A Short-Term Geopolitical Forecast

January 20, 2022

By Dmitry Orlov and posted with the author’s permission

Ever since Putin announced his demands for security guarantees from the US and NATO (in brief, stop NATO’s eastward expansion, have NATO retreat to its positions of 1997 and remove offensive weapons from Russia’s immediate vicinity) we have been subjected to a barrage of irrelevancies from Western press:

• Are these security guarantees an ultimatum or a negotiating tool?

• Will the US and NATO agree to them or reject them?

• Will Putin invade the Ukraine or will he be stopped in his tracks through the judicious and timely use of frowning, head-shaking, finger-wagging and tisk-tisking by sundry and assorted Western luminaries?

• If Putin does invade the Ukraine, does this mean that World War III is finally upon us and we shall all surely die?

I hope that I am not alone in being sick and tired of this pathetic, tiresome attempt to throw up a smokescreen and hide the inevitable reality of what is about to unfold. In case it isn’t completely clear to you yet, I would like to spell it all out. I am normally more cautious when making specific predictions, but in this case our immediate future has been carefully plotted out for us by Russia and China, with the US and its assorted puppets reduced to the status of non-playable characters in a video game who can only do one thing: hide behind a dense smokescreen of risible lies.

First, Russian security guarantee demands are not ultimatums. An ultimatum is an “or else” sort of thing, offering a choice between compliance and consequences, whereas in this case both the noncompliance and the consequences will follow automatically. The West and NATO are, for well understood internal political reasons, unable to sign these guarantees; therefore, the consequences will unfold in due course.

Russia has demanded that both the US and NATO put their refusal to agree to the security guarantees in writing; these pieces of paper will be important moving forward. To understand why, we need to take on board the fact that everything within these security guarantees has already been agreed to by the West; namely, the “not an inch to the east” guarantee given to the Russians by the US 30 years ago and the collective security principle agreed to by all members of the OSCE. By signing a document in which they declare their refusal to abide by what they previously agreed to, the US and NATO would essentially declare themselves to be apostates from international law and order. This, in turn, would imply that their own security needs can be disregarded and that instead they deserve to be humiliated and punished.

Further, by putting their refusal in writing, the US and NATO would declare the collective security principle itself—specifically with respect to the US and NATO—to be null and void, meaning that if, for instance, the Bahamas, a sovereign nation since July 10, 1973, decides to reinforce its sovereignty by hosting a Russian missile battery pointed across the Gulf Stream at Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the US would have no say in the matter, and if the US did try to speak up, they’d get beat up with this very piece of paper they signed. “Do you feel threatened now?” the Russians would ask; “Well, maybe you should have thought of that when you threatened us by putting your missiles in Poland and Romania.”

The initial stated purpose of the two installations of Aegis Ashore in Poland and Romania was to shoot down Iranian missiles, which didn’t exist then, don’t exist now, and never would have taken a giant detour and fly over Poland or Romania in any case. Although the stated purpose of these systems was for missile defense, their launch platforms can also be used to launch offensive strategic weapons: Tomahawk cruise missiles with nuclear payloads. These Tomahawks are obsolete and the Russians know how to shoot them down extremely well (as they demonstrated in Syria) but this is still very annoying, plus seeding the Russian countryside with pulverized American plutonium would not be good for anyone’s health.

Thus, we should expect bad things to happen to these installations, but we should expect to remain rather ill-informed about the details. While the non-negotiations over the Russian security guarantee demands will be as public as possible (in spite of Western plaintive cries asking that they be held in private) the “technical-military means” which Russia will use to deal with Western noncompliance will not be widely publicized. The Romanian installation might become inoperative due to a newly discovered small volcano nearby; the Polish one might succumb of a freak swamp gas explosion.

A further series of unfortunate accidents may cause the US and NATO to become shy and reticent about encroaching on Russia’s borders. NATO troops stationed in the Baltics, a stone’s throw from St. Petersburg, which is Russia’s second-largest city, might complain of repeatedly hearing the word “Thud!” clearly and loudly annunciated, causing them all to be diagnosed with schizophrenia and evacuated. A US spy plane might experience a slight GPS malfunction causing it to blunder into Russian airspace, get shot down, and have its catapulted pilot sentenced to many years of teaching English to kindergarteners in Syktyvkar or Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. US Navy and NATO vessels, already prone to collisions with each other, underwater mountains and barges, might suffer an unusually large number of such mishaps in proximity to the Russian coastline, causing them to shy away from it. A large number of such events, most out of them transpiring out of sight of the public, news of them suppressed in Western press and social media, would force the mighty US military to confront an uncomfortable existential question: “Are the Russians still afraid of us, or are we just jerking each other off here?” Their response will be to go into denial and to jerk each other off harder and faster than ever before.

But if they are indeed just jerking each other off, then what about their policy of containment? What’s to contain Russia and keep it from recreating USSR 2.0?—other than the fact that the Russians aren’t stupid, learned their lesson the first time around, and Mother Russia will no longer allow a bunch of useless non-Russian ingrates to suckle at her ample bosom. “But when is Russia going to invade the Ukraine?” inquiring minds demand to know, especially those who have been paying attention to Western news sources claiming that Russia has amassed 100090 troops on the Ukrainian border (it hasn’t).

The latest theory is that what is preventing Russia from invading is the warm weather. Apparently, it has been unusually warm since 2014, which is why Russian troops haven’t rolled across the Ukrainian border yet. What have they been waiting for? The next ice age that’s due any millennium now? Instead, Russia just got the bits of the Ukraine it wanted—Crimea, the Donbass and a couple of millions of highly trained Russian-speaking professionals—all without staging an invasion, and is now waiting for the rest of the Ukraine to degenerate into its end state as an ethnic theme park and nature preserve. The only thing that’s not going well with this plan is that the Ukraine needs to be demilitarized, as required by Russia’s recent security guarantee demands.

But what if Russia’s security guarantees aren’t met and US/NATO continue stuffing the Ukraine full of weapons, sending in trainers and establishing bases? Well, then, those will need to be destroyed. This can be done by launching some rockets from small ships sailing around in the Caspian Sea, as was done to destroy ISIS bases in Syria; no ground force invasion needed. It won’t take much to prompt US/NATO to evacuate the Ukraine in a panic, seeing as they have already worked out plans for doing so and have announced that they won’t fight to defend it.

If that’s what unfolds, what do you think will happen next? Will the US start a nuclear war over the Ukraine? Umm… how about “NO!!!” Will the US impose “sanctions from hell”? Perhaps, but you have to understand that at this point in time the US and other Western economies can be accurately caricatured as a crystal vase full of excrement parked on the very edge of a high shelf over a hard marble floor. The hope is that nobody is going to sneeze because the sound pressure might cause it to go over the edge. Sanctions from hell do sound like they could cause a bit of a sneeze. Needless to say, the US will continue to talk about sanctions from hell and maybe even pass some legislation so titled, and claim to have sent “a strong message,” but to no effect.

Will Russia act immediately upon acceptance in writing the West’s refusal to provide it with the requested security guarantees? No, there is bound to be a delay. You see, February 4th is barely two weeks away, and that’s just not enough time to start and finish a military action. What’s on February 4th? Why, the opening ceremony at the Beijing Olympics, of course, at which Putin will be the guest of honor while US dignitaries weren’t even invited.

At the Olympics Putin and Xi will be signing a raft of major agreements, one of which may transform the already very strong relationship between China and Russia into an actual military alliance. The tripartite world order announced by Gen. Milley, in which the US, Russia and China figure as equals, will have lasted all of three months. With Russia and China acting as a unit, the SCO, which by now includes almost all of Eurasia, becomes more than just a geopolitical pole. In comparison, the US and the 29 dwarves of NATO do not quite add up to a geopolitical pole and the world once again becomes unipolar but with the polarity flipped.

And so we should not expect any military action to take place between February 4th and February 20th. Should any military mischief occur during the Olympics, which is traditionally a time of peace in the world, it is sure to be a Western provocation, since the Olympics are a traditional time of Western provocations (Georgia during the Beijing Olympics in 2008; the Ukraine during the Russian Olympics in Sochi in 2014). We can be sure that everyone is very much prepared for this provocation and that it will be dealt with very harshly.

The worst kind of provocation would be if NATO advisers actually succeed in goading the hapless and demoralized Ukrainian troops into invading the Donbass. If that happens, there will be two steps to that operation. The first will involve confusing the Ukrainians into walking into a trap. The second will be to threaten to destroy them using Russian long-range artillery from across the Russian border. When that happened previously, the Ukrainian government in Kiev was forced to sign the Minsk agreements that required the Ukrainian military to pull back and the Kiev government to grant autonomy to the Donbass by amending the Ukraine’s constitution.

But since the government in Kiev has shown no intention of fulfilling the terms of these agreements during the intervening years and instead has done its utmost to sabotage them, there is no reason to expect a new round of Minsk agreements to be signed. Instead, it will be the end of the road for Ukrainian statehood. Putin has promised exactly that. NATO advisers are likely to be frustrated in their efforts to cause the Ukrainians to attack: it is preferable for them to sit there being poked and prodded by their NATO handlers and nagged by US/EU officials and spies than to have their best and brightest obliterated by Russian artillery or to face a final round of national humiliation.

After February 20th, however, we should expect some new and interesting domestic distraction. It could have to do with Western financial house of cards/pyramid scheme finally pancaking, or it could be a fun new virus, or natural gas running out and causing a huge humanitarian emergency. Or it could be a combination of these: the virus can be blamed on China, the gas emergency on Russia, and the financial collapse on both. While everyone is distracted, an aircraft carrier or two might go missing, the Aegis Ashore installation in Poland might get totaled by freak swamp gas explosion and so on and so forth. But then nobody would take notice.

There will still be the major existential question nagging the US military/industrial complex: “Are Russia and China still afraid of us or are we just jerking each other off?” I think I know what answer Russia and China would offer: “Don’t worry about us. Just go on jerking each other off.”

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The (apparent) disagreement between Ze and “Biden”

January 20, 2022

As I mentioned it yesterday, Biden said something rather weird yesterday.  He said:

Quote: “Russia will be held accountable if it invades and it depends on what it does – it’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and then we end up having to fight about what to do and what not to do, but if they actually do what they’re capable of doing with the force amassed on the border it is going to be a disaster for Russia if they further invade Ukraine,” Biden said, adding that Russia has overwhelming superiority over Ukraine

What in the world is a “minor incursion” anyway???

This was Ze’s reply:

Of course, hearing Ze refer to country 404 as a “great power” is cute and hilarious as it gets.

But the real question is this: did Biden just not understand the possible implication of what he said, is this just a case of dementia, or did he inadvertently reveal something which is being worked on behind the scenes?

By the way, in the fraternal model, which is horizontal, all countries ARE equal in rights and obligations, being equal in their nature and essence, while the Kindergarten model is highly hierarchical and absolutely implies that “some are more equal than others”.  For the true believers in this Kindergarten model any discussion of equality is a dangerous road to chaos and anarchy.  So yes, while they speak a lot about freedom, in reality they both hate and fear it like a very dangerous thing (God forbid the slaves would revolt and decide to kill the plantation owner!).

Another interesting aspect of the current crisis is this: both the US and the UK have publicly admitted that they have sent “advisors” to the Ukraine and both the US and UK have admitted sending weapons to the Ukraine.  Problem: the Minsk Agreements‘ point #10 specifically states mandates “to withdraw illegal armed groups and military equipment as well as fighters and mercenaries from the territory of Ukraine” while the additional memorandum states that “all foreign mercenaries” must be withdrawn from the conflict zone.  Now, OF COURSE, the noble defenders of democracy, freedom and peace worldwide (aka US/NATO “Axis of Kindness” forces) are not “mercenaries” (even though they are paid killers who do not defend their own country), only Russian volunteers in the LDNR are, at least that is the West’s position on this issue.  But for any mentally sane person it is pretty clear that the West is in clear violation of both the letter and spirit of the Minsk Agreements.  So what does that mean for Russia?

It means that both the Nazi-run Ukraine and the collective West don’t have (and never had) any real desire to abide by the Minsk Agreements, in spite of the fact that the latter are backed by a UNSC Resolution (making them legally binding and mandatory).  Again, under the Kindergarten worldview, even the UN is just one more “small, rowdy kid” which can be totally ignored or told to shut up and behave.

Anyway,

Tomorrow Bliken and Lavrov are supposed to meet.

Bliken would have made a terrific tailor or small shop owner.  But as a diplomat he truly sub-zero.  And that is true for ALL US diplomats and officials.  Yesterday a former Russian negotiator was describing his impression of Viki Nuland as a “dumb broad” who was completely ignorant of the world affairs she was in charge of dealing with on behalf of the USA.  Here is what Andrei Martyanov wrote about “US experts” from the USA: “bar some few exceptions, US academe, including those who specialize in Russia are not experts. They are narrative-mongers, majority of who have no serious skills, background nor experience in anything they try to “analyze” about Russia–this problem is systemic and is due to a complete corruption of the America’s education, especially history and military history and over-saturation of the American body-politic by people without any serious education or lawyers. It is literally the situation of auto-mechanic with vocational school performing an open heart surgery and thinking that he knows what he is doing. You can easily predict the result, for a patient“.  I can only fully agree with this opinion.

I think that the intense stupidity, arrogance and crass ignorance (not to mention a major delusional narcissistic and messianic sense of invulnerability) will play a key role in what happens next.  The AngloZionist propaganda machine has been spewing such a hate-filled and totally paranoid propaganda against Russia and Putin that this propaganda has become a foundational principle of the West’s foreign policy.  Even if Biden gives Putin a tiny little mini-concession (say using transponders of NATO aircraft) the Neocons and Neolibs of the War Party in Congress will absolutely crucify Biden for being “weak” and “caving in to Putin”.  Considering that Biden has been an absolutely awful president which has only failures to show for (not even a single semi-success) and that there will be a Congressional election the USA later this year, any mentally sane agreement, however unlikely, between Russia and the USA will be declared a “capitulation” which will bring all the flag-waving idiots to vote for the GOP which, right now, looks even more insane then the Dems.

Yes, a miracle can happen.  But what I am observing in the past two weeks or so, and today, are not at all signs of something reasonable being worked on but, rather, a hysterical attempt by the rulers of the Empire (and their minions in the EU) to defeat reality by pretending not to notice it.

That never works and it won’t work this time.

I hope tomorrow will prove me wrong, I REALLY do.

But in my strictly personal opinion, I don’t even see the point of Lavrov flying to Geneva.  I think Russia needs to stop talking to the West the same way she stopped talking to Ze and his bloody clowns, and only act unilaterally (towards the West, of course, not towards Zone B!).  There is nothing military or economic or political which the US/NATO/EU can do to Russia, so why not simply ignore them.

I would nicely and politely close the Russian diplomatic representations in the West, ditch idiotic or toxic organizations (like the COE or the WTO), and focus on collaborating with the sovereign nations in Zone B.

As for the West, Russia can let it self-destruct, which it is already doing at a maniacal pace anyway.

Sooner or later (probably the latter), the collapse of the West will generate new leaders who will have to rebuild the West on a new basis.  Then will be the time to talk to the West again.  But until non-entities like Blinken, Borrell, Stoltenberg or Baerbock remain in power, I see no point in talking to them.

Finally, the Communist Party in Russia has filed a law to be voted on by the Duma which asks the President to recognize the LDNR.  I think that the chances of this proposal are very high.  Interesting stuff.

Andrei

After sounding about as negative as possible yesterday, today Bliken has just suggested that his scheduled meeting with Lavrov tomorrow in Geneva will show how things really stand.

Wait!  I thought that there was nothing to discuss, but it turns out there might be??

Could Lavrov and Biden try to find a common definition of “minor” (as in “minor intrusion”)?

I don’t think so.  Here is why:

  • Russia has no need or desire for ANY type of incursion
  • Russia can totally defang the Ukronazis without moving a single solider across the border (according to specialists, this would take less than a week)
  • The Empire has waged a total but “short of kinetic” war against Russia since at least 2013 and that all happened while Russia did not move into the Ukraine.  If no incursion results in such a sustained campaign by the West against Russia, how would a “minor incursion” make things better and placate the crazies?
  • And if Russia decides that the united West is already maxed out on its anti-Russian policies, why limit yourself to a minor incursion?  If, say, Russia liberated the LDNR, the rest of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, and all the Ukrainian coastline on the Black Sea, something the West would surely describe as a “major invasion”, would the consequences for Russia by the same as those following a “minor invasion”?  The point is that the US has expanded all of its sanction options, any further escalation would threaten the entire international economic system and strongly increase the risks of a fullscale war.

What most observers are missing is this: the current tensions are not at all about the Ukraine, or even about NATO.  They are about a new, different, new world order.  The US wants to hear nothing about it.  Neither does the EU.  The West is absolutely and categorically opposed to any new international order.  What they want is a “rules based order” in which, of course, they alone get to make all the rules.

But for countries like Russia (or China) the current world (dis)order is categorically unacceptable.

So what is really at stake are two world views:

  • Western world view: the West is the the crown of creation, the shining city on the hill, created by the Master Race before which all the “inferior” human societies need to bow and accept their dominion.  Furthermore, what is allowed for that Master Civilization is not allowed to anybody else and if/when any country begins to act in way which shows that it thinks that what is allowed to the West is also allowed to everybody else – then this country/nation needs to be taught a lesson and crushed.  You could call this model a “Kindergarten model” in which one adult teacher (the West) is tasked with supervising and educating a classroom of ignorant, immature and rowdy kids (the rest of the planet).
  • Zone B worldview: the same rules apply to everybody, there is not “exceptional country” with special rights out there.  Furthermore, all security must be collective, that is to say that if you point a gun at me and I am disarmed, not only am I threatened by you, but you also expose yourself to my desperate actions to survive, which just might include killing you before you can pull the trigger.  Finally, a legal/moral rule only deserves respect if it is equally applied to all parties (if it is not, it is, by definition, hypocritical).  You could call this model a “fraternal model” in which children from the same Father (God) act in a brotherly way towards each other because they recognize their common humanity (fraternity).

Those two models are, of course, totally and categorically mutually exclusive, hence the Zone A and Zone B we see today.

بوتين ينتقل الى الهجوم الاستراتيجي الوقائي

الاثنين 10 يناير 2022

 ناصر قنديل

في مطلع القرن الواحد والعشرين تقدّم الأميركيون في الجوار الروسي بما هو أبعد من مجرد ضمّ دول أوروبا الشرقية إلى الاتحاد الأوروبي، فكان التزامن بين وصول فلاديمير بوتين الى الرئاسة الروسية وبدء الهجوم الأميركي الأوروبي بالثورات الملوّنة وبالقضم الأمني والعسكري لدول الجوار الروسي، من أوكرانيا الى جورجيا ولتوانيا وصولاً الى دول البلطيق، والتلويح بضمّ دول هذا الجوار الى حلف الناتو الذي تقوم عقيدته العسكرية على اعتبار روسيا العدو الأول، وفي كلّ هذه المرحلة الممتدة حتى عام 2015 سنة التموضع الروسي في سورية، كان موقف موسكو السعي لاحتواء الهجوم الأميركي والغربي، والتركيز على بناء القدرات الاقتصادية والعسكرية لروسيا.

شكل العام 2015 محطة فاصلة في كيفية تعامل روسيا مع الهجوم الأميركي والغربي المستمرّ منذ سقوط جدار برلين وتفكك الاتحاد السوفياتي، فكان قرار الرئيس بوتين بالدخول طرفاً مباشراً في مواجهة الحرب المفتوحة على سورية بقيادة أميركية معلنة، تعبيراً عن قرارة متعددة الأبعاد، أولها القناعة بخطورة المدى الذي بلغه التغوّل الأميركي وخطورة الإنكفاء أمامه، وقد كشف تحالفه المعلن مع الإرهاب من جهة، وحجم تحدّيه للأمن القومي الروسي من جهة موازية، وفي المقابل بعدما ظهر في سورية أنّ مفهوم الدولة الوطنية كمشروع مناهض للمشروع الأميركي هو استثمار قادر على الإنجاز، وأنّ منطقة غرب آسيا التي اختارها الأميركي لإحكام الطوق على روسيا وإيران عبر اللعب على وتر الإسلام السياسي الذي مثلته تركيا بمشروع العثمانية الجديدة، تستطيع ان تكون مقبرة هذا المشروع بتشعّباته التركية والمتطرفة ومن خلفهما الأميركي خصوصاً والغربي عموماً.

عندما تمّ تحريك أوكرانيا بوجه روسيا في قلب الحرب السورية كانت رؤية موسكو واضحة، وقرارها حازماً، بأن لا تراجع مهما كان الثمن، والروس قد قرأوا جيداً ما كتبه زبينغيو بريجنسكي مستشار الأمن القومي الأميركي السابق في ثمانينات من القرن الماضي، وما قاله عن أوكرانيا نقطة الضعف الروسية في التاريخ والجغرافيا، ولذلك تشبّث الرئيس بوتين بقراره في المضيّ قدماً نحو التموضع في سورية وصولاً للحسم الذي بدأته معركة حلب الفاصلة، وذهب نحو قرار ضمّ شبه جزيرة القرم، وهو القرار الذي تحوّل الى أمر واقع رغم كلّ ما قيل يومها عن أنه لن يمرّ، ورغم كلّ التهديدات الغربية بالعواقب الوخيمة، وقد ثبت لموسكو انّ الكلام الغربي عن التهديدات يبقى حبراً على ورق وبعض العقوبات، ولم يحل كلّ ذلك دون السير قدماً ولو بتقطع بمشروع أنابيب السيل الشمالي لنقل الغاز الروسي الى ألمانيا.

هذه المرة عندما أثير ملف أوكرانيا بلغة التهديد لروسيا مجدداً، لم ترتبك موسكو في فهم الرسالة، فالمطروح هو تهديد موسكو بالخروج عن اتفاقات مينسك ودعم حكومة أوكرانيا لضمّ مناطق دونباس في شرق أوكرانيا بالقوة، ولم تتردّد موسكو، فلم تنف استعدادها لإجتياح أوكرانيا إذا تمّت إطاحة اتفاقات مينسك، ووضعت معادلة جديدة على الطاولة، لا ضمانات بعدم اجتياح أوكرانيا، بل مطالبة بضمانات لعدم ضمّ الغرب لأوكرانيا وسواها من دول الجوار الروسي الى حلف الناتو، وشيئاً فشيئاً لم تعد القضية أوكرانيا، بل صارت الضمانات الروسية الموثقة المطلوبة من الغرب، ودار الحوار بين الرئيسين الأميركي جو بايدن والروسي فلاديمير بوتين حول هذا الأمر، تمهيداً لحوارات قيد الانطلاق تحت هذا العنوان، تقول موسكو سلفاً إنها غير مستعدة لتقديم ايّ تنازل خلالها عن ثوابت تمثل أمنها القومي.

جاءت أحداث كازاخستان لتكشف بالمقارنة الزمنية بين الزمن الذي احتاجته القيادة الروسية لاتخاذ قرار التحرك الميداني نحو سورية، والزمن الموازي الذي احتاجته للتحرك الميداني نحو كازاخستان، من سنوات وشهور الى أيام وساعات، تحوّلاً كبيراً في توجهات القيادة الروسية لجهة الإنتقال من الدفاع الاستراتيجي الى الهجوم الاستراتيجي الوقائي، وهو غير الهجوم الاستراتيجي في المطلق، لكنه أحد أشكاله وبداياته.

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NATO expansion to Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova a life-or-death situation: Kremlin

26 Dec 2021

Source: Agencies

By Al Mayadeen Net

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov stressed the sensitivity of Ukraine’s issue to Russia, and that conflict can threaten Ukraine’s statehood.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, Moscow, Russia, on October 2, 2019 (Anadolu Agency)

According to Russian presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, NATO’s expansion to Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova is a matter of life and death for Russia.

Peskov told Rossiya 1 about the issue: “Of course, for us, this is, well, essentially a matter of life and death already, ” talking about NATO’s extension to include nations like Ukraine and other former Soviet Union members.

The Kremlin spokesperson stated, “The equipment is beginning to make its way into Ukraine, military instructors are coming there, there are several thousand of them already,” adding that “NATO is gradually making its way into Ukraine and then, the only thing left will be to make it official.”

When asked if a military escalation could be hazardous to Ukraine’s statehood, Peskov responded “undoubtedly,” adding that “this is something President Putin talked about on multiple occasions and this is something that Kiev knows perfectly well and Washington knows perfectly well.”

Russia released its proposals for security agreements with the US and NATO earlier this month. The draft documents included a proposal to avoid deploying intermediate- and short-range missiles in areas where they could endanger either party to the agreement, as well as other measures.

Lavrov: US approach toward Russia creates a toxic atmosphere

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on December 24 that the US unfriendly approach toward Russia creates a toxic atmosphere and prevents the creation of peaceful contact between the two countries. 

In an interview for Oslobođenje newspaper, Lavrov pointed out that Moscow’s interactions with Washington have led to unfavorable scenarios, revealing that there have been many tensions between the two.

The Russian FM accused the US of being “overtly antagonistic” as it continues to impose sanctions, be hostile, and “make baseless charges against Russia.”

Putin: Russia will not be part of the conflict in the Donbas region

During his annual press conference, Putin stressed, on December 23, that Russia is ready to work with Ukrainian sides who are looking to build good-neighborly relations with Moscow.

On his part, the Russian President said Russia will not be part of the conflict in the Donbas region.

It is worth noting that the Minsk Agreement is an agreement to stop the war in the Donbas region, signed by Ukraine, Russia, the Donetsk People’s Republic, the Luhansk People’s Republic, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe on September 5, 2014.

Putin: Annual Press Conference

December 23, 2021

At the time of posting this is still ongoing.  Mr. Putin takes the podium at time marker 36:58 and proceeds directly to Q&A.  A transcript will be available but will take some time.

Update:  Completed after 3 hours and 56 minutes.  The president fielded the questions of 44 people, focusing on both domestic and international issues.

Why U.S. Security Talks With Russia is Invite to Hall of Mirrors

December 22, 2021

Finian CUNNINGHAM
Former editor and writer for major news media organizations. He has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages

Finian Cunningham

Washington and its partners are the problem. Any engagement being offered to Moscow is an invite into a hall of mirrors while on the outside the threat continues to lurk.

The United States and Russia appear to have reached an agreement to hold talks early in the new year to avert the mounting security tensions over Ukraine. But Moscow must be realistic. The talks will yield little to offset confrontation.

Russia last week unveiled a comprehensive set of proposals for security guarantees from the United States and the NATO military alliance. It called for no eastward expansion of NATO or deployment of U.S. strike weapons in countries bordering Russia. Moscow warned if there was not a reasonable reciprocation over its stated “red lines” then counter military measures would be taken instead. Such measures may include deployment of nuclear weapons in Belarus which Minsk has agreed to facilitate.

The combined Russian move seems to have gotten Washington’s attention. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said this week that a forum for talks had been agreed by the Biden administration and that negotiations would begin sometime during January.

However, getting Washington’s attention and the latter actually listening are two different things. And, unfortunately, the signs are that the United States is not taking Russia’s existential security concerns seriously nor is it capable of framing the situation accurately.

While appearing amenable to holding early talks with Russia on the security stand-off over Ukraine, nevertheless the Biden administration is still provocatively blaming Moscow as the cause of the entire problem. The State Department continues to accuse Russia of “aggression” towards Ukraine and insists that Moscow must “deescalate” the tensions as a condition for any forthcoming talks to be productive.

Furthermore, the Biden administration is continuing its supply of weapons to the anti-Russian regime in Kiev as well as threatening to deploy economic sanctions in concert with the European Union that are designed to cripple Russia.

In other words, the security talks that Washington appears to be willing to hold with Russia in the coming weeks are not based on proper respect nor on a premise of genuinely trying to resolve security concerns. The United States is persisting in peddling its distortion that Russia is to blame when the opposite is true. It is the United States and its NATO allies who are weaponizing the Kiev regime to foment dangerous tensions with Russia. It is the U.S. and its partners who are threatening and aggressing Russia, not the other way around. That distortion is in itself provocative.

There’s another reason why talks with the United States under current circumstances are doomed to yield little progress towards sustainable peace.

