ستتسبّب برفع الأسعار في سوق السلع الاستهلاكية العالمية، التي تشكّل السلع الصينية الرخيصة فيها متنفساً للفقراء على مساحة العالم.

– النموذج الثاني يقدّمه الوضع في الخليج، حيث استنزفت دول الخليج النفطية ثرواتها ومدخّراتها ووارداتها في الإنفاق لإرضاء الجشع الأميركي بمئات مليارات الدولارات طلباً للدعم السياسي، وأنفقت الباقي على حرب عبثية في اليمن. وتشجع حكومات الخليج الإدارة الأميركية على تصعيد العقوبات على إيران، وخلق أزمة عالمية في سوق الطاقة، على عكس ما تقتضيه المصالح الاقتصادية لشعوب المنطقة، وفي مقدّمتها شعوب دول الخليج ذاتها، والنتيجة المنطقية المعلومة لهذا التصعيد إقدام إيران على إغلاق مضيق هرمز أمام الصادرات النفطية الخليجية، وما ستجلبه من متاعب لدول الخليج أولاً، وربما تصعيداً عسكرياً تدفع ثمنه منشآت الحياة الحيوية الحيوية اليومية لسكان الخليج من تهديد لمحطات الكهرباء ومحطّات تحلية المياه.

– النموذج الثالث ما تشهده عمليات الربط السياسي القسري التي يجريها الأميركي ويفرضها على بعض الدول الأوروبية وتسير وراءهما اغلب الدول العربية، بربط عودة النازحين وإعادة إعمار سورية بالحل السياسي الذي يناسب دفتر الشروط الأميركي من جهة، وربط المساهمات في تمويل وكالة غوث اللاجئين الفلسطينيين، بدفتر شروط إسرائيلي، ما يعني متاجرة بالآلام والمعاناة لملايين البشر بمنع شروط الحد الأدنى من مقومات الحياة التي يستحقونها، خدمة للسياسة. وفي المقابل وخصوصاً في عملية إعادة إعمار سورية ضرب فرص الاستثمار الواعدة التي تنظرها الشركات العالمية للمشاركة في عملية إعمار سورية كفرصة اقتصادية هائلة الإمكانات والوعود.

– في لبنان نماذج كثيرة مشابهة، لعل أولها هو التلاعب السياسي بقضية العلاقة بسورية وما تضيعه على لبنان واقتصاده من فرص في التصدير والاستثمار، والمشاركة في ورشة إعادة الإعمار، لكن أهمّها ما قدّمته لنا الجلسة النيابية من تمرير سياسي، بعيداً عن فرص الدراسة الهادئة والعلمية للمصالح الاقتصادية، في مقاربة مشاريع القوانين المتصلة بمقررات مؤتمر سيدر، فالتهدئة السياسية التي يحتاجها البلد، والقلق المالي الذي يجتاحه، شكلا سبباً أو مبرّراً للقفز فوق البعد الاقتصادي الصرف في مقاربة هذا الملف، بمثل ما تضيع فرص مناقشة هادئة وعلمية لملفات الكهرباء والنفايات بعيداً عن الخنادق السياسية وبصورة علمية مجرّدة، ويسيطر على كلّ نقاش حساب العصبيات الدنيا قبل حساب المصالح العليا.

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Why the West Rejects Russia’s Syria Reconstruction Initiative

South Front

Written by Peter Korzun; Originally appeared on strategic-culture.org

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has claimed that the UN is deliberately obstructing the process of Syria’s reconstruction. According to him, that organization’s political affairs department sent out a secret directive to UN agencies banning participation in any efforts to reboot the Syrian economy. The document states that all contributions should be limited to humanitarian aid only. The UN Security Council (UNSC) was not made aware of the directive.

What Makes the West Reject Russia’s Syria Reconstruction Initiative?

In case anyone has forgotten, that letter was distributed last October when the position of Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs was held by US diplomat Jeffrey Feltman. This is the first time Moscow has publicly questioned the UN Secretary-General’s real authority over the UN agencies. The directive contradicts UN Security Council Resolution 2254 that was adopted in 2015, paragraph 14 of which “[u]nderscores the critical need to build conditions for the safe and voluntary return of refugees and internally displaced persons to their home areas and the rehabilitation of affected areas.”

According to Sergey Lavrov, the US and its Western allies are making assistance contingent upon a political transition process that limits the reconstruction efforts to only the areas under their control. On July 28, Russia raised the issue of Syria’s reconstruction at the council. The Western UNSC members refused to cooperate. On Aug. 15, US Secretary of State Pompeo and UN Special Envoy de Mistura met in Washington to agree that “that any discussion of reconstruction was premature” before a political resolution could be found.

Moscow is urging the EU to contribute financially to the reconstruction of that war-torn nation in order to stem the flow of refugees to Europe. The return of about six million Syrians to areas where fighting has ended and conditions are improving would help to ease the burden on Europe and other countries. Before meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Aug. 18, Russian President Vladimir Putin called on European countries to help rebuild Syria so that Syrian refugees could return home, thus mitigating the migrant crisis. The issue is a huge headache for the Europeans, but their contribution to Syria’s reconstruction has added up to zilch.

The migrant exodus from Syria has become a pressing problem for the neighboring states. There are about 3.5 million refugees in Turkey, 1.5 million in Lebanon, 670,000 in Jordan, and 250,000 in Iraq. Russia is cooperating with Jordan and Lebanon on the issue. After his meeting with Sergey Lavrov, Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil said the refuges could start returning right now, without waiting for a political settlement. Jordan is weighing Russia’s plan to repatriate 150,000 Syrians from Jordan by the end of 2018. The proposal includes the establishment of a center near the border with Syria to process the paperwork. Moscow is doing its best to normalize the situation — after all the Western countries are not the only ones who can contribute to the problem’s solution, and the UN Refugee Agency is not an instrument designed to carry out their political will.

In late July, Turkish President Recep Erdogan came up with a political initiative to arrange a summit on Syria that would draw in Russia, Turkey, France, and Germany. He even set the date — September 7. The prospects for such a summit were discussed during the meeting between the Russian and Turkish foreign ministers in Ankara, Aug. 13-14. But the only discussions on Syria mentioned during President Putin’s visit to Germany and his talks with the chancellor on Aug. 18 were those at a lower level — between experts on the region. On Aug. 17 the Russian press quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov’s claim that no four-nation summit will take place. One can only guess what happened, but one thing is certain — neither Ankara nor Moscow wants to be held responsible for any failure.

In a nutshell, there will be no Western participation in the reconstruction efforts until there is some progress in the political process, which actually implies that Bashar Assad should go. But the West has not done anything to make such a political process possible. The UN-brokered talks in Geneva have remained hopelessly stymied, while the Astana process initiated by Russia, Turkey, and Iran has made gains, making it possible to establish extensive areas of ceasefire, among other achievements.

In January, the Russian resort city of Sochi hosted the Syrian National Dialogue Congress, which Moscow organized to bring Syrians of every stripe together at a round table to discuss the country’s future. It has led to the formation of the Constitutional Review Commission.

Whether Assad or someone else will lead the country is up to the Syrians, not the Americans or the Europeans, to decide. The peace efforts of Russia and its allies in Syria — Turkey and Iran — have brought about tangible results. Some refugees are beginning to return from exile back to their home country — still only a trickle, but it is a beginning. Europeans have a lot to gain by contributing to the reconstruction efforts in Syria and thus easing their own local refugee burdens. For instance, the return of refugees to Syria would have boosted the popularity of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is on shaky ground back home. The EU’s attitude toward the reconstruction of Syria is another example of how Europe is sacrificing its national interests to please the United States.

***

How Putin Solved the Problems of Europe and the US in Passing with Merkel

How Putin Solved the Problems of Europe and the US in Passing with Merkel

Translated by Ollie Richardson and Angelina Siard
cross posted with 
http://www.stalkerzone.org/rostislav-ishchenko-how-putin-solved-the-problems-of-europe-and-the-us-in-passing-with-merkel/
source: 
https://ukraina.ru/exclusive/20180820/1020869901.html

 

Aleksandr Sergeyevich Pushkin wasn’t the first Russian poet. Before him there was ZhukovskyDerzhavin, and even Lomonosov. Beautiful, melodious verses were composed by many also after Pushkin. Nevertheless, he is “our everything”. Without him, without Pushkin’s language, not just Russian poetry, but the Russian language itself is incomplete…

Pushkin is exact and extremely laconic. He knows how to pack many meanings into only a few words. And he doesn’t use excess words. Do you remember: “Up there a prince in passing captures a fearsome tsar”. Just one word – “in passing” [two words in English – ed]. But how it characterises both people and process! Solving more important problems, in between times, a certain prince at the same time captured a fearsome (i.e., mighty, strong, dangerous) tsar (and it means he conquered him, his army, and his state).

I don’t know whether it was Peskov’s idea or it arrived by itself, but the Russian media, highlighting the visit of the president Putin to Germany, concentrated on the Austrian wedding, the Tula samovar, an ancient milkchurn, the Kuban choir, and the painting of an unknown (to us, so far) artist [all four are the gifts that Putin brought to the wedding – ed]. The meeting with Merkel and the solving of difficult global (including European) problems happened in passing. So, he went to wedding and at the same time attended to some affairs.

Meanwhile, the visit to Germany isn’t only symbolic – it is critical. For the third time in 100 years, the Reich finds itself in a condition of a rigid standoff with the same Anglo-Saxons who raised and nurtured it for the fight against Russia. Only this time the grown wiser Germany tries to keep France as an ally (instead of crushing it, like the two previous times) and isn’t eager for a Moscow campaign at all. It is rather on the contrary – it tries to reach an agreement with Russia concerning a joint standoff with Anglo-American aggression.

It is a very difficult process. It’s not only about history and “values”, but a consciousness most dear to bürgers — markets providing a multi-billion income, connecting Berlin and Washington. It is almost impossible to escape from “brotherly” embraces without suffering considerable damage. For a long time Germany didn’t even try to do this, obediently joining the sanctions regime. At first the introduction of sanctions was still shaped by more or less worthy pretexts, for example: “Russia is to blame for the fact that the West organised a coup in Ukraine, and now Ukrainians kill each other with ecstasy during civil war”. Four years have passed and sanctions are imposed even for the fact that the Brits out of fear killed the cat of the Skripals, and also for the fact that the Americans elected Trump as president, and not Clinton.

The “gloomy German genius” would reconcile even with this. Losses because of sanctions have already been incurred, and bypassing routes have been found. Those who can enter the Russian market with an exclusive offer remain there. The others calculate their losses. Russia, under the name of import substitution, radically reorganises its economy. The sector focused on national production rejoices. The sector focused on import weeps.

But here it became clear that the Americans want to take away from the Germans their “cow” – the European Union, and to milk it themselves. But Germany in exchange is granted the “honourable” right to increase military expenses fourfold and switch from Russian gas to the three times more expensive American gas.

At this moment something skipped a beat inside the Germans. It isn’t excluded that they even remembered that Hitler, in the last five years of his life, blamed Anglo-Saxon “plutocracy” (his expression) with even more bad words than the Jews and Slavs hated by him. In general it entered the bürgers’ mind that Germany has two paths: to perish once again, or to make friends with Russia and smoothly but quickly – since the time for reflections passed already five years ago – reorientate its economy from the American to the Eurasian market.

This is a very difficult and painful process, and the Germans up to the very end tried to change nothing, hoping that somehow they will come out unscathed. But they didn’t. The weakened America, in the inverse proportion, became so impudent that it tried to decide on Germany’s behalf what gas pipelines it should build and which ones “harm European security”.

If the current crisis doesn’t transform into a global catastrophic military conflict, and all the history of mankind will remain, then the future generations of historians will undoubtedly pinpoint the discussion about “Nord Stream-2” as one of the main reasons for the disintegration of NATO and the reformed European Union’s reorientation from the US towards Russia. On the eve of the Austrian wedding Putin pinpointed topics of future discussions in Berlin, as well as a discussion about global questions, including economic and security, and he also placed an accent on the question of “Nord Stream-2”. In turn, the Germans on the eve of the meeting once again stressed that “Nord Stream-2” is a solved question and that it won’t be discussed with the Americans in any form.

Actually, this is everything that should be known about this meeting. Putin flied to Berlin not to reach an agreement or to synchronise watches. In fact, agreements had been reached before the visit. It was the ways in which the American problem can be solved that was discussed in Berlin. How to appease a bull the most without there being serious consequences for the china shop. In Berlin the most general forms of technical solutions to the problem that is the post-American world were worked out. Moreover, judging by the contented faces of the participants and a minimum of information, mutual understanding was full and comprehensive.

We will be able to see the main results of this meeting over the next 12 months, and they will be expressed in the careful, but quick rapprochement between Germany and Russia, against the background of the contradictory and twitchy policy of the US. By the way, the question of recognising Crimea as Russian again arose in Washington just because the US cannot offer anything to counter this careful but quick rapprochement. And within the framework of this rapprochement, Europe will sooner or later recognise the actual status of Crimea anyway.

Putin also spoke in passing, but quite concretely about the prospects of solving this problem, as well as settling the entire Ukrainian crisis. When he was asked a question by a journalist, he answered by saying that we will also discuss Ukraine.

This “also” for Kiev is worse than Russian tanks on the Khreshchatyk. The West solves the Ukrainian problem with Russia without Ukraine among other questions. Ukraine is not only not the main subject of a meeting, it is simply one of many: about nature, about the weather, about Papuans, and at the same time about Ukraine. In the media the Ukrainian topic is far less relevant than the Austrian wedding and the Kuban Cossack choir being 10 minutes late to it.

It is not just an effective policy. It is also a beautiful performance. Putin went to a wedding, and at the same time solved European problems in a global context, and also spoke about Ukraine.

Putin and Trump’s Unagreed Agreement – a Catastrophe for Europe

July 17, 2018

By Rostislav Ishchenko
Translated by Ollie Richardson and Angelina Siard
cross posted with http://www.stalkerzone.org/rostislav-ishchenko-putin-and-trumps-unagreed-agreement-a-catastrophe-for-europe/
source: https://ukraina.ru/exclusive/20180717/1020630485.html


Contradictions between Russia and the US are so substantial and common ground is so small that the vast majority of experts, recognising the importance of the fact of the meeting in Helsinki itself, nevertheless stressed that one shouldn’t expect some breakthrough in bilateral relations or at least reaching an agreement on one minor question…

Washington and Moscow have no minor questions and, taking into account the global level of the standoff, even such unnecessary and burdensome things for the US as Ukraine (which there is a need to first of all relinquish), can’t be handed over by Trump without any conditions (or at least not yet). This is an asset, even if it is garbage, and it is necessary to sell it, even cheaply. At least, Washington isn’t yet ready to throw Kiev into the political garbage heap, having recognised that in 2014 they mistakenly acquired rotten goods.

So, we have a situation where both parties even prior to negotiations knew that they wouldn’t be able to come to some arrangement, and they didn’t even prepare for such a thing (it wasn’t planned to sign anything following the results of negotiations). At the same time both parties needed the event to be successful. Trump obviously blackmails the European Union with a possible agreement with Russia. But Putin also needs to show Europe that there are other fish in the sea besides them. The Europeans, who were already abandoned by the US, have been turning towards Russia for too long and with uncertainty. Moreover, they constantly send signals to Washington about their readiness to more or less preserve their rigid anti-Russian position (in things that don’t concern the gas supply) if Trump stops“undermining transatlantic solidarity”.