The Biden administration says that it will engage with Russia on its security proposals. But, and this is the giveaway, in consultation with NATO allies and partners. That will ensure that Washington’s scope for reciprocating with Moscow is blinkered by the lowest denominator of Russophobia among NATO partners.

The Kiev regime is backed by Poland and the Baltic states who have all condemned any “concessions” to Russia. Polish President Andrzej Duda after meeting with Ukrainian and Baltic counterparts this week declared that NATO should step up military forces and sanctions to “prevent Russian aggression”. Duda accused Russia of “blackmailing” Europe.

Given this array of gross distortion about the source of tensions in Ukraine and Europe generally – Russia is incriminated, rather than the U.S. and its NATO war machine – it is futile to expect any dialogue between Washington and Moscow to produce a badly needed reduction in confrontation and a modus vivendi.

The U.S. and NATO are plying Ukraine with lethal weapons and military advisors. This week, Russia’s Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu claimed that over 100 American private mercenaries were preparing some sort of false flag provocation in the Donbass region with chemicals. Ukraine is being set up for a proxy war in the well-worn U.S. modus operandi of Syria and other nations where covert dirty war was inflicted by the American imperialists and their European accomplices.

Alongside that, the NATO forces continue their large-scale buildup of forces, battalions, and strike weapons near Russia’s borders. And the jackals in NATO, like Poland and Baltic states, are howling for blood.

Yet, the Biden administration continues to insult common intelligence by accusing Russia of aggression and demanding that it must de-escalate for talks to proceed – talks, that is, that will be limited by the input of the most Russophobic mindsets in NATO as well as the unhinged anti-Russia regime in Kiev.

Russia has superb diplomats. They are more than capable of wiping the floor with U.S. and European counterparts when it comes to legal argumentation and logical reasoning. But even the most formidable diplomats can’t vanquish a falsified framework that is loaded like a gun to the head.

The signs are that Russia is being lured into a trap. Washington and its accomplices are not serious about respectful negotiations to resolve security problems. Washington and its partners are the problem. Any engagement being offered to Moscow is an invite into a hall of mirrors while on the outside the threat continues to lurk.

Russia may be better off using different tactics for more effectively communicating its concerns.

By this author

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov’s interview with Interfax News Agency, December 18, 2021

December 21, 2021

20 December 2021 16:56

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov’s interview with Interfax News Agency, December 18, 2021

Question: Are our proposals to the United States and NATO regarding security guarantees an ultimatum to the West, the last attempt to reach out to them or a final warning to make them stop?

Sergey Ryabkov: We do not speak in the language of ultimatums with anyone. We have a responsible attitude towards our own security and the security of others. The point is not that we have issued an ultimatum, not at all, but that the seriousness of our warning must not be underestimated.

The security situation in Europe, the Euro-Atlantic region and Eurasia has indeed greatly deteriorated recently. This has happened because of a series of concerted actions by the United States and its NATO allies, which, generally speaking, can be described as an attempt to undermine Russia’s security and to create a hostile environment around us. We cannot accept this.

Ukraine is in the focus of this policy. Ukraine’s decisions are not independent but are subject to change in the situation. When the West provides unconditional and unqualified support to Ukraine, certain quarters in Kiev play up to the worst Western objectives and formulas. And the possibility of Ukraine eventually joining NATO, which some Ukrainian officials keep talking about, is categorically unacceptable to us. We will do our best to prevent this.

We reject the very presentation of the issue. We can discuss all the pros and cons, but we unequivocally demand that NATO withdraw the decision adopted at its Bucharest summit in 2008 that Ukraine and Georgia become NATO members. That decision should be called off and revised, which will be seen as a small, not comprehensive, but small step in the right direction. The West does not appear ready to do this. This is why our comprehensive, all-encompassing proposals raise a number of outstanding issues, primarily for the United States but also for its allies, which should be settled urgently. We are monitoring their reaction, which is not encouraging so far. We are ready for talks on this basis, but so far we can only see that our proposals have been rejected under far-fetched pretexts.

The statement adopted by the North Atlantic Council on December 16 is vivid proof of this. Ninety percent of the text consists of time-worn ultimatums to Russia. We are not issuing any ultimatums to anyone, and we will not allow others to do this towards us. The statement goes on to say that what Russia demands, what it is demanding, is not an outstretched hand but a harsh demand, which allegedly has nothing to do with NATO. The alliance is free to decide which countries can join it, and NATO’s relationship with Ukraine is a matter only for Ukraine and the 30 NATO Allies.

No, this is much more a matter concerning Russia, as I am stating clearly now. The time of diplomatic parlance is over. We have to explain things at the elementary level, to spell them out. The potential NATO membership of Ukraine is above all a matter of concern for the Russian Federation.

Question: Have we set any deadlines for an answer? Do we have a Plan B, shall we say, in case the answer is no?

Sergey Ryabkov: We have not set any deadlines. We proposed meeting and talking right now without dragging things out, without delay. Instead of talking to you here, I was actually ready to be in Geneva today for talks with Ms Karen Donfried, US Assistant Secretary of State, or with any negotiators Washington would assign for this purpose. The Americans were told that our interdepartmental delegation at these negotiations would be headed by a supervising deputy minister; they are aware of this. We are waiting for their response. We can be any place they name, at any time, starting tomorrow. Just a few hours to pack and we have it all ready. We have a clear approach, which we have worked on for quite some time, so there are no technical, political or organisational obstacles for starting such negotiations as soon as possible.

As for Plan B, we continue to expect the other side to show a serious approach. We understand they need time to read all this, discuss it and wrap their minds around it. As I understand it, certain discussions on this took place on December 16, at NATO and in the European Union. This is all clear. But by and large, if they confirmed their readiness to meet urgently and negotiate on the basis of our documents – our documents provide a framework for a certain negotiation process – this would be a good answer. True, we cannot be sure – we know this from the experience of many negotiations – that we will immediately reach an agreement in just a few days. Not at all; these are serious matters, but the process needs to start now. It cannot be delayed, given the situation in all its complexity and the totality of problematic aspects.

Question: You said that understandably it would be impossible to come to an agreement right away. Does this mean that we are ready to compromise to reach an agreement?

Sergey Ryabkov: This matter has been repeatedly discussed, including over the last few days, in contacts with US representatives and via other channels. We cannot understand the basics of the US position, when they say that we should, for example, with regard to the Minsk Package of Measures, do this or that. We have been urging them to put down on paper what they mean, for several months now. But they are not doing this. I don’t know whether they are unable or unwilling. They publish the same statements, sufficiently straightforward and tough statements, over and over again. If we go by what is written in these statements, it would certainly be impossible to come to terms. But any talks imply a search for compromise. The problem is not that there is no will to reach an agreement on our part but that we do not see this kind of will on the other side.

We are saying that there are no far-fetched things in the draft agreement with the United States or in the draft agreement on security guarantees with NATO, and, of course, we are saying this absolutely sincerely, firmly and confidently. This is the Russian Federation’s position on issues affecting our fundamental security interests, a position that is free of rhetoric and expressed in the language of a treaty. No more, no less, and it should be treated as such.

Therefore, when we say we need security guarantees, we naturally are proceeding from the assumption that the reply will be such as will make it possible to say: we have made headway in dealing with this package of key issues in such a manner as to see a substantial improvement in the security situation for us, to see a dramatic change for the better; we are no longer concerned about what may take place in the future in connection with the uninterrupted activities involving the buildup of military exercises, creation of infrastructure, redeployment of forces, reconnaissance flights, development of territories, and so on, practically in the entire Western sector, particularly in the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea in recent time.

The situation here could be stabilised through documents of this kind and their conclusion. It could be made better. Without them, however, the situation will remain extremely difficult and tense. No one should underestimate Moscow’s resolve to defend its national security interests. No one should treat lightly our statements regarding the dangerous nature of current developments.

Question: Is this about mutual guarantees? Are we also ready to give them these guarantees?

Sergey Ryabkov: Are you suggesting we draft them for NATO? I am not sure at all that they need them. In terms of its approach to security, NATO has long settled on declaring the indivisibility of security for its own members. NATO officials have been saying for quite a while now that they are doing what is necessary to protect themselves against external challenges and threats – real or imagined. That said, they claim they are dealing with their security themselves.

We also plan our security ourselves. But the problem and the difference is that we are suggesting coming to terms on this issue. We would certainly not draft NATO’s position, trying to guess what its members would like to receive in return for meeting us halfway. That’s funny. We will not do this, it would be methodologically wrong. So far, the other side is not even indicating a willingness to start talks. We will have to wait and see. If they come up with a real position, it would lead to a real negotiating process that, I hope will start soon and take place behind closed doors.

Question: What about guarantees of non-aggression against Ukraine or other actions regarding this country?

Sergey Ryabkov: They want us to take actions in our own territory. Naturally, we are rejecting this demand in both its essence and form. This demand is unacceptable and inappropriate. They are not asking for additional security guarantees in this context. We provided guarantees when the Budapest memorandum was signed in 1994.

I would like to emphasise that, with complicity from their Western patrons, our Ukrainian colleagues are turning this memorandum upside down. The Budapest Memorandum guarantees the security of Ukraine as a non-nuclear state in the context of the NPT. Guarantees have been ensured and provided from this viewpoint. However, the Budapest Memorandum document does not mention a word about government coups in Ukraine or subsequent actions. To be clear, we must note that this memorandum does not say anything about the possibility that part of the Ukrainian population living in Ukraine at that time decides whether they should continue living there or return to the Russian Federation.

The Budapest Memorandum is not about that. It sets out security guarantees for Ukraine as a non-nuclear state, and nothing more. The Foreign Ministry has said this many times, and this situation provides us yet another opportunity to emphasise this point.

Question: But if we consider a worst case scenario, which apparently is still on the table, if the Americans refuse to provide security guarantees, that would give us a free hand, among other things, regarding President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko’s proposal on deploying our nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus. Is this so?

Sergey Ryabkov: We take all our obligations very seriously, under all the treaties to which Russia is a party. We have obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. However, please note that for many years we have been raising the issue with NATO members that the practice of deploying US nuclear weapons on the territory of NATO member states that the NPT deems as non-nuclear – not just deploying, but also holding training sessions involving those countries’ crews and equipment on how to use nuclear weapons – that that practice, in our opinion, grossly contravenes the treaty. They tell us no, it does not run counter to the treaty. They tell us, years ago, back when the NPT was under discussion, the Soviet delegation agreed with the Western interpretation. Well, they did not. We have searched the archives, and our approach was there. Back then, we – Moscow, the Soviet Union – expressed our approach, and it was reflected in the records of the talks. Still, for the sake of signing the Treaty, the matter was just left as it was, each with their own opinion. Well, here we are now – just like 50 years ago, each sticking to their position. I am not drawing any parallels with Belarus, just reminding you of the various attitudes to the other side’s claims in such matters.

Question: You mentioned the Cuban Missile Crisis. That involved nuclear weapons as well, didn’t it?

Sergey Ryabkov: The Cuban Missile Crisis was the most difficult moment in the entire history of the Cold War, when the world was really teetering on the brink of a nuclear conflict. With so much done since that time with regard to arms control and not only that, with the progress made in comprehending the concepts and doctrines of the use of nuclear weapons, it is simply impossible to discard this experience and rewind back to 1962.

But we are concerned about the ease with which our NATO opponents treat matters like deploying nuclear weapons, using nuclear weapons in different situations, where things become increasingly uncertain and blurred, where the threshold is lower, including due to capacity – that is, thinking logically, what they are doing makes it easier to go about using nuclear weapons, including on the battlefield. This is noticeable, and it raises our concerns, not just objections. We urge them to choose a different path. For example, one that we tried with the Biden administration, issuing a joint statement on the unacceptability of a nuclear war.

But there are escalation risks; there is the risk of an incident, which cannot be ignored. These risks cannot be taken lightly, they need to be addressed, and we call for this, too. Instead, we have to read a lot of moralising statements by our opponents. These lectures cannot change our position, I would say; if anything, they are strengthening it. On the other hand, they reveal the other side’s unwillingness, primarily that of the United States, to address real security threats in a serious manner.

Question: Reportedly, the United States is trying to persuade the EU to synchronise tough financial and economic measures against Russia. Do we have the tools to respond to these measures, and will the sanctions affect our position during the talks on security guarantees?

Sergey Ryabkov: We run into this all the time. Clearly, we are used to it and have adapted to it. I don’t want to make fun of what’s happening, because these are all not very good developments. The Western community’s programmed and differently formatted policy actions on Russia simply strike the eye. One gets the impression that the people who participate in these discussions are overwhelmed by the idea of ​​collective responsibility for what is going on. That is, no one can or is willing to offer an alternative, and things are unfolding arbitrarily. We have to reckon with this and, in all appearance, this will continue into the future, because those who hope for a possibility for Russia to review the demands that the West puts forward as a condition for taking steps on the sanctions track are naive. I am not even saying there is almost no such thing as lifting the sanctions that were imposed earlier. But that’s okay; this is a separate major topic, which is also revealing. But I am on to something else here. Routine statements coming from the West about its willingness to develop constructive relations with Russia and maintain a constructive dialogue with us if Russia does what the West insists on are worthless. This is expressed in different ways; in the most terse and concise form it is expressed like it’s up to Russia, while we, the West, stand ready; it’s Russia’s choice.

Yes, all right, we re-read it, which made our eyes even sorer, and that’s all there is to it. That is all we got from it.

Question: Still, will the sanctions affect the talks on security guarantees?

Sergey Ryabkov: We suggest reaching an agreement on the aspects of the situation in the sphere of tough security that are currently causing the greatest concern. But this is all a product of NATO’s constant and steady eastward expansion, which has recently been accompanied and supplemented by the military and the military-technical development of the neighbouring countries that are not formal NATO members. In addition, this goes hand-in-hand with intensified and openly provocative actions designed to see our reaction, whether it will be tough, or whether we will be willing to adjust our approach to a certain extent. That is, if I did not engage in diplomacy, I would refer to it as teetering on the brink of war. I would not want to touch on this in my assessments and reasoning. We do not want this, and we do not need a conflict. We want to reach an agreement on a sound basis. We want to move these multi-pronged activities which are, to a large extent if not entirely, anti-Russia, harmful and pre-planned, where all the roles have been assigned, to move them away from ourselves in order to get certain guarantees for normal coexistence in this space and in this area.

So, sanctions or other tracks in our activities do not fit into this logic in any way. This is an independent, separate group of questions that we have created in a form that is fairly direct and clear for our opponents, thus showing, among other things, that this is no joking matter, but, instead, needs to be dealt with right now, starting tomorrow.

Question: What about the “sanctions from hell” which the Western countries are threatening to impose against us? Aren’t they a threat to our security?

Sergey Ryabkov: I would like to share one observation with you in this connection. Not long ago – a year or two ago, it seemed to us that some issues like the one you mentioned now were discussed in the West if not with some trepidation but at least with the understanding that they concern fundamental, serious things. Now the Bucharest Nine comes into play. This is the most anti-Russia wing in NATO and the EU, with which the White House conducted special consultations, apparently explaining its own interpretations of our proposals – I don’t know, this is just my supposition. Now the situation has changed. They are imposing on others its internal NATO and internal EU narrative that Dostoyevsky, whose 200th birthday we just observed, would have described as “anything goes,” absolutely anything. These people are simply removing the limits of what is possible and acceptable in discussing various issues. But they ignore the fact that following the same logic as NATO, we will take care of our security ourselves and will sooner or later start pushing the limits of what is acceptable for us. We have already expressed our opinion in a slightly different way and will continue speaking out. So, this is a serious issue.

Question: But if, say, they reject our proposal, will that untie our hands?

Sergey Ryabkov: We will use the appropriate methods and approaches we need to ensure our security. We do not want a conflict and we would like to come to terms on a reasonable foundation. Any diplomatic action, any initiative or any proposal is a test of negotiability for those who are being addressed. Before we come to any conclusion on what to do next we must make certain the answer is negative. It could be a flat “no,” or emotional to some extent, or neutral. It could be anything. I do not want to anticipate it but I hope the answer will be at least relatively constructive so we can start our dialogue and talks. It is unclear what will happen, but let’s wait and see. Later there will be many options in different areas. However, talking about them now is counterproductive because we are trying to focus on our own proposals.

Question: So, there will be separate talks on security guarantees, not as part of the dialogue on strategic stability?

Sergey Ryabkov: We suggest a separate negotiating track on security guarantees – bilaterally with the US – that would include interdepartmental delegations.

As for a strategic stability dialogue, two rounds are over and we are preparing for a third one. We are working on our position, hoping the other side will specify potential decisions. That said, it is clear we will have to talk and discuss security guarantees, all the more so since one of the two working groups is called “potential and actions that could have a strategic effect.” NATO’s actions are having a strategic effect and it’s negative for us. Something needs to be done in this respect. They should stop or we need to stop them. I hope we will discuss this through a separate channel but we will also work on this in the format of strategic stability dialogue. I mean with the United States, I don’t mean NATO.

Question: Do the Americans continue to insist on China’s involvement in our dialogue on strategic stability or do they want to discuss these issues via a separate US-China channel?

Sergey Ryabkov: I have read reports that influential experts, including retirees and analysts, have published several articles on the Chinese factor, and this certainly creates a certain background and context. However, this question did not come up during our meetings, discussions or in conversations with the Americans this year after the June meeting between the presidents. As I see it, the United States has certain channels for discussing arms control with Beijing, and there is a five-sided format as well – the nuclear Five that holds useful meetings. This work is intensive now, on the eve of the NPT review conference. I hope there will be results that we can announce at the conference or in that context. China is very active there. In other words, there is no lack of venues. As for our dialogue on strategic stability with the US, the China factor only appears at US initiative. However, our position remains the same: we respect China’s position and consider it its sovereign choice, as is the case with Britain and France. We are very interested in their participation in this process. A sovereign choice is based on the national interests of these states and these interests may coincide with different arms control formats. We will not coerce anyone to do anything. We urge Britain and France to show a responsible attitude towards the situation. Just as with NATO, we cannot ignore the opportunities that the US allies have in different areas, and we will deal with this, too.

Question: Should we expect consultations on visa issues be held before the year is out?

Sergey Ryabkov: We do not have any consultations scheduled for what remains of this year. These matters continue to be discussed by the embassies. I want to confirm what has been said on several occasions, our Ambassador Anatoly Antonov mentioned this, and we mentioned this here as well: there is some progress on matters of secondary importance. Some categories of travelers, such as guests of embassy employees, can obtain visas more easily. Making travel arrangements for the specialists who are temporarily posted for various assignments, including building maintenance, has somewhat improved. Even though the room for improvement is vast and a good deal of work remains to be done, we managed to fix certain things of secondary importance, but there are no signs of us getting any closer on issues that matter most.

If the Americans don’t stop and continue to demand that our employees leave the country before January 30, we will respond in kind, and later the same number of their diplomatic mission employees will have to leave our country as well. The most severe personnel shortages, both here and there, will ensue. I’m not sure why the United States would want this. From time immemorial, embassies and consulates have worked to maintain normal bilateral relations and to facilitate dialogue. Unfortunately, visas have become a problem in our relations.

We never relent in urging the Americans to try to get this off the ground, but so far to no avail. It is not very clear how to interpret their approach, and why it is so uncompromising and does not take into account obvious needs, including those of the United States. Do they really think that we will be willing to unilaterally meet them halfway when our people are not able to rotate or simply travel to the United States, and have to apply for visas in third countries, while Washington gets what it needs? This runs counter to the logic behind diplomatic relations, not to mention the state of relations between Moscow and Washington. They cannot count on anything like this. This is one aspect of the matter.

The other aspect is that sometimes it appears that our colleagues have at some point underestimated our resolve to respond asymmetrically to their endless anti-Russia moves. When, in April, Russia was on the receiving end, again, of a whole series of completely groundless illegal sanctions, it was, in my opinion, a balanced and reasonable decision to respond by introducing a ban on hiring local personnel. Since then, they have been tying their destructive moves, such as failure to make available the required number of consular officers, which lead to non-issuance of visas or other enormous difficulties, and much more, to this decision. And they have also ratcheted up the pressure on our embassy.

But we do not even propose figuring out who started it and who is responsible for what, even though the situation here is absolutely indisputable, when back under the Obama administration we waited for many months, without responding even to the initial expulsion of a large number of our employees. But now, right now, let’s not waste the time figuring out who did what, why and when. We just need to put the most problematic demands on hold and say: while this is not happening, let’s try to use the time to find solutions. Had this happened, I don’t think any Foreign Ministry employees who engage in relations with the United States would be here, because I would have been sitting in Geneva for the security guarantee talks, while my colleagues would have left, the next day, for Helsinki or Vienna in order to work on removing these visa irritants. Our wives would have forgiven us even if we hadn’t been able to make it back in time for the New Year.

Question: That is, there will be no consultations on visas before the year is out?

Sergey Ryabkov: No.

Question: We are saying that we are demanding or will demand that the United States compensate us for seizing our diplomatic property and denying us access there. Is a legal claim for compensation already being drafted? Has it been presented to the Americans? And if so, what is the approximate amount of damages?

Sergey Ryabkov: The issue of diplomatic property is not being addressed. No progress has been made due to the US stance. We put a very fine point on this with the Americans at all levels, to reiterate, literally at all levels, including the highest level with no effect, at least, not the effect that we need. At this point, we would like to especially emphasise the need for our maintenance teams to at least tour the grounds in order to inspect the premises, to take stock and assess damage and see what is still there and what is gone. We are in the dark about this, we are not allowed there. And then we will see what we can do with regard to the steps that you mentioned.

Question: Towards the end of Donald Trump’s presidency, we were saying that our relations had hit the bottom. Now, almost a year after Joe Biden has been in office, have we pushed off the bottom? Second, you told us in your interview last year that you were not expecting anything good in our relations with America, and that we should move to a two-track approach in our relations with the United States consisting of total deterrence, including military deterrence, and selective dialogue. Are we carrying out this policy now?

Sergey Ryabkov: With regard to whether we have reached the bottom, I think that thankfully we didn’t break through the bottom and, in some respects, we are still moving forward and everything is not hopeless. However, in some areas the potential for deterioration is clear. We must deal with it before things collapse even more.  Our proposals regarding security guarantees are a signal that there are many reasons for alarm in the western direction in general, from the point of view of military-political aspects of security. This needs to be addressed. Another area where we do not see much reason for being particularly optimistic are things related to bilateral irritants, such as visas, etc. The path forward here is obvious, though. There’s not even need for any talks. All you need to do is just make a political decision and have people get together and write down on paper a sequence of steps on either side which shouldn’t take more than several days. It is a very simple thing to do. The reluctance on the American side to do this clearly shows their lack of political will to improve relations. So, we have made some progress on some tracks and we will keep moving down that positive path, as best we can, being mindful of the risks.

I believe that the two-track approach is the only possible way to deal with the Americans at this point. But this is my subjective opinion. Our policy does not reproduce in the least what, for many decades, has been practiced and, moreover, officially declared by the West with regard to Moscow as the capital of the Soviet Union and then the capital of the Russian Federation.

The two-track approach was first stated in the report by Pierre Harmel, former Prime Minister and former Foreign Minister of Belgium, in the 1967 NATO report. And they have been sticking to it since then. You can call something by different names, but that doesn’t change what it is. Is the Higgs boson a particle or a field? Both.

I am not getting caught up in my own words about the two-track approach. I know one thing. We need to achieve, what the Biden administration’s top officials famously refer to as “stable and predictable relationship” with Moscow. What we need is a stable and predictable relationship with Washington. We can get there by demonstrating our serious approaches and intentions in a variety of areas, while remaining open to dialogue.  The other side often has a problem, and it appears that it will arise again following our proposals, which is that they are good at showing firmness bordering on rudeness, but they are rather unprepared for dialogue. So, just like the communicating vessels, we will also be balancing. You can call it a two-track approach or whatever you like. Our foreign policy is presidential policy, and we carry out the decisions that are made by the leader of our state.

Ukraine in the Great Game

21 Dec 2021

Alexander Dugin

Source: Al Mayadeen

Throughout history, Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia were intertwined with a set of solid cultural, political, and economic links, to the point that the division did not appear more than mere administrative under Soviet jurisdiction. But it all changed after the collapse of the Union.

Escalation between the West and Russia

Today, under Joe Biden’s neoconservative and ultra-globalist administration, relations between Russia and the United States are so strained that humanity is on the verge not of a Cold War (which has long been ongoing), but of a nuclear war, World War III. The main stumbling block is Ukraine. To foreign observers, the conflict between the two kindred Eastern Slavic Orthodox peoples, who have a common ancestry from Kievan Rus’, is something strange and incomprehensible. It suggests itself that a third force has a hand in this conflict – that is, the same Americans, who have tried to set the two brotherly peoples against each other, and by supporting one of the sides – Ukraine – to strike a blow to Russia, which is returning to history thanks to the patriotic reforms of President Putin.

There are several factors in the relationship between Russia and Ukraine that are not entirely obvious to the outside observer.

Ukraine never existed

The first misconception is to present the conflict as a confrontation between two states. The Western press and politicians present everything as if Ukraine is a separate country with its own long history, which Bolsheviks forcibly annexed to the USSR in the 1920s, and when the communist regime collapsed, Ukraine immediately regained its independence. This has nothing to do with reality at all.

Kievan Rus’ and fragmentation: the origins of the three branches of the Eastern Slavs

The Russian state emerged in the ninth century in the north of Russia – in Novgorod, but in a short time, its capital was transferred to Kiev. Hence the name Kievan Rus. Its population consisted mainly of eastern Slavs with a significant percentage of the Finno-Ugric population in the north and northeast and Turkic in the south and southeast.

Quite soon the uniform state was divided into some almost independent areas – Princedoms. 

In the west main the principalities were Galicia and Volhyn’. 

In the east Vladimir (later Moscow) began to gain power. 

In the northwest, the Principality of Polotsk came under Lithuanian influence and became the basis of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

Russian East and Russian West

Between the east and west of Russia in the Middle Ages, there was a tense opposition for a grand-ducal throne, which Vladimir’s princes finally managed to seize. Under Andrei Bogolyubsky (XII) the capital of all Rus’ was moved to Vladimir, and later the capital of the great princes became the residence of Moscow, located in the east of Rus’. Kiev was abandoned and almost forgotten living only in legend.

That’s when in the epoch of fragmentation in XII century the united people of Kievan Rus’ – east Slavs – split up into three branches – southwest, northwest and east. Later they were called, respectively, Malorossy (Little Russians or Ukrainians), Byelorussy (White Russians ) and Velikorossy(Great Russians, the east of Russia was called Velikorossia, Great Russia).

Their fates were different. During  Mongol invasion, Velikorossy and Malorossy have entered under authority of Mongolian khans, but Velikorossy under the direction of the great Princes recognized by Horde, have conserved full scale Orthodox Christianity (with Metropolitan at the head of Church) and certain degree of sovereignty. The Little Russians (Malorossy), on the other hand, found themselves divided between Lithuania, Poland and Austro-Hungaria, and their religious identity was strongly influenced by Western Catholicism. The Belorussy (White Russians), on the other hand, became part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which was relatively independent from the Golden Horde.

Rise of Velikorossia (Great Russia)

As the centuries passed and after the fall of the Golden Horde, Moscow began to turn into a powerful regional power. Lithuania was united with Poland and came under the authority of the Catholics. And the Little Russians (aka Ukrainians) found themselves in the position of subordinate classes, partly under the Poles, partly as part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The southern regions of the former Kievan Rus’ first came under the rule of the Crimean Tatars, and then have annexed together with Crimea by the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire. Hence the name Ukraine, i.e., Okraina, what means “a peripheral territory” without any independence and divided between different states. At the same time the nucleus of Little Russians (Ukrainians) preserved Orthodoxy and the old East Slavic traditions.

As Moscow’s power grew, the Velikorossy (Great Russians) began to force the Poles and the Turks, seizing their possessions in the former Kievan Rus’ space and adding them to their growing Empire. First of all the lands of Novorossia (New Russia) from Kharkov to Odessa and finally Crimea were conquered from the Ottoman Empire. These territories were populated either by natives of Great Russia or by Moscow-friendly Cossacks, both of Little Russia (Ukraine) and those that had spread to the south of the Russian Empire itself. Novorossia (New Russia) became an integral part of the Russian Empire. Later, other regions of Ukraine, this time populated primarily by the Ukrainians themselves and the Malorussian Cossacks, were also recaptured from the Poles. The same happened in the northwest with Belorussia. These lands also became part of the Russian Tsarist Empire. 

Breakup of the Empire

The breakup of the Russian Empire in 1917-1921 led to various nations declaring independence from Moscow. But the Bolsheviks gradually returned most of the territories – except Poland, Finland, and the three Baltic republics – to Moscow’s power (Baltic states were reintegrated later by Stalin after WWII) . Ukraine and Belorussia  in a completely arbitrary and purely administrative boundaries became an integral part of the USSR. The USSR was created from above as a unitary state with a communist ideology. Prior to the Soviet Union, neither Ukraine nor Belorussia existed as separate States, unless you consider the medieval principality of Galicia-Volhynia and Polotsk.

Collapse of the Soviet Union

When the USSR collapsed in 1991, the ex Soviet Union Republics, and in fact all the same administrative provinces of the Russian Empire, called “republics” in the Soviet period, declared their independence from Moscow under the influence of corrupt elites and with the direct support of the capitalist West. Since the same kind of pro-Western reformers were in charge in Moscow starting with Yeltsin and in the 90’s, they easily recognized the new entities within the very – completely artificial – borders they had in the USSR. In the USSR, the borders themselves had no meaning and were drawn only for the convenience of administrative management (as districts of one and the same city). 

So in place of the single State of the USSR, which emerged in place of another single State of the Russian Empire, that gathered all these lands and peoples together, there were 17 new – almost never existed – at least in such borders, and most of them did not exist at all – “States” (failed from the very birth). Some of them remained loyal to Moscow. Another fell under the influence of the West, and took a harshly anti-Russian line. Alas, Ukraine belongs to this second category.

Two Ukrainians (or more)

The territory of the new political entity “Ukraine,” which emerged in 1991, consists of completely heterogeneous territories and peoples. 

Eastern Ukraine (from Odessa to Kharkov through the Donbass) or Novorossia is populated by virtually the same people as the southeast of modern Russia. These lands, as we have seen, were taken from the Turks by the Russian Empire (much of it under Catherine the Great) and repopulated by Russians (Great Russians, Velikorossy). The same applies to the Crimea.

The western regions of Ukraine — right-bank Ukraine, if you look at the map along the Dnieper River — had been under Catholic Polish and Austro-Hungarian rule for many centuries and had no statehood at all. Being Orthodox and predominantly peasants, they were considered by the Catholic nobility as inferior people. However, not all of them were happy to meet Great Russians as liberators. Part of Little Russians (Ukrainians) tried to assert their identity, of course, different from the culture of the Moscow Tsardom and the Great Russian Empire. It was from such dissenters that Ukrainian nationalism and even the Ukrainian language itself began to be formed under strong influence of Poles and the West in general – an artificial construct based on various dialects of South-Eastern dialects, imitating the structure of the Polish language. The first signs of such artificially constructed nationalism praising purely imaginary “Ukrainian identity” can be seen in the early twentieth century under the Russian Empire. During the Second World War, many Ukrainian nationalists (Bandera, Shukhevich, etc.) joined Hitler. They had particularly brutal massacres of Communists, Jews, Poles, and Great Russians to their credit. This part is known collectively as the zapadentsy (from “Zapad” – “West” in Russian and in Ukranian).

In the far West of Ukraine live the Ruthenians, another branch of the Eastern Slavs with a very different identity from the zapadentsy.

Nezalezhnost’ (independence) as a concept of the zapadentsy

The independence of Ukraine was the slogan of the zapadentsy, while the inhabitants of the East saw nothing wrong in maintaining close contact with Russia, as they represented the same people with Russians in general. By the way, the Russian (Velikorossky) language is spoken by the vast majority of Ukrainians. The artificial Ukrainian language was known to only a few people and was used in everyday speech by a few. Nevertheless, this zapadentsy’s line prevailed in Ukraine in the 1990s, and they occupied key positions in politics, economics, culture, and information. The West actively supported such zapadentsy’s nationalism, despite its Nazi history and racist ideology. U.S. and NATO strategists decided pragmatically to use these forces in Ukraine to tear the entire country away from Russia and put it under full Western control in the future.

Ukrainian East vs. Ukrainian West

Throughout the new Ukraine, two tendencies, the western and the eastern, have been battling each other. It can be seen in the electoral maps – the pro-Moscow east voted for some candidates and the pro-Western, Russophobic West always for alternatives. The presidents succeeded each other, and their course represented a swing between Moscow and Washington. Kravchuk was a moderate Westerner. Kuchma took a multi-vector stance. Yushchenko leaned unequivocally toward the West. Yanukovich – inconsistently and hesitantly – sought support from Moscow. But all the while, Western trends continued to grow in politics and culture, to the point of calling for the genocide of the population of Crimea and the Ukrainian East in general, which, according to the nationalists, was loyal to Moscow.

The Maidan, actively supported by the U.S. – the same Biden, Victoria Nuland, and the neocons – brought the most radical zapadentsy to power in the coup d’état that toppled Yanukovich. Half of Ukraine was under a real threat of mass terror. The junta that came to power declared its NATO orientation and demanded the withdrawal of Russian ships from Sevastopol.

Putin comes into play

It was at this point that Moscow – no longer the same as it was under Yeltsin, but a new sovereign and clearly aware of its geopolitical interests – Putin’s Moscow decided to intervene. The population of Crimea, which happened to be part of Ukraine by accident, immediately declared its unification with Russia. The regions of Donbass – Donetsk and Lugansk – made the same decision. Odessa, Kharkiv and Mykolaiv would have done the same, – perhaps Poltava and Sumy, – but the zapadentsy in Kiev turned to mass repressions (the murder of civilians in Odessa in the House of Trade Unions on May 2, 2014, etc.). 

After several attempts to reclaim the Donbass, Kiev abandoned this strategy and began to prepare for a closer alliance with the West and NATO. At this point, Putin made a mistake: he recognized Ukraine’s new government in the hope of establishing peace with Kiev. 

Minsk deadlock

This is the situation that we have at the moment. The Norman format and the Minsk agreements, in fact, are aimed only at de-escalation, but in the long term and even in the medium term do not solve anything. 

There can only be one solution to this situation: the division of Ukraine into two parts, with recognition of the political sovereignty of both halves – Western Right-Bank Ukraine and Novorossiya, with a special status for Kyiv. Sooner or later this will happen. As sooner or later mainland China and Taiwan will be united within one state.

The U.S. is escalating

Since in the White House with the arrival of Biden, there was a group of extreme globalists, Atlanticists, neocons, and supporters of saving a unipolar world at any price, in fact, the same ones who provoked the Maidan in 2013-2014, a new round of escalation began. Russia is accused of preparing for an invasion of Ukraine, under this pretext in reality is going to accelerate the integration of Ukraine into NATO. Moscow has not the slightest intention of solving the situation by military means, but U.S. provocations leave Moscow no choice, as Putin, Lavrov, and other top Russian officials have repeatedly stated recently. Putin has declared Ukraine’s integration into NATO – along with the half of the population that generally considers itself one people with the Russians – a crossing of a “red line.” If the West fails to heed this warning, a military conflict cannot be ruled out.

It is necessary only to understand that it is not about an attack of one country on another, but about the processes of the big geopolitics. When Moscow was weak and ruled either by idiots or direct agents of Western influence, Russia has lost Ukraine, which fell into the hands of extremist nationalist politicians immediately picked up by the West. When Putin began to restore Russia’s sovereignty and power as a great power, Ukrainian issues came to the fore. Zbigniew Brzezinski was convinced that without Ukraine, Russia could not become the sovereign pole of a multipolar world. He would have been right. Russia today has set a firm course for becoming such a pole. 

The attentive reader can draw the rest of the conclusions himself.

The opinions mentioned in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Al mayadeen, but rather express the opinion of its writer exclusively.

What Putin really told Biden

December 08, 2021

By Pepe Escobar, posted with permission and first posted at Asia Times.

So Russian President Vladimir Putin, all by himself, and US President Joe Biden, surrounded by aides, finally had their secret video link conference for two hours and two minutes – with translators placed in different rooms.

That was their first serious exchange since they met in person in Geneva last June – the first Russia-US summit since 2018.

For global public opinion, led to believe a “war” in Ukraine was all but imminent, what’s left is essentially a torrent of spin.

So let’s start with a simple exercise focusing on the key issue of the video link – Ukraine -, contrasting the White House and Kremlin versions of what happened.

The White House: Biden made it “clear” to Putin that the US and allies will respond with “decisive economic and other measures” to the military escalation in Ukraine. At the same time, Biden called on Putin to de-escalate around Ukraine and “return to diplomacy”.

Kremlin: Putin offered Biden to nullify all restrictions on the functioning of diplomatic missions. He remarked that cooperation between Russia and the US is still in an “unsatisfactory” state.

He urged the US not to shift “responsibility on the shoulders of Russia” for the escalation of the situation around Ukraine.

The White House: the US will expand military aid to Ukraine if Russia takes steps against it.

Kremlin: Putin told Biden that Russia is interested in obtaining legally fixed guarantees excluding NATO’s eastward expansion and the deployment of offensive strike systems in Russia’s neighboring countries.

The White House: Biden did not give Putin any commitments that Ukraine will remain outside NATO.

Minsk or bust

Now for what really matters: the red line.

What Putin diplomatically told Team Biden, sitting at their table, is that Russia’s red line – no Ukraine on NATO – is unmovable. The same applies to Ukraine turned into a hub of the Pentagon’s Empire of Bases, and hosting NATO weaponry.

Washington may deny it ad infinitum, but Ukraine is part of Russia’s sphere of influence. If nothing is done to force Kiev to abide by the Minsk Agreement, Russia will “neutralize” the threat in its own terms.

The root cause of all this drama, absent from any NATOstan narrative, is straightforward: Kiev simply refuses to respect the February 2015 Minsk Agreement.

According to the deal, Kiev should grant autonomy to Donbass via a constitutional amendment, referred to as “special status”; issue a general amnesty; and start a dialogue with the people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk.

Over the years, Kiev fulfilled less than zero of these commitments – while the NATOstan media machine kept spinning that Russia was violating Minsk. Russia is not even mentioned (italics mine) in the agreement.

Moscow always respected the Minsk Agreement – which establishes Donbass as an integral, autonomous part of Ukraine. Russia has made it very clear, over and over again, it has no interest whatsoever in promoting regime change in Kiev.

Before the video link, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov remarked, “Putin will listen to Biden’s proposals on Ukraine ‘with great interest.’” Even the White House states Team Biden did not propose for Kiev to obey the Minsk Agreement. So regardless of what Team Biden may have said, Putin, pragmatically, will adopt a “wait and see” approach, and then act accordingly.

In the run up to the video link, maximum hype revolved around Washington seeking to stop Nord Stream 2 if Russia “invades” Ukraine.

What never transpires out of the “invasion” narrative, repeated ad nauseam across NATOstan, is that hawks overseeing an immensely polarized US, corroded from the inside, desperately need a war in what military analyst Andrei Martyanov calls “country 404”, a black hole contiguous to Europe.

The crux of the matter is that imperial European vassals must not have access to Russian energy: only American LNG.

And that’s what led the most extreme Russophobes in Washington to start threatening sanctions on Putin’s inner circle, Russian energy producers, and even disconnecting Russia from SWIFT. All that was supposed to prevent Russia from “invading” Country 404.

Secretary of State Tony Blinken – present at the video link – said a few days ago in Riga that “if Russia invades Ukraine”, NATO will respond “with a range of high impact economic measures.” As for NATO, it’s far from aggressive: just a “defensive” organization.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, in early December, at the OCSE Ministerial Council meeting in Stockholm, was already warning that “strategic stability” in Europe was “rapidly eroding”.

Lavrov said, “NATO refuses to consider our proposals on de-escalation of tensions and prevention of dangerous incidents…On the contrary, the alliance’s military infrastructure is moving closer to Russia’s borders… The nightmarish scenario of military confrontation is returning.”

So no wonder the heart of the matter, for Moscow, is NATO encroachment. The “invasion” narrative is crass fake news sold as fact. Even the CIA’s William Burns admitted that US intel had no intel to “conclude” that Russia will dutifully answer the War Inc. prayers and finally “invade” Ukraine.

Still that did not prevent a German sensationalist rag from presenting the full contours of the Russian blitzkrieg, when the actual story is the US and NATO attempting to push “country 404” to commit suicide by attacking the people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk.

That legally binding guarantee

It’s idle to expect the video link to produce practical results. As NATOstan remains mired in concentric crises, the current level of high tension between NATO and Russia is a gift from heaven in terms of maintaining the convenient narrative of an external Slavic evil. It’s also an extra bonus for the military-industrial-intelligence-media-think tank complex.

The tension will continue to simmer without becoming incandescent only if NATO does not expand in any shape or form inside Ukraine. Diplomats in Brussels routinely comment that Kiev will never be accepted as a NATO member. But if things can get worse, they will: Kiev will become one of those NATO special partners, a desperately poor, hungry for territory, rogue actor.

Putin demanding from the US – which runs NATO – a written, legally binding guarantee that the alliance will not advance further eastward towards Russian borders is the game-changer here.

Team Biden cannot possibly deliver: they would be eaten alive by the War Inc. establishment. Putin studied his history and knows that Daddy Bush’s “promise” to Gorbachev on NATO expansion was just a lie. He knows those who run NATO will never commit themselves in writing.

So that allows Putin a full range of options to defend Russian national security. “Invasion” is a joke; Ukraine, rotting from the inside, consumed by fear, loathing, and poverty, will remain in limbo, while Donetsk and Lugansk will be progressively interconnected with the Russian Federation.

There will be no NATO war on Russia – as Martyanov himself has extensively demonstrated NATO wouldn’t last five minutes against Russian hypersonic weapons. And Moscow will be focused on what really matters, geoeconomically and geopolitically: solidifying the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) and the Greater Eurasia Partnership.

Related Posts

Did a major shift finally happen between the USA and Russia?

December 07, 2021

The western media is writing with a uniformity and discipline which goosestepping SS on a parade could envy them: Joe Biden delivered a “stern warning” to Putin: don’t invade the Ukraine, or else… (see herehere or here).

Since Russia has no intention, need, or even capability (as currently poised) to “invade” the Ukraine we can be certain that Biden will make his best impersonation “sheriff squinting eyes at OK Corral” (US Presidents like to do that to look “tough” and, therefore, “presidential”) and declare that he single-handedly stopped a Russian invasion on the Ukraine!  He is SO MUCH “tougher” than Trump, right?

Fine.  Whatever.

That is a small price to pay to avoid a full-scale (or even limited) war.

This will be an obvious PR stunt, which won’t even help Biden very much, but in his tough (disastrous, really) situation, anything he can present as even a semi-success is worth saying and doing.  “So – I stopped Putin!” was the best Biden could hope for.

This, however, still solves nothing on substance (yet?).

However, there are clear signs that substantive talks did take place (length of the conversation, experts present, tone following the meeting, etc.)

First, both sides agreed to “further consultations” on the “expert level”.

Furthermore, the US side has declared “we still do not believe that President Putin has made a decision” to “further invade” the Ukraine.  So in spite of all the (hilariously ridiculous) “secret maps” posted by the western media (see here or here), the folks in charge in the Biden White House seem to be singing to a different tune (so far?).

Good!

Then there is this: considering that Putin has officially drawn “red lines” and that Biden has officially declared that he will recognize no red lines – what is it exactly which the mentioned “experts” agreed to “further consult” each other about?

The answer is quite obvious, I submit: precisely these red lines!

CNN’s version of a macho “if” 🙂

It is now clear that the Biden Administration’s official position about hellfire, brimstone, sanctions from hell, and all the rest of the threats and insults which the US has made will actually be acted upon only IF Russia invades the Ukraine.

IF!

In other words, what if Russia does not invade (which she won’t), then no more sanctions???

We can be sure that the War Party (which I define as follows: the entire US media, the Neocons, the MAGA-GOP gang in Congress, the “non-Biden gang” inside the Democratic Party, the US energy sector, the US MIC, the entire US “deep state”, the Israel lobby, the Ukie lobby, the UK lobby, the Polish lobby, etc.) will present that as a huge, galactic, “concession” and even “betrayal” by Biden who “caved” to Putin The Evil Communist KGB Thug.

[Sidebar: the hysterics of the War Party about Gen Milley or Biden’s decision to leave Afghanistan have proven beyond reasonable doubt that the these folks have now fully adopted the line which the Dems held during the 4 years of the Trump Administration and that they will now at least try to fabricate some “Russia-gate v2” to win the next elections.  There is no honor among thieves and they *all* sure are thieves!]

Here is what the War Party will focus on: what exactly could US and Russia experts even be negotiating about?

Until today, the US officially treated Russia was a “regional power” with her “economy in tatters“, “a gas station masquerading as a country“, a non-entity to whom the Empire had absolutely no need whatsoever to pay attention to, nevermind negotiate with!

And now, negotiations???

Negotiations, by definition, imply first, that both parties approach the negotiations as equals and, second, that both parties are willing to engage in a mutually beneficial give and take.

If not, they are not called negotiations, they are called ultimatums.

And by all signs, Biden presented Putin with no ultimatums whatsoever.

“Worse” (at least from the War Party’s point of view), is the fact that Biden has so far called Putin 3 times, met him once, and requested today’s video conference.  That is for at least five times that the sole hyperpower and world hegemon and leader of all democracies have reached out to “killers” in the Kremlin and asked for talks.  Five times.

Asked (nicely and politely)

For talks (as equals)

Five times (and promised more)

That is huge and absolutely unprecedented since at least twenty years, if not since the fall of the USSR!

Obama, assuming he is currently sober, must be in tears 🙂

It gets even more amazing next.

According to the British, Biden has promised to call the following western leaders to brief them about his negotiations with Putin:

  • The UK
  • France
  • Germany
  • Italy

Did you notice who was not even mentioned?

Well, Poland and the Ukraine for starters!

This goes to show that whatever the official propaganda line is, at least *somebody* in the White House understands that there is a “real Europe”, the Europe that matters, and then there is the “European kindergarten” which matters nothing (I won’t even mention the 3B+PU clowns).

Later, Sullivan tried to do some damage control and declared that Biden would speak with “Ze” on Thursday.  But what could Biden tell “Ze” other than give him tons of verbal reassurances and zero guarantees?

Finally, it is noteworthy that the US side did not promise to accept the Ukraine in NATO (they made the usual oblique statements about “open doors” instead) and the US has even reaffirmed the Minsk Agreements (which, de facto, and possibly even de jure, might create the basis for a disavowal of any Ukie attack on the LDNR).

Again, this is good.  The less power the EU Kindergarten has, the less they are likely to force the agenda and draw the adults in the room into a (possibly nuclear) war.

Good!

There is also bad news, of course: the 3B+PU clowns all understand that perfectly.  For them the choice is stark and, indeed, possibly even existential (via self-destruction only, of course): either war or we become irrelevant in the eyes of the collective West.

So the next two questions are:

  1. What will the 3B+PU do about this next?
  2. What will the US do when the 3B+PU does something about it (with the full support of the War Party in the USA!)?

Frankly, I cannot call this one, there are way too many unknowns to make any predictions.

The fact that substantive negotiations have finally replaced the USA’s “unilateralism” (I am being polite here) is a major development and a good one.  But that, at best, is just a first step.  US politicians are notorious for saying A when negotiating with the Russians and non-A as soon as their media excoriates them for being “weak”.

Alas, what needs undoing or, at least, transforming, is three decades of self-defeating western stupidity!

Will that happen? I don’t know.

Over the next couple of days, we will hear a lot of statements, from all sides, many of them categorical.  I suggest that we wait for a little and then revisit the issue again later in the week.

Andrei

PS: big, very big stuff happening between Russia and India and Russia and China; this is crucial to get the full picture of what is going on right now.  I propose to also revisit that later in the week.

Lavrov gives press conference after OSCE Ministerial Council in Stockholm

December 02, 2021

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov holds a press conference after the 28th OSCE Ministerial Council in Stockholm on Thursday, December 2. The annual OSCE Ministerial Council, chaired by Sweden, takes place on December 2-3. The ministers are expected to discuss security issues in the OSCE area and review the organisation’s activities.

Please forward the video.

The NATOstan Clown Show

November 29, 2021

Flags wave ahead of a NATO Defence Ministers meeting at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, October 21, 2021. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol – RC28EQ9178EG

The charade has come to a point that – diplomatically – is quite unprecedented: Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov lost his Taoist patience.

Source

Independent geopolitical analyst, writer and journalist

By Pepe Escobar,

American hysteria over the “imminent” Russian invasion of Ukraine has exploded every geopolitical Stupid-o-Meter in sight – and that’s quite an accomplishment.

What a mess. Sections of the U.S. Deep State are in open revolt against the combo that remote controls Crash Test Dummy, who impersonates POTUS. The neocon-neoliberal axis is itching for a war – but has no idea how to sell it to an immensely fractured public opinion.

UKUS, which de facto controls the Five Eyes spy scam, excels only in propaganda. So in the end it’s up to the CIA/MI6 intel axis and their vast network of media chihuahuas to accelerate Fear and Loathing ad infinitum.

Russophobic U.S. Think Tankland would very much cherish a Russian “invasion”, out of the blue, and could not give a damn about the inevitable trouncing of Ukraine. The problem is the White House – and the Pentagon – must “intervene”, forcefully; otherwise that will represent a catastrophic loss of “credibility” for the Empire.

So what do these people want? They want to provoke Moscow by all means available to exercise “Russian aggression”, resulting in a lightning fast war that will be a highway to hell for Ukraine, but with zero casualties for NATO and the Pentagon.

Then the Empire of Chaos will blame Russia; unleash a tsunami of fresh sanctions, especially financial; and try to shut off all economic links between Russia and NATOstan.

Reality dictates that none of the above is going to happen.

All exponents of Russian leadership, starting with President Putin, have already made it clear, over and over again, what happens if the Ukro-dementials start a blitzkrieg over Donbass: Ukraine will be mercilessly smashed – and that applies not only to the ethno-fascist gang in Kiev. Ukraine will cease to exist as a state.

Defense Minister Shoigu, for his part, has staged all manner of not exactly soft persuasion, featuring Tu-22M3 bombers or Tu-160 White Swan bombers.

The inestimable Andrei Martyanov has conclusively explained, over and over again, that “NATO doesn’t have forces not only to ‘counter-act’ anything Russia does but even if it wanted to it still has no means to fight a war with Russia.”

Martyanov notes, “there is nothing in the U.S. arsenal now and in the foreseeable future which can intercept Mach=9-10+, let alone M=20-27, targets. That’s the issue. Same analytical method applies to a situation in 404. The only thing U.S. (NATO) can hope for is to somehow provoke Russia into the invasion of this shithole of a country and then get all SIGINT it can once Russia’s C4ISR gets into full combat mode.”

Translation: anything the Empire of Chaos and its NATO subsidiary try in Donbass, directly or indirectly, the humiliation will make the Afghanistan “withdrawal” look like a House of Gucci dinner party.

No one should expect clueless NATO puppets – starting with secretary-general Stoltenberg – to understand the military stakes. After all, these are the same puppets who have been building up a situation which might ultimately leave Moscow with a single, stark choice: be ready to fight a full scale hot war in Europe – which could become nuclear in a flash. And ready they are.

It’s all about Minsk

In a parallel reality, “meddling in 404” – a delightful Martyanov reference to a hellhole that is little more than a computer error – is a totally different story. That perfectly fits American juvenilia ethos.

At least some of the adults in selected rooms are talking. The CIA’s Burns went to Moscow to try to extract some assurance that in the event NATO Special Forces were caught in the cauldrons – Debaltsevo 2015-style – that the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, with Russian help, will concoct, they would be allowed to escape.

His interlocutor, Patrushev, told Burns – diplomatically – to get lost.

Chief of the General Staff, Gen Valery Gerasimov, had a phone call with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen Mark Milley, ostensibly to ensure, in Pentagonese, “risk-reduction and operational de-confliction”. No substantial details were leaked.

It remains to be seen how this “de-confliction” will happen in practice when Defense Minister Shoigu revealed U.S. nuclear-capable bombers have been practicing, in their sorties across Eastern Europe, “their ability to use nuclear weapons against Russia”. Shoigu discussed that in detail with Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe: after all the Americans will certainly pull the same stunt against China.

The root cause of all this drama is stark: Kiev simply refuses to respect the February 2015 Minsk Agreement.

In a nutshell, the deal stipulated that Kiev should grant autonomy to Donbass via a constitutional amendment, referred to as “special status”; issue a general amnesty; and start a dialogue with the people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk.

Over the years, Kiev fulfilled exactly zero commitments – while the proverbial NATOstan media machine incessantly pounded global opinion with fake news, spinning that Russia was violating Minsk. Russia is not even mentioned in the agreement.

Moscow in fact always respected the Minsk Agreement – which translates as regarding Donbass as an integral, autonomous part of Ukraine. Moscow has zero interest in promoting regime change in Kiev.

This charade has come to a point that – diplomatically – is quite unprecedented: Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov lost his Taoist patience.

Lavrov was forced, under the circumstances, to publish 28 pages of correspondence between Moscow on one hand, and Berlin and Paris on the other, evolving around the preparation of a high-level meeting on Ukraine.

Moscow was in fact calling for one of the central points of the agreement to be implemented: a direct dialogue between Kiev and Donbass. Berlin and Paris said this was unacceptable. So yes: both, for all practical purposes, destroyed the Minsk Agreement. Public opinion across NATOstan has no idea whatsoever this actually happened.

Lavrov did not mince his words: “I am sure that you understand the necessity of this unconventional step, because it is a matter of conveying to the world community the truth about who is fulfilling, and how, the obligations under international law that have been agreed at the highest level.”

So it’s no wonder that the leadership in Moscow concluded it’s an absolute waste of time to talk to Berlin and Paris about Ukraine: they lied, cheated – and then blamed Russia. This “decision” at the EU level faithfully mirrors NATO’s campaign of stoking the flames of imminent “Russian aggression” against Ukraine.

Armchair warriors, unite!

Across NATOstan, the trademark stupidity of U.S. Think Tankland rules unabated, congregating countless acolytes spewing out the talking points of choice: “relentless Russian subversion”, “thug” Putin “intimidation” of Ukraine, Russians as “predators”, and everything now coupled with “power-hungry China’s war on Western values.”

Some Brit hack, in a twisted way, actually managed to sum up the overall impotence – and insignificance – by painting Europe as a victim, “a beleaguered democratic island in an anarchic world, which a rising tide of authoritarianism, impunity and international rule-breaking threatens to inundate”.

The answer by NATOstan Defense Ministers is to come up with a Strategic Compass – essentially an anti-Russia-China scam – complete with “rapid deployment forces”. Led by who, General Macron?

As it stands, poor NATOstan is uncontrollably sobbing, accusing those Russian hooligans – scary monsters, to quote David Bowie – of staging an anti-satellite missile test and thus “scorning European safety concerns”.

Something must have got lost in translation. So here’s what happened: Russia conclusively demonstrated it’s capable of obliterating each and every one of NATO’s satellites and blind “all their missiles, planes and ships, not to mention ground forces” in case they decide to materialize their warmongering ideas.

Obviously those deaf, dumb and blind NATOstan armchair warrior clowns – fresh from their Afghan “performance” – won’t get the message. But NATOstan anyway was never accused of being partial to reality.

Who Wants Some Ukraine?

November 25, 2021

by Dmitry Orlov, posted with permission of the author

On Tuesday, 23 November, Russia’s most senior military general, Valery Gerasimov, had a “deconfliction” phone conference with US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, in which the two discussed “pressing issues of international security.

US, Russia army chiefs talk recent skirmish in Syria

” Actual details of what they discussed are not available; what is available is Western media speculation, which in recent days has included false reports of Russian troops massing on the Ukrainian border and supposedly getting ready to invade. What Western media has studiously ignored is an actual massing of Ukrainian troops on the borders of the Donbass region—the industrialized temporarily Ukrainian region that has been de facto independent since the Kiev putsch of 2014.