The position of Europe is clear. It isn’t a coincidence that Trump, while enumerating the enemies of the US (the EU, China, and Russia) made it clear that he considers Russia to be the smaller problem, because there are practically no economic contradictions (“Nord Stream-2” doesn’t count) with it. It’s not China, with which the US has the biggest negative trade balance, but the EU, which Trump fairly defined as the main trade competitor receiving unjustified economic benefits from political agreements with the US, that is the main enemy of the US.

In these conditions, America hypothetically resolving its military-political contradictions with Russia reduced the value of the EU as an ally for Washington to zero. In this case Trump, who already threatened European leaders, could indeed end all military-political and economic agreements with Europe, which, in turn, would be fraught with a political and economic catastrophe for the European Union.

Neither the Russian nor the Chinese market can simultaneously consume in one fell swoop the entire volume of the EU’s export to the US. On the contrary, both Beijing and Moscow carry out profitable trade with the European Union. In this direction the EU covered its deficit thanks to making profit from trade with the US. Europe used (and hoped to continue to use it) its role of a springboard for the fight against Russia as an argument that was supposed to keep Trump away from making the last step (complete separation with the EU). In recent days, Merkel, after the NATO summit, started talking literally with Poroshenko’s words, declaring that Trump’s pretensions to Europe concerning the insufficient financial contribution to NATO aren’t justified, because Europe battles with Russia for the interests of the US.

For the EU it was crucial that this argument continued to work. Otherwise, Washington indeed would have more common ground with Moscow than with Brussels. And Europe isn’t ready for a sharp confrontation with the US. Having rested on its laurels, it wasn’t engaged (in difference, for example, from China) in the diversification of economic ties and appeared to be strongly dependent on access to the American market.

Without having risked to be ahead Trump in the question of normalising relations with Russia, EU leaders were fatally afraid that Trump and Putin, despite all difficulties, will do the impossible and reach an agreement, especially as both proved to be people who are ready to instantly make decisions that change the destiny of the world.

The position taken by the EU raised the value of the summit for Russia too. Concerning relations with the US, Moscow can wait until Washington is ready for reconciliation on its conditions. But, taking into account the obvious intention of Europe to manoeuvre between Russia and the US, trying to preserve the geopolitical configuration that is profitable for itself, but doesn’t suit either Trump nor Putin, Russia was also interested in showing to the whole world the success of the summit and good prospects for achieving definitive and comprehensive agreements.

And it is indeed this task that was the most difficult problem for both parties. Think about it. You know that you can’t reach an agreement. You also know that the whole world is afraid of your agreement, because playing on your contradictions helped many countries to rise, become stronger, and start laying down claims for the first roles. A Russian-American agreement would’ve immediately cancelled out half (if not more) these achievements. You know that everybody knows that you can’t reach an agreement, and everyone closely watches the results of your meeting.

It is possible to try to dupe observers and to present some communiqué that means nothing as an agreement. Hundreds, if not thousands of journalists and “experts” from hot-air shows would be deceived. They, in turn, would deceive millions of readers and viewers. But this will give nothing. Professional politicians and diplomats can’t be caught on chaff. They will immediately understand that you achieve anything and that you are simply trying to hide this failure, and will start to act in the corresponding manner. The opinion of ochlos in this case doesn’t play a role — international politics isn’t elections, decisions aren’t made by universal suffrage and are never transparent.

Trump and Putin were faced with the task of holding the meeting in such a way that nobody would be deceived concerning its results, but nevertheless selling to the world the absence of any decisions as a serious success. And this is what they did.

Just the phrase of Putin that he at first was sceptical about the meeting giving any result, but conversation was very promising and there is sense in having further regular meetings, is worth a lot by itself. Approximately the same assessment, only in other expressions, sounded from Trump’s lips.

For Europe this is a catastrophe. It means that in the near future Washington has to avoid strengthening the confrontation with Russia, because dialogue with it started to be outlined with the possibility of arriving at some agreements. What was so constructive about what Trump offered to Putin that made the Russian president sharply raise his assessment of the productivity of the meeting, nobody knows. But Europeans know the American tradition – brought to perfection by Trump – of solving their problems at the expense of former allies when their services become unneeded. And they are afraid and try to guess who (or what) Washington decided to sacrifice this time.

The absolute predictability of the results of the meeting played a mean trick on European politicians. They very much got used to a two-dimensional world where everything that isn’t a victory is a defeat; they very much expected clashes between the personal ambitions of Putin and Trump so much so that the elementary move – documenting the contradictions, discussing the versions of decisions proposed by the parties, and, without anticipating the result, agreeing to hold further negotiations – turned out for them to be an unpleasant surprise that is worse than if Trump had directly recognised Crimea as Russian and withdrew the US from NATO in Helsinki.

It would be at least some certainty. It would be clear for them what to do and how to react. And what to do in the circumstances? Where to run: to Washington or to Moscow? To remain loyal to an old suzerain or to try to adhere to a new one before the others do? How to solve the contradictions inside the EU? And there are still a lot of important questions that remain unanswered.

Moreover, unlike Russia, Europe can’t wait. By meeting Putin, Trump brought the US out of zugzwang, having handed over to the European Union the right to make this same move, which only its worsens position.

After all, according to the logic of how events developed that politicians and diplomats have to obligatorily take into account, consultations between Moscow and Washington must start for the purpose of arriving at concrete agreements. They can fruitlessly last months and even years, but can almost suddenly yield fruits.

If the EU wants to remain in the game, then it must formulate its position and its proposals before Moscow and Washington reach an agreement. Otherwise an agreement will be reached at the expense of the EU. In this case Europe won’t even be invited to the table, similar to how Ukraine hasn’t been invited for more than a year, and in passing, among really important problems, attempts were made to parr it off onto each other to supplement real bonuses received in other directions.

زيارة ميركل والمثال التركي

يونيو 22, 2018

ناصر قنديل

– تتقدّم ألمانيا بصفتها الدولة الأوفر موارد على الصعيد الاقتصادي بين زميلاتها الأوروبيات والأكثر تأثراً واهتماماً بملف النازحين السوريين بزيارة خاصة للبلدين العربيين الأشدّ اكتظاظاً بالنازحين في لحظة حرجة يمرّ بها كلّ منهما. ففي الأردن أزمة اقتصادية مالية كادت تشعل انتفاضة وأسقطت حكومة، وفي لبنان اعتراف جامع بأزمة عاصفة لا تلبث أن تهبّ رياحها المالية وتبعاتها الاقتصادية والاجتماعية.

– علاقة التأزّم في الأردن ولبنان بما يجري في سورية واضح، فالطريق الدولي الذي تمثله سورية لربط أوروبا وتجارتها عبر لبنان بالخليج وتأمين سوق للبضائع اللبنانية ولموقع الأردن كوسيط بين تجارة الخليج والترانزيت الأوروبي مروراً بلبنان، أو بالطريق التركي السوري، كانت مصدراً للانفراجات الاقتصادية في البلدين وقد طال أمد إقفالها وهو إقفال بات واضحاً أنه ناجم عن تأجيل متعمّد للحلّ السياسي في سورية وربطه بشروط غربية عربية تريد إطالة الحرب الميؤوس من تحقيق أهدافها والمؤكد وقوع المزيد من الأضرار بنتيجتها.