Following that putsch, and the refusal of the Donbass (along with Crimea) to recognize the new US State Department-installed Ukrainian government, the Ukrainians made attempt to recapture the Donbass by force. This attempt failed, and Kiev managed to avoid all-out defeat by signing the Minsk agreements of February 2015, but has clearly had no intention of ever fulfilling them. Instead, ever since then, Ukrainian forces have been shelling the no man’s land between Ukrainian-held territory (which is mostly open prairie) and Donbass (which is urbanized and thickly settled), killing small numbers of civilians and local militia members and causing considerable property damage. Although Western press has continuously reported on “Russian forces” in the Donbass, they are yet to present any evidence of it. And although Western press likes to describe the Donbass using the hackneyed epithet “war-torn” it is actually more prosperous and stable than the rest of the Ukraine, integrated into the Russian economy and essentially functioning as a Russian region.

Turning down Western media noise, a Russian military effort to capture the Donbass, never mind the rest of the Ukraine, is exceedingly unlikely. Russia already has everything it wants. Unlike Crimea which in its 2014 referendum produced a 97% vote for integration of the region into the Russian Federation with an 83% voter turnout, in a similar referendum in the Donbass (held against Moscow’s wishes) only 27.5% of the 74.87% who turned out voted in favor of joining the Russian Federation. Based on this result, Moscow chose to soft-pedal the Donbass situation, providing humanitarian aid and diplomatic support, granting Russian citizenship to those who want it and gradually integrating the region socially and economically. In other Ukrainian regions, were similar referendums to be held there, the level of support for joining Russia would in all likelihood have been even lower, and now, seven years later, would be lower still. From this, a conclusion can be drawn: other than Crimea (which was part of an independent Ukraine for just 23 years), none of the Ukraine was or is a candidate for inclusion within the Russian Federation. The Russians living there will receive some amount of Russian support and are, of course, welcome to move to Russia, but that is really it.

Having ruled out that which is exceedingly unlikely, let us turn to that which is quite likely; and that is a provocation in the Donbass staged by the authorities in Kiev and by their State Department, Pentagon and CIA handlers, designed to deflect the blame from the truly disastrous economic situation that is unfolding there in the hopes of being able to maintain political control of the situation. In blundering into the Ukraine and converting it into a sort of anti-Russian bulwark, the US gained a brazenly corrupt and unruly dependency. Unable to stop its inexorable slide into failed-statedom and political and social disintegration, the US is faced with the prospect of another Afghanistan-style rout, with desperate left-behinds running after US transport planes hastily taking off from Kiev’s Borispol Airport, after which point even the mental laggards who run the European Union will be forced to admit that American security guarantees are an utter joke and will start getting ready to walk into the Kremlin on their knees to kiss the gem-encrusted felt slipper.

Given this unwelcome scenario, the US is quite eager to control the optics and to make it look like it is all Russia’s fault. Since merely jumping up and down and screaming “The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!” is no longer doing the trick, they are looking for something—anything!—that will make the Russians show up and put up even a tiny bit of a fight so that CNN and MSNBC can broadcast staged photos of a bloodied baby blanket and US Congress can then harrumph-harrumph about “Russian aggression” and impose sanctions on Russian baby blanket manufacturers. That “anything” is called a provocation, and what better place to stage it than the Donbass, which is an existing bleeding sore they’ve been picking away at for seven years now. Of course, they will do this in great trepidation of an escalation they would be unable to control, hence the hasty “deconfliction” conference with General Gerasimov: “Look, we go pew-pew, then you go pew-pew, then we declare hostilities over and toast each other with vodka and caviar; OK?”

Given that a provocation of some sort appears to be very likely, it is worth pondering what it would look like and what the outcome of it might be.

First, here is some background. The Ukraine (which is Russian for “borderland”) has always been less a country than a heterogeneous, endlessly disputed territory, tossed back and forth between Russia, Turkey, Poland, Austria, Germany and even, very briefly, Sweden. It mostly borders Russia (Crimea, Krasnodar, Rostov, Voronezh, Belgorod, Кursk and Bryansk regions). It also borders Belarus (short for “White Russia”) which is a whole lot like Russia. It has smaller borders with Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Moldova and the unrecognized, Russian-defended Transnistria. It also borders Donetsk and Lugansk regions, collectively known as the Donbass, which is short for “Donetsk Coal Basin,” and which was formerly part of the Ukraine but de facto independent for the last 7 years and economically integrated with Russia.

Of these, the Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova were quite recently part of the USSR while the rest were part of the Warsaw Pact allied with the USSR. For most of them, those were the good days; for reasons incomprehensible to rapacious Western imperialists, Russia lavished a great deal of attention and investment on its ethnically heterogeneous periphery, not only building a great deal of social and industrial infrastructure and enterprises there but also staffing it all with relocated Russians. This, most Russians now realize, was a poor choice. This lesson is continuously reinforced by observing just how poorly the former Soviet republics have performed since they gained their independence. The Ukraine is a case in point, losing as much as a third of its population (exact numbers are impossible to ascertain) and steadily degenerating from a prosperous, highly developed region to the poorest one in all of Europe.

The Ukraine aspires to NATO and EU membership, but this prospect appears exceedingly unlikely since it is much more of a liability than an asset: destitute, bankrupt, politically unstable and not in control of its own government or its own territory—a failed state, essentially. Plus, the EU and NATO are themselves perhaps not too long for this world, the EU having recently lost the United Kingdom and NATO having just fabulously failed in Afghanistan, and not really capable of accepting new members. Sensing their own weakness, and projecting onto Russia their own instincts to engulf and devour all that they can, they automatically assume that Russia will exploit this weakness and reconquer the Ukraine and perhaps some other parts of Eastern Europe as well. But this is all it is—a projection, because the contemporary Russian project is something else entirely. Russia does periodically move its troops around its own territory, thereby keeping the West in a constant state of nervous agitation bordering on outright panic, but from the Russian perspective that is just a pleasant side-effect of regularly scheduled training exercises. There was a recent hysterical outburst in Western press over Russian tanks massed on the Belorussian border, for instance. Russia is always “about to invade,” on Tuesdays especially, but somehow never gets around to it.

That is not because Russia lacks the means or the opportunity; but it does entirely lack the motive. Does it need more land? Certainly not! Does it need a restive, alienated population that will then demand to be fed, hospitalized as needed and kept safe and warm all the while resisting assimilation? Not at all! Does it need the reputational losses from unprovoked aggression? Again, no. Quite the opposite, Russia is most eager to draw the line somewhere—a notional Great Wall of Russia, with the stable, economically liberal and socially conservative Orthodox/Moslem/Buddhist Russian World on one side and an alien, increasingly bankrupt, culturally degenerate, sexually deviant and permanently hostile Europe on the other. This will give Russia the peace and stability it needs to continue developing. The problem is that, because of the messy way in which the USSR broke up, many Russians were left stranded on the wrong side of previously insignificant borders, and this Great Wall has to remain porous, allowing Russians to filter back in.

A point can be made that Russia’s romance with Western Europe was always destined to end in tears. Russia’s cooperative, egalitarian instincts have been developed and perfected over many centuries within the Eurasian context of a relatively small population controlling a vast but difficult land with almost infinite but rather diffuse resources. In this context, cooperation rather than competition are keys to survival. These instincts have been wasted on little Eastern European fiefdoms that have spent an eternity squabbling over their tiny plots of land. Their history has conditioned them to only understand and respect subservience and domination, causing them to see Russian largesse as a weakness to be exploited. When the USSR suddenly vanished, they swiftly switched allegiance, forgetting their Russian, learning English and eagerly welcoming American and Western European financial swindlers and thieves to come and pick them clean. And now that they’ve been picked clean and Americans are leaving, they would perhaps be happy for Russia to “reoccupy” them and resume feeding them (if it were not for their wounded pride), but Russia will have none of it.

Within this overall context, each Eastern European country has its own unique fate. Most of them—specifically, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Moldova—are simply too small and inconsequential to matter and have been left to wither away slowly, being of little interest to the West or to Russia. Belarus stands out in that it quickly joined a union state with Russia, but this has not saved it from some fateful dalliances with the West which almost ended in disaster in the summer of 2020 when a foreign-instigated astroturf insurgency threatened to overthrow the elected government and install a Western stooge by the name of Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, nicknamed the cutlet fairy. Since then, Minsk and Moscow turbocharged their integration process, producing the odd situation where the Belorussians feel free to poke their fingers in the eyes of Western leaders while hiding behind Russia’s broad back.

And then there is the Ukraine. It is the second-largest country in Europe by area—second only to Russia—and strategically located to be rather consequential. Ever since its independence, which it was awarded against the wishes of the majority of its population when the USSR was dissolved by a tiny group of conspirators, it has been ruled by a succession of swindlers and thieves who have continuously looted and robbed it until now it is a mere shadow of its former self, broken and destitute. This has made it an easy mark for Western geopolitical engineers who sought to fashion into a sort of anti-Russia, with the idea of preventing Russia from becoming an empire based on some flawed reasoning by the rabidly Russophobic Pole Zbigniew Brzeziński. Grand plans hatched by fools tend to misfire grandly, and this one is no exception. Instead of somehow containing Russia, it gave Russia everything it could ever want:

1. The fantastic level of Ukrainian political dysfunction that resulted from endless Western political meddling reduced the Ukraine from one of Russia’s major regional competitors to а major regional basket case and supplier of qualified Russian-speaking labor. The Ukraine once had strategically important industries that were essential for Russia’s military and civilian production, including large marine diesels, helicopter engines, rocket engines, aircraft building, shipbuilding and much else. All of these industries have now been relocated to Russia, often together with all of the blueprints and the technical expertise, and produce great value for both domestic consumption and export.

2. The 2014 putsch allowed Russia to return Crimea by undoing two mistakes—by Khrushchev, who gave it to the Ukraine in 1954, and by Gorbachev, who failed to get it back in 1991. It also allowed Russia to partially undo an older mistake—by Lenin, who gave the Donbass to the Ukraine in 1920. While the Donbass is strategically not too consequential, the return of Crimea provided numerous benefits. Coupled with the western enclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic and new Russian hypersonic rockets, Crimea has allowed Russia to keep all of NATO’s European territory within its sphere of military dominance, providing an effective treatment for Europe’s congenital defect which causes it to periodically march on Moscow. Western sanctions imposed in response to Russian annexation of Crimea allowed Russia to claw back all of the disadvantages it incurred by joining the World Trade Organization, including bringing back agriculture and key manufacturing sectors, to find new, friendlier trading partners around the world, and to find ways to thrive within conditions of limited autarky. Crimea has also provided a very useful litmus test for political participation: automatically excluding anyone who would claim that Crimea is Ukrainian made it possible to effectively purge the ranks of all internal enemies and foreign agents. There are numerous other benefits as well, too many to mention.

3. The civil war in the Donbass, which is ongoing, gave Russia the opportunity to force through the Minsk agreements, whose implementation is mandated by the UN Security Council Resolution 2202 (2015), and which require the Ukraine to federalize, granting a high level of autonomy to its regions. This, in the Ukrainian context, equates with the end of the Ukrainian unitary state. Beyond that point, the Ukraine becomes a set of disparate, disconnected, foreign-dominated fiefdoms, each with its own pathetic little oligarchy, with Kiev retained as a purely symbolic capital and an ancient Kievan Russia museum and tourist attraction. The government in Kiev has resisted the implementation of the Minsk agreements, realizing full well that this would spell its end, but this is merely a postponement. The civil war also simplified any future anti-Nazi mop-up operation and war crimes tribunal. Whereas before various Ukrainian nationalists and krypto-Nazis might have been difficult to identify, it has forced them to not only stand up and be counted but also to commit crimes for which there is no statue of limitations, making it easy to permanently take them out of circulation when the time comes to clean the place up.

This, then, is the background to the current situation, bringing us to the present, in which the US seems to be cooking up something in a big hurry. First, the US sends the message that Kiev must fulfill the terms of the Minsk agreements. Second, the US claims that Russia is massing troops on the Ukrainian border, getting ready to invade. The Ukrainian military denies this fact. The US repeats their claim and also sends some more weapons to the Ukraine. As the Ukrainian military is still unsure what’s going on, they are summoned and told exactly what to think. And so, there is going to be a provocation. But Russia is certainly not interested in any sort of attack or invasion, so what do you suppose is going to happen? A reasonable battle plan is for the Ukraine to attack first, to preempt the Russian invasion and to take up defensive positions within the Donbass territory. That’s a brilliant plan, if I say so myself!

The most the Ukrainian military can do is launch an attack on the Donbass. Attacking Crimea across the isthmus would be stupid and pathetic; attacking Crimea from the water would be stupid and absolutely hilarious to watch. And so Donbass it has to be, again. It won’t take long for the Russians to respond using unidentified long-range precision artillery and demolish the Ukrainians’ supply lines, trapping them in cauldrons where they will run out of ammunition, food and fuel and gradually bleed out. This is what transpired before, in 2015, leading Kiev to sign on to the Minsk agreements, because their other choice was to lose their entire army. Except now there will not be another set of Minsk agreements, no terms of surrender, no cease fires and no safe corridors for withdrawal. There will just be death. To the Russians, these people are terrorists, and terrorists get to meet God before the rest of us.

And that, perhaps, may be the entire point. The US wants to close out the entire sorry Ukrainian saga, cut its losses, pull an Afghanistan and leave in a hurry, because it has a long list of countries it has to pull out of before the fuel and the money run out, and it badly needs to pick up the pace. Okinawa is on that list; Guam; Puerto Rico; Alaska. California. Texas. The Ukraine has been refusing to even start fulfilling the Minsk agreements, which start with military deescalation along the line of contact. What seems to be the problem? Perhaps, as the US has finally figured out, it has to do with the fact that the Ukraine has a military; if it no longer had any military of any sort at all, there would be nothing to deescalate and the problem would not exist. And so that may be the clever plan for the Ukraine: suicide by Russia. As an added bonus, there will be Russia to blame because, no doubt at all, it will have all been Russia’s fault. Sanctions against Russian baby blanket manufacturers are being drafted as we speak. American TV viewers will watch it, and they will like it. They will think, “Bad Russkies! America strong!”

“But what about the Ukraine?” you might be tempted to ask. Well, the correct answer to that question seems to be, “Nobody cares.” Seriously, looking at recent Ukrainian history, that seems to be the only answer that makes sense. The Americans certainly never cared, the Russians once cared but care less and less with each passing day, and the Ukrainians themselves don’t care either and have been making that point by voting with their feet. The European Union and NATO may care a great deal about having a large failed state in the middle of Europe, and they should, because that is probably just the beginning, but a very good start.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with Rossiya 24, Moscow

November 05, 2021

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with Rossiya 24, Moscow

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with Rossiya 24, Moscow, November 1, 2021

Question: Not so long ago, you said that Russia would not use ideology-based rules in its international diplomatic practices. What examples can you give to explain this to a layman in matters of politics?

Sergey Lavrov: It’s simple. Ideally, any society should obey generally accepted rules that have proved their efficacy and sensibility.  Speaking about international life, the United Nations Charter is a book of collectively and universally coordinated rules. Later, when new members joined the UN, they accepted these rules in their entirety, without any exemptions, because UN membership requires that the Charter be ratified without any reservations. These rules are universal and mandatory for all.

With the age of multipolarity now dawning – and its emergence is an objective fact – new centres of economic growth, financial power and political influence have come into being. The multitude of voices is louder at the UN. A consensus or a vote are required in a situation where new solutions or rules have to be developed based on the UN Charter. In both cases, this work involves conflicting opinions and the need to defend one’s position and prove it is correct. Truth springs from argument and this is what this collective work is all about.

Conscious of the fact that its arguments are increasingly vulnerable because its policy is aimed at slowing down the objective formation of a polycentric world fully in keeping with the UN Charter, the collective West thinks it more beneficial for itself to discuss current issues outside of universal organisations and make arrangements within its inner circle, where there is no one to argue with it. I am referring to the collective West itself and some “docile” countries it invites from time to time. The latter are needed as extras and create a semblance of a process that is wider than a purely Western affair. There are quite a few such examples.

Specifically, they are pushing the idea of a “summit for democracy.” This summit will take place in December at the invitation of US President Joe Biden. To be sure, we will not be invited. Neither are the Chinese on the list of invitees. The list itself is missing as well. Some of our partners are “whispering in our ear” that they have been told to get ready: supposedly an invitation is in the pipeline. Asked, what they would do there, they reply that theirs will be an online address, after which a final statement will be circulated. Can we see it? They promise to show it later. So we have here the “sovereign” and his “vassals.”

The Summit for Democracy seeks to divide people and countries into “democracies” and “non-democracies.”  Furthermore, my colleagues from a respected country have told me that they could infer from the invitation they had received that the democratic countries that were invited to attend were also divided into “fully” and “conditionally” democratic. I think the Americans want to have the biggest possible crowd to show that the Washington-led movement has so many followers. Watching who specifically gets invited and in what capacity will be quite amusing. I am certain that there will be attempts to reach out to some of our strategic partners and allies, but I do hope that they will remain faithful to the obligations they have in other frameworks instead of taking part in artificially concocted, one-off unofficial summits.

The same applies to the initiative Germany and France proposed two or three years ago. I am referring to the idea of an Alliance of Multilateralists. Asked, why should it be formed – after all, the United Nations, where all sovereign states are represented, stands at the pinnacle of multilateralism – they gave rather an interesting answer.   According to them, there are many conservatives at the United Nations, who hinder the genuine multilateral processes, while they are the “forerunners,”   they want to lead the van and show others with their example how to promote multilateralism. But this prompts the question: Where is the “ideal” of multilateralism? Allegedly, it is personified by the European Union, a paragon of “effective multilateralism.” Once again, they understand multilateralism as the need for the rest to accept the Western world’s leadership along with  the superiority of Western “values” and other things western. At the same time, multilateralism, as described on the US dollar  (E pluribus unum) and as embodied in the United Nations, seems  inconvenient, because there is too much diversity for those who want to impose their uniform values everywhere.

Question: Is this a constructive approach?

Sergey Lavrov: Of course, not! Let me reiterate that this is how they understand the serious processes that are unfolding across the world against the backdrop of the emerging multilateralism and multipolarity. The latter, by the way, were conceived by God, for He created all men equal. And this is what the US Constitution says, but they tend to forget its formulas, when it comes to geopolitics.

There are other examples. The Dutch and the British are pushing the idea of a Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence. Why not do this at UNESCO? Why discuss this outside the organisation that was specifically created for dealing with new scientific achievements and making them available to mankind? There is no reply.

There are several competing partnerships, and the Media Freedom Coalition formed by Canada and Britain is one of them. The French, together with Reporters without Borders, promote the Information and Democracy Partnership. Once again, not everyone is invited to join it. Several years ago, Britain held the Global Conference for Media Freedom.

Question: Russia was not invited to attend, was it?

Sergey Lavrov: At first, there was no invitation, but then we reminded them that if this was a “global forum,” it was right to hear opposing points of views. But they did not invite us all the same.

Examples of this kind are not in short supply. Talking about these matters, there are mechanisms within UNESCO, which is fully legitimate and competent to deal with these issues. However, it gives a voice to others who may have a different view on media freedom compared to that of our Western colleagues. I think that this sets the international community on a path that is quite destructive, just like the attempts to “privatise” the secretariats of international organisations.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is a case in point, since people from Western and NATO countries are fully in control of its Technical Secretariat. The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) states that everything must be done by consensus. However, the Technical Secretariat obediently tolerates gross violations of the Convention. The Western countries vote for their decisions, which is completely at odds with the CWC, and claim that executing these  is the Secretariat’s duty. By arrogating the right to pinpoint who is to blame for using chemical weapons, the Technical Secretariat takes over the functions of the UN Security Council.

The West has now instructed the Technical Secretariat to crack down on Syria, where many shady things and outright provocations took place over the past years. We exposed them and held news conferences in The Hague, where the OPCW has its headquarters, as well as in New York. We showed that the Technical Secretariat was being manipulated with the help of destructive and extremist NGOs like the White Helmets. I would like to note that we are starting to hear statements along these lines from heads of certain respected organisations. For example, some senior executives of the UNESCO Secretariat have come forward with the initiative to promote “values-based multilateralism.”

Question: And they are the ones who define these values, aren’t they?

Sergey Lavrov: Probably. The UNESCO leadership also represents a Western country and NATO. There is no doubt about this.

We do know that at the end of the day, behind all this talk on building consensus and having regard for the opinion of all countries, the collective West will set the tone. This has already happened more than once. The way the West views “values-based multilateralism” will shape its negotiating position.

At the same time, there is an effort to promote a “human rights-based” approach. If we look at the challenges the world is currently facing, there is security, including food security, as well as ensuring livelihoods and healthcare. This is also related to human rights. The right to life is central to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but it is being trampled upon in the most blatant manner, just like the socioeconomic rights. The United States has yet to join the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and has only signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that the West is seeking to emphasise. Lately they have been focusing on the ugliest ways to interpret these rights, including on transgender issues and other abnormal ideas that go against human nature itself.

Question: You mentioned the humanitarian aspect, which is very important. The border crisis in Belarus. Refugees from Syria and other Middle Eastern countries trying to enter the EU are being deported peremptorily. It is a serious crisis, and the problem has grown in scale. It concerns the border with the EU, which claims to respect human rights and the humanitarian rules. Can Russia mediate the settlement of this conflict? Can we influence the situation at all? And would there be any point?

Sergey Lavrov: I don’t think that mediation is needed here. I do not see any violations of international law or obligations by Belarus. I have access to information about these developments, just as all the other stakeholders. According to this information, those who do not want to live in Belarus are trying to enter the EU from the territory of Belarus. Demanding that President Alexander Lukashenko and the Belarusian law enforcement agencies stop this would be contrary to international law, especially humanitarian law. The hysterical claims made in some EU countries that Belarus, supported by Russia, is deliberately encouraging these flows of refugees are unseemly for serious politicians. This means that they are aware of their helplessness, including in terms of international law, which is why they are growing hysterical.

Here is a simple example. You have said that the EU does not want refugees to enter its territory. I believe that it is not the EU but individual countries that do not want this. The situation is different across the EU in terms of the positions of individual countries and regions. There is no unity on this matter. Poland and Lithuania are pushing the refugees eager to enter their territory back to Belarus. I wonder how this is different from the recent developments in Italy. Former Interior Minister Matteo Salvini refused to allow refugees to disembark in Italy. He argued that there were several other EU countries along their route where they could request asylum. Salvini is likely to face trial for endangering the lives of those refugees, who had fled from the dire, catastrophic conditions in their home countries. What is the difference between the behaviour of the Baltic states and Poland and the decision for which the former minister is about to  stand trial?

There are many other examples of double standards here, but just take a look at the identity of those refugees fleeing to Europe. They are Syrians, Iraqis and, recently, Afghans. People from the Sahel-Sahara region in Africa are trying to enter Europe via Libya.  As we list the countries from which illegal migrants are exporting instability, we should not forget the reason behind the collapse of their home countries. This collapse has been brought about by Western adventurism. A  case in point is the US adventure in Iraq, where tens of thousands of NATO troops and  contingents of other countries eager to please Washington were later stationed in a cover-up ploy . Look at the aggression against Libya, and the failure of the 20-year-long war trumpeted as a mission to restore peace in Afghanistan. They attempted to do the same in Syria. As a result, several million people have been uprooted and are now trying to enter Europe from Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. This is our Western partners’ style. They regard any situation from a historical and chronological angle that suits them best. They launched devastating bombing attacks on Libya and Iraq. But after both countries were reduced to ruins, they urged everyone to assume a shared responsibility for the fate of refugees. We asked, why this should be a “shared responsibility?”After all, it was them who created the problem in the first place. They replied: “Let bygones be bygones.” There is no point looking back, they have awakened to the problem, and now it rests with us. Ukraine is another remarkable example of the logic of forgetting historical embarrassments.

QuestionI would be remiss not to ask you about Ukraine. The situation there is escalating. Not so long ago, an officer, a Russian citizen,from the Joint Centre for Control and Coordination (JCCC) on Ceasefire and Stabilisation in Southeastern Ukraine was detained (in fact, kidnapped) on the demarcation line. The Ukrainian military have become increasingly active in the grey zone. With that in mind, how much longer can the Normandy format dialogue continue? Is a ministerial meeting being planned? How productive will this dialogue be?

Sergey Lavrov: I would like to revisit the diplomatic tactics of cutting off inconvenient historical eras and periods. How did it all begin? In our exchanges with our German or French colleagues who co-founded the Normandy format and the February 2015 Minsk agreements, they unfailingly maintain a “constructive ambiguity” with regard to who must comply with the Minsk agreements. We keep telling them: What ambiguity is there? Here, it is clearly written: Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk must enter into consultations and agree on a special status, an amnesty and elections under the auspices of the OSCE. This is clearly stated there. They say they know who plays the decisive role there. We reply that we do not know who else plays the decisive role there except the parties whom the UN Security Council has obliged to act upon what they signed. To their claims that we “annexed” Crimea, we say that, first, we did not annex Crimea, but rather responded to the request of the Crimean people, who had come under a direct threat of destruction. I remember very well the Right Sector leaders saying that Russians should be expelled from Crimea, because they would never speak, think, or write in Ukrainian. Everyone back then was telling me that it was a figure of speech. It was not. Recently, President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky confirmed this when he said: If you think you are Russian, go to Russia. This is exactly the ideology proclaimed by the Right Sector immediately after the EU-guaranteed settlement document had been trampled upon in the morning by the same people who had signed it on behalf of the opposition with President Viktor Yanukovych. When you remind them of Russophobia, which instantly manifested itself among the putschists who seized power as a result of the coup, they say no, it is a thing of the past. They propose starting the discussion with the fact that the sanctions were imposed on us. This is an unsavoury approach.

I am disappointed to see such a decline in the Western negotiating and diplomatic culture. Take any hot item on the international agenda and you will see that the West is either helpless or is cheating. Take, for example, the alleged poisoning of blogger Alexey Navalny. This is a separate matter.

Returning to Ukraine and the Normandy format, indeed, the situation has escalated. There are attempts to create a provocative situation, to provoke the militia into responding and to drag Russia into military actions.

The Bayraktar drone incident is nothing short of a mystery. The Commander of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said that this weapon was indeed used, while the Defence Minister claimed that nothing of the kind had happened. I think they are now pondering options to see which one will work better for them: either to show how tough they are having started bombing in direct and gross violation of the Minsk agreements, or to say that they are complying with the Minsk agreements and to propose to get together in the Normandy format. We do not need a meeting for the sake of holding a meeting. They are sending mixed messages through characters like Alexey Arestovich (he is some kind of a semi-official adviser), or head of the presidential executive office Andrey Yermak, or Denis Shmygal, or President Zelensky himself. But they follow the same logic: the Minsk agreements should not and must not be fulfilled, because this will destroy Ukraine. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The Minsk agreements were created as a result of 17-hour-long talks precisely in order to preserve Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Initially, having proclaimed their independence, the new republics were even unhappy with us for encouraging them to find common ground with Kiev. Whatever the new authorities may be, Ukraine is our neighbour and a fraternal nation. After signing the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements in Minsk, the Russian Federation convinced representatives of Donetsk and Lugansk to sign this document as well.

Accusing us of destroying Ukraine’s territorial integrity is unseemly and dishonest. It is being destroyed by those who are trying to make it a super-unitary state while reducing the languages ​​of ethnic minorities, primarily Russian, to the status of token tools of communication, and making education in Russian and other languages nonexistent​. This is a neo-Nazi approach to society building.

As you may be aware, in April 2014, immediately after the Crimea referendum, former US Secretary of State John Kerry, former EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton, Acting Foreign Minister of the new regime in Ukraine Andrey Deshchitsa and I met in Vienna. We agreed on one page of a “dense” text to the effect that the United States, the EU and Russia welcomed the Kiev authorities’ plan to hold a nationwide dialogue on federalisation with the participation of all regions of Ukraine. It was approved. Truth be told, this document did not go anywhere, but it remains open information. It was made available to the media. That is, back then, neither the United States nor the EU wanted to make a “monster” out of Ukraine. They wanted it to be a truly democratic state with all regions and, most importantly, all ethnic minorities feeling involved in common work. Up until now, the Ukrainian Constitution has the linguistic and educational rights of ethnic minorities, including the separately stated rights of Russian speakers, enshrined in it. Just look at the outrageous things they are doing with the laws on education, languages ​​and the state language. There is a law recently submitted by the government titled On State Policy during the Transition Period. It does more than just cross out the Minsk agreements. It explicitly makes it illegal for Ukrainian political, diplomatic and other officials to fulfil them. The Venice Commission of the Council of Europe recently came up with a positive opinion about this law, which did not surprise us. This decision does not say a word about the fact that this law undermines Ukraine’s commitments under the Minsk agreements and, accordingly, Kiev’s obligations to comply with the UN Security Council resolution.

Question: If I understood you correctly, a ministerial meeting cannot even be prepared in this atmosphere.

Sergey Lavrov: Our German and French colleagues have been saying all the time: let’s preserve “constructive ambivalence” as regards who must observe the Minsk agreements. An EU-Ukraine summit took place literally two days after the telephone conversation of the President of Russia, the Chancellor of Germany and the President of France, when Vladimir Putin said such law-making was unacceptable, including the destructive draft law on a transitional period. Following the summit, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Council Charles Michel and President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky signed a statement a good quarter of which is devoted to the crisis in southeastern Ukraine. The top-ranking EU officials and the Ukrainian President officially stated that Russia bears special responsibility for this crisis because it is a party to the conflict. We immediately asked Berlin and Paris: so which is it: constructive ambivalence or this position? We were told that we shouldn’t be surprised because from the very beginning of the crisis in 2014 they proceeded from the premise that we ought to do all this. If that is the case, what was the point of signing the Minsk agreements?

Now they are trying to draw us in, citing President Vladimir Putin, who promised to organise the Normandy format at least at the ministerial level. We are not avoiding meetings. But promising to instruct Russian officials to work on this process, President Putin said that first we must fulfil on what we agreed in Paris in December 2019. The Kiev authorities were supposed to do everything the sides agreed upon then. They did not move a finger to implement the Steinmeier formula, determine a special status for Donbass, fix it permanently in the Ukrainian legislation and settle security issues.

A draft of this document was prepared when the parties gathered for this summit in Paris in December 2019. Its first item was an appeal by the Normandy format leaders for the disengagement of troops and withdrawal of heavy artillery along the entire contact line. President Zelensky said he could not agree to do this along the entire contact line and suggested doing it in three points only. Even the German and French participants were a bit perplexed because the aides of the presidents and the Chancellor coordinated the text ahead of the summit. Eventually, they shook their heads and agreed to disengagement in three points. Ukraine has not carried out this provision so far. Its conduct was indicative: it did not want to adopt a radical measure that would considerably reduce the risks of armed clashes and threats to civilians.

With great difficulty, the parties agreed on special measures in the summer of 2020. They signed a Contact Group document stating that any fire must not immediately trigger reciprocal fire. Otherwise, there will be an escalation. After each shelling, a commander of a unit that was attacked was supposed to report to the supreme commander. Only after his approval, the commander of the unit could open reciprocal fire. The republics included this provision in their orders but Ukraine flatly refused to fulfil it. Then, several months ago, it was persuaded to accept it and went along with this, implementing what was agreed upon a year ago. However, recently the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said that none of this was required: if you hear a shot, even into the air, you can go ahead and bomb the civilian population.

Question: Let’s move on to Central Asia, if you don’t mind. The Taliban coming to power is a daunting challenge to Russia and the post-Soviet Central Asian countries, which are our former fraternal republics. Are we ready to take up this challenge and how can we help our neighbours in Central Asia?

Sergey Lavrov: We saw it coming one way or another all these years while the Americans were trying to “stimulate” agreements between the Afghans. This was done, I would say, not too skilfully. I’m not hiding my assessment. The agreement that was concluded with the Taliban in Doha without the involvement of then President Ashraf Ghani was the last “diplomatic victory” as it was portrayed by the previous US administration. On the one hand, it gave rise to a hope that the Taliban would now be amenable to talks. On the other hand, there were many skeptical assessments, because the Taliban agreed to create some kind of common government bodies in exchange for a complete withdrawal of all foreign troops by May 1, 2021. Former President Ghani was outright unhappy with this since he realised that if this agreement was fulfilled, he would have to share power. Under all scenarios, he was unlikely to remain the number one person in the new Afghan government. So, he did his best to slow down the process. As a result, the Americans stayed longer. According to a number of US political analysts, this happened because Washington failed to withdraw its troops by the agreed deadline. The Taliban then decided they were free from any commitment to form a government of national accord.

However, this is a thing of the past, and we believe that the United States and those who stayed there for 20 years promising to make a model country out of Afghanistan must now get directly involved, primarily financially, to avert a humanitarian disaster. In this sense, we want to preserve historical continuity with its causal relationship.

An event that we held recently in Moscow with the participation of Afghanistan’s neighbours and other leading countries of the region and the SCO and CSTO-sponsored events that took place not so long ago in Dushanbe were aimed at urging the Taliban to deliver on their promises and the obligations that they made and assumed when they came to power. First of all, this is to prevent the destabilisation of neighbouring countries and the spread of the terrorist and drug threat from Afghanistan and the need to suppress these threats in Afghanistan itself, to ensure the inclusive nature of government in terms of ethnopolitical diversity and to be sure to guarantee, as they said, Islam-based human rights. This can be interpreted fairly broadly, but, nevertheless, it provides at least some benchmarks in order to get the Taliban to make good on its promises.

Humanitarian aid must be provided now. I see the Western countries making their first contributions. The issue is about distributing this aid. Many are opposed to making it available directly to the government and prefer to act through international organisations. We see the point and are helping to reach an agreement with the current authorities in Kabul to allow international organisations, primarily humanitarian organisations, to carry out the relevant activities. Of course, we will do our fair share. We are supplying medicines and food there. The Central Asian countries are doing the same. Their stability is important to us, because we have no borders with our Central Asian allies, and we have visa-free travel arrangements with almost all of them. In this regard, President Putin told President Biden in Geneva in June that we are strongly opposed to the attempts to negotiate with the Central Asian countries on the deployment of the US military infrastructure on their territory in order to deliver over-the-horizon strikes on targets in Afghanistan, if necessary. They came up with similar proposals to Pakistan as well, but Pakistan said no. Uzbekistan has publicly stated that its Constitution does not provide for deployment of military bases on its territory. Kyrgyzstan has also publicly, through the mouth of the President, announced that they do not want this.

Knowing the pushy nature of the Americans, I do not rule out the possibility of them continuing to come up with the same proposal from different angles. I heard they are allegedly trying to persuade India to provide the Pentagon with certain capabilities on Indian territory.

Refugees are issue number two, which is now being seriously considered. Many of them simply came to Central Asia on their own. These countries have different policies towards them and try in every possible way to protect themselves against these incoming flows. In Uzbekistan, special premises for the refugees have been allocated right outside the airport, from where they are flown to other countries and they are not allowed to enter other parts of the Republic of Uzbekistan. Our Tajik neighbours are doing the same. They are also being pressured to accept refugees. They want to set up holding centres under strong guarantee that after some time the refugees will be relocated. The West rushed to beg the neighbouring countries to accept tens of thousands of refugees, each claiming that it was a temporary solution until the West gives them documents for immigration to Western countries.

Question: But it turned out it was for the long haul …

Sergey Lavrov: Thankfully, no one has agreed to that, at least not to the numbers the West was talking about. Of course, some refugees relocated there, and proper arrangements must be made with regard to them. The West said they needed “two to three months” to issue documents for these people and it was necessary to save them, since they collaborated with the coalition forces. But if you collaborated with these Afghans on the ground for a long time and employed them as translators and informants, you surely ran background checks on them. If, after they had worked for you for so long you were still unable to decide whether you could trust them or not, why are you then “dumping” them onto the Central Asian countries, which are our allies? This issue remains open.

As you may be aware, we have come up with a proposal for the UN to convene a conference to address the Afghan people’s pressing humanitarian needs. I think the message was taken, so we expect a more specific response will come.

FM’s Sergey Lavrov’s answers to media at the 18th Valdai Club

October 20, 2021

FM’s Sergey Lavrov’s answers to media at the 18th Valdai Club

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s answers to media questions following the 18th annual session of the Valdai International Discussion Club, Sochi, October 19, 2021

Question: The day before yesterday, Moscow announced measures in response to NATO’s aggressive moves. Are these measures prompted by Russia’s belief that NATO has to take the first step towards improving relations with Moscow?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, this is our approach. We have never been the first to start aggravating our relations with NATO, or the European Union, or any other country in the West or elsewhere. Everyone knows the following story: when in August 2008, Mikheil Saakashvili issued the criminal order to bomb the city of Tskhinval and the peacekeeper’s positions, including Russian peacekeepers, Russia insisted that the Russia-NATO Council meet to consider the situation. US Secretary of State at the time, Condoleezza Rice, refused flatly, although, according to the Founding Act, which was signed by Russia and NATO when they established the Council, it must be effective in any “weather,” particularly in the case of a crisis. This was one example [in a series of events] that led to the status quo of today in relations between our country and NATO.

Question: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the UN Security Council had no right to decide the fate of the whole world, referring to the five countries that won WWII as a handful of victors. He added that he had a road map to drive the UN Security Council members into a corner. What do you think of this? Is it possible?

Sergey Lavrov: President Erdogan’s eloquence is well known.  He feels free to air his views on different topics. I agree that the five countries which are the permanent members of the UN Security Council have no right to dictate the world’s fate. They do not, however, claim this role – they only have the authority provided for in the UN Charter, which reflects the collective will of all members of the world community. The five permanent member countries bear special responsibility for the situation in the world, primarily, for preventing a global conflict. Their efforts have proved successful in the course of more than 75 years. Hopefully, the situation will remain like this in the future.

But today, the UN and the Security Council need to adapt to a new reality. There are not 50 countries in the world, the way it was when the UN was established, and not 70 countries, like at the time the UN Security Council grew from 12 to 15 members, but many more: this world organisation has 193 member countries. The developing countries have every right to insist that their representation at the main UN body be increased. Today, of the 15 members on the UN Security Council, at least six are Western countries. When Japan is elected to the Security Council to represent Asia, it is counted as a seventh vote in favour of the policy that the West is pushing via the UN Security Council. No more seats at this body should be given to the West, while it is absolutely necessary to have more developing nations from Asia, Africa and Latin America represented in the UN Security Council.

Question: NATO officials said they regret Russia’s decision to suspend the NATO mission in Moscow. However, they were the ones that started this. Why do you think NATO continues to degrade our relations? Will the Russia-NATO Council continue?

President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky said again yesterday that he is ready to meet with President of Russia Vladimir Putin in any format. That said, the Press Secretary of the Russian President described such a meeting as unlikely. In what case will Ukraine succeed in “soliciting” a meeting with the Russian President? Is it true that Victoria Nuland came to Moscow to agree on US accession to the Normandy format (as reported by Kiev)?

Sergey Lavrov: As for NATO, I have talked about how this all began and how NATO itself has buried the main rules underlying the formation of the Russia-NATO Council – the need for urgent consultations in crises. This went on when the Americans provoked and supported the coup in Ukraine in February 2014, while the European Union swallowed the actions by the opposition even though on the eve of the coup Germany, France and Poland guaranteed by their signatures on an agreement between then president of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovich and the opposition. On the following morning, the opposition trampled underfoot these EU guarantees and had its own way. In response, the EU imposed sanctions on the Russian Federation. This is not about logic.

The same applies to statements made in NATO capitals as regards our forced response to three steps by NATO. Our mission was reduced three times. The main point is that the mission is simply not allowed to do its work. To get into NATO headquarters, our representatives, as distinct from all other NATO partners, have to apply in advance for a permit to enter the building and use only designated corridors. There have been no information exchanges with NATO headquarters in a long time.

The main thing is that all contact between the military personnel was cut off, and this was officially announced. So, what loss of an opportunity or talks are we talking about? Two years ago, Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov suggested coming to terms on withdrawing exercises to a certain distance from the Russia-NATO contact line and on the minimum distances not to be violated by combat aircraft and warships. There were many other proposals at that time as well. There was a wall of silence. The Foreign Minister of Germany said Russia’s actions showed that it was not ready for talks. I have just told you that we were fully ready for talks and NATO has simply been ignoring us for many years. Western officials understand that such statements are self-defeating. They want to put the blame at the wrong door and they lack diplomatic culture.

As for statements by President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky, they attracted many comments. They were made by the chief of his office, some advisor (I don’t remember his name) and President Zelensky himself just recently. A number of days before that, someone from his office said that President Putin seemed to be ready but his entourage did not advise him to meet one-to-one because such a meeting might produce a surprise. I will not even comment on this stream of consciousness. It is impossible to react to all public statements made in Ukraine as regards possible meetings at various levels or developments in Donbass and around Ukraine. One’s imagination is too limited for that, but they fantasise everywhere and every day.

When John Kerry was US Secretary of State, he came to Moscow on a regular visit. We were received by the President of Russia. Vladimir Putin said we saw how the Americans exerted influence on Ukraine. He mentioned a special US envoy to whom Pyotr Poroshenko listened. Maybe it is worth talking with Germany and France so you can join the Normandy format? I was at this meeting. John Kerry said that if they were invited they would probably consider it. Later, we asked the Germans and French about this but they bluntly rejected the idea: no, we need to work in the format that was created and in which the Minsk agreements were signed. This is the only option. It is not necessary to turn the Four into the Five or into Seven to facilitate a settlement. The Americans have a dominant influence on Zelensky and his team. Our dialogue resumed. Victoria Nuland met with Dmitry Kozak who is in charge of supervising issues of Ukraine, other near-abroad and CIS countries. They agreed to stay in touch. If the Americans are indeed willing to support the implementation of the Minsk agreements, it would be possible to resolve the problem very quickly.

Question: Unfortunately, the KP newspaper reporter in Belarus, Gennady Mozheyko, is still in prison. KP is banned in Belarus. Can anything be done in this regard?

Sergey Lavrov: I have already commented on this. We have posed this question to our Belarusian colleagues. We are working on it.

Question: Is Russia ready to become the first country to recognise the Taliban as the official authority in Afghanistan, and what are the conditions for this?

The United States will not be participating in the Moscow format meeting on Afghanistan. Will this influence the significance of the meeting in any way?

Sergey Lavrov: Russia has already stated its position on the Taliban. Like most other countries that have an influence in that region, we maintain contact with them and urge them to deliver on the promises they made when they came to power to ensure inclusiveness in the government not only in terms of ethnicity, but also in terms of political conviction so that the entire range of political allegiances in their society has a voice in the government. Official recognition has not yet been discussed; we have said this publicly.

The new US Representative for Afghanistan, Thomas West, called our representative Zamir Kabulov yesterday and expressed regret with that turn of events. He was appointed right before the Moscow format meeting and said that he definitely wanted to contact us and come to Russia. We will be delighted to have him.

Dmitry Medvedev: Why contacts with the current Ukrainian leadership are meaningless

October 13, 2021

Dmitry Medvedev: Why contacts with the current Ukrainian leadership are meaningless

Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev addressed Kommersant with his new article, titled:

Five short polemical theses

Kindly note that this is a machine translation and we may edit for nuance as is necessary.  

1. Ukraine is in search of its own identity and a special path, composing its own separate history (although the same history teaches that this takes centuries). But Ukrainian leaders, especially top officials, are people who do not have any stable self-identification. Unhappy people. Who are they, what country are they citizens of, where are their roots, what is their historical identity, ethnic background, and what gods do they pray to? Who do they feel like? Are they “schiria” Ukrainians? “Europeans”? The Russians? Jews? Tatars? Hungarians? Karaites?

The current president of this tortured country is a man with certain ethnic roots, who has spoken Russian all his life. Moreover, he worked in Russia and received significant funds from Russian sources. Nevertheless, at some point, when he became the head of state, out of fear of getting another “Maidan” directed against his personal power, he completely changed his political and moral orientation. And in fact-he gave up his identity. He began to fervently serve the most rabid nationalist forces in Ukraine (which, admittedly, were always there, but made up only 5-7% of the active population).

One can only imagine how disgusting it was for him to perform such a moral “somersault-mortale”. This is reminiscent of the crazy situation when representatives of the Jewish intelligentsia in Nazi Germany would have applied for service in the SS for ideological reasons.

Of course, this situation causes a daily “cognitive dissonance” in his soul and actions. Moreover, you can not be sure that at some point when the political situation changes, they will not come for you to sew a yellow star on your back. He must endlessly maneuver between various forces: radical nationalists (“Nazis”, as they are commonly called there), the Muslim part of the population, primarily Tatars, moderate apolitical Ukrainians and Russians, representatives of other ethnic groups— so that his neck does not break. That is why there are bastard documents like the “law” on the indigenous peoples of Ukraine. That is why he shows himself to be a greater nationalist than the most radical of them.

He had to integrate into the “pantheon of heroes” of this part of Ukrainian society. Shout along with them: “Glory to the heroes!” Accept the unconditional authority of such scoundrels as “great Ukrainians”. Pray for the blessed memory of the terrorists and Judeophobes Bandera and Shukhevych, whose followers today call themselves a significant part of the political elite of Ukraine.

Everyone knows the mournful calendar of Bandera and policemen of that period: the summer of 1941, when after the capture of the city of Lviv by German army units, about 6 thousand people died in two of the largest Jewish pogroms. This is the extermination of Russians, Ukrainians, Jews, Poles in the Yanova Valley, Podkamna. These are the White Church, Babi Yar and Volyn massacre.

And here is a quote from previously unpublished materials…

“A gang of murderers broke down doors and windows, broke into apartments, shot, cut and killed people with axes and knives — including young children, old men and women, after which the corpses were loaded onto carts, taken away and buried in pits. In order to hide their crimes, some families were burned in barns and burned corpses were buried in pits. All these terrible atrocities were accompanied by massive looting of property belonging to tortured families.”

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Documents from the Archive of the Russian Ministery of Defense

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He is clearly disgusted to indulge in these sentiments, the whole history of his life, the life of his family, revolts against such an abomination. A normal, decent person just wouldn’t be able to do it. But, alas, it is necessary. Otherwise, they’ll smear their brains on the walls. He is very afraid and does not like these people, but he is forced to preach their ideologies, defend their views that are repugnant to him. A man turned inside out.

How can you negotiate and negotiate with them in this situation?

No way.

2. Ukrainian leaders of the current generation are completely independent people . Much has already been said and written about this, including in a well-known article by Vladimir Putin. The country is under direct foreign administration. Moreover, this management is much tougher than the interaction of the USSR with individual socialist countries in a certain period. The USSR gave its geopolitical allies sufficient scope to shape their domestic policy, realizing that otherwise it could end in tragic events such as the Hungarian demonstrations in 1956 or the Prague Spring of 1968. Simple pragmatic logic. In Ukraine, the dependence is complete-from cash injections into their economy (handouts from the United States and the EU) to direct leadership of the Ukrainian special services (from their American patrons). But if the USSR needed good relations with the countries of the socialist camp and the Warsaw Pact (including for joint “building socialism”), then the United States does not need anything from Ukraine, except for confrontation with Russia, total containment of our country and the creation of what was aptly called “Anti-Russia”. This means that such an alliance is extremely fragile and will eventually crumble to dust. Hopes for membership in NATO and the European Union are also ephemeral, for obvious reasons. Ukraine itself has no value on the line of direct confrontation between Western forces (including potentially military ones) and our country. There are no fools to fight for Ukraine. And it’s pointless for us to deal with vassals. Business must be conducted with the overlord.

3. At the head of Ukraine are weak people who strive only to fill their pockets. Moreover, it is desirable, just in case, to save money in a foreign offshore company. We know many of them quite well. There was no leader who could sacrifice himself for the sake of Ukraine, and not try to monetize his stay in power, and it seems that he will not be yet. On the contrary, when it comes to making a profit, hatred of Russia and the desire to join the EU and NATO give way to selfish motives, when a Muscovite with money is an enemy, but his money is more important than hostility. I recall the words of one of my colleagues in the well-known “pre-Maidan” period. To my question: “why does namesake participate in the elections, he has no chance?” – the answer followed, which surprised me very much at the time: “Don’t you understand, this is the last opportunity for him to raise money from the election campaign.” Comments are unnecessary. Nothing has changed since then. Contacts with such weak people are unproductive. They will sell at any time for five kopecks.

4. The senselessness and even harmfulness of relations with the current leaders of Ukraine also lies in the fact that ignorant and unnecessary people are at the head of this country. They are constantly changing their position to please their overseas masters and the political situation. This is how they understand the art of diplomacy. Homegrown talleyrands. They sign the Minsk agreements, negotiate in the “Normandy format”, and then — after internal turmoil in the Rada, on the square or the Central Office from across the ocean-they turn their position in a completely different direction. Yes, compromises are possible in politics, sometimes some deviations from the established line, but not to the extent that the agreed approach changes to the diametrically opposite one. And we and our partners are constantly being lied to and evaded from our decisions. And it’s not about the specific name of a particular manager. This is the position of all Ukrainian negotiators, their line of conduct, modus operandi. Such” partners ” in international relations, who compete in constant lies, do not and cannot be trusted. This means that negotiations with them are absolutely meaningless.

5. Then the eternal and main question arises: what to do in this situation? But nothing. Wait for the appearance of a sane leadership in Ukraine, which is aimed not at total confrontation with Russia on the verge of war, not at organizing moronic “Crimean platforms” created to fool the country’s population and pump up its muscles before the elections, but at building equal and mutually beneficial relations with Russia. That’s only with such a leadership of Ukraine and it is worth dealing with. Russia knows how to wait. We are a patient people.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to questions from MGIMO students and faculty

September 02, 2021

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to questions from MGIMO students and faculty

Ed: This is a wide ranging discussion of international affairs

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to questions from MGIMO students and faculty on the occasion of the beginning of a new academic year, Moscow, September 1, 2021

Friends,

As always, I am delighted to be here on September 1, and not only on this day, of course, since we hold events here at other times of the year as well. But September 1 has special importance, since this is Knowledge Day. First-year students get to feel the university spirit, and meetings like this help us streamline this experience and are sure to benefit students in their studies.

I am certain that you will not regret choosing this university. MGIMO graduates find work in a wide variety of spheres, from public service and research to business and journalism. We are proud that our alma mater has such a great reputation. MGIMO Rector, Anatoly Torkunov, has just shared some enrolment statistics. They are impressive. He said that the minister keeps a close eye on everything going on in this school. But you cannot keep track of everything, and I mean this in a good way. MGIMO University constantly improves its programmes and activity and expands its partnership networks. Today, MGIMO University will sign yet another cooperation agreement, this time with Ivannikov Institute for System Programming. This shows that we always need to be in step with the times. This is the right way to go. The quality of the education that graduates receive at this university is recognised both in Russia and around the world.

I am glad MGIMO University continues to attract international students. This is an important channel for maintaining humanitarian, educational and people-to-people ties. In today’s world these ties have special importance, since at the intergovernmental level our Western colleagues have little appetite for talking to us on equal terms. As you probably know, and I am certain that you have a keen interest in foreign policy, they persist with their demands that we change the way we behave and act the way they view as being correct. This is a dead end. We are open to a frank, constructive, mutually beneficial dialogue, taking into account each other’s interests. It is along these lines that we maintain dialogue and promote cooperation and partnerships with the overwhelming majority of countries around the world. This includes our closest allies and strategic partners – members of the CSTO, CIS, EAEU, SCO and BRICS. We have many reliable friends, almost in all continents interested in promoting mutually beneficial projects that benefit all the participants.

To counter this trend toward a multipolar world, which reflects the cultural and civilisational diversity on this planet, our Western partners seek to maintain their dominant standing in international affairs. They are acting in quite a brash manner making no secret out of the fact that their main objective is to contain their competitors, primarily Russia and China. The documents adopted at the NATO, EU, and US-EU summits over the past months are designed to consolidate the “collective West” in their efforts to counter the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China.

The Indo-Pacific strategies that are openly pursuing the goal (as it has been proclaimed) of containing China have gained currency in the Asia-Pacific region. They are trying to implicate another of our strategic partners, India, in these games. Everyone can see it and everyone understands what it is all about. But those who gave up their sovereignty and joined the ranks of the countries led by the United States and other Western countries are not in a position to utter a word of disagreement.

Truth be told, following the tragic events in Afghanistan and after the United States and its NATO allies had hurriedly left that country, a chorus of voices began to be heard in Europe advocating self-reliance in foreign affairs, especially in matters involving the deployment of armed forces, rather than reliance on directives issued by Washington that it can change in an instant. These are glimpses of something new in the position of the West, in this case, the Europeans.

The second notable aspect highlighted by US President Joe Biden and President of France Emmanuel Macron is as follows: both announced within one or two days of one another that it was time to give up on interfering in other countries’ internal affairs in order to impose Western-style democracy on them.

We welcome such statements. We have long been urging our Western colleagues to learn from the reckless ventures that they have got themselves into in recent decades in Iraq and Libya, and they tried to do the same in Syria. I hope (if the above statements are a true reflection of their hard-won understanding of the matter) that our planet will be a safer place in the future. But all the same, we have to “clear out the rubble” of the past policies. Hundreds of thousands of people, civilians, were impacted or killed during the invasion of Iraq and the attack on Libya. There are lots of problems stemming from the revived international terrorism in the Middle East and North Africa and huge numbers of illegal migrants. The illegal arms trade, drug smuggling and much more are on the rise. All this needs to be “cleared up” by the international community, because it affects almost everyone.

Now that the NATO troops have pulled out from Afghanistan, the most important thing for us is to ensure the security of our allies in Central Asia. First, they are our comrades, including comrades-in-arms, and second, the security of Russia’s southern borders directly depends on this.

I hope that if we act together, we will be able to agree on these external steps that will help create an environment within Afghanistan for forming a truly national leadership. We are working energetically to this end.

We are witnessing two trends in the international arena. On the one hand, it is about the formation of a multipolar and polycentric world. This trend reflects the position of most states around the world. On the other hand, efforts are being made to hold back this objective historical process and to artificially preserve control over everything that is happening in the international arena, including with the use of unscrupulous methods such as unilateral illegal sanctions, competition that is occasionally reminiscent of ultimatums, or changing the rules in the midst of an ongoing project.

The West tends to mention less often (if at all) the term “international law” and calls on everyone to maintain a “rules-based world order.” We have nothing against the rules. After all, the UN Charter is also a set of rules, but they were agreed with all states without exception. They are supported by every country that is a member of this one-of-a-kind organisation with incredible and unmatched legitimacy. The West has different rules in mind. They are creating formats of their own. For example, the US has announced that it will convene a Democracy Summit to create an Alliance of Democracies. Clearly, Washington will be the one to determine who will be invited and who is considered a democracy. By the same token, France and Germany announced an initiative to create an Alliance for Multilateralism, i.e. “multilateralists.” When asked why these issues cannot be discussed at the UN, where multilateralism is at its finest in the modern world, the answer is that the UN is home to “retrogrades” and they want to create an Alliance for Multilateralism based on “advanced” ideas. And the “leaders,” above all the EU, will set the rules for multilateralism, and the rest will have to look up to them. This is a crude description, but it conveys the essence of what they are trying to tell us in so many words.

There are initiatives to create partnerships, including in the areas that were supposed to be discussed at universal platforms long ago. Numerous initiatives appearing in the developing world are also being used for the same purpose. There are attempts to channel them to meet Western interests.

The policy of undermining international law and universal principles sealed in the UN Charter is reflected, to a certain extent, in the efforts to call into doubt the results of World War II. They are aimed at trying to equate the winners in this bloodiest war in human history with those who unleashed it and proclaimed the destruction of whole nations as their goal. These attempts are aimed at undermining our positions in the world. Similar attacks are being made on China’s positions. We cannot give up and remain indifferent on this issue.

Every year, we put forward major initiatives at the UN on the inadmissibility of glorifying Nazism, waging a war against monuments and fuelling any forms of racial discrimination and xenophobia.