– لبنان والأردن كخاسرين حتميّين من تعطيل الممرّ السوري خاسران حتميان من بقاء النازحين السوريين بمئات الآلاف فوق أراضيهما، وطاقة البلدين وحساسية تكوينهما ومكانتهما في الجغرافيا السياسية وفق خصوصية حرجة لكلّ منهما خلقت مخاوف وهواجس من طول أمد بقاء النازحين وتحمّل الأعباء الناتجة عن ذلك على كلّ صعيد، خصوصاً أنّ سورية باتت بأغلب مناطقها شبه آمنة لضمان عودة سكانها الذين غادروها، بينما تقف المنظمات الأممية والدول الأوروبية لتوظيف اهتمامها بقضية النازحين عبر إدارة شؤون أغلب النازحين السوريين في الأردن ولبنان لمنع عودة هؤلاء النازحين إلى بلدهم تحت شعار انتظار الحلّ السياسي الذي يقوم الغرب والأمم المتحدة بتعطيله بشروط تعجيزية تريد ثمناً من السياسة السورية لتسهيله.

– تتصدّر ألمانيا حلفاءها في الغرب وأوروبا خصوصاً لإدارة ملف علاقة الأردن ولبنان بالحرب في سورية، ولا تستطيع إخفاء هواجس أوروبية عموماً وألمانية خصوصاً، من أن يؤدّي أيّ تأزّم في لبنان والأردن إلى موجات نزوح معاكسة للنازحين السوريين، وربما معهم لبنانيون وأردنيون نحو أوروبا وألمانيا خاصة. فتأتي المستشارة الألمانية أنجيلا ميركل لتعرض جرعات مالية تحت شعار منع الانفجار اللبناني والأردني، مقابل انخراط البلدين في سياسة تأجيل عودة النازحين السوريين قبل حلّ سياسي يرضي أوروبا ومعها حلفاؤها. والأهمّ ضمان عدم توجّههم إلى أوروبا، وضمناً ألمانيا خصوصاً، والمال المعروض يعادل لكلّ من البلدين ثلاثمئة يورو عن النازح لمدة عام. وهو كلفة شهر واحد لذات العدد من النازحين في ألمانيا.

– في تجربة سابقة كانت تركيا البلد الأشدّ أهمية لأوروبا في قضية النزوح السوري. وقالت تركيا علناً إنه ما لم تحصل على موارد مالية تريدها ومفاوضات سياسية تطلبها حول دخولها إلى الاتحاد الأوروبي، فإنها ستسهّل هجرة النازحين السوريين نحو أوروبا، ولم تتعهّد تركيا بالتزام الشروط الأوروبية للحلّ السياسي في سورية. وهي اليوم شريك ثالث لروسيا وإيران في صيغة أستانة التي لا تؤيدها أوروبا، ولا هي التزمت بمنع عودة النازحين إلا على التوقيت الأوروبي، ورغم ذلك حصلت تركيا من الأوروبيين على المال الذي تريد والمقدّر بثلاثة مليارات يورو سنوياً. والسؤال هو لماذا على لبنان والأردن التزام شروط أوروبا في الشأن السوري وشأن النازحين مقابل مال أقلّ مما حصلت عليه تركيا؟

– قالت تركيا ستدفعون مقابل عدم توجيه موجات النزوح نحو بلادكم فدفعوا. ولا علاقة لكم بالباقي لنسمع إملاءاتكم، وبمستطاع لبنان والأردن قول ذلك، لكن وحدها الإرادة السياسية تقرّر!

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Mrs Merkel Goes to Warshington. Nothing Happens. But That Means Something.

by Sergio Weigel for the Saker Blog

May 11, 2018

When Angela Merkel had visited Trump in Warshington on April 27 nothing really happened. Both put a good face on things and declared a yawn inducing “unity despite differences”. Despite all the pressure Warshington had built up so thoroughly, the vassal did not rebel against his master, but left him empty handed. I am not a Merkel fanboy, quite the contrary, but right now her Teflon qualities come quite in handy. Let me explain.

Blow the trumpet with empty pressure

Trump had threatened German car makers with a 35% import tariff. This is a “smart” move in so far as that the car industry indeed is Germany’s biggest industry, but if he really ever did that, it wouldn’t hurt German economy too much. The market share of the US for German car manufacturers in 2016 was 10%, which is a lot. They sold 1.33 million cars in the US (not “millions” like Trump claimed). However, 800.000 of those were already produced in the US. The rest has been manufactured in Mexico, which is a NAFTA country. Even if Trump were to negotiate, pardon, extort a harsher NAFTA deal, it would be hurting American companies as well and certainly not leading to 35% tariffs. BMW, Mercedes, VW, they all have plants in the US, however and ironically, most cars built in the US by German car manufacturers are exported overseas. There is no reason to think the industry couldn’t stomach tariffs that affect only a few cars manufactured in Mexico at best. So, Trump might have thought he was practising his martial art of the deal by using extortion, but I’m sure Merkel was briefed accordingly.

What’s more interesting are the goods the EU is contemplating to retaliate with just in case: bourbon, Levi’s, Harley Davidson. Is there a better indicator about the state the US economy is in? If the US wants to go to trade war, fine, but it is usually commendable to pack suitable weapons before entering the battlefield. There is absolutely nothing the US could fight a trade war with. Besides, and this is something I hope German and Chinese strategists take into consideration: essentially they’re giving away their goods for free. What do they get in return? A currency that is most likely soon to be worthless junk. And even worse, the bulk of consumer spending in the US, 70% of its GDP after all, is based on debt. Housing debt is skyrocketing again. Essentially we are exactly where we were short before the crash of 2008. Germany alone had lost about €1 trillion in worthless US junk in 2008, which the banks had bought repackaged and camouflaged as “investments”. I doubt the bankers have been smarter this time, because investment bankers are major idiots who see the world through Excel sheets. And then there is the big question: how many crashes can the US economy still land before it will stay down, knocked out dead? Or before all of its citizens but a few gated communities live in tents? The biggest debtors of the US are Japan, China and Germany. They should really find ways to get rid of this toxic waste and convert it to gold instead. Alchemy! The best way for the EU to retaliate would be to sanction US bonds and thus force European investors to invest in Europe instead, or find other incentives for them to avoid the toxic waste coming out of the US.

Anyway, Trump exempted the EU from his bogus, extortionary trade tariffs – for now at least, he says. All other differences between Germany and Warshington remained intact. All these issues go so completely against the heart of German economic and geopolitical interests but also against Germany’s self-concept of its role on the international stage and German diplomacy, that I just can’t see them falter. It would be like firing a gun at the inside of your knee. German elites might slap themselves in the face to please their American masters, for example by sanctioning Russia, but not the knee, never the knee. Vassal or not, standing firmly on the ground is at the core of German mentality. Also, Germany is not the meek, guilt-ridden nation it once was anymore.

Defense spending to the rescue of US economy

There is, however, one self-slap Germany could do without hurting its legs. It wouldn’t even do much more than tickle the face a little and that would be to increase the defense budget to the demanded 2% of the GDP. There surely are political forces in Germany who would love to see that. Atlanticists and Russophobes, who have infected all of German political, academic and public life like in no other western (!) European country. Ursula von der Leyen, our mother-of-seven career girl and defensive ministress, for example. However, the center of the Atlanticist epidemic sits among our mainstream media hacks. This is the biggest leverage Warshington has on Germany, because the media essentially controls the politicians.

Therefore, consequently, since the Ukraine crisis we’ve been bombarded with doomsday news about the deplorable state of the Bundeswehr’s military hardware. Whether it’s true or not, I don’t know, but it’s curious that such news comes simultaneously with demands on increasing the German defense budget by American think tanks like the German Marshall Fund and now by Donald Trump. If it is true, helicopters and aircraft must have been inoperable long before. It wouldn’t surprise me, because from what I’ve heard from friends who’ve been in service, the management of the Bundeswehr is, well, unfortunate to say the least.