The overwhelming majority of states not only support these initiatives but also become their co-authors. In most cases, our Western colleagues bashfully abstain from this. They explain that the appeal to prevent certain trends runs counter to democracy and freedom of speech. In other words, for them the neo-Nazi trends that are obvious in Europe, in part, in the Baltic states and Ukraine, do not amount to a gross violation of the Nuremberg trials verdict but merely reflect a commitment to tolerance and freedom of speech.

I do not think it is necessary to explain in detail the harmful and pernicious nature of such attempts to rewrite history and give the green light to those who want to reproduce misanthropic attitudes in the world arena. I do not believe it is necessary to speak in detail about the need to counter these attitudes with resolve and consistency.

We have a foreign policy course endorsed by President of Russia Vladimir Putin. Its main goal is to ensure the most favourable conditions for national development, security, economic growth and the improvement of the living standards of our citizens. We will consistently translate this course into reality.

We have never striven for confrontation, not to mention isolation. We are open to cooperation with the Western countries if they change their approach and stop acting like teachers who “know everything” and are “above reproach,” treating Russia like a pupil that must do its homework.  It is inappropriate to talk to anyone in this manner, let alone Russia.

Our plans enjoy firm support of our people for the course towards strengthening the sovereignty of the Russian Federation and promoting good, friendly relations with our neighbours and all those who are willing to do this honestly, on an equitable basis.

Question: The question has to do with the changes in modern diplomacy under the influence of new technology. Digital diplomacy is a widespread term today. Technological development adds a fundamentally new dimension to a diplomats’ work, and also leads to a qualitative transformation of the system of international relations. How do you think new technologies will affect energy policy in particular and diplomacy in general?

Sergey Lavrov: I am asked this question every time I speak at Knowledge Day here. Apparently, this reflects the thinking of each new generation of students, about how technology will generally affect the processes concerning state-level problem solving and international relations.

Indeed, digital technologies are rapidly penetrating our lives, even faster in the context of the coronavirus pandemic. Many events, including international events, have transitioned to the online format. There is an upside to this. To a certain extent, it helps to save time, which is becoming a more sparse resource every day, given the aggravating international challenges and problems that our foreign policy tries to resolve.

When it comes to holding official meetings such as the UN Security Council or the UN General Assembly with a pre-agreed agenda where each country wants to express its point of view, such statements are prepared in advance through the efforts of a large number of specialists. The result is a policy document on a specific matter on the international agenda, which then goes through debates in one format or another. I see no problem with participating in this kind of discussion online using digital technology.

There are other international meetings, when something needs to be agreed upon as soon as possible; these meetings can also be held remotely. At least this way is better than a phone call because you can see the other person’s face, and this is very important.

But the most serious issues cannot be resolved online. All my colleagues agree with this. Maybe in the future, humanity will invent a way to convey the feeling of personal contact. But I doubt this will be possible. No machine is capable of replacing a person.

I am confident that conventional diplomacy will retain its importance as the main tool in international affairs. As soon as a serious problem arises, it is imperative to meet and try to negotiate.

Question: Will the autumn 2021 elections to the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation impact Russia’s foreign policy in the international arena?

Sergey Lavrov: A good question. Elections in our country actually begin in a little more than a fortnight. Even now Western colleagues make it clear that they are set to cast discredit on them. Various political scientists are publishing articles and making speeches aimed at preparing public opinion in the direction of the narrative that the elections results will be rigged.

We regularly invite international observers to our national elections. This year, around 200 observers will come to us as well, including those from international organisations. The only one of them who arrogantly declined the invitation was the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). We told them they could send a group of 60 observers. This is the largest group we invite from abroad. They said they wanted 500. When you are being invited to visit someone, you do not demand gifts for yourself instead of showing respect towards the hosts. OSCE does not have a rule under which ODIHR must dictate election monitoring provisions. All the countries have only one obligation there – to invite international observers to elections. It is not even written down that they should be from OSCE. They may be from anywhere you like. We do it regularly and meet our obligations in full. This is an example of how international law (and this principle is prescribed at OSCE, I mean that all issues must be solved by consensus) is being replaced by “rules.” This Office itself made up a rule, along the same lines the West operates, by demanding that its own “rules” must be obeyed.

However important international observers might be, we will also have our own observers. Their number is immense. The voting will be streamed live in full. Our Central Electoral Board provides detailed coverage of this and other innovations being introduced. We are taking steps to ensure maximum transparency of voting at our embassies and general consulates. As always, we are making arrangements so that it is possible for our citizens abroad to cast their vote and fulfil their election right.

With all the importance of international observers, it is ultimately our citizens who will take a decision on how we will live on and with which members our parliament will draft new laws. Those who are going to objectively figure out developments in the Russia Federation are always welcome. As to those who have already passed a judgement, let them bear the shame.

Question: I know that poetry and art are among your hobbies. How can we make Russian literature and cinema more effective as a soft power tool abroad?

Sergey Lavrov: There is only one way, and that is to promote these works in other countries’ markets. This policy was vigorously pursued in the Soviet Union. That was a useful experience for the international film and literary community as well. I believe we are renewing these traditions now. I do not know about literary exhibitions, I just do not think I have seen a lot of information on this, but many film festivals recognise the work of our directors, actors and producers. A number of Russian films are highly valued in Cannes and in Karlovy Vary. We must continue to do this.

Question: Does Russia have effective and proportionate methods of fighting manifestations of Russophobia, oppression of Russians, persecution against the Russian language and the Russian world in certain countries?

Sergey Lavrov: This is a difficult question, given the recent manifestations of inappropriate attitudes towards ethnic Russians in a number of countries, including some of our neighbours. This topic has several dimensions to it. The most important point is that the government of a country where our citizens are subjected to some kind of discriminatory influence must firmly oppose such manifestations and take steps to prevent them. This is important, not only because they attack Russians or our other compatriots, but also because it’s required by international conventions, the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and many other documents that are universal and approved by everyone.

In Russia, too, we have seen situations recently where some migrant labourers were at odds with other labour migrants. This is also a problem because Russia needs migrant labourers. We are trying to make immigration as clear, transparent and legitimate as possible. We negotiate with the countries they come from for long-term employment (mostly the Central Asian countries) and agree on special courses for potential migrants that make sure they speak minimal Russian and are familiar with Russian customs, our laws, and that they are planning to behave in a way that is appropriate for being hired in the Russian Federation. This is important for our economy. Without migrant labourers, many Russian industries are now experiencing a significant shortage of personnel.

It is also important to keep in mind that these countries are our allies. We, as allies, must support each other; one way to do so is to ensure an appropriate environment for citizens who represent a different ethnic group.

We have a huge number of ethnic groups living in Russia. Russia is a record holder in multi-ethnicity. All this cultural and religious diversity has always made our country strong, providing the solid foundation on which we stand. We have never tried to destroy the traditions, cultures or languages ​​of any peoples that have lived here since the Russian Empire, then the Soviet Union and now the Russian Federation. We have always supported their languages, cultures, and customs.

Another factor that must be taken into account is the basic quality of life for each and every citizen. We pursue a most open policy. We will make every effort to ensure that our neighbours or other countries where our compatriots live or work fully comply with their international obligations. The fight against discrimination must use political methods based on respect for international commitments.

Question: Do conditions exist for economic and investment cooperation with Japan on the Kuril Islands?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, they do, of course. It is even more than that. We made a relevant proposal to our Japanese colleagues a long time ago. When, several years ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with the Japanese Prime Minister at the time, Shinzo Abe, we came up with an initiative to engage in joint economic activity on these islands. Our Japanese neighbours agreed to this proposal after a while, but decided to confine our cooperation to relatively unsophisticated areas, like aquaculture and waste treatment. These things are important but they are of no strategic significance. We offered them cooperation in any industry of their choice on the southern Kuril Islands and this has been stated repeatedly in the correspondence with our Japanese colleagues. However, the Japanese are seeking to secure a deal with us that would allow them to engage in economic activity and invest money [in the area], not in compliance with Russian law, but rather on the basis of an agreement that provides for another jurisdiction – not that of the Russian Federation. Under this jurisdiction, Russian and Japanese representatives in a certain administrative body would enjoy equal rights, meaning that some hybrid laws would be introduced. This cannot be done under our Constitution.

Regretfully, our Japanese friends are missing out on the opportunity to invest money with us for our mutual benefit. Nonetheless, we have good plans. Soon, new privileges will be announced for our foreign partners who agree to work with us in this part of the Russian Federation. I believe there will be practical interest in this.

Question: In one of your interviews you said (and I fully agree) that modern Western-style liberal democracies have run their course. How will nation states evolve going forward? What forms of state organisation hold the most promise? What should we be striving for?

The UN is plagued by many problems, ranging from Greta Thunberg to agreements that are not being acted upon, such as, for instance, the Paris Agreement. What can be done to turn this deplorable trend around? What laws need to be adopted? What kind of organisations must be created? What does Russia think about this?

Sergey Lavrov: I briefly touched on this matter in my opening remarks. I believe each state should be structured around its customs and traditions and be comfortable for its residents who will have children, grandchildren, etc. It appears that they have promised to stop trying to impose democracy on other countries. At least, President Biden and President Macron said this almost simultaneously. We’ll see how they deliver on their promises.

Each country should take care of its own affairs independently. Everyone now agrees that imposing a Western system on Afghanistan was a grave mistake. Afghanistan has always been a fairly decentralised country where clan-based and other bonds, as well as relations between different ethnic groups, have always played a major role. And Kabul usually balanced out these relations. Saying that tomorrow you will have elections and everyone should go and cast their vote to elect a president who will have certain powers – it was not the Afghans who came up with this idea. It was imposed on them and the ones who did it hurt themselves badly. I hope the promises not to impose democracy on anyone else will be kept.

With regard to environmental protection, the Paris Agreement can hardly be described as a treaty that is not being acted upon. It was based on the fundamental principle that included the need to reduce carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions, but each country was supposed to assume commitments of its own. Preparations for another conference of the parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which will take place in Glasgow this autumn, are underway.

As part of this process, the most important thing is to agree on variables that will meet the interests of each participant. The proposal of several Western countries to stop using coal-fired power generation starting literally today cannot be complied with by many countries, including several Western countries, simply because this would undermine their energy security. The same applies to large developing countries, including China and India. They are reluctant to stop their growth. They are making it clear to the West that the Western countries have attained their current level of development due to intensive use of natural resources, which gave rise to the greenhouse effect, and now the West wants large developing countries to skip their current phase of development and go straight to a post-carbon economy. It doesn’t work that way, they say. First, they need to complete the economic development of their respective states, which is a complex process that involves the interests of each state. An attempt to balance these interests is being undertaken in the course of preparations for the next conference of the parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

We made a commitment that by 2030 we would have 70 percent of the 1990 level when the countdown began under the UN Climate Convention. It is unlikely that anyone would have complaints with regard to us. President Vladimir Putin has made clear more than once that we must be extremely careful with regard to everything that is happening. The fact that Russia’s Arctic zone, which is mainly permafrost, is warming up much faster than the rest of the planet is worrisome. This matter is being carefully addressed by several of our ministries, and it is a concern for all of our Government.

Question: Can environmental issues motivate the world powers tо unite against a background of general discord? What is the potential for green diplomacy?

Sergey Lavrov: Environmental protection and concern for the planet’s climate must become a motive for pooling our efforts. It is hard to say now to what extent the world powers will manage to achieve this.

Let me repeat that the developing nations are strongly inclined to use their opportunities for the current stage of their development before assuming the commitments promoted by their Western colleagues. Many interests come together here. Our global interest lies in the health of the planet and the survival of humanity. However, every country has its own national assessment of the current situation and the commitments to their people. It is a complicated matter, but there is no doubt that this is a challenge that must prompt all of us to come together. We stand for pooling our efforts.

Question: Can the Russian Federation “enforce Ukraine to peace” under the Minsk Agreements?

Sergey Lavrov: The Minsk Agreements do not envisage any enforcement. They have been voluntarily approved, signed and unanimously endorsed by the UN Security Council, thereby becoming international law. When Ukraine as a state, both under Petr Poroshenko and Vladimir Zelensky, is doing all it can to avoid fulfilling these agreements, we must point this out to those who compiled them with us. I am primarily referring to Germany, France and other Western countries that are going all-out to justify the Kiev regime. When I say that it is trying to avoid fulfilling these agreements, I am referring to many laws that actually prohibit the Russian language, the transfer of special authority to the territories that have proclaimed themselves the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics and the efforts to harmonise the parameters of local elections in them. These are the basics of the Minsk Agreements.

Recently, German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Moscow. This issue was raised at her talks with President of Russia Vladimir Putin. We showed our German colleagues the legal bans that Mr Zelensky adopted himself to justify his complete inability to fulfil what is required by all states in the world. All countries without exception believe that there is no alternative to the Minsk Agreements for settling the crisis in Donbass. Our Ukrainian colleagues are true prestidigitators. At one time, they believed that Rus was the true name of Ukraine (our ministry has already replied to this, so I will not repeat it). Later they said that the conversion of Rus was a Ukrainian holiday. This is sad. Mr Zelensky claims that Russian gas is the dirtiest in the world. He is doing this not because he is particularly bright but because he wants to maintain and fuel his Russophobic rhetoric and actions to prompt the West to continue supporting Kiev.

Ukraine continues to exploit the obvious efforts of the West to unbalance and destabilise Russia, sidetrack it from resolving its vital problems and make our foreign policy less effective. The Ukrainian regime is exploiting all this. This is clear to everyone. Having placed its bets on Kiev, the West feels uncomfortable about giving up on them. But this approach has obviously failed. The realisation of this fact is coming up but has not yet been embodied in practical steps aimed at convincing or, to use your expression, “enforcing” anything. It is the West that must enforce compliance from its client.

Question: How do you see yourself as a State Duma deputy, something you may soon be? Do you have proposals or ideas to offer? Perhaps, you have specific initiatives to promote our relations with Armenia or Georgia?

Sergey Lavrov: I will not speculate on the outcome of the elections to the State Duma.

We deal with our relations with Armenia and Georgia as Foreign Ministry officials. Armenia is our ally. New Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan was just in Moscow, on August 31. We had a good discussion. Our bilateral agenda is quite fulfilling and includes mutual visits, major projects and expanded economic cooperation. All of that is unfolding in a very intensive and confident manner.

There is the Nagorno-Karabakh problem, and Russia has played a decisive role in bringing a solution to it. The President of Russia, the President of Azerbaijan and the Prime Minister of Armenia signed agreements on November 9, 2020 (on ceasing hostilities and developing cooperation in this region) and on January 11. These agreements include specific actions that follow up on our leaders’ proposals to unblock all transport lines and economic ties. This is not a one-day project. It is underway, and the leaders of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan are closely following it. Our military personnel in the Russian peacekeeping contingent in Nagorno-Karabakh work daily on the ground to reduce tensions and build trust. The border guards are helping their Armenian allies sort out issues with their Azerbaijani neighbours.

Relations with Georgia are almost non-existent. There is a Section of Russia’s Interests in Georgia and a Section of Georgia’s Interests in Russia. There is trade, which is quite significant. Russia is one of Georgia’s leading trade partners. Our people love to go to Georgia (I myself love the country). There are no official interstate or diplomatic relations; they were severed at Tbilisi’s initiative. We have offered to resume them more than once. We planned to reciprocate to our Georgian neighbour when they introduced visa-free travel for our citizens. At first, we followed closely the developments as they were unfolding. We are not banning anyone from going to Georgia. In 2019, we were also willing to announce visa-free travel for Georgian citizens, but an unpleasant incident occurred with gross provocations against the Russian parliamentary delegation, which arrived in Tbilisi for a meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of Orthodoxy. Our deputy was the assembly chairman. In a conference room in Georgia, the Georgian hosts offered him the chair of the chairman of the parliament themselves. Then, immediately, a group of thugs came in the room demanding that Russia stop interfering in Georgia’s internal affairs and stop “occupying” their parliament. It even came to fisticuffs. With no apologies coming our way, we held back introducing visa-free travel for Georgian citizens and put our decision to resume regular flights on hold. We were ready to go ahead with it. If Georgia really doesn’t want to “play the Russian card” in an effort to retain Western protection, but instead prefers to have good relations with us as a neighbour, we will respond at any time.

Question: What qualities do you think a diplomat’s wife might need? What rules of etiquette she should observe?

Sergey Lavrov: There are no special rules here. A wife and a husband should both understand each other. Rather than obstructing the other, they should help each other carry out the ideas they have decided to devote their lives to and also achieve self-fulfillment in their professions. There is no universal advice.

When I was a rank-and-file diplomat, I worked with some top officials, whose wives had different “styles” – this occurs sometimes. In both cases, this proved to be effective and useful in our work. If a wife has a profession, her husband should also have respect for it. When a woman, regardless of whether she is the wife of an ambassador or a diplomat in a lower position, goes to a country which her husband has been posted to but where she cannot realise her professional potential, this can be a serious problem, which has to be addressed. In this situation, each family decides on its own whether the spouses go together or each of them keeps his or her job and tries to travel as often as possible to see the other. This is life; it doesn’t necessarily fit into a particular pattern.

Question: I believe the man himself comes first – Sergey Lavrov – and only then there is the Russian Foreign Minister. I like to look at politics through the prism of humaneness. What is your favourite song, the one you listen to and feel happy?

Sergey Lavrov: There are many. I will not give examples. The list is long. I do not want to leave anyone out. These are mostly songs by singer-poets. I enjoy listening to them whenever I have the chance, say, in my car or when I meet with my friends.

Question: I have a question about Russia’s relations with the Eastern European countries, given the complexity of regulating relations in this region since World War II, not to mention after the USSR’s collapse. How will they develop in the near future?

Sergey Lavrov: If a particular country has a government concerned about national interests, projects that meet the needs of its population, economic growth, and a search for partners that will help it resolve these problems in the best way, Russia has no problems in relations with any Central or East European country or any other country in the world.

We have close ties with Hungary and it is being criticised for this. In the European Union, Hungary and Poland are reprimanded for not obeying the EU’s general standards and principles. Thus, they hold referendums calling into doubt LGBT rights. Recently, Hungary held a referendum on the same law as Russia did. This law does not prohibit anything but imposes administrative liability for promoting LGBT ideology among minors. Nothing else. I think this is the right thing to do. In addition to major economic projects (nuclear power plants, and railway carriage production for Egypt), we have many other undertakings and good humanitarian cooperation.

Together with Armenia and the Vatican in the OSCE and the UN Human Rights Council, Russia and Hungary are acting as the driver in protecting the rights of Christians, including in the Middle East where Christians are seriously harassed. Hungary is not embarrassed about its Christian roots (incidentally, nor is Poland ashamed of its past and present). When they start talking about the need to raise their voice in defence of Christians, other European countries say that this is not quite politically correct.

In the OSCE, we suggested adopting a declaration against Christianophobia and Islamophobia, because it has already passed a declaration on anti-Semitism. However, these proposals are getting nowhere. Seven years ago, the West promised to adopt them but so far the OSCE countries have failed to adopt a common position on banning both Christianophobia and Islamophobia.

Regarding other East European countries, we have good relations with Slovenia. In particular, we are both working to preserve our common memory, including the bloody events of WWI and WWII. People in Slovenia care a lot about war memorials. Recently, they established a new monument devoted to all Russian soldiers who perished in both world wars. Our economic cooperation is in good shape.

We are implementing economic projects with other Eastern European countries, for instance, with Slovakia. We have considered many ideas about projects with the Czech Republic, but in the past few months it has decided to take a more Russophobic attitude and adopt overtly discriminatory decisions, like banning Rosatom from a tender on building a new nuclear power plant unit. It justified its policy with allegations that have never been proved by anyone. It blamed us for detonating some arms depots in 2014. Even many people in the Czech Republic consider this far-fetched.

However, the allegations remain. We are used to being accused of all kinds of “sins” without any evidence. This happened during the so-called poisoning of the Skripals and Alexey Navalny, and the investigation of the Malaysia Airlines crash in Donbass in July 2014. As in many other cases, these accusations are not buttressed by anything. Our requests to present facts are ignored or qualified as “classified.” Or we are told someone has “prohibited” to transmit information or some other excuse. This position is not serious. It reflects the Western approach to fueling Russophobic tensions without grounds.

Question: Do you think that we can describe the meeting between President of Russia Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden in Switzerland as the beginning of a relative normalisation of relations between the two countries?

Sergey Lavrov: Holding a meeting is better than having no contact at all. No breakthroughs occurred, but there was a mutually respectful conversation, on an equal footing, without any grievances expressed to either side.  The dialogue was permeated with the awareness of responsibility that the two biggest nuclear powers had for the state of affairs in the world. The presidents paid attention to the need to intensify bilateral contacts, particularly in the interests of stakeholders in the business community. But the main focus was on the international agenda.

The United States withdrew from the Treaty on Open Skies (TOS) just a few months before the meeting and from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) in 2019.   This has created a background for the fading of the international arms reduction and control agenda. When Joe Biden took office, he promptly responded to the proposal (which was made way back to the Trump administration but remained unanswered for a couple of years) on the need to extend the New START Treaty without any preconditions. We have managed to preserve at least this element of the arms control architecture for the next five years.

This was the context for the presidents’ meeting in Geneva. The main positive result of the meeting is that the two leaders reaffirmed the position that there can be no winners in a nuclear war and therefore it must never be unleashed. A statement to this effect was made a long time ago by the USSR and the USA. We suggested that the United States confirm this axiom. The previous administration evaded this, but Joe Biden accepted the proposal.

Within the same statement that spoke about the inadmissibility of unleashing a nuclear war, the two presidents outlined an instruction to start a dialogue on matters of strategic stability.  The first tentative meeting took place in July of this year. The second one is scheduled for September. At this stage, the parties’ positions are far apart, but the fact that the dialogue is under way gives hope for the coordination of a basis for further specific talks on arms limitation.   These are our short-term objectives.

They also talked in general terms about the need to establish a dialogue on cyber security. This is yet another topic on which we were unable to reach out to Washington for several years. Vladimir Putin’s official statement was dedicated to the initiatives on ensuring a transparent dialogue based on trust and facts on cyber security in Russian-American relations. Contacts of this kind are being prepared as well. There are reasons to believe that we will reduce international tension just a little in some areas. But this does not abolish the fact that the United States continues to see the containment of Russia and China as one of its main tasks, as well as the encouragement of measures that may be instrumental in having an irritating effect on us.

News conference following Russian-German talks

August 20, 2021

http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/66418

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With Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel at a news conference following Russian-German talks. Photo: TASS

With Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel at a news conference following Russian-German talks. Photo: TASS

(The formal transcript is not fully released yet, but this page will be updated as it gets released.)

Update: The formal transcript is now complete on this page.

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

Today’s talks with Madam Federal Chancellor were traditionally constructive and business-like.

We had an in-depth discussion, including with the participation of the delegations, on the current state of Russian-German relations and their prospects and exchanged views on a wide range of issues.

As you are aware, this visit by Ms Merkel is special since she is about to step down as Federal Chancellor after the parliamentary elections in the Federal Republic in September. But I want to say right away that we will always be delighted to see Ms Merkel in Russia as a welcome guest.

The fact that Angela Merkel has been heading the government of the Federal Republic for as long as 16 years inspires respect. She has been leading one of the largest, leading European countries with confidence, and she is rightfully among the most authoritative European and world leaders.

Over many years of working side by side, we have developed a good business relationship. We maintained regular contacts and close communication, discussed pressing bilateral matters and strived to coordinate our positions on challenges of global politics.

Occasionally, of course, we saw thing differently, but our dialogue has always been candid and meaningful and was aimed at reaching compromises and solving the most complicated challenges.

Importantly, Germany is indeed one of Russia’s priority partners in politics and the economy.

Speaking about Russian-German trade and economic ties, I would like to note that despite the coronavirus pandemic, which remains a major hindrance to restoring our business contacts in full, mutual trade has begun to expand. In January-May, this figure reached almost 33 percent to exceed $21 billion. Counter capital investment has come close to the $30 billion mark.

Russian-German Economy and Sustainable Development years are being held in 2020–2022. Businesspeople and entrepreneurs of the two countries are communicating at numerous events held as part of this campaign, and a number of promising joint projects in trade, the manufacturing industry and agriculture are being discussed in the process.

We have major projects that everyone is aware of. They are being implemented, and we very much hope that we will have more of them.

Of course, many pressing issues of international politics were touched upon during today’s talks.

Due to the rapidly unfolding events in Afghanistan, we prioritised this issue. The Taliban now controls almost the entire territory of that country, including its capital. This is the reality, and we must proceed from this reality as we strive to avoid the collapse of the Afghan state.

It is imperative to put an end to the irresponsible policy of imposing outside values ​​on others, to the desire to build democracies in other countries according to other nations’ “patterns” without regard to historical, national or religious specifics and totally ignoring the traditions of other nations.

We know Afghanistan, and we know it well enough to understand how this country functions and have had the opportunity to learn first-hand the extent to which trying to impose unusual forms of government or social life on it is counterproductive.

There has not been a single time when socio-political experiments of this kind succeeded. All they do is destroy states and degrade their political and social fabric.

At the same time, we see that the Taliban has already put an end to hostilities and is now seeking to ensure order, promising to guarantee safety for both local residents and foreign missions. I hope that this is how things will go.

The international community should keep a close eye on these developments with the UN Security Council playing a coordinating role.

There is one more point I wanted to make in this regard. We believe that it is essential at this point to prevent terrorists of all kinds from spilling over into Afghanistan’s immediate neighbours, including under the guise of refugees.

Among other international topics, we had a detailed discussion on promoting a settlement in southeastern Ukraine. As you know, Ms Merkel has done a lot to bring about a resolution to Ukraine’s internal crisis. She was at the origins of the Normandy Format, and we all worked together on ways of restoring peace in Donbass.

Unfortunately, so far we have not been able to accomplish this. Today, the Russian and German side expressed serious concern about the growing tension along the line of contact. We talked this over, and I hope that we follow up on this conversation in the nearest future. More than a thousand ceasefire violations have been reported since the beginning of August, and Donbass towns and villages face artillery fire every day.

Another matter of concern is that Ukraine has adopted a number of laws and regulations that essentially contradict the Minsk agreements. It is as if the leadership of that country has decided to give up on achieving a peaceful settlement altogether. In this connection, we ask Ms Federal Chancellor once again to exercise her influence over Ukraine, including during her upcoming visit to Kiev, to see that Ukraine honours its obligations.

Of course, we covered the situation in Belarus. Madam Chancellor touched on this issue as well. We believe that the differences in Belarusian society can only be resolved within the constitutional and legal framework and solely by the Belarusians themselves without any external interference.

When discussing the situation with the Iranian nuclear programme, Madam Chancellor and I expressed hope that once the new government in Iran has been formed, vigorous efforts to preserve the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action will resume. I informed Madam Federal Chancellor of my recent telephone conversation with the newly elected President of Iran.

As you are aware, Ms Merkel is committed to promoting an intra-Libyan settlement. Last January, I also took part in the Berlin Conference on Libya, which was convened on the initiative of Madam Chancellor, and the decisions it adopted helped improve the situation on the ground.

We believe that the international community should maintain a dialogue with all influential political forces in Libya in order to retain and build on the positive achievements that have yet to come.

We shared our vision of the state of affairs in Syria with our German partners. The ceasefire is in force throughout most of the country; the ruined economy and infrastructure are being rebuilt, but the terrorist threat still persists. Due to the illegal sanctions imposed on Damascus and the coronavirus pandemic, the socioeconomic situation there remains challenging.

We attach great importance to UN Security Council Resolution 2585, which was approved in July, on providing comprehensive humanitarian assistance to Syria. This is largely the outcome of the agreements reached during the Russia-US summit held in Geneva in June. We hope that the European countries, including the Federal Republic, will join in the efforts to help the Syrian people.

I would like to close by once again thanking Madam Federal Chancellor for our productive joint work – not only during today’s talks, but also during the previous years. I said it before, and I will say it again: we will always be delighted to see Ms Merkel in Russia.

Thank you.

Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel (retranslated)Thank you.

President Putin, dear Vladimir, ladies and gentlemen,

Earlier today, at the beginning of my visit, I laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to honour the memory of the fallen and as a reminder that 80 years ago Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union.

Today, we are very pleased to know that there is a dialogue going on between our governments, and our dialogue is constructive. Of course, we talked about different views and approaches to our joint decisions.