However, Merkel’s lip service to increase the defense budget in 2019 has already been invalidated in practice when finance minister Olaf Scholz published his budget plan for the next four years just five days after Merkel’s flying visit. The defense budget will indeed be increased, from €37 billion to €38.5 billion this year, and it is planned to be increased to €42 billion by 2021 which amounts to €1.25 billion increase per year. Measured against Germany’s 2017 GDP of €3,686.6 billion this would be a “massive” increase from 1.0% to 1.04% for this year, a ridiculous two fifth of a tenth of a percentage point. However, if you consider GDP growth of recent four years you will find the numbers 1.9%, 1.7%, 1.9% and 2.2% respectively. All economic indicators look great for Germany, so growth rates around 2% for the future are realistic. Let’s do a silly thought experiment and project linearly for ten years and see how an increase of 2% in GDP and an annual increase of €1.25 billion in defense budget will work out regarding his master’s wishes for the lackey’s defense budget. Mind you, this is truly a silly thought experiment, because lineary projection in Excel sheets is what bankers do and they are, as mentioned above, idiots. Also, we simply don’t know what will happen. I expect to hear the Death Knell of the Anglo-American empire far earlier, for example, by failure of its most vital organ, the Dollar, and that would change everything in ways we cannot even anticipate. But here are the numbers. All monetary values are in billion euro, the last column is the interesting one:

Year GDP GDP Incr. (2%) Defense Budget DB Incr. Def. Bud. % of GDP
2017 3,686.60 73.73 37 1.25 1.00
2018 3,760.33 75.21 38.25 1.25 1.02
2019 3,835.54 76.71 39.5 1.25 1.03
2020 3,912.25 78.24 40.75 1.25 1.04
2021 3,990.49 79.81 42 1.25 1.05
2022 4,070.30 81.41 43.25 1.25 1.06
2023 4,151.71 83.03 44.5 1.25 1.07
2024 4,234.74 84.69 45.75 1.25 1.08
2025 4,319.44 86.39 47 1.25 1.09
2026 4,405.83 88.12 48.25 1.25 1.10

Can you see how ridiculous this is? Even if Trump gets a second term, which personally I doubt very much at the moment, he won’t see his wet dream for Germany fulfilled. Besides, even if it was going to be the case, Germany wouldn’t be making large arms purchases in the US. It’s not as if Germany and her neighbors didn’t have their own efficient arms industries. By far the most weapons of the Bundeswehr, from aircraft, submarines, ships, tanks and guns, are European made and often technologically superior (mainly German submarines and tanks) to what the US can offer. Would France and Germany stop their plans to develop their own 5th generation fighter jet and buy F-35s instead? Nah, remember the knee. Why buy terribly expensive foreign hardware and be left behind technologically when you can develop your own and both use and sell it? Trump desperately wants to create jobs – or so he says, he is actually destroying them should trade tariffs be implemented – so he seeks to sell weapons because what he and his employers really want is to strengthen the notoriously weak US military industrial complex. Either way, the bottom line of the meeting is: Germany shrugs, defies his master’s demands and rather concentrates on completing Nord Stream 2, which will provide for tremendous income and political leverage.

Personally, I think Germany should work on its own version of an S-400 anti-aircraft defense, Kalibr cruise missile, and similar electronic warfare systems like Russia appears to have. I’m convinced German engineers could do that. Such technological advance would be beneficial in any case, but I absolutely see it as a possibility that in a not too distant future, Germany might have to fight off the occupation forces of the United States. But that’s just me and my male intuition, I hope I’m wrong. Other than the US, or rather the US regime, Germany has no enemies and thus doesn’t need to raise anything. A proper, working (!) defensive military like that of Switzerland would be all that’s needed – just in case. For that purpose such formidable weapon systems in domestic production would be perfect. It could also satisfy the powerful German arms industry as it would mean big domestic contracts as a substitute to unmet Atlanticist demands.

German-Russian cooperation – that which must not, can not be

One word about Nord Stream 2. I dunno if it is reported in any international media, it hardly is in German media, but the EU circus around it is a ham-handed joke. I can’t prove it but it smells heavily of US meddling. Now that Germany has started to build the pipeline, the usual suspects, that is the UK, Denmark and what I like to refer to as the Idiot Belt (Baltics, Poland, Ukraine, often extended by the Scandinavian countries – Finland has permitted construction though) are going bezerk, trying to sue for stopping the project etc. The Baltic idiots have even been to Warshington in March because of it. For what? Suggesting more tariffs? Seeking reassurance that the Americans are willing to frack their country to Swiss cheese for their LPG energy security? Their Russophobia is, as always, baseless. Russia has never used its gas or oil to pressure the EU into anything. Europe has been buying Russian/Soviet gas since the 1960s and it has always been delivered reliably. The only exceptions happened when the ever so smart Ukrainians had sudden outbursts of PMS. This thing is gonna be built, regardless of what the former empire now US aircraft carrier or the Idiot Belt think. Europe is dependent on Russian gas, that is simply a reality. Russia is an absolutely reliable partner relying on revenue from that gas, so where is the problem? Maybe it really takes 70+ years under US occupation to understand who’s reliable and who isn’t, so the Baltics and Poland might come to their senses by 2060 – given Warshington can hang on for so long.

The real reason Warshington and London oppose Nord Stream 2 is the same why two world wars and a Cold War with all its devastating side effects all over the world have been fought until today. The whole geopolitical arc of suspense since the late 19th century is about the Anglo-American establishment, sea powers, trying to prevent Germany and Russia – now extended by Iran and China, land powers, from cooperating and thus establishing Eurasian integration with the Americans left out (Britain will be on board, they’re already member of China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank). As the first Secretary General of NATO Lord Ismay described the purpose of NATO in 1952: to keep the Americans in, the Russians out, and the Germans down. This has been Anglo-American policy since about 150 years. Now they’re wetting their pants because Nord Stream 2 is a major step forward in German-Russian rapprochement and cooperation. Since they cannot crap all over China’s One Belt, One Road project, they are trying it with Nord Stream 2. The Idiot Belt is always willing to dance to their tune and thus rabble-rouses against it. In the end they won’t be able to prevent Eurasian integration anyway, and the Idiot Belt will bashfully ask to be integrated as well. The world is approaching a multipolar world with a German-Russian-Chinese juggernaut as its cornerstone.

The cranky bully and the happy lackey

Is it any wonder the US is cranky? Year by year, Germany and China switch places as the world richest exporter. Even more so, Germany’s current account balance (CAB), that is the trade balance, is by far the largest in the world in absolute amount. In contrast, that of the US is by far the lowest despite them ranking 2nd in total exports. That, of course, must hurt their pride given that Anglo-Saxons are always so keen on rankings and hierarchy. Although, it should be added that this doesn’t go without problems for Germany domestically, let alone for the Euro zone. But that’s an issue for a different article.

With its enormous economic power and magnificent diplomatic relations in every direction Germany can very well be counted as a global power of its own right, even if completely different from the other three, namely America, Russia, and China. What the apostles of raising Germany’s defense budget, be it domestic Atlanticists, the arms lobbies or King Parting himself, don’t understand is the special kind of power Germany has, which would be undermined by military adventurism. Our military alpha mom Ursula von der Leyen and her buddies from all the Atlanticist think tanks always talk about that if Germany wants to take more international responsibility, it will need more military power for reassurance, usually followed by the snippy remark to stop leaving the dirty work to others. This is complete bollocks, and here’s why:

First, every single war the “West” has fought since the bombing of Serbia has been fought in the interest of the chief-boss of colonial war nations: the US, usually followed by a fawning UK. If it goes against one of its former colonies, the French usually feel committed to throw a few bombs into the mix as well. Therefore, it is safe to say that since about 20 years the “West” is fighting FUKUS wars. This is not to say, Germany wasn’t part of it, it played a vicious role in breaking up Yugoslavia and bombing Serbia, it was and still is part of pummeling Afghanistan for something they haven’t done, they provided AWACs in the bombing of Syria, and of course they’ve been a massive force behind the Maidan putsch. But except for breaking up Yugoslavia, none of it was in the interest of German power politics, not even slicing Kosovo out of Serbia. Had Germany been in the lead, the Middle East would still be intact. So what dirty work are they talking about? I’d rather say that Germany managed to stay mostly out of other people’s dirt. What the apostles of more defense spending actually mean when they say “taking more international responsibility” is doing more dirty work for an increasingly broke Warshington.

Second, German power lies in its massive economy and silent but brilliant diplomacy, which could be much, much better if we didn’t have this cranky bully sitting on our shoulders, shouting commands in our ears. After the war Germany was not only in ruins, its reputation was understandably FUBAR. While the Soviet occupational zone, the DDR, didn’t have much freedom, they still managed to reconcile with East European countries and soon played the second most important role within the context of Soviet imperialism. The same is true for the Anglo-American occupational zone, the BRD, and the context of Anglo-American imperialism. Ironically, during the Cold War the Anglo-American occupiers gave West Germany much more freedom than they did afterwards or try to withhold now. This very often led to terrible results as well. West Germany was one of Pinochet’s closest allies and trade partners, it sold the chemicals and knowhow to Saddam Hussein necessary to gas Iranians and Kurds, and still today it is one of Saudi Barbaria’s main weapons suppliers, not to mention the submarines that gave the Zionist colony second strike capability. Nonetheless, Germany’s success is based on trust, on building and maintaining trust, and it was and still is hugely successful. Why should it put that in jeopardy by becoming a military bully like the FUKUS countries?

Third, why should Germany ignore its history? I don’t mean any past guilt for Nazi crimes, I mean a simple look at it. Weimar republic aside, Germany has always prospered in peace time yet terribly suffered in war time, from the Thirty Years War to both world wars, and blatantly failed when it tried to militarily bully others. The only thing Germany needs right now is freedom from the Anglo-American empire to remember and develop its true, mostly benevolent nature.

Applause, Mr President, applause

If it wasn’t for the serious looming danger of war, we should all thank Trump and his administration for their efforts. O’Bomber brought Russia and China together, Trump has brought the two Koreas to what seems to be serious reconciliation and, with pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, he not only managed to ruin even the last residue of US credibility but also to put Germany into the “West’s” driver’s seat and thus to bring it closer to Russia, China, and of course Iran. Ha! The irony… it’s like when somebody tries to be gravely serious and ends up being involuntarily funny.

What Trump needs to learn is that his business tactics a) don’t work very well in politics and b) they only work in America. It’s a cultural thing. I’ve been working for two different American owned companies for almost three years in total, so I learned a thing or two about how the American mindset works in business, mostly by observation. First, they demand a lot, so the best tactic is to offer them as little as possible and never to make any concessions or promises. If you can’t avoid it, make sure to stay below of what you can deliver. Second, never expect them to keep their promises. I am not saying they’ll never keep them, but it’s just better not to expect anything. They like to pretend something else was agreed upon if they want to see a deal altered, or that it was a misunderstanding, or whatever. Just don’t expect that a deal is a deal, it’s not, it is just something temporary along the line. Third, they want everything done quickly. Just be patient, remain calm, and stoically stand your ground. It’ll drive them crazy as they don’t understand the concept of quality, but again, remain calm and be friendly. Fourth, they tend to be disproportionately confident and beyond any criticism, so it’s best to pretend to criticize someone or something else or learn the artful skill of making your criticism sound like praise. Just don’t shy away if criticism is needed. The worst thing to do in the face of a narcissist is to succumb to their ways as it just enables them. You need to trick them.

These are just my own personal observations of American businessmen, not of Americans in general, and surely not meant to offend anyone (except American businessmen perhaps). However, I believe Merkel has been coached by someone, because Trump truly is a caricature of what I’d just described. She has handled him very well. I’m not saying he is a joke, not at all, but his narcissism is written all over his hairdo and behavior. It needs a Teflon lady who might be many things, but narcissistic or easily impressed are not any of them.

His obnoxiousness just doesn’t work and apparently neither he nor anyone around him seems to get it. With Germans, or Europeans in general, you have to deal differently if you want to achieve something. Business is based on trust and trust is based on friendliness and reliability, not on demands and extortion. If you still can’t leave it and want to twist arms, you will have to make sure that your arm is strong enough. Right now America’s arms (pun intended) are weaker than they have ever been in history. This is a new experience they cannot handle, which makes it dangerous, because their other arms are still dangerously strong, and narcissistic rage is almost impossible to contain once in motion. Right now, Warshington makes the impression of a narcissistic bully ready to go off at any moment, while his friends are turning away one by one in shrugging nonchalance.

The staffers of the White House should do a little soul-searching, maybe early morning meditation circles with incense and yoga in the garden, and earnestly ask themselves if there really is anything left they can threaten countries like Germany, China, Russia, and Iran with that can yield results other than mutual destruction, and whether it is even worth it. The Dollar has an expiry date stamped all over its face and they should rather make use of it as long as there still is something left by diverting military spending into domestic investments in infrastructure (a converse Berlin Wall to Mexico doesn’t count) and education (direly needed) among other things. But they are doing the exact opposite. Right now it seems that Trump is slashing all governmental structures and putting everything on the military. This is a very dangerous sign. What if Warshington is willing to go all alone, I mean only with their symbiotic Zionist and Saudi partners in crazy, against Iran as the empire’s last defiant struggle?

In mainstream media coverage it appeared as if the meeting between Merkel and Trump was futile because nothing had happened, but in truth, Trump achieved nothing, yet Merkel and her Teflon style achieved everything. No tariffs, no sanctions on Nord Stream 2, that’s all Germany needed. That Trump would perform a pactum interruptum and pull out of the Iran nuclear deal was to be expected. I doubt Merkel was delusional enough to think otherwise. Germany is now as independent and sovereign as it hasn’t been in 73 years – I hope they’ll seize the opportunity and not once again duck away in fear of a leadership role. The US is as isolated as it has never before been in its history, standing there with egg in their face, brooding and fuming over why no one loves them anymore.

Sergio’s Bio:  A child of the Cold War, Sergio’s political imprint started early when his parents became activists of the 1980s peace movement. With a Portuguese-German background he grew up to become a patriot but not right, left but not liberal, a fan of Marx but not a socialist, and many more of such but-nots. An ardent reader of books, he despises groupthink, hypocrisy, euphemisms and ideology. He prefers clarity, sincerity, history, geopolitics, philosophy, and economic/monetary theory. He makes a living as a programmer and IT consultant, but his passion lies in intellectual sparring, culinary delight, music, traveling and cycling.

Iran – Trump’s Broken Deal – Maneuver to War?

The Saker

May 11, 2018

by Peter Koenig for The Saker BlogIran – Trump’s Broken Deal – Maneuver to War?

Trump’s “Broken Deal”, his irrational decision to withdraw from the JCPOA, or simply called Iran’s Nuclear Deal, has hardly any other motives than again launching a provocation for war. The decision goes against all reason. Let’s not forget, that deal took 9 years of diplomatic efforts, a negotiation called “5 + 1” for the UN Security Council Members, plus Germany – and, of course, Iran. It was finally signed in Vienna on 14 July 2015.

A quick background: From the very beginning, way into Trump’s Presidential Campaign, he was against the deal. It was a bad deal, “the worst Obama could have made” – he always repeated himself, without ever saying what was bad about it, nor did he reveal who was the “bad-deal whisperer”, who for once didn’t get across to Obama with his unreasonable requests.