With regard to the nature of our bilateral relations, it is important to highlight a number of positive developments. I would like to mention economic relations, namely, the Year of Germany in Russia, which Mr President mentioned, during which a large number of meetings have taken place. In addition, there is an economic initiative involving the 1,000 Trainees project, which makes it possible for thousands of young Russians to take internships at German enterprises. These are the relationships that are very gratifying to have.

But, of course, we discussed the very depressing situation with Alexei Navalny. From our perspective, his sentence and imprisonment in a correctional facility were based on a court ruling that the ECHR found unobvious and disproportionate. This is unacceptable to us. I once again demanded that the President of Russia release Alexei Navalny and stressed that we would continue to monitor this case.

I also said that we are disappointed to see three German NGOs that have done a lot of work as part of the Petersburg Dialogue for cooperation between civil societies included on the list of objectionable organisations. I would like to know if it is possible to take these organisations off the list and to have the Petersburg Dialogue continue as before. From my perspective, this would send a very important message.

We also talked about bilateral economic relations, which are moving forward. In this regard, of course, we talked about Nord Stream 2. I would like to emphasise that this is not a bilateral German-Russian project, but a project of European dimension, because companies from other countries are also part of it.

In this context, we talked about the document concluded between the United States and the Federal Republic of Germany, and Mr President and I emphasised that Georg Graf Waldersee would act as a highly experienced negotiator with regard to gas transit through Ukraine beyond 2024. This is his assignment. We bear certain responsibility in this regard despite the economic developments that need to be taken into account.

In this context, we also discussed relations between Russia and the EU. It became clear that Russia is interested in entering an exchange with the EU on the “Fit for 55” climate package with account taken of cross-border carbon regulation and other problems. And I also noted that I am in favour of this approach.

Afghanistan was also among the current issues that we discussed today. This is a very important issue. We exchanged views, and I emphasised that it is very unfortunate that the Taliban are back in power in the country. However, this is how things stand. I also said that Germany believes helping people who had worked with Germany over the 20 years of NATO operations and missions in Afghanistan is currently a priority. We need to provide them refuge and ensure their safety in Germany and to take as many people as possible to Germany over the next few days.

I asked the Russian side to raise during the talks with the Taliban the question of UN humanitarian aid in Afghanistan, to make sure that it can be provided. The people who helped us, including those who assisted the Bundeswehr and the federal police, should be able to leave Afghanistan.

We also discussed developments in Ukraine. The Normandy Format is the only political framework we have for discussing these contentious issues. Currently the situation is in a deadlock. Unfortunately, Ukrainian service personnel are dying on the line of contact. I have always advocated reviving this format and giving it more weight. The last meeting was in December 2019, in Paris, and the goals we set back then were achieved both by the separatists in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, and by Ukraine.

I pointed out that I am ready to make further progress on this matter in the interest of the people of Ukraine, so that everyone can live in peace in Ukraine. This is what we stand for.

For us, the annexation of Crimea constitutes a violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, we will insist on this point, and I will continue supporting Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

Speaking of Belarus, I stated that I firmly condemn the use of people, refugees from other countries who find themselves in a dire situation, as a hybrid weapon of sorts. I am referring to the situation on the border between Belarus and Lithuania.

Of course, we discussed developments in Libya and Syria. On Libya, we need to implement the outcomes of the Libyan conference, which called for a proportionate and reciprocal withdrawal of foreign mercenaries, while empowering Libyan forces to shape a future for the country they want. On this issue, Germany and Russia have a number of points in common.

We also talked about the challenges posed by climate change. Both Germany and Russia have suffered from natural disasters. In Russia, Siberia, even north of the Arctic circle, was especially hard hit. For this reason alone, we are convinced that we need to fight climate change, which calls for close cooperation. The same applies to a number of other international matters.

I wanted to say that over the past 16 years I have been to Russia 16 times, which is to say that I was open to contact. Talks between us have not always been easy. There has been a lot of debate and controversy around them, including on the international stage, but I always sought compromise. I think that there is no alternative, at least no reasonable one, to dialogue and the exchange of opinion. This invariably requires a lot of work. Everything could have been a lot easier, but our dialogue should continue. I have no doubts about this.

Thank you.

Question (retranslated): Madam Chancellor, you said you spoke in support of Alexei Navalny and in favour of his release today. Here is a question for you, President Putin: what is needed to set Alexei Navalny free and what is needed to put an end to the persecution of Alexei Navalny’s supporters?

And a question for both of you. Today is the anniversary of the attempted poisoning of Alexei Navalny. He published an article in which he demands fighting corruption, since it is the root of all evil. What do you think about this proposal, Mr Putin? For example, he demands imposing sanctions on the oligarchs that are close to you.

Vladimir Putin: With regard to the person you just mentioned, he was not convicted for his political activities, but a criminal offense against foreign partners.

As far as political activity goes, no one should be using political activity as a front to carry out business projects, which, on top of that, violate the law. This is the first part of what I have to say to your question.

Second, with regard to non-systemic opposition in general. I don’t remember seeing in Western countries, Europe or the United States – Occupy Wall Street in the United States or the Yellow Vests in France – these people enjoying much support on their way to representative bodies, including parliament. We do not see anything like that. Moreover, when, following the US elections, people entered Congress with political demands, more than 100 criminal cases were brought against them. And judging by the charges brought against them, they are facing long prison terms anywhere from 15 to 20–25 years, maybe even more. To be completely objective, please pay attention to this side of the problem as well.

As for us, our political system is evolving, and all citizens of the Russian Federation have the right to express their opinions on political issues, form political organisations, and participate in elections of all levels. However, this must be done within the limits of applicable law and the Constitution. We will do our best to keep the situation in Russia stable and predictable. Russia exhausted its limit on revolutions back in the 20th century. We do not want revolutions. What we want is evolutionary development of our society and state. I hope that this will be so. As for the decision of the judicial authorities of the Russian Federation, please treat these decisions with respect.

Fighting corruption is critically important, but it should not be used as a tool in a political struggle. We, as well as you, are well aware that this toolkit is used to achieve political goals and is recommended for achieving political goals by the organisations that are in charge of activities by people of this kind. Indeed, fighting corruption is critically important in and of itself, and it is our top priority, and we will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to eradicate corruption in the broadest sense of the word.

Angela Merkel: I would like to emphasise that we have talked at length about the way we understand political systems and freedoms. I believe that the questions of good governance and fighting corruption are actually entwined.

Regarding Alexei Navalny’s call for more sanctions, I would like to say that today the European Union imposes sanctions in the face of the relevant facts but linking economic corruption to sanctions is never easy. Still, within the European Union we believe in the need to discuss these matters, since there is a genuine link between corruption and political activity, no matter where it takes place. This includes Germany, I believe. Fighting corruption requires independent courts, a free press, as well as non-profit organisations that refuse to play along.

Vladimir Putin: Overall, who should be fighting corruption? People who fully abide by the law themselves. This is an essential prerequisite for ensuring that these efforts are effective.

Question: Taking into consideration the ongoing developments in Afghanistan, what is your assessment of the 20-year operation by the US and its allies and its outcome? Can this be called a total failure and will it result in the US-led West to rethink its approach to imposing democracy on third countries?

I also have a question or rather a request for Madam Chancellor. You probably know that RT is preparing to launch a German-language channel, but unfortunately, the German authorities are doing everything they can to obstruct this project. First, the German banks were advised to close all RT accounts and not to open new ones. Now the German government is pressuring Luxembourg not to issue RT a broadcasting licence, and everyone knows this since the German media have been reporting on this issue.

Madam Federal Chancellor, please, help us enjoy freedom of expression.

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Regarding the operation in Afghanistan, it can hardly be described as a success. Quite the contrary, but concentrating on it for too long, emphasising this failure does not serve our interests.

We were interested in having stability in this country. But the situation is what it is. I think that many politicians in the West are beginning to realise what I just said in my opening remarks: you cannot impose political standards or behaviour on other countries and peoples, while ignoring their special nature, which includes the ethnic and religious structure and historical traditions. I think that eventually they will understand this, and this understanding will become the guiding principle in their realpolitik.

We saw what happened during the Arab Spring, now Afghanistan. However, it is important for our partners to make this rule universal and treat their partners with respect and be patient, whether they like something or not, they should still give these peoples the right to determine their future, no matter how long it may take them to bring democracy to their countries and regardless if they like what is happening in these countries or not. They must build neighbourly relations and respect each other’s interests in the international arena.

I think that this is the lesson we should learn from Afghanistan, and we should team up with our other partners – the United States and the European countries – we, that is Russia, must do whatever it takes to join our efforts today in order to support the Afghan people with the aim of normalising the situation in that country and establishing neighbourly relations with it.

Angela Merkel: With regard to Afghanistan, I would like to remind everyone about the starting point – the 9/11 attacks 20 years ago, in 2001. Back then, terrorist attacks on the United States were masterminded from Afghanistan. This started the fight against terrorism followed by NATO operations and missions.

The situation with terrorism in Afghanistan has improved since then, but the international community must fight the resurgence of terrorism in Afghanistan. With regard to the other project, that is, the Afghan people’s overall stance regarding their own future, we failed to achieve our goals; I am openly admitting this.

In December 2001, [German] Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer convened a conference with all Afghan representatives at the Petersberg hotel and urged Afghans to find a common shared solution. While trying to cooperate for development, we did not want to impose our position on the Afghan people, but we saw millions of happy girls who were allowed to go to school and empowered women. Many people find the current situation upsetting. However, it should be noted that the Taliban received more support than we would like. We will now need to talk with them and try to save the lives of the people who are now in harm’s way so they can leave the country, and we can continue to work for the benefit of Afghanistan.

It would be disappointing to see progress in these areas taper off. I hope we will find entities that can help Afghanistan find a path of its own, and that we will not be exposed to the threat of international terrorism.

As for RT, Germany did not put any pressure on Brussels or the decisions it made. In Germany, neither the federal government nor the state governments engage in matters like that.

Question (retranslated): Madam Federal Chancellor, the Minsk agreements are 6 years old now, but Ukraine remains divided, and you yourself said that people along the demarcation line in Donbass are dying. Following your talks today, are there any concrete plans to hold new talks at the heads of state or government level, or should we conclude that the Normandy format has failed?

And a question for you, Mr President. Once the Nord Stream 2 is completed, can you guarantee that gas transit across Ukraine will remain in place, and if so, will this arrangement remain in force after Ms Merkel leaves the post of chancellor?

Angela Merkel: With regard to the Minsk agreements: we have failed to achieve the goals that we wanted to achieve. But this is the format we have, including the trilateral contact group, and talks with the separatists in Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

So, this format needs to be handled with care, but progress is not as good as I would like it to be. However, if we identify an agenda, we can make arrangements for high-level meetings and talks. But we need to know what to discuss. During my visit to Ukraine, I will be pushing for identifying this agenda, because any minor progress can be decisive. However, this represents a very ambitious goal and a very challenging task. There are many inputs here. I still recommend this format, even though it is taking more time than we wanted, but we still need to avoid a dead end.

Vladimir Putin: I agree with the Federal Chancellor regarding the Minsk agreements and the Normandy format. We have no other tool to achieve peace, and I believe that it should be treated very carefully and with respect, despite the fact that we have so far failed to achieve the ultimate goals of the settlement.

The Minsk agreements are enshrined in a corresponding UN Security Council resolution, and in this sense, the Minsk agreements have become international law.

We are concerned that during the official talks and in their contacts with the media, the Ukrainian side says one thing, but inside the country it says something very different. In fact, and I want to emphasise this, it is enough to look at what the top public officials are saying, and they are saying that they are not going to comply with the Minsk agreements.

Today, I informed the Federal Chancellor that another draft law has been submitted by the Ukrainian government. If this law is adopted – please read it, it is not a classified document, it is probably available online – it means that Ukraine will, in fact, withdraw from the Minsk process unilaterally. Because it is not just that only certain things contradict the Minsk agreements, everything there contradicts the Minsk agreements. This will mean Ukraine’s de facto withdrawal from these agreements. I hope that during her visit, the Federal Chancellor will use some of her influence and exert some pressure on the Ukrainian authorities, and that this law will not be adopted.

Now, with regard to gas transit. Indeed, the Federal Chancellor has always advocated this approach. Always, mind you, even during construction, which is about to be completed. There are 44 or 45 kilometres left to go. (Addressing Alexei Miller.) How many, Mr Miller? 15? There are 15 more kilometres across the sea to go. We can safely assume that this project is nearing completion. But the Federal Chancellor has always raised the issue of continuing transit across Ukrainian territory even after the expiry of the transit contract.

The first thing I want to say in this regard. First, today this issue was raised again by the Federal Chancellor during the talks. I assured the Federal Chancellor that we will fully comply with our obligations under the transit contract even after she leaves the office of Federal Chancellor. Russia will fulfil all its obligations. We are doing so now and we will continue to do so going forward.

Next, Nord Stream 2. Some people claim the project is politically motivated. This is a fallacy or an attempt to mislead people. It is 2,000 kilometres shorter than the Ukrainian transit route. And it is a modern environmentally friendly system, and I mean it. It uses innovative equipment which, I believe, cuts carbon emissions into the atmosphere during the transit of our hydrocarbons to Europe by five times. We just need to be aware of it and know it. And it is much cheaper than transit across Ukraine.

However, we stand ready, and I’ll say it again, I have already said it publicly before and I want to make a point of it now, that we stand ready to transit gas across Ukraine beyond 2024. But we must understand the timeframe and volumes. And for this, we must know, and our European partners must tell us, how much they are willing to buy from us. This is obvious.

We cannot sign a transit contract if we have not signed supply contracts with our consumers in Europe. With the green agenda, which is already underway in Europe, we are wondering whether anyone will be buying gas from us altogether and, if so, how much. This needs to be discussed.

In any case, this is a purely business matter. I mean there is yet another component that is the technical condition of the pipeline system. To reiterate, we are not only willing to discuss this, we are really willing to get there. This is especially true of our supplies to Southern Europe. Consumption is on the rise, and I hope it will keep rising in the years ahead. Today, there is no other, more reliable source than Russian gas for German and other European consumers.

Question: Mr President, Ms Merkel,

You have been in close contact during the past 16 years: you have met and have spoken by phone. There have been ups and downs in relations between Russia and Germany during those 16 years. In general, what is your appraisal of the results achieved over 16 years and what is your vision of the future of Russian-German relations?

Vladimir Putin: The question is not quite pertinent. I would rather not appraise the performance of the Federal Chancellor, as only the German people can do this, including at the upcoming elections to the Bundestag.

Indeed, our relations have lived through different times. We just noted that we have taken different approaches to assessing various situations. Nevertheless, cooperation between us over these years, despite the difficulties we faced throughout this fairly lengthy period, has expanded and become more diverse.

Today, we talked about the economic aspect [of our relations]. The Federal Republic is our second largest trade and economic partner next to China – over $7 billion… We invested about $7.5 billion – it is even $9.5 billion – in Germany, while our German partners invested $18 billion [in our economy]. Importantly, German companies largely operate in the industrial sector. We appreciate this.

Today, Madam Chancellor put forth some concrete questions in connection with – I understand this, as I do the same on our behalf – the need to safeguard the interests of German businesses in the Russian market. This has to do with the level of domestic content and the like. All these are current issues. Generally, the quality of our relations has changed fundamentally, getting, of course, better. Hopefully, after the elections and the change of government, this trend will remain in place.

Angela Merkel: I believe that, despite different political systems, we need to keep communications channels open and exchange opinions. This is evidenced by the global situation and the history of relations between Germany and Russia. Our countries have lived through different periods, some of them terrible and some very pleasant.

Of course, during my term as chancellor, the political systems in our two countries have developed in different directions, so there are some vital matters that need to be discussed. All these differences notwithstanding, we have always managed to keep the negotiating channel open. I hope I have managed to contribute to this. I will always say that a failure to maintain dialogue is a poor choice.

Article by Vladimir Putin ”On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians“

July 13, 2021

Article by Vladimir Putin ”On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians“

http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/66181

July 12, 2021

During the recent Direct Line, when I was asked about Russian-Ukrainian relations, I said that Russians and Ukrainians were one people – a single whole. These words were not driven by some short-term considerations or prompted by the current political context. It is what I have said on numerous occasions and what I firmly believe. I therefore feel it necessary to explain my position in detail and share my assessments of today’s situation.

First of all, I would like to emphasize that the wall that has emerged in recent years between Russia and Ukraine, between the parts of what is essentially the same historical and spiritual space, to my mind is our great common misfortune and tragedy. These are, first and foremost, the consequences of our own mistakes made at different periods of time. But these are also the result of deliberate efforts by those forces that have always sought to undermine our unity. The formula they apply has been known from time immemorial – divide and rule. There is nothing new here. Hence the attempts to play on the ”national question“ and sow discord among people, the overarching goal being to divide and then to pit the parts of a single people against one another.

To have a better understanding of the present and look into the future, we need to turn to history. Certainly, it is impossible to cover in this article all the developments that have taken place over more than a thousand years. But I will focus on the key, pivotal moments that are important for us to remember, both in Russia and Ukraine.

Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians are all descendants of Ancient Rus, which was the largest state in Europe. Slavic and other tribes across the vast territory – from Ladoga, Novgorod, and Pskov to Kiev and Chernigov – were bound together by one language (which we now refer to as Old Russian), economic ties, the rule of the princes of the Rurik dynasty, and – after the baptism of Rus – the Orthodox faith. The spiritual choice made by St. Vladimir, who was both Prince of Novgorod and Grand Prince of Kiev, still largely determines our affinity today.

The throne of Kiev held a dominant position in Ancient Rus. This had been the custom since the late 9th century. The Tale of Bygone Years captured for posterity the words of Oleg the Prophet about Kiev, ”Let it be the mother of all Russian cities.“

Later, like other European states of that time, Ancient Rus faced a decline of central rule and fragmentation. At the same time, both the nobility and the common people perceived Rus as a common territory, as their homeland.

The fragmentation intensified after Batu Khan’s devastating invasion, which ravaged many cities, including Kiev. The northeastern part of Rus fell under the control of the Golden Horde but retained limited sovereignty. The southern and western Russian lands largely became part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which – most significantly – was referred to in historical records as the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Russia.

Members of the princely and ”boyar“ clans would change service from one prince to another, feuding with each other but also making friendships and alliances. Voivode Bobrok of Volyn and the sons of Grand Duke of Lithuania Algirdas – Andrey of Polotsk and Dmitry of Bryansk – fought next to Grand Duke Dmitry Ivanovich of Moscow on the Kulikovo field. At the same time, Grand Duke of Lithuania Jogaila – son of the Princess of Tver – led his troops to join with Mamai. These are all pages of our shared history, reflecting its complex and multi-dimensional nature.

Most importantly, people both in the western and eastern Russian lands spoke the same language. Their faith was Orthodox. Up to the middle of the 15th century, the unified church government remained in place.

At a new stage of historical development, both Lithuanian Rus and Moscow Rus could have become the points of attraction and consolidation of the territories of Ancient Rus. It so happened that Moscow became the center of reunification, continuing the tradition of ancient Russian statehood. Moscow princes – the descendants of Prince Alexander Nevsky – cast off the foreign yoke and began gathering the Russian lands.

In the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, other processes were unfolding. In the 14th century, Lithuania’s ruling elite converted to Catholicism. In the 16th century, it signed the Union of Lublin with the Kingdom of Poland to form the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. The Polish Catholic nobility received considerable land holdings and privileges in the territory of Rus. In accordance with the 1596 Union of Brest, part of the western Russian Orthodox clergy submitted to the authority of the Pope. The process of Polonization and Latinization began, ousting Orthodoxy.

As a consequence, in the 16–17th centuries, the liberation movement of the Orthodox population was gaining strength in the Dnieper region. The events during the times of Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky became a turning point. His supporters struggled for autonomy from the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.

In its 1649 appeal to the king of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Zaporizhian Host demanded that the rights of the Russian Orthodox population be respected, that the voivode of Kiev be Russian and of Greek faith, and that the persecution of the churches of God be stopped. But the Cossacks were not heard.

Bohdan Khmelnytsky then made appeals to Moscow, which were considered by the Zemsky Sobor. On 1 October 1653, members of the supreme representative body of the Russian state decided to support their brothers in faith and take them under patronage. In January 1654, the Pereyaslav Council confirmed that decision. Subsequently, the ambassadors of Bohdan Khmelnytsky and Moscow visited dozens of cities, including Kiev, whose populations swore allegiance to the Russian tsar. Incidentally, nothing of the kind happened at the conclusion of the Union of Lublin.

In a letter to Moscow in 1654, Bohdan Khmelnytsky thanked Tsar Aleksey Mikhaylovich for taking ”the whole Zaporizhian Host and the whole Russian Orthodox world under the strong and high hand of the Tsar“. It means that, in their appeals to both the Polish king and the Russian tsar, the Cossacks referred to and defined themselves as Russian Orthodox people.

Over the course of the protracted war between the Russian state and the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, some of the hetmans, successors of Bohdan Khmelnytsky, would ”detach themselves“ from Moscow or seek support from Sweden, Poland, or Turkey. But, again, for the people, that was a war of liberation. It ended with the Truce of Andrusovo in 1667. The final outcome was sealed by the Treaty of Perpetual Peace in 1686. The Russian state incorporated the city of Kiev and the lands on the left bank of the Dnieper River, including Poltava region, Chernigov region, and Zaporozhye. Their inhabitants were reunited with the main part of the Russian Orthodox people. These territories were referred to as ”Malorossia“ (Little Russia).

The name ”Ukraine“ was used more often in the meaning of the Old Russian word ”okraina“ (periphery), which is found in written sources from the 12th century, referring to various border territories. And the word ”Ukrainian“, judging by archival documents, originally referred to frontier guards who protected the external borders.

On the right bank, which remained under the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, the old orders were restored, and social and religious oppression intensified. On the contrary, the lands on the left bank, taken under the protection of the unified state, saw rapid development. People from the other bank of the Dnieper moved here en masse. They sought support from people who spoke the same language and had the same faith.

During the Great Northern War with Sweden, the people in Malorossia were not faced with a choice of whom to side with. Only a small portion of the Cossacks supported Mazepa’s rebellion. People of all orders and degrees considered themselves Russian and Orthodox.

Cossack senior officers belonging to the nobility would reach the heights of political, diplomatic, and military careers in Russia. Graduates of Kiev-Mohyla Academy played a leading role in church life. This was also the case during the Hetmanate – an essentially autonomous state formation with a special internal structure – and later in the Russian Empire. Malorussians in many ways helped build a big common country – its statehood, culture, and science. They participated in the exploration and development of the Urals, Siberia, the Caucasus, and the Far East. Incidentally, during the Soviet period, natives of Ukraine held major, including the highest, posts in the leadership of the unified state. Suffice it to say that Nikita Khrushchev and Leonid Brezhnev, whose party biography was most closely associated with Ukraine, led the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) for almost 30 years.

In the second half of the 18th century, following the wars with the Ottoman Empire, Russia incorporated Crimea and the lands of the Black Sea region, which became known as Novorossiya. They were populated by people from all of the Russian provinces. After the partitions of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Russian Empire regained the western Old Russian lands, with the exception of Galicia and Transcarpathia, which became part of the Austrian – and later Austro-Hungarian – Empire.

The incorporation of the western Russian lands into the single state was not merely the result of political and diplomatic decisions. It was underlain by the common faith, shared cultural traditions, and – I would like to emphasize it once again – language similarity. Thus, as early as the beginning of the 17th century, one of the hierarchs of the Uniate Church, Joseph Rutsky, communicated to Rome that people in Moscovia called Russians from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth their brothers, that their written language was absolutely identical, and differences in the vernacular were insignificant. He drew an analogy with the residents of Rome and Bergamo. These are, as we know, the center and the north of modern Italy.

Many centuries of fragmentation and living within different states naturally brought about regional language peculiarities, resulting in the emergence of dialects. The vernacular enriched the literary language. Ivan Kotlyarevsky, Grigory Skovoroda, and Taras Shevchenko played a huge role here. Their works are our common literary and cultural heritage. Taras Shevchenko wrote poetry in the Ukrainian language, and prose mainly in Russian. The books of Nikolay Gogol, a Russian patriot and native of Poltavshchyna, are written in Russian, bristling with Malorussian folk sayings and motifs. How can this heritage be divided between Russia and Ukraine? And why do it?

The south-western lands of the Russian Empire, Malorussia and Novorossiya, and the Crimea developed as ethnically and religiously diverse entities. Crimean Tatars, Armenians, Greeks, Jews, Karaites, Krymchaks, Bulgarians, Poles, Serbs, Germans, and other peoples lived here. They all preserved their faith, traditions, and customs.

I am not going to idealise anything. We do know there were the Valuev Circular of 1863 an then the Ems Ukaz of 1876, which restricted the publication and importation of religious and socio-political literature in the Ukrainian language. But it is important to be mindful of the historical context. These decisions were taken against the backdrop of dramatic events in Poland and the desire of the leaders of the Polish national movement to exploit the ”Ukrainian issue“ to their own advantage. I should add that works of fiction, books of Ukrainian poetry and folk songs continued to be published. There is objective evidence that the Russian Empire was witnessing an active process of development of the Malorussian cultural identity within the greater Russian nation, which united the Velikorussians, the Malorussians and the Belorussians.

At the same time, the idea of Ukrainian people as a nation separate from the Russians started to form and gain ground among the Polish elite and a part of the Malorussian intelligentsia. Since there was no historical basis – and could not have been any, conclusions were substantiated by all sorts of concoctions, which went as far as to claim that the Ukrainians are the true Slavs and the Russians, the Muscovites, are not. Such ”hypotheses“ became increasingly used for political purposes as a tool of rivalry between European states.

Since the late 19th century, the Austro-Hungarian authorities had latched onto this narrative, using it as a counterbalance to the Polish national movement and pro-Muscovite sentiments in Galicia. During World War I, Vienna played a role in the formation of the so-called Legion of Ukrainian Sich Riflemen. Galicians suspected of sympathies with Orthodox Christianity and Russia were subjected to brutal repression and thrown into the concentration camps of Thalerhof and Terezin.

Further developments had to do with the collapse of European empires, the fierce civil war that broke out across the vast territory of the former Russian Empire, and foreign intervention.

After the February Revolution, in March 1917, the Central Rada was established in Kiev, intended to become the organ of supreme power. In November 1917, in its Third Universal, it declared the creation of the Ukrainian People’s Republic (UPR) as part of Russia.

In December 1917, UPR representatives arrived in Brest-Litovsk, where Soviet Russia was negotiating with Germany and its allies. At a meeting on 10 January 1918, the head of the Ukrainian delegation read out a note proclaiming the independence of Ukraine. Subsequently, the Central Rada proclaimed Ukraine independent in its Fourth Universal.

The declared sovereignty did not last long. Just a few weeks later, Rada delegates signed a separate treaty with the German bloc countries. Germany and Austria-Hungary were at the time in a dire situation and needed Ukrainian bread and raw materials. In order to secure large-scale supplies, they obtained consent for sending their troops and technical staff to the UPR. In fact, this was used as a pretext for occupation.

For those who have today given up the full control of Ukraine to external forces, it would be instructive to remember that, back in 1918, such a decision proved fatal for the ruling regime in Kiev. With the direct involvement of the occupying forces, the Central Rada was overthrown and Hetman Pavlo Skoropadskyi was brought to power, proclaiming instead of the UPR the Ukrainian State, which was essentially under German protectorate.

In November 1918 – following the revolutionary events in Germany and Austria-Hungary – Pavlo Skoropadskyi, who had lost the support of German bayonets, took a different course, declaring that ”Ukraine is to take the lead in the formation of an All-Russian Federation“. However, the regime was soon changed again. It was now the time of the so-called Directorate.

In autumn 1918, Ukrainian nationalists proclaimed the West Ukrainian People’s Republic (WUPR) and, in January 1919, announced its unification with the Ukrainian People’s Republic. In July 1919, Ukrainian forces were crushed by Polish troops, and the territory of the former WUPR came under the Polish rule.