My guess is, Trump didn’t know, and he still doesn’t know, what was / is bad about the deal. Any deal that denuclearizes a country, is a deal for Peace, therefore a good deal, lest you forget the profit motive for war. The reasons Trump recently gave, when announcing stepping out of the Nuclear Agreement – Iran could not be trusted, Iran was a terrorist nation supporting Al-Qaeda and other terror groups, Iran’s ballistic missile system – and-and-and… were ludicrous, they were lies, contradictory and had nothing to do with the substance of the Deal – which frankly and sadly, Trump to this day probably doesn’t quite grasp in its full and long-range amplitude.

But what he does understand are his very close ties to Israel, or better to his buddy Bibi Netanyahu. And this not least, thanks to Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, who has long-standing business connections to Israel and is also close to Netanyahu. Even the mainstream media are not blind to this fact. But this is merely an added weight in Trump’s bias towards Israel, as the deep dark state that calls the shots on US Foreign Policy, is composed by the likes of Netanyahu. Survival, political or otherwise, Trump knows, depends on how well you follow their orders.

But back to reality: First, the Atomic Commission in Vienna has confirmed up to the last minute that Iran has no intention to start a nuclear arms program. They have confirmed their attestation 8 times since the signing of the deal. Second, the European allies – speak vassals – have so far strongly expressed their disagreement with Trump’s decision, especially the three “M’s” – May, Merkel and Macron. Their less noble reasons for doing so, may have to do with economic interests, as they have already signed billions worth of trade and technology-exchange contracts with Iran. Thirdly, even the more moderate and diplomatic Foreign Minister of the European Union, Ms. Federica Mogherini, said in no unclear tones – that there was no justification to abandon the Deal, and that the EU will stick to it. However, given past history, the EU has rather demonstrated having no backbone. – Have they now suddenly decided – for business reasons – that they will grow a backbone? – Would be nice, but so far, it’s merely a dream.

Of course, Russia and China, will stick to the Deal. After all, an international agreement is an international agreement. The only rogue country of this globe, and self-nominated exceptional nation, feels like doing otherwise. Literally, at every turn of a corner, if they so please. And like in this case, it doesn’t even make sense for the United States to withdraw. To the contrary. In theory, Iran could now immediately start their nuclear program and in a couple of years or sooner, they would be ready and equipped with nuclear arms.

But Iran is a smart and civilized nation. They have signed the Non-Proliferation pact and, at least for now, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, has already pledged to stick to it. That could of course change, depending on how the Europeans will behave in the future. Will they eventually cave in to US pressure, or will they finally claim back their sovereignty and become an independent autonomous European Unit, able and willing to enter business relations with whomever they want and with whomever they deem is right, irrespective of illegal US sanctions. That would mean, of course, Iran, and normalizing relations with Russia, their natural partner for hundreds of years before the ascent of the exceptional nation. – Time will tell, whether this is a mere pipedream, or what.

What is it then that Trump and his handlers expect form this illegal decision of rescinding an international agreement? – A move towards “Regime Change”? – Hardly. They must know that with this undiplomatic decision, they are driving President Rouhani into the camp of the hardliners, this large fraction of Iranians who from the very beginning were against this Deal in the first place.

This decision is also a blow to the Atlantists or the “Fifth Column” which is quite strong in Iran. They see themselves abandoned by the west, as it is clear now, that Iran will accelerate the course they have already started, a move towards the East, becoming a member of the Eurasian Economic Union and formalizing their special status vis-à-vis the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), by becoming a regular member. Both are headed by Russia and China.

Plus, not to forget, President Xi Jinping was crystal clear when he recently said that Iran will be a crucial and vital link within the New Silk Road, or the BRI – Belt and Road Initiative, a Chinese socio-economic and cultural enterprise that will likely dominate the next few hundred years with trillions of investments in transport, industrial manufacturing, education, research and cultural infrastructure, connecting Asia from the very east with western Europe, Africa, the Middle East and even South America. The BRI is also being included in the Chinese Constitution.

There is a good reason why this gigantic Chinese Program is hardly mentioned in the western mainstream media. – The corporate oligarchs who control these media don’t want the world to know that the western fraudulent economy, built on debt and a pyramid monetary system (a large Ponzi scheme) is gradually declining, leaving all those that cling to it eventually abandoned and in misery.

Well, as in Chinese peaceful Tao tradition, President Xi is offering the world’s nations, to join this great socio-economic initiative – no pressure – just an offer. Many have already accepted, including Iran, India, Turkey, Greece … and pressure from business and politicians in Europe to become part of this tremendous project is mounting. The BRI is an unstoppable train.

What good will US-western sanctions do to an Iran detached from the west? And ever more detached from the western economy and monetary system? – None. As Mr. Rouhani said, Iran will hurt for a short while, but then “we will have recovered for good”. It’s only by hanging between east and west – a line that President Rouhani attempted to pursue, that western sanctions have any meaning. From that point of view, one can easily say, Trump shot himself in the foot.

But there is the other branch of the deep state – the military-security industrial complex – the multitrillion-dollar war machine – an apparatus which feeds largely on itself: It produces to destroy and needs to destroy ever more to guarantee its survival. That would explain how Obama inherited two wars and ended his Presidency with seven wars – which he passed on to Trump, who does his best to keep them going. But that’s not enough, he needs new ones to feed the bottomless war monster – which has become just about synonymous with the US economy, i.e. without war, the economy collapses.

Wars also make Wall Street live. War, like the housing market, is debt-financed. Except, war-funding is a national debt that will never be paid back – hence, the Ponzi scheme. New money, new debt, generated from hot air refinances old debt and will accumulated to debt never to be paid back. In 2008, what the General Accounting Office (GAO) calls “unmet obligations”, or “unfunded liabilities”, projected debt over the next five years, amounted to about US$ 48 trillion, or about 3.2 times GDP. In April 2018, GDP stood at about US$ 22 trillion as compared to unfunded liabilities of about US$ 140 trillion, nearly 6.5 times GDP. Ponzi would turn in his grave with a huge smile.

Since Washington’s foreign policy is written by Zionist thinktanks, it follows logic that more wars are needed. A big candidate is Iran. But why? Iran does no harm to anybody, the same as Syria – no harm to anybody, nor did Iraq, or Libya for that matter. Yet,
there is a distinct group of people who wants these countries destroyed. It’s the tiny little tail that wags the monster dog – for the resources and for greater Israel – as unofficial maps already indicate – stretching from Euphrates across the Red Sea all the way to the Nile and absorbing in between parts of Syria, Iraq, all of Palestine, of course, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt.

Resultado de imagen para map of greater israel
(source: globalsecurity.org)

Those who control the US thinktanks make sure that this target is enshrined in the minds of US decision makers. It would count as a major achievement in the course of global hegemony by the Chosen People (not to confound with the ‘exceptional nation’). Although, Iran is not within this picture, Iran would be the most serious and formidable opponent – enemy – of such a scheme.

By breaking the Nuclear Deal, Trump and his masters, especially Netanyahu, may have assumed a harsh reaction, now or later, by Iran. Or in the absence of such a reaction, launch a false flag – say a rocket lands in Israel, they claim it comes from Iran – and bingo, the brainwashed western populace buys it, and there is a reason to go to direct confrontation between Israel and Iran – of course, backed by Washington. This would make for war number 8, since Obama took over in early 2009. And it could account for a lot of killing and destruction – and most probably would involve also Russia and China — and – would that stay simply as a conventional war within the confines of the Middle East? – Or would it spread around the globe as a nuclear WWIII? – Would the commanding elite want to risk their own lives? You never know. Life in bunkers is not as nice as in luxury villas and on luxury boats. They know that.

That’s the dilemma most of those who stand behind the Trump decision probably haven’t quite thought through. Granted, it is difficult to think straight and especially think a bit ahead, when blinded by greed and instant profit – as the western neoliberal / neofascist doctrine dictates.

My hunch is, don’t hold me to it though, that this Trump decision, to “Break the Deal”, is the beginning of a disastrous and yet, ever accelerating decline of the western Global Hegemony Project.

Peter Koenig is an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also a water resources and environmental specialist. He worked for over 30 years with the World Bank and the World Health Organization around the world in the fields of environment and water. He lectures at universities in the US, Europe and South America. He writes regularly for Global Research; ICH; RT; Sputnik; PressTV; The 21st Century; TeleSUR; The Vineyard of The Saker Blog; and other internet sites. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on facts and on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe. He is also a co-author of The World Order and Revolution! – Essays from the Resistance.

Don’t Push Russia Hold my Beer And Watch This!

If cornered or attacked Russia will strike back — hard! The terrifying truth is the west does not understand that

By The Saker

Rattlesnakes have a terrible reputation.  Here were I live, in Florida, we have the biggest rattlesnakes on the planet, the Eastern Diamondback (Crotalus adamanteus).  They are huge and can reach well over 2m (6ft) in length and weigh up to 15kg (30lbs).  The Eastern Diamondback’s venom is not the most potent out there, but they can deliver *a lot* of it.  So, yes, it is a formidable creature.  But it is also a gentle creature and truly very shy one.

Eastern Diamonbacks are also a stunningly beautiful creatures.  I confess that I absolutely love them.

For all their reputation for nastiness, Eastern Diamonbacks will never ever attack you if they can avoid it.  I have seen a lot of these snakes on my hikes, I have manipulated them (with a hook), and I have seen my German Shepherd come nose to nose with one (literally) and that Eastern Diamondback did not strike.  Why?  Because these snakes will do everything they can to avoid having to bite you.

First and foremost, they hide.  Really well.  You can stand right next to a large Eastern Diamondback and never notice it.  You can walk right by, and it won’t move, or rattle its tail, and you will never know that it was there.  Camouflage is their first line of defense.

Then, if discovered, they will rattle their tails.  If needed, very loudly.  You can easily hear the rattle from an Eastern Diamondback from 5m (15ft) away.  More than enough distance to easily avoid it.

Furthermore, if given the chance, the Eastern Diamondback will retreat and hide.

Finally, when cornered a lot of them try what is called a “dry bite”: they do bite you, but deliver no venom.  Why? Because you are not prey, so what would be the point of envenomating you?  The Eastern Diamondback does not want you dead, it wants you to let it live!

I was once told by a park ranger in Arizona that the profile of a typical rattlesnake bite victim is: white, male, with tattoos and the famous last words “hold my beer and watch this!“.

Why am I telling you all this?

Because that is exactly what I see happening before my horrified eyes.

Russia is the Eastern Diamondback desperately trying to do all it can to avoid to have to strike.  The West is the drunk idiot full of hubris, arrogance and a very mistaken sense of invulnerability saying “hold my beer and watch this!“.

Keep in mind that in a confrontation with a drunken human the Eastern Diamondback is most unlikely to survive.  And it knows that, and that is why it does everything it can to avoid such a confrontation in the first place.  But if cornered or attacked the Diamondback will strike.  Hard. Want to see what such a strike looks like?  Like this:

You most definitely do NOT want to be on the receiving end of that strike!

But that’s for normal, sober, people.  When you are drunk your attitude is “hold my beer and watch this!” you “know” that you can handle that snake.

They are all at it right now.  May, Trump, Macron and Merkel, of course, but also the their sycophantic presstitutes and the herds of zombified followers.  They all believe in their invulnerability and superiority.

The terrifying truth is that these folks have NO IDEA whom they are dealing with nor do they understand the consequences of pushing Russia too hard.  Oh, in theory they do (yeah, yeah, Napoleon, Hitler, we know!).  But in their guts, they feel safe, superior and just can’t conceive that they can die and their entire society simply disappear.

I suggest that they carefully ponder the following.

In a recent interview Putin was asked about the rationale of a retaliatory strike by Russia if she was attacked by the USA.  Putin replied the following: “Yes, for mankind this would be a global catastrophe, for the world it would be a global catastrophe, but as a citizen of Russia and as the Head of the Russian state I ask: “what need would we have a world if there is no Russia?“.

So there you have it, directly from Putin: if the AngloZionist plan is to eliminate Russia (whether physically or otherwise), then the Russian people have no need for such a world.  Consider these words as the Russian version of a very loud, almost desperate, rattle.

And look at how they are all trying to see how far they can “safely” push Russia.

I wonder if that Russian “rattle” will be loud enough to stop the West before it is too late.

I am not so sure.

The Essential Saker: from the trenches of the emerging multipolar world.

https://thesaker.is/

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Information Clearing House.

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Is Russia’s Hypersonic YU-71 Missile A Disaster For US : Nuclear Warheads ?

Putin is setting the details of the truce بوتين يرسم تفاصيل الهدنة

Putin is setting the details of the truce

مارس 6, 2018

Nasser Kandil wrote:         Putin is setting the details of the truce

  • After the announcement of the resolution of the Security Council to ceasefire in Syria, the word of the Syrian Ambassador Bashar Al-Jafaari about the Syrian understanding of truce, the response to the American threat with a similar one, and the press conference of the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov who has completed what Al Jafaari said and agreed upon it, the UN resolution became threatened to fall.
  • The interference of the French President and the German Chancellor has made the President Vladimir Putin put his terms and the lines of the truce.
  • The French President notified the Turkish President about what is related to him concerning the truce, that Afrin is included in the UN resolution and that unless he complies with the truce; the truce in Ghouta will fall.
  • The Russian President announced the details of the truce by stopping the Syrian and the Russian raids for five hours a day to allow the safe exit of the civilians from Ghouta through safe corridors and to continue the ground attack on the sites of the terrorist groups led by Al Nusra front.
  • With the Syrian and the Russian determination along with the allies the truce turns into a program of gradual resolving, which became clearer with the truce.
  • With the determination, the truce which is supposed to stop the resolving became a roadmap to achieve it.
  • With an ally as Putin, the victory will be close.

Translated by Lina Shehadeh,

بوتين يرسم تفاصيل الهدنة 

فبراير 27, 2018

ـ مع إعلان قرار مجلس الأمن عن وقف النار في سورية وكلمة السفير السوري بشار الجعفري حول الفهم السوري للهدنة والردّ على التهديد الأميركي بتهديد مماثل، ومع المؤتمر الصحافي لوزير الخارجية الروسي سيرغي لافروف الذي أكمل ما قاله الجعفري وأكد أنه متفَق عليه صار القرار الأممي مهدّداً بالسقوط.

ـ تدخل الرئيس الفرنسي والمستشارة الألمانية لدى الرئيس الروسي فوضع الرئيس فلاديمير بوتين شروطه ورسم خطوط الهدنة.

ـ أبلغ الرئيس الفرنسي الرئيس التركي الشق الذي يخصّه وهو أنّ عفرين مشمولة بقرار مجلس الأمن وأنه ما لم يلتزم بالهدنة فتسقط هدنة الغوطة.

ـ أعلن الرئيس الروسي برنامج الهدنة بوقف الغارات السورية والروسية في فترة نهاية لخمس ساعات لإفساح المجال لخروج المدنيين من الغوطة وتحديد ممرات آمنة لهم ومواصلة الهجوم البري على مواقع الجماعات الإرهابية وفي طليعتها جبهة النصرة.

ـ تتحوّل الهدنة مع العزيمة السورية والروسية ومعهما الحلفاء إلى برنامج للحسم المتدرّج والواضح بصورة أفضل مما لو لم تتمّ الهدنة.

ـ مع العزيمة صارت الهدنة المفترض انها لوقف الحسم مجرّد خارطة طريق لتحقيقه.

ـ مع حليف مثل بوتين لا خشية على النصر.

التعليق السياسي

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