In April 1920, Symon Petliura (portrayed as one of the ”heroes“ in today’s Ukraine) concluded secret conventions on behalf of the UPR Directorate, giving up – in exchange for military support – Galicia and Western Volhynia lands to Poland. In May 1920, Petliurites entered Kiev in a convoy of Polish military units. But not for long. As early as November 1920, following a truce between Poland and Soviet Russia, the remnants of Petliura’s forces surrendered to those same Poles.

The example of the UPR shows that different kinds of quasi-state formations that emerged across the former Russian Empire at the time of the Civil War and turbulence were inherently unstable. Nationalists sought to create their own independent states, while leaders of the White movement advocated indivisible Russia. Many of the republics established by the Bolsheviks’ supporters did not see themselves outside Russia either. Nevertheless, Bolshevik Party leaders sometimes basically drove them out of Soviet Russia for various reasons.

Thus, in early 1918, the Donetsk-Krivoy Rog Soviet Republic was proclaimed and asked Moscow to incorporate it into Soviet Russia. This was met with a refusal. During a meeting with the republic’s leaders, Vladimir Lenin insisted that they act as part of Soviet Ukraine. On 15 March 1918, the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) directly ordered that delegates be sent to the Ukrainian Congress of Soviets, including from the Donetsk Basin, and that ”one government for all of Ukraine“ be created at the congress. The territories of the Donetsk-Krivoy Rog Soviet Republic later formed most of the regions of south-eastern Ukraine.

Under the 1921 Treaty of Riga, concluded between the Russian SFSR, the Ukrainian SSR and Poland, the western lands of the former Russian Empire were ceded to Poland. In the interwar period, the Polish government pursued an active resettlement policy, seeking to change the ethnic composition of the Eastern Borderlands – the Polish name for what is now Western Ukraine, Western Belarus and parts of Lithuania. The areas were subjected to harsh Polonisation, local culture and traditions suppressed. Later, during World War II, radical groups of Ukrainian nationalists used this as a pretext for terror not only against Polish, but also against Jewish and Russian populations.

In 1922, when the USSR was created, with the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic becoming one of its founders, a rather fierce debate among the Bolshevik leaders resulted in the implementation of Lenin’s plan to form a union state as a federation of equal republics. The right for the republics to freely secede from the Union was included in the text of the Declaration on the Creation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and, subsequently, in the 1924 USSR Constitution. By doing so, the authors planted in the foundation of our statehood the most dangerous time bomb, which exploded the moment the safety mechanism provided by the leading role of the CPSU was gone, the party itself collapsing from within. A ”parade of sovereignties“ followed. On 8 December 1991, the so-called Belovezh Agreement on the Creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States was signed, stating that ”the USSR as a subject of international law and a geopolitical reality no longer existed.“ By the way, Ukraine never signed or ratified the CIS Charter adopted back in 1993.

In the 1920’s-1930’s, the Bolsheviks actively promoted the ”localization policy“, which took the form of Ukrainization in the Ukrainian SSR. Symbolically, as part of this policy and with consent of the Soviet authorities, Mikhail Grushevskiy, former chairman of Central Rada, one of the ideologists of Ukrainian nationalism, who at a certain period of time had been supported by Austria-Hungary, was returned to the USSR and was elected member of the Academy of Sciences.

The localization policy undoubtedly played a major role in the development and consolidation of the Ukrainian culture, language and identity. At the same time, under the guise of combating the so-called Russian great-power chauvinism, Ukrainization was often imposed on those who did not see themselves as Ukrainians. This Soviet national policy secured at the state level the provision on three separate Slavic peoples: Russian, Ukrainian and Belorussian, instead of the large Russian nation, a triune people comprising Velikorussians, Malorussians and Belorussians.

In 1939, the USSR regained the lands earlier seized by Poland. A major portion of these became part of the Soviet Ukraine. In 1940, the Ukrainian SSR incorporated part of Bessarabia, which had been occupied by Romania since 1918, as well as Northern Bukovina. In 1948, Zmeyiniy Island (Snake Island) in the Black Sea became part of Ukraine. In 1954, the Crimean Region of the RSFSR was given to the Ukrainian SSR, in gross violation of legal norms that were in force at the time.

I would like to dwell on the destiny of Carpathian Ruthenia, which became part of Czechoslovakia following the breakup of Austria-Hungary. Rusins made up a considerable share of local population. While this is hardly mentioned any longer, after the liberation of Transcarpathia by Soviet troops the congress of the Orthodox population of the region voted for the inclusion of Carpathian Ruthenia in the RSFSR or, as a separate Carpathian republic, in the USSR proper. Yet the choice of people was ignored. In summer 1945, the historical act of the reunification of Carpathian Ukraine ”with its ancient motherland, Ukraine“ – as The Pravda newspaper put it – was announced.

Therefore, modern Ukraine is entirely the product of the Soviet era. We know and remember well that it was shaped – for a significant part – on the lands of historical Russia. To make sure of that, it is enough to look at the boundaries of the lands reunited with the Russian state in the 17th century and the territory of the Ukrainian SSR when it left the Soviet Union.

The Bolsheviks treated the Russian people as inexhaustible material for their social experiments. They dreamt of a world revolution that would wipe out national states. That is why they were so generous in drawing borders and bestowing territorial gifts. It is no longer important what exactly the idea of the Bolshevik leaders who were chopping the country into pieces was. We can disagree about minor details, background and logics behind certain decisions. One fact is crystal clear: Russia was robbed, indeed.

When working on this article, I relied on open-source documents that contain well-known facts rather than on some secret records. The leaders of modern Ukraine and their external ”patrons“ prefer to overlook these facts. They do not miss a chance, however, both inside the country and abroad, to condemn ”the crimes of the Soviet regime,“ listing among them events with which neither the CPSU, nor the USSR, let alone modern Russia, have anything to do. At the same time, the Bolsheviks’ efforts to detach from Russia its historical territories are not considered a crime. And we know why: if they brought about the weakening of Russia, our ill-wishes are happy with that.

Of course, inside the USSR, borders between republics were never seen as state borders; they were nominal within a single country, which, while featuring all the attributes of a federation, was highly centralized – this, again, was secured by the CPSU’s leading role. But in 1991, all those territories, and, which is more important, people, found themselves abroad overnight, taken away, this time indeed, from their historical motherland.

What can be said to this? Things change: countries and communities are no exception. Of course, some part of a people in the process of its development, influenced by a number of reasons and historical circumstances, can become aware of itself as a separate nation at a certain moment. How should we treat that? There is only one answer: with respect!

You want to establish a state of your own: you are welcome! But what are the terms? I will recall the assessment given by one of the most prominent political figures of new Russia, first mayor of Saint Petersburg Anatoly Sobchak. As a legal expert who believed that every decision must be legitimate, in 1992, he shared the following opinion: the republics that were founders of the Union, having denounced the 1922 Union Treaty, must return to the boundaries they had had before joining the Soviet Union. All other territorial acquisitions are subject to discussion, negotiations, given that the ground has been revoked.

In other words, when you leave, take what you brought with you. This logic is hard to refute. I will just say that the Bolsheviks had embarked on reshaping boundaries even before the Soviet Union, manipulating with territories to their liking, in disregard of people’s views.

The Russian Federation recognized the new geopolitical realities: and not only recognized, but, indeed, did a lot for Ukraine to establish itself as an independent country. Throughout the difficult 1990’s and in the new millennium, we have provided considerable support to Ukraine. Whatever ”political arithmetic“ of its own Kiev may wish to apply, in 1991–2013, Ukraine’s budget savings amounted to more than USD 82 billion, while today, it holds on to the mere USD 1.5 billion of Russian payments for gas transit to Europe. If economic ties between our countries had been retained, Ukraine would enjoy the benefit of tens of billions of dollars.

Ukraine and Russia have developed as a single economic system over decades and centuries. The profound cooperation we had 30 years ago is an example for the European Union to look up to. We are natural complementary economic partners. Such a close relationship can strengthen competitive advantages, increasing the potential of both countries.

Ukraine used to possess great potential, which included powerful infrastructure, gas transportation system, advanced shipbuilding, aviation, rocket and instrument engineering industries, as well as world-class scientific, design and engineering schools. Taking over this legacy and declaring independence, Ukrainian leaders promised that the Ukrainian economy would be one of the leading ones and the standard of living would be among the best in Europe.

Today, high-tech industrial giants that were once the pride of Ukraine and the entire Union, are sinking. Engineering output has dropped by 42 per cent over ten years. The scale of deindustrialization and overall economic degradation is visible in Ukraine’s electricity production, which has seen a nearly two-time decrease in 30 years. Finally, according to IMF reports, in 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic broke out, Ukraine’s GDP per capita had been below USD 4 thousand. This is less than in the Republic of Albania, the Republic of Moldova, or unrecognized Kosovo. Nowadays, Ukraine is Europe’s poorest country.

Who is to blame for this? Is it the people of Ukraine’s fault? Certainly not. It was the Ukrainian authorities who waisted and frittered away the achievements of many generations. We know how hardworking and talented the people of Ukraine are. They can achieve success and outstanding results with perseverance and determination. And these qualities, as well as their openness, innate optimism and hospitality have not gone. The feelings of millions of people who treat Russia not just well but with great affection, just as we feel about Ukraine, remain the same.

Until 2014, hundreds of agreements and joint projects were aimed at developing our economies, business and cultural ties, strengthening security, and solving common social and environmental problems. They brought tangible benefits to people – both in Russia and Ukraine. This is what we believed to be most important. And that is why we had a fruitful interaction with all, I emphasize, with all the leaders of Ukraine.

Even after the events in Kiev of 2014, I charged the Russian government to elaborate options for preserving and maintaining our economic ties within relevant ministries and agencies. However, there was and is still no mutual will to do the same. Nevertheless, Russia is still one of Ukraine’s top three trading partners, and hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians are coming to us to work, and they find a welcome reception and support. So that what the ”aggressor state“ is.

When the USSR collapsed, many people in Russia and Ukraine sincerely believed and assumed that our close cultural, spiritual and economic ties would certainly last, as would the commonality of our people, who had always had a sense of unity at their core. However, events – at first gradually, and then more rapidly – started to move in a different direction.

In essence, Ukraine’s ruling circles decided to justify their country’s independence through the denial of its past, however, except for border issues. They began to mythologize and rewrite history, edit out everything that united us, and refer to the period when Ukraine was part of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union as an occupation. The common tragedy of collectivization and famine of the early 1930s was portrayed as the genocide of the Ukrainian people.

Radicals and neo-Nazis were open and more and more insolent about their ambitions. They were indulged by both the official authorities and local oligarchs, who robbed the people of Ukraine and kept their stolen money in Western banks, ready to sell their motherland for the sake of preserving their capital. To this should be added the persistent weakness of state institutions and the position of a willing hostage to someone else’s geopolitical will.

I recall that long ago, well before 2014, the U.S. and EU countries systematically and consistently pushed Ukraine to curtail and limit economic cooperation with Russia. We, as the largest trade and economic partner of Ukraine, suggested discussing the emerging problems in the Ukraine-Russia-EU format. But every time we were told that Russia had nothing to do with it and that the issue concerned only the EU and Ukraine. De facto Western countries rejected Russia’s repeated calls for dialogue.

Step by step, Ukraine was dragged into a dangerous geopolitical game aimed at turning Ukraine into a barrier between Europe and Russia, a springboard against Russia. Inevitably, there came a time when the concept of ”Ukraine is not Russia“ was no longer an option. There was a need for the ”anti-Russia“ concept which we will never accept.

The owners of this project took as a basis the old groundwork of the Polish-Austrian ideologists to create an ”anti-Moscow Russia“. And there is no need to deceive anyone that this is being done in the interests of the people of Ukraine. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth never needed Ukrainian culture, much less Cossack autonomy. In Austria-Hungary, historical Russian lands were mercilessly exploited and remained the poorest. The Nazis, abetted by collaborators from the OUN-UPA, did not need Ukraine, but a living space and slaves for Aryan overlords.

Nor were the interests of the Ukrainian people thought of in February 2014. The legitimate public discontent, caused by acute socio-economic problems, mistakes, and inconsistent actions of the authorities of the time, was simply cynically exploited. Western countries directly interfered in Ukraine’s internal affairs and supported the coup. Radical nationalist groups served as its battering ram. Their slogans, ideology, and blatant aggressive Russophobia have to a large extent become defining elements of state policy in Ukraine.

All the things that united us and bring us together so far came under attack. First and foremost, the Russian language. Let me remind you that the new ”Maidan“ authorities first tried to repeal the law on state language policy. Then there was the law on the ”purification of power“, the law on education that virtually cut the Russian language out of the educational process.

Lastly, as early as May of this year, the current president introduced a bill on ”indigenous peoples“ to the Rada. Only those who constitute an ethnic minority and do not have their own state entity outside Ukraine are recognized as indigenous. The law has been passed. New seeds of discord have been sown. And this is happening in a country, as I have already noted, that is very complex in terms of its territorial, national and linguistic composition, and its history of formation.

There may be an argument: if you are talking about a single large nation, a triune nation, then what difference does it make who people consider themselves to be – Russians, Ukrainians, or Belarusians. I completely agree with this. Especially since the determination of nationality, particularly in mixed families, is the right of every individual, free to make his or her own choice.

But the fact is that the situation in Ukraine today is completely different because it involves a forced change of identity. And the most despicable thing is that the Russians in Ukraine are being forced not only to deny their roots, generations of their ancestors but also to believe that Russia is their enemy. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the path of forced assimilation, the formation of an ethnically pure Ukrainian state, aggressive towards Russia, is comparable in its consequences to the use of weapons of mass destruction against us. As a result of such a harsh and artificial division of Russians and Ukrainians, the Russian people in all may decrease by hundreds of thousands or even millions.

Our spiritual unity has also been attacked. As in the days of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, a new ecclesiastical has been initiated. The secular authorities, making no secret of their political aims, have blatantly interfered in church life and brought things to a split, to the seizure of churches, the beating of priests and monks. Even extensive autonomy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church while maintaining spiritual unity with the Moscow Patriarchate strongly displeases them. They have to destroy this prominent and centuries-old symbol of our kinship at all costs.

I think it is also natural that the representatives of Ukraine over and over again vote against the UN General Assembly resolution condemning the glorification of Nazism. Marches and torchlit processions in honor of remaining war criminals from the SS units take place under the protection of the official authorities. Mazepa, who betrayed everyone, Petliura, who paid for Polish patronage with Ukrainian lands, and Bandera, who collaborated with the Nazis, are ranked as national heroes. Everything is being done to erase from the memory of young generations the names of genuine patriots and victors, who have always been the pride of Ukraine.

For the Ukrainians who fought in the Red Army, in partisan units, the Great Patriotic War was indeed a patriotic war because they were defending their home, their great common Motherland. Over two thousand soldiers became Heroes of the Soviet Union. Among them are legendary pilot Ivan Kozhedub, fearless sniper, defender of Odessa and Sevastopol Lyudmila Pavlichenko, valiant guerrilla commander Sidor Kovpak. This indomitable generation fought, those people gave their lives for our future, for us. To forget their feat is to betray our grandfathers, mothers and fathers.

The anti-Russia project has been rejected by millions of Ukrainians. The people of Crimea and residents of Sevastopol made their historic choice. And people in the southeast peacefully tried to defend their stance. Yet, all of them, including children, were labeled as separatists and terrorists. They were threatened with ethnic cleansing and the use of military force. And the residents of Donetsk and Lugansk took up arms to defend their home, their language and their lives. Were they left any other choice after the riots that swept through the cities of Ukraine, after the horror and tragedy of 2 May 2014 in Odessa where Ukrainian neo-Nazis burned people alive making a new Khatyn out of it? The same massacre was ready to be carried out by the followers of Bandera in Crimea, Sevastopol, Donetsk and Lugansk. Even now they do not abandon such plans. They are biding their time. But their time will not come.

The coup d’état and the subsequent actions of the Kiev authorities inevitably provoked confrontation and civil war. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights estimates that the total number of victims in the conflict in Donbas has exceeded 13,000. Among them are the elderly and children. These are terrible, irreparable losses.

Russia has done everything to stop fratricide. The Minsk agreements aimed at a peaceful settlement of the conflict in Donbas have been concluded. I am convinced that they still have no alternative. In any case, no one has withdrawn their signatures from the Minsk Package of Measures or from the relevant statements by the leaders of the Normandy format countries. No one has initiated a review of the United Nations Security Council resolution of 17 February 2015.

During official negotiations, especially after being reined in by Western partners, Ukraine’s representatives regularly declare their ”full adherence“ to the Minsk agreements, but are in fact guided by a position of ”unacceptability“. They do not intend to seriously discuss either the special status of Donbas or safeguards for the people living there. They prefer to exploit the image of the ”victim of external aggression“ and peddle Russophobia. They arrange bloody provocations in Donbas. In short, they attract the attention of external patrons and masters by all means.

Apparently, and I am becoming more and more convinced of this: Kiev simply does not need Donbas. Why? Because, firstly, the inhabitants of these regions will never accept the order that they have tried and are trying to impose by force, blockade and threats. And secondly, the outcome of both Minsk‑1 and Minsk‑2 which give a real chance to peacefully restore the territorial integrity of Ukraine by coming to an agreement directly with the DPR and LPR with Russia, Germany and France as mediators, contradicts the entire logic of the anti-Russia project. And it can only be sustained by the constant cultivation of the image of an internal and external enemy. And I would add – under the protection and control of the Western powers.

This is what is actually happening. First of all, we are facing the creation of a climate of fear in Ukrainian society, aggressive rhetoric, indulging neo-Nazis and militarising the country. Along with that we are witnessing not just complete dependence but direct external control, including the supervision of the Ukrainian authorities, security services and armed forces by foreign advisers, military ”development“ of the territory of Ukraine and deployment of NATO infrastructure. It is no coincidence that the aforementioned flagrant law on ”indigenous peoples“ was adopted under the cover of large-scale NATO exercises in Ukraine.

This is also a disguise for the takeover of the rest of the Ukrainian economy and the exploitation of its natural resources. The sale of agricultural land is not far off, and it is obvious who will buy it up. From time to time, Ukraine is indeed given financial resources and loans, but under their own conditions and pursuing their own interests, with preferences and benefits for Western companies. By the way, who will pay these debts back? Apparently, it is assumed that this will have to be done not only by today’s generation of Ukrainians but also by their children, grandchildren and probably great-grandchildren.

The Western authors of the anti-Russia project set up the Ukrainian political system in such a way that presidents, members of parliament and ministers would change but the attitude of separation from and enmity with Russia would remain. Reaching peace was the main election slogan of the incumbent president. He came to power with this. The promises turned out to be lies. Nothing has changed. And in some ways the situation in Ukraine and around Donbas has even degenerated.

In the anti-Russia project, there is no place either for a sovereign Ukraine or for the political forces that are trying to defend its real independence. Those who talk about reconciliation in Ukrainian society, about dialogue, about finding a way out of the current impasse are labelled as ”pro-Russian“ agents.

Again, for many people in Ukraine, the anti-Russia project is simply unacceptable. And there are millions of such people. But they are not allowed to raise their heads. They have had their legal opportunity to defend their point of view in fact taken away from them. They are intimidated, driven underground. Not only are they persecuted for their convictions, for the spoken word, for the open expression of their position, but they are also killed. Murderers, as a rule, go unpunished.

Today, the ”right“ patriot of Ukraine is only the one who hates Russia. Moreover, the entire Ukrainian statehood, as we understand it, is proposed to be further built exclusively on this idea. Hate and anger, as world history has repeatedly proved this, are a very shaky foundation for sovereignty, fraught with many serious risks and dire consequences.

All the subterfuges associated with the anti-Russia project are clear to us. And we will never allow our historical territories and people close to us living there to be used against Russia. And to those who will undertake such an attempt, I would like to say that this way they will destroy their own country.

The incumbent authorities in Ukraine like to refer to Western experience, seeing it as a model to follow. Just have a look at how Austria and Germany, the USA and Canada live next to each other. Close in ethnic composition, culture, in fact sharing one language, they remain sovereign states with their own interests, with their own foreign policy. But this does not prevent them from the closest integration or allied relations. They have very conditional, transparent borders. And when crossing them the citizens feel at home. They create families, study, work, do business. Incidentally, so do millions of those born in Ukraine who now live in Russia. We see them as our own close people.

Russia is open to dialogue with Ukraine and ready to discuss the most complex issues. But it is important for us to understand that our partner is defending its national interests but not serving someone else’s, and is not a tool in someone else’s hands to fight against us.

We respect the Ukrainian language and traditions. We respect Ukrainians’ desire to see their country free, safe and prosperous.

I am confident that true sovereignty of Ukraine is possible only in partnership with Russia. Our spiritual, human and civilizational ties formed for centuries and have their origins in the same sources, they have been hardened by common trials, achievements and victories. Our kinship has been transmitted from generation to generation. It is in the hearts and the memory of people living in modern Russia and Ukraine, in the blood ties that unite millions of our families. Together we have always been and will be many times stronger and more successful. For we are one people.

Today, these words may be perceived by some people with hostility. They can be interpreted in many possible ways. Yet, many people will hear me. And I will say one thing – Russia has never been and will never be ”anti-Ukraine“. And what Ukraine will be – it is up to its citizens to decide.

Crying wolf in the Ukraine (again)

Crying wolf in the Ukraine (again)

THE SAKER • JULY 5, 2021 

I have to admit that before I sat down to write this column I had some misgivings: I thought “not another article warning about a potential explosion in the Ukraine! Not again!”. And yet, events on the ground are what they are and ignoring them under the pretext that I am fed up “crying wolf” again and again is not a wise solution either. I will try to keep it short though. First, let me provide you a quick summary of what has been happening in the Ukraine since my last column about the Ukraine on June 28th.

As most of you know, NATO and the Ukraine have been conducting maneuvers on the Black Sea, air and land called “Sea Breeze”. This is nothing new, but this year these maneuvers attracted more countries than usual, as you can see for yourself.

Officially, 32 countries from six continents providing 5,000 troops, 32 ships, 40 aircraft, and 18 special operations and dive teams are participating in this exercise: Albania, Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, France, Georgia, Greece, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Morocco, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Romania, Senegal, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and the United States. Kristina Kvien, the chargé d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, declared that “USS Ross‘ participation in this year’s Sea Breeze maritime exercise is a tangible demonstration of U.S. support for Ukraine and is necessary now more than ever (…) it is part of the enduring commitment that the United States and our NATO Allied and partner nations have made since 1997 to enhance maritime security in the Black Sea”.

Now here are a few examples of what the Ukies are saying:

  • Let’s see if the accursed Mokal’s will dare to shoot at the Ross which (at least according to the Ukies) can sink the entire Russian Black Sea Fleet with one salvo of its super-dooper Tomahawk missiles.
  • The Ukraine now has missiles which can bring down the bridge over the Kerch Strait.
  • The USA is delivering us fast attack boats while Turkey is giving us Bairaktar drones – with those we will liberate Crimea and the Donbass from the accused Moskal’.
  • The Ukrainian military is now the best in Europe (in fact, it protects the entire EU from assaults by the Russian hordes) and it will make minced meat of the Russians for sure the next time around.
  • In their current format, the Minsk Agreements are dead and we will never implement them. If the Moskal’ refuse to amend them then we also have a plan B: to build a big wall and totally cut all our ties with Russia. Either that, or we will liberate Crimea and the Donbass manu militari!
  • The next time the accursed Moskal’ try to prevent a Ukie vessel from traversing the Kerch Strait we will sink any force trying to stop us.

Keep in mind that all TV channels which are not controlled by Ze have now been banned. The Ukie Rada passed a law declaring that Russians are not native to the Ukraine (makes me wonder where they came from, outer space I suppose). All the main leaders of the rather uninspiring opposition are constantly harassed or even kept under house arrest. All this is to say that the insane examples of what the Ukronazis are saying above is not some minority of hardcore delusional Ukronazis – this is what many of the members of the party of Ze (and others!) are openly saying 24/7.

Now, let’s cut to the chase and see what is really going on!

PartyOfficial position
Official White HouseWe want to contain Russia, maintain a dialog where it is in the interests of the USA and we will defend our friends and values in the region and the whole world
US/NAT/EU officialsWe will resist any Russian provocation or use of force, we have the means to force Russia to renounce her plans to rebuild the Soviet Union.
UkronazisThe world is with us. Russia is weak and isolated. The US, NATO and our invincible military will teach a painful lesson to the Russian bear which really belongs East of the Urals (the latter are the natural border between the EU and China). We are now rehearsing the liberation of Crimea with our allies.
RussiansJust try

Let’s sum this up: while the top US officials have not held the same kind of language as the US, UK and Dutch Navy officers on their ships last week, it is pretty clear that one of two things will happen: either NATO will try to “poke the bear” or they won’t.

  • In the first case, NATO will have looked like it “blinked” and that for all its posturing, NATO is afraid of taking on Russia.
  • In the second case, Russia will sink a NATO ship (or shoot down a NATO aircraft) and if NATO does not repost, it will have blinked, hard and with both eyes.

Both of these outcomes are highly undesirable for the US, NATO or the Empire. These outcomes are also bad news for the EU (which cannot afford to lose NS2 to some silly three letter agency provocation against Russia).

The main problem is that many western officials have declared urbi et orbi that “the civilized world (by that we mean “us” of course) has not recognized the Russian annexation of Crimea and, therefore, we don’t recognize the waters off Crimea as legit Russian waters”. This must have sounded really cool to the first simpletons who declared this, but the Ukies and their UK+3B+PU have immediately, and logically (in their own simple-minded way), declared “okay, great! Prove it by ignoring the Russian warnings and send something across this Russian “red line” to prove to the world that you are not only bark and no bite”. In other words, this is yet another iteration of a favorite challenge amongst US teenagers: “and whatcha gonna do about it?”.

Frankly, this is a legit question. And the US/NATO have until July 10th (this Saturday) to answer it. Okay, I guess they could also answer it after Sea Breeze 2021 is over, but since US Americans (and their clueless NATO counterparts) believe that coalition warfare is the way to victory (in reality, it is a way to defeat, as I have explained it in this article) and the real leaders of the Empire also believe that large coalitions offer a veneer of legitimacy (they don’t, as only a UNSC Resolution can) to their (imperialistic and illegal) actions with lots of small Tabaquis to make it all look kosher.

Furthermore, in the Ukronazi media the SeaBreeze 2021 is presented like this: “hey, Moskal’, it is way easier to threaten a small Ukrainian vessel than to take on NATO!!! Right?! If you just move, we will kick your asses from the Black Sea to Siberia (where you belong!)”; and the conclusion, “we are invincible, NATO is invincible, the US is invincible and the entire civilized world, which is also invincible, is against you”.

As for the clueless (and spineless and brainless) EU leaders, they talk about “containing” Russia by interacting with her “from a position of force”. In other words, this is what is really happening now: NATO encourages the Ukraine to try something, the Ukraine encourages NATO to try something, and both sides take a great deal of (quite misplaced) pride in ignoring not only the Russian warnings, but also the Russian capabilities.

I should also mention that much of the imperial propaganda machine (aka “the free press”) is also hyping the expectations of those who still take them seriously. Their message: “our invincible navies will kick the Russian bear in the ass and teach him a lesson”. Rah! Rah! Rah!

In other words: unless the US/NATO/Ukies trigger some kind of incident, the US/NATO/Ukies will lose face by the 11th of this month.

As for Putin, this is what he had to say recently when asked about the risks of a major war:

“Here is what I would like to say. You said that this put the world on the brink of a global war. No, of course, not. Even if we had sunk that ship, it is nevertheless difficult to imagine that this would have put the world on the brink of a third world war because those who did this know they could not win a war like that. This is very important.”

Pretty clear, no?

Putin will come under a lot of pressure, and even outright anger, if he does not back his words with some real action. This is an election year and the Kremlin simply cannot afford being all bark and no bite.

Last, but not least, from a geostrategic/military point of view, the Russian military cannot afford to ignore NATO’s actions.

Conclusion: alas, only more crying wolf…

Crying wolf is a very unthankless task, and in the case of the Nazi-occupied Ukraine, this is made even worse by the fact that every time the wolf fails to show up, an increasing number of people get used to the idea that the wolf (or bear) turned into a demure and fully tamed koala.

We shall soon find out which side will “blink” and which one won’t.

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